Archive for the 'Paper' Category


Keynote address by Chris Huhne MP

This is a transcript of Chris Huhne’s speech to the conference. Download full paper…


Interest Groups and the Revitalization of Democracy: Are We Expecting Too Much?

William Maloney, Newcastle University
The UK (and other advanced democracies) appear to be suffering from a democratic squeeze. Voter turnout, partisan consistency, partisan identification, party membership, and trust in politicians and government – all crucial to a healthy functioning democracy – are declining (see Mair, 2006). The contemporary democratic tenet is that ‘Unless citizens participate in the deliberation of public policy, and their choices structure government action, then democratic processes are meaningless (Dalton, 2008: 78). However, strengthening democratic decision-making processes is not an easy matter – most citizens are hard to motivate to engage in public-policy debates and most can find better things to do with their time.

Download the full paper: Interest Groups and the Revitalization of Democracy


New Media and the Revitalisation of Politics

Rachel Gibson, University of Manchester

In this short response to the Hay, Stoker and Williamson paper I take up the question of how far the new media can offer a solution to the ‘anti-politics’ culture they see as emerging in Britain in recent years. While I do not share the conviction that something is quite so rotten in the British state, and take issue with some of the causes they identify for its atrophying condition, I do accept the basic premise that there has been a decline in the levels of support and popular trust in our representative institutions and elected officials in recent decades. In the main, therefore, my response speaks to a more generic issue of whether new ICTs can address some of the current democratic deficits of representative government and help to engage and/or re-engage citizens in contemporary politics. In the course of doing so I pick up on some of the particular problems of the anti-politics trend they identify in regard to parties, pressure groups and the channels of communication between citizen and MP. Can the use of digital media work to offset or even counteract the declines in performance and public trust that our key democratic bodies are encountering?

Download the full paper: New Media and the Revitalisation of Politics


Bridging the gap: Revitalising politics and the politics of public expectations

Matt Flinders, University of Sheffield

This paper matters because it provides a distinctive account of the origins of the contemporary condition of political disengagement. It achieves this by cultivating a relatively under-nourished field of study – the politics of public expectations – and locating this analysis within the parameters of existing debates concerning public apathy with politics. This opens up a new field of analytical terrain concerning the existence of an ‘expectations gap’, a ‘performance gap’ and ‘safety-net theory’. These concepts, in turn, help us develop and sharpen the analytical traction and leverage of the notion of ‘public expectations’. This involves distinguishing between the ‘the public’s expectations of the behaviour and performance of politics’ and ‘political expectations of the behaviour and performance of the public’. Identifying this distinction, noting the iterative and dialectical relationship between these dimensions, identifying different patterns of emphasis, and locating them within the lens of economic models of democracy arguably delivers new insights about longstanding socio-political concerns .The arguments of this paper matter because they pose new questions about revitalising politics, the capacity of the state, the rationalities of political competition, and the available tools of political analysis.

Download the full paper here: Bridging the gap


The Failings of Political Parties: Reality or Perception?

Paul Webb, University of Sussex

Political parties in the UK today – as in so many other countries – are widely seen as disappointing in their democratic performance. Those who purport to care about democracy are anxious. There is widespread evidence of disconnect, alienation and apathy among citizens – and the search is on for explanations and for ways to put things right. The blame for this state of affairs is heaped on various targets: the parties and the politicians tend to lead the way, but somewhat less tangibly, ‘the political system’ is apt to come in for criticism from some quarters. Others prefer to level their sights on the role of the mass media, and occasionally even on the public itself. In this paper, I shall examine the nature and causes of the present discontent by addressing the failings of political parties, and perceived.

Download the full paper: The Failings of Political Parties: Reality or Perception?


Revitalising politics through democratic innovation?

Graham Smith, University of Southampton

The position paper that sets the scene for this conference begins with a wholehearted endorsement of Vernon Bogdanor’s argument that the Draft Constitutional Renewal Bill will simply ‘redistribute power between elites, not between elites and the people’ and therefore ‘will not have much effect on popular grievances’ (Hay et al. 2008: 1). Within a month of these comments, the government published two discussion documents explicitly aimed at revitalising the relationship between elites and the people (although I’m not sure Vernon can take any credit!). The Department for Communities and Local Government (CLG) published Communities in Control: Real People, Real Power, quickly followed by the Ministry of Justice’s (MoJ) A National Framework for Greater Citizen Engagement. The first document focuses on strategies for local empowerment, with particular emphasis on different methods that local authorities can use to engage their communities. The second analyses the relationship between citizens and national decision making, proposing new institutional arrangements.

Download the full paper: Revitalising politics through democratic innovation?


Have We Lost the Plot or Are We Obsessed with Foisting our Obsessions on Others?

Jon Tonge, University of Liverpool

Much of what is viewed as politics in the UK might be seen as sterile or superficial, disconnected from many citizens. The coverage of politics in the media often appears obsessed with the three ‘ps’: personalities, polls and propriety, at the expense of serious intellectual or substantive consideration of debates and issues. Such superficiality is not, of course, confined to ‘analyses’ of UK politics; the same three ‘p’s have dominated coverage of the US primary and presidential elections. Amid the froth, observers might be hard-pressed to identify a single substantial policy difference between Clinton and Obama, or even between Obama and McCain, although whether this reflects media obsession or candidate stances is unclear.

Download the full paper: Have We Lost the Plot or Are We Obsessed with Foisting our Obsessions on Others?

Revitalising Politics is an examination of why, given that the UK is going through a period of constitutional innovation, we lack the revitalised politics to go along with it. This website is a space for attendees and others who are interested to review, comment and expand on the position papers being presented at the conference.

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