WEEK 7: ARE CITIZENS IN BRITAIN DISENGAGED FROM THE POLITICAL SYSTEM?
Key texts • Anthony King, The British Constitution • James Morrison, Public Affairs • Coalition Agreement • Chris Mullins, Decline and Fall
Democracy • System of government by elected representatives where parliament is made up of freely elected representatives who represent the will of the people; a government that reflects the will of the people and is answerable to an elected legislature (or is separately elected). • Independent judiciary • Rights: freedom of expression/opinion/association
Main Political Parties in UK • Conservative & Unionist Party (full title but it is rarely used. Tories (alternative name for Conservatives) • Natural party of government (most of 20c) • ‘One Nation Toryism – post-war consensus • Margaret Thatcher swung the party back to a more right wing free market approach to the economy and welfare • Cameron – modernised the party but adhered to Thatcherite principles with a determination to shrink the state
Labour Party • Born out of the trade union movement post industrial revolution • Socialist roots/Social democracy • Clause Four – public ownership means of production (ditched by Tony Blair in 1995) • Mixed Economy • Gang of Four broke away (SDP later to join Liberal Party to form Liberal Democrats) • Blairite – New Labour in power from 1997 - 2010 • Beyond New Labour
Liberal Democrats • Federal party • Traditionally centrist • Pro-welfare state but also belief in free markets • Appealed to left and right • Orange Book (current Lib Dem leadership) collection of essays stressing free market • Had positioned itself to the left of Labour on issues such as war in Iraq and tuition fees but now in Coalition with Conservatives. First time in power for eighty years
Margaret Thatcher/Tony Blair • Changed the political landscape and the country • Won 3 terms • Was eventually forced out by her cabinet and backbenchers • Blair changed his party but largely accepted the Thatcherite accommodation. First term brought in devolution (he was always lukewarm) • successful interventions in Bosnia and Sierra Leone in the shadow of the war in Iraq • Only Lab leader to secure victory 3 times • Left before his term was up
Blair’s last conference speech • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-mlGCQu4Scg
Thatcher’s last speech in the House of Commons • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rv5t6rC6yvg
Choosing a leader - Conservatives • Candidates put their names up – voted on by MPs until left with two • David Cameron and David Davis fought six week campaign to win a postal ballot of 253,600 Conservative members. • Cameron had support of the membership and the Parliamentary party
Choosing a leader – Labour • After a long campaign with hustings by all the candidates Ed Miliband was chosen by an electoral college • He won by1% from former foreign secretary David after second, third and fourth preference votes came into play. • Ed Balls was third, Andy Burnham fourth and Diane Abbott last in the ballot of MPs, members and trade unionists.
How they voted • Round 1: David Miliband 37.78%, Ed Miliband 34.33% Diane Abbott eliminated • Round 2: David Miliband 38.89%, Ed Miliband 37.47%. Andy Burnham eliminated • Round 3: David Miliband 42.72%, Ed Miliband 41.26%, Ed Balls eliminated • Round 4: David Miliband 49.35%, Ed Miliband 50.65%. Ed Miliband wins.
How they voted • David won a majority of support from Labour's MPs at Westminster and party members, but Ed was ahead among members of trade unions and affiliated organisations in Labour's electoral college voting system. • After four rounds of voting Ed Miliband won with 175,519 votes, while David Miliband received 147,220 votes.
Liberal Democrats - Nick Clegg • Mr Clegg, an ex-journalist and former Euro MP, won 20,988 votes • Chris Huhne won 20,477 votes cast
Liberal Democrats • Nick Clegg is the party's third leader in two years • Charles Kennedy quit in January 2006, forced out by a frontbench rebellion after admitting a drink problem. • Sir Menzies resigned in October, blaming an age-obsessed media.
Conservatives • Cameron followed 3 leaders – William Hague – never got over photo ops – wearing a baseball hat and drinking from a coconut at Notting Hill Carnival, 2001 campaign – Save the Pound • Ian Duncan Smith – told conference the quiet man was turning up the volume within weeks he was out • Michael Howard despite a coronation – suffered from Anne Widdecombe’s comment while he was Home Secretary as ‘something of the night about him’
Party machines • Day to day bureaucracy – organising conferences etc. Come into play at election times • Campaigning • Air wars – appealing to the voters through the airwaves • Ground wars – Getting the vote out mobilising on the ground
Funding • Opposition parties in Parliament receive some funding to carry out their duties • Debate over whether there should be state funding for parties • Conservatives – receive donations from business • Labour largely from trade unions • Liberal Democrats – seek money from business as well
Funding raising • Party machines seek to raise money • Funding a vexed question • Conservatives – Ashcroft millions (see Morrison p154) • Blair controversial donation from Bernie Ecclestone at the beginning of his tenure (ibid)
controversies • Lobbygate – cash for questions • Cash for honours (loans for peerages) • In the event no charges brought.
Democracy in action in South Africa … … and Britain
BRITAIN’S ‘CRISIS OF ENGAGEMENT’: POLITICIANS Helena Kennedy (2006) We need to “… save British democracy from meltdown” David Cameron (May 2006) “ … our democratic system isn't working … public faith in our political institutions is draining away and being replaced by a progressive and debilitating alienation.”
The Coalition’s view • “The Government believes that our political system is broken. We urgently need fundamental political reform, including a referendum on electoral reform, much greater co-operation across party lines, and changes to our political system to make it far more transparent and accountable.” (Coalition Agreement May 2010)
Political Reform (Coalition Agreement) • Fixed term Parliaments • Referendum on the voting system (went against AV) • Recall of MPs – allow voters to force a by-election where an MP is found to have engaged in serious wrongdoing and having had a petition calling for a by-election signed by 10% of his or her constituents • Other reforms see agreement
KEY QUESTIONS • Evidence Are citizens in Britain becoming disengaged from politics? • Explanation If so, why are citizens disengaging from politics? • Implications Does it matter if disengagement is increasing?
BEHAVIOUR Voting Member of party Member of group Go on march Write to MP Boycott goods Donate money ATTITUDES Support for political system Support for political actors/institutions Political interest WHAT IS POLITICAL ENGAGEMENT?
ARE PEOPLE MOVING AWAY FROM ELECTORAL POLITICS? Fuel protests (2000) Countryside march (2002): 400,000 Iraq war march (2003): 1,000,000 Make Poverty History (2005): 200,000 Occupy movements
TRUST IN GOVERNMENT “How much do you trust British governments of any party to place the needs of the nation above the interests of their own political party? - Just about always - Most of the time - Only some of the time - Almost never”
Possible reasons • War in Iraq? • Expenses scandal? • Single issue politics? • Decline in trade unions? • Voting system? • “Queasy ride on the ideological big-dipper” • ‘Them and us’ syndrome
Electorate want moderation • A large majority were somewhere in the political ‘centre’ – or, at any rate, not at either extreme. A few held genuinely centrist views. The views of others were an untidy mixture of left – and right-wing views...Most voters, perhaps nearly all, instinctively inclined towards moderation. (King, The British Constitutionp 75)
MPs didn’t get it • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=REuoK-VS7iI • http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/8045384.stm
And those that did • “A massive new feeding frenzy. The Telegraph has got its hands on a computer disc of our unexpurgated expenses and his morning it has begun to publish highlights. Page after unedifying page...The damage is incalculable. Not just to us, but to the entire parliamentary system. We are sinking in a great swamp of derision and loathing.” (Chris Mullin Decline and Fall, p 327)
Expenses – anger but voters still turned out • Despite fears that the MPs expenses scandal of the previous year would engender widespread cynicism amongst the electorate – and thus a reluctance to vote at all - turnout increased by four points to 65.3%. A. Park, J. Curtice, K. Thomson, M. Phillips, E. Clery and S. Butt (eds), British Social Attitudes: The 26th Report (London: Sage, 2010).
IpsosMori research • Impact of the expenses scandal recedes • Published:4 April 2010 • Fieldwork:19 - 22 March 2010 • Theme: Politicians
Turnout – an explanation • Between 1922 and 1997 turnout had never been lower than 70%, before falling precipitately to just 59% in 2001 and 61% in 2005. While the anticipated closeness of the election (2010) outcome might have helped bring some voters to the polls, it would appear that the British electorate can no longer be relied upon to vote simply out of duty or habit.
TRUST IN GOVERNMENT: BRITAIN, 1973-2005 Source: Bromley & Curtice (2001); British Social Attitudes
POLITICAL INTEREST IN BRITAIN, 1973-2005 Source: Electoral Commission, Audit of Political Engagement (2004, 2005, 2006)
Declined Austria Finland France Ireland Luxembourg Netherlands Portugal Spain Switzerland United Kingdom Stayed same Belgium Denmark Germany Greece Iceland Norway Sweden TURNOUT ACROSS WESTERN EUROPE, 1945-2003 Source: International IDEA
FEATURE OF CITIZENS Citizens less interested in politics than before Citizens less trusting in politicians than before FEATURE OF ELECTIONS Bland parties Uncompetitive elections EXPLAINING TURNOUT DECLINE
POLITICAL TRUST AND TURNOUT: 1997 AND 2001 High trust Medium trust Low trust Source: Bromley & Curtice (2001) Table 7.11