Latest Event Updates
I’ve just published a new article on why policies and political institutions change in the journal Government and Opposition. It is a theory piece, which will largely interest for academics who teach/research theories of public policy, that proposes something called neo-statecraft theory.
You can download ‘Neo-Statecraft Theory, Historical Institutionalism and Institutional Change’ here (or ask me for a copy). Here is the abstract:
This article provides a critical examination of the contribution that statecraft theory, which has been subject to recent revision and development, makes to the literature on institutional change. It articulates an emergent neo-statecraft approach that offers an agent-led form of historical institutionalism. This overcomes the common criticism that historical institutionalists underplay the creative role of actors. The article also argues that the approach brings back into focus the imperatives of electoral politics as a source of institutional change and provides a macro theory of change which is also commonly missing from historical institutionalist work. It can therefore identify previously unnoticed sources of stability and change, especially in states with strong executives and top-down political cultures.
How have the British political party leaders performed during austerity? What is a fair way of assessing them? Dr. Jim Buller and I have recently edited a special issue of Parliamentary Affairs, based on a University of East Anglia workshop that addresses these questions.
The special issue includes our own article which further develops an approach for assessing political leaders and applies it to Gordon Brown
You can read more about this in a blog on Eastminster:
The Great Financial Crisis of 2007-8 created a political headache for leaders world-wide. It is considered by many economists to have been the worst since at least the Great Depression. It led to many leaders having to campaign for (re)election and govern with significant public deficits, stagnant growth and public unrest.
The headache was particularly acute for British party leaders. A banking crisis, ‘credit crunch’ and major recession followed. Gordon Brown was faced with the collapse of Northern Rock and a downturn in economic fortunes that could undermine his credentials for economic management, only months after taking office from Tony Blair in 2007. David Cameron and George Osborne, whose Conservative Party came to power in 2010 in Coalition with the Liberal Democrats, inherited a budget that many thought required tax rises, public spending cuts or both. They were also to govern during a continued period of turbulence in the international economic environment, especially within the Eurozone. Ed Miliband, elected as Labour Party Leader in September 2010, was faced with the challenge of forming an opposition to Cameron and Clegg, with his prospects for electoral victory likely to be affected by Labour’s newly tarnished reputation for economic management.
Pippa Norris and colleagues at the Electoral Integrity Project have just published a new book on Advancing Electoral Integrity. The book is formed from a workshop at Harvard University last year. I have a chapter in the book that aims to do a number of things:
- Claims that electoral management is an often overlooked way in which elections can go wrong
- Provide a framework for assessing electoral management
- Explain why achieving high quality electoral management has become so difficult in established democracies like Britain.
Even I don’t convince you about electoral management, the rest of the book is superb and a must buy for those interested in elections and democracy.
I am part of a team organising a conference evaluating British Labour party leaders. Speakers including the leading biographers and political commentators on each leader. For more information, please see: http://politicalleadership.org/events/labour-party-leaders/
I gave a paper at the Political Studies Association Annual Conference in Manchester last week. The paper was on the effects of centralising electoral management. You can download the paper here. The paper argued:
Concerns about the quality of electoral management have been raised in many established democracies. The centralisation of electoral management has often been proposed to avoid problems resulting from ‘localism’. However, there is no research on the effects that such centralisation might have in practice. This paper identifies the effects of measures introduced by the UK Electoral Commission to centralise management in two referendums. Semi-structured interviews were used with those who devised the policy instrument and those who were subject to it. The introduction of ‘command and control’ directions from the centre had some predicted positive and some negative outcomes. However, an unpredicted finding was the decline of staff morale and souring of relations amongst stakeholder organisations. The paper therefore argues that the process of making major organisational changes can make the performance of electoral management boards unpredictable and this can have unintended consequences for electoral integrity.
I gave oral evidence to the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee’s inquiry into Voter Engagement yesterday. The Committee is concerned about levels of voter registration and turnout in the UK. The inquiry is timely because voter engagement is a pressing problem for British elections and democracy. One in five people are now missing from the electoral register and less than 15 per cent cast a ballot at the Police and Crime Commissioner elections in 2012.
There are many reasons why voter turnout and registration levels have dropped. My research shows, however, that making the electoral process more convenient for citizens, and investing in electoral services could make a real difference to levels of registration and voter turnout.
The committee should therefore recommend allowing citizens to register on the day of election, give them the opportunity to register when they come into contact with other government services and keep Internet voting under review.