Latest Event Updates

In defence of postal voting

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Toby James, UEAI was on the BBC’s Sunday Politics Scotland show yesterday, briefly speaking about postal voting and voter fraud, in the context of the forthcoming Scottish referendum.

Postal voting has become increasingly popular in the UK in recent years, but there have been some accusations that it allows electoral fraud:

For the next few days, you can watch the clip on the BBC IPlayer (the clip starts at 10:54), or read a blog that I wrote about this on the Democratic Audit blog, earlier in the year.

Trying to find a screen grab in which I did not look drunk or like I was trying to smooch the camera was difficult (I wasn’t trying to do either). 

Explaining why policies and political institutions change: a new article

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Government and OppositionI’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.


New Research on assessing British party leaders during austerity

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David_Cameron_(28_January_2011)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.

Read more here:

Who were the most successful British political party leaders since 1900?

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BnLh6OyCUAACi6fWho were the most successful British political party leaders since 1900?

I have written a post for Left Foot Forward about a collaborative University of East Anglia-Queen Mary University of London project which involves evaluating the British Labour and Conservative Party Leaders.  The post is by Charles Clarke and myself in the run up to our Labour Leaders conference.

The current political situation clearly shows the significance of high quality political leadership. The stakes are immensely high and everyone knows it.

Two seminars later this year, one for Labour and one for the Conservatives, will address the subject by analysing the success or failure of political leaders over the last 100 years.

We start with the presumption that the skills of political leadership do matter. A party leader without the communication skills to present their vision will never be taken seriously. A leader who fails to end internal divisions could leave their party out of power for a generation. A leader who makes key strategic errors could see the national interest diverted or damaged….

Read the rest here.

Why advancing electoral integrity is so difficult in Britain

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ImagePippa 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.

Who was the greatest and worst Labour party leader of all time?

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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:

Centralising electoral management

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c2bd1-ballotI 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.