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Philip Norton

Electing the second chamber is frequently taken as self-evidently the democratic option. It is not unusual to see reference to 'a democratically elected' second chamber, although no one appears to be advancing a case for an undemocratically elected chamber. In this chapter, the authors quote Colin Tyler making the point that 'ultimately it is the democratic character of Parliament that matters, not the democratic character of its constituent parts considered in isolation from each other'. The key point is that it is rare to consider Parliament as Parliament. Constitutional reform in the UK has taken place in recent decades, especially in the years since 1997, on a substantial scale, but the changes derive from no intellectually coherent approach to constitutional change. The absence of any intellectually coherent approach to constitutional change is apparent in respect of attempts to change the House of Lords.

in Reform of the House of Lords
Bill Jones

This chapter describes the transformation of the British system of governance from an absolute monarchy to a representative democracy. It presents the developments in a chronological order beginning from events that occurred upto the eighteenth century followed by constitutional changes in the eighteenth century to the developments in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Simon de Montfort, an immigrant from France, led the so-called 'reform movement' aimed at limiting royal power in 1258 and the model parliament was formed in 1295. Events such as the glorious revolution between 1688 and 1689, the appointment of Robert Walpole as the first prime minister, the influence of the French Revolution in 1789, and the passing of Great Reform Act in 1832 which inaugurated the age of democratic government in Britain are covered. Brief notes on political parties and the resolution of conflict between the Houses of Lords and Commons are also provided.

in British politics today
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Strategy in a time of crisis
Andrew Monaghan

Some doubt the idea of a Russian grand strategy. Michael McFaul, a former US ambassador to Russia, is among those who argue that Putin does not know what he wants from the Ukraine crisis, has no grand plan and makes policy up as he goes. This introduction also presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in this book. The book explores the implications of the emphasis on military modernisation, the problems that Russian observers emphasise and the ways they undermine strategy, and the ways hints at 'mobilisation' relate to Russian grand strategy. It argues that Russian strategy is less to be found in Moscow's plans, and more in the so-called vertical of power. In so doing, the book reveals important shifts underway in the Russian political and security landscape and shapes an argument about a missed diagnosis of Russian state mobilisation.

in Power in modern Russia
Bill Jones

In the past, the judiciary was seen as somewhat peripheral, irrelevant even. This chapter explains that it is no longer the case now. Judicial activism has worked in such a way as to make the judiciary less subordinate. As many members of the executive and legislature have judicial roles, it cannot be said that the courts are either truly subordinate or truly autonomous. The chapter discusses the British court system and its two branches, criminal law and civil law, and the division of responsibilities of the court judges. Being a member of the European Community, all European law is UK law. British courts have a precautionary role in interpreting law to see if it is congruent with European law, thus strengthening their role. This further strengthens judges, as it adds a new dimension to domestic law: human rights. The chapter also highlights the reforms undertaken in the judiciary since 205.

in British politics today
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Monarchy and the House of Lords
Bill Jones

Parliament is the name of the British legislature and it comprises three elements: the monarch, the Lords and the Commons. This chapter deals with the role of the monarch and the House of Lords. The monarch's power to dissolve Parliament and to appoint a Prime Minister constitute anything but marginal activities. The monarch also has 'the right to be consulted, the right to encourage, the right to warn'. The monarch has always been a key element of the aristocracy, the apex of its power and source of the patronage so eagerly consumed by actual as well as aspirant members ever since the notion of kingship in England emerged. The Lords grew out of the Anglo-Saxon Witenagemot and the Norman Curia Regis, being gatherings summoned to advise the King. But as the shift to democracy occurred during the nineteenth century, the Lords further receded in importance.

in British politics today
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The House of Commons
Bill Jones

Parliament emerged through the monarch's need to consult and raise finance for the kingdom's needs. This chapter deals with the decline of House of Commons, its present-day functions, its power, and its reforms. It also discusses the social background of MPs. The reasons of the decline of the Commons include expansion of the electorate and growth of a disciplined party system, growth in the power of the Prime Minister, extension of government activities and bureaucracy and loss of control over finance. While it is the willingness of the majority party to accept government actions which determines what passes into law, what the party will not accept sets the limits to what a government can do. A number of reforms of the Commons have occurred since the late 1980s. Some reforms are structural and have had a major impact, while others are minor and only procedural.

in British politics today
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Provenance and decline
Bill Jones

This chapter explores the provenance of local government and its coming to maturity in the twentieth century, followed by a worrying decline. It presents the historical development of the local governments in Britain, starting from the Poor Law of 1600 through the nineteenth century and the reforms undertaken in the twentieth century. The chapter highlights the functions of parish councils which include youth activities and transport for the elderly and litter collection. In 1997, the Local Government Association was set up to spearhead the interests of all councils above the parish stratum; however it is subject to partisan control. One consequence of party politicisation of local politics is that the fortunes of the national parties influence the local level. The department in the Cabinet at the Westminster responsible for the local government has varied over the years, from Housing and Local Government to the Department of Community and Local Government.

in British politics today
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Revival?
Bill Jones

This chapter considers whether recent developments have suggested it might be possible to discern some kind of revival for the local government in Britain. There have been a number of signs, both from the earlier 1990s and since the Labour victory in 1997, which suggest local government has begun to reverse the slow decline which characterised it in the latter half of the twentieth century. In 1999, Labour passed a new Local Government Act, which introduced 'Best Value' which is a system whereby targets are set for efficient delivery of services. Another act was passed in 2000 to provide a cohesive ethical code for the guidance of councillors as well as pave the way for economic development. Additionally, citizens can also refer their case to the Commissioner for Local Government or 'Ombudsman'. The chapter discusses political innovations introduced by local governments to solve problems such as new forms of voting.

in British politics today
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Andrew Monaghan

Dmitri Medvedev stated in 2014 that 'Russia is experiencing triple pressure for the first time'. This included global economic instability, the 'unfriendly policies of some leading countries', particularly the sanctions, leading to a 'deteriorated international environment' and 'internal structural limitations'. Vladimir Putin has emphasised that 'only by mobilising all the resources at our disposal both administrative and financial' that Russia would be able to respond to the grave long- term challenges that faced it. This chapter provides a discussion on patriotic mass mobilisation often referred to as the 'Crimea effect'. It discusses the role of the All Russian Popular Front in the implementation of the leadership's plans, especially the May Edicts. The chapter explores the 'economic sovereignty' introduced in the economic sector by the Russian leadership. Russia's political and economic model is focused on reducing vulnerability and emphasising consolidation and security.

in Power in modern Russia
The ‘mainstream’ media
Bill Jones

The role of the mainstream media in modern politics is one of the most discussed and contested topics in democratic debate. This chapter examines the provenance of political communication and the ways in which it impacts on the political system. It looks at the impact of printing such as printing presses and newspapers on political communication, the importance of radio broadcasting, the development of television in the latter part of twentieth century, criteria of news editors when selecting content, and the usefulness of news values. Those energetic entrepreneurs who founded and ran newspapers became almost instantly known as 'press barons' as their political influence began to be reflected in the honours handed out by politicians. The chapter also discusses the usefulness of different media in meeting democratic functions and presents the democrativeness of the various media elements: broadsheets, tabloids, BBC radio, commercial radio, BBC television and commercial television.

in British politics today