The essentials
Series: Politics Today
Author: Bill Jones

'Politics' with a big 'P' is concerned with how we, individuals and groups, relate to the state. This book commences with a definition of political activity with a focus on conflict, and government and democracy. Britain is, arguably, the oldest democracy in the world, though it took many centuries for it to evolve into its current 'representative' form. Conflict resolution depends on the political system involved. The book draws together all the elements of government, explaining the British system of governance, which is democracy but utilises representatives. Civil service advises ministers and carries out the day- to-day running of government. The book then describes the transformation of the British system of governance from an absolute monarchy to a representative democracy. It examines how economic changes have affected Britain over the centuries, and presents some thoughts on the absence of a modern British revolution. It presents an account of Britain's economic history, the class developments and differences, and the absence of a modern revolution despite astonishing levels of income inequality. Factors that might influence the political culture of Britain are discussed next. The book also touches upon the sources of British constitution, the process of constitutional amendments prevailing in the U.S. and Britain, current British politics, and the development of pressure groups in Britain. Finally, the history of party government in Britain, and details of the Conservative Party, Labour Party, the Social and Liberal Democrats, House of Commons, and Britain's international relations are discussed.

Abstract only
Bill Jones

Socialism and Conservatism were once the commonplace rival ideologies in Britain but both have been so diluted since the latter part of the twentieth century. There are four main broad bodies of belief in British politics, all based on blends of existing (though fading) ideologies: new Labourism (or Blairism), Conservatism, Liberal Democracy and green thinking. This chapter examines the central elements of socialism and Conservatism; the post-war consensus; revisionist Labourism, Thatcherism and Blairism. It also looks at David Cameron's reworking of Blairism; Liberal Democracy and Green thinking as well as aspects of the political fringe. The chapter outlines Clement Attlee's version of socialism, identifies certain constants of traditional Conservatism, and lists the elements of agreed-upon postwar consensus. Given Labour's shunt to the right provided by Tony Blair after his election as party leader in 1994, Labour and the Conservatives began to converge as the 1990s wore on.

in British politics today
Bill Jones

This chapter examines how economic changes have affected Britain over the centuries, and presents some thoughts on the absence of a modern British revolution. It presents an account of Britain's economic history, the class developments and differences, and the absence of a modern revolution despite astonishing levels of income inequality. The Gini coefficient is produced by relating the wealth and income of the rich to those of the poor; a high rating means high inequality, while a low one means less inequality. According to this index, Sweden, Denmark and Holland are at the top while Britain is low down the table, along with the United States. The chapter briefly explains Charles Murray's terming of the poor as the underclass who were not subscribing to the values of society and indulging in crime and drugs. It also deals with regional differences in the British society owing to geography, gender and ethnicity.

in British politics today
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
Bill Jones

This chapter identifies a number of factors and suggests how they might influence the political culture of Britain. Two historical features can be identified that have been especially important in the development of Britain's political culture: sequential solving of major problem and the centuries-long adventure of the British Empire. The British economy has been able to evolve from an agricultural to a highly industrialised country with only minimal dislocation. Although Britain does not have a written constitution, it has its own unique system of government, parts of which are warmly supported and others of which are not. The chapter also discusses other aspects of British political culture such as the absence of extremism, the changes of the 1960s when a bonfire was made of the rules of deference, the decline of deference's impact on crime, and the post-1945 welfare schemes such as free education and free health care.

in British politics today
Bill Jones

Britain has an written constitution, which is in the form of Acts of Parliament relating to, for example, who can vote. Constitutional matters featured much in the nineteenth century and the early twentieth but then lay quiescent until the 1990s, when they topped the political agenda once again. Parliament is at the peak of the constitution and, the House of Commons is the dominant element of it. This chapter briefly discusses the sources of British constitution such as the normal and super statutes, case law, common law, conventions and institutional rules. It outlines the process of constitutional amendments prevailing in the U.S. and Britain, separation of powers between the executive, legislature and judiciary, and the core and contested elements of the constitution. The constitutional issues such as the pressure for codification of the uncertain aspects of the constitution are also discussed.

in British politics today
Bill Jones

This chapter presents an overview of the British political system in the form of questions and answers. The topics in which questions are raised and answers are provided include representative democracy, decision-making, civil service and local government. The fundamental idea underpinning the British system of governance is democracy but utilises representatives. The representatives are answerable, at least in theory, to someone, or some group of people, at every stage of their decision-making. Interpreting government decisions gives a degree of power to senior civil servants and advising ministers in theory gives them hidden power to run the country. Local governments are also important but the gradual stripping of power from local authorities since the middle of the last century and the strangling of their financial freedom of action has made local government less attractive to able people and less interesting to voters.

in British politics today
Bill Jones

Politics' with a big 'P' is concerned with how we, individuals and groups, relate to the state. This chapter defines political activity with a focus on political conflict, government and democracy. Conflict resolution depends on the political system involved. Autocratic governments seek to repress dissent and impose settlements, irrespective of the desires and interests of those involved. Government always works best when citizens have been properly prepared. The ban on smoking in indoor public places from 2007 is a good example of effective preparation, as it seems to have been accepted more or less without serious complaint. The chapter also lists the conditions necessary for representative democracy. Two such conditions are: full adult franchise - everyone must have the vote; and secret ballot - to ensure voters are not coerced or influenced, as used to be commonplace in Britain in earlier times.

in British politics today
Abstract only
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
Bill Jones

Britain has an outward-looking stance in its contact with the rest of the world. This chapter deals with Britain's international relations, focusing on the country's key interests, the rise and decline of the British Empire, the Britain-EU relations, the Britain-US bond, the ethical foreign policy of the Labour government and the Iraq war. Britain's national interests have been conditioned by a lack of plentiful natural resources and an island status that delivers a close relationship with the sea. In 1920, the British Empire occupied a quarter of the world's landmass but after World War II most of its colonies gained independence which soon reduced the country's role to something far less exalted. The postwar British foreign policy envisaged emphasis in Europe, America and the Empire/Commonwealth. Some critics argue it would be more logical for Britain to recognise the facts of economics and geography and invest more political capital in Europe.

in British politics today