ArticlePDF Available

The rise of anti-politics in Britain

Authors:

Abstract and Figures

This document was published to accompany an event of the same title. On 19 May 2016, in the Macmillan Room of Portcullis House, Westminster, a team of researchers from the University of Southampton – Nick Clarke, Will Jennings, Jonathan Moss, and Gerry Stoker – discussed the rise of anti-politics in Britain with MP and historian Tristram Hunt, journalist Isabel Hardman, and audience members.
Content may be subject to copyright.
The rise of anti-politics
in Britain
Introduction
This document was published to accompany an event of the
same title. On 19 May 2016, in the Macmillan Room of Portcullis
House, Westminster, a team of researchers from the University
of Southampton – Nick Clarke, Will Jennings, Jonathan
Moss, and Gerry Stoker – discussed the rise of anti-politics in
Britain with MP and historian Tristram Hunt, journalist Isabel
Hardman, and audience members.
In turn, this event was organised to accompany a research
project: ‘Popular Understandings of Politics in Britain, 1937-
2015’. The project was funded by the Economic and Social
Research Council and led by Dr Nick Clarke (Geography and
Environment, University of Southampton, n.clarke@soton.
ac.uk, 07708 099056). Further details of the project can be
found at http://antipolitics.soton.ac.uk. Here, we provide a brief
introduction.
The objectives of the project were:
1. To establish the understandings and orientations of
British citizens towards formal politics (politicians, parties,
Parliament, councils, governments).
2. To establish how these have changed over time.
3. To take a longer view of these understandings and
orientations than has been done by most existing research in
the field.
4. To listen more to citizens’ voices – their understandings,
expectations, and judgements, as expressed in their own terms
– than has been done by most existing research in the field.
5. To suggest explanations for these understandings and
orientations, and how they have changed over time.
To meet these objectives, we analysed two types of data. First,
we analysed survey responses collected by the British Institute
for Public Opinion (BIPO, which later became the UK Gallup
Poll), Ipsos-MORI, the British Election Study, the British Social
Attitudes Survey, YouGov, Populus, and the Hansard Society.
Second, we analysed volunteer writing collected by Mass
Observation (MO).
Between 1939 and 1955, MO ran a panel of between 400 and
1000 volunteer writers (depending on the year). In 1981, it
revived this panel, which is still running today. In both periods,
MO asked panellists to write about formal politics on several
occasions. We sampled 13 of these ‘directives’ across the two
periods, and 60 responses to each directive (spread across
different age groups, genders, regions, and occupational
categories). When sampled carefully, and read carefully for
categories and storylines that are shared between panellists
– and, plausibly, between panellists and citizens in wider
society – these responses allow a comparison between citizens’
understandings and orientations in the so-called ‘golden age’ of
democratic engagement immediately after the Second World
War (when voter turnout reached as high as 84.1%) and the
so-called ‘crisis’ period of recent years (when voter turnout
reached as low as 59.1%).
Key findings
1) There never was a ‘golden age’ of democratic
engagement.
Even in the immediate post-war period, substantial
proportions of the population disapproved of governments and
prime ministers (whatever their political persuasion); thought
politicians to be out for themselves and their party (as opposed
to their country); associated political campaigning with vote-
catching stunts, mud-slinging, and a focus on personalities over
policies; and imagined politicians to be self-serving gas-bags.
BIPO/Gallup collected survey data on things like approval
and satisfaction during the 1940s and 50s. It found that on
average just over 40% of citizens disapproved of the record
of the Government during this period, and just under 40%
were dissatisfied with the Prime Minister (with only a little
fluctuation around these figures depending on the particular
Government or Prime Minister in question).
In 1944, BIPO/Gallup asked citizens: do you think that British
politicians are out merely for themselves, for their party, or to
do the best for their country? Some 35% of respondents chose
‘out merely for themselves’, with another 22% selecting ‘for
their party’.
Following the General Election of 1945, BIPO/Gallup asked: in
general, did you approve or disapprove of the way the election
campaign was conducted by the various parties? Some 42% of
respondents disapproved, giving reasons including ‘too many
vote catching stunts’, ‘too much mud-slinging’, ‘too little stress
laid on policy’, and ‘too much Churchill, too little policy’.
In 1945, MO asked its panel to write about their ‘normal
conversational attitude when talk gets round to politicians’.
Two clear storylines are repeated across the writing of a wide
range of panellists. Politicians were viewed as self-serving, with
prototypical characters here including the ‘self-seeker’ and the
‘place-seeker’. They were also viewed as not being straight-
talking; as being ‘gas-bags’ and ‘gift-of-the-gabbers’.
2) Nevertheless, there has been a rise of anti-
political sentiment over the last six decades.
This rise of anti-politics has taken three forms:
First, increased social scope. More and more citizens
disapprove of governments and prime ministers, with more
and more citizens judging politicians to be out for themselves
and their party. Since the 1940s and 50s, the average level of
government disapproval has risen by about 20% to just over
60%, and prime ministerial dissatisfaction has increased by
almost 20% to around 55% (again, with some fluctuation for
things like the honeymoon periods of new governments, but
with a rising line of best fit that is very clear – see Figure 1).
1
Figure 1: Government disapproval (BIPO/Gallup and Ipsos-MORI)
In 2014, we partnered with YouGov to ask the same question asked by BIPO/Gallup in 1944 (and again in 1972). This time, 48% of
respondents judged politicians to be ‘out merely for themselves (up from 35%), and 30% selected ‘for their party’ (up from
22%). Only 10% of respondents judged politicians to be out ‘to do their best for their country’ (Figure 2).
Figure 2: Do you think that British politicians are out merely for themselves, for their party, or to do their best for their
country? (BIPO/Gallup and YouGov/University of Southampton)
2
On this question of social scope, we partnered with YouGov
in 2013 to ask citizens about some common critiques of
politicians. We asked them: 1) if politicians have the technical
expertise/capacity to deal with the complex problems facing
the country; 2) if politicians can make a difference to pressing
social and economic problems; 3) if politicians possess the
leadership to tell the public the truth about tough decisions
that need to be made; 4) if politicians are too focused on short-
term chasing of media headlines; and 5) if politicians are more
concerned with protecting the interests of the already rich and
powerful in society. Responses are presented in Table 1. We see
a few differences between social groups, but overall negativity
towards politics appears to be widespread. For example, the
strongest negative response that politicians are too short-term
and media-driven in their behaviour is endorsed by 8 in 10, with
little variation by gender, age, or social grade.
The second form taken by the rise of anti-politics is increased
political scope. Citizens hold more and more grievances with
formal politics. In the current period, they judge politicians
to be self-serving and not straight-talking, but also to be
out of touch, all the same, a joke, and part of a broken and
unfair system. In 2014, we partnered with MO to ask the
same question asked by MO in 1945: ‘What would you say is
your normal conversational attitude when talk gets round to
politicians, clergy, doctors, lawyers, and advertising agents?’.
The number of negative storylines about politicians has grown
since 1945. Put differently, the number of distinct grievances
citizens hold against politicians has grown. Politicians are
still described as self-interested and not straight-talking. But
now they are also described as out of touch, with prototypical
categories in this storyline including ‘the toff’ (who went
from public school to Oxbridge to Parliament) and ‘the career
politician’ (with little experience of life beyond politics). They
are also thought to be ‘all the same’ ( just focused on swing
voters in marginal seats), a joke (like schoolboys or students
who make gaffes), and beneficiaries of a system that is broken
and unfair (with too many safe seats and wasted votes).
The third form taken is rising intensity. Citizens disapprove
and hold grievances more and more strongly. We see this in
the language used by MO panellists. In 1945, respondents
wrote about politicians in relatively measured terms. This did
not just reflect a culture of deference at the time. In the same
responses, they wrote about clergy as ‘intellectually dishonest’
and ‘spoil-sports’; doctors as ‘uncaring’ and ‘protective of their
own interests’; lawyers as ‘tricksters’ and ‘money-grabbers’; and
advertising agents as ‘frauds’ and ‘social parasites’. By 2014, the
terms for these other professionals had not really strengthened
in the writing of MO panellists. But the terms used for
Q1. Have
technical
knowledge
Q2. Can make
difference
Q3. Possess
leadership to
tell truth
Q4. Focused
on short-term
chasing of
headlines
Q5. Politicians
self-serving,
protecting
interests of rich
and powerful
All 20% 63% 33% 80% 72%
Gender
Female 19% 62% 36% 78% 72%
Male 21% 64% 29% 82% 73%
Age
18-24 21% 58% 33% 69% 56%
25-39 23% 61% 32% 74% 69%
40-59 18% 59% 29% 82% 75%
60+ 18% 70% 37% 88% 78%
Social grade
Professional
and clerical 19% 65% 32% 80% 68%
Semi-skilled and
manual 21% 60% 33% 80% 78%
Table 1: ‘Strongly agree’ or ‘agree’ responses for survey items on anti-politics (YouGov/University of Southampton)
3
politicians had certainly strengthened. Citizens now described
their ‘hatred’ for politicians who made them ‘angry’, ‘incensed’,
‘outraged’, ‘disgusted’, and ‘sickened’. They described
politicians as arrogant, boorish, cheating contemptable,
corrupt, creepy, deceitful, devious, disgraceful, fake, feeble,
loathsome, lying, money-grabbing, parasitical, patronising,
pompous, privileged, shameful, sleazy, slimy, slippery, smarmy,
smooth, smug, spineless, timid, traitorous, weak, and wet.
3) Anti-politics describes negative feeling towards
politicians, parties, Parliament, councils, and
governments.
Anti-politics, used here, describes negative feeling towards
politicians, parties, Parliament, councils, and governments
in general (as opposed to particular politicians, parties etc.
– which is to be expected in a partisan system). It describes
negative feeling towards these institutions of democracy, as
opposed to the idea of democracy itself (for which there is
widespread support – so anti-politics does not equate to a crisis
for democracy). It describes something more active and deeply
felt than apathy or indifference. It describes something more
negative than healthy scepticism (i.e. unhealthy cynicism).
4) We should be concerned about the rise of anti-
politics.
The rise of anti-politics is concerning for at least four reasons:
First, existing research tells us that anti-political sentiment is
associated with non-participation such as failing to vote, and
non-compliance such as failing to pay taxes.
Second, existing research tells us that negativity regarding
formal politics is not being compensated for by positivity
towards informal politics. In terms of participant numbers,
alternative forms of political action – from protesting and
demonstrating to donating and volunteering – do not seem to
be on the rise. They also appear to be minority forms of action
compared to, say, voting. They also seem to be practised mostly
by citizens who vote and even join mainstream political parties
(making them an extension of the repertoire of already engaged
citizens, as opposed to part of some alternative repertoire for
discontented citizens).
Third, anti-political sentiment is associated with support for
populism. Populists position themselves as being different
from politicians and parties in general; as representing
‘the people’ against ‘the out of touch and corrupt elites’; as
representing ‘common sense’ in a field otherwise characterised
by ‘vested interests’ and ‘grubby compromises’. In doing so,
they make a series of misrepresentations: that there is just
one people; that they are of that people (and other politicians
are not); that there is no mutual interdependence between
that people and other peoples (whether external populations
or internal minorities); that there is no need for negotiation
and compromise between multiple and competing interests
and opinions; and that there is no need for procedures and
institutions oriented towards negotiation, compromise, the
making of collective decisions, and the imposing of binding
decisions (what populists disparage as ‘bureaucracy’).
In Britain, UKIP is often described as a populist party. We
analysed survey data from YouGov and Populus, and found
that negative feeling towards the institutions of formal politics
predicts support for UKIP to an equal degree as key social
demographics. Indeed, when social group is held constant, anti-
political sentiment increases the odds of supporting UKIP by
more than a half.
Fourth, anti-political sentiment probably makes government
more difficult. Ministers or councillors may feel they are faced
with a diversity of demands, not aggregated by parties, that
make responsive government and coherent public policy all but
impossible. Ministers or councillors may also feel they lack the
legitimacy necessary to request sacrifices from citizens (of the
kind often required to solve major policy problems).
5) The rise of anti-politics is a complex problem and
is likely to be explained by multiple factors.
In the existing literature, explanations are often categorised
into demand-side, supply-side, and political communication
explanations:
On the demand-side, it is argued that citizens have changed.
They have become wealthier and better educated, less aligned
to the main parties, and more consumerist in their approach to
politics.
On the supply-side, it is argued that politics has changed.
Governments perform less well against an expanded set of
criteria. Power has been distributed to other actors, such that
politicians are now viewed as less powerful and less worthy
of engagement by citizens. Politicians and parties are less
distinguishable in ideological terms (the so-called ‘neoliberal
consensus’), such that citizens fail to see how engaging with
formal politics could substantially change their lives.
It is also argued that political communication has changed.
Politics has become increasingly mediated and journalists
have increasingly framed politics in negative terms. Political
campaigning has become professionalised and focused on
controlled rallies, photo opportunities, and soundbites;
agenda-setting; the personalities of party leaders; and floating
voters in marginal seats (to the exclusion of other voters).
6) The rise of anti-politics is explained in part by
citizens’ changing images of the good politician,
and changing modes of interaction between
citizens and politicians.
Volunteer writing for MO suggests two changes that help to
explain the rise of anti-politics in Britain:
Images of the good politician have changed and become more
difficult for politicians to achieve. In 1950, MO asked panellists:
how do you feel about Attlee, Churchill, Bevin, Cripps, and
4
Bevan? The responses provide access to the criteria citizens
used to judge politicians in the immediate post-war period.
These criteria suggest an imagined ‘good politician’ of good
character, principles, a mind of their own, self-control,
strength, competency, vision, and personality. We partnered
with MO to ask a similar question in 2014: how do you feel
about Cameron, Miliband, Clegg, Hague, and Osborne? The
criteria used to judge politicians have changed, suggesting a
changed image of the good politician – who should now be
strong, intelligent, competent, principled, and trustworthy;
but also sensible yet fun, hard-working yet cool and effortless,
an exceptional personality yet normal and ordinary. The image
of the good politician used to be multi-faceted but coherent
and just about achievable for some politicians. It has become
characterised by tensions and contradictions, and would be
difficult to achieve under any circumstances. It is especially
difficult to achieve by current forms of political interaction –
our next point.
Political interaction between citizens and politicians has
changed, making it more difficult for politicians to perform
virtues to citizens and for citizens to calibrate judgements of
politicians. This can be seen in the General Election diaries
of MO panellists (kept on seven occasions between 1945 and
2015). In the immediate post-war period, citizens encountered
politicians most prominently in long radio speeches and rowdy
political meetings. Politicians spoke on the radio for a testing
length of time without interruption. They spoke at meetings
where citizens could react, heckle, and ask their own questions.
As a result of this political interaction, citizens could listen to,
hear, challenge, and judge politicians as good or bad speakers,
and better or worse candidates. In the current period, citizens
encounter politicians most prominently in televised debates
and associated news reporting. Interaction is heavily mediated.
Many citizens find televised debates to be stage-managed, with
topics avoided and questions not answered. They find news
reporting to favour soundbites, photo opportunities, gaffes,
polling results, and expert analysis. As a result, many citizens
delegate their judgements to pollsters and experts, or else judge
politicians to be frauds (who stick to the salesperson’s script)
or buffoons (who mistakenly go ‘off script’ and make gaffes).
What is to be done?
We should not expect that much can be done about anti-
politics. There never was a golden age of politics in Britain.
Democracy – with all of its promises and compromises – was
always destined to disappoint citizens.
But we should expect that something can be done, because the
scope and intensity of anti-politics are broader and higher than
they were in the past. Things, as they say, could be otherwise.
On the demand-side, we should not expect much. Little can
be done about long-term sociological factors like partisan
dealignment and rising consumerism. Indeed, nothing should
be done to reverse rising wealth and education levels. But
citizenship education could be supported – especially where
it focuses on criteria for judging politicians and images of the
good politician.
On the supply-side, we should not expect much either. Those
with the power to change politics tend to be the incumbents
who feel they benefit most from the current arrangements.
Still, if politicians want citizens to participate in and legitimate
formal politics, to shun the populists, and to make possible
responsive, coherent, and effective government, they could
respond to the specific grievances of citizens. They could
respond to accusations of self-interest by looking again at
issues around pay and expenses, campaign finance, lobbying,
and so on. They could respond to accusations of being out
of touch with ordinary people by looking again at issues
around candidate and leader selection. They could respond to
accusations that politics is broken and unfair, with too many
safe seats and wasted votes, by looking again at issues around
electoral reform and especially proportional representation.
Regarding political communication, we should not expect
much either. The present situation came about for a number
of good reasons – from expansion of the franchise to very real
concerns about the security of politicians. A free press is also
essential for democracy. But politicians could listen to citizens
and respond with less mud-slinging, fewer gimmicks, more
vision, more straight-talking, more direct public engagement,
more engagement with issues that matter most to citizens.
There may even be votes in such a response! Meanwhile,
journalists could learn from the post-war period and give
politicians more time to speak – which, in some cases, would
equate to more rope by which to hang themselves. They could
also give citizens more of a role in setting agendas, posing
questions, and responding to answers received. If all this
left less time for repetitive reporting of soundbites, photo
opportunities, opinion poll results etc. then so much the better.
Finally, there is much talk at the moment of democratic
innovations such as citizens’ assemblies. We are not opposed
to these in principle, but the evidence from this project
suggests that citizens on the whole are not clamouring for
more opportunities to participate in formal politics. First
and foremost, they want politicians to behave better and for
representative democracy to work better for citizens.
5
Further reading
To date, the project has produced the following papers:
‘Golden age, apathy, or stealth? Democratic engagement
in Britain, 1945-1950’, forthcoming in Contemporary British
History, see
http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/fcbh20#.VxTvBXqij1g.
‘The dimensions and impact of political discontent in Britain’,
forthcoming in Parliamentary Affairs, see
http://pa.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2016/01/23/
pa.gsv067.abstract.
‘Anti-politics, Labour, and the left’, forthcoming in Renewal
(with responses from Andrew Gamble, Gavin Shuker, and
Oliver Escobar), see
http://www.renewal.org.uk/.
‘The bifurcation of politics: Two Englands’, forthcoming in The
Political Quarterly, see
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1467-923X.12228/
abstract.
Acknowledgements
We are grateful to the Economic and Social Research Council
for funding the research (grant ES/L007185/1), the Mass
Observation Archive for research assistance and permission to
use material, and Tristram Hunt MP for sponsoring the event
at Portcullis House.
6
8
... Mudde 2007;Rooduijn et al. 2014) and erodes the capacity to govern (see Olsen 1969;Finifter 1970;Hetherington 2006;Hetherington and Thomas 2015). It suggests also that the legitimacy crisis is intensifying (see Clarke et al. 2016). Reflecting on the populist appeal to 'demystify' politics, Mudde (2004, 557) suggests: ...
... Surveys and quantitative analysis have provided the dominant methods. Examples include the analysis of political disengagement and political attitudes using data from the World Values Survey, European Values Survey, American National Election Studies, European Social Survey, British Social Attitudes Survey and British Election Study (for example , Norris 1999;Pharr and Putnam 2000;Dalton 2004;Catterberg and Moreno 2006;Torcal and Montero 2006;Clarke et al. 2016). Demand-side analyses also focus on how the public judge their politicians' conduct and performance, ascribing increased negativity to a combination of innate complexity, political selfinterest and unrealistic public expectations. ...
Article
Full-text available
In this article, we argue for ethnography as an approach to understanding politics and government. We make three moves. First, we defend a broad approach to ethnography that encompasses more than deep immersion. Second, we build on the small literature that makes the case for political scientists doing ethnography. In doing so, we debunk common myths about the value of an ethnographic approach. Third, we review the small number of elite ethnographies from either side of the Atlantic to consider what they might tell us. These studies focus on campaigning and governing practice. They provide a glimpse of the importance of both understanding governing elites and injecting such understandings into public debates about revitalising politics. Ethnography produces descriptions characterised by detailed specificity in context that can form the basis of ‘plausible conjectures’, and add texture, depth, nuance and authenticity to our accounts of government as well unearthing surprises.
... Depoliticisation is said to contribute to anti-politics (Wood 2016). Although there has probably never been a "golden age" of democratic engagement, it seems clear that anti-political sentiment is on the rise in Britain (Clarke et al. 2016). In England, there is a growing political divide between cosmopolitan areas of economic growth and backwaters of decline, but what unites them is a dislike of politicians . ...
... Instead the technocratic managerial governance used to regulate fracking has closed down true political discussion. This is manifested in the distrust of politicians and anti-politics, which is in line with the growth in anti-politics that has occurred in Britain in recent decades (Clarke et al. 2016). Although local residents saw their movement as apolitical, they considered the governing Conservatives as the party of fracking. ...
Article
Full-text available
Fracking in the United Kingdom has yet to reach full industrial development, but it is still subject to significant opposition. This study uses Beck’s risk society theory and anti-politics to examine the views voiced by opponents to fracking in Yorkshire, England. A qualitative approach was used. Semi-structured interviews with protesters and local newspaper reports were evaluated to provide a thematic analysis. The study drew upon discourse analysis and framing literature to reveal discourses within the interviews. Although there are signs of post-materialist concerns with the environment, these issues did not dominate the discussion. Scientists were not held responsible for the risks involved in fracking. Instead, the economic greediness of politicians and austerity measures were perceived as putting the environment and human health at risk. Interviewees thought fossil fuel energy production was economically advantaged over more sustainable energy and jobs in the low carbon economy. Protesters’ trust in politicians had been eroded, but faith in democracy remained. It is argued that the consensual post-politics of risk society have not led to a reinvigoration of democratic debate. Instead anti-politics have taken place, due to the frustration of citizens. Protesters wanted a citizen-led deliberative approach to the concerns raised. Such a process would have to go beyond the consensual, and recognise the inherently agonistic process of democracy if it is to succeed.
... Thus, anti-politics consists of a broad, and growing, disenchantment amongst the general voting public in liberal democracies and, in particular, the political class (Schedler 1996;1997;Hay 2007;Clarke et al. 2016). As Copland (2019: 4) argues, anti-politics encapsulates the sentiment 'that mainstream political systems are not functioning, and are designed to benefit those who are already in the elite at the expense of "everyday people"'. ...
... There has been a shift in public opinion which mainstream parties have been unable to contain or redirect and which insurgent populist parties -or populist factions within mainstream parties, such as the pro-Brexit conservative European Research Grouphave been able to capitalise on. Anti-EU sentiment, combined with a rising distrust in the political elites (Jennings and Stoker 2016), has been stirred relentlessly for decades by the conservative press. The conundrum for Labour at this point was how to accept restrictions to free movement without pandering to racist discourse. ...
Article
This article analyses the interplay of Brexit as an issue per se and as a game of electoral politics between Labour and the Conservatives, from the time of the 2016 EU referendum to the December 2019 election. It seeks to provide a nuanced and multidimensional understanding of Labour’s strategic choices in relation to Brexit which goes beyond one-dimensional accounts of Jeremy Corbyn’s failure of leadership. This is achieved through a game theory approach whereby the game of electoral politics is conceived of as ‘nested’ inside the Brexit game in a way which makes the two arenas interdependent, also taking into account the level of intra-party politics and the tensions within Labour itself. Thus the first section of the article unpicks the strategic dilemmas Labour was facing, while the second section examines Labour’s ambivalent response to these challenges. The final section explores the dynamic balance of contradictory forces at play, tracking the evolution of Labour’s position in the electoral game from 2016 to 2019 through an analysis of the main strengths and weaknesses of the party at various points during the period.
... Depoliticisation is said to contribute to anti-politics (Wood 2016). Although there has probably never been a 'golden age' of democratic engagement it seems clear that anti-political sentiment is on the rise in Britain (Clarke et al. 2016). In England there is a growing political divide between cosmopolitan areas of economic growth and backwaters of decline but what unites them is a dislike of politicians . ...
Preprint
Full-text available
Fracking in the UK has yet to reach full industrial development but it is still subject to significant opposition. This study uses Beck’s Risk Society theory and anti-politics to examine the views voiced by opponents to fracking in Yorkshire, England. A qualitative approach was used; local newspaper reports were evaluated alongside semi-structured interviews with protesters to provide a thematic analysis. Although there are signs of post-materialist concerns with the environment these issues did not dominate the discussion. Scientists were not held responsible for the risks involved in fracking. Instead economic greediness of politicians and austerity measures were perceived as putting the environment and people’s health at risk. Interviewees thought fossil fuel energy production was economically advantaged over more sustainable energy and jobs in the low carbon economy. Protesters’ trust in politicians had been eroded but faith in democracy remained. It is suggested a citizen-led deliberative approach to all the concerns raised, not simply those relating to scientific risk, might achieve some level of resolution over fracking in the UK.
... In 2014, a study prepared a questionnaire that asked ''what is the percentage of British politicians who care for their country?'' [ Jennings (2016)]. The respondents answered 8 per cent. ...
... He suggests that such groups rely on a professional staff and heavy use of media, which in turn separates citizens from professional activists and increases polarisation of debate, and reduces political trust. According to that interpretation, the de-mainstreaming of politics, as issue-and value-based politics rise in importance, implies a rise in anti-politics (Clarke et al 2016). Alternatively, engagement in political subcultures and protest activism can be interpreted as young British Muslims seeking a stake in national civic life on their own terms. ...
Article
Full-text available
Adopting public policies to deliver the ambitious long-term goals of the Paris Agreement will require significant societal commitment. That commitment will eventually emerge from the interaction between policies, publics and politicians. This article has two main aims. First, it reviews the existing literatures on these three to identify salient research gaps. It finds that existing work has focused on one aspect rather than the dynamic interactions between them all. Second, it sets out a more integrated research agenda that explores the three-way interaction between publics, policies and politicians. It reveals that greater integration is required to understand better the conditions under which different political systems address societal commitment dilemmas. In the absence of greater research integration, there is a risk that policymakers cling to two prominent but partial policy prescriptions: that 'democracy' itself is the problem and should be suspended; and that more deliberative forms of democracy are required without explaining how they will co-exist with existing forms.
Thesis
Full-text available
This thesis presents a study of citizens’ engagement with the UK Parliament, at a critical time for this institution and for representative democracy in general. Long-term trends in political participation (in a UK and global context) have contributed to a widely-perceived crisis of representative democracy, characterised by popular dissatisfaction, disinterest, and disengagement. This thesis examines perceptions toward the UK Parliament and parliamentary engagement through institutional and citizen perspectives. In doing so we provide a definition of parliamentary engagement as an ongoing, meaningful dialogue between institution and individual(s). Utilising an innovative theoretical framework, we investigate specific parliamentary engagement initiatives, narratives and discourses, and discuss what these indicate about the nature (or existence) of Parliament’s ‘culture’ of engagement. The way(s) in which Parliament is defined, conceptualised and represented – by citizens, and within Parliament – is a means by which this institution’s practical and symbolic role can be better understood. These definitions, conceptualisations and representations are examined as narratives, a framework that also allows us to examine several engagement initiatives (which make conscious reference to narrative and storytelling) in terms of objectives, intended audience(s), and influence. In addition, Parliament’s wider engagement efforts (and those of outside organisations) will be investigated first-hand, analysing the initial and retrospective perceptions of the citizens who experience them. These aims also inform our discussions with parliamentary staff and officials, helping to construct an ‘institutional perspective’ on engagement. In doing so, we find Parliament to be an enduringly ‘abstract’ institution (according to citizens and staff); a narrative that problematises relatability and identification (as well as broader, deeper engagement). This narrative is reinforced by several factors, including the ad- hoc nature of parliamentary engagement – understood variously across departments, teams and individuals – and an institutional dichotomy of ‘stories’ and ‘information’ when addressing public input, as well as a continued absence of corporate identity.
The bifurcation of politics: Two Englands', forthcoming in The Political Quarterly
'The bifurcation of politics: Two Englands', forthcoming in The Political Quarterly, see http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1467-923X.12228/ abstract.