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The December 2019 issue of
Town & Country Planning
included a Special Section on the experience and
future of British New Towns. It featured articles on
different places, including the pioneering New Town
of Stevenage, developed around the ‘quiet farming
town’1of the same name. Its planned expansion to
60,000 (87,000 today) was opposed locally and
when the Minister, Lewis Silkin, visited, he was
famously met by a railway station sign ‘altered to
read ‘Silkingrad’, a reference to what many felt
were similarities between Silkin’s approach and that
of a totalitarian regime’.2
As Hugh Ellis’s introduction to the Special Section
observes, however, despite such feelings, 32 new,
or expanded, towns were created which are ‘now
home to 2.8 million people’.3He also notes that
there were a great many achievements in the
building of the New Towns, as well as mistakes.
So accepting that the New Towns were not perfect,
or welcomed and supported by everyone, but that
they provide homes for almost 3million people
(often of better quality than others available at the
time the towns were built, or those being built/
converted today), was the creation of new and
expanded towns on balance politically legitimate?
This question reminds us that planning has long
drawn on different modes of legitimation for the
choices it makes and the outcomes it delivers.
These have ranged from plans and programmes
whose legitimacy is embedded in representative
democratic structures and the counsel of experts,
to approaches which derive their legitimacy from
more participative, or ‘direct’, forms of democracy.
Experience shows that developing plans and taking
decisions that enjoy societal acceptance can be
challenging, no matter which mode of legitimation
is adopted. Factoring in an evaluation of their
substantive impacts makes any assessment of the
overall value of planning even trickier. Planning
theorists have long pondered whether a ‘good’ and
‘legitimate’ process will necessarily deliver a ‘good’
88 Town & Country Planning February 2019
planning outcome as judged against other more
substantive criteria – for example the delivery of
development that contributes to greater social and
economic opportunity and justice, while minimising
environmental impacts.
Decisions may sometimes be taken – whether
legitimated through representative or participative
democratic processes – which seem likely to prove
sub-optimal in substantive planning terms, at least
in expert/professional judgement. But in a world
where there are claims that people have had
‘enough of experts’, and that ‘the age of experts is
over’,4and where there have been some emblematic
failures of expert knowledge and systems, there are
clearly challenges to the legitimation of decisions
through a sole appeal to professional knowledge
and expertise. The proposed exit of the UK from the
EU, and similarly fraught political scenes being
played out in other places, throw such issues into
sharp focus.
Democracy? ‘Just count the votes and get on
with it!’
A recent Facebook post argued that democracy
involves no more than ‘counting the votes and
getting on with it’. In this view, any votes which
have taken place more or less freely are viewed as
having the same democratic quality, and democracy
is perceived almost as a given naturally occurring
phenomenon, rather as markets are presented in
much classical and neo-classical economic thought.
Others may see a difference between formal and
substantive democracy.
At a formal level, an almost a tick-box ‘procedural’
view could be taken of a democratic process – for
example, was the vote free and fair, were votes
counted, was fraud minimised, were rules on the
conduct of the ballot respected (for example on
issues such as campaign funding)? But considerations
of whether a vote was substantively democratic and
of its democratic quality might bring into play other
principles, values and questions, such as:
‘Who are to count as ‘the people’ and what is a
‘majority’ of them? Why (if at all) should majorities
rule minorities? Should representative or direct
forms of democracy be privileged? And is
democracy merely majority rule or are other
features part of the definition?
europe inside out
Olivier Sykes looks at the Brexit project’s current stock of political legitimacy
input, output, throughput,
stay put?
Town & Country Planning February 2019 89
For example, 2018 marked the centenary of the
right to vote being extended to (some) women in the
UK. But what does this imply about the ‘democratic’
votes held before 1918? They may have been
considered to have been democratic in a ‘formal’
sense in the terms of their own time, but would
we now consider that elections held prior to UK
women being given the same voting rights as men
– essentially becoming part of ‘the people’ (in 1928,
actually) – had the same democratic quality as those
held subsequently? It might be considered ‘presentist’
to say otherwise – back-casting the values of our
own times onto a different era. But the wider point
is that there may be values and principles that we
may use to gauge the democratic
of systems
and outcomes which go further than the notion of
the simple ‘counting of votes and getting on with it’.
Thus David Hirsh argues that democracy:
‘Is not simply the rule of the majority, but a
whole system and culture of democratic life: the
democratic and secular state; the rule of law;
the principle that all human beings are in a
profound sense of equal value; the deepening
of international co-operation, law and trade;
freedom of speech and association
But are these things intrinsic to democracy itself
or just more likely to be achieved under democratic
systems? Others argue slightly differently that
things like ‘toleration, entrenchment of rights and
so on’ are ‘preconditions for democracy’ but ‘not
constitutive of democracy itself’ (i.e. part of the
definition). In both cases, though, further conditions
are considered to be necessary to the effective
functioning of democracy.
In our own times accusations that those who don’t
share majoritarian views are being ‘undemocratic’
for expressing a different view are often heard.
So is democracy itself simply analogous with
majoritarianism – and if so what kinds of majorities
are acceptable? And because a decision has been
reached by nominally democratic means, does this
confer on it incontestable virtue?
For the author Slavoj Zizek, this keys into a
fundamental philosophical question: are democratic
ballots an indication of ‘the truth, or ‘a truth’?7And
do all formally ‘democratic’ choices/acts possess
equal intrinsic ‘rightness’, even if they have been
arrived at through qualitatively different applications of
democracy? Is democracy to be regarded as a virtue
in itself, alongside things like justice and prudence
that are often cited in classical and other thought; or
is it simply a system of politics which is
more likely
to deliver certain desirable, or ‘virtuous’, things?
Linking to David Hirshs comments above, in
modern times democratic systems were certainly
often seen as having a higher propensity to foster
values such toleration, entrenchment of rights and
the rule of law than other systems. But is this
always straightforward, or automatic? As Winston
Churchill famously remarked in 1947:
‘Many forms of Government have been tried, and
will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one
pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise.
europe inside out
secretlondon123 (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Indeed it has been said that democracy is the
worst form of Government except for all those
other forms that have been tried from time to
More recently the philosopher AC Grayling has
also acknowledged that aspects of democracy are
not perfect, noting that:
‘in the powerfully justifiable claim of the many to
be the holders or source of political authority, and
in the danger of the collapse of this authority into
either ochlocracy
or hidden oligarchy,
lies the
acute dilemma of democracy itself.
Drawing on political thinkers of the 18th and 19th
centuries, he discusses how the ‘the institutions and
practices of the political state’ could be arranged so
‘that they could reconcile two key aims: that
ultimate source of political authority should lie in
democratic assent
, and that
government should be
and could be sound and responsible
11 (
added). The point being argued is that for the full
advantages of democracy to be realised – for it to
be made ‘more perfect’ or ‘more wise’, to adapt
Churchill’s language – certain conditions, mechanisms,
institutions and values may be necessary.
One issue that a narrow majoritarian view may
face which is particularly relevant to planning is how
minority interests and values are protected and
served. What happens, for example, when formally
democratic processes exclude participation by
certain concerned parties/interests and result in the
neglect of things like environmental protection,
social justice, and the rights of minorities or those
of non-human entities – for example endangered
species, landscapes, or habitats, etc.?
To make democracy ‘more wise’ in these
circumstances, should there be scope for any
decision, or act, with such ethical or distributional
impacts to still be subjected to further scrutiny and
perhaps revision? What of an activity such as
planning, often conceived as being based on
democratic assent and expertise and principles
which may at times express/uphold ecological, social,
economic, cultural values that are at odds with
majoritarian wishes, or those of powerful interests?
What makes planning a legitimate enterprise in such
instances? Is it, in fact, legitimate if it proposes a
course of action contrary to expressed majority
opinion (and what of ‘silent majorities’)?
Furthermore, as decisions are reached through
processes with highly variable democratic qualities,
decisions that can be described as ‘democratic’ in
purely formal terms may have varying degrees of
democratic legitimacy. This directs attention to the
90 Town & Country Planning February 2019
issue of how governing decisions acquire wider
Building political legitimacy for governing
For Zack Taylor,12 the ‘belief that the exercise of
state authority is justifiable, even if one disagrees
with specific decisions, is the essence of legitimacy’,
which ‘is often characterized as a stock that can be
expanded or diminished’. Authors such as Fritz
Scharpf13 have conceived of political legitimacy in
‘terms of two normative criteria:
output effectiveness
for the people and
input participation
by the people’
added). Others such as Vivian Schmidt14
have sought to account for ‘what goes on in the
‘black box’ of governance between input and
output’. This has been termed
throughput legitimacy
consists of governance processes with the
people, analyzed in terms of their efficacy,
accountability, transparency, inclusiveness, and
openness to interest consultation’. For Schmidt:
These normative definitions of legitimacy pick up
on Abraham Lincoln’s famous dictum about
democracy requiring government by the people
(political participation), of the people (citizen
representation), and for the people (governing
She also notes that in the 1960s David Easton
defined input into the political system
as consisting
of citizens’ demands and support (conferred not
only through elections but also by citizen identity
and sense of system legitimacy) and output as
government decisions and actions’. Such thinking has
often been applied to the EU, in which, while there
is democratic input to, and scrutiny of, decisions,
there is arguably a lack at a wider European scale
of Easton’s ‘citizen identity and sense of system
legitimacy’. In summary, political legitimacy derives
from ‘three democratic legitimising criteria’:14
the people’) – are
the wishes of the governed represented, as
ascertained through different consultative
mechanisms (for example democratic ballots)?
the people’) – are
decisions effective in serving the interests of the
governed? What is ‘the problem solving quality of
the laws and rules?’14
the people’) – are
people involved on an ongoing basis in governing
choices and decisions? Is there a recognition that
no mandate is given ‘once and for all’ and that
there is a role for ongoing democratic input and
institutional scrutiny – for example for Parliament, the
judiciary, and, when needed further, consultation?
europe inside out
Town & Country Planning February 2019 91
In such views, political legitimacy thus requires
more than a decision to be ‘democratic’ in strictly
formal terms, directing attention to its ‘democratic
quality’ in ‘input’ and ongoing ‘throughput’
governance terms, and whether impacts of choices
pursued (‘outputs’) are for the better, or worse.
How does the UK government’s current policy of
withdrawing the UK from the EU measure up in
these terms?
Input legitimacy
With 17.4million voting to leave the EU, some
view the 2016 referendum as the ‘biggest ever
democratic exercise’ and by extension the biggest
mandate in British history. Interestingly, since 1945
there have been 13 general elections with a higher
turnout and six elections/referenda since 1950
where (with more than just two options) more of
the electorate voted for the winning side than in
2016.15 Furthermore, in 2016 with 16.1 million voting
‘remain’ and 12.9 million not voting at all, the ‘leave’
result represented around 37% of the electorate.
This is some way adrift of a majority of 50% or the
kind of super-majority (60%, for example) sometimes
required for such major constitutional changes.
But be that as it may, the fact remains that ‘on
the day’ more people actively voted to leave than
for anything else, and in a democratic system
used to weakly representative governments being
formed with vote shares in the 30-40% range this
may be seen as good enough. In Britain’s ‘winner
takes all’ parliamentary elections, a weak level of
representativeness is typically accepted for a
maximum of five years on the basis that (usually)
more people chose a party’s programme than any
other, so it is fair to give it a chance to try to deliver
– and that this is usually better than putting together
potentially unstable mishmashes of parties in a
coalition which enjoys an absolute majority of
electoral support. Applying this logic to an epochal
50-year time horizon decision like leaving the EU
is a rather different proposition.
Another issue in gauging the democratic quality
of a decision is the extent of the franchise – ‘who
are to count as ‘the people’…’.5It is commonly
seen as a matter of democratic justice that those
most affected by a decision should be allowed a
voice in the process. Yet the eligible electorate for
the 2016 EU referendum effectively excluded key
groups likely to be most concerned by the result –
notably Britons living overseas for over 15 years, non-
UK EU citizens living in the UK (often experiencing
‘taxation without representation’), and 16-18 year
olds. The exclusion of these groups does not make
the vote to leave undemocratic in narrowly formal
terms, but it perhaps rather erodes the ‘stock’ of
political legitimacy that it holds.
Another key gauge of input legitimacy is how far
subsequent governing decisions reflect what the
governed have indicated they want. So for a vote to
hold a good ‘stock’ of input legitimacy there ideally
needs to be a clear set of things put before the
voters so they can see what they are voting for,
weigh up any trade-offs between different choices,
and hold the government to account subsequently.
Thus in general elections party manifestos outline
the programmes between which a choice can be
made. If a party in power subsequently breaks a
promise, then voters can take this into account next
time they vote (as with the Liberal Democrats vote
collapse following their U-turn on student fees
during the 2010-15 UK coalition government). So
‘input’ democratic legitimacy can be quite high in
such circumstances.
And though there have been many arguments
advanced against the referendum as a device of
consultation, with politicians as diverse as Clement
Attlee and Margaret Thatcher seeing it as instrument
of totalitarian regimes (‘a device of dictators and
demagogues’16), shouldn’t the clarity of ‘input’ be
high in a vote organised around a single issue? Or
might there be some questions which referenda are
better suited to providing ‘input’ on than others?
In the 2016 EU referendum it sometimes seemed
that almost ‘57 varieties of leave17 were being
offered (in or out of the EEA, single market,
customs union, etc.) by a diverse leave campaign
making different promises. The ballot paper itself
only offered a ‘Remain’ option on the terms of
David Cameron’s renegotiation and an open-ended
‘Leave’ option. The campaign was thus effectively
a contest between an imperfect and poorly
communicated present and an unspecified utopian
europe inside out
‘For a vote to hold a good
‘stock’ of input legitimacy
there ideally needs to be a
clear set of things put before
the voters so they can see
what they are voting for, weigh
up any trade-offs between
different choices, and hold the
government to account
vision in which ‘Brexit’ was presented as the
response to, it seemed, almost every problem.
More widely, in the campaign there was no
definition, nor high-profile discussion, of choices and
concepts that have subsequently become central to
the debate – such as ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ Brexit. This
meant that the result and actual meaning of ‘Brexit’
has had to be interpreted and defined subsequently.
This contrasts with referenda which present more
clearly defined alternatives – for example that held
in Ireland in 2015 on whether same-sex marriage
should be legalised.
Some have considered political legitimacy from
the perspective of the ‘quality of the consent’ of the
people, including consideration in terms of ‘informed
and reasoned agreement produced by deliberation’.18
Similarly, over recent decades planning theorists
have drawn on the work of Jürgen Habermas and
his theories of communicative rationality and action,
which suggest that for it to be ‘undistorted’ and for
the ‘force of the better argument’ to carry the day,
communication must be
comprehensible, truthful,
sincere and legitimate
. Considering the 2016 EU
referendum campaign against such criteria is surely
Finally, for its outcome to be judged politically
legitimate, a campaign and vote may be expected
to take place according to the stipulations of the
applicable electoral law, or risk losing the quality
of being even formally democratic. It is beyond
the scope of the present article to consider such
issues in relation to the 2016 EU referendum, but
investigative journalists and the justice system
continue to reveal and evaluate the distortions of
the electoral process which unlawful campaign
spending and evidence of other forms of interference
and manipulation engendered. Whether any of this
helps the UK in its current predicament, or will
ultimately only be relevant to historians, depends
on how wedded the UK remains to the rule of law
and constitutional democracy.
In a quote much cited in the media since the UK’s
EU referendum and the election of Donald Trump in
the US, the journalist and satirist H L Mencken
stated that ‘democracy is the theory that the
common people know what they want, and deserve
to get it good and hard’. In other words, what
counts is input, and it is for the people to find out
the consequences of their choices in a kind of ‘you
make your bed and lie in it
version of democracy.
The notion of output legitimacy, however, suggests
that legitimacy also derives from the effectiveness
of decisions in serving the interests of the people
92 Town & Country Planning February 2019
and solving their problems. In order to anticipate the
effects of different policies it is thus common for
governments to conduct impact studies. These
became a political issue at the end of 2017 as the
then ‘Brexit Secretary’ David Davis claimed before a
parliamentary select committee that his department
had not conducted such studies into the impacts of
leaving the EU.19 When the results of such impact
studies relating to the economy were later revealed,
they showed that growth under all leave scenarios
would be below that resulting from remaining in
the EU.20 Significantly, in an anti-expert climate
even such impact assessments have been seen by
some as ploys to undermine or ‘sabotage’ Brexit by
‘biased’ civil servants.
Meanwhile, having been voluble on the benefits
of leaving the EU, but thin on the details during the
2016 campaign, one might have expected the
Brexiters themselves to cement the political
legitimacy of their project by working diligently to
increase its initial ‘stock’ of input legitimacy by
putting forward a concrete plan for a future UK-EU
relationship which demonstrated its legitimacy in
‘output’ terms. Because they have not done so, the
field has been left clear for analyses that in most
cases suggest that for the foreseeable future the
output dimension of Brexit will be more about
seeking to make up for what has already been lost
than about any new gains.21 Even Theresa May will
not be drawn on whether the withdrawal agreement
she has concluded with the UK’s EU partners is
better than remaining in the EU.22
Meanwhile, ardent Brexiters have subtly, but
increasingly it seems, shifted from invocations of
lands of milk and honey and sunlit uplands to more
Nietzschean-flavoured ‘That which does not kill us
makes us stronger’ arguments. Or perhaps more
accurately the Brexit credo is now something like
‘That which makes us weaker, may not kill us, and
one day if we are lucky (possibly in 50 years’ time)
we may be stronger again.23
The debate on impacts also remains resolutely
focused on economic issues.24 Even at this stage,
it is only slowly that ‘outputs’ in other areas which
were scarcely discussed during the referendum,
but which are potentially affected by any Brexit,
are beginning to be seriously recognised. How to
resolve the issues surrounding the land border on
the island of Ireland created by May’s ‘red lines’
and logistical issues at sea borders and entry
points elsewhere are two of the most prominent.
Former Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab’s admission
that he had not realised the importance of the
Dover to Calais crossing to UK trade25 ( seemed to
epitomise the casual approach to considering output
europe inside out
Town & Country Planning February 2019 93
which has coursed through the preparations for
Meanwhile, alongside discussion of obvious
challenges, official policy statements and
statements from certain organisations often feature
rather ‘forced’ references to the opportunities of
Brexit, in many cases referring to things that could
have been as easily – and frequently more easily –
achieved while staying in the EU. There have also
been some instances of Ministers trying to claim
credit for measures which were originally EU
initiatives.26 The lack of prominence accorded to, and
a dismissive government attitude towards, the
views of the private, community and research
sectors, and the professions, on the EU debate
continues – an issue previously raised in these
Throughput legitimacy examines what happens
between input and output and ongoing governance
processes in terms of their ‘efficacy, accountability,
transparency, inclusiveness, and openness to interest
consultation’.14 This might mean involving people on
an ongoing basis in governing choices and decisions,
recognising that no mandate is given ‘once and for
all’ and that there is a role for institutional scrutiny –
for Parliament and the judiciary, and perhaps further
democratic input from the governed.
The May government tried to exclude Parliament
early on from one of the first key acts in converting
the referendum result into the output of leaving the
EU. Democracy campaigners had to go to court
to ensure that the government respected the
constitutional sovereignty of Parliament and that it
would get a chance to vote on triggering Article 50,
giving notice of the UK’s intention to leave the EU.
Eurosceptics who had campaigned for decades
about the hypothetical surrender of Parliament to
the EU now apparently supported its hollowing out
by the UK executive.
Through much of the process the government has
seemed to view Parliament as an impediment – for
example, withholding legal advice on the EU
withdrawal agreement to the extent that it was
found to be in contempt of Parliament in December
2018. More recently there have been some calls for
Parliament to be suspended, to frustrate attempts
by some MPs to forestall the possibility of no-deal
Yet, seeking to bolster the input legitimacy and
secure a strengthened mandate for the
government’s ‘red-lined’ version of leaving the EU,
Theresa May
call a general election in 2017.
Although the government lost its majority, there
was little nuancing of the approach adopted. In
fact, in response to petitions on various aspects of
the leave process, the government has repeatedly
used the argument that 80% of voters at the 2017
general election supported parties committed to
implementing the leave result of 2016. This is
convenient, perhaps, but involves a democratic
sleight of hand in that it treats an election result
based on a multi-party and multiple programme and
issue poll almost as another binary-choice
referendum on leaving the EU, and not a verdict on
(among other things) the approach subsequently
adopted by the government following the
referendum result. This calls to the fore another
dimension of throughput legitimacy: inclusiveness.
Former Minister for Europe Jim Murphy contrasts
the response to the 2016 EU referendum with the
response to the 2014 Scottish independence
referendum, where a commission on further
europe inside out
A legitimation triangle?
devolution was created to ‘determine what kind
of ‘No’ vote should be implemented’ and which
‘offered many of the 45% of ‘Yes’ voters and the
SNP a chance to shape an outcome, the principle
of which they opposed’.29
For Zack Taylor, the ‘belief that the exercise of
state authority is justifiable, even if one disagrees
with specific decisions, is the essence of legitimacy’.
Therefore more inclusive approaches such as these
might add to the ‘stock’ of political legitimacy of
choices made on a divisive issue. In stark contrast
to such approaches to addressing divisions, from
the start a defining feature of the May governments
has been the limited attempts they have made to
build consensus and search for a compromise
balancing the concerns of different groups.
Another crucial ‘throughput’ lacuna in the devolved
UK state has been the weak inclusion of devolved
administrations in the leave process. As widely
reported, this has not played well in the devolved
‘Celtic’ nations, and has also added to feelings of
exclusion in the English regions and city regions.30
The apparent lack of interest in approaching the
leave process more inclusively and reaching out
to different groups and territorial interests was
epitomised in Theresa May’s ‘Letter to the nation’
in November 2018.31 The tone of this and its
repetition of many of the decades-long tropes of
Euroscepticism compounded anger and the sense
of alienation at what read like a set of fictive
foundational myths for a new state. In response
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon incisively
noted that ‘almost nothing in this desperate letter is
true’.32 This undermined the letter’s call for ‘renewal
and reconciliation’ between different groups. After
all, the first word of the notion of ‘truth and
reconciliation’ which has been employed in certain
divided societal contexts is ‘truth. The letter seemed
not so much to seek truth and reconciliation as call
for a pact of forgetting.
Democracy can be seen as a simple matter of
‘counting the votes and getting on with the job’,
yet, no matter what ones view on the UK leaving
the EU, more nuanced notions of substantive
democratic quality and political legitimacy can help
make sense of the tortuous aftermath of the 2016
Output and throughput legitimacy address the risk
that the people vote for something ill-defined and
then those in power get to decide what they should
have ‘good and hard’ as a result, regardless of the
consequences – rather in the manner that the UK
government has monopolised the interpretation of
94 Town & Country Planning February 2019
the voters’ input in 2016. Yet with an issue as big
as leaving the EU, and bearing in mind the
democratic ‘quality’ of the input provided by the
2016 referendum, all parts of the democratic system
and all ‘legitimacies’ needed to be mobilised through
a thorough consideration of the consequences for
society (‘output’) and by fostering ongoing debate
and scrutiny of decisions (‘throughput’).
The impact studies of government and others on
the consequences of Brexit have flagged its output
implications, while the quality of throughput
legitimacy might be gauged in in terms of how
Parliament and the people have been involved on an
ongoing basis beyond a one-off chance to vote. The
latter may be deemed to be significant as the right
to change one’s mind is fundamental to the
maintenance of democracy, as even David Davis
has said, and no mandate is given for ‘all time’.
Indeed, even a planning permission expires after a
certain period, after which a new application will
probably be required, to ensure that, if circumstances
change, a proposal can be reconsidered. Perhaps a
planner with experience of attempting to convert
political input expectations, no matter how
problematic, into workable outputs that serve the
public should have been put in charge of the Brexit
process (as if!)? There are, after all, plenty of
cautionary examples of plans and ‘solutions in
search of problems’ whose ill-foundedness soon
became obvious, but which due to political ‘lock-in’
were ‘ploughed on with, regardless of shifts in
professional viewpoints and public opinion and
palpable ‘early’ implementation failure.
In the final analysis the Brexit process does not
shine across the input, output or throughput
dimensions of political legitimacy, and its ‘stock’ of
legitimacy has gradually eroded since the initial
vote, leading to the legitimacy crisis which is being
played out daily in Parliament, in the street, and
across the news screens. Perhaps it is time to test
the input legitimacy of the ‘stay put’ option again?
For as the masterplanner of Stevenage New Town,
and Lever Professor of Civic Design at the
University of Liverpool, Gordon Stephenson,
remarked in his inaugural lecture in 1948:
‘We do not want ‘one plan once and for all, but the
conscious selection by the people of successive
Olivier Sykes is with the Department of Geography and
Planning at the University of Liverpool. The views expressed
are personal.
1 S Taylor and J Gardner: ‘Stevenage – a journey to Utopia’.
Town & Country Planning
, 2018, Vol. 87, Dec., 492-94
europe inside out
Town & Country Planning February 2019 95
2 J Halford: ‘Stevenage: the town that aimed for utopia’.
BBC News
, 11 Nov. 2106.
Intriguingly a referendum was held that apparently
showed 52% ‘entirely against’ the expansion of the
town, but despite this the plan went ahead – see
3 H Ellis: ‘British New Towns – a story of success, betrayal
and hope’.
Town & Country Planning
, 2018, Vol. 87, Dec.,
4 ‘Britain has had enough of experts, says Gove’.
Financial Times
, 3 Jun. 2016.
3be49734-29cb-11e6-83e4-abc22d5d108c; and L Sabin:
‘The age of experts is over’.
Morning Star
, 25 Nov. 2018.
5 I McLean:
Oxford Concise Dictionary of Politics
. Oxford
University Press, 1996, pp.129-32
6 D Hirsch: ‘Brexit and Corbynism could lead to a crisis of
UK democracy’. Analysis article. The UK in a Changing
Europe, 15 Sept. 2018.
7 S Zizek:
First as Tragedy, Then as Farce
. Verso Books,
8 Winston Churchill, addressing the House of Commons,
11 Nov. 1947 – see
9 Ochlocracy – defined in AC Grayling:
Democracy and
its Crisis
. One World Books, 2018, p.2 as ‘mob rule,
driven in an unruly fashion by emotion, self-interest,
prejudice, anger, ignorance and thoughtlessness into
rash, cruel, destructive and self-destructive action’
10 Oligarchy – defined in I McLean:
Oxford Concise
Dictionary of Politics
. Oxford University Press, 1996,
pp.348-49 as ‘government by the few… rulers who
govern in their own interest’; and hidden oligarchy –
defined in AC Grayling:
Democracy and its Crisis
. One
World Books, 2018, p.2
as ‘a group using the excuse or
the fig-leaf of appeals to democratic licence to carry out
their agenda’
11 AC Grayling: ‘Democracy and its crisis.
The New
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europe inside out
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Full-text available
The success of populist right-wing parties in a number of European countries continues to be one of the defining political trends of the day. In May 2014 the Front National won ten mairies (town halls) in the French local elections. Closer to home UKIP emerged as the party winning the most seats in the European elections, increasing its share of the vote by 11%, and since then has acquired its first two elected MPs. Mainstream parties struggle to respond to the seemingly unstoppable increase in support for such parties, driven by what some commentators have described as a sentiment of 'anti-politics'. 1 The rise of Nigel Farage's 'reactionary cultural movement', 2 with its anti-EU and anti-immigration rhetoric, is pulling political discourse ever rightwards 'towards its own favoured terrain' 2 and has frightened David Cameron into making a gamble with Britain's future in the EU in the hope of placating hard-line Eurosceptics in his own party and stemming a flow of Tory votes in the direction of UKIP. UKIP seems to have succeeded in widening its appeal from its initial support base of 'traditional' nationalist, C/conservative and Eurosceptic voters to attract a wider range of supporters, including some who previously voted for Labour. Despite a series of absurdities and gaffes – including recently mistaking Westminster Cathedral for a mosque in a rebuke for 'liberal bias' directed at the BBC, 3 or Nigel Farage bizarrely blaming his late arrival at a meeting in Wales on an M4 motorway which has become less 'navigable' in a country with 'open-door' immigration 4 – nothing seems to stall the rise of a party which even its (to use Keynes' phrase) 'academic scribbler' founder Alan Sked now describes as a 'Frankenstein's monster'. 5 Politicians from the other parties (except, perhaps, the Liberal Democrats) appear reluctant to 'call out' UKIP and expose the potential implications of its policies and positions for British values and prosperity. Sustained and effective media scrutiny also seems limited. 572 Town & Country Planning December 2014 Particularly striking is the contrast with the way in which significant sections of the media keenly emphasised that the 'Yes' campaign in the recent Scottish independence referendum apparently incorporated some 'nasty' nationalist elements. 6 UKIP and its members can, it seems, say all kinds of unsubstantiated things about immigrants, the EU and a host of other issues without facing a similar level of scrutiny. Nigel Farage has even enjoyed having his avuncular 'man of the people' image bolstered by being invited for a pint with a journalist from Britain's leading liberal newspaper. 7 The most coherent critique of 'Farageism' (at least on an implicit level) has probably been provided by a recent film about an illegal immigrant from the Ursidae family (Tremarctos ornatus one assumes), which lavishly celebrates Britain's historic tolerance and diversity and eulogises the welcoming and multicultural nature of its globalised capital city. 8 Meanwhile, the debate (to use a perhaps rather flattering term) surrounding EU issues in the UK is driven by desperate politicians keen to appeal to the section of the electorate who seem angriest with the current 'state of the world'. Steve Richards, writing in the Independent following the election of Mark Reckless as UKIP MP for Rochester and Strood, notes how those in the 'Westminster bubble' who scrutinise polls and focus group results 'are so in touch with the level of discontent that they try too hard to please, appearing to accept the premise that both Europe and immigration are the source of all the UK's problems when they know this is not true'. 1 He goes on to rather bravely observe that 'For some of the angriest voters or non-voters there is no reciprocal arrangement. They do not try to please the politicians by reflecting on the dilemmas and challenges faced by flawed leaders. It spoils the fun of feeling angry and betrayed.' As many planners know from experience, the true sum of a society's feelings on a given issue does not necessarily equate with the position of those who have the strongest and most polarised views. Similarly, although objections to particular developments might rapidly fill the in-trays of planning departments, those who support a development are less likely to write in during a consultation process. Letters to say 'well done' to the euro-files
Full-text available
Whether their analytic frameworks focus on the EU's institutional form and practices or on its interactive construction, scholars have analyzed the EU's democratic legitimacy mainly in terms of the trade-offs between the output effectiveness of EU's policies outcomes for the people and the input participation by the people. Missing is theorization of the "throughput" efficiency, accountability, transparency, and openness to consultation with the people of the EU's internal governance processes. The paper argues that adding this analytic category facilitates assessment of these legitimizing mechanisms' interdependencies as well as consideration of reforms that could turn this democratic trilemma into a "virtuous circle". Paper prepared for delivery to the European Union Studies Association's biannual meetings, Boston, MA, March 3-6, 2010.
Planners are centrally concerned with the legitimacy of planning institutions and practices. In a democratic society, governments depend on the voluntary compliance of external actors for the implementation of their policies. Planning theorists have largely focused on the inclusiveness and quality of deliberation in goal-setting. This article expands this focus using Scharpf’s and Schmidt’s distinction between three domains of legitimation—input, throughput, and output—each of which affords a distinct pathway to legitimacy. These legitimation processes are examined through a comparison of the postwar development of American regional planning institutions in Minneapolis–St Paul, Minnesota, and Portland, Oregon. The input-throughput-output distinction can be used to interpret the operation and impacts of historical planning activities, or prospectively to evaluate the potential impacts of institutional reforms.
Stevenage: the town that aimed for utopia'. BBC News
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J Halford: 'Stevenage: the town that aimed for utopia'. BBC News, 11 Nov. 2106.
British New Towns-a story of success, betrayal and hope'. Town & Country Planning
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H Ellis: 'British New Towns-a story of success, betrayal and hope'. Town & Country Planning, 2018, Vol. 87, Dec., 470-72
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D Hirsch: 'Brexit and Corbynism could lead to a crisis of UK democracy'. Analysis article. The UK in a Changing Europe, 15 Sept. 2018.
addressing the House of Commons
  • Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill, addressing the House of Commons, 11 Nov. 1947 -see resources/quotes/the-worst-form-of-government
as 'mob rule, driven in an unruly fashion by emotion, self-interest, prejudice, anger, ignorance and thoughtlessness into rash, cruel, destructive and self-destructive action
  • Ochlocracy
  • Grayling
Ochlocracy -defined in AC Grayling: Democracy and its Crisis. One World Books, 2018, p.2 as 'mob rule, driven in an unruly fashion by emotion, self-interest, prejudice, anger, ignorance and thoughtlessness into rash, cruel, destructive and self-destructive action'