Monday, 21 October 2019

Polly Toynbee Annual PQ Lecture: 4 December at 6.15pm, BMA House, Tavistock Square, London

Polly Toynbee
The Lost Decade

In the welter of immediate events, it's easy to forget just how tumultuous the past ten years have been.

The decade has been characterised by ideology and ineptitude, dogma and disarray, austerity, social dislocation, the breakup of the UK, and national loss of confidence.

There have been huge failures of policy design and delivery: in the NHS in England, in the assault on accountability in English schools, the dismantling of criminal justice and the cynical targeting of local government spending.

And then came Brexit, a Tory party psychodrama that became national history.

But austerity, like Brexit, was also willed – or at least approved – by large numbers of citizens. While Labour failed to prevent a series of unfolding disasters, the story of the past decade must also be about people: their apparent rejection of much of what Labour accomplished in the previous decade, their dislike of adequate taxation, their deference to Toryism, their willed ignorance and intolerance of complexity.

There will be free wine and nibbles after the lecture. Please note: this is a free event, which means we have to overbook to allow for no-shows and to avoid empty seats. While we generally do not have to turn people away, this does mean we cannot guarantee everyone a place. Admission is on a first come, first served basis.

You can find tickets here.






Tuesday, 30 July 2019

Rethinking Democracy: Populism, Post-democracy and the Politics of Resentment Podcast


Democratic politics is once again under attack – this time from populist nationalists, authoritarian rulers and new forms of political communication.

It was not meant to be like this. The fourth launch event for Rethinking Democracy took place on 9 October 2019. The book is an important new collection of essays edited by Andrew Gamble and Tony Wright, in which leading academics explores the problems of democracy and suggests ways it might now be extended and deepened.

You can hear the lecture here.

Colin Crouch (Emeritus Professor of the University of Warwick) evaluated the threats to liberal democracy posed by xenophobic populist movements, including Brexit; Sarah Childs (Professor of Politics and Gender at Birkbeck) explored the challenge that feminism brings to the theory and practice of representative democracy; and Gerry Stoker (Professor of Politics and Governance at the University of Southampton) discussed why resentment has become a prime but negative vehicle for expressing politics, and what might be done to challenge that development. Jason Edwards (Lecturer in Politics, Birkbeck) chaired the event.

This event was jointly hosted by the Political Quarterly, the Department of Politics and the Birkbeck Centre for British Political Life.

Additional reading:

Rethinking Democracy, edited by Andrew Gamble and Tony Wright (Political Quarterly Monograph Series, 2019)

Post-Democracy: Does Populism Have a Place in Britain?, Colin Crouch, (LSE Policy and Politics, 2019)


Wednesday, 26 June 2019

The PQ Crick Prize for Best Piece

Deborah Mabbett and Nick O'Brien
At the Orwell Awards last night, Nick O'Brien was awarded the Crick Prize for Best Piece 2018 by co-editor Deborah Mabbett. His article entitled 'Administrative Justice in the Wake of I, Daniel Blake' was the overwhelming judges' choice who write "This article is a quintessential PQ piece. It starts from I, Daniel Blake and its depiction of the inhumanity of the benefits system and finishes with Grenfell Tower. It considers Daniel Blake’s testimony daubed on the wall of the job centre, claiming the right to be treated as a citizen and not as a client, a customer, a shirker, a scrounger, a beggar or a thief, and uses it to build an argument about how administrative justice might be reformed and citizenship reimagined to make it possible.

As the article notes administrative justice has been neglected compared with the other main branches of justice – criminal, civil and family – and starved of resources and research, but it is at least as important. Nick O’Brien reviews the history of administrative justice, from the Attlee Government and the extremely pertinent reflections of W.H. Morris Jones in his 1949 Fabian pamphlet Socialism and Bureaucracy to Richard Crossman’s Socialism and the New Despotism in 1956 and the interest in the Scandinavian experience of Ombud institutions, such as the Danish Ombudsman, championed by Peter Shore and Andrew Shonfield among others in the 1960s, and which led to the creation of the UK’s first Ombudsman. The article then shows how the Ombudsman initiative was diluted and changed into something less radical (a familiar story), so that much of the work of the current Parliamentary Ombudsman and Health Service Ombudsman is devoted to ‘service’ complaints about the NHS. The article concludes with an illuminating discussion about how the system of administrative justice might be reformed to achieve the vision of W.H.Morris Jones and rebuild trust between citizens and government, citing Danielle Allen’s idea of an Aristotelian ‘political friendship’ where law is a practice in which every citizen may be involved through deliberation, legislation or enforcement. O’Brien challenges the pessimism of those like David Goodhart, who argue that a limit must be placed on diversity if a society is to remain cohesive. If the institutional architecture is put in place to create a connected society much higher levels of diversity are possible."

You can read O'Brien's article here.


Thursday, 20 June 2019

Britain Beyond Brexit edited by Gavin Kelly and Nick Pearce

Brexit represents a critical juncture in British politics. In this new collection edited by Gavin Kelly and Nick Pearce, leading economists, political scientists, historians and public policy experts analyse what the Brexit decision might mean for Britain’s economy, society and politics. Anticipating the challenges of the 2020s, the authors explore how Britain might change in the aftermath of the current Brexit storm. The contributions analyse: the future of the British economic model; migration and the labour market; the UK’s constitution and political parties; the politics of housing; the challenge of generational conflict; tax and public spending; the prospects for the City; and the future of UK trade. It is essential reading for anyone interested in how today’s Brexit decision will shape the future of the country.

You can read the introduction of Britain Beyond Brexit here.

1. Introduction: Brexit and the Future of the British Model of Democratic Capitalism
GAVIN KELLY and NICK PEARCE
2. The British Model and the Brexit Shock: Plus ├ža Change?
DUNCAN WELDON
3. Brexit and the Future of Trade
SWATI DHINGRA
4. The City and Financial Services: Historical Perspectives on the Brexit Debate
CATHERINE SCHENK
5. Macroeconomic Policy Beyond Brexit
SIMON WREN-LEWIS
6. The Prospects for the UK Labour Market in the Post-Brexit Era
PAUL GREGG and STEPHEN CLARKE
7. Dual Disruptions: Brexit and Technology
DIANE COYLE
8. Brexit and the Future of the UK’s Unbalanced Economic Geography
ANDREW CARTER and PAUL SWINNEY
9. Can a Post-Brexit UK Grow a Knowledge-Based Economy that Works for Everyone?
GEOFF MULGAN
10. Tax and Spending in the 2020s
GEMMA TETLOW
11. Brexit and the Politics of Housing in Britain
BEN ANSELL and DAVID ADLER
12. Energy Supply and Decarbonisation Beyond Brexit: Politics and Policy
MATTHEW LOCKWOOD and ANTONY FROGGATT
13. My Generation, Baby: The Politics of Age in Brexit Britain
TORSTEN BELL and LAURA GARDINER
14. British Culture Wars? Brexit and the Future Politics of Immigration and Ethnic Diversity
MARIA SOBOLEWSKA and ROB FORD
15. The Divergent Dynamics of Cities and Towns: Geographical Polarisation and Brexit
WILL JENNINGS and GERRY STOKER
16. Brexit and the Nations
MICHAEL KEATING
17. The Realignment of British Politics in the Wake of Brexit
ANDREW GAMBLE
18. Brexit and the Future of UK Capitalism
MARTIN SANDBU




Thursday, 16 May 2019

Rethinking Democracy: Two events

Democratic politics is once again under attack – this time from populist nationalists, authoritarian rulers and new forms of political communication.

We have two events coming up showcasing Rethinking Democracy, an important new collection of essays edited by Andrew Gamble and Tony Wright, in which leading academics explores the problems of democracy and suggests ways it might now be extended and deepened.

The first in London on 10 June "Rethinking Democracy: Can Democracy Survive in the Digital Age" at Kings College London with Helen Margetts, Martin Moore and Bobby Duffy. Register here.

The second is the book launch at the University of Sheffield on 18 June with Andrew Gamble, Alan Finlayson, Jackie Harrison and Michael Jacobs. Register here.

Copies of the book will be on sale at a special discounted price.

Please note: these are free events, which means we overbook to allow for no-shows and to avoid empty seats. While we generally do not have to turn people away, this does mean we cannot guarantee everyone a place. Admission is on a first come, first served basis.

Wednesday, 8 May 2019

Britain Beyond Brexit London book launch

Brexit represents a critical juncture in British politics. But our model of democratic capitalism faces deep challenges, whether or not the UK actually leaves the EU. Can Britain successfully adapt to the big generational, environmental and social challenges of the 2020s?

Join us on 15 May at the Resolution Foundation, London, for the launch of Britain Beyond Brexit – a Political Quarterly special edition edited by Gavin Kelly and Nick Pearce.

The event features a fantastic lineup of speakers: Ed Miliband MP (Former Leader of the Labour Party), Nicky Morgan MP (Chair of the Treasury Select Committee), Martin Sandbu (the Financial Times), Professor Diane Coyle (University of Cambridge), Gavin Kelly (the Resolution Trust), and Professor Nick Pearce (University of Bath).

Register for your free ticket today!

Thursday, 4 April 2019

Rethinking Democracy: Is our Democracy Fit for Purpose? 14 May 2019

Democratic politics is once again under attack – this time from populist nationalists, authoritarian rulers and new forms of political communication.

It was not meant to be like this. Join us for the launch of Rethinking Democracy, an important new collection of essays edited by Andrew Gamble and Tony Wright, in which leading academics explores the problems of democracy and suggests ways it might now be extended and deepened.

In this event, hosted by the Political Quarterly and the Constitution Unit, Andrew Gamble will discuss his views about what needs to change if British democracy is to continue, Joni Lovenduski will explain how British representative democracy fails women and why it will continue to do so, Tony Wright will explore ways to save democracy, and Albert Weale will explore the nature and significance of different kinds of democratic majorities. Meg Russell (the Constitution Unit) will chair the event.

Copies of the book will be on sale at a special discounted price.

Please note: this is a free event, which means we overbook to allow for no-shows and to avoid empty seats. While we generally do not have to turn people away, this does mean we cannot guarantee everyone a place. Admission is on a first come, first served basis.

The event takes place on 14 May 2019 6.00 pm to 7.30 pm at the Constitution Unit, UCL 29-30 Tavistock Square, London, WC1H 9QU.

Register here.


Monday, 25 February 2019

The SDP: Reflections from our Archives

There are some striking parallels between the latest fissure in the Labour Party and the formation of the breakaway Social Democratic Party by the ‘gang of four’ in 1981. Then as now, there was a sense that the two main parties had moved to the extremes of the political spectrum, leaving a large empty space in the centre. But readers of this collection from the archive will be struck by the singular dimensionality of the political argument in the 1980s: the SDP primarily promoted itself as defending liberal Keynesianism against the depredations of Thatcherism on one side and Labour’s plans for heightened state intervention on the other. While the party did adopt a pro-EU position, the arguments about citizens of somewhere or nowhere that have come to define ‘Two Englands’ and have given such heat to Brexit were absent. This has at least one striking consequence. The voices from the past agree that the SDP was handicapped, in the first past the post system, by the wide geographical spread of its support. By contrast, the new group could benefit from the stark geographical divides that Brexit has opened up. This virtual issue gives a sense of the hopes vested in the SDP at the time, along with the sober reflections of some of the participants as they looked back on the party’s failure to break the grip of the two main parties.

Deborah Mabbett


The Social Democrats and the Constitution by Vernon Bogdanor 52 3 (1982)
The SDP and the Media  by Colin Seymour Ure 53 4 (1982)
The SDP’s Plans for Britain’s Constitution by Wilson Finnie 54 1  (1983)
The SDP and Liberal Party in Alliance by William Rodgers 54 4 (1983)
Commentary: Ten Years On by David Marquand 68 1 (1997)



Sunday, 3 February 2019

Norman Birnbaum obituary

Norman Birnbaum, who has died at the age of 92, was a highly valued and regular contributor to Political Quarterly over many years. In 2011 he received the Crick Prize at the Orwell Awards for the best article in PQ in 2010. He travelled to London especially for the prize and delivered a memorable speech. The prize was awarded for his article ‘American Progressivism and the Obama Presidency’ (read it here) (PQ 81:4) and was typical of his writing which always embodied the qualities PQ exists to promote – engaged, direct, authoritative, and written in plain English. Norman was a public intellectual of a rare kind. Born in Manhattan to a Jewish family (his grandfather was an immigrant from Eastern Europe and his father a school teacher) he was raised in the Bronx, graduated at Harvard and taught at many Universities across the Atlantic, including LSE, Oxford, the New School and Amherst College, and for twenty years at Georgetown University. He remained on the political Left his whole life, unlike many of his contemporaries, and was noted for the range of his contacts with intellectuals and politicians across the political spectrum. They included Willy Brandt, Edward Kennedy, Isaiah Berlin, Iris Murdoch, Herbert Marcuse, Irving Kristol and Norman Podhoretz. He was involved with many journals such as Commentary, Dissent and Partisan Review, but he had a particularly long association with The Nation and was a founding member of the editorial board of New Left Review in 1960. His many books include The crisis of industrial society (1969), The radical renewal: the politics of ideas in modern America (1988), After Progress: American social reform and European socialism in the twentieth century (2001), and his absorbing memoir From the Bronx to Oxford and Not Quite Back (2018). Norman won respect from all who knew him for the breadth of his knowledge and understanding, for his civility and wit, and for his strong and unwavering commitment to radical politics and progressive ideals. He once declared ‘I never believed in a social science made by and for academics, a dispassionate account of the world. I do believe that the present is history, but that we are not its prisoners. Only a God can make the world anew, but humans fail in their humanity if they do not try to make it better.’ His life is an example of how to be an engaged public intellectual even through the most difficult political times.

Andrew Gamble

You can read some of his other PQ articles here: