Philip Norton, The British Polity, 4/e
Ch. 1: The Contemporary Landscape (4 versions) Ch. 2: The Political Culture Ch. 3: Past and Present Ch. 4: The Electoral System Ch. 5: The Uncodified Constitution Ch. 6: Political Parties Ch. 7: Interest Groups: Insiders or Outsiders? Ch. 8: Executive: Gov't at the Center Ch. 9: The European Union: Government Above the Center Ch. 10: New Assemblies: Gov't Beyond Center Ch. 11: Local Gov't: Below the Center Ch. 12: Parliament: Commons and Lords Ch. 13: Monarchy: Above the Fray? Ch. 14: Enforcement: Courts & Police Ch. 15: Communication and Feedback, The Mass Media Ch. 16: Flux and Strength: A book with Two Themes
In the past 300 years Britain has experienced industrialization, democracy and the introduction and growth of the welfare state. There are also important events in British history that give insight to the modern political system.
Chapter 1: The Contemporary Landscape
by Tiffany Tolbert, 2003. Other versions below.
One feature of the British constitution is a parliamentary government under a symbolic monarchy.
Traditionally power remained with the monarch and parliament was summoned by the monarchs
command. The “Great Council” was the precursor for the House of Lords (HOL) and the House of
Commons (Hoc) developed in the 13th century when representatives from counties and towns were
called. Problems between the king and parliament developed during the reigns of Charles II and James II. The new relationship that developed because of this was asserted in the “Bill of Right.” Also after the Act of Settlement of 1701, the monarch became permanently dependent on parliament for consent to raise taxes and for the passage of legislation. Another result of this was the role of Ministers increased and the prevailing position of Prime ministers became more visible during the 18th century.
Pressure for reform started to develop due to the control that the aristocracy had on parliament. This led to the Reform Act of 1832, which caused the seats in parliament to be redistributed and helped loosen the control of the aristocracy. However, with no one group-having control, the growth of political organizations began to develop.
After 1832 members of the HOL sat by birth and the HOC was accepted as the “representative” chamber of Parliament. Reform Act of 1867 started the transfer of power from Parliament to the Ministers. The electorate increased to 2,477,000, which meant that voters could only be reached though developed organizations.
This led to organized mass-membership political parties (Conservative National Union and National Liberal Federation). The political parties helped because they gave the voters labels that they could identify with and caused elections to be held between parties instead of individuals.
Welfare State and Managed Economy
Responsibilities of government have grown due to bigger social and economic demands. The demands came, mainly, during the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries and were brought by the working class. The demands included fewer hours for women and children, better housing and public
health, compulsory education and the right to strike. All of these demands were eventually exploited for electoral advantages as is seen in the election of 1906. Norton describes this election as a turning point in British politics because it was fought on the basis of national issues and witnessed the return of a reforming liberal government.
The Welfare State finally appeared due to the publication of two documents. White Paper of Full Employment was published in1944 it said that the government accepted the “full” responsibility for maintaining high employment after WWII. The Report on Social Insurance and Allied Services was published by Sir William Beveridge in 1942 it proposed social security that covered money that was
needed for services associated with marriage, death and birth.
During the 50s and 60s Britain got experience economic growth, but it was still not as fast as other European countries. When Britain started to decline economically, many started to reason why this was happening. Their reasoning came to be based in three areas: economic, sociological and structural. The economic reason puts the blame on Britain’s failure to modernize and the fact that the post war government created a dependency culture. The sociological reasoning put the blame on the egalitarianism of the labor movement, which hold an extreme dislike of profits, risk taking and management. The structural reasoning says that there are various theses that can used to explain the decline. They include: the Adversary Politics Thesis, Thesis of Centralization and the Thesis of Pluralist Stagnation, which discusses the growth in the number of organized groups.
· Distinctive features of a political system are recognized by comparing it to another
· The political culture is important in understanding continuity and change in British politics
· Land and Politics
o Agricultural country, but based on population; non-agricultural and town based
o Growth rate similar to western Europe
o Population in land size similar to crowded island
o Population density heavily concentrated in one country (England)
o Lacking in natural resources except for energy, because it is a producer of oil and natural gases
· Racial Differences
o Population is mostly English by birth, white and English speaking
o Increase of immigrants during 1950s helped the diversity of the population
o No separation of church and state
o Few Britons are regular churchgoers
o Anglican church is the official church
o Has a feudal past
§ The class patterns of the now capitalist society is based on the past
“hierarchical” feudal society
o Grew out of industrialization and capitalist economy
o Can be inherited, but not mostly based on the market
o Levels of class have changed since occupational opportunities have changed
o Importance of class is political as well as social
o Labour party attracts working class
o Conservative party attracts middle class
o All children receive primary and secondary school education
§ Of this only a few proceed to higher education [till 1990s]
o When secondary schools became divided into grammar and secondary modern schools,
Labour politicians thought this was socially divisive
§ Grammar school – taught scholastic skills
§ Secondary modern – taught practical skills
o 1964 “New Education” was introduced
o 1980s Conservatives introduced changes
§ National curriculum
§ Funding public ally provided
o Parents do not have to send their children to state schools – private schools
o Likelihood that someone will go to university it still strongly linked to social class
· Marriage and Family
o Family still the most important social unit in Britain
o High divorce rate, but marriage is still popular
o Has highest divorce rate in EU, but is still below the U.S.
o First nation to experience industrialization
§ Mill towns and mining communities became common
o Has predominately service economy
· Personal Wealth and Taxation
o Distribution of market table wealth is skewed in favor of a minority
o Taxation is progressive
· Political culture expresses the emotional environment in which a political system operates
· Stable political culture in Britain ensures the effectiveness of government in starting programs of public policy
· Political culture is acquired through socialization
§ Children acquire values from parents
§ Parents influence political perceptions and partisanship
§ Children set themselves in the same social class as parents
§ Formal education helps shape awareness of the political system
§ More extensive the education the greater the perceived importance of government action
§ Can affect values and perceptions of society
· Those in working class are more likely to consider that government is not able to change things
§ There is a relationship between class and partisan support
§ Working – Labour
§ Middle – conservative
§ Living in an expensive area can reinforce the sense of being middle class
§ Living in small rural communities are likely to being different values
· Robert Dahl said patterns of opposition has to do with widely shared cultural premises
o Kinds of culturally derived orientations toward politics
§ Problem solving
· Empirical – what can be seen and touched
· Rational – abstraction rather than facts
§ Political system
o Britain is a mix of participant and deferential orientations
§ Participant is expression in citizens beliefs that they can influence government
§ Deference is respect for law and those who run it
o Cooperation and Individuality
§ In Britain there is an instinctive distaste for conflict in personal relationships and political life – this leads citizens to be cooperative
§ Britons have good view of themselves
§ Regard other Britons as fairly trustworthy
Political systems contain features of continuity and change and each system finds significance in the nature and extent of that change.
Chapter 1: The Contemporary Landscape
By Marie Wilkerson, 2003; another version is below
-Land and Population
*The United Kingdom is comprised of three countries: England, Scotland, and
Wales. Northern Ireland is also included.
*The population is predominantly English, nonagricultural, and town or suburban-based.
*Britain is a small crowded island when the population is put in the context of land size.
-Linguistic and Racial Differences
*The population is English in birth as well as residence.
*They are mostly white and English speaking.
*An influx of immigrants came to Britain in the 1950s and early 1960s which has
led to some diversity within the population. The largest nonwhite community are Indian.
*Britain is mainly a Protestant country like the United States.
*Britains established church is The Anglican Church of England
*There is no seperation of church and state for the British
*According to a survey in 1997, only 10% of British men and 15% of British
women attend church once a week or more. Close to two-thirds of the population of men never attend worship
*The monarch is the supreme governor of the church and is required to be a
member of the Church of England; he must promise to uphold the faith.
*Jews and Muslims occupy large communities in Europe.
*Britain has a feudal past which has resulted in class patterns.
*Class grew out of industrialization and the development of a capitalist economy.
*As in feudal societies, Britain's classes were determined by the landowning
aristocracy and gentry
*Britian basically has two classes. They are the middle and the working class.
*Within British society, class and status can be inherited through the law. In recent
upward mobility is not uncommon either.
*All children receive a primary and secondary education but only a minority go on
to institutions of higher learning (universities).
*Selection for entry into grammar schools are made at age 11 by exam scores.
*In 1964 the new Labour Government introduced new dual school system
-Marriage and Family
*The family is still the most important social unit in Britain. The ideal of marriage
and having children is still strong.
*Britain still has the third highest marriage rate in the European Union.
*In 1984, one in ten births registered were of children born to unmarried couples
and by 1996-97 has increased to one in three.
*Great Britain was the first major nation to experience industrialization.
*Britain occupies 88,798 square miles while the United States occupies
3,615,123 square miles.
*Three-fourths of Britain’s land is used for agriculture.
*Britain is a major world producer of oil and natural gas.
*There has been growth in the number of female workers and in the number of self-employed.
*In August 1996, unemployment totaled 2.1 million; 7.5 percent of the workforce.
Northern Ireland has the highest unemployment rate at ten percent.
-Personal Wealth and Taxation
*Change in the distribution of wealth has not deviated alot among the years.
*Most wealth remains in the hands of the minority, more than 70% being owned by
the most wealthy 25% of the population.
Chapter 1: The Contemporary Landscape
Kristi Winstead, 2003
Another version is below
-Political systems contain certain features of continuity and change. Each system finds its
significance in the nature and extent of that change.
-Britain is a small crowded island, largely oriented in terms of industry and population to
England, with a class based society that has superseded, but not altogether discarded the
characteristics of a feudal society
-Great Britain occupies 88,798 square miles while the United States occupies 3,615,123 square miles.
-¾ of Britain’s land is used for agriculture
-Britain is a major world producer of oil and natural gas; however, it is heavily dependent
upon imports of raw materials
-The United States, France, Germany, Canada, Japan, and India are more self-sufficient than Britain.
-The citizenship is predominantly white and English-speaking
-The Church of England, established by Henry VIII in the 16th century, is the established
church for England.
-There is no separation of church and state; however, only 10 percent of men and 15 percent of woman regularly attend church in Britain
-The monarch is the supreme governor of the church and is required to be a member of the Church of England; he must promise to uphold the faith
-Jews and Muslims occupy large communities in Europe
-As in feudal societies, Britain’s classes were determined by the landowning aristocracy and gentry
-It was a status passed on by inheritance
-The two classes are middle and working
-All children receive a primary and secondary education although very few go on to universities.
-Selection to grammar schools are made at age 11 by exam scores
-In 1964 the new Labour Government introduced new dual school systems
-The family is still the most important social unit in Britain
-Britain still has the third highest marriage rate in the European Union
-Britain was the 1st major nation to experience industrialization
-Most wealth remains in the hands of the minority (70%) being owned by the wealthy (25%)
-Britain is perhaps most notable for the absence (at least since the 17th century) of invasion or revolution
Norton 1: "Contemporary Landscape"
Krista Leachman Fall 2003
-The significance of a system is the nature and the extent of that change
-rapid and revolutionary change
-can be recognized by comparing systems
Land and Population
-predominantly agriculture kingdom (England, Scotland, and Wales)
-total area 88,798 sq. miles
-population in 1998 was 59.2 million as opposed to 270.6 million in the U.S. (660 people per sq. mile)
-export agrochemicals, agricultural equipment, and some produce & food products
-imports a substantial portion of its food supply
-lacking in natural resource
Linguistic and Racial Differences
-predominantly white and English speaking
-Scotland some speak Gaelic; Wales speak Welsh
-#’s of immigrants have been limited since passage of Commonwealth Immigrants Act of 1962
-predominantly Protestant country
-has an established church
-no separation of church and state
-The Anglican Church of England is the official church
-monarch supreme government of the church
-senior figures: 2 archbishops & 24 bishops
-Canterbury and York founded by King Henry VIII
-no feudal history, class is the product of the economic
-middle and working class
-importance of class is political as well as social
-primary and secondary education; private schools less pyramidal
-National curriculum (English, Science, & Math)-foundation subjects (History, Geography, Technology, P.E., Art, Music, and Foreign Language)
Marriage and Family
-most important social unit –households getting smaller-decrease in families with kids
-1st nation to experience industrialization
-“mill towns” common features- growth of service industries
Personal Wealth and Taxation
-taxation progressive, wealth skewed in a favor of a minority
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Chapter 2: The Political Culture
By: Sierra R. Turner 2003* (another below)
I. Political culture may be described as denoting the emotional and attitudinal environment within which a political system operates.
II. The collection of emotions and attitudes that form the political culture has served to shape actions and hence affect the nation’s history. Conversely, those actions, as well as the country’s geographic location and limited resources, have had consequences that have affected the elite and mass attitudes.
III. The various values and beliefs that coalesce to create, maintain, and variously modify the political culture are not generated in a vacuum; they are acquired through a process of socialization.a. FamilyIV. In his work on political oppositions in Western democracies, Robert Dahl observed that patterns of opposition may have something to do with widely shared cultural premises. He noted that four kinds of culturally derived orientations towards politics seem to have a bearing on the pattern of opposition. These four orientations are as follows:
e. Mass Mediaa. Orientation toward Problem SolvingV. The political culture of Britain may be characterized, in broad terms, as having the four orientations identified: empirical in terms of problem solving and change, allegiant in terms of the political system, cooperative in making decisions, and trusting in relation to fellow citizens and allies
b. Orientation toward the Political System
c. Orientation toward Cooperation and Individuality
d. Orientation toward Other People
VI. There are various subcultures that deviate from these orientations and some that do not share them at all. Nor is the list of orientations exhaustive.
VII. What is important for our purposes, though, is that the four orientations remain the orientations of most Britons, at both the elite and mass levels.
VIII. The strength of the culture may be said to lie in the convergence of these orientations- that is, they are compatible with and reinforce one another, and similarly are compatible with and are reinforced by the experience of history.
IX. The stress on cooperation and compromise, an emphasis compatible with an empirical approach to change, has facilitated the integration of groups and individuals into the political system.
X. What of the contemporary civic culture? There are two conflicting analyses. One is that civic culture is in decline. The other is that there has been no fundamental decline in the culture, but rather a misperception of that culture.
XI. These competing analyses are basic to any study of contemporary British politics. They represent the two elements of change and continuity; the “decline” proponents identifying significant change in the civic culture, and the opponents of the decline thesis emphasizing continuity.
Norton 2: "Political Culture"
By: Krista Leachman, 2003
-denoting the emotional and attitudal environment within which a political system operates
-"chicken and egg" problem- being able to implement programs of public policy
-most important influences are usually family, education, occupation,
Geographic location, and to a lesser extent, mass media
-parents shape child's view of society
-perceptions of social class are often inherited class orientation
-political habits and values are passed from parent to child
-formal education important
-Almond and Verba said their were differences in attitude toward gov.
between those w/d different levels of education
-cognitive mobilization- term by Ingehart that identifies a greater involvement in civic activity
-significant and chartered relationship between class and partisan support
-middle class- Conservative
-working class- Labour
-area provides social milieu
-TV, radio, newspaper
-media can serve to reinforce or change values
-media complement by internet
-Political choices are influenced
The Political Culture
-problem solving; empirical rational
-orientation toward the political system may be classified as allegiant
-deference remains important
-Walter Bagehot The English Constitution identified England as a "deferential nation"
-must cooperate w/ others, conciliate opposing views, be prepared to
compromise and submerge ideas to get a acceptable solution
-belief that one can have confidence in others
A Declining Civic Culture
-strength of culture is said to lie in the convergence of orientations
-empirical support is found in a decline in voter turnout
-counter argument is what has changed over past 20 yrs.
-competing elements represent the 2 elements of change and continuity
Chapter 2: The Political Culture
By: Marie Wilkerson, 2003
Political culture may be described as denoting the emotional and attitudinal environment within which a political system operates.
The collection of emotions and attitudes that form the political culture has served to shape actions and hence affect the nation’s history. Conversely, those actions, as well as the country’s geographic location and limited resources, have had consequences that have affected the elite and mass attitudes.
*The various values and beliefs that coalesce to create, maintain, and variously modify the political culture are acquired through a process of socialization. The most important influences are:
a. Family- parents shape the childs view of society and their status in society
b. Education- formal education is important in political socialization
c. Occupation-occupation and class affect values and perceptioons of society
d. Location-values by location are not confined to political partisanship and class
e. Mass Media-tv, radio, and other technology constitute the most-used
sources for acquiring knowledge of what is going on in society
-The Political Culture
*Robert Dahl noted that four kinds of culturally derived orientations toward politics seem to have a bearing on the pattern of opposition.
a. Orientation toward Problem Solving
b. Orientation toward the Political System
c. Orientation toward Cooperation and Individuality
d. Orientation toward Other People
-A Declining Civic Culture?
*The political culture of Britain may be characterized as having the four orientations identified:
1.empirical in terms of problem solving and change,
2.allegiant in terms of the political system,
3.cooperative in making decisions, and
4.trusting in relation to fellow citizens and allies
*The strength of the culture may be said to lie in the convergence of these orientations.
-Verba characterized as "the civic culture", "a pluralistic culture bases on communication and persuasion, a culture of consensus and diversity, a culture that permitted change but moderated it."
-The argument has been that the civic culture has been in decline for the past twenty years.
British economic decline?
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In the UK a citizen may vote every five years and these elections are fro the House of Commons only. The candidates are selected by the major parties and selection is an internal process.
In 1918 universal man suffrage was introduced followed in 1928 with women, over the age of 21 being able to vote. In 1969 the right to vote was extended to all 18-20 year olds. In Britain in order to be able to vote it is necessary to be on the electoral register, which is updated annually. Completing the vote registration form is a legal requirement and is requested, at first by mail, but is left uncompleted can move to the use of phone and face-to-face.
The UK is divided in to single-member constituencies, which now total 659. The boundaries for these
constituencies are drawn by Boundary Commissions. Reorganizing of these boundaries is based on rules that are set by Parliament.
Campaign in Britain run over a period of 3 to 4 weeks. The formal campaigns begin only after Parliament has ended and the candidates have been formally nominated. The British candidates are only involved in the profile raising and general election portions of the election process. Unlike in the US, British incumbents and challengers do not have to face off in a primary election. Campaigns are fought on the national level between the two major parties instead of between individual candidates. Election expenses are limited by statue law, which controls the amount of money to be spent. The maximum amount that is allowed spent is calculated on the basis of a fixed sum. The statue also allows for certain expenditures are illegal. Each candidate is allowed one postage free mailing of one piece of campaign literature all other literature must be distributed by unpaid party volunteers.
Any citizen 21 and over is eligible for candidacy for the House of Commons. All people are eligible to run except for public servants, though they can resign their post if they still want to run. All candidates have to obtain the signature of 10 electors in their constituency and submit a deposit of $500, which is returnable in the event that they get 5% of the votes cast.
Candidate selection is done locally, but the national party still has some degree of control in the process.
Candidates were usually chosen after an interview with the vice-chair of the party and national committee in charge of candidate selection. In recent year the process has changed and more professional methods have been used.
The candidates now attend a weekend long selection process. In the end the candidate selected tend to be white, middle class, middle aged and male.
Plurality is the election method used in all constituencies.
Social class still decided party choice, though it is not the only determining factor.
There are different reasons for voting behavior that have been used by different theorist. Among these reasons are class, consumption, location and issues. In the 1970s and 80s class became a less useful predictor of voting behavior because of changing social patterns. In 1979, Dunleavy said that, in speaking of consumption, there had been class realignment. Class voting was replaced by voting based on public and private consumption. Those who use sate services were more likely to vote labor and those who used services from the private sector were more likely to vote conservative.
There are been an increase in Issue based voting. Voters have been more willing to vote on the basis of issue preference. Issue voting eventually leads to uncertainty in election outcomes.
First past the post system criticized because it does not deliver the political goods that it claims and the system encourages adversarial politics in Britain, which leads to negative economic performance. They also claim that the system is unfair to the voters, major parties, supporters of candidates that lose and the liberal Democratic Party.
They conclude that the solution is a new electoral system.
Norton Ch. 4: Electoral System: Fair and Workable?
By: Marie Wilkerson, 2003
THE ELECTORAL STRUCTURE
-In the U.S., citizens are presented with the opportunity to go to the polls at frequent
and fixed intervals to elect at national, state, and local levels a host of legislators,
executive heads, council persons, officials, and even, in some states, judges.
-IN the U.K., a citizen may have the opportunity to vote in the election of a national
body only once every five years. (House of Commons alone)
-The right to vote was not until 1918 when the universal manhood suffrage was
introduced on the basis of residency.
-That same year, women 30 and over were given a vote in the general elections.
-The United Kingdom is divided into single-member constituencies.
-There are 659 currently and the number does and can vary.
-The drawing of boundaries is the responsibility of bodies known as boundary
commissions: There is a commission each for England, Scotland, Wales, and
-An election campaign extends over a period of three to four weeks.
-The formal campaign gets under way only after Parliament has been dissolved and
candidates formally get nominated.
-For U.K. politicians, there are two stages in an election campaign: profile raising and
-Any citizen 21 years or over is eligible to be a candidate for election ot the House of Commons.
-There are certain limited exceptions. (such as policeman, civil servants, judges, etc)
-Candidate selection is undertaken locally with limited national control.
-There are no primary elections and the selection of a candidate is in practice
determined by the party activists.
-The method of election employed is the plurality or "first-past-the-post", with the
candidate who wins the largest single number of votes.
Explanations of Voting Behavior
-1. Consumption, 2. Location, 3. Issues, 4. Performance Evaluations
THE CURRENT DEBATE
A Dysfunctional Electoral System?
-The first is that it does not deliver the political goods so frequently claimed for it.
-The second and most powerful argument deployed by critics is that the existing system
-the third criticism of the electoral system is that it encourages adversarial politics in
An Effective Electoral System?
-Supporters of the electoral system tended to remain quiet in the 1980s and early
1990s under the Conservative Government.
-The electoral system facilitates the return of a single party to government.
A New Electoral System?
-Supporters of electoral reform made much of the running in debate in the 1980s and
-They grew in number.
-The Liberal Democrats were long standing supporters of reform.
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· Britons admire their constitution because it reflects the wisdom of past generations
· Britain has not had the opportunity to create a framework based on first principles
o The absence of a constitution like the U.S. has led some to believe that it’s constitution is unwritten
§ It is part unwritten and part un-codified
· Sources of the Constitution
o Four separate sources
§ Statute Law – acts of Parliament and legislation
· Acts of parliament have been given the merit of constitutional law
· They are published in authoritative written form and can be interpreted by
§ Common Law – legal principles developed by courts and rules and customs of
· When upheld by courts it is set as a precedent
§ Conventions– rules of behavior that are considered binding
§ Authority – rarely defined
· Early works have authority because there are no statues to enforce them
· There are no big procedures for amending the constitution
o Statue and common law face same procedure that legislative enactments do
o Conventions can be modified by changes in behavior
o Works of authority can be re-written
· There is no single body for interpreting the constitutions
o No power of judicial review
o Constitution is subject to interpretation by different bodies (i.e. politicians and judges)
· Notable characteristic of the constitution is that it supports a strong government
o Power is concentrated politically and geographically
· “The Rule of Law” is the central element of the constitution
o Rule of Law can not exists unless human rights are protected
· Determining what human rights are and how they are to be interpreted
· Rule of law is not logically compatible with the idea of parliamentary
o Rule of law could be easily threatened and dispensed by parliamentary enactment
· Parliamentary government under a monarchy is an assembly of different relationships and powers which are the
product of traditional institutions that are adapted to meet changing circumstances
· European Union Membership
o Became member in 1973
o Because of membership decision making in some areas has gone from the British government to the
executive bodies of the EU
§ This means big constitutional implications for Britain
§ A lot of tension is between the established institutions of Britain and those in the EU.
Ch. 5: The Uncodified Constitution
By: Marie Wilkerson, 2003
-A constitution may be defined as the body of laws, customs, and conventions that define the
composition and powers of organs of the state and that regulate the relations of the various state
organs to one another and to the private citizen.
-The British Constitution has been admired by Britons for reflecting the wisdom of past
FORMS OF EXPRESSION
-Britain has lacked the opportunity to create new constitutional framework and stands out as on
of the few nations lacking a written constitution.
-The absence of a written constitution similar to that of the United States and other nations has
led to the British Constitution being described as unwritten, which is misleading.
-The British Constitution is part written and part uncodified.
-There is no when simple authoritative document to discover the provisions of the British
-There are four separate sources:
1. statute law,
2. common law,
4. and works of authorities.
MEANS OF AMENDMENT
-Statute law and common law of constitutional significance are subject ot amendment by the
same process as that employed for other legislative enactment's.
-Conventions can be modified by changes in behavior or by reinterpretation the significance of
-Works of authority can be rewritten or subjected to different interpretations in the same way as
can other texts.
-There is no single body endowed with responsibility for interpreting the e provisions of the
-The Constitution, in short, is subject ot interpretation by different bodies, the most prominent
being politicians, judges, and scholars.
-The central provisions of the traditional, or Westminster, British Constitution are parliamentary
sovereignty, the rule of law, a unitary system and what he has termed "parliamentary
government under a constitutional monarchy."
-It facilitated a strong government in the UK
1. Parliamentary Sovereignty
2. The Rule of Law
3. Unitary (or Union) State
4. Parliamentary Government under a Constitutional Monarchy
THE CHANGING CONSTITUTION
European Union Membership
-The United Kingdom became a member of what was then the European Community on
January 1, 1973.
-Under the Treaty of the European Union in 1993, the EC became one of three pillars in
a new EU.
Constitutional Reform under a Labour Government
-Constitutional changes introduced under the Labour government elected in 1997 have further
served to modify the contours of the British Constitution.
-The doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty has been challenged by the consequences of
membership in the European Union.
-The effect of the Human Rights Act has been to undermine one pillar of the Constitution while
-The shifting and complex web of relationships and powers that forms the British Constitution is
not an easily discernible one.
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Britain's unitary and parliamentary form of government
has favored the development of centralized and cohesive parties geared
to offering a programmatic choice to the electors and to carrying out that
THE PARTIES IN BRITAIN
-The first principle of party was "to put men who hold their opinions into such a
condition as may enable them to carry their common plans into execution."
-In the latter half of the nineteenth century the two dominate parties were the
Conservatives and the Liberals.
The Conservative Party
-British Conservatism can be traced back several centuries.
-The name Conservative was first used by an anonymous writer in 1830, and the term
was in common usage by 1832.
-The party had three distinct elements: parliamentary party, professional organization,
and voluntary wing of the party.
-The Conservative party has historically been the best financed.
The Labour Party
-The Labour Party is best described as a coalition of disparate interests.
-It was formed on Feb.27,1900, at a conference comprising representation of the
socialist Independent Labour party, the Marxists Social Democratic Federation, the
Fabian Society, and 65 trade unions.
-Formally, the party stresses the concept of intraparty democracy.
-The two most important bodies in the party have been the party conference and the
National Executive Committee.
-In the postwar years form 1945 to 1970, the principal third party in Britain was the
-In 1981, the Social Democratic party, drawing its parliamentary strength from
defecting Labour MPs, was formed.
The Liberal Democrats
-The Liberal Democratic party was formed in 1988 by the merger of the long
established Liberal party and the relatively new Social Democratic party.
-The Liberal party had had a relatively short history as a major political party spanning
less that sixty years.
Scottish and Welsh Nationalists
-The nationalist parties in Scotland and Wales had not proved to be politically
important besides there ability to survive.
Northern Ireland Parties
-In Northern Ireland the majority of voters vote Unionist because historically they
have been represented by the Union party.
-Various other parties contest parliamentary election and never achieve national
-the Referendum party was formed by millionaire businessman Sir James Goldsmith
to demand a referendum on Britain's future in the Union.
DECLINE IN PARTY SUPPORT
-One of the principal changes that has been variously identified has been a decline n
support for the two main parties.
-The low percentages are in the context of a lower voter turnout than in earlier
-The contention is that the decline in support for the two main parties is the product of
the structure of the two-party system.
-The two parties dominate the political agenda.
-One thesis, consensus thesis, attributes decline in party support to the consensus
policies of postwar decades.
-Those advancing this thesis could point to the decline in two-party support being
most marked in the 1970s.
-We identified explanations for greater volatility in voting behavior.
-Voters look to a party to be competent in governing the nation and in handling the
Chapter 6 (Political Parties)
By: Negin Ahmadi
The parties in Britain:
The need for electoral support after Reform Act of 1832 and the difficulty of having direct contact with the enlarged electorate encouraged the development of embryonic political Organizations. …..
Political clubs were formed….election funds were established…..
Difference between pre- and post-1832? The Aristocracy remained politically eminent, voting was by open ballot, and corrupt practices were still common. But all of this was changed because of the Reform Act of 1867. Cheating, bribery, and other corrupt practices as well as the open ballot, were all done away with by statute.
The Liberal party created the National Liberal Federation to widen its appeal to the newly enfranchised voter.
The Conservative party created the Conservative National union in 1867 and Conservative Central Office in 1870, the latter to provide professional support to the voluntary wing of the party.
The Labour party displaced the Liberal party as one of the two main parties in Britain in the 1920’s. In 1922 it was recognized as the main opposition party in parliament.
The Conservatives dominated the inter-war years, between 1918 and 1939, and then in the 50 years following the end of the Second World War, held office for 33 of them.
The name Conservative was used by an anonymous
writer in 1830, and then by 1832 the term was in common usage. The
party set up an election fund in 1835. They were the successor
to the Tory party, the party of the landowning gentry, which had disintegrated
under the leadership of the duke of Wellington in the 1820’s.
This party had no national appeal and for a long time was very much a outsider in politics.
It was transformed into a national party by Benjamin Disraeli. By the time of his death in 1881, the Conservative party had laid claim to be a national party, one of responsibility and government. It obtained the support of a substantial fraction of working-class.
Within British Conservatism, there are two main strands: (Tory) and (the Whig).
Tory: Places emphasis on social discipline, on authority, continuity and on ensuring that change does not do violence to the essential fabric of society. This tends to adhere strongly to the Disraelian concept of ONE NATION.
The Whig: More concerned with future goals and places emphasis on the creation of wealth and the most efficient form of economic organization.
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Interest groups- bodies that seek to influence government in the allocation of resources without themselves seeking to assume the responsibility for government
Interest group activity is less apparent in Britain than in the U.S.Two types: sectional and promotional
Interest group activity is often a two way dialogue (particularly with regards to sectional groups) where the group informs the government on issues and also advocates on a number of issues
-existed in one form or another since 15th and 16th centuries (guilds)Promotional
-defends interests of a specific section of the community (includes trade unions, professional associations, business and agriculture groups)
-usually economic issue based
-needed by government for advice, information, and cooperation
- typically has “institutionalized” or regular contact with the government
- normally deal with ministers
-promote particular causesGroup Behavior models
-lack the “political clout” enjoyed by sectional groups and rarely have the strong information that is useful to the government
-no exclusive membership
-typically are forced to resort to contact with MPs, and, as a result, many of their issues are taken up in private members’ bills
-varied success and are more limited than in U.S. due to strength of political parties
Pluralist- government acts as an arbiter between competing demands, presumes a balance of interests (Federalist #10 concept)Recent Interest Group History
Rationalist-considers the members’ reasons for joining the group
Corporatist-government directs industry activity through representatives in a hierarchy. Free market advocates see corporatism as a threat.
The 1960s and 70s saw groups institutionally included in policy making
After 1979 (Thatcher), interest groups were excluded and resort to lobbying
Ch. 7: Philip Norton, "Interest Groups" Part
By: Sierra R. Turner and Adena Cosby, 2003
I. Interest groups have commonly been defined as
bodies that seek to influence government in the allocation of resources
without themselves seeking to assume responsibility for government.
II. Interest group activity and the study of it have, historically, been more apparent in the United States. This difference is explicable largely in terms of the different political systems.
III. The position in the United Kingdom in terms of group activity has been different. For groups seeking to influence government decisions, the principal focus of activity is the executive: the ministers and officials occupying the government departments.
IV. The relative lack of visibility of group activity should nonetheless not be misconstrued. Group activity in Britain has been difficult to study because it has not been conducted as obviously and openly as in the United States.
V. Types of Interest Groups:
a. Sectional Interest GroupsVI. Relations with Government
i. Formed to defend and pursue the interests of specific sections of the community, sections usually defend on an economic basis.
ii. Usually permanent bodies formed for a purpose other than influencing government. Most are created to provide services of one form or another to their members….seek to promote the interests, normally of their members.
iii. Motivation to become a member is economic.
iv. There are at least several thousand bodies in Britain that constitute sectional interest groups. Usually under the following three headings:
b. Promotional Groups
i. Exist to promote particular causes, which may draw support from disparate individuals and are not based on economic divisions within society.
ii. Seek to promote a cause or causes that are not usually of direct economic benefits to their members.
iii. Motivation to become a member is often moral or ideological.
iv. May seek to promote and defend the interests of particular categories of individuals within society.
v. More diverse than sectional interest groups because they lack a umbrella organizations to draw them together. They are notable for their growth in recent years and for their diversity.
c. Insider Groups
i. Regarded as legitimate by government and are consulted on a regular basis.
ii. Subdivided into prisoner groups, low-profile insiders, and high-file insiders.
d. Outsider Groups
i. Not regarded by the government as legitimate bodies to consult on a regular basis or do not seek such status.
ii. Subdivided into potential insiders, outsiders by necessity, and ideological outsiders.
a. In terms of the relationship between interest groups and governments, three periods can be identified.
i. The first period, up to the 1970s was characterized by the institutionalization of the relationship between government and insider groups; by the development of particularly close relations between government and the peak organizations representing labor and business; and by the growth and political activity of outsider groups.
ii. The second period, as we shall see, saw insider groups moving more to outsider status in the sphere of high policy and of outsider groups moving more towards insider status in terms of middle-level and, more especially, low-level policy.
iii. The third policy has seen the greatest fragmentation of power with the creation of elected assemblies in different parts of the United Kingdom.
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Insider Groups: Tripartism
? By the 1970’s the relationship between governments and groups was institutionalized.Outsider Groups: Greater Activity
? Middle level policy – policy that is not at the heart of government policy.
? Low level policy – that is the detail for implementing policy.
? The labor Prime minister (Minister Harold Wilson) was keen to consult with the two peak organizations, the House of Commons and the House of Lords.
? The government negotiated with the TUC a “social contract” that entailed the government’s introducing various strategic measures. The government also negotiated with the International Monetary Fund, the CBI, and the House of Commons to receive the economic policy it wanted.
? The nature and frequency of meetings involving union representatives to sustain the participants at 10 Downing Street were known as “beer and sandwich.”
? Most outsider groups were and remain promotional groups. They generally lacked the political clout enjoyed by sectional interest groups. They also lacked information and expertise needed by the government.
? One feature is that there is no exclusive membership, their potential membership constitutes the entire population
? The groups were extremely new and ideologically unacceptable.
? To achieve their goals they would have to attract support from the Parliament directly or indirectly.
? But just because they were outsiders did not mean doom to their campaign and promise failure. Some groups achieved success through private members legislation in the 60’s that involved several major measures of social reform.
? These promotional groups are similar to the U.S. promotional groups as well. They both benefited in the development of television.
? British groups remain more limited than their U.S. counterparts because they have a stronger party. Although issues arise the sometimes become divisive within parties, they don’t impinge upon the representatives.
? If government granted access to a group it took you from being an outsider to being an insider.
? Interest groups were thus a major and integral part of the British political process.
The Period of Conservative Government
? Under the conservative government of Margaret Thatcher, elected in 1979, there was a radical departure from the past.Medium and Low-Level Policy: Inclusion
? The first change was at the level of high policy to exclude groups from policy deliberations.
? In seeking to influence middle- and low-level policy, outsider groups tended to make greater use of Parliament
High Policy: Exclusion
? To achieve its neo-liberal economic policy, the Thatcher govt. began to disengage itself from anything that smacked of corporatist relationships.
? The government sought autonomy in policy making and wanted to restrict bodies seen as employing restrictive practices bringing the “beer and sandwich” meetings to an end.
? By withdrawing from bipartite and tripartite relationships, the govt. removed an obstacle to the realization goals by other groups.
? Policy making was formed by government and then it was imposed.
? Despite the arm-length’s relationship established between government and high policy groups, contact was still maintained between departments and insider groups.Lobbying Government
? The inclusion of groups does not necessarily mean that there advice was taken, for groups to influence public policy they needed to be proactive.
? Thatcher took a stand towards peak groups. Groups whether inside or outside felt that if you lobby the government you must then lobby the Parliament to compliment that.
? Lobbying became a marked feature in British Politics.
? Ministers and civil servants remain the main targets of group lobbying.Lobbying Parliament
? Groups that are consulted but have not found their views accepted, or professional groups will use professional lobbyists to plead their case.
? Lobbying firms are also used by sectional bodies with the result being a more crowded and provocative field of groups seeking to make their existence and needs known targeted to ministers and officials.
? Parliament has always been a target of groups seeking some change in the law, but for a long time it has not been regarded as one of the principal targets.Lobbying the European Union
? Recognizing the limitations of lobbying Parliament resulted in many sectional groups not even bothering, they simply relied on their departmental links.
? Greater behavioral independence means that being able to influence public policy may be easier.
? The creation of a series of departmental select committees also has provided a focus for group lobbying, these committees select their own agenda as well.
? The Single European Act which came into play in 1987, extended the powers of EC constitutions.The Period Since 1977
? The lobbying at a supernational level became more intense as the powers of the EC were extended by the EU treaty, creating a three pillar EU.
? For organized interests, the access points to the policy making process thus more numerous. Contact must be established with the UK govt. departments and the UK Parliament, along with EC commission and the European Parliament.
? Groups remain as keen nder a Conservative govt. to influence policy.Explanations of Groups Behavior
? Ministers still adopt an inclusive policy.
? Political consultancies continue to pitch for business
? What has changed is the further fragmentation of power, there are now new layers of government and additional sources of lobbying.
? The sites of policy making now includes the Scottish executive and the Welsh executive.
o The political system provides a neutral process through which the govt. acts as an arbiter between competing group commands. A reasonably close fit to the U.S. and British experience. Group membership is not evenly spread it is more of a middle class pursuit. Not developed democratic structures and extensive member participation. Operate in a framework shaped by parties.? The Rational Action Model:
o People join a group if a rational calculation of costs and benefits shows that their personal welfare would improve if they became group members. The groups are all encompassing- able to negotiate benefits intended only for their members. Strong recruitment but tends to draw attention to inequalities among groups and is not compatible with pluralist.? The Corporatist Model:
o A system in which the govt. directs the activities of industry, which remains in private hands, through a number of differentiated interest groups. Societal corporatism exists when govt. is in negotiation with groups. State corporatism is the dominant in the relationship with such groups.
The Current Debate
? The competitiveness by greater pluralism can be seen positively. It has a greater involvement in political activity by organized interests. More citizens access the political system.
? Groups that can afford lobbyists achieve a greater degree of success then those that can’t.
? The House of Commons approved the creation of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, a new committee on standards, a cope of conduct for MP’s, a ban on paid advocacy, and disclosure of income from service as an MP.
? Negative publicity served to mask the value of lobbying, lobbyists tend to facilitate rather than impede greater pluralism in the system.
? Lobbying in the groups will always remain a point of controversy, but will continue to growth as an industry.
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Ch. 8 - The Executive
by Tiffany Tolbert, 2003
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- On January 1, 1973, the UK became a member of the European Community (EC).From Community to Union
Forty-two (42) volumes of legislation promulgated by institutions of the EC were incorporated into British law.
- Under the terms of the [Maastricht] Treaty on European Unity (TEU), which took effect in 1993, a European Union was formed.
- The Union compromises three “pillars”– the first pillar is the EC,
the second is cooperation in foreign and security policy, and
the third is cooperation in dealing with justice and home affairs.
- The European Community, the first pillar of the Union, formally comprises three (3) bodies: the European Steel and Coal Community, the European Atomic Energy Committee (Eratom), and the European Economic Community (the EEC).Constitutional Implications
- The three (3) bodies merged in 1967, forming the European Community.
- On July 31, 1961, Prime Minister Harold MacMillan announced to the House of Commons that Britain was applying for membership to the EEC.
- The first application for membership was vetoed in January 1963 by the French President, General Charles de Gaulle.
- After submitting an application for the second time and many years of negotiations, the UK became a member on January 1, 1973.
- PM John Major negotiated a provision for the UK in the Maastricht Treaty that allowed them to join the single currency if they wanted to, but could opt out if they chose not to join.
- Under the provisions of the EC Act, existing EC law was to have general and binding applicability in the UK.Economic Implications
- Membership introduced two (2) new decision-making bodies into the ambit of the British Polity: The Council of Ministers and The Commission.
- If British law conflicts with the provisions of EC law, the courts are to give precedence to the EC law.
- The economic attractions for joining the EC were, as we have seen, a major influence in Britain’s applying for membership.Political Implications
- The Community offered, in trading terms, a “common market,” one which has assumed increasing significance for the British economy.
- Since joining, British exports to the EC increased and trade grew faster with EC states than it did with the rest of the world.
- In 1973, 36% of UK trade was with EC countries; in 2000, it was 58%.
- The UK exports more than four (4) times as much to other member states as it does to the US.
- In 1999, it was agreed that the UK would receive over L10 billion ($16 billion) between 2000 and 2006 from the structural funds.
- The European Central Bank (ECB), was appointed in 1998 to oversee monetary policy once a single currency was in place.
- The Euro was brought into being on January 1, 1999.
- Eleven (11) member states were deemed to have met the criteria necessary to participate.
- The single currency proved highly controversial in the UK.
- The Euro did not fare well in its first year. Within one (1) year, the euro experienced a 20% fall in value. [SInce then, the Euro has enjoyed a long term rise in value versus other currencies]
- In the context of EU policy making, principal member states favor rather broad formulations, while Britain favors more precise measures with the mechanism for implementation and achievement clearly laid out.Institutions of the European Union
- This demonstrates the English empirical approach (similar to that of the US) vs. the rationalist continental approach.
- Britain has acquired a reputation within the EU as “an awkward partner.”
- The main bodies of the European Union are the European Council, the Council of Ministers, the Commission, the European Parliament, and the Committee of Permanent RepresentativesElections to the European Parliament
- The European Council (European Summit)- comprises the heads of government of the member states.
- Formally it has no decision-making powers, but it is the most powerful body within the EU in terms of high policy.
- Council of Ministers- comprises the ministers from member states whose portfolios cover the subject under discussion.
- The Commission- the body principally responsible for initiating measures. This constitutes the bureaucracy of the EU. Serves a five (5) year term and is responsible for initiating most policy proposals as well as for ensuring that the provisions of the treaties are complied with.
- Lobbying the Commission by outside organizations is well-developed.
- European Parliament- until the passage of the Single European Act, was an advisory body in dealing with EC legislation. Had two (2) formal powers:1) reject the budget, 2) to force the resignation of the commission en bloc. [This actually happened a few years ago]- Committee of Permanent Representatives, COREPER, has the responsibility for preparing the work of the Council of Ministers and for carrying out tasks assigned to the council.
- There are numerous other minor committees.
- The European Parliament now has 626 members and is directly elected.The Current Debate
- The elections are essentially fought in each country by national parties.
- In 1999, each region was allocated a set number of members, and voters went to the polls to vote for a particular party rather than individual British politics.
- The issue of European integration has been notable for the divisions it has created in British politics.Conclusion
- The issue has been identified as the “fault line” of British politics, with the capacity to split parties asunder.
- The Labour party was initially opposed to British membership in the EC, but by the time of the 1997 election, Labour had established itself as a Euro-friendly” party.
- The Conservative party was initially hostile to membership, but shifted its position in the early 1960s. It was under a Conservative prime minister, Edward Heath, that the UK became a member of the EC.- But by the 1999 European Parliament elections, the Conservatives had adopted the slogan of “In Europe, not run by Europe.”
- There are essentially four (4) groups within the Conservative party, on the issue of Europe:- Anti-Europeans, Euro-skeptics, Euro-agnostics, and Europhiles.- By 2000, there were two debates going on about “Europe.”
- One was on the issue of the single currency.
- The second was generated by opponents of the European Union who wished to go in the opposite direction. They wanted Britain to withdraw from membership.
- In October 1999, 51% favored staying in and 41% wanted Britain to get out.
- There is no common ground between the sides.
Ch. 9 - European Union
by Tiffany Tolbert, 2003
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Ch. 13: Monarchy: Above the Fray?
By: Marie Wilkerson (another is below)
-The head of the state in the U.K. is the monarch.
-The monarch stands above political decision making but now primarily perform a
-The monarchy is the oldest secular institution in Britain, which is stood before Parliament
and the law courts.
-The Act of Settlement stated that the Crown was to descend to the heirs of the monarch.
-For many centuries, there was no separation of powers. The monarch ran the
-The twentieth century has changed the monarchy into a politically neutral monarchy.
-So the monarch fulfills two primary tasks
1. Represent the unity of the nation
2. Carry out certain political functions on the advice of ministers.
THE CURRENT DEBATE
-For much of the twentieth century, the monarchy was not a major topic of public debate.
1. But there has been some controversy. In 1936, new king, Edward VIII, wanted to marry
an American divorcee Wallis Simpson.
*the marriage was opposed by the British government and by the Archbishop of
-The king had to choose between the throne and Mrs. Simpson.
-King Edward abdicated his throne and it went to his brother, George VI, the duke of
2. Question were being raised about the cost and the position of the monarch and the
-The main areas of debate concerning the monarchy can be subsumed under three headings:
1. The monarch's exercise of certain political powers not clearly governed by convention
2. The cost and activity of members of the royal family
3. The future of the monarchy.
The Exercise of Political Powers
-It is in the Constitution that the queen will select as prime minister that person whom she considers capable of ensuring a
majority in the House of Commons.
-If a party obtains an overall majority in a general election, the queen summons that party.
-In the past there have been no party leaders and the queen has to make a decision on her own.
The Cost and Activity of Members of the Royal Family
-The crown vests in the monarch and there are certain tasks that only the monarch can perform but in some instances a family
member can represent the queen.
-The work of members of the royal family has generally been in a positive light. The Queen and her mother had few criticisms
but the younger generations have had quite a few.
-The costs that are accumulated by the queen and most of the members of the royal family are paid by the Civil List.
-There have been three criticisms of the spending of the monarchy
*the first was that the Civil List was large in absolute terms.
*the second was that the country did not get good value for the money from certain
members of the royal family, especially junior members.
*the third is there was criticism of the fact that the queen received money from the Civil List despite enjoying a large
personal fortune (an untaxed luxury).
The Future of the Monarchy
-The existence of the monarchy has been challenged by numerous politicians and writers.
-It has been attacked as anachronistic and undemocratic, a bastion of privilege and conservatism unsuited to the late twentieth
-The Economist declared the monarchy as "and idea whose time has passed."
-Monarchy supporters have defended it on the basis that the monarch fulfills functions that could not be carried out by and
elected or nominated head of state.
-Defenders of the monarchy have also said that the monarchy is efficient because the queen is hard working and fulfills her
-The debate about the future of the monarchy shows that most people want it to continue but doubt that it will survive for more
than a few decades.
-The queen has the duty of representing the unity of the nation.
-She also carries out certain political task largely but not wholly governed by convention.
-She is called on to exercise the product of circumstance and unclear conventions and not of any personal desire on her part.
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o For one thing, there are inherent difficulties in seeking to interpret a constitution whose boundaries are not clearly delineated.
o For another, the judiciary has labored under the self-imposed doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty. Under this doctrine, the courts have no power to declare unconstitutional an act of Parliament.
o The first dates from the 1960’s. The courts apply the law. This involves interpreting acts of Parliament.
o Prior to the 1960’s the courts were largely deferential to government….
o The third phase occurred with the election of the Labour government in 1997. It brought measures that had the effect of further strengthening the role of the courts.
o The number of police officers has grown over the past century and at the beginning of 2000 there were more than 127,000 police officers in England and Wales- about 1 for every 400 people roughly the same ratio as in the United States.
o The rise in the crime rate,
o Corruption within the police force,
o Poor relationships with certain communities.
Chapter 14 - Courts and Police
by Tiffany Tolbert, 2003
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Ch. 15 - Mass Media
by Tiffany Tolbert, 2003
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-The British polity has witnessed major changes
in recent years.
-The British polity was first published in 1984 so chapters had to be rewritten or revised several times within the fourth edition of this book.
-There are two arguments for continuity
*The first is essentially objective: to identify the extent to which continuity is a feature of the British polity.The Extent of Change
*The second is subjective: to argue that the greater the continuity the better.
*The first wave derives from Britain’s membership in the European Union.-The focus is on the changing constitutional landscape.
*The second wave began in 1997, following the election of a Labour government.
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