Democracy in Britain does not appear to be in a healthy state. Citizens are less engaged with political institutions, and less trusting in politicians, than they used to be. The nation is divided, as reflected in most recently in our Brexit debate but also in lingering debates over Englishness, new political identities and the future of the United Kingdom. Critical questions are being asked about the role and effectiveness of key institutions, including the durability of a two-party majoritarian electoral system, the House of Lords and the 'Westminster Model'. Meanwhile, the nature of political authority in Britain is changing. Power has been delegated to devolved bodies in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and London, but there are questions over the sustainability of this distribution of authority. Non-electoral actors such as traditional and social media and the judiciary also play an important role in shaping political decisions. Where does this leave the political system at the start of the 21st century? Is government in Britain effective and democratic? Or are Britain's political institutions failing? And how might the country come together again amid Brexit and as the country develops a new role in the wider world?
This module provides students with an introduction to some of the key issues facing the political system in Britain today. Students will examine challenges that confront the political system, the effectiveness of existing arrangements and the merits of further reforms to institutions. While the focus is on Britain, many of the same challenges are also faced by political systems in other west European countries, to which the module will make reference. The course goes beyond a simple focus on British politics, by introducing students to some of the key issues facing many western democracies today.
This module appears in the following module collections.
11 hours of lectures and 11 hours of seminars.
Method of assessment
50% coursework (essay of 2000 words), 50% exam (2 hours).
Mark Garnett and Phil Lynch Exploring British Politics, 4th edition, Taylor and Francis (2016). This is available in the library both as a hard book and eBook.
Anthony King, Who Governs Britain? Penguin (2015). This is available in the library and can also be purchased at a cheap rate online.
There are useful blogs on British politics to further your understanding:
Democratic Audit: http://www.democraticaudit.com/
LSE British politics: http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/politicsandpolicy/
Constitution Unit Blog: https://constitution-unit.com/
House of Commons Library: https://www.parliament.uk/commons-library
See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)
Understand the way that political decisions are reached in Britain, focusing on the links between citizens, intermediary bodies and executive institutions.
Identify the main evidence and criteria used in determining which actors shape key policy decisions.
Identify the ways in which Britain's political system has undergone significant structural change in the last decade or so.
Critically examine the strengths and weaknesses of political institutions in Britain, and analytically evaluate arguments around the merits of alternative institutional arrangements.
Understand how the design and operation of Britain's political system relates to alternative arrangements in other western democracies, and identify the main consequences of these similarities and differences.
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Credit level 4. Certificate level module usually taken in the first stage of an undergraduate degree.
- ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
- The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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