Analysing British Politics Today - PO304

Location Term Level Credits (ECTS) Current Convenor 2019-20
(version 3)
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4 15 (7.5) PROF M Goodwin







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. Critical questions are being asked about the role and effectiveness of such key institutions as the electoral system and parliament. Meanwhile, the nature of political authority in Britain is changing rapidly. Power has been transferred upwards to the European Union, and downwards to devolved bodies in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and London. Non-electoral actors such as the media 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?

This module provides students with an introduction to some of the key issues facing the political system in Britain today. The module examines the challenges facing the political system, the effectiveness of existing political arrangements and the merits of institutional reform. While the focus is domestic, many of the same challenges are also faced by political systems in other west European countries, to which the course will make reference. The module thus aims to go beyond a simple focus on British politics, by introducing students to some of the key contemporary issues facing many western democracies.


This module appears in:

Contact hours

11 hours of lectures and 11 hours of seminars.

Method of assessment

50% coursework (essay of =2000 words), 50% exam (2 hours).

Indicative reading

KING, A. - 'Does the UK Still Have a Constitution?', 2001
WRIGHT, T. - 'British Politics: A Very Short Introduction', 2003

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

Understand the way that political decisions are reached in Britain.
Be able to identify the evidence and criteria used in determining which actors shape key policy decisions.
Understand the recent structural changes to Britain's political system, and the effects these changes have had.
Be able to critically review the strengths and weaknesses of political institutions in Britain, and analytically evaluate the merits of alternative institutional arrangements.
Understand how the design and operation of Britain's political system relates to arrangements in other western democracies, and be able to identify the main consequences of these similarities and differences.

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