. PLSC 3340: Western European Politics – Britain
What do we mean by the expression the "Modernity of Tradition?"
(remember the list of questions that I posed at the end of the last lecture; we must answer each of these questions for Britain)
A. What class or group led the transition to democracy?
1. Going back to the Magna Carta (1215), the English nobles were asserting their "rights" vis-a-vis the
2. The Black Death (1348-1351) causes sever labor shortages, forcing the landowners (nobility) to find
new ways of attracting and holding labor (peasants) on the land. This is the beginning of the Enclosure
Movements and the "freeing" of peasants, which continues until the eighteenth century. Landowning
aristocrats must find new ways of making money.
3. Reign of Henry VIII and Protestant Reformation strengthens the monarchy (in the short run) at the
expense of the nobles and the Church. But Henry's wars with France force him to sell confiscated Church
lands--a move which reinforces the position of the aristocracy.
4. The struggle between the Crown and Parliament comes to a head in the English Civil War (1642-49), ending in the triumph of the landed aristocracy and Parliament, and the establishment of a "Protectorate" or military dictatorship under Oliver Cromwell (1649-60).
5. A constitutional monarchy is established by the Glorious Revolution in 1689, with the accession to the throne of William and Mary of Orange. This is a great victory for the WHIGS (later the LIBERALS) over the TORIES (later the CONSERVATIVES). Parliament passes a Declaration of Rights and the Toleration Act. These laws grant civil liberties and a measure of religious freedom.
B. What route to modernity is taken by Britain??
1. It is the Liberal or Bourgeois route, with the gradual rise of a merchant class and the establishment of
constitutional or parliamentary government.
2. Compared to France or Germany, this transition is relatively gradual, peaceful, and bloodless. The
old feudal order (and the old classes) give way to a new capitalist order.
3. The Old Whigs triumph over the Old Tories.
4. What is the Old Whig conception of authority, and how does it differ from that of the Old Tories?
a. Old Tories support the Crown and they believe strongly in divine right, hierarchy, degree,
order and Noblesse Oblige.
b. Old Whigs have a new justification for hierarchy,rooted more in "sociology than cosmology."
c. Old Whigs believed in the superior ability of the aristocracy, the gentry, and the yeomans.
d. Old Whigs support representation (to a point) and they want politics to be based on program
e. Both Tories and Whigs continue to support mercantilism over free trade, and they support
corporatism over individualism.
f. Note Edmund Burke's theory of representation!
5. Can you see the odd combination of tradition and modernity?
C. The English are gradually building a new kind of state, one which will build a "self-regulating" market, expand commerce (with the power of the Royal Navy and British East India Co.)
1. The Scottish political economist, Adam Smith, will be the philosopher of the new industrial age. Note
publication of The Wealth of Nations (1776!)
2. But the English build a state BEFORE they build a nation (problems of the Celtic fringe...)
II. When and in what order are rights extended in 19th Century Britain?
A. Period of domestic political repression during the French Revolution (1789-1800) and during the Napoleonic Wars (1800 until 1822).
B. Then begins a period of radical and liberal movements, culminating in the Reform Act of 1832, which redistributed
seats in favor of larger communities, eliminating many "rotten boroughs", and extending the franchise to middle
class men. Passed by Earl Grey's Whig government.
C. The Old Whig idea of representation (for corporate bodies) gradually gives way to the Liberal and Radical idea of
individual representation and representation of interests.
D. A new "Liberal" conception of authority is emerging, based on
1. Individualism, laisser faire, and parliamentarism
2. Source of authority and action is the rational individual, not the corporate body.
3. Property becomes more important as a qualification for voting.
4. Liberal MPs, however, still have a Burkean or Old Whig theory of representation. They should represent the whole country, not just the narrow interests of their individual constituencies.
E. But the "radicals" begin a new round of agitation in the Chartist Movement (1838-48).
1. They want to advance the interests of workers and the "people".
2. During this period, political parties are weak and poorly organized.
3. Liberals and Radicals join the Anti-Corn Law League.
F. The Corn Laws are repealed in 1842 and Victorian Britain embraces free trade and a laisser faire economy. Why?
III. Socialist and Tory Democracy (to be continued...)
A. Disraelian conservatism.
B. Further extension of political and civil rights (1867 Reform Act)
C. First attempts to build a welfare state.
A. Rise of the Liberal Party in mid-nineteenth century, grew out of the Whig Party at the time of the 1st Reform Act (1832)
1. New idea of representation, from corporatist bodies (classes) to the rational individual.
2. New policies included free trade (repeal of Corn Laws), religious freedom, abolition of slavery, and extension of the franchise.
3. Who were some great liberal leaders/thinkers?
a. Lord John Russell, W.E. Gladstone, Herbert Asquith, David Lloyd George
b. Jeremy Bentham, David Ricardo, James and John Stuart Mill
4. Liberals attacked privilege, pushed for the protection of private property, and electoral reform (get rid of the rotten boroughs!)
5. But liberals kept the Burkean idea of representative government--MP is a delegate, not beholden to special interests
6. Emergence of the "loyal opposition" connotes acceptance of parties and a party system
7. Property is still a qualification for voting.
B. The radicals, who were they and what did they stand for?
1. They are suspicious of political parties and against property and privilege.
2. Should be no property qualification for voting.
3. Power to the people, not to special interests!
4. They favor direct democracy (rule by majority)
5. People should be united--ideas that are much closer to Jean-Jacques Rousseau than to John Locke.
6. Radicals are the precursors of socialists.
C. How do we study and understand modern political parties?
1. Where do they come from? Inside or outside of parliament?
2. What is their programme and ideology?
5. Social bases of support?
II. Tory and Socialist Democracy
A. Collectivism, paternalism, and strong party government.
1. Cabinet government and collective responsibility
2. MP's should not follow their conscience or the narrow interests of their constituency
3. They should hue to the party line--three line whips!
4. Functional representation of estates, ranks, orders, interests, classes and vocations
5. Return to older corporatist ideas, which will evolve into modern pluralism
6. What happened to the shire and borough?
7. Joint stock company with limited liability replaces the common law partnership and family firm
8. Rise of large business corporations and trade unions
B. What is meant by the term "party government?"
C. Tory Democracy
1. Concern for "the people"
2. Need for social reform and some type of welfare state
3. The essence of Disraelian Conservatism
4. Democracy at home, imperialism abroad
5. Tory party idea is to govern in the name and interests of all the people
6. Social class is a force uniting society
D. Socialist Democracy
1. Labour Party grew out of the bowels of the TUC
2. Radical and syndicalist
3. But also Fabian--who were the Fabians?
a. Robert Owen
b. Sidney and Beatrice Webb
c. George Bernard Shaw
d. Oxbridge socialists...
4. Founding of the Labour Party in 1900
E. Fight over Irish Home Rule and the decline of the Liberals
I. Comparing Political Parties in the U.S. and Britain/Europe
A. Parties provide choice in BOTH countries
1. But in Britain they provide more: they GOVERN
2. Both countries have a FPTP electoral system; coalitions are rare.
3. Parties in U.S. are much "weaker" than in Britain
4. Parties in U.S. are decentralized and non-programmatic WHY???
B. Institutional constraints are different, thus affecting the way politicians and parties behave.
1. U.S. has a federal system, compared to the unitary system in the U.K.
2. U.S. has separation of powers, compared to parliamentary supremacy in U.K.
3. Was there a time when U.S. had strong party government?
4. Note executive dominance of the Commons
5. Party politics in the U.K. is more zero-sum than in U.S.
C. What are the major parties in Britain today?
1. Basically a two-party system, like in the U.S.
2. Conservatives v. Labour
3. What happened to the Liberals?
4. Are there any third parties: Liberal Democrats, SNP, Ulster Unionists, Sinn Fein, Plaid Cymru, etc.
II. The Conservative or Tory Party today.
A. History--grew out of the Old Tory Party--Whigs--Liberals.
1. Disraeli and the Tory Democrats
2. Thatcher and the neoliberals
1. Whigish ideology, harkening back to Edmund Burke
2. Noblesse oblige, need to improve on past traditions
3. Sanctity of private property
4. One Nation--class and hierarchy unite all in society
5. In addition to its aristocratic base, the party has absorbed elements of the middle class vote (since
Disraeli) as well as the working class
6. Disraeli's policy was one of "democracy at home, imperialism abroad."
1. Disraeli--Tory Democrat (leader from 1867-80)
2. Stanley Baldwin (leader in 1920's and '30's)
3. Neville Chamberlain (1937-40), best known for policies of appeasement
4. Succeeded by the controversial Winston Churchill, opponent
of appeasement, led Britain in World War II (1940-45),
came back to power in 1951
5. Anthony Eden (Suez Crisis of 1956) and Harold Macmillan (1957-63): both "wets" and supporters of
the "Buskellite" consensus (see below)
6. Edward Heath (1970-74), mild neoliberal but still a wet, supported British entry into the European Community, government fell during the "winter of discontent" in 1974, opening the way for the "Iron Lady"
7. Margaret Thatcher
a. rose to power during the turbulent 1970s, a period of economic decline and stagflation.
b. motto was to "put the Great back in Britain"
c. became party leader in 1975, prime minister from 1979-1990--pushed aside the wets, Heath, Pym,et al.
d. strong ally of U.S. in cold war
e. pursued supply-side, monetarist, anti-Keynesian policies
f. free marketeer (strong neoliberal), pushed for privatization, deregulation, dismantling the
welfare state--broke the back of the Trade Unions
g. strongly opposed to further European integration
h. overthrown in 1990 by the "men in grey suits"
8. Thatcher is succeeded by John Major--return of the wets-- PM from 1990-97. Current leader is William Hague, a young Welshman, and so far not a very effective leader. Gets no respect...
1. Cadre-type party, run from Central Office
2. One must make an effort to join
3. Run by a normally tight-knit party elite
4. Badly split over the issue of Britain's role in Europe
5. Participation is limited to a small circle of party activists, MPs, etc.
6. But don't forget the "blue rinse" set!
E. Social bases of support
1. Conservatives still get the support of the ever dwindling aristocracy--life peers, etc.
2. Biggest base of support is in the SOUTH of England, among big business and finance.
3. Very weak in the old industrial north of England, and in Scotland--note plight of Sean Connery (see below)
4. Thatcher (like Reagan) built a new "catch all" base for the party, among middle and working class voters
5. But these centrist voters have since shifted their support to Tony Blair and New Labour
6. Since the mid-1990s, the party has been in disarray, searching for new leadership, for new issues, and a
new constituency (in the American sense).
III. The Labour or New Labour Party (make sure you read the article on reserve, "Liberalism Rediscovered" by Samuel Beer!)
A. History and Ideology
1. Born in 1900, to quote Ernest Bevan, "out of the bowels of the TUC," strongly SYNDICALIST in its origins.
a. Contrast syndicalism (unions control the party)
b. Marxism-Leninism (party controls the unions)
c. Social democracy or neo-corporatism (where the party works hand in glove with the unions)
2. Owes more to the Methodists than to the Marxists!
a. Note the influence of the Fabians
b. Sidney and Beatrice Webb, George Bernard Shaw
3. Came down on the side of the revisionists (social democrats) and their leader Eduard Bernstein,
during the Second International--opposed to John Kautsky and the more orthodox Marxists.
4. Opposed to world communist revolution and in favor of democratic or parliamentary rule
5. But at 1918 party congress, members voted to retain a formal commitment to socialism--the infamous
CLAUSE 4, which called for
a. democratic control of industry
b. minimum wage and full employment
c. expansion of the welfare state, social services
d. equitable distribution of wealth in society
6. Clause 4 would not be repealed until Tony Blair took over the party in 1995.
7. Rise of Butskellite consensus in 1950s, named for Conservative Chancellor of the Exchequer, Lord Butler
and Labour's shadow Chancellor, Hugh Gaitskell
a. entailed an agreement by Tories not to attack the new Welfare State
b. Tories also supported nationalization of industry
c. in exchange, Labour helped to maintain industrial peace
d. quiet time of economic stagnation in 1950s
e. which continued into the 1960s
8. Butskellite consensus began to breakdown under Harold Wilson in the turbulent 1970s.
9. Gradual rise of the "middle way" under Neil Kinnock and Tony Blair, deemphasizing class conflict, in favor
of a new information-based, service economy, taking a page out of Bill Clinton's playbook.
1. Ramsay Macdonald, early leader of Labour (1911-14), PM in a minority governments (Lib-Lab coaltions)
in 1923-24, and 1929, discredited for his willingness to lead a Conservative dominated cabinet in 1931
2. Labour went into a difficult period of opposition throughout the 1930s and '40s.
3. Stunning victory in 1945 of Labour Party, led by Clement Attlee, whom Winston Churchill called
"a modest little man, with a great deal to be modest about!" Attlee responded about Churchill,
that "there but for the grace of God, goes God!"
a. Attlee and Bevan built a social democratic style, cradle to grave welfare state
b. NHS becomes a model
c. Nationalization of big industry
d. Building a "new society" from the ashes of World War II
e. British people were war weary, ready for a fresh start
4. Bitter internal debate over the need for radical socialism, led to a narrow election victory in 1950.
And government lost elections of 1951.
a. Hugh Gaitskell supported Clause 4
b. Anthony Crosland opposed it
5. Long period of opposition ensued, from 1951 to 1964, when Harold Wilson (bookish, pipe-smoking, Oxbridge, Fabian type) became PM. Note that Attlee and Wilson were graduates of Univ, where SMU has its Oxford program. You can see their portraits in the dining hall of the old college.
6. The Wilson period would last from 1964 to 1979.
a. during this time, the party lacked direction
b. could not settle the socialism issue
c. period of national economic planning
d. stagflation and economic decline
7. Wilson was PM from 1964-70 and again from 74-78. He was succeeded briefly by "Sunny Jim" Callahan.
8. Margaret Thatcher almost succeeded in destroying the Labour Party, which really floundered in the early
a. Its new leader was the hapless Michael Foot
b. Came to parliament dressed in an old army coat
c. Rise of Tony Benn, Red Ken Livingston, and MILITANT TENDENCY (the Trots)
d. PLP advocated withdrawal from EC and unilateral disarmament.
e. Further nationalization and increased public spending.
f. Labour won only 26 % of the vote in the 1983 elections
9. Gang of four (Williams, Owen, Jenkins, Rodgers) broke from the party in 1981 to form the Social Democratic Party (SDP), see below
10. Last chance for Dennis Healy, hard hitting, former Chancellor...
11. Neil Kinnock became the leader of the party in 1985. Began a process of reform, trying to reduce the power of the unions over the party. Reversed the radical policies of Foot, and got rid of militant tendency
12. But Kinnock lost the elections of 1992 to John Major. This opened the way for Tony Blair eventually to
take over and reform the party.
13. What is "Blairism"????
1. Mass-based party
2. Very democratic--began outside of parliament
3. Controlled for most of its history by the PLP and the TUC
4. Easy to join and participate
5. Almost taken over by radicals in early 1980s
6. Kinnock and Blair regained control of the party and cut down influence of the unions
D. Social bases of support
1. Largely a party of the working class
2. But with the rise of the welfare state in the 1950s, it became more of a middle class party
3. Gets strong support from unions and public sector employees, including teachers, nurses, etc.
4. Strong in Scotland and in the industrial north of England
5. Tony Blair has expanded the base of the party and given it a new lease on life
IV. The Liberals, SDP, Alliance, Liberal Democrats (more on this tomorrow)
IV. Liberals and other small parties
A. Why is it so difficult for smaller, third parties to succeed in Britain or the U.S.?
1. Because of the FPTP electoral system
2. Contrast with PR
B. Liberal Party
1. You already should be familiar with the history and ideology of this party from your reading of
2. Its heyday was from 1860-1920, when it competed head to head with the Tories
3. Some of its great leaders during this period are legendary figures in British politics
a. Gladstone led the Liberals from 1868-1894 and he was PM four times.
b. Gladstone was a staunch supporter of free trade and a great social reformer
c. David Lloyd George and Herbert Henry Asquith competed for control of the party during
the first two decades of the XXth century
d. This was a period of great reform in British politics--1911 Parliament Act eliminated the
power of the House of Lords
4. With the rise of the Labour Party (see above), the Liberals went into a period of steady decline.
5. From 1945 to 1979, there were never more than 14 Liberal MPs in Parliament.
6. In the 1980s the Liberals began to make something of a comeback.
a. Led by David Steel (Lib-Lab pact of 1977-78)
b. The Liberals joined with the SDP to contest the elections of 1983, under the banner of the
c. Even though the Alliance won 26 percent of the popular vote, they got on 17 seats in
Parliament--how could this be???
7. Beginning in 1987, the Alliance collapsed over disagreements about foreign and defense policy.
a. a battle for the leadership ensued between David Steel and Dr. David Owen
b. eventually the Liberals succeeded in taking over the Alliance
c. led by an ex-Royal Marine, Paddy Ashdown
d. they changed their name to Liberal Democrats, and eventually just the Democrats.
e. not much of a force in British Politics today, although they do attract some intellectual and yuppie votes.
C. Other small parties (mostly on the CELTIC FRINGE)
1. SNP--Scottish National Party. One of its leaders is Sean Connery, who was recently refused a knighthood by Queen Elizabeth
2. Ulster Unionists represent the Orangemen/protestants in Northern Ireland--leader is Rev. Ian Paisley and
3. Sinn Fein is the political wing of the IRA, led by Gerry Adams.
4. Plaid Cymru is the Welsh nationalist party/movement
5. All of these groups could become more important with DEVOLUTION
6. Their support is purely ethnic and/or religious.
Subject: lecture 9, Pluralism and interest groups
I. What is an interest or pressure group?
A. An organization which seeks to influence government
B. What distinguishes an interest group from a political party?
C. How can we compare interest group politics across countries?
1. Pluralist pattern of interest group politics variant on Madison's theory of factions (Federalist no. 10)
2. Syndicalist pattern, with many militant trade unions but no "peak" organization. The TUC in Britain
fits this pattern, where unions control the party
3. Communist or Marxist-Leninist model, with only one, officially sanctioned union, which is tightly
controlled by the party. This is what we saw in Communist Eastern Europe.
4. Neo-corporatist or social democratic model, with very powerful trade unions, which work closely with
a dominant left-wing party. In this type of system we find a peak organization, which closely controls
the members. This makes it easier to keep labor peace and to develop national incomes policies. Most
common in the smaller European social democracies, like Sweden.
II. Organization and types of groups in Britain.
A. Britain has a strong syndicalist tradition, but with a pattern of interest group politics that is quite pluralistic.
B. What are the most important groups?
1. Trade Unions Congress or TUC, which is the umbrella labor organization. Has traditionally controlled
the Labour Party.
2. Confederation of Business Industry or CBI, which is closely aligned with the Conservative Party.
C. How strong are interest groups in the British political process?
1. The Trade Unions (like the Mineworkers and the TGWU) have been very strong and influential since the
early part of the twentieth century.
2. But the TUC does not control the member unions very well, so Britain has a history of labor strife.
3. Until Margaret Thatcher became PM. She enacted legislation to weaken the power of trade unions.
And there were many pitched battles between workers and the police during her years in office.
4. Tony Blair also has taken steps to tame the unions and to weaken their influence over the Labour Party.
5. Business, farming interests, etc. are increasingly drawn to Brussels, rather than to London.
D. What activities are used by groups to influence government?
1. Labor uses strikes, lobbying, and elections.
2. Capital or business acts more behind the scenes, through traditional electoral or governmental channels.
3. Farmers and small businessmen have been frozen out of much of the decisionmaking process in recent decades.
4. Public sector unions of teachers, doctors, nurses, etc. have tremendous clout, because they can shut down
vital parts of the service economy.
5. How well organized are consumers? producers?
III. What are the points of connection between interest groups and parties?
A. The overwhelming majority of Labour MPs are sponsored by trade unions.
B. Conservatives receive great financial support from the CBI and
The City and many Conservative Party members are company
C. But groups cannot, in principle, tell MPs how to vote.
D. Note the tensions between Whitehall and Westminster!
IV. What motivates interest groups?
A. For labor, it is the fear of falling behind, but labor must struggle to overcome the free rider problem
B. The result in the 1970s, was an explosion of demands (pay scramble), a wage-price spiral, and soaring inflation.
C. Much of Britain's economic woes and its decline were blamed on trade unions.
D. For business, there was a great subsidy scramble, but competition that has come with greater European integration has changed the ballgame.
V. Note the difference between public and private sector unions.
A. Can public sector unions strike in the U.S.???
C. Air traffic controllers
D. NUPE--national union of public employees
VI. What effect do groups have on the political system?
A. Do they make the system more democratic?
B. More efficient?
C. What policy areas are most sensitive to interest group demands?
D. How formal should the relationship be between groups and the government??
* This is the final lecture on Politics and Government in Britain. It is an outline of institutional arrangements.
A. Which is more of a "rubber stamp"?
B. Parliamentary supremacy v. separation of powers
C. Role of two houses in policymaking
1. House of Reps v. House of Commons
2. Senate v. House of Lords
D. Note struggle between Commons and Lords Parliament Acts of 1911 and 1949
E. Executive is drawn from Parliament
F. Votes of confidence and dissolution
G. How to pass legislation?
1. Government v. Private Member Bills
2. Role of committees
3. Making amendments
II. House of Commons
A. The triumvirate: Monarch, Lords, and Commons
B. Only the Commons is popularly elected
C. Function of Commons is legitimation and debate
D. Lots of Q & A, caterwauling, etc.
D. Note importance of seating arrangements (front v. back bench; government v. opposition)
III. Role of government in parliament.
A. Tight control over legislation and debate
B. Question time
C. Point of question time is to embarrass the government
IV. House of Lords
A. Totally subordinate to the Commons
B. Hereditary v life peers
C. Provides personnel for government
D. Can delay legislation, but has no veto power
E. Note the importance of the Law Lords!
V. Is Parliament simply a rubber stamp?
A. No judicial review and no checks and balances
B. Dominated by parties and the executive/government
C. What constitutes "The Government"?
1. The cabinet (collective responsibility)
2. Minister (individual responsibility)
3. Departments (permanent secretary and civil service)
A. 20-25 members drawn from Parliament (mostly from the Commons)
1. Chosen by the PM who can appoint and dismiss members
2. Chosen for competence, loyalty, geography
3. MUCH more powerful than the American cabinet
B. Occasional "reshuffling" in the face of crises
C. Cabinet meets once a week at no. 10 Downing
A. PM is primus inter pares
1. Kitchen cabinet is informal circle of advisors to PM
2. Cabinet exists only by convention, it has no formal powers, and operates according to rules of collective responsibility and secrecy
3. Powers are vested in individual ministers, not the cabinet as a whole
4. Getting the sack!
5. If House has no confidence in Her Majesty's Government, then dissolution and elections will ensue
6. Note role of departments and permanent secretaries, to advise the ministers, implement policy--
A. Roughly twenty: Defense, Home and Foreign Office, Treasury, etc.
B. Civil Service works out of Whitehall under a cloak of anonymity, provided by ministerial responsibility
C. The Oxbridge Civil Servant...
1. Classically trained