Articles by readingpolitics

You are currently browsing readingpolitics’s articles.

There are numerous options for how to hold a constitutional convention. In this post, first published on the openDemocracy blog, Alan Renwick argues that we should not rush in hasty decision. Instead, we should make sure we get the very best option for lasting democratic change in Britain.

Politicians from across the political spectrum have come out in the days since Scotland’s independence referendum in favour of a constitutional convention to determine the future shape of the UK. Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg, Nigel Farage, and Green Party leader Natalie Bennett have all said this is the best way to resolve the constitutional anomalies created by further devolution to Scotland and to seek a revival of our democracy. Some Conservatives apparently also share that view – though the party’s leadership stands against it.

Read the rest of this entry »

Students in Hong Kong today begin a week-long boycott of their classes in protest against the refusal of the Chinese government to accept democratic electoral reforms. Tom Kennedy, who graduated from the BA in Politics and International Relations at Reading in 2013, spent much of the past summer travelling in East Asia and teaching in Beijing. Here he offers a personal reflection on the unfolding developments.

On a clear night, the view looking towards Victoria Harbour is magnificent. It shines like an Asian Manhattan, a metropolis of invention and success. It is difficult not to be enthused by this wonderfully unique place. One can only imagine the emotions of Lord Patten, the last Governor of Hong Kong, as he boarded the boat leaving the harbour after overseeing the return of Hong Kong to China in 1997.

Read the rest of this entry »

Paul Goodman gives an insightful analysis of the politicking around English devolution that is going on within the Conservative Party at the moment. But do Conservative MPs really think the current situation is just about jockeying for short-term political advantage?

Two things ought to be clear. First, if Westminster fails to deliver on the promises given to Scotland over the last few weeks, the UK will break apart over the coming years. The SNP will win the 2016 Scottish Parliament elections by a landslide. They will then call another referendum saying Scots were conned into voting No first time round by a duplicitous London establishment that treats them with contempt. And they will win that referendum: many of those who voted No last week will feel deeply betrayed.

Read the rest of this entry »

An exceptionally high turnout is predicted in Scotland’s independence referendum next week. Voter registration is at record levels and the Chief Counting Officer has been urging people to avoid the busy times at the polling stations to beat the queues. But how high does turnout need to be to be exceptional? What are the records that could be broken? Alan Renwick here provides the definitive guide.

Will Scotland set any turnout records when voters go to the polls next Thursday? In order to find out, we need to investigate some points of comparison. Let’s start with UK general elections. Figure 1 shows turnout across the UK at all general elections since the arrival of universal male suffrage and something approaching universal female suffrage in 1918. The high-point came in 1950, when 84.0 per cent of eligible voters – the highest proportion in any poll in UK democratic history – made their mark. The low-point – aside from the unusual post-war election of December 1918 – was in 2001, when only 59.1 per cent of registered voters turned up.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Scottish referendum debate has taken a dramatic turn and it seems that the No campaign is about to pledge the creation of a convention to debate Scotland’s constitutional future. Alan Renwick has long argued that such a promise is needed. Here he argues that the precise form of a constitutional convention needs to be decided with care.

The race in the Scottish referendum has tightened. Indeed, this morning sees the publication of the first poll putting the Yes side ahead. Media reports suggest that the No campaign is about to respond by promising a convention to decide the future character of devolution within the Union. The convention, we are told, we include not just politicians, but “all parts of Scottish society”.

I have been arguing for months that the No camp should set out a positive vision for Scotland’s future: it should always have been clear that relentless negativism would risk turning Scottish voters against the arrogant elite that was seemingly doing Scotland down. I have also long argued that this positive vision needs to include proposals for a convention on future constitutional changes. So I welcome the fact that Better Together have apparently finally woken up to this need.

Read the rest of this entry »

The polls have been narrowing in Scotland’s independence referendum debate. Reading’s referendums expert, Alan Renwick, reflects here on whether the Yes campaign really could pull off an unexpected victory.

I wrote a piece for the Telegraph a couple of weeks ago pointing out that, if Scotland’s voters follow the patterns seen in most referendums around the world, they will vote No to independence on 18th September. The polls have consistently shown a lead for No. And opinion generally shifts in the direction of the status quo in the final stage of a referendum campaign.

Since then, however, the polls seem to have shown the reverse pattern: opinion seems to be shifting towards Yes, not No. So what is going on? Could Scotland really buck the trend?

Read the rest of this entry »

The Scottish Government this week released the first draft of an interim constitution for an independent Scotland, as well as details about the nature of the Constitutional Convention that would come together in order to write a final document. In a post first published on the Democratic Audit UK blog, Alan Renwick argues that though some elements of this are encouraging, a bolder approach – particularly in terms of convention membership, and the clarity of the document as a whole – would be preferable.

The Scottish Government has this week set out its plans for Scotland’s constitutional future in the event of a Yes vote in September’s independence referendum. Those plans come in three parts: an interim constitution to take effect on the day Scotland becomes an independent country; a procedure for drawing up a permanent constitution; and some ideas on what the permanent constitution might contain. Many of the proposals are sensible. But they also evince a disappointing lack of ambition. If our democracy is to escape its current despond, more innovative thinking is badly needed.

Read the rest of this entry »

Dr Alan Renwick

Today’s Queen’s Speech includes a commitment to bring forward legislation allowing recall of MPs.  A recall petition will be opened either when an MP is jailed for up to twelve months (longer jail sentences already lead to automatic expulsion) or when the Commons itself decides that a miscreant MP should be censured with the threat of recall.  If at least 10 per cent of eligible local voters sign the petition within an eight-week period, a by-election will be held.  The sitting MP will be allowed to stand in the by-election, but will have to prove his or her continuing local support in order to retain office.

This is identical to the proposals set out by the government in a draft bill and accompanying white paper in 2011.  For some time after those proposals were published, it seemed that the government had got cold feet on the idea: the Commons Political and Constitutional Reform Committee was not keen, and many MPs clearly disliked the thought of being dislodged by angry voters between elections.  The matter has returned to the agenda because the government can’t appear to be unresponsive to the anti-establishment mood that has fuelled the rise of UKIP.

Read the rest of this entry »

The SNP have promised that an independent Scotland will develop a codified constitution.The other main parties have suggested that a No vote is a vote for a union in which Scotland is granted greater autonomy. But how should new constitutional arrangements be decided?  In this post, first published on the blog of UCL’s Constitution Unit, Alan Renwick explores the options and concludes that the recent Irish Constitutional Convention could provide a useful model.

As the hullaballoo around the local and European elections begins to fade, attention is turning back to the main event in UK politics for 2014: the referendum on Scottish independence.  We are now in the official sixteen-week campaign period and, if the last few days are anything to go by, the two sides in the debate plan to continue screeching at each other much as they did before.  The Yes camp insists that Scotland’s economy will flourish following independence while the No camp counters that numerous economic dangers lie ahead.

Read the rest of this entry »

In his second post on this year’s Eurovision Song Contest, Dr Alan Renwick looks here at what the voting patterns tell us about attitudes towards sexual minorities across Europe today.

This year’s Eurovision Song Contest has been won by a bearded drag artist from Austria.  There was much talk beforehand about whether the votes cast for Conchita Wurst would reveal a divide across Europe in attitudes towards alternative sexual identities.  Attitudes in the north west, many supposed, would be more progressive, while attitudes in the south and, particularly, the east were expected be more conservative.

Read the rest of this entry »

« Older entries