It’s my party and I’ll join if I want to: explaining the Labour/Conservative divide

by Tim Bale, Paul Webb and Monica Poletti

Party membership is vital to the health of our representative democracy. Members contribute significantly to election campaigns and to party finances. They are the people who pick party leaders. They constitute the pool from which parties choose their candidates. And they help anchor the parties to the principles and people they came into politics to promote and protect.

The Party Members Project began just after the 2015 general election. We surveyed members of the six biggest parties with the support of ESRC funding and YouGov’s huge internet panel.

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The eye of the storm

by Anand Menon

It’s been quite a period for the UK in a Changing Europe, charged by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) with disseminating the findings of academic research on UK-EU relations to as wide an audience as possible. It’s been exciting, stressful at times, but, most of all immensely satisfying as we have, I think, helped persuade the non-academic world of the importance of social science.

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Propping up Parliament

Alexandra Meakin is a doctoral student at the University of Sheffield, where her research is on the restoration and renewal of the Palace of Westminster. She is a Research Associate on the Designing for Democracy project, led by the Sir Bernard Crick Centre for the Public Understanding of Politics, an ESRC Knowledge Exchange Hub.

As the House of Commons returns this week from the summer recess, MPs will be adjusting to a temporary silence from the chimes of Big Ben. The repairs to the Elizabeth Tower, which contains the Great Bell, have led some politicians and parts of the media to protest that “the very heartbeat of our democracy is falling silent”. The House of Commons Commission is due to meet this month to reconsider the programme of work to address urgent problems with the clock mechanism and the structure of the tower. But while attention has been focused on Big Ben, an anniversary this week serves as a pressing reminder about the worrying state of the rest of the Palace of Westminster.

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Love Actually… more expensive than pre-Brexit?

Iain Begg is a Professorial Research Fellow at the European Institute at the London School of Economics and Senior Fellow on the ESRC’s UK in a Changing Europe initiative.

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As Lysander put it in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, ‘the course of true love never did run smooth’. Now it also has to contend with the consequences of the Brexit vote. The fall in the pound since the referendum means that any commodities for which there is a world price, often denominated in dollars, suddenly became more expensive. This applies to oil and many other raw materials, but also to those two essential ingredients of the engagement ring: gold and diamonds. Continue reading

The rejected experts

‘Why was the evidence of academic experts ignored in the run-up to the Brexit result? And what can academics do about it?’ asks Matthew Flinders, Professor of Politics and Founding Director of the Sir Bernard Crick Centre for the Public Understanding of Politics at the University of Sheffield.

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One of the most interesting and worrying elements of the Brexit debate was the manner in which expert opinion was to some extent dismissed and sidelined in favour of more emotive arguments. Continue reading