The British party system is a tough old beast, but as the UK prepares to head to the polls for its third major national vote in three years, there are signs that the tectonic plates of political identity are finally shifting. The Liberal Democrats have been quick to position themselves as the voice of disgruntled Remainers, but Peter Sloman points out that there has always been another side of the Liberal heritage -- the deep vein of liberal populism that has been the foundation of the party's support in Scotland, Wales, and the West Country. If Labour and the Liberal Democrats are to regain ground in the wake of the Brexit vote, they will need to reach beyond the cosmopolitan cities and find new ways of connecting with the provincial culture of the Celtic fringe.
James McGrory, a key player in the Remain campaign and now co-Executive Director of Open Britain, talks to Hettie O'Brien about what went wrong for his side in the referendum, and how progressives can talk to immigration sceptics in future.
For a country said to be obsessed with its past, Britain has a politics in which there is often little understanding of the legacy of history. Having long looked politically insignificant, the idea of English nationhood has resurfaced in the past few years -- not least in relation to Brexit. Helen Thompson argues that Englishness has been such a potent force in the debate over Brexit because it builds on a long history of Country resistance to a cosmopolitan Court, which dates back to the Norman Conquest. “Take back control” was such a powerful message precisely because English identity has so often been premised on that very political imperative.
The triggering of Article 50 this week marked the beginning of Britain’s uncoupling from the European Union. While much ink has already
been spilt over Brexit, few can agree about what it will mean for the future of
the United Kingdom. Gina Miller, the UK business owner, became well-known for drawing
attention to what she termed the ‘elephant in the room’ of the Brexit legal process. Along with London-based hairdresser
Deir Tozetti Dos Santos and the People’s Challenge Group, Miller launched a
crowdfunded court case against the UK government, claiming that it had
illegally used its executive powers to invoke Article 50. This, Miller argued,
was a breach of parliamentary sovereignty, and a threat to democracy. She has since faced numerous death threats and has been branded
a ‘bremoaner’ and ‘chief wrecker’ by the pro-Brexit press. In an appearance on
the Andrew Marr show, she clashed with Nigel Farage over their divergent
opinions on sovereignty. The day after Theresa May triggered Article 50, In the Long
Run’s Hettie O’Brien spoke to the businesswoman and philanthropist about her
hopes for the negotiations.
Northern Ireland’s latest election on 2 March provoked soul-searching among unionists as Sinn Féin pulled within one seat of becoming the largest party. As the Stormont parties struggle to put together a new executive, the province’s future is more than an inconvenience to be resolved in the context of the Article 50 negotiations. The current instability may yet give rise to another full-blown constitutional crisis before power-sharing turns twenty.
The aftershocks of the EU referendum are likely to provide political scientists with rich pickings for years to come. In a timely new article, Chris Byrne, Nick Randall and Kevin Theakston have drawn on Stephen Skowronek's typology of US presidential leadership to characterize David Cameron as a 'disjunctive' leader, presiding over the disintegration of the neoliberal settlement established by Margaret Thatcher. Yet with the impact of Brexit still uncertain and the Conservatives riding high in the polls, this approach is deeply problematic. Cameron is better seen (in Skowronek's terms) as an 'orthodox innovator', who successfully repackaged Thatcherism for a new generation but struggled to cope with the internal tensions which his modernization project created.
Six years on from the signature of the Lancaster House Treaties – the Franco-British bilateral defence agreement signed by David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy – the long-term future of cooperation across the Channel is unclear. Bilateral cooperation in most areas of defence has increased, from the coordination of air and marine capabilities to counter-terrorism and joint R&D programmes. But the UK’s looming exit from the European Union could spell an end to the love affair.
Get In Touch
We welcome proposals for articles, interviews, book reviews, and audio and video content. Contributions should be original and should not be under consideration elsewhere.
Alison Richard Building, 7 West Rd, Cambridge CB3 9DT
In The Long Run is a platform for political writing and policy analysis with a global and transgenerational perspective. It cuts through the ephemera of trending news to provide timely insight from leading academic voices in Cambridge and around the world.