Research

 

You will find a complete range of our monographs, muti-authored and edited works including peer-reviewed, original scholarly research across the social sciences and aligned disciplines. We publish long and short form research and you can browse the complete Bristol University Press and Policy Press archive of over 1,500 titles.

Policy Press also publishes policy reviews and polemic work which aim to challenge policy and practice in certain fields. These books have a practitioner in mind and are practical, accessible in style, as well as being academically sound and referenced.
 

Books: Research

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This chapter examines how the foundational principles identified in preceding chapters – primarily engagement, connectedness, accessibility, inclusion, equality, fairness, responsiveness, accountability, wellness, ethical propriety, sustainability and flexibility – guide the rethinking of parliamentary space, connectivity and interaction in Westminster. The breadth of reimagining is mapped in an indicative listing of practical proposals which can be derived from the deployment of these principles in each chapter. Yet, in different ways, each chapter also reveals how the boundaries of institutional reimagining illuminate the systemic constraints of the UK’s polity and society. In turn this prompts questions about the necessity of further serious thinking about reimagining the broader institutions and processes of parliamentary democracy and parliamentary government in the UK. The chapter concludes, therefore, with a call for cascaded reimagining of these systemic features by others.

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Taking reimagining to mean ‘the action or an act of imagining something again, a reconstruction; a remake’, this chapter identifies what is to be reimagined in this book, who is going to be doing the reimagining, and the approaches adopted in reimagining. This introduction makes clear that the specific focus of the book is the UK parliament; that those doing the reimagining bring together perspectives of both senior parliamentary officials, researchers and academics drawing upon wide disciplinary expertise; and that foundational principles drive the reimagining of the parliamentary activities under consideration in later chapters. This introductory chapter also provides an ideational frame – constructed around notions of space, connectivity and interaction – within which key parliamentary activities can be reimagined. This frame is used in this chapter to provide brief overviews of the contemporary significance, and condition, of parliament and to make the case that now would appear to be the time ‘to think seriously about starting over’ when imagining the UK parliament at the heart of a broader political system of parliamentary democracy.

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This chapter reimagines the relationship between citizens and parliament. Five core principles of public engagement – inclusivity, relevance, relatability, continuity and sustainability – drive the process of reimagining; and result in a reimagined parliamentary public engagement that would be welcoming and inclusive, consequential and future generations aware. In reflecting upon how far the UK parliament is from this reimagined future, core features of parliament – such as its collective and hierarchical nature, and its dependency on electoral cycles – are identified as inhibitors of a principled reimagining of parliamentary public engagement. The chapter concludes by calling for a far more institutionalised approach to engagement, to make it more meaningful, consequential and better resourced.

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With trust in parliament and politicians at a seriously low level, there is an increasing need to rebuild our public institutions. This innovative book questions what parliament should be in the 21st century and how it can be reimagined. It shows how a new democratic parliamentary space can be created to better represent and engage with citizens; to furnish a safe, inclusive and fair working environment for all staff and members; and to secure greater responsiveness and accountability of government.

Bringing together a vibrant group of parliamentary scholars and practitioners, it proposes an institutional world of possibilities beyond the present Westminster village, to help restore faith in democracy.

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This chapter examines the important, but often overlooked, issue of parliamentary governance. How parliament organises and maintains itself is a fundamental question of the UK’s constitution: it goes to legitimacy and effectiveness of the legislature in carrying out its core constitutional functions. Parliamentary governance is the set of arrangements which determine the administration of parliament as an organisation and its resources; of how objectives in parliament are set; the means of attaining those objectives; and how accountability for those arrangements is effected. The chapter critiques present governance arrangements: in short, they are weak, ineffective and non-transparent. From this critical base, four principles are identified – prioritising the institution; effective governance mechanisms; clear lines of accountability; and representation – to guide reimagining; and seven practical proposals are identified as key steps towards attaining this reimagined future.

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In this chapter parliamentary procedures are tested against the criteria of comprehensibility, resistance to executive capture, ability to engage the imagination of those inside and outside parliament, and success in conferring legitimacy on the outcomes of parliamentary decisions. As procedures have developed to give more and more control to the executive they have become less and less human. It concludes that (especially in the Commons) they no longer provide the space, either temporal, psychological or ritual, for effective deliberation which is demonstrably inclusive of the world beyond Westminster. The remedy proposed is to do more of the work of the Commons in the arena of the select committees, where time is less rationed, deliberation (rather than ritualised debate) is encouraged, and elected representatives engage openly with experts and the broader public. The committees should control the content of debate in the plenary, where procedure should reflect a more accessible way of doing business. Parliament must demonstrate a transformative influence on the executive, not assume that the private and occult processes behind the theatrical spectacle are sufficient to win the confidence of the electorate.

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The starting premise of this chapter is that a reimagining of parliamentary representation requires a systemic view of representation. This invokes some notion of an interlocking of electoral modes with non-electoral modes of representation within a system of democratic parliamentarism. Analysis of current imaginings of this system leads to the identification of its key underpinning foundational principles: inclusion, equality, responsiveness and unity/collectivity. A reimagined UK parliament based on these principles should serve, therefore, as a key focal point of broader networks of representation. This requires a reimagining of the existing ‘electoral representative form’ through, for example, changing formal electoral institutions, institutionalising the interconnection of parliamentary and non-electoral modes of representation, and deploying new digital technologies to maximise the relationship between representatives and represented. In essence, the chapter concludes that a reimagination of parliamentary representation should be systemic in scope, cumulative in approach and expansive in its ambition.

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This chapter makes the case for a reimagining of existing parliamentary spaces at Westminster. This case is based upon an exploration of four different purposes of the parliamentary building: as a symbol of democracy; as a legislative space; as a working space; and as a public democratic space. Reimagining needs to consider the ‘stories’ told about the Palace of Westminster and about the foundational story of the UK parliament as ‘a symbol of democracy’. It needs to envision how to design and create a legislative building to best facilitate the business of the legislature. It needs to be more than just thinking about the public face of the buildings, but also about the space needed for the staff serving the legislature to work. And it needs to acknowledge the legislature as a public space, where public access should be the default, rather than a privilege. The chapter concludes that a reimagined parliamentary building would empower new ways of working for Members and staff, create new ways of connecting with the public, and provide a symbol of a legislature not just of the past but of the future.

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This chapter identifies problems found within Westminster that exacerbate inequality, exclusion, unwellness and a shallow ethics. Four principles are proposed to guide thinking about how to reimagine parliament: a more inclusive approach to knowledge; promoting diversity, equity and the right to participate in democracy for all; enhancing wellness; and restoring standards and ethics. Rather than disciplining individuals, restructuring the system or changing the culture, all of which are only partial remedies, a reimagining of relationships in the Westminster parliament is called for. The chapter proposes reform of the rituals and symbols that exclude people and strengthen those that hold politicians more accountable; decelerate the rhythms of work and encourage prioritisation; challenge hierarchies of knowledge; and promote education on higher standards and ethics in political work for all.

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This chapter seeks to reimagine scrutiny by considering what effective scrutiny would look like, and what would need to change in parliament to move further towards it. It starts by noting that what is unique about parliamentary scrutiny is the notion of democratic accountability. It then sets out the principles of what makes scrutiny effective – including the gathering and interrogating of information, connecting parliament to the public and other relevant activity inside and outside Westminster. Further, it has to be engaging for Members, and have an impact on the Government. Much of what can be reimagined can be done without large scale structural or procedural change, as shown by the ongoing development of the House of Commons’ select committee system which has captured the imagination of Members and those who engage with it. The chapter concludes that reimagined parliamentary scrutiny needs to impact the government. In essence this means that scrutiny has to be ‘good’ for government to welcome it, and government must be open to scrutiny in order for it to be good.

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