Extra Document on the 2010 General Election

22 octobre 2011

The General Election May 2010 Extracts fom the BBC’s website bbc.co.uk 

Cameron is new UK Prime Minister 

 Almost a week after the general election, the country finally has a new Prime Minister – David Cameron. The Conservative party leader moved into

10 Downing Street

on Tuesday evening, after accepting the Queen’s request to form a new government. After days of talks, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats struck a deal to work together. At last Thursday’s election, no party got enough votes to rule outright, resulting in a hung parliament. 

He’s now hard at work putting together his new government – Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg will be his deputy. Four other Liberal Democrats will get posts in the cabinet. 

In his first speech as PM, Mr Cameron said: « Nick Clegg and I are political leaders who want to put aside party differences and work hard for the common good and national interest. » The deal was announced after Gordon Brown resigned on Tuesday evening. 


UK – National seats at a glance ELECTIOn 2010 

A party needed 326 seats to win an overall majority 

Political Party  Seats  Change 
Conservative  307  +97 
Labour  258  -91 
Liberal Democrat  57  -5 
Democratic Unionist Party  8  -1 
Scottish National Party  6 
Others  14 


1.   CON 36.1% 2.   LAB 29.0% 

3.   LD 23.0% 4.   Others 11.9% 

Key terms 

What is a hung parliament? 

A hung parliament is one in which no party has an overall majority, which means no party has more than half of MPs in the House of Commons. It means that whichever party ends up in power will not be able to win votes to pass laws without the support of members of other parties. 

The general election in May 2010 created a hung parliament which means that one of the parties will either have to form a coalition or try to govern without an absolute majority by negotiating with other parties to get laws passed. 

In the simplest terms, to get an absolute majority, a party would have needed to win 326 seats. The election results mean that no party can pass laws without support from other parties. 

At a glance: General Election 2010 key stories 

Britain has it first hung parliament since 1974 

The Conservatives are the largest party, but fall short of the 326 seats needed to form a majority government.  • Labour loses more than 80 seats, and the Liberal Democrats fail to make gains. 

• Voter turnout was 65.1% – up 4% from 2005. • The Electoral Commission is to investigate after hundreds of people across the country are prevented from voting due to huge queues as polling stations.  

• The Green Party’s Caroline Lucas wins Brighton Pavilion, becoming the Green party’s first Westminster MP.  • The British National Party increases its share of the vote – but win no seats. BNP Leader Nick Griffin comes third in Barking, east

Key members of the Cabinet of the Con-Lib Coalition go

David Cameron                 Nick Clegg          George Osbourne                  Theresa May               William Haig

 Prime Minister            Deputy PM          Chancellor of the Exchequer   Home Secretary            Foreign Secretary 

Who is David Cameron? 

• He’s 43, was born in London and went to Eton school in
• David got into politics early on in life working for a Conservative MP when he was 19 before going to university where he read Politics, Philosophy and Economics at

• Elected Conservative Party leader in 2005, aged 39. He impressed the Conservative Party with his youthful dynamism and charisma, reportedly telling journalists he was the « heir to Blair ».   • He’s the first Conservative Prime Minister for 13 years (the last one was John Major) 

• He has sought to put the Conservatives at the centre ground of British politics. He ordered the party to end its obsession with
Europe and tried to reposition it as the party of the environment and the National Health Service, as well as recruiting more women and candidates from ethnic minorities. 
• He has portrayed himself as a “compassionate Conservative”. 

• After the expenses scandal that rocked
Westminster he says he wants to clean up politics. 
• He’s the youngest prime minister in nearly 200 years. 

Family: Married to Samantha, with two children and baby on the way. First child Ivan died in 2009. Education: Eton and
Oxford (First in Philosophy, Politics and Economics) 

Political career:
1988: Conservative Research Department
1992: Treasury special adviser
1993: Home Office special adviser
1997: General election candidate, Stafford
2001: Elected MP for Witney, Oxfordshire
2003: Shadow deputy leader of the House, Tory vice-chairman
2005: Shadow education secretary, election campaign co-ordinator, wins party leadership
2010: Prime Minister 

David Cameron: Life and times of new
UK prime minister

I’m a practical person, and pragmatic. I know where I want to get to to, but I am not ideologically attached to one particular method” 

I’m going to be as radical a social reformer as Mrs Thatcher was an economic reformer” 

Who is Nick Clegg? 

Nick Clegg is the leader of the Liberal Democrat party, and even though they didn’t get many seats in the general election, he is deputy prime minister because his party has formed a coalition government with the Conservatives. 

• He’s 43 and can speak five languages. • Nick is married to a Spanish lawyer, Miriam, has three sons and splits his time between his homes in Sheffield and
London, where his children go to school. 


Public School,
University and colleges in the US and
• Worked as a lecturer and journalist and then for the European Commission 

Political Career 

• Became an Member of the European Parliament in 1999 • Became a Liberal Democrat MP for
Sheffield Hallam in 2005. 

Europe Spokesman, then Home Affairs for the Liberal Democrats 
• Leader of the Liberal Democrats since 2007 

• Has campaigned for civil liberties • Supports electoral reform 

• Is pro-European • Has attempted to create a distance between the Lib Dems and the “old parties” 

• Impressed the public in the first of the televised debates during the 2010 election • Since his decision to form a coalition government with the Conservatives, Clegg has had to adjust Lib Dem policy particularly on spending cuts to deal with the economic crisis. 

Ed Miliband – the new leader of the Labour Party Adapted from bbc.co.uk 

Ed Miliband beat older brother David, right, to the Labour leadership. He was elected leader at the end of September 2010. 

ED MILIBAND – Some facts 

  • AGE: 40 
  • FAMILY: Lives with partner and young son 
  • BACKGROUND: North London Comprehensive school, read Philosophy, Politics and Economics atOxford
    University, Climate and Energy Secretary under Gordon Brown 

  • POLICIES: Tax the rich, tackle inequality, rebuild British industry 
  • KEY SOUNDBITE: « I am not the candidate for the easy life » 
  • Has a reputation for being a “Brownite” (more on the left of the Labour Party) not a “Blairite” but he prefers to reject such labels. He also has spoken of the need to move beyond the Blair/Brown era. 
  • Ed called the 2003 invasion of
    Iraq a « tragic error ». 
  • Was supported by the unions in the leadership campaign. One union leader said of him: « He understands the Labour Party needs to change and he is the best candidate to reconnect Labour with the concerns of ordinary working people.” 

Who Governs
 A Profile of MPs in the New Parliament 

By Paul Hackett and Paul Hunter from the Smith Institute Taken from /www.smith-institute.org.uk/file/Who-Governs-Britain.pdf 

“Parliament today better reflects the gender balance and is more ethnically diverse, but in terms of educational and vocational background the new political elite look remarkably like the old establishment. It is surprising how many of our MPs were privately educated, went to Oxbridge and worked in the professions, particularly Conservatives and Lib Dems. It seems that our Parliament is becoming less representative in terms of education and occupation, and continues to attract similar types of people from a rather narrow professional base”. 

The 2010 election witnessed a large influx of new MPs (35%). 

The average age of MPs has stayed roughly the same since 1992 (50 years). 61% of MPs are aged between 40 and 59 years. 

  The gender balance of MPs has improved dramatically since the 1980s. In 1987 women made up 6% of all MPs, today it is 22% (one in five). It is noteworthy that up until the 2010 election most of the increase was accounted for by Labour MPs. However, the big shift in 2010 is in the number of Conservative women MPs which has risen from 9% in 2005 to 16%. The number of Lib Dem women MPs has fallen back to 14%. 

The number of ethnic minority MPs has risen from 15 in 2005 to 27, the largest ever increase. 4.1% of MPs are now from non-white backgrounds, compared with 2.3% in 2005 (around 8% of the total population are from non-white backgrounds). The number of ethnic minority Conservative MPs has risen from 2 to 11; and for Labour from 13 to 15. The Lib Dems are the only main party with no minority MPs. 

A remarkable 34% of MPs went to private schools (compared with a national average of around 7%). Around 54% of Conservative MPs; 41% Lib Dems; and 12% Labour MPs went to private schools.  

The overwhelming majority of MPs are university educated and nearly a quarter (24%) went to Oxford or
Cambridge (similar to 2005). Around 32% of Conservative MPs were from
Oxbridge; 17% for Labour; and 26% for the Lib Dems. 

The occupational background of MPs continues to be ever more toward business, particularly finance, law, public affairs, and politics. However, there are major disparities between the parties. For example, 3% of Labour MPs have at some point worked in finance as compared with 27% for Conservatives. A similar picture emerges in regard to business where nearly a third of all Conservatives and Lib Dem MPs have worked in business occupations. An alternative trend emerges with the public and voluntary sector, which is dominated by Labour MPs. Politics, law and public affairs are more evenly spread among the MPs.  

Recommended Reading for LEA 2 Test 2

22 octobre 2011

« Panoroma Economique » (Advielle/Garnier)

CH III The Influence of Hayek and Friedman (Includes information on Thatcherism and New Labour)


Recommended Reading for LEA 1 Test 2

22 octobre 2011

« Panorama Politique » (Advielle/Garnier)

Ch IV The Government

CH XI Elections in Britain

CH X British Political Parties

The Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition Government (May 2010 – ?)

22 octobre 2011

The Conservative-Liberal Economic Policy

The austerity plan to reduce the deficit

→ public sector cuts: public sector jobs cut, public sector pay frozen, child benefits frozen, librairies closed

Argument: jobs created in the private sector will replace the job lost in the public

The Economic Situation Today

Unemployment: 8,1% (highest for 17 years) Unemployment for 16 -24 year olds 21,3%

Inflation 5,2% Rising prices of food and fuel (gas, electricity)Transport prices on the increase→ So, cost of living is increasing

→ Middle-income families are set to see the biggest fall in their living standards since the 1970s

  0,9% growth

Period of stagnation Chancellor George Osborne under pressure to boost the economy

The Labour Party on the Economy  Critical of the severity and rapidity of cuts Ed Balls (Labour’s Treasury Spokesman) has called for emergency measures to stimulate the economy eg: tax cuts for small businesses to encourage them to recruit new workers

Reaction of George Osborne: The plans are « tough but necessary » Effects of the cuts on women 

Women have been dispropotionately affected by the public sector cuts. Why?

 Women make up more of the public sector workforce Frozen child benefits → impact on single mothersCuts in housing benefits → more women are single parents than menCuts in funding for social care → more women are carers than men

« New Labour » and the Third Way – Blairism 1997-2007

22 octobre 2011


Impact of Thatcherism on the Labour Party – Blair shared Thatcher’s beliefs in a market economy and moved Labour into the centre.

The rise of Blairism. Labour’s modernization process was shaped by the ideas and personal style of Tony Blair, who was party leader from 1994 to 2007, and PM from 1997-2007.

Blair imposed himself on the Labour Party in 3 main ways 

1. His personal leadership. He dominated the party and the Cabinet.

2. The techniques of politics are revolutionized

3. Rejection of Labour’s traditional policies. Clause Four of the party’s constitution (Labour’s commitment to public ownership) was rewritten and replaced with “we work for a dynamic economy, with a thriving private sector and high quality public services”.

  A new approach for Labour:

→win the votes of the middle classes

→ appeal to the world of business.

→ no overspending, no increase of income tax → distance from the trade unions.

Powerful messages (‘soundbites’)

« Education, Education, Education »

To be « tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime »

The 1997  General Election 

The Labour Party won a landslide victory and changed the electoral landscape:

1.Labour gained seats in southern England

 2.Support of the urban middle classes 3.More female MPs. 109 of the 419 Labour MPs were women.

 The Third Way

 Blairism has been often been described as the “Third Way”:

The ‘third way’. An alternative to traditional socialism and the free market policies of Thatcherism. New Labour’s aimed to create a society where individualism and enterprise could flourish, but where individuals also retained a sense of social responsibility towards the community.

The Ideological Themes of Blairism

Market economics and privatization

Constitutional reform Third way’ welfare:

→ use of ‘targeted’ benefits

→ ‘welfare-to-work’(incentives to encourage people to get back to work)


Public—private partnerships

Rights and Responsibilities.

 Old Labour vs New Labour

Old                                           New Labour

Ideological                              Pragmatic Working class                        Big tentpolitics

Managed economy               Market economy

Universal benefits                 Targeted benefits

Cradle to grave welfare        Welfare-to-work

The Economic Climate and New Labour’s Economic Policies

New Labour’s aims:→ sustain economic growth and a strong economy so that everyone could benefit→ Create better public services

→ Improve the standard of living of the poor.

Economic Performance 1997-2000Bank of England is made independent

Steady economic growth

Brown’s motto was “prudence with a purpose”. Strict controls over expenditure


After 2000

Economic prosperity → investment in public services (state education, NHS, child poverty).

What was unusual for a centre-left government

 tough on law and order close to the world of business

“Welfare to work”

the introduction of tuition fees in higher education

close to the right-wing press

A Socially Progressive Agenda

Poverty and social exclusion at the centre of the political debateLabour signed up to the European Social Chapter and introduced a minimum wage.

A New Deal programme for youth training

Family tax credits.

Thatcherism and the rise of neo-liberalism

22 octobre 2011

Thatcher and the Rise of Neo-liberalism 


 Neo-liberalists defend the freedom of the individual and advocate rolling back the frontiers of the state. Market competition should guarantee political freedom and economic growth.


→ F. A. Hayek « The Road to Serfdom » (1944)

→ Milton Friedman and The Chicago School of Economics (1970s and 1980s)

Right-wing Think Tanks Centre for Policy  Studies (1974)The Adam Smith Institute (1977)

The return of free market principles and the emergence of the neo-liberal economic consensus: Thatcherism 1979-1990

Context1970s: economic crisis, stagflation, Keynesian theories questionedSolution? → return to the free-market ideas of the 19th century

Consequence → the Thatcher Revolution and the arrival of the « New Right »Significancemost important ideological shift in UK politics since 1945 

Principle goals of ThatcherismReduce the role of the state (‘roll back the frontiers of the state’) and replace it by ‘market forces’Unregulated capitalism would lead to efficiency, growth and prosperityAn ‘enterprise culture’ to replace the ‘dependency culture’ (the ‘nanny state’) A belief in self-reliance and individual effort → « There is no such thing as society, only individuals and their families »

 The Thatcherite Ideology

 Based on two traditions:

1.Neo-liberalism (‘economic Thatcherism’, free market, self-reliant individual) Privatisationcompetition would improve British industry. Aim? A share-holding, property-holding democracyReduce the power of the unions industrial legisation (80,82, 84), minersstrike 84-85.Taxationreduce income tax and increase indirect taxes (VAT)

De-regulation – the abolition of restrictions and controls on the economy

2. Neo-Conservatism (‘social’ Conservatism)A form of authoritarian conservatism that calls for order and discipline to provide the basis for a stable and healthy society.Act forcefully in the area of law and orderTraditional values

Thatcher and the Economy (or ‘boom and bust’)


A revised version of neo-classical economics that, contrary to Keynes, argues that government should minimise its involvement in economic matters, except for controlling the money supply as a way of keeping inflation down.

The Monetarist Experiment   Adopted monetarism until 1983Consequences? RECESSION in the early 80s – Record levels of unemployment, high inflation, industrial decline and inner city riots in 1981Thatcher’s reaction? « You turn if you want to. The lady’s not for turning? »

The Consumer Boom of the mid 1980s

The recession was followed by an economic boom in southeast England, traditionally strong in the area of finance and servicesFree enterprise policies strengthened Britain’s competitive position.But, two Britains emerged

→ economic boom in the south east

→ industrial decline in other areas (north and the Midlands).

Solutions? Youth employment schemes, retraining programmes, enterprise zones, unemployed forced to accept low paid jobs

 The deregulation of London’s stock market in 1986: The Big BangStock market opened to foreign traders  and investment→ credit was easy to obtain, consumer debt increased, property prices soared


Stock market crash October 1987 (“Black Monday”)


1. 1979-1983, period of recession, decrease in manufacturing production, unemployment doubled.2. 1983 onwards: economic boom, productivity increased, easy credit, improved living standards

3. Changes in the industrial structure:

shift from manufacturing to services

decline in the manufacturing industry

deregulation and reduced government intervention → expansion of the financial sector


Led to a north-south divide

Increased affluence but poorest became poorer

 Public Services Private sector, market-driven practices began to be used in the public sector.

The creation of choice and standards

Changes to the education system

→ a national curriculum

→ regular school inspections

financial powers devolved to school level. State schools couldopt out’ of local authority control, become more autonomous

→ schools in competition for government money

→ importance of ‘performance’ of schools

→ emergence of management cultures

 Thatcher and Foreign AffairsEurope

→ euro-sceptic

→ strengthen national identity, maintain British sovereignty

The Single European Act (1986)

→ abolition of restraints to trade in the EEC

→ creation of a single European market

Relations with America

→ close collaboration with Reagan

 The End of the Thatcher EraEjected by her own party in 1990


→ unpopularity of new local tax (‘poll tax’)

→attitude to Europe

→ authoritarian 

 Some Conclusions

The paradox

Aim to re-moralize society

BUTage of consumerism, credit, financial speculation

To her admirers

→ restored Britain’s greatness

→ creation of an enterprise culture

To her critics

→ unemployment, destroyed industry, increased divide between rich and poor, under-funded public services

 Impact of Thatcher on British Politics

John Major (Conservative PM, 1990-1997) continued Thatcherite agenda

Economic consensus based on market forces


Labour Party would have to move to the centre

Political Parties

22 octobre 2011


2 party system (not multi-party), power alternates between 2 major parties

Conservative and Labour (since 1918)

2010 election → 2-party system weakened, no absolute majority so coalition government

 History, ideas and policies of political parties in the UK

Socialism (Labour Party) vs Conservatism (Conservative)

The Conservative Party

Right of centre Policies:Personal, social and economic freedomIndividual ownership of property and sharesLaw and OrderSupport? Middle and upper classes (but also working class), rural areas, southern England

 The history of the Conservative Party

Founded in the 1830s

19th Century ‘One Nation Conservatism’ (Disraeli), social duty, paternalism

1950s : supported Labour Party reforms of the Welfare State, nationalisation → period of consensus politics until 1979

Thatcherism and the New Right 1979-1990 neo-liberalism, market forces, entreprise, reduce power of the state, → Conservatives became the party of business and commerce

 History of the Labour Party

traditionally left of centre Formed in 1906 (supported by Trade Unions) to represent the working classTraditionally Labour supports: social justice, equality of opportunity, state ownership1945 Labour landslide victory1945-1951 Clement Attlee’s Labour governmentkey reforms  National Health Service, social security systemSupport? Working class, cities in the north of England, Midlands, Scotland, Wales Incapacity to dominate politics (until 1997). Why? Image as a party for the trade unions and working class in industrial citiesNew Labour 1997-2010 → Blair moved Labour into the centre appealed to the middle-classes→ free market economics

investment in public services

 The Third Way

An alternative to traditional socialism and the free market policies of Thatcherism

Support for New Labour? Urban middle classes, gained votes in the southPublic relations and New LabourPresidential style of the Blair government

The traditional battle between Socialism and Conservatism has changed because of…

Thatcherism Modernisation of the Labour PartyTraditional class-based support has changedIdeology has become less important → ‘catch all’ parties

The Party Leaders Today

The Conservative Party under David CameronLeader since 2005 (PM since 2010)« modern, compassionate conservative »Attempt to make the party more moderate, more modern and more inclusive

The « Big Society »

Power back to the citizens

Social inclusion

Freedom in education

The Labour Party under Ed Miliband (leader since 2010)

« A new bargain for our country which reflects and rewards the values of Britain’s hard working people” (E. Miliband) Critical of the ‘greed culture’ of businessCritical of the government cuts“Plan for jobs”

Very young shadow cabinet, 11 out of 27 are women

“ social justice, strong communities, reward for hard work, decency and rights matched by responsibilities. We stand for the many not the few”.

  (Labour Party website)

The First Year of the Coalition Government  

Public sector cuts to reduce the deficit Employment at 8% (the highest for 17 years), unemployment for 16 to 24-year-olds at 21.3%. Cap on student fees to be raised to £9000 in 2012 (paid by the government, then repaid by the student when they earn £21,000 or more per year. Unpaid debt is written off after 30 years. Student protests in autumn 2010 against the rise in fees

Voting Behaviour – social and political factors (not done in class) 

Social Class was the key to understanding voting behaviour until the 1970s. Since, the relationship between class and voting has weakened. (can be explained by the increasing size of the middle class, rise in home ownership etc) 

Party loyalty has declined since the 1970s. By 2005, only 10% of voters said they identified strongly with one party. Can be explained by increased education, or ideological change in the parties have alienated some voters -        

 Gender - traditionally more women vote Conservative. But this became less true under Thatcher. In 1997, for the first time, Labour was supported by an equal percentage of women and men. 

Age. Traditionally, support for the Conservative Party is higher amongst older people and Labour tends to have more support amongst younger voters.         Ethnicity – Ethnic minority voters usually vote Labour. Region – There is a north-south divide. More Labour support in the north and more Conservative support in the south. This began to change in 1997 – Labour made progress in many traditionally Conservative areas but the divide still exists. Rural areas tend to vote Conservative and urban areas tend to support Labour. 

Voting System and Elections

22 octobre 2011

 1. Main elections in the UK:

General Elections (maximum term = 5 years)

European Parliament elections

Local Elections

Devolved Assembly Elections (Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland)

Elections to district, borough and county councils.

 2. Functions of Elections

Form governments

Ensure representation

 Uphold legitimacy

3. The British electoral system for general elections: The “first past the post” system -This means that to become an MP a candidate simply has to win more votes than any rival in their constituency, not a majority of votes cast.

How does it work? 646 constituenciesVoters select one candidate and mark a cross The winning candidate is the one who gets the most votes. Each constituency returns one Member of Parliament to the Commons

The party which wins the most seats usually forms the government

The Effects of FPTP 

 The FPTP system converts votes into seats in a disproportionate way → It does not give seats in proportion to the total votes cast. Favours main parties & penalises smaller parties→ Candidates of larger parties are more likely to gain a simple majority and win seats. But, smaller parties are under-represented. Eg: 1983, the Social Democrat Alliance won 25% of the vote nationally but only 3,5% of seat in Parliament.1997, Labour won 43% of the vote but 63 % of seats.

Two-party system→ dominated by Labour and Conservative parties Single-party government 

The example of the 2005 general election 35% voted Labour 55% seats in Parliament32% voted Conservative 31% seats in Parliament22% voted Liberal Democrats 10% of seats in Parliament  

2010  Election Conservatives 36% of the vote = 307 seats Labour 29% of the vote = 258 seatsLiberal Democrats 23% of the vote = 57 seats

Result → a ‘hung parliament

Definition of a hung parliament No one party has an overall majority. A minority or coalition government is formed, in which the largest party can govern only by relying on the support of smaller parties in the Commons 

Other important facts about the 2010 Election first televised debates first Green Party MP elected

British National Party still have no seats

Gordon Brown resigned as leader of the Labour Party  

Electoral Reform 

This means the replacement of one voting system by another. The Referendum on electoral reform May 2011 At present, the UK uses the ‘first past the post’ system to elect MPs to the House of Commons. Should the ‘alternative vote’ system be used instead? →‘Yes’: 32.1% → ‘No’: 67.9%

How does the Alternative Vote System work? 

A preferential system where the voter ranks the candidates in order of preference.Candidates are elected if they gain more than half of the first preference votes. If not, the candidate who lost (the one with least first preferences) is eliminated and their votes are redistributed according to the second preference marked on the ballot paper.

This process continues until one candidate has half of the votes and is elected 

Pros and Cons of the Alternative Vote System

FOR All MPs would have the support of a majority of their voters  


AV is not proportional representation

Proportional Representation

Describes any electoral system that converts votes into seats in a proportional way

 FOR PRElectoral fairness All votes countMajority government (at least 50%)Encourages a political culture based on consensus and compromiseCreates multi-party systems More choice for voters


Clear electoral choice

Strong and stable government Winning parties can carry out their mandatePR is more likely to result in coalition or minority governments

The Executive:Prime Minister, Cabinet and Ministers

17 octobre 2011

 1. Definition of the Executive:The executive develops and implements policies and laws. The executive governs.

2 parts to the executive:

the political executive (the government of the day)

the official executive (civil servants who provide advice and implement government policy)

2. The Westminster model of Government

fusion of executive and legislative

 General Election at least every five years

The party that wins the most seats in a General Election forms the new government. Party leader becomes PM.

The government formulates policy and proposes bills which it presents to Parliament.

Does the Westminster model make strong government?

The UK does not have a written, codified constitution so governments can rule without restrictions

The first-past-the-post voting system creates strong, single-party government

Bi-cameral – 2 legislative chambers but the Commons has the most power

Is too much power is concentrated in the hands of the majority party?

The lack of codified constitution → difficult to claim that a government has acted unconstitutionally.

Voting system is not representative of the country as a whole

The Lords rarely challenges the Commons

Strict party discipline in the Commons so easy for governing party to have support for legislation

3. The Prime Minister  

Head of the government, chair of the cabinet and the UK’s political representative abroad.

The most important figure in the UK political system

 His powers exist by convention.

Who becomes PM? – have to be an MP, and leader of your party

 Robert Walpole, the first PM (1721)

The home of the PM is 10 Downing Street

The first among equals (primus inter pares”).  

The Prime Minister’s responsibilities

Head of government Head of the CabinetDirects government policy Chief government spokesman Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces Responsible for national security Chief Foreign Policy Maker Dissolves Parliament before calling a general electionResponsible for the Civil Service Recommends names for the honours list  

David Cameron’s activities over the past week Trip to New York Speech to the UN General Assembly→Speech to promote the GREAT campaign (to promote Great Britain as a tourist and business destination)

Trip to Canada to tackle the global economic crisis. Received Chinese politicians at N°10. 

David Cameron’s Speech in New York “In 2012, with the Olympic and Paralympic games coming to London next summer, the greatest show on earth is about to arrive in one of the world’s greatest cities.

“But Britain in 2012 will offer more than just sport. It will offer a fantastic opportunity. It is a chance for the world to re-discover the unique qualities that make Britain such a compelling destination – for business and tourism, for innovation and entrepreneurship, for world-class creativity and culture. 

The 10 Downing Street machine

The Prime Minister’s Office Press office The No. 10 Policy UnitChief of staff and policy units

Sources of prime ministerial power and authority The Party The royal prerogativePopular mandateParliament  

Limits on the PM’s powers The size of the parliamentary majority.

The unity of the ruling party.  The public and media profile. The Cabinet.

What is Prime Minister’s Question Time? Takes place in the House of Commons once a week. MPs can ask the PM questions on issues of the day.

THE CABINET  A committee of  about 20 leading members of the government. Each is a minister of a department: → Chancellor of the Exchequer

→ Home Secretary

→ Foreign Secretary

The cabinet meets once a week to make important government decisions

Cabinet’s main roles

To approve government policy Resolve disputes

Act as a constraint on the PM

Unify government

Collective Responsibility

Definition: The principle that all members of the government must support cabinet decisions in public to maintain government unity and stability. If not, they must resign. 

The Cabinet today Deputy Prime Minister = Nick Clegg (Lib Dem) Chancellor of the Exchequer = George OsborneHome Secretary = Theresa May

Foreign Secretary = William Hague

Traditional Cabinet Government Power is collective and not personalAll ministers are equalPM is considered the first among equals within the cabinet.

All important domestic and foreign policy decisions are made in Cabinet.

 Remaining Functions of Cabinet

Policy approval Policy coordination Resolving disputes Forum for debateDealing with domestic emergenciesDetermining how policy is presentedSymbol of collective government

How Cabinet has changed

Since the 1960s, the power of the prime minister has grown

Most decisions are made in committee meetings

Meetings are often very short

Does the UK have a presidential-style government?

The PM has, in practice, become the Head of State

PM’s domination of foreign and military affairs Personal ideological stance Populist approach Personalised election campaignsIntroduction of presidential-style television debatesMedia focus on the PM Presidential-style votingPresidential style of Blair and Thatcher

BUT The role of PM has not officially changed

The Queen is still the official head of state




Chapter IV in Panoroma Politique (Advielle/Garnier) « Le Pouvoir Exécutif »

Lecture 2 The Social-Democratic Consensus 1945-1979

8 octobre 2011

LEA 2                                                                    

 Lecture 2          The ‘social democratic consensus’, 1945-79 

The Welfare State  Keynesian economics 

To read – pp. 30-31  Panorama Economique 

      The collapse of free trade 1930s and the rise of state intervention 1931-1945 By the early 1930s the system of international free trade had collapsed and there was a world depressi

on which lasted a decade. The recession in Britain led to major policy changes. Government intervention in the economy and society, to protect British industry and to improve living standards, was now accepted. By 1945, Keynesian economics had transformed the economy and was the basis of the ‘social-democratic consensus’. “Keynesian” economics gave government a key role in managing the economy. Keynesian principles were the dominant economic view from 1945 shared by both Labour and the Conservatives until they were finally challenged in the 1970s. 

 Definition of Keynesian economics Keynes (1883-1946) published his book “General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money” in 1936 in which he advocated state intervention to achieve economic stability, growth and full employment. For example, governments could stimulate demand by increasing government expenditure.  

 2. The origins and the founding of the Welfare State  In 1942, a government commission chaired by Lord Beveridge published the Beveridge Report which recommended welfare services for citizens ‘from the cradle to the grave’. According to  Beveridge, there were “five giants on the road to reconstruction”Want, Disease, Ignorance, Squalor and Idleness”. His aim was to eliminate poverty. The report mentioned unemployment benefit, pensions, and health services. This was the first time that a comprehensive system of social support was proposed. To finance the system, Beveridge proposed a national insurance scheme, based on a weekly contribution. The Report laid the foundations for the “Welfare State” developed by the Attlee government after the war. 

3. The Labour Party’s victory in 1945: a period of reconstruction and a new social order After the war, memories of the economic depression of the 1930s, of poverty and mass unemployment, and support of the Beveridge Report attracted voters to Labour. The Labour Party represented the possibility of a new social order that would ensure better housing, free medical services and employment for all. Although Churchill was seen as a good war leader, many people wanted a change and the Labour party won a landslide victory with 47.8% of the vote. The Labour victory in 1945 is seen as the point at which British society was transformed. Post-1945, Britain quickly lost its status as the world’s largest imperial power, but it was the massive social changes at home that really transformed British society. This was a period of reconstruction and social progress. The Labour Government of 1945-1951 launched a social democracy based on Keynesian economics and a welfare state. Keynesian principles were supported by both Labour and Conservative govts until they were challenged in 1979.  What were the major reforms?   I) SOCIAL 

The Labour Party created the Welfare State 

  • Family allowances (The Family Allowance Act of 1945). The government introduced family allowances – a weekly payment per child. This was to address the problem of child poverty and a falling birth rate. 
  • The National Insurance Act, 1946 to pay for Unemployment and sickness benefits. This laid the foundations of the modern social security system. 
  • Most importantly it provided free health care for all the population. Aneurin Bevan founded the National Health Service (NHS) in 1948. The 1948 National Health Act. 




  • Pensions. Old-age pensions were increased.

  • Housing – after the war,
    Britain had to be rebuilt. Many homes had been destroyed by bombs. The tendency was to develop public housing. Many state-subsidized ‘council’ houses were built in suburban areas conforming to new standards – eg an inside and bathroom and toilet.

  • The New Towns Act of 1946, set out plans for new towns around large urban conurbations.  





  •  Education The school – leaving age was raised to 15. 

The state sector was expanded – a period of great building of state schools and of refurbishment. The 1944 Butler Act had laid the foundations for state education. It introduced the trip-partite system (Grammar, Secondary Modern for the masses, technical – more vocational) which dominated British education until the 1960s. 

ii) The economy post-war 

Nationalisation Labour believed that important industries should be nationalised and run by the state. Between 1946-50 20% of British industry was nationalised: the Bank of England, civil aviation, coal, telecommunications, railway, gas, electricity, iron, gas and steel. Most basic industries were privatised in the 1980s and 90s by the Con govts under Thatcher and Major. From rationing to economic recovery In 1945, Britain was heavily in debt. All food, clothes, petrol were rationed but gradually things improved. The standard of living had risen by 1951. The economic situation was helped by the Marshall Plan (aid fromAmerica) (loan of over a billion pounds between 1948-1952) and by exporting as much as possible and importing as little as possible. 

1950s Britain: “Most of our people have never had it so good” (Harold Macmillan, 1957)  After the austerity of the 1940s, the mid-50s were years of economic growth and rising living standards. Private savings and private home ownership increased. There was a boom in the consumer market – televisions, cars etc. By the end of 1954, food rationing was abolished, and cheap package foreign travel became a reality. Under Harold Macmillan there was a general feeling of affluence and prosperity. When a new Labour government under Harold Wilson was elected in 1964, he also accepted the political and economic framework of the past 20 years.

 4. 1945-1979: The “social-democratic consensus” The 1945 Labour government was mainly responsible for what is called the ‘post-war consensus’. However, some of the key elements can trace their origins to the war-time coalition government and the influence of the Liberal William Beveridge and the economist John Maynard Keynes.  The period in politics  Clement Attlee, Labour (1945-1951) Conservatives 1951-64 (Churchill 1951-55, Anthony Eden 55-57, Harold Macmillan 57-63, Sir Alec Douglas Home 63-64)  Harold Wilson, Labour 1964-70, 74-76 Edward Heath, Conservative 1970-74 James Callaghan, Labour, 76-79 

 The “consensus” refers to the implicit agreement between all political parties until 1979 that the fundamental reforms and policies of the post-war Labour government should remain. The consensus was based on agreement on the following: 

·  Full employment (government can cut taxes and increase spending to increase economic activity)  ·        Acceptance of the role of the trade unions  ·     

- The Welfare State. Britain had become convinced that universal welfare provision was essential for society and all political parties recognised this. The objective of the national insurance system and the National Health Service was to provide enough income and free health when a family was hit by, for example, sickness, old age, unemployment or death. All Conservative and Labour prime ministers of the 50s and 60s reinforced the Welfare State and increased social benefits. Harold Macmillan became well known for his housing programmes*    -  A mixed Economy with a large role for state ownership of all the basic industries and intervention and planning in the economy. Both Conservative and Labour governments of this period followed Keynesian policies: this mean government intervention in the economy to maintain low unemployment.  The belief that government could play a positive role in promoting greater equality through progressive taxation, welfare spending, and an expansion of state schools. 

Overall, the general post-war framework was retained. Only the iron and steel industries were privatised. Full employment remained an objective and by 1955 it was sustained.  Concerning foreign affairs there was agreement on the transition of the empire to the British Commonwealth, and on balance, that Britain should join the European Community.  5. The end of the consensus and Britain’s Economic Decline Keynesian principles were finally challenged in the 1970s in a very different economic climate. The consensus broke down at this time due to the economic crisis, an energy crisis, high inflation and high unemployment, conflicts with the very powerful trade unions, and strikes. By 1973, after a period of affluence, the nation’s economy and its share in world trade were in decline. All the statistics showed that in comparison to other European countries, who were experiencing economic miracles, Britain’s productivity and economic growth were low. Britain seemed to be the “sick man of Europe”. A number of factors were to blame:

Not enough investment in new machinery  -      Outdated working practices -      Rise of competition -      Over-powerful trade unions  Both the Conservative govt of 73-74 and the Labour government in 1978 tried to negotiate with the unions but failed. Between 74-79, Britain faced a severe economic crisis. Major public sector strikes in 78-79 became known as “the winter of discontent”. Industrial recession led to the defeat of the Labour Party in 1979. 

Towards a new economic order The economic crisis challenged Keynesian economics which had depended on post-war prosperity. The post-war consensus was attacked by Thatcher in the late 1970s and early 1980s and a search for a new economic order began. From the right, came the new ideas of economists Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman – advocating monetarism, a more important role for markets and limited government intervention.