IPR Blog

Expert analysis, debates and comments on topical policy-relevant issues

Topic: UK politics

GE2017 and Education: a policy ‘battle royale’

📥  Economics, Education, UK politics

Professor Hugh Lauder is Professor of Education and Political Economy at the University of Bath

The general election provided an opportunity for the political parties to demonstrate a vision for the future of education. In the recent past, more has united the parties than divided them, but this election there has been clear water between them – and as we enter an uncertain future, their manifestos signal very different understandings of the nature of the country and its future.

battleroyale

 

To say this much is already to court controversy. It’s not clear what ‘this country’ means, so we should be clear that the discussion will be about education policy in England. Despite an unexpected election result, it is worth analysing the Conservative and Labour manifestos because their respective policies on education may tell us much about their thinking and – particularly, in fact, in the context of the surprising election result. The Liberal Democrat manifesto does not provide the clear contrasts which illuminate the debate about the visions for this country.

Judgements about these manifestos will of course be coloured by evidence, but also by prognoses for the future. Here my colours need to be pinned to the mast. As a specialist on the education-labour market relationship, it is quite clear to me that the neo-liberal assumption that the primary aim of education is to provide skilled workers for the economy is now in question. It appears that we are now on the cusp of a new form of capitalism in relation to the labour market. Up until now, the prevailing policy assumption of all the political parties has been that there will be increasing demand for high-skilled work and that graduates will be appropriately rewarded for their productivity. It is for this reason that graduates have to pay high fees for what is perceived to be the advantage they gain from the graduate premium. The politicians have been supported in this view by human capital theories that cannot address current conditions: when we disaggregate the returns to graduates we find that it is only those in the top decile of earnings that conform to the profile assumed by human capital theorists.

The assumption has been that the new technological revolution will raise the demand for skilled workers. But if we look at the returns to graduates in the United States – considered the hothouse of the technological revolution – as I have done with Phillip Brown and Sin Yi Cheung, then two points stand out. Firstly, when we track graduate returns between 1970 and 2010, incomes declined for all except those in the top decile. Secondly, and significantly, those with postgraduate degrees, who we may expect to be at the cutting edge of the knowledge economy, have fared in the same way. The UK data from the Labour Force Survey also shows that there is a wide disparity in incomes according to education credentials; interestingly, top A-level students who have not attended university earn more than median graduates.

Craig Holmes and Ken Mayhew at Oxford have documented the increase in the proportion of graduates who now undertake what were formally non-graduate occupations – an indication that there is deficient demand for high-skilled work. At the present time, some 46% of graduates won’t pay back their loans because they won’t earn enough. When that figure reaches 48%, the government will gain no more from the £9,000 fees than when they were set at £3,000. It is clear that, in the light of these data, we need to re-evaluate the idea that technology will raise the demand for skills; it will for some, but it is more likely to re-stratify the occupational structure to reduce the costs of knowledge-based work. This is, of course, one reason why industrial policy is now back on the agenda: left to itself, the market cannot create enough good quality jobs.

In essence, the optimism which accompanies the dominant view has come face to face with new forms of predatory capitalism. Here the drive is to create cut-price brain power, leading to a situation where learning no longer equals earning. In this emerging form of capitalism, the role of education is wholly uncertain, since the rationale for education under neo-liberalism has been that it is an economic investment in which the relationship between education and wages is relatively straightforward. The case for education will now have to be re-stated in very different terms.

If this account is plausible then it speaks to the two most high-profile policies advanced by the Tory and Labour Parties. The most controversial policy in the Conservative manifesto is that of the promotion of grammar schools or, as it says in the manifesto, selective schools. Such a policy is a clear example of how individual biographies and anecdote have trumped evidence. The research evidence against selective education which led to the creation of the comprehensive system was led by Jean Floud and my friend and colleague A.H. Halsey in the 1950s. They demonstrated how inequitable the 11+ system was. Since then, with more developed databases, the early claims they made have been fully substantiated, notwithstanding the use of questionable data in the Conservative Manifesto. The purpose of the reintroduction of selectivity was ostensibly to promote social mobility; in Britain, as in other neo-liberal societies, destinations are indeed still determined by origins. The debate over this issue has been dismal because it has been assumed that education alone can promote social mobility, ignoring the labour market conditions necessary to turn educational credentials into opportunities. Indeed, data from the United States suggests that the demand for high-skilled work for the younger generation is now in decline. For those of us who have a commitment to evidence-led policy, such a manifesto pledge suggests that reason is not a dominant principle in education policy. It is probably the case that the election has put paid to this pledge, but it nonetheless tells us something about the nature of a party that aspires to turn the clock back.

A similar claim has been made with respect to the Labour mainfesto’s commitment to abolish tuition fees. Commentators on the left, including The Guardian, as well as those from the right have condemned this pledge as, at best, advantaging the already privileged among the younger generation. That would be a reasonable claim if the labour market reflected the assumptions of human capital theory: as we have seen, it doesn’t. In the light of the scenario I have sketched, this Labour policy looks enlightened. As the economic returns to education decline for many, we can expect a battle royale over the role and cost of education. Given the uncertainties that this generation are confronting, the best that our society can do is to provide young people with a good education, which gives them the mental flexibility to see that other worlds and other ways of doing things are possible. This, of course, is what lies behind the European states that do not charge fees and look upon our obsession with the private rates of return from a university education with a degree of curiosity, if not outright scepticism.

This not only applies to university education but to the kind of technical education that FE colleges can provide. It is almost impossible to understand the savage cuts to FE colleges that have taken place under austerity policies. Both parties have something to say on this matter. We see this in the Conservative Party’s aim of linking technical education to degree-level studies, a theme consistent with the idea of social mobility. But before we innovate further, we might do better to re-lay the foundations of what we have.

Here, it is important to examine lifelong learning. It has long been the ‘Cinderella’ in education policy and, indeed, under the period of austerity, education has been front-loaded so there are few second chances available for those in their mid-twenties and older. Now, in the light of radical labour market uncertainty it is needed to provide necessary social and economic support for workers. Singapore is already dipping its toes in this pool with Skills Future, which provides every Singaporean citizen with $500 for further education and skills upgrading. The Conservative manifesto is silent on the issue. Labour is committed to lifelong learning, which starts with a return in the early years to Sure Start, and this too is important for the age we are entering. It may create flexibility for parents, who will certainly need it in their paid working lives, as it will for those who have caring responsibilities that extend above and beyond their children.

When these two manifestos are compared, it is clear which one has the most comprehensive account of educational policy. Of course, those on the right will suggest that this judgement is based on sector self-interest, since I am a university professor – but that is too easy. The points I’ve raised need to be addressed rather than dismissed. It is unclear on what basis Labour have made these commitments and whether they can be paid for, given the straitening times we are entering. But the implications are clearly forward-looking.

For the Conservatives, all appears well with the education system we now have with some tinkering at the edges, mainly in terms – yet again – of qualifications. We might expect Labour’s manifesto to be more radical, but it is squarely in the social democratic tradition, as would be well understood in Germany, for example. There is no suggestion of integrating the public schools with the state sector. There is no attempt to abolish school choice, and there is only a mention of questioning the testing culture, which clearly benefits the political class but neither students nor schools. In these respects, whatever the merits of the debates that no doubt will be forthcoming, this is a moderate set of policies. They may have their roots in the 1980s, but – either by design or happy accident – they are relevant to our future.

 

Polarisation, Diversification, Amplification: GE2017 in the Devolved Nations

📥  Democracy and voter preference, UK politics

Dr David Moon is Senior Lecturer in Politics, and Dr Sophie Whiting is Lecturer in Politics, at the University of Bath's Department of Politics, Languages & International Studies.

Rather than being the ‘Brexit Election’ widely predicted and in some political corners desired, the 2017 snap General Election has, with its resultant hung parliament, had the unexpected consequence of placing relations within another union of nations centre stage – the United Kingdom. The outcome of the General Election has highlighted the differing political context within each of the UK’s nations. Furthermore, the emergence of the DUP as a crucial player in the subsequent formation of a minority Conservative Government – and thus in securing Theresa May’s future as Prime Minister – has generated unexpected interest in Northern Ireland, a place which, throughout history, has been shunted outside the psyche of ‘British politics’. This article provides a brief overview of what the election has meant for politics in the devolved nations; specifically, polarisation (Northern Ireland), diversification (Scotland) and amplification (Wales).

devolvednations

 

Polarisation: Northern Ireland

Given the comfortable Conservative majority predicted in the run up to the election, it was not expected that the politics of Northern Ireland would come to play such a crucial role in determining the next government. However, the outcome was always going to be important for Northern Ireland for two key reasons: (i) Brexit and the question of the Irish border; and (ii) getting the government at Stormont back up and running. Yet, the result and the DUP’s subsequent position as kingmaker have illuminated broader trends within UK politics and devolution.

First, Theresa May’s decision to reach a deal with the DUP to secure her minority government has placed a spotlight on the differing rights that citizens in Northern Ireland possess, in particular around same-sex marriage and abortion. For many British citizens outside Northern Ireland, the recent discovery of the views and position of the DUP on these issues has sparked concern, with widespread revulsion expressed through social media at the idea that the party might exert influence on social policy at Westminster. Whilst the DUP’s set of demands will not include a reversal on the relatively liberal legislation in Scotland, Wales and England, this reaction has demonstrated the general indifference previously shown towards Northern Irish politics, particularly at the expense of progressing rights and social policy. In the past, this has not just involved the Conservatives; indeed, in 2008, a deal was made between Gordon Brown and the DUP, securing the latter’s support for the extension of detention limits for terrorist suspects in exchange for the UK government not interfering in Northern Ireland’s abortion law. The concern now being expressed towards the Conservative-DUP ‘friendship’ thus highlights a wider trend of blinkered vision when it comes to the politics of Northern Ireland, particularly around issues that are taken for granted in the rest of the UK.

Second, the election itself has further embedded the polarisation of Northern Irish politics. With the more moderate parties of the UUP and SDLP losing all their MPs, Northern Ireland’s 18 seats are now dominated by Sinn Fein (seven seats) and the DUP (ten seats), plus Lady Sylvia Hermon retaining her seat as an independent candidate. It is this polarisation between the DUP’s unionism and Sinn Fein’s nationalism that is reflective of the current state of devolution in Northern Ireland. The collapse of Stormont in January following accusations of an expenses scandal left a political vacuum in Northern Ireland that subsequent talks have been unable to resolve. Sinn Fein’s questioning of James Brokenshire’s neutrality as Secretary of State caused talks towards getting power-sharing back up and running to falter earlier this year. The even closer friendship the DUP now enjoys with the Conservatives will exacerbate the tension and polarisation of Northern Ireland’s politics, with Sinn Fein already declaring the ‘deal’ between the two parties a betrayal of the Good Friday Agreement. It is now difficult to conceive how any Conservative-led negotiations will reboot devolution in Northern Ireland.

Diversification: Scotland

Politics in Scotland has in recent years been calcified around a central division between pro-Union and nationalist politics. This redefinition of politics around constitutional preferences and away from the classic left-right conflict over social policy saw the once hegemonic Scottish Labour Party overtaken by the Scottish National Party. The SNP has subsequently dominated Westminster’s Scottish seats and Holyrood. Such dominance made Nicola Sturgeon’s proposition for an IndyRef2 back in March seemed a likely win for Scottish nationalists following the Brexit vote. However, due in part to signs of pro-Union tactical voting, the snap election saw the SNP drop 22 seats to Conservatives, Labour and the LibDems, with the loss of big political hitters such as Alex Salmond and Angus Robertson.

A rejection, no doubt, of the poorly timed call for IndyRef2 and an underwhelming SNP manifesto, this election result is also a demonstration that left-right politics has not been completely overshadowed in Scotland. Many who supported the SNP did so seeking progressive policy making, yet the party has been visibly overtaken on the left by the Labour campaign that hammered the nationalists in weak spots such as their record on education. Increasing their MPs from one to seven, Scottish Labour, at one time written-off, now has a base to continue its rebuilding. Simultaneously, the continued climb of the Conservative vote in Scotland has left leader Ruth Davidson as a figure of great influence within the party – and a challenge for Theresa May, as shown by her flexing her opposition to the Conservative-DUP deal. At the end of the election, the picture from Scotland demonstrates a diversification in terms of parties and a movement away from the constitution as the epicentre of politics. Where once Scotland’s exit from the Union seemed inevitable, it now seems less certain.

Amplification: Wales

Wales’ General Election story is a tale of two halves. It started with Theresa May launching her election campaign in Bridgend, sending a clear message of the Conservative’s intention to make inroads into Welsh Labour territory. Polling in the early weeks of the election appeared to foretell a massacre, with results showing the Conservatives ahead of Labour and on course to win the most Welsh seats for the first time since 1922. Come election day, however, the result was the complete reverse. The Conservatives lost three seats to Labour who increased their previous majorities across the board, recording 49% of the overall vote. Welsh Labour finds itself in a far, far stronger position than before, its historic position as the hegemonic force in Welsh politics amplified rather than diminished.

There are several reasons for this turnaround. The first was a deep arrogance on the part of the Conservatives in Wales, exemplified by the party parachuting candidates into target constituencies such as Bridgend against the wishes of its local party members. The Welsh party also endured an unsightly spat between the Welsh Secretary (Alun Cairns MP) and the leader of the Welsh Conservatives (RT Davies AM) over who would appear on the BBC Wales TV debate (in the end neither did, with the party’s education spokesperson having to step in). Above all else, the appalling campaign run by Theresa May caused huge damage, with the release of the party manifesto a turning point for canvassers on the doorstep.

In contrast, faced with early polling threatening a defeat of existential proportions, Welsh Labour fought back hard. Framing its campaign as Welsh Labour, differentiated from the UK Party under Jeremy Corbyn, the party plastered their popular Welsh leader, Carwyn Jones, all over its leaflets and election broadcasts. It fought a soft-nationalist campaign, in keeping with the party’s strategy since the leadership of Rhodri Morgan (a titanic figure of Welsh politics who sadly died during the campaign), promising to “stand up for Wales” against the Conservatives, and warning the Welsh people not to “let the Tories walk all over Wales.” As noted, whilst rhetorically defensive, the campaign put the party on the offensive, snatching seats from the Conservatives and whittling away majorities elsewhere. Ultimately a win-win strategy, the Welsh Labour campaign, by foregrounding Carwyn, was able to inoculate itself to some degree from those sceptical of the party’s Westminster leader, whilst still attracting the support of Corbyn-enthusiasts – in particular, it seems, from outside its usual base.

As in England, Welsh politics saw the two ‘major’ parties squeeze out the smaller parties, achieving 82.5% of the combined vote (the Conservative party’s 33.5% would, in any other election, have been a momentous achievement). While it is too soon to say, Welsh Labour appears to have benefitted from general anti-Tory tactical voting, its message of ‘standing up for Wales’ eclipsing Plaid Cymru’s own similar but less convincing election pledge to ‘defend Wales’. Plaid’s vote share of 10.5% was its lowest since 1997, although their narrow victory in Ceredigion, by a mere 104 votes, now means that there is no Liberal Democrat MP in Wales for the first time since the party formed in 1859. Ukip – who in 2015 had come in fourth place, and in 2016 won seven seats in the National Assembly – saw their voters melt away to the blues and the reds.

Conclusion

What has this election revealed about the politics of the UK? If anything, the election campaign and results have highlighted the different political dynamics across the nation and the importance of understanding these in order to grasp modern UK politics. It is far too early to make any assumptions that the decline in seats for the SNP spells a long-term trend, but the growing support for pro-union parties in Scotland and the likelihood of greater DUP influence at Westminster has thrown the Union a life-line. Whether this can be sustained, however, is another matter.

 

 

A Parliament hanging by a thread

📥  Political history, Political ideologies, UK politics

Back outside No10, Theresa May has confirmed that she will govern anew in the way she campaigned: obdurate, closed and controlled. The governing styles of Prime Ministers do not suddenly change, as Gavin Kelly pointed out this morning. The Prime Minister simply states her position, asserts nothing has changed, and waits for someone else to fill the void. It is relentlessly unyielding.

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A deal with the Democratic Unionist Party will give her the votes she needs to pass a Queen's Speech, assuming she pays down initial instalments on their demands and can persuade resentful and agitated Conservative backbenchers to support her. But what policy programme will underpin the Queen's Speech? The Conservative manifesto was shredded in the campaign. It cannot now form the basis of a programme for government. There will be no grammar schools, fox hunting, net migration targets, cuts to the Winter Fuel Allowance and half baked social care proposals. None of that will get through the House of Commons, let alone the Lords. The odds on an autumn election must be short. Harold Wilson managed to run a minority administration for eight months in 1974, having returned to power in circumstances far more propitious than those which accompanied Theresa May back to No10. History may not be an infallible guide, but it is the best we have to go on. The autumn also happens to be when the German federal election result will be known. That matters too.

What of Mayism, such as it is? Her Chamberlainite rhetoric always outstripped the reality of her policy agenda. The prospect of a Conservative realignment, in which Euroscepticism is detached from neoliberalism and bolted onto a One Nation interventionism of the kind historically associated with the pro-European left of the party, now looks remote.  The prospects of a "no deal" Brexit, and perhaps even the Hard Brexit agenda of leaving the EU single market and customs union, have receded. Liberal conservatives will reassert their credentials, trimming the nationalist edges of May's agenda and tilting the party's electoral strategy towards younger, urban and centrist voters (precisely the kind of calculation Boris Johnson will now be makings as he weighs up his leadership options). But Conservatism now looks ideologically stuck: unable to advance further on either its left or right wings.

Labour's dilemma is whether to align itself with the SNP, Greens, Liberal Democrats and Remain Conservative MPs, to support Britain staying in the single market - an EEA style Brexit. Labour did not campaign on that basis and to shift its position may reopen old wounds which have been closed up in the euphoria of the Corbyn surge. But the economic interests of its supporters will perhaps way more heavily now on Labour's calculations than concerns about free movement once did, and unless the Labour bloc of MPs in the House of Commons joins battle with the Eurosceptics, the terms of the Brexit deal cannot be shifted closer to the new centre of gravity amongst the electorate. The future of the UK also remains at stake: the problems of a hard border in Northern Ireland will now loom larger in British political calculations. Corbyn campaigned in a (certain kind of Labour left) poetry; now he must lead in prose.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In what ways does gender matter for voting behaviour in GE2017?

📥  Democracy and voter preference, Political history, UK politics

Rosalind Shorrocks is Teaching Fellow in Quantitative Political Science at the University of Bath's Department of Politics, Languages and International Studies.

The Fawcett Society recently published analysis in which it claimed that there would be a ‘missing eight million’ women in the 2017 general election. To support this, they argue that 2.5% points fewer women than men say they are certain to vote in the election, and 2.5% points fewer women than men say they are registered to vote. If women were to vote in substantially lower numbers than men, this would lead to serious concerns about the representation of women in our political system, as well as raise questions as to why our political parties are putting off women.

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However, it would be surprising if women did, in fact, vote in substantially lower numbers than men on 8 June. The British Election Study, the highest quality post-election survey data available, shows us that in most elections women and men have voted at roughly similar rates. In fact, we have to go back to 1964 to find a statistically significant gender difference in turnout, and even then women were only 3% points less likely to vote then men. There is no reason to expect this pattern to be different in this year’s election.

Figure 1

 

So, are there any significant differences in voting behaviour between men and women in 2017? Most opinion polls conducted since the general election was called indicate small to modest gender differences in vote intention, with more men than women supporting the Conservatives, and (slightly) more women supporting Labour. Most polls also show men intending to vote for the Liberal Democrats in greater numbers than women, although the numbers are small. Data from YouGov and Panelbase highlight the age dimension in these gender differences. They show that women are more supportive of Labour than men in younger age groups, but more supportive of the Conservatives than men in older age groups. Age differences in the gender gap have been well-studied in the academic literature (see here and here).

However, the 2015 general election was the first election where we saw this specific age-by-gender pattern in Britain. The figures below show the distribution of votes by gender for those aged 25 and under, and 66 and over, in 2015. The well-known age dynamics are visible, with younger voters more supportive of Labour, and older voters more supportive of the Conservatives. Within this, there are divisions by gender. Younger women were 16.5% points more supportive of Labour than young men, and young men were 14.5% points more supportive of the Conservatives than young women. Conversely, older women were 12% points more supportive of the Conservatives than older men, but older men were more than twice as likely to vote for UKIP than older women. Those aged 26-35 looked very similar to those aged under 25, but the gender gap reversed for those aged 36 and above so that women were more supportive of the Conservatives than men.

Figure 2

 

Figure 3

 

Current polling thus suggests we can expect the pattern of results in 2017 to look very similar to that in 2015 for men and women. This is perhaps to be expected given the short, two-year window between the elections. Yet the age dynamics in the gender gap in British elections have not historically been consistent between elections. In 2010, young (25 and under) men were more supportive of both Labour and the Conservatives than young women, whilst young women were much more supportive of the Liberal Democrats. In 2005, young men and women differed very little in their degree of support for Labour or the Conservatives, but young men were more supportive of the Liberal Democrats than young women.

This suggests that specific election contexts produce different gender gaps in younger age groups. In the current election, none of the major parties have yet made specific appeals to women voters (contrast this to the ‘Woman to Woman’ battle bus of 2015). The Women’s Equality Party, contesting its first general election, is only fielding candidates in 7 seats. The election is framed to a certain extent – particularly by the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats – as the ‘Brexit’ election, but polling has suggested that women are less likely to think of Brexit as a key issue in this election compared to men (see here and here for the latest polls on this). Women are more likely to list the NHS, education, health, or welfare as important issues, which might explain Labour’s comparative advantage with young women.

Importantly, though, women are much more likely to say that they don’t know who they are going to vote for than men. In current polls, on average around 10% of men say they don’t know who they are going to vote for; whilst 20%-25% of women say this. As the first section of this post argues, this is unlikely to lead them to be less likely to actually vote. Women have always tended to be more uncertain about their vote intention than men, but still turn out to vote at a similar rate. What’s particularly interesting is that Panelbase shows it is especially women under the age of 55 who are unsure. This could bode either well or ill for Labour: either the undecided women in these age groups will eventually settle for the Labour Party, as many of them did in 2015, or the reason they are undecided is because, although they prioritise the issues that Labour is primarily campaigning on (the NHS, public services), they still don’t see the current Labour Party as a viable option.

The relationship between gender and the vote in this election, as with previous elections, is complex. Women do not tend to vote at lower rates than men in Britain, and at the aggregate level – comparing all men and all women – differences in vote choice between men and women are rather modest. In 2015, overall, there was little difference between men and women in support for Labour whilst women were about 4 points more supportive of the Conservatives. Polls suggest a similar advantage for the Conservatives, but amongst men, in the current election.

However, such headline figures hide substantial gender gaps within age groups, particularly amongst the young. Evidence suggests that Labour is particularly successful amongst young women, but this is also the demographic most undecided about how to vote in the upcoming election. Perhaps this is because this group find it difficult to identify a party to vote for in the current election, characterised by a focus on Brexit, gender-neutral campaigns and a dominant Conservative Party.

This article originally appeared on LSE's British Politics and Policy blog.

 

The governance of England in the Union

📥  Democracy and voter preference, UK politics

When the flood comes, the survivors will be found on the higher ground. Andy Burnham and Steve Rotheram have joined Sadiq Khan on the new peaks of Labour politics, as metro mayors of major English conurbations. Their former colleagues in the House of Commons will be scrabbling for local boats to lift themselves above the Conservative tide that is about to wash through the country.

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In England, the metro-mayors bring a new structure to sub-national government. It is more than simply a functional reform to deliver public policy at an appropriate spatial scale. In London, Greater Manchester and the Liverpool City Region, the new metro mayors give expression to strong civic identities; in time, the same may be said of Tees Valley and the West Midlands, which has Joe Chamberlain’s Birmingham at its core. Civic identity will prove a firmer foundation for sub-national government than the regional artifices of the former nine government offices for England, which were in turn the basis for the now defunct Regional Development Agencies. Lacking popular attachments shaped by history and urban cultures, regional bodies were easy targets for the incoming Coalition government to abolish in 2010.

Civic attachments are evidently weaker in the West of England and Peterborough-Cambridgeshire, where the mix of county and city, and a smaller scale, means that there isn’t an existing popular identity to which the mayors can give political expression. The West of England combined authority brings back memories of Avon County Council but these are seldom fond ones. Bristol has a strong identity but it already has a mayor. The more inchoate, though tangible, green-liberal character of the West of England runs through the region on ley lines, not the boundaries of a public authority.

The fact that the Conservatives won four of the six metro mayor elections up for grabs in 2017 will nonetheless help cement their place in the governance of England, particularly now that their main patron in Westminster has decamped to the Evening Standard. Whether they will join forces to represent the interests of the English cities in the Brexit negotiations is moot. Each of the new mayors represents areas with strong interests in one or more of the aerospace, automotive and aviation sectors, as well as leading universities – and each would be seriously damaged by a hard Brexit. But the sweeping up of the UKIP vote into the Conservative bloc will pull at least two of the Tory Mayors towards more eurosceptic government-friendly positions, while Andy Burnham and Steve Rotheram are likely to prioritise the demands of the wider North over the metropolitan interests they share with their fellow mayors.

In the West Midlands, the Labour candidate Sion Simon wrapped himself in the flag of St George and harnessed the Brexit discourse of “taking back control”, but it wasn’t enough to get him over the line against the UKIP collapse and Labour’s national weakness. Labour thinkers will now debate whether his embrace of Englishness helped or hindered his campaign.

Whatever the verdict, the debate on England’s future in the union will not go away. The revival of Scottish conservatism does not signal the return of a strong unionist British identity of the kind that once shaped Conservative political loyalties in Scotland, and which the English also took for granted. Its foundations in empire, Protestant loyalism, and later, the strong post-war national state, are not coming back, even if the rise of Scottish nationalism and the decline of working class Labour identities have sharpened the importance of political unionism north of the border (in passing, I suspect there is a reason why some electors voted for the unionist party in Shettleston and it is not because they have been reading Iain Duncan Smith pamphlets on social justice).

The SNP will still return a phalanx of MPs to Westminster after June 8th and they will govern in the Scottish Parliament and is major cities. They will not cede their political leadership of Scotland’s aspirations to a Conservative-Unionist government in Westminster. The SNP may exhibit greater tactical caution but a Scottish Conservative revival will not dispense with the question of whether the UK can hold its constituent nations together. Paradoxically, the election of metro mayors in England will make the federalist case for the UK that little bit harder to answer, since they take off the table the idea that the English regions can be partners with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in a new federal constitutional settlement. For that, England will need national recognition to go alongside devolved city and county governance.

 

 

 

Things Fall Apart: From Empire to Brexit Britain

  

📥  Brexit, Political history, Racism and the far right, UK politics

Dr Nadine El-Enany is Senior Lecturer in Law in Birkbeck University of London's School of Law.

In her novel Beloved, through its examination of America’s violent and brutal history of chattel slavery, Toni Morrison warns against the forgetting of painful pasts.[1] If a society is to ‘come to terms with its own raced history’, painful memories must be ‘“re-membered”… [or] they will haunt the social imagination and disrupt the present’.[2] Catherine Hall, writing almost 20 years ago, warned European societies against discarding ‘uncomfortable memories of colonialism’, and emphasised the ‘need to do some “memory work” on the legacy of Empire’.[3] Britain’s drastic manoeuvre away from the EU is intricately connected to its imperial history, one that it has long refused to confront and acknowledge for the brutal legacy that it is. Britain’s unaddressed and unredressed colonial past haunted the recent EU referendum and prophesied its outcome.

fallapart

 

Recent policy soundings suggest that the British government wishes to strengthen economic ties with Commonwealth countries in lieu of its fast-deteriorating relationship with its European neighbours.[4] This is an ironic turn of events considering the historical context of Britain’s entry into the EU in 1973. Its membership followed decades of post-war decline and ensuing indecisiveness about whether to jettison its economic dependence on ailing Commonwealth markets, and with it any prospect of a lasting imperial role for Britain, in favour of joining the European Economic Community (EEC). Britain’s imperial nostalgia has long fed its extreme discomfort at its place as, formally, an equal alongside other EU Member States, rather than first among equals, as was its pride of place in the Commonwealth.[5] The decision to join the EEC coincided with the closure of Britain’s borders to people from its former colonies. The explicit target of these controls was people racialised as non-white.6[6] Post-war immigration control was intricately connected to the ebb and flow of Britain's imperial ambitions and attachments. The British Nationality Act 1948 had rolled out British citizenship to encapsulate Britons together with all nationals of independent Commonwealth countries and those of British colonies – a status which included a right to enter and remain in Britain.[7] This granting of British citizenship to Commonwealth citizens was principally an attempt to hold together what remained of the British Empire. British politicians accepted migration of non-white people from the New Commonwealth countries into Britain as a trade-off, an unfortunate but necessary byproduct of maintaining the relationship between Britain and the Old (white) Dominions. Although the British Nationality Act prompted the establishment of some employment recruitment schemes targeted at New Commonwealth migrants, it is significant that post-war labour shortages were primarily addressed through the facilitation of (white) European labour.[8]

The principal beneficiaries of the British Empire’s system of citizenship were Britons, who could move and settle throughout the Commonwealth pursuant to sponsored emigration facilitated through agreements with Australia, South Africa, New Zealand and Canada.[9] Despite the legislators’ lack of enthusiasm for non-white immigration from the colonies, the 1948 Act’s provisions had the effect of facilitating the arrival of around 500,000 people racialised as non-white in Britain. These arrivals and those who followed were not only exercising rights granted to them under the law, but were also escaping economic hardship and an absence of employment opportunities,[10] along with other dispossessive effects of slavery and colonialism.[11] Post-war arrivals from Jamaica, for example, were leaving a country profoundly marked by both the transatlantic slave trade and colonialism. By the time Britain colonised Jamaica in the seventeenth century, the country’s ‘indigenous peoples had already been wiped out by the Spanish, and [it] was populated mainly by enslaved Africans and white settlers’.[12]

It was not until 1962 that the Commonwealth Immigrants Act brought all Commonwealth citizens formally under immigration control. The exceptions were the (majority white) citizens who had been born in Britain or Ireland, or who held a British or Irish passport issued by either one of these governments.[13] The Act was designed to restrict the entry of non-white people. In the late 1960s, Britain saw an increasing number of East-African Asians enter the country, many of whom possessed a British passport issued by Kenyan authorities. This movement followed the introduction of policies discriminating against Asians in Kenya by President Kenyatta. The 1968 Commonwealth Immigrants Act further narrowed the exceptions to control. Rights of entry were limited to Commonwealth citizens born in Britain, or with at least one parent or grandparent born or naturalised in Britain. That the effect of the 1968 Act was to discriminate on racial grounds exposes the hypocrisy and conceit in the British government’s position. The Act ‘created “second-class citizens” who did not have immediate right of entry into Britain even though the only passports they had were British’.[14] The British not only bore much of the responsibility for the divisions in Kenyan society pursuant to their colonial exploits,[15] but also the presence of Asians in Kenya. Although Asians had lived in East Africa for centuries, the majority arrived as labourers and traders following the expansion of the British Empire over the area.[16] In general, the Act had wide cross-party support, despite its severe consequences for Asians whose lives and futures depended on escaping persecution in Kenya.[17]

As Britain closed its doors to non-white Commonwealth migrants, it turned towards Europe in search of opportunities for economic growth – first applying to join the EEC in 1961, and ultimately becoming a member on 1 January 1973. However, Britain maintained its distance from the EU political project, in particular as far as migration control was concerned. Its obsession with its island status and the perceived advantages this brings in relation to security and border control has long plagued its relationship with the EU. While Britain grudgingly accepted the principle of free movement of EU citizens, it insisted on maintaining control of its borders wherever it could. Britain never joined Schengen, and not only continues to exercise border controls in relation to EU nationals, but also has a flexible opt-out from EU law on immigration and asylum – which it has consistently exercised to opt into restrictive measures that further strengthen its capacity to exclude, and out of those aimed at enhancing protection standards.[18] In view of this, Britain’s decision to depart from the EU primarily over the question of immigration and border control demands scrutiny. The Leave campaign argued that exiting the EU would allow Britain to ‘take back control of its borders’ and would ‘make Britain great again’. The referendum debate was eclipsed by the topic of migration, and not exclusively that of European citizens. The epitome of the Leave campaign’s scaremongering about migration was perhaps the moment Nigel Farage unveiled a poster depicting non-white refugees crossing the Croatia-Slovenia border in 2015 along with the slogan ‘Breaking Point’.[19]

The terms on which the EU referendum debate took place are symptomatic of a Britain struggling to conceive of its place in the world post-Empire. Present in the discourse of some of those arguing for a Leave vote was a tendency to romanticise the days of the British Empire, a time when Britannia ruled the waves and was defined by her racial and cultural superiority. Brexit is not only an expression of nostalgia for empire,[20] it is also the fruit of empire.[21] The legacies of British imperialism have never been addressed, including that of racism.[22] British colonial rule saw the exploitation of peoples, and their subjugation on the basis of race; it was a system that was maintained through the brutal and systematic violence of colonial authorities. Imperial nostalgia is sometimes combined with ‘a reluctance to see contemporary British racism as a product of imperial and colonial power’.[23] The prevalence of structural and institutional racism in Britain today made it fertile ground for the effectiveness of the Brexit campaign’s racist and dehumanising rhetoric of “taking back control” and reaching “breaking point”. The Brexit and Trump victories have resulted in the legitimisation of racism and white supremacy to an unprecedented degree. A week prior to the referendum, pro-immigration Labour MP Jo Cox was brutally murdered by a man who shouted ‘Britain first’ as he killed her, and who gave his name in court on being charged with her murder as ‘Death to traitors. Freedom for Britain’.[24] Since the referendum, racist hate crime has increased by 16% across Britain, and peaked at a 58% rise in the week following the vote.[25] Weeks after the referendum, Arkadiusz Jóźwik was beaten to death in Essex, having reportedly been attacked for speaking Polish in the street.[26]

Britain’s impending departure from the EU now sees it turning once again to the Commonwealth. It is no coincidence that Nigel Farage expressed a preference for migrants from India and Australia as compared with East Europeans, and has advocated stronger ties with the Commonwealth.[27] Theresa May, in her speech on the government’s plans for Brexit, referred to the Commonwealth as being indicative of Britain’s ‘unique and proud global relationships’, and declared it was ‘time for Britain to get out into the world and rediscover its role as a great, global, trading nation.’[28] It is telling that the Old Dominions [Australia, South Africa, New Zealand and Canada] ‘were Britain abroad, what was called – in the jingoistic heyday of imperialism – “greater Britain”’.[29] Economic policy is being oriented towards a revival of Commonwealth ties, in a manner that patently ignores the brutal reality of the British Empire.[30] This ignorance was aptly captured in MP and Secretary of State for International Trade Liam Fox's statement last year in the run up to the referendum that ‘The United Kingdom is one of the few countries in the European Union that does not need to bury its 20th century history’.[31]  Paul Gilroy has observed that the tendency to romanticise colonial times – ‘this embarrassing sentiment’ – manifests itself today in ‘an unhealthy and destructive post-imperial hungering for renewed greatness’.[32] The hankering after the halcyon days of empire was expressed in a tabloid headline following the referendum: ‘Now Let’s Make Britain Great Again’.[33] This slogan, taken from Trump’s presidential election campaign, has since become popular among those who backed Brexit.[34]

The rhetoric of ‘making Britain great again’ is entirely divorced from an understanding of British colonial history – including the country’s recent imperial exploits, which have destabilised and exploited various regions and set in motion the migration of today. In the absence of an acknowledgement of the racism, violence and brutality of British colonialism, and its ongoing dispossessing effects, imperial nostalgia can fester and work in harmful ways. Paul Gilroy notes that ‘[t]he appeal of being great again was central to Mrs Thatcher’s premiership, particularly after her South Atlantic triumph, but it did not vanish with her. It has endured and mutated and emerged again as one significant element that propelled a largely reluctant country to war against Iraq in 2003’.[35] The ‘desire’ for ‘renewed greatness’ thus ‘feeds Britain’s vicarious investments in US preeminence’,[36] the calamitous result of which was the violent and premature deaths of nearly half a million Iraqis.[37] Britain’s commitment to its close relationship with the US has gained new vigour in the wake of the vote to leave the EU. British Prime Minister Theresa May, wary of the notion that Britain might have set itself adrift through its vote to leave the EU, isolating itself from centres of global power, is working to ensure that post-Brexit Britain is firmly aligned with the new Trump administration.[38] Britain’s rose-tinted view of its imperial history, and its refusal to recall and confront the reality of the British Empire and its legacy of racism, haunted the EU referendum, foretelling its outcome and casting Britain into an uncertain and dangerous future.[39]

This blog post is part of an IPR series focused on the rise of racism and the far right. This collection of commissioned blog posts will be published as an IPR Policy Brief in summer 2017. Sign up to the IPR blog to get the latest blog posts, or join our mailing list to receive invitations to our events and copies of our Policy Briefs.

 

References

[1] Toni Morrison, Beloved (1987 [original date], Vintage, London, 2007).
[2] Catherine Hall, ‘Histories, Empires and the Post-Colonial Moment’ in I. Chambers and L. Curti (eds.), The Postcolonial Question: Common Skies, Divided Horizons (Routledge, London-New York, 2002), 66.
[3] Catherine Hall, ibid.
[4] Ben Chapman, ‘Liam Fox’s 'Empire 2.0' meeting is backed by corporate interests and will ‘fleece’ Africa, say campaigners’ (The Independent, Thursday 9 March 2017). Available at www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/liam-fox-empire-trade-meeting-africa-corporate-interests-claims-a7619326.html (Last visited 16 March 2017).
[5] Nadine El-Enany, (B)ordering Britain: the Migrant, the Refugee and the State (Hart Publishing, forthcoming 2018).
[6] See Randall Hansen, Citizenship and Immigration in Postwar Britain (Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2000); Kathleen Paul, Whitewashing Britain: Race and Citizenship in the Postwar Era (Cornell University Press, Ithaca and London, 1997).
[7] Lord Goldsmith QC, Citizenship Review, ‘Citizenship: Our Common Bond’ (2008), 15.
[8] See R. Miles and D. Kay, Refugees or Migrant Workers? European Volunteer Workers in Britain 1946-1951 (London: 1992).
[9] Randall Hansen, ‘The Politics of Citizenship in 1940s Britain: The British Nationality Act’ Twentieth Century British History Vol. 10, No. 1 (January 1999), 76.
[10] Caryl Phillips, ‘The Pioneers: Fifty Years of Caribbean Migration to Britain’, in A New World Order (New York: Vintage, 2001), 264.
[11] A. Payne, ‘The Rodney Riots in Jamaica: The Background and Significance of the Events of October 1968’ The Journal of Commonwealth & Comparative Politics Vol 21(2) 1983; T.A. Simone Patrice Wint, ‘“Once you Go You Know”: Tourism, Colonial Nostalgia and National Lies in Jamaica’ (Report to the Faculty of the Graduate School of the University of Texas at Austin, 2012), 6. Available at https://repositories.lib.utexas.edu/bitstream/handle/2152/ETD-UT-2012-05-5846/WINT-MASTERS-REPORT.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y (Last visited 13 February 2017).
[12] Catherine Hall, note 2 above, 67-68.
[13] Lord Goldsmith QC, note 7 above, 15.
[14] Yumiko Hamai, ‘“Imperial Burden” or “Jews of Africa”?: An Analysis of Political and Media Discourse in the Ugandan Asian Crisis (1972)’ Twentieth Century British History Vol. 22, No. 3, (2011), 418
[15] Okwudiba Nnoli, Ethnic politics in Nigeria (Enugu, Nigeria, 1978), ch. 1.
[16] Randall Hansen, ‘The Kenyan Asians, British Politics, and the Commonwealth Immigrants Act, 1968’ The Historical Journal 42, 3 (1999), 814.
[17] Randall Hansen, ‘The Kenyan Asians, British Politics, and the Commonwealth Immigrants Act, 1968’, ibid., 810.
[18] See N. El-Enany, ‘EU migration and asylum law under the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice’ in A. Arnull and D. Chalmers, The Oxford Handbook of European Union Law (OUP, 2015); N. El-Enany, 'The Perils of Differentiated Integration in the Field of Asylum' in A. Ott and B. De Witte (eds.) Between Flexibility and Disintegration: The Trajectory of Differentiation in EU Law (Edward Elgar Publishing, 2017)
[19] Heather Stewart and Rowena Mason, ‘Nigel Farage’s anti-migrant poster reported to police’ (Guardian, 16 June 2016) Available at www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/jun/16/nigel-farage-defends-ukip-breaking-point-poster-queue-of-migrants (Last visited 13 February 2017).
[20] Nadine El-Enany, ‘Brexit as Nostalgia for Empire’ (Critical Legal Thinking, 19 June 2016) Available at http://criticallegalthinking.com/2016/06/19/brexit-nostalgia-empire/ (Last visited 13 February 2017).
[21] Nadine El-Enany, ‘The Iraq War, Brexit and Imperial Blowback’ (Truthout, 6 July 2016) Available at www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/36703-the-iraq-war-brexit-and-imperial-blowback (Last visited 13 February 2017).
[22] Catherine Hall, ‘The racist ideas of slave owners are still with us today’ (Guardian, 26 September 2016) www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/sep/26/racist-ideas-slavery-slave-owners-hate-crime-brexit-vote (Last visited 13 February 2017).
[23] Paul Gilroy, After Empire: Melancholia or Convivial Culture (Routledge, London and New York, 2004), 103.
[24] Robert Booth, Vikram Dodd, Kevin Rawlinson and Nicola Slawson, ‘Jo Cox murder suspect tells court his name is “death to traitors, freedom for Britain”’ (Guardian, 18 June 2016) Available at www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/jun/18/thomas-mair-charged-with-of-mp-jo-cox (Last visited 13 February 2017).
[25] Alan Travis, ‘Lasting rise in hate crime after EU referendum, figures show’ (Guardian, 7 September 2016) Available at www.theguardian.com/society/2016/sep/07/hate-surged-after-eu-referendum-police-figures-show (Last visited 13 February 2017).
[26] Louie Smith, ‘He was killed for speaking Polish: Brother’s claim as man murdered in UK street in suspected race-hate attack’ (Mirror, 30 August 2016) Available at www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/he-killed-speaking-polish-brothers-8738218 (Last visited 13 February 2017).
[27] Rowena Mason, ‘Nigel Farage: Indian and Australian immigrants better than eastern Europeans’ (Guardian, 22 April 2015) Available at www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/apr/22/nigel-farage-immigrants-india-australia-better-than-eastern-europeans (Last visited 13 February 2017).
[28] The RT Hon Theresa May MP, ‘The government's negotiating objectives for exiting the EU: PM speech’ (17 January 2017 Lancester House, London) Available at www.gov.uk/government/speeches/the-governments-negotiating-objectives-for-exiting-the-eu-pm-speech (Last visited 13 February 2017).
[29] Randall Hansen, Citizenship and Immigration in Postwar Britain, (Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2000), 17-18.
[30] See Adam Ramsey, ‘For Britain to solve its economic problems, it needs to stop lying to itself about its past’ (Open Democracy, 9 March 2017) Available at www.opendemocracy.net/neweconomics/trade-empire-2-0-and-the-lies-we-tell-ourselves/ (Last visited 17 March 2017).
[31] Liam Fox, (Twitter, 4 March 2016) Available at https://twitter.com/LiamFoxMP/status/705674061016387584 (Last visited 17 March 2017).
[32] Paul Gilroy, After Empire: Melancholia or Convivial Culture (Routledge, London and New York, 2004), 331.
[33] Jeff Farrell, ‘Now let’s make Britain great again’ (Daily Star, 25 June 2016) Available at www.pressreader.com/uk/daily-star/20160625/283132838125934 (Last visited 13 February 2017).
[34] Georgia Diebelius, ‘UKIP’s youth wing sold “Make Britain Great Again Hats” for price of £9.11’ (Metro, 10 November 2016) Available at http://metro.co.uk/2016/11/10/ukips-youth-wing-sold-make-britain-great-again-hats-for-price-of-9-11-6250052/ (Last visited 10 November 2017).
[35] Paul Gilroy, note 32 above, 103-104.
[36] Paul Gilroy, ibid., 103.
[37] Amy Hagopian, Abraham D Flaxman, Tim K. Takaro, Sahar A. Esa Al Shatari, Julie Rajaratnam, Stan Becker, Alison Levin-Rector, Lindsay Galway, Berq J. Hadi Al-Yasseri, William M. Weiss, Christoper J. Murray, Gilbert Burnham, ‘Mortality in Iraq Associated with the 2003-2011 War and Occupation: Findings from a National Cluster Sample Survey by the University Collaborative Iraq Mortality Study’ PLOS Medicine 15 October 2013 Available at http://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/journal.pmed.1001533#abstract1 (Last visited 13 February 2017).
[38] Heather Stewart and David Smith, ‘Theresa May and Donald Trump bond over love for Thatcher and Reagan’ (Guardian, 29 January 2017) Available at www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/jan/29/theresa-may-donald-trump-bond-love-thatcher-reagan (Last visited 13 February 2017).
[39] Nadine El-Enany, (B)ordering Britain: the Migrant, the Refugee and the State, see note 5 above.

The Great Repeal Bill and Devolution: Thin End of the Wedge?

📥  Brexit, Law, law enforcement and crime, UK politics

Tomos Evans is a postgraduate research student in the University of Bath's Department for Politics, Languages and International Studies. His research concerns defence as a devolved policy concern in the United Kingdom.

The United Kingdom’s constitution has changed dramatically since it entered what was then the European Community in 1973 – and a big part of this change has been due to devolution and the creation of legislatures in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Given that the Scottish Parliament, the Northern Ireland Assembly and the National Assembly for Wales were all established within the last 20 years (and therefore also within the framework of EU law), it is not surprising that Brexit presents numerous challenges to the functioning of devolution within the UK.

wedge

 

Discussion of the impact a ‘leave’ vote would have on devolution was almost non-existent in the debate over EU membership. It is incorrect to assume that powers currently held in Brussels will revert to Westminster; the picture is more complex than that. Akin to the soundbite ‘Brexit means Brexit’, when it comes to Brexit and devolution, the debate has not progressed much further than ‘Brexit means more powers for the Scottish Parliament/National Assembly for Wales/Northern Ireland Assembly’ (delete as appropriate).

A silent guarantor

Since the referendum, political issues – Scottish independence and the nature of the Republic of Ireland-Northern Ireland border – have been high on the agenda and up for discussion. What has been lacking, however, is a comprehensive look at the legal and constitutional implications of Brexit for the devolved nations; indeed, issues around powers returning to the UK from Brussels and the impact of EU law falling away on the devolution settlements have still not been evaluated at length.

On the face of it, extracting the UK from the EU would not impact greatly on devolution because the EU in itself is not a devolved issue. The problem here, however, is that the devolution settlements are all premised on the idea of EU membership; the devolved legislatures are legally barred from passing any legislation which contravenes EU law. EU membership therefore provided for a general restriction on the powers of the devolved administration and legislatures, and leaving the EU will not only leave a gap in the UK’s statute book but also the constitutions of Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. By virtue of the UK's membership, the EU has acted as a silent guarantor to the devolution settlements by either enabling or restricting the devolved administrations.

Alongside the idea of the EU acting as a silent guarantor, the devolved administrations are responsible for a range of policy areas – agriculture, fisheries, environment, and transport to name a few – which fall within overarching EU policy areas. When the UK leaves the EU, responsibility for these areas should logically transfer to Holyrood, Cardiff Bay, and Stormont, not Westminster – but this isn’t necessarily what the UK Government has in mind. In fact, current proposals for managing these constitutional challenges risk riding roughshod over established conventions and principles when the EU ceases to be a silent guarantor to the devolution settlements.

The Great Repeal Bill White Paper

It is within this context that, on 30 March, the government set out its strategy to ‘ensure a functioning statute book’ following the UK’s departure from the EU. The Great Repeal Bill White Paper plots out the government’s plan to repeal the European Communities Act 1972, transposing existing EU law into domestic UK law and granting ministers the power to amend legislation to remove references to EU law. The White Paper is not overly complex for such a mammoth task, but it does provide a useful insight into the government’s thinking, fleshing out the policy for managing the challenges and changes previously mentioned. Chapter four deals exclusively with devolution issues.

Chapter four of the White Paper, consisting of six paragraphs, is not particularly comprehensive considering that it deals with issues fundamental to the UK constitution. Although it makes important and legitimate points around maintaining the integrity of the UK’s single market, the proposals raise more questions than they answer and should be of concern to devolutionists. There are four key issues that present major questions for the future of the devolved powers.

First, the repeated use of the term ‘common frameworks’ implies that the UK Government currently sees the devolved administrations as mere implementers of EU policy. This is the opposite of what the devolved administrations believe: that the powers are theirs, and thus the UK Government has no right to unilaterally remove them. Casting the devolved administrations as implementers of a broader policy regime is a way of undermining the position that the powers are theirs but operationalised on an EU-wide level.

Second, the paper includes a proposal to replicate EU ‘frameworks’ in UK law, which risks undermining devolution and raises more questions than it answers. Will the new UK frameworks simply replicate the current EU ones and enable the devolved administration to maintain the current flexibility they have, or will they be more restrictive? Will they provide for a sweeping restriction on the devolution settlements? This is a matter for another more comprehensive piece of legislation, but clarity is needed from the outset. The discussion of common frameworks – although they will be needed – seems to be taking place in the shadow of the Supreme Court's Article 50 ‘Parliament is Sovereign’ judgement.

Third, the White Paper claims that the Brexit process presents an ‘opportunity to determine the level best placed to take decisions on these issues’, which can be read in two ways. Not only could it mean additional powers being devolved, but it also opens the door to powers being removed from the devolved administrations. Are the UK Government gearing up to ‘tidy’ some of the statutes and remove powers in other areas? For the sake of the integrity of the UK’s internal market, new restrictions will be required, but consent must be sought to comply with established conventions.

Finally, there is no discussion around legislative consent motions in this paper. By convention, the UK Parliament does not legislate on devolved matters without the agreement of the devolved legislature. That principle also applies to amending the powers of the devolved institution. Admittedly, Parliament is sovereign and retains the right to legislate on anything, but unilaterally amending the devolution statutes would be damaging for political reasons. Such amendments have occurred in the past – in Wales an exception to the Assembly’s powers was broadened without the consent of the Assembly in 2014 – but unilaterally adding broad blanket reservations to the devolution statutes without consent due to Brexit could damage relations between the governments of the UK. It might also be a boon for nationalists and further imperil the union.

Legislate now, discuss later

The UK Government’s approach to Brexit and devolution as presented in the White Paper seems heavy handed. This is not to say that powers that revert to Edinburgh, Cardiff, and Belfast should be used to undermine the UK’s single market – it is vital that common UK frameworks are developed. Nevertheless, the government’s proposals are not consistent with equality and partnership; current proposals suggest a ‘legislate now, discuss later’ approach. Unilaterally removing powers from the devolved administrations for the sake of UK-wide frameworks is not a sensible or sustainable way of managing the Brexit process.

Discussions over common frameworks may be happening now behind the scenes, but the tone of the White Paper implies otherwise. The current proposals, with their emphasis on hastily establishing temporary legislation that can be revised later, will make it difficult for the devolved administrations to make their voices heard. The Joint Ministerial Council (JMC), which functions as a forum to manage relations and disputes between the devolved administrations and UK Government, has already been criticised over its usefulness in the Brexit process so far – Welsh Government Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Local Government Mark Drakeford claimed that “St Fagans Community Council… would be better organised than most JMC meetings have been” – but it is the only existing intra-UK vehicle which could facilitate talks over common frameworks. It is somewhat ironic that the JMC will likely have to end up mimicking the EU’s Council of Ministers to manage relations and some cross-UK policies.

The White Paper risks being the thin end of the wedge. The paper does not take any account of established convention and practice. It is extremely light on the detail when it comes to devolution, which may be one of the more complex issues to deal with as part of the Brexit process. It is important to remember that devolution is the settled will of the people of Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland; unilaterally overhauling the devolution settlements and riding roughshod over established conventions is not the meaning of ‘taking back control’.

 

Some Manifesto Matters

📥  Brexit, Political ideologies, UK politics

I have the dubious distinction of having helped draft a manifesto for an election that was never held. In 2007, the No10 Policy Unit was mobilised to draft a manifesto at short notice, should it have been needed. It wasn’t. It is still on a hard drive somewhere.

manifesto

 

Theresa May evidently learned the most important lesson of that debacle, which is not to let anyone speculate that you might call an election before you have actually done so (not that it took much working out). It surely helps that her closest confidantes and advisers are not fellow Cabinet ministers.

The forthcoming general election will be a national interest election, dominated by one big issue. That makes the party manifestos less important than during “normal” times. But it does not make them redundant. The now widely held view – shared by pundits and the markets alike – is that a snap election makes Brexit inevitable and a softer Brexit more likely. This is because the Prime Minister will secure a large majority, enabling her to marginalise those Eurosceptics agitating for “no deal” or WTO status, while also convincing the European Union that there is no turning back on Brexit.

If this is the Prime Minister’s strategy, she will need to drop her line that “no deal is better than a bad deal”. If that appears in the Conservative manifesto, it will empower, not neuter, the hardline Eurosceptics (It is also worth bearing in mind that if the Liberal Democrats make gains, they are likely to do so against soft Brexit or Remain Conservatives, and that if the older UKIP vote falls into the Conservative bloc, it will benefit Hard Brexiteers). If only for this issue, what is written in the Conservative manifesto will matter.

On current polls, the other manifesto that will matter most to post-election scenarios will be the SNP one. It will doubtless include a carefully crafted line on holding a second independence referendum before Brexit, which can then be claimed as an additional mandate for the SNP’s plans. But if Theresa May is true to her Conservative-Unionism (which, as Will Davies pointed out on Twitter has “an ugly Schmittian strain to it – an ideal of a single national community, where the only (internal) enemies are all in Westminster”) she will seek to trump that with a line in the Conservative manifesto that gives her authority to refuse the section 30 notice.

Those who draft manifestos agonise over lines like these, particularly when the general framework for the content is clear, as it is in 2017. The refusal of the Prime Minister to participate in leadership debates means that the manifesto launches will get more scrutiny than in the last two elections. They will inevitably cover the waterfront of policy, as they must. But the big issues are likely to hang on a small number of words.

 

New Nationalism and Old Ideologies

  

📥  Brexit, Political ideologies, Racism and the far right, UK politics

Dr Sivamohan Valluvan is Lecturer in Sociology at The University of Manchester.

No event in recent British political history has generated the level of despondency, exhilaration and chaotic scramble that has accompanied the result of the 2016 European Referendum. Brexit, in the course of engendering a historically unique standard of socio-political uncertainty and constitutional intrigue, tore apart the two-party compact that had defined much of 20th century politics. Put differently, the allure of nationalist assertion in the form of exiting Europe seemed to cross and confound the distinctions of class, geography and ideology that had underpinned so much of recent British, and – truth be told – Western European politics writ large.[1]

march

 

Brexit represents, however, only one – albeit spectacular – milestone. Indeed, the issues constitutive of new nationalism, and the demagoguery intrinsic to it, only seem to be intensifying in the wake of the referendum result. These iconic issues include: the purported ‘refugee crisis’ and immigration concerns more generally; the War on Terror and cognate anxieties regarding British Muslims; the diffuse disenchantment with even just a nominal commitment to multiculturalism; alongside the outpouring of nativist concern regarding the plight of a disenfranchised ‘white working class’.

Whilst this expansive nationalist present is at last acquiring the analytic regard that it had long been denied,[2] insufficient attention is being given to the actual ideological content of new nationalism. Most critical analysis tends instead towards an account of the socio-economic and/or party political circumstances that have allegedly provoked the nationalist reaction.[3] An emphasis on the economic and the institutional is certainly necessary – but equally important is the need for sustained scrutiny of the multiple and conflicting ideological traditions that new nationalism comprises of. Any such undertaking consequently allows us to repudiate some of the complacencies currently prevalent about what nationalism is vis-à-vis its ideological composition.

Namely, populist-nationalism is not just a base appeal to fear and hatred lacking in any broader conceptual loading. On the contrary, various ideological repertoires definitive of political contestation across the 20th century all assume an integral role in anchoring the nationalist wave. Recognising this expansive ideological map accordingly prevents the convenient attribution of the current malaise to an allegedly vulgar but largely contained rump of racism. Instead, any attempt to resist nationalism must first involve properly addressing its sophisticated affinity to multiple ideological forms, some of which we mistakenly consider to be inured from such trends. I will accordingly gesture here, in an admittedly synoptic manner, at how various political traditions have all become susceptible to the capture of contemporary nationalism. These repertoires include: classical ‘values liberalism’; a resurgent anti-market left communitarianism; neoliberal individualism and the particular racial pathologisation of poverty that sits within its moral economy; some nominally feminist rhetorics regarding sexual freedoms and liberation; strands even of bucolic environmentalism; and, of course, a more familiar conservative nostalgia for the putative unity, stability and public morality of pre-war, colonial whiteness.

Muscular Liberalism and Civic Nationalism

A significant trend in academic and political discourse over the last two decades contended that a national community need not be demarcated by its ethnic origins but by its civic, liberal principles – what was alternatingly called the ‘post-ethnic’ nation, civic nationalism and, elsewhere, ‘Constitutional Patriotism’. It might be said that this line of speculation did open certain interesting progressive possibilities regarding visualisations of the democratic polity, visualisations that look beyond the origin myths of blood and soil. It is, however, also apparent that an aggressively white nativism has been very successful in publically capturing this liberal assertion – an appropriation that is particularly likely given the broader legacy of Orientalist civilisationism that sits within most public affirmations of liberal distinctiveness. Put less obliquely, it becomes apparent that many ideas of liberal virtue become ethnically coded during the course of everyday populist demagoguery. An early anecdotal primer of this capture was evident in then Prime Minister David Cameron’s call for a ‘Muscular Liberalism’ whilst championing his case for integration.

It is instructive to consider here the regularity with which many ethnic minorities are popularly presented as lacking the cultural disposition to assume these prized liberal virtues, virtues foregrounded as constitutive of the national self. The opportunist recourse to certain ostensibly feminist themes regarding sexuality and gender becomes a uniquely important site of analysis here in terms of scoping the full, sophisticated reach of an ethnically aggressive civic nationalism – an incorporation that is particularly pronounced amidst the public demagoguery aimed at European Muslims. Anti-Muslim sentiment, so central to the contemporary nationalist sensibility, is routinely channelled through reference to how Muslim culture is said to be antithetical to a liberal value base. What consequently materialises here is a kind of self-satisfied and racially marked liberal civilisationism that does so much work in terms of how new nationalism attains its popular validity, particularly regarding its attractiveness to certain middle-class constituencies.

Melancholic Conservatism

Popularly seen as the direct antonym of the liberal position, a prosaic conservatism is perhaps the domain most commonly associated with new nationalist desires. We witness today a set of conservative nostalgias – a pastoral and imperial nostalgia, or what Paul Gilroy famously identified as ‘Postcolonial Melancholia’. These nostalgias are seen, for instance, in the rehabilitation of monarchy through recurring spectacles of weddings and reproduction; in the revival of Edwardian and inter-war period drama; in the disproportionate success of the Help for Heroes charity, insofar as it has become a key staging ground for the much broader symbolic valorisation of the soldier and military, both past and present; and, also, in the all-too-explicable popularity of rustic Countryfile and other cultural phenomena that invoke a similarly provincial ideal. All these instances speak to a conservative cultural nostalgia and the thinly veiled imperial mythology that accompanies it. It is a nostalgic formation that remembers a homely greatness and the genteel whiteness redolent of that greatness.

However, what is often elided or misunderstood in existing analyses of conservative nostalgia is that much of this commentary and cultural output does actually pivot on a certain critique of unbridled free-market capitalism, a critique that is often expressed via a conservationist, pastoral, Christianist, and/or culturally elitist mould. It therefore becomes necessary to disentangle this particular formulation of nationalist desire from neoliberalism, a project that it is often but wrongly bundled together with in commonplace critiques of contemporary politics. Maintaining this distinction allows us to tie another constituency and tradition, so significant as it is, to the broader flurry of voices that animate the nationalist cry.

Neoliberal Will

When seen accordingly on its own terms, the primary concern of the neoliberal right posits that a market-society ideal is hampered by cultures of welfare dependency and inadequate individual responsibility. This neoliberal position individualises outcomes of success and failure, muting in turn issues of structure and access to resources. But, again, important questions arise regarding the imperative of this neoliberal frame to also racially code conceptions of failure, dependency and national crisis. It is important to remember here that neoliberalism is not only an economic or legislative programme, but also fundamentally a cultural and moral programme. So whilst it is, on one level, quite obviously about the retreat of the redistributive and interventionist state (except for its security arm) in favour of the market and its internal mechanisms, it is also a cultural category that foregrounds particular values and motifs. This includes the modelling of the ideal individual as aspirational, responsible, and self-reliant.

And the symbolic mediation of these ideals does draw heavily upon established racial representational frames in asserting who is not the ideal neoliberal subject. Consider, for instance, images of the black ‘welfare queen’, the lazy, deceitful immigrant leaching on the largesse of the welfare state, or the Muslim and her unproductive proclivity for matters of family, religion, and custom. These are what we might call the racial subjects of the neoliberal. Indeed, even when some working-class white figures are brought into the fold of a general capitalist shaming, they are often judged by their proximity to the pathologies of blackness. An obvious but nonetheless indicative instance was when the ubiquitous David Starkey claimed in the wake of the 2011 riots that the ‘whites have become black’; or simply consider the racial implications of the term ‘white trash’, or consider why the term ‘chav’ is seen as the preserve of poor white people – signalling a reaffirmation of whiteness, when properly realised, as a marker of neoliberal success. Amidst the expansive resonances of these popular terminologies, it becomes possible to note that a neoliberal moral framework provokes its own distinct set of nationalist anxieties and constitutive outsider figures.

Neoliberalism’s prizing of urban consumerism, and the remaking of cities and its inner core as havens of ‘experience shopping’, also brings about a series of racial anxieties whereby certain bodies, languages and tastes become antithetical to the ideal consumer space. These bodies become repulsive and disruptive to pleasurable consumption, adding in turn another layer to how everyday neoliberal rationales induce a particular anxiety about the outsider, the new migrant, and the urban poor more broadly. Put bluntly, if Roma people show up on your carefully curated consumer street, it poses an acute challenge to neoliberal consumer aesthetics.

Left Communitarianism and the Left Behind

Amidst the historically defining advance of the above neoliberal orthodoxy, an influential counter in 1990s public commentary was the communitarian position – a left-driven critique of the increased normalisation of the market society, globalisation, and its attendant individualism. It was accordingly argued that an altruistic society which might operate beyond the terms of solipsist self-reliance and provide solidaristic reference points for its polity requires a common community bond. Considerable emphasis was placed here on the thick emotional ties of community[4] as necessary for a defence of a redistributive welfare state ideal.

It is clear however that this communitarian critique of global capitalism’s excesses enjoys a close proximity to more avowedly nativist political discourses. For instance, there is increased talk of how a defence of the welfare state is only possible if an idea of unitary ethnic community is rejuvenated. The emergence of the tendency called Blue Labour, a communitarian school within the pre-Corbyn Labour Party, and also the general ubiquity of David Goodhart’s writing and political influence speak to this recuperated ideal of ethnic homogeneity. Goodhart’s important ‘Too Diverse?’ article in Prospect ought to be considered a particularly formative moment for a whole spate of subsequent left-leaning nationalist commentary.

It is my broader contention here that the initially progressive understanding of community, as a critique of market individualism, has been reduced in prominent public analysis to a concern with majoritarian ethno-national community. It is particularly telling here that the already well-established, putatively far-right parties across Scandinavia[5] exhibit a very assertive but racially coded defence of the welfare state, workers’ rights and collective solidarity, a defence that is presented as a central plank of their nationalist aspirations.

This nationalist frame has obtained particular ubiquity in the UK in the wake of the Brexit referendum, whereby much public analysis has centred on what is increasingly referred to as the ‘left behind’ – this being a conception that speaks to a particular concern for some notion of the white working class. Whilst many anti-racist critics rightly consider this to be a highly disingenuous appeal to class (see Bhambra and Goodfellow for two such exemplary pieces), it is nonetheless an invocation that is central to leftist renditions of nationalism. Put more specifically, the left behind refers to a working class, defined exclusively as white, that is understood as being uniquely marginalised and looks, accordingly, to legitimate certain anti-immigration and anti-minority attitudes that are popularly attributed to this constituency. An extensive matrix of populist left-wing idioms – anti-establishment, anti-metropolitan elite and anti-globalisation – are in turn folded into a much broader, symbolically aggressive nationalist attachment to particular understandings of authentic white working-class consciousness. Herein, in unpacking the left rationales that have become susceptible to contemporary nationalist articulation, particular critical attentiveness must be given to how this ‘left behind’ framing of the white working class manifests, and the racial ideological work it is accordingly called upon to perform.

Conclusion

Resisting the inclination to attribute a unitary, generally rightist character to this new nationalism, it is important to appreciate how its heightened appeal hinges crucially on the convergence of multiple political repertoires. There are of course a variety of other factors equally important to situating the consolidation of nationalism’s electoral power: economic factors pertaining to austerity governance and the precarity of post-industrial labour; media factors regarding shifts in cycles of news circulation and the role of digital platforms in particular; as well as the broader political evacuation by the left of a counter-narrative to neoliberalism’s recent monopoly on our very conceptions of what is even considered politically possible.

It is the case, however, that new nationalism is also an affirmative system of making sense that roots itself across a multitude of well-established political traditions. Amidst this acknowledgment, where nationalism is itself a way of actively thinking about one’s social and political surroundings, it becomes vital that critics apprehend the different conceptual traditions informing the nationalist rationality; a new nationalist cacophony that is righteously liberal, mournfully conservative, belligerently neoliberal, and solidaristically leftist, all at once – and necessarily so. A critique of nationalism is therefore, when properly realised, also a critique of how these respective traditions as currently construed are either complicit in the demonisation of various outsider figures and/or remain hapless at sponsoring robustly anti-racist narratives.

This blog post is part of an IPR series focused on the rise of racism and the far right. This collection of commissioned blog posts will be published as an IPR Policy Brief in summer 2017. Sign up to the IPR blog to get the latest blog posts, or join our mailing list to receive invitations to our events and copies of our Policy Briefs. Much of this article’s argument constitutes the point of departure for a book that Dr Sivamohan Valluvan is currently working on, provisionally titled The New Nationalism and to be published in 2018 by Manchester University Press.

 

Footnotes

[1] It should be acknowledged that a strongman authoritarian nationalism has already been consolidated in other regional contexts, the most conspicuous being Putin in Russia, Modi in India, Erdogan in Turkey and also, perhaps in a less spectacular sense, Abe in Japan. These contexts are not, however, germane to my argument as regarding the particular ideological configurations prevalent in Europe.
[2] It seems salutary to note here that for a long time, outside of the increasingly siloed field of race and racism, it was a considerable struggle to get questions of the nationalist wave onto the sociological or political agenda. The reasons for this omission as far as academia is concerned are legion – including the above reduction of race and racism attentiveness to merely another discrete academic specialism; the counter-productive fixation with an unimaginatively construed notion of ‘impact’; as well as a byzantine preoccupation with methodological trivialities, increasingly set up as a social science end in itself.
[3] Valluvan has written elsewhere about how we might want to situate the economic within the broader rise of new nationalism, a context that is certainly integral to any comprehensive explanatory account of populist-nationalism but must not be attributed an exhaustive causality.
[4] Affirmative bonds of community that are contrasted to the ‘thin abstract altruism’ of liberal humanism and/or cosmopolitanism. I borrow this phrasing from a short piece on the cosmopolitanism contra communitarianism debate by Gyan Prakash.
[5] The Scandinavian context has increasingly become an accurate portent for later political developments in the UK. Not only are the tropes favoured by British populist-nationalists already well-rehearsed over a longer duration by prominent Nordic outfits, but it was Scandinavia (not least Sweden) that first trialled many of the key manoeuvres definitive of a whole range of recent political developments: for instance, the nominal ‘greening’ of the centre-right as well as their rebranding as the ‘worker’s party’; the outsourcing and deregulation of public provisioning in healthcare and education (e.g. Free Schools); alongside the 1990s embrace of neoliberal maxims by formally Social Democratic parties. For a lively recent account of Sweden’s unique place in the political imagination, see Gavan Titley’s ‘Swedens of the Mind’.

 

How Not to do Devolution: Wales and the Problem of Legislative Competence

📥  UK politics

Dr David Moon is Lecturer in Politics and Tomos Evans is a postgraduate research student in the Department of Politics, Languages & International Studies at the University of Bath.

There is agreement that the reserved powers model – on which Scotland and Northern Ireland operate – is a better way of devolving power than the conferred powers model used by Wales. But the Wales Act 2017, which will move Wales to a reserved powers model, will still not solve many of the problems that the National Assembly for Wales faces.

Devolution in the UK is still in its teenage years and while both Scotland and Northern Ireland have experienced little change in the structures underpinning their devolution settlements, Wales’ settlement is about to undergo its third major change since 1998, thanks to the Wales Act 2017.

devolution

 

The story of Welsh constitution-building has been an example of how the process should not be done: for every step forward, it has seemed as if two were taken back. The new Act does not mark an end to this story; in March 2017, Richard Rawlings – who serves on the Welsh advisory committee of the Law Commission – claimed that the Wales Act 2017 “carries the seeds of its own destruction”. Understanding why this is the case and the lessons that others can learn from the Welsh example, it is important to focus upon the question of legislative competence; the different ways of devolving powers; and the torturous route taken to our current situation.

After a wafer-thin majority in favour of establishing a ‘Welsh Assembly’ in the 1997 referendum, the first National Assembly for Wales met on 12 May 1999. The National Assembly’s structures and powers were, at this point, reminiscent of a county council, not a parliament, being unable to pass primary legislation or raise any taxes. Marking the first major reform of the system, the Government of Wales Act 2006 provided the National Assembly with the means to pass ‘Measures’ – essentially Acts, but by a different name. This ability to pass Measures was closely guarded by Westminster, with the Assembly only able to gain Measure-making powers via an Act of Parliament or a ‘Legislative Competence Order’ (LCO), and with the 20 areas devolved to the Assembly being incrementally populated with ‘matters’ over which Measures could be passed.

This LCO system for legislating, which was in place between 2007 and 2011, has been rightly criticised as cumbersome, opaque, and bureaucratic. Yet, putting those issues to one side, the constitutional cleverness of the system yielded certain positives that only really became clear in retrospect, with the apparent step forward taken through the shift in 2011 to a system with direct, primary law-making powers for the Assembly.

The positives of the LCO system, outlined below, were directly related to the conferred powers model upon which Wales’ devolution settlement was founded. A conferred powers model of devolution provides a list of things you can do; in contrast, reserved powers models, like Scotland and Northern Ireland’s, provides a list of things you cannot do.

Since 2011, still operating within the constraints of a particular list of specific subjects upon which it could legislate, Wales’ settlement regularly falls victim to what might be labelled the ‘grey spots of GoWA’, the ‘silent subjects’, or to use the terminology of the UK’s Changing Union Partnership, ‘areas in limbo’. These are policy areas where there is a lack of clarity over who has power over certain broadly defined subject areas. The lack of clarity in the Welsh devolution settlement has created problems when formulating policy and legislating.

Two Acts of the Assembly – including the first ever – have been referred to the Supreme Court by the UK Government as they believed them to be outside of the Assembly’s competence. The Agricultural Sector (Wales) Bill ended up in the Supreme Court because of a major disagreement stemming from the abolition of the Agricultural Wages Board in 2013. The case is a prime example of the ‘grey spots of GoWA’: The Supreme Court held that the legislation was within the competence because ‘agricultural wages’ was not explicitly outside of the Assembly’s powers.

The most recent example of the lack of clarity affecting governing in Wales is around the UK Government’s Trade Union Act 2016. As the Bill made its way through the Westminster Parliament, the Welsh Government contested that some of its provisions should not extend to devolved public services and vowed to bring forward its own legislation to disapply those provisions in Wales at the earliest opportunity. In January 2017, the Welsh Government introduced the Trade Union (Wales) Bill to the National Assembly to repeal certain provisions of the Trade Union Act 2016 as they apply in Wales. The UK Government argues that trade union law is non-devolved and so it is highly likely that a third piece of Welsh legislation will end up in the Supreme Court via a UK Government referral.

Faced with this situation, it is with hindsight that the positives provided by the LCO system’s convoluted processes have become visible, through its otherwise overarching flaws:

(i) it provided clarity over legislative competence;

(ii) there was a presumption in favour of increasing the powers of the Assembly;

(iii) inter-governmental disagreements were dealt with at the beginning of the policy or law making process.

What the system did, in a conferred powers model, was provide the clarity which has been lacking and created problems since 2011 – avoiding subsequent trips to the Supreme Court.

The lack of clarity in the current system has been widely acknowledged by academics, civil society, and policymakers alike. But rather than return to the inherently flawed LCO system, there has been general agreement on the need to move from a conferred to a reserved powers model of devolution. The result is that the Wales Act 2017 will overhaul the Welsh devolution settlement and put it on the same foundations as Scotland and Northern Ireland – a reserved powers model. This reform was recommended by the Silk Commission in 2014 as a way of reducing the chronic uncertainties in Wales’ devolution settlement.

In its previous form the draft Wales Bill manged to make a fudge of the move to a reserved powers model: although it would have introduced more clarity, it would have created more hoops for the National Assembly to jump through to legislate, thus making it even more complex than the current system. As Robert Thomas’ comprehensive briefing on the matter highlights, the proposals solved one problem but created another, potentially worse one. One step forward, had become two steps back.

Revised and reformed, the reserved powers model that the Wales Act 2017 institutes is a superior way of devolving power, but it does not provide complete clarity or eliminate the scope for disagreement entirely. The reserved powers model is the best way to devolve power, but as the draft Wales Bill proves, the model in itself is no panacea.

Resultantly, although the Wales Act 2017 is supposed to provide a “strong and lasting” devolution settlement, it has only settled the conferred versus reserved powers model debate. Discussions over whether powers should sit in Cardiff or London – especially over policing and the judiciary – will continue. So it is that, as in 1998, 2007, and 2011, the 2017 Act creates as much as it conquers problems; Wales, once again, continues to provide a prime example to policymakers of what not to do.

This post, which was originally published on LSE's British Politics and Policy blog, draws upon arguments outlined in greater depth in the authors’ recent article “Welsh devolution and the problem of legislative competence”, published in British Politics.