Daily Archives: September 19, 2013

Stereotyping Political Systems

I have spent a fair amount of time arguing that the UK political system does not live up to its ‘majoritarian’ image. I mostly do it when comparing ‘new Scottish politics’ with ‘old Westminster’ and have recently extended the analysis to the ‘consensus’ Sweden. However, it has become a bit like getting rid of the bubbles in wallpaper: just as I feel like I’ve smoothed one out, up pops another. This time it’s Japan, after I found this (yes, I know it’s taken a while): Japan’s ‘Un-Westminster’ System. It contains a very interesting discussion about the need for prime ministers in Japan to negotiate with parties and bureaucrats to secure major reforms. So far, so good. However, then, it makes the assumption that they don’t do this sort of thing in the UK. No one needs to negotiate because power is concentrated in the centre. The more general sense I get is that many studies simply assume that Japan’s system contains unusual sources of inertia and/ or incrementalism  without making sure that the UK lacks those elements (see pp104-6 on incrementalism UPP pp104-6 from Understanding Public Policy) . Instead the comparison is between real life Japan – with case studies of, say, expectations and implementation gaps – and fairytale UK. It will keep me in work for years.

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The Daily Mail has form

Today’s Daily Mail has this brilliant piece by Simon Heffer in which he argues that “Since the mid-Nineties I have been convinced  that England and Scotland would benefit from a divorce, or at least from a trial  separation. Many Scots don’t much like the English and appear ungrateful for  everything that England does for them in showering them with money”. There hasn’t been a storm as such – perhaps because if people spend their time calling each other arseholes they won’t pay much attention to someone calling them scroungers – although there is a reasonable-in-comparison reply on the blog of the Yes campaign.

Some people on twitter have pointed out that this piece appeared on the front page of the main London edition but not at all in the Scottish edition:

All I’d like to add is that the Daily Mail has form in this area. I like to show my students this example from 2007, entitled Scots to axe prescriptions – leaving England to pick up the bill which argues that free prescriptions represent “the last straw for English taxpayers forced to pay for a huge range of public  service handouts for Scottish citizens” and gives you a great cut-out-and-keep list of the Scottish advantages and English disadvantages, accompanied by their respective flags (it also gives you a timely link to the pilots for free school meal in Scotland). As it turns out, it was only the penultimate straw (perhaps because 89% of prescriptions in England are free and the Daily Mail has enjoyed a few recent wins – for example, there are drugs you can get in England, not Scotland).

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Filed under Scottish politics, UK politics and policy