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Modern British Politics

Course outline

This course aims to give students a basic understanding of the changing nature of UK politics in a new environment of globalisation and the decline of British power. It examines the constitutional framework and covers both the institutional aspects as well as political parties, culture and values. It analyses the way in which UK sovereignty is being eroded by devolution to its national regions (Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales) and the controversial process of UK integration into the European Union leading to questions such as to whether Scotland should leave the Union and the UK exit from the EU.

It examines the “Special Relationship” with the US and the Atlantic Alliance and how this relates to Britain’s policy towards the E.U. It covers the transformation of the UK’s policy consensus from the post war period to the present, i.e. from social democracy to liberal market, including the impact of Thatcherism, New Labour and the aftermath of the banking crisis. Specific policy areas such as the Equalities Agenda, multiculturalism and foreign policy will allow students to examine a few key issues in greater depth. Controversial issues of the constitution such as the marginalisation of parliament and the excessive power of the executive as well as the need for reform of the second chamber and the electoral system will be critically examined. Electoral behaviour in the post war period will be discussed with particular reference to the 2010 election and the emergence of a coalition government.

The aim is for students to understand why these issues have emerged and why UK citizens differ in their attitudes to political policies and institutional reform and how these are reflected in the major political parties and at election times.


The overall aim is that students should understand the changing nature of British politics in response to the changing nature of the economy and the world order. This approach should enable students to comprehend the interconnected nature of the numerous changes and reforms taking place. The objective is to encourage students to read newspapers, watch key television programmes in order to acquire an insight into current British politics as well as to use text books, articles and the internet for research purposes. The course should enable them to compare and contrast British political life with their American experience and appreciate the similarities and differences. The approach will be to encourage both empathy and critical evaluation of institutions, policies and controversial political issues and to promote a facility of independent and critical judgement. In pursuance of this aim, the emphasis will be on debating the variety of different perspectives and interpretations of the above political issues and questions.

A tour of Parliament and a talk by a Member of Parliament will be arranged.


At the end of this course you will be able to:

  • understand the major transformations in British politics since WW II to the present
  • analyse and explain the factors which account for these changes
  • assess critically the arguments concerning political reform
  • understand the values and ideological perspectives underpinning differing policy views
  • compare and contrast elements of British political life with American experience
  • use a variety of sources for research and essay work


Assessed component Basic requirements Weighting Deadline
Mid-term essay 2500 words 30% Week 7
Final essay 2500 words 30% Week 13
Course work assessment To be confirmed by tutor 10% Week 14
Examination Two hours with a choice of questions 40% Week 14

Core reading

R.Leach et al, British Politics, Palgrave, 2011
Andrew Gamble, Between Britain and America, the future of British Politics, Palgrave, 2003
Alistair Jones, Britain and the European Union, Edinburgh University Press, 2007
G.A. Bryant, The Nations of Britain, Oxford UP, 2006
M.Moran, Politics and Governance in the UK, 2nd edition, Palgrave MacMillan, 2011