The policy power of the Westminster parliament: The empirical evidence

The Constitution Unit Blog


The UK parliament continues to be dismissed as powerless in many academic and popular accounts. Drawing on a large body of quantitative and qualitative research conducted over more than 15 years, a recent article by Meg Russell and Philip Cowley argued that the Westminster parliament is in fact an institution with significant policy influence. Meg Russell summarises here.

In the study of public policy, legislatures tend to be portrayed as relatively weak institutions. This applies to the UK parliament in particular. The classic comparative view associates the Westminster model, of which the UK is seen as the emblematic case, with centralised executive power and an acquiescent legislature. Assumptions of Westminster’s weakness are not, however, confined to comparative scholars or to the recent past. In a 2011 article Matthew Flinders and Alexandra Kelso traced gloom-laden statements of British parliamentary powerlessness back over a century and more. Meanwhile, a public policy textbook

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French and Italian actual and equilibrium unemployment rate since 1968

Unlike the USA, the OECD’s host country’s actual and equilibrium unemployment rates track each other rather too closely for comfort. In contrast, Italian unemployment hardly ever catches up with the Italian equilibrium unemployment rate. In common with the US equilibrium unemployment rate, the Italian equilibrium unemployment rate was rather stable for quite some time.

Source: OECD Stat and OECD Economic Outlook November 2015

@greenpeaceNZ The expressive politics of action on global warming @RusselNorman

Utopia, you are standing in it!

Global warming is part of a political theatre that is made up of the symbols we boo and cheer.

People gain pleasure, excitement and self-definition for cheering for particular parties and worthy causes in the same way as they cheer and boo for sports teams.

Geoffrey Brennan, in Climate Change: A Rational Choice Politics View, Australian Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics, July 2009, argues that we will see many countries acting unilaterally to introduce carbon emission policies because expressive voters cheer for such policies.

Brennan argued that the nature of expressive concerns is such that significant reductions in real incomes are probably not politically sustainable in the long term. This suggested to him that much of the carbon reduction action will be limited to modest reductions of a largely token character.

There are many expressive voting concerns that politicians must balance to stay in office and the environment…

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Who gains from global warming alarmism?

Utopia, you are standing in it!

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Alfred Marshall on @johnmcdonnellMP socialism with an iPad


US and UK actual and equilibrium unemployment rates since 1971

I can’t think of a charitable explanation of why the equilibrium unemployment rate is so stable in the USA and yet tracks actual unemployment with a bit of a lag in the UK. There is a large literature showing that the equilibrium unemployment rate in the USA has gone up and down quite significantly if only for demographic reasons related to the baby boomers passing through the workforce in large numbers in the 70s.

Source: OECD Stat and OECD Economic Outlook November 2015.

There are now more mobile phones than people

Science is never done – some scientific terms explained

Open Parachute

The above great video by It’s Okay To Be Smart explains words such as theory, hypothesis, fact and law in the way that scientists use them, not the way we use them in everyday speech.

As the article at Sciencedump,You might think you know, but do you really? Important scientific words explained!, says:

“I don’t know about you, but I’m getting kind of sick of people misunderstanding the words theory and hypothesis and turning them into something bad. Whenever I hear someone say that evolution is only a theory, I am immediately reminded of Wallace Shawn’s character Vizzini from The Princess Bride going around yelling “inconceivable!” at every turn, and in really having no clue what it actually means.”

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