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1This LISA e-journal issue intends to map the British political landscape in the early 21st century, i.e. to present the players (major, minority, national parties, trade unions, pressure groups, militants, etc.) who, on the electoral and media centre-stage, on its fringe or in the Westminster lobbies, try to impose their agendas and influence the public debate in a way that serves their own purposes. The field of research therefore stretches from the extreme-right to the far-left and includes both registered parties and organisations whose action is more broadly political (influencing the elected representatives, mobilising the citizens, taking an active part in public life outside officially constituted groups, etc.).

2The first purpose is to have a better knowledge of the aforementioned players. What is the ideological background on which the identity of these parties or organisations is founded ? What are the core values that provide coherence to the group ? Is the latter still faithful to its original values (resilience, mutation, rebirth, etc.) ? The second aspect focuses on the agendas and the strategies of these parties/organisations. What are their official objectives in today’s socioeconomic and political context ? What methods do they favour to promote their views or to carry out their action (election, lobbying, information, etc.) ? Who is their target audience ? What means of communication do they use (media, network, etc.) and how are they generally perceived ? Finally, their influence and achievements will be assessed. The overall aim, to which the following articles contribute, is to have a better understanding of the workings of democracy in contemporary Britain. In a representative system of democracy such as the United Kingdom, political parties competing to secure electoral majorities and form governments obviously play a central part. But so do other players in the wings of power or on the margins of parliamentary politics.

What’s in a Name ? Britain as a “Representative Democracy”

  • 1 “We may be proud that England is the ancient country of Parliaments. With scarcely any (...)
  • 2 John R. Maddicott, The Origins of the English Parliament, 924-1327, Oxford : OUP, 2012. See (...)

3Once described by radical MP John Bright as the “mother of Parliaments”,1 England (and Britain by extension) has a long tradition of institutionalised political representation. This tradition may be traced back to the Middle Ages when the barons gathered together and forced the monarch to relinquish his absolute power.2 The Glorious Revolution of 1688 established parliamentary supremacy – officially enshrined in the Bill of Rights – but a genuine parliamentary representation of the people only emerged in the 19th century with the progressive extension of the suffrage.

4This period witnessed the development of representative democracy, whereby political power is wielded by elected representatives of the people who act on behalf and in the name of the latter. In his essay about the budding American republic, Thomas Paine extolled the virtue of representation in contrast to “direct” or “simple” democracy :

  • 3 Thomas Paine, The Rights of Man, Part II : “Combining Principle and Practice”, Chap (...)

Simple democracy was society governing itself without the use of secondary means. By ingrafting representation upon democracy, we arrive at a system of government capable of embracing and confederating all the various interests and every extent of territory and population […].3

  • 4 Thomas Paine, Writings, quoted in ibid., li-lv.
  • 5 Thomas Paine, Common Sense, Part I : “On the Origin and Design of Government in Gen (...)

5Paine also adopted John Locke’s theory of the “social compact” according to which members of a society renounce their absolute freedom to abide by a system of laws passed by their elected representatives.4 However, in his “concise remarks on the English constitution”, the author of Common Sense insisted that frequent elections should be held, so “the elected might by that means return and mix again with the general body of the electors”. As a consequence, “this frequent interchange will establish a common interest with every part of the community, they will mutually and naturally support each other, and on this (not on the unmeaning name of king) depends the strength of government and the happiness of the governed”.5

  • 6 John Stuart Mill, Considerations on Representative Government, Chap. III : “That th (...)

6In Considerations on Representative Government (1861), John Stuart Mill argued “that the only government which can fully satisfy all the exigencies of the social state is one in which the whole people participate”, but admitted that “since all cannot, in a community exceeding a single small town, participate personally in any but some very minor portions of the public business, it follows that the ideal type of a perfect government must be representative”.6 He added :

  • 7 Ibid., Chap. V : “Of the Proper Functions of Representative Bodies”, 59.

The meaning of representative government is, that the whole people, or some numerous portion of them, exercise through deputies periodically elected by themselves the ultimate controlling power, which, in every constitution, must reside somewhere. This ultimate power they must possess in all its completeness. They must be masters, whenever they please, of all the operations of government.7

  • 8 Ibid., Chap. VII : “Of True and False Democracy ; Representation of All, and Representatio (...)

7At the same time, he drew attention to the ambivalence of the concept of “representative democracy”. “Democracy, as commonly conceived and hitherto practiced,” he explained, “is the government of the whole people by a mere majority of the people exclusively represented” and may take the form of “a government of privilege in favour of the numerical majority, who alone possess practically any voice in the state”.8

  • 9 James Roland Pennock, “Political Representation : An Overview”, in James Roland Pennock & J (...)
  • 10 Ivor Bulmer-Thomas, The Growth of the British Party System, vol. I : 1640-1923, London : Jo (...)
  • 11 Brian McNair, An Introduction to Political Communication, London : Routledge, 2011 [1995], (...)
  • 12 Moshe Maor, Political Parties and Party Systems : Comparative Approaches and the British (...)
  • 13 Gracieli Scremin, Political Parties as Brands : Developing and Testing a Conceptual (...)
  • 14 The label was coined by Otto Kirchheimer, “The Transformation of Western European Party Sys (...)
  • 15 In 2010, 23 % of the surveyed electors said there existed “a great difference” between the (...)
  • 16 Holby City Woman was defined as “a female voter in her 30s or 40s, who works in the public (...)

8According to the first-past-the-post system, the members of parliament win their seats if they obtain the highest number of votes in their constituencies. When elected, they receive a “mandate” to make decisions on behalf of all their constituents but not necessarily with their explicit consent, although they are supposedly bound by a moral obligation to fulfil their campaign promises. In this respect, they act as “trustees” rather than mere “delegates” at the service of their voters.9 In such a system, political parties therefore play a major role. Ivor Bulmer-Thomas defined them as “[bodies] of persons associated together for the purpose of promoting a set of principles or policies by securing membership of the legislature and control of the executive functions of government”.10 In a more recent publication, Brian McNair presented political parties as “aggregates of more or less like-minded individuals, who come together within an agreed organisational and ideological structure to pursue common goals”.11 For the definition to be complete, one must add that they also are “electoral machines” meant to provide the funds, the staff and the logistic machinery without which no election campaign can be waged,12 and that they may be considered, to a certain extent, as “brands” whose names are associated with a given image.13 With the advent of universal suffrage and the progressive erosion of the traditional institutions that formerly conditioned electoral behaviour (family, church, trade union, etc.), they have become “catch-all” parties trying to appeal to as large an electorate as possible.14 This does not mean however that they have relinquished all ideologically-oriented goals despite the increasing popular feeling that the difference between the major parties has narrowed.15 Furthermore, their communication still focuses on specific segments of the voters, identified as key targets to win the election. In 2010, for example, the Conservatives curried favour with “Holby City Woman”, while Labour wooed “Motorway Man”.16

“Modernisation”, Participation and the “Crisis” of Political Representation : Challenge or Renewal of the Representative Democracy System ?

  • 17 Alison Park et al. (eds.), British Social Attitudes : The 28th Report, op. cit., 1 & 8.
  • 18 Andrew Grice & Colin Brown, “Cash-for-honours trail that leads to Number 10”, The I (...)
  • 19 According to a survey published in 2012, 18 % of people say that “it’s not worth voting”. A (...)
  • 20 Stuart Weir and David Beetham define those criteria as “[the] mediating principles that giv (...)

9Electoral strategies must take into account the historical identity of the party and its image amongst the public. However, leaders such as Labour’s Tony Blair and Conservative David Cameron are known for having “modernised” their respective party to make it electable again after years spent in opposition, and for having successfully revamped their party’s image. The SNP’s Alex Salmond, Sinn Féin’s Gerry Adams, UKIP’s Nigel Farage and, albeit to a lesser extent, the BNP’s Nick Griffin have also managed to enhance their party’s profile in the media and amongst public opinion, with varying degrees of subsequent success in electoral terms. The attention paid to public perception is deemed all the more necessary to respond to what many political pundits have diagnosed as a “crisis of political representation”, i.e. the idea that large sections of the public have lost faith in the capacity of their government and parliament to represent their interests.17 This “crisis” has been fuelled by repeated scandals and weariness with spin,18 which encourages protest voting for minor parties, or abstentionism, and may even result in a total loss of confidence in the electoral apparatus.19 In turn, this begs the question of the state’s (in its broadest sense, i.e. including the government, the parliament, political parties and public bodies) legitimacy to represent the people. In other words, this “crisis” challenges some of the “criteria for assessing the quality of democracy”.20

10In direct relation to this issue, civil society plays an ambiguous role. Voluntary actions by citizens’ organisations to exert pressure on the government may be interpreted as bids to restore representativeness, while influential lobbying by vested interest groups in Westminster could be seen as a justification for the aforementioned mistrust in politicians. Similarly, popular mobilisation outside the parliamentary sphere might be viewed as a restoration of direct democracy or, on the contrary, as attempts by minority groups to weaken public authority and order.

  • 21 John Scott & Gordon Marshall (eds.), Oxford Dictionary of Sociology, Oxford : OUP, (...)
  • 22 Neera Chandhoke, State and Civil Society : Explorations in Political Theory, London : Sage, (...)

11Following Hegel’s theory set out in The Philosophy of Right (1861), civil society is defined as the intermediate sphere between the individual (or the private realm of the family) and the state (the country’s legal and political institutions) where members of society freely associate on common interests and goals with a view to conducting collective action (NGOs, trade unions, pressure groups, charities, etc.). In this respect, “[it] can also be seen as the dynamic side of citizenship”.21 Neera Chandhoke defines civil society as “the site at which mediations and contestations take place, the site at which society enters into a relationship with the state”.22 The level of this interaction is part and parcel of the workings of democracy and deserves a closer examination. Z.-A. Pelczynski makes the following distinction between the means and ends of the state, on the one hand, and those of civil society, on the other :

  • 23 Z.-A. Pelczynski, “Introduction : The Significance of Hegel’s Separation of the State (...)

The activities of the civil sphere are aimed at particular interests or private rights of individuals and groups; those of the political sphere – at the general interests of the whole community. The private ends of civil society and the public ends of the state can be realized by private and by public means. In both cases there is a mixture of spontaneous individual and group actions, and planned, organised, authoritative actions of people exercising public functions.23

  • 24 Thierry Baudet, The Significance of Borders : Why Representative Government and the Rule of (...)
  • 25 Robert Dahl, A Preface to Democratic Theory, Chicago : University of Chicago Press, 1956, (...)
  • 26 Robert Dahl, Democracy and its Critics, Yale : Yale University Press, 1989, 233.

12The frontier between general and private interests is however often blurred. Groups outside parliament may exert pressure on MPs or the government because they deem that the latter’s action fails to serve the general good and favours private interests. On the other hand, MPs may feel obedient to actors other than their constituents – their party obviously but also lobbies on behalf of whom they may influence legislation, leading to discussions on whether “members of parliaments may have come to resemble more the characteristics of a delegate […], to the detriment of their representativeness of the people at large”.24 In any case, democracy requires active citizenship. It is also dependent on the acceptance of a set of basic norms by the population. This view echoes Robert Dahl’s argument when he suggested that “polyarchy” (the rule of the many) would be a more appropriate term than “democracy” (the rule of the people) to describe the political system that has become dominant in the industrial states.25 In one of his latest works, he reiterated that citizens “have an effectively enforced right to form and join autonomous associations, including political associations, such as political parties and interest groups, that attempt to influence the government by competing in elections and by other peaceful means”.26 This raises the question as to what strategies and means are used by those “political associations” (be they representatives of social groups or industries) and what influence they exert.

Political Parties : Strengthening their Identity, Adapting their Image

Government Parties : Winning and Holding Power

13After being kept in opposition for 13 years (1997-2010), the Conservatives were returned to office albeit with no overall majority. This success (though “half-baked”) was largely attributed to David Cameron’s effort to reform the party after winning the leadership contest in December 2005. His strategy implied both a repositioning of the party on the ideological spectrum and the development of new communication techniques in a bid to modernise its image.

14Géraldine Castel examines how the construction of David Cameron’s public persona as a young, modern, and dynamic leader coincided with an increased reliance on the internet as a campaign tool to reach a new electorate and bring back to the Conservative fold voters who had grown disaffected with a party mainly perceived as “nasty”. In this respect, Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign and the “MyBarackObama.com” website were largely influential, and Géraldine Castel points out that, although 2010 was prematurely hailed as the first true e-election, the now extensive use of the web by parties entails a new approach to campaigning.

15Harry Cheesman’s contribution focuses on the ideological agenda that lies behind the “more polished image” crafted by the party’s strategists to define David Cameron’s “detoxified brand” of Conservatism and identify what “Cameronism” stands for. David Cameron has puzzled many by describing himself as “the heir to Blair”. He also blurred former ideological frontiers, paying explicit attention to poverty and promoting social liberalism, on the one hand, while challenging welfare state provision, flexing his authoritarian muscles and introducing reforms in health and education, on the other. In doing so, he redefined the relationship between the state and the citizens to an extent that goes beyond Margaret Thatcher’s own agenda when she was in office. In that sense, Harry Cheesman argues that Cameron’s approach disregards one of the Iron Lady’s key teachings (“talk radical, act conservative”), as the conservative veil of his discourse only conceals a will to “act radical”.

16A greener, more centrist and compassionate attitude (“vote blue, go green” was the slogan for the 2006 local election campaign) is nonetheless one of the elements that may have provided sufficient common ground for the signature of a coalition agreement with the Liberal Democrats, after the hung parliament that resulted from the 2010 general election had placed the Lib Dems in the position of “king makers”. Political commentators were prompt in exhuming David Lloyd George’s coalition cabinet (1916-22) as the Liberals’ last experience in government, though Nick Clegg’s party was much different from that of the “Welsh wizard”. With special attention paid to the last two decades, Muriel Cassel-Piccot analyses how the Liberal Democrats’ successive leaders (with different strategies and personalities) have successfully transformed their party into a more professionalised, more media-oriented and more leader-centred electoral machine. This has admittedly enabled them to move from the position of “contender” to that of “coalitionist”, but has also created much tension in a party still characterised by its federalist and democratic structure.

17For major parties, time spent in opposition is often marked by internal crisis and reconstruction so as to “make the party electable again”. Frequently dubbed “modernisation”, the leadership’s direction is often questioned by certain sections of the party and by supporters who equate this shift with a renouncement of core principles. This phenomenon is exemplified by the Labour Party’s “reinvention” into “New Labour”, initiated by Neil Kinnock in the mid-1980s and completed by Tony Blair and Gordon Brown in the following decades. This is why it is particularly relevant to examine how Ken Livingstone has always constituted a “thorn in (New) Labour’s side”, as Timothy Whitton suggests. The former head of the Greater London Council and ex-mayor of London has always been known as an outspoken maverick, and has, many a time, taken stances that were at variance with his party’s official line. To that extent, he has represented “a threat for the political integrity of the Labour Party”, whether as a symbol of the loony left in the 1980s or, in the 2000s, as a genuine advocate of decentralisation in opposition to the government’s wish to crown only obedient princes in the newly created local institutions. Timothy Whitton assesses Red Ken’s “legacy and role within and against Labour” and argues that he forged his own brand of politics.

“National” Parties : From the Margins to the Mainstream

18The second subsection explores further the theme of devolution and focuses on political parties described as “nationalist” or self-christened “national”, and on their role and positioning in their respective area of influence.

19Edwige Camp tells the story of how the Scottish National Party (SNP) evolved “from a minor single-issue party of protest to a party of government with a fully-fledged range of policies”, with special focus on the leadership of Alex Salmond that saw the Scottish Nationalists establish themselves as the main opposition party to Labour before they became the ruling party with an overall majority at Holyrood. Edwige Camp chooses an historical perspective to analyse how the SNP has, on the one hand, progressively embraced social democracy with a gradual approach to independence, and has, on the other, been waging increasingly professional campaigns to reach new voters, become a catch-all party, and impose itself as the champions of Scottish interests. In the process, it has received the growing support of local businessmen, has secured endorsements from Scottish celebrities (including Sean Connery), has seen its membership and funds rise, and has learnt to woo the media.

20Though the two territories are often compared, devolution has not aroused the same enthusiasm and has not produced the same effects in Scotland and in Wales. Neither has Plaid Cymru enjoyed the same fortunes as the SNP. The Welsh Assembly’s legislative powers are being gradually extended (or “deepened”) but Labour still holds a majority of seats, and Plaid Cymru’s participation in a coalition executive has not helped them raise their profile in a significant way. In her article, Moya Jones also points out that civil society has been “less the driver of nationhood than in Scotland”. It remains heterogeneous and its cooperation with the Welsh Assembly Government still needs improving, though it is worth noting that the role played by Wales’ “movers and shakers” is increasingly significant.

21The recent evolution of the Northern Irish nationalist parties is yet again different in relation to the local context. The end of the Troubles has reshuffled the political cards. This is especially true as far as Sinn Féin is concerned. It has long been seen as an outcast player advocating absentionism, and as the mere political wing of the Irish Republican Army (IRA), with an offensive strategy based on the association of “the armalite and the ballot box”. However, since the outset of the peace process in the late 1990s, it has successfully traded the armalite for “Armani suits”, now condemning terrorism, renouncing its abstentionist strategy, adopting a left-wing agenda, and enjoying new access to the media. Agnès Maillot argues that this transformation – both in terms of internal cohesion and public perception – was made possible by Sinn Féin’s capacity to adapt its strategies and discourse to a new, rapidly changing context. The 2007 Northern Irish Assembly election saw Sinn Féin take over from the SDLP as the main nationalist party, while Ian Paisley’s DUP gained more seats than the UUP in the unionist camp, therefore allowing them to form a power-sharing executive. Agnès Maillot underlines that this may be the result of a more moderate approach by the two winning parties, more than the victory of radicalism, though one should not deny the many problems that still lie ahead, regarding the ever-present sectarian divide in the Province and the sometimes contradictory agendas of the coalition partners.

22As seen in the three preceding articles, nationalism has positive connotations in the fringe nations. The term has a totally different ring in England, where it is associated with far right and populist parties, such as the BNP (British National Party) and UKIP (UK Independence Party). Jerôme Jamin concentrates on the former and analyses the reasons behind the recent successful participation of the BNP in mainstream politics and its electoral rise in comparison with other extreme right parties (ERPs) in Europe. Based on detailed definitions of the far right and populist ideologies and on a thorough reading of the party’s publications, his contribution aims at determining whether the BNP still belongs to the ERP’s family or whether, due to its newly-found democratic legitimacy, it may rather be classified as an “anti-elite”, populist party.

  • 27 Roger Scruton, A Dictionary of Political Though, op. cit., 329.

23The fact that the electoral rise of an officially registered party may be considered as a threat to democracy raises the question of legitimacy in a political system based on “mandation” (the elected representatives receive “a mandate from the electorate”).27 To some, this might be interpreted as but another symptom of the “crisis of political representation”. Political life in a representative democracy cannot be reduced to the regular say given to citizens at elections. Civil society plays a significant role within or outside the parliamentary sphere, and may take the form of more or less organised movements and groups whose ambition might be either to exert pressure on the public authorities or to develop alternative political and societal systems.

Civil Society : Active Citizenship, Lobbying Activities and the Counter-public Sphere

  • 28 Speech to the Singapore Business Community, 8 January 1996. See, for example, Nina (...)

24In the 1990s, New Labour leader Tony Blair promoted the concept of “stakeholding society”, i.e. a society where individuals and civil society organisations – enjoying their rights and fulfilling their duties – would play an active role in the conduct of public affairs.28 The first subsection focuses on groups who use the political structure as it stands with a view to influencing the elected representatives of the people to have legislation passed in their favour or in what they consider to be the general interest.

Trade Unions and Pressure Groups : Social Stakeholders or Vested Interests ?

25Anne Beauvallet’s contribution deals with teachers’ unions in England. These unions played a significant part in shaping education policies until the 1970s when they started to lose their influence. The 1970s also witnessed the emergence of new unions that adopted radically different approaches and strategies, with traditional unions (NUT, NASUWT) campaigning on ideological grounds, while more recent ones (ATL, Voice) tended to restrict their claims to working conditions, and even (as in the case with Voice) defended an explicit “no-strike” policy. The Conservative reforms of the Thatcher years produced a “ratchet effect” as New Labour, despite a more favourable attitude towards teachers, fully embraced their core principles : parental choice, diversification in education providers, increasing influence of management theories, etc. Although teachers’ unions have shown unity in their opposition to academies and free schools, Anne Beauvallet argues that they have been unable to generate an alternative discourse against the neoliberal ideology, and have presented a fragmented front against the government, undecided about the strategy to adopt between “rapprochement” and “resistance”.

26Karine Rivière-De Franco focuses on the actors who campaign to enhance women’s representation in parliament. Despite an increase in the proportion of female MPs under New Labour, women are still largely under-represented in parliament (they only accounted for 22 % of the 2010 intake), which prompted renewed activism outside political parties to exert pressure on the legislators. Karine Rivière-De Franco’s research is based on a qualitative survey that she carried out amongst a selection of pressure groups which rank political reform as one of their main targets. Her purpose is to define “the goals and modus operandi” of these organisations, taking into account the possible interactions between them and how their methods and strategies may differ.

27Jean-Claude Sergeant details how decisions are made by the government regarding budget allocations, and how the criteria that determine these choices are the result of a compromise between economic and political pressure, on the one hand, and the ambition to serve the general good, on the other. He offers a thorough analysis of the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review, a document published every 10 years or so to help adjust defence policies according to the identified potential threats to the security of the country. His paper explores “the various determinants that intervene in the decision making process in the field of military equipment acquisition currently applied by the Ministry of Defence (MoD)” in a context of drastic spending cuts and incumbent deficit. He dissects how choices of defence strategy are influenced, amongst other factors, by the UK’s “special relationship” with the US and the need to keep up with the equipment of the American Forces, and by the “cosy relationship” that binds together MPs, MoD procurement officials and major defence industrialists.

  • 29 See, for example, Jeffrey Wimmer, “Revitalization of the Public Sphere ? A Meta (...)

28The three preceding articles shed light on the relationship between civil society organisations and the government. Other groups may, on the contrary, participate in the creation of a “counter-public sphere”29 set against a hegemonic public sphere dominated by established political actors and characterised by its vindication of the existing order. Extreme left parties, environmentalist organisations, and anarchist groups differ in their aims and strategies, but share the common feature of offering alternative modes of political mobilisation and action outside the parliamentary sphere. These movements are made up of active citizens – often dubbed “activists” or “militants” – who have become disillusioned with the representative system, and now mistrust it – or even reject it altogether.

Activism and Direct Action : From Entrism to Alternative Political Offers

29Can radical change be introduced by organisations directly competing with mainstream political parties ? It seems not, Jeremy Tranmer demonstrates, as the extreme left has so far proved unable to become a major force in Britain despite its capacity to mobilise large crowds in extra-parliamentary activities (mainly demonstrations). Jeremy Tranmer posits that the misfortune of the extreme left in Britain cannot be analysed without taking into account its relationship with the Labour Party. He looks into how the extreme left has long been weakened by an ambivalent strategy that hesitated between three options : exerting pressure on the Labour Party from outside, advocating “entrism” into the latter (to exert pressure from the inside), or forming an independent political entity that would compete with the main centre-left party on the political scene. It eventually opted for the last solution but this clearer positioning failed to improve its electoral success. This article examines the weaknesses of the extreme left and its evolution over the last hundred years through the prism of its relationship with Labour.

30The British green movement also had to address some of the issues faced by the extreme left, since it has adopted a dual strategy in a bid to combine political alternatives with the greening of the existing political system. Brendan Prendiville reminds us that, although the term itself was only coined in the late 20th century, the origins of environmentalism (or “movement for the environment”) may be traced back to Victorian times and the struggle against the consequences of industrialisation on not only the natural but also the social environment. However it was only in the 1970s that it became associated with mass movement gatherings, the setting up of a political party, pressure groups, think tanks and militant organisations. Brendan Prendiville observes that there has been a “transition from a largely apolitical conservationism to a politically-aware environmentalism” and defines the latter as “a form of ‘party-movement’ with a distinctly alternative set of beliefs, values, political practices and lifestyles to mainstream society and politics”. Furthermore, against a background of different reformist and radical strategies, he reveals how the movement has widened its concerns from protection of the natural environment to the need for an alternative social and economic model in any viable solution to environmental problems.

31Anarchism takes a step further in challenging the existing order and advocating political alternatives. Both as a movement and an ideology, anarchism is usually perceived in negative terms by the mainstream media, as exemplified by its association with the 2011 English riots or protest movements such as Occupy London. While confined to the margins of mainstream parliamentary politics, contemporary anarchism in Britain stems from a long established tradition and still holds a significant place amongst not only the radical left, but also ecological and anti-racist groups, the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) movement or animal rights organisations. Benjamin Franks and Ruth Kinna posit that anarchism is “not merely political theory and that it necessarily describes an active commitment to social transformation, articulated through active protest”. Non-hierarchical organisation, direct action, anti-capitalism and resistance to official government remain core features within the anarchist movement but its ideology is open to dispute, even amongst anarchists, as it accommodates different, and sometimes contradictory, trends. Benjamin Franks and Ruth Kinna’s article rests on a body of theoretical works and examples of active militancy to define the core concepts of contemporary anarchism, while pointing out that the use of analytical tools generally used in mainstream political science poses a methodological problem to circumscribe such a definition. They also assess the anarchists’ achievements in spreading their ideas and means of action outside militants.

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Notes

1 “We may be proud that England is the ancient country of Parliaments. With scarcely any intervening period, Parliaments have met constantly for 600 years, and there was something of a Parliament before the Conquest. England is the mother of Parliaments.” John Bright, speech at Birmingham on 18 January 1865, quoted in Peter Kellner, Democracy : 1,000 Years in Pursuit of British Liberty, Edinburgh : Mainstream, 2009, 337.

2 John R. Maddicott, The Origins of the English Parliament, 924-1327, Oxford : OUP, 2012. See also Samuel Finer, The History of Government from the Earliest Times, vol. 2 : “The Intermediate Ages”, Oxford : OUP, 1997, 1024-1032.

3 Thomas Paine, The Rights of Man, Part II : “Combining Principle and Practice”, Chap. III : “Of the Old and New Systems of Government”, 1792, quoted in Harry Hayden Clark, Thomas Paine : Representative Selections, with Introduction, Bibliography and Notes, New York : American Book Company, 1944, 193.

4 Thomas Paine, Writings, quoted in ibid., li-lv.

5 Thomas Paine, Common Sense, Part I : “On the Origin and Design of Government in General, with Concise Remarks on the English Constitution”, 1776, quoted in ibid., 6 (Paine’s italics).

6 John Stuart Mill, Considerations on Representative Government, Chap. III : “That the ideally best form of government is representative government”, Rockville, MD : Serenity Publishers, 2008 [1861], 49. See also <http://www.gutenberg.org/files/5669/5669-h/5669-h.htm>.

7 Ibid., Chap. V : “Of the Proper Functions of Representative Bodies”, 59.

8 Ibid., Chap. VII : “Of True and False Democracy ; Representation of All, and Representation of the Majority only”, 85.

9 James Roland Pennock, “Political Representation : An Overview”, in James Roland Pennock & John William Chapman (eds.), Representation : Yearbook of the American Society for Political and Legal Philosophy (NOMOS, n°X), New York : Atherton Press, 1968, 15, quoted in Thierry Baudet, The Significance of Borders : Why Representative Government and the Rule of Law Require Nation States, Leiden : Brill, 2012, 181. Edmund Burke made the following distinction : “A delegate merely mirrors and records the views of his constituents, whereas a representative is elected to judge according to his own conscience” (idem). See also Ian Shapiro et al. (eds.), Political Representation, Part II : “Theories of Political Representation”, Cambridge : CUP, 2009, 61-138 ; Nadia Urbinati, Representative Democracy : Principles and Genealogy, Chicago : University of Chicago Press, 2006, 20-25.

10 Ivor Bulmer-Thomas, The Growth of the British Party System, vol. I : 1640-1923, London : John Baker, 1967 [1965], 3.

11 Brian McNair, An Introduction to Political Communication, London : Routledge, 2011 [1995], 5.

12 Moshe Maor, Political Parties and Party Systems : Comparative Approaches and the British Experience, London : Routledge, 1997 ; Keith D. Ewing, The Cost of Democracy : Party Funding in Modern British Politics, Oxford : Hart Publishing, 2007.

13 Gracieli Scremin, Political Parties as Brands : Developing and Testing a Conceptual Framework for Understanding Party Equity, Austin : University of Texas Press, 2007.

14 The label was coined by Otto Kirchheimer, “The Transformation of Western European Party System”, in Joseph La Palombara & Myron Weiner (eds.), Political Parties and Political Development, Princeton, NJ : Princeton University Press, 1966, 177-200.

15 In 2010, 23 % of the surveyed electors said there existed “a great difference” between the parties, compared to 88 % in 1983. 2005 witnessed an all-time low with only 13 % perceiving “a great difference” between the parties. Alison Park et al. (eds.), British Social Attitudes : The 28th Report, London : Sage, 2012, 8 & 20.

16 Holby City Woman was defined as “a female voter in her 30s or 40s, who works in the public sector, named after Faye Morton, the character played by Patsy Kensit in the long-running BBC drama”. “Motorway Man voted Labour in 1997 but his party allegiances are weak. He is in his 30s and has a young family. […] He lives in a semi-detached house, drives a mid-range saloon car, and dreams of trading up to a detached residence one day. He likes surfing the web, foreign holidays and going to the gym.” Brian Wheeler, “Who is the next Holby City Woman ?”, BBC News, 19/04/10 (< http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/politics/8620211.stm>). See also Jonathan Oliver, “David Cameron in bid to seduce Holby City Woman”, The Times, 26/07/09 ; Jim Pickard, “Party pollsters chase after Motorway Man”, The Financial Times, 21/01/10 (< http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/2c5b66b6-06c4-11df-b426-00144feabdc0.html >) ; Jamie Doward, “Motorway Man holds key to general election victory”, The Observer, 7/02/10 (< http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/feb/07/motorway-man-election-winner >).

17 Alison Park et al. (eds.), British Social Attitudes : The 28th Report, op. cit., 1 & 8.

18 Andrew Grice & Colin Brown, “Cash-for-honours trail that leads to Number 10”, The Independent, 31/01/07 (< http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/cashforhonours-trail-that-leads-to-number-10-434396.html>) ; Rebecca Lefort, “Four Labour MPs implicated in ‘cash for influence’ scandal”, The Daily Telegraph, 21/03/10 (< http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/labour/7490787/Four-Labour-MPs-implicated-in-cash-for-influence-scandal.html >) ; Patrick Wintour, “Political party funding rules face overhaul as talks continue”, The Guardian, 11/04/12 (< http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2012/apr/11/party-funding-overhaul-talks-continue >) ; “Q&A : News of the World phone-hacking scandal”, BBC News, 27/02/12 (< http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-11195407 >) ; John Curtice & Alison Park, “A tale of two crises : banks, MPs’ expenses scandal and public opinion”, in Alison Park et al. (eds.), British Social Attitudes : The 27th Report – Exploring Labour’s Legacy, London : Sage, 2010, 131-154.

19 According to a survey published in 2012, 18 % of people say that “it’s not worth voting”. Alison Park et al. (eds.), British Social Attitudes : The 28th Report, op. cit., 1.

20 Stuart Weir and David Beetham define those criteria as “[the] mediating principles that give substance to the core ideas of popular control and political equality in a representative democracy : popular authorisation, public accountability, governmental responsiveness, the representativeness of public bodies, reflecting and promoting equality of citizenship”. Stuart Weir & David Beetham, Political Power and Democratic Control in Britain, London : Routledge, 1999, 9.

21 John Scott & Gordon Marshall (eds.), Oxford Dictionary of Sociology, Oxford : OUP, 2005, 72. See also Roger Scruton, A Dictionary of Political Thought, London : Macmillan, 1996, 74.

22 Neera Chandhoke, State and Civil Society : Explorations in Political Theory, London : Sage, 1995, 9.

23 Z.-A. Pelczynski, “Introduction : The Significance of Hegel’s Separation of the State and Civil Society”, in Z.-A. Pelczynski (ed.), The State and Civil Society : Studies in Hegel’s Political Philosophy, Cambridge : CUP, 1984, 11.

24 Thierry Baudet, The Significance of Borders : Why Representative Government and the Rule of Law Require Nation States, op. cit., 180.

25 Robert Dahl, A Preface to Democratic Theory, Chicago : University of Chicago Press, 1956, 63-89.

26 Robert Dahl, Democracy and its Critics, Yale : Yale University Press, 1989, 233.

27 Roger Scruton, A Dictionary of Political Though, op. cit., 329.

28 Speech to the Singapore Business Community, 8 January 1996. See, for example, Nina Fishman, “Reinventing Corporatism”, The Political Quarterly, vol. 61, n°1, January-March 1997, 31-40 ; Paul Barry Clarke, Deep Citizenship, London : Pluto Press, 1996 ; Will Hutton, The Stakeholding Society : Writings on Politics and Economics, Cambridge : Polity Press, 1999 ; Rajiv Prabhakar, Stakeholding and New Labour, Basingstoke : Palgrave Macmillan, 2003 ; Rajiv Prabhakar, “Whatever Happened to Stakeholding ?”, Public Administration, vol. 82, n°3, August 2004, 567-584 ; John Clarke & Janet Newman, The Managerial State : Power, Politics and Ideology in the Remaking of Social Welfare, London : Sage, 2006 [1997].

29 See, for example, Jeffrey Wimmer, “Revitalization of the Public Sphere ? A Meta-Analysis of the Empirical Research about Counter-Public Spheres and Media Activism”, in Iñaki Garcia-Blanco, Sofie Van Bauwel & Bart Cammaerts (eds.), Media Agoras : Democracy, Diversity, and Communication, Newcastle-upon-Tyne : Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2009, 45-72.

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David Haigron, « Introduction », Revue LISA/LISA e-journal [En ligne], vol. XII-n°8 | 2014, mis en ligne le 20 décembre 2014, consulté le 17 octobre 2017. URL : http://lisa.revues.org/6935

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David Haigron

Université Rennes 2, France. David Haigron is a senior lecturer in contemporary British studies at the University of Rennes 2. In 2006, he completed a PhD on the British Conservative Party’s televised political broadcasts (1974-97). In 2009, he co-edited with Renée Dickason and Karine Rivière-De Franco a collective study on “Electoral Strategies and Campaigns in Great Britain and the United States” (Stratégies et campagnes électorales en Grande-Bretagne et aux États-Unis, Paris, L’Harmattan, coll. « Psychologie politique »). His recent publications include : “Les spots télévisés et les vidéos Internet des partis britanniques : de la représentation du réel à l’impact sur le reel” (in Isabelle Veyrat-Masson, Sébastien Denis et Claire Sécail, eds., Images, médias et politique, Paris, INA CNRS Editions, 2014) ; “British Party Election Broadcasts (2001, 2005 and 2010) : Ideological Framing, Storytelling, Individualisation” (InMedia [Online], n°2, 2012, ) ; “Campagne télévisée, spectacle télévisuel : les débats entre chefs de parti et les spots électoraux” (Revue française de civilisation britannique, vol. XVI, n°1, 2011) ; “Targeting ‘Essex Man’ and ‘C2 wives’ : The Representation of the Working Class Electorate in the Conservative Party Political Broadcasts (1970s-1980s)” (in Antoine Capet, ed., The Representation of Working People in Britain and France : New Perspectives, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Cambridge Scholars, 2009) ; and “‘Caring’ John Major : Portrait of a Thatcherite as a One-Nation Tory” (L’Observatoire de la société britannique, n°7, April 2009).

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