Danny Dorling on the persistence of social inequality

Based on his plenary session at the 2015 Policy & Politics conference on why social inequalities persist, Danny Dorling talked to Policy & Politics about the persistence of growing inequalities in the UK. Drawing on multiple sources of evidence, he suggests causal links with depleting mental health in the young, the increased use of anti-depressent drugs, and high rates of infant deaths than in similar affluent countries, sketching a narrative of the insidious potential social consequences for our society in a hundred years’ time…

Listen to his compelling call to action and the consequences of ignoring it…

For more on social inequalities and why they persist, see Danny’s latest book Injustice. For more of Danny’s work in Policy & Politics, read his latest article: Policy, Politics, Health and Housing in the UK.

Protecting the services of the middle classes

Annette Hastings and Peter Matthews
Annette Hastings and Peter Matthews

May 2015 saw another election victory for the Conservative party in a UK general election, as they formed a majority government at Westminster. Many are concerned about the social equity issues arising from some of the policy decisions already announced, not least the £12 billion in welfare cuts announced in the July budget. However, as we suggest in our paper past research shows we should not be surprised about the direction policy is taking – Julian LeGrand’s work analysing the spending priorities implicit in the cuts meted out by the Thatcher government between 1979 and 1983 showed not only that they were focused on welfare, but that they protected “middle class” services such as education and health. These are also the services that Conservative voters were most likely to use. Continue reading

2015 paper prizes are announced!

Last week at the conference dinner of the Policy & Politics Annual Conference, the 2015 prizes for award winning papers were announced.

The winner of the Ken Young prize for the best paper overall was awarded to Will Leggett for his 2014 article entitled ‘The politics of behavioural change: nudge, neo-liberalism and the state’, Policy & Politics, 42 (1), 3-19.

The winner of the Bleddyn Davies prize for the best early career paper was awarded to Caroline Kuzemko for her 2014 article entitled ‘Politicising UK energy: what “speaking energy security” can do’, Policy & Politics, 42 (2), 259-74.

Brief critiques of the winning articles written by Associate Editor Felicity Matthews in celebration of their contribution, follow. Continue reading

Can democracy survive?

IMG_3928by Tessa Coombes, PhD Researcher at Bristol University

For the final plenary session of the conference Prof. Andrew Gamble, from Cambridge University, took us back to the issue of democracy and its ability to survive and even thrive. We were reminded that for the first time in the modern state system authoritarian regimes are in retreat and representative democracy, in some form or other, is on the rise.

Representative liberal democracies have been described as the least admirable form of governance not least because of their inability to take difficult decisions and their short term thinking. Despite this, in the 20th century, representative democracy came to be seen as an ideal state. But it now seems we are in a time of transition, where there is a real disengagement and disillusionment with mainstream politics, where the choice is narrowing and where people are indifferent to their right to vote. This crisis of representative politics reflects a crisis of trust in our politics and politicians. Once more, despite this process, representative democracy Continue reading

The human cost of inequality

IMG_3932by Tessa Coombes, guest blogger for P&P conference 2015

The second day of the conference started with an excellent presentation from Prof. Kate Pickett, from the University of York. Kate co-authored the influential book “The Spirit Level” which provided evidence to illustrate how almost everything is affected not by how wealthy a society is but how equal it is. The book was written at a time when inequality was not being discussed, and even now, whilst it is indeed the subject of much more debate on an international stage, it is still only rhetoric, and we are still waiting for this to translate into real action.

There are some shocking statistics that illustrate the level of the challenge we face across the globe, such as the one used by Oxfam – the 85 richest people on the planet have the same wealth as 3.5 billion of the poorest people – illustrating a truly grotesque level of inequality. But, as Kate pointed out, we need to remember that these are not just meaningless, abstract numbers, they represent real human suffering and have real impacts. Continue reading

Why social inequality persists

IMG_3926by Tessa Coombes, guest blogger for P&P Conference 2015.

The second plenary session of the Policy and Politics Annual Conference was delivered by Prof. Danny Dorling, who provided a shocking and somewhat scary analysis of the increasing levels of inequality in the UK. The big question for us all to consider is why there is no consistent challenge to this situation and why we appear to accept the disparities that exist. Why is it acceptable and why would anyone think inequalities are a good thing?

One answer to the question is that we don’t actually realise how unequal we are as a society. But a quick look through some of the statistics soon provides the evidence we need. Danny took us through graph after graph that more than adequately demonstrated just how big the problem is and that it is increasing. One example to illustrate the point, in 2010 the best off tenth of the population in the UK were nearly 14 times better off than the worst off tenth. By 2015 this had grown to more than 17 times better off, and if the trend continues on a similar course in less than 20 years the best off will have over 24 times as much disposable income as the worst off. The problem is that the change is gradual, we don’t notice it so much and we get Continue reading

Democracy without the state

tessa-profile2by Tessa Coombes, guest blogger for P&P Conference 2015.

The Policy and Politics Annual Conference 2015 kicked off with a fascinating challenge to our thinking about democracy and the state. Mark Purcell, from the University of Washington, took us on a philosophical journey of discovery about the true meaning of the word democracy, concluding with the notion that the state and democracy are the antithesis of one another.

Mark offered us what he termed a minor current of thought to haunt our discussions and to stimulate new and better currents of thought throughout the conference. He premised his presentation on the idea that the state and democracy need to be seen as antithesis and that we do indeed need democracy.

The debate about power, according to Mark, is about more than we think it is and we need to think about it differently; we need to think of it as power to rather than over. That is, all people retain power to act into and change the Continue reading

Analysing devolved health policy in ‘interesting times’

Ellen Stewart
Ellen Stewart

Ellen Stewart (University of Edinburgh, UK) discusses her article “A mutual NHS? The emergence of distinctive public involvement policy in a devolved Scotland

In the last twelve months’ heated debates about the SNP’s evolving role in UK politics, there has been far too little focus on their record North of the border, where they have now been in Government for almost two full terms (first as a minority government from 2007-2011, and then, beating the odds of the electoral system, with an unexpected majority since 2011). The UK media has only occasionally engaged with this record in government, and these efforts have often been haphazard potted histories, shifting between judging Scotland’s policies or its outcomes, and between comparing them to the other countries of the UK, or to the pre-recession past.

The difficulty of discussing devolved policy in a measured fashion is not new, although it is certainly heightened in the current political climate. In 2011, when I sat down to write what was eventually published in Policy & Politics as ‘A mutual NHS: the emergence of distinctive public involvement policy in a devolved Scotland’, I was trying to pin down some substance behind the pervasive rhetoric of ‘mutuality’ in the Scottish NHS. Much academic analysis of the ‘distinctiveness’ of Scottish health policy has relied on data from interviews with politicians, civil servants Continue reading

Involving citizens in policy-making – does it vary across countries and why?

Katy Huxley, Rhys Andrews, James Downe, and Valeria Guarneros-Meza
Katy Huxley, Rhys Andrews, James Downe, and Valeria Guarneros-Meza

Katy Huxley, Rhys Andrews, James Downe and Valeria Guarneros-Meza discuss their latest P&P article, Administrative traditions and citizen participation in public policy: a comparative study of France, Germany, the UK and Norway which is free to download throughout September.

Existing research suggests that administrative traditions reflect state-society relations, democratic style and level of centralisation. Four key traditions are reflected within the countries studied, which include the:

  • Napoleonic tradition – characterised by a strong centralised state and antagonism between the state and society (e.g. France)
  • organicist tradition – characterised by a federated state and co-operative state–society relations (e.g. Germany)
  • Anglo-Saxon tradition – characterised by a mixed form of state and pluralist state–society relations (e.g. the UK) and,
  • Scandinavian tradition, which combines the organicist and Anglo-Saxon traditions (e.g. Norway).

In addition, we thought it was important to consider developments in public sector management and reform in different countries and the potential for EU influence in developing citizen participation.

Our results suggest that citizen participation is accorded the least Continue reading