Thursday 23 January 18:30 - 21:00

British Academy
10-11 Carlton House Terrace

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What’s Happening…? "Democratic Renewal"

Government & Politics

The Political Studies Association (PSA) and British Academy (BA) present: "What's Happening...? Democratic Renewal"

The third instalment of the What's Happening? series will once again bring together academics, journalists, policy-makers and the interested general public to unravel the events that have had the nation talking over the past 12 months.

The last few years have been politically tumultuous, bringing many of our assumptions about how the political world works into question. From the constitutional crisis generated by Brexit in the UK, to the rise of far right leaders and parties across Europe the very idea of representative democracy seems to be increasingly under question. What does seem clear is that there is a pervasive sense that something has to change, with recent research finding that nearly three-quarters of British adults want to see ‘quite a lot’ or ‘a great deal’ of improvement to our system of governing.

What would such improvement look like? What should be done to make democratic renewal happen? On the one hand, options include institutional change or reform: diversifying our representatives through the use of gender quotas, reforming some of Westminster’s more arcane procedures, or pursuing an elected element in the House of Lords. Alternatively, others have advocated for more direct involvement for citizens in political life: holding citizens assemblies to help guide future government policy on keystone issues, increasing the size of the electorate by reducing the legal voting age to 16, or using referendums to make decisions about spending allocations at the local or regional level.  Underpinning both sets of options are questions about trust not only in politicians themselves but in the political process as a whole. Stemming recent falls in trust, let alone thinking about how to reverse this, is sure to be a priority for political leaders from all parties in the years ahead.

Join us as we bring together experts from the PSA Specialist Groups, the British Academy and practitioners to discuss how we can go about renewing our democracy: do we need more or less direct involvement from voters? Are there any short-term fixes for what seems to be a long-term problem? Are our current crop of politicians equal to the task of restoring trust in them and the system they work in?


18:15                  Doors open

18:30 - 19:30      Panel Discussion 

19:30 - 20:00      Audience Q&A

20:00                   Networking reception with drinks and canapés 

This event is being held in partnership by the Political Studies Association and the British Academy.

The Political Studies Association exists to develop and promote the study of politics. Founded in 1950, we are the leading Association in our field in the United Kingdom, with an international membership including academics in political science and current affairs, theorists and practitioners, policy-makers, researchers and students in higher education.

The British Academy aims to deepen understanding of people, societies and cultures, enabling everyone to learn, progress and prosper.  Central to this is informing and enriching debate on society’s greatest questions.  The state and future of liberal democracy is undoubtedly one such question.  It is a system that empowers citizens to participate in decision-making which can take many different forms.  Our new Frontiers of Democracy programme will be exploring the gaps between what citizens expect of democracy and what it delivers.  The programme will be launched later in 2020 after a period of consultation. 

Event contact: Rosie Inman ([email protected])

Accessibility: The venue is fully wheelchair accessible. If you have any other accessibilty requirements, please do not hesitate to get in touch and we will do our best to accommodate your needs.

Please note: This event is free and open to all interested parties, but advanced booking is required. As this is a free event, we intentionally overbook places to allow for no-shows and to avoid empty seats which could otherwise be enjoyed by those who would like to attend. Please be aware that admission is therefore on a first-come, first-served basis and entry is not guaranteed. Please aim to arrive early (from 18:15 onwards) to avoid disappointment.


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