Political Power and Democratic Control in Britain: The Democratic Audit of the United Kingdom

By Stuart Weir; David Beetham | Go to book overview

Acknowledgements

This volume owes a great deal to the advice and generosity of a number of scholars and individuals who have been supportive of the Democratic Audit of the United Kingdom from its origins in 1993. Lord Smith of Clifton, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ulster, had the idea of a 'democratic audit' in the first place and has been a source of advice for the Democratic Audit ever since.

The idea of a Democratic Audit was developed into a fully-fledged enterprise by three of us who remain central to its activities: Professor Kevin Boyle, director of the Human Rights Centre, University of Essex, which is the home of the Audit; Stuart Weir, director of the Audit and a Senior Research Fellow at the Centre; and David Beetham, Professor of Politics at the University of Leeds.

Kevin Boyle, the academic editor of the whole Democratic Audit project, has given unstintingly of his time and expertise in making the Audit into a viable and academically sound institution. We also received valuable advice early on from Professor Dawn Oliver, of the Faculty of Laws, University College, London; from Anthony Barnett, then convenor of Charter 88; and from members of the Law, Government and Politics Departments at the University of Essex; and various ad-hoc advisory groups. Anthony Barnett wrote the original bid to our sponsors, the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust, which won us the contract to act as its proactive research arm on democratic matters.

This book is the second of two companion studies of the state of political freedom and democratic practice in the UK. The first, The Three Pillars of Liberty (Routledge 1996), by Francesca Klug, Keir Starmer and Stuart Weir, audited the protection of political and civil rights in the UK against an index of international human rights standards. This book audits the conduct of government and Britain's democratic institutions against a set of 'democratic criteria' (see Chapter 1). These two volumes are intended to be 'bench-mark' studies against which we can audit the progress of political freedom and democracy in the UK at regular intervals hereafter.

This volume is very much the product of collaboration, of the two authors themselves, and also of a wide range of academics and others. David Beetham conceived of the democratic criteria around which the book is organised and wrote the first draft of these criteria. They have since been developed in practice by the two authors, both in the writing of this book and through joint teaching sessions with international groups of students on courses run for the British Council by the Human Rights Centre, at Essex, and elsewhere. As for the book itself, Stuart Weir is responsible for organising the material, conducting most of the research, and writing and editing

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