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

By Stuart Weir; David Beetham | Go to book overview

Appendix

The Democratic Audit, at the University of Essex, was founded in 1992 to inquire into the quality of democracy and political freedoms in the United Kingdom. Its main task is to research and publish major 'landmark' studies, against which both democracy and political freedom in the United Kingdom can be measured over time; and thus to enable the public to judge whether the country is becoming more or less democratic and free.

Political Power and Democratic Control in Britain is the second of the Democratic Audit's landmark volumes. In November 1996, the Audit published its first major report, The Three Pillars of Liberty (by Francesca Klug, Keir Starmer and Stuart Weir; Routledge), on the protection of political and civil rights in the United Kingdom. The current report deals with accountability and openness in Britain's constitutional arrangements. Negotiations are under way to produce two further volumes: one on popular participation in politics, and the other on social, economic and cultural rights in the UK.

The Democratic Audit will also publish a major 'follow-up' study of The Three Pillars and Political Power and Democratic Control at the end of the Labour government's first term in office. The government's huge programme of democratic reform has profound implications for the quality of Britain's governing arrangements and citizens' rights, but is also riven by contradictions and cross-pressures which will compromise the apparent drive to modernise and open up democracy in the United Kingdom. It is also the intention to publish an annual Democratic Charter monitoring the progress of democracy and political freedom.

The Democratic Audit publishes regular reports on issues of democratic interest. The Audit's most influential publications have been on the quango state (EGO-TRIP, Behind Closed Doors and The Untouchables) and on electoral change (Making Votes Count, Devolution Votes, Making Votes Count 2 and Stability and Choice). Behind Closed Doors was published jointly with Channel 4 Television in conjunction with a Dispatches documentary based on Audit research. The Audit has just completed a new study on the Labour government's task forces and is preparing an international almanac on elections and voting for the forthcoming referendum on electoral systems in the United Kingdom.

The Democratic Audit also undertakes international consultancy and educational work. The Audit runs regular international courses on consolidating democracy at the University of Essex, and has facilitated major programmes of parliamentary reform in Namibia and Zimbabwe, organised a major Indo-British seminar on

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