A pint of science event on citizenship and democracy

Two members of PAIR, Prof David Owen and Dr Ben Saunders, recently took part in Pint of Science, an international event involving researchers engaging with the public in the relaxed environment of a local pub. The View Bar is one of six Southampton venues participating this year, with the focus being Our Society. David and Ben spoke on Monday night, on the theme of citizenship and democracy.

David’s talk examined the changing boundaries of citizenship. It was once assumed that everyone would be a citizen of one and only one state where they would reside, yet this picture of exclusive citizenship has come under strain with greater international mobility. Whereas in 1960 less than a third of the world’s state recognised dual nationality, this has risen to around 70%. Further, many people no longer reside in the state(s) of which they are citizens.


These changes raise important questions about who should be included when it comes to voting in elections and referenda. More and more states are granting voting rights to expatriate citizens abroad and/or to resident foreigners. How these boundaries are drawn has obvious important for the democratic legitimacy of the decisions that get made. For instance, an interesting consequence of the way the UK electorate is drawn is that resident Commonwealth citizens were entitled to vote in last year’s Brexit referendum, though non-UK/Ireland EU citizens were not entitled to vote, though clearly affected by the decision.

Ben’s talk concerned whether citizens have a duty to vote. Turnout in UK General Elections has actually risen in each election since 2001 (with turnout in the Brexit referendum higher still), but is still below the levels commonly seen in the mid-20th century. For many political scientists, the interesting question is not why many citizens do not vote, but why so many do, given that the expected benefit of their participation is small. It seems that many people believe in a duty to vote, which would offer one explanation for their doing so. However, it is not clear what might ground this duty.


Moreover, most arguments for a duty to vote do not simply show that we have a duty to vote but, rather, that we have a duty to vote in some particular way (for instance, sincerely, or in an informed manner, or in good faith, etc). We can therefore distinguish between voting well and voting badly. It may be that we have a duty to vote well, but we cannot infer from this a general duty to vote, since voting badly may be worse than not voting at all. Thus, we ought not to suppose that voters are more commendable than non-voters, if we do not know anything about how they voted.

Both talks were followed by lively discussions from the floor, with pint glass prizes for the best questions. The audience also had the chance to participate in several activities, including designing their own micro-state, playing Totalitarian Top Trumps, and taking part in a pub quiz based on the UK citizenship test.

Migration Governance Across Regions

DipticBy Dr. Ana Margheritis, Reader in International Relations at University of Southampton (Twitter, Academia.edu). You can find more posts by Ana here.



Migration policies are rarely effective. Examples of unintended and undesirable outcomes abound. In Latin America, very little is known about the impact and long-term sustainability of state policies towards emigrants. Following a world-wide trend, Ecuador, Uruguay, Mexico, Argentina, and Brazil have developed new institutions and discourses to strengthen links; assist, protect and enfranchise migrants, and capture their resources. As an adaptation of governmental techniques to global realities, these policies redefine the contours of polities, nations, and citizenship, giving place to a new form of transnational governance.

Building upon field research done in these five states and two receiving countries in the last decade, Ana Margheritis’s new book explains the timing, motivations, characteristics, and implications of emigration policies implemented by each country, as well as the emergence of a distinctive regional consensus around a post-neoliberal approach to national development and citizenship construction.

To visit the publisher’s website for this title, please follow this link.

There is also a flyer for the book with a 20% discount code available here.


PAIR Students’ Work for Consultation Institute recognised


At the university, we try whenever possible to create opportunities for our students to engage in real-world research, working with organisations in the public, private and voluntary section. Many of our students take up these opportunities during their second year research methods module. Recently two of our students Rory McGurk and William Pereira were invited to the Consultation Institute’s annual conference and presented with a certificate in appreciation for their work for the institute.

In Rory’s words:

We were asked by the Consultation Institute to conduct some research into some prominent public consultation cases, and suggest ways in which they could have been improved. We were given the case of the Kings Lynn Incinerator – a controversial plan for an incinerator which involved numerous overlapping consultations in Norfolk. These were our findings:

The Kings Lynn incinerator proposal consultation was legitimate in relation to the Aarhus convention, namely the right to participate in decision making. However, each of these consultations suffered systematic flaws, the most overarching of which was an attempt to manipulate public opinion. This was seen in the omission of certain questions from the Cory Wheelabrator telephone survey in 2011, and the county councils dismissal of a 92.68% residence opposition. It was therefore overtly plain to see that consultation in this instance was a participatory mechanism utilised only for the intention of legitimising a preconceived county-imposed waste management strategy that favoured an incinerator.

In recognition of the work we produced, the Consultation Institute invited us to their annual conference at the Emirates stadium. This proved to be a fascinating and extremely useful day, allowing us to listen to some high end speakers, such as Michael Portillo and Anthony King. We were also given the opportunity to network with individuals at the Consultation Institute and explain our research to them. We were also given an award for our contribution to the work produced by the Consultation Institute. Overall, the research was helpful in expanding our political knowledge and analytical skills, and the conference was a very interesting and helpful day. We would like to send our thanks to Rhion Jones and Elizabeth Gammell for allowing us to conduct the research and for allowing us to join them at their conference. Also, to Matt Ryan for setting up the research with the Consultation Institute and for joining us on our adventure down to their headquarters in Biggleswade.

Kamil Zwolski commenting on political situation in Poland for France 24

By Dr. Kamil Zwolski, Lecturer in Global Politics and Policy at University of Southampton (Academia.edu). You can find more posts by Kamil here.


France 24 snap2[1] copy

Kamil Zwolski, Lecturer in Global Politics and Policy at the University of Southampton, has commented on the political situation in Poland following 2015 presidential and parliamentary elections in this country for the Paris-based international news and current affairs television channel France 24.

You can watch Kamil’s contribution to the programme here.

Argentina departs from the Kirchner model, but Mauricio Macri now has to govern a divided nation

By Pia Riggirozzi. Pia Riggirozzi is Associate Professor in Global Politics at the University of Southampton (@PRiggirozziAcademia.edu). You can find more posts by Pia here.

Read Dr Pia Riggirozzi’s new piece for The Conversation on the outcome of Argentina’s 2015 presidential elections.

Follow this link for the full article.

‘Reinvigorating Democracy – learning from the past and looking to the future’: a public event on 8th January 2015

Both the City of Southampton and the Department of Politics and International Relations (PAIR) at the University of Southampton continue to mark their 50th anniversaries this year. 2015 will also celebrate the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta. As calls for stronger democracy and constitutional change as well as dissatisfaction with politics continue to increase there is no better or more pressing time to discuss the state of democracy.  Southampton City Council and PAIR will be holding a public event on the evening of this Thursday 8th of January at Southampton City Council Chambers to discuss and debate the problems and prospects for democracy at local and national levels in the UK. The event will start at 5pm and will involve short talks from university lecturers, contributions from City Council and audience participation. We would encourage interested members of the public as well as members of the university to come along, listen and contribute their own knowledge and experience.


Prof Gerry Stoker is a frequent distinguished contributor in both national and international media. His expertise covers everything from democratic politics, local and regional governance, urban politics and public participation to public service reform.

Cllr Simon Letts has a rich experience of government in Southampton having first served on the City Council in 1991. He was appointed Leader of the Council in May 2013.

Prof Will Jennings’ expertise covers agenda-setting, public opinion, electoral behaviour, political parties, and the governance of mega-projects and mega-events. His research has made significant contributions to improvements in public policy-making.

Dr Matthew Ryan is an expert in new forms of citizen participation in politics through democratic innovations. He contributes to a number of national and international projects aimed at increasing and deepening public participation in politics.

Cllr Daniel Jeffrey is a successful PAIR graduate. He represents the Sholing Ward and is Cabinet Member for Education and Change.

REF 2014: Politics ranked 5th for research outputs in the UK

The University of Southampton’s department of Politics and International Relations has climbed 23 places for leading research in the country to place it 15th, following publication of the national Research Excellence Framework 2014. This assesses the quality and impact of research.

Results of the REF show that 84% per cent of University of Southampton’s research activity is considered of internationally excellent or world-leading quality, placing the University 11th for the volume of its high quality research in the country.

Politics has also performed well in the REF for research outputs ranking it 5th in the UK, with the majority of research classified as either world-leading or internationally excellent.

Research quality of Politics & International Relations at Southampton recognised as world-leading

The results of the ‘Research Excellence Framework’ (REF) for 2014 were released this morning. We are delighted to say that Politics & International Relations at the University of Southampton performed extremely strongly. Overall our research quality was ranked 15th in the UK.

In terms of the assessment of research outputs, we were ranked 5th in the UK, with 77% of our outputs being recognised as world-leading or internationally excellent.

What can the UK learn from the aftermath of Quebec’s two independence referendums?

Jonathan HavercroftBy Jonathan Havercroft, Senior Lecturer in International Political Theory at the University of Southampton (Academia.eduGoogle Scholar). You can read more posts by Jonathan here.

No does not mean the Scottish Independence movement is dead

Quebec has had two independence referendums. The first was in 1980 when Quebec’s nationalist party, the Parti Québécois (PQ) was the provincial government for the first time. The “no” side won that vote 60% – 40%. Despite losing, the PQ won the next Provincial election, and the nationalist party has held power in Quebec for 15 of the 35 years since. The 1980 referendum consolidated the electoral base of the PQ. The SNP can look on the results of the referendum as evidence that a significant bloc of voters in Scotland support independence. The SNP can now count on this 45% of the electorate to be their political base for the foreseeable future. While we may not see another Scottish independence vote for 15 years, questions about Scottish nationalism will be central to both Scottish and Westminster politics for the foreseeable future. Even without another referendum on the horizon, the threat of a referendum in the future is likely to be a key political lever that the SNP can use to extract more political concessions from Westminster.

No votes result in constitutional changes

In the closing days of the 1980 Quebec referendum, Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau promised to reform the Canadian Constitution should the No side win. This promise, combined with the no vote, led to fifteen years of debate over constitutional reforms that culminated in the second, much closer Quebec referendum in 1995. In the intervening years Canada ratified the 1982 Constitution Act that significantly revamped the constitution. Two other major reform proposals – the 1987 Meech Lake Accord and the 1992 Charlottetown Accord – were both defeated in acrimonious political processes. After the 1995 referendum there were further constitutional changes brought about via devolution of powers from the Federal Government to Quebec, a reference question to the Canadian Supreme Court concerning the procedures for Quebec secession in the event of a no vote, and the controversial passage a the Clarity Act, designed to spell out the terms for any future Quebec referendum on independence. Independence referendums won by the “no” side do not mean a return to the status quo ante. In order for a referendum on independence to be held, a plurality of voters will have already elected a party favouring a referendum. This means that there is significant pressure on the central government to accede to some of the demands of the independence movement. The Scottish referendum is not the end of constitutional struggles in the UK. We can expect the referendum to mark the beginning of a period of debate over devolution and constitutional reform. Constitutional reform will be a major issue in the Parliamentary elections next year.

Asymmetrical devolution to Scotland will alienate other UK constituencies

The constitutional debates in Canada led to a series of political crises between the province of Quebec, the Canadian federal government, and the other provinces. Attempts to meet some of Quebec’s constitutional demands were immediately met by complaints from other Canadian provinces and leaders of Canada’s First Nations that these deals were unfairly favouring Quebeckers. Similarly in Britain, David Cameron’s speech after the referendum in which he put the issue of greater devolution to Scotland and the other nations in the UK on the agenda was immediately greeted by complaints from ring-wing politicians such as Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage that these plans for devolution were fundamentally unfair to the English.

The promises made by the Westminster political party leaders in their pre-referendum “Vow” have immediately revived the “English Question/West Lothian Question” on devolution of powers. Why should the Scottish MPs in Westminster be permitted to vote on bills that do not affect them because the relevant power has already been devolved to Holyrood? This issue will be the trickiest in any future constitutional changes in the UK. At the moment there are three possible answers to the “English Question”: 1) Excluding Westminster MPs from constituencies in Scotland, Ireland and Wales from voting on bills that only concern English constituents. 2) The creation of an English Parliament similar in power and scope to the other national assemblies 3) The creation of nine regional assemblies in England with powers similar in scope to the assemblies in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Each of these proposals has significant advantages and disadvantages. Any of them would be politically difficult to implement because of fierce opposition from entrenched interests. Failure to resolve the English Question is likely to provoke an English political backlash against Scotland. Yet using the English Question as an excuse for not devolving further political powers to Scotland will only make a future referendum on Scottish independence more likely.

Devolving Power to Scotland will make independence less likely in the long term

The final, and perhaps most significant lesson that the UK can take from Canada, is that Quebec is still in the confederation. This seemed extremely unlikely to most Canadians in 1995. Paradoxically, by devolving more power to Quebec in response to the demands of the nationalist movement, the Canadian government has made Quebec secession less likely. Why? Like the SNP, in between referendum campaigns, Quebec’s PQ has had to use its provincial powers to govern. By having greater autonomy to implement its preferred social, cultural, and economic policies at the provincial level, the PQ has been able to construct a social democratic polity that it had initially envisioned for its post-independence polity. As such, many Quebec voters feel that they have been able to achieve their vision for a distinct Quebec society without having to bear the risks that would go with independence. In addition, the longer that the PQ has been one of the major political parties in Quebec, the more experience Quebec voters have had with it as a governing party. And the more experience voters have with the PQ as a governing party, the more the electorate views the party as no different from other mainstream parties. This in turn makes it more difficult for PQ leadership to claim that Quebec’s problems would be solved if the PQ could govern a sovereign Quebec. A similar dynamic could play out in Scotland. Having held a referendum, voters in Scotland will now be evaluating the SNP on how well it governs. More devolution of powers to Scotland may appease the demands of many who voted yes for independence. It would also enable the SNP greater freedom to construct its vision of Scotland as a Nordic social democracy. The SNP may see this as a way to persuade voters about how successful an independent Scotland would be. However, many soft Scottish nationalists may decide that a more autonomous Scotland can have all of the benefits of an independent Scotland without taking any of the risks of an actual “yes” vote. Furthermore, the longer that the SNP is a governing party, the less it will be able to appeal to voters as an attractive alternative to politics as usual. The more the SNP appears to voters as just one political party among others, the less the Scottish electorate will see independence as offering an alternative to politics as usual.

After Scotland

By Gerry Stoker. Gerry Stoker is Professor of Governance at University of Southampton (Twitter). You can read more posts by Gerry Stoker here.

The referendum on independence for Scotland has been celebrated as turning point political event which has engaged millions of voters in careful reflection and considered debate about the future of Scotland. Equally there are many who have seen a limited debate, full of bull and bluster and half-truths that gave an impression being stronger on symbolism than substance.

Most appear to agree that the political dynamic of change started in Scotland is likely to spread throughout the United Kingdom whether the final result is a yes or no. How could we ensure that the continuing debate grapples with real issues that should drive a governance debate for citizens living in a complex, post-industrial society, grappling with an uncertain future in a globalised world? Let me offer five principles to govern future discussion.

Local leadership

The first principle should be that citizens need to lead rather than political elites. The study of political reform reveals one hard lesson and that is if political elites drive the choices they tend to choose options that they calculate serve their interests. Governing arrangements, new voting procedures or even issues put to a referendum are determined primarily by calculations about whether their party or leadership will be the beneficiaries. For that reason reforms designed and delivered by political elites often end up disappointing  citizens as they fail to deliver the positive change wanted by the public.


The second principle is any governance solution in the twenty first century has to be multilevel in character. Interdependence is  a reality that cannot  be wished away and our lives are now more integrated with other citizens of the globe in social, economic and cultural terms. Exercising our democratic rights in that context is a more complex challenge than the democracy imagined by eighteenth and nineteenth thinkers. For a lot of the time the best that can be hoped for is influence rather than control but having influence is vital. We need an opportunity for our representatives to sway European and international decisions. But then we need capacity for decision at national but crucially at the local level. Too many tax-raising, policy and economic decisions are currently in the hands of a Westminster elite and if there is an unequivocal message from the Scottish referendum debate it is that such a situation is no longer acceptable or indeed effective as a form of governing.


That thought leads directly to the third principle: subsidiarity. Let’s not ask what we can devolve but rather ask what we need to centralise to either national or supranational levels. The arguments for greater localism are overwhelming. First and most important circumstances and needs are different in different localities and the capacity to make the right decisions to get the right economic, social and environmental policies depends on an ability to decide and act at various sub-national levels. Second if we are to regain trust and engagement in democratic political processes the local provides a more viable terrain than national or European level. There are fewer barriers to access facing citizens at the local level, more opportunities to mix social media and face-to-face discussion and greater prospects of sequencing direct democracy initiatives and deliberative forums alongside more traditional representative decision-making. Third when it comes to decisions about wicked long-term issues the local arena can be one where trade-offs can be delivered. When making decisions at sub-national level there is a greater capacity to give the benefit of the doubt to decision makers, thus providing more leeway to tackle difficult and complex issues.

Institutional variety

The fourth principle should be there is no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to institutional solutions. So if all we get is one person shouting the only answer is an English parliament and another calling for powerful city regions and another yelling devolution for Cornwall we should not be surprised. The socio-economic geography of the UK is complex and its governance requires units for decision-making to match. City regions may be a good fit in some but not all locations and we should be worried if the governing map that emerges after our national and local discussions is not very neat. A good solution is likely to be messy in institutional terms.

Democratic accountability

The fifth principle should be that all these governing options need to match the demands of democratic accountability. There are only complex answers to that issue that also ensure that minority rights and freedoms are protected but it a question that cannot be ducked.  Proponents of city regions for example appear to make their arguments largely on pragmatic grounds in terms of the economic dynamism or economies of scale that will be achieved. Managerial or technical arguments are not enough and any new governing solution has to answer the leading question of twenty first century citizens: how can we have may say and how can we hold decision-makers to account? That question was in the shadows for much of the Scottish independence debate but it needs to be brought to the fore in the future.