Putting People at the Heart of Politics
Political engagement and policy is generating more debate than perhaps ever before. The University of Lincoln is attempting to enhance understanding of the relationship between the British public and the processes which shape political decision-making.
Dr Catherine Bochel from the School of Social and Political Sciences was one of only five researchers in the UK selected for the House of Commons Academic Fellowship Scheme, which granted her rare access to Parliament. As a Fellow, Dr Bochel had unique access to the Parliamentary estate and House services and she worked with the House to build public understanding of Parliament, and inform, evaluate and enhance the House’s work and that of its Members. Dr Bochel made regular visits to Westminster and was working alongside Parliamentary staff and politicians to explore how effectively Parliament engages with the public in its decision-making processes.
Dr Bochel's research examined whether the concept of 'procedural justice' – ensuring that ‘a fair process’ has been followed – can be used as a framework to examine mechanisms for public engagement with Parliament. She began her research by scoping the nature and extent of public engagement with Parliament. The second phase developed a framework to measure the degree of voice and participation. This involved interviews with MPs, peers, clerks and other parliamentary officials.
Dr Bochel said: "Parliament is keen to encourage the public to get involved in politics, and people can now do this in a variety of ways. However, it is important that when they come into contact with Parliament their experience of the process is as positive as possible. In a liberal democratic system people may not get everything they ask for, so their treatment by the system and experience of it is very important; final decisions are made by elected representatives, so the public must be able to see that the decision-making process is fair and transparent."
Dr Bochel’s study emerged from her previous research on e-petitions, which has helped to shape the government and Parliament e-petitions system, including the introduction of a Petitions Committee and a range of new measures not dependent on signature thresholds.
The issue of political participation is a hot research topic for academics in the University of Lincoln’s School of Social and Political Sciences. Other experts at Lincoln explore youth participation, and have written books on the issue, as well as the devolution of powers to local authority levels, and how the UK’s security.
Young People and Political Engagement
Over a number of years, Ben Kisby has undertaken research on youth political engagement, with a particular focus on citizenship education and governmental attempts to enhance young people’s political knowledge and skills.
Ben has published a number of journal articles, book chapters and a monograph in this area, with The Labour Party and Citizenship Education (MUP, 2012) examining the introduction of compulsory citizenship classes in secondary schools in England. More recently, Ben has been researching with Bradley Allsop how neo-liberal thought and policies have impacted on youth political engagement in the UK, and also whether there was a ‘youthquake’ in the 2017 general election in Britain.
In addition, Ben has written a book with Lee Jerome at Middlesex University on The Rise of Character Education in Britain, which will be published by Palgrave in September 2019, and which challenges the individualistic and moralistic ideas underlying this form of education, arguing that citizenship education, properly conceived, is far more likely to strengthen British democracy.