Catch up on articles about British politics and the constitution you may have missed from September and October 2020. This month we take a look at the role of modern monarchies, and how UK political parties operate abroad.

Modern Monarchies 

Writing for UCL’s Constitution Unit blog, Robert Hazell and Bob Morris examine the role of the monarchy in advanced modern democracies.  

At the turn of the twentieth century, all but three countries in Europe had a monarchy. A century later, the majority are now republics, leading to the assumption that over time most advanced democracies will shed their monarchy. However, the authors state that there is a “stubborn group” of countries in Western Europe defying this trend. This group includes “some of the most advanced democracies in the world”, including Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands and the UK. The authors examine the story behind this bucking of the trend.  

A significant factor in the survival of monarchies comes down to geopolitical reasons, with many monarchies in Europe disappearing at the end of either the First or the Second World War. The authors also state that a monarchy’s survival is matched with an erosion of their power, transitioning from a powerfully political force to a non-partisan head of state set apart from the daily political struggle of executive government 

The authors present several more reasons for a monarchy’s continued survival, including:  

  • remaining politically neutral 
  • avoiding scandals and corruption; and 
  • maintaining accountabilitylike any other public institution. 

The authors conclude by emphasising the importance of public support for the monarchy as an important factor in their continuation. Support for the monarchy remains high in most countries, and especially in the UK. Polls regularly show that between 60and 80% of populations wish to retain the monarchy 

Read the full article: Robert Hazell and Bob Morris, ‘The role of monarchy in modern democracy’The Constitution Unit, 30 September 2020. 

Parties Abroad  

Writing in the Parliamentary Affairs journal, Susan Collard and Paul Webb examine UK political parties abroad.  

Currently, British expatriates lose the right to vote in British elections 15 years after they last registered to vote. During the 2017–19 parliamentary session, a private member’s bill attempted to introduce ‘votes for life’ for expatriates, but the bill failed to get through parliament. This 15-year rule also applies to voting in referendums.  

The authors state that the number of expatriates registering to vote has increased in recent years. They question whether this has led to political parties bolstering their overseas operations. To answer this question, Collard and Webb explain the historic background and legal framework of parties operating abroad. They focus on Conservatives Abroad, Labour International and Liberal Democrats Abroad. The authors also report findings from a survey they conducted after the 2019 general election, asking around 3,000 expatriates about their voting history, future voting intentions and beliefs around the Brexit referendum.  

The authors conclude that the development of parties abroad has been closely tied with the issue of expatriate enfranchisement. Attitudes are shaped further by the party expectations of gains and losses amongst overseas voters, with parties more active amongst populations they believe are more likely to vote in their favour. They also state that parties are negatively impacted in terms of activity by the lack of a seat in the Westminster parliament directly elected by expatriates. A parliamentary seat for those living overseas exists in other European states, including France and Italy.  

Finally, the authors found that Brexit has had an impact in drawing support amongst expatriates away from the Conservatives, and towards Labour and the Liberal Democrats since 2015. The authors suggest this could make it less likely that legislation to extend the voting rights of expatriates is introduced by the current Government.  

Read the full article: Susan Collard and Paul Webb, ‘UK parties abroad and expatriate voters: The Brexit backlashParliamentary Affairs, October 2020, vol 73 issue 4, pp 856–873