British Politics at Birmingham

British Politics at Birmingham is an interdisciplinary group which spans the Department of Political Science and International Relations (POLSIS), the Institute of Local Government Studies (INLOGOV), and the Centre for Modern British Studies. It brings together political scientists, historians, social policy experts and others from across the University who have research interests in the broad area of British politics.

The group aims to promote a very broad definition of the term 'British Politics' – to incorporate any aspect of change and continuity in political and socio-economic relations within the UK and between Britain and the European / international environment. As such, group aims to forge collaborative projects between a wide range of PhD students and academics who take Britain as a key area of focus in their research.

For further information about the British politics research group contact: Peter Burnham, Tel:+44 (0)121 414 8225,



Recent events:

Committees in Comparative Perspective
Brussels, 23-24 July 2018
Organised by Stephen Bates (Birmingham), Brian Gaines (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign), Mark Goodwin (Birmingham), and Gisela Sin (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign).
The workshop was funded by the Birmingham-Illinois Partnership for Discovery, Engagement and Education (BRIDGE)

Participants were:

Mihail Chiru (Catholic University of Louvain, Belgium)
Carmen Ortega (University of Granada, Spain) 
Thomas Saalfeld (University of Bamberg, Germany) 
Stephen Bates (University of Birmingham, UK)
Mark Goodwin (University of Birmingham, UK) 
Selma Bendjaballah (Sciences Po, France)
Chen Friedberg (Ariel University, Israel) 
Philip Norton (University of Hull, UK)
Brian J. Gaines (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign) 
Gisela Sin (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign)

The special issue should be coming out in Autumn 2019 in the Journal of Legislative Studies.

The Group's activities include:

  • Fostering innovative research into contemporary and historical problems of British politics, government and society
  • Research-based Masters degrees, including the MA/PGDip in Political Science (British Politics and the State), the MSc/PGDip in Public Management, and the MA/PGDip in Modern British Studies
  • A lively PhD community, in which students work closely with leading scholars in the field;
  • A blog that debates the impact on public services and citizens of current political and policy issues
  • Research-based policy advice and executive development for politicians and managers in public service organisations
  • A series of seminars, workshops and other research initiatives
  • Providing a focal point for the development of research collaborations both in terms of publications and research income generation.

The British Politics at Birmingham Group also has close ties with two academic journals:

  • the Palgrave journal, British Politics, which is housed within POLSIS and co-edited by Peter Kerr and Steve Kettell (University of Warwick)
  • Local Government Studies, published by Routledge and edited by Catherine Durose (INLOGOV), Liz Richardson (University of Manchester) and Rhys Andrews (University of Cardiff)


Recent and on-going research projects undertaken under the auspices of British Politics at Birmingham include:

Queering the census: LGBT advocacy and the inclusion of a sexual orientation question in the 2021 UK census (2020-2021)
The 2021 census will be the UK's first to include a question about sexual orientation, making the UK the first country in the world to ask about this topic in its national census. Asking about sexual orientation in the census poses several challenges, including issues of intra-household privacy and the difficulty of capturing the complex nature of sexual identities using a single question with tick-box responses. This project will investigate the role of organisations representing LGBT people in the process leading to the addition of this question. 

Shrinking the state: analysing the reform of arm's length bodies (2012-2015)
This three year project is analysing the UK Coalition Government’s major reform of 'arm's length bodies' (often called ‘quangos’).  Our research asks whether and to what extent ALB reform will deliver the policy goal of a smaller, smarter, cheaper state, and what can be learnt from international and historical comparisons.  Visit our project website to see our reports, analysis and commentary.

Community governance in a context of decentralisation (Nov 2012 - Apr 2013)
Community governance is perceived as a useful means of enabling citizens and communities to influence the decisions and public services which affect their everyday lives, bringing greater ‘experiential’ expertise into the policy process, but also of opening up new democratic potentialities and encouraging greater bureaucratic responsiveness.  This review will explore why these crucial concerns remain unresolved and consider creative responses to issues of demand, mobilisation, equity and risk.

Towards transformative co-production in local public services (Nov 2012 - Apr 2013)
The fiscal crisis and changing demographics and expectations of the population have combined with a perception of the failure of traditional models for the delivery of local public service to demand radical new approaches to local public services.  This review explore the tensions in thinking about co-production as a substitutive response to austerity and consider when, where and how citizens and professionals can work together to deliver transformation in local public services.

New times revisited: writing the history of 1980s Britain
How should historians of Britain write the history of the 1980s? Should we see the later-twentieth century as an ‘age of fracture’? How far should the decade be associated with the emergence and consolidation of a new form of hegemonic politics associated with Thatcherism? What narratives best encapsulate the everyday and ordinary experience of the 1980s? Building on a major conference held at the University of Birmingham and the University of Warwick in 2013, Modern British Studies at Birmingham is the home of on-going research by Chris Moores, Kieran Connell, Gavin Schaffer, Matthew Hilton, Daisy Payling, Andrew Jones & Amy Edwards which unpicks and explores the history of the 1980s. 

Select Committee Data Archive Project, 1979-Present (Mar 2015 - Sept 2016)
The Wright Committee reforms implemented in 2010 contained important changes to the scrutiny and accountability functions of the UK Parliament and in particular to the functions of Select Committees (SCs). These reforms were described by The Times as ‘the most significant change to the way that the House operates in 30 years’ (Coates, 5-5-10). The project will utilise quantitative methods to create and analyse a comprehensive dataset covering the membership, activities and outputs of SCs of the House of Commons from 1979 (the date of previous major reform) to the present in order to permit an evidence-based evaluation of the Wright reforms, as well as providing a valuable resource for understanding this vital venue for executive-legislative interaction and for parliamentary involvement in the development and scrutiny of policy


Academic members:

PhD doctoral researchers:

Annie Gibney
Governing European youth employment: the case of the United Kingdom and France.

Alex Oaten
The English Defence League: A postmodern political movement?

Rebecca O'Neill
Evidence based policy making.

More PhD doctoral researcher profiles across the School of Government and Society.

Contact details

Further information about the British politics research group.

Contact: Peter Burnham
Tel:+44 (0)121 414 8225

British Politics research group is part of the Department of Political Science and International Studies.