Idealism versus pragmatism in politics and policymaking: Labour, Brexit, and evidence-based policymaking

Idealism versus pragmatism in politics and policymaking: Labour, Brexit, and evidence-based policymaking

Paul Cairney aims to highlight some important links between three current concerns: Labour’s leadership contest, the Brexit vote built on emotion over facts, and the insufficient use of evidence in policy. In each case, there is a notional competition between ‘idealism’ and ‘pragmatism’ (as defined in common use, not philosophy); the often-unrealistic pursuit of a long term ideal versus the focus on solving more immediate problems often by compromising ideals and getting your hands dirty. We know what this looks like in party politics, including the compromises that politicians make to win elections and the consequences for their image, but do we know how to make the same compromises when we appeal for a more deliberative referendum or more evidence-informed policymaking?

Could a ‘reverse Greenland’ arrangement keep Scotland and Northern Ireland in the EU?

Could a ‘reverse Greenland’ arrangement keep Scotland and Northern Ireland in the EU?

While no member state has ever left the European Union, Greenland opted to leave the EEC in 1985. Ulrik Pram Gad assesses what lessons the case of Greenland might have for the UK following its decision to leave the EU. He suggests that while the two situations are radically different, Greenland could serve as inspiration for a model in which Scotland, Northern Ireland and Gibraltar could retain membership of the EU while England and Wales pursue their own arrangements.

Can Scotland avoid Brexit? It depends on politics, not law

Can Scotland avoid Brexit? It depends on politics, not law

The UK has voted to leave the European Union (EU), but 62% of Scottish voters, including a majority in every local authority area, backed Remain. This has triggered a debate about what power Scotland has to prevent itself being pulled out of the EU against the wishes of its government, parliament and voters. Akash Paun discusses the options.

Assuming Brexit takes place, we are at the beginning of a fundamental transition – but we do not know where it will lead us

Assuming Brexit takes place, we are at the beginning of a fundamental transition – but we do not know where it will lead us

The political ramifications of Brexit keep making themselves known, with Labour pondering Leadership change, the Prime Minister resigning, and Scotland perhaps heading for a second independence referendum. Here, Andrew Blick looks at the constitutional ramifications of Brexit, arguing that if it goes ahead, we are on the brink of fundamental constitutional change. 

Brexit and Scottish independence: Does campaign information actually change voters’ minds during a referendum?

Brexit and Scottish independence: Does campaign information actually change voters’ minds during a referendum?

Both sides of the UK’s referendum campaign have invested huge resources in trying to convince the electorate to back their viewpoint, but how effective are these efforts in actually changing the minds of voters? Drawing on research in the 2014 referendum on Scottish independence, Davide Morisi illustrates how information can have an impact on the views of the electorate. He notes that much like the pro-independence side in Scotland, the leave campaign’s success will hinge on whether they can convince voters that the risks associated with changing the status quo are worth taking.

To what extent was there split voting in the Scottish Parliament election – and did it matter?

To what extent was there split voting in the Scottish Parliament election – and did it matter?

The Scottish Parliament election saw the SNP emerge victorious, with the Scottish Conservatives overtaking Labour to finish in second. The voting system in use is designed to ensure that a majority is very difficult to achieve, which worked against the SNP in terms of their final share of MSPs. Here, Sean Swan asks whether voters ‘split’ their votes, and whether this had a tangible affect on the outcome of the election. 

A guide to making up your mind in the referendum on EU membership

A guide to making up your mind in the referendum on EU membership

Andrew Glencross and Paul Cairney give some advice on how to wade through all the information on ‘Brexit’ to make an informed choice. Andrew offers a more thorough discussion in Remain or Leave? A MOOC on the UK Referendum on EU Membership.

The Scottish Conservatives did well because of their campaign, their Leader, and Scottish Labour’s unpopularity

The Scottish Conservatives did well because of their campaign, their Leader, and Scottish Labour’s unpopularity

Last week, the Conservatives have overtook Labour to become the main opposition party in Scottish politics. Alia Middleton considers the factors that worked in their favour, including new leadership and a distinctive campaign, but also writes there is a possibility that their success does not reflect a major shift in Scottish politics at all.

Bland, predictable, and unrealistically positive: the Twitter use of candidates during the Scottish Parliament election

Bland, predictable, and unrealistically positive: the Twitter use of candidates during the Scottish Parliament election

Graeme Baxter, Flora Barton and Caroline Hood give their initial impressions of how the parties and candidates used social media during the 2016 Scottish Parliament election campaign.

Scottish election 2016: disaster for Labour, reality check for the SNP – and the Tories are back

Scottish election 2016: disaster for Labour, reality check for the SNP – and the Tories are back

Craig McAngus offers an overview of the fallout of yesterday’s Scottish Parliamentary Elections, which saw the SNP fall short of a majority and a surprisingly strong Conservative revival.

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Missing out on the majority puts a dampener on recent success. Credit: Ewan McIntosh CC BY-NC 2.0