Politics Dissertation Topics

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Example politics dissertation topic 1:

A critical analysis of New Labour's ‘Third Way' on social policy

The rejection of Clause Four and the rebranding of the Labour Party as ‘New Labour' was prefaced by the suggestion that the new Government would, if elected, adopt a ‘Third Way' to managing the economy and the welfare state. There would be no return to ‘Old Labour' whilst the unchecked monetarism of the Thatcher era would be softened. Central to the image that secured election and the ideology underpinning the new Government's approach to social policy was the work of Gidden's ‘The Third Way'. It is now over five years since Tony Blair left office and three years since the New Labour project was proclaimed ‘dead'. Accordingly this dissertation reviews Labour's use of the ‘Third Way' in office and seeks to assess the extent to which the ‘Third Way' has created a lasting legacy within both British social policy and party politics.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Heffernan, R. (2011) ‘Labour's New Labour legacy: Politics after Blair and Brown', Political Studies Review, Vol. 9(2), pp. 163-177.
  • Powell, M.A. (ed.) (1999) New Labour, new welfare state?: The" Third Way" in British social policy. Bristol: Policy Press.

Example politics dissertation topic 2:

Governing without government: An exploration of the effects of policy networks on the governance of the UK post-Major.

The arrival of Blair in Downing Street in May 2010 was seen by many political commentators (such as Hennessey and Riddle) to usher in a new system of governance. This dissertation explores the interlinking concepts of ‘core executive', ‘policy networks' and ‘governance' and questions the extent to which a series of informal networks and cross departmental initiatives changes the face of Whitehall during the Blair premiership. It also questions the extent to which such modes of government were foreshadowed by the co-ordinating initiatives developed by Heseltine and Major and through so doing seeks to question the assumption that Blair's approach was revolutionary, proposing instead that it represented a further evolution of that which had gone before.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Coates, D. (2000) ‘New Labour's industrial and employment policy', in, Coates, D. and Lawler, P. (eds) New Labour in power. Manchester: Manchester University Press, pp. 122-135.
  • Hennessy, P. (2000) The Prime Minister: The office and its holders since 1945. New York: Palgrave.

Example politics dissertation topic 3:

Elected mayors: a reinvigoration of local government? A comparative study of Hartlepool and Middlesbrough

Though the primary constitutional reforms of the Blair years are seen to centre upon the GLC and devolution, it was also a period in which elected mayors were introduced to a number of British cities. In the case of Hartlepool, H'Angus the Monkey (the mascot of the local football team) was not only elected but subsequently re-elected. Such an election confounded traditional party political expectations of elections at a local level and was repeated by the election of an independent mayor in Middlesbrough (a further traditional Labour heartland). This study uses primary and secondary data to assess the extent to which the election of these two mayors has reinvigorated democracy and local accountability in the traditional labour heartland and what lessons their elections may hold for further mayoral contests nationwide.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Copus, C. (2004) ‘Directly elected mayors: A tonic for local governance or old wine in new bottles?' Local Government Studies, Vol. 30(4), pp. 576-588.
  • Moss, R. (2012) ‘Directly elected mayors fall foul of councillor power', BBC News, available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-17197586 [accessed 26 May 2012].
  • Orr, K. (2004) ‘If mayors are the answer then what was the question?' Local Government Studies, Vol. 30(3), pp. 331-334.

Example politics dissertation topic 4:

‘A bulwark against effective regionalism' - a discussion of the place of county councils within English local government.

The present administrative county councils of England date back to the Local Government Act of 1888. Though they have been altered (notably in the 1974 Local Government Act), with some being abolished and thereafter restored (for example, Rutland), they have, as an instrument of local governance remained virtually unaltered (in size) for over 100 years. In contrast, urban and rural district councils, municipal boroughs and non-municipal boroughs along with single tier governments for conurbations have come and gone; to be replaced by, amongst other forms, district and borough councils. Given the plethora of innovations within the lower tier of regional government and the continued failure to establish convenient and elected regional bodies across England, this dissertation asks how county councils have managed to maintain their position within local government for so long when so much around them has altered.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Elcock, H., Fenwick, J. and McMillan, J. (2010) ‘The reorganization addiction in local government: Unitary councils for England', Public Money & Management, Vol. 30(6), pp. 331-338.
  • Leach, S. and Game, C. (1991) ‘English metropolitan government since abolition: An evaluation of the abolition of the English metropolitan county councils', Public Administration, Vol. 69(2), pp. 141-170.

Example politics dissertation topic 5:

Regional government for the north: A ‘post-recession' rejoinder

The plan for devolution for the north as espoused by John Prescott when Deputy Prime Minister was overwhelmingly rejected by voters in the north. Nevertheless, a decade later and faced with a seemingly ever-widening gulf between the economics of the north and south of England, a growing body of academic opinion within the north has called for the question to be re-opened. It is perhaps no coincidence that this call has come at a time when not only is the Scottish Parliament is asking for more devolved powers but also that ‘life over the border' for those within the English borderlands seems relatively more appealing given policies relating to prescriptions, elderly care and tuition fees. This dissertation charts not only the rise and fall of the Prescott plan for northern devolution but asks whether the time is now right for the question to be put to the public again.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Morgan, K. (2006) ‘Devolution and development: Territorial justice and the north-south divide', Publius: The Journal of Federation, Vol. 36(1), pp. 189-206.
  • Tickell, A., John, P. and Musson, S. (2005) ‘The North East Region referendum campaign of 2004: Issues and turning points', The Political Quarterly, Vol. 76(4), pp. 488-496.

Example politics dissertation topic 6:

The case for an English Parliament

The clamour for greater devolved powers for Scotland, a revitalised Welsh assembly and a Tory majority within English parliamentary constituencies has once again given rise to the question of whether the English should have their own parliament. In addition, the steady rise of alternative political parties suggests that issues of English nationalism need to be addressed by the ‘big three' political parties. Set within a context of voter apathy and devolution this dissertation not only addresses the conceptual theories that underpin the suggestions that England should have its own parliament but also asks what effects such a body would have upon the state of the union.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Hazell, R. (2006) ‘The English question', Publius: The Journal of Federation, Vol. 36(1), pp. 36-56.
  • Marquand, D. and Tomaney, J. (2001) ‘Regional government and sustainability: Taking devolution in England forward', New Economy, Vol. 8(1), pp. 36-41.

Example politics dissertation topic 7:

History teaches us that, when faced with the political wilderness, the Conservative Party is the most radical when it comes to electoral reform. Does this still hold true?

The Reform Act introduced by Disraeli was more radical than that introduced in 1832. In a similar way, the Catholic Emancipation Act introduced by Peel and Wellington was designed not only to protect Tory interests but also to outflank their political opponents. Now, as part of a coalition and with an SNP majority government in Edinburgh, the Conservative Party faces the opportunity once more to show its radicalism with regards to the constitution and issues of electoral reform.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Ensor, R. (1952) England: 1870:1914. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Norris, P. (1995) ‘The Politics of electoral reform in Britain', International Political Science Review, Vol. 16(1), pp. 65-78.
  • Woodward, L. (1938) The age of reform. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Example politics dissertation topic 8:

‘A man for all seasons' - a study of the changing policy positions of Nick Clegg from Leader of the Liberal Democrats to Deputy Prime Minister

In opposition the Liberal democrats were vociferous in their attacks upon the proposed increase in tuition fees. The Liberal democrats were also vehement in their demands for electoral reform. In power they voted for the former whilst, faced with public apathy and rejection, no further proposals for electoral reform have been mooted. Moreover, as the most Europhile of the main three political parties the Liberal Democrats are in power at a time when the single currency seems doomed to failure. The change from opposition to power has been a difficult one for both Nick Clegg and his party. Reviewing policy documents, conference papers, voting records and actual legislation passed this dissertation asks whether or not there is coherence within the policy positions adopted by the Liberal democrats within power and, if not, what it may tell us as to their future likely electoral strength.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Evans, E. and Sanderson-Nash, E. (2011) ‘From sandals to suits: Professionalisation, Coalition and the Liberal Democrats'. The British Journal of Politics & International Relations, Vol. 13(4), pp. 459-473.
  • Parry, K. and Richardson, K. (2011) ‘Nick Clegg's rise and fall as a celebrity politician highlights the Deputy Prime Minister as a victim of the increasing personification of British politics'. British Politics and Policy at LSE, available at: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/39890/ [accessed 26 May 2012].

Example politics dissertation topic 9:

Only in foreign policy does the President enjoy primacy of action - a critical review

With a divided Congress, presidential elections in the offing and battle over budget deficit reduction programmes as well as welfare initiatives, this dissertation contrasts the seeming lack of power that the US president exhibits in the domestic political arena against his powers in foreign matters. Contrasting his relationship with Congress to his powers relating to the signing of treaties and the War Powers resolution this dissertation reviews the presidencies of Clinton, Bush and Obama using a range of secondary sources as well as interviews with key political players of each administration.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Viotti, P.R. (2010) American foreign policy. Cambridge: Polity Press.
  • Wittkopf, E.R., Jones, C.M. and Kegley, C.W. (2008) American foreign policy: Pattern and progress (7th edn). Belmont, CA: Thomson Higher Education.

Example politics dissertation topic 10:

Engaging with community stakeholders in local government: A case study of flood prevention strategies in Doncaster and the role of community volunteers

This dissertation evaluates the effectiveness of the existing flood prevention awareness schemes undertaken by Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council in conjunction with local stakeholder groups. In so doing, it undertakes primary research in three distinct manners First, house to house surveys with flood victims will be conducted. Secondly, interviews with risk management and local government experts and practitioners will be undertaken. Thirdly, a forum will be held with the local flood awareness groups within the Borough. In so doing it highlights ways in which Doncaster's existing policies can be further enhanced and also proffers the suggestion that Doncaster could be a role model for other local authorities faced with surface water flooding problems.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Cabinet Office (2008) ‘Qualitative research undertaken during October 2007 in areas affected by the 2007 summer floods', The Pitt Review: Learning lessons from the 2007 floods. Cabinet Office: London.
  • Eiser, J.R. (2004) ‘Public perception of risk'. Report paper prepared for Foresight Office of Science and Technology. Centre for Research in Social Attitudes, University of Sheffield: Sheffield.

Example politics dissertation topic 11:

An analysis of the Boundary Commission's proposals for the future parliamentary electoral divisions of England

The systematic review of England's parliamentary constituency boundaries has resulted in a number of recommendations. Chief amongst these are a reduction in the number of seats so as to enable a closer assimilation in numbers of electors per constituency. This has resulted in the proposed creation, in areas such as Northumberland, of ‘super constituencies' in terms of acreage. This dissertation questions, given rising levels of voter apathy and a perceived growing gulf between voters and politicians whether the creation of larger constituencies is desirable in such a political environment.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Johnston, R., Rossiter, D. and Pattie, C. (2008) ‘Far too elaborate about so little': New parliamentary constituencies for England', Parliamentary Affairs, Vol. 61(1), pp. 4-30.
  • Johnston, R. (2011) ‘Equalise and reduce: A new electoral map for the UK', Political Insight, Vol. 2(1), pp. 18-21.

Example politics dissertation topic 12:

Beyond traditional party politics - a review of the rise of the Respect Party under George Galloway

The election of George Galloway in Bradford has been described as ‘the Bradford Spring' and resulted in the maverick MP being returned to power. Given the socio-economic characteristics of the constituency and the ethnic diversity of the constituency, this dissertation charts not only the rise of the Respect Party but also seeks to understand what it is about the party (beyond Galloway himself) that appeals to voters. Consequently this dissertation will gather an array of primary source data from the constituency itself as well as grounding the study in perceived academic knowledge through a thorough review of existing literature upon issues affecting voting intentions and behaviour.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Peace, T. (2012) ‘All I'm asking, is for a little respect: Assessing the performance of Britain's most successful radical left party', Parliamentary Affairs, not yet published.
  • Pidd, H. (2012) ‘George Galloway hails 'Bradford spring' as Labour licks its wounds', Guardian [online], available at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2012/mar/30/george-galloway-bradford-spring-labour?CMP=twt_gu [accessed 26 May 2012].

Example politics dissertation topic 13:

Geoffrey Howe, Michael Heseltine and Liverpool - a review of Conservative Government Policy with especial reference to primary sources

The dispatch of Michael Heseltine to inner-city Liverpool in the early 1980s brought with it an urban regeneration policy the effects of which are still felt today. At the same time, however, recently disclosed papers from the National Archive at Kew, suggests that there was a contrary opinion within cabinet that the declining traditional industrial areas of Britain should be left to decay. This dissertation reviews minutes, policy initiatives and public perceptions of the effects of both to present a discursive analysis of the Conservative Government's policies towards in the inner-cities in the Thatcher years.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • BBC News (2011) ‘Thatcher urged 'let Liverpool decline' after 1981 riots', BBC News [online], available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-16361170 [accessed 26 May 2012].
  • Parkinson, M. and Duffy, J. (1984) ‘Government's response to inner-city riots: The Minister for Merseyside and the task force', Parliamentary Affairs, Vol. 37(1), pp. 76-96.

Example politics dissertation topic 14:

Does the election of David Cameron as both Conservative Party Leader and Prime Minister suggest that the party has returned to its roots in the nature of who it chooses to lead itself?

The election of David Cameron as Conservative Party leader and Prime Minister has restored the lineage of old Etonians to the top job in British politics. Moreover, not since before Macmillan's ‘night of the long knives' have so many Old Etonians served in either Cabinet or ministerial positions. This dissertation accordingly evaluates the changing nature of the candidates for ‘Leader of the Party' from Macmillan to date and asks whether the election of Cameron marks a retrograde step or the renewed continuance of a longer-standing tradition within Conservative Party politics.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Crone, S. (2011) ‘Contrary to recent assertions, the British political class is not becoming more exclusive to public school and Oxbridge types, but there has still been a remarkable resilience in the presence of the privileged in the post-war period', LSE Research [online], available at: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/33445/ [accessed 26 May 2012].
  • Gamble, A. (2011) ‘The return of the Conservatives', Working paper, University of Bourgogne.
  • Walter, D. (1984) The Oxford Union: Playground of power. London: MacDonald.

Example politics dissertation topic 15:

Increasingly detached from the public - what the fall of governments in Spain, France and Greece tells us as to nature of present day political engagement with political leadership in the mature democracies of Western Europe

Contemporary voter dissatisfaction with the political elites of Western Europe is self-evident. This dissertation charts the rise of the movement against the governments in Greece, Spain and France and asks three questions. First, what does their removal tell us of the nature of political participation in the three countries? Secondly, what does it imply as to the state of European integration from a voter (rather than professional politician's) perspective? Thirdly, what do the answers to these questions suggest will happen to the Coalition as Britain enters a double dip recession?

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Ezrow, L. and Xezonakis, G. (2011) ‘Citizen satisfaction with democracy and parties' policy offerings', Comparative Political Studies, Vol. 44(9), pp. 1152-1178.
  • Wilson, A.B., Mair, P. and Beddock, C. (2012) ‘Institutional change in advanced European democracies: An exploratory assessment', EUI Working Paper No. RSCAS 2012/11.

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