Westminster’s Brexit Paradox: The contingency of the ‘old’ versus ‘new’ politics

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The embedded nature of the British Political Tradition has created a series of pathologies about the way politics in Westminster is conducted. The endurance of the British Political Tradition emanates from its resilience to pressures for reform. Yet the rising anti-politics tide, the expression of which was vented in the 2016 European Union referendum, presents a critical challenge to the British Political Tradition. Given the political instability resulting from Brexit, this article maps the fate of previous attempts to reform the way politics is conducted in Britain. It identifies two waves of ‘new politics’ that have defined themselves against the ‘old politics’ of the British Political Tradition: the first, a series of demands for reform during the 1970s; the second, a sustained call for political reform from the 1990s onwards. The subsequent analysis reveals a link between both waves in demands for a less ‘elitist’ and more participatory style of democracy, but at the same time, a failure to dislodge the core tenets of the British Political Tradition. Given the current state of British politics, the article considers whether calls for a new form of politics in response to the climate of anti-politics, and the need for a post-Brexit settlement, will suffer a similar fate.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
JournalBritish Journal of Politics and International Relations
Early online date27 Mar 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2019

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