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Parliament in the 1980s

Judge, David (1989) Parliament in the 1980s. Political Quarterly, 60 (4). pp. 400-412. ISSN 0032-3179

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Twenty five years s on from the first publication of The Reform of Parliament much has changed and yet, simultaneously, very little has changed as far as Parliament itself is concerned. The discussion of Parliament’s role and contribution to the policy-process is still marked by conceptual ambiguity and theoretical obfuscation alongside genuine public confusion and ignorance of what happens in and around Westminster. Critics still sniff the stench of democratic decay. For them Parliament still “lacks the information, the powers and the will to scrutinise and control . . . effectively [a uniquely powerful executive, protected by secrecy and practised in manipulation]. And Parliament itself is, in turn, uniquely unrepresentative.”’ Supporters, in contrast, still conceive of parliamentary sovereignty in absolute terms,2 desperately seeking to sustain the concept in face of the growing evidence to the contrary; still uphold the sanctity of arcane procedures; still remain “enchanted” by the architectural splendour of the place, especially now that the industrial grime has been washed away from the Anston stone in keeping with the spirit of the “post-industrial” society of the 1980s. Indeed, since the publication of The Reform of Parliament, not only has Britain become “post-industrial” but it has also become “post-parliamentary” in the eyes of several influential commentators.’