Party Patronage in the United Kingdom: A Pendulum of Public Appointments*

Matthew Flinders, University of Sheffield, Felicity Matthews and University of Sheffield

in Party Patronage and Party Government in European Democracies

Published in print June 2012 | ISBN: 9780199599370
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191741517 | DOI:

Series: Comparative Politics

Party Patronage in the United Kingdom: A Pendulum of Public Appointments*

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The UK is widely regarded as a classic example of majoritarianism, based on a ‘winner takes all’ approach to power and a commitment to ‘strong’ government. However, since the mid-1990s the distribution of power has altered significantly, and resultantly the UK is better understood as a form of ‘modified majoritarianism’. A central element of this modification has occurred in relation to party patronage, wherein the power of government actors has been gradually diluted or transferred over to non-partisan actors. Recognizing the existence and extent of these changes is critical, as there is a significant disjuncture between the increasingly limited capacity of ministers to influence senior public appointments and popular opinion regarding corruption and cronyism. This tension has been driven and reinforced by a range of factors, including the lack of detailed research into party patronage in the UK, and a national media that portrays every appointment as a partisan decision.

Keywords: United Kingdom; majoritarianism; modified majoritarianism; patronage; public appointments; government; ministers

Chapter.  9049 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Comparative Politics

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