What do they think they’re doing? Views of government and politics from political insiders

Lee Jarvis has recently been involved in a UEA-led project called the Talking Shop! which collects the views of ‘political insiders’ about government and politics in Britain.  Collecting this information, Lee Jarvis argues, can help to bridge the and between politicians and the wider world.

Staff and students in UEA’s School of Politics, Philosophy, Language and Communication Studies (PPL) have been working together with colleagues at Oxford Brookes University and the Australian National University on a new research project: Talking Shop. Talking Shop represents an attempt to bridge the ‘real world’ of British politics with the academic study of that world by asking political insiders to engage with the big questions that all students of this subject confront. These include: What is politics? What is Parliament for? Where does power lie in Britain today? Why should we vote? and, Is politics still a ‘man’s game’?

Over the forthcoming months Talking Shop will be publishing responses to questions such as these from former and current politicians, cabinet members, and a range of other political actors. These will be published on our project website  along with a blog written by various members of the team. Talking Shop has no ideological, political or other agenda: we are committed to publishing a wide range of responses to these questions from people with sympathies and identities across the political spectrum. Indeed, one of the initial motivations for the project was a sense that contemporary political discourse becomes very frequently focused on the minutiae of policy decisions or on isolated anecdotes, and that there might be value in seeking to reconnect such discussions to broader political commitments and values. So, for instance, do different politicians have incompatible understandings of the role of government, on the one hand? Or, on the other, is there consensus around fundamental values such as this that stretches across parties, levels of governance, and so forth?

Talking Shop is a relatively unusual research project in that much of the day-to-day work has been undertaken by a team of undergraduate students within PPL. As an academic in PPL, this has been a really rewarding opportunity to work with some of our students in a different type of environment to the lectures and seminars in which we frequently meet. The quality and range of responses we have received to our questions so far is a real testament to the hard work of these students over a number of weeks now, and I look forward to helping build on these successes as we push the project forward into the future. For a ‘student’s eye’ view of our work so far, you may be interested in reading this blog entry from Alejandro Perez-Benn: a first year student of International Relations here at UEA.

Talking Shop was made possible, in part, by support from the University of East Anglia Annual Fund which we gratefully acknowledge.  If you are interested in contributing to Talking Shop based on your own experience of British politics, please get in touch with the team directly. For further information or comment about the project, please contact me on l.jarvis@uea.ac.uk.

Lee Jarvis is a Senior Lecturer in International Security at the University of East Anglia.

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