What Do We Mean When We Talk about the ‘Political Class’


Allen P & Cairney P (2017) What Do We Mean When We Talk about the ‘Political Class’. Political Studies Review, 15 (1), pp. 18-27.

Recent years have seen an explosion of popular complaint about the British ‘political class’. Within this narrative, the political class are feckless, unrepresentative, immoral, and elitist. They rule over ‘ordinary people’ from Westminster with no conception of what ‘real people’ think. How can we respond to such complaints? We argue that a coherent solution will only be possible when we can define the problem clearly. ‘Political class’ should not be a catch-all description of elected politicians. Instead, we divide the ‘political class’ narrative into three distinct but related concepts - the political elite, political professionalization, and political careerism – to highlight the ways in which the term needlessly conflates distinct ideas and adds more confusion to an already vague debate.

political class; British politics; professionalisation; career politicians; political elites

Political Studies Review: Volume 15, Issue 1

Publication date28/02/2017
Publication date online31/05/2015
Date accepted by journal16/02/2015
PublisherWiley-Blackwell for Political Studies Association