Welcome to the website for the Centre for the Study of British Politics and Public Life, based in the Department of Politics at Birkbeck College, University of London.


11 August 2016

Following the vote to leave the EU, the Centre hosted a debate with staff from Birkbeck Politics, titled Brexit: What Now for the UK and EU? Listen to the podcast.

5 July 2016

Liam Byrne MP joined us last week to discuss the history of British capitalism and his latest book, Dragons: Ten Entrepreneurs Who Built Britain. Listen to the talk.

22 JUNE 2016

We welcome two new members to our Advisory Board: Keir Starmer MP and London Assembly Member Kemi Badenoch. Find out more about the Centre Board.

Upcoming events

 14 September 2016

The 2016 US Presidential Election: Can Trump Win?

 22 September 2016

Rethinking Capitalism 

26 October 2016

Wither Labour?: Lord Stewart Wood on the Future of the Labour Party 

9 November 2016

Dame Joan Ruddock in Conversation with Rosie Campbell

Recent Posts

The EU Referendum: Will it be In or Out?

by Dr Ben Worthy

On 8 June Birkbeck Politics staff discussed the UK’s EU referendum, looking at what has happened so far and what may yet take place on 23 June.

The panel began by looking into why the UK was having a referendum, discussing the many hidden and not too hidden factors behind it. These stretched from Cameron’s gamble that a referendum would cure the short term threat of UKIP and unhappiness in the Conservative party to the long term distrust towards the European Union project in the UK, harking all the way back to Britain’s campaign of attempted sabotage of the project in the 1950s and reluctant joining in the 1970s.

Reflecting on the campaign so far, the panel spoke of how referenda are, by their nature, proxies for all sorts of other subjects. The EU referendum is actually about immigration, democracy and sovereignty. Despite their popular appeal, referenda can also be anti-democratic in focusing so narrowly on a single decision and pursuing a seemingly simple answer to complicated issues.

There was also concern at the low level of debate and failure, on both sides, to engage with facts or global realities, from international trade to the modern mass movement of people (see the Treasury Committee report that similarly complained of the ‘inconsistent, unqualified and, in some cases, misleading claims and counter-claims’ made by both sides).

The panel also reflected on how different views of the EU split different parts of England and the United Kingdom – creating what has been called a ‘Disunited Kingdom‘ of intentions and support. What would happen if Scotland and Northern Ireland voted Remain but England and Wales wished to leave? It could all get complicated and this paper speaks of some of the profound constitutional consequences. But do referenda ever solve an issue (think Scotland in 2014)? The panel thought it unlikely to be the last EU referendum the UK has.

In terms of the voting itself, the polls so far show a knife-edge result, resting on the margin of error. To find out what our panel think will happen on the 23 June (and why José Mourinho’s views could prove decisive) listen to the podcast below:


To find out more:


  1. Chills, thrills and surprises: ten years of freedom of information in the UK
  2. The Conservatives have been the biggest borrowers over the last 70 years
  3. David Willetts in Conversation with Tony Wright
  4. The State of British Democracy
  5. Charities Regulation Under Scrutiny
  6. The Politics of David Bowie
  7. Podcast: Europe’s Migrant Crisis and the Populist Right
  8. Jeremy Hunt’s masterclass in how NOT to negotiate
  9. Podcast: Fighting for a Place in Parliament