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

Peter Allen, Paul Cairney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Citations (SciVal)


Recent years have seen an explosion of popular complaint about the British ‘political class’. Within this narrative, the political class is feckless, unrepresentative, immoral and elitist. It rules over ‘ordinary people’ from Westminster with no conception of what ‘real people’ think. How can one respond to such complaints? It is argued in this article that a coherent solution will only be possible when the problem can be defined clearly. ‘Political class’ should not be a catch-all description for elected politicians. Instead, the ‘political class’ narrative should be divided into three distinct but related concepts – the political elite, political professionalisation and political careerism – in order to highlight the ways in which the term needlessly conflates distinct ideas and adds more confusion to an already vague debate.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)18-27
Number of pages10
JournalPolitical Studies Review
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 12 May 2015


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