This article uses A. H. Birch’s Representative and Responsible Government (1964) as an analytical lens through which to understand not just the evolution of representative democracy in the intervening fifty years but also to trace and reflect upon the evolution (and future) of the study of representative democracy. This is demonstrated by highlighting how ideational and empirical challenges have resulted in claims that representative and responsible government has now been displaced by representative versus responsible government, or to more extreme interpretations that suggest contemporary electoral processes and institutions now provide for neither representative nor responsible government. This reveals how political analysis has built-upon and evolved away from Birch’s initial focus in significant ways while possibly suggesting that a neo-Birch’ian might profitably refocus on the linkage or nexus between modes of representation and manifestations of responsible government. Recognising the importance of this nexus in the context of ‘declinist’ narratives concerning the ‘death’, ‘suicide’ or ‘end’ of democracy remains the lasting legacy bequeathed by Birch.
- UK politics