Published on 6 April 2021
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Populism as a reaction to the troubles of good governance

Congratulations to the winner and two finalists of the Bennett Prospect Public Policy Prize for their outstanding entries answering this year's question, Is it possible to govern well in the age of populism?

“Populism is a symptom of the dysfunction, not the cause. It is a corrective response to a political organisation that is already suffering from an underlying pathology,” began the winning entry to this year’s Bennett Prospect Public Prize question: Is it possible to govern well in the age of populism?

Winner, Callum Watts, Policy Fellow at the UK Cabinet Office, was recognised by judges for his essay on “Populism as a reaction to the troubles of good governance” which argued that “So long as populism is treated as an ill to be cured rather than a systemic response to be channelled, the age of populism will only be prolonged.”

He will receive the £10K prize, publication in Prospect magazine, and introductions to leading policy practitioners to discuss his thoughts on good governance.

Nina Foster, Clerk at the House of Commons, UK Parliament, and Oliver Large, Senior Policy Analyst at the Centre for Social Justice, were shortlisted as finalists for their proposals for governance in the age of populism.

Ms Foster, wrote in her essay on “Deep democracy”, about the case for “systematising the use of deliberative tools to meet populism’s demand for a system of governance that is more representative of, and responsive to, the people”.

Mr Large discussed “Closing the gap between representation and governance: the case for the random selection of party candidates.”

All three finalists will be published in the Bennett Institute Public Policy series, be invited to the Bennett Institute’s annual conference, and receive a year’s print and digital subscription to Prospect magazine.

This year’s judges included Professor Michael Kenny, Director of the Bennett Institute for Public Policy, Professor Diane Coyle, Bennett Professor of Public Policy, Professor David Runciman, Department of Politics & International Studies, University of Cambridge, and Tom Clark, Editor of Prospect Magazine.

Says Professor Coyle: “Congratulations to our three overall finalists for their outstanding entries which emphasise important thinking about governance during this age of populism. Indeed, as the winner writes, populism is more of an effect than a cause of good or bad governance and we’ll be making introductions for Callum to discuss how his ideas might be considered in practice with key policy practitioners. The different perspectives that Nina’s and Oliver’s entries introduce are also valuable for people in governance to consider.”

Read the winning entries.

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