Research project

Court Politics

Project overview

Court politics is about who in British government did what to whom, when, how, why, and with what consequences. This book has two overarching ambitions and a subsidiary one. First, I want to provide not only an accurate description of the court politics of the Conservative governments of the twenty-first century but also to move beyond metaphor and provide an analysis of the everyday practices. Second, I want to show that court politics matter by identifying the varied consequences that flow from court practices, especially the personal, electoral, and governmental consequences. My subsidiary theme is to show that ‘insider’ accounts of court politics that are normally judged unreliable are, in fact, a valuable source of data that will bear secondary analysis.

The heart of the book is my account of the court politics of David Cameron, Theresa May, and Boris Johnson. Chapters 3-5 describe their practices. I adopt a common structure. For each court, I describe its personnel; the PM’s craft; storytelling; reshuffles, resignations and leadership challenges; the political games of barons, especially lying; informality; infighting; loyalty, betrayal, leaks and revenge; and rituals, focusing on language, gossip, humour and bullying. Each chapter has a short case study of the court in action; namely, the education wars, the 2018 election, and the Covid-19 crisis. I chose each case to illustrate respectively the personal, electoral, and governmental consequences of court politics. The book concludes with a comparison of the three courts and the dilemmas they confront.

The study was partially funded by small grants from the Australian Research Council and the Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Southampton.

The book will be published late 2023 or early 2024: Rhodes, R. A. W. The Prime Ministerial Court: Conservative Statecraft in the Twenty-first Century. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Lead researcher

Professor Roderick Rhodes DPhil, FAcSS, FASSA

Professor of Government (Research)

Research interests

  • Public Administration
  • Public Policy
  • Comparative Politics
Connect with Roderick

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