In this book Kenneth Newton has produced a fantastic account of politics and political relationships between political parties, groupings, individual members and council officers in Birmingham (the second city). His use of key representation and democratic theorists in the form of Hanna Pitkin, Heinz Eulau and Schumpeter to frame this conceptual and methodological design roots the work strongly in traditional political science and theory. The toolbox of methodological approaches is also broad the main approach being surveys with data gathered from a variety of participants (council members, officers) exploring both communication processes and norms surrounding, influencing and even defining the representative role. The frameworks developed from this inciteful work give great scope for futher development of the frameworks or comparison with comparable councils or indeed different types of institution.
In exploring political and non political groups Newton gives a clear account of the dynamics between political actors and the development of interest groups and identities and evaluates the strong role that party organisations play in the political process.
The book also further evaluates and extends representational theory in the context of councillors, taking forward Pitkins concepts of delegates and trustees and extends them to include politicos as an additional and interesting category. The text interestingly also explores the nature and development of councillor and officer relationships. The final chapter takes on case study examples across Birmingham, choosing comprehensive education, housing and race relations giving depth and context to the work these chapters also provide some very inciteful points about the situation and political context of Birmingham at the time.
Overall this book is a very good read both as an academic and non academic work. Not many studies of local government are as easy to pick up and understand both the geographical, historical and political context and complex relationships between the actors involved. This book succeeds on both of these to make it (in my mind) the best account of a city and its politics.