Beyond partisanship: seeking a new beginning for democracy

Posted - Thursday 10 June 2021

Media and


In an increasingly interconnected world, politics has become more polarised than ever.

In an environment where online ‘fake news’ can exert a potent influence on public opinion and stalled social mobility has fuelled a rise in populism, is reasoned debate still possible in such a partisan political landscape?

York Festival of Ideas, in collaboration with the Morrell Centre for Legal and Political Philosophy, presents a themed series of events looking at the causes of these changes and exploring ways in which democracy can benefit in spite of the profound challenges it faces.

The series ‘Democracy, Debate and Disagreement’ will feature distinguished speakers including political philosopher Michael J Sandel of Harvard University; former Head of News and Current Affairs at Channel 4 News, Dorothy Byrne; expert on strategic communications and security, Mark Laityjournalist Lina Attalah; historian and Guardian columnist Timothy Garton Ash; and entrepreneur and publisher, Sebastian Turner.

In three Festival Focus events – ‘News, Fake News and Calling It Out’, ‘The Tyranny of Merit’ and ‘The Future of Liberalism’ on 19 June – they will examine the future of the media and issues including impartiality, funding, populism and speaking truth to power.

Speakers will examine how liberalism can respond to creeping authoritarianism and the likely economic consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic such as rising unemployment, insecurity and soaring public debt. They will urge us to rethink attitudes toward success that have accompanied globalisation and rising inequality.

Festival Director Joan Concannon said: “These are hugely challenging times both for serious political discourse and for democracy itself. We are privileged to present such an eminent group of speakers to discuss ways we can change an increasingly fractious political world to the benefit of society as a whole.

“The Festival is proud to join the Morrell Centre for Legal and Political Philosophy in presenting these timely and important events.”

The Director of the Morrell Centre for Legal and Political Philosophy, Matt Matravers, who will chair ‘News, Fake News and Calling it Out’, added: “I’m delighted that we have managed to attract such a wonderful and diverse group of speakers. These are difficult times for democracy. As we emerge from the pandemic, we need new ideas to shape a new future.”


Further Information:

  • Democracy, Debate and Disagreement’  
  • Led by the University of York, York Festival of Ideas, whose headline sponsor is the Holbeck Charitable Trust, celebrates human ingenuity and imagination, and the power of education and ideas to change lives for the better.  This year it runs from 8-20 June, with a special day of events to celebrate its 10th anniversary held on Monday, 7 June. Find out more at
  • The Morrell Centre for Legal and Political Philosophy, which is generously supported by the C & JB Morrell Trust, is dedicated to legal and political philosophy with a particular focus on toleration as an idea and as a practice. Follow us @MorrellCentre.