American Politics students will be familiar with the gap between the expectations placed upon the President and the powers he has at his disposal to enact legislation. The Constitution of course hands all power to initiate legislation to Congress but since the 1930s the occupant of the White House has effectively become de facto chief legislator. In other words, the President is essentially hamstrung by the separation of powers put in place by the Founding Fathers who were cautious about creating a new political system that could lend itself to executive tyranny. For this reason modern Presidents must employ a range of techniques that can assist their power to persuade. So how has Obama attempted to deal with this challenge?read more...»
In lessons this week we have been discussing how well the UK and USA protect civil liberties in a comparative sense. This of course is a hugely controversial subject—and one which would be covered even more widely if it weren’t for the economic and banking crisis. Anyway in trying to stimulate thought on this I have found myself referring back frequently to an article I read by Andrew Sullivan at the weekend.read more...»
Nick Robinson has written an excellent blog piece about comparisons between the first ever Prime Minister and the current one. Details of his related BBC Radio4 programme are here as well.
Like him or loathe him, Ken Livingstone is, almost, always good value-for-money with his comments. On the Andy Marr show this morning he laid the blame for the current banking crisis firmly at the feet of Margaret Thatcher and her policies of deregulation in the 1980s.read more...»
I would draw the attention of blog readers to two excellent comment pieces on the current state of the Conservative Party as in the eyes of many it moves closer to government. The first is by Andrew Rawnsley in the Observer. The second by former Cabinet minister Michael Portillo in the Sunday Times. Both provide the kind of context and analysis that Politics students should be exposing themselves to.
According to the Independent website:
‘The full extent of state powers to detain people without charge, cover up Government errors, hold the DNA of the innocent and share personal data between public bodies has been revealed in a devastating analysis of the erosion of civil liberties in Britain over the past decade.’read more...»
From the trailer this looks like a compelling production, so it’s recommended viewing for all Politics students.
26 Feb 2009, 21:00 on BBC Two
From the BBC press office:read more...»
I was asked this question by David Cameron this morning. Or at least I received an email from some lackey at Tory central office informing of a green paper published by the party which spells out plans to give councils more power.read more...»
The judiciary is easily the least favoured topic area for students tackling the government of the UK modules. Memory has it that the number of candidates who attempted to answer a question on this topic on a paper for one of the major examination boards could be counted on one hand. Partly this is because some centres have given up teaching it. I’ve gone on record in this forum previously in saying that I think this is a shame. Firstly, the topic is anything but dry. Judges have said some highly controversial things. Heard the one about the judge who said that immigrants might not be suitable jurors? Secondly, British judges have been hitting the headlines more in recent years in clashing with the executive than has ever been the case. This has largely been brought about by the massive increase in judicial review and the Human Rights Act.read more...»
Buried in the Education section of Tuesday’s Guardian is an interview with Vernon Bogdanor, Professor of Government at Oxford. Bogdanor is one of the most established authorities on the constitution and some of his observations are useful when considering the impact of constitutional reforms undertaken by Labour post 1997.read more...»
The following figures come from the Runnymede Trust:
7% recruitment target for black and ethnic minority police
4% level of recruitment achieved
47% forces fail to meet their recruitment target
2.9% sergeants from a black or ethnic minority background
6 times more likely that black people were stopped and searched in 1999 than white people
7 times more likely that black people were stopped and searched in 2008 than white people
The chair of the Equality Commission, Trevor Phillips, said recently that the Metropolitan Police could no longer be charged of institutional racism. On the eve of an official inquiry into racial equality within the Met, the Runnymede Trust have published a report which states that a decade on from the Macpherson Inquiry into the murder of Stephen Lawrence, black and Asian officers still face significant barriers within the force.read more...»
I have just sent a link to this post from the Guardian’s Politics blog (Select Committees in the Spotlight) through to my AS classes, who have been just looking at the scrutiny function of Parliament.read more...»
It has been reported in the press this week that a landlord is fighting the police over their insistence that he install CCTV cameras in his pub. Elsewhere doctors have spoken out against governmennt plans to widen access to medical records to all Whitehall departments. These two events come in the week that a House of Lords committee published a damning report on the threat to liberty brought about by the development of a surveillance state. A great site for exploring the latest news on attempts by the state to erode the liberties of the people living in the oldest parliamentary democracy, the land of Locke and Mille is here.
Students quite frequently write that American parties are loose groupings and largely free of coherent ideology. But this analysis ignores the steep rise in partisanship evident in the USA in recent decades.read more...»
I wrote in a previous article that an American politician once said that campaigns were in poetry and government was in prose. This is a theme picked up in the Guardian:
‘You campaign in poetry, but you must govern in prose. That favoured phrase of New York’s former governor Mario Cuomo now applies with even more force to another progressive Democrat. Soaring rhetoric and a moving memoir combined to create the Barack Obama phenomenon and lift him from obscurity to the heights of the White House. Once installed, however, his main concern has been gritty negotiations over the minutiae of an economic recovery package. After protracted haggling, Congress has all but signed off on his fiscal stimulus plan, and yet the prosaic work remains far from complete.’
Read more of this neat editorial piece on the expectations gap here
Nigel Farage, leader of the UK Independence Party was kind enough to give up some of his time and share some of his ideas on Britain’s relations with the European Union by coming to speak to my school’s Politics Society.read more...»
I was talking today to my AS class about easy ways to keep up to date with politics as they are so reluctant to read a “proper paper” (no, I tell them, the Metro doesn’t count). I suggested that they dip into some of the range of excellent podcasts that are available.read more...»
Little did I know when I asked my group on Monday morning -as part of a general reflection on recent domestic and international political issues - to research the Israeli election, how extremely close the result would be, and how it could be held up as a prime example of why PR can lead to the disproportionate influence of a minor party (in this case Avigdor Lieberman and his Yisrael Beiteinu (Israel Is Our Home) party) over the policies of two established, and larger, parties.
Is this really symptomatic of the problems that PR can lead us all in to, or is this just the continuation of the political weaknesses that have dogged Israel since its inception in 1948 and even First-Past-the-Post won’t be able to cure?
As someone who believes that electoral reform is well overdue in our general election, sometimes I have to wonder whether it’s all too much bother to change to something that could have far-reaching, and possibly disastrous, consequences for our stable system.
I think I’d still like to give it a try though!
Yesterday I had one of the most animated group discussions in some time when discussing the relative effectiveness of crime strategies which focused on prevention versus tougher deterrants in the shape of stiffer prison sentences. It seems incredibly difficult to square a circle which desires more liberalisation in the shape of personal freedoms versus an approach to solving crime that doesn’t come straight out of a Daily Mail editorial page.
Today there is an agency report suggesting that certian class A drugs be downgraded. More food for thought when discussing civil liberties, law and order, etc.
See the Big Question as a starting off point.
It goes without saying that Obama faces the biggest challenges of a new occupant of the White House in over half a century, and that expectations undoubtedly exceed these. But how quickly will his star fade? Cynical? Not really. It was Enoch Powell who was correct in saying that all political careers end in failure. And well before that the honeymoon period becomes a distant memory. For this reason, the Economist ran this interesting feature (in late January, but the blog was, alas, slow to advertse it):
Further detail of the strategies used by presidents to overcome the limitations on their powers can be found in spades in the press at the minute as they analyse Obama’s moves in relation to the economic crisis.
Obama has not had as much success as he would have liked in convincing Congress of the merits of his plan. For this reason he has been on his bike this week touring small towns in order to shore up public support for his bound to be over a trillion dollar proposal. As the Independent reported today:
‘With partisan rancour threatening to blow his economic and financial agenda off course, President Barack Obama will today try to appeal over the heads of members of Congress and shore up public support for his $800bn stimulus plan and a second massive bailout for Wall Street.’
As someone with similarly limited experience in cutting deals in the Capitol, appealing to the public directly was a strategy used by President Reagan in the 1980s to soften up congressmen on his tax cut proposals. The gipper is not regarded as one of the most intelligent politicians to work behind the desk in the Oval Office, but he knew what skills he had. The ‘great communicator’ used his telegenic nature, and acting skills, to appeal to the people on TV. The environment Obama is opertaing in is probably one of higher stakes, but the rewards of success are also greater. Watch this space.
The latest edition of Question Time covers a snow-filled, action-packed week in British politics
‘They cut off my clothes with a scalpel. Maybe I was going to be raped, electrocuted, castrated.’
News and comment has been dominated this weekend by analysis of the use of torture by UK and US intelliegence officials in relation to the so called war on terror.
This is important in relation to civil liberties as well executive/judicial relations.
Was the UK government, all the way up to Tony Blair, complicit by remaining silent?
Miliband’s role in this.read more...»
Thought I’d use this space to echo Jim Riley’s offer in the recent teacher newsletter to appeal to any blog readers who are experienced teachers or examiners who may be interested in writing either for this blog or for first past the post, tutor2u’s digital Politics magazine.
Contributing certainly aids professional development, and I’m sure subscribers to both services would like to see more diverse opinion than my tired ramblings.
If you would like to get involved, please contact Jim Riley via the contact form.
The presidency is usually the favoured topic for students of American Politics on the government of the USA module, so they would be well advised to follow in detail the path taken by Obama. Many have questioned when Obama the prophet, the campaigner who has talked in grand themes, who would become Obama the president, bogged down in the dim realities of everyday politics. An American politician once said that campigns are in poetry, government is in prose. Never was this more true than in Obama’s case.
To keep up to date on a regular basis, students need to look no further than the Economist’s US section.read more...»
We’ve just kicked off our study (after a bonus two days rest due to snow) of the Edexcel Unit 6 paper examining the UK and US political systems in a comparative context. It can seem a bit daunting at first to draw together different strands of the course and compare and contrast them meaningfully. And for some at the moment it seems like I am asking them to compare apples and bananas. Possible, but perhaps a bit pointless. So I thought I’d share some of the thoughts I expressed to my classes on this since there may be blog readers out there in a similar predicament.read more...»
Wag economists are inclined to say that the difference between a recession and a depression is that in the former your neighbour loses his job, in the latter you lose your job. But it seems that Gordon is doing his best to put himself out of work by lurching into depression territory in what can only be described as a Freudian slip.read more...»
I make a big play to students thinking of signing up for Politics in the sixth form (and we don’t do too badly for numbers - roughly a quarter of the lower sixth take the subject, and we are the 4th most popular in terms of bums on seats in that year group) that at the very least they will end one year of study with a good understanding of how their country’s governmental systems works. But do they? The conscientious class student should end up with more ability than the man in the street to discuss the workings of the single transferable vote, or be able to recognise that the introduction of a new Parliament at Holyrood has thrown into sharp relief the problems of asymmetrical devolution.
But when it gets to the nuts and bolts of legislating and governing, what then?read more...»