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Judiciary: “The battle between Parliament and the judges has only just begun”

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Useful article on the ‘Judges v Politicians’ debate by Mary Riddell in today’s Telegraph - The battle between Parliament and the judges has only just begun.
She asserts that “The conflict over human rights will test our constitution to breaking point”.



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Unit 2 Judiciary: Who are the Judges?

Saturday, May 28, 2011

This latest Prospect Magazine carries a timely article on the UK’s judges entitled A Law unto itself?  The leader states: “From privacy to anti-terrorism laws, the new Supreme Court is changing British life. Who are its justices, and what are their views?”

The article is not short; however, it is worth trawling through to pick out key issues such as the ‘judges v politicians’ debate etc.  Click here for full article.


AS essay tips

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

One of the critical differentiating factors in the AS units is essay technique.

Here are a few short tips, with an example of how these tips can be applied on the topic of PM/Cabinet.

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House of Lords: ‘Don’t lay waste to the wisdom of the Lords’

Peter Hennessy, one of the wisest and most erudite minds around on British constitutional affairs, has an excellent article in today’s Telegraph arguing that the reforms that would best serve the upper chamber are staring us in the face and showing great skeptism about the current raft of changes being considered.

Well worth reading in its entirety: ‘Don’t lay waste to the wisdom of the Lords’

Prof Hennessy sums up the positions on Lords reform as follows:
Lords reformers tend to fall into two distinct types. First, there are the physicians, who seek to improve the health of the House with organic changes, in tune with its existing physiology. Second, there are the engineers, who go for radical solutions. In effect, they are abolitionists, wishing to bolt on to Parliament a new construction – a prefab – in the hole where the Lords used to be, in the shape of a largely or wholly elected chamber.


Global Issues: Poverty & Development ~ Aid makes problems worse!

Liam Fox’s leaked ‘aid’ letter and also the repercussions of the rocky relationship with Pakistan, despite them receiving $ billions in aid, has put the issue of the efficacy of aid back in the spotlight.  True to form the Daily Mail has an article which is adamant that aid is a bad thing.  This is an easy argument to make - but do not neglect the strong arguements for aid! However, it is useful reading for those revising for the A2 Global Issues Paper.

Ian Birrell (The Daily Mail) asserts:

More and more people in the developing world, from academics to economists, from journalists to politicians, share this view that the flood of paternalistic Western aid is corroding their countries. They say it encourages a dependency culture, fosters corruption and fractures society. It is not just British voters who are concerned that so much money is being sent overseas at a time when our own economy is in such dire straits.

Click here for the full article: Despite our noble objections, aid does not solve problems - it just makes them worse

Read more: Despite our noble objections, aid does not solve problems - it just makes them worse

Pressure Group Politics - The Rally Against Debt versus March for the Alternative

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The anti-cuts umbrella group, the March for the Alternative, promoted by the trade unions, provided a successful, high-profile protest on March 26th., attended by upwards of 250 million people.  But it failed to have any impact on government policy.  Yesterday, a pro-cuts umbrella group, the Rally Against Debt, promoted by pressure group the Taxpayers’ Alliance, organised its own protest at Westminster.  Optimistic counts put the attendance at 350, with everyone having disappeared after a couple of hours.  But the government is indeed doing what Rally Against Debt want it to - pursuing cuts.  Can these two events cast light on the success and failure of pressure group tactics?  One of the groups involved in the March 26th. event, UK Uncut, achieved fame for its Fortnums sit-in.  They are now organising another day of action on May 28th. to protest the NHS changes.  Called the ‘Emergency Operation’ they will seek to turn banks into hospitals.  It could be entertaining, may well generate much publicity, but will it change much?  Isn’t the real impact on government coming from medical insider groups?

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Global Issues: Terrorism: Osama Bin Laden: Gone but not forgotten

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The killing of Osama Bin Laden in Abbotabad in Pakistan, the world’s most wanted man although maybe not Pakistan’s, in a raid by US Special Forces removes one of the most potent symbols of non-state terrorism in the modern era. However, as a blow against what Al-Qaeda represented, the killing of its putative leader almost certainly carries more symbolic, rather than practical, value. Thus questions about his precise legacy now remain.  Here are a few select pieces of analysis on the issue which should be of use to Global Issues students:

1. Paul Cornish of Chatham House gives some expert comment arguing that Osama Bin Laden may be gone but is not forgotten.  He writes that it would be a mistake to assume that Osama bin Laden’s death means the end of al-Qaeda and the end of the jihad; as if bin Laden, al-Qaeda and jihad are not just closely connected but are three inter-dependent pillars. Osama bin Laden created a franchise for international terror that is designed to survive without him. See below for full comment.

2. Dr Maha Azzam also of Chatham House also looks at his legacy and asserts:
“Whether al-Qaeda’s real strength was exaggerated by the United States and its allies or not, its defeat became the focus of US policy in Afghanistan and to some extent in Iraq in retaliation for 9/11 and gave rise to an era where the ‘War on Terror’ became the focus for security services the world over. Al-Qaeda’s declared war on the US and its allies (executed through terrorist attacks among other places, in Bali, Madrid, London, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, as well as in Iraq) cost the lives of thousands, including Muslims, and failed to win hearts and minds in the Muslim street at large.”  The killing of Osama bin Laden is a major blow to al-Qaeda, ‘a movement that laid a great deal of emphasis on Osama bin Laden as a key figure in its recruitment of people’, says Maha Azzam. On Channel 4, she outlines what next for a ‘demoralized’ al-Qaeda. Click here for more.

3. The BBC has an ‘Obituary’ by John Simpson, which includes some succint analysis from Frank Gardner.  Also look at Osama’s death: What next for al-Qaeda? which has useful video clips.

4. Osama bin Laden is survived by other terrorist leaders. Here are profiles of the top 10 at large.


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Global Issues: Terrorism: Pakistan terror attacks - regional or civilizational?

Excellent article in today’s Guardian by Jason Burke [who incidentally has an excellent book on Al Qaeda] entitled Pakistan bombing is fratricide in the name of Bin Laden, which links in with the A2 Terrorism topic but also with the ‘Clash of Civilzation’ aspects of Cultural conflict.  Burke argues that “Invocation of the dead al-Qaida chief’s name follows an affiliates’ narrative of conflating local wars with a single civilisational clash.”.  He also asserts: “There is a terrible inevitability about the bombing in Charsadda, Pakistan, on Friday morning. Little about it is different from previous bombings. There is the same vicious tactic of two devices, the latter apparently arriving on a donkey cart, with one designed to kill helpers.”

The article concludes:
Above all, what the invocation of a dead Saudi-born terrorist’s name is aimed at disguising is the truth about the various conflicts that have been conflated into the narrative, in Washington as much as in compounds in Abbottabad, of one single civilisational clash. In fact, there is no single conflict, simply a nasty mesh of individual wars, most of which pitch countryman against countryman, in Iraq, in Afghanistan and in Pakistan.
That is the reality which the invocation of a dead Saudi propagandist and terrorist’s name is supposed to hide. It is one which one hopes any communities which still support the extremists in the tribal areas – or indeed elsewhere in Pakistan – will see.

Well worth a read - and can be linked to questions such as has the nature of terrorism changed and how significant is ‘modern’ terrorism?

For reference here is an earlier article which covers the orginal attack - Osama bin Laden ‘revenge’ attack kills scores in Pakistan

Impact of the Human Rights Act

ITV played a blinder this week with their screening of “Human Rights and Wrongs” as part of the “Tonight” series. Okay, it was a little biased in favour of the notion that the ECHR is a criminals’ charter and the presence of Shami Chakrabarti did seem a token gesture but as an access to the judiciary route for AS it was first rate.

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Parliament: House of Lords ~ ‘Vermin in Ermin’ gut Robocop Bill

Friday, May 13, 2011

Useful last minute example for unit 2’s topic on Parliament with the Lords flexing their muscle. The Coalition has suffered a major defeat as the Lords voted to kill off its plans for elected police chiefs. Peers voted 188 to 176 to appoint rather than elect the commissioners. Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper said that the Lords had “ripped the heart out of this deeply flawed flagship bill”.  The Guardian has further details - click here.

The Lords defeat for the Coalition’s policing bill underlines just how unruly the Upper Chamber can be - the vote itself was followed by scenes of chaos as ministers didn’t quite realise the consequences of the gutting of a key section of the bill.  A few follow on issues of interest might be:
1. The Lib Dem peers finally flexing their muscles with a defeat of a key Coalition Agreement policy
2. But so too are Tory peers, many of whom are furious about Clegg’s plans to chop their numbers - a fury that is likely to be worsened by today’s Guardian story that he wants a ‘lottery’ to cull them.  So Tory peer guerilla action forthcoming no doubt.
3. There is also the bigger constitutional problem of whether the Parliament Act can be used to overturn some Lords defeats. It normally applies to matters which are in a manifesto - but what about bills that were not in both parties’ manifestos and only in a Coalition Agreement?

Unit 2 PM/Cab examples

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Some interesting insights on powers/role of the PM, relations with Cabinet, and role of Cabinet in last night’s Dispatches.

These up-to-date examples should help strengthen answers on this, the most popular Unit 2 topic area.

Watch it here.

Have post 1997 constitutional reforms been a success?

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Following the stunning victory in the Scottish elections by Alex Salmond’s SNP, much has been made about whether we are now closer to the break up of Britain. This debate in exam terms is subsumed into a wider debate about constitutional reform and whether (a) it has been a success (b) it has gone far enough.

In the latest edition of the exambuster I stripped out most of the lengthy analysis of devolution since it was rendered superfluous by new style questions on Edexcel Unit 2. But here is a snippet on the Scottish devolution debate.

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Osama, Obama, and the power to persuade

Thursday, May 05, 2011

I have been asked a number of times if Osama’s capture increases the prospects of Obama being re-elected in 2012. Of far more relevance to students looking to support their answers in American Politics is what impact Osama’s death will have on Obama’s relations with Congress, and his ability to pursue his policy/legislative agenda in the short term. It was Neustadt of course who said that the power of the president is the power to persuade. It would make sense therefore for Obama to use this short term boost to his popularity (I haven’t seen any poll numbers yet, but there is likely to be a second honeymoon effect) to boost his negotiating power with those working at the other end of the avenue. Popularity, as commentators have said this week, is not something you can bank for later. On this we should remember back to the presidency of George Bush senior. At a similar stage in the electoral cycle he was boosted in the opinion polls by defeating Saddam Hussain in Gulf War One. And what happened to his second term?! There’s a good feature on this with quotes by the likes of Mann and Sabato here.

AV and Constitutional Reform Articles

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

There have certainly been plenty of articles abounding about AV recently, most of them polemic defences or attacks that add much to the frenetic atmosphere of politics, but not quite so much to the objective analysis of politics that we also like our students to engage in.  With that in mind, I thought the following two articles might serve a useful purpose in the run-up to the exams.  The Political Studies Association magazine ‘Insight’ has a couple of well considered articles putting both the pro and anti-AV case, while this week’s Economist carries an excellent overview of the present government’s constitutional reform agenda.

AV (apathy vote)

As apathy upon wave of apathy has been heaped on the AV referendum debate, I thought I’d share with you a leader from the Times yesterday, urging voters to vote against. I don’t necessarily share the preference against, but it’s a useful addition to the compendium of material on electoral systems that teachers may have accumulated over the past several months. The strength of the argument presented, however, relates to the more glaring weaknesses in our government furniture. That said, it is likely that a wider debate on our constitution would stir up as much interest as the one focusing on this narrow feature of it.

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Despite Reports of Brutality Toward Civilians, Syria to Join U.N.‘s Human Rights Council

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

It wasn´t that long ago that Libya´s membership from the U.N.‘s Human Rights Council was understandably suspended (and blogged about here) and so it was with surprise to discover that Syria is to join if they get sufficient votes on May 20 at the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

The brutal crackdown by Syrian President Bashar Assad may finally be getting the attention of world leaders—but apparently not enough to stop Syria from becoming the newest member of the U.N. Human Rights Council.


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