Students of A Level Politics are required, at least for EDEXCEL, to use up-to-date examples to support their responses in order to gain high marks.
So, here is a great example of a students studying US pressure groups (interest groups).
PETA are using litigation to exert pressure on SeaWorld as they claim that the organisation is violating the Orcas constitutional rights, particularly the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery in the US and prohibits involuntary servitude.
An interesting take on the recent parliamentary vote on a European referendum which links in well with the Unit 1 Democracy topic is to be found in the Economist. Bagehot in One man, many votes - The Tories’ confused attitude to direct democracy asserts:
MORE than two centuries ago, the liberal philosopher Edmund Burke delivered a bracing warning to voters in Bristol, who had just elected him to Parliament. If his constituents had opinions, he announced, he would “rejoice” to hear them. But he would not be Bristol’s envoy to Parliament, nor take instructions from his electors. At Westminster, he would deliberate in the national interest, not theirs.
Nobody denounced Burke by name in the House of Commons on October 24th, when more than 80 Conservatives defied party leaders to back a referendum on Britain’s ties to the European Union. But today’s backbenchers unmistakably rejected Burke’s lofty vision of representative democracy
Given the mention of Burke, the balance in the UK between representative democracy and direct democracy it is worth a read! Also follow up with Bagehot’s Notebook which extends analysis towards the issue of referendums and the break up of the UK vis a vis Scottish independence.
Heads up on an excellent new two part BBC documentary - Secret Pakistan. First screened tonight on BBC2 but now available on iplayer - click here for the link.
The BBC blurb is as follows:
In May this year, US Special Forces shot and killed Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan. Publicly Pakistan is one of America’s closest allies - yet every step of the operation was kept secret from it.
Filmed largely in Pakistan and Afghanistan, this two-part documentary series explores how a supposed ally stands accused by top CIA officers and Western diplomats of causing the deaths of thousands of coalition soldiers in Afghanistan. It is a charge denied by Pakistan’s military establishment, but the documentary makers meet serving Taliban commanders who describe the support they get from Pakistan in terms of weapons, training and a place to hide.
This first episode investigates signs of duplicity that emerged after 9/11 and disturbing intelligence reports after Britain’s forces entered Helmand in 2006.
There has been no shortage of interesting articles in today’s press in the wake of the ‘Revolting Tories’. 79 Tory MPs rebelled against the government by voting for an EU referendum, as well as 19 Labour MPs. Yesterday, the EU referendum motion was defeated by 483 to 111. In total, 79 Tory MPs defied the government to vote in favour of holding a referendum (not including the two tellers), making this the biggest ever Conservative rebellion over Europe. Here is the full list of MPs who voted against the government [can you spot your local backwoodsman MP?] can be found here.
Here are a few which touch on aspects of the AS Course.
There may be no challenger to David Cameron as leader of the Conservative party, but he should not underestimate the seriousness of his position. Large numbers of his own MPs and many grassroots Tories have lost all affection for him.
Worth relating to how powerful is the PM? Does he have the full weight of his party behind him?
One hundred and eleven MPs kept faith with their constituents. Two resigned their government posts rather than behave falsely: Stewart Jackson and Adam Holloway.
The argument about the union binding Scotland to England has been recast, says Philip Stephens. Will they be together in 15 years? Don’t bet on it
Link to how effective have Constitutional Reforms been post 1997?
In British politics there is both Europe and “Europe”. The first is a messy, draining, crisis-ridden reality. The other is a flexible fantasy that comes to the fore to wreck governments every few years. The real European Union is bureaucratic, lacks clear lines of accountability and evolves erratically. Yet for all its problems, Europe is worth having and being part of, more so now than when Britain joined in the early 1970s
Picked off the Newstatesman is an interesting take on the Parliamentary vote on an EU referendum and accompanying revolts by David Allen Green [aka Jack of Kent] which looks at the implications of the vote for ‘parliamentary sovereignty’. He writes:
111 Members of Parliament vote to take matters out of their own hands.Yesterday, 111 Members of Parliament voted against parliamentary sovereignty. In speech after speech, and in the voting lobby afterwards, these MPs—including 80 so-called Conservatives—sent the clear signal that they thought Parliament was not competent to legislate on an important matter and so it should be left to others, by means of a referendum.
The rest is below - of especial interest for Unit 1 topic on Referendums and Unit 2 Parliament and the Constiution.read more...»
The debate in the Commons today on Britain’s relations with the EU was, as you are probably aware, prompted by an e-petition.
Jackie Ashley in today’s Guardian writes an excellent piece in support of the e-petition process. It’s definitely one I will be looking to use with my AS students when assessing the pros and cons of direct democracy, and ways to improve the democratic system in the UK.
I also include a study note below on arguments for and against direct democracy. I know pedants would argue that e-petitions are a form of consultative democracy, but for Edexcel they do fall under the direct democracy umbrella on Unit 1.read more...»
Here is one for prospective PPE candidates - an article by renowned philosopher and now Master of the New College for Humanities Prof AC Grayling from this Sunday’s Independent entitled These executions have set us back to medieval ways The article is well worth reading and discussing further as it asks some telling ethical questions of a few recent political ‘killings’ both in terms of their efficacy, utility and long term effects. He starts:
If inquiry shows that Colonel Muammar Gaddafi and his son Mutassim were summarily executed last Thursday, theirs will be the latest in a series of high-profile killings this year, beginning with Osama bin Laden in Pakistan and continuing with Anwar al-Awlaki and his bomb-making colleague Ibrahim al-Asiri in Yemen.
He goes on to make the telling point:
In accepting the pragmatic case for shooting malefactors, just as we shoot mad dogs, we state that we do not wish to pay the high cost of living according to law and civil liberties. We champion our Western principles about the rule of law and the rights of individuals, we thus say, only until they become a burden and an inconvenience; and, when they do, we summarily shoot people in the head instead. In effect, we admit the shameful fact that these principles are mere pieties that we do not really believe in, because we ditch them when occasion demands. And in this way we are no different from the Gaddafis and Bin Ladens.
Gaddafi’s end and the ‘new’ Libyan governments claim that the country is now liberated might signal an end to intervention in Libyan affairs, although the prognosis suggests the road ahead is a rocky one. The is certainly controversy over whether Libya might be held up as a template for humanitarian intervention under the R2P Doctrine. For reference to those Global Issues students who will look at this under the Human Rights topic: The “responsibility to protect” (R2P) doctrine, which states that each government is individually responsible for protecting its population from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity. If a government cannot—or will not—meet its R2P obligations, then the international community can use military force to protect that state’s populace and, potentially, to ensure the removal of offending regimes—as has happened in the Ivory Coast and Libya this year.
Sir Richard Dalton, the former UK ambassador to Libya, in the Independent on Sunday has an article on: Libya, and the limits of liberal intervention He argues that “victory for the rebels in Sirte justifies the responsible use of force sanctioned by the UN, but it will not work everywhere, every time”.
The article asserts:
Nato intervened in Libya under a UN Security Council mandate to protect civilians. The intervention has been successful so far, but controversial, in that there have been concerns about Nato exceeding the mandate. The future of the Libyan revolution will influence not just the future of the Libyan people, but the ability of future international action to forestall looming atrocities
Dalton refers to a recent talk at Chatham House by Gareth Evans, a former foreign minister of Australia, who is of the firm belief that this doctrine is now embedded in international discourse and increasingly in international practice:
Evans stressed the five criteria that should be used to determine whether the use of force would be legitimate: that the threat faced is a serious one; that force would be used to avert this threat (the primary purpose test) and not to further the ulterior motives of the interveners; that it would be used as a last resort; that it would be proportional; and that the consequences would be balanced in favour those being assisted.
Nice little article by the waspish and funny Quentin Letts to link in with Parliament topic in the Daily Mail: Heavy whipping of MPs is as undesirable as it is of racehorses The
An apt quote is:
As Leader of the Commons, Sir George is the one who should be going to No 10 to tell the Prime Minister he is making a thorough horse of himself by whipping this backbench debate on Europe next week.
With the GOP contest dangerously close to descending into what can only be desribed as a slanging match - e.g. see this story from the CNN website if you have not being watching the goings on closely - I have taken the opportunity to fully update my arguments for and against the primaries process.
It is important to note that these points are predicated on considerations of both their existence compared to a process of party elder selection, and ways in which the system of primaries per se could be subject to improvement.
With that caveat emptor aside, here is my updated version…read more...»
A quick update to my ongoing study note about policy divides between the Conservatives and Labour.
“The government has persuaded energy suppliers to write to 8 million customers to tell them how to switch payment methods, find lower tariffs and insulate their homes to save energy.
The prime minister pledged the big six companies would be “permanently watched” and should put their shoulders to the wheel in what he called a “winter call to action”.
However, Labour said the government should have used the “bully pulpit” of government to insist the big six energy companies kept costs down.
Caroline Flint, Labour’s shadow energy and climate change secretary, said: “For the big six to agree with David Cameron to hold their price increases over the winter, when wholesale energy prices have been falling in recent weeks, is a complete betrayal of the public.”
Labour believes the government had a series of options, including “pressurising” the energy companies to cut prices this winter, extracting a promise of fewer, simple tariffs and giving the regulator immediate powers to open the books of energy companies.”
I’ve come across a great article for students and teachers on the spiralling cost of US elections.
It covers most of the territory that I teach on the topic when outlining the case to suggest that while the race for the presidency is expensive, we have to place this in context: the USA is large country, the contest lasts many months, as a proportion of the GDP of the world’s richest country the cost is minimal, Americans spend as much in an annual cycle on any number of things (or far more in some case, e.g. it is estimated that the US population spends over $100b every year on fast food!), the greenback doesn’t always rule - i.e. the candidate who spends the most doesn’t always win.
‘The 11 Day Rule’ according to Alistair Campbell is that if a minister in under pressure and the story remains in the media for 11 days continuously that minister will go! And on the 11th Day Dr Fox the Defence Secretary is gone!
Philip Hammond has been confirmed as the new Defence Secretary, following Liam Fox’s resignation.
In his resignation letter to Prime Minister David Cameron, Dr Fox said he had “mistakenly allowed the distinction between my personal interest and my government activities to become blurred, the consequences of this have become clearer in recent days”. More to follow in the press, but worth filing away as an example of why and when do ministers resign!
This morning Martin Kettle wrote in the Guardian that “Liam Fox ran a freelance international security policy. He will pay for it”; and went on to say:
The real threat to the government, the controversial rightwing unofficial adviser complained in his letter to the minister, was not his own advice but “the wall of officials” who were increasingly blocking his back-door access to the seat of power.
Whilst still on the topic of the Cabinet there is acerbic article by Kevin Maguire in the Daily Mirror entitled Oliver Letwin, Liam Fox and the boobies who star in Carry On Up Whitehall where he writes:
Pint-sized crank Oliver Letwin makes you wonder if Britain’s ruled by a Cabinet of weirdos.
This scene from Yes, Prime Minister is an absolute beauty - working on so many levels.
The recent ‘cat fight’ over the Human Rights Act sparked by Teresa May at the recent Tory conference and then fuelled by Ken Clarke’s response [referring to May’s assertion as “laughable child-like”] has caused something of a storm in a tea cup. However, it does raise the issue of how well protected are our rights? Will we see the HRA be swept aside in a simple swipe of Tory pique and excercise of parliamentary sovereignty? Hence, the debate of whether we in fact need an entrenched Bill of Rights is again relevant.
The most amusing reporting of the ‘cat-atrophic’ fur fetched’ tale comes from Guido Fawke’s:
Claws For Moment: It never goes well when a politician utters the words “I am not making this up”. Often it turns out they are and Theresa May’s anecdote about a man not being deported because he had a cat is no exception. Larry the Cat may have been left at No. 10, but conference suddenly went cat-tastic. It’s the purrfect story for a subdued conference, and the tabby-loids are all over this fur-fetched tail. Cameron will be fur-ious, but Guido reckons she’ll get away with it, by a whisker and she can claw back her reputation . We will now take a paws from the cat puns.
Today’s Huffington Post has an interesting follow up article “ Human Rights and Cat Fights - The Calls for Reform Must not be Silenced”, which asserts
It would be, to coin a phrase, child-like to summate the debate around the Human Rights Act as one between those in favour of protecting human rights in law, and those against doing so.
Politics students may not always be avid readers of the Economist so a heads up on a feature in this week’s edition that may be of interest:
“WILL the next presidential election see Barack Obama return triumphantly to the White House for a second term as president of the world’s biggest economy? Or will a sluggish economic recovery, which has left over 14m Americans out of work, doom him to defeat in November 2012?
Models of the way economic factors affect presidential elections already exist. The best known was developed in the late 1970s by Ray Fair, an economist at Yale, who used macroeconomic indicators (such as inflation and the growth rate of income per person) to predict the vote share of the two main parties in subsequent elections. Mr Fair most recently updated his estimates at the end of July, when his model predicted a victory for Mr Obama in 2012 with 53.4% of the vote. In releasing his predictions, however, he noted that “a strong rebound results in a fairly solid Obama victory…and a double-dip recession…results in a fairly solid Republican victory.” Democratic hearts will have skipped a beat or two on hearing Ben Bernanke, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, say on October 4th that the recovery was “close to faltering”.
But is it right to focus exclusively on macroeconomic indicators?”
Interested? Read more here.
Dr Liam Fox, the Defence Secretary, has come under increased pressure this weekend regarding the behaviour of his close friend Adam Werritty.
This is an opportunity to revisit the politics of ministerial resignations, a very common Unit 2 topic. I include a study note on ministerial responsibility with this story .read more...»
Coalition politics in the UK is well embarked, and this year’s party conferences – especially the Lib Dem and Conservative ones – provided a useful insight into how it is all progressing. In short, the Lib Dems wanted to show how different they were from the Tories, while the Tories kept up a smooth, united face in the main hall but saw their right-wing activists in full voice on the fringe.read more...»
With all that’s going on at the minute, I hope these clips brings some light relief…read more...»
The ‘10 year anniversary’ of the war in Afghanistan has put the Taliban into the spotlight oncemore, not least given recent events such as the breakdown in possible talks with the Taliban, the recent assination of a former Aghan president and the activities of the Haqqani network. The Taliban are of interest in relation to the Global Issues course both in terms of how the character of modern conflict has changed in terms of ‘new’ wars in terms of being a non-state internal actor and the nature of insurgency itself; however, they are also of interest in terms of the rise identity politics in terms of their stress on Pushtun identity and adherence to a fundamentalist view of Islam.
Here are a few useful resources:
1. Podcaste of an interesting BBC Radio interview with Ahmed Rashid (Pakistani journalist and author of the excellent ‘Descent into Chaos’ addressing the issue of ‘Can the Taliban return?’
2. BBC - Success of the Taliban - looks at how a rag tag militia have turned into a .successful guerilla army mounting an intractable insurgency.
3. BBC: Who are the Taliban?
Theresa May, the Home Secretary, announced at the weekend that she would like to repeal the Human Rights Act. This is yet another example of clear blue water between the government and the Labour opposition on party policy that has emerged during the conference season.read more...»
With the Conservative Party Conference underway this week, I thought I’d post a little reminder of the speech made by the current Foreign Secretary to conference when he was a teenager.read more...»
Of interest to Global Issues students will be the ‘targeted killing’ of the radical Yemeni cleric Anwar al-Awlaki in a drone strike. Such measures are a part of counterterrorism strategy and operations; however, while US policy makers may tout this as a victory in the ‘war on terror’, the episode highlights controversial aspects of the expanding targeted killing policy.
The CFR has the following comment:
‘The targeted killing of al-Awlaki eliminates an inspirational and charismatic voice of al-Qaeda, as well as someone who U.S. officials asserted was playing an increasing operational role. However, like most targeted killings, it probably will not make much difference in reducing the ability of al-Qaeda or affiliated groups in mobilizing, recruiting, and planning terrorist operations. In addition, it calls to mind a similar targeted killing that occurred almost nine years ago, which is illustrative to remember as U.S. officials—anonymously of course—condone al-Alwaki’s death.’
Of interest may be an earlier blog post which coincided with the Yemen ‘Christmas Cargo Bombplot’:
Global Issues: Terrorism ~ Bomb Plots, Yemen and AQAP
For more on the story here are a few BBC links:
Obama: Anwar Al-Awlaki death is major blow for al-Qaeda
Obituary: Anwar al-Awlaki
Profile: Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula
The foreign policy think tank has a useful backrounder on the controversial and seemingly more common practice of ‘targeted killings - click here.