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Parliament: Order! Oder! More revolting MPs

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Useful article in the Independent Order, order! Why the newest Tories are a major headache for Cameron.  Based on research by Philip Cowley at Nottingham University it shows that the Conservative MPs elected in 2010 are the most rebellious.  Here is a revealing quote:

The so-called “class of 2010” is playing a central role in the simmering discontent facing the Prime Minister on a range of issues, a study next month will disclose. The Government has suffered a revolt in 43 per cent of Commons divisions between the general election in May 2010 and Christmas 2011, by far the highest rate in modern times. Tories have rebelled in 31 per cent of votes. Particularly worrying for Mr Cameron is that more than half of the Conservative rebels have been “newbie” MPs, voting 340 times against their leader.

Useful analysis for arguing that Parliament still has a life of its own and executive dominance is not to be just taken for granted.

Party Leaders in the spotlight

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A few more articles which focus on the fortunes of the various party leaders.

Ed Miliband’s performance is certainly under scrutiny.  James Macintyre [co-author of the recent Ed: the Milibands and the making of a Labour leader] has an article in the Guardian - Ed Miliband is just not radical enough

Contrary to David Cameron’s accusation of being too ‘leftwing’, the Labour leader’s vision is being obscured by opportunism.  He writes:
The end of the year provides a good time for reflection. Contrary to conventional wisdom, Miliband’s problem is not that he is too “leftwing”, to use the word David Cameron now attacks him with. It is more complicated, and actually graver, than that. Instead, he is not consistently radical enough. His long-term vision is being obscured by incoherent opportunism epitomised by two judgment calls this year: calling for Kenneth Clarke’s resignation and exploiting the scare over immigration.

More on the Milband debate can be followed in John Rentoul’s blog in the Independent:1
“He needs to be much more Blair-like”

Cameron’s performance as PM and his relationship with his own party is always well chronicled by Tim Montgomery [conservativehome] - he has an article in the Independent An appetite for conservatism that the PM doesn’t always satisfy Cameron’s position has strengthened after he has acted in recognisably conservative ways.  He asserts:

The Conservative Party has never fallen in love with David Cameron. Today’s ConservativeHome survey of Tory members for The Independent shows that he is only eighth in a 15-person league table of centre-right politicians.

Thus once again highlighting that one of Cameron’s weaknesses as a ‘powerful PM’ is his ability to take his own party with him and rely on their support.

And just to end the festive season Bruce Anderson in the Telegraph says Santa Claus David Cameron will have to discover his inner Scrooge and that:

Despite his strengths, Cameron can sound like a vicar jollying along a church outing

PM: ‘Politics is getting really interesting at the moment’

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

How powerful is the PM?  Well recently the import of external factors has been especially important in evaluating PM’s performances.  As Macmillan once famously said ‘Events, dear by, events!’. A few interesting article in today’s press which look at the performances over the last year of key political figures and give some valuable ammunition for the ‘PM and Cabinet’ Topic.

1. Steve Richards in the Independent looks at the performances of Ed Balls, Alex Salmond and David Cameron - and his conclusion is obvious in the title Well done Alex and Ed, but David wins by a head. He asserts “Leaders or aspiring leaders must try to appear overwhelmingly dominant, when mostly they are not”. 

A useful excerpt on Cameron - who is also described as being elusive to the point of being uninteresting is:

Cameron is the third candidate. He leads on the narrowest of stages. To the one side of him are the increasingly stroppy Liberal Democrats, on the other is an assertive parliamentary party that cannot be easily appeased with the promise of ministerial jobs. Prime ministerial patronage is a powerful weapon in controlling a party, but Cameron has fewer jobs at his disposal in a coalition. Meanwhile, economic storms are brewing on a scale that makes those of the 1970s and 1980s seem little more than minor breezes.

Other leaders in comparable circumstances were exhausted and demoralised. Harold Wilson leading a hung parliament in the 1970s, John Major in the economic doldrums in the early 1990s and Gordon Brown in 2008, all lost their humour and political guile partly because there was no cause for laughter and they felt trapped politically. Cameron remains vivacious and witty and is implementing a radical Tory agenda without having won the election. In policy terms, he is skating on thin ice and I suspect the ice will crack next year, but, for now, we are looking back.

2. Another article, if unfortunately hiding behind the Times paywall, is Let’s be honest. How did the leaders do in 2011? by Mehdi Hasan, Tim Montgomerie and Mark Pack. It comments:

Pity poor Ed Miliband. By any objective assessment, he has had a good year. His leadership is secure, his party united. Despite losing in the Scottish Parliament elections to the SNP, Mr Miliband gained more than 800 seats in May’s local elections and won five parliamentary by-elections in a row. Labour consistently polls at around 40 per cent and has been ahead of the Conservatives for much of 2011, as austerity failed and growth ground to a halt.


Global Issues: Terrorism ~ sub-Sarahan Terrorist threat

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Independent has a relevant article on terrorism Largely unnoticed, violent Islamist groups have been looking across the Sahara
Boko Haram’s goals are still inherently local, but there are fears that more internationalist groups may seek to link up.  The article comments:

The attacks on churchgoers in Nigeria yesterday [by Boko Haram] will further inflame the already tense relationship between Muslims and Christians in Africa’s most populous nation.

Global Issues: North Korean leader Kim Jong-il dies

Monday, December 19, 2011

Kim Jong-il North Korea’s leader has unexpectedly died of a heart attack.  Global Issues students should follow up on this as unpredictable North Korea has been led by a ‘cult’ and developments tied to one of the world’s most unstable and nuclear tipped states should be seen with alacrity in relation to the issue of WMD and proliferation.

The BBC carries the story and some useful analysis: N Korean leader Kim Jong-il dies

Also the CFR has a comprehensive piece [including an interactive link] :

North Korea after Kim.  It starts:

The death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il on December 18, 2011, has raised serious concerns over the future of the country and stability in the Korean peninsula. His son Kim Jong-un is now expected to take over the helm of the nuclear-armed Communist country, one of the most closed-off societies in the world. A September 2008 CFR Council Special Report says there is a possibility North Korea might intentionally transfer nuclear weapons or materials to a terrorist group, and thus merits Cold War-style methods of deterrence from the United States. While some experts believe the country might see some reform in the period after Kim, others see little hope for change, especially in the ongoing effort to rid North Korea of its nuclear weapons.

Core Exec: Cabinet Secretary has few regrets.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Important read in relation to studying the core executive, with particular reference to the key role of the Civil Service in the Observer: Gus O’Donnell prepares to quit as cabinet secretary with few regrets
It starts:

A meandering walk from Parliament Square to the cabinet office takes you past all of the grandest landmarks of Sir Gus O’Donnell’s civil service career. The Treasury – where the economist started out in 1979. On past 10 Downing Street, where fellow south London boy John Major first brought him in as press secretary in 1990 and where, as cabinet secretary, he later minuted those controversial discussions about the decision to invade Iraq. Right outside the entrance to his own office at number 70 is a relatively new memorial – to the women of war. It seems apt for a man so proud of encouraging diversity in the senior echelons of the mandarin classes.

Global Issues: Changing Nature of Conflict - ‘Asymmetrical’ Conflict in Afghanistan

Saturday, December 03, 2011

On December 5, foreign ministers from some ninety countries will converge on the Rhineland city of Bonn to discuss Afghanistan’s future. They will be meeting exactly ten years after an earlier Bonn conference appointed a new government for the country in the wake of the Taliban’s retreat from Kabul.  Interesting article in Chatham House’s World Today entitled : Afghanistan - More harm than good?

Beyond giving a snap shot of Afghanistan’s ongoing complications, it has a quick reference to the nature of the ‘asymmetrical’ nature of the war being waged:

As the conflict is one of ‘asymmetrical warfare’, the Taliban always slip away from direct confrontation with ISAF troops and use other methods to exert their power. Assassinations of government officials continue at a high level and, in a new tactic this year, the Taliban and the other insurgent groups started to impose an evening mobile phone blackout in more than half the country’s provinces. They warn the four mobile phone network providers to shut down from dusk to dawn or have their masts blown up; a simple but psychologically effective tactic that reminds every frustrated would-be mobile phone user just how extensive the Taliban’s reach has become.

Global Issues; WMD - Curbing Iran’s ‘rogue’ tendencies

The ‘breaching’ of the British embassy in Tehran and subsequent withdrawal of the diplomatic mission tied with recents reports pointing to Iran intensifying their nuclear programme have once caste into sharp relief Iran’s ‘rogue’ tendencies and internatiojnal attempts to deal with Iran.

Two worthwile recent articles:
1. David Owen in the Telegraph: David Owen: If Britain stands firm, it may yet tame IranThe solution lies in selective sanctions – not being sucked into military conflict . It starts:

In Iran, the hardline Islamists call Britain “the little Satan”. This is in contrast to the United States, which they call “the Great Satan”. To some extent, the attack on our Embassy in Tehran is part of that positioning: they see us as a serious enemy and think we deserve this deliberate action, because the UK along with the US and Canada has recently cut its banking links with Iran.

2. In the Guardian Lord Malloch Brown in Expelling Iran’s diplomats: a dangerous showdown argues that the real threat to British diplomacy in Iran is not losing an embassy, but being seen as a US proxy.  He asserts:

Iran’s preoccupation with its own security and relations with what it sees as the threats of the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia have always offered the prospect of a wider canvas on which to provide guarantees against outside interference, in return for curbing Iran’s nuclear and conventional armament programme. The real value of a more imaginative diplomacy of this kind would have been to remove the prop that has kept this unpopular regime going: the threat of foreign intervention.


Global Issues: Poverty and Development: New Transparency International Corruption Index

Transparency International - the NGO dedicated to monitoring political and corporate corruption - has just unveiled its Corruption Perceptions Index for 2011.  War torn states are still the most corrupt in the world - with Somaila, everyone’s favourite ‘failed state’, topping the list as the world’s worst country followed by Burma, Afghanistan and North Korea. New Zealand keeps top place as the world’s least corrupt countries, with the UK 16th.

To folow up:
1. Look at Transparency International’s website which has interactve map, full list and explanatory vidoe clip.  Click here,

2. Article in the Independent: New report shows UK corruption ‘has increased’

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