Michael McCartney (Bradford Grammar School) examines the role of money in pressure group politics in the US.
A printable version of this article appears in the latest edition of FPTP - tutor2u's digital magazine for AS & A2 Politics students.
Mike Simpson (Bradford Grammar School) examines pressure group influence in the UK in the context of the rise and fall of the EDL.
A printable version of this article appears in the latest edition of FPTP - tutor2u's digital magazine for AS & A2 Politics students.
Another massacre in a school and a revival of calls for gun control might have suggested that this was the moment when the powerful gun lobby group, the National Rifle Association, might finally have to face some sort of defeat in its attempts to prevent any restrictions to the second amendment. It is probably too early to tell whether or not this is the case but this event does help shed more light on:
1. The factors that can contribute to pressure group success
2. The role of pressure groups in a democracy
3. The nature of US government and politicsread more...»
As Rachel Fairhead explains, the Leveson inquiry was a public, judge-led (Lord Justice Leveson) inquiry set up by David Cameron to examine the culture, practice and ethics of the press.read more...»
In this article, in conjunction with the one in a recent edition of FPTP, Mike Simpson seeks to question some of the traditional views of the role of pressure groups in light of the most recent developments. This time Mike's focus is on the USA.
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.
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...»
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?
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.
Gay marriage is always a great classroom topic. Here we can consider pressure group success, rights and liberties, and the role of the judiciary. In a comparative sense it also brings into view the extent to which rights are better advanced in the UK or the USA.
Recent stories emanating from Whitehall put this issue firmly back on the agenda.
“The government has indicated it is committed to changing the law to allow gay marriage by 2015.
Ministers are to launch a consultation next spring on how to open up civil marriage to same-sex couples ahead of the next general election.”
Below I put this debate in the context of a study note on the extent to which Britain can be considered democratic.read more...»
On Twitter I have been posting links to news stories that are an essential daily read for students of Politics that I have come across as part of my personal reading on the web.
This type of heads up on what is in the news is not a substitute for students doing their own reading, but I know that for many students it is the case that there is so much information freely available on the web that it is not always easy to discriminate between items in terms of their direct relevance to the syllabus. This is where the posts are supposed to fill the gap. Just a couple of links each day, and if students have time to read more then they can use these stories as a starting point for further browsing.
My students have already said they find it useful, and I hope more can.
Follow me on @bgsmacca
A good example of pressure groups in action.
Futher to my posting yesterday about recent examples of pressure group activity, news from the BMA conference this week is worthy of note.
There have been some great case studies of pressure group activity in the press this week. This is hardly surprising given the speed and scale of the government’s reforms since coming to power last year and events over the next few months should give students ample opportunity to assess both the effectiveness of different methods of pressure group activity and the extent to which they help or hinder democracy.
I’m sure the Arizona shootings have provoked fierce debate about the rights and wrongs of gun ownership in the USA in classes this week, as they have mine.
And in case you haven’t seen it, or want to watch it again, here is Obama’s speech at a memorial in Tuscon. Arguably this is Obama’s best oration since he was inaugurated.
Both items are taken from the Guardian’s excellent US gun crime page.
I penned an article for t2u’s digital Politics magazine FPTP on this topic some months back, but events in Congress this week merit revisiting the issue.
The Senate’s decision this week to overturn the 1993 “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy which operates in the military whereby gay soldiers are allowed to serve so long as they are not explicit about their sexuality has come as a relief to a group which was once one of the most ardent set of supporters of Barack Obama.read more...»
The recent wave of protests over student fees and allegations of tax avoidance by some of the UK’s most famous corporations make it a good time to revisit questions about pressure groups and democracy.
This blogger has been largely useless with his political crystal ball. When asked I have offered the following predictions: David Davis would win the Tory leadership contest after the 2005 election; the Labour Party would look to skip a generation and choose Ed Miliband as leader of the party when Blair stood down; the Tories would win a comfortable majority at the 2010 election. Not a great record. But back in May 2010 I gave the view that later in the year we would see the angriest public protests since the Poll Tax riots in 1990. I wasn’t in central London this week, so I can’t say for sure if the sporadic violence was worse than what I witnessed at the anti-capitalist protests in May 2000. But it does raise a number of questions about pressure group activity.
The student protests can legitimately be defined as direct action given that activity moved from a march on the street into an attack on Tory Party HQ. Is this kind of activity democratic? On the one hand we can say it isn’t since violence can never be condoned and destruction of private property is anathema to the smooth running of a free market state. Further, the students cannot claim to be legitimately representing anyone, and the NUS leadership have refused to condone their behaviour.
On the other hand, there is a strong argument to say that students are raising awareness of an important issue: that future generations will have to bear the burden of mistakes made by bankers who, while not acting illegally, almost brought the global economy down.
Take your pick. But whatever you do, don’t use the same example when trying to present two sides of an argument. I know from experience that examiners hate that tactic. Either you agree with the student protestors, or you don’t. And I suspect that most readers do!
This new set of classroom posters for politics covers the topic of pressure groups, specifically:
- The role of pressure groups
- Different types of pressure groups
- Activities and methods used by pressure groups
- Targets of pressure group activity
- Pressure groups and democracy
- Factors that affect pressure group success
This four minute TED talk is quite entertaining with a useful message - the potential for users online to create momentum and finally persuade a government to postpone a controversial project. The Founder of Reddit talks about how his users energised a Greenpeace campaign to stop whaling by the Japanese government.
Can the collective voice of soccer fans have an impact at the forthcoming General Election? This post from Henry Winter raises some fascinating questions about the potential for a new breed of supporter-led pressure groups who have the passion and sophistication to use the power of social action to drive for new legislation governing football ownership and finance.
The question asking about the extent to which judges protect civil liberties resurfaced this week as the European Court in Strasbourg (which is, of course, a non EU body) when judges ruled that the government’s s44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 was illegal.
There’s a great article in the xmas double issue of the Economist on the perils of direct democracy. A useful source of arguments and examples for those covering the UK and US participation in politics modules.
As we approach the 2010 General Election, we can expect increasing media exposure of a variety of pressure groups hoping to shape and influence the political debate. A good example of a pressure group which has probably been beneath most people’s radar - until now - is in the Telegraph today. Nurses for Reform, a right-of-centre pressure group, are reported as having had a private meeting with David Cameron. The NHS is touchy subject for the Conservatives, as evidenced by the media storm whipped up by Daniel Hannan’s comments recently. So a meeting with a pressure group advocating full-scale privatisation of the NHS might shake things up again…
This week for our American Politics media sessions we have been looking at a quite fascinating article about industrial decline in the USA. This tells us a lot about where power lies in America and is a useful basis for considering the extent to which America does really live up to the ideals it proclaims to stand for.
There is more quite worrying evidence of the draconian approach taken by the British state with regard to individual civil liberties in today’s Guardian. It’s a shame the judiciary is not a more popular topic on UK Politics papers since it is such a rich vein of material on the battle between the state and the individual.read more...»
A classic example of how a well-orchestrated pressure group campaign can result in a dramatic change of government policy.read more...»
Fathers4Justice is a student favourite when it comes to pressure groups, and they are often highlighted (wrongly) as an example of the effectiveness of direct action. This form of activity is inevitably a sign of weakness rather than strength and there is no evidence of F4J having changed the law on access fathers are granted in custodial disputes.
Pressure groups are said to boost democracy by having an educative effect and raising awareness about important issues. But here F4J may in fact be guilty of distorting the democratic process…read more...»
The G20 summit in London on 2 April is likely to attract widespread protestread more...»
The front page of the Guardian presents a quite shocking report about police routinely engaging in surveillance of protestors and journalists, then uploading this information onto a searchable database.
The pick of the weekend’s press coverage of the latest developments in British politics has to be the focus on rights and liberties. The current government has shown something of a split personality when it comes to civil rights. On the one hand it has passed the Human Rights Act, but on the other has passed a raft of legislation that has been used to (deliberately or not) severely curtail liberties. Of course, the Tories before them were not exactly guilt free. Here we could think of death on the rock, union bans at GCHQ, Spycatcher, banning illegal raves (identified as events where “music with a repetitive beat” is played). But people from across the political spectrum (except Labour ministers) have expressed grave concerns about erosion of rights and liberties that took years of effort to establish have been swept away by government since 1997. This weekend a series of events launched by the Convention on Modern Liberty took place throughout the UK. According to the Observer, the event was the biggest convention on civil liberties ever held in Britain. Is this a sign that people are no longer satisfied to watch us sleepwalking towards a police state?read more...»
Direct action events such as the recent Heathrow airport ‘flashmob’ protests lend weight to the argument that pressure groups are instruments which reinforce democratic pluralism. However, there is a disturbing report in the Observer about the emergence of a revolving door involving former Labour government officials and the BAA.read more...»
Some good early examples from the TUC conference this monthread more...»
A great deal of media coverage will focus on the National Party Conventions for the Democrats and Republicans, and students should look out for examples of what role these summer events perform. Do they give the candidates a bounce in the polls? Do they help to unify the parties?
But I thought I’d use this post to highlight a story I came across about the influence peddlers that are said to be such a corrupting force in US politics: lobbyists and corporations.read more...»
Say the Guardian in an article which acts as a good example of federal state relations in the USAread more...»
I am a huge fan of the Big Question series in the Independent. These articles condense the nuts and bolts of topical issues onto one page, and recent features have covered everything from illegal downloading to the history of Batman. The Indy usually throw in a few politics ones as well! Today’s considers whether human rights have improved in the run up to the Olympics in Beijing. As you will know from one of my previous blog postings, this was one of the promises of the Chinese government on winning the 2008 bid, but many human rights campaigners have been frustrated by an apparent lack of progress.read more...»