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Parliament is revolting

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Preparing some post Easter material on Parliament for my AS groups, I have plundered the revolts.co.uk website.

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Ministerial perks

Discussion of free accommodation available to senior members of the government crops up every year in my British Politics lessons.  The Independent’s Big Question covers it as part of the ongoing debate about MP’s expenses.  For students who want to know more, and for teachers who want to be well armed with information, read on.

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The end of peaceful protesting?

Friday, April 03, 2009

The tactics used by the police during the G20 demos raise important questions about the right to protest

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A new spin on PM power

Saturday, March 28, 2009

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Students have to go the extra mile to impress examiners on this highly popular topic

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G20 heads up

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The G20 summit in London on 2 April is likely to attract widespread protest

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The wrong of rights?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

An important topic for discussion if you are looking at civil liberties, the judiciary, or constitutional reform

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A decade of devolution

Sunday, March 22, 2009

My media Monday material is drawn from the rather excellent Total Politics magazine

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More promises of a bonfire of the quangos

Thursday, March 19, 2009

An area not covered by some Politics courses is the issue of quangos.  These non departmental public bodies are a source of great controversy since they are unelected and therefore unaccountable, and spend a great deal of public money.

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Yes, minister?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

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When I read the headline to this story in today’s Indy I was expecting a tale of government will being frustrated by administrative won’t.  Reading the article I was disappointed to find that there was little evidence of senior mandarins deliberately frustrating government ministers.  But it does serve as a useful piece on the role of a minster - a frequently confusing area for students of UK Politics.

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Fancy a debt of £32,000?

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A controversial report by a bunch of university chiefs has stirred up a hornet’s nest of controversy on student funding.

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Rawnsley again

Sunday, March 15, 2009

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This article will probably form the basis of my Media Monday session this week, unless I come across anything on the web between now and then.  Of course, students covering UK Issues or Ideologies at A2 will have loads to discuss on the recent attacks in Northern Ireland by Irish nationalists.

Rawnsley’s article is ostensibly about the Tory leader, but acts as a useful primer on PM/Cabinet relations during the Blair and Brown premierships.

Gordomania?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

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There’s a short report in the Evening Standard tonight about Gordon Brown giving his stamp of authority to proposals the Labour Party is considering which are designed to usher in a new era of party politics.  With party membership in long term decline (although there has been a slight blip upwards for the Tories since David Cameron became leader) parties are considering new ways of connecting to supporters who may help out with campaigning.

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A new Lib-Lab pact?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

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Students quite often give me quizzical looks when they see me ploughing through newspapers, scissors at the ready.  Quite simply I am looking for those nuggets of information that will hopefully find their way into a new first past the post article, or one of the tutor2u revision guides.  Here are details of one I filed this morning, which is a corker.  Vernon Bogdanor, one of the most respected authorities on British politics penned an article in The Times last week postulating the idea of a new coalition between a Brown led Labour Party and Lib-Dem rump led by Nick Clegg.  Fantasy politics?

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Politics X Factor

Sunday, March 08, 2009

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I’ve chosen this story as my backup for discussion for my Media Monday sessions, presuming perhaps that students may come prepared with stories about events in Ulster.

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Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

Saturday, March 07, 2009

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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.

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Devolution turns to drink

Wednesday, March 04, 2009
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This story may appear elsewhere on the tutor2u website, but the politics of it are what we are concerned with here.  I have written previously about how Scotland has poughed a tartan furrow in a number of social and welfare policy areas (tuition fees, care for the elderly, etc) and this week the Scottish government laid out radical plans to tackle alcohol abuse.

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Reclaiming liberties?

Sunday, March 01, 2009
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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?

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Obama and the presidency

Friday, February 27, 2009
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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?

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Brown and the first PM

Monday, February 23, 2009

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.

Pick of the papers

Sunday, February 22, 2009
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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.

Taking liberties

Friday, February 20, 2009
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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.’

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Margaret

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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:

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What do I think of local government?

Thursday, February 19, 2009
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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.

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Think the UK judiciary is boring?  Think again

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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.

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Bogdanor comments on UK constitution

Wednesday, February 18, 2009
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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.

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UKIP leader takes time out from campaigning

Thursday, February 12, 2009
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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.

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Drugs and crime

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

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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.

Gordon’s ‘depression’

Wednesday, February 04, 2009
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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.

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Parliament and government: the basics

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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?

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First past the post

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The new edition of first past the post, tutor2u’s digital Politics magazine, has been posted on the site. 

Given the importance of the recent American elections, there is a bit of a US slant, but there are great articles covering UK politics, the EU, UK issues, as well as political ideologies.

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The Big Question: House of Lords reform

Tuesday, February 03, 2009
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A great starting point for starting study of House of Lords reform is this feature in the Independent’s Big Question series.

Why no Lords reform

Sunday, February 01, 2009

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Sometimes there is little to report from the weekend’s press in terms of must read British Politics stories, but this weekend is the polar opposite.

There is an excellent article by Nick Cohen about how reform is driven by short term political expedeincy rather than long term thinking about the rational basis of change.

One to cut out and keep for when covering this topic.

Have Labour lost it?

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Yes, that’s a young Gordon.

Taking a break from clicking my way through student responses in Edexcel’s Unit 1 exam I have scanned the weekend’s papers looking for quality articles that could be used for the media Monday sessions.  If you are unfamiliar with the concept I attempt to get my L6 students to start the week’s lessons by discussing an article they have read from the week’s press.  Why?  Attempting to connect with Politics as a subject has obvious dividends in helping what’s covered in class make sense, or have a sense of importance.  Moreover, examining the work of quality journalists should have net gains in terms of improving political vocabulary and presenting coherent arguments.  This is why sourcing one’s news from the tabloids or the free papers (which after all are just the Sun without the ridiculously bold type - come on, have you actually read a substantive article in any of those?) is insufficient if the aim is to improve quality of expression throughout the two years of A level study.

Anyway, I think the best writing on British politics I have seen comes from Saturday’s Guardian.  Patrick Wintour writes on how the government’s response to the economic crisis has not left a lasting positive impression on voters.

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Cameron’s compassion

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I wondered when David Cameron would seek to spell out a more coherent vision for where he would like to take the nation under a Conservative government.  Like Blair in the mid-90s the Tory leader has appeared content to play a waiting game, watching the government slowly implode.  New Labour appeared like a direct continuation of Thatcherism to many and there was little on the surface to distinguish it in policy terms from the Conservatives - except perhaps the focus on modernising UK democracy in the shape of constitutional reform (which was in any case a hangover from the Kinnock/Smith days).  As Blair rather than Major was the heir to Thatcher, Cameron has presented himself as the heir to Blair and put forward a case for saying that the Tories would be more competent stewards of the nation than Gordon Brown.

This week Cameron has gone on record as saying that the free market needs to be reformed. 

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Violent cheesemakers

Thursday, January 29, 2009

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Apparently a million people marched (some say went for a walk in a park on a Sunday) against the invasion of Iraq in 2003.  This event was said to be the biggest single demo on British soil in living memory. It seems that a protest in France that doesn’t attract seven figures is a disappointment.

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Today ‘Black Thursday’ saw violent clashes on the streets of Paris.  Perhaps rightly so.  Why should the engineers of the economic crisis be the ones that government money is thrown at?  Would it make more economic sense to pay every man, woman and child a few thousand in cash to get the economy going?  And why is it the French are more bothered about letting their dissatisfaction be known than the British?  On the last question it is probably because the British now believe that someone else should make the effort. 

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But the events across la manche raise more general questions about whether direct action actually has any effect.  Marches probably don’t.  Publicity stunts, are just stunts.  But any event that causes economic damage may make those who control the levers of power take note. 

Will the current economic crisis see many more countries follow the pattern evident in central and eastern Europe?

Devolution disaster?

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To what extent does the current budget crisis strengthen or weaken the argument for devolution?

If you are behind the curve on this, the SNP government’s £33b budget for the next fiscal year was voted down by a coalition of Labour, Lib Dem and Green MSPs.  Now the Lib Dems have committed a volte face and are apparently back in negotiations with the SNP about overcoming the impasse.  The main Lib Dem sticking point was a 2p income tax cut the party wanted that the SNP would not agree to.  The Lib Dems may now be prepared to drop that as part of the deal.

If the budget fails a second time, then the government is expected to resign and fresh elections called.

As one of the blogger pointed out on the BBC website, Scotland has gone from a coalition government, to minority government, and now small parties are determining who governs.  Is this what the Scots wanted in a devolution settlement?  Something else to consider is whether this is the kind of shenanigans we would want in the Westminster Parliament - after all this is what a post PR world would probably look like.

The world’s most powerful man?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

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Listening to the radio this morning I heard a report on Barack Obama’s attempt to woo over Republicans to support his economic stimulus plan.  I thought that this would make an interesting story to relate to my British Politics students who have just started the Edexcel Unit 2 paper.

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UK revolving door

Friday, January 23, 2009

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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.

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Brown and Mandy

Thursday, January 15, 2009

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A couple of features in today’s paper discussing the effect of Peter Mandelson’s return to the frontline of British politics. Interesting nuggets of information if you are looking at the power of the PM and the idea that some ministers are closer to the ear of the leader than others.

Sketch writer Ann Treneman takes an amusing look at Mandy the manipulator here:

‘Lord Mandelson slid into the gallery in the Commons to watch PMQs, fresh from a morning of intense media activity. I must say that, as of yesterday, there is no doubt that Peter Mandelson is the Deputy Prime Minister in all but name. Indeed he may be more than that. Perhaps it is Gordon Brown who is the deputy now. Certainly their fates are totally intertwined.

I would love, just once, to be able to see the chamber as Lord Mandelson does. The man who behaves as if he is always being observed looks down on Gordon Brown proudly, eyes never leaving the scene below. Is he the great puppeteer? As Mr Brown answered his first planted question - Labour’s propaganda is now brazen - I definitely saw Mandy’s hands start to twitch.’

A few pages later Anatole Kaletsky discusses the Prince of Darkness’s influence over Brown on the economy:

‘Another week, another sentence I never expected to write: Peter Mandelson has saved the skin of Gordon Brown - and, in the process, has done the right thing for British politics and the economy.’  Read the rest here

 

Ken and Boris radio analysis

Thursday, January 08, 2009

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It may be selfish of me as a Londoner to suspect that this programme will be of interest to those who live outside the capital, but I think that the office of London Mayor is politically significant for AS students.  The new London governing arrangements (in place since 2000) can be assessed alongside Labour’s other devolution measures in terms of their positive and negative impact.  There is also some scope here to analyse their impact in terms of whether City Hall helps to close the democratic deficit in the UK.

The blurb from the BBC states:

“Ken and Boris. If you’re in the UK, you almost certainly know who I am referring to and what they have in common.

That is one example of the impact having a Mayor of London has made in the eight years since the job was established. But Ken Livingstone and Boris
Johnson were certainly not who Tony Blair had in mind when he was converted to the idea of directly-elected mayors.

I can remember preparing for an interview with Mr Blair when he was giving a speech on the subject early in his premiership.

Who should slip in to see him, but Richard Branson.

He was much closer to Mr Blair’s ideal; a successful entrepreneur, unencumbered by the tribalism of party politics.

Instead, the job has been held by two maverick partisans.”

BBC Radio 4 on 8 January 2009.  I will try to post details of the podcast if there is one.

Blogger thinks the party’s over

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

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For the past few weeks I have been trying to drum up support among students for political parties.  They are the lifeblood of democracy, I say.  The whole British political system could be considered and analysed through the prism of political parties, I plead - in a poor attempt to foster genuine enthusiasm.  As a desperate measure I put it to them that there is no better time to be studying parties than at any time since the emergence of New Labour - or, arguably, since the ideological wars of the early 1980s.

But fellow Edexcel Unit 1 examiners should expect the usual flood of responses on pressure groups and election systems.  For, I think, I have failed.  Parties just don’t do it.  But in some ways, who can blame our young charges when our political leaders shed more heat than light on the major issues facing our country today

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Can work, won’t work

Monday, December 08, 2008

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After having just finished ploughing through a mountain of marking, I have had time to quickly look through the weekend’s press and review the latest poliitcs on TV.  And it got me thinking, what if you had fallen asleep in 1979 and woken up nearly thirty years later to find a Labour minister on TV talking about unemployment?  You might expect them to say that unemployment was unacceptable, that everyone had the right to a job since this was part of what made them human, and so on. 

You might not expect them to say, however, that receipt of state support would be dependent on meeting certain conditions and that recipients had to give something for something.

This was what was reported in the Sunday Times:

‘Almost all benefit claimants will be forced either to look for a job or prepare for work if they want to continue to receive state handouts, under a shake-up of the welfare state.

Single mothers of children as young as one and people registered unfit for work will be compelled to go on training courses and work experience or risk cuts to their benefits.

In an interview with The Sunday Times, James Purnell, the work and pensions secretary, said: “Virtually everyone will be doing something in return for their benefits.”

The welfare reform white paper, to be published this week, is set to provoke anger from rebel Labour MPs and campaign groups who believe such measures are unfair in a period of rising unemployment.’

Watch Purnell here on the Andrew Marr show.

Expecting single mothers simultaneously prepare themselves for the world of work and look after young children.  Who said New Labour was dead?

Friday focus

Friday, December 05, 2008

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As chance would have it, all my A level groups are doing a mock today and our weekly Friday focus sessions will not take place.  But I thought I’d share a couple of articles that would make excellent discussion pieces on two of the most popular Politics topics. 

First up is an excellent feature on the impact Peter Mandelson has had on Gordon Brown’s premiership.  Students will be familiar about the debate on PM power and that it is more or less common knowledge that the PM is more intimate with some Ministers than others.  Scholars have variously referred to this phenomenon as a kitchen Cabinet, or spheres of influence.  The article in today’s Independent suggests that Peter Mandelson has penetrated Gordon Brown’s inner circle and he carries as much weight as either Alistair Darling or Ed Balls.  Interesting

Over in the Economist there is great piece on Barack Obama and race relations.  Racial inequality and the debate over measures used to try to overcome it always stimulate student interest.  The key thing is to develop an intelligent appreciation of arguments on both sides.  I think this article will help students in this respect.

Big Brother

Thursday, December 04, 2008

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Today’s Independent has a quite horrific story on its front page about government plans to allow departments and agencies to share information on UK citizens.  It starts:

‘Personal information detailing intimate aspects of the lives of every British citizen is to be handed over to government agencies under sweeping new powers. The measure, which will give ministers the right to allow all public bodies to exchange sensitive data with each other, is expected to be rushed through Parliament in a Bill to be published tomorrow.’

Given the government’s appalling record of keeping personal data safe this should be a cause of concern to us all.  Further, the article suggests that some way down the line the government could plan to sell off the information to private companies without the need for Parliament’s approval.  Lots of material here as part of consideration of whether Britain is a true democracy.

There’s also a good example of pressure groups, since No2ID are mentioned in the article as well.

(Not so many) developments in devolution

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

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According to the Herald:

‘The “informal” relationship between the Scottish Government and Westminster cannot last and needs to change, a body examining the devolution set-up today found.

The Calman Commission has identified broadcasting, energy policy, animal health, firearms and mis-use of drugs among a range of areas which could see further powers given to Holyrood, in an interim report out today.

But it has rejected the prospect of full fiscal autonomy for Scotland under devolution.’

Interestingly a new book by the Constitution Unit concludes in its section on devolution that failure to cede more fiscal autonomy to north of the border is likely to result in increased tension between Westminster and Holyrood.

Death of New Labour

To help key students keep up to date with current affairs (and be successful in tutor2u’s Question Time!), the BBC website hosts a whole range of clips from its political programming.

Here for instance is a short clip from the programme that can be used in lessons on political parties.  Personally I think its important that I keep persevering with this topic even though my students have told me today (yet again) that they are unlikely to answer a question on it in the exam.  This is one of the most exciting times in years to be studying politics given the current economic backdrop.

See the clip here image

Cleggover puts his foot in it (again)

Monday, December 01, 2008

Sometimes I get asked by students whether there will be a relaignment of the parties, and if the Liberal Democrats have a chance of supplanting the current big two.  Some Lib Dems believe that if they can break through the 100 MP barrier in the Commons then this will be a tipping point.  But without a system of proportional representation this looks unlikely.

As for my penny’s worth I just don’t think that the media and the electorate consider them a serious party.  Some studies suggest that many of the voters who have cast ballots in their favour have done so as a protest vote and probably would reconsider voting for them if they had a realistic chance of forming the government.  Partly it is also because it is hard for us, and them, to say what they are for.  Lastly, I don’t want to write anything libellous here. But type the following word combinations into any search engine:

“Paddy Ashdown adultery”
“Mark Oaten rent boy”
“Charles Kennedy alcohol”
“Lembit Opik Cheeky Girls”

So part of their problem is of their own making.  Their current leader, Nick Clegg, had some explaining to do to this week after a journalist apparently overheard him laying into his front bench team.  The Indy reports some of what he said:   

‘...he had damning words for three of his most high-profile frontbenchers as he travelled on a 90-minute flight from London to Inverness with his chief of staff, Danny Alexander. With reporter Adam Lee-Potter eavesdropping, he reportedly said of Steve Webb, his energy and climate change spokesman: “He’s a problem. I can’t stand the man. We need a new spokesman. We have to move him. We need someone with good ideas. At the moment, they just don’t add up.” But he added: “We need to keep him in the cabinet. As a backbencher, he’d be a pain in the arse, a voice for the left. And we can’t move him before the spring.”’

Read the rest of the report here.image

New Labour is not dead, and other parrots

Thursday, November 27, 2008

So says one part of the triangle that created it.  Lord Mandelson gave a speech to the Institute of Directors last night which responded to criticisms of the supposedly socialist measures put in place dealing with the recent economic difficulties.

A great vein of material for those considering whether Labour has ejected its traditional principles.  Ideal, of course, for any weekly Politics discussion group.

Since writing the above posting this week’s Economist has come out with a leader article on the death of New Labour.  Woe betide anyone who turns up for Media Monday without a story from this week’s news.

See the BBC report here“image”

Old Labour v New Labour

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The fallout from the economic crisis will impact on a whole host of parts of the politics course.  In this morning’s Indy there is a great article for anyone studying the Old Labour v New Labour debate.

Essential reading on this old chestnutimage

Saturday roundup

Saturday, November 22, 2008

There’s a raft of stories relevant to British politics students in today’s papers.

First there is a report on the government’s plans to press ahead with the controversial ID card proposal

http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2008/nov/22/identity-cards-home-office

Then there’s a fairly thorough analysis of David Cameron’s response to Brown’s buy now, pay later plans to get the economy moving

There’s quite an interesting piece here on the BNP’s most high ranking elected official

I would also draw the attention of readers to this excellent overview of the financial crisis in the US by Larry Elliot

 

Increasing political literacy

Friday, November 21, 2008

I’ve just come across a series of up-to-date resources by the Parliamentary Education Service.  These clear and simple to understand guides could be uploaded as pdf files onto a school VLE or intranet site.  They cover areas of British politics that sometimes as teachers we assume students know, including answers to such questions as: what is a constituency?; what happens if two candidates have the same number of votes in an election? (both of which cropped up in my lessons this week).

The link to the site is hereimage

More snap election talk

There is a great deal of speculation in Westminster at the moment about whether GB will call an early election.

Peter Riddell is, as always, on the money with his comments.  He writes:

‘Forget speculation about an early general election. It is not going to happen, nor should it. Unlike 14 months ago, this chatter is not coming from the Brown circle. The official line that Gordon Brown is concentrating on the recession is obviously in part to avoid a repeat of the damaging Grand Old Duke of York act of October last year. But his caution is more than just self-righteousness. It also makes political and electoral sense.’

Read the rest of the article here image

Don’t give up on the parties

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A weird paradox exists in Politics at A level – or at the very least seems to exist from the perspective of a teacher and examiner – that parties as a topic is very unpopular in exams (i.e. there are relatively few responses) but students find it interesting as a topicimage

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Single transferable vote

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

I bet these three words had readers salivating at the prospect of what was to come.  Probably not.  I once made the mistake of admitting that I liked electoral systems as a topic.  My colleague showed no mercy.

Anyway, on my travels through electoral reform websites I have come across some computer generated graphical explanations.  Useful teaching aids.

STV explanation one

STV explanation two

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Election systems

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

My notes on the mechanics of the different systems we use to elect our representatives in the UK were getting a bit out of date, so with a scan through the Electoral Reform Society website and the BBC election results I reworked the exemplars.

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The UK judiciary is boring?

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Indy reports:

‘A High Court judge with a “hatred of free speech and the popular press” is bringing in a privacy law to the UK “by the back door”, a national newspaper editor has claimed.

Paul Dacre, editor-in-chief of the Daily Mail, cited rulings by Mr Justice Eady in favour of the Formula One boss, Max Mosley, against the News of the World and an unnamed celebrity who had an affair with a married woman as examples of the erosion of freedom of expression. He claimed the judge had “a virtual monopoly of all cases against the media” and was therefore able to use the privacy clause of the Human Rights Act to thwart attempts to defend public decency by shaming those in high places found to have committed immoral acts.’

See the rest of the article here

Missing answer

Monday, November 03, 2008

Today the Independent writes that “An investigation is underway after a memory stick with user names and passwords for a government computer system was found in a pub car park, leading to the shutting down of the website as a security precaution

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PR myths download

Thursday, October 30, 2008

I’m about to start teaching electoral systems after half term and a bit of research has uncovered this excellent pdf document from the Electoral Reform Society.  With a preface by Vernon Bogdanor it is an excellent teaching tool.  Find it here.  The ERS website, by the way, has been much updated and is well worth a look.

42 day detention blocked

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The financial crisis has kept this issue of the front pages, but yesterday the Lords rejected the government’s plans to extend detention without trial by 50% for terrorist suspects.  This shows that Lords can exercise real power, but it also raises questions about the will of an unelected part of the legislature.

It is also a controversial issue from the perspective of individual versus collective freedoms.  This is the currant bun’s reaction.

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Arise Lord Mandy

Monday, October 13, 2008

During one of our Media Monday sessions this week we discussed the appointment of Peter Mandelson to the Lords

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An hour is a long time in politics

Sunday, October 12, 2008

It has been a momentous week as the global financial system is in crisis.  Here’s a fascinating article in the Guardian recalling the last seven days at the heart of the political machine.

It starts:

‘Shortly before 8.00am on Wednesday Gordon Brown and a group of aides swept through a secure passage in Downing Street.

As armed police held open glass doors, which normally screen visitors, Brown hurried along the link between No 10 and the Cabinet Office and into Britain’s answer to the White House’s “situation room”.

Minutes after announcing that he would gamble £500bn to save Britain’s banking industry from collapse, Brown was heading into the government’s Cobra room to chair a meeting of his economic war cabinet.’

Read the full article here

Media Monday: the Cabinet reshuffle

Monday, October 06, 2008

The big story of the week has been of course Gordon Brown’s Cabinet reshuffle.  A classic AS question asks what factors a PM considers when appointing their Cabinet.  In our Media Monday sessions we have been examining which appointments fit into the respective traditional explanations

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Wipeout!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Today’s pick of the papers is a feature in the Observer reporting on a poll conducted by PoliticsHome.com predicting that the number of Labour MPs could be cut by half at the next election

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New Labour, where art thou?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

It seems like not that long ago that Blair’s New Labour cemented its postion as the new elite force in British politics.  Now serious journalists are suggesting that whilst it is too soon to pronounce the project as dead, it is on the way out.  Further, it seems intent on auto-administering a lethal injection

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The Lib Dems.  What are they for?

I bet you have been as glued to the BBC Parliament coverage of the Lib Dem conference in Bournemouth as I have.  Yes, I haven’t watched a minute.  And why would I?

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Quality, not quantity

Monday, September 15, 2008

Students, as we all know, are busy people.  Here, this posting brings you a couple of the best articles in the UK press in recent days

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Pressure group methods

Monday, September 08, 2008

Some good early examples from the TUC conference this month

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Just another Media Monday

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Regular readers of the blog will be familiar with the ‘Media Monday’ sessions I conduct with my AS groups.  Supplementing class work with wider reading is a key component of planning for success in Politics

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Devolution example

Saturday, August 30, 2008

More evidence of the policy divergence and development that can emerge from devolution came yesterday from the London Mayor, Boris Johnson, on climate change

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House of Lords reform: what’s the argument?

Friday, August 22, 2008

Preparing for the new term I came across this decent bit of material for and against reform of the House of Lords.  There’s probably enough here for an AS answer.  It’s part of a campaign which is a spin off of the Charter 88 people: unlock democracy

Tories attack Labour’s poor record

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

It is acceptable to argue, I think, that a poverty consensus has emerged post Cameron.  Both of the main parties see tackling poverty as a principal target, but there are differences of opinion about how the policy should be managed

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Brown to reshuffle the pack?

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Speculation that the PM is to wield his power of patronage and change a few faces at the Cabinet table leads us to consider why

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A Bill of Rights for the UK?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

MPs and peers have published a report this week calling for a UK Bill of Rights.  This serves as a useful basis for considering the effectiveness of Parliament, as well as the case for and against a Bill of Rights

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Was Ken’s flagship policy a mistake?

Thursday, August 07, 2008

News has emerged recently that traffic speeds in London are at about the same rate as pre congestion charge.

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A tale of two (second) chambers

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Marking the synoptic paper for the Edexcel American Politics route this summer I was struck by the extent to which students apparently feel that the US Congress is a far more effective institution than the UK Parliament.  Whilst it is undeniable that the American legislature possesses far more power, it is not necessarily the case that it exercises these powers more responsibly or intelligently than its UK equivalent.

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Boris hits 100

Monday, August 04, 2008

What impact has the Boris Johnson mayoralty had, and what does it say about the pros and cons of devolution?

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A stalker and a fantasist, but a good example of judicial operations

What insight does the Barry George case give us into the workings of the UK court system, and how can it be integrated into an answer on the judiciary?

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Unelected Prime Ministers: the political and constitutional importance

Thursday, July 31, 2008

I was delighted to meet the Times columnist Peter Riddell recently at the tutor2u Politics Teacher Conference.  He is unarguably the journalist with his finger most closely on the Westminster pulse.  Today he turns his focus to the political and constitutional status of unelected Prime Ministers.

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Stoking the fire of the Scottish independence movement

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

I would hope that the Politics blog stimulates readers sufficiently to think about politics beyond being only an A level, and that there is some consideration of the significance of current events in shaping the way we are governed.  Today’s Guardian contains an article suggesting that the devolution plans that Labour introduced for purely political reasons have backfired on them.  But does this sort of comment really add much to the debate over our constitutional future?

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Developments in devolution

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Power sharing at Stormont is no panacea.  This posting considers increased fears about terrorist activity by republicans

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Shadow Cabinet rich list

According to that bastion of fine journalism, the News of the World, nineteen members of the Tory Shadow Cabinet are millionaires

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Scottish independence: the long and winding road

If you read the papers online you might have missed this insightful article by Robert Hazell, the Constitution Unit’s director, on the steps that would need to be taken to usher in Scottish independence.  It is buried away in the comment is free section of the Guardian

Read it here

Labour: things can only get worse?

In 1997 New Labour romped to power with D:Ream’s “Things can only get better” acting as their election soundtrack.  Looking forward to the next general election, it is hard for the party to be as optimistic

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Scotland is not irrelevant.  But it soon might be

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Simon Jenkins, writing in the Sunday Times echoes my belief that at this very moment the Union is fragmenting beneath our feet.  This article is essential background for teachers and students on the impact of devolution

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Scottish independence in a decade?

Saturday, July 26, 2008

In a follow up to one of my postings earlier this week, a political commentator for the Sunday Herald newspaper has written an article in today’s Guardian suggesting that Scotland could go its own way within the next decade.  I know I might come across as a bit obsessed by this issue, but the prospect of the end of the Union is a very real one and arguably the biggest constitutional issue in the UK

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Goodbye Gordon?

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Sun called it a ‘Glasgow kiss’ for Gordon Brown, BBC news describe it as one of the most spectacular in recent history

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Political parties: Lib Dems veer to the right

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, announced a major policy shift recently.  In ‘Make it Happen’ he ditched many of the policies that put the party to the left of Labour.  But can the ‘Cleggover’ pull it off?

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New Labour’s legacy: the path to an independent Scotland?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Tristam Hunt in today’s Guardian paints a picture which suggests that the end of the Union is in sight

When historians look back on what New Labour’s major achievement was it could be long term stability in Northern Ireland or the introduction of a new rights based culture alongside a more activist judiciary.  Or it could be that Tony Blair as PM, via the establishment of a devolved Scottish Parliament, was responsible for paving the way to the break up of Britain.

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Sad death of the straight banana story?

Monday, July 21, 2008

After discussion with my teaching colleagues I came to the conclusion that stories of straight bananas juxtaposed with details of food mountains was a great way to get started on teaching the EU topic.  So it was with a heavy heart that I read this story in the Sunday Times about EU plans to relax rules on what vegetables look like.

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Naked self interest over Lords reform

Great article on the mindset of Labour backbenchers and the importance they attach to reform of the upper house

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Politics and two veg: short term and long term, who has the answers?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

I discussed yesterday in my blog post that David Cameron seems to have the upper hand over Gordon Brown when it comes to who looks better placed to provide solutions to the nation’s problems, and that the knife crime debate could be used as the prism through which we could view this battle.  Here I suggest that traditional politics is too narrow in outlook and that other areas, such as the latest thinking in economics (gulp!) may provide more fertile ground

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Oh lord.  Will we ever see an elected upper house?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Another plan for Lords reform has been published.  But yet again there appears to be little political will behind the idea

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Cameron’s sharp initiative?

It was hard to avoid thinking about the politics of knife crime when I was out and about in London yesterday

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Exams “bore brightest and fail weakest”

Sunday, June 29, 2008

A damning indictment on the English education system by a respected think tank.  But it is not all doom and gloom

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Brown video

Thursday, June 26, 2008

I have come across another very useful video on Brown’s year.

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Brown mark

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

An in-depth look at Gordon Brown’s first year in office

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London Mayor: you’re fired!

There are rumours circulating that the Labour Party would like Sir Alan Sugar to become their candidate for the London Mayor contest in 2012

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AS revision: Parliament

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Are tales of legislative decline exaggerated?

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Constitutional reform revision: freedom of information

Sunday, May 18, 2008

MPs and your right to know

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Devolution revision: differences in Scotland and Wales

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

How has devolution been delivered in these two parts of the Celtic fringe?

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Devolution revision: West Lothian Question

Thursday, May 08, 2008

5 reasons why I think that this is a problem that has been overstated

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Devolution revision: the West Lothian Question

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Here we consider why the West Lothian Question can be considered a problem.  Later this week I will propose that it is perhaps an issue that has been overblown

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Electoral systems revision: outcome of London 2008

Sunday, May 04, 2008

This entry on the results of the London elections adds to previous postings examining the workings of the Supplementary Vote and Additional Member System

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Electoral systems revision: AMS in action

Friday, May 02, 2008

That the London Assembly is elected using the Additional Member System is little known or much misunderstood

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Electoral systems revision: Supplementary Vote in operation

Thursday, May 01, 2008

There is a strong possibility that in today’s London Mayor race second preference votes may well determine who gets to control City Hall for the next 4 years

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Brown skids?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

More details of the Prime Minister’s troubles fill today’s newspapers

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If it’s Monday, it must be Sweden

Monday, April 14, 2008

Apparently the latest educational flavour of the month in party policy circles is the Swedish system

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Politics Categories

Friday, February 01, 2008

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