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A2 Students - It’s Crunch Time

Sunday, March 17, 2013

You've had results day from January. You should by now know how many points you are going to need to get the grades you want to move on from College or Sixth Form. However this last push doesn't need to be you on your own! I've complied a list of websites and sources you may want to take a look at, as well as some tricks that you can do to not only help you live the subject but also help you achieve the grades you need and deserve. This is a golden opportunity in which you can evaluate what went wrong last time or what you can do better and do it!

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Introducing Politics: Gay Marriage and UK Democracy

Sunday, September 18, 2011


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.

According to the BBC:

“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.

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Supreme Court roundup

Thursday, June 30, 2011

When students write about the US Supreme Court, any responses offering high order analysis of the significance of recent cases, or the subtle shifts of voting blocs on the court really stand out.

At the end of each annual session, court watchers offer their insight into how judges have acted and they are a must for any student folder.

Here is the Washington Post’s summary of the most recent docket, detailing in particular how the Obama appointments have settled in to life in the world’s most powerful judicial body.

Follow me on Twitter

Thursday, June 23, 2011


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

The Euro courts

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

If you are doing OCR’s comparative paper, answers on the role of judges in different political systems can be developed impressively with reference to the ECJ and ECHR. These are frequently confused and assessment of their role can lack depth.

The Charlemagne column in the Economist provides a handy overview of their place in Europe, with excellent examples and analysis.

Here is the link

The clash between Parliament and Judges

Saturday, June 04, 2011

The clash between Parliament and the Judiciary in recent weeks has raised important questions about the independence and neutrality of the judiciary.

It is important to recognise that the twin issues of independence and neutrality are distinct, but they do overlap when we consider who it is that should be making the law.

This debate is also a useful one to consider in terms of constitutional reform issues.

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Impact of the Human Rights Act

Saturday, May 14, 2011

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

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European judges

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Sunday Times carried a couple of good stories rich with examples and argument relating to the ECHR. Useful at AS when looking at judges and civil liberties, as well as consideration of parliamentary sovereignty. Also useful for OCR comparative papers when looking at the idea of legislating from the bench.

If you have paywall access, they can be found here.

Euro court creep

Trendy judges

Supreme Court documentary

Just over 20 days left to catch More 4’s excellent behind the scenes documentary on Britain’s Supreme Court.

Here is the link.

Obama and gay rights

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

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.

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Pressure groups and democracy

The best and worst of pressure group behaviour cropped up recently in two contrasting stories. The first is about the human rights group Equal Love. the second is about the UK’s biggest union, Unite.

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Useful UK judges article

Thursday, October 21, 2010

It would be natural to expect a posting about the CRS, but on backreading some copies of the Economist on my return to Blighty I have come across a Bagehot on the judiciary and thought I’d share it with you. It’s a good starting point for introducing what has traditionally been one of the darkest corners of the British politics syllabus.

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Getting into judges

Friday, July 30, 2010

Once by far the least popular and most inaccessible topic, the judiciaryon the UK politics papers is attracting more, and better, responses.

Part of this, I am sure, is with the increasing role that judges have played in politics in recent years. It is now a much less dry topic than when I studied it at school, believe me.

Here are some further examples for students to get their teeth into.

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AS exams update: judicial bias

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


What does yesterday’s ruling by the High Court against Unite’s plans for a strike by British Airways workers tell us about judicial neutrality?

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Judges and rights exam update - contains link to excellent revision source

Thursday, April 22, 2010

As if recent cases by judges on civil liberties weren’t enough to convince students that the judiciary is far from the most boring topic on the AS syllabus (see my earlier posting on this), the Supreme Court yesterday did us a big favour in making one of the most controversial rulings by UK judges in recent history.

Indeed, were it not for the perfect storm that Nick Clegg seems to have found himself in I am sure this would have been much higher up the news agenda.

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Judges and rights exam update

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Further evidence that the judiciary can be engaging topic and one ripe for debate has cropped up just a few hours ago with news that Labour ministers and their counterparts on the opposition benches have turned DNA retention by the police into a political football.


You may remember that the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg ruled in late 2008 that keeping the DNA details of innocent suspects was in breach of Article 8 of the rights convention, covering the right to privacy.  In one sense this shows how the judiciary has sought to protect the rights of citizens, but the judiciary, of course, had no police force, and the government appealed whilst not altering policy.  Hardly, therefore, very good protection.

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The end of justice?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

More topical material on aspects of the UK judiciary this week as the first crown court trial without a jury goes ahead.  As far as the government of the Uk is concerned, students could successfully use this as an example illustrating how judges fail to uphold civil liberties.  Equally of credit would be a point to show that despite trial without jury justice is still being done.

The Independent’s Big Question has more on this today.

Judges and civil liberties

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

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.

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Politics Classroom Posters - Judiciary

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Many thanks to Rachel Fairhead for producing another super set of classroom posters - this time on the UK Judicial system.

The posters can be ordered here

Off with their heads…

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

...but keep the body.

Well that seems to be the message in relation to the House of Lords by the former judge Thomas Bingham in the Jan Grodecki lecture.

In short, Bingham argues that a way out of the constitutional impasse is to change the powers of the Lords so that it acts merely as a revising rather than reforming chamber.

The idea has some merit, I think.  But perhaps only as a short term measure until Parliament can come to some sort of agreement about how to get the thing elected.  A sort of Stage 2 as it were.

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Bogdanor on the constitution

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

I thought Professor Vernon Bogdanor was on top form last night at his Gresham lecture.

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Heard the one about police fighting two year old terrorists?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Should powers designed to fight terrorism in the wake of 9/11 be used on people as young as two years old?

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The government’s DNA?

Saturday, August 08, 2009

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.

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Supreme whimper?

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Constitutional reform was very much a first term project for New Labour, testament to the fact that Tony Blair had inherited much of the reform package from his predecessors as Labour leader.  But soon we shall witness one of the changes to the furniture of government that will bring the UK into line with many other liberal democracies, when the highest court in the land is finally divorced from the legislature.

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AS revision: the Human Rights Act

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

This posting draws your attention to a new story about how the HRA has been employed by judges to strengthen rights protection.  There is also a lengthy revision note about how the HRA has impacted on the judiciary.

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AS note: no trade off in civil liberties

Monday, May 18, 2009

Official government research indicates that CCTV has made a minimal impact on crime prevention

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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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Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

Saturday, March 07, 2009

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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Think the UK judiciary is boring?  Think again

Thursday, February 19, 2009

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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First past the post

Wednesday, February 04, 2009


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 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

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

Monday, August 04, 2008

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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A2 exam update: American Politics

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Whatever happened to the “Kennedy Court”?

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Constitutional reform revision: freedom of information

Sunday, May 18, 2008

MPs and your right to know

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Noising off by judges

Thursday, April 03, 2008

More examples of judges in the press for those studying the judiciary or law and order

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Politics Categories

Friday, February 01, 2008

Judicial neutrality

Monday, January 28, 2008

A Front page in the Guardian today carries a story on how changes introduced by Labour to judicial selection procedure have not ushered in a quiet revolution

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