David Cameron's Speech on Europe at The Bloomberg building, promises an In Out Referendum (BBC coverage here), but firstly can he keep his Coalition together, avoid more splits in The Conservative Party then win a General Election, all of which are big assumptions. Labour have to work out if their General Election campaign can really oppose a popular vote on Europe. Does it kill the UKIP fox, wait and see. If Labour won The next General Election, would Ed Miliband make sure that there is no return to Bloomberg and bust?
Nick Graham explains the background to moves towards independence by the Catalan region. During a period when easy credit, generous government subsidies and seemingly endless growth made Spain the economic dynamo of Europe, Spain’s highly decentralised system of government was an envied and admired way of organising a country with what historically had often been troublesome and destabilising centrifugal forces.read more...»
A quick update to my ongoing study note about policy divides between the Conservatives and Labour.
“The government has persuaded energy suppliers to write to 8 million customers to tell them how to switch payment methods, find lower tariffs and insulate their homes to save energy.
The prime minister pledged the big six companies would be “permanently watched” and should put their shoulders to the wheel in what he called a “winter call to action”.
However, Labour said the government should have used the “bully pulpit” of government to insist the big six energy companies kept costs down.
Caroline Flint, Labour’s shadow energy and climate change secretary, said: “For the big six to agree with David Cameron to hold their price increases over the winter, when wholesale energy prices have been falling in recent weeks, is a complete betrayal of the public.”
Labour believes the government had a series of options, including “pressurising” the energy companies to cut prices this winter, extracting a promise of fewer, simple tariffs and giving the regulator immediate powers to open the books of energy companies.”
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...»
The EU topic has been slimmed down since new AS specs came in a few years ago. Opinion was divided among teachers on whether this was desirable. In the edexcel course for instance it is subsumed within discussion of the extent to which the UK Parliament is sovereign.
But comments today from the Commission President are sure to reopen serious debate. According to today’s Indy:
“The economic crisis has turned into a “fight for European integration”, the president of the European Commission warned today.
Jose Manuel Barroso insisted that the answer to the growing threat to the euro was a more, and not less, integrated European Union.”
Essentially the question is whether we want to move to something closer to the USA, where Washington DC exerts far greater power as a central authority than most people can imagine Brussels doing.
I have included some notes below that go far beyond the demands of the current AS level (since they were written with the old one in mind, though I have tried to update them) but should provide some help in supporting your arguments about what future direction the EU should takeread more...»
If you didn’t watch Osama: Shoot to Kill on Ch4, it is worth catching on 4OD over the next month or so.
Like most TV documentaries it is takes slightly too long to get the information over, but what I found especially fascinating as part of the film was how those at the top echelons of what is an almost incestuous inside the beltway culture kept the manoeuvre secret .
Shame there hasn’t been an accompanying film looking at the significance of 9/11 and subsequent events in geo-political terms.
I don’t know how many blog users access the site for PSHE related stuff, but here are details of something I did with my 3rd form today.
I try to make the subjects topical to what is going on at the the time and the 10th anniversary of 9/11 was pretty obvious.
With access to a projector, most questions on the worksheet can be covered.read more...»
With the 10th anniversary of 9/11 coming soon we can expect a raft of related features and documentaries, but Shoot to Kill on Channel 4 is highlighted by a number of Sunday papers as the documentary of the week…
The third in the superb new series of eBook by Andrew Ellams focuses on environmental politics. Key topic coverage is listed further below.read more...»
The fourth in a series of new eBooks for A Level Politics by Andrew Ellams is dedicated to the subject of International Development. Contents covered by this new study guide are listed further below.read more...»
Here’s a really well written comment piece by Gary Younge. It doesn’t say much about the power of big business as the byline would suggest, but does rather convincingly argue that national politicians are fairly powerless in the face of overriding global economic conditions.
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 here of how the US Constitution allows for the defence of rights and liberties.
OK, many states in the US have passed amendments or penned legislation banning same sex marriage, but it remains the case as Andrew Sullivan once pointed out in a column comparing the UK and US, that in certain states gays can do things that those in the UK can’t, i.e. tie the knot.
New York state may soon join Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and the District of Columbia in allowing same sex marriage. Mass was first off the mark, allowing same sex unions in 2004.
Thus states act as laboratories of democracy (Justice Brandeis) experimenting by pioneering different laws in a way that a unitary state such as the UK cannot.
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.
This BBC graphic kills a whole multitude of birds with one stone. The split in Sudan as shown by the interactive map can be viewed in several ways: by geography, ethnicity, education, food security and others. All this means that it could come in useful when teaching about culture as a cause of conflict, the clash of civilisations, the difficulty of making seeping assumptions about poverty & development and a whole load more.
BBC Parliament broadcasted an excellent “The Record Europe” programme over the Christmas period. It is something of s shame that the EU has been trimmed from the AS course since I think it is a fascinating political project and in the UK there is a great deal of myth and propaganda about it.
This recording is on iplayer and features the normally controversial Nigel Farage.
If there isn’t time to squeeze it into lesson delivery then I think it is worth considering as an off syllabus project as part of a Politics Society feature. It might also interest Route D followers.
Students often state that one of the reasons Britain is not a true democracy is because prisoners don’t have the right to vote. This is true in the majority of cases, though convicts imprisoned for non-payment of fines do retain their voting rights.
The question of giving prisoners voting rights is an old debating chestnut. See here.
Yesterday the DPM, Nick Ckegg, went to the high court to lift the ban on prisoners, but as the Guardian reported he was looking for a way to avoid giving murderers, rapists, and other serious offenders voting rights. This has all come about as a result of a ruling by the ECHR in Strasbourg in 2005 which stated that Britain’s blanket ban was unlawful. So I guess this also serves as a good example of judges protecting civil liberties also.
This is a far cry from the USA of course, where a large number of states ban ex-felons for a period following their release. And in the state of Virginia, those convicted of a felony are banned for life! Many in the US see these types of policies as racist given the disproportionately large number of black prisoners, a significant number of whom are incarcerated as a result of the ramping up of drugs laws from the 1970s onwards. There’s a good webiste on the American debate called procon.org if readers want to pursue their interest in the debate further.
And in no way am I endorsing this, but Melanie Phillips has let go on the issue too.
Tbe latest in our new series of classroom posters for politics, written by Rachel Fairhead, looks at Europe:
- The Role of The EU
- The Developmentof the EU
- Main Institutions of the EU
- Main Treaties of the EU
- The UK and the EU
- Impact of Membership on the UK
- The Future of the EU
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.read more...»
Lots of developments recently regarding arms treaties and the control of nuclear weapons. This neat interactive graphic summarises which nation states currently have nuclear weapons, and also provides a summary timeline of the Arms Race
There are increasing signs of Western diplomatic engagement with the Taleban and the sense that it will be ‘jaw jaw’ rather than ‘war war’ that will bring somekind of resolution to the conflict. For an idea of how the deal might work take a look at this BBC report.
Climate-related controversies and the outcome of the Copenhagen summit widely regarded as a failure have left a sense of hopelessness in climate policy, says Lord Chris Smith in an article on the BBC.
A couple of stories in the news over the last few days emphasise the prominence of cultural conflict:
1) China says it expects new attacks by separatists seeking independence for the traditionally Turkic Muslim region of Xinjiang after deadly ethnic violence there last year.
2) Some 500 people, including many women and children, are now reported to have died in a weekend religious clash near Nigeria’s city of Jos, officials say.
...and an excellent pictorial overview of current day conflict
Millions of dollars earmarked for victims of the Ethiopian famine of 1984-85 went on buying weapons, according to a BBC investigation. A neat contribution to the ‘does aid work’ debate in Global Issues.
This BBC report relates neatly to the elements of the Global Issues course dealing with cultural conflict, the Clash of Civilisations and terrorism. An influential Muslim scholar is to issue in London a global ruling against terrorism and suicide bombing. Dr Tahir ul-Qadri, from Pakistan, says his 600-page judgement, known as a fatwa, completely dismantles al-Qaeda’s violent ideology.
General Musharraf said terrorism and extremism are the main challenges currently faced by Pakistan. His talk touched on:
- Security challenges ranging from an insurgency in the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan, to a spate of bomb blasts that appear to be growing in intensity.
- Do these bomb attacks suggest that the militant groups are on the back foot in the tribal areas, or that they are growing in confidence?
- The current state of Pakistan’s relations with India, and with Afghanistan.
You can download a transcript of the talk and also watch a video of it on Chatham Houses’ website. Here is the link.read more...»
“Don’t know your Sunnis from your Shias? You are not alone, but their conflict will shape the future of the world” writes Mehdi Hasan in an article entitled ‘The Great Divide’ in the New Statesman. For those studying Global Issues it should make fascinating reading given the rise of identity politics and also given Huntingdon’s ‘clash of civilizations’ debate which has been severely critiqued for assuming Islam to be a monolithic bloc.read more...»
Iran, our favourite ‘rogue state, has just announced that it now the capabilty to produce weapons grade uranium and has plans for 10 new nuclear sites. As Iran is a key case in point of how the international community aims to limit nuclear proliferation and curb ‘rogue’ states this story is worth tracking with all its twists and turns.
‘Hundreds of thousands of government supporters massed in central Tehran to mark the anniversary of the revolution that created Iran’s Islamic republic - while president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad chose the day to proclaim his nation is now a “nuclear state”’. The Independent carries the story. Also an earlier article entitled ‘Iran condemned as it reveals nuclear plans’ assesses Iran’s ability to pose a nuclear threat.
A recommended article which appeared a few months ago in the Newstatesman entitled ‘How Iran went nuclear’ tells the remarkable story of the Islamic Republic’s nuclear programme, which began as an expression of western modernity but has now hardened into a statement of reaction, isolation and rage.
For a really rado pinko lefty slant John Pilger argues that the Iranian nuclear threat is a lie! He argues that Obama’s “showdown” with Iran has another agenda. The media have been tasked with preparing the public for endless war. Read here for the conspiracy!
Also, here is some general stuff on what is a ‘rogue state’...read more...»
The bombs that stopped the happy talk: It was too soon to say that Osama bin Laden’s followers were on the wane—but pessimism should not be overdone.
“ONLY a few months ago, intelligence experts were saying that al-Qaeda and its allies were in decline, both militarily and ideologically. But two bombs less than a week apart, one failed and the other successful, have put an end to such optimism.”
This from a brilliant article in The Economist which outlines the current threat posed by al-Qaeda, but also gives a very good insight into the nature of the organisation. There is also an interesting graph entitled ‘a deadly calculus’
which plots the fatalities in al-Qaeda attacks. Read more here.