One key aspect that new students to Government and Politics need to have is an understanding of the nature of participation in the political process, particularly in the UK. Follow this link to see a Powerpoint stimulus exercise examining voter turnout and apathy for the UK General Election of 2010.
As well as offering statistics on turnouts in 2010 compared to previous elections and a breakdown in turnouts by the individual countries within the UK, the stimulus asks students to consider what causes voter apathy, particularly among adults between the ages of 18 and 24.
Please note: This activity will be showcased as part of the upcoming Wow Politics event (November 13th, see our website). Delegates to the event will also receive the companion spreadsheet which lists turnout by constituency, ranking each constituency in terms of the turnout percentage showing where apathy was at its worse! This data is necessary for a task within the resource which asks students to consider the causes of good, bad or indifferent turnout in the area where they live. If you wish to obtain this information yourself to use with this activity, it available from this link.
Theresa May, the Home Secretary, announced at the weekend that she would like to repeal the Human Rights Act. This is yet another example of clear blue water between the government and the Labour opposition on party policy that has emerged during the conference season.read more...»
If you are a constitutional reform anorak like me, you will probably have already been accessing the new and significantly improved site at UCL’s Constitution Unit.
In addition to the very detailed reports they publish on the constitution, it is now possible to watch videos of events held at the unit, and details of forthcoming events are laid out more clearly.
Not only can it be plundered for detailed analysis of constitutional reform, but if Politics students want to supplement their personal statements in order to show that their level of interest really does extend beyond the classroom, then making use of what’s on offer from the unit creates a much better impression than saying you like watching the BBC’s Question Time.
Here is a link to a video recording of an excellent presentation by Professor Vernon Bogdanor on the coalition and the constitution as a starting off point for investigating the site’s contents.
There’s quite an interesting feature on the BBC website suggesting that there is slim hope that the current government will stay together for a full five year term. It’s a good example for students of how politics is a social science, since theories can be developed and tested to see if they hold true in the real world:
“According to new research by the University of East Anglia the chances are that it will held much earlier.
Dr Chris Hanretty from the University of East Anglia’s School of Political Studies has studied the experiences of hundreds of other coalition governments worldwide and concluded that, statistically, our present government has only a one in five chance of making it to the full five years, and one in three if the Fixed Term Parliaments Bill is passed.
He has reached this conclusion by developing a political model which analysed 479 different elections in 35 countries.”
I’ve just penned an article auditing Cameron’s style of premiership, and hope you will see it in the next edition of FPTP.
Here are the background articles I used.
Useful perhaps if you want students to carry out an exhibition on the power of the PM, or the Tory Party at the beginning of AS. Some, not many, require entry to the Times online via the paywall.read more...»
Some interesting insights on powers/role of the PM, relations with Cabinet, and role of Cabinet in last night’s Dispatches.
These up-to-date examples should help strengthen answers on this, the most popular Unit 2 topic area.
Hardly a week goes by without the two main parties having a go at each other. Yes, they might be arguing about minute policy differences more than ideological themes, but nevertheless we can see how broad differences about how society should be shaped serve to underpin policy options in most cases.
Following a quick sweep of stories over the last month or so I have made some updates to policy divisions previously identified on these pages. These are highlighted in bold and links to original sources are included for reference.read more...»
The steady erosion of civil liberties in Britain has been cited in recent years by campaigners as evidence of weaknesses of the UK constitution, or the poor state of our democracy. It was said that Labour seemed to give with one hand, whilst taking with the other. Despite steps in the right direction as a result of the introduction of the European Convention on Human Rights, through the Human Rights Act (HRA) 1998, rights are still not adequately protected since they lack entrenchment in our political system. That civil liberties receive little protection was illustrated in full Technicolor by Blair’s fourfold extension of detention without trial. ASBOs have created a criminal class of innocent civilians. So what of the current government?
I thought Larry Elliot was in top form in yesterday’s Guardian when discussing how Labour should reposition itself in response to Coalition spending cuts.
(Just don’t keep mentioning the “R” word.)
The House of Commons is regarded in comparative terms as one of the weakest legislatures in the world. Moreover it is argued that plans to cut the number of MPs will weaken it further since a higher proportion of MPs will be on the government payroll (so long as the number of ministers is not cut also).
Notwithstanding this, a major development in the ability of the House of Commons to scrutinise the executive is the introduction of departmental select committees in the UK in 1979. These non-partisan bodies can call for ‘persons, papers and records’ and can be seen to have resulted in more open government and act as a useful deterrent on an over mighty executive. Peter Riddell has argued that select committees have ‘been a major factor in the opening up of the workings of government over the past twenty years’.
And this week, according to the BBC website:
‘The scale of health reforms being made in England has taken the NHS by “surprise” and could threaten its ability to make savings, MPs say.
The Commons health committee has criticised the “significant policy shift” of scrapping primary care trusts and passing control of budgets to GPs.’
Therefore select committees continue to be a thorn in government’s side and there is a strong argument for strengthening their powers, especially given that we have a coalition government which has drafted policies that voters of the Conservative and Lib Dem parties didn’t know they were getting (most obviously the hike in tuition fees, which the Lib Dems pledged to oppose pre-election).
We all know Polly Toynbee isn’t the most unbiased commentator around, but she has shed light this weekend on the astonishing degree to which the current Conservative led government has backtracked on many of its promises.
U-turn if you want to, this Dave is for turning.read more...»
A new report from the IPPR claims that the UK’s FPTP electoral system is fundamentally broken and “is likely to produce increasingly undemocratic results in the future”. The IPPR analysis shows that the May 2010 general election was decided in just 111 constituencies by fewer than 460,000 voters – or 1.6 per cent of the electorate.read more...»
News of a possible rift between two of the Conservative Party’s big hitters as emerged recently, with Theresa May, the Home Sec, apparently at odds with Ken Clarke’s Justice Department and plans to cut prison numbers.
Here is a fascinating approach to visualising the voting preferences expressed at the ballot box in the UK General Election of 2010…read more...»
Some fascinating data here from the Electoral Commission which has published details of party expenditure on the 2010 General Election. Taking a simple average of amounts spent divided by votes won, the campaign cost Labour an average of just 93p per vote, whereas the high-spending Tories gathered only one vote for every £1.54 they spent. The Lib Dems were particularly frugal, spending 70p per vote gained. What would be even more interesting would be to see what the “per vote gained” cost was in the key battleground marginals…
Last night I popped over to a talk by Adam Boulton - Political Editor of Sky News - given at our school’s political society. It was a fascinating hour in the company of one of the most knowledgeable people around when it comes to the hidden wiring of British politics. Here is a collection of some of my tweetsread more...»
If you are studying UK issues or want an overview of what the Labaour government delivered in policy terms in their 13 years of power if you are new to UK political parties, then this excellent piece from today’s Guardian should fill that gap.
With Labour leaderless at least until later today, it is an extremely useful starting point when tackling party politics. Can help support answers to questions such as:
Is New Labour different from Old Labour?
To what extent is Labour still committed socialism?
Does Labour maintain its traditional goals, but look to secure them via different means?
To what extent are labour and the Tories different?
What was the Labour government’s approach to education/health/the economy/tackling poverty?
A series in the Observer this week provides a rich source of material for teachers to plunder, or for students to use as part of a research exercise.
If there is a case to replace first past the post with an election system that is proportionally representative, it seems stronger now than ever. With help from the Electoral Reform Society website, read on…
There’s an excellent pullout in today’s Guardian detailing the composition of government ministers.
You can also access a version online. Click here
With the debate on electoral reform hotting up, there are an increasingly good number of sources for students and teachers regarding the debate over what type of electoral reform could be implemented. The Fabian society’s Next Left blog analyses David Cameron’s claim that PR would make it more difficult to throw out governments, and provides an excellent history of the impact of the current First Past The Post system. The virtue of the Next Left piece is that it is firmly rooted in examining what has actually happened, and students obviously need to be able to strike a balance between hypothetical speculation, and the need to use examples and clear evidence in order to organise cases for or against different voting systems.
The General Election always throws up some amusing and unusual media angles. Take this one - exclusive footage of “Tony Blair” taking advantage of some long-odds on Cameron to win…read more...»
A good resource from Google with the opportunity to enter your class or school’s votes into the election map, and be part of the national survey of how young people would vote.
The latest opinion polls must have made encouraging reading for the Liberal Democratic leader Nick Clegg, but what they tell him about the projected size of his parliamentary party can only have reinforced his belief that the system is utterly inadequate. The Independent on Sunday has some very useful material for AS students on the electoral system and the Liberal dilemma.read more...»
These charts from Betfair illustrate how their markets are currently viewing the odds on a range of General Election events. The charts are updated live each time you open this blog post, so add it to your favourites if you would like to track the General Election market as we move towards polling day on 6 Mayread more...»
It’s happened, history’s been made and noted, and British elections have now become debate-oriented. In another decade or two, perhaps, they’ll start being won and lost on the internet, who knows? (Although definitely not this time, according to Roy Greenslade). Pundits on the web, on television and in print have all had their say, and with the expected biases noted, there is at least a consensus that the Liberal leader Nick Clegg came out on top. There has also been some discussion of Gordon Brown’s now notorious repetition of the phrase “I agree with Nick”. What could possibly lie behind Mr. Brown’s desire to be seen to be so close to the Liberal leader - sometimes to Mr. Clegg’s own discomfort? Well, there are two potentially sound strategic reasons for this.read more...»
With the Lib Dem manifesto launch this morning, all of the biggies are now out in the public domain. There is some ideological differentiation there after all - the Tories have enshrined antipathy to government expansion, and a belief in individual action, over the more centralised approach favoured by the other two parties (for a helpful and more detailed look at party differences go to Mike McCartney’s earlier post on this topic). That apparent differentiation, however, is not quite as substantial as it may seem at first glance. Gordon Brown’s manifesto included such commitments as giving parents the right to sack their headteachers (a truly terrible idea, but it’s there) for instance. The Liberal Democrats are making it one of their major pledges to redistribute power “fairly among people”. From the Lib Dem manifesto launch this morning, New Statesman political editor Martin Bright tweeted “So all three parties are saying: We are crap, it’s over to you”, which sums up the sense in which the parties are now trying to move the impetus for solutions back to “the people”.read more...»
Labour and Conservative 2010 election promises
There’s said to be little difference between the ideas and policies of the two main parties, with many voters struggling tell them apart. Quite a few vox pops have seen people in the street say that they won’t vote due to their closeness.
Although official manifestoes have yet to roll off the press, with an eye on the participation in politics AS units, here’s my first stab at analysis.read more...»
Over the next few weeks I will try to provide important updates of examples that students can employ in exams.
First off, the always popular PM power debate. It’s incredible to think that about two thirds of the way through the current election campaign, Gordon Brown will have been PM for longer than John Kennedy was the American President. By my rough calculations JFK was President for 1036 days, and Brown has been in Number 10 for 1014 days. What’s my point? Brown often barely gets a mention in essays analysing where power lies within the core executive.
An article by Nicholas Watt in today’s Guardian got me thinking about how we can apply our wider reading in the exam hall.read more...»
The BBC iplayer has an episode on Trust in Politics by Anthony Seldon.
We’ve lost trust in politics and only major reform of the system can restore it. Political historian Anthony Seldon believes the 2010 election could mark a turning point in our democracy, a moment to overhaul the way politics works and put trust into the heart of the system.
Looking back at four critical British elections, Anthony seeks ideas and inspiration for his own manifesto to rebuild trust and positively reconnect politicians with a disenchanted public. He tests his ideas in other professions and suggests how politicians and politics might change. But democratic renewal is a two-way street and Anthony emphasises ways in which we can all play a part in this process. With the help of leading historians, those familiar with the corridors of power and ordinary citizens determined to see change, Anthony finds energy, ideas and enthusiasm to restore and rebuild trust in politics.
The LSE is running an election blog for the 2010 General Election - it looks promising and can be found here
An excellent Channel 4 Dispatches documentary last night on Cameron’s government. Lots of good stuff here for both Politics and Economics students, for example discussing the proposed “Office for Budget Responsibility” to introduce more independence into Treasury forecasts. There’s been lots of talk about fiscal tightening in recent months, but this program asks where exactly do the Tories want to start fiscal tightening - and the non-committal answers will have you laughing/crying*, with no Shadow Minister agreeing to a cut in their department; and the Conservative party not wanting to admit to future tax rises just before the election. It also discusses the issue of the Conservatives and their stance on Europe.
*delete as appropriate
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.
A little while back I penned an article for t2u’s digital politics magazine outlining the steps that would need to be taken for electoral reform to become a reality for Westminster. In summary, these were: a possible hung parliament; a PM committed to change; a majority of Cabinet; MP support; safe passage through the Lords; and at some stage in all of this a plebiscite of the people.
Like an alignment of the stars, this seems to be taking shape.
Yesterday’s vote on a vote in the Commons on AV brings us closer to moving from simple plurality than at any stage in recent history.
The BBC has some great graphics on how a remodelled election would have played out over the past three decades. Useful stuff for considering the merits of change. From a personal perspective, this move by Labour continues the British tradition of tinkering with the constitution for reasons of short term political expediency. In other words, Brown is trying to cuddle up to the Lib Dems—a horrible image for all sorts of reasons.
From the BBC website.
A useful Q&A on electoral reform explaining the AV debate and providing an overview of the operation of the various systems used in the UK in plain English.
I’ll file this away for use when doing Unit 1 revision later in the year.
A terrific interactive resource here. Students have the chance to make their own version of the infamous David Cameron airbrushed, presidential campaign poster from the early weeks of Jan 2010. Simply type in the message, the strap line and off they go.
There are a raft of useful articles on party politics in the papers at the minute, and great as a basis for any media lessons.
In the Times yesterday they focused on the forthcoming Queen’s speech and the likelihood that it will kick off a massive political tussle over the coming months.
Polly Toynbee in the Guardian at the weekend penned an article calling for Labour MPs to do the honorable thing and force GB to step aside. There is a strong feeling in the Labour Party that the election may not be winnable with a new leader but the party is likely to suffer a crushing defeat if he remains in power. Toynbee suggests that it’s still all to play for if a new person gets in. See the article here.
Personally I have accepted that barring disaster David Cameron will be PM from May 2010 onwards, and that Labour should start preparing for life in opposition. At the moment there is no sense of what will happen next and the worry is that the party will lose direction. It’s happened before. Think Labour after 1979, or the Tories after 1997.