If you wanted to give your A level students something to talk about this week, why not show them this article from the BBC about arguments for and against giving votes to 16 to 18 year old young adults. The debate has been re-ignited by the announcement that any up-coming referendum on Scottish independence will allow 16 and 17 year old Scottish citizens to have a say as well as those who are 18 or over. The debate may be a little one-sided if your class is dominated by strong-minded 16 and 17 year old people so it may be an opportunity (before you give out the article) to ask them to sum up the arguments for and against and see how many of their own answers they find within the responses of the commentators in this piece.
Can you do better than Rory?
With party conference season in full swing I thought of a good teaching and learning exercise on political parties after watching Rory Weal’s speech in Liverpool yesterday. It is essentially a combination of student tasks that I would do on party ideologies at AS anyway, with what candidates in mock elections would be doing in school. But this year we have a standard to beat. Personally I thought Rory delivered a great speech and clearly does not merit most of the flak that he has received from the kind of obviously unhinged people who post comments on YouTube.
If you have yet to see the speech, here is the BBC clip.read more...»
Issues such as free university tuition for Scots have made devolution a controversial topic
A potential ban on non-English MPs being able to vote on matters Westminster considers English only is back on the agenda. This is a chance to revisit the old chestnut that is the West Lothian Question - for this special occasion I have also dug out a set of arguments for and against whether the issue is of any real significance.
“Mark Harper, the constitutional reform minister, announced yesterday that a group of non-partisan independent experts would look at how parliamentary procedures at Westminster work and whether they needed reforming to reflect the changed constitutional make-up of the United Kingdom.
He said: “The Government is clear that the commission’s primary task should be to examine how this House, and Parliament as a whole, can deal most effectively with business that affects England wholly or primarily, when at the same time similar matters in some or all of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are lawfully and democratically the responsibility of the separate parliament or assemblies.”
He said that the commission would be made up of a small group of non-partisan experts with constitutional, legal and parliamentary expertise.”read more...»
I frequently get asked for an easy to understand guide to the UK political system. Until recently I lacked an adequate answer. But BBC’s Democracy Live page has a whole host of simple guides to UK institutions. Useful for citizenship, lower school PSHE (for teachers and pupils) and those new to AS looking to do a bit of home research.
This weekend’s Guardian contained a leader suggesting that Scottish voters are delivering mixed messages at the polling booth, having swept the SNP to power at Holyrood then backing Labour at the recent Inverclyde by-election.
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
Following the stunning victory in the Scottish elections by Alex Salmond’s SNP, much has been made about whether we are now closer to the break up of Britain. This debate in exam terms is subsumed into a wider debate about constitutional reform and whether (a) it has been a success (b) it has gone far enough.
In the latest edition of the exambuster I stripped out most of the lengthy analysis of devolution since it was rendered superfluous by new style questions on Edexcel Unit 2. But here is a snippet on the Scottish devolution debate.read more...»
As apathy upon wave of apathy has been heaped on the AV referendum debate, I thought I’d share with you a leader from the Times yesterday, urging voters to vote against. I don’t necessarily share the preference against, but it’s a useful addition to the compendium of material on electoral systems that teachers may have accumulated over the past several months. The strength of the argument presented, however, relates to the more glaring weaknesses in our government furniture. That said, it is likely that a wider debate on our constitution would stir up as much interest as the one focusing on this narrow feature of it.read more...»
As a follow up to Owen’s earlier post, here are another couple of links to the AV issue.
I have been surprised by how many people are unaware of the referendums coming up later in the year. All the more surprising considering large numbers are (a) Politics students (b) eligible to vote in either of the polls (c) both!
So that’s the AV vote, but what’s the other one? The clue is in the picture on this posting. See here.
Promises made by leaders in Holyrood and Cardiff Bay that the devolved governments will pay for the proposed hike in tuition fees have led some to argue that we are witnessing the development of educational apartheid.
This latest controversy gives us a chance to revisit the debate on devolution.read more...»
I think I blogged on this previously, but here is a reminder of a neat little exercise for teachers and students. It doesn’t take long, and proved highly popular with my students last year.
The BBC has launched a new online service that should make tracking politics on film easier.
There’s also a very useful section on the various governing institutions, what powers they have, and so forth.
I also came across a section on the online archives on Mrs Thatcher. Lots of clips and Panorama interviews that I once stored on VHS tapes.
I’ve noted on another posting that due to the challenges facing Barack Obama as President, it is an exciting time to be studying American Politics. Likewise on this side of the Atlantic given that we are due a General Election before the end of this academic year.
Many are predicting electoral wipe-out for the current government on the scale Labour faced in 1983 and the Tories on a similar scale in 1997. But a report in today’s Observer suggests that Gordon Brown may seriously consider promising a poll on electoral reform on the same day as the election as a means of minimising collateral electoral damage.read more...»
The selection of the Tory candidate for Totnes has caused a bit of a stir since she was chosen by a novel system, an open ballot of all voters in the constituency. It has been argued that the American election process is more open and democratic since candidates are chosen away from smoke filled rooms by party bosses, and instead by a vote by registered voters.
Quite a few candidates at AS level have suggested this system as a means of improving UK democracy, but I have always been a bit sceptical since in UK parliamentary elections we vote for a party rather than candidate. Moreover, academic research suggests that people don’t want more involvement in politics. Ok, some do, but the majority are content to cast their ballot every few years so long as politicians can be trusted to work for the interests of the country rather than personal/professional gain.
So Sarah Wollaston’s victory has got political commentators quite excited and an editorial in the Times is enthusiastic about extending peoplr power in this way.
Peter Riddell is on board as well, and adds intelligent comment in his column.
Perhaps it is time to move away from formal, membership based parties to a system where people can register as supporters. This alongside extension of the primaries idea might be a shot in the arm for democracy at a time when trust in politicians is at its lowest possible ebb. And if it doesn’t work, e.g. if turns out that the novelty wears off for voters after a couple of ballots and the usual party hardcore wrestle back control, then at least there was an attempt to do something.
Ditto for the idea of televised debates by the party leaders, and the same goes for economics, and even home affairs.
Donald Dewar, the chief architect of Scottish devolution, is reported to have said that devoution is a process, not an event. News emerging this week serves only to confirm this.read more...»
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.
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.
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 electionread more...»
5 reasons why I think that this is a problem that has been overstatedread more...»
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 overblownread more...»