WOW! Politics 2015 - Teaching & Learning Resources for the A Level Politics Classroom

Join us for WOW! Politics 2015 - the Resource-Packed CPD Course for A Level Politics

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Greek Election; Where Politics meets Economics.

Monday, February 02, 2015

Here's another blog entry from Oliver Larcombe, A2 Government and Politics student from Barnard School, giving some insightful background to the current Greek political situation:

Like a lot of keen politicians, I took an interest in the Greek general election and wasn’t surprised that Mr Samaras was shown the door, given the level of government debt (Nearly $0.5 Trillion) and the Greeks generally poor economic situation. Now the left wing Syriza party have taken control of Greece. In the last few days the outcome of the election has caused a stir in the EU and the newspapers. In this article I hope to show budding politicians how deep the economic link is to politics. 

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100 days to go! Engaging General Election Sound Bite Bingo Resource

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

100 days to go before the 2015 General Election!  Can the Election really be reduced to a simple game of sound bites?  Here's a resource to engage your students in the run up by getting them to follow the news and find the sound bites printed on their own unique Sound Bite Bingo Card.

Of course, the Election shouldn't just be about rhetorical give-away comments made by politicians.  However, the more predictable they become in their phraseology the more inclined the public are to reduce their trust in politicians.  Without trust, apathy gets hold and democracy is reduced.  Surely they can say something more to inspire us?

This resource uses 40 phrases (e.g. 'English votes for English Laws', 'the Squeezed Middle') to create a random Bingo card of 9 phrases for each of your students.  Give them their card and ask them to follow the election events over the coming weeks and months.  Who will be the first student to hear or read all 9 of the phrases given to them (and reference their providence on their card)?  Who will be first to call 'House' before we even get to the 'Houses' of Parliament!

Click on this link to download the Sound Bite Bingo resource

Are you a secret Tory, Lib Dem, Lab, Kipper, Green or BNP voter?

Friday, January 23, 2015

The website Vote for Policies might help students and teachers in the run up to May's General Election. 

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Match the MP and Constituency - Lesson Activity

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Here's another edition of our popular Tridominoes activity which you can use to see how well your Politics students know their MPs and Constituencies.

Is George Osborne the MP for Tatton or Morley & Outwood?

Which of the featured MPs represents Stoke-on-Trent Central?

Can students match the MP to his or her constituency?

Give it a go and find out!

Download printable triangles (you'll need to cut these out!)

Download the solution (to prove it can be done!)

Political Theorists and their books - an interactive resource

Attendees at many of our recent CPD events at Tutor2u may have seen our 'Tri-dominoes' resource used.  It's an interactive and engaging matching activity where students take 24 triangles (with key phrases written on the sides) and match them up to form a larger hexagonal shape.

The resource below is a pdf (non-editable) version of this activity using Political theorists and their books as the theme.  How quickly can your students match up the triangles?

Click on this link to download the Political Theorists and their books Tri-domino activity.

Note:  This file contains 2 versions of the same resource - a smaller set of triangles printed from a single A4 sheet and a version where the triangles are spread over 3 pages and are larger with larger font sizes.

PS.  Thanks to Jon Neil from RGS Newcastle for the content of this resource

Christmas Quiz on Political News Events of 2014

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

You may have seen the tutor2u Christmas quiz which we launched a few weeks ago.  This version has been written by Jon Neil of RGS Newcastle and has a set of 20 questions on political news events of 2014.

Students are invited to choose one of the gift boxes left outside of the tutor2u learning lab and are then asked a question.  Teachers can choose to award points or genuine treats on a correct answer.

The perfect and engaging way to finish your lesson at the end of another tough term!

Click here to download the Political Events Christmas Quiz 2014.

Red Herring Activity on Ideologies

Friday, December 05, 2014

Recent attendees of our Wow Politics events in London were shown a copy of our 'Red Herring' Powerpoint game.  One delegate, Jon Neil from RGS in Newcastle, created his own version on Ideologies and has allowed us to share this.

The activity takes a different twist on the classical multi-choice quiz format.  Four answers are shown on screen but there is no question attached.  Instead, students must work out which 3 out of the 4 answers are linked and which remaining answer is unconnected (the Red Herring).  Think of the 'picture round' in Have I Got News For You....

This version contains 5 questions and is non-editable.  The editable version of this resource is part of the resource pack given to Wow Politics delegates or is a purchasable resource as part of the Wow Politics 2 pack.

Click here to download the 'Idealogies' version of Red Herring.

What Sustains the The World’s Oldest Guerrilla Group?

Monday, November 24, 2014

For more than fifty years Colombia has suffered an armed conflict involving the FARC guerrillas. As this video profile from The Economist explains, sustained strong cash flows from drug dealing and other illegal activities is the key reason why FARC has been able to sustain its activities for so long.

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Reshaping Britain - an student take on post-referendum Britain

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Scottish Referendum has been and gone but the question of how the UK regions evolve politically is now a very hot topic indeed.  I was contacted by a Government and Politics student from Barnard Castle School in County Durham called Oliver Larcombe, who along with his friend Ben, have written a paper about how the UK's constitutional and electoral map could be altered to encompass the greater sense of local autonomy that is growing.

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Trick or Treat Politics Challenge

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

A seasonal quiz challenge for your Government & Politics students fresh out of the tutor2u Learning Lab.

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‘Wordsnake’ Activity on recent Party Conference Speeches

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Here's a fun resource that's trickier then it sounds. 'Wordsnake' is a resource developed by our very own Graham Prior. At first glance it appears to be a wordsearch as you see a grid of what appears to be 100 random letters. However, the name of a key political figure 'snakes' around the grid rather than being up, down or diagonal as in a normal wordsearch.

Students are given a quote from a major UK political figure made at a 2014 Party Conference and their name is hidden in the grid. Just to be naughty, one of the quotes is not actually from a speech - it was a quote that was missing from a speech!

Who can be the first to spot the answer and call out its location?

If the answer is not obvious at first, the teacher can press the space bar and the letters reveal themselves one at a time. 

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‘Four Words’ - an interactive, lively test of some key phrases from the start of the AS Curriculum

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

We've got another fantastic interactive quiz format for you. This one will help test how much your students have taken in over these first few weeks of the AS course. This activity called 'Four Words' shows students the first four words of a definition of a key phrase. Students must decide if they think they know what the key phrase is (and earn maximum points) or wait to see the rest of the definition and earn lower points. Of course, if they get the answer wrong they get zero points! 15 key phrases are tested.

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Political Compass activity - test students knowledge of UK party position

Monday, September 29, 2014

Here's a challenging activity to test how much your students know about the political position of the main UK parties.  Inspired by the research and information available from The Political Compass website, it asks students to place the parties on a grid.  The horizontal axis is the usual economic left or right but the vertical axis is based upon the level of how authoritarian or libertarian the party's policies might be.

Having placed the parties on the grid (printed off from the Powerpoint resource), the teacher can then enter each team's response and give them a score out of 100 (the closer the student answers are to the positions stated by The Political Compass website, the higher their score).

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FPTP October 2014 - New Articles

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Rachel and her Politics teacher tea have just uploaded six new articles for AS & A2 Govt & Politics as part of the FPTP collection. A summary below.

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Introductory Government & Politics crossword quiz

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Here's a 10 minute crossword puzzle that you can set in class or as homework.  The puzzle lists 15 of the concepts and phrases introduced to Government & Politics students during the first few of weeks of study.  A copy of the answers is also supplied!

Click here to download the Crossword Activity - Introductory Government & Politics

Click here to download the Crossword Activity - Introductory Government & Politics answers

WOW! Politics 2015

We are delighted to announce the return of WOW! Politics - with an all-new collection of teaching & learning resources and approaches to support colleagues delivering A Level Government and Politics.

The first two confirmed dates for WOW! Politics 2015 are:

London - 20 November 2014

London - 16 June 2015

You can book places now here online

Alternatively, download this booking form and send it to us.

We were delighted with the feedback from colleagues who attended WOW! Politics 2014. If you weren't able to attend but would like the entire course resource folder - we still have a few left in the office. You can order them here.

The West Lothian question

Tam Dalyell explains the basis for the West Lothian Question

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Lesson Activity - ‘Face It’ multiple choice quiz on topical politics news stories

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Continuing our theme of sharing engaging activities, here's a fun teaching resource that lasts between 15 and 20 minutes called 'Face It' - a resource that has been extremely popular when we've used it during our teacher CPD events. On the grounds that it may still be too early to test understanding of a particular topic, this version asks 10 questions about topical politicss news stories to see how closely your students have been following the news!

'Face It' is a multiple choice quiz with a typical tutor2u twist! Students are shown the questions at the start of the quiz (but not the possible answers) and asked to work out which questions they feel most confident in answering. Then the fun really starts!

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Membership of Political Parties

Sunday, September 14, 2014

This new Parliamentary Briefing paper looks at declining membership of most of Britain's main political parties

The Eliminator Quiz - Introduction to AS Politics

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Here's an engaging 5 to 10 minute activity to try with your new AS Politics students.  The 'Eliminator' quiz does not cover any specific topic but acts as a way of finding out what your students may already know or to stimulate discussion.

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US Example Essay - Committees and Congress

Friday, May 30, 2014

Here is an exemplar essay on the relationship between Committees and Congress.

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US Politics Update - The Congress

For A2 Politics students, here is an overview of key recent developments in The Congress.

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A Thawing of Relations Between China and Taiwan?

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Many years after a brutal conflict between China and Taiwan, it seems that relationships between the two countries may be improving. China and Taiwan have been ruled by separate governments since the Chinese civil war 1949.

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A Decline of Responsibility and Principles?

Monday, January 13, 2014

Mike Simpson (Bradford Grammar School) looks at the continued decline of individual ministerial responsibility and the traditional principles of the Civil Service.

A printable version of this article appears in the latest edition of FPTP - tutor2u's digital magazine for AS & A2 Politics students.

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Reappraising the House of Lords

Michael McCartney (Bradford Grammar School) considers whether it is time to reappraise the performance and reputation of the House of Lords.

A printable version of this article appears in the latest edition of FPTP - tutor2u's digital magazine for AS & A2 Politics students.

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Parliament: the Wright Effect

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Michael McCartney (Bradford Grammar School) explains that changes to the executive-legislative dynamic in the UK that have gone largely unnoticed, but are no less important for that.

A printable version of this article appears in the latest edition of FPTP - tutor2u's digital magazine for AS & A2 Politics students.

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The Greenback Rules? Pressure Groups and Money in US Politics

Michael McCartney (Bradford Grammar School) examines the role of money in pressure group politics in the US.

A printable version of this article appears in the latest edition of FPTP - tutor2u's digital magazine for AS & A2 Politics students.

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The Rise and Fall of the EDL - Pressure Groups in Context

Mike Simpson (Bradford Grammar School) examines pressure group influence in the UK in the context of the rise and fall of the EDL.

A printable version of this article appears in the latest edition of FPTP - tutor2u's digital magazine for AS & A2 Politics students.

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Elections in 2014

Monday, January 06, 2014

Here is a good representation of the world voting in 2014 - 42% of the global population will be voting this year!

Source: & Electionista

Happy New Year!

Saturday, January 04, 2014

Happy New Year to all politics students and teachers! 2014 is a big political year with it not only being the last full year before the General Election but it is also a year of elections, referendums, ideological battlegrounds and the start of the 2015 Election campaign. By the time the year is out we will know the future of Scotland, the hopes for Obama's last two years, and we shall all be well and truly getting in gear for the Election 2015! Read on for the political excitement that awaits this year!

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Explaining the Alternative Vote System with Chimps, Cheetahs and Foxes!

An imaginative way of explaining the Alternative Vote system here with an animal-themed context!

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Scottish Independence White Paper - Top Tips for Inclusion

Monday, November 25, 2013

Tomorrow (Tuesday 26th November) sees the publication of the Scottish Government's white paper concerning Independence. As politics students living the subject this is a great example for your Politics A Level. This issue of Scottish Independence covers all sorts of concepts from national sovereignty, political ideology, elections and referendums. Be sure you know the story inside and out and how to apply it effectively! Read on for more on how to do so.

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Politics Teachers - Grab a Free Taster of WOW! Politics

Monday, November 18, 2013

WOW! Politics - our new teaching & learning resource programme for AS & A2 Government & Politics - launched in London today. We were delighted with the response from the dozens of Politics teachers who were able to join us.

If you would like to get a taste of the content & style of the WOW! Politics resources, you can order a free taster resource pack from this link:

WOW! Politics 2014 Resource Taster Pack

Wow Politics - Websites recommended by Politics Teachers

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Yesterday saw tutor2u deliver its inaugural version of the Wow Politics teacher CPD event. 35 delegates attended and participated in a hugely enjoyable day which show-cased some incredibly innovative and creative teaching and learning resources for the AS and A2 Politics syllabus.

At the end of the event, the delegates listed the sites below as being invaluable resources for Politics teachers: US-based collaborative learning zone US-based political commentator and journalist Online resource portal University College of London resources Education blogging site Politics news source Online clips to aid learning Politics teacher resource site Politics news source

Anyone who was unable to attend should look out for a repeat of the event which should be advertised soon (for a May/June date).

My Tip Top Tips for Application to University

Thursday, November 07, 2013

So you are thinking of applying for Politics at Univeristy are you? Well, Politics is as I am sure you aware a fascinating subject, it's a subject which is very much alive! Read on for more information on applying to University for Politics!

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Global Issues - Hakimullah Mehsud and the Peace Process in Pakistan

Monday, November 04, 2013

One day after initiating the start of a potential peace process, Pakistan Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud was killed by a drone strike. This BBC video looks at the potential implications of the killing of Mehsud for the prospects of peace in Pakistan.

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Tensions Rise between China and Japan over Senkaku / Diaoyu

Saturday, November 02, 2013

It seems inconceivable that we might see the return of military conflict between China and Japan. However, as this video from the FT explains, there is increasing tension between China and Japan focused on a disputed island chain known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China.

With China displaying its increasing military muscle both on land and at sea, and Japan's prime minister Shinzo Abe seeking to loosen the terms of the country's anti-war constitution, the FT's Dmetri Sevastopulo says that the chance of an accidental confrontation escalating is increasing.

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FPTP - Recent developments within the US Supreme Court

Friday, November 01, 2013

The Roberts Court usually hears around 70 to 80 cases a year. Most are of a dry and legalistic character, with little to capture the interest of students or teachers. However, there are times when the Court passes judgement on a case that could genuinely be considered a landmark.

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FPTP - Making Work Pay?

With several key benefit reforms underway and the government still aiming to cut welfare spending by at least £18bn before the next general election, social security is bound to be an issue high on the party conference agenda.

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FPTP - Legislatures - The Empire Strikes Back

Analysis of the power of legislatures would tend to suggest that their relationship with executives can vary according to the constitutional arrangements in that country.

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FPTP - David Cameron, Tax Havens and the G8

David Cameron used the G8 Summit in June 2013 to try to push for action on tax avoidance. However, given Britain’s role in the global network of tax havens, some have questioned his sincerity.

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FPTP - The Death of Trayvon Martin

Trayvon Martin’s killing and the subsequent acquittal of his accused murderer, George Zimmerman, reopened an old wound in American society and showed how decades, perhaps even centuries old conflicts in the country have never gone away. One Twitter post immediately after the verdict urging people to ‘remember to set your clock back 50 years’ sums up the way many in the African-American community felt about the verdict. Martin, a then 16 year old African-American youth was fatally shot by a neighbourhood watchman after a fight broke out and the latter’s gun was allegedly used in self-defence.

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FPTP - Should Britain Arm the Syrian Rebels?

Parliament’s rejection of airstrikes on Syria last reopened the debate over whether Britain should be intervening at all in Syria’s ongoing conflict – and if so, how?

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FPTP - He Who Pays the Piper…

The decision by the trade union, the GMB, to slash its donation to the Labour party from £1.2m to £150,000 not only poses questions about Labour’s links to the unions but also about the viability of political parties and the issue of state funding for the parties.

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FPTP - The vote for (in)action over Syria – another watershed moment at Westminster?

The rebellion of 30 Tory backbenchers, together with those of the Liberal Democrats and the Labour opposition halted what appeared to be an inexorable slide towards western military involvement in Syria’s long-running and violent civil war.

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FPTP - Independence for Scotland?

A year from now, Scotland could be an independent country. Whether the prospect appeals or appals, an independent Scotland holds significant political consequences. This article seeks to consider three of those implications; the notion of sovereignty, the legitimacy of the result and the prospect of the United Kingdom collapsing altogether.

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FPTP - The Annual US Budget Fight

Since 2010 the Republicans have controlled the House of Representatives, as a result the budget process has normally turned into a, somewhat embarrassing fight between the Democrats and the Republicans.

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FPTP “It is not the economy stupid!”

Given the dealignment of the electorate in many democracies, more emphasis has been placed upon the economy as a key determinant of voting behaviour. Labour lost in 2010 in the UK as did the PSOE in Spain, largely due to a failing economy after the “credit crunch” induced recession in those countries. In Australia however the incumbent Labor government was ousted from office despite an economy that boasts 22 consecutive years of economic growth and a forecast of 2.6% growth for this year. Bill Clinton campaigned on the theme of “It’s the economy stupid” in 1992 to defeat the then President G.H. Bush, yet it would seem too narrow a focus on a single factor cannot explain the outcome of elections.

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WOW! Politics 2014

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Next available date: 18 June 2014 (London)

WOW! Politics 2014 is a brand new CPD course that follows the popular format used in our sell-out courses for Economics & Business Studies.

The aim of WOW! Politics 2014 is to provide teaching colleagues with a collection of resources that can be used immediately in the A Level Politics classroom.

We asked a superb team of experienced and passionate Politics teachers to develop their resources for A Level Politics which would help inspire and engage students - perhaps by adopting a different approach to Politics topics than the traditional textbook style!

The result is a superb collection of teaching resources that we hope students will find engaging, challenging and enjoyable!

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Should UK Voters Have the Right to Recall an Unwanted MP?

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Would the introduction of a recall system for UK MPs provide an incentive for MPs to keep on their toes and represent their constituents better?

The expenses scandal led to suggestions the public should have the power to remove MPs between elections where constituents felt they were no longer up to the job,

The coalition proposed a system where an MP could be referred to the Parliamentary Standards Committee which would decide their fate.

But Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith said that does not go far enough, and made the case for a different kind of "recall".

He said constituents are not able to punish their current MP, whatever their behaviour, as "there is nothing literally their voters can do about it until the next general election."

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Where next for the GOP after the Shutdown and Debt Ceiling Climbdown?

Monday, October 21, 2013

The dust is beginning to settle after the 16 government shutdown in the US and the brinkmanship before moderate Republicans finally struck a deal with the Democrats to raise the debt ceiling.

On the face of it, a 10 percentage point fall for the GOP in recent opinion polls suggests a pretty negative impact on the GOP.

However, as this useful FT video explains, it seems that there are some in the GOP who relished the publicity opportunities from the shutdown and who are now positioning themselves ahead of the 2016 Presidential campaign. Most prominent among these is Texas Republican senator Ted Cruz who has seen his approval and donations hitting new highs.

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Voter Turnout in the UK General Election 2010

Monday, October 07, 2013

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.

The Decline of Party Membership - Cameron’s Collapse

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

This article in The Spectator highlights a dramatic fall in the membership of the Conservative Party since David Cameron became leader in 2005.

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Should a Visit to the Polling Station be Compulsory for First-Time Voters?

Monday, August 26, 2013

When we reach the next General Election (scheduled for summer 2015) it is likely that older people will once again be most likely to cast their votes. Voting is not compulsory in the UK, but the evidence suggests that older people are much more likely to exercise their right to vote compared with younger people. So, could this feature of UK election turnout be changed by making voting compulsory for a certain category of voter - the first-time voter?

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Talkabout!! Politics Starter/ Plenary

Friday, June 28, 2013

Quiz shows are always a massive source of inspiration when it comes to starters and plenaries. Here’s one I used regularly in my teaching which was based on a popular quiz show around 1990.

The show was called Talkabout and was hosted by then popular light entertainer, Andrew O’ Connor. A very simple format which involved two teams of people talking about a topic and trying to hit 10 key words. This is perfect for politics and can be played in two key ways.

Firstly, you can think of 10 key words on a topic that has just been covered, for example, electoral systems. The words can be on the board but hidden from view. The teacher then asks for a volunteer to come to the front and face the class. The words are revealed to the rest of the group and the volunteer has to talkabout that topic (in this case, electoral systems) with the aim of hitting as many key words as possible. The time allowed is 60 seconds. Every time a word is 'hit' the students applaud the student.

However, a far more inclusive way to play is to ask for a volunteer and then send him/ her out of the room. The rest of the group then discusses what the 10 key words should be and these are then put on the board. Volunteer comes in and then talkabout is played in the usual way

It’s a really fun and engaging way of recapping a topic you have just taught and at the end you can question the students on each of the key terms. Talkabout can be used for virtually any politics topic, for example:

  • Pressure groups
  • Role of parliament
  • The European Union

The applications are endless!!!!

GOV4A Revision Materials

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The GOV4A Exam is not far away not, happily here are overviews of the entire specification in Tutor2u Style! All powerpoints are available for download via Slideshare! 

Complete Overview (All Four Topics)

Constitution and Federalism 
The Supreme Court
The Presidency

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Revision Update: UK Politics: Internal Party Democracy

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The opportunity for members to have an input into party proceedings might be considered to best identified by considering three main areas:

1.  The election of leaders

2.  The role of conference and policy making

3.  The selection of candidates for elections

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Revision Update: UK Politics: A Leadership Challenge to David Cameron?

“Damn your principles! stick to your party”  So said the Victorian Conservative Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli. Yet it would appear that principles are being placed before party at the present time within the Conservative party.

According to Conservative rules, 46 MPS is all it takes for a leadership challenge to be launched against Cameron. 15% of Conservative MPs must ask the 1922 Committee for an election and a simple majority secures the leadership. These were the rules introduced in 1998 which led to the ousting of Iain Duncan Smith in 2003. Given the size of the vote against the government on the proposed EU referendum and House of Lords reform, it would seem that this requirement could be easily met should Conservative MPs perceive Cameron to be an electoral liability in 2015.

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Revision Update: UK Politics: Are Labour the Tories Democratic Organisations?

To what extent are the Labour and Conservative parties democratic organisations?

The election of Ed Miliband was said to be due to the influence of the unions. This would suggest that the unions might wield too much power within the Labour party making it undemocratic. It should be noted however that political parties actively seek to involve their membership and seek to establish their democratic credentials.

The parties could be stated to be democratic organisations as they allow their members to choose their leaders. David Cameron was able to defeat David Davis relatively easy and Nick Clegg secured a narrow victory over Chris Huhne. Democracy can be defined as “rule of the people for the people by the people”. This is normally achieved through the direct participation of the people and in party terms through members voting their leader. Ed Miliband too was elected by a combination of the members, unions and parliamentary Labour party via an electoral college where each branch of the party gets 33.3% of the vote.

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Revision Update: UK Politics: Labour as a One-Nation Party?

There was an interesting turn of events at the Labour party conference in 2012 when Ed Miliband used the term to “one nation” to describe his party. The phrase originates from as long ago as the nineteenth century when the Conservative leader, Benjamin Disraeli, sought to drag his party back from the political wilderness and to connect with the newly enfranchised working class. He warned of the dangers of two nations divided into the rich and the poor. One nation Conservatism then was used to describe a Conservative ideology which justified state intervention on paternalistic grounds to lesson income and wealth divisions. Ironically, similarities may be made with Cameron’s “compassionate Conservatism”.

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Revision Update: UK Politics: Conservative Party

The dilemma the Conservatives faced after the 2005 general election was similar to that of the Labour party in the 1990s. The party, having lost successive elections, needed to change in order to get re-elected. Labour’s four defeats in 1979, 1983, 1987 and 1992, assisted the development of New Labour. This “project” saw the Labour party abandon many of its traditional policies such as state ownership of the “commanding heights” of the British economy with the amendment to Clause IV of their constitution with a move to the centre right ground of British politics. The success of this move was evident with an unprecedented three successive election victories in 1997, 2001 and 2005.

The Conservatives then had a similar need for a “makeover”, a reinvention if you will, so that they could reconnect with the British public. Their support in the elections where Labour won showed no real sign of change. Their vote “flatlined” around the 30% mark and this was in part due to the public’s perception of the Conservatives as “the nasty party” as was identified by the then party chair, Theresa May, at the 2003 party conference. This allowed the election of David Cameron in 2005 after their third election defeat on a modernising agenda. Part of his brief was to give his party a more new policies and a new image; a brief which might be called a modernising agenda.

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Revision Update: UK Politics: Exemplar Answer: Functions of Political Parties

Discuss the view that parties no longer fulfil their functions?

Turnout at the recent Police Commissioners elections was at a record low level of c15%. As the candidates were based upon party labels this might suggest that political parties are failing to fulfil their function of participation. However, a quick glance at Westminster reveals that parties still remain critical to the operation of UK government and politics.

Parties no longer fulfil the function of participation. Pressure groups such as 38degrees and the RSPB have more members than all the political parties put together. The notion then that parties can aggregate the interests of the public no longer holds true. Membership of all the parties has fallen from over 1m in the 1950s to less than 200, 000 today for both the Conservatives and the Labour Party. The liberal Democrats have suffered an even greater decline since they joined the Conservatives in 2010 in the coalition government. Were it not for the backing of private donors (The City for the Conservatives and unions for Labour) and some state funding, the parties would be in terminal decline.

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Revision Update: UK Politics: Exemplar Answer: MPs and their Constituents

To what extent do MPs represent their constituents?

Since the election of “Blair’s babes” in 1997, there has been an increased focus on the composition of the House of Commons (HoC) in terms of gender, age, race and class. More recently Osborne stated that “we are all in this together” but Miliband has been quick to draw attention to the privileged background of the Chancellor and the Prime Minister. Some argue that whilst the HoC does not mirror society, it cannot adequately represent it. Others would argue that MPs can still serve their constituents even if they come from a different background.

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Revision Update: UK Politics: Exemplar Answer: Does the Executive Have Too Much Power?


Lord Hailsham stated that the UK has an “elective dictatorship” in the sense that the executive is able to dominate the legislature. It could be said that the UK has a fusion of powers rather than a separation of powers. Whilst it could be argued that the UK system is markedly different from that of the US which is based upon the separation of powers, it should be recognised that there are limits upon the power of the executive.

The executive could be said to have too much power principally because parliament is unable to serve as an effective check. The government controls the parliamentary timetable which restricts the function of both houses. Private members bills are unlikely to be successful which caused Jack Straw to demand that the backbenchers be given more powers.

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Revision Update: UK Politics: Exemplar Answer: Parliament and the Executive

Discuss how effectively parliament checks the executive

The recent government defeat over the issue of the EU budget was a rare occurrence. For the most part the executive dominates the legislature. Indeed Lord Hailsham described the relationship between the two branches of government as an “elective dictatorship”. However, whilst the separation of powers may be less obvious than in the USA, the UK parliament can still actively check the executive.

Parliament is unable to effectively check the executive due to the Westminster model of parliamentary government. This ensures that the executive has an inbuilt majority in the House of Commons and when this is allied to the exercise of strict party discipline and the limited powers of the House of Lords, it ensures that parliament can do little to check a government. This is especially the case when there has been a creation of a large majority after an election such as 1997 and 2001 with Labour majorities of 179 and 167 respectively. Majorities of 66 in 2005 and 83 with the coalition in 2010 mean that all the other parties united cannot defeat the government thus rendering Parliament relatively powerless.

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Revision Update: US Politics: The Supreme Court


There can be little doubt that the ruling on Obamacare was the decision that was most eagerly awaited from the Court in this term, indeed many regard NFIB v Sebelius as a landmark ruling and one which define the Roberts Court. It is therefore worthy of detailed analysis. Several key points might be made in this regard.

· The voting on the issue of the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was surprising in that it was expected that it would Justice Kennedy who would provide the swing vote on the issue. It was anticipated that the usual conservative bloc of Roberts, Scalia, Thomas and Alito would face the liberal bloc of Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor and Kagan, with Kennedy providing the pivotal vote. The fact that it was Roberts and not Kennedy that joined with the Liberals was therefore a great surprise.

· Roberts did not sanction the act under the interstate commerce clause as the others did but under the right of Congress to levy taxes.

· This action has meant that the Court has avoided being drawn into the political arena as it was with rulings such as Bush v Gore. It was an example of judicial restraint. In his opinion, Chief Justice Roberts stated “It is not our job to protect the people from the consequences of their political choices.”

· The ruling has helped the Obama presidency.

· In doing say Roberts has helped ensure that the respect for the Court is retained. This is a key determinant of its legitimacy, authority and power.

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Revision Update: US Politics: Exemplar Answer: A Conservative Robert’s Supreme Court?

Discuss the view that the Roberts Court is a conservative court

The landmark ruling of NFIB v Sebelius in 2012 which sanctioned Obamacare provides a clear illustration of the jurisprudence of the Roberts Court as it ruled contrary to public expectation in a liberal manner. However, others would suggest that this is the exception rather than the rule.

The Roberts Court may be regarded as conservative due to the composition of the court and the impact of recent appointments. Following the resignation of Justice O’Connor, President GW Bush had the opportunity to replace a centrist swing voter with a conservative. Justice Alito. This bolstered the conservative wing of the court. Justices Scalia and Thomas were already in place after their appointments by Presidents Reagan and GH Bush respectively. The bush appointments of Roberts and Alito, with Justice Kennedy who supports the conservative side 60-70% of the time has meant that the Court has a conservative majority which can outvote the liberal bloc of Ginsburg, Breyer, Kagan and Sotomayor. Obama’s appointments have had little impact. Sotomayor and Kagan replaced two liberals (Souter and Stevens respectively) unlike the Alito appointment.

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Revision Update: US / UK Politics: Exemplar Answer: A Bill of Rights?

Discuss the view that a bill of rights alone does not provide an adequate protection of rights.

The continued failure of the UK government to depart the Muslim cleric Abu Qatada would suggest that bills of rights can go a significant way to ensuring that rights are protected. However, the fact that Theresa May, the Home Secretary, has suggested that the UK may opt out or derogate from the ECHR would seem to indicate that rights need more that a written statement that rights exist. 

The role of the legislature can prove critical in the defence of rights and a much needed part of the protection of rights equation. Without legislative support, a bill of rights will not provide an adequate protection of rights and liberties. The point is that Parliament could, via the mechanism of parliamentary sovereignty, ban any “freedom” they want. Two measures presently going through Parliament clearly illustrate that the ECHR does not provide an adequate protection of rights. The Justice and Security Bill can result in secret trials, the “snooper’s charter” (Communications Data bill) threatens the right to privacy.

Developments since 9/11 clearly illustrate the fragility of rights in the USA and suggest that they are not adequately protected. Most recently, the National Defense Authorization Act 2012, paved the way for indefinite detention of US citizens without trial due to alleged association with terrorist groups. There are even first amendment free speech concerns relating to journalists’ ability to criticise the government owing to the vagueness of the act. This concern was the basis for the Supreme Challenge in Hedges v Obama which decided in favour of the government in 2013.

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Revision Update: US Politics: Exemplar Answer: Protection of Rights in the USA

Discuss the view that rights are not adequately protected in the USA today.

In the aftermath of the bombs at the Boston marathon, there is a possibility that there could be a knee jerk reaction from the authorities which could see national security concerns override individual rights. It should be recognised however that the USA has a well-established rights culture which would suggest this will not be the case.

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Revision Update: US Politics: Rights and the War on Terror

The continuation of the usurpation of rights due to the “War on Terror”

Despite the regime change at home with the election of President Obama in 2008, there has been scant sign of any relaxation of the government controls designed to improve national security. Indeed many would argue that they continue to be undermined by:

  1. Secret surveillance of US citizens has been increased by the National Security Agency.
  2. More government documents have been classified. In 2011 these amounted to 92m compared to 76m in 2010.
  3. Whistle-blowers have faced a government crackdown with increased use of the obscure Espionage Act which dates from World War I.
  4. Congress sanctioned an extension of phone tapping without a warrant until 2017.
  5. Prosecutions by military tribunals rather than civilian courts.
  6. The continuation use of renditions by the CIA and the failure to close Guantánamo Bay detention centre which it is argued amounts to “the fundamental civil liberties issue of our time.”[1]
  7. An expanded definition of a terrorist without recourse to the legal process (National Defense Authorization Act 2012).

The detention of suspected terrorists at Guatánamo Bay (GITMO) and developments since 9/11such as the Patriot Act,  provide an interesting case study of the how rights may be subject to abuse and of the roles played by various political institutions.

With regard to the rights that are “in play” with regard to the detention of these prisoners, these include:

  1. Habeas corpus rights
  2. The right to a fair trial
  3. The right to a lawyer
  4. Freedom from torture

Under the terms of the US Constitution, the 6th, 7th and 8th amendments would seem to have been disregarded.

In order to aid analysis of the roles played by the three branches of government, the following sections look at each branch in turn.

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Revision Update: US Politics: Pressure Groups, Newtown and the NRA

Another massacre in a school and a revival of calls for gun control might have suggested that this was the moment when the powerful gun lobby group, the National Rifle Association, might finally have to face some sort of defeat in its attempts to prevent any restrictions to the second amendment. It is probably too early to tell whether or not this is the case but this event does help shed more light on:

1.  The factors that can contribute to pressure group success

2.  The role of pressure groups in a democracy

3.  The nature of US government and politics

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Revision Update: US Politics: Cabinet Government in the US?

Abe Fortas once remarked:

With regard to the cabinet as an institution, as differentiated from the individuals who compose it, it is a joke. As a collegium, it does not exist. Its members, serving as a cabinet, neither advise the president nor engage in any meaningful consideration of serious problems or issues.”

This would seem to confirm the view that the USA operates with a singular executive as opposed to the plural executive used in the UK. It was consequently something of a surprise to see a range of cabinet secretaries appear on various TV programmes in a concerted effort to rage against the impact of the automatic cuts in government spending that will result as a result of the president and the Congress failing to come to a compromise agreement over the federal budget deficit.

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Revision Update: US Politics: Obama’s Second Administration


The appointment of the cabinet can sometimes help illustrate the uses of the cabinet. It was President Clinton who said that he wanted a cabinet that “looked like America”. The consequential selection of women and people from ethnic minorities meant that the cabinet might help broaden the electoral appeal and support for the administration.

This factor has been less to the fore with the appointments to Obama’s second term team but the appointments still provide insight into how the administration might function.

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Revision Update: US Politics: The Start of Obama’s Second Term

The start of the Obama second term posed some interesting questions with regard to the policy direction of government and the style that President Obama may adopt in order to push through this agenda. There are several key developments which give us some insight into these issues.

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Revision Update: Elections: Voting Behaviour and the Next General Election

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

As a general rule one should be wary of making speculative comment about the likely outcome of the next general election. Given the volatility of the electorate and the ever changing nature of the political landscape, it is incredibly difficult to make reasoned assumptions about how people will vote in the future and the factors that are likely to be of influence. Using the rational choice model however, we are able to identify certain key developments which might play some role in the next election.

The rational choice model recognises that most voters are not strong identifiers and have no real connection with the political parties. They are essentially unaligned and consequently as Ivor Crewe once remarked “votes are up for grabs”. Voters then decide how to vote on the basis of a series of judgements made about several relevant factors. As an aid for revision, I have reduced these to the “4Ps”. These then are:

1.  Past performance

2.  Policies

3.  Personality

4.  Party Unity

This article is not the place to consider how these factors have each played out in recent elections. Suffice to say, they do provide a convincing explanation as to why certain parties won and lost elections. With regard to 2015, we can place some recent developments into a voting behaviour perspective.

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Revision Update: UK Judiciaries and Rights

Composition of the Judiciary

Despite the creation of a judicial appointments commission, there have been no significant changes to the make-up of the UK Supreme Court. Lord Neuberger, the president of the Court himself stated “We are not getting the best people as judges, because there are a whole lot of women out there who will be better than some of the men.” This was after three new appointments to the Court of twelve were all male.

New appointments: Lord Justice Hughes (64); Lord Justice Toulson (66); Lord Hodge (59)

The only female on the Court remains Lady Hale who is tipped to become deputy president when the post becomes available in May.

There is a mandatory retirement age of 70 which should allow for periodic injections of youth as evidenced above!

Given their key role in the interpretation of the law and the soon to be acquired powers in “secret courts”, such a narrow social background might be viewed as a concern. In the past, judges have been accused of being conservative and Conservative. Recruitment that resulted in a Supreme Court that looked more like UK society would help allay some of those fears. The fact that the last four appointments have been male would suggest that Judicial Appointments Commission is yet to have an impact.

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Revision Update: Parliament: Is Executive Power Checked?

The recent government defeat over the issue of the EU budget was a rare occurrence. For the most part the executive dominates the legislature. Indeed Lord Hailsham described the relationship between the two branches of government as an “elective dictatorship”. However, whilst the separation of powers may be less obvious than in the USA, the UK parliament can still actively check the executive.

Parliament is unable to effectively check the executive due to the Westminster model of parliamentary government. This ensures that the executive has an inbuilt majority in the House of Commons and when this is allied to the exercise of strict party discipline and the limited powers of the House of Lords, it ensures that parliament can do little to check a government. This is especially the case when there has been a creation of a large majority after an election such as 1997 and 2001 with Labour majorities of 179 and 167 respectively. Majorities of 66 in 2005 and 83 with the coalition in 2010 mean that all the other parties united cannot defeat the government thus rendering Parliament relatively powerless.

The work of parliament illustrates how the legislature cannot check the government effectively. This is clearly evidenced by the work of Public Bill Committees. With an inbuilt majority for the government as composition reflects the outcome of the general election on the floor of the Commons and pressure from the whips over selection and voting, opposition amendments to bills are very rarely adopted. The notion of line by line, clause by clause scrutiny of a bill is called into question when the government, through the use of the guillotine can end discussion before every clause has been considered. Butler described the process as “futile marathon” and Tony Wright as a “shocking state of affairs”.

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Revision Update: Parliament: House of Lords


Reform of the House of Lords (HoL) continues to be an on-going saga in British constitutional reform. With Labour’s reforms in 1999 which ended the right of most of the hereditary peers to sit in the House, and with promise of stage II to be delivered in the imminent feature, it was reasonable to assume that there would be some sort of closure to this long outstanding issue. Since then however, no progress what so ever has been made.

The government proposed a second chamber that would be:

a.  80 directly elected

b.  Serve a 15 year term with a third elected every 5 years

c.  Represent regions

d.  The number of peers to be reduced from 826 to 450

e.  The number of church of England bishops would be reduced to 12 from 26

f.  The remaining hereditary peers would be removed

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Revision Update: Parliament: Select Committees - Watchdogs Without Teeth?


The dominance of the executive over the legislature has long been recognised. It is to a great extent the natural consequence of the UK using the Westminster model of government. The largest party forms the government after an election. This means that the government has an inbuilt majority. When this is completed by strict party discipline, the government in effect is in an all-powerful position. It should not lose a vote provided it can keep its majority together. The need for this imbalance to be addressed resulted in the formation of departmental select committees in 1979.

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Revision Update: Parliament: Evaluation of the Legislature


1.  To legislate.

2.  To scrutinise the government

3.  To represent the people

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Revision Update: The Executive: Collective and Individual Ministerial Responsibility


Collective responsibility can be regarded as one of the corner stones of cabinet government in the UK. The convention states that any member of the government (so this extends to junior ministers as well as those within cabinet) must publically support and promote government policy. There may be disagreement in private, but everybody must “sing from the same hymn sheet” in public. If a minister is unable to do this, they must resign from the government.

The convention is needed to maintain a united public face in order to ensure confidence and public support are maintained for the government. Indeed a striking feature of the coalition government since 2010 has been its unity. The coalition agreement set out a range of policies which both parties have adhered to. The Liberal Democrats even reneged on their pre-election pledge not to raise tuition fees. The disagreements that have been evident have been relatively minor. For instance Vince Cable is rumoured to have been sceptical of certain austerity measures, however, he has maintained support for Osborne’s policies as was recently evidenced at the Lib Dem conference.

In the recent past, Clare Short and Robin Cook, both resigned from the cabinet over the Iraq war. However, the absence of notable resignations and the unity of the coalition government would tend to suggest that the convention of collective responsibility remains a significant force in government today.

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Revision Update: The Executive: Prime Ministerial Power

The constraints upon the power of the Prime Minister have been clearly evident in the past year. These constraints have come from:

1.  Within the cabinet from his own Conservative ministers

2.  Within the cabinet from Liberal Democrat ministers

3.  His own parliamentary party

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Revision Update: The Executive: Coalition: All Good Things Must Come to an End

Perhaps inevitably as the coalition enters its third year, the relationship between the partners entered a new phase. It should be remembered that the coalition is made up of two different political parties and therefore it is only natural that some divisions should appear from time to time. 

The driving force however behind this new phase is the low level of support in the opinion polls for the Liberal Democrats. Their support has been around the ten per cent mark as opposed to the 23% they secured in the 2010 general election. The Liberal Democrats need to establish their own distinct identity. As coalition partners they run the risk of being tarred with the same brush as the Conservatives. If a voter wants change, they only have the one option of voting Labour if the Lib Dems are perceived to be one and the same thing as the Conservatives.

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Revision Update: The Executive: Cabinet Reshuffle in September 2012

A cabinet reshuffle can provide a valuable insight into:

  1. The power of the Prime Minister
  2. The constraints upon the Prime Minister
  3. The policy direction of the government

The cabinet reshuffle was Cameron’s first significant change to the composition of the cabinet since the creation of the coalition in 2010. The Liberal Democrats decided not to change any of their 5 senior ministers but there were significant changes by the Conservatives.

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How Cabinet REALLY works!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

There's a great series in The Times, Tuesday 23 April and Wednesday 24th April, about the huge rows developing between members of the cabinet and the Treasury over the Spending Review, with Osborne and Alexander demanding 10% cuts in department budgets.



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A Labour Party Policy (at last!)

Answering AS Exam questions on the 3 main parties means you need examples of their policies - ideally CURRENT ones, not those dating back to Blair and Thatcher! Ed Miliband made an importantat speech yesterday and announced A NEW POLICY!

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The Great Offices of State GOVP2

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Several key figures in the UK hold what are known as the Great Offices of State. Cameron, Osborne, May and Hague all occupy these great positions of power in the UK today. For GOVP2 or any course on the Governing of Modern Britain it is essential that you know about the secretive world that is these great offices. Whilst there is a wealth of information on the Prime Minister's Office little light is shed on the Treasury, Foreign Office or the Home Office. Thankfully the BBC has the provided a gold mine of information on these offices!

The Home Office

The Treasury

The Foreign Office


Elections April 2013

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Politics isn't just confined to the UK and USA you know! 

Elections this month are as follows:

7 AprilMontenegro - Presidential
14 April: Venezuela - Presidential (Snap Election to replace Hugo Chavez)
21 April: Paraguay - Presidential and Parliamentary
23 April: Bhutan - National Council
27 April: Iceland - Parliamentary

Get Election Details from

Edexcel Politics Discussion - Global Issues

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Edexcel have finally posted on their website the papers, mark schemes and examiner's reports from the January 2013 papers.

What are your comments - especially in relations to A2 Unit 4 - Global Issues.

Might it be worth starting a discussion thread below?

Where next for the GOP after The 2012 Presidential Campaign?

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Is the Republican Party a party of "grumpy old men"? Why does the GOP no longer seem to connect with younger Americans - is it because they don't understand and connect with voter views on social issues?

The Republican Party is working through a series of internal reviews which seek to identify the issues and problems facing the GOP.

This brief 4 minute studio discussion by the Wall Street Journal experts examines the key issues:

read more...»

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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Budget 2013 - Leaking left right and centre

Wednesday 20th March at 12:30 Osborne will stand at the dispatch box and deliver his fourth budget of this Parliament. He is probably hoping not to have a repeat of the 'Omnishambolic' budget which he faced last year with the now infamous 'Pasty Tax'. Before Wednesday's details are announced it may be helpful to look at what Osborne may whip out in the Commons designed to not only improve the state of the British economy but the electoral fortunes of the Conservative Party.

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Budget 2013 - Leaking left right and centre

Wednesday 20th March at 12:30 Osborne will stand at the dispatch box and deliver his fourth budget of this Parliament. He is probably hoping not to have a repeat of the 'Omnishambolic' budget which he faced last year with the now infamous 'Pasty Tax'. Before Wednesday's details are announced it may be helpful to look at what Osborne may whip out in the Commons designed to not only improve the state of the British economy but the electoral fortunes of the Conservative Party.

read more...»

Global Issues: Conflict, War and Terrorism: Iraq Ten Years On

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Excellent Radio 4 programme this evening on How Iraq Changed the World'.  Features telling contributions form all star line up including Emma Sky [former adviser the US military in Baghdad] and also Rory Stewart among many others.....even Tony Blair.

Click here for a link to BBC iplayer.

Here is the BBC blurb:

"Writer and broadcaster John Kampfner talks to Tony Blair, the former French foreign Minister Dominque de Villepin and others about the global consequences of war in Iraq.

How has the world changed since the fall of Saddam Hussein ten years ago? What effect did the war have on the balance of power, the respect for international institutions and the global standing of the United States and Britain?

George W. Bush described the war as 'a central commitment in the war on terror' but some say that, if anything, it has promoted terrorists and their cause. And then there's liberal interventionism. Have we created a tyrant's charter?

Leading thinkers from Britain, the United States, China and Russia discuss the impact of the war that has dominated our headlines and reshaped our history."


Global Issues: Terrorism ~ Beyond Bin Laden

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Heads up on a fantastic feature  in the Guardian by Jason Burke on Al-Qaida: how great is the terrorism threat to the west?

Jason Burke is author of the excellent '9/11 Wars' and also an earlier book on 'Al-Qaida'.  Really good background reading for the Terrorism topic.  His conclusion:

"But does this all add up to al-Qaida 3.0, more dangerous than ever before? There's a simple test. Think back to those dark days of 2004 or 2005 and how much closer the violence seemed. Were you more frightened then, or now? The aim of terrorism is to inspire irrational fear, to terrorise. Few are as fearful today as they were back then. So that means there are two possibilities: we are wrong, ignorant or misinformed, and should be much more worried than we are; or our instincts are right, and those responsible for the violence are as far from posing an existential threat as they have ever been."

Politics Quiz 29th January 2013

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Business Studies can have the Biz Quiz, so here comes the Politics Quiz, a weekly round up of news and interesting political stories in the form of 10 questions! Helping you to live the Subject!

Launch the Politics Quiz - 29th January 2013

Download printable version (PDF)

Extremism in the Desert - Where Next for the War on Terror?

Friday, January 25, 2013
This short interview by The Economist magazine is well worth watching as it explains why Islamic extremism is on the march in Africa. The transnational nature of the extremist group that conducted the terrorist activity in Algeria is also discussed. read more...»

David Cameron’s Bloomberg Europe Speech

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

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?

Barack Obama Inauguration Address 2013

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

President Barack Obama's second Inauguration Address presented as a word cloud.

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Tory Modernisation 2.0

Thursday, January 17, 2013

This video interview from The Economist with David Willetts provides a good introduction to the ongoing challenge of modernising the Conservative Party.

read more...»

One Nation Labour & Some Revision on GOVP1 and GOV3B

Saturday, January 12, 2013

If students of the political world were in any doubt as to Ed Miliband's thoughts towards Old and New Labour, they have certainly been ironed out, as Old and New Labour are definitely sent to the grave. This further announcement today at the historic Fabian's Society is political gold for all students sitting the Ideologies Paper next week. 

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Electoral Systems

Monday, December 31, 2012

A year ago I was revising for my GOVP1 Exam, and ultimately one of my favourite topics was that of Electoral Systems. 2011 had been a brilliant year for Electoral Systems with the AV Referendum in May. However it is important to know how each electoral system works. As well as drawing endless flow charts, CGP Grey helped a great deal, as did other internet sources.

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UK Elections in November 2012

Rachel Fairhead reports that the low turnout (aprox 15%)for the elections of the Police and Crime Commissioners perhaps was the headline which grabbed most attention in November’s days of elections; that and the under-performance of the Liberal Democrats.

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US Politics - King Obama?

Kevin Bloor explains the recurring debate within American politics about the power of the President; of which there are two contrasting schools of thought. 

One theory claims that the President has exceeded his constitutional powers. As such, he acts in a manner comparable to an imperial monarch. The second is that the Head of State is greatly curtailed in his actions by constitutional and political considerations. This article examines the imperial thesis in the field of foreign policy to the 44th President, Barack Obama.

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The Leveson Report

As Rachel Fairhead explains, the Leveson inquiry was a public, judge-led (Lord Justice Leveson) inquiry set up by David Cameron to examine the culture, practice and ethics of the press.

read more...»

Spanish Politics - Catalan Independence

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.

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Elections in America 2012

As Kevin Bloor explains, once every four years, the American people elect their Head of State. Held at fixed intervals even during war-time, it is a practice which dates back over two centuries. The process may seem a little complex for students more familiar with British politics, particularly when they are first introduced to it. Now seems as opportune a moment as ever to consider the Electoral College, staggered elections and most importantly what the results of November 2012 mean for politics in America.

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US Politics - Can You Buy an Election?

In this article, in conjunction with the one in a recent edition of FPTP, Mike Simpson seeks to question some of the traditional views of the role of pressure groups in light of the most recent developments. This time Mike's focus is  on the USA.

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US Politics: Propositions in 2012 – a shift leftwards?

As Nick Graham reports, a subtle but perceptible shift in the United States’ political orientation took place in November measurable by the success of several ballot proposals from states as far apart as Maine and Colorado. Here and in Washington, voters approved constitutional amendments for the legalisation of recreational marijuana for the first time in the country’s history.

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An Early Political Christmas Present

Sunday, December 23, 2012

It's not long before the Exams are upon us and you are lucky as politics students to get this early Christmas Present!

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Politics - Living the Subject

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Politics is a subject which is very much alive, it's a social science because its famously unpredictable. Back in 1992 election pundits called the election in favour of Neil Kinnock and Labour, but as astute politics students I'm sure you know that wasn't the case. Election night is probably the jewel in the crown or the star on the Christmas tree for politics students as the fates of nations is in the hands of an electorate. I think that because of this unpredictability, I love the study of it!  

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Saturday, November 24, 2012

When time allows will resume a blogging, especially on the Global Politics front.  However, ijn the meantime  for direct links to relevant articles, events etc. with a view to those studying AS British Politics and then at A2 Ideologies and Global Issues here is the link to the King's Politics Department twitter page:


US update: Initiatives in the recent US election

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

In the flurry of excitement around the re-election of Barack Obama many of you may have not noticed that many States in the US also voted on a raft of initiatives that were put before the electorates of these States.

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Weblinks for AS Government and Politics Party Policies and ideas

Tuesday, October 30, 2012
Continuing with the weblinks before the AS Edexcel exam in January, I thought I'd put up some weblinks for party policies and ideas for AS Politics. Of all the topics, I think this is the one that is trickiest to keep up with - because policies are constantly evolving and changing (the Coalitions views on Trident being a case in point at the moment). If anyone has any extra links, please feel free to post them here. read more...»

The American Road Trip: Obama’s Story

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Could well be worth a watch - 'The American Road Trip: Obama's Story' ahead of the upcoming election.

Channel 4



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Links for AS students studying democracy

Wednesday, October 24, 2012
At this time, many students will have just finished democracy if they're doing AS Edexcel Government and Politics, or a similar syllabus, like AQA. With that in mind, I enclose all the weblinks I've got on Democracy and Participation, including several videos and articles. This includes the story of today for students - should prisoners be allowed to vote? (see link 8 below). More obscure, but still of interest is the efforts by Republicans to introduce voter ID laws in the United States (see link 5). Feedback on all links welcome. read more...»

New blog for AS and A2 Government and Politics launched

Tuesday, October 23, 2012
Welcome to a new blog on AS and A2 Government and Politics. The aim of this blog will be to develop resources for AS and A2 Government and Politics. In particular I shall be concentrating on British Government and also Political Ideologies, as I teach these for Edexcel. However, I shall also be including other resources, including some material on citizenship for keystages 3 and 4 (I'm a citizenship author, see below) as well as some commentary on current events. read more...»

Giving political votes to 16 Year Olds

Sunday, October 14, 2012

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.

David Cameron’s Conference Speech

Thursday, October 11, 2012

If you missed the speech or want to find out how it's been received here are some pointers.

read more...»

Ed Miliband’s Leader’s Speech

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Was the speech as success? What do the media think? And what IS One Nation anyway?

read more...»

Understanding the US Election

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

A must read for A2 USA students today!

read more...»

An Apology for a Party Leader

Thursday, September 20, 2012

I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm so, so sorry.  But I just couldn't resist posting this superb lampoon of Nick Clegg's heartfelt (?) apology to the nation - which has now become a viral hit. 

Of course, a promise is a promise. Clegg made a solemn promise during the 2010 General Election to oppose the introduction of higher tuition fees. He even signed a pledge. So this apology for breaking his promise and perhaps destroying for ever any trust that the student and parent population might have had in him, must have been hard to do.

But does will the public apology work? Can it rebuild trust in the Liberal Democrats? Or does it further undermine Clegg's standing? A great discussion point.

In the meantime, enjoy the video...

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Making sense of the United States political system at A2:

Learning about a new political system for the first time can be confusing - help is at hand!

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Six Principles of the US Constitution - Video Introduction

Thursday, September 13, 2012

I'm grateful to Ben Fuller  for spotting this great little video clip on the basics of the US Constitution. Nice!

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Headsup - Political Debate for Young People

Saturday, September 08, 2012

The Hansard Society have been in touch with us to let us know about a new project they're running this year designed to encourage and stimulate debate about key political and economic issues.

Headsup is an online forum  for under 18's to debate political issues with their peers up and down the country, and with influential decision-makers. According to the Hansard Society, Headsup is:

a safe, student-oriented space where young people become more informed about political issues, improve their discussion skills and let adults with political influence know what they think. Debate topics are chosen by the young people and have included a range of subjects, such as; immigration, crime, the NHS, climate change and international aid 

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Politicans and Movie Stars - Welcome to the US Convention Season

Friday, August 31, 2012

With the first politics lessons of the academic year just days away, how nice of the Republicans to hold their convention just before and thus give us plenty of introductory ammunition.  Even better, the most talked about speech is not one by some boring presidential or vice-presidential nominee, but none other than movie icon Clint Eastwood talking to a chair.  Eastwood’s extraordinary speech has generated a great deal of twitter and internet chatter – largely negative – and even inspired an “Eastwooding” meme whereby twitter users post pictures of themselves interviewing – yes, empty chairs.  More relevantly, the Romney and Ryan speeches have now been comprehensively analysed by supporters and critics alike.

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Politics Teacher Resource Newsletter

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Our Politics Teacher Newsletter provides email updates on tutor2u and other teaching resources of interest to Politics teachers. To add yourself as a recipient, please complete the form below and then respond to the confirmation email we send you.

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Romney vs. Obama: Profiles of Paul Ryan

Monday, August 20, 2012

Lots of coverage recently following the selection by Mitt Romney of Paul Ryan to be his running mate in the 2012 Presidential Election. Here are some links to useful profiles of Paul Ryan which help provide an overview of his views and the effect his selection might have for the Romney/Ryan ticket.

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Romney vs. Obama: Keeping Track of the Polls

The RealClearPolitics poll tracker is renowned as a superb source of up-to-date polling for US Presidential elections and 2012 should be no different. Embedded in this blog is the latest polling data which will update as new polls are published.

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Political Parties in the UK: The Fragmentation of the “Far Right”

Whilst the vast majority of political media coverage outside of election periods focuses on the main UK political parties, it is still worth it for students and teaching colleagues to keep track of activity on the outer fringes of the political spectrum.

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Mapping out your politics

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Where do you stand on the political spectrum? How do you work out what is left and what is right? You have read about The Right or The Left, but how do you try to differentiate between them.

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Global Issues: Human Rights: War Crimes Tribunal Hands Down Taylor Ruling

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The guilty verdict by the judges of the Special Court for Sierra Leone against Liberia’s former president Charles Taylor is important for both Africa and the international community.  The unanimous finding by the Special Court for Sierra Leone that Liberia’s former President Charles Taylor is guilty of aiding and abetting and planning war crimes and crimes against humanity during the civil war in Sierra Leone, constitutes the first conviction of a former head of state before an international tribunal since the conviction of Karl Doenitz (the 23-day day President following Hitler’s suicide) at the Nuremberg Tribunal in 1946. This is a significant achievement for international criminal justice.

This ruling is of obvious interest for the ‘Human Rights’ topic of the Global Issues paper in terms of illustrating both the importance on of rights on the international stage but also the fact that the human rights regime is enforceable.  Nonetheless, the case has not been without controversy since its inception.So has international justice been vindicated?

To follow up on the story here are a few articles:
Telegraph: Charles Taylor found guilty of ‘aiding and abetting’ war crimes
Guardian: Charles Taylor is guilty – but what’s the verdict on international justice?

House of Lords Reform: Do we do away with the buffoons?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Walter Bagehot once wrote “The cure for admiring the House of Lords is to go and look at it,” This week the debate over whether the House of Lords should be reformed is boiling up once again.  Until recently most articles appearing in the press have tended to side with keeping the House of Lords as is, and highlighting the merits of its cantankerous but independent minded ‘appointed’ Life Peers.  However, a wider range of views are now being canvassed in the press.  Here is a quick survey of articles reflected roughly the different positions:

In favour of an elected upper house:
1. In the Guardian Andrew Adonis puts forward a strong case for reform in an article:Reform the House of Lords now and it can survive. He argues:

The second chamber is costly and unrepresentative. Only radical change will head off the abolitionists

2. And, a bit earlier in the Observer there was an article Lords reform: Will nobody finally rid us of these bumptious buffoons? It asserts:

As bishops remain in the upper house, hopes of any substantial change in this antiquated chamber are dying fast

3. Steve Richards in the Independent has The Lords is undemocratic and increasingly silly, and argues:

Clegg is right to push on. Nearly all opposition is on Machiavellian grounds rather than principle

In favour of the status quo [i.e. an appointed upper house]:
3. Philip Blonde [a.k.a The Red Tory] has an article in the Independent: Electing the Lords would undermine its value.  Its thrust is:

It would be the greatest extension of executive power since Charles I dissolved Parliament

And finally the are those who advocate the complete abolition of the House of Lords:
Here cue Polly Toynbee in her Guardian article: Lords buffoonery has to end. So why not abolish them? in which she asserts:

Reform opens deeper questions about where power should lie than this cabinet looks willing or capable of confronting

An interesting blog post from James Cleverly AM: Elected House of Lords, what would we lose? has a list of some of the cross benchers and their expertise which would be lost if they were replaced by elected peers.  Some include:

Psychiatric social worker and chairman of the Harold Shipman inquiry and the Baby P inquiry
Former Chief Constable of West Midlands Police
Professor of Zoology at the University of Oxford, former chair of the Food Standards Agency
Former Permanent Secretary to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Head of the Diplomatic Service
Former Permanent Secretary to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Head of the Diplomatic Service
Former Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police
Former Chief of the Defence Staff
Human rights lawyer and former Chair of Oxfam
Professor of Surgical Sciences at St Bartholomew’s Hospital and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry, Queen Mary University
Professor of the psychiatry of learning disability at St George’s, University of London, former president of the Royal Society of Psychiatrists
Professor of Law at Queen Mary College, University of London

Not your ordinary buffoons!

Inside Obama re-election headquarters for 2012

Saturday, April 14, 2012

A useful video here from the FT provides an insight into how well organised and active the Obama 2012 campaign is. As the Republican primary season drags on, the Obama re-election campaign has fired up its engines. Ed Luce from the FT takes us inside the Chicago headquarters and speaks with Obama spokesman Ben LaBolt

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PM: ‘Come Dine with me’ Cameron’s authority on the wane?

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Are Cameron’s political fortunes beginning to wane?  The difficulty and unpoluarity in passing the Health and Social Care Act 2012 , Osborne’s budget, the Craddus affair involving for ‘Cash for Access’ at No. 10, the leak of the controversial ‘NHS Risk Register’ document the and the shambles over petrol in the face of a possible strike by tanker drivers have all added up to tarnish Cameron’s authority.

Cameron’s tendency to rely on a small clique of trusted confidants, instead of the Tory Party as whole has seen David Cameron’s Coalition, his leadership ability and his choice of associates have taken something of a political kicking.

Two interesting articles to follow up on this:
1. Daily Mail’s The knives are out for David Cameron. He should watch his back  Which includes the line:

‘In politics, nothing happens by accident. If it happens, you can bet it was planned that way’.

2. Peter Oborne in The Telegraph: The Conservative Party can save Cameron, but only if he lets it.  Which asserts:

The Prime Minister’s proxies and cronies must go if he is to re-establish confidence.

The article starts:

For many governments there comes a desperately sad moment after which nothing is ever quite the same again, when trust and confidence evaporates and all that remains is a long battle of attrition.
For Harold Wilson, that moment struck with the devaluation crisis of 1967; for John Major, it was Black Wednesday in 1992. Tony Blair’s came with the realisation that Saddam Hussein did not possess weapons of mass destruction and that his casus belli for the invasion of Iraq in 2003 was a lie.
There is now a strong possibility that historians will identify the events of the past two weeks – the lethal combination of George Osborne’s shambolic Budget with the shocking revelation that access to the Prime Minister and government policy is up for sale – as the climacteric of the Cameron/Clegg Coalition.

Oborne puts this reverse in the PM’s fortunes down to:

There are only two reasons for the collapse of this Government’s fortunes: the first is Cameron and Osborne; the second is the decision made in 2005, when Cameron was elected leader, to govern as much as possible without the Conservative Party.

Global Issies: Conflict ~ Afghanistan: A war that can never be won?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

‘Why are asymmetrical wars difficult to end?’, was a recent exam question for Unit 4. Tying in with that theme is an excellent recent article in the Scotsman entitled Afghanistan: A war that can never be won? where Dani Garavelli [amother Italian Scot?]  writes “One fatal disaster after another has left the coalition’s hopes of succeeding in Afghanistan at an all-time low”.  The article hits the nail on the head, especially in terms of grasping the nature of dealing with a full blown insurgency and the issue of creating a viable and resilient state in Afghanistan.

A must read, but few significant exerpts are:

Do we now have to confront the possibility that withdrawal may ultimately be synonymous with defeat? Have allied forces done enough to ensure the gains made in Afghanistan will be sustained, or will the troops’ departure signal the country’s implosion into civil war? And, as Nato is met with a cascade of unexpected challenges, is the much-vaunted exit strategy – in the words of Henry Kissinger – “all exit and no strategy”.

One of the difficulties with assessing “victory” or otherwise in Afghanistan is that the endgame has never been precisely defined. Initially, a war of reprisal, aimed at ridding the country of al-Qaeda, punishing the Taleban for giving them quarter and ensuring they could never flourish there again, the emphasis has shifted over the years to counter-insurgency and securing a better future for the people of Afghanistan – a concept that has been increasingly difficult to sell to the US and British publics, especially as the death toll has mounted.


The academic recounts the Taleban slogan that dates back to the Soviet invasion: “‘While you have the watches, we have the time.’ In other words, while you have great firepower and technology, we have all the time in the world,” she explains. “While for you this is just a misadventure, for us it’s a serious war for political gain, for political survival.”

The truth of this may become all too apparent in the next few months. “The snow is melting across the Hindu Kush now – this is the fighting season opening,” Crow points out. “The Taleban commanders will come in from neighbouring Pakistan ready to fight – and I don’t know to what extent our domestic public’s going to be willing to put up with many more losses.”


The Special Relationship Renewed?

Sunday, March 18, 2012

It’s been a breathless few days for devotees of the ‘Special Relationship’.  The Sunday Times’ perceptive columnist Andrew Sullivan describes its warm dynamics in his column today (behind the paywall here.) Who can doubt that, once again, the US president and the British prime minister get along famously.  And it can’t have hurt that David Cameron’s visit came just after a distinctly less comfortable summit with the distinctly more prickly Israeli prime minister.  You couldn’t really see Obama and Netanyahu heading over to a college basketball game to discuss the pros and cons of bombing Iran after all.  But as David Cameron returns to the realities of domestic politics, having effectively endorsed Mr. Obama and heard giddy words of political love in return, he may want to cast an eye over the fate of previous British prime ministers who thought they, too, had a special relationship.

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The Presidency and the Power To Persuade

There is no “power to persuade” for a US president.  That is the conclusion in Ezra Klein’s fascinating recent New Yorker article, drawing heavily upon data-heavy research by George Edwards of Texas A and M University.

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Politics resource sharing group in Bromley area

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Colleagues teaching A Level Politics in the Bromley area might like to get involved in a new group which Sarah Murphy (HOD at Hayes School) is organising.  Sarah suggests that the group should operate informally, sharing ideas and resources for the teaching of Government and Politics.  Sounds like a great idea - If you would like to get involved, then contact Sarah directly

Global Issues: Human Rights: ICC’s bench mark ruling convicting Congo War Lord

Friday, March 16, 2012

The conviction of Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga Dyilo by the International Criminal Court is a milestone in the search for international justice.  Chatham House’s Elizabeth Wilmshurst provides some expert comment and analysis - [click here]. The trial ends a 10 yesr legal process and is the ICC’s first conviction.  Wilsmhurst writes:

Lubanga was convicted of the war crime of conscripting and enlisting children under the age of 15 years and using them to participate actively in hostilities. Lubanga was the commander of the Union des Patriotes Congolais (UPC) and its armed wing, the Forces patriotiques pour la libération du Congo (FPLC), at a time when many armed conflicts were taking place in the mineral-rich eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The trial chamber, presided over by British judge, Sir Adrian Fulford, found that Lubanga had encouraged children to join the army and had personally used them among his bodyguards. He and others had participated in a common plan to build an army so that the UPC/FPLC could maintain political and military control over Ituri, a plan which resulted in the recruitment of children, whether voluntarily or by coercion, and their use in various ways in the hostilities.

However, does this herald a new dawn in upholding and enforcing international justice.  Well enthusiasm needs to be curbed…some critical comment is proved in the Econmist, which argues that:

Since it was set up in 2002 to try genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, the court has been lambasted for its glacial slowness. Some critics cry bias, too: all 15 cases now before it concern African countries: Uganda, Congo, the Central African Republic, Sudan (Darfur), Kenya, Libya and Côte d’Ivoire. Yet—except in Kenya—the court intervened either because the countries themselves asked it to, or because there had been a UN Security Council resolution.

The court’s statutes say it may take on only those cases where the country concerned is either unwilling or unable to do so. That, sadly, applies to many African states, where courts are still woefully partial, corrupt or otherwise inadequate. And Africa is also the scene of the sort of wars that bring the atrocities over which the ICC has jurisdiction. Of the 120 countries that have now signed up to the court 33—the biggest single group—are from Africa.

One of the difficulties faced by the court is its lack of any kind of enforcement mechanism. It has to rely on its individual members to arrest and hand over suspects, as required under its statutes. Some African states have proved unwilling to do so, however. Indeed, the African Union has specifically ordered its 54 members not to co-operate with the allegedly pro-Western ICC’s arrest warrant for Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir, one of only two sitting presidents ever charged by the court. The other was Libya’s Colonel Muammar Qaddafi.

Further comment can be found here:
Economist: Bench mark: ICC’s first verdict

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PM and Exec: All hail President Dave?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Steve Richards in the Independent has penned a speculative article, which might be funny except it seems to ring rather true:
Coalition will be harder now for a PM who yearns to be a President He asserts:

There is nothing quite so intoxicating in its theatricality. Cameron has had a ball in the US

Richards argues that Cameron will love to recaste himself into a more presidential mould - he starts:
David Cameron will return from the United States a slightly different leader from when he left. The Prime Minister has never been one for the hard grind of policy detail but has always displayed a fascination with the choreography and theatre of power. To some extent, he shows a mastery of both, too. There is nothing quite so intoxicating in its choreographed theatricality than standing shoulder to shoulder with an American president laying on the biggest of big welcomes. Cameron has had a ball.

Ad another excerpt is:

The change that will arise from this visit relates to Cameron’s outlook when he returns to the UK. For three days, Cameron has been a prime minister unencumbered. He has been hailed and revered by a president, rock stars and on the US news networks. Briefly, he will forget that he is the first British premier since Harold Wilson in February 1974 to fail to win an overall majority. For a time, he will feel fleetingly presidential and, being human, will enjoy the sensation.

And a nod to the fact that underneath it all a PM is still subject to the usual constraints no matter how Presidential in style they may wish to appear:

In his joint press conferences with Bush, Tony Blair seemed to forget altogether that he was not a president and was, in humdrum reality, a mere prime minister dependent on the support of parliament, a fuming Chancellor breathing down his neck and his party. Similarly, in a different international context, Cameron could almost forget briefly about Nick Clegg and the constraints of coalition as he was treated like a prime ministerial superstar

Worth reading in full….

Global Issues: Humanitarian Intervention ~ R2P: RIP?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The ongoing and bleak situation in Syria is calling into question the doctrine of humanitarian intervention and its hand maiden doctrine of the ‘responsibility to protect’.  After the the 2003 intervention in Iraq by the US, some argued quite unequivocally that humanitarian intervention was dead, and we killed.  However, subsequent interventions in Cote de Ivoire and Libya seemed to breathe life back in the doctrine and more importantly its practice.  Yet in Syria the stakes are high, the regime is entrenched and international positions and opinion are spit.  So has the doctrine once again run out of steam? 

Elliot Abrams, analyst of the US international affairs think tank CFR seems to think just that in a pithy article: R.I.P: R2P.  Is starts:

It was during Kofi Annan’s tenure as Secretary General of the United Nations (1997-2006) that the “Responsibility to Protect” became a major item on the international scene.  That is no feather in his cap, because the urgency of “R2P,” as it came to be called, reflected the various mass murders that had taken place during his watch ( Darfur, 400,000 dead; Kosovo, 800,000 displaced and 12,000 killed) or just before it (Rwanda, 800,000 killed) when he was an Under Secretary General and latterly the Special Representative for the Former Yugoslavia.

What is R2P? A resolution adopted at a world summit in 2005 and then by the UN Security Council in 2006 holds that governments must protect their people, not commit war crimes and genocide against them, and further than other nations may intervene in extreme cases, through regional bodies and the UN.

This week several UN officials and one former official spoke about the slaughter in Syria. Here is a BBC item about the UN’s chief of humanitarian affairs, Valerie Amos, who had just visited Syria:

“The devastation there is significant, that part of Homs is completely destroyed and I am concerned to know what has happened to the people who live in that part of the city,” Baroness Amos told Reuters news agency.

Activists said troops committed massacres after they went in to the district, but Damascus blamed the rebels for many deaths.

The BBC’s Jim Muir in neighbouring Lebanon says activist groups continue to report the summary execution of men from Baba Amr, the butchering of entire families, and the systematic mass rape of women.

In counterpoint this is what Mr. Annan had to say, before visiting Syria in his new role as peace envoy of the Arab League and the UN:

“I hope no one is thinking seriously of using force in this situation,” Annan said. “As I move to Syria, we will do whatever we can to urge and press for a cessation of hostilities and end to the killing and violence.”

Whatever happened to the responsibility to protect, one wonders.

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Global Issues: Changing Nature of Conflict ~ The changed psychological dimension of modern conflict

The unfortuante killing of 16 Aghan civilians (including 9 children) in their homes by a ‘rogue’ US soldier has prompted a thought provoking article by Giles Fraser in the Guardian - Afghanistan and the soldiers without a safety catch .  He argues that:

We should think harder before we deploy troops. They are dehumanised by training, and made to kill

Fraser points to the psycholical conditioning that modern soldiers undergo to break down the in built human aversion to killing and in effect create ‘killing machines’.  He asserts:

The enemy is demeaned as less than human and their culture is ridiculed. And since the second world war two psychological categories in particular have been folded into the design of military training: desensitisation and conditioning

Thus a key new aspect of modern conflict is the psycholical dimension:
“A new era has quietly dawned in modern warfare: an era of psychological warfare – psychological warfare conducted not upon the enemy, but upon one’s own troops,” writes Lt Col Dave Grossman, a former psychology lecturer at West Point.

And in conclusion:

Following this latest massacre in Kandahar there will be much talk of a lone gunman going off the rails. But the truth is more disturbing. One cannot set in place the conditions for easy killing, removing the inbuilt human safety catch, and then simply blame an individual soldier who flips out. And there is no way to ensure that such things do not happen again. This is what happens when soldiers are subject to a systematic process of dehumanisation. The modern idea of a clean and humane war is a total myth. Which is precisely why we ought to think a great deal harder before we start them.

For background the following article might be helpful: Afghanistan killings: gunman hunted families as if they were military targets.

This is blog is dedicated to Mystic MAG…

Ideologies and Parties: New Labour and Liberalism

Really interesting article in today’s Guardian by Patrick Diamond [author of ‘Reassessing New Labour’ and a former head of policy planning at No.10] and Patrick Kenny entitled “Labour’s Lost Liberalism “ in which they assert that:

Now that Blue Labour has come unstuck, the party should reconnect with its orange heritage.

The Labour Party needs to reconnect with ideas pertinent to liberal social democracy if it is to have traction and relevance to the arguments been raised by the curretn government.

Certainly worth a read from an A2 Ideologies perspective in term’s how how the various ideologies impact on contemporary politics and inform the ideological and policy make up of the various parties.  Also, from an AS Unit 1 perspective it gives a valuable insight into the current dilemmas facing New Labour in terms of setting out its ideological stall.

The article goes on to say:

What do the health bill, David Cameron’s veto at the European summit, disagreements over the forthcoming budget, reform of the House of Lords, and the battle over a Scottish referendum all have in common? The answer is that these issues of major significance are defined by arguments occurring within the coalition government. Labour may have interesting insights to contribute to each, but very few of us, it appears, are listening.

And concludes:

The real “values” question which Labour needs to tackle is not communitarianism versus liberalism – that most overplayed and false of philosophical choices. It is what kind of liberal social democracy the party wants to espouse. It ought to rediscover the insights of early 20th century progressivism: welfare and equality as the basis of a society where all have the freedom to flourish; redistributing power from corporate and bureaucratic elites. On the questions of our age, – how to reform British capitalism and redefine the role and purpose of the state – progressive forces must work together to forge a new “coalition of ideas”. Circumstances can always conspire against the best ideas – but without ideas, there is no hope.

There is a further article, also in the Guardian, which is worth cross referencing: Labour must steer clear of vapid form of leftism, warns manifesto author Former Blair adviser Patrick Diamond says Labour is making a negligible impact on the major issues of the day.  The article states:

Labour will be shut out of power for a generation if it succumbs to “a vapid form of leftism” that appeals only to its core supporters, one of the main authors of its manifesto for the 2010 general election has claimed.

In a powerful critique of the party, Patrick Diamond warns that Labour is making a negligible impact on the major issues of the day and is pointing “in different directions simultaneously”.

Diamond, a former No10 adviser to Tony Blair who worked with Ed Miliband on Labour’s manifesto for the election, writes: “If Labour detaches itself from the complex and contradictory currents of popular sentiment, it risks drifting towards political irrelevance and repeated defeat.”

Different Back Bench Factions within the Conservative Party

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Sunday Times recently ran an interesting article outlining a number of different back bench groups within the Conservative Party. These groups range from those seeking a new approach to Europe, a return to traditional conservative values and ultra modernisers.

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Anarchism: The Shopping Riots and Anarchy in the UK?

Monday, February 20, 2012

Here is a useful article on Anarchism - given that it was penned at the time of the ‘shopping riots’ it is not too current, but interesting none the less.  Its author is none other than ‘Boff Whalley’ self proclaimed anarchist and lead singer of Chumbawumba, that anarcho-collective who threw a bucket of water of John Prescott’s head at an award ceremony [if you recall they got knocked own but they got up again - or just click here!]

Writing in the Independent under the title of ‘In defence of anarchy’ Boff argues that although the term Anarchy has been used as a catch all to describe the week’s riots, he asks “But is this really anarchy?”.  and the answer ... Not even close!

Here is a quick excerpt where Boff shows he knows his stuff [even so far as being able to draw a theoretical divide between a ‘hoodie’ and a proper anarchist]:

The latter is now used to denote those opportunist consumers who are, according to The Sun, “anarchists”, despite not having the slightest idea of who Pierre-Joseph Proudhon was. He was the first self-declared anarchist, who in 1840, in What Is Property, defined anarchy as “the absence of a master, of a sovereign”. Later, in The General Idea Of The Revolution (1851), he urged a “society without authority”. See, no mention of disorder or chaos. Whatever we might think of our latter-day looters, they’re not anarchists. But this current crop of masked lads is not the one bandying the word “anarchy” around, after all. All they want is to do some free shopping and have a laugh. Perhaps it would be a good thing if these disenfranchised, disengaged kids did learn a bit about the brush they’re being tarred with – anarchist? Wot, me? Then again, they’re growing up under a government that seems to actively dissuade poor families from pursuing higher education.

Worth a read.  discussion wise also might be worth cross referencing with a previos post: London Riots: Liberals to blame?


Global Issues: WMD: Iran and danger of proliferation

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Iran’s nuclear ambitions could plunge the Middle East into “a new Cold War”, warns UK Foreign Secretary William Hague.  In an interview with the Daily Telegraph (Iran risks nuclear Cold War), the Foreign Secretary said that if Iran developed nuclear weapon capability, other nations would want to as well. Mr Hague warned of a “crisis coming down the tracks” which could lead to a “disaster in world affairs”.

Foreign Secretary says that Iran is threatening to spark a nuclear arms race in the Middle East which could be more dangerous than the original East-West Cold War as there are not the same “safety mechanisms” in place.  Hague asserts:

“It is a crisis coming down the tracks,” “Because they are clearly continuing their nuclear weapons programme … If they obtain nuclear weapons capability, then I think other nations across the Middle East will want to develop nuclear weapons.
“And so, the most serious round of nuclear proliferation since nuclear weapons were invented would have begun with all the destabilising effects in the Middle East. And the threat of a new cold war in the Middle East without necessarily all the safety mechanisms … That would be a disaster in world affairs.”

The current and ongoing crisis over the issue of Iran’s nuclear ambitions castes into relief the debate over nuclear proliferation.  Does proliferation seriously endanger global security?  William Hague’s interview would point in that direction, founded on his belief that a nuclear Iran would result in a cascade as the Middle East races to acquire them.

However,importantly there has been alternative opinion’s expressed - RUSI’s [the defence think tank] Shashank Joshi is of the opinion that fears over Iran are being exaggerated.  He asserts

“If we could live with nuclear weapons in the hands of totalitarian, genocidal states like Stalin’s Russia or Mao’s China, Iran in contrast - whatever its repulsive internal policies and adventurism abroad - is far more rational,”

Mr Joshi said Iran may not be actively pursuing the creation of nuclear weapons but leaving the option open as an insurance policy. “If they feel their regime is under existential threat, if they feel they face a Libya-like situation, they would have the option of building a bomb.”  Thus, this ties in with the realist argument that states act in their own self interest in seeking security but also linking in with Waltz’s idea that nuclear proliferation might also create security by creating more rational actors understanding the consequences of a ‘balance of terror’.

The BBC website carries a useful article Hague fears Iran could start ‘new Cold War which has a video clip of an interview with RUSI’s Shashank Joshi.

Other useful links are:
CFR’s Crisis Guide on Iran: Click here.
BBC’s Q&A Nuclear Issue

Conservatism: Phillip Blonds the ‘Red Tory’ on Local Government

Friday, February 17, 2012

Phillip Blonde a.k.a. ‘The Red Tory’ had a philosphical input into modern Conservatism with his ideas on ‘civic communitarianism’ which in turn David Cameron has been able to borrow in floating his ‘own brand’ of ‘compassionate Conservatism’ and the ‘BIG SOCIETY’.  The key idea being a growth in civic communitarianism which sees the state becoming not so much a provider as a faciliator.

In today’s Independent there is an interesting piece authored by Phillip Blond and Graham Allen - We need a magna carta for true local government .  The article is worth reading in full, but here is an excerpt:

What if everyone everywhere could make a difference to their neighbourhoods and their communities? For decades, people have bemoaned the gradual erosion of local authorities and the centralisation of, well – nearly everything. Happily, the principles behind the Government’s Localism Bill achieved a great deal of cross-party consensus and support.


Throwing away the crutch of central government will be both frightening and exciting. There will be no one else to blame any more. Let local people decide on their spending, their services, on their electoral system or the use of direct democracy. This would also deliver a tremendous revitalisation to our all-too-moribund local politics. Once again, it would really matter who got elected locally and how well they were equipped to handle local government. We would recreate that invaluable network of citizen politicians of all parties, in touch with their communities, close to their constituents, empowered by and empowering their local areas.

The undemocratic relationship between the centre and the localities should

not be sustained. Localism will either default back to Whitehall control or move towards a real independence and a true flourishing of our cities, towns and villages. Which would you prefer?

Constitutional Reform: Is devolution leading to inevitable break up of UK?

Sunday, February 12, 2012

This year’s big constitutional development could well be the issue of the fate of the Union.  Has Devolution which was meant to arrest the centrifugal political forces at work within the Union actually have ended up accelerating them?

Very accessible piece by James Macintyre [Political Editor of Prospect Magazine] entitled From Devolution to Indepence in of all places the New York Times which focuses nicely on the question ‘How did it come to this?’ which given that it is written for a US audience gives a clear overview of the issue, its recent origins and possible directions.  He writes:

Today, Salmond is skillfully navigating the biggest test of his long career — a referendum on independence which, according to consistent polls, is still opposed by around half of Scots.

When British Prime Minister David Cameron last month tried to call Salmond’s bluff by demanding an “in or out” poll “sooner rather than later,” he was swiftly outmaneuvered by the S.N.P. leader, who paused for several days, allowed an argument to begin about “Westminster meddling” and then, during Scottish questions in the House of Commons, almost casually announced that 2014 would be the date. That year sees both the Ryder Cup and the Commonwealth Games come to Scotland, and is also the 700th anniversary of Scotland’s victory over England at the battle of Bannockburn.

Now even the staunchest Unionists accept that the breakup of Britain feels inevitable, if not this time then in a few years. Reports of the Union’s demise are not exaggerated.

This follows on a from an earlier article from Prospect - Would the Tories surrender Scotland?

UKIP - the importance of Nigel Farage

An analysis in this 10-minute video which examines whether UKIP is really just a one-man band, reliant on the charisma and profile of its leader Nigel Farage.

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