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

Thursday, May 16, 2013

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:

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A2 Students - It’s Crunch Time

Sunday, March 17, 2013

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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Understanding the US Election

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

A must read for A2 USA students today!

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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.

read more...»

Religion and Politics in the US

Friday, February 10, 2012

In Britain politicians tend to avoid getting involved in debates surronding religion. Although the UK has an estbalished church, major ethical and moral debates such as abortion and stem cell research are left to the scientisits and medical professionals. In the USA however, where you stand on abortion or stem cell research may either improve or weaken your chances of electoral success.

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Explaining the role of Select Committees

Thursday, February 09, 2012

This 10 minute video from the UK Parliament site provides an introduction to the role and activities of Commons Select Committees.

read more...»

UK Electoral Reform demonstrated with Lego!

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

A hat-tip to Nicola Morgan for spotting this terrific video from Dr Simon Usherwood (Department of Politics, University of Surrey) who uses the universal medium of Lego to help explain some core concepts in electoral reform…

read more...»

Global Issues: Humanitarian Intervention: Sryia ~ Time to intervene?

Monday, February 06, 2012

Syria’s crises seems to deepen with no apparent end in sight. Amid increasing fears of a civil war in Syria following the failure of the UN Security Council resolution, commentators remain divided over the question of intervention and how best to address the crisis.

The US foreing polict think tank CFR has two articles which highlight the debate and the possible different options available:
1. It’s Time to Think Seriously About Intervening in Syria which asserts:

After all, if the many Syrians who have been in open revolt since March of last year are on the verge of bringing down Assad, then, as the conventional wisdom has it, there is no need for a international response and thus no need for an agonizing debate about whether to use force in Syria. But this logic seems less convincing every day, and it might be time to reconsider our assumptions about intervention.


2. We Intervene in Syria at Our Peril which argues:

This is a juncture at which to rebuild and renew the United States, not be consumed by the civil war of a complex nation. Syrians will decide their own fate.  When the British said to Gandhi that without their involvement, India would be in chaos, Gandhi retorted “At least it will be our chaos.”

Global Issues: Changing Nature of Conflict - Pakistan Relations - A double game?

Thursday, February 02, 2012

The leaking of a NATO report claiming that Pakistan’s intelligence agency continues to provide support for the Taliban is the latest in a string of events demonstrating a breakdown in the relationship between the West and Pakistan.  The porous and Af-Pak border and the role crucial role of Pakistan in possibly brokering talks with the Taliban in the elusive search for an end game to the conflict in Afghanistan makes this recent development all the more significant.  With relation to the Global Issues course, the issue is worth realting to the question of ‘why are assymetrical wars so diificult to end?’.

Chatham House’s Gareth Price has an excelleent analytical piece in the Huffington Post: NATO’S Leaked Report: A Breakdown in Relations With Pakistan   Here is an excerpt:

At the same time, there is little hope of success in Afghanistan without Pakistan’s engagement. And as moves towards some form of peace process or reconciliation with the Taliban are expedited, the need for Pakistan’s involvement becomes greater still.

The leaking of a report suggesting that Pakistan continues to back the Taliban will probably have less impact on Western engagement with Pakistan than the bombing of a Pakistan border-post at the end of November; an act which led Pakistan to prevent NATO supplies transiting via Pakistan. That said, given the urgent need to start rebuilding the relationship it will do little to engender trust.

At the heart of the problem lies a void in Western thinking over how best to deal with Pakistan. Carrots, in the form of large cash transfers, would seem to have singularly failed in reducing Pakistan’s ambivalence in its dealings with Afghanistan. And the Western toolkit is somewhat lacking in sticks, short of threatening to withhold those cash transfers, in dealing with nuclear-armed Pakistan.

Ideologies: New Edition of Heywood’s Political Ideologies

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A quick heads up - Andrew Heywood’s Political Ideologies textbook is about to come out in a 5ed.  Worth knowing if you are budgeting for next year etc.  Palgrave’s blurb is here [includes sample Conservatism chapter] - Click here.

Ideologies: Hayek v Keynes - the Boom and Bust Rap

For a bit of amusement two great youtube clips on the battle between Hayek [the Free Market] and Keynes [the ‘managed economy’ and state intervention’]:

“Fear the Boom and Bust” a Hayek vs. Keynes Rap Anthem

Fight of the Century: Keynes vs. Hayek Round Two

And….Hayek’s Gift

Global Issues: Terrorism ~ Boko Haram: a ‘new’  global terrorist threat?

Boko Haram’s series of bloody terrorist attacks in northern Nigeria has announced their activities to an international audience which is starting to take Boko Haram seriously as well as the deep challenges that Nigeria faces. Boko Haram is certainly of interest to Global Issues students - to what extent does it represent ‘new’ terrorism in terms of being seemingly jihadi [with alleged al-Qaeda links], embracing more modern technologies and destructives means and possibly having an international dimension.  Boko Haram has certainly sparked off a wide reaching international debate about its very nature and the extent to which it poses a global threat.

The Guardian, published on January 27, an interview with alleged Boko Haram spokesman Abu Qaqa, conducted by Guardian Nigeria correspondent Monica Mark. In conjunction, the paper also included a careful analysis by Jason Burke that concludes the Boko Haram remains “a local phenomenon, not a global threat,” and an editorial that calls on President Goodluck Jonathan to address Nigeria’s religious divide and corruption, provide protection for all, and to redistribute state resources to accomplish those goals.  The article asserts:

Boko Haram’s gruesome rise has prised open crevices where ethnic, religious and socioeconomic fault lines intersect

Also the Telegraph has a piece: “‘We will attack Nigeria again and again’, Boko Haram leader vows’. It is reported that the purported leader of Boko Haram, the radical Islamist group responsible for hundreds of deaths in Nigeria has vowed to attack “again and again” until the country becomes an Islamic state. 

The full international impact of these attacks is also reflected in an excellent article in the Washington Times: Nigeria Islamist militant sect drawing increased scrutiny  The article is well worth a full read but here is an exerpt:

But the extent to which Boko Haram, the Islamist sect that claimed responsibility for the blasts that killed 185 people Jan. 20, is tied to al Qaeda remains a subject of international debate.

While senior U.S. officials, including Army Gen. Carter F. Ham, head of U.S. Africa Command, have suggested the Nigerian group has developed ties to the international terrorist group al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), some regional experts are circumspect.

Boko Haram, they argue, remains a nebulous and ill-defined national movement - less aligned with the globally focused tenets of al Qaeda than it is eager to embrace violence to combat injustice in Nigeria.

What few dispute is the sheer level of sophistication marking the terrorism now gripping the oil rich yet impoverished West African nation, whose predominantly Christian south is tensely divided from its mainly Muslim north.

“Nigeria has never had a terrorist organization like this,” said Elizabeth Donnelly, the Africa program manager at London-based Chatham House, a British institution that analyzes international issues.

Several northern Nigerian sects, she said, have long embraced varied approaches to fundamentalist Islam.


According to a congressional report three months later, the U.N. bombing “marked a significant shift in the targeting and goals of the group, largely unknown to the U.S. intelligence community, and capped off an evolution in the capabilities of Boko Haram, beginning in the mid-2000s, from attacks with poisoned arrows and machetes to sophisticated car bombings.”

The report, titled “Boko Haram: Emerging Threat to the U.S. Homeland,” highlighted claims by senior U.S. military officials that members of the group are being trained by AQIM and are thought to have established “ties to the Somalian militant group al-Shabab.”

Such assertions have caused an uproar among some regional experts, including Jean Herskovitz, an Africa historian and Nigeria expert. She argues that Boko Haram has “never expressed goals of an international sort that would make it the kind of threat that is being portrayed in that report.”

Unit 2: Constitutional Reform: Break of the UK?

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The big constiutional issue of the year looks firmly set to be that of Scottish devoltion/independence and the ultimate issue of the fate of the Union.  Quite what was David Cameron doing in lighting the toucpaper for a debate on Scotland’s future which could end with the United Kingdom splitting apart?  Initially it seemed a masterstroke catching Salmond on the hop, but it seems to have backfired.  Salmond in some eyes is a ‘political genius’ but does that make him right on the issue?  Very briefly here is a snapshot of a few relevent articles:

1. A question not just for the Scots, but for everyone in Britain - Charles Moore, The Daily Telegraph

What Alex Salmond calls independence is really the break-up of the United Kingdom.

2. A generous offer to Scotland could keep the Union safe - Dominic Raab, The Daily Telegraph

As Alex Salmond makes hay haggling over process points for a referendum on Scottish independence, we risk losing sight of the big picture. Mr Salmond may see crude political capital in casting the debate as Scots versus English, but the referendum will define the constitutional architecture for the United Kingdom as a whole.

3. Of course Scotland can stand on its own two feet - and here’s how ~ Hamish McRae, The Independent

Scotland’s voters will be asked to make a political decision in its referendum on independence, but it will be a decision coloured inevitably by economics – or at least economic perceptions, for the long-term economic impact of independence is far from clear. But such is the nature of politics that economic arguments will be used by both sides to support their case.

4. Scotland’s political bruiser - Andrew Bolger, George Parker, The Financial Times

Alex Salmond, the ebullient leader of the Scottish National party, was in his element this week, doing what even his foes concede he does best: hogging the centre of the political stage, draping himself in history and arguing the case for independence that would break up the United Kingdom.

Only a start…...

House of Lords - Welfare Bills savaged by Lords

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Nice current example of the House of Lords ‘delaying’ a Bill. The Government has suffered a series of embarrassing defeats on its flagship Welfare Reform Bill in the House of Lords.

Peers voted against the Government on three separate amendments on the employment support allowance for disabled people and for cancer patients. The amendments, brought by crossbenchers Lord Patel and Lord Listowel, mean that young disabled people who are unable to work are automatically eligible for the employment support allowance, that claimants are reassessed for the benefit after two years, not 12 months, and that cancer patients are exempt from the time limit between reassessments altogether.

Campaigners had feared that the reforms would mean cancer sufferers would be forced back into work before they had fully recovered.

Peers voted 222 to 166 for the amendment for cancer patients, 234 in favour of the amendment for the time limit, and 260 to 216 for the amendment on young people. They mark the fourth defeat for the Government on the legislation, following a vote before Christmas on housing benefit cuts.

Here is more in the Independent: Lords throw out plans for welfare reform
And the BBC - Click here

Modern Conservatism - In Thought And Action

Saturday, January 07, 2012

The Conservative Party is well blessed with an independent website in Conservative Home that often provokes debate within the party and allows the outsider to see how conservatism is shaping and shifting on the current political sea.  There are two articles currently on it that are worth investigating.  One, by website editor Tim Montgomerie, discusses how a right wing party “with a heart” can position itself to govern more universally than is often perceived to be the case with the Conservatives.  Highlighting key areas of current policy, including Michael Gove’s radical education agenda, he argues the case for a modern, ‘compassionate’ conservatism that could bring electoral victory.  In so doing, he covers the ground of where the Conservative Party currently stands in a way that can certainly help any students and teachers looking to analyse what the ideology of the modern Conservative party really is.

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House of Lords: Why have a House of Lords without a single Lord in it?

The issue of reform of the House of Lords is back at the top of the political agenda.  Clegg’s proposal that the Lord’s be replaced by an ‘elected Senate’ of 300 ‘full time parliamentarians’  has met with criticism from a number of quarters.  A joint committee of MPs and peers examining the government’s plans has concluded that the Lords should have around 450 members. They argue the Lords cannot work effectively with just 300 members to do the work of scrutinising legislation. The Libdem lord Tyler said:

Simply cutting it back to 300 and assuming that everybody’s got to be a full time parliamentarian, would make us too much like the House of Commons. ”

In today’s Telegraph Charles Moore has an excellent article Why have a House of Lords if there’s not a single lord left in it?.  He asserts:“The last thing we need is a second chamber filled with yet more professional politicos.”  The article begins:

Dr Johnson said that “most schemes of political improvement are very laughable things”, and that was 250 years before Nick Clegg tried to reform the British constitution. Last year, Mr Clegg failed to persuade the British people, in a referendum, that the Alternative Vote system was the answer to their political ills. This year, he hopes to persuade both Houses of Parliament to invent a new House of Lords. He thinks the present House is “an affront to the principles of openness which underpin a modern democracy”.

Other recent articles on the issue have been [none of them seemingly in favour of reform]:
BBC - Plans to cut Lords to 300 rejected
Independent: Peers and MPs reject Clegg’s plans to cut size of the Lords by a half
Daily Mail: Don’t make the Lords in your image, Mr Clegg
Spectator: The scale of Clegg’s Lords challenge

Parliament: Order! Oder! More revolting MPs

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Useful article in the Independent Order, order! Why the newest Tories are a major headache for Cameron.  Based on research by Philip Cowley at Nottingham University it shows that the Conservative MPs elected in 2010 are the most rebellious.  Here is a revealing quote:

The so-called “class of 2010” is playing a central role in the simmering discontent facing the Prime Minister on a range of issues, a study next month will disclose. The Government has suffered a revolt in 43 per cent of Commons divisions between the general election in May 2010 and Christmas 2011, by far the highest rate in modern times. Tories have rebelled in 31 per cent of votes. Particularly worrying for Mr Cameron is that more than half of the Conservative rebels have been “newbie” MPs, voting 340 times against their leader.

Useful analysis for arguing that Parliament still has a life of its own and executive dominance is not to be just taken for granted.

Party Leaders in the spotlight

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A few more articles which focus on the fortunes of the various party leaders.

Ed Miliband’s performance is certainly under scrutiny.  James Macintyre [co-author of the recent Ed: the Milibands and the making of a Labour leader] has an article in the Guardian - Ed Miliband is just not radical enough

Contrary to David Cameron’s accusation of being too ‘leftwing’, the Labour leader’s vision is being obscured by opportunism.  He writes:
The end of the year provides a good time for reflection. Contrary to conventional wisdom, Miliband’s problem is not that he is too “leftwing”, to use the word David Cameron now attacks him with. It is more complicated, and actually graver, than that. Instead, he is not consistently radical enough. His long-term vision is being obscured by incoherent opportunism epitomised by two judgment calls this year: calling for Kenneth Clarke’s resignation and exploiting the scare over immigration.

More on the Milband debate can be followed in John Rentoul’s blog in the Independent:1
“He needs to be much more Blair-like”

Cameron’s performance as PM and his relationship with his own party is always well chronicled by Tim Montgomery [conservativehome] - he has an article in the Independent An appetite for conservatism that the PM doesn’t always satisfy Cameron’s position has strengthened after he has acted in recognisably conservative ways.  He asserts:

The Conservative Party has never fallen in love with David Cameron. Today’s ConservativeHome survey of Tory members for The Independent shows that he is only eighth in a 15-person league table of centre-right politicians.

Thus once again highlighting that one of Cameron’s weaknesses as a ‘powerful PM’ is his ability to take his own party with him and rely on their support.

And just to end the festive season Bruce Anderson in the Telegraph says Santa Claus David Cameron will have to discover his inner Scrooge and that:

Despite his strengths, Cameron can sound like a vicar jollying along a church outing

PM: ‘Politics is getting really interesting at the moment’

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

How powerful is the PM?  Well recently the import of external factors has been especially important in evaluating PM’s performances.  As Macmillan once famously said ‘Events, dear by, events!’. A few interesting article in today’s press which look at the performances over the last year of key political figures and give some valuable ammunition for the ‘PM and Cabinet’ Topic.

1. Steve Richards in the Independent looks at the performances of Ed Balls, Alex Salmond and David Cameron - and his conclusion is obvious in the title Well done Alex and Ed, but David wins by a head. He asserts “Leaders or aspiring leaders must try to appear overwhelmingly dominant, when mostly they are not”. 

A useful excerpt on Cameron - who is also described as being elusive to the point of being uninteresting is:

Cameron is the third candidate. He leads on the narrowest of stages. To the one side of him are the increasingly stroppy Liberal Democrats, on the other is an assertive parliamentary party that cannot be easily appeased with the promise of ministerial jobs. Prime ministerial patronage is a powerful weapon in controlling a party, but Cameron has fewer jobs at his disposal in a coalition. Meanwhile, economic storms are brewing on a scale that makes those of the 1970s and 1980s seem little more than minor breezes.

Other leaders in comparable circumstances were exhausted and demoralised. Harold Wilson leading a hung parliament in the 1970s, John Major in the economic doldrums in the early 1990s and Gordon Brown in 2008, all lost their humour and political guile partly because there was no cause for laughter and they felt trapped politically. Cameron remains vivacious and witty and is implementing a radical Tory agenda without having won the election. In policy terms, he is skating on thin ice and I suspect the ice will crack next year, but, for now, we are looking back.

2. Another article, if unfortunately hiding behind the Times paywall, is Let’s be honest. How did the leaders do in 2011? by Mehdi Hasan, Tim Montgomerie and Mark Pack. It comments:

Pity poor Ed Miliband. By any objective assessment, he has had a good year. His leadership is secure, his party united. Despite losing in the Scottish Parliament elections to the SNP, Mr Miliband gained more than 800 seats in May’s local elections and won five parliamentary by-elections in a row. Labour consistently polls at around 40 per cent and has been ahead of the Conservatives for much of 2011, as austerity failed and growth ground to a halt.


Global Issues: Terrorism ~ sub-Sarahan Terrorist threat

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Independent has a relevant article on terrorism Largely unnoticed, violent Islamist groups have been looking across the Sahara
Boko Haram’s goals are still inherently local, but there are fears that more internationalist groups may seek to link up.  The article comments:

The attacks on churchgoers in Nigeria yesterday [by Boko Haram] will further inflame the already tense relationship between Muslims and Christians in Africa’s most populous nation.

Global Issues: North Korean leader Kim Jong-il dies

Monday, December 19, 2011

Kim Jong-il North Korea’s leader has unexpectedly died of a heart attack.  Global Issues students should follow up on this as unpredictable North Korea has been led by a ‘cult’ and developments tied to one of the world’s most unstable and nuclear tipped states should be seen with alacrity in relation to the issue of WMD and proliferation.

The BBC carries the story and some useful analysis: N Korean leader Kim Jong-il dies

Also the CFR has a comprehensive piece [including an interactive link] :

North Korea after Kim.  It starts:

The death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il on December 18, 2011, has raised serious concerns over the future of the country and stability in the Korean peninsula. His son Kim Jong-un is now expected to take over the helm of the nuclear-armed Communist country, one of the most closed-off societies in the world. A September 2008 CFR Council Special Report says there is a possibility North Korea might intentionally transfer nuclear weapons or materials to a terrorist group, and thus merits Cold War-style methods of deterrence from the United States. While some experts believe the country might see some reform in the period after Kim, others see little hope for change, especially in the ongoing effort to rid North Korea of its nuclear weapons.

Core Exec: Cabinet Secretary has few regrets.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Important read in relation to studying the core executive, with particular reference to the key role of the Civil Service in the Observer: Gus O’Donnell prepares to quit as cabinet secretary with few regrets
It starts:

A meandering walk from Parliament Square to the cabinet office takes you past all of the grandest landmarks of Sir Gus O’Donnell’s civil service career. The Treasury – where the economist started out in 1979. On past 10 Downing Street, where fellow south London boy John Major first brought him in as press secretary in 1990 and where, as cabinet secretary, he later minuted those controversial discussions about the decision to invade Iraq. Right outside the entrance to his own office at number 70 is a relatively new memorial – to the women of war. It seems apt for a man so proud of encouraging diversity in the senior echelons of the mandarin classes.

Global Issues: Changing Nature of Conflict - ‘Asymmetrical’ Conflict in Afghanistan

Saturday, December 03, 2011

On December 5, foreign ministers from some ninety countries will converge on the Rhineland city of Bonn to discuss Afghanistan’s future. They will be meeting exactly ten years after an earlier Bonn conference appointed a new government for the country in the wake of the Taliban’s retreat from Kabul.  Interesting article in Chatham House’s World Today entitled : Afghanistan - More harm than good?

Beyond giving a snap shot of Afghanistan’s ongoing complications, it has a quick reference to the nature of the ‘asymmetrical’ nature of the war being waged:

As the conflict is one of ‘asymmetrical warfare’, the Taliban always slip away from direct confrontation with ISAF troops and use other methods to exert their power. Assassinations of government officials continue at a high level and, in a new tactic this year, the Taliban and the other insurgent groups started to impose an evening mobile phone blackout in more than half the country’s provinces. They warn the four mobile phone network providers to shut down from dusk to dawn or have their masts blown up; a simple but psychologically effective tactic that reminds every frustrated would-be mobile phone user just how extensive the Taliban’s reach has become.

Global Issues; WMD - Curbing Iran’s ‘rogue’ tendencies

The ‘breaching’ of the British embassy in Tehran and subsequent withdrawal of the diplomatic mission tied with recents reports pointing to Iran intensifying their nuclear programme have once caste into sharp relief Iran’s ‘rogue’ tendencies and internatiojnal attempts to deal with Iran.

Two worthwile recent articles:
1. David Owen in the Telegraph: David Owen: If Britain stands firm, it may yet tame IranThe solution lies in selective sanctions – not being sucked into military conflict . It starts:

In Iran, the hardline Islamists call Britain “the little Satan”. This is in contrast to the United States, which they call “the Great Satan”. To some extent, the attack on our Embassy in Tehran is part of that positioning: they see us as a serious enemy and think we deserve this deliberate action, because the UK along with the US and Canada has recently cut its banking links with Iran.

2. In the Guardian Lord Malloch Brown in Expelling Iran’s diplomats: a dangerous showdown argues that the real threat to British diplomacy in Iran is not losing an embassy, but being seen as a US proxy.  He asserts:

Iran’s preoccupation with its own security and relations with what it sees as the threats of the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia have always offered the prospect of a wider canvas on which to provide guarantees against outside interference, in return for curbing Iran’s nuclear and conventional armament programme. The real value of a more imaginative diplomacy of this kind would have been to remove the prop that has kept this unpopular regime going: the threat of foreign intervention.


Global Issues: Poverty and Development: New Transparency International Corruption Index

Transparency International - the NGO dedicated to monitoring political and corporate corruption - has just unveiled its Corruption Perceptions Index for 2011.  War torn states are still the most corrupt in the world - with Somaila, everyone’s favourite ‘failed state’, topping the list as the world’s worst country followed by Burma, Afghanistan and North Korea. New Zealand keeps top place as the world’s least corrupt countries, with the UK 16th.

To folow up:
1. Look at Transparency International’s website which has interactve map, full list and explanatory vidoe clip.  Click here,

2. Article in the Independent: New report shows UK corruption ‘has increased’

Global Issues: Environment- Down and Out in Durban: End of the Line for Kyoto?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Durban, the city where the fun never sets, is about to host the lastest round on international climate change negotiations.  CFR has a useful article on its propects - click here!

As delegates from nearly 200 countries prepare to descend on Durban, South Africa next week for the seventeenth meeting of the Conference of Parties (COP-17) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), pessimism runs high. Privately, the leaders of major established and emerging economies concede that no new climate treaty containing binding emissions reductions will be negotiated before 2016. And even if an agreement were reached, it would not come into force until 2020—eight years from now. This bleak outlook comes despite warnings from scientists and economists about the dangers of delaying dramatic action to mitigate the planet’s warming.

Humanitarian Intervention: When to hold and when to fold

Monday, November 21, 2011

Not too long ago humanitarian intervention while under the R2P doctrine was a theoretical possibility, after the complicated foreign intervention in Iraq in 2003, where the US broke the UN’s mechanisms for humanitarian intervention, became a practical impossibility.  To quote Harriet Martin, author of Kings of Peace, Pawns of War, “Humanitarian Intervention is dead, and we killed it”. However, the Arab Spring and Libya have reignited both the practice and the debate!

A few recent articles worth following are:
1. Review in the Economist of “Can Intervention Work?” By Rory Stewart and Gerald Knaus  to quote:

CAN we intervene in foreign countries and do good? Can we stop wars and genocides and get rid of evil dictators? Can we then build modern, democratic states that thrive in our wake? The answer depends on who you ask. An anti-Qaddafi Libyan will have nice things to say about NATO’s role there right now. But you will get very different views from an Afghan, an Iraqi, a Bosnian or a Kosovar.

So, does intervention work? As any Bosnian peasant may tell you, “maybe yes, maybe no.” It depends on the circumstances and requires modest ambitions. Muddle through with a sense of purpose, says Mr Knaus. Do what you can, where you can and no more, agrees Mr Stewart. In policy terms that sounds a bit like “yes” to Libya, “no” to Syria and so on.

2. Recent essay in latest edition of Foreign Affairs magazine has two conflicting articles on the subject.
Humanitarian Intervention Comes of Age - Jon Western and Joshua S. Goldstein

Despite the fall of the Qaddafi regime in Libya, humanitarian intervention still has plenty of critics. But their targets are usually the early, ugly missions of the 1990s. Since then—as Libya has shown—the international community has learned its lessons and grown much more adept at using military force to save lives.

The True Costs of Humanitarian Intervention - Benjamin A. Valentino

Intervening militarily to save lives abroad often sounds good on paper, but the record has not been promising. The ethical calculus involved is almost always complicated by messy realities on the ground, and the opportunity costs of such missions are massive. Well-meaning countries could save far more lives by helping refugees and victims of natural disasters and funding public health.

PM: David Cameron’s statecrafty revolution

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Cameron’s statecrafty revolution - penned by Danny Kruger in the Guardian argues that The rumoured ‘rift’ between George Osborne and Steve Hilton is actually a creative divide that reflects the PM’s own character.  He asserts:

It seems unnatural. The intrigues, the partisan loyalties and betrayals of court life seem largely absent from David Cameron’s government. A number of backbenchers are grumbling, to be sure, with one even predicting a coup next spring. Yet at the top all is peace.

Worth a quick read for leading into the PM topic, and worth contrasting with Brown’s premiership where it is safe to say that towards the end it was toxic at the top.

E-Petition Fuels Commons Debate

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A petition of over 100,000 signatures has prompted a debate in the Commons about fuel duty. Many would hail this as a great example of people power. But a feature on the Guardian website examines who was really behind this petition.

read more...»

Parliament: Home Affairs Select Committee - It Teresa May toast?

Quick one on Select Committes, today the Home Affairs Select Committee meets to delve into border checks being relaxed at 28 locations which has caused a furore.  Nice example of Select committees in action and of clear import to the issue of the effectiveness of parliamentary scutiny of the executive.

Brodie Clarke, the former head of the UK Border Force, faces a grilling from MPs today as the Home Secretary revealed the pilot scheme to cut passport checks was implemented at 28 ports and airports. In written evidence to the Home Affairs Committee, Theresa May also claimed that she did not tell Brodie Clark to go beyond the parameters of the pilot scheme and that 10m people entered the UK during the pilot. The committee will also hear from Immigration Minister Damian Green and Rob Whiteman, chief executive of the UK Border Agency.

Follow up link in the Indepepndent:
Brodie Clark and the bravery that we need to encourage Stefan Stern, The Independent

Today Brodie Clark is appearing before the Home Affairs Select Committee. He will finally get a chance to explain what he did or did not do in his senior role at the UK Border Force. It will be his day in the court of public opinion. But Mr Clark has already paid a high price to win the freedom to speak out. He has resigned his post after a long career. No amount of compensation for a constructive dismissal claim will make up for the shock of his sudden exit.

And Rachel sylvester in the Times:

Sir Humphrey has a lot to answer for. There is a tendency among ministers who get into power after a period in opposition to assume that the civil servants are out to get them. In fact, the first lesson they should learn in Whitehall is that politicians cannot afford to go to war with their officials.

From Politicshome’s running blog:
12.52 Lord West gave an interview on the Daily Politics today in which he described Theresa May as “toast” following Mr Clark’s evidence. PoliticsHome has a transcript of the interview for subscribers, but here are the key quotes:

“I think the Home Secretary is toast. I think she’s had it really, I’m afraid. It’s a shame because I like her, but this has been a complete and utter mess.”

“It is a dangerous thing to start picking on your senior civil servants, you’ve got to be very careful of your facts, I’m very surprised we haven’t seen anything of Damian Green who should be absolutely close up on this the entire time, it is his job to do that for the Home Secretary, I mean this is very disturbing I think. Now I’m sure the whole truth will finally come out, I know Brodie Clark, I find it extraordinary to think he’d go and do that, he’s not a sort of maverick, he doesn’t go running wild.”


Human Rights Act - Not just a fad

Monday, November 14, 2011

Shami Chakrabarti (Director of Liberty) has a hard hitting article in today’s Guardian entitled: Our human rights are not a fad. We don’t need this Botox bill
She asserts that replacing the Human Rights Act could lead to a permanent constitutional revolution rather than a statement of basic values. She writes:

While the coalition agreement was infused with the language of liberty and considerable substance in terms of scrapping ID cards, reviewing anti-terror laws and rationalising databases, one of the most progressive inheritances of the Labour government was not protected.

A must read for both the Constiution and Judiciary topics.

PM: Is Dave bionic?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Interesting and amusing article on the PM in the Daily Express entitled: TORY HIGH COMMAND AIMS TO BUILD BIONIC DAVID CAMERON

Worth a read, especially if you can remember Steve Austin the Bionic Man!  Quick snap shot of how powerful is the position of Cameron in relation to both his own party and coalition partners.

Judiciary: Judges becoming too politicized?

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

British judges are becoming too politicised, inspired by Strasbourg’s European Court of Human Rights, according to the newest Supreme Court appointee. “How far,” asked Jonathan Sumption in a speech at Lincoln’s Inn, “can judicial review go before it trespasses on the proper function of government and the legislature in a democracy?”

Follow up on this story ion today’s Guardian: Supreme court appointee says role of British judges is too politicised

the article asserts:

Judges are becoming too politicised in their decision-making, encouraged by a European court of human rights which is progressively shrinking national sovereignty, according to the newest appointment to the UK’s supreme court.

In a critical assessment of the role of judges in a democracy, which will stir up debate on whether judges – not parliament – are making law, and the extent of the Strasbourg court’s powers, Jonathan Sumption QC implied that judicial reviews are in danger of trespassing on “the proper function of government”.


Global Issues: WMD ~ With Gaddafi Gone Libya is once again the West’s bogeyman

Thursday, November 03, 2011

With Libya seemingly sewn up the international spotlight is shifting back to one of our favourite ‘rogue states’ Iran and the fact that their attempt to acquire nuclear weapons is back on track.  Certainly the US’s reluctance to take a lead role over Libya can be seen in the light of the US having the prospect of facing up to Iran at some point over its nuclear agenda as an ultimately more pressing and ominous strategic priority.

Today’s Telegraph has a good article on Iran recent nuclear activity and attempt to proliferate: With Gaddafi gone, Iran is once again top of the West’s list of problems It asserts:

The drumbeat of war against Iran is set to beat much louder when the UN’s nuclear watchdog publishes the findings of its long-awaited report next week that the country is well advanced in its attempts to build a nuclear bomb.

For background - BBC Q&A: Iran and the Nuclear Issue

It might be worth cross referencing with a few earlier blog posts on Iran:
Global Issues: WMD and Rogue States - IRAN
Global Issues: IRAN SPECIAL - Masters of enrichment?



Pressure Group Example for Exams

Saturday, October 29, 2011

PETA logo

Students of A Level Politics are required, at least for EDEXCEL, to use up-to-date examples to support their responses in order to gain high marks.

So, here is a great example of a students studying US pressure groups (interest groups).

PETA are using litigation to exert pressure on SeaWorld as they claim that the organisation is violating the Orcas constitutional rights, particularly the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery in the US and prohibits involuntary servitude.

Here is the Telegraph’s coverage of the story

Direct Democracy and the Tories

Friday, October 28, 2011

An interesting take on the recent parliamentary vote on a European referendum which links in well with the Unit 1 Democracy topic is to be found in the Economist.  Bagehot in One man, many votes - The Tories’ confused attitude to direct democracy asserts:

MORE than two centuries ago, the liberal philosopher Edmund Burke delivered a bracing warning to voters in Bristol, who had just elected him to Parliament. If his constituents had opinions, he announced, he would “rejoice” to hear them. But he would not be Bristol’s envoy to Parliament, nor take instructions from his electors. At Westminster, he would deliberate in the national interest, not theirs.

Nobody denounced Burke by name in the House of Commons on October 24th, when more than 80 Conservatives defied party leaders to back a referendum on Britain’s ties to the European Union. But today’s backbenchers unmistakably rejected Burke’s lofty vision of representative democracy

Given the mention of Burke, the balance in the UK between representative democracy and direct democracy it is worth a read!  Also follow up with Bagehot’s Notebook which extends analysis towards the issue of referendums and the break up of the UK vis a vis Scottish independence.


Global Issues: BBC Documentary: Secret Pakistan

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Heads up on an excellent new two part BBC documentary - Secret Pakistan.  First screened tonight on BBC2 but now available on iplayer - click here for the link.

The BBC blurb is as follows:

In May this year, US Special Forces shot and killed Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan. Publicly Pakistan is one of America’s closest allies - yet every step of the operation was kept secret from it.

Filmed largely in Pakistan and Afghanistan, this two-part documentary series explores how a supposed ally stands accused by top CIA officers and Western diplomats of causing the deaths of thousands of coalition soldiers in Afghanistan. It is a charge denied by Pakistan’s military establishment, but the documentary makers meet serving Taliban commanders who describe the support they get from Pakistan in terms of weapons, training and a place to hide.

This first episode investigates signs of duplicity that emerged after 9/11 and disturbing intelligence reports after Britain’s forces entered Helmand in 2006.


‘Revolting Tories’ - 1/2 Term News Pick

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

There has been no shortage of interesting articles in today’s press in the wake of the ‘Revolting Tories’. 79 Tory MPs rebelled against the government by voting for an EU referendum, as well as 19 Labour MPs. Yesterday, the EU referendum motion was defeated by 483 to 111. In total, 79 Tory MPs defied the government to vote in favour of holding a referendum (not including the two tellers), making this the biggest ever Conservative rebellion over Europe. Here is the full list of MPs who voted against the government [can you spot your local backwoodsman MP?] can be found here.

Here are a few which touch on aspects of the AS Course.

1. David Cameron, captain of a hostile team - Tim Montgomerie, The Guardian

There may be no challenger to David Cameron as leader of the Conservative party, but he should not underestimate the seriousness of his position. Large numbers of his own MPs and many grassroots Tories have lost all affection for him.

Worth relating to how powerful is the PM?  Does he have the full weight of his party behind him?


2. Peradventure there be 111 righteous within the city…Daniel Hannan, The Daily Telegraph

One hundred and eleven MPs kept faith with their constituents. Two resigned their government posts rather than behave falsely: Stewart Jackson and Adam Holloway.

3. Little England: Britain sleepwalks towards break-up (Financial Times)

The argument about the union binding Scotland to England has been recast, says Philip Stephens. Will they be together in 15 years? Don’t bet on it

Link to how effective have Constitutional Reforms been post 1997?

4. Steve Richards: The Sceptics’ rage over Europe is a proxy battle - The Independent

In British politics there is both Europe and “Europe”. The first is a messy, draining, crisis-ridden reality. The other is a flexible fantasy that comes to the fore to wreck governments every few years. The real European Union is bureaucratic, lacks clear lines of accountability and evolves erratically. Yet for all its problems, Europe is worth having and being part of, more so now than when Britain joined in the early 1970s


On Parliamentary Sovereignty

Picked off the Newstatesman is an interesting take on the Parliamentary vote on an EU referendum and accompanying revolts by David Allen Green [aka Jack of Kent] which looks at the implications of the vote for ‘parliamentary sovereignty’.  He writes:

111 Members of Parliament vote to take matters out of their own hands.Yesterday, 111 Members of Parliament voted against parliamentary sovereignty. In speech after speech, and in the voting lobby afterwards, these MPs—including 80 so-called Conservatives—sent the clear signal that they thought Parliament was not competent to legislate on an important matter and so it should be left to others, by means of a referendum.

The rest is below - of especial interest for Unit 1 topic on Referendums and Unit 2 Parliament and the Constiution.

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AS Politics: direct democracy

Monday, October 24, 2011

The debate in the Commons today on Britain’s relations with the EU was, as you are probably aware, prompted by an e-petition.

Jackie Ashley in today’s Guardian writes an excellent piece in support of the e-petition process. It’s definitely one I will be looking to use with my AS students when assessing the pros and cons of direct democracy, and ways to improve the democratic system in the UK.

Here is the link.

I also include a study note below on arguments for and against direct democracy. I know pedants would argue that e-petitions are a form of consultative democracy, but for Edexcel they do fall under the direct democracy umbrella on Unit 1.

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Global Issues: Gaddafi, al-Awlaki and Bin Laden: These executions have set us back to medieval ways

Here is one for prospective PPE candidates - an article by renowned philosopher and now Master of the New College for Humanities Prof AC Grayling from this Sunday’s Independent entitled These executions have set us back to medieval ways  The article is well worth reading and discussing further as it asks some telling ethical questions of a few recent political ‘killings’ both in terms of their efficacy, utility and long term effects.  He starts:

If inquiry shows that Colonel Muammar Gaddafi and his son Mutassim were summarily executed last Thursday, theirs will be the latest in a series of high-profile killings this year, beginning with Osama bin Laden in Pakistan and continuing with Anwar al-Awlaki and his bomb-making colleague Ibrahim al-Asiri in Yemen.

He goes on to make the telling point:

In accepting the pragmatic case for shooting malefactors, just as we shoot mad dogs, we state that we do not wish to pay the high cost of living according to law and civil liberties. We champion our Western principles about the rule of law and the rights of individuals, we thus say, only until they become a burden and an inconvenience; and, when they do, we summarily shoot people in the head instead. In effect, we admit the shameful fact that these principles are mere pieties that we do not really believe in, because we ditch them when occasion demands. And in this way we are no different from the Gaddafis and Bin Ladens.



Global Issues: Libya and Humanitarian Intervention

Gaddafi’s end and the ‘new’ Libyan governments claim that the country is now liberated might signal an end to intervention in Libyan affairs, although the prognosis suggests the road ahead is a rocky one.  The is certainly controversy over whether Libya might be held up as a template for humanitarian intervention under the R2P Doctrine.  For reference to those Global Issues students who will look at this under the Human Rights topic: The “responsibility to protect” (R2P) doctrine, which states that each government is individually responsible for protecting its population from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity. If a government cannot—or will not—meet its R2P obligations, then the international community can use military force to protect that state’s populace and, potentially, to ensure the removal of offending regimes—as has happened in the Ivory Coast and Libya this year.

Sir Richard Dalton, the former UK ambassador to Libya, in the Independent on Sunday has an article on: Libya, and the limits of liberal intervention He argues that “victory for the rebels in Sirte justifies the responsible use of force sanctioned by the UN, but it will not work everywhere, every time”.

The article asserts:

Nato intervened in Libya under a UN Security Council mandate to protect civilians. The intervention has been successful so far, but controversial, in that there have been concerns about Nato exceeding the mandate. The future of the Libyan revolution will influence not just the future of the Libyan people, but the ability of future international action to forestall looming atrocities

Dalton refers to a recent talk at Chatham House by Gareth Evans, a former foreign minister of Australia, who is of the firm belief that this doctrine is now embedded in international discourse and increasingly in international practice:

Evans stressed the five criteria that should be used to determine whether the use of force would be legitimate: that the threat faced is a serious one; that force would be used to avert this threat (the primary purpose test) and not to further the ulterior motives of the interveners; that it would be used as a last resort; that it would be proportional; and that the consequences would be balanced in favour those being assisted.

Parliament: Heavy whipping of MPs is as undesirable as it is of racehorses

Friday, October 21, 2011

Nice little article by the waspish and funny Quentin Letts to link in with Parliament topic in the Daily Mail: Heavy whipping of MPs is as undesirable as it is of racehorses  The

An apt quote is:

As Leader of the Commons, Sir George is the one who should be going to No 10 to tell the Prime Minister he is making a thorough horse of himself by whipping this backbench debate on Europe next week.



Presidential primaries: study note update

Thursday, October 20, 2011

With the GOP contest dangerously close to descending into what can only be desribed as a slanging match - e.g. see this story from the CNN website if you have not being watching the goings on closely - I have taken the opportunity to fully update my arguments for and against the primaries process.

It is important to note that these points are predicated on considerations of both their existence compared to a process of party elder selection, and ways in which the system of primaries per se could be subject to improvement.

With that caveat emptor aside, here is my updated version…

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AS parties: divide over energy prices

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A quick update to my ongoing study note about policy divides between the Conservatives and Labour.

This is taken from the Guardian:

“The government has persuaded energy suppliers to write to 8 million customers to tell them how to switch payment methods, find lower tariffs and insulate their homes to save energy.

The prime minister pledged the big six companies would be “permanently watched” and should put their shoulders to the wheel in what he called a “winter call to action”.

However, Labour said the government should have used the “bully pulpit” of government to insist the big six energy companies kept costs down.

Caroline Flint, Labour’s shadow energy and climate change secretary, said: “For the big six to agree with David Cameron to hold their price increases over the winter, when wholesale energy prices have been falling in recent weeks, is a complete betrayal of the public.”

Labour believes the government had a series of options, including “pressurising” the energy companies to cut prices this winter, extracting a promise of fewer, simple tariffs and giving the regulator immediate powers to open the books of energy companies.”



US campaign finance

Saturday, October 15, 2011

I’ve come across a great article for students and teachers on the spiralling cost of US elections.

It covers most of the territory that I teach on the topic when outlining the case to suggest that while the race for the presidency is expensive, we have to place this in context: the USA is large country, the contest lasts many months, as a proportion of the GDP of the world’s richest country the cost is minimal, Americans spend as much in an annual cycle on any number of things (or far more in some case, e.g. it is estimated that the US population spends over $100b every year on fast food!), the greenback doesn’t always rule - i.e. the candidate who spends the most doesn’t always win.

Read the CNN piece here.

PM and Exec: And the Fantastic Mr. fox has fallen on his sword…

Friday, October 14, 2011

‘The 11 Day Rule’ according to Alistair Campbell is that if a minister in under pressure and the story remains in the media for 11 days continuously that minister will go!  And on the 11th Day Dr Fox the Defence Secretary is gone!

Philip Hammond has been confirmed as the new Defence Secretary, following Liam Fox’s resignation.
In his resignation letter to Prime Minister David Cameron, Dr Fox said he had “mistakenly allowed the distinction between my personal interest and my government activities to become blurred, the consequences of this have become clearer in recent days”.  More to follow in the press, but worth filing away as an example of why and when do ministers resign!

This morning Martin Kettle wrote in the Guardian that “Liam Fox ran a freelance international security policy. He will pay for it”; and went on to say:

The real threat to the government, the controversial rightwing unofficial adviser complained in his letter to the minister, was not his own advice but “the wall of officials” who were increasingly blocking his back-door access to the seat of power.

Whilst still on the topic of the Cabinet there is acerbic article by Kevin Maguire in the Daily Mirror entitled Oliver Letwin, Liam Fox and the boobies who star in Carry On Up Whitehall where he writes:

Pint-sized crank Oliver Letwin makes you wonder if Britain’s ruled by a Cabinet of weirdos.

The state of education: more classic politics on YouTube

Monday, October 10, 2011

This scene from Yes, Prime Minister is an absolute beauty - working on so many levels.

Enjoy it here

Cat fight over Human Rights Act?

The recent ‘cat fight’ over the Human Rights Act sparked by Teresa May at the recent Tory conference and then fuelled by Ken Clarke’s response [referring to May’s assertion as “laughable child-like”] has caused something of a storm in a tea cup.  However, it does raise the issue of how well protected are our rights?  Will we see the HRA be swept aside in a simple swipe of Tory pique and excercise of parliamentary sovereignty?  Hence, the debate of whether we in fact need an entrenched Bill of Rights is again relevant. 

The most amusing reporting of the ‘cat-atrophic’ fur fetched’ tale comes from Guido Fawke’s:

Claws For Moment: It never goes well when a politician utters the words “I am not making this up”. Often it turns out they are and Theresa May’s anecdote about a man not being deported because he had a cat is no exception. Larry the Cat may have been left at No. 10, but conference suddenly went cat-tastic. It’s the purrfect story for a subdued conference, and the tabby-loids are all over this fur-fetched tail. Cameron will be fur-ious, but Guido reckons she’ll get away with it, by a whisker and she can claw back her reputation . We will now take a paws from the cat puns.

Today’s Huffington Post has an interesting follow up article “ Human Rights and Cat Fights - The Calls for Reform Must not be Silenced”, which asserts

It would be, to coin a phrase, child-like to summate the debate around the Human Rights Act as one between those in favour of protecting human rights in law, and those against doing so.

Click here for the full article.

Obama and the economy

Politics students may not always be avid readers of the Economist so a heads up on a feature in this week’s edition that may be of interest:

“WILL the next presidential election see Barack Obama return triumphantly to the White House for a second term as president of the world’s biggest economy? Or will a sluggish economic recovery, which has left over 14m Americans out of work, doom him to defeat in November 2012?

Models of the way economic factors affect presidential elections already exist. The best known was developed in the late 1970s by Ray Fair, an economist at Yale, who used macroeconomic indicators (such as inflation and the growth rate of income per person) to predict the vote share of the two main parties in subsequent elections. Mr Fair most recently updated his estimates at the end of July, when his model predicted a victory for Mr Obama in 2012 with 53.4% of the vote. In releasing his predictions, however, he noted that “a strong rebound results in a fairly solid Obama victory…and a double-dip recession…results in a fairly solid Republican victory.” Democratic hearts will have skipped a beat or two on hearing Ben Bernanke, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, say on October 4th that the recovery was “close to faltering”.

But is it right to focus exclusively on macroeconomic indicators?”

Interested? Read more here.

Should Dr Fox resign?

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Dr Liam Fox, the Defence Secretary, has come under increased pressure this weekend regarding the behaviour of his close friend Adam Werritty.

This is an opportunity to revisit the politics of ministerial resignations, a very common Unit 2 topic. I include a study note on ministerial responsibility with this story .

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The Coalition and the Conservatives

Coalition politics in the UK is well embarked, and this year’s party conferences – especially the Lib Dem and Conservative ones – provided a useful insight into how it is all progressing.  In short, the Lib Dems wanted to show how different they were from the Tories, while the Tories kept up a smooth, united face in the main hall but saw their right-wing activists in full voice on the fringe.

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Bush shoe incident

Thursday, October 06, 2011

With all that’s going on at the minute, I hope these clips brings some light relief…

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Global Issues: Changing Nature of Warfare: Could the Taliban return?

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

The ‘10 year anniversary’ of the war in Afghanistan has put the Taliban into the spotlight oncemore, not least given recent events such as the breakdown in possible talks with the Taliban, the recent assination of a former Aghan president and the activities of the Haqqani network.  The Taliban are of interest in relation to the Global Issues course both in terms of how the character of modern conflict has changed in terms of ‘new’ wars in terms of being a non-state internal actor and the nature of insurgency itself; however, they are also of interest in terms of the rise identity politics in terms of their stress on Pushtun identity and adherence to a fundamentalist view of Islam.

Here are a few useful resources:
1. Podcaste of an interesting BBC Radio interview with Ahmed Rashid (Pakistani journalist and author of the excellent ‘Descent into Chaos’ addressing the issue of ‘Can the Taliban return?’
2. BBC - Success of the Taliban - looks at how a rag tag militia have turned into a .successful guerilla army mounting an intractable insurgency.
3.  BBC: Who are the Taliban?

Party policy divisions: human rights

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Theresa May, the Home Secretary, announced at the weekend that she would like to repeal the Human Rights Act. This is yet another example of clear blue water between the government and the Labour opposition on party policy that has emerged during the conference season.

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Political reincarnations continued

Monday, October 03, 2011

With the Conservative Party Conference underway this week, I thought I’d post a little reminder of the speech made by the current Foreign Secretary to conference when he was a teenager.

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Global Issues: Terrorism ~ Killing of Anwar al-Awlaki

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Of interest to Global Issues students will be the ‘targeted killing’ of the radical Yemeni cleric Anwar al-Awlaki in a drone strike.  Such measures are a part of counterterrorism strategy and operations; however, while US policy makers may tout this as a victory in the ‘war on terror’, the episode highlights controversial aspects of the expanding targeted killing policy. 

The CFR has the following comment:

‘The targeted killing of al-Awlaki eliminates an inspirational and charismatic voice of al-Qaeda, as well as someone who U.S. officials asserted was playing an increasing operational role. However, like most targeted killings, it probably will not make much difference in reducing the ability of al-Qaeda or affiliated groups in mobilizing, recruiting, and planning terrorist operations.  In addition, it calls to mind a similar targeted killing that occurred almost nine years ago, which is illustrative to remember as U.S. officials—anonymously of course—condone al-Alwaki’s death.’

Of interest may be an earlier blog post which coincided with the Yemen ‘Christmas Cargo Bombplot’:
Global Issues: Terrorism ~ Bomb Plots, Yemen and AQAP

For more on the story here are a few BBC links:
Obama: Anwar Al-Awlaki death is major blow for al-Qaeda
Obituary: Anwar al-Awlaki
Profile: Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula

The foreign policy think tank has a useful backrounder on the controversial and seemingly more common practice of ‘targeted killings - click here.

Politics on YouTube: political history repeating itself?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Someone once said that history doesn’t repeat itself, but it certainly rhymes.

Talking to a colleague the other day, she suggested this could be a YouTube feature.

To start with then we have Black Wednesday. In the 1992 election the Tories pledged that membership of the European Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM) was at the heart of economic policy. For instance their manifesto of that year stated: “Membership of the ERM is now central to our counter-inflation discipline.” Several months later, the Chancellor Norman Lamont announced that Britain would cease to be part of it. From then on, all the way through to the 1997 election, Labour were well ahead in the polls. That the economy was powering ahead mattered little to the British electorate. Essentially the Conservative government never recovered its reputation for sound economic management until Labour then wrecked any credibility they had after the 2008 financial crisis.

What is interesting (and I am disappointed I couldn’t find a clip on YouTube of the individual standing behind Lamont on the day it was announced that interest rates would soar) is the identity of a young man acting as a special adviser to the Chancellor. Who was it? Where could he possibly be now? See if the picture below the BBC 6 o’clock news on Black Wednesday gives you any clue…

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AS intro to Politics: political parties activity

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Can you do better than Rory?

With party conference season in full swing I thought of a good teaching and learning exercise on political parties after watching Rory Weal’s speech in Liverpool yesterday. It is essentially a combination of student tasks that I would do on party ideologies at AS anyway, with what candidates in mock elections would be doing in school. But this year we have a standard to beat. Personally I thought Rory delivered a great speech and clearly does not merit most of the flak that he has received from the kind of obviously unhinged people who post comments on YouTube.

If you have yet to see the speech, here is the BBC clip.

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Select committees: Parliament is not dead

Sunday, September 25, 2011

There are ongoing debates about what useful purpose Parliament serves

A recent report by the Home Affairs Select Committee criticising the government’s policy on the police once again highlights how Parliament performs an important oversight function.

According to the BBC:

“The Metropolitan Police’s counter-terrorism role should be given to the new National Crime Agency when it becomes operational in 2013, MPs say.

The Home Affairs Select Committee says the change would mean less intervention in the Met by the Home Secretary and its accountability would be clearer.

Its adds that uncertainty over police reforms for England and Wales could be damaging to the 43 forces.”

We can add this latest example to a study note below that I have written on how Parliament checks the executive…

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Obama’s political history told through YouTube

Thursday, September 22, 2011


This is not intended to be an exhaustive journey through Barack Obama’s career, but instead to end the series on Politics via YouTube by bringing blog readers access to a step by step tour of some key points in the story of an individual with the kind of charisma and oratorical skill that comes around perhaps only once in several generations.

I have tried wherever possible to link to versions with the best combination of audio visual quality.

Put some time aside, and enjoy…

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Top US Politics YouTube clips

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Having covered a fair amount of UK highlights, I thought I’d link to some top clips I use in US politics teaching.

These are all pre-Obama. I’m working on bringing video material on the current POTUS together for a future posting.

Happy viewing!

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More excellent Politics moments on YouTube

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Intra school cooperation at its best as the Bradford Grammar Politics Department offered up these examples to the Social Science Faculty as part of my quest for more ideas on introducing British Politics via YouTube.

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My top 9 UK politics You Tube clips

Monday, September 19, 2011

Gordo’s famous smile didn’t quite make it

Any ideas as to what should complete the 10?

Here are my 9 so far…

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UK political parties: the Tory Party’s European problem

Deep divisions within the Conservative Party gave them troubles for years, but more recently the party has become a much more cohesive eurosceptic unit and the issue seemed to have dropped off the agenda. Not any more.

From the BBC website today, comes this report:

“A senior Conservative MP has called on Prime Minister David Cameron to hold a referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union.
Mark Pritchard, the secretary of the 1922 committee of Tory backbenchers, said it had “enslaved” the country.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, he said EU membership was a “burdensome yoke, disfiguring Britain’s independence”.

His comments come amid growing frustration among Tory eurosceptics at the failure so far of the government to repatriate powers from Europe in the face of opposition from their Liberal Democrat coalition partners.

Last week 120 Conservative backbenchers gathered at a private meeting in Westminster to voice their impatience at the lack of progress on the issue.”


What is the government’s position?

“Ministers have ruled out any imminent renegotiation of European treaties.”

But as the website goes on to say: 

“Last year the government introduced a “referendum lock”, guaranteeing that no further major transfer of powers from London to Brussels could happen without first being approved by the public.

Mr Cameron, who describes himself as a “practical eurosceptic”, has said he could push for a renegotiation of existing EU rules on employment and financial regulation at an appropriate time in the future.”

Below Europe as an issue within the context of Tory intra party divisions.

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