Latest Posts

Do the main UK political parties agree or disagree on policy and ideas?

The ‘main’ political parties can be defined as The Labour Party and The Conservative Party, who have been the only political parties to gain a majority for over a hundred years. Despite other smaller parties such as UKIP, the Green Party and The Liberal Democrats building in popularity they are none of them big enough to act as a real challenger to these two. Despite Labour and Conservative being very different by definition; Labour being left wing and Conservatives right wing, in more recent years, in the terms of Tony Blair and David Cameron they have been often more similar than different both settling on centrist views trying to please the whole population. However, since the appointment of Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn this has drastically changed and with Corbyn especially being so notoriously left wing the two are arguably more different now than ever. Despite this there are still surprising similarities remaining between the two. Read More

How far do the main political parties differ on policies and ideas?

Traditionally, political parties have been characterised by very different ideologies. The policies of the three main parties were underpinned by a coherent set of ideas and beliefs, which were particular to that party. Although the three main parties still have distinct ideological traditions, they have evolved since their conception and as a result of Thatcherism and ‘New Labour’  – the once distinct policy boundaries have become blurred. All three parties now subscribe to the Thatcher concept of a free market. In recent years the parties can be said to have moderated their traditional positions as part of an effort to appeal to as wide a range of voters as possible. All three parties are now essentially social democratic in nature and are more concerned with making piecemeal changes to current arrangements as opposed to imposing an ideological model. As a result, it can be seen that there are considerable similarities in policy and the differences are usually one of approach in achieving the goal – for example, in the 2010 election, in the economic policy, all three parties agreed that there would need to be significant spending cuts to reduce the deficit: Conservatives argued for immediate major cuts in spending but the Labour and Liberal Democrats proposed no major cuts in the first year. Read More

Seven Essays on American Decline

I set my A2 politics classes an essay on whether American power is in decline, to do in untimed conditions at home. Here is a selection of excellent essays with a brief comment from me as to why they were particularly good.

Please note – these essays were set before we looked at IR theory and so I did not expect any references to realism or liberalism, however in their final drafts and in the exam this would be necessary. Please also note, I don’t expect them to write as much in the 45 minutes set for essay writing in the exam.  Read More

Concepts: Superpowers and Great Powers

A superpower is a term given to a country that has unmatched influence in global affairs, and is significant in international relations. No other state can challenge its authority, due to its superiority in military and economic capabilities, meaning it can manipulate the international environment to its best interests. A country like America, whose superpower status has not been disputed since the end of the second world war, has the ability to project power on a global scale. Read More

From the Millennium to Sustainable Development Goals: A New Paradigm

Approaches to development rely on a particular world view. Understanding development in terms of wealth can lead to different practices and different results as understanding development in terms of freedom. The UN has taken the ‘alternative’ view on development, focusing on human development, rather than focusing on national wealth. However, even within this one organisation, changes in their ‘world view’ can be seen, affecting their development programmes. Read More

Five Lessons from the EU Referendum

  1. Referendums in the UK are not be legally binding, but they might as well be

David Cameron strongly supported the Remain camp during the EU debate, but even with a result as close as 52% leave to 48% remain, he accepted the decision made by the British electorate. To not do so would have almost certainly resulted in intra-party and wider calls for him to be removed as the Prime-Minister and Leader of the Conservative Party, especially with many of his own MPs, such as Boris Johnson, having campaigned against him. This also comes as on 22nd February 2016, Cameron addressed Parliament and said ‘For a Prime Minister to ignore the express will of the British people to leave the EU would be not just wrong, but undemocratic’. Read More

Viewpoint – “We feel that our futures were risked by the choices of people – older, often geographically distant people”

91% of our school voted to stay in the EU in our internal referendum. As one might expect, a school fiercely proud of both its ethnic and cultural diversity, as well as its political engagement, is distraught. Almost none of us could vote, and 75% of the young people who could vote, voted to Remain. For the people we know and whose views we share, it’s hard to understand that this result really happened, and often in the name of our ‘future’. Read More

New Patterns of Neocolonialism? Economic Relations between China and Africa


Neocolonialism involves a country using political, economic or other resources in other countries to gain influence or control. It has commonly been understood as a relationship between the Western core and its Southern and Eastern counterparts. However, with the identity of the ‘core’ transforming as new emerging countries increase their share of global wealth, this pattern of neocolonialism might also be changing. Read More

Audio: The Fusion of Civilisations not A Clash of Civilisations

The mood of much of the world is grim these days. Turmoil in the Middle East, causing hundreds of thousands of deaths and millions of refugees; random terrorist attacks across the globe; geopolitical tensions in eastern Europe and Asia; the end of the commodity supercycle; slowing growth in China; and economic stagnation in many countries—all have combined to feed a deep pessimism about the present and, worse, the future.

Historians looking back on this age from the vantage point of later generations, however, are likely to be puzzled by the widespread contemporary feelings of gloom and doom. By most objective measures of human well-being, the past three decades have been the best in history. More and more people in more and more places are enjoying better lives than ever before. Nor is this an accident— because despite Samuel Huntington’s foreboding, what has occurred over recent generations is not a clash of civilizations but a fusion of civilizations.

Audio: Putin’s Foreign Policy

This is a very good audio article on Russian foreign policy and the world order.

In the immediate post-9/11 era, the United States was riding high. But in more recent years, the order designed by Washington and its allies in the 1990s has come under severe strain. The many U.S. failures in the Middle East, the 2008 global nancial crisis and the subsequent recession, mount- ing economic and political crises in the EU, and the growing power of China made Russia even more reluctant to t itself into the Western-led international system.

Why global warming sharply divides political opinion


Climate change through global warming has become one of the most prominent issues in global politics. While there has been growing agreement that climate change is happening and that it is anthropogenic or human-induced, there continues to be a major debate about how pressing or serious the problem of global warming is. However, although there have been a variety of global conferences and meetings and the environment has been placed highly on the agenda of politicians hoping to come to office, very little has been addressed and few pledges have materialised never mind achieved. Even the Paris Climate Change commitments seem to be recently unraveling. This is mostly due to the ‘great powers’ complacent attitude towards climate change and the perception that it is of lesser importance than domestic national interests and growth.

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Is the US a Power in Decline?

It is universally accepted that following the Cold War, the USA experienced a ‘unipolar moment’,  establishing itself as a super power with global influence. Many referred to this as a global hegemony. The US had the strongest economy and unparalleled influence in global organisations. Francis Fukuyama even described this period as the ‘end of history’. However in recent years a number of factors, including the rise of China, military defeats and the loss of moral standing has led many to argue that the US will not maintain its position at the top. Read More

Does Parliament still remain sovereign?

Parliament is seen as the sovereign body because it has absolute and unlimited legal authority, reflected in its ability to make, amend and repeal any laws it wishes. However, there are doubts about the accuracy and continuing relevance of parliamentary sovereignty to reasons such as the joining to the EU, devolution and the implantation of the Human Rights Act. Read More

Is the UK constitution no longer fit for its purpose?

The constitution is a set of rules by which a country is run, it establishes the distribution of power within a political system, relationships between political institutions, the limits of government jurisdiction and the rights of citizens. However, these functions have been criticised and it could now be said that the UK constitution specifically is no longer fit for its purpose. Read More

To what extent are Human Rights globally accepted?

The concept of human right including principles such as freedom of expression and the freedom of religion became a popular concept, adopted by many nations following the end of the Second World War in 1945. Today, the principles of Human Rights are promoted by many non-governmental organisations who survey abuses of Human Rights globally; many states also act on the international stage in a way to promote the ideas of Human Rights, an approach often criticised by Realist thinkers. However to say Human Rights are globally accepted is wrong as many non-westerners see Human Rights simply as a form of western imperialism and argue organisations such as the International Criminal Court are flawed. Therefore Human Rights is accepted as a fundamental doctrine primarily in western nations. Read More

Evaluating different measurements of poverty.

In attempting to assess the policies, namely the neoliberal policies of the last thirty years on the poor, three different ways of measuring poverty have been put forward, all with their own merits and disadvantages

The first way of measuring it is the absolute income approach. The World Bank currently measures poverty in terms of people living on less than $1.90 a day. This approach has shown poverty to decrease from 50% of the world’s population in 1980 to 10% today. Peter Edwards criticizes the $1.90 figure for being too low, himself proposing $7.60. That to shows poverty to have gone down from 73% in 1980 to 60% today (as a % of world population). These absolute income approaches all show poverty to have gone in % of people down since 1980, and so are deemed inadequate by critical theorists who insist poverty is more than just how much someone is making.

The next way of measuring poverty is the relative approach. Those advocating this approach insist that poverty is relative- Adam Smith himself saying that while a linen shirt is not a necessity, not having one in a society in which everyone else does is a sign of poverty. In the UK poverty is measured as living on a figure 60% of median income, and applying this to worldwide countries would show poverty has increased in the last 30 years alongside inequality. However some would argue this itself is a flawed measure, since using such figures would show poor but equal countries such as Romania to have lower poverty levels than the UK, which is rich but unequal.

Some development economists, such as Seyn insist that looking at income, absolute measurements or relative ones are too focused on income and not enough on human wellbeing. Such economists tend to use the HDI, which measures living standards, things such as housing and food. The HDI shows a mixed record for the last 30 years, with hunger and poverty going up in some areas such as Sub-Saharan Africa but down in others such as China and India.

Criticisms of Humanitarian intervention

Since its intellectual ascendancy in the 1990’s, the concept of humanitarian intervention, that is, military intervention to protect human rights, has been criticized for a number of different reasons by a number of different theorists of international relations.

The realist school of thinking holds that states should only act in their own self-interest, and that excessive and prolonged interventions overseas for “humanitarian” purposes only causes to weaken you as a state. Running as a realist in his 2000 election campaign, George W Bush alleged that President Bill Clinton was engaging in “social work” in areas such as the Balkans between 1995-1999 and Haiti, as well as the failed US troop deployment in Somalia and Rwanda, all of which were billed as humanitarian interventions. This caused imperial overstretch and a vulnerability at home to a possible attack. Additionally the various deployments cost billions of dollars, which should have been spent on decaying US infrastructure. Clinton’s troop deployment, Bush alleged, was not in the US national interest and so should not have been done. Such realist criticisms of humanitarian intervention have also been aired by 2016 presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

Another criticism of the concept of humanitarian intervention is that, in its military form, it is not cost effective. The intervention in Kosovo, is estimated to have saved 100,000 lives (a very generous estimate) the cost of the various Allied bombings was £30 billion according to a study by the BBC, both in terms of operational cost to the US and cost of rebuilding infrastructure in the region. This meant the US valued each human life saved at roughly $300,000. Vaccines, development aid and education would all have been much cheaper ways of preventing conflict, but were never considered despite being much cheaper than the military alternative. Humanitarian aid would allow the West to ensure economic rights are fulfilled, such as right to healthcare or schooling, but would also be effective at preventing conflict situations. Critical theorists allege that if those conducting humanitarian intervention really cared about the lives and wellbeing of the downtrodden in the 3rd world, they would up their aid budgets to the UN requirement of 0.7% of GDP, something the US fails to do, spending just 0.2%.

Another criticism of the concept of humanitarian intervention is that very rarely do those advocating humanitarian intervention very rarely follow up their intervention with a meaningful follow-up plan, and this often leads to unintended consequences. Though the 1999 bombing of Kosovo by Bill Clinton and Tony Blair is considered a success, Kosovo between 1999 and its declaration of independence was ignored and 17 years later the Council of Europe has labelled it a “mafia state” in the control of Albanian organized crime and Islamists. Additionally roughly 100,000 Serbians have been removed from Kosovo since the 1999 bombing, and ethnic cleansing to which there has been no humanitarian intervention. Because Bill Clinton and Tony Blair did not follow up their intervention in Kosovo with a meaningful way to build the nation, it remains a failed state. A similar fate befell Libya after the 2011 NATO intervention, with dozens of Islamist gangs trying to take control and the region now being a hotspot for terrorism and hordes of refugees. Because those advocating humanitarian intervention rarely consider the after-effects, the concept can be criticized even on the utilitarian grounds with which it is usually justified.

Further reading

Donald Trump Foreign Policy Speech– 27th April 2016 New York Times

The True Cost of Humanitarian intervention Foreign Affairs Winter 2011 issue

Remember Kosovo-  By Justin Raimondo.

AUDIO: The Once and Future Superpower Why China Won’t Overtake the United States

After two and a half decades, is the United States’ run as the world’s sole superpower coming to an end? Many say yes, seeing a rising China ready to catch up to or even surpass the United States in the near future.

To what extent has the powers of the Prime Minister grown in recent years?

In recent years, it has been noticed that various Prime ministers have attempted to reduce the amount of formal powers they have, largely due to public and political pressure. Whilst formal powers derived from the Prime Minister’s prerogative have decreased, there has been a growth in prime ministers exercising their use of informal powers that give the PM undefined authority. This was particularly the case in the Blair years when he was accused of manipulating government through the use of informal powers to suit his own interests. However, these powers are subject to the limitations that appear in government at any one time, with each prime minister facing different challenges, such as growing  back bench activism, in Cameron’s case, or decreasing popularity in the case of Brown.  Read More

Europe and the Return of Geopolitics (Audio)

The Ukraine crisis marked the return of geopolitics in Europe. Can the EU, which has been originally designed to prevent geopolitics inside its borders, act as decisive foreign policy actor outside of them? How to cope in particular with the severe and manifold crisis in its neighbourhoods?

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Is terrorism is a major threat to Global security?


Terrorism is the use of violence for furthering political ends; it seeks to create a climate of fear, apprehension and uncertainty. Global terrorism is aimed at inflicting damage and humiliation on a global power or at transforming global civilisational relations with the key example being 9/11 and al-Qaeda. The significance of terrorism has increased as its impact has become more threatening on global security, for instance 9/11 demonstrated how a global hegemon could still be struck by terrorism – the idea that no country is exempt from terror. However, this argument is limited, while America was attacked, it only happened once, proving that terrorism does not pose a ‘major threat’ to global security as it it is quite rare compared to other global disasters such as famine. However, it is undeniable to ignore that terrorism has acquired a truly global reach. Mass fear has been prompted by terrorism, attacks has quadrupled since 9/11. The Global Terrorist Index showed that in 2002 there were 982 separate attacks. By 2011 that had risen to 4,564. Read More

Is Combatting terrorism compatible with human rights?

In the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), 30 fundamental rights and freedoms were asserted by the delegates to the United Nations. In recent years, three of these rights, right to privacy, right to not be tortured and right to not be held without charge are considered to be under threat due to the policies the Bush and Obama administrations have employed in combatting terrorism. Some attempts have been made to reconcile anti-terror policies with human rights, but so far none have stood up to scrutiny.

One of the articles of the UN Declaration was a declaration of right to privacy. Attempts to combat terrorism after the 9/11 terrorist attacks have resulted in increased reliance on mass surveillance in order to catch potential terrorists. Though the American public were under the impression the NSA’s surveillance was targeted, in reality the 2013 Edward Snowden leaks revealed there was no discrimination or oversight in NSA mass surveillance, with millions of people having their right to privacy combatted for no good reason other than they may turn out to be a terrorist. Additionally, Apple have been instructed by a judge to decrypt the Iphone of one of the San Bernardino killers, an action requiring the creation of a new tool which would be used by the government at any time to decrypt anyone’s Iphone. All of the 2016 Presidential candidates in both parties stand with the judge, meaning that right to privacy is a right considered somewhat subject to compromise across the American political spectrum. Thus it is clear that, under both Bush and Obama, and whomever should succeed Obama in January 2017, Americans right to privacy is under threat primarily due to anti-terror policies.

To defend this seemingly undefendable government overreach, one would have to look to the precise wording of the UN charter. The charter said that men should be free of “attacks upon his honour and reputation”, the implicit subtext of that wording being that the right to privacy is not violated if the government does not release this information in such a way which would damage the reputation of it’s owner. Since government rarely does this,  and since the majority of the bulk-data on people’s phone records and emails is collected and never viewed, it can be argued that nobody’s right to privacy is being viole government does not release data on millions of people it releases, so arguably it is not a violation of human rights.

A more controversial right being violated is the right to be free from torture. Practices at the US detention facility at Guantanamo bay where since 2001 779 inmates have been detained have raised questions as to whether the US, the supposed arbiter of right and wrong in a unipolar world, is  fully complying with this human rights tenets. Details of the December 2014 Senate report on torture would suggest not. Waterboarding, the act of stimulating the sensation of drowning on a suspect in order to garner information, was frequently used on most serious inmates at Guantanamo bay, an act of what the otherwise hawkish Senator John Mccain and the otherwise hawkish intellectual Christopher Hitchens  both have called torture. One man close to Osama Bin Laden,  Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, was waterboarded 183 times in a row, leading to important intelligence about the whereabouts of Osama Bin Laden, the perpetrator of the 9/11 attacks, which led to the succesful operation in May to kill him. The fact that waterboarding was effective, and the fact that it does clearly violate the human right not to be tortured, presents a moral quandary to proponents of the War on Terror, as it is clear that waterboarding was integral to the anti-terrorism strategy of the USA under the Bush administration, and while Obama disapproved of waterboarding, much of the intelligence he used during his presidency was obtained by waterboarded inmates at Guantanamo.

However some proponents of the War on Terror, notably George W Bush have argued that waterboarding isn’t torture. The definition of torture is clear in this case- it is “the action or practice of inflicting severe pain on someone as a punishment or in order to force them to do or say something”. As waterboarding (if done correctly) does not inflict pain on anybody, it is not torture in the strictest sense of the term in the way electrocution or the use of blowtorches would be considered torture.  Thus, defenders of the George W Bush administration would point to waterboarding not being torture, only “enhanced interrogation”, and this does not violate international human rights law.

The final right under discussion here is the right to habeas corpus, a right to review the legality of your arrest. This right was suspended between 2002-2008 when 779 people were held in Guantanamo bay without charge or right to legal recourse. Eventually in 2008 the Supreme Court ruled in Boumediene v. Bush that foreign terrorism suspects held at Guantanamo Bay have constitutional rights to challenge their detention (request a writ of habeas corpus) in United States courts. While the litigator of that case, Lakhdar Boumediene, was released along with four others, standards of evidence were tightened after 2010 meaning only 8% of requests for habeas corpus submissions were won- meaning despite the Supreme Court case, the right of habeas corpus for the remaining 91 detainees in Guantanamo bay are being violated.

The simple way to counter this point is that under the international law pertaining to war, the detainees held at Guantanamo Bay are “illegal enemy belligerents,” not prisoners of war with constitutional rights. This argument was mainly employed by the Bush administration in fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2001, where rather than treating the soldiers of the Taliban as soldiers of a conventional army- they were treated as  “illegal enemy belligerents,”. Thus they forfeit rights to habeas corpus when they (allegedly) commit acts of guerilla warfare.  

In conclusion, while there have been noble attempts to defend US policy during the War on Terror, none of these defences fully stand up to scrutiny as most resort to strained or questionable reasoning. In order to justify countering-terrorism in a way compatible with human rights, scholars such as Michael Ignatieff have suggested that human rights have to generally be seen as less Universal than the Declaration of 1948 would seem to suggest.  

To what extent is there a clash of civilisations?

In 1993 Samuel Huntington wrote an article titled “Is there a clash of civilisations” in which he disputed Francis Fukuyama’s thesis that the end of the Cold War would not herald the end of conflict but rather a conflict that would revert to cultural or “civilizational” lines. Huntingdon furthermore argued that the world was split into 9 different civilizational orders, and the West would clash with all of them, but in particular it would clash with the Islamic world, Japan and Russia. Many attempts to refute Huntingtons thesis have been made but none stand up to scrutiny, and there is very much a clash of civilisations.

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The EU referendum and the left’s dilemma

Following the EU Summit, leaders of the other 27 member nations of the EU have approved a deal which will see: a seven year term in which EU migrants in the UK will be restricted from claiming in-work benefits; child benefit payments proportionate to the cost of living for children living outside the UK for all new arrivals to the UK; ability for any single non eurozone country to force a debate among EU leaders about problematic EU laws; and an unambiguous opt-out stating in any future EU treaty references to ‘ever closer union’ are not applicable to the UK. Following the summit, the Conservative Party has been divided between those that wish to remain in the EU and those that hope for a Brexit. Read More