One argument against an elected second chamber is the danger that it could become a ‘mirror image’ of the Commons. People would be likely to vote along their usual party lines, meaning that Lords would have to focus on political tactics to get elected, such as charisma, rather than expertise. Many current Lords are human rights experts (which has been very significant in relation to the Human Rights Act) or other examples of the growing ‘professionalism’ of the chamber, but these people would be less likely to stand for election or be successful. However, the fact that unelected people can decide on fundamental principles like human rights undermines Britain’s claim to be a modern democracy.
The Commons could be argued to be effective in scrutinising the government through questions. Although main questions require advance warning to ministers, supplementary ones do not, and ministers are expected to regularly appear to be ‘interrogated’. ‘Urgent Questions’ can be particularly effective – in 2012, Education Secretary Michael Gove had to seriously consider GCSE reforms after they were met with opposition in the Commons. This showed that questions can help in the function of holding the government to account. However, the scripted nature of rituals like PMQ’s means that it can be more of a media contest between leaders than an actual way to find out details of government policy.
The coalition is generally united over policies and ideas, many of the big reforms of this government, austerity, health and education have all passed due to agreement at cabinet level. Both parties combined their manifestos and developed a working document for government in 2010 and suggested 70% of their manifestos were adopted. There are, however a number of areas where disagreement has emerged, particularly constitutional matters and Europe.
A PDF revision guide for AS unit 1 and unit 2 can be downloaded here
A modest revision guide I prepared for Woodhouse Politics students, with the specification and example questions, Revision Handbook
Church Times , followed by a radio interview about his children’s faith, and a speech at an Easter reception for Christian leaders in Downing Street, treated the British public to his views on Britian’s Christian roots. Read more
Compassion, not coercion, is the answer to Britain’s drug problem.
Over the last two weeks, the main talking point in British politics has been the televised debate between Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage concerning the issue of Europe. As much as I hate to admit it, Nigel Farage came off far better, and Clegg was largely left mumbling about how Farage either loves Putin or was a conspiracy theorist who thought Elvis was still alive. It was clear that the two men are not obvious political allies, and that they are divided on almost every issue. I say almost, because there is one area on which the two men find consensus: drug policy reform.
Farage declared that the war on drugs had been lost ‘many, many years ago’, and that he supported full decriminalisation. I never thought that I would say this, but bravo Mr Farage. Completely at odds with his party, the Ukip leader has bravely gone exactly where he should be going. Ukip advertises itself as a Libertarian Party, and by supporting full decriminalisation of drugs in the UK, Farage is showing that this claim might not be totally off the mark. I’ve always been sceptical of the claim that Ukip were Libertarians, it seemed to me that they were Libertarian about issues they wanted to be (environment and taxation) and not so much about issues they didn’t want to be (same-sex marriage and drug legalisation), but perhaps with the announcement that Farage does support same-sex marriage, followed by this new announcement, they will soon genuinely be able to make that claim.
Likewise, in February of this year, Clegg announced, after a visit to Columbia, that, ‘if you are anti-drugs, you should be pro-reform’. Impressively, Clegg became the first party leader to stand up against our failed drug policy and say that things needed to change. Although some may see this as an attempt to differentiate the Lib-Dems from the Conservatives in the run-up to the general election, it is, without doubt, a step in the right direction. The general public have realised that British Drug laws aren’t working, with the majority of people agreeing that government’s approach to illegal drugs is ineffective, and now politicians are beginning to realise too.
I think that most people agree that drugs are an awful stain on our society, but this does not mean that criminalisation is the answer. People die at the hands of these drugs, but there is no evidence to suggest that making them illegal means that fewer people will take them. The country that spends the most money, by far, on its anti-drugs campaign is the United States, and yet, it leads the table for the highest cocaine use in the world, it leads the table for the highest cannabis use in the world, and it leads the table for the most people in prison for drug use in the world. Why? Wouldn’t you expect, given the amount of money that is spent on keeping people from using drugs, that the rates of abuse would be much lower? Portugal is another interesting case study. In 2001, drug use was decriminalised across the country, and yet, its annual prevalence of cocaine use is 0.3% compared to the US’ 2.8%, and its annual prevalence of cannabis use is 7.6% compared to the US’ 51.6%. Put simply, the United States’ drug laws are not working, but Portugal’s are. The United Kingdom is not far behind the United States, being third in the world for cocaine use and ninth in the world for cannabis use.
Some may argue that Portugal’s drug use has always been lower than that of the United States (or the UK), and that the decriminalisation was not what made the difference, but rather a difference of culture. The statistics again show that this is untrue. Portugal’s reformed policy lead to a reduction in drug related deaths, a reduction in drug use among teenagers, an increase uptake of treatment programs, and a reduction in HIV deaths due to shared needles. What we have seen in Portugal is not a wave of new drug users who have been enticed by their decriminalisation, as we have been warned about by our government, we have not seen more people dying as we have been told there would be, and we have not seen more young people turning to drugs. What we have been told is simply wrong.
So, what is the answer? Compassion and care for drug users. We need to treat drug use, not drug users, as the problem. We need to offer treatment and advice, and try to make sure people are not in a bad enough state that they resort to drug use in the first place. We know the causes of drug abuse, and we know that people in poverty are much more likely to resort to using hard drugs. Income inequality is another factor behind drug use; we know that the worse a country scores on the Gini Coefficient (a measurement of income inequality), the more likely they are to have a drug-taking population. Interestingly, one country that bucks the trend here is Portugal, where there is high income inequality yet low drug use. Any guesses as to why?
The British political landscape is changing. In 2010, we saw the first hung parliament since 1974, showing that the people of the UK are disillusioned with the main two political parties. The smaller parties are rising fast, and these are the parties who are pushing for radical drug law reform. It is only so long until the main parties catch up. I say, the sooner, the better.
Maria Miller, MP for Basingstoke resigned on Wednesday as the Conservative Culture Secretary. She was accused of claiming £90,000 in expenses towards mortgage payments for her second home in south London for four years. This was published in the Daily Telegraph in 2010 with the Telegraph claiming that Mrs Miller’s actions were breaching the rules for parliamentary allowances. These rules were implemented in 2010 after the wake of the MPs expenses scandal where MPs were banned from claiming mortgage interest on second homes, with tax-payer’s money. The MPs expenses scandal was made public in 2009 after a campaign by freedom campaigners using the Freedom of Information Act 2000 that allowed citizens to enquire about the expenses of MPs.
Weekly Parliament Roundup- 24th -30th March
Is Miliband the right man for Labour?
Following the announcement of the budget, many Labour MPs have criticised Miliband for not having a strong and and solid reaction, especially in the Commons Chamber. Before the budget, people were worried that Miliband’s constant stress upon the cost of living crisis was losing its momentum and many people have been waiting to get a sense of direction as to where Miliband is heading. Furthermore, there has been some questioning over his style of leadership and several members have implied that he always makes big policy announcements but leaves huge spaces in between. When he’s not making announcements, his silence creates a loss of spark within the party which then leads members into deciding amongst themselves what the party should be doing.
Moreover, it has been hinted that there might be a divide within the party when it comes to the type of policies which the party wishes to bring forward. Some members want radical policies in order to get the voters excited whereas others want safety first as they think that they are more likely to win by being cautious. The main issue with Miliband is that the party might not have time to be leaving huge spaces in between important announcement since elections are so close. He needs to begin sustaining an attack on the government
Is the future looking bright for the Tories
The aftermath of the Budget announcement has created a positive outlook for the party. The success of the party in the upcoming months and eventually, in the election depends on whether the narrowing of the opinion polls will put the conservatives in the lead. Additionally, the Tories’ success is also dependent on the European Elections. However, if UKIP gain a higher position to the Conservatives, it might create a sense of uncertainty within the party.
What can Cameron do to satisfy the Euro sceptics?
100 Conservative MPs have allegedly vowing to leave and campaign against the EU regardless of David Cameron’s actions. This recent news leads us to question what the Prime Minster can do to ever please his Euro-sceptic party members. He’s already promised a referendum on the EU if his party stays in power but this will be hard to achieve if the Tories are divided as a party. Additionally, he’s devolved powers to member states, promised to win back key powers from Brussels and he’s even got an agreement with Germany that any changes in the EU will be fair for all nations.
This week, we saw Miliband and Cameron firmly back on the battleground through the issue of the privatisation of the Royal Mail. Ed Miliband urged Cameron to tell the house his excuse for the Royal Mail ‘Fiasco’ and Cameron hit back by his usual attack on Labour’s failures by saying that the tax payers benefitted from the Two Billion pounds that the company was sold at-something which labour didn’t achieve. Moreover, Cameron stressed upon the fact that even the workers are far better off because many of them have become shareholders in the company that they are working, meaning that they are now receiving dividends as well as their wages. Ultimately, the biggest blow to Miliband came when Cameron attacked by exclaiming that Miliband was only asking about the Royal Mail because he was paid to by the trade unions.