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Video: Martin Jacques – understanding the rise of China

Speaking at a TED Salon in London, economist Martin Jacques asks: How do we in the West make sense of China and its phenomenal rise? The author of “When China Rules the World,” he examines why the West often puzzles over the growing power of the Chinese economy, and offers three building blocks for understanding what China is and will become. Read More

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To what extent is there a political participation problem in the UK?

In the UK, the level of political participation is measured by the turnout in general elections that take place every 5 years, although there are other means by which a person can be politically active. As a representative democracy, elections are the cornerstone of democracy in the UK. The level of electoral turnout must therefore be an important indication of the health of the larger democratic system. However, in recent years, the percentage of the general public voting in general elections has reached new lows since universal voting was introduced in the UK. It could be argued that the UK is suffering from a ‘political participation crisis’ where the public are becoming increasingly disengaged with UK politics. But, this diagnosis may be a little premature as the problem might not be about a decline in the overall level of political participation but instead about a shift from one kind of participation to another. Thus, it is difficult to decide whether the problem is about the apathetic nature of society or a more fundamental issue surrounding the outdated democratic system that dictates UK politics. Read More

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Is globalisation a form of ‘Americanisation’?

Globalisation is an umbrella term for a complex series of economic, social, technological and political changes seen as increasing interdependence and interaction between people and companies in disparate locations since the 1980s. This has replaced the “billiard-ball model” with a “cobweb model” as states become increasingly interdependent. There are also broader cultural, political and environmental dimensions of globalisation. Critics of globalisation say this is spreading US domination around the globe and as a result has created a global monoculture which benefits US interests. However, hyper globalists argue this has benefited multiple countries and has positively created a borderless world, supported by liberals who suggest this has improved international relations.  Read More

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Asses the different criticisms of electoral systems in the UK

There are numerous widespread criticisms of electoral systems in the UK, such as some systems such as FPTP and AV’s clear disproportionality and voter wastage, as well as the tendency towards a two party system which give the established parties too much power. However, the alternate voting systems of STV, Party list and AMS, proposed to remedy these problems also fall under criticisms because of their over proportionality, which some argue gives a chance to ‘extremist’ groups and can often lead to weak and inadequate government.

The most significant criticism of electoral systems such as FPTP and AV is that it provides a disproportionate result, which effectively doesn’t represent the will of the electorate. For example, in the 2015 general election, despite UKIP winning 12.6% of the vote (4 million) this translated into only one seat in the house of commons; clearly exemplifying that the electorates votes are being wasted, as well as a whole host of problems that are argued to all stem from the disproportionality of the system. Despite AV being proposed as an alternate electoral system meant to remedy some of FPTP’s flaws, it is only considered semi-proportional and in certain electoral conditions, such as the 2015 general election, can actually produce a more disproportionate outcome than FPTP. However, others suggest that this disproportionality is only limited and is a necessary feature of strong and stable government.

Both systems are also criticised for their tendency to cause a two party system, where smaller parties are disregarded and the established parties are given too much power. For example, throughout the entire use of FPTP there have only been two parties- the Conservatives and Labour- who have ever won an outright majority in a general election. Furthermore, a prominent example, is the same system in American which lends itself to only having the two main parties of the Democrats and the Republicans. It is argued that this is extremely flawed as it gives the established parties too much power, therefore disillusioning voters and undermining democracy. AV is also said to promote a two party rule as in a close three-way system the ‘compromise’ candidate could be defeated in the first round, even though they may be more broadly acceptable to the electorate. However, having said this preferential voting is meant to give the electorate more choice and has the ability to achieve a more proportional result than FPTP.

Despite the numerous flaws of FPTP and AV, the proposed PR systems such as STV, Party list and AMS have often been criticised for their over-proportionality, which could result in the rise of extremist parties. For example, in the 2010 general election the BNP won just over half a million votes, which in a PR system could result in a very large number of seats, giving the BNP a possibility of forming part of a coalition government and therefore of having a significant part of governing. However, the counter argument to this is that if so many of the British people voted for the BNP then they should not be marginalised and their votes should manifest themselves in UK governance.

Another major criticism of these systems it that they often lead to weak government formed by coalitions. As systems such as STV, Party List and AMS represent accurately the variety of views throughout the electorate and this often means that coalitions have to be formed which can make decision making extremely difficult. For example, in Israel, to form a coalition government the Israeli prime minister had to join a coalition that included very extremist right wing members. As these individuals differ so highly in policy it has made governing extremely difficult and weak and lead to the ability of the smaller parties to hold to ransom the larger ones. Furthermore, in Countries that use PR systems there are often very short term coalition governments that are constantly changing such as in Italy and Greece. However, these criticisms are often considered the views of the minority as England are one of the only countries in Europe who do not use a PR system and on balance the negatives of PR are not as significant as the negative implications of FPTP and AV.

One of the main criticism of electoral systems in the UK is its disproportionality highlighted by FPTP and AV, which disregard the votes of the people and lead to questions of legitimacy with minority rule. Furthermore, these two systems are often criticised for their tendency towards supporting only the two main parties, that are given too much power. However, the proposed alternative systems also fall under criticism for being over proportional as they could result in the rise of extremist parties and lead to weak unstable government. However, on balance PR systems tend to have less significant negatives than that of FPTP and AV as highlighted by the fact that the United Kingdom is one of the only countries in Europe not to use a PR system.

Lara Andrews

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To what extent do the political parties agree on ideas and policies?

 

The major political parties often disagree on many issues and one of these particular issues is tuition fees. Currently, the conservative standpoint is to maintain the £9000 a year cost. Furthermore, William Hague said the party would not rule out an increase in fees. This is very contrasting to the Labour policy which would see a decrease to £6000 a year. A reduction is the general party agreement, however, Jeremy Corbyn wishes to scrap fees entirely. The Lib Dems disagree with Labour and believe that cutting fees would be stupid. They believe in keeping the current yearly fees which partly agrees with the Tory party view. UKIP is the only party which wish to scrap uni fees entirely. Despite this, Nigel Farage wants students of the arts to still have to pay the full fees.

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Admin Editorial- Assessing strands of liberalism.

Liberalism in International Politics- Admin editorial.

(The opinions expressed in this piece reflect only those of the author and not of anyone else at alevelpolitics.com)

Liberalism, it would seem, is a way of studying international relations which has different implications based on the strand of liberalism- of which there are three. Commercial liberalism is a strand which assumes the world can be safer through international trade. Republican liberalism assumes the internal character of the state affects their foreign policy decision making. Furthermore, it is argued, democracy is the mode of government least prone to war and most prone to co-operation. Thus democracy should be spread, sometimes with force. Institutional liberalism is a school that believes the character of countries can be projected onto global supranational organisations or intergovernmental bodies. It’s absurd to claim none of these strands have any valid insights. But policy prescriptions based on the fundamental insights are riddled with fundamental errors, and very often these errors are fatal.

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The US is not a power in Decline

In the 1970’s Henry Kissinger wrote that the US had “passed its historic high point like so many earlier civilizations” and he elaborated “Every civilization that has ever existed has ultimately collapsed. History is a tale of efforts that failed.” This anxiety is a common one among the US public- with 47% of Americans thinking China has or soon will surpass the US as the world’s pre-eminent power (only 48% disagreeing with the motion). However this crisis of confidence is more a reflection of rhetoric than reality. But if several problems threatening US hegemony are not resolved by US strategy makers, a decline may well ensue soon.

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Pressure groups – UK uncut

UK uncut, a movement which started in 2010, have raised awareness about tax dodging and its implications- before UK uncut tax dodging was not a central issue in British politics. UK uncut engage in non violent action, by peacefully occupying tax dodgers’ businesses and in addition bringing to light the public services which are being cut as a result of insufficient government revenue from tax. UK uncut have brought to our awareness the fact that tax avoidance by corporations and the rich cost the UK public exchequer £95bn a year – suffice to say a significant amount.
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Corbyn’s Labour Shadow Cabinet

 

Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow cabinet is one like we’ve never seen before, comprising of MP’s from diverging ends of the left wing spectrum of politics. He has appointed a cabinet that to some extent can be viewed as a milestone for gender equality in British politics with female ministers outnumbering male ministers 16 to 15 but at the same time it has been denounced for assigning women to mediocre or ‘junior’ positions. However, despite the new found egalitarianism on the grounds of gender there remains a significant under-representation of ethnic minorities with only 3 of the 31 shadow ministers coming from black or Asian backgrounds. Corbyn’s cabinet is also far older than its predecessors, with an average age of 53 as well as consisting of more previously rebellious MPs, with Corbyn himself having defied the party whip over 500 times and John McDonnell, the Shadow Chancellor, having done so 469 times since 1997.

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What are the implications of bipolarity on world order?

Bipolarity is a system of world order where two great powers dominate international relations. A bi-polar world emerged after 1945 when two disproportionately powerful powers developed. The USA and then the USSR had developed formidable military power, specifically atomic power and their ability to influence world events stemmed, in part, because of their willingness to utilise it to coerce global events in their favour. A bipolar world order differs from a multi-polar world, this type of world order existed prior to 1945 where a number of Great Powers vied for international supremacy. Bipolarity is seen, especially by neo-realist theorists, as a recipe for stability. Read More

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Why has the US not intervened in Syria – Realist Explanations

The Syrian Civil War is an ongoing civil war between the armed forces of the government, led by President Bashar al-Assad and his allies, and a broad range of opposition groups, from the moderate Free Syrian Army to the extremist Islamists in the Al-Nusra Front. Additionally ISIS (whose aim is to create an Islamic State combining Iraq and Syria) have taken advantage of the chaos in the region, taking control of ⅓ of Syria and most of the oil supplies. ISIS support neither the opposition nor the government. The war has created a humanitarian crisis- an estimated 200,000 people have died (roughly 1% of the population), and 7.6 million have been displaced. Recently many of these displaced people have been seeking refuge in Europe, causing chaos in the borderless Schengen area and thousands of deaths in the Mediterranean Sea. There are clear, liberal reasons to use military force to stop this civil war and end the suffering. Since the Syrian regime is unpleasant and undemocratic, the liberals would argue we should intervene to help the opposition and help them establish a new, democratic and secular government. From a realist perspective there are a number of drawbacks.

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Divisions within the Conservative Party

There is a fundamental division that exists within The Conservative party. The party leadership is dominated by the modernisers, those MPs gathered around Cameron that see the Conservative Party as the natural centre ground. Osborne is a key moderniser and his recent speech to the Tory conference was seen to be treading on traditional New Labour territory. However, the party also consists of a number of fundamentalist right wingers that believe in leaving the EU, imposing stricter regulations on immigration and moreover scrapping the Human Rights Act, which is manifesting itself in the showdown that is the EU referendum, set to be held by May 2017. Read More

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51 of the largest economies are corporations? The Misleading statistic that won’t die.

In the Year 2000 a study by Sarah Anderson and John Cavanagh  made global headlines when it claimed  that “Of the 100 largest economies in the world, 51 are now global corporations; only 49 are countries”.  This statistic has since entrenched itself into foreign policy discourse- without any critical analysis of how this statistic came to be true.

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Alevelpolitics has a podcast

Hello All

Myself, Nagina, Lola and Alfie have begun a podcast relating to A2 Global Politics. As of October 2015 we aim to upload a 15 minute discussion of issues and concepts. It will be uploaded every week on ITUNES  (Not soundcloud as previous versions of this post may indicate).

 

Link here

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/podcast/level-politics-as-uk-a2-global/id1048464125

So far we have done one podcast on the subject of the Migration crisis in the Med and another on realism in international relations. Another- on liberal international relations theory- will be available soon.

 

If you wish to get involved in the podcast please contact me (71624@woodhouse.ac.uk) or Jal Patel. No experience required!!

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What is the Iran deal and why is it controversial?

The Iran deal (or more formally the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) is a deal on the nuclear programme of Iran signed in Vienna on the 14th July 2015. It was signed by the 5 Permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany, the European Union and Iran. It requires Iran to eliminate 100% of its medium enriched uranium, 98% of its low enriched uranium and ⅔ of its centrifuges. In return America will return roughly $100 billion of frozen assets to the Iranian regime, but will continue some sanctions against Iran on the grounds of human rights. The provisions on uranium will last 10 years and those on plutonium will last 15 years. After this time period Iran will be free to pursue a potential military nuclear programme, unless another deal is reached in that time. In short this deal allows Iran to keep a small nuclear programme for civilian energy purposes, while (hopefully ensuring) it never attains a nuclear weapon. Read More

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Video: The Realist Henry Kissinger on Foreign Policy and the Art of Diplomacy (1994)

Published on 29 Jan 2014

Diplomacy is a 1994 book written by former National Security Advisor and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. It is a sweep of the history of international relations and the art of diplomacy, largely concentrating on the 20th century and the Western World. Kissinger, as a great believer in the realist school of international relations, focuses strongly upon the concepts of the balance of power in Europe prior to World War I, raison d’État and Realpolitik throughout the ages of diplomatic relations. Kissinger also provides insightful critiques of the counter realist diplomatic tactics of collective security, developed in the Charter of the League of Nations, and self determination, also a principle of the League. Kissinger also examines the use of the sphere of influence arguments put forth by the Soviet Union in Eastern and Southern Europe after World War II; an argument that has been maintained by contemporary Russian foreign relations with regard to Ukraine, Georgia and other former Soviet satellites in Central Asia.

The history begins in Europe in the 17th century, but quickly advances up to the World Wars and then the Cold War. Kissinger refers to himself numerous times in the book, especially when recounting the Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford presidencies.
Kissinger dedicated the book to the men and women of the United States Foreign Service.

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Video: Assessing the Iran Nuclear Accord – John Kerry

 

 

U.S. Secretary of State John F. Kerry joins CFR President Richard N. Haass to discuss the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on Iran's nuclear program. Kerry begins by outlining the technical restrictions on Iran's nuclear program, claiming that they considerably lengthen the amount of time it would take for the country to amass enough fissile material for a single nuclear bomb. He notes that given the alternative, which almost certainly entails war, this deal is in the best interest of the United States and countries in the region, including Israel. Over the course of the conversation, Kerry rebuts arguments commonly put forward by critics of the JCPOA and emphasizes why U.S. legislators should vote in support of the deal, allowing implementation to move forward. Read More

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The Group of Seven (G7)

Taken from CFR Backgrounders

 

Introduction

The Group of Seven (G7) is an informal bloc of industrialized democracies–the United States, Canada France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the United Kingdom–that meets annually to discuss issues such as global economic governance, international security, and energy policy. Proponents say the forum’s small and relatively homogenous membership promotes collective decision making, but critics note that it often lacks follow through and excludes important emerging powers.

 

Russia belonged to the forum from 1998 through 2014–then the Group of Eight (G8)–but was suspended after its annexation of Crimea in March of that year. With tensions over Ukraine deepening, concerns over the eurozone’s economic future growing, and the larger G20 serving as an alternative forum, the future of the G7 bloc is unclear.

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What are the key issues for the British Economy?

The state of the economy has consistently ranked among the top two or three issues for the British electorate during the general election. In a populus poll, 69% of voters said that the economy was ‘very important’, with 92% saying either it was ‘very or fairly’ important. There are several issues that are the main focuses and concerns of the Chancellor and the government as a whole (as well as the shadow chancellor and the opposition). Read More

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To what extent have recent governments kept their green promises?

After the inconclusive election in 2010, the coalition’s programme for government had substantially covered the challenge of climate change, some would say as strongly as it talked  about cutting the deficit. On 14 May, three days after becoming prime minister, Cameron went to the Department of Energy and Climate Change to declare his would be “the greenest government ever”. He even appointed himself the department’s “fourth minister”. Yet, Osborne’s cold wall of austerity quickly undermined meaningful green action and the few coalition environmental policies never seemed to truly take effect. Cameron’s off the cuff remark to get rid of  “all the green crap” and his reluctance to prioritise the environment over austerity meant the coalition government had fallen short.

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Video: How effective is Prime Minister’s Question Time?

Go behind the scenes to see how Prime Minister’s Questions really works. With unprecedented access, cameras have been allowed to film in the House of Commons chamber to show what happens at the most high profile event in Parliament each week. The Prime Minister, David Cameron, tells us about his nerves before the event. We learn how an MP gets to ask a question. One way is by a ballot. Another way is by ‘bobbing’, standing up in the chamber to try and be called by the Speaker. Backbench MPs reveal how their parties try to control proceedings, including an email sent out suggesting ‘helpful’ questions. The value of Prime Minister’s Questions divides opinion inside and outside the House of Commons; is it an effective way to scrutinise the government?

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Why is the power of the whips in decline?

The whips are a group of MPs who are in charge of party discipline. It is their job to make sure MPs on their side all vote with the party line. They are notoriously secretive about the way they work and have a reputation for using torture and blackmail against MPs. But here, whips from all three major parties tell us about their role and how it is changing. Labour Chief Whip Rosie Winterton tells us how they try to convince MPs of the merits of the argument. We learn through Conservative Whip Desmond Swayne that they are in charge of what office an MP gets, which can be used to persuade them. Under the coalition government, MPs in this parliament have voted against their party in record numbers. Don Foster, Liberal Democrat Chief Whip, tells us how difficult it is as a whip in a coalition, where there is a natural split between the two governing parties. As their job becomes more difficult, is the power of the whips in decline? Read More

Gordon Brown Announces That Budget Will Take Place In Two Weeks Time

How has the UK constitution been challenged since 2010?

How does the House of Commons respond when there is a challenge to Britain’s uncodified constitution? First we look at the prospect of Scottish Independence in September 2014. With the real chance of Scottish people voting to leave the United Kingdom, the way that the House of Commons functions might have to change. Politicians and officials throughout Westminster brace themselves for one of the biggest constitutional shifts the country has seen. The next example is a new law proposed by the government called the ‘Recall Bill’. It allows for MPs to be sacked by their constituents for serious wrongdoing. Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith thinks it doesn’t go far enough and we follow him as he tries to get enough support to challenge the government. What do his proposals mean for democracy? Does it give voters more direct influence on their MP? Or does it make MPs vulnerable to business and lobbying interests? We follow the story right up to the crucial vote in the House of Commons. Read More

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To what extent was prioritising deficit reduction a successful policy choice since 2010?

The Coalition government from 2010 until 2015, made up of the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats, sought to prioritise deficit reduction above all other considerations. This was in the wake of the 2008 global banking crisis which strained the UK economy and heralded the policy of austerity connected closely with the Chancellor Osborne. It was partly successful in creating jobs and some growth but the policy has been controversial. Labour have argued it has not served the least well off, some conservatives have argued it had not reached its intended aim of removing the deficit altogether and it is claimed the government, without acknowledging it publicly, did slow down deficit reduction and prioritise growth after 2013, which stands today at just 0.3% in the last quarter. Read More

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Have attempts at constitutional reforms in recent years been driven more by political considerations?

Over the recent years many attempts to reform Britain’s uncodified constitution has been motivated by political reasons, what could be termed low politics. While previous reforms can be, arguably, more aimed at creating a more democratic and codified constitution, most reforms have been nothing more than political tactics to win votes and solidify power. Blair’s Human Rights Act, judicial reform and Freedom of Information Act can be used as examples of constitutional reform aimed at creating a clearer codified constitution that outlines British citizen’s rights, creates a more independent judiciary as well as improving civil liberties. However, these reforms did not go far enough and Cameron’s proposal for boundary changes and further devolution to Northern cities are no more than political strategies to consolidate power. Therefore, attempts at constitutional reform in recent years have been driven more by political considerations than a want for genuine reform. Read More