Latest Posts


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


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


The Group of Seven (G7)

Taken from CFR Backgrounders



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


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


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


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


To what extent have government proposals to reform the constitution been controversial?

In 2011 the coalition introduced the fixed term parliament act as a result of the Coalition agreement,  which in effect meant UK elections are now fixed to the first week in May every five years. This was welcomed by the LibDems, Labour and some Conservatives as the previous system was seen as giving an advantage to the Prime Minister who could call an election at the most advantageous time for them (as was the case under Blair where he called elections in 2001 and 2005, four years into his first and second terms and famously in 2007 when Brown flinched from calling an early election which he would probably have won). The old system would also mean there was always a period of uncertainty as to when an election would be called, this was seen to be bad for economic decision making. However there has also been criticisms to the new reform, some have argued that knowing the date a long time in advance will lead to longer election campaigns, a lack of flexibility and the possibility of a ‘lame duck’ government limping on longer than it should. The last Coalition seemed to have run out of steam in 2014, leaving a year were no real substantial pieces of legislation were presented to parliament. Clegg disputed this, believing that five years was “going with the grain of some of the founding texts of our unwritten constitution”. Despite some disputes against the Act support was given by most parties, with little opposition or disagreement, aside from Conservative back benchers. Read More

ukip s

Divisions in UKIP explained

There seems to be chaos in the ranks of UKIP- a scandal that started off with Farages unresignation and has extended to squabbles over public money, resignations and people denouncing those whom 2 weeks ago they would call allies. As of 17/05/15 this has culminated in Douglas Carswell, the party’s only MP, calling for Nigel Farage to take a short break although no doubt there will be further developments after this article is published
This chaos and confusion has only been exacerbated by a 24 hour news cycle- Thursdays episode of Question Time shedding little light on the situation. Those not fixated by pre-determined attitudes to UKIP are unable to decide whether this is a much talked about pub-brawl that will soon blow over, as most UKIP supporters believe, or a political implosion in the works-as most UKIP detractors believe.
No-one really seems to know what is going on, so one will not comment on the details in particular.
However, with the growing possibility that Farage will no longer be leader of UKIP soon, and with the ongoing discussion of the direction UKIP should take for the 2020 election, this article will discuss the divisions in the party. These divisions are

1. Blue (economically right) vs Red (economically left) UKIP.
2. Socially conservative UKIP vs socially liberal UKIP
3. Peoples army UKIP vs politically correct UKIP

1. Blue (economically right) vs Red (economically left) UKIP.

The face of UKIP for most of it’s history and certainly under the early leadership of Nigel Farage was “Blue UKIP”. Disillusioned Thatcherites in exile who left the Conservative Party and joined UKIP sometime between the signing of Maastricht and the present. Such “Thatcherites in exile” include

1. Nigel Farage himself, a former Conservative Party activist who claims he is ” The only politician keeping the flame of Thatherism alive” and has written in favour of Ms Thatcher in his new book “The Purple Revolution.”

2. Douglas Carswell- who wrote a book called “The Plan” in 2009 alongside Daniel Hannan calling for the NHS to be replaced by a new system of health provision in which people would pay money into personal health accounts which they would use to buy healthcare when they needed it. This would in effect be the dismantling of the NHS as we know it. Since joining UKIP he has changed his mind and supported a fully-nationalized health service.

However Carswell can still be found preaching the virtues of free trade free markets and removing big business from politics. It’s clear that although he has to appeal to working class voters, he is still a Thatcherite at heart.

3. 90% of their money comes from former Tory donors. 

However in their attempt to appeal to working class voters a faction I name “Red UKIP” has been increasingly prominent in the party. These are not Thatcherites in exile, but in fact people disillusioned with Labour and seeking an alternative. Such individuals/ groups include.

1. Alan Sked- A man of the center left who founded the party in 1993 and left it in 1997 and has subsequently founded a party called “New Deal” which describes itself as “a new left-of-centre anti-EU party which he hopes will challenge Labour”. Alan Sked has been critical of the right wing and extremist direction the party has taken under the leadership of Nigel Farage.

2. Patrick O Flynn- The Party’s communications director and economic spokesperson called for an increased in VAT on luxuries- or a “wag” tax at their Autumn conference last year only for the policy to be rejected by Farage instantly. In the controversial interview he did for the BBC he has called for UKIP to be on the “common sense center” of British politics and condemned some of the people close to Farage for promoting an “American Tea Party agenda” such as “gun liberalization” or “scrapping the NHS”- both ideas espoused by Nigel Farage himself in the past.

3. Large numbers of their voters- 73% of whom think the railways ought to be nationalized and 78% of whom think energy companies ought to be nationalized. This puts UKIP voters somewhat to the left of the Labour Party leadership- never mind their own.

2. Socially conservative UKIP vs socially liberal UKIP

One of UKIPs unique selling points is its hostility to what it describes as “open door immigration”. It is clear no-one in the party is going to support open borders. No-one in the party is going to support fascistic closed borders and mass-repatriation. Within those 2 extremes there are shades of difference. For example Douglas Carswell in his victory speech in the Clacton by-election of 2014 said “We (UKIP) must be a party for all Britain and all Britons, first and second generation as much as every other”. This contrasts Nigels comments on the failure of multiculturalism made shortly after the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris.

Immigration is not the only issue where the party is divided. Nigel Farage has come out in the past in favour of drug legalization- saying the war on drugs has failed. However he has said that he is at odds with most of his party on the subject- though he is reluctant to name names and few have publicly condemned him on the subject.  One senior figure in UKIP who clearly disagrees with him is Suzzane Evans who openly agrees with Peter Hitchens’ claim that there is no war on drugs and that it ought to be fought with more vigour. This division is made more complicated by the promise in the manifesto she played a large part in writing which states

“We will not decriminalize illegal drugs, however we will focus on ensuring drug suppliers, not their victims, face the full force of the law.”

This is a middle of the road position that is going to please neither libertarians who wish to decriminalize drugs, or conservatives like Peter Hitchens, who want to prosecute those who posses drugs with more vigour. This dispute over drugs may be one of the disputes between Farage and Suzanne Evans who despite being a relatively new member of the party is widely expected to be the new leader should Farage resign properly.

Farage has also come out in favour of liberalizing gun laws. This is something condemned by Patrick O Flynn, as stated in the linked BBC interview above, and Diane James, their Home Affairs spokesperson. However in a rare moment of agreement Douglas Carswell has supported repealing the Firearms Act 1997- claiming in the aforementioned “The Plan” that it has done nothing to reduce gun crime. He hasn’t expressed a change of heart on this issue since joining UKIP.

Aside from economics, social policy is a key area of policy UKIP cannot afford to be “all things to all people” on. They must either become more conservative, in attempt to gain support of their conservative critics such as Peter Hitchens. Or they must become more libertarian and risk abandoning their conservative supporters but appeal to the disenfranchised right-wing libertarians who increasingly find themselves without anyone to vote for

3. Peoples army UKIP vs Politically Correct UKIP
This is perhaps the most complicated division to explain. UKIP as it stands exists as an “insurgent” party- a protest vote. They are against the “liblabcon” and despise “Political correctness” However their increased poll ratings and their new-found ability to attract people from the political establishment- people like Mark Reckless and Douglas Carswell, have resulted in a crisis for UKIP. Are they “the peoples army” or are they “Politically correct”

One fallen soldier of the “Peoples army” was Godfrey Bloom. UKIP MEP for 9 years he was ejected from the party after calling countries which might receive foreign aid “Bongo Bongo Land” calling a room full of women “sluts” and hitting Michael Crick over the head with his own party’s manifesto. A full list of his gaffes can be found on his Wikipedia article. Bloom sat the rest of his term as an independent MEP and shortly before leaving the Parliament he gave an interview to Michael Crick comparing Nigel Farage to Stalin in his determination to purge wrongdoers.
Despite Farage’s apparent Stalinist attitude, it would seem fruitcakes keep slipping under his radar. In 2015 alone we have had
1. UKIP MEP for Scotland David Coburn comparing Scottish government minister Humza Yousif with Abu Hamza (no sanctions were applied)
2. UKIP PCC Robert Blay pledging to shoot his Tory opponent Ranil Jayawardena – saying ““His family have only been here since the Seventies. You are not British enough to be in our parliament. “I’ve got 400 years of ancestry where I live. He has not got that.” (suspended immediately)
3. Peter Endean- a council candidate in Plymouth, tweeting pictures of Mediterannian migrants with the caption “Labour’s new floating voters. Coming to a country near you soon”. (No sanctions applied)

The alleged Stalinist Nigel Farage has himself said all sorts of politically incorrect things on Islam, multiculturalism, HIV benefit tourism, the pay gap, gun control, Scottish nationalism, the European Union, Equality legislation and climate change. It is believed his comments during the ITV 7 leaders debate on HIV benefit tourists were a pre-planned dog-whistle to make him stand out from the crowd of politically correct politicians.

This is one of the sources of O’Flynns frustrations- he dislikes the people who advise Nigel, saying they are turning him into a “nasty” man (see interview linked above). O’Flynn clearly wants the party to be more politically correct. This would involve Farage being less “nasty” and “aggressive” and more focused and the party’s main job of convincing the majority of the UK electorate to leave the European Union. O’Flynn is not alone. Douglas Carswell, in a speech aimed at changing attitudes within UKIP said “What was once dismissed as “political correctness gone mad”, we recognize as good manners”. No doubt several other MEPs and hundreds of candidates agree with Carswell and O’Flynns point of view; if they want to be re-elected in 2019 to the European Parliament, or if they are to be taken seriously in future elections, they will not want to be burdened with news stories of controversy from others in their party.

However this is difficult. For many UKIP is the last refuge for controversialists. It is a populist party that has been appealing to all people at the same time, which leads to policy division as seen above. But what is too controversial for UKIP? Some lines are already set in place- you have to agree to its constitution and you have to state you’ve never been a member of a far-right group (BNP, EDL, Britain First, Liberty GB etc). But this still leaves a wide-net, which can let in several bad fish, as detailed above. And if UKIP purged everyone who said anything controversial then I doubt even Douglas Carswell would be attending this Autumns conference.So the fight in UKIP is mainly where to draw the line- what is acceptable and what is not acceptable.

To conclude this rather lengthy article- UKIP now suffers the same problem the Liberal Democrats have historically suffered. They are a party with no clear values who try to appeal to all people. What has united them is a popular figurehead (Nigel Farage) and the collapse of the Liberal Democrats. There is now no reason they need to be a united party- and so differences that were brushed under the carpet will now have to be openly addressed if they are to survive until 2020.


The Bedroom Tax Explained

In April 2013 the Conservatives introduced a change in the housing benefit rules for local social housing residents called the under-occupancy penalty. Critics like Labour dubbed it the bedroom tax. Since it has been introduced, families who are regarded to have too much living space by their local authority have received a reduced payment. Families are assessed to as how many bedrooms they actually need. The new rules allow one bedroom for each adult or couple. Children under the age of 16 are expected to share, if they are the same gender, and those under 10 are expected to share whatever their gender

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Why I am Voting UKIP

This article is one of a series about why Lower 6th students are voting for a particular party in this Thursdays Mock elections. Please find the “Parties” section of the website for other articles in the series.

It’s not popular to be a young person voting for UKIP. According to polls they barely pick up 3% of the people of my age-group, and my age group are far more likely to be in favor of membership of the EU. A lot of them will be affiliated with the National Union of Students, an organization that has spent more time condemning UKIP than ISIS, partly inspired in this by the toxic ideology of “political correctness”.

Well I guess I must be the one who looks at the emperor’s new clothes critically (a beautiful metaphor before Russell Brand used it). The new clothes do not deal with many of the problems the main political parties won’t talk about- because they aren’t listening. That the size of the state and its debt is unsustainably large and cannot be continued- and we’ll be the ones paying the bill. That punitive taxes and EU regulations are killing the economy far quicker than any “austerity” the Tories may be implementing. And more importantly- who you vote for this election doesn’t matter nearly as much as the main three parties pretend it does, because the EU is making far too many of our big decisions. One may claim that last year’s European Parliament elections were important, but the chamber you see Nigel Farage yell in so much is merely a rubber-stamping organization for the wishes of the Commission. Since UKIP will never be taken seriously in an organization that puts EU integration before common sense, I do not blame UKIP MEPs for abandoning that rotten chamber, and refusing to vote for any resolution that will increase the power of the EU. They have far more important things to do with their time.

UKIP, to me, isn’t really about left or right- it’s about change. A move away from big government but in a way that helps the most vulnerable in society- not the richest. A reassertion of National Sovereignty and the right of the people to be ruled only by elected representatives- something that used to appeal to all from Enoch Powell to Tony Benn. An appeal for global trade, not just trade with a narrow group of nations with a similar cultures to ours.

Is UKIP perfect? Of course not. Do I agree with all the policies they want to implement? Not really. But if I do not use my vote, I’m simply letting someone else speak up for the establishment on my behalf, and so I do not feel I have the luxury of being an ideological purist in this life-changing election of all elections. So I know it won’t make me many friends. And I’ll get called a lot of names for it. But I’m voting for UKIP in these mock elections, and in all future elections I can after that.

The Chief Press Officer of Woodhouse Mock Election UKIP branch.

Liberal democrat

Why I am Voting for the Liberal Democrats

This article is one of a series about why Lower 6th students are voting for a particular party in this Thursdays Mock elections. Please find the “Parties” section of the website for other articles in the series.

British Liberalism is rather in trouble. A force that gave us prosperity, social democracy and human rights are under systematic attacks from both left and right. It was Tony Blair who introduced the ID Cards Act and the Prevention of Terrorism Act (amongst others) which undermined our civil liberties given to us since Magna Carta. The Tories want to repeal the Human Rights Act, leave the European Convention of Human rights and scapegoat immigrants for everything, taking us back to the 1930’s on every which way possible it would seem. UKIP are stirring up fears about immigrants and homosexuals, as can be displayed by their leader’s comments on the debate recently. The supposedly libertarian Greens say “there are difficulties with the liberal approach… it has failed”.

No Liberal Democrats are not perfect. Yes ISIS and Putin both pose legitimate threats to world Security, and yes, and there are those within our borders who wish to do us harm. But it is liberalism that they hate and our liberal values we must never abandon to appease them.


It is far more productive to emphasis our achievements within the coalition rather than decry our failures. The Liberal Democrats achieved a lot while in government- we legislated the EU powers act which means no longer will democratic farces like the Lisbon Treaty happen. We got the best deal for students we could against a party that wanted to put tuition fees even higher and cut student living allowances (something the Liberal Democrats increased). While the Tories cut taxes for millionaires, we also increased the tax free allowance to £10,000, reducing the tax bill for millions of working class families.


It is clear that neither Conservative or Labour will win this election. So who do you want with access to ministerial keys propping them up? Farage the xenophobe who will drive the Tories to the right? Bennet the lunatic who will drag Labour into even more borrowing? Salmond the seperetatist who will drag this union apart? Or the Liberal Democrats, whom, like it or not, have proved they can do it, and will put country before party, ensuring that we get a moderate government for the full five years that can ensure good quality government. With your help- we can be the 3rd largest party in British politics- to ensure a balanced budget and a fair society.

green party

Why I am voting for the Green Party

This article is one of a series about why Lower 6th students are voting for a particular party in this Thursdays Mock elections. Please find the “Parties” section of the website for other articles in the series.

I’ve always been on the left wing libertarian side of the political spectrum, but that gives you a decision – Labour or Green? For me, the overwhelming reason that lead to my eventual membership of the Green Party in January 2015, was a question a friend who was already a Green Party member asked me – ‘How many planets do we have?’. And this got me thinking, because we do only have one planet, and even quick research on climate change can bring up indisputable and terrifying facts, which none of the mainstream parties seem to care about. Before the 2010 election, Cameron promised to be environmentally conscious, but since his appointment at Prime Minister, not one of his speeches has mentioned the environment. Arguably, Blair’s attitude was equally as PR motivated as Cameron’s, with promises that haven’t been fulfilled. My generation hasn’t been the people to affect the environment like it has been, but we are the generation who will have to live with the effects of climate change, and the Green Party seem to be the only party in Westminster who care.

But my support of the Greens, despite originally being due to their environmental policies, has expanded into other regions. The Green Party is anti-privatization, against university tuition fees, believes in a living wage rather than a minimum wage and wants to create jobs for the millions unemployed in Britain, among others. In short, the Green Party are investing in Generation Y’s future, instead of searching for the grey vote like the Tories and Labour. I believe strongly that to invest in the youth is to invest in the future, but there’s not really much point investing in a future if we don’t have a planet to live it out on. Luckily, people seem to be coming to this conclusion with me. The Green surge, of January 2015, where 13000 members signed up in a week, shows this. If people voted Green, I’m certain that our country would be in a better place.

By Lola May- Green Party Candidate for the Woodhouse Mock Elections


Why I am voting for the Conservative Party

This article is one of a series about why Lower 6th students are voting for a particular party in this Thursdays Mock elections. Please find the “Parties” section of the website for other articles in the series.

When the Conservative Party took power in 2010, Britain had the highest deficit in Europe. It was expected that Britain would be worst hit by the financial crisis because, after all, our key export is financial services. After 5 years of competent planning on the part of Cameron and Osborne, we’re now the fastest growing economy in the G8, we’ve created more jobs than every other Eurozone country combined, and the deficit has been cut by 1/3. Inflation, running rampant under Brown, is now down to 0% and this means the “Cost of living” may very well fall for millions of working class families Labour claim to care about.

A lot of what we’re criticized for is simple fairness. Raising the tuition fees to £9,000 a year has allowed standards for universities to increase. For people who do not wish to go to university- we have created alternative careers such as the significant expansion of apprenticeships The misnamed “Bedroom Tax” was merely applying the same rules to public housing assistance to those already applied in the public sector under New Labour. Cutting welfare fairly has also encouraged more people to get a job- removing them from the squalor and poverty that arises from dependence on the government.

Let us be optimistic. Things do get better. The current government has worked very well, and it is all very well voting for more middle class parties such as the Greens, UKIP or the Liberal Democrats. But only two people can be Prime Minister come May 7th- David Cameron or Ed Miliband. I sincerely hope it is the former.

By Anonymous


Why I am Voting for the Labour Party

This article is one of a series about why Lower 6th students are voting for a particular party in this Thursdays Mock elections. Please find the “Parties” section of the website for other articles in the series.

A lot of people are disillusioned with Politics because there is a perception that the two parties are exactly the same. Perhaps this was true before 2010, but since Ed Miliband has been elected leader he has taken Labour significantly to the left away from the failures of New Labour. Likewise, Cameron has taken it to the right under the influence of UKIP, and consequently there are now clear differences between the two parties.

For example, how our parties will balance the budget and deal with our skyrocketing debt is different, and significant for the future of the country. The Tories have done so by making cuts which hit the poorest in society, and they fail on their own terms by hardly making a dent in the welfare budget. The bedroom tax is the best example of this. When accounting for the emergencies and bureaucracy enforcing it costs, the sanction barely saves any money at all. The cuts to frontline services have reduced economic growth, and the lax labour market regulations have resulted in several low-paid jobs, chiefly 0 hour contracts with more in-work benefits needing to be claimed, and less money going to the Treasury in Income Tax. This coalition, formed to remove the deficit entirely, has barely cut it below £100 billion.

Labour are going to go about it a different way. Labour would raise the tax rate to 50p on the wealthiest, so that the rich are paying for the crisis they caused, not the poor. Additionally they will remove non-domicile status, so if you live in this country, you pay tax in this country. The Labour Party will ban most 0 hour contracts and will raise the minimum wage to £8 an hour, and this will result in a decrease in the welfare budget as more people get decent paying jobs. This will also increase the tax bill to the Treasury and check the rampant inequality growing under the present government. Strict Labour market regulations and high taxes on the rich paid back large amounts of British debt between 1945 and 1979 at paying off debts, why would it not work now? It’s better than Cameron’s austerity which clearly is not working.
A lot of personal attacks have been made on Miliband, and yes, he isn’t the most photogenic leader in the world. But is that really what we judge politics on? He’s more than capable of leadership; he’s shown that by standing up to David Cameron and Barack Obama over foreign policy, Rupert Murdoch over illegal phone tapping and wealthy hedge fund managers who fund the Tories so they can dodge taxes.

Unlike smaller left wing parties such as the Greens, Labours policies are actually practical, achievable and good for the economy. Ideological politics nearly destroyed this country in the 1980’s, when Thatcher pursued Monetarism against all the evidence it did not work, and I doubt a left-wing ideologue such as George Galloway or Natalie Bennett would fare much better. Ed Miliband is a problem solver, not an ideologue, and that’s why I hope he becomes Prime Minister.


How effective an electoral system is FPTP

An electoral system is a system in which voters transfer their votes into seats or positions. There are five main electoral systems which are used in the United Kingdom; first past the post (FPTP); supplementary vote (SV); single transferable vote (STV); additional member system (AMS) and closed party list. It is the First Past the Post system which is employed to elect MPs to the House of Commons and is used for local elections in England and Wales. Under first-past-the-post, the UK or local authority is divided into numerous voting areas, i.e. constituencies or wards. At a general or local election, voters put a cross (X) next to their preferred candidate on a ballot paper. The ballot papers are then counted and the candidate that has received the most votes is elected to represent the constituency or ward.

Evaluating the FPTP system in terms of proportionality, one of its main criticisms is that individuals can be elected and parties can achieve a governing majority of parliamentary seats in Westminster or their local authority even though they have not received the majority of the votes, and -in fact- most members of Parliament are elected with less than 50% of the total votes cast in their constituency. Or take for example the 2005 general election, in which Labour won its third consecutive victory under Tony Blair, but with a popular vote of 32.5%, the lowest of any majority government in British history.

The problem of proportionality links in with the choice which voters have. Another problem with the FPTP system is that it works to the advantage of political parties whose support is concentrated in certain areas, and favours the main two parties. The Labour vote is concentrated in inner cities and industrial regions, with the Conservative vote being across the south-east and rural England. Constituencies in these areas usually develop into ‘safe seats’ over time, and there are three-hundred-and-eighty-two of these in the United Kingdom (more than ½ of the 650 seats up for grabs this election!). Safe seats can lead to laziness from political parties, who feel they no longer have to campaign strongly in an area, and can also lead to people feeling that their voice no longer counts for much in politics, thus, leading to discouragement and potentially voter apathy. There may be low voter turnout in safe seats if people know that their party of preference will never win in that seat. Many feel for such reasons that the FPTP system is outdated, and allows only for a ‘two horse race’, robbing the electorate of much choice.

It is a system which heavily discriminates against the Liberal Democrats (hence the Liberal Democrats’ calling for electoral change in 2010 for AV, a system which favours third parties) and smaller parties, such as UKIP and the Green Party who struggle to obtain seats. The only way small parties can get around this is if they heavily concentrate on one constituency, something which the Green Party did to obtain their seat of Brighton Pavilion in 2010. It is due to this that FPTP can lead to tactical voting, so people end up voting not for the candidate and party who they feel represents them the best (if the candidate is from a smaller party) but rather for the ‘next best’ option or the “lesser of two evils”.

However there are positive aspects to the First Past the Post electoral system. Due to it favouring larger parties, it excludes extremist parties from representation in the legislature (though this can be seen as undemocratic). It is also very simple and easy to understand, so does not deter or confuse potential voters. Prior to 2010 it usually promoted strong, stable governments that could last the full 5 years and pass legislation due to working majorities.

The system also promotes a link between constituents and their representatives because  the outcome is a parliament made up of representatives of geographical area. The elected members therefore represent not only the concerns of their political party but also the sometimes unique concerns of their local constituents, be them in rural or urban areas.

Overall, the electoral system of First Past the Post is a good one, though it has many flaws. While it does lead to strong, stable governments, the 2010 general election proved that even this system can lead to a coalition (due to the rise of the third party), and it is expected that another coalition will be formed in the 2015 general election due to the rise of 4 other parties (UKIP, Greens, Plaid Cymru and the SNP). It is not proportional or democratic enough, and the contributor of this article feels it is outdated for the multi-party politics of today.


By Mia Sapla


How effective are Backbenchers in the House of Commons

Backbenchers form the majority of MPs on both sides in the House of Commons, but the extent of their effectiveness is questionable given the power of the executive

One way in which they are not effective is that they are mainly controlled and curtailed by the whips system, meaning despite revolts on 37% of divisions between 2010 and the present, the government has only been defeated 7 times in the Commons. The rebellions rarely exceed a dozen of the most radical Tory MPS, and the governments working majority of over 70 means they are rarely effective at forming a resistance to the power of the executive. However the few defeats there have been are often significant- for example the 2013 Syrian civil war motion was defeated by 30 Tory rebel MPS and this in turn stopped the US going to war- seriously affecting global geopolitics in the Middle East.

Backbenchers introducing private members bills are also constrained by lack of time. If the executive does not grant a private members bill adequate time for debate it will rarely get through the many stages of the legislative process. For example in 2012 Douglas Carswell, who was a Conservative MP at the time, proposed a private members bill to repeal the 1972 European communities act. It did not pass the first reading. The executive is solely in control over private members bill and very few will ever pass unless they support it at which point it ceases to be a private members bill in all but official title. According to the Guardian between 2009-2010 of the 77 private members bills tabled, only 7 received Royal Assent. However private members bills are often effective at making a point, the previously mentioned example proving Douglas Carswells euroscepticism.

Select Committees are a relevantly recent innovation of the House of Commons, and they allow backbenchers to hold inquires far more intelligent and probing than the spectacle debates in the Commons debate chamber. Often these committees are very effective, for example an inquiry into the preparedness of the government for the 2010 Icelandic volcano by the Science Select committee likely influenced the executive to be more prepared in the future. However findings of select committees are rarely as publicly known as debate chamber sound bites, so few know of the work they do and thus politicians are at liberty to ignore them as they see fit.

Finally a post 2010 reform of the House of Commons introduced the Backbench Business Committee, which is a forum for backbenchers to debate topical issues of the day. A prominent example was when on November 20th 2014 Conservative MP Steve Baker conducted the first debate in the Commons on money creation for over 150 years, a debate supported by prominent backbench MPS Michael Meecher (Labour), Douglas Carswell (UKIP) and Caroline Lucas (Green). The debate was widely watched on Youtube and educated many on the flaws of current monetary policy in a way not hindered by party whips or political correctness. However again due to limited time, and many debate motions wishing to be discussed, the Backbench Business Committee is limited in their ability to serve the interests of all backbench MPs, let alone the large number of e-petitions

In conclusion, while backbenchers are having more of an influence in recent years, the executive still has a strong stranglehold over them and their activities, and thus they are really limited in their effectiveness in shaping world events.

A sanitation worker sweeps copies of the French daily 'France Soir' after a union job protest action in the streets of Paris

Woodhouse Pick of the Papers 16th March-23rd March

1. Debate format finally agreed 
The following format has been agreed

26th March (6 weeks before election) : Live Q and A between Ed Miliband and David Cameron on Channel 5 and Sky News presented by Jeremy Paxman and Kay Burley
2nd April (5 weeks before election)- Main 7 Party leaders (Labour, Liberal Democrat, Conservative, UKIP, Green, SNP, and Plaid Cymru) all debate on ITV, moderated by Julie Etchingham
16th April (3 weeks before election)- Five opposition party leaders (Labour, UKIP, Green, SNP and Plaid Cymru) all debate on the BBC, moderated by David Dimbleby
30th April (1 week before election)- BBC Question Time programme with David Cameron, Ed Milliband and Nick Clegg

Farage is unhappy with the media surrendering to the demands of Cameron, and that his only means of challenging Cameron is with 5 other party leaders present.

Clegg is unhappy he has been shunned from 2 of the main debates.

Galloway, the DUP and Sin Fein are unhappy THEY are not being invited to any of the debates.

But everyone will FINALLY go along with the plans and we can (touch wood) finally stop talking debating about the debates and actually watch the debates. Now for news that is actually important

2. Dodgy Donors not just for the right.

Since UKIP and the Tories seem to get a large amount of mudslinging in the press for having dodgy donors, it seems only fair to expose some dodgy donors behind the other three main parties in this country, stories that have broken in just the last week.


The Labour Party has attempted to conceal the identity of a Martin Taylor- a hedge fund manager who has given the Labour party at least £600,000 since 2012, and has met Ed Miliband at least once. Officials in the Labour Party tried to hide his identity out of respect for his privacy but under the present rules all donations exceeding £7500 must be declared- and thus it is clear that the Labour Party have at least bent the rules when it comes to their 4th largest donor.

Liberal Democrat

The Liberal Democrat peer Paul Strasburger resigned from the party on Friday night after he was told Channel 4’s Dispatches will report “a £10,000 donation was paid by the stepfather of an undercover businessman which would be against the rules on donations”. He claims to be a victim of entrapment. Nick Clegg were also filmed meeting the fake businessman. An investigation is underway.


Activists from the Youth Wing of the Green Party have voted to ban Dame Vivienne Westwood (73) from a proposed tour of British universities after it was revealed the company she owned was dodging taxes by placing their money in an offshore account in Luxembourg. A central plank of The Greens’ election manifesto will be a ‘Tax Dodgers Bill’ that would outlaw payments to offshore companies in jurisdictions including Luxembourg. The Green Party also has a long-standing policy of refusing money from companies or individuals who do not pay their full share of tax. However their is no sign of the party returning the money Dame Vivienne Westwood has given to the party, or suspending entirely their involvement with her.

Now one could argue these infractions are not as severe as those of the Tories or UKIP. But if the offices of these parties are constructed with glass, hurling stones may not be the best idea.

3. Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne Announces Budget 

The Chancellor of the Excheuquer George Osborne announced his new budget last Wednesday. Key policies include:

1. The income tax personal allowance is to rise to £10,800 next year and £11,000 the year after, making typical working taxpayer £900 a year better off and cutting tax for 27 million people.
2. New policies to clamp down on tax dodging to raise £3 billion a year by 2020
3. Above-inflation rise in threshold for 40p income tax rate from £42,385 this year to £43,300 by 2017/18
4. A penny a pint will be knocked off beer duty, cider duty will be cut by 2% and duty on Scotch whisky and other spirits also cut by 2%. Wine duty frozen and duties on tobacco and gaming also unchanged. No increase in fuel duty
5. Law change to allow pensioners to access their annuities with 55% tax charge abolished and tax applied at the marginal rate.
6. Annual savings limit for Isa increased to £15,240 and a new fully flexible Isa created.

This budget has been considered to be a very political one- with Osborne sending key messages to older voters and voters who save more that the Tories are on their side, as well as appealing to working class people by reducing their taxes and beer prices (marginally). The Liberal Democrats responded with a “yellow box” budget- in which they unveiled an agenda which will be in their manifesto, for higher taxes and more spending than Osborne. Ed Balls has declared Osborne to be “out of touch”. Nigel Farage has condemned the budget as a budget which kicks a lot of the big issues into the long grass.
4. SNP- We have a right to dictate policy for all of Britain 

The SNP, a party that denies the legitimacy of the United Kingdom, has a right to influence policy for all of the United Kingdom, Nicola Sturgeon has said.
With the party poised to hold the balance of power after May’s election, the Scottish First Minister said she would aim to bring “change right across the United Kingdom” and not just Scotland.Ms Sturgeon’s has pledged that she will seek to drive British politics to the left, easing austerity and abandoning the Trident missile system. This comes as Labour has ruled out a formal coalition with the SNP but not a confidence and supply arrangement.
Ms Sturgeon said voters in England should vote Green – or for Labour if their candidate is “progressive”. She insisted that voters in England could “trust” her not to use a hung Parliament as part of a plan to break up the country. While she still believes that independence is inevitable, it can only happen with a referendum, she said.

A sanitation worker sweeps copies of the French daily 'France Soir' after a union job protest action in the streets of Paris

Woodhouse weekly pick of the papers 23/02/15- 01/03/15

1. Ed Miliband to cut fees and tax pensioners

Ed Miliband has set out a £2.7bn plan to slash tuition fees in England from £9,000 to £6,000 a year and increase maintenance support for students by £200m, funded by higher interest rates for wealthier students repaying their fees.

Learning from the Liberal Democrats Ed Miliband seems to have reneged on his promise to abolish fees, but lowering them will certainly be popular among young people.

The maintenance grant will be lifted from £3,400 to £3,800 a year for students for families who pay basic rates of income tax and will help about half of all students. The interest rate on loan repayments for the highest earning graduates will rise from 3% to 4% to pay for it.

The reduction in the cap on tuition fees from £9,000 to £6,000, to be introduced from September 2016, (so this will hypothetically benefit students currently in Year 12) will help 1 million full-time students. The faster-than-expected pace of the changes will mean current first-year students will not pay as much in their final year.

However the higher interest rates for students will only raise £0.2 billion of the £3.1 billion needed to reduce fees and so the rest will be funded chiefly via reducing the tax relief for people on very high incomes.

Although this move has rightly been condemned as populist headline seeking and financially illiterate, and it may backfire given the youth mainly affected by it will not be able to vote come May the 7th, it does seem to reverse the inherent bias fiscal policy has in this country towards the old and wealthy compared to the young and poor

2. Net Migration hits 300,000

The Conservative Party manifesto promise in 2010 to reduce net migration to less than 100,000 lies in shatters as net migration for 2014 was announced to be just shy of 300,000.

624,000 people entered the country last year, with 327,000 people leaving, thus leaving the net figure at 298,000. For reference in 2013 net migration figures stood at 210,000 and in 2010 they stood at 252,000. Of the 624,000 immigrants who came to the UK, 251,000 were from the European Union – a rise of 43,000 on the year before. There was “statistically significant increase” in Romanians and Bulgarians coming to Britain – up to 37,000 from 24,000 in the previous 12 months- a fact UKIP will no doubt capitalize on after the hype they raised at the start of 2014 was initially unfounded.

Non-EU citizens made up 292,000 – up 49,000 on the previous 12 months


1. Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper said the Tories broken promised undermined the publics trust in politicians.

She said: “David Cameron and Theresa May have failed on​ their own measure, they have ramped up the rhetoric without ever bringing in practical measures to address the impact of immigration or make the system fair.

2. Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said the figures were “embarrassing” for the Tories.

Speaking on LBC radio this morning, he said: “I said to David Cameron he shouldn’t make the commitment because it was inevitable he was going to break it because you can’t control the net figure.

3. Ukip’s migration spokesman Steven Woolfe said: “The Government should be ashamed of its abject failure to keep control of the constantly rising numbers of those arriving here.

“They made that commitment – we said we were not going to do it as a coalition government .. and they are now going to have to suffer the embarrassment.

4.  Migrants’ Rights Network director Don Flynn urged politicians not to use the increase as an excuse to run divisive campaigns.

He said: “The latest migration figures reflect Britain’s growing economy and should not be used by the political parties as a launch-pad for their negative political campaigns shifting the blame for wider problems on to migrants.


3. Cash for access

Two MP’s, Jack Straw (Labour) and Malcom Rifkind (Conservative) have been kicked out of their parties on charges of wrongdoing in the wake of yet another “cash for access scandal”

Both MPs were filmed meeting undercover reporters from the Daily Telegraph and Channel 4’s Dispatches posing as a fictitious Hong Kong-based communications agency called PMR, appearing to offer to use their positions to benefit the firm in exchange for thousands of pounds.

Mr Straw, the former Labour Foreign Secretary, is said to have described how he operated “under the radar” to use his influence to change European Union rules on behalf of a commodity firm which paid him £60,000 a year.

Sir Malcolm, until last week the Conservative head of the parliamentary committee which oversees Britain’s intelligence agencies, also met with “PMR”.

“You’d be surprised by how much free time I have. I’m self-employed so nobody pays me a salary. I have to earn my income,” Sir Malcolm was filmed saying. For his services he discussed his usual fee of ‘somewhere in the region of £5,000 to £8,000’ for a half a day’s work. He earns £67,000 as an MP.

While both MP’s have denied wrongdoing both are expecting to stand down at this election. Jack Straw first entered Parliament in 1979 and in his 36 years as an MP, held the position of Home Secretary, Foreign Secretary, Leader of the House of Commons and Justice Secretary. Malcom Rifkind entered Parliament in 1974 and held the position of Transport Secetary, Defence Secetary and Foreign Minister. After losing his seat in 1997 he returned in 2005 and as stated earlier was the Chairman of the parliamentary committee which oversees Britain’s intelligence agencies.

This scandal tarnishing the reputation of two elder statesmen in both parties is expected to reduce the confidence mainstream politicians, since both figures were politicians, and deservedly so.

4. Boris Johnson criticizes May for being too libertarian

The supposedly libertarian Mayor of London Boris Johnson has criticized un-named politicians for relaxing control orders, which he thinks has given terror suspects like Mohammed Emwazi or “Jihadi John” the ability to evade the security services.

Mr Johnson did not name Mrs May but said that the politicians responsible “need to think very carefully about why they did it”.

It what seems like a prequel to a heated Conservative Party leadership contest should Cameron fall, Boris, the Conservative Party candidate for MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip, said in his implicit attack of Theresa May, “The decision to modify the control orders, to water them down I think in retrospect looks as though it was a mistake because it is vital to be able, when you are controlling these people to be able to relocate them, (and) to take them away from their support networks”.

The control orders, introduced in the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005 , were removed in 2011 and replaced with Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures (TPIMs). It ended the power of the home secretaries to order the virtual house arrest of terror suspects and to force their relocation.

However following May’s announcement that she will U-turn on this and reintroduce elements of Blairite control orders in response to Isis, Boris has said “We are now back on the right track”

This seems to be a contradiction of what he said 10 years ago, saying “I believe the control order – the suspension of habeas corpus – to be wrong”. He’s also famous for appearing in a documentary “Taking Liberties” in 2007, which was critical of control orders

5. School history biased in favour of the EU

Millions of children are being taught a “distorted” view of European history that deliberately promotes further integration of the European Union, one of Britain’s leading historians has warned.

Prof David Abulafia, a Cambridge University don, has said school textbooks are “papering over” past differences between European nations in favour of a misleading idea of European citizenship.

“There is a soft push to create a sense of European citizenship which is based on frankly an invented common history because the history of Europe is to a large extent the history of division, not the history of unity,” he said.

“When it has been the history of unity, as we’ve seen under Napoleon and Hitler or under the Soviets in Eastern Europe, it has gone disastrously wrong. It is a papering over the discordant elements in European history to create this idealised event.”

Matthew Elliott, chief executive of Business for Britain – the campaign backing renegotiation said the idea of a single European identity was “pervasive and dangerous”.

“The EU’s official motto is “United in diversity” – a laudable philosophy. Unfortunately, many of the EU’s policies seem intent on crushing that diversity, striving to replace Europe’s many historic identities with a single, artificial ‘European’ culture.”



Woodhouse Weekly News Roundup Sunday 22 February 2015

1. Former member of the Labour National Executive Committee Harriet Yeo joins UKIP.
A former chair of Labours’ National Executive Committee has left the party in order to support UKIP in the coming general election, Nigel Farage has announced.ember for eight years and chair in 2012/13. She will sit the remainder of her term as a councilor as an independent, after being deselected as a candidate for the 2015 local elections.

Read More


The Snoopers Charter- Supporters and detractors

The Draft Communications Data Bill (nicknamed the Snoopers’ Charter) is draft legislation proposed by the Home Secretary Theresa May which would require Internet service providers and mobile phone companies such as BT, Virgin and Sky to maintain records (but not the content) of each user’s internet browsing activity (including social media), email correspondence, voice calls, internet gaming, and mobile phone messaging services and store the records for 12 months.



Read More

Weekly Parliament Roundup: 18th -24th January

Mandelson Attacks Mansion Tax

Lord Mandelson has warned Ed Miliband that he won’t win the election by “clobbering” the wealthy a “crude, short-term” mansion tax. Speaking on BBC Newsnight, Mandelson supported instead a Lib-Dem plan to increase the council tax bands to raise the tax on homes worth more than £2 million. “It will be more effective and efficient in the long term,” he said. Alongside Mandelson, other Labour members such as Tessa Jowell and Diane Abbot have criticised what is seen as a “London tax” because of the high property values in the capital. Despite this, there seems to be a support for the mansion tax as a recent YouGov poll shows that 72% of all voters support the mansion tax and among Labour voters, 85% support it. Additionally, support is also shown by Tory voters with a 58% vote for the tax. But it’s Mandelson’s critique that Miliband can’t win by “clobbering” the rich alone that will strike a chord with former New Labour MPs who never voted for Ed as party leader.

Are the Greens more radical than UKIP?

Recently, the Green party have been quite popular as a result of Cameron’s demand for their leader, Natalie Bennett to be included in the Live TV debates ahead of the General Election. Furthermore, Green party membership has overtaken UKIP’s, while in the latest Ashcroft poll they are up three points on 11 per cent – higher than the Lib Dems (nine per cent) and not far off the slumping UKIP (15 per cent). However, will the Green’s still be as popular after their polices have been examined? If they come out of the general election with more MPs, would any major party want to invite them into a coalition? As the Daily Telegraph reports, the Greens have been dubbed the “UKIP of the left”. Their core policies however might be seen as more radical than Farage’s. For example:

In regards to advertising they have stated that: The “overall volume” of advertising on TV and in newspapers would be controlled and reduced, as part of a war on the “materialist and consumption-driven culture which is not sustainable”. All alcohol advertising would be banned.

Economy: The only way to a greener future is for zero – better still, negative – growth. It leads to less personal consumption.

Healthcare: The NHS would return to full government-run status with an NHS tax brought in to fund it. Assisted dying would be legalised, abortion liberalised and “alternative” medicine promoted.

Sex and drugs: Brothels and all elements of the sex industry would be decriminalised. Trading and possession of cannabis would be decriminalised, too, along with possession of Class A and B drugs for personal use.

The monarchy: Sorry, Your Majesty, it would be abolished.

Plain cigarette packaging laws to go through before May

The government has finally decided to introduce new laws on plain cigarette packaging before the General Election in May. Public health minister Jane Ellison announced the move, which will make all cigarette packs uniform in size, shape and design with large picture health warnings. Ellison said the new regulations would be laid before parliament in time to be agreed by both Houses before the election. Cross-party support for the measure suggests it is almost certain to pass. The announcement comes after years of delay and disputes about the success of a similar Australian scheme. Australia’s Daily Telegraph reported last week that tobacco and cigarette spending had fallen by 7.3 per cent since plain packaging was introduced in December 2012. But others continue to argue that smoking rates were falling anyway and that other factors, such as tax increases, are at play.

Gloria Ganda









Is there a Democratic Deficit in the UK?

democratic deficit  occurs when government or government institutions fall short of fulfilling the principles of democracy in their practices or operation or where political representatives and institutions are discredited in the eyes of the public. In the UK there has been a discussion in recent years that Britain’s democracy is flawed. Politicians are held in low esteem. Parliament seems outdated and the expenses scandal exposed just how many politicians had lost a duty to public office.

One of the main factors forwarded to argue there is a democratic deficit in the UK is the low levels of voter turnout and widespread disillusionment with the political system. In 2001 the UK received a general election turnout of 59.4%, the lowest since the start of universal suffrage in 1918. A greater number of voters voted against the Labour government than those that elected them. In 2010 it increased to just below 65%. In effect, low turnouts bring to question government legitimacy and the strength of it’s electoral mandate. Ergo, if citizens are having little influence in politics, democracy weakens as it is no longer really a government “of  the people, by the people and for the people”.

On the other hand, defenders of the status quo claim that there is not a democratic deficit in the UK because citizens of this country, unlike many others,  have their human rights and freedoms guaranteed under the rule of law. Evidence of this can be found in the 1998 Human Rights Act and 2010 Equality Act, as well as Britain’s continued membership of the European Court of Human Rights. In addition to this, reforms are taking place to develop our country so it is more democratic and fair, this is evident in Labour’s 1997 pledge to increase the use of referendums and even, David Cameron’s backing of e-petitions and increased devolution of powers to Scotland and the regions, as a result of the close verdict of the 2014 Scottish independence referendum.

With exception to the Scottish independence referendum (84.5%), turnouts for referendums have been historically poor, for instance the 2011 AV referendum got a turnout of just 42.2%.  Local referendums have often had lower turnouts, in Sunderland the referendum for a directly elected mayor (2001) had a turnout of 10%. As for e-petitons, Parliament’s Backbench Select Committee still retains the sole power to abandon or debate an issue that may have generated the 100,000 signature threshold gained online. It may be that e-petitions cause more disillusionment for the above reasons.

Another defense of democracy in Britain is that the UK, unlike other nations, has a system of free and fair elections and that therefore there cannot possibly be a deficit. Britain’s democracy has evolved overtime. Women got the vote on equal terms to men in 1928 and plural voting was abolished in 1948. Now UK citizens can begin voting at the age of 18, and they are allowed to vote under a secret ballot, elections held every 5 years. These elections are organised by the Electoral Commission, not by government, and are world renowned for being free fair and unbiased. The transition following any given election is peaceful, with the leader of the winning party being sword into office within a matter of days. Even the negotiation in 2010 as a result of a hung parliament went relatively smoothly, with agreements resolved within days (not the months seen in some countries). The fact that the voting age begins at 18, and people of all classes can vote, ensures that party policies are both balanced and fairer to all sections of society.  Citizens have a duty to communicate how they feel about the government by voting for them or for voting for someone else.

Some suggest elections are not fair because of the First Past the Post voting system. Being a simple plurality system of voting; FPTP favours two party dominance between the Labour and Conservative party. In the 2010 general election, the Labour party got 29% of the vote and gained 258 seats, where as the Liberal Democrats only got 6% fewer votes but got 201 fewer seats.  FPTP discriminates against smaller parties like the Liberal Democrats who have a low concentration of support and so are unlikely to gain a majority of votes in any one area. FPTP also promotes tactical voting (people voting for parties they don’t like to stop parties they like even less getting to power) and it increases the number of wasted votes (votes which do not help to elect a candidate). In 2010 it was found that 15.7 million, or over 1/2 the votes cast in the general election of that year, were wasted and the general election would have produced the exact same result if those 15.7 million voters stayed at home. Therefore one can conclude that the FPTP system undermines democracy as it creates “disproportionate outcomes” for general elections, and this is argued to be “un-democratic”. It also contributes to voter apathy as voters assume that any vote they make would be a wasted one if they vote for a minority party, or if they live in an area where their candidate of choice is going to win anyway (more than half of the seats in parliament are safe seats).

In 2010 the Lib Dems in the coalition government proposed another system called, The Alternative Vote. This system is a majoritarian one that ensures that the winning candidate reaches the 51% majority, via 2nd or 3rd preferences if necessary, so that legitimacy is sustained. Unfortunately, when it came to the 2011 referendum , most Tory and some Labour politicians campaigned against AV, resulting in a convincing defeat for the motion (32.1% of voters supported the motion and 67.9% opposed it). Reformers argue that politicians could be the factor hindering democracy in the UK by their unwillingness to promote serious change or reform of our electoral system, since it’s against their interests to do so.

Fundamentally, there has been a growing ‘democratic deficit’ in recent years, mainly due to low political participation.

Nana Amuzu

Weekly Parliament Roundup: 11th -17th January

Osborne ‘to back Boris over Theresa May’

It has been speculated that George Osborne’s hopes of becoming the next Tory leader have apparently been dashed. Osborne was thought to be running hard for the leadership, undergoing a regrooming exercise and slimming down dramatically, ready to take over when David Cameron stands down – either in May because the Tories lose the election, or in 2017 because he loses interest once the EU referendum is out of the way. But Sam Coates of The Times reports today that Tory MPs have made it clear they do not see Osborne as a contender:” he is viewed as too distant and cliquey, preferring to surround himself with members of his inner circle rather than engage with the wider party. “As a result says Coates, Osborne is to make a spectacular U-turn and back Boris Johnson in a bid to stop Theresa May who is unpopular with Cameron’s inner circle, Osborne included.

Miliband on the hunt down for student voters

Ed Miliband launched a drive on Friday to get around a million people, mostly students who are registered in time to for in the general election on the 7th of May. Voter registration has been on the decline especially since individual registration was introduced last June to replace the old system whereby the head of the household was responsible for registering everyone living at that address. Despite the fact that Nick Clegg is the minister responsible for getting local authorities to maximize registration, Miliband says Nick hasn’t done enough and that’s why he’s launching a voters’ registration drive in Nick’s constituency which is full of students, Sheffield Hallam. The missing million are important to Labour because, when it comes to students, the party enjoys a two-to-one advantage over the Conservatives according to a YouGov poll last year. Many defected from the Lib Dems because of Clegg’s notorious U-turn over tuition fees.

Green Party membership now higher than UKIP’s

As a result of the disputes between Parties regarding Cameron’s refusal to join in on the TV debate prior to the election, Green Party Membership has risen dramatically and as of Wednesday night, it has overtaken that of UKIP. The membership figures have been audited by Adam Ramsay of Our Kingdom, who reported that membership had more than doubled since September and that “at the current rate of growth, the Greens will overtake UKIP within a week, and be ahead of the Lib Dems before polling day”. Around 2,000 people joined the Greens in the course of one day, taking the party’s total membership to 43,829 – nearly 2,000 ahead of Ukip’s membership which, by its own latest estimation, stands at 41,943.
Gloria Ganda