Author Archives: Editor

Corbyn and the renewal of Trident

Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, has been facing opposition from both within and outside his party regarding his stance on various political matters, one of which is the renewal of Trident. Corbyn is adamantly anti-nuclear weapons, declaring that he would never use them. Many view his uncompromising view and willingness to state it as political suicide. Continue reading

LSE Audio: Does Europe Have A Future? Professor Waltz

Professor Waltz discusses the strategic challenges facing the European Union and explores the geopolitical implications of a weaker Europe for the West. Continue reading

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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Assessing the Iran Nuclear Accord – John Kerry (Video and Audio)



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. Continue reading

The Ukraine Russia Conflict Explained

The Ukraine Russia conflict has been going on for months, but how did we get here? AJ+ gives you a quick cheat sheet on everything you need to know to understand the latest news, from the November Euromaidan protests to Crimea to the pro-Russian separatists in Eastern Ukraine. Continue reading

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). Continue reading

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? Continue reading

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. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

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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Measuring child poverty

The issue of measuring poverty is a problem that both Coalition and Labour governments have struggled with in recent years. The annual Joseph Rowntree Foundation report released on the 24 November 2014 defines poverty in the terms of ‘relative income poverty’ where those earning less than 60% of the median national income are considered below the poverty line. New Labour agreed to this definition, with Labour setting targets to reduce those in relative poverty to 10% of the UK population. However, the Rowntree report explains how in 2007-08 ‘23% of the UK population was in poverty – 13.5 million people’ under the New Labour government. (Foundation, 2014) This shows how Labour struggled to deal with the question of measuring poverty. However, the Conservative Party have been keen to redefine how the government measures poverty. Continue reading

Disability benefits and controversial means testing

The Work Capability Assessment (WCA) is the test designed and used by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) to determine the entitlement of disabled welfare claimants. These assessments were directed by private company Atos Healthcare. The test is controversial and has been criticised for the high proportion of those tested being found ‘fit for work’ despite having marginal to severe disabilities.

The Welfare Reform Act 2007 replaced Incapacity Benefit with Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and the PCA with the WCA under the Labour government. The aim was to make the medical tests more rigorous and to stop abuses of the system. However, the WCA program did not pick up pace until 2010 when the Coalition government expanded its role to reassess the 2.5 million people that the DWP had already judged to be entitled to Incapacity Benefit. The government also made changes to the framework of the test to make ESA harder to obtain. The DWP claims 980,400 people – 32% of new applicants for Employment and Support Allowance – were judged capable of work between 2008 and March 2013. Minister of State for Disabled People, Mike Penning, said: “it is only fair that we look at whether people can do some kind of work with the right support – rather than just writing them off on long-term sickness benefits”.

The Labour party have since criticised the Coalition’s reforms to the disability benefit test. In August 2013 Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Liam Byrne stated “They rolled it out before it was ready…The result is an almighty mess that is profoundly hurting some of the most vulnerable people in Britain”. Atos regularly came under fire over the assessments and public opinion viewed Atos with such high disdain that in March 2013 Atos announced they were withdrawing their contract in March 2015 and Mike Penning said Atos would not receive “a single penny of compensation”. There has been much media scrutiny over cases where the disabled lost their previous benefits. One tragic case was that of disabled Mark Wood, who starved to death four months after his benefits were cut. He had Asperger syndrome and obsessive compulsive disorder, in addition to cognitive behavioural problems, including a phobia of certain foods. Following an Atos assessment Mark lost his housing benefit and employment support, leaving him just £40 a week disability allowance – not even enough to cover his rent or utility bills. Mark’s sister blamed Atos stating “Anyone who knew Mark’s complex problems would see he couldn’t work.” She added: “I’d like David Cameron and his Government to be aware of the personal cost of their policies and how they are affecting real people”. This is just one of many cases of disabled people being found fit and having their benefits withdrawn, leaving them with almost nothing to live off. Iain Duncan Smith’s reforms have been criticised as ‘heartless’ and ‘overly simplified’ by the shadow welfare minister.

Lily Teevan

Further reading:




Woodhouse Weekly Pick of the Papers – 14/12/14

By Theo Cox-Dodgson
 (Unit 1- Parties)
Jim Murphy has been elected as the Leader of the Scottish Labour Party, defeating Neil Findlay and Sarah Boyack with 55.8% of the vote. The Scottish MP for East Renfrewshire and former Secretary of State for Scotland stated confidently that the leadership election was a “good advert” for the party. The Labour Party haven’t been in power in the Scottish Parliament since 2007, and they face an unprecedented threat from the SNP, now lead by Nichola Sturgeon. Jim Murphy’s predecessor Johann Lamont resigned after accusing the Labour Party of treating the Scottish Labour Party like a “branch office” of the party overall, a feeling echoed by many grass-roots activists regretting voting NO in September.  How Jim Murphy can face all of these challenges only time will tell.
(Unit 1- Parties)
Documents unearthed by the Telegraph have revealed the full extent of communication between UKIP activists and Enoch Powell, the man who gave the infamous “rivers of blood speech” in 1968. The 29 year old Nigel Farage asked Enoch Powell to support him in the Eastleigh by-election in 1994. Enoch Powell, who was 81 at the time, declined. This was the last known communication between Farage and Powell before Powell’s death in 1998, however after the Eastleigh by-election party activists including the leader at the time Alan Sked, constantly lobbied him for support, and even went so far as to ask him to stand for them in the 1995 European Parliament elections. DJ Richards even asked Powell to stand as a UKIP candidate for South West Surrey in the 1997 general election.
Powell politely declined on both occasions, saying he had no intentions of returning to Westminster after his election defeat in 1987. However in 1994 he wrote an open letter to the electors of the Dudely West by-election which said “I hope the electors of Dudley West realise how privileged they are to able to ‘speak for Britain’ before the rest of the country: they can help to turn out a government which persists in Europe in stripping this country of its right to make its own laws and policies and to levy its own taxes. You will do this most effectively if you support Mr (Malcolm) Floyd”. Despite hopes such support from an infamous figure would gain them publicity and votes, Malcolm Floyd got just 1.4% of the vote.
These revelations have come after Russel Brand labelled Nigel Farage a “pound shop Enoch Powell” on Question Time this Thursday. Perhaps this accusation isn’t as slanderous as initially thought.
(Unit 1- Pressure Groups)
Activists have taken to “face-sitting” outside Parliament in opposition to the government’s new porn law which bans acts it deems morally damaging from being displayed on pay-per view pornography.  Other placards on display outside Parliament include “life will be fine if we 69” A spokesperson for the Department of Culture Media and Sport “The legislation provides the same level of protection to the online world that exists on the high street in relation to the sale of physical DVD”. Opponents of the bill claim that a lot of what has been banned is not dangerous and will harm small independent porn producers.
(Unit 2- Civil Liberties)
The torture report published on Wednesday, has ommitted the important role that the UK played in assisting the U.S in torture operations. On Thursday, the Prime Ministers Deputy Official Spokesperson requested the U.S senate omit details involving Great Britain, citing “national security”.
In the wake of the report there are increased calls for MI5 and MI6 to hold their own, more transparent, enquiry into British complicity in US torture. The Intelligence and Security Committee is currently investigating malpractice however the report won’t be finished before the general election. The ISC is going to hand the report to Downing Street for approval, sparking calls from all three major parties for a more transparent inquiry.
David Davis, the former shadow Home Secretary and opponent of Cameron in the 2006 leadership election, stated “Downing Street’s U-turn on its previous denial that redactions had taken place tell us what we already know – that there was complicity, and that it wasn’t reflected in the Senate report”. Diane Abott, who fought both Miliband brothers for the leadership election in 2010, has also called into question David Miliband’s role in torture during his three year time as foreign secetary, saying he needed to be “completely transparent.” The leader of the Labour Party, Ed Miliband, has defended his brother, saying ” He is never someone who would ever countenance the British state getting involved in this sort of activity”
(Unit 3- Enviroment)
Due to the environmental policies of the current government, including subsides to wind  farms, electricity costs may rise as much as 40%, official figures released by Department of Energy and Climate Change revealed on Sunday. And by 2030, when the planned offshore wind-turbines are expected to be completed, the total cost will be 60% higher, meaning the average electricity bill will go up by £350 a year.
These figures were initially kept secret because they contradicted the claim made that these policies were reducing bills by £90 a year. While this is true in the short-term, the long term data showing how these policies would increase bills, was omitted. A spokesperson claimed the data was omitted because it was “thought to be confusing”.
(Unit 1 Parties    Unit 1- Democracy)
As many as 50 Tory MP’s think David Cameron to abandon the Liberal Democrats and form a minority government after the New Year, governing as best he can until the dissolution of Parliament in March.
This proposal comes as the war of words between senior coalition figures escalated, Danny Alexander claiming the Tories were “pandering to UKIP” and pursuing “austerity forever”. Support for the Conservative Party remains just above 30%, just below the Labour Party. However one Tory MP says that the calls for the break-up of the coalition are not louder because the Tories needed Liberal Democrat candidates to do well at local elections to keep the Labour Party out. Don Foster said that the Liberal Democrats were going to “stick to the task right up until polling day” despite the ever widening gap in the coalition.

Video: The Future of Welfare (BBC Documentary)

In February 2011, David Cameron announced a welfare reform bill he described as the most fundamental, ambitious and radical since the benefit system began. The cost of benefit, he said, had gone up by nearly 60 billion pounds in the last decade. Critics say that the welfare state is in crisis.  Continue reading

Videos: New Pressure Groups

I have been working on updating my Pressure Group Keynote slides. It seems A level textbooks tend to concentrate largely on dated or traditional pressure groups, yet there are a number of very interesting new organisations that require understanding. Continue reading

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