Author: A Contributor

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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 …

Weekly Parliament Roundup: 8/11/14-15/11/14

New powers to stop jihadists returning to UK revealed by PM David Cameron has recently announced plans to stop suspected jihadists returning home to the UK from Syria and Iraq. In these new plans, the police would be given the power to cancel suspected jihadists’ passports for up to two years under new Temporary Exclusion Orders. Furthermore, Border officials would also be able to take passports from anyone suspected of travelling to join a violent extremist group when they haven’t been given the permission to do so by the Home Secretary which is essential under the current law. Moreover, Airlines would be compelled to share passenger data, suggesting planes carrying suspected jihadists could be turned away from Britain. The Prime Minister stressed on the idea that action is needed to counter the “twisted narrative” of Islamism “that has seduced some of our people”. The proposals, which form part of the Counter-Terrorism Bill, due to be published before the end of the month, mark a slight retreat from Cameron’s original proposals in September to altogether remove …

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Weekly Parliament Roundup: 1/11/14-8/11/14

Merkel ready to let UK exit EU over migration rule changes It has been claimed that the German Chancellor Angela Merkel would rather see the UK leave the European Union than end the right to free movement of labour within the EU.Merkel reportedly warned David Cameron that he is approaching a “point of no return” if he continues to push for migration reform that requires fundamental changes to EU principles. Cameron wants to renegotiate the terms of the UK’s EU membership before holding an in-out referendum. He has said that the freedom of movement of workers would be at the “very heart” of his renegotiation strategy. But a German government source said: “Should Cameron persist, Chancellor Angela Merkel would abandon her efforts to keep Britain in the EU. With that, a point of no return would be reached. That would be it then.” A Downing Street spokesman said Cameron would make a speech on immigration before Christmas and stressed “You can be sure he will always put Britain first”. Norman Baker resigns with stinging attack on …

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Labours welfare policies

It has become an unspoken known that the 2015 general election would rely purely on which party had the strongest economic policy. However, Labour at its party conference in Brighton has tried to turn the tables and turn the clamour for power into a debate on childcare and living standards. De ja vu perhaps? Reminiscent of Blair’s plans to eliminate poverty and introduce a system of tax credits? Lest we forget measures such as the minimum wage, sure start and the new deal. Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper has announced that Labour will offer parents of primary school children guaranteed access to childcare from 8am to 6pm. As part of proving Labours commitment to those struggling with falling living standards, Miliband also gave a firm commitment that a future Labour government would abolish the controversial bedroom tax. Latest evidence of a growing economic divide came as figures showed that UK living standards had dropped to their lowest in a decade after average real incomes fell a further 3% last year. The IFS has said the …

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Global tax rules ‘need updating’

The Chancellor George Osborne has told the BBC that “concrete steps” to change tax rules would be seen at the G8 summit. Speaking from Enniskillen, he said leaders could “rewrite the international rules” that allow companies to shift profits away from UK and other territories to minimise tax payments. listen to ‘Global tax rules 'need updating'’ on Audioboo

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Key roles; Barroso, Schulz and Council of Ministers presidency

The specification says you need to know the following about key posts in the EU. The significance and influence of key posts and post-holders within the EU, including: the President of the Commission, the High Representative for Foreign Affairs & Security Policy, the President of the European Council, the President of the Council of Ministers and the President of the European Parliament. They’ve already asked about the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and the President of the European Council so you can look at the mark schemes for that but her is an overview of the other three. President of the Commission: The President of the Commission is seen as the face of the EU to the world but they are not democratically chosen and the calibre of the president is dependent on the choice of the Council. They are supposed to provide the vision for Europe over their presidency for example Barroso’s closer union/2020 vision and Delors single market. This is also dependent on the calibre of the individual, if the calibre is low/they …

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Policy evaluation 6: Enlargement

The specification says you need to know the following about enlargement. How and why the EU has enlarged: the perceived benefits and criticisms of past enlargement, and the extent to which the new member states have remained transitional states or been fully integrated. This should include a study of the future of EU enlargement and its associated controversies. 1) Enlargement has been criticised because some countries have failed to comprehensively meet the acquis. Romania and Bulgaria (2007) still have problems with corruption and organised crime. Bulgaria is rated as the most corrupt country out of the 27 European states and the reports of corruption are hardening the resistance of other Europeans to further expanding the EU, thus lessening the chances of Turkey or Ukraine to ever join.

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Policy evaluation 5: Common Foreign Security Policy

The specification says you need to know the following about CFSP. In particular, candidates need to be aware of developments in Common Foreign and Security Policy – why this has become desirable within the EU; the steps that have been taken towards achieving this and the extent to which such steps are perceived as being successful.  1) CFSP has been hard to achieve because of several reasons. Some countries such as the UK and Poland favour NATO as Europe’s defence wing possibly because the UK has always favoured aligning itself with the US. France on the other hand saw the introduction of a Common Foreign Security Policy as an opportunity for Europe to challenge the US militarily and become more independent however most EU states don’t have the financial ability to back this type of scheme nor the will, pacifist states such as Denmark have little interest in foreign excursions. Historical differences between countries also makes a CFSP difficult for example France’s intervention in Mali occurred because Mali is an former French colony so although …

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Neo-functionalism, Intergovernmentalism, Supranationalism and Subsidiarity

You could easily get asked a 15 marker on any of these concepts, the specification says the following about what you need to know: Various theories of integration and the associated benefits and drawbacks of such theories on their own and in comparison to other theories. These include neo-functionalism, intergovernmentalism, supranationalism, ‘pooled’ sovereignty, federalism, multi-level governance, subsidiarity, and enlargement and the ‘widening versus deepening’ debate. Neo-functionalism: The decision that certain functions are better performed at a European level than a national level, it believes greater integration can be achieved by making functions at the European level more attractive. There is a concept of ‘spill over’ where as one sector becomes more integrated it makes sense for the other sector to integrate. For example the technical spill over suggests that increased trade means it makes sense for technical standards between states to be harmonised. Should lead to a more supranational state through incremental integration.

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Is the UK still the ‘awkward partner’ in Europe

Although under Blair there seemed to be some movement towards a closer relationship with Europe, taking Britain into the Social Chapter, taking a lead in the proposed constitution and engaging in discussions with the Europeans, there were still ‘red lines’ drawn by Brown regarding tax and other policies. Brown established the 5 criteria that had to be met for the UK to join the euro and even when that criteria was met there were no plans to join, neither parties have any intentions to join the euro. Blair preferred his relationship with the US and this often side-lined him in Europe making him the ‘awkward partner’. The Iraq war 2003 with the US despite strong European opposition showed where UK loyalties lay. Although Blair supported enlargement and the ‘widening’ of the EU. Cameron and the conservatives have supported the idea of a ‘two speed Europe’ something Labour and the Lib Dems dislike.

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Policy evaluation 4: Monetary Union

The specification says you need to know the following on Monetary Union Monetary Union: why monetary union has become an aim of the EU, and the extent to which this has been embraced by member states; the steps taken towards achieving monetary union; the perceived benefits and drawbacks of monetary union; the extent to which monetary union is perceived as a success – including the impact of the current (July 2011) global recession and how the Eurozone has dealt with this, the impact of measures take to deal with it and the impact this has had on the workings and future of the Eurozone. Definition: Monetary Union was seen as a key step towards economic integration. The euro, introduced in 1999 has become the key aspect of monetary union with the use of a single currency and single interest rate. 1) The euro survived the 2008 global recession, coming out stronger that it had been before against the pound and is a currency to challenge the dollar. There is still confidence in the currency seen …

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Policy evaluation 3: Justice and Home Affairs

The specification says you need to know the following about Justice and Home Affairs. Justice and Home Affairs: how and why the influence of the EU has been extended into the area of Justice and Home Affairs; the controversy that this has caused within the EU and for member states; the extent to which this pillar is likely to be extended further. Issues include the Schengen Agreement, the impact of the Maastricht, Amsterdam and Lisbon Treaties, Europol, the changing role of the institutions, opt-outs, immigration & asylum and terrorism. Definition: EU JHA policy aims to reduce cross border crime, it recognises the different legal systems across the borders and is working to have a more similar legal system. It is controversial because of the strong link between criminal law and national sovereignty. The opening of borders led to a lot of cross border crime so the JHA pillar was introduced at Maastricht to combat that. 1) Maastricht identified the areas of common interest and gave the European Council the head role in the discussions but …

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Policy evaluation 2: The Social Chapter

The specification says the following about what you need to know on the Social Chapter The Social Chapter: how and why the issue of social rights became an issue for the EU; the main provisions of the Social Chapter; how and why the Social Chapter has caused controversy- with the associated benefits and drawbacks of its provisions; the impact it has had on labour markets- including flexibility, mobility and competitiveness; the extent to which the Social Chapter has been perceived as successful. Definition: The Social Chapter was introduced at Maastricht where Britain used its opt-out to stop it becoming part of EU law. It included protection of social rights and EU level regulation of social policy. Blair signed up in 1997. 1) The main argument against the Social Chapter is that it prevents competitiveness. Regulations such as the Working Time Directive and increasing workers rights mean that EU countries are less able to compete with emerging markets who have cheap deregulated labour markets. For example industrialising Poland is not sticking to the Working Time Directive …

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Policy evaluation 1: Single Market

The specification says the following about what you need to know on the Single Market The Single Market: the extent to which this concept has been embraced by member states; the steps taken towards achieving a Single Market; the perceived benefits and drawbacks of the Single Market; the impact it has had on labour markets – including flexibility, mobility and competitiveness the extent to which the Single Market is perceived as a success. This should include concepts such as free trade areas, opt-outs, tariffs, harmonisation, social dumping, judicial activism, impact of globalisation Definition: The Single Market is the free movement of goods, labour and capital across the EU countries. Exemplified by policies such as the Schengen convention. The Single European Act 1986 set the deadline of 1992 for the full completion of the Single Market. 1) Single Market is good because the free movement of people has made tourism easier and opened new employment and education opportunities across the EU with the number of ERASMUS students steadily increasing year on year . Widening the skills …

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How do the majors parties differ on EU policy?

Historically, the Conservatives were pro-EU taking us in, in 1973 and Labour was anti-EU under Foot seeing it as a ‘Capitalist club’. Since then, the tables have turned as the EU helped topple Thatcher and Major and unify Labour. However the differences between the party have typically been seen through rhetoric as opposed to action. The Conservatives have typically spoken tough on Europe to feed British euro-scepticism, but this has done little more than create problems and divisions for the party internally. Labour has been more inclined towards the EU after Blair announcing he wanted Britain at the ‘heart of Europe’. The most pro-EU party typically however is the Lib-Dems. Ultimately, the Conservatives were in government when the single market was established and Major passed Maastricht in 1992 although he did add in the subsidiarity clause. Labour spoke about the possibility of joining the euro but never did anything so both parties seem to be in some sort of political limbo.

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Pensions explained

Context: -People are living longer, increased government spending on pensions is seen as untenable for the future considering the current economic climate. The coalition argue that they will save £3.5bn a year for every year that the retirement age is raised. -1 in 5 retiring in 2013 will be living below the poverty line. Coalition: -The coalition has introduced a new flat rate of £144 a week meaning thousands more will qualify including 85,000 women for the first time, overall 400,000 more people will be made eligible. Many support these changes including Age UK who see the simplification of the system as a merit. It is expected that money saved from cutting means testing and bureaucracy could be as much as £6bn. -The coalition has phased out the default retirement age which is seen to help ageism as people aren’t expected to just retire at 65 but the British Chambers of Commerce, said such a policy would damage “businesses’ ability to manage their workforce” -The state pension age for men is now due to rise …

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Banking reform

Banks contribute 9.4% to the UK’s economy and 3.6% to the UK job market in 2011. Because of this reliance, the sector is increasingly difficult to reform. Banks resist reform and there is fear that if reform doesn’t happen internationally then it can make domestic banks less competitive. This teamed with a historic ‘hands off’ approach has made banking reform an important issue for the Coalition 1. Dividing investment and retail banking. The 2011 Vickers report identified the need to ring fence high street banking from ‘casino’ investment banking. Osborne introduced the Banking Reform Bill to parliament by announcing he would ‘electrify’ the ring fence, giving regulators the option to break up the banks that undermine the ring fence. Consumer groups such as Which? believe that this goes the right way in protecting consumers but the British Bankers Association believes it will just create uncertainty for investors, leading to less capital and ultimately less lending. Labour has attacked Osborne for not going far enough in his banking reform and for not implementing all the changes …

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Coalition environment policy overview (15 mark plans)

Nuclear -The coalition agreement reached a compromise on Nuclear power that there would be no new power stations subsidised by taxpayers however the government has spent £68bn dealing with old nuclear reactors -Coalition had planned for 8 new plants to open over its tenure in government however energy companies such as EDF are looking for more assurance from the government in the face of now public subsidies -Nuclear counts as a low carbon energy so helps the coalition reach its targets but pressure groups such as boycottEDF are concerned about the impact of waste disposal combined with the economic cost of decommissioning which can cost £48bn Renewables -Clear division between the coalition partners here as the Lib Dems support wind power and other renewable energy sources whereas the conservatives traditionally want to ‘protect the countryside’. Ed Davey  slapped down his new Conservative minister of state for claiming that no more onshore windfarms need be built in Britain. -The coalition agreement is in favour of renewable energy and the Energy Act 2011 introduced a 30% renewables …

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Education overview

Overview and analysis of the Coalitions education policy. 1. Academies More than 1 in 4 of England’s state school students attend an academy school now. There are now 2886 academies compared to just 203 before the Academies Act 2010. Academies give individual schools more power by bypassing the LEA. The coalition argues this gives more funding direct to the schools (up to 10% on top of their budgets) and gives individual schools the ability to direct themselves in a way that is best for them. Labour says by encompassing all schools, not only failing schools the Coalition is benefiting more privileged societies and missing the point of an academy. Pressure groups like the anti-acadamies alliance see it as back door privatisation. 2. Free Schools There are 149 free school across the country. 1 in 5 of the free schools has opened in an area where there are already unfilled school places, yet 9 in 10 of those free schools are over subscribed. The coalition saw it as a way to create more local competition and …

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Economic Policy differences and similarities – Labour and Coalition

1. Tax – Difference Labour argues that the Coalitions economic plans are hitting the ‘poorest, hardest’. The Conservatives have lowered the top rate tax to 45% and staged a decrease in corporation tax which is to be 20% by 2015. The corporation tax cut will cost the Chancellor 400m in 2015-16 and so he is taking a risk on business which links into a later point. The Labour party has said it would consider the mansion tax proposed by the Liberals. This was partly a political manoeuvre to appeal to the Liberals or cause tensions in the coalition but also to show they are the party on the side of the working class. Ed Balls claimed that the benefits of the rising of the personal allowance to £10,000 would be swamped out by the higher VAT and cuts to tax credits. Figures from the IFS supported this showing that one earner families would lose an average of just under £4,000. 2. The private sector – Difference Osborne went about such a strong cuts agenda believing …

News update

Mon 29th -Iain Duncan Smith suggested wealthy pensioners should voluntarily hand back their universal benefit payments -The commons public accounts committee said the Chancellors £310bn plan to boost economic growth through infrastructure projects was unrealistic about how much private capital there was and said that taxpayers could end up shouldering the cost. This follows IMF comments on a week private sector -Gov proposing to encourage communities to drop opposition to local fracking in exchange for cheaper energy bills -Surgeons commissioned by government to determine when patients should be offered treatment in acknowledgement of the postcode lottery Tues 30th -A majority of the public believe the governments economic plans have failed according to a com-res survey -EU votes for ban on pesticides -Cabinet launches attack on ring-fenced NHS budget, uprising within the cabinet is being dubbed the ‘national union of ministers’ by the treasury -Cuts may be hit hard on early years as Department of Education looks to cut 2.5bn but the schools budget remains protected -Prisoners have to work harder to earn privileges, 10,000 is …

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Short 15 mark policy plans

Homes -New government backed mortgage guarantee – effectively the tax payer underwrites the risk of up to 20% of mortgage values -Budget 2013 declared changes where you can now buy a home up to £600,000 with only a 5% deposit – the treasury says this will support building 190,000 new homes but it also risks creating a housing bubble and Labour calls it a ‘subsidised mortgage for the rich’ as they buy 2nd homes. Balls goes on to compare this to the bedroom tax which hits the poorest -Help to Buy scheme reminds us of Thatchers Right to Buy scheme and is a loan scheme – Liberal peer Lord Oakeshott says the gov has done well with private housing but needs to turn to public housing situation Childcare -Working parents get 20% tax relief on childcare costs which equate £1,200 per child -Tax free childcare vouchers – 20% off first 6k of childcare costs -£200m for low income families so 85% of childcare costs are met under new universal credit 2016 – more generous than …

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Economic gloom

Upon entering office, Osborne said he wanted the UK’s AAA credit rating to act as a ‘benchmark’ for his performance as Chancellor.  Compared to Osborne, Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander at the time described the credit rating as ‘not the be all and end all’. Moody’s downgrade of the UK’s credit rating to AA1 and many other services comes at a painful time for the Chancellor, for whom the Spring budget will be crucial in appeasing backbenchers and fellow ministers already looking around for a replacement. Following 2 years of u-turns and delays, with 70% of budget cuts yet to come into force yet, Osborne is reluctant to make another u-turn on the governments economic plans. Promising ‘we won’t change course’ Osborne seemed out in the cold among his Tory peers until Cameron came to his semi-rescue responding that the credit rating demonstrated that ‘we have to go further and faster on reducing the deficit’. However, recent discussions on the 2015-16 budget proposals have highlighted frosty relationships in the cabinet as Cable, May …

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Coalition prison policy

The UK spends 2.8% of GDP on public safety and order. This is a rate higher than the US or any EU country. Up my 40% in real terms, prison expenditure steadily rose through the Labour years of 03-09. However 6 out of 10 prisoners return to crime on release. Re-offending is the biggest problem facing Britain’s prison system and despite prison population growth from 44,628 in 1992 to 85, 450 in 2012 and longer sentences, the problem has not gone away. With the Justice Select Committee concluding that ‘prison is a relatively ineffective way of reducing crime’, why are we still spending £40,000 a year on keeping people in prison? Rehabilitation is needed to ‘break the cycle’, in 2003 55% of prisoners reported committing offences connected to their drug taking. 71% of children in custody have been involved with, or in the care of social services before. The facts go on. The current Justice Secretary is Chris Grayling (who got the post following the 2012 reshuffle) has announced that he will go ahead with …

News from the week

Headlines from this week EU -Cameron enacted collective responsibility on proposed EU referendum meaning all ministers would be required to campaign to stay in the EU during the referendum – problem people – Iain Duncan Smith and Owen Paterson -Cameron’s speech has provoked Austrian’s far right to call for an EU referendum -Brussles has demanded that Britain pay a fine of nearly 300,000 euros a day for failing to liberalise its energy sector. The Commission sought permission from ECJ to impose fines on UK, Bulgaria and Estonia -Spain jobless rate exceeds one in four as plans are laid out for more austerity, as the Spaniards have been asked to make 30bn euros worth of savings -Tobin tax (a financial transaction tax) is introduced in 11 eurozone countries -MEPs in the agriculture committee voten to weaken environmental proposals made by the Commission while agreeing to reduce subsidies to big farms – all proposals will be finally voted on in March: for the first time, the EP has legislative powers over policies that will govern agriculture UK Policy Economy …

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Opinions on the UK economy this week

In the past few weeks a lot of opinions and perspectives on the state of Britain’s economy have been revealed. See the important bits from the important people/institutions: FSA Chief Lord Turner: FSA Chief Lord Turner has called for new ideas to kickstart the economy. Turner warned that quantitative easing, the electronic printing of money used to pump £375bn into the economy so far, might lose its usefulness. “We need to be ready if these measures prove insufficient to consider further policy innovations and further integration towards different aspects of policy, to overcome the powerful economic headwinds created by deleveraging across the developed world economies,” Turner said. He agreed with the chancellor, George Osborne, who has warned about creating “the stability of the graveyard” when reforming banks. Deputy Governor of the Bank of England: Paul Tucker has said the monetary policy committee, which sets interest rates, wanted to make credit cheaper, but was wary of adding to the £375bn of quantitative easing (QE) in case it triggers a rise in inflation. “I think Funding for Lending …

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Sir Mervyn King Channel 4 interview

Some of it was on-message, helpful to the government, some of it not – Sir Mervyn King’s (Governor of the Bank of England) interview on Channel 4 News was fascinating. There had been a lot of media training – none of the academic essays he can sometimes speak in. He gave George Osborne the green light to dump the fiscal rule on debt reduction by 2015 – “if it’s the world economy” that’s the problem and slowing growth is missing the debt target OK? He said it was “arguable to move in that direction.” On banking reform though, the normally gnomic, rarely controversial governor effectively raised the flag of rebellion for the parliamentary stages of the banking reform bill. Sir Mervyn said he wanted the Vickers report implemented in its original, tougher form – and opposed the dilution of those reforms in the white paper.

Pick of the Papers, Sunday 16th September

1) Welfare bill won’t work, key advisers tell Iain Duncan Smith (The Guardian) (Welfare) Committee condemns ‘unfair’ plans for part-time workers amid growing controversy over universal credit 2) Michael Gove to replace GCSEs with O-level style qualifications (The Guardian) (Education) Education secretary’s major reform of the examination system for school-leavers scheduled for introduction in September 2015 3) Davey takes on Osborne over wind farms (The Independent) (Environment) Lib Dem Secretary of State launches green initiative, while Chancellor pushes on fossil fuels 4) UK’s economic recovery has begun, says Sir John Major (The Independent) (Economy) Speaking on the 20th anniversary of Black Wednesday, which marked Britain’s dramatic exit from the exchange rate mechanism, Sir John said the UK’s economic recovery was under way, despite gloom surrounding the eurozone crisis. 5) We must reform our justice system (Telegraph) (Judiciary and Civil Liberties) Grayling, the new Justice Secretary, needs to modernise the system to diminish delay, increase efficiency, and make sure that the process is not intimidating for witnesses 6) Lib Dem president: Labour? Why not Labour? We …

Pick of the papers, Sunday 9th September

1. The prime minister’s masterclass in how not to conduct a reshuffle (Observer) (PM&Cabinet) David Cameron failed most of the 10 tests on whether recasting a government has any serious point, says Andrew Rawnsley 2. Whitehall dares to whisper: we’re out of recession (Mail on Sunday) (Economy) A look at some key economic policies that are soon to emerge 3. Owen Paterson has a fight on his hands (Telegraph) (Environment kind of but mainly Europe) The ‘unknown Cabinet minister’ is uniquely qualified to lead Defra, says Christopher Booker looking at the Common Fisheries Policy and EU law 4. Draghi ‘rescue’ might deepen pain for recission-hit south (Observer) (Europe) The ECB chief has been extraordinarily bold, but he has no lever to pull that will help bridge the rift between the ‘core’ northern economies and their neighbours 5. Cameron in battle to regain trust of women (Independent) (Parliament) Following his unfulfilled pledge to have women occupy 1/3 of the cabinet , the Independent look at his reputation now with women voters 6. John Gummer warns: don’t dump green agenda (Observer) (Environment) Incoming …

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The reshuffle and its policy implications

Pre-reshuffle Cameron promised to ‘cut through the dither’ that he said was holding Britain back. Following May, Osborne and now Hunt all being booed at the Paralympics, the cutting of ditherers is debatable however the policy implications are clear. A nice overview of the changes and cabinet as it stands can be found here from the BBC. Ultimately this has been a shift to the right. Picking of some key changes we can see this. Chris Grayling replacing Ken Clarke as Justice Secretary is a great example of this – implications for the approach towards the European Courts of Justice are clear. On human rights, Clarke was adamant that any reform would have to respect the European convention, whereas Grayling has previously said he would like to ‘tear up’ the human rights act that codifies that convention. On prisons, Clarke aimed to curb the prison population, during Graylings tenure as shadow home secretary in 2009, he proposed yet another prison-building programme. Ken Clarke is by no means out of the picture though, as minister without …

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LSE Talks

LSE talks are a great way to go that little bit further with your A Levels, these are the ones that are relevant to Politics/History but there are plenty more related to Law, Economics and Sociology. It’s a good thing to be able to talk about on UCAS and will hopefully be something you find interesting so check it out! A European policy outlook: the crisis and beyond – Monday 17th September – 4-5:30pm French Minister of the Economy and Finance, playing a key role in European politics, good for A2 Politics. Ticket is needed, can be booked online from 10pm on Monday 10th September. Twenty Year of Inflation Targeting – Tuesday 9th October – 6:30-8pm Professor Sir Mervyn King, Governor of the Bank of England explores the financial crisis, monetary policy and whether we need a new approach, good for A2 Politics. Ticket is needed, can be booked online from 10pm on Tuesday 2nd October. Reinventing Europe: one crisis, many futures – Wednesday 10th October – 6:30-8pm Taking a bit of a different angle, …

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Pick of the papers, Sunday 2nd September

1. UK economy is healing, says Chancellor George Osborne – Telegraph – Economy George Osborne believes the UK economy is ‘healing’ but warned that more must be done to ensure a return to growth 2.Cameron roars back: I’m no mouse as he launches battle plan to revive ailing economy – The Mail on Sunday  An interview with the man himself also some really good policy overview in the blue boxes 3. Reshuffles and Rodents – Independent on Sunday – Parties and PM & Cabinet David Cameron’s reshuffle plans have been torn asunder by the ominous rumblings inside both coalition parties. Jane Merrick and Matt Chorley analyse the priorities the PM and his deputy must juggle to survive 4. GCSE exams not ‘fit for purpose’, admits Michael Gove – The Independent – Education Education Secretary pledges to reform the current ‘discredited model’ after outcry over English grade changes 5. Bank of England tipped to hold back from sanctioning further quantitative easing – The Independent – Economy Seeing as Osborne is relying on the BoE to keep him afloat, this is a good article 6. George Osborne plans …

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The “Downing Street Machine”

Lots of the mark schemes refer to some sort of Downing Street machine so let’s untangle that and see what this buzz phrase actually means. The Downing Street machine is used as a point to argue that the power of the cabinet as the executive body in the UK has decreased. Since Blair, the ‘Downing Street machine’ has expanded in number and responsibility, the phrase primarily covers special advisors and the policy unit. Firstly we can look at special advisors, under Blair in the year 2004/5 there were 84 special advisors, under Brown 78 and under Cameron 83 (previously 66 in 2010) and most notably Andy Coulson who recently resigned but when in his role of Director of Communications, earned more than Nick Clegg. This shows a growth in the bypassing of the cabinet when it comes to policy creation. Secondly we can see how the No 10 Policy Unit has been focused on recently, the unit was initially set up by Wilson in 1974 and grew massively under Blair and has further increased under …

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How important is turnout and the role of the media?

Low turnout is quickly becoming one of the biggest problems facing British democracy, especially as, in light of the local elections, Labour’s share of the vote only went up by 1% most probably due to the extremely low local election turnout of 32%, the lowest since 2000. These low turnout figures go a small but still apparent way to undermining Labour’s win, highlighting the importance of the party not becoming complacent. The growing inequality in turnout can also be seen to massively affect election results. According to Ipsos-Mori, at the last general election, 76% of voters from the top social class voted, whereas just 57% of voters in the bottom social class did. Unequal turnout matters because it reduces the incentives for governments to respond to the interests of non-voting groups. Pensioners have huge electoral clout and as a result, free TV licences, bus passes and pensions are often seen as deal-breakers for many governments. When we see spending cuts in the UK having a disproportionate affect on young people and the poor, it’s because they don’t vote! …

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What the local election results mean

For the Tories ‘A tough night’ was what Conservative chairman Sayeeda Warsi predicted for her party, and so it proved true as the party  faced a mass rejection from voters across the country as they lost 403 council seats, 12 council majorities and 2 London assembly seats. With articles questioning Cameron’s competency floating around, these elections alongside a disastrous response to the mayoral system across the country, have served a severe blow to the Conservatives in moving forward. These loses have provoked Tory backbenchers to demand that the Prime Minister drop unpopular policies such as gay marriage and House of Lords reform. Senior Conservatives blamed the results on “mid-term blues” and said that the turnout was just 32 per cent nationally. Party strategists pointed out that Tony Blair lost more than 1,000 council seats in the late 1990s but still won a landslide majority in the 2001 general election. The London mayoral contest provided some respite for the Prime Minister with Boris Johnson winning, although the results were far closer than expected and much of …

Boris Johnson

The Mayoral Elections – a fair system?

On Thursday, the electorate took to the polls to decide on the new mayor of London and with Boris Johnson reclaiming the title we can now look at the vote from an electoral point of view. The Mayor of London is elected through a system called supplementary vote, a majoritarian system. The voter gets one vote with a first and second preference. If no candidate wins a majority of first preferences, all but the top two candidates are eliminated, and the second preference votes for the remaining two eligible candidates are added to their first preference votes. The advantages of this system are that the winning candidate must achieve broad support as they are appealing for not only first preference votes but second preference votes as well, they also need broad support to ensure a majority. Another advantage is that the second preference of voters who supported minor parties are counted (as long as their second preference is for a party that’s most likely to be within the top two), suggesting that most votes count. …

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“A Boris for every city” – Mayoral system rejected across the country

Along with a series of local election defeats the coalition’s localism agenda took a battering during their round of referendums. With people in Manchester, Birmingham, Nottingham, Bradford, Coventry, Sheffield, Leeds, Wakefield and Newcastle voting against the idea in local referendums, only Bristol voters bucked the trend and provided the Prime Minister with some comfort.