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.
Timeline of the UK’s constitutional changes
The role of a constitution is to organise, distribute and regulate state power. By doing so, the constitution creates the structure of the state and sets out the principles of governing for the state’s citizens, whilst also outlining the role of government. Britain is unusual in that it has an ‘unwritten’ constitution. Unlike the great majority of countries, such as the USA, there is no single legal document which sets out in one place the fundamental laws outlining how the state works. Thus, Britain’s lack of a ‘written’ constitution is often explained via its history. In other countries, many of whom have experienced revolution (E.G. France) or regime change, it has been necessary to start from scratch or begin from first principles, constructing new state institutions and defining in detail their relations with each other and their citizens.
The British Constitution has evolved over a long period of time, reflecting the relative stability of the British Government. Britain has never truly been close to a written constitution, although the Liberal Democrats portray their great interest as shown in their wish for a political reform whereby Britain becomes codified. The Lib Dem’s pledge that they “will involve the people in producing a written constitution” evidently indicates they are oblivious to the fact that Britain is not susceptible to change, particularly when it is mostly producing a strong government. Of course, there is the other matter that parties and politicians are infamous for failing to keep their promises made before the elections, lets see, tuition fees, tax cut for millionaires, mansion tax – hence, another major reason citizens may lack faith in the Liberal Democrat’s desire for a codified constitution.
Presently, what Britain obtains is an accumulation of various statutes, conventions, judicial decisions and treaties which collectively can be referred to as the British Constitution. Today we now refer to Britain’s constitution as an ‘uncodified’ constitution, rather than an ‘unwritten’ one. By accurate definition, an uncodified constitution means there is no single document which explains how we are governed. Instead constitutional experts point to a number of treaties, laws and conventions (another word for ‘habits’) which together make up the constitution. These include: Continue reading
Weekly Parliament Roundup 15/01/14 -22/01/14
Lord Rennard causes trouble for Lib Dems
Former Chief Executive Lord Rennard has threatened to sue (according to his legal advisor) if he isn’t allowed to re-join the party in the House of Lords after he was accused with sexual harassment claims from several women and was found not guilty by the courts due to lack of sufficient evidence. Nick Clegg said that he should apologise to the women before he is allowed to join his peers in the House of Lords but Lord Rennard refuses to do so. Lord Rennard has been given a temporary suspension from his House of Lords seat. In the upcoming days and even weeks, the way in which Nick Clegg handles this situation will illustrate his leadership strength.
However, this disagreement is seen to be potentially very damaging to the Local and European elections in May for the Liberal Democrat Party. Chris Davis MEP, also a friend of Lord Rennard recently expressed his support for the former Chief Executive by stressing on the fact that he has the right to decline apologising to the women since the courts have found that he did nothing wrong. Despite some support, there have been numerous complaints by members of the Lib Dems that Lord Rennard has brought the party into disrepute.
UKIP Counsellor suspended
A UKIP counsellor has been suspended for stating that the recent flooding has been God’s response to the legalisation of Gay Marriage. Nigel Farage wanted to clear out what he saw as extremist views in his party and he told the Sun on Sunday that he ordered a ‘clean up’ of his party so that no such extremist views will exist. At first, the party stated that he had a right to voice his opinions freely but now, especially since the European Elections are looming, they’ve realised that they can’t do anything bad to place the party in a bad limelight.
No Housing Benefit for EU Jobseekers
Home Secretary Theresa May and Work and Pensions Secretary Ian Duncan Smith have written an article explaining how reform of the welfare and immigration system will interact. They also said that Housing Benefits should be stopped altogether for EU jobseekers, one proposal which might be said to be slightly influenced by UKIP and their current stress upon EU migrant levels which have risen. In addition, they have also published an analysis on employment figures which has showm the big increase in the number of migrants in employment and a decrease in the number of Britons in employment.
Labour proposes a Basic Skills Test for jobseekers
Rachel Reeves, the Shadow work and Pensions Secretary gave a speech this week where she proposed that under Labour, Jobseekers will begin to take a basic skills test. She stated that individuals who are coming out of work benefit sometimes don’t have the skills that are essentially needed for work. Therefore, they will have at test within six weeks of signing on and if they don’t have the basic skills needed then they will receive training. The Tories have criticised this proposals by saying that it will cost more money rather than save money.
A new page for Miliband – PMQs
This week, as promised, Ed Miliband took a more civilized and professional approach when asking questions to the Prime Minister. He calmly began by paying his respect to Del Singh, a Labour MEP who was sadly killed in Kabul. He then tried his best to show that he had some agreement with the Prime Minister in regards to the Syria crisis but grilled him about allowing Syrian Refugees to come into the UK instead of just simply providing them with aid. On top of that, he actually accepted the fall in unemployment and admitted that it was a good thing. Overall, Ed’s new approach to PMQs might actually help him in becoming a better leader but for now, we won’t be holding our breath…
Parliament Roundup: 4/12/13-11/12/13
MPs to receive 11% pay rise:
IPSA(Independent Parliament Standards Authority) have recently proposed to provide MPs with a pay rise of 11% which will increase their salary to £74,000. They have stated that there will be changes to the pension scheme which will save tax payer 2.5 billion pounds if the rise is to take place. Even though this might be seen as a great thing for the MPs, lots of them are scared to state publicly that they think it is a good idea. The main issue with this proposal is that it might be the wrong time to make such high rises in MP’s salaries when other public sectors are facing difficult freezes. However, of this proposal is to go ahead, it will take legislation in 2015 to stop this from occurring.
The public might not like the sound of the proposal at first because many might feel that the MPs don’t deserve such a high pay rise as they have failed to improve costs of living. Despite this, the huge worry for IPSA and for several MPs is that the public won’t fully understand the fact that this will not affect them in any major way. This money will not be taken out of the tax payer’s pockets and in fact, it might even aid them. This proposal will also mean that there might be tougher regulations on expenses.
Shadow Red Ed
Following George Osborne’s autumn statement stating that ‘Britain’s economic plan is working’ and that ‘The hard work of the British people is paying off, and we will not squander their efforts’, Ed Balls made one of the most disastrous responses which led him to be mocked by Osborne and the rest of the opposition. In his response, he stated that Labour was winning the economic argument despite being contradicted by recent polls. Despite this, he has recently stated that he’s not bothered at all about the gossip about his performance in House of Commons and he also refuses to accept the fact that his response was weak. David Cameron also attempted to throw an attack at him again in this week’s PMQs by saying that ‘He can dish it out but he can’t take it.’
Tributes to Mandela
After the death of former South African President Nelson Mandela, Parliament paid tribute to the iconic figure on Monday. All parties stressed upon the fact that he’s legacy will stay imminent in our lives. David Cameron also talked about Mandela’s strength of character and mentioned the fact that progress is not won by people accept the way things are but dreaming of what it can be. Cameron,Clegg and Miliband went to Johannesburg for Mandela’s memorial service on earlier on this week and Prince Charles will be attending the funeral on Sunday.
This week’s PMQs saw the return of Cameron Vs Miliband on another round of Cost of living, only this time the debate was dominated by the 11% proposed pay rise for MPs which Ed Miliband used to strengthen his argument of course. Mr Miliband asked Cameron that if given the current living standards issues among families should MPs receive a pay rise. Surprisingly, the two men agreed on the fact that these proposals were in fact unacceptable and Cameron reemphasized the fact that these decision weren’t finally. After a few seconds of agreement, Cameron once again played the blame game and replied to Miliband’s request to work together on the issue by saying that the Conservatives are still left with the mess that Labour has left behind.
Pick of The Papers (11.11.13-17.11.13)
Woodhouse’ weekly pick of the papers is devoted to keeping A level politics students up to date with the political news and on track with the Unit 1 and Unit 2 syllabus.
Source: The Independent
Politics Topic: Unit 1 Elections, Parties and Democracy/ Unit 2 PM and Cabinet
Summary: In a new poll Labour are ahead of the Tories by six clear points, yet 53% of voters cannot imagine Labour Leader Miliband as Prime Minister. Trust in Ed Balls and Miliband is at its lowest despite pledge of 20 month freeze in energy bills. Although, the Conservatives have fallen by three points 27% of voters trust Cameron and Osbourne to “make the right decisions about the economy” and 44 per cent say they “expect the UK economy will improve next year”.
Source: The Guardian
Politics Topic: Party Policies and Ideas
Summary: Cameron has ordered an inquiry into the tactics of trade unions due to the consequence of an industrial dispute which almost led to the closure of the Grangemouth oil refinery in Scotland. However, a Unite spokesman said: “This review is a sorry attempt by the coalition to divert attention from the cost of living crisis. Vince Cable may not have noticed but the Grangemouth dispute has been settled. This review is nothing more than a Tory election stunt which no trade unionist will collaborate with.” There is no question that Cameron has mentioned the issue with Labours’s position towards the Falkirk investigations – check the link below for further information.
ALevelPolitics Help: The Falkirk situation explained
Source: The Times
Politics Topic: Party Policies and Ideas
Summary: Clegg is calling out his coalition partners to give some money back to ‘the UK Economy’. The Deputy Prime Minister said that he was pressing his Conservative colleagues to agree to a £1 billion tax giveaway before the next general election and called for a further increase in the threshold for tax-free earnings, a move that would allow most workers to keep an extra £100 a year. He said he believed that a further increase in the personal allowance could be funded by a levy – such as a “mansion tax” on the very wealthiest however, the Conservatives are very much opposed to the idea.
Source: The Telegraph
Politics Topic: Parties Policies and Ideas
Summary: The former Mayor of London criticises Labour for spending billions to avoid tax and spending cuts in the boom years and the article speaks of the repercussions of the £157 billion deficit, the Brown government left politicians to clear up. Conservative party Chairman Grant Shapps questions Miliband and Labour’s “addiction to borrowing”.
Source: The Telegraph
Politics Topic: Party Policies and Ideas
Summary: David Cameron is hated in the North of England but his policies are agreed on there. Farage is going to reap the rewards. 72 per cent of Northerners think that the Conservatives do not understand their area well; 64 per cent think people from their part of the country are not well represented amongst the Tory leadership; 39 per cent say they would never vote Conservative. A quarter say they don’t know a single person who votes Tory whereas 50 per cent more Northerners think Ukip understands the North than think that the Conservatives do. Will the Northerners vote UKIP?
ALevelPolitics Help: Check out the UKIP article
Source: The Independent
Politics Topic: Democracy and Participation/Elections
Summary: Watchdog findings pose worrying questions about future of democracy in Britain. Young adults are even more “disengaged” from the party system, with 46 per cent of under-30s saying “none of the above” when presented with a list of the parties. Plenty of statistics and quotes to use for Unit 1 democracy and elections.
ALevelPolitics Help: Click for information on Apathy, Disengagement and General Election turnouts (Russell Brand Vs Jeremy Paxman)
Setting aside Russell Brand’s notorious eccentric persona, his interview with Jeremy Paxman that aired 23rd October on Newsnight, highlighted his perspective that the UK’s current democratic system ‘favours the elite’. Brand has indeed never voted nor is showing any signs of wanting to participate in the future. He firmly believes that “Government is not working” and there is great and evident need for change in how the UK’s “democracy” works.
“It is not that I am not voting out of apathy. I am not voting out of absolute indifference and weariness and exhaustion from the lies, treachery and deceit of the political class that has been going on for generations”
Despite his radical approach to the interview, he was able to articulate his strongly felt discontentment with the current system. Presenting elitism, not only by politicians, but suggesting that it is occurring within the Houses of Parliament itself. Brand says that it is “decorated for a certain type of people” that excludes part of the population and causes their disillusion. However farfetched this specific reason may be for a declining political participation, it is true that there is a current problem with the perception of politics. Brand’s view does not go unsupported as shown through the 2013 Audit of Political Engagement 10 which presents public satisfaction of the way MP’s are doing their job at a low of just 23% compared to the 29% in 2010.
In the 2010 General Election only 57% of voters in the bottom social class voted. Perhaps, Brand is proposing that the solution is a revolution to re-evaluate the system and that the reason for the low turn out runs far deeper into constituencies who feel the huge disparity between the rich and poor and encounter deficit when the money-making businesses find profit. Cameron, of course believes “profit is not a dirty word”. Is education of the poorer class the key to creating a higher possible turnout? Or is this low percentage a representation of their refusal to conform to a process that which they feel under-represented by? The comedian believes political apathy, the concept of indifference on the part of any citizen of any country with regards to their attitude towards political activities is a significant step forward for change.
Russell Brand has opened discussion on why changes should be made to the system yet there are many a question still unanswered. If there was no Government, who would obtain legitimate power? The “Admin bods”? Paxman queries Brand on how they would be chosen but saves Brand from the complexity by simply stating; “By being voted in”.
Brand’s overriding message for the public is to ”be more apathetic” but whether this is the solution or not, it is a clear amplification that there is the problem of how the public is becoming disenfranchised, disenchanted, disengaged and disinterested in the idea that politicians can change the world.
Therefore, with this apparent “Revolution” on the rise, should the Government be introducing the compulsory vote for the young? Will it enforce the idea of democracy by avoiding apathy or will it take away choice, which lies at the heart of a democratic process. For if this refusal to participate in general elections lingers for too long without the problem being addressed by those in power, potentionally this form of protest could destroy the existing recognition of democracy that which was fought for by many historic figures (Emily Wilding Davison, Henry VI).
Is this democratic process worth fighting against rather than changing through participation of the current system, or is there some truth in what Brand is implying – that a new governing body or party’s changes are not radical enough to meet the requirements of the underserved and henceforth people will not want to engage with a system that they believe is not in their best interest and simply is not representative of the total population.
“Jeremy, my darling” – does Mr Brand have a point?