Pick of the Papers
By Kevin Augustine
Source: The Guardian
As Topic: Elections
A2 Politics: Environment
Fracking has the ability to give the UK another supply for energy, which has the potential to drive down energy prices for the economy. However, this has caused great controversy in safe Tory seats, with constituents pledging to run anti-fracking campaigns and research from Greenpeace and the Guardian has shown that 120 safe seats have protest groups in them. On top of this, 31 of the 40 key marginal seats identified by the party have these protest groups. This bodes ill for the Conservative party, who have deviated from green policy.
Source: The Guardian
A2 Topic: Economic Policy
The TTIP is a treaty between the EU and the USA, being marketed by its champions as a economic stimulus package for ailing Europe, providing up to £100bn in extra growth. It is presented as a free trade agreement, but existing tariffs on either side of the Atlantic are already weak because of common membership of organisations such as the World Trade Organisation. But you will not see UKIP nor Cameron riding to British defence as the actual aim is to strip away obstacles to large corporations making profits such as regulations that protect our privacy, the environment, food safety and the economy from a rapacious financial sector. And crucially TTIP further opens up public services to private companies motivated primarily by profit rather than people’s needs.
Source: The Guardian
As Topic: Judiciary
A2 Topic: Crime and Order
The right of victims of crime to directly confront the offenders in court is to be enshrined in law, the government has said. And publicly funded lawyers are to be barred from taking on serious sex offence cases unless they have undergone specialist training. Grayling said: “Our criminal justice system can be daunting, and victims, especially the most vulnerable, can find it traumatic and difficult to know where to turn to for advice and support.” These reforms aim to put the victim first and solidify the victim’s rights in law.
Source: The Guardian
A2 Topic: Economic policy
The Bank of England’s governor, Mark Carney, has warned workers that interest rates will rise before they see a rise in real wages. At the TUC conference in Liverpool, Carney cited bank forecasts of real wage growth about the middle of next year. Wages fell 0.2% in the three months to June this year, a decline that contrasted sharply with inflation of 1.6% in July. Carney warned that workers would have to improve productivity and skills to have any chance of getting real-term pay.
Source: The Independent
A2 Topic: Britain and the EU
David Cameron’s hopes of winning a better deal in Europe for Britain were boosted today after Lord Hill, the UK’s new European Commissioner, was chosen for the key financial services post in Brussels. But Lord Hill’s honeymoon lasted only a few hours, as Socialist and Green MEPs threatened to veto his appointment unless he promises to take a tough line on bankers’ bonuses.
Weekly Parliament Roundup: 6th -12th September
By Gloria Ganda
0.7% of national income to be given to foreign aid?
MPs have backed a new law which commits to spending 0.7% of national income on foreign aid. This means that roughly £11bn per year will be given to international aid and development after the Tories have finally backed the Liberal Democrat bill which is also supported by Labour. The legislation was opposed by just seven Conservative MPs and both the Tories and the Liberals are one step ahead of fulfilling one of their manifesto promises to put the 0.7% measure into law. Despite the majority agreeing to the new legislation, the Tories primarily were hesitant towards the legislation as they thought it was unpopular with their grassroots in the difficult economic climate which we are in. However, it looks as though the Legislation could soon come to force.
Polls tighten on Scottish Independence Referendum
With the Scottish Independence Referendum only days away (18th September), the polls are illustrating that for now, it is too close to call whether Scotland will be staying in or pulling out of the UK. Thus far, the No campaign is leading with 51% but the Yes campaign are closely catching up with 49%. Despite this, there are still 17% of voters who are still undecided. The no campaign is still reaching closer and closer, despite a week of intense political campaigning by pro-union politicians and repeated warnings from business about the dangers of independence. The ultimate decision heavily depends on the voters who are not yet decided but either way, we will be able to witness the fate of Scotland and their relationship with the UK on the 18th .
Boris selected to stand for Tories in Uxbridge and South Ruislip
Boris Johnson is set to make his great comeback to Westminster after being elected as the Conservative candidate for Uxbridge and South Ruislip on Friday night. Johnson defeated three other candidates on the short list following a secret ballot of party members in the constituency. He wants to return in team for a leadership contest which might take place if Cameron loses the general election next year. He stated that the process was “very enjoyable” and paid tribute to his three unsuccessful opponents. Furthermore, Boris denied that this was the start of a campaign to enter Downing Street and was instead the beginning of a battle to retain the west-London seat, which has a Tory majority of more than 11,000, for the Conservatives and stopping Labour from winning the next election.
Pick of the Papers
Examples to use for A-level Government and Politics exams. Click the links for articles and for more information.
Source: The Independent
A2 Topic: Welfare
AS Topic: Elections
Summary: Nick Clegg has launched 300 new policies in the pre-draft of his manifesto before the Glasgow conference which takes place in october. and it has emerged that Housing and childcare are the main priorities that the Lib Dems will prioritise if there is another hung parliament. Promising to build 300,000 homes a year and £2.8bn a year in expansion it is a key part of the Lib Dems’ dream to “ to help all families with childcare support and nursery education right the way through from the end of parental leave to the start of school.” The Tories to them “are more bothered about helping only some couples through a married couples’ tax break.”
Source: The Independent
AS Topic: Constitution/Parliament
A2 Topic: Welfare state
Summary: As the Yes Campaign is gaining more support towards the referendum date of 18th of September, Westminster has panicked, offering more powers to Scotland, including more tax powers, welfare powers and control over the welfare state. However, Osborne is still adamant over the Scots not allowing to enter a currency union with the rest of the UK if it leaves the union.
Source: The Independent
AS Topic: Democracy
A2 Topic: Crime and Order
Summary: The Lib Dems have promised to crack down on intimate photos being posted online without the consent of the person in response to hackers who posted intimate photos of female celebrities. They have also called for a ‘digital bill of rights’ in which the individual has their privacy protected as well as giving them more control over their personal data. Julian Huppart, the Lib Dem home affairs spokesman has stated “Protecting people’s privacy is an essential part of building the society we want to live in, and when people violate that, there have to be proportionate powers available to hold those responsible to account.”
Source: The Guardian
AS Topic: PM and Cabinet
A2 Topic: Economy
Summary: As austerity measures continue to be implemented in the UK economy, Osborne has refused to comment on the thinktank Royal United Services Institute (Rusi) which has claimed that defence spending will fall to 1.8%, instead stating that “I think we need to continue to meet the 2% commitment,” adding that as chancellor he will always put Britain’s security needs first. This is in response to the growing threat of Isis in which two American journalists have been executed and a third British person is under threat.
Source: The Telegraph
A2 Topic: Economy
Summary: Osborne has announced that rail fares can only rise in terms of RPI (retail price inflation) which went up by 2.5 points this summer. Talking to the Sun, the Chancellor stated that “Support for hardworking taxpayers is at the heart of our long term economic plan” and has said that train firms will lose the flexibility to raise fares, thus giving more certainty to railway travellers.
By Kevin Augustine
Weekly Parliament Roundup: 1St September – 5th September
No return home for British Jihadists?
Following the recent Syrian Crisis, David Cameron’s unveiling of anti-terror laws on Monday failed to include specific proposals regarding the prospect of British born citizens coming back to the UK after being involved in acts of terrorism in Syria. Cameron emphasised on the fact that we need a ‘targeted, discretionary power to allow us to exclude Brit Nationals from the UK’ but he failed to state how we would go about in doing this. At the moment, this action would not be following the conducts of Law and order since removing the passports from returning British Citizens would not only be a breach of International Law but it will also be a breach of UK common Law. Despite this, the prospect of banning returning Brit Jihadists might be put into action soon as there have been possible proposals to provide the police with temporary powers to seize their passports. Even with this option, there are still difficulties with the legalities of of doing so, especially for those with dual nationalities as it might make it harder for them to exercise their citizenship rights. Hopefully, more will be told soon about the actions that are being taken in regards to this matter.
Promise of free school meals for all primary school pupils
The Liberal Democrats have pledged that all primary school pupils will receive free school meals if the party has a role to play in the next government. This pledge follows the recent decision to provide free meals for five –to seven-year olds, which has received some criticism for being so restrictive with the age group. As a result, Liberal Democrat schools minister David Laws told The Independent that the party ‘never planned to keep it to just five-to seven –year-olds’ and are willing to extend it to all pupils if the next general action results in a coalition or majority for the party. At the moment there are no specific details on the timing of this programme but according to Laws, the pledge would be delivered by September 2019. If the Lib Dems do get a positive outcome in the next General Election and this proposal is completed, it might prove to be a huge advantage for parents as it will enable them to save more, thus possibly improving the standard of living.
More Job Growth in UK than rest of EU
According to David Cameron, The UK has seen more net employment growth over 4 years than the rest of the EU put together. Even though Cameron, who was said to be unsure of the source when addressing it at a private meeting, this statement is most likely to be accurate due to the fact that official illustrate how the UK has seen 1.6 million extra people find jobs, coming second to Germany who have seen 1.7 million people find jobs. Britain’s figure is significantly more effective compared to the rest of the EU as a single block who have lost 770,000 people from the workforce. Despite these figures implying that Britain is doing well in terms of providing work for more people in the last four years, we have to question the nature/types of jobs which are being created. Most of these ‘new jobs’ are in the form of zero-hour contracts which bring about low productivity.
By Gloria Ganda
A modest revision guide I prepared for Woodhouse Politics students, with the specification and example questions, Revision Handbook
Compassion, not coercion, is the answer to Britain’s drug problem.
Over the last two weeks, the main talking point in British politics has been the televised debate between Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage concerning the issue of Europe. As much as I hate to admit it, Nigel Farage came off far better, and Clegg was largely left mumbling about how Farage either loves Putin or was a conspiracy theorist who thought Elvis was still alive. It was clear that the two men are not obvious political allies, and that they are divided on almost every issue. I say almost, because there is one area on which the two men find consensus: drug policy reform.
Farage declared that the war on drugs had been lost ‘many, many years ago’, and that he supported full decriminalisation. I never thought that I would say this, but bravo Mr Farage. Completely at odds with his party, the Ukip leader has bravely gone exactly where he should be going. Ukip advertises itself as a Libertarian Party, and by supporting full decriminalisation of drugs in the UK, Farage is showing that this claim might not be totally off the mark. I’ve always been sceptical of the claim that Ukip were Libertarians, it seemed to me that they were Libertarian about issues they wanted to be (environment and taxation) and not so much about issues they didn’t want to be (same-sex marriage and drug legalisation), but perhaps with the announcement that Farage does support same-sex marriage, followed by this new announcement, they will soon genuinely be able to make that claim.
Likewise, in February of this year, Clegg announced, after a visit to Columbia, that, ‘if you are anti-drugs, you should be pro-reform’. Impressively, Clegg became the first party leader to stand up against our failed drug policy and say that things needed to change. Although some may see this as an attempt to differentiate the Lib-Dems from the Conservatives in the run-up to the general election, it is, without doubt, a step in the right direction. The general public have realised that British Drug laws aren’t working, with the majority of people agreeing that government’s approach to illegal drugs is ineffective, and now politicians are beginning to realise too.
I think that most people agree that drugs are an awful stain on our society, but this does not mean that criminalisation is the answer. People die at the hands of these drugs, but there is no evidence to suggest that making them illegal means that fewer people will take them. The country that spends the most money, by far, on its anti-drugs campaign is the United States, and yet, it leads the table for the highest cocaine use in the world, it leads the table for the highest cannabis use in the world, and it leads the table for the most people in prison for drug use in the world. Why? Wouldn’t you expect, given the amount of money that is spent on keeping people from using drugs, that the rates of abuse would be much lower? Portugal is another interesting case study. In 2001, drug use was decriminalised across the country, and yet, its annual prevalence of cocaine use is 0.3% compared to the US’ 2.8%, and its annual prevalence of cannabis use is 7.6% compared to the US’ 51.6%. Put simply, the United States’ drug laws are not working, but Portugal’s are. The United Kingdom is not far behind the United States, being third in the world for cocaine use and ninth in the world for cannabis use.
Some may argue that Portugal’s drug use has always been lower than that of the United States (or the UK), and that the decriminalisation was not what made the difference, but rather a difference of culture. The statistics again show that this is untrue. Portugal’s reformed policy lead to a reduction in drug related deaths, a reduction in drug use among teenagers, an increase uptake of treatment programs, and a reduction in HIV deaths due to shared needles. What we have seen in Portugal is not a wave of new drug users who have been enticed by their decriminalisation, as we have been warned about by our government, we have not seen more people dying as we have been told there would be, and we have not seen more young people turning to drugs. What we have been told is simply wrong.
So, what is the answer? Compassion and care for drug users. We need to treat drug use, not drug users, as the problem. We need to offer treatment and advice, and try to make sure people are not in a bad enough state that they resort to drug use in the first place. We know the causes of drug abuse, and we know that people in poverty are much more likely to resort to using hard drugs. Income inequality is another factor behind drug use; we know that the worse a country scores on the Gini Coefficient (a measurement of income inequality), the more likely they are to have a drug-taking population. Interestingly, one country that bucks the trend here is Portugal, where there is high income inequality yet low drug use. Any guesses as to why?
The British political landscape is changing. In 2010, we saw the first hung parliament since 1974, showing that the people of the UK are disillusioned with the main two political parties. The smaller parties are rising fast, and these are the parties who are pushing for radical drug law reform. It is only so long until the main parties catch up. I say, the sooner, the better.
Weekly Parliament Roundup- 24th -30th March
Is Miliband the right man for Labour?
Following the announcement of the budget, many Labour MPs have criticised Miliband for not having a strong and and solid reaction, especially in the Commons Chamber. Before the budget, people were worried that Miliband’s constant stress upon the cost of living crisis was losing its momentum and many people have been waiting to get a sense of direction as to where Miliband is heading. Furthermore, there has been some questioning over his style of leadership and several members have implied that he always makes big policy announcements but leaves huge spaces in between. When he’s not making announcements, his silence creates a loss of spark within the party which then leads members into deciding amongst themselves what the party should be doing.
Moreover, it has been hinted that there might be a divide within the party when it comes to the type of policies which the party wishes to bring forward. Some members want radical policies in order to get the voters excited whereas others want safety first as they think that they are more likely to win by being cautious. The main issue with Miliband is that the party might not have time to be leaving huge spaces in between important announcement since elections are so close. He needs to begin sustaining an attack on the government
Is the future looking bright for the Tories
The aftermath of the Budget announcement has created a positive outlook for the party. The success of the party in the upcoming months and eventually, in the election depends on whether the narrowing of the opinion polls will put the conservatives in the lead. Additionally, the Tories’ success is also dependent on the European Elections. However, if UKIP gain a higher position to the Conservatives, it might create a sense of uncertainty within the party.
What can Cameron do to satisfy the Euro sceptics?
100 Conservative MPs have allegedly vowing to leave and campaign against the EU regardless of David Cameron’s actions. This recent news leads us to question what the Prime Minster can do to ever please his Euro-sceptic party members. He’s already promised a referendum on the EU if his party stays in power but this will be hard to achieve if the Tories are divided as a party. Additionally, he’s devolved powers to member states, promised to win back key powers from Brussels and he’s even got an agreement with Germany that any changes in the EU will be fair for all nations.
This week, we saw Miliband and Cameron firmly back on the battleground through the issue of the privatisation of the Royal Mail. Ed Miliband urged Cameron to tell the house his excuse for the Royal Mail ‘Fiasco’ and Cameron hit back by his usual attack on Labour’s failures by saying that the tax payers benefitted from the Two Billion pounds that the company was sold at-something which labour didn’t achieve. Moreover, Cameron stressed upon the fact that even the workers are far better off because many of them have become shareholders in the company that they are working, meaning that they are now receiving dividends as well as their wages. Ultimately, the biggest blow to Miliband came when Cameron attacked by exclaiming that Miliband was only asking about the Royal Mail because he was paid to by the trade unions.
The Impact of the NSA files on the Coalition’s civil liberty record
The NSA files leaked by Edward Snowden to Glen Greenwald (former Guardian journalist) from June 2013 exposed the extent of international surveillance by, supposedly democratic governments, across the world. The leaks found Britain’s intelligence agency (GCHQ) working in conjunction with the National Security Agency (NSA) to bypass each other’s national laws for the sake of internet and communications surveillance. The leaks revealed that not only under the Coalition but under Labour, governments had been acting without any consent, collecting ‘meta data’ on mass, without even cabinet ministers’ knowledge.
Many feel that the NSA and GCHQ have gone too far and that collecting hundreds of billions of international internet and telephone data items is a threat to their civil liberties. Edward Snowden, a self-proclaimed libertarian, perhaps with similar views to the conservative party on migration and welfare, did not intend to harm people’s safety; he also insists that he has not leaked information to Chinese or Russian officials. On an internet forum he once stated that leakers of classified information should be “shot in the balls”. But after being revealed the extent of the surveillance; he knew that citizens should be properly informed.
After looking at the government’s failure to implement surveillance law in the past, it is clear why this information was kept secret. Under Labour, the Interception Modernisation Programme (IMP), a government initiative which meant internet and telephone providers are to store email and telephone contacts for twelve months received strong criticism from the Conservatives . And yet, while in government Theresa May proposed furthering the IMP under the Communications Data Bill (nicknamed the snoopers charter) which would require Internet and mobile providers to keep records of each user’s internet browsing, voice calls, emails, mobile phone messages and even internet gaming for twelve months.
This legislation has not been enacted into law, as even the deputy PM Nick Clegg withdrew his support April last year. He stated that, he had “a number of serious criticisms – not least on scope, proportionality, cost (estimated £1.8 billion), checks and balances, and the need for much wider consultation” . A survey on YouGov found that 71% of Britons “did not trust that the data will be kept secure”, and half described the proposal as “bad value for the money.” Therefore the bill was dropped.
However the NSA leaks, revealed after the Communications Data Bill, are much more widespread and intrusive than the Data Bill would have been. Many have criticised the Conservative’s reaction to the leaks, 70 leading human rights organisations have written an open letter to Cameron in anger of the government’s minimal reaction. Also they criticised the detention of David Miranda another Guardian Journalist under the Terrorism Act 2000 . Nick Clegg has been critical of the government in light of the NSA leaks, and Ed Miliband states that “Labour will make substantial changes to the oversight of British Intelligence agencies.”
The leaks show that the UK government has acted irresponsibly with no accountability. They say ‘if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear’; maybe this should be said to our government.
The debate political hacks were waiting for, Clegg Vs Farage on EU membership treated viewers and listeners to a spectacle generating more heat than light. Both sides were in combative mood. Farage playing the ‘I’m a real man’ act, not part of the ‘Westminster bubble’, ‘I feel the pain of ordinary hard-working people’. Whilst Clegg presented himself as a numbers man ready to undermine UKIP hyperbole on immigration and champion common sense liberal values over political scaremongering. Political pundits and pollsters now begin the work of
chewing over the audience response. So who won it? Well there are no losers. Both win, some polls place Farage ahead but Clegg probably doesn’t mind very much. A closer look at Clegg’s strategy shows us that he is not after the Farage vote, like Paltrow, Clegg is going through a conscious uncoupling of his own. Read more