All posts filed under: Democracy

Five Lessons from the EU Referendum

Referendums in the UK are not be legally binding, but they might as well be David Cameron strongly supported the Remain camp during the EU debate, but even with a result as close as 52% leave to 48% remain, he accepted the decision made by the British electorate. To not do so would have almost certainly resulted in intra-party and wider calls for him to be removed as the Prime-Minister and Leader of the Conservative Party, especially with many of his own MPs, such as Boris Johnson, having campaigned against him. This also comes as on 22nd February 2016, Cameron addressed Parliament and said ‘For a Prime Minister to ignore the express will of the British people to leave the EU would be not just wrong, but undemocratic’.

Viewpoint – “We feel that our futures were risked by the choices of people – older, often geographically distant people”

91% of our school voted to stay in the EU in our internal referendum. As one might expect, a school fiercely proud of both its ethnic and cultural diversity, as well as its political engagement, is distraught. Almost none of us could vote, and 75% of the young people who could vote, voted to Remain. For the people we know and whose views we share, it’s hard to understand that this result really happened, and often in the name of our ‘future’.

To what extent is there a political participation problem in the UK?

In the UK, the level of political participation is measured by the turnout in general elections that take place every 5 years, although there are other means by which a person can be politically active. As a representative democracy, elections are the cornerstone of democracy in the UK. The level of electoral turnout must therefore be an important indication of the health of the larger democratic system. However, in recent years, the percentage of the general public voting in general elections has reached new lows since universal voting was introduced in the UK. It could be argued that the UK is suffering from a ‘political participation crisis’ where the public are becoming increasingly disengaged with UK politics. But, this diagnosis may be a little premature as the problem might not be about a decline in the overall level of political participation but instead about a shift from one kind of participation to another. Thus, it is difficult to decide whether the problem is about the apathetic nature of society or a more fundamental issue surrounding …

Is there a Democratic Deficit in the UK?

A democratic deficit  occurs when government or government institutions fall short of fulfilling the principles of democracy in their practices or operation or where political representatives and institutions are discredited in the eyes of the public. In the UK there has been a discussion in recent years that Britain’s democracy is flawed. Politicians are held in low esteem. Parliament seems outdated and the expenses scandal exposed just how many politicians had lost a duty to public office. One of the main factors forwarded to argue there is a democratic deficit in the UK is the low levels of voter turnout and widespread disillusionment with the political system. In 2001 the UK received a general election turnout of 59.4%, the lowest since the start of universal suffrage in 1918. A greater number of voters voted against the Labour government than those that elected them. In 2010 it increased to just below 65%. In effect, low turnouts bring to question government legitimacy and the strength of it’s electoral mandate. Ergo, if citizens are having little influence in politics, democracy weakens as it is no longer …

Maria Miller’s Mortgage Misconduct

Maria Miller, MP for Basingstoke resigned on Wednesday as the Conservative Culture Secretary. She was accused of claiming £90,000 in expenses towards mortgage payments for her second home in south London for four years. This was published in the Daily Telegraph in 2010 with the Telegraph claiming that Mrs Miller’s actions were breaching the rules for parliamentary allowances. These rules were implemented in 2010 after the wake of the MPs expenses scandal where MPs were banned from claiming mortgage interest on second homes, with tax-payer’s money. The MPs expenses scandal was made public in 2009 after a campaign by freedom campaigners using the Freedom of Information Act 2000 that allowed citizens to enquire about the expenses of MPs.

Weekly Parliament Roundup: 13th-19th January 2014

Parliament Roundup – 13/01/14-19/01/14   Labour Speech This week, Labour leader Ed Miliband and his shadow ministers will make speeches for the electorate in order to announce Labour’s upcoming plans. The speeches are designed to broaden the debate away from spending and the deficit. Shadow Housing Minister Emma Reynolds made a speech on Tuesday reemphasising on Labour’s plans to build more than 200,000 homes a year by the end of the next Parliament in 2020 by stressing that we need to increase social housing. However, this might prove tricky for Labour as they will have to allow more borrowing in order to reach this ambitious goal. This goal in particular might be seen as Ed Miliband’s way of proving that Labour is not just about short term goals such as his established energy price freeze. Euro sceptics unsatisfied   95 of Conservative backbenchers have recently signed a vote for the law to be changed for the House of Commons to veto new EU regulations. There has been much recent disagreement with this vote and William …

Weekly Parliament Roundup:4th-11th December 2013

Parliament Roundup: 4/12/13-11/12/13 MPs to receive 11% pay rise: Click for a video explanation 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 …

Labour Leader Ed Miliband – Does he have what it takes?

 Does Ed Miliband have what it takes to be Prime Minister?     The views of the public depict conflict when addressing Ed Miliband as a leader, not only concerning his strength and influence within the Labour Party but whether he is indeed, too “weak” to act as Prime Minister. With those who are in favour of Miliband such as the likes of  political thinker Anthony Barnett who argues provocatively that “Ed Miliband is an exceptionally effective opposition leader, brave and an adroit party manager” and present PM David Cameron often highlighting his disproval of Miliband  and asserting his leadership as poor by stating “We know Labour’s approach, you go in with your hands up and a white flag” , the public are found torn between choosing Labour for their policies or abandoning the idea of Ed Miliband as Prime Minister out of uncertainty and scepticism. Following the conclusion of the Miliband brothers’ pyscho-drama in the battle to become leader of the Labour party, the aftermath of Ed’s victory seemed strangely anticlimactic. It didn’t seem …

Weekly Parliament Roundup: 27th November – 4th December 2013

Weekly Parliament Roundup: 27/11/13-4/12/13 Autumn Statement George Osborne released an Autumn statement on which was said to concentrate on delivering a responsible recovery.  The statement aims to turn the political conversation back to the economy and to emphasise the fact that we are making considerable improvements as our growth forecast is upgrading and how we are now borrowing less. Coalition action on Energy Bill Crisis Recently, there have been Coalition plans to reduce energy bills by an average of £50 per year. In addition to this, the cost of insulating homes will be spread over a longer period and there are plans for a new £1000 incentive scheme given to new home buyers to help them insulate their homes. The government is hoping that this plan will turn attention away from Ed Miliband’s proposed plans to resolve the cost of living crisis which he has not failed to emphasise upon successfully for the last few months. However, there are many rising issues associated with the plans and the most important one is that the coalition …

Weekly Parliament Roundup: 13th-20th November

Weekly Parliament Roundup – 13/11/13-20/11/13 Geneva II Conference November 2013   Over the last few weeks, the Geneva conference has taken centre stage in the news, in regards to Iran’s nuclear projects. The conference was postponed to the 20th and has resumed over the past few days. Even though definite decisions have not yet been made, following his visit to Geneva, Foreign Secretary William Hague states that Britain’s aim is to create a “Interim first step agreement with Iran that can then create the confidence and the space to then create a comprehensive and final agreement”. The main question is however, is it too late for Britain to step in and try to give Iran guidance on the decision that it should make? The country seems set on making the brave choice to go ahead with their plans without the restrictions from America. Hopefully, Hague will make an influential effort to try and impose financial and energy sanctions against Iran, with the help of other countries such as France and Germany. Increase in Tax Thresholds …

Pressure Groups

Unit 1: Pressure Groups A Pressure Group is an organised group that does not hold candidates for election, but seeks to influence and change government policy or legislation. They are also described as ‘interest groups’, ‘lobby groups’ or ‘protest groups’. In Britain, the number of political parties is on the small scale compared to the mass number of pressure groups that run into their thousands. Pressure Groups can be distinguished in a variety of different ways including; local/national/European/transnational groups and temporary/permanent groups, however the most common distinctions are between: Interest and cause groups / Insider and outsider groups   Interest groups (sometimes called ‘sectional’, ‘protective’ or ‘functional’ groups) are groups that represent a particular section of society, for example, workers, employers, consumers, an ethnic or religious group. Interest groups have the following features: They are concerned to protect or advance the interests of their members Limited membership to people in a particular occupation, career or economic position Members that are motivated by material self-interest Examples of this type of group are trade unions, business corporations, trade associations …

Brand Vs Paxman: Can apathy change the democratic system?

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 …

Changing relationship between Labour and the Unions

Over the summer Ed Miliband announced drastic reinvention of his party’s relationship with the trade unions.  He wants affiliation to the party on the basis of individual choice, rather than a collective affiliation in which the union member has no say. What has led Miliband to make these changes? For a long time, the Conservative Party has criticised the Unions’ power within the Labour Party, this is one possible reason. Or perhaps these reforms are driven by the Falkirk controversy, where Ed Miliband accused Unite (Britain’s largest union) of tampering with the candidate selection procedures for the Falkirk By-election. Dave Prentis (Unison’s General Secretary) believes reforms are a “knee-jerk” reaction to Falkirk and describes the changes as “off the wall”. Ed Miliband admits that these changes to the link with the Unions are a “risk” and a “massive challenge”. In his speech in Bournemouth he described how he was “proud of the 3 million working men and women affiliated with his party, but they’re affiliated in name only” and that “We can be a Labour …

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! …

“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.

Democracy under the Coalition

Following calls for greater US-style openness from public figures, Nick Clegg has stated he has ‘no objection in principle’ to publishing his tax return. This came after the four main candidates for London mayoral elections revealed their personal tax affairs due to Jenny Jones suggesting the move during a newsnight debate. Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, said he would have “no problem” in making his tax return public. An aide to Danny Alexander, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, said the minister had “no intention to publish but his only sources of income are in the public domain”. An aide to Ed Miliband said the Labour leader and Shadow Cabinet would match anything the Government did, adding: “The real issue is ministers coming clean about whether they benefit themselves from the tax cut for millionaires introduced by George Osborne.” John Redwood however had something else to say, branding a move to publish MP’s tax returns ‘an invasion of privacy’ saying ‘everyone avoids some tax’ moving instead that people standing for the conservative party should sign …

Audio: Will elected police commissioners work?

From November 2012, voters will change the way the police are held to account, electing 41 police and crime commissioners across England and Wales. Lord Prescott, former deputy PM and standing for nomination as Labour candidate as Police and Crime Commissioner in Humberside, and Tim Brain, former chief constable of Gloucester and visiting professor of Criminology at Gloucestershire University, debate the idea of elected police commissioners. Today Programme Wednesday 15th February. Podcast: Play in new window | DownloadSubscribe: Apple Podcasts | Android | RSS

John Prescott – The Commissioner

Former Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott has announced his intentions to become one of Britain’s first elected police and crime commissioners. Prescott who will face the polls in November if selected to stand following being nominated, said he would spend the next few months consulting the public before drafting the manifesto he would use to campaign for the up to £100,000 a year job.