All posts filed under: Unit 2

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 …

Ten things you need to know about the group of four that runs the Coalition

Ten things you need to know about the group of four that runs the Coalition By Tim Montgomerie When the Coalition was first formed I predicted the engine room would be this group of ten. It hasn’t turned out like that. Decisions are taken in the so-called Quad group. The Quad is more like Blair’s sofa-style of government than Cabinet government. Intimate, relational and highly political it includes the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister, the Chancellor and the Chief Secretary to the Treasury. In this week’s Spectator James Forsyth takes a look at The Quad and here are my ten takeaways from his piece:

AS Politics News Roundup 8/2/13

A weekly roundup of the three big news stories of the week   1 The Commons voted in favour of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, by 400 to 175, a majority of 225, at the end of a full day’s debate on the bill. Voting lists show that 136 Conservatives opposed the bill, This figure includes two cabinet ministers, eight junior ministers and eight  whips. Opening the debate was Equalities Minister Maria Miller who’s against gay adoption rights. Not David Cameron.

Question Time Review – Thursday 5 October 2012

It was quite an interesting Question Time tonight. Not necessarily the most relevant to the course, although a few good points were made, but it seems that there were quite deep moral questions being put out there too. On the panel tonight: Willie Walsh CEO of British Airways, Liberal Democrat Baroness Kramer, Cabinet Minister Ken Clarke, Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander and broadcaster Janet Street Porter.

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 …

The Policymaking ‘Fault lines’ in the Coalition

The coalition has had a rough few weeks with incidents including pastygate, a charity tax, a ‘granny’ tax and Clegg taking a hit along with his beloved Lord’s reform. The makeup of the coalition however doesn’t make running the coalition any easier. On Newsnight this Monday, political editor Allegra Stratton outlined what seem to be the two biggest fault lines within the coalition government.

How the Coalition has altered Parliament and the Executive

The Coalition came about in May 2010 between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats. The Tories had won 307 seats, short of a majority and the Lib Dems  57 seats. It left many questions about how long the coalition would last, predictions of another election being held by the end of the year soon were proved wrong and the coalition at least on face value seems to have had a pretty good ride so far. However, the rarity of coalitions (there have only been 4 in the past 100 years including the 2010 coalition) has left discrepancies and outcomes that tell us a lot about the executives approach to parliament and parliaments approach to the executive.

House of Lords under the Coalition

So this is useful for a question in Parliament on the House of Lords, some examples of what the House of Lords has been up to on some major pieces of legislation. Welfare Reform Act:  Defeat 1: Plans to means test employment and support allowance (ESA) for disabled people defeated by 224 votes to 186 Defeat 2: Plans to time-limit ESA for those undergoing cancer treatment Defeat 3: Restrict access to ESA for young people with disabilities or illness But the Commons gave “financial privilege” as a reason for rejecting these amendments – arguing they were related to tax and spending decisions that the Lords, by convention does not oppose. The Labour Party said it would consult lawyers over the legality of the Government’s tactics. Health and Social Care Act: Peers backed an amendment tabled by Lord Patel demanding mental health is made a higher priority, it passed by a margin of four votes. The amendment was rejected by the Government. The government offered more than 100 concessions in an effort to get the bill passed. …

Independence, accountability and diversity…too much to ask?

As a report from the House of Lords constitution committee reiterated, the judiciary lacks diversity. This may not have been an unexpected announcement for those in the legal profession; however for the general public it is a unanimous desire for judges to be more representative of society. Peers said that only one in 20 judges is non-white and fewer than one in four is female, and this disparity is undermining the public’s confidence in the courts. Seemingly, an appropriate process of appointment requires a rebalancing between the three main constitutional principles; independence, accountability and diversity. The effects of establishing such a process would expectedly result in the enhancement of democratic legitimacy of the entire system, as well as the authority of the judges and their eminent role in society. Is it too far to propose that there is a diversity deficit in the senior judiciary? Diversity in senior judicial appointments is not simply a desirable goal, but a fundamental constitutional principle. At the very heart of the legitimacy of an independent judiciary are its claims …

Theresa May on the ECHR and Abu Qatada (Audio)

BBC Radio 4 Today: The Home Secretary Theresa May has said that if the UK gets the assurances it is seeking from the Jordanian government about the deportation of the radical cleric Abu Qatada “that enable us to deport then obviously we’ll be deporting”. Speaking after her recent visit to the country for talks with King Abdullah, Mrs May told Today presenter John Humphrys that she wants to sure that deportation of Abu Qatada is “sustainable” and that “we don’t have to bring him back to the UK”.

So Much for Civil Liberties

Since the 2001 terrorist attacks there have been numerous changes to our civil liberties; the restrictions on our rights have been justified as we apparently need safety before freedom… though have we actually gained either? Under Blair’s government we saw the introduction of several new laws aimed at tackling terrorism. Detention without charge was first mentioned in the Terrorism Act 2000 then the Criminal Justice Act 2003 and the Terrorism Act 2006. Each act has increased the amount of days by which a suspected terrorist can be detained, from 14 days to 28 days (the government wanted 90 days but was defeated in the Commons). Note the word ‘suspected’; evidence is not a requirement. Between 11 September 2001 and 31 December 2004, 701 were arrested in the UK under the Terrorism Act. Only 17 have been convicted of offences under the act. In December 2004, a constitutional crisis occurred surrounding the case of several men who were detained in Belmarsh Prison. They successfully argued that their indefinite detention was against Article 5 of the European …

Gareth Peirce: Dispatches from the dark side – on torture and the death of justice

Civil liberties defence lawyer Gareth Peirce has undertaken some of modern Britain’s most high profile cases, representing many wrongfully detained individuals (largely with Irish and Muslim backgrounds) subject to rendition and torture.  Her clients include the Birmingham Six, the Guildford Four, Moazzam Begg, a detainee of Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, and Shakar Aamer, the last British citizen to be held in Guantanamo. She addressed a large crowd of students, educators and activists alike on 17 February, as part of the Centre for the Study of Human Rights’ program of events at the London School of Economics and Political Sciences. Her book, Dispatches from the Dark side: on Torture and the Death of Justice lends its name to the title of her lecture, and will expand in more detail on the subject topics discussed.

Ken Clarke Justice

What exactly is Cameron’s conservatism advocating? A continuation of new Labour? A bridge to Thatcherism? Or a new progressive way, one often calls ‘Cameronism’? The Conservative Party, like most UK political parties today, can be regarded as a ‘broad church’. Kenneth Clarke, the current Justice Secretary, can be described as from the left of the party, a ‘One Nation’ Tory and he has certainly made his mark on his department.

The Quad and Cabinet Government

The ‘Quad’ is a high-level executive committee that comprises of David Cameron, Nick Clegg, George Osborne and Danny Alexander and is one of the coalition’s key decisions making bodies. Typically the Quad meet to ‘iron out’ matters that may be contentious between the Lib Dems and Tories prior to formal cabinet meetings. Cameron has tried to set about changing the style of his premiership, away from Blair’s more informal style dubbed ‘sofa government’ and has been praised by officials for his ‘return to formality and commitment to process’. However can the Quad be seen as a considerable step backwards?

Prayer in a Pickle

A ruling following a legal challenge from the National Secular Society this Friday stating that the saying of prayers during Bideford council meetings was unlawful has ignited criticisms from the Communities and Local Government Minister, Eric Pickles. He commented that the judgment was “surprising and disappointing” and he believed that under the Localism Act councils ought to be allowed to say prayers. Podcast: Play in new window | DownloadSubscribe: iTunes | Android | RSS

Sarah Teather and Individual Ministerial Responsibility

Liberal Democrat minister Sarah Teathers has faced criticism following this Wednesdays PMQs where Conservative MP Peter Bone noted that the children’s minister failed to vote on 7 occasions on the proposed changes to welfare reforms last week. In Prime Ministers Questions, Cameron was asked why she was still in the government. Following this Tory MP Priti Patel said: “When you are a minister, your job is to turn up and vote for the Government”.