key_Tim_Farron

Tim Farron wins Liberal Democrat leadership contest

By Andrew Denham and Matthew Francis

How do you rebuild a political party after an electoral calamity? That was the question facing the Liberal Democrats when deciding who should replace Nick Clegg as their leader.

Now the party has chosen Tim Farron to replace Clegg – a decision that could help bring back a spirit of optimism in a party battered by five years of government with the Conservatives.

After being reduced from 57 MPs in 2010 to just eight in 2015 – numbers reminiscent of the Liberal Party of the 1950s – the Lib Dems now face a difficult path back to political significance, let alone power.

Continue reading

15024926027_384702cb70_z

Catastrophe Corbyn

By Steven Fielding.

According to some observers Jeremy Corbyn has a more than outside chance of becoming the next Labour eader. Endorsed by UNITE and other, smaller, trade unions, Corbyn certainly enjoys more support than many predicted at the outset of the campaign.

Corbyn’s unexpected prominence provoked The World Tonight to run a piece on the Labour left, one to which I made a rather sceptical contribution). For, that which passes for the Labour left today is, despite appearances, at its lowest ever ebb. Long gone are the days when the Tribune Group enjoyed a membership of nearly 100 MPs and had decent representation in Labour Cabinets.

The left enjoyed its greatest influence in the late 1970s and early 1980s, a time that saw founding Tribune member Michael Foot become leader and in 1983 present to the country possibly Labour’s most radical manifesto. It was no accident that the left’s greatest influence came at the same time as one of Labour’s deepest electoral nadirs. For, if some see the left as the party’s ‘conscience’, electorally speaking you can have too many principles.  Continue reading

IMG_9047A

Of War and Words

By Anna Huber

In the second academic term of 2014/2015 I was asked by the United National Society (UN Soc) of the University of Nottingham to attend the London International Model United Nation (LIMUN) 2015 conference.  LIMUN is a student-organised event, in which students have to represent assigned countries throughout the conference, simulating a United Nations (UN) conference. LIMUN aims to build an understanding of global challenges and encourage participants to find solutions to future global problems that are compatible with the aims and principles of the UN.

Like any other UN conference, LIMUN involves research, debating, writing skills and public speaking. Whereas the former three skills are well thought by our department, I think that the latter is a skill that can only be fully gained by your own individual efforts. Additionally, attending lectures where you are confronted with issues such as the uneven growth and exploitation of developing countries, democracy having the potential to lead to tyranny of the majority and the misuse of nuclear weapons – demonstrate how essential public speaking is in order to make your voice heard! So even though seminars tend to make even the quietest students speak up during heated debates (especially when it comes to private schools), I believe that many students still hesitate to confront people on these challenging issues rather than introducing others to their thoughts. I therefore decided to join the UN Soc and sign up to a conference as soon as the opportunity arose which is how I ended up at the LIMUN in London.

Continue reading

maxresdefault

Reflections on the Srebrenica Massacre

By Annabelle de Heus

Twenty years have passed since the events that took place in the small eastern town of Srebrenica; one of the UN’s designated ‘Safe Areas’ where thousands of Muslim refugees had sought solace at the height of the Bosnian War. Despite being under the protection of western peacekeeping forces, the town was overrun in July 1995 and over the days that followed over 8000 men, women and children were massacred by Bosnian Serb forces under General Ratko Mladic. As world leaders have come together in Bosnia to join its commemoration, the search for the remains of victims in the killing fields of the Drina Valley continues. So too does the complicated process of uncovering where responsibility for the mistakes that have been made ultimately lies. Whilst military leaders Mladic and Karadzic are awaiting trial in the International Criminal Tribunal of the Former Yugoslavia (ICTFY) in the Hague, the focus also shifts once again to the role of the Dutch and the wider  international community. This short article seeks to briefly look back at the events of 1995 in the light of recent new research.

Continue reading

Colin Powell 2003

Axis of Evil or Access to Diesel? Reflections on the Iraq War

By Andreas Bieler.

How can we understand the dynamics underlying the Iraq war in 2003? My latest article with Adam David Morton, entitled ‘Axis of Evil or Access to Diesel? Spaces of New Imperialism and the Iraq War’ is now published in the journal Historical Materialism and attempts to address this question.

In our analysis, we argue that the Iraq war did not simply reflect the unitary decision by the U.S. state to assert its interests in the global political economy, nor was it the result of co-operation by a group of allied capitalist countries to secure access to oil in the Middle East. Equally, we reject the notion that the use of military force reflected the interests of an emerging transnational state. Following on from our International Studies Quarterly article and in contrast to the above positions, our main focus is to assert the philosophy of internal relations as the hallmark of historical materialism. Thus, transnational capital is not understood as externally related to states, engaged in competition over authority in the global economy. Instead our focus shifts to class struggles over the extent to which the interests of transnational capital have become internalised or not within concrete forms of state and here in particular the U.S. form of state.

Continue reading

551754_347021182001482_1516089214_n

Class struggle in times of crisis: conceptualising agency of resistance.

By Andreas Bieler.

While movements of resistance against neo-liberal globalization have increasingly become subject of analysis, there is little agreement on how to conceptualize such agency. In my recent article Class struggle in times of crisis: conceptualising agency of resistance, published in the on-line, open access academic journal Spectrum: Journal of Global Studies, I argue that a historical materialist analysis is necessary to capture the historical specificity of capitalism (see also Analysing exploitation and resistance). Nevertheless, a focus on class struggle does not imply a reductionist, economic determinist account.

Continue reading

william_tyndale

The Heirs of Tyndale

By Vanessa Pupavac.

In the last week we have witnessed the incredible dignity of the families and congregation of the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina as they mourn nine members of their bible study group killed in a horrific terrorist attack by a lone racist young gunman on 17 June 2015.

Just two days before there had been the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta in 1215, a crucial document in the history of civil freedoms. When the terrorist killed the Charleston bible study members, he also attacked one of the most important historically won civil freedoms – that of spiritual freedom.

The spiritual freedom represented in the Charleston bible study group may be traced back half a millennium to pioneering bible translators such as William Tyndale. Tyndale’s 1525 translation of the bible enfranchised people spiritually, and is as significant for the history of civil freedoms as the Magna Carta, although less well known.

Tyndale’s decision to translate the bible was a courageous assertion of religious independence against the authority of the church and the monarchy, because translation of the bible was a capital offence in the religious hierarchical societies of sixteenth century Europe. In order to carry his law-breaking work, Tyndale sought out Martin Luther in Wittenberg who had translated the bible into German.  In 1525 his translation of the New Testament was printed, but accusations of heresy forced him into hiding. Continue reading

?????????????????

General Election 2015: Voters wrong, but still revealing

By Philip Cowley.

As part of the preparation for The British General Election of 2015, I have been playing around with the latest wave of the British Election Study data, which is from the short campaign.

There is a question about whether a party had a ‘real chance’ of being in government or not, ‘either forming a government by itself or as part of a coalition’. The question isn’t brilliantly worded – it rules out other ways in which parties might be involved in government, such as confidence and supply agreements – but for all its flaws, responses to the question are still revealing.

The question asked about parties that had ‘no real chance’ of being in government. The figure for both Labour and Conservative was 3%. Almost everyone could see they had a chance. For the Lib Dems, it was 18%. Most people thought they had a chance.

Continue reading

800px-Social-media-for-public-relations1

The Many Faces of Social Media: Challenging the Social Media Democracy Nexus

By Ignas Kalpokas

The conventional narrative about social media and political change tends to be a rather simplistic one: a relatively strong causal relationship between the use of modern communication technologies and democratic change is presumed. Although on some occasions this causation (or, at least, correlation) might hold, there is a different side to social media as well: one of facilitator to non-democratic regimes or instigator of violence. In fact, social media do not have intrinsic qualities of their own but are, instead, dependent on offline conditions. Having established that, the post then moves to the application of social media for influence operations as part of hybrid warfare.

To begin with, social media are usually said to have added a new tool to the social movement repertoire. The new media allow them to access and share information that is not available on mainstream media either because of economic or political pressure or because it simply relates to an issue that is not (yet) high enough on the agenda. Moreover, social media enable instant sharing of new and grievances and, coupled with smartphones, tablets, and other devices capable of capturing and instantly uploading images, allow the development of a new type of activist – an engaged ‘citizen journalist’ who is usually more effective in timing, access, and the immediacy of the cause than any representative of conventional media can be. These developments by themselves help democratise the public sphere and change the way in which citizens relate to it: instead of being passive users, they now become crucial influencers. Social media also have the potential of shifting the balance of power: instead of vertical public communication dominated by heavyweight political and media actors (which, not uncommonly, are one and the same), they can create multidirectional flows of communication.

Continue reading

Parliament_at_Sunset

Devolution, austerity and community leadership in English Local Government

By Alison Gardner.

The ‘Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill’ published at the end of May 2015 provided the cornerstone for the new government’s flagship decentralisation agenda.  Yet as Professor Robin Hambleton has recently argued, rather than granting increased power to local government, the bill’s focus on a new layer of sub-regional, combined authorities will actually move power further away from local communities.  This problem has potential to be exacerbated by the erosion of local authorities’ ‘community leadership’ role, due to financial pressures associated with austerity.

During the early 1990s, academics and practitioners championed a role for English local government ‘not just to deliver certain services well but to steer a community to meet the full range of its needs’.  Although the idea of community leadership has deep historic roots, the 1990s saw a resurgence of interest in the contribution of local government to the strategic development and wellbeing of a locality, through its capacity to connect fragmented layers of governance in an increasingly fractured service delivery landscape.

Continue reading