By Philip Cowley
The news that the Government is to table a last minute amendment to the procedure for the re-election of the Speaker has enlivened the dog days of the parliament. The current procedure for the defenestration of an incumbent Speaker requires MPs to do so publicly; the proposed change will introduce a secret ballot. There are good summaries of the issue from the BBC (here) and the Commons library (here).
When discussing today’s vote, it is worth distinguishing between the principle (should there be a secret ballot or not?), the method (why is it being done now, and in this way?), and the motivation (why do it?). Much of the discussion thus far has tended to mix these three up, depending on the outcome a particular individual desires (which tends to depend on whether they like the Speaker, John Bercow, or not).
In the wealth of commentary that followed upon the release of the results of the REF exercise just before Christmas 2014, not much attention was devoted to the places in which British academics working in politics and international relations felt that their very best work had appeared. But a recent posting on Chris Hanretty’s blog shows that more work submitted to the latest REF appeared in Political Studies than in any other journal, at home or abroad. In the event, 109 items submitted to the research exercise were published in Political Studies, the lead journal of the Political Studies Association, with the nearest other contender (with 97 items), being the Review of International Studies, flagship journal of the PSA’s sister organization, the British International Studies Association. Along with the 71 articles drawn from the British Journal of Politics and International Relations, this means that nearly three hundred articles submitted to the REF exercise had appeared in journals published by the two professional associations of academics in politics and international relations working in the UK.
By Kyriaki Nanou
In January 2015, after failure to agree on the nomination of a president, national elections were held in Greece – a country at the eye of the storm of the Eurozone crisis. The main opponents were New Democracy, the main party in the governing coalition arguing in favour of the necessity of the memorandum agreements and the continuation of the reforms as part of the external support package; and, on the other side, SYRIZA, arguing that there is a different way for Greece to exit the crisis – involving renegotiation of the the terms of the bailout agreements and not undertaking all of the reform measures. Together with its governing partners, New Democracy stressed ‘responsibility’ and argued that Greece had no other way out of this crisis but to implement all of the austerity measures, which it argued had already improved the state of the economy, and to satisfy external creditors and EU partners. Their campaign was focused on a rightist agenda underlying the dangers of deviating from the implementation of the painful reforms, which had the potential of upsetting the creditors, stopping the transfer of further payments and leading to a potential ‘Grexit’ from the euro. On the other hand, SYRIZA emphasised ‘responsiveness’ and argued that politicians should listen to the needs and concerns of Greek people, who were disillusioned with austerity politics. It had a leftist agenda that aimed to provide hope to the Greek electorate by promising measures that would ease the burden of austerity – by either not implementing planned reforms or by changing or reversing some of the reforms implemented by the previous government.
By Pauline Eadie
The World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (WCDRR) was held in Sendai, Japan from 14-18 March 2015. The United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) organized the conference. The objective of the conference was to facilitate a post-2015 framework for disaster relief. The result of the WCDRR was the non-binding Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (SFDRR). ‘Post-2015’ is now embedded in the lexicon of development practitioners as a signifier of the post Millennium Development Goal (MDG) era. 2015 also heralds the end of the ten-year Hyogo Framework for Action: Building the Resilience of Nations and Communities to Disaster (HFA). The HFA listed five priorities for Action that involved scaling up institutional and cultural awareness of safety, risk and resilience ‘at all levels’. A key theme was preparedness, including early warning.
By Miwa Hirono
Until the turn of the century, China’s response towards international conflicts had been based on the principle of non-intervention affirmed at the Bandung Conference in 1955. However, since the beginning of the 2000s, it seems China has begun to take mixed approaches to dealing with various international conflicts, ranging from a very flexible interpretation of the principle of non-intervention and participation in ‘intrusive’ international policy in relation to conflict states; to its tactic of abstention at the UN Security Council (UNSC); and even to very firmly abiding by the principle of non-intervention in the occasional exercise of its power of veto.
By Steven Fielding
The BBC has revived Poldark, last seen on British screens in 1977. It clearly hopes that the story of an impoverished gentleman returning from the American revolutionary wars to find his Cornish family seat in ruins, the county in turmoil and his true love about to marry another will again beguile audiences.
The original Poldark came, much like today, amidst a tsunami of historical dramas. A strong element of Poldark’s appeal was visual, as is the case with most period dramas. The Cornish landscapes, costumes and interiors gave audiences a strong sense of time and place. The series also benefited from the brooding presence of Ross Poldark, in tight breeches, boots and flowing shirts, a role that made Robin Ellis widely known as “the sexiest man on the telly”.
By Mark Stuart
The last four general elections in Scotland have been dull affairs. Very few seats have changed hands, and Labour dominance has been preserved. All that looks set to change if Lord Ashcroft’s recent constituency-based poll of 8,000 Scottish voters is to be believed. He predicts that the SNP could win an astonishing 56 of the 59 Scottish constituencies, with Jim Murphy, Labour’s Scottish leader left clinging onto his East Renfrewshire bastion. Meanwhile, the Conservatives may need to cut cards to determine if they retain their only seat in Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale. The Liberal Democrats would be wiped off the mainland of Scotland (including the likeable Charles Kennedy in Ross, Skye and Lochaber) and left only with Orkney and Shetland, the former seat of Jo Grimond.
By Mladen Pupavac and Vanessa Pupavac
“I won’t let anyone say that Croatia won’t become prosperous and rich. Croatia will be among the most developed countries of the EU and the world, I promise you here tonight”.
So promised Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic of the Croatian Democratic Union party (HDZ) after winning the 2014-15 Croatian presidential election and becoming the first female president of Croatia.
The electoral race was very close. Kitarovic won 50.74% and the previous president Ivo Josipovic of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) 49.26% of the popular vote. In absolute terms, the difference between the two candidates was only around 30,000 votes, with the number of spoiled ballots twice that number at around 60,000.
By Andrew Whitehead
The 79-year old Mufti Mohammad Sayeed was sworn-in on Sunday (1st March) as the new chief minister of the Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir. Attending the ceremony in the state’s winter capital of Jammu was India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi. For his party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), it was a landmark moment. For the first time, a party often described as Hindu nationalist is in power in Jammu & Kashmir, India’s only Muslim minority state and its most disaffected.
By Ibtisam Ahmed
The idea of utopia is to offer solutions to existing social problems, often in radical ways. The broad scope of the term and the etymological paradox at its heart – a place that is not a place – gives us an understanding of why this particular field of political thought appears so often in fiction. Whether the positive eutopia or the negative dystopia, a range of novels, films, television shows and even comic books have been used to explore these themes. To suggest that fictional accounts are not useful tools, then, is a glaring insult to the potential they hold.