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Little red joke: Corbyn Labour’s most pressing problem is with media

Written by Andrew Scott Crines.

It was always going to be a car-crash moment for Labour. When, during his reply to to George Osborne’s autumn statement, the shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, chose to flourish Chairman Mao’s little red book, he was simply playing into the hands of a hostile media that sits in wait for moments such as this. Far from focusing on the chancellor of the exchequer’s U-turn over tax credits, political journalists obsessed over this gaffe, while the Treasury benches erupted in delighted mirth.

This highlights one of the most pressing problems for Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour leadership. A seeming inability to manage their relationship with the media. Continue reading Little red joke: Corbyn Labour’s most pressing problem is with media

Winners and losers in George Osborne’s spending review

Written by Peter Taylor-Gooby.

George Osborne always plays the role of the smiling conjurer who pulls the rabbit out of the hat and steals the scene with aplomb. In his 2015 spending review and autumn statement, the surprise announcement was that cuts to tax credit will not be as stringent as expected – although housing benefit claimers are the losers. Concealed within the chancellor’s hat are cuts of more than 50% in grants to local government and tense optimism about the growth, employment and pay forecasts on which everything depends. Continue reading Winners and losers in George Osborne’s spending review

Anonymous can’t defeat Islamic State, but here’s what it could achieve

Written by Andres Guadamuz. 

The announcement that hacktivist collective Anonymous has declared war on the Islamic State has been received positively by the public. After the Paris attack some may think governments are not doing enough to protect civilians, so at least it seems someone is doing something about the terrorist threat.

So far the group claims its #OpParis has taken down more than 5,500 IS-related Twitter accounts – an impressive claim the press has gleefully and unquestioningly repeated. Anonymous certainly can shut down social media accounts, having done so following the Charlie Hebdo attacks in January, during what it called #OpIsis. In the aftermath, similar claims were made then, yet less than a year later, there still exist thousands of Twitter accounts to be taken down. Continue reading Anonymous can’t defeat Islamic State, but here’s what it could achieve

Could downing of Russian jet over Turkey lead to a wider war?

Written by David J Galbreath.

The dangerous skies over Syria have now earned their reputation. On November 24 2015, the Turkish foreign ministry confirmed that its forces had shot down a fighter aircraft on the Turkish border with Syria. The Russian foreign ministry confirmed soon afterwards that it has lost an SU-24 over Syria.

The situation remains tense: two pilots were filmed ejecting from the stricken aircraft; one is reported to be in the hands of pro-Turkish Turkmen rebels along the border but the fate of the other is unknown – early reports from Reuters said it had video of the second pilot seemingly dead on the ground. Continue reading Could downing of Russian jet over Turkey lead to a wider war?

Greece with the Left in government again

Written by Dimitris Sourvanos and Kyriaki Nanou.

Last week Euclid Tsakalotos gave a talk at the LSE discussing from his own experiences – as (the current) finance minister in Greece and as a lifelong Marxist – the difficulties that left-wing parties are faced with when governing under severe constraints. The Greek finance minister said:

It’s difficult for a left-wing Finance Minister to have any left-wing credentials. {…} The deal of July is only as good as the strategy you have to incorporate it in a left-wing direction. The final test of the deal for the Left is not given a priori.

He also added that although the Greek government disagrees on certain aspects of this deal (e.g. pensions, non-performing loans); it is important that it gives space for alternative experiments in in other sectors (e.g. healthcare system) where there is still an “open space”. Continue reading Greece with the Left in government again

SDSR 2015: A foreign policy driven by trade will not provide security

Written by Jamie Gaskarth.

Downing Street has been a social whirl in the last few weeks. A procession of leaders have traipsed through the large black door of Number 10 and been warmly welcomed, including the Chinese President Xi Jinping, Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan, Abdul Fattah al-Sisi of Egypt and Narendra Modi of India. These visits form a part of the prosperity agenda that is driving Britain’s foreign and security policy. In many cases, they coincide with the announcement of trade and investment deals worth billions. Thus the Chinese Premier’s visit on 20 October was said to involve £30 billion worth of business, Nazarbayev met UK business leaders, and Modi’s trip was said to herald over £9 billion in agreements between UK and Indian firms.

This kind of bilateral diplomacy has been a feature of government policy since William Hague in the last parliament announced a ‘networked foreign policy’. In theory, this involved a more adaptive policy framework in which the UK could engage with individual countries to advance the national interest. In practice, it meant an ad hoc and often confused foreign policy that seemed to lack an overall rationale. In this vacuum, the Treasury emerged as the dominant influence on external policy. The desire to increase trade has dominated Britain’s relations with other states in recent years, and spread its influence into defence and security policy. Prosperity is now a central plank of the country’s security agenda. Continue reading SDSR 2015: A foreign policy driven by trade will not provide security

Plugging the Gap: The SDSR, Covert Action and Special Forces

Written by Rory Cormac.

The landscape surrounding the 2015 SDSR is one of costs, threats, and Britain’s “global role”. The impending review will have to take each into account – and has the unenviable task of finding a balance.

Together, these factors have created a climate in which deniable intervention, through covert action and Special Forces, has become – and will continue to be – increasingly appealing to Cameron’s government.

Successive British governments have sought to maintain the global role. The 2010 SDSR continued along this theme. And the Prime Minister and his senior colleagues have recently spoken out against any decrease in British global ambition. This has been matched by pressure from Washington not to disengage from global commitments. Continue reading Plugging the Gap: The SDSR, Covert Action and Special Forces

Why Islamic State targeted Paris, and why it’s changing tack

Written by Cindy May.

The Islamic State (IS) attacks on Paris represent a major shift in the group’s strategy. The response has already been spectacular; increased military action is underway, as is a manhunt for attackers and accomplices still on the loose.

In the flurry of activity, it’s easy to forget that these attacks did not come out of nowhere. It pays to ask why IS attacked Paris specifically, why it did so now – and why it has suddenly adopted a new approach.

As IS’s statement of responsibility indicated, France was probably chosen as its first Western target because of the government’s active involvement in the anti-IS coalition, its intervention against Islamists in Mali, the state’s strong secularism – which prohibits public displays of religion including the hijab – and the depiction of the Prophet Muhammad, both by the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and the newspaper Liberation, which republished the notorious Danish cartoons of 2007. Continue reading Why Islamic State targeted Paris, and why it’s changing tack

Paris attacks: how effective has the military response been?

Written by Scott Lucas.

Even as Parisians were trying to assess the scale of the attacks by Islamic State (IS) which killed 132 people on November 13, politicians were promising a decisive and effective military response.

French President Francois Hollande assured, “We will be merciless toward the barbarians of Islamic State group. Faced with war, the country must take appropriate action.”

British Prime Minister David Cameron responded, “Your values are our values, your pain is our pain, your fight is our fight and together we will defeat these terrorists.”

US President Barack Obama – who had said only on November 12 that “we have contained” IS in Iraq and Syria – asserted that “those who think that they can terrorise the people of France or the values that they stand for are wrong”. Continue reading Paris attacks: how effective has the military response been?

Britain has the chance to turn young people into voters – here’s how

Written by Anja Neundorf and Kaat Smets.

Support to lower the voting age to 16 is growing across Europe, and the UK is no exception. It’s looking more and more likely that young people will be allowed to vote, in time for the upcoming EU referendum. Better still, a bill in parliament proposes to overhaul of the way we teach young people about politics. By giving them the vote – and explaining how and why they should exercise it – we have a unique opportunity to re-engage young people with our political system.

A solution like this one is desperately needed: young people are notorious non-voters. While turnout levels are going down among all age groups, young adult turnout is undergoing an even more rapid decline. In fact, the gap in turnout between young and old in the UK is by far the largest of any European democracy.

To make things worse, recent changes in registration rules mean that young people can no longer be automatically registered to vote by their parents, universities or colleges. If they fail to register before November 20, as many as a million young voters could be left off the electoral register. This would be another massive blow to youth participation in politics. Continue reading Britain has the chance to turn young people into voters – here’s how