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The Policy Impact of Economic Development: Clientelism and Political Budget Cycles

Written by Francesco Stolfi

Political Budget Cycles (PBCs), namely the manipulation of taxation or government spending close to elections, are an enduring topic in the study of economic policy-making. The literature explains PBCs based on the fact that politicians are better informed than most voters and thus can use the manipulation of fiscal variables to essentially fool the public into thinking they are more efficient than they actually are. In a recent article in the Journal of European Public Policy, Mark Hallerberg and I propose a quite different explanation, one that does not depend on voters being naïve. Rather, we argue that a source of variation in the extent of PBCs is, via the effect of clientelism, the level of economic development.

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European Better Regulation between Populism and Technocracy

Written by Francesco Stolfi

To what extent do policies decided at the European Union (EU) level actually get implemented by its member states? This fundamental question is not easy to answer. In fact, most work in the vast literature on the implementation of EU policies confines itself to studying the degree of formal transposition of EU legislation. In our  recent article in Comparative European Politics, The implementation of administrative burden reduction policy: Mechanisms and contexts in the study of Europeanization,  Fabrizio Di Mascio, Alessandro Natalini and I go a step further, analysing the extent of change in the behaviour of domestic actors and in actual policy outcomes resulting from the EU initiatives for better regulation (reducing the regulatory burden on citizens and firms) between 2007 and 2014. The article focuses on the four largest continental member states (France, Germany, Italy and Spain).

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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