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Date archive for: October 2015

The impact of Suffragette

Written by Steven Fielding.

Publicity for the movie Suffragette has not been exactly shy of linking the campaign for women to gain the vote before 1914, which it depicts, with the contemporary campaign for women’s equality more generally. Certainly many of those who have seen the film and have made their opinions known via the social media have described how inspiring they found its representation of a working-class women’s conversion to the cause of women’s suffrage. For some at least the past as dramatised on the screen has resonances for the real present.

But does watching Suffragette change how audiences think about gender equality today?

The impact of the media on attitudes has long been a matter of debate. There have been numerous American studies about how watching TV shows or films with political themes can shape how audiences think. The broad consensus of such work is that if a text’s message echoes opinions already held by viewers it can at least reinforce those opinions: but it can rarely transform an individual’s strongly-held view of the world if it conflicts with it. Continue reading The impact of Suffragette

Leaked drone files reveal ethical questions hang over ‘grey area’ strikes

Written by Tom Simpson.

Two years after Edward Snowden leaked thousands of classified files detailing the West’s surveillance programmes, another whistleblower has revealed more secret documents, this time detailing the US drone strike operations against Islamist terrorists in East Africa, the Arabian peninsula and Afghanistan.

Published by The Intercept website as The Drone Papers, the slides are accompanied by comments from the unnamed source of the leak. The site’s approach is a campaigning one, shown by the decision to label the drone strikes as “assassinations” – but this obscures the significant moral issues the growing use of drones actually raises.

Framing these operations as assassinations, against the bland military lingo of “targeted killings”, is not just a matter of words. Assassination is killing a non-combatant, such as a scientist or politician, for political purposes. It is unlawful under most law – and by most accounts immoral. Continue reading Leaked drone files reveal ethical questions hang over ‘grey area’ strikes

Putin meets Assad in Moscow – and runs rings around his Western critics

Written by Christopher Read.

With the sudden news of a surprise meeting with Bashar al-Assad in Moscow, Vladimir Putin has once again left his critics in the West with egg on their faces. Even before the visit, Russia’s entry into the Syrian conflict had surprised the US-led coalition with both its speed and its efficiency.

Against all expectations and with minimal intelligence leakage, Russia crisply executed refurbishment of the Latakia airbase and set about moving into the Syrian morass in a businesslike and determined fashion. For the first time since 1945, American and Russian forces are, at least on the surface, fighting alongside one another – and being forced to work out how to do that.

The symbolism is inescapable. These events fit a pattern stretching back more than two centuries, where distrust of Russia by Britain (and its successor on the global stage, the US) is punctuated by major wars in which they actually find themselves, uneasily, on the same side. Only in the Crimean War of 1854-6 were they directly opposed. They stood together in the major conflicts to defeat Napoleon, the Kaiser and Hitler. Continue reading Putin meets Assad in Moscow – and runs rings around his Western critics

Why the Provisional IRA still exists in Northern Ireland

Written by Gordon Clubb.

It has been revealed that the Provisional IRA – the paramilitary group that fought for Northern Ireland to become separate from the UK – still exists, despite the IRA agreeing to disband in 2005.

An independent review, submitted to the British government, found the Provisional IRA and its leading decision-making body, the army council, continue to operate, albeit in a “much reduced form”. It concludes that they are not a security threat, but that the army council oversees both the Provisional IRA and Sinn Fein with an overarching political strategy.

This announcement follows a break-down in the Northern Irish political system. Unionist officials have resigned from their posts partly in response to allegations that Provisional IRA members were responsible for the murder of Kevin McGuigan. Continue reading Why the Provisional IRA still exists in Northern Ireland

Putin’s Syria plans have forced Obama to face a terrible dilemma

Written by Simon J Smith.

Russia’s nascent Syria campaign has certainly gotten off to a rocky start: international scepticism of its aims, provocative forays into Turkish airspace, missiles apparently crashing in Iran.

But with the Pentagon abandoning a key programme to train the Syrian rebels it accuses Moscow of attacking, it’s clear that the game is changing fast on both sides. In a few short days, Moscow has already forced the US’s hand – and it could yet profoundly change the two countries’ relationship.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. The Obama administration initially tried to “reset” relations with Russia, and for a brief period, NATO resumed dialogue with Russia through the NATO-Russia Council. Russia even contributed to a 2011 NATO exercise, Bold Monarch. Continue reading Putin’s Syria plans have forced Obama to face a terrible dilemma

When UN peacekeepers commit atrocities, someone has to act

Written by Rosa Freedman.

Sexual exploitation, child abuse, corruption and torture. These are just some of the many crimes committed by United Nations peacekeepers.

Such abuses have the potential to undermine and even delegitimise the work of the UN, yet they regularly go undetected or unpunished. A culture of impunity pervades, largely because of deficiencies in the laws governing peacekeeping operations.

UN peacekeeping troops have legal immunity from prosecution in the host state. The country that sent the troops to the host state in the first place is supposed to prosecute its soldiers for any crimes they commit there. But in practice, many don’t have the laws needed to conduct trials for acts committed abroad. Others systematically fail to uphold their obligation to prosecute. UN peacekeepers are essentially free to get away with terrible crimes because they know this jurisdictional gap provides them with impunity. Continue reading When UN peacekeepers commit atrocities, someone has to act

Explaining Cameron’s Confrontational Approach to EU Reform

Written by Nathan Jones.

In his speech to the Conservative Party conference on 7 October 2015, David Cameron described the UK’s role in Europe thus, ‘We don’t duck fights.  We get stuck in.  We fix problems.  That’s how we kept our border checkpoints when others decided to take theirs down.  It’s how we kept the pound when others went head first into the Euro.  Because we do things our way.  We get rebates. We get out of bailouts … Britain is not interested in “ever closer union” – and I will put that right’.  By contrast, in a joint speech to the European Parliament on the same day, the leaders of France and Germany, Angela Merkel and François Hollande, outlined their vision for an ever closer union, using the immigration issue to justify their case.  Merkel pointed out that, ‘In the refugee crisis, we must not succumb to the temptation of falling back into national action. Quite the contrary, now we need more Europe’.  Hollande argued that ‘We need not less Europe but more Europe. Europe must affirm itself otherwise we will see the end of Europe, our demise’.  Both leaders also emphasised the need for a more integrated eurozone to strengthen Europe’s power. Continue reading Explaining Cameron’s Confrontational Approach to EU Reform

Canada’s new prime minister: who is Justin Trudeau, and how did he win?

Written by Steve Hewitt.

After a hard-fought election, Canada’s Liberal party has won a decisive parliamentary majority, and Canada will soon have an unfamiliar prime minister with a familiar last name. But 43-year-old Justin Trudeau’s rise to the top of Canadian politics was far from certain, even despite his remarkable political pedigree.

His father, the late Pierre Trudeau, dominated Canadian politics between 1968 and 1984, winning four elections and – uniquely for a Canadian politician – building a substantial reputation outside of his home country. Though lionised at the time of his death in 2000 (two of his honorary pallbearers were Fidel Castro and Jimmy Carter) he was a controversial and divisive figure in Canada. Loved by many, he was equally loathed throughout his federal political career by numerous voters, particularly across Western Canada and among Quebecois separatists and nationalists.

While the elder Trudeau’s career was unquestionably a success, he still never managed to get higher than 46% of the popular vote. He left his Liberal Party in disarray when he retired, and although the party has won elections since, it has never truly recovered. Continue reading Canada’s new prime minister: who is Justin Trudeau, and how did he win?

Sturgeon’s ‘blame Westminster’ routine hides dismal SNP record as party of government

Written by Adam Tomkins.

The Scottish National Party annual conference in Aberdeen just ended was the last big gathering of the party before elections for a new Scottish parliament next May. The SNP has been in power in Scotland since 2007 and the polls put them on course to win a third straight term next spring. This is extraordinary.

The SNP exists for only one reason: to seek the break-up of Britain and independence for Scotland. It won the right to put that issue to the Scottish people in an historic referendum in September 2014, but Scots voted against independence by 55.3% to 44.7%, so Scotland remains – with England, Wales and Northern Ireland – one of the four constituent nations of the United Kingdom.

The SNP’s defeat in the referendum ought to have caused it traumatic shock. But the referendum losers have emerged victorious in the year since. The 45% who voted Yes to independence rallied to the SNP’s cause, whereas the 55% who voted No are otherwise divided between those on the left (who support Labour), those on the centre-right (who support the Conservatives) and those few who remain in the middle (who used to support the Liberal Democrats). Continue reading Sturgeon’s ‘blame Westminster’ routine hides dismal SNP record as party of government

2015 Portuguese Legislative Elections: between Stability and Disaffection

Written by Luís de Sousa and Fernando Casal Bértoa.

On the morning of the 5th of October 2015, the 115th birthday of the implantation of the Portuguese Republic (5th October 1910), one of the bank holidays that have been eliminated by the centre-right government during the troikian period, the Portuguese woke-up with an expected autumn rainy day and a taste of sweet and sour in their mouth. Portugal re-elected the centre-right Portugal Ahead coalition formed by the ruling Social Democrats (PSD) and Christian-Democrats (CDS/PP) responsible for negotiating and implementing the bailout. The question in everybody’s mind is why Portuguese voters have not sanctioned at the ballot box the executors of the austerity measures responsible for their hardship in the last four years? Moreover, why in clear contrast to other countries (e.g. Italy, Greece, Spain) where austerity policies have favoured the formation and electoral success of totally new parties (e.g. Five-Stars Movement, ANEL, Podemos), no new party (e.g. Democratic Republican Party, Free/Time to move Forward) managed to enter parliament? Continue reading 2015 Portuguese Legislative Elections: between Stability and Disaffection