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Category archive for: British Politics

Iain Duncan Smith resignation: flesh wound or more serious blow to Cameron?

Written by Tim Bale.

If there were a Richter Scale of Political Resignations, then prime ministers such as Margaret Thatcher, Harold Wilson and Harold Macmillan would register at the very top – on nine.

Big beasts such as Conservative Chancellor Geoffrey Howe and Defence Secretary Michael Heseltine would register at about seven. Iain Duncan Smith’s departure, on the other hand, would probably score around six.

The work and pensions secretary’s departure is the sort of earthquake that would only inflict slight to moderate damage on solid structures but is capable of causing more severe problems for less stable edifices. Unfortunately for the Conservative Party, at least in the run up to the EU referendum, it fits all-too-easily into the latter category . Continue reading Iain Duncan Smith resignation: flesh wound or more serious blow to Cameron?

The forgotten side of Tony Benn

Written by Steven Fielding.

Most of the reactions to the death of Tony Benn in early 2014 focused on the man who turned left in the 1970s, embraced union militancy and became “the most dangerous man in Britain”. That was, however, Benn Mark II, arguably the less interesting version, and certainly the one less relevant to our own times, one in which the parties are desperately seeking to regain a connection with the people.

A while back I wrote a book about how Labour responded to the many cultural changes generated in the 1960s. In that decade Benn emerged as one of the party’s few leading figures who tried to seriously think though how the party might engage with at least some of them. Continue reading The forgotten side of Tony Benn

Sovereignty is Illusory! The UK should embrace its power-sharing experience at home to engage with the EU

Written by Simon Toubeau and Jo Eric Khushal Murkens.

A fascination with control

David Cameron returned from Brussels last Friday with the most politically feasible deal for the re-negotiation of Britain’s terms of membership in the EU. The outcome is a far cry from the ambitious set of reforms he laid out in his Bloomberg speech of 2013. But, nevertheless, having secured a special status in the economic governance of the EU, an “emergency brake” and a temporary four year suspension on the in-work benefits of EU migrant, he feels confident that the UK now has the best of both worlds: the access, affluence and security of membership are now balanced by greater national control. Control over borders, control over policy, control over the future evolution of the EU. And this allows him to recommend to the British people that they should vote to remain ‘in’. Continue reading Sovereignty is Illusory! The UK should embrace its power-sharing experience at home to engage with the EU

Voters are sceptical about Europe, but that doesn’t mean they’ll vote for Brexit

Written by John Curtice.

After all the haggling around the dinner table in Brussels, voters in Britain will now have to make their big choice. In a referendum to be held on June 23, they will either have to say they want to stay in the European Union on David Cameron’s renegotiated terms or indicate that they would prefer to leave.

For many voters this will not be an easy choice. New research based on NatCen’s latest British Social Attitudes survey reveals that scepticism about the EU is widespread. Yet at the same time, many are not sure about the wisdom of actually pulling out. Continue reading Voters are sceptical about Europe, but that doesn’t mean they’ll vote for Brexit

Keeping it real? Corbyn, Trump, Sanders and the politics of authenticity

Written by Mathew Humphrey and Maiken Umbach. 

His words have not been scripted or prepared for the press; he speaks from the heart.

It’s now clear to every voter that [he] is nothing but himself.

No Bullshit. Unvarnished opinion and beliefs.

One of these statements recently was made about Donald Trump, the man causing upset in the race to become the Republican presidential candidate. Another was made in reference to Bernie Sanders, the candidate causing similar upset among the Democrats. Another referred to Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the British Labour party. But which statement refers to which politician? It is, of course, impossible to tell.

Despite the radically different stances of these candidates on all kinds of issues, the statements about them are entirely interchangeable. They all refer to a single quality, taken by many to be a great asset in political life. All of these candidates are considered “authentic”. Continue reading Keeping it real? Corbyn, Trump, Sanders and the politics of authenticity

Breaking Boundaries

Written by Matthew Francis.

On the final afternoon of last year’s Rethinking Modern British Studies conference a small group gathered in a corner of the University of Birmingham’s Arts Building to sing the Political History Blues. The panel – subtitled Whatever Happened To Political History? – explored the ‘strange dearth’ of political history, and concluded that political historians had ‘drawn back from the methodological barricades’.

The panellists had a point. If Rethinking Modern British Studies was, in many respects, an indication of the present vitality of contemporary British history, historians working on aspects of what might be thought of as conventional politics – that is, on high politics, on political parties, on think-tanks, and so forth – were notable for the relatively small part of the programme they occupied. The headline acts of the conference were for the most part working in the fields of social or cultural history; political history was present at the conference, but was confined to rather smaller stages. Political historians, it seemed, had not been doing very much ‘rethinking’. Continue reading Breaking Boundaries

What next for devolution in the UK? The Return of a ‘Dual Polity’

Written by Simon Toubeau.

Although Scottish voters decided to remain part of the UK in September 2014, the question of Scotland’s constitutional future remains an important concern for the Conservative government. Its efforts to deal with this matter have resulted in the ratification of The Scotland Bill in November 2015, which drew on the work of the Smith Commission.

The bill promises to offer an ‘enduring settlement’ that anchors Scotland firmly in the UK. But, in reality, it is another instance of reform that heralds the return of a ‘dual polity’. Continue reading What next for devolution in the UK? The Return of a ‘Dual Polity’

Why the polls got it so wrong in the British general election

Written by John Curtice.

Since the surprise result of the British election in May 2015, there has been plenty of speculation about why the opinion polls ahead of the vote were so wrong. On average, they put the Conservatives and Labour neck and neck, when in fact the Conservatives were seven points ahead.

Hard evidence on the reasons for their failure, however has so far been less plentiful. But a new report published today provides important evidence on what really happened.

The report presents the results obtained by the latest instalment of NatCen’s annual British Social Attitudes survey, which was conducted face to face between the beginning of July and the beginning of November last year. All 4,328 respondents to the survey were asked whether or not they voted in the May election and, if so, for which party. Continue reading Why the polls got it so wrong in the British general election

Labour reshuffle: why Benn was kept in Corbyn tent, while others were cast out

Written by Victoria Honeyman.

After one of the most protracted reshuffles in recent years, the new shadow cabinet has finally been announced. Michael Dugher was first to be sacked from his position as shadow culture secretary and, more than 12 hours later, Europe spokesman Pat McFadden went the same way.

Emily Thornberry, who opposes the Trident nuclear deterrent alongside Corbyn, has been brought into the fold as the new shadow defence secretary, replacing the pro-Trident Maria Eagle, who has been demoted to shadow culture secretary.

Even after taking more than 30 hours to reach his decisions, Corbyn faced an immediate backlash. Kevan Jones, the shadow minister for the armed forces, has already resigned , citing his support for Trident. Continue reading Labour reshuffle: why Benn was kept in Corbyn tent, while others were cast out

2015: the year British politics lost its opposition

Written by Eunice Goes.

Like many election years, 2015 was a strange time for British politics. But the vote, which put the Tories in power, was only the prelude. Things got truly bizarre in the latter half of the year when the opposition stopped showing up for work.

Up until May, 2015 was completely dominated by the electoral campaign. The unpredictability of the election meant that the contest was feverish, at times quite nasty, and pretty relentless.

But then a really strange phase began. On May 7, British voters rewarded the Conservative Party with an unexpected parliamentary majority. Until the results of a shock exit poll were announced just after 10pm, it had looked as though a hung parliament was practically inevitable. Many thought Labour would govern at the head of some complex coalition of parties. Few, if any, predicted the Conservatives would win enough parliamentary seats to govern alone. But win they did, coming away with a majority of 12. Continue reading 2015: the year British politics lost its opposition