Sexing up Cornwall: but there’s more to Poldark than good looks

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”.

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Is it time to start believing in an SNP landslide?

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.

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Promises, promises in the Croatian Presidential Elections

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.

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A new political turn for Indian Kashmir

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.

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Class division in Brave New World and The Hunger Games: How capitalist dystopias limit individual agency

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.

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Six lessons from the initial failed international response to Ebola

By Catherine Gegout

The Ebola virus has killed more than 9,000 people – about 2,000 in Guinea, 3,000 in Sierra Leone and 4,000 in Liberia. The outbreak started in Guinea in December 2013, but the Ebola crisis really started in April 2014 when it began to spread.

The initial international response was deemed “totally inadequate” by British MPs. Since then efforts have improved, but here are six lessons that can be learned from the problematic initial response – from the problems highlighted by the MPs – and especially pertinent to those states that have the capacity to react to epidemics.

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Intelligence as the Philippines’ First Line of Defense

By Francis Domingo

A formidable defensive strategy is dependent on the understanding of an adversary’s intentions and capabilities. Inherently, a good strategy must then be based on solid intelligence. While military strategists have acknowledged the importance of intelligence, many doubt its quality and reliability considering the devastating intelligence failures in the 21st century. In the case of Philippines, intelligence is generally regarded an enabler of military operations. However, given the limited operational capacities of the military, improving intelligence capabilities should be the main focus of the Philippine Government. This article argues for the importance of prioritizing intelligence in defending the Philippines against adversaries.

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UK Defense and the 2015 Election

By Wyn Rees

Election fever is in the air and the party platforms are busily being debated. Amidst this febrile atmosphere, defence is coming under the spotlight. Although not an issue at the top of voters’ agendas it is a subject that attracts attention because of the heightened threat environment resulting from terrorism and events in the Middle East. What are the issues in defence that will figure in the General Election in May?

Like other government departments, the Ministry of Defence has experienced four years of austerity. The Conservatives conducted a Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) in 2010 that inflicted painful cuts on all three Armed Services.  Based on the premise that a £37billion shortfall had emerged between defence commitments and resources, the Regular Army was cut from 102 000 to 82 000, the surface fleet was reduced in size and the Harrier and Nimrod aircraft were retired. The legacy from these decisions creates the context in which a future government will conduct an SDSR in 2015. There was an expectation that by the time of the 2015 Review the defence budget would be growing again but the persistence of the national debt renders this unlikely. Anything more than a slight increase in the defence equipment budget, to take account of major weapons programmes, looks overly optimistic. Continue reading


The End of Cheap Labour in China?

By Andreas Bieler

China’s developmental strategy has been based on cheap labour, foreign direct investment (FDI) and the assembling of pre-fabricated parts for export to North American and European markets. This export-oriented growth strategy in low value added production sectors has, however, come under pressure as a result of the global economic crisis and a decline in global demand. In his presentation at Nottingham University on 17 February, jointly hosted by theSchool of Contemporary Chinese Studies and the Centre for the Study of Social and Global Justice, Florian Butollo from Jena University in Germany investigated whether China’s attempts at industrial upgrading in response to the crisis have also resulted in ‘social upgrading’ for its workforce.

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Ukip’s 2020 strategy: topple Labour in the north

By Matthew Goodwin

Spend time with senior people in UKIP and it will not be long until you hear about the ‘2020 Strategy’. Buoyed by their recent success, Farage and his party are already talking openly about their plans for after May. And there is little disagreement about what they should be.

The 2020 Strategy is geared toward establishing Ukip as a permanent feature on the political landscape, transforming it from a short-term revolt into a long-term insurgency. It is anchored in an assumption that the party has already established ownership over its two core issues – immigration and Britain’s relationship with the EU.

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