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Month: June 2016

Brexit: Europe’s new nationalism is here to stay

Written by Simon Toubeau.

It is something of a tragic irony that the European Union – originally constructed to lay to rest the atavistic nationalist impulses of the 20th century – is today behind the resurgence of such feelings across much of Europe. The British referendum that has delivered a vote for “Brexit” is the latest, dramatic indication that this nationalism is here to stay.

This nationalism has brewed largely in reaction to how the EU has evolved over the past few decades. What started as a common market grew to embrace a single currency, the Schengen area and integration in justice and home affairs. All this has diluted core aspects of national sovereignty: states have less control over macro-economic policy, borders and people.

Six months after its last election, Spain is having another. Here’s what you need to know.

Written by Fernando Casal Bértoa.

Spaniards head to the polls again on June 26 — just six months after the last elections. Here’s why: As predicted here in the Monkey Cage, the four main parties — the conservative PP, the socialist PSOE, the liberal Ciudadanos and the radical-left Podemos — failed to come together to form a government, even though some of them (mainly PSOE and Ciudadanos) certainly tried. Since the parties weren’t able to form a coalition government, Spain will hold a new election.

What would Brexit mean for the special relationship? Nothing good

Written by Scott Lucas.

In reality, the “special relationship” between the US and the UK is a bit of a myth. For many Americans, the UK – identified as “England” – means the Queen, Monty Python, and the Beatles (or One Direction, depending on your age).

But it has been a useful myth, on both sides of the Atlantic. Even if the UK needs the idea of a partnership far more than the US does, World War II, the Cold War and Churchill’s invocation of “fraternal association” have fostered lasting institutional bonds. A “first-among-equals” approach exists between diplomatic services, militaries, intelligence agencies and officials overseeing economies and finance.

Michael Gove – not Boris Johnson – is the real contender for next Tory leader

Written by Mark Stuart.

Britain’s “Thatcherites” are an incredibly cohesive bunch. To the despair of historians, they do not write things down. Tory politicians prefer to eschew laborious meetings and minutes in favour of informal dining clubs at which future strategy is debated and plotted. Theirs is a close network of friendships.

This informal club is committed to keeping the Thatcherite flame alive, promoting the beliefs of its hero, Margaret Hilda Thatcher. Rightly or wrongly, given Thatcher’s cautious approach to Europe, securing Britain’s departure from the EU is regarded by the vast majority of Thatcherites as furthering one of her greatest aims. Mere ministerial careers may have to be sacrificed to achieve this goal.

The Chilcot Report and the use of inquiries for research

Written by Louise Kettle.

On Wednesday 6th July the Iraq Inquiry’s report will finally come to light. Seven years after investigations began the 2.6 million word report will be published in twelve volumes and is expected to establish what happened in the planning and throughout the Iraq War. It is hoped that this will provide answers for families of those who lost loved ones in Iraq and lessons to be learned for all future governments.

In addition to these outcomes the report will provide invaluable insights for researchers interested in Tony Blair and his government’s handling of the Iraq War. Whilst archives, such as The National Archives at Kew, also offer a behind the scenes glimpse at the inner workings of government, researchers have to wait 30 years (currently transitioning down to 20 years) for documents to be publicly released. Inquiries, on the other hand, provide instant and easy (often online) access to contemporary sources without the prolonged process of a Freedom of Information request.

Shakespeare Othello culture of suspicion

Written by Vanessa Pupavac.

Much ado about a handkerchief

‘So much ado, so much stress, so much passion and repetition about an Handkerchief!’ (Rymer, 1693, p. 135). Many studies of Shakespeare’s tragedy Othello begin with the seventeenth century critic Thomas Rymer’s incredulity over Desdemona’s handkerchief having a pivotal role in her tragic murder. Nevertheless, through ‘so remote a trifle’, Shakespeare raises fundamental questions over our knowledge of others, and the problems of distinguishing authentic evidence and testimony from false. The tragedy’s concerns with problems of knowing are highly relevant to our contemporary insecurities and pursuit of suspicion from counterterrorism to child protection.

‘I’ll see before I doubt; when I doubt prove’, Othello demands of his officer Iago (III.iii.190).

Britain could become a global power – if it stays in the EU

Written by Mark Walters.

Even after weeks of campaigning, both sides of the referendum campaign have focused entirely on the short-term impacts of the debate. But the question really has to be where Britain will be in ten or 20 years from now.

And the future looks bright for Britain. It is actually on the brink of becoming the most powerful nation on the planet. But it has to remain in the EU to realise the ambition.

Before Brexit looked like a real possibility, the Centre for Economics and Business Researchpredicted that the British economy would overtake Germany’s as the largest in Europe by the 2030s.

Shakespeare King Lear free speech

Written by Vanessa Pupavac.

Lear’s Fool and foolish freedom of speech

 King Lear:

what can you say to draw
A third more opulent than your sisters? Speak.


Nothing, my lord.

King Lear:




King Lear:

Nothing will come of nothing: speak again. (I.i)

Shakespeare Macbeth borrowed robes

Written by Vanessa Pupavac.

Day is night

 By clock, ‘tis day,

            And yet dark night strangles the travelling lamp.

Is’t night’s predominance, or the day’s shame,

            That darkness does the face of earth entomb,

            When living light should kiss it? (II.iv)

Shakespeare’s words capture something of the experience of witnesses of 9/11 when the terrorist attacks turned day into night as the thick clouds of debris from the fallen towers across Manhattan.

Contemporary terrorism has seemed ready to target civilian deaths from Beslan primary school pupils to Boston marathon runners, to Norwegian youth to Turkish peace activists to Pakistani children and families in a park. Such terrorist attacks resonate with Macbeth’s ‘War with mankind’ (II.iv). The outrage generated by the deliberate targeting of civilians built international political consensus around the War on Terror.

Hamlet’s crisis of irreconcilable meanings

Written by Vanessa Pupavac.

Why does Shakespeare’s Hamlet seem so close to us? Shakespeare’s drama takes us to the historic juncture between the old feudal order and the rise of the modern, and their conflicting values. Drama is quintessentially about crisis, here a crisis created by an uncle’s murder of his brother and usurpation of the throne. Hamlet’ dramatic crisis is precipitated by his inability to act against his uncle King Claudius, and reconcile contradictory normative imperatives: the ancient warrior’s honour, Christian ethics, Machiavellian secular politics and faithfulness to himself. Hamlet cannot escape the kingdom and his identity as prince. He is not a free agent as the king and other courtiers make clear.