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Month: October 2016

What holds a democracy together – political parties, or the party system itself?

Written by Fernando Casal Bértoa.

Who hasn’t heard that democracy is in crisis? Election after election, we see people participate less and extremist political parties on the rise. The most recent example is in Georgia, where during this month’s legislative elections half of the country’s electorate decide to stay at home and a far-right pro-Russian Eurosceptic party (The Alliance of Patriots of Georgia) managed to gain its first seats in parliament.

Meanwhile, traditionally stable party systems are collapsing. Traditional parties are challenged and in many cases displaced by totally new political formations, making the polity more fragmented, volatility and unstable. Spain and Greece constitute, perhaps, the clearest examples. And political parties themselves are in crisis. It is not only that parties have lost members and voters, but – more importantly – they are considered to be among the most corrupt and untrustworthy institutions.

The TV stars MPs would love to be

Written by Steven Fielding.

In my latest book, A State of Play, I looked at the changing ways in which Britain’s representative democracy has been fictionalized since the later Victorian period. With the support of the University of Nottingham, we decided to turn the tables and ask MPs about their favourite fictional political characters. The results are intriguing.

All MPs were contacted, but with only 49 responding – that’s a 7.5 per cent return rate – I can’t claim the results are fully representative. At 22 per cent, women figured slightly less than they actually do in the Commons. But the big difference is in party terms: 71 per cent of respondents were Labour MPs – double their share in the Commons – while just 20 per cent were Conservatives, less than half their proportion in the Lower House. Maybe Conservative MPs are busier and have better things to do than answer surveys? Or perhaps they just don’t take political fiction – and possibly culture more generally – as seriously as those on the Opposition benches.

The Continuing Resettlement Issues in Tacloban, the Philippines

Written by Jan Robert Go.

It is nearly three years since Super typhoon Yolanda hit the Philippines in November 2013. Resettlement to permanent housing is an ongoing issue in Tacloban, the city that was hit hardest by Yolanda.  Resettlement plans have been dogged by inadequate infrastructure and utility provision. The Philippine government is duty bound to provide adequate housing for Yolanda survivors. However, concerned national and local agencies must also ensure that relocation sites are conducive to the normalisation and betterment of community and family life. Problems such as inadequate housing and clean water have social and political dimensions, which can be seen at household and community levels.

Academics rate David Cameron among worst post-war prime ministers

Written by Kevin Theakston.

David Cameron has been rated one of the worst performing post-war prime ministers in a survey of university academics specialising in British politics and contemporary British history.

Only Anthony Eden, whose career was destroyed by the Suez crisis, and Alec Douglas-Home, prime minister for only a year before he lost the 1964 general election, were ranked lower than Cameron in the league table of prime ministers who have served since 1945.

These results come from the third in a series of surveys the University of Leeds has carried out in conjunction with research company Woodnewton Associates and prior to that MORI. Similar polls, producing prime ministerial rankings, were conducted in 2004 and 2010. This is the first to include David Cameron as leader, but it excludes Theresa May. (The online poll was conducted in September 2016.)

A call to arms, a very undiplomatic call

Written by Mladen Pupavac and Vanessa Pupavac.

Back in the late 1990s, we think it was 1997, we were asked by a Serbian policeman what we were doing when we were taking a photo of the newly opened Croatian embassy in Belgrade. The Serbian authorities were very nervous and concerned to protect the Croatian embassy from any incidents because of the recent war which might jeopardise the uneasy peace.

We recall this incident now because of Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson’s call on British citizens to demonstrate outside the Russian embassy. It is one thing for us to demonstrate outside any embassy, it is another for a government minister to call on its citizens to demonstrate against another. We should expect our government to uphold our freedom to demonstrate. But we should also expect our government to uphold the diplomatic international relations between states and the protection of embassies as the representatives of other nation states – just as other governments should do towards our embassies and other foreign embassies. It is a system based on mutual recognition that whatever our current disputes or conflicts, we ultimately recognise each other as fellow nations with mutual interests in peaceful relations. 

The State as Cultural Practice – Who Knew That?

Written by Peter Housden.

As a Permanent Secretary, you yearn for a theory of the state.  In media res, you face a relentless flow of matters large and unbelievably small, multifarious actors strut the stage and you try to provide purpose and leadership for the several thousand souls in your department.  A clear, still voice of reason to enable us to understand the course of history and provide a sense of sanity, proportion, dignity even, in these wonderful jobs would be heaven sent.

A person thus turns to The State As Cultural Practice with high expectations.  It is a book with a big reputation that makes bold claims for its significance.  We are told to expect ‘a new response to old questions about the nature of the state and how to study it.’  It starts well, situating its concerns within a dense and wide-ranging survey of the literature.  Its methodology – seeking to draw meaning through ‘thick descriptions’ developed from interviews and observation in three Whitehall departments between 2001-5  – is rich and potentially generative. 

Life after David Cameron: the Conservatives have lost a major asset

Written by Roger Mortimore

David Cameron – according to Kenneth Clarke – was a PR-obsessed control freak. If that is the case, he is not a bad advert for what PR and control freakery can achieve for a politician’s public standing. Cameron was almost always positively rated by the public – or at least viewed more favourably than is usual for politicians.

He was first elected as an MP in 2001 and was working for the Conservative party before that. But he attracted no notice in the polls before coming apparently from nowhere to emerge as a serious contender for the party leadership in September 2005.

When Ipsos Mori first included him in a poll during that leadership contest, only 8% of the public chose him as their preferred leader. Only 6% thought he would make the most capable prime minister of the four candidates in the running.

The ‘Corbyn Supremacy’ will end, but it may take years and defeats

313,209 people currently hold British politics hostage.

That’s the number of Labour members who have just re-elected Jeremy Corbyn as their leader. Forming nearly 62 per cent of party members, their support is the weapon with which Corbyn hopes to bludgeon the rest of the party into final submission and take it in a dramatically new direction. And while he enjoys such support, Labour is out of contention as a party of government: the vote for Corbyn was in effect a vote for continued Conservative rule.

Corbyn wants to fundamentally transform the party so that, according to his chief propagandist Paul Mason, it becomes a radical, campaigning ‘social movement’ that will ‘engage’ with communities across the country and persuade people of the need to adopt a post-austerity, socialist course. That is also the object of Momentum, set up by Corbyn supporters after his 2015 election, and which claims a membership of 18,000, not all of who are Labour members.