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Category: Coalition

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.)

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. 

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.

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.

Will Nigel Farage win Thanet South?

By Matthew Goodwin 

After by-election victories in Clacton, and Rochester and Strood, Ukip is now hoping to establish a larger presence in the House of Commons. With little over five months to go until the general election, and aside from these two seats, Ukip’s top prospects in May 2015 include seats like Boston and Skegness, Castle Point, Thurrock, Great Yarmouth and Great Grimsby. Another seat that is firmly on the radar is the Kent seat of Thanet South, where after much deliberation Nigel Farage has decided to stand.

But last week the assumption among Kippers that Farage will join Douglas Carswell and Mark Reckless on the green benches was challenged by a constituency poll from Lord Ashcroft. It painted a bleak picture for Farage. In sharp contrast to the 44 per cent lead that Carswell enjoyed in the first poll in Clacton, or the 9 per cent lead that Reckless had in the first poll in Rochester and Strood, the snapshot suggests that in Thanet South Farage might not even be looking at victory.

Ukip Supporters have a Strong Bond with the Party

By Matthew Goodwin 

Is Britain’s two-party system really about to crumble? This question was the title of an academic paper that was written back in 1982. Like many other observers at the time, the academic Ivor Crewe had been captivated by the sudden rise of a new challenger to the main parties: the Social Democratic Party. The SDP’s surge was truly astonishing; it won a string of parliamentary by-elections, attracted more than two dozen defecting MPs and was soon polling ahead of all the other parties. At one point the SDP was on more than 50 per cent.

At first glance the scale of the SDP’s insurgency makes the contemporary rise of Ukip seem much less impressive. Ukip has only two seats in the House of Commons, continues to average only 16 per cent in the opinion polls and you would be hard pushed to find a serious commentator who thinks that Nigel Farage’s party will attract more than 20 per cent of the vote at the 2015 general election. Ukip also remains prone to public relations disasters and is a polarising force. A new poll by YouGov this week indicated that around one in four voters would struggle to remain friends with a Ukip supporter.