Archive | September 2014

Labour Party Conference

This week saw the Labour Party convene for their annual Party Conference in Manchester. Historically party conferences were a time for policy to be debated and decided. However in recent years the rank and file membership have become less significant to the debate and party conferences now serve chiefly to act as a forum for the announcement of policies. With a general election due in May 2015 the Labour Party conference was no different.

The key event in a Party Conference is always the leader’s speech. And Ed Miliband’s offering in Manchester was no different. This was the last chance for Ed Miliband to look Prime Ministerial and convince the highly sceptical electorate that he is worthy of moving into Number 10 next year. However, there has been almost universal agreement amongst the press that Ed Miliband fluffed his lines, forgetting a portion of his speech (on the deficit) and generally failing to look convincing. The ability to look prime ministerial and deliver set piece orations is a key skill for a Prime Minister.

This article in the Economist offers a good overview of the problems facing Mr Miliband.

For the parties topic of Unit 1 it is necessary to be able to describe the policies of each party in the context of their ideological traditions. Labour made several interesting announcements at the party conference, two of the biggest were:

Child benefit is to be frozen to act as a source of revenue for the Treasury.

The minimum wage is to be increased to £8 per hour

An overview of Labour’s policies has been helpfully put together by the BBC.


What about England?

We have already discussed the asymmetrical nature of the current devolution settlement in the UK. If there is a ‘no’ vote on Thursday and DevoMax is introduced in Scotland the unevenness of the settlement will become even more exaggerated. The net loser in the current system is England, and the English Democrats have long been campaigning (albeit not very successfully) for an English Parliament. Labour supported the notion of Regional Assemblies in their 1997, 2001 and 2005 manifestos although in reality the defeat of John Prescott’s proposal for devolution to the North East in the Great North Vote marked the practical end of this policy.

However in light of the Scottish devolution debate the IPPR has revisited the subject producing a report suggesting the devolution of a range of functions from central government to Britain’s major Northern cities.

This piece from the BBC explains the recommendations in the IPPR report and Nick Clegg’s support for this policy. As the Deputy Prime Minister Stated ‘the cat is out of the devolution

8 Days to Save the Union: The Key Battles

Clegg, Cameron and Miliband are all heading to Scotland today, they won’t be sharing a train or a platform when they arrive but they are all travelling North with the same purpose- namely to reinvigorate the ‘no’ campaign.


Miliband and Cameron are due to visit Edinburgh and Glasgow- Scotland’s two major cities look destined to vote in different ways next week. This piece in the Guardian looks at the key battlegrounds.

Finally from this morning’s Guardian an analysis of what an independent Scotland’s economy might be like.




Conservative Party Splits

The Conservative Party is one of politics great survives. Characterised as more interested in staying in power than small matters like ideology, it changes and evolves to respond to the wishes of the electorate.

Tim Bale, one of the leading historians of the contemporary Conservative party has published this interesting article in the NS looking at the challenge of Carswell’s defection in the context of the 19th century Tory party splits and schisms.


Scottish Referendum: The Pendulem Turns

One story dominated the weekend news agenda. For the first time the ‘yes’ campaign posted a lead in the opinion polls. The lead was a narrow 51:49 but it marked a turning point in the campaign.

With the campaign swinging away from the ‘Better together campaign’ since the second televised debate the gravity of the situation is being noted in the press.

This isn’t just another news story; this will potentially shake the constitutional fabric of a nation that has stood in its present guise for centuries. The significance of this story not only to the referendums topic we are studying at the moment but also to the constitution topic in Unit 2 cannot be overstated.

The pick of the press coverage can be found below:

This piece in the Guardian suggests the gravitas of events

This is a basic- everything you need to know Q&A on the referendum

The New Statesman also offers some interesting thoughts:

This piece suggests that saying ‘goodbye’ to Scotland may have benefits for us

While this article discusses Osborne’s somewhat reactionary pledge to offer DevoMax as a compromise. Devomax would see the powers devolved to Scotland in 1998 increased. Scotland would remain in the Union but would have more power over it’s own policy.