Archive | January 2015

Making Parliament Representative

Whether or not Parliament needs to reflect the demographics of the population has long been debated by theorists of representative government. Do we needs women and ethnic minorities in Parliament or can white men represent everyone effectively if they listen and care has long been a point of contention.
However to most observers Parliament is becoming more representative. Numbers of women and ethnic minorities have been increasing in recent years and some would argue that the current Parliament is the most diverse to have graced Westminster’s green benches.

However, Parliament is not seen to be overly welcoming to disabled MPs. Although there have been several high profile disabled politicians in recent years including David Blunkett it is not easy for disabled candidates to gain election. In recent years they have been helped by the Access to Elected Office fund but this is due to be scrapped in March.
This piece in the NS looks at the potential impact of this, arguably, regressive step.


What If?

Counterfactualism- that well known historical ‘parlour game’ can also be projected forward. We have said repeatedly that the election is difficult to call, not only in terms of seats but in terms of the various coalition permutations that could emerge.

The BBC has given a range of scenarios to well known journalists- looking at what could happen given different outcomes of different results. While we don’t know what will happen or even if the scenarios predicted could come true, the piece provides a clear focus as to some of the variables that will be considered and some of the likely issues that will need to be discussed.

Digital Democracy

Digital democracy is a relatively new topic in the Democracy section of Unit 1. Questions asked in the past have generally been poorly answered and lacking breadth.

Today’s report by John Bercow shows that there is more to digital democracy than online voting for electors at election time.

It also highlights some other proposed ‘modernisation’ moves in Parliament- allowing remote voting for MPs with childcare concerns (this may help to make a career as an MP appeal to women) and to allow greater use of social media in the chamber which could improve voter engagement and therefore participation.

LSE General Election Blog

You should be used to reading pieces from the LSE Politics Blog on this site as I post things quite frequently.
They have however launched a separate sub ‘General Election 2015’ site which makes for really interesting reading.

I would recommend following it independently- but here are some of my favourite recent posts from the site:

This piece on voter turnout is interesting- participation (or the lack of) is a key topic area for Unit 1 Democracy questions. This piece is looking at whether or not turn out is likely to go up or not in 2015, and what factors might be at play.

We have spent quite a lot of time looking at the factors that make people vote in certain ways- we have looked at class, gender, race. But this piece suggests that age is going to be an important trend in 2015. We have mentioned before the power of the ‘Grey Vote’ because of their willingness to turn out and the importance of older people to the Conservatives and UKIP was clear when we looked at their membership data. This piece gives some good statistical examples of these trends:

Finally this piece on potential records that could be set in 2015 is interesting- predominantly focusing on record low voter shares for the major parties, these records (if they are broken) will be a reflection of the declining share of votes held by the two major parties.

To be or not to be…

In 2010 TV debates entered the world of the British General Election. The debates which have featured in American politics for fifty years were a new addition to the electoral landscape in the UK.
They were proposed in the 1980s and again in 1997 but both Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair in turn refused to take part- however after popular support from both Nick Clegg and David Cameron and with Gordon Brown taking the view that things couldn’t really get any worse – a series of debates went ahead. The now rather clichéd line of ‘I agree with Nick’ became synonymous with the event.

To most voters and those in the media it seemed obvious that these popular spectacles should be replayed in 2015. However when the format of the debate was announced several weeks ago- Ofcom stated that only the major parties should take part, the only parties they classified as major were the Conservatives, Labour, the Liberal Democrats and UKIP. For Nigel Farage this was a moment of potential triumph being classified as the political equal of the PM, the Deputy PM and the leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition. However David Cameron’s response to this was a refusal to participate unless the Greens were also allowed a place at the podium. The refusal of the incumbent PM to take part initially looked as though it would scupper the 2015 edition of the TV debates.

In public Cameron’s argument was that the Greens should be treated as the equal of UKIP and the Lib Dems. With 1 MP and polling figures and membership figures in the region of the Liberal Democrats Cameron felt they too deserved a space on the podium. However, most observers were not convinced by Cameron’s apparent show of solidarity with the Greens. It was well known that Lynton Crosby (Conservative Electoral Strategist) and George Osborne both felt that David Cameron should not take part in the debates and that he had more to loose and little to gain from participating.

However, the broadcasters have redesigned their plans to schedule two Miliband v Cameron head- to- heads on BBC and ITV and two debates on Channel 4 and Sky with all 7 major parties (Con, Lab, Lib, Green, UKIP plus the SNP and Plaid Cymru) participating.
There are two good articles on this story below:

Democracy Day

To commemorate the anniversary of the De Montfort Parliament (arguably the first in the UK) the BBC are running democracy season.  I have mentioned bits of it before but suffice to say IPlayer (radio and TV) will have plenty of interesting programmes for politicos over the next week or so.

in addition the BBC has compiled a very interesting set of articles on the BBC ‘Taking Liberties’ webpage

This is one to browse and enjoy at your leisure. Not all of it is directly relevant to the syllabus but it is interesting particularly as extension material.

Party Systems

This interesting piece in the FT by Vernon Bogdanor is looking at the regional variations in voting behaviour that are likely to be exhibited in 2015. Particularly Bogdanor is suggesting that there are different party systems operating in different parts of the UK.
If you have a question in Unit 1 asking you to discuss the party system being able to suggest that there are now multiple regional systems in the UK is a more sophisticated point than simply discussing 2, 2 1/2 or multiparty at a national level.

This piece is worth reading to provide you with information for your paragraph on regional party systems.

Review of the Year

The Guardian have recorded several of their leading columnists discussing the events of 2014 and their predictions for 2015. It’s only a short piece (30 minutes) but it gives you a good overview to the types of news stories you should be using as your examples in the exam next May.

The topic of whether or not 16 year olds should vote was brought to the foreground of British Politics in 2014 by the SNPs decision to allow 16 year olds to vote in the 2014 Scottish Independence referendum. This piece on the LSE blog offers a measured discussion of the arguments for and against such a move.

Civil Liberties

The subject of civil liberties is included within the judiciary topic. Since 9/11 governments in the Western world have battled to chart a course between the needs of national security and the constitutional traditions and requirements that preserve civil liberties in a liberal democracy.

New Labour’s record on civil liberties was harshly criticised with detention without trial, proposals for ID cards and the creation of a surveillance society being highlighted by pressure groups such as Liberty and the opposition parties.

The small ‘l’ liberalism of both the Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties was evident in their 2010 manifestos with both parties discussing a desire to return to an era where civil liberties were more clearly protected.

However, the pressures of office have seen the coalition also limiting civil liberties particularly in the wake of the threat posed in recent months by ISIS in the Middle East.

This piece gives a good review of the coalitions record on Civil Liberties.