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Analysis and Comment (112)

Britain’s heroin habit isn’t what it was. Marcos Mesa, Sam Wordley via Shutterstock

Drug policy is working – why do we prefer to think otherwise?

On all sides, our politicians and commentators seem convinced Britain’s drug policy has been a failure. Party conference season saw Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg rehash his old refrain that we’ve…
Divided we fall: a Catalonian independence rally. Ivan McClellan via Wikimedia Commons

As anti-globalisation politics fail, nationalism sweeps the world

After decades of deepening globalisation and interconnection, movements championing national identity and power are sweeping the globe. Breakaway regions, independence referendums, and campaigns for stronger…
“I mean, I don’t like to blow my own trumpet, but…” Chris Ison/PA Archive

Tory coyness underplays UK’s world-leading aid performance

International development secretary Justine Greening’s speech at the Conservative Party conference was a safe one. Recognising that many of the audience have criticised the need for the UK’s aid programme…
Party politics? No, thanks. Manny Valdes

Hard Evidence: are Gen Y really Thatcher’s children?

Generation Y, the youngest adult generation, have recently been called Dave’s No 1 Fans, Thatcher’s Children, The Boris Generation or just plain Generation Right. Much of this discussion draws on an analysis…
Voice of the people: David Cameron promises a devolution revolution. Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

Cameron makes lightning bid to be the great British reformer

The Flower of Scotland may well be blooming but a number of thorny issues face the prime minister and the leaders of the main parties in the UK. The prime minister’s commitment to a “new and fair constitutional…
Standing behind his new leader. Stefan Rousseau/PA

Douglas Carswell by-election is a rare and honourable event

The least surprising part of Douglas Carswell’s defection to UKIP was surely his decision to resign his Clacton seat and seek re-election in a by-election. Quite apart from any satisfaction at the anxiety…
The future of Scotland … this boy waves the flag for an independent nation. cx1uk/Flickr

What makes Scotland different doesn’t depend on referendum result

One month from today, the people of Scotland will vote in a referendum. The question is: Should Scotland be an independent country? The immediate issues surrounding this question have been widely reported…
C'mon fellers – the 21st century is this way… Rebacca Naden/PA Wire

Forget quotas for women MPs – time to limit the number of men

When we talk about “gender quotas”, what we really mean is quotas for women. We see the under-representation of women as the problem that needs fixing. So we try to explain why there aren’t more women…
What might have been? John Smith, Margaret Beckett and Tony Blair. John Giles/PA Archive

20 years on: what if Tony Blair had never led the Labour Party?

It is 20 years since Tony Blair took over as leader of the Labour Party. There has been much comment about his legacy, a great deal of it uncomplimentary. But it could have been so different… It’s the…
Iain Duncan Smith: hardship, despair, and destitution. Anthony Devlin/PA

Human rights case against welfare reforms keeps growing

On July 5, the Daily Mail mounted yet another attack on the pesky human rights folk who have the temerity to question the coalition government’s welfare agenda. The article, headlined “The Brazil Nut strikes…
Show of strength: Boris Johnson prepares to take on David Cameron at tennis. Sean Dempsey/PA Wire

Politics is a game best played by the young and the restless

So, Alan Johnson is too old, at 64, to contemplate a run at the leadership of the Labour Party even if the top job: the prime ministership may be there for the taking just ten months away. Prime ministers…
Lest we forget: the 2009 expenses scandal began the push for a recall bill. Dominic Lipinski/PA

Watered-down recall bill proves MPs just don’t get it

“Meaningless”, “a stitch-up”, “a breathtakingly cynical attempt to convey an impression of democratic reform” – this was how Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith reacted to his own government’s announcement in…
61 speeches and counting. Andy Rain/EPA

Queen’s Speech 2014: the experts respond

The government’s legislative plan for its final year has been set out in the Queen’s speech. It most notably contains a recall bill that will allow voters to sack MPs who are jailed or who have committed…
Nigel Farage and UKIP are faced with a political dilemma – whether to become ‘insiders’ in Westminster or remain ‘outsiders’, criticising the key political actors. EPA/Facundo Arrizabalaga

What Farage and UKIP could learn from the One Nation experience

UK Independence Party (UKIP) leader Nigel Farage now has a problem. In the wake of his party’s success in the recent European Parliament election, Farage and his UKIP colleagues need to determine how best…
We’re just one big happy family. Lewis Whyld/PA Wire

Reports of the Lib Dems' demise are premature

In a post for The Telegraph the Conservative MEP and journalist Daniel Hannan, reckons that the Liberal Democrats are finished. Referencing both William Shakespeare and Walter Scott, Hannan claims the…
Romanians not going to UK. EPA/Marc Tirl

Beware the numbers game on Romanian and Bulgarian workers

It is tempting to try and use the recent release of figures from the labour force survey as a (metaphorical) stick with which to hit the likes of UKIP and Migration Watch who predicted that huge numbers…
And they’re off! Miliband launches his campaign at Barkingside leisure centre. PA

Labour launches EU campaign with a formula to beat UKIP

Labour Party leader Ed Miliband, has responded to the electoral threat of UKIP with proposals to regulate the private rental market. By targeting the forgotten generation rent – estimated to include around…
MP? Me? Naaaaah. Ben Birchall/PA

Nigel Farage was never going to stand in Newark

Every time you hear the words “seriously considering” from UKIP, you know the party has found itself in a bit of a tricky position. On one hand, something’s happened that’s generating news coverage, and…
Politicians mustn’t turn their backs on young people. Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Make the vote meaningful for young people – not compulsory

Young people’s relationship with politics in Britain is often considered to be both complex and problematic. On the one hand, this generation is often characterised as apathetic, with no interest in, or…
British Labour Party leader Ed Miliband has embarked on sweeping internal reform of his party. Should his Australian counterpart Bill Shorten follow suit? EPA/Andy Rain

Whither the unions? What Shorten can learn from UK Labour

In the wake of the ALP’s poor result in the recent Western Australia Senate election, The Conversation is publishing a series of articles looking at the party’s brand, organisation and future prospects…
Hokey cokey: Clegg and Farage prepare to shake it all about on the European Union. EPA/Jeff Overs/BBC handout

Farage does the double, trouncing Clegg in second EU debate

The second Nick vs Nigel matchup was entertaining viewing for the political obsessives likely to make up most of its audience – both sides made their cases with clarity and passion. After an hour of detailed…
Deficit forecasts? They went that-away! PA Wire

Budget 2014: Miliband whips up an ‘Eton mess’ attack

Ed Miliband’s response to George Osborne’s Budget statement got off to a good start with a quip about the chancellor’s announcement, flagged in this morning’s press, that a new £1 coin would be introduced…
Osborne in the spotlight - what’s in the red box? Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

Budget 2014: how good politics can trump good economics

The days leading up the budget are hectic as many in the Treasury are busy devising financial gimmicks to please the electorate. This forthcoming budget is particularly important as next year’s budget…
Tony Benn: his passing leaves a gaping hole in British public life. Stephen Kelly/PA Wire

Tony Benn was a true man of the people

The news that Tony Benn has died at home at the age of 88 has stimulated intense reflection and discussion about his career. But when reading the obituaries and listening to the various television and…
Putting the jackboot into Assad. Freedom House

Hailing Hitler: why Godwin’s law never gets old

Where would we be without Godwin’s Law? This law, formulated for the internet, dictates that as a discussion progresses, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1. And, as…
Lift, 1, 2, 3… hold 1, 2, 3. Matt Dunham/AP

Should cagey Osborne flex his electoral pectorals?

Who lives at Number Ten Downing Street? The answer is of course… George Osborne. While his official residence may be next door at Number Eleven, it is he and not David Cameron who lives in the flat above…
Nick Clegg has more Facebook “likes” than David Cameron. David Cheskin/PA Wire

Five reasons to be miserable for the Liberal Democrats

The Liberal Democrats are in trouble. The party appears to be engaged in a very public form of hari-kiri, accelerating its own political meltdown. The heady days of 23% polling and Cleggmania in 2010 seem…
Forget Blackadder, these are the guys Gove should be worrying about. Ian West/PA

Young Brits think WWI was futile, but don’t blame Blackadder

As Britain starts four years of commemorating the centenary of the First World War, Blackadder Goes Forth, first broadcast on BBC1 in 1989, has, bizarrely, taken centre stage. To rather less fanfare than…
Shadows of things to come (or so they hope…) Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

The Queen, the pound and the EU: Salmond’s Scotland plan

Just two days after the latest polls showed the “Yes” vote for Scottish independence gaining on the pro-unionists, the Scottish government’s White Paper, Scotland’s Future: Your Guide to an Independent…
Couldn’t happen here … or could it? Brian Mills

Budget 2015 could see a government shutdown in the UK

March 2015 could see a Washington-style impasse in the UK parliament over the government’s final budget proposals. The advent of coalition government, fixed terms in office, and a general resurgence of…
When I said help young people, James, I didn’t mean… Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Revolutionary code for bringing order to court of the tsars

For more than 15 years, policy “tsars” have been a growing, unrecognised and largely hidden source of influence on UK government ministers’ decisions. Our research revealed for the first time that more…
Extending the trend. Stefan Rousseau/PA

Osborne workfare plan aims for jobs that don’t exist

George Osborne’s Help to Work scheme, announced in his keynote speech at the Conservative Party Conference, gives three options to the long-term unemployed – work placements, daily job centre visits, or…
Who are you calling red? Chris Ison/PA Wire

Miliband pitches for a new centre ground in politics

In his Labour Party conference speech, Ed Miliband planted himself firmly on the left. His big themes of confiscating land from greedy developers, controlling energy prices and imposing a higher minimum…
Godfrey’s law: any attempt to take UKIP seriously will be brought down by idiotic comments. Stefan Rousseau/PA

UKIP fairytale spoiled again by bumbling Bloom

This weekend’s UKIP party conference – its 20th – was phenomenal and fantastic. Obviously, I’m using those words in their original senses of “it happened” and “it resembled something from a child’s story…
Oh, Come all ye faithful: Nick Clegg speaking to conference. David Cheskin/PA

Lib Dem conference: cracks remain despite show of unity

Three years after the Clegg-Cameron wedding in the rose garden at Number 10, the Lib Dem Conference this week in Glasgow has showed signs of the strain. Much as Clegg attempted to rally the troops by claiming…
Anyone still voting for us? You there, at the back… Stefan Rousseau/PA

Lib Dems brace for a Glasgow kiss at party conference

As the Liberal Democrats descend on Glasgow for their party conference their attention is firmly focused on the forthcoming general election. With an average polling of just 11% and forecasts predicting…
From the heart: a food bank established last month outside HSBC. Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Michael Gove and the real picture of poverty in Britain

Michael Gove’s recent suggestion that inadequate financial management skills among poor families are to blame for the increasing demand on food banks has, unsurprisingly, sparked an angry response. Critics…
TUC conference is key moment for Ed Miliband. Sean Dempsey/PA

Miliband sweats in the autumn of Labour’s discontent

This September will be one that Ed Miliband will probably want to forget. He must be dreading the inevitable mauling he will get from the union delegates at the Labour Party Conference in Brighton at the…
A sore sight for young eyes? EEPaul

Young Britons should vote early, and vote often

Australia goes to the polls this weekend to choose between two unpopular candidates: the incumbent, Labor prime minister Kevin Rudd has a net approval rating of -9 (representing approval rating minus disapproval…
It doesn’t matter who won the Commons vote: these are the losers. Freedom House via Creative Commons

It’s the Syrian people that matter, not British politics

As a policy analyst, I am naturally interested in the dynamics of domestic politics, the role of specific actors, institutions and communities. So I understand why so much talk in Britain yesterday and…
Old Labour: Those on stage rattle your jewellery, the rest of you wave your flat caps. PA/PA Archive/Press Association Images

Labour, the unions and the breaking of the British working class

Foundation essay: This essay on the Labour Party and its relationship with the working class and the trade union movement in Britain is part of a series of articles marking the launch of The Conversation…
1066 and all that: Britain’s early relationship with her European neighbours has long been fraught with difficulty. The Bayeux Tapestry

The princess and the pea (or why Britain and Europe make awkward bedfellows)

Foundation essay: This essay on Britain’s relationship with Europe by Ivor Gaber, professor of political journalism at City University, London and the University of Bedfordshire, is part of a series of…
You want a receipt for that, guv? Stephen Byers famously described himself as a ‘cab for hire’ Nyall and Maryanne via Creative Commons

Learn to love lobbying - it’s part of the ugliness of democracy

I had better declare an interest: it’s that sort of week. I co-edit a journal called Interest Groups and Advocacy. This is of no interest to HMRC, but the journal’s name merits examination in the context…
Life’s a gas: Nigel Farage enjoying UKIP’s success in the local council elections. Chris Radburn/PA Wire

The not-so-secret agenda of UKIP voters

On the surface, the recent surge in support for the UK Independence Party (UKIP) suggests an urgent need to reform Britain’s relations with the European Union. But polls tell a different story. The best…
I’ve seen the future Nick, and it’s behind us. Stefan Wermuth

For Cameron and Clegg the cost of compromise is high

Compromise. It’s one of those Jekyll and Hyde verbs. Used actively, it’s a good thing - you want something; I want something different; we talk it over; we come to an arrangement; we compromise. Used passively…
British PM Margaret Thatcher meets with her Australian counterpart Malcolm Fraser in 1979 - what was her lasting effect on politics here? AAP/National Archives

Both left and right: Thatcher’s undeniable influence on Australian politics

Margaret Thatcher’s years as British prime minister from 1979 to 1990 coincided with an era of political upheaval in Australia. The exhaustion of Malcolm Fraser’s “Menziesian” liberalism was followed by…
Instituting policies of ‘class warfare’ was a key criticism of late British PM Margaret Thatcher (right) as well as of her Chilean contemporary Augusto Pinochet, pictured here with his wife. EPA/Ian Jones

Thatcher, Pinochet and the legacy of class warfare

In Australia, Martin Ferguson has recently condemned the “class war rhetoric” of the Labor party, but on Monday morning (UK time) one of the world’s greatest class warriors passed away. Margaret Thatcher…
Late British prime minister Margaret Thatcher leaves a lasting legacy through her ‘Thatcherism’ policies she instituted during her premiership. EPA/Gerry Penny

The death of Margaret Thatcher, and the legacy of ‘Thatcherism’

On the eve of her resignation as British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher pondered her options. In a little over 36 hours time it seemed likely the parliamentary Conservative party would again refuse…
Former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, pictured with current PM David Cameron at 10 Downing St, has passed away at the age of 87. EPA/Facundo Arrizabalaga

Baroness Margaret Thatcher passes away

Margaret Thatcher, Baroness of Kesteven, has died of a stroke aged 87. The first female prime minister of the United Kingdom, Thatcher held office between 1979 and 1990 before being removed in an internal…
The response to Leveson is less about media regulation and more about politics. EPA/Andy Rain

Forget the press, Leveson is all about politics

The good Lord Leveson has certainly set the cat among both the press and political pigeons. His elegantly crafted proposal for establishing a self-regulatory regime for the press, backed by statutory under-pinning…
British Prime Minister, David Cameron leaves 10 Downing street to give a statement on Lord Justice Leveson’s report. EPA/Facundo Arrizabalaga

Leveson report: late opening at the last chance saloon for David Cameron

Few public inquiries have been so closely followed by the British press, or its findings awaited by them with such nervous anticipation as Lord Leveson’s into their culture, practices and ethics. The waiting…
Murdered school girl Millie Dowler’s parents arrive at the release of the Leveson Report. EPA/Kerim Okten

Leveson too quiet on relationship between politicians and press

The Leveson Inquiry, set up by the UK coalition government in response to accusations of phone hacking at the now defunct Murdoch newspaper the News of the World, has reported – calling for press regulation…
If British Conservatives are worried about the environment, they would do well to focus on reducing emissions, not stopping wind turbines. floato/Flickr

Corby by-election: British Tories all talk on wind power

There are few cardinal sins in politics – but campaigning on behalf of your opponent has to be one of them. So when news broke this week that the British Conservative Party MP Chris Heaton Harris had boasted…
Families of the victims of the Hillsborough disaster have never given up their campaign for justice. EPA/Lee Sanders

Cruel summer: how Hillsborough brought Britain down to earth

The release of Hillsborough Independent Panel’s report into the death of 96 football fans at the 1989 FA Cup Semi Final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest is not just a landmark in British history…
Argentinian President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner is part of a renewed push to reclaim the Falkland Islands. EPA/Leo La Valle

Bald men and combs: the Cameron-Kirchner Falklands showdown

Argentinean wordsmith Jorge Luis Borges could be cryptic. But his powers of perception were always daunting. Borges came up with an excellent description of the 10 week conflict in 1982 that took place…
First Minister Alex Salmond could be the man who regained Scotland’s independence. AAP

Scottish independence: the referendum explained

Scotland has always been a distinct nation but since the Act of Union in 1707, it has been a nation within a larger political entity: the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The election…
Tony Blair pulled back the curtain on the relationship between journalists and politicians.. AAP/Julian Smith

The hidden media powers that undermine democracy

MEDIA & DEMOCRACY: On the final day of The Conversation’s series on how the media influences the way our representatives develop policy, John Keane examines how the relationships between politicians…
Karl Rove was never far from President George W Bush’s side. AFP/Stephen Jaffe

Spinning it: the power and influence of the government advisor

MEDIA & DEMOCRACY: Today, Anne Tiernan looks at how voters have become consumers of political marketing, as part of The Conversation’s week-long series on how the media influences the way our representatives…
Jubiliant Libyans celebrate the arrival of rebel forces in central Tripoli. AAP

Libya: the death throes of the Gaddafi regime

The situation in Libya remains fluid but with armed rebel fighters now in Green Square in central Tripoli, it appears the regime of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi is in its final hours. Two of the dictator’s…
London’s burning: but the rioters had a point. EPA/Kerim Okten

English riots were neither mindless nor purely criminal

The powers that be describe the street violence and social upheaval which took place in England’s major cities last week as “mindless”. Yet it was anything but. Prime Minister David Cameron, among others…
English police have defended their tactics in the riots. AFP/Leon Neal

Police anger after they cop the blame for English riots

English police officers have defended their handling of the riots which erupted in several cities across the country last week. After the worst urban disorder in living memory, leading politicians are…
A shop in Manchester city centre boarded after being attacked by looters. AAP

The English riots: it wasn’t youth gangs

The recent riots in major English cities like London have seen the media focus on the involvement of young people. In particular, many media outlets have claimed that organised youth gangs have orchestrated…
The final edition of the News of the World carried a full page apology to its readers. AFP/Ian Nicholson

News of the World scandal reverberates beyond the Murdoch empire

The dramatic events around the phone-hacking scandal at Rupert Murdoch’s London News of the World are unprecedented in a major news media organisation in an advanced industrial country. A newspaper closed…

Columnists (4)

The blight in Blighty

I’m what used to be known in less politically correct times as a whinging pom. Locals, among whom I now count myself, will be relieved to learn that I mainly moan about my former, rather than my adopted…

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