Showing posts from May, 2011

The Prime Minister's Prerogative Powers - AS Students

There is an old article by Nick Cohen in the New Statesman which sought to explain why Tony Blair, as Prime minister, was able to behave virtually like a monarch unchecked. Cohen examined Blair's governing style, including his notoriously offhand attitude to the Cabinet, and looked at how the prerogative powers of the monarch contributed to the Prime Minister's dictatorial authority. Although the article, from 2002, clearly relates to the Blairite premiership, it is still a useful reference for AS students. The Blair precedent remains relevant in exams, and the issue of monarchical prerogative powers wielded by the PM has hardly gone away.

Cohen's article is here.

AS Unit 2 Help

Essay Tips, with specific reference to the topic of prime ministerial power (includes sample essay) can be found on the tutor2u website here. This piece is by Mike McCartney, author of the tutor2u revision guide.
Also, recent mark schemes and examiners' reports are collectively here, or click on the individual links below - they are well worth reading thoroughly:
June 2010 Mark Scheme
June 2010 Examiners' Report
Jan 2011 Mark Scheme
Jan 11 Examiners' Report

AS Unit 2 Links

With a half term looming before the second of the AS level politics exams, there is some space to read a few extra articles in order to gain that all important specific information which enhances exam answers so much. I have listed some suggestions below:

1. The Institute for Government blog is worth keeping an eye on anyway, but specifically have a look at this article by former Times commentator Peter Riddell about the effectiveness of ministers, and how long they should really be in place. Particularly cogent given that David Cameron has signalled his intention to try and keep ministers in their positions for a longer than normal period of time. Hence his reluctance to sack erring ministers like Caroline Spelman or even Ken Clarke. The downside of any plan to retain stability in ministerial office, of course, is that it generates frustration in the MP ranks below, all of whom want to experience office for themselves.

2. If you have a bit of time, you could read through the Inst…

When Is An Apology Not An Apology

When it's in the Daily Mail apparently. I'm very late to this story about the Daily Mail from the indispensable Tabloid Watch blog, but it's an instructive case nonetheless. Having accused a senior medical consultant of saying that babies born at 23 weeks should be left to die, the Daily Mail then did some research and found out they'd got it wrong (always a danger when the research bit follows the writing bit). So they apologised. Somewhere deep in the US section of the paper, just where you'd an expect an apology on a health related story to be!
Tabloid Watch reports that the apology was eventually moved, and thank loads of people for tweeting the error, which may have had an impact on the Mail decision.
But if you think the Mail's bad, have a look down the TW stories for some great Express misnomers. I'm not sure anyone who reads the Express for serious news reasons actually has much of a brain to speak of, and they certainly shouldn't qualify for…

Sharing the Heartbreak

Good to see that the former SGS luminary who runs the Media Blog is as sympathetic as ever -

yfrog Photo : Shared by The_MediaBlog

The Not So Special Relationship

[photo tweeted by the Spectator's Pete Hoskin]

It’s all very friendly. David and Barack have been partnering each other in a table tennis game at a south London school; they’ve been serving up burgers in the No.10 garden; they’ve both been reveling in the pomp of a Buckingham Palace banquet; and they penned a joint article for the ‘Times’ suggesting that their two countries don’t just enjoy a ‘Special’ relationship but an ‘Essential’ one.

Oh dear. Another prime minister bites the dust as he succumbs to the seductive charms of the power and glory of the American presidency. It doesn’t really matter who the president is – although it can’t hinder matters that it is currently the coolest man on the planet, and a man more determined to get his guy than the Terminator. At some point in their premiership career the men, and one woman, at No. 10 quickly fall victim to the belief that Britain enjoys a Special Relationship with the United States. That there is precious little evidence to sug…

Republican Field Narrows Again

The race amongst putative Republican candidates for the US presidency seems to be one to announce that you're not running, rather than entering what is at the moment a pretty narrow field. And it just got narrower, as Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels cited family concerns for not joining the race in 2012.

An American friend of mine, a strong Obama supporter now residing in the UK, was almost in despair as she considered the one Republican who might be able to unseat the current occupant of the White House. It was, she said, Mitch Daniels, a man who combined rare qualities of empathy and commonsense with a core Republican appeal given his past history as speechwriter to Reagan and Budget Director to Bush I. I seem to remember a speaker - a former Congressman - at a conference at the British Museum last September making a similar point - if the Republicans wanted a winner, they should look to the Governor of Indiana.

Well, Daniels has pulled that rug from under the Republicans - perh…

New AS Links

The Revision Presentation for Unit 1 and a copy of the Examiners' Report for the January 2011 paper which relates to the questions in the presentation, are here - check the left-hand column of AS material, and you should see they are the first two links.

From Today's AS Revision - Pressure Groups, Cameron U-Turns and Direct Democracy

Pressure Groups:

This article from the Guardian details a rally organised by the pressure group Save Lakeland Forests as part of the ultimately successful campaign to get the government to overturn its decision to sell off Forestry Commission land.

Cameron U-Turns:

I thought there had been 9 U-turns already from the former PR man turned Prime Minister, but this New Statesman list suggests ten in fact! Meanwhile a thoughtful assessment of why Mr. Cameron U-turns so much, and why it could be seen as part of a good old fashioned pragmatic and responsive Toryism, is here in the Guardian.

Direct Democracy:

And here is Douglas Carswell's latest brief comment on his Direct Democracy campaign, although for more detailed material on what he is aiming for go here to his and Dan Hannan's Direct Democracy blog.

No Such Thing As Society!

What did Mrs. Thatcher mean with her most famous quote that "there is no such thing as society"? Robert Low unfolds the ideas behind the misleading quote in a short article for Standpoint magazine.

Blue Labour?!

We'll be hearing more of this, but Ed Miliband's search for a distinctive Labour identity is finding some illumination in this new defining of a Labour identity. So-called as a response to Philip Blond's 'Red Toryism', Blue Labour seeks to re-engage Labour's heartlands with the party.

The Conservative Home website carried a lengthy article analysing the new ideas here.

Amongst other things they comment that "Blue Labour is fundamentally against the economic neo-liberal and socially liberal approach of Blairism. "

Labour MP and former education minister David Lammy, who is sympathetic, explains the idea here.

How does this fit in to likely AS questions? Really as an indication of where Ed Miliband is trying to take the Labour Party at the moment. Like David Cameron in 2005, he is confronted with the need to develop a fresh identity for an old party (Mao's delight in blank sheets of paper, which you could write completely new things on, comes to mi…

The Chinese Internet Censor Gets Pelted With Eggs

Great story from the Telegraph today - they report the pelting of the Chinese academic who created the so-called Great Firewall of China, the internet wall designed to keep out western social networking and search sites.

For a Chinese youth not easily able to blog or tweet their unhappiness with the authoritarian political set-up of their country, it seems the resort to a more old-fashioned, tried and tested method of political protest has now been enacted. It may not be the Cultural Revolution, but I guess the eggs that hit might have made a modest impact on Fan Binzing. Apparently the Chinese government was scrambling to remove any internet traces of the incident...something of a Canutian policy I'd have thought!

The Sun and David Cameron

Did the Sun really precipitate a shadow cabinet reshuffle when David Cameron was in opposition? This is the truly alarming scenario posited by the Spectator's James Forsyth on the Spectator blog. He writes that after Dominic Grieve went to News International and ripped apart their lamentably bigoted and one-sided reporting of crime issues, the word came back (via Andy Coulson) that they wanted Cameron to replace him as shadow Home Secretary. Cameron did, bringing in Chris Grayling.

Forsyth uses the story to point out the danger to Ken Clarke in the wake of yesterday's typically evidence-based and elegantly argued Sun editorial that Ken Must Go. But the real alarm bells ring not for Clarke, but for the government as a whole if it really is in hoc to such ridiculous decision making parameters. Many of the commenters on the Spectator site seemed to take a similarly dim view of proceedings, such as this eloquently expressed point:

Let's hope for all our sakes that it [ the …

Ken Clarke Rehabilitates Himself In Wormwood Scrubs

There was much discussion on the BBC Question Time programme tonight about the purpose of prisons in rehabilitating prisoners, but there can be little doubt that one man certainly used his prison opportunity to good effect, and that was the Justice Secretary himself, Ken Clarke.

After a torrid day yesterday, when his perhaps too casual words in a radio interview caused a mini media flurry, and even the demand from Ed Miliband that he should be sacked, Clarke showed this evening why he is still one of the government's great performers.
First off, his response to a harshly worded question about whether he was "clumsy, wrong or misconstrued" in his remarks was "probably a bit of each", followed by what appeared to be a heartfelt bit of contrition that was heard in silence by the audience, and then applauded. He was helped by an articulate and supportive Shami Shakrabati, and even Jack Straw was reluctant to endorse his own leader's call for Clarke's sacking.…

When Is A Rape Not A Rape?

Well, never, according to received wisdom. But it really is all about the language you use, and whatever the merits or demerits of Ken Clarke's case today, he should perhaps have been savvy enough to know that no-one was ever going to listen to the argument - the issue of rape is simply too emotional for that. But then, that's Ken Clarke all over - determinedly unspun.

Nevertheless, just to see how our media and political system works, it's worth examining the Justice Secretary's remarks and how they have developed into a row.

This morning, he went on Radio 5 Live to discuss proposals to allow people who plead guilty to offences straight away to have their sentences halved. These included people who have committed rape.

Challenged by presenter Victoria Derbyshire on the prospect that this would mean rapists going free after 15 months, he then suggested she had based her proposition on an erroneous figure of five years as the average sentence for rape. Rape, he said, …

How Do We Deal With The Aspiration Gap?

The Prince’s Trust has just highlighted the problem of a ‘youth underclass’.A new report from the organization identifies a number of areas where there is a clear ‘aspiration gap’ between the UK’s richest and poorest young people.Amongst other figures, 16 per cent (more than 1 in 6) say their families and friends make fun of them when they talk about finding a good job; more than a quarter (29%) had few or no books in their home; more than a third (36%) did not have anywhere quiet at home to do their schoolwork.The net effect of such conditions has been to drastically reduce the aspirations of young people from the poorest areas.They believe they will never have a decent job and that their future is likely to be a dead-end one, probably on benefits.The report, produced in association with RBS, also suggests a decline in aspirations amongst poorer young people, who see their hopes slide as they get older.Prince’s Trust chief executive Martina Milburn said “Our research suggests that al…

Rally Against Debt - A Study In Pressure Group Failure?

Yesterday was meant to see another big protest in London. The Rally Against Debt is a new protest group, supported by pressure group the Taxpayers' Alliance and UKIP, representing an interesting new fusion between parties and pressure groups. The aim of the enterprise was clear - to mobilise that vast reservoir of support that clearly exists for the government's proposed spending cuts. Except that, er, it apparently doesn't. Police estimates for the turnout were around 350. The admittedly biased New Statesman reporter Lisa Hamilton thought 200 was a 'generous' estimate for what was, in her view, really more of a long queue than an actual rally. Compare that with the protests against the cuts, organised by the trade unions and other groups on March 26th., and....well, they garnered something like a quarter of a million protestors, including the fragrant Fortnums sit-in organisers, UK Uncut.

So clearly a failure? Well, yes......AND no. The Rally Against Debt w…

Scalps Roll In Scotland

Since Alex Salmond's storming victory in the Scottish elections last Thursday, every other party leader has now announced their resignation. First off was the doomed Iain Gray of the Labour Party, followed by the Lib Dems' Scottish leader and today, the announcement by the Conservative leader in Scotland, Annabel Goldie, that she is standing down too. Salmond's managed a clean sweep.

As far as the Scottish results go, Labour ended up the most disappointed party. Once all powerful in Scotland, they have finally had to face up to their frailty in the face of well organised, fresh and determined opposition. The Lib Dems probably expected a pasting and weren't disappointed. As for the Tories, although Ms. Goldie says she was relatively happy with the Thursday vote, despite losing two MSPs, that happiness can only be from a base of what are consistently low expectations for the Tory performance in Scotland. The Scots' vote for the SNP certainly indicated a determin…

Two articles post-election...

There's plenty of comment around about the aftermath of both the local and devolved elections and the AV referendum, but a starter might be this fairly concise, and on the ball summary of winners and losers by the Spectator's James Forsyth. AS students in particular might then find it useful to go on and read his article on why two-party politics is likely to be back with a vengeance in Westminster.

Tomorrow's Last Chance Referendum