We shouldn’t underestimate the importance of international development in the election campaign

Since the publication of the party manifestos over the last couple of weeks, we’ve heard a lot about the key differences in terms of economic, health and immigration policy, among others, writes Dr Sagarika Dutt.

But we haven’t heard very much about international development. The importance of this as an election issue should not be underestimated. The United Nations will adopt the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) this year, building on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). These goals centred on poverty, health, education and the environment and were, to a large extent, shaped by the UN Conferences of the 1990s. The British government and civil society, including international non-governmental organisations (INGOs), have always claimed that they are committed to achieving these goals. But this cannot be taken for granted. The election manifestos provide clarity on the international developmental goals of the various political parties, and how much money they are willing to spend to achieve them. Unless a firm commitment is made by the political parties in their manifestos and voters are able to hold them to their promises, some of these policies may never be implemented. The good news is that there are now half a billion fewer people living below the international poverty line of $1.25 a day, partly as a result of economic advances in the developing world, particularly in Asia. Continue reading

A long self-life: Politicians, egomania and narcissism

Professor Mark Griffiths

Professor Mark Griffiths

In November 2011, David Reinstein published an online article entitled ‘Egomania: An adaptive and necessary illness for politicians’, writes Professor Mark Griffiths.

Egomaniacs are typically characterized as individuals who believe the ‘whole world revolves around them’ and that they are ‘the centre of the universe’. Reinstein also claims in his article that: “most egomaniacs suffer from delusions of personal greatness that cover over deeper feelings of inadequacy and insecurity. Everything is to, from, for and about them”. Egomania also seems to be a close cousin of megalomania (a disorder in which individuals believe they are more powerful, important, or influential than is actually true – and a possible contender for a future blog!). Continue reading

Sport and physical activity – firmly on the margins of political discussions

As the battle lines are drawn over the principal issues shaping the election campaign, and party manifestos unveiled, one area that will be conspicuous by its absence is that of sport and physical activity, writes Dr David Hindley.

I am probably on safe ground in predicting that you are unlikely to hear any pledges on investment in elite sport or strategies for promoting grassroots participation. No-one will promise a commitment to delivering high-quality physical education.

And yet there can be little doubt that sport over the years has become increasingly politicised. Governments around the world invest significant amounts of public money to encourage engagement in sport, whilst in the UK successive administrations have demonstrated great faith in the potential of sport both in its own right, but progressively for the achievement of wider social goals. In this way sport has been promoted as a relatively cost-effective antidote to a variety of social problems, and more generally to ‘improve’ both individuals and the communities in which they live. Continue reading

Why social media won’t win the election (this time)

In the few years since a new generation of social media have transformed our idea of staying connected and reaching out to others, the online world has quickly turned into a political arena, writes Dr Jens Binder.

The 2008 US presidential elections, the YouTube elections, and the role of Twitter and other services during the Arab Spring are just two of the most prominent examples. It is to be expected that from now onwards every major election will be run, scrutinised, analysed and commented upon offline as well as online. Indeed, analysts have been quick to find social media metrics such as link shares and retweets on Twitter to provide further measures of conventional mass media campaigns such as the party leaders’ TV debate.

Although the trend is clear – there is no going back to the era before social media – it is very challenging to ascribe specific politics-related effects to media use. In the following, some of the likely and not so likely benefits of social media engagement on the side of political parties will be considered. Continue reading

Tough on crime, even tougher on crime

The impact of crime and criminal justice policy on the forthcoming General Election will be interesting to observe, writes Roger Hopkins Burke.

To date this policy area seems to have taken a back seat well down the political agenda, behind the economic deficit (highly understandable because of the enormity of the problem) immigration and migration, security and defence, the costs of welfare and the now traditional concerns about the NHS and will it, or will it not, be sold off.

Interestingly, crime was of only marginal concern to electioneers throughout much of the twentieth century. It was widely-recognised that crime was the product of either individual psychological or biological pathologies, or alternatively was committed by those from disadvantaged backgrounds with limited access to good quality legitimate opportunities. It was the Conservatives – and in particular their charismatic leader Margaret Thatcher – who made crime a serious electoral issue in the May 1979 General Election campaign. Continue reading

And the winner is…election abstention once again?

Whether people will vote at all is a very open question

Whether people will vote at all is a very open question

With less than a month to go until polling day, the UK General Election promises to be the most unpredictable – and dare we whisper, exciting? – contest in the modern era. If the opinion polls are anything to go by, then it seems increasingly unlikely that any two parties will be able to muster sufficient votes and seats to form a majority two-party coalition government on May 7th. The prospect of a three- or four-party coalition government is therefore a very real one.

Let’s consider the evidence. Continue reading

Re-defining defence spending in the light of recent debates in the UK

Whilst a significant part of any government’s role is foreign policy (or international relations) it rarely figures highly in the build up to a general election. Domestic issues trump the international in the eyes of both the electorate and politicians. This is why recent coverage of statements from the likes of former Defence Minister Dr Liam Fox and the US Chief of Staff General Raymond Odierno is of particular interest and frustration. Not only is it unusual for foreign affairs to gain traction within an election saturated media cycle, it is also unusual for international figures to chime in on UK domestic affairs. Continue reading

UKIP manifesto – Dr Liam McCarthy

Some analysis here from international relations lecturer, Dr Liam McCarthy, on the UKIP manifesto – specifically the pledge to increase defence spending.

“Despite the rhetoric that Farage and UKIP are making that they are the new party of defence, it is important to appreciate that “defence” is secured by far more than troops on the ground and expensive weapon systems.

“There is an unfortunate habit of conflating military and defence. One needs to question the nature of the threats that the UK faces, and how best to tackle them. The failure to deploy the military to tackle issues is not solely down to a lack of capacity or capability; it is questionable whether military action is likely to offer long term solutions. This is a position that can be demonstrated by the decline in defence expenditure by most NATO members and the Coalition’s continued commitment to international development expenditure.

“By seeing UK defence as being merely a military problem (with solely military solutions) one misses the multitude of issues that a modern nation state must address and navigate in order to be truly secure.

“Whilst it is important to ensure the UK has the capacity to secure international interests and meet treaty obligations, it is also necessary that it does so holistically. As the British electorate prepares to select its next government, it is more important than ever that worst case thinking and scare mongering do not exaggerate the strategic situation, offering solutions that will not secure the UK’s position in the world, and create threats where there were none. It is concerning that all too often discussion on defence is uncritical and the opinions expressed are not debated with the same level of scrutiny as other issues.”

Hashtag politics: how to win the election on social media (part two)

Parties are adopting the hashtag, the modern day equivalent of the soundbite

Parties are adopting the hashtag, the modern day equivalent of the soundbite

The down-to-earth Green Party have traditionally distanced themselves from the image-conscious, personality-driven world of contemporary US-style election campaign glitz. This made their ‘Change The Tune’ party political broadcast featuring a spoof boy-band line-up of the other (male) party leaders all the more surprising. Some thought it was a masterstroke, others felt it was embarrassing, but whatever the response, its launch (on YouTube, preceded with an announcement on Twitter and Facebook with the hashtag #ChangeTheTune), served to highlight the significant role social media can play in this election campaign.

Politicians have begun to understand that our increasingly rapid and uncritical consumption of digital content has implications for the capacity to use social media as a platform for serious debate. We have become accustomed to reading our news distilled down into 140 tweeted characters, and so it is no surprise that the BBC and others have published ‘handy’ interactive guides to where all the parties stand on all the issues; we simply don’t have time to read through a fifty-page manifesto. Hence we are seeing an increase in the parties’ use of images and messages accompanied by the modern-day equivalent of the soundbite, the hashtag. Continue reading

Labour manifesto – Dr Matthew Ashton

Here’s what Dr Matthew Ashton, a politics lecturer at Nottingham Trent University, has to say about the Labour manifesto launch today.

“It’s unlikely that this manifesto is going to be an election changer. It’s dominated by the two key themes of social justice and fiscal responsibility, with the latter being essential in order to convince people of their ability to deliver the former. But it will be a much harder sell thanks to some very effective campaigning from the Conservatives over the last five years painting Labour as the party responsible for the recession.

“The big question is whether these policies will be enough to break the current poll deadlock. Miliband and Balls are attempting to persuade the public that they’re delivering something more than austerity-lite. It’s not so much the contents that are the problem but the fact that the public are now in a state where they’re highly sceptical of the ability of politicians to deliver anything they promise.”