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

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

After Greece, is the UK next in line for an electoral shake-up?

Professor Matt Henn

Professor Matt Henn

As the clock ticks down toward next month’s General Election, media coverage is awash with stories about the vulnerability of the traditional big hitters (Labour and the Conservatives), the meltdown of the Liberal Democrats, the resurgence of the Greens, the dominance of Scottish electoral politics by the SNP, and of course the onward (if occasionally gaffe-faltering) march of UKIP.

Alongside the churning electoral fortunes of these political players, we are also becoming very familiar with repeated warnings that we are increasingly disillusioned with democratic politics, rejecting the institutions of national government, and leaving British democracy in a state of relative crisis as a consequence.

However, the apparent rupture between citizens and the institutions of democratic governance is not an exceptionally “British” issue. In recent times, a deepening disconnect between citizens and formal politics has developed in many advanced democratic states. As we look ahead to our General Election, it is worth looking further afield to see what we can learn from the election experiences in other countries as we try to make sense of democratic politics at home. Continue reading

An uncertain future for Higher Education

Cap and symbolsAs somebody who has logged many years in higher education and who assiduously follows HE policy wonks, blogs and tweets, I have never known an era when the future for universities is more uncertain. In advance of the general election, I have blogged about the HE Hustings in Westminster which took place in early March.

Below, I try and distil a few more issues which occupy the HE policy landscape. This is inevitably a list which reflects my own, and English, preoccupations, and it is therefore partial – in both senses of the word.

There are several bodies which aim to influence future government policy on HE. The Million Plus think-tank and the University Alliance mission group have laid out their wishlists, while Universities UK, the vice-chancellor’s representative group, has set up a Student Funding Panel due to report after the election. Continue reading

How the South Asian vote could determine election outcomes

Dr Sagarika Dutt - Subject Leader for International Relations

Dr Sagarika Dutt – Subject Leader for International Relations

In recent years South Asians have participated enthusiastically in the Indian and Pakistani general elections held in 2014 and 2013, respectively. This has led to much debate about the kind of democracies these countries are, or are in the process of becoming. Both the Indian and Pakistani diaspora also took an interest in these elections and it is highly likely that the BJP government will wish to invest in the goodwill of the Indian diaspora in western countries as it has done in the past, and encourage Indian entrepreneurs to invest in India.

Ties between the South Asian diaspora and the Indian subcontinent are still very strong, and to this day South Asians living abroad support the cricket teams of their country of origin, as was evident during the recent world cup match between England and Bangladesh in Australia. Bangladesh won, leading to much jubilation among the Bangladeshi community there. Similarly, the cricket match between Ireland and India was won by India while the match between Scotland and Sri Lanka was won by Sri Lanka. Continue reading

What can we learn from the words in the Chancellor’s Budget speech?

480880465Yesterday the Chancellor of the Exchequer of the UK, George Osborne, delivered his annual Budget speech. Just as the broadcast had concluded, a radio show a colleague was listening to was discussing the Budget and had spotted that ‘choice’ was a major theme in Osborne’s speech this year.

This got me thinking that we could compare this most recent speech with his five previous ones (between 2010 and 2014) to see if there are any other words or themes that emerge more prominently than before as the next election looms.

A quick keyword analysis reveals that the following words appear significantly more frequently in yesterday’s speech than Osborne’s previous ones combined:

National, debt, choose, truly, we, share, down, savings, falling, standards, statement, autumn, back, five, powerhouse, you, latest, challenges, row, ago.

Continue reading

Five myths about Europe that need busting before the British general election

EU flagAs we gear up for the 2015 general election, EU issues are bound to feature prominently. Sadly, much of what is being said is hogwash, particularly when it comes to EU membership itself.

The Conservative Party has promised to hold a referendum on EU membership if it wins in 2015. UKIP has of course been long known for its opposition to the status quo. The party’s representatives take every opportunity to talk up the nefarious influence eurocrats have on the lives of ordinary people – from dictating our human rights to undermining our democratic traditions.

And now Nigel Farage is seeking to push for a referendum before Christmas.

The problem is, when British voters are told the choice is a simple in/out decision, they are being lied to. There will be multiple options on the table if the UK votes to exit. And to understand the implications of these, it is important to understand what being in the EU means for the UK.

There are a number of myths circulating about what membership of the EU really means and what would happen if the UK were to leave. Before the UK heads to the polls, we need to bust them. Continue reading

Victims of crime need to be believed not get a new law

RCoJHistorically victims have not been the focus of our criminal justice system. Criminal offences are outrages against the state and it is the state who brings a prosecution, not the victim.  For example, in a rape prosecution the defendant will have legal representation – his defence – but the prosecution speaks on behalf of the Crown not the victim. Victims have then often felt excluded by the criminal justice system and the Government want to introduce further measures to take account of the needs of victims. Continue reading

What is the future for zero hours contracts?

contractIssues surrounding employment and the economy are set to feature heavily in the run up to this year’s General Election and so the Chancellor must be extremely pleased by the continuing fall in the number of people out of work. The UK’s unemployment rate now stands at 5.8% of the working population, its lowest level for more than 6 years and represents a remarkable turnaround for the UK economy.

Yet data released recently by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) about zero hours contracts shows that many of the jobs being created are low paid and offer little job security.

Zero hours contracts are highly controversial because of the fact that they offer no guarantee of work. Those working in this way often have no idea how many hours, if any, they will be working next week and the lack of a regular wage packet makes budgeting and managing bills extremely difficult. Those working in this way are also more likely to come from groups that traditionally perform poorly in the labour market. So more than half of them are women, roughly a third are aged 16–24 and 6% are over 65. Continue reading

David Cameron and the TV election debates – latest

Dr Matthew AshtonDr Matthew Ashton – politics and media expert in Nottingham Trent University’s School of Social Sciences – has provided an update on the David Cameron TV election debates latest.

He said: “David Cameron may be under pressure today, but shows no real signs of blinking in terms of the broadcasters’ original proposals. His team seems to have made the decision that he can ride out the current furore and that Labour won’t be able to keep the pot boiling on this issue forever. To cave now in any significant way would make him look even weaker.

“They’re hoping that the debate involving multiple leaders will turn into a farcical circus, allowing him to duck the big issues and avoid Labour and UKIP making an easy hit. If he avoids the debates altogether then he could try to look statesman-like, while the other leaders squabble amongst themselves on TV. If he does agree to the proposed digital debate, it will be in the likely knowledge that the viewing figures are likely to be much smaller than they would be on the BBC or ITV.”