Whoever governs, Britain’s Africa policy is tied to the UN and the EU

Dr Marie Gibert

Dr Marie Gibert

The hallmark of Britain’s policy towards Africa is continuity, writes Dr Marie Gibert.

Under the coalition, Africa has not taken the morality flavoured prominence it had in Labour’s foreign policy, but the core of the relationship has nonetheless been upheld.

Of course, Britain’s colonial past in Africa still weighs heavy, especially with regard to countries such as Nigeria, Kenya, Zimbabwe and Somalia. But Britain is also tied to Africa by its permanent seat and veto power on the UN Security Council.

The Security Council spends a lot of time on Africa, where some of the UN’s largest and most costly peacekeeping operations are deployed. Since no future UK government would want to give up this privileged position, Africa is destined to be a permanent fixture on Britain’s multilateral agenda. Continue reading

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

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

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

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

Spend, spend, spend on education

Christian Weaver, President of Nottingham Trent University's Politics Society

Christian Weaver, President of Nottingham Trent University’s Politics Society

Get a group of people to discuss public spending and you can guarantee that within a few minutes a debate will ensue about how and where tax payers’ money should be prioritised. One conclusion that can be drawn is that the government cannot please everybody.

My opinion? I think education should be at the top of the priority list. But make no mistake; simply throwing more money at our education system will not solve anything. Our education spending should not only be designed to improve educational attainment and outcomes, but should also recognise its role in addressing economic and social needs. Continue reading

So…what can we expect from the 2015 General Election?

Decision made? This is one of the most unpredictable elections in almost half a century, according to Dr Matthew Ashton

Decision made? This is one of the most unpredictable elections in almost half a century, says Dr Matthew Ashton

Every election is billed as the most important of modern times. This is mainly because no journalist ever sold a story by making a contest seem dull and predictable. In this case, though, the media’s hyperbole seems justified, and there are a number of reasons for this.

First and foremost, this is one of the most unpredictable elections of the last 40 years. Elections in 1997, 2001 and 2005 were forgone conclusions with most people able to predict the result months before polling day. By 2010 it was much more open ended – and 2015 is looking equally uncertain. Continue reading

Quality of employment, not quantity, is what matters

Job vacancyDavid Cameron has outlined his plans for the UK to become a nation of ‘full employment’. However, ‘full employment’ was also the aspiration, although never a formal target, of the previous Labour Government.

In a series of policy reviews in 2006 and 2007, including the Leitch Review of Skills, ‘full employment’ was defined as an 80% employment rate – which the then Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Peter Hain, described as achievable “within a generation.”  At the time, the UK employment was around 73% – it is now back up to this rate, according to the latest Labour Force Survey for October to December 2014. Continue reading