A ‘jobs-led recovery’? Assessing the facts behind the Conservatives and Labour manifestos

WalletIn the run-up to the General Election, the two largest parties have attempted to paint different pictures of the economy, particularly what this means for people’s jobs, in order to justify their Manifesto commitments and – by extension – why they should lead the next Government, writes research fellow Chris Lawton.

The Conservative manifesto emphasises the strength of recovery in terms of the quantity of jobs created since the start of the Parliament in May 2010: “Thanks to the success of our long-term economic plan, Britain is creating more jobs than the 27 other countries of the European Union put together… Over the past five years, 1.9 million new jobs have been created; 1,000 jobs for every single day that we have been in government.” Continue reading

Labour’s rent control plans may have unintended consequences

HousingEd Miliband has pledged that Labour would introduce three-year tenancy agreements for private renters under which their rent increases would be capped at the rate of inflation, writes Professor Michael White.

The Conservatives quickly rounded on the idea of re-introducing rent controls, with London mayor Boris Johnson writing in The Daily Telegraph that it was “an idiotic way to tackle the problem of high rents”.

The history of rent control in the UK has been problematic. Designed to maintain affordability, limits to rent rises introduced in the Increase of Rent and Mortgage Interest (War Restrictions) Act 1915. This was designed to be short term but was kept in force after World War I in some form until 1989. It reduced the investment attractiveness of the private rented sector leading not only to its decline but also creating a significant drop in the quality of private rented accommodation. Continue reading

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

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

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

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