UK EU referendum explained to young people in new website

Me & EU website A new website is setting out to engage young people in the UK EU referendum, following research which shows some 81 per cent of 12-to-24 year olds feel that they don’t know enough about the EU and how it affects their everyday lives.

The 2014 study completed by Dr Darren Sharpe of the University of East London (UEL) shows that only 7 per cent feel that they know ‘a lot’ about the EU, and just 12% feel that the EU impacts on their lives ‘very much’.

The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)-funded site, ‘Me & EU’, aims to give young voters the key, relevant information which will aid and support them in making a decision in the run up to the referendum.

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Hard Evidence: will young people vote, and does it even matter?

As the final stages of the 2015 general election campaign unfold, it looks like we could end up with a multi-party coalition of at least three – and possibly more – parties, writes Professor Matt Henn. This would be unprecedented in the modern era of British politics.

But a shadow falls over the election in the form of voter abstention by the British public. Declining electoral participation rates have been a feature of recent general elections, with people voting in far fewer numbers than in previous decades. In Britain, nowhere is the divide between citizens and mainstream democratic politics and the state more apparent than among today’s young people.

A major concern of national politicians is that young people seem increasingly reluctant to vote in elections. Only 44% of registered 18 to 24-year-olds participated at the general election in 2010, remaining well below youth election turnout rates recorded during the 1980s and 1990s, and significantly less than their older contemporaries. 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

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.”

Political Storytelling and the Land of Make-Believe

Political storytelling

Dr Kevin J. Hunt is a senior lecturer in Visual Culture

Politicians talk a lot. Communicating clear ideas and workable policies to voters is key to winning an election and an inevitable part of political rhetoric relies upon telling stories. Representing a policy through a narrative description is a way of personalising an issue and perhaps helping a potential voter relate to an idea that might otherwise appear abstract. This is why politicians often recount how they met someone ‘just the other day’ who is due to benefit from their party’s policies and why, in live events, the candidates try to remember the names of audience members to indicate they are listening and responding to a specific situation affecting a real person. The aim is to show that a vote for that particular party will deliver a happier ending than any of the alternatives on offer. In other words, politicians work hard to construct narratives that they hope the electorate will believe in, repeat to other people, and vote for. Continue reading

Tough calls on the National Health Service

520943253The future of the NHS will clearly be a key issue for the 2015 General Election. Any institution that costs the country so much, and touches so many people’s lives, cannot avoid being a topic for political debate. However, this institution is peculiarly ill-suited to the short-term nature of much British politics. Successive governments have focused on being seen to do something, and on generating favourable media coverage across the electoral cycle. This has resulted in a series of reorganizations and patches since the 1980s. In the policy community, the consequences are widely regarded as chaotic, demoralizing and wasteful. Unfortunately, unless the election has a clear-cut result, this seems likely to continue as coalition partners bargain for baubles or a minority government offers pork-barrel deals to win support from minor parties on specific votes. Continue reading

Lord William Bach to give guest lecture on future of human rights

Lord Bach

Lord Bach

Lord William (Willy) Bach, Shadow Attorney General and Shadow Foreign and Commonwealth Minister, will give the guest lecture ‘Protecting citizens: the future of Human Rights’, at Nottingham Trent University on March 19.

In his talk, organised by the university’s School of Social Sciences, Lord Bach will argue that for Britain, the next few years will be crucial for the future of Human Rights Law. He will make the point that those who support the repeal of the Human Rights Act 1998 risk not only turning the clock back years, but also isolating Britain from the modern world. 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.”

Universities should be at the heart of our national debate

Professor Edward Peck, Vice-Chancellor, Nottingham Trent University

Professor Edward Peck, Vice-Chancellor, Nottingham Trent University

Can we expect an unaccustomed and not entirely welcome focus on universities at the coming General Election? Or are we in a position where, as Oscar Wilde said, ‘There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about’.

It is a delightful epigram, but not one that those responsible for our major universities would necessarily endorse in the lead up to one of the most uncertain elections in recent history. Continue reading