Would the UK be better off leaving the EU?

Euro notes and coins

Euro notes and coins

We would be substantially better off not being in the EU because the opportunity cost of us not being able to make our own trade deals with the emerging economies of the world is holding back British business. In terms of trade, the EU is now a millstone around our neck. Nigel Farage, UKIP leader, on the BBC Radio 4’s World at One on May 4.

Nigel Farage’s statement about UK trade repeats arguments regularly made by UKIP. As an EU member, the UK does not negotiate trade deals independently. Rather, the European Commission negotiates to a mandate set by the member states. His reference to “emerging economies” is because several of these countries are growing faster than, for example, most EU countries, offering growing export opportunities. Beyond this, the statement involves points presented as fact, but which are opinion – and questionable opinion at that, writes Professor Robert Ackrill. 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

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

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

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.”

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

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

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