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For over a decade and a half the world has witnessed a dramatic rise in a distinctive kind of violent militancy. Much about it is controversial, including how it should be understood, described and addressed. There is even little, if any consensus, about how it should be labelled. Terms currently employed include: ‘violent jihadism’, ‘jihadi terrorism’, ‘violent Islamism’, ‘violent Islamic extremism’, ‘Islamist terrorism’, to mention but a few.
But two characteristics cannot be denied: it is violent and Islam is invoked as the justification by those who resort to it. However, the precise nature of this relationship is hotly disputed. Some claim that the connection is purely contingent and has no real significance because, while Islamic terminology is employed, the motives and goals of those involved have, in fact, little or nothing to do with Islam. By contrast, others maintain that it is nothing less than the logical extension of Islam given current conditions and recent developments. Of the many positions in between is the view that the conception of Islam invoked is an utterly debased and distorted misunderstanding of the faith, totally at variance with its true, best or better interpretations.
Professor Michael Ford QC joined the Bristol law School in 2015 and specialises in labour law, human rights and public law.
Tonia Novitz is Professor of Labour Law, specialising in labour law, international trade and human rights.
On 5 October 2015, George Osborne declared that the Conservative are ‘now the party of work, the only true party of labour’. The Trade Union Bill presented to Parliament in July 2015 demonstrates the hollowness of this claim. This proposed legislation has had little attention from the media but promises to place alarming restrictions on the rights of workers and their trade unions, probably in anticipation of deep budgetary cuts affecting the public sector which are, of course, likely to generate protest…
The measures in the Bill include: changes to the already very strict balloting requirements on strikes; new restrictions on peaceful picketing; new rules on the political activity of trade unions; restrictions on trade unions’ facility time in the public sector (with check off also in the Government’s sights); and greater controls on trade unions by the Certification Office. At the same time, the Government has published draft regulations allowing employers to hire agency workers as strike-breakers, and proposes further restrictions on protests organised by trade unions.
Meryl Kenny, Lecturer in Politics, University of Edinburgh
Sarah Childs, Professor of Politics and Gender, University of Bristol
The new Labour leader, deputy leader, and both candidates standing for Mayor in London and Bristol: all male. And this from a party whose parliamentary benches are more than 43 percent female and, in Bristol, where all its MPs are women. The newspapers and social media, not unexpectedly, were quick to question the party’s commitment to gender equality. Whatever you think of revaluing the education and health brief (and there’s a lot to be said for it), the absence of not one woman from the traditional top offices of state invited criticism. Some of this was no doubt right-wing commentators finding yet another reason to be critical of Labour’s new leader.
But the feminist criticism was more substantive: a longstanding worry that leftist politics often has too little room for gender equality in policy and personnel terms. Against such criticism, the counter argument: given the number of women candidates standing, party members had ample opportunity to vote for a woman. In short, Corbyn was the preferred candidate, his sex notwithstanding.
Recently the public and media became aware, through one image across Europe (and the world) of the plight of people fleeing for their lives. Within the UK this image produced an awakening after months and years of warnings about the consequences of policy failures, wars and discrimination against migrants. Evidence of the catastrophic failures of UK and EU migration policies, which are based solely on immigration control, borders and ‘security’, have been disbelieved or treated with scepticism by policy makers, officials and many academics.
Repeated reports of deaths in the Mediterranean were ignored or seen as someone else’s problem, the public having been fed a relentless ‘diet’ of poisonous ‘news‘ and rhetoric about migration in general. Institutional racism and discrimination was further embedded as asylum seekers (including children) in the UK were detained, portrayed as troublesome, instead of being welcomed and offered protection. Furthermore, the consequences of austerity are continuously blamed on migrants.
There is a crisis of democracy, as well as policy and a humanitarian crisis, which has been fuelled by the action and inaction of our government.
Professor Alex Marsh has been Professor of Public Policy and Head of the School for Policy Studies since 2007.
George Osborne’s recent “emergency” budget proposed many changes to state support to lower income households in a bid to fulfil the Conservatives’ manifesto pledge to cut £12bn from welfare spending.
One unexpected aspect of this package was the proposal to cut housing association rents by 1% each year for the next four years.
This proposal was justified with reference to social housing rent rises over the last few years. These have pushed up the already substantial housing benefit bill. Households have needed greater state assistance in order to afford the rents being set. Bearing down on rents over the next few years will, it is claimed, both reduce the housing benefit bill and force social landlords to deliver efficiency gains.
The local elections in Spain on Sunday have attracted international attention with the Guardian saying that‘Spain’s indignados could rule Barcelona and Madrid after local election success’ and the New York Times that ‘Spain’s local election results reshape political landscape’. What these reports capture is that Spain has gone from a two-party to a multi-party system in the four years since the last general elections and that this fast political change started with the occupation of public squares by the Indignados, known as 15M, on 15 May 2011. In this blog post I seek to go beyond the headlines and explain some of the political transformations that are at play in the Eurozone’s fourth largest economy.
How do we go about deciding who we’ll vote for? And how should we go about deciding?
For every decision there is, in principle, a rational way to decide. Political scientists have formulated the idea of ‘correct voting’, whereby a voter can be said to have voted correctly if they have selected the candidate or party whose priorities are most closely aligned with their own. If Mr Spock were voting, this is the logical, rational approach that he would take.
Unsurprisingly, perhaps, voters are not perfect, rational decision-makers. For one thing, voters typically have insufficient information to make a rational decision, either because politicians haven’t released relevant information (where they would make cuts, for example) or because voters haven’t availed themselves of this information.
But a more fundamental reason why voters don’t always choose rationally is that decision making in general is not rational, as demonstrated by a long history of psychological research, beginning with the Nobel prize-winning work of psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky. It’s important to qualify this point by noting that not being rational doesn’t prevent us from — usually — making good decisions. There may be very good reasons for us not to strive for perfect rationality in most situations: a fast, “good-enough” decision may trump a slow, optimal decision.
Telling acquaintances that you are part of a team reviewing the deaths of people with learning disabilities can stop a conversation in its tracks. Most people glaze over, make excuses and beat a hasty retreat. So how could we encourage the Government to listen to, and commit to addressing the issues?
The Confidential Inquiry into premature deaths of people with learning disabilities (CI) was commissioned by the Department of Health as a three-year project to assess the extent of premature deaths in people with learning disabilities and offer guidance on prevention. In March 2013 we reported our findings to the Department of Health and shared them nationally through a series of media interviews, public conferences and events. We also engaged with Parliament in a number of ways – including giving evidence at a House of Lords Select Committee, addressing an All Party Parliamentary Group meeting, and briefing peers for a debate in the House of Lords.
Last month’s government-commissioned school food review showed that the nutritional quality of school food has improved substantially since 2005, when Jamie Oliver started its campaign to improve the nutritional value of school meals. Nevertheless, take-up of school meals remains low, at 43%. In other words, 57% of children are not eating school lunches, but bring a packed lunch, have snacks, or buy their food elsewhere. The report shows that the majority of these meals are unhealthy. In fact, in contrast to what most parents think, only 1% of packed lunches meet the nutritional standards.
In addition to affecting child health, there is substantial evidence that poor nutrition affects cognitive performance. Michèle Belot and Jonathan James show in their study that the Jamie Oliver campaign led to a significant increase in children’s test scores in primary schools (Key Stage 2), as well as a drop in authorised absences (i.e. those that are mostly linked to illness and health).
George Ferguson is Bristol’s directly elected mayor (DEM). The most controversial policy he has introduced so far is the introduction of parking restrictions radiating out from Bristol city centre. In a bid to cut traffic and boost public transport use, he is using the powers available to him to address an issue that was amongst the most high profile in the election campaign: transport. This policy has echoes of Ken Livingstone’s introduction of the congestion charge in London. In much the same way as Ferguson, Livingstone was cautioned against introducing what was then seen as a foolhardy and unpopular policy.