In the past year British politics has got (even more) interesting, uncertain and unpredictable. On Wednesday 17 February staff from the Birkbeck Politics Department Joni Lovenduski, Tony Wright, Rosie Campbell and Jason Edwards joined together to discuss the state and health of British democracy in 2016. Should we congratulate ourselves or be concerned?
This post is a response to the Centre for the Study of British Politics and Public Life’s event Charities Regulation Under Scrutiny, held on 16 February 2016.
Regulating charities is extraordinarily complex because unlike most regulated organisations they are so diverse. There are about 160,000 of them and they share just one feature – they opted for a particular legal status, first established in 1601. Only those bodies that meet a statutorily defined notion of “public benefit” are entitled to the privileges charitable status provides, including not being liable to corporation tax, for example. They vary enormously in size, in whether they rely or donations or on other sources of incomes (such as contracts, fees or grants), in whether or not they make use of volunteers, and in many other ways. Perhaps the most significant respect is whether they are subject to oversight by the Charity Commission or are exempt, as are universities and private schools, for which other regulatory agencies now usually have responsibility.
As with almost everything about David Bowie, no one is sure exactly what his politics were. The Mirror claims he turned down an OBE and a knighthood in the 2000s. In 1977 he is quoted as saying ‘the more I travel and the less sure I am about exactly which political philosophies are commendable’. Nevertheless, many have seen ways in which Bowie’s career could provide lessons for how we do politics.
As somebody who teaches negotiations at the London School of Economics (and whose elder daughter is a junior doctor) I have followed the junior doctors’ dispute very closely. What I have gradually discovered is that one of the key obstacles to the successful resolution of the dispute is that the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, has violated almost every basic principle of effective negotiation.
Thousands of people apply to work in MPs’ parliamentary offices every year. Why? Robert Dale, author of How to Be a Parliamentary Researcher, visited the Centre for the Study of British Politics and Public Life on 16 November to explain.
Working in an MP’s office is an opportunity to operate at the centre of British politics. In an insightful discussion with comments from Tony Grew (Lobby journalist for The Telegraph, founder of the Parly app) and Susan McLaren (Birkbeck PhD student), Robert Dale explored how to get a job in an MP’s office, the challenges of these positions and the culture around working in parliament.
The panel featured Ed Bacon, Matthijs van den Bos, Antoine Bousquet, Rob Singh and Barbara Zollner. Assistant Dean Alex Colás chaired the discussion.
The panel assessed the origins and dynamics of the crisis in the Middle East, considering why ISIL’s recruitment practices have been so successful in the West, possible solutions to the Syrian civil war and the ramifications of the conflict for the relationship between Washington and Moscow.
The Centre for the Study of British Politics and Public Life welcomed author and journalist Polly Toynbee to the Keynes Library yesterday, where she appeared in conversation with Birkbeck Professorial Fellow in Politics Tony Wright.
The wide-ranging talk, which was followed by a Q&A with the audience,
mixed biographical detail with political insight, covering Toynbee’s education, early work experiences and the effort behind writing two columns a week. It also addressed the challenges facing the Labour party in upcoming votes in London and Scotland, and the pitfalls for the Yes campaign in the EU referendum.
On 4 November, Professor David Runciman visited the Centre for the Study of British Politics and Public Life to speak on the subject of Jeremy Bentham and conspiracy theory.
The lecture explored what Bentham had to say about conspiracies real and imagined and how his ideas of conspiracy changed in line with his shifting view of democracy. It asked whether it makes sense to call Bentham a conspiracy theorist, and if so, what that tells us about the relationship between conspiracy theory and political theory.
John McDonnell, Shadow Chancellor and former Birkbeck student spoke to staff and students at an event organised by the Politics Department. He was questioned by Joni Lovenduski over gender representation and came out in support of legislative quotas for women and job shares, though he challenged the ‘19th century’ idea that the top Shadow Cabinet jobs such as Foreign Secretary were still the most important. He acknowledged that the Parliamentary Labour party was not wholly in favour of its new leadership but promised that the party would remain a broad church and democratic, with space for dissent and different views. The new activists who had joined since September, he hoped, would radicalise the party.