What is it like to work for an MP?

On Wednesday 16 November the British Politics Centre welcomed Robert Dale,
author of the book How to Be a Parliamentary Researcher and a former member of staff for Andy Sawford, MP for Corby.

Robert spoke to students from the Department of Politics and beyond about how to get a job in parliament, the kinds of people who apply for these positions, and what it’s like when they get there.

The talk was followed by a Q&A session.

Listen to a podcast of the event:

The EU Referendum: Will it be In or Out?

by Dr Ben Worthy

On 8 June Birkbeck Politics staff discussed the UK’s EU referendum, looking at what has happened so far and what may yet take place on 23 June.

The panel began by looking into why the UK was having a referendum, discussing the many hidden and not too hidden factors behind it. These stretched from Cameron’s gamble that a referendum would cure the short term threat of UKIP and unhappiness in the Conservative party to the long term distrust towards the European Union project in the UK, harking all the way back to Britain’s campaign of attempted sabotage of the project in the 1950s and reluctant joining in the 1970s.

Reflecting on the campaign so far, the panel spoke of how referenda are, by their nature, proxies for all sorts of other subjects. The EU referendum is actually about immigration, democracy and sovereignty. Despite their popular appeal, referenda can also be anti-democratic in focusing so narrowly on a single decision and pursuing a seemingly simple answer to complicated issues.

There was also concern at the low level of debate and failure, on both sides, to engage with facts or global realities, from international trade to the modern mass movement of people (see the Treasury Committee report that similarly complained of the ‘inconsistent, unqualified and, in some cases, misleading claims and counter-claims’ made by both sides).

The panel also reflected on how different views of the EU split different parts of England and the United Kingdom – creating what has been called a ‘Disunited Kingdom‘ of intentions and support. What would happen if Scotland and Northern Ireland voted Remain but England and Wales wished to leave? It could all get complicated and this paper speaks of some of the profound constitutional consequences. But do referenda ever solve an issue (think Scotland in 2014)? The panel thought it unlikely to be the last EU referendum the UK has.

In terms of the voting itself, the polls so far show a knife-edge result, resting on the margin of error. To find out what our panel think will happen on the 23 June (and why José Mourinho’s views could prove decisive) listen to the podcast below:

https://soundcloud.com/british-politics-centre/the-eu-referendum-will-it-be-in-or-out

To find out more:

 

The Conservatives have been the biggest borrowers over the last 70 years

By Richard Murphy

This post originally appeared on Richard Murphy’s blog Tax Research UK (13 March 2016). It is reposted here with his permission.

I was interviewed twice on the radio on Friday evening to discuss John McDonnell’s new fiscal rule, once on LBC and the other on Radio 5. In both cases the interviewers were quite explicit in stating that it was known that Labour always borrowed more than the Conservatives and that was why the electorate could not trust them with the economy. I knew that evidence I had prepared a year ago did not support that view in recent years (post 1997) but I decided to see if this claim really had any substance to it all at all. This blog is about my findings. There is a note on data sources at the end.

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David Willetts in Conversation with Tony Wright

David Willetts in Conversation with Tony Wright

By Professor Eric Kaufmann

Former Labour MP and Birkbeck Politics Professorial Fellow Tony Wright hosted a memorable evening with former Tory MP David Willetts on 11 February in the cozy confines of the Keynes Library. Willetts, known as ‘two brains’ for his intellectualism and (current) tally of ten authored books, served as Universities Minister in the Cameron government until 2015. He also served under Margaret Thatcher at her Policy Unit. Among his more influential works is his recent book on problems of intergenerational equity entitled The Pinch: How the Baby Boomers Took Their Children’s Future – And Why They Should Give It Back.

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Why Carswell and Brand are both wrong about British politics

By Danny Rye

Neither individualism nor therapeutic withdrawal from the political arena are enough to empower people to make the fundamental changes needed in their lives.

This article was first published at OurKingdom, the UK section of openDemocracy – click here 

British politics is in a fragile state.  Levels of trust in politicians are low, traditional measures of political engagement indicate an increasing dislocation between a distant ‘political class’ and the electorate. People are less inclined to vote at all (as turnout figures for recent elections indicate) and those that are seem in increasing numbers to be more attracted to ‘insurgent’ parties and charismatic individuals from George Galloway to Nigel Farage who appear to offer simple answers to often complex questions. Underlying this is a sense of powerlessness, anger and disappointment that threatens to undermine the legitimacy of the political system itself, and which mainstream politicians seem powerless to address without making worse.

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