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British Politics

When the ‘make or break’ summit to save the euro finished in Brussels on Friday afternoon, David Cameron headed rapidly for the exit without the traditional end of summit press conference (making do, unusually, with only an interim pre-dawn one as the leaders stumbled out from their almost ten hours overnight talks for a short break before breakfast). As the dust settles from this critical summit, the gap between the UK and other European countries has never been wider, nor the UK’s influence closer to zero. As Tory sceptics applaud what any sane observer would call a major foreign policy disaster, could it be that Cameron is in the process of taking the UK out of the EU without a …

The Guardian and the LSE have partnered up on an impressive journalistic-cum-sociological analysis called “reading the riots”, examining the unrest that rocked England this summer on the basis of interviews with people involved, massive social media datasets, and various forms of secondary sources. This is a very laudable attempt to make sense of what happened why in August, important questions at the heart of both journalism and social science. The collaboration examines many different themes, today the role of different “social media” (and more generally, digital networked media) in the riots. The material released provides both qualitative and quantitative evidence for dismissing the claims—frequent in August, and spread by for example by an  Associated Press story still up on thousands …

Sir Graeme Lamb is not fond of theorising. However, the former Director of the UK Special Forces can claim to have played an important part in the initiative that pacified large parts of Iraq after 2006. Much of what he argued for is now part of the official US counterinsurgency strategy. But while it is easy for academics and other observers to demand that armed forces should ‘reach out’ to insurgents, there is precious little guidance on the practicalities of initiating a meaningful conversation with the people determined to bomb the foreigners out of their homeland. Lamb shared his insights as part of Emma Sky’s seminar series in Oxford on 25 October, jointly hosted by the Changing Character of War …

David Cameron took office having pledged during his campaign to reduce net migration to the “tens of thousands rather than hundreds of thousands,” a commitment that has been reiterated numerous times since then by Cameron and other Conservative ministers (although it is technically a Conservative party goal rather than a coalition government policy).  But reducing migration appears much easier said than done.  The coalition government has put forward policies designed to reduce net migration through limitations on international students and skilled labour migrants. It has opened a consultation on policy toward settlement—the granting of indefinite leave to remain in the UK, as opposed to mere temporary resident status—and it plans to address marriage- or family-related migration soon. My colleagues at …

I first heard Madhusree Mukerjee talk about her research on British imperial policy and the Bengal famine of 1943 about three years ago when she was visiting Oxford to study the Cherwell Papers at Nuffield College. She talked about it over lunch with me at St Antony’s and it sounded like a most interesting line of enquiry. Her book Churchill’s Secret War: the British Empire and the Ravaging of India during World War II (Basic Books, New York 2010) appeared late last summer. A few pages into the book – and I knew this was a game-changer. I contacted my colleague Faisal Devji, who runs the South Asia History seminar. Faisal invited Mukerjee to speak and she gave her very …

Tony Blair A Journey: My Political Life Knopf, 2010 720 Pages £35.00 ISBN 978-0307269836 “This shows what it’s like being Prime Minister. That’s exactly what the readers want to know. How does it feel to run a country? How does it feel to be so cut off? How does it feel to be so hated?” –  ”The Ghost” This is the obvious checklist for a political memoir, a genre which still manages to be notoriously boring. Tony Blair’s A Journey, though, purposefully evokes a sense of unceasing contingency about the life of the 51st British prime minister. His thematically organized memoir is a folksy, well-paced, and at times cinematic rendering of a decade in office begun in exhilaration and finished …

The People’s Charter of 1848 contained six demands, then considered dangerously radical by both Whig and Tory governments. One of the six was: EQUAL CONSTITUENCIES, securing the same amount of representation for the same number of electors, instead of allowing small constituencies to swamp the votes of larger ones. The Chartists might have been surprised to find that it was a Conservative-dominated government which first tried to enact equal representation, in the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill 2010 (PVSCB in civil servantese). As I write, the controversial bill has passed the Commons, and is being considered by Their (unelected) Lordships, who have no scruples about amending bills on how to elect another house.  Oh well, that’s politics. Some political …