Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Understanding 'left-wing' and 'right-wing'

A couple of videos for you which seek to explain to explain the difference...


Two further terms you can consider; if you take the political test, you'll find you're placed not just on a left/right spectrum but also an authoritarian/libertarian spectrum. (Source for quotes below; you can find an alternative explanation here)
Authoritarian:The state, as the highest expression of institu­tionalized structure, supersedes the individual and makes it possible for the individual to acquire and develop a stable and harmonious life Mass communication, then, supports the state and the govern­ment in power so that total society may advance and the state may be viable and attain its objectives.
The State (the elite that runs the state) directs the citizenry, which is not considered competent and interested enough to make critical political decisions. One man or an elite group is placed in a leadership role. As the group or person controls society generally it (or he or she) also controls the mass media since they are recognized as vital instruments of social control.
The mass media, under authoritarianism, are educators and propagandists by which the power elite exercise social control. Generally the media are privately owned, although the leader or his elite group may own units in the total communication system. A basic: assumption a person engaged in journalism is so engaged as a special privilege granted by the national leadership. He, therefore, owes an obligation to the leadership.
This press concept has formed and now forms, the basis for many media systems of the world. The mass media, under authoritarianism, have only as much freedom as the national leadership at any particular time is willing to permit.
Libertarian:The libertarian press concept is generally traced back to England and the American colonies of the seventeenth century. Giving rise to the libertarian press theory was the philosophy that looked upon man as a rational animal with inherent natural rights. One of these rights was the right to pursue truth, and potential inter­feres (kings, governors et al) would (or should) be restrained.
Exponents of this press movement during the seventeenth century, and the 200 years which followed, included Milton, Locke, Erskine, Jefferson, and John Stuart Mill. Individual liberties were stressed by these philosophers, along with a basic trust in the people to take intelligent decisions (generally) if a climate of free expression existed.
In theory, a libertarian press functions to present the truth, however splintered it may be in a pluralism of voices. It is impossi­ble to do this if it is controlled by some authority outside itself. Through the years many new ideas were grafted on to early press libetarianism: One of these, for example, was the general accept­ance of a kind of obligation to keep the public abreast of govern­mental activities, or being a kind of fourth branch of government supplementing the executive, legislative and judicial branches.
This was actually a rather recent concept, having been grafted on to the original libertarian theory. There flows a basic faith, shown by libertarian advocates that a free press- working in a laissez faire, unfettered situation-will naturally result in a pluralism of information and viewpoints necessary in a democratic society.

Any more suggestions? Add as a comment...

Party Policies: 2013 Party Political Broadcasts

A party political broadcast (also known as a party election broadcast or party conference broadcast depending on the date of broadcast) is a television or radio broadcast made by a political party.
In the United Kingdom, political advertising on television or radio is illegal, but parties are instead allocated broadcast slots across the traditional terrestrial TV channels. On a given day, a given party will be allowed to broadcast a piece about five minutes long.
[Source: Wikipedia]
The major parties are granted opportunities to communicate directly to mass TV audiences through occasional party political broadcasts. As a form of advertising, these are essentially propaganda on behalf of a party, seeking to persuade viewers/voters that this party is the superior brand, the one they should vote for and believe in. These PPBs often focus on the alleged weaknesses or drawbacks of their opponents.
UK PPBs are fairly tame; its legal in the US to pay for political advertising, and many ads are savagely critical of an opponent. Critics of this system argue that, because of the huge cost of paying for TV ads and the fundraising required, this opens politics to corruption: wouldn't someone donating a million want something in return?

PPBs are easily spoofed too; this example twists the Conservative message into a very silly manifesto for delivering fudge and slaughter ...

Nonetheless, these short ads help to further your understanding of what the parties stand for.

Lets look at some examples...

2013 Tory PPB 12.4.2013
Having been out of power from 1997-2010, the Tories calculate that Eurosceptic policies and attacks on welfare will win the 2015 general election for them, and hope that their austerity policies deliver economic recovery, arguing there is no alternative after years of Labour overspending.

2013 Labour PPB 19.4.2013
After 13 years in government, Labour find themselves widely blamed for the economic disaster that kicked in in 2008; they seek to tread a fine line between attacking Tory austerity and agreeing to some of their economic policies and welfare reforms. Their central argument is on fairness.

Researching Party Manifestoes

A cynical rebranding or reflection of greener policies?
This is one of several posts with resources on the political parties - use the tags or links lists to find more, eg 2014 party political broadcasts; guide to UK political parties; party posters...

Over the course of the opening lessons in this strand you will research major parties' manifestoes and their aims. You will also go on to come up with your own new political parties, and we will hold a debate and election with these new parties!

below the line you will find links to the 2010 manifestoes, party websites and news sources on the policies of the following political parties: Tories/Conservatives; Labour (still the big two, but both struggling to win an overall majority and losing votes to smaller parties); Lib Dems (will they lose most of their seats in 2015?); UKIP (the wild card in 2015?); Greens (could take seats from Labour, + maybe more votes than Lib Dems?); and two fringe parties as further examples: George Galloway's Respect Party and the pro-piracy/anti-copyright Pirate Party

Use some of the following links to help you with your initial research (hold in the CTRL or CMD button when clicking a link and it will open in a new tab/window so you don't have to keep going back) - you can also look for more options yourself using key search terms such as (party name) manifesto and policy (or polic*):

Tory website policy guide;
Tory/Conservative Party website: 'Where we stand'; [if it times out, try their homepage]
BBC guide to their 2010 election policies;

Monday, 13 January 2014

Parliament + Government: What's the Difference? (4min video)

You could try the last 2mins of this vid (from 4:13 in):

This one sets out the key facts and terms

This one sets out the role of an MP; you can find more resources on this topic here.

The UK Parliament has traditions going back several centuries, such as the formal procedures around the State Opening of Parliament, in which the monarch addresses both Houses (of Commons and Lords) and sets out what 'her government' intends to do over the coming year.
Such ceremony is an important tradition say some; others argue that its offputting - what do you think?

How Laws Are Made (6min video)

Voter Turnout: UK Democracy in Crisis?

The long-term trend is clear: fewer of us are voting.
Increasingly, the young in particular don't vote while older people do.
This is reflected in the policies of our major parties - in January 2014 the big 3 (Labour, Tory, LibDem) all seemed intent on ensuring that the pension would not go down, whilst proposing measures (such as scrapping housing benefit for the under-24s) that targeted the young.

Here are a few graphics to get you thinking, or just to help with research and reading on this topic. The hyperlinks for articles, where you can find out more, are included in the captions.

Turnout for these elections was at a ridiculously low 15% - are the other 85% represented?!

MOST will vote in general elections but not others, eg European elections

There are multiple reasons why some chose not to vote.