Monday, 31 March 2014

Darth Vader for President?

This brings to mind the growing protest over the census form (every 10 years the government sends out compulsory forms to track the demographics of the UK, including sections for religion) which has seen 'Jedi' become the 4th biggest 'religion' in the UK, rivalled by The Flying Spaghetti Monster. We also have the Pirate Party in the UK, dedicated to overturning digital copyright laws.
At the very end of the article, there is a sense of some seious politics amidst the theatrics:
The UIP was registered in 2010 and aims to create an electronic government in Ukraine, transition to digital media and offer free computer courses to all citizens.
Read the full article here.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Would e-voting encourage the young to vote?

In the light of the March 2014 budget, I recently blogged on the potential impact of pensions reforms - something that a typical young person is highly unlikely to have ever thought about - on the lifetime earnings and tax deductions faced by the young generation whose wages (through income tax) are going to pay for this.
KEY STAT: 76% of pensioners vote, only 44% of under-25s vote
I mentioned the common analysis that this reform, brought in by the Conservative and Lib Dem coalition BUT eventually backed by Labour too, reflected the much higher priority the main parties give to older voters because they are so much more likely to actually cast their vote than the young. The 'grey vote' was a much used term.

Now comes news that the organisation which advises the government on how well or otherwise our democracy's voting system is functioning, the Electoral Commission, has also stated that we need reforms to close this growing voting gap between young and old: 76% v 44% respectively.

Here's the Guardian article in full:
The UK should consider allowing internet voting in elections because the current system risks appearing alien and outdated to an increasingly disenfranchised younger generation, the election watchdog has said.
Launching a review of modern voting, the head of the Electoral Commission, Jenny Watson, warned that the state of the electoral system was "not an issue that can stay on the slow track any longer".The long-term trend of falling voter turnout was particularly marked among young people, she said.
Watson said the election watchdog would examine a range of ways to make voting more accessible, including the "radical" option of internet voting and US-style same-day registration for those not on the electoral roll.
"Whether it is the ability to register to vote on the day of the election, or voters being able to use any polling station in their constituency, or the introduction of advance voting, or even more radical options such as e-voting, we plan to look at a variety of options, assessing how they will help citizens engage more effectively," she said.
Watson said online registration was welcome but did not add up to an ambitious, comprehensive modernisation strategy.
With some polls showing 76% of pensioners voting compared with 44% of eligible under-25s, the Electoral Commission said more could be done to make the system more reflective of wider society.
"By doing so we could by proxy help address some of the issues with turnout, particular amongst an increasingly disenfranchised younger generation," Watson said. "Unless our electoral system keeps pace with the way many voters live the rest of their lives – where the way they bank and the way they shop has been transformed – it risks being seen as increasingly alien and outdated, particularly to young voters as they use it for the first time."
She said critics should not see change as a move towards making the electoral system like The X Factor, as society must make sure voting was seen as a "serious and important civic act".
A Cabinet Office spokesman said: "The government is always looking at how our electoral system can modernise – that's why we are bringing in online registration and introducing individual electoral registration this summer.
"Technology changes fast and there is always more that can be done to make voting accessible, but it is the government's primary concern to ensure the effective delivery of elections."
What do you think? Would YOU be more likely to vote if you could do it online? Remember, 16 year-olds have been given the right to vote in the Scottish referendum in 2015, and one of the big three parties (Labour) has said it would look at extending this for general elections too, so the issue of voting might not be so distant after all...

Thursday, 20 March 2014

2014 Government Budget: Taxing Your Future?

Helpful starting points/further reading: BBC Beginner's Guide to the Budget
The Gov.UK guide to government spending is more technical 
My previous blog post has many graphics, links and a short video

An unfortunate comparison, but this useful guide gives a quick summary of local gov. spending on p.12; I've also blogged on this before with many more resources!
older people vote – 76% last time. What is the point of easing the housing, jobs and debt crises of the young when only 44% bothered to vote? Low

earners don't vote much either, so the young/poor vote least of all. The IPPR shows how, since 2010, average voters lost 12% in service cuts, but those who didn't vote lost 20%, or £2,135 a year. So, Russell Brand, young people are badly treated if they don't vote. [Polly Toynbee, Guardian, 21.3.14 - lots of facts and figures on how decisions by both major major parties in recent years have hit young people]
Toynbee, above, criticises Brand; videos on Brand's controversial views here.

This can seem very abstract, and alien to teenagers who might not think this impacts upon them, but government budgets, and so their public spending plans, include how much more or less they will spend on schools for example, and how this money is divided up.

This Guardian article claimed that the budget targeted pensioners votes
There is an increasingly common point of view that this government - like its predecessors - puts the interests of pensioners above those of young people, basically because they are much more likely to vote. All of the broadsheet or 'quality' papers from March 20th 2014 (except the Telegraph) specifically mention the 'grey vote' on their front pages. We'll explore the press in more detail in another lesson.

Read what press expert Roy Greenslade made of the press coverage here.

If you skip to 2:12 in, this BBC radio guide to the economy and public spending explains how it works if we imagine that the whole UK economy amounted to just 100 pennies ... from which more and more is going towards paying out pensions, putting pressure on spending on other areas, such as education.
Skip to 2:13 in, and this is a very user-friendly guide!
The Guardian reports that the 2014 budget, from 19th March 2014, was quite obviously pro-pensioner and unfavourable to youth (or 'Generation Y'), as the sample quote below illustrates:
It can be useful to have a grasp of the demographics of the UK; the map below (click here for the full-size image, here to read analysis of how the size of a youth population influences a country's politics) puts the UK into global context:
There are lots of reports on this year's budget; for example, you can find a 100 second video summary here from the Daily Telegraph, a right-wing paper, or select from a range of articles here from The Guardian, a more left-wing paper.

As well as any of the above, you will have the following main resources to use for this task:

Interactive Telegraph guide to public spending - you can click (or just hover) on any of the circles, or the Department names, for further details.

Guardian pie chart graphic of public spending.

This guide is not so user-friendly, but allows you to access some more detailed breakdowns.

This guide to the main elements of the 2013 spending review highlights some of the key trends in government spending.

NB: the images below are only screenshots: click on the blue, bold underlined hyperlinks above to visit these sites/resources!
Telegraph guide: click/hover on bubbles or Department names for more detail

Guardian guide; zoom in to read the fine print!

The guide: click on the + for more details guide - welfare is a key target for cuts; what is your view?

Monday, 17 March 2014

UK Political Parties: a guide

The Wiki list
Most of you will know the names of the 3 biggest UK political parties, 2 of which are in government currently as a coalition while the other forms the main Opposition (their job is to respond to government proposals, although they will sometimes agree with these!).

There are many more, from small fringe parties or single-issue parties (UKIP being a good example) to parties which operate only in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, but still send MPs to Westminster plus the devolved parliaments/assemblies of NI/Scotland/Wales.
This link (see screensot, left) contains a list of many of these, including parties which are exclusive to some parts of the UK.
We will spend more time later looking at and comparing the parties policies, but for now you could use this website to compare the policies of some parties (from the last general election):
PocketPolitics guide. (you'd select the 2010 Westminster option)
Here's another lnk, whch looks only at the 3 main parties:
Here's a comparison of the policies of the 3 biggest UK parties, from C4's website. [on a PC CTRL-click links to open in a new tab, on iPad hold the link and select Open In New Tab, so you can keep this webpage open]

If you come across any useful websites/links on UK political parties, pass on details as a comment below and I'll add them to this post

You can use other posts and resources in this blog to help with ideas for your party, and we will return to this frequently. Use the links list you see on the right in the picture below (the post pictured has examples of posters from UK political parties)

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

UK Political Parties' posters, past and present

Using some of the links below, you can build a good impression of how party politics have shifted over time, for example the reduction in real difference between Labour and Tories as 'New Labour' moved to the free market, right-wing position of the Conservatives.
You can also decide for yourself whether or not these posters are actively misleading!

The Tories needed to convince sceptical voters they could be trusted with public services

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

World Book Day: Young People and Politics...

I'd like you to select one of the two articles linked below ... and read it! We will leave at least 5 minutes to discuss your thoughts/responses/findings.
If you finish quickly and want to read more, further links appear at the end (including an option with a strong statistical/mathematical slant).

Click on one of the following articles, then read through it:
ARTICLE 1: "Young People's Boredom With Politics 'Should Not Be Confused With Apathy'" [Joseph Rowntree Foundation]
This article uses some complex language.
Click here if this is the article you'd prefer to read. Paragraphs are longer and language more challenging compared to the Mirror article below.

ARTICLE 2: "Russell Brand is wrong - young people HAVE to be engaged in politics" [Daily Mirror]
This article uses less challenging language.
Click here if this is the article you'd prefer to read; the language is less complex and the paragraphs shorter than the other article above, but it is still quite long! (If this page won't load, scroll to the bottom where I've copied in the text - its easier to read from the webpage though)


If you're a quick reader, you could try another article on the same theme...
This is from a broadsheet/quality newspaper, but is written by a young person. Click here to read.
This article is quite 'dry' in tone, and includes a lot of statistical analysis, which keen mathematicians may enjoy!

I'm not sure whether tabloid papers will be accessible through our web filter; so, just in case, here's the text from the Mirror article:
Russell Brand is a brilliant comedian and a great talent. Recently he made some very serious points about our political system.
Lots of them were spot on. I don’t think we have a democracy that works if only a third of the population voted at the last election.
But I didn’t agree when he said we have tried voting and it doesn’t work . I don’t think we have tried as a nation to vote in huge numbers.
When you think of what people went through to give us these freedoms it seems very easy to say we have tried it and it has failed.
If you look at it from the perspective of young people, only 44 per cent of them turned out to vote in 2010 compared to 76 per cent in the older demographic.
And that’s where Bite the Ballot comes in.
We have been working across the country to get young people engaged in politics.
Today sees the first National Voter Registration Day where we want to get thousands of young people to register to vote.
We looked to the success of the Rock the Vote campaign in the USA, which used celebrities such as Christina Aguilera to encourage people to register, and decided this was something Britain needed.
We have reached out to schools, youth clubs, universities and businesses.
Events are taking place all over the country with people joining in to help register more voters.
It’s amazing that with a little bit effort from a small team you can really instil the vision that voter registration is a rite of passage for all those aged 16 and above.
Coming up to the election in 2010, I was teaching business studies at the Wilmington Enterprise College in Dartford, Kent.
A colleague asked me if I was going to vote and I said no. I said the same thing I hear from young people now: ­politics doesn’t affect me.
But he made it real for me.
He started relating politics to things I have to deal with every day from road tax for my car to whether we go to war.
He said politics decides whether your favourite nightclub can have a late licence or if it can have a dance floor.
These were clear-cut examples of how politics affects everything in my life.
So I thought to myself, why don’t I know this stuff?
I wondered how I could go the whole way through school and three years at university and no one came round canvassing for votes or engaging me or my friends.
Did I not matter as much?
Young people have been labelled apathetic but they have never really been told how important politics is.
Between the staff and students at the school we formed Bite the Ballot.
We began looking at the reasons why people weren’t involved, why they were frustrated with the process, and we tried to turn them into opportunities.
One reason given was that people didn’t know how to go about voting and didn’t want to embarrassed at a polling station.
So we held a mock election in school.
We had three teams canvassing the school and on the day of the vote we set up a classroom exactly how it would be at a polling station for an authentic experience.
We taught 668 people how to vote in that one day and they all said: “Is that it? It’s so easy.”
Bite the Ballot is now nearly four years old and we are still growing and looking at new ways of getting the message out.
We have developed two learning games, called The Basics, which illustrate the powers we have and the choices we face as a country.
We are trying to get young people to engage in shaping the society they live in .
We have registered more than 15,000 people using these games and today is vitally important with the General Election next year.
The statistics are very telling – 96 per cent of over-65s are registered to vote compared with only 56 per cent of those aged 16 to 24.
Estimates suggest 3.8million people won’t be registered for the 2015 election and we are trying to get as many signed up as possible.
They deserve to be heard.
The Mirror’s search for a young person to be the Voice of a Generation is a brilliant way of engaging people in the political process.
It is a great opportunity for ­some­one to report on the issues from a young person’s perspective.
There will be some wonderful stories coming from the young person selected.
We have to get young people engaged in politics, to balance things out, keep it fresh, and we hope today will be an annual drive to get them registered.
We have created a no-nonsense registration form on our website that takes out the jargon and helps people understand what is being asked of them.
I respect Russell Brand for voicing his opinion. We need more of that.
It’s what Bite the Ballot is ­encouraging – it’s about getting more people to voice their opinion to truly reflect our country.
Need to get yourself on the register of voters?