The Home Secretary allegedly pushes senior civil servant out of the Home Office – is there a parallel with an earlier Home Office crisis?

The nearest (only?) parallel to the Sir Philip Rutnam affair was the sacking of Derek Lewis as Director General (DG) of the Prison Service in 1995.

This was another case of a Home Secretary and a senior Home Office civil servant falling out, and the latter ending up without a job.

The Prison Service (of England and Wales) was, back then, part of the Home Office. It has since moved to the Ministry of Justice.

Derek Lewis was brought in, an executive in Granada TV, by Ken Clarke, then Home Secretary. He was tasked with running the Prison Service which had newly been established as an ‘Executive Agency’ within the Home Office.

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Levelling Up Government?

by Prof. Colin Talbot and Dr. Carole Talbot

Screenshot 2020-02-28 at 14.05.40
The current government has committed itself to “levelling up” – as opposed to policy of “levelling out” – the UK. This means bringing the so-called “left behind” regions, cities and towns up to the levels of the highest, which is mainly London. The government’s focus is clearly on place rather than people. Continue reading

Unrepresentative Democracy: the poison of first-past-the-post.

By Colin Talbot

First-Past-the-Post is not just deeply unrepresentative, it is poisonous to democratic politics. It fundamentally undermines real democratic values. The UK general election has just demonstrated this, again.

UNREPRESENTATIVE DEMOCRACY?

That first-past-the-post (FPTP) electoral systems can produce unrepresentative results is well known. Even in two-party races this can happen, if there is an uneven distribution of votes. In multi-party elections this can be much more distorting.

This election in the UK demonstrates this. In England the Conservatives won just under half the popular vote but almost two-thirds of the MPs.

As the table shows, if the number of MPs were genuinely representative of people’s votes the Tories will have only won 252 seats, not the 345 they actually got in England. The Liberal Democrats would have 66 MPs, instead of the meagre 7 they actually won. Smaller parties like the Greens and Brexit Party would be properly represented. Continue reading

Coup, What Coup?

By Colin Talbot

The UK has not suffered a coup. No tanks on the streets. No martial music from the radio stations. No seizing of the presses. No curfews. No coup.

Because that is not how democracy is dethroned these days. At least, not in well-established democratic systems, or even in some less long-lived ones. No. The process of establishing authoritarian rule is far more subtle, prolonged and insidious.

The global rise of authoritarian populist and nationalist leaders is a well-established fact. Bolsanaro, Duerte, Modi, Erdogan, Orban, Putin and of course Donald Trump all, to varying degrees, have or are trying to, establish authoritarian rule.

What is notable in all these cases though is that they rarely involve the classic coup, the military-led overthrow – the coup in Chile, 1973, with Allende being bombed in the Presidential Palace and tanks on the streets?

Some have proceeded much further than others, but the neo-authoritarian play-book is now clear to see. Not every creeping dethroning of democracy occurs in the same way, at the same pace or in the same order. But most of the elements of the process are common and it’s notable how they – the nationalist authoritarians – seem to be learning from one another across national boundaries. Continue reading

Brexit and Parliament: what if…..?

I have been getting lots of calls, messages and emails asking me “what if….”

So here are a few answers.

What if the Government tables a motion for a General Election under the terms of the Fixed Term Parliaments Act?

This requires a two-thirds majority of all MPs – whether present and voting or not. That’s 434 MPs. They have already tried it once and failed. It’s unlikely to succeed when they try again on Monday. After that Parliament is going to be Prorogued so it will be impossible before it resumes in Oct. Continue reading

Boris Johnson and the Amoral Warrior(s)

A name that doesn’t come up in the Brexit debate is Miyamoto Musashi, a 16th and 17th century Japanese samurai. But he is probably present, none-the-less.

Why? Because Boris Johnson’s main advisor, Dominic Cummings, apparently prefers military strategists to political thinkers. And in the world of military strategy Musashi is up there with Sun Tzu, Clausewitz, Liddell-Hart, Giap, and other great military thinkers from history. And anyone familiar with Musashi can certainly see his ideas expressed in Cummings behaviour. Continue reading

Parliament: a handy guide to the State of Play

As we head towards dramatic events in Westminster in a few weeks, I thought it might be worth providing a handy guide to the state of play in the House of Commons.

So here is the state of the Parties as at 23.00 on Weds 14 August 2019.

Note: today Sarah Wollaston (Totnes) joined the Lib Dems, boosting them to 14 and reducing the “Independent” group to 15.

Source: https://www.parliament.uk/mps-lords-and-offices/mps/current-state-of-the-parties/ (amended today)

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