The Covid-19 pandemic is a grim reminder that competent or poorly run governments are literally the difference between life and death for their citizens. The crisis has shone a spotlight on the inadequacies of governing institutions in many parts of the world; the UK has been no exception.
As the Chinese Communist Party celebrates its one-hundredth anniversary, the mood among China watchers in the United States is markedly less celebratory. For all of the ways in which Joe Biden is different from Trump, the two presidents share a fundamentally similar outlook on US-China relations, and the prognosis is not encouraging.
Following reports that the UK government is considering abolishing the ‘English Votes for English Laws’ procedures in the House of Commons, Daniel Gover and Michael Kenny argue that, although EVEL has some flaws as a solution to the ‘West Lothian Question’, abandoning it will also leave open bigger questions about how England should be represented within British parliamentary government.
Joe Biden’s first trip to the UK as US President is bound to produce hundreds of hot takes on the state of the so-called special relationship, most looking for signs either of its continuing strength or its more or less imminent demise.
The former Number Ten Chief Strategist Dominic Cummings’ testimony before a parliamentary select committee led to a series of extraordinary revelations, notably the claim that the Prime Minister would rather see ‘bodies piled high’ than go through another lockdown in autumn 2020.
When this is all over, we’re going to build a new Jerusalem, apparently. We’ll build back better (according to the Prime Minister), in a spirit of togetherness we’ve not seen since 1945 (according to the Leader of the Opposition).
The Future of London – Dr Patrick Diamond
21 May 2021
Re-elected as London mayor for a second term, what are the challenges that Sadiq Khan must address? What is his vision for the city’s future, and what kind of legacy does he want to bequeath?
A year ago, as Keir Starmer strapped himself to the mast of the Good Ship Labour, I joked that "leading the Opposition is not so much a job as a multiple personality crisis". Twelve months later, as he picks through the wreckage of his first big electoral test, Starmer could be forgiven for wondering in what role he has been cast: as the captain, the albatross, or the first violin, bravely playing on as the ship goes down.
Not for Patching? – Dr Patrick Diamond
13 May 2021
MEI Director, Dr Patrick Diamond discusses the findings of the report Not for Patching? published by the Mile End Institute at Queen Mary University of London.
Farah Hussain introduces her PhD research and the theoretical framework used to inform her work. In this piece, originally published by Renewal, she explains why intersectionality is key to understanding Muslim women’s experiences in the Labour Party and how to improve them.
Polling shows Sadiq Khan is set to secure a second term as London mayor on May 6. He is easily beating his Conservative rival, Shaun Bailey, who looks likely to suffer the worst defeat of a Tory candidate for the mayoralty since the office was created more than 20 years ago.
Dr Sanghamitra Bandyopadhyay outlines why, from her perspective, it is good that the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities has announced the scrapping of the BAME term from UK public discourse.
Voters across Scotland will go to the polls on 6 May to elect members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs). David Klemperer explains how Scotland's Additional Member System actually works.
In a powerful blog post, the economist Simon Wren-Lewis issued a call to arms to Britain's Opposition parties.
During the mid-1990s, Tony Blair explored the idea of creating directly-elected mayors in London and the English regions with the intention of reinvigorating local democracy.
Three Essentials to Campaigning – Matthew Lloyd
7 April 2021
I am often asked by new activists how to start new campaigns to bring about change and I recently sat on a panel at the University of Birmingham addressing this question.
A Newer Labour? Dr Patrick Diamond
30 March 2021
The British Labour Party has had a tortuous time over the last decade. But there are hints of openness towards new solutions to its problems.
At the start of the year, one of the main causes of the EU’s slow rollout of COVID-19 vaccines was lower than expected supplies from AstraZeneca. Fast forward a few weeks and the EU’s vaccination programme still trails far behind the UK and US, but politicians and those in public health now have something else to worry about: low uptake of the AstraZeneca vaccine. In France, over three-quarters of AstraZeneca vaccines remain unused. In Germany, the figure is two-thirds.
The Politics of the Budget – Dr Karl Pike
4 March 2021
The day after the Budget, when the economic analysis from think tanks like Resolution Foundation and the Institute for Fiscal Studies comes in, we begin to grasp the kinds of messages and political debates that will actually spring from the Budget.
For millions of voters, the most basic act of democratic citizenship - casting a vote - is about to get harder.
In the report, When Systems Fail, the Foundational Economy Collective explains how and why our healthcare system lacked the capacity to respond to the surge in demand caused by the highly infectious Covid-19 virus. Relative to others, the UK healthcare system was peculiarly and irresponsibly vulnerable to any surges in demand.
Place and Wellbeing After the Pandemic – Dr Andrew Walker
22 February 2021
In a new project funded by Research England, the Mile End Institute and the Local Government Information Unit are working together to understand how a public policy agenda oriented towards “wellbeing” and “place-shaping” is faring amid the pressures of the Covid-19 pandemic.
What makes conventions tricky is their consensual nature. Though many are written down, and some are called into being through declarations, most exist only to the extent they are in fact observed.
Beyond Brexit: The Conservatives – Professor Tim Bale
9 February 2021
After Boris Johnson’s big win at the 2019 General Election, the Conservatives became a party largely for and of Leavers.
The UK has passed the terrible milestone of 100,000 deaths with COVID-19. These losses have not been evenly spread throughout different communities. A disproportionate number of both severe cases and deaths have been among those from Black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds.
Why has Britain fared so poorly with Covid-19? Although blaming this or that minister or official offers an easy answer, the deeper causes lie in the transformation of the British state.
Various high-profile tensions between parliament and government – including over Brexit and COVID-19 – have focused on what the House of Commons can discuss and when. In a major new report, Meg Russell and Daniel Gover highlight the problems that result from the government’s default control over the Commons agenda, and make proposals for reform.
They argue that the fundamental principle guiding House of Commons functioning should be majority decision-making, not government control.
May 2021 is scheduled to yield an electoral bonanza in Britain, of a scale and variety to bring tears to the eyes of any self-respecting psephologist.
It was announced to some fanfare that the former Head of Tony Blair’s Delivery Unit, Sir Michael Barber, is returning to Whitehall to carry out an audit of government effectiveness.
The failures of Thatcher, Cameron and Major may provide lessons for the Prime Minister.
An excerpt from Chapter 2 – ‘The Fall of the First Reconstruction’, The End of the Second Reconstruction by Dr Richard Johnson (Polity, 2020)
Upcoming elections in the Netherlands and Germany in 2021 will test the strength of the radical right, which has a distinct vision of European identity.
Since becoming leader of the Labour party, Keir Starmer’s approach to the politics of Brexit has been a simple one: please everybody, we need to talk about something else.
Northern Ireland will soon be witness to one of the biggest IRA trials in decades. On the back of MI5’s ‘Operation Arbacia’, ten republicans from a group referring to themselves as the ‘New IRA’, will be charged with directing acts of terrorism. It has been more than twenty years since the ‘long war’ of The Troubles came to an end, but in a soon-to-be post-Brexit Britain and post-Trump era, can we say the same for the movement of Irish Republicanism?
Joe Biden’s narrow election victory in a year in which the US is experiencing high unemployment, a surge in coronavirus cases, and climate-induced threats signals a difficult period ahead. Richard Johnson examines the likely impact of a Republican-majority Senate and a conservative-majority Supreme Court on Biden’s policy agenda, especially in his first 100 days.
Joe Biden's victory in the US presidential election - winning the largest number of votes of any presidential candidate in history - offers a stark lesson to the left on both sides of the Atlantic: that economic credibility is essential to winning and retaining power.
Dominic Cummings’ dramatic departure from 10 Downing Street inevitably stirred great excitement among political pundits and commentators in the Westminster village. It raised fundamental questions about the future character of the Johnson Administration. Among the most significant was whether Cummings’ historic project to fundamentally transform the British state was now over.
What do lockdown-scepticism and Euroscepticism have in common? At first glance, it’s unclear why there should be a link between views on how we should handle the public health emergency posed by Covid-19 and attitudes to Britain leaving the EU.
"Corruption" is not a word that tends to be bandied around in the mainstream of UK politics. And yet it is beginning to seep more and more into British political discourse. While opposition parties attack the Johnson government's "incompetence", other commentators in both the mainstream and social media are increasingly using the term "corruption."
Donald Trump’s pronouncements challenging the 2020 election results have been met with derision by most media commentators. For historians of American politics, Trump’s claims cannot be brushed off so easily – not because they have validity but because wild claims of ‘fraud’ have been used by politicians and judges to overturn legitimate election results at other intervals in US history.
Decoding the Chilean Plebiscite – Dr Javier Sajuria
5 November 2020
The writing of history, like the taking of a photograph, is, by definition, a process of selection.
Can Trump pull off an Electoral College majority once more, even when he is trailing Biden substantially in the popular vote?
When Germany was reunited 30 years ago, the general feeling was of hope. People felt a wind of change breeze through both parts of the country. With reunification, the German Democratic Republic (GDR) became part of the Federal German Republic (FRG) and adopted West Germany’s political, economic and legal institutions.
In the wake of the human and economic devastation wrought by Covid-19 and the ostensibly inept performance of the Johnson administration, a debate is certain to ensue about how effectively Britain is governed. There are many agendas at stake. Among the most important is the impact of blanket centralisation on our system of government, and the prevalence of a ‘Whitehall knows best’ mentality that has undermined our capacity to manage the pandemic.
At last week’s Conservative party conference, Lord Agnew – a British government minister involved in civil service reform – echoed Dominic Cummings’ many attacks on the service for its over-centralisation, mediocrity, risk-averseness, inefficiency, failure to generate workable policy ideas acceptable to ministers, and lack of effectiveness in policy delivery. But he also pointed us to history.
It has been reported that the home secretary, Priti Patel, has been considering sending migrants who arrive in the UK via the English Channel to islands in the Atlantic. While Downing Street later pushed back on the idea of using the far-flung territories of Ascension Island and St Helena as sites of immigration detention, the Financial Times reported that it was nevertheless considering offshore immigration processing sites.
Since World War Two, America has repeatedly reconsolidated itself as the global hegemonic power. It has pulled states under its influence through a mutually beneficial politics of economic growth, and by establishing and playing a vital role in international institutions such as the United Nations (UN), World Health Organization (WHO), and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
Whilst the world and its leaders are occupied with the Covid-19 crisis, and its subsequent economic fallout, another crisis looms in its shadow, that of climate change and a global temperature increase of more than 1.5 degrees.
What can historians of Black Lives Matter learn from women’s anti-colonial protest in Nigeria?
The UK lockdown in March saw rises in domestic violence, increased childcare and domestic burdens on women, limits on paid employment and potential career reversals.
Parliament and COVID-19 - Professor Sophie Harman
30 September 2020
If we’re unhappy about the UK going to war without parliamentary scrutiny why are we happy about the UK going to war against a virus without parliamentary scrutiny?
In the midst of the worst pandemic in recent history, sister cities have shown themselves to be resourceful actors, ready to step in when inter-governmental relations come to a standstill.
Liberal, Labour and Conservative governments have all sailed into the Bermuda Triangle of Lords reform, though few have completed the voyage.
The fiasco over A-Level results has only deepened the suffering of a university sector mired in market-driven chaos.
The disaster has roots in a global network of maritime capital and legal chicanery designed to protect businesses at any cost.
A time traveller arriving from July 2019, interested in seeing how politics has moved on, and what progress had been made with Brexit, might be forgiven, at first blush, for thinking nothing at all had changed. ‘Britain close to abandoning hope of Brexit trade deal’, declared the Daily Telegraph this week. Déjà vu all over again.
Boris Johnson’s first year - Professor Tim Bale
23 July 2020
As a classicist, Boris Johnson hardly needs reminding that hubris can lead to nemesis. But hubris must have been hard to avoid. After all, his first six months as Britain’s eighteenth Conservative prime minister were, frankly, little short of miraculous.
When the time comes to write the history of Boris Johnson’s premiership, historians will not be short of material.
What would “taking back control” mean for immigration? That central question would determine how far the government would make its own choices about immigration in Boris Johnson’s first year as prime minister.
COVID-19 and Captivity - Gabriel Lawson
15 July 2020
Gabriel Lawson writes about prisoners-of-war dealing with isolation and its absence.
As progressives in the United States are fond of saying, “The New Deal was a great idea. It is time we tried it”. For its modern critics, the New Deal, as implemented, was not ambitious and transformative enough. A true New Deal would have conceded a lot less to capitalist interests, better protected the environment, and more aggressively addressed racial and gender disparities (rather than exacerbating them).
According to research published this week, it is underlying socio and cultural (as opposed to economic) values that keep the Conservative Party and its electoral coalition together and give it the best chance of connecting with the voters it will need to win again in 2024.
By Professor Norman Fenton, Dr. Magda Osman, Professor Martin Neil, and Dr. Scott McLachlan.
After COVID19 - Lord Peter Hennessy
24 June 2020
Lord Peter Hennessy asks what we might learn from the experience of another hinge moment: 1945, when an exhausted but victorious Britain launched a new social contract.
While Cummings’s vision for reforming government looks even more questionable in the light of the pandemic, it is not sufficient simply to attack ideas of reform, writes Patrick Diamond. He explains what system of government Britain needs in order to be better able to solve problems in the future.
The largest mass migrations in South Asia since the time of partition are taking place in India during the COVID-19 pandemic. Indians are on the move in every direction from the major urban centres, criss-crossing the nation on their way homeward to towns and villages across the country.
The anti-Brexit movement: failing to Remain (united)
16 June 2020
With the UK in lockdown and Covid-19 still on the rampage, it is easy to lose sight of the looming deadline for Britain and the EU to avoid a no-deal Brexit. Talks between Brussels and London have stalled and no progress on the key issues has been made.
Coronavirus plunged the world into the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Many governments are trying to revitalise their economies by gradually lifting lockdown measures, including the UK.
The Mile End Institute is situated within the School of Politics and International Relations (SPIR) at Queen Mary University of London. This piece affirms the School’s solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and provides resources recommended by the School’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion committee.
Professor Sophie Harman has contributed to new polling analysis which reveals the pressure on Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) women during the coronavirus lockdown.
Supporters of populist parties are often portrayed as politically naïve or misinformed, but to what extent does this image reflect reality? Drawing on a new study, Stijn van Kessel, Javier Sajuria and Steven M. Van Hauwaert present evidence that populist party supporters are not less informed than supporters of other parties. However, supporters of right-wing populist parties had a greater tendency to give incorrect answers to political knowledge questions, suggesting there are key differences between the characteristics of left-wing and right-wing populist voters.
By the Establishment, I do not only mean the centres of official power—though they are certainly part of it—but rather the whole matrix of official and social relations within which power is exercised. The exercise of power in the United Kingdom (more specifically, in England) cannot be understood unless it is recognized that it is exercised socially.
Patrick Diamond writes that the Cummings coronavirus row has wider implications for the machinery of British government. These revolve around the status of political advisers and the future of Cummings’s state reform visions.
It Could Happen Here - Professor Sophie Harman
27 May 2020
It couldn’t happen here. A one-off event, at first as big as the 2008 financial crisis, and then equal to if not bigger than the end of the Second World War. Unique in its reach, impact, and cause. Locking down populations, shifting work, school, and childcare patterns, and reorienting whole health, social, political and economic systems to manage a health crisis all seemingly without precedent.
Jewish nationalists defending ‘Christian Europe’ and attacking ‘evil globalism’? For Benjamin Netanyahu and conspiratorial son Yair, the illiberal Islamophobic ethnonationalism of Europe’s radical right is just too enticing.
Leading the opposition is an extraordinarily difficult job. In fact, it’s at least four different jobs at the same time, each of which needs different skills.
It’s an ill wind, they say, that blows nobody any good. And the coronavirus crisis is no exception. It’s too early to tell how – or how much – it will change UK politics in the long term. But we can at least make some educated guesses about the short- to medium-term opportunities and threats it presents to the Conservative government and to its Labour opposition.
Experts from the Mile End Institute at Queen Mary University of London have contributed to new research published today which reveals the stark reality of the coronavirus pandemic for parents and keyworkers.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed a new problem in our constitutional arrangements. How would we replace a prime minister during a national emergency?
'Expelliarmus, Jeeves!' - Dr Robert Saunders
30 April 2020
If you need a break from Covid-19, here is some light relief.
Have you ever wondered what would happen if Harry Potter met Jeeves and Wooster? Or if Aunt Agatha dated Lord Voldemort? Our co-director, Robert Saunders, has the answers, in 'Expelliarmus, Jeeves!'
Patrick Diamond dissects the UK’s response to the COVID-19 crisis so far and how it has been determined by a number of underlying weaknesses within its policy-making systems – among other things, the British Government’s reluctant attitude towards policy learning and borrowing.
Coronavirus: A Policy Melting Pot by Griffin Shiel
8 April 2020
From a cursory glance at the UK Government’s Coronavirus Action Plan, it would be easy to assume that the virus is almost exclusively an issue for the Department of Health and Social Care. It’s safe to say Professor Chris Whitty (Chief Medical Officer), Dr Jenny Harries (Deputy Chief Medical Officer) and Matt Hancock (Health Secretary) have had more air time than even they could have imagined.
This article was originally published by The Conversation on 31 March 2020.
A comparison of how British and Israeli leaders are handling the Coronavirus crisis.
This article was originally published by The Times of Israel on 31 March 2020.
by John Kenny, Nick Or, Andra Roescu, Will Jennings (University of Southampton) and Peter K. Enns (Cornell University and Roper Center for Public Opinion Research)
At this moment of crisis the UK needs a constructive opposition, not a compliant one.
This article was originally published by NewStatesman on 25 March 2020.
COVID-19 and the Transition Period by Professor Tim Bale
20 March 2020
This article was originally published by the UK in a Changing Europe on 19 March 2020.
Gawain Towler served as Director of Communications for the Brexit Party and was previously Head of Press for UKIP. In a special In Conversation event co-hosted by Queen Mary University of London’s Mile End Institute and The UK in a Changing Europe, he reflected on a 16-year political journey towards Brexit.