Head to Head: Korean Sports Diplomacy

Head to Head: Korean Sports Diplomacy

The negotiations over North Korea's participation in the Winter Olympics has broken two years of diplomatic stalemate. Where do you stand on the issue of sports diplomacy? Is it effective? Read he arguments and vote in the poll. 

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Head to Head: HS2. White Elephant or Smart Investment?

Head to Head: HS2. White Elephant or Smart Investment?

In our latest head-to-head, Ben Ramanauskas and Robbie Travers lock horns over HS2.

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Head to Head: 2017 General Election Special

Head to Head: 2017 General Election Special

GE2017: who's got your vote?

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House of Lords, Put Simply

The House of Lords is the upper chamber of Parliament, currently composed of 805 individuals, none of whom have been elected. All these people have either been appointed by the monarch, are the current holders of a hereditary peerage or are one of 26 senior Church of England bishops. Although it was established in the 1300s, there have long been calls for the abolition of the House of Lords, which have intensified in recent decades. But what are the arguments in favour of retaining the House of Lords and what are the arguments against?


  • Peers don’t have to worry about their own popularity

As the House of Lords is not elected, some argue that this means its members are free to vote for what they think is right, without having to worry about being defeated at the next election. This leads to better decisions being made as peers are able to focus on the long term impact of a policy rather than its impact on their own electoral fortunes.

  • Legislation would be of a poorer quality without it

It is often argued that the primary benefit of the House of Lords is how it allows experts in certain fields to use their expertise to critique legislation. However, if they were required to stand for election, they may choose not to, as many of them already have other jobs that mean they don’t have the time to campaign. This would lessen the quality of the legislation, as the experts would be replaced by professional politicians who wouldn’t bring as much knowledge to the debates on bills.


  • The House of Lords is undemocratic

The main argument against the existence of the House of Lords is that it is undemocratic. It is an unelected body which, on occasion, forces the elected House of Commons to back down, which critics view as profoundly undemocratic. They say that anyone with a say in the legislative process should be an elected representative, which peers are not.

  • It is too old fashioned

Many say that the upper chamber, which is admittedly around 700 years old, has no role in modern society. They argue that the existence of a 92 strong contingent of hereditary peers is at odds with meritocracy, as it guarantees a large group of people the ability to vote on the passage of legislation because of their lineage. It is also argued that the house is an unneeded remnant of the days when people were appointed to it as a form of patronage, which is out of touch with modern society.

Reforming the House of Lords?

In the vast debate about the House of Lords, there are also those who believe that it shouldn’t be abolished, but reformed instead. The main suggestion of reform is that the House of Lords should switch from being appointed to being elected, which would effectively ‘democratise’ the chamber. Abolishing hereditary peers is another idea commonly put forward, as well as taking away the right of peers to vote on legislation, and reducing their role to simply scrutinising bills. However, although there have been many alterations to the House of Lords since 1997, the proposals to overhaul it in 2012 were eventually scrapped, as they were too unpopular to get through the House of Commons, showing how difficult it is to actually reform the chamber.


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Globalisation, Put Simply

Economics terms are thrown about by those in-the-know all too regularly. Frankly, its baffling for those of us without expert knowledge in the subject, and “put simply” explanations are infrequent to say the least. #LetsTalkPolitics and challenge this. Globalisation is a widely used word in that is often misunderstood or unclear to a large proportion of us. The definition lies in the intersection between Geography and Economics. Globalisation can essentially be seen as the increasing interconnectedness and integration of national economies and the increasing flows of goods, services, labour, ideas and capital between them.

We are in a very globalised world, a world where Transnational and Multinational companies dominate global interactions and borders are flattened to accommodate the exponential growth of nations in tandem with companies. So, what are the underlying causes of Globalisation?

  1. Growth of Free Trade (Read Previous article on free trade)
  2. Growth of Multinational (MNC) companies such as Coca Cola
  3. Development in Technology (communication, transport etc.)
  4. Development in trading blocs, trans-national relations (Ease in trade)

Globalisation is obviously a large topic to cover with varying different meanings, but what are the impacts both spatially and temporally?

  1. Increased interconnectedness between nations can mean that countries that previously may not have been affected by global trade cycles may now be (China may affect Taiwan’s trade growth e.g.)
  2. There is increased global competition; global markets become more competitive as there are more incumbent (existing in market) firms. (This can lead to lower prices to consumers as well as an array of other forms such as greater technological innovation)
  3. Greater labour mobility, rise in movement and fluidity of labour
  4. Greater economies of scale (As the firm increases in size it can gain different benefits, e.g. bulk buying economies of scale – a firm of a larger size can purchase more raw materials at a cheaper price)

What are some of the costs?

  1. Domestic firms can become uncompetitive, local firms can be pushed out or receive little to no business as large trans-national corporations move in
  2. Certain countries may have a ‘comparative advantage’ over other economies in the production of goods and services – this can create an unbalanced global economy
  3. There are obvious environmental costs, with the growth of consumerism and production pollution is inevitable

As you can see there are various costs and benefits provided by globalisation. All in all, it is an inevitable process and for sustainability to be achieved, sound management from extra-governmental bodies such as the World Trade Organisation must take place over time.


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Alt-Right, Put Simply

Since Richard B. Spencer coined the term in 2010, the Alt-Right (or Alternative Right) have provided a steady stream of headlines, and articles.....but what is the Alt-Right, who are they, and what do they stand for?

What is the Alt-Right?

The Alt-Right (or Alternative Right) is a political movement primarily based online, that seeks to move away from mainstream conservatism, and establish a new political wave. The term was coined by Richard B. Spencer in 2010, Spencer is also seen as the leader of the movement.

Many prominent members are associated with the “white identity” movement, which was established to end what members saw as the decline of “white culture”. However, as there is no clear political manifesto for the Alt-Right, its members represent a wide political base.

The Southern Poverty Law Centre, an American anti-hate organisation defines the Alt-Right as “a set of far-right ideologies, groups and individuals whose core belief is that ‘white identity’ is under attack by multicultural forces using ‘political correctness’ and ‘social justice’ to undermine white people and ‘their’ civilisation.”

Who are they?

The Alt-Right has very few well-known members, as the majority of their support is based online. This makes it difficult to identify and quantify the membership base.

However, University of Alabama professor George Hawley stated that the majority of supporters are white millennial age males, who are either in college or with a college degree, secular (perhaps atheist), and "not interested in the conservative movement at all.”

What do they stand for?

As there is no set manifesto for the Alt-Right ideology, what they stand for is a hard question. However, there are some common, and prominent themes through the alt-right.

The preservation of “white culture” is one of the most prominent features of the Alt-Right. Indeed, the alt-right has been compared to white-nationalist groups. However, Professor George Hawley does explain some differences. Hawley states that there is “more of a difference of style and marketing”, whilst also recognising that “most of the leading figures of the alt-right do disavow things like genocide, which some of the more outrageous earlier white nationalists didn’t necessarily do”.

Alt-Right organisations

The most prominent, and indeed one of the few avowedly Alt-Right organisations is the National Policy Institute (NPI), currently headed by Richard Spencer.

Founded in 2005 by William Regnery and Samuel T. Francis, in conjunction with Louis R. Andrews. It describes itself as “dedicated to the heritage, identity, and future of people of European descent in the United States, and around the world”.

Alt-Right media

Although there are no openly, and exclusively Alt-Right media outlets, Breitbart News has been dubbed “the platform for the alt-right.” Breitbart also boasts Milo Yiannopoulos, seen as a leading member of the Alt-Right, as a senior editor.

Alt-Right symbols

Due to the Alt-Right’s major online presence, and online proficiency, they have adopted, and appropriated many symbols from across the internet.

Perhaps the most famous of these symbols is Pepe the Frog. Pepe was created in 2005 by Matt Furie, and first appeared in Furie’s comic ‘Boy's Club #1’. The character has since become the mascot of the Alt-Right, something that Furie does not support; stating “"It sucks, but I can't control it more than anyone can control frogs on the Internet”.

Other Alt-Right symbols include: Harambe and the Ancient Egyptian God Kek (worshiped ironically).


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French Election, Put Simply

This year, 5 candidates are vying for the chance to lead the French nation. The first round of the presidential election will take place on 23rd April 2017. Unless one candidate wins an overwhelming majority vote, which is highly unlikely, the two leading candidates after this first round will face off on May 7th in a second contest.

Who are the candidates?

Marine Le Pen

Marine Le Pen has certainly made a name for herself in global politics. Daughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen, whose nationalistic leadership of the Front National earned him fame but ultimately an eviction from the party, new leader Marine Le Pen moves forward with the aim to soften the racist rhetoric of her father’s politics. However, she has dubbed herself “Madame Frexit” due to her desire to follow Britain out of the EU. Le Pen finished 3rd behind Francois Hollande and Nicolas Sarkozy in the 2012 elections, and is leading the pack with 25% of the vote in this year’s first round polls.

Emmanuel Macron

Former investment banker Emmanuel Macron served as economy minister under the unpopular presidency of Francois Hollande. Now leading his own, “En Marche!” (On the Move!) campaign, Macron represents a pro-NATO, pro-EU, pro-refugee political ideology in an increasingly nationalistic leaning France. Although Macron trails Le Pen in the polls, it is thought he will triumph over the Front National candidate when the vote really matters.

Benôit Hamon

Hamon leads the French Socialist Party in the upcoming election. He served as Francois Hollande’s education minister in 2014 but later resigned over his conflicting socialist ideals with the then president. He goes into the 2017 election as an underdog and is currently placed 4th in the polls. This poor form could be down to his unusual policies: the robot tax intending to tax employers using automotive workers and the reduction in hours of the French working week.

Jean-Luc Melenchon

This far-left candidate, who quit the socialist party in 2013, has policies most resembling Le Pen’s. His anti-globalisation and anti-austerity stance define his campaign and bring him close in thinking to the leader of the FN. Melenchon currently is polling around 10%, so his chances of progressing to the second round seem slim. There has been talk of a Hamon-Melenchon partnership, which would make this combined candidate a serious contender. However, it is thought political ambition and antagonism over the years would deem such a coalition impossible.

Francois Fillon

Francois Fillon’s centre-right campaign for Les Republicains was going well, that was until news broke that he had kept his wife on the public payroll for work she had not done. Up until about 2 weeks ago, Fillon was the favourite in the presidential race. It was thought his policies, resembling the FN candidate’s in their pro-Russia alliance tendencies whilst maintaining a pro-EU stance, would grant him universal French popularity. However, this latest knock to his reputation sees him dwindling in the polls.


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