Who has power within British politics today?

By Lord Jim Knight, received 2 February 2015

Large commercial interests, media interests and an almost impenetrable political class.

Lord Jim Knight of Weymouth was a Labour MP from 2001-2010 and is a former Schools and Employment Minister. He became a Life Peer in 2010.

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Does the British party system promote or hinder liberal democratic ideals?

By Bill Kidd, received 15 March 2015

The British Party system exists as a self-perpetuating servant of a paralysing establishment order. There is now so little difference between the main Westminster parties and so much collusion with the Whitehall system that liberal democracy has become little more than a 5-yearly election cycle.

Bill Kidd is MSP for Glasgow Anniesland. His major political interests are the development of policies to eradicate poverty, job creation, housing policy and an end to the nuclear power and weapons programmes of successive British Governments.

Why is local government important?

By John Griffiths, received 12 June 2015
Local government, in the form of local councils in the UK, helps underpin the fabric of our society and to oil the wheels of our local communities. Many may not realise how important it is to our daily lives, though almost everyone certainly would if it suddenly ceased to exist! In our mixed economy, councils often also provide the services that cannot be provided fairly, or afforded, by the market, or which require democratic input when affecting the future of local communities.

Since 2010, the coalition government, and now the Conservative government, has been seeking to bolster the importance of local, as opposed to national, government, through our and their localism agenda. I believe there are four reasons why localism and, therefore, local government is particularly important:

Local government is accessible
The services we provide, and their quality, affect people’s daily lives. Whitehall is too distant to make decisions about many of these, and often too big and remote for residents to access, talk to, and hold to account

Local government suits local areas
No one-size-fits all in public services (or at least it shouldn’t in my view), and  local government often allows for services to be tailored to the circumstances and special needs or requirements  of local areas, be they rural, urban, historic, modern, thriving or struggling.

Local government involves local people
Both Councillors and staff in local government know, and have a vested interest in, the area they serve. We know our residents better than most, and are, therefore, best placed to work with and for them – and to help support them in creating a better future for us all.

Local government is more  flexible
Making changes in national government can feel like trying to turn a tanker around. Local government can (and should be) much more fleet of foot, and needs to constantly evolve and adapt to changing circumstances.

Cllr John Griffiths is Leader of the St Edmundsbury Borough Council.

Why should young people get involved in politics?

By Daniel Zeichner, received 15 June 2015

Put simply, politics is the business of the future. It seeks to shape how our society will evolve for the next generation. From the content of the curriculum, to solving (or sadly making) military conflicts, from how much money you can earn to financing the next famous scientist or inventor, politics defines the status quo and sets in motion the wheels of change for the future.
Involving young people in politics and decision-making is therefore vital. It is they who will either reap the rewards or pay the price of the actions we take today. The less we engage them in the political system, the less legitimacy it has. That’s why I think it is vital that 16 and 17 year olds have the right to vote in the upcoming EU referendum.
I want to see a country whose government can not only act in the national interest, but preserve it and enhance it for the future. For that to happen, we need to engage our young people and our young people to engage with us. Without them, politics cannot possibly represent their interests. For our country to succeed into the future, that has to change.

Daniel Zeichner is the newly elected Labour MP for Cambridge. He lives in the city with his long-term partner whom he met whilst studying at Cambridge University. He was previously a local business owner and a councillor in Norfolk.

How to work within the Policy Puzzle?

By Clare Morley, received 3 March 2015

Talking from the Policy Connect perspective, we are an independent, cross-party, politically neutral, not for profit organisation; we are not politically aligned. We don’t have a view at the start of a piece of work; instead we undertake inquiries into various topics and produce findings based solely on the evidence we gather. We see our role as working with the Co-Chairs of our inquiries to identify issues that need to be explored. We always have Co-Chairs from two different major political parties, which ensures neutrality. Once a topic has been identified, we undertake research and call witnesses to give evidence to a panel. We then produce a report, based on the evidence we have gathered, outlining recommendations or strategic alerts. But that isn’t enough; once we have our findings we then have to make sure people hear about them and listen and, for the best possible outcome, that they take action and instigate policy change based on our findings. We know that we will only be listened to if we continue to produce high quality outputs, so we put a lot of effort into our research and into publicising our outputs. Our recent Higher Education Commission report into the financial sustainability of HE got a huge amount of publicity when it was published at the end of 2014 and has been in the news again in the last few days as Labour has announced plans to reduce tuition fees. Having your recommendations listened to, quoted and acted upon must surely be the outcomes everyone involved in the policy puzzle is looking for.

Clare Morley is the Chief Executive of Policy Connect, a network of parliamentary groups and research initiatives designed to inform policymaking within the UK.

Why is the British public concerned about immigration?

By Bill Kidd, received 15 March 2015

The British Public are so very concerned about immigration because it has been cynically and ruthlessly manipulated as an issue in order to deflect attention from serious concerns such as the future of the NHS, the further erosion of free education and the wind-down of the welfare state, all of which can be bogusly lain at the feet of immigrant populations.

Bill Kidd is MSP for Glasgow Anniesland. His major political interests are the development of policies to eradicate poverty, job creation, housing policy and an end to the nuclear power and weapons programmes of successive British Governments.