Thursday, 29 September 2016
Radio 4's Analysis programme on Monday 26 September featured interviews with several Nonsuch Politics students and a teacher, plus a major role for the school bell! You can listen to the programme here. In it, Birkbeck Politics professor (and friend of Nonsuch!) Rosie Campbell explores how Britain is undergoing a period of rapid political change, and asks whether it is time to "Tear up the Politics Textbook" and start all over again.
Over the Summer holidays, the new Year 12 History and Politics students wrote articles on either political topics of interest, or history books that they had enjoyed reading which were connected to their studies. There are plenty of examples of them below this post. Many thanks to all who took part and we look forward to more interesting articles soon!
PS: The picture is of the Gaoliang Bridge in China. Plenty more about bridges here.
Since Jeremy Corbyn’s victory in becoming Labour leader, the party has undeniably descended into a damaging spiral of irrelevance. From his inability to publically rally up support for the ‘Remain’ camp, to the resignations of countless members of his shadow cabinet; Jeremy Corbyn has proved himself to be nothing but an overly opinionated neo-socialist and not very much of a leader.
Corbyn’s only competitor, Owen Smith, who’s only tactic to gain the votes of Labour members is emphasising the uselessness of Corbyn, and furthermore that if he is re-elected as leader of the party, Labour will “recede into irrelevance, being thought of as not able to take back the reins of power from the Tories”. Smith, who made a mock version of the 2020 Conservative manifesto for his speech in London, predicts that without a strongly led opposition, the conservatives will roll back the state, cut taxes and benefits, sell off social housing, and introduce hundreds of grammar schools- all of which are eventualities he feels would be averted with him as Labour leader.
But simply because Corbyn has proved in the past year that he isn’t the person for the job, doesn’t mean that sexist, anti-immigrant Smith is. Smith has made degrading and derogatory comments countless times, aimed at female politicians such as Nicola Sturgeon and PM Teresa May. From threatening to “smash Theresa May back on her heels”, to referring to a gobstopper as “the perfect gift” for Nicola Sturgeon. Smith even went as far to claim that sexism in the labour party did not exist until Jeremy Corbyn became leader.
At his latest rally, Trump has coined idea of ‘peace through strength’, in a Reagan-esque appeal for increased military spending, making yet more promises to hold NATO members to their obligation to spend 2% of national income on defence. By increasing said spending, Trump plans to eradicate the IS claiming to ‘know more about Isis (Islamic State) than the generals do’ however when asked about said plan used his favourite way to describe it- incredibly vaguely. To add the hilarity of the situation trump says the terror group will be eradicated within 30 days, a laughable claim.
The plan is ‘great’ with its lack of description down to Trump wanting to appear ‘unpredictable’, appropriate considering his unexpected Republican nomination and controversial style of public appeal. To contrast, the democratic nominee Clinton is not afraid of the enemy knowing her ideas to ‘maintain air strikes and support local troops’.
With his only prior details being ‘bomb the hell out of IS’ and to use ‘a combination of his own plan and proposals from the generals to fight the terror group’, Trump’s lack of military experience, general knowledge of the situation and intelligence all appear to be severely lacking, just like his plan.
More on Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton's foreign policies here.
The Other Boleyn Girl, is yet another historical fiction by Philippa Gregory. As the third novel in the ‘Tudor Court’ series, the novel explores exactly what the title states, ‘The Other Boleyn Girl’, Mary Boleyn, sister of Henry VIII’s infamous second wife, Anne Boleyn. In the novel, Gregory depicts part of the turbulent reign of England’s Henry VIII through Mary Boleyn’s eyes during her time in and out of court.
Already married to William Carey and barely 14, Mary Boleyn embarks on a several year affair with the King at the beginning of the novel, giving him both a daughter and a son, albeit both illegitimate. “Keep him coming forward but never let him think that you come forward yourself. He wants to feel that he is pursuing you, not that you are entrapping him. When he gives you the choice of coming forward or running away, like then—you must always run away. But don’t run too fast. Remember he has to catch you.” Despite only a year separating them in age, Mary is disastrously more naïve than Anne, who is cunning, intelligent and skilful in the art of seduction, earning the role as Mary’s adviser in the seduction of the King.
“I shall be dark and French and fashionable and difficult. And you shall be sweet and open and English and fair. What a pair we shall be! What man can resist us?”
Mary’s golden fair hair reflects her sweet and caring disposition. “I wanted the heat and the sweat and the passion of a man that I could love and trust. And I wanted to give myself to him: not for advantage, but for desire.” Mary’s decline begins when she falls in love with the King and thus begins to lose sight of the reason as to why she was being courted in the first place. Anne understands that “anyone can attract a man” and “the trick is to keep him,” and, more importantly, Anne understands that love is not important in seducing the King. She understands that “in this world ruled by men” the aim is to rise in status, and to bring her family with her.
The favour of the King is eventually tossed from Mary to Anne. “I have overturned the order. Nothing will ever be the same for any woman in this country again.” Anne bewitches King Henry into tearing the country apart in return for her love. In order to marry her, the King breaks with Rome and brings the Church of England under his control, all for Anne to give birth to a girl, Elizabeth, after promising him she would give him his coveted son. All of this leads to Anne’s demise.
“And then the sword came down like a flash of lightning, and then her head was off her body and the long rivalry between me and the other Boleyn girl was over.”
“Jane would be the next queen and her children, when she had them, would be the next princes or princesses. Or she might wait, as the other queens had waited, every month, desperate to know that she had conceived, knowing each month that it did not happen that Henry's love wore a little thinner, that his patience grew a little shorter. Or Anne's curse of death in childbed, and death to her son, might come true. I did not envy Jane Seymour. I had seen two queens married to King Henry and neither of them had much joy of it.”
By the end of the novel, Mary is evidently less naïve and more intelligent. She is the only Boleyn sibling with her head still attached to her body after the well-known demise of Anne and George. Her conscience, at first, would not allow her to desert her siblings, albeit her husband, William Carey, advises her to protect her children, especially her son, Henry, and the now motherless Princess Elizabeth.
In spite of voting leave, many well informed advocates of Brexit would agree that the immediate economic effects of Britain’s leaving of the European Union would not be entirely positive. The less knowledgeable supporters of Britain’s leaving of the EU promote the notion that Brexit will control immigration. Pre and post the referendum, this idea has been giving a voice to racism in Britain.
It is hard to predict today what the future of Brexit will turn out to be in a decade or even five years time, but it is obvious that Britain’s planned exit of the EU is already provoking serious economic consequences. The most infamous, immediate and, arguably, the most important economic fatality of Brexit has been the value of the pound. Having sank to an alarming low against the American dollar and euro, in simple words, it seems as if us Britons have become poorer as a result of Britain’s decision to leave the EU. The pound lost 11 per cent of its value in the short space of two trading days, which raises the question that should have been answered to many less knowledgeable voters before they voted leave: how will Brexit immediately affect our economy?
Having dropped in value by around 13%, the pound, which was worth $1.50 on 23 June, is now trading at around $1.30, which is a new low for this decade, seeing as the sterling has not been at levels this low since the 1980s. On 23 June the pound was worth €1,30, but now trades at about €1,19, another alarming low.
Conversely, as a result of Brexit, the percentage of race hate crimes has vastly increased. In the weeks before and after the vote to leave the European Union, race hate crimes increased by 42%. Reports of racism have been amassing in the media, and this is no surprise. Immigration was highlighted as a common reason for Brexit amongst voters, and with the vote to leave stealing the coveted victory, those who were against immigration for racist reasons were revelling in their success.
With the value of the pound falling and the amount of race hate crimes increasing, the future of Brexit is not seeming as bright as advertised. However, some argue that the pound was overvalued before and there are, in fact, some benefits that come with a devalued pound regarding British exports and its net worth. Though there is no way to justify racism, some people believe that Brexit simply means reports of racism are piling up in the media, not the incidents themselves. Today, many people link racism in Britain with Brexit, albeit the vote for leave triumphing or the ‘problem’ of immigration may not have been the motive for all of the racist acts that have been occurring as of late.
On 11th July 2016 Theresa May took over as Prime minister, due to David Cameron’s resignation. Having been educated at a grammar school herself, May has expressed her desire to reintroduce grammar schools in the UK.
On 9th September, May announced her plans to reintroduce grammar schools and her view that schools should have the right to choose pupils based on ability. The prime minister suggested in her plan schools becoming much more selective and she thinks the ban has been in place far too long, causing a lot of controversy amongst the public. There would be £50m of new funding put towards this plan.
The chief inspector of Ofsted thinks May’s plans will `undo years of progress’ and the labour party thinks the changes will `entrench inequality’. One of the biggest worries is that poorer pupils are under-represented in grammar schools so May declared that new and expanding grammar schools will take quotas of poor pupils or grammar schools will help run other schools to help poorer students get the same opportunities.
The prime minster stated that we are `sacrificing children's potential because of dogma and ideology’ and argues that schools are already selected on house price and wealth. Additionally specialist disciplines such as music and sport can be the basis of selection so the same approach should be taken for those who are academically gifted. The plans will also include the ability for bright children to join grammar schools, not just at 11, but at 14 and 16 as well, so all age groups receive the same opportunities.
Most people assumed an Act of Parliament would be needed to end the current ban introduced by Labour in 1998, however, this is not necessary. To ensure the system is fair, a meeting will take place on how to make the tests more inclusive so it is not limited to families who can pay for tutoring in order to pass the test. Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the Labour Party, said his party would block these proposals to end the ban and they believe it is ` dividing children on the basis of their perceived ability at the age of 11’.
'Innocent Traitor' by Alison Weir embodies the perfect mix between vast historical scope and enlivened Tudor drama. The novel follows "The Nine Day Queen", Lady Jane Grey and details of her short life of just 17 years. Although proven to be a highly gifted person, her intelligence went unappreciated: Her life was lived in constraint and abuse by her scheming father and ruthless mother. The little salvation she had in her own household was her nurse and only source of comfort, Mrs Ellen.
"For when I am in presence either of father or mother; whether I speak, keep silent […] I must do it, as it were, in such weight, measure, and number, even so perfectly, as God made the world."
From her very birth Jane was perceived as a disappointment, simply for being female, yet her parents had soon pinned their hopes on her marrying Edward VI, King Henry VIII's son and heir. However, once it becomes evident that Edward's illnesses would eventually lead to his death, their choice for Jane changed to Guilford Dudley, who she was made to marry despite her open contempt towards the marriage.
Edward VI's death marked the beginning of Jane's famously short, reluctant reign. In just nine days of her crowning, Mary I was named as the true monarch and Jane was charged with treason. Weir poignantly describes Jane's execution in the Tower of London on 12 February 1554, a measure taken by Mary to prevent Jane from ever usurping her throne.
After over five years of violent conflict in Syria, what is left of the country is heartbreakingly unrecognisable, and the destruction is only set to worsen. With 2011 being the year of Arab spring, where peaceful anti-government protests turned into a full-scale civil war, most Syrian children do not even remember a time of peace. To this day, a quarter of a million people are dead as a result of how prolonged the proxy war has become: Intervention of foreign powers has only made it bloodier. Approximately half of Syria’s pre-war population of 23 million have been killed or forced to flee their homes, and now their refugee population is the largest in the world.
But have all of these refugees been finding refuge? Many opt for travelling to Syria’s neighboring countries, with Lebanon harboring a staggering 1 million of them. Others are risking their lives to travel to Europe in hopes of finding acceptance there, and not all of them make it across alive. However, most have barely started a journey to real freedom: According to UN estimation, 6.6 million refugees are internally displaced in Syria, especially in cities, where there is stronger humanitarian support than the countryside. As of February 2016, the government only holds 40% of Syria, the rest belonging to other factions - for example, ISIL - that are involved in the war.
According to a review of the political science on the duration of civil wars, Syria's conflict will most likely last through 2020. In only 2016 the country’s unemployment rate sits at its all-time high at 50%, and will continue to creep up; Most Syrians have been plunged into extreme poverty. An estimate of £5 billion is thought to be needed to help the 13 million in need of support, yet the exponential rise of refugees means the figure will inevitably increase, making it even less possible to achieve. With this in mind, it seems that Syria’s future is a dark one.
As phrased by The Times: ‘If there is one new history of the war that you might actually enjoy, this is very likely it.’ Great Britain's Great War by Jeremy Paxman is as informative as any textbook, yet brilliantly written, with impeccable use of language, and even a hint of humour. Jeremy Paxman tackles the history of world war one from a number of unique perspectives, both those of well-known generals and politicians, and that of the ordinary infantry soldier. The latter, in fact, features first, as the book begins by telling the story of Paxman’s uncle, Charlie, who “in his entire military career… won no medals… never advanced beyond the most junior rank and almost certainly never killed nor wounded a single German.”
Later, he goes on to talk about Kitchener, Sir Edward Grey and Lloyd George, but it is his uncle’s more personal tale that gives the most insight into life at war- the emotions and relatability of it is what separates this from the standard ‘facts-and-dates’ style non-fiction book. The wittily-titled chapters and high quality illustrations and photographs just add to the finesse and the painstakingly sourced personal letters and song extracts that embellish the narrative are invaluable as to the insight they give and the thoughts that they inspire. This book offers both entertainment and knowledge to the reader, and does not require prior knowledge of the war in order to truly understand and profit from what it offers, making it suitable for virtually anyone.