Personal views from University of Bath researchers on the news of the day

Who do you trust?

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📥  Election 2015

Tonight's BBC Question Time Election Leaders Special marks the last of the televised set-pieces, with David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg vying to win trust with voters just seven days before the country goes to the polls.

Professor Veronica Hope Hailey, Dean of our School of Management, has authored three reports on trustworthy leadership and takes us through an assessment of trustworthiness for Cameron, Miliband and Clegg.



Restoring trust in politics

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📥  Election 2015

Dr Bryn Jones is from our Department of Social & Policy Sciences

Voter apathy, Scottish Nationalism, UKIP, the Green surge are all, in some respects, symptoms of mistrust in the political establishment and its main parties.

Inadequate accountability

Common threads are perceived corruption, MPs’ social remoteness, an unrepresentative voting system and a lack of responsiveness to ‘ordinary voters’ concerns. In political language this signifies inadequate accountability - and there is considerable substance to these assumptions.

The recent, and possible next, coalition government accentuates this trait. For when coalition programmes deviate from the parties’ manifesto promises, voters can complain, with some legitimacy, that there is no electoral mandate for key policies.

Coalitions seem to be another proof that MPs’ decisions are completely controlled by party rulers and the vested interests which influence the political elite.



Migrant crisis: can Europe’s leaders deliver real change?

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📥  Public Policy, The Conversation

Dr Emma Carmel is from the University's Department of Social & Policy Sciences

European leaders have assembled in Brussels in an attempt to come up with a way of preventing the deaths of hundreds of migrants as they try to escape conflict and poverty in Africa by crossing the Mediterranean. But at the special European summit on Thursday, the unity of purpose which European leaders were proclaiming in their response to migrants at the weekend appeared to have faded.

The result is relatively narrow agreement on an immediate emergency response to enhance search and rescue capabilities, and on investigating proposals for a militarised response to dealing with smugglers. The problem has moved from being seen as a complex humanitarian, social, economic and political problem, to being seen as a problem of criminality and illegal migration.

Member states – rather than the EU – set migration policy. And with countries understandably unwilling to give the EU a mandate to act in this area, but also historically unable to agree among themselves about practical initiatives, this European Council meeting seems significant. Yet the key areas where member states agreed to act collectively, and to endorse a role for the European Commission (“Brussels”) were quite predictable.

Other measures remain off the table. Concrete EU-wide policies, and resources, to support the accommodation of migrants crossing the Mediterranean, and processing of asylum applications, are not detailed. There is deafening silence on the question of how the absence of legitimate routes to migrate to the EU leads people to travel on these dangerous routes to Europe.

Search and rescue

There are three major proposals agreed, although details remain unexplained, and will be vital in determining how effective they will be.

The first is the tripling of the funding and assets (boats and aerial surveillance) for Frontex’s Triton mission. This was designed to create a significant political message and it has captured the headlines. Triton’s funding will match directly the resources which funded the Italian navy’s search and rescue mission, Mare Nostrum. European leaders it seems, have been stung by criticisms of how their lack of commitment to joint action has led to foreseeable deaths.

How long this extended funding is committed for is unclear. Nor does it mean turning Triton into a search-and-rescue mission. It was argued that trying to change Frontex’s mandate would involve a long political and legal process – and enhancing its surveillance capacity immediately would enable it to act more effectively in response to distress calls.

Another headline-grabbing change is new commitments from member states to contribute national resources to search and rescue operations. A closer look shows that these resource commitments may be more limited in practice – in the case of the UK, they maybe limited to only two months: in this case, the assistance would be withdrawn even before the peak season for crossings begins.

Limited resettlement

The second key proposal is to develop an EU-co-ordinated pilot programme to resettle the migrants coming across the Mediterranean. This would apparently provide places for some people to be re-settled in countries other than the ones they enter.

For the first time, this assigns the EU – probably through the European Commission or one its agencies – the role of co-ordinating a migration programme. However, it’s clear that member states are not fully agreed on this policy. Participation by member states in this programme is necessarily voluntary, as the EU has no mechanism for formally organising resettlement among member states. The success of the programme will depend on whether countries are willing to take part - and we already have indications that many are not.

On the offensive

There seems to be the most agreement on the third proposal. This is to ask the commissioner for foreign relations to investigate the possibility of moving towards a policy of seizing and destroying boats being used to traffic migrants across the sea.

This proposal is highly speculative, and perhaps for that reason, easy for member states to agree on. To undertake such a military-style mission in the Mediterranean might require a UN mandate, and given current relations between the EU and Russia, this seems unlikely to be forthcoming.

This third option reflects the focus on illegal migration and criminality at the European Council meeting. It means that national political leaders can be seen to be doing something about the crisis without having to answer questions about accepting refugees.

Same old story

So far, then, the response to the tragedies looks increasingly like business-as-usual. There are more resources pledged for search and rescue in today’s blaze of publicity, but details of that deployment will not be clear for some days or weeks.

Overall, the summit outcome reflects a long-standing pattern in EU policy-making on migration in the Mediterranean. The high degree of conflict among member states has frequently lead to political stalemate and agreements are only reached on the minimal shared responses.

Such policies of the lowest common denominator have proved inadequate for dealing with the political, social, economic and humanitarian problems raised by migration across the Mediterranean. The risk is that once the headlines have faded, that this summit of European leaders will prove similarly inadequate.

Emma Carmel's research focuses on the governance of migration, labour market and social policy in the EU.

According to the latest REF2014, 84 per cent of Bath research in this area was recently judged to be 'world-leading' or 'internationally excellent'.

The Conversation

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UKIP risks it all on a Brexit

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📥  Election 2015, The Conversation

Dr Sue Milner is from the Department of Politics, Languages & International Studies.

UKIP’s vision for Britain’s future rests on an exit from the European Union. This vision is laid out in a section in their manifesto unambiguously entitled “Brexit”. UKIP states that a withdrawal from the EU means the UK can take back control of business and employment legislation and immigration rules, and sets out how the party would go about withdrawing the UK’s membership.

Another referendum

Two crucial aspects of this strategy are unclear. First, although everything in UKIP’s manifesto is based on a withdrawal from the EU, the manifesto calls for a referendum on the question of membership. The reasons for this are not hard to fathom. Without locating withdrawal within the context of some kind of public consultation, the party’s critique of the EU as undemocratic and bureaucratic could be seen as hypocritical.



Is there an optimum style for running the marathon?

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📥  Heath Science & Technology, The Conversation

Dr Polly McGuigan is from the Applied Biomechanics Suite within the University's Department for Health.

Most of the brave and hardy runners in Sunday’s London Marathon will have put themselves through a lengthy training programme to build up strength and stamina as well as physical and mental fitness.

They will also probably have been bombarded with information from running magazines, sports technology and footwear companies and fellow runners about the best way to run, the best kit to wear, how to avoid injury and how to increase performance. But is there a best way to run?

Are you running this weekend's London Marathon?

Are you running this weekend's London Marathon?


Enormous hole in the universe may not be the only one

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📥  Heath Science & Technology, The Conversation

Professor Carole Mundell is from the University's Department of Physics

Astronomers have found evidence of a giant void that could be the largest known structure in the universe. The “supervoid” solves a controversial cosmic puzzle: it explains the origin of a large and anomalously cold region of the sky. However, future observations are needed to confirm the discovery and determine whether the void is unique.



A political party is threatening the union – and it’s not the SNP

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📥  Election 2015, Public Policy, The Conversation

Dr David Moon is from the University's Department of Politics, Languages & International Studies.

The future of the United Kingdom as a single nation state is firmly on the table this election. This is not merely a question of the Scottish National Party’s policy on independence for Scotland, however. A far more pernicious influence is coming from the centre-right.




VIDEO: The prospects for UKIP

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📥  Election 2015

Much has been made in the run up to this year's General Election about the likely inroads UKIP could make and the prospect of more UKIP MPs in the House of Commons. But what are their chances, what do they need to do to mobilise support and will UKIP leader Nigel Farage win Thanet South?

In the latest election video, polling expert Dr David Cutts looks at their chances.



Europe has finally woken up to migrant deaths in the Med – but can it deliver a united response?

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📥  Public Policy, The Conversation

Dr Emma Carmel is from the University's Department of Social & Policy Sciences

It is common to describe the deaths of hundreds of people in the Mediterranean sea over the last few days as “a tragedy” and “a crisis”. The suffering of victims, their families and their home communities is indeed shocking and extreme. Yet the idea that this is a tragedy and crisis is perhaps misleading.