It’s a familiar cliché that the Conservative Party is the most successful political party in the democratic world. Once called the natural party of government, it has been in power for most of the last 150 years and, for good or ill, has shaped modern Britain. The UK is a conservative country in all senses of the word.
But the past four decades have demonstrated that the modern Conservative Party can no longer be trusted in its role as the guardian of British institutions.
The revolutionary free-market zealotry of the Thatcherites and their successors not only put the social fabric of Britain under severe strain, but also undermined the credibility of the UK’s constitutional arrangements. Of the three pillars of High Toryism; church, state and monarchy, Britons only seem to still like the latter.
The decline in Tory respect for British institutions has also been on full display, not least in David Cameron’s willingness to risk the union’s survival twice – first in the Scottish Independence referendum, and then, probably fatally, in the EU membership referendum.
Migration expert Dr Emma Carmel from our Department of Social & Policy Sciences gives her reactions to the refugee crisis playing out across Europe.
Dr Carmel comments on the current refugee crisis across the EU.
The ‘refugee crisis’ currently faced by the EU has been a long time coming. The current situation in east and south-east Europe reveals the longstanding weaknesses and inadequacies of the EU’s asylum and migration systems.
The Dublin system is clearly broken, yet, in response, EU leaders are proposing to fix a sticking-plaster on a policy which instead requires radical structural reform.
What’s been put on the table as a response appears unlikely to resolve current and future challenges faced by Europe.
The situation we see today was predictable and it will not go away unless we see a co-ordinated EU response with a long-term plan.
Read more from Dr Carmel via The Conversation UK:
Dr Theo Papadopoulos is from our Department of Social & Policy Sciences. His research focuses on welfare capitalism across the EU and internationally. This piece was originally written for The Conversation UK.
In the world of brinkmanship, endgames and last minute concessions that have come to define Greece’s relationship with Europe, we can see the blueprint of an abusive relationship.
What will happen in Greece and what are the wider ramifications around the EU?
Dr Susan Milner is from the University's Department of Politics, Languages & International Studies.
When it comes to Europe, gone are the euphemistic references to “balance of competences” and “renegotiating” European policy. Instead, the Conservative manifesto has returned to the two R’s of the pre-coalition era: referendum, and return of powers. The manifesto reflects the careful line trodden since 2010 by the Conservative leadership, between concessions to the eurosceptic wing of the party, and recognition of the concerns of different sections of business.
From Thursday 22 May to Sunday 25 May 2014, elections to the European Parliament will take place across the European Union (EU). The 2014 elections, to elect 751 MEPs, mark the eighth time Europeans have gone to the polls since the first direct elections to the Parliament in 1979.
Here in Britain, UKIP are expected to be highly successful in the MEP elections. Dr David Cutts, from our Department of Politics, Languages & International Studies discusses the popular appeal of Nigel Farage, political campaigning, electoral behaviour and party politics:
“UKIP has been able to broaden its appeal to those voters ‘left behind’ and alarmed by the extent of social and economic change – concerns about European immigration – while retaining their mainstream political legitimacy on the European issue.
“UKIP has two distinct groups of voters: core support from blue collar, financially insecure working class men, whose traditional loyalties lie with Labour but have been ‘left behind’ in modern Britain as mainstream parties have sought the middle class vote; and strategic Conservative sympathisers, who express hostility to the European Union, but are less loyal to UKIP in general elections. Farage has a unique appeal as a charismatic leader, seen as being able to articulate to both sets of voters.
“The problem however for UKIP moving forward is that they have to keep that uneasy coalition satisfied. They also do not possess the local infrastructure, resources, targeting experience and tactical nouse on the ground to mount successful constituency campaigns. This is crucial in a general election if UKIP is going to turn growing support into parliamentary seats.”
This week our press team has placed Bath experts in a wide number of news and radio show outlets to discuss the first Clegg vs Farage debate, exploring issues related to the UKs membership of the European Union and Euroscepticism.
Dr Susan Milner from our Department of Politics, Languages and International Studies told The Conversation that "most commentators agreed that Nigel Farage won round one of the Clegg vs Farage debates – if only on points. The UKIP leader was able to convey a clear message that the UK is marginalised in the EU and largely unable to influence policy, both strong themes in British public opinion. He also tapped into concerns about immigration from poorer member states.
"On the other hand, Farage looked very uncomfortable when challenged on some of his claims about the scale of immigration and the British contribution to the EU budget, and appeared too intransigent in his approach to EU legislation as an acting MEP."
Speaking about the use of debate to explore issues, Dr Nick Startin told BBC Radio Wiltshire that "TV debates are becoming part of the modern political process. Having a debate like this where you get the arguements quite starkly from two different perspectives allows the public to get a better feel for the whole European question. This is a fairly new method, our first real taste of it was during hte general election debates of 2010, and my sense is that the British public are getting a taste for it."
Dr Startin also mentioned the role played by social media, with thousands tweeting and blogging (like us!) on the back of the debate. Did you watch the first debate - and will you watch the second? You can follow general discussion about the debates on social media platforms using the hashtag #NickvNigel.