This book seeks to review the state of political issues early in the twenty-first century, when New Labour is in its second term of office. As part of the updating process it became necessary to choose which political issues are important. The book includes the main issues which appear in current Advanced Level Politics syllabuses. In the case of Edexcel, which offers a specific political issues option in its A2 specification, all the specified issues have been included. The book deals with the process of constitutional and political change which are issues in themselves. It also includes material on constitutional reform (incorporating the recent development of human rights in Britain), and devolution. The book includes the global recession and other recent political developments and looks at the important issues in British politics since 1945. It examines the key issues of British politics today: economic policy, the Welfare State, law and order, environment policy, Northern Ireland, issues concerning women, European integration and the European Union, and the impact of the European Union on Britain. The book also deals with the European Union and Britain's relationship to it. Finally, it must be emphasised that Britain's relationship to the European Union is in itself a political issue which has fundamentally changed the party system.
This chapter provides the background to the Northern Ireland problem. It describes the importance of the Good Friday Agreement and the effect of the devolution process on Northern Ireland. The chapter explains the workings of the Northern Ireland Assembly. It also describes the effects of decommissioning of arms and demilitarisation. The so-called Downing Street declaration changed the Northern Ireland situation dramatically and marked the beginning of the modern peace process. For 27 years Northern Ireland suffered from violence, disruption, political initiatives bringing hope followed by disappointments, and renewed sectarian conflict. The story of direct rule is best divided into three themes - the course of sectarian violence, the fragmentation of the party system and the various attempts to find a lasting peace. Having established the reasons why so many previous attempts at peace-making had failed, the chapter examines the circumstances which allowed a convincing agreement to be reached in 1998.
This chapter presents a review of constitutional reform before 1997 and provides an analysis of the reasons behind the Labour reform plan of 1997. Labour had attempted to introduce devolution in the late 1970s but had been foiled by a combination of many factors. The jewel in New Labour's constitutional crown was undoubtedly devolution. However, the introduction of a codified set of rights and reform of the House of Lords followed close behind. New Labour pledged to make reforms to the House of Commons in order to modernise it. The chapter includes a brief description of the events surrounding the introduction of the Human Rights Act. Both the Labour and Liberal parties have long since espoused the cause of electoral reform in the UK. The abolition of the Greater London Council (GLC) by Margaret Thatcher's government was a bitter experience for the Labour party and it left a lasting scar.
This chapter provides a review of the background to devolution and an analysis of the reasons why devolution was introduced after 1997. It explains how devolution was implemented in various parts of the UK. The chapter explores how successful the implementation of devolution has been. It also provides an analysis of different political attitudes towards devolution. The Scottish Constitutional Convention which had reported in 1988 provided the blueprint for a devolution settlement. However, when Labour was constructing its election manifesto in 1997 it adopted three key principles. Firstly, it differentiated between Scotland and Wales. The second principle was the intention to use a form of proportional representation when electing the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly. Thirdly, there were to be referendums on the devolution proposals. Devolution in Northern Ireland has to be seen in the context of the Good Friday Agreement of 1998.
This chapter focuses on the racial problems in the UK. It discusses features and importance of the Stephen Lawrence case and the importance of the Macpherson and Ousley Reports. The chapter explains the work of the Commission for Racial Equality. It also explains the broad issues of racial discrimination, forms of non-legislative race relations initiatives and the issue of multiracialism. The Labour party which came to power in 1965 was committed to improving race relations in Britain. Most of the attempts to outlaw racism and racial discrimination in Britain have involved legislation, either to prohibit discriminatory practices or to require institutions to improve race relations. The chapter also focuses on the attitudes of the main parties in Britain towards race relations and immigration. There is a need to create a new culture of race relations. In a truly multicultural society, cultural differences should be preserved and celebrated.
This chapter focuses on the issues concerning women in Britain and Europe. It also focuses on the development of the women's movement. Between 1928 and the 1960s, the women's movement retreated into the background of British politics. By 1970 there had developed a crescendo of women's protests against unequal treatment of women in the workplace. There were significant differences in the pay of women compared with men. The Equal Pay Act of 1970 attempted to correct this situation. The new Labour government which came to power in 1974 was determined to complete the radical reforms concerning equal opportunities which had been started in the 1960s. It therefore passed the landmark Sex Discrimination Act 1975 as a priority. Until the 1970s the existence of widespread violence by men against their female partners was scarcely recognised. The chapter provides detailed descriptions of the legislation passed to improve the status of women.
This chapter provides a review of the ways in which the environment became a more prominent issue. It also provides a detailed description and assessment of New Labour environmental policies after 1997. Having drifted around the margins of British and European politics in the 1960s and 1970s, the environment moved closer to centre stage in the 1980s. Environmental protection became a European Union (EU) concern in 1987. Part of New Labour's 'third way' philosophy was to accept environmentalism as a key political issue. Although Tony Blair's party is committed to supporting business, it argues that this can only be done provided environmental concerns are addressed. In other words, it contains a belief that industrial development and environmental concerns can be compatible, an idea which many campaigners see as impossible. The diversity of New Labour policies reflects the breadth of the issue in itself.
This chapter examines the political issue of law and order in Britain. It provides detailed descriptions of the various attempts which have been made to reduce crime since 1979 and legislation passed to deal with law and order issues. The Liberals (later Liberal Democrats) shared a social view of crime with the Labour party, but also emphasised the threat to human rights of the Conservatives' increasingly severe policies. As Labour's policies on law and order began to unfold in its early years of office, it became clear that there was a great deal of continuity between the Conservative policies of Michael Howard and those of Jack Straw. The Conservative Howard's 1995 plea to 'take the handcuffs off the police' was being answered by a Labour administration. The chapter also provides an analysis of theories concerning the causes of crime. It discusses special measures taken to combat youth crime since 1979.
After two world wars, both of which devastated European industry and threatened permanently to sour relations between its states, Europe woke upto the belief that a lasting solution to continental conflict had to be found. This chapter reviews the progress towards greater integration in Europe since the 1950s. It explains different forms of integration which have emerged and explores the main issues concerning integration. While the Council of Europe was proving a disappointment to its supporters, the alternative institution moved from one level of integration to the next with relative ease. Most of its members shared a common goal and enjoyed a great degree of unity in achieving it. The chapter reviews the various stages by which European Union has evolved and integration has matured. It examines the various theories of integration which have guided the process and which are likely to inform the debate about future developments.
This chapter identifies several important features of economic policy in the period since the 1960s. The development of Labour's economic policy in 1996-1997 can be better understood in the light of Britain's experience with economic recession in the early 1990s. The reaction of the Labour party to the economic reforms of the 1980s and early 1990s was to dominate the course of politics in Britain in the final twenty years of the twentieth century. The reforms represented both a pragmatic attitude to economic management, and a compromise with those Thatcherite policies which had proved to be successful. The chapter describes the nature of the post-war economic consensus. It examines the main developments which have occurred since 1997in more detail. The most important decisions were taken at the beginning of Labour's administration and have proved to be the most radical changes which have occurred since the end of the keynesian consensus.