It’s been a great 2016, now to 2017

Happy New Year!

2016, WOW. What a year.
No, I’m not just talking about Brexit or Trump here (equally big, but on a negative level). But personally!

This was the year of the graduation. The completion of my degree in Politics, Philosophy and Economics (PPE). The beginning of a MSc in International Public Policy at Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) and a couple of interesting study trips.

The end of the year also marks the reshaping of this blog. It’s no longer going to be known as it once was. Some readers may already have noticed this but it going to taking on a more professional, politically inspired form.

I hope everyone has a great remainder of 2016, and a very happy new year 🙂

Take care!

IAPSS: Study trip to Brussels – Conclusion

European Parliament with IAPSS
European Parliament with IAPSS

My conclusion from my week at the political heart Europe, in Brussels.

Everything here is formed of my own opinion, and the speakers involved in the IAPSS study trip were not speaking on behalf of the EU in any official context. To protect each individual speaker’s identity, I won’t name or quote anyone officially.

Institutions visited: EU Parliament, EU Commission, Council of Europe, Institute for Europe Studies at the Free University of Brussels, A lobbyist (Burson-Marsteller), Representation of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia and the European Policy Centre (EPC).

The question is “the EU under threat” naturally leads one to think yes. There is certainly recognition from many speakers that we engaged with during the three days.

Crisis and governance

Being a government means crises are very much the norm. The EU is a continental governance of 28 member states, with a political-economic union, various active liberalisation policies, and over 500 million citizens. It’s easy to see how easy crisis builds up and stack up upon each other. I will not go in depth about factors outside of the union (the Arab spring and its aftermath, which led to an ongoing refugee crisis). It seems as though expansion, has happened too quick. Early success from many early EU projects, led to over-optimism. It seemed to me that most of the speakers I engaged with realising the brakes now need to be applied and recognise the need to consult EU citizens more. It seemed to me many were aware that no government/union can survive without the desire/will of its citizens.

Consulting citizens is all good and well, but I think the EU has one hand tied behind its back. Member states refuse to have the promotion of any factual information by the union. It’s clear that elements in member states would brand it as propaganda anyway. The problem when consulting citizens at the ballot box is they don’t tend to get the facts. There is a massive void between independent sources that can promote and provide facts and EU citizens. So, it’s no surprise that populists, charismatic politicians fill this void. What Europe needs is more independent (non-biased) fact-finding charities reaching out to the populace.

Political integration and democracy

I am going to stray a little and talk about the early founding of the EU. To add to this I will put forward my own opinion, which is that the EU should go back to its founding values. Political integration is something, not every member state is ready for and not every EU citizen is ready for. Political integration has come too soon, and without the consent of many Europeans. I think integration could be rolled out slowly over the next 30-50 years in but only in small chunks, and by consulting EU citizens through the ballot box. Although democracy does already exist within the EU (contrary to populist claims). Unfortunately, much of the control over political integration isn’t in the hands of ordinary EU citizens.

This is one reason why the EU feels so distant to many of its citizens. It’s good to see though that this has been recognised by the Juncker commission. It’s in the top ten priorities for Europe and it’s something I will follow to see just how the democratic deficit is being tackled. It’s important to remember that within any democratic governance/parliament, there is a democratic deficit so this isn’t EU specific. The question is to what extent and also what do those who hold power intend to do about it. The media/politicians/some citizens in the UK tend to raise the case of democracy a fair bit, overlooking the fact we have a large deficit in the UK parliament with an unelected House of Lords and some would argue an unfair balloting system at elections (no proportional democracy).

Many EU citizens are unable to understand the rather complex form of democratic representation within the EU, the processes are not the same as to how most state democracy works, which is far easier to understand. This is then exploited by politicians and the media, leading to a void between the governance and its citizens. There is a lack of independent sources out there, although this has improved in the run up to the UK referendum with sites such as fullfacts.org. There are still questions about how much real independent material citizens from other member states are able to access. The EU does provide facts about its operations but they aren’t allowed to advertise, and independent groups often have more credibility than government sources.

To conclude

The EU should look at its successes, which in turn have in many cases created its various crises. Some were undoubtedly unavoidable and were not caused by poor governance, such as the migrant crisis. However, this now faces a huge risk of being mismanaged!. However, with these sort of crises along with climate change the EU will be measured upon how it reacts and acts. The EU should stick to its liberal and inclusive democratic foundation. Liberalism won’t please everyone but the very fact it tries to accommodate everyone should see the EU through its toughest days yet.

One representation, In my opinion got weighed down too much by statistics and econometrics, not including any real social or “field” analysis. This is the problem with statistics and regressions.

Governing 500 million people with many different languages, cultures, religions, and differing viewpoints means the EU will always be in one crisis or another. What’s unique about today is the amount of crises the EU face all at once. In the past, they may have been one (or at most two side-by-side) now they are faced with multiple crises and growing populism. Populism is best defeated by sticking to the core values of inclusivity and by making rational decisions (no knee-jerk reactions), not by shifting to ideas which have brought bloodshed and grief not just on this continent but many others.

I went off on a bit of a tangent there, but it’s hard to talk about each institution individually. Maybe that’s an idea for a future post!

{Originally, I had planned to post this Tuesday 22nd March. However, I decided to hold this after the dreadful attacks in Brussels. I offer sympathies to all those involved in the terror attacks in Brussels, and across the world (most recently Iraq and Pakistan).}

Photos from the trip

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As a side note. I’ve purchased this book. I have gaps in my understanding about how certain things work in the EU. I don’t think you ever can know everything about governance really, pics and reviews will be in the books section.

It was an informative trip and was thoroughly enjoyed. I met a great set of people and may attend more events with IAPSS in the future (watch this space 😉 ).

I’ve been stressed out because of a university assignment. All back on track now 🙂

Happy New Year all

Happy New Year
Happy New Year

I’ve not been around the past few months, things got real difficult towards the end of last year. This was for personal reasons.

I just hope all my friends, family and colleagues had a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

I hope this year will be peaceful for all. I’ve got several personal goals to meet this year. Which will be quite challenging. Needless to say, I’m going to be happy to graduate in May. Simply because it’s been a long tough road and I really need something for my efforts and my career now. I will try to update this actively throughout the year as I have so much planned (I’d rather not release everything here). If you want to find out things that I have planned just stay tuned. More to come in later blog posts.

Right now, I’m focused on getting the target grades that I want for my target degree classification! Easier said then done. Wish me luck!

I have some assessments (other students) to give feedback on as part of my third assignment. The whole focus on Humanitarian intervention and the UN’s doctrine on the responsibility to protect has been interesting. Something I will expand upon in a post here when I have time.

Four pictures of what I’ve been up to the past two months (yes, that’s all I have but I’ve done more than that!)

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Whilst writing this, I was listening to Architechs – Body Groove

I will be going back to Oxford quite a bit this year. Got one trip already planned. I really should have gone back there more often! But I’ve been so busy.

I know I say it all the time, but I’ll try to post more often. Happy new year everyone and take care! 🙂

The British Public and the EU – Democracy

British and EU flag
Britain and the EU need each other.

It seems a significant proportion of the British public believe we should have a referendum to stay in the European Union.

I will try to answer these the best I can to the extent of my knowledge currently it’s a work in progress as always.

What distresses me is the lack of any intelligent discourse when the subject (The European Union) is debated. This ranges from when the media interviews a member of public on TV or writes an article in a newspaper and let’s just not even mention question time, responses range from; the EU is undemocratic, the EU is a gravy train and what we spend towards the EU budget is too large, and it robs nations of their sovereignty. To add to this, It seems the public still believe lots of the Euromyths that have been proven to be nothing more then myth!

Furthermore, many citizens in other nations (from what I’ve been seeing on social media) now view UK citizens as being uninformed, or trying to hang on to a lost notion of empire, and due to this have many come to the conclusion that the UK is a burden on the rest of the EU.

I also worry just how misinformed the populace are and their opinion on vital constitutional issues, it often decided by the media or fringe/protest political parties. Important policy decisions and constitutional changes seem to be more knee-jerkingly drawn up. Independent research and rational reason seems to have disappeared.

Put the choice to the people they say.

The people have a choice at the ballot box. To vote for a anti-EU party such as UKIP (we can hardly call them Eurosceptic, more anti-Euro?) or vote for liberal democrats for example. Its how our representative system works and its how representative democracy has worked for hundreds of years. We seem to have a proportion of people who believe that unless a referendum is called on such issues there is no democratic choice. Do people now think we should implement direct democracy in this country then? Where a majority of decisions that affect the population is taken to the ballot box at regular referendums? Like the Swiss semi-representative model? Does the general public know the advantages/disadvantages of a direct system or more direct model of democracy?

I’m generally against this form of direct democracy which is often slow. Another drawback are the effects if the population not understanding what they are balloting for clearly enough (voter ignorance), financial imbalance can mess up outcomes, some issues are complex and thus cannot be reduced to a response as simple as yes or no, and question wording might mean the voter not being given the opportunity for their preferred option.

Representative democracy is not perfect but better then the alternatives. The politicians often don’t seem it but they often are the people most qualified to take such decisions. We elect a party (the party leader is chosen by the party) that represents us and who have (hope 🙂 ) qualified people to make decisions on our behalf

The EU is undemocratic.

As the only international government that has some element of democracy in the form of the EU parliament I find this statement odd in the least. To add, When did anyone have a vote on the founding of the UN?

I’m not saying that there is no democratic deficit. There is in the best of democratic parliaments and governmental systems.

Elections occur in every member state every 5 years. Some people on social media say this Jean-Claude Juncker, this Martin Schulz, we never voted for them. But they come through a similar party system as they do in the UK. The largest political group are the European People’s Party (EPP) in the European parliament Jean-Claude Juncker was selected. How both democratic systems work is quite complex and I believe this is one stumbling point between the public as nobody really understands it. I confess, I don’t understand the democratic system fully with regards to the EU, but it’s something over the next few years I’ll definitely understand more.

So, there is a democratic deficit. Just like at Westminster. Where we have a unelected House of Lords, both systems have flaws. No government is perfect but if we want to reduce a democratic deficit shouldn’t we look closer to home first? Westminster is archaic and out of date.

The problem I have with referendums is that they quite often slow down any good governance. The vocal few never are often not satisfied and continue to push for another/other referendums. The method of direct governance has it’s pitfalls, and I don’t think some have been entirely thought through in the past few years.

The UK still faces the possibility of a breakup of the Union in the near future (popularity of the SNP) and calls of another referendum will be on the cards as to whether Scotland should stay in years to come. The very dynamics of the country have changed with elements of direct democracy. Britain a place once known for stable politics within Europe is looking rather different (more like Belgium!), it needn’t be a bad thing though.

There is much more I have to say on this subject (as I do so many!). I’m always open to debate or expansion of points. Please leave a comment below. You can sign in using Facebook/Twitter or register for an account on my blog.

(Published from my iPhone)

Hope you all had a good summer 🙂

The Environment and the EU

The Environment and the EU

Climate Action is needed.
Climate Action is needed.

Many people have asked me why do we need regional or world governance at all. Apart from the diplomatic, trade, economic benefits (not just economics in terms of financial, social, welfare etc) but a properly governed regional/world government can provide change and action for the most important category of them all.

The Environment

Care of the Environment is no longer confined to a few tree huggers but has become a major international concern. Climate change is real and the years we have lived through from the year 2000 are proof of that.

We just had the warmest year on record (2014). A second typhoon in a year just battered the Philippines with enormity (though you could argue it’s not directly linked). Climate change isn’t new and has happened in the history of this planet before, but never has it been down to mankind as it has been since the industrial revolution began. We have been unlocking carbon stored underground and pumping it directly out into the atmosphere (along with CFCs and other gases). Yet, We have some that still deny whether climate change is happening. This isn’t a post of whether climate change is or isn’t happening however. It’s about the environment, keeping the air we breath clean, the seas we fish in clean, the rivers we fish in clean, our existence and that of many species safe.

Why national governments can’t succeed with Environmental policy

National governments are often short sighted. It’s not their fault as most governments serve a term of 5 years. The focus will always be on the next election. The Environment requires very long term commitments and not short-run policy patches.

This is where regional or world governance can come in. The UN is not restrained by terms or the slow speed of democracy in this case. The EU does have a democratic parliament so can be restricted in terms of speed. In acting to form policy. Some issues which national governments have are not present at EU or international level.

But Climate Change will only effect other continents

Well, this isn’t the case (and stop being so selfish if you think that’s the case!) “A recent paper produced by the Climate Action Network highlights the impacts of climate change on Europe, of which Oxfam is focusing on the food and agriculture aspect of the report. With projected agricultural outputs expected to decrease 2% each decade for the next century in a world where food demand is set to increase by 14% in the same period, it is time for climate impacts on food security – inside and outside Europe – to be brought onto the agenda.” As agriculture represents 3.5% of the 28 Member state European Unions GDP and employs 17 million people it would be one of the hardest hit sectors and this is what the Oxfam source recognises.

We have seen yields in Europe decrease this year due to a change in climate (regardless of whether it’s a one-off or the beginning of a pattern). I talk of the Olive yield this year which is down on years previous, due to drought.

How far should things be left to the market to resolve?

It’s a normative question and the answer to this may depend on a persons politics. Politicans on the right would tend to favour a lesser degree of intervention (a more hands of approach) those on the left generally would prefer intervention.

The EU uses ‘cap and trade’ principle. The EU Emissions trading scheme is in it’s third phase.

Note: I’ve decided to make this a living post and will update accordingly (in the post or comments below). I chose to do this mainly as I don’t have much time now not even to proof-read. I’m doing a project in my Economics module, focusing on Environmental Economics. I hope I can provide more of an insight into this subject area (and be able to explain whats in my head with clarity!) more then! I’ll update this often once I’ve completed my project 🙂

Sources: Image and quotations courtesy of – Oxfam

FutureLearn – Simply amazing!!

The Futurelearn week schedule!
The Futurelearn week schedule!

It’s all about FutureLearn.com! How many of you have heard of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses)??

Simply put I’m finding them amazing. I’ve only done courses from Futurelearn at the moment. If you love learning about new things you will love MOOCs! I’ve signed up to so many interesting courses on Futurelearn. Not had time to complete them all yet. There are other MOOCs providers such as coursera.com, most courses are provided by US universities.

Futurelearn and their teaching methods!
Futurelearn and their teaching methods! 🙂

I’m a real geek and when I get free time (very rare these days) I like to drink a beer and expand my mind. It’s incredible the depth to which topics are covered.

You can even claim a certificate (non-formal) once a certain percentage of the course is completed!

Khan Academy is another website I find extremely useful, mainly for university help at the moment (with Economics) but it also has many other interesting subjects under constant expansion. The way the instructor Salman Khan explains things is great, you don’t actually see his face he uses an electronic blackboard to explain and draw diagrams.

I have a course that ran a month or two ago on Futurelearn called Developing Your Research Project from the University of Southampton. This will come in very handy for Economics for when I start my research project next year. I’m going to try and start that online course soon so I can be prepared. It’s great for anyone who wants to expand their mind, prepare before they start their university degree, or just kill time! These courses don’t have to be completed by the dates they run but it’s best that way to interact with the other students. I have yet to do one according to schedule. I’m simply too busy!

Au revoir for now readers! 🙂

Love being so busy!

Heavy reading? Aiming for 100% in everything :)
Heavy reading? Aiming for 100% in everything 🙂

As I said in my previous post, I think I’d be more then a little busy this year this has turned out to be true.

I’ve bought two economics books as I really want too boost my grades in Economics. Andrew Gillispies book seems to be more lighter and suitable to introduce newbies into Economics.

Doing two modules at once with the open university was always gonna be tough. Economics much tougher then politics but on the whole both very engaging, interesting and applicable to the real world.

Today at work I had what I thought was the beginning of a good conversation going with a customer. She asked me what I was studying I told her PPE and she then asked what career options am I thinking of. I told her EU or civil service. She told me to keep quiet it’s a dirty word then told me how soldiers fought and died so dictators at the EU wouldn’t make laws for us and how the EU is undemocratic. I didn’t say this but was just thinking as she was mouthing off… The EU is an example of representative democracy. Like our nation is. It’s not a direct democracy. It has stayed true to its founding principles as laid down by Sir Winston Churchill and Robert Schuman amongst others. It’s by no means perfectly democratic but what institution is? We can act to improve it. She then started talking or should I say SHOUTING about Mr Farage and she wouldn’t stop. Rambling on about him being a man of the British people. Looking out for British workers. Much how a certain German politician promised to before the Second World War I guess. She sounded like she was brainwashed unfortunately considering I wasn’t answering her at this stage because she was so ill informed and seemed so ignorant to anybody else.

I couldn’t believe all that reaction came from my career path to be honest. It’s scary to think we have ignorant and the ill informed in the country who cannot even reason or disagree in a polite manner without raising their voices to be heard. If I had been a ex-soldier or if I said I wanted to join the army how would she have viewed me then? Presumably in a positive light despite the fact I may have ended the lives of people with a gun or maybe going on to. Really is this what has Britain come to? Hmmm. Something doesn’t sit right 🙁

So as you can see politics comes up even without intention. Maybe more so because of my pathway. I’m finding I’ve learnt so much more though. When walking around shops or any public place my economics and politics knowledge seems to kick in! I read the economist and understand more and more week by week. It’s all very exciting 🙂

My exams for economics are in June so a lot of prep ahead!

I went to Paris on March 25th. It’s a beautiful city but not as beautiful as Brussels! It was a rainy day but still it was nice to be away from London for a change. I can’t believe it being only a train ride away I never been. Take a look at the assortment of photos below.

It was lovely though, didn’t want to return home. Day trips do feel really long though. I’m planning to go racing again and go gym after I finish DD209 – Running the Economy. Then I can focus just on DD203 – Power, dissent, equality: understanding contemporary politics. Once DD203 finishes in September 2014, I will be moving on to DD309 – Doing economics: people, markets and policy this looks to be interesting.

I probably won’t post again till after the 6th June 2014. When I actually stop going full-time and go part-time with my studies again.

Till next time. See you 🙂