Tuesday, 18 March 2014

The Lessons of Tony Benn as a Cabinet Minister: Breaking the Rules and Paying the Price

Martin Smith (Anniversary Professor of Politics at the University of York) and Dave Richards (Professor of Public Policy at the University of Manchester) on Tony Benn's time in Government.

Much has recently been written about the legacy of Tony Benn - his campaigning efforts, the effect he had on both the Labour Party and the wider political landscape especially during the onset of Thatcherism and finally of course his diary writing. Less though has been said about his time in Government, where in many ways it could be argued he failed to fully use the opportunities presented to him as a holder of ministerial office. At the same time, Benn’s experience in government, particularly in the 1970s, reveals how officials could thwart a radical minister in the wake of behaviour they regarded as falling outwith the accepted Whitehall rules. Crucially, the lessons of Benn’s time in Cabinet illustrates that if a minister fails to build alliances with either ministerial colleagues or department officials, he or she is unlikely to be effective in making policy. The commentary below draws on extensive interviews conducted two decades ago with Benn, his Cabinet colleagues and various officials who served under him.

Monday, 17 March 2014

The Crimean Crisis: Implications for Political Science

A guest post on the Crimean crisis from Prof Peter Rutland, who is currently visiting the department from Wesleyan University.

The Russian invasion of Crimea blindsided international observers. Just the week before US Congressional leaders received a briefing from the Director of National Intelligence in which they were assured that Russian military action was unlikely. The British understanding was no better. Sir Tony Brenton, British ambassador to Russia 2004-08, wrote in the Financial Times on February 24 that the idea of a Russian military response was a ‘dark fantasy’.

It is not just spies and diplomats, but also scholars, who are scrambling for answers. Putin's efforts to derail Ukraine's integration with the European Union directly contradict liberal institutionalists who argue that globalization has made the nation state redundant. Cue complaints that Putin is living in a ‘19th century time warp’. Make that 18th century, since Catherine the Great seized Crimea in 1783 (and that is why she is called 'Great').

But Realists are also left with egg on their face, since as I discuss in this article, it is hard to argue that invading Crimea is beneficial to Russia's national interests.

So one is left I guess with psychological explanations, of Putin as a wounded and frustrated soul. More promising perhaps is a bureaucratic politics approach, unpacking the decision making of Russian elites, in the tradition of Jack Snyder's work on the origins of World War One, Myths of Empire. Putin's waning popularity at home left him vulnerable to a push by the security elites (siloviki) to increase their influence at the expense of the market liberals (who still control some key economic policy-making institutions).

Friday, 7 March 2014

Far-right party jeopardises Ukraine's path to democracy

Dr Sofia Vasilopoulou has published an article in The Conversation

"Following days of protest and the ousting of President Viktor Yanukovych, Ukraine’s new interim government was announced on 26 February 2014. This is not an ordinary government. Politicians linked to the extreme right-wing Svoboda party have taken up important posts, including deputy prime minister, the heads of the agriculture and environmental ministries, and a chief law officer."

The full article can be read at - The Conversation

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Panel discussion on Ukraine

There will be a special panel discussion taking place tomorrow on the events in Ukraine. It is a joint event held by the Department of Politics and the University of York European Union Society.

On the panel:

· Dr Nina Caspersen – Senior Lecturer at York

· Dr Nick Ritchie - Senior Lecturer at York

· Professor Peter Rutland – Wesleyan University, and visiting fellow at York

The event will take place on Friday 7th March at 1pm in room B/B/003. All are welcome.