Author Archives: Gavin Whenman

Labour and the Lib Dems

To the Marriott Highcliff Hotel for CentreForum and the Fabian Society’s lunchtime fringe: Labour and the Lib Dems: Allies or enemies? Squeezing myself between John Piennar and Rita Chakrabarti, it was standing room only as I watched Stephen Williams, David Lammy, Vince Cable and Charles Clarke argue their respective points.

Nabbing the free orange juice (it’s apparently politer to say “complementary”, but not once did the juice say how nice I’m looking) as I arrived, Stephen Williams was finishing his opening remarks and so I cannot regale you with the nuanced argument he made. Suffice to say, his overwhelming intelligence was …

Posted in Conference and Events | Tagged , , and | 8 Comments

An Indian Intervention

The monks have gone, transported to northern prisons or shot dead, and “normalcy” has returned to the streets of Burma, in the word of the country’s United Nations ambassador. But is there more the international community, in particular its neighbour’s, could have done to force the hand of the military junta and bring democracy to Burma? Yes, there is, and the answer lies in India.

During the protests in Burma over the past two weeks, the UN showed how ineffective its current structural system could be. Meetings were held, debates were had, but in the end no concrete action was taken, doubtless because Russia and China would have vetoed it anyway, just as they vetoed a resolution criticising the regime in January of this year. Even if they had the political will, the US and UK are not equipped to launch a military expedition to Burma in defence of democracy – forces are too tied up in Iraq and Afghanistan at the moment. So, another country needs to be willing to intervene, but which one?

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 5 Comments

Opinion: The Separation of Powers

The French writer Montesquieu came to Britain in the 18th century and studied our political system. His observations became the basis of his seminal work, The Spirit of the Laws, and, misunderstanding the British system of the time, he formed the theory of the “separation of powers”, between the legislative (Parliament), executive (the king) and the judiciary. He wrote of the necessity to separate these branches of the government as:

“When the legislative and executive powers are united in the same person, or in the same body of magistrates, there can be no liberty; because apprehensions may arise, lest the same monarch or senate should enact tyrannical laws, to execute them in a tyrannical manner.”

Posted in News and Op-eds | 7 Comments

Compulsory voting: time to think again?

Faced with the problem of an historically low turnout, Gavin Whenman asks what we can do about it. Is compulsory voting the answer? And / or an extra bank holiday?

Turnout in the 2005 UK General Election was 61.4% of the electorate, up on the 2001 figure (by 2%) but still historically speaking very low. Such a low turnout undermines the legitimacy of our elected politicians and disconnects them from the concerns of their constituents. If they know that certain demographic groups are more likely to vote, for example the elderly and the middle class, they will listen to that group more than they will listen to the other groups, for example young people and the working class.

Posted in Op-eds | 32 Comments
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