Apr 30 2018

Brexit and migrant voters: Conservative support in London wards

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By Joachim Wehner

English local elections on 3 May take place as migrants might be finding a less divided political voice than at any time since the vote in favour of leaving the European Union (EU). The 2016 Referendum created deep uncertainty about the rights and prospects of more than three million EU citizens living in the country. Yet others were attracted by arguments that leaving the EU might bring opportunities to strengthen Britain’s ties with Commonwealth countries. The Leave campaign actively fostered this impression in the battle for votes. Priti Patel famously announced a “Save the British Curry Day” and argued that “[by] voting to leave the EU we can take back control of our immigration policies [and] save our curry houses.” Keeping out the Europeans, it seemed, would create more space for migrants from former colonies.

brexit migrantsThis was always unlikely. As Simon Hix, Eric Kaufmann and Thomas Leeper show, UK voters, including Leavers, care more about reducing non-EU than EU migration. Instead of a new openness towards Commonwealth countries, the Windrush scandal highlights their role at the very centre of the government’s efforts to reduce the number of migrants in Britain. Over the past months, the Guardian has published a string of harrowing stories of deportation, destitution and denial of critical medical treatment resulting from Theresa May’s infamous (and now rebranded) “hostile environment” policy for illegal immigrants. The policy initially appeared to claim predominantly black victims among long-term residents with migration backgrounds who Amber Rudd’s Home Office, in pursuit of ambitious removal targets, deemed unable to document their status. Now the scandal is spreading to non-Caribbean Commonwealth-born citizens. This shameful treatment heightens anxiety about their prospects for migrants in general.

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Apr 3 2018

The Catalan Crisis: Is There a Right to Self-Determination in the International Context?


By Javier Padilla and Sergio Olalla

conference catalan independence LSEOn February 22, the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) hosted the fourth and last debate of a series ‘What is Next for Spain and Catalonia?’. Moderated by Julio Crespo MacLennan, professors Montserrat Guibernau, Manuel Arias Maldonado and Fernando Vallespín spoke on normative and political issues around the right to self-determination in democracies. This post summarises the main points that were developed in the debate which are closely related with the current situation in Catalonia.

The right to self-determination in the international context

Guibernau started by recognising that the right to self-determination may not be applicable in plural democracies that respect minorities. However, she did not consider the Spanish case as an example of a plural democracy that respects minorities. According to Guibernau, the Catalans are a minority ignored in Spain and the behaviour of the central government towards the Catalan minority – with measures such as the application of article 155 and the imprisonment of some pro-independence politicians – would justify that the right of self-determination can be applied to the Catalan case. Therefore, she considered legitimate the aspiration to independence and believed it justified that this right does apply to Catalonia.

Vallespín explained that international law recognises two principles that are contradictory: the principle of self-determination and the principle of territorial integrity. The conflict between the two has been traditionally solved in two complementary ways. On the one hand, the principle of self-determination has been applied in cases of former colonies or overt injustices against minorities. On the other hand, the principle of territorial integrity has been applied to the rest of the cases that do not fall under these categories. According to Vallespín, in cases such as Kosovo, it is fair to speak of an oppressed minority that would have the right to self-determination; however, Catalonia would not meet these conditions and it would fail to achieve international recognition. Therefore, it is necessary to refer to what the internal law says. The Spanish Constitution is similar to the rest of European constitutions in the way that it proclaims that sovereignty resides in the totality of the political nation. Vallespín gave the example of Canada, where the Supreme Court declared that the Quebec region could not unilaterally decide to become independent from the rest of the country. Therefore, there is not a Catalan demos and the actions of the Catalan government broke the Spanish and Catalan law. Vallespín differentiated between the right to self-govern, that Catalonia would enjoy, and the right to secession, which is not contemplated in the Spanish legislation.

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Mar 28 2018

Salvini, the Leader who Replaced Berlusconi

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By Alessandro Franzi

By Niccolò Caranti [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Silvio Berlusconi no longer leads the Italian centre-right coalition. The outcome of the recent election has given this role to Matteo Salvini, the younger (ex-Northern) League leader who aspires to be the next prime minister. Mr Salvini has turned himself into a nationalist during the past five years, after a long political history as a separatist militant. His party achieved 17,3%, up from just 4% in 2013, before his ascendency to the leadership. Berlusconi’s Forza Italia (with a mere 14%) is now the second party of the coalition for the first time since 1994. This means an obvious generational change within the main right-wing political alliance: Salvini is 45 year old, Berlusconi 81. But the League’s success also involves a radicalization of the centre-right’s political stance, which focuses on a Trump-style motto: “Italians first”. Even if it is not a monolithic force, the new Italian centre-right is opposed to mass immigration, promises a 15% flat tax, and claims a return of sovereignty from the European Union. These are the core themes of Salvini’s leadership, based on a defence of some local identities against globalization and the establishment. But who is Matteo Salvini? Continue reading

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Mar 23 2018

Germany’s Silent Democratic Crisis

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By Christian Kloetzer

After elections for the German Bundestag in September 2017, the phase of government formation has now ended, as the coalition between Christian democrats and social democrats has voted another cabinet under Chancellor Merkel into office last week. But the country, including the voters of the coalition partners, are deeply divided on the issue of migration. The political establishment needs to come to grips with that fact and respond to it, as political parties in neighbouring countries have done. Otherwise, the decline of Germany’s traditional parties may continue.

Elections for the Bundestag, Germany’s Lower House, took place on 24 September 2017. The social democrats (SPD) plunged to an all-time low in German federal elections, after having governed in a grand coalition with the Christian democrats for the past four years. Hours after election results came in, social democratic leader Martin Schulz already announced his party’s intention to return into parliamentary opposition.

But when the coalition talks involving Christian democrats, the Liberals and the Greens (dubbed “Jamaica”) failed in November, a renewed grand coalition began to emerge as the only realistic alternative to new elections. Three-way coalition talks were held, between the SPD, Angela Merkel’s CDU, and its Bavarian sister party, the CSU, resulting in a 170-page coalition agreement. A reshuffled cabinet with some fresh faces has now taken over the reins of governing again.

Alternative fur DeutschlandThe degree of continuity that a refashioned version of the German grand coalition under the same Chancellor might suggest, needs to be put into perspective, however. In total, the three parties lost 13.7% of vote share since the previous round of elections in 2013. At the same time, the right-wing AfD made its entry into the Bundestag with a score of 12.6%. In 2013, it had narrowly failed to reach the electoral threshold of 5%. And while the party itself is notoriously fractured and disordered, its voters tell us relatively straightforwardly what their vote means: in infratest dimap’s exit poll, 92% of them say that the AfD is mainly there to influence the German government’s policy on refugees. In a separate poll ahead of the elections, a full 100% of AfD supporters declared (see page 30) that they were somewhat or very dissatisfied with Angela Merkel’s policy decisions on asylum and refugees.

And while this opposition is clearly focused in the AfD, the general sentiment is shared more widely. We can see it in the exit poll. 35% of all voters like the fact that the AfD wants to limit the influx of refugees, while 37% approve of the party’s intention to reduce the influence of Islam on Germany, and 49% say that it has understood better than other parties that many in the country are not feeling safe anymore. 57% say that they worry about a growing influence of Islam. Assuming that all AfD voters agreed with the affirmations, that still leaves between 22% and 44% of the electorate either supporting the AfD’s general policy orientation on immigration, or sharing sentiments that the AfD has itself tapped into quite successfully (see Figure 1 below). Who are these voters? Continue reading

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Mar 19 2018

Immigration, Welfare Chauvinism and the Support for Radical Right Parties in Europe

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By Luis Cornago Bonal and Delia Zollinger

Over a decade ago, Alesina and Glaeser (2004) argued that support for welfare policies in Europe will decrease as European countries become more ethnically diverse, primarily due to the difficulties of maintaining solidarity among different ethnic groups. However, the reality is still unclear, particularly the extent to which the increase in immigration-generated ethnic diversity challenges the political sustainability of the welfare state in Europe. Furthermore, although a rise in immigration does not necessarily reduce support for the welfare state in general, it can lead to a more restrictive and dualistic, so-called “welfare chauvinistic” type of welfare state where immigrants are less entitled to certain welfare programs than natives. The success of radical right parties (RRP) mobilizing the working class with nativist appeals, along with the consequent pressure on these parties to position themselves in terms of welfare and labour market policy, seem to partially explain the increasing relevance of welfare chauvinism.

Ethnic Heterogeneity and Public Support the for Welfare State

Underlying the idea of ethnic heterogeneity eroding support for the welfare state is the notion that it is difficult to develop feelings of trust and national solidarity across different ethnic groups, which “leads to a decrease in welfare state support because people do not want to redistribute resources to people they do not trust and with whom they do not identify” (Banting and Kymlicka, 2006, p. 18). Since the publication of Alesina and Glaeser’s (2004) seminal book, an expanding body of research on immigration and European welfare attitudes has produced mixed findings. While single-country studies in Sweden (Eger, 2010) and Germany (Spies and Schmidt-Catran, 2016) have demonstrated a negative relationship between regional variation in immigration and welfare attitudes, cross-national analyses have shown a less clear relationship (Brady and Finnigan, 2014). Recent studies (Eger and Breznau, 2017) suggest that once immigration is measured at the regional level, the negative impact of immigration on support for redistribution and a comprehensive welfare state can be observed. Continue reading

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Mar 15 2018

The crisis in Catalonia: How did we get here and how do we get out?

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By Javier Carbonell and Luis Cornago Bonal

This post summarises the second debate of the conference cycle about the crisis in Catalonia, titled Spain and Catalonia: Is There a Way Out of the Impasse?, catalan crisis debatetook place on February 8 at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). This debate analysed the political causes of the conflict, the current crisis, and the possible means of resolution. Jonathan Hopkin, Sandra León and Toni Rodon, three academics whose research has addressed the Spanish political system from different perspectives, were the speakers responsible for discussing these issues. In this post we collect the main ideas that emerged throughout the conference.

The causes of the conflict: How much does the economic crisis explain?

The moderator of the session, Antonio Barroso, opened the debate by asking Hopkin to what extent the Catalan case is unique in Europe or if it is comparable with that of other regions. In addition to referring to the dynamics of party competition in Catalonia -particularly the struggle for hegemony between the independence parties- the English political scientist defended the need to place Catalonia in the context of comparative politics. For him, the secessionist movement must be framed within the many anti-establishment movements that have emerged in recent years in many advanced democracies, such as Brexit, Trump’s victory, or the triumph of Syriza. All these phenomena share the fact that they emerged after the Great Recession that began in 2008. According to Hopkin, high levels of unemployment and the increase in inequality tend to provoke the radicalisation of political positions. In addition, in adverse economic circumstances identity politics prove to be an especially powerful weapon. Therefore, even if each of these anti-establishment movements is presented as unique, in reality, all originate in the important deterioration of the economic situation.

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Mar 14 2018

Could the Current Reform Plan Make the Eurozone Sustainable?

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By Konstantinos Myrodias

The Eurozone is recovering from a long crisis; growth rates are turning positive across the Eurozone after a decade, business confidence is rising. Current accounts are balanced after the brutal adjustment in the periphery. The overall unemployment in the Euro area reached its pre-crisis level in 2017. This has been seen as a triumph.

This current euphoria emerges paradoxically from the dust and rubble of the broken social and political contract within and between countries across the Eurozone. The break-up of the convergence illusion in the periphery and the backlash against the bailouts in the North raised diverse voices against the Euro project in the aftermath of the financial crisis.

But the European Commission has recently set up a ‘grand reform’ agenda for a European Minister of Finance, a European Monetary Fund, and new Budgetary Instruments to win the hearts and minds of EU citizens for ‘a more integrated and performing Euro area to bring further stability and prosperity to all in the EU’. Continue reading

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Mar 12 2018

Remain to Reform: The ‘Corbyn Moment’ for Europe?


By Mary Kaldor

In twenty years’ time, we will look back on Brexit as a moment of terrifying global irresponsibility. We live in a world of creeping fascism in Russia, Turkey, China, Trump’s America not to mention the tendencies inside Britain, especially among the hard Brexiteers. The European Union currently represents a beacon for democracy and human rights. Of course, it is dominated by a neo-liberal ideology that threatens to undermine the eurozone and with it the democratic values for which it stands; developments in Central Europe and the recent elections in Italy are a painful reminder of the dangerous possibilities.

Nevertheless, there are tendencies for reform inside the European Union and if a Corbyn-led Labour Party were to win the next election, there is a unique – indeed a once in a lifetime opportunity – to reform the European Union and this means an opportunity to save us, Europe and perhaps the world.

But we are so obsessed with the domestic British debate despite all the talk of a global Britain that nobody seems to be discussing or trying to diagnose the frightening scenario of everything going wrong and our role in that scenario. The current nostalgia for Britain’s role in WWII seems to neglect the fact that this was a struggle for democracy, human rights and decency and not just about nationalism. If we care about those values now, we should be worrying about the future of Europe and the world and how what happens in the rest of the world will affect us.

A pamphlet published by Another Europe is Possible this week makes the argument that instead of fretting about how bad Brexit will be for Britain, we need to think about what a Corbyn government inside Europe might mean for the future of the European Union. The pamphlet sets out a reform strategy for the European Union that is realistic to achieve if a Corbyn government were to ally with socialists across Europe. Such a reform strategy would enable us to address the big global problems of today, and this in turn may well be a necessary condition for implementing the Corbyn-McDonnell programme. Continue reading

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Mar 9 2018

Italy’s Election: The Path to Political Radicalisation

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By Roberto Orsi

The result of the Italian general election was extraordinary. Even if the most recent polls had anticipated the trend, the actual numbers were surprising, providing the immediate sense of a rather dramatic political shift. Three main and tightly interconnected stories are easily detectible: the irresistible rise of the Five Star Movement (M5S), the decisive victory of the Northern League under Matteo Salvini’s leadership, and the collapse of Matteo Renzi’s Democratic Party (PD).

The Five Star Movement became the first party with more than 32% of the votes, up from 24% in 2013, with a margin of 14 points above second place. This was a staggering result. Although the M5S was expected to gain up to 29%, achieving 32% makes it one of the largest political parties in Europe. The (ex-Northern) League achieved well over 17%, by far its highest result ever. While the party started off as the representative of Northern Italy’s interests, grievances, and political positions, Salvini’s bid to transform it into a nation-wide political force on the model of France’s Front National has clearly paid off. The Democratic Party (PD), which has ruled Italy with minor allies over the 2013-2018 period, suffered a crushing defeat, decreasing from 29% in 2013 (and 40% at the 2014 European elections) to a meagre 19%. Continue reading

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Feb 28 2018

Italy’s General Elections: Four Key Issues

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By Roberto Orsi

Italy historical map

Next Sunday (4 March) Italian citizens will elect a new Parliament, after a complete five-year cycle. Much has changed since the last vote on 24-25 February 2013.

It will be argued here that this election is probably the first one in a very long time to address the fundamental reference framework of Italy’s trajectory as a political community, after at least 25 years of political-economic autopilot within the concentric rings of the Euro-Atlantic alliance, the European Union, and the Eurozone. Now the time has come when the position and role of the country within these structures as well as their very nature and purpose, while rarely challenged in toto, is however being more thoroughly questioned. This should not come as a surprise given the severity of the economic crisis of the country in the 2011-2014 period, which is continuing nevertheless in many ways despite the current mild recovery, coupled with a widespread sense that Italy as a political entity finds itself in an appalling spiral of decline.

Unfortunately there are only few instances of clear debate arising from the rather uninteresting noise of electoral squabbling, but some fundamental topics have emerged over the course of the recent past, shaping the orientation of all major political parties. Continue reading

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