Avery Hancock and Paul Rainford highlight some of the big issues that could dominate the political arena in 2011.
What political joy and intrigue awaits us in 2011? Will we face a year of cuts, riots and despair? Or will the economy and our ‘wellbeing’ bounce back? As the first winter under the coalition government sets in, the blog team at British Politics and Policy has decided to take a short (and no doubt well-deserved!) break from the daily grind and think ahead about what stories, trends, and personalities are likely to keep our blog buzzing in the year ahead. In no particular order, these, then, are our top 11 for 2011:
- Liberal Democrat dissension and the integrity of the coalition: Nick Clegg may continue to lead but will his party follow? How many broken election promises can they swallow?
- AV referendum and House of Lords reform: Will this be end for First Past the Post and appointed peerages? Would Liberal Democrat victories on these two issues validate their position in the coalition?
- The Economy: What is the plan for growth? Is this Britain’s dose of Friedmanite “shock therapy”? Where will this experiment lead us? Are we heading towards a double dip recession? If so, would this force a rethink of coalition policy? What will be the impact on jobs? Will there be banking sector reform or will it be business as usual? How will the regional economic imbalance of the UK be addressed?
- Higher education funding and the abolition of the Education Maintenance Allowance: Will a two-tier market emerge in higher education in the UK? Has the prospect of huge debts for future graduates made a mockery of the coalition’s claim of intergenerational fairness? Is education no longer a public good but merely a tool for economic growth?
- The migration cap: What will be the impact of the cap on economic recovery and growth in the UK? How long will it take for the limit to be reached? Will there be pressure for exceptions, especially from businesses who are concerned that they may not be able to obtain skilled workers?
- Press plurality and press freedom: Will Julian Assange and Wikileaks continue to be treated like terrorists by shamed and embarrassed governments? Will News Corporation increase their stake in the British media still further by merging with BskyB or will Ofcom intervene for the sake of plurality?
- Climate change: How will the Green investment bank fare? Will it be sufficiently funded? Can the UK make positive steps towards a transition to a low carbon economy? Can the Cancun resolutions be translated into something meaningful? Will the Tory climate sceptics derail this agenda?
- Street protests, citizen engagement and the real ‘Big Society’: Have we witnessed the beginning of a nascent street movement that will harness the fear and frustration felt by many on the harsh end of the government’s cuts and create a genuinely powerful force that can compel policy changes or even bring about the collapse of the coalition? Has political apathy been transformed into genuine citizen engagement? Is this the real ‘Big Society’? How will social attitudes change in the long run?
- The role of the Labour Party: How will Labour position itself in opposition? Will the party continue to enjoy success in the polls and capture a large number of seats in the local council elections? How will the party move on from New Labour and what will be the results of the policy review? How safe is Ed Miliband’s job?
- Britain’s wars and its role in Europe: Will the withdrawal from Afghanistan go ahead as scheduled and what kind of state will be left behind? What will come out of the Chilcot enquiry? What role will Britain play in Europe and what will be its involvement in future bailouts in the eurozone? Will David Cameron manage to keep the eurosceptic wing of his party in check?
- Fairness, equality and social mobility: Will the coalition’s policies result in the widening of the gap between rich and poor, the crippling of social mobility and/or the perpetuation of privilege and power for pre-existing elites? Will life chances still be determined by social class and nepotistic contacts? What will be done to try and reverse this trend?
British Politics and Policy at LSE will try to answer some of these questions and more, and, as always, we welcome comment, debate, and potential posts from our readers. We’d like to say thank you to those who have followed us thus far and hope you stay with us in the new year; for our new readers, welcome to British Politics and Policy 2011!
We’d love to hear what you think we should cover in 2011 – click here to let us know!
Please read our comments policy before posting
Despite the Localism Bill, which should be called the Centralism Bill, 2011 will see central government continuing to intervene in local affairs. The current doctrine is “guided localism”, with central government making rhetoric about local government’s new freedoms and flexibilities, but at the same time insisting local authorities do what it wants rather than what local councillors and citizens want. Local authorities will not be allowed to decide how to collect refuse, or set up surveillance cameras, or levy a council tax at the rate they think appropriate. Whitehall departments will constrict local government with their policies on education, health, policing, welfare and transport. The present confusion of local government finance will persist, with no side admitting it is responsible and accountable. Central and local government will blame each other for the cuts. My depressing prediction is central government will not decentralise taxation, nor will local government demand it.
This comment first appeared in the Municipal Journal on 13 January.