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B. T.


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Articles by B. T.

Lessons from the Nordics: Does party membership still provide a meaningful link between citizens and politics?

2 days ago

Political parties play a crucial role in enabling the views of citizens to be represented in political decision-making. Yet across Europe, the vast majority of citizens no longer actively participate in political parties, with party membership numbers experiencing a sharp fall in recent decades. Drawing on a new edited volume covering the Nordic countries, Marie Demker, Knut Heidar and Karina Kosiara-Pedersen explain how parties might continue to link citizens with politics, despite the fall in membership numbers.
In the Nordic countries, as in many other established democracies, there has been a rise in the number of political parties competing in elections in recent decades. Yet this has coincided with a period in which parties have suffered a loss of members. A new edited volume we have

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Brexit may make EU trade policy more progressive

3 days ago

The conventional wisdom amongst many commentators has been that Brexit will render EU trade policy more protectionist, as the Union will be losing one of its more liberal member states. Ferdi De Ville and Gabriel Siles-Brügge argue that this is not necessarily the case. Instead, they highlight how the EU could render its trade policies more progressive by insisting on more stringent ‘level playing field’ provisions with other trade partners, as they are doing now with the UK.
The Conservative majority following the December 2019 UK general election means that negotiations between the UK and EU will from February move from the ‘divorce’ talks to discussing the future economic partnership. The content of this new economic partnership will be of vital importance not just for EU-UK relations,

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The failed integration of an anti-system party: Where Luigi Di Maio and the Five Star Movement went wrong

4 days ago

Luigi Di Maio is expected to resign as leader of Italy’s Five Star Movement later today. Mattia Zulianello writes that Di Maio’s resignation will represent the latest twist in the story of an anti-system party that has suffered from a failed attempt to integrate into the system it previously opposed.
According to reports from several Italian media outlets, Luigi Di Maio is about to resign from his role as leader of the Five Star Movement (M5S). This raises the question of why, in contrast to other populist parties, the M5S appears to have imploded while in office.
The Five Star Movement has been characterised as a ‘valence populist party’. Not all populist actors are ‘left’ or ‘right’. Some of them predominantly, if not exclusively, compete by focusing on non-positional issues such as the

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A question of trust: Intra-party delegation in the European Parliament

6 days ago

Much of the European Parliament’s work rests on negotiations within parliamentary committees, as well as other informal negotiations that take place behind closed doors. But what determines the selection of the MEPs who participate in these negotiations? Drawing on a new study, Fang-Yi Chiou, Bjørn Høyland and Silje Synnøve Lyder Hermansen illustrate that loyalty to the leadership of the transnational parties present in Parliament is the key factor in the selection process. While knowledge about a given policy area is important, parties typically develop a group of experts from which they can select candidates rather than relying on individuals with the most expertise.
The European Parliament provides the only directly elected representation of EU citizens. It is also – on many accounts –

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How war helped facilitate the introduction of unemployment insurance in the West

6 days ago

The question of whether governments should provide financial assistance to the unemployed has proven to be one of the most heated issues in modern politics. Yet given the opposition such schemes have faced throughout history, what prompted states to introduce them? Drawing on a new study, Herbert Obinger and Carina Schmitt highlight the crucial impact the West’s experience with war during the 20th century had in motivating states to adopt unemployment insurance systems.
Unemployment insurance was and still is one of the most contested social protection schemes. As a consequence, it was not only introduced at a relatively late stage in the development of modern societies, but is also still missing in many countries around the world.
Income support for the unemployed was highly controversial

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Book Review: Anatomies of Revolution by George Lawson

7 days ago

In Anatomies of Revolution, George Lawson offers a new account of how revolutions begin, unfold and end through a dynamic amalgam of in-depth sociological theory, multiple historical narratives and poignant commentary on contemporary politics. This book is a triumph when it comes to a creative theorisation of revolution, writes Eric Loefflad, providing clarity not in spite of complexity, but through it. 
If you are interested in this book review, you may like to listen to a podcast of the book launch of Anatomies of Revolution, recorded at LSE on Tuesday 22 October 2019. 
Anatomies of Revolution. George Lawson. Cambridge University Press. 2019.
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In his landmark text The Interpretation of Cultures, renowned anthropologist Clifford Geertz noted a particularity regarding the

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Why ‘greening’ the EU’s institutions remains far from straightforward

9 days ago

In response to the increasing salience of climate change, there have been renewed efforts to enhance the green credentials of the EU’s institutions. As Tobias Tesche writes, these efforts include proposals for the European Central Bank and European Investment Bank to take climate change into greater consideration when making decisions. Yet not all of these proposals have been well received and there remains the potential for significant controversy to be generated over how this ‘green turn’ is implemented.
The issue of climate change has taken over the European political agenda and will likely dominate it for the coming years. The new European Commission has outlined its plan to ‘green’ the European economy in its communication for a European Green Deal, which partially reflects the new

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Austria’s new ÖVP-Green government: united in diversity?

10 days ago

Austria’s new coalition government, incorporating the conservative ÖVP and the Green Party, was sworn in on 7 January. Paul Schmidt writes that the two parties have so far expressed a desire to find working compromises between their competing priorities. However, the rest of Europe will be watching with interest to see if their partnership remains sustainable in the long-term.
Like it or not, we live in interesting times. This undoubtedly holds true for Austrian politics, where a new governing coalition between the conservative ÖVP and the Green Party just took office. The coalition is a new experience for Austria and will present some notable challenges for the two essentially dissimilar coalition partners. The new government has already raised substantial international interest.
Both

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Battle of the mandate: Defining the dispute over a new Scottish independence referendum

11 days ago

The ongoing dispute over whether a new Scottish independence referendum should take place reflects very different interpretations of Scotland’s sovereignty, writes Anthony Salamone. Questions of whether Westminster or Holyrood can determine if a new referendum is held are distinct from the issue of independence itself, and will most likely continue to be contested at least until after the next Scottish parliamentary elections.
Independence is the predominant issue of Scottish politics, with a significant amount of business at Holyrood filtered to some degree through its prism. Even the most consequential matter of the day – Brexit – has become more a proxy for ongoing arguments over Scotland’s constitutional future than an impetus for substantive reflection on its relationship with the

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If governments want to target the inflation of CEO pay, they should also address pay inequality between managers

11 days ago

A number of governments across the world have sought to regulate the pay of company executives to help reduce inequality. However, as Renira C. Angeles and Achim Kemmerling explain, efforts to control average levels of executive pay often overlook the inequality that exists between managers, firms and sectors.
Since the 1980s, there have been numerous scandals about the excessive growth of pay for company executives. Enron is just a very prominent example in recent years. As a reaction, governments have experimented with regulating top executive compensation (TEC) in several ways: the Clinton administration in the United States put a cap on TEC tax deductibility; while both the Obama administration and the EU imposed a pay cap for firms in need of a bailout after the global financial

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There is a good reason for EU banks to hold their own country’s sovereign debt

12 days ago

The so called ‘moral suasion’ hypothesis indicates that governments may implicitly force their domestic banks to hold a larger chunk of government bonds when they experience stress. But is this reason to shift responsibilities from national to supranational institutions? Orkun Saka argues that there is in fact a good reason for EU banks to hold their own country’s sovereign debt: commercial banks have an informational advantage that allows them to act as buyers of last resort, absorbing local assets while potentially uninformed foreign banks may shed their exposure.
Is it possible to attribute the banks’ home bias in sovereign exposure to something beyond their externally-imposed (such as moral suasion) or internally-distorted (such as risk-shifting) incentives? Despite the so-called doom

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Interest group access to Commission expert groups varies substantially across policy areas

13 days ago

The access of interest groups to the European Commission has important implications for the legitimacy of the EU policy process. Yet there is a widely held assumption that groups representing specific interests, such as business associations, are likely to enjoy greater access than those representing ‘diffuse’ interests, such as environmental and consumer organisations. Drawing on new research, Carl Vikberg explains that although there is some broad evidence for this assumption, the picture varies substantially across different policy areas.
Interest group access to the European Commission is often claimed to be favourable to groups representing specific interests, like business associations, but unfavourable to groups representing broader diffuse or public interests, like environmental or

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Book Review: The Oxford Handbook on Women, Peace and Security edited by Sara E. Davies and Jacqui True

14 days ago

In The Oxford Handbook on Women, Peace and Security, editors Sara E. Davies and Jacqui True bring together 93 contributors to capture the ever-growing volume of scholarship that has developed since the passing of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security (WPS) in October 2000. Columba Achilleos-Sarll recommends this as an extensive, timely contribution to the study of the WPS agenda, which maps its multiple temporalities and scales, whilst tracing its past, its present and its multiple futures.
The Oxford Handbook on Women, Peace and Security. Sara E. Davies and Jacqui True (eds). Oxford University Press. 2018.
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Since the passage of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security (WPS) in October 2000,

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Austria’s new ÖVP-Green coalition is unlikely to alter the country’s conservative course

16 days ago

On 7 January, Austria’s new government was sworn in by Federal President Alexander Van der Bellen. For the first time in history, the country will be co-governed by the centre-left Green Party, who became the junior coalition partner of the Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP). However, as Maya Janik explains, there is little reason to believe the composition of the new government will translate into a meaningful shift to the left in policy terms.
What seemed improbable until 2019 turned out to be possible in 2020: as of this week, Austria is now ruled by a coalition government between the centre-right conservative Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) and centre-left Green party. On 1 January, after seven weeks of coalition negotiations, ÖVP leader Sebastian Kurz announced that the two parties had come

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Taking stock of Christine Lagarde’s challenges at the ECB

17 days ago

Lorenzo Codogno and Mara Monti argue that Christine Lagarde’s challenges at the helm of the ECB remain daunting, despite smooth sailing during her first press conference and a notably different communication style. Issues will emerge from different sources, not least the ECB’s problematic relationship with political actors, but she appears well equipped to address these as they arise.
Christine Lagarde’s reign at the European Central Bank (ECB) has heralded a shift not in the monetary policy field, but mainly in terms of communication, at least judging from her first press conference in December. She is not Mario Draghi or Jean-Claude Trichet, her predecessors, and she wants to affirm her own different style as President. “Each and every President has his or her own style of communicating.

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Ursula von der Leyen: “We have to be very clear that Brexit is a matter of trade-offs and choices”

17 days ago

Following her recent lecture at LSE, the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, took questions from LSE staff, students and members of the media on the Brexit process and the need for close relations to be maintained between the UK and the EU.
Might it be possible to agree the outline of a deal (with the UK) in the time available, maybe covering goods, and then continue negotiating? Or, without a transition, must it be all or nothing by the end of the year?
The transition time is very, very tight. In my speech, I briefly touched on the topics we have to negotiate, but this was not even the whole list. It is basically impossible to negotiate all of what I have mentioned as well as the other dossiers that are there. Therefore, we will have to prioritise so long as we

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More fragmentation and division? What 2020 will be like for Higher Education

18 days ago

The next year promises to have major implications for the UK’s higher education sector as the country navigates its exit from the European Union. Anne Corbett and Claire Gordon write that in a sector already beset by funding pressures and new regulatory demands, Brexit and the policies of Boris Johnson’s new government are likely to intensify the already observable trend toward fragmentation between research-intensive and teaching-intensive universities.
The UK higher education sector had been expecting 2020 to be a sad, if not bad, year. When the transition period ends, the country’s 136 universities will lose their automatic access to EU research programmes, the much-appreciated European Research Council and the Marie Skłodowska-Curie fellowship funding, as well as the multiple exchange

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Is the liberal international order in a state of terminal decline?

19 days ago

The disengagement of the United States from multilateral cooperation and a rise in ‘illiberal’ politics across the globe have led many observers to conclude the liberal international order is in a state of decline. Drawing on a new study, Mette Eilstrup-Sangiovanni and Stephanie C. Hofmann argue that what we may be witnessing is not necessarily the breakdown of the existing order, but rather its transformation into a broader, more inclusive system of global governance, reflecting the need to accommodate new actors and problems.
The “liberal” global order may be in need of therapy. After all, some say it is in rapid demise. Others insist it remains as strong as ever. Not only is the vigour of the liberal order hotly debated, but its very constitution is questioned. Is the order about

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What are the prospects for Poland’s radical right Confederation?

20 days ago

Poland’s October election saw the unexpected success of a strongly pro-free market and nationalist radical right challenger to the ruling party. However, as Aleks Szczerbiak writes, the new grouping’s youthful, anti-establishment core electorate is notoriously fickle, and its ideological eclecticism – and the presence of highly controversial personalities among its leaders – makes it an unstable political construct.
Formally constituted at the beginning of 2019, the radical right-wing ‘Confederation’ (Konfederacja) grouping is a political conglomerate comprising an eclectic mix of economic libertarians clustered around the veteran political eccentric Janusz Korwin-Mikke and radical nationalists from the National Movement (RN) party. The Confederation’s first electoral outing was in the

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10 of the best books of 2019 recommended by LSE blog editors

December 27, 2019

Many of the LSE blogs regularly feature book reviews of the latest publications emerging across the social sciences. But which books have LSE blog editors been enjoying in 2019? In this list, five LSE blog editors recommend their favourite reads of the year.

Much of my work involves thinking about Brexit, which can be unhealthy. The fact that so much political bandwidth is consumed by the subject means that other areas of public policy get ignored. When I was editing the Guardian’s Law site I read a fair few books on the subject, but none of them were so urgent as Stories of the Law and How It’s Broken by the Secret Barrister.
Justice is not something that can be pulled out of the air if the will exists. It has to be paid for, and the systematic withdrawal of public funds from the justice

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Switzerland’s ‘green tsunami’ slows to a trickle

December 23, 2019

Green parties were the main winners from the 2019 Swiss federal elections held on 20 October. However, as Clive H. Church writes, developments since the vote have illustrated the extent to which Swiss politics remains resistant to change. While the election generated some momentum behind efforts to strengthen the country’s climate policies, it remains unclear how far the process of ‘greening’ Swiss politics might go.
The results of Switzerland’s 20 October election were, for once, quite meaningful, even if they passed largely ignored in Britain. However, as discussed at the time, they did not decide everything then and there. They left open the completion of the elections to the Council of States, or upper house, the question of the re-election of the seven strong collegial government and

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What to expect from the Croatian presidential election

December 20, 2019

Croatia will hold a presidential election on 22 December, with a second round of voting set for 5 January if no candidate wins a majority. Tena Prelec previews the contest and assesses what the result might mean for the country’s next parliamentary election, due to be held in 2020.
In spite of 11 candidates gracing the stage of the one and only pre-election TV debate, Croatia’s presidential election projects to be a three-horse race between incumbent President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, former Prime Minister Zoran Milanović, and musician-turned-politician Miroslav Škoro. The race is exceptionally tight and the first round of voting on 22 December could well turn out to be more important than the second. If Škoro manages to finish in the top two and progress to the run-off on 5 January, the

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It’s in the EU’s interest for Brexit to go badly – but not too badly

December 19, 2019

The EU has good reason to hope that Brexit goes badly, writes Paul David Beaumont. This would continue to deter Eurosceptic parties on the continent from hardening their stance. But at the same time, an unambiguously disastrous Brexit would risk depoliticising EU membership, reducing the incentive to address the EU’s many flaws.
If we get the politics we deserve, Britain deserves a Prime Minister who has been elected on the promise to “get Brexit done”: a slogan that both embodies and celebrates unthinking decisiveness. Not only did the slogan require the electorate to suspend their critical faculties, it did so proudly. Like so much of Brexit discourse, it knowingly rests upon what is at best a half-truth. Indeed, leaving the EU at the end of January 2020 will only be the beginning of the

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Who supports Catalan independence, and is there a way forward?

December 18, 2019

Using recent survey data, Sergi Pardos-Prado explains that support for independence in Catalonia is strongly driven by education and language, and robustly associated with liberal sociocultural values. When it comes to the way forward, there is little consensus on the best outcome for Catalonia: those who favour independence are not in a majority, but those who oppose independence are split on the best alternative. However, a degree of consensus does exist on the process, with a large majority believing a referendum should be held to determine Catalonia’s future.
On 14 October, the trial of Catalonia’s independence leaders concluded with prison sentences ranging from 9 to 13 years. This sentence started a new phase in the conflict, sparking multiple protests across Catalan municipalities.

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Why veil restrictions increase the risk of terrorism in Europe

December 17, 2019

Several countries across Europe have put restrictions on wearing veils in public spaces. Drawing on a new study, Stuti Manchanda and Nilay Saiya write that far from helping to combat extremism, these restrictions are strongly and positively correlated with an increase in terrorist activity. They suggest this may be due to veil restrictions generating resentment among Muslim communities and causing Muslim women to become more isolated from the rest of society.
In 2011, France became the first European country to pass a nation-wide ban on the wearing of the full-face Islamic veil in public spaces – a law that was passed nearly unanimously by the French parliament and upheld by the European Court of Human Rights in 2014. Since then, several other European states – Belgium, Bulgaria, Austria,

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Understanding EU trade policy in the twenty-first century

December 16, 2019

The EU has negotiated numerous bilateral trade agreements with countries around the world during the last two decades. As we move into 2020, Patrick Leblond and Crina Viju-Miljusevic take stock of the changes that have occurred in EU trade policy in the twenty-first century and highlight some key future research agendas.
Over the last 20 years, the European Union (EU) has conducted an active trade policy, negotiating a multitude of bilateral trade agreements and being strongly involved in negotiations at the World Trade Organisation (WTO). It has also expanded the scope of the trade agreements that it negotiates, with regulatory cooperation, labour and environmental standards, investment, government procurement and competition policy now core features of such agreements.
The comprehensive

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Book Review: Footsoldiers: Political Party Membership in the 21st Century by Tim Bale, Paul Webb and Monica Poletti

December 15, 2019

Although tens of millions of adults turn out to vote at UK general elections having decided which party’s policies and leaders they prefer, very few of them join those parties, let alone actively participate in and promote them. Who are those few, why do they join and what do they do? Ron Johnston reviews the latest book reporting on party member surveys, Footsoldiers: Political Party Membership in the 21st Century by Tim Bale, Paul Webb and Monica Poletti.
Footsoldiers: Political Party Membership in the 21st Century. Tim Bale, Paul Webb and Monica Poletti. Routledge. 2020.
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Political parties need members – for their subscriptions, for providing them with links into local communities and, perhaps most importantly, for their contributions to electoral campaigns. But who do

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UK general election: The view from across Europe

December 13, 2019

The Conservative Party’s victory in the UK’s general election was keenly watched elsewhere across Europe. Stuart Brown presents an overview of analysis and reactions from the continent.
“Johnson convinced a majority of voters he could get them out of a maze in which they had been stuck for more than three years”
Le Monde writes that whatever one may think about Boris Johnson’s “disdain for details”, he has won a “masterful victory”. El País notes that while the future of the NHS and the “revolutionary economic proposals” of the Labour Party have been discussed at length, the election remained about Brexit and “Johnson convinced a majority of voters that he could get them out of a maze in which they had been stuck for more than three years”.
Benjamin Triebe, writing for the Neue Zürcher

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A mixed record: Assessing Ukraine’s domestic reforms under Volodymyr Zelenskiy

December 12, 2019

The so called ‘Normandy Four’, incorporating the leaders of France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine, met on 9 December in Paris to discuss the conflict in eastern Ukraine. Ryhor Nizhnikau and Arkady Moshes write that alongside the conflict resolution process, it is also vital to assess how Ukraine’s domestic situation has developed since the election of Volodymyr Zelenskiy as President earlier this year. They argue the record on domestic reform has been mixed so far, with Zelenskiy maintaining the old system of personalist governance and reliance on cadres instead of institutions.
While most recent attention has been drawn to the diplomatic effort to achieve progress in the conflict resolution in Ukraine’s Donbas, which culminated in the summit of the Normandy Four earlier this week, the

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The Alternative Vote system could have delivered a clearer signal on Brexit

December 12, 2019

The confusing scramble by Remainers to vote tactically in the UK general election has exposed the failings of the First Past the Post system, writes Tarun Khaitan. He explains why the Alternative Vote system could have delivered a clearer signal about Brexit – particularly as it would have discouraged Labour from engaging in strategic ambiguity about it, and forced voters to deliberate on Plan B if their preferred option was not to be realised.
What do the British people want to do with Brexit? Anyone hoping to find answers in the results of today’s election is likely to be disappointed. Only a clear majority in vote share (rather than simply seat share) for the Conservatives can possibly be read as a mandate for Brexit; likewise, only a vote share majority for the explicitly anti-Brexit

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