Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Lucia Quaglia hints at “a convoluted decision-making process” on banking resolution

Speaking on the sidelines of a talk given at Scuola Normale Superiore in Palazzo Strozzi (Florence), Lucia Quaglia, Professor of Political Science at the University of York (UK) reviewed the entangled governance of the Single Resolution Mechanism (SRM), and stressed that ‘the most convoluted part of the process is how to take decisions within the Single Resolution Board’. More specifically, Quaglia pointed at the number of policy actors involved in the process and concluded that, going forward, there could be some ‘lack of clarity as to who is responsible’.

Professor Quaglia also examined the intricacies of the UK’s position on the EU Banking Union. Going beyond the obvious political reason why the UK is not part of the Banking Union (the UK decided not to join EMU in 1999), she also underscored the chief importance of economic factors and in particular the structure of the EU banking system in explaining the reluctance of the UK to join the SRM: the UK’s banking system ‘is a system that is very internationalized rather than just Europeanized’.

Putting things in the larger perspective of open economies facing interdependence pressures, Lucia Quaglia went on and explained that ‘by and large, all countries regardless whether they are in the euro area or even in the European Union, face what some economists call a financial trilemma, between the stability of the financial sector, international financial integration and national policies for the regulation, resolution and supervision of banks’. An additional constraint for euro area countries, she added, is that ‘the lender of last resort is no longer at the national level but hasn’t really been moved to the EU level’.

See the full interview here: http://fbf.eui.eu/lucia-quaglia-hints-at-a-convoluted-decision-making-process-on-banking-resolution/

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Here’s what Britons really want David Cameron to get from Brussels

The victory of the Conservatives in the 2015 UK parliamentary election has paved the way for a referendum on the UK’s EU membership by 2017. British Prime Minister David Cameron has a mandate to hold the referendum on the question of whether Britain should remain a member of the EU.

Prior to the referendum, Cameron is expected to renegotiate the UK’s place in the EU on a number of key issues, which include giving greater powers to national parliaments, cutting red tape, an opt-out for Britain from the principle of ever-closer union, and restrictions to welfare entitlements of EU migrants. Britain’s place in the EU is now one of the most important questions in British politics.
But how Eurosceptic is the British public? Research I carried out recently on British attitudes towards the EU and which is presented on the Policy Network website suggests that there is great variation not only on how much power Britons want to give to the EU but also in their support for specific policy areas.
Somewhat against expectation, there is a substantive section of the population that supports a greater role for the EU in all EU policy areas. About a quarter of respondents on average also neither agree nor disagree with the statement that the EU should have more authority over the EU member states in specific policy areas, which suggests that they are broadly happy with the current levels of integration.

The British public tends to support a greater role for the EU in policies that are perceived to be optimal for all countries involved, such as trade and the digital economy. They also support integration in policies such as environment and climate change, which by their nature require international cooperation. They tend to oppose further integration in social policies, such as labour market, employment and social affairs, education and health, as well as economic and monetary policies, which are perceived to belong to the realm of the nation state.

Britons are reluctant to support policies that entail a level of redistribution across the EU that goes beyond traditional EU funding, such as EU citizens’ right to work and access to the welfare state of another EU country. Only 27 per cent of respondents disagree with the statement that the right of EU citizens to work in other EU countries should be restricted; 17 per cent neither agree nor disagree with the statement, while over half of the respondents (56 per cent) think that this right should be restricted (although to varying degrees). The overwhelming majority of respondents (73 per cent) agree that EU citizens should be allowed to receive welfare benefits only in their country of origin, and only 13 per cent disagree with this statement.

This is problematic as opposition to free labour movement infringes upon a fundamental EU principle. Changing this may require a full EU treaty change, which is unlikely to occur by 2017. Consistent with previous research, opposition to EU citizens’ right to work in another EU country derives primarily from older, less educated and working-class citizens, who may feel threatened by such mobility. UK Independence party and Conservative party supporters tend to be less supportive of free movement of labour within the EU.

Britons tend to have a utilitarian perspective on their country’s EU membership as they support policies where no one is perceived to be worse off as a result of European integration, and they tend to agree that Britain has benefited from being a member of the EU. Yet, the EU also provokes emotive reactions among British citizens, which range from uneasiness to hopefulness and to indifference.
UK government contributions to the EU budget
UK government contributions to the EU budget  Photo: HM TREASURY

When asked to describe their feelings about Britain’s membership of the EU, almost half of respondents reported that they felt uneasy about it. Other negative emotions that the EU provokes are anger (18 per cent), fear (16 per cent) and disgust (15 per cent). Quite strikingly, a quarter also feels indifferent, which indicates that this pool of voters may not turn out to vote; or if they do turn out to vote, they might decide how to vote quite late. In addition, although on average the EU provokes less positive emotions, data suggest that a quarter of the respondents feel hopeful about Britain’s membership of the EU.

This suggests that there is a clash between interest-based rational thinking and emotional attitudes to Britain’s EU membership. Beyond economic calculations, emotional reactions may be central to determining the outcome of the forthcoming referendum. There is room for media and political campaigns to tap into people’s emotions, especially when it comes to uneasiness and fear, as people expressing these emotions may be more prone to changing their opinion on the EU as a result of exposure to information.

This is even more important now that Jeremy Corbyn has been elected as Labour party leader. His ambivalent view on the EU is revealing disagreements within the party and may contribute to further dividing public opinion.

This piece by Dr Sofia Vasilopoulou, Lecturer in Politics at the University of York and an awardee of ESRC's UK in a Changing Europe programme, was originally published in The Daily Telegraph

Monday, 5 October 2015

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Call for papers - Enacting the People: Political Representation and Democratic Legitimacy

Political Representation and Democratic Legitimacy conference image

After several decades of widespread neglect, the concept of political representation is making a comeback in various academic disciplines.

The conference

Political representation lies at the core of modern politics, yet we remain deeply ambivalent about its worth and significance. Addressing this ambiguity requires a serious exploration into the genealogy of the concept of representation as well as cutting-edge work of conceptual clarification and conceptual innovation confronting the question of what political representation is and/or what it can do, and how. Given the prominence of the idea of representation in democratic theory and democratic practice, none of this would be complete without an attempt to revisit fundamental and vexed problems concerning the relation of representation to democracy.

The York Graduate Conference “Enacting the People: Political Representation and Democratic Legitimacy” is an opportunity for current graduate students and early career researchers to present their research on these and related questions to other graduate students, early career researchers, and senior members of the University of York. Papers will be selected from a broad range of disciplinary perspectives, drawn from the humanities and social sciences, with an emphasis on political theory, both historical and normative. The conference will take place on Tuesday 29 September 2015.

Guest speaker

We are very pleased to announce that Professor Andrew Rehfeld (Washington University in St Louis) has kindly agreed to give a talk entitled “On Representing” that will open the academic year at the department and close the conference.

There is no conference fee, but participants are responsible for their own accommodation and travels. A light meal will be offered.

Call for papers

We invite proposals from a diversity of fields that deal with the question of political representation from a historical and/or normative perspective, namely political theory, the history of political thought, philosophy, literary studies, gender studies, classics, sociology, anthropology, and other related fields.

To submit a paper, please complete the online submission form. In addition to it, please email a brief (one page) CV and a proposal of 250 to 500 words (max.) for presentations of approximately 20 minutes. Submissions are preferred in .doc, .rtf or .pdf format. Please email them to representation-2015@york.ac.uk. The submission deadline is Friday 31 July 2015. We will notify authors of the decision regarding their papers by Saturday 15 August 2015.

We expect to pre-circulate the papers to panel members and the discussant for the panel. The submission deadline for the full paper is Friday 11 September 2015.

The conference is sponsored by:
For all enquiries, please email: representation-2015@york.ac.uk

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Mortgaging Development: The World Bank and the Globalisation of Housing Finance

Through this post, Liam Clegg shares some preliminary findings from his research into the evolution of the World Bank’s lending for housing. 

In an earlier blog, I recounted the story of World Bank lending for housing in Mexico. The story was told through the prism of Lazaro Cardenas, a port on the Pacific coast of Mexico. Here, I add further detail on the case. I also present reflections on whether the Mexican story was a one-off egregious case, or can be seen to illuminate recurring patterns within the Bank’s lending for housing portfolio.

Lending for Housing in Lazaro Cardenas 
To begin, a recap on Lazaro Cardenas. In the early 1970s, a vast iron ore processing plant was constructed with Bank support on the outskirts of the town. Inward migration of c.10,000 construction workers and c.5,000 plant operatives and their families resulted, with the necessary housing being largely provided through informal self-builds. The standard of shelter was extremely poor, with utilities infrastructure almost entirely lacking. To try to remedy the situation that its intervention had helped to create (internal reports acknowledge the emergence of ‘a chaotic social, environmental, and urban planning situation’ in Lazaro Cardenas), the Bank approved first lending for housing in Mexico in 1978. 

The local municipal Housing Trust was contracted in to provide community facilities, upgrade existing low-quality shelter, and create thousands of plots of land with utilities connections for self-build construction (‘serviced plots’). Around US$40m (2001 value) was earmarked for these purposes. While improvements were undoubtedly achieved, the project was beset by major problems. Auditors refused to sign-off on Housing Trust accounts, with poor record keeping making it impossible to effectively track the purposes to which Bank resources had been used. Suspicions of mismanagement were later confirmed by the Bank’s own site visits. 

World Bank site visits revealed that facilities the Housing Trust claimed to have supplied simply did not exist. One of the community developments that bucked the trend was the Plaza Tabachines, a small local market that did exist, and indeed continues to exist; the structure can be found on googlemaps (the ‘medium sized, single storey, red brick commercial centre with a big sign on its roof’ referred to in the previous post). Unfortunately, it wasn’t built with World Bank money, but with a different pot of resources. Wherever the balance of the US$40m had gone, it wasn’t to this Plaza. By a quirk of fate, however, the Plaza has in fact over time come to be more closely linked with World Bank lending for housing in Mexico.

Since the 1990s, the primary form of the Bank’s lending for housing in Mexico has been through projects directed at mortgage market extension. First of all, the Bank supported the federal government make reforms in its mortgage subsidy scheme. Through a number of mechanisms, those on the margins of housing finance are now given grants toward a deposit, to enable them to hook in to formal circuits of housing credit. More recently, the Bank has provided in the region of US$1bn to support the creation, in the early-2000s, of a Mexican version of Freddie Mac. The Sociedad Hippotecaria Federal (SHF) has further increase the pool of capital available for mortgage origination, with around US$15bn of SHF Mortgage Backed Securities having been sold on by 2010. Other things being equal, this increased supply of credit will have slightly lowered the cost of borrowing in the sector. ‘But how does this intersect with Plaza Tabachines?’, I hear you ask. Well…

… At some point in the last few years, HSBC has either bought or begun to rent space in Plaza Tabachines. Certainly, a large ‘HSBC’ sign is visible on googlemaps. This means that, if you live in the vicinity and have a sufficiently high income to be on the margins of accessing housing finance, then you might just be able to get access to a subsidy to enable you to walk through the doors of this HSBC and sign on the dotted line. 

For those individuals with moderately-paying jobs on the margins of gaining access to credit, these World Bank-supported schemes are undoubtedly beneficial. However, it’s likely that you’ll only be in a position to sign on the dotted line if you have an income that is several times the national minimum wage. If you are in formal employment but have a lower income, or if you work in the informal economy, you simply won’t be able to benefit from this recent World Bank lending for housing activity in Mexico. Sadly, if you have a lower income or work in the informal economy, your need for improved housing is likely to be significantly more pressing.

Mexico: A Representative Case, Unfortunately

The previous blog ended with the question of whether the Mexican story provided ‘an egregiously bad example of the globalisation of mortgage markets seeming to distract policy elites from undertaking more mundane, but betting targeted, housing policy interventions’. Sadly, it seems that the answer is ‘no’; rather than being an egregious outlier, the Mexican case is broadly representative. 

Since the mid-1990s, World Bank lending for housing has become quite poorly targeted across the board. The upgrading of low-quality housing in informal settlements and the provision of serviced plots has slipped down the organisation’s agenda; mortgage market extending has shot up the agenda (see Figure 1 below). In some cases, the benefit of these mortgage-market based operations are being enjoyed by the highest-income 50 percent of the population; in other cases the top 40 percent; in other cases, yet higher still. 

Much more detail on the topic will come through ‘Mortgaging Development: The World Bank and the Globalisation of Housing Finance’, which will be the main output from this research project. With the help of extremely useful feedback from colleagues across the University of York’s Department of Politics, I’m currently in the last few months of the re-drafting process (I think!) 

I will also continue to use #housingpolicymatters to gather relevant resources and insights together. Please do consider following @LS_Clegg and contributing your own interest and expertise to this hashtag-based endeavour. 

And here are some links for potential PhD Applicants on this area or other aspects of global economic governance, and for other potential postgraduate and undergraduate students.  

  Source: Author’s analysis of World Bank project database.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Whatever happened to the strange death of Tory England?

Professor Martin Smith has written a blog with Professor Dave Richards (University of Manchester) for the LSE British Politics and Policy blog: 'Whatever happened to the strange death of Tory England?'. Read it here: http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/politicsandpolicy/whatever-happened-to-the-strange-death-of-tory-england/

Why the UK can’t take business support for the EU for granted

Dr Sofia Vasilopoulou has written a blog for The Conversation: 'Why the UK can’t take business support for the EU for granted'. Read it here: https://theconversation.com/why-the-uk-cant-take-business-support-for-the-eu-for-granted-41990

Friday, 17 April 2015

If Cameron wants a property owning democracy, he has to support the mansion tax

Dr Martin O'Neill has written a blog for The Conversation: 'If Cameron wants a property owning democracy, he has to support the mansion tax'. Read it here: http://theconversation.com/if-cameron-wants-a-property-owning-democracy-he-has-to-support-the-mansion-tax-40203

Manifesto Check: Green Party has no clear vision on the EU

Dr Sofia Vasilopoulou has written a blog for The Conversation: 'Manifesto Check: Green Party has no clear vision on the EU'. Read it here: http://theconversation.com/manifesto-check-green-party-has-no-clear-vision-on-the-eu-40193

Green Party opts for quantity with huge manifesto wishlist

Professor Neil Carter has written a blog for The Conversation: 'Green Party opts for quantity with huge manifesto wishlist'. Read the full article here: http://theconversation.com/green-party-opts-for-quantity-with-huge-manifesto-wishlist-40202

Against Ad Hocery: UK Devolution and the Need for Consultation, Consensus and Consideration

Professor Martin Smith has written a blog with Professor Dave Richards (University of Manchester) entitled 'Against Ad Hocery: UK Devolution and the Need for Consultation, Consensus and Consideration'. Follow this link to read it: http://blog.policy.manchester.ac.uk/featured/2015/04/against-ad-hocery-uk-devolution-and-the-need-for-consultation-consensus-and-consideration/.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

The Leaders Debate: British Politics is No Longer a Three Horse Race

After the rather staged and formulaic Sky/Channel 4 leader interviews on 26 March (a.k.a. ‘The Return of Paxo’), by conceding a lectern to what the Westminster media village has disparagingly thought of as the minnows of British politics, David Cameron may just have breathed new life into what was in danger of becoming a rather dull three horse race. Here are some of the reasons why the ITV Leaders Debate on 2 April may represent a turning point.

We have never seen so many women represented in leadership positions for their national parties, all arguing passionately in favour of social justice and against the politics of austerity. As Paul Mason noted, in fact we have never heard such a sustained argument against austerity from any political figures on prime television before. Even this shift in political discourse may persuade those in Labour’s inner circle who have watched the rise of Syriza and Podemos with baffled amazement that there are votes in an anti-austerity message – especially north of Hadrian’s Wall and west of Offa’s Dyke.
The Ipsos-MORI ‘worm’ and the instapolls created more confusion than clarity regarding the leaders’ performance – producing enough variance in terms of cheers and boos to allow The Telegraph and The Sun to call it for Cameron and The Guardian and Daily Mirror to hand the laurels to Miliband. Neutral opinion probably scored Nicola Sturgeon ahead of the rest (as did the YouGov poll), while Farage succeeded in rallying his core support and scoring highly in the straight talking/trust department. Despite Labour’s genuine woes in Scotland this is not a bad position for Miliband to be in going into the election after several years bumping along the bottom in the political leader popularity stakes. The more voters see Miliband in open combat with Cameron the more they seem to like him, which is why Lynton Crosby was shrewd enough to go early with a debate that would give Miliband few opportunities to land sucker punches and make headlines close enough to polling day to sway floating voters.

The Seven Party Leaders Square Up for Debate © ITV News

Nigel Farage deliberately eschewed what he considers to be the politically correct consensus of the established parties in favour of an all out assault on immigration, foreign aid and Europe. This was all fairly predictable stuff until Farage suggested that non-British nationals with HIV (not very subtle code for Black Africans) should not be treated at public expense by the NHS. This drew visible gasps from the audience and an immediate storm on social media. Significantly though, only Leanne Wood for Plaid Cymru called Farage out directly on his remarks – calling them ‘disgusting’. Miliband condemned the remarks after the debate, but Cameron kept silent. It is a measure of how far Farage has managed to push the immigration debate into territory that used to be considered toxic by all but the far right and of UKIP’s dominant position as the party most trusted by voters on immigration – a traditional Tory trump card, the loss of which may cost them dear come May 7th.
There has been a noticeable shift towards presidential-style politics with #TeamEd working hard to de-geek and ‘Obama-ize’ their leader. So we had lots of ‘Honest Ed’s nearly new policies’ direct to camera pitches, which trod a thin line between sincerity and cheese, but also flashes of wit and passion that went down rather better. Five years of government, and the scars to prove it, ruled out a repeat of ‘Cleggmania’, but the Deputy Prime Minister has grown into his role and still appeals to moderate voters with a social conscience despite his notorious broken promise on university tuition fees (though ironically perhaps not enough to save his own seat in Sheffield Hallam).
David Cameron continues to exude the ‘born to govern’ Old Etonian confidence that his rivals might snipe about but which still impresses the Gogglebox constituency. Tory strategists were happy enough that Cameron stuck to the ‘who would you rather have in 10 Downing Street?’ script and avoided the elephant trap of where the £12 billion in welfare spending cuts was going to come from. Nigel Farage has made a virtue out of bizarre facial expressions and windmill impressions. Rather like Boris Johnson, Farage always gets his self-parody in first, and this sets him attractively apart in a ‘man in the saloon bar’ way from the Westminster clique. Therefore despite, or even thanks to, the liberal furore over Farage’s ‘health tourism’ remarks, UKIP achieved their goal in the debate.
By contrast all the women leaders came across as professional but approachable and much more interested in the substance of their party’s position than the style of its delivery (highly polished though Sturgeon in particular was). If nothing else the presence of Sturgeon, Wood and Bennett proved that there’s more than one way to appeal to voters than being a middle aged white man in a suit.
Does any of what viewers saw on April 2nd matter in terms of the outcome of the election? Probably not, but the exposure that the Greens and the Nationalists have gained will have boosted their membership and given their campaign teams something to shout about. Voters wanting a ‘Brexit’ were given little reason to vote Conservative or LibDem despite promises of a referendum since Cameron still seemed to be betting his shirt on a British opt out to EU free movement. On this topic, Miliband scored a rare blow by pointing out that David Cameron’s failure to stop Jean-Claude Juncker from becoming European Commissioner didn’t auger well for renegotiating the European Treaties in order to assuage the Tory right, UKIP supporters and the Europhobic press.
However, when it comes to the battle on the doorstep in the key marginals, the Tories will be relying heavily on the partisan support of much of the national press and an electoral war chest that dwarfs that of all the other parties combined. Conservative Central Office will now be concentrating all of its resources on promoting #TeamCameron in favour of the much weaker brand of the party at large. Despite a reasonable start to the campaign in England and Wales #TeamEd and Labour face a huge and unexpected problem in coping with the #SturgeonSurge since the SNP leader is unquestionably the most capable politician in Scotland. Jim Murphy has an uphill battle to persuade voters that the Labour Party will stand up for Scotland’s interests better than Nicola’s tartan army – particularly given the success of Alex Salmond in keeping the Barnett Formula and wresting more powers from Westminster thanks to the unionist parties’ Devo Max concession prior to the Scottish Referendum.
The Leaders Debate may have fired the starting gun but with such a tight election race in prospect we can expect many more thrills and spills before the runners cross the line on May 7th.
Dr Simon Parker
Senior Lecturer
Department of Politics


David Cameron, the Conservatives and the environment

Professor Neil Carter has written a blog with Dr Ben Clements (University of Leicester) for the Political Studies Association on 'David Cameron, the Conservatives and the environment'. This is the third in a series on the modernisation of the Conservative Party. You can read it here: http://www.psa.ac.uk/insight-plus/blog/conservative-party-modernisation-3-david-cameron-conservatives-and-environment.

From Big Society to Small State

Professor Martin Smith has written a blog - 'From Big Society to Small State' - for the Political Studies Association, as part of a series on the modernisation of the Conservative Party. You can read it here: http://www.psa.ac.uk/insight-plus/blog/conservative-party-modernisation-2-big-society-small-state.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

There’s more to Europe than in or out – and Britain desperately needs to talk about it

Sofia Vasilopoulou has written a new blog - 'There’s more to Europe than in or out – and Britain desperately needs to talk about it' - for The Conversation. The full article is available here: https://theconversation.com/theres-more-to-europe-than-in-or-out-and-britain-desperately-needs-to-talk-about-it-39392

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

David Cameron, Europe and the politics of ambiguity

Sofia Vasilopoulou has written a blog on 'David Cameron, Europe and the politics of ambiguity' for The Conversation. The full article is available here: https://theconversation.com/david-cameron-europe-and-the-politics-of-ambiguity-38879

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Newspapers care more about who our MEPs are than about what they do in the European Parliament

Sofia Vasilopoulou has written a blog with Katjana Gattermann on 'Newspapers care more about who our MEPs are than about what they do in the European Parliament' for the Political Studies Association. Read the full article here: http://www.psa.ac.uk/insight-plus/blog/newspapers-care-more-about-who-our-meps-are-about-what-they-do-european-parliament

Monday, 2 March 2015

Monday, 23 February 2015

Dr Nick Ritchie has written a blog post for the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research: 'The NPT in 2015 and the humanitarian initiative'. It asks: is the current inequitable global nuclear order sustainable? If not, does it matter? What are the implications for the Nonproliferation Treaty, and how does the so-called humanitarian initiative feature in the dynamics of its 2015 five-yearly review meeting?

Monday, 9 February 2015

Friday, 6 February 2015

Roundtable on the Islamic State


Claire Smith (Politics)
Lars Waldorf (Centre for Applied Human Rights)
Jacob Eriksson (Post-war Reconstruction and Development Unit)
Carlotta Minella (Politics)

On the 28th of January the Department of Politics organised a roundtable on the Islamic State. The event was attended by over 100 students, faculty and members of the public. The panelists contextualised ISIS within post-2003 Iraq and their roots in Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's al-Qaeda. They discussed the impact of the US invasion on the Iraqi state, especially in terms of its unintended national and state building consequences. The emergence of the Kurdish state and the decline of the Iraqi state were exploredin parallel. 
Last but not least, by contemplating the situation in Iraq and Isis, the presenters invited the audience to rethink the responsibility to protect - and specifically the responsibility to rebuild - as imperatives in the wake of an international intervention.