Editor's Review - October

3 Nov 2012

Another month in the political calendar has ended, and in the UK Ed Miliband continues to endeavour to bring about the downfall of David Cameron and the Conservatives, whilst, across the pond, two individuals will soon be receding into their armchairs to observe whether they will be entrusted with arguably the most influential job in the world for the next four years. As regards only marginally less crucial issues, Backbench continues to gain a positive reputation, with several new Commentators enlisted and once again many high quality articles published during the month; including a piece written by Member of Parliament Simon Reevell, which we’re most appreciative of him allowing us to publish.


I would like to start my political analysis of the last month at the beginning, with the Labour and Conservative Party conferences, where David Cameron and Ed Miliband both had the opportunity to take the ascendancy and prove themself as the most capable individual to lead the nation after 2015. In the past few months this has been one of the main criticisms of Ed Miliband, the fact that he just doesn’t seem like a Prime Ministerial figure, well, his Party Conference speech and ‘One Nation’ vision certainly went a considerable way to challenging this perception. Miliband seemed confident, and laid down a clear social direction for the future, one where the elite work for the people and the nation progresses together- exemplified as he eyeballed the conference cameras and warned banks that they would have to comply with Labour government measures or be shut down- clearly not the statement of a man who lacks vigour. However, as stated by Emily Stacey in her article, ‘A Small Step for Labour, a Giant Leap for Ed Miliband’ the Labour Party Conference failed to provide the nation with specific policy details and proposals for change, continuing a different frustration which the nation has with the party. Although, personally, I don’t think this is a bad ploy, they still have three years before they are potentially re-elected and if they release policy details into the public domain too soon it would just leave an opportunity for the Conservatives to knock them down, and for the nation to become tired of them.

In terms of the Conservatives and their performance, it has been a month where they would hope certain events will live long in the public memory, and that others are suddenly forgotten. Beginning with positives, David Cameron’s Party Conference speech built upon the national patriotism felt during the Olympic Games and was impressive enough to ensure that Ed Miliband didn’t take full bragging rights from the conference season. Furthermore, unemployment figures showed a decrease of 7000 in the three months to August 2012, a statistic which I’m sure was viewed with much relief by Chancellor George Osborne. Another occurrence which I’m sure was also welcomed with some relief during the past month was Boris Johnson’s pledged allegiance to his old chum DC, whether this unity in the party will last until the next general election is yet to be seen, but it has created a certain degree of leadership stability for the time being. Unfortunately though, it has also been a month of ministerial mishap for the Tories with Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt nearly overshadowing the Party Conference by controversially announcing that he favours a reduction in the abortion limit to 12 weeks, a statement which led many to liken him to a Republican Party member rather than a member of the Conservatives. On top of this, the Mitchell ‘pleb’ row continued to tarnish the image of the Conservatives all the way up to his resignation two weeks ago, a fiasco which I’m sure will even provide ammunition for Labour when the general election debates get underway.

However, there is another more immediate election which has been drawing a great deal more attention from across the globe- the US Presidential Election. There’s no doubt about it, US Presidential elections change the course of history, and this one could potentially be the same. If Barack Obama retains the Presidency then Americans will be hoping that more progress will be shown with regards to the economy, healthcare and inequality, fundamentals won’t change substantially. But if Mitt Romney wins, American society is likely to change a great deal, with Obamacare scrapped, abortion laws tightened and more aggressive foreign and economic policies pursued, signalling a return to a period of traditional US conservative policy. The issue is that the indications over the past week have been that the election will go down to the wire, something that frankly puzzles me for several reasons. Firstly, Mitt Romney offended 47% of the electorate by saying they considered themselves ‘victims’, secondly because he has almost blatantly chopped and changed his views over the past four years due to political expediency and therefore comes across as having no fundamental beliefs whatsoever, thirdly, because him and his party, are pursuing tried and tested economic policies which have been proven to moderately increase wealth, but severely worsen inequality and poverty at the same time. The list goes on. And what has Obama done wrong? Yes, the economy hasn’t picked up as well as most Americans would have liked over the past four years and Obama still has a titanic deficit on his hands, but both of those problems can be tracked back to the Republicans in the form of George Bush, who set about cutting taxes in a time when America were waging two Middle-Eastern wars. I don’t want to come across as irrationally slanted towards Obama, I know he’s no FDR, but I firmly believe the future of America is a lot safer in his hands than Mitt Romney’s, only time will tell whether this will actually be the case.

Moving on to more upbeat matters, there have once again been a large range of high-quality articles published on Backbench during the past month which I would like to give a mention to. For example, Soila Apparicio’s article regarding the 20th October anti-austerity marches gave a historical context to the protests in terms of the 1926 General Strike and posed some thought-provoking questions regarding a General Strike if one were to occur in the near future. Furthermore, Robert Walmsley’s article, ‘Why the UK is not yet ready for votes at 16’ tied in nicely to the issues posed by Chris Hulm in the article of the month for September. Hulm’s article stated that the political engagement of young people would increase through a compulsory study of politics at school age and Walmsley follows on from this, stating that young people will only be ready for votes at 16 when they have a sufficient understanding of UK politics. It seems as though the government is getting its priorities mixed up, with popular perception indicating that political education needs to increase before political representation can.

However, the Backbench Article of the Month for October has been awarded to Emily Stacey and her article, ‘Party Conferences- Two Down, One to Go’. This piece gave an excellent context to the hype of the party conference season as Stacey questioned how we can really make judgements regarding the next general election when it we are only in 2012. Furthermore, it didn’t completely denounce the conferences as unimportant, stating the successes of Miliband’s ‘One Nation’ speech and analysing how Cameron and the Conservatives needed to perform to match him. On the whole, a very well written, concisely argued and clearly evaluated piece. In terms of excellent articles I also must mention Emma Gray’s article, ‘The Politics of Personality’ which provided an in-depth consideration of what importance character and personality play in the theatre of politics, it’s an article that also stood out during last month.

Indeed, October was a fascinating month in terms of both UK and international politics, now the spotlight moves well and truly to America and the Presidential Election; will I be writing in a month’s time about a new US President in the form of Republican Mitt Romney? Or will Barack Obama hang on to retain the Presidency? Only time will tell.

By Sam Bright
Backbench Editor

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