By Sam Tomlin

Education is one of the most hotly debated topics in British politics. The Education Secretary Michael Gove is one of the highest profile government ministers and most people will be aware of debates around ‘academies’, ‘free schools’ and tuition fees even if they do not know the specific details. Of course this is understandable as education is vital for any society to function properly – everyone has been through it and almost everyone knows people still in it.Voc Ed

There is one area of education, however, which has consistently failed to generate any kind of sustained popular or mainstream political debate and that is vocational education.

As it says on the tin, it is essentially education which prepares people (of all ages, but traditionally younger people) for a vocation – something that they specialise in. The system, involving various types of college, university and apprenticeship courses, is not simple to understand, but still plays a vital role in educating millions of people today (in 2011 it was estimated there were around 1.8million 16-18 year olds studying for vocational qualifications). Read More

By Babak Moussavi

5 Days in MayThe tense, uncertain days that followed the British general election in May 2010 seem like a while ago now. The Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government, quite a novelty at first, has become so entrenched in our minds that the previous Labour administration seems to represent a different zeitgeist entirely, where the word ‘austerity’ was not even part of the political lexicon. Gordon Brown seems like ancient history, despite remaining as an MP.

One common refrain on the part of the leaders of the Coalition, in particular the Chancellor, George Osborne, is that the policies enacted have been necessary and inevitable. Indeed, the TINA argument – “there is no alternative” – is the foundation to the government’s ‘deficit-cutting’ programme. This is highly disingenuous.

But with time, it is not just the policies of the coalition, but the coalition itself that has been made to seem inevitable. With hindsight, it has been made to seem as though the only governing coalition possible was between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats, given that this combination was the only grouping that could command a majority in the House of Commons, let alone ‘rescue’ Britain.

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grayling_2196719bby Joseph Markus

The Criminal Bar go on ‘strike’ today in protest at the Government’s cuts to legal aid, the simple effect of which will be to reduce access to justice and increase the risks of the guilty going free and the innocent going to prison.

This strike is about proposed fee cuts of between 17.5 and 30%. (Don’t forget, as well, the cuts that came in on 2 December 2013 of 47% to civil barrister fees.) Cuts of this level compare particularly unfavourably to the de facto cuts for the public sector workers, where pay rises have been tied to 1%.

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By Sam Tomlin

David Cameron, we were told in a 2011 parliament publication, ‘has placed the Big Society project at the centre of his political agenda’. The vision was bold, if a little fuzzy in practical application: ‘the term describes the Government’s intention to open up public services to new providers, increase social action and devolve power to local communities.’Big Society

So fuzzy in practical application that the same report, just a year or so after the concept was introduced, suggested ‘There is little clear understanding of the Big Society project among the public, and there is confusion over the Government’s proposals to reform public services.’

If that was the truth in 2011, it is certainly the case today. The battle has now all but been lost as the coalition enters its final stages. The term (‘BS’ as many have renamed it) mostly evokes ridicule around the country and in various opinion outlets. Read More

By Rebekah Read

Lord Sumption recently gave a lecture entitled ‘The Limits of Law’.  Here he argues that the UK courts, particularly as a result of the influence of the European Court of Human Rights, are making judgments on issues which ought to be resolved politically.  He argues that this is illegitimate in a democratic society.  He has argued a similar point in his 2011 lecture ‘Judicial and Political Decision Making: the Uncertain Boundary’. This prompts the question of how far the judiciary should defer to Parliament in striking a balance between the rights of the individual and the needs of society.  This question is tested when decisions of the State are challenged by judicial review (JR) and the judiciary is asked to consider issues of policy.

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By Antoine Cerisier 

On 12 June 2013, the Gava courthouse in Barcelona filed a case against Lionel Messi. The Argentinean player and his father are suspected of using companies based in Uruguay and Belize to defraud the state of more than 4 million euros. A few months earlier, Bayern Munich’s general manager Uli Hoeness and French Budget Minister Jérôme Cahuzac were both accused of evading taxes through undeclared bank accounts in Switzerland. Ironically, the latter was leading the fight against tax fraud in France. A number of European multinationals, such as UBS and Vodafone, have also been suspected of taking part in proven or alleged evasion schemes. These high-profile cases have raised public awareness of tax dodging in Europe and given credit to its detractors. For instance, the Tax Justice Network estimated that 20 to 30 trillion dollars are currently held in tax havens worldwide. The issue is especially sensitive for European countries in the current context: securing stable tax revenue has become an urgent priority in times of recession and high public debt. Furthermore, the existence of tax havens within Europe – including Switzerland, Luxembourg and the Channel Islands – remains a pressing challenge for the continent.

French Budget Minister Jérôme Cahuzac “fighting against tax fraud” in November 2012

French Budget Minister Jérôme Cahuzac “fighting against tax fraud” in November 2012

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