Video of the Annual Lecture now available

We were delighted to welcome Lord Anthony Giddens on 17th March 2015 to speak on The Politics of Climate Change. The event was fully booked some weeks beforehand and the Great Hall was packed on the night. Lord Giddens did not disappoint in presenting a clear and pressing case for the need for urgent action to address the problem of climate change.

Below is a film of the whole lecture in case you want to listen again, or if you were not able to get a ticket. We are most grateful to Lord Giddens for allowing us to use it.

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What constitutes successful ‘deradicalisation’?

Sarah Marsden
Sarah Marsden

Sarah Marsden is a Lecturer in Terrorism Studies at the Handa Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence, University of St Andrews.

Recently, there has been much debate about the best approach to take with those returning from the conflict in Syria and Iraq. Various proposals have been mooted, from forcing them to attend ‘deradicalisation programmes’ to banning them from returning to the UK. Relatively few of these ideas are rooted in a strong evidence base. That is in part because we still have much to learn about what might motivate someone to permanently reject violent extremism.

Although knowledge about what might inform the movement away from terrorism has developed in recent years, we have only a limited understanding of the aims of this work. Questions remain over what it is that interventions with those who have been involved in terrorism should seek to achieve. Is it ‘deradicalisation’, commonly understood as attitudinal change? Or is it disengagement, focusing more on behavioural change? And by what measures might we recognise ‘successful deradicalisation’? This last question is the focus of my recent paper: ‘Conceptualising ‘success’ with those convicted of terrorism offences’.

These questions are not only of concern to policy makers and academics, they are a significant issue for those on the frontline of this work, those organisations, such as the probation services, who are tasked with supervising convicted ‘terrorists’ when they have been released from prison. In my research with statutory and community-based organisations working with former prisoners, this question of what the work was seeking to achieve represented a significant gap in the knowledge base.

To better understand this issue, I spent many hours interviewing and observing practitioners. Through this, I developed a framework for understanding what the work was trying to achieve. Grouped under two broad headings of public protection and reducing the risk of reoffending/encouraging desistance, I identified 13 measures by which to interpret the processes involved with trying to move someone away from extremism. Three broad conclusions about what might constitute effective engagement emerged from the research:

  • Rather than attempting to explicitly ‘deradicalise’ or ‘deprogramme’ individuals, there was a concerted effort to reintegrate them back into society. For example, helping them to develop more positive social networks or supporting them as they tried to find work.
  • Instead of focusing exclusively on trying to deconstruct the motivation to reoffend, there were attempts – particularly from community-based organisations – to redirect this motivation. For instance, if someone was concerned with issues around social justice, there were efforts to find an outlet within the local community that might enable the individual to pursue these goals in a way that contributed to, rather than threatened, society.
  • Finally, attention was paid to developing resilience to negative influences that might undermine any growing commitment to reintegrating back into wider society. Developing former prisoners’ critical thinking skills was one way practitioners tried to do this, enabling them to interrogate the information designed to motivate them to re-engage in extremist networks in a more critical light.

Importantly, the processes involved with moving people away from extremism are complex and highly individualised. Practitioners therefore reflected the need to listen carefully to each person’s account of his or her involvement, and understand the particular issues relevant to their journey into and out of extremism. The need to approach the person holistically rather than focusing on specific ideological, attitudinal, or behavioural measures of ‘risk’ also emerged as an important part of best practice. Finally, taking into account the significant barriers faced by these former prisoners was vital. People convicted of ‘ordinary’ crime face challenges finding work and being accepted into the community, those convicted of terrorism offences face even tougher hurdles.

However difficult it is to talk about ‘rehabilitating terrorists’, if the aims of successful reintegration and long-term public protection are to be met, it is a conversation we need to have. Not least because meaningful reintegration demands not only a commitment from the individual, but also one from society, that they will accept the individual back into the community and allow them to move on.

If you enjoyed this blog entry, you may be interested in a similar article: Ethnic residential segregation stability in England, 1991–2001 by Katherine Farley & Tim Blackman.

Crowdsourcing Data to Improve Macro-Comparative Research

Nate Breznau
Nate Breznau

by Nate Breznau, University of Bremen

Early in my studies a supervisor recommended that I replicate a key publication in my research area on the relationship of public opinion and social welfare policy. Throughout my entire dissertation studies I couldn’t do it. This is how I arrived at the following conclusion:

Different researchers (or teams) who work with the same data and employ the same statistical models will not arrive at the same results.

 My study was actually a reanalysis, not a replication because I took the same data and methods as the original researchers. Of course in true replication studies researchers do not expect to arrive at identical or even similar results. The subjective perceptions of the scientists and the unique observational contexts lead to variations in results. But with secondary data and reproduction of statistical models how are different outcomes possible?! These secondary observer effects, as I label them,

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The Diminishing Returns of Leadership Capital

Mark Bennister
Mark Bennister

How can we measure leadership? What makes a leader succeed or fail? Dr Mark Bennister at Canterbury Christ Church University has been gathering scholars together to investigate the idea of ‘leadership capital’ and offer a way to understand why some leaders ‘spend’ their ‘capital’ successfully and others squander or waste it. Dr Bennister is co-convenor of the PSA Political Leadership Specialist Group and is leading a section on political leadership at the 2015 ECPR general Conference in Montreal in August.

2014 was the year of ‘Capital’ thanks to Thomas Piketty. Piketty’s weighty tome breathed new life into economic analysis of economic inequality.  Capital, for Piketty is a stock – its wealth comes from what has been accumulated in all prior years combined. So what happens if we take a concept of accumulated capital and apply it to political leadership? This presents us with alternative method of understanding why political leaders succeed or fail, how they remain in office, and how they win elections.

If we take the definitions of capital by Piketty and others and apply them to leadership we can think of political capital as a stock of ‘credit’ accumulated Continue reading

Mayors at a gallop: the national influence of local leaders

Tom Gash
Tom Gash

by Tom Gash, Institute for Government, UK

This was originally posted at http://www.instituteforgovernment.org.uk/blog/10708/mayors-at-a-gallop-the-national-influence-of-local-leaders/.

Elected in 2011 and 2012 respectively, George Ferguson (Bristol) and Sir Peter Soulsby (Leicester) have been working hard to show what mayors can do for our cities. At a recent event hosted at the Institute for Government, Tom Gash heard them raise two questions that any government after May 2015 will have to answer. Should we have more mayors? And should they have more powers?

Elected mayors were first established in England following the election of the Mayor of London in 2000. Later that year the Local Government Act paved the way for votes to set up mayors in a number of other local authorities. Eleven more mayors had been introduced by 2002.

The Coalition gave the model another push in  Continue reading

Time for a radical new paradigm to help us address climate change

Tessa Coombes
Tessa Coombes

by Tessa Coombes

Lord Anthony Giddens presented the Policy and Politics Annual Lecture, in Bristol, on Tuesday 17th March. The theme of the lecture was to consider what recent progress has been made on climate change and what stops us doing more. Lord Giddens concluded his lecture with a proposal for the need for a new paradigm to provide the change needed to generate the radical solutions that are now necessary.

Lord Anthony Giddens first wrote “The Politics of Climate Change” in 2007/08, a time of optimism and hope, when change to reduce carbon emissions seemed top of the agenda both nationally and globally. It was a time of opportunity, seized by politicians like Al Gore who published his book and produced the film “An Inconvenient Truth” to great acclaim. It was also the time of the biggest United Nations meeting on climate change in Copenhagen where over 100 nations met to discuss measures to address the problems of climate change and reducing carbon emissions.

Lord Giddens moved us through this period of optimism to one of dashed hopes and increasing fears following the lack of agreement in Copenhagen. He talked about the difficulties of measuring climate change and the range of indicators needed to assess impacts. He argued that despite the advancements in science and knowledge, there are still many sceptics who refuse to acknowledge the very real changes we are experiencing. Indeed, one of the problems with climate change, he explained, lies in its irreversible nature, the fact that once greenhouse gases are in Continue reading

The Autonomy of National officials in the European Commission

Jarle Trondal, Zuzana Murdoch and Benny Geys
Jarle Trondal, Zuzana Murdoch and Benny Geys

by Jarle Trondal, Zuzana Murdoch and Benny Geys

A longer version of this article was originally published on LSE’s EUROPP blog 

National officials working in international bureaucracies regularly invoke the fear that member-states strategically use such officials for influencing decision-making to their advantage. Using ones national officials as ‘Trojan horses’ naturally implies a lack of autonomy of such officials working in international organizations, which critically threatens the independence of the organization as such. While national officials’ potential lack of autonomy has been extensively discussed in both academic and public circles, the underlying mechanisms are less well understood. Our analysis takes one step in this direction.

A key factor that is often brought forward to explain any (potential) lack of autonomy among national officials in international Continue reading

The social investment welfare state: the missing theme in British social policy debates

Colin Crouch
Colin Crouch

by Colin Crouch, University of Warwick

It is curious how little traction the idea of the social investment welfare state (SIWS) has had in British social policy discussion. The basic idea behind SIWS is that some forms of public social spending contribute positively to creating an innovative economy. Spending on education, skills and active labour market policy are the most obvious elements, but spending on high-quality childcare is also part of the concept. This is partly for its contribution to early-years education but also for making life reasonable for the two-parent-earner family that increasingly characterizes the most productive economies. Of course, elements of this enter British discussions, especially education, but it comes in piecemeal, whereas it gains most strength Continue reading

Committee scrutiny in Scotland: a comparative and bi-constitutional perspective

Michael Cole discusses his latest article in Policy & Politics, 
Committee scrutiny in Scotland: a comparative and bi-constitutional perspective“.

In the last few months, an intensive spotlight has been thrown on Scottish government and politics. First, almost 45% of the voters supported leaving the UK and second a consensus has emerged that the Scottish Parliament should acquire additional powers. Latterly, opinion polls have chronicled a surge in support for the SNP and potential electoral doom for Labour in Scotland and perhaps consequentially at UK level.   These contemporary events provided a good forward for research I have been undertaking over the last few years on scrutiny in the Scottish Parliament.  The central themes perhaps being is this resurgent self-confidence in Scottish institutions justified? And how do they differ from those at UK level?

By Emoscopes (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
By Emoscopes (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
The research looked at the nature of the committee scrutiny at the Parliament in terms of the selection of committee Continue reading

Inspired by the Issue

by Christine Cheyne, Member of the Policy & Politics Editorial Advisory Board and Associate Professor, School of People, Environment and Planning at Massey University, New Zealand

I’m always drawn to ‘edge-y’ articles – or writing that decenters, provokes and challenges – and this issue does not disappoint.  The article by Andrew Ryder, Gypsies and Travellers a Big or Divided Society, offers a fresh perspective on the localism debate that has characterised recent UK public policy.  Although much less a feature of other jurisdictions, the localism debate in the UK that has some resonance for readers in many parts of the world as it highlights long-standing tensions in democratic theory between statism and localism.  These tensions, I would argue, have been exploited by higher levels of government in many parts of the world (including my own country, New Zealand) since the 2008 global financial crisis.  Ryder shows with his case study of the treatment of Gypsy and Traveller site provision under the new localist planning system that even though overt state intervention is resiled from, localism can be a new form of control of local politics and can exacerbate inequalities and social exclusion which might otherwise be mitigated through central planning guidance or redistributive policies. Ryder asserts Habermas’s deliberative democratic ideal in making a case for a ‘new centralism’, an inclusive governance that recognizes a role for a central state to protect vulnerable minorities, but which also insists on participatory and deliberative democratic processes so that localism doesn’t become (or increase) NIMBY-ism.

Provoking some further intellectual discomfort, climate change is a profoundly complex public policy challenge to which meaningful responses continue to be lacking.  While the focus is often, appropriately, on younger age groups and the implications for their lifestyles, Wistow et al. draw attention to the realities for a particularly vulnerable group in our society, the dependent elderly, who are less visibly but, arguably, more seriously disadvantaged by extreme weather events associated with climate change that can damage and destroy built infrastructure. With an ageing population dependent on electricity supply, not just for domestic heating (or cooling), but also for provision of medical care such as hoists, oxygen supplies and dialysis, contemplating the adverse consequences of disruption from extreme weather events is sobering. Wistow et al. provide detailed data from interviews and focus groups about the risks and options to address them. Even if 50 is the new 30, readers will be challenged to think about the implications for the ageing/dependent groups – if not ourselves then our older family members from whom we are often living at some distance.   Localism has much yet to deliver both for our most vulnerable groups but for all of us experiencing climate change. Getting the balance between central and local leadership and community participation is critical.

You can read the whole January 2015 issue of Policy & Politics here.