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Archive for the 'AP Britain' Category

Common vs. Civil Law

Saturday, October 21st, 2017

Just what is common law, and how does it differ from the civil-law system used in some other countries?

Common law is a peculiarly English development. Before the Norman conquest, different rules and customs applied in different regions of the country. But after 1066 monarchs began to unite both the country and its laws using the king’s court. Justices created a common law by drawing on customs across the country and rulings by monarchs. These rules developed organically and were rarely written down. By contrast, European rulers drew on Roman law, and in particular a compilation of rules issued by the emperor Justinian in the 6th century that was rediscovered in 11th-century Italy. With the Enlightenment of the 18th century, rulers in various continental countries sought to produce comprehensive legal codes.

Today the difference between common and civil legal traditions lies in the main source of law. Although common-law systems make extensive use of statutes, judicial cases are regarded as the most important source of law, which gives judges an active role in developing rules. For example, the elements needed to prove the crime of murder are contained in case law rather than defined by statute. To ensure consistency, courts abide by precedents set by higher courts examining the same issue. In civil-law systems, by contrast, codes and statutes are designed to cover all eventualities and judges have a more limited role of applying the law to the case in hand. Past judgments are no more than loose guides. When it comes to court cases, judges in civil-law systems tend towards being investigators, while their peers in common-law systems act as arbiters between parties that present their arguments.

Civil-law systems are more widespread than common-law systems: the CIA World Factbook puts the numbers at 150 and 80 countries respectively. Common-law systems are found only in countries that are former English colonies or have been influenced by the Anglo-Saxon tradition, such as Australia, India, Canada and the United States. Legal minds in civil-law jurisdictions like to think that their system is more stable and fairer than common-law systems, because laws are stated explicitly and are easier to discern. But English lawyers take pride in the flexibility of their system, because it can quickly adapt to circumstance without the need for Parliament to enact legislation. In reality, many systems are now a mixture of the two traditions, giving them the best of both legal worlds.

Source: The Economist

UK General Election 2017

Wednesday, September 20th, 2017

UK General Election Assignment

Write an 800-1200 word (1.5 – 2 page), single-spaced, thesis driven essay in response to the following questions:

  • Describe: What happened in the May 7 general election and why?
  • Analyze: What stands out as particularly interesting or anomalous in the election results?
  • Evaluate: What do the results mean for the UK? What challenges might ensue from coalition rule?

Use the articles given. You may also do your own research. Properly cite your essay using parenthetical citation. You do not need a works cited page.

You will present and defend your essay in class. I look forward to it.

The Great Realignment: Britain’s Political Identity Crisis

Wednesday, September 20th, 2017

Is Britain facing an identity crisis? The traditional dividing lines of left and right seem to be dissolving into new political tribes – metropolitan liberals versus the culturally rooted working classes, graduates versus the uneducated, the young versus the old. In June’s general election, traditional Labour heartlands like Mansfield went Conservative, while wealthy areas such as Kensington swung to Corbyn. Britain seems utterly confused about its politics. As the far left and Eurosceptic right have gained strength, much of the country has been left feeling politically homeless.

So what’s going on? How will these new alignments play out as the country faces the historic challenge of leaving the EU and forging a new relationship with the rest of the world? Are the Conservatives really up to the job, as they bicker over what kind of Brexit they want and jostle over who should succeed Theresa May? Is it now unthinkable that Jeremy Corbyn could be the next prime minister?

Looming over the current turmoil is the biggest question of all: What kind of Britain do we want to live in? What are the values that should hold our society together?

Speakers

  • Professor Anand Menon, Director of The UK in a Changing Europe
  • Hilary Benn, the Labour MP and Chair of the Brexit Select Committee
  • Ken Clarke, Father of the House of Commons and the most senior Conservative voice in Parliament
  • David Goodhart, author of one of the most talked about analyses of British politics and the rise of populism
  • Helen Lewis, deputy editor at the New Statesman and prominent journalist on the left

Your assignment: Listen to the entire program (about one hour). Take copious notes. Submit notes as homework.

3 winners and 4 losers from the stunning UK election

Monday, July 10th, 2017

The “winners and losers” political narrative is rather frustrating. Just the same, this Vox piece does seem to sum it up tidily. Spoiler, Teresa May won, but lost.

Britain has no written constitution. Meet the man who drafted one.

Wednesday, March 8th, 2017

At the request of Parliament’s Political and Constitutional Reform Committee, King’s College London scholar Robert Blackburn spent four years drafting blueprints for a full-fledged constitution. The results were published last year in a parliamentary report titled “A New Magna Carta?”

Washington Post: Should Britain have a written constitution? In what ways could it be useful in settling the questions at the core of the U.K.’s existential dilemmas — devolved vs. centralized power, in Europe or out, four nations or one, etc.

Robert Blackburn: Britain should now move towards adopting a written constitution, which would have great benefits in providing a renewed sense of national identity, and settling the state of the Union across the four nations of the U.K. and the terms and limits of its partnership in Europe.

Within the country at large, a documentary constitution would enable ordinary people to know and see what are the principles, rules and institutions by which they are governed, to replace the present sprawling mass of common law rules in law reports, convoluted Acts of Parliament that are unreadable to most people, and unwritten conventions some of which are unclear even to politicians working at Westminster.

An initiative on enacting a written constitution would provide the opportunity for resolution of a number of constitutional problems, ones where despite cross-party agreement that something must be done, no outcome has been forthcoming, such as settling the rationale and democratic form for the parliamentary Second Chamber (House of Lords).

Read more of this Washington Post interview with Robert Blackburn

 

Devolution in England: Reaching a dead end

Wednesday, March 8th, 2017

In May, Liverpool, Greater Manchester and four other combined authorities (see map) will elect a metro mayor for the first time. They are the poster children of the “devolution revolution” launched by the then chancellor, George Osborne, in 2015. The hope was that more joined-up decision-making at local level would boost regional economies and raise productivity. But many rural areas did not even submit a devolution proposal. Elsewhere local councillors rejected the notion. There are fears that, beyond the six deals concluded, it will be hard to do more. Lord Porter, head of the Local Government Association, said last month that he believes “devolution is dead.”

Some counties are restructuring anyway. Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire each plan to abolish their county, district and city councils and form a “unitary” one. Cornwall, Wiltshire and Shropshire have already done so. But district councils often align with parliamentary constituencies and, as district councillors act as ground troops in general elections, many MPs do not want unitaries.

The biggest problem is persuading the people in places like King’s Lynn to support change. “If you asked all my friends in the town,” says one lifelong resident out shopping with his wife, “I doubt any of them have even heard of devolution.”

Read more from the Economist 

Brexit, Briefly

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2016

Brexit: Five challenges for the UK when leaving the EU

Wednesday, August 10th, 2016

The campaign to leave the European Union has won the referendum. It means the UK is now committed to withdrawing from the group of 28 countries, a process that has come to be known as Brexit. What does this mean for the UK and EU?

BBC Parliament Year-End Review

Sunday, January 31st, 2016

BBC Parliament TV looked back at some major events in the British Parliament since September 2015 in their program “Westminster in Review” hosted by Keith Mcdougall.?Topics included:

  • the debate on the United Kingdom’s future membership in the European Union (EU)
  • combating ISIS* in Syria
  • the election of Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn.
  • the use of a robot in Parliament and debate on the hedgehog being a national symbol.

Video compilation of the Parliament’s last quarter of 2015

Election 2015 – Why The Conservatives Won

Wednesday, November 4th, 2015

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