Category Archives: Election Centre

KCL Reactions to #Trump

8th of November hit us like a hurricane. Everyone has something to say, especially people from the War Studies department at King’s. Take a look at what students and professors from our department have to say about the American election.



“The day that racism becomes some sort of patriotism, America is no longer America”

“What’s funny is that it’s not low level racism anymore. Resembling Brexit, the ascendancy of trump will now legitimise draconian behaviour i.e. “The wall”, “deportation forces” and “ban of muslims”. This was my first election where I myself could vote and although I did not have high thoughts of any candidate, there was clearly a moral side against a racist, sexist and deplorable side. I will still go to the US in pursuit of further education and it being my country of birth (yes Trump I am one of those “anchors” you so want to get rid off). America is still a beautiful place with endless opportunities (as we saw last night) and we shouldn’t allow someone like trump to ruin our futures if we can control it. At times of extreme adversity, we must stand up and face it with dignity…”

Emil Wilson, 3rd year IR

“I cannot believe how much Hillary Clinton, the most qualified and experienced candidate was let down like this. Feminism is very very much needed in today’s world and especially in the most “forward” thinking country.”

Shalini Chatterjee, 3rd year IR

“Look, I’m as crushed as anyone by Trump’s victory but enough with all this moving to Canada nonsense. If one defeat is enough to make you give up on your country then you never loved it in the first place. Tonight the people were stupid, but they have the right to be. That’s democracy and it is still worth fighting for. So we respect the result. We stay engaged. We try to make this work and in 4 years we come back. Or 4 years after that. Or 4 years after that.

Don’t give up the ship.”

Patrick Visser, 3rd year War Studies at KCL

“I am not known for sharing my political views but I will not remain silent this time. Coming from a country and a region which is increasingly becoming radical right wing; and a place which has suffered decades of communism, I know what both look like. I have not publicised it in any way but I was a Hillary supporter since day one. Not because of the ‘woman card’ but because she has the experience, knows what she can and cannot do as a president, and has been dedicated to her country politically for over thirty years. I know she has her flaws but she could truly make a beneficial impact on the US.

The US, a place known for attracting people looking for a place with opportunities, a symbol of freedom and diversity. That same America of chances has become subjected to mockery and harassment. It is not ‘America, what did you do?’, it’s not America that ‘did it’. This decision is a consequence of the way working class white men have been treated in the country, of what the Democratic party did not do in the last years and did not do throughout Hillary’s campaign, and of what many Americans understand wrong about politics. This great land, the strongest country in the world, is now to have a leader who refuses to accept climate change exists, is genuinely racist, is pro-torture (which has absolute prohibition under international law and is seen as the ultimate crime committed against a human being), is a sexist and a homophobe and the list goes on. I am not shocked that that happened, especially given how undemocratic the American elections system is, but I am concerned about what will happen to the Hispanic and African-American minorities, to the LGBT+ community, to gender equality, and to all these people who still hold the idea of the US as a land of opportunities and are scared of the future.

America did not need to ‘get great again’, it was/is great, but it now needs to find its focus and balance again. America, you will go through this night and will rise again… I hope. #prayforAmerica

Ilina Trendafilova, 3rd year IR at KCL

“In his acceptance speech, Trump declared he would reach his hand out to all Americans and ask we work together to improve our nation. When a president asks this we must answer the call to work towards improving the nation. However, with freedom comes vigilance. Trump, you will be our president. And as your people we will do what we ought to do: hold you to account. We’re not all running to Canada and we’re not all going to let you do whatever you want. We are going to try and move forward but if you do one thing which runs counter to the ideals which make us American (inclusiveness, diversity, acceptance, and tolerance) as you did during your campaign, we will be there to push back every time. What makes America great is not that we always choose the perfect leader and have the sunniest of days. What makes America great is that regardless of the circumstance, no matter how dire things may be, the institutions which underlie our politics and our society will continue to stand. Furthermore, our love for each other as Americans who share values (regardless of race, gender, orientation, or religion) has stabilized us through days infinitely darker than the ones we face now. God bless the left, right, center, and god bless the United States of America.”

Derek Eggleston, 2nd year IR at KCL

“Scared that it will give momentum to nationalist and populist mouvements in Europe! Especially with Le Pen and even Sarkozy, who since today has embraced the Trump rhetoric in France.”

Elise Lauriot Prevost, 2nd year IR at KCL

“I am shocked to see Donald Trump being elected as president of the United States.  Somebody holding this undisputedly most powerful office should have a significant amount of diplomatic skill. We can clearly negate that to be the case.  Let us hope that hard-earned peaceful relations among the United States and its allies are not being ruined from one day to another. Let us hope the American ideal of democracy survives this challenge. Let us hope this development to be a motivation for a return to more solidarity in Europe in order to withstand Trump’s America.”

Julia Huentemann, 1st year IR at KCL

“As upsetting as the Trump victory is, this is not the time to point fingers and widen the ideological division between socio-economic classes. When people have such a strong feeling of hate towards politicians and when people would rather vote for a misogynistic, racist, inexperienced candidate instead of someone who is perceived to represent the establishment, there is obviously something wrong with Western politics. Now, more than ever, the Left needs to be united, strong, and hopeful. Taking action towards self-examination and reinvention is the next step.”

Ioana Ilie, 3rd Year War Studies at KCL

“It’s not the results any of us opted for, but it’s the one we got. The American people are sick and tired of the establishment and media taking advantage of them. Though their scapegoat is horrendous, their disillusionment with the current system is understandable. Even though the popular vote was given to Hillary, the outdated electoral college puts Trump as the president elect.  Makes you wonder if the primaries weren’t rigged what could have happened…
But I will stand by my Americans – family members, friends and good people who elected Trump. I will also stand by those who elected Clinton. Now is the time for unity, and if we have to take this route then so be it.  He is my president for now but America will always be my country.”

Anya Wasserman, 2nd Year IR at KCL

“What disturbs me the most is the moment I’ll have to write <<President Trump>> in my essays… That is indeed a scary thought”

Andrei Popoviciu, 2nd Year IR at LC:

“Yes there were MANY Reasons for Trump’s win, but I’m stunned by some people simply dismissing those who voted for Trump as idiots, racists, homophobes, etc. Yes we can’t overlook the nature of his supporters and many of them do have these abhorrent qualities, but equally many are genuinely mad at being labelled as soon as they open their mouths. There is no dialogue anymore, if someone utters an opinion outside of the liberal mainstream – they are not deemed a discussant with another opinion. They are deemed a racist, a xenophobe, or a ‘whacky’ guy stuck in the 1910’s. We have to stop lying to ourselves. These people exist, and dismissing them only alienates them further while making them more aggressive and determined. We have to talk to them, because otherwise it looks like they will crush the us and the ‘liberal/democratic order.”

Stanislav Skryabin, 2nd year IR at KCL


Former Head of Department, Professor Theo Farrell


Anglo-American Foreign Policy Lecturer, Dr. John Bew, summed it up


Alessio Patalano, lecturer in War Studies on maritime issues in Asia


Cyber specialist, Professor Thomas Rid



Our beloved Head of Department, Professor Rainsborough kicked off the night with humour (how quickly those smiles disappeared from our faces):


Kieran Mitton’s view


Alexander Hitchens’ parallel with the UK:


Dr Christine Cheng helped draw up the 2000 UN Millennium Development Goals – she is not too optimistic about human security now:


Professor Neumann is probably the War Studies lecturer most often seen on TV. And really it is not only his expertise that makes us see why… he speaks for the people:


Shiraz Maher shocked by the news


Lastly, Professor Freedman calls US on smooth political transition, is there hope?


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Who will win the ultimate dogfight? An editorial analysis of the race for the White House

As the race to enter the White House heats up in both the Democratic and Republican parties, we at IR Today take a look at the major candidates still vying for their party’s nomination and assess their chances of becoming president.


Democratic Party


Hillary Clinton: Seen as the stability candidate to continue the style of the Obama administration, the former senator for New York has for a long time been the frontrunner for the democratic nomination. She has been consistently present on the political scene and her time as first lady and her distinguished career as both a Senator and as the Secretary of State mean that Hilary has the experience in the political spotlight that no other candidate can match. This is precisely why another run at the presidential palace always seemed on the cards, she feels that her experience puts her in a unique position to govern the country. Some of course use this to criticise her and argue that her record isn’t good enough for the Oval Office. Though she struggled more than expected Iowa and got annihilated in New Hampshire, the Clinton camp is still upbeat expecting to gain the Democrat nomination with relative ease due to her strong polling in the delegate heavy South, and most recently her Nevada win. An issue that has recently come up is that following her NH loss Hillary held a rally with Madeline Albright who rather sensationally remarked that there’s a ‘special place in hell’ for women who don’t support Clinton. The female members of this editorial team take particular grievance with this. And given the aggressive response all over the Internet, we’re obviously not alone. It’s safe to say that while Hillary will win many votes for her gender, she cannot win on that card. And overplaying it can only work against her.  Assuming that she works this out and gets the nomination, she must face up against a republican challenger and who this is may affect whether she becomes the United States’ first female president. Though she polls well against the current republican frontrunner, Donald Trump, she struggles against Ted Cruz with current polls putting the difference between the two for popular vote within the margin of error. The worst case scenario for Clinton would be a Rubio challenge with the Hispanic Senator holding a strong 5% lead over Clinton in national polls.

IRToday Presidential Score: 8/10


Bernie Sanders: At 74, Bernie Sanders is not only the oldest person running for nomination, but were he to become president by the end of his term he would be the oldest president in the history of the United States. This has not stopped the self proclaimed ‘democratic socialist’ from engaging with young voters creating quite the insurgency within the left of the Democratic Party. Sanders has done surprisingly well so far sweeping to the New Hampshire primary with 60% of of the popular vote, causing fear amongst many in the Democrat establishment. However, though Sanders does well on the Liberal west coast and north east many have criticised him for failing to galvanise the ethnic minorities who form the democrats base in southern states. This makes his chances of winning the primary diminish drastically, despite recent polling suggesting he is drawing level with Clinton in many other areas of the country. In addition to this, Sanders isn’t nearly as articulate in voicing a clear foreign policy. Given that the President of the U.S. is also its head diplomat and that Bernie is running against a former Secretary of State, he doesn’t fare well on this aspect of his campaign (in fact Foreign Policy just this week released an article saying that Sanders has begun to assembly a foreign policy team). Nevertheless, those who worry that Sanders’ message cannot resonate on a national basis should be pleasantly surprised by his brilliant polling against potential republican candidates, like Clinton his downfall would be a Rubio bid who narrowly outpolls him by 1%. All other candidates, however, Bernie takes down with ease (leads of at least 4% nationally) making some of us here at IR Today to #FeelTheBern (Sam Wyatt).

Despite this strong national support unfortunately there seems little chance that this Vermont senator could ever unseat the dynastic heir to the Democratic Party, Hillary Clinton, and so this socialist dream may have to wait.

IRToday Presidential Score: 4/10

Republican Party


Donald Trump: When the head honcho of The Apprentice (USA) declared he was running for president of the United States, many on both sides of the Atlantic refused to take it seriously, dismissing him as a joke candidate.  With policies that include the building a wall on the Mexican border that the mexicans will pay for and refusing entry to all Muslims until ISIS are defeated it seemed to many that the person spouting this rhetoric was too radical to be elected, and yet Trump is soaring in the republican primary with most polls putting him around 10% above his nearest rival. He also seems immune to fact checking, no matter how much his statements are disproved he continues to garner support from all sections of society. Even more worryingly he has a major grassroots support system. Many Americans who have never voted before are currently looking to vote for Trump himself. It is evident, therefore, that his message is resonating with many who feel isolated and alienated in the current system. Whether his support will continue to skyrocket and his streak of 3 wins keeps going is still a coin toss. His chances in a National race don’t look as good, as the RNC has noted, but one thing is for sure, as things stand he is the one to beat in the Republican race. And if he surprises us once, who says he can’t do it again in November.

IRToday Presidential score: 7/10


Ted Cruz: The radical non-establishment republican senator from Texas who almost shut down government last year in a standoff over Obamacare is the candidate most international correspondents fear the most. Having won the Iowa Caucus Cruz has proved himself to be a ferocious campaigner tackling issues that are important to the republican base – abortion, gay marriage, immigration. Though some of his policies lack nuance (such as his plan to carpet bomb Syria) he is a fiery speaker who knows how to rile up a crowd. However, there are some major problems with his campaign, for one it is not even known if he’s eligible to become president as he was born in Canada and the rules on ‘natural born’ citizenship are unclear. Furthermore, as the most conservative candidate he is viciously attacked by the Republican establishment, and his inability to gain a single recommendation from the Senate may hinder his campaign. Though he currently lies in 2nd place in the polls, his election chances are dwindling as he is facing increasingly difficult attack ads from both the Rubio and the Trump campaign.

IRToday Presidential Score: 5/10


Marco Rubio: The last remaining bastion of the Republican establishment is currently vying with Cruz for second place in the race. With Bush dropping out at the weekend, many donors are backing the man from California to win the election for the republicans. Dubbed by many as the Republican Obama, Rubio has charisma to spare and this will be vital if he is to pick up the nomination. Though he trails Trump nationally by around 10% points, he is the candidate left who does best in a head to head against him because though he has very conservative credentials on things such as abortion he has a very open approach to immigration – rare for a republican candidate. Furthermore, Rubio is in the unique position of being able to beat both Hillary and Bernie in matchups and by considerable margins too – he is by far the candidate that the democrats must fear most. However, as things stand himself, Cruz and Kasich (who is now pretty irrelevant anyway) all take votes away from each other making the trumpmobile virtually unstoppable. His chances at nomination may lie in doing well enough in the early primaries, and as many republicans as possible dropping out so that he can harness their support groups- if he can get through the primary he must be the favourite for the presidency but that seems a long way off.

IRToday Presidential Score: 6/10

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6 Reasons why the American Presidential Election is a Circus

by Kate Dinnison and Millie Radovic. Kate is an American second year student of BA International Relations at King’s, North America Editor of IR Today, and Academic Secretary of the War Studies Society. Millie, an Anglo-Serbian native, is also reading IR at the War Studies Department, the Chief Editor of IRT, and VP of the War Studies Society. 

1. Fox ‘News’

An entire article, nay book, could be devoted to the sheer absurdity of Fox ‘News’. The second word of that name is unlikely to come out of quotation marks any time soon, as the channel is more of an entertainment centre for those perpetually bored, deprived of education yet loaded on pills Americans than anything relating to a news centre. Certainly, the mere existence of Fox makes the entire media world of the States a circus. But the fact that the channel is being used to broadcast Republican debates makes the election itself one. I can just imagine president Lincoln turning in his grave as the party he once lead in abolishing slavery continues to intellectually deteriorate. Do they genuinely want to seem ridiculous to the rest of the world? Even if a Republican candidate was to win next year, how could they expect to be taken seriously by the rest of the international community when there is a clip out there of them debating on a ridiculous television channel such as Fox? The debate I’m talking about was of course widely recognised as a circus itself, and to quote Mark Levin from a site called Polistick, “it was [like] a cross between Jerry Springer and House of Cards”. Now there are two TV show titles that should never be in the same sentence. All jokes aside, while it is indeed entertaining to read the latest outbursts on Fox all the way from across the Atlantic, the size of their viewership and support is no laughing matter. There comes a point when even though it’s fun to ridicule a major election, the fact that it is one in the most powerful country in the world is more than scary.

2. Electoral College Imbalances

The electoral college is an institution that aims at accurately and fairly representing voters in the United States through 538 electors. Small states are given additional power to prevent politicians from only focusing on issues which affect the larger states. The initial fear was that without this power, politicians would completely ignore small states and only focus on large urban population centers. Sounds ideal in theory, doesn’t it? In practice it greatly distorts the electoral system and has resulted in four presidents being elected who did not win the popular vote in the 56 elections in United States History. This system caused controversy in the 2000 when George W. Bush  won the nomination for president whilst Al Gore won the popular vote by a narrow margin, exposing its flaws and leading the US on a very different path than it would have otherwise. The EC causes some problems in representation in that nearly 40 states are written off by parties knowing they either can’t win or lose it, with nearly all the focus and campaign dollars spend on those key swing states like Florida and Michigan.  The cherry on top is how the EC perpetuates the solid two-party system, with no room for the greens or independents that have the chance to cut the bi-polarity. But that, my friends, is a whole issue in itself.

3. No Donation Caps

America is infamous for its liberal views, and this especially comes into campaign donations. One is at ‘liberty’ to contribute as much as they want to any given candidate or party. In 2012, individual contributions to the main candidates totalled at over 1.15 billion dollars. Compared to the total of £8 million being contributed by individual to all of the UK parties in the General Election of 2015, this is a downright waste of money. How can after the 2008- financial crisis people actually contribute these amounts of money with a straight face? To be frank, the British figure is not impressively low itself, and indeed the UK is a much smaller country than the US. But personal endowment is genuinely a less common occurrence in European politics even when considered in proportion to size.

Frankly, the lack of donation caps is simply not just strange because it doesn’t match our policies here. It’s strange (read – ridiculous) because the elections then turn into more of an auction than a genuine competition to win over the people with best policy proposals. Candidates with the most money can invest the most in campaigning (especially in the ‘swing’ states) and thereby reach more people. As candidates reach out to more people, contributions to their campaigns are more likely to grow. And before you know it it’s a race between wallets rather than ideas.

4. % Voter Turnout

The United States general election is no doubt the most watched and heated cycles internationally, yet, it has one of the lowest voter turnout rates among modern democracies. U.S. turnout in 2012 was 53.6%, based on 129.1 million votes cast for president and an estimated voting-age population of just under 241 million people. In 2014, the mid term elections were the lowest they’d been since 1942 during WWII. These low numbers can be blamed on a number of factors – education, large rural populations, among others. Registration to vote is an individual responsibility, which is maybe why only about 65% of the U.S. voting-age population (and 71% of the voting-age citizenry) is registered, according to the Census Bureau, compared with 96% in Sweden and 93% in the U.K. How can the United States claim to be a democracy when little over a half of the electorate actually votes?

5. Party Imbalance

Next, and in my opinion really not sufficiently discussed in the media, comes the stark difference in the number of declared candidates features in main polls by each major party. The Democratic Party so far has 5 of these, and the Republican 16. That’s over three times more. Whether there is insufficient interest, or whether Joe Biden’s bid is in the works, or whether no one wants to run against Hillary – currently there is little to choose from on the Democratic side. Meanwhile the Republican camp is frankly overflowing with hopefuls. This certainly means one thing: whilst the Republican race is anybody’s game at the moment, candidates are going further and further into extremes to win over votes, and 060415coletoonthe Democrats (read – Hillary) don’t have to try nearly as hard. Sure, whoever wins will have the current president’s support, but they are simply not being challenged enough to justify their claims and promises. Hillary especially, despite her email scandal is still most likely to win. The way that the American primaries are supposed to work is that even though only one candidate comes out of them, the pressure imposed by the competition of their own colleagues shapes their campaign into one that more widely represents their entire party. Right now, Hillary is still barely challenged – and even if she does indeed win, it will appear that she won more on the account of 1) being the lesser of two evils and 2) simply being a woman. And whilst a woman is definitely due a spot in the that presidential seat, winning simply on account of gender once again makes for more of a circus of an election, than a legitimately suitable president.

6. Celebrity Candidates

This year we are seeing some familiar names on the ballot – Bush, Clinton, Paul have all been household names not necessarily because of their careers, but their fathers’, husband’s and brothers’ before them. I think in all cases, such precedence has the chance to damage each of these candidates as the American population fears the dynastic sentiment that comes with electing another Clinton or Bush as president. It seems that with every election cycle Americans are looking for a fresh start, which is why carrying these names will prove to be a challenge for these candidates in the primaries and eventually in November 2016.

On the other end of the spectrum, we have those who have made names for themselves in other capacities. Business mogul and infamous a**hole Donald Trump has taken far too much space in headlines for months now because of his bold stances on immigration and self-proclaimed war on political correctness. Why, as americans who hopefully wish the best for our country, are we giving him any attention or consideration? Kanye West and Trump throwing their names in for the next few elections, whether or not they believe they can effectively run the country, is simply a PR stunt to shake things up, to fill hotel rooms, and to sell albums.


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It’s a General Election, not high-school.

By Isabel Woodford, a second year undergraduate at King’s College London reading War Studies and History

Miliband has been vilified and mocked in the tabloids – but is it to detract from policies that the Tories simply can’t match?

It is with ambivalence that many of us remember the politics of our high school canteen. The lunch time ritual could be a goldmine for behavioural studies, typically witness to a frenzy of concern for the latest designer clothing, the isolation of the slightly quirkier kids, and the celebrity-like status of the year 11 beauty queen, to whom even the occasional staff member cowered in admiration. We loved to hate it.

But in following the 2015 bid for Prime Minster, I’ve found the alienation and mocking of Ed ‘the unloved’ Miliband uncomfortably synonymous with what I witnessed during my years in education. From bacon blunders, cruel caricatures, unflattering headlines, and even jibes for joining Instagram, the media has ridiculed the Labour leader incessantly. Don’t get me wrong – parliamentary squabbles, MPs’ contagious foot-in-mouth syndrome, and the Commons’ never ending scandals – of course, that’s the fun of it. When Michael Gove got himself locked in the Westminster toilets, we found it sadistically enjoyable, and these blips help make politicians that little bit more human. But when it comes to the torrent of scrutiny on Miliband’s appearance and personal relationships, I can’t help feeling that things have been taken too far. And worse, disturbingly relatable to the petty digs and reputation-tarnishing rumours of our teenage years.

The real problem though, is it’s detracting from the matter at hand – politics. It’s unsettling when people can tell you more about Ed’s physical flaws than his policies. So for those in need of reminding, it is worth noting how the head of the opposition has demonstrated an unfaltering commitment to the Labour ethos – aside from the occasional media faux-pas. Whilst we may have to forgive his little blip in forgetting to mention the ominous D word – the deficit – at the September Labour conference, it hasn’t been all bad. No doubt, the ‘Miliband Manifesto’ can be credited at the very least for its pragmatic loyalty to membership in the EU, looking at reform rather than an exit plan, its scheme to help first time buyers, and the proposal for broader access to junior apprenticeships. It is frustrating that his policies, many of which address the concerns of much of the electorate themselves, have been drowned by the papers’ infantile – bordering on the absurd – obsession with the way the man devours his breakfast; I bet even the Queen looks a little ungracious under such circumstances.

But adulation of Miliband’s political strategy won’t do much to reassure the Labour camp. Trends have documented the public’s growing custom to decide their vote according to the party leader and his likability, personality, and appearance. We clearly have a fondness for MPs with the ‘Wow factor,’ that little bit of sass or spark, that perhaps the pragmatic, forward-thinking Miliband lacks. Even in the former-Labour stronghold of Scotland, a<span “font-size:12.0pt;=”” mso-bidi-font-size:11.0pt;line-height:107%;mso-bidi-font-family:arial”=””> 2014 YouGov poll found that only 25% of Scots ‘trusted’ him as the UK’s future Prime Minister; incredibly, on par with David Cameron’s ratings in a nation with only one Tory MP. Fears were allegedly so strong that reports recently circulated that members of Miliband’s own cabinet had discussed removing him as Labour’s frontman. But I wouldn’t be surprised if any such plots to boost their chances of entering Downing Street this week, actually involved sending him in simply for a style makeover to pacify the tabloids. Or for a session in charisma counselling, in the hope it might enhance his personal brand and appeal in the eyes of a quick-to-judge public.

As we approach the final stages of the 2015 election bid then, and with swing-voters soon to face the polling stations, it is worth remembering that Parliamentary politics need not be about who we’d rather have over at our lunch table. Even if Miliband promised to demonstrate greater eating etiquette, he may not be my first choice either. But the election shouldn’t resemble a high-school popularity contest. History alone tells us that <span “font-size:12.0pt;=”” line-height:107%”=””>judging politicians on the weight of their media-savvy skills and gravitas ahead of their policies is a mistake. And with that in mind, whilst Ed is by no means perfect, he is a definite contender. Ultimately, undecided voters will need to look past the media’s ‘Mr Bean’ depiction of the opposition leader, and see him for the intellectual that he is, with a yearning to improve the future of this country and a credible and fair strategy to do so.

So, perhaps it would have been interesting to be at Oxford with the members of the front bench. Perhaps if we dug up the yearbook mug shots, we’d see a dashing young Cameron, bold and astute in the infamously exclusive Bullingdon club, alongside the somewhat less noticeable, dorky ‘Red Ed’. But, even if the media still chooses to value these superficial depictions, one thing is clear – we shouldn’t write Miliband off as the ‘Prom King’ just yet – the dance is still up for grabs.

Why the Conservatives won’t win the General Election

By Mark Connor, a first year student of International Relations at King’s College London from Bath. Also runs his own blog at

Do the Tories have any policies?

This is a question I have found myself asking on a regular basis every time I see something related to the General Election (GE) in the news or on the internet. It is blindingly obvious that the Tories main tactic this campaign is to attack the Labour party with ruthlessness and vigour. I do not dispute that Ed Miliband may or may not be the best candidate for Prime Minister but I would much rather have him than Cameron and the Conservatives.

The pettiness of the Conservative’s GE campaign is baffling, but understandable. The Tories waffle on constantly about their success with the economy, but what else do they have? This struck me on Thursday in particular when watching the regional news. On it there was an interview (and a corresponding news article can be found here) with Chancellor George (Gideon) Osborne, within which he said the choice was to vote for the Tories for a stable and “growing” economy, or vote for Labour, with a poor track record, which would also lead to the SNP storming Westminster (not in aforementioned article).

I’m sorry Mr Osborne but is Scotland no longer part of the United Kingdom? I did not realise Scottish people were not allowed their own representation in the UK’s parliament.

These attacks get weaker and weaker each day with the actual news being the overwhelming support the SNP and Nicola Sturgeon have received in wake of the Leaders’ Debates earlier in April. To me, the Tories constant rebuking of Labour and the SNP only demonstrate the deep fear penetrating Westminster today. The likelihood of a Labour-SNP (and Green?) coalition is fast becoming a realistic prospect. A recent Guardian article caught my attention, fielding the question as to what would happen if the SNP stood candidates outside of Scotland. It revealed how a Survation poll put SNP’s share of parliamentary seats across the UK at 9%, 1% above the Liberal Democrats. This, combined with the Liberal Democrats’ 8% and Greens feeble 4% place left wingers with a sizeable 21% share of the vote, not far off the Tories’ 30. This almost mirrors a similar YouGov poll, putting the SNP at 11% of the vote. However, as this is all hypothetical, the only power SNP will likely have is influencing which party holds power after May 7th. Because of this the only option is for continued attacks on Labour in the press and by politicians themselves

The Tories, unsurprisingly, are being championed along by the Daily Mail and the Telegraph. In fact, one news story about how ‘70% of the FTSE Top 100’ say Miliband and Labour would be a ‘catastrophe’ for the economy has been on the front page of the Mail for 5 days – it’s not really breaking news anymore, yet there it stays. Within said article, it is written how Labour has ‘vowed to force companies to offer staff a full time contract if they have been working regular hours for three months’. How is this a bad thing for the country? The same article notes that there are 1.8 million people living on zero-hour contracts. All this reads to me is that big businesses want to keep people down and poor, so they are easy to use to their advantage.

Other self-defeating digs at Labour include Friday’s “scandal”, how – shock horror – EdMiliband has slept with more than one woman. This point seems to negate common Miliband-slander: that he is a geek, furthering the Tories campaign ineptitude. Ed’s love-life was important enough to make the front page of the Mail in print (perhaps what most people will encounter in their day), but obviously not important enough to make the top of its website. I do not see how these types of posts, about the people involved do not constitute an invasion of their personal privacy, considering they include a lot of intimate detail as well as multiple pictures. These sorts of attacks perhaps demonstrates the weakness in Tory campaigning in another way – because the Mail has nothing to champion or defend on behalf of the Conservatives it has to dig around to find something to report on just to try and keep the Tories on top.

Thursday’s Question Time raised some interesting points about the recent furore about non-domiciled (non-doms) people, a status rich businesspeople can purchase meaning they pay no tax to the UK on incomes made abroad. Labour want to abolish them, meaning the question around the table was how much the abolishment of non-doms would cost the country. Expectedly, many different numbers were thrown around. In my opinion, the likelihood of thousands of Brits registered as non-doms upping sticks and leaving the country is slim. Caroline Lucas rightly noted that if these people who choose to be taxed unfairly at the cost of everyone else want to leave, so be it, they are morally unjust. The Daily Telegraph even noted that the Conservatives would rather target Ed Balls and avoid the issue, something the broadsheet notes most find an ‘archaic injustice’. The same article noted how the public love an underdog, and so in effect, the Tories are shooting themselves in the foot, because this is exactly what Miliband has become. By showing their support for the non-dom status, the Tories only demonstrate that they are a party for the rich, supporting antiquated policies benefiting only themselves. Almost daily the Conservatives push this idea onto the public, exacerbating the effect the daily attacks on Miliband have. David Cameron has high approval ratings with the public, and it will be interesting to see how this changes as the election campaigns push on.

I am not endorsing the Labour party or saying that they will win the election, in fact I am still on the fence as to which way to vote. Nevertheless, what I am sure of is that I will not vote for a party which engages in dirty, smear-campaigning in order to swing the vote, and I’m equally sure many others will not either. The Conservative party has a lot to learn: if you want people to engage in politics and lend their support, prove to them that after 5 years in power you are competent in politics and have policies which are sensible and work towards the greater good rather than dodge issues and resort to scathing and immature personal attacks on someone who is obviously a formidable opponent. It is for this reason, the fact that the Tories have insofar presented nothing solid or appealing to the public, that I feel they will not win a majority at the election on May 7th, and as a disclaimer I suppose I should say that if they do I will eat my hat and move to Australia, never to return.

Netanyahu round four – Why and what now?

By Millie Radovic, an Anglo-Serbian election nerd currently in her first year of a BA in International Relations at King’s College London. Chief Editor of IR Today.

On the 17th of March, Israel held its general elections. Whilst the international community expected, and more importantly hoped, that the opposition would win or break even with the former government as the polls predicted, disappointment washed over everyone here as the ruling party won, and by large numbers at that.

What exactly did they win? Here are some statistics first for those of you that haven’t seen them:

Knesset Seats            Party

30                                Likud. Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing party; combines ideological nationalists and security
                                    hawks. Fiscally conservative.

The Zionist Union. Main centre-left opposition coalition. Electoral pact between Labour
                                    Party led by Isaac Herzog and Hatnuah led by Tzipi Livni. Accuses the right of extremism,
                                    which polarises and isolates Israel.

13                                Joint Arab List. Merger of diverse and often fractious Arab parties.

11                                 Yesh Atid. Centre populist party that would preferred to have replaced Netanyahu but doesn’t
                                     rule out joining him. Seeks to represent the secular middle-class.

10                                 Kulanu. Led by former Likud Communications minister Moshe Kahlon. To be a key kingmaker
                                     or ‘swing party’ for whichever government.

8                                   Jewish Home (Habit Hayehudi). Far-right party led by Naftali Bennet (actually pretty hilarious given the association of the surname in British politics). Territorial nationalists staunchly opposed to a Palestinian state. Will back Netanyahu.

Total seats in the Knesset – 120 (Hence, majority = 61).
Turnout – 72.3%

For a link to an interactive bar graph of the results click here, and if you’re an election nerd like me you can even ‘form your own coalition’ and see exactly which combinations are possible.

Given these results and recent events, I’d like to address the following: how Netanyahu managed to surprise us, the significance of the Joint Arab list, coalition negotiations and consequences of those, the prospects for future Palestinian talks, and the future of Israel’s relationship with the US and its European allies.

The election guru?

I’ll admit it, I was shocked to see how many votes Likud got. How could so many people vote for such an aggressive politician as opposed to the clearly more sensible option that the Zionist Union is? Well, I was at the Israeli Embassy the very next day, and they didn’t seem that surprised. And now it seems clear why: Netanyahu is a centre-right politician who successfully gauged Israeli popular thought and took a big step further right to clinch those extra seats.

The US-Iran nuclear negotiations, while I support them, didn’t exactly help his opposition. They provided the perfect arena for Netanyahu to produce ‘political gold’ by condemning the US for trusting the ‘evil enemy’ and  accusing Congress of using aid foundations to ‘fund a concerted campaign against him’ from within the walls of the Capitol.  Stressing that Israel is facing more security threats than ever, and that he was the only one able to deter these threats, Netanyahu painted himself as the only viable guardian of a state in constant danger.

Finally, he took the biggest leap to the right in publically stating that a Palestinian state would not be established if and when he were re-elected prime minister. This many took to mean that he did not support a two-state solution at all, and it combined with the aura that he’d created around himself – as the only possibly Prime Minister of Israel – undoubtedly gained him the more nationalist right votes.

So there you have it – the perfect mix of far-right fear tactics and international tensions for the perfect – to us at least – storm. But were they really just tactics? I’m not going to go into last year’s ‘summer of hell’ and its detrimental effects on both Palestinian territories and Israel. But despite Israel having significantly less casualties than Palestine, Hamas’ attacks and barbaric guerrilla techniques (e.g. human shields) were undoubtedly scarring for the population. Under a 100 of them died as opposed to over 2,000 Palestinians, but nevertheless listening to Israeli stories about getting on buses unsure of whether they will explode cannot but evoke sympathy and the feeling that they are indeed scarred by the conflict.

Sure enough, opinion polls show that Israeli civilians are more tired of the conflict than ever, and even more open to a two-state solution. But they also show that after last summer they are more pessimistic about the viability of this than ever, as they’ve seen a more extreme side of the other camp than they had in a long time. Sitting here in Europe I say that I could never vote for someone like Netanyahu, but honestly I can’t say that after last summer I blame the Israelis for voting for him – if I was in Jerusalem on the 17th, I may well have done so myself.

A Turnout We Dream Of

Now, can we just have another look at that statistic, a whooping 72.3%! Our own democracies take pride in everything over 60%. What this is a clear indication of is that not only are the Israeli politicians incredibly good at mobilising the nation, but also a lot is at stake for the civilians – as evident in the security issues that Netanyahu stressed, and socio-economic ones that the Zionist movement stressed.

Meanwhile, the Israeli Arab voter turnout was 63.5% as opposed to 56% in 2013. This is an impressive improvement and as a proud liberal democrat I can’t help but applaud it. As a consequence of this, the Joint Arab List is the 3rd largest party in the Knesset with 13 seats. This is insignificant in terms of government formation but it is significant in terms of the rest of Israel now seeing the Arab minority (of approximately 20%) as a serious political actor. What this will do to intrastate tensions only time can tell.

Deal or No Deal

Now, what the above results indicate is what we shuddered at here in 2010, but the Israelis are used to, a coalition. The Huffington Post, albeit not being my first choice for reading… well anything, lays out the pillars of the coalition negotiations quite well. They’re the same as the pillars of most political discussions within Israel, and of the party manifestos: foreign policy and security and socio-economic issues. Indeed this translates into Israel’s tensions with its neighbours and the cost of living.

The Huff Post also goes on to say that Netanyahu was ‘firm’ in rejecting the two-state solution and that this will thus not be up for discussion. Well with pleasure I refute that here. Clearly purposefully ambiguous, Netanyahu said that a two-state solution was not viable while he is PM, allowing him to subsequently indicate that he was referring to the timing not being right. Interestingly, Netanyahu two days after the election explicitly said that he wanted a two-state solution. Whether he had effectively lied then, or is backtracking now due to pressure from the West I can’t tell. But, surely enough negotiation with Palestine and the possibility of a two-state solution is always on the table. While I see how Netanyahu used ambiguity to gain support in elections, this is not something he can do in government formation.

This also prompts arguments that a national unity government (that’s Likud + Zionist movement) is possible, and would be most representative. In fact, former Likud minister Gideon Sa’ar says the Zionist Union and Likud forming a national unity government in the next Knesset is ‘still a possibility’. But countless shots were fired during campaigning, and hence most dismiss this as ‘fanatical’.

The most important ally in government formation will for Likud be Kulanu lead by a former Likud communications minister, Moshe Kahlon. A testimony to this is that almost two weeks ago Netanyahu in fact offered Kahlon the finance minister spot – exactly what he had campaigned for. No official coalition agreement has been announced yet. And while Kulanu is right-wing in terms of outward policies i.e. security issues, its primary outlined aims are tackling monopolies and the cost of living. Even though Likud is more ‘fiscally conservative’, as the swing party Kulanu will be asking for promotion of these issues within government, which may explain why a deal hasn’t been made yet.

Trouble in Paradise

Meanwhile, even though Netanyahu’s eccentric rhetoric gained him popularity at home, it certainly doesn’t seem to have done so elsewhere. A political blog I follow, stressing the need for a two-state solution, lists the 4 challenges of the new government as:

1.     Relations with the US

2.     Iran

3.     Palestinian leaderships

4.     Delegitimization of Israel’s policies in parts of the West

I would also put the States at the top there. While the matter of the hostility of Israel’s neighbourhood is indisputable, it is on Washington’s support that it relies on to ensure its security in terms of both other international support and most negotiations. Now again, if I were an Israeli citizen I would be very appreciative of this and would certainly not think it in my personal or national interest to antagonise the US. So was Netanyahu irresponsible in his statements?

In reality, not so much. Saving face perhaps, the US has already dismissed much of his rhetoric as ‘the stuff that gets said in the run up to elections’ – I mean after all Nigel Farage just blamed HIV on immigration, surely Netanyahu’s crime is smaller.

Nevertheless, his speech at Congress was certainly not greeted warmly, and while it may not have significant direct consequences it did nothing to increase his popularity in Washington. A more concrete reason to worry may be that US-Israeli national interests are arguably diverging as seen in the West’s agreement with Iran. Yet again this is at most a medium-term worry. Short-term, following their letter, it is reasonable to expect the Republican dominated Congress to reject the deal in the US anyway *sigh*. This would mean that the Anti-Iranian sentiment is shared between the US legislative body and the Israeli PM, and that perhaps interests are not diverging after all. Meanwhile, long-term arguably we can be optimistic about the deal – that if and when it does get passed, while possibly making Israel uncomfortable at first, it can lead to increasing stability in the region by removing the threat of a ‘rogue state’ and maybe even in very long terms allowing a return of positive pre-Khomeini Iran-Israeli relations.

But this sort of speculation can go on without end, so to sum up:

Yes, Netanyahu surprised us, yes he’s been devilish recently – but we cannot deny the reasons behind his election, and given the voter turnout we cannot deny its legitimacy; this, exactly this, is what the Israeli people want. It may even be what the Palestinians want. Al Jazeera recently pointed out that Palestinians would rather have the more aggressive Netanyahu as he exposes ‘the true face of Israel’, whereas Herzog would ‘blur it’ and improve Israel’s standing in the eyes of the West. I don’t particularly agree that Netanyahu represents the true face of Israel, more the statesman it feels it needs at this time. I also don’t agree with their statement that Israel has transformed from a strategic asset to a ‘burden to its allies’.

As the only nuclear power in the Middle East, and a crucial economic one, Israel remains a key actor. The growth of ISIS in the region, the spread of those that align with it – Boko Haram and now likely Al-Shabab, in a globalised world make the Middle East more fragile than ever. The national, regional, and international threat that this poses means that stability of Middle Eastern governments and their coordination with the international community is more important then ever. Surely this importance is evident in the Lausanne negotiations.

So my eyes, like those of the rest of the world, will be (albeit still disappointedly) on Netanyahu as he forms the new government. But my fingers will also be crossed that this government is first and foremost one that can maintain stability in the wake of unprecedented regional turbulence, whilst taking necessary steps in negotiation with Palestine, and maintaining sound relations with the West. A lot to ask I know, but a girl can hope.


8 elections to watch in 2015

by Sam Wyatt, a student of International Relations at the department of War Studies at King’s College London. Proud Welshman; Election Centre Editor.

8. South Sudan

Now this may seem like an odd one to make the list, however, the turmoil within the country since its inception in 2011 makes this a very interesting one to watch. The civil war which ravaged the country since late 2013 makes it uncertain as to whether a vote will go ahead in the world’s newest country. If a vote does go ahead one can expect a tight contest between the two factions – those loyal to the President Salva Kiir, and those who have pledged their support to his former understudy Riek Machar. This vote could decide the future of this young and anguished nation.

7. Turkey

The Turkish Election will generally go unannounced in mainstream media, as it is almost certain that the Justice and Development Party will get a 4th consecutive term in office as their polling is so much higher than their nearest competitors the Republican Peoples Party. However, the reason this makes the list is not down to competition but the possibilities if the Justice and Development Party increase their mandate. If they poll 330 seats (they are currently on 312) they can create constitutional change through a referendum and if they gain 367 they can legally bypass the referendum completely. To have this party, which previously was labelled as having tendencies towards Islamism able to directly alter the constitution would be a very scary situation indeed! But we shall have to wait and see.

6. Denmark

The Danish election, scheduled for the 14th September 2015, will never reach the tense heights achieved on Danish TV’s most acclaimed political drama ‘Borgen’. However, we at IR today expect a few surprises along the way! The minority government of Social Democrats, Social Liberal Party and Socialist People’s Party has surprisingly lasted the full 4 years of their government despite not holding a majority of seats in Parliament. There has been a few problems recently though as they lost formal backing from the Socialist People’s Party over the sale of shares in public energy company DONG (though they still pass through the majority of bills). The incumbent grouping, headed by Helle Thorning-Schmit (who coincidently is the daughter-in-law of Neil Kinnock) are threatened by a strong push by the conservative camps with current polls placing the combined polling of the ‘reds’ (the left) on 48% and the ‘blues’ (the right) on 52%. If this polling is correct this might be one of the tensest races of the year.

5. Argentina

The Argentine president has been plagued with controversy recently, from the racist jibes towards the Chinese to accusations that she shielded Iranians over 1994 bombings in the country, there has been a media frenzy over her character. She however, does not care, having already run 2 successful campaigns the President of Argentina is unable to run in the forthcoming election, but her actions cast doubt over whether her successor (who is yet to be announced) will be able to continue the party’s 12 years of controlling the Presidential seat. Since its inception in 2003 no party other than Front for Victory have held the position and indications suggest that this trend will continue allowing the Kirchnerist party to retain power. However, if the inquest into Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner leads anything the party’s reputation could be severely damaged.

4. Israel

Ah Israel, just a short walk around KCL campus on the day of writing shows you how ferociously divided the world is when it comes to opinions on this small nation. Consequently, the result of the upcoming Knesset result is of great interest. With just 8 seats separating the 6 largest parties who knows who will end up in power. The electoral pact between the Labour Party and Hatnuah to form the Zionist Union makes the election more interesting with both Zionist Union and Likud (Netanyahu’s party) are expected to gain seats around the 23/24 mark. Both will aspire to form loose coalitions with respective partners but this task appears to be significantly easier for Bibi who is more likely to gain the support of the predicted 3rd largest party A Jewish Home due to his more hard-line stance on Iran. If the Zionist Union does manage to gain a narrow victory though, one can suspect it to be because of their hopeful economic policy which will move the country in a more socialist direction.

3. Spain

The rise of Podemos, which translates literally into ‘We Can’ in English adds a unique dynamic to what would otherwise be an uneventful election. Podemos, much like their counterparts Syriza in Greece, have in the space of two years have risen from obscurity to be fighting on the frontline of the political battle. This phenomenal rise of the left has provided a fresh challenge to the incumbent People’s Party and has opened the doors to a very unpredictable election. Current polls have this radical party at just a few percentage points below the People’s Party and well ahead of the next nearest rival The Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party. Spectators have argued that this is because they epitomise something that is becoming a sign of the times in southern Europe, a party of hope and optimism. Can their momentum continue up until the election or will they fade into the backdrop as so many have in recent years? Who knows…

2. Nigeria
The Nigerian election, originally scheduled for Valentine ’s Day, has been postponed because of the constant threat from Boko Haram who plague the country’s North East. However, when this election does go ahead in March it will be an interesting one to watch. Goodluck Jonathan’s government have been under increasing pressure politically because of failure to isolate the threat from Boko Haram and falling oil prices have harmed the country’s economy, so much so that even an 8% devaluation of the naira cannot fix the economic woes. The main challenge to the ruling party comes from Muhammadu Buhari, a former head of state who hails from the Muslim North-Eastern region of the country, who has gained significant ground on the incumbent in recent months. With the insurgency of Boko Haram looming over this election it could be a tumultuous time.
1. UK
So the UK General Election scheduled for May 7th nabs my top spot, and it is true that I may just be showing my bias as a British student (I am so excited). However I think there are many reasons why the UK is deserving of the top spot. Firstly, the political field, in the space of just one electoral cycle, has grown tremendously and we are effectively now in the era of 6 party politics. Though only Labour and the Conservatives could ever lead a coalition (which most opinion polls are suggesting will be the end result of this election) it has been argued that the rise of UKIP on the right and the Greens on the left will leave both open to losing significant votes to their more radical counterparts. When this is combined with the relative decline of the traditional party of the centre (the Lib Dems) and a realisation of nationalist sentiment in Scotland leading to a surge of support for the SNP we are left with what promises to be the most open election yet. The result of this election will also definitely effect the world of IR, a strong showing for UKIP leading to a Tory-UKIP coalition may bring about the much feared (by this author anyway) BREXIT that would change the dynamics of Europe. Also, as Britain is one of the major players on the financial scene, economic policy acted upon by the victors will have significant effects on world economy. For example in the hypothetical situation that the Greens win, though I am confident they won’t, Britain will pursue a policy of 0% or negative growth effectively ending their position as a major world player.

71 days 11 hours 58 minutes and 21 seconds

By Harry Johnson, a first year International Relations student and one of the few Brits on the course! 
How much is a vote worth?
As Jack Straw’s ‘cash for access’ scandal came to light yesterday, those with any kind of involvement in student grassroot party politics came under fire: how can we possible engage with Westminster when Westminster serves the interests of the wealthy few? How can we rust our political leaders when they have no experience outside the walls of parliament and our parties when they show time and time again their inability to keep the pledges they make?

In response we should use our generation’s disengagement to empower our call for change. As parties squabble on the battlegrounds of the NHS, of balanced books, welfare, immigration and education we should put pressure for debate to open up on other fronts.

Deep societal issues need to be addressed and represented by the parties, not just protecting welfare and immigration but reasserting its right to exist. As politicians shout over each other in the commons, the voice for morality and principle is drowned out.

Politics has evolved to exist in channels that mobilise and inspire people in a way traditional politics never has but this does not mean that Westminster has had its day. Voting doesn’t mean you accept the childish and sinister practices of parliament but rather it gives you the opportunity to challenge them. Jack Straw’s constituents should call for a by-election in order to discipline the conflict of interests that exists in the chambers, using the power of their vote. Collectively as young people we should apply the same standard to the Liberal Democrats who appear comfortable in abandoning principle for power, particularly in regards to their promise of abolishing the tuition fee.

Young people need a new party to channel their desire for change and the Labour Party represents this. The coalition has lacked vision yet demanded sacrifice, hiding the alternatives to an unjust reorganisation of government structure and priorities. However an alternative does exists, it understands that tax-cuts for millionaires and cuts to welfare are not twopolicies which should go together, realises that whatever the economic environment; rents must be capped, the NHS protected and small business safeguarded.

The frenzy in 2010 for students to support the Liberal Democrat’s pledge for the abolition of tuition fees was grounded in the idea that education should be open for all, irrespective of one’s background and environment. It drew on a theme which is beginning to become dangerously uncommon; the challenge to political and economic inequality. Found preserved in the principles of the Labour Party we need to rekindle the party’s energy and young people’s drive for change.

This isn’t to suggest that we follow blindly in the stumblings of Ed Miliband but rather that we recognise the potential of the party, through engagement with grassroots politics we can ensure the party is bolder than ever, as red or as green as needs to be. We are constantly told that all parties and all elections are the same but this simply isn’t true. In this election voting for Labour means supporting a fair and just post-election vision and creating a base from which we can launch our vision for society.

For students living in halls within the Bermondsey and Old Southwark constituency the vote is looking to be very close between the Liberal Democrats and Labour. Further information on the labour candidate can be found at Changes in the electoral register have meant that many students are no longer registered, in order to register to vote please visit