Possible military action against Islamic State: how relevant is the “Responsibility to Protect”?

The US has been conducting airstrikes on Islamic State (IS) militants in Iraq since early August, and at the time of writing has just launched similar airstrikes on IS militants in Syria. Here in the UK, MPs have been recalled to Westminster to discuss whether the UK should itself launch airstrikes on IS militants in Iraq. The Prime Minister has stressed that UK action in Syria is not on the table at present – but many have argued that is impossible to tackle Islamic State effectively without taking some action in Syria.

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Demographic differences and voting patterns in Scotland’s independence referendum

In Thursday’s referendum, Scottish independence was rejected by a margin of around 10 percentage points. Yet the 1,617,989 votes cast in favour of leaving the UK – representing 44.7% of total voters and roughly 37% of all those in the country aged 16 or over – indicate clear differences of opinion on the question of independence.

In the lead up to the referendum, polls consistently pointed towards a variety of demographic and social foundations for these differences, from age and gender to levels of economic deprivation and country of birth. The purpose here is to explore how regional differences with respect to these factors may have played a role in the different results observed across Scotland. In short, what is so different between say Dundee, where 57.3% of votes were cast for ‘Yes’, and the Orkney Islands with 32.8%?

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How do Scottish referendum polls compare with the result?

In the immediate aftermath of the Scottish referendum there are many details of the campaign and the data to examine (expect more here next week). One particularly interesting feature is how the polls carried out during the final weeks of the campaign compare with the actual result.

The following chart shows the distribution of polls whose last day of fieldwork fell during the final two months of the campaign. The columns show the number of polls reporting a given percentage of people intending to vote Yes, once undecided voters are excluded. The dotted green line shows the actual percentage of people voting Yes in the referendum. Both the polls and the actual result are rounded to the nearest percentage point.

referendum-polls

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Excluding British citizens who pose a security threat: what can the Government do?

Part of the Government’s response to cases of British nationals involved in fighting, extremist activity or terrorist training overseas is to use powers to strip people of their British citizenship status and to refuse to issue British passports.

On 1 September the Prime Minister confirmed that the Government is considering what further action it can take to deal with the security threat posed by such individuals. Some commentators have questioned the legality and practicality of some of the Government’s initial proposals.

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Extending Qualified Majority Voting in the European Union: does this mean the end of British sovereignty?

A report is doing the rounds via Twitter and various blogs (e.g. Inquiringminds and pjcjournal) about changes in the European Union in November 2014 that will mean the end of British sovereignty.  They also claim that the Prime Minister’s promise to hold an in/out referendum by 2017 is spurious because it would be “illegal” under EU law. Many constituents have contacted their MP about the report, wanting to know if it is true.

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Broadband in the UK: Super-Fast, Faster, Fastest?

Earlier this summer, the Government announced that superfast broadband had been extended to more than 1 million homes and businesses across the UK as part of its Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) programme, and that it was on course to extend superfast broadband to 95% of UK homes and businesses by 2017. This accompanied the publication of the latest set of data on the BDUK programme by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) on 7 August 2014, which also posted a Youtube video highlighting this landmark.
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House of Commons Library project to establish a research service in the Burmese Parliament

In June 2012 Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi gave a speech in Parliament. She had spent 15 of the past 21 years in Burma under house arrest, and following her release had been elected a Member of the Burmese parliament.

She spoke of her dreams for her country, its past struggles and the challenges that remain. She asked the UK Parliament to consider what it could do to support Burma’s “nascent Parliamentary democracy”.

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Who Gets Who They Vote For?

With the Scottish referendum approaching, the difference between the composition of MPs in areas and the national government is being highlighted. One of the arguments for Scottish Independence has been that a vote for independence would mean Scotland would not have a party in government in Westminster that it did not vote for. But how often do areas vote for the nationally elected government, and which are bellwether areas that tend to reflect the national vote?

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