Whatever happened to Zimbabwe?

For over 10 years the crisis in Zimbabwe weighed heavily on the minds of British policy-makers and featured regularly in news bulletins. Yet over the last year or so, the country appears to have disappeared from view. Why? Well, plenty else has been going on. But it is also perhaps because the hopes for change were frustrated and the old order successfully reasserted itself. But this does not mean that Zimbabwe’s history has ended. Indeed, a resumption of political and economic turbulence in the near future is a real possibility – not least because Robert Mugabe (the only president Zimbabwe has known since independence in 1980) is now 90 years old and cannot live for ever.

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Where next for the Human Rights Act?

The Human Rights Act was introduced by the Labour Government in 1998 in order to “bring rights home” and enjoyed cross-party support at the time.  Essentially, it allows anyone in the UK to rely on rights contained in the European Convention on Human Rights before the domestic courts.

The 1998 Act has proved controversial; and while it is still supported by the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats, the Conservative Party has long been committed to replacing it with alternative legislation.  Prior to the 2010 General Election, the Conservative election manifesto promised to repeal the Human Rights Act and introduce a UK Bill of Rights, in order to “protect our freedoms from state encroachment and encourage greater social responsibility.”

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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.


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