Category Archives: News

Eddie Izzard promotes his campaign #StandUpforEurope at Aston University

Eddie Izzard
Eddie Izzard on campus

Eddie Izzard is on a quest to visit 31 UK University campuses in as many days. Following soon after his astonishing feat of running 27 marathons in 27 days for which he raised £1.35m, he is highly dedicated to his beliefs.

The Stand Up for Europe campaign aims to get at many young people as possible to register to vote Remain in the EU Referendum on June 23rd. This campaign is corroborated by a recent poll by the National Union of Students (NUS), which found 76% of students want to Vote Remain, and only 14% back Brexit. However, only half of the young electorate (18-24 years) is likely to vote, compared to over-65s.

Students were very excited to see Izzard on campus, triggering a flurry of enthusiasm both on campus and on social media. He injects some passion into the debate, urging students to register ‘if you care about humanity’. He delivers with his usual fast-paced, rich style, including witty references to his previous shows.

Wearing a Union Jack and European Union flag pin badges on his fuchsia beret, he says ‘I’m a British European. I’m proud of being British. I’m proud of being European’. The comedian highlights all the material benefits of remaining within the EU (including cheaper hen night and stag night travelling), but also includes a very emotional backdrop to it, as he evokes the beginning of EU following the devastating World Wars. He instils above all a message of positivity – ‘I talk to young people, and I talk to people from the heart’.

He acknowledges that there are complex issues to be tackled, and it is a particularly difficult task. He urges the students to vote to remain, as ‘this is the most important vote of your lives’. He replies with poise to unswayed students, reinforcing his message of hope and positivity.

‘This could be the biggest decision of your lives and I want to help make sure you get your chance to have your say’.

Izzard continues his Stand Up for Europe campaign in the Midlands, making his way to Scotland and Northern Ireland too in the lead up to the Referendum. An activist since 2008, Eddie Izzard has announced that he will be running for electoral politics as a Labour candidate in 2020, but prefers to concentrate on the Referendum for the moment: ‘We’ve got to fight like crazy for it, I just want our team to win. But this is about the EU referendum – this is bigger than politics’.

Aston University’s Centre for Europe has hosted a wide array of Referendum events, with the next one taking place on June 8th and hosted by Prof. Simon Green.

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Cameron, North Korea and Nuclear Deterrence

In The Daily Telegraph on 3 April 2013, David Cameron declared that Britain would be unwise to give up its nuclear deterrent given the real risk of new nuclear armed states such as Iran and North Korea emerging. North Korea’s recently conducted nuclear test, its missile capability and its recent belligerent behaviour offers one of the strongest arguments in favour for Britain to maintain its nuclear capability. It ‘would be foolish to leave Britain defenceless against a continuing, and growing, nuclear threat,’ the Prime Minister iterated (Cameron, Daily Telegraph, 3rd April 2013).

Such a position, however, is intellectually lazy and fundamentally flawed. As any student of International Relations knows, there are limits to deterrence, nuclear and otherwise. First of all, there remains always the risk of accidental war. Nuclear proliferation increases the number of nuclear armed countries. Cameron’s argument does point to the dangers posed to UK security by nuclear proliferation in countries such as Iran and North Korea. But surely, the same danger exists for other countries as well? Should we, on those grounds, really support a substantial global increase in nuclear proliferation? Following Cameron’s argument, Japan, for instance, ought to re-consider its strategic options. It is a much more likely target for a North Korean nuclear attack than the UK. Furthermore, it is a latent nuclear power, possessing the technological know-how and the financial resources necessary for developing a military nuclear capability. Such a move, however, would be likely to trigger a nuclear arms race in East Asia. Within Europe, countries such as Germany, Poland, the Ukraine and others possess the capacity to develop a nuclear capability. It does not really take a complex analysis to outline the dangers of nuclear proliferation. Of course, Cameron does not argue in favour of nuclear proliferation. However, the logic of his argument is suggesting exactly that. Widespread nuclear proliferation will not make the world a safer place.

Let us now turn to the strategic utility of Britain’s nuclear deterrence. It is unlikely, that Pyongyang will be deterred by Britain’s comparatively limited nuclear capability. After all, it is directly challenging the US and thereby threatening the biggest nuclear power with nuclear strikes. It just underlines the fact that some actors cannot really be deterred, and this is one of the fundamental weaknesses of any strategy based on deterrence. And last but not least, in order for deterrence to work, one does not only need capability. Credibility is also essential. Let us consider, for instance, the more than questionable morality of a nuclear counter-strike. Is it ethically justifiable to kill thousands or more North Korean civilians in retaliation for a North Korean nuclear strike? In other words, in the more than unlikely scenario of a North Korean nuclear strike on London or Birmingham, would it be justifiable to obliterate Pyongyang given the likely death toll that this would reap among North Korean civilians? Also, consider Korea’s geography. One might argue that North Koreans are a legitimate target in a nuclear war, but how does South Korea factor into this? Are they to be mere ‘collateral damage’, given the likelihood of a nuclear fallout over South Korean territory?

These are a just a few points to stimulate a discussion. Many more could be made against Trident. Whatever Cameron’s real motivation for hanging on to a nuclear capability (imperial hangover, posturing of a medium-sized country, support for the military-industrial complex?), using North Korea as a justification is just wrong!

Book Review: Political leadership in France: From Charles de Gaulle to Nicolas Sarkozy by John Gaffney

In this passionate and exciting account of recent French politics, John Gaffney considers what Charles de Gaulle’s ideas and personality continue to mean for France. Fascinating accounts of the backgrounds and motivations behind Ségolène Royal and Nicolas Sarkozy make this essential reading for those looking to sharpen up their knowledge of French political history, finds Kate Saffin.

Read the full review here.

David Marsh: “The Curse of the Euro” podcast

On Thursday, 17 November, David Marsh CBE, presented a lecture on “The Curse of the Euro: the Blighting of a Beacon”, at Aston Centre for Europe, to around 170 guests. If you missed this event, you can follow the link below to access the podcast of the lecture.

http://www1.aston.ac.uk/lss/research/centres-institutes/aston-centre-europe/recent-events/

Student Guest Post on Studying Politics at Aston

This week, we were particularly inspired by a student’s view of studying at Aston. This guest post is by Final Year Politics and International Relations student, Silvia Maglione.

Studying here for Astonishing results

“Medicine students will go on to be doctors, engineering students will become engineers, but then will our European Studies students become…. Europeans?” This was the witty opening remark of our senior Politics lecturer and Associate Dean Jörg Mathias at the induction meeting for first year Politics students. And indeed, what title can one ascribe to itself after studying Politics, International Relations, and/or European Studies at Aston? The answer is: one clever soul.

Our programme is intense, challenging and inspiring. Here you will never hear the same comment twice and lectures promptly become the centre stage of thought provoking ideas, culminating in restlessly intellectual seminar discussions. It is during these very seminars that students are struck by fulgurating ideas on which they later base their essay and dissertation arguments. Most final year students also get the chance to choose their own assessment question which is the apex of independent thought and spirit of initiative. We are encouraged to keep ourselves informed on everything, from the Libyan civil war and inflation figures, to the latest IR publications and political journals. However, this never becomes a daunting task because our staff is very flexible, approachable and phenomenally brilliant. This bustling intellectual environment is the principal drive behind Aston’s Politics group, which is also supported by the main university’s network of opportunities; for instance, I have studied both Mandarin and Arabic at the highest levels offered through the UWLP programme and this has enhanced my knowledge and employability. Similarly, the placement scheme and career services are very useful indeed.

Aside from excellent credentials, invaluable knowledge, commendable employability boosts and cherished experiences, Aston’s Politics group offers us the opportunity of  thinking with our own heads about serious issues. So we might not become doctors or engineers, but our ideas and actions are the ones that will, one day, change the world.

Shabana Mahmood MP’s visit to Aston

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This is a guest contribution by LSS final-year student Silvia Maglione.

“I’m a Birmingham girl” Shabana Mahmood MP gladly affirms when opening her talk at Aston University on Friday January 28th, “I was born and raised in Small Heath”. Shabana is a Labour Member of Parliament for the constituency of Birmingham Ladywood which includes Aston University. She has also been recently appointed Shadow Home Office Minister by Ed Miliband.

In this event kindly organised by Dr. Ed Turner on behalf of the ACE, our MP gave a brief overview of her career and also dwelled on the topic of the Coalition government. Shabana started by pleasantly recounting how her passion for the Labour party played a preponderant role in her life. “I would work in London Monday through Friday as a barrister and then go back home on weekends for the party by distributing leaflets and doing volunteer work”. She was later successfully elected as an MP and saw the situation as “a massive roller coaster – that is how I would put it”

Ms. Mahmood continued her talk by narrating various instances in which her Oxford and Westminster training did not assist her in dealing with emotionally compromised voters, “there are things that you can only learn on the job”. She then faced a portion of the audience directly and reiterated her allegiance to Birmingham city: “It is an honour and a privilege to represent the city in which I was born and love” especially given the fact that “this constituency is in the heart of the city and it has huge challenges”. Nonetheless, Shabana later enunciated the fact of being “emotionally connected” and how her love for this city reinforces her work routine.

“Now…eight months of coalition [laughs]”. Unsurprisingly, Shabana was uncomplimentary about the current government, therefore emphasised the fact that “Labour had a very good election result in Birmingham” instead, and also that such coalition is “unprecedented in British history”. She mentioned how difficult it has been for her party to meet public expectation, and how happy she was that Liberal Democrats had not formed a coalition with Labour. In order to avoid polarising the audience, Shabana maintained a temperate perspective on the coalition and its policy-making by offering no controversial opinions on the matter. The discussion hence drifted back to election night and the “shenanigans in Westminster” and upheavals spurred by the Tories. In addition, it was mentioned how the existence of the coalition also changes small practical daily matters such as the fact that Lib Dems and Conservatives now sit close to each other and how it “affects the culture in which you work”.

Consequently, Shabana argued that as an opposition party there is a “level of frustration you almost have to get used to” and that “as an opposition MP it is unlikely to be able to vote down a major policy” nor to have a significant impact on governance. This relinquishing attitude was later challenged by a member of the audience who thought her behaviour on the matter to be “defeatist”, at which point the statement was retracted and renegotiated as “in Westminster opportunities are limited” because they have virtually “no power”. As a consequence, Shabana eagerly celebrated the Labour recent success of the School Sport Partnership Programme and highlighting the fact that Labour is able to affect policy after all, even as opposition.

The discussion then acquired a philosophical nuance when noting that all political parties were coalitions within themselves. The example mentioned was about the orange book Lib Dems and more liberal Lib Dems. Nevertheless, Shabana was taking the talk slowly to an end, ergo invariably stated that her experience as an MP until now had been “interesting and exciting” and that she is also looking forward to engaging constituents in several ways in local politics. She advertised a recently developed Neighbourhood Watch Scheme and indefatigably emphasised that she wants to focus mostly on the constituency and wants citizens to be “more active”.

Finally, she also advertised some internship positions in her constituency and in Westminster especially to Aston University prospective placement students. For more information on these internships please contact our placement manager Valeska Hass (v.a.hass@aston.ac.uk).

In conclusion, it was a very pleasant, engaging and interesting afternoon talk, as are all the ACE sponsored events. However, as I was originally expecting a heated and frenetic debate as the ones we have in Aston seminars, I was struck by the remarkable politeness and composed caution restraining the discussion. Indeed, if the same sedate atmosphere were present in the House of Commons it would be a more efficient one, albeit a prosaic one too.

ACE Prize for the Best Academic Performance of an MA Student

Aston Centre for Europe (ACE) is delighted to announce that the ACE Prize for the Best Academic Performance of an MA student in academic year 2009-2010 has been awarded to Anne-Charlotte Fauvel, a student on our Double MA with Sciences Po Lille.  We would also like to take this opportunity to congratulate all our MA students from the 2009-2010 academic year – Guy Morgan, Luke John Davies, Catalina Salam, Poonam Dave (Double MA Lille), Garance Clement (Double MA Lille), Elise Viart (Double MA Lille) –  who all did extremely well in their final dissertations, as well as their assessments throughout the year.  We are all very impressed with the level of work and achievement from this group, and wish them all the very best for their post-MA plans and further studies!