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The body politic: art, pain, and Putin

The phrase ‘scrotum artist’ was never going to be easy to ignore when it appeared in a newspaper headline. It is also a phrase that has made me reflect upon the nature of politics, the issue of public expectations, and even the role of a university professor of politics. In a previous blog I reflected on the experience of running a citizens’ assembly and how the emotional demands and rewards of the experience had been quite unexpected.

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A talent for politics? Academics, failure, and emotion

Sometimes a fragment of a book manages to lodge itself in the back of your mind. An idea, a description, a phrase…just something, and often completely unrelated to the core story, attaches itself to your mind like an intellectual itch you can’t quite scratch.

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Left behind? The future of progressive politics

Centre-left social democratic parties appear to have been left behind in the last decade. ‘‘Early in this century you could drive from Inverness in Scotland to Vilnius in Lithuania without crossing a country governed by the right’’ The Economist highlighted just weeks ago.

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The Dismal Debate: would a “Brexit” mean more power for the UK?

“Money, money money. Must be funny. In a rich man’s world.” As an academic I’m highly unlikely to ever have either “money, money, money” or live in a “rich man’s world.” But as a long-time student of politics I’ve been struck by how the debate in the UK about the forthcoming referendum on membership of the European Union has been framed around just two issues – money and power.

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Trump that: the failure and farce of American politics

There is something very odd and bizarrely impressive about Donald Trump’s approach to democratic politics: it is quite obviously undemocratic. Indeed, if anything, his campaign is fuelled by anti-political sentiment and populist slogans. It’s strong stuff. So strong that it deserves to be recognized in the form of a new political ideology: ‘Trump-ism’. Eponymous…and yet also synonymous with the failure and farce of American politics.

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Shake your chains: politics, poetry, and protest

This year, 21 March marks not just the beginning of the Political Studies Association’s 2016 Annual Conference in Brighton but also World Poetry Day. Formally ratified by UNESCO in 1999 but with antecedents that date back to the middle of the twentieth century, World Poetry Day’s aim is to promote the reading, writing, publishing and teaching of poetry throughout the world and, as the UNESCO session declaring the day says, to ‘give fresh recognition and impetus to national, regional and international poetry movements.

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The problems with democracy – continuing the conversation into a new year

An invitation from the British Library to give the first in a new public lecture series called ‘Enduring Ideas’ was never a request I was going to decline. But what ‘enduring idea’ might I focus on and what exactly would I want to say that had not already been said about an important idea that warranted such reflection? The selected concept was ‘democracy’ and the argument sought to set out and unravel a set of problems that could – either collectively or individually – be taken to explain the apparent rise in democratic disaffection.

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Fire and ashes: success and failure in politics

Politics is a worldly art. It is a profession that is founded on the ability to instil hope, convince doubters and unite the disunited – to find simple and pain free solutions to what are in fact complex and painful social challenges.

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Raw politics: devolution, democracy and deliberation

As a long-time student of politics I have often found myself assessing various kinds of attempts to create new democratic processes or arenas. From citizens’ juries through to mini-publics and from area panels to lottery-based procedures the scope of these experiments with ‘new’ ways of doing politics has taken me from the local ward level right up to the international level.

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Dangerous minds: ‘Public’ political science or ‘punk’ political science?

The end of another academic year and my mind is tired. But tired minds are often dangerous minds. Just as alcohol can loosen the tongue (in vino veritas) for the non-drinkers of this world fatigue can have a similar effect (lassitudine veritas liberabit). Professional pretensions are far harder to sustain when one is work weary but I can’t help wondering if the study of politics has lost its way.

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DIY democracy: Festivals, parks, and fun

Wimbledon has started, the barbeques have been dusted off, the sun is shining, and all our newly elected MPs will soon be leaving Westminster for the summer recess. Domestic politics, to some extent, winds down for July and August but the nation never seems to collapse. Indeed, the summer months offer a quite different focus on, for example, a frenzy of festivals and picnics in the park. But could this more relaxed approach to life teach us something about how we ‘do’ politics? Is politics really taking place at festivals and in the parks? Can politics really be fun?

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The 2015 General Rejection? Disaffected democrats and democratic drift

Political science and journalistic commentaries are full of woe about the abject state of modern politics and the extent of the gap that has supposedly emerged between the governors and the governed. In this context, the 7 May 2015 might have been expected to deliver a General Rejection of mainstream democratic politics but did this really happen? Is British democracy in crisis?

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Fig leaves and fairy tales: political promises and the Truth-O-Meter

The Tampa Bay Times is a very fine newspaper. One of its most insightful features — indeed, a feature that was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 2009 — is its PolitiFact website. This is an independent on-line platform through which a legion of reporters and editors fact-check every statement, promise and half-hearted mumble ever made by a politician, political candidate, political party, or campaign group.

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