Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Thursday, December 01, 2011

British politics, a case study

Here's an example of how British politics works. Your students could follow the words and actions of the major players for the next several weeks or months.

Britons Strike Over Extended Austerity Measures
Hundreds of thousands of public employees walked off their jobs in schools, hospitals, airports, courtrooms, libraries, museums and government offices on Wednesday, as British workers became the latest in Europe to demonstrate mass fury at government austerity measures.

The one-day strike was the biggest here since the 1970s… This time, the immediate issue was Prime Minister David Cameron’s proposal to require public employees to work for more years and pay more toward their pensions each month.

But the strikers’ anger goes far deep.. Many strikers said that the policy of decreasing welfare benefits and tax credits while also making huge cuts across the board in all government departments had left them struggling at a time of rapidly rising prices…

The strike came just after more bad news from the government. The chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, announced Tuesday that because of a swiftly worsening economic outlook that had thrown off his deficit-reduction timetable, public employees’ wages would be frozen for two more years, on top of an existing two-year freeze. He also said that new budget cuts meant that the public sector would lose hundreds of thousands more jobs than he had previously said, and warned that if Europe slid into recession again, Britain would probably follow…

There were angry scenes in Parliament on Wednesday, as the prime minister clashed with Ed Miliband, leader of the Labour opposition, over the causes and effects of the strike. Mr. Miliband, whose party receives large financial contributions from the unions, did not explicitly endorse the walkout. But, in a reference to Mr. Osborne, Mr. Miliband said that he sympathized with the grievances of workers who earn in a year “what the chancellor pays for his annual skiing holiday.”…

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