Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Does the Conservative Party have an image problem?

The modern Conservative Party was first established in 1832 and can trace its’ roots back a further century making it the oldest political party in the United Kingdom. This sense of history and tradition has long been associated with the governing body of today’s coalition government, yet it has often been something they have tried to rid themselves of; a limb by which much of the party stands, but a limb nonetheless which has been extensively severed. This essay will consider the lasting impacts of Margaret Thatcher’s government post 1979, the party’s various attempts at modernisation, and conclude whether David Cameron’s Conservative Party does indeed have an image problem in 2013.

The Conservative Party changed forever on 4 May 1979 when Margaret Thatcher became the UK’s first female Prime Minister. Her Conservative post-war predecessors, Winston Churchill, Anthony Eden, Harold Macmillan, and Alec Douglas-Home, each accepted Clement Atlee’s post-war consensus, rekindling the spirit of Benjamin Disraeli’s ‘One Nation Conservatism’, and continued along the lines of nationalisation, corporatism, and welfare.  The only exception was Edward Heath, who between June 1970 and March 1974 introduced a number of policies aimed at tackling the power of Trade Unions and privatising industry. His attempts ultimately failed but they would be reignited only a few years later (Marr, 2007).

Thatcher’s eleven years at the helm of the Conservative Party changed the UK’s economy beyond recognition; the rate of Gross Domestic Productivity (GDP) growing 23%. However, this increase did not come without consequence.  The switch from a manufacturing to services economy greatly affected the British population, some for better, but many for worse. The Government’s desire to slash taxation and public spending, as well as regain control of inflation, teamed with the switch in economic focus led to record levels of unemployment, peaking at around 13% in 1986 (Trading Economics, 2013). Alongside privatisation of major British industries, this left over three million people out of work. During the same year, the British Stock Exchange was reopened for trading with around 300,000 people working in City jobs (Marr, 2007). The booming financial industry did much to tackle Britain’s deficit, but little to endear the Conservative government to those whom previously lived and worked in the industrial heartland.  The seemingly growing divide between rich and poor continued throughout the 1980s as the ‘Yuppy’ image popularised by comedian Harry Enfield became a source of either admiration or hatred, dependant on socio-economic allegiances.  William Green describes the legacy of Thatcher from a popular, Northern, working-class, point of view when he says she left in her wake “communities devastated, mass unemployment, huge social unrest and a generation condemned to poverty” (Green, 2009).

Thatcher’s hard line image was immediate, only a year after being elected and coming under increasing pressure from both political and media opposition; she addressed the Conservative Party Conference in Brighton and uttered the words:

“To those waiting with bated breath for that favourite media catchphrase, the 'U-turn', I have only one thing to say: You turn if you want to. The lady's not for turning."
(Thatcher, 2007).

The phrase would go on to encapsulate the spirit of Thatcherism and become her most famous soundbite as she battled against domestic and international unrest.

Domestically, huge rises in unemployment, the introduction of ‘Sus laws’- the ability to stop and search on the basis of “reasonable suspicion”, and a feeling of increasing racial division, led to the Race Riots of 1981. The eruption of violence across England spread through areas of London, Birmingham, Leeds, and Liverpool, and were the first example of great social unrest during Thatcher’s reign.  1981 also saw the death of ten IRA hunger strikers in the Maze Prison, Northern Ireland, as Thatcher refused to concede ground on the debate over their political status. Her conviction to remain unturned steadfast.  The next great domestic fight would allow the Prime Minister to tackle one of her greatest enemies head on, the Trade Unions.  In March 1984 the National Coal Board (NCB) proposed to close 20 of the 174 state ran mines, a proposal that would leave 20,000 miners out of work (BBC, 2013). The resulting strike, led by the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) President Arthur Scargill, peaked with nearly 200,000 workmen downing their tools (Marr, 2007). The conflict roared for a year, with violence flaring between striking miners and those who crossed the picket line, as well as with the swollen ranks of police officers shipped in from across the country.  Twelve months after the NCB’s announcement, and with the striking miners struggling to survive, the NUM conceded. Twenty five mines closed in 1985. The strike’s impact on the British economy had been enormous with a predicted loss of around £3 billion; however, once again Thatcher had saved face, the working classes defeated. Phil Wilson MP summarises the impact on mining communities when he says:

“She [Thatcher] left a lot of broken communities and that was the primary thing, but it was also the way she treated people who were unemployed…. there was nothing done to help them” (Green, 2009).

The final domestic uprisings initiated by Thatcher were the Poll Tax riots of 1990, the largest of which occurred in London on 31 March.  The introduction of the ‘Community Tax’, otherwise known as ‘Poll Tax’, switched from a system of taxation related to the market value of a property, to one linked with the number of inhabitants. The change sparked an angry response from those on middle to low incomes and resulted in the violent scenes in and around Trafalgar Square (Kavanagh, 1987).

Internationally, Thatcher was held in a similar regard as to on her own shores.  Her attitude towards the European Economic Community, which Edward Heath’s Conservative government took the United Kingdom into in 1973, was one of scepticism. In a 1988 speech in Bruges, she said:

“We have not successfully rolled back the frontiers of the state in Britain, only to see them reimposed at a European level, with a European super­state exercising a new dominance from Brussels.” (BBC News, 2000)

Her attitude towards the Soviet Union and communism was similarly outspoken, having earned the nickname ‘The Iron Lady’ in 1976 before she was even Prime Minister.  Thatcher’s relationship with President Reagan remained ‘special’ throughout the remaining years of the Cold War, and she welcomed the reformist policies of Mikhail Gorbachev. However, her foreign policy was set long before the collapse of the Soviet Union, outlined by a conflict on a number of remote islands in the South Atlantic Ocean.  The Falklands War was fought out over 74 days between April and June 1982 and was a resounding military and PR success for Thatcher (Jackson & Saunders, 2012). The Great British public may not have liked Thatcher an awful lot, but along with the international community, they certainly respected her.

Thatcher’s image as a hard liner would supersede her own reputation and following her resignation in November 1990, would add to the issues surrounding the Conservative Party leading towards their landslide election defeat in 1997. It was in many regards her own bullishness which led to her downfall in government; the same bullishness much of the public refuse to forget.

John Major followed Thatcher in to Downing Street and set about the abolition of the unpopular Poll Tax and putting Britain “at the very heart of Europe”. Moving the party in a different direction to his predecessor briefly worked for the new Prime Minister as his handling of the recession, as well as the Persian Gulf War, placed the Conservative Party back on top of the opinion polls for the first time in over a year (Major, 1999).  However, the scandals which dominated the remaining years of Major’s premiership have clouded his legacy, beginning in September 1992. After battling to keep the Great British Pound above the agreed lower limit of the European Exchange Rate Mechanism, Major’s Treasury were forced to withdraw it; accumulating total losses of £3.5 billion (Major, 1999).  However, arguably more damaging to the Conservative Party’s reputation were the internal scandals between 1990 and 1997. Europescepticism within the cabinet led to vehement infighting with leading figures opposing Major’s pro-European stance, whilst others were involved in the ‘Cash for Questions’ scandal. A newspaper sting involving a number of MP’s, including Neil Hammond, who accepted money from businesses to pose questions in the House of Commons. Finally, and perhaps most embarrassingly, after revealing the ‘Back to Basics’ campaign at the 1993 Party Conference, a drive which sought to return Britain to the family values of a bygone era, a host of Tory MP’s and associates were exposed to having been involved in a number of sexual scandals; ranging from homosexual acts, death by auto-erotic asphyxiation, with one MP even involved in an extra-marital affair with a mother and her two daughters (Marr, 2007).

The election defeat which followed Major’s time in Downing Street led to thirteen years in the wilderness for the Conservative Party, during which time they appointed four different leaders. William Hague was the first tasked with updating the Party’s image, albeit from a Eurosceptic point of a view. He drew upon the ‘Compassionate Conservatism’ being utilised by George W. Bush as the Governor of Texas and created the ‘Listening to Britain’ campaign, attempting to re-introduce the party of Thatcher and Major. The party which had turned away from the ‘One Nation’ conservatism of Disraeli and embarked on a neo-liberal ideology, laced with scandal. His attempts resulted in impressive results in the European Parliament Election, but little else. An appearance at a theme park sporting a ‘HAGUE’ baseball cap and revealing that as a teenager he would drink “14 pints an evening” did little to combat the ‘Cool Britannia’ image which had won New Labour the election (BBC News, 1999). The election results of 2001, in which they gained only one more seat than 1997, confirmed Hague’s inability to modernise the party and led to his resignation.

Hague was briefly followed by Iain Duncan Smith between 2001 and 2003; the ‘Quiet Man’ of the Party defeated pro-European Kenneth Clarke in the battle for the leadership.  Duncan Smith’s reign continued the Euroscepticism of Hague, but saw a return to the scandal of Major. In 2002 it was revealed that the Conservative Party leader had doctored his CV in earlier life and a year later it was found that he had abused the MP’s expenses system (BBC News, 2002).  A vote of no confidence followed. His successor was Michael Howard, elected to the role unopposed; he too lasted only two years in the job. Crime, immigration, and gay marriage, were all major policy issues during his time in opposition, as well as the war in Iraq. However the Conservative agenda failed to remove the government in the 2005 election, although their performance was much improved. Howard’s inability to take advantage of Prime Minister Tony Blair’s mistakes over the invasion of Iraq resulted in a third successive Labour victory.

The first four men to walk in the shoes of Thatcher undoubtedly did so in her shadow. A legacy of social conservatism proved hard to shake for each of them, with the Party seemingly out of touch with major issues such as immigration, crime, and gay marriage. In 2005 Michael Ashcroft found that most voters thought the Conservative Party “wasn’t like them and didn’t understand them” (2005).  The lasting impact of a number of scandals, including Black Wednesday, Cash for Questions, and the Back to Basics campaign, also continued to affect the Party’s image up to 2005. Despite an economic policy similar to the incumbent government, and a largely Eurosceptic agenda- popular with the electorate; the general opinion of the Conservative Party remained one of distrust and dislike.

The Conservatives were in desperate need of rebranding, and so in December 2005 elected 39-year-old, former PR man, David Cameron. The MP for Witney defeated David Davis with almost two thirds of the postal ballot, issuing him with a mandate to modernise the Party.  The impact was immediate with comparisons drawn between himself and a young Tony Blair, leading to the headline ‘Heir to Blair’. The ‘spin’ which had long been associated with New Labour men such as Alastair Campbell and Phillip Gould was now to be seen within the opposition as costume changes and informal interviews became the norm. A change of the official party logo, switching from torch to tree, also exemplified the new Tory consensus; the flame of Conservative continuity extinguished by a “more environmentally friendly” image (BBC News, 2006). Few policies were attributed to the early life of Cameron as Conservative leader; however a change in the Party image was distinct. Though increasingly popular with the public, the Party’s strategy was not appreciated by all Conservatives. Former Chairman of the Party Norman Tebbit suggested Cameron was “intent on purging even the memory of Thatcherism before building a New Modern Compassionate Green Globally Aware Party" (Tebbit, 2006). The increasingly socio-liberal rhetoric of Cameron was seen by many as the Party’s final shift to the centre ground, a return to ‘One-Nation Conservatism’ exemplified by such policies as the “A-List” of parliamentary candidates. Drawn up following his appointment, the list aimed to revolutionise the identity of the Party by prioritising female and ethnic minority candidates. The Party Chairman in 2006, Francis Maude, exemplified the new spirit of his contemporaries as opposed to predecessor Tebbit when he said:

“Far too many Conservative MPs are like me: white, middle-class, English, based in the south-east - identikit Tories… And it doesn't look like modern Britain, where 52% of the electorate are women and 8% are ethnic minorities. If we don't look like we are capable of representing that 52% of the electorate who are women, we won't secure their support." (Woodward & Branigan, 2006)

The new-look, socially-responsible Conservative’s also eased their tone on issues such as immigration and gay adoption, whilst maintaining a sceptical stance on Europe. However a speech given by Cameron to the Centre for Social Justice in July 2006, in which he urged people “to think before labelling teenagers in hooded tops ‘gangsters’”, led to the newspaper headline “Hug a Hoodie” (BBC News, 2007). The term was used against Cameron by both New Labour and the Liberal Democrats in an attempt to show the Conservative Party as remaining out of touch- however the impact was minimal.

After nearly five years in opposition, and with the New Labour government self-imploding, Cameron was given his first opportunity to fight a general election as leader of the Conservative Party in May 2010. Live televised debates, contested by Prime Minister Gordon Brown, leader of the Liberal Democrats Nick Clegg, and Cameron, gave the former Granada TV executive the chance to present himself as the viable alternative to the boom and bust of recent years.  Of the three debates, Cameron placed second on domestic affairs, joint winner on international affairs, and importantly, outright winner on the economy (Wintour, 2012).

The election resulted in the first hung parliament since 1974. Cameron had succeeded in gaining more seats than the incumbent Labour party, but failed to earn a majority large enough to form a government.  The coalition which followed pitted the Conservative’s as the senior partner alongside the Liberal Democrats, and made Cameron the youngest Prime Minister since Lord Liverpool in 1812 (Hough, 2010). The image of the Conservative Party destined to change once again.

As the leading party within the coalition, the Conservatives have since been seen by many to have returned to a Thatcherite agenda. The austerity measures implemented since 2010, including large increases in university tuition fees, part-privatisation of the NHS, and the capping of state benefits, each exemplify the desire of Cameron’s party to roll back the state, as was the case post 1979. However, although the economic policy may have, and continue to be, Thatcher like, the makeup and social outlook of the party is dramatically different with nine ethnic minority MPs. Nonetheless, the economic cuts, reminiscent of Thatcher’s time in government are once again seen as the Conservative Party “attacking the poor” (Lawson, 2012). An opinion not only made by the left-wing media, but by Conservative MP Nadine Dorries who criticised the Prime Minister and Chancellor George Osborne when she said:

“…not only are Cameron and Osborne two posh boys who don't know the price of milk, but they are two arrogant posh boys who show no remorse, no contrition, and no passion to want to understand the lives of others.” (BBC News, 2012)

Such opinions were expressed at large when George Osborne was booed by a crowd of 80,000 at the Paralympic games in London during the summer of 2012 (The Telegraph, 2012).  

Sleaze has also once again returned to damage the Conservatives since 2010. The phone-hacking scandal, leading to the resignation and arrest of Director of Communications Andy Coulson, damaged the Prime Minister’s image dramatically, an inquest into the extent of his relationship with Rebecca Brooks, the former News of the World editor, further extenuating the impact. Accusations of Party collusion in sexual assault during the 1970s and 80s, as well as the Andrew Mitchell ‘Plebgate’ affair, proved reminiscent of a Conservative Party many had hoped would not return. However, the appointment of Lynton Crosby to mastermind the next Conservative election campaign signifies that Cameron realises the Party needs to change it’s image once again. The Australian behind Boris Johnson’s two London Mayor election victories has already impacted the Prime Minister’s response to pressure on a European referendum, the Scottish referendum, as well as his handling of revelations regarding the Hillsborough inquiry. His response to which drew many plaudits (Muir, 2012).  

There is no doubt that the image of the Conservative Party has changed since 1979, never more dramatically than between 2005 and 2010, when David Cameron drastically modernised the Party. The impact of which returned them to power for the first time in thirteen years. However, the role of Cameron has changed since forming the coalition. Whereas prior to the election, Cameron was seen to be the man dragging the Party towards the centre ground, that role is now fulfilled by the Liberal Democrats, leaving Cameron and the Conservatives to push through the hard line policy, reminiscent of Thatcher.

When concluding whether the Conservative Party have an image problem, we must consider the larger picture. The Party’s approval rating dramatically fell in the 1990s as Major’s government began to tear itself apart. This was only remedied by the re-branding and modernisation of Cameron post 2005, work which ultimately won him a premiership. However, the image which was built in the years between his election as Party leader and Prime Minister, is dramatically different to the image the Conservative Party currently has; an image which currently has Labour 13% ahead in the polls (UK Polling Report, 2013). The Conservative Party has undoubtedly had image problems before, they have one now. However, they also have the man responsible for the Party’s rebranding only a few years ago, a change which won them an election. Who’s to say he can’t do it again?

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A critical comparison of the IRA and UVF.

This essay refers to both the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA). Within this piece of work, following the IRA’s internal split in 1969, the Provisional Irish Republican Army is understood to represent the continuation of the IRA, and as such are referred to as the IRA.

 Northern Ireland (NI) is not one hundred years old, yet it has been one of the most challenging nations to habitat, govern, and understand, since its formation in 1921. A small nation of less than two million, geographically similar in size to Yorkshire, it has a history of division and violence; for a thirty year period, the most violent in Europe. Between 1970 and 2007, this region of the United Kingdom saw the fifth most terrorist attacks on the planet, ahead of nations such as Iraq, Pakistan, and Israel (LaFree, 2010). This astonishing fact is inexorably linked with two of the most prolific terrorist organisations in Anglo-Irish history; the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF); two organisations with opposing religions, ideologies, and goals. This essay will seek to understand the political aims of both groups and study their use of violence as a means of achieving them. Both organisations played large roles in the history of Northern Ireland prior to the 1960s, however this essay will predominantly focus on the two groups’ violent activities from this point onwards. Nonetheless we must first understand the groups’ political aims, aims established long before the Troubles.

The IRA’s history stretches back to the early nineteenth century, when following the Easter Rising, the Irish Volunteers reorganised to form the Irish Republican Army, going on to oppose the British and Unionist forces in the War of Independence. Following the formation of Northern Ireland in 1921, those within the IRA in favour of the Anglo-Irish Treaty split to create the Irish National Army, whilst those who opposed the Treaty and the state of Northern Ireland, remained within the IRA. The split resulted in the Irish Civil War 1922-23, fought between the two previously unified armies, and resulting in the defeat of the IRA (Smith, 1995). From this point until the outbreak of the Troubles, the IRA was involved in a number of campaigns, albeit not recognised as a legitimate force of the Irish Republic. Their fight to protect the Catholics of Northern Ireland, and ultimately destroy the state of Northern Ireland continued in both territories, as well as on the British mainland, and briefly saw the organisation flirt with the Nazi Party of Germany during the Second World War in an attempt to destabilise the British. Ironically, the defeat of the Nazis in Europe would go on to strengthen the IRA in the near future, as British welfare reforms following the war resulted in free secondary education. The further and higher education of the 1950s would go on to create a growing Catholic middle class in Northern Ireland, one not prepared to accept persecution. Teamed with the introduction of internment without trial in both the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland during the IRA’s ‘Border Campaign’; the civil rights movement was born in 1967 (BBC history, 2007)

Two years later, following the Battle of the Bogside, a conflict between Catholic residents of the Derry neighbourhood and the police, the IRA once again split into two separate factions. The leaders of the IRA had become increasingly left-leaning following the failed Border Campaign, and subscribed to the belief that the struggle to unite Ireland was a class issue, rather than a sectarian one, leading to a decision to not defend the Catholic communities throughout the Northern Ireland riots of 1969. This was seen by some as an aberration of one of the IRA’s main responsibilities; the protection of Catholic communities in NI. As such, those who believed in the traditional values of the  IRA split to create the Provisional IRA (PIRA), whilst those who maintained the Marxist based theory renamed the Official IRA.  The Official IRA would continue on until a ceasefire in 1972, although allegations of an armed threat continued after. Opposingly, the Provisional IRA would offer a violent opposition to British and Unionist forces until the end of the Troubles (Bowyer Bell, 1989). The first PIRA council was made up of prominent figures such as Seán Mac Stíofáin, Ruairí Ó Brádaigh, Paddy Mulcahy, Sean Tracey, Leo Martin, and Joe Cahill. They outlined their aims within their first public statement:

“We declare our allegiance to the 32 county Irish republic, proclaimed at Easter 1916, established by the first Dáil Éireann in 1919, overthrown by forces of arms in 1922 and suppressed to this day by the existing British-imposed six-county and twenty-six-county partition states.” (English, 2004, p106)

Similarly to the Irish Republican Army, the UVF has a history dated back to the early nineteenth century, when the Ulster Volunteers were founded by Edward Carson in 1912 to oppose the Home Rule movement. The military faction known as the Ulster Volunteer Force grew to ninety thousand and was organised by a small but highly trained leadership. Despite the military prowess of the UVF’s hierarchy, a lack of arms embarrassed the organisation. That was until 1914 when gun running from Germany resulted in thirty-five thousand rifles and two million rounds of ammunition being distributed throughout Ulster. Overnight the UVF was ready to not only fight the Republicans, but also the British government (Bruce, 1992).

Four months later and the outbreak of the First World War shifted the focus of Britain towards Europe. Secretary for War, Lord Kitchener, urged the UVF to enlist and encouraged them to do so by ensuring no Home Rule Act would be implemented until after the war. Furthermore he guaranteed the men would be kept together and formed the 36th Ulster Division who would go on to fight in the Battle of the Somme. Following the war, the sacrifice of the 36th Division was rewarded when the Government of Ireland Act 1920 exempted six northern counties from Home Rule, creating Northern Ireland, and it’s own Ulster parliament. (Bruce, 1992). The Republican response which followed, led by the IRA, resulted in the reformation of the UVF in 1920. Once again it’s leadership was swelled with “lords, knights, and very senior army officers” (Bruce, 1992, p12). This reformed UVF would go on to defeat the IRA a year later and create a reserve police force known as the ‘B Specials’.

The UVF’s legacy would remain solely within the B Specials until 1966, when following the bombing of a Catholic pub on the Shankill Road in Belfast, a group calling itself the Ulster Volunteer Force issued a statement:

“From this day, we declare war against the Irish Republican Army and its splinter groups. Known IRA men will be executed mercilessly and without hesitation. Less extreme measures will be taken against anyone sheltering or helping them, but if they persist in giving them aid, then more extreme methods will be adopted... we solemnly warn the authorities to make no more speeches of appeasement. We are heavily armed Protestants dedicated to this cause.”
(Nelson, 1984, p61)


The statement, issued by Gusty Spence, the new leader of the reformed UVF and former British war veteran, came as a response to the Border Campaign of the IRA and the bombing of Nelson’s Pillar in Dublin, a series of events which Protestant Loyalists saw as a enhancing a fresh wave of Republicanism. Prime Minister Terence O’Neill responded by denouncing the group’s links with the original UVF, illegalising the group, placing them in the same category as the IRA. From this position, both organisations would go on to implement a campaign of incredible violence; the Irish Republican Army fighting for the destruction of the Northern Irish State and the Ulster Volunteer Force defending the status of Northern Ireland as part of the United Kingdom.

Following the 1969 creation of the PIRA, the group’s main focus was on the recruitment and training of volunteers. Their initial aim was to effectively protect the Northern Irish Catholic community as they did not yet have the means to enter into open warfare, doing so throughout several riots and gun battles with British forces in their first year of operation, most notably in Belfast. Armed activities took the lives of five Unionists, four civilians, and one IRA volunteer in June and July of 1970. However the conflict was destined to change, J.Bowyer Bell writes:

“The IRA Active Service Units increasingly met provocation with provocation. The keen tactics of the British (who had used CS gas on a number of occasions against large crowds partaking in minor offences) thus encouraged the IRA to move from a defensive to an offensive campaign… the British Army largely transformed the rocks and riots of 1969 and 1970 into a very real if low-intensity war the following year, with snipers, car bombs, shootouts in housing estates, and battles on the border”.  (Bowyer Bell, 1989, p378).

During further riots in January 1971, sparked and further enflamed by house-to-house searches and imposed curfews, Robert Curtis became the first British soldier killed in the conflict. One month later an IRA landmine killed five civilians including two BBC engineers, who’s Land Rover was mistaken for a British Army vehicle. The introduction of IRA snipers to the conflict also resulted in the loss of British lives; two soldiers shot dead in February also. The following months saw 37 bombs in April, 47 in May, and 50 in June (Bowyer Bell, 1989, p378). The IRA had moved from defenders to aggressors and their use of violence had changed accordingly.

Their operations also became more complex as growing support increased funds and expertise. The kidnapping of three off-duty Scottish soldiers and their subsequent murder in March of 1971, was followed by the destruction of a Royal Navy survey vessel in Dublin in April, and in July an IRA bomb destroyed the Daily Mirror printing plant in Dunmurry. A move not focused on the forces of the British establishment in Northern Ireland, but on it’s economy.

The increasing level of activity of the IRA led to the re-introduction of internment, a move that imprisoned 343 suspects on both sides of the conflict, however the number of which were active or integral to IRA operations was minimal. The bloodshed in response to internment took the conflict to a new level of violence, 150 lives lost in the closing months of 1971 (BBC History, 2007).

Then on 30 January 1972, 13 demonstrators were shot dead and another mortally wounded by the British Parachute Regiment at a civil rights march in Derry. The day in question would go on to be known as ‘Bloody Sunday’ and has become one of the most infamous events of the Troubles. It’s impact on the conflict was immense, the BBC reports:

“…as a result of the killings, new recruits swelled the ranks of the IRA and yet more British troops were deployed to the province to try and contain the ever-rising tide of violence.”
(BBC History, 2007).

One month later in March, the Abercorn Restaurant bombing by the IRA in Belfast was seen as another watershed moment of the conflict. Detonated at 4.30pm on a Saturday afternoon in a busy shopping district, the explosion was aimed not directly at the British forces, but making the state of Northern Ireland increasingly ungovernable, even at the cost of two Catholic lives. A further 136 people were injured.

Only a few weeks later, British Prime Minister Edward Heath called for the introduction of direct rule from Westminster, precipitating a period of mass sectarian violence. The IRA’s next large scale attack was the atrocities of ‘Bloody Friday’, a series of twenty explosions across Belfast, largely car bombs, detonated between 2.10pm and 3.30pm, killing seven civilians and two British soldiers, injuring a further 130. Ten days later two more IRA car bombs left nine civilians dead in the Londonderry village of Claudy. In total 496 lives were lost to the conflict in 1972 (Dunn, 1995).

Over the following years IRA activity was refocused on British forces. That was until 1976 when alongside their day to day conflict with British forces, the IRA began a campaign with increasing sectarian tendencies, beginning with the Kingsmill massacre in January of that year. The attack was focused on a minibus carrying workers home in South Armagh, of the 12 on board, one Catholic was spared his life whilst the other 11 Protestants were shot, ten of whom died. Two years later the La Mon Restaurant and Hotel was bombed in Gransha killing 12 Protestants. Similar bombings continued throughout the 1980s and in to the following decade, most notably including the Darkley Church shooting 1983, Enniskillen Remembrance Sunday bombing 1987, and the Teebane bombing 1992. These three events alone took 21 Protestant lives (O’Brien, 1993).

As well as pursuing their sectarian campaign the IRA also focused on targets outside of NI post-1972, most notably including the bombing of British army parades in Hyde Park and Regents park in London 1972, killing 11 soldiers, and the two separate bombings of pubs in Guildford and Birmingham in 1974, killing 26 civilians combined (Pat Coogan, 1993). During the same period a number of attacks were also taken on figures within the British institution, such as the assassination of Lord Mountbatten, uncle of Prince Phillip and second cousin to the Queen, in 1979, and the notorious Brighton bombing of 1984. The assassination attempt on Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and her cabinet left five people dead. Seven years later a further attack was planned for Thatcher’s murder, her replacement by John Major didn’t deter the bombing of Downing Street, but again the Prime Minister was left unscathed.

These attacks on British public figures exemplify the IRA’s willingness to enter into a variety of violent acts. Stretching from protectionist violence, namely the direct conflict with British and Unionist forces, to attacks on Protestant civilians, and attempts to destabilise the British establishment. The IRA caused terror across Northern Ireland, the Republic, and the British mainland, continuing to pose a threat to security into the twenty-first century.

Similarly, the UVF’s acts of terror were varied and extremely violent. The first of which, the bombing of a Catholic pub on the Shankill Road in May 1966 was a response to the Nelson’s Pillar bombing by the IRA and the fiftieth anniversary of the Easter Rising. The explosion killed one Catholic civilian, Matilda Gould. The first life lost to the Troubles.

Twenty days later, and after issuing a statement declaring their intent to mercilessly execute members of the IRA, UVF leader Gusty Spence ordered the murder of Belfast Republican, Leo Martin.  The four men sent to murder Martin failed to find him and instead shot dead Catholic civilian John Scullion. One month later, and after failing for a second time to find Martin, Spence and a group of UVF members instead ambushed a number of Catholic barmen as they left a pub on Malvern Street, Peter Ward died of his injuries and Spence was sentenced to life in prison for his part. Of the unprovoked attacks, Spence later wrote "At the time, the attitude was that if you couldn't get an IRA man you should shoot a Taig [a derogatory term for an Irish Catholic], he's your last resort" (Dillon, 1999, p20).

The imprisonment of Spence led to the appointment of Samuel McClelland as the UVF’s Chief of Staff and initiated a series of attacks aimed at destabilising the civil rights movement in NI. In March and April of 1969 several UVF bombs attacked the Northern Irish infrastructure, heavily damaging water and electricity supply. The attacks imitated IRA activity and resulted in the Republican group being blamed for the damage. Damage which eventually spread as far as Stormont as Prime Minister Terence O’Neill, who had been pushing for increased civil rights for Catholics in Northern Ireland, resigned (BBC News, 2011).

Two years later the McGurk’s Bar bombing greatly enhanced the UVF’s impact on the conflict, and sent the organisation in an increasingly sectarian direction. The explosion killed 15 Catholics and wounded a further 17 in the New Lodge district of Belfast, the highest death toll from a single attack during the Troubles (Pat Coogan, 2002). Their influence was again increased a year later in October 1972 when the group procured a large cache of arms through two separate attacks on a Territorial Army base in Lurgan and the Belfast docks, gaining automatic weapons, ammunition, and over twenty tonnes of explosives.

However, their next large scale attack didn’t occur for another two years. The Dublin and Monaghan bombings of May 1974 were planned and executed by members of the Mid-Ulster Brigade (MUB), a unit of the UVF commanded by Billy Hanna operating out of Lurgan and Portadown. The attack claimed the lives of 33 civilians through four separate explosions, injuring a further 300. The attack was similar to the IRA’s Bloody Friday with car bombs used to devastating effect. The Mid-Ulster Brigade’s next high profile attack occurred in County Down a year later. The Miami Show Band, a popular Republic based music group, were returning to Dublin on the evening of 31 July 1975 when they were stopped at a bogus checkpoint. The MUB men were dressed in British Army uniform and ordered the contents of the minibus to line up on the road side. Two MUB members attempted to plant a time-bomb which exploded prematurely, killing themselves. It was at this point that the remaining MUB men opened fire on the band members killing Tony Geraghty, Fran O’Toole, and Brian McCoy. The massacre shocked both the Republic and Northern Ireland and led to a number of retaliatory sectarian attacks by the IRA (Bruce, 1994).

Over the following years another UVF unit, the Shankhill Butchers rose to infamousy. Claims the group acted independently vary, however the gang’s members were almost all active within the UVF.  The Shankill Butchers activities were initiated and organised by Lenny Murphy a UVF member since 1969. Following his release from prison in 1975 for his part in the murder of a suspected arms dealer to the IRA, Murphy and his brother William set about organising likeminded Loyalists with the aim of partaking in extreme sectarian violence. Over a seven year period the Shankill Butchers claimed over 30 lives through a variety of attacks, the majority of which took place in the gang’s formative years between 1975 and 1977. However it was the gang’s sadistic kidnapping, torture, and eventual cut-throat murder of Catholic civilians, executed with a butcher’s knife, which gave Murphy’s gang their unique name and resulted in wide spread Catholic fear (Dillon, 1999).

The final years of the 1970s saw wholesale changes within the UVF as a large number of members were imprisoned due to police informers and super-grass plea bargains. Tommy West became Chief of Staff and ushered in a new moderate era for the organisation, focused on paramilitary activity as opposed to civilian attacks. A large shipment of arms in 1982 divided between the UVF and two other Unionist paramilitary groups, the Ulster Defence Association and the Ulster Resistance, once again reinvigorated the UVF and resulted in a rise in the number of IRA members assassinated by the group. (Cobain, 2012). This policy continued in to the 1990s when on 3 March 1991 UVF gunmen killed three IRA men in the car park of Boyle’s Bar, Cappagh, County Tyrone.

Three years later the UVF joined the Combined Loyalist Military Command (CLMC), signalling their intent to move towards peace in Northern Ireland. However their actions were countered by members on 18 July 1994 as they machine gunned a pub in Loughlinisland for showing the Republic of Ireland football team competing in the World Cup. Six people were killed (Cobain, 2012). Three months later, the CLMC called a ceasefire and the UVF agreed to lay down their arms. Those whom disapproved formed the Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF) and defected from the organisation. Violence between the UVF and LVF has sporadically flared in the years since the ceasefire, and conflict has also occurred with the UDA leading to a number of deaths post-millennium.

Similarly to their Republican counterpart the UVF inflicted a variety of devastating terrorist attacks. However, unlike the IRA, the UVF held a less ‘protectionist’ role in Northern Ireland as the British forces and relevant Ulster regiments were responsible for maintaining peace across Northern Ireland. The UVF’s main focus as outlined in their first statement on 21 May 1966 was to eradicate the IRA and they aimed to do so through direct attacks on IRA members and associates. However, an aggressive sectarian attitude was adopted for long periods and led to the murder of hundreds of civilians, both as retaliation for IRA activity and in certain circumstances, such as the Shankill Butchers, an internal hatred of Catholics. The organisation’s violence also focused on effecting public feeling, such as the IRA imitation bombings and the Miami Show Band murders.

When drawing a comparison between the two terrorist organisations within this essay we must assess the degree to which their political aims were achieved by their violent activity.  The IRA’s attempted destruction of the state of Northern Ireland, ultimately failed; with critics such as Bowyer Bell suggesting that they did not focus enough attention on industrial and economic targets, however the violence they inflicted throughout the conflict, and the prospect of it’s removal, undoubtedly resulted in a great amount of bargaining power for the IRA’s political wing, Sinn Fein, in the Northern Irish peace process (Bowyer Bell, 1989). Similarly, the UVF’s political branch the Progressive Unionist Party (PUP) was heavily involved in the formation of the Good Friday Agreement 1998, a result of their paramilitary activity up to 1994. The organisation dedicated to the Anglo-Irish agreement of 1921 played a role in maintaining an independent Northern Ireland, their violent attacks often responding to IRA activity and acting revenge on behalf of the Loyalist community.

When drawing conclusion it is important to note that the political activities of neither the IRA nor UVF have been explored within this essay and the importance of both Sinn Fein and the PUP in the conflict should not be underestimated. However the role of violence in achieving both organisations’ political aims has proven integral. The UVF were just one of a number of Unionist paramilitary organisations operating in Northern Ireland throughout the Troubles, all of whom shared limited ideals with the British forces, namely the protection of NI. Opposingly, the IRA represented the near singular threat to Northern Irish independence and as such faced a much greater challenge.

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Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Health Care Policy: A modern transatlantic comparison.

5th July 1948, the National Health Service (NHS) opens its doors for the first time in hospitals and surgeries around Britain under the supervision of Labour Health Minister Nye Bevan. Following the election of Clement Attlee’s Labour government in 1945 it was agreed that Britain, recovering from its second World War, was in desperate need of social reform, summarised by William Beveridge’s report on welfare. The establishment of the NHS as part of the wider reforms to the Welfare State was initially sponsored by taxation and continues to be so today. Sixty four years later, the NHS is seen as one of the great pillars of British society (Marr, 2007).

The history of modern American healthcare has been somewhat different. Unlike Britain the United States has never and continues not to provide universal healthcare for its population, leaving the market economy to provide health services (Mclintock Roe & Liberman, 2007). However, a recently passed Health Bill has initiated the first phases of compulsory health insurance for all American citizens, a much debated and hotly contested prospect.

Despite these seemingly opposing attitudes to healthcare within the United Kingdom and the United States there is much to compare and contrast as recent, current, and continued policy implementation on both sides of the Atlantic appears to bring the two nations with a “special relationship” closer together.

In July 2010, two months after its election, the UK’s collation government, led by Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron, presented a whitepaper to the House of Commons proposing top-down reorganisation of the NHS. The subsequent Bill, the Health and Social Care Act, was submitted in January 2011 and proposed that the allocation of patient care be removed from NHS Primary Care Trusts and placed in the hands of General Practitioners (GPs). GPs could then choose between a variety of both public and private options on behalf of their patients. The move was described by its supporters as removing the bureaucratic red-tape of healthcare and providing greater options for improved services. The proposal was described by the Daily Telegraph as the “Biggest revolution in the NHS for 60 years”. Andrew Porter, the newspaper’s Political Editor wrote:

“The plan…is designed to place key decisions about how patients are cared for in the hands of doctors who know them… At present, funds are given by the Government to primary care trusts, which pay for patients from their area to be treated in hospital. Under these plans, GPs — who are currently not responsible for paying for hospital referrals — would receive the money instead and pay the hospitals directly.”
          (Porter, 2010)

A second key aspect of the Bill was the revision of the amount of income hospitals are allowed to make from private patients, rising from 2% to 49%. Andrew Lansley, the Conservative Health Secretary described the strategy as positive for NHS patients, he said "If these hospitals earn additional income from private work that means there will be more money available to invest in NHS services” (Briggs, 2011). 

Opposition leaders, including Liberal Democrat members of the coalition cabinet refuted both key aspects of the Bill, describing them as a systematic privatisation of the Health Service, opening the door to American style competition in British health care. Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrats, threatened to veto the Bill in the wake of its proposal and vowed there would be no “back-door privatisation of the NHS” (The Telegraph, 2011)  

The Bill was subsequently subject to amendments in both parliamentary Houses, as well as public and professional outcries. One month prior to the Bill’s assent, Dr Richard Nicholl of the Royal College of Physicians (RCP), collected the signatures of 20 RCP members signalling an extraordinary general meeting to stop what he described as a “dangerous” Bill. He said:

"The bill is bad for the country's health and healthcare and will increase inequalities. None of the hundreds of amendments the government has had to table so far deal with the fundamental flaws of the bill"
           (Campbell & Helm, 2012)

As well as criticising the abolition of Primary Care Trusts, Nicholl and other members of the RCP opposed the planned extension of competition within the NHS. Suggesting patients would suffer as a result of coalition plans for hospitals to earn up to 49% of income from private patients. In an interview with the Guardian newspaper Nicholl warned of longer waiting lists for NHS patients as a result of prioritising private patients, Nicholl continues:

“…why the hell are the government forcing this through? Market theory is a disaster in health. People need to stop this bill; it's plain dangerous."
           (Campbell & Helm, 2012)

Following the extraordinary meeting on Monday 27th February 2010, the RCP polled 25,417 fellows and members asking for their opinions on the Health and Social Care Bill, the results proved damning with 6% of respondents declaring their acceptance of the Bill and an overwhelming 69% rejecting it (Royal College of Physicians, 2012). Despite heavy opposition the Bill received Royal Assent in March 2012 and many key aspects of the legislation are expected to be implemented by 2013.

Whilst Britain’s National Health Service appears to be shifting towards increasing privatisation amidst claims of widening inequalities, America is seemingly moving in the opposite direction, all be it from the opposite end of the health care spectrum.

In July 2009, six months after President Obama’s inauguration, Democrat leaders presented a series of proposals on health care reform to the House of Representatives signifying Obama’s intent on change. Significant proposals included the mandatory expansion of health insurance to all American citizens, as well as the establishment of a government insurance plan known as the “public option”. Two federally funded insurance schemes were already in existence; Medicare, supporting the elderly, and Medicaid, supporting the poor. However the “public option” proposed to create a government backed insurance scheme available to all with a view to competing with the private sector. Further proposals included subsidies in the form of tax credits for those most incapable of accessing health insurance and certain reforms of the health industry itself, such as the illegalisation of certain medical insurer activity- such as “dropping” ill patients or denying coverage to those with pre-existing conditions (MacAskil, 2009). The plan also outlined a number of tax increases for both the health industry and wealthy Americans, including a rise from 1.45% to 2.35% of the Federal Insurance Contributions tax for individuals earning $200,000 and couples with incomes over $250,000.

President Obama’s described the proposals as a way of reaching out to the 45 million American’s without health insurance, he said:

"After decades of inaction, we have finally decided to fix what is broken about healthcare in America. We have decided that it's time to give every American quality healthcare at an affordable cost."
           (MacAskil, 2009)

Opposition to reform was led by Republicans throughout Capitol Hill, disapproving of the President’s plans to raise both taxation and public spending in order to alter the American health care model. Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona discussed his party’s opposition with the New York Times stating:

“I think it is safe to say there are a huge number of big issues that people have… There is no way that Republicans are going to support a trillion-dollar-plus bill.”
           (Hulse & Zeleny, 2009)

Professional opposition was also aired by medical experts across the United States. Troy M. Tippett M.D., President of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons stated in December 2009:

"The Senate bill inappropriately expands the role of the federal government in health care decision making, and undermines the doctor-patient relationship that is critical to a health care delivery system that works for patients."
           (Physicians United for Patients, 2010)

Joseph D. Zuckerman, M.D., President of the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons reiterated his colleague’s fears:

 "We urge the Senate to take a step back, and make essential changes to this bill before a rush to reform leads to a bad outcome for patients across the country."
          (Physicians United for Patients, 2010)

Despite much opposition and after ten months of hard fought amendment and Democratic compromise in both Congressional Houses, a final piece of legislation was agreed upon and ratified by President Obama in March 2010. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act introduced many of the reforms proposed by Democrats almost a year earlier, including obligatory health insurance, medical tax credits for the poorest, increased regulation of the health care industry and higher taxation of the wealthiest to directly support both Medicare and Medicaid.  However, the Bill did not include the “public option” as proposed by President Obama in July 2009, jettisoned by Senate dealmakers to create a passable piece of legislation (Bonnett, 2010) The changes implemented via the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act 2010 are proposed to extend medical coverage to a further 32 million American citizens. President Obama described the changes as “reforms that generations of Americans have fought and marched for and hungered to see” (Durando, 2010. Sky News’ Foreign Affairs Editor, Tim Marshall summarised the reforms as not being universal, but “the closest America will ever get” (Bonnett, 2010).

Principally, the United States continues along a path of private health care with no universal public insurance policy yet established, whilst the United Kingdom continues to provide healthcare free at the point of access in 2012, as it has done since the dawn of the National Health Service in 1948. However, as we have seen, recent changes in British and American health policy have been both widespread and of great significance, with the United Kingdom entering a phase of partial privatisation whilst the United States has categorically increased access to health care.

As liberal democracies, the political processes of the United States and Britain are open for scrutiny, as are the policies each respective government wishes to legislate. And although both American Congress and British Parliament operate on a bicameral basis, differing challenges were faced by David Cameron and Barack Obama throughout their respective drives for health care reform.

As the first Prime Minister of a coalition government since the Second World War, Conservative David Cameron faced vigorous opposition to his party’s health reform proposals from within his own cabinet. Liberal Democrat ministers, such as Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg questioned the degree by which the Bill would privatise the NHS (The Telegraph, 2011). Unlike the United Kingdom, the Executive Branch of American government revolves solely around one man. As such, due to the design of American politics, enshrined in the constitution, President Obama did not face the internal competition his British counterpart did. However, both premierships had to fight to pass legislation once it was opened to the legislature.

Following the general election of May 2010, Conservative MP’s accounted for 305 of the available House of Commons seats, defeating their nearest rivals, and current incumbents, New Labour by 52. The subsequent establishment of a Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition, with their 57 seats provided a large enough majority to formulate a government capable of passing legislation such as the Health and Social Care Act 2012 (Parliament UK, 2010).  Similarly to the Conservative majority within the House of Commons, President Obama’s Democratic Party also held a majority in the lower-House following his election in 2009. Of the 435 available seats within the House of Representatives, 256 were elected to members of Obama’s party, with 178 in favour of Republican candidates.

Despite similar levels of backing within their respective legislature’s lower chamber, both governments faced different prospects with regards to passing reforms through the upper-House.  Britain’s House of Lords, with a Labour majority, is constrained to rejecting a Bill a maximum of three times in one year (Heywood, 2007). As such its role in the creation of legislation is largely limited to the recommendation of amendments, as was the case throughout the introduction of Cameron’s health reforms. Conversely to the House of Lords, the American Senate is not constrained on its rejection of Bills and as such the importance of its composition is vital to any President hoping to pass legislation. Unlike the unelected House of Lords, where peers are either granted status through birth-right or appointment, the Senate is a fully elected chamber with two senators representing each state (Heywood, 2007). During the period of time immediately preceding the introduction of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in 2010, 57 of the 100 senators represented the Democratic Party as opposed to the Republican’s 41. This slim majority proved to be a key factor affecting the redevelopment of Obama’s original health reform suggestions. Such fundamental changes to the American health system not only split Democrats and Republicans, but also split certain sections of the Democratic Party itself, leaving those responsible with pushing the legislation forward a difficult task. Final key amendments included the abolition of the proposed “public option” and insurances that federal money would not be used to fund abortions.

We can see that the paths of both Prime Minister Cameron’s and President Obama’s health reforms have led through two legislative chambers respectively, however the influences of each nation’s upper and lower Houses have proven to be converse.  Legislation passed within the United States must truly be approved by both the House of Representatives and the Senate, as was the eventual case for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in March 2010.  However, the power divide between Britain’s House of Commons and House of Lords is not so evenly balanced, with the lower elected chamber able to force legislation through due to its neighbour’s inability to consistently reject Bills. 

Furthermore to these two nation’s processional disparities is the composition of the respective Executive branches. As American President, all power of the Executive Branch is vested in Barack Obama, who also acts as Head of State and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces. All other members of the Executive, including the Vice President, Cabinet and Executive Office are regarded solely as advisory bodies (The Whitehouse, 2012). Unlike the President, Prime Minister David Cameron is not Head of State, and instead, as the leader of the party with the largest majority within the House of Commons following the General Election in May 2010, was asked by the Queen to formulate a government. As Prime Minister he is regarded as primus inter pares or “first among equals” with regards to his role within the Cabinet. He is regarded as the leader of a group of decision makers, rather than acting as the sole decision maker himself (Heywood, 2007). The collective accountability of Cabinet ministers can be difficult enough to galvanise within a single-party government, however Prime Minister Cameron faced a much greater test within the Conservative-Liberal coalition with the debate surrounding health reforms, battling not only to convince Ministers of his own party but Ministers of a party much associated with opposing the privatisation of nationalised services.

Superficially, the American and British political models appear similar as liberal democracies with bicameral legislatures. However, we have discovered many great differences in the operation and mobility of these two nation’s political systems. This trend of partial similarity is something reflected in the comparison of further political concepts within these two countries.

The democratic system of government within United Kingdom and the United States is keenly protected, not only by differing styles of constitution, but also through external participation by both the general public and professional representative bodies, such as Trade Unions, Interest and Pressure Groups.

This interaction, as displayed by both the British Royal College of Physicians and the American Association of Neurological Surgeons alongside the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons with regards to their own nation’s recent health reforms exemplifies modern liberal democracy as more than the right to vote. James Laxar writes:

“Essential features of contemporary democracy are the rights to free speech and assembly. Democracy also extends to the rule of law, to the right of those accused of crimes to fair and speedy trials, to freedom from arbitrary detention and the right to legal counsel.”
           (Laxar,p10, 2010)

By upholding the “essential features of contemporary democracy” as described by Laxar, both Britain and the United States allow their own political cultures to flourish.

The protection of democracy is a key similarity when comparing the political culture of these two countries; however there are many great differences also. The great American belief in “rugged individualism”, the notion that citizens thrive with little government interference was summarised by Republican candidate, Herbert Hoover during his Presidential election campaign in 1928, at New York’s Madison Square Garden he said:

“When the war closed… we were challenged with a peace-time choice between the American system of rugged individualism and a European philosophy of diametrically opposed doctrines – doctrines of paternalism and state socialism. The acceptance of these ideas would have meant the destruction of self-government through centralization of government. It would have meant the undermining of the individual initiative and enterprise through which our people have grown to unparalleled greatness.”
           (Cohen, 2008)

Twenty years later following a second World War, actions taken by Britain under the guidance of Clement Attlee and at the recommendation of William Beveridge, establishing the National Health Service, optimised the European-state paternalism discussed by Hoover.  However, although met by some scepticism, one former chairman of the British Medical Association described the move as “the first step, and a big one, to national socialism”, the National Health Service as part of the wider Welfare State in Britain went on to be widely endeared by a nation recovering from the effects of two World Wars (BBC News, 1998).  

The impact of Beveridge’s report on welfare in Britain has gone on to impact the political culture of the United Kingdom throughout the 20th into the 21st century.  Within his article “Attitudes to Welfare”, Peter Taylor-Gooby describes British support for the Welfare State as “strong and enduring in the main” going on to state:

“The NHS, pensions and education command mass support because they meet mass demands.”
(Taylor-Gooby, p77, 1985)  

The defining features of political culture within the United States and Britain have clearly played a key role in the development of health care policy in recent years. Whilst President Obama’s contemporary Democratic Party would widely be regarded as opposed to the hard-line individualism discussed by Hoover, the sentiments displayed by the former Republican President still underline much of the overwhelming American attitude. Similarly, modern British attitudes towards the National Health Service remain widely alike to those surrounding its establishment; supportive of the public model. As such Prime Minister Cameron and President Obama both had to fight to pass legislation largely opposing the views of the popular national political culture.

As such we understand the political cultures of both America and Britain to be of great importance with regards to policy implementation. Summarising Almond and Verba’s study into political culture, Hague and Harrop write:

“Mass attitudes towards government will of course reflect what the government has done in the past but- and here is Almond’s point- these sentiments will in turn affect what the government can achieve in the present and the future. In this way, political culture connects government not just with society but also with its own history.”
           (Hague and Harrop, p105, 2007)

In conclusion, the passing of both the American Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act 2010 and the British Health and Social Care Act 2012 has signified major changes to the health services in the United States and the United Kingdom. Both countries have displayed close similarities within their political systems, models, and cultures, however vast differences have also been apparent between these two liberal democracies from the composition of their legislatures to the wider political attitudes of the electorate.

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