Because I like to take on the big questions of our time – and probably offend everyone in the process with my answers – I’ve a piece at Prospect magazine attempting to define centrism.
My Political Quarterly article ‘Macron’s lessons for the British centre’ is now available free, so please go read it and tell me how many errors I’ve made in it. It’s based in part on this post I wrote a couple of months ago, so you may find some of it familiar.
There’s no election diary today, as there’s no electioneering going on because of what happened in Manchester. It’ll resume at some point in the near future, and I will too. There are lots of words already on what’s happened, and there’ll be lots more to come, and the only advice I’ll give is that if you’re asking yourself ‘is it too soon to write this?’ then yes, it most likely is.
If you want to help in this and future emergencies, then if you can register here to give blood.
This will still be the principal place for my blogging, but having another outlet doesn’t seem to harm the number of readers I get, and might even raise my profile.
It’s not been the busiest of blogging years for me, but there have still been a few posts here. Which were the most popular?
Most popular overall was actually from 2014: Why do people join political parties (and why don’t they do it now?) This is a post that’s managed (thanks to a vaguely clickbaity title) to get itself high up in Google searches for various terms and it’s rare for a day to go by without it getting some hits.
Of posts actually written this year, the top five turned out to be:
5) Is Will Quince MP psychic? The answer may surprise you – but it probably won’t.
4) The Mandela Effect: because it’s easier to assume alternate universes than faulty memories Some of you have no memory of hearing of this blog post before now.
3) Why I’m stepping back up and running for Council again And if you don’t want to know the result, don’t click here.
2) Why the 2014 coup against Clegg was botched Yes, I wrote about 2014 events in 2016, because that’s how up to the minute my political commentary is.
1) Open to your ‘legitimate concerns’ Open Britain has been underwhelming me (and many others) from the start.
So that was 2016. Now let us never speak of this again.
I’ve written a piece for the Mile End Institute on the Richmond Park by-election and how it might change British politics. At some point I may write a generic companion piece to that and many other bits of writing by me and others on ‘why this event will cause few if any changes to the way things are’. But you can assume the content of that without me writing it, I’m sure.
As regular readers of my blog and followers of my life might remember, about a year ago I completed a Masters in Politics at the University of Essex. I’d started the Masters partly on a whim, figuring that it would be good to take advantage of having one of the leading politics departments in the country on my doorstep, but as I went on with it I discovered that I really enjoyed being a student again, particularly in getting to research new areas and explore political systems.
While the Masters came to an end last year, I decided that I didn’t want that to be the end of my studies and decided to look into the prospects of doing a PhD, picking up some of the threads I’d found while researching my Masters dissertation and going further in exploring them. Luckily for me, it turns out that other people think that’s an area worth exploring too, and so from the end of September I’ll be a PhD student (and graduate teaching assistant) in the School of Politics and International Relations at Queen Mary, University of London. (I’m not leaving Colchester, though, so I’ll also be a commuter…)
My research proposal has the title ‘centre parties and the structure of competition’. My plan is to look at centre parties in various electoral systems and look at how the structure of competition within a political system (an idea originally developed by the late Peter Mair) relates to them. I’m aware that no PhD research proposal tends to survive intact from its first meeting with your supervisor, so the details will likely change over the coming months and years, but I’ll be looking at questions like what defines centre parties (and the Duverger/Sartori question of whether they exist at all), how they interact with parties and party blocks to left and right, and what factors lead some to be successful while others aren’t.
However it develops, I’m sure it will lead to many interesting points that I’ll be sharing either here or elsewhere, and hopefully in three or so years time I’ll be able to enter a room and get a ‘Hi, Dr Nick‘ response. Because what’s three years of study worth if you can’t get a weak Simpsons joke out of it at the end? It’s either that or transfer to Finland so I can work towards my doctoral hat and sword.
You might have noticed that posts have been a bit thin on the ground here for the past month or so. Some of it has been because I’ve been focusing on job/PhD applications and interviews amongst other things, but it’s also been because there’s not been much that’s inspired me to think ‘ehy, I should blog about that’.
So, here’s an open call for some crowdsourced inspiration. What things are there that you’d have liked to see me blog about, but haven’t? What posts have I written ‘I’ll write more about this some other time’ in, then to your disappointment, completely failed to follow up on? What things have made you think ‘I’d like to know what Nick thinks about this’?
Comments are open for your suggestions, requests, demands and ideas. I can’t promise that I’ll follow them all up, but I will try my best. I remain utterly shameless, so any requests that are accompanied by promises of large cash payments will be given priority.
Back in November, I entered the Liberal Democrats’ Agenda 2020 essay competition. The aim was to write a short essay on ‘what does it mean to be a Liberal Democrat today?’ and I posted my entry here on the blog as well.
The entries to it have now all been read, and mine is one of those that made it through onto the final shortlist. So you can now read mine as well as the other eight on the shortlist and decide on which one you think best captures the meaning of what it is to be a Liberal Democrat today. You can vote until February 12th, with the winner being announced at the next party conference in York in March. So, go read them and have your say.
I’ve already looked back on my most popular posts of 2015, but what were the top posts of the last quarter of it?
5) Taking student politics far too seriously – People get riled up about the inanities of student politics look as silly now as they did when I was a student.
4) West Wing worship is damaging for British politics – Yet again, too many people are taking something frothy far too seriously.
3) What the hell are the Lib Dem Lords playing at? – Because we really need the scab picking off an old wound.
2) The curse of the Very Serious People – Thanks to everyone who supported my Tough Decision to demonstrate my moral clarity and write this post.
1) Closing the Overton Window – It’s an unproven concept that doesn’t reflect how public opinion is actually formed.
And that concludes our looking back at 2015. Time to think of some new things to write about for 2016.