House of Commons Speaker John Bercow visits Parliamentary Studies Class

The Politics team at Canterbury Christ Church University were delighted to host The Rt Hon John Bercow, current Speaker of the House of Commons, on Thursday 30 November 2017. Mr Speaker was fulfilling a promise he made to visit all universities currently teaching the official Parliamentary Studies module in collaboration with the Houses of Parliament. He addressed a private session with final year students, chaired by Dr Mark Bennister who leads the module. Politics staff as well as A-Level students from our partner school, the Canterbury Academy, were also present.

The Rt Hon John Bercow, Speaker of the House of Commons (centre), with CCCU Pro-Vice Chancellor David Shepherd (left) and Dr Mark Bennister (right), during the private session with Parliamentary Studies students.

Mr Speaker spent over an hour and a half answering questions from students on a wide range of subjects relating to current parliamentary issues. Subjects included minority government, the modern role of the Speaker, Lords reform, current challenges for parliament, and the Speaker’s own political journey.

The session was a great success as one student commented “I’m sure I speak for everyone in the Parliament Studies class when I say that it was a genuinely amazing opportunity to be able to ask him questions in a private setting, and it’s an event that I’m sure will stay with us for a long time”.

Mr Speaker went on to deliver the first lecture in the Vice Chancellor’s Public Lecture series to a packed audience of 450 members of staff, students and the public. The public lecture ‘The Making of a Modern Parliament’ was also a great success as Mr Speaker gave an entertaining and highly informative talk on the role of Speaker and the reform of Parliament.

The Rt Hon John Bercow during his public lecture “The Making of a Modern Parliament”

Dr Mark Bennister has been teaching Parliamentary Studies for 3 years. The Politics and International Relations programme were awarded the module in a competitive process in 2015. You can find more information about the module here


Myth-Busting in Contemporary Politics – Poster exhibition at the CCCU Sidney Cooper Gallery

The Centre for European Studies (CEFEUS), in tandem with Canterbury Christ Church University’s “Making Politics Matter” programme, and the Sidney Cooper Gallery will host an exhibition entitled “Myth-busting in Contemporary Politics”.

The exhibition will feature posters designed by students at Canterbury Christ Church University exposing a range of myths and fake news on political, philosophical and ethical issues. The exhibition forms part of the “Spinelli Season”, a 6-month series of events organised by CEFEUS designed to encourage public engagement on European and British political issues.

Wednesday 13th December 2017
Sidney Cooper Gallery

CCCU Parliamentary Studies students in discussion with new MP Bambos Charalambous

On 16 November politics students in the final year Parliamentary Studies class at CCCU took part in a webinar with the new MP for Enfield, Bambos Charalambous. Topics included what it’s like to be a new MP in the Commons, the EU withdrawal bill, government procedural tactics and Labour party unity. The session was part of the programme’s commitment to engage with practitioners. This webinar was facilitated by Globalnet21.

Parliamentary Studies at Canterbury Christ Church University
Led by Dr Mark Bennister, Reader in Politics, the Politics and IR Programme at CCCU runs ‘Parliamentary Studies’ in cooperation with the Houses of Parliament. CCCU was chosen in 2015 following a competitive process, as one of only seven universities across the UK to be awarded the chance to teach this course, which is the only Higher Education module formally approved by Parliament, and has the support of the Speaker of the House of Commons, the Lords Speaker and the management boards of both Houses.

You can find out more here: Parliamentary Studies at CCCU

The case for Common European Defence

Our student John Smith argues that the EU could replace the United States as the world’s military superpower, but it must start to cooperate more closely in areas that were hitherto left to individual member states.

The ultimate aim of defence policy is to provide a country’s population with a feeling of security from external harm. There is an increasing need for a common defence of Europe, due to the effects of globalisation and rising global tensions. Integrationists have longed for this since their first attempt to create a single European Army in 1954, since it represents the pinnacle of political integration in which defence becomes a shared competence. Before I go any further I want to make it clear that I am not advocating for a single European Army, rather I am advocating for much closer cooperation on defence policy.

Photo via wikimedia commons – (c) Arno Mikkor

Continue reading “The case for Common European Defence”

UK-EU Brexit Negotiations: Explaining dark matter to a four-year-old

As one of its last activities in the 2014-17 cycle, the Jean Monnet Chair of Professor Amelia Hadfield ran a blog competition for full-time first year undergraduate students in politics. The post below is one of the eight winning undergraduate entries. First year BSc Politics student Thomas James reflects on the complexity of UK-EU Brexit negotiations.

The distribution of dark matter, galaxies, and hot gas in the core of the merging galaxy cluster Abell 520 | image via

It’s often not until things happen, that their inevitability seems obvious. But the lack of progress and sluggish nature of the Brexit negotiations was something that was always very likely to happen. The sheer monumental nature of the task before those charged with finding a way to successfully concluding the discussions is mindboggling. Trade, security, free movement, single market, customs union… the list goes on and on… and on.

Each point taken individually is complex enough; as a collective it wouldn’t be unfair to compare it to trying to explain dark matter to a four-year-old.

On the British side, Theresa May leads an increasingly fractured cabinet with disagreements more the norm than the opposite. The public can hardly help but be a little perplexed by all this. Hard Brexit, soft Brexit, green Brexit and even a red white and blue Brexit have been tabled as possibilities and it would seem that at present the government’s position is to pick one of them out of a hat, cross their fingers and hope for the best. It is safe to say that no one saw any of this coming. The Vote Leave team would go down to a hard-fought defeat and all would go on merrily as before. Except, leave won, we’re leaving the EU and no one has any idea what on earth is going on.

The EU, and indeed the wider world, must be wondering how we ever managed to defeat Napoleon, carve out one of the biggest empires in history, win two world wars and then be duped by a tweed-wearing man called Nigel into thinking that indeed all foreigners, especially the European variety (conveniently forgetting that we are indeed still European), are all very nasty people, best avoided and of the sort that we certainly don’t want over here.

To be fair, the EU does have Jean-Claude Junker so we don’t have a monopoly on the idiotic (I’m of course writing this in the wrong language for Jean-Claude because as we’re all aware English is dying out). But even with Jean-Claude at the helm of the commission, the EU’s position is exponentially clearer than that of Britain’s. Single market access means accepting free movement, there will be a divorce bill and no, trade talks can’t run simultaneously alongside the exit negotiations, period. Meanwhile on our side of the Channel, we have a Chancellor that thinks this is really all very foolish, a foreign secretary who just does and says whatever he wants and a Brexit Secretary who’s probably wondering what the hell he’s done and got himself involved in. And at the helm a Prime Minister who’s more akin to a stressed-out teacher trying to control an unruly class of teenagers in a dodgy inner-city comprehensive.

So, there’s a divided British cabinet, the other side is much better organised than our own, it’s all mind-bogglingly complex and it all needs to be wrapped up by March 2019. Fantastic!


The Jean Monnet Chair Blog on Europe Competition:
Students could submit 500 word blog posts on any topic related to Europe – e.g. European democracy, European migration, European security, European identity, European economics or Brexit-EU relations – and winners were rewarded with a £250 book voucher for the CCCU Bookshop. The idea behind the competition was not only to support students financially in the first couple of weeks at CCCU, but also to encourage think about key issues that they will be studying over the course of their degree.

The full list of winners and their blog posts can be found here:  Jean Monnet Chair Blogs on Europe Competition