Monday, December 30, 2013

Study for a PhD in Law - Durham University

Durham University is now advertising three PhD studentships -- the deadline is 5pm on Monday, 17 February 2014. There are also AHRC and ESRC studentship opportunities. More information about applications can be found here: 

Durham Law School has over 40 full-time members of staff including several working in legal and moral philosophy that may be available to supervise new students. The Law School is one of the highest ranked in the UK supporting six active research centres across a variety of areas with links across several research institutes at the university.

Interested readers should contact me for more information about studying for a PhD in Law at Durham Law School from autumn 2014.


Monday, December 23, 2013

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Policy Proposal #5: Hate Crime Register

My policy proposal #5 for the Labour Party 2015 Manifesto - launch a hate crime register

Summary: Recommendation that Labour supports the creation of a Hate Crime Register identifying persons convicted of committing hate crimes

Proposal:  Labour should support the creation of a new Hate Crime Register. Its purpose would be akin to the sex offenders register. The latter provides a list of persons identified as sex offenders where appearing on this register renders them ineligible for certain occupations, such as working with children in schools.

A Hate Crime Register would fulfill a similar aim. It would identify persons convicted of hate crimes with the purpose of rendering them ineligible for similar, if not the same, types of employment and other opportunities.

One aim is to help make communities safer. A further aim is to communicate a stronger deterrent.

See more at YourBritain website.

Policy Proposal #4: Give victims greater voice in sentencing decisions

Policy Proposal #4 for the Labour 2015 General Election Manifesto:

Criminal justice suffers from a lack of public confidence. It is easy to see why.

The legal system can appear an unwelcome place where the victim – and not the offender – is truly on trial. Many victims unsurprisingly report dissatisfaction with their treatment. Sometimes they feel like bystanders in trials they might have affected them profoundly.

This problem is not an accident. The trial is designed so that justice is impartial, but must this require we silence victims about sentencing decisions?

The issue raises an important anomaly. While victims can provide crucial evidence in favour of an offender’s conviction, victims’ voices are often silenced when we consider sentencing options.

Most criminal cases – over 90 per cent – never go to a full trial. Offenders plead guilty and a sentence is passed. Victims lack their day in court to express openly the wrongs they have endured and their views about moving forward in the name of swift justice.

Our challenge is improving public confidence in criminal justice without alienating victims further. In fact, we can make this system better by giving victims a greater voice in sentencing decisions.

Restorative justice is an approach revolutionising criminal justice. It is many things criminal justice is not. Whereas criminal justice is formal, rule-laden and conducted in court by legal professionals, restorative justice is informal, flexible and conducted by ordinary citizens. The object is to ‘restore’ the law-abiding status of a fellow citizen.

Restorative justice allows victims to tell offenders the real impact of the crime, to get answers to their questions and receive an apology. It also gives offenders a chance to understand the true impact of their actions and do something constructive to repair the harm they have caused. This is often done in a conference-like setting where the victim and offender meet. Restorative justice is a promising way to achieve more effective criminal justice.

Evidence suggests victims and offenders alike report higher satisfaction with restorative meetings. Restorative justice has reduced reoffending by up to 25 per cent in contrast to alternative measures. And there is welcome news for any government interested in making savings as at least one study found £9 could be saved for every £1 spent through restorative justice.

This success is a product of hearing more voices. Victims can express the impact of crimes on them and this communicates an important message to offenders they need to hear. One central way to reduce future reoffending is to make perpetrators more aware about the harm they cause.

But offenders benefit as well because we hear their voice, too. This can help identify not only what steps they might take to address their past crimes, but also how we might help them overcome future criminality. This is because we can better target the needs of victims and offenders through a restorative conversation about the past with a view to the future.

But there remains a serious hurdle for extending the benefits of restorative justice more widely. This hurdle is that the current practice of restorative justice does not include imprisonment as a possible option. This limits its applicability to cases of relatively minor crimes and youth offenders.

Some argue the public simply won’t support their greater use. The worry is restorative justice might be seen as a ‘soft touch’ where offenders might ‘escape prison’.

This rests on two mistakes. The first is thinking what people want is harsher, not better, justice. If restorative justice can effectively reduce reoffending and criminal costs while improving victim satisfaction, then this is an approach that can win public confidence.

The second mistake is failing to include a greater punitive element in restorative justice, or what I call ‘punitive restoration‘. If victims, in line with magistrates, have some power over the offender’s punishment, including suspended prison sentences, restorative conference could be used more widely and could help further reduce reoffending.

Victims have a say on outcomes in restorative meetings and the effects have been highly promising. It is time to expand the range of possible outcomes to include a more punitive element. This can ensure restorative justice is not seen as an easy option without undermining the success this approach might build on further.

We can and should improve public confidence in criminal justice by giving victims a greater voice in sentencing decisions through a restorative justice model. Justice need not require victims are silenced, only that they don’t have the only say. Restorative conferences and punitive restoration offer an important new perspective on how justice can be achieved.

See ProgressOnline piece here and YourBritain website.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

CFP: Global Justice and Global South

CFP: Global Justice and the Global South

April 25-27, 2014
Nyaya: The Global Justice Programme at the University of Delhi  In partnership with the Macmillan Global Justice Program, Yale University & Centre for the Study of Global Ethics, University of Birmingham Overview: Nyaya: The Global Justice Programme at the University of Delhi, has been launched in part as a means of bringing more South scholars and students into the global justice dialogue, as well as to increase opportunities for engagement and networking in South countries for theorists and students worldwide.

Nyaya’s inaugural conference will be held April 25-27, 2014 at the University of Delhi. It will bring together global justice theorists, philosophers, development scholars and NGO representatives from South and North countries to present original work and share their views on key issues. Themes include, but are not limited to, cosmopolitan theory and local traditions, especially in South countries; extreme poverty, social exclusion, health inequalities, human rights, protection from violence, the effects of climate change, illicit financial flows and gendered inequalities.  Participation: Please submit a paper proposal including your name, affiliation and an abstract of 300 words or fewer to Submissions will be considered continuously until Jan. 15, 2014, and notification of acceptance status will come in most cases within two weeks.

Funding is available for domestic travel for participants in India. A limited number of stipends are available to fund overseas travel for junior scholars. To apply for funding, please submit a CV, your paper abstract and a brief statement (300 words or fewer) of your interest in participating to

If you have general questions about the conference, please contact Ashok Acharya at or Rosy, Conference Coordinator, at

Conference Organizers:

Ashok Acharya, University of Delhi

Thomas Pogge, Yale University

Luis Cabrera, University of Birmingham

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Discussing EU migration with the BBC

. . . on BBC Radio Tees (here from 2hrs 8 mins).

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Many thanks to Edinburgh's Centre for Law and Society

My thanks to the University of Edinburgh's Centre for Law and Society for hosting my talk - "Unjust War Theory" - as part of their series on global justice. Some terrific questions and discussion that I found very beneficial. A highly recommended group!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Many thanks to the Durham University Pro Bono Society -- Amicus & Amnesty International

. . . for hosting my talk this evening on US public policy and the death penalty. Delighted by great questions and kind invitation.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Monday, November 18, 2013

Thom Brooks, "Punishment" - ranked #1 in Amazon's list for Philosophy of Law!

Delighted to find Punishment (Routledge, 2012) #1 seller for "Philosophy of Law," #7 for "Capital Punishment" and #14 more generally in "Philosophy": site HERE (which is where image is from) site HERE

Friday, November 15, 2013

Great minds don't think alike

. . . is the heading of this special Public Lecture at Newcastle University (part of its Insights series) that I'll be speaking at with my long-time friend and fellow North East philosopher Mary Midgley. The details:

Mary Midgley & Thom Brooks

An event celebrating ten of the greatest minds of the 20th century - presented by Routledge Free admission, no pre-booking required.

Date: 19th November 2013
Time: 18:00 - 19:30
Venue: Curtis Auditorium, Herschel Building, Newcastle University

Where are the great minds of today? Are we witnessing the end of ‘grand theory’ in the human sciences? Join acclaimed philosopher Mary Midgley, author of Beast and Man, and The Myths We Live By, and Thom Brooks, author of Hegel’s Political Philosophy and the founder of the new Unified Theory of Punishment, for an enthralling discussion about what, if anything, great thinkers such as Bertrand Russell, Claude Levi-Strauss, Sigmund Freud, Iris Murdoch and Simone Weil have in common. This event celebrates Routledge’s new Great Minds series – ten of the great books of the twentieth century refreshed for a new audience.

UPDATE: Newcastle University press release here and announcement in The Chronicle here.

Tories forget how the internet work, deletegate reminds them

. . . is my latest piece for The Conversation and can be found here. The piece discusses the sudden deletion of press releases and speeches by the party leadership in the run up to the last General Election (which found the Tories in a compromising coalition with the Liberal Democrats and so unable to make good on many campaign pledges now conveniently removed from view) not just from their website, but also appear to have tried to remove them more widely beyond their website. READ MORE

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Truth 1, Government's attempts to mislead public on immigration 0

Yet another jaw dropping response from the Government to a brilliant question posted by Lord Roberts of Llandudno yesterday in the House of Lords. The exchange (citation: HL Deb, 12 November 2013, c614):

Lord Roberts: "To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of recent analyses of the value of immigration to the United Kingdom economy; and whether they have any plans to revise their target to reduce net migration in response to those analyses."

Earl Attlee: "My Lords, the Government have made no official assessment of the recent analyses of the economic value of immigration to the UK economy. Each policy that influences immigration is assessed using the impact assessment process. The Government have a commitment to reduce net migration to tens of thousands by the end of this Parliament and believe that that will be achieved without an adverse impact on the economy."

Lord Roberts [reply]: "I think I thank the Minister for that Answer, but it is disappointing. It seems that the only real criterion that the Government have in dealing with immigration is in numbers, not in need. Do they have any other policy at all to tackle immigration positively? This morning a news item stated that 20,000 nurses were needed for the NHS. In north Wales I know of three general hospitals where a third of the consultants come from overseas. Is it not short-sighted to deal only in numbers and not look at this in a positive and long-term way?"

So there we have it. The Government lacks an official assessment about the economic value of immigration to the UK economy. Or you might say that it merely lacks an official assessment about only some "recent analyses" of this issue. But it is clear given the strong endorsement - perhaps mirroring praise - for certain analyses that demonstrated high costs (because these analyses failed to account for any benefits -- which is itself a major blunder for any purported "cost-benefit analysis" used in impact assessments as I noted elsewhere) by ministers that some within the Government clearly had a view about the validity of the numbers announced by them on several high visibility media engagements.

And now we now these numbers largely hypothetical, if not only false, and the Government never appeared to have an official assessment of figures all along. Call it the Politics of Beguilement.

All the Government can do is try to throw around more contested figures about net migration without any clear larger framework for how this policy fits into some larger vision. Or how this might simply make sense (which it doesn't).

It's time for the Government's policies on immigration to be called what they are: ill-thought nonsense.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Outstanding Contributions to Media

Apologies for the lack of posts recently. I've had a hectic week of lectures and seminars on new topics as well as a wonderful evening workshop at Hatfield College, Durham on sentencing. I also received the Faculty of Social Sciences and Health Annual Award for Outstanding Contribution to Media partly for my work on punishment and restorative justice, but largely because of the media attention and impact of my work examining the Life in the UK citizenship test (with a new, second planned report in draft now). So an amazing week, but more posts on the way including further policy proposals for the 2015 Labour Party manifesto. So watch this space....

Monday, November 04, 2013

Thom Brooks recommended to revise "Life in the UK" citizenship test in House of Lords debate

On 10th October 2013 and under the heading 'Immigration: UK Citizenship and Nationality', there was a question for debate posed by Lord Roberts of Llandudno (Lib Dem & Vice-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Migration):

"To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they have plans to revise their requirements for those who apply for United Kingdom citizenship or nationality."

An excerpt from the official Parliamentary record (Hansard):

"[. . .] Lord Roberts of Llandudno (LD): My Lords, I appreciate the opportunity to bring up the question of residency and access to the United Kingdom, and to ask the Government to look again at the requirements of those seeking UK citizenship: residency conditions; evidence of their good character; English language ability; and a matter that I have raised in the past, the Life in the UK test. [. . .]

I should like to take the Minister up on an offer he made during Questions in February to meet interested groups in order to devise a more relevant and practical set of questions. As he will know, Dr. Thom Brooks of Durham University makes a number of recommendations for change. First, the handbook should make it clear which sections are to be tested. It contains about 3,000 facts—far too many for anyone to memorise—and the whole matter could easily become a pub quiz. There are inconsistencies and omissions that need to be rectified. The Government should decide what the rationale is for the test. Is it to be a stumbling block or a ladder in the immigration process? It appears totally unfair that it is used as part of the Government’s plan to reduce immigration. That is not what the test is there for. [. . .]

It would be interesting if we set up a parliamentary citizenship quiz—perhaps the Commons versus the Lords—on the Life in the UK handbook. If it succeeded here, we could then roll it out across the UK to see how many long-serving, ordinary UK citizens could answer the questions asked. Perhaps the Minister could set up a ministerial team to tackle these questions. The answers to irrelevant questions should play no part when one is making decisions about a person’s suitability for citizenship. I ask again: where is the necessary information about the NHS, how to report crime, or which subjects are taught to our children? We have to have someone looking at this new set of questions, and perhaps Dr Thom Brooks could do just that. [. . .]

Baroness Smith of Basildon (Lab): My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Roberts, on his persistence with this issue, and welcome his efforts to secure today’s debate. The excellent speeches we have heard do great credit to your Lordships’ House. The noble Lord, Lord Taylor, and I have had a number of debates over the years we have been in our respective positions on the issue of immigration and citizenship, and that reflects the public and political interest in this issue. [. . .]

I am getting close to my time, but perhaps I may direct noble Lords to the report from Dr Thom Brooks of Durham University, which makes it quite clear that the citizenship test is not fit for purpose. The Prime Minister failed it on national television. I am sure that I would fail it, and I regard myself as a very loyal and committed citizen of the UK. It is more like a pub quiz or a game of Trivia Pursuit. [. . .]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Taylor of Holbeach) (Con): My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Roberts of Llandudno for securing this debate [. . .]. The citizenship test has changed. The one introduced by the previous Government has been brought up to date. Although there has been some criticism, notably from Dr. Thom Brooks at Durham, about that test, it has been designed to make it much more real to the people who are sitting the test, and it has been widely welcomed. [. . .] This debate has raised a lot of issues and I have found it very interesting."

The full debate can be found HERE.

Their Lordships -- from across the three main political parties -- make references to my report on the Life in the UK citizenship test - this report can be found and freely downloaded HERE.

Friday, November 01, 2013

Labour North Gala Dinner photos [UPDATE]

. . . can be found here where the guest of honour was Ed Miliband, leader of the Labour Party. Some great photos of a fun-filled event including this gem:

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Junior and Senior Research Fellowships at Durham University

There are several terrific opportunities currently advertised for junior and more senior scholars working in Law, Philosophy, Political Science and/or Public Policy at Durham University. One link to opportunities can be found HERE.

Durham University is a genuinely brilliant place to work full of great colleagues - and opportunities to support research and career progression.

I am appointed in the Law School (where I'm currently serving as the Director of Undergraduate Studies), an Associate Member of the Philosophy Department and supervise two Ph.D. students in our School of Government -- so I have strong ties within and beyond Law.

There is a strong community of colleagues working in ethics, jurisprudence and political philosophy across subjects and a vibrant research culture. For example, the Law School is modest with nearly 50 full-time academic members of staff plus a number of visiting and honorary members supporting 8 research centres and clusters, including Human Rights Centre (HRC), the Centre for Criminal Law and Criminal Justice (CCLJ), the Institute of Commercial and Corporate Law (ICCL), Gender & Law at Durham (GLAD), the Durham European Law Institute (DELI), Law and Global Justice at Durham (LGJ), Islam, Law and Modernity (ILM) and the Centre for Ethics and Law in the Life Sciences (Durham CELLS).

Readers interested in exploring these opportunities are more than welcome to contact me for more information.

Friday, October 25, 2013

"Medical tourism generates millions for NHS and wider economy, finds study"

. . . is the headline of this piece in today's The Guardian. Perhaps the Government's commissioned cost-benefit analysis would have picked this up if it had looked at figures beyond costs (as any CBA must do).

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Bad data underpins flawed health tourism report

. . . is my latest piece for The Conversation and it can be found here. A brief excerpt:

"A new report into so-called “health tourism” makes for a shocking read. Not because the costs of migrants deemed to have travelled to Britain primarily to enjoy free NHS services on British taxpayers has spiralled to £2 billion, but because it exposes serious concern about the government playing politics with both immigration and the NHS.

Consider the facts. The government has yet to provide a reliable estimate of how many such migrants have actually used the NHS. In July, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt admitted on the BBC Today programme that “the truth is we don’t know the number” of health tourists in Britain.

This failure to know the number of migrants benefiting from the NHS without contributing to its costs hasn’t prevented Hunt from claiming that health tourism costs the UK about £12m - a figure manufactured from the rounded up sum of £11.5m, which related to unpaid charges for treating migrants. When we talk about the costs of health tourism, what we’re actually talking about is any use of the NHS by migrants for any reason. And so we begin to expose the mythical health tourist problem.

The new report, published by the Department of Health, makes for interesting reading. Its purpose is clear: to provide a more reliable evidence-base for estimating the number of migrants using the NHS and associated costs . .  [READ FURTHER]"

Saturday, October 19, 2013

"Punishment" at Durham Book Festival #dbf13

It was a pleasure to speak in this year's Durham Book Festival and sponsored by Durham University's Institute for Advanced Study.

I was involved in a small panel of academic authors. It was wonderful to speak about my book Punishment and how it came together.

Our focus was discussing the topic of academic authors writing for a more general audience. My view remains that the best way to go about writing to a more general audience is to begin speaking with one. One obvious starting point is undergraduate lectures: much of the material for my books and articles begins in undergraduate lectures or graduate seminar discussions.

A second avenue is engaging with audiences away from university buildings. I've had the honour - and delight - of speaking to various political events where I always learn something important about politics, legal reform and how ideas might be shaped even better to reach a more diverse audience beyond academia.

The third avenue is online blogs, Twitter and the like - but I think this is best approached after one's "message" has been honed through the previous two avenues.

But no matter which path(s) we might take, it is clear - or at least clear to me - there is much more we academics can and should do.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Immigration and UK citizenship on Sky News

Great to have the opportunity to be interviewed live by Sky News on immigration and the Life in the UK  citizenship test - highlighting why it is a problem and what we can do to fix it. (For more, see my report.)

Many thanks to the University of York

. . . for hosting my talk "The Capabilities Approach and Political Liberalism" yesterday. Excellent questions and wonderful hosts.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Labour Party moves from strength to strength

I had the pleasure of attending a major Labour Party event this weekend where Ed Miliband, leader of the Labour Party, was the keynote speaker. I've enjoyed many events over the years, but must admit the atmosphere the best yet. Met some highly talented new candidates contesting seats in the 2015 election -- and had an early birthday treat in a nice chat with Ed Miliband about coming to the UK, immigration and, yes, the Life in the UK test.

Friday, October 04, 2013

Victims should have more power over sentencing decisions

. . . is the topic of my latest press release making the airwaves (BBC Radio Newcastle, BBC Radio Oxford, BBC Radio Scotland, BBC Radio Tees, Capital FM, Real Radio) and The Northern Echo.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Many thanks to the Edinburgh University Philosophy Society

. . . for the invitation to speak again to their wonderful group. It's been the 4th talk in 6 years so I'm beginning to feel like a regular. I highly recommend them as a group worth engaging with if in the Edinburgh area.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Thom Brooks appointed to Executive Committee of the Society of Legal Scholars

Dr Thom Brooks has been appointed to the Executive Committee of the Society of Legal Scholars for a three-year term (2013-16). The Society of Legal Scholars is a learned society with charitable status established in 1909 whose aim is the advancement of legal education and scholarship in the United Kingdom and Ireland. The Society is the learned society for those engaged in law teaching and/or legal scholarship. The Society is legal education's principal representative body to the professional bodies and the Government.

For more information, see here and Durham Law School announcement is here.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Fabian Society elections - vote!

Readers will know that I've been a member of the Fabian Society for as long as I've been in the Labour Party. It's that time of year where the Fabian Society conducts its annual election to its Executive Committee - and I've decided to stand. All candidates must provide a brief statement and this is mine:

“I’m standing for election because I believe that I can deliver new contributions, especially on immigration and criminal justice policy. I’m originally from the US earning UK citizenship two years ago and made international headlines exposing serious flaws in the “Life in the UK” test. I lecture at Durham University’s Law School where my research has defended a new framework for restorative justice and developing improvements for effective prison reform.”

The Committee is currently a who's who of some leading lights in the Labour movement and it would be a privilege to serve. Results will be announced in November.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Academic consultants could save government time and money

. . . is a story covered in this week's edition of the Times Higher Education magazine HERE. This piece includes an extended interview with me concerning a blog post I wrote a few weeks ago on this subject. The THE piece says [an excerpt]:

"[. . .] Writing on the London School of Economics’ British politics and policy blog, Thom Brooks, reader in law at Durham University, notes that according to newspaper estimates, the UK government spent up to £800 million on private consultants and short-term staff in 2012‑13.

Dr Brooks says this bill could be greatly reduced by tapping into the specialist knowledge of UK academics. Using them as consultants would also allow the government to demonstrate it was serious about the impact agenda, giving academics a genuine opportunity to influence policy by incentivising them to communicate their ideas in “non-technical” language.

“Most academics I speak to say they would love to air their ideas about policy to ministers,” he told Times Higher Education.

Dr Brooks suggested that academics from within and across institutions could form semi-permanent research policy units – which might also include private consultants – to tender for specific Whitehall projects. [. . .]"


Friday, September 13, 2013

Keynote address at Political Studies Association--Political Thought Group's annual conference

I'm delighted to be giving this year's keynote address - "Justice as Stakeholding" - to the Political Studies Association's Political Thought Group annual conference. The event takes place on 26 October 2013 at King's College London. Full details are here.

Conference: Authority in a Transnational Age

The Modern Law Review Seminar on the theme 'Authority in a Transnational Age', and is being held on 8 and 9 November 2013.

It is being hosted by the Centre for Law and Society in a Global Context at the Department of Law, Queen Mary, University of London.
Details, including the program, are here:

Booking information is here: 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Policy Proposal #3: Commitment to greater use of academic consultants

This post is part of a series of policy proposals submitted to the Labour Party by me for inclusion in the 2015 manifesto.

Government should make greater use of university academics as specialist consultants

Central government spent over £500m on consultants and staff on short-term contracts across 17 departments in 2012/13. This figure was reported to be about £800m if staff "off payroll" were included. This is not surprising. Modern governments require specialists to assist the effective management of complex programmes. Specialist consultants have a valuable role to play for government. The challenge is how to more effectively support the use of consultants benefiting improved efficiencies and reducing burdens on taxpayers.

University academics are a largely underutilised resource for Whitehall. Recent years have seen the launch of a new so-called "impact agenda" rolled out by higher education bodies, such as HEFCE and RCUK, where research "impact" is assessed and a factor in determining higher education funding. The role of this assessment of research impact has been contested and some argue it presents higher education funding with problems difficult to avoid.

These activities operate against a backdrop of supportive rhetoric by successive governments for university academics to demonstrate their research impact as one important part of what public funding for higher education should demand. SEE MORE

UPDATE: The Times Higher Education magazine has run an interview with me about this proposal here.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Arizona State - Happy Memories

Many happy memories at Arizona State University - where I studied for a MA in Political Science from 1997-99 - relived in a short interview appearing in the current e-newsletter of the ASU Alumni pages.

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Policy Proposal #2: Improve Immigration Tests

This post is part of a series of policy proposals submitted to the Labour Party by me for inclusion in the 2015 manifesto.

Improving the Life in the UK test

The 'Life in the United Kingdom' test is an important part of British immigration policy attracting cross-party support. This report is the most comprehensive and rigorous examination of the test available. The report considers how the current edition compares with previous editions and it identifies several problems that should be addressed in a future edition. The report supports 12 recommendations.

I would be very keen to lead a new revision of this test - as a university academic and academic lawyer who actually passed the test and knows first hand how immigration to the UK works - as part of a larger conversation about British citizenship for the 21st that is fair and accountable.....


Saturday, September 07, 2013

Policy Proposal #1: One Nation Politics and the Stakeholder Society

This post is part of a series of policy proposals submitted to the Labour Party by me for inclusion in the 2015 manifesto.

One Nation politics is about creating a stakeholder society

Stakeholding is not relevant to economic policy alone. In fact, it speaks to a deep rooted fundamental principle of political solidarity that resonates profoundly with Labour's historical record and embedded in One Nation politics. Labour must 'reclaim from conservatives the right to define what makes markets free and fair'; the idea of a stakeholder society can be central to this goal.
Stakeholding is a view about society where those who have a stake should have say. This is no less true over the economy than it is in other spheres of political justice and it reaffirms the value of the
individual. At a time where people have felt alienated, defending stakeholding helps illuminate the problems and their solutions. Only the idea of the stakeholder society reveals why voter alienation and political disengagement is a major problem. The public are stakeholders: it is essential that our political future is a place where they believe have a stake.

Stakeholding is a politics of hope rather than a politics of fear; it unites rather than divides. If we fail to work toward a future that all can and should believe they have a stake, then why engage with politics in the first place? We sow the seeds of further distrust and alienation in failing to create a vision for a stakeholder society for all.


Friday, September 06, 2013

Hegel's philosophy attacked by Australia's opposition parties, or "The Politics of What?!"

There is an election coming in Australia. The coalition parties, led by the right-wing "Liberal" Party, published a press release yesterday:

"A Coalition Government, if elected, will crack down on Labor’s addiction to waste by auditing increasingly ridiculous research grants and reprioritising funding through the Australian Research Council (ARC) to deliver funds to where they’re really needed.

Some of the grants issued by the ARC in recent years have been, frankly, completely over the top.
There will be no reduction in research funding. In fact, the Coalition has announced new research into dementia and diabetes.

The Coalition would look to targeting those ridiculous research grants that leave taxpayers scratching their heads wondering just what the Government was thinking.

Taxpayer dollars have been wasted on projects that do little, if anything, to advance Australians [sic] research needs. For example:
Australians can’t afford three more years of waste like the last six.[. . .]"

There is always a problem with credibility where the call to reduce public spending on education includes errors - such as "to advance Australians [sic] research needs" - that any decent schooling should have corrected before secondary school.

A problem also exists for philosophy - with two of four projects highlighted as "waste" are projects by philosophers. The Vice-Chancellor at one of the universities concerned readily came out in defence of one of the philosophers - and the coalition's press release has already come in for robust criticisms by philosophers more genuinely. I commented previously that:

"The Coalition targets a project on Hegel's philosophy as an example of waste. Of course, Hegel defends a theory of rights based upon the mutual recognition of persons as free and equal. Hegel defends education for all through school and work. Hegel also defends a state responsive to the convictions of its citizens. Perhaps the Coalition opposes rights and equality for all, mass education and the non-partisan state. Or did I miss something?"

There is something familiar about politically right-wing parties attacking academic research wherever it is found: if the research isn't pointless navel-gazing in the arts and humanities, then it might be denounced as immoral in pushing the boundaries of scientific research. But I digress.

It is time philosophers raised their game. Far more attention is paid to the many problems - even crises - in philosophy than its valuable prospects. The defence of philosophy often takes the form of either (a) philosophers are more employable - go read the statistics (but without substantive engagement to explain the numbers) or (b) philosophers contribute to the invaluable project of necessary "blue skies" thinking. Let me be clear: I accept both the employability argument and high importance for "blues skies" research.

Nonetheless, much more can and should be done to demonstrate the strong link between philosophical analysis and impact in ways that citizens (and not only funding bodies) might appreciate. There are several examples on hand - Bhikhu Parekh's work on multiculturalism, Martha Nussbaum's work on capabilities and rights, Jo Wolff's terrific new book on Ethics and Public Policy and I try to make some contribution in this area in my book Punishment, plus an article on political theory's impact in Political Studies Review as well as a forthcoming book on the relevance and impact of political science research (coming to a book store near you next year).

The perception remains of philosophy as an easy target for political point scoring that must be challenged far more effectively. This is a battle philosophers - and philosophy - can win. But there is much more work to be done - and this might involve different approaches. Otherwise, such negative perceptions can become transformed from misinformed prejudices to received "wisdom" - a move none of us can afford to witness.

UPDATE: The state broadcaster, ABC, has called the election for the opposition. Potentially very bad news for the arts and humanities generally and philosophy in particular. The time is now to secure the opposition's commitment to high quality, peer reviewed research! Further details on the election from the BBC can be found here.

UPDATE 2: It has come to my attention that Tony Abbott, the leader of the "Liberal" Party, originally grew up in Newcastle upon Tyne, England *and* he earned a MA in Politics and Philosophy from Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar.

Monday, September 02, 2013

British Idealism studies - alive and well?

Many apologies for the gap since my last post. Last week saw an important event -- another British Idealism conference at Harris Manchester College, Oxford. The College has hosted several past events on Bosanquet, Green, 'Idealism Today' and now a conference about British Idealism and conceptions about the self. The College boasts the amazing W. J. Mander, author of a magisterial history of the British Idealist tradition, and we remain deeply indebted to him for his work and his work in bringing us together.

British Idealism is usually discussed in the past tense and in reference to a philosophical tradition rooted in Oxford and Glasgow from the late 19th Century until about the First World War when its influence began to wane. These Idealists are credited with introducing Kant and Hegel to an Anglophone audience and also for trying to develop a new philosophical approach bringing various elements of them both together. Leading figures include TH Green, FH Bradley, Bernard Bosanquet and RG Collingwood.

It was a pleasure to see this great tradition alive and well with a new generation of scholars and interest taking root. Conference delegates came from across the UK, US, Canada and as far as away as Japan and Nigeria.

Readers will know of my longstanding interest in British Idealism -- and my efforts, in my book Punishment, and elsewhere -- to start a revival, a new wave of British Idealism redeveloped to face the challenges of the 21st Century. The good news is that I'm far from alone.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Government should make greater use of university academics as specialist consultants

. . .is my new post at the British Politics & Policy at LSE blog HERE.

Justice as a Matter of Stakeholding

. . . is my new guest blog for No Offence! found here.

Monday, August 19, 2013

How Global is Global Justice? Towards a Global Philosophy

. . . is a chapter in my forthcoming edited book New Waves in Global Justice (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014) that can be read here. The abstract:

Global justice as a field must confront a central problem: how global is global justice? A defining feature about the burgeoning literature in global justice is its operation within a bounded, philosophical tradition. Global justice research is too often a product of one tradition in self-isolation from others that nonetheless claims to speak for what is best for all. This criticism applies to various philosophical traditions whether so-called “analytic,” “Continental” or others. The problem is that each tradition too often works independently from others to construct new ideas about the promotion of global justice: these ideas are designed by some for application to all. “Global” justice may have an international reach, but it too often lacks a more global character. The development of a more global approach to global justice raises several vexing questions. What does it mean to have a “global” approach to global justice? How “global” should any such approach be? And how can a coherent and compelling model for it be constructed?
This chapter develops a new approach for a more distinctly global view of global justice: the idea of global philosophy. Most approaches to global justice are developed within bounded philosophical traditions. One problem is that each offers contributions to global justice that is constricted by the narrow bounds of their particular tradition. The issue is not only that global justice may be overly culturally-specific, but rather that bounded traditions close off important resources for addressing philosophical problems that can be accessed through closer engagement with other philosophical traditions. A global philosophy is then a more “unbound philosophy” better suited for a globalized world. Our world is ever-changing with ideas and people travelling as never before. It is time for philosophy to catch up with these developments and this chapter will explain why and how.

CFP: Society for the Theory of Ethics and Politics - Northwestern University

The conference is March 13-15, 2014 and the conference website (which needs to be updated) is here.

Friday, August 16, 2013

New journal rankings for philosophy

It has been a couple years since my last "list of lists" ranking of philosophy journals in bands A, B, C and so on last undertaken in 2011. While I suspect this list continues to remain generally accurate today, there have been some notable events since such as the appearance of some new journals and reinvigorated journals. Plus, several have come under new editors which may have impacts on how readers and authors view them.

So expect a widely publicized survey of the leading philosophy journals later this month....

Monday, August 12, 2013

"Life in the UK" citizenship test handbook may contain hundreds of facts not included on the test

The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Migration has published the UK government's response to a recent APPG report, including the government's response to criticisms about the Life in the UK citizenship test raised in my comprehensive report.

The government confirms - as predicted in my report - that hundreds of facts included in the official test handbook are not, in fact, included in any Life in the UK test. This is despite the clear statement in the official test handbook that all parts of the book must be known because all may be part of a test -- this is now denied although no revised test handbook appears to be in preparation to account for this change.

Specifically, the government's response notes that the dates of birth and death of various people noted in the official handbook are not tested. Nor is other information, such as questions about the height of the London Eye (in feet and in metres) widely reported by the media -- despite the official handbook including this information. Over 275 dates are noted in this handbook along with several telephone numbers (including the main offices for regional assemblies, but omitting the Northern Ireland Assembly and no mention of either 999 or 111).

So it appears hundreds of facts are not, in fact, included in the Life in the UK test despite this being stated clearly in the official handbook's first chapter. It is not altogether surprising - as noted in my critical report (the most comprehensive, forensic examination of this test available) - as there are about 3,000 facts listed in the handbook. My report recommends that there be untested facts (such as useful websites, etc.), but that these be clearly grouped together in a chapter or appendix that is explicitly "for information purposes only" and not included in the test.

It seems a clear error to group so much information that will never be tested with so much that might be tested without any clear indication of what must (and need not) be learned given the costs and implications involved. Another illustration of problems with the test at its very core as a project that seems to have been rushed and poorly delivered.

Friday, August 09, 2013

Home Office still claims "Go Home" vans worked without providing any supporting evidence. Again.

The BBC story is here. The Tory-led Government approved a scheme where vans carrying billboards stating to illegal immigrants "Go Home" would drive through specific areas of London -- affecting communities with a high ethnic minority population. The vans advertised a number that an illegal immigrant could text message to learn how to return to his or her home country.

The advertisement has been highly controversial since its launch. The Liberal Democrats - coalition partners of the Tories - have declared their strong opposition. The Labour Party and other groups, including UKIP, are opposed to these vans as well. Their use has been described as divisive, offensive and irresponsible.

The Home Office continues to claim the vans have "worked" and it continues to refuse to provide any evidence to support (or deny) this claim. It might appear that the Home Office is stating what it hopes will prove true...and waiting for any confirmation that it could announce later to show it was true all along.

This affair continues to prove highly embarrassing for the Government, especially for its Liberal Democrat partners. This effort to win over UKIP voters seems not to have done this and actually undermine support for the Tories in tackling immigration.

More damaging is that it perpetuates an image -- the Tories as the nasty party -- that PM Cameron has been so desperate to bury.

The only winners appear to be UKIP: these vans have kept immigration issues in the news and now UKIP can claim to be less nasty and offensive than the Tories (insofar as UKIP has opposed the use of these vans).

Sounds like the Tories could do with much better advice.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

New interview about my book "Punishment" with New Books in Philosophy [UPDATE]

. . . available here - and many thanks to Bob Talisse for being such a fantastic host at New Books in Philosophy!

UPDATE: My interview is cross-listed on several sites:

New Books in Law

New Books in Philosophy

New Books in Political Science

New Books in Public Policy

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

"Punishment" book has new Facebook group website

. . . HERE!

Interview with New Books in Philosophy to be launched shortly about Punishment as well. Watch this space...

Monday, July 29, 2013

Downing Street: 'Go Home' signs working - and we don't have any 'figures' to confirm this

The British Government has spent just under £10,000 on a pilot project to remove illegal immigrants from the UK. It consists of leaflets and a van with a sign stating "In the UK Illegally? Text HOME to 78070". The Government has been heavily criticised for this pilot - even by coalition partners, the Liberal Democrats. One reason is this has been seen as unduly divisive with a potential to contribute to a breakdown in community trust and cohesion. A second reason is the pilot was unlikely to be very successful: what illegal immigrant would text the government so he or she could be removed from the country?

The Government - or at least the Tory leadership in the Government - has hit back claiming the signs were "working". However, it was admitted by the Home Office to the BBC that, in fact, they were not sure "what figures have been collated at this point" and no official results confirming success or failure have been released.

In other words, most have criticised these signs as divisive and/or unlikely to work and the Government says they have worked because, well, they said so without any firm evidence of support. We can only hope the Government gives greater consideration to evidence-based policy-making in future.

Wishful thinking is not a sign of anything "working" in the real world.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Thom Brooks (ed.), Justice and the Capabilities Approach

. . . is reviewed in the current issue of Journal of Human Development and Capabilities here. The book can be found on Amazon here (USA) and here (UK).

Monday, July 22, 2013

A Barrier or Bridge? Serious problems revealed in the UK citizenship test

. . . is my latest blog post about the "Life in the UK" citizenship test published at Democratic Audit.

Friday, July 19, 2013

BREAKING NEWS: Government confirms it is "not able to make a reliable estimate" on so-called health tourism in Britain

The British Government has recently launched a consultation about introducing charges for the use of the NHS by non-British individuals. This is part of an effort to combat alleged "health tourism" costing the UK from anywhere from £12 million to over a billion pounds each year.

But is this true?

The Guardian ran a recent piece examining the numbers here.

However, it appears that the UK Government does not, in fact, have evidence of health tourism. This was uncovered in a written question presented to the Home Office by the Revd Lord (Roger) Roberts, a Liberal Democrat Peer. He asks:

"To ask Her Majesty’s Government what evidence they have about the impact of health tourism on the NHS budget."

The Government's reply is striking. The Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Quality) for Health, the Conservative Peer Earl Howe states:

So it now appears -- confirmed days after Hunt's original claims -- that the Government, in fact, has no real evidence of health tourism nor can it offer any official view on what it might cost, if anything.
Saying one thing to grab headlines, but then hoping no one - such as the sleuth-like Lord Rogers - will uncover that the Emperor has no clothes (or at least none they can confirm). Surprising? Not from this Government....

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Life in the UK test....the movie!

. . . change be found here. (Link includes interview with artist behind film and links to my criticisms of the test.)

Monday, July 15, 2013

"Criminal Harms"

. . . is a chapter from my forthcoming edited book, Law and Legal Theory, appearing later this year from Brill. The book contains several chapters previously published (by others) in the Journal of Moral Philosophy and some revised pieces not previously published in their current form.

The abstract for "Criminal Harms" is:

"What is a crime? A common answer is that crimes are harms. One particular argument is that morality forms the connection between crimes and harms: crimes are not any kind of harm, but specifically a kind of immorality. This position is consistent with natural law jurisprudence which claims that law and morality are inseparably linked. It is also consistent with standard defences of retribution whereby punishment is justified where deserved and to the degree deserved. Retributivist desert is present for individuals that possess some degree of moral responsibility for causing or attempting to cause evil. For example, the murderer deserves severe punishment because he is morally responsible for another person’s death and this act is sufficiently evil to warrant severe punishment.
The idea that crimes are harms to morals—and so their immorality informs their criminality and the corresponding severity of punishment—has also found favour with so-called ‘expressivist’ theories of punishment defended by Joel Feinberg, Antony Duff and others. These theories argue that punishment has an expressivist function of communication public disapproval to criminal offenders for their moral wrongdoings where punishment is proportionate to immorality.
The justification of crimes as harms to morals is part of a venerable tradition that has come to be increasingly seen as discredited. Most academics working in law (and even more practising lawyers) reject natural law jurisprudence and support some version of the separability thesis of legal positivism where law and morality are held to be separable, but not intrinsically and necessarily linked. Yet, curiously, retributivist theories, including expressivism, have been on the ascendency with a growing number of legal philosophers defending the idea of crimes as harms to morals and, therefore, moving in a contrary direction to most others working in law and academic law.

I believe this general position is deeply problematic and should be rejected. This chapter focuses specifically on expressivist theories as the increasingly more popular variant of retributivism in academic circles today. The next section provides an overview of expressivism. The following sections argue that it is not compelling both as a view about the criminal law, but also as a theory about punishment. I close the chapter with ideas about criminal harms might be better understood. I argue that crimes might be a kind of harm, but not the kinds of harm endorsed by retributivists and, more specifically, expressivists."

Go HERE to see the paper.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Politics and the Life in the UK citizenship test

. . . is my new post at the Political Studies Association blog found HERE.

The Problems with the Life in the UK test

. . . is my guest blog post for the British Sociological Association - Postgraduate Forum found HERE.

The top 10 things Britons get wrong about Britain

. . . can be found here covering crime, demographics and welfare. At least none must sit the 'Life in the UK' citizenship test with the serious problems exposed here before!

Monday, July 08, 2013

20,000 downloads milestone

The Social Science Research Network (SSRN) is the global number 1 'open access' database available. My first contribution was my paper on publishing advice for graduate students in December 2005. The two versions of this paper have since been downloaded over 12,000 times and my work has now passed the 20,000 downloads milestone. My papers can be accessed HERE.

Not unlike many legal philosophers, I became aware about the SSRN through Brian Leiter. SSRN has had a great imapct on my research and I regularly receive some terrific feedback after posting papers online. If any reader is not yet using SSRN, then I'd strongly recommend you start using it now.

Friday, July 05, 2013

Life in the UK report discussed in the House of Lords

. . . HERE. The report can be downloaded here.

Failing the test on immigration

. . . is my latest piece for Progress Online, the website of the Labour group Progress.

"Health tourism" and the NHS

. . . the facts uncovered in this piece at The Guardian, including an interview with me here.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Paper-hungry courts put on digital diet

. . . is my latest piece for The Conversation and found HERE.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

The Life in the UK citizenship test: where are the women?

. . . is my guest blog post at Inherently Human with a special focus on gender imbalance in the Life in the UK  citizenship test.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Denis Kilcommons on the UK citizenship test and me

. . . can be found HERE (from the Huddersfield Examiner). An excerpt:

"I HAVE just failed the British citizenship test. Does this mean I will be deported to my last foreign port of call? I hope not. I don’t want to be an American.

Neither did Dr Thom Brooks of Durham University. The American-born academic decided to become British two years ago and, as part of his application, had to take the Life In The United Kingdom test

This test doesn’t deal in anything like what ordinary folk round the bar or at the church fete might consider general knowledge. It has been called impractical and irrelevant and there have been calls for it to be reformed.

Dr Brooks describes it as a bad pub quiz that is unfit for purpose.

“Many citizens that were born and bred in the UK would struggle to know the answers to many of these questions.”

And he’s right. [. . .]"

Monday, July 01, 2013

How to referee papers for academic journals

. . . can be found out HERE. The abstract:

"This essay offers clear practical advice on how to act as a referee when asked to review an article for an academic journal. The advice is also relevant for reviewing manuscript proposals for academic publishers. My advice is based on my experiences in editing an academic journal, the Journal of Moral Philosophy, and four book series. I will draw on these experiences throughout as illustrations. The structure of the advice is as follows. First, I will begin by saying a few words about the academic publishing industry. Secondly, I will discuss whether one should accept or decline an invitation to review. Thirdly, I will examine the question of what appropriate standard should be applied when reviewing submissions. Finally, I conclude with advice on how to draft a report before submitting it to an editor."

Friday, June 28, 2013

Advice for Publishing Philosophy

. . . can be found HERE. The abstract:

"Graduate students often lack concrete advice on publishing. This essay is an attempt to fill this important gap. Advice is given on how to publish everything from book reviews to articles, replies to book chapters, and how to secure both edited book contracts and authored monograph contracts, along with plenty of helpful tips and advice on the publishing world (and how it works) along the way in what is meant to be a comprehensive, concrete guide to publishing that should be of tremendous value to graduate students working in any area of the humanities and social sciences."

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Watch report launch on "Life in the UK" citizenship test

. . . filmed at Durham Castle on 13th June 2013.

The report can be downloaded HERE.

Further information about the report and media coverage can be found HERE.

Monday, June 17, 2013

"The 'Life in the United Kingdom' Citizenship Test: Is It Unfit for Purpose?" report

. . . can be downloaded HERE. This is "a report by Dr Thom Brooks of an independent review of the uses of the test for British immigration policy" published by Durham University. The report's abstract:

The 'Life in the United Kingdom' test is an important part of British immigration policy attracting cross-party support. This report is the most comprehensive and rigorous examination of the test available. The report considers how the current edition compares with previous editions and it identifies several problems that should be addressed in a future edition. The report supports 12 recommendations.

"Dr. Brooks' 'The Life in the UK Citizenship Test: Is it Unfit for Purpose?' report is a welcome addition to the sensible immigration debate. I am delighted to echo his call that the test, which is both impractical and irrelevant as it stands, be reformed. Surely future Britons should better understand how to participate in daily life, instead of knowing by rote which Emperor invaded Britain in AD 43? Dr. Brooks' research into the new Life in the UK citizenship test has exposed major flaws, and we must make Government wake up." - Lord Roberts, Vice-Chair of All-Party Parliamentary Group on Migration

Friday, June 14, 2013

The "Life in the UK" Citizenship Test: Unfit for Purpose? Report

My The "Life in the United Kingdom" Citizenship Test: Unfit for Purpose? report was launched last evening in Durham Castle. This report is the most comprehensive examination available into the test available. It exposes serious problems with the test and provides several recommendations for its reform.

I've been delighted by the wide coverage across a spectrum of about 250 newspapers and news agencies worldwide, including several British papers such as Daily Express, Daily Mail, Daily StarDaily Telegraph, Evening StandardGuardian, Huffington PostIndependent, Mail on Sunday, MetroNorthern Echo, Sunday TimesSunderland Echo,  Times, Yorkshire Post and many others - including Comedy Central. I have had about a dozen or so interviews with several radio stations include BBC Live at 5 and many others. I will be putting links up shortly.

There are also blogposts and other websites running the story, such as BBC News at The Conversation, and these will be up soon, too.

Please read my new report in the meantime. Let us hope it contributes to much needed reform and soon.

UPDATE: My report can be downloaded on SSRN HERE.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Punishment book launch, reprise

A news item is now on our Durham Law School website about my book launch for Punishment in the Houses of Parliament here.

Monday, June 10, 2013

"The 'Life in the United Kingdom' Citizenship Test: Is It Unfit for Purpose?" Report Launch

. . . will take place this Thursday from 8.30pm in the Senate Suite at Durham Castle (known locally as University College, Durham) situated across the Palace Green from Durham Cathedral, a World Heritage Site. Information about the talk can be found here. The event is free -- and there will be free copies of the report for all who attend.

The report exposes new, serious problems with the current Life in the United Kingdom citizenship test and offers 12 recommendations for how this test can be improved in a fourth edition.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

HM Government and me - more on the Life in the UK test as "unfit for purpose"

Lord Roberts of Llandudno, a Liberal Democrat Peer in the House of Lords, submitted a question to the government about my recent work on the new Life in the United Kingdom citizenship test, which I've described as "unfit for purpose" here and here. His Lordship writes:

"To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Taylor of Holbeach on 6 February (WA 58), what assessment they have made of Dr Thom Brooks’ recent evaluation of the Life in the UK Test being “unfit for purpose”."
(Hansard Citation: HL Deb, 21 May 2013, c43W)

Lord Taylor of Holbeach, a Conservative Peer and Whip in the House of Lords, responds:

"Revised Life in the UK tests based on the new Life in the UK handbook, began on 25 March. The majority of feedback received has been positive. The Government do not share Dr Brooks’ view that the handbook goes too far by including information about British culture and history at the expense of practical knowledge.

The test is one of the ways in which those applying for permanent residence or naturalisation as British citizens can demonstrate the required knowledge of language and life in the UK. The majority of those applying will have been in the UK for at least five years and should therefore be aware of practical matters, such as how to contact the emergency services. The Government therefore consider that it is right for the Life in the UK test to concentrate on British history, culture and democracy and that the handbook succeeds in providing information on these topics in an interesting and accessible way."
(Hansard Citation: HL Deb, 21 May 2013, c44W)

The Government's Life in the UK handbook is explicit: it will "help ensure a broad general knowledge of the culture, laws and history of the UK" to "help you to integrate into society and play a full role" -- but then it has omitted previously published information about the NHS and how to register with a GP, how to contact the police and report a crime, rights upon arrest, how the educational system works (including subjects taught and qualifications earned) because, well, people should already have this broad general knowledge and be integrated prior to exposure to, erm, more broad general knowledge that is impractical, inconsistent and trivial?!

The handbook says nothing at all about omitting information because people living here for at least five years should already know about it - and so it need not be required knowledge for the test nor noted in a handbook which states on its cover A Guide for New Residents. Indeed, persons living in the UK for at least five years might be expected to know already that the Queen is Head of State (so why is this noted?), that the government includes the Prime Minister and a Cabinet (so why is this included?) or that British currency includes £5 and £10 notes (so why this is required knowledge?).

If there was a genuine attempt to exclude information that every citizen should know (but must know to satisfactorily satisfy the five year residency requirement), then how was this conducted? Who was consulted about such decisions and why was information about £5 notes included anyway, but not how to contact the police?

I suspect the real problem is that this process was rushed through too quickly with insufficient attention to detail. My report to be published on 13th June will highlight in depth serious flaws with the Life in the UK test that will make for sober reading. Expect much more in due course.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

BBC News interview on criminal justice

. . . can be found here. The position argued for is developed in my book, Punishment. Many risk factors are identified with reoffending. These include drug and alcohol problems, housing insecurity, financial insecurity and others. Most offenders have various combinations of these high risk factors present. This has led most to tackle these factors one by one in order to reduce reoffending: the less we find risk factors, then less reoffending should follow.

It is obvious though that the link is imperfect. Why is it that some, but not all, persons with one or more risk factors engage in crime? What is the specific link between these factors and crime?

My book argues that these risk factors can be manifestations of a deeper problem concerning recognition. Individuals must see themselves as having a stake in society. The less they do, then this is at the heart of why crime may be more likely.

This idea about stakeholding develops an idea first found in Hegel about a different problem. In his Philosophy of Right, Hegel argues that the problem of modernity is the problem of "the rabble." The rabble are persons who are at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder in most cases, but also at the very top. It doesn't discriminate between rich and poor although poverty may be linked more strongly with the creation of a rabble (and, hence, this is often referred to as Hegel's "the problem of poverty").

The problem of the rabble is their mind-set: they view society as an other, as something that excludes them and which (in my reinterpretation) they fail to see themselves as having a stake. For Hegel, it is crucial that every one sees himself or herself as being reconciled, that we see the world as a social home. Of course, this requires that our world is worth making a home in the first place. But Hegel gets right that stakeholding is essential for political stability - and relevant for tackling problems of criminal justice.

Offenders require a sense of belonging, that they matter and have a stake in society - and so they have motivation to work within society rather than against it through crime. I was delighted to see the central figure in the BBC News story accept this point.

So check out the story that includes my interview - and see this for more on my work on punishment more generally.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The "Life in the UK" citizenship test: is it unfit for purpose?

Castle Cutting Edge: Dr Thom Brooks

13th June 2013, 20:30, Senate Suite, University College, Durham ('Durham Castle')
'The "Life in the UK" citizenship test: is it unfit for purpose?'

The "Life in the UK" citizenship test was launched in 2005 and revised in 2007. The test must be passed by anyone applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) or naturalisation. Past editions were criticised for factual inaccuracies and their failure to include much information about British history and culture. The third edition was published in March 2013. It is a comprehensive departure in form and content from past tests that raises several serious concerns about the construction of the test. Its inability to meet its central goal as a test of knowledge about life in the United Kingdom renders it unfit for purpose and it is in need of urgent reforms.

This talk launches a new critical report into the problems with the UK citizenship test and how they should be addressed. Thom Brooks is a regular commentator on the test for national and local media. He has first-hand experience of the test as well when immigrating to the UK from the United States. All attendees will receive a complimentary copy of the new report and briefing document for a talk that will enlighten and surprise.

Contact for more information about this event.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

"Punishment" book launch in the Houses of Parliament

My new book, Punishment, was launched this week at the Houses of Parliament in a Committee Room of the House of Lords. The panel was chaired by my close friend (Lord) Bhikhu Parekh. Speakers included (Baroness) Vivien Stern and Frances Crook. I'm extremely grateful to everyone who took part for a wonderful occasion that I'll never forget. A briefing paper about my book and its contributions for penal theory and sentencing practices can be found here.

Monday, May 13, 2013

"Punishment" book launch and roundtable

. . . kicks off tomorrow evening at the Houses of Parliament. Further details can be found here and anyone interested in coming should contact me so I can register your attendance. The event is free and speakers include Lord Bhikhu Parekh FBA, the Baroness Vivien Stern CBE, Frances Crook OBE and yours truly.