Thursday, May 21, 2015

Inspirational Academic Award

Delighted to say I'm runner-up for the inaugural Inspirational Academic Award from Durham Students' Union - a university-wide award. Last year, I won their Lecturer of the Year Award for my Faculty. Further delighted to see one of our Durham Law students is shortlisted for an award, too.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Magna Carta panel at St Andrews

Many thanks to the Centre for Global Constitutionalism at the University of St Andrews for inviting me to speak on their special panel commemorating the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta entitled ‘Magna Carta: A Global Charter of Liberty for the 21stCentury? Roundtable Discussion’.

The event took place yesterday at the University of St Andrews and hosted by the School of International Relations’s Centre for Global Constitutionalism.  The panel was chaired by Professor Nick Rengger (Head, School of International Relations, St Andrews). My other fellow speakers included Professor Malik Dahlan (Institution Quraysh, formerly Harvard University), Professor Sir David Edward QC (Edinburgh) and Professor John Hudson (St Andrews). Professor Hudson was recently invited by the Queen to discuss the Magna Carta at an event in Buckingham Palace.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The election lesson we must learn is relevance

. . . is the title of my latest post for LabourList. A small taste:

"I believe part of this project of renewal should focus on Labour as the party of union: of trade unions, of the union of our United Kingdom and of the European Union. Ed Miliband has suffered more criticism than deserved, but one idea he has right is One Nation Labour. You can already see George Osborne talking explicitly about One Nation politics in his pursuit of Northern ‘powerhouses’. Labour is better placed to be a One Nation party committed to defending union. Making this case relevant to everyday life is a major challenge. But so much is at stake from the unity of our country to our prosperity as part of a strong EU. Let us be the party that defends all that is ‘Great’ about ‘Great Britain’ and our place in Europe."


Friday, May 15, 2015

How will the Labour Party choose its next leader?

This received from the Labour Party in the last few minutes:

Hi Thom,

Soon, you’ll be able to vote for the next Leader and Deputy Leader of our party.

Below is a guide to how and when it will happen. If you have any questions not answered here, get in touch with us at the email address at the bottom and we’ll try to get back to you.

1. You have one vote to cast for your choice of Leader and another for your choice of Deputy Leader

Unlike previous leadership elections, this election will be held on a one-person-one-vote basis. There are three sets of people who can vote:

  1. Labour Party members — that includes you
  2. Affiliated supporters — people who’ve signed up as a Labour Party supporter through one of our affiliated organisations or unions
  3. Registered supporters — people who’ve registered that they support the Labour Party by signing up online and paying a one-off minimum fee of £3
2. The nomination process will start on 15 May

Anyone that wants to be a candidate for the Leader or Deputy Leader of the Labour party needs to be nominated by 35 MPs.

MPs can nominate their preferred candidates for Leader and Deputy Leader from 9 June — you can track the progress of each candidate on our website where we’ll update the nominations at 12.30pm and 5.30pm each day. Nominations close on 15 June (Leader) and 17 June (Deputy Leader).

There will be more information to come later on how Constituency Labour Parties can make a supporting nomination.

From early June, the names and bios of any MPs putting themselves forward for nomination will be hosted on our website at

3. We will let you know the candidates for Leader on 15 June and the candidates for Deputy Leader on 17 June

We’ll send all members an email on 15 June to let you know who’s in the running to be Leader, and to give as many members as possible the chance to watch the different candidates speak, there will be a hustings in Scotland, Wales, and every region of England — we’ll email you details of your nearest hustings once the dates have been set.

Likewise we'll send all members an email on 17 June to tell you the candidates for Deputy Leader. Candidates for both positions will be on our website.

4. We must receive your votes by 12pm on Thursday 10 September for them to count

Voting ballots will be sent out on Friday 14 August. You’ll be able to vote by post or online.

5. Our next Leader and Deputy Leader will be announced on 12 September

We’ll announce the results at a Special Conference on 12 September, as well as on our website and via email. If you’re interested in attending the Special Conference, we’ll provide full details nearer the time.

Got a question that isn’t answered here?

If you can’t find an answer to your question, email us at and we’ll try to get back to you.


The Labour Party

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Thom Brooks @

My personal website - - has been overhauled and relaunched using WordPress. It has information on my key publications, media appearances, speaking engagements and work with the Labour Party. READ MORE HERE.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

I was right about the 2015 General Election results

Many of us got wrong what the results would be. Pollsters claimed that the Tories and Labour were neck and neck with the former slightly ahead of the latter. (This is to account for an often confirmed effect that Tories see a slight rise in support when voters are faced with making their vote on the day - can be a point or two in their favour.)

The big questions were - so which of the two main parties would be the biggest? And which party or parties might form a new coalition?

But then the election actually happened. Predictions that the SNP would do really well became a major landslide north of Hadrian's Wall. Expectations that the Liberal Democrats would do badly, but not catastrophically proved too optimistic. And the Tories won an outright majority to everyone's surprise.

So attention then turned to what happened. How could the polls be so wrong? I was interviewed by ABC News and said that there was a simple explanation. The answer is not that the voters misrepresented their intentions to pollsters, but that some voters turned out in greater numbers than others. The polls were probably right about the general public's views about the parties. The problem is that the general public does not have a 100% voting record. Who wins is determined by who votes and not by responses to opinion polls.

Tory voters were motivated to vote more than supporters of other parties. This can be explained by their worries about how many might turnout to support UKIP and allow Labour to win new seats. This can also be explained by the worry that Tory voters had that Labour and the SNP would join forces to put Ed Miliband in 10 Downing Street (no matter how often Labour and SNP officials denied any coalition would ever be agreed between them). Or so this was my gut instinct after speaking with voters across several constituencies and candidates over the last six weeks or so.

I might have been surprised by the result like just about everyone else. But I got the reason for the surprise result spot on.

This is now confirmed by Ipsos-Mori in what they're calling the 'Lazy Labour' voters: voters who supported Labour, but failed to turn up at the polls and actually vote for Labour.

It should not go without saying that if Labour was able to equal the Tories in getting their share of the vote out then we'd have something much closer to the expected result of coalition politics.

There is now a major leadership campaign on - not only for the Leader of the Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition and its Deputy (as Harriet Harman indicated that she will step down soon, too), but we will also see new leadership in the House of Lords as Baroness Royal is stepping down as Labour's leader in the upper chamber. So much change is afoot.

It's essential that whatever team takes over in this time of fairly sudden and potentially intense change is not only able to provide direction for the Labour Party as a political organisation and progressive movement for change, but to better motivate support from voters in the centre ground. Choosing leaders that unite the party can still lose the national election if we can't improve our ability to motivate support from members and non-members alike for our progressive vision.

My interview on the general election can be viewed here - [VIDEO]

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Involuntary Intoxication: A New Six-Step Procedure

. . . is the title of my new article published by Journal of Criminal Law. The abstract:

"Involuntary intoxication is often misunderstood. The predominant ‘orthodox’ view is that involuntary intoxication should lead to acquittal for offences requiring proof of fault. Strict liability offences are therefore unaffected. This article argues that the law is more complex, requiring a more careful approach. The article provides a new six-step procedure to determine whether involuntary intoxication is applicable and should lead to acquittal."


UPDATE: A version of the paper on SSRN can be found HERE.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

The election results will matter for all of us

My column for The Journal immediately before the 2015 General Election (see here):

ELECTION campaigns are on the doorstep coming to a neighbourhood near you. It's safe to say there seems genuine and increasing interest in politics which can only be welcome. So what are some of the key issues for our region? The economy is one. Average weekly earnings have fallen since the coalition came to power in 2010. Despite substantial cuts, the national debt continues to grow from £974bn in 2010 to a whopping £1,402bn now. A rise of 44%. It's crucial that whichever party wins that budget responsibility is a the heart of any spending commitments. Britain didn't start the global crash, but we still feel its effects and more must be done.

In the North East, we continue to have the highest rate of unemployment in the UK. Food banks are being used by over 1 million people nationally. The UK's busiest food bank is in Newcastle's West End. Add to this the increasing number of zero hour contracts and low waged jobs and what you have is an economic recovery on the cheap. Britain cannot succeed if we aim to be a low wage, low skill economy.

And the news isn't all bad. It seems everyone - Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats and more - are committed to increasing apprenticeship opportunities and these are badly needed to help young people find jobs. There is also significant regional investment, such as Hitachi Rail Europe's new factory in Newton Aycliffe championed by Phil Wilson that is a huge boost to the area. But there is clearly much more to be done to keep our region punching above its weight.

This fragile economic recovery is threatened by the prospect of an EU referendum. Ask any regional business leader about this and you'll be hard pressed finding any enthusiasm. Most recognise the importance of Britain's place in this crucial trade area, not least so the UK can be a voice in the EU's continuing reform.

A second major issue is the NHS. It has undergone an expensive restructuring by the government. The consequence is less funds earmarked for the NHS available to help doctors and nurses support patients on the front-line. This is not only a simple matter of increasing the numbers of doctors and nurses, but also better use of NHS funds away from major restructuring exercises towards improving patient care.

Public services concern a lot of people. We now seem to pay more and get less. Bus routes and fares are an example of this with cuts to services that connect villages and towns and fewer buses in evenings and weekends. Local bus services can be a lifeline. The North East Combined Authority is moving in the right direction in its push for a Quality Contract Scheme for Tyne and Wear. It must see this through. Parties that can deliver might not only earn people's votes, but help serve their local communities.

Immigration is an issue that plays differently than others for several reasons. Opinion polls show that voters rate immigration high if asked to rank the biggest national issues, but much lower when asked about the key issues for their local community. It's a fact that the North East has the lowest foreign born population than any region in the UK. Whatever its effects, immigration is felt less here than elsewhere.

Immigration has been useful as a political football to win public support often at the expense of facts, context or perspective. Our region benefited enormously historically from migration from Irish miners in our pit villages to Belgian refugees in Birtley's Elizbethville producing munitions to help Britain in WWI. Today, the overwhelming number of migrants to the North East are students attending our region's many fine universities and contributing to our local economy. Their loss would not be our gain.

If you listen to politicians like Nigel Farage, you'd be forgiven for thinking that it would be good to introduce an Australian-styled points-based immigration for the UK. But what you won't hear him say is that, yes, the UK already has a points-based immigration system - introduced years ago by PM Tony Blair. In fact, Blair's term of office saw the introduction of this system and the launch of citizenship tests, new requirements for English language proficiency, new guidance for assessing 'good character' for permanent residents and citizenship ceremonies. It is striking that all major parties are content to only tweak these essentials. So don't ask me why Labour doesn't trumpet this more loudly.

If you've not met your local candidates, I'd recommend doing so now. It's easy to do. Many have local offices where you can chat about the issues that matter most to you. Social media has improved the public's ability to contact candidates. The election results will matter for all of us. In a close race like this, every vote will count - so let's hope many voices are heard.

Thom Brooks is Professor of |Law and Government at Durham University and tweets at @thom_ brooks

Tony Blair is right about Labour and the 2015 General Election

In his piece for The Observer published today ("Labour must be the party of ambition as well as compassion"), former Prime Minister Tony Blair said that:

"The Labour party should be disappointed, deeply so; but not disheartened. We lost. But there is nothing preventing us winning next time other than ourselves. This may seem odd to say but we have a huge opportunity. The country defaulted to the Tories. It didn’t desire them. That explains the difference between the polls and the result. We should be energised, not depressed.

All of us in the party now have a responsibility: no comfort zones, no confusion between tactics and strategy, no believing we have avoided division when we have only avoided decision, no refuge in complexity because we won’t recognise simplicity.

Defeat is bitter; but it can also be instructive. Choosing a new leader is important, but not nearly as important as choosing direction."

Wise words and more in a fabulous piece that I hope many will take to heart as Labour rebuilds. READ MORE HERE.

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Sedgefield Tory candidate thinks he's running for Prime Minister

Don't take my word for it - see it yourself:

"When you go into the polling booth tomorrow – know this: your vote really can make a difference. You can deliver a stable Government and have a secure future, but only if you vote Conservative and for me as your Prime Minister."

Posted HERE by Scott Wood for Sedgefield MP Facebook site at about 11pm on 6 May 2015

Monday, April 27, 2015

Thom Brooks & Martha C. Nussbaum (eds), Rawls's Political Liberalism (2015) [UPDATE]

Rawls's Political Liberalism, ed. by Thom Brooks & Martha C. Nussbaum. New York: Columbia University Press, 2015. 224 pages


Widely hailed as one of the most significant works in modern political philosophy, John Rawls's Political Liberalism (1993) defended a powerful vision of society that respects reasonable ways of life, both religious and secular. These core values have never been more critical as anxiety grows over political and religious difference and new restrictions are placed on peaceful protest and individual expression.

This anthology of original essays suggests new, groundbreaking applications of Rawls's work in multiple disciplines and contexts.  Thom Brooks, Martha Nussbaum, Onora O'Neill (University of Cambridge), Paul Weithman (University of Notre Dame), Jeremy Waldron (New York University), and Frank Michelman (Harvard University) explore political liberalism's relevance to the challenges of multiculturalism, the relationship between the state and religion, the struggle for political legitimacy, and the capabilities approach. Extending Rawls's progressive thought to the fields of law, economics, and public reason, this book helps advance the project of a free society that thrives despite disagreements over religious and moral views.

About the Author

Thom Brooks is professor of law and government at Durham University. He is the author of Punishment and founding editor of the Journal of Moral Philosophy. He has edited several collections, including The Legacy of John Rawls and The Global Justice Reader.

Martha C. Nussbaum is Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics at the University of Chicago. Her principal appointments are in the Philosophy Department and the Law School. Her books include Frontiers of Justice, Creating Capabilities, Political Emotions, and Anger and Forgiveness.

Contents [preview]

Preface - Thom Brooks & Martha C. Nussbaum

Introduction - Martha C. Nussbaum

1. Changing Constructions - Onora O'Neill

2. Legitimacy and the Project of Political Liberalism [pdf] - Paul Weithman

3. Isolating Public Reasons - Jeremy Waldron

4. The Capabilities Approach and Political Liberalism - Thom Brooks

5. The Priority of Liberty - Frank I. Michelman
"The center-piece is Nussbaum's "Introduction" which is the best of its kind - clear, wide-ranging and insightful. The other chapters, all by leading theorists, make distinctive and important contributions. Some remain close to the text while others explore broader implications of Rawls's approach, but all significantly advance our understanding of what Nussbaum rightly calls "one of the most important works of political philosophy of the twentieth century."
" — Jon Mandle, University at Albany, State University of New York

"Rawls's Political Liberalism includes essays by distinguished and well-known philosophers and theorists. Martha Nussbaum's introduction is an excellent survey of main themes of Political Liberalism and of the philosophical discussion of it. The other essays, all of them up-to-date, are of very high quality. The essays range across a wide variety of philosophically interesting topics (most of them topics with a nice trail of discussion in the secondary literature, amply commented on in the treatments provided in the various chapters). One main focus of the book is on the myriad ways in which overlapping consensus and political stability (operating together on a terrain of moral pluralism) work together. The book makes a strong and compelling case for the enduring philosophical significance of Political Liberalism." — Rex Martin, University of Kansas

"The contributors to this jewel of a collection reveal that there remains much to learn by engaging with Rawls's Political Liberalism. By querying the potential international reach of political liberalism, probing its capacity to account for constitutional and legal arrangements, and reexamining its appeal to conceptions of the good, they bring to light new aspects of its depth." — Henry S. Richardson, Georgetown University

"These essays by leading political, moral, and legal theorists provide significant interpretations and reassessments of the central ideas of Rawls's Political Liberalism. For example, Martha Nussbaum's introduction is a real service, a "must read" particularly for those new to the field. Frank Michelman's essay is the best work of its kind on the Constitutional specification of the basic liberties. And Jeremy Waldron presents significant new challenges to the idea of public reason. Highly recommended." — Samuel Freeman, University of Pennsylvania

UPDATE: Anyone who uses the promo code “BRORAW” to buy the book from Columbia UP website will receive a 30% discount off the price of the book

Go on. Like this page on Facebook.

Readers will know I've been working on the general election campaign as digital comms lead for Phil Wilson's re-election campaign. He's been MP for Sedgefield since 2007 -- Tony Blair previously held this seat.

If you're on Facebook, then go on and 'like' his campaign page HERE.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Why Hegel Matters

. . . is the title of my public lecture this Wednesday at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. Further details found here.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

The marginals that matter in the North East

. . . is the name of my new column for The Journal daily newspaper READ MORE HERE.

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Press releases by Migration Watch UK & Thom Brooks - spot the difference?

My 2014 research briefing on SNP immigration policy raising concerns HERE.

Migration Watch UK press release last week raising concerns HERE.

Saturday, April 04, 2015

PRESS RELEASE: Government cuts to blame for migration impact on public services

The UK Government must provide urgent funding to help reduce the impact of migration on public services, according to a Durham University expert.

Professor Thom Brooks, in Durham Law School, called for the return of the Migration Impacts Fund launched in 2009, which was discontinued by the Coalition Government after the 2010 general election.

Last year immigration rose to 298,000. The Office for National Statistics linked its rise to increasing migration from within the EU (43,000) and non-EU (49,000).

Professor Brooks, who is a Professor of Law and Government as well as a Labour Party member, said: “The Migration Impacts Fund helped support about £70m over two years by introducing a levy on immigration applications. It was neither funded by taxpayers or the European Union and it provided an invaluable source of new funding to reduce migration-related pressures on local services, covering a range of programmes including English language training, extra support teachers and improving emergency services.

“The Coalition Government stopped support for the fund because it found it ‘ineffective’ (1), but did not replace it with an alternative. The extra income generated was diverted to other Government spending programmes.

“The problem is that the Government is now forced to find money elsewhere for a programme that should have never been scrapped.”

In his research briefing, Professor Brooks claims an extra £11.7m could be created by a new £25 levy on immigration applications that could be used to support efforts to reduce migration-related impact.

Professor Brooks added: “The Government’s poor management of asylum applications led to cities like Middlesbrough receiving almost 50 per cent more asylum seekers than recommended in guidelines (2).

“This forced the Government to provide new funding to reduce unnecessary strain on local public services. The problem can be avoided by relaunching a fund that should have never been scrapped.

“A small levy on application fees could raise new funding to provide urgent support without increasing costs for hard working taxpayers and improving public services for all.”

The funding raised can then go to where it is needed most. The Government’s new migration ‘health surcharge’ starting on Monday does not. Brooks says: “Applicants pay a fee upfront, but the funds raised do not follow them if they move within the UK and directed to health care alone. The Migration Impacts Reduction Fund would more effectively target services and better track need.” The Government has chosen to launch the surcharge after Parliament dissolved, but before the general election in what Brooks describes as pure electioneering.






(1)  The Guardian, “Fund to ease impact of immigration scrapped by stealth”, 6 August 2010:

(2)  Daily Mirror, “Middlesbrough revealed as England's asylum seeker capital, with 982 making the town their home”, 8 October 2014: & Evening Gazette, “Middlesbrough has largest proportion of asylum seekers of anywhere in England”, 8 October 2014:


Martha Nussbaum on "Transnational Anger"

. . . is her new Open Access article for the first issue of the Journal of the American Philosophical Association. Highly recommended (and delighted to see she cites my book Punishment, too)! READ MORE HERE.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Phil Wilson launched his re-election campaign surrounded by local supporters

Phil Wilson launched his re-election campaign surrounded by local supporters with the opening of his new campaign centre in Newton Aycliffe’s town centre.

Phil Wilson launched his re-election campaign surrounded by local supporters with the opening of his new campaign centre in Newton Aycliffe’s town centre.

He says: “It is an honour to serve as the MP for the community in which I live. I have lived here all my life. My children went to local schools here. My father was a coal miner for many years here. My mother was born in Fishburn. My local roots run deep. I am Labour's local man.  

That is why I share the aspirations and ambitions of local people. I want to see our young people get on and go as far as they can in education or at work.

I have worked very hard for the people of Newton Aycliffe and the wider Sedgefield constituency. I led the campaign to ensure Hitachi brought their train-building factory to the area, when the Conservative-led Government wanted to abandon the plan. By working together with other partners, we were successful against the odds in securing the factory and with it hundreds of good jobs for local people. 

I have worked to achieve fairer decisions on public and school transport.  I have campaigned successfully to see the Town Centre redeveloped which has seen significant improvements. I am continuing to work alongside the town centre management and other partners to strengthen the retail offer. I have fought against Eon's plan for a massive wind farm near Bradbury, Mordon and Chilton.

I have sought to be a strong voice for Sedgefield on many issues that are important to my constituency; speaking up on housing and rogue private landlords, exploitative employment practices, transport, manufacturing and the future of County Durham.

I've worked with schools across the constituency and I am a big supporter of the NHS, free at the point of need. I am a strong supporter of local business, the police and our armed forces. But most importantly I speak up for individuals and their families. I may not always receive the answer they want, but I will always try. That is why I run a fully staffed constituency office that has helped thousands of people.  

I want to continue to serve all of the people of Sedgefield constituency as their member of Parliament and I really hope that they will vote for me either by post or at the ballot box on May 7th.

My campaign centre will be open to the public, Monday – Friday 10.30 – 3.30 pm. Either myself or someone from my campaign team will be on hand to answer questions about my campaign, about Labour’s policies, about political and local issues, and about the wider general election campaign.  We have tea and coffee on hand so I really do encourage anyone to come in and have a chat and a cuppa.”

Phil’s new campaign centre is located at 37 Beveridge Way in Newton Aycliffe’s town centre. For more information, please contact

Health surcharge for migrants 'is full of loopholes', says expert

. . . is the title of my latest piece quoted in today's The Northern Echo. READ MORE HERE.