Dr Alex MacKenzie is a lecturer of international relations, whose specialism is in security issues and globalisation. He is well known in his field, and is a highly respected member of the Department of Politics, which he joined in January 2013.
Describe yourself in a tweet.
Lively, enthusiastic lecturer of politics, who is very passionate about my subject and very concerned about the world in which we live. I think the world shows itself more when things are going wrong, and I feel as if the world is going completely wrong. Quite honestly, I’ve been pretty upset over past year or so regarding how things have gone. I have a 2-year-old daughter who I’m terribly concerned about her future and about the way things are and the way in which the world is going.
What were you like as a student?
Very committed! I can tell you honestly, that throughout my bachelors, masters and PhD I missed one lecture, and the only reason why I missed that lecture was because I couldn’t find the room. I was there wandering around, I even remember it: It was my second year, and I wandering around trying to look for the room and I couldn’t find it, so that’s the only class I ever missed. One of the reasons why I like to see people turning up for lectures is that I like to see people keen and passionate about what they study.
If there was one thing you could change about your time as a student, what would it be and why?
In retrospect, I really wish I studied abroad when I was an undergraduate. I think the opportunity to go to another university in a different country for a few months would have exposed me to a completely different culture, both academic and educational. It would have exposed me to a different kind of way of life and a different way of thinking. It would have been a really fascinating thing to do regardless of where it would have been – North America or Continental Europe. I don’t have regrets, since my research allows me to go abroad to Berlin and Brussels.
In my academic career, I have been very fortunate. I love what I do. I have no regrets! I love my job here, and I enjoy working at this university and really enjoy working as an academic, it is a fantastic career.
When you are an academic, it is not necessarily your choice. I really genuinely like this department and really genuinely like this university. I like the students I deal with and there’s a real feel-good factor around this department. When you are young academic, it’s all about hard grind. You submit tens, hundreds of applications and you’re lucky if you get a handful of interviews. In January 2013, I started out as temporary staff and then got a permanent post. Since I’ve been here, the department has gone from 40-50 students to 160. it only had 8-10 members of staff, and now it has 15. There’s a real feel-good factor about this.
What inspired you to become an academic?
I was lucky to meet people who helped me along the way. I have always enjoyed been quite scholarly, as I always enjoyed reading and one of my friends said I had an ‘unquenchable thirst for knowledge’. I’ve always been interested in history, international relations/affairs. I met good people along the way and I found my way here, but simply due to something I really enjoyed doing and then I progressed along that route. I had really great lecturers who helped me in my work to achieve my Masters and my PhD.
What made you specialise in international politics over any other sub-field?
My PhD focused on the European Union. I was always much more interested in terrorism and security issues than I was in British politics. I was much more enthusiastic and more inclined to read about security and terrorism. I studied History as an undergraduate, but I always found international affairs and international security much more interesting than domestic politics. That said, domestic politics has become much more interesting now.
Do you have any hobbies outside of university?
I absolutely love cricket! I go to one day of the test matches every year. I watch as much cricket as I can, especially test cricket which many people, of course, can’t understand how a game can go 5 days; I wish it could be more. Aside from cricket, I still have a PS4, but I rarely get the time to play but yeah, that’s always one thing I enjoy doing outside university.
Who will experience the greatest impact from Brexit: the UK or the EU?
I would say these are going to be extremely tough and extremely challenging negotiations. I think the Brexiteers overrate the ability of the UK negotiating team and the cards the UK holds. I think we’re dealing with a really serious professional outfit. I think we’re going to get quite a big shock when we start negotiating. The UK has two cards: security and the City of London, and restricting security cooperation does not benefit us as we would be harming our self. I can’t see the UK coming out of this better off than it was before, but I don’t think the UK is going to end up in a terrible situation.
The world is looking more dangerous and complicated than it has for a long time. There is a number of problems with EU, especially with regards to the democratic deficit and the lack of transparency. I also have issues with the way they handled the Greek crisis, for example. There has to be some recognition when a state like Greece was crushed in a highly dictatorial fashion; but, ultimately I think It is better for us to be in the European Union than outside of it. I must add, that there has to be an assessment following Brexit. The member states/leadership of EU have not taken into account why Brexit happened. I hope there is reflection, but can’t that say with any confidence. I hope not to see the breakup of EU, but it depends on what happens later this year in France with Le Pen, for example.
What do you think Labour’s chances are in 2020?
Labour doesn’t have a chance. It is sad that there is no opposition at a time when we desperately need one, and it seems like Corbyn is incapable of providing this. It is quite sad because some of the things Corbyn says I can sympathise with, but he is a very poor leader and I don’t think he’s able to unite Labour party. That being said, I cannot see anyone taking Labour’s place as the second party. Within British politics, a realignment is occurring where pro-EU and anti-EU groups are forming in Parliament. I don’t think Labour are going to fragment, but more internal problems will make Corbyn’s position untenable, and eventually there’ll be a new leader. Overall, I think the outcome in 2020 will be pretty bad for Labour.
Will President Trump make it through his first term?
I’m not sure. He has so many problems regarding his links with Russia. There are so many things that he and his administration have done that the American public need to know more about. There is also a potential problem: if impeached, there may be a backlash by his voters, since they consider him a ‘great leader’; but, I think removing him could lead to societal problems in the US. I’m worried this is a person who doesn’t play by the democratic rules.
Are universities too left-wing?
It is important for universities to embrace a range different perspectives. I always say to my students: have a point of view, but then be able to justify that point of view. We have to accept a different range of positions in university, but we have to operate within set limits. We can’t accept perspectives that are very harmful. I am all for and believe in the ability to speak quite freely within certain parameters, this is the way we reason issues out! I put my perspective out and if people want to critique it, then they can. We improve our collective knowledge through debate and discussion.
Thanks, Alex that was an extremely insightful interview.