Government in May-hem

This week has been plagued by trouble and strife for Prime Minister Theresa May as she has had to put her ministers in their place as Parliament goes in to recess for the summer.

It all started with a leak from last week’s cabinet meeting in which Chancellor of the Exchequer, Phillip Hammond allegedly said public sector workers are overpaid. Umm….

Hammond had argued public sector workers are on average better compensated than their private counterparts due to receiving better pensions, and refused to deny reports that he told cabinet colleagues public sector staff are “overpaid”. Hammond’s comment on pay was the subject of one of two leaks from this week’s cabinet meeting, with the other alleging the Chancellor said driving modern trains is so easy “even a woman can do it” – a claim he has strongly denied.

When asked if he believes public sector workers are overpaid, the Chancellor said it was a “relative question” but “very generous” public sector pensions put these workers “about 10% ahead” of private sector employees. The comments come amid growing calls to lift the 1% pay cap on public sector pay, with concerns it is preventing the NHS from recruiting and retaining staff. Of course his comments were met with much controversy as in-work poverty has affected many public sector workers (including teachers and NHS staff) have felt the burn of the Tories austerity programme.

In an article in the Guardian, columnist Zoe Williams writes:

The chancellor might be a Brexit pragmatist (a Bragmatist?) but his sound economic sense only extends so far. He understands that maintaining links with our largest trading partner is preferable to suicide, and that’s good; but he doesn’t seem to have given any serious thought to what it’s like trying to live through seven years of “pay restraint”, what ramifications it might have for one’s ability to eat, pay rent and enjoy fripperies such as holidays, and raising children.

Hammond suggested the leaks over his supposed comments in cabinet were more motivated by differences over Brexit, saying “some of the noise is generated” by ministers who disagree with his aim of prioritising the economy in leaving the EU.

It’s no secret that the issue of Europe (Brexit) is divide the Conservative Party but these leaks could just be the tip of the iceberg. Some Conservative MPs are indecisive about May’s future as their leader and PM, with some looking towards other alternative leaders including Home Secretary Amber Rudd and Jacob Rees-Mogg. However, with the loss of the majority in the recent General Election, surely the Conservatives would want to stand united, now more than ever?

All cabinets leak but they mostly do it officially in the form of “guidance” to the media. But cabinet ministers leaking against one another is relatively rare. When it happens, it is almost invariably a sign of deep prime ministerial and cabinet weakness. It demonstrates May’s inability to keep her cabinet in check to respect and adhere to cabinet responsibility* as well as the elephant in the room – ministerial divisions over Brexit. A fragile majority, divisive issues, a weak prime minister and mischief-making ministers always make an unstable mix.

Cabinet Collective Responsibility: a constitutional convention in governments using the Westminster System, that members of the cabinet must publicly support all governmental decisions made in cabinet, even if they do not privately agree with them.

Some cabinet ministers believe the Chancellor is deliberately trying to ‘frustrate’ Brexit as pro-leave cabinet ministers seek to undermine, if not oust, the man they see as the biggest obstacle in the path of a hard Brexit.

“What’s really going on is the establishment, the Treasury, is trying to fuck it up,”
Unnamed minister tells the Telegraph

Pro-Brexit campaigners such as Michael Gove, Liam Fox and Boris Johnson regard Hammond as an irritant. On the one hand Hammond wants a sane Brexit but on the other hand they want the freedom to drive off the cliff at top speed and to do as such, they need him out of the way. With the chancellor removed, there would be no ‘Spreadsheet Phil’ to moan about the need to prioritise jobs and the economy; they could put slashing immigration first and indulge the ideological fetish that demands the eradication of the European court of justice from every last corner of British national life.

Following all the cabinet leaks and public back-biting, Prime Minister Theresa May has warned ministers that their continued bickering and divisiveness could result in Labour rival Jeremy Corbyn winning power. The speech was made at a summer reception for Tory MPs in which she instructed her party to have a break over the parliamentary summer recess and return to Westminster ready for “serious business” with “no backbiting” or “carping”, telling Cabinet ministers to show “strength and unity”.

Reports have also circulated a group of Tory MPs are planning to launch a leadership challenge against May in the autumn, with a letter of no confidence already in circulation but with only a small number of signatures so far. I guess George Osborne was right in calling Theresa May a ‘dead woman walking‘…

Former deputy Prime Minister, Michael Hestletine summed up the situation facing the Conservative Party in an interview with the World at One:

“This is a government without authority. This is a deeply divided government and what they know, what the Europeans know, and what our national press knows is every day there’s a more depressing headline.”

Let’s just hope the public isn’t surprised with yet another impromptu General Election after the summer break!

 

Another Brexit update

Brexit negotiations continued in Brussels this week and one thing everyone noticed was Brexit Secretary David Davis’ lack of paper work compared to his European counterparts.

 

 

david-davis.jpg

PA Images

Well at least he’s demonstrating why we’re leaving, it’s all that bureaucracy!

Davis has called on both sides of negotiations on the UK’s departure from the EU to “get down to business” as the second round of formal talks began. The Brexit Secretary has said his priority is to “lift the uncertainty” for EU citizens living in the UK and Britons living in Europe, and the EU has also demanded there must be substantial progress on this issue – as well as on a financial settlement the UK must pay to the bloc and the question of the Irish border – before trade talks can begin. The EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier gave an update on the progress of talks in his closing speech, welcoming Britain’s detailed position. He indicated that both sides are now moving in a common direction, although there remains disagreement on points such as how to guarantee these rights, what rights future family members should receive and whether social benefits can be exported.

As one would expect, more volatility and areas of compromise are yet to come; Barrier highlighted the first round of talks was about organisation; the second about presentation; the third will be about clarification.

 

Also in Parliament…

The government has announced the increase in the state pension age from 67 to 68 will be brought forward by seven years to 2037, with the changes set to affect everyone born between 6th April 1970 and 5th April 1978. So much for early retirement then. Well at least it doesn’t affect the young(er) generation!

Announcing the plans yesterday, Work and Pensions Secretary David Gauke told MPs the rising UK life expectancy means those affected can still expect to receive more over their lifetimes than previous generations, and insisted the government has a “responsibility” to balance pensions funding and being fair on future generations of taxpayers.

However, Shadow Pensions Secretary Debbie Abrahams has condemned the change, which would save £74bn by 2045/46, as “anything but fair”, while the charity Age UK has accused the government of “picking the pockets” of millions of people in their 40s.

The state pension age for men and women will be equalised at 65 at the end of 2018, before rising to 66 in 2020 and 67 in 2028.

 

Other things you may have missed…

Education Secretary Justine Greening has promised an extra £1.3bn in funding for schools in England over the next two years, after complaints from Conservative MPs who believe Theresa May’s failure to deal with concerns about struggling schools cost the government its majority in the General Election. However, the money is being diverted from other parts of the education budget, particularly from free schools and new buildings, rather than coming from extra cash from the Treasury.
Robbing from one hand to give to the other, no?

The Education Secretary was forced to argue in favour of the extra funding in cabinet meetings after reports of some head teachers begging for extra money, cutting lunch breaks and dropping less popular subjects.

In a partial compromise, Greening has also announced a delay in the full implementation of the controversial new national funding formula, which will see some schools receive more money and some lose funding per pupil.

 

Experts from the Commonwealth Fund health think tank have judged the NHS to be the best, safest and most affordable healthcare system of 11 countries ranked, just ahead of Australia and the Netherlands. It is the second time in a row the study, which takes place every three years, has found the UK to have the top health system. Of the 11 nations, the UK put the fourth smallest amount of GDP into healthcare, with just 9.9% invested compared to the 16.6% spent by the US. The news comes despite the NHS suffering the longest budget squeeze in its 69-year history, with the service suffering serious under-staffing problems. Nothing quite beats the NHS eh!

 

Former coalition Business Secretary, Vince Cable has become the oldest leader of a political party since Winston Churchill after being elected unopposed to lead the Liberal Democrats. Cable was the only candidate on the ballot paper when nominations closed at 4pm on Thursday.
Other possible contenders, including Jo Swinson and Norman Lamb, ruled themselves out prior to nominations closing, paving the way for the recently elected Twickenham MP to succeed Tim Farron, who resigned after the General Election.

At the age of 74, Cable is the oldest politician to lead the LibDems in its 30 year history but his election only opens up long-held debates over why we fail to see more young people, women and ethnic minorities being elected to such positions. And it goes even further – why aren’t these groups putting THEMSELVES forward in nominations? We always argue politics is always dominated by the pale, male and stale elite but is there any wonder when young people, when women and ethnic minorities aren’t putting their name on the ballot paper? Of course, there’s the issue of gaining support but surely in nominating yourself, we may then begin to see support for a number of candidates, especially those who have potential to be great political figures? It seems we still have a long way to go before we see true diversity across the political spectrum…

 

Leaders of the world unite!

Last week, world leaders from across the globe attended the G20 Summit in Hamburg. But what exactly is ‘G20’ and why was the summit held? G20 stands for ‘Group of Twenty’ and is an international forum that bring together the world’s leading and emerging economies. The G20 accounts for 85% of the world’s GDP* (Gross Domestic Product) and 2/3 of its population.

GDP: the total value of goods produced and services provided in a country during one year.

The G20 meets to seek co-operation on  economic issues facing major and emerging economies. The Group of Twenty is comprised of 19 countries, including the European Union. The countries are:

  •  Australia
  • Argentina
  • Brazil
  • Canada
  • China
  • France
  • Germany
  • India
  • Indonesia
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • Mexico
  • Russia
  • Saudi Arabia
  • South Africa
  • South Korea
  • Turkey
  • UK
  • USA
Image result for g20 2017

G20 Leaders at the 2017 summit in Hamburg, Germany

The Summit tends to meet once a year with this year’s event taking place in Hamburg, Germany. President Donald Trump met Russian President Vladimir Putin for the first time last Friday, after which Putin claimed the US President accepts his denials of Russian meddling in last year’s presidential election. Now with all the accusations and mounting evidence of Trump’s link to Russia, do we really believe the Russian and US leaders met for THE first time during the G20 summit? Either way, they did seem to get on pretty well…

UK Prime Minister Theresa May also held a meeting with Trump, who has subsequently said he expects a post-Brexit trade deal with the UK to be completed “very, very quickly”. Contrary to what Trump may believe, trade deals take a considerable amount of time to negotiate, regardless of any special relationships with foreign nations. May clarified that discussions were not about details of an actual trade arrangement but were rather more an opportunity to signal that she is looking beyond the EU for future economic relationships.

By the end of the summit, it was more G19 than G20 after the world leaders recognised Trump’s decision, in a joint statement, for the US to withdraw from the Paris climate change agreement.  The Paris climate change agreement, known at the ‘communique’ commits nearly 200 countries to taking measures to reduce global warming. Breaking with tradition, a separate paragraph on the US’s stance on the Paris climate agreement and fossil fuels was added. Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel said she “deplored” the decision by the US to withdraw from the Paris climate change agreement, but said that all other nations agree Paris climate accord is “irreversible”.

 

Conservative re-launch?

Back in Britain, it’s been a year since Theresa May took on the premiership from David Cameron after the Brexit result last June and to commemorate the occasion, the Prime Minister has sought the opinions of other UK political parties on how to tackle issues such as Brexit, terrorism and social care.

 

In her speech above, she calls for her political opponents to “contribute, not just criticise”. Is Theresa May showing she cannot cope? Well the Labour Party seem to think so, saying it shows the Theresa May and her party have run out of ideas. The speech came amid rumours some Conservatives are plotting to oust May as party leader, although ministers loyal to the Prime Minister have dismissed the claims as “gossip”.
During Wednesday’s PMQs, Emily Thornberry, Shadow Foreign Secretary also picked up on May’s weakening power, showing Damian Green some sass and savagery as they both stood at the dispatch box whilst Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May welcomed the King and Queen of Spain during their state visit.

 

Brexit update

The UK government has published its central piece of Brexit legislation, the ‘Great’ Repeal Bill which will end supremacy of EU law in Britain. It will annul the 1972 European Communities Act (ECA), which currently gives EU law instant effect in the UK and prevent a legal “black hole” existing after Brexit. The aim for this legislation to is to convert all EU requirements into British law as soon as the UK exits the union.

However, Theresa May could face a constitutional crisis as the Scottish and Welsh governments have said they will not give their consent to the legislation. The bill is intended to “maximise continuity” on the day of the UK’s departure. It would see all existing EU laws converted into domestic law, allowing the government to decide which rules and regulations it wants to keep after Brexit. It is hoped this would give confidence to businesses, workers and consumers as any unexpected changes on the day of Brexit would be minimised. The bill contains a series of delegated powers and ‘Henry VIII clauses*‘ which means ministers will be able to make new laws without putting it to a vote in Parliament. Shock. Horror. Not only does this give ministers the potential to abolish some pretty important rights protected under EU law such as right to equal treatment and maximum working hours for workers, it arguably undermines democracy. There are limits as to when the Henry VIII clause can be applied – if a minister deems there is an urgent matter then no vote need take place – but as the two year Brexit window whizzes by, what wouldn’t count as urgent? Surely all political parties should be given a say, not least because they happen to represent a considerable number of people who partook in the EU referendum? And besides, who wants a one-party state?

Henry VIII clauses: enables primary legislation to be amended or repealed by subordinate legislation with or without further parliamentary scrutiny. Such provisions are known as Henry VIII clauses, so named from the Statute of Proclamations 1539 which gave King Henry VIII power to legislate by proclamation.

Hours after the bill was published, the Scottish and Welsh leaders, Nicola Sturgeon and Carwyn Jones, issued a joint statement dismissing the legislation as a “power grab” by Westminster that attacks “the founding principles of devolution” and said they would not consent to it without substantial redrafting. Should Holyrood and the Welsh assembly withhold their legislative consent, the government could press on with the bill in its current form but the move may threaten a constitutional crisis by undermining the authority of the devolved governments.

In a further challenge to the government, Labour has said its MPs will not vote in favour of the bill, with Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer setting out five concessions the government must make to win Labour support, including protection of workers’ rights and environmental standards.

 

Also in Parliament…

Prime Minister Theresa May ordered an investigation into intimidation and abuse suffered by parliamentary candidates during the General Election campaign. The announcement came as an unprecedented debate was held in the House of Commons on the issue, during which MPs provided first hand accounts of anti-Semitic attacks, racist abuse, slashed tyres and death threats. Ahead of the debate, Conservative and Labour  MPs traded blows over who is to blame for the increase in abuse, with Tory MP Simon Hart accusing pro-Corbyn group Momentum of giving “implicit consent” to attacks on Conservative candidates, while Labour said the Tories put “vitriolic personal attacks” at the heart of their campaign.

Of course, these attacks on members of Parliament date further back to just recent elections as pointed out by Diane Abbot MP.

 

The All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Anti-Semitism called for new laws and tougher discipline by parties, with a report by the group finding women and ethnic minority candidates are particularly at risk.
The growth of new media has not helped and in a world where we are taught to be more tolerant, how much of this rings true? It’s no secret Britain is a diverse and multi-cultural, multi-ethnic country so why then do our representatives get so much hate and stick? Some have blamed Brexit for the surge in hate crimes but what about incidents prior to the referendum? The general idea of Britain is that it is (c)onservative in its beliefs and traditions, so is very patriotic, believes in a small state with minimal intervention, protection of private property and upholds law and order. But what does this have to do with the hate and abuse MPs receive? Well it may have to do with right wing extremists who are hostile to immigration, particularly with the recent terrorist attacks that have taken place across the globe. Add into the mix the lingering misogyny amongst these groups and you will see women, particularly ethnic minority women are more likely to face the full force of these abuse and racist attacks. The rise in social media over the years exemplifies the situation and only makes it easier for these anonymous trolls to spout such spite. The difficulty in tracking down these perpetrators is that very often they are anonymous and so cannot be easily reported but perhaps this is up to social mediums to use their resources to shut down accounts?

Labour MP Paula Sheriff highlights “It is not about a particular party or particular faction. It is about the degradation of political discourse online.”

Another thing to consider would be how the mainstream media (news channels, newspapers etc) reports such incidents rather than amplifying it as the Sun Newspaper has done very often.

The Committee on Standards in Public Life will look at the nature of the problem of intimidation, considering the current protections and measures in place for parliamentary candidates, reporting back to the Prime Minister.

 

Other things you may have missed…

Labour MPs have begun their inquiry into diversity in the cultural sector in an aim to boost working class representation in the arts. The panel was chaired by Labour MP Gloria de Peiro who said there was a “definite glass ceiling when it comes to the acting profession” and cited research by the London School of Economics that showed only 10% of actors said they came from a working class background and from the Sutton Trust that showed 42% of Bafta winners went to fee-paying schools.

The panel was also made up of Deborah Williams, executive director, Creative Diversity Network; Lee Mason, a drama commissioner at Channel 4; John Cannon, a casting director at BBC Studios; Cassie Chadderton, head of UK Theatre; David Mercatali, the chair of Stage Directors UK Diversity Working party; and Labour MP Tracy Brabin. Williams, who created the diversity standard for the BFI and is now overseeing Project Diamond, the biggest project monitoring diversity across all areas of British broadcasting, said perceptions about the TV and theatre roles black actors “can and should play” needed changing.

 

Conservative MP Anne Marie Morris has been suspended from the party after she was recorded using racist language at a meeting of pro-Brexit MPs at central London’s East India Club. Morris, who has represented Newton Abbot in Devon since 2010, is under investigation over the comment, which she has described as “totally unintentional” and has “apologise[d] unreservedly”. Announcing the suspension, Theresa May said she was “shocked” by the “totally unacceptable” language. The suspension of Morris could put more pressure on May’s minority government, which is relying on the support of Democratic Unionist (DUP) MPs after losing a majority in the General Election. ?Such language should never be used, especially by a public figure elected to represent a wide range of people, regardless of their colour or creed, which begs the question as to whether suspension goes far enough. When Ken Livingstone made his comments about Hitler and Zionism, many called for his expulsion so surely Anne Marie Morris should also be given the same treatment and persecution…?

 

Plans for a statue of former Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher have been blocked by the government over fears it would be vandalised by left-wing activists. A planning application has been submitted to Westminster city council requesting permission for the erection of a 10ft statue depicting Thatcher in a “resolute posture looking towards parliament with a stern gaze”. However, formal objections have been lodged by the Royal Parks Agency and the Department for Digital Culture, Media and Sport. They say that they have not received assurances that the project has the permission of Baroness Thatcher’s family. There are also concerns in Whitehall that it will be repeatedly targeted by protesters. The £300,000 work was commissioned by the Public Memorials Appeal shortly after the former Prime Minister’s death in 2013.

Should there be a statue of Britain’s first female Prime Minister in Parliament Square? Or is it right plans for the statue were blocked given the controversy during her premiership over policy such as poll tax and privatisation of core industries?

“Give our public sector workers a pay rise!”

The big news this week in the world of British Politics has been over the 1% pay cap on public sector workers. If you’re wondering what the heck is a 1% pay cap, take a seat while this blog post gives you the lowdown…

What is the 1% pay cap on public sector workers?

The cap, first introduced by then Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, in 2013 replaced a two-year pay freeze as part of a wide-ranging austerity package introduced by the coalition government. What this means is many public sector workers since the introduction of the pay cap have not seen a rise in their wages as the cap permits a 1% per cent annual increase in public sector pay. However the wages of those in the private sector has increased ever so slightly in comparison. Take a look at the diagram below…

AVERAGE EARNINGS GROWTH: 

AVERAGE EARNINGS GROWTH: 

Graph depicts percentage changes between the private and public sector. Source: Source: ONS – Annual % changes in three month average regular pay

 

So why all the fuss now? 

In line with recent tragedies in Manchester, Westminster, London Bridge, Finsbury Park and the fire at Grenfell Tower, our emergency services have been praised by politicians and civilians alike. Everyday and especially in dire times, our public servants go above and beyond which is why many politicians have called for their hard efforts to be recognised by lifting the 1% pay cap to ensure all public servants receive a pay rise.

Senior MPs such as Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson and Environment Secretary, Michael Gove are amongst many Conservative cabinet ministers and backbench MPs  who are calling on Prime Minister Theresa May to consider lifting the 1% pay cap for public sector workers. Although Johnson and Gove did not out-rightly suggest the cap should be lifted for all 5.1m public sector workers, they have encouraged Theresa May to listen to an upcoming report by pay review bodies, which most likely will recommend the government lift the cap when it is published later this month. In the  Conservative Party manifesto, they had committed to keeping the cap until 2020.

The Labour Party  have also called for the cap to be lifted as they proposed an amendment to the Queen’s speech calling for an end to the pay cap, however it was rejected by 323 MPs in a vote in the House of Commons as the DUP voted in line with the Conservative Party as part of their informal coalition. In response to Labour’s defeated amendment, the leader of the Party, Jeremy Corbyn, commented:

“Tonight, the Conservatives had an opportunity to put their money where their mouth is, by ending cuts to our police and fire service and lifting the public sector pay cap.

“Although government ministers said they had learned the lessons of the general election and were listening to voters, it is clear that nothing has changed.

They had the perfect opportunity to walk the walk, but instead they marched through the lobby to show Tory austerity is business as usual.

While the money is there when the Conservatives need it to keep themselves in office, the rest of the country now face more devastating cuts to our emergency and other vital services.

The Conservatives clearly plan to keep working for a privileged few. Only Labour is ready to form a government that will work for the many.”

 

Despite pressures from the two major political parties, No. 10 Downing Street (where Prime Minister Theresa May resides) have confirmed there will be no changes to the pay cap. The Prime Minister’s spokesman has said they are “working through recommendations” from the public sector pay review bodies and would respond to those recommendations “in due course”.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies has estimated that increasing public sector pay in line with the private sector would cost an extra £6.3bn a year. Some might say if Theresa May can find an extra £1.5bn to keep her position as Prime Minister, she could surely offer the same courtesy and allow public sector workers to have some stability through their pay. But hey, it’s not like we don’t have nurses and teachers leaving the profession, seeking employment across the pond and risking the future of our younger generation…

In addition to the 1% annual rise, some NHS staff also get gradual increases in their pay as they progress in their roles.

The public sector employs millions of people both within central government and local government. This includes:

  • NHS workers (domestic staff, porters, administrators, nurses, doctors etc)
  • Teachers and those who work in education
  • Law enforcement and security
  • Social Services
  • Armed Forces
  • Police
  • Fire Service
  • Justice

And many more…

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said the pay review bodies should consider a pay rise for public sector workers in line with the rise in average earnings across the economy.

Other things you may have missed…

Along with Brexit negotiations, the UK government has decided to pull out of the London Fisheries Convention which allows foreign countries to fish in British waters. The Convention was signed in 1964, before the UK joined the EU; withdrawal will take two years. Under the convention, vessels from France, Belgium, Germany, Ireland and the Netherlands are permitted to fish within six and 12 nautical miles off the UK coastline. British vessels will also lose the right to fish in the waters of other nations. Environment Secretary Michael Gove says the withdrawal will let the UK “take back control of our fishing policies”. But Greenpeace UK warned the move alone would not deliver a better future for the UK fishing industry. Looks like the UK really is ‘taking back control’…

 

On the subject of ‘taking back control’…

The government has reportedly dropped its ‘have cake and eat it‘ approach to Brexit, as ongoing negotiations have caused the Department for Exiting the EU (DexEU) to now accept that Britain must choose between privileged market access and political control in Brexit talks with the European Union. This change of thinking within the government represents a clear departure from the early negotiating position set out by the Prime Minister in her Lancaster House speech in January. May suggested that Britain would be able to negotiate a Brexit deal based on full access to the European single market without concessions over immigration and payments to the EU. Civil servants have reportedly since told government officials they face a choice between a deal based on preferential access to the single market but surrendering demands for independent immigration and leaving the ECJ, or a “taking back control” agreement cutting all ties with the EU but with a less favourable trade deal.

 

Pensions minister, Guy Opperman, has been criticised for his suggestion that millions of women under the age of 60 who face cuts to their state pension should take up apprenticeships in order to re-enter employment. His comments were made at a debate in Westminster Hall to discuss the changes to the law which will mean the state pension age will rise from 60 to 66 by 2020, delaying access to pensions for women born in the 1950s. SNP minister, Mhairi Black has campaigned frequently against the change in law and had told MPs if the Conservatives could find £1bn to strike a deal with the DUP, they could afford to give women the pensions they are due. Despite many ministers across the political parties arguing the changes are unfair, Mr Opperman says the government is committed to “life-long learning” and will make no concessions.

 

The German Green party, which had pushed for LGBT rights for decades, finally got their victory after the German parliament voted in favour of legalising same-sex marriage by 393 votes to 226 with four abstentions. As it was a free vote, lawmakers were permitted to vote according to their conscience rather than obeying party lines. The vote which permits LGBT people to marry and adopt was called by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition allies the Social Democrats (SDP). However, Merkel voted against the move. Congrats Germany! 🇧🇪🌈

Who says this blog only comments on British Politics eh! 😉

May’s Coalition of Chaos

Hello readers! Before you say anything, I know, I am terrible at maintaining what is meant to be a weekly blog – don’t judge me! 🐵🙃 In all fairness I have been dealing with some heavy personal stuff these last 6 months but I have still been following the world of politics. All my commentary can be found on my Twitter – @JasziieeM

On the subject of politics….

This week Theresa May finally sold her soul, nope sorry, signed an informal coalition with the Democratic Unionist Party, or as commonly known DUP. This follows after May’s abysmal election result and failure to win the 365 seats needed in Parliament to form a government. If you’re puzzled, or have no clue what is going on, bear with as this post will try to explain EVERYTHING you need to know in bites-sized portions. Hold onto your seats folks!

Brexit negotiations 

It’s been exactly a year since the majority of the British electorate (well, only with a narrow majority) voted to leave the European Union. Article 50 – the official process which kick-starts the divorce proceedings – was triggered earlier in the year and official talks have begun in Brussels. As Article 50 has already been triggered, it means the UK has two years to negotiate and leave the European Union so we won’t be leaving just yet.

Last week Theresa May and her government set out their legislative proposals in the Queens Speech (see details below). One of the central pieces of legislation which was included in the speech is the ‘Great Repeal Bill’, which would convert EU regulations into UK law and grant parliament temporary powers to amend or appeal this legislation when Britain has left the EU and the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. Other measures the government have committed to do for the next two years include customs and trade bills, which put in place the legal framework to ensure the UK has an independent customs system in place and can make trade deals with other nations after Brexit. The proposed immigration bill would end European freedom of movement and make the status of EU nationals and their families subject to UK law. These bills serve as guidelines for the government’s intentions for Brexit and are due to be expanded once negotiations in Brussels have progressed.

Many EU nationals residing in the UK have pondered their position post-Brexit and Prime Minister May aimed to provide reassurances this week as she revealed plans to allow around 3m EU citizens living in the UK to stay after Brexit under a new “UK settled status” that would grant EU migrants who have lived in Britain for five years the right to stay permanently, with access to healthcare, education and other benefits. Those who have lived in the UK for less than five years will be allowed to stay until they are eligible for settled status, while those arriving after the cut-off date – expected to fall somewhere between April 2017 and March 2019 – will have two years to either obtain a work permit or return home. May described the proposal as a “fair and serious” offer, as it was announced at a summit of EU leaders in Brussels. German Chancellor Angela Merkel also described it as a “good start” in the Brexit negotiations. However, the plans are dependent on EU nations guaranteeing the same rights to the estimated 1m Britons living in Europe.

Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party however, has accused the Prime Minister of using people as “bargaining chips” in Brexit negotiations.

General Election 2017 

After appearing on many interviews stating she would not call a snap election, Theresa May did a u-turn (one of many) and called a snap election, at the advice of her advisors, Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill who have since resigned after many Tory insiders blamed them for the tragic election results.

#GE2017 took place on 8th June 2017 with Theresa May and her advisors wanting to take an opportunity for the Prime Minister to increase her majority, and in her words ‘strengthen her hand’ ahead of Brexit negotiations. This comes as before the announcement of the snap election, Labour’s popularity ratings in the polls were low.

Screenshot 2017-06-30 at 02.05.16

Voting intention, Source: BBC GE2017 Poll Tracker

It was anticipated that Theresa May and the Conservatives would win the snap election with a landslide majority (that is 74 seats), possibly bigger than that of Thatcher’s premiership but the polls got it oh so wrong yet again. You’d think these journos and pollsters would learn their lesson from 2015 General Election!

During the campaigning in the run up to polling day Labour aimed to turn their position around in the short period of time they had and by George did they do just that! The Party adopted the slogan ‘For the many, not the few’, secured endorsements from Grime artists such as Skepta, and Stormzy and even from friends across the pond like Bernie Sanders and Danny DeVito. Their use of social media worked a treat too, with many of their campaign videos and work from the group Momentum gaining millions of views. Some of their manifesto pledges included:

  • Scrap student tuition fees
  • Nationalisation of England’s nine water companies.
  • Re-introduce the 50p rate of tax on the highest earners (above £123,000)
  • Income tax rate 45p on £80,000 and above
  • More free childcare, expanding free provisions for two, three and four year olds
  • Guarantee triple lock for pensioner incomes
  • End to zero hours contracts
  • Hire 10,000 new police officers, 3,000 new firefighters
  • Moves to charge companies a levy on salaries above £330,000
  • Deliver rail electrification “including in Wales and the South West”.

Full details of the Labour Party Manifesto can be found here.

Meanwhile the Conservative Party’s election campaigning took a toll for the worst when Theresa May announced she would scrap free school meals and introduce a dementia tax* in a bid to tackle the demands of social care across the UK.

Dementia Tax: a proposal to make elderly people pay for care in their own home unless they have less than £100,000 in assets, as it would force them to use up the value of their residential property for the first time. At the moment, if you have more than £23,250 in assets you have to pay for your own care. This means pensioners’ life savings can be drained while they languish in a home. The Tory policy will replace this with a much higher ‘floor’ of £100,000 instead.

Theresa May had failed to mention the higher floor of £100,000 when the social care policy was first introduced. When questioned by members of the press as to whether this was another u-turn, she denied it was such.

Some of the other manifesto proposals by the Conservative Party include:

  • Deliver a smooth and orderly departure from the EU
  • Increase NHS budget in England by £8bn a year by 2022/23
  • An extra £4bn on schools in England by 2022
  • Restating commitment to bring net migration down to tens of thousands
  • Balance budget by 2025
  • Replacement of triple-lock pension pledge after 2020 with double lock

Full details of the Conservative Party manifesto can be found here.

She had also gone as far as to accuse European leaders of interfering with the General Election (possibly a way of saving her own back?).  She had accused leaders in Brussels of trying to sabotage Brexit and that the European press had misrepresented Britain’s stance on the issue.


Throughout the campaign, commentators had noted the personality politics that was emerging; the constant comparison between Theresa May and her team vs. Jeremy Corbyn and the coalition of chaos. It was also an election filled with soundbites: strong and stable; no deal is better than a bad deal; me and my team; coalition of chaos; strengthen my hand; Brexit means Brexit. It was so bad that many on social media where even playing Theresa May/Conservative Bingo during live debates:

Image result for theresa may bingo

Source: The New European

It seems beyond Brexit, Theresa May wanted to secure her own mandate – remember, she wasn’t really elected by the public, nor her own party in all honesty as she was made Prime Minister by default after Andrea Leadsom had pulled out of the leadership race after David Cameron resigned over the Brexit result. And of course, with the Labour Party still under strains with questions over Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership prior to the election, it would have been a wasted opportunity if May didn’t call the election. But it was a decision that would cost her dear…


Post Election Results

Election results began to come in throughout the early hours of 9th June 2017 and exit polls suggested a hung parliament. Exit polls are an opinion poll of people leaving a polling station, asking how they voted. In British politics, they are usually accurate and this time around there were because lo’ and behold, we have a hung parliament!

Hung Parliaments occur when no political party has secured enough seats form a majority government – in the UK 326 seats are required for a party to outright form a government and in this case, the Tories had only managed 318 seats whilst Labour secured 262 seats, 30 more than they had previously had, increasing their percentage of the vote to 40%.

Although Labour had lost this election, it was still a victory for them in many ways as Jeremy Corbyn as well as many other Labour MPs increased their majority in their constituencies, more young people than ever before turned up to the polls swaying the vote with traditional Conservative areas like Canterbury going to Labour for the first time in history. The election also proved Corbyn’s agility to remain as leader of the Labour Party, suppressing any doubts in his opponents and many of the media’s minds.

With hung parliaments, a number of scenarios could happen…

  1. The previous government (in this case the Conservatives) may decide to remain in position whilst they try to form a coalition with another party in order to make up the numbers and thus command a majority government.
  2. The previous government (or the party with the most votes) may decide to govern with the minority of Members of Parliament (MPs) – this is known as a Minority Government and what Theresa May has currently decided to do. Well partly. More on this in a bit…
  3. If the incumbent government (the Conservatives) is unable to command a majority and the PM decides to resign, the leader of the largest opposition party may be invited to form a government and may do so either as a minority or in coalition with another party or parties.
  4. If no party is able to command a majority to govern, another vote may be put forward to the electorate. Yes, another General Election.

As Theresa May was short of 14 seats to gain the majority she so desired, she decided to enter an informal coalition with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). The DUP are a unionist (pro-UK) political party based in Northern Ireland and is now the fifth largest party in Parliament; its 36% share of the vote in Northern Ireland resulted in 10 MPs being returned to Westminster. The party is led by Arlene Foster and are traditionally (c)onservative on many social issues in which they oppose same-sex marriage, and are anti-abortion.

The alliance between the two parties has caused much controversy with the opposition party in Northern Ireland, Sinn Fein, arguing a deal with the DUP goes against the Good Friday agreement and would “jeopardise the neutrality, the non-partisan stance, that a prime minister and a secretary of state must have in relation to Northern Ireland’s politics”.

More on the history of the DUP can be found here.

Queen’s Speech

Ahead of the Queen’s speech last Wednesday, Prime Minister Theresa May promised to run her minority government propped up by the DUP with “humility and resolve”.

“The election result was not the one I hoped for, but this Government will respond with humility and resolve to the message the electorate sent”

Her legislative plans which were outlined in the Queen’s Speech is as follows:

  • A bill will be introduced to repeal the European Communities Act and provide certainty for individuals and businesses.
  • New bills on trade and customs will help to implement an independent trade policy, and support will be given to help British businesses export to markets around the world.
  • Legislation will be introduced to ensure the United Kingdom remains a world leader in new industries, including electric cars and commercial satellites. A new bill will also be brought forward to deliver the next phase of high-speed rail.
  • Reform of technical education to ensure people have the skills they need for the high-skilled, high-wage jobs of the future.
  • Increase of the National Living Wage
  • Legislation will be brought forward to protect the victims of domestic violence and abuse.
  • Reform of Mental Health legislation.
  • Proposals will be brought forward to ban unfair tenant fees, promote fairness and transparency in the housing market, and help ensure more homes are built.
  • A new law will ensure that the United Kingdom retains its world-class regime protecting personal data, and a proposal for a new digital charter.
  • Legislation will also be introduced to modernise the courts system and to help reduce motor insurance premiums.
  • A full public inquiry into the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower to ascertain the causes, and ensure that the appropriate lessons are learnt.
  • Ministers will continue to invest in our gallant Armed Forces, meeting the NATO commitment to spend at least two per cent of national income on defence.
  • Proposals to ensure that critical national infrastructure is protected to safeguard national security.
  • Review of counter-terrorism strategy.
  • Continued support for international action against climate change, including the implementation of the Paris Agreement.

The package outlined above, is primarily dominated by Brexit with many of the Tory manifesto’s most contentious proposals abandoned, including the plan to to cut winter fuel allowances and the proposal to get rid of free school lunches. Many critics and commentators noted the thin nature of this years Queen’s Speech. Jeremy Corbyn told MPs  it was a “threadbare legislative programme for a government that has lost its majority and apparently run out of ideas altogether”.

 

An article in the Economist also describes the Queen’s Speech as ‘scaled down’, highlighting the strains Theresa May will have to face in the next two years, particularly with Brexit negotiations. However, more attention was given to the Queens choice of attire which resembled the EU flag…

Image result for queens speech 2017 attire and eu flag

It seems the Queen paid more attention to her choice of outfit than to the speech she was reading! Considering she was in a hurry to get to the Ascot races in time, perhaps Dennis Skinner’s annual quip was welcomed…

Theresa May has also taken the unusual step of having a two-year parliamentary session on the grounds that it covers the timetable for leaving the European Union. Still clinging onto the notion of strong and stable eh? The Prime Minister insisted in her statement that it would be a “busy legislative session with a number of Bills geared towards making a success of Brexit”.

This week, MPs have voted with a majority of 14 to support the Conservatives in their agenda for the next two years with the DUP giving the Conservatives their backing following the ‘confidence’ and ‘supply’ or informal coalition (whatever you want to call it) deal that was struck earlier this week (more on this below…)

Meanwhile, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, has shown his no-nonsense approach with his new found confidence after the election result a few weeks ago by sacking shadow ministers Andy Slaughter, Catherine West and Ruth Cadbury followed by the resignation of shadow transport minister Daniel Zeichner after they defied the leadership to back an amendment put forward by Chuka Ummuna on Brexit. The amendment had called for Britain to remain in the EU’s Single Market and Customs Union, in defiance of official Labour Party policy.

DUP Deal – signed, sealed, delivered

Earlier this week, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) agreed to support Theresa May’s minority government on a vote-by-vote basis – a ‘confidence and supply’ arrangement – on the condition that £1bn in extra funding goes to Northern Ireland over two years.

Of course the arrangement faced backlash from politicians in Scotland and Wales as well as within May’s own party. Seems like Theresa May found that magic money tree after all…

The informal coalition means the DUP’s 10 MPs will vote in favour of the Conservatives’ Queen’s speech later this week, giving the Prime Minister an effective majority of 13 and ensuring her government’s legislative agenda passes in the House of Commons. Remember, this is not a coalition like that of 2010 with the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats. This agreement with the DUP means they are only tied to supporting the government in key votes, such as the Budget and Queen’s Speech, but not necessarily in other measures.

So where will the DUP’s new found income go?

 

  • Health: A minimum of £250m, with £200m directed to health service transformation and £50m towards mental health provision. It will also receive £50m to “address immediate pressures”
  • Education: £50m to “address immediate pressures”
  • Infrastructure: £400m for projects including delivery the York Street Interchange, plus £150m to provide ultra-fast broadband across Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland’s capital budget is currently about £1bn per year.
  • Deprivation: £100m over five years targeted to deprived communities
  • VAT and Air Passenger Duty tax: Agreed to further consultation
  • Corporation tax: Agreed to work towards devolving the tax to Stormont
  • City deals and Enterprise Zones: Agreed to “comprehensive and ambitious set” of city deals and “limited number” of Enterprise Zones

 

 

Other things you may have missed…

Tim Farron resigned as leader of the Liberal Democrats following what he called his conflict between his politics and his faith.

His resignation comes as he was repeatedly pressed by the media during the general election campaign over his position on varying issues including homosexuality.

“From the very first day of my leadership, I have faced questions about my Christian faith. I’ve tried to answer with grace and patience. Sometimes my answers could have been wiser.

“The consequences of the focus on my faith is that I have found myself torn between living as a faithful Christian and serving as a political leader,” he said in a televised statement.

“To be a political leader – especially of a progressive, liberal party in 2017 – and to live as a committed Christian, to hold faithfully to the Bible’s teaching, has felt impossible for me.”

Favourites to take over the leadership include Lib Dem veteran, Vince Cable and Ed Davey.

 
A cyber attack on Parliament has compromised up to 90 email accounts, prompting the Westminster digital security team to shut down access to MPs and peers’ accounts. While the attack was contained, early investigations suggest “significantly fewer than 1% of the 9,000 accounts on the parliamentary network” have been targeted. The 9,000 email accounts belong to government ministers and other MPs and peers, as well as other staff and civil servants, but it is not yet known whose accounts have been compromised. A parliamentary spokesperson has revealed the affected accounts “did not conform to guidance” regarding password strength.

 
After all the efforts from public sector workers, especially in recent tragic events, the Labour Party bid to end the 1% cap on public sector pay but were defeated by the government by 323 MPs to 309 – giving the Prime Minister a majority of 14 as all 10 DUP MPs voted against the amendment, in line with the ‘confidence and supply’ deal agreed with the Conservatives. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn had tabled the amendment to the Queen’s Speech in the hope some potential Conservative rebels who opposed the pay cap would vote against the Prime Minister.

The vote followed confusion over the future of public sector pay after Downing Street earlier signalled it could lift the 1% cap. A senior Number 10 source said the Prime Minister had “heard the message” of the General Election and the Government understood “people are weary” of austerity measures. But, within hours of that statement, Downing Street insisted there had been no change to the Government’s policy.

 

Phew, that was a lot to get through! Be sure to hit the ‘Get involved’ button and let me know what areas of British politics you’d like covered in next week’s blog post.

Theresa May in denial?

Is is it too late to say Happy New Year? Hello readers! It’s been a while since my last post and A LOT has happened. I mean 2016 was a crazy year for politics and no doubt the craziness will continue into 2017 with Brexit and President Trump. I’m sure you will have all missed my political charm and wit, covering politics in a simple manner but let’s just say i’ve taken a back seat to observe. I hadn’t planned this post and it’s quite personal of me to use ‘I’, something I rarely do on this blog but Prime Minister May has been saying quite a few things about the NHS which in the last few years has been personal to me.

This week, the NHS was once again (as it always is) the major topic of discussion as it was revealed the Red Cross have had to introduce volunteers, calling the slow demise of the NHS as a ‘humanitarian crisis’. During Wednesday’s PMQs, Theresa May denied the claim by the Red Cross, calling it ‘irresponsible and overblown’, although she does acknowledge the pressures the NHS continues to face. With that in mind, why then does the Prime Minister not think that continued failures to reach waiting time targets, to failures in diagnosing patients in time is not a humanitarian crisis when her government has failed to provide the funding the NHS needs?

As a carer for my mother, I have spent countless times in hospital, stayed overnight for weeks and seen for myself just how much pressure doctors, nurses and other hospital staff are under. Every single staff member, from porters to domestic staff to nurses and consultants have felt the result of an underfunded, understaffed NHS. Everytime my mother has needed a nurse to change her fluids or give her medication when required, there is no one around. The usual response is ‘we’re attending to more serious patients’, making my mother feel she is not worth the attention, as if her life is meaningless. You see, everyone’s life matters, it shouldn’t be a case of picking and choosing but this is what years of Tory austerity has done. I can count the number of times my mother has pressed the alert bell, waiting and waiting for a nurse or a HCA to come and attend to her. Two hours later and someone finally arrives. It’s too late, i’ve already changed my mother. I’ve already given her medication.

It’s easy for politicians and chairmen and women alike to make decisions or make comments when you’ve never experienced what it’s like to be on the receiving end. In hospitals, it’s a fight. Nurses and doctors/consultants are arguing with each other. Nurses take their frustrations out on HCAs. HCAs take their frustrations out on domestic staff and soon enough, the patients bare the brunt of it all because while these staff members are able to go home, albeit after a long, hard shift, it’s the patients who remain in hospital. Day in, day out, seeing different doctors, hearing different conversations in the middle of the night, hardly if at all getting any sleep. Not helped by the patient in the next cubicle who is using the commode or crying for help as you lie helplessly, thinking why your health has come to this. I’ve seen it all, and I can tell you now, it’ll only get worse before it gets better.

Changes need to be made if we want to truly save our beloved National Health Service. And it’s not good enough for the government to put the blame on GP surgeries.

BBC Interview with Dr Chaand Nagpaul from the British Medical Association (BMA)

The problem isn’t because GPs aren’t doing a good enough job, (from personal experience, it’s about how you push for treatment), but it’s down to the fact that as a job, it isn’t attractive to qualified doctors. Typically, GPs are old, male and of asian descent. Am I right? All my life, I have never been treated by a GP from another ethnicity or age bracket, always over 60. Now, I have no problem with that, as long as you know what you’re doing and you provide myself and my family with the right treatment, that’s ok. But there’s a problem further down the line. What happens when these old doctors retire? Where are the next generation of GPs? Most likely in hospitals or abroad, that’s where!

If you have a look on the BBC article ‘GPs being made scapegoats for A&E pressures, says BMA‘, there is a case study from Dr Matt Owen from Manchester who qualified as a GP three years ago.

“I would say demand for a seven-day week is actually not high.

“I do work extended hours on the weekend. On Sundays, it is not uncommon to be sat in my consultation room for 12 hours (08:00-20:00) with as few as five patients for the whole day.

“However, there can be a shortage of appointments and access to the GP Monday to Friday.

“The problem here is actually a shortage of GPs. No-one wants to be a GP because GPs are overworked, overused and over-regulated.”

If our government is to have a grip on the NHS and the its looming demise, it needs to

  • Provide incentives for young, up and coming qualified doctors to work in GP surgeries
  • Fund social care services
  • Stop prioritising wars over the NHS
  • Stop cuts to education

Of course, the Tories would rather privatise the whole service and be done with it.

It seems to me that our government doesn’t give our NHS staff enough credit. Lest we forget, the NHS isn’t just limited to hospitals; it’s part of a wider social care system that covers nursing homes, mental health services, home physiotherapy, dentistry, eyecare, the list goes on and on. NHS services explained… 

As I said at the beginning of this post, I hadn’t planned to write this and my absence has been due to me constantly being in and out of hospital so I like to think this will provide and insight into what i’ve witnessed. There are great doctors and nurses out there, some could do better and some are just under a lot of strain. But as a whole, from staff to patients, they all need support and it goes back to what the government will do. It’s not good enough for Theresa May to ignore the failures of her party, or her Health Secretary to continue to fail to work with doctors and unions to help improve working conditions. The NHS needs a Prime Minister who can acknowledge and act to protect the NHS from any more downfalls. The NHS isn’t a business, it’s a public service. It accounts for millions of lives every single day, it is not something to toy with it, so please, Mrs May, stop denying what’s right in front of you and start taking control.

I’d like to remain optimistic and believe our beloved NHS can be saved, but it’s going to take more than a miracle to reverse the damage done by the Tories since 2010. First of all the government needs to take the above points into account and Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt really needs to hold a better relationship with doctors and doctor’s unions. Finally, NHS staff must work together, please don’t take your frustrations out on each other or your patients. Remember why you got into the health profession in the first place. The NHS was never built to make profit but to help others, and improve our quality of living. Let’s continue to keep it that way so our children and great-grandchildren can also benefit from such a service.

Owen Smith outlines his policy ideas

This week, it seems Labour aren’t the only political party in a leadership crisis as UKIP’s former deputy leader, Suzanne Evans gave up her leadership fight following Farage’s resignation.

PM Theresa May and Enida Kenny, PM of Italy held a news conference talking about the next steps for brexit. May continues her European tour as she tries to get the best deal for the UK during negotiations on Brexit.

In the theme of leadership…

Labour leadership candidate, Owen Smith held a leadership conference in Oregreave in which he outlined his policy proposals:

  • Public sector pay freeze; scrap zero hours contracts – replace with minimum hours contracts which inform workers when and what hours they are working and what they expect to get paid;
  • Would guarantee rights for information and consultation with work places with more than 50 employees – highlighting importance of Trade Unions.
  • Would repeal Trade Union’s Act
  • Wants a return of Wages Council to boost pay
  • Ensure big businesses pay a fairer share of taxes
  • Decent class sizes
  • Protection of the NHS – NHS needs a 4% per annum rise to sustain the service – states under Tories, there is currently a 1% rise. Would spend an extra 4% per annum.
  • Would introduce a 50p rate for people earning over £150,000 a year.
  • Reverse Tory cuts on capital gains tax & introduce a wealth tax, raising an additional £3bn
  • Investment – Pledges to introduce a British New Deal – a £200bn promise to borrow funds at lower rates to rebuild public services and infrastructure that ‘has been allowed to languish’ – a historic period of borrowing rates; investment into Northern England, not enough to rely on London (economy far too London-centric)
  • Will build 300,000 more houses to ease the housing crisis

Radical but doable policies. Investment not cuts, Prosperity not austerity. National collective purpose to rebuild Britain. Labour needs a revolution, not one where we return to a socialist nirvana, but a cold-eyed practical revolution.

– Owen Smith, 27 July 2016

Click here for in-depth coverage of Smith’s speech as it happened.

Meanwhile, current Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn won the High Court battle as to whether his name could be on the ballot for the upcoming leadership contest. Turns out he didn’t the support of 51 MPs after all. Huh.

Since this Labour coup started over a month ago, there have been ‘rumours’ as to what will happen if Corbyn is re-elected, with people speculating a split. Surely not another SDP!?

This is what Jezza had to say about the so-called rumours…

So what’d you think? Is this the beginning of the end for the Labour Party as we know it? Will the party ever be able to get on with its job as the opposition party? Who knows. Drop your comments below and share with your fellow comrades.

 

 

MPs support Trident; Labour Leadership strife continues

At the start of the week, MPs voted on Trident renewal and it (as anything in politics) caused much heated debate. But what exactly is Trident and why does it matter?

Well, Trident (since 1969) is a British submarine carrying nuclear weapons and has always been on patrol, gliding silently beneath the waves, somewhere in the world’s oceans. The aim of Trident is to deter any nuclear attack on the UK because, even if the nation’s conventional defence capabilities were destroyed (you know, the army, guns, grenades, that sorta thing), the silent submarine would still be able to launch a catastrophic retaliatory strike on the aggressor, a concept known as mutually assured destruction.

The submarines carry up to eight Trident missiles. Each can be fitted with a number of warheads, which can be directed at different targets. Each of the four submarines carries a sealed “letter of last resort” in the prime minister’s hand, containing instructions to follow if the UK has been devastated by a nuclear strike and the government annihilated.

But seriously, how likely is this to happen? Given the last time the world faced near nuclear oblivion.  Bear in mind, each Trident warhead is eight times more powerful than the atomic bomb dropped in Hiroshima.

During the debate in the House of Commons on Monday, MPs voted on the motion put forward by PM Theresa May:

  • The government’s assessment that the UK’s “independent minimum credible nuclear deterrent” based on continuous at-sea deployment will remain essential to the UK’s security;
  • The decision to take the necessary steps required to maintain the current posture by replacing the Vanguard Class submarines;
  • The importance of the replacement programme to the UK’s defence industrial base and in supporting thousands of highly skilled engineering jobs;
  • Government commitment to reduce its overall nuclear weapon stockpile by the mid-2020s and press for “key steps towards multilateral disarmament”.

You can watch the full debate below:

In case you can’t be bothered to watch the 2 hour video, here’s a brief summary of the arguments for and against Trident renewal:

Arguments in favour of Trident renewal:

  • The UK faces an uncertain “future threat environment” – Andrea Berger, Royal United Services Institute.
  • In an uncertain future and the resurgence of aggressive Russian policies, the UK needs to ensure it is taking decisions now which mean that in future decades we have options available for defence and deterrence.
  • Maintenance – work on a replacement could not be delayed because the submarines alone could take up to 17 years to develop.
  • Threats from rogue states and terrorist groups could emerge at any time and a minimum nuclear deterrent is needed to help counter them.
  • The nuclear defence industry is also a major employer. Some estimates suggest that up to 15,000 jobs may be lost.

Arguments against Trident renewal:

  • The UK should never be a country that is willing to threaten or use nuclear weapons against an adversary, even in the most extreme circumstances, especially when the cost to life would be unfathomable.
  • The UK should not be spending possibly £40bn on a programme that is designed for uncertainty and indeed that an “uncertain future threat environment” may mean no threats arise and so £40bn would have been spent unnecessarily.
  • No legitimate purpose: their use would be illegal under almost every conceivable circumstance, as huge numbers of civilian casualties would be unavoidable. That is why the International Court of Justice ruled in 1996 the threat or use of nuclear weapons would be contrary to the rules of international law.
  • The Government’s National Security Strategy identifies international terrorism, cyber-attacks and natural hazards as greater threats than nuclear war.

At the end of the debates, MPs were given the opportunity to cast their vote. The motion was supported by 472 votes to 117, approving the manufacture of four replacement submarines at a current estimated cost of £31bn.

To see how your MP voted, click here.

This week, May chaired her first cabinet meeting in which she stated she wants her government to be ‘defined by social reform, not brexit’. Erm, that might be a tiny bit hard Mrs May, considering your Brexit minister has predicted it could take up to the end of your premiership for Britain to eventually leave the EU.

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May (C) holds her first Cabinet Meeting at Downing Street, in London July 19, 2016. © Dan Kitwood

Prime Minister Theresa May chairs her first Cabinet meeting on 19th July 2016

It seems there will be no escaping brexit as the team tasked with triggering Article 50 will be situated at No. 9 Downing St, right next Mrs May’s new residence.

May opened the meeting by warning her ministers the “decisions we take around this table affect people’s day-to-day lives and we must do the right thing, take the right decisions for the future of this country.”

She added: “We have the challenge of Brexit, and Brexit does mean Brexit, and we’re going to make a success of it. It will be the responsibility of everyone sitting around the Cabinet table to make Brexit work for Britain.

“Brexit does mean brexit” – the slogan to define May’s premiership?

“And it will also be their duty to deliver success on behalf of everyone in the UK, not just the privileged few. That is why social justice will be at the heart of my government. So, we will not allow the country to be defined by Brexit, but instead build the education, skills and social mobility to allow everyone to prosper from the opportunities of leaving the EU.”

The Eagle has crashed

As the leadership strife in the Labour Party continues, things were made tiny bit simpler when Angela Eagle decided to step down, leaving Owen Smith and Jeremy Corbyn to go head to head.

As you’ll recall, last week Owen Smith launched his leadership campaign; this week it was the turn of current Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn. At least there were plenty of journo’s to ask him questions. Sorry Eagle.

As party members, supporters and MPs continue to debacle over who is best suited to leading the party, many will be focused on the policies of the two candidates as well as their appeal-potential, particularly within those heartlands who voted brexit just last month.

Let’s take a look at the two candidates and what they have to offer:

Owen Smith

  • Proposal for a British New Deal, which would be a £200bn investment plan to renew our country. Investing in tackling our housing crisis, modernising our transport networks, as well as investing in people through areas like Sure Start and social care.
  • Commitment to an ethical foreign policy with a War Powers Act. This would allow Parliament to properly scrutinise the Government of the day.
  • Smith was elected as an MP in 2010 and most recently served as Shadow Work and Pensions secretary

Jeremy Corbyn

  • Elected as Labour leader last summer with the largest mandate of any Labour leader with over 60% share of the vote.
  • Turned back the Tories cruel tax credit cuts that would have meant millions of families this year being over £1,000 worse off. And turned back £4 billion of cuts to disabled people – at a time when the government billions in cuts to big business and the super-rich.
  • Jeremy’s vision is built around an economy that delivers for everyone, in every part of the country. That takes a Labour government making decisions in that leaves no one behind, and no community behind.

For more information on the Labour leadership and the two candidates, visit the Labour website.

So what’d you think? Should the Labour Party continue its leadership under Corbyn or does the party need (another) new direction?

 

Useful Sources:

Trident Renewal – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-13442735

CNDUK, No To Trident – http://www.cnduk.org/campaigns/no-to-trident

MPs support Trident renewal –  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-36830923

 

May-Day! May-Day!

Andrea Leadsom pulled out of the Conservative Leadership race this week, leaving Theresa May as sole contender and the new owner of the keys to No. 10 Downing Street.

It may or may not have come as a shock to some of you, but Leadsom did come under a lot of pressure for her remarks on her suitably as PM last week. But, there are now some disputes (as there always is in politics) over the way in which May has become PM, questioning democracy in Britain. Bear in mind even Conservative members have not had a say in May’s sudden leadership, never mind the electorate. This causes some to question whether we should have an emergency general election to legitimise May’s premiership?

Let’s take a look at Theresa May’s policy record:

 

At least Cameron seems happy.

On Tuesday, Cameron chaired his last Cabinet meeting, with May taking over the reigns after Wednesday’s PMQs.

Labour’s leadership battles continue – with Angela Eagle launching her leadership bid. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depends on your stance) was overshadowed by the Leadsom’s decision to stand down from the Conservative leadership race. Poor Eagle was left in an almost-empty room with journalists fleeing her leadership launch to attend to Leadsom’s front steps as she announced her resignation, thus making Theresa May the Prime Minister-in-waiting.

Oh dear oh dear. What an awkward sight. If things weren’t already awkward for the leadership hopeful, on Tuesday evening, it was announced that Jeremy Corbyn WILL in fact be on the ballot in the Labour leadership contest. Has the #chickencoup failed? Well with thousands of Corbynistas and Labour’s increasing membership (again, Corbynistas perhaps?) it is likely that Mr Corbyn may be elected with an even bigger mandate, a way to show the Blairites within the party that ‘New Labour’ is well and truly dead.

If divisions within the party weren’t prominent before, they sure are now. With Eagle’s constituency office vandalised and Owen Smith also launching his own leadership campaign, it is an understatement to say the party is going through one bumpy ride. The question is, what happens if Corbyn is elected with a much bigger mandate? One alternative scenario is ‘Momentum’ becomes a new party in itself, with Corbyn as its leader and thus rival to Labour centrists. But let’s not speculate eh.

Needless to say, May’s cabinet reshuffle did gain a lot of attention, with Boris Johnson being brought back into the limelight with his appointment as Foreign Secretary. Yes, BoJo is now the man who will represent the UK to the rest of the world. Hm. May’s other cabinet appointments include:

It is important to note the new role of ‘Brexit Secretary’ held by David Davis – the creation of a new department suggests May’s intention to act swiftly in Britain’s negotiations to exit the EU. Mr Davis, a firm brexiteer commented that Article 50 could be triggered as early as next year, allowing the UK “to negotiate free trade deals with the world’s biggest economies could allow the public to see some of the economic benefits of Brexit before the likely date for withdrawal from the EU around the end of 2018”.  If you were hoping for a second referendum, then you’re out of luck i’m afraid.

 What will May’s leadership bring over the next four years (that’s if she lasts that long the way British politics is going!)? Is this the beginning of the end for the Labour Party as its internal woes continue?

After yet another week of speedy politics, sit back, relax and reminisce over Cameron’s legacy as leader of the Conservative Party for 11 years and PM for 6 years. How will you remember him?

Conservatives and Labour in leadership turmoil

In the week where Nigel Farage handed in his resignation (again), Michael Gove was eliminated in the Conservative leadership election and Angela Eagle announced she would stand against Corbyn.

On Monday morning, Nigel Farage resigned, stating he wanted his life back, after the brexit campaign.

But is this truly the final goodbye? As some of you would remember, this is not the first time Farage has attempted to exit from the political stage:

Could his resignation have to do with the fact he would never be able to have an input in the brexit plan? Well there has been some outrage in that he was the man who had prompted the EU membership debate and after his campaigning, has left everyone else to pick up after the mess he created. Exactly the same way last week Boris Johnson had failed to stand as a candidate in the Conservative leadership election.

Talking of the Conservative leadership…

Tory Leadership Update:

On Tuesday evening:

  • Theresa May in the lead, followed by Andrea Leadsom. Liam Fox eliminated on the first round of voting on Tuesday evening.

During an interview looking at the results of the selection, Ken Clarke made a remark which certainly turned a few heads:

  • Rising star, Stephen Crabb who was one of the first ministers within the party to make his leadership pulled out of the contest after coming fourth in the first ballot. He has since stated his support for Theresa May.
  • In the second and final round later in the week, Michael Gove was eliminated, leaving May and Leadsom as the two candidates who go head to head to become Britain’s second female PM.

As their leadership campaigns begin, Andrea Leadsom’s remark on her being a mother and thus giving a better chance at winning caused controversy this week:Screenshot 2016-07-11 at 00.21.28.png

To be honest, a lot of the things Leadsom says causes controversy. You only have to take a look at their political history – Leadsom vs. May – to see the controversy their stance on policies has caused. If the Tories weren’t right wing before, they sure will be now, no matter which one of these women win the leadership contest.

It is likely that votes that would’ve gone to Boris if he had stood would now go to Leadsom – is she the underdog we should watch out for? Although Theresa May is a firm favourite, with the direction politics is going at the moment, we shouldn’t rule out anything, including Leadsom being PM.

Labour in crisis?

Whilst the Tories remain fixed on their leadership/brexit woes, with current Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn standing his ground, the coup continues as Angela Eagle announced late in the week that she would stand against Corbyn in a leadership contest.

There is also some disputes over whether Corbyn would automatically be on the ballot if a leadership contest was called. The rules (or points of debate) can be found here.

Nevertheless, there is no doubt that there will be some unhappy people within the party, calling into question whether there would be another breakaway party. Corbyn seems unfazed and actually, you cam admire the man: after all the stick he has been through especially these last few weeks, he remains defiant to continue the true fight which is that against Tory austerity.

With all that is happening in British politics today, it is important we don’t forget what is really happening, the lives who are affected by government policies and the video below of Jeremy at  a recent rally really nails the issue on the head. The pressure politicians face is nothing compared to those who barely live on the bread line. On a final note, watch the video below and you can make your own minds about the current political climate.

 

As ever, drop your comments below, like and share this post! Until next week comrades.

Life after Brexit…

Another week full of drama in the world of politics. After the electorate went to the polls on Thursday 23rd June, the results were shocking as the UK voted to leave the European Union. What followed the #brexit result was celebration on the leave side, heartbreak and turmoil for remainers and uncertainty as the UK market fluctuated mirroring a roller-coaster.

The results which came out on the early hours of last Friday morning shocked Britain, and undoubtedly the rest of the world as it was announced 52% of British public has voted to leave the European Union. Of course, many had rightly predicted the result would be close, however with the remain vote just standing at 48%, it wasn’t the result some had predicted or wished for.

Northern Ireland, Scotland and London were the only regions to overwhelmingly vote remain whilst the rest of the UK, including Wales and the rest of England voted to leave (quite strongly – see above for stats). There are many reasons as to why a majority of Brits have voted to leave the European Union, but the one topic that comes up time and time again is immigration. We’ll back to that in a bit, but it is also important to highlight other factors which altered the referendum result, including the generation gap and social cleavages – those belonging to the working class especially, may have voted to leave as a protest against the establishment. Take a look at the data below…

Source: YouGov – https://yougov.co.uk/news/2016/06/27/how-britain-voted/

So what does the referendum result mean? Well since Britain has decided to leave the EU, steps will now be taken to terminate the UK’s membership of the Union. To do so, Article 50 – Lisbon Treaty, needs to be triggered which states:

1. Any Member State may decide to withdraw from the Union in accordance with its own constitutional requirements.

2. A Member State which decides to withdraw shall notify the European Council of its intention. In the light of the guidelines provided by the European Council, the Union shall negotiate and conclude an agreement with that State, setting out the arrangements for its withdrawal, taking account of the framework for its future relationship with the Union. That agreement shall be negotiated in accordance with Article 218(3) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. It shall be concluded on behalf of the Union by the Council, acting by a qualified majority, after obtaining the consent of the European Parliament.

3. The Treaties shall cease to apply to the State in question from the date of entry into force of the withdrawal agreement or, failing that, two years after the notification referred to in paragraph 2, unless the European Council, in agreement with the Member State concerned, unanimously decides to extend this period.

4. For the purposes of paragraphs 2 and 3, the member of the European Council or of the Council representing the withdrawing Member State shall not participate in the discussions of the European Council or Council or in decisions concerning it.

A qualified majority shall be defined in accordance with Article 238(3)(b) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

5. If a State which has withdrawn from the Union asks to rejoin, its request shall be subject to the procedure referred to in Article 49.

The question on everyone’s lips now is who will lead the discussions for our #brexit now David Cameron has resigned? His resignation last Friday sparked rumours and debacle over who would next replace him in October, but more on that later.

Now, back to the topic of immigration. During the referendum campaign, the ‘Leave’ campaign had talked a lot about the need to limit free movement, arguing the alleged £350 million paid into the EU could be better spent on public services such as the NHS and building new schools. However, just days after the referendum result, members of the leave camp have already regressed on this debate, the very same debate in which some voters based their decision on.

In life after #brexit, there was also some concern for Chancellor George Osborne who was not seen since the day of the referendum, but don’t worry, he finally emerged on Monday during his treasury speech. The brexit vote had plummeted the UK’s shares in the stock market, leaving many economists and business owners concerned – his treasury speech aimed to halt their concerns and give us all a sense of hope. Needless to say, he tried.

Remember the debacle within the Conservative Party? Well it’s about to get a whole lot complicated. Not just over our EU membership, oh no. There are now questions as to who will now replace David Cameron as leader of the Conservatives, and thus Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Favourite to win the leadership contest was Boris Johnson (supported by Zac Goldsmith no less!), but you’ll all be pleased (or not, depending on your take on things) to know that Michael Gove, who campaigned alongside BoJo has decided to run for the leadership after claiming Johnson hasn’t got what it takes. Ouch! Talk about backstabbing your mate!

Jeremy Hunt had also stated he would run for the leadership race but it seems he missed the deadline so we can all breathe a sigh of relief there. Also vying for the leadership contest is Theresa May, Liam Fox, Stephen Crabb and Andrea Leadsom. For more information on the candidates, click here.

According to Conservative Home, as of July 2nd, the running tally of Conservative MPs who are supporting the various declared candidates for the Party leadership is as follows:

  • May – 102
  • Gove – 21
  • Crabb – 21
  • Leadsom – 21
  • Fox – 8

Does this Home Secretary Theresa May is set to become Britain’s second female Prime Minister? It certainly looks promising but as the Conservative Party try to fix their own internal problems, it seems the opposition, the Labour Party haven’t had it easy either.

Following from the Brexit result, members of the Labour Party, including the Parliamentary Labour Party, have called into question the role and future of their leader, Jeremy Corbyn after many of the party’s heartlands, including Wales and the North East of England voted overwhelmingly to leave the EU, despite the party’s position to remain. As a result of the shocking outcome, former Shadow Foreign Secretary, Hilary Benn had voiced his concern to Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn in which he was then sacked. What followed was a series of resignations from Corbyn’s shadow cabinet

These resignations were not helped by the vote of no confidence motion passed by Dame Margaret Hodge and the PLP in which 170 Labour MPs who voted they had no confidence in Corbyn’s leadership. Whilst many in and outside of the party have called for his resignation, especially with speculation over an upcoming general election as early as October once the Conservatives have elected their new leader, it has called into question Corbyn’s ability to hold onto power and re-inspire core voters in the very same heartlands that had voted to leave the EU. Corbyn has remained defiant that he will not be resigning as party leader – it is worth noting that Corbyn has the highest mandate than any other Labour Leader in the party’s history with just over 60% of party members. After the shadow cabinet fall-out, Corbyn appointed a new set of shadow cabinet ministers in the hope of allowing him to carry out his role as leader effectively. Well as much as he can given the bias by our *liberal, non-bias* media. With talks of another Labour Leadership contest and Corbyn promising to stand as a candidate against possible front runner, Angela Eagle, it won’t be easy for those wanting to get rid of the man who can’t be moved. There are some questions that do need to be answered, for instance:

  • What happens if Corbyn is re-elected with a larger mandate in another leadership contest?
  • Will the Labour Party split (again)?

Maybe George Galloway is onto something…

Back to the Conservatives. It is safe to say Cameron is now sitting duck as we await to find out who our next PM will be come October. Bit rich for him to call for Jeremy’s resignation then huh?

Since the referendum results were announced last Friday, it has been a hectic week for British politics; uncertainty as to when or if Article 50 will ever be triggered, will a general election be called in the Autumn? Will the Labour Party survive? Although EU members want the UK to trigger Article 50 pretty soon, it will take a long time yet; there are also questions on whether discussions around Britain’s departure from the EU would be cross-party – could you envisage Corbyn working alongside a Tory? Just look what happened in Scotland over #IndyRef…

With all this uncertainty and tension within the two main political parties, it seems Nicola Sturgeon, leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP) is the only British political leader to have a plan following Brexit. The leave campers did not expect to win and have thus left the country in a mess.

 

Nevertheless, it’s an understatement to say that the #brexit vote has caused divisions within the UK, not just within our political parties but amongst the people themselves, with many regretting their decision…

…and others even signing a petition calling for a second referendum! Oh, and lest we forget the effect the result had on the stock market.

The rapid changes to the political sphere have caused many, including Labour MP, David Lammy to consider Parliamentary intervention to overturn the referendum result. Constitutionally (or unconstitutionally rather, considering our’s is unwritten), Parliament remains sovereign and the PM has prerogative powers – what this means is that the PM has the power to implement policy, or in this case, a referendum result. A referendum is essentially a means of asking the electorate about their opinion in order to make a final political decision; as such, the narrowly close 52% of voters who chose to leave doesn’t have to upheld. But of course, this would cause an uproar if it wasn’t. Maybe democracy shouldn’t be about sitting down and doing as you’re told. That’s tyranny, no matter who and how many people are expressing it.

Whilst it is unfortunate to see Nigel Farage being all smug in his first speech in the European Parliament after the referendum…

It’s good to see politicians like Alyn Smith who do not stoop to the (albeit low) standards upheld by Farage.

The next chapter ahead is not only uncertain, but bleak; when even our own elected politicians are unable to stay united, what hope does the rest of society have? It is disappointing to see a rise in the number of xenophobic incidents since #brexit – is this the legacy of the ‘Leave’ campaign? Let’s hope not. Whilst the result may not have been what you may have hoped for, we must remain comradely. Let’s not hurl racist, fascist abuse at our fellow citizens, no one is above anyone, no matter someones race, religion or immigration status. The arguments put forward by the Leave camp should have been more about immigration and maybe the Remain camp should have addressed the topic of immigration even moreso. Nevertheless, what’s done is done and it is now about moving forward, ensuring that negotiations are fit for purpose and benefit not only us but future generations.

And with that, i’ll leave with a quick summary of events this last week. As ever, drop a comment, or tweet a topic you’d like covered in the next blog post.

Useful Links:

The EU Referendum: All you need to know – http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/labour-heartlands-give-huge-backing-8271074

Labour Heartlands support Brexit – http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/labour-heartlands-give-huge-backing-8271074

Corbyn’s Cabinet: Who’s in & who’s out – http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/sacking-backing-cracking-jeremy-corbyns-8286407

Consequences of Brexit – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B2S_5jIovXk