Foreign policy

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

 

Labour needs to be a movement, not a copycat

This week, Labour party members and affiliated supporters have been receiving their ballot papers; as a result, there has been last minute campaigns and continued fighting talk over who is best to lead the party and win the election in 2020.

Labour Leadership Candidates. From l-r: Liz Kendall, Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper, Jeremy Corbyn

During the campaign period, Jeremy Corbyn has received a lot of support from young people as well as the support from older voters. However, the surge his campaign has created has also received criticism from Blairites and those who sit on the right side of the political spectrum. All this back and forth between the ‘lefties’ and the ‘right-left’ have caused me to consider that actually, the momentum Tony Blair received can actually be compared to the current Corbynmania. Maybe this explains why the other contenders feel threatened by this surge of support. Food for thought eh?

Surely the way Corbyn’s campaign is engaging young people into the political debate is a good thing? Surely bringing something that is different to the status quo opens up the electorates eyes and ears? The fact that so many people across the country support Jeremy Corbyn and what he hopes to offer if he wins the leadership contest proves the electorate is done with ‘New Labour’. I  just don’t understand why so many New Labour supporters and right wing media are smearing his name and doubting his ability to move the party forward. Surely the amount of young people he’s been able to engage and the debates he’s opening speaks for itself? Rather than circumnavigating over the old dilemma of whether socialism is dead, maybe we should be asking ourselves whether New Labour is dead. It certainly may be the beginning of the end of the Thatcher-inspired branch of socialism as in recent weeks, we saw Blair and Brown trying to hold on to their creation, urging supporters to vote for someone other than Corbyn.

Jeremy is the only contesting leader that is providing an alternative, the only one who seems to be listening to what Labour supporters actually want, rather than making the choices and decisions for us. Let’s think about this in another light – why aren’t the media smearing the names of the other candidates standing for the leadership? It’s not because the other leaders haven’t got dirt of their own that’s for sure. Jeremy isn’t pro New Labour. Never has been so he’s seen as the slayer of something these Blairites are trying to hold on to. New Labour had its moment but the moment Tony Blair decided to go to Iraq, it went into cardiac arrest. New Labour is now in a coma, and if Corbyn is elected in a few weeks time, it’ll surely be dead. In a way, i kind of feel sorry for those at the top of the party who have been trying to preserve the foundations of New Labour. I think because it’s been a custom of the party for so long, people who support that branch of socialism have become to fear change. But it’s ironic isn’t it? I mean you hear from politicians that we need to be pragmatic as well as progressive but Jeremy Corbyn enters the contest to do just that and the media and those who oppose him are first to criticise. I guess its the fear talking within them.

It seems people across the country are pleading for an alternative, a party that actually stands for something, a purpose other than solely seeking election victory. You see, because before you can even set a goal, you need to grasp what your purpose is, what you hope to achieve and how you will do so. In order to win the hearts of the people, it doesn’t help by smearing someone’s name in dirt which is what i admire most about Jeremy Corbyn. It must be very hard trying to run a campaign and gain the support of people (hasn’t failed there) when the media and other fellow Labour Party members keep using your views and portraying them in a negative light.

Corbyn’s stance on foreign policy and international relations has also been highlighted and debated. From calling Hamas ‘friends’ to his connections with controversial figures in the Palestinian movement. The backlash against Corbyn’s campaign has gone as far as to base his credibility as leader on the people he knows. Firstly, i’m sure many of us know people with radical views who we talk to and probably consider as our friends, doesn’t mean we hold the same view as them. Secondly, how do we ever expect to achieve peace if we don’t speak to our enemies?! Peace isn’t achieved through endless wars and terror attacks, that’s for sure. This nature of not negotiating with the other side is completely ridiculous. Everyone has to be part of the peace process, including those we consider as the bad guys. That’s how we come to common ground. Wake up people!!!

Rather than dig up dirt on a genuine candidate who speaks his mind regardless of instructions by party whips and so on, why don’t we listen and partake in this new, open and honest politics Corbyn has ignited?

As someone who has worked alongside Jeremy Corbyn many a times, i know he’ll offer something different, something we’ve been wanting for a very long time. A movement. Corbyn’s politics hasn’t been the norm for over 20 years and that my friends is the real fear amongst anti-Corbynites.

Everything you need to know about the Scottish Referendum

It’s a topic that has been on the news for quite a while and i’ve had a request (thanks Emily) to try and explain what it’s all about. I do warn you, this is gonna be a long one, so here goes nothing…

How did it all begin? Well it started with Alex Salmond’s white paper (basically a big important document) which outlined his plans for an independent Scotland. What that means is that central government (that’s Westminster) will no longer have control over how Scotland as a country is run, hence why it’s being talked about on a daily basis. If Scotland does become independent, it’ll affect its economy, defence and of course, its politics. Salmond’s white paper has thus become the basis of the referendum debate – it’s particularly important for Salmond to persuade the Scots his programme for an independent Scotland is the best way forward.

So what is Alex Salmond proposing? Well his white paper is 670 pages and answers about 650 questions so i can’t quite cover everything here. I do have a life you know. But i can say that the biggest issue concerning the whole referendum is the economy, especially the currency. Here’s the deal: Salmond wants to stay in the currency union but critics have said this puts him in a very vulnerable position. This is because the Better Together campaign can easily argue that Westminster is under no obligation to allow Scotland to stay. Of course, that would be an extremely unlikely decision by Westminster, but they are using the uncertainty to suggest that voting ‘yes’ is a dangerous gamble. Now we can see what all the hoo-haa is about with Salmond and Darling. Talking of which here’s a brief video of their debate – Round One *ding ding*!

With the referendum to be held in the next few weeks, the stakes are pretty high which is why the Scottish parliament is continuously studying the detail of the Scottish government’s proposals for staging and running the referendum. This includes their decision to extend the vote to 16 and 17 year olds for the first time in a major poll in the UK.  It is important to note that the Scottish government has previously allowed 16 and 17 year olds to vote in some health board elections and crofting commission elections. Looks like Salmond might just have the vote or at least the support of the young Scots.

Interestingly, Salmond originally wanted to ask the question “Do you agree that Scotland should be an independent country”, but this was seen by experts (presuming those helping with the independence campaign) as biased in favour of a yes vote.

Voting has been restricted to Scottish residents (well obviously, it is a vote about SCOTLAND) registered to vote in local council elections as well as the one-off extra list of 16 and 17 year old voters –  about 124,000 teenagers in that age group will be eligible to vote in the referendum. It seems like Salmond might have their vote, considering the UK government only allow over 18s to vote even though there has been the ‘Vote 16’ which has lobbied governments for many years to decrease the voting age.

Why does this concern the rest of Britain? It could mean the end of the United Kingdom as we know it, the union jack included. We England and Scotland have been a union since 1603 when King James VI of Scotland became King of England – that’s quite a long history, making the result of the referendum vital for the future of both nations. Now might be a good time to look at round two of the debate *ding ding*

Now let’s break the key arguments down…

A ‘No’ vote would mean the UK government would remain sovereign (in charge) of most of Scotland’s taxation, welfare and economy. The benefits of a status quo vote would mean the kingdom as a whole would be a successful economic and political union. It’ll also mean we can maintain our shared values and security and shared risk – economically speaking such as the current deficit. However, ‘Yes’ voters could argue Scotland’s needs would be ignored by central government and that their unique culture and traditions makes them secondary to England.

Depending how the vote goes, if it’s a close call, but still with an overall ‘No’ vote, Scotland could ask for more devolution powers. This means Scotland would have more control over their economy such as raising taxes, whilst Westminster takes care of defence, foreign affairs and pensions. More devolution could mean Scotland take more responsibility for the taxes it spends, and ensure their policies match their targets. A downfall of this is that giving Scotland more control of their taxation could undermine the unity. Why? With change comes reform, thus possibly affecting the structure of the UK parliament. But of course that would be the same with a ‘Yes’ vote. In fact even more so…

If Scotland votes ‘Yes’ on the 18th of September, they’ll be given total control over their taxes, laws and the North Sea oil (that’s how they’ll make most of their money to keep their economy moving). The only thing from the union they’ll keep is the good ol’ Queen ma’am. Wouldn’t this be good for the Scots? It could be yes, i mean if they vote independence, there shouldn’t be a reason why they couldn’t manage their own country. It’s not like England would say ‘Traitors! We don’t talk to people who decide to break a good long 700 year long friendship!’ I’d like to think we’re not bitter. I’m not anyway. But it is important to note that Scotland wouldn’t be granted independence straight away. It takes a lot of work behind the scenes. There’s also a chance that Scotland would face greater financial vulnerability, you know, losing the security of the UK. Let’s not forget the whole currency debate – they’ll need a foreign bank, possibly a new currency and that’ll mean England would be in competition with the Scots. Oh dear…

Whatever happens, the next two weeks will no doubt be leaving people on their tenterhooks – journalists, Scots and the English alike. I do know though that whatever the outcome, it’ll change the running and relationship between England and Scotland, hopefully for the better.

Here’s some useful links which are quite well detailed:

The Guardian – Scottish Independence: The Essential Guide

Politics UK – Everything you need to know about the Scottish Independence white paper in five minutes