Liberal Democrats

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…

 

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.

2016 New Year Messages

HAPPY NEW YEAR! 2015 was an eventful year with many things happening in the world of politics; from the re-election of a Conservative government to the election of Jeremy Corbyn as the Leader of the Labour Party, and of course, who can forget the terrible loss of Liberal Democrat MPs! It is without doubt then that 2016 is a year which all across the political spectrum will be hoping to be embarrassment-free and bring about new change and perspectives.

On the first day of 2016, already there is something to talk about and that is the New Year messages offered by David Cameron and Jeremy Corbyn.

In Cameron’s New Year message, he mentions the promise of delivering a chance for Britons to vote on the UK’s place in the EU, tackling social mobility, the fight on ISIL, and poverty. Some may find it ironic on what Cameron calls ‘this turnaround year’ the Conservatives aren’t turning around on their policies such as the cut on child tax credits which would see thousands of families worse off and austerity cuts which would see 2 million more children fall under the poverty line. Arguably, there isn’t much to celebrate when air strikes are still in Syria, bombing innocent civilian. But you know, it’s for the greater good.

Meanwhile, Jeremy Corbyn also offered his New Year blessings…

In Corbyn’s New Year message, he reflects on the achievements that have occurred since his election such as that on tax credits, cuts to police and the prison service in Saudi Arabia. He acknowledges Labour need to do much more to ensure the UK economy is prosperous and is ‘enjoyed by all, not just the few’. At least he didn’t try and put an dampener on things by slagging of Cameron and co eh.

With two quite different New Year’s messages, it’ll be interesting to see what the two leaders will offer this 2016…

A Tribute to Charles Kennedy

You would have all heard by now the sad news about the passing of former MP Charles Kennedy, who died at the age of 55. Up until the recent General Election, he was the MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber constituency.

Since the news of his death, there have been many tributes to the former MP, stating his passion for politics and his bravery in leading marches which opposed the Iraq War as well as the remarkable parliamentary gains he had made as leader of the Liberal Democrats. His career in politics span three decades and he certainly made his mark in speaking out for change as well as relating to the people by speaking human and being human.

He was indeed a remarkable MP who always represented the views of the people and did not just follow the status quo. As someone who is developing a career in politics, he was and will remain an admirable figure in that he achieved so much in so little time. Charles Kennedy definitely proved how you can make drastic change, both on a local and national scale by sticking to your guns and responding to the views and opinions of those he represented. I hope aspiring politicians such as myself can learn from his career and mirror the level of success he created within the UK political sphere.

He was taken away far too soon, and my thoughts go out to his family. RIP Charles Kennedy, gone but not forgotten.

Reflection on the General Election

So since my last post, Britain (well 24% of the electorate) voted for a Conservative government, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband both resigned as party leaders and Nigel Farage didn’t win Thanet (Oh and he stepped down as leader too, but only for 3 days). With all that happened, many questions emerged like why did Labour lose the election? Why were the opinion polls so wrong? Many politicians and observers have given their opinions since the election results were announced but its fair to say, there are things which need to be investigated, particularly within the Labour Party. Did they lose their sense of direction? Is socialism dead?

It’s worth reading this commentary on Labour’s defeat.

To be fair, the campaigning Labour did throughout the course of the election was overwhelming, but as the results have shown, it didn’t extend beyond London. The party most importantly failed to defend their role in the 2008 financial crisis and allowed Cameron and crew to spit all over them. That is important because Labour is traditionally seen as economically incompetent. However, the message that Labour failed to deliver was that the financial crisis occurred on a global scale, and most probably would have happened if there had been a Conservative government in office at the time.

After the party’s defeat, many turned to Ed Miliband as the cause of the party’s failure, but that may have been a but too harsh. The thing is, everyone (including Labour party supporters and politicians) were quick to come up with the reasons why the party failed to win a majority, but if we all noticed these issues, why weren’t they addressed sooner rather than later? Whether it’s Miliband’s lack of persona or the awkward #Edstone, the party’s failure, it seems, lay at their inability to emulate their predecessor, Tony Blair. Now, i know many do not like to talk about Blair because he led us into the Iraq war and all, but you cannot question his leadership style. It was under Blair that the Conservatives had to go through three leaders (William Hague, Iain Duncan Smith & Michael Howard) before it found David Cameron who tried and succeeded in emulating Blair’s style, politically and charismatically. Let’s also not forget Blair’s ability to get Murdoch eating at the palm of his hand. But seriously, Blair is the only modern political leader in Britain who had been able to resonate with everyone, irrespective of social class. Miliband on the other hand created a campaign based on an ‘us vs them’ which could have worked, but there is the small issue of people wanting to appear better off than they actually are. In short, in order for Labour to be a successful opposition party, it now needs to learn how to emulate the Conservatives (not by being an upper class snobbish party) but by recognising why the electorate seem to stick to the devil they know, and how they would create change for everyone, not just the working man.

We’ve all voted. We know who’s in government, but what now? What does a Conservative government mean for all of us? Well, for starters we no longer have Nick Clegg and the liberals to halt the passing of legislature that would be detrimental to ordinary folk like the axing of the Human Rights Act which would be replaced by a British Bill of Rights according to the party’s manifesto. If this specific mandate were to become law, it would mean that citizens would no longer be able to go to the European Court of Human Rights to appeal a court decision made by the UK Supreme Courts, giving legal sovereignty to UK courts. The idea of the UK Supreme Court having the final word has also evoked fear of corruption between politicians and judges.

Other Conservative Party policies that are likely to go ahead include:

  • Referendum on the UK’s membership in the EU
  • More devolved powers to Scotland – ‘The Scotland Bill’
  • Reducing the annual benefits cap by £3,000 to £23,000 and removing housing benefit from under-21s on jobseeker’s allowance
  • Taking out of income tax anyone working 30 hours a week on minimum wage by linking the personal allowance to the national minimum wage
  • New education bill to “force coasting schools to accept new leadership”
  • A housing bill to extend the right to buy to 1.3 million housing association tenants
  • A bill to double free childcare for working parents of three- and four-year-olds.

One thing’s for sure, Labour and other anti-Tory individuals and groups have to become more united than ever over the next five years as more cuts and austerity measures are expected to be rolled out. It will also be interesting to see how the Labour leadership contest plays out. It is disappointing that Chuka Ummuna pulled out of the contest as i think he would of been a great candidate, but what Labour now needs is someone who can shake things up a bit like Tony Blair. The leader of the Labour Party needs to be able to know what direction the party is going in, defend its economic history and fight for the people – the working and middle classes. Does it need to be centrist? Possibly, considering the left stance Miliband had clearly didn’t resonate. In short, Labour needs to redefine its political position in terms of what and who it stands for. And fast.

Let the General Election commence!

The first official day of campaigning began this week, and of course began the torrents of confusion, insults and misinformation.

On Monday, Cameron handed in his notice to the Queen to begin 38 days of campaigning ahead of May’s general election. With polls suggesting another hung Parliament, which party will lead the way?

Here’s a quick explanation of who the main contenders are in the upcoming election:

Let’s start with current Prime Minister,  David Cameron’s party, the Conservatives. Known for their love of tradition and pragmatism, will they jeopardise the future of the NHS and continue to target families on low incomes with more cuts? Or are they going to finally do something about those controversial tax avoidance loopholes at the expense of the rich 1%? Will the recent news of economic growth work in their favour? There is no doubt when people feel worse off, and wages fail to meet the increased rate of food prices, a lot of questions become unanswered. It also doesn’t help their ‘favouring the rich’ image when George Osborne fails to rule out a tax cut for Britain’s highest earners.

Then we have the Labour Party, a party traditionally for working people, but historically associated with their economic incompetence. Could Ed be the one to transform the party’s stereotypical image? Let’s not forget his promise to lower tuition fees to £6,000; we all know how that turned out for Nick Clegg…

Is this issue of tuition fees a subject which shouldn’t be promised in election manifestos and only delivered when a leader is in office?

Talking of tuition fees, Nick Clegg’s party, The Liberal Democrats, are set to lose most of their seats in London, with Vince Cable (Business Secretary) as the sole MP.

Credit: ITV News

Are the Liberal Democrats a party that can no longer resonate with people? There is no doubt many past Lib Dem supporters felt betrayed after Clegg and Cameron created a coalition government, so it’ll be interesting to see what alliances are made in May…

What about the ‘rise of UKIP’? Farage already has a growing team of 2 MPs who defected from the Conservative Party. But, is this a real threat to the majority two party system here in the UK? Probably.

There’s no doubt that the upcoming election is hard to call, with minority parties such as the SNP and Plaid Cymru also getting involved in the TV debates and conspiracy over who might do deals with who.

On Thursday, there was also that all-important leaders’ debate in which all leaders of the seven political parties got the opportunity to scrutinise each other as well as answering questions from audience members. If you missed it, sit back, relax and enjoy 🙂

So now you’ve watched the showdown, who do you think won? More importantly, who has a better vision for Britain? I shall refrain from being biased of course…

But if you are unsure of what each party is exactly promising to deliver on May 7, here is a detailed manifesto brief courtesy of BBC News – Manifesto watch: where parties stand on key issues

Whatever your political views, this is sure to be an election you don’t want to miss. So make sure you get involved and if you haven’t done so yet, register to vote before 20th April 2015!

Cameron Returns (Again…)

Okay, so last week, i wrote a post on Cameron’s early return from his holidays amidst the crisis in Iraq. This week Cameron returned from his holiday in Cornwall following the beheading of American journalist, James Foley.

His return did not last long however, as he stayed a short while to coordinate  with his fellow ministers in the manhunt for the jihadi who’s accent resembles the English accent. There is footage of the “brutal and barbaric act” in which you can see the violent act being committed but for obvious reasons, i will not be putting the video up.

In response to the death of Mr Foley, David Cameron said he was “deeply shocked” – this still didn’t sway him to recall Parliament, stating it is “not on the cards” despite growing pressure from many MPs, both in his party as well as within the opposition. It seems the PM is determined to not let anything ruin his holiday. Even increasing threats from extremists. And let’s not forget the thousands of people dying in Iraq and Gaza. But hey, if a holiday is more important…

Cameron posted this picture on Twitter “Stunning images of #MyWales proudly being shared ahead of @NATOWales. Here’s mine of Porth Oer, Llyn Peninsula.”

Cameron did say though that he was prepared to consider “even tougher” laws to counter terrorism. Erm, not that i’m Prime Minister or anything (not yet anyway), but surely there are more pressing issues than just brushing this horrific act aside? He did take the time to “condemn the barbaric and brutal at that has taken place, and let’s be clear what this act is – it is an act of murder, and murder without any justification.”

“We have not identified the individual responsible, but from what we have seen it looks increasingly likely that it is a British citizen.

This is deeply shocking but we do know that far too many British citizens have travelled to Syria to take part in this extremism and violence. And what we must do is redouble all our efforts to stop people from going.”

Clearly this statement isn’t enough, as proven by former  Liberal Democrat leader, Sir Menzies Campbell, commenting that the conflict in Iraq was so serious that Parliament should have been recalled “weeks ago”. Sir Campbell is not alone in his thinking – Conservative MP, Bob Stewart, said “If we are talking about putting military forces on the ground, even for training purposes, then I don’t think there is any choice but to recall Parliament.”

Does Cameron’s lack of duty make him look weak? Probably, but in the run up to next year’s general election, things in Westminster always slow down, especially in government. Cameron and Miliband are both focusing on retaining as well as gaining voter support, however, with national and international crises such as those presented to us on a daily basis, wouldn’t it be better to gain support by showing your duty as a leader?

And it seems good ol’ Dave isn’t the only one having fun in the sun as it seems President Barack Obama is also on holiday in the exclusive Martha’s Vineyard on the East Coast of America. Easy for them to just jet off into the sunset and forget all the troubles that face us all daily. -Sigh-

Then i started thinking. Of course we all deserve a holiday, it’s a given especially in a job and even in education. But in a job so important as being the leader of a country, when do you say ‘i need to serve my country’ and sacrifice your own personal needs? As an aspiring politician myself, i would rather do my duty and do my utmost best to protect my country rather than just be downright selfish. Do i think Cameron and Obama are being selfish? Yes i do. Okay, i know I’ve just been biased but you were thinking it too. I say this because after returning for a few hours, Mr Cameron jetted off back to Cornwall whilst efforts continued to identify the British terrorist who beheaded the American journalist.

It seems like Dave is just letting everyone else do the work while he takes a break. It’s absurd! (Sorry, biased again)

So let’s hear from you. Do you think leaders such as David Cameron and Barack Obama should be on holiday knowing that there are current crises occurring which need their undivided attention? Isn’t it their responsibility to know when they are needed and do the ‘right’ thing and sacrifice their personal wants for the country’s needs? Should they not have known that this is a disadvantage of the job when they campaigned for the position?

Let me know your thoughts by dropping a comment in that pretty box below!

Clegg changed his mind like a girl changes clothes

This week, Deputy PM Nick Clegg changed his position on the Bedroom Tax, stating on his #CallClegg LBC radio show that “when something isn’t working the way we hoped, we should fix it”. A bit late aren’t you Clegg? However, this is no surprise as back in 2010, one of Mr Clegg’s election promises was to decrease tuition fees but as soon as the coalition was formed, he signed the agreement to increase them. I must say, he does make a habit of going back on his word. Hypocrisy some may call it… despite his apology *cringe*

But what exactly is the Bedroom Tax and what’s the fuss? Bedroom Tax is part of the government’s welfare reform which cuts the amount of benefit people can get if they have a spare bedroom in their council or housing association home.  Since the reform was passed in April last year, it has affected many households – an internal government review found that 60% of households affected by the tax found themselves in increasing debt, cutting back on essential household items and borrowing money from pay day loans to make up the difference.

There has also been recent news coverage of disabled tenants who have had no choice but to downsize as a result of the tax, despite needing the spare room for the carers that assist in their day-to-day living. Those affected also include parents whose children visit but are not part of the household and separated parents who share the care of their children. To find out more, click here.

Indecisive Clegg: The Deputy Prime Minister announced the Liberal Democrats’ change of heart to the Bedroom Tax

Now the fuss.. It was Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrat’s support of the Bedroom Tax that allowed it to be enforced, which of course means if the party had opposed the reform in the first place, it would not have been passed and many families would not have been affected by it. So what now? Well Labour has always opposed the reform, with Ed Miliband promising to repeal the tax if the Labour party win the next general election. For the Liberal Democrats, this u-turn only further proves that they are an indecisive party, losing supporters in their numbers. Maybe that’s why it’s so easy for the conservatives to run rings around Clegg? Either way, with the general election next May, Clegg needs to up his game and be consistent about it.

Alright the Lib Dems don’t have a chance, but hey, let’s not kick a man when he’s down.