Tory

June is the end of May

It must be a big political drama if I’m writing a brand new blog post!

So, she has finally caved in. That’s right, PM Theresa May has resigned. We all saw it coming so it’s no surprise. Well, it is a surprise that she lasted this long, let’s be honest.

This week, the final nail(s) in the coffin was the resignation of Andrea Leadsom, now former Leader of the House of Commons and her cabinet refusing to support her bringing back a vote on the Withdrawal Agreement for the *counts fingers* umpteenth time. Going through the usual administration process of the business for the week commencing, the Leadsom’s replacement, Mark Spencer, announced:

“We will update the house on the publication and introduction of the Withdrawal Agreement Bill on our return from the Whitsun recess,” he eventually said. Theresa May over. 

It seems this would foreshadow her resignation this morning.

In her teary resignation speech, she spoke of the regret she felt in not having been able to deliver Brexit. Almost makes you feel sorry for her. Almost.

Theresa May resigns as Prime Minister in a teary speech delivered outside No. 10 Downing St

Now what? Well, May formally resigns on June 7 which kickstarts the Tory leadership campaign (of which there are may contenders – we’ll get to that in a sec). The campaign should last until July in which the next leader of the Conservatives (and thus PM) will be announced. Whoever is elected leader will still have to deliver Brexit and in true British political fashion, call a general election. I mean let’s face it, it’ll be the only way for them to democratically legitimise their premiership. May also need a referendum on Brexit because we Brits sure love a good election! Anyone else got electoral fatigue? I sure don’t!

Who could be our next PM? The likely contenders*….

  • Boris Johnson – former Mayor of London and Foreign Secretary, it’s no secret that Boris has yearned for the PM position for many years. Having been the face of the Leave campaign, could he be the one to deliver Brexit and take on Farage? After all, it was Farage and the rise of UKIP that fuelled this Brexit mess in the first place.
  • Esther McVey – Former Work and Pensions Secretary, she quit the position last year due to her disagreement with the withdrawal agreement with the EU. In a radio interview, McVey said she would take part in a leadership contest if she commanded enough support.
  • Sir Graham Brady – Up until this morning, Brady was Chairman of the 1922 Backbench Committee, however he has been pondering whether to take part in the leadership bid. Staying on as chairman and participating in the contest would be a conflict of interest. Obvs.
  • Jeremy Hunt – Hunt took over the role of Foreign Secretary after Boris had resigned, leaving his post as Health Secretary. He’s been regarded as a ‘reborn Brexiteer’ after campaigning for Remain in the 2016 referendum but later criticising the EU, referring to it as the soviet union.
  • Michael Gove – Ah Gove, the man responsible for destroying the UK’s education system with his GCSE reforms. Currently Environment Secretary, Gove (alongside Boris) had been one of the key faces of the Vote Leave campaign. Despite being a Brexiteer, he remained loyal to Theresa May by not resigning his post as his other colleagues did.

*Full list of potential leadership contenders can be found on this very useful article by the BBC here.

Whoever succeeds Theresa May will have to face the curse that is Brexit, and will be praying that Brexit doesn’t take another tenure. Is Brexit really an impossible task or is it just the right person to deliver such a task is yet to be found? We await as the drama unfolds. Never a dull moment in British politics, eh!

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The Brexit Plan

Hello readers! After a week away, it’s time to refresh ourselves of events this last fortnight…

 

Of course Brexit dominates the headlines once more as the government announced a possibility of the UK retaining links with EU. The government has said it will end the “direct jurisdiction” of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in UK cases after Brexit, although the influence of the court will not be curbed altogether. In a paper published last Wednesday  a set of alternative models were proposed for settling legal disputes with the EU that would replace the current role of the ECJ, offering Theresa May greater room for manoeuvre in Brexit negotiations than her previous commitment to leaving the ECJ outright. In January, May pledged in her Lancaster House speech:

“We will take back control of our laws and bring an end to the jurisdiction of the [ECJ] in Britain. Leaving the European Union will mean that our laws will be made in Westminster… and those laws will be interpreted by judges not in Luxembourg but in courts across this country.”

 

Justice Minister Dominic Raab has stated the resulting divergence of case law between the EU and the UK would require the UK to keep “half an eye” on ECJ rulings, and for the EU to do the same in return. 

The plans came after the Home Office had mistakenly sent around 100 letters to EU citizens living in the UK, telling them they are liable for “detention” if they do not leave the country. There have been calls for Home Secretary Amber Rudd to apologise to those affected and reimburse any legal costs incurred.

With such mistakes, it is no wonder why those against Brexit hold doubts over the lack of influence from EU courts, particularly in cases affecting human rights where UK laws.

 

As the third round of Brexit negotiations continued in Brussels this week, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker  said none of the papers published by the British government setting out its Brexit plans are “satisfactory” and that a vast number of issues remain unsettled. Speaking to a conference of EU ambassadors, Juncker accused the UK of being “hesitant in showing all its cards” and of failing to offer solutions to the issues of the Northern Irish border and the rights of EU citizens living in the UK. He also reiterated that no trade negotiations will take place until these questions are resolved.

One of the said issues which is yet to be resolved is the lack of agreement between UK and EU officials on the amount to be paid by the UK as a so-called “divorce bill”, which could total as much as 1bn (£92bn). The constant lack of progress makes us wonder whether Brexit will be achieved by the target of March 2019!

As the latest round of negotiations stalled, International Trade Secretary Liam Fox has said Britain must not allow itself to be blackmailed over its Brexit settlement bill in order to start trade talks. Without an agreed figure, the EU will not allow talks about Britain’s future trade relationship with the bloc to begin. Fox’s warning came after the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier said there has been no “decisive progress” on the terms of Britain’s exit and accused the UK of demanding the “impossible”.

 

Meanwhile, The Labour Party announced its own plans for Brexit with some senior Tories fearing it may gain support from their own MPs. The announcement, made by the party’s Shadow Brexit Secretary, Keir Starmer, details the party’s continued support for membership of the single market as it bids to present itself as the party in favour of ‘soft Brexit’ (Scroll down for a quick breakdown of soft/hard Brexit).

Labour’s policy shift aims to establish a clear dividing line with the Tories on Brexit for the first time.  So what are these new plans?

  • Labour will support full participation in the single market and customs union during a lengthy “transitional period” that it believes could last between two and four years after the day of departure
  • Under a Labour government the UK would continue to abide by the EU’s free movement rules, accept the jurisdiction of the European court of justice on trade and economic issues, and pay into the EU budget for a period of years after Brexit
  • Permanent long-term membership of the single market and customs union would only be considered if a Labour government could by then have persuaded the rest of the EU to agree to a special deal on immigration and changes to freedom of movement rules.

Pro-EU Tory MPs, who also support remaining in the single market, will be put under intense pressure by Labour to fall in behind its position and rebel against their own party. If significant numbers were to do so, Theresa May’s already shaky grip on power would be seriously threatened. For these Tory MPs, they would have to decide between adhering to party lines or committing to their own positions as instructed by their constituents.

Now for a quick breakdown of soft/hard Brexit….


Soft Brexit
: –

This approach would leave the UK’s relationship with the EU as close as possible to the existing arrangements, and is preferred by many Remainers.

The UK would no longer be a member of the EU and would not have a seat on the European Council. It would lose its MEPs and its European Commissioner. But, it would keep unfettered access to the European single market.

Goods and services would be traded with the remaining EU states on a tariff-free basis and financial firms would keep their “passporting” rights to sell services and operate branches in the EU. Britain would remain within the EU’s customs union, meaning that exports would not be subject to border checks.

National models for this sort of deal include Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein, which are not members of the EU but have access to the single market by being part of the European Economic Area.

 

Hard Brexit: –

Favoured by pro-Brexiteers, a hard Brexit arrangement would likely see the UK give up full access to the single market and full access of the customs union along with the EU.

It would prioritise giving Britain full control over its borders, making new trade deals and applying laws within its own territory.

Initially, this would mean the UK would likely fall back on World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules for trade with its former EU partners.

 

Also This week, Kezia Dugdale, leader of Scottish Labour resigned from her role with immediate effect. Writing to the chair of the party, Dugdale said she believed her party needed a new leader with ‘fresh drive’. Her full resignation letter can be viewed here.

 

Whilst one leader quits, Theresa May has insisted that she will lead the Conservative Party into the 2022 General Election contradicting reports she planned to stand down in 2019 when Britain leaves the EU. Speaking to reporters on Thursday, May said she wants to look beyond Brexit negotiations and hopes to tackle “long-term” issues within the UK, such as “social justice”. he Prime Minister made the comments as she arrived in Japan for a visit intended to boost diplomatic ties and lay the ground for a potential post-Brexit trade deal between the nations. Taking into account the continued riffs amongst Conservative ranks, May’s announcement risks reigniting anger among Tory MPs, many of whom have been dissatisfied with May since the party unexpectedly lost its majority in June’s vote. However, it also comes as many within the party and beyond feel there isn’t anyone at the moment who could be a real contender against May.

Can May’s leadership withstand all the trouble and strife that comes with Brexit and the internal backlash from her own party? It wasn’t long ago even her own ex-colleague, George Osborne, had called her a “dead woman walking” so how confident is the Prime Minister in her leadership? Only time will tell.

 

Other things you may have missed…

Councils have been ordered to reduce the number of people remaining in hospital beds when fit for discharge by as much as 70%, or face a withdrawal of social care funding. Councils responsible for delivering social care have received a letter from the Department of Health warning funding could be slashed in the 2018 Spring Budget for areas with continued high rates of so-called “bed-blocking”, which saw patients in England experience 177,000 days worth of delays in April this year. Council leaders have described the targets as “virtually undeliverable” and warn that withholding funding will only increase pressures on care services, whilst Labour’s Shadow Minister for Social Care, Barbara Keeley, has accused the government of an “overly simplistic and ill-judged” response to the situation.

 

Net migration to the UK in the last 12 months to end of March 2017 is down 81,000 to 246,000, with the net migration of EU citizens having fallen by 51,000 to its lowest level for three years, according to figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). A spokesperson for the ONS has said the data – which shows a spike in departures of citizens from the central and eastern European countries that joined the EU in 2004 – may indicate Brexit is now a factor in people’s decision to move into or out of the UK. 

The figures follow years of heated debate over immigration – a key issue in last year’s referendum – and the Conservative Party’s 2010 promise to reduce net migration to the ‘tens of thousands’ .

 

On the topic of immigration, this week Prime Minister Theresa May faced calls to apologise for the five-year-long Home Office crackdown on non-EU students overstaying their visa, as official figures revealed that just 4,600 a year remain in the UK after their visa expires. Previous estimates cited by the Home Office had put the number at 100,000.

Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable, who described the Home Office figures as “distorted and wrong”, has joined a chorus of politicians and think tanks calling for students to be exempt from migration statistics, a move the Prime Minister has repeatedly rejected. It is argued the focus on overstaying students has been a waste of government resources and has led the Home Office to downplay the economic importance of higher education. Home Secretary Amber Rudd has announced an expert review into international students’ contribution to the economy.

 

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy launched its plans to force all publicly listed UK companies to reveal the pay ratio between their chief executive and their average British worker from next June. Under further proposals aimed at improving workers’ representation in the boardroom, firms must assign a director to represent employees or create an employee council to help advise the business.

However, the new corporate governance code will operate on a “comply or explain” basis, allowing companies to opt out of the measures if they can offer a justification – contrary to a pledge made by the Prime Minister during last year’s Conservative leadership contest. This perceived watering-down has triggered condemnation from Labour, the Liberal Democrats and trade union leaders, who have branded the plan a “feeble proposal”.

 

Former Conservative Cabinet Minister Iain Duncan Smith has voiced opposition to government proposals to cut support for marriage and relationship counselling. Writing in an article for the Conservative Home website, Duncan Smith revealed officials have been instructed to draw up plans to scrap £10m of public funding for relationship counselling – a move he has condemned as a “retrograde step” that would worsen the “damaging effects of family breakdown”. He also argues the cuts would have an adverse effect on the economy, as the cost of family breakdown has been estimated to be £48bn a year.

 

The Conservative Party announced its new campaign ‘Activate‘, the right wing equivalent to ‘Momentum’. The grassroots campaign launched by affiliated Conservatives aims to “engage young people with conservatism”. It has close links with senior party activists, and is chaired by former Tory campaign manager Gary Markwell, a councillor in West Sussex. A Conservative spokesman said Activate was “not officially linked to the Conservatives and it receives no party funding”. The group’s constitution says it will be independent from the party, though all members are expected to be members of the main party. Although it has not officially launced, it has already received backlash on social media and mocked by those on the left.

What do you think, will you be joining Activate? Or are you more of a ‘stick to the party, not affiliated groups’ kind of person?

Labour in decline?

Ok, so i haven’t posted in quite a while and recent news coverage of Osborne’s budget and Labour’s response (or shall we say Harman’s support) of the cuts to child tax credit for working families ignited a new post i needed to put out there so here it goes.

HOW CAN HARRIET HARMAN SUPPORT THE TORIES BUDGET, ESPECIALLY THE CUTS TO CHILD TAX CREDIT!? (Apologies for the caps, but i’m sure you can tell that really angered me). Labour, a traditionally left-wing party, are meant to be a party for WORKING PEOPLE. Now, how does supporting a policy that penalises families for having children, support working families? If anything, it will put more and more working families into the poverty line. But let’s also remember, Cameron and Co recently changed the meaning of poverty as recent statistics show the rate of poverty in the UK has increased significantly since the Conservatives were elected back in 2010. If we rewind back to May, just before election day, Cameron said on a special edition of Question Time that his party had no plans to cut child Tax credit. Here’s a little reminder…

Fast-forward a couple of months, and already the Prime Minister (elected by only 24% of the electorate!) has broken that false promise. Many spectators, including Harriet Harman, have said Labour lost the election because they are not trusted by the electorate to protect our economy but what about the lives of working people? Many don’t trust the Tories to protect the services that REALLY matter to ordinary people such as welfare, education and the NHS. Meanwhile, Harriet Harman has succumbed to the palms of the Tories and just accepted their plans to cut child tax credits for millions of families who have more than two children. This leaves me wondering as to why Harman has just accepted defeat?

This is the moment where she should be standing up for those who didn’t vote for a conservative government and oppose the budget announced by Osborne. But instead, she fails to oppose the cuts proposed with many now wondering what Labour stands for. Is Labour a party for working people or is it a party that succumbs to the voice of the minority, abandoning its historic roots? And the inevitable question, is socialism dead? Even the Tories are saying they are in fact the party for working people, so surely there’s nothing more for the Left movement?

There is a question over whether there’s going to be a rebellion within the Labour Party after Harriet Harman’s shocking support of the proposed cuts by the Tories, including those standing for the leadership contest. The whole Labour leadership is what inspired the headline of this post. Personally, i don’t think any of the Labour MPs standing for the leadership are really what Labour needs (apart from one – i’ll discuss this in a bit).

Let’s start with Liz Kendall. She’s too Tory (you’re probably thinking that would be a good thing) but its not. You see, Labour needs a leader that can oppose and advocate the needs of ordinary folk, not a copy cat Cameron. Some have gone as far to say that she’s in the wrong party. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with using the strengths of your opponent to your advantage, but whether that’s enough to convince a great number of Labour supporters, i’m not entirely sure.

Next up, there’s Andy Burnham. Where do i begin? I was put off by him when i saw this so for me, there really isn’t much to say. If it was a Tory, i would react in exactly the same way so bye bye Burnham, you’re not getting my vote.

Then we have Yvette Cooper. Now, this one really got me thinking. Married to Ed Balls, notable MP, quite possibly the underdog within the leadership contest. Personally, i could definitely see her as leader of the Labour Party, particularly if it is modernisation and re-direction to centre-left that is required.

But, Jeremy Corbyn. He entered the leadership contest at the last minute and boy has his campaign taken off! He’s the only candidate that truly has a movement which attempts to redefine the party and take it back to its roots. Not in an attempt to go back to a time where Trade Unions were the life of the Labour Party but to a more modern era of where true working people are at the core of Labour’s values. Where austerity is challenged by a true opposition party and a leader who has the guts and bravery to not succumb to the trickery of the Conservative Party. Whether Labour win or lose in the next general election, Labour needs a leader that will gear it in the right direction, a direction which consists of listening to the people – its supporters and non-supporters alike – as well as mapping out its economic agenda. Most importantly, Labour as a whole need to learn to adapt the tactics of its rival – that is embracing its past achievements, being confident to tell the story of the financial crisis back in 2008 (and how it was the BANKERS AND NOT THE PARTY ITSELF) that caused the crash, but finally not biting more than it can chew. What i mean is that the party needs to be able to identify the key aims it wants to establish whilst also not giving too much away. It seems this is a tactic done all too well by the Tories and in order to win, well it needs to start taking notes.

Many of you who may have studied politics would know all too well that time and time again, the question of whether socialism is dead always arises. What is socialism? A leftist movement? An attempt to overthrow capitalism and return the means of production to community level? Welfarism? All these are issues which we deal with everyday and i don’t think its a matter of ‘socialism is dead’, but more a case of whether ‘elitism has become too powerful for us to control’. I’m going to leave that for you to think about.

Feel free to comment on your thoughts about Osborne’s budget and the Labour Leadership contest. Whilst your thinking, here’s a little video of the (quite) recent Labour Leader’s debate in case you missed it like i did. Enjoy!

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.