United Kingdom

Owen Smith outlines his policy ideas

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

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

In the theme of leadership…

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

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

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

– Owen Smith, 27 July 2016

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

MPs support Trident; Labour Leadership strife continues

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can watch the full debate below:

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

Arguments in favour of Trident renewal:

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

Arguments against Trident renewal:

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

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

To see how your MP voted, click here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Eagle has crashed

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

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

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

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

Owen Smith

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

Jeremy Corbyn

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

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

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

 

Useful Sources:

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

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

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

 

May-Day! May-Day!

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

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

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

 

At least Cameron seems happy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conservatives and Labour in leadership turmoil

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

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

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

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

Talking of the Conservative leadership…

Tory Leadership Update:

On Tuesday evening:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Labour in crisis?

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

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

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

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

 

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

Life after Brexit…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maybe George Galloway is onto something…

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Useful Links:

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

To leave or not to leave, that is the question

Hello readers and fellow bloggers! It’s been a while (six months to be exact) since i last posted – apologies for the absence. I know a lot of you have been wondering where i’ve been but as i’m sure you’ll understand, i’ve been very busy with uni life and personal responsibilities. But with all that aside, Britain has also been busy in the world of politics, and yes, i am talking about the upcoming EU referendum. Now a lot of people have asked for my input on the matter or to explain to them what the referendum is actually about. This blog post will (hopefully) answer all your questions about the referendum, and as ever if there is something i have not addressed, feel free to comment.

So, what is this whole referendum about you ask? Well, arguably, it boils down to debates around immigration and the anti-immigration stance proposed by the ever growing popular UKIP party. The argument is that Britain should stay true to its power and sovereignty and should (in the words of the Vote Leave campaign) take back control not only of its borders but also of its economic management.

voteleave

The official ‘Vote Leave’ campaign logo

During the 2015 General Election, David Cameron had promised to offer the electorate a referendum on Britain’s membership in the European Union if he won the election. But why now? Last time the electorate had a say on our membership in the EU was in 1975 under the premiership of Labour leader Harold Wilson. Of course since then, a lot has changed and many on the Leave side, including Nigel Farage have argued the EU has gained too much power in controlling people’s lives. Hence Cameron calling for a referendum as a means for the British public to make a decision and settle the ‘European question’ – should we stay or should we go.

As you can imagine, there are several debates on both sides as to why we should remain and why we should leave, but first of all, let’s establish what exactly is the European Union and why this debate is so important…

The European Union (EU) was established after the second World War in order to create an economic and political union to prevent further international conflict. At the time of its creation, it was believed that countries which trade together are more likely to avoid going to war with each other. It has since grown to become a “single market” allowing goods and people to move around, as if the member states were one country. It has its own currency, the euro, which is used by 19 of the member countries (Britain uses the pound), its own parliament (we elect MEPs who sit in the European Parliament) and it now sets rules in a wide range of areas – including on the environment, transport, consumer rights and even things like mobile phone charges. The video below explains a bit more about the workings of the EU:

Why are we being asked to remain or leave the European Union? Well, it is partly democratic – as mentioned before, Britain has not had a say on our membership of the EU since 1975. It is thus very important, particularly for the young generation to participate in the debate and ultimately vote. The referendum question being asked this Thursday, 23rd June is as follows: “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?”.

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Make sure you have your say this Thursday, 23rd June!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The last few months, it’s been very difficult to establish the key arguments – with too much focus on immigration and not enough on the actual democratic make up of the European Union, it’s been hard to distinguish the advantages and disadvantages which would occur if Britain were to leave. Here are a few pointers to help you make an informed decision on referendum day:

The argument to remain

  • The official campaign –  ‘Britain Stronger in Europe‘. There are other campaign groups supporting remain, including ‘Labour In‘ and ‘Another Europe is Possible
  • Led and supported by senior politicians across the political spectrum, including Prime Minister David Cameron, Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn and Nicola Sturgeon.
  • US president Barack Obama also wants Britain to remain in the EU, as do other EU nations such as France and Germany.
  • Those campaigning for Britain to stay in the EU we get a big boost from membership, making it easier to import and export goods to other EU countries.
  • The flow of immigrants, most of whom are young and keen to work, fuels economic growth and helps pay for public services.
  • Britain’s status in the world would be damaged by leaving and that we are more secure as part of the 28 nation club, rather than going it alone.

The argument to leave

  • The official campaign – ‘Vote Leave‘. Of course, there are other campaign groups supporting leave, including ‘Leave.EU‘ and ‘Grassroots Out (GO!)‘.
  • Led and supported by some senior politicians across the political spectrum including Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage, Michael Gove and Iain Duncan Smith.
  • Those campaigning for Britain to leave the EU argue we are being held back by the EU, which they say imposes too many rules on business and charges billions of pounds a year in membership fees for little in return.
  • They want Britain to take back full control of its borders and reduce the number of migrants coming here to live and/or work. One of the main principles of EU membership is “free movement”, which means you don’t need to get a visa to go and live in another EU country. The argument made by leave campaigners is that the influx of migrants puts a strain on our public services, notably the NHS.
  • Leave campaigners object to the idea of an ‘ever closer union’, arguing if we remain in the EU, it would lead to a United States of Europe.

As the EU debate has mainly centred around the issue of immigration, it has led some to argue whether this is referendum is really about conflicts arising out of the right-wing political parties such as the Conservatives and UKIP rather than what would be in the best interest of the British people and the future generation. The EU debate not only affects the ‘everyday’ electorate, but also those who own big and small businesses. Here’s what some entrepreneurs have said…

[there are] “no credible alternatives” to staying in the EU” – BT chairman Sir Mike Rake

“an EU exit would allow the UK to negotiate trade deals as our country “rather than being one of 28 nations” – Lord Bamford, chairman of JCB

Although it is uncertain what Britain would look like if it left the EU, it is important to note the negotiations Cameron made way back at the start of the year. This was done to silence the growing number of MPs from his party who he feared would defect from his party to UKIP (as was the case with Mark Reckless and Douglas Carswell). But, the reforms made were also proof that Cameron was serious about addressing the immigration rhetoric which had been floating in the air for so long. The deal made will take effect from when (or should i say if) Britain votes to remain in the EU, but in summary they are:

  • Child Benefit – Migrant workers will still be able to send child benefit payments back to their home country but the payments will be set at a level reflecting the cost of living in their home country rather than the full UK rate.
  • Migrant welfare payments  – New arrivals will not be able to claim tax credits and other welfare payments straight away but will gradually gain the right to more benefits the longer they stay, at a rate yet to be decided.
  • Pound v. Euro – Cameron has said Britain will never join the euro. He secured assurances that the eurozone countries will not discriminate against Britain for having a different currency. Any British money spent on bailing out eurozone nations that get into trouble will also be reimbursed.
  • Sovereignty – For the first time, there will be a clear commitment that Britain is not part of a move towards “ever closer union” with other EU member states – one of the core principles of the EU. This will be incorporated in an EU treaty change. Mr Cameron also secured a “red card” system for national parliaments making it easier for governments to band together to block unwanted legislation. If 55% of national EU parliaments object to a piece of EU legislation it will be rethought.
  • Economic Security – Safeguards for Britain’s large financial services industry to prevent eurozone regulations being imposed on it.

 

Ultimately the decision as to whether Britain should remain or leave the EU comes down to YOU, the electorate. What do you think would be better for Britain? Should we remain in our role as key influential players, or leave, uncertain of Britain’s future outside a union we’ve been a member of since 1975? It’s a tough choice but it is one that has to be made.

The last few days has been tough, with the passing of Jo Cox MP and the recent divisive, racist propaganda published by UKIP. Let’s try to educate ourselves rather than scaremongering people into voting a specific way. Britain’s public services are not put under strain by 15% of migrants who seek residence here for a better life, it’s the 1% who fail to pay their fair share of taxes but think it’s right to scrounge off the system because they hold a red passport. It’s our elected politicians who fail to invest in the services that truly matter and instead invest in unnecessary wars. It is a shame that this referendum has not covered the democratic functions and practices of the EU as a body but hopefully this blog post has done its part by showcasing what the EU is and the different debates that have emerged.

On a final note, in the words of the late Jo Cox MP:

                “We are far more united and have far more in common than that which divides us”

RIP. X

Useful Links:

For a more detailed overview of how the EU works – http://www.bbc.co.uk/guides/zgjwtyc

To leave or not to leave? – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-32793642

EU FAQs – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-32810887

Britain returns to Iraq

Two weeks ago, MPs voted overwhelmingly for the launch of air strikes against Islamic State targets in Iraq. It comes after many hostages, both from the United States and the United Kingdom have been brutally murdered by the extremist group. Cabinet ministers told the Commons that Isis would only be crushed if the group was pursued to its bases inside Syria. Unsurprisingly, America had welcomed the vote, considering it was Obama that insisted Britain needed to intervene. As a result of the vote, Downing Street confirmed that six Tornado jets would be in the skies of Iraq, also stating that the Commons had permitted the sending of UK military advisers to Iraq to train the army.

But here’s my concern as a global citizen: what good does violence do but just create more retaliation? By sending in these air strikes, is the government not giving in to the trap of Isis? Think of it like this: A person comes in your house and steals your stuff. In turn, you do the same, to make them feel the same terror and anger you felt. But then that person then takes one step further and steals your cat or something. The acts of retaliation continue, creating a never-ending circle of theft – but in this case, a circle of violence. Prime Minister David Cameron and President Obama have already made it clear that it is impossible to negotiate with such barbarians – that may be the case but how will this issue ever be resolved without knowing the true cause? Do we go back to the Iraq war under Blair? The assassination of Saddam Hussein? Or do we go as far back as to the 8th Century with conflicts between Islamic empires and the rest of Europe and the West? Whatever the cause, i’m sure violence is not the answer…

It is also surprising that only 43 MPs voted against the return of air strikes in Iraq, especially after the public outrage towards Blair as the Iraq war emerged. Although defence secretary, Michael Fallon has said they will be careful as to “avoid civilian causalities”, how can we be sure innocent people will not be caught in the crossfire. We have already seen innocent citizens lose their lives in the middle of this ‘war’ so how can we be sure these western leaders will not do the same? The MP for Tower Hamlets, Rushanara Ali, who expressed a similar concern resigned as shadow education minister in order to abstain before the vote. She feared “further air strikes will only create further bloodshed and pain in Iraq”

Now what happens? Well Britain is still set on its defensive against IS as RAF jets have joined US-led bombing missions. Please note the following video may be of a sensitive nature.

The Conservative MP and former defence secretary Liam Fox said it had been a mistake to exclude Syria from air strikes saying: “Isis operates from Syria. It attacks individuals, communities and the Iraqi state itself from Syria. There is a clear legal case for attacking Isis bases in Syria.”

Labour MP John McDonnell said: “This is madness and an absolute disaster. We are already talking about mission creep and a strategy that could last three or even 10 years … the war on terrorism will be brought to our streets as a result.”

I would like to think the decision made by the Commons wasn’t taken lightly, but at the same time, i would like to believe there could’ve been an alternative to stopping violence with violence. Either way, it looks like neither the West nor IS will halt their attacks on each other.

Scotland Votes No

For the last two years, both the Yes and No campaigns have tirelessly tried to persuade the people of Scotland to either back independence or the union. From numerous debates and watching polls with tension, in the last few weeks before the announcement of the results, it looked like Salmond was to achieve his lifetime goal of independence. However, it was all too good to be true as the referendum result was a No majority, with only 3 cities in Scotland, including Dundee and Glasgow, backing the Yes campaign. Could the last minute intervention from Gordon Brown have helped? Possibly.

End of an era: Alex Salmond looking defeated as the election results were announced on Friday morning

But at least the Queen is happy. I mention HRH because last week  (or should i say for quite a while), there was a debate as to whether she should state her views on the Scottish independence issue or not. Of course many thought she shouldn’t as she is not elected by the demos (that’s us) and thus can not influence such a political matter. However she did make a slight comment in which it was interpreted as her backing the No campaign as she hoped voters would “think very carefully about the future”. Of course she would make some intervention. Protecting her role as Queen and the 300 year old History between the two countries, how much more traditional can you get!?

So what happens now? Well firstly Alex Salmond has announced he is to resign as First Minister 😦

My first thought was why resign? I mean yes, his campaign didn’t succeed but is that the message of a leader – when we fall at the first hurdle we should give up? His resignation also shocked me because as a man who has always stood up to the ‘demons’ of Westminster, by resigning is he not just giving central government the satisfaction, Cameron included? It may have been inevitable that a No vote would have resulted in Salmond not returning to Westminster, especially after all the backlash which occurred during the tv debates, but isn’t that what politics is all about? Like i said, i was very shocked and to some extent disappointed in that Scotland’s First Minister has decided to reign in the ropes but with Nicola Sturgeon, his second in command, being his most likely replacement, i’m sure she will be a great person for the job.

Now back to Scotland as a nation. Well, since they ditched the idea of independence, the No campaign did promise more devolved powers and it seems that’s what they’ll get – devo max. What this means is that Scotland can control its own affairs in terms of policing, and taxes, including its economy. But what is devo max exactly? It is being posed as the biggest constitutional change since Ireland got home rule as Cameron promised an extension of powers to Scotland over taxes, spending and welfare policy. However, this also opened up the ‘West Lothian’ question – that is whether English MPs should only vote and make decisions on matters on, you guessed it, issues primarily concerning England. There has also been an expanision of this idea if you like to cities such as London. That is whether City Hall, the body which represents the capital, should be given more powers to better represent the ever-growing population in the capital city. Although in theory it may sound like a good idea, there comes a point where one may debate the need for Westminster politicians. Could this be the way forward for British politics? Despite huge focus being on Scotland in the last few years, there is no doubt that the referendum result has got people thinking about the way we demonstrate our democratic abilities, both us normal folk as well as politicians alike.

Unsurprisingly, Salmond disagrees, believing No voters had been ‘tricked’ by the Better Together campaign.

Whether it’s the sound of a desperate man or an attempt to tell the No voters ‘I told you so’, it may seem the SNP leader has a point. This is because at present, all three main political parties still disagree over the process in which devo max will be laid to Scotland, but do agree that it will happen. So not another empty promise it may seem? Let’s hope so anyway, for the Scots sake.

If anything, the referendum has showed Britain that political participation is still present today, despite austerity and lack of representation. With the stakes high for politicians as the general elections looms, i’m sure we will be hearing much more about devolved powers being transferred not just to Scotland but major cities as well such as London.

British politics and our constitution could change, possibly for the better but will it be sustainable? Is the union as safe as we may think despite the No vote? Just a penny for your thoughts.

For more information on devo max, click here and for latest developments on Scotland post referendum, click here

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