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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…

 

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“Give our public sector workers a pay rise!”

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

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

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

AVERAGE EARNINGS GROWTH: 

AVERAGE EARNINGS GROWTH: 

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

 

So why all the fuss now? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

And many more…

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

Other things you may have missed…

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

 

On the subject of ‘taking back control’…

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

 

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

 

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

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

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.

 

 

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

 

 

 

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.

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.

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