Change UK: Where it Went Wrong

It’s hard to believe that it was only three months ago that the mainstream press gathered in London’s County Hall to watch the launch of The Independent Group, a group made up of seven defecting Labour MPs. Their core message was clear; both the main parties were unfit for power and were inherently looking backwards; they wanted to create a new way of politics, one that looks forward. Just a couple of days later they were joined by three Tory MPs from the moderate wing of the party; MPs who had simply had enough of their party’s handling of Brexit.

At that point, everything seemed to be falling into place. As the two main parties were continuing to be torn apart over how to leave the European Union, the Independent Group were gaining airtime in place of the missing Liberal Democrats, and even before officially registering as a political party were reaching double figures in Westminster polls. However, after a promising start, the newly formed party have now lost their way and a series of gaffes have seen them slide to averaging less than 4% in current polls.

The group which offered such hope to many (including myself) have now become the laughingstock of Westminster, and the party is dying before it even learned to walk. The party was mocked for its choice of name – the main gripe being there is actually a choice of names, it’s rather bleak looking logo and its campaign for this week’s European elections. As Stephen Bush highlights, the party needed to set up it’s campaigning arm quickly, and that speed encouraged gaffes.

The new party received more than 2,000 applications from supporters to stand for this week’s elections, and several candidates turned out to have rather controversial past opinions or tweets. Although they boasted many great candidates including Gavin Esler, former Polish prime minister Jan Vincent-Rostowski and journalist Rachel Johnson, revealing them all at once meant the names got lost in the news as opposed to the Brexit party who staggered out their ‘star’ names which included the sister of Jacob Rees-Mogg, and former shadow home secretary, Ann Widdecombe.

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Local Elections Roundup

May may just be the final nail in May’s coffin. Before the likely bruising at next week’s European elections, the local elections at the start of the month saw the Conservative Party lose control of nearly a third of their councils, their worst result in two decades. The party lost over 1300 seats, and their vote share also plummeted. The PM’s reaction was to downplay the situation and push the narrative towards the right of the party saying that the public wants us to sort Brexit. A simple message to the ERG – vote for my deal or face Labour in government.

Remain voters have been leaving the Tories in droves since the referendum as the party slides towards a Hard Brexit, and it now seems Brexiteers are now following. Although the majority continued to vote for the party in the locals, many are leaving in swathes to support Farage’s Brexit Party in the run-up to the European elections at the end of the month. The simple fact of the matter is that the Conservatives chose the wrong side. Brexiteers in the party was never going to accept any form of the deal with the EU, and May’s failure is leading us towards PM Johnson.

When the governing party loses over a thousand seats, the reality is that the opposition should be making colossal gains if they hope to win the next general election. Labour actually managed to also lose seats, 84 in fact, lose control on 6 councils, and see a significant drop in its projected vote share. The main reason for their performance is their stance on Brexit; sitting on the fence worked in 2017 but we now find ourselves in a different environment. The party’s failure to move towards a public vote has seen members switch allegiances to other remain parties including the Liberal Democrats, Greens, and the newly formed Change UK, and they fail to look like a government in waiting.

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One Thing That Unites Us on Brexit, We’re All Losers Here

Quiet weeks in Westminster are now a thing of the past, and the Brexit soap opera rolls on. After securing an extension to Article 50 (dependant on the outcome of particular votes) MPs descended on the Commons this week in the hope to finally agree on something. Alas, they could not.

A series of indicative votes were held on Wednesday to see which Brexit resolutions were the most popular with MPs. These options included no deal, a peoples vote, a customs union, Labour’s plan, and a Common Market 2.0 – in effect the Norway deal. Although none commanded a majority, the real winners were the permanent customs union, and rather surprisingly the Beckett amendment for a peoples vote on the agreed deal which attracted the most ayes.

On Friday Theresa May tried once more to get her deal through parliament, albeit this time just the withdrawal agreement without the political declaration. The vote was much closer but once again fell short leaving us in limbo once more. Next week will see more indicative votes in the hope to reach an impasse, but as it stands, we were due to leave on the 12th April unless a compromise is found, or May swallows her pride and calls for a long extension – or even possibly a general election.

Since the referendum, I’ve felt a lot of emotion, whether it be anger, sadness, or a sense of loss. But a new feeling hit me this week, one single thought. “Why on earth are we doing this?” Because at the end of the day, we’re all just losers in this madness, and here’s why…

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The Calamity of No Deal

We are now in mid-February, a mere 41 days from the date that Britain is set to leave the European Union, and still a no deal Brexit is on the table. A month ago, MPs rejected Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement by a majority of 230, and on the 29th passed the Brady amendment, essentially calling for May to go back to Brussels and renegotiate the Irish backstop. The problem, however, is that the EU is not willing to renegotiate the deal, especially considering the backstop was the UK’s idea.

On the 27th there are further opportunities for votes, however, it seems as though we may not have another meaningful vote until March. May’s plan is to make the choice a binary one – her deal or no deal, in the hope that MPs who wish to avoid a catastrophic no deal will back her. It’s a risky plan, and many sources now believe she is more than willing to follow through on a no deal. There are many in the cabinet who have previously announced they would resign if no deal became official government policy, but their actions are yet to match their words.

On the opposition benches, not much has changed either. Labour and Corbyn are still hoping to force a general election, however, most sensible voices now realise this is a lost cause. Last week the opposition leader wrote to the PM detailing 5 tests for Brexit; if she can meet them, he will back her. These tests included a permanent UK wide customs union, and alignment with the single market, rights, and protections. The issue is that these cross May’s ‘red lines’, so were rejected on sight.

The letter also dismayed many Labour MPs and members who back either an extension to Article 50 or a second referendum, neither of which are mentioned by Corbyn. It’s hard to have sympathy though. Corbyn has been an ardent Brexiteer since the UK entered the common market over 40 years ago, called for article 50 to be invoked the day after the referendum in 2016, and has not given any credence to the notion of a new vote on the UK’s membership of the EU since. So his latest stance can hardly be a surprising one.

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My 2018 Highlights

Another year is over, and rather than reviewing what has been a rather quiet year I’m just going to share some of my favourite things from the past 12 months.

Things I’ve Watched
Sick of It – Karl Pilkington was back on TV, and his new one (or I should say two) man show was an absolute triumph.
A Very English Scandal – Hugh Grant takes posh to a whole new level in what was a very charming and thrilling drama from Russell T Davies.
House of Cards UK – I finally got around to watching the UK version of House of Cards, and it’s far better than the US version. I highly recommend.
Black Mirror – I finally gave Black Mirror a go in January and it didn’t disappoint. Although dystopia isn’t such a getaway from today’s world, it’s right up my street.

Things I’ve Read 
I really have not read enough this year. Must do better in 2019.
How Not to Be A Boy – Robert Webb’s book looks at the rules of being a man and tears them up. A very good, and easy read.
All Out War – A much more challenging read, as you’d expect 600 pages on Brexit to be. Tim Shipman knocks it out of the park, and I’m excited to now move onto the next instalment – Fall Out.

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Concessions of a Millenial

Despite what everyone – older people – would have you believe, it’s tough being a young person in today’s world. In spite of the constant protestations of boomers that we’ve never had it better, the evidence is to the contrary. Sure, we’ve grown up around social media, the internet, increased globalisation and mobility, and we’re more connected to each other than ever before, but in so many ways we are much more disconnected and worse off than previous generations. Where past generations could seemingly have it all, we are faced with choices and concessions.

When it comes to working, competition is fierce, and job security is more uncertain is ever due to the rise of zero hour contracts and servicing jobs. We may get a bad reputation in the workplace, but the reality is that we often work long hours and have to compromise or sacrifice other areas of our lives to get ahead in the workplace. Comet, a financial intelligence business surveyed a group of young people to identify just how high their work is prioritised, and the results are stark.

41% of the respondents said they would end a relationship to get a big break or promotion at work, and for a life-changing promotion the average surveyed millennial said they would stay single for 11 years, delay marriage for 7 years and wait to have kids for 8 years. However, the same survey found that millennials are willing to make job sacrifices for a long-term relationship too, but the key theme is these choices are now a part of our lives.

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Fear of Missing Out

As you log onto social media on a Friday evening you might see a fun-filled timeline. Someone might have got engaged, a lot of people have probably uploaded pictures from pre-drinks, and you might have seen that your best mate got that big promotion they wanted earlier today. What did you do? It never seems to quite compare to everyone else’s day, does it?

I think we all have that innate fear of missing out or FOMO, but some of us feel it more strongly than others. It’s the idea that people are living life better than you, experiencing things you cannot, and seeing people you couldn’t possibly meet. Nearly three-quarters of young adults say they experience this sensation, and there’s no doubting that we’re the first generation to be so highly affected. Mainly this is due to the rise of social media, and the greater insight we get into everyone’s lives.

It’s certainly not fun. It causes a vicious cycle, where despite feeling as though you’re worse off you continue to check social media again and again as to not feel out the loop. You start to check it when you wake up, before you go to bed, whilst eating your meals, in the bathroom, basically any piece of free time that you have. The problem is that this then often leads you to miss out on various other experiences because of this constant need to keep on top of things.

71% admit to making excuses to get out of social events despite feeling as though they miss out, over a third experience stress and anxiety when they do go out, and 30% feel disappointed afterwards. This can then lead the individual to believe they’re not quite doing it right, that everyone else but them has it down to a tee. But it’s okay because that epic moment is just around the corner, you’re an idiot for staying home and you’re missing out, and the process starts again.

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