This is Not a Game, The Single Market Must Now be Fought For!

The idea that anyone can tell us what a Leave vote represented is folly. The referendum was based upon our continued membership of the European Union, not upon what the terms of a theoretical exit would be. The idea that the 52% voted to take us out the single market, the customs union, and out of entities such as the European Court of Justice is ridiculous. Yet that is the drivel being spouted, not only by the Tories but by senior members of the Labour Party. There is no precedent for our exit from the EU whatsoever.

Because of this, Brexit is an absolute shambles. The government have absolutely no clue what they are doing and contradict each other one day to the next, and so do the opposition. The only party with clarity on these issues are the EU, and they will be licking their lips at the prospect of two years of discussions with David Davis. With a hung parliament, and the government lacking their own majority to enforce such a hard Brexit, the Labour front bench could play a divisive role in the future of our relations with the EU, and whether we stay within the single market. But alas, they are now standing back. As Rob Francis puts it quite simply, Labour and Corbyn should be leading, not following.

Labour’s stance on Brexit is, let’s face it, is anybody’s guess. Last Sunday on Andrew Marr, Jeremy Corbyn said that a Labour government would leave the single market because it is dependent on membership of the EU, which is both wrong, and harmful. Norway is one example of a country who are not in the EU but have full membership within the single market, and Corbyn knows this. By Wednesday, his Chancellor said the opposite, then Dianne Abbott mimicked this before Barry Gardiner said that we should leave both the single market and the customs union!

I do understand the arguments behind Labour not landing on one concrete position regarding Brexit, as the party hopes to capitalise on a changing public mood and Tory mistakes. But there are times when national interest comes first. Leaving the single market would be catastrophic for the UK’s economy, and even if Brexit led to a Labour government, leaving the single market would make it even harder and more treacherous for Labour to meet their manifesto spending pledges. The IFS has forecast that leaving the single market for a free trade agreement could cause a £31bn hit to the public finances, extending austerity even further.

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Throwing Myself Out There

I’ve written before, many times, about my depression and anxiety, and how it affects all aspects of my day-to-day life. One of the biggest challenges for me is its effect on the simple tasks, the things most take for granted, like socialising. I’ve always typically found it hard to socialise and meet new people anyway, but my poor mental health over the past few years has made it even tougher.

Depression and anxiety hugely affect both relationships and friendships. Months pass by in a blur, and suddenly you find yourself having lived in a new city for almost a year and not really taken advantage of your new surroundings. Living alone is great, but it can be lonely at times, but it’s not easy to change that. There’s also the fear of rejection, of not being good enough, of things somehow just getting worse. People often think they have all the answers for you; the most frustrating being “you just need to put yourself out there”, but let’s face it if you have a job, family, and friends, you are already “out there”.

At University, the challenges were different. I was on a course with people who had similar interests, living with people in similar situations to myself, but this is a different story. I’m practically the youngest at work and those around are in different stages of their lives, I live alone (which I do love), and working full time leaves very little time for other activities anyway. I see so many people making it look so easy, both online and offline, balancing hectic lives with being able to socialise, meet new people, and put themselves out there. I can’t seem to do that.

Being an introvert means it takes up stacks of energy to put myself out there and to be social. But living with depression and anxiety zaps that all away. It’s hard to make plans not knowing how you’re going to feel that day, worried you’re going to let someone down by cancelling those plans. As I’ve written before, I do worry about the huge effect these problems have on my life, not only right now, but going forward too. I worry it might hinder my ability to progress up the ladder at work, to meet new people, stop me finding someone, stop me having the future I desperately want.

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Abolishing Tuition Fees is Wrong, But Wise for Corbyn and Labour

During an election where the Tories wanted talk of policy to be non-existent, and leadership to be scrutinised by the public, it was two policies that ultimately set the tone for the exit poll. One being the so called ‘Dementia Tax’, and the other being Labour’s pledge to abolish University tuition fees, something which was popular with younger voters. Tuition fees were actually introduced by Labour back in 1998 – although they had been on the cards for years, and were introduced a much lower cost than we see now. It was the coalition government of 2010 that tripled fees to 9k a year, and it was the Tory government of 2015 that decided to remove this cap, and scrap maintenance grants for students.

Corbyn’s Labour has had a distinct position on this since day 1; he wants to abolish tuition fees and has also mentioned before, although it’s not policy, that debt for current graduates could also be removed. And one thing it certainly did do, was enthuse younger voters. 16% more 18-25-year olds turned out compared to 2015, and one of the main reasons for this was because of policies they felt they could get behind, this arguably the main one.

There’s no doubt it’s popular, and that is why Labour and Corbyn continue to use it. But just because it’s popular, doesn’t mean it’s right, and it’s clear that abolishing tuition fees would not be a smart move. Firstly, it’s not a cheap pledge. According to Labour’s manifesto, the move would cost £11bn, and if Corbyn were to go ahead with removing debt for graduates, that is estimated to cost up to £100bn, a quite frightening amount. If both Labour and Corbyn are serious about reducing inequality in our society, there are many areas to focus on, and tuition fees are not one.

Let’s not forget also, going to University is a privilege, and should stay that way. Going to University means access to first class lecturers, specialist facilities, and world class resources. Going to university is solely benefitting the student, and is further improving their opportunities from the education they already have. Why shouldn’t students have to pay for this privilege? As highlighted by Hannah Putrus, if you commit to going to higher education, you’re making the conscious decision that the benefits of the degree outweigh the debt that comes with it.

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The Centre Ground is Torn Apart – but Moderates Time Will Come Again

Politics is very fluid, it is ever changing, and it must, as it must ebb and flow along with the public opinion and the Overton window. Traditionally, elections are won in the centre ground, as the party that appeal best to them traditionally gain their majorities. There is a big difference between centrism and the centre ground; both Labour and the Tories have never really been centrist parties, but have both managed to take the centre ground for themselves over the years. There is only one ‘centrist party’ in the UK, and they have only ever been the small party in a coalition.

The spectrum and makeup of UK politics are ever-changing, but arguably over the past 2 years, it has shifted more radically than ever before. The Tories have taken a lurch to the right through Brexit, and since Corbyn’s leadership election victory Labour has moved to the left wing, although their manifesto will have told you another story. The Liberal Democrats have been demolished, and both Labour/Tory moderates find themselves on the fringes of the parties they once commanded. Traditionally, the UK has never strayed too far from the centre ground, but due to the radical paths both main parties are treading, the public is finding itself being pulled in different directions.

Therefore, the UK currently finds itself more divided than ever. The greatest divide right now is between Remainers and Leavers, even within each single party, as the Tories feud on Europe never seems to cease. Through the 2017 election we also now see big divides in age, social class, education levels, towns and cities, globalisation, and liberalism, as one side plucks for May’s Tories, and the other Corbyn’s Labour. Public opinion is shifting at a greater speed than ever before, but it is not simply lurching one way. As the latest BSA findings highlight, on some areas Britain’s opinions are moving to the left, and on others, to the right.

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Less Glamourisation, and Much More Awareness Please!

As someone who has suffered with my own mental health issues for many years now, I am all for, and always will fight for more awareness of mental health problems. It’s vital that people can open up and talk about their issues openly without facing a stigma, and it’s vital that people open their minds more to understand what those who suffer are going through. One of the best ways to raise such awareness is through the media, and in recent years mental health has become a more common issue explored within TV and movies.

Recently, ‘13 Reasons Why’, a show which focused on a teenager’s suicide, streamed on Netflix, and coming soon is ‘To the Bone’, a show focusing on eating disorders. Both shows have received very mixed reviews and extensive media coverage, leading to the question, when is it raising awareness of mental health? And when it is simply glorifying and glamourising it?

First, let’s focus on ‘To the Bone’, which focuses on a teenage girl who suffers with an ED, and eventually leaves home to receive treatment. At first glance, it looks to be a good effort to raise awareness and break the stigma, but there’s a lot of problems with the show. The biggest no-no for me is the unnecessary inclusion of a romantic storyline, fuelling the idea for many that eating disorders and mental health problems in general bring romance, and make you more desirable to others.

I can tell you from experience, depression is not romantic, worrying about your eating is not romantic, and struggling with your existence is not romantic. Another problem is that the big stereotype of eating disorders and anorexia is that the person suffering is underweight, small, and fragile. The truth is that anyone can suffer with it at any weight, and most of the time it’s overweight people that are struggling more often. To the Bone is about a young, white, underweight girl, which only leads to others that don’t fit ‘that role’ feeling they don’t matter.

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The Fight for Credibility

Politics these days is far cry from its predecessors. It’s manic, very much in real time, and lacks credibility. For us pragmatic, democratic, centre left or centrist voters, we yearn for the days of strong leaders, real news, and credibility in spades. This week, Theresa May and her minority government lacking any mandate put forward their pledges in the Queens Speech, a thin one at that, and it lacked substance, and a lot of promises from the manifesto released just last month.

The Queens Speech effectively saw the end to the grammar schools debate, the fox hunting farce, the school meals slip up, and showed no clarity on the government’s plan for Brexit. Theresa May is a dead PM walking, simply keeping the seat warm for one of her fellow cabinet members in the next 12-24 months. On the other side of the commons Jeremy Corbyn kept up his momentum from the election by ripping into May’s motley gang, and propelling Labour into slender poll leads this week. This was one of the shortest Queen’s Speeches of all time, and showed the fragility of the Tories position, and the lack of credible leadership they command right now.

Things are not going to get any easier for the government either. They are yet to strike a deal with the DUP, a deal which will further toxify their brand, and this week also saw the beginning of Brexit negotiations, something Labour can exploit. Davies vs Barnier is a David v Goliath situation, if David has his hands tied behind his back, and the lack of brain cells to throw a stone. It’s clear the Tories will cave throughout the talks, and the EU will be free to make a clear example of us. We look set to leave the single market and the customs union, and Labour should be forcing their way through this open goal.

For the first time this week, polls show Britons don’t want a no deal situation, prefer single market access to immigration controls, and even maybe slightly regret their decisions. Labour must capitalise on this, which is what makes McDonnell’s comments so worrying. McDonnell pledged last week to leave the single market, something which will not please many of Labour’s voters who voted this way for a soft Brexit, and who could very easily slip back over to the Liberal Democrats.

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The Art of Productivity

The art of productivity, is complex, and for so many, fruitless. We all have days where we simply cannot get going. Our procrastination is off the scales, the documents stay blank, and episode after episode of our favourite shows get watched. Whether it’s at home, at university, at work, we all have busy lives, and let’s face it a productive day is incredibly rewarding. So, what are some of my tips to turn those dead days into peak productive periods?

The Art of Lists
I absolutely love lists! I understand that it’s easy to get overawed by them, seeing all the tasks laid bare you need to complete. For me, lists should also be a planning tool, something to show you a clear path to success. On your lists break up your tasks into manageable chunks, clear steps that will help you to reach your goal, and they will be completed, and scrubbed off even quicker. Seeing the number of tasks falling quicker will also help to build up morale, which helps up productivity.

Attack the Mornings
I understand – people love their lie ins. But the mornings are when we are most productive, and they must be utilised. Mornings are when the distractions are less common, our brains are most active, and more gets done! Also, make sure you have a proper breakfast; your brain, and your body needs fuel, and it gives you the energy to make a great start in the morning. Also, the more you get done before lunch, the more you can relax for the rest of the day.

Shut off the Devices (not necessarily the phone)
I’ll first highlight that I’m not one of those people who say you must turn off your phone to be productive. For some it works, but for most, including me, it’s very possible to be highly productive without putting the phone away. There are some devices that are a big no however: TV’s and games consoles are not needed. Also try working with some music in the background, not too loud however, just enough so you’re not working in silence.

Learn, Adapt, Re-position
Everyone has their own methods that work for them, and this also fluctuates over time. You try new methods, you see how successful they are, and you adapt from this. Maybe music doesn’t work for you, bin it. Maybe a certain type of list helps you, change to that. Maybe you were distracted by something else, find something to counter it. Over time you can put together a routine, a schedule, a plan that works for you, and this is when you start reaching peak productiveness.