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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What Labour must now do

This week’s vote on the second reading of the Article 50 bill shows that Brexit is happening, whether we like it or not. This decision will be terrible for the UK in so many ways, and this Tory government led by Theresa May will be the ones responsible. The government have been there for the taking since the 2015 election; the chaotic budget, the Panama papers, the referendum result, and each time Labour has failed to capitalise and take the initiative.

This government will continue to be there for the taking in the years to come. Brexit (at least in the short term), will not be pretty. It will be chaotic, and will ultimately leave us worse off in terms of trade, the economy, security, power, and so many other aspects of our lives. A decent opposition, led by a capable, electable leader should wipe the floor with this government and easily gain a majority in the next election, but alas, that is not Labour right now.

The main reason of course, as I have posted about time and time again, is that we have an incompetent leader, who the public simply do not like, or trust. In a toss-up with Theresa May only 15% think he would make a better PM, just 13% believe he is a strong leader, and a measly 15% trust Corbyn and McDonnell with the economy over May and Hammond. To top it all off, even though the public trust Labour more than the Tories with the NHS, add Corbyn and May’s names into the question, and suddenly the public trust the Tories more. It’s no coincidence.

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Labour’s London Problem

You may read the headline to this post and think I’m crazy. London is the one place in the UK where Labour holds power through its mayor Sadiq Khan; it controls the vote share, and holds most of the parliamentary seats. London is a young, vibrant, diverse, liberal city, a city that matches the values of Labour, and it’s understandable it’s become the party’s main hub.

London was also the only region within England to vote Remain in June’s referendum, whilst everyone else plucked to Leave. One of the key factors of that result, as well as Trump’s win back in November, was that it was ‘normal people’ fighting back against the establishment, against the liberal elites. The vote to Leave was the rest of the country, those who for decades have felt left out and abandoned, telling London that they won’t accept it anymore.

Of course, it’s not quite that simple, as these people were fed lies from the media that immigration was the root of their problems, rather than simple underfunding from Westminster. However, they also felt excluded from the prosperity and power of London, and they feel that they were the main losers from the economic crash. Bankers, politicians (mainly Labour ones), and elites were blamed for that crash, but the rest of the country paid the price through Tory austerity.

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What does the court ruling mean for Brexit?

This morning a High Court ruled that Parliament would have to vote to invoke Article 50 – the official process to leave the European Union, rather than the government being able to invoke it on their own. Now, there has been a huge overreaction from both sides of the political spectrum, especially from high profile Brexiteers. Many Brexiteers have claimed this is denying the will of the people, and are stirring the pot by suggesting this is simply trying to block Brexit.

This is simply not true. The courts are not blocking Brexit, they are simply implementing the sovereignty of Parliament, something Brexiteers were fighting for during the referendum campaign…

Now what does this mean for Brexit? To be quite honest, not an awful lot. Many are using today as an opening chapter to their crazy belief that we will end up not leaving the EU. As much as I would love for that to happen, it simply won’t. There will be some MPs who rebel the whip, but it would easily pass through Parliament whenever a vote is called.

However, it does give the opportunity for the opposition to make demands, the number one priority being single market access. Many MPs will likely tell the government they will only vote to invoke Article 50 if the UK’s place in the single market is secure, and access to services remains.

But, Theresa May has another option. For months, there have been rumours of an early general election, so that the PM can establish her own mandate across the country. Now should the government lose their appeal it’s quite likely that May will call an election in 2017 to increase her majority, and force a vote through the commons.

And let’s be honest, because Labour under Corbyn is providing no opposition, it would be an easy option for May. The Tories hold huge leads in the polls, and if an election was held today it’s forecast that the Tories would increase their majority to roughly 130 – and with that the government would be able to push through any kind of Brexit they want, one that will likely see us leave the single market, an economic catastrophe.

To summarise, the court ruling today hasn’t changed much, apart from that it’s likely Article 50 will be invoked later than promised. It may have caused an early general election, or it might have just helped the UK to stay in the single market – we’ll have to wait and see.

Why you should vote to remain in the EU!

On June 23rd, the people of Britain are set to make one of the biggest, and most important decisions of a lifetime. One that will affect each and every person across the country for years to come in every aspect of their lives. Especially the younger generations. The ones who are less likely to vote. It is vital that young people register to vote and get their opinion in, because it will be them who have to face the consequences.

I think it’s fair to say that so far this referendum has been terrible, and most people just want it over with now. Both sides have thrown around figures, and have been guilty of scaremongering the public. Now Vote Leave try to claim they are not #ProjectFear, but throughout the campaign they have referred to Britain as ‘kidnap victims’, made preposterous claims over Turkish visitors, and even claimed that many immigrants are rapists and murderers. Many believe that the constant economic statistics by ‘Remain’ is doing the same, although these have much more weight, and are factual.

One important thing that should be noted is the lies that the Leave campaign continue to peddle, despite being told repeatedly that they are in fact lies. The biggest of which is sprawled across the side of their bus. They continue to claim that we send £350 million a week to the EU – which we don’t. It is the gross amount that is sent, but we first get a rebate which almost halves the figure, and more comes back to us through investment, and other aspects such as security. Stuff we would lose.

Also Turkey. Vote Leave, particularly Farage and Gove, have said that soon Turkey will be in the EU meaning that migration levels will soar. Wrong. For a country to join the EU they need to meet 35 chapters, and Turkey in roughly 20 years has met just 1… they are not joining the EU anytime soon.

Finally the Leave campaign like to make promises about that incorrect £350 million figure, and just where it would be ‘spent’ if we left the EU. In fact they have made so many promises, it would cost 10x the money that would be saved! They do not have a plan for when we leave the EU.

Many models have been mentioned by the Leave campaign so far; Norway, Switzerland, Canada, and even Albania! And here is the problem with each model. Norway still accept free movement of people, still have to pay membership, and don’t have a say in anything. Switzerland also still have to accept the free movement of people within the Schengen Area, and don’t get services through the single market like we do. Canada’s trade deal has quotas and tariffs, so would not benefit the UK, and the Albanian PM said that the UK should not want a deal like theirs…

Now, of course the United Kingdom is an influential force around the world, with many allies and people that we could trade with. However, this would be weakened by leaving the EU, and we would not have the balls in our court when trying to broker new trade deals. This would affect growth/economy etc, and the majority of national and international bodies agree..

If the EU is as bad as the Leave campaign make out, then why do other countries want to join so badly? As Frank Podmore highlights, ‘when we pool our power, we end up with more’, and to be on the outside of this looking in would be ridiculous. Britain has much strength with the EU and is indeed one of, if not the biggest key player. Britain played a role in setting up both the EU and its single market, and we were able not to become a part of the Schengen area, or the Eurozone.

Now the Leave campaign make out like the EU is some democratic force that we are constantly in disagreement with; but this is not the case. In the European Council since 1999, UK representatives have voted with the rest of the council 2,474 times, and against it a mere 57 times. We are generally in agreement with what the EU wants to do. And if you want to blame people, blame the UKIP MEPs that do not even bother to attend the Parliament to vote.

As with any election or decision, one of the biggest aspects should be the economic impacts. And this is incredibly one sided. The IMF, G20, OECD, PwC, and Oxford Economics have all said the UK would be worse off under Brexit. The Treasury released a report saying that by 2030 families could be £4,300 worse off per year, and that Brexit would almost certainly cause an instant recession. On the other hand Vote Leave can’t actually name one credible economic analysis that shows us better off. Brexit would derail the UK’s economic growth, as the CBI estimates that the average British family gets £10 for every £1 that is put into the EU, and that membership in the EU is worth £91bn to our economy.

We also get a lot of money from the EU. The UK benefits from EU grants and subsidies in a variety of different areas including public services, defence manufacturing, research, development, overall totally up to €1.3bn of funding. MoneySavingExperts’ Martin Lewis has also said that we are better off in, warning that we would have less money in our pockets if we vote to leave.

One of the reasons for this is because of the products, and services that we get from the EU. The price of everyday items would go up, something also admitted by Leave campaigners. Petrol prices would go up, with the AA warning that drivers face an annual £494 petrol bill increase if we leave. Being in Europe means lower prices at the shops, with the National Farmers Union saying that food prices would rise by 5% if we leave. Flights and holidays are also cheaper thanks to the EU. The cost of flights has come down by 40%, and Brexit would mean a drop in Sterling, meaning holidays become more expensive. The EU has also cut mobile roaming charges, and these will be abolished by the end of 2017.

Vote Leave also likes to make promises that leaving the EU would mean more investment and funding for many public services around the UK. This is not the case. Leaving the EU would cause so much economic damage that there would be less money left for services such as the NHS, not more. HM Treasury have said: “Tax receipts would face an annual £36 billion black hole. This is more than a third of the NHS budget and equivalent to 8p on the basic rate of income tax.”

EU countries invest over £66 million per day in the UK, boosting growth in all sectors. It is estimated that only 10% of farmers would be able to survive without EU subsidies, which make up between 35 and 50% of their gross income. UK charities would be hit, as the EU in 2014 alone provided funding of over £200m, and the EU has also administered over £40bn in development aid. Both Northern Ireland and Wales would need to recoup loss of EU funds if we left, which would likely come from Westminster, leaving less money for England.

Another big area of uncertainty within the referendum is trade, and how this would be affected by leaving the EU. The main point to realise is that when it comes to trade, we need the EU far more than it needs us. 44% of our exports go to countries within the EU, 8% of theirs go to us. This means that when it comes to negotiating new trade deals, the balls are not in our court. We will get worse deals than we currently have. This means trade becomes more expensive, and the products/services become more expensive to the public.

There are currently 3 million jobs that are dependent on the EU, and that doesn’t include those in the supply chain. It would also take up to 10 years to negotiate new deals – which puts jobs, and the economy at a huge risk. As part of the single market, British businesses have free access to sell to 500 million consumers. If we left the EU, these trade deals would likely have tariffs and barriers, hurting our economy, and dropping the level of trade. Over 200,000 businesses trade with the EU, including 88% of SMEs, and the UK’s exports to the EU represent 12% of GDP.

Barack Obama has also said that the UK would move to the “back of the queue” for a new trade deal if we leave the EU, saying that the US are more interested in doing a free trade deal with the EU. Now many Leave backers say it does not matter what he thinks as he leaves office this year, but Hilary Clinton (the likely successor) has agreed with what he said. A German poll also identified that 29% of firms would leave the UK if Brexit happens.

The Leave campaign say that agreeing new trade deals would also cut down on some of the ‘ridiculous red tape’ and regulations that the EU imposes. However, this is a lie. Any business who wants to trade with EU still need to meet the regulations, even if they are outside of the single market. But the difference is that leaving the EU means we would not get a say on the rules. We are actually also far less regulated than most countries, including others like Switzerland that are outside of the EU…

Now although they claimed they would not base their campaign on immigration, the Leave side have now started to. Their boring rhetoric on Turkey, terrorists, and migration levels has been incredibly divisive, and they have told lie after lie. Now their latest idea is to implement an ‘Australian style points system’ for migration, but as the Guardian highlighted, this would actually increase the migration into the UK. Also, non-EU migration is actually higher than EU migration, something not looked at by the Leave campaign.

It’s also worth mentioning that anywhere between 1.4 and 2.2 million British people live in other EU countries – many of whom would have needed visas had it not been for the EU. The Leave campaign have no idea of what would happen to these people abroad, but one effect is that these people would likely be cut off from free health care, something they get from the EU and their European Health Insurance Card. EU membership has also allowed for 200,000 UK students to study abroad, and these people are 50% more likely to avoid long-term unemployment.

Vote Leave like to maintain that we are full, which is simply not the case. Only 6.8% of UK land has been built on, and the problems with public services are not because of migrants, but are because of this Tory government. Migrants are net contributors to the UK economy, and only take up 5% of the UK’s total workforce. 32% of EU migrants have university degrees, as opposed to 21% of the native population, and away from the economy and jobs, they enrich our social lives and culture.

Being in the European Union also creates a huge number of jobs for the UK. 14% of UK jobs are supported by EU investment, and further deepening of the single market could deliver an additional 791,000 jobs by 2030. The EU also has done an incredible amount for workers rights, adding a limit to weekly working hours, adding paid holiday, equal treatment, redundancy protections, eliminating discrimination, something the Tories would love to take away. Britain’s trade unions also want to remain in Europe, with the TUC, Community, GMB, TSSA, Unison, and Unite all backing Britain’s continued EU membership.

81% of businesses also support continued membership, including the UK’s largest business group, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI). Over 200 Entrepreneurs and start-up companies have also said that we’re better off in Europe, including Zoopla, Innocent Drinks and eBookers. As well as this, Universities UK, and over 140 academics across all fields and universities have already voiced their support for Britain’s continued EU membership, because of the opportunities membership brings to students.

Another important part of the EU is security, which is vital in today’s current climate with the rise of terrorism, and groups such as Daesh. The EU has helped to bring peace to Europe, whilst NATO has yes contributed, but also led to the Cold War. A top US general has argued that ‘Brexit’ could upset the NATO alliance, and the head of Europol has stated that leaving the EU “will make Britain’s job harder to fight crime and terrorism”. This is because within the EU we have access to rapid security information sharing without cost including DNA data and criminal records, helping us to tackle crime more effectively.

The EU’s European Arrest Warrant is also a powerful tool combating crime, and has led to over 1,100 suspected criminals being arrested and returned to Britain to face justice. The EU also boosts Britain’s foreign policy efforts, which has been shown by applying sanctions to Russia and Iran, and fighting piracy in Africa. If we quit we would destabilise the whole EU, and the only major global figure happy with that is Vladimir Putin.

There are also many other social and environmental areas where the EU greatly benefits the UK, which we could lose if we leave. The EU introduced rules to limit the sulphur in fuels to improve air quality, banned dumping sewage water onto beaches, provided air pollution targets, and introduced  laws to ensure the conservation of a wide range of plant and bird species, along with their habitats. The Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management found that 93% of ecologists believed the EU has had a beneficial impact on Britain’s ecology and environment, because of these measures.

Stephen Hawking was one of 150 scientific signatories to a letter saying that being in Europe means we benefit from research funding, and pretty much all world leaders have backed the UK staying in the EU. In fact the only prominent figures around the world that want Brexit are Putin, Trump, and Marie Le Pen. The EU helps us to tackle many current issues including both women’s and LGBT rights, making sure that equal treatment and non-discrimination is held up in all walks of life. In wake of the Panama Papers scandal the EU helps Britain to tackle tax avoidance, and helps to make sure big businesses pay their fair share.

If you are going to vote to leave the EU, you need to be sure that we could prosper, and grow on our own. You need to forget the rhetoric of a few biased, bigoted individuals regarding aspects such as immigration, and decide on what would be best for the millions of people in the UK. The EU is flawed in ways yes, but it helps us to work in partnership with other countries to reach a common goal. EU reform is already happening, and if we vote to leave we would simply be forfeiting any ability to help reform it the way we want it to be. We would have to simply put up with the laws, without any influence over them ourselves.

The UK can opt out to pieces of EU legislation with which it does not agree, which we have done in terms of the single currency and the Schengen Area. The UK for years has played a leading role in policy shaping, and a recent study showed we actually wield the most influence. Leaving the EU would be ‘doing down’ Britain, and giving us far less influence in the world. It would damage our economy, our trade, our security, our sovereignty, and the future for generations to come.

I urge you to make sure that you are registered to vote, and to vote to keep us in the EU. For our generations, and for future ones too. Register to vote here!

For more reasons and more detail on why we’re #StrongerIn, follow these links.

CambridgeForEurope  –  StrongerIn

‘Remain’ and Labour – Wake Up!

“Do the panel here watch the internet?” the man in the Question Time audience piped up. “If you watch the internet… half of them immigrants they don’t want the water, they don’t want the food, they want money and they want to get to Britain”. Now at the time, me, and the couple of million others watching Question Time would have laughed at the clear and utter ignorance of the gentleman. But we shouldn’t. Firstly, obviously, it’s clear xenophobia, hence the use of the word ‘immigrant’. Now this isn’t to say of course he’s a racist or a xenophobe; I do not know the guy. It may be a clear case of pure ignorance, but that ignorance is the main issue at hand. And for both ‘Remain’ in the EU debate, and Labour, in-fact the whole of the left, this is a huge worry.

One of the big issues surrounding the EU debate is immigration, and this has especially been a big issue for the past few years for many of the electorate; with Ian Warren’s article highlighting how 60% of the public view immigration as a top three issues facing this country. One of the main reasons for this has been because of the majority of the right wing media, plus right wing ideologies like UKIP/Republican party scaremongering the public. They paint these refugees, fleeing a war torn country for a better life as ‘money grabbing criminals, possibly terrorists’. They tell the public that these people are dangerous invaders, who are simply after our money. Hence the views of the gentleman on Question Time last Thursday. This scaremongering and dispersion of fear across the public is what has led to rise of UKIP, Farage, and even worse personalities like Trump and Cruz across the pond in America.

Now why is this such a problem for ‘Remain’? Because of the EU’s ‘Open Door Policy’, which is being used as one of the main arguments by Brexit. The problem is that the media are merging this with the refugee crisis, to not only inflate the numbers in statistics but create more fear. People like the gentleman above forget about their own free movements, and all the other brilliant assets that come from being part of the EU e.g. access to the single market, security, global power. Now I won’t ramble on to much about the EU and the referendum, I’ll do that in a future post closer to June. But I will highlight the lack of knowledge Brits have about the EU, highlighted in this article. ‘Remain’ needs to begin to educate the voters on the EU, and the brilliant things it brings to us, and just how better it could be under reform. Otherwise, we could be leaving the EU.

Now, for the left, and Labour. I know I blether on about Labour’s issues a lot, but this is a big one. Immigration is an area where the electorate do not have faith in Labour. As Frank Podmore highlights most of the electorate who stopped voting for Labour in 2010 were ‘social conservatives’, and one of the reasons was because they believed we let too many ‘immigrants’ into the country. In 2015 Ed was able to win back much of the left, but he couldn’t shake off the perceptions of Blair/Brown etc, and wasn’t able to win back the Social Conservatives. Even though migration into the UK is higher under the Tories, and the Conservatives are nowhere near meeting targets, the electorate still see their ‘tougher stance’ as electable. This is another area where Corbyn and current Labour is very unelectable, and I can’t see that changing for a long time, especially when Corbyn, McDonnell and co call for more open borders.

Many of that audience had very ignorant, bigoted views and the lack of humanity was astounding. However, this is the electorate that Labour and ‘Remain’ need to try and win over somehow, and that will be an incredibly tough task indeed.