What Changes Now?

If like me you’ve been scrolling through Twitter endlessly today, you might think the government is in the middle of collapsing. After David Davis and Steve Baker’s resignation just before midnight last night, and Boris Johnson following suit this afternoon, it’s easy to see why. After a supposed cabinet agreement was produced at Chequers last week, the two Brexit heavyweights decided that enough was enough, and left in protest to the governments swing towards a softer Brexit.

This afternoon in the commons May was defiant. She talked up her Chequers deal, and in a likely attempt to put an end to any further resignations reminded her party that we would be leaving the single market, customs union, and ending free movement of people into the country. Which, unsurprisingly, doesn’t match the message coined last week. As broken by Kevin Schofield a couple of hours ago, May and her team have also maintained that she will fight on regardless, and will take on any vote of no confidence put forward by the backbenches.

It’s hard to see why that wouldn’t be the case. Sure, the ERG and the backbenches have the numbers to put in their letters to Brady, but I highly doubt they have the numbers to win the vote. Many Tory MPs who currently sit on the fence know that a change in leader would lead to a leader in favour of no deal, and arguably could lead to Corbyn making his way into number 10. May also knows that if she does fend off the vote of no confidence party rules maintain she would be safe for a further 12 months, which would take us well into the transitional period of leaving the EU.

As I put forward in a piece late last year, Theresa May has always been merely a tool for the Tories as long as they need her. Whoever leads throughout the Brexit process will be tainted afterwards, and many leading Tory candidates will want to avoid this. May was, and still likely is, the person that will deliver Brexit, and would then likely resign or be forced out shortly after. Many colleagues would rather hold off and use the ‘Brexit betrayal’ line, and few Conservatives will want May anywhere near another general election after last year’s debacle.

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Time for Labour to Lead

It’s hard to be a so-called moderate in the UK these days. Not only do you find both parties veering further towards each wing, you also see that UK politics is now completely devoid of rationality as we hurtle towards Brexit. Alastair Campbell describes Labour’s position as “constructive ambiguity”, I find that to be a kind assessment. Both parties believe the argument is sorted, and both are under the false illusion that a hard Brexit was voted for.

Labour’s policy seems to be to appeal to leavers whilst hoping that their pro-European membership wouldn’t feel compelled to vote for any other party. At some point, this has to give. Mark Carney recently revealed that household incomes are about £900 per household lower than was forecast back in May 2016, and due to Brexit, the economy is roughly 2% lower than it would have been had we voted to remain in the EU two years ago. If Corbyn and McDonnell want to implement their manifesto promises, a hard Brexit is simply out of the question.

In 2017, the ambiguity worked. Leavers felt that Corbyn wanted to leave the EU as much as them, and Remainers saw Labour as the only route to blunt May’s push for hard Brexit. Again, this has to give, and it seems it’s the Remainers who are buckling. In 2017 the party was able to shift the focus onto other issues such as healthcare, but with Brexit day looming that strategy is out of the window. Only 26% think that Labour’s position on Brexit is clear, while 60% believe it’s unclear.

The public overwhelmingly favours the PM’s handling of Brexit, with 32% approval compared to a measly 19% for Corbyn. May is also impressing far more leave voters than Corbyn is remainers, 40% of leavers back May, just 26% of those who voted to remain back Corbyn’s treatment of Brexit. Labour is also losing the support of young people; last year 19% more 18-34-year-olds backed Corbyn over May, now the PM has a 2% lead. As Labour members shift, Corbyn stays rooted.

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Clinging On, Any Memes Necessary

On the morning of the 4th, I woke up to see that Labour had failed to take London councils such as Westminster and Wandsworth and had managed to lose Barnet along the way. By the time I got home from work only 12 hours later, I was shocked (but unsurprised) to see my Twitter feed telling me that last night was Labour’s best local elections performance since 1971.

Spoiler: it wasn’t.

The ‘original fact’, albeit not completely factual itself, was that it was Labour’s best performance in London in local elections since 1971. Then again, the rest of the country hardly seems to matter to the Labour party anymore. Of course, the BBC, ITV, Sky News, and all other reputable news corporations ran with the truth that, really, not much happened last night. ‘Neck and neck’ the BBC called it. That outraged the Corbyn clique.

Later that night I found myself seeing memes showing the final seat tallies; Labour with 2350 and Conservatives 1332, positioned next to the report from the BBC saying, ‘neck and neck’. It seems, unsurprisingly, not everyone knows how the locals work. The popular vote was actually neck and neck, 35% apiece for the main two parties with the Liberal Democrats surging up to 16 percent.

A lie travels around the globe while the truth is putting on its shoes. On Twitter, it travels quicker. Sure, we can point out to these people their mistakes. Maybe they’ll listen. Maybe they’ll simply call us ‘right wing’ or ‘Blairites’. But the damage is already done. Before you know it, Rachel Swindon has retweeted the lie and it has over 20,000 retweets and a million impressions.

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The Politics we Deserve?

“Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right”, as the old song goes. Used to ridicule the music industry by Gerry Rafferty, but instead seems more fitting in encapsulating the current political climate. Actually, it would be kind. Clowns? Maybe the one from IT. Jokers? More like absolute jokes.

Obama once said, “You get the politicians you deserve”. Although I see the reason, I don’t personally think it’s quite that simple. Sure, if you vote in Donald Trump you get that kind of president and voting for Brexit has paved the way for what we have in Britain. But is that the public’s fault? Politicians have never really been particularly liked. At best, people tend to be rather apathetic towards the culture of politics. That was certainly the case during the noughties, where turnout at elections reached all-time lows. The problem is, that is misinterpreted.

Certain members of the left like to jump on New Labour for bringing in this apathy, especially throughout the younger generations. The problem is, it’s because everything was running well. Surely that’s the point of politicians. They run everything smoothly so that our lives pass by without even hearing from them between election campaigns. Usually, political engagement comes from instability, anger, and despair at who is in office. So, is it such a great thing?

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Plan B Politics

As Stephen Bush’s piece last week highlighted, there are a finite number of messages a political party can run on. Typically, these positions don’t change between elections because they are so simple: “things would work better with us in charge”. 2017, however, was a turning point for both parties.

When Jeremy Corbyn rose to victory in Labour’s leadership election in 2015, he did so on the back of a promise of a new type of politics. Many chose him because he offered something the other three candidates seemingly did not, and that was hope. Corbyn famously asserted he would bring a new straight talking, honest politics into the Labour party, something he really hasn’t done. He was meant to be the politician who could finally energise the dwindling youth vote and bring non-voters out into the voting booths for the first time.

Fast forward to June 2017, and Labour had returned from a near 20-point deficit in the polls to force a hung parliament. A dismal campaign from Theresa May gave Corbyn the wind in his sails, and policies such as the abolishment of tuition fees had on the face of it galvanised the youth to an astonishing spike in turnout. However, as we now know, this wasn’t exactly the case.

Recently, the British Electoral Survey found that turnout did not increase among 18- to 24-year-olds at the 2017 election, although it did increase in areas with larger numbers of 18- to 24-year-olds. The noteworthy changes were actually found in the 25-44 age group, where turnout increased significantly and swung in great numbers towards Labour. The groups of voters Corbyn aimed to bring out in force did not turn up, and despite a successful campaign, Labour’s Plan A had failed.

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What is it that Divides Us?

Jo Cox gave her maiden speech in the House of Commons on Wednesday 3rd June 2015. Describing her constituency, globalisation, and immigration, Jo inspirationally said that “we are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us”. After her death just a week before the EU referendum, the hashtag and movement #MoreInCommon went global and ever since has been used as a means of attempting to heal the conflicts and divides in society.

Of course, it’s true in many ways. We are all the same. But there’s no doubt that we should be worried about the growing divisions festering around us all. Traditionally, the big divides were that of political party identification, this has since been replaced by simply: Remain or Leave. It’s understandable why; despite both party leaders playing down the issue, it will define us and our country for generations to come. The referendum formalised a deep cultural divide stemming across many factions. Leavers are pitched against remainers, the young against the old, the affluent against the impoverished, graduates against non-graduates, and towns against cities.

In the past, it was class that was the main predictor of a person’s likely voting behaviour. This has significantly narrowed, with both support for Labour among the middle class and support for the Conservatives among the working class rising by 12 points between 2015 and 2017. The big divide in voting behaviour is now age. At the 2017 general election, the generation gap was the largest since polling records began. Among 18-to-24-year olds Labour led by 35%, but among over 65’s the Tories held a 36-point lead. In the referendum three-quarters of 18-to-24-year-olds voted Remain, but two-thirds of over-65s favoured Brexit.

Education was also a big factor in both votes. In the 2017 election the Tories led by 22% among people with ‘low educational qualifications’, but those with ‘high-level educational qualifications’ plucked for Labour by 17% more. In the referendum, those with GCSE or lower qualifications voted 70:30 to Leave, but those with a degree voted 68:32 in favour of Remain. There’s also another reason for these stark contrasts: the direction and leadership of the two main political parties under current leadership. May’s Conservatives have lurched to the right, and Corbyn’s Labour to the left, and people are being forced to choose a side.

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A Year in Review

What a year it’s been – both for me, and this blog. When asked to describe 2017, people will think Brexit and the election, and despite watching the news in horror for most of the year, this has at least been good for my blog. I definitely haven’t had a shortage of items to write about. At the start of the year, I set myself the challenge of posting a piece a week, and I’ve kept to that without it (in my opinion) being detrimental to the quality.

So, what’s happened this year in my personal life? Not much to be honest. After the host of changes in 2016 which included graduating, new job, moving into my own flat, 2017 has been quiet. I’ve had a good year at work where I’ve had a raise, took on some side projects, and feel I’m getting closer to a promotion. Outside of work I’ve been involved in a lot of my own projects which I’m excited for, but currently I, unfortunately, do not have the time to knuckle down on them as much as I’d like.

2017 is also a year where my mental health has been relatively kind to me. Bar some low points in the autumn I’ve been fairly in control throughout the year, and I hope that can continue into the new year. One disappointment personally is that I am still very single. I obviously do not want to rush into a relationship for the sake of it, but I have been single for a long time now and am extremely sick of it. So, what are some of my highlights of the year…

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