Of all the political parties in the UK, it’s UKIP who have been the biggest wild card. Formed from a set of disillusioned Conservatives who broke away to build their own party, UKIP has been difficult, a thorn in the side of their former party for years. Even the entire EU referendum was proposed by David Cameron to get the rebels in line. Last year, the United Kingdom Independence Party was one of the staunchest supporters of the leave campaign and celebrating across the country when the result came; Nigel Farage declared Brexit the UK’s Independence Day and despite only having a single MP in parliament, the party nevertheless made their mark.
As 2016 comes to a close, politics is looking to the future after a set of thunderous earthquakes; there’s one particular trend I’ve noticed. After a Supreme Court ruling, the triggering of the Brexit process was debated in Parliament. I had some hope that the Labour and Liberal Democrats would be able to halt its progress. Perhaps both parties could have pulled together and fight the Brexit con, letting the people know why their vote was the product of lies and manipulation. But it was not to be as parliament voted vastly in favour (461 for to 89 against) of making the Conservatives release a plan for Brexit and aiming to trigger article 50 for next year at the end of March. The controversial move is all but confirmed; quite disappointing but did they really have much of a choice? To go against a vote, even if it was a con would be a bad move from any party wanting to win the next election. Consider the tabloid media’s attack on the UK’s judicial judges after they stated that Brexit could not be triggered without a vote in parliament first (Which is a fundamental part of our democratic process). If Jeremy Corbyn and Tim Farron denied Brexit from going through, the media would tear into them relentlessly and they might as well kiss the 2020 election goodbye. It’s this kind of acceptance that compels parties to act for the bigger picture rather than making moves that could anger the populous. It is also indicative of just how much sway external forces and the media have over the UK. Conversely, the move is certainly holding the current government to account; if Theresa May and her cabinet fail to deliver a comprehensive Brexit plan before then, they will be held as incompetent by their rival parties, thus diminishing their own reputation.
It’s not just the UK who is tossing around ideas of appeasement; Germany’s next election is taking place between August and October 2017 and this has brought further measures which could be tied in with the events to come. Chancellor Angela Merkel has recently endorsed her party’s proposition for a partial burqa ban, stating that “the full facial veil is inappropriate and should be banned wherever it is legally possible”. When an election is bearing down on you, do you maintain your common policy or alter it somewhat to put more emphasis on integration while also making a light appeal to the far-right sects that have become more common in recent years? It’s easy to suggest that the need to stay in power and win elections is the principal goal of any political party, but this may well come at the cost of inclusiveness. The far right and populism is a side that can no longer be ignored in this regard and it’s possible that aspects of that political viewpoint may slowly become a larger consideration for the left to deal with in the future. We’ll have to watch 2017 carefully.
(Images used for the purposes of review under fair use. Tabloid headlines in public domain)
Update (November 27th 2016): With the amount of media attention the motion has received, City University is looking to undergo a more vigorous discussion over whether or not the tabloids should be taken off of campus stores. The person behind the motion has also stated that ban may have been too extreme a word, suggesting boycott be used.
City University has made the choice to stop selling tabloids on campus and I was one of around 200 students sitting in the Great Hall on November 17th, looking to get a sense (As a uni program rep) of how student concerns were being taken into account and implemented. After a few fairly simple motions, a lone student (whose name I won’t give to avoid personal attacks) announced a motion to ban the sale of tabloid newspapers because of the hateful messages they put out. The move was being done in partnership with the Stop Funding Hate campaign, which has been encouraging companies (most recently LEGO, the Cooperative and John Lewis) to withdraw their advertising and remove their association with a nasty set of newspapers. The decision is not unlike Bournemouth University’s choice to remove lads mags a year or two ago.
There was much debate with some comparing the move to fascism, before we eventually chose to pass the motion; but is this really the case when confined to a single institution? One which aims to promote diversity and cooperation? Will the papers be forced to disappear overnight because one major institution chose to stop selling them? No; all students are still more than welcome to buy them outside the campus; we did not call for a complete ban across the nation for the tabloids. It is instead an effort towards changing their vile tone which could be achieved with enough support from companies and universities alike.
A British student union has outlawed newspapers whose editorials it disagrees with to combat 'fascism'. pic.twitter.com/YNPf0sYcFj
I read an article from Conservative magazine “The Spectator” recently which had much criticism of the decision; one interviewee argued that the best way to deal with bad journalism is to “do it better”; this was a message directed squarely at the university’s journalism students. But I ask critics this: How can you change the way the tabloids are ran when their owners and other people at the top will always set the agenda and the way their papers are made? If an editor at the Sun suddenly turned around and said that their negative tone needed to be scaled back then it’s possible their superiors would find someone else to follow through.
The bottom line is that the tabloids will not care about open discussion, especially the moguls who own them; they only want to sell as many papers as possible and the only way to challenge that corporate status quo is to put a dent into their profits. Only then will they realise that their rhetoric is not acceptable in a modern society that can and should be committed to embracing people from all walks of life, not demonising people who aren’t British citizens. The passed motion I feel is not a contributor to censorship; rather it is aimed at rejecting the hateful messages that these papers have been writing endlessly in recent years while also cosying up to the power elite on the side. The UK media has many flaws and I view this as a step towards changing things.