Britain’s NHS: A devious plan for privatization

NHS Hand-in: Department of Health

Britain’s National Health Service; good healthcare for all. Proposed in 1948 by then health secretary Aneurin Bevan, it has been the envy of many nations, many of whom are forced to pay gargantuan fees just to ensure their own wellbeing. Ever since the Tories came to a majority in 2015, the problem of underfunding has intensified; as 2017 has kicked off, the full scale of the crisis has exploded onto the scene. Hospital beds are filled to burst, waiting times are higher than they have ever been and the Red Cross, a humanitarian organisation usually dedicated to lending assistance overseas has been drafted in to help. It’s the lowest point the service has faced in decades and is the result of deliberate mishandling for the purpose of eliminating free healthcare in the UK altogether.

Consequences of the government’s abuse have so far been disastrous; 66 out of 152 health trusts across the UK have declared major alerts, meaning that they are under extreme pressure and cannot deliver comprehensive emergency care. Operations on cancer and other serious illnesses are being cancelled due to overfilled schedules and some doctors are choosing to leave because of sheer pressure placed on them and their colleagues. According to a post by Evolve Politics, this kind of exploitation stretches all the way back to 1992 when the Conservatives dreamed up the idea of saddling public services with expensive leases from the private sector; they were then forced to pay back debt on ridiculous interest rates over thirty or even fifty years. Under the guise of friendly modernisation, private finance initiatives, which cost an estimated £3,700 every minute, have been slowly eroding the funds dedicated to the NHS and its ability to serve the public effectively. Sure, the hospital buildings we see may look modern and capable of handling modern medical needs, but they’ve been built on the promise that they will one day be sold off for private use, removed from the hands of NHS trusts across the country.

jeremy-hunt-protest

With a struggling public sector comes far greater pressures on the workers within it. Jeremy Hunt, having done an abysmal job as health secretary is set to earn millions through the sale of his private business, earning 722 times that of the ordinary NHS worker; he claims that only a small number of hospitals are having problems but there is countless evidence to counter that. Eyewitness accounts from hospitals have been grim to say the least, with patients being turned away and staff members feeling unsafe in their own jobs. It all comes down to the contract he forced on NHS staff last year, one which drastically demotivates current staff and any who wish to train and join. Drive out the junior doctors, make them less inclined to join the NHS and the service will grow understaffed; then the knock-on effect on hospitals means more waiting times and fewer GPs to see patients. The same also goes for the countless EU citizens who are delivering their time and skills to the country’s healthcare system. This causes a frustration among citizens who are then manipulated into believing that the system isn’t working, make them believe that and you have a set of people who become willing to trust in private care. The cost will be a hard pill to swallow, but if it’s better than the free version then people are more likely to pay up.

The connections to private healthcare are nothing new, third parties such as Benefit Fraud have uncovered seventy different connections between MPs and private health companies. The deal goes as follows; MPs work towards dismantling our NHS and the private health corporations deliver donations to the political parties to help them fuel their propaganda machine (and possibly pop a few pennies in individual MP’s pockets as well). Corporations bank on elections being won and the slow process of gutting public services continues unabated. With control of healthcare in their hands, they would be free to set prices on treatment, medication and even things as miniscule as plasters and personal items. The list includes the likes of David Cameron, Ian Duncan Smith, Liam Fox, David Davies, William Hague, Phillip Hammond, Amber Rudd, George Osborne and even Nick Clegg. It speaks volumes of a rotten greed at the heart of our political system.

nhs-protesters-2

Without a doubt, the NHS is suffering right now and instead of addressing the problem, our government is pointing fingers and denying any accountability, all the while working on their plan to deconstruct one of most comprehensive universal healthcare services in the world. “It isn’t us or underfunding” they cry: “It’s the foreigners, elderly and working class scroungers bleeding the NHS dry”. It’s horrendous how this deflection from the cuts destroying our healthcare system is working, it will have faced an insane £40 billion worth of cuts by 2020 and some NHS staff don’t believe the service will last the next winter. But amidst the crisis, there is a strong pushback going on; as Aneurin Bevan put it: “The NHS will last as long as there are folk left with the faith to fight for it”. Countless protestors and NHS employees are standing up to the government’s lies, particularly groups such as UniteTheUnion and KeepOurNHSPublic. Surprisingly even the Mirror newspaper is targeting May, Hunt and other abuses of the NHS; all being told, you simply cannot put a price on health and privatising the NHS can only lead to further exploitation by corporate power.

Sources

(Images sourced from Google: Labelled for reuse)

Clippings: Giving in, appeasement and the roles they play in the modern political game

tabloid-attack-on-uk-judges

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.

angela-merkel

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)

Hard Brexit: The UK’s farewell to acceptance and accountability

Hard Brexit is the latest big topic on the mind of UK parliament and to put it bluntly; things are not looking good. The crashing of the pound is just the first of many major downturns faced by the country. In a previous post I claimed that the will of the voters should be respected, but now I see the real impact of the shoddy vote coming to light. I ask you this: why should the people’s vote be respected when they were conned into going down that route? Since the newly reshuffled (and unelected) Tory government came to power, a series of hits have been railing against the UK’s reputation for diversity and inclusiveness, hinting at a more sinister plan, a downward spiral bound to create further division on the basis of gross nationalism while handing even more power to those at the top. Theresa May gave her first major speech at a Conservative party conference and it revealed some damning motives for an unelected government. The big slogan this time was “A country that works for everyone” but there is countless evidence to the contrary. I believe there’s a reason why UKIP isn’t getting nearly as much coverage as they used to; the Tories have practically become them in the aftermath of the Brexit con, recently personified by the Tory statement: “There is no more money for the NHS”.

Some of the more glaring choices made by the Brexit government include…

map-of-uk-grammar-schools
Grammar Schools across England shown in red
  1. A further set of grammar schools, along with a second attempt to get into them at age 14 or 15

In the United Kingdom, Grammar Schools are held as a higher level of secondary education; when schoolchildren across the country are close to leaving primary school, they take the 11+, an exam to test their learning abilities. To get into grammar school this exam must be passed. Some would argue that they give the UK’s pupils a chance to flex their academic ability on the right level, but Theresa May’s plan is flawed because it holds grammar schools up as the be-all-end-all of the UK education system. Speaking from experience, I can say that a school doesn’t necessarily have to be private, an academy or a grammar school to be the best. The secondary school I went to from 2006 to 2013 had none of those distinctions but because of the brilliant way it was managed and ran, it ranked at the top of the Buckinghamshire country many times. More grammar schools can only bring more division to children through their education, the notion that if you fail to reach grammar school both times then you’re simply written off. What will they do next? Make it a requirement for university?

uk-military-parade

  1. The UK’s military set to become exempt from the European Convention on Human Rights

What exactly does the European Convention on Human Rights do for us? How does it affect our military and its deployment overseas? For starters it prevents abuses of human rights and gives a right to liberty and security. The current government believes that lawyers in the European Union exploit the convention and use it to make unfair accusations but I have to disagree. Any kind of legislation that works to prevent wrong doing and uphold citizen rights including the prohibition of torture, slavery and hard labour needs to be placed across our military to ensure their own accountability. Now that they’re becoming exempt from it, will there be fewer obstacles in the way to commit atrocities wherever they are deployed? It would be even more worrying if this same trend eventually carried through to our own home affairs.

brexit-school-letter

  1. The requirement of all schools to list the nationality and place of birth of all children who aren’t British

Towards the end of September, most if not all schools across the UK sent out a letter to parents by order of the Brexit government. On it the school asked for the nationality and birth place of foreign schoolchildren while also stating that if their child was British they did not have to fill it in. This is what the UK has come to; we’re going to be marking and monitoring schoolchildren who aren’t from this country. Why? Is this down to some unknown purpose that may or may not impact their prospects? Whatever the reason for it may be, it’s a disgusting decision that throws away the UK’s power to welcome and accept people regardless of their background. This leads into the fourth point which may well continue to impact children in adult life.

  1. The requirement of all major firms to list any workers and employees who are not British nationals

In a second horrible move to repulse and deter people from coming to the UK, firms will be required to list each and every worker who is not from this country. Again, it’s a shocking decision that would treat foreigners as second class citizens, making them feel unwelcome and therefore allowing anti-foreigner sentiment to fester even more than it already has. How will those who contribute their great skills and expertise to the UK feel when their names are being marked on a list? They’ll want to go elsewhere; it’s a horribly misguided attitude in every way that once again highlights that nasty nationalism that is sweeping through the nation. Luckily though, this decision was recently set back by protests and negative feedback from other nations.

In addition to these four strikes, there was also the incredibly frustrating news of fracking being pressed onto a Lancashire community by the Tories despite numerous community efforts to prevent it. It’s a characteristic of a government with a disregard for local democracy and it may be telling of the plans they have for the future.

The EU referendum itself quickly devolved into a debate on immigration crafted by conmen and the impacts of this are beginning to creep in; plans for Hard Brexit are representative of the right wing stance that has crept into modern politics. As I’ve gotten into my masters in international politics, there have been some incredibly deep discussions about various topics. A fellow student from Poland noted that in the West, free speech is offered, but only up to a point; the far right has been fairly suppressed over the years, mainly because people don’t want their controversial and sometimes racist viewpoints to be spread. But now with so much sentiment building against refugees and foreigners as a whole, the facets of right wing politics have burst explosively onto the scene and in turn, xenophobic tendencies have risen to wild levels of prominence. Would the better option have been to allow these viewpoints to come out and allow common people to reject them on their own? It’s a question that now hangs over the entire referendum and its aftermath for me.

I feel that the more subtle aspects of Theresa May’s motives tie in with keeping the Conservatives in power, a manipulation of the masses to ensure their continued seat in power. The new direction on immigration and the tracking of foreigners panders to the racists and xenophobes who voted leave and their vote is secured for the next election. It was also announced that foreign economists will no longer be able to give analysis or advice on the UK’s economic situation in the aftermath of Brexit. Why? Because they’re not British nationals; it’s a move to suppress and censor anyone who could discredit the government’s procedures and call them ineffective after leaving the European Union. The same also goes for Scotland who is now considering a second independence referendum, having been relegated to a side note in the Brexit discussions. Add to this the media spin from a majority of mainstream outlets stating that May has the UK’s best interests in mind (Especially with her recent private meeting with Rupert Murdoch) and you have a means to dupe the public into voting for the Tories again and again.

Ultimately it is Theresa May’s line: “If you believe you are a citizen of the world, you are a citizen of nowhere” that speaks volumes of what the UK’s political system has come to; a trinity of awful representatives that would seek to shift Britain away from the world stage and turn in on itself. In addition, the set of abysmal UK tabloids; most notably the Daily Mail and Express cosy up to the corruption like nothing else, saying that any who would criticise the Brexit con should shut up, literally. With the Hard Brexit plans bearing down on the UK, there is now little to stop the elite from imposing a full dominance over the country through division and because of this, I’m a little worried about the future. The only reprieves to the horrendous policies currently sweeping the nation is a set of strong protests from foreign workers and a successful challenge in parliament to the Hard Brexit terms, a call for more close scrutiny and public debate. In time this may somewhat diminish what the Tories are enforcing, but one thing remains clear to me; Brexit (At least from the offset) has brought far more regression than positive benefits to the UK.

Sources

  • Theresa May signals that the UK is heading for hard Brexit: http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/uk/2016/10/theresa-may-signals-uk-heading-hard-brexit
  • No extra money for NHS, Theresa May tells health chief: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/oct/14/no-extra-money-for-nhs-theresa-may-tells-health-chief
  • Theresa May’s grammar schools plan slammed as ‘backward step’ by Sir Michael Wilshaw: http://www.standard.co.uk/news/education/theresa-mays-grammar-schools-plan-slammed-as-backward-step-by-sir-michael-wilshaw-a3340886.html
  • Human rights no more? UK to exempt troops from European Convention to stop ‘annoying’ claims: https://www.rt.com/uk/361516-human-rights-convention-troops/
  • Firms must list foreign workers: http://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/firms-must-list-foreign-workers-gw20ndp5x
  • Theresa May’s speech sparks Twitter backlash over ‘citizen of the world’ remark: http://www.standard.co.uk/news/politics/theresa-may-sparks-twitter-backlash-over-citizen-of-the-world-remark-in-conservative-party-a3361701.html
  • Daily Mail And Express Brexit Front Pages Call For ‘Unpatriotic’ Remainers To Be Quiet: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/daily-mail-express-brexit_uk_57fdfd14e4b08e08b93d2ad3
  • Britain’s youngest MP slams Theresa May over the rise of fascism, in her most searing attack yet: http://www.thecanary.co/2016/10/10/britains-youngest-mp-slams-theresa-may-rise-fascism-searing-attack/
  • Theresa May in ‘U-turn’ over pre-article 50 Brexit debate in parliament: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/oct/12/theresa-may-accepts-need-for-brexit-debate-in-parliament

(Images sourced from Google: Labelled for reuse)

(School letter image sourced with the permission of Benefit Fraud via its Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/BenefitFraudVSCorporateFraud/)

Black or White? The glaring issue in the discussion of world issues

 

As with any point in history, the world has some issues to grapple with, but in 2016 in particular I’ve noticed an especially ugly trend that’s creeping about; black or white. There is hardly any room for a middle ground to satisfy both sides, no room for a happy medium in-between; it must be one extreme or another; keep it simple and the people will remain riled up and they too eventually become susceptible to easy influence.

Military use is a prime suspect in when choosing one extreme over another and when looking back at the strategies in the Middle East, it’s all too easy to point fingers. Bush’s military strategy for Iraq and the War on Terror was hackneyed, charging in with reckless abandon. Applying military intervention without careful thought led to the Iraq War and in turn the deaths of thousands of people. The trend has continued somewhat with the constant airstrikes and drone attacks sent by President Obama to the Middle East and of course Trump, paying no regard to the damage and civilian casualties caused, said he would “bomb the sh*t out of ISIS” thus amplifying and furthering the issue of terrorist radicalisation. Looking at the awful comments below the video supporting his wretched morals leaves me shocked at the lengths people sink to.

trump

Now Trump is going to the other extreme; the possibility that America won’t help out its NATO allies at all. He said that the financial contributions from the likes of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania would be reviewed; in other words, if they aren’t paying enough, then they don’t deserve America’s help, according to his statements. It’s an unbelievably selfish and self-centered move from the Republican candidate whose focus is entirely geared towards putting himself first while also driving a wedge between Americans and anyone who isn’t from their country. Cutting off bonds to other countries can only lead to more conflict and a greater leaning towards a gross nationalism that is sweeping through politics today.

Division is a trend that has never burned more strongly in the modern western world and with this the notion of a careful approach is quickly tossed aside; we already had the infighting in the UK over the EU Referendum. The anti-immigrant rhetoric was an incredibly toxic aspect of the campaigns; all too often I’ve seen countless comments that categorise the influx of refugees as the importing of terrorists with no thought paid to the victims fleeing conflict (Many of which we in the West created).

burkini

Simply put, it’s indoctrination on both sides as resentment against immigrants is free to run wild in the West and this treatment reflects outwards on the people; recently in France, a demeaning Burkini ban came into play and a restaurant refused to serve Muslims because in the eyes of the chef: “All Muslims are terrorists”. This theme of paranoia runs rampant in today’s world to the point that individuals grow so narrow-minded in their attitudes. The same trend of indoctrination is occurring in the States; a video in which Trump supporters literally attempt to cover up a protester with a “No racism, no hate” sign at the Republican National Convention emerged earlier this year. This is the attitude posed in the 2016 election; you’re either with Trump or you’re against him and if you’re against racism (Judging by the attitudes of those in at the convention) then that automatically makes you an enemy of the campaign. There’s not a single person in that video that stops and thinks about an alternative perspective or questions their precious little idol. It’s a sure sign that fear is winning out when individuals view world affairs with such simplistic abandon.

This kind of extreme leaning also applies to race relations in the United States; to Trump and many Republicans, there is no consideration that maybe not all Muslims are terrorists. Yet again generalisation and stigmatisation sweeps in; either the entire religion is guilty or not at all; there is no middle ground there. No discussion, no debate, just the common people being led blind by a man who preys on fear and emotion, simplifying everything in the process. Blind labelling has given ridiculous ideas further traction, most notably the possibility databases for American Muslims and Syrian refugees, segregating groups off to be constantly monitored. It will undoubtedly fuel further bouts of racism and discrimination; that sends a message that these people are to be treated with suspicion.

Calais Jungle.jpg

And now most recently we’ve had the announcement of a wall, yes a wall, to keep refugees and migrants from coming to the UK from Calais; no doubt a direct result of the Brexit vote several months to appease the selfish racists of the country who fell for the fear-mongering leave campaign. No thought there, not a single consultation of how we could create a balance between taking in refugees while also securing our borders from illegal immigration. If this announcement proves anything, it’s that irrational decisions are slowly becoming the new norm in today’s world. To those who made this horrendous decision I ask what kind of benefit this will bring? I see it doing three main things; adding momentum to Trump’s vile campaign in the United States, add another tool for terrorists to use in their propaganda and create even more sentiment against foreigners.

This flawed perspective on world issues is creating divides and allowing the views of the ignorant and inconsiderate to be pushed to the forefront. There needs to be a better understanding promoted in the world, an attitude that emphasises a middle ground when dealing with difficult issues we all face from the simple civilians to the highest government officials.

Sources

  • “Trump would “bomb the sh*it out of ISIS”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aWejiXvd-P8

(Images sourced from Google: Labelled for reuse)

Questionable Media: The Jeremy Corbyn Smear Campaign

It’s been a while since I last critiqued the media as a whole; this time I’m looking at the grossly biased coverage of Jeremy Corbyn in the UK alongside the desperate (and somewhat laughable) attempts to toss him out of the political races. We’ll start off with a bit of background.

Owen Smith and Jeremy Corbyn Policy Differences
Image by CloakedTruth via their Facebook page

There’s something which perplexes me about the dislike for Corbyn from common citizens; how can people mistrust and dismiss someone who voted against the Iraq War, against air strikes in Iraq and has taken an active role in standing up to the crippling austerity in this country? The right and left are certainly no strangers to clashing but there are some (without naming names) who appear in such denial of what Corbyn could bring to the UK, especially if he were to be elected into office. He promises real positive change and thousands of people have joined Labour as a result, turning up to his rallies and believing in his convictions. Yet despite all this progress, there are those who would seek to undermine all of it, who blame him for Labour’s failures in the Brexit vote (despite evidence to the contrary). It can be argued that ever since Jeremy Corbyn took up leadership after Ed Miliband’s resignation, there have been those out to start their own little coup and it’s been pretty detrimental to his efforts. As far as I’m concerned, Owen Smith and the labour rebels come off as power hungry individuals who are also willing to throw away the socialist focus on the UK as a whole that Corbyn has slowly been putting together. If anything he’s the best leader they could ask for in my book, the kind of candidate who can repair the damage done by Blair and Brown many years ago.

Refused Labour Application
Image by Benefit Fraud via their Facebook page

Once again it’s all about the media, particularly the mainstream; they perpetuate that message that Corbyn is not to be trusted; they do this by refusing to show footage of the massive rallies and painting him as a shifty individual. When big media outlets are owned by higher corporations and individuals, you know there’s going to be problems with dictating the overall message and this is something which has dogged the UK industries for years. Then of course there was TrainGate, a rather ridiculous incident which saw Corbyn’s team, Richard Branson and Virgin trains arguing back and forth over whether Jeremy sat on the floor of a busy train to score political points. The media then proceeded to pile on top of that with some attempting to validate Branson’s points. Rarely in these cases was there a balanced viewpoint and lost amidst all this arguing was the Conservative go-ahead to scrap the Human Rights Act in the UK, quite a convenient distraction there… Even now the suppression continues as the Labour rebels slyly ban members from voting because of hints dropped of their possible allegiance towards Corbyn. Tearing up the norms of democracy for their own personal gain? I certainly wouldn’t trust them to run the Labour party, let alone the whole country.

Jeremy Corbyn Not me they fear
Image by Benefit Fraud via their Facebook page

It’s painfully obvious that the people at the top want Corbyn gone because he’s the biggest threat to their lofty positions for a long time. A similar thing may have occurred with Bernie Sanders in the United States as well; very much like Corbyn his policies and desire to bring positive change drew a strong fan-fare from young people but the media gave him no attention, instead focusing all their attention on the Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump. In that sense, the foreign media has not only had a field day but a field year as Trump in particular has provided a near endless stream of mainstream news to rack up the views and comment numbers. According to a Harvard study in June this year, the media outright ignored Sander’s campaign which severely hurt it in the long run because in the eyes of the news, he didn’t exist in the presidential race. However with Corbyn, the media has gone a step further, slamming him and policies with reckless abandon. Why? Because Jeremy Corbyn in power wouldn’t bode well for the elites who wish to maintain their positions high above the rest of us. As a fourth estate, the media itself can have a massive effect on the political race and this has been proven time and time again.

The incidents surrounding Jeremy Corbyn and Owen Smith have been for lack of a better word: messy and the biased media coverage isn’t helping in the slightest. My advice? Take the mainstream with a grain of salt and consider who owns them; do try to find some third parties to broaden your views a bit. As for the Labour leadership, who’s going to win? Well that will be up to the public to decide, that is if they don’t have their votes taken away completely by a party rebellion (And the media that supports it) that seems hell bent on permanently halting a very genuine politician; something which feels exceptionally rare in this modern political age.

(Images used with the permission of CloakedTruth and Benefit Fraud via their respective Facebook pages. Cover image sourced from Google Images: Labelled for reuse)

Sources

  • Jeremy Corbyn speech on austerity: http://labourlist.org/2016/07/we-have-demolished-the-case-for-austerity-corbyns-speech-at-leadership-launch/
  • “EU Referendum: Jeremy Corbyn blamed for Labour Brexit as allies defend him”: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/jeremy-corbyn-blamed-for-brexit-by-labour-mps-in-eu-referendum_uk_576c6cfee4b0232d331da41b
  • Jeremy Corbyn Milton Keynes Rally: http://www.miltonkeynes.co.uk/news/thousands-attend-milton-keynes-rally-with-labour-leader-jeremy-corbyn-1-7526763
  • “Jeremy Corbyn angered by train seat row questions”:  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-37173048
  • “Human Rights Act will be scrapped, government confirms”: http://www.theweek.co.uk/63635/human-rights-act-will-be-scrapped-government-confirms
  • Jeremy Corbyn accuses Labour officials of suspending party members without explanation: http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/aug/28/corbyn-accuses-labour-officials-of-suspending-party-members-without-explanation
  • Harvard Study Confirms Bernie Sanders Was Right: Media Blackout Badly Hurt Campaign: http://reverbpress.com/features/bernie-sanders-was-right-media-blackout-badly-hurt-campaign-harvard-study-confirms/
  • “The Labour Leadership election plunges deeper into chaos, as 100,000 ballots go missing”: http://www.thecanary.co/2016/09/02/labour-leadership-election-plunges-chaos-100000-ballots-go-missing-tweets/

The Chilcot Inquiry: Actions, reactions and consequences

Iraq War

It has taken seven years, 2.6 million spoken words and over ten million pounds, but the UK has reached a relatively definitive conclusion on the Iraq War, its motives and the legality of invasion which took place in 2003. The war itself stands out as a foolish and ultimately highly unethical conflict, one which resulted in thousands of unnecessary deaths and plunged the country into further instability. It was also a failure of both the media and intelligence operations to provide a clear picture of whether war was the right course to take.

The prelude to the conflict was marked with heaps of concerns surrounding terrorism. I was six years old when the events of September 11th took place, but I still remember coming home from Primary School and seeing my parents just standing in front of the television, fixated on the horrific events that day. The sentiment towards Muslims and Islam also took a drastic turn, particularly in the United States; 9/11 itself was arguably a substantial catalyst that triggered the widespread Islamophobia that we know today.

Bush Doctrine

There’s no doubt now that in the aftermath a fire raged inside the hearts of thousands, especially in the United States, many of whom were livid at what had happened; realistically there was no way armed force wouldn’t be used in response to such devastation. President Bush launched the War on Terror soon after 9/11 on the 21st of September 2001, vowing to destroy any would-be terrorist organisations. This then lead to the War in Iraq in which the then Ba’ath Party (Led by Saddam Hussein) was accused of harbouring Al-Qaeda by the United States. It was soon suggested by military intelligence in both the UK and the United States that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) and this further compelled both President George Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair to launch the invasion, or “Operation Iraqi Freedom” as it was known.

Tony Blair

The problem came when Tony Blair was so insistent on following Bush’s lead, saying “I will be with you whatever”. Already our Prime Minister was pigeon-holing himself into a difficult position as going back on a massive statement like that can be perceived as a sign of weakness. Weakness equals something to exploit and that in turn can be the deciding factor in elections.

Saddam Stature Toppled

For every action, there is a reaction and while the likes of the War on Terror and Operation Iraqi Freedom did remove a tyrant from power, the destabilisation imposed ended up enacting a greater toll on the region. It was eventually revealed that there were in fact no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and by the time the war came to an end in 2009, around 251,000 violent deaths (According to Iraq Body Count) had occurred, including both civilians and armed combatants. To this day, the now metaphoric “War on Terror” has never truly ended and that may be down to an endless cycle of bombing, occupation and an anger that flairs within the people, making some of them more susceptible to indoctrination by terrorist organisations. 2009’s The Hurt Locker taps into many aspects of the Iraq War but the one moment that always sticks out to me is towards the end where a group of Iraqi children throw rocks at an American Humvee as it returns to base. Think about it from their perspective; if a foreign military force comes into your country, subjects you to a new order and stays long after the fighting is over then that’s sure to instill some kind of resentment, something which can eventually lead to terrorism. Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator but did the ramifications of invasion outweigh the benefits of removing him from power?

A lack of preparation for post-Saddam Iraq left the country fragmented and open for other terrorist organisations. When looking at the UK’s participation in the Iraq War, the biggest consequence often points to the 7/7 bombings in 2005; joining the conflict the way we did made us a target of terrorists. This could have been avoided if we had taken a step back rather than charging in blindly; even to this day, the UK is still near the top of the Western World hit list for the likes of ISIS and other terror groups. Why? Because in their eyes we’re the ones who messed with their country and now they want some kind of twisted revenge which they view as a holy war. Even today we’re still sending bombers and drones to the Middle-East, bringing destruction to the lives of thousands and to terrorist organisations; this feels cowardly to them and the West can only play into their hands by continuing to authorise this.

Kuwait Oil Fires

One of the lesser areas covered by the Chilcot Report is the oil that flows throughout the Middle East; a widely desirable resource for certain. Was the central aim of the Iraq War to oust a dictator from power and put a democratic government in its place? A deeper underlying reason for invading Iraq exists; according to Stop The War Coalition, Iraq possessed almost a tenth of the world’s oil resources; considering how Saddam Hussein had already destroyed several oil fields in Kuwait in a scorched earth policy towards the end of the Gulf War, it could be argued that we charged in to prevent further losses of the precious spoils.

Iraq War Protests

Now that the Chilcot inquiry has been released, the masses now shift to what will happen next. Will Tony Blair receive some kind of judgement or ramifications for his actions? There are still thousands of protesters calling for him to be punished for going to war so hastily. The vast majority of the blame will be pinned on him as the UK’s leader at the time and so long as he refuses to offer an official apology, the war criminal signs will keep flying in London. But it’s also worth remembering that many other MPs at the time supported him in the decision to go to war. The press, most notably Rupert Murdoch’s papers also fed into the decision, supporting the rationale and promoting the entry of the UK into the invasion; Paul Dacre, a former editor of the Daily Mail was quoted as saying: “I’m not sure that the Blair government – or Tony Blair – would have been able to take the British people to war if it hadn’t been for the implacable support provided by the Murdoch papers. There’s no doubt that came from Mr Murdoch himself”. While the war itself may have passed, the effect it has had on the Middle East undoubtedly sent much of it into a downward trajectory rather than progressive development. The entire affair is still quite a stain on not only the UK, but the Western World as a whole. Perhaps the most shocking part of all is that democracy didn’t influence the overall decision. Blair himself called the protests “Fatuous”, meaning silly and pointless. We invaded a country for dubious reasons, failing to make necessary considerations and ended up dragging a region and its people through the mud; thousands continue to pay the price for that decision to this day.

Sources

(All images labelled for reuse under Google Images)

The aftermath of Brexit: Anger, disappointment, and grudging acceptance

Brexit1

On the 24th of June 2016 I woke up, opened my phone and was met with a sight I really didn’t want to see; the fact that my country had voted to leave the European Union. I watched, shocked, as Nigel Farage strutted about with a smug grin on his face and Boris Johnson (after leaving his house to a chorus of boos) proclaimed that young people would have a prosperous future, all the while knowing that his campaign will strip away so many opportunities from them. I tuned into the live broadcasts before voicing my disappointment online, as many often do.

The social media outlets were ablaze with all kinds of people lamenting the loss of the UK’s membership, calling it an enormous step backwards in every way. Of course I agreed with all of them; as mentioned in my last post, the leave campaign was heavily based on the rhetoric of immigration. Time after time they hammered out that immigration was responsible for our problems and as with any message if you repeat it enough the people will start believing it; that’s exactly what happened as leave won with 51.9% of the vote. As I prepared to get on with the rest of the day, a sense of unease hung over my mind; would the racists and xenophobes have a field day? How can we possibly accept Boris Johnson as top billing for Prime Minister this October? Just how far can Farage and UKIP climb now that they’ve regained footing?

A significant anger gripped me and I certainly wasn’t the only one; less than twenty four hours after the referendum results were revealed, furious voters gathered outside the Houses of Parliament demanding a second vote. There was even a petition for it that will actually be discussed by our government at some point. These efforts have been met with differing responses from the opposite side, some laughing and gloating at their feeble attempts to fight against a democratic vote. This stark divide between remain and leave has been toxic from the very beginning; I can say without a doubt that if remain had won this vote, the leave voters would have had the exact same reaction, just with more accusations of the voting being rigged against them. And you know what? We would have laughed and jeered at the opposite side as well if they had lost; this is the dark side of democracy, giving us free speech but also splitting us into opposing camps every time a choice comes along. It’s almost a kind of psychological warfare as the two sides throw everything at each other verbally rather than violently, though in this case one disgusting terrorist chose to take it a step further by murdering MP Jo Cox the week before the polls opened, which Farage proceeded to callously toss aside after it was revealed his side had been successful.

Brexit2

From a political perspective, the EU referendum was suicide for David Cameron (who I imagine wanted to appease tensions within his conservative party by offering the vote); he resigned shortly after losing the vote and will most likely be replaced by someone even worse. But looking at the referendum generally reveals how divided the United Kingdom really is; on one side you have relatively considerate people who think outside of their own country and on the other you have borderline racists who demand the UK belongs exclusively to Brits. There was hardly any room to stand in the middle and those who did were either unsure which way to turn or found themselves drowned out by the hard-line statements that were all over the campaigns. It proves that the UK is grossly divided and the rampancy of inequality cannot be underestimated. The working class were genuinely angry at those who stand above them and wanted to stick it to “the establishment” by voting leave, having already been swayed by the leave campaign’s promises. For the rest of us, it’s easy to cry foul; to misunderstand their struggles and dismiss them as uneducated. But their opinions are still very strong, so much so that they got their wish, outnumbering the opposite side. Then there’s the elderly, a vast majority of which were highly focused on leaving; with the vote result being the way it is, more than ever I feel it is highly unethical to allow this group to decide the future when they will reap very little from it. This disconnect to unity and the divide between classes and generations is one of the biggest problems my country is facing right now and it’s an incredibly difficult problem to solve, no matter where you sit in British society.

In a sense, I’m still extremely disappointed in the direction we chose to go; particularly the fact that the elderly had free rein to choose how the future of young people would be played out. The pound may be in freefall and industries may be taking blows but to me the result goes deeper than that; it feels like we’ve thrown away so much in one fell swoop, rejecting the values of unity that bound us and the other twenty seven member states together. One of the saddest things for me is that a fair few of my friends from Europe are beginning to question their place in the country, which is starting to feel more than a little unwelcoming because of what we chose. On top of all that, the misinformation posed by the leave campaign is beginning to unravel with Farage openly admitting that the £350 million to the EU was a mistake.

Brexit3

But ultimately, this isn’t worth losing our heads over; taking a step back and contemplating things now that the noise has died down brings out a more considered kind of viewpoint. In the words of the illusive man; “We move on, humanity will persevere; we are nothing if not resilient”. Brexit may mean dark and uncertain things for the United Kingdom, but there are still ways to ensure it doesn’t sink completely; democracy is not without its advantages and now that the shouting and relentless campaigning has finally come to an end, we can get on with things again. The people have had their say and that should be respected at the very least.

(All images sourced from Google: Labelled for reuse)

My thoughts on the EU Referendum: Power plays, political agendas and potential ramifications

EU Flag

The European Union; the UK has been a part of it for decades and aside from a channel separating us from the likes of Germany, France and the other 26 member states, many bonds have been formed between nations. It was a key component of the Conservative’s election campaign last year and the issues that came with it were also factored in to the other political parties. With just under a month to go until the referendum, thoughts turn to the two competing sides and the effect they may have on individuals and the UK as a whole.

Whichever side Britain chooses, there’s sure to be massive gains politically; if we stay in then the likes of David Cameron and George Osborne will receive a boost to their leadership status. On the other hand if we leave, Boris Johnson will undoubtedly earn some traction towards what he’s always wanted; leader of the conservative party. Similarly Nigel Farage and UKIP as a whole will rise to a greater prominence if they were to have their way. The two sides have been throwing everything into their campaigns but beneath all that, it’s easy to forget the elements of self-interest at play. What is this referendum really about? Is it about the British public making a choice to determine the future of UK or is more of a play to move our political representatives up in their stature?

When people are disengaged they become more susceptible to external influences and that’s exactly what Brexit campaigners have been doing. On a deeper level I feel that the LEAVE campaign (if it was to win) could trigger a negative psychological shift in certain individuals. By giving political points to nationalism and isolationism, the idea of self-importance comes into play. The basis of parties such as UKIP is all about putting the British public first as well as doing things their way and nobody else’s. Many people, especially the racists and xenophobes will have even more of a reason to think: “They’re putting us first, so therefore we’re more important than people on the outside of our system”. This has the potential to cast a greater divide between ethnic groups and religions, not to mention blur the lines between selflessness and selfishness. Something like this almost happened recently in Austria, where the far right was narrowly beaten in the elections.

Personally, there are many aspects to the leave campaign which have me utterly baffled. The very notion of “Taking back control” is misguided and flawed. If the UK was to leave, we would toss the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union out the window. This prohibits torture, the death penalty and the invasion of privacy. We’ve already heard about Theresa May’s infamous plans for the snooper charter, requiring companies to save and send all internet browsing data to the government; without the charter to stand in the way, there’s no telling what our own government could end up doing.

Boris Johnson Leave Campaign.jpg

The Brexit campaign claims that by leaving the European Union, we can dedicate more funds to fixing and supporting the NHS; if this is the case then why are several key leaders actually in favour of privatising the service further? Michael Gove called for the dismantling of the service back in 2009 whilst Andrea Leadsom was in favour of handing the NHS over to US companies via the TTIP (Transatlantic trade and investment partnership) deal. Some other reasons posed by the leave campaign include the notion of Turkey joining the EU, which is highly unlikely considering how Jean-Claude Juncker (President of the EU Commission) said: “As regards to Turkey, the country is clearly far away from EU membership. A government that blocks Twitter is certainly not ready for accession”. The lack of control over immigration is also a major selling point, which David Cameron has been openly negotiating with the Union. To top it all off, Boris Johnson compared the EU to Hitler while also blaming the European Union, not Russia for annexing Crimea in 2014; a statement which is quite frankly stupid. Tens upon thousands of people fought and died to bring freedom and unity to the continent and the fact that people are using statements like these to win people over is disgraceful. For every reasonable viewpoint in the leave campaign, there are four regressive ones. Poisoning the minds of the people against people in Europe and beyond is the same kind of behaviour Donald Trump is promoting across the pond and he too supports the Brexit campaign.

Remain campaign

That’s not to say there aren’t any ludicrous statements on the Remain campaign; David Cameron came out to say that leaving the EU may lead to World War 3, a ridiculously outlandish thing to say. When you examine the kinds of political rhetoric being thrown around, it’s hard not to argue that their real motivations lie with propping themselves up by working towards a political victory. Animosity towards the REMAIN campaign is often borne from a negative opinion towards Cameron, Osborne and the other Conservatives currently in power; compared to the statements hurled by the leave majority, the choice to stay in is certainly more appealing. They back up their claims with evidence whilst Brexit states that the UK needs to leave because bad things will happen if we don’t.

When the time to vote comes, I’d like to think we can look past all the political rhetoric and choose unity over isolationism, harmony over antagonism. Even with the EU’s problems, it stands as the better option to me. In a concise talk by journalist Jon Danzig, mentions of Winston Churchill’s original values while constructing the bonds that bind the twenty eight member states together prove to have just as much relevance as they did seventy years ago. To leave the European Union would be to give even more power to unsavoury individuals in the UK, remove obstacles that block unethical bills and worst of all, grant the racists and bigots a chance to spread and display their toxic views. Having already made a positive and progressive choice through the election of Sadiq Khan in London, it would be rather disappointing for the UK to regress in this way, to throw away all the progress we’ve made.

(Images sourced from Google. All labelled for reuse)

Stigmatization, under-representation and other problems in UK Politics

UK General Election Results 2015

It’s been over 100 days since the general election took place, 100 days since David Cameron and the Conservatives won their first majority in eighteen years and 100 days since the collapse of their biggest rivals Labour and the Liberal Democrats. UK politics is a complicated topic and given how plenty of talk is going around following the one hundred day mark, I thought I’d share my own thoughts on the current state of UK Politics and the aftermath of my very first vote in a general election.

Scrutinising positions of power and freedom of speech have always been incredibly important responsibilities of the media, as has the tradition of taking one side over another in politics, but this is a double edged sword; some articles bring problems with bias and could potentially add more fuel to the issue of stigmatisation. In the aftermath of the election we had a stereotype going around called the “Shy Tory”; voters who went for the Conservatives but then concealed who they voted for. Those who did reveal where they placed their vote often wished they hadn’t, because in extreme cases they are branded and shamed as “posh pricks” who don’t care about anyone but themselves, people who spit on the poor and take pride in staying high and dry while those beneath them suffer. The same applies to UKIP with an overly generalised stigma of “Oh you must be racist if you choose to vote UKIP, you hate migrants and anyone who isn’t British”. Voting in a general election always creates some sort of divide between individuals, but it feels as if more stigmatisation is being thrown around than ever before. If more outlets in media took a more impartial look at politics as a whole, then this issue could be lessened. One of the best examples I find for this is The Guardian and “100 Things the Tories did in their first 100 days”; this article takes a more balanced look, allowing the reader to form their own judgements.

The way an election is framed can have a strong impact on voting; one thing that I feel hasn’t been talked about so much is The Sun and their rather blatant headlines: “It’s a Tory!” and “Save our bacon”. They directed attention towards the Tories whilst simultaneously slamming their opponents in Labour. Think about it; The Sun is still (grudgingly) the most read newspaper in the UK and the more people it reaches, the more people the outlet can potentially influence into voting for a specific party. This also brings to mind “It’s the Sun wot won it!”, an interesting case of how the tabloid apparently played a pivotal role in the Conservative’s election results in 1992. Even some Conservative MPs admitted that The Sun did assist in their triumph back then. Could the same sort of thing have happened again in 2015? Of course there were many other media endorsements as with every general election, but it always felt like The Sun had the biggest influence of all and as some citizens become disillusioned with the voting process as a whole, more often than not they may choose to follow along with who their favourite paper says they should vote for.

The bottom line with UK politics and indeed any kind of government is that there is no party that can please everyone; there is no man or woman of the people, or a perfect party which will do everything right. Even Jeremy Corbyn who is currently in pole position to take over Labour leadership has his critics and those who don’t want him to lead.

To quote another WordPress blogger, Gary Walsh: “Yes I voted Conservative; no I don’t hate the poor”. I went for the Conservatives because I believed they would be the most decisive in getting the UK’s economy sorted out and by doing this, they would be able to focus their attention on other problems more quickly. Labour’s plan just didn’t do it for me; reducing the deficit gradually each year rather than pouring efforts into getting it fixed sooner? There have been many protests surrounding the Tories extensive plans for austerity and I can’t help but wonder if Labour would have shied away from doing the same thing, just staggered over a longer period of time. Not only that, but they would have had Scotland breathing down their neck, demanding a say in our parliament and perhaps delaying decisions even further. Is austerity a necessary evil in the drive to stop the bleeding in the economy? Is it better to have a large chunk of cuts as opposed to smaller ones over a number of years? I’m no economist or politician, but I stand by my reasons nonetheless for choosing Conservative, despite all the bad press they’re getting at the moment.

There’s a wide array of influences that define politics and as a student of journalism I was exposed to a large amount of these, particularly during my coverage of the elections in the West Dorset where I got to speak to some of the political candidates. That was where my opinions towards UKIP began to change when I spoke with David Glossop; a genuinely friendly and down-to-earth man who had his reasons for supporting UKIP rooted in protecting Dorset’s tourism. When I first heard that UKIP had only won a single seat, I thought to myself: “Good, let’s see Farage’s little crusade get taken down a notch”, but then after a talk with some work colleagues about the results of the election, I found myself taking on a different mind-set; that the party isn’t inherently racist as some people make them out to be, but instead home in on looking after the British public first and foremost. I can see why people would get behind that sort of policy, even if I don’t agree with it personally. Nowadays I believe that the main issue with UKIP lies with its leaders; the likes of Nigel Farage haven’t done a very good job at presenting the party to the overall masses. This creates a bad image for the party that ends up taking its toll on the MPs who do have genuine reasoning behind their chosen party.

I expected a disdainful individual from UKIP on the night of the election, but that instead came in the form of Conservative MP Oliver Letwin; winning in his constituency by a landslide, I managed to grab him after the election was over for a quick talk. Something just didn’t feel right when I spoke to him; the way he looked and spoke to me came off as rather arrogant, as if he knew that he was going to win from the offset and was feeling rather proud for doing so. I’ll never know if this was the case or if the man simply wasn’t too fond about talking to the press but it left a bad aftertaste in my mouth as a result.

Elected MPs at the 2015 Election

Finally we come to the under-representation, the flawed voting system that gives the biggest parties all the power and the smaller parties less so. I know a lot of fellow students who put their support towards the Green party in the elections this year; from the perspective of prospective local MPs, any seat won is something worth celebrating, but how much weight does this have on the overall government? Not that much. Case and point: UKIP obtained a 12.6% share of the votes and yet only managed to muster one seat in the House of Commons. The reason is that the polls for local elections don’t translate into overall parliament very well, and the “first past the post system” can only really apply to Labour and Conservative as both are the biggest parties in the UK. As a result the rest have little to no sway at all in the grand scheme, meaning that voting for parties like UKIP and Green didn’t really have much weight or purpose. What would be the point of voting for a party that would have barely any effect or say in Parliament at all? Does anyone see the one UKIP MP and the other from Green having much influence in their seat stacked against 330 Conservative and 232 Labour members? Yes they can take their constituents views into account, but chances are the dominant parties so far ahead of them in both seat count and votes will steamroll any suggestions they try to make.

Despite having cast my vote for the Tories and seeing them come to power, I do feel a strong sense of remorse for my country’s voting system and the way many votes feel wasted; since covering the elections, my opinions have grown and changed, perhaps more so than for any other topic I’ve looked at. So what do I think should be done about the voting process? First of all, FPTP should be thrown out in favour of a more balanced system that better incorporates the lesser parties into the process; CGP Grey has come up with some great ideas for this and you can see these from their channel on YouTube. Second, more effort should be made to educate people on politics, no matter how difficult it may be; with people being able to make more informed decisions about who they support, endorsements won’t hold as much weight as they used to and this will create a fairer background to voting. Ultimately, even though the general election has come and gone, it’s clear that there’s a lot to be done when it comes to fixing things in the UK’s political system.

Sources

“It’s a Tory!” Headline and Image sourced from The Sun: http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/politics/6434539/Sun-2015-election-verdict-Tory.html

“Save our bacon” Headline and Image sourced from The Sun: http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/politics/6443303/The-Sun-urges-you-to-keep-Miliband-and-his-lies-out.html

CGP Grey on Mixed Member Proportion: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QT0I-sdoSXU&feature=iv&src_vid=r9rGX91rq5I&annotation_id=annotation_1700130593

All images sourced from Google Images. Used under fair dealing for the purpose of criticism in UK law. Items are in the public domain and labelled for reuse.