From November 26th to 29th 2017, I participated in the World Youth Alliance’s Emerging Leaders Conference in Brussels, Belgium. The theme: “Human Dignity in the refugee crisis” was the main anchor point and a central value for the organisation. Starting off slow on Saturday the 25th with a quick dose of exploring, I quickly mixed in with the other 69 attendees.
The city of Brussels grew on me over time; I was staying over at a part of the city called “Botanique” and while that portion was relatively modern, the best aspects came through the more classical architecture that really hammered home the history behind the city. The royal palace, towering cathedrals and large statues are all monuments to the Belgian Monarchy which stretches back to 1831. Placing these older-fashioned buildings against the backdrop of the Christmas season was a brilliant match, with the work union buildings lighting up to the Grand Place in the centre of Brussels. Because of the closely-knit nature of the city, you could walk just about anywhere without having to use the transport services too much.
Then there was the EU Parliament building itself; a massive complex that serves the beating heart of Europe; in terms of scale it was even bigger than the United Nations in New York, with a strong assortment of conference rooms, a media centre as well as a full public exhibition with a detailed timeline and history of the union. It brings a ton of context as to how the EU came to be from the end of World War Two in 1945 to end of the Cold War in 1991. This felt especially poignant to me as a British citizen; the last image on the extended timeline was in May 2016 with the Brexit vote (or what I would call a con). It put into perspective just how much we’re about to lose by leaving the European Union, from support and funding for various projects, to trade with our neighbours and connect with fellow Europeans across the continent. The EU isn’t perfect; no organisation ever is, but the benefits of membership far outweigh the drawbacks, most notably the promotion of common values that aim to carry across all member states.
This same forward-looking mindset carried over into the panels which were all very engaging and informative, whether it was UK researcher Surindar Dhesi or Swedish MEP Lars Adaktusson. They have some genuinely smart and pragmatic individuals working at the EU who have a strong resolve to understand and address these very issues. The fact that some individuals want to smear them as enemies and obstructionists of the UK is extremely shameful. On the second day of the event, I made my own speech to the group on an idea called Responsibility to Integrate (R2I), a means to improve refugee integration and promote more tolerant societies. Despite it being my first time delivering a more extended speech of over ten minutes, I felt it went very well with a balanced pacing and tone of voice that allowed me to get across my points succinctly. This continued over into the final evening in which I read out part of the WYA’s declaration after a lovely meal at a Grill Restaurant.
I haven’t been the most optimistic about the UK’s future with regards to Brexit, but to see so many inspiring and passionate young people all coming together to share their stories and perspectives felt incredibly uplifting. We hailed from very different countries including Croatia, Spain, Italy, Portugal, China, Algeria, Poland, Lithuania and Estonia among many others. The event was a fantastic time and it wouldn’t have been possible without the hard work of the organisers; but most all though, each and every person who attended formed a real sense of companionship by the end of the three days. While it went by quickly, I would definitely do it again and want to wish everyone all the best for the future. I hope that we can all contribute in our own ways to solving the world’s problems.
Boris Johnson; what a character… That’s probably the simplest way to describe the UK’s current Foreign Secretary. For many years he’s been in the spotlight, his time as the mayor of London being one example, though recently this has often been for the wrong reasons; last year he was one of the spearheads behind the leave campaign and while he wasn’t quite as vitriolic as Nigel Farage, Johnson still gained infamy for his use of a bright red bus with the slogan: “We send £350 Million a week to the EU; let’s spend that money instead on the NHS”. Of course, we know that this trick worked and Boris hoped this would propel him towards a leadership position, which instead went to Theresa May. Dishonesty and its openness have drastically increased in the UK since last year’s referendum; a willingness to twist facts and get the result you want, in turn gaining a higher ability to impose your personal interests on everyone else.
Johnson’s veering off to the side to write a self-promoting article speaks volumes of how the press plays a significant role in political procedure. The papers hold UK politicians to account but often they’re known to throw their support behind a specific party in the election; the Daily Telegraph in Boris Johnson’s case is no different. Media ownership by rich moguls is a big problem in the UK and this facilitates a medium where a pompous self-interest takes centre stage. Since Johnson repeated the false £350 million claim, the Telegraph has followed up with further articles showing fellow politician Michael Gove throwing his support into the mix; they spread the slogan without questioning it, common people read and move towards believing them; with such a massive disconnect with politics in the UK, this is how it usually goes. In return, many politicians find themselves working for newspapers, the most recent of which being George Osborne becoming the editor of the Evening Standard and Nick Clegg joining the i Paper as a columnist.
Nowadays I find myself in a somewhat similar position; writing this blog and expressing my individual opinions with a journalism degree under my belt while pursuing a planned career in international affairs, particularly through the UK’s Civil Service. I’m of the opinion that you check your biases at the door when working for this sector; what would happen if I suddenly leaked some information to the press or wrote an article bigging myself up while working to undermine my superiors? I’d probably be sacked immediately, no questions asked. This comes back to my previous post on leadership where a lack of accountability has allowed the higher-ups to get away with breaking the rules set out by democratic institutions. In my opinion, the rules and ethical conduct of country branches should travel all the way to the top, ensuring accountability is maintained and that neglect of position and responsibility is cut down. As for Boris Johnson, he’s likely to keep his job, despite the frustration from commentators, with Theresa May apparently working to rein him in so as not to look to wobbly. Where he goes from here is anyone’s guess, but he’s sure to be discredited further if continues to spread falsehoods.
(Images used for the purposes of review and criticism under fair use)
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.
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)
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…
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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/
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.
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).
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.
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.
“Trump would “bomb the sh*it out of ISIS”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aWejiXvd-P8
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.
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.
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)
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/
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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)