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)

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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)

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.