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.
2016 was a difficult year in many ways, there was much in the way of bitterness and little in the way of understanding; what went wrong over the past 365 days could almost be considered a chain reaction of sorts; there was something radical about this year, a point where numerous systems and sensibilities were suddenly thrown out the window in a blind rage. This is something I’ll try to consider and reflect on here, however difficult it may be from a purely UK perspective.
When talking about the Western world however, most eyes point to the UK and the United States who both took grossly misguided steps that may well end up destroying the values of openness, acceptability and freedom. The picture above explains better than words what happened to both nations in 2016; two lying conmen, masquerading as anti-establishment standing in a gold-plated lift with smug grins on their faces over how they managed to trick two of the most powerful western nations into voting against their own interests. They really did bring change this year; specifically, they made things worse and both times, events that should have derailed the two conmen had little to no effect. In the UK, MP Jo Cox was murdered by a far right terrorist chanting “death to traitors, freedom for Britain” while in the US, Trump could get away with making vulgar remarks about women and walking free from his criticism of a disabled reporter and countless ethnic minorities. It was blindingly clear that the two cons were disastrous. Britain has been hurled to the back of the queue on the world stage and into a period of uncertainty without any plan or a deal that would leave us better off and the United States has an incredibly misguided and potentially dangerous presidency coming in January 2017. On both sides of the world, the two big votes were fraught with infighting, vitriolic exchanges across social media and many instances that whipped some (not all) people into frenzies of anger and resentment. This often happens with any election but 2016 felt so unhinged and furious in the West that the structure of politics, left and right, looked set to come crashing down; not for reasons of progress but for more efficient division and manipulation of the masses to go down a specific path.
This erosion and hacking of Britain’s democracy didn’t stop at the EU referendum; Theresa May’s government passed the snoopers charter into law, perhaps the most extensive surveillance laws in the world; no discussion, no debate, they were simply put through and will come into effect next year. All companies will be required to hold browsing data (Categorised by who, what, when and where) for thousands of people across the UK with public authorities having free rein to access devices. On top of this, the government can demand a backdoor into devices from companies to allow for even more intrusion; consider the notion of all MPs being exempt from the charter and you have an extremely suspicious law coming into effect. Then there was the successful bid for Sky by media mogul Rupert Murdoch; after his last attempt was derailed by the phone hacking scandal in 2011, NewsCorp will now take over the large British broadcaster for £11.2 billion, handing over even more control to corporate media. It doesn’t bode well for public perception (which for years has been manipulated by the tabloid press) and it certainly doesn’t bode well for journalism either as a greater control and agenda is enacted on the media. Some have stated that Sky News won’t turn into Fox News in the States, but it may be worth taking their future coverage with a grain of salt. What could happen next? According to an account in the book: Hack Attack by Nick Davis, Murdoch may wish to steamroll British regulator Ofcom, imposing a complete domination of the UK press without any barriers. That’s worth keeping an eye on.
Looking ahead to 2017, what kind of progress can be made? Can we manage to learn from the massive uptake of xenophobia and division? Or will some nations, especially the West, descend into further nastiness? It may well come down to common people, who can’t be blamed for 2016’s missteps as they were horribly misled by the people above them, to make the biggest action against changes that will negatively impact them in the future, not to mention challenge racism, bigotry and those who would cause further damage and division. To close, I think this alternative Christmas message from Brendan Cox suits best; it’s something that everyone should watch and consider as we go into the new year.
(Images in the public domain used for the purposes of review and criticism)
Why did Trump win? What was it that convinced millions that he had their best interests in mind? Really it was a collection of factors and components, some of which were hardly down to Trump himself. First of all the media attention was concentrated on him beyond reasonable doubt; from beginning to end, Trump’s face was plastered across every TV station and every front page, his unethical behavior being under constant viewing; according to the New York Times, Trump received two billion dollars worth of free media. The likes of Tim Cruz and Jeb Bush had no chance of gaining the Republican nomination when the media wasn’t interested in them. In the eyes of the media Trump was a source for an endless string of stories sure to get some attention and clicks but right from the get-go, the election proved to be very one sided, especially during the nomination process.
This “whitelash” and sense of entitlement against the establishment was evident across America. A perspective was taken on by the masses; if a media outlet is supporting Clinton then they were automatically assumed to be bribed or part of the corrupt establishment. The more the media pushed against Trump, the more people vowed to go against it, proclaiming that they were taking control; even when they were being truthful, people chose to disregard it; some became so hell bent on mistrusting anything remotely close to the mainstream that viewed Trump with a reverence unheard of in any election. Combine this with a massive complacency on Hillary’s part and you begin to see why Trump claimed the Oval Office this year.
If a nationalist can obtain the most powerful position in the world, then there is absolutely no doubt that other far right parties will be spurred more than ever to spread their toxic perspectives. Most recently French far right leader Marine Le Penn celebrated Trump’s victory, proclaiming that their new world was being constructed. What kind of world could this be? One where the far right triumphs all over Europe, seceding from union into isolationism and selfishness? It’s a scary prospect indeed.
But all of this fear could be completely unfounded; Trump could get into the Oval Office next year and suddenly do a 180 on much of his hateful rhetoric, or perhaps his drastic policies may need scaling back and thus reduce the damage they might do. Was his campaign all lip service to get him into the most powerful office in the world? Already he has stated that he will not completely scrap Obamacare as he initially promised and will not throw Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran out the window either. Despite his many failures as a businessman though, Trump certainly knows how to get people on his side because of a sly charisma that Clinton just didn’t have; his speeches were uninhibited and vulgar compared to every other candidate in recent memory. This in turn weaponised the populous against his opponent, creating a group that would follow him religiously. This comes back to a point I made in a previous post; “if you are an American who for years “if you are an American citizen who for years has listened to politicians sound sophisticated while accomplishing nothing, you might just be primed for something that is everything they are not”. It’s this kind of approach that has fuelled the rise of post-truth politics and in turn it’s created a nasty collection of borderline evangelicals in the political space.
‘Mr. Brexit’ Nigel Farage Speaks at Donald Trump Rally in Jackson, MS: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oj4K9fr_WgY
How Donald Trump made hate intersectional: http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2016/11/how-trump-made-hate-intersectional.html
Trump recorded having extremely lewd conversation about women in 2005: https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-recorded-having-extremely-lewd-conversation-about-women-in-2005/2016/10/07/3b9ce776-8cb4-11e6-bf8a-3d26847eeed4_story.html
America and Britain Are Being Hit by the Same ‘Whitelash’: http://www.vice.com/en_uk/read/america-and-britain-are-being-hit-by-the-same-whitelash
Marine Le Pen: Donald Trump has shown how we can ‘build a new world’: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/11/13/marine-le-pen-donald-trump-has-shown-how-we-can-build-a-new-world/
After campaigning against Obamacare, Donald Trump wants to keep two major provisions: https://mic.com/articles/159253/after-campaigning-against-obamacare-donald-trump-wants-to-keep-two-major-provisions?utm_source=policymicFB&utm_medium=main&utm_campaign=social#.8Jg9YJsyo
Trump Just Announced He Will Not Cancel Obama’s Iran Peace Deal: http://occupydemocrats.com/2016/11/12/trump-just-announced-will-not-cancel-obamas-iran-peace-deal/
In Context: Hillary Clinton and the ‘basket of deplorables’: http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2016/sep/11/context-hillary-clinton-basket-deplorables/
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/
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)
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.
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.