Well, I Guess That’s Over…

…And after all the speculation from betting shops, opinion polls, and even Twitter, it turns out we’re still stuck with the Tories. Disappointing? You bet. At least now I know what that ominous building dread I’ve been feeling over the past week was for.

With very few seats left to announce, it’s already certain that the next five years will see Britain under the rule of the Etonites once more – 5 more years of hacking away at public services, 5 more years of NHS privatisation, and 5 more years of David Cameron’s insufferably shiny forehead glaring down at us through the TV. But why did they win? Was it the intense campaign of negativity they’ve been hauling around the country? Their assertions that Labour would ‘destroy’ all the ‘progress’ they’ve made since 2010? Perhaps it was the fact that Rupert Murdoch, notorious Tory lapdog and owner of a 5th of all news media broadcast in the UK, has been doing little more than belittling the Labour Party since the campaigning really started, or a combination of some of these factors. Whatever the reason, the case remains that policies of austerity which are designed to crippled the disadvantaged while David Cameron, George Osborne and all their banker friends get on with hiding their money in tax-havens, and securing the hold that big business interests have over UK politics will be what we’re facing for the foreseeable future. Yay. Let’s just hope that the alleged proposal to raise tuition fees again won’t come in until after I’m at uni.

I suppose some of the blame can be attributed to Nicola Sturgeon – I expect David Cameron will be sending her flowers to thank her for killing Labour support in Scotland, without which, Ed Miliband’s party had pretty much zero chance of success. Even though I’m feeling a little bitter towards them right now (“vote SNP to keep out the Tories” wasn’t such a great strategy, was it, Nicola?) it will be interesting to see what the strong presence of the SNP will mean for the future of the UK, though – as much as Sturgeon insists that she has little intention of holding another in/out referendum, it seems there are only few who believe her. Cameron once again has a shot at being the Prime Minister to preside over the breakup of the union, something I’m sure he’s thrilled about.

Actually, I’m sure he is thrilled, regardless of the big yellow question mark over Scotland’s future in the UK. Every sign indicates that Ed Miliband, the most leftist Labour leader we’ve seen in decades, is giving up the leadership, pretty much guaranteeing that whoever his successor will be is going to resemble no-one so much as Blair. Wonderful that we’re moving the centre-ground of politics to the right again. God forbid we ever try to do something that might benefit someone other than the elite, right?

(The one good thing that’s come out of this election – Nigel Farage, leader of UKIP, didn’t win his seat in South Thanet. It’s a small mercy, but I have to admit, the schadenfreude is strong with this one.)

– Lana Wrigley, A2 Politics

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Let’s Talk About UKIP

The UK Independence Party, better known as ‘UKIP’ or, ‘BNP Jr.’ has had a fairly interesting time of it, lately. Ex-Conservatives Douglas Carswell, Mark Reckless and Arron Banks (the last a Tory donor rather than an MP) have all three jumped ship, and joined Nigel Farage in his slimy pursuit of power. Now, recently, UKIP has been garnering a lot of attention from the media, a fact which is odd when you consider that, for the moment, at least, they have less (elected) MPs and Councillors than the Green party, and which has led to accusations (and fairly reasonable accusations, at that) that there is a bias in the popular media towards them. Personally, I don’t have a good word to say about Farage and his lackies – the reports of outrageous racism, misogyny and homophobia would have done enough to dissuade me without quasi-Conservative economic policies and a complete disregard for the environment added into the mix – but it would seem, judging by the fact that they won 23 seats in the European Elections earlier this year, that my opinion is not an especially popular one.

The party, which positively leaks xenophobia under its poor guise of stalwart patriotism, has as its flagship issue independence from the European Union, and it’s faced a fair amount of criticism for this, not only from the pro-Europe lot, but also from those who feel that at the end of the day, UKIP are a one-trick pony. Their rise to notoriety, then, might be attributed to the cringeworthy tactics leader Nigel Farage has employed to ingratiate himself with “the man on the street,” – someone he couldn’t be further away from, being a graduate of the infamous public school Dulwich College himself – rather than his policies. Farage likes to pretend that his party has something for everyone, but honestly, the only politician the man seems to admire (other than himself, of course) is Vladimir Putin, so can we really trust a word out of his mouth?

Probably not, considering that he’s been claiming an £83,000 salary plus expenses for a job he freely admits to not doing. And it’s not just him, but the rest of UKIP’s MEPs, too, who are renowned for their record as absentees from the European Parliament. Hardly what one might call toppling the institution from the inside.

There’s no doubt that the UK Independence Party has muddied Britain’s political waters, making David Cameron feel a little antsy, and unfortunately, making it a whole lot harder for the rest of us to have a sensible discussion about the UK’s place in the EU without being shouted down by Farage’s right-wing disciples, who tend to be either ill-informed working-class people supplied with a scapegoat, or the exceedingly wealthy, who know that Farage is really about pursuing the interests of himself and people like him, and exploiting the working-class to do it. A politician through and through, he and his party may well pose a threat to the Conservative party – but I’m far more concerned about the threat they seem to pose to simple common sense.

– Lana Wrigley, A2 Politics

Action Against IS – to Bomb or Not to Bomb?

Today at Westminster, UK MPs voted overwhelmingly in favour of supporting the US in air strikes against the terrorist force IS in Iraq, with only a tiny minority of 43 opposed to the motion.

Now, honestly? I don’t know where I stand on this issue. The actions of IS have, of course, been deplorable, and I don’t think anyone would deny that they need to be stopped – not only because of the immediate humanitarian crises in Iraq and Syria, but also because their extremism and brutality has encouraged Islamophobia across the globe – but all I can think is that Western intervention, recently – in Iraq, in Afghanistan, and in Libya – has never quite worked out the way we want it to. This, presumably, is why Parliament said ‘no’ to military action in Syria in 2012. So a part of me wonders how, exactly, this will be different. Hopefully, David Cameron and Defence Secretary Michael Fallon have a better plan than Blair and Bush had back in 2003, but I’m inclined to doubt it.

The thing is, we start with air strikes in Iraq, and, though Cameron has warned that defeating the terrorists could take years, we don’t know how we will end. The Iraqi government has asked for help, and we’re promising to give it, but how can we know with any certainty that our actions will make any impact at all? Is this, as some of the more cynical will suggest, nothing but an empty gesture on our part, or is there a plan, a concrete plan, to defeat these enemies? And how much force is enough force? Do we stop, as has been decided today, with strikes only in Iraq, or push into Syria, too? Perhaps I’m just clueless, but it seems to me that there’s a whole web of issues here, and it will take someone far more qualified than me to even attempt to untangle them.

All I can say is that the shaky political situation in the Middle East seems like it’s been going since the Cold War, and it seems to me as if it will take a lot more than a show of brute force to straighten it out. But, as I said, IS need to be stopped, and if the people we trust to lead us think this will do it, who am I to disagree? I suppose, really, all we can do is wait and find out if we’ve made the right choice – as the venerable John Ramm (this blog’s namesake) might say: right now, it’s just too early to tell.

– Lana Wrigley, A2 Politics

The One That Scot Away – Scotland Says, “No.”

Bad luck, Alex Salmond. Looks like the people weren’t quite ready for independence just yet. With an unprecedented 84.5% turnout from a franchise extended for the first time to sixteen year olds, the “No” vote won by a point margin of 10.6% – more than they’d been hoping for, no doubt, but still not a hugely substantial lead.

The final result stood at 45% to 55%, and everyone in Westminster breathed a sigh of relief – David Cameron especially, one would imagine, considering that his chances of remaining the Conservative Party leader in the event of a “Yes” result were practically nil. Alex Salmond, though, is no doubt feeling far from pleased with the result. His party – criticised for a long time as being a single-issue party much like UKIP or the Greens – has lost the cause they’d been fighting for, and one has to wonder what the future holds for them, now that the people have rejected their ideas of a bright, Nationalistic future.

However, they may still seize on Westminster’s promise for greater devolved powers – the brainchild of ex-PM Gordon Brown, who cast his own “No” yesterday, and who this victory, it could be easily argued, truly belongs to. If this is the case, negotiations on what, exactly, “greater devolved powers” really means will no doubt make for interesting changes to the UK, especially with regard to the West Lothian question. After all, if a Scottish Parliament becomes solely responsible for Scottish laws, but Scottish MPs can still vote on English issues, it won’t be our friends in the north complaining about democratic deficit. As it stands, England is the only country in the UK without its own Parliament – could Scotland’s demand for reform change that? It seems unlikely, at least, that Wales and Northern Ireland won’t soon be speaking up for more power.

All in all, even if this referendum will be dubbed a failure by some on the “Yes” campaign, at least one good thing has come of it – people in this “family of nations” are finally taking a serious interest in politics. Actually, perhaps there’s something else, too – it seems that Piers Morgan has honoured the promise he made on Sunday to leave if Scotland said no.

– Lana Wrigley, A2 Politics.

Shuffling towards the end?

This week one of the big announcements within government was the cabinet reshuffle, but what is it exactly? And what did the reshuffle of Autumn 2013 change?

 

Firstly, the proper definition of a reshuffle is the informal term for a change up of who holds the role of cabinet ministers, instigated by the head of government. I personally prefer the definition of a former politics peer of mine who said she liked to think the reshuffle consited of David Cameron “putting all of the ministers in a cabinet and shaking it lots”. In short, it is an opportunity for Cameron to replace any ministers he feels haven’t performed as well as they could have done since the last reshuffle, and an opportunity to present his party as more of a microcosm of society. It is not just the party in government that is shuffled either – today saw Ed Miliband shuffle his shadow cabinet in order to make it a more appealing cabinet to voters, so what happened this time?

It started with pre-emptive departures which left gaps for Cameron to fill, namely:
John Randall stepped down as the ‘workhorse’ of the Whips’ Office and Chloe Smith stepped down from the Cabined Office. The first of Cameron’s cabinet to be booted was Michael Moore, the Scottish Secretary, who was replaced by Lib Dem chief whip, Alistair Carmichael.  His role will be particularly watched as people focus on the state of the union, and whether Scotland will secede.

Following this, Don Foster was appointed to fill Carmichael’s shoes as the Lib Dems’ new chief whip, and shortly after it is followed by news that one of David Cameron’s original leadership backers in 2005, Richard Benyon left DEFRA, while George Eustice became a minister in the department.

This was followed by a short break, after which Greg Hands was promoted as deputy chief whip – Hands is one cabinet member who is a key supporter of Osborne and so received backing from him. Another supporter of Osborne, Matthew Hancock was appointed Minister for Enterprise

Next to the cabinet was Nicky Morgan who became Economic Secretary – interestingly in this cabinet Cameron has introduce more female members, perhaps in an attempt to attract the female voter base that Labour so regularly dominates.

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Putin: Defender of ‘Traditionalist Values’ or Homo-Erotic Hypocrite?

So what IS happening in Russia?

Persecution of Russians due to their sexuality is not new. I, myself have been on an emailing list that signs petitions to attempt to end the persecution of hundreds in Russia for a few years now. However, this year Vladimir Putin signed a law which stated that gay couples in ANY country could not adopt children who had been born in Russia. This was followed by Putin signing a law which said tourists who the police believed were homosexual could be arrested and then detained for 14 days. Not exactly great publicity for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, seeing as any athlete, coach, team member, or spectator could be threatened with arrest. Recently, perhaps the most public of all of Putin’s anti-gay reforms was his decision to outlaw what he describes as ‘homosexual propaganda’ – essentially if you tell anybody that being gay is okay, you can face fines, or even worse can be arrested. According to the New York Times, it is even rumoured that he wants to pass a law which would remove children from their families if the parents are even suspected of being gay.

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