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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The Rise of the Right – Are We Repeating the Past?

After the Wall Street Crash in 1929, economies across the world collapsed, and a disturbing pattern emerged across the political scenes of Europe, which eventually culminated in the ascension of the National Socialist Party in Germany, headed, of course, by Adolf Hitler. I am talking about the Rise of the Right, a movement which afflicted the majority of Europe in response to the Great Depression. Nazism is the most obvious and the most extreme version of the right succeeding to power after the economic crisis, but it is not the only evidence that we have which tells us that economic hardship leads to fascist parties making greater gains amongst the electorate. In Europe in the years after the New York Stock Exchange collapsed, Austria, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Hungary, The Netherlands, Norway, Romania, Sweden and Switzerland all like Germany saw the proportion of votes going to far-right political parties rise, and therefore more right-wing candidates being elected. This phenomenon is something which observers have seen occurring once more in the face of the 2008 financial crisis – since this recession began, they’ve noted, a disturbingly similar inclination towards the political right can once again be observed in Europe, with more anti-immigration, anti-EU, nationalistic parties emerging as far apart as France and Finland. This predilection can be seen in the xenophobic outlash of the media and, consequently, the public towards immigrants – particularly those who arrive from countries whose economy is weaker than others.

In the UK, we have Nigel Farage, the leader of the UK Independence Party whose main policy is the removal of the UK from the European Union in order to protect Britain from what he perceives as the negative impact of an ‘open-door’ immigration policy. Farage has been known to blame everything from the housing crisis to traffic on the M4 on immigration, and argues for a ‘points-based’ system as used in Australia to allow only ‘skilled’ immigrant labour to enter into the country.  Perhaps this is not an unreasonable stance – the UK is, after all, a fairly small island with limited resources – but Farage’s highly emotive method of attempting to sway voters to his side has removed almost any chance of rational, objective discussion of the issues he claims he wants to discuss the most – the European Union and immigration.

The rise of UKIP has seen the central ground of UK politics, as far as immigration is concerned, dragged kicking and screaming to the right – the Conservatives have promised an in/out referendum on EU membership if they form the next government, and funding for search and rescue operations for immigrants crossing the Mediterranean has been slashed by the coalition – a move that was, in fact, suggested by Nick Griffin of the BNP forty years ago, and was condemned as blatant, heartless racism. UKIP, in the last election to the European Parliament, beat every other party in terms of how many seats it won, with 164 candidates elected and sent to Europe, presumably to disrupt reasonable debate with their party’s xenophobic rhetoric – or perhaps not to attend at all, and simply claim their salary for loafing about, “taking down the EU from the inside” by their utter lack of contribution. Successfully reinforcing the age-old stereotype that immigrants are a drain on British society, that they never contribute to the welfare system they’re happy to take advantage of, and that they are only here to ‘steal’ our jobs, UKIP have hoodwinked a lamentably large proportion of the population into supporting them. It does not help things that their main opposition on the EU question is the Liberal Democrat party, who, due to their new perception as power-grabbing liars (Clegg’s backtrack on tuition fees will make a difference to how people vote this year, that seems certain), are not favourites of the public at the moment. Regardless of studies showing that the UK loses far more money through the rich avoiding paying tax, UKIP have pinned the blame on everyone’s favourite scapegoat, immigrants.

Unfortunately, they are not alone in Europe. In France, the Front National has been a steadily-growing influence on the political scene, and in Hungary, Bulgaria and Greece, things are even worse, with Jobbik, Ataka and the neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn making waves. As with most far-right parties springing up on the continent, these parties have all at various times been accused of racism, intolerance and anti-Semitism, not to mention violence.

All in all, this adds up to a fairly troubling picture – if the EU really has as much of an influence on UK policy as some politicians claim, the presence of these various far-right bodies (some of which masquerade as centre-right to seem more palatable) does not fill me with confidence. Though the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament (S&D, for short) is presently the second biggest alliance within the EU, the more conservative branches are a discomforting presence. And while it seems doubtful that we are on the brink of a Third World War in Europe, I don’t think it would do us any harm to be a little wary of the direction our politics are leaning; after all, these things are always more insidious than people think – before Hitler showed his true colours, there was no shortage of people who thought he was on the right track.

– Lana Wrigley, A2 Politics.

Purple Reign – UKIP’s Stranglehold on UK Press

Is anyone else sick of hearing about UKIP? It seems that you can’t open a paper or watch the news without catching a glimpse of Farage’s lizard-like features, and it’s getting old, quickly. This so-called “earthquake” they’ve caused seems to have been blown wildly out of proportion – one elected MP and a close-call further north doesn’t make them frontrunners in next year’s general election, so why all the attention? I honestly can’t remember the last time I was spared having to listen to their drivel on the news, because it looks like there’s nothing the press enjoys more than a one-on-one with old Nige, regardless of his downright dodgy politics. No news story is complete these days without a statement from him or one of his sycophantic followers, which seems bizarre when you remember that he’s not even an MP (yet).

Where, I wonder, is the coverage of the Green Party? They broke 20,000 members for the first time last week, so are hardly insignificant, and had an elected representative (Caroline Lucas, former party leader) long before Douglas Carswell managed to grease his way to the top of the polls and paint the green benches purple, yet they’ve had next to no popular coverage. Maybe this is because they’re seen as such a ‘radical’ left-wing option, but honestly, Nigel Farage wants to ban HIV+ immigrants from entering the UK, so I hardly think it’s a problem with radicalism the media and this country has.

I won’t deny that UKIP has made a dent in UK politics – it’s a point I made in my article the other week – and that therefore it’s almost impossible not to mention them, but I do wonder if they’re really deserving of all the attention they’ve received in recent times – and if this media circus, more than anything else, is the cause of their swelling ranks. Perhaps if equal attention was giving to other third-parties, we’d be talking about a green earthquake, rather than a purple one. Perhaps not, but in any case, seeing Farage’s smug face in the paper every day while he spouts anti-immigration and anti-Europe policies is driving me mad.

I’m sure that Ed Miliband and David Cameron are both quaking in their polished leather shoes as the purple tide surges, but I’ve got to have faith that everyone else in the country is getting as bored of Farage as I am, or else I’ll lose it entirely. The general election is on its way in May next year, and while I hope that the country will have come to its senses and dumped UKIP by then,  the party’s omnipresent face is giving me doubts.

– Lana Wrigley, A2 Politics

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

The Liberal Democrat Problem.

[Another one of the entries for the Politics Prize 2013 within College]:

There is a better way of doing things if only you bother to look for it” according to Nick Clegg, a theme which he believes stands at the heart of the Liberal Democrat party. Liberal Democrats are about freedom; they believe that “power belongs, first and foremost, with the people” and that in the idea that we deserve to be able to use our civil liberties as much as possibly, granted that we do not infringe on others. The 2010 election saw a surge in support for the Liberal Democrats with ‘Cleggmania’ gripping the nation, mainly thanks to the televised debates. Before this election the Liberal Democrats struggled on the fringes of the politics, a third party in a two party system. A joke. The Liberal Democrats promised so much but they broke those promises, in so many different ways.

There is no doubt that the Liberal Democrats had some success in 2010. Before this election the last Liberal Democrat Prime Minister was David Lloyd George and even he headed a Conservative-dominated coalition government. He stepped down in 1922 – nearly a hundred years ago, not exactly the political standing of a key political party. The Liberal Democrat party as we know it today was formed in 1987 when it the Liberal Party and the Social Democrat party merged. Key events such as the Iraq War helped to boost support for the parties, as those opposed to it turned away from the Labour Party following Tony Blair’s decision to intervene in the conflict. Perhaps one of the biggest contributors to the success of the Liberal Democrat party in the 2010 elections was as a result of the TV debates and of Cleggmania. While Brown and Cameron bickered across each other, Nick Clegg was able to step in with clear concise points. According to The Guardian he ‘stole the first televised leader’s debate’ by presenting himself as a “fresh and honest alternative”. Perhaps one of the biggest successes of Clegg in this election is that he led to the questioning of Britain’s two-party system, even if the result of the election was a coalition government.

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David MiliBAD.

Now this, as far as I’m aware, is a neutral/non-partisan blog. That means I’m going to use every ounce of self-control to stop myself from saying anything partisan. For instance, it would be wrong of me to refer to Ed Balls as “that t#*t that won’t stop complaining” or to make the observation that the leader of the opposition “looks like Wallace, from Wallace and Gromit”. So you have my word, I will try and behave.

Ed Miliband’s resemblance to Wallace was picked up by Peter Brookes

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