Sunday, 15 January 2017

"Global Britain", what does it actually mean?

Source: BBC.

So, it's Sunday 15th January. In 2 months, article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty will be triggered. We're now starting to learn a little bit about the Tory plan for post Brexit Britain.

Theresa May is going to give a speech today calling for a "Global Britain", and declaring that immigration control is a red line, and if Britain doesn't get its way we are prepared to quit the single market. Conventional wisdom suggests that we won't get any concessions, but in fact a recent convo by EU leaders revealed that they also wanted a compromise to prevent massive economic damage to the whole continent, and the election of more Eurosceptic leaders in France and the Netherlands will help Theresa May.

So the negotiation option should not be ruled out. However, I now think it is more likely than not that Britain will leave the single market. What this would mean for Britain would be pretty profound. It would mean a parting of the ways with the Europeans. Britain would move much closer to America and be heavily dependant on U.S President Donald Trump for a trade deal.

Phillip Hammond, the chancellor, also hinted that Britain could "Change its economic model" to remain competitive: In effect this would mean swingeing tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations that would make Ronald Reagan look moderate.

People will be afraid about such radical changes. But the Tories feel empowered to do this, partially because of Theresa May's relative popularity, partially because of the referendum, and also partially because the public might not fancy a hard Brexit, but they are more scared of the main opposition leader (Mr Corbyn) than they are of a hard Brexit. That seems to be the Tory gamble: Theresa May can do what she wants because Corbyn is hated. Strap on tight, it's going to be a bumpy ride.

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

The sorry state of the Labour Party

Yesterday pretty much summed up why the Labour Party is in a sorry state. After announcing that Labour was not wedded to the free movement of people from the European Union, Jeremy Corbyn backtracked just hours later. A similar thing happened with the "Maximum wage" proposal. How did this happen?

Labour has a lot of thinking to do if it wants to be a serious party of government. The party is polling at 24%, and could go even lower.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Looking ahead to 2017: Will 2016 be remembered as the year of revolutions?

Source: Tome magazine.
It's been a month since the election, and I still can't really believe it. Donald Trump. Leader of the free world. What does that label even mean anymore?

It's also that time of the year when we're all getting asked to prepare for christmas and the new year. New year's resolutions, christmas presents, etc. Yet I can't help but want to look back on an eventful year and ponder (Or worry about) the year ahead.

Are Trump and Brexit really the peak of the strange, anti establishment movements sweeping the West, or is there more to come? My fear is that the answer to that question is the latter. In France Le Pen is likely to reach the final round. In Italy populist eurosceptics are likely to win the next election. In Germany, Angela Merkel, so often hailed as a champion of tolerant, liberal values now backs populist measures such as banning Muslim headscarfs. And so on.

In the future, we may look back on 2016 as being the start of the populist revolutions sweeping the developed world.

Monday, 14 November 2016

Trump is POTUS..What happened? What happens next?

Well. I didn't expect that. No one expected it.

Donald Trump is president of the United States of America. He is the leader of the free world. A man who insulted literally every minority demographic, women, Muslims, Jews, you name it, is now POTUS elect.

What does this mean? Well, for starters, it means that the old "Third way" of Bill Clinton and Tony Blair is on life support, if not dead totally. The whole electoral strategy of the third way was based on chasing wealthy suburban and urban voters, but abandoning white working class voters and those in rural areas. We now see the consequence of working class and middle class America being left behind by the establishment. Donald Trump achieved a 16 point swing with the low paid-and won key blue collar states such as Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. Hillary Clinton was the last serious champion of a managerial, economically liberal, establishment politics.

A narrative has been festering since the election, encouraged by the same media establishment that could not predict Donald Trump winning, that all of those who voted for Donald Trump were racist and that his election was driven primarily by white supremacy. In reality, white supremacy does not adequately explain the shift that was described above. There is no doubt that a significant minority of Donald Trump supporters are indeed deeply sexist and racist, but also there are many thousands of voters in the U.S Rust Belt who voted for Barack Obama but this time voted for Donald Trump. It does not explain why these trends are being replicated all over the developed world, from the USA, to the UK with Brexit, to Spain with the rise of Podemos, to France where right wing populist Marine Le Pen may win the elections next year, to Australia where the populist One Nation achieved their best ever election result. All of these trends were driven by working people rejecting the establishment political parties and opting for something different. Something deeper is happening-a rejection of political elites and a rejection of a particular brand of social liberalism that has left millions of workers behind.

The most striking statistic of this election for me was from the exit polls in Wisconsin, a rust belt state which Obama managed to win comfortably in 2012. Nearly 40% of those who voted for Donald Trump had a deeply unfavorable view of their candidate-but they still voted for him. Undoubtedly there were many who did not like his comments about Muslims/LGBT people/Women/Latinos/Insert minority group here, but still voted for him because they wanted change. That has to be recognised.

What happens now is the ultimate question. I personally suspect that Donald Trump will likely U-Turn on many of his more extreme policies. He has already indicated that he would soften his positions on immigration, and the Muslim ban which he had proposed during the campaign. He is however likely to push his messages on trade, on economics and healthcare hard, and he will likely clash with the Republican establishment on many of these issues. For his part, vice president Pence is likely to push deeply regressive policies that will attempt to reverse many of the social gains of the Obama years, especially on abortion and gay marriage.

The real question now is how the Democratic Party responds. The Democratic Party establishment is in disarray, and DNC chair Donna Brazille is likely to be replaced by Keith Ellison, who is from Minnesota. It is likely that the progressive wing of the party, who have blamed Hillary Clinton squarely for the loss of the rust belt, will try to take control of the party. Time will tell about how successful or not they will be. Many Democrats are already looking to blue collar populists for 2020, such as Sherrod Brown.

Whatever agenda Donald Trump pursues, have no doubts that this is a very dark time for centrists and those on the left. All sides of both the British and American left need to seriously examine their appeal and message to blue collar workers. Otherwise, Donald Trump could win again in 2020, and that would be a disaster for America and the world. Serious thought is needed.

Monday, 17 October 2016

Team GB Manchester Parade: Liveblog

15:35: Hello and welcome to this liveblog about the Team GB victory parade in Manchester.

15:42: The Parade isn't scheduled to start until 16:30, but plenty of people are already here.

15:50: Oh dear, looks like it's going to rain. The parade hasn't even started yet. I hope everyone has brought their brolly...

15:55: Lots of flag sellers around the parade area!

16:00: Today's parade is being kindly funded by the National Lottery.

16:05: A reminder about why we're celebrating. Team GB managed to achieve a truly astonishing result in Rio. Despite China having an astonishing 16 times the population of the UK, Team GB managed to pip them to 2nd place in the medals table, behind only the United States. The Paralympic team did nearly as well.

16:09: The route. The parade starts off near Castlefield, next to the old Roman Manchester and the Museum of Science and Industry, and will go through the city centre.

16:19: The parade, drummers, schoolkids and all, is finally starting to move.

16:30: Here come the coaches! A few snapshots of the athletes:

16:33: Some lovely and very ecstatic looking drummers here...

16:40: Let's not forget the Paralympians too. They did a fantastic job.

16:42: Loads of other lovely stuff on display here..

16:50: Everyone is now following the parade from behind!

Friday, 14 October 2016

Royals visit Manchester University: Liveblog

Source: MEN
14:02: Hello, and welcome to this liveblog about the visit of the Royal Family to Manchester University. Prince William and Kate Middleton have this morning visited the cenotaph at Manchester Town Hall, and will shortly be making their way to the Graphene Institute at Manchester University.

14:03: The visit to Manchester comes at a turbulent time for the country in general, with Brexit on the horizon and continued public spending cuts.

14:10: A picture from yours truly of the earlier cenotaph parade at the town hall. A nice large crowd had gathered to greet the royals.

14:20: Many people have questioned the use of public money on the monarchy, especially at a time when there are austerity cuts and general reductions in public spending. However, a recent poll by YouGov found that the Monarchy was supported by all sections of British society. 68% of respondents said it was a good thing, with just 6% disapproving.


14:32: A significant crowd is starting to gather to greet the Prince and Kate Middleton.

14:38: Rachel, 19, studies Physics at University of Manchester: "It's a once in a lifetime opportunity to meet our royal family!" She says she has been waiting here for 2 hours just to get a glimpse. Monarchy fever?

14:0: This is the building known as the "National Graphene Institute", a leading scientific research centre. Prince William and Kate have already gone inside. 

14:45: Kate Middleton and William walk out to greet a jubilant crowd.

14:48: Huge crowds here, probably more than a thousand people. 

14:50: From anecdotal evidence, it looks like most of the people here are foreign students, and some have even come from other countries. The Monarchy contributes about a £Billion to the UK treasury, according to some estimates.

15:03: William and Kate just drove past, waving goodbye to the crowds. Here are a few other pictures:

15:04: So, that ends what was a very successful royal rally. I will be closing this liveblog. Have a good day!

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Jeremy Corbyn re elected. What next?

Source: BBC

So, Jeremy Corbyn has been re elected as leader of the Labour Party with 62% of the vote, up from 59% last year. His opponent, Owen Smith, congratulated him and said he hoped that he and Mr Corbyn could work together in the future. What happens next is the million dollar question.

The immediate aftermath of the leadership election is the start of the Labour Party conference, which has been taking place today. This is largely being seen as an attempt to put on a show of unity for outsiders, but in some of the fringe events, tensions are already beginning to re-emerge.

In today's Progress fringe, for instance, Tristam Hunt, the Labour MP for Stoke Central, compared Corbyn to Militant, the radical leftist group that controlled Liverpool council in the 80s, and said that he did not do enough to oppose fascists such as ISIS. At a Momentum fringe, Jackie Walker, the vice chairperson of the organisation, said that anti semitism in Labour was being exaggerated and was being used to undermine the leadership. Other radical leftist groups were allegedly distributing leaflets calling for the mass deselection of MPs perceived to be on the right of the Labour Party.

It seems impossible to predict what will happen next with certainty. Corbyn may be buoyed by his increased mandate and may be set to pursue divisive policy changes, such as the forced mandatory reselection of members of parliament, and shadow cabinet elections by the membership, rather than MPs. Equally he may also decide to be more cautious, and come to a compromise. A "Non aggression pact" being promoted by Tom Watson and others suggests that rebel MPs should stay quiet about their dislike of Mr Corbyn and that the shadow cabinet should be elected by MPs, in return for Corbyn agreeing not to pursue the afforementioned policy changes.

The one thing that Mr Corbyn does seem to be pursuing is the removal of party staff who disagree with his leadership. Squarely in the firing line is general secretary Iain Mcnicol. Mcnicol made his thoughts clear today when he declared on the conference floor that Clause I socialism would win the day-a direct reference to the main argument of MPs opposed to Mr Corbyn's leadership, due to his perceived interest in extraparliamentary politics rather than in parliamentary socialism. Jenny Formby, the political director of Unite, is reportedly being lined up for the general secretary position: She is close to both Len Mcluskey, Corbyn's main union ally, and the leadership office itself.

Due to the continued divisions that are already evidently present, just a day after Jeremy Corbyn's re-election, it also looks unlikely that the civil war in the party will stop: Many MPs may well return to the shadow cabinet, but some members of parliament such as Jess Phillips have declared that they will continue to actively oppose his leadership. Such MPs are likely to be targeted most heavily by the Momentum group for deselection.

Overall, it remains to be seen whether or not Labour can pull itself together again, though the early signs are not positive.