That Happened. GE17.

Just a few thoughts from last nights stunning results

Surprise and bewilderment but also slightly pleased. Surprised because this was supposed to be a complete wipe out for the Conservatives as they swept up Labour seats left, right and centre… as the polls predicted in the beginning. Guess this is what happens when you refuse televised debates, refuse to seriously interact with the general public and refuse to do anything but staged photos and events. Just as I said when the campaigning began, it wasn’t Jeremys’ to win but Theresas’ to lose. And she bloody well lost it alright.

I am however slightly pleased because the Scottish National Party took a bit of a thrashing. Sure they still have the most seats in Scotland but hopefully, now they don’t command almost every MP in the country, someone will grow some balls and tell them to bog off with independence referendum number two. Although I do have to say it really is a bewilderment as to how Alex Salmond and Angus Robertson managed to lose their seats, to the Conservatives of all people!

Are UKIP dead? the simple answer is yes they bloody well are. I mean I do feel a bit sad about this but what can you do? It was to be expected that after achieving that which was their main goal, for 20 years, they’d simply lose clout.

Although I do have to say congratulations are in order for Jeremy though! He deified the odds stacked against him to rob the Conservatives of what was supposed to be their overwhelming majority. Looks like going around the country giving speeches and meeting the general public seem to yield positive results, who’d have thought? funny that.

What a strange timeline.

The BBC Leadership Debate: How the Leaders Fared.

A few words on each of the leaders or representatives of the two major, and 5 smaller political parties from Wednesdays live election TV debate

Yesterday on the 31st of May the BBC held an election debate featuring either the leaders or leading figures of the two major political parties, and some smaller ones. The leaders of UKIP, the Liberal Democrats, the Labour Party, Plaid Cymru attended the debate for their parties while for the Conservatives it was Amber Rudd (Home Secretary), for the Greens it was Caroline Lucas (who shares leadership) and for the Scottish National Party Angus Robertson (deputy leader) took the place of Nicola Sturgeon. Taking place at 19:30 the debate lasted an hour and a half, ending at 21:00 sharp.

Until the morning of the debate it was unsure whether Jeremy or Theresa would actually turn up as the position of both leaders had been uncertain. This was emphasized by the face that both the Conservatives and the Labour Party failed to send anyone to attend the ITV leaders debate a week before. Surprisingly after much confusion Jeremy revealed on the morning that he would indeed take part in the election debate, throwing down the gauntlet to Theresa to attend.

This was quite the clever tactic on Jeremys’ behalf, waiting until the final moments to announce his attendance meant that it put Theresa on the spot, putting the pressure on her to attend and giving the impression of cowardice if she failed to do so. For if it was known that Jeremy was to attend in advance, the pressure on Theresa would have been placed over a number of weeks, petering out over time. Whereas what happened was a large amount of pressure was piled on the embattled Prime Minister within a short amount of time to put forward the case for a Conservative government and defend her precious records in government.

Throughout the hour and a half the debate took place, there were a few questions asked by the audience which covered a wide range of topics. From the decline in living standards, President Trumps announcement to leave the Paris Climate agreement, Brexit, immigration and the parties costings of their manifesto. Quite a variety of questions from which the panelists responded and debated aptly. With each came to the forefront the different strengths and weaknesses of each party, and most preeminently their leaders. This is how I thought each of the leaders and representatives did during the debate.

The Conservatives took a thrashing from all sides tonight, attacked for Mays’ lack of resolve to attend the debate herself, instead sending Amber in her place. She was there to defend their record in government and come under fire due to austerity and a disastrous foreign policy which has created space for one of the most hostile groups to grow and seize power. This atmosphere created a tough environment for Amber, but she managed to shrug off the hostility to focus on her main opponent, Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party. Acting as the vanguard of the Conservative machine of spin and soundbites, she relentlessly scorned Jeremy  for “Labours magic money tree” and claimed his policies were nothing more than fantasies. After these attacks she would be put onto the defensive by the rest of the leaders as they savaged the governments record, she did what she could to stand her ground, but she took some flak along the way which she was unable to successfully shake off. This comes from the fact that some of her arguments were quite underwhelming, so much so that the audience seemed to do nothing but laugh, especially when Amber asked the British people to trust their record in government in response to the question of the lack of costings in their manifesto.

For Jeremy Corbyn the main crux of his argument throughout the debate was to reinforce the message of his electoral campaign, which says that there is an alternative, it doesn’t have to be like this and that things can get better. To emphasize this point he rigorously attacked the austerity agenda which the Conservatives, and the Liberal Democrats as he pointed out, supported in government, the effects of those policies and the damage they’ve caused. Subsequently in between these relentless assaults he would also launch attacks on Theresa for refusing to turn up to the debate, saying at one point that the first point of good leadership was to “turn up”. In between these assaults upon the Conservatives he put forward a vision of a fairer Britain, through progressive taxation policies, greater investment in public services and in the welfare state. Providing a stable platform from which to create the basis of a Labour government under his leadership.

Similar to the rest of the progressive parties Leanne devoted quite a lot of her time to attacking austerity. Throughout the debate she consistently linked her arguments back to Wales, which while to the rest of us seemed irrelevant, it was important to hammer home in the Welsh constituencies. She would do this through attacking austerity, the Conservative economy policy and the immigration rhetoric then link it back to Wales where in the Welsh Assembly the party would introduce measures to attack social injustices and lessen the affects of austerity, such as the banning of zero hours contracts, which in turn the Labour Party would block them time and time again. Thus trying to prove to the Welsh people that the Labour Party was not their friend, but their enemy acting against their interests and effectively giving the Conservatives a free pass in enforcing the agenda the leadership was so against.

Unlike her predecessor Natalie Bennett, Caroline Lucas was an inspired intellectual whose carefully articulated vocabulary and debating style was a welcome surprise. Like many who fight from the progressive corner, she focused greatly on the effects of austerity and how the Greens would reverse the cuts, focusing on a better society rather than benefiting the privileged few. One of the key focuses for Lucas was scrapping of nuclear weapons, reinvesting the money we would spend on Trident into programmes such as promoting green energy, the NHS and other social programmes. One government policy which she wholeheartedly disagreed with was the continuation of selling weapons to countries such as Saudi Arabia, who is fueling wars and terrorism across the middle east, such as the Yemeni Civil War in which the Saudis have interfered.

Tim Farrons precarious centre ground positioning and the shameful leadership of his predecessor has left people wondering what exactly the Liberal Democrats stand for. Unable to provide what exactly a Liberal Democrat platform would be he certainly pulled above his weight this debate. Focusing on the issues which be believed were true to his heart and what people deeply cared about this election he attacked the Conservatives and Labour without end, specifying some of the key policies which he has been advocating throughout the election campaign. Issues such as social care, free school meals for kids, the NHS and the refugee crisis. One of his most important comments, as expected, were to come on the Brexit negotiations, focusing exclusively on Jeremy and the Labour Party for triggering article 50  as well as refusing to vote on an amendment which guaranteed EU workers rights in Britain.

The hardest person on the stage to get a feel for was the SNPs Angus Robertson. Unlike the others taking part in the debate here was a man who was either incredibly sincere, understanding and straightforward or none other than a male Theresa May who’s robotic and scripted responses were auto tuned to perfection. The only difference being that he was on the opposing side of the arguments to May. In line with other progressives he attacked the cruel and callous Conservative cuts to the public sector under austerity, denounced the state of the Brexit negotiation deals and promoting the positive of immigration. Again similar to Leanne he would bring the argument back to Scotland, hammering home the ideals of the SNP, showing the Scottish people why they should continue to vote for the party.

Unfortunately for Nuttall he was forced to fill a considerable gap left by his predecessor Nigel Farage (technically Diane James). Most likely he will never be able to fill the void of teflon Nigel, whose charisma and determinism helped build up UKIP to a potentially threatening anti-Establishment force as the debate, as well as the ITV debate, proved. Focusing on immigration and a right wing taxation policy it was incredibly difficult for Paul to garner any sympathies, and when challenged by Jeremy on corporation tax his argument simply faltered. The only positive reception that Paul received on any UKIP policy was on the subject of Jihadis returning from combat in Syria/Iraq.  Other than this is was a poor showing, potentially a symbolic milestone of things to come for the party. Attacking the size of the foreign aid budget he tried his best to put a positive spin on using the money to fund the NHS and other public services, but was hounded down by the progressive parties for attacking the poorest and most disadvantaged people in the world.

Some leaders fared quite well in this debate and either defied expectations or stood their ground in the face of stern hostility. Such as Amber Rudd who faced an incredibly hostile environment but managed to hold her precarious position. Even Tim Farron, having to return from oblivion thanks to his predecessor, managed to give a good debate performance, showing some of the causes the Liberal Democrats care about such as social care, the NHS and unsurprisingly his stance on the Brexit negotiations. Others meanwhile simply faltered and proved to be worse than expected. Specifically Nuttall, who while he had a rough time, failed to really get the message across of what UKIP really stands for, other than to mention the problems created by immigration and making some good points on issues around security. It’s not always easy to garner who won the debate, but with ease you can always determine who lost.

Corbyns’ 10 Pledges

Unbeknownst to the world apparently on the 28th of March there was a video upoaded on the Labour Parties Youtube channel showing Jeremy Corbyn talking about his 10 pledges for a greater society. Without the aggressive campaigning that’s about to get underway, not only officially but from supporters on facebook too I imagine that this would remain rather under viewed as no one knew about it. Even though I enjoy quite a wealth of information thanks to all the political pages, groups and friends who share such niceties I was blissfully unaware of its existence.

While the video itself is only just under two minutes long, its simple and effective at getting the basic message across. The economy isn’t working and the people are suffering because of it, the corporations are getting away with murder (just a figure of speech) and he’s going to flip the system on its head, creating a better society which works for ordinary people because of it. It’s pretty much just putting together a few of the policies which have been discussed over the past two years into a single unit.

The video description connects to a webpage on the Labour Party website detailing the pledges with a bit more explanation. Here is the link itself: http://www.labour.org.uk/index.php/10-pledges

Each one, ranging from creating a national investment bank with the purpose of investing in the local economy, to the security and home and work is all part of creating a more equal and fairer society.

The first one promising full employment. This will be achieved through the creation of a national investment bank and regional investment banks which will be given 500 billion to invest in the economy. Investing in things such as high speed broadband, energy, transport and homes. Quite excited about this policy, the free market has simply failed in these areas and its great that Jeremys’ government would step in to invest.

The second being to provide 1 million homes over the next 5 years, with at least half being council homes. This is fantastic, house building has being left to the free market for the past few decades and they’ve simply not being able to provide whats needed, limiting supply and driving up house prices. This has made it unaffordable for a good section of the population. Government investment, especially in providing council homes which would be a welcome reprieve to the 1.4 million on waiting lists for social housing.

The third would be the protection and introduction of more workers rights, ending the use of zero hours contracts and create new sectoral collective bargaining rights. I’m not too knowledgeable on this one other than the abysmal reality of zero hours contracts, not having guaranteed work but being unable to find other work as your employer could call you anytime to inform that you have a shift, usually on the night before or even on the morning.

Fourth is the protection of the NHS, reversing privatization. Good and simple policy. People not profit should be at the centre of healthcare.

Fifth is the creation of a national education service, the educational equivalent of the NHS. Not really sure how this one would work but okay. Also there will be universal childcare, a welcome reprieve for working mothers giving them greater freedom for participation in the workforce.

Sixth is a strategy to protect the environment helping to tackle climate change. The main plan here is to invest in green energy, while not only aiming to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and reduce our carbon footprint but also creating sustainable jobs in the sector. In the process taking on the big six energy companies to reduce their tight grip on the energy market.

Seventh will be taking back transport services into the public sector, especially the much reviled train services. Rebuilding public transport services is key to the economy as these are the vessels through which workers reach their employers, just as blood vessels which carry oxygen throughout the body.

Eight is a plan to cut income inequality and the staggering wealth disparity between the mega rich of the city and the rest of us at the bottom. Planning to use a progressive taxation system with more taxes on the rich to spread wealth across society, and not just horded at the top.

Ninth is a pledge to create a more equal society, pledging to bring an end to discrimination of all types against peoples faith, race or gender etc. Simple stuff. Just wanting everyone to exist peacefully without having to be harassed for the prejudices of others, especially when that something is usually outside of their control. This also includes refusing to use EU nationals as a bargaining chip in the Brexit negotiations, guaranteeing the full rights their legally entitled to.

Last but not least is the tenth pledge of peace and prosperity at the heart of foreign policy. Attempting the noble cause of trying to peacefully resolve conflicts and put human rights at the centre. One of the ways this will be achieved is through the UN and being part of our trade policy. Whether the UK government ha any real clout to end internal conflicts within other nations is one thing, especially Syria which I’m Assad would be all ears, but its good that they wish peace over endless conflict.

Overall its not a bad start, focusing on policies for people rather than those just at the top. It’s one way to swing the pendulum back as wealth and income inequality are reduced and people really believe that things can change, things can and they will get better.

The worst kept secret in British politics

This isn’t Corbyns election to win, but Mays to lose.

To the surprise of no one, Theresa May is set to announce an early General Election. Slated for the 8th of June this would be an astonishing 2 months away, quite a short time in which there will have to be fierce campaigning. Normally we have a good amount of time in which to prepare ourselves physically and mentally for the political grind to come, but this is such a short timeframe that the opposition parties will be forced into some quick action or lose ground. However, while it has been on the cards for some time it was never certain that it would happen, Theresa May said a few times that there would be no early election.

There are a a growing number of reasons why it was becoming increasingly likely that Theresa would call an early election, here are a few of them.

Lets get the most obvious one out the way. Brexit. Even a year after the referendum the battle for what Brexit means, looks like and the results of are still being waged in what seems to be the political equivalent of the western front. No matter what happens both sides seem to be entrenched in their post referendum positions.  The Remainers battling to either prevent Brexit all together on the fringes or to lessen the impact of what they see as “Hard” Brexit and bring about a change which would result in “Soft” brexit. On the otherhand for the most part the Leavers wish to leave as soon as possible and get on with it, although to some its almost as though they wish to leave, no matter the cost. A general election would bring some reprieve for this horrible political quagmire, as presumably if May wins then her version of Brexit will be given a clean mandate. If there is no majority however, then thats where things become more like the Somme than the allies reaching the Hindenburg line.

The second reason, Theresa Mays’ legitimacy as Prime Minister, which you could argue is more important that Brexit. There is a widely held view that Theresa May has no mandate to govern the nation. While technically she is the leader of the largest party in The mother of all Parliaments, she was elected (if you can even call it that) as the leader of the Conservative party and not the country. She has her own path she wishes to take the Conservatives on which is just different enough to Cameron and Osbornes which it is seen that she requires a new mandate as this isn’t the Conservative party which the country voted for in 2015.  Winning this snap election would provide May the mandate she needs from the public to govern and quash any criticisms of her legitimacy as Prime Minister.

The third reason, and perhaps the most cynical reason to hold an early election, is the complete and utter collapse of Her Majesty’s Official Opposition. Ever since Corbyns election (and subsequent re-election a year later) the party has descended into a complete and utter farce. Constant infighting, media leaks of supposed unhappiness and poor leadership have crippled the party to the point where it no longer seems capable of putting up a half decent opposition to the Conservatives. Whether you believe the polls or not, especially after Brexit and Trump, the situation looks even more dire. The Conservatives are consistently 15% ahead of Labour, sometimes even as high as 20% in the lead, this would lead to a total wipe out of Labour in the marginals and leave only the safest seats remaining in their hands. Finally the Conservatives would have revenge for their catastrophic defeat at the hands of Blair in 1997, which Labour only had a 13% lead. Not calling a snap election in this political climate would seem a poor decision, after all why have a small majority of 16 when you can have a large majority of 160, maybe even more?

Whatever your opinions on the snap election, whether held with good intentions or cynical machinations it has been announced and it is coming. The next two months will see and intense struggle within the Labour Party, the triumphant mood within the Conservatives which they believe will see them to a comfortable victory and the smaller parties fighting for the scraps fringes. It will decide the fate of a nation, perhaps even that of a continent. Most important of all, its not Corbyns election to win but Theresa Mays to lose.