That Happened. GE17.

Just a few thoughts from last nights stunning results

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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.

The “Little Englander”

So I’m reading a new book titled “The Fascist Experience in Italy” in an effort to learn about Fascism, what caused it and the nature of the regimes which it created and I come across something. That something is the phrase “Little Italy”. It got me thinking of the similar phrase “Little England”, which was widely used during the referendum campaign, and how its meaning could be interpreted for something completely different to what its conventionally assumed to be.

In the first chapter it talks about the Pre-war culture, economic and social conditions which would enable Mussolini to rise to prominence and power and in the 1900’s it contains a small paragraph about the Nationalists. The nationalists ‘were a minority movement, but a vocal and influential one in the circles of high politics’ (Pollard, 1998,p12). The thoughts of the nationalists on Italy at this time I came across the idea of “Little Italy”, which was a term used by the nationalists to describe the poor attempt at the government to forge an empire in the same way other European countries had done in Africa and the exodus of Italian families to other more prosperous parts of the world  due to the poor economic situation in Italy at the time, culminating in a national inferiority complex.

I don’t know when the term “Little Englander” was first used but I do remember the first time I started to hear and see it with more regularity than before. It was around 2013/2014 and Nigel Farage was making his way to become the anti-establishment candidate of the Right, his persistence on the subject of the EU brought it to become a household topic of discussion and more people bought into his vision of Britain outside the EU, which was important as the EU parliamentary elections were in mid 2014. One of the responses in opposition to this was to refer to these people as “Little Englanders”, solely used as a derogatory term to denote the opinions of these people as nothing more trying to recreate some mythical golden age of the British nation, firmly against immigration and in complete opposition to the modern world. After the EU elections the use of the term died down as the General Election primarily focused on domestic policies so it was of little comparison. The term  resurfaced to see great usage during the EU referendum campaign, being thrown around like a trawler stranded in the middle of a storm out on the high seas, primarily by some prominent remain politicians such as Tim Farron. Again to devalue the opinions of those who wished to leave the European Union.

After seeing the phrase “Little Italy”, how it referred to the state of Italy at the time rather than where it was heading, it got me thinking about how to interpret the meaning of “Little England”. Instead of seeing it as a derogatory phrase which describes going back in time to the aforementioned golden age and all that comes with it, what if we are living in a period of “Little England”. Although to define the term in this circumstance is slightly different to the equivalent “Little Italy”as there is no exodus of British nationals to other parts of the world to find prosperity. Though I could see similarities between the failed African ventures of the Italian regime of the time and the, not only failed but sometimes catastrophic ventures of the British (as well as their NATO allies) into the Middle East. Failing to successfully topple dictatorships and aid rebels in their fight against oppressive regimes. Then there was the British membership of the European Union which was seen by some as a subjugation of the British lion under the Brussels yolk, in essence removing us from the forefront to assume a more backseat driver role in some aspects of the international theater, in effect reducing our prestige. To add to this is the major loss of manufacturing and industry which happened to Britains’ economy in the 80’s and 90’s which has taken its toll.

So maybe we are experiencing what is really “Little Britain”  and what comes later down the line could be the Great Britain that we were brought up to believe in, setting ourselves firmly on the world stage and forging our destiny as a great power once more. Strange how reading about the preexisting columns from which the Italian Fascists would build their empire upon caused me to think of this.