There’s a hidden truth behind the snap election – we must be suspicious | Liam O’Dell

After nearly three weeks since the triggering of Article 50, the Tories have finally spat out the Brexit pill which no party wants to swallow. A snap election on June 8 will continue to create more uncertainty that Theresa May promised to end.

Photo: Number 10 on Flickr. Licensed under Creative Commons – https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/.

“At this moment of enormous national significance there should be unity here in Westminster, but instead there is division.

“The country is coming together, but Westminster is not,” the Prime Minister said in a speech earlier today.

We must be suspicious. An arrogant Conservative Party determined to defy the rulings of judges and Lords to pass the Brexit Bill has once again resorted to Cameron’s levels of cowardice. Voters will remember that, but they must question the true reason for calling the election.

The immediate presumption would be that it is an attempt to decimate Labour, but that is questionable. It seems too great a risk for May to sacrifice the Tory majority (and a supposed lack of opposition on Brexit from Corbyn) to ‘kill’ the left-wing party. If the PM expects to win back a majority in June, then she is forgetting that a general election has become more than a Labour vs. Conservative battle.

A call for a snap election is – of course – a gamble, and it’s one May appears to have taken due to the disunity in other parties (according to her speech, at least).

With Labour’s in-fighting continuing to bubble every once in a while, the SNP tackling their own referendum and the Lib Dem’s membership slowly rising, it seems as though May is aiming for a wipeout whilst building upon her majority. But when has disunity within other parties ever hindered the Tories’ Brexit plans? If anything, it’s almost given May a ‘carte blanche’ to do her thing without any real scrutiny.

It’s even more confusing when the Conservatives have always been arrogant and stubborn when enforcing policies. To gamble their majority for the sake of silencing other parties, or getting them to support their plan, seems unfathomable.

So what is the explanation for the snap election? My friend Jarrad Johnson raises an interesting point, saying on Twitter that “someone or something has forced May’s hands behind the scenes.”

It’s an interesting comment when we look back at the past. The last time we had a vote between the typical five-year period was, of course, the 2016 EU referendum. On that occasion, it was believed that this was to end the internal conflict within the Tory party about whether we should leave the European Union. Now, as we face another surprise election before the end of the usual five-year term, we have to consider whether the same arguments are occurring once more.

#Traingate: Corbyn may finally have a winning media strategy | The Friday Article

Jeremy Corbyn was on a train talking about how ‘ram-packed’ it was. What happened next is up for debate, but ‘#traingate’ was soon a trending topic on social media. However, in amongst the fact-checking were talks about the re-nationalisation of our railways. Even if this one train Corbyn was on isn’t the best example of overcrowded carriages, then we all have our own experiences of it. The controversy worked, as talks about the public ownership of rail services manifest themselves in society.

After the controversy with Virgin Trains and #traingate, Labour may have a new media strategy. Photo: JamesZ_Flickr on Flickr. Licensed under Creative Commons - https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/.
After the controversy with Virgin Trains and #traingate, Labour may have a new media strategy. Photo: JamesZ_Flickr on Flickr. Licensed under Creative Commons – https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/.

After all, Brexit, the fall of BHS and the crisis with Southern Rail have all exposed the elite and challenged the case for privatisation. The topic of conversation has turned to anti-establishment sentiment and the desire for public ownership. We have Jeremy Corbyn – the politician who represents these views on a political level – being challenged by Virgin Trains over ‘traingate’ and being attacked by the right-wing media at every opportunity. It’s understandable that some people believe Branson’s rail company argued against Corbyn’s statements because they have an interest in private ownership of rail services. Meanwhile, the right-wing press create this narrative of an unelectable left-wing Labour leader because his election would mean their voices being silenced. Corbyn poses an existential threat to both the right-wing media and Virgin Trains, so of course they will argue back when they can.

The left-wing Guardian columnist Owen Jones writes in a post on Medium about the ‘questions all Jeremy Corbyn supporters need to answer’, with one of the main questions revolving around a “clear media strategy”. As a new Labour supporter, I’ve always steered clear from writing a response to this. However, whilst the true events of ‘traingate’ remain unknown, underneath the controversy lies the truth that we’ve all been on an overcrowded train. That’s the winning strategy for Labour.

As the Corbyn vs. Virgin Trains debate dies down, Jeremy’s team have said that ‘traingate’ has helped the Labour leadership candidate with his calls for public ownership of the railway network. It’s because there was a relatable truth about rail services at the heart of the video Corbyn made on that train. After that, Virgin Trains and the media quickly jumped at the opportunity to dispute his tale of events. In the end, it was unnecessary and pointless. Even if Virgin Trains’ account is correct, it does nothing to justify the many train journeys other people have had to take where not enough seats are available. The panicked response to Corbyn’s call for public ownership only publicised Jeremy’s policies further. It’s a risky tactic, but could these pedantic scandals and controversies be the way for Corbyn to thrust his politics into the media spotlight?

Jones also talks about Sadiq Khan conquering the media after his election as London mayor, and how “he was remorselessly portrayed as the puppet of extremists by his opponent and his ally — the capital’s only mass newspaper, as well as several national newspapers. He managed to counteract it, and won.” Yet, the original media attacks on Sadiq Khan and the current media attention surrounding Corbyn aren’t completely identical – of course – and so it would be hard to use this as a case study or template for Jeremy’s new media strategy.

That being said, Londoners were sick of the personal attacks made at Sadiq Khan, so could this hatred of ad hominem remarks also benefit Jeremy Corbyn? If anything, his media strategy should be continuing to promote relatable policies, and then watching the right-wing media squirm. It will be repetitive, but the retaliation from right-wing bodies will only prove that what Corbyn is saying is true, and that will be their big mistake.

Liam

Why I stand with Jeremy Corbyn | The Friday Article

The enigma that is the Labour Party and its leadership debate is something I’ve always avoided and steered clear from writing about. Whilst I have a sense of the factors which come together to fuel this frustration in the left-wing party, I’m not a member of the Labour Party, nor do I have that inside knowledge about how the party operates. With that in mind, I feel as though I am an observer, and since I won’t be voting in the leadership election, I’m not the most knowledgeable person when it comes to the two candidates. However, that being said, I do have a stance and that is what I’ve decided to talk about today. I stand with Corbyn, and I think he should remain as leader of the Labour Party.

Jeremy Corbyn's honesty and integrity are admirable qualities in a heavily hostile political scene. Photo: Chris Beckett on Flickr. Licensed under Creative Commons - https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/legalcode.
Jeremy Corbyn’s honesty and integrity are admirable qualities in a heavily hostile political scene. Photo: Chris Beckett on Flickr. Licensed under Creative Commons – https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/legalcode.

For a long time, I was torn between the two parties. Labour was the party of inequality, but were forced to borrow and overspend. The Tories had strong economic principles, but I found their policies on disability to be absolutely appalling. Uncertain about Ed Miliband being a potential leader, I voted Conservative last year. However, I soon realised my mistake. Books by Owen Jones and my general frustration with the government’s running of things brought out my left-wing stance.

It wasn’t long before I started to see it: the rise of left-wing attitudes and an anti-establishment rhetoric. Unions burst back to life when Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt MP launched his new plans for junior doctors, the vote for Brexit was in response to big corporations influencing democracy and the planned changes to Personal Independence Payments angered most of the general public.

If it isn’t because Tory policies have affected you in some way, then most people in society desire an honest politician with integrity. Prime Minister’s Questions has descended into theatre, with the Conservatives often resorting to ad hominem attacks rather than answering the questions from the opposition. So, when Jeremy Corbyn suggested a new style of PMQs, he certainly got my respect, and probably appealed to a lot of people annoyed with the personal put-downs which dominate today’s politics.

The treatment of Jeremy Corbyn by the media and the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) shows so much about the state of both. The PLP still has Blairism lingering around, and of course, with right-wing millionaires controlling the newspapers, they’ll find any opportunity to tear apart a man with radical socialist principles. In both cases, Jeremy Corbyn poses an almost existential threat to them – be it the silencing of Blairite views under his leadership, or taxes on the rich as part of a redistribution of wealth.

One of the words which the Conservatives and the media both continued to use was ‘unelectable’. They made that comment at a time when left-wing politics didn’t appeal to the majority, and Labour still had aspects of its identity to address. But, as I’ve said, a socialist leader has emerged at a time where anti-establishment rhetoric is rising. Why couldn’t he be Prime Minister?

The argument to this would be to say that Corbyn is a respectable politician and a good man, but he is not a good leader. There are certain things which have happened under Corbyn’s leadership which is respectable, such as the boost in membership figures. However, for this point, I thought I would turn to fellow candidate, Owen Smith.

In all honesty, my knowledge of ‘famous’ Labour politicians is quite limited, and I think I wouldn’t be alone when I say that I hadn’t heard of Smith until this debate. Whilst his skills as leader may be better, I can only see him as being a continuation of a Labour party which is out of touch with working class people. It’ll be more of the same, in my opinion. People want change, and that’s in terms of both politics and the direction which the party is taking. Would Labour members rather have a leader which shifts the political debate, or continues the status quo of the party?

If anything, this debate has forced Corbyn to redefine his policies. Granted, his stance against Tory austerity is what most people know him for, but Labour supporters need the specifics. Now, as he talks about a redistribution of wealth, the public ownership of railways and more done for our National Health Service, I think Jeremy Corbyn is the closest personal representation of the anti-establishment and equalist politics which are apparent in today’s society.

Liam

Review: ‘Chavs: The demonization of the working class’ by Owen Jones

Politics is one giant, complex beast which is hard to pin down and comprehend – let alone write a book about. An article focussing on one aspect of UK politics could soon become outdated within days. However, Owen Jones’ books always manage to paint a complete and honest picture of key political issues which are still relevant five years after the book was originally published in 2011.

At the heart of Jones’ publications is a political commentary which doesn’t surprise us. Most of the points that the Guardian columnist makes are things we hear all the time and the evidence is already out there. But, what is impressive is how all of these points connect to form a cohesive summary of the state our politics is in.

In Chavs, Owen Jones explores the otherness and demonisation which is placed on Britain’s working class, and their struggle over the years. Throughout the book, topics such as the housing crisis, Thatcherism and the media portrayals are discussed in a way which is so seamless and connected that it forms a very persuasive argument and a fitting call for action.

Admittedly, I didn’t find this book as engaging as The Establishment, but that is not to say that I do not care about the issues mentioned in the book. Much like Jones’ second book, there are moments of enlightenment, shock and anger as government policies are explained by Owen in a clear and easy-to-understand manner.

However, once again, I must talk about how relevant the book is in our current political climate. In particular, the final chapters rung true with the dilemma that the Labour Party faces at the moment. As the party is accused of being out of touch with the working class, we’re once again seeing a rise in far-right politics (in the book, it was the BNP and now it’s UKIP). Finally, in the conclusion, I noticed similar points made in The Establishment which encapsulates the present argument of the left. Both Chavs and The Establishment are different in the issues they cover, but they are united in their calls for left-wing changes.

On the whole, Chavs is a book which explores an otherness which is yet to be properly exposed and is still going unnoticed. As Labour continues to undergo an identity crisis, now may just be the time that we see a new type of class politics that Owen Jones calls for.

Have you read Chavs? Or have you read The Establishment? What are your thoughts on the demonisation of the working class? Comment below!

Liam

Review: ‘The Establishment’ by Owen Jones

Our vote to leave the European Union was just the latest political event to stir up anti-establishment rhetoric in the UK. There is no doubt that some of the 52 per cent wanted to leave the EU to break free from a union which was becoming increasingly dictated by big businesses. Now, as this monumental vote shakes up UK politics and this country’s Establishment, it’s time we found out more about the mysterious 1% at the top of our society – and Owen Jones’ The Establishment is the perfect book which unmasks the elite.


With each chapter, Jones cleverly dissects each aspect of the Establishment which makes the bigger picture of our country’s elite. From the role of outriders, to the police, to the media, no stone is left unturned as the Guardian columnist uses in-depth analysis and recent current affairs to make his point.

Whilst I struggled to understand points made about economics and accountants, it was the chapters about the press and police which really interested me. It was clear that Owen’s experience in journalism influenced his piece on the media, and once again, recent news stories really did make the section on the police’s role in the Establishment an interesting read.

Although the book does not say who is a part of the elite, The Establishment does highlight the Conservative Party’s close ties to the views of the 1% and presents a clear socialist argument. As someone who’s leaned towards the left over the past few months, this is the book which finally won me over.

Aside from the book being insightful, persuasive and eye-opening, Owen Jones’ novel is phenomenal in the sense that it comes full circle at the end. At the start, it’s about how, at times where the Establishment is exposed, we don’t take action. Yet, Owen ends the novel with clear instructions as to how we can pay attention to these exact moments.

One month after Brexit, a small minority who want to be shielded from public scrutiny have been shoved into the spotlight. Now is the time to read this book, and to act.

What do you think of Owen Jones? Do you watch his videos on YouTube? Have you read The Establishment? Comment below!

Liam

A post-Brexit Britain needs structure and definition | The Friday Article

Brexit has forced us to redefine our society. Existential crises have hit the two main political parties, with talks about Cameron’s replacement and a vote of no confidence in Jeremy Corbyn dominating the newspaper headlines. Attitudes in Britain have changed because of the decision to leave the European Union, to an extent where we don’t completely know what politics, or being British is anymore.

Jeremy Corbyn's 'straight-talking, honest politics' may not work after his 'half-hearted' remain campaign. Photo source: Garry Knight on Twitter.
Jeremy Corbyn’s ‘straight-talking, honest politics’ may not work after his ‘half-hearted’ remain campaign. Photo source: Garry Knight on Flickr.

After a leave vote, the electorate is fed up with lies and political propaganda. Corbyn’s promising ‘straight-talking, honest politics’ line he said last year would have worked wonders in a post-Brexit Britain, but not when his ‘half-hearted’ attitude led to an unsuccessful campaign from Labour for us to remain in the European Union.

“At a time where the Tory government is fractured, a dominant opposition could make monumental changes to government policy.”

It is this which has prompted rebellious Labour MPs to trigger an attack against Jeremy Corbyn as Leader of the Labour Party – a move completely unnecessary when he has overwhelming support from unions and the party members, who would obviously vote Jeremy back in again should he be unseated. At a time where the Tory government is fractured, a dominant opposition could make monumental changes to government policy. Instead, we are challenging all aspects of British culture and politics. It something which prompts so many questions that we simply don’t have the time to answer – there is no clear schedule or anything which is keeping British politics alive.

David Cameron was right to resign and create a stalemate across the whole of the political spectrum – not just his own party – to save his career. By delaying both the election of the new Conservative leader (and Prime Minister) and Brexit negotiations until around September, David Cameron will still be known as the Prime Minister who brought about a vote to leave the European Union, but he won’t be the one to actually do it. It’s up to his successor to live with that label, and to move Britain towards an independent state.

With that in mind, Boris Johnson made the right decision to turn Vote Leave’s post-Brexit plans into something which sounded like a manifesto. His idea of an Australian-style points-based system was one of the main policies which of course could only happen should a Vote Leave politician ever get close to the door of 10 Downing Street. With Michael Gove standing in the leadership contest, Vote Leave could see their plans for an independent Britain enacted through Gove as Prime Minister.

“The race to be the next Tory leader may be the vote which determines how the UK plans to leave the European Union, and whether the Conservative Party spirals over to the far-right or continues Cameron’s ‘legacy’.

After all, there’s no doubt that the Conservative leadership contest will be about what each individual candidate plans to do with our relationship with the EU, rather than their manifestos being about new party policies. Earlier this week, Jeremy Hunt proposed that the general public should vote for a Brexit plan in a second referendum, but the race to be the next Tory leader may be the vote which determines how the UK plans to leave the European Union, and whether the Conservative Party goes in a completely new direction under Gove or continues Cameron’s agenda under May.

It’s a referendum which has seen both of the main parties shift in their political stance. The Labour Party is desperate to run away from Corbyn’s far-left attitude, and the Conservative Party is on the verge of a far-right uprising. If Labour and the Tories are both leaning off either side of the political spectrum, then the time may finally come for the Liberal Democrats to take centre stage.

As much as the vote to leave has highlighted Britain’s current attitudes towards the European Union, immigration and many other policies, the next Prime Minister will also have a huge part to play in defining Britain’s society and its politics. Questions about racism, xenophobia, the stigma surrounding immigration, the conflict between the younger and older generations are just some of the concerns that will need to be addressed as the country moves forward.

Politics always demands structure and definition, and after a vote to leave the European Union, this has broken down the foundations of British politics, and what it means to be British. It should not be up to far-right political parties, obsessed with nationalism, to decide our country’s new values.

Already, we’re seeing young people unite to show support for the European Union – and rightfully so. The statistics constantly cited prove that most young people backed the remain vote and now the opposite has happened, young people are more engaged than ever.

There’s no doubt that most people only pay attention to politics when it affects them, and the EU referendum’s ‘vote in a generation’ has impacted the young people of today.

They are now more engaged than ever, but in order to maintain that, political parties must clarify their stance, so young people know where to stand.

Why Labour MPs should support the fiscal charter

Members of Parliament will be voting on the fiscal charter this evening.

The Charter for Budget Responsibility would force the Conservatives to make a surplus by 2020 and mean future governments would have to maintain the surplus as well. The SNP has strongly opposed Chancellor George Osborne’s proposals.

In an article on their website on Monday, SNP Westminster Leader Angus Robertson MP said: “The SNP has been calling on Jeremy Corbyn to join us in voting against the UK government’s budget plans.

“Every single Labour MP must now join the SNP and vote no to Tory austerity or their credibility will be in ruins.”

A day later, the Labour Party made a U-turn. Labour MPs are now expected to vote against the new charter.

In a letter to Labour MPs quoted in The Guardian, Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said: “I believe that we need to underline our position as an anti-austerity party by voting against the charter on Wednesday.”

He also wrote an article for The Mirror, where he said: “George Osborne is pretending he wants Parliament to tie his hands.

“What he’s really trying to do is play Westminster a trick, and tie ours.”

Voting is expected to take place at 8:30pm this evening.

 

Analysis:

If the charter is approved, then what we have to consider is that it won’t tie the hands of any political party in government. All future governments would have to deal with the charter, as well as the current government who would be under the pressure to reach the initial surplus by the end of 2019/2020.

In September, Jeremy Corbyn promised ‘a new kind of politics’ and Labour members believed him by voting him as their leader. However, the party still needs to keep the promises and regain the trust of the public on certain areas. In particular, Labour is often criticised by the Conservatives for constantly spending and borrowing. If Corbyn wants to deliver ‘new politics’ then surely Labour MPs voting in support of the charter will show that the party is moving in a positive direction? The charter will regulate future governments in borrowing and spending – why isn’t Labour supporting the charter when it may finally dispel the Conservative belief that they only spend and borrow all the time?

In their General Election 2015 manifesto, Labour said: “This manifesto sets out that we will only lay a Budget before the House of Commons that cuts the deficit every year, which the OBR [Office for Budget Responsibility] will independently verify.

“We will get national debt falling and a surplus on the current budget as soon as possible in the next parliament. This manifesto sets out that we will not compromise on this commitment.”

Of course, the party is now under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, but the aim of getting a surplus must still be present, surely? With this new charter, the Conservatives are forcing themselves to achieve a surplus by the end of 2020, so why is Labour voting against this?

Whilst an independent regulator – such as the OBR according to the 2015 Labour Manifesto – would help with the economic planning of a government, it is nothing concrete and it’s not legislation.

Not only will the new charter be a better way of regulating government finances, but in terms of the Labour Party, it will give party members and supporters the trust they need.

It’ll come at a time when the party is still recovering from the General Election defeat and is desperate to get rid of the Conservative idea that they borrow and overspend. The charter would be give reassurance to members of the party.

 

By Liam O’Dell