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.

UKIP’s identity crisis is a lesson for the SNP | The Friday Article

UKIP is in crisis. It’s been 10 months since Britain made the historic decision to leave the European Union, and one would have thought that the far-right political party would have at least had a name change by then. Instead, UKIP has seen two leadership elections, an ‘altercation’ outside European Parliament, and most recently, the party’s only MP Douglas Carswell quit the party to become independent – “job done”, the Parliamentary representative for Clacton said in a blog post last month.

UKIP leader Paul Nuttall. Photo: European Parliament on Flickr. Licensed under Creative Commons – https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/.

Then there’s the current leader Paul Nuttall, who is no doubt overshadowed by his predecessor, Nigel Farage, despite the latter saying he “[wanted] his life back” after the vote of June 2016. Two shoddy leadership elections have meant that some media companies still have Mr Farage on speed-dial for anything Brexit-related, even when Nuttall is the one at the helm.

All of this makes for a hilarious but important case study for the SNP as they plan to call for a second referendum on Scottish independence. As the only other major party so devoted to one political cause, they must now consider – in plenty of time – what would happen should their end goal be achieved.

As Nicola Sturgeon and her party prepare their arguments for a ‘yes’ vote should the UK Parliament grant the referendum, they must also get ready for the party’s next steps if they get their own way. The fact that UKIP were only asking the ‘what now’ question after Brexit is no doubt responsible – in some part – for politicians leaving the party to become independent or, in most cases, to join the Conservatives. After all, what use is it being a member of a party championing for Brexit when one could join the team with the seat at the negotiating table?

In the case of the SNP, they are fortunate in the sense that they do not have to watch from the sidelines. If the vote for independence is delivered, then they will still be in government until 2021 and will have to deliver a positive outcome for the Scottish people. Yet, at the same time, they must also establish a clear political stance away from independence now this would have been achieved.

Whilst it’s incredibly unlikely that Sturgeon’s party would fall into an existential crisis as bad as UKIP if independence occurs (a leadership election would probably only occur if it was another ‘no’ vote), there will no doubt be another party – probably the Scottish Conservatives – who will oppose the SNP’s plans for Scotland.

If Sturgeon’s ideal scenario is to occur, then as well as considering the future of Scotland, she must contemplate the future of the SNP.

As UKIP continues to scratch its head and Labour comes under fire over its power as an opposition, some may consider it fortunate that neither party is in government when they have internal conflicts at their heart.

This is where the SNP should take note. After all, if a party in government have an existential crisis, then their future – and indeed the future of an independent Scotland – could look very bleak indeed.

Thoughts on a column-writing masterclass with Owen Jones

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ll know that I write regular opinion pieces on Friday called The Friday Article. What started off as a way to talk about myself in the third person became a platform for me to comment on politics, current affairs, deafness and other social issues which interested me. It’s finally become something of which I’m proud, and fits perfectly into this blog’s theme of it being ‘online journalism portfolio’.

Owen Jones is a writer and columnist at The Guardian. Photo: Marc Lozano on Flickr.

However, ideas at the moment have been running low, and as a student journalist, pitching comment and opinion pieces to editors to be published and commissioned is something I haven’t yet considered in depth. A recent talk by columnist Mary Dejevsky at university first got me interested, and so this brings me on the column-writing masterclass with Owen Jones at The Guardian.

With a stuffed rucksack on my back and folder paper ticket in my hand, I approached the newspaper’s headquarters with excitement. I had entered the building on two previous occasions and so the cosy interior – complete with eccentric armchairs – felt all too familiar.

It wasn’t long before we were signed in and offered refreshments ahead of the main event. After the first session, I had the opportunity to meet Owen himself. After introducing myself, he was happy to sign my copies of his books, chat further about his tips for pitching columns, and wish me a belated happy birthday. Thanks, Owen!

After the final two sessions, both my notepad and brain were filled with ideas for comment pieces and pitches. As I write this two days on, I’m working on one particular article to submit to editors in the near future. I went to the event looking for inspiration, thoughts and a greater understanding of this particular writing form, and that’s certainly what I got from the masterclass as I left the building three hours later. Thank you both to The Guardian and Owen for a great event.

It’s also worth mentioning that after an amazing evening at The Guardian, I hopped on the tube to meet-up with my blogger friend Emily, from Emily Underworld. Within Five Guys, we chatted away – albeit briefly. Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before I had to dash to make the long train home. It was wonderful to meet Emily, and I hope to meet her again soon for a proper chat.

In terms of future comment pieces, though, I left the event with some re-energised enthusiasm. As always, whenever I surround myself with fellow writers, the creativity and imagination spreads around. I left York Way with a smile on my face, determined to publish more Friday Articles on this blog, and pitch some ideas to national newspapers, too.

Exciting times lie ahead, I’m sure.

#indyref2 was to be expected – a vote for independence will be too | The Friday Article

The Tory Government possesses a dangerous arrogance at present. It’s one that chooses to fight against the ruling of the judiciary (High Court) on Brexit, the Lords’ recommendation that they should secure the rights of EU nationals living in the UK, and now Scotland’s plans for a second independence referendum – which was announced by Nicola Sturgeon on Monday this week.

NICOLA STURGEON
Photo: First Minister of Scotland on Flickr. Licensed under Creative Commons: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/.

The announcement was always to be expected – the referendum hanging over Theresa May’s shoulder ever since it was found that the Scots voted for remain – but what wasn’t predictable was when the call by the SNP would be made for ‘indyref2’. However, just as Prime Minister May was about to relax in the fact that her Brexit parade could no longer be rained upon (thanks to the Brexit Bill being passed at the start of this week), the Scottish Government decided to announce their plans for the referendum. Oh dear.

You have to be thankful that our Government possesses a different sort of stubbornness to that of Donald Trump. When the latter’s initial ‘travel ban’ was blocked by a judge, he angrily tweeted that ‘THE SECURITY OF OUR NATION IS AT STAKE!’. Yet, when May’s Brexit timetable was thrown into question by the judiciary and the laws, she may not have been happy, but she showed it with professionalism. Although this implies some separation between how the two governments operate, let’s not forget that both are becoming worryingly isolationist. Trump has once again tried to reinstate a travel ban, whilst the UK has to ensure it does not shut itself off when it severs ties with the EU after Brexit.

The Tory government has a dangerous tunnel vision – one obsessed with a hard Brexit that threatens the EU with a no deal despite making no economic evaluations of said deal, and one that is willing to do this without considering the wishes of the Scottish people.

To once again compare to Trump’s administration, there’s cries of ‘fake news’ whenever the US President sees any critical articles about him in the media. Now, as Sturgeon and co. publicly declare their discontent with the UK Government on Brexit, May accuses the SNP of playing a ‘game’ – which is somewhat hypercritical coming from someone who still refuses to secure the rights of EU citizens living here as though they are some sort of bargaining chip.

However desirable a forever United Kingdom may be, one has to understand that the treatment of Scotland by the Tories is more than enough evidence to show why a ‘yes’ vote is entirely possible. David Cameron’s sweet-talking from 2014 where he said: “I speak for millions of people across England, Wales and Northern Ireland – and many in Scotland, too, who would be utterly heart-broken by the break-up of the United Kingdom” has apparently gone out of the window with May. She’s resorted to the trusty ad hominem attacks that the Conservatives know and love.

As Trump’s shouts of ‘fake news’ show weakness and do little to stifle the criticism against his administration, you have to consider what the PM’s comments about the SNP ‘playing games’ conveys. Zac Goldsmith’s disgraceful mayoral campaign remains a constant lesson to the Tories about how bad personal attacks are in politics. In that case, it led to people supporting the alternative candidate: Sadiq Khan.

If the Tories maintain their arrogance, ignorance and tunnel vision, it will only benefit the ‘Yes’ campaign even further. Scots, angry at the fact that they are being ignored and mocked by the UK Government, will vote to leave the United Kingdom – and I wouldn’t be surprised.

Messenger Day: A wrong step in the trend of multi-purpose apps | The Friday Article

Snapchat took a risk in 2013. The launch of Stories was one that some people weren’t impressed with when it first started out, but it has since become one of the app’s key features. There’s something about Snapchat’s multitude of features – text chat, photo chat and stories – which doesn’t deviate from its core message. This is in contrast to Facebook Messenger, which launched a worryingly similar version of ‘stories’ – called Messenger Day – on its app today.

Photo: Facebook Messenger.

It’s been dubbed a ‘clone’ by some tech websites, and it’s likely that not everyone will approve of the new update. Granted, people had a similar reaction to Instagram, but it’s slowly being warmed to.

What made Instagram Stories ‘work’ (something to be debated) was the fact that Stories was on-brand. The app has always been about sharing photos and videos as a snapshot of your day. It works. Messenger – as the name suggests – has always been about messages on the most basic of terms. For a long time, it’s been through GIFs, photos, texts and videos. The app has always been grounded to its role as a basic messaging tool. To add something which is about sharing photos and videos ‘as they happen’ is a bizarre and wrong step to take for the app.

Plus, it doesn’t compete against Instagram, since they are both owned by Facebook. Whilst Zuckerberg’s platform has the most users (1.86 billion people compared to Snapchat’s 160 million daily users), why would Facebook introduce a feature on Messenger which is already available on Instagram?

There’s a right way to jump on a technological bandwagon, and this isn’t it. Breaking away from the aforementioned ‘core’ definition is brave, but it won’t work when the industry is all about creating a multi-tool app with one sole purpose.

The Tories must end the blackmail and secure the rights of EU nationals | The Friday Article

There’s a dangerous indignation sweeping the right. Donald Trump’s war against the media is an annoying distraction from his ‘Make America Great Again’ mantra, and in the UK, the judiciary and legislature continue to frustrate Theresa May’s Article 50 deadline.

The House of Lords voted to add a new amendment to the Brexit bill this week - protecting the rights of EU nationals living in the UK. Photo: Liam O'Dell.
The House of Lords voted to add a new amendment to the Brexit bill this week – protecting the rights of EU nationals living in the UK. Photo: Liam O’Dell.

This week, it was the House of Lords’ amendment to the Brexit bill to secure the rights of EU nationals living in Britain. It comes just over a month after the High Court ruled Parliament must have a say on the legislation, and the PM isn’t happy. The government has said that it will try to overturn the amendments.

“Our message to MPs is that we expect this bill to go through unamended,” a No. 10 spokesman said in an article on Sky News’ website. “MPs voted it through unamended and we expect that to be the case.”

Indeed they did, but the two arms of Parliament must agree in order for a bill to be passed. A constant ‘ping pong’ between the two houses until a deal is made would only highlight the pure indignation of the Tories. They must stop this childish attitude of refusing compromise on such an important issue. Their fight against the decision of the judiciary was alarming, and now their reluctance to protect the rights of EU nationals living in the UK is hypocritical.

“We will provide certainty wherever we can,” Theresa May said in a speech at Lancaster House in January. “There will have to be compromises. It will require imagination on both sides, and not everybody will be able to know everything at every stage.

“But I recognise how important it is to provide […] everybody with as much certainty as possible as we move through the process. So where we can offer that certainty, we will do so.”

If anything, the issue with the Lords continues to cast doubt over the whole Brexit dilemma. The above comments contradict what the Conservatives are planning to achieve at the moment. If the Tory government can’t even reach a compromise with the House of Lords, then how on earth can they compromise with the EU member states in Brussels? The worrying remark by the PM in the January speech that ‘no deal for Britain is better than a bad deal for Britain’ hardly provides certainty. It sounds like a game of blackmail with the EU – a sense of hostility which we do not need at a time when the UK is so delicate.

It’s no surprise that EU nationals living in Britain feel like bargaining chips. The government has explained that it wants the rights of Britons living in other EU countries guaranteed before it can promise that the rights of EU nationals living here will be protected. Aside from the ‘putting our own people first’ connotations that creates, what happens in the unlikely circumstance that the European Union cannot guarantee the rights of ex-pats? Will the ‘no deal’ rule still apply, and we would start deporting EU nationals living here?

As Lady Molly Meacher said to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I believe it [the amendment] can be won in the Commons on the basis of morality and principle” – to fail to guarantee the rights of EU nationals would be a dismissive action at a time when the definition of ‘Britishness’ is under scrutiny.

The Tories must of course keep some cards close to their chest, but the dangerous levels of blackmail which the Conservatives plan to adopt in Brussels – with EU nationals as a ‘bargaining chip’ – is an arrogant way to approach negotiations. It also contrasts the sweet-talking of Trump and the state visit invitation – why must we treat a divisive President with respect yet approach the EU with hostility?

To ‘cherrypick’ and blackmail our way to a deal will only decrease our chances of getting what we want, and could effect the strong relationships with other European countries that a post-Brexit Britain desperately needs.

Donald Trump’s state visit: why it should go ahead | The Friday Article

It’s an underlying democratic issue which was partly responsible for the polls being wrong and Donald Trump’s election as the 46th US President. Left-wingers and liberals shut down the political debate by labelling Trump supporters as ‘racist’, ‘sexist’ and so forth, to the extent where the only safe place to share their opinion is in the voting booth. Now, as Parliament debates Donald Trump’s state visit on Monday, Stop Trump demonstrators will protest on Parliament Square ‘to stand up and say no to the future of hatred, racism and division that Donald Trump is trying to create – and to say no to the disgraceful complicity of Theresa May and the British government in supporting him’. Whilst the Facebook page doesn’t state explicitly whether this protest is also against the state visit, with regards to the petition, you have to ask: will preventing him from making a state visit to the UK do more harm than simply inviting him here to speak?

Photo: Gage Skidmore on Flickr. Licensed under Creative Commons - https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/legalcode.
Photo: Gage Skidmore on Flickr. Licensed under Creative Commons – https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/legalcode.

Of course, it must be said that this article is not condoning Trump’s divisive nature. Instead, it calls for us to return to honest political debate. Already in the UK, we have seen newspapers banned on university campuses and left-wingers continue to ban and cut off the views from the far-right. Isn’t a petition preventing Trump from airing his opinions the same thing, and damages our democracy?

Granted, allowing the far-right president to visit the UK could result in Britain’s right-wing populism gaining strength, but surely protests during his visit will be the biggest sign of defiance against these people, and Trump’s beliefs? Which sends the strongest message to him: a U-turn on his state visit, or the British people allowing him a platform for his views, but them being met with strong opposition? The former shows a sheer ignorance towards opposing views, whilst the latter demonstrates that we are an open society which allows for these views to be challenged. To go back to the point of Trump’s potential visit further dividing the UK, a nationwide protest against the figure presents an opportunity for unity. Although that sense of coming together may still be seen in the number of signatures on the petition preventing him from making a visit, a demonstration is a more visible sign of cohesion.

Should the state visit be called off, would that mean that Trump is prevented from making any sort of visit to the UK during his four-year presidency? Aside from this posing a risk to the ‘special relationship’ buzzword Theresa May likes to use, preventing controversial views from being said in Britain would create a slight feeling of isolationism similar to that which Trump is adopting in America itself. Donald’s cries of ‘fake news’ at press organisations which he disagrees with discredit the journalists who scrutinise his position of authority – surely preventing Trump from stating his opposing views is an alarming parallel to this?