Mrs May’s Legacy… or lack of it.

Philip May

Countless pieces have now been written on May and her premiership, some deeply critical and unforgiving, others approaching with deep cynicism.

None that I have seen so far analyse her legacy in its true form, that is Brexit and the normalisation of no-deal. This is peculiar, as time again commentators have warned about the effects of attacks on immigrants, for example, since the EU referendum, hate crime has risen sharply.

The EU referendum campaign was deeply divisive, on sovereignty, democracy and immigration, little was said in the leave campaign about how and on what terms we would leave. Correctly so, for the best strategists know that this would have created more fear and less chance of victory. Rather focus on the issues at hand.

Perhaps the remain campaign could have brought this to the table, pressed on whether no deal was a viable solution. Of course the official campaigns denied all such probability. In stepped May as Conservative party leader and prime minister of the United Kingdom.

Shivering with fright about the stance that the EU had taken and the knives that the ERG held, May introduced language such as No Deal is better than a bad deal. Unsurprisingly, she did not believe in this slogan, and later had to retract.

Crucially though, this normalised the idea of no deal, it was given a podium on national television. Frequently ERG members spouted utter nonsense about its economic benefits. Which is the defining lesson, once again those in high public office have neglected the power they hold, the power to normalise absurd ideas. Austerity was politically unsellable once broken down, who would vote for a lower standard of living, but as soon as you engage in the idea that it is for the public interest, and that we are all in it together it becomes mainstream, normalised.

The power of narrative should not be underestimated, yet it consistently is. It will be to catastrophic effects too, where in years subsequent the left will blame Farage et al. for his role in this mess, we will unlikely focus on Theresa May, for she is in the large part complicit, and some would argue the architect.

I take no pleasure in saying that we will not learn, nor do I want to preach that we should be more careful, because it falls on deaf ears. The country needs evaluation and reflection, it needs its institutions to be reformed, instead our main political parties are for better or worse imploding. May will go down as one of the worst PM’s in British history, correctly so, perhaps though, for the incorrect reasons.

History And The Resilience Of The Cooperative Model

The first cooperative in Italy was established in 1854 in Turin, as part of a wave of liberal reformism. As the movement grew, it split into two branches: the socialist branch that was stronger in the North and more focused on worker and consumer cooperatives, and the Catholic branch that was stronger in the South and more focused on agricultural and financial cooperatives. The movement grew to play a vital role in the Italian economy. For example, in 1919 the biggest port in the country was operated as a worker owned cooperative.Cooperatives, especially those of the socialist tradition, faced suppression by the Fascist regime and were deemed as cesspools of opposition activities. People were imprisoned, properties were destroyed, and central organizations were put under strict control of the dictatorship. 

After the war, cooperatives grew gradually alongside an economic boom that lasted until the 1970s. However, as the rest of the economy started to slow down, cooperatives continued their growth. The share of employment in cooperatives has more than tripled since the 1970s, reaching around 7% in 2018. The model, sometimes branded as old fashioned and suitable mostly for agriculture, turned out to be superior in adapting to the modern economy. 

Below are three facts that demonstrate the resilience of the cooperative business model in Italy:

Social Cooperatives

In the 1980s Italy saw two new type of cooperatives emerge; ones that provided social, health and educational services and ones that created jobs for disadvantaged people, so-called work integration social cooperatives. These two types of so called ‘social cooperatives’ were given a legal framework in 1991. The following decade saw this sector boom, with a five-fold increase in the number of people employed in social cooperatives, reaching 149,000 people in 2001. 

With the aging population and the growing share of employment in the care sector, Italy is spearheading what might be one of the most revolutionary transformations in the labour market – giving ownership of the care providers democratically to those receiving and giving the care. The technological advancement is a trend that makes it harder to employ disabled and low-skilled workers, which is also a question these cooperatives are addressing with great success. Below are two facts about the sector, one for both types of the social cooperatives:

Worker owned cooperatives

Italy has over 25,000 worker owned cooperatives, more than any other country in the world. To put this into perspective, the US only has 650, although the population is more than 5 times that of Italy’s. Two facts below show some of the social benefits that these sort of businesses have, as well as an example of what kind of legislation Italy has in place to support the sector.

Retail cooperatives

The largest retailer in Italy is a cooperative, simply called ‘Coop’. It has been at the forefront of ethical retailing, becoming the first European company to adopt the S A8000 Standard which is the only international standard valid for all sectors that can be certified by an external entity and ensures the ethical behaviour of companies and of the production chain towards workers. It was also the first Italian retailer to introduce FairTrade products. 

Below is an example of a project it has supported to help post-conflict areas in other countries:

Emilio Romagno – The world capital of worker owned cooperatives

Emilio Romagno is an area in Northern Italy that has one of the highest median income in all of Italy and it also ranks on top in various indicators of social well-being. The region also has the highest propensity to export in the country. 

The region also has perhaps the highest ‘social capital’ (a term that refers to intensity of interpersonal relationships, trust, cooperation and reciprocity) in the developed world, according to Robert Putnam, who has coined the term and is the leading researcher on the subject. This was measured by surveys that explored, for example, how often people take part in volunteering activities and how well they know their neighbours.
Around 30% of the GDP of the area is produced by worker cooperatives, making it the most worker cooperative based economy of its size in the world.

The Future

The movement is coming full circle, as its socialist and catholic traditions are gradually joining together.

Only the imagination sets limits to the opportunities of the future, and one of the most brilliant platform cooperatives, FairBnB coop is based in Emilio Romagno. It is a cooperative alternative to Air BnB that seeks to become co-owned by the hosts and guests. Instead of taking a commission that goes to the shareholders, the cooperative will donate to local projects of the members’ choice, such as public gardens or historical conservation. It is a straightforward example of a vision we at Coop Exchange embrace – a sharing economy where the ownership is shared. Air BnB faces opposition by the residents of areas that are very popular on the platform, but a cooperative alternative that would contribute to the betterment of the local area would surely be welcomed more positively. Whereas Air BnB enters an area and operates there until pressure from the public forces politicians to regulate it, Fair BnB will seek to help the public and contribute, not extract, value from the communities it operates in. We warmly recommend everyone to enlist their interest in the cooperative on their website

Emilio Romagno has the potential to become the centre of a great transformation of the start up culture towards crowdfunded, user-owned platform cooperatives. It has the potential to not only be the driving force of lifting Italy out of its economic problems, but also become the center of a distinct European tech sector that can rival that of China and the US.

European Elections 2019: Yorkshire Independence Party gains more votes than Change UK in Yorkshire

In the 2019 European Elections, the results of which were released last night, the Yorkshire Party has achieved a higher share of the vote in the Yorkshire region than the nationally-based Change UK Party.

The Yorkshire Party, known for their political goal of campaigning for the government to grant Yorkshire the ability to form it’s own provincial government within the UK, was formed in 2014, and has seen its best turnout of any election so far last night.

Stated on the Party’s website, the group aims to petition the government to treat Yorkshire with the same level of political freedom as Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, all of which have their own inner Parliament as well as contributing Ministers of Parliament to Westminster in general elections.

On the other side, the Change UK Party was formed earlier this year after a loose coalition of Labour and Conservative Ministers of Parliament broke away from their respective establishment Parties due to their stances on Brexit, and originally went by the moniker of “The Independent Group”.

The Party ran with a number of candidates in every region of the United Kingdom, but failed to secure a single candidate as a Minister for European Parliament in the election, gaining barely 2.9% of the popular vote.

In Yorkshire and Humber specifically, however, the Yorkshire Party gained over 53,000 votes, compared to Change UK’s 30,162, which amounted to around 4% of the vote in the region compared to Change UK’s 2.3% of the vote.

The Yorkshire Party’s share of the popular vote was also nearly on par with the United Kingdom Independence Party’s share, with the Party losing all of their MEP seats both in the Yorkshire region itself and nationally last night.

Due to the nature of the European Elections, with a considerable majority of parties pushing a “protest vote” such as the Brexit Party, the Liberal Democrats, the Green Party, and Change UK all forming their election campaigns around their Party’s views on whether to remain or leave the European Union on October 31st, it can be implied that more residents around the Yorkshire and Humber area wish to see a devolved Yorkshire than would support Change UK’s campaign to remain in the European Parliament.

However, the Yorkshire and Humber area did see a considerable number of it’s residents back other remain parties, and the Liberal Democrat Party gained 15.5% of the popular vote, and the Green Party also secured 12.9% of the voter share. The Liberal Democrat Party was narrowly beaten by the Labour Party however, who held onto 16.3% of the voter share for that region, despite losing over 13% of voters to the other Parties when compared to the 2014 elections. All 3 parties gained 1 MEP seat each for the region.

On the official Yorkshire Party’s social media account, the Party asked whether or not this means the Yorkshire Party, and the Party’s prevailing lobbying message to the government, will be given more media coverage than Change UK, in light of Change UK’s disastrous night and the Yorkshire Party’s relative success in this year’s elections.

Why the Eurovision Song Contest will never be apolitical

 

It’s that time of year again where Europe comes together for the Eurovision Song Contest, an annual singing competition which pits the majority of Europe (and Australia) against each other for the title.

Eurovision is supposed to be a non-political event. Under European Broadcasting Union (EBU) broadcasting rules, the Eurovision Song Contest ‘shall in no case be politicized and/or instrumentalized’. European broadcasters have to ensure that ‘No messages promoting any organization, institution, political cause’ can occur throughout the entire competition. Otherwise, the country faces disqualification.

But how realistic is this? Can Eurovision remain apolitical (or, perhaps, has it ever actually been apolitical?).

As you may or may not know, this year’s Eurovision Song Contest has come under close scrutiny. After Israeli artist Netta won the competition in 2018, many have used the event to voice their outrage against the Israeli government and its treatment of Palestinians.

In January, a number of British figures signed a letter which called for the BBC to cancel the coverage of this year’s contest. Signatories included Vivienne Westwood, Maxine Peake and the band Wolf Alice. In response, Stephen Fry and Sharon Osbourne were two figures to respond, signing a letter which reminded that Eurovision was about the “spirit of togetherness” and stressed that a cultural boycott was “not the answer”.

From this, one must question why there is such a fuss over the coverage of a singing competition.

To begin with, the song contest is a staple European event which has run for over 60 years. Whilst its importance in the UK has deteriorated over the years, its popularity with other European countries has continued to grow, and on average, at least one-quarter of Sweden’s population watch the final each year. With great popularity comes great attention – this is an event which has the eyes of millions across not only Europe, but the world.

But most importantly, whilst the show attempts to avoid any mention of party politics, the show itself is a political statement.

Firstly, this is a show which aims to bring countries together. The competition was established to bring together war-torn Europe in the 1950s – this message of ‘togetherness’ features heavily in each annual theme. That, in itself, contradicts EBU rulings because it is a political statement.

The message of ‘togetherness’ has also engulfed not only nationality, but gender, sexuality and race, which is here we see why Israel has come under criticism. Whilst some argue that Israel is the only country in the Middle East to accept homosexuality, others question how it can be an active member of the EBU when it disregards the recognition of Palestinians.

Acceptance of gender and sexuality has also been at the pinnacle of the show’s history. In 1998, Dana International became the first transgender winner, whilst in 2014, Conchita Wurst became the first drag queen to win the competition. Winning the competition usually comprises of a substantial amount of positive press coverage, a song with an inspiring message, and millions of voters – both emulated the political acceptance of the fluidity of gender and sexuality.

But this does not mean that everyone’s at the same stage of the political spectrum. This year, the semi-finals have already seen controversy for the Belarusian broadcasters. During the vote counting of first semi-final, Dana International performed a cover of Bruno Mars’ ‘Just The Way You Are’, which was accompanied by a kiss-cam that featured members of the crowd. There were a number of gay couples featured kissing in the number, to which the Belarusian presenter went on to hope that the number would “finally find some cool couples”.

Of course, to love is something that we should all have a right to across the world. Yet there are many out there who still politically declare that they are against such values.

Secondly, performances do not mention party politics, but they do make political statements. Armenia entered a song in 2015 named “Face the Shadow”. It featured the lyrics “Don’t deny/Ever don’t deny/Listen don’t deny” in reference to the massacre of 1.5 million Armenians to mark its centenary.

This was followed by Ukraine’s winning entry by Jamala in 2016. Named 1944, it was based on the deportation of the Crimean Tartars by Stalin in the 1940s. In fact, Jamala even told The Guardian that the song reminded her of present day Crimea (which was annexed by Russia in 2014). However, the EBU ruled that the song contained no “political speech”.

And last year, winner Netta described her song as “the awakening of female power and social justice”, whilst the French entry emoted the story of a Nigerian refugee as she went into labour on board a rescue ship.

It seems that entries are starting to become more and more explicit with their messaging. It isn’t known if this will mean the EBU will imply stricter rules based on how influential and how impactful Eurovision entries will get, and as populism increases in many parts of Europe, the urge for entries to send counter-protest songs seems ever more likely.

The Eurovision Song Contest is a fantastic spectacle, bringing people of all walks of life together. But, it will never be possible to ensure that the contest is apolitical. With the show’s openly pro-European stance, alongside the increasing number of discrete, subliminal protest entries, it’s hard to see a future edition of Eurovision which doesn’t feature a political controversy.

US Speaker of the House warns “no chance” of US-UK trade deal if Brexit damages Good Friday Agreement.

Democrat politician and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has warned the UK that there will be no beneficial trade relationship formed with the United States should the final Brexit deal, or possible lack of a deal, harm Northern Ireland’s Good Friday Agreement.

The widely influential politician spoke at the London School of Economics and Political Science’s “In-Conversation” series, where the University invites powerful contenders in world politics to speak to a public audience.

Representative Pelosi, who spoke to Professor Peter Trubowitz, stated that the tenuous peace agreements made in Northern Ireland can not be “bargained away” during conversations with the European Union, mentioning concerns over the possible creation of a customs “back-stop” in Northern Ireland, should a hard-border not be formed between the Republic of Ireland.

The Good Friday Agreement was a political policy formed in the 1990s, which saw an end to several decades of intense fighting and unrest in the Northern Irish and Irish border between dissidents, and UK Government forces, culminating in a number of terrorist attacks committed by the Irish Republican Army, a long with several atrocities committed by UK troops and Government-allied paramilitary groups.

Tensions in the region have recently heated up once again as a direct result of Brexit, as it is thought a new iteration of Republican armed groups have begun threatening UK infrastructure and citizens with acts of terror.

The current Speaker of the House also remarked that regardless of whether Northern Ireland’s peace was jeopardised by the Brexit process, successfully putting a trade deal through Congress is still “no given anyway”, but the Good Friday Agreement was something the United States wouldn’t want to be “something that can be bargained away in some other agreement” as the creation of the agreement as a “model to the world”.

The Speaker also stated how Brexit has become such an integral issue to world politics, it overshadows most other economic transatlantic talks between other countries and the United States. Pelosi mentioned her discontent with any political trip to the UK simply involving “Brexit, Brexit, Brexit, Brexit”.

Has the death of May’s deal paved the way for a new Brexit approach?

It really is ironic, isn’t it? Despite a third successive Brexit defeat for Theresa May, it seems the fallout has at last paved the way for an alternative approach to the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union.

Friday’s Commons defeat was smaller than those which had come before it on 15 January and 12 March – the majority against Mrs May was 58 rather than 230 and 149. The vote was also confined to the so-called ‘Divorce’ rather than extending to the crucial political declaration. But, even so, the verdict was clear- the vote in its current form is dead and buried.

Given that her deal was likely to lose for a third time, the question has to be asked: why did the prime minister so willingly invite her own humiliation? For a prime minister who, since taking office has faced 35 cabinet resignations, conventional wisdom would surely prevent her from inflicting any more embarrassment upon her stricken premiership.

There are a host of reasons. Her obdurate character, her inept strategy and the seeping political authority. However, perhaps the most crucial reason was to appease the various party wings, and indeed the country, by showing that some kind of Brexit was on the road. But her systematic misjudgements and succumbing to partisanship meant she was unable to meet the deadline of leaving the EU in what she called “an orderly fashion” by 29 March. The prime minister was clearly trying to demonstrate to leave voters that it was everyone else apart from her that was getting in the way of Brexit. Indeed, Mrs May has, throughout the process, tried to turn the spotlight of blame on Labour. But they owed her nothing.

According to Geoffrey Cox, the attorney general, the reason for May trying again was purely a matter of procedure. The prime minister needed to get the deal through so that the latest Brexit deadline could be moved back from 12 April to 22 May which, in theory, would allow Parliament to force through the final furlong of withdrawal legislation and avoid the European parliament elections.

But the PM had more political reasons too. The revolt of MPs last Monday, in which they took control of the parliamentary timetable, opened the possibility that opposition MPs and pro-European Tories might force a soft-Brexit. Many panicked at this prospect, and with Mrs May promising to stand down if her deal was voted through, more than 40 MPs supported a deal they had once fiercely criticised. Even so, it was all to no avail, yet Downing Street seems to suggest that it can rely on those switchers in order to make things easier for the deal if May tries a fourth time.

But a fourth vote would be nonsensical. Instead, Mrs May’s defeat clears the way for an alternative approach. Indeed, this week’s indicative votes – whilst not producing an outright majority – proved that there is a majority for a customs union-orientated solution. With Theresa May having now extended the olive branch to Jeremy Corbyn in order to find common ground, the prospect of either a customs union or second referendum on the final deal are very much in play.

If the Commons can rally behind these then the EU summit – which commences on 10 April – can be asked to give the UK an extension of article 50 to formulate a different form of a withdrawal deal, potentially with a public vote at the end.

Whatever happens in the short-term, maybe, just maybe, Theresa May has kicked the can hard enough to create space for a belated, but much-needed compromise.

Brexit has cost UK economy an average of £600 million a week, top investment firm warns

The investment firm Goldman Sachs has warned its clients that Brexit has impacted the investment finance industry worldwide, and the resulting uncertainty has cost the UK economy £600 million a week on average since 2016.

In a letter sent out to the organisation’s many clients today, the U.S. based firm warned that the current political turmoil caused by Brexit has “had real costs for the UK economy” and that the recent uncertainty around Brexit in Westminster has created a “renewed intensification of Brexit uncertainty.”

The investment firm industry works through directing flows of capital into organisations and industries through the use of investment firms, and the likelihood of investments returning reliable profits influences a large proportion of the industry’s decision-making.

This likelihood of investments providing profits can be inferred by analysts from information relating to the economy, including political, statistical, and world-economic indicators which factor heavily into the decisions made by firms when providing funding for companies.

Brexit and the resulting political turmoil has seen one of the biggest periods of uncertainty in UK economic history, leading many international investment firms to avoid funding business in not only the UK itself, but also other European countries as the full scale of the impact of Brexit on the European financial landscape has not yet been fully realised.

Analysts at Goldman Sachs predict a 15% chance of UK GDP falling by 5.5%, and the blow to confidence in UK markets would see the Great British Pound fall by up to 17%.

The economic uncertainty hasn’t just impacted the economy of the UK, as data released today has also shown that a no-deal Brexit would see the German economy, the flagship financial centre of the European Union, growing half a percentage point slower in the immediate year following a no-deal Brexit due to uncertainty in European markets.

Goldman Sachs’s top analysts also predicted that European countries could see a loss of around 1% in GDP following a no-deal Brexit due to the fallout of a sudden exit.

While still impacting the growth of the UK economy, a Brexit transition deal would lower the financial impacts of Brexit, seeing a 6% rise to the Pound and UK GDP growth increasing by 1.75% in the years following the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union.

While this scenario would see UK GDP and the Pound increasing in value, the rate of growth would be far less than the growth experienced by a pre-Brexit UK.

The option with the lowest economic impact on UK, and world markets, would be the United Kingdom remaining the the European Union. Should the UK stay in the European Union, the investment firm predicts that the UK would see it’s economy return to the growth experienced before the 2016 vote, and would also potentially see the pound’s value increase by 10%.

The bank also alleviated concerns from other European economies around a transitional Brexit, as the bank believes that only a no-deal scenario would create implications for markets outside of the UK.

Speaker denies May a third meaningful vote on Brexit Deal

The speaker of the house, John Bercow, has denied Theresa May a third vote on her Brexit Deal without changes to her Motion, it has been revealed today.

Bercow has stated that he will not allow a third vote on a motion that was described as “substantially the same” motion that MPs rejected last week.

The Speaker has cited a parliamentary law, created in 1604, that a defeated motion is not allowed by be brought back to be discussed and voted for in parliament during the course of the same parliamentary session.

Bercow had previously called the second vote on May’s deal as different enough to be “in order”, but that further motions must be different enough to be classified as a new motion.

The announcement comes following another round of humiliating votes in parliament against the current Government, with the Conservative Party whipping MPs against a motion the Party itself had put forward for a vote, with MPs eventually deciding overwhelmingly to delay Brexit past the March 29th deadline for Article 50 if a deal cannot be agreed to before then.

Bercow’s statement comes as another setback among many for May’s Brexit Deal, which must now be agreed to by the 29th of March to save another blow to the Government when it will be obligated to ask the European Union for an extension to Article 50.

There are a number of theoretically possible ways to move around the denial by the Speaker of the House, and the former Attorney General, Dominic Grieve, suggested that a substantial difference to the Deal could be to ask Parliament to also vote for putting the deal to a referendum. Another possibility would be to change the Parliament, calling a full general election and possibly changing the Speak of the House role itself, a position John Bercow has held for almost 10 years.