Pound falls to 9-month low after Brexiteer Liam Foxes admitting ‘no deal likely’.

Liam Fox, like many lead Brexiteers, has been forced to face the damming consequences of what Brexit actually means for the UK. From assuring the public prior to the referendum that a trade deal with the EU would be the ‘easiest trade deal in the history of mankind’ to falling on his own sword admitting that a ‘no deal is the likeliest outcome’.

As a result of the statement from Dr Liam Fox, the Minister for International Trade, the pound plummeted to a 9-month low. It is a truly worrying time for British politics when ministers are not being held in contempt for their incompetence, with much of the mainstream media brushing of these events as daily occurrences – a sort of occupational hazard for the few Brexiteers left in key government positions.

As the UK looks more likely to crash out without a deal, there have been increased calls for a second referendum, a so-called ‘people’s vote’. This vote is not to disrepute ‘the will of the people’ but more so to ensure a final say on whatever the final arrangement the government proposes. Support for another vote has gathered momentum fast, with the official online petition gathering nearly 550,000 signatures. One key politician pushing for this vote is Labour MP Chucka Umunna. Who rightfully argues that the leave campaign promise of £350 million a week was false (perhaps not even worth the bus it was printed on). Considering recent reports warning that the UK may have to stockpile medicine and food to soften the Brexit blow, the UK would not only be in a worst position, but also at risk of national catastrophe.

Tories Break Brexit vote agreement made with MP on maternity leave

When Laura Pidcock (Labour MP for North Durham), stated she would not even consider ‘hanging out’ with any Conservative female MPs as they were the enemy of women. These remarks were met with jeers from the Tory benches, even leading to comments from Theresa May asking when Labour were going to deliver a female Prime Minister. Yesterday, we learnt why Laura Pidcock was right in her reservations.

Following the two crucial Brexit amendment votes in the House of Commons, Deputy Liberal Democrat Leader Jo Swinson MP could not attend due to being on maternity leave but was also left unable to vote, despite measures being in place to do so. The concept of pairing votes means that if an MP is unable to attend Parliament due to something like being on maternity leave, they can pair with someone who they know would vote in the opposite way. In this case, Ms Swinson paired with Conservative party Chairman Brandon Lewis. Despite turning up and voting twice, Mr Lewis abstained from voting on the two most important votes of the day, the Brexit customs union and the medicine agency vote. Due to Mr Lewis’ lack of attendance Jo Swinson was, therefore, unable to vote, which brings about issues of not only political significance but greater legal breaches.

The political implications are obvious, underhand tactics to oppress Parliament’s functionality whilst undermining the democratic will of the people in a representative democracy. It seems a great irony that in trying to deliver the supposed ‘will of the people’, the ‘weak and wobbly’, Jenga tower soon to collapse Conservative government, has forgotten about the people it represents, and the process in which it should do so. The legal implications are just as damming. As Jo Swinson so passionately argued on Twitter, 54,000 women lose their jobs each year in the UK due to pregnancy and maternity discrimination. The ‘burning injustices’ that this government wanted to fight has begun to appear in the institution responsible for producing legislation to combat these exact problems.

The Conservative party, when questioned on the matter, brushed it off as an innocent mistake, with the both the Tory whip and Mr Lewis reluctant to take full responsibility. Even more absurd, when Mr Lewis was asked whether he’d apologise by sending a bouquet of flowers to Ms Swinson, he suggested it was not his responsibility to do so.

There have been fresh calls now to bring in proxy voting for those MPs on maternity leave. Swinson has received much cross-bench unity, with former Labour leader Harriet Harman backing the appeal. It is hoped that Parliament will vote on this matter before the early recess proposal is voted on.

Why are the “liberal snowflakes” being blamed for our woes?

Hours and hours of trawling through twitter feeds uncovers a new phenomenon, the ‘snowflake liberals’ causing all the world’s woes.  Look at any right leaning politician on Twitter, from President Trump to Jacob Rees-Mogg and you will find blame for the state of the world being laid on those with a liberal ideology. Time and time again I find myself asking a simple question: how can the left be in the political firing line when we have two of the most right-wing leaning governments in the UK and the US in recent history? Does the blame not lie with those who are responsible for the decision-making process, rather than those who democratically contest their decisions.

In 2013, under the second Obama administration the United States went into a federal government shutdown. For over two weeks approximately 800,000 federal employees were forced into taken a period of unpaid, and rather unexpected leave. This was largely due to a funding gap being created when the lower chamber of the United States Congress (the Republican dominated House of Representatives) failed to come to an appropriate resolution with the Democratic led Senate over issues including Obama care. At the time, Donald Trump was quite happy to accredit the entire blame to the very top, stating on Twitter: ‘Leadership: whatever happens you’re responsible’.

Fast forward five years and Trump found himself in a similar position. However, uncharacteristically, and going against his own sentiment he left the blame at the door of the Democrats. What might seem even more surprising than Donald Trump going back on his word, or in the 21th century equivalent, his ‘tweet’ is the magnitude of control the Republican party had, and still has. Following Trump’s shock victory in 2016 Presidential Election, for the first time since 1928 the Republicans had control of the Oval Office, the House and the Senate. It is therefore unfathomable that Trump and the Republican party cannot see the problem without looking in the mirror.

As for the UK, where to start. Perhaps with the small problem that is Brexit. Like being trapped in a confined space with a bee, the buzzing is annoying enough, but knowing you will be eventually stung makes the situation even more distressing. Following possibly one the most significant constitutional law cases, Gina Miller was labelled as a ‘remoaner’ defying the people’s will. In fact, she was in good company, with three leading Supreme Court judges being labelled ‘Enemies of the People’ by the Daily Mail. It is a dangerous situation when a citizen exercising their democratic right, challenging a government’s decision is met with death threats. Moreover, having the judiciary scapegoated across national newspapers interferes with its impartial operation and puts strain on our democracy.

Most recently, we have been met with the ever-growing crisis in Syria. Those foolhardy on the right want to see the UK join the US in proposed bombing strikes. This solution seems to carry very little tangible merit, and would result in a huge loss of life with potential to aggravate the situation even further. Following this debate on social media under the ‘Not in My Name May’ hashtag, I soon discovered the foot of the blame on those on the left once more. Recurring arguments that the lack of military action in 2013, due to the resistance of those opposition parties was the main reason why there are still problems with Syria. I find it incomprehensible that the opposition party in this country are responsible for another countries crisis. Moreover, I find it somewhat comical that these claims are being made by the right. The same right that opposed continued international cooperation within the EU, find it necessary to bring action against a country without exhausting all other options necessary under international law. This bolshiness of being an international actor as and when it suits does not work within the two-way street Brexit created. If Britain wants to return to a position of splendid isolation, it must resist the temptation to act. It is not enough to blame an opposing ideology in an attempt to thwart responsibility.

All this seems to show that the left cannot do right for doing wrong. No matter what position or situation those on the liberal side of the spectrum find themselves in, they shall always be labelled as the problem. It appears this is due to the evident right wing bias across the mainstream media. Look beyond the headlines and see for yourself.

 

Are referendums the ‘purest’ form of democracy or a reflection of a broken political system?

The use of the most direct form of democracy, a referendum, was used to determine in the issue of EU membership in 2016. From then, media outlets have been inundated with all manner of news on the ongoing fiasco that is Brexit. However, to take a step away from this frenzy and evaluate how we ended up at where we at, may also throw up some home truths about democracy that we would not like to admit. Although referendum can be seen to be empowering democratically ‘the people’, it has caused us, the people, more harm than good.

Referendums were so long avoided in the UK because of the connotations left by the abuse of referenda by nationalistic dictators such as Hitler and Mussolini. In these cases, referendums were used to gain public support on issues of very little contention, given the context of the time, it was also unlikely any one would oppose the desired outcome. When Churchill proposed a UK wide referendum in 1945 on whether a general election should be held before or after the defeat of Japan, the then Labour leader Clement Attlee stated ‘are you seriously suggesting we should use the tool of dictators?’. The idea for a referendum was subsequently abandoned, and the people of the UK would have to wait until 1975 before the first nation-wide referendum was held.

The source of this referendum pledge was surprising but the subject of this referendum rather un-surprising. Harold Wilson, the next Labour Prime Minister after Clement Attlee promised the first UK ‘in out’ referendum on the EU’s predecessor the European Economic Community (ECC). A divide on continued membership to the EEC threatened to split the Labour party, resulting in Wilson turning to ‘the tool of dictators’. It can be recognised at this point that the 1975 ECC referendum, like the 2016 EU referendum was in no way meant to be for the benefit of the people.

The 2016 referendum came off the back of a manifesto pledge made by David Cameron during the 2015 General Election, which in turn delivered the Conservative party a slim 12 seat majority. Again, this pledge had little to do with the transfer of power to the people. Moreover, it was in fact a last throw at the dice by David Cameron to try gain a Conservative majority.

It is at this point it may be worth trying to break the stigma that ‘direct democracy’ prevails above all else. In short, just because ‘the people’ have been consulted, it does not automatically qualify the outcome as just or merely beneficial to the people. Referendums, are unique in the sense they create a clear-cut division; either the ‘yes’ or the ‘no’; the ‘remain’ the ‘leave’; the ‘brexiteer’ the ‘remoaner’.

With such clear lines of tension, are such divisive democratic mechanisms necessary or even worthwhile existing alongside are representative democracy model? These divisions are beginning to transcend themselves into larger issues such as hate crime. In the 11 months that followed the 23rd June referendum police released figures indicating a rise of 23% in racially provoked hate crime.

The issues surrounding EU membership were unravelled in what can only be summarised as media slandering competition, whichever camp could throw enough mud at the opposition, in the hope some of it would stick. The leave sides claim that the remain side were operating ‘a project fear’, with claims that a leave vote would lead to another financial crash (which after the vote, despite a huge fall in the pound, we have not seen). Comparatively, the ‘leave’ side making inflated claims of what EU membership savings could be reinvested into (the promise of £350 billion to the NHS according to an infamous red bus). These final claims lead to the conclusion that the population on a whole were not ready, and therefore could not be trusted to be responsible to accommodate such a vote.

To say the population on a whole could not be trusted or responsible to answer such a basic ‘in/ out’ question is not a slander or a reflection of the populations competence. It is more a reflection of the governments incompetence and their lack of responsibility to deal with the issues which brought about the tensions which subsequently led to the referendum. Had governments (not just the most recent Conservative period of 2010- present) done more to ensure those who voted leave had their concerns listened to and acted upon, we would perhaps not have had to had the referendum at all. It is however the responsibility of government to ensure that tensions such as immigration are not ignored and left to manifest into bigger problems, like we find ourselves in now.

To bypass this issue, I would suggest it is not about the amount of democratic power that an individual has the capacity to exhibit. Moreover, it is the quality of that democracy that would ensure a reduction of tension between the people and Parliament. Whilst general elections under the 2011 Elections act are restricted to every 5 years’, further elections are not necessarily are going to act as a solution. However, a more proportionally based system of electing MP’s to the House of Commons would ensure relevant engagement, as with any other electoral system, but would also offer a fairer, proportionally based representation of voter’s intentions.

Where we have been left is utterly unacceptable and is because of a poorly, misconstrued attempt to use a democratic tool for personal (or in this case party) gain. We should all hold those who seek to represent us at a higher standard, and it is therefore important to look beyond the issues that Brexit turns up. If we allow ourselves to become engulfed within the Brexit fiasco, we lose sight of further issues of great important such as our slowly decaying National Health Service (NHS). It is with the above knowledge I take my issues with the fabrication that referendums are good for ‘the people’, when in actuality they are becoming a distraction to immanent crises.