The blues can never be green: why the pausing of UK fracking is an election ploy

After the calling of a general election for December 12th, British politics has taken yet another unpredictable and exciting turn. Already the major political parties have begun to outline their election strategies; from the repetition of Labour’s 2017 strategy that boasts all the optimism of a Manchester United fan’s opinion on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, to the Europhilic platform of the Liberal democrats that so nearly distracts from their voting record. 

With headlines dominated for so long by the haze of Brexit that it may now be the national sport of the United Kingdom, one might be forgiven for forgetting the very identities and positions of the mainstream parties outside of the European question. Thus, when the Conservative party announced the “suspension” of fracking operations in the United Kingdom, anyone who has taken an interest in the growing environmentalist movement worldwide would be forgiven for assuming this as the actions of a party that cares about the planet.

Fracking – one of the more contentious methods of extracting shale and natural gas – has received a large degree of public scrutiny in recent years. The potential for geological disruption, resulting in the increased chance of earthquakes and threat posed to local communities, is one of many ecological risks associated with the process, implemented at various sites nationwide. Andrea Leadsom, Business Secretary in the Johnson Government, argued that it was the right move for the Conservative government, who were “following the science… until the science changes”.

Leadsom — who infamously questioned on her first day as Theresa May’s Energy Secretary if climate change was real — seems here to justify the suspension of an environmentally damaging practice; until the point that the facts and circumstances change to allow the government to continue it again sans critique. Here we see the government enacting a temporary suspension of a profitable but ecologically destructive practice, until the science or circumstances change that justify them continuing with the destructive business.

Despite the Orwellian doublespeak of Leadsom, the move is nothing short of part of the election campaign launch of Johnson and the Conservative party. Forgetting for the moment the irony of a campaign centred around the idea of Britain deserving better than the brutal imposition of austerity and political buffoonery masterminded by the Conservatives themselves, Johnson’s political ethos focuses on the notion of “getting things done”. Let us get Brexit done, as the Conservatives cry, and we can focus on getting things done for the police force we have cut, the health service we have dogmatically hollowed, and on resolving the environmental crisis. Suspension of fracking, regardless of its motivations, is in the eyes of the Conservatives at least something they have actually got done in the past years of political weakness and ambiguity.

Indeed, one might be forgiven for forgetting what the political parties of the United Kingdom still stand for in these uncertain to-say-the-least times. The Conservatives can certainly be pointed to as the party of action when it comes to environmental considerations; they cannot be pointed to as the party of environmentalism. This is the party that abolished the department of Energy and Climate Change in 2016; the party that removed subsidisation of renewable energy construction and restricted the ability of renewable energy sources to develop in the United Kingdom; the party that ended the programme of sustainable home development due to a lack of profitability for investors. This is to say nothing of the continued support and subsidisation of Nuclear and non-renewable energy sources; many of which are not only unsustainable, but themselves not profitable. The fact that the Johnson Government has acted to temporarily halt fracking operations in the United Kingdom is simply a drop in the polluted ocean that Conservative policies and ideological profit-focus has helped to create.

This is hardly surprising. It is long documented that free market policies such as those championed by the Conservatives are wholly incompatible with ecological considerations; considerations which require the sacrifice of short term and individual self-interest in order to protect the common long-term good. Such profit-focus is integral to the continued dogmatic adherence to Neoliberalism that runs in the very blood of the Conservative party; an ideology that champions the free pursuit of self-interest for all, giving no consideration to considerations outside of capital and profit. Since the days of Thatcher’s gutting of regional communities, to the willing ignorance to the risks of the most profitable course that led to the Grenfell disaster, the Conservative party have long established themselves as the party that cares only for immediate economic success above any and all else. This perhaps explains why, before the enacting of such an election stunt, the party has been such a champion of fracking; almost a perfect metaphor for the extraction of short-term value with no regard for local communities or long-term sustainability.

It may be worth a modicum of congratulations to the Conservative party. Since Johnson took over as leader of the party and the country, the suspension of fracking is perhaps the one true item that the government can, unlike parliamentary votes and PR visits to hospitals, say that it has achieved success in. Make no mistake, however, the suspension of fracking is in no way motivated by a desire to protect the environment or communities affected by fracking. It is nothing short of a rudimentary and basic election tactic and attempted evidence for its “get things done campaign”; a crumb of success that will be weaponised as a counter argument to the myriad of environmentalist criticisms. When the “Science Changes” in the event the Conservatives win majority in the next election, such a suspension will be quickly and quietly repealed, leading to the next inevitable story of a small community ravaged by fracking disaster. 

As far as Environmentalism is concerned, the Conservative party line is evident; that the planet and the people that rely upon it are an afterthought, until the next chance for Johnson, clad in an ill fitting sports top or hopefully at the top of another zip-wire, to weaponise it for his own party’s success.

Boris Johnson Cleared Of Breaking Party Rules Over Burka Comments

 

Conservative Party MP and ex-Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has been cleared by a party disciplinary panel following comments he made in a column for the Telegraph in August regarding Burkas.

The disciplinary panel, which was led by an independent investigator, was tasked with deciding whether the numerous complaints weighed against the MP over his views and comments on Islam, and more specifically, female Muslim headwear, was serious enough to warrant disciplinary action.

Complaints were filed against Johnson by several of his fellow party members, including Lord Sheikh, the founder of the Conservative Muslim Forum, and one of the only Muslim members of the House of Lords.

However, at the time, a number of other public figures came to Johnson’s aid, including Mr Bean star Rowan Atkinson, who wrote a letter to the Times saying he should only ‘apologise for a bad joke’.

The complaints came following a column made in The Daily Telegraph by Johnson in response to a law passed in Denmark that banned Burkas in August, that compared Muslim women wearing the Burka to ‘Bank Robbers’, and calls the headwear ‘Oppressive and ridiculous’

Johnson likened women wearing Burkas to ‘letterboxes’, mentioned that it was perfectly ok for the MP to demand women take off the headwear to address him in a medical setting and that schools and Universities should treat women coming to their facilities in a Burka to someone coming ‘dressed as a bank robber’.

The Conservative Party Code of Conduct, Displayed on their official website, mentions that MPs cannot use their positions to bully, abuse or unlawfully discriminate against others. However, the panel decided that this rule does not override Johnson’s rights to express his opinions in the newspaper, despite regarding the language in the article as ‘provocative’, but also adding that it was ‘unwise’ to censor his language or his use of ‘satire’ to emphasise his views.

Many have accused Johnson’s article of giving legitimate support for extreme Islamophobic views, in a term known as ‘dog-whistling’ to the Far-right. Lady Sayeeda Warsi, a member of the House of Lords, tweeted in August that Johnson’s article served as a ‘dog-whistle’ to Islamophobic elements in the Conservative party and that the party wasn’t doing enough to deal with it.

Recent statistics from the Office of National Statistics show that hate crime rates have continued to increase exponentially in recent years and have doubled since 2012 up to almost 95,000 offences between 2017 and early 2018, and the percentage change in hate crimes based on religion has increased by 40% between 2016 and 2017.

One explanation for this rise could be the slow creep of far-right intolerance into mainstream party politics, catalysed by the EU referendum and resulting discourse on immigration. Many in mainstream political parties may have taken the opportunity to introduce adherence to their more radical voters through disguised conversation on what the ‘British Identity’ is. The recent panel findings have shown that the ‘guardians of British civility’ in the Conservative party are more than complacent in allowing ‘dog-whistling’ to the far-right by their more outspoken members.

 

Poll tracker: Universal Credit, Boris and Brexit- What are the people of Britain thinking??

In a new addition to TPN, we have introduced a new column on what is in the polls, the piece will be published once a week and gives readers a brief insight into the polls to watch out for.

Poll 1: Universal Credit

38% of Britons oppose the introduction of Universal Credit. Contrast this to the fact that just 27% of those that were polled were in favour of the policy. This comes after the news that Universal Credit roll-out has had detrimental effects on existing claimants. TPN coverage of the policy has revealed that Food Bank usage has increased by 52% and the government has now delayed the full roll out until 2019 at the earliest.

What is Universal Credit?

Universal credit intends to to replace five benefits – child tax credit, housing benefit, income support, income-based job-seeker’s allowance, income-related employment and support allowance and working tax credit. The policy has been widely criticised by unions and leftists for their sanctions on working class people due to the inbuilt problems of the system which include delays for claimants leading to rising debt and food bank usage.

However, luckily for the Tories, a significant proportion of the population remains unaware of the damage Universal Credit is doing to sections of society.

Poll 2: Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson’s popularity has plummeted among Conservative and Leave voters as is shown in the graph below. In July 2018, Theresa May trailed her adversary by several percentage points and although he has polled negatively for several years now, these numbers do not support his leadership ambitions, Theresa May is now polling at negative 22%, whilst Boris lags at -35%.

Why?

Issues relating to racially insensitive comments over Burkas, divisions over Brexit and missing the key vote over the third runway at Heathrow are likely to be the main causes overall for the drop. Furtherly, lack of progress over Brexit is likely to be the main cause in the sizeable loss of support from Leave voters.

 

Poll 3: Brexit? Surprise.

Only one in five Brits think a second in/out EU referendum is likely. The recent Labour conference which featured shadow chancellor John McDonnell appearing to rule out a “remain” option featuring on the ballot of any future referendum is likely to be a driving force behind this current trend. The prominence of pro-Brexit voices in Tory party and divisions in the labour movement over Brexit are also significant contributing factors.

British politicians are failing a nation – it’s time for progressive politics

A question for you. Do you think that the government has directly changed your life in Britain for the better in the last 10 years? One would guess that the majority would answer: not really.

Britain has come to a standstill. We could once boast that we were the fifth-largest economy in the world. But what good did this actually do for our society? How has the British government actually helped people directly?

One cannot deny that the Great Recession, which began in the late 2000s, has meant that Britain has needed to rejuvenate our economy.

Has that worked? Not really.

Growth in wages flail behind inflation, GDP growth has dropped dramatically, and tackling the deficit is continuously pushed back. And let’s not forget the harrowing impact which Brexit will have on our economy.

As we continue to boast about our economic prowess, homelessness is back on the rise, 30% of children live in poverty and mental health issues have steadily increased amongst Britons since the early 1990s.

Have our most recent governments begun to fail the British people? I think so.

For too long Britain has stalled at a ground level. We have bowed down to a Conservative government for eight years; a party who centre predominantly around the economy. And yet, they have failed at two levels; to revitalise the economy, and to bring social change promised to the lower and middle income earners. This needs to change.

I am sure many will shout: “but what about Jeremy Corbyn?” “Corbyn’s principles are what the country needs”. However, he will continue to live a lie until he opposes Brexit. A ‘jobs-first Brexit’ translates into, at the very least, a ‘soft Brexit’, which could also be classed as ‘no Brexit at all’. We have seen the countless number of jobs which shall disappear from a poorly organised Brexit; from industrial powerhouses such as Airbus and BMW, to the banks in the City of London. Corbyn has to get over himself, listen to his members and evoke some sensibility.

And that is exactly what British politics needs right now. Sensibility.

How does one class ‘sensibility’ in the face of British politics? Sensibility equates to progressive thinking. Sensibility equates to merging economics with social justice. Sensibility is placing Britain back onto an economic path which actually helps the poor, rather than lavishing the rich with more wealth.

A sensible politician cares about the people who live in this country, whether British, European, Indian, American – you name it. The diversity of British citizenship moulds the greatness of our nation.

A sensible politician cares about those who are suffering the most, those who struggle to maintain a basic standard of living. We cannot continue to live in a country where the richest 10th of Britain own 45% of the nation’s total wealth. Britain’s income gap is astronomical.

A sensible politician considers new 21st century social issues, pioneering groundbreaking legislation which allows every British citizen the freedom and liberty to live in this country. It is estimated that there are between 300,000-500,000 transgender citizens in the UK. Not one of them can determine their own personal identity without a series of lengthy medical tests and procedures, taking years to complete.

A sensible politician appreciates the environment. As global temperatures rise, it would be ignorant to deny the damage we are placing on the world. Investment into green technology, which nations such as Finland and Sweden have continued to do so, would prove our place on the global stage, eager to preserve the world we live in. How can we isolate ourselves as a nation intrinsically connected with every corner of the world?

Our two-party politics is in disarray. Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn are two politicians hung up on winning the political game. How can you vote for a Prime Minister who alters her position to sneak her way through power?

And there are many more on the British political stage who play a similar game. Boris Johnson, who once opted for Britain to stay in the single market, altered his views in the hope of grasping on to Tory leadership. Nigel Farage has backtracked on many of his views. Jacob Rees-Mogg knows that a no-deal Brexit will make many Britons a lot poorer – and make him a lot richer.

Do these politicians really care for our country?

It’s time we demanded action, change, progress. Away with the selfish, toxic politicians. In with the sensible, progressive demeanour which our nation greatly needs.

Britain deserves better.

Five Questions We Should All Be Asking Brexiteers

It has been nearly two years since around 17.4 million Britons voted to leave the European Union. Yet, as The People’s Vote have indicated, each one of those 17.4 million Leavers voted for a variety of reasons. There were a number of pledges made in the Leave camp, from Boris Johnson’s lies regarding extra funding for the NHS, to greater sovereignty outside European jurisdiction.

And nearly two years on, we still have no idea where the Conservative government is leading us.

Alongside this, we have a much greater understanding of the implications of Brexit than we did in the run-up to the referendum.

Overall, any form of Brexit will have a negative impact on the country. A Hard Brexit, which Theresa May has intended to deliver, looks to be economically catastrophic.

Yet, despite this, support for May remains strong. Is this a sign that a majority of the electorate demands a Hard Brexit?

If true, it is a necessity to challenge the Hard Brexiteers. I want to ask them some simple questions concerning Brexit, and I want them to clarify their reasons for their decisions.

Do you want the economy to strengthen?

If so, then we should not implement a Hard Brexit. Though a Hard Brexit means we would leave the Customs Union and the Single Market, multiple organisations have proved that in nearly every single economic scenario, Britain shall be worse off leaving the EU.  The Office for Budget Responsibility state Brexit will make the UK economy 4.8% smaller, a hit of £100bn to our economy.  

Even if we were to stay in the Single Market and keep the Customs Union but lose control over negotiating European legislation, it is an option considerably economically stronger than a Hard Brexit. However to stay in both the customs union and the EEA and lose our seats in the European Parliament would be a strange move, and at that point Remaining within the EU should surely be back on the table.

As a member of the EU, we have been given a hugely vibrant, strong European market to trade and exchange with.

But surely we can establish new trade deals with other nations? True. However, the UK could be waiting until 2045 until deals with the USA, China, India, Australia and New Zealand can be reached.

Leaving the Single Market and Customs Union will mean food prices will rise and wages will decrease against inflation. No one wants this.

 

Do you want the UK to retain a high employment rate?

Then a Hard Brexit will certainly not guarantee retaining employment levels. It is estimated that the Single Market is linked to 3.3 million jobs in the UK. But even with a diminishing economy, many more of our jobs at risk. Jeremy Corbyn is wrong to pledge ‘jobs for many, not the few’ alongside the advocation of a Hard Brexit. He needs to enforce this, or lose the next General Election and much of his youth-driven support.

Leaving the single market would threaten 1 in 10 jobs in this country, leaving it could be a fatal stimulus dropping us into recession. The uncertainty of Brexit has already seen growth slow to a near standstill, with the UK economy growing at 0.1% in the first quarter of 2018, the economic risk of clattering out of the single market should not be underestimated.

Furthermore, with the thought that May might implement a Hard Brexit, EU immigrants who help drive our economy are less attracted to coming to the UK, decreasing the capacity of a range of sectors, from agriculture to education. More than 2,300 EU academics have resigned from UK universities because they are fearful of their future. And farmers are turning to China; there is much more demand for work in China, whereas EU immigrants who work in the agricultural sector are more concerned than ever regarding their place in the UK.

 

Do you want the UK to continue to increase its funding of the NHS? New housing? The environment?

A Hard Brexit will diminish the power to do so. Boris Johnson’s unacceptable lies during the run-up to the referendum must be accounted for – there will be no more extra NHS funding, particularly as the economy diminishes. There has also been speculation that the NHS will be part of a US-UK trade deal, increasing the price of drugs supplied by the NHS.

What we have to acknowledge is, with a diminishing economy, it also diminishes our capacity to improve housing, improve the environment, improve education. We will struggle to improve anything.

Brexit is estimated to mean a £36bn hit to tax revenue. That’s nearly equivalent to the budget for education for 5-16yr olds. Brexit will only lead to more cuts and the lengthening of austerity.

The UN has stated that environmental protections will significantly weaken post-Brexit. The construction sector has been hit with a blow in Scotland due to higher labour costs. And the UK will fall in global higher education standards after Brexit.

With a Hard Brexit, we will be unable to fund and build upon the foundations of British society which urgently need attention.

 

Do you want tighter immigration rules?

A Hard Brexit might not guarantee this. Yes, the UK will have the power to restrict its net migration levels. But India has already insisted that any trade deal post-Brexit will have to include an eased restriction on Indian-UK migration. New trade deals with other nations might also include an ease on immigration rules.

However, the biggest con the leave campaign managed to pull was on immigration. The EU, in Directive 2004/38/EC gives member states the clear right to deport migrants if they do not meet certain criteria, ie if they become a burden on the state.

What this means, is that the government recognise our level of immigration as being healthy for our country. Not only towards the economy but also due to our demographic needs.

Migrants remain a net benefit to the taxpayer, which the British native is not. EU migrants are a net benefit to the taxpayer to the tune of £20bn. Reducing immigration will mean higher taxes for the rest of us.

It is also worth noting with our ageing population we need more young working taxpayers to prop up the older generation.

Migrants are a necessity to this country.

 

Do you want to enjoy travelling on holiday to Europe?

It will be much harder to do so with a Hard Brexit. Prices for holidays have risen by 6%, according to Thomas Cook, whilst we might have to pay and apply for visas if we wish to travel to Europe post-Brexit. And it was only recently that the EU halted extra roaming charges whilst abroad.

Freedom of movement is a benefit we must cherish to explore and understand new cultures. It is a benefit which we take for granted.

 

If to any of these questions you disagree, I’d like you to think again.

Look how beneficial the EU is to Britain. Look how far we will falter if we apply a Hard Brexit. Do you want this? No. No one wanted this.

We voted to leave. But with greater knowledge of the implications of Brexit, we also have the opportunity to look again and change our minds. Would you continue to proceed the purchase of a house knowing that there were major issues with it?

Leavers are adamant that life outside the EU will provide the power to change society. But they are wrong.

Their views are based upon a major misconception surrounding the source of Britain’s issues. The referendum was a chance to provide the public with change, meaning the EU was targeted as the source of our issues. This is incorrect.

Instead of blaming the EU, let us blame the Conservative governments who have been in power. We have seen a reduced annual increase in the NHS from each Tory government. Homelessness is on the rise. Wages have gone backwards under the Conservatives.

Don’t blame the EU. This is a UK, national issue.

Yes, the EU is not perfect. But, as proven, it is hugely beneficial to our society. Let us indicate that the result of the referendum was not to do with our discontent with the EU, but our discontent with issues at home – our discontent with our own government.

We must realise that we are sovereign. We are not completely ‘held back’ by the EU. We have the power to change our society, but Tory governments have stopped us from doing so.

There is a mirage around the Conservatives. Driven by economics, they pledge prosperity – which only reaches the highest earners. Yet lower income earners continue to believe that the Tories are going to make a difference…except they never will. It is this ongoing belief that those of lower income will eventually prosper due to Tory ‘promises’ which holds the Conservatives up.

Lower income earners must understand that Tory promises are lies. A Hard Brexit will not increase low-earners’ standard of living. Standards of living will continue to decrease.

So we must all speak out against the Tories. Whatever your income level, your social status, your occupation – a Hard Brexit will be hideous for all. And this includes Labour.

Corbyn has shown he is also an advocate for Brexit. It is hardly a vote ‘for the people’. His ambiguity regarding Brexit is running thin.

He is not a man of the people if he chooses to allow a Hard Brexit.

We voted to leave. But we now must realise that leaving will not be beneficial. Let us push for a People’s Vote and reject a Hard Brexit. This will be the only route to regain control of our society and allow Britain to flourish once again.

Johnson calls May’s Brexit customs union plan crazy

Theresa May’s plan to pursue a customs union deal with the EU post-Brexit has provoked a revolt from high-level members of her cabinet. Boris Johnson has labelled the plans ‘crazy’ and stated it would create “a whole new web of bureaucracy”.

The plan, which is similar to the one outlined by Keir Starmer in Labour’s Brexit plan, has been opposed by other cabinet Brexiteers.

Despite the EU apparently being open to the arrangement and it being a solution to the Irish Border problem, the hard Brexiteers within the cabinet are not pleased with the plan. They see the attempt to make the transition out of the EU and trade with the EU easier as a bad move as it will mean the UK will not be completely separate from the EU. Despite Johnson’s criticisms the Brexiteers both in and outside the cabinet have yet to suggest a realistic solution of their own to the Irish Border problem.

Nonetheless, with the feud within the cabinet becoming public, Theresa May might see her position as PM threatened. The powerful Brexiteers may use the threat of a vote of no confidence to ensure May shelves the customs union idea.

Business secretary Greg Clark has stated anything other than a close customs arrangement would risk thousands of jobs. Chancellor Phillip Hammond is also a supporter of a customs union.

These developments follow the House of Lords arranging a vote on an amendment to the EU withdrawal bill which would keep the UK within the EEA. The Brexit committee also urged the government not to rule out EEA membership and said the UK should consider membership of EFTA after Brexit.

The goings on at Whitehall have also provoked action amongst Labour supporters. Keir Starmer has designed Labour’s Brexit policy to be just softer than the government’s. This move by Theresa May may bring the supporters of EEA membership within Labour Party finally out into the open. Stephen Kinnock MP wrote an opinion in the Guardian this morning supporting EEA membership. Many MPs and a large percentage of the membership support EEA membership and with a need to retain it’s Remain voting supporters it might now make electoral sense for Labour to back EEA membership.

However, with more socialist members of the party resistant to the single market Labour might be left with an identical Brexit policy to the government. Emily Thornberry has spoken out against EEA membership telling Labour members it will not work.  She said a “British bespoke deal” was needed instead.

Nevertheless, Labour may become increasingly tempted to back EEA membership especially with the rise in support for the Liberal Democrats in the recent local elections.

Analysis from Iwan Doherty, Editor in Chief

This is now the second time Theresa May has copied Labour’s proposals on Brexit but the PM copying Keir Starmer’s work is not a bad thing. This is another short burst of realistic thinking from the government but our negotiators have really lacked creativity and we are paying the price for that.

Johnson is right. It may well limit our freedom to trade with outside nations, if negotiated badly, and create more bureaucracy but the Brexiteers have yet to make a single realistic suggestion of how to solve the problems we face as a nation. May needs to start making practical suggestions, or they will remain on the backfoot in negotiations that the EU has dominated so far.

A customs union negoiated properly that will allow us the freedom to strike trade deals with other nations but bide us to some EU regulation could be a very attractive option, if Davis and co can grind out such a deal in Brussels.

Whether the Brexiteers will allow May to pursue a customs union is another question. Without any ideas of their own, they would be left to diffuse the bomb that is Brexit with no tools and no clue and whilst they may hate the idea of a Remainer pursuing a moderate Brexit their own political survival might be important to them.

I fully expect a large faction of Labour to start supporting EEA membership, but Labour should be careful not to alienate voters outside of London who see freedom of movement as a key reason for their vote for Brexit.