We must not let Brexit dominate this election’s agenda

Brexit, Brexit, Brexit – the word you hear time and time again. You hear it from the mouths of your family, friends and neighbours; you read it in the newspapers; you see it repeated endlessly as you scroll through social media. It is a cause of anxiety and upset for many on both sides of the debate. Ever since the referendum in 2016, we have seen two early general elections and the departure of two Prime Ministers (and soon, perhaps, a third). While Brexit is a topic which must be addressed, we must not let it push other important issues such as climate change and austerity into the deep, dark corners of our politics.

While it is entirely likely that a Tory-led exit from the E.U will be disastrous for the economy, what will be even more disastrous is global warming. The impact of Brexit may last for generations but the consequences of the excessive heating of our planet will be something we’re stuck with for eternity. The IPCC warns that if governments don’t step up to tackle climate change in the next twelve years, the effects could be irreversible. Rising sea levels could mean more flooding of coastal regions, which will grind businesses to a halt, the Met Office insists. To make matters worse, resulting damage to infrastructure such as roads, bridges and rails will hinder national trade but also stop many workers from going to their places of employment, which will contribute to a massive drain on the economy.

Environmental policy is not simply an infrastructure issue; it will affect living standards, create climate refugees, and ultimately lead to a spiking death rate – and only the Labour Party seem to be offering a real solution to this issue with their “Green New Deal”, created in consultation with climate scientists. Labour alone must push the issue to the top of the agenda pile; not Jo Swinson, who has taken a lax approach to fracking, and certainly not Boris Johnson, who wrote his party’s climate agenda with the help of the fracking industry.

For the past nine years, the Conservative Party’s brutal austerity programme has crushed the working classes, decimating and privatising our public services. Cuts in police, youth centres and drug treatment services imposed by the Conservatives ever since they got into power in 2010 have led to an increase in crime up and down the UK:

These are issues which have been around longer than Brexit and deserve far more attention from the political parties.

For many of us, Brexit has proven to be a dark cloud which overshadows everything else. The electorate must realise that this general election is not and cannot simply be a “Brexit election”; it’s an election for climate change, it’s an election for our police services, our youth centres, our health facilities, our schools. The future isn’t simply Brexit or no Brexit, it’s our children going to well-funded schools and receiving world class education, our police being funded properly so they can make our country a safer place to live, our NHS, and the state of our climate.

‘Partied out’: how today’s Labour Party has let me down

As a 19-year-old Economics and Politics undergraduate, my route into the realm of political discourse has been relatively hassle-free. Indeed, over the past three years, I have actively engaged in our democratic system: from chairing hustings to grassroots campaigning for the Labour Party.

But having entered the political fray through joining the Labour Party, I soon found myself quickly disappointed. Of course, political parties are rarely ‘catch-all’, but the party I once joined in good faith today systematically alienates me and others. Why? Brexit.

Brexit and all it stands for cannot be confined to the left-right spectrum. The issue has divided us all, it transcends party politics to the extent that it has usurped my ideological commitment to the Labour Party. According to an eye-widening poll by Our Future, Our Choice, only 2% of young people believe that Britain’s standing has improved since the 2016 referendum. Shocking as this is, why should we be surprised? Not only were the voices of 2 million 16-17-year-olds suppressed during the referendum, but the voice of Remain has since either been silenced within the major parties or drowned out by a chorus of MPs “elected on a leave manifesto” – a phrase I hear all too often.

The fact of the matter is this: thanks to Brexit, I am politically homeless. No single party stands for the issues I find important. Of course, when associating with a party, it’s impossible to expect every box to be ticked. But Brexit is a box simply too imposing to leave blank. In fact, every other box – health, education, economic policy, foreign policy – has been subsumed by our ensuing withdrawal. It impinges on nearly every issue of political life. That’s why it has pushed so many people away from identifying with a party – and spawned the rise of ‘The Independent Group’. Simply put, Brexit cannot be overlooked by anyone looking to join or vote for a party.

For most voters, identity politics has been replaced by an issue-based agenda. Whilst Brexit has divided much of the country, it has united many young people regardless of their political leanings. Indeed, on the 27th of February, I stood in the Lobby of Parliament shoulder-to-shoulder with young people from across the political spectrum, all of whom were telling MPs how they, as representatives, have failed us by blindly supporting something they know will scar the economy and the electorate in the process. After two years of intense partisanship, it was refreshing to not be bound to a party while fighting against the impact of Brexit.

The common perception of the younger generations today is that we are apathetic, and can’t be trusted. I’d like to offer an alternative perspective. I’m not disenfranchised. I’m disillusioned. The party I subscribed to in 2015 has taken a position on Brexit I simply cannot support- it is ignoring the very voices it claims to represent.

My generation can be trusted, perhaps more so than the generations which sit in government. The plethora of well-informed young people appearing on news stations across the country today is inspiring, revitalising and stands in stark contrast to the ministers who ricochet from failure to failure.

So, far from apathetic, there’s real energy within my generation to stand up for our future; a future which, for many of us, we were unable to shape.

Though the Brexit debate has pushed people away from party politics, they haven’t left politics itself. By people from across the political spectrum all pulling in the same direction on one issue, things will be resolved for the better. On the 27th of February in Parliament, our MPs listened. On the 23rd, at the March for a People’s Vote, they listened again. It is imperative, for their parties’ sakes as well as ours, that they keep listening.







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.

May’s additional funds to entice MPs to support Brexit could breach Bribery Laws

Theresa May has announced plans to use £1.6 billion to boost economic growth in communities and appears to target communities who’s MPs support her new withdrawal deal.

The announcement was part of the ‘Stronger Towns Fund’, which is believed to be directed towards MPs in current Labour strongholds in under-funded Northern cities and urban centres.

The plans will also see the new funding only being allocated to English communities, and there are currently no plans for similar initiatives in other UK regions.

Recently, it was found that new changes to government local council funding will reroute funds from predominantly Labour-supporting metropolitan centres to rural communities after relative poverty was taken out of the equation used to allocate funding to councils.

Secretary of State for Communities, James Brokenshire, however, has stated that the money is not linked to the outcome of the withdrawal agreement vote scheduled for the 12th of March, and that the funding will be allocated to Brexit-backing communities regardless of which deal is passed through parliament in the coming weeks.

The Labour Party Chancellor, John McDonnell, has called the plans “bribery” and Lord Thomas QC, the representative for Gresford in the house of Lords, has mentioned that the Prime Minister’s plans could be in conflict with the law.

Lord Thomas currently serves as a member or the Queen’s Counsel, the highest honour given to a law practitioner in the United Kingdom.

The plans may be in breach of section 1 of the Bribery Act 2010, which posits that any Minister who attempts to use a political or financial advantage to an MP in order to disrupt their ability to give a fair and impartial vote in Parliament.

Any MP who accepts May’s deal may also potentially be committing a crime, as Section 2 of the Bribery Act 2010 states that receiving this advantage, and intending to act on it, breaches the law.

The funding will be scheduled to last until 2026, equating to around £320 million a year, with the money being divided by region.

Working Links: Biggest Crisis For Probation Services As Company Collapses

Working Links, one of Britain’s biggest providers of probation services which have managed the rehabilitation of offenders for years have gone into administration. Inspectors have criticised Working Links for mishandling its operations to boost profit. Furthermore, problems have been rising ever since Working Links became responsible for running 3 CRCs (Community Rehabilitation Companies) which were awarded contracts in 2015 to supervise low and medium-risk offenders.

Working Links provide probation services in England and Wales. The private company announced its collapse into administration on Friday. The company have been going through financial difficulties and a spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice said they have been aware of the company’s financial strain since last year.

Labour’s Shadow Justice Secretary, Richard Burgon MP, responded to the news that Working Links has gone into administration:

“Our probation system is clearly broken. This is yet another public service severely damaged by Chris Grayling and the Conservatives’ obsession with privatisation. We need a probation system that prioritises keeping the public safe rather than boosting the profits of private companies. Labour is fully committed to returning the probation system to the public sector. The Tories must now do likewise.”

Final Comment from Editor- Heidi Boahen:

The Government has been warned about this since the beginning of the privatisation programme. The MoJ said Working Links services would be handed over to Seetec in the meantime. Seetec is a public and business service provider and is also responsible for managing community rehabilitation centres in Kent, Surrey and Sussex.

It is no surprise that Chris Grayling MP, the former Secretary of State for Justice was responsible for privatising the care of low-to-medium risk offenders as part of his reforms. The government has been criticised on numerous occasions for mishandling the situation as they have been advised to terminate the contract between the Ministry of Justice and Working Links. Our probation system is broken at the moment due to the privatisation of a service which should have always been in public ownership. The collapse of Working Links also affects thousands of working individuals who have been told not to attend work anymore. Amongst those workers are young adults doing their apprenticeship in both customer service and retail. The Inspectorate of Probation, which inspects this provision for the government, rated the centres covering Dorset, Devon and Cornwall as inadequate. The HM Chief Inspector of Probation published a report into Dorset, Devon and Cornwall CRC which you can read further in the link below:

https://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprobation/media/press-releases/2019/02/ddcrc/

 

Only Corbyn can Save Britain from a No Deal Brexit

In setting out Labour’s terms for backing Theresa May on Brexit, Jeremy Corbyn has done more to deliver Brexit than Theresa May has done for a whole two years in power. In a move Donald Tusk described as offering a “promising way out” of the current Brexit impasse, Corbyn has shown himself to be the only politician capable of saving Britain from crashing out of the EU without a deal.

Only Corbyn has shown the level of pragmatism and statesmanship necessary to deliver a Brexit which has the potential to get through Parliament. Unlike May, it is Corbyn who has recognised how Brexit requires compromise and cooperation between the country’s two biggest parties.

If Brexit has proved anything, it is that our country is divided. With little over a month left before we leave the EU with or without a deal, it is time for our politicians to come together for the sake of the country.

One clear quality which Corbyn possesses, and May severely lacks, is the ability to lead his party at a time of crisis. Having survived numerous leadership challenges and protests over the direction he was leading the party, Corbyn has proved much more resilient than many would have imagined when he came to power in 2015. He has secured support around his message of hope and managed to win over many skeptical voters.

Throughout the Brexit process, the People’s Vote brigade have been a constant thorn in his side. Despite this, Corbyn has stuck to his guns, signalling his intent to secure a workable Brexit for the country and deliver on the promises he made in the General Election campaign of 2017.

May, on the other hand, continues to believe in her make-believe fantasy that she can secure a deal that satisfies both the extreme and moderate wings of her party. In doing so, May is prepared to plunge the country into an unprecedented crisis to save her skin. She is surviving, but by no means thriving and she is taking the country down with her.

Like a child who has left all her homework from the week until Sunday evening, Theresa May’s insistence on renegotiating an un-negotiable deal instead of seeking to form any kind of cross party consensus is sure to result in the UK being cast into the infinite detention that is a No-Deal Brexit.

Brexit is a national emergency and one which requires compromise.

Corbyn has done his part, it is now time for May to decide where her loyalties really lie: with the MPs who are anxious over the prospect of us crashing out of the EU without a deal, or the ERG who continue to believe their own lies over the prospect of Britain securing a better deal.

Having rejected Corbyn’s five demands this morning, May is playing a dangerous game. However, Tory MPs have the power to take this decision out of May’s hands by rallying behind Corbyn’s proposal to deliver a manageable Brexit. 

Corbyn’s proposal offers May the chance to win over moderate Tory MPs and simultaneously meet Labour’s six key tests. There is no time for a second referendum, nor would it have any chance of getting through parliament. The failure of the Cooper amendment shows there is no support for extending Article 50 either.

It really is now or never.

By the 29th of March, if Britain crashes out of the EU without a deal, we will look back at Corbyn’s proposal as a key turning point; the one chance we had to rescue Britain from this mess. It is the duty of MPs from across the House to unite behind Corbyn’s pragmatic proposal to deliver Brexit and sort this mess out once and for all so we can all focus our efforts on addressing the inequalities which fuelled the Brexit vote in the first place.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling MP Should Quit Or Be Sacked, Says Labour

 

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling MP has been facing heavy criticism since last year when it was uncovered that he had awarded a £14m contract to a company called Seaborne Freight. This contract had been awarded in case of a no deal. Seaborne Freight planned to run ferries between the Port of Ramsgate in Kent, UK and Ostend in Belgium. This company did not seem reliable as it was revealed that not only did they not have any ships but there was also no record of hiring them. The Department for Transport (DfT) has now confirmed that the contract has been cancelled.

A DfT spokeswoman said: “Following the decision of Seaborne Freight’s backer, Arklow Shipping, to step back from the deal, it became clear Seaborne would not reach its contractual requirements with the Government. We have therefore decided to terminate our agreement.”

Labour is now calling for Chris Grayling to be sacked.

Final Comment From Editor- Heidi Boahen

This is hugely humiliating for the Department for Transport and also our country. Chris Grayling MP has previously defended his decision despite the criticism received last year. He insisted that the right decision has been made. However, it has now backfired and the contract has been scrapped. Chris Grayling decision to award the contract was never going to work. This, however, has allowed discussions to be had both online and in the media to how this arrangement was made in the first place. It was also revealed in early January that Seaborne Freight has copied the terms and conditions from a food company.  

Does this further indicate that our current Ministers are incompetent in doing their job? Irrational decisions have been made in the past however, this seems to be the most embarrassing one at the moment. Shadow Transport Secretary Andy McDonald MP has also responded to the news that the Seaborne Freight contract has been cancelled:

As we predicted, the Seaborne Freight contract has been cancelled. This cannot go without consequence. The Chris Grayling catalogue of calamities grows bigger by the day. This contract was never going to work but this Secretary of State, true to form, blunders from one disaster to another.Whilst Theresa May needs the few friends she has right now, we cannot have this incompetent Transport Secretary carry on heaping humiliation after humiliation on our country. He has to go.

It’s Time We Listened To Jeremy Corbyn

According to most reports, it is foolish. A rebellious opposition leader, Jeremy Corbyn, demands the House to let MPs vote on holding a second referendum and place power over Brexit away from the government, to appease vast dissatisfaction with May’s flawed, faltering Brexit Bill.

Could the opposition’s alignment with a “People’s Vote” work in practice? It is idealistic. But between a government agenda of isolationism and democratic cooperation to find a better answer, it is decidedly more true to the ideals of the “Westminster System” that the government is accountable to the people, instead of the opposite. In practice, for some time the distinction has been reversed and power has become a check and balance on the public, not the other way round. Because this dynamic may well have fueled dissatisfaction with politics that unarguably stoked support for Brexit to start with, perhaps the collapse of May’s deal, the end of Government conniving behind our backs, is the best possible outcome.

For months and years, I have been frankly baffled by Brexit despite having a politics degree, where I was taught how to make sense of complex geopolitical dynamics through procedures of reason and theory. Brexit is hard, and anyone who claims to understand it entirely talks big. Recently, the way I’ve asked what Brexit means is through holding what the government has done, is doing, will do, through the prism of democratic theory ‘s normative ideals, the “what ought” facts. Precisely because Leave invoked classic democratic values like self-determination and Democracy to justify its superiority, it surely is consistent with their principles to make sure there is due scrutiny Brexit really does satisfy the power in our hands’ agenda.

To my mind, the problem is not with Corbyn’s ideals, his vision for policy, but the practical matter of winning enough votes to control the trajectory of the House. Whether or not Labour members will provide this mandate, support their leader without hesitation to bring down the Tories, depends on to what extent they buy the media narrative on his ineptitude. He’d have to pierce through a powerful illusion of his being a politician with ideas beyond reason and aim for an informed public choice in favour of more Brexit scrutiny that would defy our political pathology of rash, biased decisions.

Should Corbyn convince the party of the need to present a united front that can persuade people it is staying true to the values that ostensibly inspired people to vote Leave, then his plan is flawless. The Progress backed PLP may not be at one with it. I do not recognise any procedural democracy in how this corporate lobby subverts the innate democratic socialism in Labour. Labour, as the people’s party, should never have been subject to corporate lobbying. But if I were a voter, I’d pause to reflect how Corbyn is returning soul and substance to a party sold out to the terms and conditions of neoliberalism, by Tony Blair.