May urges MPs to ‘reflect’ as she insists UK can exit EU by next month

Amid the anger from Tory MPs over the extension of article 50, Theresa May has used her statement to the House of Commons to encourage MPs to use the upcoming Easter recess to “reflect on the decisions that will have to be made swiftly on our return”.

The prime minister emphasised the importance of cross-party talks that have been taking place between ministers in the government and the Labour Party and remarked that she hoped that an agreement could be brokered within the next few days.

Her statement comes after returning from the EU27 summit in Brussels in which European leaders attempted to agree to an extension of article 50 until the end of October.

Mrs May used her statement to apportion blame to Tory Brexiteers’ failure to vote for her deal for the decision to ask for a further delay to article 50. Indeed, she suggested that if MPs could pass another withdrawal deal before 22 May, Britain could avoid participating in European elections and then leave the EU at the end of that month.

“However challenging it may be politically, I profoundly believe that in this unique situation where the house is deadlocked, it is incumbent on both frontbenches to seek to work together to deliver what the British people voted for. And I think that the British people expect their politicians to do just that when the national interest demands it.”

Theresa May

Nonetheless, members of the European Research Group lashed out against May’s further delay, with Conservative MP Bill Cash quoting May’s statement as an “abject surrender” and inquired whether she would resign.

In response to the prime minister, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn blamed the failure to “seek consensus” for the inability of any proposed Brexit deal to command a majority in Parliament.

May acknowledged that she had not wanted to ask for a second extension and cited the public’s increasing disenchantment with the impasse currently engulfing Parliament as a reason to reach an agreement by the end of the month

“…let us use the opportunity of the recess to reflect on the decisions that will have to be made swiftly on our return after Easter. And let us then resolve to find a way through this impasse.”

Theresa May

Analysis by Oliver Murphy – Editor

Yesterday’s statement from the prime minister has opened a Pandora’s Box in terms of the political ramifications of another Brexit delay. Today, as a seemingly spent Mrs May took to the despatch box, you’d be forgiven for believing that this was yet another desperate attempt from the PM to try and salvage her dwindling authority.

But for the time being Theresa May has succeeded in at least quelling the once unwavering sense of dread at the potential of a no deal Brexit. Yet, the question ultimately remains: what now?

Labour is willing to continue negotiations with the PM to try and seek compromise, but two factors threaten this prospect: the prime minister’s lack of authority and whether Labour feels it is within their interests to ‘make a deal with the devil.’

Today’s six-month extension to article 50 complicates matters further. With the urgency to avoid a no-deal scenario gone, those on the Labour benches who had thought of voting for May’s deal out of desperation are less likely to do so. As if this wasn’t enough, supporters of a second referendum will be feeling a renewed vigour to push Labour towards backing any legislation to allow a fresh poll during the period of extension.

Yet, perhaps the most pressing task facing the prime minister is facing off the majority of MPs within her own party who wish to see her gone. Indeed, even the most moderate Tories believe that May’s authority has reached its end. But even those within the cabinet concede that there is nothing that can be technically done to remove the PM before December when the party can try again to bring a no-confidence vote.

The sense of delirium within the Conservative party is overwhelming. With no apparent cliff edges on the horizon, many Tory MPs will relish the prospect of an Easter recess. But recent months suggests that a parliamentary break does not always result in cool heads. Indeed, this was the flawed calculation that Mrs May made when she cancelled the first Brexit vote before the Christmas recess, only to find that MPs were even more determined to vote her deal down.

Amid the uncertainty that continues to engulf Parliament, one prospect remains clear: Labour could capitalise on the general dissatisfaction with the Conservative Party in the upcoming local – and maybe even the EU elections.

Above all else, for the prime minister, this latest Brexit extension marks the beginning of the biggest fight for her political career.

May facing Tory unrest as Parliament approves further Brexit delay

The extent of Conservative dissatisfaction with Theresa May for requesting a further delay to Brexit was brought to the fore after most of her MPs, including four cabinet ministers, refused to vote in favour of requesting a further extension of article 50.

Highlighting the prime minister’s dwindling authority, nearly 100 Tory MPs voted against May’s decision to ask for a three-month extension with another 80 abstaining. Some of her most high-profile cabinet colleagues including Andrea Leadsom and Geoffrey Cox did not vote on the tabled motion to extend article 50 until 30 June.

May only won the vote after securing support from Labour and other opposition parties with only 31% of her backing coming from her own party.

Despite today’s vote underlining the intense divisions within the Tory Party, the prime minister will proceed with her request for a delay until 30 June at an EU summit on 10 April, but it is becoming increasingly clear that the EU27 will force her to accept a far longer extension of up to a year.

Analysis by Oliver Murphy – Editor

Despite securing a narrow victory for an extension of article 50, today’s vote was a major defeat for a prime minister desperately trying to hold not only her beloved party together but her own cabinet.

With her previous withdrawal deal being defeated last week, May is charting troubled water as she attempts to unite both her government and the country behind her.

Indeed, pro-Brexit MPs have translated today’s major party rebellion as evidence that she does not have the backing of her party to pursue a soft Brexit that involves a customs union. Even then, she will ultimately wield no parliamentary majority for that if only 100 Labour and other opposition MPs push for a confirmatory referendum.

Despite the non-existence of cabinet discipline, ministers are unlikely to resign as they will ultimately fear the potential of being replaced by pro-remain ministers at this crucial time.

While Parliament and the executive continue to be consumed by the Brexit deadlock, one thing is becoming increasingly clear: May’s future. Indeed, how can the prime minister realistically continue having previously promised not to extend article 50 beyond 30 June? And now, as May loses the support of most of her party, reaching out to Labour and becoming increasingly divorced from the cabinet, the question remains: how long can she last?

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/

 

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.

We Must Treat Immigrants As Our Friends And Not Just Humans.

Racism and xenophobia have infected British politics. The sight of politicians stoking up fear against immigrants no longer seems to shock us; quite frankly, it’s come to be expected. In the same way that hate crime increased in the aftermath of the Brexit vote, so too has hate-filled bigotry infected British politics. It is now considered appropriate for Theresa May to claim EU migrants have “jumped the queue”; charging them £65 for settled status after Brexit. It is now customary for Sajid Javid to deny asylum seekers refuge in the UK. The sight of Tommy Robinson (now an advisor for UKIP) spewing hate on our TV screens has become routine. Anti-immigration rhetoric has become normalised; the Far Right has desensitised us from their bigotry. Their brand of bitter, racist, ugly populism has invaded British politics.

By pandering to the Far Right, the Tories have failed to acknowledge the fact that immigration has been a force for good in this country. Their hard work has greatly contributed to the British economy; on average, contributing £78000 to the Exchequer. EU nationals make up 63000 of all NHS staff, 5000 of all teachers and 92000 of all care workers in our desperately underfunded social care system. Half a million are also employed in low-skilled work across the UK. In all cases, immigrants give more than they take. While the Right may claim that they undercut wages and overstretch our public services (even suggesting they deny the opportunity for young Brits to train as doctors), in reality, they spend money, pay taxes and tend to use the NHS less than most Britons.

However, the fact is many of these types of justifications of the value immigration miss the point entirely. Immigrants are all too often described in economic terms; as robots that work in the country, pay taxes and contribute to our economy. What is less often emphasised is their role as friends, neighbours, colleagues and classmates. By reducing their value solely to their economic output, we ignore the vast contributions made by immigrants in transforming Britain into a multicultural, diverse society. Growing up in East London, I was exposed to a vast array of different cultures and learnt so much from my continental peers whether it be how to say “hello” and “thank you” in Polish, or observing Jumu’ah on a Friday with my Muslim friends. They taught me what it meant to be British: tolerant, inclusive and accepting.

Immigration broadens the mind, much in the same way as travelling does; it is no coincidence that nearly all major cities in the UK with higher levels of immigration chose to back Remain in the EU referendum.

The de-humanisation of immigrants in this country has been shameful; seeing them scapegoated for the crimes of the rich has been heart-breaking. Immigration has not fuelled populism, austerity has. The backlash the political classes are now experiencing in response to austerity politics has been redirected towards immigrants; rather than the politicians who underfund our public services, cause stagnating wages and unemployment. The right-wing press has conned us into blaming immigrants for the plight of the working classes. By directing anger at immigrants and brainwashing society into fighting against the enemy within, the politicians are let off the hook.

Why have the ruling classes done this? The answer is simple: to protect their privileged status by segregating the working class; leaving them unable to organise coordinated opposition to this rigged economic system. The white working class and immigrants have much more in common than many Britons would care to admit. Immigrants and ethnic minorities are twice as likely to experience poverty as white groups. Both groups have suffered heavily under austerity. At a time of immense social upheaval and protest (Brexit), the ruling class has employed divide and conquer tactics to subdue the lower classes. Anti-immigration rhetoric has thus been allowed to run riot in our mainstream media.

The effects of this scape-goating have been hard to stomach. Hate crime has increased by 17% since the Brexit vote. The viral video of a Syrian refugee getting bullied in a school in Huddersfield is part of a much wider problem. What shocked me most about this video was the fact that not one child stepped in to defend the poor boy, showing the extent to which years of anti-immigration rhetoric had de-humanised him in the eyes of his peers.

The damning by-products of Boris Johnson’s burka comments and Nigel Farage’s “Breaking Point” poster have been made clear. The mainstream media were rightfully shocked and appalled at the depravity of these comments, however, the fact remains that they were given air-time and national coverage. All this does is normalise hatred, treating it as acceptable political jargon: if the politicians are doing it, why can’t everyone? Historians of the future will be damning in their judgements of these politicians and the role they played in transforming Britain from a safe place for migrants to one in which they face hostility.

There has been a political failure to champion immigration as a force for good in this country. As Sir Oliver Letwin rightfully claimed the main parties had “made a terrible mistake” in failing to argue, with commitment and resolve, “that properly controlled migration enriches the country in every sense”. It is the job of progressive politicians on the left to champion the case for immigration. Although this would likely prove electorally unpopular in the current climate, it is vital if we are to alter people’s perceptions and prejudices.

It may seem patronising to champion the contribution of immigrants to this country, but the truth is, many people simply have not experienced these benefits. Those of us that have grown up with immigrants have a duty to educate. Those who have limited experience of immigration are more susceptible to the lies and deception of the right-wing press. By failing to stand up to bigotry, we legitimise it. If we fail to do so, who is going to stand up and defend the rights of immigrants? Clearly, it won’t be our morally corrupt politicians.

There are, however, reasons to be optimistic. The future of British politics is looking bright for immigrants. 32% of MYPs in the UK Youth Parliament are from Black and Minority Ethnic backgrounds. In time, British society will be governed by people who reflect our multicultural society. People who will stand up to bigotry in all its forms and reverse the worrying trends we see infecting British politics today. People who have grown up with immigrants, from a vast array of countries, who will treat them not just as humans but as friends.

 

NHS is financially unsustainable, says NAO

 

The NHS continues to be in crisis. According to the National Audit Office (NAO), the NHS is financially unsustainable. The Prime Minister’s plan to increase the NHS budget by £20.5 billion by 2023-2024 may not be sufficient enough to cover services such as social and mental health care.

According to NAO additional funding has been provided, however, it has been spent on existing pressures within the healthcare service. The Head of the National Audit Office Amyas Morse says:

The NHS has received extra funding, but this has mostly been used to cope with current pressures and has not provided the stable platform intended from which to transform services. Repeated short-term funding-boosts could turn into the new normal, when the public purse may be better served by a long-term funding settlement that provides a stable platform for sustained improvements.

In 2016-2017, the NHS received an additional £1.8 billion in Sustainability and Transformation Fund which also intended to give the NHS stability, to improve and transform performance and services in order to achieve a sustainable healthcare system. 

Although the fund has assisted in the overall financial improvement, the NHS is still struggling to achieve targets with its high demand and restricted budget.

Labour’s Shadow Health and Social Care Secretary, Jonathan Ashworth MP, responds to the NAO’s report on NHS financial sustainability:

The Tories have spent nine years running down the NHS, imposing the biggest cash squeeze in its history, with swingeing cuts to public health services and the slashing of social care services.

Final Comment from Editor- Heidi Boahen

The NAO report has come as a surprise to some as the news of an additional £20.5 billion was the Government’s proposed solution to the NHS crisis. However, the NAO report indicates that the money may not be sufficient enough as other areas of the health service have been neglected for years.  This is a great indicator that simply throwing money at a system is not a solution. There needs to be a strategic plan to improve a system that the majority of public members rely on. Waiting times continue to slip and there is an increasing problem with the workforce. The NHS cannot work for the public if it does not have the right amount of workers.

These are the same issues we had for years yet, we still have no solution.  As previously reported NHS Leaders were forced to delay publication of long term plans due to the Brexit chaos. The current Government’s focus is not its people.

The Government needs a reminder of what the NHS set out to do when it was established in 1948 following the Second World War. The principles were to provide a universal and comprehensive service. Currently, the NHS is failing at providing a comprehensive service however, this is not because they refuse to but because they do not have the necessary backing from the Government to provide the public with an efficient service.

An easy way out or best for UK prison system? Ministers Could consider scrapping prison sentences under 6 months.

Jail sentences of below 6 months could be scrapped to reduce mounting pressures on the prison system, the Minister for Prisons has suggested.

The Minister for Prisons, Rory Stewart, told the Daily Telegraph that under the new plans, over 30,000 potential criminals each year could be spared from short-term prison sentences.

The plans would also mean that prison sentences can only be handed to offenders who have been tried in the crown courts, as 6 months is the maximum tariff for magistrates-level convictions.

Stewart said the plans will ease pressure on the prison system, and that jail terms shorter than 6 months were “long enough to damage you and not long enough to heal you.”

The Minister also highlighted that short-term prison sentences were punishments far beyond the time spent in prison, with 3-4 weeks having long-lasting effects such as disruption to family life and loss of primary income due to the stigma of having spent time in prison, and the criminal record that follows ex-prisoners.

Rory Stewart also mentioned that prisoners would instead be given more community sentences, instead of immediate custody, for smaller offences such as shoplifting, burglary and minor drug offences. This has led many people to question whether the institutions in place to provide community-based support and rehabilitation of offenders have the funding and resources to handle potential 30,000 new community sentences being issued in place of custody sentences.

Others have considered this to be a welcome change in rhetoric from the Ministry of Justice away from the previously disastrous ‘Prison Works’ campaign put in place by the Conservative Government in the last decade and is seen as Whitehall finally waking up to the prison crisis and looking for alternatives to prison.

This follows several months where the effectiveness of short-term prison sentences, where earlier in 2018 the then Justice Secretary David Gauke questioned the ability of prison sentences of less than 12 months to rehabilitate and stop criminals, and even mentioned that some low-level criminals may even be let off from their prison sentences early to account for work-force losses incurred from Brexit in May last year.

However, several politicians have called out the new plans as an ‘easy way out’ for many low-level criminals. Gerard Batten MEP, a Minister for European Parliament, stated that the plans would mean ‘the law-abiding are being abandoned to the criminals.’ Many critics of the proposed policy have also taken to social media, to predict a crime-wave in petty crimes following the policy’s implementation.

Yvonne Jewkes, Professor of Criminology at the University of Bath and Visiting Professor at the University of Melbourne, specialising in Prisons and Prison Architecture, welcomes the new scrutiny on the prison system but doesn’t believe the plans go far enough.

“In reality, we are only talking about a small percentage of the prison population.”

Only around 6% of the current prison population in England and Wales are serving sentences of 6 months or under. Professor Jewkes also mentions that this 6% accounts for the prison population who are most likely to re-offend or progress into more serious crimes that would warrant a custodial sentence, due to the number of low-level crimes they commit and the often chaotic nature of the lives of low-level repeat offenders.

The average size of custodial sentences in the UK has also steadily increased, from 12-15 years to 30-40 year sentences being commonplace for serious crimes, making hopes of rehabilitation among serious offenders unlikely as they are unlikely to be released before their deaths.

A more effective policy could be to drastically reduce the number of female prisoners in England and Wales, a population that is already over-crowding the limited infrastructure created for it, and focus rehabilitative methods on female prisoners to avoid the “catastrophic and long-lasting effects on them and their families.”

It is irrefutable that the prison system in its current state in England and Wales is unsustainable. The recidivism rates, or the rates at with individuals who had previously been sentenced for a crime end up being convicted of a crime, was at 29.4% between October 2016 and December 2016, in the latest release of the government’s statistics on reoffending. However, for individuals who had been released from a custodial sentence of 12 months or less, proven recidivism rates were at 64.5%, over double the rates of reoffending for convicted offenders in the United Kingdom for that quarter. There is a serious need for an overhaul for the criminal justice system, and that the prison system is at the heart of this.

The heavy pushes towards ‘populist punitiveness’ I recent years, where the public have been calling for more serious punishments for crimes, and more use of prisons, has led to the prison population in England and Wales exponentially rising, with many prisons now reporting being overcrowded and under-staffed. However, the push for more prisoners and fewer criminals in the public eye and “on the streets” would spell career suicide for an elected Minister making policies scaling back prison sentences. In the eyes of the ordinary UK citizen, prisons are the ‘waste bins’ of the country’s disposable criminal population beyond a centre for rehabilitation or even as a way of providing comfort to an offender’s victims. The general public has lost faith in the criminal justice system, but beyond that, has lost faith in the offenders who are forced to submit to the broken system to return to society, further powering and justifying the astronomical recidivism rates currently faced by the United Kingdom to both offenders and non-offenders.

London Knife Crime Desperately Needs A Solution

 

Nestled in between Peckham and Brixton, the South London district of Camberwell was a prime recipient of the wave of knife crime that swept the capital in 2018. 2019 was supposed to be different. A fresh beginning, a year of opportunities to replace a year of deprivation. But, just 4 hours into New Year’s Day, that dream was shattered. A young mother, Charlotte Huggins, became London’s first casualty of the calendar as she was fatally stabbed in her Camberwell home – with the second murder coming 2 hours after. A wave of fear has gripped the borough – and London as a whole. Strained police budgets and an absence of economic opportunities have strengthened the power of the ganglands, yet London’s knife crime trauma runs deeper than just the terror of the gang elders. And with a scarcity of solutions, escalation seems the only outcome.

22 days. Over the entirety of 2018, Earth’s 4th wealthiest city could manage a maximum of 22 days without a fatal or serious injury due to knife crime. A battle is raging between law enforcement and the criminal underworld; and with metal detector arches being introduced to Notting Hill Carnival for the first time in its history, victory is swaying in favour of the latter. 450 offences were gang-related; yet whilst these organised criminal rings often shoulder the criticism for London’s bloodshed, they account for only 25% of total knife crime offences. The problem must run deeper.

 

Camberwell itself epitomises the struggle of London’s poor; as the capital races ahead in finance and technology, with rocketing salaries for skilled graduates elevating central London to the upper echelons of global wealth, the remainder of the capital has been left devoid of opportunity. In Croydon, a nearby South London district, the Deputy Mayor of Policing and Crime Sophie Linden analysed 60 cases of murder and serious injury over the past year. Not one of them had been in mainstream education. The rungs of the social ladder have broken; isolated from the economic opportunities that lie in London’s hotbed of prosperity, hope is fading away. Without education, the possibility of climbing the income ladder is negligible. And when the outlook for the future is dominated by a cash-strapped household struggling to make ends meet, the allure of quick cash through illicit activities becomes ever more enticing. People are not choosing the illegal economy – they are being forced into it by the lack of opportunities surrounding them.

And the gangs have been quick to pounce on such opportunities. During a Brixton debate on youth violence, it emerged that gang members were waiting in chicken shops, offering free chicken to lure young individuals into the criminal underworld. For children with strong educational and earnings prospects the need for criminality to achieve their desired lifestyle is minimal; yet in a world devoid of hope and opportunity, the allure is difficult to refuse.

And mirroring this lack of hope is the hopelessness of government’s response, epitomised by Unity FC. Brandon Estate’s youth football club has been a beacon of ambition for budding footballers, providing a productive use of their time to work towards a future goal. But they still have to train at the park because of the council charge £60 an hour for astroturf pitches. The closure of 80 London youth clubs since 2010 epitomises the inherent failure of the cash-strapped council to nurture opportunities for the people. To solve this problem, money will be needed – and with a scarcity of private actors working for the common good, the Treasury will have to open its purse.

And the struggle of councils to contain the violence has been intensified by their declining presence. Camberwell now has just 2 policemen on day-to-day patrols and as a result, a power vacuum has emerged that the gangs are all too eager to fill. Home Officer Adviser Elena Noel cites the “wall of silence” as one of the greatest challenges law enforcement now faces – as the gangs strengthen their stranglehold on local communities, any cooperation with the police is a risk deemed too great to take. This has choked the ability of the police, with murder crime solving rates dropping from 90% to just over 50%. The gangs are winning. The absence of the top tier of the local hierarchy has cultivated a ‘kill or be killed’ attitude, with ever increasing numbers of youths carrying knives for protection. Greater police presence is essential to maintain the feeling of safety and prevent the gangs from growing ever more powerful in the community hierarchy.

Sadly, politics does not rule in favour of the poor. Jeremy Hunt’s desire for a post-Brexit economy modelled on low-tax Singapore symbolises the attitude of government; improve the national economy with disregard for the people, prioritising GDP figures over livelihoods. Serious investment in both education and extra-curricular activities is essential for providing hope; the key ingredient that can keep children from the prying reach of the gang elders, and lead them higher up the social ladder.

Social immobility is strong, but not immovable. And tackling crime with stop-searches only adds to the magnitude of the problem. Take a child and input family instability, fear, low educational quality and low future earning potential – is it any wonder they will lead a life of criminality? The friendship, brotherhood and cash benefits far outweigh any other opportunities on their horizon; this life may not be a choice, but an inescapable fate.

Knife crime is on the rise, but it is merely a statistic that represents the deeper problem at the heart of the capital. The towering skyscrapers and towering high-rise council blocks symbolise two different worlds inside London, a structural problem that has left the poor in a state of emergency. Whilst increasing police presence will stem the fear that grips the city, tackling the root of the problem – opportunities – is the only long-term solution. If not, expect 2019 to be a bloodier year than ever before.

The Rise Of Far-Right Terrorism

 

The invasion of right-wing rhetoric, catalysed by the Brexit debate and permeated by the current Conservative Government, has led to the festering of extreme right-wing views and has led more people down the path of radicalisation.

The past few weeks have presented a damning insight into the world of the radical right in the UK. 6 members of the neo-Nazi terrorist group ‘National Action’ were found guilty and charged for a host of offences under the 2010 Terrorism Act. Outside their home, the two main ringleaders of the group, Adam Thomas and Claudia Patatas, were seemingly normal and unassuming. Mr Thomas worked as a security guard and Mrs Patatas worked part-time as a wedding photographer who also worked in retail. The confines of their home, where they were raising a young child, showed a twisted caricature, walls adorned with swastikas and rooms filled with ceremonial blades, with many engraved with Nazi iconography and a wardrobe containing Ku-Klux Klan uniforms. The couple were sentenced alongside a cybersecurity worker, and a van driver, all of whom formed the Midlands ‘cell’ of National Action. The West Midlands Police called the group a ‘dangerous, well-structured organisation’. This is the new face of terrorism, the face of right-wing terrorism.

Despite National Action’s listing as a banned organisation, its influence on the vulnerable to radicalisation is still being assessed and realised. The group was made by two University Politics Students who were heavily involved in the Online “Alt-Right” scene and created the group with a direct focus on the ‘core-supporters’ of the British National Party- beliefs based directly on Neo-Nazism and racial hatred.

In response to last month’s charges, the Secretary of State Sajid Javid remarked that the UK Government is ‘Committed’ to tackling the threat posed by right-wing extremism, by halting terrorist activity and through the Prevent Program, which was originally created in the early 2000s to combat Islamic Terrorism in response to the 9/11 attacks. Prevent aims at rehabilitating those at risk of terrorism by intervening and providing support from social institutions and community-led projects. However, this fundamentally fails in effectively combating the various ideological factors and apparatuses that lead to right-wing terrorism.

The ideological and political climate that leads to greater instances of right-wing terrorism is straightforward to grasp. The earliest reports of modern Right-Wing terrorism in Britain rose directly out of the popularity found in the British National Party, where at one time it held over 50 seats of power in the UK government. One of the most famous right-wing terrorists of this era, David Copeland, planted a series of nail-bombs in 1999 aimed at Bangladeshi and gay communities in London. In his own words: “My aim was political. It was to cause a race war in this country. There’d be a backlash from the ethnic minorities, then all the white people will go out and vote BNP”. After BNP’s fall back into obscurity in 2008 and 2009, reports of Right-Wing terrorist incidents also fell out of the spotlight.

It wasn’t until 2012 that the Home Office once again warned of significant activity among far-right groups, where a spokesperson mentioned there was ‘persuasive evidence’ that there was potential danger resulting from the far-right activity. The following year, the United Kingdom Independence Party gained 12% of the country’s election votes, a record for the anti-immigration party. 2013 also saw the Home Office, under Theresa May, switch towards the heavy anti-immigration stance it has today, with the release of her controversial ‘Go home’ billboards aimed at illegal immigrants, a scheme that angered politicians and the public on both sides of parliament, and famously reported to have only contributed to 11 successful deportations, with even criticism being filed at Theresa May from the United Kingdom Independence Party, and which prompted Yvette Cooper, the Shadow Home Secretary at the time, to accuse May of using ‘The language of the National Front’.

The tragic murder of the progressive MP Jo Cox by Thomas Mair for her views on the European Union and her pro-immigration stance in 2015 quickly catapulted right-wing extremism back into media reports and on the desks of policymakers in the UK. Thomas Mair, who claimed to have gained the inspiration for the attack from David Copeland’s terrorist acts a decade and a half prior, also had several links to both the British National Party, and the English Defence League, whose leader at the time now advises the inner-circle of UKIP on criminal justice, an ironic position.

In a confession almost directly mimicking Copeland’s in 1999, Mair called Jo Cox ‘A traitor to white people’. While Mair’s views may seem extreme, his pathway into radicalisation was clear. He believed that all mainstream media outlets were ‘corrupted’ by the liberal left, and this is what led to the problems faced by society, causing him to reject all forms of mainstream media, and to collect his perceptions on world issues through radical underground media sites, that routinely exaggerate or downright lie about their content.

Just last month, the BBC uncovered a group of white-supremacists using the popular gaming chat software Discord. The group modelled off a far larger militant white-supremacist group in the United-States called Atomwaffen. The ‘Sonnenkreig Division’ uncovered by the BBC also highlights the grassroots nature of right-wing terrorism, further aided by the rise in new forms of social media, especially in the growth of ‘private’ social networks- and software that can mask traces of internet activity. These new social networks provide sheltered communities that bring users direct contact with other radicalised individuals, allowing extreme views to be propagated easily.

The future doesn’t look bright. Theresa May’s pilot scheme in 2013 now sings in synchronicity with radicalised enclaves of the British public as fascist values are now idolised and migrants are now met with patrol frigates after their perilous journey to safety, instead of the helping hand and decent treatment they deserve. With the left of politics still seemingly in disarray from the gains of conservatism and the new right on both sides of the Atlantic in Western Society. More and more disenfranchised members of the public will become enveloped in the contradictions and simplicity of right-wing rhetoric, leading them further into the underworld of extreme politics and the intolerance of white-nationalism, that festers in almost all western countries now. While most far right-wing organisations barely amass more than 100 members, as the 2017 Las Vegas Shootings and the Manchester Arena Bombings in the same year have shown, it only takes one extremist to cost many innocent lives.

 

Climate Change: The UK Must Do More

 

Madagascar, Androy 2018. Gripped by 5 years of unprecedented drought, a humanitarian crisis has emerged in the depths of Southern Madagascar. Local farming has been ravaged. More than a million face the risk of malnutrition. The centuries of stability for the inhabitants of Androy is over, forcing residents such as Alatsoa to flee this inhospitable, deserted land. “There is famine there, there is no water. Our future would have been very bleak if we had stayed,” said Alatsoa. The forces of nature have the power to create and destroy worlds; Madagascan life has been transformed by violent shifts in our geography. And we have only ourselves to blame.

Policymakers have finally awakened to the stark reality which scientists have for so long predicted. Arctic sea ice levels have fallen 13% per decade since 1970. of the Great Barrier Reef has been severely damaged. And 21.5mn refugees have been created by climate change since 2008 – from North African desertification to the flooding of coastal Bangladesh. For so long it was just rhetoric; a doomsday brainchild of the academic community, forcing us to change our behaviour when nobody really understood why. But a new, darker era has dawned. Our misuse of the planet is leading Earth into a dangerous, desolate future.

But what is the UK doing about it?

As the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, the origin of global warming lies on British shores. The UK Earth overshoot day was May 8th in 2017, meaning that if the world consumed energy at the ravenous rate of the British, it would take 2.87 Earths to sustainably provide the resources. Britain is not doing enough.

Some see us as net beneficiaries; no longer the land of the cold, the 2018 summer heatwave was welcomed by British sun-worshippers alongside farmers benefiting from longer growing seasons. Yet our island is not immune to the perils of global warming. A predicted tripling of global flooding would cost the world £340bn by 2030, affecting low-lying coastal and estuary regions. The Thames Barrier, the sole fortress protecting the capital from the forces of nature, can withstand only a 1-metre rise in water levels; after which we must spend billions on a replacement, or risk losing central London to our self-made destruction.

Yet policies are being implemented, symbolised by the groundbreaking 2008 Climate Change Act which outlined performance targets until 2032. This Act also leads to the creation of the CCC, the Committee on Climate Change who oversee the government’s progress on its green goals. Renewables investment and the shift away from coal have resulted in a momentous 59% decrease in electricity generation emissions since 2008 in the march towards energy decarbonisation, yet progress in other areas has plateaued.

Britain may revel in its low carbon electricity as coal continues to fuel energy in India and China, but power is the easiest sector to change – since it requires minimal changes in the behaviour of the people. As the world battles against the biggest challenge humanity have yet faced, changing the layman’s behaviour is the biggest challenge of them all. Encouraging recycling, home insulation and energy-efficient vehicles to protect farming regions in the Sahel is tough to sell to the average British worker – worlds apart, we must find incentives to encourage green behaviour for the benefit of our common humanity. The gilets jaune are symbolic of this attitude, a rampant protest borne out of an inability to see the impact of Macron’s fuel taxes past the hit to their own personal finances.

With home insulation down 95% since 2012 and tree planting rates ⅔ below target, British efforts are dangerously below the levels needed for a sustainable future. Yet hope is on the horizon. In October 2017 the government launched the Clean Growth Strategy – aiming to phase out diesel by 2040, achieve 85% of power from low-carbon sources by 2032 and support the development of green technologies. Both parties are aligned on climate policy; with May stating it is our “moral imperative” and Corbyn highlighting it as the greatest challenge facing mankind. Yet, as always seen in political spheres, words and action do not match up. Labour’s 2017 manifesto signalled a desire to transition to a green economy with hardly any clear-cut policies, and Conservative rhetoric has taken a hammering from their continued support for fracking.

But the government is not the only way. Individual efforts, brimming with ambition and a desire to save the planet, can together create a sizeable contribution. Food Intercept – a student-run organisation at Warwick University – collects leftover food from shops and markets to redistribute to the homeless in an effort to minimise food waste. With livestock contributing 14.5% to total greenhouse emissions, increasing food efficiency is integral to keeping a lid on global temperatures. Young startups are springing up across the country, that, free from the political and bureaucratic nightmares faced by government, can achieve positive change at a faster and more efficient rate.

In a world of constant political drama, from Brexit furore to Trumpian scandals and Chinese expansionism, climate change has all too often been relegated to background noise. Politicians, hungry to win their current battles, have been all too willing to delay climate policy to the next administration. No longer can this be. 2018, the year of the European heatwave, California wildfires and Puerto Rico hurricane has elevated climate change to the upper echelons of political priority. The world has begun to awaken to the barren reality we face; act now or risk an attack of natural disasters, leaving our species, the most successful in Earth’s history, fragile and vulnerable to the power of nature.

The capitalist economy borne out of the British Industrial Revolution has its roots in private trade. With it has come to satiation of our materialistic desires, producing ever more output without regard for its external impacts. This economic model cannot sustain our future. A newfound global attitude must compel the UK to create an economic system enshrined in green, sustainable principles. As the climate world order negotiated at Paris begins to disintegrate under the weight of President Trump, the UK and other countries who wish for change must keep moving forward in unity. All of our livelihoods depend on it.