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.

 

The arguments for Brexit: Explained

It wouldn’t be hyperbole to call Brexit among the most divisive political votes in history. Whether Brexit will be positive or negative for the UK still divides the opinions of most of the 70 million inhabitants of the UK. The main consensus amongst progressives is that Brexit will mostly be negative; both politically, socially and most importantly, economically. But then why did more than half of the UK vote in favour of it? In this article I intend to explore some of the main underlying points in favour of Brexit, and evaluate the grounds for their support.

One of the most salient arguments brought forward by Brexit supporters is the bureaucratic nature of the European Parliament. Supporters believe that Brexit would return power to the government, and by association, the British people. This idea appears particularly unfounded as all ministers of the European Union are elected from their respective national government. The United Kingdom itself hold regional elections to decide it’s MEPs, however, that isn’t to say these elected MEPs won’t act in the interests of their home country or even the local communities that elected them. In 2015, many of the elected MEPs for the UK, notably those of the United Kingdom Independence Party, refrained from adhering to parliamentary conduct in protest at the European Union. However, this issue isn’t unique to the European Union and has existed virtually as long as democratic institutions have.

The ability to take control of laws and policy

One of the main requirements of being a member state in the Eurozone (the free, single-market of the European Union that allows the free movement of goods and people across Europe) is to adhere to the European Court of Justice. The European Court of Justice is the main law-making entity in Europe and ensures that all EU countries abide by the laws set down by the European Union. Currently, it is comprised of one judge from each EU member state and 11 advocates for the Union itself. The main argument of pro-Brexit politicians is that the European Court of Justice takes away the ability for the UK government to manage its own laws and gives power to the EU and away from UK citizens.

Whilst this is true to some extent, the European Court of Justice also provides several opportunities for UK citizens to control the UK government through the Court. The most notable example of this is through the European Court of Human Rights, which forms a Court of law above the United Kingdom’s Supreme Court, that theoretically each EU member state must adhere to the ruling of. The European Court of Human Rights provides another avenue for citizens who think the government, or justice system, has wronged them to seek legal help.

However, the usefulness of the European Court of Human Rights in managing the UK government is itself questionable. The UK government has failed to adhere to guidelines and rulings made by the Court. The most prolific example of this came in the decision in 2003 to introduce the Imprisonment for Public Protection Sentences (also known as indeterminate prison sentences), which allowed judges to instil no fixed term limits when convicting criminals to be imprisoned if they are deemed to be violent or a danger to the public, even for crimes that would originally only confer a 1-2 year sentence. While the UK government did abolish the handing out of Indeterminate Prison Sentences in 2012 after a European Court of Human Rights ruling that it was in breach of human rights, the abolition didn’t comply with the recommendations to revoke the current indeterminate sentences handed to over 3,500 prisoners in the UK who were currently serving no fixed prison sentence term. To this day several hundred IPP prisoners are still trapped in custody, some for crimes that would otherwise have seen them walking free decades earlier.

Our continued place in the European Single-Market would ensure that we were still required to adhere to all laws created by the European Court of Justice, however without having a UK-representative on the Court itself. This means any deal involving membership of the single-market would result in still having to abide by EU law.

Trade and the Membership Fee

In 2016, the year following the Brexit vote, the UK paid over £13 billion  to the European Union for membership, a tariff that must be paid by all member states. While this is considerably less than the ‘£250 million a week’ fee ,famously mentions by the Vote-leave ‘Battle Bus’ during the vote, it is still a considerable fraction of UK GDP.

We must however consider that a sizeable number of this is given back to the UK, of around £4.5 billion each year. This is mostly given in the form of grants to research projects, and the UK’s many tourist attractions and national landmarks. The biggest recipient of the money in terms of geographical areas of the UK is Cornwall, due its huge international tourism spots.

The case for a financial reason to leave the EU is also further complicated by how it is almost completely impossible to even estimate the amount of money the UK makes each year from free-trade, free-movement, and other various services discounted by EU membership, such as a relaxation to the Rules of Origin restrictions relaxed on products within the EU. This has been hotly contested by lobbyists, policymakers and analysts since long before the Brexit vote, possibly even since the UK has been in the European Union itself.  The lack of consensus and ambiguities on what exactly makes the UK the most money from being a member of the EU makes this point one of the most difficult to disrepute.

Whether trade would be better or worse off without the European Union is also a very hotly contested topic. Brexit supporters argue that the European Union decides the trade regulations and partners for its members, denying the UK the ability to manage its own trade and determine its own trade partners. Yet this argument fails to understand the very reason why the European Union was created in such a way in the first place. The European Union was designed to have the single market to ensure European Countries would have larger bargaining power with the new world-superpowers seen rising in the far-east and the United States. These large powers are forced to do business with the entirety of Europe, as opposed to being able to strong-arm smaller and economically weak individual European countries (such as the tactics employed by the Trump Administration in recent years with Mexico and Canada) into deals that would only benefit the larger powers.

As argued by Brexiteers, the United Kingdom, boasting the 5th largest world economy, can gather the economic power needed to ensure fair trade deals are made with other superpowers, most notably by gaining the backing of the United States through a ‘special relationship’ that favours US-UK trade. But yet again, this argument is too simplistic when compared to reality. It is true that the UK has the 5th largest GDP of any country in the world, but the relative difference in GDP between the UK and the two largest economies, China and the United States, is immense. The International monetary fund found in 2017 that the United States had a national GDP 10 times higher than the UK.

This is also further complicated by the role the United Kingdom plays as the only fully English-Speaking country to reside in the European Union. The United Kingdom is often regarded as the ‘gateway to Europe’, and has developed a vast financial economy off the ability for the United States and far Eastern investment firms and banks to do business in the UK and make use of its easy access to the Single-Market.

It is questionable whether the UK would be able to sufficiently make use of its economy to stand on its own feet without the need of the European Union. There may also be a legacy of nostalgia towards the days of the old British Empire and the United Kingdom’s ability to stand as a world power. The reality is the UK has yet to prove such a feat is possible after so many years sheltered in the Single-Market.

Immigration

Immigration is by far the most contentious issue in the Brexit debate. There is a general assumption that the Pro-Brexit argument in terms of immigration, is that the free movement of workers between European countries has contributed to a huge rise in low-skilled migrants into the UK. This argument was somewhat hijacked during the Brexit vote considering the Migrant Crisis, where there was a flood of refugees from conflicts with Islamic State and the Syrian Civil war moving across the Mediterranean and into the European Union through Italy. Another issue backing the immigration argument for Brexit is that the flood of migrant workers from countries that give lower salaries for the same jobs (such as Eastern European countries that often make use of their lower economies to provide less pay for low-skilled and skilled workers), move to the United Kingdom and take the jobs of UK nationals.

According to data from the office of national statistics for September 2018, there are currently 2.25 million non-UK EU nationals, compared to 1.24 million non-UK nationals from outside the EU working in the United Kingdom. However, only 881,000 of the EU nationals working in the UK are from Eastern European countries, and the number of Eastern European Migrants in the UK has been steadily decreasing since September 2016, where it peaked at just over 1 million workers. The United Kingdom has seen relatively steady increases in the number of UK nationals working in the UK over recent years.

Another issue, particularly around the ‘Migrant Crisis’, is that even though part of the argument in favour of Brexit included discussion on whether the European Union would force the United Kingdom to ‘share the load’ of refugees from the Middle East, the agreement to bring refugees into the UK wasn’t decided by the EU, but instead by a joint agreement between France and the UK. In that situation, the United Kingdom did have control over its borders and instead chose to let migrants in. A further issue with the Immigrant Brexit argument is that leaving the European Union might make it more difficult for the United Kingdom to deport illegal immigrants, as currently, EU law allows for quick deportation of illegal immigrants either to other European Union countries, or countries close to the European Union.

Similarly, under directive 2004/38 of the European Union, specifically article 28, member-states do have a certain amount of discretion to avoid the abuse of freedom of movement, notably to ‘guard against the abuse of rights or from fraud’ to ‘adopt necessary measures’ which can include deportation. EU law already allows for migrants who abuse the freedom of movement to be sent back to their home country.

Brexit will fundamentally change the United Kingdom, in terms of its economic make-up, its ability to control policy, it’s government’s accountability, and the United Kingdom’s place on the world stage. Whether this change will be overall positive, negative or could even be considered as anything beyond ‘complicated’ is a topic that will be debated for many decades to come. The arguments in favour of Brexit, while mostly being simplistic in their depiction of very complex political and financial situations, do reflect genuine dissatisfaction with the United Kingdom, neoliberal policies and institutions such as the European Union.

May: Blair ‘undermining’ Brexit

Theresa May has accused former Prime Minister Tony Blair of ‘undermining’ ongoing discussions regarding the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union.

Tony Blair, frustrated with the current political climate, claimed that the current proposals were in ‘crisis’ and urged all to support a Second Referendum.

In response, Mrs. May accused Blair of attempting to ‘undermine our negotiations’ by ‘advocating for a second referendum’. She claimed it amounted to ‘an insult to the office he once held.’

She continued, ‘I have never lost sight of my duty, and that is to deliver on the referendum result.’

She added: ‘We cannot, as he would, abdicate responsibility for this decision.’

Theresa May has been left red faced after this exchange, as it has emerged that some members of her cabinet fully support calls for a ‘People’s Vote’.

Gavin Barwell, close adviser to the Prime Minister, is allegedly urging for plans to be drawn up for another public vote according to the Mail Online – regarding membership of the European Union.

However, these claims have been denied by Gavin Barwell on Twitter. He said, ‘Happy to confirm I do *not* want a 2nd referendum’.

He continued, ‘it would further divide the country when we should be trying to bring people back together’.

Minister for the Cabinet Office, David Lidington has been allegedly communicating with Labour MP’s in an attempt to build a ‘coalition of the willing’ to support another EU Referendum.

Opinions remain deeply divided and it is unclear whether or not plans are being made for a public vote in the United Kingdom.

Comment from Thomas Howard, Editor at TPN:

Allegations are coming in thick and fast and it is becoming more difficult to determine fact from fiction. But, it is clear that another referendum is gaining more support and publicity throughout the United Kingdom.

NHS Leaders Forced To Delay Publication of Long Term Plan Amid Brexit Chaos

 

NHS bosses have been forced to delay the publication of the health service’s most important document as of yet; the long-term plan. The document elaborates how the NHS plans to spend the introduced £20.5bn budget increase in the next few years. It was due to be published in the week commencing the 17th December 2018 as  Theresa May committed to increasing the NHS’s budget by £20.5bn a year, by 2023-24. The Prime Minister told NHS England to produce a plan, however, this publication of document has been postponed until January 2019.

The chaos surrounding Brexit at the moment hinders ministers to consider the plan in its entire depth. Nonetheless, ministers have been warned that the £20bn will not be sufficient to pay for all the improvements they would like to see as there are many issues within the NHS that needs to be improved. One common problem would be the lack of staff which leads to further issues in providing a public health service. It has been reported that thousands of nurses and other health professionals have quit the NHS mental health service with two thousand mental health staff leaving a month, according to the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC). Services are struggling to cope with an increase of individuals seeking help for mental health such as anxiety, and other disorders and a lack of staff to provide an efficient service.

In addition, patients are continuously unhappy with the long waiting list and the A&Es being overcrowded on an annual basis.  Jonathan Ashworth MP, the Shadow Health and Social Care Secretary said:

“This is a government dismally paralysed by the ongoing Tory civil war over the Brexit shambles. It will be an utterly embarrassing failure of leadership if the health secretary can’t get an NHS plan published because of the ongoing squabbling”.

 

Final Comment from Editor- Heidi Boahen

The NHS has been heavily criticised for the inefficient service it has been providing the public. Criticism of the waiting lists getting longer, not being able to get an appointment in a short period of time,  staff shortages and the poor quality of services, to name a few criticisms. It is, therefore, fair to say that we need urgent action now and the delay in publishing this important document simply because the government cannot decide on who should be their leader and cannot internally agree on a Brexit deal is unfair. This government is unable to take anything forward at the moment. Other departments should not be put on a backburner. Brexit should not be the be-all and end-all for this country. We have to move on.

The NHS spending document is set to be published in January.

With May facing no confidence from her own party – Could a Labour government emerge from this mess?

Well, it finally happened. After a year of speculation about the always-just-below-48 letters, Conservative Party chairman Graham Brady has received the number required to trigger a no confidence vote in the Prime Minister, set for Wednesday evening and to be announced after 9pm.

Her fate is undetermined, but – depending on the result – this could have a real impact on the prospect of a Labour government in the immediate future.

If May loses:

If May loses the confidence vote a Conservative Party leadership election will be initiated. Expect a Brexiteer verses a born-again Brexiteer (formerly remain) final showdown.

This leadership election would tear the Conservative Party apart, pouring salt on the gaping wound of leave vs remain in the party. The resulting damage would make an election an unlikely risk but would seriously wound the party.

A victory by a true Brexiteer (the likely scenario) has potential to bring down the party, as some Conservative MPs have reportedly privately or publicly voiced desires to resign from the party under a Boris Johnson premiership – Anna Soubry being one. It is unlikely there would be enough of these newly independent MPs to support a Labour minority government, but the government’s majority would be reduced and several remaining Conservative remainers would likely turn into prolific backbench rebels if the party sought a hard Brexit.

This also raises the question of which sort of Brexit is actually acceptable for parliament. The withdrawal-agreement would almost certainly be scrapped and Article-50 extended to allow time for re-negotiation. A Canada-style deal favoured by Brexiteers is probably undeliverable due to the small but stubborn group of Tory remainers, while supporters of a Norway-style deal are unlikely to reach leadership positions.

Assuming a Canada-deal supporter is elected party leader. It is therefore not too much of a stretch to imagine them going to the country in an election to overcome parliamentary gridlock.

Equally, the new Prime Minister could experience a honeymoon period poll bounce – as May did – and opt for an election. But memories of the previous attempt make a positive move towards an election almost unthinkable, it will have to be a desperate last-resort measure.

  • Summary – Election unlikely but not impossible, would be a last resort for a new struggling government. Labour would likely win any election in this scenario.

If May wins:

May winning the vote is probably the outcome Labour figures should be hoping for and the most likely scenario.

If May wins the confidence vote party rules state Tory MPs will be unable to challenge her again for 12 months. Presumably this will be unacceptable to hard Brexiteers who will have lost their last resort measure, and constant threat, of a devastating confidence vote.

Labour have recently faced unfair criticism from the SNP and Liberal Democrats for failing to initiate a no confidence vote in the government (which they themselves could initiate at any time). Labour’s reasoning is to wait for the most impactful time to initiate this vote – which would have been Tuesday night when the withdrawal agreement was set to be defeated.

With a confidence vote in May initiated by her own party shortly afterwards, clearly waiting was the correct move. If May survives the vote on her leadership, it is still highly unlikely she will be able to pass the withdrawal agreement. When she loses this vote as well, then DUP and Conservative rebels would have no way to remove her other than supporting a no confidence motion in the government. Another year of May’s leadership could be too much for some ERG figures to bear, but I would expect the DUP to be the real threat to the government in this scenario.

  • Summary – Election more likely, becomes the only way to overcome gridlock and remove May. Labour win likely against increasingly weak and unpopular May.

May: ‘I will contest that vote’

Earlier today it was confirmed that a vote of no confidence had been filed against the Prime Minister, Theresa May by backbench members of the Conservative Party.

Graham Brady, Chair of the 1922 Committee, received at least 48 letters which has triggered a vote of no confidence – scheduled to happen later today.

In a statement outside Number 10, Theresa May stressed that she will ‘contest that vote’. She claimed that the vote will only benefit ‘Jeremy Corbyn’ and ‘John McDonnell’ – amidst fears of a General Election.

Widespread speculation has engulfed the mainstream media, with opinions being deeply divided. Critics claim that she is set for a major defeat, whilst supporters are content that she will remain on as Prime Minister.

Regardless, if she obtains only a minor victory she may decide to step down as Prime Minister – as was done after Margaret Thatcher failed to win an outright majority in the first round of voting in 1990.

Members of the Cabinet have come out in full support of the Prime Minister, in an attempt to save her from tonight’s challenge. Liz Truss, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, tweeted: ‘I fully support the Prime Minister’.

Jeremy Hunt, Foreign Secretary, has also offered his support to Theresa May. He claimed that being Prime Minister is the ‘most difficult job imaginable right now’ and feels that the contest is ill-timed and inappropriate.

However, prominent Brexiteers have voiced their opposition to the Prime Minister, including Bernard Jenkin MP. He claims that it is possible to change leader during turbulent times, as this occurred during the Second World War.

Several prominent individuals have failed to rule out a leadership bid, sparking widespread speculation that the United Kingdom could soon have a new Prime Minister.

More to follow..

May: Reject my deal and face ‘uncharted waters’

Theresa May has used an interview with the Mail on Sunday to plead with rebels in the Conservative Party. Mrs. May claims that if they fail to support her deal, then they will pave the way for a government led by Jeremy Corbyn.

Senior members of her party have been urging the Prime Minister to reopen negotiations with Brussels – as some estimates have suggested that current proposals will be defeated in the House of Commons.

Mrs. May remains adamant that her proposals have the full support of her Cabinet. ‘I think we all recognise that this is a good deal,’ she said.

If her deal is rejected and a vote of no confidence is triggered, then this will be the first time parliament has sat over Christmas since 1656 – during the Cromwellian Interregnum.

In an interview with BBC Radio 4, the Prime Minister condemned those attempting to ‘frustrate’ and ‘overturn’ Brexit – she claimed ‘that’s not right.’

Theresa May further claimed that this process is being manipulated and exploited by the Labour Party. She stated: ‘The Labour Party see this as a way of trying to engineer a General Election.’

However, the opposition maintains that the current proposals are not in the interest of the country – hence will oppose the deal on Tuesday.

Sir Keir Starmer, Shadow Brexit Secretary, has made it clear that his party would support a deal, as long as it conforms to his six tests – which were outlined earlier in 2018.

Comment from Thomas Howard, Editor at TPN:

Theresa May has reverted back to the tactics exploited in the past – scaremongering. She has issued an ultimatum to those rebels within her party – support me, or face a government led by Jeremy Corbyn.

This is a desperate appeal for support, as the vote to accept or reject her deal looms closer. Currently, it appears that the deal will be rejected by the House of Commons.

UK Government Blocks SNP Paying Settled Status Fees For Public Sector Workers

Nicola Sturgeon, Leader of SNP has stated that the UK Government will not allow Holyrood ministers to pay the £65 settlement status fees for European citizens who are working in Scotland’s public services.

The First Minister said at the Health and Social Care Scotland conference in Glasgow that the UK Conservative Government will not allow third-party payments, which forces EU citizens to pay the fee upfront. This comes as a surprise as the First Minister has already promised her government would cover the cost for EU public-sector and NHS workers living in Scotland.

Circa 13,000 EU nationals currently work in the health and social care sector in Scotland. However, reports have indicated that there is already a drop in job applications for the health sector.

The Home Office spokesman stated: “The EU Settlement Scheme will make it simple and straightforward for EU citizens to get the status they need”.

Editor’s final comment- Heidi Boahen

This hostile environment created by Theresa May herself and her party have put many European citizens living in the UK in fear. It almost seems as if the current Government wants to purposely put barriers in place which consequently forces Europeans to leave the UK. We are already seeing a number of Europeans leave the UK and it is no surprise as new policies do not seem welcoming. Nurses, Doctors and other NHS staffs should be valued and protected at all times. It is simply unfair for Europeans who have lived in the UK for a long time to have to pay a fee to prove their right to be in this country. As the UK prepares to leave the European Union, it has to shift their focus on uniting the United Kingdom and not segregate the British nation further with hostile policies.

Rail Chaos Continuous: Chris Grayling’s Failure To Deliver An Efficient Rail Service

The UK has experienced a significant increase in fare prices which many argue is not justifiable. Campaign for Better Transport has called for a fares freeze in January and wrote to Theresa May in June outlining passengers day-to-day train journey experiences. However, this seems to not have had much of an impact as another fare increase has been introduced for the near year. It was therefore not surprising when there was a public uproar over the 3.1 % increase in rail fares which will add hundreds of pounds to commuters’ travel in 2019.

To add to commuters’ concern, the introduction of this years’ new train times in May has not been a success with many passengers still complaining about the lack of punctuality. It has been announced that hundreds of new train services are to be introduced across the UK from Sunday, following the lack of cohesiveness with the latest introduced train times. However, some changes to train networks such as Northern, Great Western and South Western networks have been delayed until next year May.

Editor’s final comment- Heidi Boahen

Passengers pour over £10 billion a year into the rail industry alongside significant government investment, yet they are not receiving a service that is their money’s worth. It is fair to state, the Department for Transport is in need of a new Secretary. One who will take control and one who puts the passengers’ needs and concerns at the centre of all decisions.

I, therefore, agree with Labour’s Shadow Transport Secretary, Andy McDonald when he said there is a lack of concern for the interests of passengers and that the Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has failed at his job to provide a decent and reliable train service. Many will be affected by the inconsistency of the train times, the lack of consideration for train networks in North of England and the consistent increase of rail fares which the average person living in the UK will struggle to afford. Trains should be run as a public service and not run for profit. As Andy McDonald MP said, “To deliver reliable services, we need an integrated network that acts in the interest of passengers, which requires the operation of trains to be brought under public ownership”.