Canterbury: the gritty electoral battleground in the Tory heartlands

The resignation of Tim Walker – Canterbury’s Liberal Democrat candidate for the 2019 general election – is just the tip of the iceberg of the complex political battle current raging in this historical city in the heart of the garden of England.

Canterbury voted in favour of remaining in the European Union in 2016. Over 60% of Canterbury’s population voted not to leave the EU and both of it’s Universities, including the University of Kent that boasts the moniker of being the UK’s ‘European university’, openly support remaining in the Union.

While this would appear to be an advantage to Rosie Duffield, who has always vocally supported remaining in the Union, her own party’s neutral position over Brexit could cost her votes. While Tim Walker has stepped down in Canterbury, the Liberal Democrats have told Channel 4 that they still plan to run a candidate in Canterbury, potentially leeching support from the Labour MP. They have  chosen an ex-councilor to run called Claire Malcolmson. Vote shares for Canterbury predict the Liberal Democrats to gain 23% of the City’s vote, giving the Conservatives a comfortable lead of 6% on Labour. However, if just 30% of Canterbury’s remain population voted ‘tactically’ – voting irrespective of party line and focusing on a candidate’s Brexit stance – then the scales could be tipped in favour of a Labour win.

However, understanding the difficult position Rosie Duffield is currently in requires context on Canterbury as a constituency, and what makes Canterbury such a difficult city to predict in the 2019 election.

Before 2017, most election polls predicted a comfortable win for the Conservatives, making Canterbury a certain ‘safe’ seat; one that has been held by a Conservative for almost it’s entire 100-year existence. In 2017, the Tory frontman Sir Julian Brazier was looking to shore up his considerable majority in the city – a majority he had held his entire 25-year career as an MP. In 2015, Sir Brazier won by a 42% majority, beating his nearest competitor by over 9000 votes.  

The Tories were confident, given the constituencies location in the heart of Kent, they were further reassured when Brazier’s opponent was announced: an ex-teaching assistant with no prior Parliamentary experience, Rosie Duffield. Duffield’s prior popularity in the Labour Party was scarce. Her political experience was limited to an unsuccessful run for the council in 2015, as well as her work as a political satire writer.

Labour’s gains in the 2017 election surprised pundits across the political spectrum, and Canterbury was no different. With a majority of just 187 votes, Rosie Duffield beat the incumbent Julien Brazier to become Canterbury’s MP. After conceding defeat, Mr Brazier blamed Canterbury’s invigorated student population for the shock win.

On a national scale, the student vote appeared to factor heavily into Labour’s success, with reports estimating that almost 90% of the student population eligible to vote registered in the election, with a further 55% of students backing Jeremy Corbyn’s Party.

Since 2017, Rosie Duffield has cemented her place in Labour Party politics, becoming the Secretary to the Shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities and serving on several Parliamentary committees. In 2018, Duffield demonstrated her commitment to staying in the European Union by being one of 6 frontbench MPs to resist a Labour whip to abstain from voting to remain in the EU single market after Brexit, precipitating her exit from the shadow cabinet.

In late 2019, she made further headlines after a speech on her experiences surviving and overcoming domestic abuse during a hearing on Theresa May’s domestic violence bill – a speech which moved the Commons to tears.

Duffield also took a very vocal stance on antisemitism in the party, admitting to reporters in 2018 that Labour did have a ‘problem’ with antisemitism, leading to condemnation from Canterbury Council’s Labour chairman. Ms Duffield has shored up her meteoric rise in leftwing politics and in just two years has made herself into one of the Labour Party’s rising stars.

But her competition this year will be difficult.

Sir Brazier’s favourite was elected his successor to become Canterbury’s Conservative candidate – a veteran of local politics, Anna Firth. Firth is an ex-barrister, Councilor, and ran for the European Parliament in 2017. The avowed Brexiteer gained local infamy in October when she shared a video with Boris Johnson, promising a new hospital was being created in Canterbury, a hospital that, it was later revealed, did not even appear in the government’s plans. Firth’s highly pro-Brexit stance has led to a deep affinity with Boris Johnson and other hardline Conservative Brexiteers – an affinity which may resonate with voters in the traditional Tory heartlands.

Canterbury will serve as an important litmus test for the 2019 general election, with all of the major frontrunning parties fielding hopeful MPs. Whether Canterbury remain supporters are willing to put party allegiance aside and vote strategically to stop Firth’s election, however, is beyond prediction.

Tom Brake interview: “Come a general election, its everything to play for”

The Liberal Democrats have witnessed something of a resurgence since the outcome of the 2016 EU referendum. With a clear policy of opposing Brexit – and now with the election of Jo Swinson – there is a clear feeling that the party is now primed to lead a new liberal movement in the UK.

It’s no wonder that Tom Brake, the Lib Dem Brexit spokesman, is confident that the party could fair well in an upcoming general election, saying that there “is everything to play for” and the idea that “Jo Swinson could be our future prime minister” is a perfectly “rational idea to set out”.

There is no doubting that the Liberal Democrats have grown dramatically in terms of popularity, compared to the 2017 general election. The party witnessed their London vote share increase by 20% in the 2019 European elections- a clear indicator of their anti-Brexit appeal.

According to Mr Brake, Brexit came at a time when the party faced an “existential threat” and enabled it to “clear the decks” by developing a “clear position” that would appeal to a broad “range of voters.”

When asked about the party’s stance on the EU Referendum itself, Mr Brake made reference to what he dubbed a “deliberate attempts” to exclude certain groups from “participation”, which he believes contributed to the narrow margin of victory for Leave.

As well as expressing doubt at the ability of the new prime minister to renegotiate a deal with the EU, the Brexit Spokesman defended Jo Swinson’s decision not to form a pact with the Labour Party, arguing that Jeremy Corbyn “has always been a Eurosceptic”.

The full interview can be found below:

May fails to vote for Northern Ireland same-sex marriage, days after Pride Month

Theresa May was not present during voting to extend the legalization of same-sex marriage in the United Kingdom to Northern Ireland, exactly 4 days after claiming to be a Pride Ally.

The Prime Minister released a tweet on the 6th of July addressing the LGBTQ+ community in the UK, saying: “I will be your ally for the rest of my life.”

However, the Conservative Party’s leader was absent from Parliament for a recent vote on whether to legalize gay marriage and abortion in Northern Ireland.

65 Conservative MPs voted against the legalization policy, including Jacob Rees Mogg and James Brokenshire, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities, and Local Government.

8 DUP MPs, out of a total of 10, also voted against the bill and claimed that the vote breached Northern Ireland’s devolution settlement.

All 10 DUP MPs displayed interest in voting against the bill, however two of the Unionist Party’s MPs, Gavin Robinson and Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, were enlisted to count MPs votes.

The legislation has put in place the ability for Westminster to legalize same-sex marriage and abortion in Northern Ireland, if Northern Ireland’s devolved parliament isn’t restored by the 21st of October.

While most of the United Kingdom has already had same-sex marriage and abortion legalized, Northern Ireland’s status as a devolved government has meant some control over which legislation was passed for the region.

However, Stormont’s Parliament has been suspended since early 2017, after Northern Ireland’s major Parties, Sinn Fein and the Democratic Unionist Party, failed to settle disagreements over who will lead the Parliament.

Northern Ireland currently holds the record for the longest period for a state to lack a sitting government, at over 600 days.

Should the two Political Parties fail to restore the region’s Government by this deadline, there is potential for Westminster to begin providing direct legislative focus on Northern Ireland, which has previously enjoyed some autonomy.

During the debating session for the bill, DUP MP Nigel Dodds said: “[This vote] is seeking to drive a coach and horses through the principle of devolution, overriding the concerns of the people in Northern Ireland.”

However, Conor McGinn, Labour MP for St Helens North, said: “This House has failed LGBT people in Northern Ireland before.”

McGinn added: “Tonight, we have a chance to do the right thing. People in Northern Ireland – and indeed across Britain and Ireland – are watching.”

All standing MPs for every Party except the Conservative Party and the Democratic Unionist Party voted in favour of the bill.

The legislation was the result of several years of campaigning by LGBTQ+ charities, and the efforts of MPs, including Labour MPs Conor McGinn, and Stella Creasy.

Labour party suspends National Executive Committee Member over antisemitism

A Labour Party Member and member of its National Executive Committee has been suspended from the Party after reiterating an antisemitic conspiracy theory about recent claims of an “Israeli agent” infiltrating the party’s leadership.

The pronounced anti-Israeli party member, Pete Willsman, was also believed to be a close ally of Jeremy Corbyn during his run-up to leadership of the Party, and has claimed that the Jewish state of Israel was behind the recent claims of antisemitism made against the Party.

The suspension came after a leaked conversation by Willsman stated that some of the Labour Party members who were pushing antisemitism claims were working “indirectly with the [Israeli] embassy”, and that it is these members, who are linked to the Israeli Government, “whipping it up all the time”.

Willsman also called the antisemitism claims, which has caused the Equality and Human Rights Commission to launch an investigation into the Party two days before his suspension, “total lies”.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission, the prevailing investigatory body charged with investigating discrimination and racism among UK institutions, stated earlier this week that it would be launching a formal inquiry against the Party due to fears of the Party failing to address complains of unlawful acts committed by Party members that were believed to be antisemitic in nature.

The commission stated two reasons as to why the Party was to be formally investigated. The first reason was that the elected Labour Leadership has failed in it’s duties to offer actions that would end discrimination against Jewish Members in the Party, and the second is that the Party’s leadership has failed to address the problem of antisemitism in their party by themselves before the commission stepped in.

The Labour Party has since stated that they are “fully committed to the support, defence, and celebration of the Jewish community and is implacably opposed to antisemitism in any form”.

However, many high-profile Party members have come out on social media in support of Willsman, many purporting the same conspiracy theory that had the National Executive Committee member suspended in the first place.

David Icke, an author, public speaker, and Party Member with a large following of almost 200,000 people on Twitter, posted an image of what appeared to be an image supporting Willsman’s conspiracy about Israel infiltrating the Party’s leadership.

Another influential account with over 10,000 followers, who goes by the name of “True Labour”, uses a video of Labour frontrunner Tom Watson singing a Jewish Song to the political group “Labour Friends of Israel” to sarcastically imply that Israel has been lobbying the Labour Party to “falsely” provide allegations towards socialist Party Members.

The Editor-in-Chief of The Canary, a left-wing publication, also referred to the recent allegations as “weaponizing antisemitism” in a form of gas-lighting. The Canary was mentioned last year as one of the main publications that were pushing anti-semitic agendas and has been referred to by the left-wing Guardian Columnist Owen Jones as dangerous to the left through it’s proliferation of conspiracy theories.

It would be wrong to suggest that the labour Party does not have any issue with antisemitism, just as it would be wrong to suggest that the Conservative Party has no issue with Islamophobia. However, what is wrong, is to suggest that the Conservative Party’s Islamophobia negates the need for the left to also address it’s own shortcoming and biases, and few biases have existed within Socialist circles longer than the question of Judaism. Sub-cultures of the Labour Party have begun to consider conspiracy theories, mimicking those found in much darker periods of history, to justify and avoid questioning the potentially discriminatory nature of recent political campaigns, where any dissenting opinions are simply considered to be under the employment of an opposing entity.

The only question left for the Labour Party to answer, however, is how it will combat the disenfranchisement of Jewish Party Members and the rise of this form of thinking in the future.

European Elections 2019: Yorkshire Independence Party gains more votes than Change UK in Yorkshire

In the 2019 European Elections, the results of which were released last night, the Yorkshire Party has achieved a higher share of the vote in the Yorkshire region than the nationally-based Change UK Party.

The Yorkshire Party, known for their political goal of campaigning for the government to grant Yorkshire the ability to form it’s own provincial government within the UK, was formed in 2014, and has seen its best turnout of any election so far last night.

Stated on the Party’s website, the group aims to petition the government to treat Yorkshire with the same level of political freedom as Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, all of which have their own inner Parliament as well as contributing Ministers of Parliament to Westminster in general elections.

On the other side, the Change UK Party was formed earlier this year after a loose coalition of Labour and Conservative Ministers of Parliament broke away from their respective establishment Parties due to their stances on Brexit, and originally went by the moniker of “The Independent Group”.

The Party ran with a number of candidates in every region of the United Kingdom, but failed to secure a single candidate as a Minister for European Parliament in the election, gaining barely 2.9% of the popular vote.

In Yorkshire and Humber specifically, however, the Yorkshire Party gained over 53,000 votes, compared to Change UK’s 30,162, which amounted to around 4% of the vote in the region compared to Change UK’s 2.3% of the vote.

The Yorkshire Party’s share of the popular vote was also nearly on par with the United Kingdom Independence Party’s share, with the Party losing all of their MEP seats both in the Yorkshire region itself and nationally last night.

Due to the nature of the European Elections, with a considerable majority of parties pushing a “protest vote” such as the Brexit Party, the Liberal Democrats, the Green Party, and Change UK all forming their election campaigns around their Party’s views on whether to remain or leave the European Union on October 31st, it can be implied that more residents around the Yorkshire and Humber area wish to see a devolved Yorkshire than would support Change UK’s campaign to remain in the European Parliament.

However, the Yorkshire and Humber area did see a considerable number of it’s residents back other remain parties, and the Liberal Democrat Party gained 15.5% of the popular vote, and the Green Party also secured 12.9% of the voter share. The Liberal Democrat Party was narrowly beaten by the Labour Party however, who held onto 16.3% of the voter share for that region, despite losing over 13% of voters to the other Parties when compared to the 2014 elections. All 3 parties gained 1 MEP seat each for the region.

On the official Yorkshire Party’s social media account, the Party asked whether or not this means the Yorkshire Party, and the Party’s prevailing lobbying message to the government, will be given more media coverage than Change UK, in light of Change UK’s disastrous night and the Yorkshire Party’s relative success in this year’s elections.

Knife Crimes Surge in the UK: Why police raise it as a “National Emergency

In a span of fewer than two weeks, 3 teenagers were stabbed in Birmingham, prompting West Midlands Police to raise knife crimes to a national emergency.

Crimes that involve knife attacks have been steadily increasing in the country.

This alarming statistic adds more heat to the 12 fatal cases of stabbing in London just in 2019 alone. The country is under pressure to address the root cause of this problem, and the police are encouraging parents and families to address violence among youths.

The Office for National Statistics even shows that, in spite of the UK’s booming economy, crime rates have steadily risen, with robberies at knife point increasing by 17 percent.

The youth are the primary targets of these crimes, and most knife-related attacks are on those aged between 10 and 19. Officials have said that this is due to the accessibility of knives everywhere, and that something should be done to address the problem.

The number of crimes related to stabbing or knife injuries has been steadily growing since early 2017, and more and more families are being devastated across the country. It’s almost impossible to go a week without hearing of another incident on the news, and panic is starting to spread throughout the UK.

Police officers are urging retailers of knives to practice discernment, especially when selling to minors. The problem is now commonly being referred to as an “epidemic”, and officials are desperate to find a way to resolve this.

The police force is now seeking the assistance of families, to assist in remedying this pressing national concern. By being able to spot acts or signs of violence at home, they believe that the crime rate can eventually be lowered.

Recent reports indicate that there is a high correlation between drugs and social media with the increase in knife incidents in the country.

In addition, according to local police, these incidents could have been prevented if it wasn’t for the previous budget cuts.

The YMCA has even backed this up by saying that the budget allocation for youth services have been cut drastically by around £750m since 2010-11 across England and Wales, with the West Midlands and North West taking the hardest hit.

Concerned citizens are raising the question of the youth’s access to support groups and recreational activities. They say that without a safe place for young ones to meet, they turn to shady places. Teenagers or young adults will turn to meet in “takeaways” and this is where violence brews.

Youth advocates add that “postcode wars”, drug dealing, the influence of social media, and brewing gang wars have effectively made the situation worse.