We must not let Brexit dominate this election’s agenda

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

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

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

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

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

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

OUTSIDE THE BUBBLE: Are the Lib Dems revoking our chance to beat Boris?

Iwan Doherty, an economics commentator for Byline Times, The London Economic and others, is joined by TPN’s Joint Editor in Chief – Seb Chromiak, and Oban Mackie. They discuss the Lib Dem’s electoral strategy in the remain alliance, Labour’s prospects and whether the 4 Day Week should be in the Labour manifesto.

Why are centrists so concerned about the ‘politics of division’?

‘The politics of division’ is surely the most banal of political clichés – the most lazy, yet tinged with benevolent intention. Scattered across the pages of history, an epithet to the bipartisan legacy of Obama, a monument to a noble ideal of a society without hate, fear, division; an expression of horror at our inability to communicate. But centrists too often treat is as a cause – rather than a symptom – of political failure. 

We condemn politicians from Johnson to Trump for cynically playing to people’s most base instincts – their jealousy, fear of the outsider, bitterness and nostalgia for an age of simplicity, where everyone could identify with a strong, secure national identity. In so doing, these populists accumulate support from those who have the least to lose. They perversely champion those whose livelihoods have been made less secure by the economic zeitgeist they advocated in the very first place.

Take our current Prime Minister, a man who seeks to portray himself doing battle with an establishment ostensibly bent on ‘suppressing’ the will of the people. This classical enthusiast seeks, like Cicero, to simultaneously appeal to the people and the senate – an ideological hallmark of Dominic Cummings’ Leave Campaign backed by businessmen, hedge-fund managers, Tory grandees and wealthy landowners. The notion that privately-educated Johnson has ever been anything other than an adornment of the establishment is simply nonsensical, yet this advocate of economic liberalism now seeks to be the ‘man of the masses’.

It is surely a sad irony that those who have lost the most are now defending an extreme government whose ideological commitments will hurt them even more. Of course, this is a generalisation – there was, for instance, and still is, a principled Lexiteer case. Nevertheless, the simple fact is that a no-deal Brexit may very well occur under the most right-wing cabinet in history.

To misappropriate the eloquent position of Grace Blakeley in her book Stolen, moments of radical political change often occur in times of crisis. There was no clearer example of this than the actions taken under the Thatcher administration. As she puts it, the Thatcher government asserted the interests of capital using ‘state warfare’: mobilising the state’s power to subdue labour, all whilst legislating for a light-regulation, low-tax economy that would further entrench the dominance of capital.

The circumstances would obviously be different in the event of a no-deal Brexit, but the basic principle still stands. Such an event, with all of the associated economic and political turmoil, would provide an excellent opportunity to solidify the power of capital, remaking Britain a la ‘Britannia Unchained’. This entrenchment of power, indeed, would be over a workforce already atomised and alienated by successive years of anti-union legislation and changing economic conditions favourable to the service economy.

But centrists must take their share of the blame. To return to the original point, there has been a fundamental failure of centrists to engage in any meaningful way with the economic and political circumstances defining our age. By merely seeking to condemn ‘aggressive rhetoric’, they fail to ask the truly important questions; why heightened, aggressive language appeals to people at all. By merely waxing lyrical about the politics of division, they tragically fail to see that politics inevitably involves division, and inevitably involves fighting your own corner.

There has been no better example of this failure than the response of centrist Democrats to Donald Trump. They have criticised – with justification – his homophobia, transphobia, racism and sexism. But declaring their outrage about the President’s rhetoric on Twitter won’t solve anything at all. By failing to offer structural change, and without listening to the voices of left-behind America, they merely offer hollow narcissism and petty sloganeering. By failing to actively engage in substantive, radical policy proposals to solve the contradictions of a broken economic epoch, they allow the President to present turbo-charged capitalism as a viable economic solution for industrial communities devastated by globalisation.

Indeed, the temptation to merely react to the immediately obscene statements of the President is invariably counterproductive. Trump thrives precisely because this is an age of cheap sensation, empty statements, information overload and contrived outrage generated, in part, by a media environment which needs to create a false sense of urgency. By denouncing his Twitter feed with vague insistences that we need to ‘come together’ and ‘unify’, they ironically distract from the devastating impact of his actual policies – playing into Trump’s tactics by allowing him to rally his support base against the ‘liberal media’.

Whilst the goal of rejecting ‘division’ is surely a noble one, treating it as an absolute is invariably a poor political tactic. During the Obama era, Democratic obsession with bipartisanship yielded political capital to the Republicans. As Cornel West asserted, this otherwise inspiring President bailed out Wall Street without helping ‘Maine Street’ – he oversaw a radical increase in drone strikes, he offered additional funds to the Israeli government, and in seeking to appease his Republican critics he called the Baltimore black youth ‘criminals and thugs’ – all in the name of ‘consensus’.

The tragic consequences of seeking unity over division are therefore clear. Politics is – to draw upon Christopher Hitchens, division by definition. Centrists have far too often appeared on the stage of history as the humanisers of the inevitable, bowing to a fundamentally conservative project.

Now, this is not to say that divisive rhetoric ought not to be condemned. It has left a bloody legacy, as the horrific murder of Jo Cox stands testament to. Neither should we accept the scapegoating of migrants, a cynical right-wing strategy that seeks to pit worker against worker merely on the basis of nationality, distracting from their fundamental class interest.

Nevertheless, centrists are obsessed with the politics of division precisely because their political framework has lost all credibility. Politics works where vigorous debate occurs. There is surely a dialectical relationship between the right and the left, each assuming radically different conceptions of human nature, society, the state and the economy; the flaws of each compensating for the other.

We ought to be suspicious of those who reject the ‘politics of division’ precisely because politics involves confrontation. Instead of merely condemning inflammatory rhetoric, progressives in the UK ought to offer a principled, grounded stance, revealing the cynicism of their opponents, persuasively putting forward an alternative vision which – crucially – appeals to those who are most likely to be disillusioned.

Merely complaining about ‘division’ puts progressives on the back foot,  ceding the dominant ideological position. Populism thrives on cheap sloganeering and provocative statements designed to invoke a reaction, engineered to put their opponents on the defensive. It’s time for the left to truly fight their own corner.

Mrs May’s Legacy… or lack of it.

Philip May

Countless pieces have now been written on May and her premiership, some deeply critical and unforgiving, others approaching with deep cynicism.

None that I have seen so far analyse her legacy in its true form, that is Brexit and the normalisation of no-deal. This is peculiar, as time again commentators have warned about the effects of attacks on immigrants, for example, since the EU referendum, hate crime has risen sharply.

The EU referendum campaign was deeply divisive, on sovereignty, democracy and immigration, little was said in the leave campaign about how and on what terms we would leave. Correctly so, for the best strategists know that this would have created more fear and less chance of victory. Rather focus on the issues at hand.

Perhaps the remain campaign could have brought this to the table, pressed on whether no deal was a viable solution. Of course the official campaigns denied all such probability. In stepped May as Conservative party leader and prime minister of the United Kingdom.

Shivering with fright about the stance that the EU had taken and the knives that the ERG held, May introduced language such as No Deal is better than a bad deal. Unsurprisingly, she did not believe in this slogan, and later had to retract.

Crucially though, this normalised the idea of no deal, it was given a podium on national television. Frequently ERG members spouted utter nonsense about its economic benefits. Which is the defining lesson, once again those in high public office have neglected the power they hold, the power to normalise absurd ideas. Austerity was politically unsellable once broken down, who would vote for a lower standard of living, but as soon as you engage in the idea that it is for the public interest, and that we are all in it together it becomes mainstream, normalised.

The power of narrative should not be underestimated, yet it consistently is. It will be to catastrophic effects too, where in years subsequent the left will blame Farage et al. for his role in this mess, we will unlikely focus on Theresa May, for she is in the large part complicit, and some would argue the architect.

I take no pleasure in saying that we will not learn, nor do I want to preach that we should be more careful, because it falls on deaf ears. The country needs evaluation and reflection, it needs its institutions to be reformed, instead our main political parties are for better or worse imploding. May will go down as one of the worst PM’s in British history, correctly so, perhaps though, for the incorrect reasons.

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.

Investment firm Goldman Sachs increases No-deal probability forecast by a third

The multinational investment firm Goldman Sachs has increased it’s prediction for the probability for a no-deal Brexit by a third, to 15%, following Prime Minister Theresa May’s resignation announcement yesterday.

The firm had previously predicted a 10% likelihood of the United Kingdom crashing out of the European Union without a deal, however due to recent election successes believed to be accrued by the Euro-sceptic Brexit Party, and the possibility of a hard-Brexit supporting Prime Minister at Number 10 by mid-June, Goldman Sachs has since revised their estimate.

The probability of no-deal is now as high as the estimate was in April earlier this year, when the probability was cut due to the extension of article 50 by Theresa May’s Government to free up more time to work out a formal withdrawal agreement, of which 3 versions of said agreement were put before Parliament and subsequently rejected. 

An Economist for Goldman Sachs, Adrian Paul, has stated that the firm still expects an “orderly EU withdrawal in late 2019 or early 2020”, but that the organisation’s “conviction” is lowered due to recent events. 

Brexit predictions were thrown into disarray yesterday as Prime Minister Theresa May announced that she would be resigning from the role as soon as the middle of next month, and that processes to elect a new leader of the Conservative Party are to begin next week.

Many are placing current Backbench MP Boris Johnson, who has a considerable popularity within the party’s more radical elements for his support for a hard-Brexit, as the most likely candidate to score enough points within the Conservative membership base to be elected as the next Prime Minister. 

This has prompted a civil war within the Conservative Government, as many prominent Ministers of Parliament have either come out in support, or in direct opposition with the potential Prime Minister. 

Mr Paul also clarified that while it was unlikely for the current Parliament to push forward a popular no-deal vote the performance of the Brexit Party, and the potential for having a Hard-Brexit supporting Prime Minister, opens up the possibility for a second referendum vote to have the option of including a choice of “no-deal” on the ballot for the public to decide, which would drastically increase the odds that the United Kingdom, emboldened by a popular vote, would crash out of the European Union onto World Trade Organisation terms.