Northern England should run scared from the Tories’ hard Brexit plan

With 10.2% of its GDP dependent on EU trade, the highest per capita EU funding in Britain and 35.5% of its manufacturing sector at risk were the UK to leave the EU, the statistics imply that Northern England would have been an ardent proponent of the Remain campaign. Yet the map above suggests otherwise; out of 125 counting areas in the North East only 11 voted Remain, with the Leave vote as high as 69.9% in Hartlepool.

This outcome was not just a vote against the EU; it was a vote for change. It was an outcry against austerity, against globalisation and against the decades of economic stagnation compared to their Southern counterparts in the capital who have flourished in the neo-liberal era. However the Northern Brexit fever was based on a lack of information, with the tabloid media overstating the responsibility of migrants in explaining the gulf between Northern and Southern prosperity whilst failing to explain the economic disaster that could ensue if the UK left the single market. And now, the North may pay a particularly heavy price.

The impact on the Northern regions is dependent on the content of the final Brexit deal, yet one fact is astonishingly clear – much opposed to the views of many of its voters, a closer relationship with the EU will be best for the North. Leaked government analysis suggested that the North East could lose 3% of its GDP under a Norway-style deal but up to 16% were Brexit to entail trading under WTO rules. Whilst the Brexiteers will rightfully rally around the fact that the claims of an imminent recession failed to materialise and so these figures should also be ignored, it is not the numbers that are important; on analysis of the Northern economy it is evident that it is far more dependent on the EU than the South – and thus regardless of the actual figures, a hard Brexit will be far more detrimental to the North than an inclusive trade deal.

The North East is the only UK region with a trade surplus with the EU, and unlike London’s global trading base, most Northern exports are shipped across the Channel. 160,000 jobs are directly linked to EU trade, largely in the manufacturing sector as with the Nissan car plant in Sunderland. An exit from the Customs Union would increase tariffs on Northern exports – raising the price for EU consumers, reducing the profits of manufacturers and encouraging relocation to the Continent to maximise sales. And despite the emphatic bellowing of Brexiteers that Brexit will free us from the shackles of the Common External Tariff to open our trade to the world, the CET is the only mechanism protecting North Eastern trade with the EU from low cost competitors in Asia, hungry to enter the lucrative European market – and so by the laws of trade, British manufacturing would be unlikely to compete outside of the continent anyway. Tariffs also raise import prices, which together with the inflationary effect of the depreciation of the pound, will squeeze stagnant real incomes in the long term. Declines in the purchasing power of workers’ wages and unemployment benefits will increase poverty rates and decrease tax revenues, necessitating further government cuts to public services that make the vision of a Northern Powerhouse an ever more distant reality.

Yet it is not just trade that creates an inexorable link between the North and its continental counterparts – the North is also a net receiver of EU capital. The £350mn a week to spend on the NHS, as championed by the UKIP parades that struck the heart of the Northern citizens who have overseen tumultuous cuts to public services under the Osborne era, pales in comparison to the inflows from the EU. Gone will be the £8.5bn, 7 year programme by the Regional Development Fund to reduce regional inequality in addition to £260mn yearly funding for North Eastern charities – and whilst the government has pledged to continue such funding, its long term commitment is uncertain. Structural funds are provided to Cumbria, Merseyside and South Yorkshire, with incomes between 75%-90% of the EU average, allocated to employment agencies and startup support to reduce the Northern structural unemployment that has failed to be addressed by the domestic government since deindustrialisation in the Thatcher era. These funds have created 70,000 jobs in Northern England since 2007 from University of Sheffield Research – sufficient proof that the EU is providing the North what the budget-constrained government cannot. This funding has been a lifeline to prevent London from sliding further ahead of Northern stagnation; against the lobbying power of the capital’s financial powerhouses, continuation of Northern funding will likely be the first to be axed if Brexit induces further pressure on the fiscal budget.

The past 30 years have seen spectacular prosperity gains in the Southern regions that have adapted to the globalised, neoliberal world economic order whilst the Northern manufacturing heartlands have slid further into stagnation. And whilst the Brexit vote was symbolic as a cry for inclusivity, Brexit will not be dictated by North-Eastern factories. Its dependence on EU trade and funding compared to more prosperous parts of Britain will not be subsidised by a budget-constrained government; the 58% of the North-East who voted Leave on the false assumption that border controls was the solution to their stagnation failed to account for the controls on goods, funding, and ultimately, their livelihoods. The economic woes of Northern public services since 2008 and its structural unemployment since de-industrialisation and plain to see, yet Brexit will not change this. The Brexit vote appears a grave mistake for the dream of a Northern Powerhouse; only a Soft Brexit can stop this vision from slipping ever further away from reality.

Where have the values of London 2012 disappeared to in Brexit Britain?

Faces filled with happiness as a sea of red, white and blue inundated Britain’s streets as the Olympic torch paraded Britain’s streets, a moment many will cherish for life.

As the torch made its way to the Olympic Stadium, millions witnessed the pride of Britain. Danny Boyle’s opening ceremony “Isle of Wonders” encapsulated the prowess of Britain like never before. Britain was brought together by patriotism at its greatest.

Five years on and Britain has never been so divided, split between leavers and remainers. The friendly, patriotic values which we once held have been converted into prejudicial, nationalist rage. It is incredible that one vote could change the entire nation over a minuscule period of time.

You might think that London 2012 is irrelevant from Brexit. But it isn’t. London 2012 is a milestone which we can look back to and compare with the present. What has changed in five years? What values did we experience in 2012, and which values have we lost from Brexit?

The Opening Ceremony: the UK’s industrial prestige was flaunted to the world

Post-Brexit: a fall in the UK economy, inwards looking

Danny Boyle’s Isle of Wonder begun with Britain’s rapid industrialisation of the 19th century; determined workers swiftly building up booming industries, particularly the iron industry, forming the prestigious Olympic rings out of British iron, raising their heads with pride as the rings showered with glory. And quite rightly. Britain’s rapid industrialisation has led us to the economic standing we view today as one of the wealthiest nations in the world – it is a central part of British heritage and pride.

Yet, Brexit is quite the opposite.

Britain has forgotten its economic prowess and has decided to step backwards. Brexit is ironic; we are losing our economic power by shunning away our biggest export destination: the EU. Brexit Britain has already begun to ruin our economy and will continue to do so. Trade deals cannot simply be drawn instantaneously.

As EU immigrants leave prospect-ridden Britain, industries are failing to replace them as the British unemployed do not put themselves forward. The grit and determination from the Industrial Revolution has deteriorated with regards to some of the present day British working class. You asked for ‘British jobs for British workers’ – what’s the hold up?

The Opening Ceremony: a celebration of the NHS and all its staffs’ hard work

Post-Brexit: failure to keep to £350m promise, continuation of poor performances due to not enough investment, talks of privatisation, a rise in the departure of EU NHS workers

The Opening Ceremony also featured a delightful tribute to the NHS, which Danny Boyle described as ‘urgent and necessary and believed in by our people’. It celebrated the staff, inviting fifty NHS workers to participate in the Opening Ceremony. Dedicating airtime watched by millions across the globe to the NHS emphasised the importance of our wonderful free British healthcare – something which many across Britain could not be more proud of.

But in comes Brexit. Promise of £350 million, plastered over Vote Leave’s bus, was backtracked on – a fundamental part of many Leave voters. By 2022/23, the NHS will fall £20 billion short on funding targets due to failed promises. To add to further difficulties, more than 1,000 European doctors are thinking of leaving the UK due to Brexit, amounting to a 190,000 job gap in the NHS by 2027.

Are the Tories unaware of the huge atrocities they are committing? Do they not understand how important Europe and Europeans are to the NHS ? Do they not remember the glorious celebration which we all shared five years ago?

The Opening Ceremony: a celebration of the different groups

Post-Brexit: sending away EU nationals as they do not feel welcome in the UK, a rise in EU and non-EU discrimination

Not only did the Opening Ceremony bring together athletes of all nationalities, cultures and religions, it also featured a celebration of the first Caribbean immigrants settling in the UK in 1948. Next to them the Suffragettes and members of the Jarrow Crusade.

Here we saw a celebration of Britain’s diversity, the start of a move towards a fairer society.

Post-Brexit, we witness the exact opposite; inwards-looking, isolation, prejudice, and a violation of democracy. Not only has hate crime against EU citizens increased, but so has hate crime against non-EU citizens. EU nationals, working in both the private and public sector; teachers, farmers and scientists are are leaving the UK because they do not feel welcome.

Where is Britain of the 20th century? When we gave women equal rights to vote, when we applauded those who stood up for what they believed in?

We have to remember; we all celebrated the electrifying moment when Mo Farah won two gold medals in 2012. This has been followed up by a Sports Personality of the Year win this year. But Brexit Britain reaches a paradox considering the national love for the British, Somali-born immigrant is lost amongst a sea of hatred in Britain.

And what will come for the golden woman of the pool in 2012. Ruta Meilutyte is from Lithuania, but trains in Plymouth. At the age of 15, she won a gold medal in the 100m breaststroke final at London 2012, and she has continued to win an abundance of major medals since.

The Opening Ceremony: Seb Coe – ‘Welcome to London…I have never been prouder to be British’

Post Brexit: Sadiq Khan desperately attempting to persuade Europe that London is still open (even though London will not get a special trade deal with the EU), Lord Coe has remained quiet over Brexit

Seb Coe finished the Opening Ceremony by telling the world: ‘Welcome to London…I have never been prouder to be British’. It is predicted that 900 million people across the globe tuned in to the Opening Ceremony, whilst two million were welcomed into London across the entirety of the Games.

However, in Brexit Britain, those 900 million are welcome no more because 17 million voted to scrap freedom of movement, prohibiting Europeans from exploring the wonders of Britain, and halting Britons exploration to the wonders of Europe. Furthermore, London is facing an economic crisis, losing tens of thousands of financial sector jobs to other EU nations. Respect has to be payed to Sadiq Khan, who is desperately attempting to persuade Europe that London is still open (even though Khan has been told that London will not gain a special trade deal with the EU). Since Brexit, Lord Coe has remained silent on the issue. However, one would hope he would support liberal Conservatives such as Anna Soubry. And I would plead with those who voted Leave or Conservative to listen to those like Soubry. We should welcome our European neighbours instead of isolating ourselves as a tiny island.

The aims of London 2012: inspiring Britain’s youth

Post-Brexit: the youth have had their futures taken away from them (the majority of students voted Remain)

The motto of the Games was ‘Inspire a Generation’, showcased with the lighting of the Olympic Cauldron by Britain’s most promising athletes.

Yet 85% of students voted Remain in the referendum, and two-third of young people want to halt Brexit. With a restriction of freedom of movement imminent, and a downgrade in the UK’s economic forecast, Brexit does not reflect the values pushed by London 2012. Brexit does not inspire a generation. Brexit is seen as doom and gloom by the next generation.

When I look back at London 2012, I see prosperity, harmony, pride amongst Britain and its people. But now, I look at Britain with sadness. Brexit has devastated and will continue to devastate this country because it is a total rejection of those values we shared in London 2012.

I do not blame the 52% who voted Leave in June 2016. However, as a democracy, we have the right to change our minds when new information is brought to us. And, hopefully, this article does that and more. The EU is not our enemy. It is a source of prosperity which we must cherish. It brought peace and harmony after World War II. It enriches the British soil, British idustry and the British people. Let us not Leave, but stay together.

Tories have failed to learn lessons from Leveson

‘Those who don’t learn from History are doomed to repeat it’- George Santayana

Five and a half years ago, the Leveson Inquiry finished and its report published. However, when looking at news stories this week, Santayana’s famous quote comes to mind.

On Monday, Hugh Grant managed to reach an out of court settlement – a six figure sum, from the Mirror Group. This settlement was a result of the Mirror’s journalists hacking into Grant’s phone.

It is absolutely shocking that 7 years after the phone hacking scandal was first exposed, that cases are still continuing in court. It is even more disappointing that this case was settled outside of court. Whilst I don’t blame or question Grant’s decision, it would be far more beneficial for the country as a whole to see this case and see the whole extent of the Mirror’s wrong doing.

However, this case has more far reaching implications. Richard Desmond the proprietor of the newspapers, Daily Express, Sunday Express, Daily Star and Sunday Star as well as the magazine OK!, has sold all his papers to the Mirror Group.

We must preserve our freedom of the press, it is a vital part of any liberal democracy and serves to inform the electorate and help them make decisions. However, as the Leveson inquiry uncovered, many newspapers and their journalists engage in illegal activity to help shape their stories. There clearly needs to be more and stronger oversight into press activity and greater accountability for their actions. Yet, the Mirror Group take over is being allowed to happen, with little investigation from government or Parliament.

Furthermore, having already conquered much of the American media market, Disney have now turned their attention to the UK market reportedly threatening to shut down Sky News.

Given Rupert Murdoch’s stranglehold on much of the UK media, these sort of interventions and amalgamations cannot be tolerated and require far more oversight and investigation. Otherwise, we risk our media becoming dominated by criminal activity and by a lack of plurality in views. It is of high importance that we don’t allow our media to become one sided or controlled by a small number of rich owners.

The reason why the phone hacking scandal and the findings from the Leveson inquiry came as such a big shock was because governments had papered over the cracks for years and had turned a blind eye to what was happening. There are grave concerns with the current moves by Disney and Mirror Group. It may already be too late to stop these moves, however, there is a solution.

The most damning part of the 2017 Conservative manifesto was the refusal to continue with the Leveson Inquiry Part 2. If Theresa May continues to pursue this path, she risks becoming a proponent of Santayana’s age-old quote. May has not learnt from the Leveson inquiry and now she is doomed to repeat its mistakes.

Would lower migration help our traditional working class?

Migrants have been under scrutiny for many years and are often blamed for the decline of a country. It is, therefore, no surprise that ethnic minorities are yet again being blamed for the lack of opportunities of white working-class men. Some share the view that working-class men have been neglected by the Government and that migrants, and encouraging diversity, have been made a priority within this country. The attention on fighting discrimination against other minorities such as women and ethnic minorities have impacted white working-class male as they have not adapted to the cultural change of their contemporary society.

Jeremy Corbyn’s Shadow Education Secretary, Angela Rayner has stated that migrant families culture towards education is different to the culture of British families. Angela being from a working-class background herself has acknowledged that “our culture” (The British culture) is different and that is the reason why working-class boys are not doing so well. Some may disagree with her point however; Ms Rayner clearly has some knowledge on being working class as the now 36-year-old MP once was a working-class girl who would have been written off if she did not receive the necessary support from the welfare state.

Stephen Paul Manderson also known as rapper Professor Green, recently aired his documentary on white working-class men who feel angry, demonised and forgotten within their own country. Stephen followed three working-class men and their journey in the first episode. Stephen who was brought up on a council estate in Hackney had a lot in common with the men in the documentaries, nonetheless did not shy away to challenge anyone when he was not in agreement with some of the statements made.

He first met up with 20-year-old David from Bolton whose parents have both died when he was only 16. David has spent the last four years in homeless hostiles, he is dyslexic and has never been taught to read or write. David is also taking medication for his anxiety due to his parents dying. The fact that there was no support offered to him to read his letters indicates that more time, effort and money needs to be invested into creating a solid safety net for individuals who are a victim of their circumstance. Towards the end of the documentary, David was in fulltime employment, in a new relationship and proudly admits to no longer living on benefits. Despite him trying to turn his life around, it must be extremely difficult for him to build a steady life with no parent and a Conservative government who turns their back on the poor.

Stephen continues his journey and meets with 17-year-old Lewis from Eastleigh who grew up in social housing like any other working-class boy. As Stephen meets Lewis for the first time, he was shortly taken back by Lewis’ middle-class persona, accent yet, a very similar working-class background to Professor Green himself. Neither of Lewis’ parents attended University. Nonetheless, 17-year-old Lewis fought back the culture of low expectation and although Lewis was often singled out for being smart, his great work ethic landed himself a place at Cambridge which will certainly give him many more opportunities.

The last person Stephen met up with was 29-year-old Denzel from Canvey Island. Denzel had big ambitions and many ideas. Unfortunately, ideas he often could not execute. Denzel seemed somewhat indecisive on what to put his mind to. He did not take the opportunities when it came to him. In this case being working-class did not hinder him from providing a great living for himself but rather his poor decision making. On Channel 4 news, Stephen stated that Denzil had ideas, but often did not execute them. He continued to state that many working-class families have this sense of you got to support yourself, as he talks about a boy who wanted to become a Doctor but did not pursue it because he had to leave school to work to take care of himself. This can be related back to Angela Rayner’s point on the different attitudes towards education in different cultures. Most migrants leave their country for another to start a better life for themselves and to access an education that may not be accessible in their own country. Immigrant parents, therefore, instil the importance of being educated in their children. This may also be the reason why it may seem like ethnic working-class minorities have more opportunities when migrants have come here for a purpose and that purpose is to achieve.

Of course, Brexit was mentioned in the documentary by Dave, a friend of 20-year old Steve. Steve seemed frustrated as he outlines that the many foreigners in his local town of Bolton make white working-class men feel demoralised. Professor Green clearly was not in agreement with his statement, however, gently allowed Steve to express himself. Steve highlights that he was told if Brexit did not happen, 65, 000 more Turkish families would have migrated to the UK and would have a guaranteed roof over their head, in which Professor Green asked “are they? I don’t know that to be true”. Professor Green allowed Steve to continue, “I have slept on the streets, I have not seen one Asian person and one black person” says Steve.

Steve blatantly does not feel like he belongs in his own country. He believes that migrants are to blame for his low position in society. Although, many migrants would disagree as they have fought to rebuild this country as much as white Britons and work hard once they are here, many white working-class individuals have the same opinion as Steve. The reality is not every working-class male is a failure. Individuals like Lewis and Professor Green worked hard to create a better future for themselves and although some are victims of their own circumstances, it is possible to fight the system that is set up for working-class individuals to fail.

Migrants who often work for the minimum wage and or less are not to blame for the lack of opportunities for working-class men. The Channel 4 documentary “British Workers wanted”, shows two leave voting women trying to recruit Brits to join their recruitment agency because many Europeans were leaving the country because of Brexit. This documentary showed many white Britons refusing to work for the minimum wage, take up cleaning jobs or to simply just turn up to work. In contrast, many eastern Europeans were willing to work for £7.50 or even less despite knowing that it was not sufficient for an amount of money. The two ladies were highly disappointed with the responses of the people from their own country. With eastern Europeans willing to work for 7.50 but going home because of Brexit and the brits not willing to work for that money the future of the agency is in jeopardy.
Who is to blame? The government and its’ past failures to set up a stable system which supports the vulnerable the most. As Professor Green has said, “It didn’t matter if you were black or white, we were all working class’ and this statement is simply the truth. Whether you are White, Black or Asian if you are working class, you will all be at the bottom of society. Therefore, one minority group is not to blame for the lack of opportunities of another minority group.

Johnson Makes A(nother) Move

“Mr. Johnson is the Foreign Secretary”. This was Phillip Hammond’s’ candid statement to journalists in the wake of another Boris Johnson backhanded play at the top job. The comment came following reports that Johnson was preparing to tell the Cabinet the NHS needs more funding in a meeting in which Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt was to give an update on the ongoing ‘Winter Crisis’. It is still not certain whether Johnson brought the matter up and, if he did, whether he quoted a specific figure. It is believed that Johnson is haranguing for the net money that Brexiters believe is sent to the EU every week after rebates (£100 million) to go to the NHS immediately from next March when Britain leaves the EU.

Rumours suggest his concerns arose after visiting Uxbridge A&E department, in his constituency, with Hunt (or are a continuation of the Leave campaign pledge, depending on who you pay attention to). In any case, Theresa May is said to have bluntly stated that Cabinet discussions should take place in private following Tuesday’s media speculation, and Hammond has reiterated that he gave the NHS an extra £6 billion in the autumn budget. Boris Johnson has yet again broken the Ministerial Code of Conduct, gets a telling off from May, and still has a job. Once again the grassroot favourite has proved himself impenetrable and too dangerous to move. Even ex Conservative minister Anna Soubry MP criticised Johnson on Twitter and believes May should have sacked him already, and must soon or he will cause the collapse of the Tory government. But May’s problem is clearly that if she does sack him he will do that anyway.

The NHS is always high up on the list of priorities of swing voters. Thus, there has been an apparent outbreak of frustration from Conservative MPs across the political spectrum with the lack of attention and bold thinking under May, and Johnson himself fears that the problem of the NHS is being abandoned. James Cleverly, the recently appointed Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party, has also criticised the Conservative strategy in the election under May in Nick Robinson’s’ latest podcast. This antagonism was highlighted further after Gavin Barwell, Theresa May’s’ Chief of Staff, reportedly suggested it is not sensible for the party to target the NHS because they cannot catch Labour on the issue. This is a mistake that Conservatives know only too well. Targeting the NHS would remove a huge weapon from the Labour narrative, and force them to be more articulate on Europe which they have so far failed to articulate broadly. Therefore, Johnson’s wish to make the £350 million to the NHS government policy is an attempt at not only becoming PM, but paving the way for a ready made electoral triumph and a victorious PM.

The principles and integrity should be heavily scrutinised for other reasons as well. This is a man who, in 2003, claimed the public would value the NHS more if they had to pay for it, and is included within the group of Brexiters labelled in June 2016 by ex-Prime Minister John Major to be as trustworthy with the NHS as a snake with a hamster! This naturally looks like a cover up for his atrocious record in the Foreign Office, his dealings over the still jailed Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe affair prominent, and to distract from the Government’s’ disastrous handling of the Carillion liquidation that will lead to thousands of job losses.
What makes it more obvious that this is a clear political manoeuvre is that Johnson is not the only cabinet member who wants more funding for the NHS. Amongst others is the Health Secretary himself, who it is said has been nibbling at the Prime Minister for £2 billion more, as is Michael Gove, but neither are thought to have spoken to or are working with Johnson. This also comes a week after Gavin Williamson, the new Defence Secretary, allowed the Chief of Defence to give a speech requesting more funding. So, this is a change throughout the Government regarding public spending, a wake-up call following the election that a change in policy is needed so to stay in control. Yet it is Johnson who, yet again, is the one who has decided to rattle the cage over an issue.

There is a huge Catch-22 issue at stake above all this, however. May seemingly cannot sack Johnson, yet now cannot either give the additional funding merely because Johnson has thrown his weight behind the idea. And yet now by not adopting the policy, Johnson will appear to be a saviour to the NHS and will successfully appeal to centrist swing voters and thanks to his campaign to leave the European Union solidified himself to the right. The public, therefore, may get the funding they want at some point depending on how the next round of the Tory civil war goes. But it will probably almost certainly mean BoJo in at Number Ten in the near future.

Opinion poll tracker January – Labour retain slim lead

Labour continues to hold a small lead over the Conservatives as the nation comes into the New Year. There is evidence of some voter movement towards UKIP which indicates that their true national level is around 4% or 5% and their General Election performance was distorted by so many of their candidates standing down, as well as tactical voting.

National Overview

Chart G1 shows the Conservatives have slipped back since the 2017 election and Labour now has a lead of 1% in Great Britain. The most striking thing about G1 is the quite extraordinary recovery in the Labour vote from mid-April 2017 when the election was called. Understanding why this happened is key to making sense of the 2017 election and what is likely to happen next. I have to say that from what I have read from political commentators, no-one has yet made sense of this dramatic surge. For myself, I keep coming back to a comment I made to my wife (who is American) that the election was starting to remind me of the Democrats primary battle in 2016 between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders and I do feel that the two elections share a similar dynamic.

Despite dropping back, the Conservatives are still well placed when compared to previous elections. The difference is that we are now back to 2-party politics last seen in 1979 as shown by chart G3. It would appear from chart G2 that most of the movement away from the Conservatives has been towards UKIP. This does make sense in that UKIP did not stand in many seats in the 2017 election and as a result their vote share would have been artificially depressed. The Greens did a similar thing to UKIP but they have not seen a rebound in their vote which suggests that Green defectors in the electors are remaining loyal to Labour.

With Labour’s slim lead, and ideological allies to form a coalition with, it could be said that if Theresa May were to call an election now it would deliver Jeremy Corbyn to Number 10. However, with a vote coming on the right for 16 year olds to vote it may be wiser for the Labour Party, who perform extremely well with younger voters, to get 16 year olds the franchise before trying to force a fresh election. However elections recently have rarely provided the expected result, and I highly doubt the Tory Party will call an election before Britain’s Brexit deal is wrapped up.

We as consumers must hold the media to account

Last year I applied to volunteer at the annual Centre for London conference, a conference which aimed to bring together political thinkers, journalists and politicians for a day of debate on the future of London post-Brexit, as well as the potential effect of an incumbent Trump presidency.

As reward for participating and doing so free of pay I was able to watch and enjoy a number of speeches. One particular moment caught my imagination, David Milliband discussing with Sir Paul Collier how European cities should respond to the migrant crisis. When asked by a member of the audience what he thought of the influence of the right-wing media in this debate, David replied: “a politician should not criticise the media in the same way a seaman should not criticise the sea”, a quote believed to have been derived from Winston Churchill, although also attributed to notorious Enoch Powell. Though the media is a necessary part of political life, so do quotes such as this afford the established media a degree of liberty that is not deserved and also potentially dangerous?

The established media does not have to substantiate its claims. Claims are made consistently through National News Sources that depict a situation disproportionally or even outright false without being called upon for a significant amount of evidence. The Sun Newspaper was famously forced to admit an article stating one in five Muslims sympathised with Jihadists was significantly misleading with the poll framing ambiguous questions as sufficient evidence. The paper forced to accept it misled the public but this was the limit of repercussions and a story that had been presented in convenience stores and supermarkets nationwide was not obligated to give the same coverage to the fact it misled readers.

It is not merely the right-wing media who can be accused of misleading readers either, left-wing newspapers are just as entitled to make sweeping claims about the personalities and intentions of politicians on the basis of assumptions of their positions, often for example claiming the Conservative party want to privatise the NHS without necessarily producing examples of manifesto or policies pertaining to this. But the right-wing media do appear the most likely to print to the public without regard for how accurate or fair the claims are.

Furthermore, the media has an aggressive tendency to publicly shame individuals for reasons varying from their outspoken political beliefs, to just simply following the rule of law. For instance, Gary Lineker, ex-England international and Match of The Day. The Sun, wrongfully claimed Lineker was subject to widespread calls for resignation after he expressed his disdain for the racist nature of some right-wing papers coverage of the refugee crisis. The story, which was front-page news, was published in response to a sarcastic tweet from Lineker when a charity involved in the fostering of refugee children accused the paper of lying. The lie in question: that a picture posted, again on the front page of the paper, depicting an individual claiming to be a child refugee was a boy far too old to be a child refugee. The charity attempted to explain this by highlighting that it was not in fact a child refugee but an Arabic interpreter, but rather than using the next front page to verify their claims, they instead decided to attack Gary Lineker for being “jug-eared”.

This kind of journalism may seem to be a standard feature of tabloid journalism and the slander not immediately of serious moral concern. But then consider when the Daily Mail ran its infamous “enemies of the people” article. The article in question refers to the attempt by The Daily Mail and numerous other right-wing papers to publicly shame the judges responsible for declaring parliament must have a vote on whether or not the UK should leave the EU, attaining to the legal sovereignty of parliament. This refers not to an individual’s own political views but rather to them fulfilling their legal duty to apply the rule of law, and there is very little irony lost that the majority of the pro-Leave newspapers argued that it is this very sovereignty of law that we are trying to reclaim back from Europe.
The fear and the serious moral questions come when you consider what branding individuals “enemies of the people” truly means. In the run-up to the Brexit voting MP Jo Cox was tragically murdered for her political views concerning EU membership, the debate is clearly an emotionally charged one. Branding individuals in such a way is dangerous for the respective safety of the individuals involved. The lack of culpability of media outlets could be potentially career destroying or even potentially fatal, and yet our established media is allowed to express freely, and even when legal action is poised against the papers, there is still no restriction on what can be published in the future, merely financial reimbursement for the offended party.

But it is here that we reach the crux of the matter: freedom of press is essential in a functioning democracy. So, any limits and laws restricting the media are dangerous; countries that tend to regulate their national news are countries with an authoritarian ideology. So, what can be done to prevent the newspapers from publishing inaccurate articles, or articles that threaten the personal integrity and safety of individuals without undermining freedom of press? The answer almost definitely lies in the consumer. There needs to be a greater demand by the reader, who is a consumer of the product, to force newspapers to address their relationship with the truth. The law protects consumers from false advertising, the consumer protection from Unfair Trading Regulations prevents companies from misleading consumers via advertising. However, as the news is the product itself rather than the advertising of said product it is unclear that these regulations could be in anyway applicable.

The solution therefore has to come from the consumer. But this again hits a block when you consider that readers are consumers so they are likely to want to read what they want to hear, or at least to have their attention captured in a particular way. As of such, the established media appears entitled to mislead its consumers on the grounds that this is what the consumer is paying for. It is up to the reader to demand or seek better, but not a duty, hence, the media does not take moral responsibility. It is unclear whether it is possible at all to have an entirely honest and righteous media in an open and liberal society. We know the media should take moral responsibility but this cannot be imposed by law. The fact of the matter is we deserve better from our news. It is down to all of us to demand better, to refuse to succumb to “fake news” and gross misrepresentation, or risk living in the post-Truth world we appear to be falling into.

May relaunch reshuffle fails to take off

It was meant to be the reshuffle which re-launched Theresa May as a Prime Minister with authority and ideas for the domestic policy agenda. Instead it has simply reminded everyone that she’s running an unstable government and continues to have to agree with the last person she spoke to in order to stay in power.

It didn’t start well when Tory HQ incorrectly Tweeted that Chris Grayling had been appointed as Tory Party Chair, only for the post to go to Brandon Lewis. When it was put to Lewis that the party was in a mess the only response he could muster was “not quite”.
The Jeremy Hunt, the calamitous Health Secretary currently overseeing the worst winter crisis in NHS history went to see May to be demoted, but left with social care added to his portfolio having refused to budge. Another who refused to be demoted was Justine Greening, who chose instead to leave government completely.

The core team running the government remain in place with May too weak to move Boris Johnson, David Davis, Amber Rudd or even Philip Hammond. There are some younger faces coming into government at lower levels, but these MPs will largely be lobby-fodder as every vote will be needed to steer the rest of the Brexit legislation through Parliament.

The success of the reshuffle was perhaps best summed up by George Osborne in his editorial for the Evening Standard “you have to hand it to this Prime Minister: she’s given us the hat-trick of worst reshuffle, the worst party conference speech and the worst manifesto in modern history”.

The Cabinet is now whiter, more male, more privately educated and more based in the South-East than it was on Monday morning. Far from reaching out and bringing in new talents May has instead gone back to the Tory comfort zone when it comes to sits around the top table.

The real problem with this government isn’t who they have sitting round the cabinet table, but the fact that they continue to pursue a programme of austerity which has brought public services to their knees and given us a lost decade of wage stagnation.

May’s cabinet now shapes up as shown below:

Who will go on to succeed Theresa May?

As we enter a new year it is a good moment to take a glance at who could lead the Tories into the next General Election. Bluntly, May is an interim Prime Minister who has recorded the fastest drop in popularity in modern times, losing a twenty-two point lead in the polls. Accepting this, there are two obvious options; stick with a big name or inject a fresh face. Of the promising up-and-comers, a few names have emerged that can be dropped in conversation to make you seem intelligent.

Firstly, there is Boris Johnson’s’ brother Jo who, until his recent comments about punishing universities that ban certain speakers, was untarnished. The MP for Orpington does not possess the magnetism of Boris and it is safe to suggest considering Boris’ ambitions and reputation his brother will not rise to the challenge and cause a Miliband esque battle. Kwasi Kwartengan, an impressive academic who has been dubbed “a black Boris”, is a BAME candidate who could draw a broader demographic. He is a Brexiteer who would find favour amongst the 1922 committee and is deemed promising enough to be handed Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. However, the change in the political climate to austerity led by Jeremy Corbyn and a weary public weakens Kwartengan because of his economic leanings.

Naturally the next election will be concerned with issues as much as personalities, with Brexit and the Trump presidency, foreign policy is primed to dominate. If so the likes of Johnny Mercer, an army veteran, would carry significant weight after a rise in nationalism following the EU referendum, especially in traditional Labour strongholds. However, Mercer’s inexperience and views on the welfare state undermine his credentials. A candidate of a similar background would suffice, also ex-serviceman so-called “mutineer” Tom Tugendhat stands out. In addition to the army background and being a centre-right moderate he also speaks Arabic, although how important this is to party members is debatable. Tugendhat’s opposition to Brexit would be an advantage to attract a generation of Remainers, but paradoxically will hurt any campaign internally.

The obvious candidates are current Cabinet members with proven track records and their names well known within Conservative circles. Their problem is they have been in Government for over seven years and carry baggage from austerity and Brexit. David Davies appeals to the base due to him leading the Brexit negotiations and having campaigned for Leave. He also already ran for the leadership in 2005 and is deemed to be a safe pair of hands. However, he also has so far made a mountain out of a mole hill with regards to the negotiations so far. Phillip Hammond is a good technocrat but is not someone that commentators really see leading the party. There are two others that are worth a punt, Amber Rudd and Ruth Davidson. Rudd appears competent and voted Remain which is a big draw for Tory MPs if not members. However, she has experience and came out of the party conference in October looking “dignified and grown up”.

Ruth Davidson leader north of the boarder has led the Scottish Conservatives into some relevance for the first time in decades. They replaced Labour as the challengers to the SNP in Scotland this summer. She has rejuvenated the party north of the border, sparking talk of a future leadership contest. Being a gay Scottish woman also has some political benefits. However, she has never been an MP and to challenge for the leadership let alone number 10 will prove a probable impossible task. And yet, a YouGov poll of party members in September put her ahead of Boris Johnson as a “better leader” and put her behind him by only four points as their preferred choice to take over from May.

Therefore, the judgement is that Boris Johnson is still in pole position. The candidate for Prime Minister must be elected as leader by the whole of the Conservative Party and his charm and Churchillian approach is lapped up in the Tory heartlands. This has enabled him to be such a threat he appears un-sackable. The other side of the man, the power-hungry Etonian prone-to-a-gaffe, will find it difficult to poll among swing voters and young voters.

Those of us who still hope for a Europhilic liberal utopia, with a welfare state that will be there when we are old, are praying that the rest of the public wake up and see this side of Johnson. Unfortunately, history tells us otherwise and the population can be easily duped by a man who portrays an image of a false but attractive past. If you, like myself, are firmly on the left, Jacob Rees-Mogg would be the dream opponent.

First Secretary of State Damian Green Resigns

Secretary of State, Damian Green, was forced to resigned amid the conclusion of an investigation into sexual misconduct.

Green, who is MP for Ashford in Kent, and one of Theresa May’s closest allies, was appointed as the UK’s first secretary of State, in June. He quit this evening stating he made “”inaccurate and misleading” comments about his knowledge of claims pornography had been found on a computer in his Commons office in 2008.

In short, he publicly denied any prior knowledge of the porn found on his parliamentary computer, which was a lie. In his resignation letter he said:
“I accept that I should have been clear in my press statements that police lawyers talked to my lawyers in 2008 about the pornography on the computers, and that the police raised it with me in a subsequent phone call in 2013. I apologise that my statements were misleading on this point.”

Damian Green has been Theresa May’s sort of political confidant. The pair have been close friends since university, and in his role as secretary of state, he acted as May’s deputy.

The police have been investigating Green over two counts of misconduct, the most serious; making unwanted advances to journalist, Katy Maltby, in 2015. Mr Green denies all allegations. The family of Katy released a statement this evening addressing Green’s sacking:
“We are pleased that the Cabinet Office has concluded its enquiry into the conduct of Damian Green. We are not surprised to find that the inquiry found Mr Green to have been untruthful as a minister, nor that they found out daughter to be a plausible witness.”

This could be May’s biggest blow yet. Green who in November, stood in for May at PMQ’s played a pivotal role in managing Brexit. Not only in Brussels, but back in Westminster where both Cabinet ministers and backbenchers are fond of disobeying May.

A wholly unwelcome, but maybe unsurprising Christmas present for the PM who is now out of office until next year. We do not expect Green’s successor until then.