Showing posts with label politics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label politics. Show all posts

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Why Donald Trump Is Now The President of the USA

The Donald has done it. 



How did this happen? Why did it happen? These questions are abound across the globe, as people wake up to news that the former reality TV star has now taken his seat as the leader of the world's richest and most powerful nation.

Donald Trump's own appeal is obvious, whether you agree with his views or not. His bigoted, nuance-free and racist views and proposals appealed to the evident mass of Americans who may have until now been hiding their views from an environment deemed too 'politically correct'. From the moment Trump glided down the escalators of his New York tower to announce his candidacy, making ridiculous blanket claims about Mexican immigrants, these people felt empowered. And when Trump pledged to ban Muslims from entering the USA, they felt empowered. Finally, they thought. Someone is putting out what we've been thinking all along into the public sphere.

Donald Trump's rallies held a cult-like buzz that was
unparalleled by Hillary Clinton.
Trump empowered the racists in American communities, something that was clearly visible before the vote, at his infamously raucous campaign rallies.

But it goes deeper than this; statistics show that a significant majority of Trump's voters were either poor, lacked college education, or both. We could write a whole book about why so many Americans are in these demographics- but one of the significant causes is lack of access to higher education. Education that is inaccessible to so many has proven a barrier to informed voting decisions, and has further increased the power of meaningless, simplistic rhetoric ('Make America Great Again') and fanciful promises.

But it wasn't just the racists and bigots who formed Trump's support. So many more people voted for Trump for a simple reason; they are sick of the corporatist Establishment. The political elite that have transgressed the boundaries of right and left wing, supported by and doing the bidding of massive corporations, regardless of the impact on the public. It's the Establishment that were largely responsible for catastrophes- whether it's the Iraq War, or the 2008 Financial Crisis.

And Trump, right from the start, made it clear he was not part of the Establishment. During the GOP Primaries, he stood out for his constant criticisms of his competing Republican candidates as puppets of wealthy donors. His outspoken and unpredictable nature makes him a nightmare for those who would want to try to take control of his policymaking. And after years and years of the status quo in the Oval Office, people wanted something new, something fresh.

On the left, this desire manifested itself in Bernie Sanders taking Clinton right to the wire in the Democratic primary. On the right, it has led to today- Trump going against the initial odds to become President.

But as much as Donald Trump was responsible for standing out in this election as the anti-Establishment candidate, it's the DNC's fault for putting out perhaps the worst response they possibly could to Trump.

Clinton proved a weak Establishment answer to
Donald Trump
In Hillary Clinton, not only do you have someone mired in political and personal controversies, but you have arguably the most pro-Establishment candidate ever. Polished, extremely well prepared and scripted, Clinton may have been impressive in the elections of the 20th century, but for today's context, she is totally inappropriate. Fascinatingly, Clinton has been able to unify the left and the right in distrust and dislike of her- whether for her shady ties to Wall Street, hawkish foreign policy proposals or the email scandal. The latter has been shown to be a false accusation- but it doesn't matter so much when it comes to the vote, as the accusation itself immediately left an impression on a significant numbers of people.

Furthermore, she lacks the 'X-factor' of Donald Trump. She's too scripted, too predictable, too typically 'politician'. As a result, the main appeal of Hillary for many many voters was not because of what she stood for, or what she was, rather what what she wasn't- Donald Trump. And this fact seemed to be one of the things she relied upon for much of her campaign. The whole potential for a first female President was something similar (demonstrated in her motto, "I'm with her").  There was really a lack of any meaningful other definition to her campaign.

And this should have been picked up by the Democratic National Committee, the DNC, 8 years ago, when their supporters declared their desire for someone fresh in Barack Obama. And when Bernie Sanders, a popular candidate who threatened to turn over the Democrat status quo, came around, they did their best to stop him winning, as revealed by WikiLeaks. Even if it meant breaking neutrality rules and pushing forward a candidate who had less chance of winning against Trump nationally, the DNC wanted to protect the status quo. At all costs- even the resignation of their chair.

It is important to remember that it's the DNC who fended off perhaps the most qualified candidate to fight Trump. And this shameful behaviour means the DNC have a massive role to play in what has happened today.

But Hillary Clinton was still was predicted to beat Trump after accepting the Democratic nomination. It should have on paper been an easy victory for someone who could take advantage of a competitor as unstable, politically inexperienced and controversial as Donald Trump. This is a man, remember, who has a public record of treating women as objects on multiple counts, someone who continuously commits the political faux pas of professing how wealthy he is (even more wealthy than he might actually be), and someone who has repeatedly offended individuals, communities, and entire nations throughout this campaign. How can Hillary lose to this person? That's what we all thought.

But it seems Clinton had underestimated Trump- perhaps even relying too much on his self-destruction to hand her the Presidency. Clinton failed to sweep up many of the voters who felt disenfranchised by the Democratic party's rejection of Sanders, as well as many anti-Establishment Republicans for whom Trump proved too extreme. She did nothing to quell trust issues held by so many with her. She picked one of the most uninspiring VPs in Tim Kaine. She failed to win over millennials. These moves reeked of overconfidence, and proved fatal on Clinton's part.

At the end of the day, however, we had all underestimated Trump. And, perhaps, we overestimated the American voting population.

On this sombre day, it's important to reflect and learn from how and why exactly Donald Trump fended off Hillary Clinton. Sure, it'll be 4 years until the decision can be changed- but the work starts now to minimise the damage Trump causes, and make sure he can't do it for long.

Because there could be a silver lining to this cloud. This is a momentous moment that has shaken both major political parties to the core. The Establishment and the moneyed interests in American politics has been troubled by Trump's success. The next decade or so could prove to be decisive in changing the fundamentals of politics in America- perhaps, just perhaps, the real fight for progressivism has just begun.

Monday, 26 September 2016

Celebrities Won't "Save The Day"

Donald Trump is threatening in the polls and the liberal elite has dangerously fumbled in their latest heavy-handed ploy to take him on writes James Dancey.

I was perusing through the YouTube trending bar a couple days ago and I saw this ‘Save the Day’ video, a campaign by celebrities telling you not just to vote, but to not vote for Trump. It was 3 minutes of sincere personages looking you in the eye and appealing to your sense of moral righteousness. Sounds perfectly fine right? Wrong.

You see Trump runs a narrative that we’ve seen before, that it’s the big liberal elite and media moguls ganging up against him, and it’s one that has been bought before. Trump himself is not far from the aristocracy, although he won’t release his tax returns he likes to flaunt himself as a self-proclaimed multimillionaire, his father was a property magnate and once upon a time he received a small loan of a million dollars; hardly a working class hero.

Yet he has grappled the popularity of the people he has been so distant from in the earlier years of his life, why? It’s a combination, there’s the obvious brutally honest (and regularly offensive) demeanour he has which attracts the masses who are fed up of being condescended by men and women in suits and ties, however, he is regularly propelled by the media’s coverage (despite nearly all being negative) helps feed his narrative that he is the underdog (despite by no means being that).

So now we have celebrities, doing what celebrities do best, being in front of the camera, and telling you not to vote for Trump, because he’s a misogynist, a racist and an all round disgusting human being. That’s all correct, and they’re all right, but it’s not going to stop people from voting him. A slew of celebrity endorsements, from David Beckham to Steven Hawking didn’t stop people voting leave in the EU referendum. Why?

Celebrities are becoming less idolised in modern society as more and more people view them as glorified civilians, which in many ways is what they are. An actor isn’t really qualified to give you political advice, although most politicians aren’t qualified to give you political advice either, but no-one listens to politicians, so what are the chances they’re going to listen to celebrities?  

Every time the media report on one of Donald Trump’s awful slurs or supposed ‘mishaps’ (which are so common nowadays they can hardly be considered that) they’re just giving him more airtime and attention. I understand it’s hard to find good news about Hillary Clinton, who spends half her time being comatose and the other half being jeered over her emails, but finding ‘bad news’ about Donald Trump is just supporting his beliefs that the media is after him, and despite all the reports being completely true, he is a terrible human being, people have already made up their mind on him.

This new Save the Day campaign is not going to change anyone’s mind about Donald Trump, it’s more likely to change people’s opinion on the celebrities themselves, why? I don’t know, but Donald Trump’s supporters are fiercely loyal to him and that’s not going to change anytime soon, if you really want to sway the undecided voters you should give people reasons to vote for Hillary, not to vote against Trump, because people aren’t going to buy that.

The juvenile jest that Mark Ruffalo will do a nude scene at the end of this film just nails how confused this political advertisement is. The self-conscious near parody tone is meant to add a humorous edge to the video but ends up outlining exactly what is wrong with these campaigns, the ‘We’re famous so you should vote the way that I’m voting’ gimmick that people have heard enough of, it has reached saturation point and there’s more chance that this contrived, calculated political move will backfire rather than succeed.

Hillary’s downfall will be the fact that she does terribly in the swing states; Sanders would’ve destroyed Trump with the impartial voter, but now the Democrats have shot themselves in the feet; they are calling on a liberal elite that the electorate is about to rebel against. People want to hear about policies that are going to enhance their lives, not about why Donald Trump is a bad person. Donald Trump has stolen so much of the media attention and coverage that few have ever commanded that he may just win the Presidential race; well it will be less his win, more the democrats’ loss.

Save the Day will fail, it may even have a negative impact, you’re not going to convince anyone about Donald Trump, people have seen and heard enough of him to have an opinion, favourable or unfavourable. You have to convince people why Hillary is better, not why Donald is worse, it’s the exact same technique tried by the remain campaign in the EU referendum (and failed), same technique tried by Owen Smith against Jeremy Corbyn in the Labour Leadership race (and failed), do the elite not know anything else other than attack with no defence? Or are there actually no reasons to vote Hillary? Or as she’s better known in the media: Not Trump. Both are reasonable theories. How I yearn for Bernie Sanders.

Unless Hillary changes her campaign focus, she will fail, and that has worrying implications for the whole of the progressive world. 

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Why Owen Smith Is Losing

Owen Smith looks set to lose against Jeremy Corbyn. James Dancey look into why his campaign has fallen flat and why moderates like himself will not be voting at all.

Beating Jeremy Corbyn was always going to be an uphill battle; he has swathes of grassroots support, he’s very mild-tempered and likeable on a personal basis and appeals to a lot of people who have felt disconnected with politics for the previous few months. However, the PLP politicians wanted to field someone against him. 

After ruthlessly ousting fellow candidate Angela Eagle, Owen Smith was the man who stood against Corbyn, to try and take back the left and unite the party. In Owen’s defence, the only way the more moderate side of the party had a chance of winning was by fielding one candidate, any more would’ve diluted the vote and Corbyn would’ve trampled over everyone. And don’t even get me started on how Eagle rubs me the wrong way, she sounds like she’s saying everything in falsetto and has the charisma of a damp flannel.

So I was open minded to the idea of Owen Smith following Corbyn’s reign at first, he was no revolutionary leader but a united Labour would’ve been stronger than a divided Labour. It’s a shame no-one told Owen Smith that, because since the start of the campaign he’s been trying to sell this passive, mature gentleman as this sort of warmongering Disney villain, which no-one buys.  The polls are stacked against him and I’m not remotely surprised.

When Corbyn won last year, he won over half the vote, which would mean Owen Smith would have to convince people who had voted Corbyn to vote for him, he would have to obtain significant swing. If someone has voted Corbyn, it means they have a positive view of him likely, that view may have wavered, but I guarantee most of the people who have voted him are still sympathetic towards his cause. So with that in mind, you have to present yourself as a more positive option, rather than a less negative option.

Unfortunately, Owen Smith has been given the jumped-up obnoxious PR treatment; a Corbynite comrade of mine invited me to watch the Smith against Corbyn debate in Glasgow stream with him. We both regularly cringed at how staged Smith’s responses seemed, and even how aggressive and unpleasant Smith came across, one particular highlight was when he started ranting about how Corbyn must’ve secretly voted leave. He asked Corbyn “Did you vote remain?”, Corbyn replying “Yes”(shutting Smith down completely). Smith then went on to savage Corbyn for his supposed lacklustre support, completely contradicting his previous compliments only a couple months prior.

People wanted reasons to vote for Owen Smith, not reasons to vote against Jeremy Corbyn, the jeers from the crowd against Smith’s accusations told me what I needed to know about how they felt about Smith’s sudden hostility. Smith’s aggression and nastiness isn’t going to heal the wounds, it’s just going to rub salt into them; Smith is doing exactly what he said he didn’t want to do: divide.

This sort of change in tone demonstrates a disingenuous nature of many politicians, and the exact reason that so many people voted Corbyn in the first place. Jeremy Corbyn went against a lot of his principles to support the Remain vote and did a lot more campaigning than a majority of Westminster politicians (including the current Prime Minister Theresa May). The sort of whinging from Labour politicians who blame Jeremy Corbyn for the vote not going their way is comparable to a delinquent child who can’t have ice cream in their favourite flavous. Corbyn was not the deciding factor of the EU vote, the establishment were.

Speaking of Brexit vote, we can talk about some Owen Smith’s policies, which are backward-looking to say the least. Call me a man with vested interests but I don’t want a second EU referendum, neither do most people in the northern areas, the Labour heartlands, Sheffield, Bradford, Wigan, Birmingham, Hartlepool, Barnsley, Doncaster, Durham, Sunderland, Rochdale, Rotherham and many more all voted leave, how can Labour expect to retain these seats with such a metropolitan policy which exemplifies everything wrong with politics currently. Also, how can he expect to win marginal seats in Bolton, Bury, Nuneaton, Derby, Telford (more strong leave constituencies) and so many more with a policy of defiant denial of democracy at the forefront of his campaign? Recent polls have suggest that ‘Regrexit’ is regressing, with a majority of people being happy with Brexit, he’ll end up forcing people to vote Conservative or even UKIP in a defence of their vote.

And then there are the gaffs, how on earth anyone can think it sensible to sit down for peace talks with ISIS is beyond me. He would be torn to shreds before the next election for that one quote alone, you could see it in The Sun now, the fact that he said something as stupid as that does not just demonstrate he has no understanding of ISIS, but no understanding of the motivation people voted for Jeremy Corbyn in the first place. Although Corbyn’s opposition to the Iraq war has been helpful through the Chilcott report, foreign policy was not the primary reason he received a lot of people’s endorsement, and the fact that Corbyn’s own team distanced themselves from Smith’s policy demonstrates that Smith is untrustworthy and unfit for the Labour leader position, and certainly no better option than Corbyn.

I’m no Corbyn supporter, in fact I’m more to the right of the Labour party, however, it’s not just a case of politics, it’s also a case of competence, and as much as I would like to support a progressive alternative, Owen Smith is not that. If you don’t want a protest party, then don’t make your manifesto based on protesting one of the most prominent votes ever.  If you don’t want an unelectable party, then don’t set out peace talks with ISIS.


I’d vote for the Monster Raving Looney Party before I’d vote for Owen Smith.  

Saturday, 13 August 2016

The American Presidential Election: The Two Party Dictatorship

James Dancey looks into the state of affairs in the US, and a electoral system that leaves a lot to be desired. 



When talking about the US Presidential race, the name Trump or Clinton immediately springs to mind, however, the question really beckons, why only Trump and Clinton? Why is there not a larger pool of candidates to choose from?

When speaking to a disgruntled American at his apartment gathering, he seemed disappointed, yet not surprised that it once again seemed a two-party choice, between two of the most undesirable nominees in recent memory. On one hand you have the corrupt, contrived, business-minded Hillary Clinton, so prone to going back on her word there’s a 14 minute YouTube video documenting it.
Then you have Trump, who doesn’t need or deserve description. More intent on reactionary policies and attacking individuals rather than creating actual constructive solutions to genuine working class concerns, you have a choice between an extreme ‘populist’ or a moderate elitist. Why can’t a more moderate option be on the table?

There’s no law against other parties running, and often many parties do, why do the media project it as a two-horse race? Well, the financial stranglehold that both of the main parties have is the real deciding factor with many other components to be considered (which I’ll explain later), once you have that sort of margin between the two major parties and any smaller parties, it’s hard to see the electoral system as ‘Democratic’.

 In the UK, that expenditure margin is low enough to allow other smaller parties to shoehorn in a presence, we are extremely lucky in that sense to have a political system that enables lesser parties to gain significant recognition, and subsequently allow them to hold a Government to a little more account than most, with the threat of taking away their voters.

The other big problem in the USA is this longing adoration of tradition; it has been Republican versus Democrat since the beginning of time, people feel comfortable with that vote, so despite being more than prepared to select someone extreme for a nomination, they wouldn’t endorse the same person if they weren’t affiliated with one of the biggest political forces of modern day, even if they had the same funds and momentum.

Which is why Donald Trump is running under the Republican name, he has no long-term attachment or commitment to the party, he was a democrat less than ten years ago, but he needs that household name behind him to lead his ego to victory.  

Then we talk about these other parties, there is a Green party in the US believe it or not, a little less surprisingly, they barely harness 0.5% of the total Presidential Votes. There’s the libertarian party, the constitution party, all very reasonable minority parties, but all have no look in how politics in the US is shaped.

The Electoral College doesn’t help, running on a system where a state elects, and considering some states are the size of countries, it means that a lot of votes are deemed completely irrelevant on a much larger scale than nearly every other country in the world. This can be emphasised by the 2000 result in which Al Gore actually received more votes than George Bush, yet George Bush won on states. How on earth a result like that can be upheld almost seems absolutely irrational, someone who had less of the popular vote won the election, think about that.

We live in a progressive world where every vote should be valued the same, however, in this instance Gore’s votes clearly equalled a lesser value than Bush’s, or else Gore would’ve won. When you have voting on such a large scale, there is this huge fear that their vote won’t mean anything, which is why most people are forced to vote tactically for Republican or Democrat, even if their views may align more with another party.

Tragically, many people would vote for different parties if they believed they had a decent chance of winning, however, they are held back by their inhibition, only to realise that if nobody voted tactically then smaller parties would have a lot more competitive share. However, people don’t trust those around them to not vote tactically, and they end up voting tactically as well. It’s this self-fulfilling circle of two party politics caused by a winner-takes-all attitude. People are too conscious to vote outside their comfort zone.

Another huge flaw in certain states is that the electors don’t even have to elect what the people in a district vote for, which means that the people in an area could vote Republican and the elector, decide that they’re all wrong and they want a democrat instead. Can people trust electors in the current political climate? Of course not.


Is congress any better? No. Plus there’s the additional issue that delegates can select the shapes of their own districts. This can often lead to tactical shapes when they are seeking their re-election. See below. 

In these instances Ohio and South Carolina voted for the democratic party on majority, yet Republicans won a much larger share of seats, because of a tactic called gerrymandering, where politicians can redraw district lines once new voter information has been released, as you can see, this is regularly abused.

When parties redraw the district lines, it is done to make sure their party has a clear majority, locking out the main opposition, any other smaller parties who want to compete, and other independent candidates.  Instead of voters choosing their representatives, representatives choose their voters.

Clinton and Trump aren’t the only two political figures running for President, but they are the only ones who have enough money, power and media coverage to propel them towards The White House. It’s a sad state of affairs when people have two choose the lesser of two great evils, but that’s the tragic story of political entrapment in the US.

Democracy is rigged in favour of whoever is in authority, which is why the USA can be considered to have a two-party dictatorship, and until someone comes along with enough money and enough positive vision to try and sway the electorate (nearly impossible as it may be), that’s the way it will remain.  

Friday, 15 July 2016

The Unsurprising Truth Of Blair's Toxic Legacy

Tony Blair thought that Iraq would be Labour's Falklands.


I’ve never liked Tony Blair. Never have, never will. I guess to me, Tony Blair is a bit like a British Hillary Clinton, minus the breasts, of course. He just gives me this feeling that something just isn’t quite right about him. The smile, the gestures, the character. He just seems a bit off. And I’m not doubting that in his time he was a very credible politician, his charisma, his charm, it clearly won a lot of people over. But during the time I was old enough to actually have an opinion on him, it was never favourable.  

I’m not saying that everything he did was bad, no, he passed a lot of highly constructive legislation. However, I never had the feeling that what he did was out of principle, more out of faux pas attempt to appease the masses, I’ve never liked that, never have never will.

Yes, it’s better than having someone who is principally a bad person. But saying Tony Blair is better than, say, George Osborne, is like saying the common cold is better than swine flu: they’re still both illnesses you really don’t want to deal with.

Then came Chilcot, and everything most people knew about the Iraq War was confirmed. Blair had manipulated and been rather uninformed, I don’t have enough free time to read thousands of pages unless someone’s paying. Which, unfortunately, they’re not.

Tony Blair and plenty of his allies came out and said that there were ‘no lies’ however, I’d like to quote Piers Morgan: “If I sell you my car and claim it's perfectly safe, but don't show you existing paperwork suggesting the brakes might be faulty, that's not technically a 'lie' either. But it's a serious, wilful omission of detail which can have catastrophic, lethal consequences.”

Tony Blair knew he was uninformed, but acted like he wasn’t and completely knew what he was doing, with the backing of the Tories and my all time favourite media mogul: Murdoch, all creating this image that he was the missionary to rescue the Iraqi people.  He wasn’t. Hussein’s army was finished in barely any time at all, we were left with no exit strategy and pretty much deserted them with an anarchy and a scattershot army. This subsequently provided the roots for numerous groups who have spread terror across the Eastern world.

There’s no doubting that Saddam was an evil dictator who had committed some awful atrocities, but compare it to the chaos today… nothing like it. Not even close. Why would we rush in? Well, in my opinion, it was Blair’s own narcissistic ploy to have himself written into the history books, much aligned to Thatcher’s  affair with the Falklands, just with a very different result. He wanted to be this Great British patriot, but patriotism begins at home, Tony Blair went out into Iraq with his armies, artillery and false pride, however, all he returned with was an increased terror threat on our own soil. 

A ridiculous idea in hindsight, but with all his allies and friends to tell him he was in the right who was to say otherwise? That 1.5 million strong march was ‘fatuous’ in his view. He was floating on his own cloud of self-appointed sanctity, I’m relieved we’ve finally brought him back down to earth.
What now? He’ll probably skulk his way through a few interviews and fade into the background, only time will tell. I’d be very surprised if he was actually reprimanded for his actions, politicians work on a different level than the law. That’s the sad truth.

But what can we do? He’s made enough wealth to cover for all this and he I doubt he will ever pay the full price for what he’s done, one can only hope that lessons are learned from this very sobering disaster of an intervention. 

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Labour On The Brink

According to some, Labour has never been more divided in the history of its existence. James Dancey looks into the symptoms of this crisis, and whether there is light at the end of the tunnel for the current leadership.




On Friday the 24th of June, the British people awoke to a political shock of multiple proportions. They voted to leave the EU, it was a shock, but it shouldn’t have been. The political disconnect being amplified by a chance to have their say and deliver a damning verdict on out of touch politicians.
Over the last few years, nothing has more ironically demonstrated the out of touch nature than the Westminster Labour party. Originally, set up to channel the working class beliefs all around the country, they have appeared to grow distant from the grassroots communities up and down the nation. A growing number of disenfranchised voters had turned to the Green party or UKIP as they channelled their frustration at an elitist political system that appeared to act more in self-interest rather than in the nation’s interest.

Then came Jeremy Corbyn, a man well-weathered by the political system with his beliefs firmly left-field. He galvanised and inspired thousands of Labour voters, many of whom rejoined the Labour party after the decades of political alienation. With his election on a great mandate with public support polling reasonably well for a newly elected leader, everything was going right for Corbyn.
Then, he slowly, seamlessly floated into the crosshairs of the media, and the heads began to roll. The Sun and The Daily Mail picking up on his left wing nature,  with the most popular buzzword used being ‘unelectable’.  As the Labour party began to grow more and more restless, it was clear there was a deep rift between Corbyn voters and more neo-liberal Labour members.

This rift has only magnified throughout the last few months, with the vote on Syria Airstrikes and the EU referendum being the most impacting contributors. In the last couple days, these tensions created have finally boiled over, and now Jeremy Corbyn is under threat, from unsurprisingly, many of his own former cabinet members. The knives are moving closer to his throat, but he is just as tenacious as he was on Day 1.

The Labour Party is on the brink of disaster. With divides being more and more evident day by day, is there any option? Should Corbyn stay? Should he go? Over half of Labour voters are still in favour of him but will he have the scope to reach out to undecided voters at the next election? Will the Labour party lose the Corbyn supporters if they form a coup? Never has a party seem so broken. Whereas the Conservative’s qualms are petty opinions, Labour’s issues are very deep ideological  disparities.


A lot of the blame for Corbyn has been his inaction in the recent EU referendum, one of which Labour were supposed to be fervently in the remain campaign. Many Labour MPs criticised Corbyn for his lack of his enthusiasm leading to the surprise defeat for the remain side. However, from my perspective, it appeared that Osborne and Cameron’s tactics were the ones that caused more backlash. I honestly don’t think that there’s a single thing Jeremy Corbyn could’ve done to convince the people to vote otherwise, it was clear that many people felt betrayed by the establishment.

That betrayal from the working class heartlands will become even more conspicuous if the Labour MPs eject him. The main issue that the Corbyn opposition face is the fact that Jeremy has performed reasonably well in elections so far.

So if I take the 36 metropolitan boroughs as a talking point, who have their elections once every four years, (so I can only compare these results to 4 year intervals.) Now I’m only going to compare these to when Labour was in opposition as Governments do tend to do badly in local elections.

The high point was Blair in 1996 who won 28 councils, and the low point was Neil Kinnock in 1992 who won 20. Note that Kinnock still gained seats in that general election. Corbyn won 25, which puts him bang in the middle of each council performance. Nothing is indicative of an imminent failure, however, the two divisions of the Labour party are lining up their artillery when the focus should be on the Tories.  Is there any way Labour can avoid disaster?

No. From my perspective, this is all going to end in flames for Labour, and they may not recover for years. This angers me, because, there always needs to be an opposition to a Conservative Government, if that opposition is weakened or broken. Then they risk giving the Tories free reign over the country. The Labour party has been essential for so many Conservative backtracks in the last year, and if we lose that, I dare to say I worry about the future of this country.

Labour should've survived the EU Referendum with ease, regardless of the result. They were mostly united in their message and didn't resort to the far fetched tactics of many campaigners, but unfortunately many of those in the parliamentary party saw it as an opportunity to take their own vision of the Labour party back. A vision that is more polarising then they expected it to be.

The Labour party is on the brink, and I wonder if anyone can save it.  


Sunday, 19 June 2016

Forget 'Leave Or Remain' - The Brexit Referendum Should Have Never Been Called In The First Place

With just under a week to go before the vote on the question of Britain’s membership of the European Union, the country is reaching peak referendum fever. 



However, amongst all the hype and excitement, it appears that nobody has stopped to pause and ask a far more fundamental question: whether we should be having this referendum at all. Politicians and political commentators from all sides have hailed the referendum as a fantastic symbol of the strength and vibrancy of our political system. In fact, this referendum is a cynical political ploy which will serve to undermine our system of representative democracy. The referendum was tactically motivated and its merits ill thought through. We should never have called this vote in the first place.

Firstly, let’s immediately demolish this idea that the referendum is some noble expression of our democracy. It’s not. The referendum was included in the Conservative Party’s 2015 election manifesto as an attempt to diffuse the populist threat posed by UKIP. It was a cold political calculation, a cynical attempt to shore up support amongst the party's traditional base. Although some claim that the referendum was called because of the importance of the issue being debated, this is clearly false. None of the most important questions in our democracy’s history were put to referendums. Whether to go to battle in the first world war, or the second world war, or whether to invade Iraq. Nor were referendums held over which economic policies to adopt during the great depression, or the more recent financial crisis of 2008.

There is a very good reason why these huge, seismic political issues were not put to referendums. It is because we, as a nation, have chosen to abide by the principle of representative democracy. The basic idea is simple: every few years we vote in a general election where we choose representatives who vote in parliament on our behalf. These representatives have the time, resources and expertise to discuss, debate and understand the complex issues and public policy questions of the day. As such, they’re much better placed to vote on these questions than we are. And, of course, MPs must have their constituents’ interests at heart because they know that they may well be voted out of office at the next election. Well, that’s the idea at least.

This argument for representative democracy seems particularly applicable to the question of our membership of the EU. It seems bonkers to leave what is undoubtedly an incredibly complex and multi-faceted question to the direct votes of the general public. Who really has the time or expertise to pour through and weigh all the evidence on both sides of the debate? Are we, the people, really better placed to decide this monumentally tricky issue than our elected parliament?

Moreover, the complexity of the issue at hand renders a referendum completely inappropriate in this instance. It is simply not possible to reduce such a challenging and complex issue to a simple yes or no question. With so many competing visions of our post-Brexit future, what does a vote to leave the EU even signify? Does it entail us joining the EFTA, or the EEA, or leaving the single market altogether? This is far from clear. In the event of a leave vote, should we hold another referendum, or should we leave it up to MPs to decide? But what if MPs (approximately two thirds of whom support Bremain) decide to follow the model of Norway, who are outside of the EU but remain inside the single market through membership of the EFTA? Norway must accept the free movement of people and make contributions to the EU budget, but regaining control of our borders and the infamous “£350 million a week” we supposedly send to the EU (we don’t really, but that’s been discussed enough already) have been two of the key arguments propounded by the leave campaign. The inevitable public backlash that would ensue if MPs took us into the EFTA following a leave vote would raise serious constitutional issues. Are the people or parliament ultimately sovereign; who should reign supreme?

Another issue with the referendum campaign is that it has, at times, felt as if we were debating another question entirely. Namely, who should be the prime minister, rather than the question of our membership of the EU. The campaign has seen a huge focus on personalities and individual ambitions, rather than the substantive issues we should instead be discussing. But this is a consistent theme throughout referendums in the UK. During the Lisbon Treaty referendums in Ireland, abortion and conscription became major issues. During the "yes" campaign for the 1997 Welsh devolution referendum, an aeroplane flew across Wales with a banner which read, “Vote Yes, Vote Blair”. Referendums often become about something entirely different to the real question at hand.

I hope it is now clear that there is a very strong case to be made against the idea that we should be having this referendum at all. But you would think that, with such a multiplicity of issues and problems with the very idea of holding this referendum, some sort of parliamentary committee might have thought to investigate the use of referendums in the UK before we called this vote. Well, you’d be right! In fact, the House of Lords Constitution Committee looked at the merits of the use of referendums back in 2010, weighing the evidence on both sides before concluding that:

The balance of the evidence that we have heard leads us to the conclusion that there are significant drawbacks to the use of referendums. In particular, we regret the ad hoc manner in which referendums have been used, often as a tactical device, by the government of the day.”


The committee identified all the never-ending problems with the use of referendums outlined in this article, and more, before reaching the same conclusion that I have. It is abundantly clear that the EU referendum was inappropriate and misguided - a bad idea from the outset. It has undermined the axiomatic premise of the sovereignty of parliament and corroded our representative democracy.

Friday, 17 June 2016

The US Gun Dilemma

America have a serious dilemma on their hands, that no-one feels prepared to confront, says guest writer James Dancey.






It doesn’t take an idiot to realise that lack of gun regulations in the USA causes more shootings than in nearly every other country in the world.
Its homicide rate sits at over double that of other similar first world countries including Canada, Australia and the UK. 60% of those homicides are firearm contributed, no example of ridiculously easy access to firearms could be more emphasised than the recent disgraceful  homophobic terror attack on the Pulse Bar in Orlando, Florida.

Allow me to present to you a gentleman, this gentleman is Omar Mateen. He has been investigated twice for terror related incidents, he was reported to have been in a violent and abusive relationship with his ex-wife, he had to quit his job as a security guard due to aggressive tendencies, was kicked out of the police force and was also a steroid abuser. Would you give this man a gun? Of course the clear answer is no. So why was he, of all people allowed to purchase such dangerous and clearly fatal weapons?

Gun ownership in the USA (wonderslist.com)
Well because it’s land of the free, where any maniac is ‘free’ to buy a gun, and ‘free’ to commit mass homicide. Donald Trump was quick to point out that he was ‘right’ about Islamic terrorism. Now, I’m not doubting that extremism is a threat in people’s every day lives. But Mateen, was born in the US, no amount of Trump’s imposed immigration control could’ve stopped him. The only way you could’ve stopped him from committing such an atrocity is to prevent him from having access to the artillery in the first place.

Trump frequently references the second amendment on gun control, it’s strange how people are always so keen to defend an outdated piece of literature when it’s convenient for them. The idea of amendments is that they are not set in stone. A good example is the 21st Amendment that wiped the 18th Amendment off the books.

But of course, Congress are not interested in that, American gun retailers bring far too much money into the US Economy. In fact whenever a mass shooting occurs gun sales skyrocket which is fantastic for those businesses and their shareholders who benefit off the fear that the public hold, a fear that the next terror attack could occur in their downtown coffee shop or their children’s school. A fear that is completely justified as they are well aware these demented individuals can also get their hands on the very same weapons.

Let me say that there are no reasonable arguments for maintaining the status quo as this situation is the perfect example of what is bound to happen on an increasingly regular basis as tensions in the US rise, public paranoia and an AR-15 is not a good combination. 

Many people argue that the only option is to introduce new, harsh laws for gun control. Now I’m obviously for these suggestions, however, this does actually present a new problem. How do the Government take all these weapons that they would outlaw off the public who own them? How much domestic instability will it cause?  Surely the most delusional individuals who feel possessive over these weapons would be the most dangerous, and in return would the general public feel prepared to give up these weapons if they feel their way of life would be threatened if they did by these psychopaths.

Unlike other countries like Canada, the UK and Australia the US is absolutely huge and having it being run from such a centralised position makes it so hard to control weapons.  I fear that a harsh, immediate, reactionary law could actually cause more damage than prevent it. As proven with the futile Iraq, Libya and Syria situation we must never put the motion into emotion.
In my opinion the only way to bring about change is to ease it in gently, if you present an idea too rigidly you can often face backlash. There is still a large amount of the US population who have to be convinced that gun control is the right option despite all these horrifying shootings.


Slowly introduce laws that sanction those who are on the more unstable side of society such as criminals and just let it slowly branch across. I believe we’d see the results and people would begin to buy into the idea that actually gun control would be good. However, when people have been living with the status quo for centuries it can be hard to challenge it. But with all that said, if there’s one thing we should believe in, it is change.

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Want To Save Britain's Economy? Vote To Stay In Europe.




As each day passes the EU referendum draws ever closer, a referendum whose outcome will undoubtedly have huge impacts on both the economic and political landscape of the whole country for years to come. A huge part of the debate that’s raging is over the political repercussions of either outcome, much of which focusses on our political sovereignty and by extension the central issue of ‘regaining control’ of our borders. I’m not going to address the potential political outcomes (the endless rhetoric clouding politicians’ true intentions makes this nigh-on impossible anyway) but instead I will focus on the economic aspect of this debate. In doing this I will seek to answer one key question: which option should the people of the United Kingdom take to ensure economic prosperity going forward?

There is no precedent to the situation the UK finds itself in, therefore nobody can state empirically exactly what the outcomes of each choice are. The complexity of prediction is further hampered by the range of trade deals the UK has if it does choose to leave, but that’s not to say we can’t build models to predict at the very least the net effect of the outcomes – whether they are positive or negative. Economically, we can split the potential impacts of a ‘Brexit’ into the short and medium-to-long term, with different potential issues presenting themselves in different time frames.

Author’s Own Calculations using data sourced from ONS
Short term issues are already presenting themselves. The referendum is still a month off but the mere possibility that the UK could leave the EU is already having tangible economic repercussions. We saw a negative trend in GDP growth in the first quarter of this year, with growth falling 0.2% compared to final quarter of 2015, and UK industry has fallen into recession after two successive periods of negative growth in Q4 (the fourth quarter) of 2015 and the Q1 in 2016. Though it would be both na├»ve and plain wrong of me to attribute this growth slowdown completely to uncertainty, it is at least partly responsible. If seen in the results for the second quarter of the year, it does pose a question – if we’re seeing this kind of trend in an economy which is merely discussing the possibility of abandoning the status-quo, then what results will we see if the UK does actually vote to leave? Further slowdowns in growth, coupled with a very real possibility of contraction of the economy are the most obvious guesses.

The uncertainty goes further. We’re already starting to see markets pricing the risk to the economy, the most obvious of which is in the CDS spreads (Credit Default Swaps – essentially the cost of insuring UK debt against a default). The spread allows the cost to be compared to other economies and the Eurozone to see how the market is pricing the individual risk of default). In the 6 months to April 2014, costs have nearly trebled, nearly reaching the Eurozone level as a whole and overtaking both the US and Japanese cost. What does this mean? The markets see the country as a risky prospect, the problem with that is that businesses don’t invest in a risky economy.

Kierzenjowski et. Al (OECD)
The long term effects are perhaps more of a significant worry, however. One such effect is the predicted impact on Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) – investment by foreign investors in UK businesses or other entities. The scale of FDI in this country is huge, with FDI stock estimated to be over £1 trillion and roughly half coming from within the EU. Part of the appeal for non-EU investors is the UK’s access to the single market – access which we may or may not have if we choose to leave. EU membership has had a huge effect on the level of FDI – the Centre for Economic Performance estimates that membership has increased FDI by around 28%. 

But why does it matter? What impact will this have on our everyday lives? For a start, studies have found that (for varying reasons) FDI has (among others) the benefit of enhancing productivity . This would suggest a positive correlation between GDP and FDI levels and empirically we find that to be the case, especially in an economy with such a large service sector.

Based on a conservative model, if the UK were to leave the EU, we would expect to see a 3.4% reduction in real incomes, a loss even greater than the anticipated drop in trade and a figure which translates to £2200 per household – not small change.

Another issue I want to just briefly address is the supposed reduction in the contribution to the EU budget. The net contribution to the EU budget, once total public sector receipts have been applied, was £8.5billion in 2015- but it is a fallacy to think we will no longer have to contribute to any organisation should we leave the EU. There are thought to be four options for trade agreements – the Norwegian Model (joining the European Economic Area), the Swiss Model in which they negotiate individual treaties to take part in any initiatives, re-joining the Free Trade Association (FTA) or trading through the World Trade Organisation.

I don’t have time to describe exactly what each one entails- it’s safe to say each comes with its own disadvantages- but I’m going to briefly describe how their contributions compare to ours. Norway are part of the European Economic Area; essentially this is just jargon for saying they are part of the single market but not full paid-up EU members. Compared to the UK, the net contributions are only 17% lower and come with disadvantages in the form of having no influence over EU decision making and potentially facing higher costs in trade.

The Swiss Model is significantly ‘cheaper’ than the Norwegian model- it’s estimated that the contribution to the EU budget is 60% lower than the UK’s contribution per capita. However there’s no guarantee of market access that the EU provides, and again, the UK is shut out of influencing key EU decisions.

Rejoining the European Free Trade (FTA) agreement is the third option and, though there is no obligation to contribute to the EU budget, increased non-tariff barriers between the UK and the EU are likely to arise, as well as greater restrictions on the free movement of people (it’s worth remembering that migration has been found to have a positive net effect on the economy).
The final option is to be governed by the World Trade Organisation. This would increase the cost of exporting for UK firms relative to the EU, there would be no right of access to EU markets and the same issue with free movement of people that was present in the FTA would also apply here.

The conclusion of all this? There are trade alternatives that the UK could choose to pursue but each one has its flaws. For some, this is the insignificant reduction of contributions to the EU budget, for others it’s the increased difficulty and cost of trading within Europe. There’s no straightforward alternative.

I said that I wasn’t going to talk about the political side of this argument but I feel I must say something brief in conclusion. Economically speaking, this decision appears to be a no-brainer – the net effect of being in the EU on the UK economy is positive. However, this debate is a wider discussion than just the economic consequences and I understand that the political landscape and ‘ever-closer union’ that the EU appears to be striving for is a potential cause for concern and there are countless other issues that will influence the way people vote. All this means that I think the decision over whether to leave the EU will come down to one key battle – nigh-on ensured Economic prosperity, or political sovereignty. Which will you choose?