Ken Clarke and Britain in the EU: A Political Career Together 

Imagine a world without space hoppers, the internet and Post-it Notes. It would not be remiss of me to say that the world has changed since Ken Clarke first stood for the Conservative Party at the 1964 general election. Britain was not yet in Europe, and a fluffy haired baby by the name of Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson was throwing his toys out of his pram somewhere other than the House of Commons. Clarke ultimately failed in his attempt to take the Labour stronghold of Mansfield in 1964 and 1966, however Clarke’s  third time proved to be the charm when Clarke became MP for Rushcliffe at the 1970 general election. 

Five decades later, Clarke finds himself as Father of the House with, arguably, one of the most illustrious political careers in modern British politics. Although much is uncertain in politics at the moment, one thing is for sure, the veteran Tory will be far more likely to be sitting back with his iconic brown suede shoes kicked off, his top shirt button loosened, and Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue lilting in the background than sitting in the Commons after the next, ever looming, general election. One may have wondered if Clarke was unable to curtail his Westminster addiction, having broken his promise to stand down at the previous general election. Instead, a now slightly older  Boris Johnson has made the decision for him, with Clarke further announcing that he wouldn’t attempt to stand as an independent. 

Looking back at Clarke’s career, there does seem to be a rather beautiful symmetry that aligns his time in the Commons with the UK’s membership of the European Union. 

When he first darkened the door of the Palace of Westminster in 1970, the nation was somewhat divided on the small matter of Europe. In the 1960s and ‘70s, it was about ‘Brenter’; Brexit’s formidable, younger nemesis. Unfortunately, no one was calling it that then. The UK had applied to join the European Economic Community twice before, but the French President, Charles de Gaulle, vetoed both requests. Somehow, de Gaulle believed that Britain harboured a “deep-seated hostility” to any European project (I wonder how he got that idea). Again, three was the magic number, and in 1973, the UK was a part of the club as soon as France had a new president not willing to use his veto power. 

However, the fun did not stop there. In 1974, Labour were now in charge. They believed it would be a good idea to hold the UK’s first ever referendum on EC membership. The role of doing this was to generally appease the Euroscepticism that split their party. The cabinet was split, Labour MPs were split, and members had voted 2:1 in favour of withdrawal at the party conference. Unlike any other more recent event that might possibly mirror this, the vote for continued membership won quite significantly by 67.2% in favour. 

Clarke ultimately came to prominence in Margaret Thatcher’s government in the late 1980s. Ironically, the cigar and beer loving MP became Secretary of State for Health in 1988, having served a number of junior ministerial posts prior to this. 

Two years later, in 1990, Clarke was appointed Secretary of State for Education and Science. The Thatcher government that he served, was rapidly unravelling. The poll tax was proving overwhelmingly unpopular; prominent ministers and political allies of Thatcher were distancing themselves from her; and funnily enough, a small matter of Europe seemed to be dividing the Conservative Party. Clarke was widely regarded as being one of the ‘men in grey suits’ that advised Thatcher to resign. 

Clarke quickly emerged as a central figure within John Major’s government, staying in his role as Education Secretary for a further two years, and then becoming Home Secretary in 1992 after the Conservative’s general election win. After ‘Black Wednesday’, Norman Lamont’s resignation and Britain’s exit from the European Exchange Rate Mechanism, Clarke was appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer. Clarke’s career was going so well that he took advantage of the rule allowing him to have a scotch whilst delivering the Budget. 

The Conservative Party and Major were out of office in 1997, thus Clarke put his hat in the ring to become leader. Whilst proving popular with the public and members, Tory MPs favoured William Hague, and Clarke took his seat behind him on the backbenches. The position of leader opened up again in 2001. The Europhile lost out to Eurosceptic, Ian Duncan Smith this time, again proving most popular with the public though. Not everything works out on the third time, however. Although again dominating the public polls, Clarke lost out on the leadership to David Cameron in 2005. 

When the coalition government came to power in 2010, Clarke was appointed Justice Secretary and then as a minister without portfolio, before calling it quits on his time on the front bench. 

Clarke’s pro-EU stance has undoubtedly held him back over his political career. Originally wearing a ‘Yes to Europe’ badge as a student, Clarke then found himself ousted from his party decades later for voting in favour of preventing a no-deal Brexit. 

You may believe it to be a good thing or you may not, but Ken Clarke is one of the last of those traditional MPs. Reasoned, rational, and relatively calm in times of panic, Clarke will surely be missed over the next period of political transition. Looking back over his career, it’s almost as if Clarke’s been the Forrest Gump of modern British politics – often finding himself in the frame of historic events. From being in the parliament that took Britain into Europe; to advising Thatcher to step down; then being the Chancellor that helped repair the damage of ‘Black Wednesday’; to being the only Tory MP to vote against invoking Article 50; and finally being in the parliament that might just take Britain out of the European Union. 

Whether you’re in favour of Brexit or not, it is difficult not to respect Clarke for maintaining the principles that have guided his entire political career when others have abandoned them in favour of power. After the referendum in 2016, the Father of the House jovially exclaimed that “I admire my colleagues who can suddenly become enthusiastic Brexiteers having seen the light on the road to Damascus on the day when the votes were cast. I am afraid that light has been denied me”.

Written by Christian Oliver

High Crimes and Misdemeanors

Long derided as folly, Democrats now appear willing to use the ultimate sanction against the President. But having escaped official rebuke for numerous scandals so far, what has emboldened Nancy Pelosi to attempt to impeach Donald Trump?

It came as a bolt out of the blue, astonishing both political observers and the general public. However on September 24th the Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi announced, in marked contrast to her history of political caution and institutional restraint; that she would commence an impeachment inquiry against the 45th President of the United States. When speaking to the nation, Nancy Pelosi sought to address recent revelations of a phone call between President and Volodymyr Zelensky, the President of Ukraine, on July 25th during which Donald Trump attempted solicit the interference of the Ukraine government in the upcoming election. Specifically Trump stated that he wanted his foreign counterpart to engineer an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden (who at the time was the leading Democratic candidate) for the presumed purpose of generating a false controversy and smearing him as an electoral rival going into the 2020 elections. The Speaker highlighted the danger this posed to the strength and respectability of American institutions, and that consequently it was the duty of members of Congress to check the activities of a President who earnestly believes that “Article II says that I can do whatever I want”. However within a Presidency that is at once as equally scandal prone as it is immune from their consequences it is worth asking why the present one has compelled such drastic actions on the part of the Speaker of the House of Representatives?

In answering this question it is worth examining the broader context into which the call between President Trump and Zelensky was made. Calls between world leaders are nothing if not calculated, and much preparation, both legal and logistical, goes into their making. Firstly, since Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, Ukraine has been dependent on the United States for maintaining its security against its aggressive neighbor to the east. Though such support has not always been unconditional, because both nations have an interest in containing the spread of Russian influence, the United States never seriously entertained withholding crucial military to their beleaguered partner. However on July 18th, just days prior to the call, Trump ordered his Chief of Staff to do exactly that, and in the process endangered the security of Ukraine without any apparent cause or justification. In his call with President Trump, Zelensky made the precarious of his country’s situation clear and expressed an eagerness to engage with the United States to ensure supplies of aid resumed. Thus from these initial exchanges it appears that Trump had succeeded gaining some leverage over his counterpart, and from which point Trump took his cue to ask a favour of Zelensky. 

In particular, Trump wanted President Zelensky to conduct an investigation into the firing of the country’s former Prosecutor-General, Victor Shokin, under the previous government. Trump asserts that this was done at the behest of the then Vice President Joe Biden in order to prevent charges of money laundering being brought against the Ukrainian gas company Burisma Holdings, on whose board Biden’s son Hunter was a salaried member. While these assertions by themselves may raise suspicion, they are in reality highly spurious and their origins convoluted. Shokin’s dismissal was eagerly desired by almost all of Ukraine’s western partners with an interest in overhauling Ukraine’s notoriously inefficient and corrupt judicial system because of his very reluctance to prosecute firms such as Burisma. Indeed Zelensky ran on a platform that was entirely unsympathetic to the policies of the government of which Mr Shokin had been a member. But while Zelensky made clear to President Trump the importance of prosecuting firms involved in corrupt activities, he demurred on Trump’s claims against the Bidens, no doubt conscious of the danger of wading into foreign political disputes. Given the political storm that has since erupted as a result of this call it seems Zelensky’s caution was well advised.

Apologists for the President may see little malice or novelty in the request, likening his actions to similar requests made in full view of the public that foreign nations should investigate his political rivals. Indeed Trump’s prior frankness in this regard has convinced many Republican lawmakers, such as Florida Senator Marco Rubio, have said that the request was not meant earnestly and should be taken as a jest to infuriate his political adversaries. But this does not stand up to scrutiny as how could the President be taunting his political opponents when his staff initially classified the transcript of the conversation. Other Republicans have been more equivocal, suggesting that the decision to withhold aid to Ukraine and the request to investigate the Biden’s are two disconnected events, thereby implying that there was no quid pro quo nature to Trump’s request. Such arguments however ignore the intimation within Trump’s language and his general tendency to view all international relations as transactional. 

Democrats by contrast have looked less kindly on the matter, but many had long since concluded that among the Republican base Trump was seemingly immune to scandal, and that as such it would be more astute to see the President rebuked at the polls rather than by Congress, a line to which the Speaker herself previously adhered. Hence the surprise many expressed when Nancy Pelosi officially announced the beginning of the inquiry. Many had in fact been publicly rebuked by the Speaker during the 2018 midterms for promising to support the beginning of impeachment proceedings, and instead were urged to emphasise bread and butter issues of more immediate concern to independent and swing voters. Polls suggest however that the audacity of Pelosi’s announcement has had an effect on voters minds, and indeed a Fox News poll even suggested that a plurality of voters not only supported the President’s impeachment but also his full removal from office.

However it should not be assumed that Pelosi has been deaf to the urgency with which legislators have insisted that Trump be prevented from further degrading both his office and many of the political norms essential for maintaining democratic government. Indeed since many of the earliest and most vocal advocates of impeachment have come from the party’s left it has been in Pelosi’s interest to guard the path to impeachment until a broader consensus emerged, lest Republicans brand any such attempt as a partisan endeavour. Even so, when in recent weeks an increasing majority of House Democrats came out in favour of an impeachment inquiry Pelosi began to shift accordingly. Nonetheless, merely having the political will to impeach a President without a credible inciting incident would be insufficient, as it would be likely to be ridiculed both in the Press and more importantly within the Senate, in whose hands the President’s fate would ultimately lie. Additionally there is the concern that were an impeachment process to prematurely begin and quickly fail, that the President would take his acquittal as a validation of his previous actions and would encourage both himself and his successors to act more brazenly in future. 

The subsequent commencement of not one but six House Committee impeachment investigations shows the seriousness with which the House Speaker intends to tread on this perilous ground. No doubt mindful of the electoral backlash the Republicans endured after their rushed and almost single minded impeachment inquiry against Bill Clinton in 1998, Nancy Pelosi intends to be methodical in her approach to unearthing the extent of Trump’s solicitation of foreign backing. In this effort House Democrats will hindered by the White House, which has sought to prevent members of the administration from testifying before any House Committees involved in investigating the President. Mr Gulianni, the personal lawyer of President Trump (and himself a person of interest in the unfolding scandal), has gone to the extent of openly defying House subpoenas mandating his presence before members of the House. This poses an acute problem going forward as though the House possess the means to compel witnesses to appear before its members (by leveling fines for example) they risk escalating the drama of American politics to a fever pitch. However this strategy of non-cooperation does not seem to be uniformly successful as President Trump’s at times temperamental relationship with members of his staff inspires little loyalty, which when combined with the high turnover of Cabinet secretaries leaves a significant number of potential sources which members of the House Committees may wish to interview.

Moreover, the current inquiry should not be thought of as a repeat of the Mueller investigation, which though it uncovered significant criminal dealings on the part of Trump’s subordinates declined to state whether the President himself took part in their attempts to solicit foreign interference. However, two things distinguish the scandal over Russia from the present one over Ukraine. Firstly the transcript produced by the White House places the President himself as the main person of interest in the inquiry, limiting Trump’s capacity place blame on the actions individual subordinates. Secondly, as the incumbent President the question naturally arises as to whether Trump sought to use his authority as the nation’s chief diplomat as a vehicle to secure his reelection. While the President’s often informal and abrasive manner with foreign leaders and diplomats might suggest that he was not acting on behalf of the US government but as a private citizen, the fact of the matter is that he would not have had the means to contact Mr Zelensky was he not the President.

And yet while it may seem that the rationale for impeachment is well founded, and the likelihood of impeachment grows by the day. However it is probable that this process will not result in the removal of Donald Trump from office much to the disappointment of many Democrats. As alluded to earlier, though the House of Representatives has the power to impeach the President, the decision of whether to convict him lies with the Senate, wherein the Republicans hold fifty-four of one hundred seats. Not only that but two-thirds of the Senators must vote to convict the President to remove him from office, and thus a sizable number of defections would be required to see this process through. Given the size of this hurdle one may ask why Speaker Pelosi began an impeachment inquiry at all. It is for the same reason that muscles if not exercised; atrophy. True impeachment is not a tool that should be used lightly, however it is not an unconstitutional power grab that as the President likes to claim but rather a necessary restraint to the violation of constitutional norms. The founding fathers provide lawmakers with a spacious definition of impeachable offences, but if the President’s actions thus far do not constitute a high crime or misdemeanor, then what does?

Written by Thomas Webster


A Tale of Two Parliaments: John Bercow joins Holloway Faculty

On the 10th of January, Prof. Nicholas Allen announced that the recently resigned Speaker of the House of Commons would be gracing the hallowed halls of Royal Holloway with a talk by the name of ‘A Tale of Two Parliaments’.

The day of his highly anticipated appearance at Holloway started at 7:58am when Prof. Oliver Heath notified students that Bercow would be joining the Politics International Relations and Philosophy Department, and ended with a crowded lecture theatre of nervous starstruck smiles and raucous laughter.

Whilst the announcement was expertly timed on the morning of Bercow’s talk by Prof. Oliver Heath, it left students from across the ideological spectrum shocked, outraged and ecstatic. And why wouldn’t we be? Adore or despise him, he is an icon of British political discourse. Like many other giants in British contemporary politics throughout the last 10 years: from Cameron to Johnson, it is difficult to ever imagine one joining the faculty of your university outside of the gilded corridors of Oxbridge. Let alone a man who stood toe to toe with four Prime Ministers with the power and precedence of Parliament at his fingertips. Bercow has never shied away from the spotlight, never retreated from a fight for Parliamentary sovereignty, and never backed down when peers deemed his numerous outreach schemes as ‘below stairs’. Away from his fiery determination and historic standoffs, his rise in British politics has been widely regarded as powerful and inspirational. Across campus shock and excitement were expected, whilst certain parts of his speech were not.

John Bercow walked into the Shilling Lecture Theatre with an exuberant smile on his face. The audience’s joy at his arrival made it seem as though they were none the wiser of his political shadow and cheered once his grey hair appeared in a sea of PIR committee members and PIRP lecturers at the entrance. Though, the tension from these brewing events was palpable to anyone aware of politico twitter. The moment Prof. Nicholas Allen introduced him, the applause was raucous and long-lasting and Bercow’s smile was Cheshire-like. He began with an anecdote regarding the elephant in the room, his height, and continued playing the humours of the audience with his innate command of language and his jolly spirit. Once the audience was at ease after the ice-breaker and the nervous awe began to wear off, he addressed the accusations of bullying.

‘I have never bullied anyone, anywhere, at any time…’

Bercow spoke of his strong manner in Parliament but assured the audience that he was not guilty of any allegation of bullying. He spoke candidly and passionately, questioning the lodging of the complaint within the political narrative since his departure from the House of Commons. He spoke of hope for the future and new challenges as a Professor, youthful in his giddiness, before moving on to his tale of two parliaments under his term as Speaker.

The details of the story were familiar to the audience but the perspective was unique and fresh. The Tory Prime Minister’s trust in Nick Clegg to prevent a Brexit referendum result, the splitting of a kingdom, and the ensuing chaos. Unlike many who would have the U.K. remain, he accepts this country’s impending fate as the 31st of January looms closer, but clarifies to the audience his true opinion on Brexit.

‘The biggest foreign policy blunder in the post-war period’.

Final point delivered, he continued on to discuss what he saw as the confusion of the government under the Rt Hon. Theresa May in deciding what Brexit truly meant, the hung election of 2017, Corbyn’s rise as opposition power, and how a Brexit at any cost would impact the UK. His perspective was one that was not uncommon held by the public during the trying past years but took on another life when he, a man who had witnessed true Parliamentary chaos from an elevated position, told his story to a room full of rapt students and academics.

‘A vivid imagination would be required to imagine Brexit being better than remain’.

From Brexit chaos to parliamentary reform, he then began to explore his lasting impact on the House of Commons. Mocking the old shooting galleries and acknowledging that in many respects he was not as privileged as many of his peers…

‘I was not born with a silver spoon in my mouth, let alone a silver trolley service’.

Stating further that claims to social mobility from those with impoverished backgrounds were the strongest claims, and when questioned by a student, went on to say that public institutions need to focus on how they help people from a range of backgrounds.

It is clear to say that he did not regret his lasting impact on parliament, from the addition of a creche to his calling on 17th Century procedure to prevent May’s government taking a third meaningful vote on Brexit when he felt it was the right thing to do. Though controversial at times, exampled by his public outrage over Johnson’s prorogation of parliament from his sunbed in Turkey, he seemed to regret little to nothing during his time as Speaker. One can only aspire to the level of joy and contentment a man like Bercow can have after a long and stressful career, to laugh along with students as he gave spot-on imitations of peers.

When students were allowed the chance to ask this parliamentarian titan questions, he touched on the last of the political demons that snapped at his heels, on the prompting of the Despatch Box Editor-in-Chief: the peerage. He began with a preamble where he was aware that once a Speaker’s term concludes there is a certain convention in the house to push the Speaker away from the politics of parliament. He understood the rationale but clarified that the impression was made that 230 years of precedence would be followed, and a peerage would be offered. When Bercow discovered that was not the case, he had resolutely decided to not lose any sleep over it. Since then we all are aware that Labour expressed the intention to nominate him for a peerage, one would guess to spite the Conservatives, and Bercow agreed to be nominated

The Ex-Speaker finished by touching on the freedom to debate backed up by the Bill of Rights, parliamentary spending issues, impartiality, and checks and balances on government. Finally, Bercow finished telling his epic tale, imparting his final knowledge and lessons learned as if Brexit were simply one of Aesop’s many fables. Goodness knows many would prefer this to be a cautionary tale.

The event ended with many smiles and pictures in the excess, and though Bercow was not in parliament anymore, he was beaming at the future of a Professorship as opposed to a peerage.

Written by Jessica Lee

Runnymede and Weybridge Candidate Hustings- What you need to know

On Monday 25th November, Royal Holloway Politics and International Relations Society proudly hosted Runnymede and Weybridge candidate hustings. With a strong student and public turnout, candidates from the Green Party, the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats, Labour and an Independent made their way through audience questions. The Green Party candidate, Benjamin Smith was unable to attend, however Green Party Councillor Michael Brierly stood in answering with honesty and consistency. Our very own President Joshua Trood expertly chaired the event, holding the difficult task of controlling the audience and candidates alike. A mostly calm evening, the hustings housed a range  of questions from social housing to honesty, support for those on zero hour contracts to, of course, Brexit. Conservative candidate Dr Ben Spencer, came under fire for not living in the constituency. Liberal Democrat candidate Cllr. Robert O’Carroll had a clear focus on climate change as the primary issue of our times, when discussing Brexit, he equated the feeling of change he had at the referendum result, as the same feeling he had finding out about the 9/11 terrorist attack. However with the other pressing issues raised, Cllr. O’Carroll lacked enthusiasm. Independent candidate Lorna Rowland, originally a prospective candidate for the Brexit Party, provided an impressive CV from business strategist and transformation expert, to a consultant physiotherapist. Rowlands stance on the EU was definite, Britain must leave. Rowland had also notable clarity on all other issues raised, most popular among students was Rowlands stance on the complete outlawing of zero hour contracts. Not unsurprisingly Cllr. King for Labour promoted an end to the casualization of contracts, himself offering relatable first-hand experience of the injustices of such contracts. Dr Spencer presented the Conservative stance on zero hour contracts, focusing on extending employee rights to those on all types of contracts. When questioned more by the audience on zero hour contracts, Dr Spencer stated that people should be wise about what jobs they want. This statement was met with disgruntlement, this claim did not resonate well with many students who are unable to find employment that is not on a zero hours basis. This seemingly implies the unsettling conclusion that Dr Spencer believes, the job market is currently working at a take it as you please basis for low income workers. Cllr. Michael Brierly offered to the audience what he could with honesty, stating the Green Party believes universal basic income will create job competitiveness, leading to a decrease in zero hour contracts.

Brexit, to no surprise, was a key issue addressed by all candidates. An audience question, that sources say where raised by none other than Rowlands campaign manager, also raised issues of important truths, with Dr Spencer having to explain two months of missing tweets prior to the EU referendum. As it transpired Dr Spencer believed in the importance of remaining within the EU. Dr Spencer had another disregard for the importance of honesty on social media, when confronted with the controversial Conservative twitter handle change that has made headlines, Dr Spencer spoke of it as supposedly tongue and cheek, stating it was still obvious who the twitter handle belonged to. Back to Brexit and Cllr. King relayed Labour’s stance on supporting a second referendum once a Labour deal with the EU has been reached, with the choice to vote for the deal or to remain on the ballot. Cllr. King also used this opportunity to state and reinforce that he will support remain if there is another referendum. Cllr. Brierly of the Green Party also promoted a second referendum but offering on the ballot the current Conservative deal or remain, a seemingly no nonsense approach that could appease uninspired Conservative Remainers. Also offering some humour to the debate, Cllr. Brierly speculated to the origins of Brexit as coming from two waring Etonian egos, which raised laughs from the audience. Cllr. O’Carroll reinforced the need for a peoples vote, also highlighting problems of the Union brought into the light by the 2016 EU referendum. However Cllr. O’Carroll, whilst supporting his party, did call into question the parties competence by insinuating the party will suffer at the election. Independent candidate Lorna Rowland presented an array of anti-EU facts, quoting predictions by scholars of the near future crash of the EU’s economy. The Brexit debate was of course of keen interest to the audience, all candidates used their time to reinforce manifesto pledges and personal stances.

With a wide student audience came questions over student debt, Independent candidate Lorna  Rowland promoted her stance on scrapping university fees and in responding to an audience question, promoting the increase in vocational training. Labour’s Cllr. King had a concise answer reflecting his recent time as a student at Royal Holloway, the abolishment of student fees, a review on interest rates and stressed the priorities of university investments. Green’s representative for the evening discussed the disparity in fees between his brothers, one getting a grant and no fees, the next brother no fees and himself a £3,000 yearly tuition fee. Cllr. Brierly linked this to the disparity of payback abilities between graduates and promoted Green’s policy of scrapping fees and wiping student debt. An ambitious task of clearing student dept was met with contempt from the audience, and with no plans on how to go about doing so, left the audience disillusioned. Conservative candidate Dr Spencer stated that costs should be shared between the state and the public and Liberal Democrats Cllr. O’Carroll did not offer a clear stance on university tuition fees but did highlight the need to recognise interest rates as graduate tax. There were no surprising offers by any candidate in addressing student debt and tuition fees, the clarity in most answers however will at least enable accountability to fulfil their election promises.

Aside from primarily student based issues, a member of the public in the audience asked questions regarding migrants arriving via boats to British shores, when there are many Britons, such as the large homeless population, that deserves priority. Initially candidates and many audience members were shocked by the question in hand, however impressively all candidates supported the intake of refugees and migrants. Dr Spencer proudly stated that migrants made this country great, mentioning no controls the Conservative government wishes to instate on migrants or refugee quotas. Cllr. O’Carroll also pressed that there is a responsibility to look after those that have crossed treacherous seas, stating that people do not travel  here in a dingy to live in a one room bed and breakfast. Lorna Rowland did highlight her desire for a need to control economic migrants but in no way condemned incoming refugees. It must be noted that Rowland wants refugees settle in the first safe state they reach and does reject EU refugee quotas. Green Party’s representative Cllr. Brierly recalled his own family’s history as immigrants to the United States and reinforced that Britain should not sacrifice its ideals in supporting refugees, also highlighting austerity increased homelessness and this does not equate with assisting refugees. The candidate for Labour stressed social housing should not be sold off and should remain social, with time limits in place there was no opportunity for Cllr. King to reply regarding refugees.

The final statements by candidates reinforced their manifestos and visions for Runnymede and Weybridge. Rowland reinforced that it was not a safe seat, a glimmer of hope perhaps for any candidate other than Conservative. Cllr. King reiterated that Labour was on ‘your side’, using the opportunity in the closing statement to show the failure of the Conservatives, arguing NHS waiting times were lower under Labour and reiterating his remain stance on Brexit. Cllr. O’Carroll and Cllr. Brierly both stressed the importance of green policies and holding individuals account on green initiatives. Dr Spencer pressed equality of opportunity for all, seemingly calling to the students in the audience that the Conservative Party can offer a strong economic future and, of course, concluding with ‘Get Brexit Done’. The evening was full of important questions and integral answers, the audience created a lively atmosphere and were not afraid to show their enthusiasm, or lack thereof, for candidates.

Writers Opinion

By the end of the opening statements, it was clear which candidate was most popular with the audience, and myself. Cllr. King spoke with clarity, confidence and persuasion. Cllr. King, who holds many positions on various Runnymede council committees as well as seats on outside bodies such as Deputy for the Heathrow Community Noise Forum, was able to reinforce every statement made with facts and personal experience. Having been a student at Royal Holloway it was clear he had many allies among the audience, yet in no way portrayed himself as overtly confident in a setting he was familiar with. I had hoped for some inspiration from the Liberal Democrat’s Cllr. O’Carroll in order to secure a half hearted vote to lower a Conservative majority, however these hopes were swiftly diminished within the opening minuet with a lack of charisma and, well, ability to speak to the crowd, which did not put him in good stead for speaking in the House of Commons if elected MP. Conservative candidate Dr Spencer did not appeal to me prior to the event, but I attended with an open mind as Dr Spencer seemingly sat towards the centre of the Conservatives political spectrum. It is as if however, the Conservatives do not understand the implications of picking candidates from thin air and far away lands and arriving them in Runnymede and Weybridge would not appeal to the residents of, Runnymede and Weybridge. As a Conservative stronghold however, this did not slow him down. Dr Spencer’s appeasing knowledge on  mental health and strong Conservative stance on Brexit drew favour from the audience despite two months of missing tweets and his somewhat ridiculous ‘tongue and cheek’ comments on the Conservative twitter handle. Cllr. Brierly for the Green Party’s sense of humour certainly held him in favour when tasked with questions he simply could not answer, he came out well from the hustings. I hoped as much could be said about the ever persistent Green Party itself, but there was no such luck. Lastly but certainly not least, the one female Independent candidate Lorna Rowland changed and challenged perceptions. Entering the hustings I did not think much of an Independent candidate but her seemingly well collected mannerisms, apart from calling out audience members who had trolled her on twitter, and array of facts which we were told to go and look up, made her a challenging opposition.

The five different personalities which showed themselves at the hustings proved to me who was worth my vote, I truly believe Cllr. Robert King deserves a seat in the House of Commons, his clarity in speaking, response to audience questions in a thorough manner and the odd crack at the Conservatives made him likeable and his experience made him feel trustworthy. Although I feel somewhat dismal about the chances of Runnymede and Weybridge turning red, I know I can laugh that the Conservative candidate does not believe in leaving the European Union, nor understands the basic geography of his potential constituency.

Written By Sarah Tennent 

Tides of Change: The Indian Election



By Theo Larue

While Britain finds itself embroiled in the complexities of its exit from the European Union, it is important to remember that other areas of the world are undergoing important evolutions that will also have effects on global politics. India is set to elect representatives to the 17th Lok Sabha (India’s lower house) in April, which will determine the Prime Minister of the world’s largest democracy. It will either remain Narendra Modi of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the controversial Hindu nationalist who as cast himself as India’s strongman, or a challenger from the Indian National Congress (INC), India’s historical political party that was at the forefront of independence. If it is the latter, it is anyone’s guess who will be nominated to the Premiership. Continue reading “Tides of Change: The Indian Election”

The Audacious Rise of the Australian Populists

A blue field with the Union Flag in the upper hoist quarter, a large white seven-pointed star in the lower hoist quarter, and constellation of five white stars in the fly – one small five-pointed star and four, larger, seven-pointed stars.

By Christian Oliver

There truly is nothing quite like Australian politics. At the time of writing, the man currently at the helm of the Liberal National Party government is Scott Morrison, or ‘ScoMo’. If you know anything about Australian politics however, I might be so facetious as to suggest he will have been ‘back-stabbed’ and removed by a member of his cabinet by the time you get around to reading this. Although I am exaggerating, Morrison is the fifth Australian Prime Minister in as many years, and it is clear to see why so many Australians are losing confidence in mainstream politics.

Continue reading “The Audacious Rise of the Australian Populists”

Sudan: A Revolution in the Making?


By Rob Johnston

The 2011 Arab Springs shaped much of the contemporary Middle East and North African (MENA) region, but the large, mainly desert country of Sudan appeared to be unaffected. That is until now. In the past four weeks we have seen increasing tensions within the country as protestors take to the streets, speaking out against current President Omar al-Bashir.

Continue reading “Sudan: A Revolution in the Making?”

How monolingualism is costing the UK £48 billion a year.

Image result for languages

By Kit Henderson

I’m sure by now that we’ve all heard about the diminishing take ups in Modern Foreign languages at GCSE, A-Level and degree level, while the number of languages on offer has increased dramatically take up is down, and there seems to be little to suggest that it’s going to improve, which is a problem. Beyond the obvious issue of Britons assuming everyone else will speak English, only to be perceived as arrogant, there is also a huge economic cost to our monolingualism, one that seems likely to increase.

Continue reading “How monolingualism is costing the UK £48 billion a year.”

The Political Mess in Brazil Following ‘Operation Car Wash’


By Christian Oliver

It would surely be an understatement to deem Brazil’s political climate leading up to the October general election to be anything but dramatic and unpredictable. Presidential nominees have been stabbed, convicted for corruption, imprisoned, and have called for violent attacks on the opposition; all as a by-product of a corruption scandal bigger than ‘Watergate’.

Continue reading “The Political Mess in Brazil Following ‘Operation Car Wash’”