The Murder of George Floyd

*This article has been written by a white student and is offering their perspective on what other white people, as well as themselves, can do to recognise their privilege, and work to undo systemic, institutionalized racism in our society. ‘ I know I will never understand, but I will always stand’.

On Monday 25th May, another Black man, George Floyd, was murdered by a white policeman in America. The policeman, Derek Chauvin, was filmed kneeling on Mr Floyd’s neck for eight minuets, and forty five seconds. Two other policemen held Floyd down, and another ‘controlled’ the crowd. All  while Floyd shouted ‘I can’t breathe’, until he lost consciousness and died.

 As a white woman, I cannot fathom the feelings of Black people both in America and across the world, the privilege of having white skin will never allow me to understand the fear of Black people going about their everyday lives.

This however, does not mean white people should be silent. We have benefitted from a system which has discriminated against people of colour for centuries. Since Britain began colonising nations, to the first shipment of slaves of which profits built cities such as Newcastle and Bristol, racism has been institutionalized within Britain and America, to ensure white people benefitted from being white.

A saying which is very commonplace for understanding white privilege explains that white privilege accepts that you may have faced hardships, however these were not due to the colour of your skin. It is thus our duty to undo centuries of systemic oppression. It is our duty to teach about colonization in schools, it is our duty to be uncomfortable. It is our duty to be called out for appropriating certain parts of Black culture that we deem ‘acceptable’.

It is not the responsibility of Black people to fight for their equality. As white people, it is our responsibility to address the system we created, we benefit from and to educate ourselves and fight for a system free of injustice. Before the heroics start, and the ‘likes’ pour in, white people should understand that we should not be seen as ‘fighters’ or ‘the good ones’ for standing up against racism, for we would should never have been benefitting from a corrupt system in the first place.

We should have been outraged since Emmett Till was sentenced to death on false accusations with a biased trial that only cared about white opinion. We should still be outraged over the murder of Michael Brown, being shot six times was no accident by the white police. We should still be outraged when Eric Garner also screamed ‘I can’t breathe’. His words should never have found home in another dying black mans last breaths.

American history, since its colonization, was built on status differentiation and white supremacy. It is not the ‘land of the free’ until Native Americans have what’s left of their land and ancestral sites back. It is not the ‘land of the free’ until Native American land is not torn apart for pipelines, their culture not appropriated globally at Halloween, and their genocide not swept over like that of the Aborigines in Australia.

 It is not the ‘land of the free’ until every school teaches about America’s role in the slave trade, slavery in America and the repression of the rights of Black people to this day. It is not the ‘land of the free’ until there is collective action from a white population whose ignorance towards issues of race and injustice is as astounding as Britain’s denial to face its colonial and imperialist history.

It is not the ‘land of the free’ until the rate of black male arrests is unbiased.

African-American adults are 5.9 times as likely to be incarcerated than whites. As of 2001, one of every three black boys born in that year could expect to go to prison in his lifetime, as could one of every six Latinos—compared to one of every seventeen white boys. In 2016, Black Americans comprised 27% of all individuals arrested in the United States—double their share of the total population. Black youth accounted for 15% of all U.S. children yet made up 35% of juvenile arrests in that year.  It must be stressed that the rise  of mass incarceration begins with disproportionate levels of police contact with African Americans.

It is imperative white people take accountability for their role in allowing the continuation of institutionalized, systemic racism that perpetrates the ideology that discrimination is a ‘Black peoples problem’. It is instead necessary that we change ourselves and our institutions.

 It was a white officer that murdered George Floyd.

It was white officers who did not stop him.

It is a white settler society that now rules an already occupied indigenous land, it is a white settler society built off the backs of slaves, the genocide of Native Americans, and the compliance to live in a society where Black people are continuously murdered by white people. There should have been protests every day for the fact Black people are three times more likely to be killed by police than white people. There should have been protests every day that police killed 1,099 people in 2019, and that Black people were 24% of those killed despite being only 13% of the population .  Another Black person should not have had to die to recognise what has been happening in America, and Britain, for centuries.

It is, and always has been imperative to address racism in all its forms, and Britain is certainly not exempt from this task. We, the white people, must be outraged that everyday by being compliant, we are killing Black people and people of colour. We must confront uncomfortable truths about who we are, and how our western, liberal societies came to be.

This rage should not die out. It is long overdue that we address one of, if not the, most deep rooted injustices in our society. As Desmond Tutu famously said: ‘If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor’.

George Floyd should not have died that day. It is as simple and as complex as that.

 May the injustice being faced by Black people and people of colour be finally, properly addressed. Our complacency, our sympathy is not beneficial. We must stand as allies, we must deconstruct the basis of our society, until it no longer forces the life out of Black people and people of colour.

Written by Sarah Tennent

SIGN THE PETITIONS/DONATE HERE-

Black Lives Matter UK Fund- https://www.gofundme.com/f/ukblm-fund

The Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust- https://www.stephenlawrence.org.uk/support-us/donate/

The Minnesota Freedom Fund- https://minnesotafreedomfund.org/

Justice for Belly Mujinga- https://www.change.org/p/govia-thameslink-justice-for-belly-mujinga

Justice for Breonna Taylor- https://www.standwithbre.com/

Petition to suspend UK export of tear gas, rubber bullets and riot shields to USA- https://www.change.org/p/suspend-uk-export-of-tear-gas-rubber-bullets-and-riot-shields-to-usa

Petition for the UK government to condemn President Trump’s response to BLM protests- https://www.change.org/p/boris-johnson-the-uk-government-must-condemn-trump-s-response-to-the-murder-of-george-floyd?utm_content=cl_sharecopy_22522561_en-GB%3Av3&recruited_by_id=d21766b0-a5a4-11ea-9a05-b3d780603ee9&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=copylink&utm_campaign=psf_combo_share_initial&utm_term=4931b21bd4f04c7cbdd896d94658b364&pt=AVBldGl0aW9uAMGqVwEAAAAAXtew7gG9E6s5OWZkZjM3ZA%3D%3D

Petition for British schools to implement teaching British children about Black history- https://www.change.org/p/gavin-williamson-mp-teach-british-children-about-the-realities-of-british-imperialism-and-colonialism?recruiter=1100366940&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=facebook&utm_campaign=share_petition&recruited_by_id=63f782c0-a35e-11ea-8907-8fc7af712ec3&use_react=false

Reading List to educate yourself-

Nikesh Shukla – The Good Immigrant: 26 Writers Reflect on America

Layla Saad – Me and White Supremacy: How to Recognise Your Privilege, Combat Racism and Change the World

Reni Eddo-Lodge – Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race

Akala – Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire

Ibram X. Kendi – How To Be an Antiracist

Wesley Lowery – They Can’t Kill Us All: The Story of Black Lives Matter

Support Black owned businesses, find them here- https://www.ukblackowned.co.uk/

TfL’s Bailout and London’s regional powers conflict

Coronavirus has up-ended and changed our society in ways that we may not yet be fully coming to terms with. The economy has been required to largely shut down, companies furloughing workers left and right and institutions of government up and down the country have been thrown into severe crisis management mode. In local government, councils up and down in the country have been rallying around protecting their most essential services and completely rethinking how they engage with residents and take decisions in an era of social distancing. In the local authority where I am a councillor, Sutton in South West London, our officers and contractors have responded to the challenges all of this poses extremely well; adapting to work from home requirements incredibly quickly.

But these working from home arrangements have had a major impact on the economy, arguably no more so than for public transport. Mainline rail companies have, according to some, been de facto nationalised; their franchise contracts temporarily suspended. Transport for London (TfL) has also fully complied with national guidelines (such as they were at the time), strongly urging commuters to stay at home and not travel. Furthermore, making all urgently needed travel on buses effectively free by removing the need to ‘touch in’ when boarding to limit the potential for infection. These extreme measures have, however, had an almost unbelievably massive impact on TfL’s finances, explored in extreme detail in an excellent article from London Reconnections, causing TfL to lose upwards of £150 million a week in lost fare income. In recent weeks, this lost income has seen TfL sounding the alarm over it’s long-term viability necessitating urgent action from Government, as the only body able to refinance TfL to this degree, to ensure that services could operate to allow key workers to continue doing their essential work.

While these warnings from TfL have now been heeded, and Government has provided TfL with the much needed cash to continue operating, the move has kicked off a major political bunfight across the capital and beyond. This fighting centres on some of the specific arrangements the Government is requiring TfL make, and indeed the necessity of the deal at all. For instance, Conservative politicians including their Mayoral candidate for the rescheduled 2021 election have launched fierce attacks against the Mayor claiming the deal is the result of wasteful spending by the Labour Mayor of London. While Lib Dem Mayoral candidate, Siobhan Benita has joined local campaigners in attacking the Silvertown Tunnel initiative, in general left-of-centre parties including the Lib Dems and the Greens have joined Labour in defending the necessity of the deal to keep essential services running. Political battle lines are now inevitably being drawn, around these fault-lines amid concern that Government is slowly undermining and encroaching on London’s regional government.

This entire debate- which will no doubt rage on right up to election day in 2021- does however provide an extremely interesting parallel to a major political fight between London’s previous regional government- the Greater London Council (GLC)- found itself in with the boroughs in the 1980s. Throughout the 1980s, Conservative politicians nationally and locally challenged the then-Labour controlled GLC over changes to fares policies. This challenge would eventually boil over into widespread discussion within Conservative circles about the continued feasibility of regional government in London; culminating in the GLC’s abolition in 1986. While the decision to challenge these transport policies did not outright lead to the GLC’s abolition, it certainly did set in train a discursive snowball.

Are we seeing a similar trend now? A conservative administration nationally, with a large majority fiercely attacking a divisive Labour administration in City Hall while Conservative members show increasingly hostile attitudes to the devolution of power, away from Westminster?

While we might not necessarily be seeing history repeat itself- at this stage it would be unwise to make a pronouncement either way- we can say with some certainty that history is rhyming right about now.

Written by Jake Short

A new kind of Journalism

The 20th Century marked a watershed where people began to recognise the changing nature and environment of the media. Mass media, broadcast news, and the professionalisation of journalism, were buzzwords for the media then, just as they are now.

The revolution of news on screen and radio, broadened the political minds of many, in a midst of newly found easy access to the political world, away from print news.

Media outlets slowly began to ease their political alignments shifting between the advocacy for parties, and the supply of unbiased views, in attempt to provide ‘neutral’ perspectives.

With this increased ‘professionalisation’, we saw a new kind of journalism developing.

Without compulsory training, or specific knowledge sets, journalism ‘isn’t the ideal liberal profession’, in comparison to careers such as law or medicine. However pride is, and should be placed, on a journalists’ ability to ‘impact society’ and ‘serve the public interest’. It is this new autonomy that has founded journalisms professionalisation.

So, with these developments, if we reflect again, they bring the question of whether we are seeing another ‘new kind of journalism’ in amongst this global pandemic we are facing today.

Common articles around Coronavirus have recently, and necessarily so, surrounded recent case figures, medical advice being offered, or recent demands for enquiries into countries levels of ‘preparedness’ for such a pandemic.

There are some positives in amongst this, including a new-found appreciation for keyworkers and national spirits of ‘togetherness’. There are also lots of negatives that can come from, and are found within situations such as these – those sadly lost, government performance, and public urges to panic-buy toilet roll or baking goods.

Yet this news is being bought to us in a different way, and more importantly, is the only news that is being presented to us, and has been for the last three months.

There has seemed to be a lack of attention to what we are being shown in the media. Countries have seen ‘normal’ life come to a halt, confined to life of self-isolation and lockdown, and the media has followed suit.

The media has become isolated in its news of Coronavirus, suggesting the possibility and also some truth to how global news has taken a back seat. Or that there is no global news to report – which seems harder to believe.

Furthermore, there is a sense journalists’ questions have also become constrained during what has become, the daily press conference ritual. Time and time again we see some journalists asking the same questions, most notably ‘when will lockdown end?’.

This could reflect national frustrations, or to rightly hold governments accountable, or is this because, there is not much else they can ask?

This is a new kind of journalism.

Journalism before has seen constraint from state intervention and technological drawbacks, and to some extent, still sees this on varying levels. Today, as World Wars once consumed media attention, our battle against Coronavirus takes their place.

It is up to ourselves to decide whether this ‘new’ in our new kind of journalism, be taken for the logistics of how press conferences are now being held. Or that more than ever, more media channels are receiving more airtime attention, or even how questions are being asked in these conferences, are becoming limited.

Nonetheless, these all suggest a new kind of journalism, in a time that demands the attention of one subject only, one that is continuously at the forefront of all our minds.

Written by Courtney Bridges

Sources:

Daniel C. Hallin and Paolo Mancini, ‘Comparing Media Systems: three models of media and politics’, (2004), p.13, 16.

 

 

No other way. Biden needs the Left to stop Trump.

Just less than a month ago, on March 17, two things were starting to get clear in the United States. The first of them was the sudden realization of the Trump administration regarding the coronavirus outbreak and its seriousness. By March 17, all 50 states had been hit with more than 100 dead and 6000 infected nationwide, as the BBC reported. Yet, it took all of this to happen for the leader of the nation to shift his rhetoric from “totally under control” to “I’ve felt that it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic”. As of today, according to the Worldometer that tracks all the coronavirus cases worldwide, the situation in the United States looks grim and terrifying. More than 300,000 cases have been confirmed, with the US becoming the world’s most affected country, heavily surpassing both Spain and Italy. And, as if that was not enough, the President warned everyone that the upcoming weeks are going to be the “toughest”, and that the worst is yet to come. biden srticle 1

Graph source: Worldometer, last updated: April 05, 2020, 10:48 GMT

All of this, undeniably, leads to a simple conclusion. The United States, and the world, is in a desperate need for steady and strong leadership. And interestingly enough, this has to do with the second event that occurred on that same March 17 Tuesday last month. It was then when it was reported that Joe Biden, who definitely had a poor start in the Democratic primary battle, will win all of the three major states(Florida, Illinois, Arizona) that were at stake that night. What is more, it turned out to be a comfortable, even “easy”, according to The New York Times, victory for the former Vice President. After that night, the math was showing that that Biden had managed to secure a total of 1,217 delegates against 914 for his major opponent Senator Bernie Sanders. And while it was, and still is true, that a majority of 1,991 pledged delegates must be won in order to secure the Democratic presidential nomination, the numbers are a good indicator to illustrate that Bernie Sanders, who unquestionably embodies the Left in America, will most probably not succeed in his march to the White House.

Source: Associated Press, last updated: 3 April 2020, 00:51:26

biden article 2

More disappointing, however, will surely be the prospect that the Left idea might not succeed. Just as it was the case in 2016, the Democratic establishment turned out to be an extremely formidable enemy. This time it showed it when practically all of the centrist, moderate candidates united behind the Biden candidacy in order to turn an election that, otherwise, they would have probably lost against the Sanders base if not united behind one candidate. Endorsement after endorsement helped Joe Biden get a desperately needed boost, especially after an abysmal showing in the first caucuses and primaries. Furthermore, openly promising to pick a woman for the VP spot and securing endorsements from people like Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, a perceived Sanders ally, only solidified Biden’s lead. Not to mention the fact that Elizabeth Warren, another person who the logic dictated would endorse the most progressive candidate, Sanders, apparent refusal to do so, felt not only like a shocker, but more like a betrayal to the progressive base. All of this, combined with the increasing media pressure for Sanders to end his presidential campaign, has led the Senator’s team to “assess” his campaign and the potential path forward.

Of course, it is impossible not to spot the little irony behind this situation. Especially now, that the Sanders campaign is all focused on fighting and leading the charge against the coronavirus. And now that, as it was brilliantly put by New Yorker writer Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, it is the reality that has endorsed Sanders. In other words, saying that the Senator’s main policy proposals, such as Medicare for All, are more than critically needed in the current unprecedented crisis the US, and the whole world, is facing. And even though ideas like Medicare for All and tightening the enormous wealth inequality gap that currently exists in the US, seem more than reasonable, and despite Sanders still having mathematical chances of winning the nomination, the opposition he is facing will only get even more vicious from now on.

Here, however, arises the biggest problems for the Democratic establishment. Even if it finally manages to somehow stop Sanders, it will still, again ironically, need the full support of his base in order to accomplish its main objective – beating Trump in November. And it will not be unreasonable to express that the Sanders’ base has little to do with the Biden base when it comes to policy, main causes, and overall ideology and understanding of how politics should be done. Biden might represent the status quo, and the way that the Democratic Party currently operates and wants to operate, but it is Sanders who represents the future. And this future about much more than a single ideolog or a single election. It is a future In which everybody should have the same rights to healthcare, a living wage, affordable housing, and decent life. A future in which billions would be spent on education, healthcare and progress, and not on foreign policy blunders. A future in which politicians would represent and fight for the ordinary people, not for the corporations, the banks, and the ultrawealthy.

And although this is yet to happen in the future, Biden will surely need to compromise with himself now and implement some of Bernie Sanders’ policy ideas and vision. There is no other way Biden can deserve the support of the Left that he really needs to take on Trump. It is not too farfetched to think that Democrats do not want to repeat the 2016 mistakes. Then, rhetoric of the ‘unity’, ‘vote blue no matter what’ type, would not suffice. Not in today’s world of politics. Actions would have to be taken, and Biden would definitely have to do something in order to appeal to the Sanders voters. Otherwise, it will be virtually impossible for him to take on Trump and win. After all, you cannot win if you do not energize such large chunks of the electorate like the young people, the outsider voters and the voters who are anti-establishment. All of whom are Sanders supporters.

Without a doubt, a glimpse at Biden’s record through the years shows that this is very unlikely to happen. The fact of the matter is, that Biden has never been a progressive champion and has not fought on most of the same fronts that Sanders has. And thus, it is understandable that people will be sceptical about such a future prospect. However, given the extreme situation in the world now, and the need for powerful leadership more than ever, compromises will have to be made if Biden wants to win. If not trough direct policy promises, at least, as the progressive political commentators Kyle Kulinski has noted, through offering the VP spot to someone like Senator Nina Turner, a main Sanders surrogate and an honest fighter for progressive change. Someone who will appeal to the Left and will pursue the main ideals of the field.

One thing is certain. A Biden win in November heavily involves the Left. In one way or another. Otherwise, Democrats should prepare for something worse than 2016 in 2020.

Written by Zafir Zafirov 

Bibliography:

  1. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-51939392
  2. https://www.cnbc.com/2020/03/17/trump-dissed-coronavirus-pandemic-worry-now-claims-he-warned-about-it.html
  3. https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/
  4. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/apr/05/coronavirus-global-cases-pass-12m-as-trump-warns-us-of-worse-to-come
  5. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/17/us/politics/march-17-democratic-primary.html
  6. https://www.politico.com/news/2020/03/16/biden-debate-female-veep-131610
  7. https://medium.com/@ronaldwdixon/elizabeth-warrens-betrayal-of-the-progressive-movement-5a0b6ebfed39
  8. https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2020/03/sanders-drop-out-primary-coronavirus.html
  9. https://www.nbcnews.com/think/opinion/bernie-sanders-should-suspend-his-2020-presidential-campaign-help-biden-ncna1163481
  10. https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/03/its-time-bernie-sanders-end-his-campaign/608257/
  11. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/apr/05/bernie-sanders-campaign-assessing-coronavirus
  12. https://www.wsj.com/articles/bernie-sanders-focuses-on-coronavirus-as-he-reassesses-campaign-11584796882
  13. https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/reality-has-endorsed-bernie-sanders
  14. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bbK4RoEPSzY&feature=emb_title

A New Leader, A New Time for the Labour Party, but Big Challenges Remain

With recent events you may not have been aware, or perhaps you forgot, that the Labour Party was having its long and drawn out Party Leadership Election. The results are in anyway, Keir Starmer is victorious and will succeed Jeremy Corbyn as Party Leader. Starmer’s task is not an easy one, he takes over at a dire time for the Labour party. Like the Tories during 1997-2005, Labour are in their new “wilderness years”, if they are not careful, they will suffer another defeat in 2024 and Tories will be in power for another 5 years. Starmer must rebuild the Labour Party after the recent general election, where the party won 202 seats having lost 60 from 2017, making it their worst performance in an election since 1935.

Starmer needs to decide how he is going to regain trust and support of traditional Labour voters and regain Labour heartlands, the so called “Red Wall”, where the party collapsed in 2019. He will also have to decide what a post Brexit Britain Labour Party will look like, and what it will say on the big issues facing the country. But also, and probably a more difficult task, he must decide where the ideological fate of his party will lie, whether he remains to the left or moves to centre, similar to where New Labour went or perhaps somewhere in between. Whatever he does decide to do, not everyone will be happy in the Labour Party. And of course, he must tackle the evil of anti-Semitism in the party which will be a true test of his leadership early on.

 This article will aim to show just how big a task is facing Keir Starmer, and what those problems are. Labour have until 2024 to prepare for the next general election, and as Harold Wilson once said “a week is a long time in politics” so there is plenty that could go wrong for the Conservatives and plenty that could go right for the Labour Party in that time. Only three men have won elections for Labour since 1945, Attlee, Wilson and Blair. Time will tell if Starmer joins them or whether he joins the ranks of Kinnock, Miliband and Corbyn.

The 2019 Election marked another turbulent time in British politics. This was the third general election in four years and the ninth major electoral contest in the decade. The Labour Party and the UK were going into this election against the backdrop of Brexit, a Parliament that was unable to agree a Withdrawal Agreement or anything in fact and a mood of great anger in the country. The Tories had been in power for nine years and the government saw the lowest satisfaction scores for the way in which it was running the country for any administration since John Major’s (Ipsos MORI, 2019). Normally, after the “cost of governance” and satisfaction levels like that, this should have been an easy win for the Labour Party. Far from it.

One reason for their defeat was that Labour faced an electoral dilemma, how to hold onto their collation of voters from the 2017 election? At the time, the party on the one hand had a majority of Labour MPs (61%) represented constituencies that had a majority leave vote in 2016, whilst on the other a clear majority of Labour voters (68%) supported Remain in 2016 (BES, 2019). Labour was doomed from the start, there was no way the party could hold onto both of these very different and distinct groups at the same time. And what we saw at the 2019 election was exactly that, Labour losing in many leave voting areas. The Conservatives captured ‘fifty-seven seats, all but three from Labour. These included traditional Labour heartlands in the so-called ‘red wall’: Great Grimsby (Labour since 1945); Bishop Auckland (1935); Basset-law (1935); Wakefield (1932); Leigh (1922); Don Valley (1922); and Bolsover (a seat Labour had never lost when contesting) (Cutts, et al., 2020). So, the challenge for Starmer and the Labour Party going forward is: how to win these voters and seats back? How to build a more permanent and united coalition of support for the Labour Party? Unfortunately, for the Labour Party the loss of support amongst their traditional working-class base, known as the “falling ladder”, has been a long time coming, as Figure 1 shows:

Figure 1: The difference between Labour and Conservative vote share by class composition of English and Welsh constituencies, 2010–2019

Fig 1

(Cutts, et al., 2020, p. 17)

Figure 1 shows the enormous task facing Starmer, he must pick the ladder back up and prevent this election from becoming a realigning moment. Many in Labour will be hoping that 2019 was a one off, that people lent their votes to the Conservatives because of Brexit and will return to the Labour Party after. Of course, Labour will have to earn their vote back but there is a logic to that idea. Now that Britain has left the EU but is in the transition period as it negotiates a future trade deal with our European neighbours, perhaps this dividing line in our politics will weaken. In a recent poll there was 46-54 split in favour of staying out indicated a small swing in favour of Brexit since January (Woodcock, 2020). So perhaps once, excuse me here, “we get Brexit done” there will be a focus on other issues in a post Brexit Britain. Issues that the Labour Party can be stronger on, and issues that enable them to start winning back the support of the voters it lost in 2019.

So, what drove former Labour voters to other parties? Understanding why these voters left might help the party in winning them back. As you can see in Figure 2, Jeremy Corbyn/leadership was the main reason voters did not support Labour in the 2019 election according to this poll. The Labour Party will now hope that the election of Starmer as leader will settle this issue and his name will not be as toxic for the party on the doorsteps. However, Figure 1 also shows that there was much to Labour’s failings in 2019 than just leadership.

Figure 2: What drove former Labour voters back to other parties?

lewis fig 2

(YouGov, 2019)

Brexit, as mentioned above, played a significant role. Perhaps, like leadership, this will now be settled, and voters will not be turned off by Labour. But the other telling issue raised by Figure 2, is that people did not trust Labour on policy and economic competence. There was a feeling this time around that the Labour manifesto and policies were undeliverable and would cost too much. This was consistent with polling before the election, which showed that the majority (63%) thought that Labour’s policies are not realistically deliverable, and that the party would not deliver on its promises. Former Labour voters said in their own words that they: “did not trust the manifesto, you cannot keep borrowing to pay for services”, that “the socialist policies were frightening” and “the sums didn’t add up for all the things they promised if they got in” (YouGov, 2019). This represents a significant challenge for Starmer now coming into the top job in the Labour Party. He and his party need to convince voters that Labour can be trusted on the economy and the public finances if they have any hope of becoming a credible option for the voters.

Finally, I would like to talk about another major problem for the Labour Party. Scotland does not get raised enough in terms of Labours problems as much as it should; Scotland is another once traditional heartlands that they have lost. In 2010, even right in the dying days of New Labour, the party manged to have forty-one seats out of fifty-nine in Scotland (BBC News, 2010). At the 2019 election the Labour Party lost six seats and was left with just one seat (BBC News, 2019). The massive decline in Scotland creates a big problem for Labour. For the Labour Party to win a majority, the party must start winning seats back off the SNP and other parties. Otherwise Labour will have to win more seats in England and Wales. This requires an even bigger swing, as the party will need to take seats of the Conservatives, where there are majorities of over 10,000, no easy task. Labour must re-find its political place in Scotland amongst the Nationalist versus Unionist debate or risks remaining in the side-lines of Scottish politics and out of government in the UK.

If the Labour Party is to start winning elections and return to government, then it must address the issues listed in this article. It is currently facing a significant moment in the party’s history, whether it chooses to return to power and credibility, or whether it continues deeper into the political wilderness. It will not be easy, but the path back to having a Labour Prime Minister and a Labour government can start now. We will see if they, and Starmer take it.

Written by Lewis Virgo

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[Accessed 3 April 2020].

Cutts, D. Goodwin, M. Heath, O. & Surridge, P. (2020) ‘Brexit, the 2019 General Election and the Realignment of British Politics’. The Political Quarterly, 91 (1), pp. 7-23.

Ipsos MORI, (2019) Worst public satisfaction ratings for any government since John Major [Online] Ipsos MORI.
Available from: https://www.ipsos.com/ipsos-mori/en-uk/worst-public-satisfaction-ratings-any-government-john-major
[Accessed 3 April 2020].

Woodcock, A. (2020) UK still divided over Brexit with almost half country wanting to rejoin EU, poll finds [Online] The Independent.
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[Accessed 3 April 2020].

YouGov, (2019) YouGov In their Own Words: Why Voters Abandonded Labour [Online] YouGov.
Available from: https://yougov.co.uk/topics/politics/articles-reports/2019/12/23/their-own-words-why-voters-abandoned-labour
[Accessed 4 April 2020 ].

 

 

The decision on HS2, and the future implications for British infrastructure projects

On Tuesday 11th February 2020, 5 months after Boris Johnson announced the Oakervee review into High Speed 2 and 11 years after the project was even proposed, the government finally declared that the project would indeed go ahead. Despite growing reservations in recent years over the mounting delays and the increase in the estimated cost from a budget of £56bn to a gargantuan £106bn, preparatory works will continue with the aim to complete the first phase and have trains running by 2028. The first phase will consist of a direct line from London Euston to Birmingham Curzon Street, with additional stops at Old Oak Common and Birmingham Interchange. The second phase, broken into two sections with the first extending from Birmingham to Crewe, and the latter branching off to service the East Midlands, Leeds and York, has yet to receive Parliamentary approval. It will be sure to draw further fire from both opponents to the scheme in Parliament, and from public pressure groups and lobbyists.

Despite announcing the review barely a month after taking office as PM, it never appeared likely that Johnson would ultimately take the proposal behind the metaphorical barn and shoot it – instead the review has given Johnson a way of dodging some of the criticism that was sure to come from giving the proposal the green light. Despite endorsing the project, the review made clear that the endorsement came due to the lack of “shovel ready alternative investments” that would expand UK rail capacity between the north and south, in addition to the £9bn already sunk into the project. Partially insulated from criticism Johnson has been free to approve the project, albeit with changes designed to reign in costs and delays. These include a new ministerial position, which will be responsible for the project and its management on a full-time basis, non-executive directors have been overhauled and the development of the London Euston terminal has been spun out to a new management team.

There has also been a recent fresh twist with the revelation that China Railway Construction Corporation, a part-state-owned Chinese contracting giant, has been in talks with HS2 Ltd regarding a deal for the company to potentially step in and build the line. Such a deal would, according to CRCC, see the UK save billions in construction costs, with the firm aiming to complete the work within 5 years. Despite these claims however, the government has so far had no part in the talks. It also seems unlikely that CRCC will be able to take over all work on the line, given the advanced stage of preparatory work – instead a “joint venture” seems a more likely option.

In addition to this, there would be the added political difficulties of the UK government allowing a Chinese firm to build a major piece of UK infrastructure, particularly given the recent decision by the government to allow Huawei, a Chinese telecom firm, to “continue to be used”  in the UK’s 5G networks. The decision was said to provoke dismay from the US intelligence services, which have lobbied extensively for European countries to ban Huawei from working on their networks, and ““apoplectic” fury” from Trump himself in a call to Johnson.

Written by Andrew Harris

Pete Buttigieg: A radical Democratic candidate?

Buttigieg is a white, male, moderate democrat. So, what makes him radical? Buttigieg is the first openly gay man and first millennial with a chance of entering the oval office.

For Buttigieg, a former mayor of South Bend Indiana, getting this far in the democratic race is admirable, but the prospect of him becoming the democratic nominee, let alone the president, was unthinkable.

Since the start of the democratic race, Buttigieg seems to be squeezing the other moderates in the competition such as Joe Biden and Amy Klobuchar. This has only become more apparent in the New Hampshire Primary polls since Buttigieg had his breakout win in Iowa. Seeing Buttigieg leapfrog both Biden and Warren to second place at 18%, although a far cry from Bernie Sander’s 26%, this makes him the first choice for many moderate democrats. Making the prospect of a Buttigieg nomination a much more plausible possibility.

In terms of his practices and demeanour, Buttigieg seems to embody the traditional democratic establishment, but his policies, even during the Obama era would seem unthinkable. Healthcare policy is a tell-tale way is evaluating how ‘radical’ a candidate is due to how polarising this issue is in US politics, with the RealClear Opinion Research Group finding that healthcare is the highest-ranked issue for US voters but also the most polarising. Thus, making it a potential heavy vote looser. Buttigieg’s plan ‘Medicare for All Who Want It’ allows for the continuation of private healthcare while providing a public alternative with comprehensive coverage, not unlike the healthcare system in the UK.  While this co-habitation of public and private healthcare may seem commonplace for us in the UK and Europe as a whole, the idea of a public and taxpayer-funded plan for anyone to use in the US would be a healthcare revolution. Something Obama, who was seen as a radical left-wing democrat in 2008, did not introduce.

josh articlThe fact that Buttigieg supports a universal healthcare system when the idea only holds a 50% support rate, sets him aside from other moderate democrats like Klobuchar and Biden, who have both kept their own idea of what a public healthcare plan would look like vague.

“What about Sander’s ‘Medicare for All’?” I hear you ask. It’s important to note that Sanders historically has not been a democrat. Serving as an independent from 1981 to 2016 both in his role as Mayor of Burlington, Vermont (ousting the Democrat incumbent) and as Senator of Vermont. So while Sanders is undoubtedly radical, he traditionally is not a democrat. This doubt from other Democrats came to a boiling point forcing him to sign a “loyalty pledge” to the democratic party and that he would serve as a democrat should he become president – we will not know for sure if this is the case unless he reaches the Oval Office.

This leaves Warren as the only Democrat with a more radical plan for healthcare than Buttigieg. Placing Buttigieg on the radical side of the democratic field on one of the most polarising issues of this election.

Looking past what can be a very thick veneer of left-wing echo chambers, especially those that would consider themselves the left of the democratic party, Buttigieg is radical, at least for the US and lines up with the likes of Sanders and Warren on a number of issues. A $15 an hour minimum wage, quadrupling the earned income tax credit for single adults, “affordable, universal full-day child care and pre-K for all children from infancy to age 5”, route to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, a cap on all student loan payments as a share of income, forgiven in full after 20 years as well as a universal healthcare plan. Furthermore, Buttigieg has thrown his weight in with some major structural reform ideas such as statehood for Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia, banning gerrymandering, and putting an end to the electoral college and filibustering. This would be major changes to the way that US elections are held, and could have major impacts on future results, as both Bush Jr and Trump would not have won the presidency without the electoral college.

Buttigieg may not have the same ideas as Sanders or Warren but to deny that his ideas are radical and would not have major long-term effects for the US only because he is seen to be moderate on the surface is precisely the problem. Buttigieg is a liberal able to come across as a moderate, and is it not the job of the nominee to convince those on the other side to vote for them? Only by accepting that they must convince those on the other side will the democrats be able to enact the radical policies they so desperately want.

Written by Joshua Trood

POSTHUMOUS PARDONS: AN ENIGMA

Most people are familiar with Alan Turing. If you aren’t, he was a scientist and cryptanalyst (amongst a plethora of other things) whose work for the British government is often recognised to have shortened the war in Europe by more than two years and saved over 14 million lives.

In 1952, the British government thanked Turing with a prosecution for gross indecency under section 11 of the Criminal Law Amendments Act 1885. He was given the ultimatum of imprisonment or probation – the latter with the condition that he undergo chemical castration to lower his libido. Turing’s conviction lead to the removal of his security clearance and barring from continuing his cryptographic work for GC&CS. Turing died on 7 June 1953 by cyanide, 14 months after his conviction.

60 years later, on 24 December 2013, Turing received a posthumous Royal Pardon.

The Alan Turing Law – the colloquial term for the amnesty law legislated in the Policing & Crime Act 2017, which pardons men who were cautioned or convicted under historical legislation (Buggery Act 1533) that outlawed homosexual acts. I’d forgive you for thinking that this law could right every wrong the government made against gay men, but this isn’t true. These statutory pardons are only for some men convicted of some homosexual offences.

We have just passed the bills third anniversary, which received royal assent on 31 January 2017. It’s a common misconception that this offers a blanket forgiveness for the crimes of the estimated 49,000 men who, like Alan Turing were convicted of consenting same-sex relations under the gross indecency law or other anti-gay legislations. As Justin Bengry, Historian of Britain’s LGBTQ past points out, “it offers too great an opportunity for the state to strategically forget and erase history rather than atone for the damage it has wrought on the lives of queer men”.

The Peter Tatchell Foundation estimates that some 50,000-100,000 men were convicted during the 20th century. Bengry poses the question, why should the pardon be limited only to men punished by these laws in the 20th century? Buggery, after all was criminalised in 1533  – how many more thousands of pardons would be needed for centuries-worth of inhumane convictions under the British government? The last execution for consensual anal sex only happened in 1835. Should these not be pardoned and apologised for?

It’s not wildly known the number of men who are unable to be granted pardons. This includes, but is not limited to, those men whose records cannot be found (you cannot obtain a pardon for an offence which a charge has no record).

For myself, it’s incredibly significant that those men whose crimes would still be illegal today – for example those convicted under indecent exposure (which is criminal under the Sexual Offences Act 2003), -cannot be pardoned. These men sought privacy and safety in public restrooms, solace from these anti-gay convictions and it was these circumstances which they were forced into by the government. These very crimes were the product of British anti-gay laws and deserve to be apologised for, not least to be pardoned. These crimes would never have been committed if the men were not put into this impossible position whereby they must choose between expressing their fundamental rights or be persecuted by a hostile government – one which still won’t right all of its wrongs.

A posthumous pardon is problematic for several reasons. If we look at the language, a pardon is not an apology. It is a forgiveness for a crime committed and in no way implies the person was wrongfully convicted.

Turing received his apology in 2009 by Gordon Brown on behalf of the British Government for “the appalling way he was treated”, however tens of thousands of men are still without apology and many of them without pardon—some of them still alive today.

Is the Government’s posthumous pardon a get out of jail free card? When the innocent party can neither accept the pardon, thus accepting that their actions were criminal, nor deny it— therefore embarrassing the government.

Right now, there are thousands of gay men unable to obtain the pardons offered by the government since 2017, which were intended for people unjustly convicted because of their sexuality. Many of these men were convicted of ‘importuning’ or ‘soliciting’ when in reality, many men were arrested simply for looking at an officer ‘the wrong way’ or speaking to another man on the street. There was no ground for arrest for many of these historic convictions in which a pardon is not offered.

Many men’s lives have been ruined by the mark against their record, which these scared men were forced into signing out of fear, in the belief it could be forgotten about.

It’s also invariably impossible to determine which crimes would still legitimately stand as crimes today? How can the Government blanket pardon all men convicted of queer sex, when some of these cases may well have been non-consensual or involving minors? Justin Bengry makes a point that this sort of detail is unlikely to have been preserved.

For centuries, lives were destroyed; men were executed by the state for homosexual offences. “This history should be preserved actively, publicly and loudly”.I believe that the Government must be held accountable and made to acknowledge its role in the destruction of so many LGBTQ+ lives and until all of the issues surrounding the pardon, including some of the ones I have discussed above have been addressed, it will continue to trick many  people into thinking that thousands of men have been apologised to. A pardon is in no way an apology or even an admission of wrongful conviction.

It should not be employed to distract us from the continued struggles of the LGBTQ+ community, and the Government’s general posthumous pardon simply is not good enough.

I am optimistic that more will be done, but the reality is that forgiveness can never be given by the unknown numbers of deceased men who died at the hands of the Government, and this should never, ever be forgotten. The world can learn from these injustices which must be remembered if we wish for history to never again be repeated.

Germany used the enigma to scramble and confuse messages. The British Government, I feel, do this very well with no such machine.

Written by Rhys Jones

Labour Leadership Election 2020 – a Forgone Conclusion?

After a somewhat tumultuous four years with Jeremy Corbyn at the helm, the Labour Party is poised to switch direction as it goes through the motions of a leadership election. The outcome of the contest could only ever go one of two ways, an extension of Corbynism or a clean break.

Even after the disastrous electoral result for the Labour Party in the 2019 General Election, the veteran MP still held his grip on the Party. Unlike his predecessor, Ed Miliband, Corbyn did not resign immediately following defeat. Whether noble or foolhardy, the fact remained that the leader and his brand of socialism would not go quietly.

When the contest was finally announced, speculation on the contenders immediately centred around two politicians – Keir Starmer and Rebecca Long Bailey[1]. They are two of three candidates out of the original six contenders to have made it to the final ballot.

To reach the ballot, candidates had to secure nominations from 10% of Labour MPs and MEPs and 5% of constituency Labour parties (CLPs). Nominations and endorsements from affiliated groups are also up for grabs. These include trade unions that are affiliated to the Labour Party and socialist societies which are groups within the party that have specific interests and aims including the Fabian Society and various faith groups[2].

Keir Starmer was the bookies favourite[3] before he officially entered the contest. The former Director of Public Prosecutions[4] is regularly seen as a safe pair of hands. His forensic examination of government Bills has routinely impressed party members and bodes well for his handling of despatch box confrontations with Boris Johnson.

However, where Starmer may struggle to win members round, is his stance on the European Union. He has the backing of the Labour Movement for Europe, Labour’s pro-EU socialist society. Starmer also held the post of Shadow Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union[5], which saddles him with the responsibility for Labour’s Brexit policy in the 2019 General Election. This is a divisive issue for both voters and Labour members and many still maintain it is this issue alone that lost Labour the election. If Starmer can reclaim the narrative and restore trust in his position on Europe, he will be laughing.

Touted as Cobyn’s successor long before the leadership contest was even announced is Rebecca Long Bailey who currently holds the role of Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy[6]. The Salford MP was relatively unknown to the public prior to the announcement of her intention to stand as leader. Unless one makes a habit of following internal party politics closely, she is arguably still an unfamiliar name.

Being branded as the continuity candidate would only ever be either a blessing or the kiss of death for Long Bailey’s campaign. The splits in the Labour Party are far from secret and for those more factional members, the association with the outgoing leader can make or break their voting choice.

It is not entirely fair to brand Long Bailey as another Corbyn, a label that smacks of sexism. She is her own woman, hailing from a different part of the country and generation than Corbyn. It is her followers, however, that really cement her position within the Party. She has the backing of Momentum and Unite, notoriously on the left of the Labour Party and key supporters of the Corbyn administration.

The third candidate to make the final ballot, Lisa Nandy, has seen an increase in momentum of her campaign. She has received an endorsement from the Jewish Labour Movement[7] which will be of marked significance to many party members. With the Labour Party’s record on anti-Semitism under Jeremy Corbyn coming under fire, it needs to really get its act together in order to win back the support of the Jewish community and its allies. Nandy is unlikely to achieve victory in the contest, but it has most definitely cemented her place as one to watch within the party.

As it stands, Keir Starmer is the clear frontrunner, enjoying the support of 15 unions and socialist societies, 370 constituency labour parties and 88 MP/MEP nominations. Rebecca Long Bailey is trailing behind with nominations from 7 unions and socialist societies, 160 constituency labour parties and 33 MP/MEP nominations[8].

 It appears then that the bookies were correct. If Starmer can win over such an impressive number of constituency parties, including Jeremy Cobyn’s own Islington North, he should have no trouble securing the votes needed to crown him Labour Leader. If he does, he faces an uphill battle to unite the party and restore faith in the Labour Party. The leadership contest may have a forgone conclusion, but the political direction of the United Kingdom certainly does not.

Written by Abby King

[1] https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/politics/who-next-labour-leader-runners-21087938

[2] https://labour.org.uk/people/societies/

[3] https://www.standard.co.uk/news/politics/next-labour-leader-odds-who-will-replace-jeremy-corbyn-a4312901.html

[4] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-22281453

[5] https://labour.org.uk/people/shadow-cabinet/

[6] https://members.parliament.uk/member/4396/career

[7]politicshome.com/news/uk/political-parties/labour-party/news/109912/lisa-nandy-handed-big-leadership-boost-backing

[8] https://labour.org.uk/people/leadership-2020-nominations/leadership-2020/