UK Politics

Is this election the end of the catch-all party?

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As the climax of this general election approaches, it is clear that Westminster is the epicentre of the Eurosceptic earthquake which has caused seismic shifts in the British political landscape.

One year on, the aftershocks of last year’s Brexit referendum can still be felt. Whilst the political x-axis has long been the right-left barometer, the y-axis which may well control British politics for years to come is now based on whether voters be internationalists or nationalists. The ideological foundations of the UK’s parties continue to quiver with the mounting gravity of the Brexit question, and the populist pendulum has swung from the right towards the left. Fractures within the Labour and Conservative parties, too, over the nature of the UK’s unilateralist turn, have made the nation’s key political structures increasingly brittle.

When Theresa May declared her intentions to seek a mandate in April, she must have thought that victory would slip easily into her hands, with Jeremy Corbyn only just clinging onto the political scene amidst internal Labour party strife and backlash from the electorate over recent months.

But now it is obvious that the gap has narrowed. Either Jeremy Corbyn or Theresa May will set foot in Number 10 tomorrow, navigating the treacherous ridge of the British political peak which has a sheer drop at either side.

Today’s snap vote, which many believed would erode the foundations of the Labour Party for several years to come, has instead had the opposite effect. A victory for Theresa May still seems the most likely result, but this election has brought to light new corners of political opinion within the two biggest parties, fragmenting the once clear-cut right and left wings. Can the leaders of the UK’s two biggest parties really speak for the entirety of each of their movements?

The Labour Party isn’t, and hasn’t been since Blair’s 1997 landslide, categorised simply by one strong shade of scarlet. Neither can the Conservative Party be characterised by one tone of light blue. The Labour tapestry now includes a multiplicity of pinks, crimsons and Burnt Siennas, and a look through the Tory lens reveals a kaleidoscope of turquoise, aquamarine, royal blue and teal. The left is split between Jeremy Corbyn’s more traditional socialism, Tony Blair’s third way, and a great deal of pro-Brexit lefties. The right, in turn, exists as a patchwork of more centrist free-market liberals, pro-Europeans, and May-supporting Brexit stoic.

Over the campaign, both main parties have tried to pick up as big a portion of the electorate as possible, reelinh in voters regardless of class and background, having realised that party affiliation isn’t as simple as it once was some decades ago. With May’s focus on strength and stability, and Corbyn’s impetus on governing for the greater good, both campaigns have sought to operate beyond class divisions, out to capture the human sentiments of holding either national or European identity, and playing to the hopes and ambitions of the general public for the future of their British nation.

In this election, Theresa May has attempted to prove that Brexit is a transformation which can benefit all – the disenchanted working class, and those who look to abandon the red tape of the European Union. Similarly, the Labour Party, with its campaign based around ideas of an all-encompassing society, with a more internationalist approach, has tried to attract both voters on average incomes, and even the most high-end of champagne socialists. But the reality is, however, that leaders now have to piece together smaller, more specific factions of opinion within one diverse party construct. Support is no longer simply a question of where you work, how much money you earn, and what food you put on the table.

Arguably, as parties have sought to capture all voters, within a society which has become more culturally, socially and economically diverse, the parties themselves have had to fit into new moulds and broaden their appeal. It is now increasingly hard for governments to please everyone and for parties to appeal to all. Perhaps, therefore, large parties which once had simply formulated political motives which spoke to the masses can no longer speak to all types of individuals found within a more varied society.

Many would, of course, argue that it is impossible to please all and that this is just a fact of the democratic and, more specifically, majoritarian, system. In this election, both parties’ manifestos have aimed to appeal to all, but in reality, the leaders and their governmental gameplans only represent one part of the party’s multifaceted opinion base.

The Labour and Conservative parties arguably have chosen to run with just one form of their respective left and right opinion this election, in the form of Jeremy Corbyn’s traditional socialism, mixed with a streak of revolutionary populism, and Theresa May’ anti-EU strategy which champions ideas of UK national feeling and emphasises a need for uncompromised national sovereignty. Corbyn does not come across well to the Blairites, politicians who are sure to flex their muscles in the next parliament. Similarly, May, who was, until the departure of David Cameron, a remainer, fails to win over more centrist and European Tories.

But perhaps the UK revolves around a majoritarian system which, in fact, does not work for the majority. With two large parties aiming to please all at campaign level, whilst truly only being able to adopt one type of left-wing and right-wing thought within a party which contains many more specific pools of opinion, surely not all can feel satisfied with politics.

If this be the case, surely much of the British population remains perplexed. How, therefore, can big parties manage to speak for all? Perhaps the big social class-driven aggregate party structure is now dead, and can be rendered impractical. Arguably, the two big parties have attempted to please all in campaigns but this is ineffective for many, as they adopt just one small portion of their own left and right wing party’s thought.

There are several possible solutions. The first is that the catch-all, all-encompassing party becomes successful in pleasing all. This has, however, proven to be a rather utopian idea, based on this campaign and the politics of previous years.

Another option is that the UK political landscape would break down, heralding a wider range of political parties which each reflect more specific divisions of political opinion, welcoming a new proportional system of voting.

Furthermore, if Theresa May pushes on with her Brexit agenda, and the Labour Party continues to run with its staunchly traditionalist, left-of-centre socialism, British politics could become increasingly polarised, generating a gap in the market for a new centrist movement. Perhaps a more balanced force like French President Emmanuel Macron’s La République en Marche will soon come to the fore.

No matter who wins this election, both Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn now have the tricky task of healing the divides within their large parties, as they veer towards more specific directions. If the parties fail to unite their supporters, great constitutional change for the UK could be next on the to-do list. Perhaps the clear-cut, class-driven party structures which have for so long defined the UK’s political landscape are breaking down, no longer able to speak for all.

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UK Politics

Corbyn’s fragmented party is felling a future of success

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In the midst of fierce debate within the Labour Party, its leader Jeremy Corbyn has made clear that a shadow cabinet reshuffle is imminent. Longstanding Labour stalwarts are set to become stripped of their coveted titles, and damaging presidential politics will become the norm.

Of course, this is a new – and once again ‘new’ – age for Labour. A November poll showed that approximately 66% of those able to vote in the September leadership election believed Jeremy Corbyn is leading “well.” 86% believed Corbyn is doing a good job, and nearly half of all who voted for Andy Burnham to become leader agreed. This advent of contentment must be celebrated, highlighting the still grassroots element of the Party. In addition, policies such as nuclear disarmament and foreign policy have been moved closer to the top of the Party agenda. Labour’s core values as social-democrats have become reinstated, a mindset which is reflective of Party members’ views.

But progression and success can only come in positively criticising the Tory government, and momentarily, Labour MPs are instead criticising themselves. The comments of Peter Mandelson and Tony Blair are indeed understandable, but have highlighted the damaging divide between existing and new Blairites and Corbyn supporters. A disunited party is unable to scrutinise its opposition and make effective changes to British lives, and this is having a stark effect on the strength of Labour.

The emerging political crevasse is demobilising Labour and impinging on possibilities of a successful future, including 2020 election gains. An imminent cabinet reshuffle will surely fail to fill the cavity in Labour’s enamel which once sparkled. Corbyn’s principle of ‘new politics’ has been abandoned. Willfully enlarging the already sweeping divide amongst Labour MPs largely goes against the principles of dialogue and compromise upon which his politics is said to be based. How can Corbyn justify punishment for voting freely over Syria, in a supposedly free vote?  An effective Labour party must endorse discussion, and take into account the ideas of all members.

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By staging a Cabinet reshuffle after just one huge party defeat, Corbyn is mindlessly creating a deficit of able frontbench politicians. Demoting the likes of Hilary Benn and Maria Eagle is a mistake. This is not only demoting key political brains, but also supporters of some true left-wing policy for which Corbyn’s party should be striving. Disagreement is needed for effective policy synthesis, and a move to more presidential and autocratic politics harks back to earlier, contentious Labour periods. Tony Blair’s leadership methods largely ignored the views of many backbench Labour politicians. The party simply cannot move back to those days of internal dictatorship and division.

Whilst I am an advocate of the socially democratic policies which Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters uphold, the Labour Party remains detrimentally polarised. This flurry of disorganisation will only debilitate the Party in scrutinising David Cameron, and will wreck chances of future election success. The Labour Party must once again decide on what it stands for – crushing austerity, standing up for hard work and values of social justice, surely. It is time Labour MPs realised that only they can narrow the gap in opinion, and uphold the friendly and co-operative values the Party aims to work by. Labour must be united in policy, and must work together to create resolutions which please its activists and politicians.

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World Politics

The UK’s hand in striking Daesh will become Cameron’s greatest regret

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See this article published on Youth Journalism International.

Obliterated towns and villages, a quarter of a million civilian deaths, and young faces exposed to the barbaric atrocities of warfare. Unfortunately, these scenes of global dissonance are real for many Middle Eastern communities witnessing the rampage of Daesh. As the death toll increases, the extremists’ abominable threat to humanity must come to an end. However, destroying the moral high ground through airstrikes is surely no way to a peaceful global society.

Wednesday evening saw Prime Minister David Cameron and opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn lead British MPs into one of the most divisive votes of the decade. Westminster representatives voted 397 to 223 in favour of pursuing airstrikes on Daesh militants. As the richest terror organisation in the world, having yielded a gross income of over 2.9 billion US Dollars in recent years, this extremist pandemic must undeniably be fast terminated. However, the means by which infected Middle Eastern communities are inoculated against this political disease has proven to be a contentious issue amongst British voters. Yesterday evening’s decision, after an impassioned debate, showed that there is growing confidence in Syrian airstrikes amongst MPs, crushing the caliphate. However, after news of airstrikes during Thursday morning, a significant proportion of the electorate made its discontent known, after weeks of preceding protest.

The case for the use of weapons in order to deplete the influence of Daesh is blatantly flawed. Politicians have devilishly branded use of weapons as a quick fix to this new age of Islamist insurgency, wiping out key leaders and reducing the ability of forces. But the legacy of such intervention would have huge consequences, a truth which lurks behind Cameron’s façade of diplomatic strength.

2003 interventions against the similarly repulsive regime of Saddam Hussein still taint British society today. Haven’t our politicians noticed that an identical situation exists in comparing Iraqi invasions with possibilities in Syria today?  Iraqi intervention has, in the long run, meant more harm than safety, with retaliation coming at the expense of innocent civilian destruction. Many of our politicians, and albeit those of coalition nations, relax knowing that livelihoods of innocent civilians will be annihilated. Strategists claim that the latest technology can reduce destruction, but there is no guarantee that airstrikes won’t cause despair amongst guiltless individuals. An alarming 1.7 million were killed due to brutality of Western attacks in Iraq. Furthermore, over the first three years of intervention, almost a third of all deaths were deemed to be the result of Western forces. And twelve years on Iraqis are still subdued by the air of plight. Every day, civilians cast their eyes over the houses, schools and other institutions which once were, now reduced to rubble.

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Questioning the legitimacy of this intervention is vital. A vast number of voters simply cannot see sense behind the UK Cabinet’s decision. Government for the people instead of with the people has never become more obvious. 66 of 218 Labour MPs sitting in the House of Commons voted in favour of airstrikes, whilst only 13% of the Labour party’s subscribed electorate supporters firmly supported such intervention. Values of social democracy which the Labour party claims to stand for have been challenged outright. Of course, democracy will always create losers, favouring the majority decision. However, the British government has wholly disregarded the views of its people in presiding over such a contentious issue. Pollster YouGov revealed slashed electorate support for airstrikes this morning with only a mere 48% in support of David Cameron’s Daesh policy. It is abhorrent that Labour members and, of course, Conservative government members, have disregarded the views of large numbers. There can surely be no clearer showcase of governmental bureaucracy as our elected representatives fail to act on opinions of the people.

There is simply no obvious equilibrium. Airstrikes would lead only to a very short-term gain, and long-lasting disparity.  The consequences of a smashed-up society are evidently too great for much of the British population to stomach. In aiming to defeat Daesh, the same dangerous legacy as that of Iraq will haunt us in coming years, and further terror attacks on our now vulnerable nation are imminent. Whilst intrusive, in these extreme circumstances, close surveillance tactics should be employed instead, amongst strategies in order to limit the presence of Daesh in our global community. The virtues of discussion, and not those of violent weapons, should be embraced by all. Dialogue can and should build bridges, leading citizens of all backgrounds into a more prosperous and peaceful humanity.

The Prime Minister’s vehement labelling of opponents to airstrikes as ‘terrorist sympathisers’ is unacceptable. Advocates of peace are those who retain the moral high ground, and those who promote the safe world which we all aspire to. David Cameron has removed the bandage of a wound which will continue to bleed for years to come. Global harmony has been pushed years further away, an unforgivable move.

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