UK Politics

In this election, Britain is neither left nor right, but a smörgåsbord of opinion

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The British electoral landscape is at its most volatile in years, Brexit dominates doorstep pleas, and the Tories just thought it would have been easier. Now, either Jeremy Corbyn or Theresa May will set foot in Number 10 tomorrow. Today at the polls, where class becomes more and more irrelevant, voters must make an informed choice based on issues alone.  

This time, both main parties offer policies further away from the centre ground. Despite the mudslinging, the chaotic radio interviews and the backfired soundbites, issues matter most. No longer can we expect, as last year’s Brexit victory showed, working class voters to continually side with the socialists, after the populist hijacking of globalisation, portraying it as something impossible to balance with home affairs, rather than something bringing great opportunity and success. Similarly, no longer can we expect wealthier and more middle class voters to always side with the Conservatives. Class boundaries have become so hazy that we may even question the effectiveness of predicting outcomes based on wallets, and indeed the current working or middle-upper class dichotomy. This is the end of big party tribalism in UK politics. 

Today’s snap vote, originally designed to erode the foundations of the Labour party, has instead reshaped the British political landscape, bringing the resurrection of the left-wing that Theresa May only two months ago thought was dead. 

The past two months of campaigning have indicated that Britain is about to pass through an important political portal, however. At the end of this campaign, the Labour and Conservative parties will not be the same as they were several months ago. Party politics is no longer, as Clement Attlee, Tony Blair, and David Cameron seemed to believe, entirely about class. Instead, politics is now more about policy, and more particular factions. Whilst we can still describe parties as either left of right of the spectrum, voters cannot rely on leaders to speak for one entire branch of society; the entirety of the left or the right.

In this election, both main parties have tried to catch-all, looking to reel in all sorts of voters, regardless of class. With May’s focus on strength and stability, and Corbyn’s impetus on governing for the greater good instead of the top 1%, both campaigns have run with messages which partly forget class divisions. One of the most astonishing developments of the Brexit vote only last June was that it leapt across social class boundaries. 

As a result, Theresa May has attempted to prove that Brexit is a transformation which can benefit all – the disenchanted working class, and the wealthy who look to abandon the red tape of the European Union. Similarly, the Labour Party, with its campaign of compassion and a celebration of society, has tried to attract both voters on average incomes, and even the most high-end of champagne socialists.

Right-wing and left-wing parallels can still be drawn with the main parties’ respective social care policies and increases in corporation tax. But largely, Labour and the Tories are out there to grab everyone. Myriad columnists and political scientists have reported that the Conservative manifesto is – wait for it – surprisingly socialist in places, regulating the energy industry, and even talking about a kind of centre ground in its manifesto.

But are the main parties really that similar? In reality, however, Theresa May’s party remains adamant that an intensely right-wing Brexit will be a success. Similarly, Corbyn’s Labour party remains quintessentially 70s-style socialist in places. The two parties, however, as much as they have tried to appeal to all, still remain within their individual right-wing and left-wing camps. Crucially, the two parties don’t even represent the entirety of their right or left wing bases, instead arguably speaking only for smaller details of the bigger picture – Brexiteers for the Tories, and traditional socialists for Labour.

Perhaps, therefore, the Tory party represents only Brexiteers. If this be the case, surely much of the British population remains unaccounted for. Not even Theresa May herself voted for Brexit. As for Jeremy Corbyn, he may have achieved overwhelming success in the past month, but there still exists a fiery branch of more Blairite, New Labour-oriented MPs, who have received little limelight since Corbyn’s anti-Tory crusade gained real traction over a month ago. New Labour MPs in the next Parliament will surely be keen to flex their muscles.

Not everyone can be a winner. Perhaps this is just a fact of democracy. But as society breaks down into more specific groupings, with more fluid conceptions of class, perhaps the big, social class aggregate party is now dead, and can be rendered impractical. Trans-class issues have dominated this election. The Tories are quietly torn between Brexit and liberal internationalism. The Labour party have, until only very recently, found themselves sitting on the fence between Corbyn’s radical socialism and the Blairite third way. How can these parties now appeal to all, if they represent one distinct portion of their ideological wings, let alone their entire right-wing or left-wing sides? Perhaps there is a new gap in the political market. 

There are several possible solutions – firstly, that the catch-all, all-encompassing party becomes successful in pleasing all (a rather utopian idea, based on this campaign and the politics of previous years). Secondly, the UK political landscape could break down, heralding a wider range of political parties, each reflecting different pools of political opinion, welcoming a new proportional system of voting. Or, parties could learn to agree internally – something that the Tories have performed at better over Brexit. Hopefully, however, Corbyn sceptics will consider the success of the party leader of late, and run with his more socialist manifesto.

Chiefly, perhaps our political system is outdated, with a need for rejuvenation if it is to facilitate a wide-range of political opinions. I fear that, despite the successes of Jeremy Corbyn in this campaign, the numerous New Labour supporters in the PLP will rise up against him if Theresa May wins on Friday morning. Furthermore, if Theresa May pushes on with her Brexit agenda, perhaps centrism will resurgence, as Corbyn and May polarise the system. Perhaps a more centrist force like French President Emmanuel Macron’s La République en Marche will soon come to the fore.

Centrism needn’t be the answer, and could only confuse things more, aiming to match the weaker right-wingers with left-behind Blairites. The Labour party may find itself with relative post-election peace, allowing Corbyn to do his socialist job. If intra-party feuds spawn, however, a pluralist proportional system could be the answer.

Today, however, the message is clear. Voters must vote based on the issues. Prime Minister Theresa May has shown herself to be unaccountable in debates, and has proven that a vote for the Tories is a blank cheque for Brexit. The Conservative Party’s plans for Brexit will turn the nation into a bargain basement economy. The party’s record, which so many government ministers have suggested that voters examine, shows myriad cuts to public services, and an NHS on its knees. Food banks shouldn’t have to be the core of so many communities. May has revealed herself as a leader who isn’t afraid to overlook the disgraces of Donald Trump’s presidency, let big business take the controls, turn away from the massive benefits of free movement, or broker deals with dodgy dictators. What’s more, reducing the effects of climate change isn’t high on Theresa May’s creaky agenda.

By contrast, Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign has galvanised much of the British population, and re-engineered the left’s platform. Once the media abandoned him, the Labour leader was last year deemed all too quickly as someone who just wasn’t electable. Reducing the Tory party lead from over 25 points to five would show otherwise.

Corbyn’s Labour Party has shown that it stands up for progressive politics in Britain, and is a truly possible antidote to May’s damaging game plan. Under Corbyn, work may truly pay, and public services will be injected with new life. Labour’s insult-free campaign of compassion, morality and straight-talking socialism has worked wonders. Labour will defend important human rights, uphold Britain’s place as just one cog in a complex international civil society where individual nations cannot always supremely call the shots, and reduce hardship at home and abroad. The nurturing of human success will be placed at the heart of society.

Corbyn’s campaign has been revolutionary, and a much-needed breath of fresh air for the electorate and those who feel upset by the failings of New Labour. Even in opposition, Corbyn has finally given a platform to those left behind. His supporters will not easily fade into the background. However, his next mission is to keep the Blairites at bay, just as Theresa May must calm down the more internationalist, liberal conservatives if she wants to be successful. Class is growing less irrelevant in UK politics, and voters instead shop around on issues and manifestos. Both May and Corbyn now have the tricky task of healing the divides in their parties as they veer their respective right and left wings in specific directions. Failing to do so could mean great constitutional change for the UK, if the huge class-driven aggregate parties which have for so long defined the UK’s political landscape soon fail to speak for all.

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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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