europe, society, UK Politics, World Politics

The EU referendum has highlighted not only the European Union’s faults

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The pollsters had, for several days, proclaimed an easy win for Remain, and even UKIP’s Nigel Farage, known for his strong-willed politics, suspended his Brexit celebrations yesterday at 10pm. As much of the UK population downed tools last night, Prime Minister David Cameron and his team believed that a victory for the Remain camp was in the bag, and that their futures were secure.

But after a passionate yet emotive speech from David Cameron this morning, it is clear that a defeat for the Europhiles was in fact the reality, and that it would cause an almighty stir. Conceding Remain’s defeat after a tumultuous EU referendum campaign, it was his nemesis Boris Johnson’s turn to breathe the sigh of relief. Hailing a win for his Vote Leave campaign wasn’t the only feature of his unusually civilised speech, however.

Shortly after Cameron’s unexpected news, Johnson paid tribute to “one of the most extraordinary politicians of our age”, Cameron soon to set out on a departure of his own. After watching our politicians spearhead a somewhat childish referendum campaign, featuring many old playground tactics, we must question the credibility of our leaders and their Establishment.

Today’s marginally winning, but evidently considerable, support for an end to the UK’s relationship with the European Union tells us many things. Leaving the EU will have a monumental impact on our nation’s operation, and may well tear the threads which tie the United Kingdom together – now with all the more fragility – apart.

Whilst the wealth of support for the campaign to leave the EU has shown that the continental community is problematic, it also provides us with alarming truths of our own society. The European Establishment is obviously at fault, but in the same way, that of the United Kingdom is, too. Citizens throughout England, Wales, and parts of Northern Ireland, primarily, are evidently finding the current political regime tiresome.

It is nothing short of devastating that so many have been compelled to reject a co-operative European administration which keeps its member states in line, and that a huge proportion of our nation’s trade and investment opportunities have become suddenly fractured. In addition, the air of common culture that only the European Union was able to promote and diversify has become smoggy. Our borders will soon be barred, and our ability to co-operate easily on the largest of international issues has been shattered.

The overwhelming gains made by Johnson, Gove and Farage have shown that the entire political Establishment has failed many a British citizen, and that the status quo is not working. Such numerous working class Leave votes throughout the Midlands, the North of England and Wales were surely fuelled by the failings of past years’ budgets to revolutionise living and working standards for the most deprived. As London and Scotland voted overwhelmingly for a seat at the European table, it is clear to see the divide between these culturally diverse epicentres and communities which feel hard done by with current government.

With blatant lies and scaremongering, the campaign agenda of Vote Leave in many cases revolved around playing to the fears of the electorate. A debate which featured not a conversation on the nature of free movement, but instead xenophobia, failed to focus on the positives of a vote to leave the European Union. A campaign which has revolved around the demonisation of minorities, and the confusion of many voters who have become caught up in a bog of sly statistics has generated fear and instability throughout endless scores of communities.

Doesn’t this form of campaign strategy in itself paint a vivid picture of our decaying Establishment? Our nation’s political integrity has hit a very low point. Whilst the EU referendum has now been won, no one can dismiss the tricky tactics deployed by those advocating for a vote to leave Europe. The degrading tone of many of our politicians over the past ten weeks has shown that the UK must fast restore its social respect. For the obsession with blame and fear that has dominated the EU debate has only boosted the tense culture which flows throughout many British communities.

Let us not forget one of the most important aspects of this year’s referendum. Hasty to combat the imminent threat that UKIP posed to British politics, and keen to restore Tory party unity, it was Prime Minister David Cameron who dug his own grave by risking the referendum.

Cameron is responsible for a campaign of scaremongering himself, but his intent on using a matter of great public interest in order to heal the Tory party has come back to kick him. Perhaps one of the greatest mistakes of the Establishment this time was its focus on careerism, and its desperation for political advantage, adamant that the discussion would effortlessly stamp out UKIP. Many would argue that Boris Johnson secretly hoped that a win for Vote Leave would help to cement his future as a Prime Ministerial candidate. Instead, the Tory party has cost itself valuable allies and its credibility. The Prime Minister’s running away from Downing Street today speaks loud enough volumes. His ‘master plan’ to redeem the Conservative party of populist threat has markedly backfired.

Scotland’s mammoth 62-38 vote in favour of staying within the European Union has shown the intense social divide between our two nations all the more. The UK Establishment has been unable to smoothen out the arduous terrain of the new political landscape, already reshaped by pro-Scottish independence sentiment. Of course, the Scottish remain vote was nothing at all of a protest, unlike the possible intentions of those across England and Wales. But the robust links of Scotland with the EU have shown Scotland’s distinct mindset, and has only made Westminster’s relationship with Holyrood more prickly.

Surely after such a game-changing campaign and result, the Establishment will not be able to rest comfortably for many nights to come. Today’s vote result was undoubtedly a loud SOS from many who feel largely discontented with the European Union’s present operation. But the surprise victory of Vote Leave has served to pose new challenges for the British Establishment. Its fear-centric campaign has shown that the UK must find a new source of political integrity, and today’s unforeseen victory has highlighted that many feel failed by politics within the EU, and the UK.

The Establishment in itself has wrecked Britain, and has killed its own chances of success. But it didn’t have to be this way. Populism is the fault of governments around the world. Euroscepticism and right-wing populism has the failings of our global Establishments right at the heart of its rapid spread.

It is now only the Establishment which must restore public confidence and diminish its own detriment. It is only the Establishment which can start to once again champion the hardworking people of British society, and support the deprived. And it is only the Establishment which can pop the dreams of future right-wing populists such as Donald Trump by treading the moral high ground.

If the EU referendum has proven anything, it has proven that our leaders have made a great mistake in trying to combine political advantage with serious questions of the position of Britain in the world. The British Establishment’s fearful campaign tactics have displayed the lack of political dignity that surrounds our nation’s decision-making process. Surely our leaders wish to avoid further calamity. But to do so, they must first restore themselves and their own structures.

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europe, society, UK Politics, World Politics

Politics isn’t about what you favour, but instead about what you don’t

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It has been a long time since I have heard predominantly good things being spoken of a politician, the current political landscape, or their policies. Perhaps some of the moments which last sparked jubilation in the political sphere were when Barack Obama was elected as the first black US President, when Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was last seen conversing naturally with a group of – actually interested – schoolchildren, or when German Chancellor Angela Merkel stood in front of Syrian refugees with open arms.

But it seems that right now, political contentment is at a low. The tone of debate around the world has degraded in recent months, and many of our politicians and their policies seem to revolve around counteracting some form of societal evil. Every day we are instructed that immigrants, nuclear power stations, or even Donald Trump will be the reason for the world’s end. Energised by multiple failings from both above and below, a wide range of voters, activists, and ordinaries have come to believe that politics is not working, a pessimistic and tiresome mindset which is fuelling politics of bitterness.

This advent has helped to kick-start fiery anti-establishment groups, seeing a rise in politics which focuses on resenting specific parts of society, creating a dangerous political culture. This engagement with ‘blame; policy is rapidly increasing, and is having a somewhat devastating side-effect. Whilst many citizens are, of course, uniting in opposition against what they deem to be most threatening to themselves and society, many are detrimentally turning hurtfully against certain social groups, in some cases minimising minorities and bolstering fear.

A handful of recent events serve to prove this. Only last week, the shooting of British MP Jo Cox showed that a sad minority believes in an act as shameful as killing an elected official. In recent days, Italy’s main anti-establishment party has made huge gains, Italy not the only country to see such a rise. Worldwide, the refugee crisis – the biggest movement of people since The Second World War – has provoked mixed sentiment, including a large pool of anti-immigrant protesters, and in many areas, even xenophobic and racist feelings. And a couple of months ago, the Panama Papers revelations exposed large-scale wrongdoing across global governments, fuelling anti-establishment feeling all the more.

It is no wonder that citizens across the world are bored with such endless, fruitless rhetoric. Fear and hatred are fast coming to define politics as citizens see no other remedy to their ailing governments and communities. Wrongdoing within government, a selfish hostility to an influx of immigrants, and resentment towards our MPs are each playing a part in tearing up society. Politics now revolves around marginalisation – not celebration of the good qualities which enhance our nation.

So, who is at fault for the culture of torment and blame which is reconstructing our political culture? Many would argue that society itself is causing the problem. The rise in barbaric terrorist acts shows that much of the gusto for wreaking havoc comes from the people. But it does indeed look like the Establishment has a monumental part to play. In many cases, electorates around the world have turned dead set on voting for manifestos which show pent up discontent with their current rulers. Recent corruption in relation to financial wrongdoing and offshore accounts, the polarisation of our political parties – fostering such intense left and right wings – and the rise of such casually outspoken leaders such as Donald Trump and Nigel Farage are each contributing to a new politics stubbornness. In the same way as many of our politicians, scores of voters now flippantly find anyone to blame for the worst of societal calamities. The success of anti-immigration ideals and anti-establishment policy emphasises that such an ethos is becoming increasingly – and somewhat worryingly – commonplace.

Hatred and blame are becoming international epidemics, diseasing our politics. On the social media stage, and even on our streets, jibes aimed at specific minorities are growing worryingly normal. The demonisation of a select few is creating an all too casual class of resentment amongst both voters and our leaders – incumbent and prospective. When, indeed, will an air of acceptance, teamwork and common good return to the fore of society’s mind? Without definite steps towards a strong emphasis on co-operation and interdependence, Britain will grow alien to the world in the same way that many deem outsiders as alien to Britain.

If anything, at least our democracy is functioning properly. A healthy democracy must have channels for opposition, but the scale of dissent is becoming too huge. As governments struggle to deal with new political, social and economic challenges, a blaring national forum is playing out. Our principles of free speech and the ability to challenge are evidently strongly in place. But out nation’s obsession with opposition, and the willingness of albeit very few to marginalise set individuals may soon have the adverse effect. The sudden influx of political discontent and the deeply rooted challenges that many pose to the status quo could see the destruction of our democracy.

Perhaps I am, in some ways, no better than the few who continue to rage, exaggerating the pessimism which seems to surround Britain’s politics. Whilst opposition is a fundamentally good thing for politics, the movements in which a select few citizens are involved are turning the act of standing up to certain policies into a license for hatred and resentment. If our politicians and citizens are adamant to blame an failing establishment and lax leaders, perhaps it is indeed our representatives who are wrong, and it is those who continue to fuel such a dirty discussion. Maybe when Britain starts to re-energise its public services, a blame on migrants will diminish, and our discussion will become cleaner. Maybe when our government proves to be truly in touch and right on the level of the people, anti-establishment and its needless addiction to blame will fade away. And maybe when leaders who believe in the acceptance of racial slurs and scaremongering step down from the podium, society will start to rebuild its bridges.

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society, UK Politics

The Westminster system is halting UK political progress

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It doesn’t take the most keen of political junkies to tell that British party politics is reaching a frustrating stalemate. The Labour party, since the growth in support for – and election of – Jeremy Corbyn, has become the arena bearing witness to fierce internal strife over its position on many issues. But the current debate over Britain’s membership of the European Union has smashed the complacency of many Conservatives who believed they were safe from the epidemic of divide. A huge rift has developed between staunch supporters of David Cameron and other hard-line Eurosceptics. If anything, this is a stark message alluding to the evidently out-of-date Westminster Establishment.

The election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour party last year marked a significant turning point in Labour policy. Torn between the Blairite ‘third way’ and Corbyn’s by-the-book socialism, vast numbers of MPs are struggling to find much common ground. The Tories have proven to struggle with similar issues of their own, with a camp strongly in favour of ideas from further right, and war over the quandaries in relation to immigration and EU status.

This is worrying for a democracy like Great Britain. If parties fail to wholeheartedly unite and allow such instability to thrive, the future of British government looks bleak. The current Westminster structure is outdated and old-fashioned, unable to adapt to the specificities of modern day voting behaviour. There is simply no way that Britain can be forced to mould itself into such an uncomfortable structure which takes only a few indecisive policy options into account. Without change, governments will become ineffective, oppositions feeble, and the electorate switched off.

This issues lie with the Establishment and its pace alongside a fast-changing society.  Our main political parties of Labour and the Conservatives were once formed with the target of aggregating their respective working and middle class citizens. But nowadays, our political society cannot operate in this way. Social class is now far less important for voters than it was during the war-time and post-war periods.

Thus, the factors of gender, political personality, age, location, and simply the precise issues themselves have gained in astounding importance over the past decade. The attempts of many ‘catch-all’ parties in Britain, and further around the world, to gain the support of the average voter may be somewhat genius abroad, but is seemingly not practical in the UK. The diversity of our nation’s society today means that each person is looking for something different from politicians, and our leaders are failing to inspire each and every one of them. The Westminster parties in Britain are struggling to adapt to the new challenges of the 21st century, and aren’t succeeding in raking in the trust of all sorts. The British political system is stuck in the past in its old social class boundaries, and needs new rules.

So how can Westminster become the dynamic environment for engaging political debate that it once was? The people and the society are in place, but the institutions aren’t keeping up with the electorate’s transformation. The fact that both of the largest parties must deal with somewhat eternal internal splits, and juggle two very different pools of policy, must hint that the political framework of the UK needs to be taken a part and put back together again.

PR is the answer. Many reports have shown that if proportional representation had been used in recent elections, the share of seats in parliament would be markedly different. In 2015, the SNP in Scotland would have seen substantially less seats, UKIP would have achieved a whopping increase, and the Liberal Democrats would gain a position as fourth party in parliament with a 7% share. The key advantage with PR, is that it is a modern system designed for a modern society, which takes the growth in issue voting into account. The most important thing is, however, that PR would nurture Conservative and Labour party splits which are much needed for any form of progress. PR would not mean instant death to one of the parties’ internal camps, but would build a separate party stage allowing them to truly proclaim their message, instead of begrudgingly succumbing to their inner opposition.

Perhaps the Tories and Labour would be reluctant to split currently, eager to cling onto their inevitably greater share of power through the First Past the Post system. But in the next ten years, unless both sides unite, the crevasse will grow deeper and a parting looks inevitable. Separate parties with pacts on their similarities, giving a degree of leeway for their differences would revolutionise the Westminster system and make the party system considerably more workable.

We need a change. Through a complete overhaul of the Westminster institution via voting system, politics would become fairer and more true. Certainly, large sections of Britain would become more politically engaged, waving goodbye to the blockaded politics we have witnessed for too many months. Many societies worldwide have made the change, including Germany, New Zealand, and, of course, Scotland. It is time for Westminster to follow suit. If the London Establishment continues to trudge on in Westminster – the abyss of torment and interparty battles – Britain’s democracy will become decayed and society will grow bored of the nation’s dysfunctional decision-making.

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economy, europe, society, UK Politics, World Politics

The economy is the UK’s only care in global matters

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As the judgment day that is June 23rd fast approaches, the nature of Britain’s foreign policy and its international relations have never before been placed under greater scrutiny. The European Union referendum has meant intense discussion of UK parliamentary sovereignty, global spending, and the nation’s relationships with neighbouring states. But our nation’s ties with states located in Europe aren’t the only ones coming into question.

Past weeks have given ear to the dissonance regarding international affairs across the whole world – most specifically, in the USA. More often known as TTIP, the planned Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership between America and the EU is set to boost the global economy, but at a considerable price. Myriad MPs and activists have voiced concern in recent weeks, claiming that the new Atlantic agreement would put public service operations at risk of privatisation, reduce the UK’s financial regulatory powers, and that a robust, European, ethical framework would begin to break down.

What is driving the steady support for the introduction of TTIP is what has always driven the capitalist West – money. It is easy to see that TTIP is attractive from the outset, providing grand chances for the further stimulation of the US and EU economies. Experts have estimated that the agreement would mean a global financial boost of around $100m. The prospects of a stronger world economy are plausible, but cannot come at the expense of a great loss in parliamentary sovereignty to multinationals, and a loss of focus upon the global common good that the EU at least tries to instill. Numerous EU directives would become quickly overridden, and big businesses are sure to have a draconian power influence not only over parliament, but across all of society.

The truth is unravelling all too quickly. The rise in Euroscepticism, meaning an obvious rethink of Britain’s relationships with its neighbours, is showing that our global affairs are not based on camaraderie at all. Many of us do not identify as Europeans, and do not share the sense of community that helps to construct many states in the Eurozone. Innumerable pieces of legislation are born in and baptised by the EU, and it is clear that, for some, its collective direction has shaped our nation’s decision-making process a little too much. Political advantage and dialogue is not what Britain’s politicians seek from the likes of Merkel and Juncker anymore.

During the campaign leading up to 1973 – when Britain gained EU membership – one of the biggest cases in favour of the transition was the almost instantaneous economic advantage. Still, the economy lies at the heart of Britain’s colony in Europe. Neither peace nor teamwork are foremost here. Britain can’t have joined in order to work for the common good like many of those who signed up to the post-war European Community. The stubbornness of the British government over recent months, and from a large proportion of the British people, has made this blatantly obvious. Britain has gained all it wants to from the EU. Trading relationships for several decades have moved the nation back into the spotlight, and the nation’s politicians have maintained and increased the nature’s stature.

Perhaps the European Union has now politically exhausted the United Kingdom. Whilst it would secure increased sovereignty, if the UK votes to leave in just over three weeks’ time, it needs to ensure a back-up plan for its economy. Capitalist America is prime stomping ground, of course. Right-wingers are tired of the EU’s legislative infringement, a burden to a nation that seems to look primarily at its economic standpoint instead.

If Britain chooses to stay, a world of benefits is still available from all directions. But the tasks of interstate teamwork and the concessions that it commands are proving to be too much for vast numbers of national Eurosceptics. Britain and many of its people are willing to forego ethical standards set by the EU, and risk the security of vital public services – anything to ensure that the nation’s economic ballast does not take a hit.

The UK has always been a wily character when it comes to global affairs. Its position in the European Union was, from the start, one that was painstakingly scrutinised and adapted. Looking at the nation’s relationships abroad with a predominantly narrow, economic focus can explain not only the EU and TTIP quandaries, but also the controversial UK-led Saudi arms trade, and Britain’s closed door approach to the refugee crisis.

A devastating side effect of this highly capitalist, 100% economy focus is that any form of moral high ground is likely to disappear from Britain’s view of the political landscape. Neighbouring states and global organisations continue to allow Britain to meticulously negotiate its way into economic partnerships of all kind. In turn, buying into more agreements like TTIP and the EU, seeking only economic benefit, will only degrade the UK’s moral high ground when working on international matters.

Those who favour a Brexit on June 23rd choose to advocate for an odd but somewhat entertaining juxtaposition. The EU is said to be the world’s freest global marketplace. But whilst claiming that the economic case is the most important thing at stake during the EU debate, those backing Vote Leave are essentially supporting a major economic climb-down for the UK. TTIP may stimulate the economy to an extent, but it will take time to build up the success that the UK has had with Europe. Why leave what has been one of the UK’s most sturdy support bases for many decades?  For sure, a Brexit would mean returning to many controversial operations, create social, political and economic animosity all over the European continent, and significantly reduce Britain’s moral standards in both trade and manufacture.

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economy, Industry, UK Politics

Ideologies and EU unease prevented an easy win over British steel

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Entering the third week of the British steel saga, the Conservative government’s indecisiveness over Brexit has begun to show. Tory Business Secretary Sajid Javid, alongside a wealth of government colleagues, has pledged to support a strong British steel sector. But shouldn’t the government have grasped the European Union’s hand in order to nurse the steelworks’ wounds?

The answer is most definitely ‘yes.’ Needless to say, evident Tory laxity over British steel  has proven that many see no merit whatsoever in saving Tata Steel. With strong international imports from the East, along with a heavy government focus on business and services instead, steel girders are no longer used as the supports upon which the UK stands.

The British government’s handling of the ailing Tata Steel has been arguably problematic. Hearing the piercing blare of alarm bells set off by a slowing of European exports, the international community has been moved to protect substantial parts of their economies.

Britain seems to have taken a different route, however. Several days ago, Conservative Party-affiliated MEPs were amongst a select few within the European Parliament to block the imposition of import tariffs on set products entering Europe – especially those products delivered at a cheaper price than those of EU nations’ workforces. The Tories did have their chance to rival the emerging Chinese heavy industries monopoly, but interestingly enough chose not to.

Whilst I don’t doubt that those in government truly want to better the national economy, political tactics and ideology have prevailed just too much. Actions have certainly spoken louder than the words of the Conservatives over the past fortnight have. It is clear that a tactical statement of British EU resentment has markedly backfired. A vote which showed a standing up for hardworking people which the Conservatives insist on assisting, and a pledge to continue with the Tories’ British economic rejuvenation could well have scored the party points in the British steel sector. It seems that the responses of Sajid Javid to events currently battling with him are a cry out for a reformed European Union, or perhaps even a reiteration of the hefty Conservative Eurosceptic presence.

In addition, it is evident that the Conservatives have toed their traditionally laissez-faire line once again. Minimal state ownership has proven to be a key part of Cameron’s administration, as reflected by increasingly privatised housing, amenities and health services. This time, the Tories’ opinions on British manufacturing have similarly been presented loud and clear. But small-scale investment seems to have produced a measly gain this time. After the Business Secretary has adamantly refused to directly fund British steel, it seems that the government will now have to at least ‘co-invest’ in the industry.

Political advantage and European Union protest have sharply backstabbed the Tories. The current steel saga continues. The Conservatives should re-emerge relatively unscathed, somewhat covered over by Cameron’s tax revelations shifting the media’s focus. This time, however, the playing of party tactics has caused Javid problems, and the adoption of strict Conservative ideology has become an evident setback.

Today, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund Christine Lagarde preached that the UK’s possible exit from the European Union could prove detrimental to the global economy. In relation to British steel, this must provoke a Conservative rethink. Economic solidarity and political compromise are the way forward. Sajid Javid’s team has fatally rejected a perfectly viable EU solution for progressing the repair of Britain’s manufacturing sector. The most unforgiveable part of his oversight is that it may well have been willful. Haunted by the possibilities of Brexit and the party’s strict ideological traditions, David Cameron’s government could have scored easily here with even the most hardcore of Conservatives.

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Business, UK Politics

Businesses mustn’t get too big for their boots when it comes to tax

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Google, Amazon, Vodafone and Apple are just a few of the multinationals which have made the headlines in recent months, but not only because of the revolutionary products and services upon which so many of us rely.

Over the past few months, the aforementioned companies, amongst many others, have received stark warnings over heinous tax avoidance schemes. Towards the end of December, it was revealed that Apple owes at least €880m in tax to the Italian government. Only in the same month had a startling report been published detailing over 500 corporations who had not paid their fair share in Australia, and this month it has come to light that Google has failed to pay anywhere near its 20% corporation tax. It seems that there will be no end to the corporation tax saga anytime soon.

Whilst our government takes away support for those whom day-to-day struggles for necessities is a reality, we should in fact be turning our attention to the activities of big business.

Many of the most prominent household name brands are simply not punished enough for this staggering wrongdoing. The extent of tax exploitation indeed involves only the very few, but the extent of the problem is far-reaching. In actual fact, Google has only had to pay back £130m in taxes, a mere fraction of their dues which have spanned the past decade. Further to this, Apple paid back to Italian authorities only €318m to ‘settle’ the dispute, a fee which again does not amount to full payment. Here, there is a fundamental flaw. The point of this repayment should not be to ‘settle’ any arguments. Companies should have to pay back their full debts in order to feel some real pressure and eradicate such fiendish tactics.

One thing is clear. Tax avoidance is eroding our society’s core economic values and our precious rule of law. Hard punishment for culprit companies must become real. In this era of capitalism, which has albeit seen a sparkling global economy, the organisations with a monopoly have an increasingly strong hold over political and economic agenda of our nation. Once one company takes advantage of the system, the rest will follow. The Conservative leadership is evidently failing to attack the underhand game plan of some companies, a government strategy which is punishing the poor and rewarding the deceit of the wealthy.

Without the contributions of organisations at the centre of our society, development of our nationwide economy will become slow and arduous. Multinational companies must give something back in order to support the small businesses which may one day grow to follow in their footsteps.

The European Union’s plans to finitely control tax payments from businesses in the light of these revelations is thus reassuring. Chancellor George Osborne must indeed keep businesses on his side but regulate them strongly, in the same way that the ordinary citizen is kept in line. Britain’s tax body, HMRC, must become more transparent and accountable to the public, making sure that all contribute their fair share.

A market economy like that of the United Kingdom can be hugely successful, but the recent tax scandals have proven that a degree of real state regulation is paramount. Britain’s monetary future must have fairness in its roots, a concept which must further become the spirit of our large businesses.

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