UK Politics

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

may%20corbyn.png

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.

Standard
Environment, UK Politics, World Politics

Solidarity will ensure that Britain wards off climate change

2015-12-15-1450217701-4796923-COP21finale.jpg

Next week, scores of international leaders will descend upon New York, finally ratifying 2015’s ambitious climate change agreement. Rising temperatures, health-degrading pollution and a fast diminishing stock of fossil fuels are just some of the issues which lie shrouded in the tormenting black clouds of climate change. Last year’s treaty, penned in Paris, saw myriad states commit to a collective effort aimed at reducing carbon emissions worldwide. It is thus evident that for many governments, environmental instability is a serious problem which faces their populations. It does seem, however, that for the British government, – among others – dealing with the consequences of modern practices is far too low down on the agenda.

In past months, an alarming plethora of environmental calamities has emerged. Extraction of fossil fuels and thick pollution in cities may not seem like such disasters at the moment. However, according to many a scientist, the effects will span much longer timescales than many would ever have believed. Only last week, NASA announced that the way the earth spins is taking an unprecedented turn for the worse – sorry – as a result of rapidly melting ice caps. Furthermore, it has been recently forecast that as much as $2.5tn of material assets which are essential to humanity could become destroyed due to rapid climate change. To top that, new surveys have today pinpointed numerous low-lying landscapes which may cease to exist as our oceans continue to swell. This really is no time to be joking. Climate change is fast taking its toll, populations around the world are placed at greater risk, and our race is becoming severely threatened.

It seems that protection from the possible havoc of climate change should be a government responsibility. The United Kingdom has been particularly sluggish in its efforts, and whilst long-term prosperity is key to national success, future generations will profoundly suffer unless the necessity of sustaining our existence is brought to the fore. Without long-term co-operation internationally, as well as the force that comes with EU membership, Britain seems in danger of becoming increasingly oblivious to growing environmental issues.

Casting an eye over Chancellor George Osborne’s latest budget, it is clear that the government’s gusto for tackling climate change is feeble. Whilst the Conservative administration continues its rhetoric, proclaiming that the imminent climate apocalypse is one of the greatest issues facing the nation, strong preventative measures are simply non-existent. In the 2016 budget alone, funding for tackling climate change was minute. Increases in dealing with flood prevention did materialise, but only very moderate investment has been given to renewable energy. Instead, nuclear energy, despite many experts warning that the source is not viable for the long-term, received a boost. Incentives for solar energy installations have been drastically cut, too. Cameron must be blustering. Environmental sustainability is not as high a national priority as it should be, a huge mistake which may inevitably entangle future generations.

This month’s ultimate submission to the Paris agreement will one again reiterate that solidarity is paramount. Surely this will push our officials to choose sustainable options throughout each of our societies, and get our governments working for the common good. What is already a great matter of concern for surrounding nations must now become that of Britain, too. A vote to remain in the European Union ensures that our foreign partners can check upon our sometimes slacking government. Total membership within our vibrant global society and with its collective organisations enables reinforcement of our joint missions.

Brexit will damage our environmental focus. Britain will simply become too relaxed with a vote to leave on 23 June. Perhaps with next week’s full endorsement of the Paris agreement will shed a stronger light on the growing challenges facing our planet. The UK too easily surrenders in the fight to keep our societies safe from the inevitable perils of nature. It’s time that we passionately stood side-by-side with our international companions. Only then can we truly minimise the very real threat which could make our days increasingly gloomy in years to come.

Standard
Environment, UK Politics

Climate change is coming, and the UK should be ready to face it

1364030968826 - Copy

Amid a season of peace to all, it is clear that even the most comforting and soothing attributes of the winter season are not currently extended to all British people. Storm Frank has taken its toll on the nation, wrecking communities and causing disparities which contrast with the usual warmth felt by many in this festive period. Those in Southern Scotland and Northern England have been forced to evacuate and close small businesses, Welsh residents have seen losses of power, and the Northern Irish impact has threatened roads and rail services. Dumfries alone has seen riverbanks burst, and as much as 120mm of rainfall in one day. The impact of climate change is undeniably becoming more apparent, and this age of natural disaster must provoke changes in the way we relieve our populations and prevent the next environmental catastrophes.

Several years ago, there were obvious opportunities to learn from previous flood disasters in Britain. 2007 saw approximately £6 billion worth of Southern English property destroyed, atrocities which provoked Sir William Pitt’s study of British flood responses. Pitt’s report emphasised the naïve outlook British governments had on dealing with mass water damage, highlighting the need for investment in new interception techniques and a detailed flood action plan. But recent developments simply lack physical and political strength, and many Pitt Report recommendations have been ignored.

The question which remains afloat in the flooding aftermath is over ways in which Britain can better respond to similar episodes in the future. Whilst numerous changes have been made, this month’s catastrophe has proven that Britain remains incapable. Cabinet sub-committees with flood responsibility have been set up and legislation in both Westminster and Holyrood has been passed to reduce flood risks.

Storm-Frank

In Dumfries and Galloway, one of Britain’s most affected regions, Council Chief Gavin Stevenson emphasised the extent of the far and wide flood damage. Dumfries and Galloway Council’s CEO went further to explain that whilst financial aid can help flooded-out settlements, strong links and uncompromised cohesion between communities is key. Social researcher Kim Chang found that during flood disparity within Northern England in 2009 strong links between one another in communities were common in harmed areas. Seamless connections between civilians, emergency services, charities, churches, the NHS and our governments must exist for a smooth transmission of aid during environmental crises, and

In order to keep Britain buoyant in the future, both in mindset and in terms of flood resistance, it is clear also that more provision must be made for communities at risk. The Conservative government’s crippling cuts over recent years have already proven to be detrimental to many public institutions, and the UK’s flood preventions have suffered no less. The Guardian reported in December that the amount of money put towards flood resistance had decreased by 10% between 2010-2011 and 2014. In addition, criticism of the Scottish Government, with the power to regulate over flood control, has been voiced. A report by the Institution of Civil Engineers allocated a ‘C’ grade to the SNP government for flood policy. In the Westminster parliament, Chancellor George Osborne has already promised £400m for flood defence in England alone, but many experts doubt that English and Scottish allocations will suffice.

The World Resources Institute indicated in a recent study that the flood risk not just nationwide but worldwide could have increased almost three-fold by 2030. Governments are sure to be alarmed by these revelations, and solid prevention plans and increased spending seem absolutely necessary. Further to this, the Institute also revealed that whilst current flood costs amount to around £65 billion, governments of 2030 could expect a bill of as much as £340 billion. The only way leaders will survive this new environmental age is by rigorous planning and investing in safeguarding communities. Watching as preventable disasters threaten livelihoods in a supposed developed nation cannot become a convention.

In an international context, and as the Pitt Report stresses, the Tories’ cumulative £400m to be spent on English natural disasters is markedly less than neighbouring states’ provision on a grander scale. 2002 brought devastating flooding across Europe, resulting in fatalities and chaos in Austria, Germany and the Czech Republic amongst other states. The central German region of Saxony became one of the worst hit areas, prompting a governmental rethink in flood prevention. As a result, waterways were reconstructed and revamped, plans for every eventuality were outlined, and a substantial €1.3 billion was allocated, aimed at solving this ever-prominent social problem. Saxony’s neighbours have in fact blamed the region itself, with more advanced prevention systems, for increased environmental damage, showing that an increase in spending and planning is having a positive impact.

weather-storm-fran_3537632k

After countless cases of devastation caused by recent flooding, it is time that our governments on both local and national levels focus on spending and cohesion to better deal with natural disasters. As the global temperature rises alongside sea levels, climate change is becoming an inexorable issue. Atrocities at home and abroad show that our leaders’ policy direction must change. Ensuring the safety of populations and communities can only come with more investment in flood defences and research. As experts predict flooding in more developing nations such as Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Cambodia with lower GDP, cooperation throughout civilisation worldwide is paramount.

With an enormous environmental strategy to develop, the need for which reinstated by flooded out Britain, we cannot wilfully watch our communities crumble. Fresh funding is urgently needed, along with unified citizens and services. Until both governments across the nation invest in new methods of protection and react to alarming research, the mood in hard-hit communities will continue to dampen. No longer can we watch citizens suffer as easy targets for the tribulations of changing climates. Storm Frank, with its seemingly harmless and cosy name, has appeared starkly different underneath its clouds.

Standard