europe, Scotland, society, UK Politics, World Politics

Brexit isn’t progressive, but Sturgeon’s plan could be

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The events of the United Kingdom’s political scene over the past seven days have shown that change in politics takes place at a rapid pace. Since a vote last Thursday to leave the European Union, Prime Minister David Cameron has tendered his resignation, Leader of the Opposition Jeremy Corbyn has been left reeling after damning Cabinet resignations and a vote of no confidence, myriad international markets have become volatile, and many British citizens are now profoundly divided – both politically and socially.

For those voters who are startled by violent change, or simply prefer the status quo, then at least some of the Remain campaign’s predictions seem to have translated into reality. They don’t make for comfortable listening, though. Needless to say, supporters of a vote to remain as a member of the EU claimed that economic hardship, extremism, and constitutional crises would disease our societal construct in the light of a Brexit.

As if the murder of an MP and the demonisation of many ethnic minorities were not demoralising enough, recent days have already shown that the fear-centric Vote Leave campaign is infilitrating British communities fast. Many police forces this week have already reported a huge rise in racially motivated crimes, an albeit small minority of Brexiteers rejecting the EU on the grounds of abhorrent xenophobia.

A vast degree of economic calamity has arrived, too, causing pandemonium among CEOs, financial boffins and top bankers. The UK has lost its first class credit rating, the housing market is showing signs of slowing, market trading figures and the value of the pound have plummeted, and some of the globe’s biggest corporations are questioning the security of their futures within Britain.

More fascinatingly, but still worrying enough, is that Britain has pushed itself into an abyss of constitutional uncertainty. After a clear divide between English, Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish voters last Thursday, the 300-year-old union is showing its age. Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s political arsenal has more artillery than ever, the infamous SNP leader currently one of the world’s most influential leaders with the potential to drastically alter the international affairs agenda.

Wednesday saw Sturgeon meet with numerous EU officials including Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, and Parliamentary President Martin Schulz. Scotland’s voice drowned out by the largely English-driven Brexit cacophony, the First Minister is keen to spread her crucial message – that her nation’s interests are being overriden.

It is now that Nicola Sturgeon has the freedom to forge new politics for Scotland. With Sturgeon holding an unprecedented global stature for a Scottish leader, the quandaries of Scotland’s interests and position are back up for discussion. In just several years’ time, citizens may bear witness to a fiery independence referendum campaign once again. Yesterday evening, JP Morgan predicted that , by the UK’s 2019 exit from the EU, Scotland will vote again on independence and use a separate currency.

Sturgeon has, for all of her life, been a stringent advocate and guardian of Scottish interests. Over the momentarily slippery issues in relation to the EU, she shows no signs of doing anything differently. The SNP’s 2016 manifesto clearly outlined that the party still saw independence as achievable in the not-too-distant future. For Sturgeon, the elongated EU debate has provided the chance for reignition of the independence flame, and for the creation of a progressive Scottish state.

The intentions of Vote Leave’s Boris Johnson and Michael Gove may seem like an unlikely match with those of the truly internationalist Nicola Sturgeon’s. But the aforementioned politics do have more in common than you may think at first. Both sides intend to leave some form of political, social, cultural, and economic union. For the right-wing Brexit duo of Johnson and Gove, the European Union is their foe, and for the socially democratic Sturgeon, the arguably outdated United Kingdom is her achilles heel.

Undeniably, the two sides differ majorly. In a huge contrast, the Brexit soon to be fully imposed on UK citizens is in no ways progressive, support for which predominantly – but not totally – thanks to those of the right. Sturgeon’s possible exit is nothing of this type, however. The plan supported by the SNP and by an increasing number of Scots is for a truly progressive relationship with the European Union – an ethos set to extend to issues of home affairs, too.

Sturgeon only has the Brexit crisis to thank for this sudden boost in success. Glancing over the recent prognosis of the ailing United Kingdom, the iconic leader must be feeling a tad of schadenfreude. Many voters are now having the revelation which Alex Salmond’s independence campaign fell short of wholly inspiring two years ago. The 2014 referendum bid frightened many away from a Yes vote with the worries that independence would isolate the Scottish nation, and render the views of the people dead in future decision-making.

A high degree of political isolation is what many supporters of a Brexit have indeed voted for of late, and its consequences are provingt that a Scottish exit from the UK would be something vastly different. Unfortunately, Brexiteers have voted for a UK nation that will have attributes of deeper social injustice at its fore. It seems that the chances of a more left-wing Brexit have been shattered with the paralysis of the Labour party.

It is Sturgeon’s plan, though, that could eradicate the poisonous epidemic of xenophobia and paranoia currently sweeping Britain. The exit which Britain has made from the European Union is exactly what Sturgeon’s plan for Scottish independence wouldn’t be. Johnson and Gove’s Brexit blueprint has highlighted that Scotland’s exit from the UK could spur positive change, and that the policies for which they advocated during the EU campaign were not progressive.

As a growingly successful – and truly European – leader, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon now has the power to transform Scotland, making the nation a key voice within an ever louder European chorus. Despite being the outcome the First Minister wanted least, a vote to leave the European Union last week has provided the grounds for an argument detailing a more progressive Scotland. Brexit has pushed the topic of Scottish sovereignty back into the political arena, and her case has generated a great deal of support.Prime Minister David Cameron, whose days are numbered, even praised Sturgeon’s EU efforts on Wednesday.

Nicola Sturgeon’s diplomatic campaign this week did not just have the ideas of Scottish independence at heart, but also ideas of a solidarity, social justice, and co-operation. Her position as the antithesis of Boris Johnson has been a real plus. What could have been Sturgeon’s greatest nightmare has turned into a huge political advantage. Many who are dismayed by the new, somewhat backward Brexit may flock to Sturgeon’s side in the hope that an independent Scotland would be a game-changer. Presenting herself as face of an alternative to the individualist and neoliberal case for Brexit has shown that Scotland is a uniquely different entity, and that the SNP are one force of true advocates for togetherness and political, social, and economic growth.

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society, UK Politics

Sadiq Khan’s victory shows that Londoners are not naïve

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In his inauguration speech at Southwark Cathedral this morning, Sadiq Khan revelled in the possibilities of a London for all. The son of a Muslim bus driver who grew up on a London council estate has proven that Europe’s largest city is now an epicentre of inclusive and progressive politics. The ten week campaign for the London mayoralty between Khan and his Tory rival Zac Goldsmith has certainly shown that Londoners are not naïve. Instead, the realpolitik Khan has triumphed. Running a campaign which categorically marginalised those of ethnic minorities, the trajectory of Goldsmith’s popularity continued to plummet throughout the campaign. Khan’s unarguable success has punctuated the huge failings of the racially motivated Tory campaign, and has laid the foundations for a city of increased unity.

Branding Khan as a supporter of Islamic extremism and consistently scaremongering the city is what fundamentally caused Goldsmith’s campaign irreparable damage. The Conservative campaign within London this year was unforgiveable, and taught a hard-hitting lesson to those who seek to abandon political pragmatism. A racial crevasse in London would serve to diminish chances of prosperity and unity across London, instead of nurturing the accepting and just culture upon which the city prides itself.

One of the most incomprehensible failings of the Goldsmith campaign is that the Tories never sought to please all Londoners, with marginalising policy. Instead of adopting an ideologically driven, resolute campaign, Khan’s strength was his ability to focus on the real issues concerning the majority. His motto ‘a mayor for all Londoners’ only accentuates this. It seems that through such blatant flaws over the party’s isolating campaign, the Conservatives were always doomed. Their game of unfairness and backward politics meant that a Labour victory was effortless. David Cameron’s willingness to endorse such a divisive standpoint during Prime Minister’s Questions is nothing short of mindless. Cameron’s ease in remarking that Britain would “pay the price” for the election of Khan, whilst the Conservatives insist on supporting a “big society” is scandalous. Marginalising the chances of Conservative gains with even the most successful and high-earning minority ethnic citizens is a foolish move. And the fact that the Conservative party failed to realise its shortcomings with regard to such racially divisive politics is ludicrous. It is further atrocious that many Conservatives themselves refused to condemn Goldsmith’s brutality en masse.

The fact that Khan capitalised on the failings of Goldsmith is not the only reason for his landmark win. As a true Londoner, many believe that Khan will not only seek political advantage through the mayoralty. Freezing Transport for London fares, keeping rents low, and raising the profile of environmental sustainability are issues important to one and all. One of his greatest assets is his status not as a star or a personality, but as a genuinely ‘normal bloke.’ Khan understands the real issues affecting Londoners. His ability to take everyone into account and defy the divisive politics of Goldsmith has led to an unquestionable victory.

In a political world where populist politics from the right of the spectrum is becoming the norm and achieving great support, Sadiq Khan’s natural, left wing win must be refreshing for many. It is a resonant statement that loud-mouthed politics such as those of Trump or Farage have not succeeded within London. Perhaps this is due to Goldsmith’s persona, never really presenting himself as someone who is casually outspoken like many right-wing populists. Or perhaps such divisive politics have failed within a city as multi-cultural as London purely because of its cultural smorgasbord. It is clear, though, that the Tory campaign has taken its focus on defying extremism too far this time. Khan’s politics of optimism have clearly trounced those of hatred. We must be always heavy-handed on dealing with extremism, but presenting such an controversial campaign in a patchwork city like London has fallen monumentally flat.

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society, UK Politics, World Politics

A disastrous racial divide is splitting our society

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Sometimes I find myself creating an image of what I believe might be the most ideal society. I’m certainly not an expert in the field of ethics, but it would definitely enshrine some long-awaited bottom lines. My mind’s utopia would encompass deeply engrained values of equality and tolerance, have its gates open widely to all, and strive to take the issues of all into account when decision making. But I’d better not immerse myself too heavily into this fantasy. The concept of the perfect society won’t truly exist, ever. But it seems worth aiming for in an attempt to quash the most profound of social barriers.

It would simply be inaccurate to suggest that our global community is accepting of all values currently. Don’t get me wrong – many of the reasons for hostility to any perceived outsiders are sometimes with the best of intent and for security, not for exclusion. With an advent of new technology, values, immigration, and – in the most extreme of cases – deeply rooted factional conflict, it can seem only natural that citizens are consistently wary and vigilant.

Deeply worrying news has come this week of some of the most opportunity-bashing and equality-defying divides. The presence of new communities seems to be provoking new and controversial thinking. Brand new studies and news stories have shown that the ideas of inclusion and openness promoted by our politicians, NGOs and schools just do not prevail in ways previously thought .

Over previous days, the existence of distinct barriers to numerous sections of our society has been widely reported. The TUC reported today that at all levels of education and employment in Britain, those of minority ethnic descent are significantly disadvantaged in terms of opportunities, livelihoods and job security. A modern society like Britain can only achieve prosperity and success if it wholeheartedly welcomes people of all mindsets and experiences. Immigration cannot take place begrudgingly, a state of affairs which unfortunately seems existent, ever punctuated by the emergence of movements such as UKIP. Such striking deprivation and unemployment amongst those of minority ethnic backgrounds does not and will not make for a thriving society.

A culture of divides is further endorsed by such unnecessary prejudice. It is evident that racial profiling is creating exclusive communities, creating a feeling of ‘them and us.’ Only last month, one passenger on an easyJet flight was escorted from the plane after a fellow traveller spotted prayers on their neighbour’s phone. The overly accentuated cons of immigration, and relatively sporadic – but undeniably atrocious – national terrorism incidents have led to scaremongering at all levels. It seems that Britain is not a wholly welcoming community. Solidarity and the nurturing of new, vibrant values must be backed.

Possibly one of the gravest problems in relation to our split societies is to do with those who bear power. Even at the top, our law enforcers fail to uphold the values that could rejuvenate our national ethos. It is shameful that a large number of those who are wrongly stopped and searched by our local authorities are so harshly racially profiled. Figures released last year showed that those of black race were over 17 times more likely to be stopped. More scandalously, the rate of further police action which was actually followed through after a search was markedly less.

What about the upcoming local elections, which seem to be exposing the opinions of our politicians to a further extent than previously thought? Those who are battling to become the next London mayor, Sadiq Khan and Zac Goldsmith, have become embroiled in a huge race debate. The past few weeks have allowed the public to closely watch the scaremongering of the Tory candidate Goldsmith, who has horridly accused Labour candidate Khan of protecting minorities, fuelling the rise of extremism. The Labour candidate is not the only one of his party to be in such a quandary. Corbyn has faced calls from both inside and out for a stronger clamping down on the disgusting anti-Semitic views which circulate in many of the party’s branches.

So, what next? Britain must transform its social attitudes, adopting values of inclusivity, openness and warmth. This transformation can only take place, however, with a driving force from the top. Our elected officials and law enforcers must work on creating Britain the open nation it has the potential to be. The most important fix is a surprisingly easy one. It is time that we saw each equally. Instead of labelling and classifying citizens into one category or another, we must become a truly solid community. If it is anything to go by, today marks a real possibility for change. I hugely welcome the remarks of Maria Miller, chair of the Women and Equality Select Committee in the UK Parliament, today calling for increased legislation aimed at weakening such abhorrent abuse and needless divides. Perhaps the utopia which I blueprinted at the start will inevitably never exist. There is no such thing as the perfect society, but isn’t it a concept worth working to? Simply, our governments and leaders must now outline common goals, properly enshrine our all important rights and adopt a nature of true realpolitik.

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