The Ramblingpickle’s view on the EU referendum: A Brexit fantasy is not the answer.

2016-06-22 15.17.07

If you asked me the, now very familiar, question “remain or leave” six months ago, my answer would have been an unequivocal “remain”.

But six months later and only a day to go before we all arrive at our local polling stations
to answer the question officially, the argument has become less clear-cut and my view to stay in the EU has been met with hesitation.

Now, to avoid misleading the general introduction-only reader, my view is still that Britain should remain in the EU, but the referendum debate has made me toy with the idea of leaving and then realise that to do so would be ridiculous.

For any rational person contemplating Brexit, the Vote Leave campaign must be incredibly disheartening: it’s based on blind optimism, xenophobia and outright lies.

Free Trade

They argue that if we leave the European Union we can make free trade deals with other nations who we cannot do so with whilst inside the EU, but still have not given a clear indication as to what kind of free trade agreement would be set up.

We could end up like Norway, who have bought their way into the free market but are not part of the decision-making process in European Parliament. We could strike a free trade negotiation with a larger economy than ours, like China, but then end up having the terms dictated to us – like in the case of the Sino-Swiss trade agreement where Switzerland have given China immediate free access to their market but are having to wait 15 years before China return the favour. Or we could strike a free trade agreement with a smaller economy, like New Zealand, but that just simply would be economically non-beneficial to the British economy – unless you believe leaving a single market of 500 million would be worth it for cheaper kiwi fruit.

Britain may be a leading nation in science, education and agriculture; but without investment from the EU, these thriving sectors will become less impressive. Optimistic Brexiteers will argue that we can find investment elsewhere, but before these assumptions are made, deals need to be struck – and nothing has been. We are no longer the British Empire, so to assume that other nations will start throwing money at us if we leave the EU is short-sighted and without evidence.

Democracy

Brexiteers have also argued that the EU is undemocratic. In some sense, they’re right. MEPs are unable to repeal laws that have already been implemented into European law, which is something that MPs in Westminster can do with British law.

But to argue that the process of passing laws in undemocratic is untrue. So to clear up this misty argument, here is how the law making process works in the EU:

The European Commission (or the unelected bureaucrats as they are commonly called by Brexiteers) will pass a proposal for a new regulation or directive to the Parliament (the elected body), which then expresses its opinion at a ‘first reading’. If the Council (a body of ministers from each department in each country, the department depending on the piece of legislation being debated) approves of this opinion, the ‘law’ is passed, but if not, it will deliver its own verdict to the Parliament, together with an explanation of its thinking. The Parliament (back to the elected body) then enters a ‘second reading’ stage, at which it can either approve the Council’s changes (in which case the law is passed), amend them or reject the law outright (See full reference at bottom of article).

So to dismiss the EU as completely undemocratic is unfair. Similar to the EU we have an unelected body that can reject or pass laws: The House of Lords. Also, we use a First Past the Post system to vote MPs into the House of Commons, but use the Party List System (a proportional representation voting system) to vote MEPs into European Parliament. So, it is arguable that the process of voting those to represent you in Europe is more democratically representative than the process of voting for those to represent you in the UK.

You could argue that the UK only have 73 MEPs out of 751 in European Parliament and therefore our voice is not loud enough. But to argue this would be to assume that all other countries are against the UK and would be taking a nationalist stance on the EU.

Globalisation

Another argument that has fueled the Brexit side is that of globalisation and, more specifically, the proposed Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

TTIP has undoubtedly shaken up the EU debate and has been a driving force in convincing many on the left to leave out of fear that it could result in the selling-off of the NHS.

Although the European Commission has said it will exclude the NHS from the deal, it all comes down to the trust and the specifics of the deal do not look favourable to the NHS.

But to argue that to be anti-TTIP and anti-EU are intrinsically linked is completely untrue. MEPs are still able to vote on the partnership taking place and with over half the MEPs coming from socialist or Eurosceptic parties, there is a chance it could be prevented. Plus, to believe that if we leave we will escape TTIP is very optimistic when our Prime Minister is in favour of the partnership and would still be able to sign up to it.

Migration

I’m not going to waste valuable word space arguing the positive effects migration has had on the British economy and multiculturalism; the argument is either widely acknowledged or widely ignored.

But I will point out that free movement in the EU is very much a two-way street: we accept EU migrants just as other EU countries accept us as theirs.

In Spain, over 400,000 Brits are living as permanent residents – 0f which roughly a quarter are pensioners. Brits can visit a Spanish doctor or hospital for free until they become permanent residents, then the Spanish government funds their healthcare.

So if us Brits want to argue that young, foreign workers (some of which within the NHS) paying National Insurance are a strain on our public healthcare, then Spain have every right to argue the same about out-of-work pensioners who are slowly frying themselves in the Benidorm sun.

The absolute scaremongering of the reactionary right on immigration is nothing short of appalling, and Nigel Farage’s latest stunt has further proven that. It is not only bitter, but also intellectually lazy to blame migrants for your own economic woes.

Lies

There has been a lot of questionable “facts and figures” in this campaign from both sides, but the two biggest, and most persistent, are from the Leave campaign. They are that we send 350 million pound a week to the EU and that Turkey are going to join.

This is not a lie that they just throw into a debate every now and then, it is written on the flyers they post in people’s properties.

Claiming we send 350 million to EU is like having a mobile phone contract for £25 a month and having 300 free minutes and 500 free texts; but then, a couple of months in, when you realise the deal you are getting is pretty crap, you complain and get a new deal of £15 a month with 500 free minutes and 1,000 free texts. But, a year later, when your friends ask you what mobile phone contract deal you have, you cite the original bill.

As for Turkey, even if the EU did decide to completely go against their own membership rules and give Turkey the chance to join – which Turkey have been attempting to do since 1987 – then I would be very surprised if Greece and Cyprus did not veto them.

A progressive future

The EU has brought us many amazing things: workers rights, human rights, directives that help to protect our environment, the ability to study and work across the continent and, most importantly, peace in Europe – so let’s stick with something that has proven time and time again to be progressive.

To believe the EU cannot change is overly sceptical. The directly elected European Parliament has increasingly been given more power in the democratic process (most recently in the Lisbon Treaty 2007) and the EU has been a front-runner in equality and environmental change.

Both Portugal and Denmark have begun running almost completely on renewable energy, and this is a culture that is really taking off all over Europe.

But when we will have a party who said in their latest manifesto that they wish to repeal the Human Rights Act 1998 and put a halt to the spread of wind farms negotiating the terms of our departure from the EU, we need to ask whether we are going to continue being a part of this progressive movement or whether we are going to be pushed back into the dark ages of reactionary politics.

Morrison, J. (2013). The European Union. In: Morrison, J Essential Public Affairs for Journalists. 3rd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p281.

Support the air strikes in Syria if you will, but don’t justify it as humanitarian.

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It has been a couple of weeks now since British MPs engaged in a ten hour long debate in Parliament on whether to send air strikes into Syria, which ended in a massive 174 majority vote for the motion and an historic speech made by the late Tony Benn’s son, Hilary. Since then, the RAF have been targeting ISIL’s oil fields and Michael Fallon told the BBC this was a “fairly impressive start” whilst in Washington DC.

But we’re only a couple of weeks into what is likely to be a long battle against an undeniably barbaric organisation and the outcome is far from predictable. We can only confidently presume that a lot of blood will be spilled.

Hilary Benn stood in front of Parliament and voiced a marvellous piece of rhetoric which seems so absent in today’s politics, and it has centre-staged him as a great orator in Parliament and man of leadership material. But rhetoric can be as deadly as it can be convincing. One line that stood out for me was: “Now I share the concerns that have been expressed this evening about potential civilian casualties. However, unlike Daesh, none of us here act with the intent to harm civilians; rather we act to protect civilians from Daesh, who target innocent people.”

Now, since the UK sent air strikes into Syria, there has been no reports of civilian casualties as a result of UK air strikes, so who am I to presume that UK air strikes will claim the lives of any civilians? However, only yesterday, the town of Douma was hit by an alleged Russian/pro-Assad Syrian air strike which has taken the lives of 45 civilians and injured a further 250. From August 2014 to December 2015, between 1,600 and 2,128 incidents of non-combatant civilian fatalities have been alleged to happen from over 250 incidents in Iraq and Syria during US-led coalition air strikes – of which the UK is a part of. So, it’s fair to say, that air strikes are not the most ethical approach to a battle and definitely run the “potential” risk of civilian casualties – or fatalities – that Hilary Benn is apparently concerned about.

Hilary Benn also spoke of “our democracy, the means by which we will make this decision tonight”. This is a democracy Syrians do not enjoy; the decision to bomb their country is made by men and women in the UK, Russia, the USA, France. They just have to accept this decision. You could argue that if you saw somebody being mugged in the street, should you help them without them giving you permission? But a more apt metaphor would be to ask somebody if they saw someone being mugged, would they throw a stick of dynamite at the attacker and hope he/she was the only person to be wounded?

Yes, ISIL are a force of evil and their oppressive and brutal regime should not be allowed to continue. But it’s completely patronising to try to pass these air strikes off as a noble intervention into an humanitarian crisis when the West is shying away from bloodshed in other areas of the world. Who is fighting Boko Haram in Western Africa? Nigeria, Cameroon and Chad (Western African countries). Who is fighting ISIL? Well, four of the most powerful countries in the world to begin with. Let’s not forget the West’s absence in previous post-WW2 genocides. Where was the West when Tutsi’s were being slaughtered at a much faster rate than people are in the Middle East? Where was the West when Pol Pot was working his own people to death in the Killing Fields? It was Vietnam (yes, those damn Commies) that intervened and saved the day there.

Conflict in the Middle East regularly turns into an international game of Friends and Enemies. Hussain made an enemy of the USA when he decided he wanted to invade Kuwait (well, Bush couldn’t have him sabotaging his oil deal) which led onto numerous conflicts between Iraq, the USA, the UK, and then eventually resulted in the execution of Hussain. The man was a vicious dictator though, so why should he be a friend of the West? Saudi Arabia and Israel, however, remain on good terms with the UK and USA, despite both regularly violating human rights.

ISIL, although they call themselves an “Islamic State”, are an ideology, and you can’t just destroy an ideology by bombing it. Neoliberlism isn’t dying due to the death of Friedman, Thatcher or Reagan, it is dying because the global financial crisis made us realise that the free market is dangerous to the economy. To defeat ISIL, you need to destroy the root and cause of the phenomenon, the rhetoric by which it was created – something air strikes cannot achieve.

By Jonathan Pickles

 

 

New Nightclub Expected To “Put Sheffield Back On The Map”

Nightclub located under the famous Wicker Arches.
Nightclub located under the famous Wicker Arches.

A new nightclub in Sheffield has opened its doors recently, with owner, Nick Hussey, claiming that it will “put Sheffield back on the map”.

Arch 9, which will be open as a nightclub from 9pm until 5am, has already brought in big names in Electronica including Clean Bandit, Steve Lawler and Todd Terry, and is anticipated to bring in many more.

Sheffield had a much more vibrant nightlife in the 90s compared to today, with memorable clubs such as Roxy Disco (now the O2 Academy) and The Republic (later called Gatecrasher One) which was destroyed in a fire in 2007.

The club is located just outside the city centre, under the famous Wicker Arches. It has a capacity of 515 people and has two floors and an outdoor mezzanine.

Some concerns, however, have arisen over the location, with many concerned about its distance from the city centre and the high level of anti-social behaviour already prominent in that area.

Hussey said: “We have worked really closely with the council and we want this [Arch 9] to be a catalyst for the rejuvenation of this area.”

“You look at Warehouse Project and Sankeys in Manchester, they are in similar areas to this one and they really work.”

“I think the city centre is too busy and hard to manage. I think we need a new area and this, hopefully, will be the start of it.”

Arch 9 will also be providing a private bus service which, if booked in advance, will pick people up from Carver Street and take them straight to the nightclub – which will be ideal students and other party-goers wishing to start their night of in the city centre.

By Jonathan Pickles

Peacehaven Speed Camera Catching Out More Drivers

A speed camera in Peacehaven has had a soaring increase in revenue over the course of three years.

Camera has been snapping more and more drivers
Camera has been snapping more and more drivers

Recent figures show that the speed camera that sits along the A259 as you enter into Peacehaven, westbound, has accumulated £51,345 in 2014 compared to a minimal £4,950 in 2011.

Figures have also shown there to be a sharp increase in the amount of drivers, in the area, choosing to take the Speed Awareness Course instead of pay the fine. £25,500 of the money gained from this camera was spent of Speed Awareness courses in 2013 and £30,345 in  2014, compared to only £340 in 2012 and £170 in 2011.

The speed camera was first put into operation in January 2005 after meeting the DfT installation criteria for speed cameras, which usually means there has been several speed related accidents in that area.

However, speed cameras are temporarily taken from their boxes from time to time. Phil Henty, partnership manager at Sussex Safer Roads, said: “Cameras are moved from housing to housing on a random basis. This, together with maintenance and, in some cases, damages from vandalism, means that the number of days per year that a live camera is installed in a particular housing can vary considerably”. He was unable to answer on the movements of the particular camera housing in Peacehaven.

According to the figures, more and more people are choosing to take the Speed Awareness Course, costing £85 in Sussex (compared to £100 for a speeding fine) and means you can avoid having any points put on your licence.

Henty said: “Generally the feedback from the Speed Awareness Course is very positive with those who leave a comment, indicating that, despite some scepticism prior to attending the course, they had found it useful and informative”.

The camera is still in operation and is one of only two along the A259 between Eastbourne and Brighton.

By Jonathan Pickles

Jeremy Corbyn Will Be The Most Sincere Opposition To The Tories, But The UK Are Not Ready For Him Yet

Jeremy Corbyn: “old-fashioned”, “not credible” and even “anti-Semitic”. It seems if there is a way to tarnish Corbyn, then politicians and the right-wing media will jump at any opportunity.

Could this man be the future leader of the UK
Could this man be the future leader of the UK?

 

Corbyn entered the leadership race as the rank outsider and has now surged to the top of the polls as the favourite. After a surprising triumph for the Tories in this year’s General Election, it is no surprise that Labour supporters, amongst others on the left, are traumatised by the outlook of the next five years. These bewildered supporters are in search of a new leader who will act as a sincere opposition to the Tories…. Enter Jeremy Corbyn.

Corbyn has been described as a “breath of fresh air” by his supporters; after all, he was the only leadership candidate to oppose the Tories’ welfare bill in the House of Commons. Andy Burnham and Yvette Cooper may personally oppose it, but they only abstained from voting and did not contribute to preventing the bill from passing. Since Corbyn’s surge in popularity, politicians from his own party, including ex-PMs Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, have been warning voters of the problems Labour will face if he wins the leadership race. Many have made reference to the party’s split in the 1980s, when the ‘Gang of Four’ (Roy Jenkins, Shirley Williams, Bill Rodgers and David Owen) left Labour and formed the Social Democratic Party (SDP).

Let’s rewind to 1983, when Michael Foot was ready to face Margaret Thatcher in his first General Election as party leader. Foot’s manifesto – dubbed by Labour Party MP Gerald Kaufman as the “longest suicide note in history” – had many policies which are still hot topic today. Foot was fighting for a national minimum wage, which even the Tories’ are now proposing to increase in the next few years, and the abolition of fox hunting – a policy which was strongly opposed back then but is now considered barbaric amongst even some Tories. He was also calling for closer control over bank lending – a prospect which could have prevented the Global Banking Crisis of 2008 hitting the UK as hard as it did – and the, still divided, decision to scrap nuclear warheads in the UK. So, to dismiss Corbyn as a “dinosaur” for still believing in the Socialist views of Foot is hardly fair or, necessarily, true.

It is also important, however, to look at Labour’s crippling defeat in the 1983 General Election. The general public were not ready for Foot’s radical vision, and Labour lost 60 seats in parliament (269-209) gaining only 27.6% of the vote. In years to come, Neil Kinnock managed to claw back some of those seats but it was not until 1997, when Tony Blair stood as Labour leader, that the party gained a landslide victory. New Labour had been created and the party peaked with a whopping 418 seats in parliament. This victory can be put down to Labour’s shift to the centre and Blair’s shrewd lobbying of Rupert Murdoch – which led to his endorsement on the front page of The Sun.

Right-wing media has been notorious in the past for influencing readers with filtered versions of the facts. It is noted by Noam Chomsky and Edward S. Herman in Manufacturing Consent that US media would report extensively on corruption in Communist countries whilst sugar-coating atrocities committed in countries supported by the USA. One example used is the way the US media over-dramatised the murder of a priest by Communist Polish officials whilst glossing over the brutal rape and murder of four US churchwomen by members of the Nicaraguan National Guard.

Although the severity of censorship in the UK media in recent years may not be as great as it was in the USA in the 1980s, it is still apparent today, with political journalist, Peter Oborne, leaving the Daily Telegraph after accusing them of not reporting enough on tax evasion by HSBC, due to advertising priorities. It is sad to see the media, the public’s window to worldwide information, be influenced by the rich and powerful. This has been the case with Rupert Murdoch and General Elections in the UK. The Sun deterred people from voting for Ed Miliband with a picture of him making a “pigs ear” of a bacon sandwich in 2015; it convinced people to vote for Blair in 1997; and it told the people of Britain they should leave the country if they voted Neil Kinnock in 1992. Each time the Sun triumphed. Although Murdoch may have recently endorsed Corbyn for Labour leader, judging by his previous endorsements, there is surely an ulterior motive.

Voting for Corbyn in the current economic climate would be like voting for a ventriloquist in a national talent competition – although they may be the most talented act, they will not be as popular as the singers and dancers. He is like the album that won a BRIT award and a Grammy but only made it to No.19 in the charts. Corbyn certainly is a “breath of fresh air” for those on the left, but those in the centre and on the right are not ready for his policies. The constant rhetoric used by the Tories, accusing Labour of being “bad for the economy”, has left people of afraid of veering to the left. Blair won the nation over with New Labour, but Labour cannot go any more right than Blair without becoming Tory. So it is time for Labour to veer left, but at the same time regain the trust of the public.

No matter how well Corbyn explains his way of rebuilding the economy, people hear Socialism and run to their four bedroom house in suburbia to check their shares in Lloyds TSB have not dropped. As Labour legend, David Blunkett, pointed out to his party about Corbyn: “If you want a really good, vigorous opposition and you want to continue being in opposition, vote for somebody who is good at opposition”. To see Labour win, the party needs a leader that appeals to the public on a broader scale than Corbyn; but, that is not to say that the party should return to the days of New Labour, it is time to gradually move to the left. The utopia of a Socialist Britain is possible, but these things take time.

By Jonathan Pickles

The Simple Guide to the Labour Leadership

Voting ends 10th September
Voting ends 10th September

The polls are open, the voting cards have been sent out and any chance of joining the Labour party to make your vote has been missed. But for those who have joined in time, or for those who are just curious, here is what you need to know about your candidates:

1. Jeremy Corbyn

The odds on favourite at the bookies is the surprising candidate of the leadership race, who started out as the outsider but has managed to claw himself in front with a sudden huge surge in support.

Dubbed as the left-wing candidate of the race (like we should be surprised there is a left-wing candidate in the Labour party), Jeremy Corbyn has won over many from the left with his anti-austerity approach, saying in an email sent out to Labour supporters: “There is a choice. Whether to accept austerity or to break free of this straitjacket and strike out for a modern, rebalanced economy based on growth and high quality jobs”.

But, at the same time, Corbyn has won over many from the right who are eager to vote him in with the hope that he will ruin Labour’s chances of winning in the next General Election. Journalist and author, Toby Young, told Channel Four news that, when joining the Labour party, he wrote as the reason for his membership: “to consign Labour to electoral oblivion” – because that was a very tactful move and not at all boastful facetiousness. The Labour party obviously infiltrated and blocked Young from joining, but some of the more subtle right-wingers joining the party may by-pass the system and vote for who they believe will be the Tories weakest rival in the next General Election.

Corbyn also wishes to scrap the Trident Programme – a policy the SNP have strongly supported for years – and he has also suggested that he may reintroduce Clause IV. Clause IV is an old Labour policy that was revised by Tony Blair in 1995, two years before his landslide defeat of the Tories in the General Election. Clause IV was a text that supported the common ownership of industry and production, which strongly opposed Thatcher’s neoliberalism. Although Corbyn has not said he wants a complete return to Clause IV, he has promised to renationalise the railways and the energy companies upon becoming Prime Minister. Other Labour MPs have criticised this move as regressive, with fellow leadership candidate, Liz Kendall, describing the remark as “a throwback to the past”. Corbyn was also the only leadership candidate to vote against the Tory’s welfare bill.

Corbyn is so far predicted to have the highest support from Labour members, along with endorsements from political figures such as long-standing MP and London Mayor candidate, Dianne Abbott, and political commentator and Guardian columnist, Owen Jones, as well as backing from many of the unions – including Unite.

2. Andy Burnham 

“Jeremy Corbyn is a man of integrity but, make no mistake, so is Andy Burnham… and only he can lead Labour back to power” is what the Daily Mirror told its readers when they gave their endorsement for the leadership race.

Andy Burnham is the friendly face of Labour, who was once the favourite to win until the Corbyn phenomenon kicked off. An experienced politician, who served as the Secretary of State for both the Health Department and the Department of Culture, Media and Sport within Gordon Brown’s government, as well as a Shadow Minister in Miliband’s Labour, Burnham is, evidently, no rookie when it comes to when it comes to responsibility. He also remains a strong contender to Corbyn as a centre-left candidate who has also pledged in his manifesto – A Radical Labour Vision for the 21st Century – to renationalise the railways as well as scrap tuition fees and lower the voting age to 16.

In his blog he claims to be “the only candidate who can get back in touch with the public”. Ed Miliband was attacked by journalists and the media for his personality and appearance, with Jeremy Clarkson calling him a “North London geek” during an interview and the Sun newspaper posting a picture of him making “a pigs ear” of a bacon sandwich on the morning of the General Election – which later saw a devastating defeat for Labour. Although it is a shallow concept – and certainly not the mentality of the whole country – image over policies clearly factored in during the last General Election. Burnham has made the effort to not look like a geek who struggles to eat a bacon sandwich by selling himself as a family man from a working class background with interests in football and other popular hobbies. He even described himself to the Spectator as “mainstream Labour”.

Although a strong contender, Burnham has been the most passive candidate in the leadership race, showing little opposition to his rivals and abstaining from voting on the welfare bill and then later claiming “we simply cannot abstain on this bill”. Some of his fellow MPs even nicknamed him “flip-flop Andy”.

Andy has received endorsements from fellow MP, Michael Dugher, and ex-Labour leader Neil Kinnock.

3. Yvette Cooper

The third favourite in the leadership race is the Shadow Home Secretary, Yvette Cooper. Having been a Secretary of State, both in Cabinet and in the Shadow Cabinet, for the past six years, she is considered the most experienced for the job of PM.

Cooper has been selling herself as a strong leader, saying in the candidates booklet that she is: “strong enough to take the Tories on, not swallow their myths, but also strong enough to change our party so we reach out”. Cooper, like Kendall, has been very critical of Corbyn, fearing that his “bad economics” will divide the party and be an inevitable loss for the party in the next General Election. She has also been the worst culprit for using buzzwords like “radical” and “credible” to slander Corbyn and sell herself.

Cooper is a tough candidate who has received backing from respected centre-left broadsheet, The Guardian. Although Cooper is her own person with her own views, one hurdle she faces in this race is her marriage to previous Shadow Chancellor, Ed Balls. After her camp called for Burnham to “step back”, a senior figure from his camp accused her of using tactics “straight out of the Ed Balls playbook”.

Like Burnham, Cooper abstained from voting on the Tories’ welfare bill but showed it great criticism. Yvette has promised to bring in laws that fight discrimination and support the Trade Unions as well as introduce a “a feminist approach to the economy” which will help families and oppose cuts in tax credits. Cooper also has a MSc in Economics from LSE, making her more qualified to deal with fiscal policy than her rivals.

Cooper has received support from fellow MP and former Home Secretary, Alan Johnson.

4. Liz Kendall

With the popularity of each candidate being dependant on how left-wing they are, it is no surprise that the Blairite candidate is the rank outsider. The latest YouGov poll has predicted that Kendall only has support from 8% of Labour supporters.

As the leadership race has progressed, Kendall has focused more on deterring voters from Jeremy Corbyn rather than promoting her own campaign. She has told Labour supporters that a “Corbyn victory would be Labour’s ‘resignation letter'”. She has even been convincing voters to pick anyone but Corbyn, in a hope that, if she does not win, either Burnham or Cooper will.

Kendall can hardly expect a warm reception from Labour supporters after voting for the Tories’ welfare bill, which will be financially detrimental to the working class people she is supposed to be winning over. Kendall has been considered not radical enough and a blue Labour candidate, with a parody page being created on Facebook called “Liz Kendall for Conservative Leader” – which has since been taken down.

Since the resignation of Tony Blair, the term “Blairite” has become a dirty word amongst voters on the left. Although Blair’s Labour flew in the face of many of the party’s traditional values – in his defence he did rename the party New Labour – he did manage to win three consecutive General Elections, which is the ultimate goal of the party. But the fact that Kendall is being dismissed as the Blairite candidate shows that the support for New Labour no longer comes from within the party and members want radical change rather than a repeat of the previous Labour government.

Kendall has received endorsements from fellow MP, Chuka Umunna, and former leadership candidate, David Miliband.

 

Votes must be sent off by 10th September and the result should be in two days later. Unlike the General Election, the voting system for the Labour leadership is the Alternative Vote (AV) where you can vote for who you want to win as well as who your second, third and fourth preferences are. This is a system that won Ed Miliband the last leadership after he managed to receive enough second preferences to marginally defeat his brother who received more first preferences than him.

One thing that is sure about this leadership race is that you have a set of politicians all with distinct policies that appeal to supporters from the centre to the left, be it Kendall’s return to New Labour or Corbyn’s idealistic view of a socialist Britain.

 

By Jonathan Pickles

The Budget 2015

Today, George Osborne stood in the House of Commons and announced the emergency Budget for 2015. Osborne said several times during his speech that the Conservatives are “a party for the working people”. Harriet Harman responded to this claim by saying: “How can he [Osborne] make that claim when he is making working people worse off by cutting tax credits and scrapping grants for students?”

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Here are some of the key points from the Budget:

Growth – The expected growth in GDP has dropped from 2.5% to 2.4%. Although the forecast is expected to grow by 2.3% the following year and continue to grow after that.

Debt – Osborne is expecting to lower the debt from 80.3%, as a proportion of GDP, this year, to 68.5% in 2020. But how will he do this?

NHS – Osborne claimed that “the NHS is only truly safe in the Conservative’s hands” and promised to spend an extra £8bn a year on the NHS. Certainly an important place to spend people’s taxes, but where are the cuts going to be made?

Tax avoidance – Osborne has promised to abolish non-dom tax statuses, a policy first promised by Ed Miliband before the General Election, for anyone who has been a resident in the UK for fifteen of the last twenty years. This will hopefully draw in more money from wealthy residents of the UK who have been avoiding tax through a flawed system. Although, an extra £750m will be paid to the taxman to tackle avoidance.

Banks – Also similar to a previous Labour policy, the current Levy is to be reduced over six years with a new 8% surcharge on profits. This policy should hopefully raise more money from the banks, which will be well needed after the selling off of RBS.

Indirect taxes – Fuel duty will be frozen and a reformed vehicle excise duty will be introduced to fund new roads. Although the new excise duty is expected to discourage people from taking advantage of the cheaper fuel, there is no guarantee that it will not be damaging to the environment – which will really anger eco-warriors across the country.

Higher Education – possibly the most controversial policy of the speech, Osborne has decided to scrap maintenance grants and replace them with loans. Maintenance grants are important for students whose parents cannot afford to pay for them to go through university. This policy will create an unfair wealth divide, where students from poorer backgrounds will be paying back more money than those from richer backgrounds.  Osborne boasted a record high number of working class students joining university under the previous government; but without the support of a maintenance grant, students from poorer backgrounds or mature students could be discouraged from attending university out of fear of being in perpetual debt.

Northern powerhouse – Osborne has vowed to devolve more power to the North; although how it is going to be spread out is not clear yet. This is a policy which is pleasing to left-wing voters as it gives more power to areas with a large number of Labour constituencies, such as Manchester, Liverpool and Sheffield.

Inheritance Tax – As of 2017, people can inherit up to £1m tax free. This is a policy that, according to Osborne, the left “wouldn’t understand”. But what is easy to understand is that this will not help lower the debt and that it is a policy that will predominantly benefit the rich.

Corporation tax – Osborne has promised to cut corporation tax from 20% to 19% in 2017 and then to 18% in 2020. With already the lowest rate of corporation tax in the G7, the Chancellor is continuing to support the rich whilst making cuts in welfare during a time of austerity. The USA currently has the highest corporation tax rate in the G7, at 40% – twice as high as our current rate.

BBC – Osborne has bullied the BBC into picking up the cost of the TV licence for over 75s by promising no more cuts to their funding. In return, the billpayer must now pay for a TV licence if they watch BBC on-demand programmes.

Welfare cuts – The part of the speech most people had been waiting for: the cuts to welfare. The notorious benefit cap was confirmed, with a maximum of £23,000 to be claimed in London and £20,000 in the rest of the country. This policy will further increase poverty and does not guarantee the financial protection of the disabled. Osborne has also pledged to give no automatic housing benefits to 18 to 21 year olds and to restrict the number of child tax credits to only two children. Although it may seem a fair policy, to the right-wing, to enforce on those who are represented as “scroungers” in right-wing media, it is the children who will ultimately be punished. These policies will further increase the already disturbingly high level of child poverty.

Personal tax allowance – Osborne has pledged to raise the personal tax allowance to £11,000 by next year. This will benefit those on the threshold of each tax bracket, but will not decrease the debt.

National living wage – Osborne finished up with a pleasing policy for low earners when he announced that a national living wage would be introduced forcing businesses to pay their employees, over the age of 25, £7.20 an hour and £9 an hour by 2020. This policy should help workers who are on minimum wage and struggling to make ends meet, but, like the rest of his policies, will not help those under 25.

By Jonathan Pickles