After the unforgettable year that was 2016 for those who keep an eye on the state of affairs in politics. Most people looked towards 2017 in starting a new dawn and hoping for new chapters to begin and so began the start of the leadership of Donald J. Trump as President of the United States of America as well as the United Kingdom’s discussions over what Brexit actually meant after the referendum which occurred last June.
This post reflects upon the political tornado which has affected the news since the start of the calendar year and concludes with the United Kingdom heading towards the polls in early June for another key General Election, of which the majority of campaigning and results of which will be covered later in the year as I review May through to September.
Soundbites, Alliances and Mugwumps
How the state of UK Politics got from not knowing the meaning of Brexit to going back to the polls
The cobwebs of the festive season were blown away in mid-January as Prime Minister Theresa May stood at the podium at Lancaster House in central London to outline the objectives of her plan to lead the way for Brexit to happen. Just shy of the first anniversary of her predecessor David Cameron’s Downing Street address that he would deliver on the Conservative manifesto for the 2015 General Election that there would be a referendum on the United Kingdom’s membership of within the European Union, only to fall upon his sword as 52% of those who voted in the yes-no ballot wanted to go it alone.
Mrs May, the United Kingdom’s second female leader drew out a twelve point divorcing plan and decided on attempts to implement a “Hard” Brexit after putting the initial motions and bill through both the House of Commons and House of Lords through February before triggering Article 50 by the agreed point of the final week of March. Her plans for a massive change of the politics of the United Kingdom were greeted with a varying but expected degree of opinions both domestically and across the world especially the continent of Europe, one of these was from the European Council leader, Donald Tusk voiced regret that it had been outlined but was relieved that the Prime Minister was acting sharpish.
The Prime Minister declared in her speech that the UK would require to leave the EU’s single market which allows the free movement of goods, services and workers between its members, while at the same time restricting the free movement of people – and the PM has pledged to control EU migration for it to make a clean cut from the EU. Despite this, she was confident of striking the best possible trade deals still with other countries.
A week after this speech, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of giving those in the House of Commons and the House of Lords the say on triggering Article 50, this started was backed heavily by many Members of Parliament allowing a white paper to be produced at the start of February, with forty seven Labour MPs being among those who voted against the motion including Shadow Cabinet member and the MP for Norwich South, Clive Lewis who decided to step down from his position on Jeremy Corbyn’s table as Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy in protest.
Mid February saw the EU institution of the European Commission condemn the UK for breaching air pollution limits, of which I discussed my thoughts on in a previous post – Air Pollution – Clouding over Health risks. It also saw former Prime Minister Tony Blair encouraging those who opposed Brexit to stand up and fight for the UK’s place in the EU. The last Thursday of the second month of the year saw two by-elections, Stoke on Trent Central and Copeland in Cumbria.
Both triggered after Labour Party MPs stepping down, Tristam Hunt, decided not to continue his role as the Member of Parliament in the safe Labour seat of Stoke on Trent Central when taking up a directorship in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. It was announced that the most recently appointed leader of UKIP, Paul Nuttell would make a stand in a city which had been nearly 70% of those who voted in the EU referendum voted to leave and in belief that he could keep up the momentum of that decision.
Despite this, those who voted in this by-election kept safe and chose the Labour candidate Gareth Snell who admitted to being a remainer but would respected that the decision had been made and wanted to do the best deals for Stoke on Trent. Nuttell came second with nearly a quarter of the votes and bringing UKIP’s best result in this constituency.
In Copeland, Jamie Reed returned to working for Nuclear decommissioning company Sellafield and the seat was gained by Trudy Harrison becoming the first Conservative MP elected there since the 1930s.
March saw many NHS workers strike alongside other campaigners against the austerity cuts that had been made by the Conservative led governments since 2010 before Philip Hammond who had replaced the main Chancellor of the Exchequer of this era, George Osborne delivered his maiden Budget, he had announced in his Autumn Statement of 2016 that he would revert to delivering Budgets in the Autumn, the biggest headline to come from this was his call to raising National Insurance contributions for the self-employed but he made U-turn on this after vast opposition from the Conserative backbenchers. The other key points from Mr Hammond’s speech can be read here – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-39203784.
After this change of mind, the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Act 2017 was granted Royal Assent by the Queen making it an Act of Parliament, Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon who had been a clear opposition to the Bill started to focus on a second Scottish Independence referendum, after all 51 SNP members had voted against and were determined to fight for Scotland’s worth especially after being voted in high numbers in the 2015 General Election but Prime Minster Theresa May was having none of it, in what would be a huge shake up to the politics at Westminster.
A week before the letter signed off by the Prime Minster declaring that the UK wished to leave the EU, an attack occurred outside Westminster Palace dubbed by media outlets and the PM as a terrorist attack, as six people lost their lives and 49 were injured. My own personal thoughts on this matter was that the attacker Khalid Masood was not a terrorist but unfortunately someone suffering from mental health issues after a difficult upbringing and a personality and psychology which clearly was tormented and not that of a person who had a direct motive of terrorism.
Article 50 was triggered on Wednesday 29 March and began the divorce and withdrawal processes it outlined including pushing through the Great Repeal Bill white paper which meant that all the EU laws had been transferred to become British ones and now it was for the Members of Parliament to debate on each of these and deals the UK must take in replacement for those that were bound by the EU.
April saw the start of Spring and the beginnings of campaigns up and down the country for local elections, however in the area I currently reside and stood as a paper candidate last year, Derby city, the next wave of local elections is next year. However after the Easter long weekend, Theresa May called an emergency press conference outside 10 Downing Street, in which she confirmed after discussions, she wished to call a General Election for Thursday 8 June. This was accepted by an overwhelming amount of MPs in the House of Commons however there were some who voted against believing that it was wrong for the Prime Minster to bring the UK back to the voting booths either because of theories of electoral fraud in the 2015 General Election or those who felt that it was a statement of power and intent as Mrs May had not formally gone through the election process to get the job.
Green Party of England and Wales co-leaders Caroline Lucas and Jonathan Bartley called on Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and Liberal Democrats’ Tim Farron to create progressive alliances alongside the GPEW in a way of standing the strongest candidate against the Conservative Party of the three parties and supporting them. However largely this has fallen on deaf ears by the two larger parties as they have in most cases wished to carry on their own battle.
For me this personally has certainly created a difficult head over heart debate, living in the constituency of Derby North which saw a very slim majority win for Conservative Amanda Solloway over Labour’s Chris Williamson who was upset with the local Green Party which I’ve been a member of since, for what he perceived as the Greens taking away the votes he required to stay as the member of parliament. Due to small numbers actually wishing to be actively involved with the GPEW committee in Derby city, finding a suitable candidate for Derby North may present difficulty and with the previous conflict, it could mean that seek to support another candidate, probably from the Liberal Democrats. As much as I’d love to vote Green wherever possible, I know that this election is probably not a time I will be able to. I am also a supporter of non-tribal politics certainly in the local area so it may be listening out for those policies which sound the most GPEW and having to side with some things I do not accept.
Theresa May in her press conference announced that she wished the population would remain to stick with the Conservative government for a Strong and Stable government, her Foreign Minster Boris Johnson appeared on BBC Radio 4 and described her main opposition in Jeremy Corbyn as a mugwamp which sparked a meltdown as people who had not heard of the term meaning a person who remains aloof or independent, especially from party politics, and thus went viral with Mr Johnson’s comments, when asked by BBC Radio Derby on a visit in the local area on her election campaign Theresa May failed to answer the question of what she knew this term meant only responding with her soundbite.
It promises to be a chaotic few weeks in the build up to this General Election which I’m sure will be unlike any other we’ve experienced before. I now await the early hours of the morning of Friday 9 June watching the results come in and broadcast on television.
The first 100 Days of Donald J. Trump’s Presidency
Chaos and Confusion
Only days after Theresa May had laid out the plans of Brexit, the attention of the world’s politics turned to events across the pond and in Washington D.C. ready for the new President of the United States of America’s inauguration service meaning that Donald J. Trump was sworn in as the man to replace Barack Obama and become the forty-fifth man to hold the most influential title after his shock win in the USA elections on 8 November last year.
Not surprisingly, Trump’s inaugural address was brief but nationalist and populist, the speech continued to emphasise his soundbite of “America First” and was greeted with less than who had attended for Obama’s years previous despite this Trump and his press secretary Sean Spicer stood their ground believing that photography of the event had been doctored so it appears a lot less than were present and refusing to allow the press to interrogate about this allegations.
With this started those on the side of the White House and the President changed of method of communicating from the White House to the media by belittling those in the mainstream and knocking down the previously seen barriers and keeping up appearances by continuing to treat his time in front of the camera similarly to those of when he hosted the USA version of The Apprentice of which he has passed the reins onto Arnold Schwarzenegger adding also to the manners of running the country the way Trump has his empire of business.
His get down and look busy moves of signing off radical executive orders (vows he wants to happen within USA law) including reversing previously important trade deals, climate change policy and American aid to International abortion counselling along with picking supporting members of his high table like him with no previous background in politics.
Only a week in office, the tremors of the President’s intentions begun with his attempts to impose a travel ban on those entering from seven countries in order to prevent a “horrible mess” but despite this Trump found obstacles and decided to take on the courts. This intentional ban split people down the middle, for those who had believed his radical opinions and willingness to shake up the old forms, this was a sign that he was living the dream he wanted to impose however at the time of this post, the executive order is still awaiting to be seen if it will be signed off or vetoed.
Certainly one big talking point surrounding the politics of Donald Trump’s administration appears to be the links to Russia, despite this, there is no concrete evidence that seems to signal exactly what this could be. After being in office a couple of weeks, a report was announced stating that Vladimir Putin and the Russian government had aspired to help Trump get elected. Despite this, the arms race between the two over Syria was intensifying especially as he tactically spoke to his Twitter followers moving it from defensive to attacking as he believed that he had been victimised in a wiretap order made by his predecessor believing Obama had used the GCHQ stunning those who listened to Spicer allege this claim despite the Anglo-American partnership being fundamental to both English speaking nations.
Trump’s next action was to look heavily upon one of his key soundbites of his campaign, the infamous border wall between the United States of America and Mexico. His efforts to remove those who do not form part of the legal right to be within the borders of the country has certainly been one of the biggest talking points of his politics. His twisted propaganda is making citizens of the USA feel scared of those migrating into what is supposed to be a land of better opportunity and possibility. Using these comments repeatably, those listening start to get the impression that Trump is improving the quality for those who bring reward back to the country for being an honourable American citizen.
Since taking up the presidency, he has increased the expenditure to the USA military and already delivered on sending air strikes to Syria and looking at threats made by North Korea. His relations with leaders of other countries has certainly also caused a stir, be it discussing the Israeli-Palestinian Peace process with Benjamin Netanyahu or inviting Theresa May in his early days in power or playing golf with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe as a method of discussing the relationship between the two nations.
Donald Trump has certainly been through an interesting opening 100 days in office. Plenty for the political commentators to digest and try and understand what he will do next, as always with Trump, he will leave everyone guessing and make decisions like a businessman and CEO of a corporate entity rather than the traditional straighter laced politician.
Personally, I still live and tremble at the prospective decisions he could make however thankfully, due to a few stumbles he didn’t expect, I feel some things will be less probable however his monstrosity grows like a young child crying out when attention is not solely placed upon his aims, and due to that he still is a threat among the highest order.
To mark the century of days he has sat in the more important chair – Jeremy Paxman looked back over the last few months with curiosity and interviewing those who have a closer view and impact than I do this side of the Atlantic Ocean in this documentary – http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b08ntbpm/panorama-trumps-first-100-days
The title of this post comes from a dialogue which features in Douglas Adams’ So Long and Thanks for all the Fish book, the fourth in his The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series. The conversation occurs as follows:
“It comes from a very ancient democracy, you see…”
“You mean, it comes from a world of lizards?”
“No,” said Ford, who by this time was a little more rational and coherent than he had been, having finally had the coffee forced down him, “nothing so simple. Nothing anything like so straightforward. On its world, the people are people. The leaders are lizards. The people hate the lizards and the lizards rule the people.”
“Odd,” said Arthur, “I thought you said it was a democracy.”
“I did,” said Ford. “It is.”
“So,” said Arthur, hoping he wasn’t sounding ridiculously obtuse, “why don’t people get rid of the lizards?”
“It honestly doesn’t occur to them,” said Ford. “They’ve all got the vote, so they all pretty much assume that the government they’ve voted in more or less approximates to the government they want.”
“You mean they actually vote for the lizards?”
“Oh yes,” said Ford with a shrug, “of course.”
“But,” said Arthur, going for the big one again, “why?”
“Because if they didn’t vote for a lizard,” said Ford, “the wrong lizard might get in. Got any gin?”
“I said,” said Ford, with an increasing air of urgency creeping into his voice, “have you got any gin?”
“I’ll look. Tell me about the lizards.”
Ford shrugged again.
“Some people say that the lizards are the best thing that ever happenned to them,” he said. “They’re completely wrong of course, completely and utterly wrong, but someone’s got to say it.”
“But that’s terrible,” said Arthur.
“Listen, bud,” said Ford, “if I had one Altairian dollar for every time I heard one bit of the Universe look at another bit of the Universe and say ‘That’s terrible’ I wouldn’t be sitting here like a lemon looking for a gin.”
Adams’ wit and satire has been reflective in the way I have thought about life, the universe and everything around me and certainly this discussion between the two main characters of these books is a powerful reflection on politics despite being written in the Thatcherite era of British poliitics which seems to be a similar way things are heading again however probably more anarchy and disruption to everyone’s life as the union of the UK seems to fall apart and society continues to fall.