UK General Election 2017

The political landscape has been shaken up as Theresa May u-turned on yet another promise. The conservatives are very far ahead in the polls now and Mrs May announced that she chaired a meeting of the cabinet where they agreed the government should hold a general election on the 8th June.

In the recent local council elections, Labour was trounced. This election holds importance in the type of Brexit the UK faces will largely be decided come June 8th. Most policies enacted by government aren’t as wide sweeping, and certainly aren’t as destructive over the long-run as leaving the European Union will be.

Therefore, it’s not only critical that everyone gets out to the ballot box. It’s also crucial the public make an informed choice on the type of Brexit (as well as type of governance) they want. Already we have felt the sting of food price rises due to a weakened pound. As prices continue to rise and real wages stagnate over several years this will only compound those at the lower end of society. The social cost is high, as will be the political cost of any government who commits to Brexit in the long-run.

Public opinion can change and political parties would do well to remember that. The public should too. The reality is only starting to just starting to bite, when the Brexit pain really starts to dig in it will be interesting who the new bogeyman will become. Will discourse simply deepen its focus on the other? With people saying we didn’t go far enough about rejecting immigration. Will it just continue to be the EU? The conservative, right-wing dominated media controls information in the UK at the moment so we can make a prediction based on that.

These are all pitfalls that will beset any new government, and could make them unelectable at the next election in 2022.

With all this in mind, choosing the next government is not a decision that any voter should take lightly. This is the most important election of the 21st century so far.

Tim Farron, Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn
Main party leaders: Tim Farron, Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn

Appleton’s election tip:

Think wisely about the main issue that affects you. Whether that’s the environment (clean air), the NHS (which certainly is from what I’ve experienced recently at breaking point), Brexit (will affect this, and future generations including tie up government resources and development for years to come), immigration (because a sizeable chunk of the population perceive this to be the issue of our times), disability (major cuts over the past 7 years) or if it’s something I missed. Have look at party manifestos see what party best stands up to fix the issues you face. I’d recommend this approach, and not basing it on personality, a leader is an important part of a political party no doubt but the people behind it and the values/issues they wish to tackle are as important.

This marks my first post since December 2016. I want to continue on a little more but I have just come out of a two night stay at Barnet Hospital due to severe glandular fever. I was not able to swallow at all, only spit and was on the verge of throwing up, my tonsils were killing and almost touching.

Hope all readers are well. I’ll be back posting soon. Even more so as I’ve finished and passed my masters for this year. Just one year left 🙂

It’s been a great 2016, now to 2017

Happy New Year!

2016, WOW. What a year.
No, I’m not just talking about Brexit or Trump here (equally big, but on a negative level). But personally!

This was the year of the graduation. The completion of my degree in Politics, Philosophy and Economics (PPE). The beginning of a MSc in International Public Policy at Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) and a couple of interesting study trips.

The end of the year also marks the reshaping of this blog. It’s no longer going to be known as it once was. Some readers may already have noticed this but it going to taking on a more professional, politically inspired form.

I hope everyone has a great remainder of 2016, and a very happy new year 🙂

Take care!

UK votes to leave the European Union

Lack of understanding..
The ref exposed a large lack of understanding

The UK has voted to leave the European and thus will no longer be part of the European Union (at some stage). Something that is part of the greater good, it might not be perfect but what form of governance is. The UK has voted to leave an important block, in an increasingly interconnected, interdependent and globalised world.

Let me get to what I believe we have just caused through our decision to leave both nationally and on the continent.

It’s all self-inflicted harm

We’ve produced a period of self-inflicted instability nationally and throughout the continent through these areas;

• Economically, the market has crashed. The pound has dropped and has stabilised at its lowest level since 1983

• The UK Economy and the Eurozone could suffer from more Economic turmoil if decisions aren’t made quickly and rationally to instill business confidence. The Eurozone affects us in or out of the EU. As we live in an interconnected world, with a full globalised economy.

• Socially, areas which benefited from EU funding such as Yorkshire, Hull (marina and port areas entirely built on EU Social finds), Cornwall now need to worry about where investment will come from. The many care institutions and other institutions. Who were funded in total or part by the EU now need to worry about their future existence

• Again, products that are protected under the EU. Like Melton Mowbray pork pies etc, may be concerned about region protection but we should get a deal that allows us to continue protecting these inside the single market. Albeit at greater cost

• Our European soft power has now been diminished in one move politically, economically, and diplomatically

Now some of the specifics. The quitters sold the public a line that they should pass more sovereignty back to Westminster. To analyse the sovereignty issue:

• Sovereignty is not a whole. There is no such thing as overall sovereignty as politicians have continually alluded to. Sovereignty is split into three parts; international legal, domestic, and Westphalian-Vattelian sovereignty.

• Sovereignty is fluid. Not absolute in the 21st century, there is no empire or commonwealth (as there before was)

• Globalisation has eroded sovereignty more than the EU ever did, or will. The EU provides a mechanism for democratic control over the pooled or contracted out Westphalian sovereignty. Transnational corporations, the media etc, lobby parliaments and invest large sums into campaigns, and in some cases directly target politicians. In an effort to influence them. Some even use threats of leaving a market (for another country) or threaten intervention in the market through other forms (not just capital flight). This is one reason many countries are increasingly being held hostage by the likes of Amazon and Google etc.

• Without a regulatory body or large block that has a lot of influence the trend will continue. Just ask Microsoft or Google about business in the EU. It’s been regulated very well for the most part, to make sure people are not exploited and that corporations do not run a mock. There is a fine balance but the UK alone will struggle unless it co-operates more in this area. The laws that are often passed in business and the tax world thus often favour these corporations massively.

The End Result

End result: We most likely will end up with the Norwegian model. Inside the single market, and contracting out our Westphalian sovereignty. The difference being where it was once pooled out democratically in the EU and we had influence on laws and any potential reforms of the democratic process. There will now be none. So, we have no democratic input on the Westphalian-Vattelian sovereignty that we will contract away under ANY future model. Of course we could opt for nothing at all of course (which means not trading with the EU and being in the single market!). So, we we’ve given away democratic control (which you can reform and change) for none at all on the sovereignty that will have to be contracted out.

There will be a constant erosion of Westphalian sovereignty, the state system itself is eroding. There was a good quote, I can’t remember where it came from but it was basically along the lines of; Europe is where the sovereign state was born, there it shall end.

Globalisation is the largest threat to sovereignty but that doesn’t have to be all bad, As long as there are checks and balances, which by the vote to leave yesterday we’ve removed another layer of.

The 350million a week figure which was a lie was more like 180 after our rebate, most likely won’t be spent on NHS or other services in this country. Nigel Farage said so, so hey it must be right. Of course we already knew that. The cost of any other agreement with the EU will probably be quite significant, along with replacing any social funding that we now may have to provide to institutions or under developed regions. The EU did quite well with wealth redistribution in that sense.

Of EU, Empire and Commonwealth

The EU project is something very unique and is so difficult to quantify. A project looking to promote and nurture peace, freedom and security in a very unstable world. For those who say NATO gives us security. Well, they’re right but so does the EU. The member states work through diplomacy, soft power, and economics (the ability to apply sanctions). It’s not all about hard military power. Border disputes must be settled before any country is admitted into the EU. The African Union, Caricom, ASEAN use it as a model for security and trade.

What we can look forward to is a government full of hard right-wing, casually racist prats. Boris Johnson, I don’t think he knows where he is on the political compass, just snaking his way to the leadership of the Tory party. Jacob Rees Mogg, and Daniel Hannan. We can’t rule Mr. Farage out too of course, can see him defecting back to his old party to party in the sun.

But hey, we got the commonwealth and the empire right? Right? Haha.
I’ve not been a fan of direct democracy and referendums due to the amount of misinformation sides can promote, and the public can often vote on issues for the wrong reasons. I feel this has pretty much proved that case.

If you made it this far, congratulations. I didn’t mean to make it this long.

What this vote has shown is that we are a nation divided. We now project ourselves as insular and at worst living with some past notion of empire. Britain is better than this.

“When I go into Downing Street they do what I say; when I go to Brussels they take no notice” – Rupert Murdoch

As you notice, racism has reared its ugly head again in this country 🙁

A petition that made me chuckle. Including all countries of the commonwealth (sarcasm). Except the Brown people, yes those people. If you are an ethnic minority and you voted to leave on the hope that there would be a deeper connection with the commonwealth. You will be let down. Especially if you are brown. The petitionhttp://tinyurl.com/l272w2k 😆

Conclusions

By now it’s clear to see the quitters have no central plan. The Tory leadership is a poisoned chalice. The opposition along with the elected party is in a total state. Those poorest will suffer first, particularly in poor regions of the UK that benefited from the EU social development fund, regions like Kingston upon Hull, and Cornwall. The economy is taking a battering and the racists/xenophobes are out in force. We got to brave our self-inflicted storm and try to re-unite what now is a very divided, inward, and increasingly intolerant country.

Some hard-hitting images post-referendum

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

EU referendum – Fact and Fallacy

British and EU flag
Britain and the EU need each other.

The EU referendum isn’t far away, both campaigns are in full swing.

With just 3 weeks I can’t help but feel concerned. First, the narrative of the referendum is negative largely coming from the Leave campaign (Boris and his Hitler remarks, Racist comments from some Brexit supporters), although the remain campaign have had to put up with the Prime Ministers comments (R.E World War three).

When history is made, people in the future should learn not to make the same mistakes. Let’s go back to 1929, a global financial crisis. Then the rise of the far right. Hard economic times feed political extremism and reactionary politics. This is no time for nationalist policies and history has taught us what turning to the far right can do. Fractious, aggressive and divisive politics is not what Europe or the world needs. What’s needed more then ever coming off the back of a financial crisis is cooperation, internationally and within continents. Turning to nationalism as the past has shown leads to uncertainty.

Another concern with the recent populist/nationalist rise is that it largely ignores the world around it. The economic crisis that created citizen concern for the “other” or immigration was global. The Eurozone had differing issues on top of this, but the UK isn’t part of the Eurozone.

A large percentage of claims the leavers make are inaccuracies or just blatant lies (see the leaflet images below). I will tackle these in my post referendum analysis (when I have some free time). For now I hope all will make use of balanced sources, I’ve provided an independent source below.

Independent referendum research and Conclusions

For an independent source, take time to head over to fullfact.org. Probably the best source for anything related to the referendum. From their about page:

Full Fact is the UK’s independent, non-partisan, fact-checking charity. We check claims made by politicians, the media, pressure groups, and other voices in public debate, and push for corrections where necessary. We also work with government departments and academic research institutions to improve the quality and communication of technical information at source, and campaign for greater transparency in the public arena.

I have much more to say on this but no time. I had a leaflet come through my door the other day from vote leave.

I posted this along with a poll on the recently relaunched political debate forum (Let Politics Talk). You can view it here. I’d be glad to debate with some readers 🙂

So, I’m campaigning with StrongerIn, doing some phone banking and taking part in battle bus events.

Yet, again I really want to expand on this all more but I really have had absolutely no time.
Hoping for a Remain result. Though it doesn’t look too good at the moment.
Come on Britain, we are stronger and greater in!



More to come soon. Stay tuned.

IAPSS: Study trip to Brussels – Conclusion

European Parliament with IAPSS
European Parliament with IAPSS

My conclusion from my week at the political heart Europe, in Brussels.

Everything here is formed of my own opinion, and the speakers involved in the IAPSS study trip were not speaking on behalf of the EU in any official context. To protect each individual speaker’s identity, I won’t name or quote anyone officially.

Institutions visited: EU Parliament, EU Commission, Council of Europe, Institute for Europe Studies at the Free University of Brussels, A lobbyist (Burson-Marsteller), Representation of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia and the European Policy Centre (EPC).

The question is “the EU under threat” naturally leads one to think yes. There is certainly recognition from many speakers that we engaged with during the three days.

Crisis and governance

Being a government means crises are very much the norm. The EU is a continental governance of 28 member states, with a political-economic union, various active liberalisation policies, and over 500 million citizens. It’s easy to see how easy crisis builds up and stack up upon each other. I will not go in depth about factors outside of the union (the Arab spring and its aftermath, which led to an ongoing refugee crisis). It seems as though expansion, has happened too quick. Early success from many early EU projects, led to over-optimism. It seemed to me that most of the speakers I engaged with realising the brakes now need to be applied and recognise the need to consult EU citizens more. It seemed to me many were aware that no government/union can survive without the desire/will of its citizens.

Consulting citizens is all good and well, but I think the EU has one hand tied behind its back. Member states refuse to have the promotion of any factual information by the union. It’s clear that elements in member states would brand it as propaganda anyway. The problem when consulting citizens at the ballot box is they don’t tend to get the facts. There is a massive void between independent sources that can promote and provide facts and EU citizens. So, it’s no surprise that populists, charismatic politicians fill this void. What Europe needs is more independent (non-biased) fact-finding charities reaching out to the populace.

Political integration and democracy

I am going to stray a little and talk about the early founding of the EU. To add to this I will put forward my own opinion, which is that the EU should go back to its founding values. Political integration is something, not every member state is ready for and not every EU citizen is ready for. Political integration has come too soon, and without the consent of many Europeans. I think integration could be rolled out slowly over the next 30-50 years in but only in small chunks, and by consulting EU citizens through the ballot box. Although democracy does already exist within the EU (contrary to populist claims). Unfortunately, much of the control over political integration isn’t in the hands of ordinary EU citizens.

This is one reason why the EU feels so distant to many of its citizens. It’s good to see though that this has been recognised by the Juncker commission. It’s in the top ten priorities for Europe and it’s something I will follow to see just how the democratic deficit is being tackled. It’s important to remember that within any democratic governance/parliament, there is a democratic deficit so this isn’t EU specific. The question is to what extent and also what do those who hold power intend to do about it. The media/politicians/some citizens in the UK tend to raise the case of democracy a fair bit, overlooking the fact we have a large deficit in the UK parliament with an unelected House of Lords and some would argue an unfair balloting system at elections (no proportional democracy).

Many EU citizens are unable to understand the rather complex form of democratic representation within the EU, the processes are not the same as to how most state democracy works, which is far easier to understand. This is then exploited by politicians and the media, leading to a void between the governance and its citizens. There is a lack of independent sources out there, although this has improved in the run up to the UK referendum with sites such as fullfacts.org. There are still questions about how much real independent material citizens from other member states are able to access. The EU does provide facts about its operations but they aren’t allowed to advertise, and independent groups often have more credibility than government sources.

To conclude

The EU should look at its successes, which in turn have in many cases created its various crises. Some were undoubtedly unavoidable and were not caused by poor governance, such as the migrant crisis. However, this now faces a huge risk of being mismanaged!. However, with these sort of crises along with climate change the EU will be measured upon how it reacts and acts. The EU should stick to its liberal and inclusive democratic foundation. Liberalism won’t please everyone but the very fact it tries to accommodate everyone should see the EU through its toughest days yet.

One representation, In my opinion got weighed down too much by statistics and econometrics, not including any real social or “field” analysis. This is the problem with statistics and regressions.

Governing 500 million people with many different languages, cultures, religions, and differing viewpoints means the EU will always be in one crisis or another. What’s unique about today is the amount of crises the EU face all at once. In the past, they may have been one (or at most two side-by-side) now they are faced with multiple crises and growing populism. Populism is best defeated by sticking to the core values of inclusivity and by making rational decisions (no knee-jerk reactions), not by shifting to ideas which have brought bloodshed and grief not just on this continent but many others.

I went off on a bit of a tangent there, but it’s hard to talk about each institution individually. Maybe that’s an idea for a future post!

{Originally, I had planned to post this Tuesday 22nd March. However, I decided to hold this after the dreadful attacks in Brussels. I offer sympathies to all those involved in the terror attacks in Brussels, and across the world (most recently Iraq and Pakistan).}

Photos from the trip

[slideshow_deploy id=’3553’]

As a side note. I’ve purchased this book. I have gaps in my understanding about how certain things work in the EU. I don’t think you ever can know everything about governance really, pics and reviews will be in the books section.

It was an informative trip and was thoroughly enjoyed. I met a great set of people and may attend more events with IAPSS in the future (watch this space 😉 ).

I’ve been stressed out because of a university assignment. All back on track now 🙂

The British Public and the EU – Democracy

British and EU flag
Britain and the EU need each other.

It seems a significant proportion of the British public believe we should have a referendum to stay in the European Union.

I will try to answer these the best I can to the extent of my knowledge currently it’s a work in progress as always.

What distresses me is the lack of any intelligent discourse when the subject (The European Union) is debated. This ranges from when the media interviews a member of public on TV or writes an article in a newspaper and let’s just not even mention question time, responses range from; the EU is undemocratic, the EU is a gravy train and what we spend towards the EU budget is too large, and it robs nations of their sovereignty. To add to this, It seems the public still believe lots of the Euromyths that have been proven to be nothing more then myth!

Furthermore, many citizens in other nations (from what I’ve been seeing on social media) now view UK citizens as being uninformed, or trying to hang on to a lost notion of empire, and due to this have many come to the conclusion that the UK is a burden on the rest of the EU.

I also worry just how misinformed the populace are and their opinion on vital constitutional issues, it often decided by the media or fringe/protest political parties. Important policy decisions and constitutional changes seem to be more knee-jerkingly drawn up. Independent research and rational reason seems to have disappeared.

Put the choice to the people they say.

The people have a choice at the ballot box. To vote for a anti-EU party such as UKIP (we can hardly call them Eurosceptic, more anti-Euro?) or vote for liberal democrats for example. Its how our representative system works and its how representative democracy has worked for hundreds of years. We seem to have a proportion of people who believe that unless a referendum is called on such issues there is no democratic choice. Do people now think we should implement direct democracy in this country then? Where a majority of decisions that affect the population is taken to the ballot box at regular referendums? Like the Swiss semi-representative model? Does the general public know the advantages/disadvantages of a direct system or more direct model of democracy?

I’m generally against this form of direct democracy which is often slow. Another drawback are the effects if the population not understanding what they are balloting for clearly enough (voter ignorance), financial imbalance can mess up outcomes, some issues are complex and thus cannot be reduced to a response as simple as yes or no, and question wording might mean the voter not being given the opportunity for their preferred option.

Representative democracy is not perfect but better then the alternatives. The politicians often don’t seem it but they often are the people most qualified to take such decisions. We elect a party (the party leader is chosen by the party) that represents us and who have (hope 🙂 ) qualified people to make decisions on our behalf

The EU is undemocratic.

As the only international government that has some element of democracy in the form of the EU parliament I find this statement odd in the least. To add, When did anyone have a vote on the founding of the UN?

I’m not saying that there is no democratic deficit. There is in the best of democratic parliaments and governmental systems.

Elections occur in every member state every 5 years. Some people on social media say this Jean-Claude Juncker, this Martin Schulz, we never voted for them. But they come through a similar party system as they do in the UK. The largest political group are the European People’s Party (EPP) in the European parliament Jean-Claude Juncker was selected. How both democratic systems work is quite complex and I believe this is one stumbling point between the public as nobody really understands it. I confess, I don’t understand the democratic system fully with regards to the EU, but it’s something over the next few years I’ll definitely understand more.

So, there is a democratic deficit. Just like at Westminster. Where we have a unelected House of Lords, both systems have flaws. No government is perfect but if we want to reduce a democratic deficit shouldn’t we look closer to home first? Westminster is archaic and out of date.

The problem I have with referendums is that they quite often slow down any good governance. The vocal few never are often not satisfied and continue to push for another/other referendums. The method of direct governance has it’s pitfalls, and I don’t think some have been entirely thought through in the past few years.

The UK still faces the possibility of a breakup of the Union in the near future (popularity of the SNP) and calls of another referendum will be on the cards as to whether Scotland should stay in years to come. The very dynamics of the country have changed with elements of direct democracy. Britain a place once known for stable politics within Europe is looking rather different (more like Belgium!), it needn’t be a bad thing though.

There is much more I have to say on this subject (as I do so many!). I’m always open to debate or expansion of points. Please leave a comment below. You can sign in using Facebook/Twitter or register for an account on my blog.

(Published from my iPhone)

Hope you all had a good summer 🙂

The Environment and the EU

The Environment and the EU

Climate Action is needed.
Climate Action is needed.

Many people have asked me why do we need regional or world governance at all. Apart from the diplomatic, trade, economic benefits (not just economics in terms of financial, social, welfare etc) but a properly governed regional/world government can provide change and action for the most important category of them all.

The Environment

Care of the Environment is no longer confined to a few tree huggers but has become a major international concern. Climate change is real and the years we have lived through from the year 2000 are proof of that.

We just had the warmest year on record (2014). A second typhoon in a year just battered the Philippines with enormity (though you could argue it’s not directly linked). Climate change isn’t new and has happened in the history of this planet before, but never has it been down to mankind as it has been since the industrial revolution began. We have been unlocking carbon stored underground and pumping it directly out into the atmosphere (along with CFCs and other gases). Yet, We have some that still deny whether climate change is happening. This isn’t a post of whether climate change is or isn’t happening however. It’s about the environment, keeping the air we breath clean, the seas we fish in clean, the rivers we fish in clean, our existence and that of many species safe.

Why national governments can’t succeed with Environmental policy

National governments are often short sighted. It’s not their fault as most governments serve a term of 5 years. The focus will always be on the next election. The Environment requires very long term commitments and not short-run policy patches.

This is where regional or world governance can come in. The UN is not restrained by terms or the slow speed of democracy in this case. The EU does have a democratic parliament so can be restricted in terms of speed. In acting to form policy. Some issues which national governments have are not present at EU or international level.

But Climate Change will only effect other continents

Well, this isn’t the case (and stop being so selfish if you think that’s the case!) “A recent paper produced by the Climate Action Network highlights the impacts of climate change on Europe, of which Oxfam is focusing on the food and agriculture aspect of the report. With projected agricultural outputs expected to decrease 2% each decade for the next century in a world where food demand is set to increase by 14% in the same period, it is time for climate impacts on food security – inside and outside Europe – to be brought onto the agenda.” As agriculture represents 3.5% of the 28 Member state European Unions GDP and employs 17 million people it would be one of the hardest hit sectors and this is what the Oxfam source recognises.

We have seen yields in Europe decrease this year due to a change in climate (regardless of whether it’s a one-off or the beginning of a pattern). I talk of the Olive yield this year which is down on years previous, due to drought.

How far should things be left to the market to resolve?

It’s a normative question and the answer to this may depend on a persons politics. Politicans on the right would tend to favour a lesser degree of intervention (a more hands of approach) those on the left generally would prefer intervention.

The EU uses ‘cap and trade’ principle. The EU Emissions trading scheme is in it’s third phase.

Note: I’ve decided to make this a living post and will update accordingly (in the post or comments below). I chose to do this mainly as I don’t have much time now not even to proof-read. I’m doing a project in my Economics module, focusing on Environmental Economics. I hope I can provide more of an insight into this subject area (and be able to explain whats in my head with clarity!) more then! I’ll update this often once I’ve completed my project 🙂

Sources: Image and quotations courtesy of – Oxfam