Europe and the European Union has long been an issue that has dominated British politics. This culminates on June 23rd when the British public will be asked in a referendum whether they want to stay in the EU or leave the EU. To many on both sides of the argument, this may be the perfect way to end the discussion and move on. However in all reality and likelihood this referendum will not kill the issue.
UKIP leader Nigel Farage recently mooted a narrow ‘Remain’ win could lead to unstoppable momentum for a second referendum. This idea was immediately quashed by David Cameron who rejected the idea of a ‘neverendum’ and by leading ‘Leave’ campaigner Chris Grayling who insisted there should be no second referendum and that the government must listen to the views of the public, but this does not mean Farage hasn’t got a point.
The result of the referendum although binding will not change the opinions of politicians who passionately believe in their cause. If as the betting markets suggest the country votes to remain, it will not suddenly mean all Eurosceptics become fans of the EU and give up on their campaign. To a lot of politicians on all sides of the debate, this is why they are in politics and the idea they can simply walk away is ridiculous.
Europe and the EU is constantly changing. It is hard to predict with any certainty what will happen in the next few years. One event could change everything and there is a remote possibility of a new deal which triggers existing legislation for a referendum. A different Prime Minister, maybe a Eurosceptic Prime Minister could also see the issue differently. In politics with so much out of your control it is foolish to rule anything out.
The result of the referendum is paramount to what happens next. A surprise win for ‘Leave’ would by definition be decisive, but if as expected ‘Remain’ wins the future is less clear. Obviously there will be no immediate second referendum, but as Farage suggested a close result will keep the topic in the spotlight. There is too much heat around the EU for this to simply disappear from our politics and therefore our politicians will be banging on about Europe for some time to come yet.
This summer the Green Party will be looking for a new leader after current leader Natalie Bennett announced her intention to stand down in August when her four year term comes to an end. Under Bennett’s leadership the Green Party gained a record vote share in the 2015 General Election and saw their membership increase to 60,000.
Despite these successes Bennett often faced criticism. Bennett struggled in the media and was not seem comfortable in this setting. She participated in the leadership debates but failed to make an impact and did not gain the poll bounce some were hoping for or expecting. This culminated in the Greens losing control of the council in Brighton and failing to add to Caroline Lucas seat in the General Election.
It is highly probable that it will be Caroline Lucas who will follow Natalie Bennett. Caroline Lucas is popular within the party, is very comfortable in the media and has performed this role before. She is the Greens only MP and has respect within Parliament. With Sian Berry and Jenny Jones ruling themselves out, it is likely it may be somewhat of a coronation.
Politics is fragmenting in this country. Support for the two main parties is on the decline, opening the way for smaller parties such as the Greens. Support for the party has risen steadily but not dramatically and will need to go up another notch if they want to break-through significantly. The Greens though will suffer from Labour’s leftwards pivot. Jeremy Corbyn has moved Labour leftwards and onto some of the territory the Greens have recently been occupying. This will further hurt the Green Party and their attempts to gain any breakthrough in the press.
It is unclear what the future is for the Green Party. Caroline Lucas is secure in Brighton but outside of that it is hard to see what impact they can make under the current electoral system. Labour’s move to the left has taken away many potential supporters. The Greens will remain at a solid level at the polls, but there will be no Green revolution. Not even a new leader could change that.
Young voters are set to play a pivotal role in the upcoming EU referendum. Considered the key to victory by many on the ‘Remain’ side, efforts to woo them have been stepped up a notch in recent months. One politician considered crucial to this strategy is Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who thus far has remained relatively quiet on the issue. This silence has registered with voters with a recent Opinium Observer showing only 47% of those polled knew Jeremy Corbyn supported remaining in the EU.
The same poll showed a lead for Remain over Leave in the age group of 18-34 of 53% – 29%, but crucially that only 52% would be certain to vote. This is where Jeremy Corbyn comes in. In the Labour leadership election Corbyn did very well with younger voters winning 64% of the under 25 vote and 67% of the 25-39 year old age group. Added to this according to a GQQR poll for the Fabian Society, Corbyn is the most trusted figure within the Labour Party in this debate with a net approval of +17. In getting young Labour voters in favour of staying in the EU to the polls, these numbers highlight there is no-one better than Corbyn, so why is he not a more passionate advocate?
Firstly confusion remains over whether Corbyn actually wants Britain to stay in the EU. His endorsement and comments have been lukewarm and prior to running for leader held some Eurosceptic views. In 1993 he spoke out against the Maastricht Treaty and in 2008 voted against the Lisbon Treaty. He once also said that the EU had ‘always suffered a serious democratic deficit’. These are not the words or the stance of an ‘Inner’ and suggest the only motive for his stance is political survival and not ideological support.
Referendums are often won by the side who are the most effective in getting their supporters to the polls. For ‘Remain’ to be certain of victory they need young voters to turn up on polling day. For young, leftish voters, there is no figure they respect more than Corbyn. This carries consequences and means whatever role Corbyn decides to play in the next few months, he is likely to be of great importance.
This month Barack Obama visits the UK possibly for the last time as President. During this visit he is expected to publicly announce his support for Britain staying in the EU. This has been widely briefed and has drawn a mixed reaction from campaigners on both sides of the debate. Figures such as William Hague and Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond have openly stated they think Obama is well within his rights to share his opinion, but advocates of Brexit strongly disagree.
Boris Johnson has accused Obama of ‘hypocrisy’ and UKIP leader Nigel Farage called him ‘the most anti-British President in US history’. A letter organised by former Defence Secretary Liam Fox advising Obama to stay out of the debate has gained the support of over 100 MPs. The letter says “It has long been the established practice not to interfere in the domestic political affairs of our allies and we hope that this will continue.” However not all are worried by Obama’s involvement. For instance Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg rates Obama as a failed President and believes his stance would actually help the Brexit cause.
According to the polls this is not a view shared by the British public. A poll from Pew Research in June 2015 found 76% of British voters trusted him ‘to do the right thing regarding world affairs’ and an older poll conducted by YouGov in September 2014 gave Obama a net approval rating of + 49 in the UK. For any politician, these numbers are hugely impressive and they indicate Obama is both liked and trusted in this country.
Barack Obama brings an element of stardust with him whenever he visits this country. He is well-respected and voters listen to him when he talks. If and when Obama chooses to involve himself with this debate, he is likely to have an impact. With a significant proportion of the electorate still undecided, Obama could convert a number of voters to the ‘Remain’ cause. The debate will continue over whether he should get involved, but if he does speak-out then it will be significant and important and may be a game-changer.
The outcome of the E.U referendum is likely to have profound implications across the political spectrum in this country. After a hectic period of campaigning all political parties will face a challenge to return to some sort of norm. In particular this will be a real struggle for UKIP, who throughout their history have been defined by this topic. The question is can UKIP survive or even flourish after the referendum?
A victory for the Brexiteers and by definition UKIP places the whole country in an unprecedented situation. David Cameron would be forced out and the country would be plunged into immediate negotiations over trade deals with Europe and the rest of the World. In this scenario UKIP may argue that only they can ensure a proper deal is negotiated and that the British public aren’t betrayed.
The other possibility is a win for the ‘Remain’ side. As the SNP have shown in Scotland, a referendum defeat does not spell the end for a political party or even that particular debate. Euroscepticism and fears over immigration will remain after the referendum and possibly a new opportunity could even emerge for UKIP to corner the Eurosceptic market in this country. Those hoping UKIP disappear after a referendum defeat will be sadly disappointed.
Leading figures within UKIP have already begun planning for this future. Over the last few weeks briefings to the press have started over a potential re-branding of the party after the referendum in the same style of the Italian Five Star Movement set up by Bepo Grillo. This movement pioneers online engagement and allows members to vote on policies. Although this has been tried successfully across Europe, it would be a first for this country.
Politics is an ever-changing dynamic and political parties have to constantly think on their feet. At this stage this proposal is only a consideration but UKIP may just be ahead of the curve here and therefore this is a situation to keep your eye on. One thing that can be guaranteed is that in one form or another UKIP are here to stay. The referendum will not and does not change this!
Last week a jury concluded that the 96 people who died at the Hillsborough football stadium disaster in 1989 were unlawfully killed and a catalogue of failings by police and the ambulance services contributed to their deaths. This was a dramatic moment and signalled the end of a 27 year fight to clear the name of the Liverpool fans involved in this tragedy.
Unsurprisingly and justifiably this news dominated the written press and news bulletins. It was the biggest news story of the day and from a journalistic perspective deserved to be covered as such. This made the decision of two newspapers not to cover the story on their front pages hugely surprising. These two papers were The Sun and The Times.
This is only part of the story. After the initial tragedy in 1989 The Sun published its now infamous front-page headline simply stating ‘The Truth’. This headline and the following written piece made several horrible smears about the Liverpool fans and their actions on the day, all of which have now been found to be totally false.
The Sun has since apologised for this headline and no longer stands by the story, but have never been forgiven in Merseyside where a large number of residents boycott the newspaper. This could from a perverse angle explain why The Sun choose not to cover the story on the front page as they believed it may draw attention to their past failings. This cannot be a defence for The Times though.
The Times is The Sun’s sister newspaper and both are owned by Rupert Murdoch. In light of the verdict and all the ensuing history, specific attention was always going to be placed on these two newspapers and how they reported the story. This makes their decision not to report the story on the front page even more astonishing. At worst this looked conspiratorial and spiteful and at best looked like a horrendous mistake.
The Times did correct their mistake before the second edition was released, largely due to pressure from their own reporters and social media criticism and put media coverage of the story on their front page. The following day they did also release a statement apologising and trying to justify their position. The apology was necessary and The Times deserve some respect for this. However in reality this was never a situation that The Times should have placed themselves in. It was a sad day for one of this country’s established and respected newspapers!
So it is all but official the battle for the Presidency will be between Hillary Clinton for Democrats and Donald Trump for the Republicans. Trump has bested all of his Republican rivals and stands alone in the Republican field as the presumptive nominee. Clinton has not yet sealed the Democratic nomination but her victory is inevitable with the focus of her campaign already turning to the General Election and the fight against Trump.
Hillary Clinton as a candidate divides voters. She has been dogged by a number of controversies, most recently over her e-mails and it appears these scandals have registered with the American voters. The latest poll ratings showed her unfavourability ratings at 54.9% compared to favourability ratings of 38.4% equating to an overall negative rating of 16.5%. These findings are often considered the best indicator of a candidate’s success chances and therefore are far from pleasant reading for Clinton.
Furthermore Clinton does not boast universal support in her own party. A lot of Democratic voters are openly resentful of her and are far from certain to turn out and vote in the General Election. Turnout could be crucial in this unpredictable election and if Clinton cannot convince the Sanders supporters she could face a difficult night.
In normal circumstances this would be a Republican’s to lose, however these circumstances are far from normal. Donald Trump has so far defied all political norms and rules in his meteoric rise to the Republican candidacy. He has insulted large proportions of the American electorate, but yet has still managed to be successful. Could he repeat this trick at the General Election?
Although Clinton’s ratings are bad, they are nothing compared to Trump’s. His unfavourable ratings stand at 58.3% with his favourability ratings at 36.5% giving him an overall negative of over 20%. Trump has insulted both women and Hispanics in this election and it is hard to see how given the demographics in the U.S a candidate can be successful with these tactics.
Trump, like Clinton has problems on his own flank as well. Remarkably there are still many in the Republican Party unwilling to either campaign for or endorse Trump. This is true of some Republican voters as well. A figure who cannot even convince his own party to back him is surely going to find it hard to convince the country to back him.
Clinton is a beatable candidate. A Republican candidate who could appeal across the divide would likely be successful. Trump is not the candidate. Clinton may not be liked, but she is more popular than Trump. Therefore in what is likely to be a highly negative campaign fought between two unpopular candidates, it will be Clinton who will be successful. In the fall with no great enthusiasm America will elect their first female President.
A document that is claimed to be from the meeting of the President of the European Commission- Jean-Claude Juncker and the President of the European Council- Donald Tusk with the Turkish President- Recep Tayip Erdogan was published by a Greek financial news website. The meeting held in November 2015 on the G-20 meeting in Antalya. Mr Erdogan was not satisfied with the amount of €3 billion for the period of 2 years that the European leaders agreed to provide to Turkey to cope with the refugee influx. Instead he demanded a double amount- €6 billion- for the same period. The Turkish President demonstrated his frustration by stating that Turkey does not need the European money and if his country does not receive the €6 billion amount, he will put the refugees on buses and will deport them to Bulgaria and Greece. The EU and Turkish officials refused to deny or confirm the authenticity of the document, which gives a clear indication that the conversation have occurred.
However it is clear that Mr Erdogan aims to use the refugees as a political tool in order to gain more benefits from the EU. According to the United Nations Refugee Agency, Turkey hosts the largest number of refugees in the world. Despite the fact that Turkey is the 18-th biggest economy in the world for 2015, the country does not provide an access to the labour market to the refugees. A simple solution which if implemented will take significant part the burden from the Turkish and the EU taxpayers.
In addition to that Turkey continues to inflame the conflict in Syria, by attacking the Kurdish positions in the northern part of the country, thus contributing to the increasing number of refugees. Unfortunately the millions of refugees are simply victims of the geopolitical aim for influence of Mr Erdogan. The recent announcements of Turkey and Saudi Arabia that they will deploy troops and launch operations on the ground in Syria most likely will trigger another influx of refugees. But Mr Erdogan is ready to host them, playing with the destiny and lives of millions of innocent people, by using them to gain financial and political benefits. The situation for the already devastated Syria will worsen.
The race for the Republican nomination is now down to 3 candidates. Marco Rubio was the latest figure to drop out when he failed to win his home state of Florida, leaving us with Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and John Kasich who picked up a vital win in Ohio. Despite this victory for Kasich, Trump remains the clear front-runner.
Trump has a big lead in the delegate count but still has a hard task to reach the magic number of 1,237 delegates. Trump has to win a high percentage of the remaining delegates and could be held back by Cruz or Kasich who may benefit from Rubio’s exit. There is no certainty yet that Donald Trump will be the Republican nominee.
In-spite of all the furore which has existed around Trump, he has hit a nerve in America. Regardless of the controversies and the scuffles which are happening with alarming regularity at his rallies, Trump’s numbers are solid. A significant proportion of the electorate believe in Trump and are loyal to him and support his position on building a wall and banning Muslims. These voters are angry and disillusioned and will not desert Trump; a man they believe is speaking their language.
This leaves the Republican hierarchy in a difficult position. They will know there are ways to stop Trump but will be wary of the consequences of doing this. The reputational damage of Trump running and the possible long-term damage has to be weighed against the electoral ramifications. If Trump fails to reach the delegates needed to automatically claim the nomination and is then blocked by the Republican Party then there is another possibility and that is Trump could run as a third party candidate.
Trump would use this stitch-up to his advantage insisting that he had been the victim of a grave injustice and needs to right this wrong. It is not feasible that Trump would win from this scenario but he could split the vote on the Right and take his voters with him and allow the Democratic candidate to come through and win. This is a headache the Republican Party could do without.
Whatever happens and nothing is finalised yet, Trump is not going to go quietly. That is not his style. However this ends and there are a few possibilities, one thing is for certain Donald Trump will be pivotal in the Presidential race. The Trump story has a few months to run yet and who would have predicted that at the start of the campaign.
Not a lot unites Jeremy Corbyn and David Cameron. Politically they have very little in common, but this summer the two men could find themselves in similar situations. Both are under pressure from their own party and may face leadership challenges. Much must happen before we reach this stage, but could 2016 be the year where both Labour and the Conservatives attempt to oust their leader?
Labour are famously squeamish about removing their leaders and pride themselves in being different to the Conservatives in this regard. Attempted coups against Ed Miliband and Gordon Brown never materialised despite poor poll ratings and it would represent a change in character if Corbyn was removed.
Jeremy Corbyn has never commanded the support of the Parliamentary Labour Party though and this does mean he is in a precarious position. He faces great opposition from some MPs who believe his reign will have a disastrous effect on the Labour Party. This view is hardening amongst the moderate wing of the party who now seem prepared to act. A leadership contest appears inevitable, but with Corbyn’s support in the membership and the lack of an obvious successor there is no guarantee of success.
The Conservatives are traditionally more ruthless and historically have had few qualms about removing their leader. David Cameron despite winning in 2015 has never convinced all of his parliamentary party. The Eurosceptic wing of the party are unhappy with his current conduct and appear to be plotting a move after the referendum regardless of the result, with Boris potentially waiting in the wings. A loss would almost certainly make his position untenable, but even with a win has he now made too many enemies to feel safe in his position?
It is strange for both political parties to be divided at the same time, but this is the situation we find ourselves in. It ensures that we are in for an interesting couple of months with much speculation and gossip. With an EU referendum on the way and two potential leadership challenges, 2016 could turn out to be one of the more remarkable years of our modern political history. Now we have to sit back and wait and see.