Recently, the press has been buzzing with the revelation that Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the Labour Party, has had connections with a Czech spy. This has been proven to be a false, fake news from the Daily Mail. High profile politicians across the world have had connections with the Soviets, such as Vladimir Putin who was a man inside the KGB or the soviet spy network. A far darker hypocrisy is the fact that the Daily Mail who has suggested that Corbyn is essentially a traitor, is itself a traitor to British democratic and liberal values by supporting Fascism and the Nazis.
The article “Hurrah for the Blackshirts” is one of the most infamous articles that the Daily Mail in which Lord Rothermere, the owner of the Daily Mail states that the Fascists were a noble cause worthy to be supported. The pro-Fascist sympathies of Lord Rothermere were also published in the Daily Mirror, the other newspaper who owned. However, The Daily Mirror after the war recanted its Fascist past in part with its post-war support of the Labour party since 1945. The Daily Mail has never properly changed from its 1930s paper. Its 1938 “German Jews pouring into this country” is no different from its sentiment today when the paper regularly goes for immigrants as a scape-goat.
It wasn’t that the owner of The Daily Mail just published pro-Fascist publications. According to the book Trading with the Enemy written by Charles Hingham in 1983, Lord Rothermere gave a total of $5 million to help Adolph Hitler ascend to power. This kind of support for Nazi Germany is inexcusable, helping what became the enemy of Great Britain. When The Daily Mail has written articles such as “Crush the Saboteurs”, or has attacked High Court judges as “Enemies of the People”, it has not repented of its Fascist past as it is open in its criticism of Rule of Law and opposition to other political parties, which would make any authoritarian smile. People can change. This almost sounds like a truism. Institutions, political parties and companies change over time. However, The Daily Mail has barely changed since its 1930s flirt with Fascism. It is as much an enemy of the Rule of Law now as it was in the 1930s. This comes at a time when democracies across the world are on the retreat, a right-wing authoritarianism comes back into popularity. Worse though is The Daily Mail’s criticism of left-wingers as “traitors” when such hypocrisy ignores its own past when its owner actively supported a regime that fought against Britain in a war that killed over 400,000 British people. The Daily Mail thus itself has betrayed British values in the past and has the audacity to attack Left-leaning politicians as “treacherous”.
The Daily Mail is a paper with a Fascist past. This could have been apologised for, could have been repented of, its editorial stance changed. The Daily Mirror certainly has; becoming the largest left-wing tabloid newspaper in Britain. However, The Daily Mail has not changed. The 19th January 1934 article by the Spectator encapsulates The Daily Mail brilliantly;
“But the Blackshirts, like the Daily Mail, appeal to people unaccustomed to thinking. The average Daily Mail reader is a potential Blackshirt ready made. When Lord Rothermere tells his clientele to go and join the Fascists some of them pretty certainly will. “
A recent report from the Fabian Society has suggested that the time may have come for the Labour Party to seek new ways of winning power. The report concluded that the Labour Party has little chance of winning the 2020 General Election and should consider working with parties such as the SNP and the Liberal Democrats in order to return to government.
Previously the idea of a progressive alliance had been raised by front-bencher Clive Lewis who claimed that working with other parties was essential to beating the Conservatives. This advice has largely been rejected by the party but with the current polls placing Labour in a disastrous position, is the Labour Party really in a position where they can afford to ignore such advice?
From a purely electoral perspective the benefits seem clear. In seats where Labour are the main opposition they can be given a free run at the Conservatives and where Labour are too far behind they can allow a better placed party a free run. Logically the end result would be progressive parties being more competitive in more seats and thus giving the Labour Party and its new allies a better chance of being in power. So what is the downside?
Tactically this sort of deal could prove very difficult. For instance could the parties who are used to fighting each other agree to work with each other and would local party constituencies be happy with any deal. From a policy angle there are also slight but clear differences between the parties. Could Labour act with a party that supports independence for Scotland in the SNP or a second referendum in the Liberal Democrats? Lastly in this scenario you have to consider the response of the opposition. The Conservatives were incredibly successful at playing on voters fears of an SNP-Labour coalition at the last election and would happily go back to their old playbook.
Rightly or wrongly at present the Labour Party still considers themselves a party of government. Therefore for the time being any permanent deal with opposition parties will be firmly rejected. Occasionally at a by-election or local elections pacts may be struck but don’t expect this to be a common theme. The Labour Party may well be on its way to its worst defeat in living memory, but regardless of how bad it becomes there will be no progressive alliance.
Under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn it appears unlikely that Labour will ever support military intervention or the use of military force. Corbyn is famous for his anti-war views and during the leadership hustings memorably said he could not imagine a situation where he would send British troops abroad. Therefore is this now a position which will now be adopted by the whole Labour Party.
Corbyn is clearly not the only figure within the Labour movement who feels this way. The Labour Party is still haunted by the spectre of Iraq and is now incredibly cautious about any further military intervention, shown in the last Parliament with their position on Syria. This view is shared by the general public who are war weary. The Iraq debacle has taken its toll and the public are sceptical about further military excursions. Corbyn’s positions on other defence and military issues could well be damaging, but on this subject he is likely to have the support of the public.
The world however is changing and is rarely black and white anymore. New threats are emerging which will have to be investigated and tackled and it would be foolish to rule anything out. There are also certain principles inherent to the Labour Party which may mean at times military intervention is a policy they should support. The Labour Party has prided itself on standing up for the vulnerable and defending those who cannot defend themselves. There is a number of different ways that you can do this, but there may come a time when military force or intervention is the only option to achieve these principles. Labour as a responsible opposition also have a duty to consider sensibly everything the government brings forward before just opposing it.
The Labour Party is a broad church made up of many different opinions and on this subject like many others there is likely to be disagreements. Corbyn has clear ideals in this area and they are to be respected, but there will be times when his instincts may be wrong as situations will rarely be clear-cut. Foreign policy is an ever changing beast and no-one can truly predict what will happen in the future and politically you must give yourself room to manoeuvre. This means it would be the wrong move to ever totally rule out military intervention and the Labour Party as a whole must resist any move in this direction.
Over the last month there has been a greater focus on Britain’s relationship with China. This is mainly due to China’s substantial investment in this country and the closer bonds that now exist between the two countries. However the greater prominence China has received in the media has also led to questions about human rights abuses and how much we know about the country that we are dealing with.
China is still a one party state and the government censors and controls the information that is given to citizens. The government continues to crack down hard on any political opponents and there is no sign of a transition to a truly democratic state anytime soon. Their policies towards Tibet are also highly controversial and are very repressive.
It is easy to see why China is considered an attractive ally though for this government and for Britain as a whole. They are the second largest economy in the world, soon to be the first and can bring with them significant investment. This is important to any country and must not be downplayed. Despite these numerous benefits, China still must not be given a free hand on human rights and Britain must not allow China’s considerable economic force to stop valid concerns being raised.
Human rights are universal. We have made great progress across the world in this regard but we still have a long way to go. Regardless of where you are born and what you believe you should be treated equally and with dignity. This is still not the case everywhere in the world. There are many who still face persecution because of what they believe and what they stand for or even where they were born. If we truly care about our fellow human then it can never be acceptable to ignore these abuses regardless of who commits them.
The government has insisted that human rights discussions are very much on the table and that a closer relationship with China gives them more scope to discuss these issues. It is imperative that this is not simply a soundbite but becomes reality. Too many people in China still suffer from great human right tragedies and it will always be our duty to make sure their voices are heard. Quite simply this is something we cannot run from.
The Palace of Westminster is renowned across the world. The buildings are a place of great historical significance and repute and the envy of many. The buildings quite rightly occupy a special place in the hearts and minds of this nation and are a representation of our democracy and should be treasured. They are one of the great tourist venues and help to portray this country all over the world.
Yet, despite all of this MPs were right to vote to relocate away from Westminster so refurbishments could take place.
MPs this week voted by 236 to 220 to support an amendment that saw members across the House come together to back a full programme of works that is likely to result in the House of Commons moving to a venue in Whitehall from the middle of the next decade. This would be the first time Parliament has moved out of the palace of Westminster since the Commons chamber was destroyed by a bomb in 1941.
The amendment successfully defeated Government proposals which would have further delayed a final decision. The Government appear to have been worried the cost of the repairs, part of a proposed £5.6 billion modernisation would be hard to justify in a time of economic hardship. MPs in the end appear to have been convinced to support the amendment due to the potential risk of a large scale fire.
Of course, the cost of repairs is far from ideal, however the alternatives are far worse. Firstly, the longer a decision is delayed the greater the costs of the repair are likely to be. Secondly, the risk of a catastrophic event is now quite significant. Thirdly, the building in many parts is no longer fit for purpose. This means carrying on as before is no longer an option. A report from the Joint Committee of the Palace of Westminster further underlines this point.
This decision should not be seen as MPs simply spending money on themselves. Nor, should it be viewed as a selfish or irresponsible decision. The repairs for Westminster are a necessity and the sooner they begin than the sooner MPs can return back to the Palace.
The Houses of Parliament are places where our elected representatives make decisions on our behalf, important decisions which shape our future. These decisions should be made in a building fit for purpose and not in danger of calamity. This is not the end for the Palace of Westminster, but merely the start of a new beginning.
With Theresa May away in Davos this week, pressure has continued to mount on her at home. The latest drama begun with a tweet from Nick Boles who criticised the lack of ambition of the Government. This was followed by Sir Nicholas Soames who branded Theresa May’s vision as “dull, dull, dull.” The drama threatened to blow into a full-brown crisis when media reports indicated a vote of no confidence in Theresa May may be imminent.
Additionally, Theresa May has also had to deal with calls from Boris Johnson for more money for the NHS and Chancellor Philip Hammond angering Tory Brexiteers by calling for a soft Brexit. This caused new chairman of the European Research Group Jacob Rees-Mogg to intervene who called for a fundamental change in ministers tone on Brexit.
So how much trouble is the Prime Minister in? In regards to a vote of no confidence in her leadership, no-one can be totally sure. A quirk of the Conservative leadership system is that only the chairman of the 1922 Committee Graham Brady will be aware of how many letters he has been sent calling for this vote. This vote would be triggered if Mr Brady receives 48 letters, 15% of the Conservative Parliamentary Party. It is hard to predict with any certainty how many letters Mr Brady has.
Events are starting to move in an ominous direction for the Prime Minister though. Firstly, the Brexiteers are starting to mobilise. Secondly, the criticism of May is becoming public. Thirdly, the botched reshuffle highlighted how little authority the Prime Minister has. This is a powerful combination. This led to Philip Hammond calling on rebel Tories to “stick with” Theresa May.
Theresa May’s position has been under threat since the disastrous General Election. Famously described by George Osborne as a “dead woman walking” on the weekend after the election, nothing has changed since then. Theresa May has always been at the whim of her backbenchers. If the mood is turning bleaker then Theresa May’s grip on power is likely to be fading fast.
What may save her, is the only thing that has been saving her to date, mainly the Conservative Party doesn’t want a leadership contest and there is no obvious replacement. However, this won’t last for ever. Theresa May and the Conservative leadership remain in a state of stasis. A leader with no vision and no plan will always be on borrowed time. And that is what it is increasingly feeling like with this Prime Minister.
Politics in the United Kingdom is becoming notoriously difficult to predict. Therefore, it may seem like a fool’s game to predict what will happen this year. However, that is what I am about to do. My predictions are as follows:
- Theresa May will still be Prime Minister
- The Government will not have fallen.
Let’s begin with my first statement. Theresa May’s position has appeared precarious since the General Election. The loss of the Conservative majority appeared to be a fatal blow from which the Prime Minister could not recover. Undoubtedly, this weakened the Prime Minister, but yet she has clung on and will continue to cling on. Why?
Mainly, it is because the political climate has not changed substantially since the morning of the 9th June 2017. Firstly, there remains no obvious candidate to take over from the Prime Minister. Secondly, Conservative backbenchers remain nervous about whether a move against the Prime Minister would hinder Brexit. Lastly, there does not appear to be a desire from any potential candidate to take over the role whilst Brexit negotiations are ongoing. The Prime Minister’s future is inextricably linked to Brexit and whilst Brexit talks are ongoing which they will continue to be during 2018 then her position is safe.
Ok, let’s now move onto the second statement. The Government only has a small majority and is reliant on support from the DUP. In theory this means the Government is vulnerable. Additionally, we have seen the Government face defeats in the House of Commons since the General Election. So, given this political environment, how can I be so sure the Government will survive 2018?
The answer is simple: Jeremy Corbyn. A number of Conservative MPs may have misgivings about the direction of the party and their policy positions, notably around Brexit. But, crucially they will not do anything to make a Corbyn premiership and an early General Election more likely. The other players to consider in this calculation are the DUP. The DUP have always been highly critical of Corbyn and McDonnell. A Government led by those two would be seen as a disaster by the DUP. The DUP may seek to renegotiate their current terms but would not facilitate an early General Election and bringing down the Government.
2018 will bring more political surprises and shocks, but I firmly believe these two things will stay the same. In reality only time will tell. Happy 2018 all!
Virgin Trains has announced it is to stop selling the Daily Mail on its West Coast trains. Virgin explained the decision by claiming the paper was not compatible with the Virgin brand and beliefs and that considerable concern had been raised by employees about the Daily Mail’s editorial stance on certain issues such as LGBT rights, immigration and employment.
The decision by Virgin Trains has drawn a considerable response. The Daily Mail unsurprisingly hit back calling the decision “disgraceful.” The decision was also criticised by Boris Johnson who labelled the decision “absurd” and Jeremy Corbyn who said “there would be no bans on a publicly owned railway.” A rare moment when the Foreign Secretary and leader of the opposition were in agreement. Not everyone has been critical of Virgin though. Jane Fae for instance in The Guardian supported the decision of Virgin claiming the paper does not match Virgin’s brand identity.
Virgin’s defence of this decision has been centred on the editorial line and position of the Daily Mail. This is crucial, as this makes the decision a moral and ethical one rather than a business call. If this had been explained as a business decision than the backlash would not have been as severe.
To clarify, this is not a defence of the Daily Mail. I do not read the Daily Mail and rarely agree with their editorial lines. I find the language they use toxic and that as an outlet they do very little to enhance constructive debate on most occasion. I am not a fan of the newspaper and do not see myself ever becoming a Daily Mail reader. However, that is not the crux of the issue in this instance. The real principles in play are that of censorship and freedom of press.
I believe fundamentally people in this country should be free to buy the newspaper they desire. Additionally, I believe that if you do passionately disagree with a editorial line of a newspaper line you choose to engage with the argument rather than ban the newspaper. Living in a free society with an open press means you come across opinions you disagree with. This is to be expected and applauded. Believe me, the alternative is far worse. Let people decide for themselves what they want to read.