The Conservative Party conference in Manchester was overshadowed by large-scale protests that took place outside the hall and in the streets. The protests were aimed at the Conservative government and the policies they were pursuing. The scenes were often very ugly and many elected and prominent Tory MPs were targeted and heckled when they were seen trying to make their way to the conference. These images and the language used towards anyone attending the conference made me feel deeply uncomfortable.
No-one in the political mainstream has any problem with peaceful protests. They form an integral part of a free, democratic and liberal society. They are part of our history and have helped achieve many notable outcomes. The problem is when these protests go from a peaceful nature to a more hostile nature.
These protests fell into the latter category. The behaviour of a number of the protesters was unacceptable. The willingness to personally insult, spit at and hurl missiles at those going to the conference cannot be defended and looked grotesque to many watching. The intimidation that ordinary members of the public faced when going to the conference was disturbing as well. This conduct will only alienate those observing who may previously have expressed sympathy or support for the principles behind these protests and are therefore counter-productive as well.
Debate is better conducted civilly and not when it is done on a personal level. Personal attacks and the use of derogatory language to insult your opponents should be seen as a sign of weakness and a lack of ability to win the argument. Simply calling someone ‘Tory Scum’ adds nothing to any argument. A level of respect should always be afforded to your political opponents even if you disagree with them passionately. This level of behaviour followed by coherent arguments are normally the best ways to impact governments and challenge their policies.
Peaceful political protests are perfectly valid and highlight a healthy political engagement in a country, but these protests overstepped the line. The Conservative Party are the democratically elected government of this government. Anyone linked to this party should not be intimidated or made to feel uncomfortable simply for just trying to attend their conference. By all means disagree with their policies but do it respectfully and courteously. That is the way we conduct debate in this country and that is the way it should be.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is the new chair of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) panel, despite the fact that the Kingdom holds terrifying human rights records. For many individuals that choice was absolutely unexpected. The Kingdom will be chairing the group of 5 ambassador members, which is also called- the Consultative group. The group is responsible for the appointment of more than 77 experts worldwide. These experts monitor and assess the human rights records in the various countries around the world. These positions are considered to be from crucial importance for the UN Human Rights Council.
By appointing fundamentalist theocracy that is constantly violating the human rights of its own citizens, as well as these of the neighbouring countries places their legitimacy under question. Saudi Arabia has beheaded more than a hundred people only this year. That amount is even higher than that of the Islamic State. Moreover free speech is still a dream in Saudi Arabia. The number of people like the blogger Saif Badawi, jailed for pledging about democracy and criticising the government is unknown. Another activist Ali Mohammed al-Nimr, just 17 years is sentenced to death by crusification. The reason is that he took participation of the anti- government protests. The rights of the women are another issue, which deserves significant attention. In addition to the varieties of restrictions imposed on women, they are they are not allowed to drive a car. (Neuer statement)
For some the fact that the Saudis are presiding that panel might seem insignificant. Unfortunately the facts are different. The last couple of weeks have demonstrated the opposite. The Netherlands has made a proposal the war crimes in the Yemen’s war to be investigated by an independent commission. The proposal included investigation on Saudis and the opposition Houthi rebels. Also the Dutch proposed the Yemeni ports, which are occupied from the Saudi army to be opened in order to facilitate deliveries of humanitarian aid for Yemeni citizens. Riyadh, the Yemeni government in exile and their allies in the UNHRC (the UAE, Qatar and Morocco) strongly resisted the Dutch proposal. The reason for that is that the Saudi government aims to conceal its own war crimes.
In a television interview with the BBC before the last General Election, David Cameron stated that he would not seek a third term as Prime Minister. Since then there has been much speculation about who will follow him, with many candidates appearing to start their leadership bids at the Conservative Party conference this week.
George Osborne, the Chancellor and Cameron’s ally is the early frontrunner and is the clear favourite to take the crown. He has received a lot of credit for his handling of the economy and is seen as the best political strategist within the Conservative Party. He is a man who at this stage would appear hard to beat.
A brief look at recent political history will show though that the front-runner rarely wins. In past Conservative leadership races the likes of Michael Portillo and David Davis have been defeated despite being big favourites. This is true in Labour leadership races as well where both David Miliband and Andy Burnham have been defeated in recent times. Politics is all about momentum and the danger of being a front-runner is that you gain momentum at the wrong time and burnout before the end of the race.
As of yet David Cameron has not indicated when he will step down. Therefore there is currently no clear time frame for his succession. This could be in a couple of years or could be 4 years away. In this period, a number of events could change the whole political environment. There is an upcoming European referendum, where Britain could vote to leave the EU and also there is the ongoing drama within the Labour Party. These things may change everything.
Osborne will face many competitors as well. Boris Johnson has desired the role of leader and potential Prime Minister for a long time and delivered a well-received speech at the conference. Theresa May also has a large support base in the party and is positioning herself as the darling of the Right. Jeremy Hunt and Nicky Morgan have also indicated they may stand. This is going to be far from a coronation.
If the race was held today, then George Osborne would win. However it isn’t. There is a long way to go in this race and there are many things which could yet happen. Osborne rightly deserves his front-runner status, but his win is far from guaranteed. Nothing is decided yet and this is only the beginning of what could be one of the longest leadership races in recent history.
The snap elections in Greece on 20-th of September have demonstrated that the apathy among the Greeks is on the rise. Despite the fact that according to the legislation in Greece, voting is compulsory, just 56 % of the population have decided to implement their right to vote, compared with the 63 % on the January elections. That is a new record low of the voter turnout in Greece. Greeks are usually keen to vote, not because the voting is mandatory, as the law is rarely imposed on people who choose to abstinence from voting. However it seems that Greeks loosed their faith in politicians.
That trend might be explained with a number of reasons. The first reason is that these elections were the 5-th over the last 6 years and the third since the beginning of the year, including the referendum on the bailout plan held on June. People are simply tired from going to the polls. The elections even became a national sports discipline in Greece. The second reason is that, despite that ‘OXI’ (NO) on the July referendum all of the major parties have announced that will implement the humiliated conditions of the creditors in order to receive the bailout funds. Another important reason is that significant part of the individuals feels disappointed from the failed promises of Mr Tsipras that will tackle the austerity measures. Instead, they preferred to stay passive and did not choose to vote for another alternative party.
The Greeks option to boycott the vote is reasonable, as the new old Prime Minister Mr Tsipras has continued with its demagogue statements. At one of the first interviews after the elections, Mr Tsipras stated that will demand a debt relief from the creditors the same creditors which he accused of ‘pillaging’ Greece just a couple of months ago. Rather than that he was forced to implement even tougher deal with the creditors, as he declined the previous bailout plan. Also he publicly criticized his ministers, not to spend time on the TV shows, but to ‘govern and solve the people’s problems’.
The opposition MP Niki Kerameus stated: “Now is not the time to discuss why Syriza went from promising 12 billion euros in grants to proposing 12 billion euros in austerity measures?” The low voter turnout in Greece is logic answer to the leaders in the country, which remain to give false promises. Unfortunately someone has to pay the price and that will be the ordinary Greek population, rather than politicians like Mr Tsipras, looking for a short-term glory.
The Labour Party has had an interesting summer to say the least. It climaxed on Saturday when veteran left winger Jeremy Corbyn was announced the new leader. This came despite many warnings from senior Labour grandees, notably Tony Blair. Blair had been fairly unequivocal on a number of occasions about the dangers of a Corbyn led Labour Party, but his warnings have often fallen on deaf ears.
Jeremy Corbyn is the antithesis of Tony Blair. He is very much Old Labour, rather than New Labour. Where Blair courted the media, Corbyn appears to abhor them. There is little love lost between the two figures and very few similarities and Labour is clearly now in a new era.
Tony Blair always had his detractors in the Labour Party. The New Labour model was seen as a betrayal by a proportion of Labour supporters, who believed the party sold out their principles and forgot about their base. The decision to then invade Iraq was the final straw with a percentage of Labour voters and supporters leaving the party. Critics of Blair will see the decision to elect the anti-war, media sceptic Corbyn down in no small part to the legacy of Blair and the desire to move away from these times and to a supposed new style of politics.
Iraq and the transformation of the Labour Party into a more professional, spin focused political movement is one way history will remember Tony Blair, but there is another enduring legacy. Tony Blair is the only Labour leader to win 3 elections. Two of these were big landslides. Blair was the last Labour leader who could win in the South of England. These records alone give Blair a unique place in the Labour Party.
Since Blair resigned as leader of the Labour Party, Labour has lost two elections. They have now been demolished in their previous stronghold of Scotland and electorally Labour are at a low ebb. History indicates Corbyn’s politics will not resonate with the population as a whole and are unlikely to win him an election. It is also apparent that he splits the parliamentary party and that the potential for a split in the Labour Party cannot be ruled out. The future of the Labour Party is far from clear at this present stage.
Tony Blair is no longer a popular figure in the Labour Party. His adversaries will always claim that Iraq is his legacy. However the reality is history may well remember Tony Blair as the last man who could win elections for the Labour Party. Far from being Labour’s worst enemy, he could be remembered as the strongest asset they ever produced.
Countries and leaders across Europe have reacted differently to the migrant and refugee crisis. Notable amongst these reactions has been that of the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. Orban has adopted a hard-line stance towards the migrants and refugees and has refused to cave in amidst political pressure and adopt a more conciliatory tone and take in more people.
The Hungarian government have defended their position in a number of ways. However in all of the reporting there were some comments that particularly caught my attention. Orban has claimed that the influx of Muslim refugees poses a threat to Europe’s Christian identity and has argued that he was defending European Christianity. As a Christian, I feel the need to challenge these remarks and question whether Orban can really make this claim.
Claiming to want to keep a country or an area ‘Christian’ has become a common defence for many on the anti-migration Right for a while now. It is code for wanting to keep a country the same and not entertain change of any sort, including welcoming people from different backgrounds. It is based on a fear that everything is moving too quickly and that things were better in the past. This has little to do with the Christian faith and more to do with a political mind-set. It is a mechanism politicians will hide behind to conceal their true motives and feelings.
The Bible is very clear about how we are to treat the vulnerable and refugees. The Bible commands us to love our neighbour and show hospitality to strangers. These principles are further expanded on in a number of Jesus’ parables. On top of this God’s chosen people, the Jewish race were refugees and Jesus, the Son of God was also a refugee when He was born. The Bible leaves little room for debate in this area.
In difficult situations and scenarios, politicians will use all sorts of excuses to justify their position and make their stance seem more palatable. On this occasion though, this defence won’t wash. Orban is a democratically elected politician and does have the mandate to act on behalf of the Hungarian people and will have reasons for his position. However he does not have the mandate to claim he is acting on behalf of the Christian faith, especially when his principles are so contrary to what the Bible teaches. There is nothing Christian about what the Hungarian Prime Minister and government are doing, and that needs to be made clear.
In his Labour leadership speech Jeremy Corbyn re-confirmed his opposition to renewing Trident and to nuclear weapons as a whole. Furthermore Corbyn has also ruled out ever using nuclear weapons if he was elected Prime Minister and has stated his desire for a nuclear free world. This position has been well known for a while and is by no means unique in the Labour Party or in the Commons. However is there any realistic chance the government should or could consider scrapping Trident?
The first role of any government is to protect its citizens. This means being ready to respond in times of trouble and to potential attacks. The chances of a nuclear attack remain low, but we do live in an unpredictable world and therefore the prospect can never totally be ruled out. Bearing this in mind it would appear irresponsible to strip Britain of its capacity to respond.
Britain is not the only country which has nuclear weapons. Numerous countries all over the world have nuclear weapons, some with differing aims to others. There also remain other countries and groups who are seeking to gain this ability. This highlights how the desire for a nuclear free world is out of our control. It is fanciful to believe that in the current environment, countries would be prepared to disarm and that a nuclear free world is a distinct possibility.
Politically this position would also be considered a liability. It is not a move which would be popular with either the press or the country and a political party would be punished if they adopted such a position. This is another consideration which makes it unlikely that any serious political party would push ahead with this stance and is a reason why Labour have refused to have this debate this week.
The ideal of a nuclear free world is a great ideal to have. Nuclear weapons are a barbaric creation and do not represent humanity in a positive light. The idea of a future without them would be great. However it is simply not realistic. The unpredictability of the world ensures many countries will never disarm and therefore Britain will not either. This is a case where realism trumps idealism and on that basis Trident and nuclear weapons are here to stay.