Can 2016 live up to 2015?

Looking back at the past year it is hard to know where to begin. 2015 has been a very unpredictable and dramatic year. The political tremors experienced were different to anything we have seen for some time. Before looking forward to 2016, it would be wrong not to have a brief look back at the past year and these are just a few of the highlights.

The year started with talk of hung parliaments and potential coalitions as we all prepared for the General Election in May. Who would form a government and who would be our Prime Minister? The polls indicated it was too close to call, but the end result was a decisive victory for the Tories and a small majority with Cameron continuing in Number 10. The SNP made remarkable gains in Scotland, the Lib Dems were wiped out and UKIP won only 1 seat.

Labour then elected veteran left-wing backbencher Jeremy Corbyn as their new leader, a 200-1 outsider at the start of the race. This may have changed politics in the Labour Party forever and has caused an internal debate which shows no sign of ending anytime soon. These disagreements were best highlighted in the Syria vote and Hilary Benn’s speech and the subsequent fall-out afterwards.

So what happens next and what will happen in 2016. Will Britain vote to leave the EU? Can the Labour Party stay united and will Corbyn remain as leader? Is London going to stay blue and will Goldsmith beat Khan? Is there anything that can stop the SNP in Scotland? These are just some of the storylines to keep an eye on in 2016. Currently you cannot take your eye off politics and that means 2016 should be pretty good as well. Hang onto your hats because the ride is just beginning!

UKIP’s populism in action

The UKIP has been building the majority of its campaign on issues related to immigration and anti- European Union Policies. It is vital for every political party to have a strategy, but what the UKIP leader Nigel Farage did during the TV debate with the other leaders was disgusting. Mr Farage has stated that 60 % of the people diagnosed with AIDS each year are from overseas. All of the participants in the leader’s debate, except the Prime Minister have condemned Farage’s statement. In UKIP’s manifesto is stated that if its measures for insurance of each person coming to the UK are implemented ₤ 2 billion per year will be saved to the UK taxpayers.  However, the reasons of the majority of the immigrants in the UK are economic, instead of intentionally coming to benefit from the so called ‘health-tourism’. The case with the healthcare is different- the immigrants are also paying taxes hence they contribute to the UK economy. Why they will need to be double-taxed- to pay taxes and at the same time to pay for health insurance- something that they already have paid for?

Another ridiculous statement of UKIP is that the immigrants are taking the jobs of the British people. If you consider the facts carefully, there is still a demand for non-qualified jobs- like agriculture, cleaning etc. Looking at the percentage of the British people working in these sectors, simply there is no interest from the local people to work in these sectors. If there is a demand for the business, that means that the gap needs to be filled somehow and the absence of interest from the local population leads to these trends.

The people have easily forgot the hysteria that was created by Nigel Farage the end of 2013, when the restrictions for the Bulgarian and Rumanian citizens were lifted. Mr Farage was making loud statements that as soon as the restrictions are lifted, the entire population of these countries will come to the UK to live on benefits and take the jobs of the British citizens. The actual reality was different, most of the people who had desire to come to the UK were already here, even before the accession of the two countries in the EU in 2007 there was a possibility for the people to obtain a working visa.

The main problems for the UKIP are the immigrants and the European Union. UKIP simply does not provide any political solution to the problems. Unlike the other political parties, UKIP does not provide a comprehensive political programme, it just relies on the populist statements. The most ridiculous facts are that Mr Farage himself has French origin and his second wife is German.

It needs to be emphasized that the politics of hatred should be avoided. The politicians must take responsibility for their actions and give example to the society. The British society has proved its tolerance and multicultural identity and have to be proud of that. The people also must take responsibility by reading carefully and thinking carefully what the programmes of the political parties offer and whether their goals might be implemented.

Any Progress in Saudi Arabia Has To Be Applauded

Recently Saudi Arabia as a country has made news for the wrong reasons largely due to their poor human rights record and links to extremism. These headlines have not perturbed the British government though who maintain a good relationship with the country.

The British government have always claimed the best way to challenge Saudi Arabia on their human rights record was to engage in a relationship with them. This weekend we might have seen the first signs that this pressure and that from other Western countries is having an impact. In elections which took place over the weekend, women for the first time were allowed to vote and participate with up to 20 women being elected to municipal councils.

Progress as history shows can often be slow. Great reform doesn’t always happen instantly. Saudi Arabia as a country has a long traditional, conservative background. This type of thinking is deep rooted in the country and will take time to change. These are deep obstacles and hurdles which need to be overcome, but can be overcome as the weekend begins to show before reform can truly flourish.

Despite what happened in these elections life is not great for women in Saudi Arabia. They were not allowed to address men directly and the councils they have been elected to only have limited powers. They are not allowed to drive and are treated as second class citizens. The progress made in these elections is notable but is only the first part of a long journey.

Rightly criticism of Saudi Arabia has been fairly harsh in recent times. As a country their values are questionable and should represent an era long-gone. However these elections were good news. They were a signal that the country is moving in the right direction. This deserves praise. Saudi Arabia still has a way to go but any progress is positive and should not be underplayed. Therefore we should applaud greatly what has just happened and the signal it sends.

The perils of freedom of speech!

New boxing heavyweight champion of the world Tyson Fury has sparked controversy with his recent comments on homosexuality and its possible links to paedophilia. The statements he has made have been highly offensive and have drawn criticism from many including prominent Labour MP Chris Bryant. There is even a growing petition to have Fury removed from the Sports Personality of the Year (SPOTY) contest. However are offensive comments simply part of the society we live in and a price worth paying for freedom of speech?

Those in the public spotlight have a responsibility over how they conduct themselves. Rightly or wrongly they are role models and what they say and do will have an impact on their fans. Fury is a very talented boxer, but has also always been a complex character who has never been shy of speaking his mind (part of his appeal!). Now with his new-found status and appeal Fury must urgently consider how he behaves and how he conducts himself and whether he needs to change.

There is a difference between defending what Fury has said and defending his right to say it. We rightly place a very high regard on freedom of speech in this country and the right of an individual to express himself or herself. This opens the possibility for opinions such as Fury’s, but remains better than the alternative when all views contrary to the norm are suppressed and restricted.

The best way to defeat these views is through challenging them in open debate. The arguments Fury made do not stand up to scrutiny and when any spotlight is focused on them they will fall apart. Society is developing and progressing and these arguments are becoming less and less common, highlighted in the contempt Fury has been held in since his recent interviews.

As a society we must always defend the right of people to speak their mind (excluding extreme examples which incite violence). Having a right to make these comments does not mean though that it is right to make them and Fury is obviously in the wrong here. The petition for him to be removed from SPOTY is quite sizeable but this would be the wrong move. Rather the right move will be to let the public show through their voting intentions what they really think of Fury. That has to be the response of a free society.

Should Jeremy Corbyn Have Whipped His MPs?

Jeremy Corbyn has opted to give his Labour MPs a free vote on the issue of intervention in Syria. This comes despite Corbyn’s strong opposition to the government’s plans and pressures to impose a three line whip on his MPs forcing them to vote with him. This decision has brought a mixed response with some seeing it as the only decision that he could make and others seeing it as an abdication of leadership.

Issues of war and peace are normally seen as matters of conscience. It is the most serious decision Parliament as a whole and an individual MP can make and is never taken lightly. In recent times on all such decisions there have been divisions across the House and in both the Conservative and Labour parties. This would indicate MPs will vote with their consciences regardless of what their party whips recommend and there would be no point in forcing an MP to vote a certain way.

If Jeremy Corbyn had opted to whip his MPs and force them to vote with him, there would have been consequences. A number of prominent Labour MPs have already publicly stated they disagree with him and were likely to vote with the government. This could have led to widespread resignations or sackings and would only have increased divisions. With the Labour Party already divided, it could have been seen as foolish to inflict further damage on party unity.

The Labour Party are the official opposition in this country. This carries with it a number of responsibilities and voters expect them to have an agreed position on the most pressing issues. This is now not the case when it comes to Syria and Labour at best seem confused and at worst incompetent. This situation may have been avoided if a three-line whip had been imposed and an official position agreed.

Also on issues such as these Jeremy Corbyn has been given a clear mandate from the Labour Party membership and his current position seems to reflect the overwhelming mood within the membership. It appears an official position of opposing the airstrikes would accurately represent where a lot of Labour voters are.

Regardless of the decision Corbyn made he was likely to have gained some criticism such is the public mood. Corbyn’s leadership though does appear confused presently and throughout the weekend his camp have sent out mixed messages on this. The Labour Party as the official opposition need to be clearer on their position on such important issues. The real problem here has not been the decision reached, but the confusion that has been caused in recent days and the lack of a clear strategy and sensible thinking.