It appears likely that at some stage this year there will be a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU. This will be a pivotal moment for Britain and is a vote which may determine the future of David Cameron. According to newspaper reports Tory ministers are now openly stating that should Cameron lose he will be forced to resign. With polls showing the race too close to call, we could now be coming to the end of his premiership. However given what Cameron has achieved would a resignation (be it forced or not) be the correct decision.
The last comparable referendum was in 1975 when Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson held a referendum on Britain’s continued membership of the European community. Wilson won this vote and subsequently stayed as Prime Minister. Therefore if Cameron did lose both he and us as a country would be in uncharted territory. This makes it very difficult to predict what happens next.
David Cameron knows his reputation and to some extent his legacy is on the line. In calling this referendum and pursuing reforms he has placed himself in a position where he will face judgement on the deal he has personally negotiated. Barring a late change of heart Cameron will campaign to stay in the EU and should Britain then vote to leave the EU, it will be seen as a rejection of Cameron.
Europe and the EU has always divided the Tory Party and there is a strong Eurosceptic presence which runs through the party. Arguably these voices could now be considered the dominant ones in the party. A fair proportion of Tory MPs will campaign to leave and should they be successful they are unlikely to look kindly on a Prime Minister who has been on the other side of the debate. The pressure they would impose combined with the personal nature of this defeat could be enough to see the end of Cameron.
If the country goes against Cameron’s desire then it is highly probable he will be forced out. He may even resign as a matter of honour, something he allegedly would have done had the government lost the Scottish Independence Referendum. The Eurosceptic Tory element would also see this as an opportunity to pounce and would not waste this chance. If and it remains a big if Cameron loses then there is no way he can survive and he will leave as the Tory Prime Minister who tried but failed to heal Tory divisions on Europe.
The British National Party (BNP) has now been removed from the UK’s register of political parties. This came after the party failed to meet its annual requirement to submit its registration details on time. Officials from the party claimed this was just a clerical error which would be sorted soon, but in reality does this signal the end of the Far-Right party?
The BNP emerged as an electoral and political force towards the end of the last decade. In 2008 they secured a seat on the London Assembly and in 2009 they won 2 seats in the European Parliament including one for leader Nick Griffin who went on to appear on Question Time later that year. In the 2010 General Election they fielded a record 338 candidates gaining 563,743 votes but winning no seats with Griffin finishing third in Barking.
The aftermath of these elections saw infighting in the party and challenges to Griffin’s leadership leading to a failure to win any council seats in the 2012 and 2013 local elections. Furthermore in October 2012 Richard Brons, the party’s other MEP (after Griffin) left the party leaving Griffin as the BNP’s sole representative in the European Parliament. In May 2014 Griffin lost his seat in the European Parliament and a few months later lost the leadership. Later he was expelled from the party after being found guilty of making disparaging remarks to a colleague. The last General Election saw the BNP only manage to field 8 candidates with a declining vote share of 99.7% from 2010 signalling the end of the BNP as a political force.
The BNP in their heyday appealed to a significant portion of the British electorate. Although these voters have largely deserted the party, there is little evidence that they have changed their views. The success of other Far-Right movements such as the English Defence League and Britain First show a hard-line stance towards immigration and Islam remain popular with some. Therefore any claims of victory over the Far-Right in this country are premature.
As a political force the BNP have become irrelevant. They have fallen from their highpoint and have torn themselves apart. This will cause few tears in the political arena. However, while questions about immigration and security remain we will never truly be rid of political parties of this ilk and for this reason alone we should be cautious about being overly jubilant.
Relations between Iran and the Western world have often been complicated with trust lacking on both sides. In recent months though there are signs this may be changing. The U.S in particular is making new efforts to reengage with Iran and a lot of hope has been placed in President Hassan Rouhani and his desire to modernise the country.
This thaw in relations appears to have reaped dividends with news that international nuclear sanctions placed on Iran have been lifted. This was after the international nuclear watchdog said Iran had compiled with a deal designed to prevent it developing nuclear weapons. Before the deal Iran could have enriched enough uranium to make a nuclear bomb within a matter of weeks, now it would take more than a year.
Nuclear sanctions have been in place since 2006. This coupled with other sanctions has had a very detrimental effect on the Iranian economy. The lifting of these sanctions could lead to a flurry of Iranian economic activity and is likely to help the country progress and develop.
The Middle East is an area in conflict presently. Syria remains in chaos and war is ongoing in Yemen. These situations have no easy solution. Iran is a crucial player in the region and is vital to any chance of long-term peace and stability and ending these conflicts. If the West could work with Iran rather than against them in these instances and also around the world then this should benefit all and is to be welcomed.
This change in relations has not been universally welcomed. Israel refuse to be convinced by Iran’s recent actions and have accused Tehran of still seeking to build a nuclear bomb. Secondly the U.S Republican Party through House Speaker Paul Ryan have also expressed doubt claiming the Obama administration had moved to list economic sanctions on the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism.
More progress can be made in talks between Iran and the West but it does appear relations are better than they have been for a while. This is to be welcomed. Of course there are still tensions and issues to be resolved but bringing Iran back to the table is a good thing and highlights the power of good diplomacy. This is a step forward and a situation we should celebrate.
A year ago Alexis Tsipras has announced that the country will demand reparations for the damages made by the Nazy’s Germany during the WWII. In a statement to the Greek parliament he annouced that the reparations will be:“A moral obligation to our people, to history, to all Europeans who fought and gave their blood against Nazism” The German Economic Minister Sigmar Gabriel has responded to Mr Tsipras that Germany has paid 115 million Deutsche Marks war reparations to Greece in 1960 and the 1990 agreement between the two countries excludes any possibility for future claims.
The Greek Prime Minister has opposed the austerity measures for a long time. During his statement to the Greek parliament he said: “The bailout failed. We want to make clear in every direction what we are not negotiating. We are not negotiating our national sovereignty.” At the same time the Greek Finance Minister warned that that in case of recession in the country could lead to increasing radicalisation of the population giving the example of Germany in 1930.
At that time Mr Tsipras still believed that its populist statements can lead to positive results for Greece, but he was wrong because the EU leaders are not the Greece electorate. Despite the austerity measures he has announced that it will employ another 12 000 people for its administration and will increase the national minimum salary from € 580 to the pre-crisis levels of € 750. One year later we are witnessing that these demands have been another PR stunt in Mr Tsipras’ campaign. The Greek Prime Minister has signed even tougher bailout with the creditors.
Greece has always been benefiting from its partnership with the West by receiving significant amounts of money through the EU development programmes. But the EU membership includes benefits as well as responsibility. The internal issues such as corruption and large public spending from the previous governments which led to the Greece debts should not be paid by the German taxpayers. Unfortunately the Nazy’s occupation has caused significant damages to Greece, but 70 years after the end of the World War II such a politically motivated demand to an allied country is unacceptable. Also Mr Tsipras did not take into account the fact that his actions might lead to the so called domino effect, inspiring other countries to claim reparations from conflicts that ended long time ago. Such rhetoric might have negative effect even on Greece, sparking demands for reparations from other neighbouring countries for past conflicts.
Over the weekend reports emerged that Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron has been in secret talks with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn about voting reform. There were even indications the SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Greens would be invited to these talks. If successful these talks could lead to all the parties mentioned standing on an agreed platform of voting reform at the 2020 election. If after the election these parties then had the numbers to form a progressive majority in the House of Commons, the measures could be introduced without a referendum.
Electoral reform was a prominent issue in the last parliament. As part of their coalition deal with the Conservatives, the Liberal Democrats insisted on a referendum on a new voting system; Alternative Vote. This referendum was defeated comprehensively with the British public voting to maintain the First Past the Post system by 68% to 32%. This was considered to have ended the conversation for a generation. However the General Election result and the proportion of votes parties such as UKIP and the Greens received without converting into large numbers of MPs has ensured the conversation has not disappeared.
There are many obstacles which have to be overcome before this even becomes a possibility. Cross-party conversations are traditionally very difficult and reaching an agreement between all these parties will be no easy task. The Labour Party is divided on voting reform and any leader will face great trouble in bringing the whole party with them on this issue. Finally and perhaps the toughest task will be to stop the Conservatives winning outright in 2020. Currently they are the heavy favourites to win the 2020 election and this task could become even easier with the boundary reforms this government will implement and whilst they remain in power there will be no voting reforms.
A deal of this kind is not impossible. The case for electoral reform is as strong as it has ever been and there is a real desire amongst a number of political figures for this to happen. There is a lot of common ground and is perfectly feasible for a deal to be reached. What makes this tricky is the electoral task and defeating the Conservatives. Politically this seems difficult in 2020. There is little doubt voting reform will happen at some stage, but it will only happen when the Tories aren’t in power and that won’t be for a while and therefore those waiting for these reforms may have to wait a little longer.
In an interview with the Sunday Politics Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell has stated that borders between countries will become irrelevant by the end of the century. Furthermore McDonnell went on to say borders will become difficult to maintain and will eventually disappear. This was a theory initially devised by writer Rahil Gupta but has been further fleshed out by McDonnell.
Migration, borders and the free movement of people are very live issues highlighted by the ongoing migration and refugee crisis. They sit right at the top of voter’s concerns both in this country and across the globe and as of yet there does not appear to be a suitable solution to the problem. Therefore would a borderless world solve this dilemma?
This is unlikely to be popular with voters. All polls conducted on this issue strongly suggest that voters are in favour of strong border control and would not welcome open borders. Borders can serve a useful security purpose and are very necessary in certain situations. If and it remains a big if a policy such as this was openly proposed by a major political party, it would be unlikely to garner much support.
The world however is constantly changing. Borders in some parts of the world are becoming increasingly irrelevant. We see that with the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. On top of this there is the estimated 4 million migrants that will arrive in the EU between 2015 and 2017 and who will all be entitled to free movement across EU states. These occurrences would suggest we are moving towards the situation raised by McDonnell.
No-one can truly predict the future and no-one knows what will happen in a few years’ time, let alone 75 years’ time. There would be heavy opposition to any move in this direction but with an issue as major as this it would likely be determined by external events and factors outside of any real control. The current context makes this a relevant discussion and it is right for politicians to be assessing this eventuality. A borderless world is not inevitable but is a possibility and that means this topic will run on and on.
This weekend Shadow Defence Minister Toby Perkins has warned the Labour Party and Jeremy Corbyn that they should be ready for a snap election in the next year. This would be on the basis that after the EU referendum David Cameron would either resign or be forced out leading to the installation of a new Conservative leader and Prime Minister who may want to go to the country early.
In order to achieve this the government would have to find a way around the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act. This was introduced in September 2011 and legislated for fixed-term elections to the British Parliament. Elections were to be held every five years with the next election due to take place in 2020. There are two provisions though within the act which could facilitate an early General Election.
The first provision would be if the House of Commons returned a vote of no confidence in the government. The second provision and more likely would be if the House of Commons with the support of two thirds of its membership resolved there would be a General Election. This would be conditional on the support of the Labour Party who would have to consider whether they could turn down the request of the government to go the country.
The political dividends are clear to see from a Conservative perspective. The Labour Party is divided and under Jeremy Corbyn are in no place to win an election. The Conservatives only have a small majority and may see this as a chance to increase the size of their majority. Politically it may be considered a risk but while the polls show a clear Conservative lead it will remain a temptation.
The reality is this scenario is a long way off. We are yet to know the date of the EU referendum and it is far from clear that Cameron will leave regardless of the result, thus ending the possibility of a snap election. A snap election would be a bold move from a government and a new Prime Minister and would have to be well considered before being proposed.
This eventuality remains highly unlikely but is far from impossible. A political party can never be too prepared though and therefore it would be highly prudent for Labour to consider this warning and assess how they could and would deal with this. In politics you should always expect the unexpected!
The past year was sad not only for the Russian democracy, but also for freedom of speech in the country. The opposition leader Boris Nemtsov was brutally murdered in the centre of the Russian capital, right in front of Kremlin. The Russian President has condemned the murder of Nemtsov and had accused opposition in the organisation of the execution. At the same time the state propaganda continued through launching of press conference on the state owned agency Russia Today entitled: ‘Murders of Politicians: the Methods of Maidan’.
However there are some interesting facts, suggesting that motives for that murder are political and have nothing to deal with business interests, as claimed accordingly to another of Putin’s hypothesis. Nemtsov was killed just few meters away from Kremlin. It must be noted that the area is under constant surveillance, from police and security services. So it is against the logic, the killers to choose exactly that area to perform the assassination. In addition to that, the same day the CCTV systems in the area were out of order due to maintenance.
Also when Putin became President for the third time in 2012 he stated, that the opposition is preparing to launch attack against some of its own leaders and that will be used to discredit him. Furthermore according to Nemtsov’s friend Olga Shorina, he was preparing to publish evidence that Russian soldiers are actually involved in the Ukrainian conflict and the Russian citizens who were killed in the conflict are soldiers, not volunteers as claimed by Mr Putin. Last, but not least Nemtsov has planned to organise demonstration against war in Ukraine on first of March. It is most likely that the authorities in Moscow were concerned that such a demonstration might turn as a second ‘Maidan’.
There are a lot of facts suggesting that there is a governmental backup for that murder. Despite the fact that opinion polls among Russian electorate demonstrate a significant support for the President Putin, it seems that he wants to ensure that his power will be undisputed, by following the famous advice of his predecessor Josef Stalin: ‘When there is a person, there is a problem. When there is no person, there is no problem’.
The hype around television debates dominated much of the build-up to the General Election in May. The debate about the debates seemed to go on and on before a rather lacklustre agreement was reached. Now the issue is back again. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has recently challenged the Prime Minister David Cameron to an annual ‘state of the union’ debate. The suggestion has been given a lukewarm response by the Prime Minister who is far from keen. However should they be given greater thought and is there an argument to be made for them taking place?
Presently the weekly session of Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) is seen as the time where the Prime Minister is held to account. Since Corbyn’s victory in the Labour leadership race, PMQs has been changing and the tone is more measured than previously. This does not mean it is totally effective though and often it is used for partisan purposes rather than for scrutinising the actions of the government. Other methods to hold a government to account would certainly be useful and television debates could fall into this.
Previous television debates have drawn in large audiences. They have been a useful way of politicians connecting with the public and also the public holding the politicians to account. Rival politicians and parties are given a chance to be heard and can present their arguments. The government equally is given an opportunity to rebuff these arguments and present a case of their own. Used properly there could be a place for such debates.
Jeremy Corbyn would be the winner of such proposals. This style of debate would enable him to connect directly with the public and redress concerns voters may have. This does mean he has a big personal stake in pushing the debates. David Cameron would have nothing to gain from these debates and they could only hurt him. Corbyn would be validated as an alternative and the government may lose control of the story and narrative.
It is for these reasons that it is highly unlikely that these debates will go ahead. Cameron was famously sceptical about them before the last election and it is hard to see how anything has changed this time around. It is a shame the proposals will be rejected, but rejected they will be and calculated self-interest will once again scupper a potentially good idea.