The Syrian refugees- effective tool for Turkey’s geopolitical interests

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.

Trump Is Going to Have a Big Impact on The Presidency one way or another!

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.



Could 2016 see leadership contests in both our major political parties?

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.

Should and will Cameron Resign if He Loses the EU Referendum?

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 End of the BNP?

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.


Better Relations with Iran will benefit all!

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.

Greek demands for reparations- desperate acts of populism

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.

Is Voting Reform Back on the Table?

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.

Is a borderless world inevitable?

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.

The Possibility of a Snap Election!

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!