Solving the Age Problem

This week, Theresa May’s cabinet became even more brittle with the loss of the one time ship steadier Michael Fallon. However, this week also heralded half of cabinet members being from the 2010 intake with the likes of Gavin Williamson, Priti Patel and Amber Rudd.

While this may show the old grey image of the Tories slowly evaporating, what’s the image like in the Labour Party? Well the average age of Corbyn and McDonnell is 67 just above May and Hammond’s 61. The likes of Emily Thornberry and Diane Abbott hardly bring down the age of the bench.

Around the time of Milliband, we had the youngish faces of the Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Ed Balls. These names have all but disappeared to a mayorship, a select committee chair and the Strictly dance floor. Now, however, what are the fates of the intrepid and outspoken backbenchers like Lisa Nandy, Jess Phillips and Stella Creasy. In any past Labour top team, these would be the shining stars being beamed out to the electorate – instead we have Emily Thornberryand Diane Abbott dominating the media waves with the Northern voices of Rebecca Long-Bailey and Angela Raynor sometimes having their moments of fame.

 I’m not denying that the Tories don’t too have an age problem. I suppose there’s hope that whenever May finally succumbs, a youthful face will appear. No I’m not talking of the Moggmentum. How long will it take for Ruth Davidson to fly down and save the Tories from impending, crippling doom?

Cabinet Photo


Bracing for the Repeal Bill

The political silly season has been and gone. Theresa May has spent the summer securing her and her party’s foundations before the Repeal Bill is brought before Parliament with Jeremy Corbyn swearing it will bring another snap election. But what are the chances of a government defeat on such a momentous bill?

June’s election gave Theresa May a measly majority only with the DUP’s help. With this, the government will be on a knife-edge for the course of the Parliament with scenarios reminiscent of the 1974 minority government. This is the least Theresa May wants when she is trying to negotiate Britain’s exit from the EU.

There are individuals poking Theresa May’s back pestering for a soft Brexit – names like Anna Soubry and Ken Clarke. Will they however be emboldened to destroy the Repeal Bill’s passage knowing their actions could fracture the entire Tory government? Would they really want to risk yet another election with opinion polls already painting a positive picture for Labour?

Yet for the Repeal Bill to the provoke chaos, the parliamentary arithmetic dictates Corbyn must capture some support from the Tory benches. If this isn’t possible, I suppose there is always time to conjure up a highly hypothetical what-if scenario relating to the power of Sinn Fein.

The first abstentionist MP of Sinn Fein was in 1917 with this practice continuing up to the present day. Despite their abstentionist policy, Sinn Fein achieved their best ever result with seven MPs. Imagine if on the day of the vote on the Repeal Bill these seven sneaked into the chamber, cloaked by Corbyn, McDonnell and Abbott with the sole purpose of defeating the government.

Sinn Fein are no more opposed to the Tory/DUP agreement than Labour is – they despise the influence their enemy has on government policy. With this act, they could kick out the Tories and at the same time halt Brexit given their Remain stance in the referendum.

Even with this very much imaginary support of Sinn Fein, could Labour manage to be truly united for once? It is difficult to picture arch-Brexiteers such as Kate Hoey halting the Repeal Bill in its tracks. One must not forget the hoards of Labour MPs that would chirp that the will of the British people must be respected.

With Labour’s continuing quibbling, I would say that Theresa May’s main worry should be her position as Tory leader rather than a grave governmental defeat. Or is Theresa May’s leadership a topic to be left to the silly season?

Theresa May Article 50

Why Owen Smith must be the Brexit sceptic

We know that for Theresa May, ‘Brexit means Brexit.’ For Jeremy Corbyn, he is 7.5/10 committed to the European Union. Meanwhile, Owen Smith would call for a referendum on the Brexit negotiations.

In the 2020 general election, a Eurosceptic Conservative Party will be pitted against the Labour Party whose party members will determine its level of Euroscepticism in this summer’s leadership election. If Corbyn stands next to May in the TV election debates, then where do staunch EU supporters turn to?

The only major party in England offering a remain stance would be the Liberal Democrats. After the Lib Dem’s electoral desolation in 2015, Labour should be the icon for the liberal brigade of remainers rather than the anaemic banner of Tim Farron. Labour should be able to wipe out the Lib Dems in one foul swoop by being the Brexit sceptics.

Owen Smith may not offer Jeremy Corbyn’s ‘refreshing’ style of politics, but he offers a perspective on the European Union which is essential if Labour are to succeed in 2020. If the two main political parties are Eurosceptic in nature, then where do 48% of the electorate, who voted remain, turn to?

A YouGov poll has shown that 65% of Labour members voted to remain. I make a plea to this core of the Labour Party: If you want to see your party rise as the opposition to the Eurosceptic Tory party and then defeat them in 2020, vote Owen Smith. If you want to see the Lib Dems return to the political scene, vote Jeremy Corbyn and watch ‘Brexit mean Brexit.’

Owen Jones

Farage and Trump: The Terrible Twins?

Donald Trump and Nigel Farage both regularly mention the establishment and their loathing of it. They both call for change: a new America; a new Britain.

In a speech yesterday, Farage called for Trump’s supporters to have faith in their leader’s dream. Even if the polls were stacked against them, there was still hope. This was the story of Brexit and may also be the story of the 2016 Presidential election.

Ever since Clinton’s post-convention bounce, the Trump campaign has lacked any momentum in the antithesis of polls showing swing states turning blue in their masses. Prior to the EU referendum, people were scared to admit their Brexit tendencies – just like ordinary Americans are scared to admit their support for Trump. Now, Farage has come onto stage with a rally cry to believe in the Republican nominee.

Polls showing Trump’s success will ensure people come out and disclose that they would actually vote in the Republican ticket in November. With the horrendously long and arduous election cycle, momentum is essential in keeping Trump’s campaign afloat with more buoyancy than Clinton’s.

Trump being pitted against Clinton of the dynasty is perfect. Trump must sink Clinton’s ship by poking holes in the establishment and presenting the United States as an oligarchy dominated by the political elites. Didn’t Farage characterise Britain as an oligarchy of political elites before sinking Brussels’ ship – the heart of the European establishment?

Trump vs Farage

Silly Season

We are now in the height of the Westminster silly season where political feeds erupt with meaningless speculation and gossip so I thought I’d join in the barrage too!

The other day, Jeremy Corbyn joined with the normal people of Britain and went on a train to find no seats available. Therefore, he took the drastic action of sitting down on the floor. This hardship was then filmed by a Corbyn campaigner and broadcast to the world. Isn’t it fantastic to see a common sense leader of a political party standing, or should that be sitting, with the rest of society? I would like to, however, look at the words ‘common sense.’ If the Labour Party had a leader oozing with common sense, he would book in advance and get a reserved seat!

Far too often, depictions of politicians interacting with everyday people turn out to be PR disasters. Corbyn told us that his election would signal the end of political advisors and spin doctors constructing his every move. However, publishing Corbyn’s train antics is exactly the spin he vowed to avoid. Corbyn would have known too well that the newspapers are crying out for every last political snippet during the parliamentary recess and that they would prey on every detail of the video.

Corbyn’s failure contrasts well with Theresa May’s latest holiday snaps of her and her husband hiking in the Swiss Alps – a photograph taken to show the Prime Minister’s adventurous qualities. One word of advice to Corbyn: if you are going to invent some political spin, do it properly – especially when us commentators have nothing else to rant about!

(Updated 23rd August – Virgin Trains has since released press release disputing Jeremy Corbyn’s characterisation of a ‘ram-packed’ saying there were seats available. They suggest that in future Corbyn pre books to ensure a seat! See full press release)

UKIP – Where Next?

They used to be the laughing stock of UK politics. Yet on 23rd June they achieved their ultimate goal – to leave the EU. So what remains for UKIP?

Many will hear UKIP and immediately cast their minds back to those homophobic and racist comments that have dogged the party in the past. Two particular incidents come to mind: the link between gay marriage and flooding by David Silvester and Godfrey Bloom’s infamous reference to ‘Bongo Bongo Land.’ Despite their bloopers, Nigel Farage and his Eurosceptic entourage succeeded in what many thought to be an impossible dream.

With Farage’s work complete, he vacated the golden throne of UKIP triggering yet another laborious leadership election plagued with in-party turmoil. The executive decided that their only MP was illegible to stand having only been a UKIP member for two years whilst once favourite Steven Woolfe was banished from the ticket having missed the deadline. The importance of the new leader and indeed the very existence of UKIP however, must be questioned – after all, haven’t they achieved their single objective?

Or maybe not? We hear Theresa May harp on about how “Brexit means Brexit” but on what terms? A single market? Free movement? It is rather clear from the referendum campaign that UKIP don’t want anything to do with the European Project. UKIP require a leader who possesses the temerity of Farage to petition to government for a clean exit on the terms of Britain’s leading Eurosceptic party.

Despite only commanding one seat in the 2015 Westminster election, UKIP gained a respectable 13% of the vote. This support combined with the Brexit vote represents a disenfranchised electorate who don’t necessarily vote upon economics and policy but rather rhetoric with a strong air of anti-establishment. Remind you of anyone? Yes, Donald Trump seems to have used a similar platform of dislike for the political system to gain support. Opinion polling has proved that this banner is certainly attractive for the working class who see a political system that has failed to rescue them from the struggles of daily life.

Will any new UKIP leader succeed in gaining any more seats in Westminster? Or is their main function now charting a Brexit on their own terms with Westminster representation being seen as a lost cause with the disproportionate nature of first past the post? To achieve either of these goals, they must find a leader who shares the audacity of Farage – the poster-boy of the anti-establishment.


Hinkley Point – The Result of the Parliamentary Recess?

Parliament is now a week into its summer recess of six weeks and will only sojourn briefly for two weeks in September. MPs will then gallivant off to the likes of Brighton, Liverpool and Birmingham for their party conferences –  a meagre and dismal affair in light of the all singing-dancing American conventions.

The Commons will therefore be sitting for a measly 10 days from now until almost the middle of October. With this in mind, isn’t the electorate being robbed of their representation in Parliament – the sovereign body of power? What about attending debates, voting on laws and raising grievances of constituents?

This recess has also caused the hiatus at Hinkley Point with a decision not being made until early autumn. The unions have raised consternation over the government’s intermission in a scheme that would deliver 7% of the UK’s electricity once built. The plant’s ribbon won’t be cut till for another nine years so a few months’ pause is negligible. Isn’t it fair enough for a new Prime Minister to read into the small print – especially given that the Department for Energy and Climate Change has been incorporated into the remit of the Department of Business?

The media have certainly eaten into this as a political storm but can this simply be attributed to the media train grinding to a halt with the summer recess? For months, the news channels have been catapulted with endless news stories of Brexit and reshuffles. Now that these feeds aren’t constantly flowing out of Westminster, has the media felt a need to pump up the politics of Hinkley Point? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going on a leftie-BBC rant – it’s a story circulating throughout all the news channels and newspapers. If we still had Brexit scaremongering flying around, would Hinkley Point have been such an imperative measure of government weakness?

So until Parliament and the media find their feet again in early Autumn, let’s not term this pause as a governmental debacle. Instead, we should be applauding Theresa May’s staunchness for scrutiny.