The Party Line is………Open Season

The political campaigns of both sides of the European Union referendum debate used increasingly low methods to achieve their objectives, to the point where the referendum became a very ugly campaign.  Party divisions were magnified, mud was slung and no subject was untouched in the rush to win the vote.

Now that the referendum has been settled, the British public can be forgiven for expecting the frantic politics to stop and for everyone involved to take a breath.

Unfortunately, the divisiveness of the campaign and its subsequent fallout has infected each of the two main political parties, prompting a positively Shakespearean world where political loyalties are cheaper than House of Commons toilet paper and everyone is fair game.

It is a world of power broking, sudden political shifts and betrayal. It is a world of kingmakers and fall guys with backroom dealing becoming the practical exercise of political power. This is a world seldom seen by the ordinary voter and often only alluded to in the press but it exists just below the surface of political society.

In the aftermath of the referendum this hidden world has been thrust into daylight for all to see with the fall of the Cameron premiership.

In a scene reminiscent of Julius Caesar, Michael Gove has like Brutus betrayed his Brexit campaign brother in arms Boris Johnson publicly and finally. With one motion the Justice Secretary has seemingly dealt a fatal blow to the Prime Ministerial ambitions and political career of Boris Johnson.

However, like Brutus at Philippi, he will not be able to enjoy his victory as the perceived betrayal will not engender him to the Conservative hierarchy and membership. So Boris Johnson may have the last laugh as Gove becomes gradually ostracised from his own party.

Despite suggestions that the field of candidates be drawn directly from those who campaigned for Brexit, the defeated remainers were able to field three main candidates: Stephen Crabbe, Theresa May and Liam Fox.

Crabbe’s inexperience and status as an unknown quantity has led to his early withdrawal from the contest, but he remains a candidate for the future and could potentially form part of the new Prime Minister’s cabinet.

May remains a strong figure within the Conservative party and has garnered strong support from Ministers and backbench MP’s since she declared her candidacy last week. She has come into this campaign with a good record as Home Secretary and is the candidate to beat. It remains to be seen if she will survive the new climate of backroom alliances and skullduggery, but she stands a very good chance of succeeding Cameron if she does.

Although Liam Fox is an experienced political operator, he’s also been forced to withdraw early from the contest due to lack of support within the party. He has been keen to support Theresa May and will like Crabbe, look to be involved within her cabinet should she be elected.

With the excommunication of Gove and the demise of Johnson, Andrea Leadsom has moved forward as the only Brexit campaigner present since day one. A popular figure during the campaigns and debates, she should command a strong vote from the Brexit contingent of the Conservative party. That vote may not be enough in the contest against such a strong opposition figure as Theresa May.

Any prospective leader of the Conservative party must have a strong beneficial presence in the media, because the media is the most powerful tool to aid the success or failure of the candidate in the leadership contest and afterward in their government. The principle individual to negotiate with in this instance is Rupert Murdoch, owner of two of the UK’s biggest newspapers The Sun and The Times.  Candidates must have his support be it covertly or publicly, but great care must be taken in obtaining this support as Mr Murdoch has had a very fractured relationship with both the British public and political classes. That being said, an endorsement of this sort would carry great weight in the days to come.

While the travails affecting the Conservative party have been aired publicly, the problems within the Labour party have largely been confined to private infighting. Mass resignations have rendered the shadow cabinet a shadow of its former self and severely affected its ability to function as a political opposition.

These resignations and the subsequent activity in the media by those who have resigned have at their heart one aim: the removal of Jeremy Corbyn from his post as party leader. Many of these individuals were unhappy with the appointment of Corbyn as leader, but could not be seen to air their distaste for his appointment due to the groundswell of support from ordinary party members and the trade unions.

Using Labour’s lack of definite activity in the referendum as a catalyst, these individuals have finally found a platform on which they can attack Mr Corbyn’s leadership with any certainty of success, staging a coup d’état against him. The party has conducted a vote of no confidence, (the traditional signal for a candidate to resign) which he soundly lost. Perceptually Corbyn’s position as leader is becoming more and more untenable by the day.

But like a barnacle on the hull of a ship, Jeremy Corbyn remains unmovable because of two key elements: the aforementioned popular support of the ordinary party members (numbering almost 200,000) and the support of the largest trade union in the UK: Unite and its chief Len McCluskey.

The trade unions, being the kingmakers of the Labour party remain its strongest constituent part and as recent history has shown, if you have the support of the unions you get to be leader. In this fractured environment, McCluskey’s unwavering support of Corbyn remains his greatest political weapon, which he can wield to crush any opposition from within the party.  If the support disappears, Mr Corbyn will undoubtedly be cast into the political wilderness.

This sort of dog eat dog environment can challenge even the stoutest of political heart and doesn’t exude an image of trustworthiness to the average voting age individual. The candidate who emerges from this sort of contest will undoubtedly face even tougher challenges as they step up to the top job in their respective party.

However, in a world where a media mogul can change the destiny of an incumbent government with a few well-placed stories or a union leader can push an entire body of workers to favour one candidate over another, it is important to stay ahead of the game, otherwise you risk becoming the next casualty of the great political turkey shoot.

 

© R Simmons. All Rights Reserved.

The Party Line is…………Decision time

Friday’s Britain will be a very different place to Thursday’s one. The political shockwave will reverberate around the UK and the corridors of power in Europe, it will be a watershed moment in British politics as the nation decides its own destiny.

In or Out? Are decisions rarely ever that simple?

We claw at the truth of each argument like a man in the dark searching for a light switch, groping anything in search of illumination. It is an old struggle that the political establishment in Britain have been keen to maintain as it keeps them in power.

Every individual of voting age in the UK needs to make their own selective judgment on this issue and right or wrong, at least their vote will be theirs and not the politicians or the doomsayers.

I say doomsayers, because regardless of their politics there have been prophets of doom on both sides preaching Armageddon both social and economic. Leaving or remaining in the EU was always going to be a leap in the dark and as such it has brought out those previously unseen divisions in Britain’s political and social structures.

Understanding should be at the heart of every political debate, except this one. This referendum is all about one thing and one thing only: emotion. We are at our heart, emotional beings with clearly defined boundaries and precepts, we know what is right for us and what is wrong for us and by appealing to our emotions the political parties in this campaign bring these precepts to the fore.

What sort of place do you want Britain to be? Do you want to stay in the EU or do you want to leave it? These are the issues at the heart of the debate and they are deeply emotional questions.

The problem is that decisions made purely on emotion are not always the best decisions. However in the clamour for your vote, the rival campaigns have lost the ability to win the argument through legitimate means and can now only win points by emotion. That is not to say that we have not been bombarded by arguments, statistics and estimates to the point where we are saturated by them.

I’m not here to continue this trend, I wouldn’t know where to start and wouldn’t presume to judge your feelings or predisposition on the EU. Do I need to? If you’re anything like me you’ve probably already made up your mind on which way you will vote.

You are reading my blog, so I assume you want to know my view and over the past few months I’ve expressed my feelings on the referendum, how it’s been conducted and the fundamental arguments involved.

SPOILER ALERT!!!

Today I can confirm that I will be voting for the UK to leave the European Union.

Now that the shock of this knowledge has sunk in, I’ll explain why.

In any scientific experiment there are things that work and things that don’t. If the things that work outweigh the things that don’t the experiment succeeds and vice versa. The weight of either determines the success of failure of the experiment. The EU is an experiment in political and fiscal union.

While the EU started out as an experiment that worked, the number of adaptations made to it over the years as it has expanded has stopped it functioning as a viable political entity. It is a clunky inefficient organisation that does not exercise its political authority in a manner which benefits all. If it did, there would be no discord and federal union would be a practical reality.

Of course the central tenets of free movement and integration between countries are worthwhile goals, we live in a globalized world and co-operation helps achieve the highest of human goals, but these tenets must be executed correctly and in a manner that benefits all.

Citizens must be able to say to their leaders “your approach is not working, try something different” without fear of being labelled reactionary or as some have called Brexiters racist. Legitimate concerns have been raised and without practical redress, risk the whole structure of democracy in our country.

Claims, Suppositions and Estimates have been bandied around as facts and words like could, should and may have become ever more frequent words in the political lexicon. Saying that we should not undertake a course of action because of a fear of the consequences of what may happen is no argument. If I didn’t do things because I feared what may happen I wouldn’t do very much at all. I am are aware of both the risks of both leaving and remaining but neither will stop me from choosing what I believe to be correct.

I will make an important point here: I believe in the idea of the European Union, but the idea has been practised incorrectly in my view and is need of serious reform.  The problem is that the European Union is seemingly unwilling to embrace the need to reform its political structures, its reluctant to say that its wrong. Mr Cameron’s failed attempts to obtain a deal with the EU that was in the best interests of Britain is the best evidence of this failure to change.

We need a consensus in the EU for practical reform, but any such consensus is being overwhelmed by the actions of the larger economic powers within the organisation: France and Germany. Both of these nations have become so blinkered, so focussed on EU integration that they have lost sight of the fundamental precept of the Union: the idea of community.

Don’t get me wrong, we could stay in and try to effect real change from within the Union, but such a change has to be in our national interest otherwise why bother. All signs point to a similar reluctance to change as highlighted earlier and I believe that any attempt to reform the EU will be widely opposed and shouted down. I honestly believe that a vote to remain on Thursday will not be the end of the debate and this issue will continue to rear its head in the politics of the next 50 years.

Who knows? A decision to leave the EU on Thursday may prompt a seismic shift in the politics of the Union, shocking it out of apathy and into practical action. If this occurs and the resultant Union reform is successful, I will be the first to campaign for Britain’s return to this organisation.

All political schisms are fraught with uncertainty, no decision is without risk both short and long-term.  I am of the firm belief that when something is important to you, you do it regardless of the risks involved and Britain’s future is important to me. I want to see this country prosper and find its place in the world. I want us to become the Great Britain that I’ve always read about in the history books, becoming a greater world power and force for good.

tweet_3559201b-xlarge_trans++02yd2pnm6U-cD_TA9bsZZBq3ilA_DnbIiXkPqiRX-ys

 

 

© R Simmons. All Rights Reserved.

The Party Line is………..Security

Security. Peace. Freedom to exist without fear of terror. Fundamental truths that exist at the very heart of good government. Fundamental truths which are under threat on an almost hourly basis.

In a globalised world where individuals can move freely between countries, internal security and external security have a symbiotic relationship where one determines the success of the other.

Maintaining this relationship has become a substantial drain on the resources of nation states, particularly those who expose themselves directly in both militaristic and diplomatic actions in those rogue nations and regimes. Exerting this influence leaves them vulnerable to reprisals, both in their spheres of influence and at home.

There are however, mechanisms in place between the various countries in the world to both combat the increasing threats and to disseminate information across the various law enforcement agencies which operate in each nation.

At no previous point in history has there been such vulnerability in international security with truly international threats manifesting themselves around the globe. Terrorist organisations seemingly operating without borders and using increasingly covert methods of spreading their messages of fear.

Intelligence, both for and counter plays an increasingly large part of the international response to these sorts of threats.  Anticipating and countering threats before they occur forms a vital part of this, saving lives and preventing tragedies.

Mutual defence treaties need to be maintained to prevent the rise of a larger foreign power with hostile intent and to provide a check against further acts of terror. 27 mid-size nations defending the interests of a small client nation have a greater chance of stopping a bigger nation exerting its agenda, being hostile or otherwise.

The mere presence of these sorts of treaties and international agencies keeps the complex spider web of international interdependency working.

But with every success using these methods, there are failures like Orlando, Paris and Amsterdam.

Terrorists and criminals hiding in plain sight, integrating themselves surreptitiously within minority communities until the need arises to perpetrate their acts.

Far too often, these individuals exploit legislation designed for altruistic methods, such as the European Union’s free movement of individuals within its borders doctrine. Organisations like Islamic State have used the smokescreen of the immigration crisis and the Syrian civil war to place individuals from their organisations into these countries, exploiting the compassionate nature of the European Union. For every altruistic act, there are those who wish to exploit it, for nefarious and corrupting aims.

Migration of individuals from these at risk countries, is being closely monitored by agencies both foreign and domestic but one has to ask the question, where do we draw the line? When does the terror threat become so severe that we pull up the drawbridge and look to our own security?

It is a political issue that speaks to the heart of every community within the European Union. When does the Union allow too much terrorist activity to occur for it to remain a viable secure entity?

It is a vital issue in government and has been drawn to the heart of the EU referendum debate in the campaigns of both the Brexit and Remain campaigns. Dire prognostications of doom have been made, should the vote lean towards the exit door with assumptions being made that our security services will be unable to cope with ongoing international threats without the support of our partners within the European Union. What they fail to state is that the bulk of the organisations designed to counter these threats do not depend on Britain remaining in the European Union, they are instead internationally independent agencies. The failure of the Brexit campaign to explain this obvious distinction explains why the Remain campaign are winning the security argument.

But in utilising these sorts of sentiments, they are engendering a climate of fear to what should be a legitimate question: Can the EU provide for Britain’s future security, when it perceptibly cannot manage its own?

In a globalised world, we cannot simply baton down the hatches and expect to survive the storm unscathed, we must take a positive assertive role in preserving our own security. International Co-operation and intelligence resource pooling enables us to do this and should form the bedrock of what we do to counter external threats.

Relationships of this nature thrive on co-operation between nations and although the EU referendum may result in us leaving this political union, our greater spirit of co-operation with our neighbours in this area should continue as it is mutually beneficial for all.

 

 

© R Simmons. All Rights Reserved.

The Party Line is………..Fear

Like it or not, we live in a world which is shaped by politics. We may not see it or come into direct contact with it, but it is always there lingering in the background of our lives.  When we receive our pay packets we are experiencing politics, when we shop at a supermarket we are experiencing politics and by simply existing in society we experience politics.

It is a beneficial relationship to both the individual and the society they live in, as both receive compensation for their contribution. A relationship which starts as beneficial will not always be so, as times change and society and the politics that govern it evolve. Relationships can often become toxic to both, with both individual and society changing radically. Toxicity to this relationship can often start with the smallest of changes to the political structures or outlooks.

The implied relationship between individuals detailed above leaves both vulnerable to the politics of fear. For example, politicians can be forced to bow to political pressure to avoid losing their constituencies and people present in society can be forced to change their political views for fear of losing something of value to them.

A toxic symptom is currently finding fruit in British politics: the usage of fear as a political tool. It is a tool that is being used extensively in the current EU referendum campaign.

I do not apply a partisan view to this statement, both campaigns are using this as practical political process. Only their implementation differs.

Britain has long been an unconquered nation in Europe. While other nations have been occupied and subjugated, most notably in World War Two, Britain has stood apart. This idea has taken root in the public consciousness and manifests itself in the belief that Britain should continue to remain separate. It exists in notions of empire and history, but in the modern age it has become a focus for anti-integrationist sentiment. Politically, successive governments have encountered opposition to proposed greater integration with the EU and this trend will in all likelihood continue, due to this fundamental idea being entrenched in British culture.

The prominent assertion is that British sovereignty should not be surrendered. It is this assertion that The Brexiter’s have exploited in their campaigning, claiming that the EU is steadily eroding British sovereignty and that this erosion, coupled with rising immigration from the EU is destroying Britain’s ability to exist as a country maintaining its own cultural heritage and perceived position as a world power.

This loss of sovereignty may have some basis in fact, particularly as governmental policy is increasingly becoming influenced by Europe, then again it may not.

The Remain campaign, frustrated at losing the immigration argument has pushed the emphasis of their campaign towards what the British people would lose if they were to leave the EU.

Legitimate statistics and estimates have become the ammunition of both campaigns, with The Remain’s economic arguments employing the more direct usage of fear. Bringing the cost of exiting the EU to a household level may have won them more votes than attacking immigration but it should be remembered that at the heart of the matter these numbers are estimates only. The actuality of cost to each family and to the country as a whole is not known with any degree of certainty, beyond the immediate future.

By the same token, Brexiter’s have quoted migration and financial statistics slanted towards two clear points: Migration will increase to uncontrollable levels and we are giving more to the EU than we are getting back. It is an approach that likewise gains votes but engenders fearful sentiment.

The campaigns have been supported in their usage of fear by an increasingly partisan press, eager to increase circulations and consequently revenue. Scare stories appear in the media on a daily basis, with different institutions taking contrasting viewpoints on the debate. The key thing that seems to be missing is clear objectivity. Although it may seem that they take a moderate view, the media coverage is increasingly one way or the other, depending on who funds their organisations.

The EU referendum is at its heart a debate and in any debate it is the persuasiveness of the argument that determines the winner. Although the campaign started out as a debate, it has increasingly become a contest of fear mongering. Politics should be about winning the argument using persuasive and ultimately right expression, not about using statistics and statements to make people afraid to exert their political opinion.

As negativity and fear in political campaigning becomes political currency, legitimate debate becomes less and less important. A climate of fear mongering challenges the long-term stability of political societies, leaving it vulnerable to extremist views. It vicariously endangers those freedoms to which we all depend: It must be stopped.

 

© R Simmons. All Rights Reserved.

1st July 2016- Brave New World or Apocalypse Now?

It is the 1st July 2016, the political maneuvering,  celebrity endorsements, speech making and campaigning are over and the fate of the UK in the European Union has been settled.  Amidst the mass of column inches, the “we were right” statements and hurried speculation about the future, what changes can the voters of this country expect, regardless of the result?

The days in the lead up to the referendum will be so frenzied that many of the UK’s voters and political commentators will be saturated and likely sick of the process that many will shut down completely in the post referendum haze.

The EU referendum is the most profound political change to affect the UK in the last quarter century, that much is undeniable but will the common voter care after the vote has been decided?

The popular perception is that a vote to remain in the EU means that nothing will change, that the status quo will continue and things will remain as they are.  This will in all likelihood not be the case, as fallout from the vote sets in. Regardless of the result, changes will occur, many will be subtle but many more will be shattering to the existing political, social and economical structures that exist in this country at present.

The first casualties will undoubtedly be the “Brexiteers” .i.e. those MP’s who elected to join the Brexit campaign since its inception. Cabinet ministers should remain largely unaffected, with the exception of Michael Gove, the Justice Secretary who will probably end up being reshuffled out of the cabinet after the referendum result.  In some senses, he will get off lightly as rebels like Boris Johnson and Iain Duncan Smith who so publicly opposed the Prime Minister in the campaign will face pressure to resign their seats in favour of Cameronites.

The strongest proponent of the remain campaign, the Prime Minister will enjoy an upsurge in popularity amongst the voters and will look to solidify his power base as he moves forward into the final years of his term.

In staying out of the referendum spotlight, the Labour party has ensured that it will remain largely unaffected by either a remain or exit result. In a classic case of political opportunism, Jeremy Corbyn has been keen for the party to remain unified in its desire to remain in the EU. They can afford to let the Conservative party carry all of the debating and infighting, then claim that they are above such petty conflict.

Emboldened by the vote of confidence, the Prime Minister can use the good feeling to hold renewed discussions with the other leaders of the European Union about the UK’s place within it. However in winning the referendum vote, the Prime Minister must check his ego at the door and will most likely claim that he has been given a strong mandate for reforming the EU by the voters.  Whether the leaders of the EU will be keen to have these sorts of discussions with him are anyone’s guess.

Economic uncertainty is almost a given in the aftermath of the EU referendum, as many investors will look to second guess the financial markets both before and after the vote has been cast.  Such a period of uncertainty could be highly detrimental to the UK economy, given its fragile status.  We will not see a panic in the same vein of the 2008-9 financial crash but can expect a drop in the value of investments at all levels of the financial services market.

Foreign investors could on the other hand be keen to put their money into the economy, taking advantage of a foreseeable period of economic uncertainty to make a fast buck.  Legislation may need to be enacted by the UK government to forestall this sort of fire sale in the UK.

An EU keen to reform its financial instruments may look to lessen current financial constraints as a sort of placation of the UK after a positive referendum result. Then again, the EU could look to punish the UK for its attempts to leave “the EU club”.

The area which will be the least affected, at least in the immediate aftermath of the vote would be the UK’s current sociological landscape. Economic migration and immigration will continue in the way that it always has, but the UK will be subject to larger sociological strain as both membership of the EU expands and the tide of immigration continues.  Remaining in the EU will not change the day to day sociological structures; people will still pay tax, attend hospitals and pay benefits.

Current commitments to EU legislation will continue, with the possibility of increased legislation in the weeks and months following the vote.

And now to the other side of the coin, what would happen if the vote endorsed the Brexit?

Would the vote to leave signal the swift exit of the Prime Minister? There is always a possibility that this will happen. Losing such a high profile vote would harm his credibility as both a world leader and leader of the Conservative party. Since Cameron has already said that this term will be his last as Prime Minister, the best option for the victorious Brexiters would be to keep him in power and consolidate their powerbase to take over once the term is over. Choosing this course would give the illusion of a strong and unified party to the general public and could fend off a renewed assault from the Labour party.

While the Prime Minister could remain a paper tiger for the rest of his premiership, other prominent remain politicians would fall into the sights of the Brexiters, chief among them being George Osborne.  Consolidation of power base and its eventual use could easily force the Chancellor out of his position and stop him from making any succession overtures when Cameron’s term ends.

The bombshell of a British exit from the European Union would ripple through Europe. Borders which remained open under the old way would be closed, legislation which affected Britain and British interests would become null and void and many Euro politicians would be out of a job.

The status of those individuals from the EU who live and work in this country as part of the free movement of workers and individuals would need to be quantified. Would they now be effectively deported? Or would a general amnesty on those already here and working here be agreed?

Radical changes to the current working visa system would not in all likelihood occur, but significantly more checks would be conducted with greater emphasis on excluding those individuals who were not here to work, or key workers. An Australian style points system would be favorable in this instance.  Asylum seekers and those fleeing war (like those in Syria) would still be welcome in this country, but benefit tourists would find it far harder to enter the UK.

The question of whether the UK would still allow the resettlement of Syrian migrants leads us to a larger question: Would the international status of the UK change if it were independent from the EU?

The simple answer is No. The UK is the world’s fifth largest economy and enjoys a prominent political and economic status within the international community. Changes made would be only evolutionary as the UK embraces its new status as independent from the EU.

Media speculation makes wild claims that the cost of holidays and travel within the EU would increase dramatically as a result of Brexit, but many of the countries of the EU rely on the income of British tourists so it is not in their final interests for these costs to increase.

As stated previously either referendum result would most likely cause a dip in the financial markets. The idea that many prominent financial institutions would up sticks; move to the continent in the event of a Brexit is pure media speculation and is ultimately not cost effective.  Large multi-nationals have a vested interest in trading in UK financial markets and have been aware of the referendum for some time now; it is naive to think that they haven’t made financial plans to remain in this market. Firms cannot afford to ignore the UK because as mentioned it’s the fifth largest economy in the world.

Signing up to the Single Market formed the basis of the last referendum on the EU and it is this battleground where the UK must make its presence felt.  Trade deficits and agreements need to be maintained and the UK will need to renegotiate entry into the Single market as an independent nation rather than a member of the EU. Other countries within Europe but independent of the EU have such agreements but they are far smaller economies but the UK would be a different kettle of fish. An agreement is vital and must be reached quickly, whether this comes at a cost of further concessions is a problem for the politicians to solve.

So, this brings us back to our initial question: Will the 1st July 2016 inaugurate the start of a brave new world or an apocalypse now?

Speculation can be made that either event will occur because we are in uncharted territory.  Will either result be in the best interests of the UK? We can say with some degree of surety that it will: Britain is a unique country in the world with a proud history and a place at the top tables of the world as a world leader.  This tradition will continue because the people of this nation will make it so.

 

 

© R Simmons. All Rights Reserved.