Non-EU states held to double standards, despite internal deficiencies

On the 18th of February, the European Union increased the membership of its list of non-cooperative tax jurisdictions to include the Cayman Islands, Palau, Panama, and the Seychelles following a meeting of the bloc’s finance ministers. This membership formally blacklists the aforementioned nations alongside several others, resulting in potential reputational damage, greater scrutiny in their financial transactions and the loss of EU funding, disadvantaging nations outside of the European economic powerhouse.

The Cayman Islands is the first UK territory to be added to the blacklist, only weeks after the formal departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union on January 31st 2020, following a nearly four year withdrawal period. Since 2018, Cayman has adopted more than 15 legislative changes in line with EU criteria to satisfy the EU’s finance ministers, but it was determined regardless that the efforts made were not enough to avoid being demoted from the “grey list” – the list outlining nations to maintain an eye on – to the “blacklist”. Premier Alden McLaughlin, who is the head of the government, expressed his disappointment at the EU’s decision to move the Cayman Islands to the blacklist, noting that over the past two years, Cayman had cooperated with the EU to deliver on its commitment to enhance tax good governance.

This list, which was started in 2017, attempts to put pressure on countries to crack down on tax havens and unfair financial competition, and forcefully encourage legislative changes in order to be delisted. As of the conclusion of the last meeting, a total of twelve states are now listed as non-cooperative tax jurisdictions. As well as the four states added in February, Guam, Oman, Fiji, American Samoa, Samoa, Trinidad and Tobago, the US Virgin Islands, and Vanuatu have also been blacklisted.

Controversially, the EU blacklist currently only screens non-EU states and has previously stated that its own member states were already applying high standards against tax avoidance. However, a bloc of EU states, led by the Danish government and backed by Germany, Spain, Austria and France, have prepared a document which urges a discussion on whether or not the European Union had sufficient internal safeguards against tax avoidance and evasion.

Three Member States of the EU, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Ireland, widely use low tax and other incentives to host the EU headquarters of foreign firms, which undermines many of the tax safeguards instilled by other EU states. Ireland, for example, hosts the headquarters of Google, Apple, Facebook, PayPal, Microsoft, Yahoo, eBay, AOL, Twitter and Intel, who all enjoy the significantly lower corporation tax rate of 12.5%, as opposed to the 21% corporation tax currently in place in the United States. These three states were listed in a report by the International Monetary Fund researchers in September 2019 as world-leading tax havens, together with many of the nations currently o the blacklist.

It waits to be seen on whether or not the EU Blacklist will prevail as this situation develops, and whether or not the European Union will blacklist its own members in an effort to standardise their expectations of the global world. As it stands, the European Union’s duplicity and hypocrisy threatens to undermine this list, and the smaller nations look on in anticipation and hope that the European Union will come to a beneficial conclusion for their sake, and the sake of itself.

Written by Milo Dack

The decision on HS2, and the future implications for British infrastructure projects

On Tuesday 11th February 2020, 5 months after Boris Johnson announced the Oakervee review into High Speed 2 and 11 years after the project was even proposed, the government finally declared that the project would indeed go ahead. Despite growing reservations in recent years over the mounting delays and the increase in the estimated cost from a budget of £56bn to a gargantuan £106bn, preparatory works will continue with the aim to complete the first phase and have trains running by 2028. The first phase will consist of a direct line from London Euston to Birmingham Curzon Street, with additional stops at Old Oak Common and Birmingham Interchange. The second phase, broken into two sections with the first extending from Birmingham to Crewe, and the latter branching off to service the East Midlands, Leeds and York, has yet to receive Parliamentary approval. It will be sure to draw further fire from both opponents to the scheme in Parliament, and from public pressure groups and lobbyists.

Despite announcing the review barely a month after taking office as PM, it never appeared likely that Johnson would ultimately take the proposal behind the metaphorical barn and shoot it – instead the review has given Johnson a way of dodging some of the criticism that was sure to come from giving the proposal the green light. Despite endorsing the project, the review made clear that the endorsement came due to the lack of “shovel ready alternative investments” that would expand UK rail capacity between the north and south, in addition to the £9bn already sunk into the project. Partially insulated from criticism Johnson has been free to approve the project, albeit with changes designed to reign in costs and delays. These include a new ministerial position, which will be responsible for the project and its management on a full-time basis, non-executive directors have been overhauled and the development of the London Euston terminal has been spun out to a new management team.

There has also been a recent fresh twist with the revelation that China Railway Construction Corporation, a part-state-owned Chinese contracting giant, has been in talks with HS2 Ltd regarding a deal for the company to potentially step in and build the line. Such a deal would, according to CRCC, see the UK save billions in construction costs, with the firm aiming to complete the work within 5 years. Despite these claims however, the government has so far had no part in the talks. It also seems unlikely that CRCC will be able to take over all work on the line, given the advanced stage of preparatory work – instead a “joint venture” seems a more likely option.

In addition to this, there would be the added political difficulties of the UK government allowing a Chinese firm to build a major piece of UK infrastructure, particularly given the recent decision by the government to allow Huawei, a Chinese telecom firm, to “continue to be used”  in the UK’s 5G networks. The decision was said to provoke dismay from the US intelligence services, which have lobbied extensively for European countries to ban Huawei from working on their networks, and ““apoplectic” fury” from Trump himself in a call to Johnson.

Written by Andrew Harris

You can’t consent to being killed: A call for the end of the consensual violence defence

On the 20th February 2020, Grace Millane’s murderer was sentenced to life in prison for killing Grace, a 22 year old woman from Essex who was travelling the world. Her case made headlines, as Grace’s killer was a man she met on Tinder, and who she had agreed to have consensual rough sex with. While it was clear the evidence against this man was extremely vast, he was still allowed to use the argument that Grace had been accidentally killed during consensual rough sex as a key part of his defence. As the case high profile case has come to an end, many people are calling for an end to ‘consensual violence’ being a legitimate defence, saying that the current law does not do enough to protect the victim and the victims’ families, and allows for further victim blaming and shame.

Tabloid papers across the word jumped on the fact that the case focused on Grace’s sex life, jumping on the fact that suddenly it was seemed acceptable to share intimate details of her life and sexual history. An example of this is the New York Post, who ran the headline Killed backpacker Grace Millane was into choking, BDSM, simply repeating what her killer claimed she consented to, publishing it for everyone to read about. There was no tact when it came to the tabloids stories about the case, no thought for Grace’s friends and family who had to listen to people defend her killer and place blame on a young woman for having a sex life. Furthermore, it creates a worrying trend where yet again a women’s sexuality can be used to blame her for violence carried out against her.

‘We can’t consent to this’ is an advocacy group that was set up as a response to the increasing number of women being killed or hurt by men who have claimed that it was simply ‘sex gone wrong’, and that the violence they were subjected to was consensual. This defence is on the rise in recent years and simply just another form of victim blaming – one that the victim is often not around to defend. The group has found that 60 women in the UK have been killed by men who defended their actions by saying it was simply a sex act that had gone wrong, and that this line of defence was successful in 7 of the 17 killings that had reached trial. The result being that the men were found not guilty or not did not receive a manslaughter conviction.

While UK Law does state that no one can consent to their own death, it is clear that this does not go far enough and does not do enough in protecting the victim, who is not around to defend themselves. Due to the fact that in the last 5 years, the ‘consensual violence’ defence has been successful in nearly half of the killings that went to trial, people, especially women, are calling for a change in UK law. At the moment, advocacy groups have created petitions arguing that while the law should be clear, at the moment “consensual activity ‘gone wrong’ gives too good a chance of a lesser charge, lighter sentence, or a death not being investigated as a crime at all.”[1] The amendments purposed to the Domestic Abuse Bill call for there to be no defence for domestic abuse crimes by saying that it was consensual, something that has been a long time coming. However, due to the recent general election, passing the amendment into law has been slowed down, showing how there still needs to be a fight and a push to get it finalized and to stop men revictimizing the women that they killed. Without this amendment, violent men will continue to re-victimize the women that they chose to injure and even kill, more than likely be able to get away with it.

Written by Georgie Day

You can sign the petition to change UK Law here: https://www.change.org/p/uk-parliament-let-s-end-the-rough-sex-defence-604fb426-47ae-4d92-ad5a-75135fd020ff

Sources used:

https://graziadaily.co.uk/life/in-the-news/men-rough-sex-defence/

 

https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/bills/cbill/2017-2019/0422/amend/domestic_rm_pbc_1007.1-3.html

 

https://wecantconsenttothis.uk/actnow

 

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/feb/24/rough-sex-defence-murder-grace-millane

 

 

 

[1] https://wecantconsenttothis.uk/actnow

 

Pete Buttigieg: A radical Democratic candidate?

Buttigieg is a white, male, moderate democrat. So, what makes him radical? Buttigieg is the first openly gay man and first millennial with a chance of entering the oval office.

For Buttigieg, a former mayor of South Bend Indiana, getting this far in the democratic race is admirable, but the prospect of him becoming the democratic nominee, let alone the president, was unthinkable.

Since the start of the democratic race, Buttigieg seems to be squeezing the other moderates in the competition such as Joe Biden and Amy Klobuchar. This has only become more apparent in the New Hampshire Primary polls since Buttigieg had his breakout win in Iowa. Seeing Buttigieg leapfrog both Biden and Warren to second place at 18%, although a far cry from Bernie Sander’s 26%, this makes him the first choice for many moderate democrats. Making the prospect of a Buttigieg nomination a much more plausible possibility.

In terms of his practices and demeanour, Buttigieg seems to embody the traditional democratic establishment, but his policies, even during the Obama era would seem unthinkable. Healthcare policy is a tell-tale way is evaluating how ‘radical’ a candidate is due to how polarising this issue is in US politics, with the RealClear Opinion Research Group finding that healthcare is the highest-ranked issue for US voters but also the most polarising. Thus, making it a potential heavy vote looser. Buttigieg’s plan ‘Medicare for All Who Want It’ allows for the continuation of private healthcare while providing a public alternative with comprehensive coverage, not unlike the healthcare system in the UK.  While this co-habitation of public and private healthcare may seem commonplace for us in the UK and Europe as a whole, the idea of a public and taxpayer-funded plan for anyone to use in the US would be a healthcare revolution. Something Obama, who was seen as a radical left-wing democrat in 2008, did not introduce.

josh articlThe fact that Buttigieg supports a universal healthcare system when the idea only holds a 50% support rate, sets him aside from other moderate democrats like Klobuchar and Biden, who have both kept their own idea of what a public healthcare plan would look like vague.

“What about Sander’s ‘Medicare for All’?” I hear you ask. It’s important to note that Sanders historically has not been a democrat. Serving as an independent from 1981 to 2016 both in his role as Mayor of Burlington, Vermont (ousting the Democrat incumbent) and as Senator of Vermont. So while Sanders is undoubtedly radical, he traditionally is not a democrat. This doubt from other Democrats came to a boiling point forcing him to sign a “loyalty pledge” to the democratic party and that he would serve as a democrat should he become president – we will not know for sure if this is the case unless he reaches the Oval Office.

This leaves Warren as the only Democrat with a more radical plan for healthcare than Buttigieg. Placing Buttigieg on the radical side of the democratic field on one of the most polarising issues of this election.

Looking past what can be a very thick veneer of left-wing echo chambers, especially those that would consider themselves the left of the democratic party, Buttigieg is radical, at least for the US and lines up with the likes of Sanders and Warren on a number of issues. A $15 an hour minimum wage, quadrupling the earned income tax credit for single adults, “affordable, universal full-day child care and pre-K for all children from infancy to age 5”, route to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, a cap on all student loan payments as a share of income, forgiven in full after 20 years as well as a universal healthcare plan. Furthermore, Buttigieg has thrown his weight in with some major structural reform ideas such as statehood for Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia, banning gerrymandering, and putting an end to the electoral college and filibustering. This would be major changes to the way that US elections are held, and could have major impacts on future results, as both Bush Jr and Trump would not have won the presidency without the electoral college.

Buttigieg may not have the same ideas as Sanders or Warren but to deny that his ideas are radical and would not have major long-term effects for the US only because he is seen to be moderate on the surface is precisely the problem. Buttigieg is a liberal able to come across as a moderate, and is it not the job of the nominee to convince those on the other side to vote for them? Only by accepting that they must convince those on the other side will the democrats be able to enact the radical policies they so desperately want.

Written by Joshua Trood

POSTHUMOUS PARDONS: AN ENIGMA

Most people are familiar with Alan Turing. If you aren’t, he was a scientist and cryptanalyst (amongst a plethora of other things) whose work for the British government is often recognised to have shortened the war in Europe by more than two years and saved over 14 million lives.

In 1952, the British government thanked Turing with a prosecution for gross indecency under section 11 of the Criminal Law Amendments Act 1885. He was given the ultimatum of imprisonment or probation – the latter with the condition that he undergo chemical castration to lower his libido. Turing’s conviction lead to the removal of his security clearance and barring from continuing his cryptographic work for GC&CS. Turing died on 7 June 1953 by cyanide, 14 months after his conviction.

60 years later, on 24 December 2013, Turing received a posthumous Royal Pardon.

The Alan Turing Law – the colloquial term for the amnesty law legislated in the Policing & Crime Act 2017, which pardons men who were cautioned or convicted under historical legislation (Buggery Act 1533) that outlawed homosexual acts. I’d forgive you for thinking that this law could right every wrong the government made against gay men, but this isn’t true. These statutory pardons are only for some men convicted of some homosexual offences.

We have just passed the bills third anniversary, which received royal assent on 31 January 2017. It’s a common misconception that this offers a blanket forgiveness for the crimes of the estimated 49,000 men who, like Alan Turing were convicted of consenting same-sex relations under the gross indecency law or other anti-gay legislations. As Justin Bengry, Historian of Britain’s LGBTQ past points out, “it offers too great an opportunity for the state to strategically forget and erase history rather than atone for the damage it has wrought on the lives of queer men”.

The Peter Tatchell Foundation estimates that some 50,000-100,000 men were convicted during the 20th century. Bengry poses the question, why should the pardon be limited only to men punished by these laws in the 20th century? Buggery, after all was criminalised in 1533  – how many more thousands of pardons would be needed for centuries-worth of inhumane convictions under the British government? The last execution for consensual anal sex only happened in 1835. Should these not be pardoned and apologised for?

It’s not wildly known the number of men who are unable to be granted pardons. This includes, but is not limited to, those men whose records cannot be found (you cannot obtain a pardon for an offence which a charge has no record).

For myself, it’s incredibly significant that those men whose crimes would still be illegal today – for example those convicted under indecent exposure (which is criminal under the Sexual Offences Act 2003), -cannot be pardoned. These men sought privacy and safety in public restrooms, solace from these anti-gay convictions and it was these circumstances which they were forced into by the government. These very crimes were the product of British anti-gay laws and deserve to be apologised for, not least to be pardoned. These crimes would never have been committed if the men were not put into this impossible position whereby they must choose between expressing their fundamental rights or be persecuted by a hostile government – one which still won’t right all of its wrongs.

A posthumous pardon is problematic for several reasons. If we look at the language, a pardon is not an apology. It is a forgiveness for a crime committed and in no way implies the person was wrongfully convicted.

Turing received his apology in 2009 by Gordon Brown on behalf of the British Government for “the appalling way he was treated”, however tens of thousands of men are still without apology and many of them without pardon—some of them still alive today.

Is the Government’s posthumous pardon a get out of jail free card? When the innocent party can neither accept the pardon, thus accepting that their actions were criminal, nor deny it— therefore embarrassing the government.

Right now, there are thousands of gay men unable to obtain the pardons offered by the government since 2017, which were intended for people unjustly convicted because of their sexuality. Many of these men were convicted of ‘importuning’ or ‘soliciting’ when in reality, many men were arrested simply for looking at an officer ‘the wrong way’ or speaking to another man on the street. There was no ground for arrest for many of these historic convictions in which a pardon is not offered.

Many men’s lives have been ruined by the mark against their record, which these scared men were forced into signing out of fear, in the belief it could be forgotten about.

It’s also invariably impossible to determine which crimes would still legitimately stand as crimes today? How can the Government blanket pardon all men convicted of queer sex, when some of these cases may well have been non-consensual or involving minors? Justin Bengry makes a point that this sort of detail is unlikely to have been preserved.

For centuries, lives were destroyed; men were executed by the state for homosexual offences. “This history should be preserved actively, publicly and loudly”.I believe that the Government must be held accountable and made to acknowledge its role in the destruction of so many LGBTQ+ lives and until all of the issues surrounding the pardon, including some of the ones I have discussed above have been addressed, it will continue to trick many  people into thinking that thousands of men have been apologised to. A pardon is in no way an apology or even an admission of wrongful conviction.

It should not be employed to distract us from the continued struggles of the LGBTQ+ community, and the Government’s general posthumous pardon simply is not good enough.

I am optimistic that more will be done, but the reality is that forgiveness can never be given by the unknown numbers of deceased men who died at the hands of the Government, and this should never, ever be forgotten. The world can learn from these injustices which must be remembered if we wish for history to never again be repeated.

Germany used the enigma to scramble and confuse messages. The British Government, I feel, do this very well with no such machine.

Written by Rhys Jones

Israeli Ambassador visits Royal Holloway

The Politics and International Relations Society once again host the Israeli Ambassador, Mark Regev, in an evening filled with questions ranging from relations with the British Labour Party, to unsurprisingly, relations with Palestine. The evening was expertly chaired by PIR Society’s very own President Joshua Trood, leading an array of questions and pursuing clarity from Ambassador Regev.

Ambassador Regev opened with a speech regarding modern diplomacy, highlighting Washington as the capital for mediation, the first remark that hinted at Israeli relations with America. Later on, being questioned on the US ordered killing of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani, the Ambassador gave complete support for the killing, stating he had no moral qualms about the assassination. Despite fears from many that this action by America could escalate tensions within the Middle East, Ambassador Regev assured the audience that the actions were de-escalatory as it proved to Iran that they would be held accountable for their immoral actions.  From observing Ambassador Regev’s language towards America, it is evident that allies with the West is an essential piece in Israel’s plan to be considered a credible state, worthy of international recognition and stature. Talking of the US, Trumps so called ‘peace plan’ was raised, Ambassador Regev praised Trumps’ plan for dealing with the question as to whether Jews actually have the right to their homeland, and raised discontent with UN Papers which Ambassador Regev deemed, ‘problematic’. It seemed that every question raised  regarding plans for Israel’s future, was a platform for Ambassador Regev to promote Israel’s democracy and strengthening relations within the region. Boasting of two peace treaties with more than half of the Arab league, Ambassador Regev subtly portrayed the effect these relationships will have on Palestine.

In Ambassador Regev’s promotion of Israeli democracy, he did highlight that Israel is in the aftermath of two unsuccessful general elections in the last year, with the third due in March. However, to reinforce democratic legitimacy, Ambassador Regev added commentary that unlike Syria and the former USSR, he did not know the election outcome. This was the beginning of an assault of reassurances that Israel is in fact a democratic, credible state with a vast future ahead of itself. Questions from the audience about the future of Israel was met with an ambiance of  optimism from Ambassador Regev, boasting of allies within the region. In contrast to Israel, Ambassador Regev persisted, Palestinians cannot vote, they are persecuted if they are to demonstrate and are not in fact living in a democracy, however under Israel they would enjoy democratic rights. Despite the negative, yet expectant light, being shred on Palestine, Ambassador Regev looked to the future of reconciliation and a Middle East which looks, in his eyes, in the spirt and form of the  European Union. In an realistic tone, Ambassador Regev, observed that this would not happen anytime soon. The realism being shred on future relations within the Middle East, did portray how far the region has to go to create peace. However, Ambassador Regev’s attitude and answers to almost every question regarding the Middle East and Israel was of the strengths of Israel as a functioning democracy and of increased relations with its neighbours. With Israeli leaked footage of Israel, Saudi and UAE talks, under the patronage of Mike Pence, there is further emphasis for  the hoped direction  Netanyahu and Ambassador Regev have for Israel.

Ambassador Regev also took questions regarding relations within British politics, specifically, the British Labour Party. With Ambassador Regev being at the centre of criticism against Jeremy Corbyn and anti-Semitism within the Labour Party, it was no surprise that Ambassador Regev saw Corbyn as hostile to Israel and highlighted the investigation of anti-Semitism within the Labour  Party. Despite condemnation of Corbyn, Ambassador Regev proclaimed Tony Blair and Gordon Brown as ‘friends of Israel’ and inspiration from their university reforms were put in place in Israel. The divide between Israel and the British Labour Party was one Ambassador Regev perceived as closing, with the leadership contest well underway, there is certainly hope for a new relationship between British Labour and Israel. Answering an audience  question regarding if relations will change between Britain and Israel now Britain has left the European Union, Ambassador Regev saw an opportunity of improved relations now the UK is looking outside of the EU for trade. Boasting of a nine billion of bilateral trade with the UK, and twenty billion bilateral trade for India and Britain; there was a certain sense that Israel, now seeing the reliance the UK has on US and outside-EU trade deals, could foresee a new relationship with Britain. This ‘opportunity’, as Ambassador Regev framed it, would indeed be vital for Israel, with as stronger relationship between the US and the UK, it seems realistic that the UK can be swayed to support the US in its relations with Israel.

The evening was interesting and thought provoking, however it certainly raised questions about Palestine. Ambassador Regev effectively painted Palestine as another issue within the Middle East, like Syria, that needed fixing. Of course, as a true diplomat, Ambassador Regev ensured that peace talks were always on the table with Palestine, however I felt with the alliances made with Trump’s America, there would be much more bargaining on Palestine’s part than Israel’s. Will there be peace in the region? Certainly not within the next decade, with Israel’s upcoming election, this could be an integral moment for Israel’s in sustaining its strength in continuing the operation for allies both inside and outside of the region.

Written by Sarah Tennent

A Tale of Two Parliaments: John Bercow joins Holloway Faculty

On the 10th of January, Prof. Nicholas Allen announced that the recently resigned Speaker of the House of Commons would be gracing the hallowed halls of Royal Holloway with a talk by the name of ‘A Tale of Two Parliaments’.

The day of his highly anticipated appearance at Holloway started at 7:58am when Prof. Oliver Heath notified students that Bercow would be joining the Politics International Relations and Philosophy Department, and ended with a crowded lecture theatre of nervous starstruck smiles and raucous laughter.

Whilst the announcement was expertly timed on the morning of Bercow’s talk by Prof. Oliver Heath, it left students from across the ideological spectrum shocked, outraged and ecstatic. And why wouldn’t we be? Adore or despise him, he is an icon of British political discourse. Like many other giants in British contemporary politics throughout the last 10 years: from Cameron to Johnson, it is difficult to ever imagine one joining the faculty of your university outside of the gilded corridors of Oxbridge. Let alone a man who stood toe to toe with four Prime Ministers with the power and precedence of Parliament at his fingertips. Bercow has never shied away from the spotlight, never retreated from a fight for Parliamentary sovereignty, and never backed down when peers deemed his numerous outreach schemes as ‘below stairs’. Away from his fiery determination and historic standoffs, his rise in British politics has been widely regarded as powerful and inspirational. Across campus shock and excitement were expected, whilst certain parts of his speech were not.

John Bercow walked into the Shilling Lecture Theatre with an exuberant smile on his face. The audience’s joy at his arrival made it seem as though they were none the wiser of his political shadow and cheered once his grey hair appeared in a sea of PIR committee members and PIRP lecturers at the entrance. Though, the tension from these brewing events was palpable to anyone aware of politico twitter. The moment Prof. Nicholas Allen introduced him, the applause was raucous and long-lasting and Bercow’s smile was Cheshire-like. He began with an anecdote regarding the elephant in the room, his height, and continued playing the humours of the audience with his innate command of language and his jolly spirit. Once the audience was at ease after the ice-breaker and the nervous awe began to wear off, he addressed the accusations of bullying.

‘I have never bullied anyone, anywhere, at any time…’

Bercow spoke of his strong manner in Parliament but assured the audience that he was not guilty of any allegation of bullying. He spoke candidly and passionately, questioning the lodging of the complaint within the political narrative since his departure from the House of Commons. He spoke of hope for the future and new challenges as a Professor, youthful in his giddiness, before moving on to his tale of two parliaments under his term as Speaker.

The details of the story were familiar to the audience but the perspective was unique and fresh. The Tory Prime Minister’s trust in Nick Clegg to prevent a Brexit referendum result, the splitting of a kingdom, and the ensuing chaos. Unlike many who would have the U.K. remain, he accepts this country’s impending fate as the 31st of January looms closer, but clarifies to the audience his true opinion on Brexit.

‘The biggest foreign policy blunder in the post-war period’.

Final point delivered, he continued on to discuss what he saw as the confusion of the government under the Rt Hon. Theresa May in deciding what Brexit truly meant, the hung election of 2017, Corbyn’s rise as opposition power, and how a Brexit at any cost would impact the UK. His perspective was one that was not uncommon held by the public during the trying past years but took on another life when he, a man who had witnessed true Parliamentary chaos from an elevated position, told his story to a room full of rapt students and academics.

‘A vivid imagination would be required to imagine Brexit being better than remain’.

From Brexit chaos to parliamentary reform, he then began to explore his lasting impact on the House of Commons. Mocking the old shooting galleries and acknowledging that in many respects he was not as privileged as many of his peers…

‘I was not born with a silver spoon in my mouth, let alone a silver trolley service’.

Stating further that claims to social mobility from those with impoverished backgrounds were the strongest claims, and when questioned by a student, went on to say that public institutions need to focus on how they help people from a range of backgrounds.

It is clear to say that he did not regret his lasting impact on parliament, from the addition of a creche to his calling on 17th Century procedure to prevent May’s government taking a third meaningful vote on Brexit when he felt it was the right thing to do. Though controversial at times, exampled by his public outrage over Johnson’s prorogation of parliament from his sunbed in Turkey, he seemed to regret little to nothing during his time as Speaker. One can only aspire to the level of joy and contentment a man like Bercow can have after a long and stressful career, to laugh along with students as he gave spot-on imitations of peers.

When students were allowed the chance to ask this parliamentarian titan questions, he touched on the last of the political demons that snapped at his heels, on the prompting of the Despatch Box Editor-in-Chief: the peerage. He began with a preamble where he was aware that once a Speaker’s term concludes there is a certain convention in the house to push the Speaker away from the politics of parliament. He understood the rationale but clarified that the impression was made that 230 years of precedence would be followed, and a peerage would be offered. When Bercow discovered that was not the case, he had resolutely decided to not lose any sleep over it. Since then we all are aware that Labour expressed the intention to nominate him for a peerage, one would guess to spite the Conservatives, and Bercow agreed to be nominated

The Ex-Speaker finished by touching on the freedom to debate backed up by the Bill of Rights, parliamentary spending issues, impartiality, and checks and balances on government. Finally, Bercow finished telling his epic tale, imparting his final knowledge and lessons learned as if Brexit were simply one of Aesop’s many fables. Goodness knows many would prefer this to be a cautionary tale.

The event ended with many smiles and pictures in the excess, and though Bercow was not in parliament anymore, he was beaming at the future of a Professorship as opposed to a peerage.

Written by Jessica Lee

Runnymede and Weybridge Candidate Hustings- What you need to know

On Monday 25th November, Royal Holloway Politics and International Relations Society proudly hosted Runnymede and Weybridge candidate hustings. With a strong student and public turnout, candidates from the Green Party, the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats, Labour and an Independent made their way through audience questions. The Green Party candidate, Benjamin Smith was unable to attend, however Green Party Councillor Michael Brierly stood in answering with honesty and consistency. Our very own President Joshua Trood expertly chaired the event, holding the difficult task of controlling the audience and candidates alike. A mostly calm evening, the hustings housed a range  of questions from social housing to honesty, support for those on zero hour contracts to, of course, Brexit. Conservative candidate Dr Ben Spencer, came under fire for not living in the constituency. Liberal Democrat candidate Cllr. Robert O’Carroll had a clear focus on climate change as the primary issue of our times, when discussing Brexit, he equated the feeling of change he had at the referendum result, as the same feeling he had finding out about the 9/11 terrorist attack. However with the other pressing issues raised, Cllr. O’Carroll lacked enthusiasm. Independent candidate Lorna Rowland, originally a prospective candidate for the Brexit Party, provided an impressive CV from business strategist and transformation expert, to a consultant physiotherapist. Rowlands stance on the EU was definite, Britain must leave. Rowland had also notable clarity on all other issues raised, most popular among students was Rowlands stance on the complete outlawing of zero hour contracts. Not unsurprisingly Cllr. King for Labour promoted an end to the casualization of contracts, himself offering relatable first-hand experience of the injustices of such contracts. Dr Spencer presented the Conservative stance on zero hour contracts, focusing on extending employee rights to those on all types of contracts. When questioned more by the audience on zero hour contracts, Dr Spencer stated that people should be wise about what jobs they want. This statement was met with disgruntlement, this claim did not resonate well with many students who are unable to find employment that is not on a zero hours basis. This seemingly implies the unsettling conclusion that Dr Spencer believes, the job market is currently working at a take it as you please basis for low income workers. Cllr. Michael Brierly offered to the audience what he could with honesty, stating the Green Party believes universal basic income will create job competitiveness, leading to a decrease in zero hour contracts.

Brexit, to no surprise, was a key issue addressed by all candidates. An audience question, that sources say where raised by none other than Rowlands campaign manager, also raised issues of important truths, with Dr Spencer having to explain two months of missing tweets prior to the EU referendum. As it transpired Dr Spencer believed in the importance of remaining within the EU. Dr Spencer had another disregard for the importance of honesty on social media, when confronted with the controversial Conservative twitter handle change that has made headlines, Dr Spencer spoke of it as supposedly tongue and cheek, stating it was still obvious who the twitter handle belonged to. Back to Brexit and Cllr. King relayed Labour’s stance on supporting a second referendum once a Labour deal with the EU has been reached, with the choice to vote for the deal or to remain on the ballot. Cllr. King also used this opportunity to state and reinforce that he will support remain if there is another referendum. Cllr. Brierly of the Green Party also promoted a second referendum but offering on the ballot the current Conservative deal or remain, a seemingly no nonsense approach that could appease uninspired Conservative Remainers. Also offering some humour to the debate, Cllr. Brierly speculated to the origins of Brexit as coming from two waring Etonian egos, which raised laughs from the audience. Cllr. O’Carroll reinforced the need for a peoples vote, also highlighting problems of the Union brought into the light by the 2016 EU referendum. However Cllr. O’Carroll, whilst supporting his party, did call into question the parties competence by insinuating the party will suffer at the election. Independent candidate Lorna Rowland presented an array of anti-EU facts, quoting predictions by scholars of the near future crash of the EU’s economy. The Brexit debate was of course of keen interest to the audience, all candidates used their time to reinforce manifesto pledges and personal stances.

With a wide student audience came questions over student debt, Independent candidate Lorna  Rowland promoted her stance on scrapping university fees and in responding to an audience question, promoting the increase in vocational training. Labour’s Cllr. King had a concise answer reflecting his recent time as a student at Royal Holloway, the abolishment of student fees, a review on interest rates and stressed the priorities of university investments. Green’s representative for the evening discussed the disparity in fees between his brothers, one getting a grant and no fees, the next brother no fees and himself a £3,000 yearly tuition fee. Cllr. Brierly linked this to the disparity of payback abilities between graduates and promoted Green’s policy of scrapping fees and wiping student debt. An ambitious task of clearing student dept was met with contempt from the audience, and with no plans on how to go about doing so, left the audience disillusioned. Conservative candidate Dr Spencer stated that costs should be shared between the state and the public and Liberal Democrats Cllr. O’Carroll did not offer a clear stance on university tuition fees but did highlight the need to recognise interest rates as graduate tax. There were no surprising offers by any candidate in addressing student debt and tuition fees, the clarity in most answers however will at least enable accountability to fulfil their election promises.

Aside from primarily student based issues, a member of the public in the audience asked questions regarding migrants arriving via boats to British shores, when there are many Britons, such as the large homeless population, that deserves priority. Initially candidates and many audience members were shocked by the question in hand, however impressively all candidates supported the intake of refugees and migrants. Dr Spencer proudly stated that migrants made this country great, mentioning no controls the Conservative government wishes to instate on migrants or refugee quotas. Cllr. O’Carroll also pressed that there is a responsibility to look after those that have crossed treacherous seas, stating that people do not travel  here in a dingy to live in a one room bed and breakfast. Lorna Rowland did highlight her desire for a need to control economic migrants but in no way condemned incoming refugees. It must be noted that Rowland wants refugees settle in the first safe state they reach and does reject EU refugee quotas. Green Party’s representative Cllr. Brierly recalled his own family’s history as immigrants to the United States and reinforced that Britain should not sacrifice its ideals in supporting refugees, also highlighting austerity increased homelessness and this does not equate with assisting refugees. The candidate for Labour stressed social housing should not be sold off and should remain social, with time limits in place there was no opportunity for Cllr. King to reply regarding refugees.

The final statements by candidates reinforced their manifestos and visions for Runnymede and Weybridge. Rowland reinforced that it was not a safe seat, a glimmer of hope perhaps for any candidate other than Conservative. Cllr. King reiterated that Labour was on ‘your side’, using the opportunity in the closing statement to show the failure of the Conservatives, arguing NHS waiting times were lower under Labour and reiterating his remain stance on Brexit. Cllr. O’Carroll and Cllr. Brierly both stressed the importance of green policies and holding individuals account on green initiatives. Dr Spencer pressed equality of opportunity for all, seemingly calling to the students in the audience that the Conservative Party can offer a strong economic future and, of course, concluding with ‘Get Brexit Done’. The evening was full of important questions and integral answers, the audience created a lively atmosphere and were not afraid to show their enthusiasm, or lack thereof, for candidates.

Writers Opinion

By the end of the opening statements, it was clear which candidate was most popular with the audience, and myself. Cllr. King spoke with clarity, confidence and persuasion. Cllr. King, who holds many positions on various Runnymede council committees as well as seats on outside bodies such as Deputy for the Heathrow Community Noise Forum, was able to reinforce every statement made with facts and personal experience. Having been a student at Royal Holloway it was clear he had many allies among the audience, yet in no way portrayed himself as overtly confident in a setting he was familiar with. I had hoped for some inspiration from the Liberal Democrat’s Cllr. O’Carroll in order to secure a half hearted vote to lower a Conservative majority, however these hopes were swiftly diminished within the opening minuet with a lack of charisma and, well, ability to speak to the crowd, which did not put him in good stead for speaking in the House of Commons if elected MP. Conservative candidate Dr Spencer did not appeal to me prior to the event, but I attended with an open mind as Dr Spencer seemingly sat towards the centre of the Conservatives political spectrum. It is as if however, the Conservatives do not understand the implications of picking candidates from thin air and far away lands and arriving them in Runnymede and Weybridge would not appeal to the residents of, Runnymede and Weybridge. As a Conservative stronghold however, this did not slow him down. Dr Spencer’s appeasing knowledge on  mental health and strong Conservative stance on Brexit drew favour from the audience despite two months of missing tweets and his somewhat ridiculous ‘tongue and cheek’ comments on the Conservative twitter handle. Cllr. Brierly for the Green Party’s sense of humour certainly held him in favour when tasked with questions he simply could not answer, he came out well from the hustings. I hoped as much could be said about the ever persistent Green Party itself, but there was no such luck. Lastly but certainly not least, the one female Independent candidate Lorna Rowland changed and challenged perceptions. Entering the hustings I did not think much of an Independent candidate but her seemingly well collected mannerisms, apart from calling out audience members who had trolled her on twitter, and array of facts which we were told to go and look up, made her a challenging opposition.

The five different personalities which showed themselves at the hustings proved to me who was worth my vote, I truly believe Cllr. Robert King deserves a seat in the House of Commons, his clarity in speaking, response to audience questions in a thorough manner and the odd crack at the Conservatives made him likeable and his experience made him feel trustworthy. Although I feel somewhat dismal about the chances of Runnymede and Weybridge turning red, I know I can laugh that the Conservative candidate does not believe in leaving the European Union, nor understands the basic geography of his potential constituency.

Written By Sarah Tennent 

The Legacy of Theresa May

 

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On 24th May after just short of three years in office, Theresa May announced her resignation as Prime Minister. As of today she will no longer be Conservative Party leader and a leadership contest will formally begin on Monday to replace her. Outgoing Editor in Chief Thomas Sherlock reflects on May’s tenure and her legacy.

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Why the next Tory leader should accept classic conservatism anew

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By Alexander Black

Theresa May will resign on the June 7 triggering a leadership contest which will elect a leader who will ultimately have to bring the Conservative and Unionist Party back to its roots. They will have to answer one key question many have been unable to properly define under May’s premiership. This is: ‘what does the Conservative and Unionist Party really stand for?’ To answer this question, one must look at the history of conservatism and the bedrock of its ideology.

Continue reading “Why the next Tory leader should accept classic conservatism anew”