I’m back. I realise it’s been a really long hiatus, with no explanation. Well, I was madly busy at uni, I graduated and I got a job. I now write a wedding blog which you can see here, and believe it or not, there’s a lot of tricky politics in weddings!
But UKIP’s strong presence in the local elections made me think about this old blog, and I thought I’d come back to it - even if there’s nobody here!
Let’s discuss the pros and cons of the UK being in the EU, so we can knowledgably discuss the UKIP result and what it could mean, as well as what it’s saying about what people want…
UKIP is a right wing political party who are striving for independence from the EU. It stands for UK Idependence Party.Their leader is Nigel Farage MEP, and he is a founding member.
As well as wanting independence from the EU, UKIP’s manifesto proposes the abolition of inheritance tax and cuts in corporation taxes.
In the county council elections just gone, UKIP achieved their best ever local government result. It’s thought many of their voters are ex-Conservative voters - perhaps disillusioned with the coalition?
EU - In or Out?
So, now we know a brief bit about UKIP - what about their leading proposal? To leave the EU? The Conservatives have talked about a referendum in regards to the UK’s EU membership, but Home Secretary Theresa May has said not to expect one before 2015…once the next general election is out of the way - I kind of see this as a dangling carrot approach, but never mind my views!
Reasons to Stay in the EU
- Some believe there is no easy ‘friendly’ way to leave.
- Norway, who declined to be part of the EU, still have to abide by some EU rules, and don’t have any say in them!
- Trade would be affected as we’d have to pay EU export charges.
- Prime Minister David Cameron says: “If we weren’t in there helping write the rules they would be written without us…and we wouldn’t like the outcome”.
- Allies such as France are in the UK, and America is keen for the UK to stay in - both influential and powerful countries.
Reasons to Leave the EU
- Some claim we can leave without causing too much upset and still retain trading links.
- Nigel Farage uses Norway as an example of a country ‘thriving’ outside of the EU.
- If companies are free from tight EU regulations, there could be an increase of jobs available in the UK.
- UKIP claim the cost of EU membership totals 6.75bn a year.
I’ve gone on a little longer than I intended to, but there was a lot to cover. So, what do you think? Would the UK benefit from staying in the EU? If we had a referendum, what would you vote for?
Today is the last day of November. Pretty sickening, isn’t it?
It’s also, if some are to be believe, the day the country will come to a standstill. In a move that will (excuse the pun) strike the country, 23 public sector unions, including Unison and the National Union of Teachers, will stage a strike.
November 30th is now being billed as a ‘Day of Action’ by the unions, but as walk outs will take place up and down the country, it seems very much like a day of inaction.
It is claimed that the strikes are taking place due to the news that the retirement age is increasing to 68, and that employee pension contributions will increase, even though there has been a public sector pay freeze. Changes to pensions also means they will now be linked to the career average salary, which was not the case before.
So what does this mean for the rest of us? How will we be affected?
If you’re planning on travelling anywhere you might have to rethink…UK Border Agency staff are staging a walk out. Huge queues are expected at customs and immigration control, and Heathrow airport has predicted there could be delays of up to 12 hours as a result.
The NHS will be affected as well. However, those will urgent needs will have their appointments and treatments prioritised.
Schools across the country will be closing due to staff shortages, a move which could see parents out of pocket as they have to fork out for childcare, or take time off work to look after their offspring.
Libraries, leisure centres and swimming pools are set to close as workers walk out. Street cleaners and refuse collectors are also striking. One website offered some good news, claiming: “In some areas parking tickets will not be issued because traffic wardens will be on strike”.
So, we know who is striking and why, but is it going to have any real effect?
Somehow, I think not. The government has already been dismissive of the strikes, calling the action “premature” as they are still in pensions talks with the unions. Unison have a ‘Pensions: Busting the Myths’ page on their site, but they don’t address the idea that they are striking amidst talks with the government. So perhaps that is not a myth?
Image source: www.unison.org.uk
A quick search on Twitter, looking at the hashtags ‘#STRIKE’ and ‘#n30’ reveal mixed views. (The computer I’m using won’t let me print screen images, so excuse these poor copy and paste efforts…)
I have to admit, my views are similarly mixed. Whilst I believe that everyone deserves a fair and decent pension, and that the idea that working past 65 is wrong, wrong, wrong…I’m not sure a strike is the right way to address it.
People who work in the public sector do have a duty. And I know by neglecting this duty today they are proving their point and their worth, but it makes me feel a bit uncomfortable. If you have chosen to work for the NHS, and you strike, leaving those in need of care at the mercy of a contingency plan…well. I don’t think it’s fair on the patients. And I know, I know the pension plans aren’t fair, but some people aren’t in the position to strike about the hand they’ve been dealt…
And when I got to university today, I saw the strikers huddled around the entrance, and I was a bit annoyed. I refused to take one of their leaflets. That was my own personal protest. I thought, “I have paid an excess of nine thousand pounds to be here. I don’t have that many classes. I do seven hours at week at the minute. They work out as pretty expensive classes. Am I and the rest of the student body going to get reimbursed for what we’re missing today?!” I don’t think we are.
But my point is that when you choose a job like education or health care, you do have a duty to others. And whilst I respect your issues, I think negotiations need to continue before you strike. It’s not fair, no, but it’s not fair on the rest of us, either.
In case you didn’t know, I am a girl. I’m a girl with an interest in politics. I’m on a course at uni which comprises of 90 girls, and I’m the only one who opted to take the politics class.
I wasn’t that surprised actually. That sort of disappointed me though, that it’s ‘normal’ to not associate girls with politics. And it’s not just an issue on my course.
In our current government, out of 23 different roles, only five of them are held by women.
Image taken from www.bbc.co.uk
Is it any wonder that it has been reported that overall levels of ‘approval’ for the Coalition have fallen to 25% amongst women? Conservativehome.blogs.com (accessible here) published a report recently revealing that just 13% of women feel ‘that the Conservative Party is the party which is closest to women and best understands and reflects their views; plummeting to 7 per cent for the Lib Dems. When it comes to their personal ratings both Cameron and Clegg have a deficit of 6 per cent amongst women compared to men’.
Pretty sobering statistics, especially if you’re one David Cameron. But why is this happening? The Guardian’s Comment is Free section had a lot to say on the matter (you can read their post here), suggesting that spending cuts are affecting women more than men and that women will have to step in to ‘do the caring the state no longer funds’. A slightly stereotypical outlook, but can we blame people for having old fashioned views when our gender balance in politics is so old fashioned itself?
Cuts have been made to child benefit, a maternity grant for low-income families has been axed and housing benefit has been reduced. This affects almost 3 million women in the UK. Well, they do say hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. Could you imagine the fury of 3 million scorned women? Cameron and Clegg should be making their own way to the doghouse now, to save the drama.
So what do women want? Well, I would like to see more women in the cabinet, for a start. Everyone is equal, therefore everyone should be equally represented by their government. And this may be something the Coalition are considering, as they’ve said they’re ‘developing a strategy to ensure there are more female candidates for mayoral posts, elected police commissions and local enterprise positions’ and that they plan to ‘hold a summit at No. 10 for women in business’. At least they seem to be recognising a woman’s worth in politics. But is that enough?!
In the dim and distant past, you might recall Blair had his ‘babes’…but that doesn’t help women in politics much at all…If I were to advance my career far enough to be in government, if I were intelligent enough and hard working enough to work alongside those running the country, I’d be absolutely fuming to be referred to as one of ‘Blair’s Babes’. Patronising and objectifying women won’t get them any further in politics, and I think if Cameron introduced ‘Cameron’s Kittens’, or some other vomit-inducing, simple collective of women, there would be outrage.
Although summits and strategies are being talked about, we all know actions speak louder than words. Women don’t need special treatment, we just need our worth to be recognised. The media need to focus less on wardrobe choices and appearances, and more on what women in politics have to say. Women who hold esteemed positions, such as Louise Mensch MP, need to prove they’re totally focused on the job at hand (leaving the Murdoch hearing early because of the ‘school run’ totally reinforces the stereotypical image of women in the workplace…read more here)…and of course, David Cameron himself needs to pull himself together; telling one female MP to “calm down, dear,” and suggesting another was “frustrated”…this is no way to win over the girls.
I think it’d be beneficial to make politics and business more accessible to everyone; by introducing them to the school curriculum people would become more educated and perhaps more interested in political matters…this could cause more women to aim for top jobs in the cabinet. We also need to make sure that women are involved in issues that affect us the most. This would mean introducing more women into the cabinet, or perhaps creating a panel of female consultants to run things by? But for now, we’ll just have to wait and see if the plans to appease female voters works…
What do you think they should do? How can they win over the female voters? And should we have an equal number of men and women in government??
This Daily Mail article intrigued me! But I did enjoy reading the comments left on it a little bit more…I love a good comment list on the Mail. Have a look at it…what do you think of it all?
You may have heard in the news about a spate of protests, occurring worldwide, called the ‘Occupy Movement’. They began with ‘Occupy Wall Street’. What is ‘Occupy Wall Street’? The website explains:
"Occupy Wall Street is a people-powered movement that began on September 17, 2011 in Liberty Square in Manhattan’s Financial District, and has spread to over 100 cities in the United States and actions in over 1,500 cities globally. Occupy Wall Street is fighting back against the corrosive power of major banks and multinational corporations over the democratic process, and the role of Wall Street in creating an economic collapse that has caused the greatest recession in generations. The movement is inspired by popular uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, and aims to expose how the richest 1% of people are writing the rules of an unfair global economy that is foreclosing on our future."
In the UK, protesters have descended on St Paul’s Cathedral in order to demonstrate their ‘anti-capitalist’ beliefs. They’ve been camping outside the Cathedral after police refused them access to camp outside the London Stock Exchange. Their website offers the following information:
"In London we have occupied the forecourt of St Paul’s Cathedral, next to the London Stock Exchange. Reclaiming space in the face of the financial system and using it to voice ideas for how we can work towards a better future. A future free from austerity, growing inequality, unemployment, tax injustice and a political elite who ignores its citizens, and work towards concrete demands to be met."
Now, obviously a world free from all those things listed does sound wonderful, but is it possible? Secretary of State Vince Cable has expressed sympathy with the protesters, saying on the BBC’s Politics Show that: “I think it does reflect a feeling that a small number of people have done extraordinarily well in the crisis, often undeservedly, and large numbers of other people who have played no part in causing the crisis have been hurt by it.”
But will this protest work? Can we really expect such a campaign, even a world wide one, to bring an anti-capitalist view to the masses?
In short, no. I hate to be so dismissive, but the enemy of anti-capitalism is globalisation; thus called because it has gone global. A few hundred people in tents in a church can’t compete with the conglomerates that rule the world. It doesn’t matter if Vince says he sees their point, at the end of the day it comes down to that old cliche, ‘money talks’. And whatever the money has to say, it’s going to come across ten times louder than some damp hopefuls, crouching in their tents.
We’ve gone too far in capitalism to ever be able to return. Those with the vast majority of the money will not willingly relinquish it, and to help our country’s economy grow, we need to be spending. And I think the government are probably just as against ‘off shore tax-havens’ as the protesters, so are they really in the right place?
A search of #OLSX on Twitter reveals mixed views. The occupiers themselves are urging people to donate ‘phones and smart phones’, which did induce a sneer from me. Surely if you’re demonstrating against capitalism, you can’t ask for an iPhone to be ‘given’ to you? Also, the following tweet was ignored by those it was directed to, but did raise a valid point:
I think their idea in a nice one in theory, but not demonstrated in the best way. Sitting outside a church armed with guitars and cartoons, drawing in people who, judging by their tweets, just want something to rant about, makes it hard to take their point seriously.
Maybe they should have headed to Sir Philip Green’s mansion to make their point, or the flagship Topshop? I seem to recall that the Topshop boss has his own tax-haven, and it’s not even in his own name…Occupy Oxford Street might have had a little more of a point…but for those asking for smart phones, could they have resisted popping inside for a little spree?
Well, believe it or not, but in my previous post we got the simple stuff out of the way.
Now you know who this country is governed by and why it is that way, it’s time to figure out what they’re doing and why.
It’s been impossible lately to listen to the news or pick up a paper without seeing or hearing the words ‘eurozone’, ‘bailout’, ‘EU’, ‘recession’, ‘growth’, ‘referendum’ or ‘Greece’.
With the exception of the word ‘Greece’, which brings to mind sunshine and feta salads, none of those words sound too pleasant, do they? But if we want to appear politically knowledgable (and we do, don’t we?) then we must understand them. So let’s learn a bit about economics, how it affects us and why it is important.
First off, our whole political system fundamentally comes down to economics…money. Do we fund our state or should our state fund us? Do we want capitalism, every man for himself, you make what you’re worth and you keep it, or socialism, where everyone is equal and no one is left behind in the rush to make money, because there isn’t one? (Well…these are the ideas in theory…they don’t always go to plan). They are the basis of right and left wing respectively, and they are what our political parties are based on.
The Conservatives are right wing, and Labour are left wing. The Lib Dems are supposedly more central, but with left-leaning tendencies, usually. However, it’s not always that clear cut, and sometimes, increasingly so nowadays, political parties borrow things from opposite sides of the spectrum.
But back to these complex words. What do they mean?
First off, economics - this is what this whole blog is about. The definiton of economics is as follows:
So, it is essentially money. Prosperity and wealth. Economics - matters concerning money.
The eurozone - this is media-speak for countries that have the euro. So that’s France, Spain, Germany, Italy, Greece etc.
The EU - the EU is short for the ‘European Union’. The European Union is a group of 27 countries, who all pay to be in the union. They follow certain rules and receive certain benefits from being a part of it.
Growth - obviously, we know growth means growth! It means to grow, to expand etc., but when applied to economics, it refers to the market value of all goods the UK (in this case) have made and sold. So a ‘growth of 0.2%’ means that the country’s income from what it produces and sells has increased by 0.2%. It’s a good thing. We can have negative growth though, which brings us on to…
Recession - in contrast, the recession is not so good. When the country experiences two successive negative periods of growth (a period is three months of the year, usually referred to as a quarter), where profit is not being made and the ‘national income’ is not increasing, it is officially known as a recession.
Referendum - the current referendum in the news relates to Greece. Greece is currently experiencing a financial catastrophe. They owe €340 billion. You can read up on the situation here. The referendum would basically be a vote for the Greek people where they get to choose what the goverment does. Do they want to accept the bailout and it’s conditions, or reject it? It’s a sink or swim situation for them and in this case, it’s not a popular option. It could take up to a month to arrange, and Greece can’t really afford to waste much time (no pun intended). The latest new updates suggest that the Greek prime minister George Papandreou has abandoned the idea of the referendum, realising how unpopular it is.
Bailout - the bailout previously mentioned comes from the EU and is said to be worth €80 billion. It would allow Greece to fund itself until about February. Without it, it’s estimated the country only has enough money to last until December. The terms out the bailout are pretty steep though, which is why the country has hesitated to accept the package. You can read more about it here.
So that’s a break down of what is in the economic news right now. But how does that affect us in the UK? As part of the EU, you’d think we’d have to pitch in and help our pals in Greece. Not so. David Cameron has made it pretty clear he has no intention of contributing to a bailout. He has, however, stated that it would be ‘right’ for the UK to contribute more to the International Monetary Fund, meaning that we would indirectly be helping Greece, but he can avoid upsetting the ‘eurosceptic’ members of his party.
British banks have a €13 billion euro exposure to public and private borrowers in Greece. If Greece default and admit they cannot pay back their debts, British institutions will encounter massive losses, as will the rest of Europe. This is something we can ill-afford in the aftermath of the 2008 recession.
So, does it make sense? And do you think Cameron is doing the right thing - is it any concern of ours what another country does with its money? Should we pitch in and bailout, or focus on our own money troubles and ignore the EU’s disgruntled whispers?
Parliament and Britain’s Government
I’m sure we’re all aware that this country, as well as a reigning monarch, has a ‘prime minister’ at its helm. (And if not, we definitely should be! Pay attention!)
Our current prime minister is Conservative party leader David Cameron, and his deputy is Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg. This set up is not the norm when it comes to government; we are currently experiencing Britain’s first formal coalition government since the Second World War.
So, we have a combination of Liberal Democrats and Conservatives in power…
Con-Dem? Lib-Lab? Con-Lab? What is it and what does it mean?
It’s actually ‘Con-Lib’, and it might never have been.
In the run up to the 2010 general election, it was apparent that Labour were losing favour. It’s been a long-standing battle between the Conservatives and Labour for power, but the Lib Dems suddenly seemed like viable candidates, following a series of televised debates.
Yet no one seemed prepared for what actually happened; the Conservatives took the majority of the votes and they won 307 seats in Parliament. They needed 326 to win outright though. Labour came in with the second most, and the Lib Dems were third.
The Conservatives could have strived to rule as a ‘minority government’, in that they had the most votes but not enough to win outright. But it would have been a massive gamble as they would have been susceptible to votes of ‘no confidence’ by their opposition in Parliament.
So David Cameron and co reached out to Nick Clegg and began to negotiate a deal. Labour did the same; the party with the least seats out of the three suddenly had the most power. Crazy, right? Clegg could decide what happened to our government.
It seems Labour weren’t willing to concede enough; they appeared ill-prepared and unorganised compared to the Conservatives, who had prepared a written document for the Lib Dems and negotiated well. The Tories offered a deal the Lib Dems couldn’t refuse - they offered to discuss ‘electoral reform’, a big sticking point of the Lib Dems. (Unfortunately for Clegg the country voted to reject his Alternative Vote proposal, but at least they had the opportunity to try for it!)
Although it made more sense politically for the Lib Dems to come together with Labour, they surprised a lot of Party members and supporters by deciding to work with the Conservatives.
Fundamentally though, despite documents and tempting offers, it seems Clegg’s decision came down to his personal relationship with the two opposition candidates. To sum it up plainly, Clegg and Cameron’s bromance was something poor old Gordon Brown just couldn’t compete with.
Some 18 months on and the unlikely partnership seems to be working well. However, it remains to be seen what will happen when it comes to the next general election! Cameron, Clegg and new Labour Party leader Ed Miliband undoubtedly all want their party to win absolute power, but now a coalition government has proved pretty viable, who knows how it will pan out?
Next week I’ll be focusing on what has changed under this new government and how that affects us…stay tuned for a simple break down of *shudder* politics and current affairs! (I know it’s nearly Halloween, but it’s not as scary as it seems…)