For the first time in over 21 years, a Tory took a council seat from Labour in a particular part of Middlesbrough, my home town. As always the local press asked for a comment from our local Labour MP, who happens to be Andy McDonald, a practising solicitor. It beggars belief that the best he could come up with was: “We know the Tories worked very hard and they thought they were in with a chance.”
Is it any wonder that some residents wrote to our local paper asking why the Labour team did not do the same – that is, work very hard at the election? I believe the real reason was they took the voters of that area for granted, assuming that, as usual, people would continue to vote for Labour. McDonald was promoted not too long ago by Jeremy Corbyn. so I don't suppose he will be too pleased with this attitude.
Erdogan versus Brexit
Last June, the UK held a referendum on whether to remain in the EU. The result was a wafer-thin majority for leaving. The decision was seen as a firm democratic vote that cannot be reversed. A week or so ago, Turkey held a referendum on giving more power to its president. This was passed by a wafer-thin majority but is seen as undemocratic and will have an adverse effect on Turkey's application to join the EU.
Last year, the UK held a referendum. By a small margin, the outcome was a vote for Brexit. The Government keeps on telling the population at large that "Brexit means Brexit". Get over it. Accept what is a clear mandate. The time for talking is over. Move on.
Recently, Erdogan held a referendum in Turkey to enhance his power base. He won, allegedly so, and by intimidation, by a small margin. Western democracies have wagged their fingers and reminded Erdogan not to forget that he has only won by a small margin and that the outcome of the referendum is evidence of a divided country, that he should engage in dialogue.
Now Theresa May has called for a snap election here in the UK to enhance her power base. May tells the electorate that the country is coming together and that now is the time to remove any dissenting voices from parliament. What she says is to trust her leadership and to shut up. That she will not tolerate any opposing views, that she is not open to any discussions on what is best for the country. That only she and her henchmen, yes-sayers (and poodles?) know and will decide. She says that any opposing views are nothing but political gamesmanship.
I am reassured that what we witness here is the democratic process at its best. A house of mirrors? Just saying.
Rotten to the core
When the EU threaten the UK with demands even before negotiations and tariffs they might impose upon us, it makes me feel ever more angry and that it was absolutely the right decision to leave. The EU is rotten to the core, and now Tony Blair is entering the debate again prior to the general election. We must ensure we leave the EU and pay no further monies to them. It’s a shame the younger element don’t realise the EU was not what our parents voted for. It’s too big, too many countries, silly laws and a shear lack of accountability.
They might moan, but only because they like the thought of travelling during their gap years. Sincere countries are always open to business and tourism.
Which way to vote?
I, like many people I suspect, feel confused about which way to vote in the general election. This is about potentially voting for one person to achieve their vision of Brexit whatever that may turn out to be. A leap in the dark.
May's offering us much the same uncertainty as she accused Nicola Sturgeon of doing. Don't hold a referendum, she said, until you know what kind of deal you're getting.
I am also left distraught that all my Brexit predictions are coming true with regards to environmental and wildlife protections, which will be downgraded or abandoned in our desperation to do business with unpleasant alliances. The Middle East, the Philippines, China, the US – our new prospective besties. It will be too dreadful to watch as we abandon all our standards so carefully built up during our time in the EU.
But I am in favour of a drastic reduction in immigration. This is an anti-mass immigration sentiment by the way, not anti-immigrant. I know many EU migrants and they are decent and hard-working people, whom I like enormously. We could learn many lessons from them. But I don't want to see new towns going up every ten years to accommodate everyone, and in the meantime rents and house prices beyond the reach of so many.
So, who to vote for? The Tories will tortuously reach some kind of deal with the EU and reduce immigration. But they will also toss many valuable things out the window as they try to prove we can make it in the big wide world.
The Liberal Democrats, whom I hugely admire, would do the opposite. Go for soft Brexit or reapply and maintain the current levels.
Parties won’t work together
Sadly, I suspect that there is not much evidence to support the view that voters like parties who want to work together; they certainly don't at a national level in British politics.
The collapse of the Lib Dem vote at the last election may have been partly about Nick Clegg's abandonment of their tuition fees policy, but was more about an abhorrence of the very idea of his opting to work together with the Tories. However, given the opportunity to play a role in government for the first time in living memory, the Liberal Democrats played a significant and constructive role in the coalition, and placed a restraining hand on the potentially more egregious right-wing tendencies of their Tory partners. One might add that as the sole anti-Brexit party going into this general election, they deserve all the big increase in their vote that they are going to get.
But given the British voters' apparent reluctance to move too far from the centre ground (as Corbyn and probably Ukip are about to discover), their distaste for the moderating tendencies of coalitions is a mystery. Perhaps coalitions just remind them too much of those pesky Europeans.
No to soft Brexit
For those contemplating voting for the Liberal Democrats because of their “soft Brexit” policy at the forthcoming general election, there are a number of important issues you ought to consider. Do you want to the continuation of uncontrolled EU immigration we now have? Do you want our services, roads, schools, housing and NHS to be under the constant pressure we are now experiencing because of this influx? More importantly, do you want your taxes paying for the basket-case economies in the EU, which the Liberal Democrats consider it our duty to do? If the answer to these questions is yes, then you must confound the rest of us and place your cross adjacent to that party.
Votes don’t count
As someone who has voted on every single opportunity I echo the sentiments that for many people their vote does not count by the simple fact that they live in a safe constituency. This election is unnecessary. We have a majority Government and they should get on with it and respect the fixed-term parliament principle. The election is seen as an opportunity to wipe out opposition and avoid a general election when the true cost of Brexit is known following the negotiations.
A properly organised progressive alliance of all opposition parties offering a single candidate might unseat many Tory candidates and deny May her coronation. The progressive alliance should offer Parliament, if not the electorate, a final say on the Brexit deal. However, the opposition parties will never agree to the idea as they still cling to the misguided belief that they can win and gain power for themselves. Proportional representation might bring some sanity into the parliamentary system and restore the faith of the electorate.
Is war ever worth it?
With an act of war innocent people are always going to be affected, but when it comes to more innocent civilians by US forces than by Isis members, I don't believe it can be justified. We must not forget that these civilians are no different from you and me and so why are their lives more disposable? We need to evaluate the real reasons behind the US involvement in Syria and hope that the innocent lives being lost are not due to economic benefits for the US, in terms of the potential oil pipe line that would go through Syria.
The German police have charged a man thought to be behind the attack on the Borussia Dortmund football team. Initially, links were made to “radical Islamist” groups but it emerged that the German-Russian national was a market trader hoping to make money from short-selling 15,000 shares of stock he had in the German team.
The man faces charges of attempted murder, causing an explosion and seriouss bodily harm. Interestingly, following the recent revelations, most references to this as a “terrorist attack” have all but disappeared. This illustrates the oft-cited problem with both the plasticity of the term “terrorism” but also, perhaps less well-known, the political framing of violence.
Though the term is contested, the United Nations General Assembly provided this definition of terrorism: “Criminal acts intended or calculated to provoke a state of terror in the general public, a group of persons or particular persons for political purposes are in any circumstance unjustifiable, whatever the considerations of a political, philosophical, ideological, racial, ethnic, religious or any other nature that may be invoked to justify them.”
Whether adopting a broad or narrow reading, the Dortmund attack arguably constitutes one of terrorism – or is it because the authorities have not linked it to Isis that it fails to qualify?
The problem is not just to do with the obscurities of defining the nomenclature but also with how states and the media “frame violence”. Take for example the practice of normalised state violence. Very recent US air strikes in Syria that killed civilians did not solicit the same moral outrage that the chemical attacks, attributed by the coalition forces to the Syrian government, invited; or consider the criminalisation of possessing and selling guns but not the criminalisation of selling British-made arms to Saudi Arabia that have killed civilians in Yemen.
Such double-standards presuppose the state’s monopoly on violence (justified with the rhetoric of protecting its citizens) and the politicization and pragmatism attached to attributing violence as “terrorist”.
Dr Tanzil Chowdhury
Veganism helps the planet
On Earth Day (22 April), many of us will unite around the common goal of promoting choices that will protect our planet. Most of us are aware of simple steps that we can take to be more “green”, like recycling and switching to energy-efficient light bulbs. But before you go and spend thousands of pounds on a hybrid car, consider this: the most positive and meaningful choices that we can make for the environment involve what we choose to put on our plates.
Meat production is a leading cause of climate change, water depletion, soil erosion and most other environmental problems, according to United Nations scientists. Eating vegetables and grains directly, instead of funnelling them through animals, uses far less land and water – which is why the UN has said that a global shift towards a vegan diet is vital to save the world from the worst effects of climate change. That means that each vegan helps protect the environment and spares the lives of many animals every year. So what are you waiting for? If you care about the environment and your fellow earthlings, celebrate Earth Day by being truly “green” – go vegan.
Attending the final “stakeholders” meeting yesterday on airspace and airport expansion I was keen to see what changes, if any, had been made in the hotly debated third runway proposals. Polished presentations could not disguise the fact that neither the government nor Heathrow have moved one inch since their plans were first published.
The blunt truth is we are still faced, in the event of the runway being built, with the loss of 750 houses near the airport, massive increases in nitrogen oxide gases, a “resurrected” airtrack.
Heathrow will clearly be a topic at the forthcoming elections. There is now a last chance to raise concerns on this vital issue with aspiring county councillors and MPs. Let’s hope people take it!
Rev Andrew McLuskey