The people versus the Establishment
The Prime Minister Theresa May called for a snap General Election now because she believes she can easily win it and increase her majority in the House of Commons. She may be right, but Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn is out on the campaign trail with the message that this election is not a “forgone conclusion” and that Labour can win it on 8 June. He vowed to change the direction of the election by “putting the interests of the majority first,” and insists a Labour campaign and Government will not play by the rules of the establishment – the BBC suggesting he is “presenting himself as a champion of the powerless against political and business elites.”
In a campaign speech in London, Mr Corbyn is expected to speak of his goals for the election campaign. The BBC reported this morning what he is to say:
“Much of the media and Establishment are saying this election is a foregone conclusion.
“They think there are rules in politics, which if you don’t follow by doffing your cap to powerful people, accepting that things can’t really change, then you can’t win.
“But of course those people don’t want us to win. Because when we win, it’s the people, not the powerful, who win.
“They say I don’t play by the rules – their rules. We can’t win, they say, because we don’t play their game.
“They’re quite right I don’t. And a Labour government elected on 8 June won’t play by their rules.
“They have created a cosy cartel which rigs the system in favour of a few powerful and wealthy individuals and corporations.
“It’s a rigged system set up by the wealth extractors for the wealth extractors.”
The Labour leader is thought to be planning to single out tycoon Sir Philip Green over the BHS pension crisis and Sports Direct’s Mike Ashley for his treatment of his workforce, suggesting they “should be worried about a Labour Government.”
“Strong and stable leadership in the national interest”
Meanwhile the Prime Minister is expected to continue to stick to her themes of “strong and stable leadership” and her desire to win a mandate to “get on” with implementing Brexit and “making a success of it.” She will undoubtedly keep hammering home the message and slogan “coalition of chaos” as a personal attack on the potential leadership of Jeremy Corbyn. She is continuing to refuse to debate on the same stage as another leader during the election campaign but her office has not ruled out an individual event in front of a studio audience. Labour and the other parties will continue to challenge her to debate the issues with other leaders and her decision may change under such pressure.
You can read more about the Conservatives’ possible policies in today’s Guardian.
More MPs to stand down at this election
Two more Labour MPs have announced that they are not standing for re-election on 8 June. Andy Burnham (above) is Member of Parliament for Leigh and currently a candidate for the Greater Manchester mayoral election. He posted a message on his mayoral website he said he would not be standing as an MP on 8 June:
“It is with the heaviest of hearts that I confirm that, after 16 years as the Member of Parliament for Leigh, I will not be seeking to stand at the forthcoming general election.
“Whilst I have not always got everything right, I can honestly say that I have given this job my all and done my best to put Leigh on the map.
“Through all the ups and downs of the last 16 years, the people of Leigh have shown incredible loyalty and friendship to me and I thank you all from the bottom of my heart.”
The election for Greater Manchester mayor is on 4 May so he could be already starting his new job, if successful, before the General Election even takes place.
Fiona MacTaggart (above) has also decided to stand down as Member of Parliament for Slough. In a statement to party members she said:
“And through parliament I have helped to build a fairer society, making sure that the voices of women, including women of south Asian descent are heard in parliament. I have stuck my neck out to persuade Labour and Conservative governments to back changes which were not immediately popular: granting full British citizenship to people who were British overseas citizens and had no other nationality, making big companies publish information about slavery in their supply chains are just two examples.
“But people in Slough still face many problems. For some years now I have had to tell constituents living in miserable overpriced and overcrowded homes that they are unlikely to qualify for a secure tenancy that they can afford. I have been frustrated by cruel immigration rules which prevent families from living together in this country where they are citizens while inefficient administration means that some people easily flout the rules. I am embarrassed to discuss with our headteachers how they will cut spending to fit the meagre budgets they face. I have been depressed by the way the fantastic capacity in the voluntary sector is being run down by lack of funds or poor leadership. I have been bored by political squabbles over personalities and I know I don’t still have the passion which has driven my politics for 20 years.
“So I have decided to give someone else a chance to do the wonderful job which I have been privileged to hold for so long.”
Bill Gates urges Conservatives not to cut foreign aid if they win the election
Microsoft founder Bill Gates has warned that cutting the UK’s foreign aid budget, some £12bn in 2015 or around 0.7% of national income, would cost lives. This follows Theresa May’s refusal to confirm whether she would pledge to continue to fund foreign aid in the Conservative manifesto. Some see foreign aid as wasteful with the money better spent in the UK – a notion that mimics the idea that Brexit would mean we could spend the money saved on the NHS. Not spending £12 billion on foreign aid in no way means that the Conservative Government would spend that money on UK public services. Some Conservatives support foreign aid, pointing out its benefits both abroad and at home. Conservative MP Ruth Davidson told BBC’s Newsnight:
“I think that international aid not only benefits… the countries that receive it but we benefit too.
“It takes moral courage to be one of the leading countries that espouses that, when there are a lot of countries that don’t do it.”
While Culture Secretary Kanren Bradley said she was “very proud” of the UK’s record in “helping the most in need.”
Speaking to the Royal United Services Institute, Mr Gates said that Britain’s foreign aid commitment was a “critical pillar” of the country’s foreign policy and added: “Britain should be praised, not ridiculed, for sticking to this commitment”. He continued:
“It was a well-considered decision that sets an example for other wealthy Western countries. It also is visible proof of the UK’s goodwill and humanity.
“Withdrawing aid would cost lives – which is reason enough to continue it.
“But it would also create a leadership vacuum that others will fill, undermining the UK’s influence in these regions.”
The commitment to spend 0.7% of GDP was only enshrined in law as recently as 2015 and there is speculation that Theresa May wants to scale back on this commitment, perhaps because of hostile reaction to it from many in the UK at a time when the UK has undergone severe austerity itself. Former International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell told Newsnight: “Around the world we are lauded and respected for the lives we are saving, but in Britain it receives very hostile treatment from elements of the press.”
Speaking to the Spectator, Mr Gates emphasised the disproportionate value aid has in foreign countries, when “applied in places where the interventions are at least a hundred times more effective than anything you’d do domestically”. He added:
“If you can’t save a life for less than 1,000 dollars, it’s not done.
“Nor is it done unless there’s a strategic goal – in terms of reducing pandemics, or creating stability to avoid war and migration.
“So you’re getting something back, avoiding problems for the UK and in particular the US.”
The attacks on foreign aid are another example of the right-wing, isolationist direction this country has been taking in the last few years and a sad reflection on the mindset of many people in this country. Foreign aid may be better spent or spent in different regions, but the notion that we should just sever foreign aid completely or drastically reduce the budget below the 0.7% commitment is disturbing. If we were to do this then it would send a disastrous message to the world – one that says nothing positive about our position in the world and suggests that Britain is becoming less and less significant on the world stage.
Nigel Farage considering standing for Parliament, for the eighth time
Paul Nuttall (left), the current leader of UKIP, with Nigel Farage
The former leader of UKIP, Nigel Farage, has yet to make up his mind whether he will make another run at a seat in Westminster. He’s tried and failed seven times before and now holds a seat in the European Parliament, representing South East England. His most recent attempt to gain a seat in Westminster was in South Thanet in the 2015 General Election where he lost to the Conservative Craig Mackinley, whose campaign in that election is now under investigation by the police after allegations about his campaign spending were made. UKIP had achieved their first MP in former Tory Douglas Carswell, but he quit the party last month so once again UKIP have no representation in Westminster.
Mr Farage told the Sun yesterday: “A bit of me says what happened last time in South Thanet was so monstrous there that they wouldn’t dare try it again, so I think if I did run I would win it,” but then told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme this morning that he hasn’t yet decided whether to run or focus on his European Parliament job:
“I’m still leading a group in the European parliament,” he said. “I’ve got to weigh up, where am I best to be to have an impact on Brexit and perhaps warning the British people it’s not going in the direction it should be – Strasbourg or trying to get a seat in Westminster?”
Now that UKIP has achieved its primary goal of Brexit many are questioning whether the significance of UKIP will now fade. Despite large support in Stoke-on-Trent, the UKIP leader Paul Nuttall recently failed to defeat Labour in a by-election. Nigel Farage, however, is adamant:
“This is far from over and we need a strong Ukip voice in British politics to hold the government to account,” he said. “He [Nuttall] has got six weeks to prove himself, it’s just as simple as that. I’ve known him for a long time, he’s a strong man.”
UPDATE: After posting this post, Nigel Farage announced that he had decided not to stand as an MP in the 8 June General Election.
Liverpool’s Mayor Joe Anderson in bid to become an MP
Here in Liverpool, the city’s directly-elected Mayor, Joe Anderson, has shocked the city by announcing that he wants to try his hand at Westminster politics. After five years as the city’s mayor he says that he will put his name forward as a candidate for the Liverpool Walton seat should the current incumbent, Labour’s Steve Rotherham, succeed in his bid to become the Liverpool City Region Mayor on 4 May. Going against precedent, should the Walton seat become vacant, the new candidate will be directly chosen by Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) and not by local members. Walton is one of Labour’s safest seats and with Rotherham being a clear favourite to win the Liverpool City Regional mayoral race, the seat is very likely to become vacant.
Concern has been raised that the often difficult relationship between Steve Rotherham and Joe Anderson, both of whom wanted to be the candidate for Liverpool City Region Mayor, may intensify if Anderson remains Liverpool Mayor and Rotherham becomes the City Region Mayor. Anderson may see Westminster as a means to avoid this and to continue in a high-profile political role in the city, and give him the ability to fight the cause for Liverpool on a national level. Joe Anderson began his political career in Liverpool as a city councillor in the Abercromby ward, then the Riverside ward from 2004 – the district I live in myself. He became Labour leader of the council in 2010 and Mayor in 2012. His failed bid to become the candidate for Labour in the Liverpool City Region mayoral race was “heartbreaking” for him. He now says that he wants to “look the Tories in the eyes” and tell them directly how austerity has damaged Liverpool. In a statement on his decision to stand as an MP in Walton, he said:
“This decision has not been made lightly. I have thought long and hard about it but I feel, with the Government calling a snap General Election, this is the right time for me to provide the best representation for the people of Liverpool and Walton.
“It is fair to say that over the years I have been criticised for my direct way of doing things, my no nonsense attitude may not have been to everyone’s taste, but I strongly believe that we must always stand up to bullies, and it will be clear to everyone in Liverpool Walton that this Government is intent on bullying our city.
“Every day I have fought for Liverpool against the cuts and against those in the Westminster bubble who want to pull us down and hold us back. The Conservative and Liberal Democrat’s continued unfair and vicious attacks, despite our pleas, is evidence of National Government’s complete lack of understanding of how local councils work and, more importantly, the lives of the people who feel the devastating effects of their ignorance.
“With almost 20 years of local government experience, and 7 years as leader then Mayor of Liverpool, I have continuously battled and fought for us to be treated fairly, but it is almost impossible to do when they simply refuse to listen.
“Vulnerable people in Walton depend on the services of our council, as do millions of others across the country, and I want the opportunity to go to Parliament, tell their story and look government ministers in the eye as I explain how important local government is to them.
“With your support, I have steered Liverpool through 7 years of painful austerity, but I am proud to call our council a socialist council.
“Despite their bludgeoning cuts we haven’t closed a single library or children’s centre. We have protected the most vulnerable in our communities. We have built 15 new and improved schools across the city.
“I am proud of our achievements, and the city is in a good place, with a growing and vibrant economy.
“If I am selected by the NEC, we have a strong group of Labour Councillors who will continue to do an incredible job and I fully trust that, if I’m chosen, they will continue to move this city forward.
“Serving the people of Liverpool as Mayor has been a huge privilege for me, but now, as we face the uncertainties of Brexit, a shrinking national economy and the prospect of further austerity, I face an opportunity to use my experience to take the fight direct to Whitehall, to stand up to Theresa May on behalf of the people of Walton, Liverpool and together burst the Westminster bubble.
“I would hope that the people of Liverpool can understand how I have come to this decision and that party members both nationally and locally will understand that my heart’s desire is to fight for the people of Liverpool and Labour’s vision for running the country.
“This General Election, as a chance to stand up in Parliament for Walton and Liverpool, is an opportunity I must take.”
UPDATE: On 22 April the Liverpool Echo published online an article that states that Steve Rotherham has registered to stand again as MP for Walton, despite that he’s favourite to win the Liverpool City Region Mayor race on 4 May. This has created confusion over Joe Anderson’s position and his desire to run for the seat. It seems, however, that Rotherham is waiting to see the result of the Mayoral election on 4 May before making a final decision and was required to register his interest in standing again before that election takes place. At the moment he is running for both jobs. If he wins the Mayoral race and chooses not to then continue on for re-election as MP, only a few days will be available for a candidate for Walton to be selected. A local European MEP, Theresa Griffin, has also said she intends to stand for the seat in Walton. This all makes Joe Anderson’s desire to stand in the seat far from certain.
Douglas Carswell rules out standing at the election and says he will vote Tory
The former UKIP MP Douglas Carswell has decided he is not going to seek re-election on 8 June. In 2014, when still a Conservative MP for Clacton, he defected to the UKIP and won the subsequent by-election to become the party’s only Member of Parliament. Last month he left the party after a dispute with party figures, including former leader Nigel Farage, and became an Independent MP for Clacton. As a Consequence, the UKIP donor Arron Banks said he would stand in Clacton against Carswell. Now that Carswell is standing down it seems likely that Banks will abandon his plans to stand, telling the Guardian:
“Twenty-four hours after launching my campaign, the new sheriff in town has run the old sheriff out. He’s a coward, he’s too chicken. He didn’t want to fight me because he knew he would lose.”
Now that Carswell is standing down and Banks is unlikely to continue his campaign to be Clacton’s MP, the way is left open for the UKIP leader Paul Nuttall, or its former leader Nigel Farage, to have a clear run at the Essex constituency, which is one of UKIP’s strongholds. UKIP, like everyone else has been taken by surprise by the snap election (except maybe for former Lib Dem leader Paddy Ashdown who says he predicted the election) and say they are not yet in a position to say what will happen in Clacton. A senior UKIP source told the Guardian: “The main decisions on candidates and the manifesto are still to be finalised. The election was something of a surprise, so we’ve not got everything prepared.”
As for Douglas Carswell , he said that he feels his career is over now that the UK is leaving the EU, but said he was “proud and honoured” to have served his Clacton constituents. He added, on a constituency blog:
“I have decided that I will not now be seeking re-election. I intend to vote Conservative on 8 June and will be offering my full support to whoever the Clacton constituency Conservatives select as their candidate.”
After 12 years as MP for Clacton, Carswell added that he had had “great fun working with, and getting to know, many wonderful local people.” He continued:
“ Together, we ran all sorts of local campaigns, from safeguarding local services to getting a new seafront. Local has always come first.
“As I promised in my maiden speech, I have done everything possible to ensure we got, and won, a referendum to leave the European Union – even changing parties and triggering a by-election to help nudge things along. Last summer, we won that referendum. Britain is going to become a sovereign country again.
“It is sometimes said that all political careers end in failure. It doesn’t feel like that to me today. I have stood for parliament five times, won four times, and helped win the referendum last June. Job done. I’m delighted.”
- The Greens kick off their campaign in Bristol with an appeal to the young…. read more (Guardian.com/uk)
- Jeremy Corbyn rules out a referendum on a final Brexit deal… read more (Guardian.com/uk)
- Ten steps that could take Jeremy Corbyn into Downing Street… read more (Independent.co.uk)
- TV broadcasters consider “empty chairing” Theresa May if she won’t take part in debates… read more (Independent.co.uk)
- Is a Liberal Democrats comeback feasible on 8 June?… read more (Independent.co.uk)
- If you think Corbyn can’t win this election, you’re a Tory… read more (Independent.co.uk)
- Corbyn says UK elecction “establishment vs. the people”… read more (abcnews.go.com)