The NHS is on its knees – who is to blame?

COVID-19 has undoubtedly exacerbated the visibility of the failures in the NHS. This highlights the long standing debate of who’s to blame? The Twitter-sphere is littered with leftist, anti-Tory propaganda. Claiming that the Conservatives have single-handedly caused the downfall of Britain’s beloved healthcare system. However, looking back into its history we can see that this Claim has its faults.

To start, the NHS was originally funded as a post war measure against a rise in diseases such as tuberculosis. The fact that it is still standing after over 70 years is an accomplishment within itself, however this comes at a cost. It’s framework has become rotten and needs to be replaced with reform, not excessive increases in spending. For the last thirty years or so, it has become increasingly apparent that the NHS is inadequate, despite an overall trend of increased government spending.

Leftist supporters rely on examples of Tory cuts to argue their case, such as Conservatives voting down pay rises for nurses in the Queen’s Speech of 2017. However this example is flawed; a focus of the Queen’s Speech is for parliament to consent to the government’s key objectives. This means that whilst nurse pay rises were not a priority in 2017, this is not to mean that the Tory government is against NHS spending. A steady incline spending during the past 3 years proves this point.  During this recent Covid period, we may disagree with the decision the government made in 2017. However, we must not forget that we are using the gift of hindsight. To predict the effects of this global pandemic in January, let alone three years ago, would be all but impossible. 

Labour is also to blame. Whilst they pride themselves on being the party for the people, it must not be forgotten that during the Blair years the Walness report found that Government spending did not match NHS inflation rates. Why did this happen? Labour had lost too much money due to ignorance regarding the deficit and as a result, party of the people was failing the public sector. 

Overall, it is not the job of this generation to be taxed in an attempt to fix this institution with more money. A generation with a post global pandemic economy could not afford to do this. Instead, it is time that the cycle of throwing more money to the NHS ends, and sufficient reform is put in place to save what makes Britain great.

By E Preston

The Emperor needs some clothes: We should head to the shops

Britons are entering their sixth week in lockdown, with only the publication of a vague exit strategy to look forward to. Almost inevitably this plan will not provide a clear timeline and will instead rephrase the Government’s existing mantra of data dependence. This approach, with its focus on ‘seeing’ all available information, features a paradoxical and profound blindness to the broader reality of our situation.

The statistical evidence is that for the great majority of people the Coronavirus is a mild illness. Many will not even know they have been infected. Undoubtedly millions of people across the nation will have thought ‘I wonder if I had it when…’ and pointed to a recent bout of illness. We cannot know if this was the case without mass testing, although the reality is that for many the symptoms experienced whatever ‘it’ was were no worse than the Coronavirus would be.

Meanwhile, the collateral costs of the lockdown, but human and monetary, are burgeoning. We were, like many nations, slow to respond to the emergence of a novel virus. We, perhaps ill-advisedly, believed the initial information provided about the outbreak. Many at the head of the nation downplayed the chance of a rapidly spreading virus. Some even joked they were contributing to its spread. We were late to heed the warnings from Europe and our borders remained open: life continued broadly as normal.

On the 23rd March, the country entered a domestic lockdown. I stress domestic as our borders remain firmly open – as a quick glance at UK airport arrivals would show – and do not yet have any health screening in place. Our new regime was lax where it ought not to have been, and dictatorial where breathing room could have been given. For a government seemingly bent on treating its people as children, it seems to have mastered parenting almost uniquely badly. Many will know, or could reasonably predict, that it is far more effective to allow children some leeway to achieve long run obedience. Certain fun things in the afternoon might well prevent drawing on the walls in the morning. The terms of the lockdown allowed far more than just essential personnel to leave the home for work but refused the huge swathes of the population with little or no access to the outdoors the chance to sit on the grass. Even where proper social distancing between groups was maintained, the risk of someone touching the same area of grass as another person in the foreseeable future and spreading a typically mild virus was deemed too great. Besides, taking fresh air was not exercise and was, therefore, newly illegal. Bizarrely given the current social trend, the benefits to mental health time spent outside might bring were acknowledged but ignored in practice.

Thus, many Britons stay at home almost entirely and are disproportionately terrified of the virus. Some of this number seem to overcome their fear for a weekly mass gathering on Westminster Bridge. Until recently the emergency services also took part in this obviously counterproductive exercise. Three hours earlier, lots of us will have tuned into a daily government briefing – although some of us will have given up watching having found the news either too negative or, more likely, disturbingly repetitive. Either side of this daily update, the mainstream media delivers to the public stories of woe, most obviously a blow by blow account of the Kafka-esque pursuit of elusive PPE.

These stories centre on the Coronavirus itself, with other aspects of our current world receiving minimal coverage by comparison. If journalists wish to feed the public negativity – they should look to the unnecessary suffering and death due to other medical treatments fallen by the wayside. If journalists wish to feed the public misery – they should look to the surge in domestic violence. There is a grim irony that the number of people murdered in their homes by abusive partners has doubled in a period designed to keep Britons safe. These are not side effects of the lockdown – they are the result of the lockdown and this fact is woefully under recognised.

The Prime Minister has confirmed we are past the peak of the first outbreak. The ambition to prevent a second outbreak is now clearly in sight. The end of the lockdown remains blurry. I have deliberately avoided statistics: we are now inured to them. I have spoken nothing of what we might find left of our economy upon our return. It will, undoubtedly, be profoundly withered. A lockdown for a virus of this type should have been principally about buying time to build capacity. This has been achieved. Indeed, much of it now sits idle. It is high time the country begun to return to normal with confidence. This need not mean pulling the plug on our hard work. We are more than capable of expanding the shielding programme to the vulnerable, whilst liberating those relatively safe from the virus. We might have broken the back of Covid-19, but without change we will soon also break every bone in our collective body.

By E Carter

Sunak’s New Deal?

There is no doubt that the Coronavirus outbreak holds significant threat to the UK economy with the possibility of significant rises in unemployment, the bankruptcies of many small business and many undergraduates seeking postgraduate degrees rather than entering the world of work due to the precariousness of the economy for the next two years.

However, Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak has set forward unprecedented levels of spending in order to protect businesses, workers and the economy. In many ways this can be seen to be Sunak’s ‘New Deal’ as the government will effectively be paying people’s wages. Yet, unlike Roosevelt’s responsive New Deal, Sunak is enacting measures in anticipation of recession in order to ease the burden on the economy. The emphasis Sunak places on relief is indeed similar to Roosevelt’s measures from 1933 to 1939.

Rishi Sunak has been a Member of Parliament for merely five years, but his rise to one of the great offices of state is testament to his intelligence and his energetic persona. Not only was Sunak’s decision to back Leave in the 2016 referendum the moment that “Dave and George had their heads in their hands”, but now even Frances O’Grady, head of the Trade Union Congress, has championed his work whilst at Number II.

His entry into politics is typical of many Conservative MPs, a privately educated man who then went onto to graduate with a first-class degree in Politics, Philosophy and Economics from Lincoln College, Oxford. Followed by an MBA from Stanford University before entering the world of finance working for Goldman Sachs.

However, he very much is the perfect man for Boris Johnson’s new style of cabinet as he is the son of immigrants, his father was a GP while his mother ran a local chemist, very much fitting with a possible intention from the Prime Minister to shift the image of the cabinet from inherited wealth from city millionaires to what can be seen to be the average person.

Made Chancellor in Johnson’s reshuffle in February, Sunak inherited a precarious position brought about by Coronavirus, but he has not sat still. Not for many years has any Chancellor had to take such drastic spending measures in order to counter a real and significant threat to the economy and to people’s lives. On the 17th of March he announced £330 billion worth of government backed loans for businesses across the country to help them through the pandemic. This measure cannot be understated, it is over 10% of the country’s GDP and I struggle to remember a time when such levels of spending have been introduced at a single moment.

Not only this but Sunak has effectively nationalised the whole nation. On the 20th of March he announced further measures to pay 80% of the salary of people who are out of work due to the crisis, up to £2,500. These measures have since been extended to help the self-employed by covering 80% of their trading profits could cost the government tens of billions.

Such measures must be a welcome change for the critics of austerity, Sunak is enacting rather leftist spending measures in order to counteract the rising threat. But for some this is still not enough, John McDonnell has criticised Sunak claiming that he had not gone far enough, fast enough. This claim by the outgoing Shadow Chancellor is frankly absurd. It really shows that even when the Conservatives do something rather leftist, it is still not good enough for Labour.

Sunak’s measures do remind one of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal. Historians emphasise the ‘three R’s’, relief, recovery and reform. The measures placed so far are enormous measures of relief for the currently unemployed and those effected financially by the pandemic, which may well be over half of the population. Rather than making public programmes in order to provide employment and wages for workers, Sunak is merely paying the workers while they are not working, so in many ways he is in fact expanding on Keynesian policies of public spending.  

The second ‘R’ of FDR’s New Deal was an emphasis on recovering the economy from the Great Depression. Sunak on the other hand is anticipating a recession which the majority of economists are projecting due to many business having its doors closed for many weeks. His levels of public spending especially in ensuring workers wages are paid are provisions to maintain public spending and to allow it to increase once the pandemic passes, it is a means to lessen the extent of a recession.

If these measures were not to be put in place, then it is incredibly likely that public spending would be at an all time low due to the extraordinary number of people who had not received pay for many weeks and possibly months. Although exceptionally drastic approaches, perhaps they are necessary in order to lessen the detriment of a recession. For someone who has traditionally been against such high spending measures to then introduce them, it does show the impact that this virus will have on the economy, of which some are yet to realise.

Importantly though, what happens next? Do the Conservatives continue in a path of bigger government with larger spending projects that had been promised by Boris Johnson in the lead up to the 2019 election? Or will the Conservatives be forced back onto a path of austerity due to the outstanding deficit that will undoubtedly be left following this crisis? Only time will tell.

By T. Nurcombe

Stale Starmer is set to win the race to succeed Corbyn but can he win back the heartlands?

Last week the Liberal Democrats announced that they would postpone their leadership election, however, voting for the race to succeed Corbyn has closed and the result will be announced on Saturday.

Since the election starting gun was fired every opinion poll has shown that Sir Keir Starmer is expected to emphatically defeat Lisa Nandy and Rebecca Long-Bailey in becoming the leader of the Labour Party.

However, the biggest challenge facing the former Shadow Brexit Secretary is still to come. In 2024, he must attempt to overturn the Conservatives largest majority since 1987. Many political scientists describe a Labour majority in the next election as “unprecedented”.

Boris Johnson’s ability to connect social conservatives in the red wall and economic conservatives in the English shires proved essential in delivering Britain’s departure from the European Union.

Recent studies into Corbyn’s calamitous election defeat indicate that it will be all but “impossible” for Labour to end the Conservatives fourteen years in power if they cannot win back socially conservative traditional Labour voters who backed Brexit in 2016.

Can Starmer win these voters back? Probably not.

Whilst there are some MPs in the north of England and the Midlands that have thrown their weight behind Starmer’s campaign, the chances of the red wall electorate deciding to support Starmer is slim.

The studies into Labour’s worst electoral defeat since 1935 tend to reduce the reason for Corbyn’s demise as either: Brexit or leadership. However, the truth of this is that Labour’s woes have been fermenting for some years. The referendum in 2016 exacerbated a divide between the parliamentary Labour party and these historic heartlands; it did not create it.

When Blair romped to victory in 1997, it may have gone undetected that in the traditional working-class seats antipathy to politics rose. In Hartlepool, for example, turnout was as high as 76.1% in 1992 but by 2005 this was down to little over half of the electorate.

Enter Nigel Farage. A divisive politician that skilfully managed to appeal to both those forgotten in economically deprived communities and those in English shires. Prior to the 2014 European parliamentary Election, Matthew Goodwin warned Ed Milliband that UKIP could punish Labour in these historic heartlands. His warnings were dismissed, and UKIP became the first third party to win a national election since 1906. Since then Boris Johnson has benefitted from the normalisation of former Labour voters defecting to the right.

This was embodied in a trip The Guardian made to Jaywick in Essex. A lifelong Labour voter, who criticised the impact of Margaret Thatcher’s government, told John Harris that he would be voting for Farage’s party in 2014. Just five years later he appeared optimistic, even enthusiastic, about supporting a Boris Johnson Tory party.

Thus, the Europhiles who regard the deposition of Jeremy Corbyn as an instant solution to the problems facing the Labour Party are just as wrong as the Corbynites who believe that Brexit was the only reason for Labour’s downfall.

Earlier in this campaign Channel 4 gathered together Labour-Leavers in Birmingham Northfield. These voters described the former head of the Crown Prosecution Service as “weak”, “corporate” and even like David Cameron. When asked which candidate could win back their support the room was united in supporting Lisa Nandy.

Why is this? What is important to traditional Labour voters in the heartlands that puts the frontrunner so out of touch? The answer predominantly lies in social conservatism. Historically, social, and under Tony Blair, economic conservatism has bolstered Labour’s footing in the Commons.

In the aftermath of the First World War the patriotism of Jack Jones and his colleagues were inspired by the growing popularity of The Daily Mirror. Subsequently, the patriotic wing of the party replaced the republican rhetoric of Keir Hardie. A decision that alongside Liberal infighting, helped to place Labour as the main opposition in Westminster.

Starmer is no Jack Jones. Starmer’s role in the Remain campaign and attempts to thwart the wishes of the British people will not be forgotten. But it appears that he has not learnt from his mistakes. On ‘Independence Day’, Starmer expressed his support for a return to freedom of movement. Such a move indicates how distant the party is from the electorate.

In the aftermath of the referendum, Lord Ashcroft conducted several polls. He found that the second most important issue for Labour Leavers was the ability for the United Kingdom to control her own borders.

With regard to crime, Starmer has previously dismissed the merits of stop and search despite the successful implementation of this police power across the north of England, especially Merseyside.

Aside from policy Starmer also faces a significant challenge in personality. Boris Johnson currently has a net approval rating of 20 per cent. By comparison, the man who will probably face him at the dispatch box is viewed in a slightly negative light, at -4 per cent. In part, this is because Starmer is perceived as “boring” by the electorate.

Nevertheless, the first challenge facing the leader in waiting is the 2021 devolved elections in the celtic corners of the United Kingdom. Labour have historically fared extremely well in Wales and in Scotland. They would need to emphatically carry both nations in order to have a chance at winning in 2024. But this is easier said than done.

Lord Mandelson once said: ‘the people of south Wales will always vote Labour because they have nowhere else to go‘, however, if the recent results across Wales are anything to go by Labour’s grip on the principality is gradually loosening.

Last December, Boris Johnson equalled Margaret Thatcher’s record of delivering the most ever Conservative MPs west of the River Severn. Historic gains in Wrexham and Delyn should worry the Labour party.

But with recent opinion polls showing that the Tories can become the most popular party in the Senedd Election next year, Labour also need to worry about constituencies, like Newport West, where Labour’s lead over the Tories collapsed last December.

Just ten years ago Gordon Brown won 41 seats in Scotland, today Labour holds just one of these seats. This is Labour’s worst ever performance in Scotland, even in Labour’s first election in 1906 the party managed to win two seats north of the border.

Starmer has acknowledged that Labour cannot win an election without support in Scotland. But how can they do this? The Tories have positioned themselves in Holyrood and Westminster as the natural party of the Union. If Labour are to emulate their Brexit policy as an antidote to the Scottish independence question they will be crushed.

In 2024, as in 2019, the battleground of the election will be in the red wall. Because the election will be fought on this front I cannot see how Sir Keir Starmer, who naturally appeals to the white-collar, liberal, pro-Remain Labour voter, can re-bandage the wounds of Labour’s broken coalition and win back the support of the patriotic, socially conservative voters that left the Labour party in their droves last December.

By J Walters

The impact of coronavirus on British politics

Last week, Jeremy Corbyn told the BBC that the outbreak of coronavirus across the United Kingdom proved he was “right” in making unprecedented pledges to increase public spending.

Supporters of the outgoing leader sense that this may be electorally favourable. Ian Lavery, Labour’s party chairman, described the coronavirus as a “great opportunity” for the party, despite the virus resulting in 1,408 UK deaths already.

Lavery is joined by the associate editor of The Daily Mirror, Kevin Maguire, who is demanding a Covid-election in order to resolve the issues that the pandemic is creating.

However, this blind confidence is not supported by any quantitative data. In fact, Boris Johnson’s People’s Government have received growing support throughout Britain amid the current crisis.

The BBC’s Andrew Neil questioned Maguire’s assessment of the current political landscaping tweeting that: “The Tories are 26 points ahead in the polls, Labour is about to pick an untested leader… and Mr Johnson has wrapped himself in the NHS.”

If these polls were to be emulated in an election, then Johnson would be the first Prime Minister since Stanley Baldwin to amass more than half of the support from the British electorate.

This growing support may come from the introduction of popular draconian measures, including national lockdown.

Almost three in four voters support the government’s policy including around two-thirds of those who backed the Liberal Democrats and over half of Labour voters.

The Number Cruncher Politics poll commissioned for Bloomberg highlighted that the approval of voters from across Britain’s political divide is a driving factor in the Tories poll boosts.

Around 10 per cent of 2019 Labour voters would now back Boris, as would almost one-in-six of those who opted for the Europhile party then led by Jo Swinson.

The war-like narrative that all Britons are in this struggle together has also enhanced the respectability of this One Nation Conservative government in the celtic corners of the United Kingdom.

According to recent polls show Johnson, who gained eight Welsh seats from Labour last December, now leads Labour in Wales. Even in Scotland, where the SNP command a massive majority, the Tories are establishing themselves as Sturgeon’s natural opposition.

Nonetheless, government ministers are also experiencing growing levels of approval. For the first time in his premiership the Prime Minister has a positive approval rating with a net score of 20 per cent.

But it is the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak is the undoubted political winner from within Cabinet ranks. The Chancellor’s competent performances have helped increase his approval rating from -6 per cent when he was promoted to Number 11 to a staggering 49 per cent.

However, the government should learn from history when the virus is abated. As much as Boris admires Winston Churchill, the wartime leader’s politicisation of the Second World War helped ensure a massive Labour majority in 1945. Any attempt to explicitly politicise the coronavirus could lead this government to the very same fate.

By J Walters

Michael Gove piles pressure on Beijing over coronavirus coverage

Yesterday, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster implied, live on the Andrew Marr Show, that Chinese coverage of the coronavirus outbreak has led to Britain’s slower rate of testing.

Gove claimed that: “some of the reporting from China was not clear about the scale, nature and infectiousness” of the pandemic, in what is a significant blow to Sino-British relations.

In his coronavirus briefing today the foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, also indicated that China would experience

According to The Daily Telegraph, senior government sources joined Michael Gove in criticising Beijing, with claims that China’s decision to spread “lies” would invariably lead to Xi Jingping’s nation facing a “reckoning” once the pandemic is over.

Beijing have also faced pressure from the White House with President Trump repeatedly referring to Covid-19 as the “Chinese virus”.

The UK and US may not be alone in exerting pressure on China after coronavirus with governments of European Union nations’ introducing measures to prevent the use of Chinese-made medical equipment.

Last weekend, Amsterdam’s health ministry announced it recalled around 600,000 Chinese-made face masks that had arrived in The Netherlands on the 21st of March.

Spain also witnessed issues with goods from China. Madrid had purchased Chinese test kits, however, at least 60,000 of them which failed to accurately determine whether a patient had contracted coronavirus.

These claims come just days after former party leader, Iain Duncan Smith, criticised George Osborne’s creation of a “golden age” between the two nations.

He used his column in The Mail on Sunday to question the direction of Project Kow-Tow, citing the UK’s growing trade deficit, China’s human rights violations and the introduction of Huawei’s 5G network across Britain, as key concerns exacerbated by the coronavirus.

Earlier this month, Iain Duncan Smith was joined by thirty-seven other Tory backbenchers in opposing the government’s support for Huawei. However, their numbers may bolster as the government begins to adopt a hawkish foreign policy.

It is not only the Eurosceptic wing on the Tory party that have expressed concerns over Anglo-Chinese relations with former lieutenant colonel, Tom Tugendhat, claiming Britain could “not import cheap goods and not import the consequences of slave labour, of silencing opposition and government repression, including of the truth about pandemic outbreaks”.

Michael Gove also used his interview on The Andrew Marr Show to answer concerns over the government’s decision not to participate in the European Union’s extra ventilator scheme.

Whilst a spokesman from Number 10 claimed that the UK did not receive an invitation to join the programme, the former head of the Vote Leave campaign insisted that the government’s decision to opt out of the programme will not inhibit British access to ventilators.

He told Andrew Marr that that there was “nothing that we can’t do as an independent nation that being part of the scheme would allow us to do”.

The government have also called upon private sector companies, including Dyson and McLaren, to produce 10,000 ventilators in an effort to increase the numbers needed to protect those experiencing respiratory difficulties.

The Prime Minister’s plea to formula one companies has seen Mercedes work with University College London in increasing the production of Continuous Positive Airway Pressure devices. These devices deliver oxygen to the lungs without the need of a ventilator.

Labour’s membership surge points to victory for Starmer

Yesterday, Rebecca Long-Bailey joined Lisa Nandy and Sir Keir Starmer on the Labour leadership ballot, leaving Shadow Foreign Secretary, Emily Thornberry, as the only candidate who has yet to receive sufficient support from constituency Labour parties and affiliate groups. 

However, what is more interesting is the recent surge in Labour membership. The BBC’s Newsnight programme found that the average rise in membership, per constituency association, was by 25%. In Vauxhall, Manchester Withington and Walthamstow, membership has increased by between 700 to 800. 

In June of 2019, it was reported that Labour’s membership had fallen from 564,000 to just 485,000. But the recent hike has placed party’s support at a new record, of 576,000, with many former members rejoining.

Unlike in 2015, when the new members fell behind Jeremy Corbyn, these members appear to be siding with the Shadow Brexit Secretary, Keir Starmer, in spite of Momentum’s endorsement of Rebecca Long-Bailey. 

Momentum has also been accused of smearing Lisa Nandy during this leadership campaign by sharing a video in which they implied that, the member of parliament for Wigan, failed to vote against welfare cuts. Instead, she was on maternity leave. 

Long-Bailey has so far failed to successfully stem the support for Starmer. In YouGov polling, the Shadow Business Secretary is falling far behind Starmer in second place, and the anecdotal evidence from within Labour associations is that new members are increasingly supportive of Starmer. 

With little over two weeks until constituency Labour party and affiliate nominations close, Emily Thornberry’s campaign is struggling to obtain support. Of the 647 local associations Thornberry has just six backers. She will need 27 more in order to join the trio already on the ballot. 

An issue facing Thornberry is that she will fail to connect with the Leave voters who backed Boris Johnson last December. As an outspoken supporter of the European Union, who is accused of calling Brexiteers ‘stupid’ it would appear all but impossible for her to pose a serious challenge to Johnson. 

Even her support in the leadership race comes from the 48% with a notable endorsement from Dawn Butler. The MP for Brent Central, who is running in Labour’s deputy leadership race, told a party meeting in Westminster that: ‘if you don’t hate Brexit, even if you voted for it there is something wrong with you.’

Thornberry’s six local association supporters all voted to Remain and therefore it seems unlikely that she can reach beyond the Labour Party’s base that was unable to win the election last December. 

A similar criticism has been made of Sir Keir Starmer. The former head of the Crown Prosecution Service was instrumental in promoting Labour’s disastrous policy on the European Union and will potentially fail to win back these voters. His record as an ardent Remainer will undoubtedly have influenced Labour Movement for Europe in their decision to support the MP for Holborn and St Pancras.

Nevertheless, he is clearly the frontrunner of this leadership race. As of today, he has the support of 81 local parties, almost double the support for Long-Bailey. Among his backers he also has been endorsed in Leave voting parts of the country, including: Harlow, Hartlepool and Hornchurch and Upminster. 

Long-Bailey may have only received sufficient support to progress to the membership ballot yesterday, however, she has since surpassed Lisa Nandy in support. The member of parliament for Salford and Eccles has 43 constituencies behind her, as well as four affiliate groups. 

This leaves Lisa Nandy, who is potentially the biggest threat to Boris Johnson in the Brexit heartlands, after Channel 4 gathered ex-Labour voters who backed Boris. The focus group showed that while the participants were unlikely to switch back to Labour for any of the other four, Nandy’s tenacity and policies could bring them back around.

Unlike her rivals, Nandy has gathered disproportionate support among CLPs in leaving voting seats. Of the 18 currently supporting her only four voted in favour of staying inside the European Union. 

Labour are aware that they need to win back leave voters. Their leaked internal report as to why Boris Johnson returned the largest Conservative majority since 1987 and as to why Labour had their worst performance since 1935, pointed to Brexit as one of the two major issues.

Nonetheless, given Labour’s current composition in membership and a rather uneventful election campaign, it is highly unlikely that Nandy or Long-Bailey will be able to overturn Starmer’s unassailable lead.

By J Walters

Salvini’s failure in Emilia-Romagna brings respite for Italy’s weak government

Lega Nord failed to win in Emilia-Romagna in what was billed as an opportunity to redraw the political landscape of Italy.

The affluent northern province has elected left-leaning governments in every election since the end of the Second World War, but pollsters were anticipating a shock victory for Matteo Salvini’s party.

However, after all votes were counted it has emerged that Emilia-Romagna has decided to stick with Partito Democratico, in what has been interpreted as support for the fragile government in Rome.

Currently, the Italian government is propped up by an unusual coalition with Giuseppe Conte’s premiership hanging by the threads of the Five Star Movement, Partito Democratico and other smaller left-wing parties.

This came after Salvini pulled his support from Conte’s government last September. He anticipated that this would lead to the collapse of the government and subsequently elections, in which he expected the League to make significant gains. Nevertheless, Conte formed a new alliance with the Italian left.

Salvini’s coalition of the right managed to win 43.6% of the vote share, up by over a dozen percentage points. While the left rose by little over 2% to 51.4%. The significant rise in support for the populists in Italy would, however, indicate growing support for a more radical set of politics throughout Italy.

The victor, Stefano Bonaccini, believed that the result ‘sent a signal’ about the state of Italian politics and went on to imply that the government had a significant boost in support as a consequence of the region’s rejection of Salvini’s right-wing populism.

Lega Nord invested a lot of resources into the election, and even claimed that he would hand the government its eviction notices if the League was able to claim victory. And despite the defeat the former Deputy Prime Minister was optimistic. He said that for the ‘first time in seventy years, there was a match’.

In recent years the party has soared in popularity. It is the largest opposition party in the Chamber of Deputies with 125 of the 630 representations. However, there greatest achievement came in the EU Elections last May where they won 28 of the 73 seats.

Since Nigel Farage’s party had a quartet of defections to the Tories, and two others will end their careers in Brussels as independents, the League is the largest single party in the European Parliament.  

Despite Salvini’s defeat in the north, the right did pick up a sizeable victory in the south. The poll in Calabria coincided with that of Emilia-Romagna, however, the result in the south brought about an even greater swing to the right.

The right, led by Forza Italia, won 57% of the vote, up by 23% on what they obtained in 2014, and support for the left plummeted from 61.4% to 31.3%. 

There are regional elections in Campania, Liguria, Marche, Apulia, Tuscany, and Veneto, later this year, and with the Five Star Movement’s performances continuing to worsen it may only be a matter of time before Italians have to vote in a general election.

The nation is not required to go to the polls until 2023, in which seats in the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate will be up for grabs. However, Salvini and the right, who are currently polling at 51%, will be hoping that an election is forced sooner rather than later.

By J Walters

Irish Election: Polls Point to Varadkar’s Exit

The people of Ireland will go to the polls on the 8th of February after the Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, dissolved parliament last week.

Varadkar, of Fine Gael, will hope to be re-elected as the Irish Prime Minister, however, recent polls indicate that public mood is moving against the former doctor.

The three most recent polls all point to Fine Gael being replaced as the governing party, by Fianna Fáil, who they currently have a confidence and supply arrangement with in Dáil Éireann.

The recent IPSOS-MORI also asked its 1,200 participants question over the direction that the previous government had taken the country in. The replies showed that the Irish public feel dissatisfied with Varadkar’s premiership.

55% of respondents believe that the government has taken the country in the wrong direction, and 3/4 of those involved argued Ireland should take some ‘radical’ changes in the next election.

In 2016, Varadkar’s predecessor, Enda Kennedy, won the election with 25.5% support. Micheál Martin, who still leads Fianna Fáil, finished in second with 24.3%. And the controversial figure of Gerry Adams led Sinn Féin to third place with 13.8%.

The two main parties have vowed not to work with Sinn Féin, who are now led by Mary Lou McDonald. These stem from the party’s history of violence, as it is deeply associated with the Irish Republican Army. The Taioseach said that her party is ‘not a normal party’.

However, McDonald, who is expected to win over a lot of support from the younger demographic in Ireland, is polled to lead her party to win around 1/5 of the vote, making her the party’s most successful leader since Éamon de Valera in 1923.

Martin’s party are expected to return to prominence in Irish politics by winning 28%. This will see them become the largest party in Ireland for the first time since 2007.

This is, on average, six points above Fine Gael on 22%. The event that saw Varadkar’s rise in global politics was Brexit, and as it happens, just a week after the United Kingdom will leave the European Union, the Taioseach may lose all of the power and clout that he has wielded over the last few years.

The J-Word hopes to cover several other elections this year. Including British local elections, the Polish presidential race, regional elections in Italy and Spain, all Antipodean elections, and of course, the US presidential election.

By J Walters

The Senedd reject Boris’ Brexit bill despite Wales voting leave

Yesterday, Cardiff joined Belfast and Edinburgh in rejecting Boris Johnson’s Withdrawal Agreement.

This comes after the Brexit Secretary, Stephen Barclay, pleaded with Jeremy Miles, the Welsh Brexit minister, to support the decision taken by the people of Wales in 2016.

Wales’ vote share in favour of leaving the European Union, 52.5%, was marginally higher than the average throughout the United Kingdom, and yet Welsh Labour have actively attempted to obstruct Brexit.

Only 15 of the 60 Welsh assembly members backed the deal, with all representatives from Labour, Plaid Cymru, the Liberal Democrats and the sole independent AM in opposition.

Of the 15 in favour, eleven came from the Conservative Party, where all 11 of their AMs backed the deal. But the Tories were accompanied by the four members from Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party in support Britain’s agreed withdrawal from the EU.

Paul Davies, leader of the Welsh Conservatives, took a shot at Labour’s decision to refuse consent by saying that: ‘we should be more optimistic and not adopt the Welsh Government’s sometimes dour approach of doom and gloom.’

Despite the decision taken in the devolved parliaments, Boris Johnson is expected to implement his Brexit deal, and therefore, the United Kingdom will cease to be a member of the European Union at 11pm on the 31st of January.

Nevertheless, the disagreements between the devolved institutions and Westminster has created two problems, especially in Wales.

Firstly, it could create issues for the Union. Under the Sewel Convention the government is advised not to press ahead with legislation when devolved parliaments have rejected it.

However, this is not the first bill that has not had the consent of Stormont, Holyrood and the Senedd. Research by the Institute for Government found that there have been 352 consent motions, of which 13 have not received complete consent.

Nevertheless, Akash Paun, a representative of the Institute for Government, gave clarity on the legal ramifications of refusing to accept devolved disapproval.

Paun said: ‘Legally it’s true that the UK Parliament is sovereign so if there’s a majority in support of the legislation, which there is in Westminster, then the absence of consent doesn’t actually create any legal obstacles but it’s not to say it doesn’t matter.’

This prompted Plaid Cymru to regard the disagreement as an example of why Welsh independence should be considered as a real alternative, citing that this is not a Union of equals.

Rising star in the Welsh nationalist ranks, Delyth Jewel, declared that the bill ‘threatens Welsh powers, removes parliamentary oversight of the negotiations, takes away the rights of child refugees, workers and EU citizens and unnecessarily rules out an extension to the negotiating process, making a bad deal or even no deal at all the most likely outcome’.

Secondly, Labour’s refusal to support the bill could further Labour’s calamitous performance in Wales and by the 2021 assembly election, the Welsh Conservatives could make significant gains in Brexit-backing constituencies and regions.

While the first minister of Wales, Mark Drakeford, declared that the decision was ‘not about blocking Brexit’, many Welsh politicians and more importantly Welsh voters perceive this as a continuation of Welsh Labour’s opposition to Brexit.

Mark Reckless, the former UKIP and Conservative MP, reacted to Labour’s decision by saying that this was a ‘futile anti-Brexit stunt’.

He added that: ‘no matter how many times the Welsh people tell you they want Brexit you don’t want to hear it.’ It is this sort of opinion that could spark further breaches in Labour’s Welsh red-wall.

In the December election, Labour lost half a dozen seats in Wales, in what was the Tories best Welsh performance ever.

Boris Johnson’s party gained Wrexham, a seat held by Labour since 1935. And other Brexit-backing seats could fall into Johnson’s hands if Welsh Labour continue to rubbish the decision taken by 854,572 of their compatriots.

By J Walters