Weekly Roundup | Weeks 21–22 | 25th May — 3rd June 2017
How the next five days will determine the next five years
May flounders whilst Labour surges on socialist agenda | Conservative MP charged with electoral fraud | Trump strongly condemned for climate agreement withdrawal
Welcome to Weekly Roundup, a summary of the most significant recent UK/global sociopolitical developments, environmental issues & other topics that affect your life. Read more about FuturePolitics here.
This week: • Labour surges, closing lead to 3–4% • Theresa May flounders • Trump strongly condemned for climate agreement withdrawal
Labour surges, thanks to a socialist manifesto and Corbyn’s strong debate performances
Labour has achieved a massive swing in the polls, closing the gap from ~19% prior to the announcement of the 2017 general election to as little as 3%, in one YouGov poll this week. The latest YouGov poll puts the gap at 4% (38% vs. 42%) and makes seat-specific predictions, with a projected loss of 22 seats for the Conservatives, which would result in a hung parliament. Labour has also rapidly overtaken their main opponent in Wales, with a prediction that they’ll win 46% of the vote, compared to 35% for Conservatives. In London, Labour are ahead by 50% vs. 33%.
Based on these predictions, Labour could theoretically form some kind of alliance with other parties. Labour plus SNP alone would exactly match the predicted number of seats Conservatives are projected to win. By adding the Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru and Greens into the mix, they would still fall short five seats short of the 326 needed for a majority. Furthermore, Corbyn and Farron have ruled out forming a coalition and both have appeared resistant to any kind of progressive alliance. Nevertheless, a hung majority would be infinitely better for the UK than a Conservative majority. The practicalities of such an outcome are unclear, but if the Conservatives were to form a minority government, the opposition parties would have a strong hand in preventing damaging policies from being passed.
These Labour gains are due to a huge growth in Jeremy Corbyn’s popularity, a very strong manifesto with socialist policies that benefit the wider society instead of the political and financial elite, and the growing perception that Theresa May is a weak leader with damaging policies (see below). Centre-left media outlet The Guardian, which despite being pro-Labour has been notably anti-Corbyn until now, has changed its stance and now supports Corbyn’s leadership. Even staunchly right-wing publications such as the Spectator have begun praising Corbyn for his turnaround, his principled attitude and refusal to resort to fear-mongering. In addition, he has gained the praise of Bernie Sanders, the Democratic socialist 2016 presidential candidate that is widely believed to have stood a much stronger chance than Hilary Clinton at winning the election. Sanders is currently on a speaking tour in UK, during which time he will meet his brother Larry Sanders, who is the Green Party candidate for Oxford East.
Theresa May flounders — on policy and performance
“Strong and stable” Conservative leader Theresa May’s campaign has suffered a series of blows over the last two weeks since the Conservative and Labour manifestos were launched. During this time, the prime minister has fared poorly in debates and has been widely criticised by media sources of all political persuasions, including the staunchly pro-Conservative Spectator (paywall) and Evening Standard (now edited by former Conservative chancellor George Osborne). She is also losing life-long Conservative supporters. May is coming under fire for:
- Her appalling policies, such as the “dementia tax”,
- Lack of costings,
- Excessive use of Orwellian rhetoric,
- Refusal to debate Corbyn and other party leaders head-to-head — her cringe-worthy attempt to justify this will make your skin crawl,
- Alleged refusal to conduct further BBC radio interviews,
- Poor performance in televised debates and press conferences — despite the independent Media Reform Coalition performing analysis that shows May had a significant advantage over Corbyn, with regards to the issues raised and how they align with party priorities,
- Avoiding answering whether she would resign or not if she were to lose seats at the election,
- The use of negative campaigning, especially via “dark” adverts on Facebook that are targeted at potential Conservative voters but invisible to the rest of us, and which are free from scrutiny or spending limits,
- Parroting of lies, such as claiming that shadow home secretary Diane Abbott wants to erase the DNA record of criminals from the crime database — she doesn’t, she wants to remove the records of innocent people who have not been charged with a crime.
May even sent home secretary Amber Rudd to debate the leaders of the other six main parties on her behalf, despite Rudd’s father having died two days earlier, and in defiance of calls by Corbyn and the other leaders to make an appearance herself. Although Rudd was less weak than May in her debating abilities, she faced ridicule from the audience when she urged them to judge the Conservatives on their record, and she used exactly the rhetoric that May has been trained to use by election strategist Lynton Crosby. One of the phrases we heard over and over again was that “there’s no magic money tree”. This is highly ironic for several reasons:
- Labour’s manifesto is fully costed, whereas the Conservatives have failed to include costings for most of their policies, and where they have done, they’re totally incorrect. For example, they costed their programme for providing school breakfasts to primary school children at 6.8p per child — enough to feed them either half a boiled egg, or one slice of toast with 12 baked beans, or 37.5 cornflakes in 100ml of milk.
- The UK now has the worst-performing economy in the G7.
- The Conservatives have a magic money tree for quantitive easing of the banks using public money.
- They also fuel the growth of the colossal magic money tree belonging to the global elite — currently worth an estimated £13–20 trillion — by allowing wealthy business people — including many of their donors — to stash obscene profits in off-shore accounts. That’s more than the combined GDP of the US and Japan.
Today Theresa May refused to rule out income tax increases, in contradiction to Michael Fallon’s claim that the Conservatives would “absolutely not” raise it. She also refused to directly rule out VAT increases — not mentioned in the 2017 manifesto but rules out in 2015 — instead saying that “the plan has not changed”. Her statements do not preclude a Conservative government from increasing the general income tax rate or VAT, both of which would disproportionately affect already struggling low earners (and the latter of which is a direct stealth tax on the poorest in society). Meanwhile, the Conservatives would still pursue their agenda of reducing corporation tax to 17%, making it the lowest rate in the G7 (seven largest economies) and less than half that of the US. May also u-turned on one of her few decent policies to build desperately needed affordable housing.
May also announced that she would implement the Naylor review, which describes NHS resources as a “source of untapped value” and calls for “a more commercial approach” to selling off NHS assets — in other words, she intends to push further privatisation of the health service for the financial gain of shareholders at the expense of taxpayers. This deeply unpopular policy of NHS privatisation is likely the result of lobbying by Conservative donors, including Charles ‘Julian’ Cazalet, who has recently donated £10,000 and is non-executive director of NHS private provider Deltex Medical Group. In fact, the Conservatives received over 10 times as much in donations as Labour last week — on average raising an obscene £19,000 per hour. It’s time to take big money out of politics and make lobbying illegal.
None of these things signal that Theresa May is a strong and stable leader, nor is she a competent one.
Conservative MP and team charged with electoral fraud
The Crown Prosecution Service announced yesterday that Craig Mackinlay — Conservative MP for South Thanet — has been charged following an investigation into allegations that he falsely declared expenses during the 2015 general election campaign. His election agent Nathan Gray and Conservative Party organiser Marion Little have also been charged.
These charges relate to the previously reported coordinated campaign of fraud launched by the Conservative Party to undermine the local election campaign spending limit of £10,000 per constituency, by falsely declaring local costs as national expenditure. The party has already been fined a record £70,000 for the breach of the regulations, but the party’s treasurer and around 30 MPs — and presumably many more party organisers and agents that must have been complicit in the fraudulent activities — escaped prosecution.
Mackinlay is still eligible to stand for re-election in the current election campaign, as he has not yet been found guilty of the charge. His 2015 opponent Nigel Farage is no longer standing for election as an MP, but this will undoubtedly boost support for the current UKIP candidate and other parties in the constituency.
Trump faces (almost) universal criticism for bid to withdraw from Paris climate agreement
Climate change denier Donald Trump has announced that he will withdraw the USA from the Paris Agreement, a global agreement overseen by United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Every single state in the world except Syria, Nicaragua and the Holy See — but even including regimes such as North Korea — is signatory to the agreement, with 148 countries having ratified it.
Trump faced strong criticism from various political leaders, including newly elected French president Emmanuel Macron, German chancellor Angela Merkel and Italian prime minister Paolo Gentiloni. Together, they rebuked the president’s claim that he would begin to renegotiate the agreement. Electric car manufacturer Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk also resigned from Trump’s advisory council. However, Theresa May refused to publicly denounce Trump, instead claiming she had told him of her disappointment with his decision over the phone. The Conservative government is facing a third court case over breaching air pollution limits.
At the time of publishing, seven US states had formed the United States Climate Alliance, committing to uphold the Paris Agreement. In addition, a possible 10 further states may potentially join the alliance, and over 100 city mayors have indicated support for the programme.
The decision to withdraw will be damaging for the environment, but given the strong opposition by so many states and cities so far, perhaps Trump’s decision will be more harmful to the US than it will be to the world’s climate, as many may choose to boycott American products.
In other Trump news, the president was ridiculed for the bizarre way in which he pushed Montenegrin prime minister Dusko Markovic out of the way at a NATO summit in Brussels. He also battled with Macron over who could do the toughest handshake. Words. Fail. Me.
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