Tag Archives: Nick Clegg

What Will the Effect of The Iraq War be in 2015

Despite the ending of UK and US combat missions in Iraq, the country is still plagued by violence and, as has been proven recently, still has the propensity to dominate headlines within the British press. With the withdrawal of large parts of the western military presence from the country, a power vacuum, akin to that created by the removal of Saddam Hussein, has once again become apparent in one of the most turbulent nations in the world. However, the effect of the intervention in Iraq spreads far beyond the country and the region and has the potential to play a large part in the UK general election scheduled for 2015.

The biggest headache that Iraq will cause will come for the Labour party leader Ed Miliband. Prior to Iraq, immigrant communities and their future generations were expected to largely vote for Labour and other left parties, mainly due to fears of Conservative racism and anti-immigration ideals. However, the Iraq War, coupled with Afghanistan and New Labour’s cuddling up to the US and George Bush, has caused huge distrust of the Labour Party within Muslim communities. The Muslim world is one that sees itself as very interconnected and a close knit group, a feeling typified by the worldwide Islamic ummah. The problem that the Labour leader faces is that the Muslim community globally feels vilified by the actions of New Labour governments. Not only do they feel that the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan were unjustified and perhaps highly illegal, but they also feel that ordinary Muslim citizens now suffer from discrimination from the general public and western governments.

Most of the British Muslim community then still has not forgiven Labour for its actions in the Middle East and at home. Part of the problem is how closely tied to the New Labour government both Ed Miliband and Ed Balls were. Ed Miliband wrote the Labour manifesto which resulted in Gordon Brown’s election defeat in 2010 and Ed Balls was a close advisor to Brown at the Treasury. Therefore, Labour risks losing thousands of Muslim votes due to their actions in Iraq and will have to work hard to recapture the trust of Muslim communities (perhaps by advocating a repeal of the impingement on rights and freedoms that followed the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq under Tony Blair), or risk losing voters and perhaps the election.

The Conservative Party also faces a difficult challenge concerning the war in Iraq and current policy concerning the Middle East. Firstly, the Tories generally aren’t trusted by immigrant communities as fears still remain, despite the Cameroon centralist project, that the Tory party is inherently nasty and, at least in some quarters, racist and discriminatory (an image not helped by the demotion of Baroness Warsi in the recent reshuffle). Furthermore, following Conservative support for the invasion of Iraq, their continuance of a failing policy in Afghanistan and the failure to remove detach themselves from the bullying tactics of the US all over the world, the Tories are unlikely to mop up the Muslim voters the Labour Party has haemorrhaged.

The Conservative’s coalition partners are perhaps the only one of the three main parties with the opportunity to take advantage of the Iraq War debacle. The Lib Dems were some of the main opponents of the invasion of Iraq, a principled stand that they have taken and stood by and should be commended for. However, although the Lib Dems opposed the invasion, the votes of Muslims will not rest solely on this point and the Lib Dems are likely to have done enough damage to their image by selling their souls for power to have put off potential voters. They are particularly unlikely to gain Muslim voters over Iraq since 2010 seeing as the invasion occurred prior to the 2010 election and any major gains would have occurred then.

To which parties then are opponents of the Iraq War likely to turn. Social democratic voters, perhaps natural supporters of the Labour party who left for the Lib Dems following Iraq and now feel betrayed by them due to their pandering to the Conservatives in coalition will perhaps look to the Green Party. I believe that the Green Party risks becoming a force on the left, particularly considering their move away from purely green issues to focus on social and economic issues, particularly a radical approach to opposition to the coalition’s austerity programme. If the Green’s new leader Natalie Bennett can motivate voters and get the Green message out to the public then the Greens have the potential to massively increase their share of the vote in 2015.

Another potential winner will be the Respect party, a potential epitomised by George Galloway’s return to politics in Bradford. Galloway ran an unashamedly populist campaign in Bradford and relied on the support and votes of the local Muslim population, which turned out in vast numbers and delivered him victory. Part of Galloway’s appeal was his complete opposition to western fiddling in the Middle East, particularly Iraq, and played on anti-western sentiment within the Muslim community, to great effect. The Respect Party has the potential to replicate Galloway’s victory in other areas of the country.

Finally, a mention must go to the BNP which, whilst imploding via internal feuds and lack of funds, also has the potential to gain a few right-wing supporters who back the policy of withdrawing British interests and troops from the Middle East completely, believing that British troops should protect only British land, views echoed by the English Defence League who have also threatened to run candidates in upcoming elections. However, I think it likely that with the current disorganisation faced by the far-right of British politics that any far-right candidates will largely find themselves losing their deposits.

Iraq, whilst not being a defining issue at the next election, will almost certainly be a tricky issue which will surface sooner or later in the run up to 2015, particularly if the current violence in the country continues. The Labour Party in particular has a lot of ground to cover to recoup Muslim and anti-war voters and I think that the Iraq war and anti-imperialist sentiment has the potential to return some shock results in 2015.

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Sorry Isn’t Good Enough for Clegg

Elton John once famously sang that sorry seemed to be the hardest word. However, as Nick Clegg found at yesterday, on the eve of a conference of Lib Dems baying for blood, with your job on the line and faced by a public that quite openly hates you, it actually slips out quite easily. And so it was that Nick Clegg decided to grovel to the British public yesterday in a rather pathetic video message on the eve of the Lib Dems annual conference.

The intentions behind Clegg’s message are obvious. Firstly, he probably genuinely is sorry. Not sorry that he’s forcing many of the poorest to reconsider going to university by trebling tuition fees but sorry that he managed to, with one fatal move, place his party on a collision course with voters. Clegg’s shameful reversal struck at the heart of Lib Dem voters, who expected their party to stand tall in coalition, not to be bullied by the Tory party, yet Clegg’s reneging on the Lib Dems’ promise to abolition tuition fees was a reversal too far. It not only hit at the student vote, previously very generous to the Lib Dems compared to the country as a whole, but also moved the party towards the right-wing, whilst Labour moved away from their days on the right under Blair and retook the space that the Lib Dems had filled since Blair dismayed Labour’s core support. In reneging on one of his party’s central promises then Clegg, in one fell swoop, split the Lib Dem vote, losing a large chunk. This explains the real reason why Clegg is sorry.

However, perhaps as some Lib Dems have suggested, Clegg’s apology with be seen as a breath of fresh air within the country? The same Nick Clegg that voters were attracted to, the man who was different to the other politicians, may have proven the validity of these credentials by apologising, a move rarer in the Westminster village than a heart in the Tory party. Well, no. The truth is that Clegg’s apology looks opportunistic and is simply too little too late.

Firstly, the necessity of Clegg’s backtracking over the initial problem simply proves that the Lib Dems were unacquainted to, and unready for, the power thrust upon them by the coalition agreement. The Lib Dems, in a desperate measure to garner support, appear to have been making all the right noises probably presuming that they, once again, would be out of power. Therefore, when they found themselves in the middle of a squabble between the two larger parties, both of whom wished to court the Lib Dems into coalition with them, their policies suddenly became important, and the truth is they didn’t stack up. If Clegg is now admitting (as both the Labour and Tory parties realised prior to the 2010 election) that abolishing tuition fees was unrealistic, the question remains why on earth did he ever commit the Lib Dems to the policy? Committing to unrealistic policy measures such as this when outside of government shows the voters a level of political immaturity that is simply scandalous.

Furthermore, Clegg’s apology looks even more opportunistic when we consider his other reneged upon promises which he is yet to apologise for: one example being from a conference speech a number of years ago when he has this to say: “Will I ever join a Conservative government? No!” He is yet to apologise for this. He is also yet to apologise for the rise in VAT which he promised to oppose. He also promised to protect the NHS and is now standing idly by whilst the Tories happily take it apart and sell it off to private companies. Whilst I realise that the Lib Dems, being the smaller party in the coalition cannot have their way on every policy measure, you would think that there would be some kind of pre-drawn line based on principles such as the protection of the poor and public services such as the NHS. The lack of apology, or even mention of, these further policy failings proves just how opportunistic and deceitful Clegg’s ‘apology’ is. It is not simply luck that the deputy prime minister has chosen to apologise for the one policy change that still really rankles with the public and is particularly blamed on the Lib Dems.

The truth is that Clegg is ruined in the eyes of the voting public and this is most likely an irreparable relationship. Clegg has consistently broken policy pledges and allowed the Tory party to use Lib Dem principles as a welcome mat on the steps of Downing Street. It is time for Clegg to stand up for Lib Dem principles or stand aside to allow someone who will to lead the party. In the same conference speech where Clegg lied about joining the Tories he said that “everyone wants to be in our [the Lib Dem’s] gang”. The sad truth for Clegg is that no-one wants to be in his gang anymore, not even his own party.

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Lords Reform and the Coalition

Today, Nick Clegg declared an end to the Liberal Democrats’ fight for House of Lords reforms during this Parliament. Following the brazen refusal of Tory backbenchers to toe the party line and honour the coalition agreement, and Labour’s justifiable, yet still suspiciously partisan, no vote to setting a clear timetable for Lords reform, the Lib Dems now consider any continued push for reform at the present time to simply be fighting a losing battle. The problem that the prime minister will now face, in response to Clegg’s speech, is that, having now conceded defeat to his own backbenchers, how can he first, restore his reputation as in control, and secondly, prove to Clegg and the Lib Dems as a whole that the coalition can continue to work effectively in the interests of both the country and the Lib Dems.

Firstly, the Tory rebellion was the explosion outwards of Tory backbench frustration at the Lib Dem ‘wagging’ of the coalition tail. It has been a constant complaint from Tory backbenches that the Lib Dems have far too much influence upon government policy considering the disproportionately few number of seats that they contribute to the government’s majority in the Commons. Therefore, when a bastion of conservatism, the House of Lords, one of the final two seats of British government’s unelected officials, came under threat, Tory backbenchers reverted to type and refused to, in Clegg’s strong words ‘honour the coalition agreement’. All this suggests that David Cameron lacks real control over the Tory party, particularly with his arch-nemesis Boris Johnson waiting in the wings, basking in the glory of the London Olympics as well as the failings of Cameron and Osborne.

Furthermore, on the back of Tory rebellion, Cameron is now being confronted with a rebellion from his coalition partners, not just from the backbenches but even amongst the Lib Dem’s most senior members and government ministers. Indeed, Clegg himself today said that his party would be instructed to oppose the Tory plans to gerrymander constituency boundaries (as if they’d need any instructing at the moment). All this bodes unwell for the coalition.

Therefore, Cameron, despite finding himself stuck between rebelling Tory backbenchers and rebellious Lib Dems has to take drastic action to repair his personal image as well as that of the coalition. Initially, Cameron must make it clear to the Lib Dems that, despite being forced to accept their rebellion regarding constituency changes (a damaging blow to the Tories who would have gained exttra seats in the next general election had the changes passed through Parliament), he cannot accept frequent rebellion. He has the power to do so, as both parties know that a collapse in the coalition would be disastrous for both, leaving behind a frail, powerless government and the possibility of a destructive early election for all involved. Two parties that so “heroically” came together in the ‘interests of the public’ cannot now jump overboard petulantly at the first sign of choppy waters.

However, Cameron will be well aware that he has to placate the angered Lib Dems, whose centrepiece policy will now be lost amongst the turbulent seas of coalition. With Cameron’s personal standing plummeting alongside the British economy, perhaps now is the time for Cameron to take the boldest move of his political career and consign his long-term personal friend, but hangman of British economic recovery, George Osborne, the chancellor, to the dustbin. Currently, Osborne is probably the one man more hated at the top end of British politics than Cameron himself. Furthermore, his obstinancy in the face of mounting economic problems, means that Osborne has tied himself to the mask of a shinking ship, one that Cameron can only save by changing economic course, an impossibility under Osborne’s leadership. Cameron’s only hope of maintaining a Tory role in government in 2015 and beyond is to save the British economy, and therefore, for the sake of his leadership Plan A must be rethought, even if this does mean stabbing Osborne in the back (after all Osborne isn’t even popular within the Tory party anymore).

If Cameron did grow the balls to finally ditch the troubled Osborne the question would remain of who to replace him with, an answer that I think lies in the placation of the Lib Dems. The one member of the British government, who in the eyes of the public, still retains a shred of respect is Vince Cable, the man who foresaw the global economic collapse, bashes the bankers and Murdoch and is the darling of the Lib Dems. This move would not only give the coalition a boost with the voters, Cable being a man much more in favour with voters than Osborne, but also cheer the Lib Dems and allow for a change in economic course.

Surely now it is time for Cameron to wake up to the dangers of retaining Osborne as chancellor and save the coalition at the same time.

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Social mobility really is a force for good

I read an article on the Guardian website today by Zoe Williams in which she claimed that the idea of social mobility is not as brilliant as we all presume it to be. Williams claims that Nick Clegg’s form of social mobility, in which the cleverest children are allowed to achieve their full potential, is not progressive as it merely means that a minor reshuffle takes place in personnel between the classes and many of those who begin in the gutter are left there to rot.

However, having moved from a comprehensive school at primary level into a grammar school at secondary level and for sixth form, I must disagree with Williams, as I see grammar schools as an important tool for social mobility and look forward to the day when grammar schools can replace our private education system and allow an equality of opportunity to prevail in the British education system.

Firstly, let me say that I find private schools and education an abhorrent idea and one which in Britain allows for the continuation of the class system and the elite, ruling class in society. I wish to see all private education demolished and replaced with a system where no-one can pay for the privilege of a better education. It is this private school system which continues to allow Britain’s elite to keep the positions of politicians, the rich and the powerful within the upper classes and keeps bright members of the working-class out of these positions.

Nick Clegg has suggested that the brightest children, no matter their background, should be given the chance to achieve their full potential, and I believe that grammar schools are an effective vehicle for this development, taking from my own experience.

Williams asks how social mobility will help those who are not blessed with high levels of intelligence and I would hope that she is wrong to dismiss social mobility for this reason. As Tory MP Nadine Dorries has said recently, part of the problem with the current Tory leadership in government is that they do not understand the effects their policies would have on normal people, claiming that they would have no idea what the price of a pint of milk is. I agree with Dorries on this point (although little else), as the privileged background of a lot of Britain’s ruling classes have enabled them to achieve their positions of power with relatively little work and/or merit, a system that could be rectified by allowing even those who begin from humble backgrounds the same opportunities as those at the top.

The difference to society of having members of the working-class making it to the top and positions of power would be that these would hopefully remember their roots, and have a greater idea of the effects of their policies on ordinary people. Furthermore, it would hopefully be an ambition for these people to allow people from a similar background to their own to achieve what they have, rather than see the top jobs go to privately educated, rich kids with little experience of the real world.

I believe therefore that Williams is wrong to claim that social mobility does little to help the lower-classes in society, as it is only through furthering the aspirations and achievements of these classes that we will gain rulers who are prepared to fight for the rights of these people to equal opportunities in society.

 

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Coalition infighting

The Lib Dem attack on Adrian Beecroft’s call for no-fault dismissals to become commonplace within British businesses has led to even further coalition infighting, a trend that has continued to worsen for the Tories and Lib Dems ever since their respective trouncings in the local elections earlier this month. As this infighting continues and indeed deepens, is it finally time that we can envisage the coalition falling apart and an early general election being called?

Today, Beescroft, smarting from the rejection of his repressive, ideological proposals to further degrade the rights of British workers, attacked the Lib Dem leadership in a very personal, and Toff-like fashion. Firstly, the Lib Dem business secretary and party darling, Vince Cable, who, until recently was seen as the left’s big hope within the coalition. This reputation was of course besmirched by the lack of backbone displayed on central liberal and progressive issues by the Lib Dem leadership. Beecroft however, clearly still feels that Cable can do a job for the left in coalition, labelling him “a socialist who found a home in the Lib Dems”. Despite the fact that I, and I suspect many others, would receive this as a massive compliment coming from a large Tory donor, I suspect that Cable viewed Beecroft’s remarks as a personal attack in retaliation for Cable labelling his no-fault dismissal plans “bonkers”.

As if attacking the Lib Dem’s favourite minister wasn’t enough, Beecroft then took to attacking the Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg, accusing him of threatening to go “nuclear” and meltdown the coalition. He was backed-up in this case by the head of an Oxford, private school, who claimed that Clegg was using “communist tactics”.

It would appear that the tensions that have previously simmered away under the coalition’s surface are finally beginning to spill over into the public realm and Cameron and his Tory friends will have a lot of work to do to patch up the coalition, particularly if they wish to forestall major Lib Dem backbench intervention; they too are far from happy with the direction of the coalition.

With Lib Dems worrying about the party’s reputation at the next general election, as well as their leadership’s lack of ideological backbone on issues such as tuition fees, which have caused the party copious amounts of distress and hatred, and Tory backbenchers worrying that the Lib Dem’s are having more than their fair share of input into coalition policy, there is a chance that backbench pressure will tell and cause the breakdown of the coalition. Certainly, this possibility appears more likely now than at any time since the 2010 general election.

However, both parties would be impulsive and self-destructive were they to bring down the coalition having only made things worse for the country economically and with both receiving recent batterings at the polls. For Labour of course coalition infighting is good news. Ed Miliband can now expose both parties for what they are, the Tories as ideological and regressive and the Lib Dems as power-thirsty and unprincipled. This would fly right in the face of the coalition’s claim to be working together to sort out the economic conundrum Britain is still in.

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Regional public sector pay

Nick Clegg has today surfaced to distance himself and his party from plans to introduce a regional pay policy within the public sector, a move which has created much furore within the trade unions and their members. The argument for regional pay goes that, because it is more expensive to live in some areas than others, and because in less well off areas private sector companies pay less to employees than they would in more prosperous areas, the government should ensure competitiveness by varying the pay of employees dependent upon the region in which they live.

However, as Clegg has rightly pointed out today this so-called ‘solution’ to the government’s problem of spending too much on wages in the public sector will only serve to create more problems by widening the north-south divide already far too apparent in the UK.

Currently the UK is dominated by the south-east and London in particular and this is a problem that commentators have observed for a number of years, but politicians have done very little about. Whilst very few moves have been made to rectify the anomalies between the north and the south, this proposal will only worsen the divide and therefore must be opposed not only by Labour in opposition, but also by the Liberal Democrats in government, and Nick Clegg’s intervention today appears to be the first sign of them doing so.

Outside of the south-east the UK economy is particularly flagging, with jobs being lost at a rapid rate, and poverty and reliance on benefits increasing. Therefore, the last thing that the rest of the UK needs right now is for the government to cut public sector pay, thus removing further capital from local economies and causing further poverty and further economic stagnation and contraction around the UK. In fact, the government at this point must surely look to step into the gap left by ailing private sector companies and provide local economies with a much needed boost by creating jobs in those areas of the country where growth under the current austerity programme seems unachievable.

Furthermore, if the government was to follow the trend of the private sector and attach high wages to London and the south-east, they would instigate a public sector brain drain away from the poorer areas of the country to the south, thereby giving these ailing regions an even smaller chance of creating future prosperity. This has the potential to leave these regions isolated and with very little prospect for economic prosperity in the future.

Therefore, these current proposals would be a very backward and unhelpful step for the government and the economy. Perhaps, instead of appealing to a regressive, London-centric nature, the government should look at more radical proposals to move higher-paid areas of the public sector out of London and the south-east and relocating them in, for example, the north of England, thus costing the government less in the long-term (when rent prices etc are claculated in) and allowing these areas to exploit the new capital this would pump into their economy. I fear however, that the government would see themselves as turkeys voting for Christmas were they to advocate proposals to move the high-wage earning public sector away from their cushy lives in the capital.

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