Extinction Rebellion: Why do they Rebel?

Why do they Rebel? They say it’s because the current system of governance is corrupt, unfit for purpose and that it fails to address the issues currently facing our generation.

We’ve all seen the videos on social media. A group of in-experienced teenage activists take to the roundabout at Trafalgar Square and attempt to bring London to a standstill. They do so in the name of Climate Justice. But these groups; Extinction Rebellion, Animal Rebellion and now Beyond Politics, are they not just using a cause’ as a justifiable means to wreak havoc on the streets of London?

Before the world became obsessed with COVID and staying locked up indoors, Roger Hallam and Extinction Rebellion were encouraging people to go outside and “fight for our future”. They believe the Conservative Government isn’t doing enough to prepare for the tipping points in the climate system, biodiversity loss, as well as combatting against the risk of social and ecological collapse.

As a collective, they feel as though the most effective way to lobby is via the means of nonviolent civil disobedience. This has consisted of road blockades, but also activists chaining themselves to the gates of parliament, glueing their hands to the side of a London Underground train and covering the streets of Whitehall in ‘fake blood’.

In their eyes, all of these methods of activism are well justified and effective. Now I certainly agree with the latter. It’s incredibly effective, especially if their goal is to whip up a media frenzy about their latest escapade. But justified. Nope, sorry.

I’ve always believed there are two types of politics. On the one hand, you have the activists, lobbying groups and collectives who are campaigning and pushing their agenda. Meanwhile, on the other side, you have the administrators. The MP’s, Lords, Civil Servants. Their job is to assess all the issues currently facing our country and prioritise them as best as they can to reach a consensus in which the majority of the population is content with.

So, as Extinction Rebellion takes to the streets today, remember they do indeed have their place in our political debate. They have been a handy vehicle in lobbying the conversation of climate change. However, what that doesn’t mean is that they have the right to go around terrorising party HQ’s, blocking ambulance’s, police and fire engines from doing their job as well as preventing hard-working individuals from getting to work.

We all worry about the future of our planet. But instead of trying to become the modern-day ‘Suffragettes’, why can’t XR and Beyond Politics focus on arranging meetings with parliamentarians and members in the House of Lords? And on top of that, why don’t they consider putting forward candidates to stand in the next election?

Roger Hallam has created a movement, which has the potential to become a force for good and potentially change. However, I worry that he is quite happy with it being the vehicle of nuisance and disruption.

Ed Davey’s fight for the future of Liberalism

They were the results of a contest that nobody really cared about. A party that since 2015 has seemed pretty aimless and lacking in purpose. For the last five years, the Liberal Democrats have been without strong leadership. They’ve lacked a clear vision and time and time again have failed to grasp the attention of the electorate. 

The Lib Dems are supposedly the party of the centre-ground, and after five years of tribalism and populism on the right and left of politics, you would have thought there was an appetite for centrism. Well, there is, but not necessarily the type of centrism the Lib Dems are dishing up. 

No matter who takes charge of this sinking ship, they will always struggle to shake off the public perception of them being the party of broken promises. As we are reminded time and time again, the Lib Dems are of course the party, that when in government with the Tories failed to abolish tuition fees, cap bankers bonuses, not increase the rate of VAT, as well as add 3,000 extra police officers on the streets and create 100,000 jobs

The only hope for the Liberal Democrats going forward is for them to abandon the sinking ship, grab the nearest lifeboats, sail their members away from what was the Liberal Democrats and reach out to fellow centrists (former Tory MPs and New Labourite MPs). In the hope of one day being able to re-form The Liberal Party. 

If Ed Davey is telling his party, they need “to wake up and smell the coffee” well then maybe he should stop buying the same brand of cheap coffee, that nobody likes the taste of, and instead focus his energy on building a new Liberal organisation. The TIGers, Change UK, Renew UK, and even Rory Stewart attempted to take London by storm with his British ”En Marche!” movement

No centrist, since Blair, has been able to capture the nation’s attention. And considering he was also the same man who drove people away from the idea of voting for a similar figure, trust in centrism may take some time to restore before Britain is ready to vote Liberal again. 

But that means Sir Ed Davey must be ready to take the fight to Boris and Keir. Both leaders claim to be more centrist/liberal than their predecessors, but their downfall will always be their core membership being on the right and left of the spectrum. Whereas Davey has the upper hand of already having a core-centrist membership to start building a new/refreshed movement on.  

In his acceptance speech, he said he would rebuild the party. He is seeking to replace Brexit as the party’s key theme and focus on support for carers and investment in the green economy.

This may be a more effective strategy, but with only a handful of MP’s and not much support in the polls, the new leader is facing the most significant challenge any Lib Dem leader has had to face.

Is it time for Blow Out to Help Out?

The Eat Out to Help Out scheme may seem like a generous way to kick-start the economy, but is it a sensible economic rescue plan? It is an ingenious means of getting people to part with their cash and inject money into local businesses, but there doesn’t need to be a sole focus on the restaurant industry.

Mark Littlewood, the IEA Director-General, recently said: “You can completely understand why restaurateurs like the scheme … But I don’t see a compelling case for helping the restaurant sector more than any other particular sector, some of which have suffered worse.”

Speaking to Jeremy Vine on Radio 2, Littlewood discussed how, although we have this current scheme in place, there ends up being no excuse for the Government to ignore the idea of creating more initiatives for other failing sectors. Industries such as nightclubs, sporting events and even airlines. Littlewood notes that, sooner or later, we’d be in danger of creating an economy in which “absolutely everybody is then living at everybody else’s expense”.

It seems unlikely the Government will be rolling out any more cash for struggling sectors, but that hasn’t stopped prominent members from those industries calling for their own ‘Help Out’ initiatives.

Michael van Clarke, a renowned hairdresser with over 40 years in the industry, said: “After the success of Rishi’s Dishes, with Eat Out to Help Out, is it time to ask for Blow Out to Help Out with hairdressing? Although there was an initial flurry for us all to get our hair done, clients overall are still very cautious about returning to the salon as they did before.”

Van Clarke continued: “COVID and lockdown have been disorientating for most people. Rates of depression have doubled. The Hair and Beauty industry has been hit hard with a near 4-month lockdown.

“And now a bizarre decision to bring congestion charging to central London on Saturdays is damaging trade even further. Instead of issuing more prescriptions for antidepressants, a Blow Out to Help Out scheme would raise self-esteem and improve trading conditions.”

Wherever you turn, there will be a struggling industry with a compelling case as to why they need Rishi’s money, but indeed a better way to tackle the economic struggle would be to implement general policies like a reduction in VAT or income tax. That way, you’d be addressing the issue for everyone, rather than just implementing targeted schemes.

The only thing Eat Out to Help Out has shown is that Britain is a nation that loves a bargain more than it fears a pandemic.

O’Brien the shock jock goes too far

I used to spend many a bus journey on the way to college listening to the ‘Best of James O’Brien’ podcast. It’s an amalgamation of James O’Brien’s weekly shows, edited down into one juicy supplement.

As a Remainer who was never entirely convinced by the Brexit vision, I thoroughly enjoyed O’Brien’s rebuttals when angry Brexiteers phoned up to tell him that Britain didn’t need to worry about issues like the Northern Ireland backstop or trade. However, one thing O’Brien did that made me start to question his personality was the way he’d ‘put down’ his listeners and almost make them feel like they weren’t being listened to, but instead were there to be talked down to.

I soon came to realise the James O’Brien Show was nothing more than a political amphitheatre, in which inexperienced broadcast subjects would come onto the show only to then be set up for slaughtering by O’Brien. A man who, week after week of listening to, made me feel as though if I dared to differ from his viewpoint, I was nothing more than pond life.

When it comes to journalism, I’m a firm believer in punching up and not down. Countless times, I’ve seen media outlets record vox pops and treat the interviewer as though they were grilling a Cabinet Minister. At the end of the day, if there are passers-by who are willing enough to stop and be recorded, despite not having any expertise, this is not something you should then turn into a Paxman-esque interview.

Unfortunately, that was precisely how James O’Brien behaved this week. A willing individual volunteered to come onto his show, to have a conversation about whether or not children should be going back to school. Let’s not forget, this is an incredibly multifaceted issue that, for the last few months, politicians haven’t been able to deliver a concrete answer on. Yet, instead of listening and seeming to understand the caller’s point, O’Brien proceeded to play a ‘shock card’, suggesting that if the caller/parent were to send their child back to school, then they could potentially have a death on their hands.

This was a low moment for the broadcaster and for LBC, who eventually decided to apologise for the incident – but not before they shared it across their social platforms and reaped the benefits of the publicity. It was only after the backlash they received that they felt an apology was necessary.

Despite O’Brien’s LSE credentials, I hardly think the public should be paying much attention to his ‘child death’ soothsaying. It was only the other day that the Chief Medical Officer, Chris Witty, made a statement informing people that the risk of children going back to school was tiny, and in fact, there was a greater risk if they didn’t end up returning.

It’s a difficult judgement for anyone to make in these unprecedented times. Maybe next time, James O’Brien will bear that in mind the next time a willing listener wants to help add to the debate.

Does Keir Starmer deserve his lead???

Recent polling has suggested the public mood is slowly shifting from people wanting the divisive and tribal Tories, to opting for a less bolshy administration.

According to a survey by YouGov for The Times, the Labour leader, Keir Starmer, would do a better job than Boris Johnson of running the country. Thirty-four percent of those polled said Sir Keir would be the best Prime Minister, compared to 32 percent backing Mr Johnson.

Sir Keir has already impressed critics by showing how tough he can be with members of his own party over issues like anti-Semitism. This was something Rebecca Long-Bailey was on the receiving end of, after she got sacked from her role as Shadow Education Secretary for sharing an article containing an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory.

Unite’s General Secretary, Len McCluskey, was very vocal about this decision, calling on the Labour leader not to shut out and neglect the ‘left’ in the party. He’s also made countless threats to Sir Keir by threatening to defund Labour, saying the leader should not take Unite’s Labour funding for granted.

Yet, after four election losses on the Trot, Sir Keir knows that when it comes to the next election, Labour will need to slowly rid their party of any anti-Semites and corrosive Momentum members. They, for the last few years, have turned their party into an unelectable mess and a laughing stock.

But all this newfound support from the electorate isn’t because of the Labour leader’s strength against the far-left in his party. In fact, it’s got nothing to do with Starmer’s leadership at all. The truth is, he hasn’t actually done anything. The only reason Sir Keir has experienced such a surge is that Johnson’s grading gaffe has made him so unpopular.

At this point in time, the only way Labour could possibly win the next election will not be down to Starmer’s stellar leadership or any ground-breaking policy initiatives, but because the Tories have been making far too many mistakes.

London needs a Liberal like Rory Stewart

London has been, for a while now, crying out for a centrist voice. An individual who doesn’t give in to the partisan, tribal politics that we see today, but instead seeks to unite the political divide and adopt a new type and style of administration that would be needed to mend the societal cracks.

When Rory Stewart announced his candidacy, I, like many, was sceptical about this idea. This is a man who has spent a great deal of his life gallivanting around the Middle East, trekking across Pakistan and Afghanistan. Although he ventured back into domestic politics, he was still located up in Cumbria, which hardly made him an individual who could comprehend the struggles of a 21st-century Londoner.

But then again, this is precisely what we forget about Mr Stewart. He’s not your typical career politician. He doesn’t seek high office for the sake of his own profile or image. He knew that if he were to have any chance of not just winning the Mayoral election, but gaining the trust and respect of Londoners, then he would have to immerse himself in the city. Understanding that London is about more than just Oxford Street and Westminster, and that within the beating heart of this nation lies a whole myriad of communities.

From the elites in Kensington and Chelsea to the proletariats and hard grafters of Millwall, Rory Stewart made it his goal to converse with people in every borough, in nearly every nook and cranny of the streets of London.

Rory Walks… Come Kip with Me… These were all well-thought-through campaign ideas. It may have seemed natural to take the piss when you saw it all unravelling on Twitter, but bear in mind that neither Sadiq Khan nor Shaun Bailey has ever seemed interested in going to the lengths that Rory did when it comes to getting to know Londoners.

The polls showed that Rory was pottering around in third place, behind Bailey and Khan. This was a point that Sadiq Khan would often raise during interviews, suggesting that the race to be Mayor of London was merely a two-horse affair between himself and the Tory candidate.

He dismissed Rory because he knew of the threat he posed. Unlike Shaun Bailey, Rory was starting to appeal not just to the liberal Conservatives in London, but also the middle-class Labour clique, who had previously backed Sadiq, as well as to the Lib Dem vote and even some of the Green Party support.

Rory, like his fellow candidates, had been expecting to stand in the Mayoral Election in March of this year. However, due to COVID-19 making it impossible for us even to go outside and breathe, that didn’t happen. Londoners soon found out that they were being postponed until 2021, which would mean another year of campaigning. However, it was this further year of campaigning that Rory could not afford, which was why, on May 6th, he sent an e-mail to his staff informing them that he was pulling out of the race.

A couple of months later, the Liberal Democrat candidate would have to do the same, meaning that at this point in time there is no centrist/liberal figure running for Mayor of London.

London, one of the most diverse, inclusive, beautiful and liberal cities in the world, is lacking a liberal leadership candidate. It just doesn’t seem right.

Johnson Government must address the homeless crisis

Featured in Comment Central: Homelessness is a Public Health crisis that must be treated like one, says Ted Jeffery.

In 2016, the Department of Energy and Climate Change was disbanded and merged with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. The idea behind this scheme: to put the issue of Climate Change at the heart of the British economy. It provides the subject with more funding, expertise, attention to detail, and as we’ve seen recently, overwhelming amounts of scrutiny. Homelessness should be getting the same treatment. As a Public Health issue that has government targets to meet by 2022 and 2027, it deserves the attention of more than just one departmental boffin.

The coalition government tried showcasing their concerns on the issue by investing money and support into five different programmes. According to Gov.UK in 2014: “Over £65 million of funding from across Whitehall is being offered to councils and other organisations to tackle homelessness around the country.” This may seem like a step in the right direction. However, when you read reports from Homeless Link, you begin to question whether or not the government is aware of the most effective means of tackling the issue.

The report in question is from their ‘Young and Homeless’ executive summary from 2018. It gives a healthy breakdown of key characteristics and trends in youth homelessness and also provides a detailed bar chart on the main prevention initiatives offered by Local Authorities. In this chart it clearly states that the most crucial prevention initiatives for young people are:

1) Education in schools on life skills, healthy relationships and support;

2) Mediation for dealing with tensions in and around family life before they reach boiling point;

3) Early intervention during childhood targeting the family, not just the young person.

Although these are listed as the top three most effective methods, unfortunately they are also in the bottom three per cent of prevention initiatives provided by Local Authorities. The government is injecting all this money into trying to tackle the issue, but they haven’t even considered the right approach.

For instance, look at the vast myriad of factors that indicate why an individual is found to be in a state of homelessness. You start to realise that for the government to class the issue as solely a matter for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to deal with is an insult.

It is insulting for our government to overlook the Health department’s role in tackling homelessness, especially when mental health is a fundamental issue for many in society. It’s a problem for those who live in fear of voicing their concerns and struggle to find the right support, and for those who live on the streets and fear persecution at night. Why is it that we don’t hear about the Health department’s role in tackling homelessness? Because for them It’s below their pay grade.

Furthermore, our government continues to ignore the Education department’s role in being able to carry on the baton in this homelessness relay. Education plays a crucial role in the race. It’s part of the curve round to the home straight in eliminating and preventing rough sleeping, but also in creating a beacon of hope to those that are part of hidden homelessness – an under-represented section of society that often gets overlooked when discussing the issue.

It would be a sterling approach if the Education department looked at schemes involved in re-training, teaching life skills and offering apprenticeships. Organisations such as Beam have been set up to help get funding from the general public to fund training for homeless individuals who are seeking to get into a trade – a simple plan executed wonderfully. It is easily something the government could be seen supporting or getting on board with.

Asking for support on the matter from DWP shouldn’t be that much of an arduous task. However, this is a department that has provided the UK with an outrageous Universal Credit system. It’s a benefits scheme that rolls six payments, including tax credits, housing benefit and unemployment benefit, into one lump sum. To even the untrained eye, this stands out as a ludicrous risk. For individuals who struggle as it is to delegate their finances, this system presents itself as a deadly minefield. Not only is it reckless in nature to leave it up to the individual to manage their finances, there is research from think tanks such as Resolution Foundation that suggest the new system leaves some low-income households in Britain £1,000 a year worse off. It’s an abhorrent scheme with ‘Poll Tax’ levels of unpopularity.

If the government is genuinely passionate about treating homelessness as a Public Health issue, they must look at representing it in a selection of appropriate departments. It is not just for a low-level Minister to mull over now and again. They have a target to meet in halving rough sleeping by 2022 and eliminating it by 2027. However, with a seemingly ineffective approach from Local Authorities, many should be concerned as to whether or not the government will end up meeting this objective. 

Boris Johnson is a Liberal Opportunist

Featured in Comment Central: Ted Jeffery argues Boris will always have a liberal-Tory ideology just like his political idol, Sir Winston Churchill – another progressive Tory of his time.

Boris Johnson is by no means a nationalist pariah. He is, if anything, a liberal opportunist. He may slip into the tendencies of a Trump-esque character, but when he does, you should remember it’s all a part of the Boris act.

An act which started all the way back in the establishment riddled halls of Eton. A prestigious public school that in many ways was an economic class above the Johnson household. It was only because of a bursary that Boris managed to secure himself a place at the notorious Prime Ministerial factory. Eton provided a highly competitive environment, which taught a young Alexander (Boris) about how to make the most of life’s opportunities. Whether it was becoming The Telegraph’s top man in Brussels, or by bumbling his way through a grilling on ‘Have I Got News For You’, Boris has launched himself at these gigs, which in return made him a household name.

So what about his frankly less than liberal columns? Well, like most journalists, Boris knows how to provoke his audience and how to turn a slightly dreary topic into a controversial talking point. For instance, look at his ‘Burka letterbox’ piece. Yes, it was tasteless and didn’t do much for standing up against oppression. However, I believe the reason Boris made those remarks is no different from the reason he wrote about the EU wanting to inflict Nazi-style “punishment beatings” on the UK. For him, it’s about the thrill factor. Boris doesn’t believe a great deal of what he says. He alludes to the fact that he might for his very own ‘shock genre’.

Each column that Boris writes reads as if he is delivering a speech to the Oxford Union. He always seeks to invigorate his audience.  Every journalist knows that to ensure regular readership week after week, you’ve got to have 60% of your spectators viewing your content because they agree. Meanwhile, the remaining 40% look on in the hope of being brassed off by your rhetoric. Boris understands this better than anyone else. This is why he continues to be contentious: because he knows it’ll bring in the traffic. It’s very unlikely you’ll see this trait during his time as PM, mainly because he isn’t fighting for anyone’s attention.

The truth is his pro-immigration, pro-same-sex marriage and pro-Union mantra is something that still solidifies him as a progressive, One Nation, Cameroon Tory. His self-appointment as Minister for the Union stands out as a principal liberal value that some say has been lost over the past four years of Brexit discourse.

By creating this role, Boris has cleverly sent out a message saying that he won’t be the Prime Minister for just the 52%. He understands the importance of the Union and won’t see it fall under his Premiership. It’s all just one more reason why the PM has been spending time touring the north, fighting for the Northern Powerhouse legacy.

Although the future of HS2 is still up in the air, this hasn’t stopped Boris from announcing a £39bn transport plan to help rejuvenate the railway network in the North of England. On top of this, he is looking to invest £3.6bn into some of the most deprived towns in the UK. So as opportunistic as he might seem, his liberal values of caring for some of the most culturally and economically damaged places in the UK have not been lost. Boris is by no means an Angel from the Heavens above, but he does understand the importance of investing in some of the UK’s most neglected regions.

Even Boris’ unpublished Pro-Remain piece is awash with liberal values that I can hardly believe he has lost over the past four years. He wrote about the benefits of the Single Market, saying:

“This is a market on our doorstep, ready for further exploitation by British firms. The membership fee seems rather small for all that access. Why are we so determined to turn our back on it?”

Boris understands and appreciates the liberal nature of the Single Market. It is visible through his ability to bask in the deferred gratification of receiving access to a convenient trading model that offers us so much, in his own words, for so little.

It’s precisely the kind of ‘dirty talk’ that Anna Soubry and Chukka Umunna get off on. So why did Boris chuck these principles in the bin? Because he wanted to ride his populist horse straight into Number 10. However, Brexit was never a battle Boris expected to win. It was merely seen as another opportunity for Johnson to create some havoc for the then Prime Minister, David Cameron. But once Dave had resigned, the doors of 10 Downing Street were left wide open for Boris to stroll into eventually. That was until his Vote Leave chum, Michael Gove, notably the present Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, stabbed him in the back. Boris then had to wait an arduous three years before fulfilling his dream.

It’s difficult to tell whether or not Boris is going to have enough capital to inject into issues like policing, housing and the NHS. With a potential recession on the horizon, there will undoubtedly be an impact as to whether or not Boris can begin any form of a spending spree. It may also be a matter of this Tory PM having to increase borrowing to pay for all these pledges. Funnily enough, this is all starting to sound less and less Tory.

Boris will always have a liberal-Tory ideology just like his political idol, Sir Winston Churchill, a progressive Tory of his time. And, just like Churchill, the only way Boris will get through the next few months of party disunity, Commons warfare and voter fatigue is likely to be to “Keep Buggering On”.

Cybernats are a dark presence within the independence movement

It’s never pleasant to describe a fellow being as a bully.

The definition of one is ‘a person who habitually seeks to harm or intimidate those whom they perceive as vulnerable.’

When you line that definition up with the behaviour of a vast array of Scottish Nationalists lurking on Twitter, it’s all too evident that there is a disgusting tumour within the independence movement in the form of idiotic nationalism. These so-called ‘proud Scots’ adopt the mindset that if you aren’t with us (pro-independence), then you must be against us.

During the 2014 referendum campaign, many celebrities came out in support of both sides. Supporting the Yes vote, you had the likes of Sean Connery, Alan Cumming and Gerard Butler. Meanwhile, coming in support for the ‘No Thanks’ crowd were Steve Coogan, Judi Dench, Emma Thompson, JK Rowling and the late, great, David Bowie.

Now, it shouldn’t matter what side of the debate you find yourself on – being persecuted for simply believing in a different vision for one’s own nation (the United Kingdom) does not warrant a tirade of abuse.

But these Scottish Nationalist Twitter trolls, otherwise known as Cybernats, seem to think the exact opposite.

Some of the Cybernats’ victims include:

  • In 2013, media sources had reported that Sir Chris Hoy, who had publicly backed unionism, had been subject to online abuse for expressing his support.
  • The Daily Telegraph reported in March 2014 that a retired soldier had received some abusive messages from Cybernats, after SNP politician Roseanna Cunningham posted a message on Twitter showing a letter from the soldier asking for donations to Better Together.
  • In June 2014, the author JK Rowling was subjected to online abuse by Cybernats after donating to Better Together.
  • On 11th January 2016, the Daily Mirror reported that ‘Scottish nationalist trolls took to social media to celebrate the death of “foreign unionist” David Bowie’.

Among those to attack Bowie were Yes supporter John Harvey, from Dundee, who wrote: “Rip Bowie I telt you no to get involved in politics ya no voting c*** womble.”

While Shelley Detlefsen wrote on a Facebook post: “They say he got diagnosed 18 months ago. Maybe unionism gives you cancer?”

I’ve had my fair share of beratement from the IndyRef2 lot. However, it has not been anywhere close to the treatment to which these Cybernats have subjected many a Unionist supporter. They’ve previously hit out at me on the basis that I couldn’t possibly have an opinion on the issue of independence, based on the fact that I was born in England, live in England and sound English.

Yes, the more eagle-eyed amongst you will pick up on the fact that does indeed make me English. Well… to some extent, I do agree with you. However, I’m a firm believer that your national identity is more about where you are socialised than your place of birth.

These Cybernats may not be a complete representation of the independence movement in Scotland, but the sad truth is they are an uncontrollable result of what the SNP has been stirring up since 2011. The type of campaign that Alex Salmond, in particular, tried to run and to some extent still does today, with his RT chat show, is a populist cry for freedom.

For as long as he, Nicola Sturgeon and the rest of their SNP chums are sitting cosily within Holyrood, there will be a Scottish government that plays the victim, the prisoner and the agitator. But they should be careful, as playing populist games like these will only backfire, especially when there very well could be a campaign to come in the not so distant future whose sole aim is to expose their track record in government, the lies, the deceit and the inevitable broken promises in their dream for independence.

Oh yeah, as well as unmasking those Cybernats who deem it necessary to habitually seek harm and intimidate those whom they perceive as vulnerable.