Rule Breaking Britannia!

Despite the UK Brexiting back in January, we are still going through our transition phase in which complicated matters such as Free Trade Agreements, immigration and customs arrangements need to be cleared up. 

And even though Britain has recently managed to secure a free trade agreement with Japan, Boris Johnson and his Government are still facing a great deal of criticism from MP’s, the commentariat and even former Prime Ministers over the introduction of the Internal Markets Bill.

What is the Internal Markets Bill? 

It’s essentially a bill being proposed to the House of Commons which seeks to update the laws currently governing the UK internal market. In essence, creating new principles to go alongside existing ones. 

The reason for proposing this bill is so that after the Brexit transition period ends, the UK will have managed to set up internal arrangements for trading between the four UK nations. 

What is the problem with this current bill? 

The British Government has stated the bill is being used as a measure to preserve the UK’s territorial integrity. However, the EU slammed the bill, saying that it broke international law. 

When addressing the matter in the Commons, Brandon Lewis (Secretary of State for Northern Ireland) said the bill would break international law in a specific and limited way. 

And he’s right! It will do so by overriding section four of the Brexit withdrawal agreement. 

According to the Institute for Government: “The bill would give ministers powers to make regulations about state aid and customs procedures for trade from Northern Ireland to Great Britain, and would allow ministers to make regulations inconsistent with the UK’s obligations under the Withdrawal Agreement.”

This, unfortunately, breaches Article 4 of the withdrawal agreement, which says the UK must use primary legislation (main laws passed by the legislative bodies of the UK, including the UK Parliament.) to give full effect to the Withdrawal Agreement in domestic law. 

But it is worth noting the UK would only be in breach of these laws if such powers were actually used. 

Will the Internal Market Bill Pass?

Last night MP’s backed the Internal Market Bill by 340 votes to 263. So, yes, the bill has passed, but only its first hurdle. And even though Boris Johnson’s backbenchers didn’t let him down, he still isn’t without his critics. Former PM’s and several Tory MPs have warned that by breaking international law, it damages the UK’s stance on the world stage. 

Former Prime Minister, Theresa May posed a question to the Government about the matter saying: “The Government is now changing the operation of that agreement. Given that, how can the Government reassure future international partners that the UK can be trusted to abide by the legal obligations of the agreements it signs?” 

Unsurprisingly, Mrs May has the same concern as everyone else. If the Government are choosing to break ‘international law’ and going back on what they agreed with the EU, only a few months ago, then how can they be trusted with signing agreements further down the line? 

Point Of View

With Boris Johnson’s hefty majority in the House, it was unlikely the bill would be stopped in its tracks. However, it will face more scrutiny from MP’s in the Commons today, and in terms of getting through the Lords, well there is nothing to say they couldn’t stop it from being passed. 

I wasn’t all that surprised when I first heard Brandon Lewis say the Government would be “breaking international law”. I suppose if you look at this governments track record, breaking international law is undoubtedly something the rebellious Dominic Cummings is looking to tick off his bucket list. 

In terms of what it does to Britain’s reputation on the global stage, well, I’ve always been of the firm belief that we must stand on principle; otherwise, what do we stand for? Are we to become a nation that says one thing and does another? 

Countries from all over the world look at a nation like Britain as a leader in diplomacy. Now that we are on the verge of breaking international law, how are we then supposed to stand up to countries like Russia and China when they breach the rules? 

Britain is about to transition onto the global stage. It should be an opportunity for us as a nation to stand tall and forge new relationships, however unless the UK can present itself as an honorable ally then how do you expect people to trust us?

Bojo’s new Rule of Six and COVID slogan is there to protect Granny

Summer is over. Some of us went on holiday. Others went in our masses to the south coast and crowded Brighton beach. We made the most of not having seen our mates in over three months. We reverted to our local pub trips and went back to day drinking in the park. However, whether we like it or not that period of sunshine, booze and being able to elbow a group of 20 mates is coming to an end. 

Boris, now panicking at the rise in cases, is now having to conjure up a new slogan and rule to help combat the increase in COVID-19 cases. 

What does this new ‘Rule of Six’ actually mean? 

From Monday, social gatherings of more than six people will be illegal in England. This comes amid a steep rise in COVID-19 cases. The new rule applies to people in private homes, indoors and outdoors, and places such as pubs, restaurants, cafes and public outdoor spaces. 

However, there are some exemptions. It won’t apply to schools, workplaces, or COVID-secure weddings, funerals and organised team sports. 

According to the BBC, It will be enforced through a £100 fine if people fail to comply, doubling on each offence up to a maximum of £3,200. The new rules – which come into force on 14 September – mark a change to England’s current guidance.

A constant criticism of the government over the past few months has been about how some of the rules have been unclear. Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, was even reported saying that a piece of feedback given to him by the police was that “we needed the rules to be super simple so that everybody knows what they are”. 

Is it a Dark Winter ahead?

One would hope not, but if we’ve learnt anything from this pandemic, then it should be never to worry about three months down the line. Instead, just focus on the here and now. The government’s scientific advisory committee has spoken about how the next 4-6 weeks will be a pivotal period in trying to control the virus. Especially if we don’t want to have the winter we’ve all been dreading. 

Can we follow the rules, though? If you think back to March, we weren’t all that brilliant at following them when the government first implemented social distancing and banning mass gatherings. We all nodded and continued to ignore their advice. Next thing you know… LOCKDOWN. If we don’t take this new rule seriously, as of following Monday, the same could happen again. 

So remember, hands, face, space…

Wash your hands. I mean that shouldn’t be too hard. Just remember to do it after you go to the toilet, before you eat, after you eat, maybe when you come in from having been outside. If your hands are dirty, then wash them. 

Cover your face. This one goes explicitly to all you Libertarians out there who are acting like a bunch of prima donna’s complaining about how wearing a face mask is “clamping down on your liberties and freedoms as a human being”. Just wear a bloody mask, or Granny won’t make it through Christmas. 

Make Space. Again, stay 1 metre apart from people. To be fair, this one is a bit tricky when you are trying to do it, but nobody else in your Sainsbury’s Local appears to show the same courtesy. 

Three rules. All of which are very easy to follow. But the question is, how many of you are actually bothered?

Honesty is the best policy for the BBC

Twitter is a minefield for BBC beration. When ‘Defund the BBC’ launched their campaign in mid-summer, it took them less than a week to reach around 30K followers and it now has around 95K supporters. So with such a growing appetite for a reformed BBC, we have to ask ourselves what is it culturally that the BBC seems to let us down on?

In terms of their political coverage, I feel as though the corporation could do more to push some of their political shows to feature more commentary from regional journalists, activists and even regular folk from beyond the Westminster Bubble.

I can’t see anyone being delighted with the current incumbents of the Beeb’s political team. Everyone has had their criticism of Andrew Neil, Nick Robinson, Andrew Marr, Emily Maitlis and Lewis Goodall. They don’t always get it right, and in this day and age of every man and his dog wanting to make passing remarks, there is a sense that you simply cannot please everyone. That being said, maybe it’s not necessarily the political team which needs shaking up.

Honesty is a big issue. In particular, the transparency surrounding the sort of guests the BBC has been inviting onto programmes to make comments. For example, there have been multiple occasions where a doctor or teacher has appeared on Newsnight, and the BBC has failed to report that they are Labour activists. It doesn’t take much to be able to present the facts or even seek out a non-politically charged teacher or doctor. All this shows is a lack of research from BBC producers and just downright laziness.

Nor is it merely in the realms of current affairs where the BBC is continuing to c*ck up. But now, they have started removing and censoring comedy shows that contain material which may offend audiences. I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether or not you think Little Britain is culturally insensitive, but what I would say is listen to what stars like Idris Elba are saying.

Idris Elba has criticised the public service broadcaster for censoring programmes following Black Lives Matter campaigning. He believes that even outdated attitudes to race found in older TV shows should be aired and understood. If we start airbrushing these shows from iPlayer, then we are technically attempting to censor history.

There are a lot of future generations of scriptwriters, stand-ups and producers who can learn from the mistakes of the past. It is important to highlight these matters, but if we can’t come to be at ease with them, then how do we move forward?

The recent news that was on every radio phone-in show was the BBC’s decision to ban the lyrics of ‘Rule, Britannia!’ from being sung at the Last Night of the Proms. A decision which, I should say, they’ve now U-turned on. Now, I’m going to be honest. I can’t stand that hymn, so to be quite frank, they’d have been doing me a favour if they hadn’t done so.

No matter what connotations these lyrics may have to our colonial past, we should be considering their intentions and the manner in which they are being sung above anything else. I don’t for one minute believe that any sane-minded individual singing ‘Rule, Britannia!’ or ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ is really interested in re-enslaving former colonies or wanting to hark back to the times in which those anthems were written.

Put it this way, if Stormzy is allowed to chant “F*ck Boris” live on the BBC, at Glastonbury, then a bunch of poshos in the Albert Hall should be allowed to have their little sing-song as well.

The Battle to save London’s local cafés

We all have a local coffee house that plays an instrumental role in our day-to-day lives. It’s there for us when we are at the most sluggish stage of our morning. It sorts us out with a bacon butty and a decent cup of tea, usually for just under a fiver.

It’s a much-needed pit stop as we venture to work every morning, but since COVID has turned our 9-5 society upside down, we no longer have a need to stop by our local café. In fact, at all possible costs, we have become a society keen on avoiding the grubby greasy spoons. Mainly out of fear for their surfaces potentially being riddled with COVID-infused coffee stains.

It would be foolish of me to try and speak on behalf of the nation’s cafés. I can, however, relay the concerns of one owner, who just happens to run my local café.

I went in for a morning coffee and, while the owner was opening up shop, we had a little chat, like most people do, about COVID. He proceeded to tell me how, after running the Riverside Cafe (Lambeth Pier) for 11 years, he’d never hit such hard times. The owner talked candidly about how, on average, he used to get around 2,000 customers a day. Now, he says he’s lucky if that number reaches 100.

Keeping up with the rental payments on the café is proving to be an ordeal, and it’s even resulted in the poor guy having to dip into his savings accounts and even university funds. As I perched myself on the bar stool, I sat there gazing around at the photos on the wall. It appeared as though this café was a famous little nest for politicians getting their morning brew. The pictures ranged from John Prescott and Nick Clegg to a smattering of A-list celebs and actors.

This little old shack that sits peacefully on the corner of Lambeth Bridge will be my go-to coffee and breakfast pit stop, for as long as they are up and running. Because when the Government talks about trying to get people back to work and seeks to restore society to normality, this is what I believe they are trying to get at.

It’s about small, independently-run coffee stores, eateries, burger vans and market stalls. Their business relies on footfall. They need the 9-to-5 city worker, taxi driver or construction manager to stop in for breakfast and lunch – otherwise, what’s the point? Cafés like the Riverside Lambeth will collect cobwebs, and very soon they will blend into all the other boarded-up shops that have fallen at the hands of this wretched pandemic.

So, if you don’t want to wake up one morning and see that your local café or bakery isn’t opening its doors, then do what you can now. We might all still be working from home, but that doesn’t stop us from walking a few hundred yards in our slippers to grab a bacon bap and a cup of tea. You never know, if enough of us do it, we may just save them from closure.

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.

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.

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”.