The Significance of this Year’s Unusual G7 Summit

The Significance of this Year’s Unusual G7 Summit

Articles, Current Affairs

The Significance of this Year’s Unusual G7 Summit 

 

The Group of Seven (G7), consisting of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States, is a forum that was founded to facilitate discussion and cooperation on shared economic and political goals by the seven largest economies. It began as an informal meeting between US Secretary of the Treasury George Shultz and the Finance ministers of key US allies, namely West Germany, France, and the UK, in 1973, and was eventually expanded to include Japan, Italy, and Canada. The EU has also been represented at G7 summits since 1977.

Russia was included from 1998 onwards, resulting in the forum being called the G8, but was ejected from the forum following the annexation of Crimea in 2014. Previous summits have focused on improving and facilitating international trade, reducing trade barriers, and discussing coordinated approaches to crises such as the Syrian Civil War, which was discussed in the 2012 summit held in the UK. Traditionally, a Joint Communiqué is written at the end of each summit, which reaffirms the views expressed and commitments made by member nations.

This year’s G7 summit was unusual in that it was characterised by marked hostility between the US and its traditional allies and trading partners; whereas previous summits have focused on shared values and commitments, with the US standing alongside its allies in condemning Russia and upholding liberalism in international trade, the 44th summit has made it clear that US interests and priorities have shifted away from those of its allies, and has been described by some commentators as being more akin to a ‘G6+1’ meeting than a G7 one. This hostility is perhaps best exemplified by the clash between US President Donald Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Given that US-Canada relations in the period leading up to the summit were damaged as a result of the imposition of tariffs by the US on Canadian steel and aluminium, and President Donald Trump reportedly accusing Canada of having burnt down the white house in 1814 in a call with Mr Trudeau, among other things, the clash between the two leaders is perhaps unsurprising – however, there was still an expectation that some common ground would be found, as Mr. Trump had backed last year’s G7 joint communiqué reaffirming the group’s traditional united approach, despite making it clear that the US view on climate change, among other issues, differed from the remaining six nations.

This year, Mr. Trump spent most of the summit criticising the other nations for being ‘unfair’ and taking advantage of the US, and paid lip service to the idea of shared values while making it clear that ‘America First’ was his main concern. Furthermore, he expressed support for including Russia in the forum once again, which was met with a negative response from all the leaders present except for the Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, who said he believed including Russia “is in the interests of everyone,” and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who made no comment, clearly attempting to balance Japan’s desire for improved relations with Russia with his commitment to the G7 nations.

Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau’s desire to continue business as usual at the summit by discussing the issues of gender equality and climate change, and reaffirming shared commitments, appeared to clash with the need to protect Canadian interests. Despite attempting to address the US concerns over international trade, his efforts ultimately backfired as, soon after leaving the summit, the US president launched a personal attack on Trudeau, calling him “dishonest and weak”, and stated that he had instructed US representatives to reject the joint communiqué that had been agreed upon at the G7 summit.  The events of this summit have implications for every nation involved, as well as the entire international community, as it has demonstrated a new US approach to international diplomacy. The fact that the US President left the summit early and pulled his support for the joint communiqué while prioritising his bilateral meeting with the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un may be an indication that the US will continue to play an active role in international issues but is no longer concerned with building consensus with its allies.

Overall, it appears that the UK, France, Germany, and Canada remain committed to maintaining the ‘rules-based international order’, as referred to by Prime Minister Theresa May in her address to the House of Commons following the summit, though what this means in the context of Brexit is unclear. French President Emmanuell Macron went so far as to imply that the US was no longer needed in maintaining this international order, stating that “we don’t mind being six, if needs be”. German Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed disappointment with the US, while German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas stated that there will be consequences, and implied that Germany will have to reconsider its approach to international trade.
The situation with regards to the remaining two members of the G7, Japan and Italy, is more complicated.
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, who was appointed only 48 hours before the G7 summit to represent a government comprised of the anti-establishment ‘Five-Star Movement’ and the right-wing populist Northern League, took a balanced approach at the G7 summit. Despite siding with President Trump on the issue of Russia, he did not oppose the EU consensus on issues of trade, which suggests that the Italian Government is still evaluating its approach to foreign policy despite having been elected on an anti-EU and anti-immigration platform.

On the other hand, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is faced with a delicate balancing act – he requires US support on the issue of North Korea, but US tariffs will significantly damage the Japanese economy, especially given that President Trump has proposed tariffs of up to 25% on vehicle imports into the US. Vehicles make up approximately 15% of Japan’s overall exports and 38% of those vehicles are exported to the US, meaning that any tariffs imposed by the US would affect Japanese businesses significantly.
Moreover, Japan has been attempting to negotiate with Russia to resolve their territorial disputes over the Kuril Islands, and has held several meetings over the past few weeks with Russian leaders with the goal of ‘cultivating closer security and economic ties’ in order to bring the two nations closer to resolving their disputes . This means that Mr. Abe is unwilling to fully side with the UK, France, Germany and Canada on the issue of excluding Russia from the G7/G8, as that would jeopardise his efforts to reach a settlement with Russia.

Overall, this G7 summit may represent a turning point in global trade and international relations, and is yet another indication that economic liberalism and the international order that dominated the past several decades is now in decline.

By Bilal Asghar

Fairer Fares for Manchester Metrolink?

Fairer Fares for Manchester Metrolink?

Articles, Opinion

Eloise sheds light on proposed changes to Manchester’s Metrolink and discusses how it could affect young people.

Fairer Fares for Manchester Metrolink?

Travel for Greater Manchester are proposing a new ‘four-zone’ based ticketing system, supposedly reducing the number of pricing options from over 8,500 to just 10 zone-based fares in order to create a “system that is simple, convenient and good value for money”. The change could potentially be introduced in early 2019, on approval from the Greater Manchester Combined Authority.

A public listening exercise is currently taking place, involving a questionnaire exploring public opinions of the proposed system. However, this survey, whilst asking for age during the completion does not mention the impact of this change on the young people of Greater Manchester – an issue which needs serious attention.

Currently, 16-18-year-olds of Manchester are faced with a series of confusing and nonsensical options regarding tram fares. For 16-year-olds, they are only counted within the 11-16 age bracket until the 31st August after they turn 16 – leaving many 16-year olds outside of this age bracket. From then on, 16 and 17-year-olds are no longer counted as ‘children’ despite the legality that disputes this. The introduction of the ‘Get me there’ card was meant to simplify this, with talks of concessionary rates for students. However, this has been entirely ineffective – there are no clear options to select a concessionary or ‘half-price’ option at the stations, and the whole concept has been both poorly advertised and poorly delivered.

16-18-year olds are then forced to paying the full adult fare – despite their compulsory attendance of full-time education severely limiting their income – if any at all. To add insult to injury, many young people use the Metrolink to travel to their place of education – often suddenly having to double this fee to continue making the same journey that had done since the age of 11 – a fare that seems incredibly unjust. This sense of injustice is only heightened when compared to the London system, with Andy Burnham acknowledging just how much further “ahead” they are.

London’s system for under 18s is clear and logical. 5-10-year-olds travel free on all Transport for London (TfL) and most National Rail services in London. 11-15-year-olds can travel free on buses and trams, with half-price on all other TfL services and most National Rail services in London. 16 and 17-year-olds can travel at half-price on all TfL services and most National Rail services in London. If they are residents of London they may also be eligible for free bus and tram travel – and all of these are linked by one card. This highlights the shambolically disjointed nature of Manchester’s trams, buses and rail (which is another issue entirely), as well as the inevitable strain of transport costs that are evidently avoidable.

It seems that once again, Manchester has drawn the short straw. Amongst the current northern rail crisis, it has become apparent that northern transport is not up to an appropriate standard – with young people bearing the brunt of this. A zonal system for trams would undoubtedly make an improvement – major cities all over the world follow this system – but we must not let young people be forgotten whilst making this change. I urge you to make your voice heard by highlighting the necessity of considering student tram pricing through the additional comments section of the following survey.

Feedback closes midnight Sunday 17th June 2018.
Metrolink zonal fares survey

By Eloise Hall

 

China’s Social Credit System- Is science fiction becoming science fact?

China’s Social Credit System- Is science fiction becoming science fact?

Articles, Current Affairs

Black Mirror-fan, Jack, draws disturbing parallels between the show and China’s new social credit system. How concerned should we be about this new interventionist scheme being implemented by the Chinese government?

China’s Social Credit System- Is science fiction becoming science fact?

picture from The Independent.

Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror is a television show after my own heart. The combination of dystopia and science fiction harkens back to similar works such as The Twilight Zone, and the keen analysis of the darker side of potential technology helps showcase our dependency on our smart devices. Indeed, it has been previously described as being about “the way we might be living in 10 minutes if we’re clumsy.” Now it appears those 10 minutes may nearly be up. The season 3 episode entitled Nosedive imagines a society in which every social interaction a person has can be rated out of five stars by the other people involved. This affects the person’s individual rating, which has significant influence on their socioeconomic status and place within the society. Examples of this include the fact that certain houses, transport and medical treatment are reserved exclusively for people of a high enough rating.

While this episode was undoubtedly only meant to critique the importance we place on what others think of us online, it has been frequently compared to a new mandatory scheme that is slowly being put into place by the Chinese government. The Social Credit system, which began to be put in place in 2014 and is supposed to be fully implemented by 2020, is designed to use mass surveillance to assign a rating to every citizen in order to control their behaviour. It is supposedly based upon the principle that “keeping trust is glorious and breaking trust is disgraceful” and is currently being orchestrated largely through private tech companies which hold people’s personal data. The score itself is said to be influenced by the actions that you take, including financial decisions, views expressed on social media (especially those related to politics) and traffic violations. For example, paying back loans on time would increase your rating whereas bad driving would lower it.

This may seem inconsequential, but the real danger comes from the penalties that are imposed on those with a low score. For example, their travel options can be restricted, including some 9 million people who have already been barred from domestic flights and 3 million who have been prevented from buying business class train tickets. Other restrictions will supposedly include slower internet speeds, more limited opportunities in higher education and careers and the inability to apply for credit cards/loans. There is clearly strong evidence here for the comparison to Nosedive, but the key difference is that in China it is the government that determines what is considered right and wrong rather than other people, which gives it huge powers to control the lives of individuals. This system could easily be as far reaching in its scale and effects as it is chillingly Orwellian in nature.
The move to the Social Credit system follows a political trend for China of tightening control over their own domestic affairs. Another example is that by 2016 spending on internal security had eclipsed spending on external defence by 13% and in February of this year China’s Xinjiang province revealed that its spending on domestic security had increased by an astounding 92.8% since 2016. This is in conjunction with the recent amendment to the Chinese constitution in March of this year, which served to remove term limits for the president Xi Jinping. This unprecedented entrenchment of power undoubtedly places him as China’s most powerful leader since Mao, and alongside the Social Credit system, it paints an unnerving picture for the future of the world’s second largest economy. To put it another way, the situation of an authoritarian leader who has entrenched himself in power seemingly indefinitely, and who will be in full control of the most far reaching and potentially oppressive mass surveillance programme in world history, seems to pose clear threats to the human rights of the 1.3 billion people of China.

As stated before, it is not an entirely accurate comparison between the situation in China and that of Nosedive, with the key difference being that in this instance all the power is in the hands of the Chinese government, making the implications ever more frightening. Yet, the important word here is implications. Even though there have been usages of this system to punish people so far, it is still not as pervasive and developed as the scenario displayed in Black Mirror, due mainly to the fact that the Social Credit system is not fully completed. Therefore, it does not seem at this stage that the comparisons to dystopian science fiction can be fully justified. However, in the wake of the scandal regarding Facebook and Cambridge Analytica, it is important for us all to recognise that it is easier than ever for corporate and state organisations to gather and process data about each and every one of us. Whilst we shouldn’t write off technology, the message from both the Social Credit system and Nosedive seems to be that we should take a careful and cautious about the personal information we choose to hand over, lest it bring with it negative consequences for us all.

By Jack Walker

The House of Lords: Outdated Wreckers or Invaluable Checks?

The House of Lords: Outdated Wreckers or Invaluable Checks?

Articles, Opinion

Oliver defends the House of Lords following the criticism it has faced in recent months, particularly over Brexit.

The House of Lords: Outdated Wreckers or Invaluable Checks?

picture from Parliament UK.

In recent days, the House of Lords has come under significant fire for their amendments to the Draft Withdrawal Agreement from the European Union. These amendments, many of which have been tabled and passed, have gained cross-partisan support from Peers in the Lords as the Bill passes through its report stage of the Lords. Some of these amendments exist to prevent the Government from leaving the EU without any kind of exit deal in the event of soured negotiations. Therefore, I deem their criticism unfair.

There is a danger that one views the House of Lords in the wrong light. The House of Lords is not, in my opinion, a Chamber of any great power. The real power in the UK lies with the Commons. The Lords have very little power and, since the passing of the 1949 Parliament Act, they have little power beyond tabling their own Bills (which Commons can easily reject) or pushing back legislation for one year. Indeed, then it can be bypassed straight to Royal Ascent, and is then formed into a law. The House of Lords is unable to veto laws, and hence one would be wrong to state that they were a Chamber of any significant power. Surely this simply makes the Lords a check on Parliament?

Checks within politics are there to ensure that one area of the legislative/executive do not ‘run away’ with power. In other words, they are controlled and moderated so that they act in the best way for the people and the nation.

The House of Lords is the check on the Commons because those in the Commons are subjected to their Party Whip and hence can act on Party lines, not on those lines that would effectively work in the national interest. The Lords aren’t elected into office on any such manifestos and hence they are able to step away from the Party politics and consider options on their merit rather than simply obeying the Party Whip.

The Lords suffer great criticism since they go against governmental policy on Brexit, however one must remember that their actions in terms of amendments enable the Commons, whom we elect, to vote on areas of the Withdrawal Agreement. The Lords – the ‘unelected wreckers’ – are simply enabling those in Commons to have a vote on a Bill that will dictate the future of the UK, allowing them a say on the behalf of the people who voted for them. The whole purpose of acting as a check, as a moderator, is to challenge policy, to challenge views and decisions; to ensure that they have been properly examined and considered before they are rolled out. Therefore surely the Lords are just fulfilling their mandate…aren’t they?

By Oliver Bramley

What does the recent ‘Windrush’ controversy show about Britain?

What does the recent ‘Windrush’ controversy show about Britain?

Articles, Current Affairs

Katie explains the scandal surrounding the recent treatment of British immigrants of the Windrush generation, and why it has led to mass criticism and ultimately the resignation of Home Secretary Amber Rudd.

What does the recent ‘Windrush’ controversy show about Britain?

picture from Express.

In the past weeks we have seen the most recent of the government’s crises play out, as it has been exposed that the children of ‘Windrush’ migrants who arrived before 1973 could face deportation if they can not prove their right to live in the UK. Alongside this there are many reported cases of members of the ‘Windrush’ generation being subject to societal negligence, from loss of legitimate employment to being refused access to radiotherapy, due to their inability to prove their residence. This controversy has exposed holes in the Conservative Party’s management of immigration statistics and information and was certainly the cause of ex Home Secretary Amber Rudd’s resignation. However, not only has it exposed holes in our political system, the tragedy of the treatment of ‘Windrush’ migrants and their descendants, the majority of whom are of Afro-Caribbean descent, has raised the pressing issue of the racism and prejudice that still exists in Britain.

The ‘Windrush’ generation refers to people of Caribbean heritage who arrived in the UK between 1948 and 1971, often following the call for labourers to aid in British government plans to rebuild infrastructure after the Second World War. The term ‘Windrush’ originates from the name of the MV Empire Windrush which arrived here in June 1948. New immigration laws introduced in 2012 require people to have documentation to work, rent a property or access benefits, including healthcare, has left people fearful about their status. This is because in 1971 when all Commonwealth citizens living in the UK were given indefinite leave to remain, by the Immigration Act, The Home Office did not issue any documents confirming this. The result is there are thousands of people living in Britain who, despite complete legal right to be here, have no documentation to prove this. Even though the facts point to this being a problem that the government has the responsibility to solve and that the people living in the UK without this documentation should suffer as little as possible, for some reason, despite this being 2018, this has not happened.

There are significant numbers of horror stories of people of the ‘Windrush’ generation being racially discriminated against and their lack of documentation being used as an excuse. Londoner Sylvester Marshall, who has lived in the UK for 44 years, was asked to pay £54,000 upfront for radiotherapy treatment for his prostate cancer. Even though many representatives of the NHS have condemned this handling of Mr Marshall’s cancer care and the nine year delay of his treatment has been described as “morally indefensible” by Dr Chaand Nagpaul, the BMA council chair, the question still begs of how did something like this happen? There is definitely a substantiated argument that systematic and institutional levels of racism have contributed to the grave mistreatment of ‘Windrush’ migrants and that the recent controversy has simply shone a light on the ugly side of Britain. The misconception that ‘Britishness’ equals ‘whiteness’ has fed into a administrative problem and turned it into one that demonstrates the depth and breadth of racism in this country.

To answer the question of what the ‘Windrush’ controversy shows about Britain, maybe it is that beliefs about what Britain is are varied and complex and that whilst some people are deluded enough to believe that racism no longer exists, it is clear that many ‘Brits’ still reinforce racial stereotypes and make vast assumptions based on racial identity. Those of the ‘Windrush’ generation have been victims of this evidently racist society, as despite many coming here to rebuild this country their ‘Britishness’ is being questioned and their access to services which their tax has helped pay for is being denied. In the wake of the 25th Anniversary of the murder of Stephen Lawrence we must ask how far Britain has come since five white men were not even tried for the murder of an eighteen year old black man that they had all undoubtedly committed. Surely we would hope that Britain has learnt from past mistakes and that now justice would be served? However, I wonder if Sylvester Marshall would have so much faith in the justice system or even in his fellow ‘Brits’?

Looking forward, there is surely no choice but to try and be hopeful. We must have hope that the plight of the ‘Windrush’ generation will not be in vain and that more and more people will become ‘woke’ to issues of racial identity, discrimination and the experiences of ethnic, religious and cultural ‘minorities’. Only time will tell how quickly progress will be made, how many months or years it is needed for ‘Brits’ across the country to open their eyes to the existence of racism, in our police, schools and media. Let’s make sure it is sooner rather than later that being ‘British’ can truly mean anything.

By Katie Wharton

Thank you for attending our Launch Conference!

Thank you for attending our Launch Conference!

Articles

Note from the Editor,

Thank you so much to everyone who attended the conference on Saturday 3rd March. We were completely tacken aback by the amazing turnout, despite the snow, in addition to the levels of engagement on show. A huge thank you to all of our workshop leads, campaigns and speakers, including our keynote speakers Alastair Campbell and Andy Burnham. Also a huge thank you and congratulations also, to the rest of the YouthPolitics team, especially Ben Fleming, James Sullivan-Mchale and the conference committee for all of their hard work and dedication, which made the day possible.

The organisation and conference attracted lots of a press due to our work. This link will take you to an article written by Mancunian Matters, who captured the essence of what we are trying to achieve perfectly.

Myself and the YouthPolitics team thoroughly hope that you enjoyed the day and will stay posted for any future events. Below is an article written by Manchester University student, Bella Jewell about the conference. We have got so many exciting things coming up and we’re so excited for the future.

The journey has only just begun,

Dan Lawes

YouthPolitics UK Launch Conference

By Isabella Jewell

“Happiness is not about the moment, but what you do and achieve over time” were the wise words of the final key note speaker, Alastair Campbell. This final address captured the essence of the dynamic YouthPolitics UK Launch Conference: that of creating change through activism, campaigning, and positive debate.  

The daylong event at Manchester Grammar School was made up of a detailed schedule of poetry, workshops, debates, and speeches, commencing with an opening speech from the YouthPolitics UK founder and editor, Dan Lawes. After outlining the key aims of the organisation, and the upcoming events of the conference, Dan handed over to Alice Spencer, who kick-started the day with an impressive poetic performance, highlighting the important role that the arts hold in activism.

What followed were a variety of workshops which focused on advocacy, a central aspect of YouthPolitics UK. These workshops ran alongside the YP campaigns fair, which featured GreenPeace and the Women’s equality party among others. Sarah Vickers ran an informative workshop centred around debating called ‘Getting your voice heard’, whilst in other rooms the formidable Mary Gibb from Amnesty International, and the advocate Clare Workman led empowering workshops focused on activism, and fighting for greater protection of human rights.

The most popular workshop, however, was the ever-relevant Brexit debate chaired by the BBC broadcast journalist Raph Sheridan. Fighting the corner for Brexit was Oliver Kingsley, an ex-Manchester Grammar pupil and former intern at Conservative HQ, and the gutsy sixth form student James Welch. On the opposite side of the table was the Labour MP for Manchester Gorton, and former MEP, Afzal Khan. To mediate this clash of rhetoric, however, was Matthias Klaes, an Economist from Buckingham University, whose role was to provide ‘unspun’ factual analysis of the economic implications of Brexit. The debate provided yet another insight to the main issues which dominated the Brexit campaigns: the impact Brexit will have on immigration and the economy.

The next speaker in the star-studded line up was Andy Burnham, the Mayor of Greater Manchester. Amongst the range of issues covered in his address, what stood out was his will for greater devolution from Westminster, so to give the North more control over their own issues which is often overlooked by Westminster. He then went on to discuss the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, in particular the Youth division. His speech focused on empowering young people, exclaiming “go out and change the world”: a message which continued to ring in the ears of the young and politically engaged attendees for the rest of the afternoon.

The final item before lunch was a Q and A session with another ex-Manchester Grammar student, Michael Crick. As a founding member of Channel 4 news, a BBC journalist, and most recently as a Political correspondent for Channel 4 News, Crick’s list of achievements appears even longer than the list of UKIP leaders since 2016! On stage he was Interviewed by the Deputy Head of Events at YPUK, Sarmed. The confident speaker informed the audience about the journey into a journalistic career, and how to navigate it successfully given the high level of competition. Overall, it was an informative ending to the packed morning of the YPUK Conference.

Following lunch, the afternoon session commenced with a talk by James Cathcart, the former CEO of the British Youth Council. His speech focused on the importance of youth engagement in politics, claiming that we should all seek to ‘make [our] mark’ if we want to pursue change. Carhart discussed how he has worked with YouthPolitics UK, providing expert help to guide the organisation going forward. On this note, the audience filed through into the next round of workshops which, in addition to another round of the ones already mentioned, included a workshop titled ‘Northern Concerns’.

In the theatre a large audience settled down to watch the ‘Northern Concerns’ debate chaired by the journalist, Patrick Christys. The members of the debate, Kate Green, Sean Anstee and Laura Evans, represented a range of political stances and priorities, ranging from devolution, to HS2, to Brexit. Whilst differing on some issues, such as the necessity of increasing devolved powers (which Anstee labelled “a waste of time”) they were united in the opinion that the North is a powerhouse which is often underrepresented in Westminster.

Despite the recent polarisation of political debate, Anstee described how the devolved committees have become “too political” and that “if you want to use politics for the force it can be, we ought to be mature” and unite behind fixing current: a positive note that rang true with a youth growing up in the middle of an ineffective ideological fist-fight.

Finally, the moment we had all been waiting for: a talk from the political celebrity, and famously uncouth Alastair Campbell. After an introduction from Dan Lawes, Campbell recounted his proudest political moments namely working on the peace process in Northern Ireland, on Gay Rights, and the banning of smoking in public areas. In conversation with Lawes, Campbell recounted his struggles with mental health, an issue that he is very vocal about, and his disdain of the current Government and Brexit (an issue we couldn’t seem to escape!).

In a typically straight-talking manner, he described how May “hasn’t got the imagination to deliver” on Brexit, whilst the “blatant liar and charlatan”, Boris Johnson, and his “clan” merely act as an argument for remaining in the EU. He then moved on to discuss the issue of votes for 16 and 17-year olds, a cause which he greatly supports, claiming that the Scottish Referendum was a key example of the policy’s success. In keeping with the sentiment of the organisation, he described how the youth must become engaged, as the future needs “the brightest and best” in politics.

On a lighter note, Paul Fletcher MBE joined Campbell on stage to promote their new book, ‘Saturday Bloody Saturday’, a thriller recounting the dramatic events of February 1974 when political dissent and football coincide: an “excellent gift for mothers’ day”, Campbell dryly remarked.

The conference was drawn to a close with a powerful speech from the founder of YPUK, Dan Lawes, who thanked all those who had helped him establish the organisation, and organise the impressive first conference. His speech was a call to arms to the “young snowflake generation”, who are often dismissed, yet, he claimed, can cause a Nation-halting blizzard when united.

After an exhausting yet deeply inspiring day, no one can deny that young people are not politically engaged. YPUK is working to change that perception, so that we, young people, can have the power to change our future for the better.

 

 

 

Is this the second Cold War?

Is this the second Cold War?

Articles, Current Affairs

Tensions are rising between Russia and the West, and so naturally people have started to draw parallels between the current international political climate and that during the Cold War. In this article, Eloise highlights some of the similarities and differences between the two situations, and raises the question of whether calling this “the second Cold War” is simply a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Is this the second Cold War?

picture from Newshub.

Tensions between the West and Russia are undeniably rising, reaching new heights with the recent attack in Salisbury – but has the situation returned to the extent of a second Cold War? The similarities that are emerging between the original Cold War (1947-1991) are striking, and perhaps most overwhelmingly, frightening. However, although it is easy to quickly categorise any Russian-related conflict as a ‘cold war’, this has the potential to create an outdated approach – when ultimately, it is a different era.

Technological developments since the Cold War are the perhaps the greatest difference between then and now. Communication is much more sophisticated, meaning that Kennan’s ‘Long Telegram’ today may have just been a particularly lengthy email… which perhaps could have avoided a great deal of the miscommunication, misinterpretation and misunderstanding that fuelled the Cold War. Therefore, today’s situation shouldn’t allow itself to become a Cold War – society has evolved in a way that should prevent some of these mistakes from repeating themselves, and so categorising it as such could condemn the world to another Cold War unnecessarily. Similarly, the continually expansive nature of globalisation has forced Russia to become included and cooperative with Western capitalism in a way that it refused to be in the latter half of the 20th Century. Russia engages with Western capital markets, importing Western goods and technology and exports oil and gas – a relationship that would be incomprehensible during the most hostile years of the Cold War.

However, this relationship is fragile. Today’s ‘Cold War’ may simultaneously be fuelled by technology via provocative social media. President Trump continues to fire off antagonistic tweets, which add to the lack of a respectful working relationship between Russia and the USA through the indirect insults being broadcast to the world. Trump claimed that ‘Our relationship with Russia is worse now than it has ever been, and that includes the Cold War’, but by proclaiming this via twitter, Trump is creating the foundations of a second Cold War by implication. To further this, Trump patronises Russia, suggesting that they need ‘help with their economy’ which will inevitably infuriate Putin, and is reminiscent of the sentiment of the Marshall Plan of 1948.

The combination of nuclear threats and rivalries, alongside the attempted assassinations (particularly the most recent Salisbury attack) have the ability to shatter any form of relationship and create tensions reminiscent of the Cold War. Society’s attitude to Russians seems to be reverting back to the Cold War era – the abundance of Soviet Bond villains (for example Rosa Klebb and General Grubozaboyschikov) had faded to give way to the middle east, but today’s media appears to be returning to the perception of the Russians as the villains – as shown in the recent BBC series of McMafia. Combined with the disgrace within Russian sport, the vilification of Russia through popular culture is a similarity to the Cold War era, that if uncontrolled, can be dangerous in leading public opinion to antagonise and heighten the situation into something more harmful than the current reality.

Whilst the threat of Russia is prevalent, with the Salisbury nerve-agent attack and the continual testing of new nuclear weapons heightening the severity of this, Russia is not the major global power that the Soviet Union once was. During the Cold War, the Soviet Union and the USA seemed to be in a stand-off, vying for the top spot – NATO versus the Warsaw Pact – but Russia’s former Warsaw Pact members have since switched alliances to NATO (Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania among others), leaving Russia’s sphere of influence severely depleted, and the USA’s significantly strengthened, meaning that the rivalry is no longer on the same level.

The difference between the Cold War and the present should not undermine the serious nature of today’s circumstances, but instead perhaps encourage a different approach. Putin is using tactics that remind the world of Stalin – manipulating election results, indirect threats, whilst Trump is provocative in a way that mimics Truman – but resigning ourselves to the fate of a second Cold War prematurely could sentence the world to an indefinite future of hostility unnecessarily. If the label of a ‘Cold War 2’ could be avoided, then perhaps the situation could be handled less fatalistically, and therefore avoid allowing this unrest to escalate to the extent of a second Cold War.

By Eloise Hall

The Case for Reform in UK General Elections

The Case for Reform in UK General Elections

Articles, Opinion

In this article, Jack explores the potential for electoral reform in the UK, citing the flaws in our electoral system and suggesting what it could be replaced with.

The Case for Reform in UK General Elections

picture from ITV

With the Brexit process, as well as international scandals involving Trump or Russia overwhelming British media in recent periods, this undoubtedly means that other issues must fall to the wayside. Personally, I believe that one of these such issues which has been unjustly overshadowed, is the need for reform of our First Past the Post (FPTP) system, used in general elections. Although the AV referendum was held on this issue in 2011, the debate over this issue still ought to continue for three key reasons. Firstly, the referendum had a ludicrously low turnout of only 42% thereby weakening its democratic legitimacy. Secondly, the public dissatisfaction with Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats, following the controversial raising of tuition fees by the coalition to £9,000 a year, doomed the chances of AV by association with them. Finally, and most importantly, the FPTP system is still inherently unfair. As the Electoral Reform Society puts it, “The way we elect our MPs is bad for voters, bad for governance and bad for democracy.”

FPTP, as a majoritarian system, means that the candidate with the greatest number of votes in a constituency is elected as MP. This means that all the other votes which do not end up electing the MP are wasted and so huge amounts of people in a constituency are bound to feel, and indeed be, unrepresented. It is estimated that half of all votes cast in the 2015 election did not end up electing an MP and so did not matter. The person who epitomizes all the problems of the FPTP system has to be Alasdair McDonnell MP. This former leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party holds the record for the lowest proportion of the vote help by a successful MP. Just 24.5% of his Belfast South constituency voted for him in 2015 yet he was still able to become the MP for that area, because he had more votes than any other candidate. Whilst this admittedly may be an extreme example, the fact that we have an electoral system that can produce a result that ignores more than 75% of the voters shows that something is deeply wrong. This problem of wasted votes is especially significant in safe seats as it means that just because of the postcode lottery, voters whose ideas do not line up with the majority of the people in their constituency may as well not be able to vote, as the result of that particular seat is never going to be close enough for their votes to matter.

Even though these problems are symptomatic of FPTP, many still argue that it is the best option for an electoral system since it gives a strong MP-constituency link and most of the time results in strong government with a majority of seats in parliament rather than coalitions, typical of proportional systems. The MP-constituency link is important since it allows people within any area to know they have someone elected by their local area whose job it is to represent the constituency in Westminster. Also, the typical strong majority is important as it allows the government to pass their manifesto pledges easily, since they have been voted for in general election. Clearly, these factors are significant and ought to be preserved through the electoral system used. However, the facts of the matter are, even though FPTP does achieve these goals it does not change the fact that it is intrinsically unfair. Also, it is a myth that these criteria cannot be achieved through use of a more proportional and fair system instead. The Additional Member System (AMS) is an electoral system which has one vote for constituency representatives and another vote for “additional members” to make parliament more proportional and is currently used in elections for the Scottish Parliament and Welsh and London Assemblies. The AMS system works by having one vote for a local representative under FPTP as before which decides a fixed portion of all MPs i.e. enough for every constituency to have an MP linked to it. However, there is also a second vote for a party rather than a candidate. This vote is used on a national level to decide the remaining MPs from party lists via the D’Hondt method, to make parliament as close to proportional and representative as possible.

The reason why the introduction of a semi-proportional system like this in the UK would be an improvement is because it would give the benefits of both non-proportional and proportional systems. Namely, the strong constituency link would be unchanged and all the second votes would definitely factor in deciding some form of representative. This means that even if a voter feels like their first vote is redundant, such as in a safe constituency, they will still be able to have at least some say in the people that represent them overall through the second national vote. Furthermore, in recent history the trend of FPTP producing strong governments has undoubtedly waned, given that it has produced a succession of governments with either small or indeed non-existent majorities since Gordon Brown (who himself never won a general election). AMS would also avoid the problems of unstable coalitions as has been seen in countries like Italy, since the two major parties would most likely continue to dominate, meaning multi-party coalitions wouldn’t be necessary.

Therefore, as other political issues take the forefront, the FPTP system continues to do a disservice to the British people under the pretence of being a necessary evil, when AMS seems able to keep the benefits of FPTP while allowing every person who has the right to vote, the right to feel that their vote matters. A more proportional system is something that is unlikely to happen, given that the two major parties would never advocate for a system that could damage their own electoral success. Still, this does not justify the unrepresentative state of the House of Commons in terms of MPs from minor parties and differing viewpoints who are deeply needed, perhaps now more so than ever.

By Jack Walker

Pardoning the Suffragettes?

Pardoning the Suffragettes?

Articles, Current Affairs, Opinion

The Fawcett society has recently called for the Suffragettes to be pardoned. Eloise debates whether this would be a fitting tribute or if instead it could serve to encourage politically motivated crime or even dismiss the great sacrifice they made.

Pardoning the Suffragettes?

picture from The Independent

Following recent pressure from the Fawcett Society, several leading politicians have been debating the possibility of pardoning the Suffragettes. Sam Smethers, chief executive of The Fawcett Society, argues that it would be a ‘fitting tribute’ as the Suffragettes made ‘such sacrifices’ during their campaign for equal franchise and ‘in any meaningful sense of the word, they are not criminals’. A criminal is simply defined by Oxford dictionaries as ‘a person who has committed a crime’. This therefore classes the Suffragettes as criminals, as the label and resultantly the law does not – however unjustly – take into consideration the necessity or reasoning of committing said crime.

On the one hand, it is undeniable that the Suffragettes committed a significant number of crimes during their campaign, totalling at over 1300 arrests for crimes such as arson and assault. A pardon has the potential to legitimise some of these extremities of violence – for instance the assault of Winston Churchill in 1909 despite his pro-suffrage vote, an example where it could be argued that the Suffragettes took the militancy of their movement too far, and perhaps encourage other modern day violent outbursts towards politicians. There is a general consensus that the political murder of MP Jo Cox was irrevocably wrong, and whilst the assault of Churchill undoubtedly pales in comparison to the atrocities that Cox faced, surely the physical attack of MPs (or any public figure) is something that should be discouraged across history – whatever the motive? This seems to be a sentiment shared by the Prime Minister – in her recent speech in Manchester she criticised the online abuse and intimidation that politicians today face, expressing her concern that ‘bitterness and aggression’ deters political engagement – or perhaps attracts the wrong form of engagement, and therefore excusing this behaviour allows the line of uncalled for attack and passionate protest to become blurred.

Despite this, pardoning the Suffragettes may be a simple way of honouring their memory for the centenary of the Representation of the People Act 1918 that first allowed women to vote by acknowledging the part they played in the campaign for the enfranchisement of women and the resultant advancement of society. Ruth Davidson, leader of the Scottish Conservative Party argues this case, suggesting in the Telegraph that the question of pardoning the Suffragettes is synonymous with ‘righting that wrong’. Arguably, the Suffragettes were treated wrongly, with the government resorting to cruel and inhumane methods (such as force feeding) – but perhaps an apology may be more appropriate than a pardon. A pardon seems to attempt to white-wash history, creating a cheap cover up and an easy way for political parties to forge a feminist façade. It dismisses the reality that women at the time felt they had to break the law to be acknowledged by the men in power, and the necessity of the Suffragettes’ militancy in securing women’s right to vote. Krista Cowman, a professor of History at the University of Lincoln, suggested that the Suffragettes would be ‘spinning in their graves’ at the idea of being pardoned, implying that perhaps they too would be angry at the proposed dismissal of the lengths of their sacrifices – ultimately what use would a clean criminal record be to them now, other than eliminating the cold proof of their efforts?

Helen Pankhurst (great-granddaughter to Emmeline Pankhurst and granddaughter to Sylvia Pankhurst) dismisses the debate by suggesting its irrelevance as the Suffragettes have already been pardoned by society. The respect the Suffragettes command from modern day society is evident. A statue of Alice Hawkins went up in Market Square, Leicester earlier this month partially as a result of her five-time imprisonment in aid of the cause, proving that the Suffragette legacy remains untarnished by criminal records and perhaps is even enhanced through their defiance of the law.  Helen Pankhurst further encourages women to ‘continue their fight’ rather than ‘dwell’ on personal sacrifice. Perhaps modern-day feminists ought to be emboldened rather than burdened by the Suffragettes’ struggle in order to strive for further equalities within society.

By Eloise Hall

No Franchise, No Problem – the Teenagers Running for State Governor

No Franchise, No Problem – the Teenagers Running for State Governor

Articles, Current Affairs

Over in Kansas, a group of teenagers have found a loophole in legislation that allows them to run for state governor. What could this mean for young people here in the UK?

No Franchise, No Problem – the Teenagers Running for State Governor

picture from VOA

An extraordinary situation has emerged in Kansas, wherein six teenage boys (and a dog) have decided to run for state governor, and thanks to a loophole in legislation, they are perfectly within their rights to do so. Well, all except Angus the dog, whose application was unfortunately, but admittedly fairly, denied by the Kansas secretary of state’s office. However, this unusual gubernatorial race is not exclusive to Kansas; Vermont also stipulates no minimum age to run for governor, which allowed 13 year old Ethan Sonneborn, a Democrat, to begin his bid for the state’s top office. So what is it about the current political climate that inspired three Republicans, two Democrats, an Independent, and a Libertarian, all of whom are 13 to 18, to run for governor in their respective states?

While these candidates clearly have their ideological differences, the one thing they have in common is the aim of using their campaigns to combat the so-called ‘crisis of political apathy’ amongst young people, and to push action for the issues most important to them. The latter is considered particularly important by 17 year old Republican candidate Tyler Ruzich, whose campaign has a strong focus on improving public education standards in Kansas; he told the NY Times they had become a ‘national embarrassment’. Indeed, it is understandable that many young people feel ignored by those in positions of political power; no wonder they appear ‘disengaged’ from politics when they are disregarded at every turn, and their voices are not being listened to. While it is unfair to say younger members of society are ‘apathetic’ towards politics, it is certainly true that many are reluctant to get involved, as they feel no matter what they do, nothing will change for them, because they are not able to vote and therefore have no say.

However, these candidates have a rare opportunity to drastically change how many young people view politics. Instead of seeing politicians they can’t identify with, and have no reason to believe will act in their best interest, they will see young people like themselves, standing up for issues that are a priority to the younger generation. This is likely to result in young people feeling more represented on the political stage; that there is someone ‘fighting their corner’, thus giving them hope that change is in fact possible.

Not only are they helping to empower other young people, but they are sending a crucial message about the power of their generation. They are refusing to accept the mischaracterisation of young people as lazy and apathetic, and despite not being able to vote, have found a clever alternative way of getting themselves heard. Their actions show they are capable of a high level of reasoning and political understanding, which compels older members of society to take notice, and take their concerns seriously. But could something like this happen in the UK? The short answer is probably not, as here there are clear rules that one must but at least 18 years of age in order to run for MP. Nevertheless, young Britons may still be inspired by the actions of their American counterparts; this could result in greater youth support for the growing ‘Votes at 16’ movement, which, if successful, would give young people the voice they deserve in politics.

Despite being perfectly satisfied with supporting a President who believes arming teachers with AK- 47s is the best solution to gun violence, many legislators in Kansas refuse to support the right of highly able candidates under 18 to run for state governor. Representative Blake Carpenter is championing the bill to impose age restrictions on entering the gubernatorial race, which was moved forward by the state’s House of Representatives at the beginning of this month. While it is likely the bill will pass, as most other US states already impose explicit age restrictions on running for governor, it will not take effect until next January, meaning that these younger candidates are still in with a chance of being elected.

So how realistic is this chance? Even the candidates themselves admit that their chances of actually winning the race are slim, with 16 year old Joseph Tutera telling the Washington Post, ‘The day a 17 year old wins governor of any state will be the day pigs fly’. Indeed, these candidates are in for a gruelling race against several seasoned politicians such as Kris Kobach and Jeff Colyer. However, it is important to acknowledge the unpredictability of elections – if the past two years have taught us anything, it’s that the results are never a forgone conclusion; it is more than worth keeping an open mind to the exciting possibility of the next governor of Kansas or Vermont being a young person. Regardless of the outcome, these strides towards a more empowered generation may in time prove to be invaluable, and they show just how essential it is that we acknowledge and value young voices.

By Alice Kenny