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To what extent have government proposals to reform the constitution been controversial?

In 2011 the coalition introduced the fixed term parliament act as a result of the Coalition agreement,  which in effect meant UK elections are now fixed to the first week in May every five years. This was welcomed by the LibDems, Labour and some Conservatives as the previous system was seen as giving an advantage to the Prime Minister who could call an election at the most advantageous time for them (as was the case under Blair where he called elections in 2001 and 2005, four years into his first and second terms and famously in 2007 when Brown flinched from calling an early election which he would probably have won). The old system would also mean there was always a period of uncertainty as to when an election would be called, this was seen to be bad for economic decision making. However there has also been criticisms to the new reform, some have argued that knowing the date a long time in advance will lead to longer election campaigns, a lack of flexibility and the possibility of a ‘lame duck’ government limping on longer than it should. The last Coalition seemed to have run out of steam in 2014, leaving a year were no real substantial pieces of legislation were presented to parliament. Clegg disputed this, believing that five years was “going with the grain of some of the founding texts of our unwritten constitution”. Despite some disputes against the Act support was given by most parties, with little opposition or disagreement, aside from Conservative back benchers. Read More

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Divisions in UKIP explained

There seems to be chaos in the ranks of UKIP- a scandal that started off with Farages unresignation and has extended to squabbles over public money, resignations and people denouncing those whom 2 weeks ago they would call allies. As of 17/05/15 this has culminated in Douglas Carswell, the party’s only MP, calling for Nigel Farage to take a short break although no doubt there will be further developments after this article is published
This chaos and confusion has only been exacerbated by a 24 hour news cycle- Thursdays episode of Question Time shedding little light on the situation. Those not fixated by pre-determined attitudes to UKIP are unable to decide whether this is a much talked about pub-brawl that will soon blow over, as most UKIP supporters believe, or a political implosion in the works-as most UKIP detractors believe.
No-one really seems to know what is going on, so one will not comment on the details in particular.
However, with the growing possibility that Farage will no longer be leader of UKIP soon, and with the ongoing discussion of the direction UKIP should take for the 2020 election, this article will discuss the divisions in the party. These divisions are

1. Blue (economically right) vs Red (economically left) UKIP.
2. Socially conservative UKIP vs socially liberal UKIP
3. Peoples army UKIP vs politically correct UKIP

1. Blue (economically right) vs Red (economically left) UKIP.

The face of UKIP for most of it’s history and certainly under the early leadership of Nigel Farage was “Blue UKIP”. Disillusioned Thatcherites in exile who left the Conservative Party and joined UKIP sometime between the signing of Maastricht and the present. Such “Thatcherites in exile” include

1. Nigel Farage himself, a former Conservative Party activist who claims he is ” The only politician keeping the flame of Thatherism alive” and has written in favour of Ms Thatcher in his new book “The Purple Revolution.”

2. Douglas Carswell- who wrote a book called “The Plan” in 2009 alongside Daniel Hannan calling for the NHS to be replaced by a new system of health provision in which people would pay money into personal health accounts which they would use to buy healthcare when they needed it. This would in effect be the dismantling of the NHS as we know it. Since joining UKIP he has changed his mind and supported a fully-nationalized health service.

However Carswell can still be found preaching the virtues of free trade free markets and removing big business from politics. It’s clear that although he has to appeal to working class voters, he is still a Thatcherite at heart.

3. 90% of their money comes from former Tory donors. 

However in their attempt to appeal to working class voters a faction I name “Red UKIP” has been increasingly prominent in the party. These are not Thatcherites in exile, but in fact people disillusioned with Labour and seeking an alternative. Such individuals/ groups include.

1. Alan Sked- A man of the center left who founded the party in 1993 and left it in 1997 and has subsequently founded a party called “New Deal” which describes itself as “a new left-of-centre anti-EU party which he hopes will challenge Labour”. Alan Sked has been critical of the right wing and extremist direction the party has taken under the leadership of Nigel Farage.

2. Patrick O Flynn- The Party’s communications director and economic spokesperson called for an increased in VAT on luxuries- or a “wag” tax at their Autumn conference last year only for the policy to be rejected by Farage instantly. In the controversial interview he did for the BBC he has called for UKIP to be on the “common sense center” of British politics and condemned some of the people close to Farage for promoting an “American Tea Party agenda” such as “gun liberalization” or “scrapping the NHS”- both ideas espoused by Nigel Farage himself in the past.

3. Large numbers of their voters- 73% of whom think the railways ought to be nationalized and 78% of whom think energy companies ought to be nationalized. This puts UKIP voters somewhat to the left of the Labour Party leadership- never mind their own.

2. Socially conservative UKIP vs socially liberal UKIP

One of UKIPs unique selling points is its hostility to what it describes as “open door immigration”. It is clear no-one in the party is going to support open borders. No-one in the party is going to support fascistic closed borders and mass-repatriation. Within those 2 extremes there are shades of difference. For example Douglas Carswell in his victory speech in the Clacton by-election of 2014 said “We (UKIP) must be a party for all Britain and all Britons, first and second generation as much as every other”. This contrasts Nigels comments on the failure of multiculturalism made shortly after the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris.

Immigration is not the only issue where the party is divided. Nigel Farage has come out in the past in favour of drug legalization- saying the war on drugs has failed. However he has said that he is at odds with most of his party on the subject- though he is reluctant to name names and few have publicly condemned him on the subject.  One senior figure in UKIP who clearly disagrees with him is Suzzane Evans who openly agrees with Peter Hitchens’ claim that there is no war on drugs and that it ought to be fought with more vigour. This division is made more complicated by the promise in the manifesto she played a large part in writing which states

“We will not decriminalize illegal drugs, however we will focus on ensuring drug suppliers, not their victims, face the full force of the law.”

This is a middle of the road position that is going to please neither libertarians who wish to decriminalize drugs, or conservatives like Peter Hitchens, who want to prosecute those who posses drugs with more vigour. This dispute over drugs may be one of the disputes between Farage and Suzanne Evans who despite being a relatively new member of the party is widely expected to be the new leader should Farage resign properly.

Farage has also come out in favour of liberalizing gun laws. This is something condemned by Patrick O Flynn, as stated in the linked BBC interview above, and Diane James, their Home Affairs spokesperson. However in a rare moment of agreement Douglas Carswell has supported repealing the Firearms Act 1997- claiming in the aforementioned “The Plan” that it has done nothing to reduce gun crime. He hasn’t expressed a change of heart on this issue since joining UKIP.

Aside from economics, social policy is a key area of policy UKIP cannot afford to be “all things to all people” on. They must either become more conservative, in attempt to gain support of their conservative critics such as Peter Hitchens. Or they must become more libertarian and risk abandoning their conservative supporters but appeal to the disenfranchised right-wing libertarians who increasingly find themselves without anyone to vote for

3. Peoples army UKIP vs Politically Correct UKIP
This is perhaps the most complicated division to explain. UKIP as it stands exists as an “insurgent” party- a protest vote. They are against the “liblabcon” and despise “Political correctness” However their increased poll ratings and their new-found ability to attract people from the political establishment- people like Mark Reckless and Douglas Carswell, have resulted in a crisis for UKIP. Are they “the peoples army” or are they “Politically correct”

One fallen soldier of the “Peoples army” was Godfrey Bloom. UKIP MEP for 9 years he was ejected from the party after calling countries which might receive foreign aid “Bongo Bongo Land” calling a room full of women “sluts” and hitting Michael Crick over the head with his own party’s manifesto. A full list of his gaffes can be found on his Wikipedia article. Bloom sat the rest of his term as an independent MEP and shortly before leaving the Parliament he gave an interview to Michael Crick comparing Nigel Farage to Stalin in his determination to purge wrongdoers.
Despite Farage’s apparent Stalinist attitude, it would seem fruitcakes keep slipping under his radar. In 2015 alone we have had
1. UKIP MEP for Scotland David Coburn comparing Scottish government minister Humza Yousif with Abu Hamza (no sanctions were applied)
2. UKIP PCC Robert Blay pledging to shoot his Tory opponent Ranil Jayawardena – saying ““His family have only been here since the Seventies. You are not British enough to be in our parliament. “I’ve got 400 years of ancestry where I live. He has not got that.” (suspended immediately)
3. Peter Endean- a council candidate in Plymouth, tweeting pictures of Mediterannian migrants with the caption “Labour’s new floating voters. Coming to a country near you soon”. (No sanctions applied)

The alleged Stalinist Nigel Farage has himself said all sorts of politically incorrect things on Islam, multiculturalism, HIV benefit tourism, the pay gap, gun control, Scottish nationalism, the European Union, Equality legislation and climate change. It is believed his comments during the ITV 7 leaders debate on HIV benefit tourists were a pre-planned dog-whistle to make him stand out from the crowd of politically correct politicians.

This is one of the sources of O’Flynns frustrations- he dislikes the people who advise Nigel, saying they are turning him into a “nasty” man (see interview linked above). O’Flynn clearly wants the party to be more politically correct. This would involve Farage being less “nasty” and “aggressive” and more focused and the party’s main job of convincing the majority of the UK electorate to leave the European Union. O’Flynn is not alone. Douglas Carswell, in a speech aimed at changing attitudes within UKIP said “What was once dismissed as “political correctness gone mad”, we recognize as good manners”. No doubt several other MEPs and hundreds of candidates agree with Carswell and O’Flynns point of view; if they want to be re-elected in 2019 to the European Parliament, or if they are to be taken seriously in future elections, they will not want to be burdened with news stories of controversy from others in their party.

However this is difficult. For many UKIP is the last refuge for controversialists. It is a populist party that has been appealing to all people at the same time, which leads to policy division as seen above. But what is too controversial for UKIP? Some lines are already set in place- you have to agree to its constitution and you have to state you’ve never been a member of a far-right group (BNP, EDL, Britain First, Liberty GB etc). But this still leaves a wide-net, which can let in several bad fish, as detailed above. And if UKIP purged everyone who said anything controversial then I doubt even Douglas Carswell would be attending this Autumns conference.So the fight in UKIP is mainly where to draw the line- what is acceptable and what is not acceptable.

To conclude this rather lengthy article- UKIP now suffers the same problem the Liberal Democrats have historically suffered. They are a party with no clear values who try to appeal to all people. What has united them is a popular figurehead (Nigel Farage) and the collapse of the Liberal Democrats. There is now no reason they need to be a united party- and so differences that were brushed under the carpet will now have to be openly addressed if they are to survive until 2020.

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The Bedroom Tax Explained

In April 2013 the Conservatives introduced a change in the housing benefit rules for local social housing residents called the under-occupancy penalty. Critics like Labour dubbed it the bedroom tax. Since it has been introduced, families who are regarded to have too much living space by their local authority have received a reduced payment. Families are assessed to as how many bedrooms they actually need. The new rules allow one bedroom for each adult or couple. Children under the age of 16 are expected to share, if they are the same gender, and those under 10 are expected to share whatever their gender

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Why I am Voting UKIP

This article is one of a series about why Lower 6th students are voting for a particular party in this Thursdays Mock elections. Please find the “Parties” section of the website for other articles in the series.

It’s not popular to be a young person voting for UKIP. According to polls they barely pick up 3% of the people of my age-group, and my age group are far more likely to be in favor of membership of the EU. A lot of them will be affiliated with the National Union of Students, an organization that has spent more time condemning UKIP than ISIS, partly inspired in this by the toxic ideology of “political correctness”.

Well I guess I must be the one who looks at the emperor’s new clothes critically (a beautiful metaphor before Russell Brand used it). The new clothes do not deal with many of the problems the main political parties won’t talk about- because they aren’t listening. That the size of the state and its debt is unsustainably large and cannot be continued- and we’ll be the ones paying the bill. That punitive taxes and EU regulations are killing the economy far quicker than any “austerity” the Tories may be implementing. And more importantly- who you vote for this election doesn’t matter nearly as much as the main three parties pretend it does, because the EU is making far too many of our big decisions. One may claim that last year’s European Parliament elections were important, but the chamber you see Nigel Farage yell in so much is merely a rubber-stamping organization for the wishes of the Commission. Since UKIP will never be taken seriously in an organization that puts EU integration before common sense, I do not blame UKIP MEPs for abandoning that rotten chamber, and refusing to vote for any resolution that will increase the power of the EU. They have far more important things to do with their time.

UKIP, to me, isn’t really about left or right- it’s about change. A move away from big government but in a way that helps the most vulnerable in society- not the richest. A reassertion of National Sovereignty and the right of the people to be ruled only by elected representatives- something that used to appeal to all from Enoch Powell to Tony Benn. An appeal for global trade, not just trade with a narrow group of nations with a similar cultures to ours.

Is UKIP perfect? Of course not. Do I agree with all the policies they want to implement? Not really. But if I do not use my vote, I’m simply letting someone else speak up for the establishment on my behalf, and so I do not feel I have the luxury of being an ideological purist in this life-changing election of all elections. So I know it won’t make me many friends. And I’ll get called a lot of names for it. But I’m voting for UKIP in these mock elections, and in all future elections I can after that.

The Chief Press Officer of Woodhouse Mock Election UKIP branch.

Liberal democrat

Why I am Voting for the Liberal Democrats

This article is one of a series about why Lower 6th students are voting for a particular party in this Thursdays Mock elections. Please find the “Parties” section of the website for other articles in the series.

British Liberalism is rather in trouble. A force that gave us prosperity, social democracy and human rights are under systematic attacks from both left and right. It was Tony Blair who introduced the ID Cards Act and the Prevention of Terrorism Act (amongst others) which undermined our civil liberties given to us since Magna Carta. The Tories want to repeal the Human Rights Act, leave the European Convention of Human rights and scapegoat immigrants for everything, taking us back to the 1930’s on every which way possible it would seem. UKIP are stirring up fears about immigrants and homosexuals, as can be displayed by their leader’s comments on the debate recently. The supposedly libertarian Greens say “there are difficulties with the liberal approach… it has failed”.

No Liberal Democrats are not perfect. Yes ISIS and Putin both pose legitimate threats to world Security, and yes, and there are those within our borders who wish to do us harm. But it is liberalism that they hate and our liberal values we must never abandon to appease them.

 

It is far more productive to emphasis our achievements within the coalition rather than decry our failures. The Liberal Democrats achieved a lot while in government- we legislated the EU powers act which means no longer will democratic farces like the Lisbon Treaty happen. We got the best deal for students we could against a party that wanted to put tuition fees even higher and cut student living allowances (something the Liberal Democrats increased). While the Tories cut taxes for millionaires, we also increased the tax free allowance to £10,000, reducing the tax bill for millions of working class families.

 

It is clear that neither Conservative or Labour will win this election. So who do you want with access to ministerial keys propping them up? Farage the xenophobe who will drive the Tories to the right? Bennet the lunatic who will drag Labour into even more borrowing? Salmond the seperetatist who will drag this union apart? Or the Liberal Democrats, whom, like it or not, have proved they can do it, and will put country before party, ensuring that we get a moderate government for the full five years that can ensure good quality government. With your help- we can be the 3rd largest party in British politics- to ensure a balanced budget and a fair society.

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Why I am voting for the Green Party

This article is one of a series about why Lower 6th students are voting for a particular party in this Thursdays Mock elections. Please find the “Parties” section of the website for other articles in the series.

I’ve always been on the left wing libertarian side of the political spectrum, but that gives you a decision – Labour or Green? For me, the overwhelming reason that lead to my eventual membership of the Green Party in January 2015, was a question a friend who was already a Green Party member asked me – ‘How many planets do we have?’. And this got me thinking, because we do only have one planet, and even quick research on climate change can bring up indisputable and terrifying facts, which none of the mainstream parties seem to care about. Before the 2010 election, Cameron promised to be environmentally conscious, but since his appointment at Prime Minister, not one of his speeches has mentioned the environment. Arguably, Blair’s attitude was equally as PR motivated as Cameron’s, with promises that haven’t been fulfilled. My generation hasn’t been the people to affect the environment like it has been, but we are the generation who will have to live with the effects of climate change, and the Green Party seem to be the only party in Westminster who care.

But my support of the Greens, despite originally being due to their environmental policies, has expanded into other regions. The Green Party is anti-privatization, against university tuition fees, believes in a living wage rather than a minimum wage and wants to create jobs for the millions unemployed in Britain, among others. In short, the Green Party are investing in Generation Y’s future, instead of searching for the grey vote like the Tories and Labour. I believe strongly that to invest in the youth is to invest in the future, but there’s not really much point investing in a future if we don’t have a planet to live it out on. Luckily, people seem to be coming to this conclusion with me. The Green surge, of January 2015, where 13000 members signed up in a week, shows this. If people voted Green, I’m certain that our country would be in a better place.

By Lola May- Green Party Candidate for the Woodhouse Mock Elections

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Why I am voting for the Conservative Party

This article is one of a series about why Lower 6th students are voting for a particular party in this Thursdays Mock elections. Please find the “Parties” section of the website for other articles in the series.

When the Conservative Party took power in 2010, Britain had the highest deficit in Europe. It was expected that Britain would be worst hit by the financial crisis because, after all, our key export is financial services. After 5 years of competent planning on the part of Cameron and Osborne, we’re now the fastest growing economy in the G8, we’ve created more jobs than every other Eurozone country combined, and the deficit has been cut by 1/3. Inflation, running rampant under Brown, is now down to 0% and this means the “Cost of living” may very well fall for millions of working class families Labour claim to care about.

A lot of what we’re criticized for is simple fairness. Raising the tuition fees to £9,000 a year has allowed standards for universities to increase. For people who do not wish to go to university- we have created alternative careers such as the significant expansion of apprenticeships The misnamed “Bedroom Tax” was merely applying the same rules to public housing assistance to those already applied in the public sector under New Labour. Cutting welfare fairly has also encouraged more people to get a job- removing them from the squalor and poverty that arises from dependence on the government.

Let us be optimistic. Things do get better. The current government has worked very well, and it is all very well voting for more middle class parties such as the Greens, UKIP or the Liberal Democrats. But only two people can be Prime Minister come May 7th- David Cameron or Ed Miliband. I sincerely hope it is the former.

By Anonymous

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Why I am Voting for the Labour Party

This article is one of a series about why Lower 6th students are voting for a particular party in this Thursdays Mock elections. Please find the “Parties” section of the website for other articles in the series.

A lot of people are disillusioned with Politics because there is a perception that the two parties are exactly the same. Perhaps this was true before 2010, but since Ed Miliband has been elected leader he has taken Labour significantly to the left away from the failures of New Labour. Likewise, Cameron has taken it to the right under the influence of UKIP, and consequently there are now clear differences between the two parties.

For example, how our parties will balance the budget and deal with our skyrocketing debt is different, and significant for the future of the country. The Tories have done so by making cuts which hit the poorest in society, and they fail on their own terms by hardly making a dent in the welfare budget. The bedroom tax is the best example of this. When accounting for the emergencies and bureaucracy enforcing it costs, the sanction barely saves any money at all. The cuts to frontline services have reduced economic growth, and the lax labour market regulations have resulted in several low-paid jobs, chiefly 0 hour contracts with more in-work benefits needing to be claimed, and less money going to the Treasury in Income Tax. This coalition, formed to remove the deficit entirely, has barely cut it below £100 billion.

Labour are going to go about it a different way. Labour would raise the tax rate to 50p on the wealthiest, so that the rich are paying for the crisis they caused, not the poor. Additionally they will remove non-domicile status, so if you live in this country, you pay tax in this country. The Labour Party will ban most 0 hour contracts and will raise the minimum wage to £8 an hour, and this will result in a decrease in the welfare budget as more people get decent paying jobs. This will also increase the tax bill to the Treasury and check the rampant inequality growing under the present government. Strict Labour market regulations and high taxes on the rich paid back large amounts of British debt between 1945 and 1979 at paying off debts, why would it not work now? It’s better than Cameron’s austerity which clearly is not working.
A lot of personal attacks have been made on Miliband, and yes, he isn’t the most photogenic leader in the world. But is that really what we judge politics on? He’s more than capable of leadership; he’s shown that by standing up to David Cameron and Barack Obama over foreign policy, Rupert Murdoch over illegal phone tapping and wealthy hedge fund managers who fund the Tories so they can dodge taxes.

Unlike smaller left wing parties such as the Greens, Labours policies are actually practical, achievable and good for the economy. Ideological politics nearly destroyed this country in the 1980’s, when Thatcher pursued Monetarism against all the evidence it did not work, and I doubt a left-wing ideologue such as George Galloway or Natalie Bennett would fare much better. Ed Miliband is a problem solver, not an ideologue, and that’s why I hope he becomes Prime Minister.