Weekly Parliament Roundup: 20th -27th November
Cameron to take on Brussels:
A Liberal Democrat cabinet minister shared concerns that David Cameron is prepared to take on Brussels by imposing tougher conditions on European migrants. The minister claimed and stressed upon the fact that any rules on migrants’ eligibility to welfare payments should be discussed with all members of the European Union. David Cameron wants to extend the time that migrants stay in the UK before they are eligible to receive welfare payments. He believes that this would be the best way to ensure that the migrants don’t take advantage of the welfare system which is put in place to help genuine citizens in need. However, he will need an agreement and permission from the EU to do this but it is not obvious on how the conditions will be imposed.
In this week’s Prime Minister’s Questions there was an ongoing battle between Cameron and Miliband in regards to payday lenders and the cost of living crisis, including the proposed 20 month energy price freeze by Labour. When Ed Miliband attempted to attack Mr Cameron on the current payday lenders issue, the Prime Minister attacked back harder by stating that there are ‘dreadful practices’ which take place within the payday lenders industries and for 30 years, Labour has done nothing about it. The fact that the Conservatives are taking action on the payday lenders issue might highlight Labour’s inability to take action on their plans. More importantly, Mr Cameron pointed out that Mr Miliband has never asked a question in regards to payday lenders during for three years and it is only when it becomes an arising issue that Miliband feels the need to take an opportunity to begin questioning Mr Cameron’s intentions on the issue.
More Bobbies on the Beat:
There is to be a report on the future of policing in England and Wales which will recommend that there should be more guaranteed Bobbies on the beat in neighbourhoods. Labour asked Lord Stephens to carry out the enquiry and it will call for more neighbouring policing. Miliband stated that the report’s outcomes will be important for ‘helping communities and tackling crime’. In addition to this, it will also restrict the use of private company policing.
On Tuesday 26th , Scotland unveiled its blueprint for an Independent Nation. In the document, it states that an Independent Scotland would keep the British pound, have the Queen as a monarch, stay in in the EU and have access to the BBC. In addition, an independent Scotland would have its own defence force and even collect its own taxes. On top of all this, there are various other changes which Scotland also wishes for but the big question is, would an independent Scotland truly be independent? The very fact that they want to keep the British pound and the Queen as a monarch might slightly imply that Scotland doesn’t want to fully let go of the tight bond and benefits it has gained from being united with England. However, the document might be the first step for Scotland to achieve the freedom that they evidently wish for.
Labour tied to the Co-op Bank:
Despite the recent scandals that have been tied to the Co-operative bank, Labour can’t seem to get out of the trap of defending them when attacked about the issue by the Conservatives. The bank is one of the main major funders of the Labour party and it has been recently claimed that the party are heavily dependent on the bank for funding. Labour can’t actually deny support of this bank since their other major funders are trade unions and as they have recently been questioning trade union bosses, they can’t make the wrong move as they might lose both major funding sources. As a result of the issue, the Conservatives have found the perfect opportunity to keep questioning the Labour party about the Co-op bank as this will eventually make them weaker and weaker. The Conservatives don’t really know what they’re after with this but as long as Miliband gets a taste of his own interrogation medicine, Cameron will be just fine.
UKIP, the UK Independence Party is a right-wing political party that was established in 1993. Their views are often seen as being more radical than the other political parties, like their immigration policies and proposed EU referendum.
There is constant controversy surrounding UKIP due to its proposal of radical changes to immigration, such as implementing a five year freeze on immigration for permanent settlement and disallowing immigrants to apply for public housing and benefits until they have paid tax for five years. Some argue they are racist, as they are exploiting immigrants’ rights. UKIP deny that, claiming they are not against race but against an ‘open-door’ policy.
Nigel Farage stated that in the past 10 years, there has been more migration into Britain than between 1066 and 1950. Anna Soubry, the defence minister, said that Nigel Farage was ‘scaremongering’ and putting ‘fear in people’s hearts’ with his anti-immigration rhetoric and ‘prejudice’. Farage hit back at Soubry’s remarks by calling them ‘abusive’ and it showed how the Conservatives were ‘terrified’ about the rise of UKIP. Its policy to end ‘mass uncontrolled immigration’ certainly seems like a popular policy at the time of recession, it seems inevitable that UKIP’s electoral power will begin to grow.
UKIP are most known for their belief in withdrawing from the EU, this view is not held by any other mainstream political party, who have all adopted a more centrist position towards the EU. Farage wants an ‘amicable divorce’ from the European Union, and Britain will only maintain trading links with its neighbouring countries and end its membership. The policy seems to have wide support amongst British voters and crucially amongst leading Conservative MP’s and members.
So, how many votes have UKIP secured? At local elections, they have made steady and significant ground with 227 UKIP councillors. However this is more symbolic, the Conservatives have 8,550 and Labour have 8,151 councillors respectively. But it is at the EU Parliamentary elections that they have made the most significant progress, with 11 out of 73 UK seats, and not far behind with 13 seats are Labour and with 12 seats are the Liberal Democrats. The Conservatives still have the largest share. UKIP can be seen in many ways as a pressure group, attempting to use elections to pressure political parties and in particular the Conservatives into a more anti-Eu position.
However, UKIP have not actually won any seats in the Houses of Commons, yet. With the existing electoral system: first past the post, it looks improbable that they will, as they would have to damage a large majority largely from Conservative constituencies. Moreover, they would need a large concentration of voters in a particular constituency in order to win at least one seat. Although they have 30,000 members, many view the party to have incorporated racists and fascists. Former UKIP member Chris Pain was found to have posted alleged racist comments on Facebook and was expelled from the party in September. In the same month of Pain’s expulsion, UKIP leader Nigel Farage defended claims about his schooldays after Channel 4 claimed to have a letter from his teachers from 1981, describing him as a ‘fascist’ and a ‘bully’. In August, MEP Godfrey Bloom was filmed on camera saying British aid shouldn’t be sent to ‘Bongo, Bongo Land’, referring to third-world countries, however later regretted his remarks. All these examples may show that members of UKIP have closet racist views.
In the next general election, Nigel Farage claims that by 2015, UKIP membership will be the third highest in the country. He also says: UKIP is still ‘on course’ to be a significant political force in the 2015 general election despite a shambolic conference, overshadowed by Godfrey Bloom’s comments about women.
UKIP will continue to attract support due to the present economic climate, public opposition towards immigration and anti-EU sentiments. With their sights on next years EU parliament elections and the 2015 general election UKIP may still ‘cause an earthquake in British politics’.
Although under Blair there seemed to be some movement towards a closer relationship with Europe, taking Britain into the Social Chapter, taking a lead in the proposed constitution and engaging in discussions with the Europeans, there were still ‘red lines’ drawn by Brown regarding tax and other policies. Brown established the 5 criteria that had to be met for the UK to join the euro and even when that criteria was met there were no plans to join, neither parties have any intentions to join the euro. Blair preferred his relationship with the US and this often side-lined him in Europe making him the ‘awkward partner’. The Iraq war 2003 with the US despite strong European opposition showed where UK loyalties lay. Although Blair supported enlargement and the ‘widening’ of the EU. Cameron and the conservatives have supported the idea of a ‘two speed Europe’ something Labour and the Lib Dems dislike.
Historically, the Conservatives were pro-EU taking us in, in 1973 and Labour was anti-EU under Foot seeing it as a ‘Capitalist club’. Since then, the tables have turned as the EU helped topple Thatcher and Major and unify Labour.
However the differences between the party have typically been seen through rhetoric as opposed to action. The Conservatives have typically spoken tough on Europe to feed British euro-scepticism, but this has done little more than create problems and divisions for the party internally. Labour has been more inclined towards the EU after Blair announcing he wanted Britain at the ‘heart of Europe’. The most pro-EU party typically however is the Lib-Dems. Ultimately, the Conservatives were in government when the single market was established and Major passed Maastricht in 1992 although he did add in the subsidiarity clause. Labour spoke about the possibility of joining the euro but never did anything so both parties seem to be in some sort of political limbo.
Today Programme: Friday 14th September
An excellent report on the proposed merger between the British BAE Systems and EADS, a French and German company. This merger illustrates the tensions surrounding a strategically important company and Britain’s relationship with Europe and the US.
Vince Cable on the “massive” impact of Eurozone break up – The World This Weekend, BBC Radio 4
The biggest news story of the weekend was the resurgence of left-wing politics in Europe.
Okay, this is a slight over-exaggeration. I’m a bit too excited – I haven’t blogged in a while.
But François Hollande’s victory in the first round of the presidential election in France is a huge boost to the waning left-wing politicians who are coming to be termed as the “Old guard” of Europe. Right-wing policies on economics and immigration seem to be at the tip of a far deeper ideological battle taking place across the continent. But that’s the subject for a (very long, detailed, jargon-filled) feature another day.
Lost, under mounting pressure and insignificant compared to his continental neighbours.
Radio interview with Bernard Jenkin of the Conservatives on Radio 4 Today. Positive British attitudes towards Europe are at an all time low wi Tories attempting to place the EU on the government agenda. The rhetoric on both sides of the channel over the past few months has been undiplomatic to say the least. However despite this, the government does not want to separate Britain from the EU. What Cameron has done is to pass a ‘Sovereignty Act’ that specifies a referendum for all future powers that ‘increases the functions (and powers) of the European Union’ over Britain.