Who really won? My view on the Leaders’ Debates

I know I am not the only one that knows who outrightly won yesterday’s 7-way leaders’ debate.

Nicola Sturgeon was, in my opinion, phenomenal in the face of 4 outspoken men (3 of which will have had significant practice in this sort of area). The debate has really just left me sad that Sturgeon is confined to Scotland. If she was head of Labour, they would win the contested General Election, no doubts about it.

The debates discussed 4 of the most ‘important’ issues that circulate the election May: the NHS, the economy, immigration and young people – all fair enough areas in their own right. In each, I feel it is fair to say that Sturgeon came out on top. I appreciate I am vehemently left wing, but to me she just seemed to be talking sense.

People recoil from the SNP because of the fact it is Scotland – with the image of a British parliament controlled by those without the entire nation’s best interests at heart, and as my dad pointed out to me as we watched last night, this is fair enough; why should Scottish (and Welsh, is Wood gets her devolved Welsh parliament) has influence in purely English politics, when the English do not have a say in theirs. My answer is that if the SNP are going to stick by their more socialist policies, which would appear to benefits the wider majority of the population, rather than the cocktail of centre-centre right dogmas presented by the 3 main parties at the heart of Westminster, then I would be happy for them to run our country.

I think it was obvious that Miliband was desperate to show that he was not itching to collaborate with the SNP in a coalition in the case of a hung parliament after May 7th, but to me this seems like the best option – a left-wing moderating force assuring Ed keeps to his policies, perhaps shifting Labour back to the side where it has traditionally drawn support.

That being said, Natalie Bennett presented what I felt were sensible policies and recommendations which indeed offered an alternative to the 3 main parties. I think the pressure was unfairly on the Greens, to justify their surge in support and do aforementioned supporters proud. A lot of people on my Facebook feed took it upon themselves to “sum up” the leaders’ debate for those who may or may not have been watching, and lumped as per usual ‘climate change’ on the Greens. I think this was grossly unfair. I missed the first quarter, but watched the rest and as I recall, Bennett mentioned climate change maybe twice. Climate change is an incredibly important issue, far more important than immigration given that climate change would only exacerbate it for the worse, yet of course, it cannot be discussed by the leaders who should be promising they will tackle it.

That aside, and now moving on to discuss the NHS, my dad raised a couple of issues with me: my dad seems to be convinced that all of our doctors and medical staff are leaving the country, leaving me smiling in disbelief. My mum, a long-standing civil servant at the heart of the NHS in the South-West agreed with me that this simply wasn’t true. I asked my dad to show the statistics that all of our doctors were going abroad, leaving us with many foreigners in the NHS (which I’m not sure is a problem, given that he always harps on that those who get jobs should be the most qualified – i.e. it’s a non-issue whether a British job goes to a British person). He feebly searched around on the internet and gave me the number of 5000, to which my mum and I laughed. To me, this highlighted how little the public are actually informed. Farage and others commented on how much money immigrants (with HIV) were taking out of the NHS amongst other things, and the number £100million was chucked around, but as my mum pointed out this is just a ‘drop in the ocean’ to the NHS budget. The problem here is that people just do not know, the NHS and the government are not transparent. £100million sounds like an awfully big number, but in the grand scheme of things it isn’t and this is where we need to see change.

In my living room last night points were raised about this lack of public awareness, but how can we expect the public to get a good understanding of British domestic politics when so much of today’s most widely read media is owned by infamous Rupert Murdoch?

Sturgeon urged the electorate to vote for a Green or a progressive Labour candidate, which just fields the question as to why there isn’t a left-leaning English devolutionist party. Many English people want English Votes for English Laws, yet this is not presented to them. My dad’s point is valid – why should the Scots get to determine the outcome of the election based on whether Labour enters a coalition with them? To me, this suggests we need a devolutionist left wing party that can united with the left-leaning Wood and Sturgeon is Wales and Scotland on issues which are truly national, but leave more regional issues to the individual countries themselves. The main problem here is Nick Clegg’s apparent fear of a rainbow coalition of parties – a sort of “too many cooks spoil the broth” approach, but I just think of the times when it was the Whigs and the Tories – prior to the establishment of the Labour party as a significant political force in the 1920s and 30s, a multi-party Westminster was unthinkable.

In recent times, the electorate has become disillusioned with the status quo in Westminster, and have lost hope that that is the only option, and with the existence of First Past the Post and Safe Seats this is a fair analysis. For that reason, it seems to me the best hope the public have of a progressive government that works for them is a new approach to government, that is can be a coalition of many different voices working together to achieve outcomes that work for them, and not for businesses or the parties themselves. My dad, ever insightful, suggested that the problem with the main parties is that they work in government to benefit the parties themselves, rather than the people who elected them, and this is the fatal flaw in British democracy today: until we have a government that works for the greater good then politics will continue to decline leaving the public disillusioned, frustrated and powerless, a situation I desperately hope we never have to face.

Migration Myths and the EU

There has been a lot of hate thrown towards the EU this past week in the news and to be fair, it’s no surprise. I don’t expect any regular citizen was expecting an additional £1.7 billion contribution charge towards the EU and it could not have come at a worse time. It was reported this year that support for EU was at its highest level since 1991 according to IpsosMori, especially interesting considering UKIP’s success in Clacton-on-Sea.

It could be explained that in reaction to UKIP’s success at the European Parliament elections, people in response to the 1-policy party have either researched and learnt about the benefits of the EU or supported it in pure defiance. Either way this bill can only surely be negative, and that is what has been seen within the press.

According to various news sites, David Cameron delivered his most ‘embittered‘ attack on the EU yet, refusing to pay Brussels, a direct contradiction to his previous stance which was firmly pro-EU. Be it a reaction to this bill (which partly confirms UKIP’s mantra that Brussels has too much power) or simply a chance to try and regain Tory defectors, Cameron’s apparent switch to an anti-EU sentiment is dangerous. As this Mail article notes by ex-politician Ken Clarke, Cameron is wasting his time pandering to Tories who are only fuelling the public hysteria surrounding immigration by defecting to UKIP. An article in The Economist this week highlights just how bad this hysteria is becoming: ‘the average voter thinks foreign-born immigrants constitute 31% of the population well over twice the correct proportion.’ To me, this only confirms my disdain for headline grabbing papers such as the mail which bombard readers with anti-immigration articles (a search on the Mail’s homepage using CTRL+F revealed 2 articles concerning immigration – a surprising little amount).

Alongside this bill comes to EU tag-along of immigration. Having recently renewed my subscription to The Economist (thanks to a nifty student offer), I read an article entitled Immigration and Politics: The Melting Pot which considers UKIP and the importance of the EU and immigration to the party’s voters. It was interesting, yet unsurprising to me how those who are the most xenophobic are those who have had the least amount of contact with foreigners – the article cites how Londoners are among the most tolerant of immigrants, whereas interestingly, those in places such as Clacton-on-Sea are the least, where uncoincidentally, there are considerably less amounts of immigrants. To me this is where UKIP’s danger stems from, by targeting areas (especially coastal areas where social deprivation works only to exacerbate xenophobia) where there is higher xenophobic sentiment, UKIP can gain a strong foothold in UK politics (stronger than what exists today). What I find disturbing upon reading this article is the fact that these anti-foreigner voters feel immigration is one of the biggest problems faced by the UK within the EU – not EU loophole legislation that lets companies avoid tax and vice versa. This sentiment is reinforced and compounded upon by right-wing tabloids such as the Daily Mail.

I find the notion that Britain is bound by “law” to pay this bill, when no international law is actually binding. This is something we have been covering at university – what is international law and is it important? Personally, I am unsure of what I think of the EU bill. It does seem unfair to force Britain to pay more into a system that is clearly broken, just because we are doing well. However, upon reflection now I have actually put my initial thoughts into writing, I see that Britain is a key part of the EU and was a key player in the creation of its laws. When Britain joined the EU in 1973, it agreed to abide by the bounding treaties, and so it is fair enough that they should have to follow the rules they agreed to, and if it were the other way round (say France had to pay this much) would definitely not be saying now to enforcing it.

For once I may agree with Cameron, as well as Juncker. Reforms are the answer to the EU, an EU from which the UK benefits greatly both economically and socially (made all the more obvious now I am living in London). As Hobbes would note, humans group together for safety from rival powers, and to me, I do not see why the same cannot apply to states within the EU. To me, Britain’s main source of power and influence in a global scale comes from its importance and power within the EU, the world’s largest economy, and without this (as many businesses have confirmed) Britain would surely be on a rapid descent into economic turmoil, let alone a descent into complete insignificance on the global political stage.