Politicians are inherently concerned with power, both acquiring it and maintaining it. The motivations behind this concern can be a genuine desire to improve their communities, or tax-payer funded massage of their messiah complex. Unfortunately we have been reminded of this fact by the Brexit debate, which I may soon stop calling a debate. A debate is a process by which the participants exchange ideas, however this discussion has been a Tory civil war played out in public with the rhetoric around the EU used to further people’s political ambitions. In recent days this has become intolerable for even a political junkie like me.
At the end of 2015 the Spanish people went to the polls and the result was inconclusive. The centre-right Popular’s Party won the most seats but there were no parties that were willing to join them in a coalition government. PSOE, Spain’s centre-left party finished second and also couldn’t form a government. After weeks of intransigence a second general election was called and will be held on 26th June. The campaign has recently restarted but already there are lessons that can be learned for parties overseas.
Italy is to take a step towards LGBT equality as it was announced that legislation legalising civil unions for same-sex couples is expected to be passed in the Chamber of Deputies. Considering the historical influence of the Catholic Church in Italian politics we have to commend the success of LGBT activists in getting this measure into the Italian political discourse, however we shouldn’t kid ourselves that this is anything other than piecemeal reform. Whilst we commend the struggle of our comrades in Italy, there are some parts of this law that show that equality is still a long way off.
In the 2015 Conservative Party general election manifesto, the party made vague references to increasing British exports. To quote from the manifesto directly: “we will do more, using the new embassies and diplomatic posts we have opened to connect Britain to the fastest growing economies in the world…as a part of our drive to attract more investment into the UK and increase British exports”. Obviously this is not an especially controversial statement as all political parties seeking power want to increase British exports as this would create jobs domestically. However, a key way to see if the Tories are meeting this target is if they are in the process of reducing the British trade deficit, and it is clear that they are failing to do so.
The English council elections were good for Labour, and also quite bad. The Tories had a did well, and also didn’t. Minor parties had good results, and they were also a poor outcome. Why so many contradictions? English local elections give the media something to talk about and give political parties a chance to say how well they are doing with ordinary people outside Westminster, irrespective of the actual results. However there are also some massive caveats that need to be pointed out, rather than just the results themselves.
One of the things that right-wing politicians and commentators talk about is the need to increase growth in the economy and the wastefulness of government bureaucracies. However there has always been one sacred cow: the military budget. Republicans always emphasise how, irrespective of their tax policies or which cuts they would make, they want to increase the military budget. This isn’t a unique problem to nowadays, it was an idea that came from Ronald Reagan, the patron saint of inane policy, but this has led to self-styled ‘deficit hawks’ refusing to consider cutting the military. It’s time the military budget was cut and where I would start is nuclear weapons.
The Northern Ireland Assembly held elections on Thursday and the final results have been announced. Unlike other pieces I have written about the elections in other parts of the UK, I want to focus on themes that emerged rather than breaking down the election along party lines. The headline is that that the DUP remains the largest party and Sinn Féin finished second. This will probably result in a similar political settlement as before the election, which may well lead to the same stalemate, but the specific results show that there is a growing hostility towards the traditional parties.