So, happy Valentine’s day everyone! If you are lacking a significant other, then fear not, because I’m here to save you from boredom by climbing up on my soapbox and telling you exactly how it is. Enjoy!
The Most Telling Vote
First up, just a couple of points of clarification about my earlier Brexit vote article. Of course, I realise the fact that confirming the rights of EU residents in the UK would put Britain at a disadvantage at the negotiating table when other countries have not yet agreed the right to stay of our residents. However, simple human decency dictates that the individuals’ livelihoods at stake should surely be the government’s priority, doesn’t it? And anyway, if the Leave campaign is to be believed, we will be so much better outside the EU that the terms of the Brexit deal shouldn’t really matter!
Also, of course one has to respect Chloe Smith for interrupting her Maternity leave to participate in such a crucial period of voting. However, that makes no difference to my disappointment with her decision.
Refugee Crisis Scandal
The Refugee scandal has angered many in Westminster this week. Theresa May and Amber Rudd have managed to go back on David Cameron’s promise to allow more than 3,000 refugee children, on their own and in grave danger. Whatever your political views, this can’t be right and the government have to reinstate the promise now. Luckily I, like May and Rudd, cannot comprehend the dire situation these children are in, but it takes only a tiny bit of common sense and decency to know they should be welcomed to safety. Every European country has to back up their promises and do their bit for the good of the world. Plus, in the context of migration both into and out of the UK, their number would be a mere drop in the ocean.
It is good that, despite the low-key (thankfully no more thanks to the media) rejection of the ‘Dubs Amendment’ to allow unaccompanied children in, some refugees have entered in other ways. However, I urge you to see past the government spin and look for yourself. While there are still refugees, and unaccompanied refugee children, Britain’s job is not done and the refugee crisis is not solved. Every bit helps, so the government would do well (also for its own position considering the popular recent petition on the subject) to reinstate the amendment as soon as is possible, undoubtedly with bigger fanfare than when it was removed.
I remember going to see John Bercow a couple of years ago when he visited UEA as part of a public lecture series. The Lecture Theatre was packed with people, and Bercow’s affability won the room over. However, he’s now facing attack from MPs who want him out over recent comments on Donald Trump and the EU referendum.
The fact that one of the incidents occurred at Reading, another non-Russell Group university, is characteristic of the reforming speaker who doesn’t deny his own privilege but is striving to improve politics. He’s also a good figurehead for Parliament. Which other speaker can you imagine having a Tab article written about him? This is seen in his comments on Donald Trump, he is saying what a lot of ordinary people are thinking. Admitting he voted Remain? Well, everyone knows Bercow is a member of the Conservative Party, and disclosure of the domestic political allegiances of speakers is obviously the norm. So, how is knowing how the speaker voted in a plebiscite any more likely to produce bias than knowing he is a card-carrying member of the Commons’ largest party? He’s been funny but fair so far, and long may that continue. Even though he is a Conservative, I fully support John Bercow.
Trouble in the Commons
It’s not been a good couple of weeks for Diane Abbott. After being ill during the first Brexit vote, there was controversy in the Commons after an altercation between her and David Davis after the final Brexit vote, in which she supported Davis’ government’s stance and the Labour Party line.
What happened isn’t, of course, totally clear, but I think it was necessary that Davis has been condemned by his fellow MPs. However, some context is needed. His comment was a stupid thing for an elected member of office to say, and (in whatever way he did so) it was misjudged to bait a Parliamentary colleague at work after a tense and difficult vote. Having said that, the text messages were intended to be private, and we might never know exactly what he said or did to Abbott. The incident does, however, provide us all with a sobering reminder to think about what we put into text in any form. It is good that he has apologised because the sooner this is dealt with and forgotten, the better: then the Leave-supporting Brexit Minister can crack on with the job of delivering exactly what his side promised us in the referendum.
I think the best thing we can do to repel Donald Trump is to turn our backs on him. Who cares about his visit to the UK? National diplomacy is crucial to any leader’s premiership, but of course it is hard to ignore the strength of feeling against him coming. So, here’s what I propose: allow him to come if he wants, but demand that he must provide, or at the very least, foot the bill, for all of his security provision. This will test whether he really wants to come, and will appease some of those who want to see him barred entry as we will not be extending a state-funded or endorsed welcome per se. Protests, and displays of support, should not be discouraged: but it should be Trump who pays the price of his controversial visit, not the British taxpayer. As the British people, we really don’t need Donald Trump. Donald Trump is the one who needs us.
UEA Goes Green
This week marks the annual Go Green Week at UEA. After Brexit, and the potential loss of climate change limiting regulation, was all but rubber-stamped in Parliament and climate change denier Trump was elected, this year has so far potentially seen disastrous foundations laid for our future as a species. So, it is heartening to see such a positive event come to fruition, with a variety of fun activities and schemes aimed at improving the environment at university. These included a Vegan and Vegetarian market (Monday), a consultation with students, and will also include a film screening, a visit to a local wind turbine and tours of the greener side of campus later in the week.
The hard work of those in the Students’ Union in making this happen like Environmental Officer Veronica White, Campaigns and Democracy Officer Amy Rust and Env Soc must not be overlooked. I sincerely hope that whoever takes over the baton next year will continue with a similar programme. It’s needed now more than ever.
With an ‘Open Day’ stall in the Hive, social media publicity (including the hashtag #freezethefees) and a petition, the union called on UEA to think about the government’s green light to raise tuition fees in future academic years as part of the dreaded TEF. I was glad to add my name to the list calling on UEA to fix education tariffs at the current £9,000 a year level, in the face of fees potentially rising in upcoming years.
I will shortly be writing a longer article about the vitally important Leadership Review and most recent Union Council meeting in which it was ratified. Keep your eyes peeled! The next council is a week on Thursday.
Votes at 16
No political round-up should be complete without a reminder about Votes at 16. This week I planned a future blog post on the issue and looked into what I can do besides writing to help the cause. I’m still over the moon our support is now part of the UEA Students’ Union constitution and the union must keep working towards the final goal.