Article Title:Breaking Britain?
Category:Comment
Author or Credit:Craig Young
Published on:12th July 2016 - 01:20 pm
Published by:GayNZ.com
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Story ID:18523
Text:How things can change in a mere fortnight. The Brexit referendum will force radical change on Great Britain. Indeed, will there even be a United Kingdom at the end of the Brexit process? As many commentators predicted, Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron fell on his sword shortly after the result was announced. There will probably be a new Conservative Party leader before the forthcoming Conservative conference in October 2016. The question is, who will be the new Tory leader? Until recently, there were three core candidates. Befor he withdrew, the leader was liberal Conservative populist Boris Johnson, favoured by fifty eight percent in one poll, followed by Home Secretary Theresa May on twenty nine percent and Education Secretary Michael Gove at a mere nine percent. Although Johnson might have won the leadership contest, there were concerns about his erratic populist political ambience and an "Anyone But Boris" camp organised itself within the Conservatives to raise support for May or other strong contenders. But the leadership contest may become fraught, given an impending parliamentary recess on July 21, which doesn't leave much time to finalise candidates, organise campaigns, mail out ballot papers and provide results. A snap election may follow thereafter. Who is Boris Johnson, anyway? Born in 1964, Johnson was educated at the prestigious Eton male private school and went on to Oxford University, where he became student president during the Thatcher and Major eras. After university, he moved into journalism, first atThe Timesand then the Murdoch tabloidDaily Telegraph, where he was Brussels correspondent, leading to a surge in support for Euroscepticism within the British Conservative Party and the greater UK centre-right. He was elected Conservative MP for Henley and became shadow culture spokesperson under Michael Howard and David Cameron. In 2008, he won the London mayoral contest against Labour's Ken Livingstone and served in that role for seven years after resigning his parliamentary seat. In 2012, he was re-elected as mayor, and oversaw the London Olympics that year. In 2015, he returned to the House of Commons as Conservative MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip, becoming a consequent core figure within the Brexit campaign. As for Tory leadership, Thatcher and Cameron loved him, but Prime Minister John Major loathed him for his divisive Euroscepticism in the nineties. He is a social liberal on issues like climate change, LGBT issues and anti-racist attitudes. He also supported the London Living Wage, an amnesty for illegal immigrants and endorsed Barack Obama as US President in 2008 as London Mayor. He also campaigned against London police corruption, but was dogged by scandals over croneyism, excessive personal spending on taxi journeys and lost his Deputy Mayor Ian Clement to controversy over his alleged abuse of a City Hall card. During the 2012 London mayoral campaign, he intervened to stop London Transport buses from carrying "exgay" propaganda, winning him respect from London and British LGBT communities but petulant temper tantrums from the UK Christian Right. He has been married twice and has four children- two daughters and two sons. On June 30, he abruptly withdrew from the race, leaving Theresa May and Michael Gove as rivals for the top job. Theresa May has an impressive record of Conservative Party leadership. She has been a Conservative MP since 1997 and has served as Conservative Party chair (2002-2003), and in various portfolios within Shadow Cabinets and real Cabinet portfolios during the Hague, Duncan-Smith, Howard and Cameron periods as Opposition Leader (as well as Cameron's tenure of office. These postions ranged from Employment and Education, to Transport and Local Government, to Enviroment and Transport, to Sports, Local Government and Culture, to Women and Equalities and Work and Pensions, before she was appointed Minister for Women and Equalities in 2010. She is generally agreed to be 'tough' on illegal immigration, which may be a drawcard in the event of a selection triumph. However, she has been a resolutely strong LGBT rights supporter while in office, voting for marriage equality. As for Michael Gove, he was elected as Conservative MP for Surrey and Heath in 2006 and has consistently held shadow and actual cabinet portfolios related to child welfare and family policy. When the Cameron administration was first elected in 2010, he was appointed as Secretary of State for Education. During his time in that portfolio under Cameron, he has been repeatedly criticised by the National Association of Head Teachers, Association of Teachers and Lecturers, National Union of Teachers and National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers. He has criticised the absence of British history within school curricula and called for more rigorous assessment of teacher trainee applicants, and attracted criticism for a badly organised review of existing examination awards. Secularists slammed him for approving three schools that taught fundamentalist 'creationist' pseudo-science, and was promoted upward out of that portfolio in Cameron's 2014 Cabinet reshuffle. This meant that he was then given responsibility as Government Chief Whip as well as later Secretary of State for Justice in 2015. He has also been dogged by undisclosed expense claim scandals and claims that he avoided the Freedom of Information of Act while in Cabinet office. Those factors may have contributed to Gove's elimination in the second Conservative leadership ballot. At 46 votes, Gove trailed frontrunner Theresa May (199) and Andrea Leadsom (84). Leadsom is attracting her own share of controversy in the UK LGBT media. Her background is in banking, formerly at Barclays Bank in the eighties and nineties, and then as fund manager for De Putron Fund Management and investment firm Invesco Perpetual. In 2010, she stood for Parliament, becoming the Conservative MP for South Northampton and since 2015, she has been the Minister of State for Energy and Climate Change in the Cameron administration. Unlike May, she supported the Leave campaign during the recent Brexit referendum controversy. Again, unlike Cameron and May, Leadsom abstained on voting for marriage equality. There is some disturbing evidence that she may be a fundamentalist Christian, according to theDaily TelegraphandPinknews. Pinknewshas alleged that Ms Leadsom has relationships to Uganda's "Discovery Centre,' affiliated to the multinational fundamentalist pressure group "Youth With A Mission." In New Zealand, former United Future and Conservative Party MPs and list candidates Larry Baldock and Bernie Ogilvy were also linked to that organisation. The Discovery Centre reportedly runs 'exgay' 'reparative therapy' programmes.' Fortunately, Leadsom is trailing May by more than a hundred votes. As for their track record on LGBT concerns, Pinknews advises us that Theresa May's position on LGBT concerns has evolved over time. Under social conservative Iain Duncan-Smith's period as Opposition Leader, May voted against age of consent equality and inclusive adoption reform when other liberal Conservative MPs, such as Cameron administration Chancellor George Osborne and Boris Johnson broke ranks and supported those legislative reforms. However, she later voted for civil partnerships and strongly supported marriage equality as Cameron administration Home Secretary in 2013. However, her stance on LGBT refugees and asylum seekers has been criticised, although her move to establish a British Bill of Rights in place of the European Convention of Human Rights accession under Britain's former European Union membership has been met with cautious support. Meanwhile, the UK Christian Right's fringe pressure group "Christian Concern" is trying to rally support from religious social conservatives for Leadsom. Unfortunately, the British Labour Party cannot derive muchschadenfreudefrom any factionalism within the governing Conservatives. It has its own problems, given that Jeremy Corbyn has had to face a mass walkout of much of his Shadow Cabinet after he had to sack his shadow Foreign Minister, Hillary Benn, for organising a party room coup against his leadership. Labour's Remain contingent are angry at Corbyn for running a lacklustre campaign against Brexit, which didn't convince Northern English voters to vote to remain within the European Union. The Shadow Cabinet walkout led to a full-scale parliamentary party revolt and overwhelmingly, his caucus colleagues have voted to dump Corbyn as leader. The problem is that due to the primaries process, unions and rank and file party members also have some input inthe selection of new party leaders, as they do in New Zealand. Corbyn commands considerable support and loyalty amongst younger Labour activists, but obviously not amongst many of his parliamentary colleagues. As with David Cunliffe and the New Zealand Labour Party, many Labour MPs feel the primary process delivered an unsuitable, erratic leader at a time when the party needs to rebuild and adapt to challenging new political circumstances. Some of Corbyn's policies are deeply admirable. He opposes Cameron's austerity cuts to British public services, renationalisation of public utilities and railways. He supports unilateral nuclear disarmament and has been a staunch supporter of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, the United Kingdom's leading peace group. He also belongs to Amnesty International and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign. He has strong support from British trade unions. He opposed Blair's Iraqi War involvement. His leadership tenure has led to an influx of young Labour activists and revitalised some constituencies organisations. Within Parliament, there has been dissension over his opposition to the involvement of the United Kingdom in the Syrian civil war. So, are his opponents unreconstructed "Blairites" from the New Labour era of the Noughties? One of his newfound rivals for Labour leader is one of the party's out lesbian MPs, Angela Eagle. Eagle has occupied important senior portfolios while in office and in Opposition since she was first elected Labour MP for Wallasey near Liverpool since 1992. She was the Minister of State for Pensions, Ageing and Society during the Blair and Brown administrations. Under Miliband and Corbyn in Opposition she was Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Shadow Leader of the House of Commons and Shadow Minister for Business, Innovation and Skills before stepping down in late June 2016 to challenge Jeremy Corbyn for the post of Leader of the Opposition. She came out in 1997 and has been in a civil partnership with Maria Exall since September 2008. If selected as Labour leader, she would be the first out lesbian or gay man to lead a major British political party. On July 4, there was another unexpected withdrawal. Having plunged the UK economy, Conservative and Labour Parties into deep turmoil, UKIP leader Nigel Farage decided to step down as leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party. What fate awaits UKIP now that its mission has been accomplished is uncertain. Farage became UKIP leader in 2010 and led the Eurosceptic party for six years thereafter. UKIP currently has one House of Commons seat, three members of the House of Lords, two members of the London Assembly, seven members of the Welsh National Assembly, twenty two members of the European Parliament (elected under proportional representation) and four hundred and eighty eight council seats. But will Brexit lead to "Scexit?" It was obvious during referendum night that Scotland had partied company with rural and Northern England and Wales over secession from the European Union. Scottish Nationalist Party Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has a mandate from her devolved constituent nation of five million Scots to fight Brexit and has promised to obstruct it within the Scottish Parliament. On previous occassions, the Scottish National Party has made it clear that any vote to leave the European Union would not reflect Scottish political and economic priorities and warned that it would lead to a second referendum on Scottish independence from the United Kingdom. On June 24, a ScotsPulse poll on attitudes toward Brexit and Scottish independence led to fifty nine percent support for a second Scottish independence referendum- and secession from the United Kingdom in retaliation for rural and Northern England and Wales' support for Brexit. The first such referendum was held in 2014 and resulted in an outcome endorsing retention of United Kingdom membership. However, European Union investment and venture capital has led to far more positive perceptions of Brussels north of Hadrians Wall, and memories of the Thatcher regime are still deterrents to Tory support there. As for Scottish LGBT concerns, the Sexual Minorities Group emerged in 1969, and SMG renamed itself the Scottish Homosexual Rights Group in 1978. In 1981, a European Court of Human Rights decision forced the Thatcher administration to apply the flawed Sexual Offences Act 1967 north of the border with all of its problems- age of consent inequality, bans on multiple partner sex, military service discrimination and so on. Like England, Scotland developed LGBT youth, transgender rights and HIV/AIDS prevention groups of its own. Due to its proportional representation (MMP) electoral system and single parliamentary chamber, the Scottish Parliament fixed residual issues like age of consent equality and the repeal of Clause 28 of the Local Government Act 1988 more quickly than England and Wales, although it ended up passing liberalised inclusive adoption reform legislation in 2009- seven years after England and Wales. However, marriage equality was victorious in Scotland by an even larger relative margin than in the House of Commons- 108-11. How have LGBT Britons responded? While the Brexit "Out and Proud" campaign applauded the outcome, ILGA Europe mourned the departure of British LGBT advocacy from the European Union, and veteran Anglo-Australian LGBT activist Peter Tatchell supported strengthened solidarity bonds with the European Union despite Brexit. There are fears that the departure of liberal Britain from the European Union will lead to the ascendancy of Euroscepticism elsewhere and Eurosceptic political parties tend to be antigay, like Alternative for Germany, the United Kingdom Independence Party and the French National Front. In 2013, the latter was responsible for a vitriolic and violent campaign against French marriage equality legislation. No wonder New Zealand's own Winston Peters and New Zealand First finds common cause with them over anti-immigrant racism and authoritarian populist politics. As for UKIP, leader Nigel Farage gave a gloating and truculent address to the European Parliament, smirking over his Brexit victory, as he was mocked by the assembled representatives and subjected to boos and catcalls. And finally, how will it affect New Zealand? While some optimists have imagined fondly that withdrawal from the European Union will mean increased access for New Zealand agricultural products to British markets, how can that be the case if Brexit damages the British economy so badly that its collective purchasing power is sharply reduced? If Brexit triggers a wave of Eurosceptic referenda and leads to the dissolution of the European Union, the outcome may be a wave of protectionist barriers against agricultural goods access. The value of the pound has sharply dropped and the New Zealand dollar has surged upward, leading to headaches for our exporters. If there is a sharp economic downturn here as a result of Brexit's destabilisation of the global economy, the National Party may suffer the consequences at the 2017 New Zealand general election. Recommended: Isabel Hardman: "The Anyone But Boris campaign is up and running"Guardian:26.06.2016:https://www. theguardian.com/commentisfree/ 2016/jun/25/contenders-tory- party-leader-up-against-clock "EU referendum: Jeremy Corbyn vows to fight for leadership and reshape Cabinet:BBC News:26.06.2016:http://www.bbc. com/news/uk-36632956 "Poll puts support for Scottish independence at 59 percent"The Scotsman: 26.06.2016:http://www. scotsman.com/news/poll-puts- support-for-scottish- independence-at-59-1-4163338 Peter Foster: "EU faces Brexit 'contagion' as populist parties across Europe call for referenda"Daily Telegraph:24.06.2016:http://www. telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/06/ 24/eu-faces-brexit-contagion- as-populist-parties-across- europe-call/ Wikipedia/LGBT rights in Scotland:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ LGBT_rights_in_Scotland Wikipedia/Theresa May:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Theresa_May Wikipedia/Michael Gove:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Michael_Gove Wikipedia/Angela Eagle:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Angela_Eagle Wikipedia/UK Independence Party:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ UK_Independence_Party Wikipedia/Andrea Leadsom:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Andrea_Leadsom "What next for Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn?"BBC News:29.06.2016:http://www.bbc. com/news/uk-politics-36658196 "Corbyn to face Labour leadership challenge from Angela Eagle"BBC News: 30.06.2016:http://www.bbc. com/news/uk-politics-36667795 "Michael Gove: Boris Johnson wasn't up to the job"BBC News:30.06.2016:http://www.bbc. com/news/uk-politics-36677028 "UKIP Leader Nigel Farage steps down"BBC News:04.07.2016:http://www.bbc. com/news/uk-politics-36702468 Danny Boyle and Ben Riley-Smith:"Conservative leadership: Theresa May and Andrea Leadsom in battle to be Prime Minister after Michael Gove eliminated from contest" Guardian: 07.07.2016:http://www. telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/07/ 07/tory-leadership-civil-war- deepens-as-michael-gove-ally- urges-the/ Tim Ross: "Andrea Leadsom Interview: Thatcher, God and Why I should be Prime Minister"Daily Telegraph: 02.07.2016: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/ news/2016/07/02/andrea- leadsom-interview-thatcher- god-and-why-i-should-be-prime/ Nick Duffy: "Gay couples should only have civil partnerships, I didn't like marriage law"Pinknews:07.07.2016:http://www. pinknews.co.uk/2016/07/07/ andrea-leadsom-gay-couples- should-only-have-civil- partnerships-i-didnt-like- marriage-law/ Joseph McCormick: "Andrea Leadsom linked to 'gay cure' group in Uganda"Pinknews: 07.07.2016:http://www. pinknews.co.uk/2016/07/07/ andrea-leadsom-linked-to- ugandan-gay-cure-group/ Nick Duffy: "Where do PM candidates Theresa May and Andrea Leadsom stand on LGBT rights?" Pinknews: 08.07.2016:http://www. pinknews.co.uk/2016/07/08/ where-do-pm-candidates- theresa-may-and-andrea- leadsom-stand-on-lgbt-rights/ Matthew Goodwin:UKIP: Inside the Campaign to Redraw the Map of British Politics:Oxford: Oxford University Press: 2016 Sonia Purnell:Just Boris: A Tale of Blond Ambition: London: Aurum Press: 2012. Richard Seymour:Corbyn: The Crisis of British Politics:London: Verso: 2016 Craig Young - 12th July 2016    
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