Renew's James Bryan airs his frustrations with the current political climate.
We choose representatives to make decisions of national importance, that is the core principle on which our democracy is built. There is a certain level of trust that comes with this level of power, and it has often been the case that politicians have abused that trust.
Taking away the ability of our elected representatives to create policy for five weeks during one of the most politically tumultous times in living memory is at best cynical political manoeuvring and at worst the sort of archaic abuse of power that one would expect of a medieval monarch.
It is certainly not the kind of sensible decision making that one would expect from a logically minded parliamentarian attempting to secure the best possible future for this country.
There is a certain irony in someone who has found themselves in the highest possible position in this country through luck attempting to overrule those who derive their power from an actual mandate.
Whether one believes that the UK should leave the European Union or not, whether one falls on the liberal or conservative side of the ideological spectrum, this is a matter of the political future of the United Kingdom. We, the people, voted for our representatives, and having our Prime Minister take that away is the mark of either a misinformed idiot on a power trip, or a malicious bastard attempting to push through a personal agenda at the expense of this entire country’s future.
Reject the lies, reject the cynical political manoeuvring and don’t let party politics get in the way of securing the best possible future for everyone.
If Mr Johnson disagrees with his fellow MPs then he should argue a coherent position, not shut them out.
No single person has all the answers.
The Royal Prerogative has forced the Prime Minister to go back to the people. That’s a good thing, says Renew supporter John Nucciarone.
British parliamentary democracy maintains, in essence, a balance of power.
As the country changed over the centuries, the balance of power between the monarch, Lords, and Commons did too. In the 1900s, majority governments became the norm, with the executive not only becoming more powerful but also with a higher degree of concentration in the Prime Minister’s office and his special advisors. The checks and balances reserved to not only the Commons but also the Lords and Her Majesty increased in importance. But, as the Commons and Lords are driven by partisan politics, Her Majesty’s powers cannot be re-characterised as only ceremonial by the very people she is meant to provide a check and balance against. Her powers must remain relevant. In the 21st century, they belong to the people.
An unconstitutional prorogation?
The UK constitution is a political constitution, and its conventions have a political dimension to them. That would include Her Majesty’s powers including her right to grant prorogation. The power to deny or grant it rests with her and is neither political or a convention. It is her legal right. The convention that she follows the advice of her PM is only that - a convention. The political aspect comes in when she uses her judgement as to whether to follow the advice or not.
The only way one could argue Her Majesty granting prorogation (and perhaps the advice given by the PM) is unconstitutional is if it eliminates an option MPs would otherwise have had, meaning the Queen is no longer seen as being a check and balance on Parliament, but rather a threat to the Commons.
And then you have to answer the question: did Her Majesty, in granting the prorogation, eliminate the possibility of stopping a no-deal Brexit by legislative means or reducing the amount of days available for a new government to be formed?
A court would also likely take into account the possibility of a No-Confidence Vote being held before the Queen’s Speech has been eliminated. It should then note that the Opposition was unlikely to call for one during the period before prorogation and has been playing tennis with both the government and itself on this issue for over two years.
It is important to note that a court would need to rule that the advice given by the PM and Her Majesty’s decision to grant the prorogation was illegal, as to do otherwise would reduce Her Majesty’s role to that of a figurehead, throwing the rest of the UK constitution into a spin and putting us on the road becoming a Republic. This is not something within the court’s jurisdiction and powers.
More than a pretty crown
Under the guise of not politicising the Queen, a process has started where the Queen is seen as only as a figurehead with no subjective element in her decisionmaking process. This could not be more wrong or unconstitutional.
This reasoning or interpretation of the constitution would enable a PM to request a prorogation beyond 31st October, or linger on after losing a non-confidence vote and another government is ready to be formed. The Queen may rely on her PM to convey an accurate picture of the political landscape, but the final decision still rests with her. For this reason, her advisors at the Palace must be independent of the Prime Minster’s Office.
Her Majesty likely granted this prorogation as a result of thinking that, should the House of Commons wish to finally make itself heard, it can - either by bringing down the government or passing legislation preventing a no-deal Brexit.
Perhaps she is asking them to get on with it if that is what is necessary or desired. Either way, have no doubt that the Queen’s legal powers, including her power to dismiss a PM (after the Commons has acted) now have our Prime Minister considering an election to avoid a No-Confidence vote and the possibility of having to leave Downing Street so soon.
In this piece, Renew member Paul Gerken compares Boris Johnson's proroguing of Parliament to Jafar's control and exploitation of the genie's powers in Aladdin.
As much as our new overlords will try to convince you otherwise: this isn’t normal. As much as our unwritten constitution can’t define the proroguing of Parliament as illegal, it shouldn’t mean that we understand it as a correct resolution to our Brexit crisis. It isn’t.
What Alexander “Boris” Johnson is doing, as an unelected Prime Minister with no mandate, is wielding the monarch’s power in a way usually vested only in those who have been voted for by the majority of the population. Yet within a matter of days of being honoured with these privileges, he has taken those powers and stretched our political fabric to the point of breaking.
He has not acted like a guardian of our institutions and traditions, but a wanton destroyer. This ain’t right; this ain’t OK.
The power of the Prime Minister is eyed enviously by many western democratic leaders. The freedom to act comes from being able to execute many things in the name of the Queen, who still holds ultimate authority. But, like many commentators state, the idea that the Queen will suddenly begin to exercise these powers herself and go against the will of the Prime Minister is for the birds. The Monarch’s power is like the genie in Aladdin; in the hands of the good it can be a force for great success. In the hands of Jafar? Well, all shit breaks loose and the kingdom lies in rubble.
And see how scheming, duplicitous, machiavellian Jafar has got his hands on our genie.
Ladies and gents, if you think BoJo is only going to pull this stunt once, I think you’ll be in for a surprise. Once someone tastes power, they don’t give it up easily. Especially not someone who has committed more backstabbings to get power than those in the entirety of Game of Thrones.
This man, this caricature, has been rewarded at every turn for his deceit and treachery. It was he who turned on his leader and supported leave, just to take down David Cameron. It was he who quit the cabinet, just so he could manoeuvre against Theresa May. And yet his star has continued to rise. He has now retired parliament to push through his own agenda and it’s so far, so good. So why should he change? With every outrageous act, he becomes emboldened.
This is not a man who will later turn around and believe in a genuine parliamentary democracy when the choppy waters of Brexit are cleared. He will do this again and again, unless he is stopped now.
Those that support him should be losing sleep for shame. Rudd, Javid, Hancock and the rest are the squawking parrots to this egomaniac Jafar. The best they can and should do is fly away, whilst Parliament returns to enact its vengeance. And Parliament must unite without equivocation nor hesitation and bring down this man. Once gone, we need to write our constitution to ensure this never happens again.
The genie must be placed firmly back in the bottle.
Welcome to new member Dan Willis, who breaks down his journey to becoming part of Renew below.
My experiences with UK politics started only a few years ago. Before I was 21, the idea of politics – or even worse, getting involved with politics – was as far away in my mind as possible.
However, as a journalism student at The University of Salford, I began to be exposed to the ideas, philosophies and policies which governed the UK. What I have learned since that time is that, far from being a cold, long-distance relationship, politics and the individual have a strong connection, if you are willing to get involved
I have spent time previously with the Green Party and the Liberal Democrats, two parties I previously felt were the closest to my views ideologically. I went on anti-austerity marches and leafleted for remain during the EU referendum campaign, all while learning and understanding more about politics and its influence on my life.
In 2018, I stood in my first local election. I represented the Liberal Democrats in the ward of Clayton and Openshaw in Manchester, achieving 118 votes. I fell short of getting elected to the council but had found that, through hard work and connecting with local people, everyone has a chance of being a political representative and helping out their community.
Fast forward a year, I was standing again for the Liberal Democrats in the 2019 local elections, fighting for a seat in the Round Green ward of Luton. This time I only just came up short, losing the third seat on the council by less than 60 votes. While I knew that my interest in political representation was only growing stronger, I decided to leave the Liberal Democrats after the election to find a new political home. One more truly connected to my beliefs – enter Renew.
Finding a political party like Renew has not only given me a great opportunity to grow as an activist but has also provided a party I find most closely aligned to. One of, if not the key area of policy I am most interested in is localism – more specifically, truly devolved localism. I think the time has come for central government to finally understand that when it comes to local issues in wards and constituencies, the power must lie with the people who know their area best – i.e. local citizens and representatives.
Renew's Kitty O'Hara questions Brazilian President Bolsonaro's role in the Amazon wildfires.
The volume of wildfires in the Amazon rainforest have recently drastically increased, with over 72,000 outbreaks this year alone.
The Amazon is home to around three million species of plants and animals, and one million indigenous people. The damage will have an irreversible effect on the Earth’s climate. The Amazon’s abundance of freely growing vegetation absorbs CO2 and produces oxygen and carbon, facilitating increased plant growth. Scientists warn the forest is in danger of degrading into a savannah, diminishing its capacity to absorb carbon in the atmosphere.
President Bolsonaro has been accused of contributing towards the 88% increase in deforestation, after cutting Brazil’s environmental enforcement agency’s budget by $23 million. Further accusations have been directed towards his agenda to erase the presence of indigenous people from the rainforests. In turn, using the space and natural resources to boost Brazil’s economy. He has retaliated and counter-blamed NGOs for causing the blazes.
The first half of July 2019 alone had 68% more fires than July the previous year. Bolsonaro accused the INPE - the Brazilian institute for space research, including atmospheric sciences - of lying regarding the extremity of the crisis. He then fired their director, Ricardo Galvao, after the institute published figures revealing the soaring levels of deforestation. The government slammed the report as “sensationalist” lies. The far-right President dismissed concerns about the fires, informing one news agency that the smoke was normal for the “season of queimada” - when landowners illegally set fires for cattle ranching known as “fire days” to take advantage of the authorities weakened protection of the forest.
It is deeply troubling that Bolsonaro adopts opposing plans to the global drive to slow carbon emissions. The Amazon is home to expansive carbon stocks, widely understood to have an integral role in climate change mitigation. As a result, global environmental organisations often pay greater attention to Brazilian policies towards it.
Bolsonaro has a strong anti-indigenous people rhetoric, one notable quote being in 2017, when he stated: “minorities have to bend down to the majority… either adapt or simply vanish.” He has compared the indigenous people who inhabit the Javari Valley to animals in zoos, and vowed not to leave “one square centimetre” of land for such groups. A leader from Javari’s Matés tribe, Kevin Mavoruna, has accused the current government of attempting to exterminate indigenous people and take the land they inhabit, which is reflective of Bolsonaro’s aims for tribes across Brazil.
Recently, Bolsonaro mocked Macron, Merkel and head of the WWF Amazon Programme, Ricardo Mello, for challenging his policies. Other international critics include Norway, who followed Germany in suspending donations to the Amazon Fund, in response to the fires. Norway has been the fund’s biggest donor, giving around £985 million over the past decade.
However, is this enough? The UK continues to trade with Brazil, and directly profits from deforestation through imports of Brazilian soya beans. In 2017 alone, we were solely responsible for 220 million square metres of deforested land.
So what can we do? An international response, whether in the shape of a boycott of Brazilian trade, or pressuring international companies to cut trade links with Brazil, would reduce the power Bolsonaro holds over the lungs of the Earth. Whatever we do we need to act fast.
We must take responsibility for the role we play - regardless of how far removed we believe we are from such issues.
Renew's Brogan Meaney explains why a no-deal Brexit would be far from patriotic.
The leaked Operation Yellowhammer documents have increased speculation—if it were at all possible—around the fallout from a no-deal Brexit.
Much has been discussed about the source of the leak—a ‘whodunnit’ style witch hunt targeting this so-called unpatriotic attempt to disrupt Brexit. But should we instead be focusing on the document’s contents—what no-deal Brexit scenarios have the government been brewing?
Remainers’ rigid focus on the facts, the statistics and the bitter economic realities of a no-deal Brexit has been our undoing. The reality is daily life won’t really alter for the majority of people, at least not immediately: the average punter won’t observe the limitations caused by food scarcity on supermarket supply-chains, or notice increases in price, or witness the disruption at our ports. Perhaps they won’t even feel the effects of medicine shortages. And this emphasises the ‘Project Fear’ narrative. Without the stark contrast of a pre and post-Brexit Britain, all our facts and statistics, regardless of their ultimate truth, can be viewed as mere scaremongering.
Yet the long-term effects of a no-deal Brexit will be disastrous. The damage to British wealth and national pride will be felt, but gradually. Make no mistake—Brexit will cause a decline in the power of our economy until our superpower status is all but a fond memory.
In light of this, Remainers have failed to present an argument, or a narrative, as emotive and strong as Vote Leave’s. Our obsession with the facts has merely encouraged those with their fingers in their ears to dig them in deeper.
Patriotism and national pride are messages at the forefront of Vote Leave, and have made their way into the no-deal argument. They are concepts that have been stolen and redefined by the government and prominent Leavers to outline their argument and legitimise their rhetoric of ‘leave means leave’. Shouts of: Britain is strong and stable; Britain will survive a no-deal Brexit; The EU needs us more than we need the EU, resonate with many Leave voters. But Brexit, especially the looming specter of a no-deal Brexit, is wholly unpatriotic. We’re poised to throw ourselves off a cliff with no means of return because of a misguided belief in what a no-deal Brexit means for Britain, and for Britain’s place internationally. We’re at a point where it’s considered unpatriotic, and undemocratic, even, to question the authority of the government to leave the EU without a deal, and the wider decision to leave the EU.
But it’s not unpatriotic. What is unpatriotic is to blindly leave our largest trading bloc, irreversibly damaging our economy, because of a referendum result three years ago that was heavily influenced by a campaign based on lies, and from which the terms have completely altered. What is undemocratic is to wholly ignore calls for another referendum, whilst simultaneously suppressing those voices speaking out against Brexit.
Further, no-deal doesn’t mean no-deal ever. It means no-deal, for now. Eventually, we’d have to negotiate with the EU. We’ll crawl back with our tail between our legs, and be forced to pay the billions of pounds we owe in unpaid fees. What misguided conception of national pride has glorified this scenario? Where is the national pride in reducing the reach of our economy? A strong economy needs trade agreements across our globalised world. To limit our trading options does not make us stronger, in fact it does quite the opposite. It will force us into years of trade negotiations with the EU—the Canadian EU trade deal took seven years, whilst Switzerland has been in permanent negotiations with the EU since 1972—and further bureaucratic practises, exactly what Brexit is against.
No-deal is a contradiction. It will perpetuate all the problems it claims to stop. A no-deal will cripple us within a world of superpower economies. A country desperately seeking any deal post-Brexit is not strong, but weak. And it’s not only un-British to promote something so detrimental to our country and its place in the world, but irresponsible, too.
Renew member Victor Zanchi gives his take on the need for rehabilitative prison reform in the UK.
Beyond ensuring a fair trial in which victims receive any reparations due, the purpose of a criminal justice system is to keep society safe from those that would cause it harm. Putting someone in prison is a way of isolating them from the world, and, in theory, preventing them from committing further crimes. But, in our modern society, it is generally accepted that for all but the most heinous crimes, a prisoner will need to be released sooner or later back into society. It is here that our own criminal justice system fails the very people it’s designed to protect.
In the UK, reoffending rates are high. Violence is rampant in our prisons, recruiting officers is difficult and our prisons are overcrowded. But what will Boris Johnson’s “investment” achieve? More prison places and more guards, perhaps, but longer sentences will use up those new resources faster than they can be put in place.
The answer is a shift in how we treat our prisoners, and like many things, our friends on the continent - the Norwegians, to be exact - have an idea. The BBC featured an excellent article in July which sheds light on a criminal justice system that solves a lot of the issues we currently face.
In Norway, inmates are given training and education while undertaking community service programmes and work. The guards are involved in those same activities, treating the inmates as fellow human beings rather than cattle, and they are, in turn, respected. Sentences are limited but reviewed often, and an inmate’s release is planned from the day they arrive. Focus is on their mental health and a calm atmosphere. Most of all, the system is designed to turn them into productive members of society.
Officers are of mixed gender, but there is hardly any violence – and the prisons reflect what the world is like outside, preparing them for life beyond bars. The result is that reoffending rates in Norway are only 20% after two years, half of those in England.
A similar system in the UK would mean more money being spent per prisoner, perhaps, but those prisoners would be in jail for less time and be far less likely to come back. Not only would they contribute to society while in prison through various community work schemes, but they would return to being productive, tax-paying members of society at the end of their sentence.
Furthermore, we would have less violence in our prisons and fewer issues with drugs. We’d find it easier to recruit and keep officers, and I believe we’d see a positive impact on crime rates overall. That would more than make up for any extra investment needed.
Renew's Brogan Meaney questions the necessity of Caroline Lucas's call for an all-female cabinet.
On Sunday, the Green Party’s very own Caroline Lucas called for an all-female cabinet, sending letters to an all-white group of female leaders across the country. The lack of diversity is apparent, but how helpful is this suggestion of an all women’s cabinet in solving the problems caused by Brexit?
As a woman, any all-female call to arms is appealing. We’re women and we can do anything. And I mean anything. We literally create people. Yet, I’m struggling to see what Caroline Lucas expects to gain from this suggestion, nor how she considers this to be a group of ‘national unity’.
In the era of the struggling Suffragettes, this would have been a radical suggestion. Perhaps it remains one in some circles. But within today’s society, the fight for societal equality cannot be fought bywhite women alone. And Lucas’s dismissal of ethnic and cultural diversity removes any radicality of the suggestion. Powerful and successful women, already prominent figures in politics, ready to save a broken Britain.
All women in politics are faced with difficulties every day. A prime example: when UKIP candidate Carl Benjamin commented, “I wouldn’t even rape her”, about Labour’s Jess Phillips, which caused Phillips to be verbally assaulted in the street and attacked online by Twitter bots and angry men. This comment was made solely because she’s a woman. However, these inequalities are made worse for women of colour. Politics is a professional realm that sometimes resembles a gentlemen’s club, and the scales have been skewed for a long time in mens’ favour. But, to level the playing field, is the suggestion of an all-female cabinet a viable solution?
Simply, no. It would erect further walls and boundaries between social groups. By doing this, we take steps backwards. To actually progress as a species we need to be inclusive of everyone. This means practising equality, despite historical inequalities.
Some would argue that an all-female cabinet could do a better job than Johnson’s government. But the mediocrity of our political system right now should not be used as the standard for future political figures and groups. And just because Lucas’s suggestion might be a step-up from our current government does not mean it’s a step-up for women’s rights in society.
Creating further non-diverse groups to challenge pre-existing inequalities does not reduce them. It merely produces more.
Lucas herself has apologised for the lack of diversity she presented, but her mistake emphasises the importance of getting your language right. We must ensure our actions, and the words we use to express and describe these actions, benefit us all, and actively work to reduce inequalities. Lucas’s all-female alliance does not.
Deputy Leader James Clarke breaks down Renew's approach to a potential general election in the autumn.
We are hurtling towards a climactic moment in UK politics and all interested parties, groups and individuals need to get prepared in short order.
Renew was formed in 2017 by passionate individuals who saw the need for renewal and reform and abandoned their old parties to join us. There have been more ups and downs than we could ever have anticipated, but we arrive in late 2019 in great shape and ready to campaign.
It is also true that we are supported almost exclusively by remainers and 'bregretters', so it is clear that Renew must do everything it can to harness the remain vote and to prevent a harmful Brexit majority in parliament following an autumn election.
In the last two years, we have recruited and trained scores of high-quality candidates and activists: people from outside politics who have become energized by the desire to help steer the UK away from a crisis. For us, the result of the 2016 EU referendum was a symptom of deeper issues, including the failed two-party political system. We think that the solution should include a new party that bridges the gap between career politicians and an increasingly disenchanted electorate.
This autumn election, if it proceeds, is not the election we were planning towards, but we must still participate and contribute to any movement that seeks to bring progressives, grassroots groups and remain parties together.
Renew emphatically supports the project to build a remain alliance, designed to give pro-European parties the best chance of winning seats, we confirm that we are prepared to stand our candidates aside in key constituencies to fight alongside the Liberal Democrats, Green Party, Plaid Cymru and others.
We stood aside in Brecon to help deliver a Conservative seat to the Lib Dems, we joined forces with Change UK in the European elections and we worked with Lib Dems and Greens to select a ‘unity remain’ candidate in Peterborough. We have a track record of cooperation and innovative thinking.
We’re now announcing Renew candidates throughout the UK in anticipation of an Autumn election to signal our willingness to be part of this exciting new approach to politics. All of our candidates have pledged to support a 'remain alliance' candidate in each constituency, whether they are a Renew candidate or the representative of another remain-supporting party. Whatever happens, we will fight to prevent the Conservatives forcing through a damaging no-deal Brexit on October 31st.
With tensions in the country running so high, not everyone will agree with our approach, but we didn’t build Renew to stumble at the first obstacle: we have always strived to be the right people, doing the right things for the right reasons. If that means stepping forward as a candidate, or stepping back to support another, we will do our part.
In a single-issue general election, Renew must play its part and provide a platform for all of those people who want not only to protect the UK from crisis, but also advocate for the kind of reform and renewal required to prevent the next crisis.
Renew's Brogan Meaney asks: do advancements in AI look set to further worsen pre-existing economic inequalities?
We’re no strangers to the chilling cries of robots stealing our jobs. We’re in the midst of a technological revolution, and like during other industry-transforming revolutions that came before, we’re on the brink of a dramatic transition within the workforce -automation.
The fast-paced technological advances within the field of AI have already brought automation to the workplace, with 1.5 million jobs in the UK currently at risk of it. The most commonplace example of automation can be seen inside supermarkets across the country: automated self-checkout tills. As these have already demonstrated, advances within the field of AI will have a dramatic impact on many industries. Although these can mean a more streamlined and efficient workforce, there are other consequences.
For example, the economists Anton Korinek and Joseph E. Stiglitz have argued that economic inequality is one of the main challenges we face in the advancement of workforce technology innovation.
We live in a world where the richest one percent own half of the world's wealth. This results in disparities in life expectancies, seen not only globally, but also at home: in England, the gap in life expectancy between the wealthiest and the most deprived areas can reach up to 9.4 years.
The issue of job automation is a complex, multifaceted problem. We don’t know exactly how technology will advance, or how it will affect wealth inequalities within the UK. However, based on current technologies, the risk of losing your job to automation for those lower-skilled workers far outweighs the risk for higher-skilled workers. The three jobs most at risk are waiters and waitresses, shelf-fillers, and elementary sales occupations; the three least at risk are medical practitioners, higher education teaching professionals and senior professionals of educational establishments.
Although AI will make some jobs obsolete, it will, of course, create new ones. However, these are jobs that will require specialisation. For example, when human supermarket cashiers are fully automated, the ex-cashier would be faced with having to learn new skills or adapt to an unstable reality where they are very much replaceable.
Those most at risk of automation are the ones already economically marginalised within the workforce. The ONS reports that 70.2% of the roles at high risk of automation are currently held by women, and, in addition, the age group most affected by automation are those aged between 20 and 24.
The risk of automation also varies on region. This is due to the jobs available, meaning areas with a greater volume of roles, in particular higher-skilled roles, are safer from the threat of automation. This increases the risks for those who are already both economically marginalised and economically disadvantaged within society.
Current AI research focuses on the importance of policy regulation to prevent exacerbating pre-existing equalities. Democratising access to technology is crucial, as is creating equal opportunities within technological advancement. Some other suggestions have included a universal basic income (which Finland trialled last year), a ‘robot tax’, a focus on lifelong learning and training, especially within the fields of computer science and STEM education. There is also the discussion of privilege within AI advantages, with Korinek and Stiglitz commenting that it is conceivable that the wealthiest of humans will be able to finance, dictate, or sway certain advancements.
These are all attempts to offset inequalities that this workplace revolution will cause. But will they be enough? The automation of certain job roles, or particular aspects of roles, will soon be unavoidable. To prevent worsening economic inequalities, we need a government who takes these issues seriously.