Politics

To The Left

 

To the left, to the left everything you own in a box to the left…

What does Beyonce have in common with Bernie and Jeremy? They all are not afraid of shifting people to the left.

To the left bernie & Jeremy

to the left beyonce

Whilst Beyonce was singing about sending a man packing “everything you own in the to box to the left”, Corbyn and Sanders have always had a different “left” on their minds which is moving the political landscape to the left.

With recent political events such as Brexit, Trump becoming President, the rise and fall of Le Pen in France it appears that politics has turned all the way right. However there is not one sole reason as to these events, issues such as Brexit are multi faceted and not everyone who voted to leave the EU would consider themselves as right-wingers. Political commentators have been discussing the emergence of right, but what about the left? There has been a talk of ‘the left being dead’, after the American elections last year and from the Tories winning with a majority in the general election 2015. There were questions as to why both Labour and the Democrats, who had enjoyed power for a period of time were losing support from their core members. Both parties had taken their core support for granted in recent elections.Bernie Sanders, ‘America’s Jeremy Corbyn’ and his equivalent ‘Britain’s Bernie’ both have tried to address these issues and to engage with those who their parties had left behind.

Is ‘Bernie’ Jeremy and is Bernie ‘Jeremy’ ?

Both Bernie and Jeremy have lead anti-establishment campaigns in the hope of convincing the the working class, the average Joe, minorities, the young and women; that their left-wing movement is the best political choice to make. There are striking similarities between the men, they both have opposed inequality and their theme is redistribution of wealth and income from the very few to the majority. Additionally, both men though old have been able to connect with the young (Sanders is 75 and Corbyn is 68) which is something that the other politicians on their election campaigns could not do. They both have offered policies that are appealing to the young e.g. Labour promising to abolish university tuition fees during the recent election and Sanders’ plan to make tuition and fees free at public colleges and universities.  They also both know how to run effective social media campaigns, you only have to look at how their supporters rallied around  #FeeltheBern and #JezWeCan. A difference to point out is that Sanders is not a party politician, he was the first independent to be elected in the US House of Representatives in 40 years and Corbyn has always been a party man (this can point be debated with his voting record with Labour).

During the general election, Bernie Sanders praised Corbyn’s campaign and his efforts to reshape Labour and the UK. He shared his commonalities with Corbyn and said,  “What has impressed me-and there is a real similarity between what has he done and what I did-is he has taken on the establishment of the Labour party, he has gone to the grassroots and he has tried to transform that party…and that is exactly what I am trying to do”. He further added that he was impressed by Corbyn’s willingness to speak about class issues that affect not only the UK and America but the world.

Have they moved ‘everyone to the left’ ?

Sanders and Corbyn have a lot in common as discussed above, but has their anti-establishment movement resonated with the majority? Have they shifted everyone to the left or will Bernie and Jeremy have to pack their political boxes to the left?

Let’s talk about Bernie.

To the left bernie

According to Morning Consult’s poll, Mr Sanders is here to stay. A poll released on July 11 Senator Bernie Sanders was the most popular politician in the Senate with a 75% approval rating. In like manner, Fox News conducted a poll in April and found Sanders was the highest favourable politician at 61%. In addition, PolitiFact supported the claim Bernie Sanders is the most popular politician in the United States even though he lost to Hillary Clinton. This evidence supports the argument that Bernie Sanders along with his views and policy proposals are liked and supported by the American people. In March, Bernie told a crowd in ‘Trump Country’ West Virginia that “healthcare was a right” and this was met with a round of applause. Bernie spoke to Trump supporters in a rural town hall on a number of topics like climate change, healthcare, free higher education and this was met with warm reception. This demonstrates the ‘Bernie effect’- he has been able to speak on issues that everyday people care about. This also supports the notion that the country is moving towards the left and more are open to progressive policies. In a June poll by USA Today found that only 12%  of Americans support the Senate Republican health care plan. Sanders remarks at the NAACP convention that the Republican’s healthcare “…legislation is overwhelmingly opposed by the American people” reflects USA’s Today’s findings.

Though he is loved by his supporters, the love is not the same within the Democratic Party. Following Clinton’s loss to Trump, Bernie Sanders has lead the resistance in the Democratic Party by pushing for progressive reform in the party and rallying against the Republicans’ health care plan. Some within the party are critical of Sanders policies and have opposed his plans for example Bernie’s medicare plans. This fall out has lead to cases where there has been in fighting between the two factions within Democrats at state level. So, has everyone moved left in the Democratic Party? A majority of the Democrats in the Senate did back Bernie’s bill that would raise the federal minimum wage in contrast to $15 in contrast to in 2015 when he introduced it only 5 senators supported it. Leading Democrat Senators such as Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker have all expressed their support for ‘Medicare-for-all’. This highlights the clear shift within the party, when only in 2016 last year Hillary Clinton said single-payer “will never, ever come to pass”. Polls have now showed that there is an increase of 19% of Democrats who want to see a single-payer system . In this poll by Pew Research Center 60% of Americans believe the federal government is responsible for covering healthcare for all. Even now 33% favour a single-payer system to health insurance, which is up 5% since January of this year and 12% since 2014.

To the left pew research center

There is now more support than ever for single health insurance run by the government rather than a mix of private companies and government initiatives. The Democrat party needs to now get behind Sanders and his new way of doing politics, otherwise they will be in disarray again in the upcoming mid-term elections and in 2020. Voters have taken a liken to Sanders’  sincere engagement in politics and how he reaches out to everyone. This is a strategy that all Democrats should seek to learn from to differentiate themselves from the Republicans.

There are claims that Bernie is to run again in 2020 however he has said that it is “too early” to talk about. Donald Trump, would lose in 2020 if Bernie Sanders was to run according to Public Policy Polling. Trump would lose to Bernie by a 52-39 margin (poll also showed Trump would lose Joe Biden by a greater margin and a 7 point margin margin by Elizabeth Warren). Just like Trump, Bernie is an outsider  to the ‘establishment’ as an independent senator. This is to his advantage as he has and will continue to gain popularity with those who feel underrepresented by the Democrats and the Republicans. Sanders’ popularity driven by activism, is another similarity shared with Jeremy Corbyn. The left is not dead in America folks, its a new left, a left that rejected Hillary and a left that focuses on those left behind. Its Bernie’s Left.

Let’s talk about Jeremy.

to the left jeremy

We know how Corbyn has faced criticism from his peers across other parties but also within Labour and at times his own Shadow Cabinet. Following the general election, his popularity has surged with a poll conducted shortly after the election showing Labour five points ahead of the Tories at 46%. It also showed Theresa May approval rating had gone down by minus 17 and in contrast Corbyn had gained 17 points. Jeremy Corbyn surprised all political commentators by gaining 34 seats including constituencies Kensington and Chelsea and Canterbury which were under the Tories previously.  The Labour leader benefited from the youth vote and his policies that connected with the general public. In a recent poll by the Evening Standard , Jeremy Corbyn has taken his best ever rating and overtaken Theresa May. Forty-four per cent of adults are satisfied with Corbyn compared to May’s 34% and  her government’s 28%. This poll highlights the strong dissatisfaction with May and is the lowest rating for any modern-day Prime Minister after an election. It also shows that Theresa May has become more unpopular than the early days of Corbyn’s Labour leadership. This all demonstrates that there has been a shift in the left but to what extent? Is it only because of the poor performance of May during the election campaign and dislike for the government’s policies for example its refusal to raise public sector wages? We will only truly know if there was to be another election and then can observe whether his popularity will translate into votes. Also, maybe we will see whether that has been a true shift to the left in Labour and the general public has taken place if May was to resign with a more popular Tory to replace her.

Bernie and Jeremy have not been afraid to move everyone to the left, whether its within the party they represent or the general public. It can clearly be seen that that there has been a strong shift towards their views with more supporting their policies and ideas. However politics is cyclical, all it takes is one event to shift the conversation back towards the right again. For now Bernie and Jeremy can keep their boxes in and press forward to the left.

 

Images: Channel 4 News/Youtube , Pew Research Center , BBC , CNN

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Out with the Old, In With the New

out with the old and in with the new 8

Cameron out, Theresa in.

The new Prime Minister has named her first cabinet: Phillip Hammond as chancellor, Amber Rudd as Home Secretary and the surprise of the day, Boris Johnson as the new Foreign Secretary.  Aside from Boris (this is debatable), there are no heavyweights in the new cabinet. No Osborne, No Nicky Morgan, and bye bye to Michael Gove who is rumoured to have clashed with May. Interestingly, Theresa has chosen to depart from the usual cabinet appointment method where the Prime Minister would include the heavyweights in his or her government. The reason behind this is that Prime Minister will have the full support of the party and it will unify the government. By not appointing the big beasts in her cabinet, Theresa May is making a statement that her appointments are different to the usual ‘keep your friends close and your enemies closer’ in politics. Instead she will have the heavyweights as backbenchers, whether this will be something for her worry to about…we shall see. Most importantly Theresa May has placed Brexit backing MPs in positions that will be key to Brexit negotiations (as previously mentioned Boris as foreign secretary, David Davis as the Brexit minister and Liam Fox as International Trade Secretary). She also gave her former rival, Andrea Leadsom (who backed Brexit), the Environment Secretary job.

Compare it to Cameron’s Cabinet

The remainers vs brexiters, Theresa chose to include more of the brexiters in her cabinet to reflect the outcome of the referendum.

out with the old and in with the new 1

While many are celebrating Theresa May being the second female prime minister, some are criticising that it is still not good enough-it is an improvement of one.

out with the old and in with the new 2

The number of black and minoritiy ethnic MPs in the cabinet, like women it is an improvement of one and not reflective of the population in this country. Priti Patel, joins Sajid Javid in the Cabinet.

out with the old and in with the new 3

The old vs the young. Cameron’s cabinet commpared to Theresa May’s was younger with 13 out of 22 cabinet ministers in their 40s.

out with the old and in with the new 5

Many have criticised Cameron’s government for being elitist this includes Nadine Dorries Conservative MP for Mid-Bedfordshire. She described Cameron and George Osborne as “two arrogant posh boys” with “no passion to want to understand the lives of others”. It looks like Theresa May wants to move away from that.

out with the old and in with the new 4

So who is in?-the newbies, the people who got a promotion and the unlucky who got demoted.

Boris Johnson- BREXITER

The former London Mayor was considered as the frontrunner to takeover Cameron, only until Michael Gove backstabbed him and run for the Conservative Leadership. Educated at Eton and Oxford, Boris worked as a journalist before coming into politics and has written for the Times, the Spectator and the Telegraph. As much as Boris is a popular figure, he is also a controversial one. He was forced to apologise for his comments in 2002, referring to Africans as “piccaninnies” and “watermelon smiles” . He has also been scrutinised for insulting Turkey’s president, commenting on Obama’s ancestry and more. America, Australia, France, Germany, Russia, Turkey, Sweden…the list goes on and on but in short, the world thinks we have lost it in him being the Foreign Secretary when he has offended so many leaders, diplomats and countries.

A map of countries he has offended:

out with the old and in with the new 6

Phillip Hammond-REMAINER

The former foreign secretary is seen as the ultimate safe hands in government and someone Theresa May will be able to rely on. Mr Hammond has been a MP since 1997, joined the cabinet as Transport Secretary, then he became the Defence Secretary and he is now the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Amber Rudd-REMAINER

One of the Tories’ rising stars, Amber Rudd won a marginal seat from Labour back in 2010. After being on the backbenches, she was promoted by George Osborne serving as his Parliamentary Secretary and was appointed as the Energy Secretary in 2015 and is now the Home Secretary. Unlike many in her party, Amber Rudd is committed to tackling climate change and her appointment was respected by environment groups.

The others…

Many thought that Jeremy Hunt would not survive May’s reshuffle, however he lives to fight another day. Jeremy Hunt is to continue with his controversial reforms of the NHS and there may be more industrial action if he plans to go ahead and impose contracts on doctors. His next challenge is taking on the consultants. As for Liam Fox, this is a political revival for the Brexiter, from backbench to one of the most important positions that can be held currently as International Trade Secretary. He will be responsible for negotiating trade deals beyond Europe, an argument that the Brexit Camp said was a benefit of being outside the EU. Michael Fallon, remains as Defence Secretary and is one of the few that kept his job. Justine Greening has been promoted to Education Secretary (was International Development Secretary) and will be replacing Nicky Morgan. A bit of history made by May’s reshuffle, Liz Truss is the first female Justice Secretary and will be replacing Michael Gove. Chris Grayling, one of May’s biggest supporters is the new Transport Secretary and was previously the Leaders of the House of Commons and justice secretary. Greg Clark previously the communities secretary has now taken over the defunct Business, Industry and Skills (it is now Business, Energy and Industrial energy, Theresa May has merged the energy and business departments together). Patrick McLoughlin previously the transport secretary and is now the Conservative party chairman and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. Alan Cairns and David Mundell remain unchanged. The newbies are Karen Bradley, James Brokenshire, Damian Green, Andrea Leadsom and Priti Patel. Sajid David, is one of the few left associated with Old Downing Street, he has moved down from Business Secretary to Communities and Local Government.

out with the old and in with the new 7

So who is out?-Those who were shown the door, those who “resigned” and those who did not want the job no more

It has been called one of the most ruthless reshuffles in recent times with nine sackings and resignations. Theresa May sacked a number of Cameron’s closest allies which includes George Osborne, the former Chancellor and axed Michael Gove, Oliver Letwin, Nicky Morgan and John Whittingdale. Stephen Crabb resigned from his role as Work and Pensions Secretary “in the best interests of my family” and Theresa Villiers the former Northern Ireland Secretary resigned.

Theresa May’s government

Theresa May’s cabinet has had a change of direction and its a big one. From sacking big names, to surprising us all of with Boris as the Foreign Secretary (Osborne was not a surprise) and abolishing the Energy and Climate Change department. Then merging energy with business and having veteran right-wingers Liam Fox and David Davis in Brexit related roles. One thing is for sure, Theresa wants us all to know that the Cameron era is in the past. She wanted us to know that she had a clear out, she has moved in and she has thrown out what she does not want or need. May’s appointments highlights that she is determined in repairing the damage caused by the referendum. Theresa’s cabinet gives us a hint of the government she wishes to lead: Tory unity, “Brexit means Brexit”, climate change sceptics and that Tories do go to state schools.

Images:  www.bbc.co.uk  www.independent.co.uk

Brexit: Regional Divides

Brexit regional divides

One of the big questions that continues to pop up in the Brexit debate is how each country will vote? Leaders from Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland have taken opposing views as to where they stand in the EU referendum. Thus highlighting the regional divides that the debate will bring up. Let’s see where they stand:

Scotland

Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has said she would like to see “a strong and positive case” for the UK to remain in the EU.  She also said David Cameron’s negotiations were argued on narrow grounds. Both, Alex Salmond (the former leader of SNP) and Nicola Sturgeon have warned that Brexit will reopen the question of Scottish Independence. Mr Salmond said that the second referendum will be “irresistible and I think very rapid”. This was supported by the First minister who said, “If we get into the situation where Scotland stays to vote in, the rest of the UK votes to come out, then people in Scotland will have big questions they will want to look at again about whether Scotland should be independent”. She also made a similar statement on the Andrew Marr Show as she said it will almost certainly trigger a second referendum. Additionally, she has previously called for the EU referendum to be subject to a double majority whereby there will need to be a majority in each part of the UK rather than a simple majority.

Compared to other parts of the UK, Scotland is more pro-European. This is partly down to the current Scottish government, SNP, which the majority of Scotland’s population are supporting. It is seen by SNP that an independent Scotland being part of the EU is only possible if they have a pro-EU stance. Additionally, Scotland benefits from EU subsidies and exporting to the continent without trade barriers. Brexit could have a great impact on the Scottish economy as Britain Stronger in Europe (pro-EU campaign) has said Scottish Exports to mainland Europe are worth £11.6 billion. Furthermore, Scotland in the next few years will be receiving £33 million from the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and hundreds of millions more from structural funds. Polls have shown that Scotland is in the remain camp. A poll by Comres found that amongst 1,105 British adults the support for remaining in the EU was higher amongst the Scots, compared to the UK as a whole. 59 per cent said they will vote to remain whilst only 31 per cent said they will vote out. Similarly, a poll by the Daily Record showed that 66 per cent want the UK to stay in the EU and  28 per cent will be more likely to back independence if the UK got out of the EU (14 per cent less likely to back independence).

Wales

The debate in Wales is likely to be centred around the financial benefits of the EU membership. Wales is said to have received an estimated £3.8 billion between 2007 and 2013 from the EU’s Common Agriculture Policy, structural funds and other funding streams. Labour’s first minister, Carwyn Jones has said that the Welsh electorate have a choice about the money in their pockets “£3000 per household, right across Wales”. He further added that the farming industry in Wales (58,000 farmers in Wales)  could come to an end as “our farmers depend on over a £200m a year of subsidies and access to the European market”. The Welsh government has said the country will benefit from £50m of EU investment each year under various funding schemes. Despite Wales being one of the main beneficiaries of the UK membership, it has grown Eurosceptic. According to Barometer, the country’s 2.2m voters will decide to leave the EU (45 per cent to vote out and 37 per cent to remain). The leave vote has grown by 3 points since December and the remain has decreased by 3 points. The Vote Leave camp had not gotten more than 40 per cent of the vote until the end of last year. This is seen with the rise of support of UKIP in Wales, with the party polling ahead of Plaid Cyrmu and Liberal Democrats who have both been in government. Recently, Plaid Cyrmu leader Leanne Woods argued similarly to Sturgeon that UK should only leave the EU if all four countries voted to leave.  It is said that the pro-EU parties are fearful of how close the June 23 poll is to Welsh Assembly elections and they will not have enough time to come together. Many argue that the money the UK spends on the EU budget could be used in Wales. Campaigners argue that there is little evidence that money from EU has made a big difference in Wales. Many in Wales are unhappy with the Labour administration, as well as the loss of steel jobs at Port Talbot which some blame the EU for its failure to prevent Chinese steel dumping. This has therefore lead to a drop in support for the EU.

Northern Ireland

A poll in November showed that Northern Ireland wanted to remain with 55 per cent wishing to remain and 13 per cent wanting to go out. However first minister of Northern Ireland,  Arlene Foster said she was recommending Britain to vote out of the EU. This is because she said the Prime Minister’s negotiations did not go far enough in securing fundamental reform of Europe. This is likely to cause heated debates and divisions, where Northern Ireland has a power-sharing government (DUP shares power with Sinn Fein, Ireland’s nationalist party). Northern Ireland’s deputy first minister, Martin McGuiness said “the future of Ireland north and south is in the EU and Sinn Fein will be campaigning vigorously to stay in”.

Image: www.theguardian.com

The Brexit Gang

Six cabinet members have come out against David Cameron by supporting the Vote Leave campaign.

Brexit gang

 

The prime minister today announced the EU referendum will take place on the 23rd June after securing a deal with 27 EU leaders to change the UK’s relationship with EU. Shortly after Cameron’s announcement, the ‘Brexit Gang’ posed for photos at the Vote for Leave headquarters.

The ‘gang of six’ includes Michael Gove, the justice secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, the work and pensions secretary, John Whittingdale, the culture secretary, Chris Grayling, the leader of the Commons, Theresa Villers, the Northern Ireland secretary and Priti Patel, the employment minister. There have been several rumours for the last few weeks as to who will break the ranks with the Prime Minister’s in campaign. The majority of the ‘six member gang’ are not political household names but will add intellectual weight to the out campaign. Michael Gove joining the out campaign, was not anticipated by number 10 and is seen as a blow to Cameron. One politician that political commentators are keeping an eye as to which side he will support is Boris Johnson. If Boris was to join the Brexit Camp, this could be real trouble for the in campaign and a coup for the Vote Leave campaigners.  The London Mayor’s position is unclear as he has stated that Cameron must do more to convince him on staying in the EU. Boris Johnson is apparently playing the waiting game until Cameron outlines plans to reassert parliament sovereignty.Boris is popular and will win people over which ever side he decides to join.  Until we find out which side Boris will back, let us look at the rebels:

Michael Gove- Justice Secretary

michael-Gove brexit gang

Michael Gove is one of Cameron’s closest political allies however Gove said if he campaigned with Cameron to stay in the EU he would not be “true to my convictions or country’. The justice secretary said it was one of the hardest political decisions he has had to make and added that Britain would be “freer, fairer and better off outside the EU”. The prime minister said yesterday that he was “disappointed but not surprised” that his loyal friend decided to support the Vote Leave campaign.

Iain Duncan Smith-Work and pensions secretary

ian duncan smith brexit gang

There is no surprise here, Iain Duncan Smith is a long-standing Eurosceptic. He was one of the Maastricht rebels too.

Theresa Villers-Northern Ireland Secretary

Theresa Villers brexit gang

The Northern Ireland Secretary represented London as a Eurosceptic MEP, so no surprise here again that she decides to support the out campaign.

Priti Patel-Employment minister

The MP for Witham has been a long time supporter of Brexit as she was the former communications chief of the Referendum party. She has said in the past that the country wants “less Europe more Britain”.

John Whittingdale-Culture secretary

john whittingdale brexit gang

The former Thatcher aide is a committed Eurosceptic and it was known he would back the outers.

Chris Grayling-Leader of the House of Commons

Chris Grayling brexit gang

Chris Grayling, is a long-standing Eurosceptic and said that the deal that the Prime Minister had won in Brussels was not enough to transform the UK’s relationship with the EU. Grayling argued Cameron, “has undoubtedly made some progress but what he has discovered over the last couple of days is the limitations of change that we can secure within the European Union”. He further added that the EU does not give the UK control over its own borders and for that reason he will be supporting the Vote Leave campaign.

This will be the first post of the ‘Brexit Series’ I will be doing. I will be writing on interesting updates and the legal, political and economic implications of Brexit and staying in.

Images: www.theguardian.com , www.telegraph.co.uk , www.mirror.co.uk

Mind the Gap-Is Mandatory Gender Pay Reporting the right step forward in equality?

mind the gap 1

There continues to be a gap between what a man and what a woman earns in the workplace. It now stands at 19.1% for full and part time workers in the UK, this means that a woman earns 80p for every £1 a man earns. It is now forty years since equality laws were passed in the UK. By early 2016 there will be new regulations that’ll force companies with more than 250 employees to publish gender pay gap information. This will be a great change from the voluntary approach that companies were previously encouraged to publishing.

The coalition government introduced gender pay reporting under a voluntary scheme, in the Think, Act, Report Scheme. It was reported in August 2014 that only five companies (Tesco, PWC, FriendsLife, AstraZeneca and Genesis) had published their gender pay gap information by their own accord. More than 275 companies had signed up to the scheme but did not publish their gender pay gap information. Labour came up with an amendment to the bill to introduce mandatory gender pay. It gained support from the equality commission and was backed by different MPs from across the parties. This then resulted in the Liberal Democrats to prompt the government to introduce section 147 of the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act 2015 (SBBEA).

The Law 

Section 147 of the SBBEA requires the government to carry out its powers under section 78 of the Equality Act 2010 to make regulations for employers with 250 or more employees to publish information on gender pay gap within 12 months of the Act coming into the force. The Act received Royal Assent on 26th March 2015 meaning that the regulations must be made by 25 March 2016. Section 147 of the SSBEA and section 78 of the Equality Act has not been brought into force. The government has said that they are planning to for a consultation to be published in the summer of this year and regulations to be done by early 2016. This was confirmed by Nicky Morgan, the Minister for Women and Equalities.

Right Step forward

The move to make gender pay reporting mandatory has long been resisted by parts of the Conservative party and several businesses. The difference in the gender pay gap is the sixth highest behind Italy and Portugal. In the private sector, the gender pay gap for full time employees is 17.5% and when looking at it by occupation the figures for 2014 show that pay gap for those in full time management roles is around 16% and 25% for those working in skilled trades. Women are still working in badly paid roles compared to men who dominate skilled and professional roles. The Fawcett society has said that the latest figures suggest that the gap still relates to the stereotypes around men’s and women’s roles and their values in the workplace. According to its studies, figures show that women make up 78% of those working in social and health care whilst men account for 88% of the better paid industries of science, technology and engineering (STEM).

The architecture profession for instance women accounted for 41% of the profession in 2014 at the junior rank of a Part 1 qualified architectural assistant and as the roles become more senior the percentage falls ( they made up 35% of qualified architects, 26% of senior architects and 13% of equity partners or shareholder directors). The situation gets even worse in the engineering profession where in a 2.3 million strong industry, only 6.7% of it is women. According to the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, women make up 15% of the country’s graduates yet only 1% are chartered medical engineers. Employers should be encouraged to address restrictions on flexible working and costs of childcare, so that the pay gap between men and women becomes more equal.

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The mandatory gender pay reporting is the right step forward and should be welcomed. It will improve the big gap between men and women’s pay. It will also promote transparency by forcing companies to identify gender pay issues in their organisations. David Cameron said mandatory gender pay gap reporting is “ a really big move” and will “cast sunlight on the dispreprenancies and create the pressure we need for change, driving women’s wages up”. Labour has also welcomed the move but added that the Conservatives were slow to act on gender pay transparency.

The legislation will not require for instance long and detailed equal pay audits which trade unions have been campaigning for a long time. To understand what is going on in the workplace, we need more than one single figure or even just figures. There are other factors that may contribute to gap in pay such as the impact of motherhood and family responsibilities on women’s paid work or that companies are failing to provide equal pay and this is the cause behind the gap between men and women’s pay. These factors should also be taken into consideration when an employer is reporting on its gender pay gap. The government has yet to decide whether they will make big companies publish a single figure or a number of figures relating to each pay grade. Nicky Morgan has suggested that the figures could be released in bands meaning that pay will be compared at each grade rather than an overall figure.

In looking on how to improve the gender pay gap in Britain we must also start from the beginning-education. The government especially the Education Secretary and the Minister for Women and Equalities should encourage schools, colleges, sixth forms and universities to address occupational segregation.

The Reaction

Petra Wilson (Chartered Management Institute)  told the Guardian:

We welcome David Cameron’s announcement that new legislation will require every company with 250 employees or more to publish the gap between average female earnings and average male earnings. But businesses should report on more than just average pay rates. Given that the gender pay gap is widest at the top, it’s vital that companies track pay across different job levels. And, of course, the pay gap isn’t the only problem facing women at work, as the lack of women in senior roles is still a huge problem.

Transparency is the most powerful driver we have for achieving change, and this legislation will be good news for business. The new measures will help unblock the talent pipeline. Clearer employee data, improved recruitment and a reinvigorated focus on business culture will pay dividends for all employees. The evidence is clear: diverse teams make better decisions and deliver better results for businesses.

John Allen, chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses

We need to keep up the momentum and break down the remaining barriers that prevent women progressing in the workplace and the boardroom”.

Gloria De Piero, shadow Minister for Women and Equalities

said it was “good news” ministers had “finally embraced pay transparency after shelving the Labour legislation for five years”.

“For pay transparency to make a real difference, we need to have an annual equal pay check which measures progress and recommends what action needs to be taken – a move the government voted against earlier this month”.

Jo Swinson, former Lib Dems Equalities minister

said: “Saying we can afford to wait for another generation to close it is, to put it mildly, unambitious. The UK economy is currently missing out on the talents of too many women. In government, my Lib Dem colleagues and I fought tooth and nail with the Conservatives to get them to agree to even minimal changes to help close the gender pay gap”.

Kate Andrews, The Adam Smith Institute

“Forcing businesses with more than 250 employees to publish their ‘pay gaps’ will only promote more myths and confusion. There is no such thing as an ‘average salary’; education, previous experiences, negotiating tactics, and unique abilities all contribute to one’s salary, none of which can be known by comparing John and Jane’s annual take-home pay on a spreadsheet.

“Furthermore, men and women often choose to make different career decisions – usually based on flexibility and rigour – so they can embrace other, equally meaningful parts of their life; this, naturally, can be reflected in their pay.”

What does it mean for employers and employees?

In whatever method the government decides for companies to publish their gender pay gap information there will be issues in terms of recruitment, reputation and retention. If there is a big gap, this is likely to have an effect on a company’s retention and ability to recruit. It will also highlight the company’s commitment to diversity and to gender equality. In addition, it will bring transparency and scrutiny to the way companies pays its employees.

Mandatory gender pay reporting could mean large costs for big employers and could expose them to sex discrimination and equal pay claims.  By big companies publishing their gender gap information, employees will be able to access the information and if they are feel they are being paid lower than their comparator group it could potentially mean there will be several pay settlements. Large costs for the big companies are likely to arise if the audit is a detailed and sophisticated one, there is a also a fear that it will be time consuming for companies too.

Indeed, the government’s plan to force big companies to publish gender pay gap information is a positive step forward in gender pay and is welcomed. However it does not make equal pay a reality. More will need to be done to encourage employers for their to be equal pay parity between men and women.

Images: www.guardian.com (Joe Giddens/PA), www.bbc.co.uk

What Is Going On In Europe?

 

The European elections illustrated the change in European Politics. This shift in European politics has been described as a new wave of nationalism. However it was not only the political right that had success at the ballot box, the radical left saw a rise in support. It was certainly a wake up call for mainstream parties in Europe.

In the UK, UKIP had won 27.5% of the vote and had 24 MEPS elected. It was the first time that a party other than the Conservatives or Labour has a won an election in the UK in a hundred years. Labour came second with 25.4%, followed by the Tories and Lib Dems lost all but one of their seats. It was not only in the UK, there was a rise of the far-right, anti-EU Parties and anti-austerity groups from the left across Europe. In France, the National Front (FN) won 25% of the vote whilst President Hollande’s socialist party vote share was 14%. In Greece, the far left anti-austerity party, Syriza won for the first time in Greece. Also the country’s extreme right party, Golden Dawn, who was third behind Syriza and New Democracy did well in local elections. In Austria, the far right Freedom party took around a fifth of the vote and in Hungary, the neo-fascist Jobbik took 15%. In Denmark, the anti-immigration party, Danish People’s Party won. The hard left party, Sinn Fein did well in Ireland but in Germany it was otherwise. Angela Merkel’s party The Christian Democrats had an expected victory but Europe’s most powerful state saw its return of Eurosceptics with its first Neo-Nazi MEP.

What is wrong with Europe

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(Pictures above- http://www.economist.com/news/europe/21603034-impact-rise-anti-establishment-parties-europe-and-abroad-eurosceptic-union)

So the question is, why has this happened? What has happened in Europe? Why has there been a shift from the centre to extreme right and the hard left?

After five years of cuts, austerity and economic hardship across Europe, the European Elections highlighted the disenchanted voters who chose to support fringe parties instead of mainstream parties. There is a feeling across Europe that mainstream parties have failed to deliver on economic stability and prosperity in Europe. The weak recovery in Europe has given populist parties the platform to blame foreign direct investment and favour domestic workers and firms, anti-immigration regulations and state capitalism. These nationalist parties often tend to dislike supranational organisations like the European Union, World Trade Organisation, World Bank, International Monetary Fund and the United Nations. This is because of the belief that supranational organisations such as the EU interfere with the fundamental principle of national sovereignty.

Whether individuals voted for the hard left or the far right, the European Elections 2014 brought about historic results and is set to have an impact in national politics across Europe.

Peter Hain, former Cabinet minister, was quoted in the Daily Mail: “Whether we’ll have a majority , which I will fight for along with every other Labour Party member, I don’t know because it’s very, very hard to win a majority now in British Politics because we’re not in a two-party system, which we had for generations. We’re in a multi-party system”

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(Former Labour cabinet minister, Picture: Graeme Robertson)

This illustrates the sudden change that UKIP has brought about in in British Politics recently. Peter Hain, claimed that Labour would not be able to win a majority due to the success of UKIP, supports the view that there is a rise of nationalism in Britain and across Europe. Other prominent Labour MPs have argued that the rise of UKIP is the result of working class voters leaving the party in support for UKIP and other far right parties. Shadow chief secretary to the Treasury Rachel Reeves warned about the loss of Labour support at the recent European elections.

“The Labour party came into existence to give a voice for ordinary working people.

“What I saw… were middle class, public sector, well-educated young graduates voting Labour, but the people who the Labour Party was set up to help, abandoning us.”

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(Rachel Reeves, Shadow Chief Secretary to the treasury, Picture:http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-27753398)

It can be argued that the common held view that immigration and the EU are the results of the rise in nationalism, can be disputed. This is because the rise of radical parties could also be a sign of disappointment in long-term traditional centre left-right politics. The mainstream parties have either failed or compromised to have strong policies on key areas like the the economy and immigration.

As highlighted by the rising star of Labour, Rachel Reeves warned activists, at an event at Queen Mary University of London: “ Our very raison d’être will be threatened if the working people, who the Labour Party have got to be there for, and got to be a voice for, start to drift away because they don’t see us as the answer”

Politics in recent times has shifted to the centre, where in the past what distinguished parties like the Conservatives and Labour is now hard to find. This failure in the mainstream parties differentiating themselves, has provided far right and far left parties the opportunity to capitalise on disillusioned voters. Therefore it is up to Cameron, Miliband, Clegg and other leaders of mainstream parties in Europe to find convincing solutions to the problems EU citizens face today.

Although there has been a rise in the votes for radical parties in the 2014 European Elections, they did not do well everywhere. For example Netherlands’ Greet Wilders’ anti-immigration Freedom Party did not do as well as expected as well as Finland’s Finn Party. Furthermore, the Pro-Europe parties still control about 70% in the European Parliament, though this is a fall from 80% in 2009. In the European Parliament, the parties of the right range from the Britain’s euro-reformist Conservatives to far right groups like Marine Le Pen’s FN. Groups in the European Parliament must have 25 seats and consist of seven nationalities, which the second requirement is often difficult to meet. Nigel Farage refuses to form an alliance with Marine Le Pen, as he views her as anti-Semitic and racist. Likewise, Marine Le Pen feels the same way about Hungary’s Jobbik and Greece’s Golden Dawn. It is unclear whether there will be a alliance between the European far right parties because of this.

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(Picture above- Marine Le Pen, leader of National Front)

Whether the economic recovery will push Eurospectism into the background or the radical parties will continue to be at the forefront, it is too early to know. One indication would be national elections. In particular, Britain’s upcoming General Election 2015.

During the time Great Depression of the 1930s authoritarian regimes in Italy, Germany and Spain arose, there may be similar worrying trends to come if the European economy does not continue to pick up.

What are your thoughts? What is going on in Europe?

Turkey & EU restart membership talks

 

The EU has agreed to resume membership talks with Turkey. It has been more than three years since there has been negotiations. The restart of talks is an attempt to boost the prospect of democratic reforms and human rights in Turkey. There is a fear that the country is moving towards autocracy under the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

In an 2013 Progress report, the Commission criticised Turkey’s law enforcement in dealing with protests. However, there has been praise for the Turkish Prime Minister. The commission recognised the country’s promising judicial reforms and increased rights for the Kurds. Nonetheless, some EU states continue to criticise Turkey’s crackdown on anti-government protests. Germany and France along with others are opposed to Turkey joining the EU.

Relations between the EU and Turkey has been frosty recently. This is due to some members of the Turkish government arguing that the EU is in decline and Turkey is  on the rise as a key regional and economic power.

Although, there has been unease with the restart of negotiations, Lithuania has congratulated Turkey. Lithuania currently holds the EU Presidency. Linas Linkevicius, the foreign minister said that the negotiating process was long overdue.

Turkey has been an associate member of the EU since 1963. Turkey met the last condition in 2005. However the negotiations froze over concerns of tensions with Cyprus which is an EU member, freedom of speech and democracy, treatment of religious minorities and judicial reform. During this time, other countries such as Serbia and Croatia have become members of the EU.

Angela Merkel has argued that Turkey should settle for a ‘special relationship’ instead of full membership. The reforms Erdogan unveiled is said to have persuaded Merkel to resume negotiations.

Syria-IS THE CALL FOR ENDING OF VIOLENCE ENOUGH?

Thousands of people have been killed in a chemical weapon attack in Damascus. Activists have described as more than 1,400.  This attack took place in rebel held parts of Damascus. The Syrian government has denied the allegations of  being responsible for the attacks. They said it was “illogical and fabricated”.

There has been great concern in the international community. The UN Security council met yesterday for an emergency meeting after the news broke out.  The UK along with other 35 countries including France and Turkey are asking for a tough international response to the chemical weapons attack. The White House has called for the UN to investigate the attack. Likewise, the UK is calling for UN inspectors to be be given immediate access to where the attacks took place. Currently, the UN Weapons team only has permission to visit three sites under an agreement made by Syria and the UN. The weapons team is in Syria investigating previous claims of chemical weapons. For a mandate for an investigation into yesterday’s attack, permission will need to come from the UN Secretary General and be approved by Syria.

Experts believe that that the chemical weapons used in the attack was mustard gas and sarin nerve agent. The rebels and the Syrian government have been accused of using chemical weapons. Moreover, the Syrian government also has been accused of having stocks of chemical weapons. Several videos have been released onto the internet, showing men and women suffering from the effects of the chemical weapon attack in Damascus. Many are seen with white foam bubbling at the mouth. Also, victims have been suffering from respiratory distress. The French foreign minister, Laurent Fabius has said that the use of chemical attacks if proven would allow a “reaction of force”. However, the British Foreign Office has said that “We believe a political solution is the best way to end the bloodshed”. Nevertheless, the Prime Minster and the Foreign Secretary have both suggested that they cannot rule out any options.

So what does this mean for Syria and its people? Many comments have been made from several states calling for the end of violence in Syria. But is this enough? It seems that more may have to be done. Whether the solution to the crisis is going to be political or use of force, it is yet to be seen. There have been stronger responses of late to the Syrian Conflict. Many have suggested the use of force as an possible solution. However, this is unlikely. China and Russia are against the use of force. They have repeatedly backed the Syrian government since the conflict started. Both countries supposedly blocked a stronger Security Council press statement supported by 35 states.

For the violence to end, whether the solution would be done politically, legally or by use of force-everyone in the international community would need to come to to an agreement.

What am i reading?- The bottom billion

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I am now getting back into my reading groove. I have a pile of books that are waiting for me to read. Lol, you should see my Amazon ‘wish list’- it is full of books that I want to buy.

‘The Bottom Billion’ is a book that I am currently reading. It is such an interesting read. Paul Collier gives unconventional views on global poverty and aid. It will definitely change your view on why there is constant poverty in the world. He develops the notion of the ‘conflict trap’ which means a State’s economic problems can make the country prone to civil war and once a conflict has started there is a trap which is hard to get out from.  However he explains that this idea does not fully explain global poverty . He gives four reasons to why there is poverty such as corruption and political instability. Collier suggests that the solution to this cannot just be the ‘West’ giving aid but there must be a change within these failing states. This change cannot be imposed but rather tools such as military interventions and trade policies he suggests will strengthen reformers in failing states.

‘The Bottom Billion’ is a must read book. If you’re interested in why the ‘Geldof’ types of aid never works, this is the book to read!

Stay Blessed

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