News in Brief UK Politics

Friday Update: 20th December 2019

Written by Callum Williams

This week, parliament passed the Brexit deal while civil war erupted within the Labour party. Across the Atlantic, President Donald Trump became the third president in history to be impeached.

General Election Fallout

The Labour Party’s civil war has begun, with politicians casting blame on one another and spinning against potential opponents. An exact timetable for the leadership election hasn’t been finalised but a new leader is expected to be in place by March.

Only two candidates have formally declared their candidacies: Emily Thornberry and Clive Lewis. Although they haven’t officially declared their candidacies, Rebecca Long-Bailey and Kier Starmer are likely to be the two front runners.

Following a dreadful election result, winning no seats, the Independent Group for Change will be disbanded. The new party was formed by discontented former Tory and Labour MPs in February. Multiple defections to the Liberal Democrats, little public support and a terrible General Election result led to the party’s downfall.

After a landslide win in Scotland for SNP last week, First Minister Nichola Sturgeon formally requested a Section 30 order under the Scotland Act. If granted the order would give Holyrood the legal powers required to hold a second independence referendum. Boris Johnson hasn’t formally replied to the request but based on past statements he is unlikely to grant the order, making any second referendum during this parliament unlikely.

Queen’s Speech

Following his election victory, Johnson set out his domestic agenda for the next year in his Queen’s speech.

The Queen’s speech included plans to introduce voter ID, allegedly to protect democracy. However, the electoral commission says only one person was convicted for voter impersonation in 2017, so is the government’s plan a solution to a non-existent problem? No, it is a solution to a different problem. The issue that many groups, those that will be disenfranchised under these plans, don’t vote Conservative and so Johnson plans to remove their democratic right in his assault on democracy.

His Queen Speech also included a provision to effectively ban rail strikes. Striking is a fundamental employment right, it prevents companies from exploiting their workforce and offers recourse to protect against poor working conditions. Parliament will also see its power reduced with the repeal of the fixed-term parliament giving the government the power to unilaterally call a general election.

These plans present a worrying trend of diminishing government scrutiny, reducing rights and weakening our democratic institutions. Johnson has promised a ‘convection’ to examine how our democracy works which could potentially include limiting the scope of judicial review, political appointment of judges and the abolition of the Human Rights Act. 

Johnson is retaliating against those who dared to defy him whether that is Parliament or the Courts by removing their powers. He is an entitled demagogue who believes he is above the law and scrutiny. Now he has a safe majority and five years in office, we should all be frightened for our democracy.

Brexit was a key component of the speech with a pledge to leave the European Union by 31st January 2020 and this afternoon, Johnson deal passed the Commons comfortably. He now has one year to negotiate a trade deal, a difficult feat considering the EU-Canada deal took seven years.

Lady Hales Retires

Supreme Court President Lady Hale retired this week after reaching the statutory retirement age of 75. Lady Hale graduated Cambridge top of her class and pursued a career in academia specialising in family law. In 1994 she became a High Court Judge before being appointed to the Court of Appeal in 1999. In 2004, she became the first and only female Law Lord before becoming the first female President of the Supreme Court. 

She has been a fierce campaigner of female representation in the judiciary and has significantly contributed to the law. She was a key player in the landmark legal reforms including the Children Act 1989 which required public bodies to prioritise the best interests of a child. She came to public recognition following her judgement which declared Boris Johnson’s prorogation unlawful.

In her valedictory speech, she warned against adopting a US-style Supreme Court in both power and appointment and continued to advocate for female representation in the judiciary and at the bar.

Throughout her long tenure as an academic and a judge, she has surpassed many impressive milestones and made long-lasting contributions to the law which have affected everyone in this land, for that we owe her our deepest gratitude.

Trump Impeached

On Wednesday night, Donald Trump became the third President in US history to be impeached. The House passed two articles of impeachment: one for abuse of power, the other for obstruction of Congress. The House voted largely along party lines and Trump will now face a trial in a senate.

The two-thirds threshold for conviction in the senate will make Trump’s removal from office almost impossible, meaning this whole exercise won’t change the course of his presidency.

The impeachment vote was conducted along party lines which demonstrates there isn’t a consensus for impeachment. Many Trump supporters will see this as a partisan attempt to oust the president and so it is unlikely to affect Trump’s re-election chance.

Further Reading

Want to find out more regarding the election result? Read my analysis here.

Want to find out more about Labour’s leadership election? Read Fraser Innes’s analysis here.

Friday Update will be back on the 10th January 2020.

About the author

Callum Williams

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