News in Brief UK Politics US Politics

Friday Update: 7th February 2020

Written by Callum Williams

This week the press were kicked out of No. 10 whilst Johnson lied again and threatened to tear up the European Convention of Human Rights: welcome to Johnson’s golden era of Brexit Britain. Across the Atlantic, the democratic Caucus in Iowa was thrown into disarray by technical issues as Trump was ‘acquitted’ by the Senate.

Johnson’s Post Brexit Britain

One week after the UK’s departure from the EU, Johnson is already embroiled in a series of controversies. On Monday, the PM’s advisors barred selected media organisations including the Huffington Post, the Mirror and the Independent from attending a press briefing. In response, all the other journalists including the BBC, Channel 4 and the Daily Mail walked out and refused to attend the briefing.

Unsurprisingly, Johnson has been caught spouting another lie by the UK Statistics Authority, an independent agency, who criticised Johnson for saying that Universal Credit, the Tory Government’s flagship welfare reform, had got 200,000 people into work. In reality, the figure was simply an estimate – not a fact like Johnson had implied.

Johnson’s conduct is deeply troubling, and his authoritarian style of rule threatens our democracy. He believes he is above the law and uses the 2019 General Election results as a pretext to lie openly and demonise the press, the civil service and the judiciary under the guise of the ‘will of the people’. He has adopted his own form of ‘Trumpism’ and with five years and a large majority, the only restraint on him is the conscience of his own MPs.

New Counter Terrorism Bill

In response to two recent terrorism attacks by recently released terrorists, Johnson announced his Government would introduce legislation to end the automatic halfway release of convicted terrorists. Under the proposed law, individuals would be required to serve at least two-thirds of their sentence and the parole board would be required to approve their release.

The proposed changes would apply retroactively, making the law liable to legal challenge. The European Convention of Human Rights prohibits retroactive sentencing changes which increase sentences:

Nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed than the one that was applicable at the time the criminal offence was committed.

Article 7 – European Convention of Human Rights

The potential conflict between Johnson’s counter-terrorism plan and Human Rights law in the UK sets the stage for another battle between the executive and the judiciary which could once again reach the Supreme Court.

Johnson problems go beyond legal ones, the proposed legislation is simply a knee jerk reaction to terrorism. Johnson hasn’t taken the time to examine why radicalisation is happening and why deradicalisation is failing. Simply imprisoning people for longer won’t solve terrorism as eventually they will be released. Although harsh sentences for terrorists are very popular with the electorate, it doesn’t make the decision right and doesn’t mean the plan will work. Being a good Prime Minister involves making the right decision even when it is unpopular. Until Johnson stops acting like a demagogue, the terrorism problem will never be solved and more lives will be lost.

Trump ‘acquitted’ by Senate

On Wednesday, the Senate ‘acquitted’ Donald Trump along party lines except for one Republican senator, Mitt Romney who voted to convict Trump citing his faith as a key factor in his decision saying:

As a senator-juror, I swore an oath before God to exercise impartial justice. I am profoundly religious. My faith is at the heart of who I am. I take an oath before God as enormously consequential.

Mitt Romney

Mitt Romney stated that the president was ‘guilty of an appalling abuse of public trust’ and attacked the President’s actions in a damning speech saying:

What he did was not perfect. No, it was a flagrant assault on our electoral rights, our national security and our fundamental values. Corrupting an election to keep oneself in office is perhaps the most abusive and destructive violation of one’s oath of office that I can imagine.

Mitt Romney

Despite, being the only Republican senator to have the integrity and honesty to break rank, Mitt Romney faced backlash for his decision with Donald Trump tweeting:

Had failed presidential candidate [Mitt Romney] devoted the same energy and anger to defeating a faltering Barack Obama as he sanctimoniously does to me, he could have won the election. Read the Transcripts!

Donald Trump

The impeachment trial demonstrates a deeper problem with American politics – that the president can act with impunity and with total disregard for the law, as they know their party will acquit them regardless of the evidence. The Senate trial was ridiculous as all the jurors bar one had already declared their voting intentions to the media before the trial began and the prosecutors were barred from calling their witnesses. It is hardly surprising trust in politics is so low. It will now be up for the voters to pass their verdict on Trump in November.

Iowa Caucus

The first stage of the Democratic primary to determine the 2020 democratic presidential candidate took place in Iowa on Monday. However, the Iowa Caucus was overshadowed by a technical flaw which prevented the precincts from reporting their results leading to long delays and inconsistencies in the results. With 99% of the results declared, Sanders and Buttigieg are neck and neck with Biden and Warren still far behind.

Further Reading

Want to know more about the Iowa Caucus? Read Fraser Innes’ analysis here.

Want to find out more about the Democratic presidential candidates? Read Fraser Innes’ analysis here.

About the author

Callum Williams

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