Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Theresa May: a new Margaret Thatcher?

Above: a horribly executed face-swap of
Margaret Thatcher and Theresa May
Yesterday, Andrea Leadsom withdrew her candidacy in the Conservative leadership contest leaving Theresa May as the last woman standing. Theresa May became leader of the Conservative party with immediate effect and yesterday afternoon David Cameron announced that he would step down as Prime Minister after PMQs on Wednesday. Quite rightly, there has already been plenty of speculation on what kind of Prime Minister May will be. Some have been bold enough to compare her to Margaret Thatcher. But is she going to be the next ‘Iron Lady’?

Obviously, they are similar in the sense that they are both women Prime Ministers (a rarity UK history) but, in terms of policy, May seems to be less radical on many issues.

Margaret Thatcher was conservative through and through. She took a hard-right social and economic stance; promoting privatisation, introducing poll tax, and doing nothing whilst inequality and poverty rates grew throughout the 1980s. Meanwhile, May is pro-hunting, pro-smoking in public areas, and has an inconsistent record when it comes to civil rights and liberties. She voted against a bill in 2002 which would allow gay couples to adopt children however in 2013 voted in favour of same sex marriage. Additionally, she has supported the 2015 Conservative manifesto pledge to abandon the Human Rights Act and replace it with a UK Bill of Rights (a bill which faced large public backlash so has since been put on the backburner). However, May has renounced Cameron’s austerity measures to eliminate the budget deficit before 2020 and stated that she thinks that workers should be on the boards of major firms. The case can therefore be made for May being an extremely moderate conservative. For every hard-right policy she has backed, she has supported a soft-right (sometimes even liberal) policy to balance it out.

Although May has been outlining her aims over the past few days, the public can’t be blamed for being bit confused about her positions regarding some key issues. For example, although she voted for increasing the rate of VAT to 20%, she has recently criticised David Cameron in The Times for doing that. Maybe May was forced to hold her tongue in the past and tow the party line (because of collective ministerial responsibility) so she could retain her position in the cabinet. It is clear that from the policy announcements she has made over the last few days, she is drawing subtle contrasts between her own agenda and Cameron’s. As for May being the next Margaret Thatcher, it seems unlikely but only time will tell.

Sunday, 10 July 2016

Angela Eagle will be better for the Labour Party if they want to win the next general election

Elections are won in the middle ground. Analysis of historic voting behaviour in the UK suggests that the more affluent people in society tend to vote Conservative and the working classes tend to vote Labour. A large factor contributing to winning an election is appealing to the floating voters in the middle ground.

Kudos to Corbyn
In the 2015 General Election, Ukip, the SNP, and the Green party managed to rake in over 6 million votes for the first time. Labour’s core working class vote seemed to have splinter off and many turned to alternatives like Ukip, the Greens and (in Scotland) overwhelmingly the SNP.

Since summer 2015 when Corbyn was elected leader, it can be argued that he has started to win back the working class support at a rapid pace. With the backing of the trade unions, the surged Labour party membership, and his new brand of more honest, straight talking politics, Corbynmania has reared its head up and down the country.

However, that isn't enough if Labour wants to win the next general election. Winning back their disillusioned working class voters is step one but step two entails winning over some of the middle and upper class also. Angela Eagle thinks she is the woman who can do this.

Eagle swoops in
The ex-shadow First Secretary of State and MP for Wallasey revealed that she was going to run against Corbyn yesterday. Although she hasn’t singled out any key policy differences between her agenda and Corbyn’s, she says that she aims to unite the party. This is something which needs doing if Labour stands any chance of being successful again. Although Corbyn has a mandate from the Labour members, he lacks the support of his MPs. Corbyn cannot be a one man party.

However, unless Corbyn somehow isn’t on the ballot paper when the new vote for Labour leadership happens (which would be a democratic outrage), it is very unlikely that Eagle will stand any chance of becoming leader in the near future.

She had a first opportunity to make a strong case for her leadership on ‘Sunday Politics’ with Andrew Neil this morning however failed to answer the majority of questions and failed to come across as a potential strong leader. Instead, she tried to shift the focus of many questions on to Corbyn’s flaws.

Her leadership bid is still very young so it won’t be long until Eagle might move into the spotlight of her own campaign and stop being hung-up on why many Labour MPs think Corbyn has failed.

Overall, even if Angela Eagle isn’t the solution to Labour’s lack of support and divisions, neither is Jeremy Corbyn. Angela Eagle stands a far better chance of appealing to the more broad electorate. However, what Corbyn lacks in support from MPs, he more than makes up for in the way he has rallied the support of young people, the working classes, and voters who had started to find alternatives to the Labour party. Regardless of where Labour goes next, if they want any chance of success, Jeremy Corbyn needs to be involved. 

Friday, 8 July 2016

Leadsom should not be underestimated in the battle for Conservative Party leadership

David Cameron only announced that he would be resigning as Prime Minister just over two weeks ago but the Tory leadership contest to replace him is already well under way. Theresa May and Andrea Leadsom are the last women standing after beating Michael Gove, Stephen Crabb, and Liam Fox in ballots by Conservative MPs. May was an EU 'remainer' and Leadsom campaigned as an EU ‘leaver’. They represent an interesting cross-section of the Conservative party as what they stand for and their motives for running are intriguing.

Theresa May
With 90 Conservative MP endorsements and the bookies putting her odds at 1/3 to be the next Tory leader, it seems inevitable that May will be the next Prime Minister. She has a wealth of experience in foreign negotiations as she served for 6 years as Home Secretary and she calls herself "not a showy politician" which means that few people have preconceptions of her and she could start her term with a clean slate.

Although she was anti-Brexit, she has since accepted the result and has stated “the campaign was fought, the vote was held, turnout was high and the country gave their verdict… Brexit means Brexit.” This is unsurprising as during the EU referendum campaign she was virtually silent. Many at The Spectator predict that she was playing the long game all along and being quiet so she would be in good standing in the case of Brexit and Cameron resigning. Her strategy appears to have paid off as she is now favourite to be Tory leader… not that opinion polls can be trusted.

One thing which strikes me is, if May wins the Tory leadership contest it surely defeats the point of Cameron resigning in the first place? Replacing one anti-Brexiteer with another seems a waste of time.

Andrea Leadsom
Leadsom has emerged as the dark horse in this race for Tory leadership. She appears to have come out of nowhere but many are already pumped about her potential. Leadsom is currently a junior minister and has only been in Parliament for six years.

In the last few days she seems to have been appealing to social conservatives; speaking out against gay marriage and talking about her Christian views in a series of TV interviews. Appealing to the right-wing of her party which might just pay off. There is around two months Leadsom now has to portray herself as material for the next Tory leader and PM. From what we have seen in the last week, she definitely seems up to the job however she is going to have to fight a excellent campaign to beat May.

If history is anything to go by, David Cameron can be likened to Andrea Leadsom because he too was the underdog candidate in the Tory leadership race in 2005. He was overshadowed by David Davis right up until the end of the contest when Cameron managed to win to the surprise of many.

No matter who wins the leadership contest and becomes the next Prime Minister, Boris Johnson (leader of the EU leave campaign) should not be allowed to walk away from the turmoil that Brexit has so far created. When a Brexit department is inevitably set up, Boris must be made the head of it so it is him who is held accountable for Britain’s exit deal from the EU and the other changes that follow.

iOS 10: Lockscreen and Notifications

Today the iOS 10 Public Beta was released and I downloaded it in hope that it would bring a plethora of changes, small and large, which streamlined and improved the iOS experience. The update, although still a beta, is very stable and resembles iOS 9 in almost every way conceivable apart from the lockscreen and notifications.

Notifications are now large. Apple calls them “rich” however they just take up lots of space now which is inconvenient if you have lots of notifications to rifle though. The size of these large bubbles also means that you can’t see as many of them on your screen at once. This is more of a step backwards in innovation than a step forwards.

The widgets tab (accessible when you pull down from the top of the screen) used to be sleek and modern however in iOS 10, widgets looks like notifications and, like notifications, are inconveniently large. The widgets tab is now also accessible if you swipe to the far left on your homescreen or lockscreen - there is no escaping it! Widgets and notifications have become ugly hindrances rather than helpful in most cases.

On the lock screen, you can now interact with the huge notifications in a more dynamic way, access the widgets panel (as mentioned above), and access your camera by sliding right. Apple has ditched its iconic ‘slide to unlock’ method and replaced it with ‘press home to unlock’. This uses Touch ID to unlock your phone. Failing that, you are then presented with the passcode screen. It does seem like a security improvement as there are no longer multiple options for unlocking your phone and you are forced to use Touch ID first.

Also in iOS 10 are the addition of apps such as ‘Home’ and the ability to remove first party apps but these aren’t features that will be used by the average user. I will also admit that iMessage has been vastly improved however I don’t use iMessage so those new features will just get in the way when I need to text somebody.

And that, basically, is all that iOS 10 is. It’s a little disappointing that Apple seems to have ran out of ideas for the 10th version of its mobile operating system. They’ve changed notifications and widgets for the worse and the lock screen is different but probably just as productive as the old lock screen.