Sarah Newton’s Resignation is Nothing to Rejoice About : Universal Credit Sufferer

This evening saw the resignation of Minister for Disabled People, Sarah Newton MP. Unlike her colleagues, Newton resigned as she was voting against the wishes of the government. This is known as collective responsibility.

Collective responsibility applies to all Ministers in government. It requires that they all vote as agreed at Cabinet. Should they not, they are expected to resign their position.

This evening saw the government in chaos after an amendment to their motion on a no-deal Brexit was past. Rather than cryptic wording Theresa May had proposed, the amendment stated that Parliament rejects ANY type of no-deal Brexit.

Following this unexpected defeat Prime Minister Theresa May had to instruct her MPs to vote against their own motion. It was indicated to Tory MPs, that this was a three line whip. This means that MPs are expected to vote as directed or resign any position in government.

Amongst the confusion, a junior whip told senior Ministers that they would be allowed to abstain and keep their positions.

Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd, Business Secretary Greg Clark, Scottish Secretary David Mundell and Justice Secretary David Gauke abstained from the vote, as did energy minister Claire Perry, who also attends cabinet.

Rather than abstain, Sarah Newton chose to defy the whip and vote against the government. This resulted in her resigning her role as the Minister for Disabled People.



Source: Sarah Newton’s Resignation is Nothing to Rejoice About : Universal Credit Sufferer

UK Human Rights Act is at risk of repeal – here’s why it should be protected : The Conversation

There have long been attempts to “scrap” the Human Rights Act 1998, which incorporates the European  Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) into UK law. But while none have gained traction to date, parliamentarians have recently raised concerns that the government could be wavering in its commitment to the act post-Brexit.

The House of Lords’ EU justice sub-committee said in January that it was worried to see the government change the wording of the political declaration it agreed with the EU, which sketches out a non-binding vision for what the UK’s relationship with Europe will look like after Brexit.

In its draft form, the declaration said that the future relationship should incorporate the UK’s “commitment” to the convention. However, by the time the final version was published in November 2018, that had changed to a commitment to “respect the framework” of the convention.

The committee wrote to the government for clarification and received a response from Edward Argar, the parliamentary under-secretary of state for justice, who stated that the government would not repeal or replace the act while Brexit is ongoing but that “it is right that we wait until the process of leaving the EU concludes before considering the matter further”.

Responding publicly, committee chairman Helena Kennedy said that this was a “troubling” reply, noting: “Again and again we are told that the government is committed … but without a concrete commitment”.


Source: UK Human Rights Act is at risk of repeal – here’s why it should be protected : The Conversation

Theresa May Brexit deal hammered in parliament, but be wary of prospects of a new ‘consensus’ approach : The Conversation

Another day, another record. The 230 majority against the motion to approve Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement on the UK’s exit from the EU smashes pretty much any parliamentary record one cares to discover.

That May’s immediate response was to make time for the house to debate and vote on Labour’s motion of no-confidence in her the day after her loss was thus hardly a surprise: how else to respond to such a heavy blow against the central platform and policy of the government?

And yet the abiding impression of these events was of avoiding a resolution, for as long as possible. Most obviously, May did not offer her resignation. That was a reflection not of her principles but rather her analysis of the situation. As she noted in her statement, a lack of majority for her deal doesn’t mean there’s a majority for another course of action. Without that alternative majority, she clearly feels there is still everything to play for and she is the right person for the job.

In essence, what May offered parliament was a “put-up or shut-up” proposition. Should the government win the confidence motion – which looks very likely indeed – she will hold a series of cross-party talks, inviting parliament to bring ideas and suggestions about how to build a majority position. The results will then be put to the EU for negotiation and agreement.


Source: Theresa May Brexit deal hammered in parliament, but be wary of prospects of a new ‘consensus’ approach : The Conversation

Windrush generation: the history of unbelonging : The Conversation

Many people from the Windrush generation have been told recently that they do not belong in Britain. Some have been detained and faced deportation. But they are no strangers to feelings of unbelonging. These often feature strongly in their stories of early life in Britain.

Most travelled with high expectations of what they regarded as the “mother country”. In interviews for my research, one Caribbean woman recalled: “When we were in school we were taught that England was the mother country. It supports its own, it looks after us”. Another felt loyalty towards England because “It was really the mother country and being away from home wouldn’t be that terrible because you would belong”.

Many also had a strong sense of their Britishness. Walter Lother, who came from Jamaica thought of his journey as migration within a common British world. He said:

When I came here I didn’t have a status as a Jamaican. I was British, and going to the mother country was like going from one parish to another. You had no conception of it being different.

Sam King came to Britain on the Empire Windrush. For him, being British was crucial to the enterprise

You could not be good on your own. Your good was no good. Your good had to be British.


Source: Windrush generation: the history of unbelonging : The Conversation

What happens after Brexit vote? Four possible scenarios explained : The Conversation

MPs have started to debate the final Brexit withdrawal agreement ahead of a “meaningful vote” at the end of the day on December 11. That is about the only part of the current situation about which we can be sure. There are various possible scenarios that might play out after that vote, some of which are outlined below.

1. MPs vote in favour of the deal

This is possibly the easiest outcome in terms of pushing forward with Brexit, but the hardest to obtain, given the sheer number of Conservative MPs who have said they will vote against the deal. A vote in favour would give the prime minister the power to tell the EU that the deal has been ratified by parliament.

But the government would still need to pass a hefty amount of legislation as the Brexit process continues. This would begin with the EU (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill – a piece of legislation which the House of Commons Library thinks could happen before Christmas.

In the event that this first option doesn’t happen (which seems increasingly likely), the future is all a bid muddled. This is partly because it depends if MPs vote in favour of any amendments to the motion on December 11. Here, the possible outcomes would be:

2. MPs vote against the deal but in favour of an amendment

The House of Commons speaker, John Bercow, can select up to six amendments to a proposed bill to also be debated and voted on by the house. In this case, the proposed amendments include one by Labour MP Hilary Benn to reject both the Brexit deal and a no-deal scenario in an attempt to enhance the power for MPs to find an alternative. Labour and the SNP have said they will support the amendment. Other amendments include extending the Article 50 deadline to give more time to decide how to proceed.

If MPs vote against the main motion on the deal, the government would give a statement to the House of Commons within 21 days setting out how it plans to proceed, as specified in the EU Withdrawal Act 2018. This would bring us to January 1, 2019. Parliament would be given a week to debate the contents of this statement, before a further round of ministerial statements reporting on progress by January 21.


Source: What happens after Brexit vote? Four possible scenarios explained : The Conversation

No-deal Brexit: survey reveals 44% of people expect the UK to crash out of EU : The Conversation

As the Brexit negotiations grind on, and with a withdrawal agreement still seeming elusive, the British people are becoming more pessimistic about what Brexit might mean. A major new survey by the Policy Institute at King’s College London and Ipsos MORI reveals that nearly half (44%) expect the UK to leave the EU in March 2019 without a deal in place. Only three in ten expect a deal to be worked out.

If we break the population down by party support and preference on Brexit, other fascinating distinctions become apparent. The majority of Remain-backing Labour voters think the UK is heading for a no-deal Brexit, while the majority of Conservative-Leave supporters think the country will leave with a deal.

Strikingly, whatever the outcome of the negotiations, few see much personal economic benefit flowing from Brexit. Only 14% of the public expect that leaving the EU will result in an increase in their own standard of living in the next five years, with twice as many expecting their standard of living to decrease. The public have become more pessimistic since we last asked this question in May 2016, just before the referendum


Source: No-deal Brexit: survey reveals 44% of people expect the UK to crash out of EU : The Conversation

Local elections 2018: how to understand this messy result : The Conversation

The local elections across England on May 3 were the first major test of public opinion since prime minister Theresa May lost the Conservatives’ parliamentary majority in 2017’s snap election and returned at the head of a minority government. As then, multiple localised contests defy any single national narrative. As then, the emerging picture is a virtual stalemate between the Conservatives and Labour.

Voters across large swaths of England cast their ballots this year. All the seats in London’s 32 boroughs were up for grabs, as were all the seats in four metropolitan boroughs, seven non-metropolitan districts and one unitary authority. A proportion of seats in 106 other local authorities were also being contested, not to mention five local mayoralities and the new metro mayor for the Sheffield City Region combined authority. If it sounds confusing, it is. Local democracy in England is a kaleidoscopic mess.

Britain has become used to hyper-dramatic elections in recent years. The 2018 contest, by contrast, was much more low key. It was also a mixed night for both the Conservatives and Labour. Overall the Tories have trod water, with no significant changes in their total number of council seats and, at the time of writing, no change in the total number of councils they control. Labour has increased slightly its tally of councillors, but without translating these gains into control of additional councils.



Source: Local elections 2018: how to understand this messy result : The Conversation

Brexit costs could lead to more government outsourcing : The Conversation

By   Postdoctoral research associate, University of Sheffield

After Brexit, the UK and devolved governments will need to carry out many of the functions that are currently the responsibility of Brussels. These include everything from customs checks to determining agriculture subsidies. Before that happens, much of the civil service will be consumed by managing the leaving process between now and the end of any transition period. The National Audit Office has published a report highlighting the scale of this task.

Ultimately, the UK is undertaking an administrative challenge “more complex than the first moon landing” within a very short space of time. The government is reportedly seeking to employ an extra 8,000 staff by the end of 2018 to help manage the process, with departments recruiting heavily in recent months. However, it is starting from a very low base. Public sector employment as a share of people in work was below 17% in June 2017 – its lowest level since records began in 1999. This suggests that the civil service will be unable to manage Brexit alone and therefore need to rely increasingly on external actors to undertake many of its functions.

Learning from the local government experience

The experience of English local government in recent years shows what can happen when public bodies are given greater freedom but don’t have the resources to take advantage of it. The 2011 Localism Act introduced a “general power of competence” for English councils. This enabled them to carry out any activity that is not expressly forbidden in law. Before the act came into force, local government was only allowed to undertake functions that were explicitly set out in legislation – such as providing social care, education, public transport, or cultural and leisure services. If they stepped over the line, they could be prosecuted and fined – and some were. The act also gave councils more flexibility to decide how to spend the money they received from Westminster.

Local government had lobbied for these changes for many decades, arguing that individual councils were better placed than central government to decide how to respond to local issues. Ministers said the reform represented “a major turning point in the balance of power” and included “new rights and freedoms for communities to take back control”. The immediate parallels with Brexit are fairly obvious.

David Davis: can he afford to take back control? EPA

However, you’d be hard pressed to find many people in local government who think the past six years have been cause for celebration. Most councils have been far too concerned about austerity to enjoy their new found freedoms. Central government funding has been cut by 40% since 2010 at a time when demand for expensive services such as social care is increasing rapidly. Crucially, the increased autonomy handed to councils doesn’t include the right to levy additional taxes. They can also only raise council tax by a significant amount if residents vote in favour in a local referendum.

With limited ability to raise money for the services they are expected to provide, councils have tried out a variety of service delivery arrangements to try and reduce their spending. These include outsourcing, establishing joint ventures with private businesses, or sharing responsibilities for service delivery with other public bodies.

The result of this “austerity localism” is that local government actually has less control over decision-making and service delivery than it did before. Instead, private and voluntary actors have become more influential. As a result, services are more complex and fragmented, and citizens struggle to hold anyone to account for poor performance.

Grenfell Tower is the most high-profile example of how complex contractual arrangements can blur lines of accountability. There have been others however – not least the 25-year contract between Sheffield City Council and Amey to improve the city’s roads. Amey’s decision to fell 6,000 trees as part of this deal has led to widespread local opposition. However, because exiting or changing the contract would be prohibitively expensive, the council has supported Amey’s actions.

Taking back control?

Nearly all of the expert analysis suggests that leaving the EU will cause a major shock to the UK economy, which will result in lower tax revenues for the government. This will mean that resources will be even scarcer than they are at present, at a time when the civil service faces a major increase in demand. Like English councils, therefore, it will struggle to undertake all of this work in-house.

The democratic accountability implications of this are quite profound, if and when outsourced services fail to meet public expectations. For example, if 3m EU nationals apply to remain in the UK after Brexit takes place, and these applications are not processed properly by a private contractor, who will be held accountable when people are wrongly forced to leave? Similarly, who will be responsible if outsourced border protection and customs checks fail to stop terrorists, weapons, drugs or criminals entering the country?

On top of this, the sheer complexity of the Brexit process means that there will be a range of convenient scapegoats whom the government could blame when things go wrong. Rather than “taking back control” of public services, therefore, Brexit is likely to result in more of them being run at arms-length from directly-elected politicians, who will seek to avoid being held responsible for poor performance.


Source : Brexit costs could lead to more government outsourcing : The Conversation

Who dodges more questions, Theresa May or Jeremy Corbyn? The verdict is in

In the current election campaign, May has been widely criticised for her evasiveness. In order to evaluate this criticism, I decided to compare her interview performance with that of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. I selected four interviews – two each from two prominent British interviewers, Andrew Neil and Andrew Marr. The most striking finding of this analysis was the remarkable similarity between the reply rates for the two politicians: in the Marr interviews, Corbyn (31%), May (29%); in the Neil interviews, May (25%), Corbyn (24%).

Source: Who dodges more questions, Theresa May or Jeremy Corbyn? The verdict is in