25 June 2016

By Riding The Tiger Of Populism, The Conservatives May Have Destroyed The UK

Go back inside and think about what you’ve done. Matt Dunham/PA
By Charles Lees, University of Bath

It’s a familiar cliché that the Conservative Party is the most successful political party in the democratic world. Once called the natural party of government, it has been in power for most of the last 150 years and, for good or ill, has shaped modern Britain. The UK is a conservative country in all senses of the word.

But the past four decades have demonstrated that the modern Conservative Party can no longer be trusted in its role as the guardian of British institutions.

The revolutionary free-market zealotry of the Thatcherites and their successors not only put the social fabric of Britain under severe strain, but also undermined the credibility of the UK’s constitutional arrangements. Of the three pillars of High Toryism; church, state and monarchy, Britons only seem to still like the latter.

The decline in Tory respect for British institutions has also been on full display, not least in David Cameron’s willingness to risk the union’s survival twice – first in the Scottish Independence referendum, and then, probably fatally, in the EU membership referendum.

24 June 2016

#EURef: Britain Votes To Leave The EU, Here's What Happens Next

Leave ahead. Anthony Devlin / PA Wire
By Gavin Barrett, University College Dublin

Britain looks on course to leave the EU. This is having an immediate effect on markets. It will have immediate political ramifications too. David Cameron will, fairly soon, need to decide if he can continue in his role as British prime minister.

Legally speaking, though, the process of actually leaving will take a lot longer. Britain will now enter a kind of phoney Brexit period. It is still a member of the EU. The referendum vote is not as such legally binding. It is advisory only – but if it is out it creates a political imperative for the UK government to arrange its exit of the EU.

23 June 2016

Sound And Furry In #EURef Twitter War

Twitter/Lilian Edwards
By Yin Yin Lu, University of Oxford

Twitter was always going to be a major battleground in the EU referendum but the sheer number of hashtags being used in the debate has been surprising.

Both sides are linguistically inventive: for every pro-Leave hashtag, there’s a pro-Remain equivalent. Virtually all synonyms of “Remain” and “Leave” – from #britin and #britexit to #votin and #voteout – have been used. There’s even the somewhat clunky #brout and #brin, as well as whimsical phrases like #brexitandchill and #remainandgain.

Not all hashtags trend, of course. In fact, the vast majority don’t. To measure resonance, the content of tweets must be taken into consideration; it is not just a numbers game. Hashtags aren’t always used as a supportive device – a tweet that includes #GrassrootsOut, for example, might not necessarily endorse the movement.

To untangle the question of success, I have been gathering tweets containing 250 referendum-relevant hashtags since March 10. I’ve analysed the first three months of data from what has already become a collection of 10m tweets.

While Brexiters appear to be winning on Instagram, it’s the Remainers who seem to be running Twitter. The Brexiters are making a lot of noise – but that doesn’t necessarily amount to winning the war.


21 June 2016

UK: Stop The Nigel Farage Of Newspapers

Dear friends in the UK, 

The day Jo Cox was murdered, the Daily Mail ran a shrill front page story about migrants, stoking fear and hate in the referendum campaign. The story was plain wrong -- but instead of remorsefully retracting it, the Mail just buried a tiny correction in the paper.

Our democracy relies on media that tells the truth, but the Mail’s anti-EU editor, Paul Dacre, has spun a steady stream of misinformation and fear, adding to a climate where rage and xenophobia flourish.This is not what one of Britain’s biggest newspapers should do on such a significant national decision.

But there’s a chance to stop it. Rumours abound that the Mail’s owner Lord Rothermere, who is pro-Europe, sees Dacre as a growing liability, and is considering replacing him. If tens of thousands of us call him out for what he is -- the Nigel Farage of newspapers -- it could catch on, trigger a broad push and help end this hate media. 

20 June 2016

Left Wingers For #Brexit Need To Wake Up To What They're About To Do

Shutterstock
By Ragnar Weilandt, University of Warwick

If you listen to some left-wing voices – proponents of what is being called Lexit – the European Union is an undemocratic, neo-liberal empire. It is ruled by Angela Merkel and an army of cold-hearted, faceless bureaucrats in Brussels who spend their lives plotting to privatise British public services and deliberately making life in Southern Europe as miserable as possible.

Listening to both left-wing and right-wing arguments for Brexit can be rather confusing. Similar to Schrödinger’s immigrant who lazes around on benefits while simultaneously stealing jobs, the EU seems to be at the same time both communist and predatory capitalist. It has transformed Europe into a fortress while at the same time opening its borders to mass immigration. The EU’s rescue packages for Southern Europe have been too stingy while at the same constituting an outrageous burden to British taxpayers.

You do not have to be an idealist europhile to find these accusations a bit harsh. As a project that’s main purpose is the creation of a single market, the EU is indeed an economically liberal endeavour. Its key purpose is to replace those national laws which hamper trade with common European legislation.

18 June 2016

Britain's Moment To Reflect: What Would Jo Cox Want Us To Think About?

PA/Yui Mok
By Scott Lucas, University of Birmingham

I only met Jo Cox once. Among her numerous interests, the MP chaired Britain’s All-Party Parliamentary Group on Syria and she had asked me to present an analysis of the need for safe zones to protect Syrian civilians.

She was gracious, charming and animated by energy and passion. Jaded by years of failure to get any effective action over Syria, I felt a flicker of hope when she explained what needed to be done. We parted with a promise for a discussion in the near future.

We could never quite arrange that further meeting, but I was fortunate to know much more about Jo. I worked with her staff on the Syria issue, and they never stopped talking about her devotion and unfailing optimism, even in the darkest of moments.

I discovered more about her compassion and dedication to better the situation of immigrants and refugees, beginning with her humanitarian work at Oxfam and continuing into her parliamentary service. Through social media, I followed Jo in her constituency in West Yorkshire, from visits to schools and community centres to her camping trip with a Brownie troop.

On Wednesday, I read of her pride in her husband and two children: in the campaign over Britain’s European Union membership, they had joined a Remain boat in a jovial response to the invasion of a Leave “flotilla” up the River Thames in London.

Now Jo Cox is dead, shot and stabbed outside her constituency surgery.

17 June 2016

UK: Carry Jo Cox's Banner Of Love This Sunday

Image via Avaaz.org
Dear Avaazers in and around London, 

Only light can sweep away the darkness, only love can heal hate. As we mourn for and honour Jo Cox, we also have to go on -- to carry forward the banner of love and hope for a better world that she carried so gracefully. To unite, as her husband Brendan said, “to fight against the hatred that killed her.” 

And to do just that, on Sunday hundreds will be kissing against Brexit -- attempting to break a Guinness World Record for the largest kiss! The kissing chain will be continued in Rome, Paris and Berlin, sending a powerful message that we're taking back our politics from fear and lies with beautiful unity and humanity. And it starts in London



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