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What The Fuck Is Going On In Politics: The Weekly Rundown

Why are nurses striking in Northern Ireland? What will happen now that Trump has been impeached? What’s the deal with India’s new citizenship bill? Here’s everything you need to know.

By Atiya Chowdhury and Chloé Meley

National Politics:

Who will be the next Labour leader?

Now that Jeremy Corbyn has resigned as Labour leader, a coveted seat is empty, and speculations abound as to who will become the head of the party. With the leadership contest expected to conclude by the end of March, let’s take a look at the different potential candidates:

  • Rebecca Long-Bailey: A former solicitor, she has been the MP for Salford and Eccles since 2015, as well as the shadow Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy since 2017. Her views are closely aligned with Corbyn’s. 
  • Emily Thornberry: A former barrister, she has been the MP for Islington South and Finsbury since 2005 and the shadow First Secretary of State since 2017. She’s been very loyal to Corbyn. She was the first person to officially announce she would be running for the leadership. 
  • Keir Starmer: A former barrister specialising in human rights, he has been the MP for Holborn and St Pancras since 2015 and the shadow Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union since 2016. He was a key advocate for a second Brexit referendum. 
  • Angela Rayner: A former care worker and trade union representative, she has been the MP for Ashton-under-Lyne since 2015 and the shadow Secretary of State for Education since 2016. She supported a Labour Brexit deal and is part of the party’s ‘soft left’. 
  • Jess Phillips: A former business development manager, she has been the MP for Birmingham Yardley since 2015. She has been very critical of Corbyn’s leadership and has strongly condemned what she sees as an antisemitism problem within the party. She has been vocal about women’s issues. 
  • Lisa Nandy: A former researcher and senior policy adviser, she has been the MP for Wigan since 2010. She has been critical of Corbyn and notably resigned from her position as the shadow Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change in 2016. She’s considered to be part of the ‘soft left’. 
  • Yvette Cooper: A former economic policy researcher and journalist, she has been the MP for Pontefract and Castleford since 1997 and the chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee since 2016. She ran against Corbyn during the 2015 Labour leadership election. She’s a centrist.
  • Clive Lewis: Former reporter and British army soldier, he has been the MP for Norwich South since 2015 and the shadow Minister for Sustainable Economics since 2018. He is critical of Corbyn, who he believes did not go far enough to democratise the party. He was accused of groping a woman 2017, but was cleared by Labour’s National Executive Committee sexual harassment panel. 

So far, only Clive Lewis and Emily Thornberry have declared their candidacy, which means this list is subject to change in the coming weeks. 

What will be happening with Brexit now that the Conservatives have a majority? 

Following the General Election last week, the newly re-elected Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has promised to deliver 36 Government Bills to gain the trust of those who voted for the Conservatives last week. The first of these bills is the Withdrawal Agreement Bill, which MPs voted 358 to 234 – a majority of 124 – on Friday 20th December. The bill will now be further scrutinised and discussed in Parliament. 

Boris Johnson has promised to leave the EU on the 31st of January and ensures the public that the transition period will not last beyond the 31st of December next year, even though it is a very short window for reaching an agreement on the terms of the withdrawal with the EU. 

Why are nurses on strike in Northern Ireland? 

In Northern Ireland, 15,000 nurses and healthcare workers have gone on strike regarding their low wages. The industrial action began on the 25th of November and has included the withdrawal of labour from a number of hospitals across Northern Ireland in different forms: not working overtime on the days of the industrial action, not working unpaid hours, and not completing paperwork other than individual patient records. 

The disputes between healthcare workers and the department of health date back to 2010. The then health minister, Jim Wells, introduced a degree of restraint for health workers due to the financial pressures on the health department. This measure led to a significant difference between the wages of nurses in Northern Ireland and nurses in England, Scotland, and Wales, with the pay increasing for all except Northern Irish nurses.  

Currently, little has been done to resolve the conflicts, which has caused nurses and members of Northern Ireland’s health union, Unison, to strike. 

International Politics:

What will happen now that Trump has been impeached?

So, Trump was impeached. After the House Judiciary Committee spent weeks gathering evidence, issuing subpoenas, and hearing witness testimonies, it finally brought forward two articles of impeachment before the House of Representatives. On Wednesday the 18th of December, the House of Representatives passed the first article of impeachment (abuse of power) by a vote of 230 to 197 and the second (obstruction of Congress) by a vote of 229 to 198. Donald Trump has therefore been impeached. However, impeachment, although a historic event, is not synonymous with removal from office. 

Indeed, the impeachment process will now continue in the Senate, where Trump will face a trial at some point next month. It is likely Trump will be acquitted, due to the fact that a conviction requires a two-thirds majority and that the Senate is Republican-controlled with a 53-seat majority. It is unclear whether the impeachment will hurt or boost Trump’s popularity, who could still be reelected next year.  

What is India’s new citizenship bill, and why are people protesting against it? 

Last week, India’s parliament passed the Citizenship Amendment Act, a bill which grants citizenship to six religious minorities (Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian) who have illegally immigrated to India from three neighbouring countries: Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan. Although at first glance it appears that the bill does nothing else but offer amnesty to illegal immigrants fleeing religious persecution in their home countries, many have pointed out that there is an underlying anti-Muslim motive behind the veneer of concern for religious minorities. The bill is seen as part of the Indian government’s increasingly worrying anti-Muslim agenda under the leadership of Narendra Modi, leader of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Indeed, the bill clearly excludes Muslim immigrants from accessing citizenship, even though some of them may also belong to religious minorities fearing persecution back home, such as the Rohingyas in Myanmar. The law would therefore create two categories of illegal immigrants: non-Muslim immigrants from the three countries mentioned above who would gain citizenship through the Citizenship Amendment Bill, and Muslim immigrants, who will face the threat of deportation. It is also feared the bill might affect Indian Muslims who already are citizens, as they might be forced to provide extensive evidence that they are not in the country illegally, thereby encountering the risk of being made stateless. The law also goes against the secular principle that faith should not be a basis for citizenship, which has been enshrined in the constitution since India’s independence. 

Protests have erupted across the country in response to the controversial bill, although for different reasons. Indeed, while some are demonstrating against the growing anti-Muslim sentiment and the law’s exclusionary rationale and impact, many border state communities are objecting to the influx of immigrants from neighbouring countries – no matter the religion. The protests have grown violent in certain places, with brutal clashes breaking out between police and protesters. In view of the strong backlash, India’s Supreme Court announced it would hear petitions against the bill in January.   

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