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

Who is Lindsay Hoyle? What is happening in Bolivia? Who is behind the attack in Mexico and the ambush in Burkina Faso? Here’s everything you need to know.

By Atiya Chowdhury, Lavinia Troiani, and Allen Wesson

National Politics:

What has happened so far since parties started campaigning for the General Election? 

So far, there have been many developments on the election campaign trail. Considering each party in order, their recent policy announcements and what they mean for a potential government, we can start building a full picture that includes both soundbite-type policies and deeper political beliefs.

The Labour Party has doubled down on their promises of a second referendum, as well as a fundamental shift in the balance of power from ‘the few to the many’. Examples of these policies include the extension of maternity leave from 9 months to 12 months, a requirement to have policies in place for employees suffering from menopause, and the right as a new employee to choose your hours of work, unless those hours are unworkable. The Labour Party believes that this is an appropriate stepping off point to tipping the balance of power, something which has gained measures of support among those that will benefit the most, whilst sparking criticism from the right-wing media and the Consevative Party.

The Conservatives kicked their campaign into action from the steps of Downing Street. Although many have said that Mr Johnson has been on the campaign trail for this election since he came into office, there have been some new policy announcements this past week. Much to the fury of the SNP, Mr Johnson ruled out the possibility of ever supporting a second independence referendum for Scotland. Regarding the future of the NHS, the party has pledged to build a system which will attract health staff from overseas. 

It seems like no opposition group on the left or the right of the Tories seems satisfied with their plans. The Brexit party for example sees Boris’ Brexit deal (which a Conservative majority would bring into effect) as another EU treaty, signing us up for continued membership. Labour on the other hand believe that they could renegotiate a better deal with the EU that benefits workers and the environment. 

The Liberal Democrats, The Green Party and Plaid Cymru have formally announced an anti-Brexit alliance whereby parties like Unite to Remain have stood down in order not to split the Remain vote. The Liberal Democrats, who have faced backlash this week over the inaccuracy of some of their campaigning material, have vowed once again not to prop up the Labour or Conservative Parties, as ‘this country deserves better’ in the words of party leader Jo Swinson. 

Infuriated by the outright rejection of a second independence referendum, the SNP has proposed a number of policies that would give devolved administrations a larger say in the Brexit process, giving each of them a veto on any proposed deal. They have also brought forward a bill that would prevent the privatisation of the NHS. 

Who is the new Speaker of the House of Commons?

The right honourable Sir Lindsay Hoyle was elected as the Speaker of the House of Commons on 4th of November, after John Bercow resigned from the position he had held for a decade. He is the MP for Chorley, standing for Labour but now politically neutral. 

He has been serving in the Commons at the side of Mr Bercow for many years, elected as Deputy Speaker in 2010,  when he was also elected Chairman of Ways and Means. In that time, he has commanded great respect throughout the House for his championing of the rights of backbenchers as well as being a stickler for parliamentary procedure.

He has had a varied and interesting career in politics, from his election to Chorley Borough Council in 1980 all the way through to the speakership. Most interesting would be his staunch support of Diana, Princess of Wales after her death, proposing a renaming of Heathrow Airport in her honour, a proposal that was turned down. He also clashed with Tony Blair over Gibraltar, stating that Mr Blair had broken essential principles during his time in office.

Since his arrival in Parliament in 1997, he has sat as a backbench MP and served on a number of committees, including the Trade and Industry Committee from 1998 to 2010 and the European Scrutiny Committee from 2005 to 2010. He is currently the President of the All-Party British Gibraltar Group – for which his father is the treasurer. He is also Vice-Chair of the All-Party British Virgin Islands Group.

The final thing to note is that he has refused to reveal whether he voted leave or remain in the 2016 EU referendum. 

International Politics:

Who was behind the attack in Burkina Faso? 

There have been two attacks in Burkina Faso last week. The first one happened last Sunday and involved the death of four people in an ambush, including the mayor of the northern town of Djibo. On Wednesday, another attack was carried out on five buses carrying staff of the Canadian gold mining firm Semafo. 

The attack began when a military escort vehicle was struck by an explosive device, before attackers opened fire on the buses. 38 people were killed and 60 were wounded in the ambush. 

Although it is not clear who carried out the attacks, Burkina Faso has seen rising violence that arrived from the neighbouring country of Mali since 2015. This is because in 2012 Islamist militants started controlling the northern part of the country, until French troops drove them out. However, it has been hard to get full control of the area since then.

There are at least three known militant groups that operate in the country: the Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims (which is linked to Al – Qaeda), the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISIS-GS), and the local Ansarul Islam. However, the attack has not yet been claimed by any of these groups. 

Who was behind the attack in Mexico? 

On Monday, a Mormon family returning from a wedding in Mexico were brutally murdered in Agua Prieta, a town bordering the United States. The family unknowingly drove into the Sonora state which is currently being fought over by two rival gangs. Three women and six children died from the ambush, while seven other children survived and were subsequently found by the authorities. 

Authorities identified the two criminal groups as Los Salazar from the Sonora state and La Línea from the neighbouring state of Chihuahua. Both gangs have been in conflict with one another for control of the territory. The massacre of the innocent family was a result of both gangs being in a shootout with one another and the family being mistakenly identified as members of the rival gang. 

Mexico has been dealing with a drug war since 2006 with the Mexican government trying to reduce crimes related to drugs. Gangs in Mexico have a very prominent influence and have displayed their power in grotesque ways, this tragic and horrific massacre being one of them. Just last month members of the Sinaloa cartel retaliated against one of their leaders being arrested by barricading the streets and attacking local armed officers. The Mexican government responded controversially to these attacks by releasing the convicted gang leader to cease the bloodshed, as their forces were already outnumbered.

What has been the reaction following the presidential elections in Bolivia?

Tensions have been at a boiling point in Bolivia following the presidential elections on the 20th of October. Due to the inexplicable 24-hour pause during the result count, supporters of the opposition candidate Carlos Mesa are suspecting foul-play after Evo Morales won the first round with a 10% lead. Morales, who has been in power since 2006, has been accused of rigging the elections to remain in office for an additional five years.  

The period following the elections has been extremely volatile with mass clashes erupting throughout the country between supporters of Mesa and supporters of Morales, in which at least three people have died. The Organisation of American States (OAS) is investigating the election, but the audit has been dismissed by Mesa, who instead urged his supporters to continue protesting. 

In a town in Cochabamba province, the government-supporting mayor, Patricia Arce, was doused in red paint and paraded around the town after protestors forcibly cut her hair. This extreme reaction was prompted by accusations that she helped organise a pro-government mob that resulted in the death of an anti-government protester. A video circulating on social media shows Arce covered in paint surrounded by masked protestors chanting ‘murderess’ at her. 

How are world organisations currently helping Somalia following massive floods in the country? 

The east-African country of Somalia has recently been plagued by a series of floods, each one becoming more and more severe as tropical rainstorms bring an onslaught of torrential rain. 270,000 people have been displaced as a result of this flood and it is estimated that up to one million people will be affected. 

With the number of people at risk soaring, world organisations such as the United Nations (UN) and the World Food Programme (WFP) have reacted accordingly. Currently, the UN is providing assistance to thousands of people in Belet Weyne district in Hirshabelle State, the most vulnerable area to the floods. The WFP, with assistance from the UN and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), are responding by supplying food and water to the families affected by the flood. Sanitation, shelter and health assistance are also being provided by these organisations. With this continuous and fast-responsive aid, the risk to Somali citizens can hopefully be mitigated.  

What is happening to Uyghur muslims in the Chinese province of Xinjiang?

The Uyghur muslims are a minority Turkic ethnic group native to the autonomous region of Xinjiang in China. Since 2014, the Chinese government has put into place a series of detention centres where more than one million Uyghur muslims are being indoctrinated with values in line with that of the government. These ‘re-education’ centres, as the government likes to call them, are said to be a counter-terrorist measure following anti-government attacks that occured in Xinjiang in 2014. However, survivors and escapees of the camps have revealed that the true purpose of these centres is the ethnic cleansing of Uyghur muslims from the Xinjiang region.

Within the camps themselves, Uyghur women are subjected to inhumane treatment including but not limited to systematic rape, forced abortions, and sterilisations. Female victims have come forward and revealed how male guards would place plastic carrier bags over the heads of the women they would want for later. The children are taken away and placed into orphanages and boarding schools where they are re-taught the ideology of the Chinese government, while the men are isolated and subjected to other forms of violence. Recent methods of indoctrination includes sending male government officials into the homes of Uyghur families in order to sleep with the women, in what the Chinese government likes to call the ‘Pair Up and Become a Family’ programme. 

The extreme methods of surveillance are not only exercised upon civilians but also tourists. Visitors entering the region of Xinjiang must hand in their phones for an app to be installed by local officials. This app scans the data on the phone alongside its own pre-built database of Islamic State publications, an Arabic dictionary and Qur’an verses.

The Chinese government has defended their programme by claiming the camps to be a method to restore peace in the country. While Western countries have condemned China for its inhumane treatment of the Uyghurs, 37 countries have commended the Chinese government for their initiative to combat the potential threat of terrorism. The Chinese government’s claims that the Uyghur population voluntarily and happily choose to be indoctrinated can only be met with skepticism as escapees of the camp depict a much more horrible reality in the detention centres. 

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