By Atiya Chowdhury and Julie Ngalle
General Election update:
Electoral campaigning very much kicked-off and a lot of promises and pledges have been made from all the parties. This week, the general focus has seemed to be on the same topics so far: NHS, immigration, environment and surprisingly: broadband.
Indeed, although not offering the same solutions and ideas, the NHS seems to be a key priority for all parties. Whether it is the Liberal Democrats wanting to increase the income tax by 1p to fund a cash injection for the NHS, or the Labour and Conservatives parties pledging to increase the budget by about £34 in the next 4 to 5 years. Parties like the SNP and Green party have also mentioned wanting to make mental health more of a priority.
Immigration has also been a popular topic within different campaigns. With Brexit fast approaching and everyone still very unsure of what will happen and how this will affect both British citizens and immigrants, parties have started discussing what their outlook and intentions are with regards to immigration. Labour and Conservatives seemed to once again agree on the fact that immigration (especially between the UK and EU countries) was vital for the country’s well-being. However, they had very different approaches to the matter with the left-wing party being very open to increasing immigration levels whereas the Tories want more control and regulation on the number of “unskilled” workers entering the country. The Liberal Democrats and Green party want to focus their attention on asylum-seeking immigrants and their rights and treatment.
This week, we also witnessed an interesting tree planting competition between the Tories and Lib Dems. Both parties have pledged to plant respectively 30 and 60 million trees by 2025 if elected. The former have already talked about wanting to put climate change at the heart of their policy with a pledge to spend £20bn a year for five years to tackle climate change. This is something that had, unsurprisingly, also been advertised by the Green party who want to spend up to £100bn for ten years on this international crisis. Although the Conservative party had not made climate change a key issue in their campaign, this showed that it is an topic they are not ignoring completely.
For now, the Brexit party has not expressed many opinions on policies regarding any of these topics.
Of course, politicians from each party have also started to tease each other, discredit rival campaigns but also try and gain popularity and strengthen bonds between parties that share common interests. Our dear Prime Minister did not hesitate to make fun of Labour’s plan to make broadband free for all around the country, a plan that has been considered very unrealistic by many. Finally, we also had SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon stating that a vote for the Conservatives “is a vote for Nigel Farage and his view of the world”, and the party also shared their discontent with Jeremy Corbyn’s opinion on having a new referendum for Scottish independence, which he did not consider a priority at all. All manifestos have not been finalised and made public yet so do make sure to look out for those if you are still not sure who you would like to vote for.
What has been the reaction following the Labour Party’s decision to be neutral regarding the ongoing conflict in Kashmir?
Following their recent stance on the ongoing conflict within Kashmir been scrutinised for being ‘anti-Indian’, the Labour Party may well be losing popularity within Indian and Hindu households across the country. Kashmir has been the locale of continuous conflict between India and Pakistan as both nations claim the region, despite only having control over certain areas. This struggle between power over the land has resulted in a feud which started with the partition of India in 1947 and continues on to the present day.
Ian Lavery, president of the Labour Party, issued a letter in which he expressed the party’s stance on the conflict in Kashmir. The letter expressed the Labour Party’s neutral position on Kashmir referring to it as a bilateral matter between Pakistan and India. He also added both nations should peacefully resolve the conflict by taking into consideration the rights of the Kashmiri people and opposed the possibility of international interference. The general consensus of the party was that they would neither take an anti-India or anti-Pakistan stance.
However, this neutral positioning was met with criticism from British-Indians and Hindu voters. Following this statement, Indian and Hindu groups in the UK protested against the party on social media, even going as far as to deem them ‘anti-Indian’. More than 100 Indian groups wrote to Jeremy Corbyn in protest of this motion. With the current climate of UK politics being in a tumultuous state, the Labour Party are at risk of pushing away this demographic of voters towards the Conservative Party.
What is the situation with the riots in The Chinese University in Hong Kong?
One of Hong Kong’s main universities, The Chinese University (CUHK), became a battleground between students and police on Monday following the death of a student on Friday who fell from a car park where police were dispersing protestors. The anger has only grown amongst Hong Kong students who have been in the streets for months protesting to defend democracy.
Protestors at the university were subjected to tear gas and water cannons used by the police. They had already been met with similar violence following two separate incidents in October where two protestors were shot, one with a live round and one at point blank. Videos of these shootings circulated across social media, contributing to the growing tension between civilians and law enforcement in Hong Kong.
Students at CUHK barricaded themselves in at the campus near a bridge that had already been occupied by police since Monday. With bricks, molotov cocktails and javelins in arm, students began a two-day struggle with the police, refusing to leave the campus.
Rocky Tuan, Vice-Chancellor and president of CUHK, came in as the mediator for both sides, negotiating with the police and coming to a solution in which the police promised to stay back. It was also agreed that the bridge would be guarded by security, as long as students stopped throwing things. However, emotions were high in students as they cried and objected to the police being on campus in the first place. The students refused to withdraw and continued to throw molotov cocktails until they managed to gain ground and cause the police to retreat backwards.
Since then, the university prematurely ended the term and has been in the process of sending international students back to their countries or to sister-universities in other countries.
Trump Impeachment: What happened this week?
This Wednesday, court hearings for Donald Trump’s impeachment case began. If you are still not familiar with this one, you can read about it in this and this rundown which gives more context. Here is a breakdown of everything that happened this week:
On the 13th of November, William B. Taylor Jr., the top American diplomat in Ukraine, and George P. Kent, a senior State Department official both testified before Congress. The main thing we learned on Wednesday just helped reinforce the accusations against the President of the United States. Indeed, William B. Taylor confessed to witnessing a conversation between Mr Trump and the ambassador to the European Union, Gordon D. Sondland. The pair supposedly discussed how Ukraine was ready to help with the “investigations”, as the President himself called them. The main response from the Republicans was to discredit these witnesses, explaining they were never with Donald Trump and had not directly heard him discuss these cases in person. However, it has been agreed by many that these new revelations will only help prove the President guilty of abusing his power.
On the 15th of November, Marie Yovanovitch, former Ambassador to Ukraine until May of this year, testified. What is interesting about Ms Yovanovitch is that she was actually removed from her position (and of course dissed on Twitter by the President) after his team and personal lawyer claimed she was becoming an obstruction in the government’s plans to get Ukraine to help investigate on Trump’s political rivals. In her testimony, the goal was to show how her removal from her position simply confirmed the dishonest and corrupt partnership between the United States and Ukraine. She stated “ Ukrainians who preferred to play by the old, corrupt rules sought to remove me,” and continued “What continues to amaze me is that they found Americans willing to partner with them and, working together, they apparently succeeded in orchestrating the removal of a U.S. ambassador.”
Here again, Republicans’ strategy was to discredit the former ambassador’s work and honesty in an attempt to save their image. Nevertheless, the conclusion brought to next week’s hearing was that although the testimonies confirmed President Trump’s guilt in this affair, no real evidence was brought to the table. But, the President’s defence has not been very efficient as, apart from attacking and intimidating this week’s witnesses, they have brought no evidence to prove the President’s innocence, or at least honest and democratic motivation behind his actions.
How has the Chilean government responded to the protests?
After months of ongoing protests from the Chilean public, the government has finally caved to their demands and called for a referendum in April 2020. The decision came to fruition after long negotiations until the “Agreement for Peace and a New Constitution” was finally signed at midnight.
The referendum will give voters the opportunity to choose whether they want the current constitution to be replaced. In doing so, this also allows voters to create a new constitution by voting between three different bodies. These different bodies will be comprised of elected representatives, political appointees, or an equal mix of both. However, the government has still yet to respond to the concerns surrounding healthcare and education.
Chile over the last few months has been a hub of political unrest with riots, arson and looting taking place amongst the protests. As a result of the violence emerging from the riots, 20 people have died and a thousand have been injured. The military police has come under fire by the country’s independent National Rights Institute for over 179 cases of abuse, including alleged murders, sexual violence, and torture. These riots were the outcome of decades worth of built up anger and injustice within the general public of Chile as they claim the government has continually favoured the elite and neglected their responsibility to provide better healthcare and education.