Blue Dragon: How Wales could define the 2017 General Election

Blue Dragon: How Wales could define the 2017 General Election

Wales is divided into 40 constituencies for representation in the House of Commons. The Labour Party currently holds 25 of those seats with the Conservatives in second with 11; social-democratic Welsh nationalist party Plaid Cymru holding 3 and the Liberal Democrats holding a single seat. Labour has been the dominant political force in the nation since the 1929 election, holding at least 37.5% of the constituencies since that time. June 8th’s snap election is already being called ‘the election made in Wales’ in reference to Prime Minister Theresa May’s comment that she made the decision to call an early election while on a walking holiday in Snowdonia. However could this also be the election decided in Wales? Here are four reasons why this might be the case.

1. Wales’ slow blue shift: Over the course of the last three elections (2005, 2010 and 2015), the Conservative party has slowly been increasing their share of Welsh seats, moving from 3 to 8 to 11 with their 2015 result marking a 32 year high. Two of the three seats won in 2015 were taken from Labour, albeit with the slimmest majority of the election with 27 in Gower and a meagre 237 in the Vale of Clwyd. However, Gower had been held continuously by Labour since 1910, with an average majority of 10,220. And the loss of Gower in 2015 may have been a sign of things to come. Theresa May has visited Wales five times in three months, suggesting serious Conservative ambition in the country and a recent article from the BBC showed some of the thoughts of Welsh voters, many of whom were lifelong Labour voters considering the shift to Conservative for one reason or another. It is still too early to tell what will happen but if polls hold and the trends of the last few elections are anything to go by, a blue shift in the west might be the Tory’s saving grace.

Byron Davies
Bryon Davies, MP for Gower, will be hoping to push his majority to a more stable figure

2. Seeing red over Brexit: Wales voted in favour of leaving the European Union and this has put the voters at odds with their Labour MPs, 21 (out of the 25 in Wales) of whom had said they backed the Remain campaign. In contrast, only 3 of the 11 Conservatives in Wales publicly backed remaining in the European Union. While the decision over Brexit was largely seen as a personal decision, one to be made by each voting individual, it does show a lack of local representation if you vote one way and your MP backs the other. This could be especially dangerous for Labour, given the wave of calls for voters to oust Leave supporting MPs. While the party leaders seek to show that this is not simply an election about Brexit, it is definitely a factor considered by many voters, especially young and first time voters, the people who the ramifications of Brexit will affect.

Wales Brexit
Welsh support for Brexit could be a fatal thorn in Labour’s side

3. High stakes: The 2017 election is not exactly a safe one for either of the main two parties (Labour and Conservative). While the polls have the Tories far out in front, they are going into the election defending a majority of 17. While this does give them the advantage, it does mean that the other contesting parties (Labour, Liberal Democrat, UKIP, Green and Plaid Cymru (I would include the SNP but there is only one Conservative seat in Scotland)) only need to take 18 seats from the Conservatives across all 650 constituencies to create a minority government. However, this does mean that Labour especially need to be on the defensive. If the Tories were to win, say, four seats in Wales, that is four seats that Labour would need to make up elsewhere in the country. And while calls have been to unify in order to strategically beat the Tories, a united front is yet to appear, meaning Labour needs to keep its seats, meaning Labour needs to keep Wales.

Bad Poker Hand
Labour has not been dealt with best hand at this point in the campaign

4. The potential inverse: Polls can be wrong- they certainly were in 2015 and while unlikely, Wales could be the starting point for the Labour comeback. An outright Labour victory is very unlikely, as they would need to turn 97 seats plus any additional seats needed in the event that they lose seats. However, Wales is still red for the time being- Labour is currently the polling favourite in local elections, due to take place on May 4th, and it isn’t a simple thing for a lifelong Labour supporter to suddenly cross the aisle. If Labour can defy the polls, the 15 seats held by other parties in Wales may help, at the least very, force Theresa May and the Conservatives into a minority government. While it’s not the Labour government Corbyn dreams of, a minority government would certainly be a victory for the parties opposed to the current government.

Jeremy Corbyn
Corbyn defied expectations once, can he do it again?

The election is still 42 days away and a lot can happen in that time but Wales is already shaping up to be a battleground without precedent. For the Conservatives, gains in Wales will help ease them into a comfortable majority while Labour will need to hold firm or make gains or their own if they want any chance to make their opponents in blue sweat on the night of June 8th.

Donald Trump is not a Nazi

Donald Trump is not a Nazi

Campaign 2016 Clinton Sanders

With Senator Sanders endorsing Hilary Clinton in the past few days, the 2016 Presidential election will be contested by former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and businessman Donald Trump.

Now, if you are familiar with my blog, you will know that I have written a lot on the electoral process so far. However, I have been careful to avoid some of Trump’s more controversial remarks and beliefs. However, as Trump’s position has become increasingly official, I have heard one word in particular used to describe him- Nazi.

I have no love or respect for Donald Trump and I do not want for this piece to be interpreted as any kind of defence for Trump’s words or actions, but Donald Trump is not a Nazi.

White Supremacy

First, let’s breakdown the hierarchy of vocabulary associated with racial hatred and racial superiority. At the base, the most widely-appliable term is ‘white supremacy’. White supremacy is the belief that people of Caucasian heritage are the superior race on Earth and should be afforded liberties and privileges afforded with said superiority. They also believe that those who are not part of this superior race should have to willing submit to their white masters.

Fascism

Then you have ‘fascism’, the political ideology that liberal democracy is an obselete concept and that a totalitarian one-party state is the only viable form of government. In practice, this gives way to fierce nationalist beliefs and often white supremacist control of the nation, especially as fascism has only largely been seen in practice in European nations.

Nazi

Finally we have the most specific term- Nazi. Nazi is a colloquial term for the National Socialist German Workers’ Party and describes the governing political party of Germany between 1933 and 1945. The word can also be used to describe members of this party.The Nazis are the ‘best known’ for starting the Second World War and instigating ‘The Final Solution’ in 1942, which would led to the death of six million Jews, as well as hundreds of thousands of Romani, political prisoners, homosexuals and other groups deemed unfit to live by the Nazis.

Now, let’s start grouping things together. Groups like the KKK, the American Freedom Party, the National Party of Europe, the British National Party, Blood and Honour and individuals like Tom Metzger are what can be described as white supremacists or at the very least, white nationalists. They believe that whites should be given priority treatment as they are the superior race. At the more moderate end of the spectrum, they want to protect their historically white nations from the ‘threat’ of immigrants and ‘inferior’ races.

Then there’s fascism this is a lot less prevalent since the fall of the fascist regimes of the 1940s and later, the collapse of General Franco’s Spanish regime. ‘Neo-facism’ is often applied to groups, especially political organisations, who carry some of the core beliefs of fascism or have expressed admiration for Hitler, the Nazis, previous fascist regimes etc. This has been across the world, with movements such as military coup that took control of Bolivia in 1980; the PFI and their ideas of Indonesia Mulia, a concept similar to Hitler’s ‘Greater Germany’ vision and the previously mentioned British National Party, whose white nationalism is based on a platform of fascist ideology.

Finally, we have the specific term ‘Nazi’. Many nations around the world have legislation in place to make it a crime to identify as a Nazi, which is why we see a rise in neo-fascism rather than neo-Nazism. While some nations have groups that call themselves the -Insert country name here- Nazi Party, there is a much bigger debate to be had about whether a Nazi Party can truly exist today or whether Nazi should only refer to the party that exist in 1930s.

If I was forced to pick one term to describe Donald Trump, it would be white nationalist. While some of what he has said is racist, such as his comment that the people coming over the US border from Mexico were “bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.” but overall, a lot of what Trump says and does indicates a white nationalist platform more than anything else- remove illegal immigrants the country, a majority of whom are Latin American; ban Muslims regardless of nationality from the entering the United States; ban refugees from entering the United States. Those are policies that would ‘protect’ the white majority in America.

But why is it so bad to mislabel Trump as a ‘Nazi’? Well, a while back I wrote a piece about how Nazis, among other groups of people, had been turned into a trope through overuse within popular culture. Throughout the late 90s and early 2000s, it was ‘gay’ that was used as the throwaway insult but beneath that, Nazi has also been that insult we always keep in our arsenal to describe something we think it overly oppressive or tyrannical. Continual labelling of things as being like the Nazis or being like Nazi Germany trivalises the Nazis because you would be hard-pressed to find something truly worthy of being compared to a political and military regime that systematically murder six million civilians.

Trump is a horrible human being with some truly terrible ideas about what to do to America if he wins the Presidency but he is not a Nazi. You will not find proof that he is the member of any Nazi, or neo-fascist organisation and there are better, more effective ways to show what sort of man Trump is than labelling himself as something he is not.

The US election: What to expect

The US election: What to expect

Next month, barring divine intervention, Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton will be named the Republican and Democratic Presidential nominees respectively. From August till November,  the American people will be caught in the full metal jacket of election season. Here’s what they, and the rest of curious, confused world can expect:

Trump

1. Smear campaigns: You think Trump was bad when he was running against Ted Cruz and John Kasich? That was pee-wee tag football compared to the NFL-level of professional smear that Trump will be aiming at the Clinton campaign. He will be careful of course, mentioning Whitewater would leave him vulnerable to that odd trend of Trump investing in real estate that suddenly goes bust. Meanwhile Benghazi, emails and even the Lewinsky Scandal will be all in Trump’s sights. In the Democratic camp, Hilary will try to maintain the high ground by only attacking Trump’s speeches, policies and anti-Presidential qualities (lack of experience, abrasive and undiplomatic demeanour). However, that could quickly change, especially if the polls stay  close. This could quickly devolve into a shit-slinging contest as opposed to a Presidential election.

Hilary- I could taste the victory

2. ‘The most unpopular election in history’: Trump and Clinton are not popular candidates- Trump has middle America in the palm of his hand but is facing an uphill battle within the party (latest update: the GOP is considering allowing convention delegates to declare a conscientious objection in place of a vote at the convention) while Hilary has the backing of the DNC but is struggling to raise support amongst voters, especially the die-hard core of the Sanders campaign, 15% of whom may actually go to back Trump after the convention.This will be an election of “who is lesser evil” and not “who is going to serve this country the best”. While both Hilary and Trump are unpopular, America feels that they either need to vote for Trump or Hilary or just not vote, because there isn’t a viable third option.

Midwest

3. The battle for the Midwest: While most regions of America have a historical political leaning, such as the southern Republican stronghold. The same can’t be said for the Midwest, a collection of states that stretches from Ohio to the Dakotas. It has swung back and forth between Democrats and Republicans but while it has been increasingly blue since 2000, Bernie won the Midwest 7 states to 5 during the primaries, which could potentially open up for a Republican spearhead, especially as a majority of the state-level governments are already Republican controlled. Both parties know this and so the Midwest will become a fierce battleground as it could be the key to an election victory.

What do you think America can expect before November? Let me know in the comments below!

Curtain Call

Curtain Call

There may still be one last Democratic primary but it’s little more than an encore after last night’s final ‘Super Tuesday’. Supporters still feeling the Bern were hoping for some sort of voting miracle in order to overturn Hilary’s comfortable cushion of superdelegates but as you’ll soon see, it was less of a miracle and more of a sermon on accepting reality.

Six states went to the polls over the course of Tuesday with the biggest prize being the 475 delegates available in California. Across the other five states (The Dakotas, Montana, New Jersey and New Mexico), Hilary was carrying predicted leads in every where apart from Montana, which projected a narrow Bernie victory, and the Dakotas, which were too close to call. Opinion was divided over with California, with the polls shifting back and forth.

However, as precincts from Trenton to Santa Barbara began to declare, it was clear that there was only going to be one winner. Despite being close in the polls, California (as of writing, 6% of precincts are yet to declare) swung for the former first lady and she carries the state with a 12.9% lead and 257 delegates to Bernie’s 188. Things were unsurprisingly worse for Bernie in New Jersey, where Hilary beat him by 26.6%. The rest of the night’s results were closer- Hilary won New Mexico by 3% while Bernie took North Dakota and Montana. South Dakota proved to be the closest battleground of the night with Hilary taking the state by 2% but the 20 delegates being split 50-50. Overall, the night was just what Hilary needed- a way to cement her already comfortable lead.

But what does this mean for the Democrat’s race? Well nothing can be confirmed until the Philadelphia convention in July but at this point, it seems like game, set and match. Bernie’s only hope lies with the superdelegates but unfortunately for the Vermont senator, they are either already backing Hilary or unlikely to back a candidate who is trailing so badly. However, Hilary must now think long and hard about to deal with her party’s sizeable split- while 55% of Bernie supporters have said they would vote for Hilary at the general election, 15% have also said that they would go across the aisle and support Trump. If Hilary doesn’t find a way to appease Bernie’s supporters, she may have lost this race.

Over on the Republican front, Trump continues to use the remainder of the primary season to try to convince the Republicans for back him. While he has made headway, with party higher-ups such as Paul Ryan now backing him, but his largest problem is how he has no coherent campaign- even now he is the presumptive nominee, it is still all vague promises, general policy ideas and superlatives.

So buckle up kids, once the conventions are over, the whole process starts again and it won’t be pretty. From Trump you can expect sexism, intern jokes, property development jokes and general jackassery. Meanwhile, Hilary is going to hammer home Trump’s lack of experience and his general jackassery, all the while fighting to keep her party unified.

I have a feeling 2016 will be an election to remember.

President Trump

President Trump

Now that he is the presumptive Republican nominee and Bernie is continuing to keep Hilary busy, Donald Trump has just under a month of free campaign time. When he visits states between now and June 7th, the last day of primaries, he doesn’t have to waste telling people why he’s better than Ted Cruz or John Kasich, he can simply tell people why he should be the next President of the United States. Now there’s been a lot of speculation about what a Trump presidency would look like- carpet ban on Muslims entering the United States? A huge wall running across the Mexican border? People freely carrying everything from a Derringer to a .50 sniper rifle? Well, in all likelihood, a Trump presidency would actually be pretty boring. Why? I’m glad you asked.

Firstly, it’s no secret that the House Republicans, aka the people who get stuff done, do not like Trump. While the House, if controlled by the President’s party, will almost always ensure to pass President-friendly legislation but the Representatives and Senators have no outstanding loyalty to Trump- for all intents and purpose he is an ordinary registered Republican  running for President. This dislike and lack of loyalty could hamper Trump’s ambition plans if he ever does reach the oval office. Even worse, this year is a Congressional election year and a Democrat controlled house could spell doom for Trump if the Democrats, say, decided to block every piece of Trump and Republican legislation, just like they did with Obama.

On a similar note, Trump doesn’t seem to be aware that things don’t just magically appear. His wall, his Muslim ban, his second amendment freedoms all would have to survive Congressional votes. Let’s take the border wall as an example- 59% of Americans oppose the wall. That is not a number you want looming over you when you are running for office again. The Congressional battles are already starting with Republicans in swing districts meeting with Merrick Garland earlier this year in an attempt to hold onto their seats. And even if his projects get passed, estimates for his bold plan to mass evict every illegal immigrant sit at the $114bn and 20 years (or 5 Presidential terms to complete) mark while his “huge wall” that would separate Mexico and the United States would cost $4bn-$24bn and would have to involve taking down the intricately woven border fence that is currently there. But remember, Trump also wants to do this while apparently cutting trade with everyone apart from really poor countries that could be easily dominated by the United States. In essence, Trump kind of wants to bankrupt America in order to help fund his little pet projects.

Thirdly, Trump would not be Trump in office. On the campaign trail, we’ve been seeing the crass, loudmouth who told a contestant on his reality show that the mental image of her on her knees was a “pretty picture” and spends his rallies making fun of his opponents. Trump rallies look like terrible standup nights where the patrons show their appreciation by rioting. However, that isn’t the Trump we’d see in office- sure he’d been a ‘tough’ President but who respects a President who goes round calling women fat pigs? Trump would most certainly clean up his image before setting foot in the Oval Office because image is one of the few things he genuinely cares about.

Overall, I don’t think there would be anything wrong with a Trump Presidency, I just think there wouldn’t be anything right with one either. Trump is a cruel, bitter man unsuited for leading a country and electing him President would just cause the nation to become stagnant and weak.

What do you think a Trump Presidency would entail? Let me know in the comments below!

Indiana- Where it all ended

Indiana- Where it all ended

Last night, the Midwestern state of Indiana went to polls to cast their vote in both the Democrat and Republican Presidential primaries. There were 80 pledged delegates up for grabs in the Clinton-Sanders fight and 51 in the winner takes all Republican fight. Victory in Indiana was crucial for Trump to avoid a contested convention while Clinton was looking out to finally shut down the Sanders threat. Pre-primary polls gave Trump a clear lead while the Democrat fight was less clear, with Clinton just edging out her challenger.

Republicans

Apart from a smattering of northern counties, Trump locked down Indiana with his usual dominance, taking the state with a 17% margin (which translates to 184,000 votes more than Cruz). This victory bumped Trump’s delegate count up to 1047, meaning that nomination looked to be all but his. That was until Ted Cruz pulled the rug out from under everyone and dropped out of the race. That left Trump and the Phantom of the GOPera, John Kasich. Bar divine intervention, the Republicans will be represented by Donald J Trump come November. I stopped writing this on Wednesday to revise…and just as I did, John Kasich resigned. Trump is the Republican nominee. This means that he can reorganise and start campaigning for the general election while Bernie continues to deny Hilary the Democratic nomination.

Democrats

While Trump was adding Indiana to his collection, there was a much more bitter fight between Clinton and Sanders. After 9 of the Midwest states, Sanders was winning the region, having taken 5 (Minnesota, Kansas, Nebraska, Michigan and Wisconsin) to Clinton’s 4 (Iowa, Illinois, Missouri and Ohio). Clinton was confident that Indiana would kill Sanders if he lost but she hadn’t invested too much time or effort into the campaigning. That may be why Sanders pulled off another Midwest upset and took the state by 5%. While the delegates made nothing more than a passing indent in Clinton’s lead, it does raise a concern that could come up in the general election- Clinton’s arrogance. I’ll come back to that in a moment.

The general election

With Cruz and Kasich gone and Clinton having built an unassailable superdelegates buffer, the general election is no doubt going to be Donald J Trump vs Hilary R Clinton. Clinton definitely holds the upper hand in current national polls. This is mostly due to Trump’s special kind of popularity- while he does seem wildly popular, this can be explained as a local popularity- state Republicans want Trump over Cruz, Kasich and whoever else ran against their ginger psycho and he will win the usual Republican states because let’s face it- they’d vote for a pig draped in an elephant blanket. However, while Clinton seems a shoe-in for the Presidency, she needs to watch her arrogance. She lost in Indiana because she saw she had a lead and left to pursue more lucrative delegate counts but not pumping the resources into a state like Indiana cost her the majority of 80 delegates. Take that to a national, general election level and maybe this arrogance gets applied to the wrong swing states and Trump slowly steals them from under. A slam dunk could become a Republican upset.

What do you think we have in store for the US general election? Do you think it’s Hilary all the way or does Trump have it in him to provide an upset? Let me know in the comments below?

The silicon chip inside her head… (Ben does an opinion piece)

The silicon chip inside her head… (Ben does an opinion piece)

In 2015, there were 53,215 fireams-related incidents in the United States, resulting in 13,414 deaths and 26,996 injuries. To put that in perspective, the city of Mankato in Minnesota is America’s 921st largest city (and home of the last Happy Chef restaurant in America) and if every death and injury caused by firearms in 2015 happened there, the population of Mankato would be 1.

Welcome to Mankato

No-one needs to be told that America has a problem with guns, especially when 8.4% of all shooting injuries and deaths in 2015 were individuals under the age of 17. However, despite all the bluster of the leading political figures, America’s problem has two very simple sources.

The first reason that America finds itself with what can be only be described as an epidemic is the reluctance for bipartisan political action to curb the prevalence of firearms. Under the Second Amendment of the US Constitution, citizens of the United States are guaranteed the following:

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

To break that down, an American is free to keep and bear firearms in the interest of maintaining a free American nation.While this may seem an odd to specify this in the document outlining the basic rights and freedoms of the denizens of a sovereign nation in the earliest days of being forged, remember that the amendment was ratified in 1791. America had been free of British rule since the Treaty of Paris in 1783. However, there were still fears that Britain would do a U-turn and attempt to retake the young and relative weak United States. Thus, the Constitution included an amendment that meant that the responsibility of protecting the freedom and sovereignty of the United States fell to each and every American.

Now in 2016, 225 years after the amendment’s ratification, views on the second amendment are far more diverse- conservatives see it a right bestowed upon the American people while liberals tend to view the second amendment as a relic of times gone by. The major issue is that there is a bipartisan consensus that America needs guns. Note that President Obama, one of the more vocal advocates of gun control, doesn’t actually oppose the existence of the second amendment (“We’re a nation that believes in the Second Amendment, and I believe in the Second Amendment”- Obama, 2012). This makes it difficult to impose legislation that directly opposes the second amendment due to the general consensus of how intrical it is to the American nation, if you need more proof of this- the New York Times produced a map of the ratings the NRA (National Rifle Association) gives to representatives and senators based on their voting record on firearm-related legislation for the 111th Congress (2010-2012). The other problem facing legislators is that external organisations wield an obscene amount of influence on Capitol Hill. The NRA  is a regular donator to both the RNC and Republican Congressional candidates. To oppose the NRA’s core beliefs would be political suicide and so Congress, especially in a Republican controlled Congress such as the one currently sitting, any move towards gun control is stalled while moves are made to try to relax existing controls.

The other issue that stalls American progress on dealing with their gun crisis is the disturbing trend emerging is that the ‘blame’ for gun crime is planted on mental illness. Around one in four American adults suffer from a mental illness and while mentally ill individuals are responsible for a proportion of firearms-related incidents in the United States, (such as the Aurora cinema shooting in 2012, and the Cleveland Elementary shooting in 1979) they are not responsible for every shooting occurs. Every high-profile shooting incident brings the gun control debate back into focus and anti-gun control politicians have found that the best way to shut down the debate is to shift the focus to mental illness. There are two major issues with this- firstly, attributing numerous crimes to the mentally ill is inaccurate as research shows that mentally ill individuals, including the stereotypical ‘violent mental illnesses’ such as schizophrenia, are less likely to commit violent crimes. Secondly, despite politicians saying that shootings are a result of the failing mental health system, nothing is ever really done to address that. The politicians are like parrots, taught to scream a short phrase on cue, bur even though expenditure on mental health services is increasing year by year, it mostly goes on existing services, rather than improving the system itself.

And so, America will continue to suffer under the cruel hand of gun violence because it can’t find a way to break the cycle. The thing is, a bleaker future is on the horizon- John Kasich wants to create more widespread concealed carry freedom because he thinks the current laws are “burdensome”, Donald Trump wants all weapon and magazine bans removed and Ted Cruz wants servicemen and women to be able to conceal carry on naval, air and army bases.

America has a problem but no-one wants to fix it. And, as former NFL quarterback Fran Tarkenton once said: “Ignoring facts do not make them go away”.