Tories

Once and for all the Conservatives prove they are not the party for animal lovers

If you’re anything like me then you would have been shocked to learn that a motion to recognise animals as sentient beings – capable of feeling pain and emotion – was rejected from the EU Withdrawal Bill during a commons vote last week. The amendment, submitted by Green Party leader Caroline Lucas was narrowly defeated in parliament by just 18 votes, after every single member of the Conservative Party and their bedfellows the DUP voted against it. Despite every remaining member of parliament voting to transfer the animal sentience clause into UK law post-Brexit, the government was able to use its fragile majority to defeat them.

What is perhaps most disheartening, yet somehow unsurprising, is the complete and blatant u-turn by Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Michael Gove. Earlier this year Michael Gove was questioned in the House of Commons about his intentions regarding the environmental implications and animal welfare standards of Brexit. During this debate Gove was asked by Henry Smith, Conservative MP for Crawley: “Can my right hon. Friend confirm that article 13 of the Lisbon treaty, which categorises animals as sentient beings, will be part of the repeal Bill?” to which Gove confidently responded: “Absolutely. Before we entered the European Union, we recognised in our own legislation that animals were sentient beings. I am an animal; we are all animals, and therefore I care—[Interruption.] I am predominantly herbivorous, I should add. It is an absolutely vital commitment that we have to ensure that all creation is maintained, enhanced and protected.” However, it seems that this promise – supposedly based upon beliefs close to Gove’s heart – was conveniently forgotten about when the time came for him to cast his shameful vote (along with the rest of his party – even Henry Smith himself).

The question we all have to ask – and definitely should be asking – is why the entire Conservative party voted the way they did, and what sinister policy is lurking around the corner? This is not only a party that seems to have nothing more than a superficial grasp of animal welfare issues, but also a party with the responsibility of navigating the turbulent waters of Brexit. There have already been fear-laden reports that Brexit might spell bad news for animals, but never has this been more plausible a concern than following this vote. With the legal standing and even the very basic nature of animals being re-written in law during our withdrawal from the EU, we are now on the edge of a very dangerous precipice. What will this mean for farm animals in a post-Brexit Britain?

The Animal Welfare Act 2006 currently protects companion animals such as cats and dogs, but makes no mention of sentience and does nothing to protect the animals most often subjected to abuse such as farm animals, wildlife and laboratory animals. It seems we could be about to take several steps backwards and see the most vulnerable animals in this country stripped of what few rights they did have, and subjected to much lower standards of welfare. Perhaps farm animals – no longer considered sentient beings – will be able to be reared, housed and slaughtered with even less regard for welfare than they are now; or perhaps we will even see the end of historically crucial wildlife protections as we watch our remaining areas of green-belt land swallowed up in a sea of concrete.

Of course, this is not the first time the Conservatives have demonstrated a complete lack of compassion and understanding when it comes to animal welfare issues. The reason the parliamentary vote on fox hunting was scrapped from the final Tory manifesto was not because Theresa and her chums had a change of heart, but simply because of their humiliating performance in this year’s election. Had Mrs May got the majority she so confidently predicted, the countryside would no doubt have already reverted back to being a playground for the bloodthirsty.

Then of course there’s the badger culling, a scientifically flawed and economically disastrous time-wasting exercise that has done nothing but prove that badgers don’t spread bovine TB and that this government has an irrational hatred of badgers. In fact, it seems that every time there is a discussion on animal welfare issues, the Conservative party show a complete lack of connection with the wider public and push ahead with policies that the majority of the country find abhorrent. Surely this in itself demonstrates that not only are the Tories not the party for animal lovers, they’re not the party of the people at all.

In a world that is now spiralling towards the increasingly uncertain future created by global warming, deforestation, mass-farming and other devastating symptoms of an over-consumptive society, the time is now upon us to start choosing our leaders more wisely. Protecting our environment and the animals (human or otherwise) that inhabit it should be at the top of the agenda for any government. Recognising our fellow non-human Earthlings as sentient beings is an important part of any society that wishes to strive for a more ethical and environmentally secure future. The Conservative party have shown us before that they do not care about animals, but now we have it in writing. It’s time for us to take action.

What Can I Do?

If you live in a constituency with a Conservative MP then please contact them to let them know you do not agree with their vote. You can find out the name and party of your MP, as well as how to contact them by clicking here.

Alternatively you can ask your MP to tell Michael Gove: “Animals are sentient beings” by clicking here.

You can also sign this petition which will be delivered to Michael Gove.

Finally, please keep the pressure upon the government to reverse this decision. Please share this article, and others like it, and remember this decision next time you are asked to vote for a new government.

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No Cap on Courage for Britain’s Firefighters

Recent events in Britain have brought into sharp focus the role of our public services in daily life. The two main strands of this discussion have centred around their importance to us in times of need and to what degree they should be financially rewarded for this.

Most recently, and in such horrifying circumstances, it has been Britain’s firefighters at the forefront of our minds.

Having been called into action to tackle the macabre blaze at Grenfell Tower last month, the sight of these brave individuals looking so utterly haunted in the aftermath is one that will long reside in the public consciousness. Equally, hearing individual firefighters lament the fact that their ladders did not go high enough to reach the highest floors of Grenfell Tower was intensely difficult.

For many of us, however, the intricacies of a firefighter’s role are something of a mystery. Naturally only firefighters will fully understand what it is they do and how it is they do it, but the revelation that firefighters at Grenfell were required to write their initials on their equipment before entering serves as an eerie symbol of what these people could be called upon to give at any given moment.

The purpose of the initials, of course, was to identify their bodies should they not have made it out that night. As job-related requirements go, it doesn’t get much heavier than that. There were officers at Grenfell witnessing scenes they had never seen before. People like 26 year old April Cachia, who told the Daily Telegraph how she helped terrified residents from the towering inferno having only been in the job for five days:

“The smell of smoke, the sound of crackling, the sound of debris hitting the ground, children screaming, people hand you their phones to speak to their loved ones – these are the things you won’t ever forget.”

The bravery of the firefighter is of course well established almost to the point of cliché, but in view of recent public discourse concerning public sector pay, the question of how to adequately reward firefighters has become particularly relevant.

In response to the defeat of Labour’s amendment to the Queen’s Speech, which proposed to “end the public sector pay cap and give the emergency and public services a fair pay rise”, MPs on the winning side of the vote were heard cheering in the Commons.

Regardless of party politics, such grotesque displays of contempt merely highlight the disconnect that exists between some politicians and the will of the public.

Boris Johnson telling Labour-Assembly leader Andrew Dismore to “get stuffed” in 2014 in response to the question of his office’s cuts to fire services was another unsavoury incident which looks far worse in retrospect.

Firefighters and other public service workers are often lavished with praise but little else. Unfortunately, praise doesn’t make ends meet. Despite this, it was heartening to learn that some of the firefighters who attended Grenfell have been amongst the first to take free holidays donated via the Grenfell Tower Holiday appeal group.

Fire Brigade’s Union General Secretary Matt Wrack has noted that firefighter’s real wages are falling and “our members are struggling to make ends meet.”

Wrack went on to launch a scathing criticism of governmental policy, saying: “it is sickening to hear politicians praising firefighters for the outstanding work they do every day of their working lives only to be told they have to tighten their belts as a result of economic problems caused by bankers.”

With this having been said, political dogma categorically should not take away from the fact that when called upon, Britain’s firefighters step up to the task. Their numbers may be diminished – there are 19% less firefighters than in 2010 –  but their resolve to protect is not.

Blessedly for all of us, there is no cap on the bravery of Britain’s firefighters.

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General Election 2017: how the young took back British Politics

The young people of Britain left their detractors bewildered on June 8th. Turning out on a scale not seen since 1992, they delivered a comprehensive repudiation of a political system that has marginalised them for too long.

It has been a seismic year in British politics. This time twelve months ago, Britain had just voted to leave the European Union after a bitterly contested, divisive and at times toxic referendum campaign. What followed was undoubtedly one of the most remarkable periods in British political history.

At the end of a political epoch which saw the resignation of David Cameron, Theresa May’s appointment as Prime Minister; Jeremy Corbyn’s re-election as leader of the Labour Party; Donald Trump taking office and the United Kingdom triggering Article 50, Theresa May called a snap General Election.

It was an opportunistic and cynical move which came despite previous assurances to the contrary. Even against the backdrop of May’s repeated insistence that no General Election would be called until 2020, the sight of Labour floundering in the opinion polls combined with her own personal approval ratings proved too much to resist for May and her advisers, who went for the jugular.

Parliament found itself dissolved after two-thirds of the Commons voted in favour of a motion for an early General Election and Britain was once again going to the polls.

Theresa May banked on the opinion polls proving accurate. A landslide victory was to condemn Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour to electoral oblivion whilst simultaneously handing her an overwhelming mandate to negotiate Brexit unopposed and unchecked. Complacency was rife and understandably so.

After all, many political commentators had already concluded that young people had no right to express their concerns over Brexit as they had supposedly not bothered to get out and vote, so why would it be any different this time?

Initial reports after polling day put the youth turnout at around 36%, leading to widespread attempts to bury young people’s Brexit concerns beneath accusations of political apathy. Later evidence compiled by the London School of Economics suggested youth turnout for the EU referendum was in fact around 64%, vastly higher than originally reported. Still, none of this mattered and would matter even less when Labour and their young supporters were reduced to political non-entities.

As the General Election got into full flow, the Conservatives were beset by calamity. Despite a highly personalised, almost presidential campaign, Theresa May was floundering. Stage-managed public appearances in sterile environments did little to undermine suspicion that the Prime Minister was unwilling to meet the public and unable to engage with voters on the ground.

By contrast, Jeremy Corbyn was undergoing quite the political revival. Since first being elected Labour leader in 2015, the 68-year-old had been portrayed by Conservative MPs, large sections of the British press and even his own back-benchers as nothing short of a political pariah.

However, since the General Election had been called, support for the Islington North MP had been gathering considerable momentum. His backing, particularly among the young, was soaring.

His principled, emotion-driven style of politics stood in direct contrast to Theresa May’s scripted, repetitive and rigid approach.

As Corbyn continued to address large crowds of young people, extraordinary levels of condescending rhetoric emerged from sections of the press and some political commentators.

It was all well and good Jeremy Corbyn speaking to and winning the support of all these young people, but young people didn’t matter. Sure, they’d cheer his name in the streets or in a football stadium, but if it rained on election day he couldn’t count on their vote. Such were the methods used to denigrate and dismiss swathes of young people casting off decades of political apathy to become engaged, energised and inspired by politics for the first time.

The same sneering attitudes were prevalent in dismissing as unreliable the various polls which had Labour closing the gap on the Tories with each passing day. Again, none of this would matter when the youth vote collapsed on polling day.

Eventually, the time for talking was over. Polling day arrived on June 8th and by the time night fell Theresa May’s majority was gone.

Labour’s surge was astonishing. Young voters across the country had mobilised, taken to the streets, knocked on doors and engaged with politics in a way not seen in decades. So much for apathy.

When Jeremy Corbyn addressed a Glastonbury crowd last Saturday as big as any seen in living memory, he stated that “the politics that got out of the box is not going back in that box.”

That is the challenge that lies ahead for young voters – to stay engaged, stay energised and make sure nobody speaks for them without their permission ever again.

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Voters unite: take action against the coalition of chaos

On June 8th something happened that few outside of the hopeful grassroots community could ever have expected. Jeremy Corbyn led the Labour party to an astonishing increase in parliamentary seats; destroying the majority previously held by the Conservative Party.

As a Labour supporter I personally welcome any result that reins in the power of Theresa May’s government. But whilst the hung parliament we’re left with does bring with it a small number of positives, it’s far from an ideal outcome.

On the plus side, without a majority May has already been forced to reconsider the manifesto she plans to submit for the Queen’s speech this week. Hard line policies on pensions and ridiculous notions such as repealing the fox hunting ban have been scrapped. This is wonderful news for those affected, and a clear victory for those of us who fought against such policies.

The snap election also delivered a result which has confirmed Jeremy Corbyn’s position as leader of a strong and stable opposition. The in-fighting which dominated the Labour Party last year is over; for the Tories such battles are only just beginning.

There is a negative side to all of this, of course. And not just for Conservative voters. In a desperate bid to keep hold of the keys to number 10, May has sought a deal with the most regressive party in UK politics; the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland (DUP).

The DUP are a right wing party with intensely conservative and religious views. This party (who now potentially have control within the UK government) are passionately opposed to LGBT rights, are anti-abortion, largely deny climate change, and most worryingly of all, have strong support from (and reported links to) the Ulster Defence Association (UDA).

A violent loyalist paramilitary group, the UDA is still active in Northern Ireland to this day. Just weeks ago, a man was shot dead in broad daylight, and in front of his three-year-old son, by a member of the group. During the troubles in Northern Ireland, the UDA were responsible for over 400 deaths, the vast majority of whom were civilians.

Much of the Conservative election campaign was built around the false notion that Corbyn is a terrorist sympathiser. Yet May has wasted no time in jumping into bed with a party strongly linked to terrorists still operating in Northern Ireland today. Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny has warned Theresa May that the deal she has sought risks jeopardising peace in Northern Ireland, and is a potential violation of the Good Friday Agreement.

Already we have seen signs of May making decisions to appease the DUP. In appointing her new cabinet she has given the role of Justice Secretary to David Lidington, who has consistently opposed LGBT rights; and the role of Environmental Secretary to Michael Gove, despite his previous poor record on environmental issues.

Despite who you may have voted for, a minority government propped up by a terrorist-backed, right wing section of the Northern Irish assembly is unacceptable. It is simply wrong that we should allow such regressive politicians to have any say in how our otherwise progressive society is run. If you voted Labour, this is not what you voted for. But just as importantly; if you voted Conservative, this is not what you voted for.

Millions of people across the country, myself included, live in Conservative areas which means we are represented in parliament by Conservative MPs. It is vital that we now contact them to make it known we do not give our support to a deal with the DUP, and that neither should they. The integrity of our country is far more important than whether a political party is able to cling onto power or not. We must call upon our MPs to say no to any deal with the DUP, even if it means relinquishing control of parliament, or calling another election. On this principal we should all be agreed, regardless of our political alignment.

This is something we must act on now. Anybody that lives within a Conservative constituency must contact their local MP today. Talks between the Tories and the DUP are ongoing, and the Queen’s speech, it seems, has been delayed. The minority government as it is being proposed has no credibility, and this is something that must be communicated to our representatives in Parliament before a vote of confidence is held.

This is a rare opportunity for all voters to stand together. It’s time to put our differences aside and unite in opposition to the DUP and the potential regressive lurch to the right that comes with them. It’s time to stand up for the values that so many have fought for, and to protect the rights of every British person.

Important links:

Here you will find a sample e-mail which can be copied, edited as desired, and sent to your local MP.

Here you can find out who your local MP is, and how to contact them.

Whilst this direct action should be the priority, it is also well worth signing this petition to the UK Government, which has already reached over 150,000 signatures (at the time of this being published).

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