For me and many others in Britain, Mental Health is an incredibly personal and important topic. The fact is Mental Health is a subject that most people can say they’ve had some kind of experience with. 1 in 4 people experience Mental Health issues in Britain, so whether it’s someone you know, or something you deal with yourself, it is a topic that most can relate to in some way. It is also something that people tend to shy away from; but they really shouldn’t. Even though at this moment in time Mental Health may be considered somewhat taboo or misunderstood, talking about Mental Health requires frank and open discussion that is conducted in a friendly manner. That is the way to beat the ever present stigma.
Even those most critical of Jeremy Corbyn’s concede that he is winning the battle on selective education, both within the party and in Parliament. At pre-conference PMQs we were presented with an ideological battle between two Grammar School alumni. Jeremy Corbyn - against on the grounds that social segregation is wrong; and Theresa May - in favour on the grounds that her present success is directly attributable to her education.
In the year I was born, a wall signifying the geopolitical divide between two global superpowers collapsed and Margaret Thatcher, the then British Prime minister had cemented a neoliberal consensus that would outlast a generation. That year was 1989 and since then the world has changed beyond recognition, globalisation has brought the world closer together as well as creating huge divisions in wealth and opportunity. Neoliberalism an economic system which was once praised is showing signs of terminal decline.
It is no secret that politics has a women problem. We may have a female Prime Minister but with 29% of Members of Parliament being women, equality has a fair way to go – and the Labour Party is still finding itself behind in this regard too. Much has been written about this, including by me in the last edition of this magazine, but it needs to be spoken about and challenged again and again. To end the Young Fabians’ executive year, and in time for party conference, I therefore wanted to put an issue I feel strongly about front and centre. So this edition of Anticipations is about looking at women in politics and in positions of power leading in their field.
Right now it’s a tough time for politics in the Labour Party, and it’s a tough time for women in politics. Never in my twenty years of Labour Party membership have I seen the kind of abuse and misogyny that our friends and colleagues are experiencing today.
The dismal state of centre-left politics worldwide left me in resigned despair. Charles Dickens inspired me to re-engage. Us Fabians are in dark days and hope is needed.
As a second, Corbyn victory might happen, it is time to consider where the Party goes from here if it does. Having held onto power, Corbyn now needs to find a way to weld the Parliamentary Party he has into an election winning force. In doing so it is important that Corbyn and his inner circle start to recognise the electoral mandates of individual Labour MPs. Labour is not an absolute monarchy, and power in the Parliamentary Party does not rest solely on the Leader’s office. I see only one way of satisfying this need without totally alienating the bulk of his supporters in the Membership. That is the partial reintroduction of Shadow Cabinet elections.
A highlight of the delegation for me was meeting Revolution Messaging, a digital campaigning company which has lived up to its name and been truly revolutionary this campaign season in their incredible work running Bernie Sanders social media campaigning.
In the grand yet homely setting of his living room, Thomas Frank embarked upon a discussion with the delegation about the hold Trump has over his supporters and the factors behind it. After the pleasantry of introductions and talk of his turntable and hiking to London for records, talk turned to Frank’s first book: What’s the matter with Kansas? The argument of the book follows the rise in the working class vote for the Republicans during the 1990s/2000s; the reason for this surge, the cultural backlash against the so-called ‘liberal elite’ who were an affront to American values – with their support for abortion, violence in films and evolutionism.
Rising before the sun the Young Fabian's US delegation set about getting ready for its fifth day. Departing for a breakfast meeting with the Arlington Democrats at Busboys and Poets, a community hub-come-trendy cafe where we experienced what can only be described as one of the most interesting and amusing meetings yet. Over numerous cups of much needed coffee, we found ourselves at a part-CLP meeting, part-social and part-election rally where we heard from delegates from the Democratic National Convention.
Day 4 of the Young Fabian Delegation to the United States started with a key meeting in the heart of the nation's capital: Washington DC. The HRC (Human Rights Campaign) represents the rights of LGBTQ people across America, and their allies. Founded in 1980, the history of the HRC is fascinating.
Anyone who knows me well will know that I love trains, so it was no surprise that I woke up nearly of my own volition on Wednesday to be there nice and early for the Amtrak to Washington DC. After coffee and more bagels, we grabbed our wheelie suitcases and trundled down to the bus stop. $3.50 was well worth the view of Manhattan.
In the rush to distance themselves from the New Labour era, many of the party’s brightest thinkers have failed to form a coherent analysis of the Blair/Brown legacy. It has become common parlance to criticise the last Labour government for overspending and to place the Iraq War at the centre of the party’s recent history. But in all the obvious finger pointing and distancing, more nuanced debates have been missed, particularly around Labour’s altering relationship with trade unions.
Having fuelled up on bagels and coffee, we set off to the centre of New York to join the Clinton campaign’s phone canvassing session. We were still amazed by the efficiency of the phone canvassing system, despite having used the system the previous day! Interesting anecdotes included some voters leaning towards Hillary and one voter who asked how Hillary could be President from jail. It seems that the allegations of Clinton’s email server misuse have left an impression on certain voters.
The Young Fabians delegation to Washington D.C. and New York kicked off with the delegates getting on the phones for Hillary Clinton's campaign and playing their part in talking to votrs across Pennsylvania about the upcoming Presidential elections. Many of the delegates were experiened Labour phonebankers, and drew important compatisons between the practices of both parties' telephone campaigning; we were particularly impressed by The Pennsylvania Democrats made good, efficient use of campaign technology.
We later made our way to an Irish bar near Broadway to have a chat with Richard Bruce, a member of the Labour International CLP. Each of the delegates pitched their research projects and engaged Richard in debate about their chosen subject. The delegates felt that it was interesting to hear from the perspective of a Brit observing US politics on the ground.
“Hast thou, spirit,
Perform'd to point the tempest that I bade thee?”
– William Shakespeare ‘The Tempest’
And Ariel did make such a storm – enough of a thrash to crash Alonso and his crew’s ship unto the frightening shores of the uninhabited island – but as fate had it, they weren’t destined to be damned forever.
American foreign policy has long been defined by its self-belief. After a hiatus during the Obama years, could American Exceptionalism be set for a comeback?
One of the most oft-repeated maxims of the past six months is that we are now living in a post-truth politics. It is so omnipresent, because, ironically, it is true, and it has been true about nothing else as it has been about the EU referendum.
I think it is important to not see the referendum as the previews to the American presidential election’s opening night, although it is tempting to do so. Although on a global scale many populist movements are rising-- many of them right-wing and reactionary-- none of them are identical in scope or character. Nigel Farage stood beside Donald Trump on a stage and spoke a similar language, but not the same one. One is clueless about governance, the other an old hand, and both claim outsider status. Donald Trump is winning despite having no experience. Nigel Farage is considered a maverick despite having been an MEP for 15 years. They are merely brothers, not identical twins, in sowing the seeds of division and hatred.
But they are taking advantage of similar levels of ignorance, where blaming your neighbour is easier than blaming market forces, and an extremely clear example of this is the public attitude to international trade in our new, increasingly globalised world. Donald Trump does not practice what he preaches, but it doesn’t matter. Of many, many examples, Donald Trump preaches the importance of American made, but favours Italian suits-- but when he does this, it's different. When he does this, it’s not a betrayal, but a sign of affluence, and, apparently, greed is good. He tells us so all the time, so that, too, must be true.
On the day of the referendum, I stood in the garden of a man who worked in the automotive industry trying to convince him that a vote to leave the EU could cost him his job. We live in a region that exports more than it imports, and which has a significant part to play in the international car industry. Car factories built in the North East of England were built to have easy access to the European Union, and throughout the referendum we heard numerous car companies insinuate or out-and-out state that they would seriously consider moving their factories if the UK voted to leave. I said this to this man, standing in his garden, in the blisteringly hot sun, and he said that it didn’t matter. We would sell the cars to somebody else, in South America maybe. I left that man’s garden knew that even though he said to me that he was undecided, he was going to vote to leave. It didn’t matter what he said to me, and it didn’t matter what I said to him: my facts wouldn’t change his beliefs.
This was a case where facts didn't matter. It is easy to say that we can trade with other countries, but it shows a lack of understanding of how trade works-- perhaps a lack of understanding that politics as-is fosters. Of course you can sell cars to South America, but first you have to get them there, and that costs serious money. Of course you can sell fruit to Australia, but first you have to make sure it survives the journey to ripen when it arrives. Of course you can sell to whoever you want, but deliberately sabotaging the biggest market you already have is something no good business adviser would ever tell you do to. But on the 23rd of June, we did.
From an American angle, we now live in a world where our trade relationship as it existed with the USA is now rendered obsolete. Our trade deals with the USA were negotiated through and signed by the EU, acting on behalf of its 28 member states. If we accept that we are leaving the European Union, which more than 17 million people have demanded we must, we will virtually be starting from scratch. TTIP -- the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership -- the massive trade deal which would have regulated American/EU trade in order to make it easier, is now effectively dead in the water, especially without the British government to push for it, as the Conservatives have always been its strongest advocates. It had been highlighted by some groups, including the AFL-CIO that TTIP had in theory the possibility that American labour standards could be improved, but this, too, is now probably an impossibility.
It is also, in theory, exciting to live in a world full of such infinite possibilities. It is unfortunate that in practice these possibilities are likely to be very bad for everyone who is not a multinational corporation. If we are doomed or blessed to live in a post-truth politics, perhaps the way to take back control of the narrative is to change it. An issue raised on the left about TTIP was that it was negotiated in secret, that the people who elected their negotiators wished to know exactly what it was being negotiated on their behalf. There are unlikely to be many good consequences of our exit from the European Union, but the hope of a more open world might at least be one.
Mercedes Broadbent is a Young Fabian member attending the USA Delegation
John. D. Rockefeller once said that he tried to turn every disaster into an opportunity. Equity markets have decided to do the opposite when reacting to the collapse of oil. Falling oil prices have historically been positive for the world economy, given the redistribution of purchasing power from producers to consumers. However, markets have focused on the direct negative effects of lower oil prices without looking ahead at the potential positive outcomes.
The deadly Orlando shooting of 12th June 2016 left 49 people dead in the popular gay nightclub, Pulse. This, just 5 months before one of the strangest, most unorthodox and at times unpredictable of US Presidential Elections reaches its conclusion on November 8th. With the stakes so high, and the balance of political power in play within the Senate, Presidency and Supreme Court, is all as well with Gay Rights in America as it may seem?
Rewind almost 12 months to 26th June 2015 and you would be forgiven for thinking that real and lasting change had taken place in America, at a pace not often associated with US Politics. The Supreme Court had ruled that state-level bans on same-sex marriage were legally unconstitutional and unequal in the eyes of the law, in the now famous Obergefell vs Hodges case.
Indeed, regular polls (including the Huffington Post’s) show support for same-sex – the cornerstone equality issue for LGBT rights in the States – is consistently above 60% and trending in an upward direction. But that of course does not mitigate against so-called “lone wolf” attacks such as that carried out by Omar Mateen in the name of, but not necessarily motivated by, Radical Islam. This was as much a hate crime carried out by a deeply disturbed individual as it was one inspired by a radicalised individual
So does this single terrifying instance (the worst shooting in US history) act as a symptom of a wider problem? Is this an issue that will be raised at the Ballot Box and how are the Two Campaigns addressing Gay Rights?
It’s fair to say (and encouraging) that the evidence for the first question leads to a pretty unequivocal ‘no’. But the second question has to be answered in the affirmative.
Clinton has been a high profile advocate for LGBT rights now for many years, long before it was fashionable. And although not always the first to do so, she has backed recent guidance from the Obama Administration on transgender students’ access to restrooms matching their gender identity; the 2015 Equality Act preventing discrimination through the sale of every day Goods and Services as well as the high profile Equal Marriage fight through the US Courts system.
Trump on the other hand has a much more chequered, some might say genuinely confusing, record. He has typically been in favour of ‘Traditional Marriage’ between a man and a woman, but has made comments in support of individual same-sex couples (including Elton John and David Furnish), suggesting that there is no clear, consistent animosity there. On the very current issue of ‘Transgender Bathrooms’ he believes it should be down to “States’ Rights” to decide this and issues like it, but strongly criticised North Carolina’s recent restrictive legislation on this issue. He also uses a complex, confusing and somewhat cryptic, New York Times profile piece analogy with Golf’s ‘Long Putter’ to describe further his position on Gay Marriage. Yet, surely the triviality with which he compares a human right to a peculiarity of the Game of Golf speaks to a wider concern about his temperament and judgement to be President of the United States. Certainly he showed no leadership of any kind in backing away from the ‘Platform Fight’ when the Republicans met in Cleveland for the quadrennial Convention in July, where a set of clearly conservative values were espoused, once more, by the Republican Party.
So where are we now with the Election itself only a little more than 2 months away? Well there has been scant polling on LGBT voters, with evidence showing that they make up perhaps around 5% of the US electorate. What polling has been conducted (the well-cited May Whitman Insights Strategies poll) suggests Clinton is far ahead, by 84% to 16%, and further so that even Obama, at 77% to 23% vs Romney in the campaign of 2012. However this polling did not include so-called ‘Third Party’ candidates – Stein and Johnson, who have since shaken up the race and are worthy of an article of their own at this juncture.
Overall however, it’s fair to say that Clinton remains the clear favourite with LGBT voters and this particularly active and vociferous portion of the US electorate will stand behind her slogan of ‘I’m With Her’ with quite some conviction in November.
Peter Ptashko is a Young Fabian member attending the USA delegation