UK moves to strategic winter election | Daily News


UK moves to strategic winter election

British voters will be heading to the polls for the fourth time in less than five years, due to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s gamble to break the country’s crippling political deadlock and hold an election two weeks before Christmas.

The General Election is set for December 12 election. Britain hasn’t held an election in December since 1923. While the prospect of trudging to a polling station on a chilly day a fortnight before Christmas may fill some with dread, the UK is moving on to a heated winter campaign.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been pressing on for this election from the time he was elected PM by the Conservatives because of the difficulties in getting parliamentary approval for his Brexit plans. He was talking about leaving the EU with a No Deal.

Opposition MPs finally backed his call for an election, after he wrote to the EU and obtained an extension for the Brexit deal till January 31, 2020, being assured of the absence of a No Deal.

The main contest is between the Conservatives (Tories) led by Johnson and the Labour Party led by Jeremy Corbyn. The Liberal Democrats led by Ms. Jo Swinson stands for remaining with the EU. The Scottish Nationalists led by Nicola Sturgeon is campaigning for a better Brexit deal, but also moving on getting support for a referendum to decide on Scotland leaving the United Kingdom. The Democratic Unionists of Northern Ireland are also opposed to the Johnson Brexit agreement. The recently formed Brexit Party, led by Nigel Farage, which gained strong support over the Tories in elections to the European Parliament, is strongly challenging Boris Johnson and the Tories.

There is overall uncertainty about the winner in this election. Although Boris Johnson and the Tories have a two digit lead in opinion polls, the 2017 election called by Prime Minister Theresa May, with a much larger opinion poll lead, saw the Tories lose much of its majority in the poll, and had to depend on the Democratic Unionists of Northern Ireland to be sure of a parliamentary majority. As Johnson called for this poll he had lost the parliamentary majority, and was a weak minority government, losing most votes in the House of Commons since becoming Prime Minister.

The electorate is incredibly volatile at the moment. Pollsters agree that traditional party loyalties are fracturing, and that voters are defining themselves more along how they feel about Brexit. But there are other issues such as the National Health Service (NHS) the conditions of trade and economy, and workers’ rights after Brexit that will also draw huge voter attention.

The largest party after the polls will either be the Conservatives or Labour. No other party is in with a chance over overtaking them. But it’s entirely possible that neither will win an overall majority. The Liberal Democrats will hope to capitalize on the clarity of their anti-Brexit position and substantially increase their tally of 20 MPs. On the other end of the spectrum, Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party hopes to take advantage of the Conservatives’ failure to take the UK out of the EU by October 31 and gain its first representation in Parliament.

Despite the winter weather and the cold days ahead, the campaigning will be heated and every effort will be made by all parties to draw a large voter turnout. The final result may well be a mix of Brexit and other key issues facing the people of the UK, with challenges to the leadership of both Tory leader Boris Johnson and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Trump exiting Climate Pact

President Donald Trump moved to formally exit the Paris Climate Agreement, making the United States the only country in the world that will not participate in the pact, as global temperatures are set to rise 3C and worsening extreme weather will drive millions into poverty.

This week he initiated the process by the US government to withdraw from the Agreement, beginning a one-year process for exiting the deal agreed to at the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris in 2015. The US exit will take place one day after the next US presidential election, which is posing a major challenge to President Trump in November 2020.

This Trump move has been condemned by the international community, with all other countries being party to the Pact. Dozens of countries are pursuing goals to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. However, they represent only about 11% of the world’s climate footprint, and exclude the biggest emitters: China, the US and India.

To be on par with the other advanced countries on Climate Change would require the US government to eliminate pollution from coal and natural gas powered electricity plants, transportation, manufacturing facilities and agriculture.

President Trump has also come for strong criticism from prominent US political, environmental and civic sources against this move.

The former vice-president and climate campaigner and Nobel Prize co-recipient Al Gore said in a Twitter statement: “No one person or party can stop our momentum to solve the climate crisis. But those who try will be remembered for their complacency, complicity, and mendacity in attempting to sacrifice the planet for their greed.” He described Trump’s policy as “reckless” but also noted that the withdrawal process cannot start until after the 2020 election. “Even if [Trump] follows through, it would take just 30 days for a new president to get us back in,” Gore added. “This decision is ultimately in the hands of the voters.”

The Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, called Trump’s move a “disastrous decision that sells out our children’s future”. John Kerry and Chuck Hagel, President Barack Obama’s secretaries of state and defense respectively, in a Washington Post Op-Ed called it a “dark day for America”.

Political analysts and Environmental activists are of the view that this Trump action would have major disadvantage to him in the coming presidential poll, to be held in November 2020.

China on Free Trade

China’s President Xi Jinping has broadly endorsed free-trade principles and promised to welcome foreign investment to the country.

Speaking at the opening of the second annual China International Import Expo in Shanghai, Mr. Xi also indirectly criticized the Trump administration when he briefly denounced unilateralism.

“Economic globalization is a historical trend,” he said, comparing the momentum to the world’s great rivers. “Although there are sometimes some waves going backward, and even though there are many shoals, the rivers are rushing forward and no one can stop them.”

Most of Mr. Xi’s remarks were devoted to promising that China would maintain its long-running programmes of economic reform and opening up. This is in the context of many Western economists suggesting that during his seven years in power, Mr. Xi has gradually shifted China’s economy back towards a greater reliance on domestic industries, especially state-owned enterprises.

“China will open its doors only wider to the world,” he said. “China will adhere to the fundamental state policy of opening up.”

President Emmanuel Macron of France, speaking after Mr. Xi at the event, also indirectly criticized the Trump administration’s confrontational approach to demanding trade policy changes from China. “Should we just resort to unilateralism, tariffs and the law of the jungle?” Mr. Macron asked. “Is that the way forward? I don’t think so.”

The question is whether China will open up fast and far enough for the Trump administration, which has made Beijing’s management of the world’s second-largest economy remains major sticking point toward resolving the trade war with the US.

India – climate crisis

India’s Supreme Court was harsh in its criticism of key officials of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi for their failure to control the wave of pollution that has gripped most of north India.

“People are dying. 1800 is the level of pollution. Flights are diverted. You are proud of your achievement,” said the two-judge bench comprising Justices Arun Mishra and Deepak Gupta, while hearing the plea of pollution control body Environment Pollution Control Authority against stubble burning.

Smoke from the stubble burnt on the farmland of Punjab and Haryana is the chief component of the smog that chokes Delhi and its neighbouring areas. This year, it has spread over much of north India.

Pointing out that the government’s inaction is placing the onus on farmers, who are being challenged in Haryana for stubble burning, the court said “You want poor farmers to be punished. Punishment of farmers is not a solution”.

“You are responsible and entire Punjab, Haryana, UP and Delhi are responsible for this. Nobody bothered about the poor citizens of the country.... We are going to haul up the entire machinery,” Justice Mishra said.

The court rejected the AG’s suggestions that it is not possible to control 200,000 farmers who burn stubble. “If stubble burning is the only way then this is the end... Stubble burning has to be controlled and inability to do that will take the country back by 100 years,” the court said.

Iraqi violence

Iraqi security forces shot dead at least 13 protesters this week, ending weeks of relative restraint in trying to stamp out demonstrations against political parties that control the government.

More than 260 Iraqis have been killed in demonstrations since the start of October against a government they see as corrupt and beholden to foreign interests, above all Iran.

Most of those deaths occurred during the first week of the demonstrations, when snipers shot into crowds from Baghdad rooftops. But after the government appeared to have curbed the use of some deadly tactics, the protests swelled rapidly this week.

The new violence flared a day after Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi appealed to protesters to suspend their movement, which he said had achieved its goals and was hurting the economy.

In a televised address on Tuesday, he said the country could not afford it, and asked demonstrators to refrain from further damaging public and private property.

Abdul Mahdi has said he is willing to resign if politicians agree on a replacement and has vowed a number of reforms. But protesters say that is not enough and the entire political class needs to go.

Lebanon protests

Tens of thousands of Lebanese have packed into central Beirut for the biggest anti-government demonstration since supporters of the militant Hezbollah group rampaged through their main protest site last week. The protests here began on October 17.

The protesters call for a general strike and for the government to speed up the political transition following Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s resignation last week, and sweeping changes to the political system established after the 1975-1990 civil war.

These demonstrations have united people from the country’s many religious sects and factions against the political class., and leaders who have ruled Lebanon since the 1975-1990 civil war, and are widely seen as having tanked the economy.

Lebanon’s sovereign bonds have been downgraded by credit rating agency Moody’s, pushing the heavily indebted country’s paper further into junk territory as fears of a financial crisis loom. The Mediterranean country is in the throes of political and economic crisis amid mass anti-government protests over corruption, joblessness and falling living standards in one of the world’s most indebted countries.

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