Democracy is Better off Out

– Joe Jones

 

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I know there is an avalanche of articles on the European referendum descending on us in ever-greater volumes and it’s certainly not going to slow down anytime soon. However, I’d regret it if I didn’t add my voice to the debate, so here I go…

England is the cradle of Parliamentary democracy, a legacy that Britain, Canada, India, America, Australia and New Zealand (just to name a few) carry on into the modern day. This legacy is why I identify as a Tory democrat; I believe in preserving the old and the good of our nation and entrusting it into the control of the people.  It is why I find it so upsetting that we seem to be content to see that legacy being scurried away in the offices of the Berlaymont by bureaucrats, shuffling down the pale corridors of European power. There is an astonishingly, un-European, democratic deficit within the EU. It is a betrayal of Athenian democracy; there exists a system of institutions that have effectively removed the people, the demos, but kept the power, the kratos.

The European Commission exists as an excellent demonstration of an undemocratic institution. The only elected member is the President of the Commission, being elected by the European Parliament – so it usually comes down to whichever party is the largest: currently the European Peoples Party (EPP) which doesn’t have a single representative elected from Britain. The rest of the commissioners are appointed and the irony that many of them have lost an election (or two in the case of Neil Kinnock) before appointment shouldn’t be lost on anyone.

These commissioners hold a monopoly of power on the European system and if you think I’m talking rubbish, then look at what happened when the French, the Dutch and the Irish all voted against The Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe (basically just the Lisbon Treaty), they were asked to take time for a ‘period of reflection’, then were asked to try voting again and again to produce an answer better suited to the Commission.

But what of the European Parliament? Don’t we elect our own members to send to the Espace Léopold and the Louise Weiss to hold the European executive to account? Well yes, if you count a turnout that had never risen above 38% in the UK, and never above 50% across Europe, as a whopping mandate. Moreover the European Parliament is not a properly functioning legislative house: it does not have the power, de jure or de facto, to construct legislation. Only the European Commission has the authority to construct legislation and regulation; the European Parliament can only accept or reject bills put before them. I cannot accept that this is a healthy way to conduct a democratic institution. It cannot be correct that the representatives of the European people cannot construct and pass legislation on the people’s behalf

Should we care? Surely this must be just a proxy government that really holds no sway in the UK: The House of Commons library puts the laws imposed on the UK from Brussels at 13% (not the 7% Nick Clegg liked to quote). This doesn’t actually seem to be that much, although personally I do think even that is too high a proportion anyway. Sadly, that number is wrong; as the independent think-tank, Business for Britain, (founded to help reform our relationship with the EU) reported in 2014, that figure does not count regulations that are imposed on the UK on a pan-European level. When these two are combined we find that that actually 65% of UK laws and regulations are imposed from Brussels, with 52% never having to be passed through our Parliament, hence why they are not counted in the House of Commons library. It undermines both the sovereignty of our Parliament and the credibility of our national elections.

In an ideal world, I would love to see massive reform in the EU in an attempt to deal with the democratic deficit. I accept that within the Eurozone there is evidently a need for more integration of central European institutions; this is clear from the euro disaster and the need for a unified economic policy across the Eurozone. I also accept that the European Parliament must be strengthened and the representatives of the people should be allowed to legislate on the people’s behalf and not be entirely dominated by the Commission. However, for those outside of the Eurozone it should be set into stone that the sovereignty of their own parliaments should always come first. There is no need for them to be dominated by the Commission or European Parliament; they are not tied into one currency. Yet, given the way the EU is developing I realise how unrealistic this plan is and it isn’t even in the current renegotiation plans – and the ‘red card’ system is a far cry from anything near substantial change.

In this referendum campaign, economic and immigration scare stories will be thrown around from both sides, but we cannot lose sight of the crucial debate: who governs Britain? As a Tory democrat I know that I want the answer to be our House of Commons, elected by and serving the people of the United Kingdom.

I know that I’ve made up my mind in this referendum: Democracy is better off out.

Joe Jones is a third year History student at Warwick and Deputy Chairman (Political) of UWCA

Stigma: Market Mechanisms and the Third Sector

– Alexandra Bevis

 

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I must confess, I was one of the many who – after the Free and Fair Foundation published a review of charitable spending in December 2015 – was somewhat outraged that major UK charities spent such little proportions of their income on charitable activities. Had I conducted a little more research, I would have realised that these figures were somewhat misleading. The metric conflates revenues originating from goods sold and from donations. Why is this a problem? If a charity were to rely entirely upon revenue from goods sold in their shops, it would have a low charitable spending to revenue ratio – since overheads from running shops are rather high. If a charity were to rely entirely upon donations, they would have a much higher ratio – since, assuming it was effectively run, its administrative costs would be much lower than the overheads of its shop-running counterpart.

In the latter case, the metric quoted by the report would be a good one; you can see how much of each pound you donate goes towards actually making an impact. However, the list of those named and shamed includes the likes of Cancer Research UK, which – like many other charities – uses a mixture of both techniques to raise funds. My issue with the metric is thus twofold. Firstly, by combining the revenue streams, it does not accurately reflect the proportion of each donation that is spent upon a particular cause. Secondly, individuals regularly use this metric when deciding which charities to invest in. How do I know this? It is the metric that the government use to inform citizens about charities. With the website being built around what individuals want to know about charities before making a contribution, it is little wonder that this statistic is the most outstanding within the page.

I’m rather ashamed to admit that it took me until quite recently to ascertain that we are quantifying the wrong thing. In fact, it was only really after speaking to Thomas Muirhead – the Managing Director of Child.org – at the Warwick International Development Summit about his organisation’s utilisation of market mechanisms for fundraising. Evidence would suggest we have become so debased in our charitable pursuits that we are motivated more by extreme frugality than by helping a worthy cause. The median citizen, it seems, does not measure the success of a charitable organisation in the number of new medicines developed or how many children are provided with free school meals, but the proportion of their income that is ‘wasted’ on administrative costs.

I am not saying that we should not want our money to be spent efficiently. Of course, in making a charitable contribution, we want our donation to have the maximum impact. What I am saying is that it is a fallacy to conflate the proportion of an organisation’s income spent on a given cause with having the greatest impact. Are we so short sighted to not distinguish between these income streams? One builds upon the other; the income received from goods sold is income charitable organisations would not have otherwise received from donations. However, metrics like that utilised by The Free and Fair Foundation imply – based on their inherent construction – that we shouldn’t donate to companies with greater propensity to use market mechanisms for fundraising. Should this be the case? I think not. The Third sector would be the poorer for it.

Alexandra is a second year PPE student at the University of Warwick and an active member or UWCA.

Quick, decisive action in Syria does not mean success in the long run

– Max Rodgers

 

Looking at the plethora of barbaric terrorist attacks committed by IS over the past two years, it is clear that they cannot be defeated without military means. The only concerns of IS are to convert as many to their cause as possible and to wage a campaign of terror to eradicate those who do not fall into line with their beliefs. As a result, this extreme fundamentalist approach means negotiation for a ceasefire with them is impossible, as they are not obligated to preserve internal interests as nation states are, nor do they wish to achieve a particular political objective, their only goal is chaos.

However, with that said, I am of the belief that the decision by various governments following the Paris attacks to commit to a bombing campaign against IS in Syria is the wrong one. The events in Paris showed us that now more than ever it is vital that all peoples who believe in the values of freedom, harmony and equality must stand against the vicious, deadly ideology of IS that proposes to extinguish all of these principles. Indeed, the renewed sense of purpose for action against IS following the attacks will no doubt be comforting to many who are concerned for their security in an age where terrorist attacks happen on an almost daily basis all over the world.

The problem with this renewed sense of purpose for action is that it has been applied to the wrong strategy, namely airstrikes by either unmanned drones or manned fighter jets over IS controlled northern Syria. In the past, airstrikes have had prior success in combating IS, notably through their usage by the RAF in Iraq with a 0% civilian casualty rate, but in this the crucial distinction must be made between the differing tactical theatres of Iraq and Syria. The majority of IS forces in Syria are embedded within the city of Raqqa, occupying civilian buildings to use the civilian population as human shields. This presents a distinctly tougher challenge for military forces combating IS as the chances for successful strikes against terrorists without incurring civilian casualties are incredibly lower than in Iraq. Of course, this is still possible, as the assassination of Jihadi John showed us, but with incredible intelligence resources and military calculations applied to targeting this one man for an airstrike, it is evident that to do this for an entire army of IS terrorists would prove incredibly difficult and taxing upon resources.

Of course, any path of action we take will be difficult and taxing upon resources, but I’d rather utilise this on a course of action that will have a greater chance of success against IS than sole reliance upon airstrikes. This includes ensuring Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States stop the millions of dollars of funding that flood into the Syrian oil market which is propping up IS in order to financially neuter them; it means ensuring there is a well thought out humanitarian plan for a post-conflict Syria with appropriate assistance from the UN and other bodies which doesn’t leave the Syrian people to fend for themselves in a post-IS world; it also means a plan to get around the problem of Assad and finally it also means military tactics that stand a far greater chance of breaking IS’s stronghold over northern Syria, which in my view means guerilla warfare and counterinsurgency tactics. With an enemy embedded in a dense urban area who operate as guerillas, the usage of such counterinsurgency tactics as those deployed by the US in Vietnam to great success between 1955 and Diem’s removal in 1963 would be far preferable as a strategy to defeat IS than airstrikes.

In summary, it is clear that the UK must stand with our allies in combating IS militarily as we have no other option but to engage them, given their fanatical desire for chaos and terror. The problem with the action taken by various governments since the Paris attacks is that airstrikes have been seen and argued for as a blanket solution to solve the problem of IS, and quite simply they will not provide such a solution. To paraphrase what David Davis said in the House of Commons debate last week, we should help France but we must do it properly and not just symbolically. Airstrikes have proven successful against IS in the past, but with the tactical and political situation in northern Syria, and whilst symbolise political support for France in the wake of the Paris attacks; they are not the best solution in the long run.

Rather, must take military action against IS via the means of intelligence agencies supporting moderate rebels fighting against IS alongside Special Forces troops and intelligence officers from coalition countries employing counterinsurgency tactics to eliminate IS terrorists from civilian areas; we must ensure humanitarian and aid plans are in place to support the Syrian people throughout this crisis and in a post IS world; we must ensure a strategy is in place to solve the problem of Assad, and a further one to ensure other nations in the Middle East cut their ties to the oil market which is currently allowing IS to fund their reign of terror.  I feel that it is with these solutions, encompassing plans to deal with both short and long term concerns, that would be far more effective in driving IS from Syria than the solution of airstrikes.

Max is an active member of UWCA and studies politics and international studies in his third year.

Why Parliament was right to support airstrikes against ISIL

– Sam Fry

 

A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon supporting Operation Inherent Resolve receives fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker, Dec. 16, 2014. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Staff Sgt. Chelsea Browning)

Last Wednesday evening, the House of Commons voted 397 to 223 in favour of airstrikes on ISIL targets in Syria. It was a long and passionate debate, with strong feelings on both sides. The issue is immensely complex, with even many experts unsure on how the West should respond. Everyone agrees that the ethnic and cultural cleansing, beheadings and human trafficking are an affront to humanity and should be stopped; the question is what we should do about it. On balance, I believe that Parliament was right to support airstrikes.

Military interventions have a decidedly mixed track record; some have certainly been more successful than others. One could look to Sierra Leone, Kosovo or even World War II as examples of where intervention has succeeded, and there is much conventional wisdom that states the West should have intervened to stop the 1994 Rwandan genocide. On the other hand, the Iraq War is widely considered to be a total disaster and the intervention in Libya led to a yet another weak state and contributed to the migrant crisis over the Mediterranean. Many of the West’s interventions in the ‘third world’ during the Cold War were pretty destabalising. There is of course an awful lot that could be said about any one of these examples. Suffice to say, statements such as “history clearly shows us this” are almost always a gross oversimplication at best.

For me, the crucial issue to consider is the nation state. Political communities matter and so a stable nation state is the best way of organising a society. Political institutions are necessary to prevent anarchy and a state is needed to provide good quality infrastructure, health and education that is essential for a good standard of living. Ultimately, property rights and the rule of law – both enforced by the state – are a prerequisite for a dynamic economy. When states do not fulfil the basic conditions of a sovereign government – the so called ‘failed states’ – it creates an opportunity for terrorist groups to expand so it is in the UK’s interests to prevent failed states and promote stable nation states and good governance.

ISIL is not a state; it occupies an area in the failed states of Iraq and Syria so, rather than being a state, ISIL is a threat to nation states. This means that weakening ISIL is the correct thing to do in order to promote stability and act in the UK’s interests. I don’t like Bashar al-Assad. He has committed crimes against humanity, including gassing his own people, and his poor governance has led to the growth of ISIL. However ISIL must be the priority since force against Assad could weaken further what is already a very weak Syrian state, plus there is the complying factor of Russia’s support for Assad. Convincing Assad to step down peacefully should be a medium term objective to stabilise Syria and weakening the terrorist threat, but weakening ISIL should be the first step.

Airstrikes are an effective way of weakening ISIL. Airstrikes can take out key ISIL personnel and destroy strategically important sites, such as the oil fields that were attacked on Wednesday evening. Airstrikes have held back ISIL in Iraq so it is logical that they would be applied to ISIL in Syria. It is right that the RAF stand alongside the French and Americans in the UN-backed attempt to weaken ISIL.

Many have argued that airstrikes will inevitably kill innocent civilians. Clearly this is a major concern since, as well as being morally abhorrent, killing civilians would radicalise more people. However this concern can be met by the improvements in military technology. When some people think of airstrikes, images are often conjured up of the Blitz or of the napalming of Vietnam, which were essentially indiscriminate. This is unhelpful. Laser-guided bombs have improved substantially even compared with just a decade ago and are now extremely precise. The only problem is identifying which targets to hit. I believe this removes the main moral objection to airstrikes on ISIL.

In the long-term, you can’t bomb an ideology and so the airstrikes need to be seen as a means to an end, rather than an end in itself. In the long run, the key to defeating terrorism is good governance and, above all, sustained economic growth. It follows that if people have a decent standard of living and good job opportunities then they are less likely to be attracted to terrorism. The ultimate objective has to be creating stable Syrian and Iraqi states that can facilitate this economic growth. The airstrikes again ISIL are the start of this.

Sam Fry is a PhD student studying Politics and International Studies at the University of Warwick and an active Conservative.

It’s time to remember why we need the Lords

– Joe Jones

 

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So the tax credit cuts got delayed in the Lords. I shan’t beat around the bush about this, I’m happy about that. I didn’t agree with the way that the cuts would have been pushed through and would have, to use Baroness Meacher’s words, been ‘pulling the rug’ out from 3 million people’s feet (according to the IFS).

But I think there is something more important that arose from this, and that is the role of the House of Lords. This chamber is too often forgotten or overlooked as an odd quirk of history and that this strange chamber we conceived is simply something that we keep through sentimental value. It’s seen almost like the scratchy old scarf your grandparent gave you one Christmas.

Certainly it appears that some members of the current Conservative Government believe it is so. I can understand a measure of anger at the Lords delaying what the government is determined to do; it is a long a difficult task to turn this country around. But by attempting to start a constitutional debate, by claiming that the Lords are overstepping, I believe, is a mistake.

The Lords should exist to be a restraint on the excesses of the elected body of our Parliament. It should exist to house the greatest minds of our ages: from the best of business, to community and charity leaders, to old cabinet ministers, to peers and professors and to old Prime Ministers. A House, of the experts. It is in having this that the Lords would best fulfil their duty: to scrutinise legislation from their experience and curb the excesses of the House of Commons when needs be. The problem with large majority governments (like Tony Blair’s first two) is that it gives the Prime Minister almost unchecked power in passing laws and there needs to be checks in place to halt excessive and naïve policies from passing.

The Lords has a unique ability to rise above party politics, the longevity that is rewarded to the Lords with the lack of elections allows them to take the long view; a view that doesn’t have to consistently tow the party line. Am I being too idealistic? Lord Lawson seems to point otherwise in his stance against the government’s tax credits cuts. Not only do the party members act on their own consciences, the Lords also have the greatest well of independents in the crossbenchers.  These individuals have the ability to swing the vote and help to move it against the petty party interests and in favour of good governance.

It is this that is so crucial about the Lords.

All of this is why I am concerned about the review that David Cameron has launched into the role of the Lords after the governments defeat over tax credit cuts. This reaction, that was tantamount to throwing the toys out of the pram, threatens to remove the role of the Lords as the check on the Commons and move the British Parliament away from having a balanced check system and away from good governance.

Of course I am not saying that the Lords is perfect. One of the real issues that we have with the Lords is the ability of the Prime Minister and party leaders to propose members for the Lords. It is my belief that a different body, an independent one, along with the Privy Council perhaps should have say over who is admitted to the upper chamber. I think the removal of the party leaders, as a deciding body in themselves, from the decision over the honours lists would move the decision back to one focused on creating a chamber of experts to help govern in the long term interests of the United Kingdom.

I know that the Lords has not acted over financial matters for many years now (I’ve seen it disputed between 300 to 100 years), but it is right that they have. They moved to govern, not for party politics and I, for one, am glad that the Lords are reclaiming their ground to check governments and keep Parliament grounded in the experiences of the outside world and the knowledge passed on down by its members. As Conservatives I think it is time we remembered why we need the Lords, and why we should stand behind it.

Joe is Warwick Conservatives’ Deputy Chairman (Political) and is in his third year studying history and politics.

The Free Market: The Best Way to End Poverty

– Ricaurte Batista III

 

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In a free market economic goods and services are freely exchanged between individuals on a voluntary basis under the rule of law and a private property rights system. Although it is not a perfect system, it is the best system we have had to improve the standards of living and reduce poverty. Before the 1800s an average person made the modern equivalent of $3 a day (£2 a day) in income, throughout that century the process of improvement in people’s income and quality of life started to boom, merchants were now socially honoured in the cities and ideas of economic liberty started to rule over the great nations of the time, these two aspects made an ideal environment for innovation.

When people are free to use their energy, time, and talents, they’re able to produce great things, everything from tiny cameras to skyscrapers and complex vaccines to cure diseases. Under a free market system incentives are created to reward those who are productive, those who work a lot of hours and have good skills and brilliant ideas. This system of free exchange and incentives created a group of people known as entrepreneurs who devote themselves to think on how to make people’s lives better by focusing on satisfying their needs and desires. These entrepreneurs act by pursuing their own interest, they seek a better life and to make more money, but at the same time they benefit society as a whole with new products, great gadgets and smart solutions for the problems of daily life. It is important to bear in mind that entrepreneurs depend on people’s needs to reach a prosperous level of business, so a strictly selfish entrepreneur who puts his or her own interests before that of the consumer will certainly fail and lose a lot of money, however an entrepreneur who better serves the needs of their customers will have a much more successful outcome.

In order to attract more customers, businesses would want to have the best quality products possible at a very competitive prices; the best way for that to happen is within a vigorous environment of competition between businesses. However for some businesses competition is quite hard, because it requires a lot of work, time and money, so in order to safeguard the future and success of the company; they start to lobby in order to get laws, restrictions and regulations enacted against anyone who tries to compete with them. These actions clearly benefit businesses and not consumers. This action damages competition and summons a great deal of difficulties and terrible situations for the society. For that reason we can say that the freer competition is the more benefits consumers will enjoy.

It is a very basic principle of law that every human being should be equally protected before the law and no exception should be made for any business or any person, for that reason corporate cronyism or any kind of cronyism within the government is a terribly deadly cell that disloyally kills competition inciting a process of destroying the incentives to wealth creation; this process ends innovation, harms customer satisfaction and reduces prosperity for everyone. For this reason Adam Smith believed that government must be limited. The core functions of governments should be maintaining defence, keeping order through a justice system under the rule of law, promoting quality education and coordinating the building of public infrastructure. The best way a government can help to reduce poverty is by avoiding any intervention that may distort the operation of a free and open market. John F. Kennedy said: “Every dollar released from taxation that is spared or invested will help create a new job and a new salary.”

Free trade not only provides people with cheaper products, and the chance for countries all over the globe to export and import with one another goods that can only be produced in their part of the world; Free trade also contributes to the preservation of peace in the world, the best possible example would be Europe. After centuries of battles, dominations and wars between the nations of Europe, a new model emerged from the ashes of the Second World War, a model based on the principles of freedom. The very essence of the European Union was tear down the barriers between nations in order to establish the free movement of goods, capital, services, and people. This idea has successfully guaranteed peace in Europe. But like any other matter whenever centralized power and bureaucracy grow, freedom and prosperity most likely decrease, without a doubt the centralized monopolies of big power and the terrifying regime disguised of a “republic”, might be some of the fundamental reasons why many African and Latin American countries have had difficulties to grow and be prosperous nations.

Every free society should have an independent and efficient judicial system, stable property right and small government in the service of the people who pay for them to exist. Education is also a key feature in the development of a free market economy and furthermore in achievement of prosperity for nations. Milton Friedman once said that – the equality of opportunities to develop capacities and skills, independently of race, religion, and social class; is not contrary to the concept of freedom, it reinforces it. – Let us remember that poverty is not caused by things people do, but by things they fail to do.

Ricaurte is a law student at the Universidad Catolica Santa Maria La Antigua in Panama City. He is a classical liberal and active member of the Panamenista Party.

Chairman’s Welcome Message


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Welcome to Warwick University!

It was fantastic to see so many people at the Freshers Fair last Thursday and at our Welcome Drinks last night, and particularly the range of people and degrees that were represented.

This year promises to be one of the biggest and most ambitious we’ve had for our society with more members than at any point in our history, our tour to The Hague coming next Easter and a great line-up of socials and speakers events for the coming academic year.

Outside of the society, the 2015 General Election delivered one of the most spectacular results for the Conservative Party since 1992. For the first time in 20 years, we have a Conservative Majority Government, an achievement that owes itself to the consistent and passionate activists who knocked on the doors of Leamington Spa, North Warwickshire, Nuneaton and Solihull up to the election itself.

It would, nevertheless, be a mistake to be complacent in the next five years. In 1992 John Major won a majority of 336, but by the time of the 1997 General election, the Conservatives were technically a minority Government. In 2015, our majority is even less than that of Major’s in 1992 with only 330 MPs.

There is also the issue of Europe and how both the in and out campaigns will work and whether or not the party can ensure that the divisional splits that plagued the 1990s Conservative government remain minimal in the promised European Referendum.

Additionally, it would be dishonest to say that the Conservatives had adequately achieved the ambitious economic goals set out in 2010. Despite reducing the deficit, government spending remains at an all-time high.

It is exactly for these reasons, that it is an exciting time to be a Conservative! We will be debating exactly these issues and more at all of our events this year, and we welcome anyone coming to these events who wishes to find out more about Conservatism and the Conservative Party.

More than that, with the expansion of our society, there are now more opportunities for our members than ever before to meet like-minded individuals, hear from alumni about their experiences after Warwick, and get to meet a fantastic array or speakers from all across the broad-tent of Conservatism.

When it comes down to it, we have all come to university to get a degree. But the friendships and connections that we make at university will last us a lifetime. I urge each and every person, whether new members, old members, or even those who have not joined Warwick Conservatives, to make the most of their time here and, above all, to challenge themselves and make and form their own opinions about politics in the UK and the issues that affect our society today.

If you want to take up that challenge, then I look forward to seeing you across the year at our events, chatting online, or simply seeing you in passing!

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James Anderson – Chairman 2015-16

Don’t forget to join the Society here and like our Facebook page here.

 

 

Campus Censorship at Warwick

– Charlie Barclay

 

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Once again, the Students’ Union has shown itself to be a bastion of censorship. The attempt to ban Maryam Namazie from speaking at Warwick is a blatant attack on the freedom to speak and it is time the majority student population speak out and attest to our disapproval of underhand and damaging SU politics.

Ms Namazie does not represent the views of the University. That is understood. Indeed, she does not officially represent the Warwick Atheists, Secularists and Humanists Society. She represents herself and she has a right to do so. We must not simply remove ideas from the University just because they do not coincide neatly with our opinions. Remember the Voltaire’s fundamental motto: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”.

It is hard to believe that this kind of censorship is being actively undertaken just eight months after the spirit of the ‘Charlie Hebdo’ incident. We rallied in the streets in solidarity with the publication that represented the triumph of the pen over the sword and we vowed to protect freedom of expression to our last breath. Now we candidly remove the platforms for speech and debate. We have proven to be fickle.

Warwick University is ranked as one of the worst institutions for free speech in the UK. According to the Free Speech University Rankings, we class as red in the traffic light ranking system which means that we actively create a “hostile environment for free speech”. Publications have been banned, speakers are not tolerated and ideas are censored. We should actively oppose this. Enough is enough.

Charlie is the Events Secretary for the University of Warwick Conservative Association

ISIS: the Nazis of our Generation

– Denis Selvidal Magee

 

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It all started about a month ago whilst watching the BBC’s Who do you Think you Are?  The episode in question concerned the ancestry of Jane Seymour (you know, the Bond girl from Live and Let Die and the cougar who makes Owen Wilson feel her tits in Wedding Crashers). Seymour’s ancestry led her to Warsaw, where her Jewish ancestors were murdered at various points during the war. It was during this time in Warsaw that my dad made the observation that ‘ISIS is our equivalent of the Nazis’. At the time, I didn’t give it much thought, but it has slowly but surely dawned on me that my dad may well have been bang on the mark.

Certainly, ISIS (IS, ISIL, DAESH, so called IS as the BBC likes to call them, however you choose to call them) has all the hallmarks of a regime similar to the Third Reich. Their treatment of Shias, Christians, and in particular Yazidis seems remarkably similar to the Nazi treatment of Jews and Slavs. 5000 Yazidis men were massacred in one event alone, and captured Yazidis are held in 5 ‘detention centres’ in ISIS held territory. Sound familiar? Let us not forget, the majority of Nazi atrocities didn’t emerge until they were discovered by advancing Allied forces, we may not even know the true extent of the carnage until it is too late. The current wave of refugees which has overwhelmed Europe echoes World War 2. Refugees were fleeing Syria and Iraq in far fewer numbers until ISIS emerged as a potent force in the region. This scale of human movement hasn’t been seen since the war, with people fleeing Nazi advances and then moving back in 1945, so both organisations have caused massive social movements. The growing evidence that ISIS is manufacturing and using Mustard gas on Syrian civilians only serves as more evidence of the link between themselves and the Nazis. It highlights the evil of ISIS, and although the Germans didn’t use chemical weapons on the battlefield, they certainly had no qualms about using them in the concentration camps. Given all these disturbing similarities between the Nazis and ISIS, what at first seems to be nothing more than a bold statement in fact rings worryingly true.

As to what we can do about this however, I’m afraid to say that the heroic feats of 1939-1945 in all likelihood will not be repeated this time around. Gone are the days when we could simply send a gunboat up the Euphrates playing Rule Britannia. Not only is public support for military intervention low due to Labours abysmal failures in Iraq and Afghanistan, but a military is simply underfunded and in reality far too small. Yes, Britain has always relied on a small army it is true, but never to the scale which we see today. In 1939 the British army had 1.1 million men; nowadays our entire armed forces barely number 80,000 troops. ISIS has 30,000 foreign fighters alone. ‘The few’ brave RAF servicemen and women mentioned by Churchill in his famous speech still had 155 squadrons at their disposal; the RAF currently only has 8 squadrons, and the two currently operating in the Middle East were due to be scrapped until the current crisis emerged. Don’t get me wrong, our armed forces are some of the bravest and best trained in the world, as well as being some of the best equipped, but the simple fact is that there aren’t enough of them. Even if all 82,000 troops were in land combat roles, this number is barely enough to hold down a small region of Syria, let alone the entire Levant. The simple fact is this, in 1939 we stood almost alone in the fight against tyranny and oppression, but now we cannot even consider military action unless as a minor partner in a coalition. One of the greatest evils facing our present day and unless someone else intervenes first, all we can do is sit back and watch the horror unfold. Suez may have been the moment we realised we could no longer stand alone in the world, but ISIS may well be the moment that the UK and the world realise just how little power we have left.

Denis is a second year History and Politics student at the University of Warwick

Is a step left for Labour a step left for the Tories too?

– Sophia Bryant

 

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The Labour leadership contest has witnessed a tense few months since the General Election, in the consequences it has both for Labour, and also for the Conservatives. For many, the election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party is a breath of fresh air in British politics. It means an end to the apathetic “they’re all the same, there’s no difference between them” attitude and the start of a more ideologically motivated and adversarial House of Commons; conceivably better at holding David Cameron to account. For others, Corbyn means weaker accountability for the Conservatives, a ridiculous choice sure to embarrass the Labour Party in parliament, and result in constant disunity. Indeed, for political commentators everywhere there are now almost too many possible strands to follow after the result on Saturday morning. However, somewhat unexpectedly, it seems possible a jump to the left for Labour could mean a gap in the centre left for the Conservatives to capitalise on too. We must ask ourselves why this is happening, who it is happening to, and most importantly, whether it is the right course of action for the Conservative Party.

It is the argument Fraser Nelson put forward in the Telegraph in the wake of the results and it seems a plausible forecast. We’ve heard in recent polls that a large number of people didn’t vote for Ed Miliband because he was ‘too ideological’, not representing their views. Consequently as Nelson points out, if this is the case, then Corbyn ‘may well prove to be the most effective recruiting sergeant in the Tory party’s history’ as an even greater portion of Labour members are alienated by their leader. There is therefore now a gap in the voter market for those on the moderate left, and it’s possible both Cameron and Osborne intend to fill it. We’ve seen Cameron implement tough austerity cuts, reduce taxes, yet coexisting with the creation and raising significantly of the London Living Wage, and the recent coercion of big businesses to pay the lowest earning employees higher wages. Cameron, and the right wing media, has lately appeared keen to promote the Conservatives as the ‘true workers party’, something which is arguably accurate and should be praised, but from here he should be careful not to blur his own party’s identity.

So who exactly might these new, though somewhat reluctant Conservatives be? They’re the moderate left: supporters of New Labour. Voters with a heart for social justice, but don’t want to see sky high taxes and shameless spending and borrowing. Those who want to improve the lives of the vulnerable, but the prospect of the proposed ‘People’s Quantitative Easing’ seems shaky to say the least. Those who lean to the left, but find Corbyn’s admiration of Russia and Hamas just a tad uncomfortable. There is a strong case for the Conservatives to adopt centre left policy to attract, well, anybody in Labour who isn’t a fan of ‘Corbyn-mania’.

If this is true, we must ask ourselves whether this is the right thing for the Conservatives to do and how far it should be allowed to go. After all, steps towards the left for the Conservatives can never be erased. Is it not conceivable that there may be a point in the future where it will not look well on the Party to have a track record of pandering to left leaning voters temporarily abandoned by the moderate Labour Party? The point here for Cameron is not ‘don’t be compassionate’ and scrap policies which benefit the vulnerable. Of course not. These are essential for a progressive and compassionate society, but they’re not specifically Labour policy and they shouldn’t be the subject of debate here (it is worth stating that not all policy in benefit of the weak in society is reserved for Labour). No, the subject of debate should now be the possible future scope for the Conservatives to stretch into the centre left wing of British politics. A mistake, in my opinion. The results of the Labour leadership contest symbolise (by no means permanently) a return to the roots of the Party, going back on Blair’s abolition of Clause IV and an embrace of the values which moulded the Party in the very beginning. This does not mean the Conservatives should feel inclined to step away from their own values in a bid to win more votes and capitalise on a temporary gap in the voter market. Politics should be about more than a short term disingenuous bid to retain power.

Sophia is a member of UWCA and a second year studying Politics.