Professor Amelia Hadfield, Jean Monnet Chair and Director of the Centre for European Studies at Canterbury Christ Church University, comments on the maiden speech of the new Canterbury MP Rosie Duffield.*
On Thursday, September 7, 2017, for the first time in British Parliamentary history, a woman parliamentarian spoke on behalf of the people of Canterbury and Whitstable. As if this wasn’t seismic enough, the lady representative spoke not from the Conservative but from the Opposition backbenches! These epochal shifts were not lost on Canterbury’s new Labour MP, Rosie Duffield, who set the stage by identifying Canterbury – “famous as a place of pilgrimage” – thanks to the likes of Geoffrey Chaucer.
Duffield suggested Chaucer was emblematic of Kent’s early international identity, arguing that in 1370, Chaucer was deployed by Edward III to negotiate a trade agreement between Genoa and England, which Chaucer duly completed to the benefit of both sides (not bad for a budding author). Duffield wondered whether “our current Brexit negotiations with the EU will be as successful”, reflecting that “after nearly 650 years, we would have picked up a tip or two!”
Duffield’s maiden speech however did not dwell on the past, but placed Brexit and the NHS, at the forefront of her agenda. This makes a change from Canterbury’s previous tradition of political representation. The MP noted the differences between her agenda and those of her predecessor Sir Julian Brazier, including “equal marriage, Brexit and a woman’s right to choose” though she was charitable enough to also “sincerely wish Sir Julian well for the future”.
Noora Virtanen, Graduate Coordinator of the Centre for European Studies (CEFEUS) at Canterbury Christ Church University, reflects on the fall of Southern Salads and explains how findings from the latest CEFEUS report can help to mitigate the economic impact of Brexit on Kent.
The BBC reported yesterday that Southern Salad, based in Tonbridge, would be making more than 250 people redundant following the pound’s devaluation since the EU Referendum. According to the company’s administrators, the business had become unsustainable as “the sudden decline in sterling was not foreseen by the company”, which eventually placed a severe strain on their cash-flow.
The recent report ‘Kent and Medway: Making a Success of Brexit: A Sectoral Appraisal of SMEs and the Rural Economy’ produced by the Centre for European Studies (CEFEUS), one of three reports published so far, indicated similar concerns for these sectors. While overall business confidence improved since late 2016, small businesses face challenges on both domestically and in terms of the future relationship with the European Union – for instance, 64.5% of businesses in the UK have seen an increase in operating costs stemming from fuel costs, the weaker pound and inflationary pressures.
At the time of writing, Donald J. Trump has been president of the United States for 204 days, 4 hours, 33 minutes and 13 seconds. Wars such as as the Six-Day War, the Slovenian Independence War and the Norman Conquest lasted far shorter than Trump’s Presidency. Over the last week, the idea of war and death has been prominent as the rhetoric between the USA and North Korea reached dangerous heights, whilst even Venezuela has found itself identified as a potential military target due to ongoing tension regarding the recently elected ‘constituent assembly’. However, both states were pushed to the periphery in the media due to the scenes in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend. For whatever we decide to call them: white supremacists, nationalists, far-right, alt-right, fascists, Nazis, terrorists, white (mostly middle-aged) men and some women have been taking part in ‘Unite the Right’ marches. Their views are simple: the supremacy of the white race and Christianity over everything and anything else in the United States.
The reason for the gathering was following a decision to rename Lee Park to Emancipation Park and the removal of a statue dedicated to Confederate General Robert E. Lee, who led the Southern States during the Civil War over the battle of slavery. But let us not fool ourselves, these supremacists have been airing their ugly views after being buoyed by the victory of Trump. For regardless of what the president says, he is the leader of this movement. After spending the majority of Barack Obama’s tenure questioning his legitimacy to be president, he was nominated and subsequently elected to the highest office in the land after stoking fear and bigotry against Mexicans and the Islamic faith. Since being sworn-in at the end of January, he has proposed and signed legislation targeting people based on their religion, nationality and sexuality. He is advocating the supremacy of one identity over all others in a manner which has not been seen for decades.
If you need any further case that links this abhorrent gathering of abhorrent people, than look no further than the comments made by David Duke, former grand wizard of the Klu Klux Klan (KKK), who said the following on Saturday morning as people gathered:
“We are determined to take our country back. We are going to fulfil the promises of Donald Trump. That’s what we believed in. That’s why we voted for Donald Trump, because he said he’s going to take our country back.”
The first person to condemn the violence and hatred in Charlottesville was not Mr Trump. Nor was it Vice-President Mike Pence, his cabinet or any senior House or Senate GOP member. It was Melania Trump, the first lady who has gained a reputation for steering clear of political issues, who realised on this occasion she had to use her voice to intervene.
As things stand, it is difficult to see how Trump would win a second term. He is currently the oldest US president in his first term, whilst the investigation by special council Robert Mueller into possible collusion with Russia during the electoral campaign is heating up. His own vice-president has already started a PAC that is looking to raise money, and has already made multiple speeches and visits in the crucial primary state of Idaho, a testing ground for his own presidential run. As such, Trump needs to start thinking about legacy, and as what kind of president he wants to be remembered. He can be remembered as the daring candidate who spoke his mind and became the first ever US president not to have held public office or served in the military. Or, he can be remembered as the person who divided America unlike any other, as the man who stoked fear and hatred inspired by an outdated, previously defeated ideology. Ultimately, the choice is his, but he will do well to remember that his highest obligation is not to himself, but to the office which he is currently unworthy of holding.
Max Stafford is a PhD candidate in Politics and International Relations at Canterbury Christ Church University. His doctoral research looks at the leadership of mayors in London, New York City and Amsterdam.
It is not new, these days, to talk of mayors and the irony of their playing a role in global issues, despite being local leaders. These issues include climate change, migration and security. However, within the context of the UK, mayors are also managing to play a vital role in the foreign policy issue of the day – Brexit. As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, mayors’ increasing strategic involvement with issues previously assumed to be reserved to national or global-level policymaking raises the well-rehearsed concept of place-based leadership and its future in relation to local political leaders. But who are these mayors and what are they actually doing about Brexit?
The most vocal mayor on this topic so far has been the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan. Though only early in his first term (having been elected in May 2016), Khan has put effort into casting his mayoralty in an internationalist perspective. Faced with an opponent (Conservative, Zac Goldsmith) whose campaign was the recipient of allegations of “dog-whistle” politics and racism, Khan spent much of his 2016 campaign talking about both the diversity of the city that he aimed to lead and also his own heritage as the child of immigrants. After the June 2016 vote to leave the European Union, he sought to remind both London and the rest of the UK (as well as his European counterparts) that the city was a key player in the global economy.
Last week I attended a play at the Marlowe Theatre billed as a “post-Brexit satire about what it’s like to be treated as a foreigner in your own land”.
Octopus may have been a dystopian fantasy when writer and producer Asfaneh Grey conceived the play but a year after the EU Referendum, it feels far too close to reality for comfort. The sharpness of the script and the talent of the actresses evoked the dark humour, fear and sadness which permeate the discussions I’ve been having with EU migrants and British citizens, who worry about what our post-Brexit future has in store for us all.