A Chaucerian Deal? Canterbury MP Rosie Duffield’s Maiden Speech

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.*

Rosie Duffield during her maiden speech in parliament – the BBC caption editor was obviously not yet familiar with her surname.

Making History

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”. 

Continue reading “A Chaucerian Deal? Canterbury MP Rosie Duffield’s Maiden Speech”

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How can our local businesses make a success of Brexit?

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.

Continue reading “How can our local businesses make a success of Brexit?”

CCCU fires up the democratic engine with a Canterbury parliamentary hustings

By Elizabeth Bailey CEFEUS Communications Manager

On the 26th of May Canterbury Christ Church University had the pleasure of hosting a Parliamentary Hustings for the Canterbury and Whitstable constituency candidates. Candidates from Labour, Liberal Democrats, Conservative and Green party attended. We had a full house, with people even queuing out the door just to have a chance to listen to, and pose question to the candidates. A big thank you to those who sponsored this event, including: Ethnic minority independent council, CANDIFA, The Canterbury society, CDCD and Making politics matter. Also thank you to  Sian Pettman and Richard Norman for all their effort to make this possible.

Following introductions from Pro Vice-Chancellor Professor Mike Weed and Dr David Bates, Director of the Politics and International Relations programme at CCCU, there was a minute silence for all those affected by the Manchester attack earlier in the week.

Dr Amelia Hadfield, Director of the Centre for European Studies (CEFEUS) and Chair in European Foreign Affairs chaired the event, giving the four candidates two minutes to introduce themselves and a short plea as to why they should be voted in. Labour’s Rosie Duffield began by outlining that “Canterbury is not Conservative” and promising to scrap tuition fees, which was followed swiftly by a loud heckle, and an even swifter removal of the heckler.

Lib Dem candidate James Flanagan offered his apologies for any leaflets that people had received that showed him with doodles on. “My kids graffitied my election leaflets” he said, admitting this was an unusual beginning for a potential MP but one that got the audience laughing. Moving on to more pressing, issues James stated that “We promise a second vote on Brexit, Tories will only give you a second vote on Fox hunting”. Conservative candidate Julian Brazier got right to the point by stating that “I will fight for our country, for the best outcome in the Brexit negotiations”, which produced multiple heckles from the audience. Lastly, the Green candidate Henry Stanton was passionate in discussing local issues like homelessness and pollution, ending with “A vote for me is a vote for somebody fighting for Canterbury”.

With the candidates ready to go and the audience fired up, Dr Hadfield launched in the questions, which came from a variety of sources. Some questions were submitted by Canterbury residents via email, some by twitter using the hashtag #CCCUHustings17, others on Facebook, while others had posted questions during the preceding reception into the submission box. Lastly, Dr Hadfield took questions from the audience. The questions themselves covered a broad range of issues, including education, health care, climate change, homelessness, and of course Brexit topics including security and migration. International topics also included Syria.

Audience participation is of course part and parcel of any good hustings event; at this event however, one candidate in particular was the recipient of rather more audience participation than the others. Conservative candidate Julian Brazier remained very much at the mercy of the crowd in his various replies, receiving ‘boos’ in with every answer. When asked for example about his prospective support of LGBTQ+ community, Sir Julian spoke about how voting against same-sex adoption “was always based on what is best for children” which needless to say went down poorly with the audience. In contrast, the other candidates pledged their support for same-sex adoption and the LGBTQ+ community. A subsequent question on grammar schools put by students attending as part of Canterbury Academy triggered further passionate responses from the audience. Labour, Lib Dem and Green again closed ranks in discussing the stress put on children who fail the 11 Plus test, and refused to endorse grammar schools. The Conservative candidate however set himself apart by disagreeing with the overall approach to grammars. This split was particularly evident when the topic of NHS funding, and the local issue of the potential closure of the Kent and Canterbury Hospital was raised. Here, Labour, Lib Dems and Greens appeared united in singling out Julian for failing to make this local priority a national issue. Green candidate Henry Stanton for instance pointed out that Julian has raised a number of questions on the floor of the House of Commons, but never about issues regarding the Kent and Canterbury hospital, making it difficult to believe that it is “top priority”, as claimed. Perhaps the largest applause of the evening was given to Rosie Duffield when she stated in response to the tricky issue of negotiation that “conflict resolution requires talking to people you don’t agree with”.

With a lively audience and fierce debates, time flew by and before long candidates were asked one final question: to define their top priorities, but in only 10 seconds. These are as follows: Labour’s Rosie Duffield: “Hospital, EU citizen rights abolish bedroom tax”. Lib Dem’s James Flanagan: “Hospital, NHS, remain in the EU”. Conservative Julian Brazier: “Fight for Canterbury locally, nationally-informed foreign policy”. Green’s Henry Stanton: “Canterbury Hospital”.

The combination of a lively audience, tough questions and responsive candidates produced a successful hustings, one that left those in attendance with a clear understanding of all the candidates, and why they should (or shouldn’t!) vote for them. Whoever wins this hard-fought seat should remember that the members of this constituency stand ready to grill them again at the next hustings.

If you were quick enough to have found a seat on Friday, thank you for attending and for your participation. However, for those who could not attend, or would like to revisit the moment, you can watch the hustings by clicking on the following link:

If you would like to read more about this event there are also a number of articles from local papers, featuring the event, and also General Election observations made by 3 of our own CCCU students:

Labour’s Brexit Strategy: Cut-&-Paste of Theresa May’s old promises?

This week, Labour revealed its Brexit strategy – Jack Brooks takes a closer look.

In the 10 months after the 23rd of June, the Labour party’s position on Brexit and what should happen next has been a bit… ‘undefined’ to say the least. They have been in an incredibly tough position of simultaneously wanting to appeal to the 63% of its voters that voted remain and not start any rebellions within the 218 out of 232 MPs that publicly supported remain, while also wanting to appeal to the 37% of its voters, 161 Labour held constituencies that voted leave and not hemorrhage any more of its working class support, a demographic that predominantly voted leave.

Having considered the above, it appears that Labour party HQ decided that their best course of action was to a) keep their head down, b) meekly try to appeal to both sides, while not really saying anything concrete, but c) mainly just oppose the government by saying. Of course, Labour was dealt a tough hand and this is a solid electoral strategy that, on the issue of the financial crash, saw the Liberal democrats sweep to 23% of the popular vote in 2010.

But then, like a renowned bandit brazenly slamming open the shutter doors to a sleepy Mid-western Saloon, Theresa May called a snap General election. The music stopped playing, everyone went silent and slowly turned their heads to the Sheriff who loudly gulped and realised it was his turn to say something… Sherriff Jeremy Corbyn was taken slightly aback and thus came out with a strategy that, with a few key differences, is basically the same plan the Conservative Government had in November.

First, let me know the few key differences:

  • Labour will not focus on new markets, instead focus on securing the UK’s existing trade ties, especially those with the EU
  • Labour will adopt a much more conciliatory tone with the EU27 in exit talks
  • Labour resolutely supports staying in: Erasmus, Euratom, the European Medical Agency, Europol & Eurojust
  • Labour promises to unilaterally protect EU citizens’ right to remain in the UK
  • Labour commits to not let the UK “lag behind EU in workplace protections or environmental standards in future”

These are a couple of added giveaways to Remainers that will certainly sweeten the Brexit blow for them, but in terms of the “real meat” of the last 10 months debate so far – ‘Hard Brexit versus Soft Brexit versus No Brexit – their position is the now infamous “having the cake and eat it too”-Brexit.

This is illustrated by statements by Keir Starmer in the same press conference on Tuesday:

  • He wants to rip up the Government White Paper and go for a “tariff-free trade with the EU, no new non-tariff barriers on trade, regulatory alignment and continued competitiveness in goods and services.”
  • However, he still rules out continued free movement, membership of the European Free trade area and Single market membership.

As Theresa May discovered to her dismay in January, these two things are incompatible as far as the European Union is concerned. When she proposed it as her plan, the EU27 said for all intent and purposes “We won’t agree with that and you will crash out with no deal”. An eventuality that Starmer said would be the “worst possible deal”.

Electorally, the Labour Brexit plan might make sense. Labour continues to (try to) appeal to both sides and win the election. Corbyn and his party will only need to deal with untangling the contradictory manifesto commitments after they have won.  Also why look a gift horse in the mouth? The blessing of being the opposition with staggeringly bad polling is that you don’t have to live in the bounds of reality (which is quite a lot of effort in any case). Nevertheless, if we do experience the largest polling mistake in modern history and Labour wins a majority, we need to expect a lot of back-paddling.

Jack Brooks is a 2016 Politics and International Relations Honours Graduate of Canterbury Christ Church University and graduate coordinator at the Centre for European Studies (CEFEUS) at CCCU.

#GE2017 and Brexit – Traincrash vs lucky escape

Unless you’ve been living under a rock or, god forbid, without adequate WIFI for the last day, you will be aware that we are having a snap election in just over 7 weeks’ time on the 8th of June. While seemingly the entirety of the UK population is preoccupying itself by venting their joy and frustration into the bottomless void of Twitter, I would like to take a moment to talk about Brexit and what this means for the upcoming negotiations.

In the short term, it means kicking the can down the road, but fortunately snap elections are… well, snappy. It seems highly unlikely we are going to hear anything major out of the Government over the next 7 weeks, not least because Parliament will be dissolving in 2 weeks time, the pre-election ‘Purdah’ will be kicking in any moment and the Prime Minister is going to be spending most of her time staging awkward photo-ops with nursery children.

My one word of warning, however, is that this ‘Article 50 Road’ is not very long and we are already going to spend the best part of 6 months of it with the French and German elections. Using these potentially crucial, if short, 7 weeks before the German elections start in earnest messing around with our own election might come back to bite us when we are scrambling to get a deal, transitional or not, in 2019.

But on the other side of the channel, the EU27 have an interesting opportunity to throw a spanner in the works if they so wish, as there is a European Council meeting on the 29th of April. Whether or not they will is a speculation too far for this graduate coordinator, but if they believed they might get a better deal out of Jeremy Corbyn than Theresa May, or fancied a 28th member in the form of an independent Scotland, or if they just wanted to make life difficult for Theresa May by pulling a lever or two and forcing her into some manifesto pledges, now is the time for Donald Tusk to start honing his spanner-throwing skills.

With a longer term view, I muse two possible alternatives;

The first and, YouGov willing, much more likely outcome of this election is that May doesn’t have any moving vans arriving outside of No.10. If she wins, it seems fairly likely that the UK negotiating position will stay more or less the same: No European Court of Justice, No Single Market, No Customs union, but with a Free Trade Area and some form of customs agreement that allows for minimal non-tariff barriers, and a hard border in Dover but a soft one in Northern Ireland. Indeed, if as seems most likely she increases the Conservative majority in House of Commons she will treat this as a cast-iron validation of her Brexit strategy. Alongside this the EU27 position is unlikely to change much either unless there is the arrival of the aforementioned spanners.

I suppose there is a chance she has some electoral difficulties: perhaps she becomes concerned about her ‘Brexity’ base being tempted to UKIP or her ‘Remoany’ base being tempted by the Lib-Dems, and is forced into changing the Brexit strategy to appease an aspect of her coalition, but given her batting average of 46% vote share in the most recent Comres poll, this doesn’t seem that likely.

The second and, Ipsos willing, much less likely outcome is that Theresa May cannot achieve a majority. This alternative would be very chaotic and a massive upset to the Article 50 process will ensue. The polls seem to suggest Corbyn has a snowman’s chance in hell of actually getting a majority. So this alternative looks something like a Lib/Lab/SNP coalition or Con/Lib coalition…. here are two Buster Keaton GIFs as to what that might resemble:

 

To sum up, if everything goes according to Theresa May’s plan and the polling is correct, the snap elections shouldn’t affect the Brexit negotiations too much – yet, Trump is in the White House, Marine Le Pen has a shot at the French presidency, Leicester City boasts a Premier league victory and Britain voted to leave the European Union…

Jack Brooks is a 2016 Politics and International Relations Honours Graduate of Canterbury Christ Church University and graduate coordinator at the Centre for European Studies (CEFEUS) at CCCU.