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    173. Question Time: Corbyn's expulsion from Labour, Belgium's sex education crisis, and how would Blair fare as PM today?

    enSeptember 20, 2023

    Podcast Summary

    • Indian diplomat expelled from Canada amid allegations of involvement in Sikh activist's murderIndia's expulsion of a senior Canadian diplomat over allegations of involvement in a Sikh activist's murder raises concerns about diplomatic implications and government impunity.

      The expulsion of a senior Canadian diplomat by India following allegations of Indian involvement in the murder of a Canadian Sikh activist on Canadian soil is a significant development with potential diplomatic implications. The incident brings up concerns about impunity and the extent to which governments may take extreme actions when holding extreme positions. Previous incidents of Russian and Chinese diplomats involved in similar situations on British soil have set precedents. The tensions between the Sikh community and the Indian government, particularly regarding the Golden Temple in Amritsar and air pollution, add complexity to the issue. The brutal public assassination of the activist, Jaskaran Singh Nijjar, is a step that raises concerns about India's actions and brings comparisons to Russia's behavior. The Indian government has denied the allegations, but the incident highlights the importance of diplomatic relations and the potential consequences of impunity.

    • Political tensions and cultural disputes shape global eventsTragic assassination of a Sikh separatist leader in India and compulsory sex education controversy in Belgium highlight complex political issues and challenges for governments

      Political tensions and cultural disputes continue to shape global events in significant ways. In the discussion, we touched upon two distinct issues: the assassination of a Sikh separatist leader in India and the controversy surrounding compulsory sex education in Belgium. In India, tensions between Modi's government and Sikh separatists came to a tragic end with the assassination of a prominent campaigner for an independent Sikh homeland. The circumstances surrounding the killing remain unclear, but the international community, including Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, has expressed concern. In Belgium, the implementation of compulsory sex education has sparked protests and arson attacks on schools. The government is trying to address the issue while also combating misinformation and online conspiracy theories. Elsewhere, economic disparities and cultural conflicts have fueled political tensions in other parts of the world, including the UK and the US. In the US, the Biden-Trump campaigns highlighted the importance of cultural issues, such as sex education and transgender rights, in shaping political narratives. In the UK, the Conservative Party has been criticized for focusing on cultural issues rather than addressing economic concerns. These examples demonstrate the complex and multifaceted nature of contemporary political issues and the challenges governments face in addressing them.

    • Discussing the constitutional concerns of MP expulsionsExpulsions of MPs by party leaders undermine parliamentary function and the separation of powers, and should be carried out through legal processes to prevent an 'elective dictatorship'.

      The expulsion of MPs by their party leaders is a constitutional concern that undermines the separation of powers in the British political system. During a recent interview, I expressed my dismay over Keir Starmer's handling of Jeremy Corbyn's case, emphasizing the importance of allowing MPs to maintain their independence from their leaders to ensure a functioning parliament. While acknowledging the existence of party rules, I argued that expulsions should be carried out through legal processes rather than by party leaders to prevent the appearance of an "elective dictatorship." The controversy surrounding Corbyn's expulsion was not just about his past actions regarding antisemitism, but also about the precedent it sets for future party leadership. The lack of a clear separation of powers in the British political system makes this an important issue to address.

    • Political alliances and the price of taking a stanceTaking a stance on divisive political issues can lead to personal and professional consequences, including expulsion from parties or strained relationships.

      Complex nature of political alliances and the consequences of taking a stance on contentious issues. Winston Churchill's grandson and several cabinet ministers were expelled from their party due to their opposition to Brexit, and while some may argue that Boris Johnson had to get things done, others believe leaders should not be expelling MPs in such a manner. In the context of international politics, the use of cluster munitions in Russia and Ukraine is a contentious issue, and some argue that opposing their use does not equate to supporting Russia's victory. Anthony Scaramucci shared a personal story about donating to Obama's campaign, highlighting the blurred lines between personal relationships and political alliances. These examples illustrate the complexities of political decision-making and the potential consequences of taking a stance on divisive issues.

    • Addressing the erosion of parliamentary authorityTo reassert parliament's role as the primary place for ministers to announce plans, a constitutional review or reset is needed. Maintaining this tradition despite ongoing leaks and media speculation can help keep parliament central and ensure higher standards of debate and attendance.

      The current political climate, with its rapid-fire media cycle and social media, has led to a significant erosion of parliamentary authority in favor of executive announcements. This trend, as discussed by Rob Wright, needs to be addressed through a constitutional review or reset. Wright suggested starting from a blank piece of paper to reassert parliament's role as the primary place for ministers to announce plans to the country. He believes that maintaining this tradition, even with ongoing leaks and media speculation, can help keep parliament central and ensure higher standards of debate and attendance. Additionally, he shared an anecdote about John Smith's famous speech, where he used humor to address various mishaps, demonstrating the power of well-crafted gags in politics.

    • Politicians using jokes can face criticismBeing transparent about career intentions is crucial for politicians to avoid negative public perception

      Using jokes from comedians or the public for political speeches can be risky and may lead to unwanted attention and criticism. Former Finnish Prime Minister, Sanna Marin, leaving parliament soon after the elections to join the Tony Blair Institute is an example of this. While some politicians, like Theresa May, choose to remain in parliament after stepping down as prime minister, others may have valid reasons for leaving and pursuing new opportunities. In the case of Sanna Marin, her youth and interest in international work may make working for the Tony Blair Institute a better fit for her at this stage in her career. However, it's important for politicians to be transparent about their intentions and follow through on their commitments to avoid negative public perception.

    • Challenges in Politics TodayExpress concerns to your MP, stay engaged, and advocate for change despite the challenges in politics

      Politics today is a brutal and unpleasant business, with many young leaders taking the helm and a sense of pessimism and degradation in many countries. This makes it challenging for individuals to dedicate their entire lives to politics. However, the potential for improvement remains, as evidenced by the impressive resilience of leaders like Theresa May and the qualities of new candidates. Emailing your MP can be a way to express your concerns and make a difference, although the impact is difficult to measure with the high volume of communications they receive. Despite the challenges, it's essential to stay engaged and keep advocating for change.

    • The Role of an MP in the British Political SystemMPs handle a high volume of emails, but reply drafting is delegated. They have limited power in certain areas and their influence comes from parliamentary votes. The system can be unfair and it might be harder for a mayor to work with a same-party government.

      Being an MP involves handling a large volume of emails from constituents on various issues, but the work of drafting replies is often delegated to team members. MPs don't have the power to interfere in certain areas like healthcare or immigration, and their influence is mainly in voting on legislation in parliament. The system can be unfair as those who get to see the MP have a better chance of having their cases addressed. The mayors of Manchester and the West Midlands raised the point that it might be harder for a mayor to work with a government of the same party compared to an opposition MP who can generate bad publicity. Rory expressed interest in sortition, or selecting MPs by random lottery, as a viable option for modern democracy. However, he noted that he wouldn't necessarily choose it even from a pool of volunteers. Overall, the conversation highlighted the complexities and limitations of the role of an MP in the British political system.

    • Exploring new ways to make political representation more inclusive and diverseConsidering unconventional methods like lowering the voting age and implementing a citizen assembly could lead to more inclusive political representation and better reflect societal diversity. Children show political understanding and concern for future issues, indicating the need for politicians to address pressing matters.

      There's a growing interest in exploring new ways to make political representation more inclusive and diverse, such as lowering the voting age and implementing a citizen assembly in parliament. This idea, while seemingly unconventional, could potentially reduce the power held by political parties and better reflect the society's diversity. Children, even at young ages, demonstrate a keen understanding of political issues and show concern for the future, indicating a need for politicians to address pressing matters like climate change and industrial strategy. If Labour, led by Tony Blair, were to come to power in the current economic climate, they would need to focus on more than just financial resources to implement change. They could signal their intentions early on, while initially adhering to spending limits, and then gradually introduce their policies. Blair might prioritize science, technology, and AI, as well as rebuilding relationships with the European Union.

    • Labour Leader Keir Starmer Signals Openness to Brexit Talks and Movie DiscussionsLabour leader Keir Starmer is open to negotiations for better Brexit terms, and Alastair and Joe shared their favorite films and books.

      Keir Starmer, the UK Labour Party leader, has shown signs of acknowledging the need to improve the Brexit trading cooperation agreement, indicating a willingness to negotiate for better terms. On a lighter note, both Alastair and Joe shared their favorite films, with Alastair praising Kenneth Branagh's "Belfast" and the 2017 film "Call Me by Your Name." In the literary world, they discussed their recent reads, including the McCarron spy books, Mick Herron's Slough House series, and the French book "Le Piaget" about Putin and Ukraine. Alastair also recommended a German novel by Alex Kapus. The conversation also included a mention of Alastair's book, "Politics on the Edge," which became a number 1 nonfiction hardback bestseller in its first week.

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