Referendum; a vote on a single political decision which has been put to the public.
Example; Scotland had a referendum in 2014 to decide if they wanted to stay in the United Kingdom. (They did. Just.)
Right now; it’s about whether the UK wants to leave the European Union.
The EU is a political and economic partnership of 28 European countries.
It is run by the European Parliament. Members of European Parliament (MEPs) are voted in every five years by the public. MEPs set laws which cover transport and business rules in Europe among many other things.
The European Commission proposes laws to the Parliament and enforces EU law. It upholds treaties and looks out for the interests of the European Union – not individual countries.
The EU operates a Common Market.
Sometimes called a single market this means goods, services, money and currency; but most importantly people can move freely between EU states. The idea is free movement of goods and services, which means good news for business and everyone profits. No, it doesn’t mean you get stuff for free.
In 1973 the UK signed up to the common market (called the European Economic Community or EEC) to trade with other countries and develop international relationships. Jump to 1993; the EEC became the European Union and the European Parliament arrived. Some say 75% of UK laws are influenced by the EU parliament; others say as little as 7%.
That’s the million dollar question. We’ll be wrapping up the main arguments for and against the EU in a way even an 11-year-old can get their head around. Stay tuned for the full video coming soon.
The EU referendum will take place on Thursday 23rd June 2016.
Cameron has negotiated a set of changes to the UK’s EU membership. He wants to:
– Protect the single market for non-Euro countries like Britain
The UK is one of nine EU countries which doesn’t use the Euro as it’s currency. Cameron wants to ensure that the Euro-using countries can’t gang up and force through measures on non-Euro countries. He also wants to ensure there is no discrimination or no disadvantage for non-Euro countries.
– Change immigration rules
Current EU immigration rules mean that people from EU countries can travel to Britain to work without needing a visa or a work permit.
This also means that they can claim state benefits. Cameron wants to reduce the number of economic migrants coming into Britain. To do this he plans to restrict migrants from claiming benefits until they’ve worked in the UK for four years. Everyone seems to think this is unlikely to happen.
– Get Britain out of the “ever closer union”
One of the founding EU principles which the UK signed up to was the ever closer union. This means European citizens driving to integrate more closely.
EU skeptics dislike this idea as it erodes our national identity and could lead to an EU superstate. Cameron wants a legally binding “get out of jail free” card for Britain. He also wants national parliaments to have more power to block resolutions from the EU parliament.
– Make Europe business friendly
The EU parliament sets certain regulations for businesses in Europe. E.g. the standards new products have to meet when tested. Cameron wants to cut the “red tape” which he believes is holding businesses back.
Not everyone is satisfied with these demands. One Tory MP asked “is that it? Is that the sum total of the government’s position in the renegotiation?”
Another asked “how is he going to be able to sell this pig in a poke?” This is a reference to the allegations that David Cameron did something very naughty with a pig’s head whilst at university.
The latest reports suggest that the prime minister wants to push on with the EU referendum sooner rather than later, perhaps even before the end of 2016. We’ll be updating when we know more.
The question which will be put to the UK is ‘Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?’ The choice of answers will be ‘Remain a member of the European Union’ or ‘Leave the European Union’.
You’ll have to be 18+ to vote in the EU referendum – this is different to the 2014 Scottish Independence Referendum, where 16 and 17 year olds got to vote.
Britain Stronger in Europe (BSIE) is a major campaign to stay in the EU. Headed up by former Marks and Spencer boss Lord Rose the campaign has the backing of former Labour Prime Ministers Gordon Brown and Tony Blair as well as Caroline Lucas from the Green Party and Conservative Damian Green.
In Campaign Decoded: The campaign video concentrates on the business argument for staying “in”. The EU is our main trading partner – if we leave the free market we start paying import and export taxes which would hurt business. Without the EU the UK risks being isolated in the international community.
Though there are other pro-EU campaigns, it’s likely BSIE will be chosen as the official “in” campaign by the Electoral Commission.
The Vote Leave group is the official “out” campaign. The two main faces of Vote Leave are soon to be ex Mayor of London Boris Johnson and Conservative MP Michael Gove. .
Out Campaign Decoded: The campaign video focuses on the cost of EU membership. As the UK is one of the richest EU countries it (along with Germany and France) pays more for our membership. Some estimates put the total cost as high as £118 billion a year. Ouch.
Both Britain Stronger in Europe and Vote Leave are cross-party campaigns – made up of MPs from various political parties.
Are you “in” or “out”? Let us know in the comments below.
Party Conference is like the Glastonbury of politics. The leader’s speech is the headline act – an opportunity to send out a message about the parties values and aims to voters, but also to party members.
We explored what goes on behind the scenes, and why this 2015 conference season is so important:
2015 was a good year for the Green Party… up until the general election.
The “Green Surge” saw 13,000 people join the party in just one week. Leader Natalie Bennett scored points by being included in the TV party leader’s debate. The Greens were going mainstream and things seemed to be going so well.
At the general election 3.8% of the public voted for them, their highest share of the vote ever. However, due to our electoral system they only have ONE MP, Caroline Lucas.
If we switched to a system called Proportional Representation the Greens would have 24 MPs rather than one. So it’s no surprise that Natalie Bennett’s conference speech called for change.
She also criticised the government for not doing enough to fight climate change. The Greens just wanna be friends and will campaign to stay within the European Union.
They also got practical, collecting donations for the refugees in Calais, France. Perhaps less talk, more action is the way forwards?
Little mention was made of Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn. Many predict he will move the Labour party to the left of politics… with some similar values to the Green Party. If this happens, will there be much point in the left-wing Green Party?
Caroline Lucas MP seems to be up for joining forces with other parties on certain issues saying “we are stronger when we work together’.
Are the Greens irrelevant? Or will the Green surge continue? You decide.
The UK Independence Party is having a bit of a rough time.
Despite picking up 12.6% of the public vote in the general election, our electoral system means they only have ONE MP. Mega awkward.
This disappointing general election result led to their leader Nigel Farage resigning… only to return a few weeks later.
With the referendum on whether Britain should leave the European Union approaching this should be UKIP’s moment. After all, this is why the party was created.
But it seems squabbles within UKIP might spoil things.
Leader Nigel Farage and UKIP’s single MP Douglas Carswell disagree on a major decision. They support different campaigns linked to the European Union referendum, due to happen before the end of 2017.
Farage used Conference to announce his backing for anti-EU group Leave.eu and thinks it should be the official campaign for Britain to leave the EU.
Carswell used to be a Conservative MP, but defected to UKIP. He supports Business For Britain, which hasn’t yet committed to backing an EU exit. Farage has accused Carswell of having “residual loyalty” to his old Tory party. Even more awkward.
Will frenemies Farage and Carswell put aside their differences before the referendum?
AKA the one we’ve all been waiting for.
The Conservative Party are back in government – and for the first time since 1992 have enough parliamentary seats to form a majority. No longer held back by the Liberal Democrats they are free to do as they please… for the next five years at least.
David Cameron’s announcement that he will stand down before 2020 means everyone is wondering who will be next in line for the PM crown. Could it be George Osborne? Or perhaps Boris Johnson or Teresa May?
For now David Cameron looked secure, as he and the Tory big wigs outlined the Tory agenda for the next five years.
Cameron promised to build 200,000 new homes to tackle the housing crisis, to renew Britain’s Trident Nuclear system. He also outlined a more compassionate approach to the prison system, which Michael Gove had introduced the day before.
“We have got to get away from the sterile lock-em-up or let-em-out debate, and get smart about this.
When prisoners are in jail, we have their full attention for months at a time – so let’s treat their problems, educate them, put them to work.”
The infamous Trade Unions Bill, which will make it harder for trade unions to strike, also got a mention at Conference.
Perhaps buoyed by his recent election success Cameron slammed Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn. Miaow.
“My friends – we cannot let that man inflict his security-threatening, terrorist-sympathising, Britain-hating ideology on the country we love.”
Home Secretary Teresa May announced tough new laws on immigration.
“While we must fulfil our moral duty to help people in desperate need, we must also have an immigration system that allows us to control who comes to our country.
Because when immigration is too high, when the pace of change is too fast, it’s impossible to build a cohesive society.”
However, things aren’t all plain sailing. A number of divisions appear in the Tory party. The Conservatives are divided over whether the UK should leave the European Union. The referendum on whether to stay in or get out will take place…at some point…before 2017.
The Conservative conference took place behind a riot fence. Outside the conference venue 60,000 people gathered for an anti-austerity march.
Chief Supt John O'Hare said: "Today around 60,000 people took part in a demonstration and I would like to thank them for their cooperation."
— G M Police (@gmpolice) October 4, 2015
Tory delegates were told in an email not to wear their Conservative passes outside of the secure compound.
Which was a little OTT as most of the protesters took part peacefully. Yet, some of some people focused on some negative behaviour, like spitting and egging. We’re not showing that… as, you know, the majority of the protesters took part in good faith. If you don’t believe us, believe the police;
Ch Supt O'Hare said: "The overwhelming majority of people have exercised their democratic right to protest with dignity and good grace."
— G M Police (@gmpolice) October 4, 2015
Will the Conservatives deliver on their promises? Or are their days in power numbered?
SNP, 15th-17th October 2015
Plaid Cymru, 23rd October-10th November 2015
The Political Party Conference season is in full swing. What is this and why should you care?
Imagine it as a festival; the Glastonbury of politics.
At a festival, there are loads of bands, poets, theatre makers all vying for your attention. They want you to come to their gig, or support their cause. This is a little similar to a party conference.
Each year in party conference season politicians and party members get together to discuss what the party’s aims and values should be. Businesses and other groups send lobbyists, who attempt to influence the decisions and policies decided at conference.
Whatever you want to get out of party conference, odds are you can find it. There are prayer breakfasts, a running club and different lobbying groups trying to meet politicians. Luke James, parliamentary correspondent at the Morning Star, describes it as a “democratic festival whirlwind”.
“You’ve got people going here there and everywhere, and it’s not just in the conference centre – There’s literally dozens of fringe meetings every day starting at 7.30AM”.
Just don’t expect to see anyone raving. Ed Miliband we’re looking at you.
Each political party decides what to discuss in difference ways.
Labour has a National Policy Forum, made up of MPs, councillors and trade unions, which creates reports on various issues.
Some these are discussed at conference and go on to form Labour policy. However, party conference is not always where policy is made.
Luke James notes that in the past “a motion is passed at a Labour conference it doesn’t necessary mean it will become policy.” This is because they have very complex policy making process, as reported by the BBC.
When it comes to discussing policy the Green Party took a more artistic approach at their spring conference this year.
Members scrawled “visual minutes” of the issues being covered at conference onto a massive mural. Somehow we can’t imagine the Conservatives following suit. You never know though.
We’ve just had a general election – and the losers need to start planning for the next one.
If party conference is Glastonbury for politics, then the leader’s speech is the headline act. The Labour Party and the Lib Dems have new leaders who have to quickly make their mark.
UKIP needs to assert itself as a dominant force before the upcoming EU referendum and the Green Party needs to make the most of its increase in membership.
In Scotland, the SNP needs to set the agenda for the Scottish Parliament elections next year, and many are talking about the possibility of a second Scottish independence referendum. Cor blimey.
Don’t forget the current government, the Conservatives. With a small majority David Cameron needs the backing of his entire party to push through new laws.
After some ham-fisted attacks online over the alleged #piggate scandal, he’ll want to move forward to more important matters – like Europe and the refugee crisis.
Though solid policy decisions may not be set at conference, it is important for setting the tone for the various parties; especially important as we have two new leaders for the opposition parties.
Even if you’re not political, you’ll probably have an opinion about what the government and the opposition parties stand for. Therefore conference is really important for getting the party message across to potential voters.
Party Conference in a nutshell;
At a festival you can reinvent yourself. You can let your hair down, try new things and decide who you want to be. Similarly these political party conferences, at the start of a new parliament, are an opportunity for the party leaders to set the agenda for the next 5 years.
Just like a festival, party conference can be exciting and busy – but don’t expect all policy to be decided right this minute.
#piggate: a newly published book claims that prime minister David Cameron took part in a rather… unusual university society initiation. Involving a dead pig.
A former donor to the Conservative Party has released a book detailing his feud with current prime minister David Cameron.
The Daily Mail describes the book’s claim that Mr. Cameron once ‘put a private part of his anatomy’ into a dead pig. Yes, you heard us right. This was allegedly part of a university society initiation whilst Cameron was at Oxford.
It’s worth noting at this point that nothing has been proved, though it’s claimed that a picture exists of the… event. David Cameron is infamously coy about his time at university. He was a member of the notorious Bullingdon Club, an all-male exclusive dining club, famous for it’s heavy drinking and the vandalising of restaurants.
So far Number 10 Downing Street are refusing to dignify the claim with a comment. Which is fair enough as, for the second time, there is no proof.
Unfortunately that didn’t stop the internet from going into meltdown. Here’s what we learned:
Make that several jokes. Several jokes and even more pictures. #piggate quickly went viral, followed by #hameron and #snoutrage.
Here are some of the best posts;
No comment: pic.twitter.com/6IEX3gM2CL
— Tony Barrett (@TonyBarretTimes) September 20, 2015
— Henry Legg (@PhysicsHenry) September 21, 2015
Many recalled an episode of TV show “Black Mirror” where a similar event involving a prime minister and a pig takes place;
Shit. Turns out Black Mirror is a documentary series.
— Charlie Brooker (@charltonbrooker) September 20, 2015
— Lianna Brinded (@LiannaBrinded) September 21, 2015
They mocked David Cameron’s tweet about the Labour Party;
Whereas some hammed it up;
Despite the online frenzy some UK media outlets didn’t quite know how to report this.
The Drum earned maximum punning points by noting how several media outlets seemed “hamstrung”. He he he.
The Drum noted that though Sky News were “traditionally bolder” than the BBC or ITN the #piggate story was “strikingly omitted from the regular newspaper review.”
BBC trending, the online section of the BBC which reports on trending viral stories is yet to publish a #piggate story. The Independent slammed this as “unnacceptable”.
— Joel Davidge (@joeldavidge) September 21, 2015
It is odd that several TV and radio channels are mysteriously forgetting to mention the supposed pig initiation. Is this on the grounds of decency or are they worried of the repercussions?
Talk about working under pressure; within hours of the story breaking CassetteBoy trottered (sorry) out this beauty;
Harsh or not, you have to admit this video is pretty clever.
Yes, the Twitter jokes were funny but eventually people realised they might be focusing on the wrong topic;
— Nerina Pallot (@ladychatterley) September 21, 2015
Then there was the issue about how political parties are funded;
Shouldn't the bigger scandal be that the Tories have been bank rolled by tax dodgers like Ashcroft for years? #PigGate
— UK Uncut (@UKuncut) September 21, 2015
People often moan about politics. We say it’s out of touch with reality and that politicians don’t care about ordinary people. Yet today, people were much more likely to share photocopied #piggate images of David Cameron than the news that free school meals may be scrapped.
Just some (not pig) food for thought.
Before the 2015 general election Ed Miliband was ridiculed for a picture taken of him eating a bacon sandwich.
In fairness, you can see why;
Ed can now relax knowing that he’ll no longer be the only one in pork-litical history (sorry, we had to) to be remembered for his connection to pigs.
That’ll do, Ed. That’ll do.
George Osborne’s first budget of the new Conservative government was full of contradictions. On the one hand he is cutting £12 billion pounds from benefits (boo); one the other he’s creating a National Living Wage of £7.20 PH (YAY!)
The announced changes were met with cheers from the Tories, and outrage from the Opposition (Labour, Lib Dems, SNP, UKIP Plaid Cymru and the rest).
The Guardian has reported that the new “Living Wage” isn’t enough to make up for the cuts to welfare. People who claim tax credits could be £1,000 worse of a year according to the Institute of Fiscal Studies. Doesn’t sound great.
So how does the new budget 2015 affect you? The BBC has created a Budget Calculator. You can try it out for yourself on the BBC website; we thought we’d explore how the changes could affect different people.
Let’s say you’re 21/22. Perhaps you’ve just left university, maybe not. You have a job on the minimum wage (currently £6.50 PH) working 40 hours or so a week. Your annual earnings would probably be around £13,000.
Because the tax-free allowance is going up to £11,000 you’d end up around £80 better off. Yipee!
So, lets look at the claim from the Guardian that due to changes to tax credits some people could be £1,000 worse off. Tax Credits are benefits (extra £££) given to people who look after children, to disabled workers and those on lower incomes.
In the new budget “working-age benefits, including tax credits and Local Housing Allowance, will be frozen for 4 years from 2016-17”
The calculator says a married couple with a combined income of £21,600 and two children could be worse off by £1,113. Hmm.
This was based on one partner earning £19,000 a year on full-time hours; the other working part-time and earning £2,600. Both at 25 (still young!) and the age you’ll become eligible for the new “Living Wage”.
Though they are £80 better off thanks to changes to income tax, on the whole they make a loss because they are getting less tax credits. In fact, the calculator suggests that in order to keep the same income they had before, the partner (who originally earned £2,600 a year) would have to earn an extra £10,978.56! Whether this is the case, we don’t know. But we sure hope not!
Removing the two children from the equation means we’re back to £80 better off. Does this mean we shouldn’t have kids?!
Looks a bit like The Guardian 1, Osborne 0.
An older married couple with a combined income of £85,000 would actually be £221 better off. Say what?
This is again because of the changes to the tax thresholds where you pay the higher rate of tax.
Does this mean the budget will be better for the rich and worse for the poor? Although the media might say “YES”, it’s a lot more complicated than that. Like any example these calculations are very specific. Everyone has different circumstances so it’s probably impossible to come up with a basic rule which covers everyone.
It’s also worth saying (because the BBC did) that these figures are estimates only. They don’t include all the changes made; just the ones made to income and earnings.
People are still unhappy though. And if you’re under 25 you might be too. Whilst others get the fancy new “Living Wage” of £7.20 PH you’re going to be stuck on £6.50 PH. Minimum-bleugh.
The budget 2015 wasn’t just about tax and income; it covered a whole range of topics. The speech was even a few minutes longer than usual. Crazy times.
One of the major policy brought in by the coalition government which affected young people was the raising of tuition fees. The new budget only raised them in line with inflation; but Student Maintenance Grants are being scrapped. These are non-repayable £££’s which are given to students from low-income backgrounds.
Instead of grants students will have to take out Student Maintenance Loans instead. Conservatives say “Don’t worry, you won’t have to pay them back until you’re earning £21K +”. As well as paying back tuition fees.
LRT – i would never have gone to uni, nor be graduating with a first class honours next week if #maintenancegrants were scrapped
— Holly Gallagher (@hollyrachael_) July 8, 2015
At the moment around half a million students in England receive grants. However some people aren’t too bothered;
So, you need somewhere to live. Don’t count on the government paying however. The Conservatives are stopping the automatic entitlement to housing benefit for 18-21 year olds.
Housing benefit is a regular £££’s to help pay your rent. It’s paid by your local council. You can claim it if you’re on a low-income or claiming other state benefits.
So, not the best of times if you’re young and/or a student. George Osborne says he wants to make the tax and benefits system fairer.
“We have to move Britain from a low-wage, high-tax, high-welfare society to a higher-wage, lower-tax, lower-welfare economy.
For Britain is home to 1% of the world’s population; generates 4% of the world’s income; and yet pays out 7% of the world’s welfare spending. It is not fair to the taxpayers paying for it. It needs to change.
The best route out of poverty is work. It is not acceptable that in an economy moving towards full employment, some young people leave school and go straight on to a life on benefits.“
– George Osborne’s Budget 2015 speech
It’s not just young people who are affected by the budget. But even so, the Guardian asks “What have young people done to deserve George Osborne’s contempt?”. We’d love to hear from Mr. Osborne himself. So if you’re reading, George – is it personal?!