This Week in British Politics: 10th – 16th September

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With party conference season just beginning, some might say that the madness hasn’t even begun. However, with an explosive PMQs session and relentless Brexit drama, there’s certainly never a dull moment in British politics.

Final proposed boundary changes published

7 years after Parliament approved the principle of reducing MP numbers, the Boundary Commission’s proposals have been laid before Parliament. The Commission’s proposed map covers constituencies across the UK, and its proposed parliamentary boundaries would see the House of Commons reduced by 50 MPs, to a total of 600 MPs. The proposal, which the Commission are said to be ‘confident’ with, aims to not only reduce the number of seats, but also make constituencies have a similar population size and, in turn, hold similar voter numbers.

The proposals have received criticism. The representation of SNP in Parliament could be down by 10% due to these significant boundary changes, and many MPs are arguing that in consideration of Brexit, we need as many representatives in Parliament as possible.

Tory rebels: ‘loose talk‘ and a leadership challenge? 

Last week it was reported that 50 Conservative MPs who oppose the Chequers plan met up to discuss how and when to oust May as the leader. A source told the BBC that these members of the European Research Group (ERG) discussed ‘how best you game the leadership election rules’.

However, Environment Secretary Michael Gove downplayed these claims on the BBC Radio 4 Today, calling it nothing more than ‘loose talk’. He emphasised how the Brexit mandate should be the party’s priority, saying: ‘the critical thing is we deliver on the Brexit mandate and any diversion or distraction from that commitment means our ability to ensure that it delivered is undermined’.

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The ERG and Equivalence

As well as this, the ERG proposed an ‘equivalence’ approach to the Irish border problem. In doing this, they especially considered the stringent rules surrounding the cross-border trade of food and agricultural products. An ‘equivalence’ arrangement would mean that whilst the EU would acknowledge that UK rules surrounding food and agriculture are different, they’d still consider them to be just as good as EU rules to ensure that consumers are not put at risk.

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May vs Corbyn: No more dancing around the issue of Universal Credit at PMQs

In the last PMQs session before party conference season, Corbyn asked May: ‘What did the National Farmers’ Union, the Federation of Small Businesses, the National Audit Office, the National Housing Federation, Gingerbread and the Royal Society of Arts all have in common?’

Contrary to her response that ‘they all give excellent service’, the Labour leader claimed that these organisations all agreed that Universal Credit was ‘failing’ thousands of families. He challenged the Conservatives’ 2o10 claim that they would bring 350,000 children out of poverty, arguing that Universal Credit – according to The Child Poverty Action Group – would, in fact, put half a million children into poverty.

May fought back by referring to ‘record low’ unemployment rates, claiming that Universal Credit helped get people back to work.

An agitated Corbyn then cited the National Audit Office findings that Universal Credit could increase poverty, food bank usage and ‘end up costing the system even more’.

Although the Prime Minister asserted how the ‘legacy of a Labour government’ was job centres telling people they’d be ‘better off on benefits’, Corbyn was adamant that the Universal Credit scheme was exploiting the most vulnerable, as he accused May of ‘not challenging the burning injustices in our society’.

The Commons then descended into chaos, as May cited her record as Home Secretary in comparison to the ‘institutionally racist’ Labour party.

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High Court gives ruling on Vote Leave expenditure scandal

Meanwhile, Vote Leave appeared to have got off relatively lightly following the latest investigation into their campaign spending. Despite the High Court’s agreement with the Electoral Commission’s conclusion that Vote Leave had broken the law, they argued that the watchdog misinterpreted the rules surrounding expenses and consequently gave Vote Leave campaigners misleading and incorrect advice.

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Dominic Raab discusses a no-deal Brexit

The Brexit Secretary used the Radio 4 Today Programme to clarify that, if a no-deal Brexit occurred, the EU not getting the £39bn promised by the UK in December wasn’t a threat, but a ‘statement of fact’. Like May, he asserted that ‘the amount and the phased way it is set out in the withdrawal [December] agreement would fall away because there would be no deal’.

Raab then criticised the ERG’s solution to the Irish border problem – noting how it’d keep Northern Ireland in the customs unit backstop (the temporary fallback plan to avoid a hard Irish border) ‘indefinitely’.

He also warned Tory rebels that if they didn’t back the Chequers deal, the UK would leave with no deal.

Additionally, he expressed his hopes that mobile companies wouldn’t reintroduce roaming charges in a no deal scenario.

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Sadiq Khan (pictured above) backs the People’s Vote

London Mayor Sadiq Khan gave public backing to a second Brexit referendum in The Observer. Khan, who campaigned to remain in the EU, claims that he initially accepted that ‘the will of the British people was to leave the EU‘. However, he wrote that he had a change of heart after witnessing the ‘chaotic approach’ to Brexit negotiations.

Khan feels that we now have two options: a bad deal or a no deal Brexit. ‘Both these scenarios are a million miles from what was promised during the referendum campaign’, Khan argues. He added: ‘I don’t believe Theresa May has the mandate to gamble so flagrantly with the British economy and people’s livelihoods’.

More articles in This Week in British Politics
  1. This Week in British Politics: 8th-14th October
  2. This Week in British Politics: 17th-23rd September
  3. This Week In British Politics: 8th-15th July
  4. This Week in British Politics: 5 March – 11 March 2018
  5. This Week in British Politics 19-25 February 2018
  6. This Week in British Politics: 1-7 January 2018
  7. This Week in British Politics: 15-21 January 2018
  8. The Week in British Politics: 12 March – 18 March 2018
  9. This Week in British Politics: 2nd – 9th September 2018
  10. This Week in British Politics: 10th – 16th September
  11. This Week in British Politics: 1st – 7th October
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Wessex Scene's friendly neighbourhood Opinion Editor with a love of memes, food and complaining. Also News Editor at the Soton Tab and occasional contributor to The Daily Touch.

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