This Week in British Politics 24th-30th September

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Highlights for this week include the much-anticipated Labour Party Conference, a spat with Piers Morgan on live television and a touching tribute to Labour MP Jo Cox.

The Annual Labour Party Conference

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With Theresa May’s ultimatum last week making a final Brexit deal with the EU ever more unlikely, the annual Labour party conference gave the opposition and its much-maligned leader Jeremy Corbyn (pictured above) a chance to attack the Prime Minister and her government. This has arguably come at the perfect time for Labour, as Theresa May herself continues to fight off rumours about an impending leadership challenge from her former foreign secretary Boris Johnson. The Labour party headed to Liverpool for their annual conference during which Mr Corbyn gave what can only be described as a rousing speech surrounding his policies regarding Brexit, declaring his party as “ready to govern.”

One of the most prominent messages from Mr Corbyn’s speech was unsurprisingly his focus on closing the gap between the rich and poor, citing the greed that he believes has engulfed British Politics since the recession began a decade ago. The 69-year-old, speaking for over an hour, was also adamant that Labour would not support Theresa May’s current Brexit plan and promised to fight any attempts by the government to leave the European Union with a “No-Deal Brexit.” This statement from Mr Corbyn has further developed the Labour Party’s stance on Brexit, with Deputy Leader Tom Watson stating that the party must back its members, 86% of which would prefer a people’s vote over the government’s current plan to leave the EU.

Mr Corbyn also spoke of the issue of anti-Semitism that just a few weeks ago seemed to be engulfing the party. However, in the light of the Labour party adopting the IHRA’s definition on anti-Semitism, his and his party’s stance on the issue now seems certain. He spoke of the “persecution” and “genocide” that the Jewish people had have faced throughout History citing his own experiences of visiting a concentration camp as being an education as to how important anti-Semitism is in modern society. Mr Corbyn now believes that Labour and the Jewish community can draw a line over their grievances this summer and work together to ensure a diverse society, tolerant of all religious beliefs.

Theresa May vs Everyone?

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Whilst Jeremy Corbyn seems to have strengthened his position in the wake of the Labour Conference, his counterpart Theresa May  (pictured above) is finding her position weaker by the day. In response to Labour’s claims that they will force a snap general election, the Prime Minister began the week by stating that this would not be in the national interest. However, she continues to find herself at risk of a leadership battle with Boris Johnson. Ahead of the Conservative Party Conference, the former foreign secretary and ex-Mayor of London refused to rule out a bid to become Prime Minister despite continually referring to Mrs May as being “a remarkable person.” Mr Johnson remained critical of the Prime Minister’s Brexit plan, however, with a 4500-word column in the Telegraph accusing her of “betraying centuries of progress.” He would go on to accuse the Prime Minister of not believing in Brexit, thus further fuelling claims that a leadership bid is in fact imminent.

The Prime Minister, on Sunday, went on the counter-attack in an attempt to assure the public that she does believe that leaving the European Union will, in fact, work for Britain. Despite her “Chequers” plan being rejected by EU officials during negotiations last week, the Prime Minister insisted her plan for Brexit was not dead in an interview with Andrew Marr. Despite this claim, she also admitted that a “No-Deal” scenario is still highly possible. In response to Labour’s claims that they will only back a Brexit plan that they believe works for the country, she has insisted that they stop “playing politics” and support her plan despite it receiving little support from both the EU and her own party.

 

John McDonnell vs Piers Morgan

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Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell was interviewed on Good Morning Britain this week to clarify Labour’s intentions surrounding Brexit. However, Mr McDonnell was forced into a war of words with Piers Morgan when discussing Britain’s nuclear deterrent. Mr Morgan (pictured above) was hostile when questioning the shadow chancellor, pressing him to give an answer as to whether Jeremy Corbyn, a renowned pacifist, would ever authorise the use of nuclear weapons to defend the United Kingdom. Mr McDonnell defended the Labour leader, saying that he would make an appropriate decision based on the evidence he would be given in such a situation. This was not satisfactory for Mr Morgan, who repeatedly questioned Mr McDonnell’s answers citing previous answers given by other senior labour officials. The interview highlighted a weakness in the labour camp as Jeremy Corbyn must tell those who would vote for him to be Prime Minister what steps he would take to protect this country.

Brussels square named after the late Jo Cox

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Despite the Labour Conference and the Prime Minister taking many of the headlines this week, what may have escaped attention is the dedication of a square in Brussels to the late MP Jo Cox (pictured above). Mrs Cox was murdered by right-wing fanatic Thomas Mair in 2016, shortly before the EU referendum. The ceremony was attended by close friends and family of the late MP as well as Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. Mrs Cox had worked in Brussels for six years before becoming an MP, most notably as the head of the EU Oxfam office. The Mayor of Brussels, Phillipe Close paid tribute to Jo Cox saying “she should never have died for her ideas” whilst Labour MP and friend Stephen Kinnock stated that he wished to see a similar dedication at home in the UK.

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