The Week in British Politics: 11th-17th February 2019

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Another busy week in British politics with landmark laws, a key Brexit vote, a throwback to Churchill and the case of Shamima Begum.

The final stage in a bill becoming law is when it has passed through Parliament and receives royal assent. Media coverage is uncommon for this event, and most pass under the radar. However, on Tuesday (12th February), The Voyeurism Bill did not, because in the Voyeurism Act 2019, upskirting becomes a specific offence. Gina Martin, the primary campaigner to make the act of taking photos under someone’s clothing without their knowledge or consent illegal, had dedicated 18 months of her life to the cause:

‘After 18 months of tireless work, today we’ve finally done it. As the Queen formally agrees to make our bill into an Act of Parliament, we should see this campaign as not only essential legislative change, but also proof that normal people and grassroots campaigning can make a real difference.’

The offence now carries a sentence of up to two years, with the most serious cases landing the offender on the sex offenders register.

If you thought you’d heard the last of Seaborne Freight, then think again, as this week Chris Grayling, the Transport Secretary, revealed why the government had to cancel the contract with the shipping company. Arklow Shipping, one of Ireland’s largest shipping companies, was backing the deal. They had promised to finance ships for Seaborne, and they would be major shareholders in the start-up company, describing the plans as ‘viable and deliverable‘. However, the week previous, Arklow pulled out. No explanation has been forthcoming. This caused Grayling to cancel the contract with Seaborne, but not to worry, he promises that “not a penny” of tax-payers money has gone, or will go, to Seaborne Freight.

It’s probably fair to say that we have all become accustomed to Theresa May and her government suffering Brexit-related defeats in the House of Commons. Whilst many of us would have been making frantic last-minute preparations for Valentine’s Day, MPs were voting on a government motion to endorse ‘the approach to leaving the EU‘ which had previously been backed by the Commons on the 29th of January. The European Research Group, a group of 60 or so Conservative MPs, believed that this meant ruling out a ‘no-deal’. They asked the government to change the wording of the motion to show that a no-deal exit was still on the table. The government refused, the ERG abstained in the vote, causing the Prime Minister to lose by 303 votes to 258. With little over a month until the supposed Brexit day, we don’t seem any closer to a definitive exit.

If I were to say to you: ‘Miner’s strike‘, your mind would probably jump to 1984 and Margaret Thatcher. That would have been your answer if I had asked you last week, but this week, John McDonnell would likely spring to mind. He hit the headlines again after branding Winston Churchill a ‘villain‘ due to his involvement in the Tonypandy Miners’ strike in 1910. Winston Churchill had allowed the British Army to be deployed to the region, in South Wales, to back up the police and end the riots. It certainly goes against the widely-held view that he was an inspirational leader, not least for leading Britain to victory in World War Two. Churchill’s grandson, Nicholas Soames, is in fact a sitting MP. Not best pleased, in return he described McDonnell as a ‘Poundland Lenin‘. Soames isn’t worried his grandfather’s reputation will be damaged by this latest outburst.

Finally, the question of returning ISIS fighters has this week been embodied by the case of Shamima Begum. A 19-year old girl, who yesterday, the 17th February, gave birth to her third child. In 2015, she left the UK and travelled to Syria, at the mere age of 15, to be a housewife with the Islamic State. Now, she hopes to return to the UK to bring up her baby. On the face of it, one might think that sympathy would be pouring out to Shamima. A poor girl groomed and radicalised at the age of 15, now old enough to realise that the ideology and actions of Islamic State are wrong. However, one key emotion that Shamima isn’t emitting, is remorse. She has said she does not regret travelling to Syria, she is ‘Ok with‘ beheadings and executions, because ‘Islamically that is allowed‘. There is no realisation, in Shamima’s mind, that the ideology and actions of Islamic State are wrong. As such, there is little sympathy for her to return to the UK. It will be a question of UK citizenship (which she holds) and the legal complexities around that, that will determine if and when she will return to the UK.

More articles in This Week in British Politics
  1. The Week in British Politics: 3rd-9th December
  2. This Week in British Politics: 8th-14th October
  3. This Week in British Politics: 17th-23rd September
  4. This Week In British Politics: 8th-15th July
  5. This Week in British Politics: 5 March – 11 March 2018
  6. This Week in British Politics 19-25 February 2018
  7. This Week in British Politics: 1-7 January 2018
  8. This Week in British Politics: 15-21 January 2018
  9. The Week in British Politics: 12 March – 18 March 2018
  10. This Week in British Politics: 2nd – 9th September 2018
  11. This Week in British Politics: 10th – 16th September
  12. This Week in British Politics: 1st – 7th October
  13. This Week in British Politics: 15th-21st October
  14. This Week in British Politics: 26th November-2nd December
  15. The Week in British Politics: 11th-17th February 2019
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