The main story this week has to be about the historic meeting between North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-In. However, there were plenty of other stories that caught my eye and Amber Rudd’s resignation just about creeps into last week though its implications will be significant for weeks to come…
This was very, very unexpected until quite recently. It was only late last November when Donald Trump was calling Kim Jong Un “little rocket man” and threatening mass destruction on North Korea and its regime.
For there to be a major warming of relations between all sides since can only be evidence that the old protocols do not apply under President Trump. We have seen plenty of policy turnarounds, both domestically and internationally, under Trump and it now seems clear almost anything is possible with Trump at the helm.
Whilst this may have negative implications in the future and in other political arenas, there is no doubt recent developments are incredibly positive on the Korean Peninsula. There is now a genuine belief among most parties that an official peace treaty can be signed by both sides that formally ends the Korean War.
Kim Jong Un has even spoken of his desire for a de-nuclearized Korean Peninsula, though that still seems quite ambitious to me in the short to medium term.
However, this is overall a very positive story and I’ll let Kim Jong Un end it with some quite eloquent words from the Summit;
"We bade farewell to the frozen relationship between North and South Korea, which was a nightmare, and we announced the beginning of a warm spring to the world."
The Windrush scandal rumbled on all week for Amber Rudd with her position becoming more and more untenable. It all culminated on Sunday with the Guardian publishing evidence that she had known about deportation targets.
Yvette Cooper gave her a torrid time of it in the Home Affairs Select Committee last Wednesday and she apparently misled both that Committee and Parliament by denying she knew about the targets.
She seems an intelligent and amenable politician to me but she really messed up here. What we don’t know is what orders Theresa May gave her as events progressed as May has quite a lot of culpability over Windrush.
It will be interesting to see who is appointed the next Home Secretary later today. Furthermore’ will Labour continue to go after Theresa May on this or they will now focus on the last few days of campaigning before the local elections on Thursday…
A week of bickering between Fine Gael and Fianna Fail over spending promises ahead of the next budget. A number of polls came out this week which are always interesting to those who follow closely, however I think they are quite meaningless until the 8th Amendment referendum is concluded. Once that takes place, the gloves will be off between all the parties and an election could then be called at any point..
On the 8th Amendment Referendum, the Repeal side continue to have a strong lead but a poll on Saturday from the Irish Daily Mail put Repeal support at only 46% when “Don’t Know”s and “Wont Vote”s are included.
This is potentially dangerous territory for Repealers and I continue to stick with my recent predictions on a low turnout and close final vote here.
Emmanuel Macron’s visit to Washington DC was notable for the high affinity the American and French leaders old for each and his strong words on the environment;
“What is the meaning of our life if our decision, our conscious decision, is to reduce the opportunities for our children and grandchildren?
By polluting the oceans, not mitigating CO2 emissions and destroying our biodiversity, we are killing our planet. Let us face it: there is no Planet B.
On this issue it may happen we have a disagreement between the United States and France. It may happen, like in all families. But that is, for me, a short-term disagreement. In the long run, we will have to face the same realities. We are citizens of the same planet.
We have to face it. Beyond some short-term disagreements, we have to work together.
With business leaders and local communities, in order to make our planet great again, and create new jobs and new opportunities, while safeguarding our Earth. And I am sure one day, the United States will come back and join the Paris agreement. And I am sure we can work together to fulfil with you the ambitions of the Global Compact on the environment.”
And on Iran which will be crucial in the coming months as Trump has threatened on numerous occasions to tear up the JCPOA. From Macron’s words it is clear he belives this would be a foolish thing to do;
“There is an existing framework – called the JCPOA - to control the nuclear activity of Iran. We signed it at the initiative of the United States. We signed it, both the United States and France. That is why we cannot say we should get rid of it like that. But it is true to say that this agreement may not address all concerns, very important concerns. This is true. But we should not abandon it without having something substantial, more substantial, instead. That is my position. That is why France will not leave the JCPOA, because we signed it.
Your President and your country will have to take, in the current days and weeks, their responsibilities regarding this issue.”
The main story for me this week was the debacle from the Windrush scandal and how damaging it is the reputations of Theresa May and Amber Rudd, both of whom may still be in trouble in the coming weeks…
I struggled to see how the antisemitism scandal in Labour that has captured many headline in recent weeks was the responsibility of Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Leadership. This is not to say there isn’t a problem, simply that while the effect was evident to most people, it wasn’t as obvious what the cause was.
The Corbyn critics, in my view, clutched at numerous straws that mostly revolved around Facebook groups etc that Corbyn was a “member” of that contained anti-Semitic content or material.
Contrast that with the Windrush scandal that erupted over the last week. The Home Office, initially under Theresa May and now under Amber Rudd, directed policies that included the destruction of landing papers for British citizens and their children.
David Lammy, the Labour MP for Tottenham, gave a powerful speech early in the week where he did not hold back in his criticism of Theresa May, Amber Rudd and the overall approach of the Conservative Party to immigration and home affairs;
“It is her (Amber Rudd) department that has deported them. She should know the number. Can she tell the House how many have been detained as prisoners in their own country?”…“Can she tell the House how many have been denied health under the National Health Service? How many have denied pensions? How many have lost their jobs?”… “Let us call it how it is. If you lay down with dogs you get fleas. That is what has happened with this far-right rhetoric in this country. Can she apologise properly?”
Unfortunately, there has been very little clarity or positive outcomes to come out of this so far. Theresa May did manage to regain her footing slightly at Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, when she got the better of Jeremy Corbyn, mostly using an ambiguous untruth concerning when the decision to destroy the landing papers took place.
I think there will be further fallout from this. It’s a scandal that has angered people across the political spectrum as there is no other way of assessing it other than a gross injustice against a large number of ordinary British citizens, simply because they weren’t born in the United Kingdom.
Given everything Theresa May has endured so far and come out the other side of, I don’t think this will bring her or the Government down. I do not hold the same confidence in Amber Rudd’s job security. If the public uproar and press coverage continues next week, we may well be analyzing the impacts of her dismissal as Home Secretary…
I wrote my latest thoughts and predictions on the 8th Amendment Referendum on Friday here and won’t revisit it now.
The other major story in Ireland this week involved the Minister for Communications Denis Naughten. The Irish Times revealed on Wednesday that he “gave advance warning to a public affairs consultant acting for Independent News and Media about the prospects for a takeover bid that INM was pursuing.”
This has a horrible whiff of cronyism to it that verges on outright corruption. The fact that he hasn’t been dismissed has been attributed to the fear of disrupting the 8th Amendment Referendum. In the words of Mary Lou MacDonald;
"That means that in our calculations as people who are responsible and sensible, we take that into consideration. Denis Naughten is not off the hook. There always comes a day of reckoning,".
Personally, I don’t believe Fianna Fail have the appetite or confidence to threaten the Confidence and Supply agreement over Denis Naughten like they did with Frances Fitzgerald late last year.
The large majority of polls in 2018 have given Fine Gael strong leads over Fianna Fail and this would not be easily changed in an election campaign. For that reason, as well as the referendum, he looks quite likely to survive another cronyism story involving the current Irish government.
The news headlines were dominated in the latter part of the week by the missiles strikes on the Syrian regime by the United States, the United Kingdom and France. I've already commented on that here. I will cover that topic in the next Weekly Review when I can assess the fallout in Westminster and potentially even in the US Congress.
The 8th Amendment referendum campaign is gaining momentum on both sides. The odds have almost continually tightened since I punted on No in January at 15/2. At this stage I am leaning towards it passing albeit by a tight margin. I won't elaborate further now as I plan to do an extensive preview in the near future.
Jim Daly, the Minister of State for Mental Health and Older People, caused a small furore within Fine Gael when he claimed he had no ideological objection to a future coalition with Sinn Fein;
“I have no ideological objection to Sinn Féin being part of a government,"....... "I just think, on a policy platform, it would be very difficult to agree a programme for government between Fine Gael and Sinn Féin"......"But, look, politics is the art of doing – and who knows?”
However, these comments were quickly rebuked by the Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar;
“The Government will not go in with Sinn Féin under any circumstances. It's not a consideration. It's not a desire, it's not a circumstance being considered,”
I can not see this happening after the next election. If current trends continue, it is conceivable that Fine Gael will be much closer to a majority than they are presently. A coalition would be damaging to both parties while they are politically incompatible currently. I have long thought a Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein coalition is feasible if the numbers add up but at the moment I don't think that potential coalition would have 50%+1 of the Dail seats.
Setting aside the Syria strikes it was a quiet week with some jockeying for publicity over the Brexit vote. This seems to be a lost cause at this stage. There will be major votes in the future in parliament on the final Brexit deal and these may have a serious impact on the UK's future economic and political trajectory.
However to continually campaign for another Brexit referendum seems unhelpful and will distract from domestic issues that need to be addressed as well as complications that still exist in the UK/EU negotiations over the final arrangement after the UK leaves.
With the Irish and British parliaments on Easter recess it was a quieter week than the previous few but a few things still caught my eye...
The anti-Semitism scandal in the Labour party continues to rumble on. I personally think it's quite contrived and has been used to continually hammer Jeremy Corbyn.
While there have certainly been anti-Semitic posts and statements by members of the party, it seems almost incredible that the attack has focused almost solely on Jeremy Corbyn's leadership. Overall, March has been a bad month for Labour and the Tories have led in six of the eight polls in the month.
The only consolation for Corbyn is that little has changed fundamentally and that it is hardtop envisage this charge continuing to land for another four weeks, when the local election take place across the UK with a heavy concentration in London.
These results should provide Corbyn with a boost and again bring Theresa May under pressure.
Unfortunately, the main story of the last week was over a rape trial in Belfast where the four defendants were acquitted. Their celebrity status meant that every statement and testimony was analysed closely.
It was a very depressing trial to follow and the fact that rape trials in the UK are currently not behind closed doors didn't help. The level of outage it provoked across the whole island will hopefully lead to change in the future in the North's rape trials.
The shooting last Friday in Gaza of hundreds of unarmed protestors was an international disgrace. I have very little doubt that some of the protestors were actively seeking to antagonize the Israeli soldiers and potentially to escalate the conflict.
That said, the response from the Israeli side was horrifying and needs to be condemned by the United Nations and all the major nations. Unfortunately, the silence since Friday has been deafening and I don't expect this to change. There is meant to be another protest on each of the next few Fridays. Hopefully there isn't a repeat of last weeks massacre....