Hectic week where my attention was mostly focused on British politics. I am consciously avoiding the Cambridge Analytica scandal as I simply don’t have the knowledge or expertise to comment on it. Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be writing less articles and elaborating more here due to professional constraints…
A good week for the Conservative Party and Theresa May. David Davis and the government finally agreed to the Brexit transition deal with the European Union. While there have been further concessions on the British side, there wasn’t anything that could have served a as a rallying cry for the dissenters in the more extreme sides of the Leave and Remain factions of the party.
There was some major consternation over the acceptance by the UK government that fishing quotas will continue to be set by the EU during the transition period. There were grumblings of mutiny from the Sottish Tories led by Douglas Ross and supported by Ruth Davidson. However, May called the would be rebels into 10 Downing Street and she seems to have weathered that storm for now.
The end date for the transition period of December 31st, 2020 will provide businesses with just about enough certainty now to get their ducks in a row for the short to medium term as the UK will remain in the Single Market and Customs Union during this period.
I have written a few times now about how nothing has been agreed on the Irish Border and that we were heading towards a political earthquake that would probably lead to Theresa May losing her job. I have to say I am not so sure if this is the case now. May seems to have gotten most of her MPs a little more onside and while there is still a good chance she’ll lose some votes in parliament I don’t now see a heave taking place this year.
That said, the UK local elections on May 3rd may still be a major blow to the Tories and Theresa May’s leadership with Labour set to make major gains based on the consensus of most election gurus.
The chances of this happening though have slightly decreased over the last two weeks with Jeremy Corbyn taking flak from a number of flanks. There have been rows over his statement on the Salisbury attack, a fallout over an anti-Semitic mural and most recently his sacking of Owen Smith as shadow secretary for Northern Ireland.
From what I can deduce Owen Smith can have little complaint over his dismissal after penning an article in the Guardian that went against the Labour policy. Smith lost out to Corbyn in the last leadership contest in the summer of 2016. The relationship between the two has been uneasy since but the timing couldn’t be worse for Corbyn who is now beginning to see his party consistently poll behind the Tories (they’ve been behind in 5 of the 7 polls in March so far).
I will certainly come back to polling and the potential successes and failures of the main parties between now and May 3rd but I am a lot less confident that we will see any major changes in the British political landscape in the short term…
The two main stories in the US this week were the appointment of John Bolton as Trump’s new national security advisor and the March for Our Lives pro-gun control marches across the US and further afield yesterday.
John Bolton seems to be a particularly hawkish security advisor that will raise some eyebrows when some of his previous statements on North Korea and Iran are analysed;
“We have a very limited amount of time left before NorthKorea gains deliverable nuclear weapons. We’ve got to look at the very unattractive choice of using military force to deny them that capability,”
“The inconvenient truth is that only military action like Israel’s 1981 attack on Saddam Hussein’s Osirak reactor in Iraq or its 2007 destruction of a Syrian reactor, designed and built by North Korea, can accomplish what is required. Time is terribly short, but a strike can still succeed.”
On the March for Our Lives rallies it’s hard to assess what impact, if any, they will have now and at the US Congressional and Senate elections in November. Gun control is still such a divisive issue that, like Brexit in the UK, is not simply split evenly along party lines.
A very bad result for Fianna Fail (25% -4%) in today’s Sunday Business Post poll has thrown me slightly on how to read the last week in Irish politics. I was going to write about how Leo Varadkar and Fine Gael (33% +1%) are still looking a little sheepish over the Strategic Communications Unit but it seems the electorate don’t care about it as much as Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein (16% +2%) do. Fine Gael have hit at least 32% in almost every poll since November and Fianna Fail, under Michael Martin, currently look bereft of ideas about how to close that gap…