Edited by Martha Evans
By Callum Christie
There has been discussion about whether COVID-19 will lead to a new Cold War between America and China, and if this will lead to World War III. A new Cold War is a strong possibility, but a World War is highly unlikely.
A new Cold War between America and China is possible. China’s share of the global economy is rising as is their geopolitical capital and military spending. The Belt and Road Initiative shows this perfectly, with China investing in Africa, South East Asia, and Europe. The BRI ensures Chinese resource and food security in the long term while growing China’s economy and influence in emerging markets. All this increases China’s influence abroad and challenges American hegemony.
China’s Foreign Policy is becoming more assertive, particularly in South-East Asia. It imposed sanctions on Australia for calling for a COVID-19 enquiry, imposed laws on Hong Kong bypassing the legislative council and has harshly criticised nations who even utter “Wuhan virus” instead of COVID-19. Further action in the South China Sea and against Taiwan may follow if there is little retaliation. Globally, the BRI has been criticised for using “Debt-trap diplomacy” to its advantage.
Despite this, China’s foreign policy does not show much interest in world domination. It has fewer foreign military bases than Britain and France, let alone America. It does not preach its system abroad, quite the opposite, China emphasises the importance of respecting state’s sovereignty in their domestic affairs. While China will become a superpower, there is little indication they seek to impose their system abroad like the USSR; Beijing is far more concerned with ideological implementation domestically than abroad, Xinjiang the most extreme example.
China’s rise is a challenge for America and the World. Rising powers challenging established ones has resulted in war, the Thucydides’ Trap. This risk cannot be ignored; history can easily repeat itself if leaders are allowed to sleepwalk into deadly conflict. In Graham Allison’s study, 12 out of 16 historical cases ended in catastrophic war.
By Tim Neill, edited by Martha Evans
When the order initially came down from Boris Johnson, I'm hesitant to admit that my initial thought was that it would be roughly 6-8 weeks before things started to open back up. Aberdeen was fairly isolated from the other major Scottish population centres and there was an assumption on my part that the city wouldn't see any major impact from COVID-19.
Now it is early September and this seems like a foolish thought. Beyond this however one thing was immediately obvious was the differing approaches taken by the governments north and south of the border.
This all goes back to the independence referendum of 2014. This was unquestionably the most important moment in recent Scottish history because of how it showcased the desire for Scottish independence among 45% of the voter turnout that. The SNP know that with how the climate has changed since 2014 that they can secure a comfortable win in future. Even if it could be argued the reason the pro-independence vote was so high in the first place was down to the unionists not fielding a strong enough campaign.
This feeds directly into how the Scottish Government has handled the pandemic. Much as Nicola Sturgeon and company initially delivered much clearer messaging and guidance it was all a political move to gain good press from the more cautious among the Scottish population and get that second referendum on the table. However, they have been changes in the national attitude as the months went by. As lockdown in England began to ease with Scotland progressing at a much slower rate there is an argument to be had related to the effectiveness of the extreme caution showcased.
Then the Aberdeen Coronavirus cluster hit.
Aberdeen has become something of a ghost town over the past several years. The local economies reliance on North Sea oil has dried up significantly. It is the kind of city where little of interest happens on a regular basis. That was until an offshore worker directly disobeyed government guidelines and went to a local bar after testing positive for Covid-19.
Living through a localised lockdown was a somewhat odd experience after five months of the national equivalent. Unlike national lockdown the majority of non-essential shops outside of bars and restaurants remained open. This was devastating for the restaurants that had to automatically close after just reopening especially given limited participation in the governments UK wide Eat Out to Help Out scheme. There was something wonderfully ironic about Aberdeen being one of the first places to enforce local lockdown despite the Scottish Governments more cautious approach. From my perspective an extra three weeks of local lockdown seemed relatively straight forward.
The Scottish Government approach to lockdown was a lot more cautious than their neighbours south of the border. This was done entirely to gain political capital. A more cautious approach proved ineffective once news of the Aberdeen coronavirus cluster came through.
The evolution of the story and the ensuing local lockdown is a good indicator for the fact that's regardless of approach to a particular problem you can't plan for individual choices even on a national government level.
By Tom Guyton-Day
The arguments over requiring ID to vote and the resulting potential for voter suppression has been raging for a while now, but really, I want to talk about something very different, though connected. How the new moves towards requiring ID to carry out a fundamental human right shows the Conservative Party to be heading into a truly illiberal direction.
In May 2010, which feels like a half millennium distance from today, after Brexit, independence referendums, and all sorts of reforms – some good, some bad, brought in under the Liberal-Tory coalition, the then Home Secretary – later Prime Minister – Theresa May, announced that within 100 days of government, this new Tory led government would surge forward and scrap identity cards, giving no refund to those that had already purchased their £30 pieces of plastic and they’d also scrap the national citizens register altogether.
Good news for being left alone you might think. Now I can, if I feel like it, disappear into the Scottish wilderness and raise sheep for a living, perhaps live a subsistence lifestyle and just – perhaps ignore the world. And why the bloody hell not? My right isn’t it?
The move to scrap this sounded like a big win for those fighting to be left alone by the previously fast-growing state under the Brown-Blair years. It was a mark the Tory Government of the day would not seek to observe, watch, and keep track of its citizens, allowing them privacy and freedom to roam. Oh, what a time it was.
Now, the Government is fast tracking its new scheme to force voters to present that they are whom they are supposed to be, to the people they have been nodding to at every vote since they turned 18 (or possibly 21 if you’re older than me).
This is all in aid of fighting voter fraud. A genuine problem.
There were, in entirety, 266 people in 2018 investigated and the one whole person convicted for election related offences, according to the Electoral Commission website.
These horrendous people, who risk disrupting the voting of the millions of hard-working Brits who pay taxes and vote fairly, are surely worth the trouble of millions now having to apply for citizenship cards, driving licences they may not use, or stump up the cash for the brand new, “oven ready” blue/grey Passports (all yours for a hefty £80). Because you’re going on holiday this year, right…?
This move to fight peanut warriors of voter fraud have now been smashed to smithereens with sledgehammer movements that are likely to disenfranchise whole drafts of people – from the homeless, those without cars or passports, and everyone in between.
So, not only is this an attack on a list of civil liberties by the back door, but also a ridiculous policy measure that will hurt the poorest and most vulnerable, all to stop 266 people (most of whom were never actually convicted) who – even if they organised properly to vote in one place – were never really going to impact the democracy of this country.
Peanuts, walnuts – choose your nut. Sledgehammer. Death of the right to vote for just being you, a naked man without wealth or culture, and an end to saying, “I’ve had enough government for the next twenty years”. Oh, what a time it was.
To find out more about voter suppression:
Or to register to vote:
By Callum Christie
As peaceful protests continue in Belarus, the West is considering its response. Russia has already put its cards down: restricting debt while offering a reserve of national guard troops to help if Moscow warrants it.
This second part is important; Putin is unlikely to put himself in political-harm’s way to save a man he has never been particularly fond of.
Much literature has been written on Putin’s foreign policy and what his overall aims are. One has become abundantly clear: it must be a win, thereby strengthening Putin’s political standing at home.
Despite the fact he is a dictator, a social contract remains between the Kremlin and the Russian people, keeping Lukashenko in power is hardly a win, certainly not if it costs money and soldiers. Although, this dynamic completely changes if the West gets heavily involved. Then it becomes an opportunity to show its strength in the region it calls its neat abroad, its very own sphere of influence.
If you want to understand a protest, look at the flags being waved. The Belarus opposition has opted for the red and white Belarusian flag as it has long been the symbol of opposition to Lukashenko.
The flags not involved. The EU flag or any others associated with the West. Without Western involvement, Russia has little reason to try and crush a revolution. Russia already has expensive frozen conflicts in the Donbass, remains stuck in Syria at a time when finances are being drained by COVID-19. Add on the cost of corruption which, following deeply unpopular pension reforms, lead to protests. Additionally, with large-scale protests entering their fourth week, why would Putin risk Russian troops in a major debacle abroad? Troops can only hold back protestors for so long.
Of course, everyone points to Ukraine and Crimea. Belarus is not Ukraine. Politically, economically, geographically, and culturally the 2 are quite different in the Russian psyche: Ukraine was the breadbasket of Russia while Crimea was the cradle of Russian civilisation. Contrast this with Belarus, only not a part of Russia after World War I and then at the centre of Eastern theatre of World War II, a land which was bulldozed by the Nazis and then violently retaken by the Red Army with much suffering and lives lost throughout. Belarus was rebuilt in the Soviet image but being landlocked its economy was not comparable with Ukraine.
The protest committee has rejected EU help, a wise move which shows these leaders are not amateurs but know their environment. There is also the practical point that Belarus is economically far away from even being considered for candidate status to join the EU.
If this revolution is to succeed, it must be bland, not colourful. Putin viewed Western support of the colour revolutions in Ukraine and Georgia as a deep encouragement on Russia sovereignty, despite these actions being by sovereign nations. However, that is a whole other debate. This revolution should be allowed to grow organically.
The reports of protestors being shot, beaten and raped are horrible and disgusting, the SMOH and Belarussian KGB are disgusting, inhuman barbarians but, as hard and immoral as it feels, the West should not give these monsters an excuse to continue their bestial ways.
If the West stays out of Belarus, a corrupt dictator, supposedly Europe’s last if you ignore Orbán and Putin, could fall. As protests continue, the security apparatus become less and less willing and able to defend a regime they know to be unpopular. The protest committee are hardly radicals; hopefully, a peaceful transition of power can be found.
By Tom Guyton-Day
Why I, an NUS delegate, believe the NUS and the entire way that student unions are organised up and down the country need deep reform. The NUS is designed to represent students but really just parades in much the same way the Egyptian Government did under British rule. A puppet state, propped up by the Tory Government.
The National Union of Students, or NUS, was founded on 10th February 1922 and has existed since then in different forms – changing agendas from providing cheap beer to rowdy students, to its current form of targeting and campaigning for a vast array of social campaigns – Black Lives Matter to various mental health campaigns. However, I want to focus more on the micro NUS – the humble Student Union, or Guild as they’re often termed.
My time at university was generally a good one – a blast that I won’t forget at all – so much so that I'm starting a masters at University of Exeter to keep the train going a little longer (shh don’t tell my parents). However, one thing I really want to highlight is how, at my university and many others, the Student Union was really no more than an arm of the university, giving legitimacy to university actions – with student support from the SU. This being the SU with a turnout of pathetically low numbers that in a General Election, the Government would be laughed out of office by mass protest.
At my university, the SU was an arm of the University – nothing less than that. Legally, it was an independent organisation and acted solely in the interests of my fellow students. This was true in name but when you dig deeper, you may notice that every SU in the country is heavily funded by their respective university – often through the yearly grant. No SU President (or executive as they’re often called now… for whatever PC reason) is really ever independent of the pressures of the university.
I often asked, “why are the SU not taking their students out on strike and demanding lower tuition fees?” – surely the biggest thing people cared for – how much they’re paying for maybe ten hours of lectures and seminars a week. Monstrous, I thought. But no, they cared about having little tea parties and throwing exhibition events – and often showing students around…
I remember often being warned by other students at the top of the SU to be careful not to further annoy the Vice-Chancellor or “things could happen”. Part of me was very suspicious of these rumours but they did keep me in check to some extent – after all I wanted to graduate. I always had a very good relationship with the VC of my University – Dominic Shellard, famous for his tea parties of the chosen ones… and I wasn’t hampered by enjoying such occasions and often being critical of him.
It does beg the question though, why were the SU so flimsy at actually demanding better of the University? Were they poor political leaders, did they not care, did they not have the time to do anything?
I’ve come to the conclusion that student unions are poor wastes of money. Not in their own right. They should in theory serve a very key purpose – to represent students but my experience is that they are often so heavily funded by the university they are so attached – literally stitched as an arm rather than an independent union – that they really fail in their primary purpose.
The privately - run nightclubs nearby did a far better job at running nights out for thirsty freshers and often the SU just got in the way of independent societies functioning properly. We love a health and safety exec everyone… but actually what we needed – what we wanted – were lower fees and more political power. Instead, we got university lunches and crap union nights out that the local clubs did far better at.
By Josh Trood, edited by Martha Evans
The NHS, a pinnacle of national pride throughout the COVID pandemic. So much so that their most recent blunder has gone virtually unnoticed by most news outlets.
The NHS People Plan was released and set out a vision for improving working conditions for NHS staff in England to boost recruitment and tackle long-standing shortages of staff. It stated: “the workforce disability equality standard has begun to shine a light on the difficulties that colleagues with disabilities and long-term health conditions face.” Going on to add: “but there remain challenges. For example, we know that the majority of staff who identify as LGBTQ+ do not feel confident enough to report their sexuality on their employment record.”
This was the only mention of LGBTQ+ people in the entire document. NHS England has since changed the online copy of the document, adding “other staff groups also face significant challenges” before the reference to LGBTQ+ staff.
While the conflation of LGBTQ+ individuals with people with disabilities and long-term health conditions is reminiscent of something written in the 1950s; this undermines the advances made in society by both of these marginalised groups.
This leads us to question… was this segment approved by an NHS disability panel? And how come a plan that set out to improve the conditions of staff, including minority groups, only has one mention of the LGBTQ+ community in it? Why do LGBTQ+ peoples in the NHS still face ‘significant challenges’?
The NHS has become infallible to the British public, but it is time we addressed the institutional homophobia and transphobia that takes place within the NHS.
In a joint 2016 report put together by The Association of LGBT Doctors and Dentists (GLADD) and the British Medical Association (BMA) outlining ‘the experience of lesbian, gay and bisexual doctors in the NHS’ they found that over 70% of LGBTQ+ NHS employees have experienced one or more types of discrimination that falls short of harassment or abuse in the last two years.
12% say they have experienced harassment and/or abuse in one or more forms over the past two years, with only 25% of them reporting the abuse. A further 12% say they have suffered from employment discrimination, with only one fifth of that group taking the matter further.
With these worrying statistics, it is unsurprising that only 10% of LGBTQ+ NHS staff feel that they work in an environment that is accepting of their orientation, and only 25% of respondents being entirely open about their sexuality in their working environment. It is this type of everyday marginalisation of LGBTQ+ people, within the NHS workforce, that shows how the organisation has become out of touch and why a ‘drafting error’ such as this has been allowed to happen.
From the same GLAAD and BMA report some personal experiences from staff have been recorded. Details of a paediatric nurse, who had a child snatched away from him by a female peer saying to him ‘the child had enough problems already’. Unfortunately, this could imply that this woman was either insinuating that the child could somehow contract the man’s homosexuality, or the disgustingly common trope that gay men are likely to be paedophiles. When he was talking to others about his experience, he was told by a consultant that ‘homosexuality is a sin’ in defence of the female college’s actions.
Additionally, a medical student talks about her experience as a lesbian studying under a GP. In a tribunal assessing the cause of death for a gay patient, their partner recounted their relationship and their last night together. The GP turned around to the group of medical students behind her and said she found the whole thing ‘very uncomfortable’ and when questioned about her comments she clarified that she was not referring to the patient’s suicide but ‘the gay stuff’.
From the report it can be said that these examples are all too common, showing a lack of empathy and care towards LGBTQ+ individuals throughout the NHS. In an environment where LGBTQ+ staff can see their colleagues talk about the community they are a part of in such a way, one can’t be surprised that they do not speak up when it comes to matters such as publication.
A subject that should have special significance in this discussion is that of transphobia in the NHS. With the GRA reforms shelved, the future of services, specifically for trans people on the NHS, has been called into question. With a three-year waiting list becoming the norm up and down the country, the idea of transitioning for many is a long way off. The question is, is this institutionalised transphobia or structural issues in the NHS? Well the answer is both. From the 2015 “treatment and support of transgender and nonbinary people across the health and care sector: Symposium report” from NHS England themselves, the main issue facing trans and non-binary people in the NHS is a lack of knowledge on the issue held by GPs, as well as their own personal beliefs getting in the way of a gender identity clinic referral.
Are these waiting lists stemming from both systematic underfunding from the government or ignorance of NHS staff? With NHS England not providing enough oversight of the conduct of their GPs, and GPs allowing their personal beliefs to influence their diagnosis of gender dysphoria. The NHS must work to prevent GPs acting on their own personal beliefs and acting as gate keepers of gender identity.
What is most telling is that in this same report discussing the shortcomings of the NHS surrounding trans and non-binary individuals, they consistently misgender patients, calling non-binary patient ‘Jude’ he/him instead of they/them.
So, while this most recent blunder from the NHS in terms of their stance on LGBTQ+ individuals, it is reflective of a much wider issue across the country. Drastic overhaul of how the NHS treats marginalized groups is necessary for them to adequately treat these groups, not just medically but with the respect that we all deserve.
By Owen W. Jones, edited by Tom Guyton-Day
When the Orthodox Conservatives launched, Tory Twitter went into meltdown. There was a palpable tension on the part of the socially liberal wing of our party, particularly – from my perspective – from LGBT members. As a gay Tory myself, I empathise with the initial anxiety; “family values”, “gender ideology”, and other such tropes have been used by social conservative movements, parties, and governments across the world to vilify LGBT people. Indeed, when the Orthodox Conservatives launched, I personally was interested but slightly cautious, having no idea what kind of specific views the group may or may not hold. So, I engaged with the group, read their writings, got talking to its members and many of their views aligned with my own.
People often ask me – especially because I am gay – what social conservatism is to me, and why I consider myself to be a social conservative. Ultimately, I believe in strong families (this includes same-sex couples and their children), I take a compassionate and holistic pro-life stance in regards to abortion and euthanasia, I believe in strong borders and celebration of national and regional identities, the maintenance of traditions, and I believe in the salience of the Christian faith in my own politics and in the way Western societies function. As a gay man, I feel no conflict between these values and my own sexuality. Likewise, I have faced no hostility from any social conservative because of it, and have actually received nothing but kindness, goodwill, and friendship from social conservatives I have met on Twitter and real life. It may therefore seem that I am naïve to the realities of social conservatism, but I am not.
Ultimately, conservatism is not simply about conserving the status quo. If it was, then American conservatives would support Obamacare and the membership of our own party would have supported conserving Britain’s membership of the EU. Conservatism is Burkean; it views society as in need of strong and fair social order, places high value on community, and encourages free enterprise. As such, socially liberal views are not inherently incompatible with conservatism, I am not trying to imply that. But, it highlights the validity of the socially conservative tradition also. I am not a gatekeeper – having only been a conservative for around a year and I have no interest in telling anyone which party they do or do not belong in – but I take issue with reductionist and patronising attitudes towards social conservatism and its adherents.
My deference to tradition is not a blind loving of it, nor do I believe that to be the case of most social conservatives. My personal philosophy is that tradition should not stand in the way of necessary progress and that progress should not erode tradition for its own sake. Therefore, I believe it was necessary to give same-sex couples the right to marry; same-sex marriage hurts no one and provides legal equality for LGBT people therefore tradition for its own sake should not have been the reason to prevent it. However, I celebrate the nuclear family because it is a tried and tested, beautiful system of love and support and eroding this for its own sake under the guise of progress is wrong.
In life we have choices. We can choose how to react, how to think, and how to engage with a variety of topics. We all have our natural, inherent values, and if your values are liberal to their core then that is great for you, I am not here to criticise that. What I ask is that you go beyond just tolerating other views and actually embrace them. This is the irony of this situation – liberal conservatives so often have rapidly jumped to conclusions about why and what we social conservatives believe, that it comes across as incredibly intolerant and illiberal. Engage in good faith and I am sure that you will receive the same in return.