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Patriotism and Politics: A week in modern Britain

The notion of ‘Britishness’ and ‘British Values’ has been a mater of debate for many years and in recent years the teaching or espousing of ‘British Values’ has been statutory in schools and childcare provision across Britain.

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Patriotism and Politics A week in modern Britain

Two weeks ago, I filled out my online Census form, feeling proud to participate and be seen by my government in national statistics and for the opportunity to be included in the national picture of Britain. I dutifully ticked the box to say I was English, not British. Given the choice, I have always expressed my nationality this way as I have no known link to Scotland or Wales so English seemed to describe my identity with the British Isles. My father was always a proud Yorkshireman and I was brought up knowing my siblings had the privilege of being able to play cricket for that proud county. Being English was an integral part of my identity along with an inability to watch penalty shoot-outs, listening to Test Match Special and drinking milk laden tea. My patriotism was never on display nor called into question. And all this occurred without a flag being visible anywhere in my home or school at all. 

In recent weeks however, the privilege and patriotism, it seems, is no longer accepted unless it is on display. Last week, the UK Government changed the law to stipulate that the Union Flag must be flown from all government buildings on a daily basis. This a departure from the previous practise of flying the Union flag on specific national holidays. The press release stated that “The Union flag unites us as a nation and people rightly expect it to be flown above UK Government buildings.” This was news to me, having lived in various places across the UK, I have never once in over 40 years heard anyone, friends, families or colleagues, express the desire for flags to be on public buildings. I’ve seen them flown with enthusiasm and pride on Royal Events, national moments such as the 2012 Olympics or even during the BritPop movement of the 1990s. The lack of flags has never been mentioned or questioned. Indeed, every two years when there is an important international football tournament, it’s the St George’s cross and not the Union flag which waves from cars and windows in my local area. In many other sporting events, it’s the England team being cheered along. The absence of the Union flag is never mentioned then.

The reasons for the new flag ruling was elaborated upon, Local Government Secretary Robert Jenrick claimed that “our nation’s flag is a symbol of liberty, unity and freedom that creates a shared sense of civic pride.” This must have been news to the people of Scotland and Wales and Northern Ireland, whose own national flags are celebrated and flown with regularity. It only takes a short trip over the Tamar Bridge to see that in Cornwall it is the St Piran’s Cross, and not the Union flag, which is flown with pride. This statement and action of the government seeks to build a narrative which, for the majority of the country, does not exist. With a few words, the pride of the home nations is minimised and diversity of opinion is silenced. 

Our ‘proud’ history includes many events which have caused pain, hurt and damage to others, including those living within nations which are now the modern UK. Denying that history, or minimising the legacy it has left, does not make its reality less true. Britain is a diverse nation made up of a variety of national and regional identities within itself which have been enriched in previous decades by immigration from across the former empire. To deny that diversity is to fail to accept the true nature of life on our island. Without being aware of the true reality, how can that love and patriotism be meaningful?

The notion of ‘Britishness’ and ‘British Values’ has been a mater of debate for many years and in recent years the teaching or espousing of ‘British Values’ has been statutory in schools and childcare provision across Britain. In 2014, the Department of Education, defined ‘fundamental British values’ as:

  • democracy
  • the rule of law
  • individual liberty
  • mutual respect for and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs and for those without faith.

Schools became duty bound to promote these values and report any student apparently behaving contrary to them. Flags were not integral in this guidance, it seemed.

But just as the world turns, so do the tides in politics and suddenly, after some BBC presenters titled together over the sudden ubiquitous appearance of flags in governmental intervals, the flag became a symbol of resistance to ridicule. Within the space of a few hours, the new directive was sent. Never mind that the Queen herself does not fly the union flag when in residence, union flags were suddenly of vital significance to national pride.

It has not been outlined exactly how the union flag being flown will benefit ordinary British people. In a time of over a decade of austerity, children in need of Free School Meals even in school holidays, rising unemployment and a global health pandemic – it speaks volumes that the flag should become a hot button issue. It is simply a case of style over substance; appearance over knowledge. The union flag is being used to divide people – to make them support or oppose the recent move (which no previous government has ever seen the need of before) and is part of the binary nature of politics. Instead of polite discourse and respectful dialogue we have descended into mockery and farce. This situation is polarising views further and entrenching viewpoints. There is, within mainstream discourse, little room for meaningful discussion and debate. Mockery leads to vitriol and so the cycle continues. 

Amid this divisive discourse, the strengths of Britain are being slowly erased. History is being forgotten or used as a tool to wield in an argument. Because Britain has, at many times, been far from united and failing to acknowledge that truth is a true recipe for disaster and gives the conditions for cracks in the union to appear. Regional, national and international identities have been retained despite a person living in Britain and having a British passport. This plurality is the very backbone of the union. 

Britain is a country of diversity and some of that diversity was achieved through coercion and force. The union flag is itself a composite of separate identities and as such is a symbol of national diversity. But rather than using it as a mode of suppressing ridicule or differences of opinion, the diversity it represents should be respected before the Kingdom no longer feels united in its aims.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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A teacher, mother and radio presenter. Is interested in education, equality and community relations. Currently
living in London.

Economics

World Food Programme suspends food assistance to 1.7 million in South Sudan

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Conflict combined with poor weather in South Sudan has led to 7.74 million people facing a hunger crisis.

Despite the country facing food insecurity, the World Food Programme (WFP) has suspended food assistance to 1.7 million people in South Sudan. They require $426 million to be able to feed 6 million people in South Sudan throughout 2022. At the start of 2022, the WFP projected that it would be able to assist 6.2 million people in the country but has failed at achieving this target. This suspension of funding comes at one of the worst times for South Sudan, a newly independent country which not only has been facing internal conflicts for many years but also faced three years of flooding, a localised drought and like the rest of the world, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and soaring global food prices. Therefore, not only is food not available in the country, but it also comes at a much higher price making the country food insecure. This cut also comes at a time where South Sudan is facing lean season, which is the season between planting crops and harvesting them. During this season, food is already scarce.

The suspension of aid by the WFP is due to a funding shortage of $426 million. It is important to note that the primary source of WFP’s funding comes from governments around the world. This funding is entirely voluntary, meaning that the countries have the freedom to cut anytime they wish.

The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), a human rights group recently ruled that the world’s 10 most neglected crises are all in Africa with South Sudan being the 4th most neglected crisis. The Secretary General of the NRC, Jan Egeland said “The war in Ukraine has demonstrated the immense gap between what is possible when the international community rallies behind a crisis, and the daily reality for millions of people suffering in silence within these crises on the African continent that the world has chosen to ignore,”

The hunger crisis the people of South Sudan face is not new, rather food insecurity has been a challenge for years now. In 2017, South Sudan faced a famine and now another famine is predicted by the WFP this year if funding is not organised. Furthermore, South Sudan has recently been facing unrest which has only intensified the issue, leading to brutal violence upon civilians, including targeted attacks, gender-based violence, kidnappings and murders. This has led to nearly 2.3 million people fleeing to neighbouring countries whilst 1.87 million people remain internally displaced. Displacement continues to exacerbate the hunger crisis in South Sudan as many rely on food from their own land, something which is not possible during displacement. Internal conflict has thus meant that people have had to rely heavily on food assistance.

There have been many attempts for a peace agreement in the country, but so far, all these attempts have failed.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Economics

Is Rwanda a dumping ground for the UK?

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The UK is planning to send its illegal immigrants to Rwanda. In return, the country is paying the Government £120 million in the form of an economic development program. This controversial decision was made to deter any future illegal immigrants from entering the country via dangerous routes.

The East African country suffered genocide and civil war in 1994 and has been trying to recover since. The effort made by the country, however, was halted due to the pandemic.

Only recently, authorities in Rwanda prosecuted opposition members, commentators, and journalists for voicing their opinion. Anyone who doesn’t agree with the government is thrown in jail and threatened, and people have even mysteriously disappeared.

Rwanda is also one of the smallest countries in the world and the rate of population growth is already more than the country can handle. With 10,000 square miles and a population density of more than 1,000 per square mile, starvation and malnutrition is prevalent because the country struggles to feed its growing population. Accusations abound that the government has burned farmers’ fields that could not produce an adequate amount of crops. The country is obsessed with modernising whilst ignoring its internal issues.

Poverty is a huge concern. Its true extent is unknown as the government has been accused of misinterpreting the actual data. Similarly, the education level of children is low with a high drop-out rate.

It’s plain to see that Rwanda is struggling with its own domestic problems, and now the UK is turning the country into a dumping ground for illegal immigrants which will surely set the economy back. The plan has been accused of being unethical and cruel.

The UN Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons, Siobhán Mullally talked about the dangers of increased human trafficking when large numbers of people are transferred from one country to another and how easy it is for traffickers to pick vulnerable victims in this situation when they have no control over where they are going. “People seeking international protection, fleeing conflict, and persecution, have the right to seek and enjoy asylum – a fundamental tenet of international human rights and refugee law,” she said. Even Prince Charles, heir to the British throne criticised the decision made by the government calling it “appalling”.

There have also been accusations that the UK is not playing its part in its handling of its refugee problem. Chief Executive of Refugee Action, Tim Naor Hilton said that the government was “offshoring its responsibilities onto Europe’s former colonies instead of doing our fair share to help some of the most vulnerable people on the planet”.

Meanwhile, UK-based non-profits run by Congolese nationals in the Diaspora sent a letter to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, in which they expressed their fear that the money sent by the UK government could be used to propagate the war in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo instead of improving Rwanda.

According to Phil Clark, Professor of International Politics at SOAS University of London, the government of Rwanda could use this deal as leverage. So whenever the government is accused of human rights violations they can threaten to pull out of the deal. Already once, the country has “threatened to pull its peacekeepers out of Darfur when foreign donors were threatening to pull foreign aid out of Rwanda.”

Whilst the focus is on Rwanda violating human rights, the country is known however, for looking after its refugees well enough. The problem is that the UK is using the country to shed itself of its own responsibility while Rwanda is not equipped to deal with a large number of refugees.

The irony of the situation cannot be lost to global observers as, “Only a couple of hundred years ago, the situation was reversed. Ships full of Africans were being forcefully deported from their homeland to Britain, Europe, and the Americas. Now, the descendants of slave traders are paying the descendants of their would-be slaves to take a burden off their hands.”

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Israel

Israel’s Collapsing Government and Election Cycles

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PikiWiki Israel 7260 Knesset Room

The Knesset, Israel’s parliament, is set to dissolve next year, with Yair Lapid to become the caretaker Prime Minister. With a shared goal to oust the allegedly corrupt Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, eight political parties formed the most diverse coalition in Israeli history over a year ago.

With the Knesset set to dissolve, another round of elections will be held in the fall. These will be the fifth elections held in less than four years and has supporters of Netanyahu celebrating. Despite an ongoing corruption trial, Netanyahu could be back in power by the end of this year. 

According to Yohanan Plesner, a former member of the Knesset, Lapid could automatically become Prime Minister until a new government is formed, if the Knesset does indeed dissolve. However, if the election results are inconclusive, then Lapid would continue as Prime Minister until the next election.

 For Netanyahu to return to power, he would require at least 61 votes from current Knesset members. Many polls suggest Netanyahu’s Likud party will be the largest in the next Parliament, but they would not have enough allies to assemble a true parliamentary majority. This could lead to months of coalition negotiations.

If the Knesset dissolves, the new government elections will need to take place within three to five months. Since 1996, Israel has had elections, on average, every 2.6 years. Plesner, president of the Israel Democracy Institute,  stated “This ongoing crisis will not come to an end until Israel’s leaders put their political differences aside and enact long over-due electoral and constitutional reforms, such as making any attempt to initiate early elections dependent on a two-thirds majority in parliament and amending the current law that demands new elections when a budget fails to pass.”

The coalition of eight political parties has had a tough time uniting on voting decisions. Ideological differences and pressure from Netanyahu’s right wing alliance has already caused two members of the coalition to defect, which removed the coalition’s majority in Parliament. Many left wing and Arab members rebelled on key votes, making it impossible for the coalition to govern. Then finally last week, the government was unable to find enough votes to extend a two-tier legal system in the West Bank. This two tier system has differentiated between Israeli settlers and native Palestinians since 1967. 

Some Palestinian lawmakers were also rejoicing at the government’s collapse. An opposition lawmaker in the minority government, Aida Touma-Sulieman, shared her views saying “This government implemented a radical far-right policy of expanding settlements, destroying houses, and carrying out ethnic cleansing in the occupied territories. It threw crumbs to the Arabs in exchange for conceding fundamental political principles.”

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Daily Brief

The EU Approves Ukraine for Candidacy

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  • The EU has finally approved the application of Ukraine to become a candidate country for admission to the 27- country organization. Ukraine will now join the official candidate list, which already includes Albania, the Republic of North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Turkey. 
  • The US is expected to provide an additional $450m in security assistance to Ukraine. Which includes four more High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems. 
  • The EU and Norway have agreed to cooperate and provide the EU’s 27 countries with gas from Western Europe’s biggest provider. The EU imports roughly ⅕ of its gas from Norway compared to the 40% it was receiving from Russia. Currently, Russia has been cutting gas supplies to countries refusing to pay for it in roubles. 
  • Melbourne is considering utilizing its largely vacant $200m Center for National Resilience building to house hundreds of refugees fleeing war-torn Ukraine and Afghanistan. The center will only be able to temporarily house about 500 refugees from Afghanistan and about 200 from Ukraine. 
  • Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov thanked US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin after receiving and welcoming the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) from the United States. 
  • Nike joined other leading Western brands by formally making a full exit from Russia, three months after suspending its operations. Telecoms equipment maker Cisco is also planning to wind down business in Russia and Belarus as well.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Politics

Macron Loses Absolute Majority, What this Means for France

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President Emmanuel Macron and his centrist coalition lost absolute majority in France’s National Assembly legislative elections, only garnering 245 seats of the 577 in the lower house of parliament. Although the number of seats was more than other opposition parties, it’s over 100 less than what Macron and his party won in 2017 during his election. His affiliates and cabinet members which did not receive a seat in the election will be forced to resign. 

It has been over 20 years since a President in the country has not won the majority in the National Assembly. Now, the Assembly makes up a majority of left and right wing parties. The New Ecological and Social People’s Union party is ranked number two in terms of political power, and the National Rally party is ranked third. 

Prime Minister Elisabeth Bourne called the results “unprecedented” and stated the government would “work on building an action-oriented majority” by forming alliances within the National Party: “There is no alternative to that coalition to guarantee our country’s stability and enact the necessary reforms.” On the PM’s and Presidents to-do list include increasing the retirement age, pushing a pro-business outlook, and creating a more integrated European Union. 

What does the centrist loss mean for France? Much of President Macron’s plans are already opposed by rival parties, and the lack of majority in the National Assembly has the potential to make passing bills which align with Macron’s agenda much more difficult. Macron and the government will probably need to create alliances while also engaging in power sharing with other parties, although how the country plans to do so remains uncertain. 

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Women's Issues

Florida Sued over Abortion Laws by a Synagogue

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Florida Synagogue

A lawsuit filed by a synagogue in Palm Beach County on Friday argues that the new abortion law violates the religious freedom of Jews. It was filed by Congregation L’Dor Va-Dor.

The abortion law in Florida that will take effect on July 1st will ban most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. Previously, Florida allowed abortion for up to 24 weeks. The anti-abortion movement has been mostly led by Christian conservatives, but this lawsuit expresses that there is more than one religion in America.

Roe V. Wade case legalised abortion in 1973 in the United States. However, recently, a leaked draft opinion suggests that the court is trying to overturn Roe V. Wade, making abortion illegal in most cases. There are no exceptions in the cases of incest, rape, or human trafficking. But abortion will be allowed if the mother’s life is endangered or if two doctors determine that the foetus  has a foetal  abnormality.

According to the lawsuit, under Jewish law, abortion is “required if necessary to protect the health, mental or physical well-being of the woman”.

It also states, “The act prohibits Jewish women from practicing their faith free of government intrusion and this violates their privacy rights and religious freedom.”

A statement released by the Jewish community as a response to the abortion bans also condemns the decision as it goes against their religious views.

“Restricting access to reproductive health care impedes the freedom of religion granted by the First Amendment, including a Jewish person’s ability to make decisions in accordance with their religious beliefs,” states Rabbi Hara Person.

This is the second lawsuit against the recent abortion laws in Florida. The first lawsuit was filed by Planned Parenthood and other health centers for violating a person’s right to privacy, including “the right to abortion.”

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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