Category Archives: Politics

Plymouth Enters Government

By Tobias Chalcraft

After decades of being confined to either the backbenches or the shadow cabinet, Plymouth has now found itself with elected representation working on the government frontbenches.

Johnny Mercer, MP for Plymouth Moor View, has spent some of the last few months supporting Boris Johnson’s campaign for Conservative party leader and Prime Minister, which saw his preferred candidate secure a victory with two-thirds of the votes.

Following royal ascent to the role, the PM splashed the front pages with his new cabinet, as he replaced a significant portion of ministers from Theresa May’s government with MPs that voted for Brexit in 2016 or, like Mercer, supported his leadership bid.

The extensive media coverage and Twitter trends are hardly surprising, with the new cabinet being one of the most diverse and featuring head-turning politicians like Priti Patel, who has been put in charge of keeping our country secure through her promotion to Home Secretary, after being sacked by Theresa May nearly two years ago for holding unofficial talks with the Israeli government.

However, there is another appointment which hasn’t made as many headlines. The Prime Minister has very recently created a government office for ‘Veterans Affairs’. This comes after pressure from the man who will be leading this department, Johnny Mercer, and his collaboration with the Sun newspaper which resulted in both leadership contenders, Mr Johnson and Jeremy Hunt, promising to create a new department which prioritised our Veterans.

Regardless of if you support him or not, Mr Mercer’s role as ‘Minister for Defence People and Veterans’ is the first time that an MP representing a Plymouth constituency has entered government in decades.

After the announcement of his appointment, the Plymouth MP said on Twitter that he “looks forward” to his role, whilst also pointing out that “It’s taken four years, but we finally have an Office for Veterans Affairs in the UK”. He also offered his gratitude to Tom Newton Dunn, the political editor of the Sun, for supporting the campaign to establish this new office.

Some of his supporters will also be quick to point out that being an ex-serviceman and possessing a clear passion on this topic, as demonstrated through his declaration to stop supporting Theresa May’s government until the prosecution of Northern Ireland veterans were halted, will provide the Plymouth MP with the qualifications to excel in this role.

Critics of the new government may see this appointment as offering some comfort, with Mercer having previously said that he wishes to see a more centre-leaning Conservative party which reaches out to more young voters.

Meanwhile, Mr Mercer’s opponents may argue that by joining Boris Johnson’s government, and thus accepting the government’s aim to leave the UK with or without a deal, he has abandoned his goal to reach out to younger voters which predominantly voted to remain in the EU.

Overall, will Johnny Mercer keep his centre-leaning position and, more importantly, will he be able to bring Boris with him? Or has the offer of a government position moved his values towards those of his government colleagues?

Plymouth’s Three Musketeers: Who Represents Plymouth in Westminster?

By Tobias Chalcraft

Lacking in knowledge on Plymouth’s elected representatives in Westminster? If so, look no further than Generation Plymouth to give you a quick, non-biased summary of Plymouth’s three musketeers.

Plymouth is split into three different constituencies: Sutton & Devonport, Moor View & South West Devon. Plymouth Moor View covers the North of the city, South West Devon covers some of the East and Plymouth Sutton & Devonport covers the rest of Plymouth, including the city centre. Unlike cities such as Manchester or Bournemouth, which have been run by a single party for decades, our city likes to keep a more open mind when it comes to its politics.

Since 1997 the Conservatives and Labour parties have frequently struggled to hold Plymouth city council for longer than 3 years before being voted out of office, with the Tories’ tenure between 2007-2012 being the sole exception. This division is also represented in our MPs.

So, who are these three MPs representing Plymouth constituencies in Westminster? Firstly, Luke Pollard is the Labour Co-operative MP that has represented Plymouth Sutton & Devonport for the last two years, taking the seat from the Conservatives in 2017. In July 2018 Pollard joined Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow cabinet in a role shadowing the Conservative’s environmental policies; predominately flooding, coastal communities and fisheries. He has always voted against the government’s Brexit deal and argues the best solution to the Brexit deadlock is a second public vote, with remain as an option.

Pollard is a member of the transport select committee, which examines what the government gets up to in the Department of Transport. His current campaigns include making Plymouth Sound the first national marine park, extending the M5 further westwards and ensuring that the retired nuclear submarines in Devonport are recycled.

Representing Plymouth Moor View is Conservative backbencher Johnny Mercer, who has held the seat since the 2015 election, taking the seat off Labour. Earlier this year Mercer said he wouldn’t support the Conservative government until the prosecutions of Northern Ireland veterans are stopped. Since September 2017 Mercer has been a member of multiple defence committees and the Health & Social Care committee, which scrutinise both defence and health aspects of government actions respectively. His campaigns include persuading the government to have a newly commissioned navy fleet of type 26s based at Devonport and improving mental health services and veterans’ care.

Mercer voted against the government’s negotiated Brexit deal in the first parliamentary vote in January, but then switched to support the deal in the second and third ‘meaningful votes’. Furthermore, in the indicative votes that took place in March as a result of parliament seeking a solution to the Brexit deadlock that could receive a majority of MPs’ support, Mercer supported leaving the EU without a deal.

The third Plymothian musketeer is Sir Gary Streeter, Conservative backbencher MP for South West Devon. Streeter has held his seat since 1997, having held another Plymouth-based seat 1992-1997. Over his 27 years in parliament, Streeter has held multiple roles including shadowing Labour’s Secretary of State for International Development (1998-2001).

Sir Gary currently sits on the Panel of Chairs, committee of Privileges and committee on Standards, and has sat on Environment and Home Affairs committees in the past. Streeter supports leaving the EU with a deal, having supported the aforementioned deal in all three votes. Campaigns supported by the Devon MP include moving more troops to his constituency, increasing funding for local schools and improving rail links in the South West.

So, there we have it, a simple overview of the three Plymouth MPs. Although our three musketeers don’t necessarily see eye-to-eye on most topics, our unique city is represented by people from somewhat differing backgrounds, political parties and even views on Brexit – would you believe it?

Do you know who your MP is? Head to https://www.theyworkforyou.com to find out who represents you and see their voting record to help you decide if they deserve your vote at the next election.

European Elections 2019 Opinion: Where do we go from here?

By Mitch Gregory

Last month a whole continent went to the polls in the second largest democratic process in the world. Considering these elections were never meant to take place in the United Kingdom, they sure did cause a stir.

Arguments over whether Leave or Remain won the elections, as if that matters, have been flown across newspapers an twitter alike; the casualties of this election have been significant: a Prime Minister, a Government, potentially two political parties, and the Leader of the Opposition.

So where do we go from here? This isn’t House of Cards, there is no big season finale which will nicely tie up loose ends and plot points will converge to resolution, no, it is seemingly increasingly more likely that the country will end this year more divided and angry than we entered it. Who knew that was possible.

If we look at the options we’ll likely face over the coming months, a solution doesn’t jump out. Firstly, a ‘People’s Vote’; seen by some as an attempt to overturn the 2016 referendum, seen by others as a way of breaking the impasse, and seen by most as a waste of time which will only divide the country further. Especially if Remain were to win. A second referendum would work to fix the country if Leave won again: who could argue with two victories? But if Remain were to win it’d be even. Would we need a third one to break the tie? The only way another vote could conclusively end is if the options were between Theresa May’s, albeit dead, deal or No-Deal, described recently by Tory leadership hopeful, Jeremy Hunt, as ‘political suicide’.

Secondly a General Election. If the Conservatives win we’re back to square one with nowhere to go. If Labour win we’ll certainly need to delay Brexit again and if one looks at the Labour Party’s policy on Brexit it doesn’t offer us much more clarity than we already have—so an election, while fun, probably isn’t the best way forward. Again, the only way an election would work is if there was some kind of SNP/Labour/Liberal Democrat/Green coalition wherein Labour were forced to adopt a second referendum. But then again, see above for why that isn’t as clean-cut.

For me, a mere observer, the answer must be compromise. Not a Theresa May style “Give me what I want or no” compromise, nor a Jeremy Corbyn “Let me stay on this fence” compromise. A real one, with the European Union. A Norway-style Brexit for instance, or something of that sort. That way we will be further away from the EU than we are at current, we won’t be out, yet, but we will be on our way to leaving. Sure, Brexiteers may find that hard to stomach but which would they put first: their political project, or the economic, social, political stability of the country. Unfortunately, the answer even to that is as clear as fog.