Mahathir’s back: are we going to see a revival of the Asian Values debate?

Originally published by Hong Kong Free Press on 12/05/2018.

The return of Mahathir Mohamad in Malaysia means we may see a revival of the Asian Values debate.

Earlier this week Malaysians went to the polls and voted into power the 92-year-old former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. In many respects the removal from power of the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) and its political allies is welcome news for democrats across the world.

 This is the first time that this coalition will be out of power since the country’s independence in the late 1950s. This prolonged one-party rule has no doubt encouraged illicit practices like gerrymandering and corruption in Malaysian politics. Yet, while voters gave the corrupt Prime Minister Najib Razak a kicking, his successor is no liberal democrat.

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Up the Workers?

A few news pieces have struck me on the back of last week’s local elections in England. All of which focus on the demographic changes in Labour's support base from working class voters to more affluent and educated ones.

Polls from the beginning of the year show a substantial swing from Labour to the Conservatives among people in the C2DE social grade - with the Tories overtaking Labour over the course of the past four months. Ipso defines C2's as skilled manual workers, D's as semi and unskilled manual workers and E's as state pensioners, casual or lowest grade workers and the unemployed with state benefits only. All of who make up C2DE. Since the beginning of the year there has been a seven-point swing pushing the Conservatives up from 35% to 43% and Labour down from 46% to 40% among C2DE voters. 

On the flip side, yesterday the Guardian has published a piece from Ian Warren, Director of Election Data, entitled 'Watch out, Tories. Your southern strongholds are turning red'. Warren argues that ex-Londoners moving out of the city into the Home Counties accounts for why the Conservatives did not do as well in these parts of Southern England during last year’s General Election. This, he says, explains Labour gains in Bedford, Brighton and Canterbury. Labour is currently attracting these suburban "affluent young families" who would typically be in the ABC1 group (the opposite of C2DE) and would normally vote Tory.

It is an irony that when Jeremy Corbyn came to power he promised to reconnect the Labour Party with its traditional working class base who had become disillusioned by New Labour. Yet, Tony Blair enjoyed far more support among C2DE voters from 1997 and beyond. I have no doubt that in recent weeks Corbyn's response to the Russian attack fed into these voters’ already unfavourable image of the Labour leadership as unpatriotic. However, there are of course other bigger and long-term factors including Brexit and the global backlash against globalisation all of which have pushed less affluent voters towards the political Right.

As a Labour campaigner in Essex I’ve put up with plenty of working class Tories on the doorstep. It looks like the national party will also have to get used to hearing from them too.

Parking not Putin

Originally posted on Medium 04/05/2017.
Voting for a local Labour councillor is not a vote for Corbyn.

Fearing a Labour landslide in liberal London the Tories went door to door telling voters yesterday’s local elections were about “Bins not Brexit”.

In a similar vein I voted for my local Labour councillor despite the national leadership. In fact, I even helped my local party ‘get out the vote’ in Southend, as I have done for the past eight years.

I cannot say that I have played a particularly critical role in these set of elections. I really have embraced a backseat mentality since stepping down as Chair of Southend Labour. In fact I have become even more disillusioned and angry with the party recently. All I did prior to Election Day was a round of leaflets for my friend who was standing. Even then I could not quite reconcile my actions with my feelings about Jeremy Corbyn and his associates.

I am sure I am not the only Labour activist or voter trying to justify my actions to myself.

Read full post here.

Theresa May must not sacrifice Hong Kong for trade favours from the People’s Republic

Originally published on Hong Kong Free Press 01/02/2018.
The Foreign Office and its ministers have talked tough when it comes to the Sino-British Joint declaration.
Last summer, they quickly rebutted Beijing’s claims that this legally binding agreement was a mere historic piece of paper. What is more, in early January, the Minister for Asia Mark Field told British parliamentarians:
Please be assured that there is and must be no trade-off between human rights, whether in Hong Kong or in any other part of the world, and any Brexit-related trade matters. I know that there will be ongoing debates in the House, but please be assured that that is my position as Minister and that of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
Yet the general expectation is that this is exactly what will happen. Brexit Britain needs trade deals and Beijing knows it. According to academics in the UK, China views the British Prime Minister as a “biddable leader” and a “paper tiger”.

Read full article here.

Paradise or prison: Hong Kong is a city with an image problem, and a warning to liberal world order

Originally published on Hong Kong Free Press 31/12/2017. 

Hong Kong has always had a global reputation but after a year of banning foreign scholars and activists, while disqualifying and locking up pro-democracy legislators and leaders, its image across the world is souring.

Once a beacon of global capitalism and a booming Asian Tiger throughout the latter half of the 20th century, Hong Kong gained a reputation as a global city. Both open and connected. Somewhere where East met West. Far from just another Chinese city.

In fact, it was separation from the mainland which meant that Hong Kong citizens could thrive while the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) spread chaos and brutality throughout the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

Read full article here.

Stepping Down but Not Quitting

Originally posted Medium 24/08/2017.

Last week I stood down as Chair as Southend Labour Party’s Local Campaign Forum. After two long years it is somewhat of a relief. As anyone who has spent long enough in local Labour politics will admit it can be demanding stuff. But it was tinged with a bit of sadness as this will be the first time in seven years where I will not be taking a leading role on the LCF or on the executive of my Constituency Labour Party (Rochford and Southend East CLP).

Read full post here.

Britain should speak up – don’t let China get away with ripping up Hong Kong’s Handover treaty

Originally published on Hong Kong Free Press 08/07/2017.

“When the facts change, I change my mind” the saying goes. Yet, here in Britain, this phrase does not appear to be part of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s (FCO) lexicon.

When it comes to Hong Kong the facts on the ground have changed. They have changed quite dramatically over the past couple of years. Yet despite such events, the UK rolls out the same old line committing itself to the policy of “One Country, Two Systems.”

This week the British Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, published a statement to mark the 20th anniversary of the handover which did exactly this. This statement, like the FCO’s six-monthly reports, underestimates the threat posed to Hong Kong’s autonomy and does not offer a serious evaluation of Hong Kong’s political situation since 1997.
Read full article here.

As China Cracks Down on Hong Kong's Freedoms, Britain Cannot Stand Idly By

Originally published on Disclaimer Magazine 01/07/2017.

We have approached the 20th anniversary of the handover of Hong Kong from the United Kingdom to the People’s Republic of China (PRC), yet few in Britain are aware of the dire situation in its former colony. Memories appear to be short and only a handful of Westminster politicians regularly raise concerns about the crackdowns on freedoms in Hong Kong. Now it’s time for Parliament to wake up and fulfil our obligations to Hong Kongers.

The question of Britain’s right to speak out on matters relating to Hong Kong is clear cut. The Sino-British Joint Declaration, signed in 1984, is a legally-binding international agreement. It promised Hong Kong a high degree of autonomy after it was handed to the mainland in 1997. This established Hong Kong as a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of the PRC and established the principle of ’One-Country Two-Systems’ until 2047.

Read full article here.

Why is this Tory minister writing propaganda for the Chinese dictatorship?

Originally published on Left Foot Forward 21/03/2017.

China Daily is not a real newspaper - MPs should boycott it.

Members of parliament should steer clear of the propaganda pumped out by oppressive regimes. Fortunately, more often than not, MPs are rightly condemned when they give such outlets legitimacy.
Sadly, this doesn’t appear to be the case when a foreign minister – in this case, Alok Sharma MP, Foreign Office Minister for Asia and the Pacific – writes for China Daily...

Read full article here.

Do we have no honour? Britain should wake up to what is happening in Hong Kong

Originally published on Hong Kong Free Press 11/02/2017.

The twentieth anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover should be a wake-up call for Britain. The Sino-British Joint Declaration isn’t being honoured by Beijing, and now Britain must stand shoulder to shoulder with those fighting for democracy.

Sadly, many in the Westminster bubble seem relatively unaware of Britain’s lasting legacy in Hong Kong. Other parts of the world seem to draw their attention. Take for example Kashmir and Palestine, two hotly contested regions and two peoples whose human rights are perpetually undermined by their new occupiers. Two nations which have suffered injustices throughout Britain’s imperial rule and beyond, and both areas of the world which rightly receive much attention from UK parliamentarians. Yet Hong Kong does not.
Read full article here