Archive for Apr, 2018

They often say that a week is a long time in politics and that has certainly been the case for the past week. The government has had to apologize for its role in the Windrush Scandal in which hundreds of immigration documentation relating to migrants from the West Indies and beyond was purposefully deleted and additionally the government has to defend itself over its decision to bomb Syria over its “alleged” use of chemical weapons.

In my opinion, both of these events characterize the way in which the British government betray our historical tradition and the citizens that inhabit it.

I’ve just finished reading, “The English Atlantic in an Age of Revolution 1640 -1660” which illuminated the foundations for English influence across the world and explained the fluid nature of British identity. I feel as if this book is especially important and relevant to discuss and review, particularly in an environment when the military and civil prerogative of our government is being questioned and challenged with such frequent ferocity.

The English Atlantic is essentially a study that seeks to challenge our notion of transatlantic culture and the various political and social norms that have evolved over time. The author – Carla Gardina Pestana – links the so called “English Revolution” between Charles I and Parliament to the growth and development of the Americas. She purposefully mirrors the demise of monarchy in Britain to the rise of modernity in America. She eloquently explains – through the use of migrant testimonies and official accounts – how new forms of worship and religion were allowed to prosper throughout the continent, Carla neatly juxtaposes this religious freedom with the rise in restrictive trade barriers. The growth in restrictive trade was part of movement towards a centralised system of governance: enforced by Cromwell’s new republic in Britain. Carla actually goes further than many historians and actually asserts that this process of centralisation was the birth of the global network known as the British Empire. Interestingly but not surprisingly, as the republic grew in solidarity it relied upon illiberal labour sources like slavery and indentured servitude to strengthen the connections to its various colonies. Carla importantly explains that this turn towards centralisation affected its foreign policy, as the British republic sought to eradicate their European competitors (militarily and politically) to ensure they had unfettered access and influence over the regions they dominated.

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This study underlines the importance of the “English Revolution” to the the evolution of the British Empire.

The essential element from The English Atlantic is that it outlines a transatlantic world whose liberty is transformed by the rise of an centralized power, this provides some interesting parallels and precedents for today’s political and social climate.

If we first explore the Ongoing Windrush Scandal there are some interesting comparisons. The Windrush Generation have consistently stated their wish to self-identify as British Citizens. James Green who was born in the West Indies but migrated to the UK in 1958 when he was 15 months says “Sixty years, it’s a long time. I’m an Englishman” and Nick Broderick who also arrived in the Uk as a baby in 1962 “always thought [himself] as being English.” and indeed another member of the windrush generation has spoken in astonishment: “It was a shock because I have always thought I was legal, I was British. I have been here from when I was eight. I didn’t give it another thought.” There appears to be a consistent and accurate theme where these citizens do not perceive themselves as solely West Indian but as British Citizens first and foremost: they could have easily used the term ‘Commonwealth citizens’, but their self-identification as British is an expression of their allegiance and of their informal citizenship to Britain.

Like the Windrush Generation, English migrants to America in the seventeenth century envisioned themselves as British citizens first, however the central authorities in England did not interpret this identity in the same way. Although the Windrush generation arguably faced greater injustice – seeing as the British government are responsible for eroding their British status in the first place – , the seventeenth century migrants to America were also treated as subordinate members of this new British Empire even though they considered themselves to be English. As The English Atlantic notes “Given the unprecedented intrusiveness of the state…it might seem that the colonists who envisioned a more egalitarian Empire based on shared Englishness lost their battle…..“, this was despite the fact that colonists believed that their political and social sovereignty had been inherited upon their English citizenship, one Barbadian colonist often “considered it the liberty and privilege if the free-born English-Men to have an assembly election”. This denial of basic civil rights to seventeenth century colonists has similarities to the Windrush Generation and their inability to access subsidized healthcare and employment opportunities, it also demonstrates a historical trait for the British government to neglect the rights and liberties of their citizens regardless of their ethnic origin. There is also an element of irony in this situation if one considers the fact that when Cromwell created the idea of a Commonwealth in 1653, it was designed with a vision of improving the “wealth” of the “commons” (people) across the Transatlantic Empire, and today we are witnessing citizens who are facing unjustified discrimination and deportation despite being born in a commonwealth nation. Furthermore, I believe this could also undermine the constitutional changes regarding immigration and the European Union. If EU migrants can see a history of injustice relating to the British State’s treatment of citizenship, why should they trust British government to give EU nationals the rights and liberties that they deserve post Brexit?

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In the wake of the missile strikes by America, France and Britain on Syria, there has been lots of debate regarding the legitimacy and the legality of the decision to attack the Syrian state for their alleged use of chemical weapons. Jeremy Corbyn argued for something similar to a ‘War Powers Act’ that could possibly hold future governments to account when they perform a military action that might jeopardize the credibility and safety of the nation, however MP Jacob Rees Mogg responded by stating that any sort of policy to change Parliament’s influence over military affairs will require either an appeal or an amendment of the Armed Forces Act. The act does actually state that the power rests with the Prime Minister to put the armed forces in to combat and it doesn’t actually provide a mechanism for Parliament to intervene in military action. However, Corbyn should take Mogg on this suggestion and encourage the Labour Party to amend the Armed Forces Act as I believe there is historical precedent for Parliament to have a greater say in foreign policy. If we stick with Britain in the seventeenth century, there was was great turning point in 1653, when Parliament declared their sovereignty over the Monarchy when it came to dealing with military and foreign affairs. When Charles I was eventually defeated and executed in the Civil wars, Parliament legislated a new constitution which included one important clause:

When Parliament was sitting, the ordering of armed forces by sea and by land, for the peace and good of the three nations’ must be by the consent of Parliament”

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When Cromwell (Main) defeated the King in 1648, he established Parliamentary sovereignty over Britain. How much power does today’s parliament really have?

Even though Oliver Cromwell was the defacto leader of this new parliamentarian regime, there was an essence of democracy which reflected the importance of wide-ranging consent and approval from the nation’s “representatives”. Unfortunately, this Instrument of Government was eventually repealed when the Monarchy was reinstated in 1660 and the King resumed his position as head of State. However the seventeenth century rhetoric surrounding the armed forces, parliament and domestic affairs is very relevant for the decision making process in present day British politics. In 1654, Cromwell desperately tried to fund his military campaign against the Spanish in the West Indies with parliamentary approval. He failed to get consent based on the weak economic condition of the country, it was stated “whence shall the means of it come? Our nation is overwhelmed with debts”. This has a striking resemblance to the argument that many present day MPs make about our government which seems to find the funds for military campaigns but is simultaneously refusing to invest in to vital public services because of “austerity”.

Labour MP Ed Poole stated

“Notice how everyone wants to know how Labour will fund free buses for under-25s but no one asks Theresa may how we are going to fund bombing Syria”

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Why do we so often prioritize our military affairs over our domestic ones?

This demonstrates that Parliament should have a much more considerable influence not simply on whether it is legitimate to punish a foreign state for their alleged war crimes, but based on whether those resources could be better invested in the British public services that are known to be underfunded and under supported. Parliament has a historic record of challenging sovereign political authority for the benefit of the nation, this was proven in 2013 when Cameron lost a crucial parliamentary vote to send missile strikes on Syrian soil. That result came about because of the suspicion surrounding the rebel forces in Syria and their ambiguous legitimacy to overthrow the Assad government. Currently, we have encountered the same stumbling block as there is apparently lack of official evidence from the OPCW regarding the Chemical Attacks in Douma. It may be time for Parliament to increase its ability to scrutinize the government over the military decisions that they adopt. Obviously the intelligence that the Prime Minster and the cabinet holds is vital to the decision making process but the government must also take in to consideration the mood of the nation and whether engaging in military conflict is in the population’s best interests. And here it must be noted that Parliament – in its entirety – is the only institution that has the capability to represent the population’s best interests.

My new poem as part of my Glitzy(Glitchy) Paradise series.

https://onemanwolfpackdot.wordpress.com/2018/04/08/journey-to-the-infinite/