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Will Donald Trump Make Or Break Europe?

Europe, the continent is an old one. The birthplace of a great many empires, and the home of two of the bloodiest wars in human history. Europe has a rich and detailed history, and it has its fair share of alliances, rivalries and plain confusion. The countries in Europe have some of the longest histories known to man, and they have always been at the forefront of developments in technology and science. However, Europe is not one single entity, despite what many might wish it to be. Europe, as we know it today is a continent, made up not of the twenty-seven nations of the European Union, but of the forty-eight nations that reside within the geographical boundaries of the continent.  This essay will seek to convince the reader that Donald Trump’s role in making of Europe, relies on already existing feeling within Europe.

Donald Trump’s election as President of the United States, coming hot off the heels of Britain voting to leave the European Union (Brexit) came as a shock to many. Trump was in the simplest of terms, a rank outsider, he had no political experience and he said things many mainstream politicians were loath to say. He was in short a populist, and to many the head of the movement. His victory encouraged Marie Le Pen the leader of the far-right Front National in France. As well as Geert Wilders, the far-right leader in the Netherlands. They hoped that like Trump, they could capitalise on fears over immigration and jobs, and the refugee crisis to win elections.

Both Le Pen and Wilders. had been around long before he emerged onto the political scene. They, like Nigel Farage and UKIP in Britain and Beppe Grillo of the Fiver Star Movement in Italy, are firm Euro Sceptics, they take a hard line on immigration, and they believe Globalisation has not brought the benefits it promised.  Whilst previously they have not had much electoral success, Farage and UKIP achieved Britain’s exit from the European Union-something many did not think would happen- Le Pen is predicted to cruise into the second round of the French Presidential elections, and Grillo is a favourite for Italian President in 2018. Only Wilders failed to make the expected impact, but his presence has spread awareness, and has forced mainstream Dutch politicians to address issues they would otherwise ignore.

Their impact is now only being truly felt, because the mainstream is listening to them. Something that can be accredited to Trump’s election and the shock of Brexit. Now Theresa May in the UK has stuck hard and fast to ensuring a hard exit for Britain from the European Union, to ensure continued support for her Conservative Party against a divided Labour party. The Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte, arguably won the most seats in the recent election, because he took on some of Wilders’ positions in immigrants and Islam, and moderated them with his other proposals to ensure a wide base of support.

The rise of populism, and its ties to Trump and his provocative statements, provoked fear in Europeans who were of a more centre political view. Mainstream politicians are aware of this and have attempted to phrase the concerns of fringe voters in a way that makes sense to their core voter base. By doing this, they are trying to avoid giving into radical demands, but are not ignoring the serious issues.  Europe has faced the problems of unfiltered populism before, and if the current trend is any example, they have learned from it and are acting on it. Instead of division and censorship, you have discussions being held, debate and arguments, protests, all things healthy toward democracy.

By adopting a populist stance, Trump has shaken Europe and her leaders awake. Seeing the threat of uncontrolled populism, politicians across the continent are working hard to ensure that the concerns of voters are truly addressed, whilst trying to avoid giving into the more radical elements of the fringe vote. Trump’s apparent disdain for NATO, has forced European leaders to consider increasing military expenditure, to counter act a growing Russia. The desire for effective protection against outside threats has necessitated deep and thoughtful plans being laid out within each European nation. No longer is complacency or the status quo being accepted. Europe as a continent seems unwilling to slouch behind The United States anymore, and that can only be a good thing, with a highly unpredictable President in the White House.

To conclude, Trump might be a danger to himself and others as President of the United States, but his election and his subsequent actions as President could well make Europe. If not into the single entity that the European Union wants, then certainly into a continent of nations not to be trifled with. Political leaders are listening to the electorate, and military preparedness is no longer being ignored. Europe is preparing, and that can only be a good thing. All of this would not have been possible without Trump and his bold pronouncements that shake the status quo.

 

 

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Himachal Cider

Himachal Cider

Himachal Cider is a unique cider in that it is made in the hills of Himachal Pradesh, but is sold in the UK, for the UK palette. Founded a husband and wife, who are based in northern England,  the company has grown quite popular across the UK, for its distinctive taste, as well as for how well it goes with just about any type of food that can be served with a drink.

Himachal Cider’s founders are a husband and wife team, who were present at the Birmingham Foodie Festival held on 25th June, in Cannon Hill Park, in Birmingham.  When interviewed, Catherine one of the co-founders had this to say. “We love India, and we like Cider, and well we were somewhat tired of seeing bland drinks served with Indian food that were claiming to be something they evidently weren’t. So, we wanted to make a drink that would be authentic and that would go well with the type of food served in the UK, so we got in contact with one of my husband’s colleagues, who is also a partner in the business, and we found a place in Himachal that could do the brewing and we started making the cider. As the brewery is based in Himachal, we thought it only fair to name the cider Himachal Cider. It’s been received really well by restaurants and by various customers who’ve ordered it from our website as well, so we’re very pleased.”

Himachal Cider was definitely the find of the Foodie Festival, and with its definitive branding and taste, it is sure to become a favourite of the country in no time at all. That it goes well with different types of food is just another guarantee of success. To find out more about the cider, please visit their website at: www.himachalcider.co.uk

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Interview With Lord Mesa

So, yesterday I had the pleasure of interviewing Lord Mesa. Lord Mesa is an artist who does drawings inspired by popular shows and movies, he’s attracted a lot of attention from the stars of these shows and movies, and as such is well known to them and has on occasion done work for them as well. It was really cool getting to speak to him, and to get to know the person behind the drawings.

If you haven’t already, you can check out Lord Mesa on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/lordmesa?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Eauthor

Or on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/lordmesa.art/

 

And here’s the interview (the bolded are the questions, the plain text are his responses):

 

 

  1. Thanks for taking the time to be interviewed by The Phoenix Newspaper, Lord Mesa, for those of our readers who don’t know much about the person behind the drawings, could you tell us a bit about yourself?

 

“I was born in the Philippines and my parents brought me over to the USA when I was two, I grew up in the Bay Area, San Francisco, California. When I was growing up I really wanted to become a comic book artist, people like Jim Lee who drew the strips in comic books but also created their own characters and story lines were influential in driving that desire in me. When it came time for me to go to university, I wanted to do a comic book major, but most places did not have it-including the San Francisco College of Arts where I ended up going- so instead I chose the more conventional illustration major. I suppose one reason why I took illustration was because even though it wasn’t seen as a conventional choice for an Asian to take, it had better career prospects than some of the other options. To soothe my parents worries I took design courses as well, I thought it would be like Mad Men, but quickly realised it wasn’t! I soon came to dislike taking the course, and began wondering what to do.”

 

“Then, one day as I was at a café at school , I saw someone drawing and was so impressed by what they were doing that I just had to ask what it was that they were doing. They told me they were doing an illustration major, and I knew then that that was what I should be doing instead of design. I switched over to illustration from design, but took a break from school for a brief period. I always got the feeling that my tutors saw myself and my fellow students not as people to help grow and learn, but as competition for the outside world, and that was never healthy for me.”

 

“After graduation, I took my portfolio and applied to a lot of companies, I got a lot of rejections before getting a letter from Disney’s TV and advertising department, who told me they were considering putting me on their new storyboard programme. However, in the end they ended up doing it in house to see if it would be effective, and eventually they scrapped it.  And though that was quite disappointing, I never gave up, I couldn’t. For me there never was any question about stopping, I love animation and have done so since I was a kid growing up in the eighties. Being able to draw is a necessity for me, like breathing. “

 

“It was my wife who helped me get my first break, at the time after graduation she told me that she was going to LA to work in an entertainment company and she asked if I wanted to come with her. I said yes, and for the first few months I didn’t have a job, but then a friend of a friend put me in contact with a t-shirt company that was looking for a designer. They used a lot of computer software, and as I hadn’t got that much experience with the computer software they used, it was a real on the job learning experience. The two tools I used initially were Illustrator and Photoshop, and man was it different. It was a real journey for me as I became a convert to the computer cause. The Ctrl Z and being able to save the original file digitally and then come back to that to make changes rather than having to draw an entire new drawing by hand again, was brilliant. The first thing I ever drew properly for myself using the software, was Wolverine, and I really liked how it turned out.”

 

“And since then I’ve been drawing a lot, being able to draw representations of the shows such as Arrow and The Flash, that I love is really cool, and having people give feedback on the drawings is just something else entirely. It’s really awesome.”

 

 

  1. What’s the favourite drawing you’ve done?

 

“Ah, that’s like asking a parent who their favourite child is! Generally, my favourite drawing is the most recent piece that I’ve done. Though a stand out one would be the drawing I did for the four way cross over  between Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl and Legends of Tomorrow for the CW. That drawing included more characters than I’ve ever included on a single piece before, thankfully there was no speech required for it, so some space was reserved, but I really liked how the drawing turned out and it got a very good response, so I’m really happy with it.

 

It tends to take me between an hour and half and two and a half hours to complete a drawing using Clipstudio, and I’ve noticed that I have a habit of thinking about ideas for the next piece that I want to do when doing another piece, so I think it all seems to be bouncing around in my head at once. But to get back to your question, I don’t have a specific favourite piece, I love them all, but I do have notable ones.”

 

  1. Are you doing any pieces now/ or have any planned for the future?

 

“I’ve done a few illustrations for Wonder Woman-which I thought was a brilliant movie by the way, if you haven’t already been to see it,  you should- I’ll probably do another one for Wonder Woman. I’m also waiting for Spider Man: Homecoming to come out so that I can get inspiration from there as well, and also because the movie looks like it will be really good! I’ve been catching up on a lot of shows such as Supernatural, 100 and Winona Irk as well, so have been taking inspiration from there as well.  Doing a lot of preparation for San Diego Comic Con in July, because it’s become a pop culture event and fans often have interests in a lot of other shows as well as the comic book ones, so it’s good to have a variety of work on show. And finally, currently preparing artwork to incorporate into an app that will be launching at San Diego Comic Con.”

 

  1. Is there anything else you’d like to say for our readers?

 

“I’d just like to say thank you for the support and encouragement, and thank you for giving me the chance to speak about my art.”

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Andy Street Keeping His Promises!

Andy Street was elected mayor of the West Midlands in May on the back of a series of promises to promote the region and to ensure that the region realised its full potential. He garnered a lot of support in the business community, for his forward thinking and blunt speech, his experience in business and contacts in the wider world made him an attractive mayoral candidate to the people of Birmingham, especially with Brexit around the corner. On Tuesday 13th June,  we caught up with Mr Street to see how he’s finding the role and what he’s been doing since elected into the position of mayor.

Since becoming Mayor of the West Midlands, Mr Street has been busy, touring the region, meeting with local businesses to see what they think needs to be done to improve the region, as well as meeting with local people to get their opinion on some of the key issues in the area. Mr Street has opened new shelters for the homeless in Birmingham and Coventry. He had at the time of interview also returned from Coventry where he had just inspected a series of new buildings which will house businesses that are coming to the area.

Mr Street has also stayed true to his commitment to helping young people get into employment. The launch of his Midlands Mentor scheme has received critical praise from the business community as well as from young people, with close one thousand entrepreneurs signing up to be a mentor to a young person. Mr Street reaffirmed his commitment to helping young people during the interview, stating his intention to take full use of the Government’s apprenticeship levy to get young people into apprenticeships and then full time employment.

Finally, Andy Street once again emphasised his commitment to promoting the West Midlands and ensuring the region reached its proper potential. Mr Street stated that in a meeting with the Combined Authority, it was agreed that the West Midlands not just Birmingham would put a bid in for the Commonwealth Games, which if successful would bring a lot of business and media attention to the region. Mr Street also stated his desire to see a successful bid by Birmingham to bring Channel 4 and its associated benefits to Birmingham.

With his investment into the Midlands Mentor scheme and his campaigning for the West Midlands to get the Commonwealth Games as well as Channel 4 and his continued meetings with local businesses and residents, Andy Street continues to show just how committed he is to the West Midlands, and just how seriously he wants the area to succeed.

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Hung Parliament Declared!

 

After weeks of campaigning and back and forth spiel about their respective merits and problems, the political parties left the future of the country up to the people of Great Britain and Northern Ireland on 8th June. After a tense, few hours the results came trickling through. No one party won an outright majority, the Conservatives won 315 seats (at the time of writing) and Labour won 261 seats. With 326 seats needed for an outright majority, no one party could claim that right. Consequently, many have begun wondering what this now means, in this article, we shall highlight the possible outcomes of the hung Parliament.

Firstly, a coalition government seems the most likely outcome. The Conservatives are the largest party in Parliament with 315 seats, whilst the DUP have 10 seats, considering the previous working relationship these two parties have, a coalition between the two of them does seem likely. At present with four seats still to declare their results, it is possible that the Conservatives would gain enough seats there to be able to properly form a coalition government with the DUP, though of course there would need to be a lot of negotiation before a proper agreement is reached. Given that Brexit negotiations are due to start in earnest within the next few weeks, any negotiations cannot take too long, as Britain will want to present a united front when it comes to the negotiation table.

Secondly, Theresa May could if all else fails form a minority government. This would mean that though she does not have an outright majority in the House of Commons, as the biggest party in the Commons, her party would be able to hold the position of government of the United Kingdom, but they would be reliant on other parties to make the passing of laws easier. This last happened during the 1970s, under Labour and led to a lot of civil unrest, as Labour was held hostage by the Trade Unions and infighting. Consequently, it does not hold much appeal to anyone who has an inkling of history. Furthermore, as previously mentioned Brexit negotiations are fast approaching, and the government would wish for as strong a hand as possible when entering the negotiations. A minority government would not give them that, due to a belief that they lack democratic legitimacy in some corners. And ensuring that any agreement reached has smooth sailing in the Commons would be much harder, with MPs more likely to stick to their own inkling than toe the party line.

To conclude, this election has produced a surprise result, especially when one considers that Theresa May was twenty points ahead of Jeremy Corbyn when she called the election in April. With her stumbling performance and countless U-Turns on policy, the gaps in her ability to lead have been exposed combined with Jeremy Corbyn’s growth in confidence, and the Hung Parliament begins to make more sense. We are in for a very interesting few weeks.

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BrewDog Offer Voting Incentive!

 

Today, Britain goes to the polls, to choose a new government. The parties have been campaigning since April, and they have offered a variety of different options on a whole host of issues. There has been the usual rhetoric, slogans thrown about, ‘strong and stable’ performances as well as ‘weak and wobbly’ performances. After nearly two months of campaigning it all comes to an end today, and with the increased number of people who have registered to vote, turnout is expected to be high.

However, to ensure that nobody skips out on doing their democratic duty, Scottish Beer company BrewDog have offered voters a free pint if they vote. It’s a simple process really, if a voter takes a picture of themselves outside their polling station and then enters one of BrewDog’s many bars across the country and shows staff their picture, then they will get a free pint.

During the day, Phoenix Newspaper decided to take up this offer, and at the bar located opposite Turtle Bay in the city centre, found a packed pub. When a barman was asked about the offer he had this to say. “Yeah, we did something similar with the referendum, and not many people turned up. But since there’s been more people registering to vote this time around, and turning up, I think we’ll have a lot more customers. It’s a good thing you know, people are getting out there and having their voice heard.”

A group of young workers, just finished work arrived at the bar around five thirty, and when interviewed had this to say. “Yeah, we’d normally come here anyway, but the free pint really enticed us down. It’s a great initiative.” Many of them were hoping for a Labour victory, with one member hoping for a hung Parliament!

Certainly, there was no lack of excitement over the election or the offer. A smart initiative by BrewDog and one that is sure to bring more excitement and fun to an already intriguing election season.

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The Many Faces Of Theresa May

When Theresa May won the leadership election for the Conservative party following David Cameron’s resignation, and Brexit, she promised to bring ‘strong and stable’ leadership to the country. She promised to fight for the ‘just about managing’ families of Britain. She promised a great deal, and for the first few months it worked.

Compared to the stumbling and enemy prone Jeremy Corbyn, Theresa May came across as calm, confident and experienced. She had served for six years as Home Secretary-a record since the end of the Second World War- and she had done her best to contribute to Britain’s recovery after the economic recession of 2008. Additionally, though she might not have been the most eager for Brexit, she soon threw herself into ensuring that Britain got the best deal possible from Europe. She ensured that her cabinet was filled with those who supported Brexit, as well as those who wanted to chart a middle ground.

Theresa May appeared to be working in the interests of the British people, and her twenty point lead over Jeremy Corbyn in April, 2017 seemed to reflect the view of the British people that she was indeed doing a good job. She then called a general election, and many predicted a landslide for the Conservatives in the face of a hopeless Labour party, riven by internal division, a non-existent Liberal Democrat party, and the decimation of UKIP. What has since transpired has been something few would’ve expected in April.

Theresa May prides herself on being forthright, having come from a humble background and supposedly espousing ‘traditional British values.’ She prides herself on her morals and being willing to fight for what she believes is right for Britain. Her catch phrase is meant to reflect that. Yet many are increasingly coming to believe that that is a lie, and that her underlying problems will be her undoing.

But what exactly are the problems that people such as Jeremy Corbyn, Tim Farron and Nicola Sturgeon feel Theresa May is trying to hide from the British public, and why would they be such a big talking point of this election, if they were not important beforehand? Well, there are the obvious issues: police cuts, issues in the NHS, immigration and security, as well as the less well known issues, mainly that there is surprisingly little actual criticism of Theresa May present before she became Prime Minister.

Firstly, in light of the recent attacks in London and Manchester, cuts to the police service have become an ever more pressing issue. Before the general election, there were murmurs that the cuts being implemented by the Conservative government to the police force were alarming and would have severe consequences, but they were just murmurs nothing more. It is only after attacks in London and Manchester, and the revelations that those responsible for the attacks were known to the police, but that the police could do nothing about them, because of how many other things they had to do, that the issue of the cuts has becoming a serious issue.

In fact a quick look at the figures as stated by the government shows that from March 2010 to March, 2016, police numbers fell from 143,734 to 124,066 and during the same time period the number of armed officers fell from 6,653 to 5,639. Given the increased risk of terror in Europe, following the attacks in France, Germany and Belgium, this is an alarming statistic. As Home Secretary, Theresa May defended such cuts stating that the system needed reform, and that reducing the number of policemen would save costs. During the time of the recession and the recovery this was understandable, but now? Now it is seen as something that was an unnecessary risk to take. Jeremy Corbyn has vigorously criticised Theresa May for these cuts stating: “You cannot protect the public on the cheap. The police and security services must get the resources they need not 20,000 police cuts.”

However, as is seemingly common with Theresa May, she has deflected this criticism, not with solid argument, but with what has increasingly appeared to be desperation. In a speech on Monday she said: “The commissioner of the Metropolitan Police has said that the Met is well-resourced, and they are, and that they have very powerful counterterrorism capabilities, and they do. We have protected counterterrorism policing budgets.”

This seems highly ironic given the cuts to policing and the obvious affect it is having, as Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the PCS union, which represents the police said. “Nobody here will say: ‘If it wasn’t for this cut, that wouldn’t have happened. It would be folly to say so. But what we can say is that the figures speak for themselves and questions need to be asked.”

Theresa May’s record is not just shady on policing. On immigration, May promised to live up to a Conservative pledge in the 2010 and 2015 election campaigns to reduce immigration down to 100,000. In 2014, had increased from 244,000 to 330,000 an increase rather than a decrease. And in her attempt to change course or make up for this short fall, May has taken to some rather odd strategies. Firstly, she insists that international students be included in the immigration count, despite several of her colleagues and experts stating that this would be a grave mistake, and as such the numbers have not fallen, though British Universities have suffered. Secondly May used a series of vans in immigrant communities, which included slogans that not only encouraged immigrants to leave, but were highly racist, which did not unsurprisingly convince immigrants to leave, but rather fostered feelings of anger and resentment amongst these communities. Thirdly, May then targeted random groups of people such as two American Bloggers, who were allowed to tour North America and Europe freely, but were refused entry in Britain for unknown reasons. Theresa May has consistently, tried to project an image for a strong leader during the campaign, but as one can see here, her record is not strong, it is not perfect, it is weak and shady. This is further emphasised by the fact that there appeared to be little actual overt criticism of May as Home Secretary.

It appears that Theresa May and her close advisors would pressurise members of the press to either print something flattering about her, or to criticise junior ministers or civil servants in the Home Office-a clear breach of our supposed freedom of speech- and anything that slipped through their net and directly criticised May was either removed, or made unavailable within moments of being uploaded. This fits in with another trend that has been noticed, Theresa May seems to be a big fan of preventing overt criticism over her person. A big supporter of the 2014 Lobbying Act Theresa May, has often refused to answer questions or comments from charities such as the British Red Cross, over the state of the NHS and the level of homelessness within Britain. Indeed, after attacking the British Red Cross for their ‘crisis in the NHS’ comments earlier this year, it appears that May has stifled charities of all shapes and sizes from actually discussing the election, something which is being called a “grave threat to our democracy.”

Finally, on the campaign trail itself, there have been a few gaffes, most memorably the U turn over welfare payments and winter fuel payments for the elderly, which led to May stating that her U-turn was not in fact a U turn but a cleverly cast policy, which came in for a lot of ridicule. There have been her refusals to take part in debates with other party leaders, making her appear afraid and scared, there have been her weak answers and frigid appearances during television interviews, and a whole other litany of things that appear to contradict the Strong and Stable leadership image she has tried to convey.

To conclude, Theresa May can appear confident and sure of herself when she wishes to, she can talk about her record-which isn’t that impressive, other than being the longest serving home secretary since the end of the war- and she can deride Jeremy Corbyn. But, when one looks at it, her record is somewhat shocking, promises have consistently been made and broken, her approach to handling criticism smacks of a third world dictator, and her ability to handle pressure situations seems lacking. Theresa May is a woman of many faces, not many of them pleasant.

 

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Jeremy Corbyn: A Man Of The People?

Jeremy Corbyn has often faced a difficult time of it from the press and from establishment figures. He is not seen as a conventional politician-having voted against the Labour leadership some 400 times during the Blair and Brown premierships- however, his unconventionality has attracted admirers from different walks of life in the UK, but especially amongst young people. This first became apparent in 2015, during the Labour leadership election, Corbyn was only nominated because certain members thought it only fair that the left wing of the party were represented. Nobody expected him to stand a chance, and yet he did. His anti-austerity, anti-war and anti-tax evasion stances drew a large following and made many former Labour supporters re-join the party out of a sense of relief that the party they had come to know and love was going back to its roots. When Corbyn won the leadership election, there are many who were surprised, but many who were not. He had a message that resonated with the people, and he was sincere.

This message of a fair and just society that works for the many and not just the few has constantly resonated with a variety of supporters, be they new voters or older slightly more cynical voters. Pledging to ensure proper funding for the NHS, to ensure that mental health services are truly catered to and that doctors and nurses actually get paid properly and do not need to worry about pay freezes, has struck a chord with a public tired of seeing the NHS suffer. Promises to build more houses to handle a housing crisis have also pleased his supporters, and even those who might otherwise have drifted toward the right, and promising to clamp down on tax evaders has also struck a chord with the populous.

With Theresa May’s support dropping in the polls, thanks to her U turns over welfare payments and elderly care, Jeremy Corbyn continues to thrive and prosper, sticking to his promises, and always backing them up with costings and solid evidence to show why he has reached the view he has. Furthermore, Jeremy Corbyn has something that many politicians in the present and in the past, do not have, he is a man of principle. He has never in his thirty-four-year career changed his stance on anything, without first considering every piece of information presented to him, and then making an informed decision.

In an age where increasingly it seems that political figures have the interests for a select few at heart, rather than the general populous, Jeremy Corbyn is a lone figure of hope. Standing firm and tall, standing true to his promises and hopes for Great Britain, he focuses not on the few who have it all, but on the many who dream big dreams. His policies and his words show he is indeed a man of the people.

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Mind: Leading The Way In Mental Health

Mental Health is a topic that has a storied past. It has often been seen as something of a taboo subject, something that lurks in the shadows, but is never openly acknowledged or discussed. Recently however, with developments in scientific research and greater societal understanding, mental health, and mental illnesses are being given the consideration and understanding they have long deserved and needed.

The leading Mental Health charity in the UK is Mind, which was formed nearly seventy years ago, after the Second World War under the National Association For Mental Health. Since then Mind has campaigned tirelessly to ensure mental health remains at the forefront of the national conversation, and that it receives the attention and funding it needs.

The Phoenix Newspaper interviewed Alison Kerry, the Head of Media at Mind to discuss Mind’s work in raising awareness for Mental Health and how the recent focus on mental health has changed and influenced the discussion.

Ms Kerry was very clear that since Their Royal Highnesses The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and Prince Harry got involved in the mental health discussion, through their charity Heads Together, interest in mental health has grown. Indeed, interest in discussing mental health, with people sharing their stories, and calling into Mind’s helplines for help has been unprecedented. Alison Kerry stated that she has seen an increase concurrent with royal activity, of people feeling more willing to discuss mental health, and the issues surrounding it, so that it is no longer a taboo subject.

The more discussions had around mental health, the less dangerous a topic it will become for people to discuss, as Ms Kerry pointed out during our interview. The more willing people are to discuss their mental health, the more that can be done to help them, and ensure that nobody is left to suffer alone.

Increased discussion about mental health is good, Ms Kerry said, however, that should only be the start. Reduced funding to mental health services is lowering the quality of treatment that patients are receiving, it is increasing waiting times for people suffering from mental health issues, and it is also ensuring that though people might be willing to discuss their concerns, they aren’t willing to be treated. To Alison Kerry, in order to reverse this worrying trend, people need to be more active in campaigning, for when people campaign they are spreading awareness of the issue at hand, and are more likely to be listened to. Keeping mental health in the public attention is important, and should not be taken lightly.

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The SNP: Manifesto Launch

Rightly or wrongly, the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP for short) is often seen as a Scotland only party. Considering their name, and their complete emphasis on Scottish affairs, this is not really all that surprising. During the course of this general election, Nicola Sturgeon and her MPs have consistently stated that they are the only ones who could deliver a better future for Scotland, and even the elusive second independence referendum. Recently however, there has been a slight change in tune. During the launch of the SNP manifesto on 30th May, Nicola Sturgeon stated that the SNP were the only party that could truly stand up to the Conservative party both in Scotland and Westminster, and that they would always vote for the betterment of the British people, regardless of other issues that might contradict their traditional position. The SNP manifesto featured several interesting points.

Like all other parties, the SNP promises to bring in more funding for the NHS, not just across Scotland, as many might expect, but across the entire of the UK. According to the manifesto, this increased funding would increase the NHS Scotland budget up by £1 billion by 2021/22. As the NHS is a crucial service for the United Kingdom, that the SNP is promising more funding for it is not surprising, however, considering their own record on the NHS which in recent figures was not promising, it is somewhat surprising that they are promising to increase funding across the whole of the NHS system in the United Kingdom. This might have been done to ensure that they are seen as looking out for everyone, and not just Scottish voters, something that might work well, should they ever enter into the much-rumoured coalition with Labour.

Another policy that is like Labour’s is the promise to protect the triple lock on pensions and protect the winter fuel allowance. Considering the ageing population across the UK, and the outrage that came from the Conservatives proposed amending of the Winter Fuel Allowance and subsequent U-Turn on the matter, including this promise of protection for the elderly is no doubt meant to resonate with older voters, and make them feel more comfortable supporting the SNP, be it in Scotland or in the UK. And considering the word of this manifesto is somewhat like the wording of the pledge in Labour’s manifesto once must think that it was deliberately done.

Finally, much like Labour and the Liberal Democrats, the SNP would support a UK-wide increase in the higher rate of taxation from 45p to 50p. Whilst the SNP unlike Labour stray away from directly stating what they see as the higher rate of earnings, they are clearly trying to play up on the increasingly disgruntled mood of the public of high earners getting away, or seemingly getting away with paying little to no taxation. That the SNP have made the point that they support increased higher rate of taxation across the whole of the UK, once more emphasises their new attempt to show themselves as a party not just for Scotland, but for all of the United Kingdom, in opposition to the Conservatives.

Further to this point, during the manifesto launch, Nicola Sturgeon said: “The manifesto has fairness and opportunity at its heart, and is a manifesto for a country that is welcoming and outward-looking.” A clear change of tack from previous statements from Sturgeon where she had called for a second referendum on independence to be held sometime during the Brexit process.

The manifesto had a independence referendum for Scotland as its last point, Nicola Sturgeon during the manifesto launch tried to keep the focus on the other points within the manifesto, only briefly mentioning the independence referendum. Even then she stated that she wished for it be held once the negotiations with the EU over Brexit had finished, so that the people of Scotland could have the final say over their fate. The constant emphasis throughout the manifesto and the launch, that the SNP are the party for the country to stand up to the Conservatives, not just in Scotland is a very new approach by the SNP, who previously had only stood for issues to do with Scotland. One must think that this new approach, which includes SNP MPs voting against any cuts to services in England, or an increase in costs for English voters, must do with the fact that their support in Scotland is itself falling. Recent figures show their support hovering around 41 % down a full fourteen points from the high of 55% of April, 2015. Whilst support for independence currently hovers below 45%.

Should the SNP win a majority of Scottish seats in the upcoming election, it would strengthen their mandate to demand a great many things from Westminster, something that Nicola Sturgeon and her supporters are well aware of. Whether the SNP would truly seek to work with other parties in Westminster to stymie a Conservative government remains to be seen. One thing is for sure, the SNP might mean well, but independence is always going to be at the forefront of their mind, and so they must be treated with caution.