Welcome to my latest edition for the PIR Society blog. I hope you are all doing very well indeed. This is a brief summary of what we as a society are planning in the next short while, and the latest events in the world of politics internationally.
On the 27th of September, we will be holding our first academic event of the year, which will be a talk with the youngest ever elected Member of the Scottish Parliament: Ross Greer, who represents the Scottish Green Party. The talk will commence with Mr Greer discussing his work as an MSP and in the Scottish Parliament, followed by a conversation regarding the Green Party, including its politics and aims for the future. Afterwards, the event will conclude with a Q&A session with Mr Greer, giving you the chance to ask about his life, his path into politics, and the importance of the Green Party in this day and age. We are really looking forward to our event with Mr Greer, so do join us for the talk at NK11 at 14.00 on Friday the 27th!
Also, as a quick reminder, for first year students hoping to become the First Year Representative on the society committee, remember to submit your application to our email address by midnight on Sunday, the 22nd of September. As part of your application, please submit a photograph of yourself and a personal statement in regards to why you think you should be elected. We all look forward to seeing you at the EGM on the 24th!
Here is a round-up of the latest news in politics domestically and around the world.
In one of the most important and controversial legal cases of contemporary British politics, the Supreme Court is currently presiding over a court hearing in regards to the legality of the proroguing of Parliament by Prime Minister Boris Johnson in late August. Johnson claims that he advised the Queen to suspend Parliament in order to clear the way for a new legislative agenda for his government, but his many critics inside and outside Parliament have argued that he has sought to hinder the ability of MPs to block a no-deal Brexit and force the government to seek a new extension for the Article 50 process of leaving the European Union before the UK’s current departure date of the 31st of October. The proponents of the court case, who include anti-Brexit campaigner Gina Miller and former Prime Minister Sir John Major, are claiming that the Prime Minister misled the Queen by requesting for a suspension of Parliament for reasons different compared to what they say was an attempt to stymie debate regarding Brexit. Thereby, they argue that the proroguing of Parliament was unlawful, and that MPs should be recalled as soon as possible. Lawyers for the government have refuted these claims, and have warned against the judiciary becoming excessively involved in political decision-making. The Supreme Court is expected to make its ruling on this case this coming Tuesday, and could determine whether the UK ends up leaving the EU by the 31st of October or not.
Meanwhile, the campaign in the Canadian federal election has begun, and it is already shaping up to be a tough contest between the incumbent Liberal Party and the opposition Conservative Party. Current polling suggests a tight race between the two parties, with different polls indicating that one party or another has a small lead over the other. In light of this, there is little room for error for either of the main two parties, and already the Liberal leader and current Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is facing criticism in regards to a series of incriminating photographs showing Trudeau wearing brown face makeup at past social gatherings. Trudeau has publically apologized for his conduct at the time, claiming that it was seen as more acceptable at the time, and that he had only realized that his actions could potentially be seen as racist with hindsight. Nonetheless, this controversy has proved highly damaging to a leader who prided himself as opposing racism and intolerance, with both Conservative leader Andrew Sheerer and the leader of the New Democratic Party, Jagmeet Singh, publically condemning the Prime Minister for what they regard as, intentionally or not, condoning racism in Canada. Whether this controversy harms the electoral prospects of the Liberals remains to be seen, but it has already demonstrated the risk to political leaders when their actions fail to live up to the standards of what they preach.
Also, this week saw the state funeral for the former President of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, who died at the age of 95 two weeks ago. Mugabe, who had led Zimbabwe since its independence from British colonial rule in 1980 until his overthrow in a military coup in November 2017, was praised by his successor, Emmerson Mnangagwa, and a number of other African leaders attending the service for standing up for national and pan-African interests. Yet the largely empty stadium where the funeral was held betrayed the widespread resentment felt by many Zimbabweans towards the late president’s rule. Robert Mugabe first became notable as one of the main leaders of the armed resistance movement to white minority rule in Zimbabwe in the 1960s and 70s, then known as Rhodesia. Upon independence in 1980, Mugabe was elected as Prime Minister of the newly-independent Zimbabwe, before becoming President in 1987. During the early years of his time in power, he was widely praised for the strong performance of the economy and the establishing of a highly effective education system. Overtime however, he became increasingly authoritarian, beginning with the massacre of thousands of his fellow citizens in the region of Matabeleland in the 1980s, along with widespread voter intimidation during elections and his support for the often violent seizure of white-owned farms. The latter action, combined with a wider faltering of the economy, proved to be highly damaging for the nation, with hyperinflation and food shortages severely impacting the lives of Zimbabwean citizens. Although a power-sharing agreement with the opposition MDC party from 2008 to 2013 brought about a degree of stability, Zimbabwe’s economic ruin continued, and members of his ZANU-PF party began to have reservations regarding his leadership, especially in the wake of rumours the he was planning for his widely unpopular wife Grace to replace him. These tensions finally came to a head in November 2017, when Mugabe fired his then-deputy Emmerson Mnangagwa, which prompted the national military to carry out a coup d’état and place the President under house arrest, demanding that he step down. Mugabe initially refused, but after the beginning of the impeachment proceedings in the legislature, he finally resigned, to the joy of his party and most Zimbabweans. Mnangagwa soon succeeded him as President. The Mugabe era will therefore be remembered as a complicated one; the saga of a ruler who led his country to independence, only to impoverish and oppress his people to the point that he could only be removed from power by force.
Finally, fears regarding energy security around the world have grown in the wake of the bombing of two major oil refineries in Saudi Arabia on the 14th of September. The Abqaiq and Khurais refineries, which respectively represent 7% and 1% of the world’s total oil production, were attacked in an airstrike by unmanned drones, with severe damage being inflicted on both facilities and the suspension of operations at each site. In aftermath of the attacks and the temporary pause in oil production at both sites, international oil prices jumped by nearly 15%, the highest increase in around 30 years, which could have an impact on international consumers in terms of increased fuel costs. This has subsequently prompted the United States to release some of its oil reserves in order to mitigate the effects of the bombings in terms of consumer cost and energy security. In regards to the perpetrators of the drone attack, the Houthi movement in Yemen, who have been engaged in a bloody civil war with the Saudi-backed Yemeni government, claimed responsibility for the attack, and stated that it was retribution for a military intervention and blockade carried out by a Saudi-led military coalition in support of the Yemeni government. Despite this, Saudi Arabia and the United States have accused Iran – who support the Houthi rebels – of perpetrating the attack, claiming that the drones and missiles used in the bombings were of Iranian origin, and that no evidence suggests that the attack originated in Yemen. Iran has strongly refuted these claims, and has accused the United States of deceit. In any case, the attack on the two refineries is another clear example of the geopolitical tensions in the Middle East, and demonstrates how global energy security is vulnerable to disruptive events in specific regions of the world.
That is all for now. I hope you have enjoyed this article. I will be releasing my next article in the coming week.