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The Week in Politics | Feb 3rd – 6th

In this week’s politics round-up we cast our eyes to Midwestern America, where the first U.S. caucus descended into chaos.

Climate change was the big topic at Wedensday’s PMQs as Jeremy Corbyn accused Boris Johnson of failing spectacularly in tackling the climate emergency.

And bullying accusations against former House of Commons speaker, John Bercow, just won’t go away.

Chaos in Iowa

We start this week across the pond where Monday’s caucus in Iowa descended into chaos. In the first round of the contest to choose a Democratic candidate to challenge U.S. president Donald Trump in November’s presidential election, apparent technological errors led to huge delays in the reporting of votes.  

Iowa Democratic Party spokeswoman Mandy McClure said that officials had found “inconsistencies in the reporting of three sets of results” on the evening of the contest.

It has since been revealed that a new app, which was supposed to streamline the voting process, did quite the opposite. The app was designed to collect and report the caucus results, but many officials reported difficulties in reporting the results through the app; ensure the chaos.

Nate Gruber, the Democratic vice-chairman of Black Hawk county simply said the app “doesn’t really work” and that “no-one can reach the state party to report”.

Iowa Caucus Workers
The Iowa caucus turned into a nightmare for the Democratic Party on Monday night. [Image: CNN]

Within the Democratic Party, fingers are being pointed and tensions are at boiling point. The Democratic National Committee’s communication director, Xochitl Hinojosa, said that that the head of DNC security did not want to introduce new technology in the Iowa caucuses.

A DNC official said: “The DNC has expressed concerns broadly to campaigns, state parties, DNC members and many others about the use of technology in voting,”.

However, the Iowa Democratic Party denied the DNC had warned it against the use of the app.

Nearly three days after the caucus, the world is still waiting for the full results to be released. At the time of writing, Pete Buttigieg is just ahead of Bernie Sanders.

The whole fiasco is an extremely embarrassing situation for the Democratic party, who couldn’t really have started the 2020 election season any worse.

Over at the White House, Mr Trump will be smiling with glee. In a week when the U.S. president was acquitted by the Senate in his impeachment trial, he was also treated to a Democratic debacle of epic proportions.

The question is, can the Democrats increase the damage to their reputation anymore? At this juncture, the party is doing all it can to get Mr Trump re-elected in November.

In a week when the U.S. president was acquitted by the Senate in his impeachment trial, he was also treated to a Democratic debacle of epic proportions.

Climate Change on the Agenda at PMQs

Jeremy Corbyn and Boris Johnson were at loggerheads over climate change at Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday. Corbyn accused the Prime Minister of “failing so spectacularly” on climate change, and claimed that Mr Johnson was previously a “climate sceptic”.   

Mr Johnson responded to the accusations characteristically, suggesting that all Corbyn would produce on climate change was a “load of hot air”.  He also said that Corbyn’s comments were “beyond satire”.

The clash between Johnson and Corbyn came after former climate and energy minister Claire O’Neil was fired last week as the president of the 2020 United Nations Climate Change Conference.

Ms O’Neil claimed that Mr Johnson “doesn’t really get” climate change and accused the government of a “huge lack of leadership and engagement” on the issue of climate change. She also said the Prime Minister was “miles off track” in preparations for the Climate Change Conference, which will take place in Glasgow in November.

Corbyn accused the Prime Minister of “failing so spectacularly” on climate change

These sentiments were echoed by Corbyn in the Commons: “Considering his monumental failure in advance of COP26, isn’t it really just a continuation of his climate change denial statements that he was regularly making up until 2015?”

Jeremy Corbyn at PMQs on Wednesday. [Image: The Herald]

Mr Johnson dismissed Corbyn’s accusations, saying “If you look at what this government is achieving and already has achieved on climate change, it is quite phenomenal.” 

He went on to say: “We lead the world in going for a zero-carbon approach. His own approach is utterly unclear and has been condemned by the GMB as a disaster for the UK economy.”

In other PMQ news, the Prime Minister twice refused to promise Tory MPs that he would find an alternative to Huawei as a 5G provider for the UK in the future. This will do nothing to assuage the concerns over Huawei’s involvement in the building of the UK’s 5G network.

Mr Johnson responded to a question from former first secretary of state, Damian Green,

“What has happened is, I’m afraid, a failure of like-minded countries to produce an alternative to the 5G network, except that provided by high-risk vendors, and that is why we are now doubling the science budget”.

Bercow in Bother

The former speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, is in further hot bother over bullying claims and his attitude towards them.

In late January, former Black Rod, David Leakey, accused John Bercow of bullying him over the years. He also said that several highly-ranked politicians and parliamentary staff told him privately that they were bullied by Mr Bercow.

Mr Leaky has described Mr Bercow as a “Jekyll and Hyde character” who would terrify those who worked under him. He has also said that it would be a “scandal” if Bercow received a peerage.

Lord Lisvane, a clerk of the House of Commons from 2011 to 2014, submitted a dossier of complaints against Mr Bercow to the Parliamentary Standards Authority at the end of last month.

John Bercow
John Bercow has denied all bullying accusations. [Image: PoliticsHome]

Mr Bercow has vehemently denied all accusations and said that Lord Lisvane “did not at any time” raise any concerns over bullying.

However, responding to Bercow’s comments, Lisvane claimed that Mr Bercow made it “impossible” for staff to seek redress if they were badly treated by MPs.

Lisvane said:

“The problem was exemplified by a complaint against an MP for bullying and harassing a young female clerk, who sadly left the House of Commons Service shortly thereafter. 

“Mr Bercow said he that he was not going to have the case proved ‘on the word of any ****ing clerk’.  It’s not surprising that in such circumstances it was impossible to deal with bullying by MPs.”

“Mr Bercow said he that he was not going to have the case proved ‘on the word of any ****ing clerk'”. (Lord Lisvane)

Dianne Abbott, meanwhile, lived up to her talent for questionable remarks. The Shadow Home Secretary tweeted:

“Allegations come from former parliamentary official David Leakey. He had been a lieutenant general who served in Germany, Northern Ireland and Bosnia, but claims he was bullied (i.e. intimidated and coerced) by John Bercow. Unlikely.”

Abbott’s tweet was swiftly removed, but still drew wide criticism.

Her comments were condemned by many including Labour MP and former Army major Dan Jarvis. Jarvis said to Abbott, “Are you, therefore, calling David Leakey (a Lieutenant General who served in Germany, Northern Ireland and Bosnia) a liar?”

Dianne always has to put her foot in it, doesn’t she?

Labour Leadership Latest

And we finish this week with the Labour leadership contest, which, truth be told, has been relatively uneventful.

Emily Thornberry has still not received the support she needs to reach the final ballot in the Labour leadership race. In an interview with the BBC, Thornberry said that she is being “squeezed” in the contest and that it had “ended up with two slightly monolithic campaigns”.

However, Thornberry hasn’t given up on reaching the final ballot and said that under her leadership, Labour would be “more professional”.

In other Thornberry news, the Shadow Foreign Secretary took a swipe at Jeremy Corbyn’s peerage nominations. Thornberry said that “this is not a time for us to pack the House of Lords with politicos who’ve been close to the leader”.

Thornberry has the support of just a few local parties and no affiliates. She needs to receive the backing of at least three affiliates and 5% of local parties by the 14th February to get onto the ballot.

Emily Thornberry
Emily Thornberry has not received enough support to be on the final ballot. [Image: Huffpost]

Rebecca Long-Bailey also took a swipe at Jeremy Corbyn this week. Long Bailey said that “mismanagement and a bad organisational culture” had contributed to Labour’s General Election drubbing.

The Salford and Eccles MP also attempted to garner wider party support in the leadership contest declaring “I don’t care which wing of the party you’re from. If you’re competent, professional and get the job done, I want you working for Labour.”

Long Bailey said that “mismanagement and a bad organisational culture” had contributed to Labour’s General Election drubbing.

Keir Starmer was also critical of Mr Corbyn this week in a thinly veiled attack against the outgoing leader of the opposition. Starmer has vowed to scarp the National Constitutional Committee (NCC), the body which deals with complaints against Labour members.

Under Starmer’s leadership, the NCC, which has faced heavy criticism for its handling of disciplinary complaints, would be replaced by an independent body of “experts on racism, sexual harassment and poor personal conduct”, Starmer said.

Written by
Richard Ballout
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