The Martlet News Bulletin

Catch the latest on this fortnight’s news as the editors look at Northern Ireland Abortion Act, China’s national day and key candidates for the Democratic nomination.

What’s the change in Northern Ireland’s abortion legislation?

Belfast’s High Court has ruled that the new abortion laws in Northern Ireland are not compatible with the UK’s human rights commitments. The reasoning for Mrs Justice Siobhan Keegan’s ruling was based on the laws’ breach of the European convention of human rights since, in cases of fatal foetal abnormalities they did not allow abortion. These new laws had already seen backlash from Westminster in July, passing legislation decriminalising abortion if the Northern Ireland executive does not meet by October 21. The probability of this is unknown since the collapse of the power-sharing arrangement between the Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Féin in January 2017 has severed relations.  

A risk to the mother’s health is the only circumstance in Northern Ireland that an abortion is possible. The Abortion Act of 1967 permitted abortions carried out up to 24 weeks in England, Wales and Scotland. The contrast in legislation translates across to the number of cases recorded, with only 16 terminations in Northern Ireland in 2015-16, yet a reported 833 women travelled from Northern Ireland to England seeking abortions. 

Sarah Ewart’s (who was forced to travel to England for a termination in 2013) appeal on abortion laws was dismissed by the UK’s Supreme Court; following which, Ms Ewart brought a legal challenge in Belfast. 

 

China’s National Day Marred

There was a stark contrast in commemoration of 70 years of the People’s Republic of China, or ‘Communist China’ to many. Honouring the 1st October 1949, when Mao Zedong announced the formation of the PRC, Xi Jingping, the Chinese Premier and General Secretary of the Communist Party, promised to express ‘confidence in the party’ and he certainly did not disappoint. A colossal military parade took place in Beijing last week, involving over 15,000 personnel and 160 aircraft, which has been seen by many as a move demonstrating the power of Chinese military forces and government rule. 

Contrasted with this military prowess however were another round of mass protests in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. An estimated 80,000 people took to the streets, with around 6,000 police officers deployed. This has been a continuation of the protests that have been in the cities over several months, principally over a, now withdrawn, extradition bill to the Chinese mainland that has now morphed into general dissatisfaction with encroaching Chinese governance. Protests were marred even further by a gunshot injury to one protestor; the first firearm afflicted injury of the disorder.

 

How do two of the favourites for the Democratic nomination differ?

As the US begins the grueling slog to November 2020’s Presidential election many progressive Democrats are beginning to ask themselves what, if any, difference there is between their two top contenders – Senator Bernie Sanders and Senator Elizabeth Warren. Superficially, of course, both seem to, and for the most do, stem from the same part of what has become America’s progressive movement. Both call for radical changes to the way government runs and how wealth is distributed. Both are determined to aggressively shape America in line with in a more progressive, or, dare one say, socialist image. 

However, their similarities fade away the deeper you delve into their policies and politics. These aren’t only minor disagreements between the two but deep rooted differences in their beliefs and, it is this, at least for me, that will be fundamental in determining which of the two could truly take on Donald Trump come next November.

We begin on economics – dull I know, but rather crucial to the running of the world’s largest economy. Sanders has repeatedly called for a ‘revolution’ of the American financial system. With him, Capitalism doesn’t stand a chance. Famously, he called for Wall Street’s ‘too big to fail’ banks to be broken up, and in a similar way, has famously railed against free trade deals, such as NAFTA, for thinking only about ‘the top one percent of the top one percent’ of society. Yet Warren, framed as a ‘crazy lady’ by Trump, is actually almost conservative compared to Sanders. She has often referred to herself as a ‘Capitalist to my bones’ – this isn’t just a campaign slogan, she really is. Warren’s policies are not set on creating or having a full-blown social revolution, but rather about giving all Americans a ‘level playing field’ in line within the current system – a system she believes could function much better than today but should remain nonetheless. She’s also a believer in the markets and market forces. She blames the financial crash not on Capitalism’s inbuilt flaws, as Sanders might do, but on a lack of proper regulation to ensure that the West’s Capitalist system doesn’t lose control of itself.

Here we come to see the biggest difference between the two. Sanders wants a ‘revolution by the people’ to take back control of democracy and end the dominance of wealth as a determinant of power in the US. He is set on changing America’s economic and political landscape completely. No longer would there be a ‘free market’ whose purpose was endless growth and profit, but a sustainable circular economy driven more by people’s needs and the sustainability of our planet than anything else. Warren however, is playing a different ball game. For her, the market is fundamental to the success of the US economy – and the US as a whole. For her, the system does not need to be broken up and built back again, but rather guided by proper regulation that keeps it in check – she is calling for evolution and regulation, not revolution.

Who is better is not for one person to decide. Personally, what Sanders is calling for is truly a break from the past that America, especially young Americans, need to ensure that their society and economy is ready for the challenges of the century ahead. Crucially, Sander’s ideas are part of a socailist movement not hemmed in by the Democratic Party – an institution Warren is fiercely loyal to. But, life is never so simple, and politics most certainly isn’t. What the progressive Democrats need is to appeal to the more moderate of their clan and, indeed, to the wider electorate that is still not ready for a revolution like Sander’s. What Warren presents is a milder and less scary affront on the status quo and, as a result, she has found a broader base that seems to be appealing more to previously die-hard Trumpers. Sanders may well have the best progressive ideas but Warren has the most palpable ones – at least its progress…