The political week in 5 points

When yours truly was tricked — ah, gently persuaded — to come out of retirement to take up the Political Week in 5 Points once again while the wonderful Ruth Foster was away, no one could have predicted what a week of news it would be. And some good news too, for a change! This week, from your international correspondent in Washington D.C.

Equal marriage and abortion rights will come to Northern Ireland — if Stormont doesn’t come back before October

Sometimes, as Matt O’Neill says, the right things just happen. Check out Matt’s fantastic coverage of the dramatic day at Westminster which could result in equal marriage and the legalisation of abortion in Northern Ireland.

On Tuesday, Labour MPs Conor McGinn and Stella Creasy attached amendments to legislation that would delay Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley’s obligation to call Stormont elections until October. That means, if Stormont is not restored by 21st October, same-sex marriage and abortion will be legal in Northern Ireland. If Stormont is restored, it will be up to MLAs to introduce the legislation.

This has put many people in Northern Ireland in the awkward position of sort of, kind of hoping that Stormont doesn’t come back before the end of October. Ah, well — no one really thought it was going to anyways. (By the way, it’s been over 900 days since Northern Ireland’s government collapsed — bet Belgium’s feeling a bit embarrassed about how thoroughly Norn Iron is smashing its record by a whopping 318 days.)

People have been sending massive congratulations to the tireless advocates and campaigners for equal marriage and abortion rights. And, on Tuesday, #UppaQueers was trending on Twitter. I also have a feeling Conor McGinn and Stella Creasy will never have to buy themselves pints in Belfast again.

UK Ambassador to the US resigns after likely premier Boris Johnson refuses to back him

In an awkward day for the US-UK Special Relationship, UK Ambassador to the US Sir Kim Darroch resigned his post. Leaked cables published by The Mail included private memos written by Darroch in which he called the Trump Administration “clumsy and inept.” He writes that they do not believe that the Trump Administration “is going to become substantially more normal; less dysfunctional; less unpredictable; less faction rived; less diplomatically clumsy and inept,” noting that Trump has regularly survived scandals and “may emerge from the flames, battered but intact, like Schwarzenegger in the final scenes of ‘The Terminator.” More seriously, the Ambassador warned of “real risks on the horizon,” saying: “This ‘America First’ administration could do some profoundly damaging things to the world trade system: such as denounce the WTO, tear up existing trade details, launch protectionist action, even against allies. It could further undermine international action on climate change, or further cut UN funding.”

The Foreign Office was quick to come to Sir Darroch’s defence, issuing a statement: “The British public would expect our ambassadors to provide ministers with an honest, unvarnished assessment of the politics in their country. Their views are not necessarily the views of ministers or indeed the government. But we pay them to be candid. Just as the US ambassador here will send back his reading of Westminster politics and personalities.”

However, Donald Trump took to Twitter a day later to say that Sir Kim Darroch is not particularly liked or well-thought of in the United States and that the US government will “no longer deal with him.” After likely incoming premier Boris Johnson refused to say whether he would support the Ambassador after becoming Prime Minster, Sir Kim decided to submit his resignation. He was due to retire at the end of the coming year.

Many have criticised Mr Johnson for failing to back the Ambassador, saying it undermines the civil service’s ability to be candid and provide necessary information about foreign countries back to government. Speculation has also mounted as to whether someone privately wished to undermine the Ambassador before the new Prime Minister assumes office to give an opportunity for him to be replaced. When Donald Trump took office in 2016 he publicly stated his hope that the Brexiteer Nigel Farage — who had appeared at campaign rallies for then candidate Trump — would be appointed ambassador. Theresa May’s government had replied that the post was already filled, but Mr Johnson is under increasing pressure to confirm he will not allow the US to dictate who the UK appoints to the ambassadorship.

Meanwhile, the Borowitz Report, a satirical column by the New Yorker magazine, reports that Theresa May has vowed to search high and low for a replacement for Sir Kim who does not think Donald Trump is a nitwit. Godspeed.

Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt face off in ITV debate for unclear reasons, still don’t seem to understand Brexit

To be perfectly honest with you, I don’t quite understand why ITV felt it was necessary to subject us to an hour of two grown men attempting to one up each other as if they were (back) in an Oxford debating society. It seems almost inevitable that Boris Johnson will succeed Theresa May as the next Prime Minister. Nonetheless, the Tory party seems committed to keeping up the charade of pretending like the Tory leadership contest is an open primary vote and not, as it were, the result of backroom negotiations between Tory MPs. So, alas, to the ITV debate “So you want to be the next Prime Minister?” we go.

While ITV’s Julie Etchingham did give us some great eyebrow raising gifs in her efforts to stop the two candidates speaking over each other, for some reason she felt comfortable asking the two candidates their position on a No Deal Brexit as if it were not a completely catastrophic event which could trigger an economic shock, cause medical, food and petrol shortages and cause one in four food exporters to go out of business in six weeks . . . but do go on.

Jeremy Hunt has said that, if forced, he would enter into a no deal Brexit — but he would “do it with a heavy heart.” (That’s nice, I guess?) Boris Johnson said that the UK needs to prepare for a No Deal Brexit — not because it will happen, but because the UK needs to act like they think it might happen in order to trick the EU into believing the UK will actually execute No Deal Brexit, and result in the EU giving the UK a better deal in the negotiations. (Thankfully, I can confirm that no one in the EU had thought to watch the ITV debate in order to hear about this ingenious plan!)

Both Johnson and Hunt failed to grasp anything about the Irish border, insisting that existing technologies of mobile checkpoints would allow for frictionless movement of goods across the island of Ireland and that the backstop should be replaced with “something else.” (If you heard an odd wailing that evening, it was most likely the spirits of Katy Hayward’s threads on the border screaming off the Cliffs of Moher.)

On Friday, Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt were interviewed by Andrew Neil — who pressed them on many of their answers at ITV debate. Particularly memorable (or painful) is this exchange involving Boris Johnson’s continued instance about an subsection of WTO trading rules.

US Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta resigns amid increased scrutiny of his approval of a plea deal over a child sex trafficking ring

The White House lost another Trump appointee this week when Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta stepped down over a controversial 2009 plea agreement around Jeffrey Epstein and child sex trafficking. Epstein, a financier who was friendly with many celebrities including Donald Trump and Bill Clinton, had been charged with trafficking children in his Florida mansion. He was indicted in 2007, but ultimately spent only 13 months in jail due to a plea agreement that was overseen by then US attorney for Miami Alexander Acosta. There is speculation that the plea agreement was reached to protect Epstein’s high profile friends who were involved with or complicit in the child sex trafficking ring. Court documents filed in 2016 show one of Epstein’s victims said that both Donald Trump and Jeffrey Epstein had assaulted her when she was a teenager in 1994.

Acosta decided to step down on Friday due to increased scrutiny of his approval of the plea deal this week, when Epstein was arrested in New Jersey for charges of sex trafficking and sex trafficking conspiracy by a federal court in New York. President Trump made it clear that Acosta still had it full support and confidence.

Acosta had approved the 2009 plea deal which allowed Epstein to serve zero time in jail. Acosta decided to step down but DJT made it clear that he had his full support.

Acosta had also attempted to slash funding for a Department of Labor program to combat human trafficking by 80% while Secretary of Labor.

US women’s football (AKA ‘soccer’)

The US Women’s Soccer team won their fourth World Cup Championship this week. And it was AMAZING.

However, the team will be going home to face another battle — a lawsuit against the United States Soccer Federation for equal pay. The players sued the federation in March, arguing that they could earn 38 percent of what a top-tier men’s play makes in a year — a gap of $164,320 — despite winning more games and brining in more money than the mens’ team. Fans chanted “equal pay” from the stands following the team’s victory.

Mid-fielder Megan Rapinoe in particular has garnered national attention by using her spotlight to call for equal pay. Many people across the US (including Snoop Dog) have echoed her calls.

Originally published at Northern Slant.



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