The political week in 5 points

Alina Utrata
5 min readDec 16, 2018


Theresa May survives leadership challenge, there is no Brexit vote, and more

Despite my promise in last week’s 5 points that Parliament’s meaningful vote on the Withdrawal Agreement was not likely to be cancelled, Theresa May did indeed cancel the vote. The agreement was likely to fail over continued opposition to the backstop. Theresa May went back to the EU (notably getting trapped in her car before meeting German Chancellor Angela Merkel) in an attempt to re-negotiate the deal. The EU said no, the deal will not be renegotiated. Germany’s parliament even passed a symbolic notion that Brexit deal could not be renegotiated, saying, “any hope that a rejection of the agreement could lead to its renegotiation must prove to be illusory.”

For why the DUP’s ‘better Brexit deal’ is not a better Brexit deal, see this thread from the always-brilliant Katy Hayward.

Although Theresa May was supposed to be in Dublin on Wednesday, she faced a leadership challenge from her own party. After promising not to seek re-election in 2022, May won the vote of confidence 200 to 117.

Meanwhile, it is a bit unclear what happens next with Brexit. Some politicians are legitimately arguing for a no-deal Brexit, including Jeremy Hunt who says the UK will “flourish and prosper” in a no-deal scenario. (Spoiler alert: it will not). The fall in the value of the pound because of Brexit uncertainty has already cost low-income families £400 a year. UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty Philip Alston (remember, the man who said that poverty in the UK was in violation of 4 human rights agreements and on par with China’s one-child policy) said that the poor would “bear the brunt” of the expected economic impact of Brexit. “In my meetings with the government, it was clear to me that the impact of Brexit on people in poverty is an afterthought,” Aston said. Oh, by the way, the British government spent £97,000 on Facebook advertisements alone for support for the Brexit deal.

Meanwhile, the European Court of Justice recently ruled that the UK can unilaterally revoke Brexit in line with their own constitutional requirements.

Things continue to be a bit chaotic at the White House

Last week, US president Donald Trump fired his Chief of Staff John Kelly. Unfortunately, the most powerful non-elected position in Washington is no longer a position that anyone wants. Trump’s first pick for Chief of Staff, Nick Ayers, turned him down. In fact, it has been so difficult for Trump to find a replacement that rumors even swirled that he was considering asking his son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Mick Mulvaney, the director for the office of management, is now the acting chief of staff. In November 2016, Mulvaney was quote as saying, “Yes, I am supporting Donald Trump, but I’m doing so despite the fact that I think he’s a terrible human being.”

Meanwhile, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke stepped down after being implicated a series of ethics violations, one of which included a land deal in Montana (where Mr Zinke was formerly a Congressman) and the chairman of oilfield services Halliburton. Trump’s former layer, Michael Cohen, was sentenced to three years in prison for what the judge called a “veritable smorgasbord of criminal conduct.” (We think smorgasbord is a really great vocab word, and hope more people use it in the future.)

Finally, almost every organisation Donald Trump has led in the past decade is now under investigation.

Nancy Pelosi secures spot as Speaker of the House, shakes up fashion world with iconic sassy, red coat

Nancy Pelosi has been fighting off a challenge from House Democrats opposed to her bid to reclaim her spot as Speaker of the House when Democrats re-take the House in January. Democrats ultimately reached a compromise where Pelosi would become Speaker, but be limited to a term of four years.

Meanwhile, Pelosi and Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer had a very interesting public spat with Donald Trump in the Oval Office over funding for a border wall. President Trump attempted to insist that Congress pay for the way in a televised meeting between Pelosi, Schumer and Vice President Mike Pence, saying that he would shut down the government if he did not get $5 billion for the border wall. Trump said: “If we don’t get what we want….I will shut down the government. I am proud to shut down the government for border security…I will take the mantle. I will be the one to shut it down. I won’t blame you for it.”

Nancy Pelosi basically said, “No funding.”

She then walked out of the White House in an iconic red coat, putting on her sassy shades like a feisty mama who just had a show down with the US president. (By the way, the red coat is now back in stock due to high demand after the image of Pelosi went viral — it’s a Max Mara, if anyone is looking for a Christmas present for me.)

Pelosi later said that the border wall, “It’s like a manhood thing with him — as if manhood can be associated with [Trump] . . . . I was trying to be the mom. But it goes to show you — you get into a tinkle contest with a skunk, you get tinkle all over you.”

Strasbourg Christmas market attack

On Tuesday, Cherif Chekatt opened fire at a Christmas market in Strasbourg. He was shot dead by a police patrol after he opened fire on them on Thursday evening. The city had been on lock down, with 700 police and soldiers searching for the gunman. Chekatt had been known to the security services, with a string of criminal convictions in France and Germany and had become radicalized while in jail. Five people are dead, with 11 others wounded.

Consulting company McKinsey complicit, associated with authoritarian governments

The New York Times published an incredible investigative report into the consulting company McKinsey, showing how it worked to help authoritarian governments all across the words. The report said, “At a time when democracies and their basic values are increasingly under attack, the iconic American company has helped raise the stature of authoritarian and corrupt governments across the globe, sometimes in ways that counter American interests.” For example, McKinsey’s clients have included Saudi Arabia’s absolute monarchy, Turkey under the autocratic leadership of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Ukrainian presidential candidate Viktor Yanukovych, and various Krelim-linked companies. McKinsey even helped build China’s artificial islands in the South China sea.

McKinsey defended its work, saying it does “not accept jobs at odds with the company’s values.” In a statement, they said, “Since 1926, McKinsey has sought to make a positive difference to the businesses and communities in which our people live and work . . . Like many other major corporations including our competitors, we seek to navigate a changing geopolitical environment but we do not support or engage in political activities.”

Former US assistant Secretary of State David Kramer said, “It is more likely they [McKinsey] enable these regimes and likely become complicit . . . They don’t want to alienate regimes, or they would lose business.”

Bonus point: New York Times asks Londoners if they’ve ever experienced petty crime and the response is amazing

The New York Times put a call out on Twitter to Londoners asking them to submit instances when they have experienced petty crime. The responses were incredible — and here are a few personal favorites.

Originally published at Northern Slant.



Alina Utrata

PhD’ing in Politics and International Studies at Cambridge via Queen's University Belfast via Stanford.