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Under The Radar – 11 March

This week we discuss:

  1. Don’t Say DeSantis

  2. Misogyny law: a meaningful step forward?

  3. Energy crisis widens Tory cracks

Don’t Say DeSantis

What happened? Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has been embracing America’s culture war in a bid to position himself as a leading contender for the Republican nomination in 2024.

What does it mean?

Trumpist rhetoric and a polished image have seen DeSantis become a rising star in the Republican Party and the tag as an early frontrunner for a spot on the 2024 ticket. GOP voters have taken to DeSantis’ aversion to masks and public chastisement of those wearing them, as well as a string of other controversies. The Florida Governor currently polls second to Trump for the 2024 GOP candidacy. DeSantis is now in the spotlight once again for passing a law that it is being claimed marginalises LGBTQ+ people.

The ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, as it has been dubbed, has moved through the Republican dominated Florida senate for DeSantis to sign into law. The bill has garnered intense opposition from Democrats with President Biden branding the bill “hateful”. The bill aims to prevent classroom teaching on sexual orientation and gender identity from kindergarten through to third grade in a way that is not ‘age appropriate’ to students. Violations of these rules would enable parents to sue school districts.

Republican representatives have argued that these subjects should be introduced to children by their parents rather than teachers. Democrats are arguing that the language of the bill encourages an environment where teachers will avoid the subjects altogether. Disney, who were revealed to have donated to legislators passing the bill, have now involved themselves further with CEO Bob Chapek speaking to DeSantis to express his disappointment in how the law could be used to target LGBTQ+ children and families.

DeSantis’ ascent is symptomatic of a return to the populist battlegrounds of 2016 and 2020 with the Democrats unable to change the tide. Biden, or any successor as Democrat nominee, should buckle up for another culture war to fight come 2024.

Misogyny law: a meaningful step forward?

What happened?

The chair of the Misogyny and Criminal Justice in Scotland Working Group, Lady Helena Kennedy QC, has proposed a law in Scotland to crack down on experiences which “degrade women’s lives”. 

What does it mean?

Lady Kennedy has said she wants to use the law as a “tool for cultural change”, shifting the dial from a focus on the victims to those committing the offence. If passed, the act should set a precedent for change that will filter down throughout the UK.

The proposed law is aimed at tackling the everyday harassment, online hate and increase in ‘rape and disfigurement threats’ experienced by women across the country. It stems from a report produced by Lady Kennedy’s working group that recommends explicitly listing the daily abuses which women are exposed to through no choice of their own.

While the proposed Misogyny and Criminal Justice Act is a step in the right direction in terms of safeguarding women in public (and private), there are significant challenges which will need to be overcome for such an Act to be ratified into law.

The need for greater protections addressing the abuse against women in society is clear, however the wording of the legislation will inevitably cause a headache for lawmakers considering the strict constraints of interpreting statute in courts. The definition of misogyny is the ‘dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against women’, all of which are arguably subjective to each woman.

Given the recent revelations over the misogynistic and sexist culture seemingly ingrained in police forces across the UK – with a particular nod to London’s Met Police – a complete overhaul of police culture is required for the Act to have its desired effect. Only then will women be empowered by the measures and secure in the knowledge that serious complaints will not be laughed out the station.

Energy crisis widens Tory cracks

What happened?

The cabinet appears divided over reports that the government is set to pursue projects in the North Sea to ease Britain’s energy crisis.

What does it mean?

Putin’s attack on Ukraine has fully exposed Europe’s reliance on Russian resources, wreaked havoc upon global energy markets and prompted a drastic reappraisal of European energy supplies. As nations scramble to find an alternative to Russian oil and gas, heads once again turn to the UK’s reserves in the North Sea.

The government’s expected commitment to six new oil and gas projects in the region will be welcomed by the right of the Conservative party, where notable individuals including Lord Frost have been particularly vocal on the benefits of British gas reserves in the campaign against Russia.

Certain members of the cabinet are becoming increasingly uneasy with the government’s sustained focus on net zero and hitting ambitious COP 26 targets, with one minister briefing that “the priority should be the cost of living – 2050 is a long way away, and our own gas is a valuable transition fuel in the meantime.”

Johnson’s own comments this week on the UK’s need to pursue ‘alternative sources of energy that are cheaper, … more reliable and less vulnerable to the whims of a dictator’, have raised concerns among politicians, experts and environmentalists alike that the government is pondering the return of fracking in the UK.

Such a decision will undoubtedly leave a bitter taste in the mouths of many Tory MPs, particularly those in Red Wall constituencies whose 2019 campaigns were built upon their opposition to the exploitation of shale gas reserves. Given the government’s suggestion is at odds with the IPCC’s latest and ‘bleakest’ warning yet of climate devastation, further widespread critique will surely follow.

The solution to Britain’s growing energy crisis is not yet clear. What is evident is that the Prime Minister has another political headache, one that risks entrenching even deeper divisions within his party.

This Week’s Must Reads

  1. “The rising costs of China’s friendship with Russia” by Mitchell et al for the Financial Times

  2. “Putin’s monstrous new fascism has destroyed the globalised world order” by Alistair Heath for the Daily Telegraph

  3. “Nadhim Zahawi: how I escaped Saddam’s Iraq” by Nadhim Zahawi for the New Statesman

  4. “Investors are terrible at forecasting wars” by Buttonwood for the Economist

Chart of the Week

Depicts the flow of Ukrainian refugees into neighbouring countries.


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