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‘They don’t care about our future’: 4 in 5 children don’t feel listened to by politicians

The biggest survey of children in England ever produced has revealed four in five children don’t feel listened to by politicians.

The Children’s Commissioner Dame Rachel de Souza, who led the project, is calling on political parties to put children at the heart of their manifestos in the election.

It comes as charities have launched a mass-scale election for young people under 18, which will allow them to cast a vote for political candidates in their constituencies through their school or youth group.

The survey was sent to 367,000 children aged 0-18, as well as some adults, in every local authority in England.

It asked children to share their thoughts and opinions on things like family, education, health, online safety and their future, and then their responses would be shown to the politicians in charge of running the country

Why was the Big Ambition survey commissioned?

Dame de Souza said the survey “is a call to action to all politicians and policymakers in this general election year: listen to children and act on what they are telling you.”

“This is a generation of children faced with ever-evolving technology, stiff competition for jobs and university places, a postcode lottery in access to good healthcare, parents struggling with rising costs and lives played out over social media – but rather than becoming despondent or pessimistic, they are charged with energy and a passion for making change.” said Dame de Souza.

What did the results show

The questions in the survey focussed on ten main areas: family, education, social care, youth work, online safety, health, safety from crime, jobs and skills, unaccompanied children seeking asylum, and thoughts on ‘a better world’.

The results showed that just one in five children (22%) felt that the people who run the country listened to what they had to say, and only 10% of teenagers (ages 12-18) believe they have the power to influence the issues they care about.

Source: Unsplash

Dame de Souza said she wants to tackle this by asking every political party to agree to write a document for children, setting out what they will do, and how they will involve children, and hold a leaders’ debate about childhood. She also wants children to be talked to about every legislation and policy reform that affects them before it is made into law.

60% of children said they enjoyed going to school or college – with three quarters (75%) agreeing they have great teachers who support them.

On health and wellbeing, the survey showed that less than half of children (49%) agreed with the statement ‘You feel happy with the way you look’. 60% of boys agreed, compared to just 40% of girls.

71% of children say they have a healthy diet, and 68% of children with SEND (Special educational needs and disabilities), and adults answering on their behalf, said they can access good healthcare, compared to 84% for children without SEND.

Around 80% of younger children ( 6-11-year-olds) said they felt safe and protected in their local area, compared to 66% of 12- to-18-year-olds.

Almost three-quarters of children (72%) agreed that there were fun activities where they live, but that falls to 62% for children with special educational needs or disabilities.

Children said that activities and clubs should be better funded, accessible for every child, held in-person and should be easy to find, as a way to help children avoid falling into crime or gang activity.

Tory donor ‘racism’ dispute is embarrassing for all involved

A Tory minister has said his party would take another £10m from a donor who allegedly made comments about Diane Abbott that No 10 called “racist”.

Tory Donor Frank Hester apologised after reportedly saying the ex-Labour MP made him want to “hate all black women”. Andy Street, a Tory mayor, told the BBC that he would return the cash, however, Post Office minister Kevin Hollinrake said that his party would accept more because Mr Hester’s apology demonstrated he was not racist.

The disagreement within the party comes as Downing Street faces calls to return the money.

What Happened?

The disagreements over returning Mr Hester’s money come after a day of internal party turbulence over Mr Hester’s comments, first reported by the Guardian on Monday.

In 2019 Mr Hester allegedly said: “It’s like trying not to be racist but you see Diane Abbott on the TV, and you’re just like I hate, you just want to hate all black women because she’s there, and I don’t hate all black women at all, but I think she should be shot.”

In further remarks reported by the newspaper from the same meeting, the Phoenix Partnership boss is claimed to have said that there was “no room for the Indians, then?” and suggested staff climb on a train roof.

In a social media post, published earlier, Mr Hester said he “abhors racism”, which he described as a “poison that has no place in public life”.

He added: “We should have the confidence to discuss our differences openly and even playfully without seeking to cause offence.”

Frank Hester made the comments at a meeting he called of his ‘foreign’ workers to defend himself against claims he had made racist remarks. Photograph: TPP / YouTube

Why did Downing Street take so long to call it racism?

No 10 and Conservative ministers initially stopped short of making that criticism of Frank Hester’s remarks. However, Sunak’s spokesperson released a new statement on Tuesday evening, after a day in which Kemi Badenoch, the business secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng, the former chancellor, and William Hague, the former Conservative leader, all described Hester’s comments as racist.

The fact that it took our first minority Prime Minister 24 hours to work out whether clear evidence of racism was in fact racist is shameful. This demonstrates a weakness in Sunak to lead from the front which many of his critics have long complained about. This is the latest instalment in a series of unfortunate events from the Tory party in a week, including the defection of party deputy chairman, Lee Anderson.

The responses

This scandal has evoked some very eery responses from commentators across the UK. Top of this list has been an impassioned defence of Frank Hester by GB New’s Nana Akua

What is most egregious about this defence of the indefensible is the claim that Akua makes that she wasn’t personally offended as though that should have any currency here. The central point is that someone was criticised and their gender and skin colour were part of that criticism. Whilst it may be odd not to find that offence, this is a plausible position. However, the statement that Mr Hester’s comment wasn’t racist is pure fantasy.

In a statement released on Monday, Mr Hester’s company said he “accepts that he was rude about Diane Abbott in a private meeting several years ago but his criticism had nothing to do with her gender nor colour of skin”. It added: “The Guardian is right when it quotes Frank saying he abhors racism, not least because he experienced it as the child of Irish immigrants in the 1970s.

“He rang Diane Abbott twice today to try to apologise directly for the hurt he has caused her, and is deeply sorry for his remarks.

“He wishes to make it clear that he regards racism as a poison which has no place in public life.”

Ms Abbott said as a “single woman” she was already “vulnerable” when walking or taking a bus in her Hackney constituency.

“For all of my career as an MP I have thought it important, not to live in a bubble, but to mix and mingle with ordinary people,” she added.

“The fact that two MPs have been murdered in recent years makes talk like this all the more alarming.”

Is David Cameron winning over critics?

One hundred days, thirty-six different visits to twenty-six different countries, and eight different multinational gatherings including the G20 and G7. Lord David Cameron’s gargantuan diplomatic efforts since returning to high office are made possible only by the absence of democratic accountability, with no constituents to return home for, he can afford to be travelling seven days a week but is trading democracy for diplomacy really worth it?

British Foreign Secretary David Cameron recently marked 100 days since his return to government. Despite skepticism, he appears to have won over his critics for his energetic approach to foreign policy which has thus far seen him make four trips to the Middle East to meet key players in the Israel-Gaza conflict, a couple of visits to Kyiv amidst the ongoing Russo-Ukrainian war, complete a tour of the Americas including the Falkland Islands, and a visit to every major European capital. Such efforts have even led some to credit Cameron with restoring British influence in the world.

Nonetheless, such an approach is only made possible because Cameron has no constituency and thus no niggly pressing domestic concerns such as potholes and rubbish collection to concern himself with. As Lord Peter Ricketts put it, Cameron is clearly relishing his freedom to be Foreign Secretary for seven days a week, compared with his ministerial peers who must return to their second jobs as constituency MPs.

This evokes several interesting questions. Does the Foreign Secretary need a direct democratic mandate to conduct his duties on behalf of the British government and its people? And if he does not, should he?

Should the Foreign Secretary be an MP?

The Office of Foreign Secretary is one of the four great offices of state. The incumbent is, in effect, the highest-ranking British diplomatic, responsible for UK relations with foreign dignitaries and carrying out the government’s foreign policy. Inevitably, this results in an intense travel schedule.

British Foreign Secretary David Cameron with Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen, following the October 7 deadly attack by the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas. November 23, 2023. Reuters.

And yet, traditionally, the British Foreign Secretary would still be expected to juggle such responsibilities with that of an MP tending to local constituents and their concerns. This isn’t feasible, not least if you want your leading diplomat to consistently show up on different stages across the globe. Not least, if simultaneously, you want your local MP to be both sincere and effective at addressing issues in your local area.

If the foreign secretary should not be an MP, should he be a Lord?

Where is the Foreign Secretaries’ democratic mandate?

When Rishi Sunak chose to appoint David Cameron as Foreign Secretary, the latter had taken a political leave of absence following the infamous Brexit referendum he called back in 2016. This meant that to become a minister, without an upcoming election, the only way was to appoint Cameron to the Lords, where no election is required – Lords are appointed by the King on the advice of the Prime Minister.

Members of the Lords cannot enter the House of Commons and thus do not face the same level of scrutiny a cabinet minister drawn from the House of Commons itself would face.

Instead, members of the House of Lords are scrutinized by their peers. This blurs democratic accountability when Lords are not elected, but chosen by politicians, and the representatives chosen by citizens to act on their behalf cannot provide the necessary checks and balance on their power.

However, some experts argue Lord Cameron is kept in check, not least, by four of his predecessors. Former holders of the Office of Foreign Secretary – Lord David Own, Lord Douglas Herd, Lord William Hague, and Lord Philip Hammond are said to be more capable of providing the necessary checks and balances on the current Foreign Secretary than even those in the Commons given their wealth of expertise and experience in the very role he fills.

Is it High Time for a UK Senate?

Come what may, so long as the Lords remains an unelected house there will remain an argument it has no place in a modern democratic society. So what other democratic alternatives are there?

Reforming the House of Lords has been an ambition of many in politics over the last century. The idea of a UK senate, akin to the one operating in the United States, is an idea that resurfaces infrequently.

Across the pond, the Senate consists of one-hundred senators, with two directly elected from each state. The Senate confirms the ministerial appointments of the government and provides the necessary checks and balances on behalf of the electorate.

Whilst across the Channel, in the case of the French senate, it also provides an opportunity for proportional representation, which has the additional benefit of helping to rebalance geographic divides, a well-known British problem.

Ultimately, the UK doesn’t have to trade democracy for diplomacy, but for now, it chooses to.

No Third-Way: How the two-party system is broken

British politics is to put it simply a mess. Even for those of us who might pride ourselves on keeping up with the political agenda, it’s getting harder and harder to know all the details of the latest scandals as there have been so many.

From the Labour Party battling antisemitism claims, and now the recent ex-Conservative MP’s Islamophobic comments, the choices seem slim. Here’s an overview of those two issues and why it feels that people may be voting for ‘the best of a bad bunch’. 

Labour’s Antisemitism?

Leader of the opposition, Keir Starmer has spent the best part of late 2023 into the new year campaigning and stamping out concerns of anti-Jewish sentiment in the party’s ranks. Despite multiple public and concerted efforts to demonstrate change, Labour is still suffering from the allegations of antisemitism. Recordings of Azhar Ali, Labour’s candidate in the North West seat of Rochdale were released in which he made anti-Israel remarks. Labour ultimately removed his campaign support yet many felt that they didn’t move fast enough. Coupled with a U-turn on Labour’s green investment pledge, and tiptoeing around the war in Gaza, it is reasonable to ask what does Labour really stand for? Other than an opposition to the Conservatives. 

The Conservatives Islamophobia?

This leads us to consider the Tory party. Who are currently in political power, but arguably not in any comfort. Lee Anderson’s outburst of anti-Muslim rhetoric in regards to London Mayor Sadiq Khan, Rishi Sunak struggled to condemn his comments and as of writing Lee Anderson still has not apologised. Anderson has since been stripped of the Tory whip, but one wonders the damage that could spiral from this unless a diversion tactic is employed. But the Conservatives have little else to distract voters’ attention, with waiting times crippling the NHS, and news headlines of economic recession, what is there for the Tory party to brag about?

By-elections indicate General Election victory?

While the discussion and allegations can rage on, many would ask does this translate into votes? Despite the issues, Labour has managed to flip not one, but two Tory seats to red. Labour overturned huge Tory majorities to win in Kingswood and Wellingborough in recent by-elections. Yet many commentators pointed to low turnout to question whether there was widespread support for Kerr Starmer’s Labour Party or a lack of enthusiasm for either option. 

When you look at the list of issues currently on the plate of our political parties it’s hardly inspiring options. The best of a bad bunch springs to mind, and arguably why Labour continues to poll ahead of the conservatives as a general election looms. We are seeing the same trend in the United States with many voters uninspired by either camp: Democrats or Republicans. In a two-horse race, you could be forgiven for assuming that there is a ‘good’ horse and a ‘bad’ horse. Simply put, we assume there will be a clear winner and loser. Yet in the western (English-speaking) world, our two-party systems, see political mayhem unfold. This leaves no choice to voters other than ‘what is the least worst option?

How does it end for Vladimir Putin?

By now, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s interview with American conservative political commentator Tucker Carlson has reached over eighteen million views on YouTube. The explainer pieces have been numerous. Nonetheless, here at Common Sense we feel that missing in the widespread coverage of the interview has been an in-depth look at the Russian leader’s vision for the future. Just how does Putin envision developments unfolding in the international arena?

“The world should be a single whole…That is the only scenario where the world could be stable, sustainable, and predictable”. These are not the words one might expect to see attributed to a certain Vladimir Putin, and yet they are indeed his. This remark was made during the by-now infamous interview with American conservative political commentator Tucker Carlson.

Below, we seek to answer, what really lies behind the strongman persona? Is Vladimir Putin an idealist?

Tucker Carlson (left) awaits the signal to begin his interview of Russian President Vladimir Putin (right). Kremlin Archives.

Understanding the origins of the Ukraine War

To understand Vladimir Putin’s vision for the future, it is integral we first turn to the past. The topic which dominated much of the interview was of course the ongoing Russo-Ukraine war. Putin’s justification for his war weaved a lengthy narrative consisting of a centuries old claim to sovereignty over parts of Eastern Ukraine, the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the subsequent failure of the West to integrate Russia into a new international security apparatus.

Putin’s key argument was that the Russian leadership had seemingly misunderstood the notion that when the Soviet Union ceased to exist, it would immediately become a new entity free of past charges, and thus with ideological dividing lines no longer an issue, Russia would be welcomed by the West with open arms. As we now know, this wasn’t the case.

On the contrary, NATO expanded, five times, by Putin’s count, whilst Russia protested. And so began a series of unfortunate events. From CIA backed coup attempts to accusations of industrial sabotage, and international financial blackmail. The thread connecting all of these events was the notion that the United States had been setting the rules by which everyone except themselves must play. And so we arrive at our present predicament.

The world is being divided into two competing blocs

When prompted by Tucker Carlson, if the world had broken into two competing hemispheres, Putin’s response was an unflinching yes, yet it needn’t be this way.

Putin argued that the world was undergoing a series of historical shifts in its balance of powers. Would-be superpowers, for so long, condemned to the side-lines of international development, were now beginning to reap the inevitable economic growth which follows such rapid population growth as seen in China, India, Indonesia, and the like.

President Lula of Brazil, President of China Xi Jinping, President of South Africa Cyril Ramaphosa, Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi and Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov pose for a BRICS family photo during the 2023 BRICS Summit. Reuters.

Putin cited the example of the BRICS group of nations, responsible for just 16% of the world’s economic output in 1992, today exceeding even that of the G7 group of advanced economies (32% vs 30% respectively). U.S. attempts to repel such unstoppable forces had already backfired. Its weaponization of the dollar had only resulted in countries de-dollarizing more rapidly.

Bogeyman stories about the rise of China were dismissed assuredly, with Putin describing Chinese leader Xi Jinping as a friend, and likening China to a neighbour or close relative. Putin’s message to the West was clear. It’s not a matter of if, but how the world will change, ‘painfully and quickly, or gently and gradually?’

How is the world going to change?

What fate lies ahead for us then, in the West?

Well, according to Mr Putin, that depends on our leaders. Mr Putin argued in today’s changing dynamics, we need forward thinking and adaptable politics. Political leadership matters, “if we want to ensure the future, then we need to change our approach to what is changing.”

By Putin’s accounts, this means the West first adapting to, what he described, as the facts on the ground in Ukraine. Russia could not and would not be defeated. All stakeholders – Russia, Ukraine, and the West – knew this. The only matter up for debate was how to deliver an agreement that would both bring an end to the war and allow the West to save face.

As for the United States, it’s dominance as the sole superpower of the world was up, the sooner it accepted that, the sooner it could focus on ways to offset its inevitable demise using its still considerable economic advantages.

The future is, and ought to be, according to Vladimir Putin, multipolar. This means a world with multiple power centres, rather than one; a world which allows for the co-existence of different sets of values; and for these values to be the guiding principles which shape international rules and regulations.

These were choice words by Mr Putin throughout. By design, they form a clear binary between the existing rules-based international order espoused by the West, and the emerging multipolar world. Which fate lies ahead, nobody really knows.

Are Young Brits Becoming Less Democratic?

A recent study by the centre-right think tank Onward found that 65% of 18-35 year olds in the UK supported a “strong leader who doesn’t have to bother with parliamentary elections”. Is Britain in the midst of a democratic crisis?

As one of the world’s oldest democracies, Britain is often viewed as a beacon of liberalism. Indeed, the national identity of Britons is so synonymous with the ideal of democracy and democratic values, that throughout its history, the country has not infrequently waged war in the name of ‘liberating’ citizens of foreign nations who do not enjoy the same privileges.

Amidst this burgeoning context, why then, in a recent study conducted by the centre-right think tank Onward, did 65% of 18-35 year olds in the UK think that contrary to democratic systems, they would prefer a “strong leader who doesn’t have to bother with parliamentary elections”?

Below, we dissect if young Brits truly feel this way, why this might be, and how this may affect UK democracy going forward.

Do young Brits really want an authoritarian leader?

Despite the headline figure that 65% of 18-35 year olds favour a “strong leader who doesn’t have to bother with parliamentary elections”, given the choice between a Boris Johnson, Liz Truss, or Rishi Sunak, and a Vladamir Putin, Xi Jinping, or Kim Jong Un, one could confidently predict the same cohort of young people would favour the former. So what do these figures actually suggest?

Young people are tired. The oldest of this cohort would have turned 18 in 2007. Since then, they will have experienced no real wage growth. This means that wages, when adjusted for inflation, have not increased at all for the entirety of this group’s professional careers. For context, an analysis by the Resolution Foundation found that real wages grew by an average of 33 per cent per decade from 1970 to 2007.

Young Brits are tired of constantly having to fight for basic rights you would expect in any advanced economy. Boonchai Wedmakawand/Getty Images

At the same time, they can’t buy a house because there aren’t enough houses being built. The UK has the lowest rates of available properties relative to its population of all OECD members. They have witnessed, helplessly, the complete and utter failure to build any semblance of a decent train line between Manchester and London which might help bridge the UK’s huge regional inequality and boost the economy. All of this whilst also enduring the worst cost of living crisis in a generation.

You can’t eat democracy

If the UK wishes to dispel any notions of democratic backsliding, it needs to start taking seriously outcomes for its young populace. As Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema so aptly put during the UN General Assembly in New York, two years ago, “you can’t eat democracy”.

Governments must deliver economically. When successive governments fail to do so, disillusionment grows not just with politicians, but with the democratic process itself.

Democracy is a social contract. Young Brits wake up, go to work, and pay their taxes just like any other citizen. In return, they expect certain rights. The right to work in return for a fair wage. The right to own a home. The right to access reliable public transport. The UK’s failure to deliver such outcomes for young people means the social contract is broken. Until it is fixed, young people’s disillusionment with democracy will continue.

How this manifests during the general election will be interesting to see as it unfolds. What’s undeniable is if young people wish to take charge of their own future, they must first turn at the polls – something they have been historically bad at compared with their peers.

Looking ahead to the 2024 UK General Election

Looking ahead to this year’s UK general election, young Brits seem poised to back the Labour party heavily.

According to polling company YouGov’s latest data, around 60% of young Brits say they will back the party. This figure comes despite recent criticism that the party’s cautious approach to its lead in the polls has come at the expense of any meaningful policy proposals. As noted by Martin Wolf in the Financial Times, that strategy might indeed increase its chance of winning the election. But it will deprive it of a mandate for much change.

Nonetheless, if young Brits indeed desire a government that acts in its best interests, irrespective of parliamentary procedure, acting without a mandate, on the condition it achieves tangible outcomes for young people, might not be as impermissible as once thought.

Should Britain prepare for war with China, Russia and Iran?

Sometimes coined the “forgotten war”, experts warn the Korean Peninsula is more dangerous today than it has been at any time since the onset of the Korean War in June 1950. With new UK defence secretary Grant Shapps identifying the region as a possible future conflict zone for British forces, here’s what you need to know.

In his first speech as the new UK defence secretary, Grant Shapps declared that Britain should prepare for possible future wars with China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea. Shapps argued the world had come “full circle” since the end of the Cold War and the fall of the Berlin Wall, moving from a post-war to pre-war setting.

Why you should care about the Korean War?

The Korean War is sometimes called the “forgotten war” because it’s overshadowed by the conflicts that came both before and after it — take the devastation of World War II and the disastrous U.S. war in the Vietnam War, respectively. Yet it arguably serves as the best example of the Cold War battle for ideas between Western liberal democracies and rival authoritarian regimes. What many forget is that the Korean War continues today, as does the broader battle for ideas.

Below, we explore the continued effects of the Korean War today and its new staging amidst the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine.

The Korean War: Explained

  • The Korean War was fought between North Korea and South Korea from 1950 to 1953.
  • Over 800,000 soldiers and 1.5 million civilians were killed during the conflict.
  • Before the war, Korea was a unified nation but under a brutal Japanese occupation.
  • The end of World War II saw Japan stripped of its colonies, and Korea was divided between the two superpowers – the Soviet Union in the North, and the United States in the South.
  • In 1948, the two occupation zones became two sovereign states: the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in the North, led by Premier Kim Il Sung; and the Republic of Korea in the South, led by President Syngman Rhee. Both leaders committed their cause to a unified Korean state.
  • In 1953, the combat ended with the signing of the Korean Armistice Agreement, leading to the creation of the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) separating the two countries.
  • No peace treaty was ever signed, meaning the two Koreas remained at war, engaged in a frozen conflict.
  • Matters have been further complicated by the North’s likely development of nuclear weapons.

Despite the ceasefire, the Korean Peninsula remains prone to recurrent skirmishes. The most recent being January of this year, when North Korean shelling of the buffer zone between the two countries near Yeonpyeong Island led South Korean authorities to order a civilian evacuation of the island. Nonetheless, the primary theatre of conflict between the two nations is not the Korean Peninsula but the Ukrainian battlefront.

Today, the conflict between Russia and Ukraine serves as a proxy for the continuation of the Korean War

A great irony of the current geopolitical context is where once the Korean War was fought as a proxy war for the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States. Today, the Russo-Ukrainian War is a theatre for a proxy war between North Korea and South Korea.

According to leading defence analysts, the Brookings Institute, a proxy war occurs when a major power instigates or plays a major role in supporting and directing a party to a conflict but does only a small portion of the actual fighting itself.

North Korea is currently Russia’s largest arms supplier, with a spokesperson for Ukraine’s military intelligence estimating that North Korea has supplied Russia with around one million rounds of ammunition.

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol meets with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, July 2023. Reuters.

Meanwhile, South Korea has provided Ukraine with more shells indirectly, via the US, than all of Europe. Whilst also signing agreements to export tanks and fighter jets to Poland, which has in turn provided military vehicles to Ukraine since the onset of its war with Russia. This essentially pits the two Koreas in a proxy war via Russia and the Ukraine.

When will the war end?

While all wars are multifaceted, the fundamental problem remains, as it was at the onset of the war back in 1950, an irreconcilable difference in opinion on the political and economic system best equipped to govern a unified Korea. Simply put, both countries want unification, but under their own leadership.

North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un ahead of a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, September 2023. Reuters.

North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un recently took this one step further by repudiating all talk of peaceful reunification and labelling the South Korean leadership its “principal enemy” and threatening the use of nuclear weapons. Needless to say, peace on the peninsula seems a long way off.

MrBeast reveals he made $250,000 from X video

The world’s most popular YouTuber, MrBeast, has revealed he made more than $250,000 (£197,000) from posting a video on X, formerly known as Twitter.

He had previously said it was not worth posting on the social media site as creators only got a small amount of advertising revenue.

However, after a U-turn last week, he posted an old video – which has generated more than 155 million views. The stunt has been closely watched as X’s business struggles.

Elon Musk, the owner of X, has tried various strategies to boost engagement on the platform since buying it in October 2022.

These include sharing advertising revenue with high-profile creators, something that other sites, including YouTube, already do. But the plans have faced doubts, as traffic to the site has declined. X’s advertising revenue has also plunged as Mr Musk’s feud with advertisers over issues such as hate speech and misinformation rumbles on.

Analysts said an equivalent haul would be hard to repeat without MrBeast’s massive profile. “He said he made $250,000, so not bad for one video,” said Karsten Weide, principal at W Media Research. “It’s good numbers but you have to have a massive amount of traffic.” The amount so-called influencers can make varies from person to person. The terms of individual deals are kept confidential, although it is thought the biggest names online may be able to negotiate special rates.

In November 2022, Forbes estimated that MrBeast made $54m in a year from his YouTube channel. Since then, he has gained millions of subscribers on his main channel, to make a total of 233 million. The size of his audience has prompted courtship from companies looking to boost their platforms. MrBeast, who has claimed his videos cost millions of dollars to make, is reportedly working on a deal for a show with a huge streaming platform. He had previously posted the same video, where he tries out cars of differing valuations, on YouTube in September 2023. It currently has over 215 million views on YouTube, where MrBeast makes most of his money.

Did the experiment work?

Donaldson has shared, those “views” are actually impressions, i.e. the number of times the video was displayed in user feeds. Based on those impressions, all 156 million of them, only 5 million users actually engaged with the post. Which are also not views, but just people who tapped on the post or interacted with it.

That’s a significant variance in what X is publicly claiming as video “views” and what’s actually happening. A 96% variance to be exact. So while the actual monetization element has seemingly been skewed by the broader attention on Donaldson’s first upload in the app, what we do know is that X’s view counts are not actual views, and are not even close to such, at least in this instance.

Yet, even so, at that level of income, other YouTubers will be paying attention to this test.

The data here breaks down to over $50k per million views, which is significantly higher than what the average YouTuber sees, and if other YouTube stars are also able to generate thousands of dollars from re-uploads to the app, they’ll likely be interested in exploring this further. Because why wouldn’t you? Some, of course, will avoid X due to fundamental issues with its ownership, but for those who are just about business, MrBeast’s example, at least at this stage, does show some promise.

2024 Is the year everything changes

2024 is not just an election year. It’s perhaps the election year. This may be the most consequential election year of our lives.

Globally, more voters than ever in history will head to the polls as at least 64 countries (plus the European Union)—representing a combined population of about 49% of the people in the world—are meant to hold national elections, the results of which, for many, will prove consequential for years to come.

In Taiwan, for example, who becomes the next president will fundamentally shape Beijing’s approach to the self-governed island it has repeatedly threatened with invasion.

Here at home, after more than 14 years of Tory rule, the prospect of change has many in the electorate salivating.

Here are some of the most important elections we can expect to see in 2024. This list is now exhaustive, however, it does represent elections that will have serious geopolitical ramifications


Population: 1.44B

Election(s): Lok Sabha (House of the People)

Date(s): expected April – May


Population: 448M (total of 27 E.U. member states)

Election(s): European Parliament

Date(s): June 6-9


Population: 341M

Election(s): Presidency, Senate, and House of Representatives

Date(s): Nov. 5


Population: 279M

Election(s): Presidency, Regional Representative Council, House of Representatives

Date(s): Feb. 14

Source: Unsplash


Population: 243M

Election(s): National Assembly

Date(s): Feb. 8


Population: 144M

Election(s): Presidency

Date(s): March 15-17


Population: 129M

Election(s): Presidency, Senate, Chamber of Deputies

Date(s): June 2


Population: 89.5M

Election(s):  Islamic Consultative Assembly, Assembly of Experts

Date(s): March 1


Population: 67.9M

Election(s): House of Commons

Date(s): expected in 2024, required by Jan. 28, 2025


Population: 60.7M

Election(s): National Assembly

Date(s): expected May – August


Population: 51.8M

Election(s): National Assembly

Date(s): April 10


Population: 37.4M

Election(s): Presidency

Date(s): scheduled* March 31 (*may not occur due to martial law)


Population: 34.4M

Election(s): Presidency, Parliament

Date(s): Dec. 7


Population: 26.2M

Election(s): Supreme People’s Assembly

Date(s): April 10

We need strong media

Election cycles demonstrate the need for a robust news ecosystem and also an educated populous. Before we head to the polls, we have to be aware of the incentives at play and the temptation that exists for parties to spread misinformation and for news outlets to exacerbate and parrot talking points

At the best of times, the line between fact and fiction was always thin as competing parties attempted to gain the upper hand. In the age of social media, this line is all but a smudge. Rampant polarisation means warring sides are primed to believe the worst about each other. News outlets cannot be trusted to lower the political temperature and the public will have to do it by themselves.

Why does voter turnout matter?

Hong Kong, a former British colony, recently registered a record low voter turnout of 27.5% in its district election, prompting concerns about the credibility of the democratic mandate associated with such a figure. With the UK general election later this year, just how important is voter turnout to democracy?

The self-prescribed ‘patriots-only’ Hong Kong elections follow amendments to the electoral system which sees anti-government voices prohibited from standing and the number of directly elected district councillors cut to less than 20% of total seats, down from 94% in 2019.

The 2019 district election, which occurred amidst the infamous Hong Kong protests, saw a landslide victory for the pro-democracy movement, with 17 of the 18 councils won by pro-democracy councillors. This year’s changes are viewed largely as a retaliation from Beijing and symbolic of its refusal to entertain notions of political reform in the once-British territory.

Pro-democracy demonstrators in Hong Kong. BBC News, 2022.

The British Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO), responsible for administering British Overseas Territories, condemned democratic backsliding in Hong Kong in its official response, arguing all meaningful opposition in Hong Kong’s electoral system had been eliminated.

What is voter turnout and why does it matter?

Electoral democracies hold elections to enable their citizens to vote for their representatives. Voter turnout refers to the proportion of citizens who use their vote. Generally speaking, the higher voter turnout is, the healthier the democracy.

In the UK, voter turnout since 2001 had gradually been increasing up until the last election in 2019, when turnout fell from 68.8% to 67.3%. Not great, but not bad either, right?

 Voters will have the chance to again cast their ballot in the 2024 General Election. Chris J. Ratcliffe/Bloomberg via Getty Images / Simon Walker / No 10 Downing Street

Whilst valuable in their own right, headline figures such as voter turnout can distort important underlying demographic trends. Take, for example, the fact that young people tend to vote less than older people. Growing evidence suggests age is now the most important dividing line in British politics. A useful tangible example of this is home ownership.

Older voters are more likely to own their own home and thus vote for political parties which protect their wealth. Non-homeowning younger voters are likely to vote for the party seeking to increase their opportunity to get on the property ladder. In such a case, low turnout amongst younger voters has a direct consequence on economic opportunity and social mobility within this demographic.

Despite popular sentiment, democratic understandings aren’t universal

Returning to Hong Kong, Chinese democratic understandings do not value electoral systems and low voter turnout is not of the foremost importance because the general population lacks the specialist knowledge and long-term perspective required to elect competent officials. Voters choose candidates based on the persona or information presented to them in the media, which is inconsistent with the ability of the individual to govern. Elections become popularity contests rather than means to a government working in the interests of the people.

From this perspective, political legitimacy becomes procedural rather than outcomes-based. This means legitimacy acquired electorally becomes the democratic achievement in and of itself, rather than tangible improvements for the population such as poverty alleviation, safety, and infrastructure development.

Instead, a highly competitive civil service system designed to equip leaders with both the know-how and experience to govern is viewed as the principal instrument of a functioning democracy. In effect, only those deemed qualified can vote.

The results? Over the past 40 years, China has lifted nearly 800 million people out of poverty, accounting for more than 75% of global poverty reduction. Over the past decade, China has built 25,000 km of high-speed rail—more than the rest of the world combined. The expense? Elitism. Authoritarianism. Taboo words in the West. A means to an end in China.

So does voter turnout matter? That depends on what democracy means to you.

Chinese Coast Guard Clashes with Filipino Vessels: the Global Stakes in a Territorial Dispute


In recent months, Chinese Coast Guard vessels, responsible for policing maritime areas under Chinese jurisdiction, have repeatedly obstructed Filipino vessels responsible for resupply missions to support troops stationed on the Sierra Madre – a deliberately beached, decrepit old warship that embodies Filipino claims to a small, uninhabited, but fiercely contested reef in the South China Sea, close to the disputed Nansha or Spratley Island Chain. As tensions rise, the United States (U.S.) has sought to remind China of its longstanding pledge to defend the Philippines in the event of an attack, but why does it matter?

The South China Sea is pivotal to supply chains in every industry, all around the world. More than $5 trillion worth, or 60% of the world’s total maritime commerce, passes through the South China Sea each year. Wheat and grain, petrol and diesel, the mobile phones we scroll and the electronic chips that power them, the cars we drive and the tools and machinery that makes building them possible all pass through this area of sea bordering the Southeast Asia mainland.

Any potential conflict risks disrupting global trade, and if this happens, governments around the world will face angry citizens demanding answers as to why they can’t purchase their favourite products and services. This means that incidents such as Chinese Coast Guards confronting Filipino vessels using a military grade-laser, firing water cannons, and more recently a series of minor collisions between the two sides’ vessels are deserving of our attention.

A Filipino supply ship attempts a resupply mission to troops stationed on the Sierra Madre. Nikkei Asia, 2023.

So, what’s the story of the Philippines and China territorial conflict, and why are the United States so keen to get involved? Below, we offer an analysis on the origins of the territorial dispute, the two sides competing perspectives, and future prospects.

Neither China or the Philippines are willing to concede anything in their competing territorial claims to the South China Sea

Home to an abundance of untapped natural resources, including vast oil and gas reserves, it is unsurprising the South China Sea is the site of a geopolitical dispute amassing over half-a-dozen countries. With neither China nor the Philippines willing to concede anything in their competing territorial claims, and the U.S. reiterating its commitment to enforce its Mutual Defence treaty with the Philippines in the event of an attack, the margin for error in avoiding a regional conflict is increasingly small.

The China-Philippines territorial dispute centres on international law, specifically the 1982 UNCLOS agreement. Both nations, as signatories, are to adhere to the convention’s principle granting exclusive rights to resources within a 200-nautical-mile boundary (or EEZ), encompassing islands like Nansha/Spratley.

Manila argue the Islands are part of its existing exclusive economic zone (EEZ). Its claim is supported by an international court ruling in 2016 that deemed Chinese claims unlawful. China declined to participate having already agreed to settle South China Sea related disputes bilaterally in a separate legal document agreed by regional body ASEAN – the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC). Beijing therefore describes the international court ruling as ‘null and void’.

Competing territorial claims in the South China Sea. Reuters, 2023.

Beijing has continued to press territorial claims in accordance with its infamous nine-dash line, an invisible boundary line which delineates Chinese and non-Chinese territory, citing evidence of historical rights granted through early exploration dating back centuries. The nine-dash line covers virtually all of the South China Sea and therefore overlaps with the competing territorial claims of many of its neighbours.

The U.S. are directly involved in the dispute for multiple reasons

The Philippines is the United States’ (U.S.) longest standing treaty ally in the Indo-Pacific and the U.S. has reiterated that coast guard altercations do fall under formal commitments to defend the Philippines in the event of attack. This would set off a regional conflict between the world’s two great powers. So are we on the verge of a U.S.-China military confrontation in the South China Sea?

It’s a possibility. In addition to its commitments to defend the Philippines, given the sheer volume of international trade flowing through the region, ensuring shipping routes remain unaffected by territorial disputes has become the main priority of U.S. military patrols in the region. The U.S. therefore has a vested interest in the region.

The Chinese view differs. The Philippines is Taiwan’s neighbour to the south. The narrow straits around the Philippines and Taiwan are covered by undersea internet cables which act as vital channels for U.S. naval forces patrolling the region. U.S. military primacy and its economic dominance go hand-in-hand so it is easy to see why it would be in the U.S. interest to limit Chinese defence capabilities by any means possible.

The U.S. and Chinese perspectives are at direct odds with one another, hence the risk that with any escalation, a far greater regional conflict could flare up between the two superpowers.

Despite recent flare-ups, we are witnessing some slow signs of progress

Leaders of the Philippines and China, Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Xi Jinping, recently met on the side-lines of the APEC Summit in San Francisco. With the former attesting, “we tried to come up with mechanisms to lower the tensions in the South China Sea”, and later adding, “I do not think anybody wants to go to war”.

China and ASEAN recently agreed to a deadline of 2026 to finalize negotiations on a Code of Conduct (COC) for the South China Sea. Since 2002, South China Sea claimant states have hoped for a COC to which all parties agree to abide by in regulating the area. Such a mechanism, it is believed, would go a long way toward de-escalating tensions in the region.

Nevertheless, Beijing’s very public stance insisting on the legitimacy of its nine-dash line means it is questionable whether it would make concessions behind closed doors for the sake of reaching a legally-binding COC. Likewise, in acknowledging Chinese claims, stakeholders such as the Philippines would have to undergo a significant change of heart and willingly secede territory which is difficult to foresee given the history. The U.S.’s rather murky role as mediator only complicates an already opaque geopolitical landscape.

Contributions and controversies: Kissinger, dies aged 100

Henry Kissinger, the enigmatic figure who advised 12 U.S. presidents and engaged with every Chinese leader from Mao to Xi Jinping, has passed away at the age of 100. His legacy is marked by both monumental diplomatic achievements and a ruthless disdain for those who resisted the U.S. led global order he forged.

Former U.S. Secretary of State and National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger has died at his home in Connecticut, aged 100. Kissinger, a complex figure who leaves behind a complicated legacy is revered around the world for his contributions to geopolitics.

Born in Germany in 1923, Kissinger fled the Nazi regime in 1938, eventually becoming a U.S. citizen in 1943. After serving in the U.S. Army, he pursued a career in international relations, earning a Ph.D. and later becoming a Harvard professor.

In 1969, President Nixon appointed Kissinger as National Security Advisor, a role he retained while also serving as Secretary of State. His influence extended beyond his government tenure, sparking criticism for seemingly prioritizing business over diplomacy through his lobbying firm, Kissinger Associates.

Kissinger’s impact on geopolitics is unquestionable, but his methods were not. Below, we take a brief look at some of his most notable contributions and controversies.

On China, Kissinger’s secret visit to Beijing marked a turning point in U.S.-China relations

In 1971, Henry Kissinger secretly flew from Pakistan to Beijing to meet with Chairman Mao Zedong and Premier Zhou Enlai. Together, the trio reached a historic agreement that would see President Nixon become the first U.S. President ever to make a state visit to the People’s Republic of China (PRC). The visit ended a period of twenty-five years of diplomatic silence between the two countries.

Kissinger had initially sought the agreement as a means to gain leverage against the Soviet Union by cooperating with its largest neighbour and most fierce enemy.

However, with the eventual collapse of the Soviet Union, Kissinger came to believe in a greater purpose for U.S.-China relations, the great power of peace. He viewed the bilateral as the single most important relationship between nations for both peace and prosperity in the world and spent the rest of his life dedicated to preserving it.

Henry Kissinger meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, China July 20, 2023. Reuters.

This culminated in Kissinger’s final visit to China, which came in July this year, when Chinese President Xi Jinping met with him and expressed, on behalf of China, gratitude for the role Kissinger had played, “we never forget our old friend, nor your historic contributions to promoting the growth of China-US relations and enhancing friendship between the two peoples”.

Kissinger’s Latin American Legacy is one of Societal Division

In 1970, Chile decided to elect a socialist, Salvador Allende, as President. Part-funded by the Soviet Union, this had then National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger worried about the potential spread of communism emanating from what, much like Cuba in the 1960s, was quintessentially viewed in Washington as America’s backyard.

Kissinger’s response was to orchestrate a campaign to undermine Chilean democracy and oust Salvador Allende through numerous CIA directives including economic warfare and media campaigns. The campaigns aimed to reduce public support for Allende and/or boost support for his rivals, eventually culminating in the successful coup attempt by General Augusto Pinochet and the death of sitting President Salvador Allende. Pinochet went on to terrorize the citizenry of Chile with violence and death for 17 years.

Henry Kissinger meets with General Augusto Pinochet in Santiago, Chile, 1976. U.S. National Security Archives.

The successful overthrow of Chilean democracy was symbolic. It was evidence of what worked to prevent the spread of communism in Latin America and can be seen as the catalyst for a series of further U.S. backed, Kissinger-orchestrated, right-wing military coups on the continent. The coups wiped out democracy in Latin America and led to the persecution of popular leftist leaders across the continent through Operation Condor – an initiative that brought together right-wing intelligence and security services to combat communism veiled as ‘terrorism’.

In what followed, the governments of eight South American countries, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Bolivia, Paraguay, Brazil, Peru and Ecuador, co-operated to enable one another to send death squads into foreign territories in order to carry out the kidnap, torture, and murder of any, real or suspected, enemies-of-the-regime. The effects of this Kissinger orchestrated U.S. foreign policy can still be seen today with societal division and shadowy interest groups a constant thorn in the side of the democratic process in Latin America.

So was Henry Kissinger a good guy or a bad guy?

Ask citizens of China and citizens of Latin America their thoughts on Henry Kissinger and you’ll likely receive very different answers. When it comes to diplomacy, dealing in absolutes is of no use.

Supporters would credit him for preventing a U.S.-China war and stabilizing global relations, while critics would point to the human cost of his policies. The complexity of Kissinger’s approach lies in his pursuit of a U.S.-led capitalist world order, using all means at his disposal.

In the end, he is remembered both as an exemplary statesman by some world leaders and as a symbol of U.S. overreach by those who experienced the very human cost of his geopolitical strategies. The debate over Kissinger’s legacy reflects the enduring impact of a man who has no doubt shaped the modern geopolitical landscape.

Will the Ceasefire in Israel-Gaza last?: What We Know So Far

52 days since Hamas’s devastating October 7 attack on Israel, which killed around 1,200 people, the hostage deal between the two sides had brought the first temporary pause in the conflict, and allowed the safe exchange of 50 hostages held by Hamas in return for 150 Palestinians being held by Israel.

Israel and Hamas have agreed to a temporary ceasefire in Gaza as part of a hostage deal that has so far seen Hamas release sixty-nine hostages, and Israel free one-hundred and fifty prisoners, the majority of which are women and children from both sides. The hostages freed by Hamas include fifty Israelis, seventeen Thais, one Filipino, and one dual Russian-Israeli national.

The original agreement outlined a four-day ceasefire to allow for the safe exchange of hostages and prisoners, and the delivery of much-needed humanitarian aid into Gaza, including fuel, water, sanitation, and medical supplies. That agreement has since been extended by an additional two days, to allow for further hostage exchange and fuel supplies.

Below, we offer an explanation of the agreement, how long the ceasefire can last, and what these developments mean for the longevity of the conflict.

What exactly was agreed between Israel and Hamas?

In the early hours of Wednesday morning, the Israeli government voted by an overwhelming majority for a hostage deal that would provide a brief ceasefire to its ongoing war in Gaza in return for the release of fifty of its hostages by Hamas. As part of the deal, one hundred and fifty Palestinian prisoners would also be freed by Israel.

Hamas pledged to release a total of fifty women and children, or around twelve daily, in exchange for one hundred and fifty Palestinian women and children largely being held, without charge, in Israeli prisons.

Humanitarian assistance arriving in al Zaytoun, Gaza. Sky News, 2023.

Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly referred to a framework, whereby for each additional ten hostages released, the truce will be extended by a further day until all hostages have been returned. So far, this has proven correct as both sides have agreed to extend the temporary ceasefire by an additional two days provided Hamas releases a further twenty hostages.

How has a deal been reached and how long will it last?

The agreement is a significant diplomatic achievement brokered by officials of Qatar, Egypt, and the United States. Without direct lines of communication, messages were required to be passed from officials in Doha or Cairo to Hamas operatives in Gaza, discussed internally before messages were passed back, communicated with the United States, and finally presented to Israel.

Such a mechanism has predictably resulted in an excruciatingly long and drawn-out process of negotiations but ultimately one that was worthwhile, with both US President Joe Biden and Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani acknowledging a hostage deal was the only way Israel was willing to sit at the negotiating table with Hamas.

Hostages released by Hamas arriving at a hospital in Israel on Sunday 26 November. New York Times, 2023.

Nevertheless, despite the temporary ceasefire providing Gazans with a welcome respite from military bombardment, it will not last forever. Netanyahu pledged that at the end of the agreed framework for hostage release and temporary ceasefire, Israel would “return with all our strength to realise our goals”, those goals being the absolute elimination of Hamas.

This statement, while undoubtedly a political statement of strength, complicates the long-term viability of the hostage deal. If Netanyahu vows to destroy Hamas upon the return of all hostages, where is the incentive for Hamas to continue to release hostages?

Arguably, we are seeing this tension play out first-hand with Qatari officials reporting that Hamas are seeking to find and locate up to forty other hostages being held captive by other Palestinian militant groups in Gaza. Whilst this could be true, it could also be a ploy by Hamas to obtain a further extension of the ceasefire.

The hostage deal is a step in the right direction but long-term prospects for peace remain limited

While the temporary ceasefire is undoubtedly a step in the right direction, it will soon end. One would hope that while hostage negotiations are ongoing, there are simultaneous discussions being had about a longer-term peace process that will allow Israelis and Palestinians to live safely.

International pressure is pivotal to this. Leaders in the Middle East have been left frustrated by what they deem to be the double standards of the West when it comes to the loss of civilian lives in Palestine vis-à-vis civilian casualties in Israel, Russia, or Ukraine. Continued failure, they say, risks the war spilling over and destabilizing the entire region.

Israel’s stated aim of destroying Hamas, they view as both unrealistic and counterproductive, arguing Netanyahu’s attempts to securitize Israel, killing thousands of innocent civilians in the process, will radicalize a new generation of Palestinians.

Far-Right win big in Dutch General Election

On Thursday 23rd November, the Netherlands woke up to far-right populist candidate, Geert Wilders and his PVV party taking what many have called a shock victory. Beating all predictions, Wilders’ Freedom Party (PVV) has won 37 out of 150 seats after the Dutch went to the ballot box on Wednesday. 

Running on a campaign focused on immigration, the cost-of-living crisis and housing shortages, Geert Wilders has previously been branded an islamophobe due to his comments about Muslims and the Qur’an. Yet, his campaign chimed with Dutch voters, as his party came in well ahead of the 25 seats for a joint Labour/Green ticket and 24 for the conservative People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) – the party of the outgoing Prime Minister Mark Rutte. 

Dutch far-right politician and leader of the PVV party Geert Wilders votes in Dutch parliamentary elections in The Hague [Yves Herman/Reuters]

However, there is a long way to go before the Netherlands will know who their Prime Minister will be. Geert Wilders and his party need 76 seats to secure an outright majority. Coalition talks have begun but most experts believe it could take months before a decision is made. 

Wilders’ campaign also called for a referendum on the Netherlands leaving the European Union, an “asylum stop” and “no Islamic schools, Qurans and mosques.” Despite Mr Wilder’s hopes for a “Nexit” aka Dutch Brexit, there is arguably little interest from the Dutch public and will be unlikely to get agreement from coalition partners to sign up for a referendum. Yet, this victory is still a concern for Europhiles, as the Netherlands is one of the founding members of what became the European Union. 

Nationalist and far-right leaders around Europe praised his achievement. In France, Marine Le Pen, leader of the right-wing party Front National, and member of the same European Parliament political group congratulated Wilders’ win via a tweet. Wilders is set to become the longest-serving lawmaker in the Dutch parliament later this year, as he has been a member of the House of Representatives since 1998.

However, there’s no certainty that Geert Wilders will take the top job. The upcoming months of coalition talks present an opportunity for several political parties. Yet, with this political lurch to the right, more eyes will be watching the Dutch political climate going forward.