Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Who is sticking two fingers up at whom - PLP or Corbyn?

It is a stand off between the PLP and Corbyn who has a level of support that many of us have never seen command by any politician in recent memory. I am not a member of the Labour party but I do like Corbyn and did earnestly want him to make a success of his leadership for the simple reason that modern democracies need a strong opposition to redress the political landscape.

Coming from a continent myself where the opposition is often forced to take dangerous risks in promoting democracy I have never bought into the mantra that a party can only 'do things' if it is in power. The opposition can be a strong force for good but it does need equally strong support to be able to do the job of opposing the sitting government.

Corbyn's support seems to be draining away fast and furious. As an outsider myself I wonder what forces are at play in this collective of the Labour party? Let's face it, Corbyn never had the full support of the party from the moment he received enough nominations which allowed him to stand in the leadership contest in 2015. The voting community were told over and over again that Corbyn's left leaning politics would never win the day under any circumstances. In the meantime Corbyn has won two by-elections and a healthy majority of Labour supporters, 65%, voted to 'Remain' in the EU Referendum.

The tension is between a leader who has huge support from members but for a position on the political continuum line (that ranges from far left to far right) that is opposed to a party position that sits more on the right to Corbyn's left. Nobody outside the geeky circles of politics really understands these positions. All the electorate wants to know is whether the leader is looking out for them or not. By all accounts the membership of Momentum, a grassroots movement comprising of thousands, set up to bolster Corbyn's leadership, seem satisfied that Corbyn is looking out for their interests.

Perhaps, this is where the PLP is going wrong. Stuart Hall, the cultural theorist, once said "the right of the labour movement, to be honest, has no ideas of any compelling quality, except the instinct for short-term political survival. It would not know an ideological struggle if it stumbled across one in the dark. The only ‘struggle’ it engages in with any trace of conviction is the one against the left.”

And so Stuart Hall's words have come to pass. Will the PLP ever let anyone on the left lead it ever? If the PLP forces Corbyn out it will have, basically, stuck two fingers up at its' voters. If Corbyn stays with the support of the trade unions he will be, also, sticking two fingers up at the Labour establishment.

Will anything break this impasse? The worst thing is that there won't even be an agreement on how to break this impasse. I had hoped that a bridge would have been built through the actions of Jonathan Lansman who set up Momentum because he understood and recognised the power and needs of the constituency.

I do find it hard to see why Corbyn is having to bear the blame for the Referendum campaign when Alan Johnson was the leader of that and when many Labour MP's did not even muster a 'Remain' vote in their constituencies. If the blame game is to be played then should the net not be spread wider? Corbyn is not actually as radical as people make him out to be. Many of his policies accord with the opinions of heavyweights like Blanchflower. Also, successive governments are to blame, surely, for ignoring the needs of people like the Northern working class.

This Labour crisis actually throws up a heck of a lot more than who the leader is. It raises questions of representation for those who feel ignored and marginalised. If Corbyn leaves you can add the anguish of his supporters' to the wider group of those who voted for 'Leave' because they too did not feel that anybody was listening. As an outsider with no vested interest apart from wanting true representation for people I do wish the Labour party and the members all the best.


Sunday, 26 June 2016

Racism is back in fashion post referendum #Brexit

Being an Asian woman I have a vested interest in calling out acts of racism. I predicted this would happen given the language that was used during the campaign.

A reaction from an English lady post -Brexit

The following is a comment from Jenni Clutten that was posted on Facebook. It moved me and I asked Jenni for permission to post it on my blog. Jenni is a mother of two adorable children and is a politics graduate, ex local councillor and belongs to Generation Y.

I am struggling, moving from sadness to anger like grief re-lived every time I read the news. These economic problems caused by the leave vote can be solved, but I don't want to solve them because I never would have created them. They are unnecessary obstacles brought about because people have identified Europe as the problem to many problems that are unrelated. Lack of economic equality, underfunded services and people pointing at the 'other' as a quick and easy way to duck out of their own policy decisions.
I have studied politics for many years, immersed myself in it to try to understand and solve the issues of inequality, and yet find myself in a situation where those who have less of a grasp on the complexities of these problems than many of us have, determined a decision that has made me feel like I do not belong in the country I was born. I am so sad, for all of us that voted remain, but also for the truth that is about to unfold for those who voted leave. I am trying to understand if this sickness is how those who voted leave felt all these years, and now we get to live it in slow motion for years on end.

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

The Economist makes a brilliant case for a vote to remain

In an article titled 'Divided we fall: A vote to leave the European Union would diminish both Britain and Europe' The Economist sets out a case which is both factually based and easy to understand. According to the magazine, a vote to leave the European Union would do 'grave and lasting harm to the politics and economy of Britain'.

Putting the reasons for its' conclusion in a global context The Economist states that a Brexit would 'gouge a deep wound in the rest of Europe' and mark a defeat for the liberal order that has underpinned the West's prosperity, what with Trump and Marine Le Pen fanning the flames of economic nationalism and xenophobia.

The magazine accuses the liberal leavers of 'peddling an illusion' whose 'plans will fall apart' if the reality of Brexit comes to pass. Such an outcome will leave Britain 'poorer, less open and less innovative'. 'Far from reclaiming its global outlook, it will become less influential and more parochial'.

Image result for divided we fallOn the economy, if Britain leaves the European Union it is 'unlikely to thrive in the long run....' because 'almost half of its exports go to Europe' and 'access to the single market is vital for the City and to attract foreign direct investment'. To maintain current levels of export and interaction 'Britain will have to observe EU regulations, contribute to the budget and accept the free movement of people'. The Economist maintains that to 'pretend otherwise is to mislead' because 'Europe has dozens of trade pacts that Britain would need to replace' and, as a result, Britain would be a 'smaller, weaker negotiating partner'. 'The slow, grinding history of trade liberalisation shows that mercantilists tend to have the upper hand'.

It accuses the out camp of stoking voters' prejudices and pandering to a 'Little England mentality'. Interestingly, The Economist refers to the steel crisis taking place at Port Talbot, Wales and accuses the Brexiters of clamouring for state aid and tariff protections that 'even the supposedly protectionist EU would never allow'.

With regard to immigration, the claim that Turkey will join the European Union and, as a result, millions of Turks will now 'invade Britain' is branded as false. Immigrants, it is claimed, are net contributors to the Exchequer and helps Britain foot the bill for health care and education, public services, rather than place a strain on them.

The Economist raises the subject of regulations which Brexiters claim are holding back free markets but it contradicts this claim by referring to British made regulations which have stymied growth in areas such as new housing developments, the upgrade of poor infrastructure and a skills gap. 'Leaving the EU would not make it any easier'.

Image result for economist divided we fallWith so many dangers attached to a Brexit vote the Economist states that 'all this should lead to a victory for Remain' but 'in the post-truth politics that is rocking Western democracies, illusions are more alluring than democracy'. The Brexit camp has derided the 'experts', those distinguished voices who have painted a gloomy economic picture should Britain leave. The Economist response is 'as if knowledge was a hindrance to understanding'.

Is the EU run by 'unaccountable bureaucrats who trample on Britain's sovereignty as they plot a superstate'? The Economist explains that the 'EU is too often seen through the prism of a short period of intense integration in the 1980s which laid down plans for ...the single market and the Euro'. It further explains that 'in reality, Brussels is dominated by governments who guard their power jealously. Making them more accountable is an argument about democracy, not sovereignty'.

It concludes by stating that 'Even if Britain can leave the EU it cannot leave Europe. The lesson going back centuries is that, because Britain is affected by what happens in Europe, it needs influence there'. In regard to frequent criticisms of France and Germany The Economist suggests that Britain should work with France to counter balance a powerful Germany. In the same vein, if France wishes for the European Union to be less liberal, Britain should work with the Dutch and the Nordics to stop this.

The Economist believes that leaving would be a terrible mistake because this scenario would weaken Europe and impoverish and diminish Britain.


Monday, 20 June 2016

"I want my country back"

 I found the following blog post posted as a comment on Facebook and was struck by how it presents another side to the 'I want my country back' debate. It was posted by Mandy Jane, who describes herself as being a wife, mother and grandmother. She is passionate about disability issues and animal welfare and, more generally, about the protection of the less fortunate. 


"I want my country back too 😢 I want the kind, caring, tolerant and compassionate country back that my grandad told me about. The one that welcomed the Jewish refugees when they were being persecuted. I don't want to be the persecutor. I want what my grandad was proud of. I hate all this evilness. I hate the way one side points fingers at the other when both are equally intolerant.  

We don't own the Earth, we are just lucky enough to survive on it and some of us were lucky enough to be born in richer places than others. I don't want my grandchildren to grow up sneering at a poor person or a refugee that is begging in the street. I want their hearts to ache and for them to naturally want to reach out and help them, not for them to see them as dirty and undeserving . 

I don't want them to look at disabled people and see scroungers . When I was young I used to bring home injured animals and if I saw a tired person sitting on the roadside I used to run home and ask mum to drive down the road and pick them up and drive them to the holiday camp (that's where they were normally going ) because my parents brought me up to be compassionate. 

That's what I want for my grandchildren but what I see right now is scaring me, because I see a tide of poison spreading across this country. A tide of hate and intolerance . Is this really what we want our children and grandchildren to be?"


The case of women refugees, especially mothers

On 'World Refugee Day' let us focus on the pain and suffering of refugee women rather than stoop to reviling them as people waiting to take your homes and your jobs. Being forced to leave your country and your home cannot be an easy decision to make.

Would you readily leave your support network, family, friends and your treasured personal belongings to make an extremely perilous journey in a rickety boat knowing full well that the lives of your children could be at stake? Yet, this is what refugees do all the time out of necessity but are vilified for for doing so. Instead, they are seen as 'benefit scroungers', 'job grabbers' and labelled with words such as 'swarm'. 

Dr Elizabeth Snyder, with a background in 'peace and conflict studies and gender and development', has written about women refugees in an account that lays bare the suffering that ensues from being displaced. As a starting point, Dr Snyder writes that that women bear the brunt of all disasters. This commonsense approach, backed up by overwhelming evidence, opens the way for policy makers to address the subjective experiences of refugee women and for charities and aid agencies to provide targeted help and care. 

Women face risks that are unique to their gender. These risks are rape, being forced to be sex slaves and human trafficking. These risks arise as soon as the women are displaced and carries on for the entire time it takes for the women to be resettled or till she is sent back to her country of origin. When the Western world speaks of refugees it assumes that they are a homogeneous group and that the problem ends as soon as the paperwork is done on whether to grant them country status or repatriate them. 

The concept of gendered protection for refugee women, according to Dr Snyder, proposes that protection regimes must do more than guarantee a woman's physical protection. Reframing the refugee support system requires a comprehensive focus on women's rights, women's empowerment and their full participation in the policies and practices that affect their lives. Feminism furthers the calls for examining the dilemma of women refugees by advocating for a more nuanced analysis This analysis ought to take into account the diversity among refugee women because they are not a uniform category. Displaced women represent different ethnic, linguistic, political, economic and religious affiliations. 

Refugee women are not a uniform category. 

Empowering refugee women and creating opportunities for their active participation in decision making, impelementation and assessment are key areas for improvement. Dr Snyder refers to this approach as being 'help to self-help'. Women's involvement in their own protection and well-being signals an important shift from viewing displaced persons as victims to emphasizing their resilience, determination and capacity.  

If anything good is to come out of today, World Refugee Day, it should be that the Western world stops asking the inane question of refugees: "Why don't you go back to where you came from?" If your home, neighborhood and country resembled the photo below then there is no home to go back to is there? 

Saturday, 18 June 2016

What is in a name when it is "Death to traitors, freedom for Britain"?

Today Thomas Mair, the man who murdered Jo Cox MP, appeared in court charged with her murder. When asked for his name he gave it as, "Death to traitors, freedom for Britain". It is clear as anything that there is something deeply disturbing about his 'name'. According to reports, Nazi regalia and other signs of his connection to far-right ideology have been discovered in his home.

If anything positive can come out of Jo Cox's murder I hope that it will be a calling out of the fact that a hatred of 'others' and racist talk masquerading as nationalism is now alive and thriving in British society. You could almost predict the car crash that was coming the closer we got to the date of the EU Referendum. What would have at one time been considered vile was now openly said and given credence.

As a brown skinned person I have watched and listened to the rhetoric of hate against immigrants which started off as a slow tempo a few years, became louder during the 2015 election, turned up the decibels during the mayoral elections and which has now reached a crescendo over the EU Referendum debate.

These political events have allowed for hate speech to masquerade as free speech. Political events seemingly legitimize words that, in reality, only serve to provoke fear and, consequently, a backlash. All the while people who are stigmatized by this so called 'free speech' live nervously.

Till last year, every time UKIP made some sort of big announcement the consequence would be that I would encounter a personal slight. I once got on a bus and a man made a very loud comment about "these people...everywhere...". When the refugee situation was making our daily news last autumn a young white man tried to trip me up on a busy road.

You may think that I am exaggerating or, even worse, telling fibs. I wish I were. I am only glad that my personal encounters were not serious ones. But something serious has happened now and a white MP who stood up against racism and who pleaded for a recognition of foreigners as being human beings is dead. The problem is not confined to skin coloured immigrants anymore.

Westminster politics has forgotten about the concept of 'causality'. The Westminster talk positions every event and occurrence as a stand alone act. The austerity cuts, Globalization and the rise of Asian countries where labour is cheap is hardly ever talked about or given air time as being factual reasons as to why Western economies are facing huge challenges.

Instead, immigrants are blamed for everything. How does a child refugee in Greece pose a threat to us? How does a mother on the borders of Macedonia who is struggling to find a safe world for her children pose a threat to us?

The following is a quote taken from Twitter and purportedly published by the organisation 'Britain First'. The last sentence is the most chilling and gravely seeks to undermine the great British value of the 'Rule of Law'. Such organisations are the real enemy, not decent people like Jo Cox.


Tuesday, 14 June 2016

I don't understand Priti Patel

I don't get Priti Patel. Let me be clear, I don't mean this in a slanderous way. I quite literally mean that I don't understand her logic or arguments. Golly, I am getting myself in a twist here trying to unravel what it is about Priti that I don't get. Such is the power of Priti logic/illogic. I do understand what she is saying but it just doesn't stack up. What is her real message apart from 'Leave', 'Leave' and then 'Leave some more'?

I met Priti once about 3 years ago when I was trying to find the room I was meant to be in at the House of Commons. She came along and I asked her for directions. She helped me. I asked her who she was. She introduced herself. Ever since then I have paid extra attention whenever she has been on TV. A folly, I reckon, for the befuddlement that has gripped me.

Perhaps to understand Priti we need to step back in time to 2012 when she co-authored a book called 'Britannia Unchained'. Let me be clear, I have read enough about the book to not actually want to read it. This is because I am a worrier. I worry about how neoliberalism is eating away our democratic rights. I worry about my job security because of austerity. The last thing I need is to read a book which has content that the Financial Times describes as prescribing 'shock therapy for the country: welfare cuts and Beecroft-style labour market deregulation'. I can't tell you how much worry the Beecroft report caused me. I still quote it at people during left vs right political discussions for the simple selfish reason that I want to spread the misery that it caused.

Part of the 'shock therapy' seems to include name calling. 'Britannia Unchained' describes British people as being 'among the worst idlers in the world' who 'prefer a lie-in to hard work'. I don't know about the former but the latter is, surely, something that afflicts many of us. How many sane people would actually jump out of bed shouting, 'I don't want a lie-in and I am off to work hard?'This doesn't mean though that the majority of us actually give in to this preference.

The book attempts to build political opinion into an evidence base for a wholesale introduction of free market policies that would completely do away with any role that the state would play. It comes up with some unsavoury examples such as the solution to difficulties over childcare involving 'informal and cheap childminders'. There is no way I would have sent my child to an 'informal' childminder and I would not even have dreamt about paying someone who looks after my child a 'cheap' rate. I have always paid my childminders more than they asked for because they were looking after the most precious asset in my life.

The best review of the book in my opinion can be found here and I may not have read the book but I think i know enough to surmise that Priti's politics do seem to revolve around a certain amount of self-contradiction and selective memory. She condemns EU Commission officials  for "getting away with living the high life at our expense" but does not mention the Westminster MPs' expenses scandal. She further states that "families have been hit hard since the financial crisis...but EU officials are using our money to fund their jollies". What about the subsidized alcohol served in Parliament versus cuts to spending on disability welfare?

During an interview on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Brexit Priti said: “There would be more than enough money to ensure that those who now get funding from the EU including universities, scientists, farmers, regional funds, would continue to get money.” How does she square this with the free market economic liberalism set out in 'Britannia Unchained' where the state, quite obviously, is the villain to the super hero of the free market?

The political website, Left Foot Forward, refers to Priti's pledges as being 'fantasy pledges'. Interestingly, the Political Scrapbook website has totted up the amounts and, apparently, the pledges made by the Leave side amounts to  £100 billion.

The prize for the most awkward Priti moment though has to be the #saveourcurry house campaign for the simple reason that it forced Asians like me, living in the UK, into the role of agony person/aunt/uncle. Having to comfort white English people who love their Friday night take away curry that nothing will actually change is foreign to someone like me who cooks my own curries.

In all seriousness, I am an immigrant who came to this country 35 years ago during the days when the National Front were openly bigoted and people like me had to stay indoors for our own safety, on the advice of police, when the NF held a rally or a march. Much has changed tremendously since then. The last thing I want is for my mixed race daughter to grow up in a country where the fear of immigrants is given legitimacy and respect by those who have prospered from immigration.


Wednesday, 8 June 2016

The father of the Stanford University rapist has let his son down badly

When you become a parent you vow to do your best by your child. Most of the time this involves 'affirmative action' such as praising them and using encouraging words. At other times parenting involves what I term as 'non-affirmative parenting'. When your child does something wrong you chide them.

You do this because your role as a parent involves the heavy responsibility of preparing your child to become a citizen of the world. The two parenting styles - affirmative action and non-affirmative parenting - comprise a circle of holistic parenting.

Unless you live in a cave with your child, where the only other beings that he/she will come across are wild animals which demands corresponding behaviour from your children for self-preservation purposes there is really NO REASON to conflate good parenting with negative action. You would only do this if you genuinely don't give two hoots about your child turning out to be a rival to Damian from the Omen trilogy.

The father of the Stanford rapist has spectacularly done his son wrong by conflating the two parenting styles. He has sought to wholly excuse his son's criminal actions in a letter that he wrote to the presiding Judge. This letter is believed to have been one of the factors leading to a much shorter sentence being given to the rapist.

The son, Brock Turner aged 20, was convicted of raping a young woman behind a dumpster in the grounds of Stanford University in January 2015. (I won't bother referring to him by his name from here on, 'rapist' will suffice.) The woman whose identity is unknown to preserve her privacy was unconscious throughout the ordeal. Thankfully the ordeal was cut short by two students of the university who happened to come by and immediately suspected that something was not right. They held the rapist down till the police arrived.

The rapist appeared in Santa Clara County Court and was given a 6-month jail sentence. His father, Dan Turner, referred to the rape, a criminal act, as "20 minutes of action". The contents of the letter are so pathetic that I am just going to do an abbreviated cut and paste job below from a fuller transcript which can be found here.

"As it stands now, Brock’s life has been deeply altered forever by the events of Jan 17th and 18th.  He will never be his happy go lucky self with that easy going personality and welcoming smile.  His ever waking minute is consumed with worry, anxiety, fear and depression.  You can see this in his face, the way he walks, his weakened voice, his lack of appetite.  Brock always enjoyed certain types of food and is a very good cook himself.  I was always excited to buy him a big ribeye steak to grill or to get his favorite snack for him. I had to make sure to hide some of my favorite pretzels or chips because I knew they wouldn’t be around long after Brock walked in from a long swim practice.  Now he barely consumes any food and eats only to exist.  These verdicts have broken and shattered him and our family in so many ways."

A father who condones criminal activity should be made to attend some sort of parenting or moral instruction class to get his own sense of right and wrong righted. There is something seriously lacking in this father's judgement and this is evident from the way he seems to view his rapist son as a young child who is not able to take responsibility for his actions. For goodness sake, his son is a criminal and this father's concerns centre around food! Notice how the last line blames the verdict and not his son's actions.

"His life will never be the one he dreamed about and worked so hard to achieve.  That is a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20 plus years of life. "

This fantasy of a supposed great life ahead has been ruined by his son's own actions. This is the sort of letter (in tone, NOT substance) that I write when pleading with my daughter's school to let her off the hook for not doing a piece of homework. Contrast the seriousness between forgetting homework and a criminal act. The father's words are devoid of any understanding of morality or culpability.

"Brock can do so many positive things as a contributor to society and is totally committed to educating other college age students about the dangers of alcohol consumption and sexual promiscuity.  By having people like Brock educate others on college campuses is how society can begin to break the cycle of binge drinking and its unfortunate results.  Probation is the best answer for Brock in this situation and allows him to give back to society in a net positive way."

In British parlance, this father is having a laugh isn't he? What on earth could the rapist offer in the way of positivism if he cannot even recognise the seriousness of his own actions? Reading deeper into this paragraph, the father seems to be suggesting that alcohol consumption by women is the reason that rapes take place. Sexual promiscuity is really not the same as rape.

Sadly, this stupid letter is believed to have had an effect on the judge's sentencing. The prosecutor had asked for a 6 year prison term. The judge, Aaron Persky, took the rapist's side by stating that the rapist had “less moral culpability” for his actions because he was intoxicated, and he had “no significant record of prior criminal offences.”

Judge Persky also suggested that the jail sentence might be an “antidote” to the anxiety the former student may have suffered from the intense media attention and that “a prison sentence would have a severe impact on him. I think he will not be a danger to others.”  To add insult to injury the judge indicated that he had accepted the rapist's version of the rape which deemed consent by the victim and said, "I take him at his word that subjectively that’s his version of his events. … I’m not convinced that his lack of complete acquiescence to the verdict should count against him.”

Is this some sort of male privilege club where the rapist, father and male judge seek to absolve each other based on, well, maleness?

The terms of the perpetual debate about 'good parent' and 'bad parent' is normally tiresome for the simple fact that it lampoons parents, mainly mothers, for harmless deeds such as turning up at the school gates in pyjamas. This case, as far I am concerned as a feminist mother, has seen a parent/father emerge who is amply qualified for the title of 'bad parent'.

Only a BAD parent would seek to absolve his son of rape.

The only shred of humanity in this case has been demonstrated in the letter which the victim wrote.  It is heart breaking to read.