Saturday, 24 December 2016

A photo that tells all about the political vote on Israeli Settlements

For those who wish to read about the political impetus behind this photo please click here


Wednesday, 14 December 2016

What Syria used to look like

Syria was once a thriving and beautiful country. I cannot imagine what it must feel like to live under constant bombardment and to see the fear in your children's eyes while wondering whether every day will be your last. Many people feel powerless as I do to help the victims of the Syrian war. The least we can do is to show solidarity with their suffering. I have chosen to do this by publishing the photographs below which show the ravages of war. The victims once had lives just like we do in the Western world. 


Sunday, 4 December 2016

A Mumsnetter’s response to Paul Mason

On the 7th of November Paul Mason, an author and former broadcaster on BBC’s Newsnight programme and on the Channel 4 news, wrote an article in the Guardian newspaper titled: “Bond traders, Trots and Mumsnetters must unite against Farage’s mob”.  The gist of the article was about the rise of right-wing populism and the danger it poses through its’ mass movement founded on hate, as seen in Donald Trump’s racist rallies. In the UK UKIP is threatening to gather 100,000 supporters outside the Supreme Court on 5 December when the appeal hearing starts on the Brexit judgement. 

The backdrop to the Supreme Court hearing is the judgement previously passed by the High Court stating that the Government must offer MPs a vote on the terms of Article 50. The Government has maintained all along that it does not have to consult with MPs because the result of the referendum in May is all that is needed for it to go ahead with Brexit. 

Paul Mason, in his article, states that left-wingers who are: “Anti-racists, globalists and believers in the virtues of science over mumbo-jumbo are still winning elections…” but progressive politics is being drained of its resilience. While the left is capable of fighting back Paul Mason makes clear that the “effort is going to exhaust us unless we become more radical”. The fight back, he claims, is the responsibility of the left to orchestrate through “an alliance of bond traders, Trots and Mumsnetters”.

As a left-wing feminist mother Mumsnetter this article, to me, was a ‘call to arms’ to stand up for the values and norms that protect our children’s rights and freedoms. Put simply, I don’t want my daughter growing up in a society where right-wing populism touting the language of racism and xenophobia coupled with knee-jerk reactions that command stupid headlines in right-wing newspapers is the staple everyday lingo and mind set.

I have blogged about this in a post which describes my experience of living in a country where the judiciary is not independent. There is no way that I would want my daughter growing up in similar circumstances.

Paul Mason writes about the momentum behind people like Trump and Farage that comes from populism that is “moving fast”. The left needs to catch up and the first priorities are to make a “rhetorical break with neoliberalism”.

The associated features of neoliberalism are: “the doctrine of austerity, inequality, privatisation, financial corruption, asset bubbles and technocratic hubris.”

Given the way austerity has been pursued it has become easy for the right to claim it as a necessary way of life so that, among other reasons, our children aren’t saddled with national debt when they are older. Paul Mason, however, states that “It is entirely possible to construct a humane pro-business version of capitalism without these things”.

Back in 2014 I authored a chapter in a book titled: ‘Mothering in the Age of Neoliberalism’. My chapter was called: ‘Austerity and Gender Neutrality: The Excluding of Women and Mothers from Public Policy in the UK’. I provided an analysis of the impact of austerity cuts in the UK on mothers. Much of women’s economic prosperity and ability to access services has been reshaped in accordance with a neoliberal framework that disregards women’s wellbeing and autonomy in society. 

Despite much evidence that points to how our lives have been made poorer materially by austerity the feminization of poverty has continued through benefit cuts, welfare caps and the withdrawal of various subsidies.

Neoliberalism is presented as a 'no other option' scenario when, in actual fact, it is a choice made by elected leaders. Austerity places more pressure on women, especially mothers who are struggling economically. 

I haven’t had a pay increase in my public sector job for 7 years now. A ‘no option’ austerity package plays into the hands of right-wing populism by allowing them to create and dominate a political space that crowds out respect for women’s rights and establishes a political culture in which it’s fair game to be sexist and racist.

Paul Mason ends his article by pointing out that the left needs to become populist and offer an alternative narrative and way forward. This is critical, he states, due to the collapse of the “extreme centre”.

A key part of this left populism should be about mother centric policies such as childcare and adequate social care because it is largely women, many of them mothers themselves, who look after children and older parents through unpaid labour. Mothers need an education system that is less about grades and more about education in a broad sense, a rational social based housing policy, better paid jobs and security of work. We want safe spaces for our children through an adequate provision of leisure and play areas.

There is much for mothers to collaborate around. Political capital does lie with us to reclaim political space and values.

Paul Mason concludes by stating that:  “If Nigel Farage leads 100,000 people to intimidate the Supreme Court, I intend to be on the other side of a police crash barrier opposing him. I don’t want to be flanked by only my anti-fascist mates from 30 years ago: I want to see an alliance of the left and the radical centre on the streets. That means bond traders from Canary Wharf, arm in arm with placard-carrying Trots. Masked-up Kurdish radicals alongside Mumsnet posters. Eighty years on from Cable Street, we don’t have many dockers and miners around, to help face down rightwing intimidation. Puny as we are, it’s up to us”.

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Attacking the judiciary's independence is the hallmark of third world status-Brexit ruling

Has anyone found the collective common sense of the country yet because it feels as if it has abandoned Britain over the Brexit ruling? Sitting on the train the morning after the Brexit ruling on 3 November I took my newspaper out of my bag and opened it. A chill went through me. It was not because of some idiot passenger who had to sprint the last few yards to jump onto the train before the doors closed and then opened the window to cool off even though it was cold outside. Nothing as mundane as that. 

My chill was brought on by the realisation that nothing is sacred in this country anymore. One of the bastions of Britishness - the independence of the judiciary - is being seen as if it were more than an inconvenient institution. Frankly, from this point on it becomes a slippery slope to third world status unless people recognise that the attacks on the three judges in the Brexit ruling was an attack against fairness and impartiality.  

You see, I know what I am talking about, sadly. I grew up in a third world country (but live in the UK now) where the independence of the judiciary was slowly poisoned by government actions and hijacked for political benefit over a number of years before it became a full throttle assault without any pretence. The practical reality of having a NON independent judiciary can be summed up in one word - DANGEROUS. Voicing any dissent of the government of the day, no matter how reasonable, is likely to result in the person/people being arrested and charged without the comfort of knowing that the court will pay heed to their right to free speech. 

Supporting the opposition party can be a cat and mouse game because the opposition is constantly silenced by being thrown into jail by politically biased judges and its' supporters are marked and harassed with no recourse to the law. The notion of 'human rights' is seen as something that the Western world enjoys because of the judges' independence. There is so much envy in other countries that similar is not afforded to the citizens who live in third world countries. Notice that I haven't mentioned which country it is I am talking about? That is what fear and oppression does. 

One of my favourite books is the 'Rule of Law' written by a former judge, Lord Tom Bingham who died in 2010, for the way it sets out the simplicity of the meaning that 'no man is above the law' (not even Prime Ministers). That being so the judiciary who adjudicate have to be free and fair minded in pronouncing judgement without the dice being loaded against one party. Every political person and organ of state bears responsibility for upholding these traits. 

Lord Bingham wrote that: "The constitution of of a modern democracy governed by the rule of law must...guarantee the independence of judicial decision-makers...". The legitimacy of independence is enshrined in the Act of Settlement 1701 and codified in the Constitutional Reform Act 2005 section 3(1) which states that: The Lord Chancellor, other Ministers of the Crown...must uphold the continued independence of the judiciary". 

When an attack is made on the judiciary it endangers all of us. Irresponsible newspapers who dish out provocative headlines to make money from stirring up negative emotions are affirming and legitimizing the growing sense of hatred of everything that is not right-wing. Hatred of immigrants is fodder for profit. Refugees are treated as swarms of insects who deserve to die watery deaths. Where will all this end and what comes next? 

The Brexiters have their ire stoked and stroked by narratives that are devoid of facts. That the judges were handing back power to Parliament was lost in the false anti-EU rubbish. In the days leading up to the EU Referendum, the phrase 'taking back control', rang hollow for remainers like me but, ironically, the Brexit ruling has actually lent some sense of intelligence to the phrase. 

It feels as if the country is standing at a forked road ahead of the Supreme Court hearing on 5 December on appeal over the Brexit decision. 

Go right for more vitriol or go left for some sense of rational thinking and debate. It sounds rather extreme and radical but that is the reality. For years I have watched the Republican Party in America descend into a deep sewer of right wing-ism and I have sighed a sense of relief that no such thing could ever happen in this country. I was wrong. The MP Jo Cox was murdered for her liberal views. Cue Donald Trump who attacks the press on a regular basis and then ponder on the criticism heaped at the three Brexit ruling judges. Suddenly the stakes have become high.