Sunday, 22 October 2017

Twitter's confusion over what '#Asians' means

The use of hashtags on Twitter may be a great social media innovation for getting a specific message across in the way the #metoo hashtag has drawn attention to rampant global sexual harassment of women. The flip side of the coin is the power of the eponymous hashtag to further reinforce and disseminate stereotypical demeaning messages and pictures of women.

I looked up the hashtag #Asians because I had attended an Asian Writers Festival and was seeking to reach the right audience with my tweets. What I found was a stream of naked women and nothing of any relevance to being 'Asians'. In a further twist, most of the images (I only went as far as today's tweets) were of White women.  Am I to conclude that #Asians=naked sexy White women? 

In a world of increasing complexity I am still trying to figure this conundrum out especially given that under the hashtag of 'sex' one finds only a scattering of naked women pictures.

Could it be that Twitter, as an organisation, is managing a soft porn messaging service that caters for Asian countries where pornography is outlawed?

Twitter's refusal in the past to take down rape threats or such like dire tweets against women is increasingly making it a misogynistic social media application. Come on Twitter, for goodness sake. #Asians are walking, talking brown skinned human beings who live lives with dignity. While you aren't responsible for twats posting porn surely you can do something about a hashtag that refers to a whole humankind. The sexualisation of a hashtag that refers to a race of people is deeply immoral and racist. Replacing pictures of white naked women with ones of Asian women will not do the trick either. That's the Hugh Heffner faux model of female empowerment.


Thursday, 19 October 2017

A Diwali Poem

The clear blue sky,
The scent of flowers,
The colours of Rangoli,
And the sound of crackers.

The gifts and sweets from dear ones,
And the getting of their love,
The light of the candles below,
And the dazzling fireworks up above.

Lighting lamps at our homes,
Making the less fortunate smile,
Putting on new apparels,
Show our friends some style.

Paying respects to the gods,
And decorating for them the thali,
This is what the occasion is all about,
This is the spirit of Diwali

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

#metoo groped at a business meeting

It has been more than a week since the news of the sexual harassment carried out by the Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein broke. The scale of his evil acts has become apparent subsequently with more and more victims coming forward with their accounts.

On 15 October the actress Alyssa Milano tweeted asking women who had been victims of sexual crimes to tweet her using the hashtag #metoo. The request has spawned a movement in itself with #metoo being actively used for a number of days now. 

Sexual harassment is endemic and even a quick read of the #metoo twitter stream shows just how widespread it is not only in the countries that it takes place but in the spaces in women's lives in which these acts of harassment and rape take place.

Women are vulnerable everywhere in the spaces that they inhabit on a daily basis for the normal functioning of life.

It's taken me a week to write this blog post because I could not decide which incident of sexual harassment to blog about. This revelation has shocked even me and I was there each time! Are we mere playthings for men in the way that a cat toys with a mouse?

The concept of 'choice' associated with the women's movement is as far way as possible from the choice that I have had in trying to decide which attack to write about. 

Should it be the time when I knelt on the floor to pick something up that I had dropped only for a male work colleague to quip, "while you are down there"?  There was the time during a windy day when I held my skirt down while running to get onto a bus only for the bus driver to tell me that I ought to have let my skirt blow up to make his day.

I have chosen to write about the time I was groped at a work meeting because it is an example of the indiscriminate and sick opportunistic nature of male sexism.

I was co-chairing a round table meeting some years ago quite close to Christmas.  I left the room during break time to get something and as I re-entered the room one of the attendees came up behind me and wished me 'Merry Christmas' with a grope. He picked his moment because the meeting was due to restart any second. He had compromised me not only with the use of his hand but with his timing too. As it happens I did report him to my boss who wanted to take action but I did not want a confrontation and chose not to take it further.  A marker of his behaviour was sufficient for the moment in case it happened again.

The details of incidents of sexual harassment are quite often secondary to the context within which it occurs and by this I mean that men have gone unchallenged for far too long over their stronghold of a power base which demeans women. Male privilege is a dangerous anomaly.


Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Fight racism because girls come in different skin tones

The Benetton ad below which features children of different races reflects the changing cultural context of the world that they are growing up in. On 'International Day of the Girl' the importance of sending girls encouraging messages to look upwards in terms of life and career choices should have equal footing with eradicating the structural inequalities that pull them downwards. Racism is one such inequality. 
Donald Trump's slights and outbursts against immigrants and the rise of the far-right political groups in the Western world is sufficient evidence of how racism is quite often implemented in a top down fashion. Racism becomes embedded in the structures of governance. In other words, racism becomes rife and a way of life.

A young Indian girl or Latina girl at school, as an example, may be living in an ethnically dominated area which receives less funding and attention from the Government's education policies. As a result, the girl's life chances are immediately several paces behind the dominant race of whichever country she lives in.

Racism skews the level playing field.

Racism is a soul destroying experience for an adult, let enough a child (girls or boys). The salience of race in childhood requires upholding the type of attention that has not been accorded to date.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Who has the European Central Bank’s listening ear?

Private financial corporations occupy most of the seats on the advisory groups that provide advice and expertise to the European Central Bank (ECB).
A report titled, ‘Open doors for forces of finance’, by CorporateEurope Observatory has discovered that Corporations such as BNP Paribas and Deutsche Bank have frontline positions when it comes to having the ECB’s ears, thus raising the red flag on the power of vested interests to shape and influence the bank’s policies.

There are 22 advisory groups which form part of the ECB’s decision making process. There are 517 representative seats across the 22 groups and 508 seats have been allocated to representatives of private financial institutions. The representatives come from 144 different entities: corporations, companies, associations and trade associations. These entities advise the ECB on matters such as bond purchases, banking and technical regulation among others.
Given the strategic importance of the ECB and its’ remit to manage monetary policy it is worrying, to say the least, that such large numbers of what can be called ‘lobbyists’ are so close to the centre of decision making. The concern is that they are able to provide enough of a critical mass to garner strong enough clout to push self-interested agendas and ensure that their private interests are adequately considered by the ECB.
The EU’s transparency and, by extension the ECB’s, has often been called into question by both Eurosceptics and Euro reformers such as DiEM25.
Given that the ECB has responsibility for the euro and the administration of the Eurozone’s monetary policy and is one of the three entities that makes up the ‘Troika’, responsible for imposing harsh neoliberal austerity policies on countries like Greece and Ireland, questions are quite reasonably being asked on how the ECB is making policy.
The Corporate Europe Observatory also rightly questions why other interest groups in society such as civil society or academic expertise are not members of the advisory groups.
This lack of transparency is something that dogs the Brexit debate. While the Brexiters use it as a convenient justification for an exit it is those who support the European project but are concerned about the EU's seeming reluctance to respond to these accusations who will need assuring.
At the next council and general election the Lib Dems will have the unenviable task of trying to square support for remaining in the EU while acknowledging that it has many shortfalls.
A shorter version of this article has been published on DiEm25.

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Why I took my daughter to a protest of Playboy

My daughter, Maelo Manning, protesting outside the new Playboy club in 2011
When the Playboy club reopened in London in 2011 I was adamant that my daughter and I would be there together with other feminists to register our protest. What good is it being a feminist mother if I can't point to what is the antithesis of feminism? Playboy fulfils the criteria and I know what I am talking about because I was once an admirer of the empire.

When I was growing up in Asian in the 1970s and early 1980s there were two very rich Western men who were constantly in the news. One was Aristotle Onassis and the other was Hugh Hefner. Back then while the Tiger economies were still classed as 'third world countries' Asian people lived under the misapprehension that the streets in the West were paved with gold, Not literally, of course.

Onassis and Hefner were the epitome of this gold dream and it is easy to understand why given their trappings of mansions and yachts and an endless stream of beautiful women partying with them.  

Hefner, for some reason, had an edge and was even more of a household name and an icon of the supposed 'self-made man' in a continent where, ironically, Playboy was banned. There was a good under the counter trade though in very old copies of the magazine.

Fast forward and I realised the falseness of it all when I read Gloria Steinem's account of her time working undercover as a Playboy bunny. The whole empire was built on the backs of women exploited as 'bunnies'. There was nothing liberating about dressing up in a sort of swimsuit with a bunny tail attached to it. Tosh, pure tosh.

Hefner knew how to play the game by appearing to support the women's liberation movement. He funded birth control campaigns and said that: "I was a feminist before there was such a thing as feminism". Being a feminist involves far more than taking responsibility for your reproductive rights. It also involves the non-exploitation of women. There are numerous stories of the Playboy bunnies being kept virtually as prisoners in the Playboy mansion. Hefner set unreasonable rules for them to live by and, in this way, ensured that he had them captive emotionally too.

My primary motive for taking my daughter to the protest that day was to show her that misogyny sometimes comes dressed up in luxury, at an expensive address and with a lot of Razzmatazz. It doesn't always at first glance look crass and ugly but scratch the surface and you will see a certain amount of cheap brass instead.


Monday, 2 October 2017

Tory boy 'locker room talk'

Taken from The Evening Standard in London


Sunday, 1 October 2017

Thank Goodness Vince Cable has acknowledged the violence in Catalonia

There was something quite disconcerting about Vince Cable being on a pro-Brexit march today while the European Union was being castigated for not expressing an opinion about the police brutality in Spain.

Numerous videos on Twitter show residents being pulled, pushed and beaten for wanting to vote in a heavily disputed referendum on whether the state of Catalonia ought to be independent from the rest of Spain.

Many have called upon the EU, especially Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, to express a negative opinion about the state sanctioned brutality but nothing has been forthcoming.

Vince Cable's statement was issued at 4pm UK time, long after the violence had started. I sense problems ahead for the party's stance on Brexit given Juncker's call for ever more integration and his silence being taken to mean that he supports Spain's actions today.


You will need sunglasses to watch the documentary on Boris Johnson

A documentary called 'Blond Ambition' about Boris Johnson's time so far as Foreign Secretary is being screened tonight on Channel 4. Boris has an ability to make people either loathe or love him and, no doubt, viewers will be divided into the two camps of seeing him either as a blundering but jolly buffoon; and those who suspect him of having a treacherous nature that will sell anything for his own advancement.

Whichever camp one falls into one cannot disregard Boris J's insatiable appetite for publicity. Where there are cameras and lights, Boris J is infused with the opportunities that it presents and springs into action. You will need sunglasses.

Secondly, Boris J is your archetypal left over colonial who revels in his 'whiteness'. In fact, Boris J is so dazzling white that he puts the washing powder 'Daz' to shame. If you put him in with your coloured washing all your clothes will come out white. This is why the Brexiteers love him. Forget post 1945 settlements about collaborative international relations or the fact that colonialism, in large part, is something that has been consigned to history. Boris J repackages history and sells them as if these facts are up for renegotiation and are politically within grasp.

Quite often his so-called 'misdeeds' are labelled as 'gaffes' thus soft-soaping the full effects of what he did or said or both. Do you really think that Boris, the ultimate opportunist, is not fully in control of his PR at all times? I don't.

Take the Myanmar incident which has been reported about this weekend. In typical colonial pompous fashion Boris J recites a line from the Rudyard Kipling poem, 'A Road to Mandalay'. This line reads: "The temple bells they say/Come back you English soldier". He also referred to a religious statute as "a very big guinea pig".

One doesn't have to be Foreign Secretary to recognise the pitfalls of being culturally and religiously insensitive and when one IS the Foreign Secretary one absolutely has a moral obligation to be aware of trans national sensitivities.

There were other instances too. In May he visited a Sikh temple during his electioneering and spoke about alcohol, which is banned in the religion. In 2002 he wrote a column in the Telegraph and used demeaning terms like "flag-waving piccaninnies" and "pangas".

He also accused Barack Obama of removing a bust of Winston Churchill because of the then US President's " ancestral dislike of the British empire". I rather suspect that there are million of former colonials around the world who have an intense ancestral dislike of the British Empire but Boris J demonstrates a nostalgia for the empire which borders on being hallucinatory.

The empire was fuelled by vast amounts of manpower and money and he is quibbling over £350 million a week with the EU! Boris J's postcolonial rhetoric draws on the sentiment of colonialism for strong electoral effect but conveniently forgets to tell Brexit fans that the supporting structures have long disappeared.

Remember to put your sunglasses on if you are watching the documentary won't you?

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Looking for your views on LD conference for my radio show

On the last Wednesday of every month I co-host a radio show with Geoff Payne, Hackney Lib Dems, on a popular community radio station called K2K Radio - We go on air tomorrow, 27 Sept, from about 8.10pm for an hour and will be discussing the conference. To listen to us go to the website and click on the link in the top right hand corner.

Our guests are Jonathan Fryer who is an expert in international affairs and spoke at the debate on the Balfour Declaration ; and Bobby Dean, PPC for Lewisham, who spoke at the debate on knife crimes. Bobby runs his own consultancy called 'Speak Change'.

I am looking for views and opinions from Lib Dem members on the conference. It could be an overall opinion, an opinion on a specific debate or a policy viewpoint or an observation even.

Please email me at: with 'radio programme' in the strap line in no more than 100 words by 4.30pm on 27 September. 

I will try and read every contribution out. Remember to include your name and which branch of the party you belong to.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Saturday, 23 September 2017

The Eurozone is ‘bouncing back’? Tell that to the people of Spain and Greece

EU citizens living under squeezed financial circumstances could be forgiven for wondering whether Commission President Juncker was having a joke at their expense when he spoke recently about how Europe’s economy is finally bouncing back. After a tumultuous decade triggered by the global financial crisis in 2007, the Eurozone’s growth figures are being compared favourably to America’s, with production up 3.2% against last year.

However, evidence points to a wide chasm between people’s lived experiences and Juncker’s message of triumph. It is doubtful that the citizens of Spain and Greece, for example, would agree with his assessment.

According to the Commission, 30% of Spaniards are at risk of social exclusion due to poverty and income inequality. The proportion of children in Spain living below the poverty line increased by 9% between 2008 and 2014, to almost 40%, and Spain is in 7th place on the list of countries where inequality has risen the most since 2010. Greece, meanwhile, is at top of this ranking.

Now, ‘growth’ may be used to express the success of a country’s economic performance. But how impressive is it really, when the Troika’s austerity driven politics is causing so much human suffering in countries like Greece and Spain?

According to the OECD, countries have continued the trend towards implementing tax policy reforms to boost growth. French President Macron is proposing to cut corporation tax from 33.3% to 25% by 2022.

Yet the use of tax levers, primarily cuts to corporation tax, as a means to draw inward investment has been disputed by top economists.

“The way you get a productive economy is changing the fundamentals, says John Van Reenen of the LSE. “You get your people to be more skilled, or you have your infrastructure working efficiently. You’re never really going to get there just by reducing corporate tax.”

So what’s the alternative? It is possible to pursue a successful strategy without crucifying ordinary people in the process, and Portugal is leading the way. The country adopted left wing alternatives to austerity policies in 2015 and is now reporting an impressive recovery. It is a model from which governments can learn.

I wrote this article originally for DiEM25 which is a grass roots organisation co-founded by Yanis Varoufakis, former finance minister of Greece, campaigning for reform of the EU. Membership details can be found here.

Saturday, 16 September 2017

Sal Brinton's speech was a rouser

When one cannot be at conference (like me) then watching a livestream of it is a lifeline. Punchy, intellectual  and people centred are the words that I would use to describe today's proceedings. Sal Brinton's, President of the Liberal Democrat Party, speech was the highlight - pitched at the right level to appeal to both the converted Lib Dem-er and non-converted voter, packed with truths and rounded off with a strong dash of an urgency to answer her 'call to arms'.

In other words, Lib Dems have their work cut out for them in trying to rope in Labour and Tory voters who are wavering about their tribal allegiances.

Sal Brinton started off by alluding to a Groundhog Day feeling in politics given that two general election and a referendum have been held in the space of two years. She spoke about the "loony" figures and situations that have arisen in global politics and name checked Trump, North Korea and Theresa May. I suspect there were no dissenters in the audience to Sal's analysis. If there were then they were clearly in the wrong place.

Recent events were referenced in her speech. Sal probably captured the common mood when she referred to the "shocking lack of humanity and efficiency" demonstrated by the Tory government over their handling of the fall out from Hurricane Irma as experienced in the British dependent territories. Emmanuel Macron, the French President, managed to get troops out before Hurricane Irma struck, she said, contrasting this with the Tory government who were "taken by surprise at the scale of the disaster" despite numerous prior warnings.

Continuing her attack on the Tory Party she described Theresa May's leadership as akin to being a house with "the lights on but no one is at home".

"The Nasty Party is back", Sal declared and spoke about how the Tories are starving the NHS of funds and that the UN has declared that the UK government's treatment of the disabled is "disgraceful".

She called the Lib Dems the "only national party fighting for a true place in Europe".  Her call to arms came when she told followers that the left and right of politics had been crushed by the lurch to authoritarianism.

And where does this leave the Liberal Democrats? According to Sal Brinton it is the only party that questions and challenges authoritarianism.

Sadly, some may not buy this given the resentment that still exists over the party's role in building austerity driven politics but, as a speech at a party political conference, it did the job.

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Is missing your child's first day of school a big deal?

Most parents hold the memory of their child's first day of school quite dear. My daughter started school in 2003 and I still remember every detail of it with emotion bordering on extreme nostalgia. Dropping your child off at the school gates or walking them into the classroom itself, as some schools allow, is a memory making moment.

Starting school is a defining moment in a child's life. It marks a transition from being a toddler to entering an institution tasked with instilling a sense of discipline and responsibility in the child. As a responsible parent we feel it imperative upon us to physically deposit them at school as if it were some sort of cultural 'handing over' ceremony.

But is it just flummery or does the whole 'taking your child on first day of school and making a big deal of it' mean anything at the end of the day?

I think the answer has two dimensions: from a parental point of view and from the child's view.

As a parent, taking my daughter to school was a BIG deal for me. It felt like a rite of passage. What sort of mother would I have been if I hadn't marked the day by physically being there, was my personal view. The whole process of waking up early on the day and getting her changed into a school uniform was part of a 'process'.

Fast forward 14 years later. My daughter is now 18 years old and can't really remember her first day. Neither, I should add, does she give a stuff about how it all went. While I still cling on to old memories she has made newer and fresher ones that are far more exciting to her.

The 'process' that I refer to two paras above turned out to be not quite as life-changing as I thought it would. My fear was that the home would become a diminished place because much of her life would be shaped by academia and teachers. I severely underestimated the continued primacy of the home and my role as a mum.

From the acres of coverage of Prince George's first day at school what is rapidly emerging is an unspoken subtext that the Duchess of Cambridge ought to feel guilty for not being present today at the school gates.

I have no doubt that she is convulsed with guilt and regret over it but somebody should tell her that as the years roll on these things fade into the background and, more likely, Prince George didn't feel abandoned in the slightest.

As parents we sometimes create extra burdens for ourselves by gold plating our sense of care, love and responsibility.


Thursday, 31 August 2017

How did Princess Diana manage to stay sane with all that misogynistic vitriol?

All photos taken from the Diana exhibition currently on at Kensington Palace, London
There were many times in the 1990s when I wondered how on earth Princess Diana managed to wake up and go through the motions of the day. If you are a believer in the power of the Establishment then, make no mistake, this woman fought against the might of it on a regular basis.

The powers that be were misogynistic and cruel in their treatment of Diana. Remember when pompous Nicholas Soames cast aspersions on her mental health and relied on Parliamentary Privilege to get away with it? If not, read this.

When Diana was at her lowest because of her age and inexperience the Establishment kicked her even harder

The treatment she received from the pressmen could only be described as hard machoism. Long lenses were directed at her in her face. As she lay dying she was being objectified. Instead of helping her the press men were snapping her dying moments.

The saboteurs and such like pond life would defend their disapproval of Diana by telling people that she wasn't blameless, that she had invited attention and trouble by flaunting herself. 

It's a familiar 'putdown' argument used against women who are perceived to not know their place in life. She was beautiful and always well dressed and blonde. Perfect fodder for misogynists.

There is a fantastic exhibition at Kensington Palace titled. 'Diana: Her Fashion Story', which showcases Princess Diana's beautiful clothes but is much more than a fashion display or a memorial of some sort. If anything the exhibition is a touching reminder that her beautiful gowns and dresses were, at the end of the day, accessories to the way she interacted with the public in breaking new ground as a royal member.

Dressing glamorously seemed to be Diana's way of arming herself in facing the misogynistic patronising attitudes towards her.

Diana was meant to be a demure Princess in tow but grew in stature to become a Princess who led the way in confronting global issues like AIDS and landmines. Her dress style shaped the way the world thought about her. She dressed down to walk through a minefield. She wore gloves to meet AIDS victims and removed a glove to shake hands with them thus dispelling the myth that the illness could be spread through touch.

The royal family that so callously stripped her of the HRH title lost a gem 20 years ago today.


Saturday, 26 August 2017

A mother's account of coping with her daughter having leukemia one year on

Kirsty, left, with her mother, Dr Janet Chelliah

This is a particularly poignant blog post for me. Kirsty is my niece. A much loved darling. Dr Chelliah is my only sister and we have a very close relationship.

The words "She has Leukaemia, Babes..." still echoes in my head, even though it has been a year since I first heard those words from my husband, Neil.

My daughter Kirsty, who was 15, had just celebrated her birthday a few days before. It was a Friday at 6pm when I heard those words. I was just walking out of work having just referred a patient into hospital for suspected cancer.
Kirsty and her sister Melissa , together with their friends from Dancestars, had performed 5 street dances at a family event. It was meant to be a fun, exciting Friday as we then were expecting family and friends to arrive that weekend. We had spent the whole week planning for this weekend.

We were going to have a 15th Birthday party for Kirsty. Chocolate Fountain and Mocktails in the garden as her friends arrive, lots of singing, dancing, and games in the garden before they had Jacket Potatoes, Chips, Pizzas followed by the Ice Cream Bar. Melissa and I had baked the 'perfect' chocolate cake for Kirsty. It was all working out perfectly.

The week before we sat on a beach on the North East Coast of Scotland . The weather, the sights and the food was all great. I still remember saying to the girls, "remember this moment when we get home and we have a difficult day. Think of this beautiful moment to keep us happy".
Kirsty has Down Syndrome. She was just about to go into Year 11, we were thinking about her future, how do we prepare her for Post 16 Education, how do we help her build her independence, how do we help her achieve her dreams to be a dancer, singer, actor, an athlete who would one day be part of the Special Olympics and to work as a receptionist in her favourite hotel, Premier Inn?

Dr Janet Chelliah was deputy medical director at the Special Olympics held in Sheffield, August 2017

Our lives as a family, our dreams and most of all my teenage daughter's life came crashing before us...why, why why??
We have had a horrible year, probably another blog to tell you about it.

Our lives have changed. our priorities have changed , my younger girl Melissa has seen and experienced more than any 9 year old should experience, but most of all Kirsty's life came to a hold for almost a year.

One year on today...our family life hasn't got back to how it was. However there have been some happy moments. Kirsty celebrated her 16th birthday this week, she attended her school prom, she is walking more and using her wheelchair less than she did, she uses a trike, she has started singing and drama lessons, she is starting to attend her dance classes, she has a different hairstyle as her hair grows back, we managed to travel out to a caravan park, she has made new friends ,she has been shown how much she is special and loved by the many wonderful family and friends we have and, most of all, her beautiful smile and fantastic personality and sense of humours is shining through.
Kirsty has a long journey ahead of her. She remains on chemotheraphy till 2019 followed by monthly blood tests for a few years. I pray and hope she will soon catch up with the last year that put her life on hold.

Thank you to our family and friends who have continued to show their much needed love and support. I wish I could name you all here and thank you personally but I will just have too much to say.
A very special thank you to my sister Jane, who has encouraged me to put my thoughts in this blog and has been a great support.

Friday, 25 August 2017

Calling me a " Paki" does NOT make me feel like I am enabling your right to free speech

Somehow I don't think the founding fathers of the concept of Free Speech had insults and slurs in mind when they put their highly intellectual minds together and came up with it. At the very minimum, racist slurs defy any pigeon hole, square peg in a round hole and logic of equating words that are meant to wound and defile with the historical beginnings of Free Speech in 1948 after the two World Wars. 

The right to spread hate and incite disorder of any kind against a group in society is NOT Free Speech or a right to Freedom of Expression.

I have a right to say this because I don't like being a victim of racism. Being called a ' Paki' is not a fun way to pass a moment in a day or moments in a year.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, the mass bulk of the mantle of racist behaviour has passed from those who hate ethnic minorities to those who, post Brexit, now hate white people who come from Eastern European countries. This twisted logic of racism has not, however, absolved me from its' claws.

Logic doesn't come into it anymore. There is a simple reason for this. Racism has no logic and no standing or status in society. Equivating it to 'Free Speech' is a claim by the far Right/Alt Right to legitimise their prejudices. It's like covering a really badly baked apple crumble pie with custard sauce from Waitrose but worse, much worse. It's worse because there is a human being at the receiving end of these slurs. While you can spit out a pie you can't do the same when you are a victim of racist language.

Somewhere in this morass of discourse on what constitutes Free Speech academics, the press and ordinary folk have forgotten that it is human beings we are talking about who bear the brunt of whatever decision is reached.

My skin is Brown in colour but it does not possess an inherent attribute to justify racist name calling. The name caller or bloody racist shouting at me does not have an innate right to do what he is doing either. It is normally a White man, not woman, doing it by the way.

There are three factors I squarely place blame on for this resurgence in hating people who are not of the Aryan persuasion - UKIP, Trump and Brexit.

A few years ago when Nigel Farage was huffing and panting up the greasy pole (he looks permanently unfit with a cigarette and a drink in his hands) and said something which the press deemed worthy of reporting I would, the very next day, suffer the humiliation of someone getting up and going to sit elsewhere on public transport when I sat down next to them. This shifting around would always be accompanied with mutterings of '...Paki'.

Brexit has produced a very subtle ground shift but I am gradually becoming invisible in social, professional and political settings. At a simple level it manifests itself with conversations taking place over my head as if I am not there. At a more serious level it is the hostile stares and outright name calling.

Trumpism is racism dressed up in a Whitehouse or in gilded settings housed among green golf courses with impeccably dressed people - wife, children, grandchildren, hangers on - who are all personifications of 'Whitehood'. These players mistakenly assume an innate right to prevaricate over when and whether, if at all, to call out racism because it will never affect them. If anything, it benefits them.

Charlottesville is the 2017 rallying call for defining what Free Speech means within the context of what it does to those whose are being victimised just to enable an intellectually perceived fertile ground that ought to exist.

Free Speech has become a tussle between being a lived experience and one where any word that spills forth is a normative one.

Friday, 18 August 2017

My mother pride over my daughter's A level results

My daughter, Maelo Manning, obtained 2 A*s and 2As in her A level exams. Her first choice of university and course has been confirmed. It is to read 'Philosophy, Politics and Law' at King's College London.


Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Why is a 'jolly good fellow' always jolly?

A 'jolly old good fellow' by his Shepherd's Hut
It must be the 'silly season' i.e month of August otherwise why else would Jacob Rees-Mogg be the flavour of the moment when the mood is anti-Tory, anti-austerity and anti-jolly?

All stalwart Liberals/Lefties like me are weighed down with the worry of a nuclear war in the offing and Donald Trump's ill focus on the Governor of Guam becoming famous, ongoing austerity with no sign of lifting, climate change thanks to Al Gore's latest movie 'An Inconvenient Sequel' and escalating violence and rhetoric around racism.

There isn't anything to be jolly about and the very unjolly Polly Toynbee has struck the right note with her piece in The Guardian on Jacob Rees-Mogg, the current inheritor of the 'jolly good fellow' trophy. Jacob Rees-Mogg is one in a short line of recent such fellows, the others being Boris Johnsons and Nigel Farage. Before that, I can't quite remember the whole line of them, we had Kenneth Clarke, Alan Clark and, dare I say this, David Cameron.

All these men have at various stages been either overtly referred to as 'jolly good' men or been loosely bestowed with this title. What is the unifying factor? Quite obviously they are all white men, members of the Tory party or a pale imitation of it (UKIP) and rather well off.

By my reckoning, being jolly is a social divider.

The further up the social scale you are positioned the jollier you are. The lower down the ladder you are the harder it is to remain jolly and optimistic.

There you have it. Being rich allows you to be a 'jolly good fellow'. If you don't have to worry about how much next week's food shopping is going to cost because the kids are home all day during the summer, or about your child starting university next month and the hike in domestic expenditure that this will entail or about the cost of a day out to gawk at poor animals behind cages in what is called 'London Zoo' then you, frankly, can AFFORD to be jolly.

David Cameron is so jolly that he owns something called a 'Shepherd's Hut' priced at £25,000. Boris Johnson earned loads even if he has taken a pay cut. Kenneth Clarke smokes cigars and wears nice Brogues - rich. Alan Clark was someone I never liked and I can't be bothered to Google him to include a link but I do recall his comment about Michael Heseltine's furniture being new as opposed to being tatty because it was inherited. Nigel Farage was some sort of banker and always poses for photos grinning like there is no tomorrow.

Jacob Rees-Mogg seems to trump all the 'jolliers' though because he is obviously super wealthy to have had a nanny block his neck from the blistering sun by holding a book as a sun shield. I buy Factor 30 from Boots to block my daughter's neck. See the difference? I am not jolly. He is.

There is a serious purpose to this blog article and it is this - I am sick about the way jollity is used as a mask to portray the cruel and divisive political ideologue behind it. A smile, a laugh and a twinkle in the eye to win votes while all the while making a mockery of the gullible voter who falls for it all.

Boris Johnson used his 'jollity' as a lethal political weapon when he was standing for Mayor and during his stint as Mayor of London. More recently his jollity has been exhibited via jokes at the European Union's expense. Nothing jolly about this when you consider that he was a primary Brexiter who helped  peddle unproven facts like the £350 million a week that the UK will supposedly have.

I spent my journey into work this morning trying to work out how many 'jolly good' fellows I know. Three, readers, three. What does that say about my social mobility? Only one is a good friend, the other two attend my church whom I would term 'acquaintances'. All are White men who earn well over £150,000 which is the threshold for being a part of the 1%. I rest my case.  

Monday, 14 August 2017

A tribute to Heather Heyer who died in Charlottesville

My tribute of flowers in memory of Heather Heyer

Heather Heyer was killed in Charlottesville while protesting against the racism of the Alt-Right. The  moment she was killed was the moment that racism had reached its nadir this year because she was fighting against something that by any normal and moral standards of decency is WRONG.

The Alt-Right exudes a privilege that it has no moral or legal right to lay claim to but, by dint of being of being born White, these knuckleheads think they are superior. They stoke fear and division and thrive on it because this is the only way that they are capable of demonstrating their so-called laughable 'strength'.

Heather Heyer was White too.

Her murder shows us that the Alt-Right's logic is no different to Jihadism which kills more Muslims in the Middle East than Westerners in the West. Unless you are a clone of theirs you are not on the 'right' side and are worthy of violence.

The Alt-Right created and enabled an environment in which one of their members killed an upright member of society who had made it a mission of hers to keep fighting for justice.


Thursday, 10 August 2017

Sheffield goes for Gold with the hosting of the Special Olympics

About 2,600 athletes in Sheffield are leading the way in showing how sport is an inclusive event. These athletes from Scotland, Wales and England have learning disabilities and are celebrating a week of sporting achievement and glory in the city from 7 to 12 August 2017.

The 'Highland' team with their 'Highland Cow' mascot
I attended the opening ceremony and was blown away by the sheer energy and excitement of the participants. The 2012 Paralympics were instrumental in opening the nation's eyes  to the tremendous ability within sport to accommodate people with disability. The Sheffield games possibly carry on the legacy from the Paralympics but with a hugely important difference for the way it demonstrates the ability of ordinary people, both adults and children, to carry on this legacy of empowerment via sport.

Athletics taking place at Sheffield University Stadium
I was interviewed by BBC Radio Sheffield journalist, Jennifer Eels
If sport is about taking part, more centrally, rather than winning then every participant in the Special Olympics is a winner. Having said that the athletes who are winning medals are rightly proud of their achievements too but each participant demonstrates a personal perseverance and bodily endurance that is a constellation of the sparkling spirit that we associate with sport.

It is the largest sporting event in the UK held for people with learning disabilities and is hosted by Special Olympics Great Britain which is a country specific agency for Special Olympics, the world's largest sports organisation for disabled people.

A Dragon Dance display at the opening ceremony
Some participants are wheelchair bound
The events are free to watch and are taking place at various venues in Sheffield.

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Nick Timothy blames sexism for Theresa May not getting enough credit for her policies

Any woman in any situation is a potential victim of sexism, granted, because sexism is a pervasive sickness that does not respect the woman or her position or her dignity. Having been a victim of sexism myself many, many times, like countless women around the world I bristle at sexism but I am bristling far more at what Nick Timothy had to say.

Nick Timothy, former joint Chief of Staff  to Prime Minister Theresa May, interviewed in a piece in theTelegraph, claimed "Mrs May had been a victim of “sexism” because some people in Westminster refused to give her credit for coming up with her own policies, preferring instead to believe that male advisers like him were behind them". 

It's a cynical and convenient use of a prejudice to spin a yarn to extricate his then boss, Theresa May, from the blame and shame that was heaped on her after the disastrous run at the general election by both the electorate and the Westminster bubble inhabitants. The electorate who voted for non-Tory parties at the general election very much blamed Theresa May for the policies.

While Nick Timothy's remarks only refer to "some people in Westminster...' it implies that these 'people'  overlooked Theresa May's good policy making skills and credited him, instead, with glory. Really? I recall days and days of opprobrium being heaped on both  Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill and Theresa May.  While the two aides were very much seen as a duo that backed Theresa May and advised her the PM was clearly seen as being the head of this working arrangement.

'Sexism' is never a trivial experience. It is designed to belittle and patronise the female victim. It comes in the guise of put-downs or slights. Nick Timothy exhibits male privilege in twisting this experience to serve his interests.

As a protest I am reclaiming 'sexism' as a humiliating experience that deserves the might of the law and society's disapproval from:
a. The clutches of those who live in gilded cages and bubbles where they can access their privileged networks to get lucrative jobs after making a hash job of their previous ones; and
b. Those who place new meaningless perspectives on the everyday personal experiences of ordinary women like me without power who have to take up real fights against sexist systems.