Why on earth did Stephen Lloyd stand for election?

I was originally going to title this blog post ‘Stephen Lloyd – principled or perverse?’. I changed the titled on quick reflection because there is no two ways about it. He knew what the Lib Dem party stood for and, yet, reneged on his obligation to the party’s primary platform which is to be the anti Brexit party. 

Caron Lindsay has written about Mr Lloyd resigning the whip due to ‘irreconcilable differences’. Blinking heck, how on earth was Mr Lloyd expecting to reconcile an anti-Brexit with a pro-Brexit stance? I think he was taking the concept of ‘Centrism’ a little too far by expecting some sort of middle road to spring up when none exists. 

Quite rightly Caron Lindsay asks why the party allowed him to stand in the first place knowing his views? The cynic in me thinks that both the party and Mr Lloyd were desperate for a win and kicked the problem into the long grass instead of addressing it head on. 

The party has made a big deal of the cohesion that exists within Lib Dem MPs, in contrast to Labour and Tory MPs, and to have an MP renege on that collective position over something so fundamental and long standing does not make sense in the least. 

There is no whitewashing Mr Lloyd’s position and the party should have learnt the negative lessons of doing that from the Coalition years. You can’t place yourself in an untenable position and then call for the application of nuances to get you out of it. 

Murder in ‘paradise’

Devonport Beach, Auckland

The photo above hangs in my dining room and evokes lovely memories of my holiday to Auckland 10 years ago. My daughter played on Devonport beach as a 9 year old. We had soft sand, sunshine and lots of laughs which is why the photo hangs in a prominent place in my home. 

However, that is only half the story about my connection with New Zealand. I am married to a Kiwi and lived there for 1.5 years in the late 1980s. To put it simply, I found it to be a really difficult experience because of my gender and race. I also found the way Maoris were treated to be very worrying. 

There was a common narrative about how wonderful the country was and any attempt to question its ways was quickly shut down in the name of patriotism. You weren’t one of ‘us’ if you didn’t buy into the ‘paradise’ thing. There was also a macho culture which seeped into so much of everyday life. 

The purpose of this blog post is to make the point that labelling any country as ‘paradise’ is an unhelpful and misleading one. It gives the impression that everyone ought to be happy there and that ‘paradise’ somehow offers an invisible arm of safety. Countries labelled as ‘unsafe’ are ones in which women ought to be ultra careful, not in ‘paradise’. 

Unfortunately, while the risk may be higher for women in ‘unsafe’ countries there are no ‘safe places’ for women while male violence exists. Male violence is universal. ‘Paradise’ isn’t a ring fenced area within which women are kept safe. 

The murder of Grace Millane is seen as doubly shocking because she had travelled through South America, which has very high instances of violence, before reaching the shores of New Zealand where she was killed. The rules of a liberal country were broken, according to popular opinion, and these dictate that crime happens in other countries. 

People are questioning how this could have happened in a country known for the glamorous America’s Yacht Race, cafes by the sea and old colonial England style homes. Why not? These things are not signifiers of women’s rights. 

The following was reported in the New York Times

New Zealand has one of the highest instances of domestic abuse in the world. The full scale of it is laid out in a report  published in recent days. 

You may be wondering why any of this matters to an Indian woman living in London? It is because my daughter is a Kiwi passport holder and has citizenship rights. She may well end up living there one day. I really don’t want her to experience the stullifying culture which I experienced when I lived there. 

Don’t ‘White select’ my experience of racism

This morning I watched Piers Morgan on TV lecturing/hectoring two Black men about how what they think and experience as racism is, simply, not true in his esteemed White opinion. Piers Morgan was speaking over the men in what was meant to have been a discussion on the Raheem Sterling issue

Good old Piers, he always thinks that he is getting the better over his studio guests but never realises that this is a rarity. Such is the curse, I guess, of over believing your self-constructed hype and then casting any old opinion on everything. 

Sadly, what did Piers is no different from what lots of other White people do and that is to either shut down a discussion by a person of colour on their lived experience of racism or to select what they think is racism based on their White view.

Let me give you an example, when I talk about how I am often ignored in nice shops (boutiques) White people will tell me how it was probably because the shop assistants had not noticed me or, even worse, because I wasn’t dressed well enough to be considered a serious shopper. This is a prime example of self-selecting or censoring my lived experience of racism. Another name for it is ‘Whitesplaining’. 

Racism is never a one-off act either which is what Raheem Sterling is trying to get across. It is a product of a culture of representations, stereotyping and negative framing. 

The tweet at the top of this post is a prime example. Inherent in the statement is the belief that all immigrants get a free ride in the UK and that we have so-called privileges if we are people of colour. It refers to Nadiya Hussain, winner of the 2015 ‘Great British Bake Off’, who has gone on a tour of Asia to discover some of her Asian roots for a BBC programme. The tweeter implies that he could have done the same at the BBC’s expense if he had some Asian DNA. He hasn’t given a moment’s thought to the fact that Nadiya is a star because she won a national TV prize based on a talent. The tweeter has simply based his gripe based on skin colour that arises from his negative stereotyping.  

Now tell me that is my imagination!

‘Whitesplaining’ aggravates and upsets people like me. To use another term it is ‘Gaslighting’. No problem can ever be solved while such psychological coercion and manipulation is used. With racism on the rise it is more imperative than ever to pay attention to what racism looks like and sounds like. 

Below is an uber example of how to do this thanks to John Barnes and the BBC presenters who were respectful and interested in hearing about racism.

Confronting fear and anxiety

The Five Truths About Fear
by Susan Jeffers


FEAR TRUTH #1

The fear will never go away as long as you continue to grow!
Every time you take a step into the unknown, you experience fear. There is no point in saying, “When I am no longer afraid, then I will do it.” You’ll be waiting for a long time. The fear is part of the package.

FEAR TRUTH #2

The only way to get rid of the fear of doing something is to go out and…do it!
When you do it often enough, you will no longer be afraid in that particular situation. You will have faced the unknown and you will have handled it. Then new challenges await you, which certainly add to the excitement in living.

FEAR TRUTH #3

The only way to feel better about yourself is to go out and…do it!
With each little step you take into unknown territory, a pattern of strength develops. You begin feeling stronger and stronger and stronger.

FEAR TRUTH #4

Not only are you afraid when facing the unknown, so is everyone else!
This should be a relief. You are not the only one out there feeling fear. Everyone feels fear when taking a step into the unknown. Yes, all those people who have succeeded in doing what they have wanted to do in life have felt the fear – and did it anyway. So can you!

FEAR TRUTH #5

Pushing through fear is less frightening than living with the bigger underlying fear that comes from a feeling of helplessness!
This is the one truth that some people have difficulty understanding. When you push through the fear, you will feel such a sense of relief as your feeling of helplessness subsides. You will wonder why you did not take action sooner. You will become more and more aware that you can truly handle anything that life hands you.

 

Are dead American Presidents beyond reproach?

Is there ever a right time to criticise a dead person? Should a reasonable amount of time pass before critics start eulogies that don’t smell of roses? Are public figures open season whether dead or alive? The same questions arose when Nelson Mandela died. As America and the world says farewell to George Bush senior, the 41st President of the United States of America, who died aged 94 on 30 November, is it timely enough to ask whether it is his Presidency which opened the floodgates to Trump within the Republican party?

It is my daughter, Maelo, who challenged me over this. In my experience, the younger generation seem to have a much higher notion of democratic challenge free from cultural constraints. While I was watching news coverage of George Bush’s death my daughter was reeling off the negatives of his presidency.  I remember George Bush Snr, as the New York Times put it, as being:

‘Tall, at 6 feet 2 inches, with an athlete’s graceful gait, Mr. Bush was genial and gentlemanly, except in the throes of a tough campaign. (Admonished by his mother against self-promotion, Mr. Bush, an inveterate note writer, in his clipped diction avoided the first person singular pronoun.) He represented a “kinder” and “gentler” strain of Republicanism — the often-quoted words he used in his Inaugural Address to describe his vision for the nation and the world — that has been all but buried in a seismic shift to the right in the party.’

This isn’t the whole story though, as Maelo reminded me. George Bush Snr was mocking of civil rights and LGBT people. During his Presidential campaign he was scathing of Michael Dukakis, the Democrat Presidential candidate, who supported the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). This ugly episode referred to as the ‘Willie Horton’ affair, cost Dukakis dearly and probably opened the Republican door even further to racial politics. George Bush Snr also didn’t act quickly enough or even act at all over the AIDS crisis during the 1980s. He also refused to lift a ban on people with AIDS entering the USA. Given the level of discrimination against people with AIDS this didn’t help their case. America basically legitimized the discrimination under his Presidency.

With the debate ongoing about his Presidency, I think it’s fair to say that any time is a good time to appraise a public official’s legacy. That is part of a healthy democracy if only because high office legacies leave lasting impacts on people’s lives and lived experiences.

P/S. This post was in part inspired by Caron Lindsay’s post on Libdemvoice.