Vince Cable has a great political instinct for predicting the downfalls in economic situations. After predicting the 2008 economic crisis he is now consistently raising the alarm about the potential pitfalls associated with a UK-US trade agreement  which may result from Brexit. Recently he pointed out that the NHS could be used as a bargaining tool in any such agreement.

In his tweet above, Vince refers to the lowering of food standards. There are already moves afoot by group of right-wing and libertarian groups in the United Kingdom to do this. They are secretly planning to lobby Ministers for a free trade agreement with the USA that would lift a current ban on everyday essential items consisting of meat, chemicals and drugs.

Many Brexiters see the EU as over-regulated, compared to a much more liberalized set of standards in the United States. Were they to get their way, British regulators could allow chlorinated chicken and hormone-reared beef to be imported and sold in the UK for the first time.

Alarmingly, the plans call for the EU’s ‘Precautionary Principle’ — which places an onus on traders to prove that something is safe before it is sold — to be scrapped.

The plans came to light when these were mistakenly published online by the Initiative for Free Trade (IFT), which leads the group. The other members are the Heritage Foundation, keen to see repeal of environmental protections, and the Cato Institute, funded in part by the brothers Charles and David Koch — who are well known for their influence over the policy platform of the Republican Party.

I originally wrote a shorter version of this article for DiEM25 which has argued against a deregulatory agenda that will lower the standard of living of people and lead to further inequality. Diem25 was launched in 2016 and is co-founded by Yanis Varoufakis, the former finance minister of Greece.

It was obvious to me as a long standing member that there was something wrong with race representation within the party. Quite often it was a painful experience. Whether the reason was outright racism or unconscious bias it was tremendously difficult to break through barriers.

As a person of colour one recognises these barriers and lives within these constraints. These barriers are subtle, unspoken and invisible. Many times I would sit in conferences or fringe events where the lack of BME representation was being discussed but no one would think to ask the BMEs present what the solutions were. It is hard to get a word in when you are ignored to begin with. Your opinion feels valueless.

For these reasons I almost cried at Lord Alderdice’s declared starting point which is to admit that there is a ‘serious problem’.  It goes on to state that, ‘This is a substantial problem for a party which has committed itself to equality and diversity and the under-representation is so stark that it does not require a statistical study to demonstrate it’.

The report by the Lib Dem Peer titled, ‘Race, Ethnic Minorities and the Culture of the Liberal Democrats dares to go where few do by tackling the issue of a lack of race representation, in this case in the party. People in all settings whether it be in the workplace, in politics or in social spaces fear broaching the subject of race for fear of saying the wrong thing. Lord Alderdice has tackled it head on in a frank and uncensored manner.

It feels like bridge building time with ethnic minority members.

I always carry the memory of my conversation with two ethnic minority women members at a regional conference many years ago.  One of these women felt that she was only useful during Diwali when asked to organise a ‘Curry and Politics’ type of evening. The other was a Black woman who felt that her lack of English fluency was a barrier to being included in the party.  They asked if I could help them seek representation. Being a new member I was powerless. Little did I realise that I was to remain powerless for many years after that.

The party structure works in an inclusive manner at local level (where I live anyway) but at macro level it falls apart. There is a disconnect between local representation and in the higher structures.

Lord Alderdice questions why the party is not being seen as the natural party of race and ethnic diversity by many BAME communities. His findings show that an overarching answer is an elusive one because racism or rather the experience of it can be subjective. In many ways this is a more valuable finding to a political party seeking new ways of solving a problem. In recognising subjectivity the party is also recognising that there is no dominant BAME type that exists (except in parodies like Ali G jokes).

What is important is to recognise that a lack of BAMEs is a cultural problem first and foremost. If positioned as a political priority it will miss the reasons why people like me have felt excluded. I recoiled when I read this article on Libdemvoice because it lacks a core compassion for those who have been left out and instead sets out a corporate style stakeholder engagement plan. Visits, more visits and office holders isn’t the answer as a primary solution. These ought, instead, to be outcomes.

I also worry about long standing members being overlooked in favour of newcomers when the party decides on how to act on this report because it does have a peculiar fascination with the latter. This is not me, by the way, jostling for position. I am thinking about the two women I referred to earlier.

At the very least what this report does is validate the sense of isolation that many BAME members have felt for a long time.

Lastly, I want to applaud the Lib Dems for being inclusive in many other instances and this is also mentioned in the report in relation to LGBT and women members. But, in my case, I am grateful for the way members at conferences have always welcomed my daughter, Maelo Manning, Libdemchild who gave her first speech at the age of 10. She was always treated with respect despite being so young. I doubt any other political party would have been this welcoming of someone so young.

 

This great article was written by Kyra Miller who is a 20 year old studying Communication Studies at Philadelphia’s Temple University. Kyra had originally published this article online at Freely Magazine, a Philadelphia-based multi-cultural media channel that promotes international thinking and global perspective, and I offered to republish it here.

 

“The world is starting to respect the United States of America again,” said President Donald Trump at a campaign rally last year in Alabama. Well, not quite…

America’s opinions on President Trump are about as diverse as the people that make up the country. But how has the rest of the world taken to this controversial presidency? Spoiler alert: a few ratings are up, but most are going to the wayside.

Let’s look at the good stuff first. POTUS gets his best reviews in the Philippines, with 69% of its people trusting the president, but it’s important to point out that this figure was at 94% during the Obama administration. According to Pew Research Center, Filipinos say they “have confidence in Trump to do the right thing regarding world affairs.”

Trump seemed to really hit it off with the Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte during his trip to Asia late last year and one can see some striking similarities between these two heads-of-state. They both hold a “tough guy” mentality with a hard-on-crime policy stance and often call for bias in the media. The main thing keeping these leaders apart is their home country’s confidence in them — Trump’s approval ratings on the mainland have been stagnant in the high 30 percent range while Duterte’s people keep him around 70%. 

In Russia, Trump’s ratings are higher than both Obama and George H.W. Bush’s. The spike in popularity in Russia has happened amid the ongoing investigations regarding Russian hacking and their interference into the 2016 Presidential Election. Just as we can see some similarities between Donald Trump and the president of Philippines,  we can draw some of those same parallels between him and Vladimir Putin. The leaders share a use of rhetoric about “fake news,” describing any critical coverage as falsehood and holding a “strongman” persona.

In Israel, U.S. favorability has been consistently high, one of the highest around the globe (next to the Philippines and Russia) and it is true again this past year, at 81%. The Israelis view on American presidents specifically have varied. Bush’s highest rating in Israel was recorded at 83% (which eventually plummeted to 56% in 2009), Obama’s highest at 71% in 2014, and President Trump’s at 56% for 2017. While this may not be the highest rating Israel has given a U.S.  president, it is clear that the country thinks highly of our Commander in Chief — especially with his recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s official capital city and his announcement regarding the move of the U.S. embassy there from Tel Aviv.

Sub-Saharan Africa has also expressed positive views of President Trump in the past, but those numbers were published pre-”shithole” comment, so it’s fair to assume that information may have fluctuated in the last few weeks.

Adversely, some of Trump’s major policies are globally disapproved of, including withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal, playing tighter restrictions on people entering the United States from certain majority-Muslim nations, pulling out of the international climate change agreement, withdrawing from various trade deals, and of course, the campaign promise to build a wall on the Mexican border.

Speaking of Mexico, it’s no surprise that this is where President Trump gets his lowest ratings. But, to be fair, over the last decade presidents have gotten decently indifferent, if not generally negative, reviews in Mexico and immigration has a lot to do with it. Trump, at 5%, is the lowest rating recorded in the entire time Pew Research has been polling there from any U.S. leader. Of course, President Trump’s insistence that we build a border wall has single-handedly driven his popularity into the ground here, with 9 out of 10 opposing it. Regarding this controversial goal of separating our two countries, Donald Trump has openly said that Mexico has been sending drugs, crime and rapists into the United States. It is not a surprise he has the lowest ratings of any president.

Looking at Europe, those who favor right-wing parties are generally more likely to have confidence in President Trump, but Pew Research states that there is “no Western European country in which a majority of right-wing party supporters offer a positive assessment of the American president’s leadership in world affairs.”

Among Canadians, Trump has received dramatically lower ratings than Obama, and the lowest an American President has had  in 15 years. Pew Research also has reported data that shows Canadians’ opinion of the United States have slipped below 50% for the first time since the Center began polling there.

Many countries around the world have held protests resisting President Trump including the United Kingdom, Belgium, and Spain. A notable one took place this summer in Germany when Trump visited Hamburg during the G20 summit. Organizers of the protest say there were over 18,000 people there to speak out against the President demanding a “different approach” and respect for the environment. The protest turned violent and in return German police released tear gas, water cannons and smoke bombs. German officials have voiced that Barack Obama and the German Chancellor Angela Merkel had a great relationship, but that Trump’s U.S. interests oppose German ones – climate change being a major difference in their policy standpoints.

From a global perspective, the United States image has suffered so far under President Trump’s administration. His polarizing “America First” attitude and divisive policy stances have brought international trust down to historic lows, regardless of the few countries who support him. Who’s to say what this may mean for our global relations in the remaining years of his presidency.

Image of ‘Trump’s World’ taken from Huffington Post

‘Orphan’ is a hauntingly beautiful poem written by Blas Falconer and is taken from ‘Borderlands and Crossroads’. Blas is an acclaimed poet who has won a number of awards including the ‘Maureen Egen Literary Award’, the ‘New Delta Review Eyster Prize’ for poetry and the ‘Barthelme Fellowship’.

ORPHAN

I’d come to help settle your

mother’s affair. On the last night,

 

we ate where she worked

all her life. Now that she’s gone,

 

you said, I’ll never come back.

Looking out over the dark, you saw

 

a light in the distance, a boat

crossing the bay, and told

 

the story of the fisherman

cursed to float adrift

 

forever. You hadn’t thought of it

since you were a child, and held

 

your hand across the table to

show me how it trembled.

 

I didn’t understand until, alone,

years later, wandering the city where

 

I was born, I stood before

a black wall, polished to shimmer

 

and it looked to me like the sea

at night, hard and endless

 

Jo Swinson, deputy leader of the Liberal Democrat party, was interviewed on the Today programme by host John Humphrys. At the end of the interview Jo challenged John Humphrys about whether he had apologised to Carrie Gracie over his remarks.

Carrie Gracie is the former BBC China Editor who resigned when she discovered her pay disparity compared to male colleagues. John Humphrys made light of the situation in the way that only an establishment figure with an over inflated ego can do.

It only takes one woman on behalf of the sisterhood to challenge misogyny and Jo Swinson was right on the mark. You can read more here.  The sisterhood is a collective. It’s never been about each woman striking out on her own or defending herself against discrimination as a lone wolf. However, sometimes it takes one woman to open the floodgates on behalf of others.

The ‘New Republic’ has published a series of essays on the #metoo movement. Almost in each piece is a tribute to the one woman who stood up to make a difference.

That is how the ‘sisterhood’ is done. Women making ridiculous accommodations for men will never understand this kinship that is borne out of a community that does not require personal introductions or a personal bond to survive and thrive. We don’t all know each other. How can we when there are billions of us spread globally? Instead, the bond survives on empathy and imagination because patriarchy and misogyny are global malaises. Our personal experiences can be extrapolated to be converted into support for women whom we have never met.