Saturday, 16 July 2016

A passionate Corbyn supporter speaks out against the 'loony' label

Richard Coles joined the Labour Party for the first time in April this year at the age of 51.  Richard is a secondary school teacher and lives in the North East of England. He joined the party because of the progressive direction that Jeremy Corbyn and his team have taken with the Labour Party.  

Richard is passionate about social justice and wrote the letter below to the editor of The Times newspaper questioning an interview that Matthew Parris, a Times columnist, gave on Channel 4 News. Richard is angry at the ruling elites and is frustrated with the political systems and at how politics is conducted. The letter is a fantastic rebuttal of those who persist in calling Corbyn supporters 'loonies' or such like derogatory terms.  

On Channel 4 News this week, interviewed by Jon Snow, Matthew Parris suggested that Jeremy Corbyn winning the pending leadership election would be a good thing as the Labour Party would split and the loonies would be gone.

I find his glib use of this offensive term just that - offensive. To paraphrase John Cleese, why should I be tarred with the epithet loony merely because I have a desire for radical political and social change?

How is it 'loony' to want a country in which 1 million families don't need food banks?

How is it 'loony' to want a country where housing is affordable?

How is it 'loony' to want an end to the choking stranglehold of austerity?

How is it 'loony' to want an inclusive society where the elite 1% do not prosper at the expense of the 99%?

How is it 'loony' to want an economic agenda that enables all regions of the UK to have a healthy and balanced economy?

How is it 'loony' to want a country in which employment rights are fair, balanced and just?

How is it 'loony' to want energy policies that are sustainable, not in thrall to or in the clutches of fossil fuel corporations?

How is it 'loony' to want a minimum wage that is actually sufficient to be a genuine 'living wage'?

How is it 'loony' to want a welfare system that supports rather than penalises the old, infirm, vulnerable and needy?

How is it 'loony' to want our children to be taught by qualified teachers?

How is it 'loony' to want a fully funded, not part-privatised, NHS service?

How is it 'loony' to want a system of social care that affords and provides dignified and necessary caring to our elderly and sick?

How is it 'loony' to want an education strategy that does not allow private corporations to siphon off £millions in executive salaries?

How is it 'loony' to want towns and cities with active, well-resourced libraries?

How is it 'loony' to want a government that will seek to collect taxes fully and close tax loopholes for the mega rich?

How is it 'loony' to want to invest in housing with the resultant employment and economic activity it brings?

How is it 'loony' to want a government that does not sell off national assets at bargain basement prices to city traders?

How is it 'loony' to want a fair transition period for pension reform for women born in the 1950s?

How is it 'loony' to want a change in education policy so that school grounds are not sold off to property developers?

How is it loony to want a more just and equal society? 

Richard Coles

Monday, 11 July 2016

To the man who kept pointing at the flag of the Union Jack embossed on his t-shirt

Racism normally catches one unawares. Ask any ethnic minority person and they will vouch for my statement. I once got on a bus when I was pregnant and an English woman called me 'filthy', 'Paki' and a whole load of other swear words. All I wanted was to sit down during my journey from A to B. 

However, in the post-referendum age something changed. I wrote about how racist language became mainstreamed by politicians who scapegoated migrants for the ills of the country. It became open season on 'others' who were not white and English. Being white and, for example, Polish was not good enough. A week before my experience a friend's daughter had a bottle of coke thrown at her along with the words 'nigger' and 'go home'. She was born in the UK but birthright and nationality is immaterial and irrelevant as far as racism is concerned. 

This experience was one of many being reported and I knew it was only a matter of time before the hand of racism pointed at me. 

A few days later, one lunchtime, I decided to take a stroll and sat down on a bench overlooked by a block of flats. I heard a tapping noise and looked up in the direction of the noise. A white man was standing at a window pointing to his t-shirt which bore the Union Jack flag. It took me a few seconds to realise his intention. I looked away and the tapping started up again. I looked up again wanting to make sure that my suspicions of a racist incident being underway was the correct version of events. There was no doubt. He was pressed up against the window with the flag clearly visible despite the dirty condition of his window. The tapping went on for about 5 minutes. I got up and walked away without looking up again. 
Image result for union jack flag

I was only thankful that my experience had been a minor one compared to ones being reported which involved violence. 

That man ought to be ashamed of himself for using the national flag to prop up his warped sense of nationalism. The Union Jack is flown in all the Commonwealth countries of which the Queen is the head. To use it for racist purposes is to insult the country. Sadly, racists have an opposing view point which confuses racism for nationalism. 

My Workshop on Feminist Mothering on 16 July in Central London

Feminist Mothering is a little known concept in the UK. It is recognised as a mainstream concept in USA and Canada but has not fully been realised in the UK even though mothers everyday are living testimonies to the practice of feminist mothering. We mother in ways that are raising our children, both sons and daughters, to recognise the individuality and agency of mothers. Yet, we do not have a name for this lived experience of mothering.

For these reasons I feel honoured and privileged to be holding a workshop on Feminist Mothering as part of the very popular Spark Festival which is held annually. The Spark is a series of community-based creative, informative, practical and exploratory workshops and activities taking place over July and August. I will be holding a workshop in Waterloo, Central London, on 16 July from 1.30 to 3.30pm on Feminist Mothering.

The Spark

I propose to split the 2 hours into 3 sessions which will explore the 
dimensions of Feminist Mothering:

First session 1. 30 to 2pm - Are you a feminist mother? This session will explore the ideology and practice of feminist mothering. As an example, is the sanctity of motherhood by society helpful to mothers in practice?

Second session 2 to 2.30pm - We will explore the social construction and politicization of motherhood. As an example, is breastfeeding in public a human right? Which political decisions do you think have caused grievous social injustice to mothers in the UK?

Third session 2.30 to 3pm - Mother Blame. Does it tick you off that mothers are blamed for everything that goes wrong? Does it take a village to raise a child or is child rearing an individual act conducted in the domestic sphere?

Conclude by eating chocolate and discussing how we can take our thoughts forward.

I look forward to seeing you and having a lively discussion with you on your thoughts and experiences. Motherhood is a subjective experience so come along and share your experiences.

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.

Tuesday, 21 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.