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.

Monday, 20 June 2016

"I want my country back"

 I found the following blog post posted as a comment on Facebook and was struck by how it presents another side to the 'I want my country back' debate. It was posted by Mandy Jane, who describes herself as being a wife, mother and grandmother. She is passionate about disability issues and animal welfare and, more generally, about the protection of the less fortunate. 


"I want my country back too 😢 I want the kind, caring, tolerant and compassionate country back that my grandad told me about. The one that welcomed the Jewish refugees when they were being persecuted. I don't want to be the persecutor. I want what my grandad was proud of. I hate all this evilness. I hate the way one side points fingers at the other when both are equally intolerant.  

We don't own the Earth, we are just lucky enough to survive on it and some of us were lucky enough to be born in richer places than others. I don't want my grandchildren to grow up sneering at a poor person or a refugee that is begging in the street. I want their hearts to ache and for them to naturally want to reach out and help them, not for them to see them as dirty and undeserving . 

I don't want them to look at disabled people and see scroungers . When I was young I used to bring home injured animals and if I saw a tired person sitting on the roadside I used to run home and ask mum to drive down the road and pick them up and drive them to the holiday camp (that's where they were normally going ) because my parents brought me up to be compassionate. 

That's what I want for my grandchildren but what I see right now is scaring me, because I see a tide of poison spreading across this country. A tide of hate and intolerance . Is this really what we want our children and grandchildren to be?"

The case of women refugees, especially mothers

On 'World Refugee Day' let us focus on the pain and suffering of refugee women rather than stoop to reviling them as people waiting to take your homes and your jobs. Being forced to leave your country and your home cannot be an easy decision to make.

Would you readily leave your support network, family, friends and your treasured personal belongings to make an extremely perilous journey in a rickety boat knowing full well that the lives of your children could be at stake? Yet, this is what refugees do all the time out of necessity but are vilified for for doing so. Instead, they are seen as 'benefit scroungers', 'job grabbers' and labelled with words such as 'swarm'. 

Dr Elizabeth Snyder, with a background in 'peace and conflict studies and gender and development', has written about women refugees in an account that lays bare the suffering that ensues from being displaced. As a starting point, Dr Snyder writes that that women bear the brunt of all disasters. This commonsense approach, backed up by overwhelming evidence, opens the way for policy makers to address the subjective experiences of refugee women and for charities and aid agencies to provide targeted help and care. 

Women face risks that are unique to their gender. These risks are rape, being forced to be sex slaves and human trafficking. These risks arise as soon as the women are displaced and carries on for the entire time it takes for the women to be resettled or till she is sent back to her country of origin. When the Western world speaks of refugees it assumes that they are a homogeneous group and that the problem ends as soon as the paperwork is done on whether to grant them country status or repatriate them. 

The concept of gendered protection for refugee women, according to Dr Snyder, proposes that protection regimes must do more than guarantee a woman's physical protection. Reframing the refugee support system requires a comprehensive focus on women's rights, women's empowerment and their full participation in the policies and practices that affect their lives. Feminism furthers the calls for examining the dilemma of women refugees by advocating for a more nuanced analysis This analysis ought to take into account the diversity among refugee women because they are not a uniform category. Displaced women represent different ethnic, linguistic, political, economic and religious affiliations. 

Refugee women are not a uniform category. 

Empowering refugee women and creating opportunities for their active participation in decision making, impelementation and assessment are key areas for improvement. Dr Snyder refers to this approach as being 'help to self-help'. Women's involvement in their own protection and well-being signals an important shift from viewing displaced persons as victims to emphasizing their resilience, determination and capacity.  

If anything good is to come out of today, World Refugee Day, it should be that the Western world stops asking the inane question of refugees: "Why don't you go back to where you came from?" If your home, neighborhood and country resembled the photo below then there is no home to go back to is there? 

Saturday, 18 June 2016

What is in a name when it is "Death to traitors, freedom for Britain"?

Today Thomas Mair, the man who murdered Jo Cox MP, appeared in court charged with her murder. When asked for his name he gave it as, "Death to traitors, freedom for Britain". It is clear as anything that there is something deeply disturbing about his 'name'. According to reports, Nazi regalia and other signs of his connection to far-right ideology have been discovered in his home.

If anything positive can come out of Jo Cox's murder I hope that it will be a calling out of the fact that a hatred of 'others' and racist talk masquerading as nationalism is now alive and thriving in British society. You could almost predict the car crash that was coming the closer we got to the date of the EU Referendum. What would have at one time been considered vile was now openly said and given credence.

As a brown skinned person I have watched and listened to the rhetoric of hate against immigrants which started off as a slow tempo a few years, became louder during the 2015 election, turned up the decibels during the mayoral elections and which has now reached a crescendo over the EU Referendum debate.

These political events have allowed for hate speech to masquerade as free speech. Political events seemingly legitimize words that, in reality, only serve to provoke fear and, consequently, a backlash. All the while people who are stigmatized by this so called 'free speech' live nervously.

Till last year, every time UKIP made some sort of big announcement the consequence would be that I would encounter a personal slight. I once got on a bus and a man made a very loud comment about "these people...everywhere...". When the refugee situation was making our daily news last autumn a young white man tried to trip me up on a busy road.

You may think that I am exaggerating or, even worse, telling fibs. I wish I were. I am only glad that my personal encounters were not serious ones. But something serious has happened now and a white MP who stood up against racism and who pleaded for a recognition of foreigners as being human beings is dead. The problem is not confined to skin coloured immigrants anymore.

Westminster politics has forgotten about the concept of 'causality'. The Westminster talk positions every event and occurrence as a stand alone act. The austerity cuts, Globalization and the rise of Asian countries where labour is cheap is hardly ever talked about or given air time as being factual reasons as to why Western economies are facing huge challenges.

Instead, immigrants are blamed for everything. How does a child refugee in Greece pose a threat to us? How does a mother on the borders of Macedonia who is struggling to find a safe world for her children pose a threat to us?

The following is a quote taken from Twitter and purportedly published by the organisation 'Britain First'. The last sentence is the most chilling and gravely seeks to undermine the great British value of the 'Rule of Law'. Such organisations are the real enemy, not decent people like Jo Cox.

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

I don't understand Priti Patel

I don't get Priti Patel. Let me be clear, I don't mean this in a slanderous way. I quite literally mean that I don't understand her logic or arguments. Golly, I am getting myself in a twist here trying to unravel what it is about Priti that I don't get. Such is the power of Priti logic/illogic. I do understand what she is saying but it just doesn't stack up. What is her real message apart from 'Leave', 'Leave' and then 'Leave some more'?

I met Priti once about 3 years ago when I was trying to find the room I was meant to be in at the House of Commons. She came along and I asked her for directions. She helped me. I asked her who she was. She introduced herself. Ever since then I have paid extra attention whenever she has been on TV. A folly, I reckon, for the befuddlement that has gripped me.

Perhaps to understand Priti we need to step back in time to 2012 when she co-authored a book called 'Britannia Unchained'. Let me be clear, I have read enough about the book to not actually want to read it. This is because I am a worrier. I worry about how neoliberalism is eating away our democratic rights. I worry about my job security because of austerity. The last thing I need is to read a book which has content that the Financial Times describes as prescribing 'shock therapy for the country: welfare cuts and Beecroft-style labour market deregulation'. I can't tell you how much worry the Beecroft report caused me. I still quote it at people during left vs right political discussions for the simple selfish reason that I want to spread the misery that it caused.

Part of the 'shock therapy' seems to include name calling. 'Britannia Unchained' describes British people as being 'among the worst idlers in the world' who 'prefer a lie-in to hard work'. I don't know about the former but the latter is, surely, something that afflicts many of us. How many sane people would actually jump out of bed shouting, 'I don't want a lie-in and I am off to work hard?'This doesn't mean though that the majority of us actually give in to this preference.

The book attempts to build political opinion into an evidence base for a wholesale introduction of free market policies that would completely do away with any role that the state would play. It comes up with some unsavoury examples such as the solution to difficulties over childcare involving 'informal and cheap childminders'. There is no way I would have sent my child to an 'informal' childminder and I would not even have dreamt about paying someone who looks after my child a 'cheap' rate. I have always paid my childminders more than they asked for because they were looking after the most precious asset in my life.

The best review of the book in my opinion can be found here and I may not have read the book but I think i know enough to surmise that Priti's politics do seem to revolve around a certain amount of self-contradiction and selective memory. She condemns EU Commission officials  for "getting away with living the high life at our expense" but does not mention the Westminster MPs' expenses scandal. She further states that "families have been hit hard since the financial crisis...but EU officials are using our money to fund their jollies". What about the subsidized alcohol served in Parliament versus cuts to spending on disability welfare?

During an interview on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Brexit Priti said: “There would be more than enough money to ensure that those who now get funding from the EU including universities, scientists, farmers, regional funds, would continue to get money.” How does she square this with the free market economic liberalism set out in 'Britannia Unchained' where the state, quite obviously, is the villain to the super hero of the free market?

The political website, Left Foot Forward, refers to Priti's pledges as being 'fantasy pledges'. Interestingly, the Political Scrapbook website has totted up the amounts and, apparently, the pledges made by the Leave side amounts to  £100 billion.

The prize for the most awkward Priti moment though has to be the #saveourcurry house campaign for the simple reason that it forced Asians like me, living in the UK, into the role of agony person/aunt/uncle. Having to comfort white English people who love their Friday night take away curry that nothing will actually change is foreign to someone like me who cooks my own curries.

In all seriousness, I am an immigrant who came to this country 35 years ago during the days when the National Front were openly bigoted and people like me had to stay indoors for our own safety, on the advice of police, when the NF held a rally or a march. Much has changed tremendously since then. The last thing I want is for my mixed race daughter to grow up in a country where the fear of immigrants is given legitimacy and respect by those who have prospered from immigration.