So, where’s your inspiring leader?

A white woman with wavy hair wearing a green jumper with a pink scarf round her neck, holding a home-made banner saying "No goodbyes based on lies", with a hand-drawn EU flag.This week, as the Tory leadership election gets underway and a bunch of five ghastly right-wing, anti-immigrant, mostly Islamophobic extremists compete to be the next prime minister, people who are in or more inclined towards the Labour party (even if voting for it isn’t an option, given the lack of effort they make to try and win our constituencies) have been on the edge of our seats waiting for someone to make a move against Jeremy Corbyn, who has the support of the party membership but is regarded with open disdain by most of the Parliamentary party, including a large proportion of his shadow cabinet who resigned last week, mostly citing a lacklustre performance in campaigning to keep Britain in the EU before last week, when his anti-EU sympathies have in fact never been a secret, as well as fears that he is unelectable and accusations that he tolerates or even encourages anti-Semitism. However, the party Right, described as “all plot and no plan”, have not put forward a leader that will be any more effective than Corbyn. (More: Paul Bernal.)

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Brexit: A misguided vote

A map showing results of the referendum by local authority areaSo, on Friday morning we woke up to the news that Britain had voted narrowly (51.9%) in favour of leaving the European Union, with Scotland overwhelmingly against and Northern Ireland also mostly against, but with both England and Wales voting Out (53.4% and 52.5% respectively). The result was an immediate fall in the value of Sterling (which stands at 1.37 to the dollar right now), rumours that various banks were beginning the process of moving jobs out of London to elsewhere in Europe) and various reports of people claiming they had been lied to by the Leave campaign and regretted their vote. What is of more concern is an upsurge of racist incidents since Friday, with people of foreign appearance told it was time to go home now or physically attacked or threatened, and some demonstrations by far right fringe groups (so far small, and dwarfed by anti-fascist demonstrations). The Prime Minister has already announced his resignation in October and has delayed invoking Article 50, which is the procedure for a state’s withdrawal from the EU, until a new leader is in place; meanwhile, the Labour shadow cabinet is in meltdown, with widespread criticism of Corbyn’s leadership and open talk of a challenge to it; seven members of the Shadow Cabinet have resigned or been sacked already.

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What happened to the child’s best interests?

Picture of Ellie Butler, a young white girl with brown hair and a suntan, wearing a pink T-shirt showing unidentifiable cartoon characters.Last Wednesday, Ben Butler, a convicted armed robber and serially violent offender from Sutton in south London, was convicted of murdering his six-year-old daughter Ellie in 2013 and sentenced to life in prison, with a minimum of 23 years. The murder took place less than a year after a Family Court judge sent her to live with Butler and his girlfriend, Jennie Gray, who was convicted of perverting the course of justice and received a 42 month sentence; she had been living with Gray’s parents after her father was convicted of causing her serious injuries, some of them consistent with shaken baby syndrome, of which he was later cleared on appeal. Butler and Gray launched a publicity campaign, hiring the publicist (now, of course, convicted of abusing children) Max Clifford and appearing in various tabloids and ITV’s This Morning programme. The judge, Mary Hogg, called it a rare “happy end” and said it was “a joy … to oversee the return of a child to her parents”, ignoring a welter of evidence of Butler’s violent character.

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Appeal to Muslims on Brexit

Boris Johnson, a white man with wild blond hair and mouth agape, wearing a black suit jacket with a blue rosette with his name on it, with a white shirt and pale blue tie underneath.Recently I’ve seen a couple of articles online appealing to Muslims to vote for Britain to leave the EU in this Thursday’s referendum. The claims are that the EU is anti-Muslim, that it could ban halal slaughter (as a couple of countries in the EU have already done), and that leaving will enable Britain to renew its links with the Commonwealth countries where most British Muslim families originate. I’ve had a few comments suggesting that I should put a “Muslim view” on this subject and that my writing on this issue could have come from any white Englishman. I believe that this referendum is about more than whether we stay in or leave the EU now; it is about who governs this country, as the defections of former Tory Leave campaigners Sarah Wollaston and now Baroness Warsi demonstrate.

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Brexiters are lying

A graphic from Vote Leave, showing an open British passport with footprints leading to it, with the slogan "Turkey (population 76 million) is joining the EU. Vote leave, take back control".

Coming home the other day over a flyover on the A3, I saw a poster from Vote Leave, the official campaign for Britain to leave the EU, which proclaimed “Turkey (population 76 million) is joining the EU”. Below that was a picture of a British passport with a blank red page, with footprints leading to it. I found this poster appalling, not only because it appeals to fear of foreigners who are assumed all to intend to come here, but also because it simply is not true. It’s astonishing that a Tory MP has complained to the 1922 Committee accusing Cameron of “lying profoundly” by saying that Turkey is not joining, when it is they who are lying by claiming that it is happening, when there is no imminent prospect of it happening.

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Who flies an English flag?

An image of a small yellow-brick house with three St George's Cross flags hanging from the roof, one obscuring an upstairs window, with a red brick driveway and no front garden, with a white Ford Transit van parked outside it.There’ll always be an England … and Labour must learn to love it by Tristram Hunt (from the Guardian)

Tristram Hunt, in this article which appeared on the Guardian website Sunday before last, argues that Labour is out of step with the “ordinary” working-class English in places like Harlow, and beyond “liberal enclaves” such as Cambridge, Norwich and Exeter, and “Latin quarter” constituencies in places like London and Bristol (no idea what makes them ‘Latin’), “traditional Labour voters think the party is out of step with their values”, partly because of “a wilful refusal to embrace a positive English identity”. He also cites a comparison between Labour’s losses in traditional working-class areas and the Democrats’ losses in the American South, and the St George’s cross to the Confederate flag, on the basis that both parties lost because they failed “to connect ‘culturally’ with a socially conservative working-class electorate, increasingly willing to vote against their own material interests”. Hunt is the editor of a book published yesterday titled Labour’s Identity Crisis; similar conclusions are reached by a report published this week by Jon Cruddas, MP for Dagenham, which claims that Labour is becoming “irrelevant to the majority of working people” and “is now as toxic in the south of England as the Tories are in the north”.

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Undercover: Some impressions

A still of a Black man wearing dark-coloured jogging clothes with a flourescent yellow strip along the zipI couldn’t write a full review of Undercover, the six-part TV series about a police spy (Nick, played by Adrian Lester, right) who fell in love with and married the woman he was meant to be spying on (Maya, played by Sophie Okonedo, below left), as I tend to forget large chunks of the plot over the six weeks (or seven, as the final episode was delayed by a week), although others who watched the series and commented on it on Twitter couldn’t see the point of certain characters, for example, either. I watched it intently as a relative of mine had a minor role in it (as one of the cops in episodes 2 and 3) and believe that despite the strong acting, it had a weak plotline which fell to pieces in the final episode. It’s also problematic in how it handles issues of race.

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Make corruption history?

A stage in Hyde Park, London, with audience in the foreground. The stage features two live 8 logos of guitars with bodies shaped like Africa with the slogan "One voice to make poverty history" across the top of the stage.Who remembers the slogan “Make Poverty History”? It used to be found on banners on streets, on pamphlets and on the top corners of websites. I remember Bob Geldof trying to get a crowd of people at Hyde Park to chant it at the “Live 8” concert in July 2005, which he envisaged as part of some big protest against the G8 summit that was going on in Scotland, but which the concertgoers saw as just a rock gig. But despite the march of climate change and its consequences, despite the deterioration of human rights and the spread of state-enforced poverty in parts of the world, nobody seems to be talking about how to make poverty history anymore. Instead, we hear a lot of talk about corruption, and a lot of criticism of the cultures of the peoples affected. The latest example is the anti-corruption summit hosted by David Cameron this past week.

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No, Labour can’t “just win”

Picture of Rhea Wolfson, a young white woman with below shoulder length brown hair, wearing red glasses and a bright red jacket, holding a sign saying "Vote Labour". Two South Asian men are walking behind her.One of the candidates standing for the Labour party’s National Executive Committee (NEC), having replaced Ken Livingstone on the centre-left slate, is a lady called Rhea Wolfson, who came to my attention today when someone retweeted a tweet she had posted about having received anti-Semitic abuse (I had a look and it was serious stuff; Nazi references about vermin and taunts about gas chambers, for example, not angry remarks about Israel). I discovered that she was on Corbyn’s side of the party and there was a post by “Guido Fawkes” drawing attention to an article she had written for London Young Labour (now deleted) which suggested that winning the 2020 election should not be Labour’s main priority. Fawkes summarised her remarks by saying “the Corbynista candidate for the NEC says there is no point in winning elections if it means compromising your purist values”. I don’t see it that way at all.

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Sexist trolls shouldn’t be able to ruin a petition

Picture of Laura Kuenssberg, a white woman in her 30s with shortish blonde hair, wearing a blue top with a black suit jacket over it, with a backdrop composed of the logo of Policy ExchangeUpdate 2: I’ve run a search for the phrases “kuenssberg whore” and “kuenssberg bitch” on Twitter, using both TweetBot (which searches recent tweets) and TweetDeck (which searches all tweets). I really advise that you do these searches for yourself. The first resulted in just five results from TweetBot, and this includes people commenting on people calling her a whore. The second fetched just ten in the last few days, again including people commenting on the abuse rather than dishing it out. Some of those calling Kuenssberg a bitch were women. This is clearly an exaggerated problem. Perhaps more people were leaving such remarks on the petition itself, but the owners should have been able to weed these out; that they couldn’t is the fault of 38 Degrees.

Update 1: there is still a petition on Change.org urging the BBC to review Kuenssberg’s position.

Laura Kuenssberg petition taken down over sexist abuse, from the Guardian

I don’t watch the TV news much nowadays, even Newsnight, so I can’t comment personally on whether the coverage of politics by Laura Kuenssberg on the BBC, where she is political editor, is biased or not. People I trust on Twitter, however, say that her coverage is persistently biased in favour of the Tory party and against Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, in particular. (She has chaired seminars and written for the website of Policy Exchange, a Tory-affiliated think tank; Tim Montgomerie of Conservative Home wrote this glowing blog entry about her in 2009.) I’ve seen a Twitter account titled @ToryKuenssberg, which offers a rather amusing parody of her coverage, such as the following from last night:

Some people have launched a 38 Degrees petition to get her removed from her position. Some time today it was taken down, as the above news report states, because it was ‘hijacked’ by people from Twitter and Facebook who had left abusive comments of a sexist nature and posted similar writing on social media. Some of the defences of Kuenssberg boil down to “she’s just doing her job”, a common response when a woman in a public role is criticised for doing a bad job. I think it’s wrong for such petitions to have to be taken down (the owners have published a statement). (More: Stavvers, Vox Political.)

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Who really “made Islam a hot topic”?

A Mail on Sunday headline reading "On Thursday, are we really going to hand the world's greatest city to a Labour party that thinks terrorists are its friends?". There is a picture of a bombed-out London bus from the 2005 bombings.There has been an article published on the Daily Beast, the American news website that owns Newsweek, by Maajid Nawaz, explaining to their American audience the “real reason” why Islam was made an issue of during the recent mayoral campaign. It’s not just that the Tories used a consultant that is notorious for running racist campaigns that appeal to the worst in middle-class white provincials and suburbanites; no, it’s all down to “Islamists” and their friends on the “Regressive Left” in the Labour party and the liberal British media, who hold Muslims to “lower expectations” than others, and the “Populist Right” such as Donald Trump’s Republicans. He brings up things that were never mentioned in the recent campaign, such as the fact that he once shared platforms with people linked to extremists or who expressed unpopular opinions and that third parties told Muslim voters in Tooting not to vote for an “Ahmadi” Lib Dem candidate.

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Did Sadiq Khan win, or Zac Goldsmith lose?

Picture of Sadiq Khan and Zac Goldsmith, presumably in a tall building, with a view of central London behind themAs I write this, the first preference votes for the London mayoral election are counted and Sadiq Khan has won 44.2% of them (on a turnout of only 45.3%); second preferences are being counted, but it seems to be accepted that Khan has won. The campaign has been fought, as far as I am aware, without any reference to either his policies or those of his Tory opponent, Zac Goldsmith (son of James, former editor of the Ecologist and MP for Richmond Park, which includes the northern part of Kingston); it has been fought almost entirely on the basis of smears against Khan for having connections to extremists, including former clients from when he was a Human Rights lawyer and someone who used to be (but isn’t now) married to his sister. Goldsmith’s campaign was ‘masterminded’ by Lynton Crosby, who has a history of winning election campaigns in both the UK and Australia using divisive, often anti-immigrant (or, as in this case, just anti-minority) stances, earning himself a knighthood for “services to politics”, but this campaign showed his limits: it was a disaster, as Goldsmith found himself denying that he had links to conservative Muslim leaders in south London such as Suliman Gani, only for the links to be proven.

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Jews, Muslims, the left and “anti-Semitism”

Picture of Malia Bouattia, a young woman of North African appearance with long hair, a necklace with three leaf-like charms visible, and a black T-shirtSince I wrote my last piece on the left and claims of “anti-Semitism” against Labour students and the Left more generally, a spate of claims of anti-Semitism against various Labour politicians, two of them Muslims, have been made, resulting in the suspension from the Labour party of Ken Livingstone and the MP for Bradford West, Naseem “Naz” Shah. Also, following the election of Malia Bouattia as NUS President, a number of local student unions threatened to disaffiliate, claiming she was an anti-Semite and had refused to support a motion condemning ISIS and complaining that her election was undemocratic because it was carried out by conference delegates, not through a ballot of all students. While I agree that the remarks that got Ken Livingstone suspended were crass and historically inaccurate, I suspect they would not have resulted in suspension if said about any other minority or for that matter any other genocide. The row about Naz Shah’s remarks from 2014 fail to take into account the fact that most Muslims feel the same way, and that their stance is not a matter of racism but of being on the opposite side of a conflict.

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BADD 2016: Break the silence

An image featuring the words "Blogging Against Disablism", with a variety of stick figures of different colours on different coloured backgrounds, one holding a stick, and a wheelchair in one of the spaces.This post is part of Blogging Against Disablism Day 2016.

Last month we saw the Seven Days of Action campaign, to highlight the cases of people with learning disabilities, mostly autism, who are being held for prolonged periods in Assessment and Treatment Units (ATUs) when they could or should be at home, or in a care home environment near their family. For last year’s BADD I also blogged on this issue; some of the people I mentioned are still trapped; Josh Wills has been happily resettled (after many bureaucratic hurdles) in his own home in Cornwall, Claire Dyer is still free, while Thomas Rawnsley’s inquest has yet to begin (a pre-inquest hearing was adjourned last week at the request of the “other parties”). I decided to link this year’s BADD post to Seven Days of Action so as to attract the wider disability activist community’s attention.

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Seven Days of Action: a lucky escape

A picture of Eden Norris, a chubby young white man wearing a black jacket and a purple shirt underneath, holding a small dog, standing in front of a wooden fence.This week the learning disability blogging crowd are putting on Seven Days of Action, with a blog featuring seven stories of young people who have spent time trapped in the ATU (Assessment and Treatment Unit) system, one of whom (Thomas Rawnsley) has died. Eden Norris’s story is featured today; he is 24 and has spent seven years in two separate units after being admitted voluntarily, which was expected only to be for a short time. He is from west London and is currently being held in a unit in rural Norfolk. His story was featured on BBC News last Friday. The full list of stories is to be found here. Eden’s story has a feature which occurs time and again with so many people who have fallen under the ‘care’ of the ATU system: the long-term use of anti-psychotics as sedatives, leading to massive weight gain and other health problems.

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Trevor Phillips: back race-baiting, this time with junk research

Note: I started writing this last Tuesday and finished today (Sunday) as work made it impossible to complete during the week.

A front page from the Daily Mail, with the headlines "Warning on 'UK Muslim Ghettoes'".I’d rather not be writing this entry. Last week there were two important documentaries: a Channel 4 Dispatches on disabled people being humiliated by benefits assessors, and a BBC Panorama about young mentally-ill people being held hundreds of miles from home and in some cases dying for lack of decent mental health care anywhere near home (the Humber region comes up yet again). But Trevor Phillips has been out race-baiting again, saying “things you can’t say” about race and race relations in a mass-circulation daily newspaper and on a prime-time TV documentary, as he was in March last year. This time, on the basis of a dubious interpretation of a tiny study (PDF) of British Muslims, he’s telling everyone else “what we really think” and scaremongering about the “dangers” of allowing Muslim “ghettoes”, or “a nation within a nation”, to exist. (More: Manchester Policy Blogs

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High Valour?

A drawing of a knight in armour about to be projected head first off his horse, while a young girl watches.A number of years ago I heard a play on Radio 4 whose title I can’t remember but I suspect it was called High Valour. It was about a couple who emigrated to Australia where the husband hoped to work for his elder brother’s business. The business had some sort of initiation for ‘serious’ employees called High Valour, the details of which I can’t remember but it involved long hours, time away, a lot of drinking and not much family time. Needless to say, the wife didn’t approve, especially when the older brother’s wife told his wife that she tolerated his use of prostitutes while working away: “he uses a clean whore, and always tells me he loves me”. The elder brother told the husband to adopt the same practice of telling his wife he loved her when going out without her, and towards the end of the play, his wife confronted him and reminded him that the last thing he had said to her was that he loved her: “when you tell me you love me, I don’t want to have to wonder why”.

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Does the Left really have an anti-Semitism problem?

Recently accusations have started flying that the Left, including the Labour party, has a ‘problem’ with anti-Semitism and that Jeremy Corbyn, the party’s leader, hasn’t been doing enough to combat it. The accusations include that the Oxford University Labour society is a hostile environment for Jews, that various members and leaders of local Labour groups and affiliated organisations have made anti-Semitic remarks online, and that the Left in general has turned against Israel and that human rights campaigns that target Israel have become a “new front” in European anti-Semitism and a “new blood libel”. This type of rhetoric aimed at silencing criticism of Israel based on human rights principles is not new, but while anti-Semitism in far-left fringe groups has been known of for decades, the flurry of claims about anti-Semitism within the Labour party has only happened in the last few months.

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Who needs Autism Awareness?

Today is World Autism Awareness Day, an event organised by the United Nations since 2008 to “encourage member states … to take measures to raise awareness about children with autism throughout the world”. It’s become best known recently for Light It Up Blue, in which people are encouraged to wear blue, turn their websites blue and shine blue light on their buildings so as to “raise awareness” and to raise money for the genetic research funded by Autism Speaks, which is also notorious for scaremongering about the condition and, by extension, people affected by it. Not much talk is heard about the matter of how aware our professionals are of the needs of people, and particularly children, on the autism spectrum, despite the ample evidence, in the UK at least, that people empowered to make professional decisions about the lives and living arrangements of people with autism and other learning disabilities are woefully ignorant of them, and that people have died as a result.

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Review: Happy Valley, The A Word

Picture of Sgt Cawood, a middle-aged white woman with blonde hair wearing a police uniform with a yellow flourescent jacket, approaching John Wadsworth, an older, balding white man wearing a dark-coloured suit, from behind in the corridor of a police stationLast Tuesday, The A Word started at 9pm on Tuesday, the slot that had been occupied by the second series of Happy Valley, the Yorkshire-based six-part police drama starring Sarah Lancashire as a police sergeant in Hebden Bridge. The A Word, which a number of my friends with children on the autism spectrum said they couldn’t watch for fear of it being too upsetting, is about a young autistic boy (or perhaps a boy with Asperger’s syndrome, although that distinction is no longer made) in a family full of squabbling adults, or maybe it’s about a family of squabbling adults who have an autistic son; that will presumably be revealed later in the series. I found that Happy Valley was nowhere near as dramatic as the original series, with neither of the murderers involved being apprehended, and in some important aspects unconvincing; The A Word’s depiction of autism itself has been described elsewhere as uncharacteristic and the diagnostic process ludicrously optimistic.

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