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”.

Continue reading

Possibly Related Posts:


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.

Continue reading

Possibly Related Posts:


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.

Continue reading

Possibly Related Posts:


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.

Continue reading

Possibly Related Posts:


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.)

Continue reading

Possibly Related Posts:


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.

Continue reading

Possibly Related Posts:


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.

Continue reading

Possibly Related Posts:


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.

Continue reading

Possibly Related Posts:


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.

Continue reading

Possibly Related Posts:


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.

Continue reading

Possibly Related Posts:


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

Continue reading

Possibly Related Posts:


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”.

Continue reading

Possibly Related Posts:


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.

Continue reading

Possibly Related Posts:


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.

Continue reading

Possibly Related Posts:


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.

Continue reading

Possibly Related Posts:


Guardian promotes child abuse

A picture of a derelict two-storey red-brick building set behind a broken-down white fence, with weeds growing in between.Experience: I paid to have my daughter kidnapped | Life and style | The Guardian

This article was published today and appears to be due for publication in the “Experience” slot in the Weekend supplement of tomorrow’s Guardian. It allows a woman, using a pseudonym, to tell how she hired two ‘escorts’ to take her daughter to Utah to go on a seven-week “boot camp” course after she decided she wanted to be a hairdresser rather than do whatever high-end career her mother wanted her to do, and after her 14-year-old brother got caught with drugs. The camp appears to be one run by the so-called World Wide Association of Speciality Programs and Schools (WWASPS), an organisation that runs (or ran) a chain of boot camp type institutions in parts of the USA as well as Jamaica and Mexico:

I had paid $16,000 (£11,380) for seven weeks of gruelling physical and mental challenges. The other kids were in desperate situations: young offenders, drug addicts, some were suicidal. I was aware my daughter didn’t share their circumstances. They lived like cavemen: they didn’t see a roof the whole time, took care of their sanitary waste, learned survival skills and did physical labour; some cut off their hair because they couldn’t bathe.

They had daily therapy and wrote letters to their parents. My daughter’s were full of apology: how she had made mistakes, wanted to be forgiven, how she loved me. Sure, she was angry at first when she didn’t know what was going on, but she soon understood why I’d sent her there and was embarrassed.

Continue reading

Possibly Related Posts:


About the Leicester Mencap picture

A picture of a young white woman wearing a black jumper and blue jeans, smoking while holding a mobile phone in her right hand. Next to her is an elderly man in a wheelchair wearing a blue jacket, with shopping hanging from the handles and more on his lap tray, one of the bags pressing into his face. They are in a recess in a building in front of two fire exits. In the foreground is a red brick pavement and a road. Both are wet.Last week, someone posted a picture to the Mencap Facebook page, and the picture has been widely shared on social media and has found its way into the mainstream press. It shows a young woman standing next to an elderly man in a wheelchair, in a small recess outside two fire exits. The woman is smoking and is talking on a mobile phone. The man has shopping hanging from the handles of his wheelchair and three bags piled on his lap tray, one of which is pressing into his face. Mencap responded by telling the original poster they were “appalled” and had suspended the support worker in the picture and reported it to the relevant local authority safeguarding team; the picture has generated outrage in the learning disability blogging community; Neil Crowther and Mark Neary both posted articles which took apart Mencap’s response to the picture. Personally, while I agree with the criticism of Mencap, I think we are jumping to too many conclusions about the woman’s behaviour. (I’ve not named the woman or her home town in this article.)

Continue reading

Possibly Related Posts:


Against this Brexit now

The flag of the EU, showing 12 yellow stars in a circle on a blue backgroundSo, the date for the referendum on Britain’s exit from the European Union has been set (23rd June) and politicians on both sides are coming out with their position on the matter. Unusually, David Cameron has allowed members of his cabinet freedom to support either side in this (he and George Osborne support staying in; Michael Gove, Chris Grayling, Iain Duncan Smith and London mayor Boris Johnson support leaving). On the Labour side, all but 7 support remaining, as well as all 54 from the SNP, and all members from the Liberal Democrats and Plaid Cymru. The Remain side point to the fact that the EU countries are our closest neighours and that as a member of the EU we get a say in writing the rules of the ‘club’. The Leave side claim that we could have a mutual trading agreement similar to that ‘enjoyed’ by Norway and Switzerland, and that we could build up closer trading relationships with ‘emerging economies’ such as India and China. If things in Europe in June are as they are now, I will be voting to stay in. Whatever the faults of the European Union, I do not trust the people who are trying to drag us out and to leave now would give them untrammelled power.

Continue reading

Possibly Related Posts:


Converts more liable to become terrorists? Really?

Picture of Beenish Ahmed, a young Asian woman wearing a dark blue and black top (or dress), standing at a lectern with a microphoneThinkProgress, a site some of us had taken for a progressive opinion site, recently published a piece titled “Why Converts To Islam Are So Susceptible To Becoming Terrorists”, by one Beenish Ahmed (right). That this is true was news to some of us who are converts to Islam and have been quietly getting on with our lives for years, or decades, some of us quite successfully and some of us struggling a bit. The article claims, on the basis of a report from George Washington University titled ISIS in America (PDF), that 40% of “those arrested on terrorism-related charges” in 2015 were Muslim converts; 23% of American Muslims, it claims, are converts. The article is long on “illustrative examples”, some of which have nothing to do with terrorism at all, and uses a picture of a woman in niqaab to illustrate the point, when in fact the majority of terrorists are men and the majority of women who wear it, even if they belong to puritanical groups within Islam (which not all do), are not terrorists.

I had a brief look at the GWU report as I suspected that the 40% figure must be based on a very small sample, and was right: it’s not 40% of terrorists as a whole but of people charged with ISIS-related activity, and the total number is 71. That’s an extremely small number of people and cannot be treated as representative of the American Muslim convert population. (It is not clear whether they distinguish between actual converts and Muslims descended from them.) Not all the cases involved plotting terrorist acts as such, but were related to affiliation or planning to emigrate to ISIS-controlled parts of Syria and Iraq. And not all “terrorist plots” uncovered by the FBI originate with the arrestee; many of them are fabricated by the agents themselves. Eliminate those from the statistics, and the number of American Muslim converts charged with ISIS-related terrorist activity becomes even less significant.

Continue reading

Possibly Related Posts:


Why was Sarah Reed in prison, not hospital?

Image of Sarah Reed, a light-skinned Black woman wearing a cream coloured fleece top.Sarah Reed told family of alleged sexual assault in hospital, from the Guardian

It has been revealed that Sarah Reed, the woman who was found dead in her cell at Holloway Prison in London last month, having supposedly strangled herself, had been remanded following an incident in a secure ward at the Maudsley psychiatric unit in south London. Ms Reed wrote to her parents to tell them that an old white man had sexually assaulted her while in the unit and she fought back, resulting in her being charged with causing grievous bodily harm (GBH) with intent. Rather than being released back to that or another unit, she was remanded in custody. This would have been the decision of a medical ‘expert’ from the local health authority, rather than a judge or prison service official. Reed was the victim in 2012 of an assault by a police officer, who was later dismissed from the Metropolitan Police and sentenced to community service.

Continue reading

Possibly Related Posts: