Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

I begin my apologetic defence of remaining within the EU by categorically stating that I am not sorry for my opinion. Equally, some of the scathing critique you’ll read below will only offend you if you identify as one of the perpetrators of such an insensate argument. Enjoy.

There are many arguments which I have found frustrating in regards to the whole #EUReferendum debate; both sides have also been frustrating in their petty politics rather than dealing with getting factually based information to the public. Ultimately, this has reduced me to feeling like this is nothing more than a pathetic internal Tory squabble, masked with a referendum, whilst they try to continue to project their issues onto Labour leadership. Essentially, Cameron is struggling to hold back the 1922 abaft crew where, laughably, Johnson has found purchase. At the same time, the #StrongerIn campaign have been scaremongering by stating that the #VoteLeave campaign are scaremongering.

This referendum is a farce, a waste of public money and, unfortunately, is a previous generation struggling to let go and allow the new generation to decide their futures for themselves.

Alas, I am not that angered by the above; it’s customary of British politics and I have grown to love the challenge of pushing through the quagmire whilst identifying as a young (aspiring) politician.

That being said, there is one political football being used that I simply cannot move past and ignore. It has kept me awake at night (no joke!) with anger, and I can feel it seething in me now as I write this; ultimately, it is the most lamentably fatuous battleground within the context of this ludicrous referendum. Democracy.

It has been suggested that the way in which policy is made within the EU is undemocratic. I’d be tempted to agree with this, if I had not done my own research into this area and it is for that reason that I do not blame the general public for having this belief – there is a lack of information out there. However, as with various issues in the public eye, it is a web of spun lies and misunderstandings that has gained traction; by and large led by papers with owners and writers that seek to profit from a #Brexit.

The EU commission is a body of appointed policy proposers. Each member of the EU appoints somebody to the commission on behalf of the country and the role of the EU commission is to propose policy which is debated by the EU Parliament and EU Council. On the face of it, I admit, it looks undemocratic. However, when we compare it to the organisation of 10 Downing Street, it is easy to see that it is a similar system to the one that the UK uses which has not received any criticism by the Vote Leave gang. The Prime Minister alone has access to special advisers who steer and generate policy proposals – if the PM/Cabinet like those proposals then they are pushed through Parliament and very rarely defeated because of the absolute majority that the Government normally has.

What frustrates me further is the ignorance of the fact that people refuse to accept that our Prime Minister (whether we like him or not) has been elected to make decisions: including those that he appoints into the EU on our behalf. Much like the advisers he has surrounding him to help write policy. Do the Vote Leave lot really expect a costly referendum on every little decision? If they do, then I hope they also will fund it out of their own pockets because I’d rather see public money go into the NHS or Education.

The cherry on top of the cake, in this argument, which annoys me and pillages me of precious sleep through sheer, pure, anger is simply one question:

Where were the Vote Leave lot, in the name of democracy, during the referendum on electoral change?

If the Vote Leave lot were truly supporters of democracy then these same prominent campaigners should have been fighting fiercely for electoral change despite the fact that it could have meant the loss of their seats in Parliament. Equally, I do not see a campaign for the reform of the House of Lords to elect them… they have influence over UK policy and they’re not elected!

It’s time that people wake up and see the Vote Leave campaign for what it really is: self-absorbed, middle-aged, white-collar individuals that would benefit from leaving the EU due to a political power struggle currently afoot. If you’re reading this and thinking: “But I’m working class, and I’m not part of the political elite, and I support Brexit!” then I have one thing to say to you:

Stop believing headlines, news reports and Facebook status updates as truth and do a little bit of research yourself. If you’re unwilling to do actual research for yourself – then don’t vote. It is your democratic right to be politically illiterate and I will die defending it, but please don’t use your political illiteracy to screw over a country that has been battered enough over the last decade. Simply use your democratic right to abstain and let those that care enough to read a book to make the decision.

I’m not sorry if this article offended you; sometimes, people need to be shaken back into reality.  

 

 

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I’ve written on this kind of topic before; equally, I have hi-lighted some of the issues that governmental policy have on education and, subsequently, young people. I think it’s no secret that I probably stand with Ken Robinson when he suggests that we need to completely rethink how we do education and that we need to move away from standardisation.

I would like to weigh in and suggest that there is a need for re-thinking education in light of political participation; that is to say that we should be empowering our young people to think about how they will choose to participate within democratic society.

A few things to outline from the start is that I do not uphold ‘active citizenship’ necessarily; although I’m no great objector. I believe that young people, and people in general, should be encouraged to participate but I have fortunately withstood developing a linear mind-set on what participation should look like. Political participation does not have to include turnout at elections, although that would be nice. On the other hand, despite how I might be sounding, I’m fundamentally against the conservative perspective of citizenship which played out through the development of the ‘Big Society’. I don’t think that it is fair to encourage voluntary work in areas where there should be a salary; I don’t see the economic sense in that. Equally, Big Society suggests that political participation is intrinsically linked to work and employment.

In light of the above, I’m probably suggesting nothing new or original, but I am hi-lighting an idea that is rarely spoken about. Using education to empower rather than standardise. Let’s explain through the medium of a mini-story:

“Mark decides that, having completed his education, he would like to seek employment. He struggled at school academically, and never managed to find something on offer that suited him. He appreciates that in the modern economy the lack of a job can lead to more pressures which come from exams; benefits, forms, targets, etc. Mark decides to go down to the local McDonalds with a view to apply for a job; unfortunately, having spoken to the manager he finds that there are no jobs available. Disappointed, he decides to grab some food whilst there and notices that the person who serves him is someone that he perceives not to be British (it later transpires that this person is British!). Dejected, he goes home and switches on the television only to find that it is the news. He finds that boring but as he goes to switch the channel he sees a man standing in the pub talking about how immigrants are taking our jobs and how our links with things such as the European Union are breaking this country and putting people out of work. He then realises that this person leads a political party that is anti-immigration. Mark feels strangely connected to the man that is speaking like he would, in a pub, but talking politics – that’s a man that he can get behind as a leader! He signs up to campaign with them and feels like he is making a difference and feels like he has a part to play despite his social situation. He remains loyal to the political party that gave him his first voice on the first issue that he felt truly passionate about to this day. “

Okay, so it’s an easy story to write – but are we sure that this isn’t the case for some young people like Mark? I do not believe that there is a generation emerging that is more racist than the last. Racism does exist, in many forms, but I can’t accept that this example would make someone like Mark intentionally racist. I think that it is the outpouring of an individual that seeks to have a voice, having found none previously. Unfortunately, what has empowered him is a racist narrative that they have accidently bought into!

Everyone goes through education but few are empowered by it, and even fewer are those that are empowered and turn to politics to participate. What if we radically re-thought how we used education? Imagine using Politics and Religious Education as cross-curricular subjects which helped underpin the holistic individual. In Maths, why not learn the mathematic principles through the context of current economic issues? Or in English, studying a religious text for the use of poetry or metaphor? They’re both subjects that address some of the fundamental issues the UK currently faces socially; I believe that education in this way can help alleviate the issues.

I’m only at the beginning of this thought process, and it is a journey that will last a couple of years. I’m hoping to have a solid manifesto for political and religious education by the end of my PhD. However, in the mean time I plant this seed:

“Education isn’t enough, we could be doing more; we are blind if we think we’ve done enough. Change is not an enemy; complacency is”.

It’s been over two months since the 2015 election. I feel that there has been enough recovery time, for the winners and losers, and so now seems to be a good time to write this.

Anyone that knows me will be aware that I worked tirelessly, with others, for Amina Lone to get elected in Morecambe & Lunesdale on behalf of the Labour Party. We suffered a significant defeat that was much in line with the national swing. I have my reasons for voting Labour but this blog is not about that.

The recent election saw an increase of those that did not vote for the traditional three party’s. It also saw two leaders resigning which is normal, and now we’re experiencing a period where there is little scrutiny being given to the current Government.

Through the elections I witnessed relationships torn apart; people being labelled racist (even though they’re not!); elected representatives make horrible comments about those less fortunate than themselves; candidates trying to instil hatred into the hearts of people that trust them; promises being broken; and communities divided all in the name of politics.

I have fallen prey, at times, to that culture and taken part in some of the aforementioned tragedies of the most recent election.

I’ve come to the conclusion, and somewhat conviction, that it is my duty as a citizen to only speak well of those that lead our nation and vehemently pray for them – especially those that I disagree with.

The truth is, as a Christian, I want to build others up, encourage people to exercise their democratic rights, and engage with politics free from persecution but not without appropriate challenge.

The Bible shows (Rom 13:1-2 & 1 Peter 2:13) that we are to submit to governments and uphold them honourably; even when they don’t act justly we are still to do so. Hate will always breed hate but love will breed hope and genuine, real change.

I want to apologise to anyone who has ever been pressured by me to think or vote in a certain way. Equally, I want to publically declare that I am so thankful for people like David Cameron, and those that he leads in Government, for committing to a life of public servitude. I am so grateful for having leaders that allow democracy and do things as best as they can.

I will continue to pray for our Government, and anyone reading this is invited to join me in doing so.

I end this with a plea to the Christians reading this: always seek to highlight the good that the Government is doing and seek to build relationship with your local representatives. Equally, continue to engage with politics, social issues and current affairs; when trying to make change you believe in – do so with love and grace. Let’s be known as individuals that are productive and encouraging – let’s be known as the church God intended us to be known as within the sphere of politics.

So this blog, on request of my birth giver, is about Osborne’s latest idea that has come straight out of his ‘Crazy Idea Machine’.

It is conference season and the Conservative conference 2013 is in full swing, and if my humble opinion is anything to value, it’s in the shadow of a gleaming bright and hope giving Labour conference – but then what does an unemployed, postgrad student who has been demonised by the current government actually know?

George Osborne has announced the new scheme of “unpaid work for benefits” and, as expected, it received a resounding round of applause at the conference.

Firstly, let’s start by stating the obvious – “unpaid work for benefits” … why not just pay them!? I mean come on, I’m no economist and I’m certainly not as suave as Osborne but even he could have thought of that one. Why not show the advantages of paid work by giving people paid work? We’re going to put them in private sector jobs, working for free (because it’s not just litter picking they’d be expected to do) and increase private sector profits… WITHOUT PAY!? It’s disgusting.

Alas, with the death of the ‘Big Society’ they had to find other ways to get jobs done without paying for them whilst at the same time still having the ability to demonise an entire demographic on benefits, continuing to feed a moral panic with a lack of evidence, and still failing to target the crimes that cost this country the most money: White Collar Crime (something that many Conservative MP’s are guilty of might I add!).

Yet again, those on benefits are being targeted as free loaders and it is the same old discourse coming from the Conservatives, and their blind followers, that victimise millions of people who are on benefits for various reasons. All of this happening while hundreds of corperations do not pay tax appropriately, the majority of those in top earning positions are avoiding tax – BECAUSE IT IS STILL LEGAL – and those that cost this country very little in comparison are targeted. It’s a fallacy and nothing more than a moral panic.

However, let’s be fair. There are some good aspects to this proposal. Offering those that need an opportunity to change illiteracy and other issues. That’s a positive thing. Well… let’s look at that…

How can you trust a Government to provide training and education to those that need it when they have already marginalised education, attacked the sector, and successfully blocked those that could have gone into further and higher education? I don’t know about you, but those good aspects seem a little too good to be true. I’m sure they’ll be an unannounced loop hole in that entire policy, just like there’s already loop holes announced in the freezing of Fuel Duty (but that’s for another blogger to discuss).

The most sinister aspect of this entire policy, in my opinion, is the way in which those that breach the rules will lose four weeks of benefit, whilst a second offence will be three months. EVERYONE knows how easy it is for there to be errors and miscommunication which lead into someone “breaching the rules”. Are we seriously going to support a government that will take away a month, or three months, worth of benefits? Whilst at the same time use those in that situation to increase the profits of private companies without offering them pay?
The implications of that are catastrophic. That’s a month – potentially three – that someone is not going to be able to eat and will be worried sick about money and therefore negatively effecting mental health. This seems very right wing indeed, especially when those that avoid tax or even illegally dodge paying tax, get a slap on the wrist and a fine that is well within their means to pay.

So this idea that it is “fair for those who need it and fair for those who pay for it” is – dare I say it – bullshit.

Quite frankly, I’m bored of the same old Tory discourse. Bashing the poor, demonising single and unmarried parents, ostracizing those on benefits and looking down on anyone that is unemployed.

We are at a time when, more than ever, we need social cohesion and an integrating society. We have an increase of immigration (A GOOD THING!), varying cultures finding their place in UK Society, an increase (we’re not there yet) in equality and a flux of people out of work because there are not enough jobs to give.

We need a government that ceases to suggest policies such as this with an undertone of elitism and disdain. We need a government that targets corporations that avoid paying their way. We need a government that’s not in the back pocket of bankers and other individuals that have a lot of money. We need a government that is willing to listen to the majority of the people, and not the top 2% of those with wealth.

Let’s see this latest proposal for what it really is. A proposal that promises nothing tangible, will create more inequality, continue with a class divide and fan the flame of the stigma of those in that situation.

This proposal is nothing more than an attack. So make sure you attack back at the next General Election.

TRIGGER WARNING: Rape, Misogyny, Abuse, Lad Culture

Edinburgh Students’ Union recently made a decision to ban the song ‘Blurred Lines’ by Robin Thicke. This has quickly led to many public debates on social networks, and of course, public debates already being planned by Students’ Unions around the country. However, it is the fact that these debates are even happening which makes me believe Edinburgh Students’ Union made a wise, and excellent, decision.

The song itself has been identified by organisations like Rape Crisis Scotland as a rape apologetic song which fuels rape culture. Edinburgh Students’ Union clearly identified it in the same way as have many women that I know personally.

For ages there have been articles in newspapers, books in the shops and feminists in public debates explaining and identifying that misogynistic behaviour still exists, that it may not be the same as before, but like a vicious viral disease, has evolved to be more resilient and immune to attempts to kill it off. We are living in a time where the glass ceiling is still there, lad mags are still objectifying women, songs like ‘Blurred Lines’ are still being produced and our eyes are daily arrested by advertisements that feed all of the above!

Ok so the average man wouldn’t walk up to a woman at university and say “Why are you in my lecture? This isn’t home economics or cooking lessons.” But that doesn’t mean we’ve eradicated the disease of Misogyny. It’s more discreet than that, and what’s worse, is that women are being socialised into Misogyny and wouldn’t always recognise it when they saw it! So much so, that they would even choose to defend a song such as ‘Blurred Lines’…

The standard quotes from these debates, by those defending the song, come down to the same old war cries of a misguided bunch of self proclaiming lefties:

“It’s censorship!”

“Unions are there for what the majority of the membership wants!”

“The song doesn’t hurt anyone! If they don’t want to listen to it, go somewhere else!”

“Where do we draw the lines?! What will we ban next!?”

I’m going to pick apart the above four quotes. Rather easily too.

The Censorship Argument
OxfordDictionary.com rather kindly gives definitions to words… Something I think people often forget. It defines censorship as “an official who examines books, films, news, etc. that are about to be published and suppresses any parts that are considered obscene, politically unacceptable, or a threat to security”.
I’d like you to read that definition again.

Since when was talking about blurred lines regarding consent, lyrics and videos that objectify women and rape apology anything other than “obscene, politically unacceptable, or a threat to [an individual’s] security”?

I know censorship is a loaded word and makes people feel awkward, somewhat scared and will entice them to quote history books but let’s face it… some things just need to be censored! If a union chooses to ban a song, people can still listen to it because it’s already been published… it just won’t be something you listen to at a union led event. Get over it.

The Membership Argument
Another point that I’ve seen getting made when responding to the refreshing, brilliant, wise, amazing (Am I giving myself away here…?) decision made by Edinburgh Students’ Union.
For the most part, on almost 90% of all cases made, I would agree with this statement. Unions are nothing without their membership, they are there to represent their needs (notice I didn’t say opinions…), and ensure that life is made better for them. It’s a mantra I hold dear and will always uphold whenever involved with a union.

Alas, let’s not forget that it is statistically certain that members of any union have experienced rape, misogyny, lad culture, abuse and many other disgustingly, detrimental, experiences not already listed. Unions are to ensure that they protect their entire membership and that includes triggers that could cause unwanted memories of events that the individual finds harmful to their mental well-being.

The banning of such a song will not harm those that want to listen to it but will protect those that do not want to or cannot listen to the song for whatever reason. Let’s not hide behind the façade of democracy, suggesting that this is a matter of representation, when it simply isn’t.

Oh… and if Edinburgh’s Conservative and Unionist Society are reading this then here’s me practicing my free speech: “You’re disgusting, make me glad that my university hasn’t got a society like yours, and I cannot believe that you’ve actually had the gall to trivialize such a matter into something as simple as ‘Free Speech’. My suggestion is you move to the moon so that this planet doesn’t have to be plagued by such a foul smelling rhetoric”. – Don’t you just love free speech guys!?

The ‘It Doesn’t Hurt Anyone’ Argument
Actually, it does. There are plenty (more than most people are willing to admit and that’s half the problem!) of members in any given Students’ Union that will have encountered experiences of rape, sexual assault and/or abuse and find misogynistic things very offensive and detrimental to their well-being. Not to mention the countless amount of demographics, notwithstanding those with religious convictions, that do not want to hear nor see the kinds of things they’d be subjected to through the song ‘Blurred Lines’ by Robin Thicke. The idea that people should go somewhere else when a union should be a safe space for its members is abhorrent.

It’s just simple fact and such a weak, poorly constructed, phallic argument needs nothing more than a mere paragraph to show it for what it really is.

The “Where do we draw the lines?!” Argument
This is yet another fairly simple argument to deconstruct and explain. We should draw the lines at anything that is harmful, obscenely offensive without need, rape apologetic, objectifying of women, misogynistic in general and likely to trigger a person to re-experience a horrific experience.

I’m sure there are others that would like to add to that list, I would welcome that, but in the context of this song and the debates that have ensued. This is where the line must be drawn.

I’m not going to sit here, like the keyboard warrior I love to be, and assume that I know the ins and outs of how detrimental this song can be. I am definitely not speaking for a feminist movement (I don’t believe men should do that either…) and I absolutely am not innocent in my past of being sucked into Lad Culture (The evil hoover that it is).
I will sit here and vehemently oppose anything that is how I’ve outlined above and ask men and women who defend it a few questions like:

“Since when did rape culture become art and an act of someone’s free speech?”

“How is the objectification of women, and rape apology, in any way empowering for women?”

“Did you ever stop to think that just because a woman says it’s ‘empowering’ and that’s why they directed the video, that doesn’t mean it is?”

“Why is it that socialisation is a term that is thrown around by liberal lefties when talking about class, but never when talking about lad culture, misogyny and rape apology?”

Edinburgh made a Stirling decision (Hope that didn’t offend them too much!). The fact that they made a stand against something that has been identified as rape apology and misogynistic by many people whilst at the same time sparking off debates which shows culture for how misguided and blind it has truly become is no small feat. I applaud the officers at that union for making one of the most land mark decisions of their time leading their Students’ Union.

I look forward to seeing my Students’ Union Students’ Council get to a point where it too can make such decisions and not be scared of the repercussions that may or may not follow. Let’s hope the University of Central Lancashire students get to a point where they will finally have a consciousness raising (as Dawkins would so lovingly describe) high enough to see this song for what it really is. Disgusting.

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to watch Prime Minister Questions (PMQ’s) live rather than have to catch up later. However, part of me wishes I hadn’t watched it at all…

My heart laments at some of the disgusting rhetoric that comes from that chamber, and most notably from the current government. The comment that annoyed me most wasn’t even a loud statement, it was a flippant sentence chucked in, near the end after a Labour MP asked a question about school uniform prices being too high and some parents struggling to afford them in the first place.

The Labour MP (Barbara Keeley) mentioned that the average school uniform can cost up to £285 with some parents needing to take out loans. Although Barbara mentioned Free Schools and Academies it wasn’t the point of her comment.

The response that David Cameron gave was chilling, avoidant and proved, if nothing else, that he really is out of touch with the majority of the public.

His response was more of an attack in retaliation. He merely stated that academies should, if they want to, have strict school uniform policies and that Labour should just drop the “free school debate”. He did not mention the figures or the fact that loans were needed or even that the cost was pretty high. I guess £285 for David Cameron is a good night out…

It makes me sick that this issue can be avoided. In one school, 70% of parents had to take out loans to pay for a uniform for their children. £285 is a lot of money, even to me as a single man. I can only imagine how valuable that money is to a parent who has children to look after.

More and more this education system is becoming expensive to the average parent and some parents can’t afford to give their children everything that they need to just have the same opportunity as other children.

The Bible is clear about helping those in need, especially those less financially better off than others.

Deuteronomy 15:11:

For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’

I’ve heard a lot of Christians; rather wrongly, suggest that the Conservative party is the most Christian party in parliament. I assume this is because they use the buzz words like ‘Family’ and ‘Responsibility’. Unfortunately, most the Christians I know that do say this also don’t look at the track record of what the Tories (and Lib Dems… do they even still exist!?) have been doing whilst at the same time are probably watching Sky News and reading the Daily Mail.

I’m not saying Christians are the problem, although a little more research and care into how they should vote would go a long way. I’m not even saying that one party is better than the others, I personally think you should vote based on influence and trust of your local MP to represent your views.

What I am saying – is that the current government is not good enough. I’m also saying that as a Christian, I take ministry with poorer communities very seriously and this government does not.

I know that as a Christian I’m also going to get a lot of flak for openly expressing my political opinion on these issues and a million and one Christians will be waiting to tell me that I should respect their authority and not comment publically but I refuse to just sit back and watch a supposedly Christian leader continue to disprove his care for the poorer than himself communities.

If you’re reading this, feeling slightly confused about what is wrong with how things are currently being done, then I implore you to research into it. Ask experts in education (NOT politicians), ask teachers, ask university student etc.

Do not be lethargic and when it comes to the next ballot box, vote for someone you can trust has education at the heart of their core policies and make sure that they are held to account.

Another election is coming and the run up to those elections have already started! Be active, voice your opinion and demand a better system!

By now, most people will be aware that I’m very passionate about education and that I have strong opinions on it. Equally, having moved in with a teacher and meeting some of her friends about how life in a school really works, I’m more worried than ever about the way our education system is headed.

This weekend I had the absolute honour at seeing one of my greatest friends get married. The wedding was beautiful, but I didn’t get through the weekend without making one or two jokes about just how middle class his wedding was. The reception was at a rather picturesque massive manor and all of his friends (not to mention the brides friends) coming from private school backgrounds. Having chatted with a few of them, they’re all engineers, doctors or getting the opportunity to travel the world having finished (for now…) their education at university before coming back and becoming teachers.

I couldn’t help but think what a fantastic and colourful background they’ve had. Part of me wanted to be angry at how well they were doing as a result of their private school background; but is it really their fault that they’ve benefitted from a system that allows private schools? No.

Today I read an interesting article about Teach First being the highest recruiter of university graduates. I’ve thought about taking on the challenge that Teach First have to offer to some depth and am extremely tempted to apply next year. Whilst reading this article, it struck me… this is quite possibly the single, most positive, thing I’ve heard in the last couple of months regarding the education sector. It’s been doom and gloom for the sector for a while now with changes, strikes, and poorly researched rhetoric for some time now.

I’m going to explain, in what is possibly my shortest ever blog, the one, so very simple, reason that this is positive. It’s giving those that have had their lives changed by education, the chance to give back and change others.

Those of you that follow my blogs will have inevitably heard me reference a phrase that I used in the first speech I gave in my time as the President of UCLan Students’ Union. “I believe in the power of education to change lives” – a phrase that, completely coincidently, is the same ethos promoted by Teach First.

At a time when I was beginning to see the light at the end of the educational tunnel fade in disastrous fashion, this little gem, this little glimmer of hope, emerged bringing that light back in all of its former glory with blazing effect.

Some of you probably think that I’m over emphasising this a bit… so I will end the metaphor game with a question.

Have you ever had your entire life revolutionarily changed by something, and wanted to give back, because you knew that it had the potential to make everything better because it constantly generated a culture of receiving into a culture of giving?

I have.

Education absolutely, unequivocally, changed my life for the better.

Edd Graham-Hyde