Labour Leadership

I’ve just watched the Sunday Politics Labour Leadership debate, it’s good to see a platform for these hustings that everyone can access. I thought the debate was conducted in good spirit from most of the candidates although I wish it had been someone other than Andrew Neil in the Chair.

Jeremy Corbyn

Jeremy Corbyn kept up his consistent anti – austerity message, favouring a growing economy over a shrinking state as the best means to decrease the defecit. He is clearly a contender who holds true Labour values of equality,  fairness and democracy and as leader would certainly take the party back to its roots. I thought he looked confident, knew his stuff and was unphased by Neil’s constant badgering. I particularly liked his answer to the question “would you have any of your leadership opponents in the shadow cabinet?” Which was to suggest all ministerial roles be decided democratically. He spoke of a need to add in more bands on housing to raise fair taxes. He spoke of a need to build more council houses and therefore bring down the housing benefit bill and he spoke of a need to tackle tax avoidance and evasion which costs the economy billions.

Liz Kendal

At the other end of the spectrum we had Liz Kendal, she’s a self proclaimed “Blairite” and is certainly trying to paint herself as a modern day Tony Blair. I think there is a difference though. Blair built a growing economy, he appealed to the middle class then handed the money to a true socialist in the exchequer who spent it on improving education, health, infrastructure and creating a greater Britain for all. Kendal sounds more like Cameron, with her repeated insistence that the party needs to adopt the policies of the Tories and to appeal to their voters, as well as questioning her opponents on how they would fund not cutting services that haven’t yet been cut,  I was left thinking “but they’re being paid for at the moment”.

Andy Burnham

Burnham spoke extremely well on a number of issues, he certainly seems to be in near constant agreement with Corbyn and looks like he wants to reconnect with traditional Labour values. He’s prepared to accept he has made mistakes and genuinely seems to want a better future for all. He, with Corbyn and Cooper, spoke vehemently against the cutting of child benefit and tax credits for third (and later) children but then stated he was “in favour of the principle of the benefits cap”. This seemed not to fit with some of his other views and I was left wondering if on some issues he was playing lip service to policies he thought were necessary to win the leadership of the party, then the country.

Yvette Cooper

Yvette spoke of the need to celebrate all that Labour achieved while in government. She holds true centre left values and wants to improve the country for all concerned. She expressed deep worries over the recent budget and how it will hit hard working families the hardest. She spoke of her pride in the diversity of the nation and linked this to her own heritage.

There was consensus between Burnham, Cooper and Corbyn on a number of issues, although the latter was the only one consistent in an anti – austerity message. It was good to see the debate and I hope to see more in the contest, to enable all Labour members and supporters to make the most informed choice.

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“Liberal” Leader?

This week the Liberal Democrats have elected Tim Farron as leader of their party. I wrote before that if they were to be successful in rebuilding they needed to distance themselves from the coalition and given Farron’s opposition to it and rebellious voting record he would probably be the man for the Job,  I still believe this and the rebuilding must begin.

The press,  however, have picked up something else from his voting record. He has failed to support certain equality issues and has deep rooted “Christian” values that apparently see homosexuals as sinners. These values seem at odds with the ideology of his party, the only party with the word “Liberal” in its name. Farron must do some soul searching. There are many LGBT activists within the party and if he allows his religion to hold sway over him in this he may lose their support.

When questioned by channel 4 on the topic he went into full politician “avoiding the answer” mode, talking of how he believes we are all sinners, but this still annoyed many of us who believe that there is nothing wrong with homosexuality. I’ve long thought that as the religions claim to be based on love, )forgiveness and accepting others they need to move passed their outdated views on homosexuals and into the modern world, can Farron do this?  or can will he plunge the Liberal Democrats back into a world of bigotry that they have led the way in moving out of?

I  hope it is his Liberal values that win the internal conflict, but we will have to wait and see.

British Values

I’m getting a bit sick of hearing the phrase “British Values”, it’s such a none phrase but it’s seemingly everywhere at the moment. First the government were prescribing that they must be taught in schools, then we were told immigrants must sign up to them and yesterday I saw someone on the news saying that the Muslim faith needs to abide by them. But what even are they? According to ofsted they are:

Democracy
The rule of law
Individual Liberty and Mutual Respect
Tolerance of different faiths and beliefs

Democracy

I’m told that one of the core British Values is democracy. Which is a bit of a joke,  if we’re being honest. We don’t even live in one! We have some element of democracy to our constitutional monarchy but the system isn’t truly democratic.

We have an elected first house, so that’s a good start, but then we have an upper house filled with unelected landed gentry, appointed supporters of this and previous governments and bishops. A true democracy would have a wholly elected second house.

Then there’s the head of state,  again an unelected position that gives the hereditary power to veto any government decision.

If democracy is a true British value, can we have one please?

The rule of law

This is a ridiculous statement. We have laws in this country, but so does almost every other country. We certainly didn’t invent the rule of law and I’d wager that the majority of those in the country who don’t respect the rule of law are brits. This is a noble value,  but not one we can claim a monopoly on.

Individual liberty and mutual respect

So the Conservative government believe that we should teach this as a value and encourage newcomers to our country to buy into it, yet are currently implementing the snoopers charter, the biggest threat to individual liberty ever seen? Am I the only one who smells hypocrisy there?

As for mutual respect,  senior tories have labelled teachers “dealers in despair” and “enemies of promise”. They’ve attacked the workforce and worker’s rights and shown no respect for people in poverty.

I’d agree these are great values to hold, I just  wish the government that preaches them would hold them.

Tolerance of different faith and beliefs

I’ll just let that one sink in. The British government want incoming faiths to change their practices to uphold British Values, and one of those values is to tolerate different faiths and beliefs.

The phrasing of it is ridiculous. Tolerate means to put up with something, surely we should be celebrating the fact that the UK is diverse and multicultural?

I was abhorred recently by the viral video that showed three 13 year olds beating up a 12 year old, but I was more abhorred by the way people used it to try and stir up racial hatred. I’ve worked in schools where the student population was 99% white, and schools that show a roughly even split between white and Asian students. I’ve known this type of attack to happen more than once, and the majority of the time it is white on white. Often over a girl, more often because someone grew up on the wrong, but neighbouring, housing estate.

The sad truth is that many British people won’t tolerate other British people who hold the same faith or belief because they are from somewhere different. The EDL protests against mosques and synagogues show that too many British people don’t hold this so called British Value, the prime ministers recent comments about a return to our “Christian heritage” and the law that bans a Catholic from holding the office of prime minister suggest that as a society we’re far from secure in this British value.

All four of these suggested British Values are fantastic to aspire to, and I’d love to live in a society that upholds them. Unfortunately I don’t,  but I do live in Britain,  so I’m left questioning,  “are they even British Values?”

Whatever’s Left?

Back in February I went to see Billy Bragg (@billybragg) play at an event organised by The People’s Assembly (@pplsassembly) against the Coalition governments austerity policies. The event on the whole was amazing,  Billy was awesome as ever, The Farm (@TheFarm_Peter) did a guest spot, a fantastic local Manchester band (the name escapes me, if you know it please let me know and I’ll ammend) opened the show and I discovered an artist who has fast become one of my favourites.

Her name is Grace Petrie (@gracepetrie) and she plays a politically fulled folk punk style (check out her website here). Her set in the night blew us away and the next day I ordered a CD of hers entitled “Mark my words” which has rarely left the CD player of my car since. The whole family love it, to the extent that while most 2 year olds walk around singing “Twinkle Twinkle” or “Let it go” mine sings “The revolution will not be televised” and “Emily Davison Blues“! Mark my words is a phenomenal album, and I’d suggest everyone give it a listen and purchase a copy.

A few weeks later we ordered “Tell me a story” which is another superb album, and the song “Farewell to welfare” contains some of the most mature and poignant lines I’ve ever heard in any song. Which is quite amazing considering Grace must only have been in her early 20s when it was written.

This weekend an eagerly awaited package fell through the door. It contained “Whatever’s left” – Grace’s brand new album, and one she promised was her most political yet. It is a stark commentary on the life of a young person in Coalition Britain and certainly suggests a worrying future now the Tories have everything their own way.

This is possibly the strongest in “You pay peanuts you get monkeys“, which includes the refrain “you pay peanuts you get monkeys you pay nothing you get nowt.” And such lines as: “workers of the world stand up and leave them in no doubt, a living wage for workers or we’ll vote you bastards out.”

The song “Revolutionary in the Wrong Time” alludes to the decline in workers rights we’ve seen and how toothless we are to protect what little we have left – “I heard a rumour there was power in the Unions but that was yesterday.” And that was written before the tories started their new attacks.

The songs “Overheard” and “I do not have the power to cause a flood” speak out against the bigotry and inequality that is unfortunately all too rife in today’s society.

The title song “Whatever’s left” encapsulates Grace’s anger at what has gone and is perhaps summed up best with the line “It’s like a bad dream, when I see the mess that the bastards made of the NHS”.

As with the other two albums, it’s not all political songs, and “Ivy” written about her new born nice is an amazing ode to family and love.

As with the other 2 Grace Petrie albums I own, I cannot fault a single song. The album is fantastic from start to finish – and in my opinion even better than its predecessors. If you’ve never listen to Grace, I urge you to do so. She’s a phenomenal talent, with an inspirational world view who’s doing it herself, without a label of any sort, in true punk style.

We all need Feminism

I have just seen one of the most vile memes I have ever come across. The title is “I need Feminism like a godammned hole in the head” and it contains a number of pictures of a woman holding slogans such as
“I need Feminism because I too stupid to think for myself” and “I need Feminism because protests make me feel important.” To top it off the person sharing it had included the caption “This chick gets it.”

I find it incredulous that anyone could think Feminism was anything other than a good thing. The very definition of Feminism is a desire for equality between the sexes. The desire to see men and women treated equally, hold equal station in life, in relationships, in work. To be paid the same and given the same benefits.

Feminism brought us out of the dark ages, people fought, and died, to give women the vote. People gave up a lot to grant women equal pay. A fight led by trade unions that is actually still going on to this day.

I’m at a loss to see how anyone can see equality as a bad thing, and as such I’m at a loss to see how anyone can see Feminism as a bad thing.

We still haven’t achieved an equal society, that saddens me and shows me that Feminism is still an extremely important, and necessary,  movement. I’m proud to call myself a feminist.