Warning: Men under attack

What are men to do? In clubs they must be gibbering wrecks unable to cope with only being able to talk to their person of interest. How will they cope not being able to touch a woman inappropriately? What about the boss who can’t touch his colleagues making them feel uncomfortable? The MP’s who want to touch up the odd young journalist, because that’s what they have always done? I really do worry how men are coping at the moment.
Some men feel this is an attack on them. Their masculinity. That it undermines further the patriarchal society. That feminism will have all men hated and arrested in the end, for being men.
What utter rubbish.
The #metoo campaign and other revelations seems to have united the majority of people in identifying what is inappropriate. Is it an attack on men and their behavior? In a sense it is, but did these incidents need the scrutiny?
It has created many conversations about what is appropriate for men to do to women. So, I will keep it nice and simple.
Men should not do anything to a woman that makes them feel uncomfortable. A simple rule of thumb is whether you would be happy if a man was doing this to your wife, daughter or sister. If not, don’t do it yourself. This is not about 2 young people in a club, flirting with each other. This is men taking advantage of position and power to take advantage of women, or men in the case of Kevin Spacey. Does it undermine men by all this talk? Of course not, but hopefully it makes them think about whether they should be touching strangers, friends or colleagues in the way they are.
Should we be prosecuting the MP’s who have been inappropriate (but not sexually harassing anyone) or have pornography on laptops? Of course not, but we should be able to make a judgement about their character. If they have ever promoted family values, then they should resign as a minister, due to hypocrisy, and the voting public can then make a decision as to keeping the individual as an MP. Otherwise they should keep their job. Each case should be judged separately and not dealt with on mass, with the hysteria from the media.
So, what should we take from all this man hating. First and foremost, it should give women confidence to say when they feel uncomfortable. It should give them confidence to go to the police when it is indecent. It should make men think twice about their own behavior. Then, like many changes in society, we will start to have norms about behavior and acceptability and these discussions will slowly diminish and be resigned to history as acceptable.
This is not man hating. It is not even radical feminism. It is society clearly stating borders that are acceptable. Men are not under attack, but they are losing their power over women. This equality should be celebrated as another step forward for an egalitarian society.

The Humanist in us all

Why do I choose to call myself a humanist?  I could be many other labels. I am a Husband, Dad, Brother, Son, Atheist, Bradford City fan, Teacher, Man. Yet I would choose this label because even at this very time where I occasionally lose my faith in people, I know that humanity will win through.

Our current political problems, in this country and worldwide are from an identity crisis for states and politicians. What it is to be British, American, Turkish or Russian? What stereotype do we need to follow to allow ourselves to be called this label? White? Christian/Islamic? Democratic/Theocrat?

These countries, and many more, use rhetoric about nationality to galvanise their core support, yet the frightening thing is they are just dividing the country into the bullies and the victims. I could not imagine trying to force students in the UK to pledge allegiance to the flag or that they had to stand for the national anthem. How weak must some Americans be if they feel this is what makes America great? It makes a mockery of democracy and has nothing to do with nationalism, just bullies telling supposed weaker members of society what to do via mob mentality. In the UK individuals who oppose Brexit are called undemocratic and this week it was suggested the Chancellor should be ‘tried for treason’, because he dared to speak the truth. Yes, it is rhetoric, but it creates an atmosphere where fear to speak one’s mind is becoming the norm.

Humanity at its best is always moving forward. Intelligence and reason have been the drivers of reform and equality. We will look back at these times, even if they get worse, and learn from the mistakes of ignoring knowledge and democracy and putting our trust in the loudest voices or cower to the bullies.

The current crop of politicians are struggling because of globalisation. Throughout history free trade has brought peace and enlightenment*1. This is the very reason the EEC was created. It was logically always going to become more political. Just look at Winston Churchill’s remarks on Europe. *2 He recognised that although we will never be central to the development of Europe, that we had to be part of it so we were not left behind and to support through our experience of democracy.

The lack of vision is causing the current problems in the west. We need to see ‘foreigners’ as humans who are no different from ourselves. As humans who will want the same as ourselves; security for our family and security in our lives with jobs, crime, health and education. We need to stop seeing people as commodities and see them as people who are striving to improve their lives. That is not to say we should have open borders, but if we showed our humanity to Africa especially, then maybe many would not need to leave their country to try and live here. We continue to ignore their plight, and so we have the repercussions through the mass immigration and modern-day slavery in Europe.

It is disturbing how Putin (anti-western/homophobic), Trump (liberals, immigrants, anyone who dares to disagree with him), Erdogan (anyone who speaks against him) and Brexiteers (politicians and tabloids screaming at anyone who has issues with the vote) try to deal with dissenting voices and galvanise support. They all follow the same principles. Bully, abuse and diminish the roles and views of anyone who disagrees with them and threaten them if they fail to back down immediately. This is because they see themselves as superior and drive the idea that their country is superior, more patriotic and more capable than any other state. It is pathetic. The problem with these people is eventually your group could soon be the one that they don’t like anymore. As this post war US video shows.

https://archive.org/details/DontBeaS1947

This is why I like the label humanist, because I don’t identify with my label solely, but identify with all my labels and quite often identify with many other groups. Politically I see the benefits both on the right and left. Just not the extreme ideology. I even agree that the EU is not democratic, but I would change it within, not leave like a spoilt child. I sympathise with communities who are directly affected by immigration and struggle to cope, but know that better government support would greatly ease those issues. I also recognise it is not the immigrants fault for these issues and that they need our support as well. It should never be a choice of who to help, but how we can help all in our communities.

I also don’t think because I am British I am better than anyone else. It is not my nationality that defines me, but the way I treat people, which makes me the person I want to be. I am heavily influenced by my Britishness, but not defined by it. Anyone who thinks differently is deluded and will have their opinion swayed by the current political rhetoric.

When we finally sit down and talk to each other we rarely struggle to find something in common and this is what should drive us, not the petty differences. I have been fortunate to travel to a lot of countries and it is these common values that I have constantly found. We are a unique species, and we should remove the additional labels and drive equality and democracy forward. Stop building walls between people and start accepting we are in a global mix that can thrive with unity and diversity.

*1 Steven Pinker: The Better Angels of our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined- Great book uniting numerous sources showing how free trade is part of the drive to a more peaceful existence.

*2 What Churchill really thought about Britain’s place in Europe – The conversation.com- Shows how both sides have tried to manipulate Churchill’s words, but there is no doubt he was pro Europe increasing ties in trade and politics.

An Englishman’s castle is his Home.

I am starting to feel sorry for the Englishman. Once he used to rule the waves and now the Scottish have their own parliament. The Welsh have their assembly. They don’t even rule at home anymore as Feminism has brought equality there. These lost souls have been struggling for years to find something they can fight for and so we were given Brexit.

It is interesting how the majority of Brexit voters are white males, lost and fighting their demise into equality. What I find most interesting is the convoluted arguments they make to justify these feelings of hurt, one of which I would like to tackle. Sovereignty.

Sovereignty: The Authority of State to govern itself or another state.

As ever, this is not about fairness or democracy but about power. There are people who feel we are losing our power to influence and control. Yet the move towards shared sovereignty, where we join groups to ease trade, travel and politics, is to give a little away to gain a lot. Are we soon to abandon the UN and its international court of justice? We have moved from fiefdoms, to the first king Egbert in 827, to eventually having a king of England. Wars were a constant blight on England from all parts, stopped by a Union with Scotland. Strength in numbers allows peace, which allows trade, which allows innovation, equality and freedom. This is why Winston Churchill was a driving force for the broken European states to join together after the war to create a trading alliance. He also foresaw that this would eventually become political. It is the logical conclusion to maintain peace and prosperity. Each step in our long history has led one area to lose some sovereignty over themselves, for the greater good of peace. We are currently throwing this away.

So, does the UK even make its own laws anymore? If you listened to the Brexit debate you would think Westminster have been twiddling their thumbs for the last few years as up to 70% of our laws come from the EU. It may not shock you anymore, but this insane use of statistics to manipulate public opinion is simply not true.

The first point to make is that there is a difference between law and regulations. The EU predominantly creates the regulations for Agriculture, Fisheries, external trade and the environment. This is what we joined in 1972, that as a trading bloc we would all follow the same rules. British MEP’s are part of this democratic process to create the regulations. There are many who argue that the common agricultural policy and fisheries have been bad for the UK, but with both, a scientific approach is prevailing and improving the policy. Some may have noticed Cod is back on the menu in the UK and I would suggest poverty in farming is more to do with the supermarkets than the EU, with their subsidies. Even the house of commons library warns “there is no totally accurate, rational or useful way of calculating the percentage of national laws based on or influenced by the EU”*. Therefore when you hear UKIP/Brexiteers say ‘they know’; you know they are lying.

It seems then that the laws that genuinely affect our lives: Welfare and social care, education, criminal law, family law and the NHS have little influence from the EU*. It is the failure of westminster that causes the issues in this country, not Brussels. Except, I hear you cry, the convention of human rights Act in 1998 which has so blighted our country. Without it terrorists would not be free and that european court would not be continually changing our decisions.

This is again wrong. The first mistake is to confuse the European court of Justice (ECJ) with the European court of human rights. Something I did until researching this blog. There is a brief description about the differences in the attached link.

ukandeu.ac.uk/explainers/the-court-of-justice/

The ECJ is mainly concerned that the countries within the EU follow the regulations that have been set and queries from this. This is not the courts creating laws for us to follow, just making sure we follow the rules that have been agreed. This will probably make little difference to the hardline brexiteer because they did not make the rules, so they are not fair. We obviously did, just that we agreed them with 27 other nations. A tremendous achievement in my book.

The European court of human rights is independent of the EU and ensures we treat people with equality and respect. I can understand how the ruling class have an issue with equality in terms of gender and race, feeling that they are losing their supremacy must hurt their feelings and ego’s. It is just a shame they were able to hide it behind the sovereignty issue.

So, we have a situation, that as a club we follow the same rules and we have become very successful as a nation being part of this club. From the sick man of Europe in the 1970’s, to ones of its powerhouses all while in the EU. We have the ability to pass laws to affect the nation in the way that will truly support a fair and egalitarian society and if we don’t follow the rules of the club, or we don’t treat people properly then a higher court than our own will tell us to sort it out. We may feel we lose a little of our sovereignty when this happens. Good, we should be treating people properly in the first place. So the questions is; is it worth it? A strong economy, a diverse population, human rights and an empathy for others is enough for me to say yes. I dont think the EU is perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but it is merely 24 years old, compared to the hundreds of years we have had to create our own democratic system. We should be in the EU driving change for all the people of the EU and being a strong voice within. Not allowing ourselves to look back and turn into the sick man again, but worse, sulking in the corner because we can’t have it all our own way.

* Fullfact.org – an independent fact checking website, run on donations if you can support.

 

 

 

Just another brick in the wall

All children are equal, but are some more equal than others

Failure in education is a view expressed continually by politicians, pundits, OFSTED, unions and parents in the time I have been a teacher. Schools are failing; white boys are failing; 10,000 teachers are failing. Surely the whole system is failing? It is interesting to find that opinions keep coming about education but no real questions that can be tested so answers can be found.

Michael Gove found the rhetoric and political will to change the examination system to have a higher academic focus because exams were all becoming too easy; freed up the ‘market’ for schools to open as Academies or free schools and we are coming to a point where we can start to make judgements about whether this has been a success or a failure. All driven by the failures stated.

The key question though, which I rarely hear, is what do we want from our education system? The problem with that question, is that it opens up a whole can of social worms, which is a politicians biggest fear and why they look for easy answers. There is plenty of evidence about this, as the last parliamentary report shows, from an all party committee. But its failure is that it looks only at teachers and parents, without regarding the key to the system, which is the individuality of the students inside it and what is best for them.

http://www.smf.co.uk/publications/commission-inequality-education/

Our education system should allow all students to flourish, enjoy and be educated to the level they can achieve. It should ready students for the world they are about to enter as adults, with the skills required for their jobs and private lives. As a meritocracy, the brightest and /or hardest working will rise to the top and be the drivers of our economy and future. So lets unpick this.

What are the skills required in our modern economy? Algebraic equations or to have read Shakespeare or to know poems by heart? Current government requirements to drive up standards.

http://www.learndirect.com/business/news-events/our-newsletter/archived-newsletters/september-2013/the-top-ten-employee-skills-to-look-out-for/

The CBI published a report indicating the top 10 skills required for work. 2 out of 10 are academic, while the others are those softer skills; yet they are the very skills being removed from the curriculum because of Gove’s reforms of the exam system. So where is the right balance and more importantly, how can we test if we have the right balance, without it becoming a political dogfight.

Are students all the same? The simple answer is no. Therefore if students do not start equal, there will always be inequality. We then burden the education system with trying to remove something that is inherently there, criticising teachers and the system for a problem not of their creating. If we start with acknowledged truths, we should then look for a system that can improve all students, whatever their personal circumstances.

  1. Children learn in different ways and they have different intelligences. Yet we have a system that only rewards academic success and casts whole groups of learners as failures for generations because they do not fit into this system.
  2. Exams are only one way to test ability in subjects. Again, policy makers who excelled at exams, favour exams. They tend to be the ones who move into power and so skew what they think is important. Practical skills are just as important and we need to find ways that are trusted to assess these.

Image result for image of test to climb a tree3.    Behaviour/apathy is the single biggest issue holding back attainment in schools. The best schools work with parents to improve this, but some parents do not have the skills/will to improve the attitude of their sibling. This is what the current commons report above tried to tackle.

4.     The poor are already a year behind their peers at 5, because in general, the poor are poorly educated and so struggle to support their children, at best, and don’t care at worst.

So how do we allow for social mobility, push the poorest students to achieve, ensure the system is fair for everyone and have a system that can test a range of skills for all students. Well here goes.

The first and most controversial is to ensure the poorest children are not left behind; this means greater state intervention from a very young age. This would mean nurseries run by the state to nurture a love of learning and reading. If you do it at this age, you will remove many problems further down the system. This does cost, but think of all the additional costs in schools, society and prisons created by this issue.

The second is to remove the feminisation of the primary sector. There are not enough men who teach primary education and the lack of role models is clearly a problem, especially where male role models are lacking at home. This can be remedied in a number of ways. Financial incentives for teachers; allowing more male secondary staff into the primary system to teach Core subjects and PE.

More removals from the main school system, into facilities to cater for the students who cannot cope in the classroom. This is predominantly boys, but should not exclude girls as well. Again for these students, the state has to intervene to support the family. It should not be seen as a failure to move, but a positive to a more appropriate school, where students can learn in a more kinesthetic environment. Yes this would be less academic, but would look to create students who felt their worth in education, rather than seeing it as the enemy.

These would all be for primary education. At a secondary level, we need to take one of the biggest fundamental changes to our psyche in modern times. Over the last 30 years the way to success has been to go to university and be a graduate. In this time period the percentages attending university have increased from 15% to 40%. This has been a massive increase and one fuelled by an increase from the ‘middle classes’ sections of society. This then is a success and one that should be recognised. But does this mean the other 60% are a bit thick and failures of the education system. In many ways this is what is portrayed, which is obviously not true and potentially removes a lot of confidence from our society. Is it clever to be able to take apart and fix a car engine or boiler? To be able to plaster or rewire a house? It takes skill and training to do that job and yet they are not valued in society as much. The proof is the number of plumbers/plasterers/electricians/bricklayers we have coming through the system in this country. At present you only do these if you have ‘failed’ at school. This is wrong and our perception as a country needs to change on this. This is the single biggest failure that Gove has given the education system, the perception of failure for many students.

To change this we need to give students a choice of a vocational route through school. This should not be about students who can’t do anything else, because at 11 they will still learn the core subjects, but we will value their education in learning a trade. I would also suggest that the most able engineers should consider the vocational route as well, and this should not exclude academic ability from this particular route. I would also suggest it should not be the dumping ground of the poorly behaved. Again, state intervention should be there to support the families, with the very worse cases being sent to boarding schools. The poor behaviour is learnt at home and/or in the community and removing them from that area, may be the only way to deal with the very worst offenders. If we don’t deal with it at this point, they become the criminals of the future.

Suddenly, we could have a system that caters for our children’s and countries needs, that allows them to excel at what they are good at and gives them confidence for their futures. This is what the education system is supposed to do. The biggest stumbling block though is that it wont win votes and i doubt any of our current politicians have the ability to argue the case.

Back to blaming the parents, teachers and students in the vicious circle of failure!

Walking in the middle of the road

I do enjoy twitter. You end up discussing and arguing points with complete strangers. Sometimes you or they are enlightened. Sometimes you realise people do not want their thoughts to be challenged, however much the evidence says otherwise.

This weekend I had an interesting conversation with someone who said that you need an ideological standpoint to be able to drive through policy in government. I disagreed. He also stated that ‘no ideology is to sit between whatever parameters the mainstream considers permissible and this is neither free, diverse or soulful’. Now this was impossible to unpick, on twitter on a Sunday afternoon, when I was out for lunch with my wife. She did not appreciate me trying either. But it is an interesting thought process that is worth exploring.

The basis being that unless you are ideologically driven, then you cannot affect change. That if you have an ideological aim, this will drive you forward when times get difficult. This was in the context of both left and right, although I felt that the respondent was on the right. This thought I find interesting because it is the antithesis of what personally drives me. I reject fundamental ideology because in the end it I feel it blinds you to the errors and inadequacies of that ideology. Religion is the obvious candidate of this, but in British politics, Margaret Thatcher is a case in point. She revolutionised the economy in the eighties and after winning in 1987, seemed unbeatable. Yet the arrogance in her belief of her ideology stopped her and her party from seeing potential problems, leading to recession and the decision to implement the poll tax. She was eventually removed and a moderate, more liberal PM put in her place.

The socialism (and communism abroad) of the 70’s showed how purity of one system leads to poverty and economic ruin of the UK and the eventual fall of the communist economy. Now with both examples you will find exponents of these ideas blaming people, external influences or any other excuse for why their system did not work. But for me it is that fundamental belief that they are right, that always leads to their downfall. The thought process goes that if they just do one more policy, if they go that one step further, then everything will be proved right. This road to Damascus really just leads them nearer the edge of the oblivion. It is also interesting that the sudden surge in popularity in Corbyn’s socialism seems to forget the hardships of the 70’s and the rejection of these ideas thereafter.

So, what is a centrist? First of all, I don’t think I like that term; one term that I was given was political triangulation. A new one for me, but the labour triangulation of Tony Blair, John Smith and Gordon Brown essentially took the view of supporting the public services, while trying to encourage business. Could we argue that the decade 97-07 was one of the most prosperous for the country? I am not intentionally ignoring the crash that happened afterwards, but that happened to all systems globally and so could not be pinned on one political movement.

In the two-party system the liberals are seen as centrists who don’t seem to stand for anything. Further harmed by apparently leaving their core aims once they helped formed a coalition. Maybe this is what the correspondent meant. They don’t own a piece of the political pie and are neither one thing or the other. Their former leader got stuck on the gay sex commentary meaning their message was lost. They have struggled to find a clear identity and liberals are seen to be woolly and nice, but not really effective to lead the country. This means, with the current first past the post system, they are not seen as credible and lose votes. Again, not helped when their leader said they did not want to win, just to be the effective opposition. A bit pathetic for me.

Personally, I think the centrist view is the ideal location. We should be a pro-business country as the entrepreneurial system drives change and is a true meritocracy. The successful can thrive on that success. We should also be there when people fail. This is the social side where government should be there so that when times turn difficult, people are able to live, get back on their feet and start again. This egalitarian approach does not mean we are jealous of people who work hard and earn money. More often than not they deserve it. We should neither look down on people who are poorer and who may only survive on benefits. The divisive politics that we are currently in is driving a wedge between many groups in this country and it is only getting worse. Pro EU v Brexiteers. Rich v poor. Right v left. Farage v decency and humanity. The last thing we need is the right-wing of the country taking us down the hard Brexit route, any more than the left-wing socialism of Corbyn, creating more debt. Both sides create walls which mean you are either with them or against them, which is utterly ridiculous and not what we need from our politicians.

There has to be a different choice. On the right, we have a Tory party, dying of the cancer of Brexit, and unable to see past austerity for any solution to the debt problem, because they refuse to increase tax. On the left, we have our socialist party, who would spend their way out of austerity, but our debt is £1.56 trillion. The interest alone is £43 billion, which is approximately 40% of our NHS spending. The dogmas of each party need re-assessing so that the country can move forward and prosper. Neither though is willing to blink first and so moves further away each day from the very position that the country needs.

This is where a new way needs to be found. I agree that something needs to drive you in terms of ideas in politics, where ever you find yourself on the political spectrum. Your driving principles. Yet when this inhibits your decision-making process because it is your way or the wrong way then that is where ideology has indoctrinated your thought process. This is where politics needs to learn from science. A politician’s ideas can be put forward, but they should then be tested. Parameters of success should be stated before the policy is enacted and a time period given for that success. It should be periodically reviewed, by the select committees, and improvements made to the policy. The problem we have had is the swings from one position to another mean we neither know whether it works as a policy and it wastes billions in the process. The prime example of this is the NHS and is the very reason why it struggles to do its job. The enlightened have already suggested that the politics should be taken out of the NHS and a cross party group should be there to run it and make the incremental changes over time to ensure it does its job, efficiently and cost effectively. The boom and bust regime changes over the last 20 years have not worked, left the NHS bankrupt and on its knees.

Have we evidence that this different approach works? Look at the conservative policy after the 1992 election(once we left the ERM), of aiming for low inflation and trying to provide stability for the economy to thrive. Labour, gained power in 1997 promising to keep this policy and extending it by giving the bank of England independence. This time period to the 2008 recession was the longest period of growth this country had seen. Stable centrist politics, giving continuity to business and so to the people in the country.

No dogma, no ideology, no extremism, no Brexit and no great divides opening up in the country. I challenge you to look at the division of the socialist era of the 70’s, the right-wing 80’s and compare that to the unifying time when Blair first came to power and the hope this brought(whether you agree with him or not). That is what will drive this country forward and putting in the safeguards so that parliament can stop the corrupt deviating from this (Iraq war). I also challenge you, whether you are with him or against him(!!), whether Donald Trump is a unifying force for the US or the world? Is this the politics that will breed success and bring unity?

The liberals have an opportunity to drive this change by reinventing themselves, as Labour did into New Labour. By giving the people what they want. Stability, a government for the people, a tax system that is seen to be fair and an end to the divisive politics which has dogged our system for the last few years. If they cannot do it then I fear for the future of our country, because both sides are currently more interested in fighting for themselves, rather than for the people of this country.

Newspaper morals go up in smoke

It is one of my most vivid memories of the day. My mum turned to me in the queue and said she was sorry we could not afford to go in the main stand, so we went into the Kop, a standing terrace. I remember getting a drink when the first smoke appeared. Everyone cheered thinking a smoke bomb had been let off in celebration of winning the league. The only other emotion after that was fear. I remember my mum climbing over the eight foot barriers penning supporters in. Turning back and feeling the intense heat, sixty metres away and it felt you were right next to the fire. I have no memory of getting home, or much of the next few days. Numbness and shock. It was the 11th May 1985 and I had witnessed the horrific Bradford City fire.

Those same feelings of numbness and shock came back watching the fire at the Grenfell tower block. The way it inexplicably took hold and devastated the whole building. Something like this should not happen. None of these tragedies should happen. The key is to make sure they don’t happen again. It took Juventus fans dying at the Heysel stadium and 96 Liverpool supporters dying at Hillsborough before people really took notice about the appalling standards at football grounds. In the way they were treated and the way they were housed in the ground and outside. It is immeasurably better now and tragedies happening in stadia elsewhere in the world show how far we have come in this country.

We need to learn quickly with this disaster and the people in Grenfell need support and re-housing immediately. They are currently in shock and desperate for support, as well mourning for lost family and friends. Unfortunately, they are now being taking advantage off by the heartless press. I remember no anger after the Bradford fire, just numbness and how an accident can be so devastating. Yet a word banded around immediately by the press was anger. I have seen emotions fanned in newspaper columns, without evidence, ‘finding’ the person whose fridge started the fire; blaming the EU for the cladding, even though they are banned in Germany and throwing dirt at anyone they think it might stick to. This is not about fighting for justice, it is about selling newspapers and they feel no guilt with the callous nature they do it in.

What is needed now is a time to reflect on what has happened. This will allow the people to come forward with information without a climate of fear. It will allow the experts to assess and make judgements about what happened with this particular fire, without feeling they need to rush and possibly misdiagnose the cause of its devastating nature.

This means the truth will be easier to find. The truth being in all likelihood, that this was an accident made by a series of small, in themselves, insignificant errors that led to this catastrophe. No one person is likely to be ultimately to blame, no one aspect will have caused this. But with everything already written the residents are likely to feel that there has been a cover up, that the establishment is against them and again the papers will fan this hatred.

It is irresponsible to play with the emotions of people who are at their most vulnerable. They do not need to used when they are at their weakest. We need calmness and leadership both locally and nationally. There will be people going to sleep in fear, because they think, or have, this cladding on their building. It will be weeks before everyone is identified and with this void needs clear instructions and guidance from public bodies to the people affected. They need housing and compensating and everything that can happen to get their lives back to where they were. We need a transparent and open enquiry that is quick and concise and provides clear answers and directions. It also needs to identify any blame to bodies or people and hold them to account. I will repeat though it is unlikely to be one thing that caused the fire, but a multitude of issues that confounded each other to create this tragedy.

30 years after the fire, a book was published showing how the then Bradford chairman seemed to lose lots of business’s to fires and the book brought this together to say that the chairman must be to blame. The author lost several relatives in the fire and I have every sympathy for his feelings, but the police found the man whose cigarette started the fire and caused the deaths of 56 Bradford and Lincoln fans that day.

It is far easier to speculate the blame immediately, to sell newspapers, than it is to be patient and wait for answers. The tragedy has shown a detachment of officials in government and the council to show empathy, which has led to an increase in anger. This has been inexcusable and at least Sadiq Khan fronted up to talk the residents and dealt with the anger face on. When the counsel and Theresa May failed to meet the residents, although they were doing everything they could physically, the perpetuated the feeling of being ignored and filed to empathise and show their humanity to the victims. The truth will come out in the coming weeks and months, but the people in that tower will need support for a lot longer, for the lives that disappeared on that night.

Anyone but you?

No, this is not my dating reactions! This is  heard more and more though, as the days are counted down to the election. The eternal question of who to vote for. This may be why 34% of the country did not vote in 2015. This, to me at any rate, is a shocking statistic. The vote that led to Brexit was ignored by 1 in 3 voters.

So, before worrying about who to vote for, we should persuade more people to vote. In my opinion voting should be on a Bank holiday or weekend and everyone should vote. Also the voting registration needs to change. The younger members of society are more transient and this makes it harder for them to register. We also need to make everyone’s vote count. This means PR, in whatever form parliament decides. I ask only one question on this. Why do opposition parties argue for change outside of government, but fail to change our voting system or the Lords when in power? Is this where self-serving appearances are formed from the cynical public? Sorry that was two questions!

So, if we can change the view of voting and we can get people to vote, who do they vote for? We have the Conservatives who historically are stable in government and pro business, but tend to run down the public services and since the Eighties, want to privatise anything that moves with public money. At this point I have to admit that I always voted Conservative. I was brought up in a working class area and disliked the control and influence Unions had on the area. This being said, the way they imploded about Europe in the 90’s and have since damaged the country with the Brexit vote, it will take a long time for me to go back to them. This has only been further enhanced by the callous opportunism of the May government calling an election because they see it works for them, because of the perceived weakness of Jeremy Corbyn. This is not what the country needs, if I could quote May, and she was right in that aspect. It only reinforced that they are there for power and not for the country. The way she has then had to U-turn on several issues shows she is not right for the country and the push for hard Brexit guarantees she will not get my vote.

Corbyn on the other hand is starting to be a Messiah. Rising from the dead, after being given no chance of winning. He is actually looking a credible challenger. Is this more to do with May or Corbyn? I am still undecided on this. We would get an injection of funds into the state sector which is desperately needed, but to say £70,000 is rich alienates people. Also £70,000 in Bradford is a lot of money, whereas £70,000 in the southeast will probably get you a flat on a big mortgage. It is all relative and it is unfair to pick on groups and having a situation of an US and Them. The rich are not the enemy, they just need to pay the same proportion as everyone else and they will pay more. This, us against them mentality is why I could not vote labour.

I would also pick one example about the railways that I think highlights the naivety of Labour in business. The railways in the UK are by no means perfect. But under a nationalised body, the railways lacked investment, they were a national joke and they needed investment. This was not coming from the government, espcially as the government had none at the time. They are now run privately and make a profit, even though they still get subsidies. Labour think that money would be put back into the railways because if a private company can make money, so will the public sector. This has been proven many times to be incorrect. The public body runs the railways for the people and so spends money for comfort rather than convenience. They put guards and drivers on every train and try to service every station. This makes it inefficient and eventually uneconomical. The private company wants to make a profit and so run it with the fine line of getting it right at the cheapest cost and giving an effective service. This is why they make a profit. I am not saying which is the best method, but to claim a public body would make the same profit is ridiculous. This is where labour fall down in my eyes.

Then we have the smaller parties. UKIP in the last election gained 4 million votes and so should at this point get airtime. Thankfully they do, because unless you ideologically support UKIP, you would probably not find anything worthwhile in their policies. The Greens are run superbly by Carolyn Lucas, but like UKIP are seen as a one trip pony. The liberals are still recovering from the 2015 election and Tim Farron’s homosexual sex questions, although improvements have been seen. I also think having another vote on Brexit is vital so we are not railroaded into having a hard Brexit. We did not vote for that, we voted to leave the EU, not the conditions of exit.

Now I have previously written about the inadequacies of our leaders at this moment in time, both in dealing with the issues here and abroad. Yet how do we say this to them. You have 2 choices in my opinion.

The first is to vote tactically. In my own area, the conservative MP has a large majority of the people who vote, gaining 61% of the vote. But if everyone voted this would equate to only 43% of the vote. The other candidates shared the rest, but could unify, in my area, around the liberal MP to remove the incumbent. This could be done up and down the country to stop a possible party winning the election, especially if you want a social agenda and the nearly every party other than Conservatives and UKIP (one and the same) are the only right-wing options.

The other is far more radical. The conservative won 51% of the seats in parliament with only 24% of the national vote. Yet have starved the NHS and education and brought about the dire Brexit vote. They did not earn this mandate. No one feels that there is a standout party or leader in the current election. Could you imagine if we had 80-90% of people voting, but 40% spoiled their paper. The message this would send to our politicians we are not happy with the status quo. We are not happy with them denigrating groups and industries for their own political gain. We are not happy that we have moved to the extremes of left and right to make themselves different, when what we want is to occupy the centre ground and be a liberal, forward thinking country. We are not happy with how our relations have soured with Europe, finding our only Allie is with the maniac who is Trump. We are not happy with the parties fighting for themselves and stopping looking after the people they represent. The key is to vote. The key is to send a message that what we have at the moment is not the best for this country and we need change.

Leaderless UK

Who is the stronger leader? President Trump, with his dictatorial style, happy to barge in front of world leaders to get to the front of a photo and sack anyone who stands in his way? President Obama, who took 6 years to get his health care bill through, who dithered on Syria and seems to have picked the losing side in the US and Brexit elections.

President Trump is definitely a fighter and has a managerial style that shows he has always got his way. When you are handed $100 million dollars to start your own business, and can make a success of many of those businesses, this will breed a certain arrogance that you are always right. In business this can work, as he has shown, and he deserves credit for this. Yet this style also brings the narcissist where he treats women appallingly, where he bullies the people around him and where he gets what he wants at any cost, generally to the detriment of others. He is finding the mechanisms of a democratic government do not allow for this style, to stop the dictatorships that he would bring. Imagine if at the start of his four years in charge he was banning Muslims from entering the country, where would he be by the end of the 4 years. Expelling? Or just building enough resentment so that local thugs would do the job for him and run them (anyone who opposed him) out of town like the lawless west.

What about Obama then? For me his biggest failure was Syria and his fear of a military build-up was not needed. A no-fly zone would have helped the rebels, without soldiers on the ground, then a consensus in the UN would have allowed peace keepers in to keep control and protect the civilians. It is always easy with hindsight though.

If you look at the Healthcare bill he introduced and ask why did it take so long to get through. The simple answer is he wanted consensus. He tried to work with Democrats and Republicans so that what was achieved would stand and benefit the poorest people in America. So, it took longer, but less enemies were made doing it. The fact that right wing zealots fought this every step of the way, says more about them. Racist or genuinely uncaring about the poorer society in the US?

So, which is the better leader? Calm, assured and an ability to work across the spectrum of political thought as Obama did. Someone who was happy to look weak, because democracy and functions of government were more important to him than his perception to the wider public? Or the ego driven, domineering, self-publicising narcissist that is Donald Trump. For me, 6 months in his presidency, most people are clear that Trump is no President of any worth and brings uncertainty and instability with every minute, to all parts of the globe.

So, does this help us with our own election? It highlights the obvious question that Labour do not want to ask. Is Jeremy Corbyn a domineering leader? The answer is obviously no. But is that what we want at this moment in time. There is a trust issue with politicians at the moment and an ever-increasing apathy towards what they say and the process itself. This is bad for democracy and the one thing I would say about Corbyn is that he will try and do what he says. Whether this causes more debt for the country is another matter, but he will hold to his principles. This is why he looks comfortable in the campaign. He is not trying to be someone different for the public and people are starting to respect that. If this is what you want from your politicians then you should vote labour.

Theresa May on the other hand is strong and stable. Strong and stable. Strong and stable. No policies and the ones she announces will be rescinded in a week, but strong and stable. She will not call a snap election, but here we are all snapped and opportunistic to take advantage of a perceived Corbyn weakness. Of course, the argument goes that if you have to say it so often it can’t be true. It is just a political game to try and embarrass Corbyn. But it is starting to backfire on her and she is looking anything from strong at the moment.

Which answers the question why so many people are undecided about the election? It is because not one of the leaders who could run the country, stand out as a leader. Corbyn has been sold as the loony left, which no one wanted 30 years ago, never mind now. May says she is the best person to help us in our Brexit negotiations, but let’s be quite frank, it was the Tories who got us into that mess with no plan of what to do afterward. Even after a year there is no clear plan.

What the country is desperate for is a centrist leader, who stands up for liberal values and works hard for the country. The likes of David Miliband and Nick Clegg. Some may baulk at Nick Clegg, but he tried to bring in PR and tried to remove tuition fees. He failed to do this for a variety of reasons, but mainly because the Lib Dems were the minor party in the coalition. He paid the price though for the poor political decision of separating themselves from the Tories at the election. They should have stuck closely to them, however bad they thought the smell was. So, I am waiting for this person to come forward and deliver us to the centre of British politics. With Brexit, the economy and Trump, they may well have a mess to clear up in 5 years.

The Revival of Vinyl

Now I have to say that I was never ‘into’ music. I like listening to it. I have a very eclectic taste but never really bothered about who sung it or bought their album. I never really understood why the Beatles were loved so much, which I know makes me unusual. So in some ways the vinyl revival was always going to pass over me, but while listening to Chris Evans on the radio telling me that nothing sounds quite like vinyl, it did make me wonder, how?

I went back to my memories of vinyl. The scratches that ruined the sound. The difference in the players and speakers making the sound inconsistent. How could this experience of my own be so different to this revival group. The answer is of course that it wasn’t. They all heard the same sound that I did, but my experience of listening to music is just to have it in the background, while I did other things, like make my model fighter planes or reading Roy of the Rovers. I imagine Chris Evans and the vinyl revival posse have similar experiences to each other. Buying a record when it first came out. Reading NME(or other music magazines?) and discussing the latest bands and travelling to gigs to hear their bands live. The experience and therefore that pleasure, is what they are recapturing, not the sound that comes from the plastic disc. This is why they enjoy looking for the albums in the shops, taking the record home and listening to that record with friends or a drink. The sound though will be no better than downloading and playing on the latest speaker system in your house.

So can we use this vinyl comeback to explain our sentimentality to others things in the past? Do we remember our local communities where everyone was employed by one big employer and the men would meet in the pub for drinks after work and the evening. Where they would take their wives out on Saturday night, and their ‘tea’ would be on the table when they got home. Where education was not valued as highly, because there were always jobs around. You always went on the same holidays, because why would you go anywhere else when you always have a good time, at the same place, with the same people. For us it was Bridlington and Butlins that was alternated each year. We have this sentimentality and nostalgia that means we have fond memories of a time we were a community, where we looked out for each other and where families lived on the same street. Jobs were secure and people were outwardly happy. They felt happy because they were part of a group and they felt safe with this.

This is not how it was though. We were poor and had very little disposable income. One breakage of anything expensive could cause severe problems with debt. You didn’t own cars because you could not afford a car. Most did not own a house and judging by the photos, curtains were made and floorboards were a necessity, not a designer feature. Attitudes were openly sexist, racist and homophobic. Yet we hark back to these times because of the safety within our group, something that has become difficult to find recently.

We now tend to live away from our families. Different types of people live within our community, people we might not immediately connect with or understand. We travel further for work and change jobs more often. This leads to greater mobility in our local communities, which makes it more difficult to make ties and build relationships. Facebook was supposed to help this, but seems to have made us more insular within our area and more unwilling to accept the people around us. They are not who we grew up with; they do not identify with our experiences, as we do not with theirs. The isolation grows.

We find that we make or ‘like’ comments that agree with our own thoughts and so reinforce our views, even if there is no evidence to support it and because it has been read it is seen as true. If we say immigration is bad, enough times, people will believe it! No evidence, just enough people to say it and ‘like’ it, then it starts to become the truth.

It can be different though. I am part of a group. I have my work group, where we talk education. My sport group, where we talk how to get better at cycling and running. I follow my political twitter accounts, as well as the atheists, and see their comments. With all these groups I like to mix the talk with politics and religion and sport and life and I enjoy the mix of opinions and views and beliefs that come from that. I don’t always agree with people, but I like a good discussion and challenge about my views and theirs. Yet fundamentally, I listen and learn from a different perspective and try to understand why people think the way they do. I get out of ones groups mindset and think from another’s.

This is what we failed to do with Brexit, we built walls and we sat behind them and ignored evidence and fact and just went with what we heard anecdotally. This is dangerous and with the coming election we have to look at all the options, see opinions from others points of views and not become entrenched in a dogma because that is it what the group thinks. We should challenge our own group to have evidence and answers, and call them out if they do not.

Our politicians who would rather have a bad policy from themselves than welcome a good policy from the opposition, are not a party of government. It is bad for the parties, bad for democracy and bad for the country. We need to ensure whether we are digital or vinyl supporter, we listen to each others viewpoints and decide by the facts, not just what our group says. Then we can make the right choices for all.

Intolerant Britain?

 

It is always interesting how stressful events bring out people’s true nature. A friend of my wife was walking down the street with her children and accidentally bumped into a man and apologised. The obvious reaction is to accept the apology and move on. Yet what happened next unfortunately does not shock me, as it appeared she had managed to randomly bump into a bigot and a racist. This is relevant because she is a British Asian. He first aggressively told her to watch what she was doing, which was an overreaction in itself. But when she asked him not to swear in front of her children, he responded by telling her not to tell him what to do in his country and that he thought ‘we had sorted immigration out’.

It is a revolting story, but unfortunately with BREXIT, it seems to be starting to be a common one. So, are there more racists in the country and why is immigration seen as bad for this country?

Let’s start off with removing the excuses. Immigration is not bad for this country. It has never been bad for this country. I have a couple of graphs that show GDP and immigration in the country over the last 60 years.

GDP

GB GDP 1960-present

 

immigration
GB Immigration 1950-present

Source: World Bank

Now correlation does not mean causation, but the one thing that stands out is that immigration does not affect the economy in a negative way. When immigration is increasing, so does the nation’s wealth, its GDP. Statistics can be used to show many arguments, but the large rise in immigration over the last 20 ways seems to be having a direct impact on the large rise in our GDP. There are obviously more factors than just the number of immigrants, but it would appear it helps. In a recent report*, just before the BREXIT vote, it was shown that immigrants have a net contribution of around $2 billion a year. That only 15% claim tax credits, showing the other 85% earn a good wage, so they are not ALL on low incomes. The report showed this was because nearly half the immigrants have a degree. I remember seeing this report, but it was not highlighted in our mainly pro BREXIT press. It should also be noted that while we had this mass immigration, we also had unprecedented levels of employment as well and the statistical zero unemployment (below 5%). Yet the common misconception is that ‘they’ are taking ‘our’ jobs. This ludicrous suggestion falls flat when evidence shows ‘they’ tend to do the jobs ‘we’ don’t want to do.

Some people like to claim that the public services are put under greater stress because of immigration. Yet industry, the NHS and universities have openly acknowledged that without this immigrant population, we would struggle to even offer basic services or have any growth. So, if there is a failing it is the politicians who have failed to resource the areas that have been impacted by an increase in numbers, such as funding extra doctors, hospital and school places. It is not the immigrants, who are supporting our economy, fault.

Does this mean that I think immigration control in the EU does not need to change? No is the simple answer, but not for the reasons so often reported. Free borders is the desired scenario. When this was conceived, we had 12 stable economies within the EU and so you would never have mass migration. When the eastern bloc countries joined, it should have been expected that people would want to improve their worth and get jobs that paid a decent wage and where they could enjoy that wage. Something we aspire to. For me though this ignores the impact in the departed country. There are now villages in Poland where the demographics show very few young people and the villages are dying. It is also causing issues with their infrastructure with a lack of nurses, doctors and teachers. This is holding the growth of these countries back because the very people who go out and are entrepreneurial are the very people who are likely to leave to follow their dream. This is the only reason we need balance of immigration, with some controls for both countries, and once the economies are balanced, we can then have open borders again.

So, what about this open racism. Are we more racist or at the very least less tolerant of immigration. Who are these people who can attack verbally, or physically, British citizens in the street? They will be white. Male. Likely to be poorly educated on a low wage. They will feel it is someone’s else’s fault that they don’t have much and look for someone to blame. Preferable a female in the street or a lone male when they are with a group. I don’t think there are more of these racists in this country but with the likes of UKIP they have become emboldened and feel justified in their thoughts. An example is the ‘ban the burka’ from the bigoted UKIP Party. Now like all believable lies there is always a small truth to the comments. The first is that with a burka we cannot use our surveillance on individuals who wear them. This is true. Yet if that thought process is continued, we should ban the hoody (the desired clothing for the criminal fraternity who are predominantly English and white), scarves, a variety of hats and even the comedy glasses with fake nose and pop out eyes. Yet these have not been mentioned because the root of the ban is a racist, bigoted thought process. They also throw in that it would help integration. How does attacking a community help integration? How does forcing individuals into doing something, make them integrate and happy in that country? What is needed is dialogue as to why women should feel they are not forced to wear the burka from their own community. That it should be a matter of their choice.

So, the racists are emboldened and the consequences are there to be seen. That is why UKIP is Fascist and should be fought at every turn. We cannot change these people’s minds in the short-term, but they should be too embarrassed to openly abuse anyone whether immigrant or not.

The intolerance though is my biggest concern. When I see twitter and Facebook repeat the lies of the Daily Mail headlines and then follow it with some offensive bile or excuse why they have not got something, I despair. When all the evidence shows that immigration is hugely positive to the economy and culture, why have we been fed lies over the years with the newspapers negative headlines? This again is a failure of our politicians. Complacency from the liberals thinking no one would believe such rubbish. They did. Failure, because it allowed cheap excuses for their and individuals failings. Failure by the regulator for not stamping out the blatant lies printed time and again in the headlines, which is proven for people to just read and make their own presumptions.

Finally, as with any of this, it takes away from what we are actually talking about. It is our humanity. The people who come over here are people. Not immigrants, but people wanting a better life. When I described my wife’s friend as British Asian this was wrong. She and I would describe her as British. She has lived here all her life, been part of the community and is now bringing her children up in this country. She is as British as the rest of us. By putting people in groups without the word human, we do in fact dehumanise them.

We need to remove the cloaks of what we think it is to be British. These people who want to go back to the 1960’s, for whatever delusional reason, forget that we had just fought 2 world wars, not for the white English-speaking population, but for the common values, freedom, equality and democracy. That is the only test of Britishness, not the accent, the colour of their skin or the denomination of their church.

 

*The research report – written by Professor Christian Dustmann and Dr Tommaso Frattini from CReAM – provides an in-depth analysis of the net fiscal contribution of EEA immigrants in each fiscal year since 1995 – See more at: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/news/news-articles/1113/05112013-ucl-migration-research-salt-dustmann/#sthash.ggiIueGv.dpuf