The Murder of George Floyd

*This article has been written by a white student and is offering their perspective on what other white people, as well as themselves, can do to recognise their privilege, and work to undo systemic, institutionalized racism in our society. ‘ I know I will never understand, but I will always stand’.

On Monday 25th May, another Black man, George Floyd, was murdered by a white policeman in America. The policeman, Derek Chauvin, was filmed kneeling on Mr Floyd’s neck for eight minuets, and forty five seconds. Two other policemen held Floyd down, and another ‘controlled’ the crowd. All  while Floyd shouted ‘I can’t breathe’, until he lost consciousness and died.

 As a white woman, I cannot fathom the feelings of Black people both in America and across the world, the privilege of having white skin will never allow me to understand the fear of Black people going about their everyday lives.

This however, does not mean white people should be silent. We have benefitted from a system which has discriminated against people of colour for centuries. Since Britain began colonising nations, to the first shipment of slaves of which profits built cities such as Newcastle and Bristol, racism has been institutionalized within Britain and America, to ensure white people benefitted from being white.

A saying which is very commonplace for understanding white privilege explains that white privilege accepts that you may have faced hardships, however these were not due to the colour of your skin. It is thus our duty to undo centuries of systemic oppression. It is our duty to teach about colonization in schools, it is our duty to be uncomfortable. It is our duty to be called out for appropriating certain parts of Black culture that we deem ‘acceptable’.

It is not the responsibility of Black people to fight for their equality. As white people, it is our responsibility to address the system we created, we benefit from and to educate ourselves and fight for a system free of injustice. Before the heroics start, and the ‘likes’ pour in, white people should understand that we should not be seen as ‘fighters’ or ‘the good ones’ for standing up against racism, for we would should never have been benefitting from a corrupt system in the first place.

We should have been outraged since Emmett Till was sentenced to death on false accusations with a biased trial that only cared about white opinion. We should still be outraged over the murder of Michael Brown, being shot six times was no accident by the white police. We should still be outraged when Eric Garner also screamed ‘I can’t breathe’. His words should never have found home in another dying black mans last breaths.

American history, since its colonization, was built on status differentiation and white supremacy. It is not the ‘land of the free’ until Native Americans have what’s left of their land and ancestral sites back. It is not the ‘land of the free’ until Native American land is not torn apart for pipelines, their culture not appropriated globally at Halloween, and their genocide not swept over like that of the Aborigines in Australia.

 It is not the ‘land of the free’ until every school teaches about America’s role in the slave trade, slavery in America and the repression of the rights of Black people to this day. It is not the ‘land of the free’ until there is collective action from a white population whose ignorance towards issues of race and injustice is as astounding as Britain’s denial to face its colonial and imperialist history.

It is not the ‘land of the free’ until the rate of black male arrests is unbiased.

African-American adults are 5.9 times as likely to be incarcerated than whites. As of 2001, one of every three black boys born in that year could expect to go to prison in his lifetime, as could one of every six Latinos—compared to one of every seventeen white boys. In 2016, Black Americans comprised 27% of all individuals arrested in the United States—double their share of the total population. Black youth accounted for 15% of all U.S. children yet made up 35% of juvenile arrests in that year.  It must be stressed that the rise  of mass incarceration begins with disproportionate levels of police contact with African Americans.

It is imperative white people take accountability for their role in allowing the continuation of institutionalized, systemic racism that perpetrates the ideology that discrimination is a ‘Black peoples problem’. It is instead necessary that we change ourselves and our institutions.

 It was a white officer that murdered George Floyd.

It was white officers who did not stop him.

It is a white settler society that now rules an already occupied indigenous land, it is a white settler society built off the backs of slaves, the genocide of Native Americans, and the compliance to live in a society where Black people are continuously murdered by white people. There should have been protests every day for the fact Black people are three times more likely to be killed by police than white people. There should have been protests every day that police killed 1,099 people in 2019, and that Black people were 24% of those killed despite being only 13% of the population .  Another Black person should not have had to die to recognise what has been happening in America, and Britain, for centuries.

It is, and always has been imperative to address racism in all its forms, and Britain is certainly not exempt from this task. We, the white people, must be outraged that everyday by being compliant, we are killing Black people and people of colour. We must confront uncomfortable truths about who we are, and how our western, liberal societies came to be.

This rage should not die out. It is long overdue that we address one of, if not the, most deep rooted injustices in our society. As Desmond Tutu famously said: ‘If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor’.

George Floyd should not have died that day. It is as simple and as complex as that.

 May the injustice being faced by Black people and people of colour be finally, properly addressed. Our complacency, our sympathy is not beneficial. We must stand as allies, we must deconstruct the basis of our society, until it no longer forces the life out of Black people and people of colour.

Written by Sarah Tennent

SIGN THE PETITIONS/DONATE HERE-

Black Lives Matter UK Fund- https://www.gofundme.com/f/ukblm-fund

The Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust- https://www.stephenlawrence.org.uk/support-us/donate/

The Minnesota Freedom Fund- https://minnesotafreedomfund.org/

Justice for Belly Mujinga- https://www.change.org/p/govia-thameslink-justice-for-belly-mujinga

Justice for Breonna Taylor- https://www.standwithbre.com/

Petition to suspend UK export of tear gas, rubber bullets and riot shields to USA- https://www.change.org/p/suspend-uk-export-of-tear-gas-rubber-bullets-and-riot-shields-to-usa

Petition for the UK government to condemn President Trump’s response to BLM protests- https://www.change.org/p/boris-johnson-the-uk-government-must-condemn-trump-s-response-to-the-murder-of-george-floyd?utm_content=cl_sharecopy_22522561_en-GB%3Av3&recruited_by_id=d21766b0-a5a4-11ea-9a05-b3d780603ee9&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=copylink&utm_campaign=psf_combo_share_initial&utm_term=4931b21bd4f04c7cbdd896d94658b364&pt=AVBldGl0aW9uAMGqVwEAAAAAXtew7gG9E6s5OWZkZjM3ZA%3D%3D

Petition for British schools to implement teaching British children about Black history- https://www.change.org/p/gavin-williamson-mp-teach-british-children-about-the-realities-of-british-imperialism-and-colonialism?recruiter=1100366940&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=facebook&utm_campaign=share_petition&recruited_by_id=63f782c0-a35e-11ea-8907-8fc7af712ec3&use_react=false

Reading List to educate yourself-

Nikesh Shukla – The Good Immigrant: 26 Writers Reflect on America

Layla Saad – Me and White Supremacy: How to Recognise Your Privilege, Combat Racism and Change the World

Reni Eddo-Lodge – Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race

Akala – Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire

Ibram X. Kendi – How To Be an Antiracist

Wesley Lowery – They Can’t Kill Us All: The Story of Black Lives Matter

Support Black owned businesses, find them here- https://www.ukblackowned.co.uk/

A new kind of Journalism

The 20th Century marked a watershed where people began to recognise the changing nature and environment of the media. Mass media, broadcast news, and the professionalisation of journalism, were buzzwords for the media then, just as they are now.

The revolution of news on screen and radio, broadened the political minds of many, in a midst of newly found easy access to the political world, away from print news.

Media outlets slowly began to ease their political alignments shifting between the advocacy for parties, and the supply of unbiased views, in attempt to provide ‘neutral’ perspectives.

With this increased ‘professionalisation’, we saw a new kind of journalism developing.

Without compulsory training, or specific knowledge sets, journalism ‘isn’t the ideal liberal profession’, in comparison to careers such as law or medicine. However pride is, and should be placed, on a journalists’ ability to ‘impact society’ and ‘serve the public interest’. It is this new autonomy that has founded journalisms professionalisation.

So, with these developments, if we reflect again, they bring the question of whether we are seeing another ‘new kind of journalism’ in amongst this global pandemic we are facing today.

Common articles around Coronavirus have recently, and necessarily so, surrounded recent case figures, medical advice being offered, or recent demands for enquiries into countries levels of ‘preparedness’ for such a pandemic.

There are some positives in amongst this, including a new-found appreciation for keyworkers and national spirits of ‘togetherness’. There are also lots of negatives that can come from, and are found within situations such as these – those sadly lost, government performance, and public urges to panic-buy toilet roll or baking goods.

Yet this news is being bought to us in a different way, and more importantly, is the only news that is being presented to us, and has been for the last three months.

There has seemed to be a lack of attention to what we are being shown in the media. Countries have seen ‘normal’ life come to a halt, confined to life of self-isolation and lockdown, and the media has followed suit.

The media has become isolated in its news of Coronavirus, suggesting the possibility and also some truth to how global news has taken a back seat. Or that there is no global news to report – which seems harder to believe.

Furthermore, there is a sense journalists’ questions have also become constrained during what has become, the daily press conference ritual. Time and time again we see some journalists asking the same questions, most notably ‘when will lockdown end?’.

This could reflect national frustrations, or to rightly hold governments accountable, or is this because, there is not much else they can ask?

This is a new kind of journalism.

Journalism before has seen constraint from state intervention and technological drawbacks, and to some extent, still sees this on varying levels. Today, as World Wars once consumed media attention, our battle against Coronavirus takes their place.

It is up to ourselves to decide whether this ‘new’ in our new kind of journalism, be taken for the logistics of how press conferences are now being held. Or that more than ever, more media channels are receiving more airtime attention, or even how questions are being asked in these conferences, are becoming limited.

Nonetheless, these all suggest a new kind of journalism, in a time that demands the attention of one subject only, one that is continuously at the forefront of all our minds.

Written by Courtney Bridges

Sources:

Daniel C. Hallin and Paolo Mancini, ‘Comparing Media Systems: three models of media and politics’, (2004), p.13, 16.

 

 

No other way. Biden needs the Left to stop Trump.

Just less than a month ago, on March 17, two things were starting to get clear in the United States. The first of them was the sudden realization of the Trump administration regarding the coronavirus outbreak and its seriousness. By March 17, all 50 states had been hit with more than 100 dead and 6000 infected nationwide, as the BBC reported. Yet, it took all of this to happen for the leader of the nation to shift his rhetoric from “totally under control” to “I’ve felt that it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic”. As of today, according to the Worldometer that tracks all the coronavirus cases worldwide, the situation in the United States looks grim and terrifying. More than 300,000 cases have been confirmed, with the US becoming the world’s most affected country, heavily surpassing both Spain and Italy. And, as if that was not enough, the President warned everyone that the upcoming weeks are going to be the “toughest”, and that the worst is yet to come. biden srticle 1

Graph source: Worldometer, last updated: April 05, 2020, 10:48 GMT

All of this, undeniably, leads to a simple conclusion. The United States, and the world, is in a desperate need for steady and strong leadership. And interestingly enough, this has to do with the second event that occurred on that same March 17 Tuesday last month. It was then when it was reported that Joe Biden, who definitely had a poor start in the Democratic primary battle, will win all of the three major states(Florida, Illinois, Arizona) that were at stake that night. What is more, it turned out to be a comfortable, even “easy”, according to The New York Times, victory for the former Vice President. After that night, the math was showing that that Biden had managed to secure a total of 1,217 delegates against 914 for his major opponent Senator Bernie Sanders. And while it was, and still is true, that a majority of 1,991 pledged delegates must be won in order to secure the Democratic presidential nomination, the numbers are a good indicator to illustrate that Bernie Sanders, who unquestionably embodies the Left in America, will most probably not succeed in his march to the White House.

Source: Associated Press, last updated: 3 April 2020, 00:51:26

biden article 2

More disappointing, however, will surely be the prospect that the Left idea might not succeed. Just as it was the case in 2016, the Democratic establishment turned out to be an extremely formidable enemy. This time it showed it when practically all of the centrist, moderate candidates united behind the Biden candidacy in order to turn an election that, otherwise, they would have probably lost against the Sanders base if not united behind one candidate. Endorsement after endorsement helped Joe Biden get a desperately needed boost, especially after an abysmal showing in the first caucuses and primaries. Furthermore, openly promising to pick a woman for the VP spot and securing endorsements from people like Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, a perceived Sanders ally, only solidified Biden’s lead. Not to mention the fact that Elizabeth Warren, another person who the logic dictated would endorse the most progressive candidate, Sanders, apparent refusal to do so, felt not only like a shocker, but more like a betrayal to the progressive base. All of this, combined with the increasing media pressure for Sanders to end his presidential campaign, has led the Senator’s team to “assess” his campaign and the potential path forward.

Of course, it is impossible not to spot the little irony behind this situation. Especially now, that the Sanders campaign is all focused on fighting and leading the charge against the coronavirus. And now that, as it was brilliantly put by New Yorker writer Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, it is the reality that has endorsed Sanders. In other words, saying that the Senator’s main policy proposals, such as Medicare for All, are more than critically needed in the current unprecedented crisis the US, and the whole world, is facing. And even though ideas like Medicare for All and tightening the enormous wealth inequality gap that currently exists in the US, seem more than reasonable, and despite Sanders still having mathematical chances of winning the nomination, the opposition he is facing will only get even more vicious from now on.

Here, however, arises the biggest problems for the Democratic establishment. Even if it finally manages to somehow stop Sanders, it will still, again ironically, need the full support of his base in order to accomplish its main objective – beating Trump in November. And it will not be unreasonable to express that the Sanders’ base has little to do with the Biden base when it comes to policy, main causes, and overall ideology and understanding of how politics should be done. Biden might represent the status quo, and the way that the Democratic Party currently operates and wants to operate, but it is Sanders who represents the future. And this future about much more than a single ideolog or a single election. It is a future In which everybody should have the same rights to healthcare, a living wage, affordable housing, and decent life. A future in which billions would be spent on education, healthcare and progress, and not on foreign policy blunders. A future in which politicians would represent and fight for the ordinary people, not for the corporations, the banks, and the ultrawealthy.

And although this is yet to happen in the future, Biden will surely need to compromise with himself now and implement some of Bernie Sanders’ policy ideas and vision. There is no other way Biden can deserve the support of the Left that he really needs to take on Trump. It is not too farfetched to think that Democrats do not want to repeat the 2016 mistakes. Then, rhetoric of the ‘unity’, ‘vote blue no matter what’ type, would not suffice. Not in today’s world of politics. Actions would have to be taken, and Biden would definitely have to do something in order to appeal to the Sanders voters. Otherwise, it will be virtually impossible for him to take on Trump and win. After all, you cannot win if you do not energize such large chunks of the electorate like the young people, the outsider voters and the voters who are anti-establishment. All of whom are Sanders supporters.

Without a doubt, a glimpse at Biden’s record through the years shows that this is very unlikely to happen. The fact of the matter is, that Biden has never been a progressive champion and has not fought on most of the same fronts that Sanders has. And thus, it is understandable that people will be sceptical about such a future prospect. However, given the extreme situation in the world now, and the need for powerful leadership more than ever, compromises will have to be made if Biden wants to win. If not trough direct policy promises, at least, as the progressive political commentators Kyle Kulinski has noted, through offering the VP spot to someone like Senator Nina Turner, a main Sanders surrogate and an honest fighter for progressive change. Someone who will appeal to the Left and will pursue the main ideals of the field.

One thing is certain. A Biden win in November heavily involves the Left. In one way or another. Otherwise, Democrats should prepare for something worse than 2016 in 2020.

Written by Zafir Zafirov 

Bibliography:

  1. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-51939392
  2. https://www.cnbc.com/2020/03/17/trump-dissed-coronavirus-pandemic-worry-now-claims-he-warned-about-it.html
  3. https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/
  4. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/apr/05/coronavirus-global-cases-pass-12m-as-trump-warns-us-of-worse-to-come
  5. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/17/us/politics/march-17-democratic-primary.html
  6. https://www.politico.com/news/2020/03/16/biden-debate-female-veep-131610
  7. https://medium.com/@ronaldwdixon/elizabeth-warrens-betrayal-of-the-progressive-movement-5a0b6ebfed39
  8. https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2020/03/sanders-drop-out-primary-coronavirus.html
  9. https://www.nbcnews.com/think/opinion/bernie-sanders-should-suspend-his-2020-presidential-campaign-help-biden-ncna1163481
  10. https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/03/its-time-bernie-sanders-end-his-campaign/608257/
  11. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/apr/05/bernie-sanders-campaign-assessing-coronavirus
  12. https://www.wsj.com/articles/bernie-sanders-focuses-on-coronavirus-as-he-reassesses-campaign-11584796882
  13. https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/reality-has-endorsed-bernie-sanders
  14. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bbK4RoEPSzY&feature=emb_title

A New Leader, A New Time for the Labour Party, but Big Challenges Remain

With recent events you may not have been aware, or perhaps you forgot, that the Labour Party was having its long and drawn out Party Leadership Election. The results are in anyway, Keir Starmer is victorious and will succeed Jeremy Corbyn as Party Leader. Starmer’s task is not an easy one, he takes over at a dire time for the Labour party. Like the Tories during 1997-2005, Labour are in their new “wilderness years”, if they are not careful, they will suffer another defeat in 2024 and Tories will be in power for another 5 years. Starmer must rebuild the Labour Party after the recent general election, where the party won 202 seats having lost 60 from 2017, making it their worst performance in an election since 1935.

Starmer needs to decide how he is going to regain trust and support of traditional Labour voters and regain Labour heartlands, the so called “Red Wall”, where the party collapsed in 2019. He will also have to decide what a post Brexit Britain Labour Party will look like, and what it will say on the big issues facing the country. But also, and probably a more difficult task, he must decide where the ideological fate of his party will lie, whether he remains to the left or moves to centre, similar to where New Labour went or perhaps somewhere in between. Whatever he does decide to do, not everyone will be happy in the Labour Party. And of course, he must tackle the evil of anti-Semitism in the party which will be a true test of his leadership early on.

 This article will aim to show just how big a task is facing Keir Starmer, and what those problems are. Labour have until 2024 to prepare for the next general election, and as Harold Wilson once said “a week is a long time in politics” so there is plenty that could go wrong for the Conservatives and plenty that could go right for the Labour Party in that time. Only three men have won elections for Labour since 1945, Attlee, Wilson and Blair. Time will tell if Starmer joins them or whether he joins the ranks of Kinnock, Miliband and Corbyn.

The 2019 Election marked another turbulent time in British politics. This was the third general election in four years and the ninth major electoral contest in the decade. The Labour Party and the UK were going into this election against the backdrop of Brexit, a Parliament that was unable to agree a Withdrawal Agreement or anything in fact and a mood of great anger in the country. The Tories had been in power for nine years and the government saw the lowest satisfaction scores for the way in which it was running the country for any administration since John Major’s (Ipsos MORI, 2019). Normally, after the “cost of governance” and satisfaction levels like that, this should have been an easy win for the Labour Party. Far from it.

One reason for their defeat was that Labour faced an electoral dilemma, how to hold onto their collation of voters from the 2017 election? At the time, the party on the one hand had a majority of Labour MPs (61%) represented constituencies that had a majority leave vote in 2016, whilst on the other a clear majority of Labour voters (68%) supported Remain in 2016 (BES, 2019). Labour was doomed from the start, there was no way the party could hold onto both of these very different and distinct groups at the same time. And what we saw at the 2019 election was exactly that, Labour losing in many leave voting areas. The Conservatives captured ‘fifty-seven seats, all but three from Labour. These included traditional Labour heartlands in the so-called ‘red wall’: Great Grimsby (Labour since 1945); Bishop Auckland (1935); Basset-law (1935); Wakefield (1932); Leigh (1922); Don Valley (1922); and Bolsover (a seat Labour had never lost when contesting) (Cutts, et al., 2020). So, the challenge for Starmer and the Labour Party going forward is: how to win these voters and seats back? How to build a more permanent and united coalition of support for the Labour Party? Unfortunately, for the Labour Party the loss of support amongst their traditional working-class base, known as the “falling ladder”, has been a long time coming, as Figure 1 shows:

Figure 1: The difference between Labour and Conservative vote share by class composition of English and Welsh constituencies, 2010–2019

Fig 1

(Cutts, et al., 2020, p. 17)

Figure 1 shows the enormous task facing Starmer, he must pick the ladder back up and prevent this election from becoming a realigning moment. Many in Labour will be hoping that 2019 was a one off, that people lent their votes to the Conservatives because of Brexit and will return to the Labour Party after. Of course, Labour will have to earn their vote back but there is a logic to that idea. Now that Britain has left the EU but is in the transition period as it negotiates a future trade deal with our European neighbours, perhaps this dividing line in our politics will weaken. In a recent poll there was 46-54 split in favour of staying out indicated a small swing in favour of Brexit since January (Woodcock, 2020). So perhaps once, excuse me here, “we get Brexit done” there will be a focus on other issues in a post Brexit Britain. Issues that the Labour Party can be stronger on, and issues that enable them to start winning back the support of the voters it lost in 2019.

So, what drove former Labour voters to other parties? Understanding why these voters left might help the party in winning them back. As you can see in Figure 2, Jeremy Corbyn/leadership was the main reason voters did not support Labour in the 2019 election according to this poll. The Labour Party will now hope that the election of Starmer as leader will settle this issue and his name will not be as toxic for the party on the doorsteps. However, Figure 1 also shows that there was much to Labour’s failings in 2019 than just leadership.

Figure 2: What drove former Labour voters back to other parties?

lewis fig 2

(YouGov, 2019)

Brexit, as mentioned above, played a significant role. Perhaps, like leadership, this will now be settled, and voters will not be turned off by Labour. But the other telling issue raised by Figure 2, is that people did not trust Labour on policy and economic competence. There was a feeling this time around that the Labour manifesto and policies were undeliverable and would cost too much. This was consistent with polling before the election, which showed that the majority (63%) thought that Labour’s policies are not realistically deliverable, and that the party would not deliver on its promises. Former Labour voters said in their own words that they: “did not trust the manifesto, you cannot keep borrowing to pay for services”, that “the socialist policies were frightening” and “the sums didn’t add up for all the things they promised if they got in” (YouGov, 2019). This represents a significant challenge for Starmer now coming into the top job in the Labour Party. He and his party need to convince voters that Labour can be trusted on the economy and the public finances if they have any hope of becoming a credible option for the voters.

Finally, I would like to talk about another major problem for the Labour Party. Scotland does not get raised enough in terms of Labours problems as much as it should; Scotland is another once traditional heartlands that they have lost. In 2010, even right in the dying days of New Labour, the party manged to have forty-one seats out of fifty-nine in Scotland (BBC News, 2010). At the 2019 election the Labour Party lost six seats and was left with just one seat (BBC News, 2019). The massive decline in Scotland creates a big problem for Labour. For the Labour Party to win a majority, the party must start winning seats back off the SNP and other parties. Otherwise Labour will have to win more seats in England and Wales. This requires an even bigger swing, as the party will need to take seats of the Conservatives, where there are majorities of over 10,000, no easy task. Labour must re-find its political place in Scotland amongst the Nationalist versus Unionist debate or risks remaining in the side-lines of Scottish politics and out of government in the UK.

If the Labour Party is to start winning elections and return to government, then it must address the issues listed in this article. It is currently facing a significant moment in the party’s history, whether it chooses to return to power and credibility, or whether it continues deeper into the political wilderness. It will not be easy, but the path back to having a Labour Prime Minister and a Labour government can start now. We will see if they, and Starmer take it.

Written by Lewis Virgo

Bibliograpy

BBC News (2010) Election 2010 [Online] BBC.
Available from: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/election2010/results/region/7.stm
[Accessed 4 4 2020].

BBC News, (2019) Election 2019 [Online] BBC.
Available from: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/election/2019/results/scotland
[Accessed 4 4 2020].

BES, 2019. Labour’s electoral dilemma [Online] BES.
Available from: https://www.britishelectionstudy.com/bes-findings/labours-electoral-dilemma/#.Xoc-UIhKhEY
[Accessed 3 April 2020].

Cutts, D. Goodwin, M. Heath, O. & Surridge, P. (2020) ‘Brexit, the 2019 General Election and the Realignment of British Politics’. The Political Quarterly, 91 (1), pp. 7-23.

Ipsos MORI, (2019) Worst public satisfaction ratings for any government since John Major [Online] Ipsos MORI.
Available from: https://www.ipsos.com/ipsos-mori/en-uk/worst-public-satisfaction-ratings-any-government-john-major
[Accessed 3 April 2020].

Woodcock, A. (2020) UK still divided over Brexit with almost half country wanting to rejoin EU, poll finds [Online] The Independent.
Available from: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/uk-brexit-latest-poll-rejoin-eu-younger-older-divide-a9384661.html
[Accessed 3 April 2020].

YouGov, (2019) YouGov In their Own Words: Why Voters Abandonded Labour [Online] YouGov.
Available from: https://yougov.co.uk/topics/politics/articles-reports/2019/12/23/their-own-words-why-voters-abandoned-labour
[Accessed 4 April 2020 ].

 

 

The Politics Behind the Coronavirus

With 319 confirmed cases in the UK at the time of writing, it is easy to forget that this is only 0.0005% of the population of the United Kingdom, but with the domination of headlines, depleting stocks and self-isolation on the rise comes a new set of challenges for the still relatively fledgling UK government.

This is a pivotal time for the government to decide it’s course of action, up until now the response has been relatively measured compared to other European countries, with the NHS suggesting the washing of hands for forty seconds and not touching our faces. All while France bans gatherings of over 1,000 people and Ireland introduces a €3 billion aid package to combat the virus, despite only having 24 confirmed cases. But with panic rising here in the UK, should the government do more? And how will it affect the politics surrounding it?

The government’s chief medical advisor, Prof Chris Whitty, has said in a recent press conference “We are now very close to the time, probably within the next 10 to 14 days, when the modelling would imply we should move to a situation where everybody with even minor respiratory tract infections or a fever should be self-isolating for a period of seven days”. This will have major repercussions across the country and likely lead to the isolation of those unnecessarily. Economically, this will have major impacts, already we can see stocks across the world plummeting, this will only add fuel to the fire and could put a halt to basic services such as bin collection. Depending on the scale of economic impact and how much the government does to cushion the economic impact on everyday people we could see a disastrous performance for the conservatives at the upcoming local election. At current the May local elections are set to go ahead as planned, but with Prof Whitty admitting that the virus is likely to spread  “really quite fast”, it is unlikely that the turnout for the May local elections will be on par with the usual levels of turnout, raising the question of their democratic legitimacy.

While some worried of the financial implications of self-isolation, by the government announcement of statutory sick pay from day one from those self-isolating, this does not extend to those on zero hours contracts, all 883,000 people. They have been advised to claim universal credit, which takes a minimum of one calendar month since the date an application is submitted. For people living pay check to pay check this could have disastrous repercussions for them as they self-isolate without the funds to remain above the breadline, especially in light of the recent panic buying which has seen prices of basic house hold items such as toilet paper, skyrocket.

The coronavirus will have major implications on the global stock market with the FTSE100 expected to fall 6.3%. Stock markets in the US and Europe are expected to see their biggest falls since the 2008 financial crisis following huge loses in the Asian market in Monday. This could have effects on both domestic politics and international relations across the world. If we do see a global recession, as many fear we will, this could see a major turn in the US general election and create similar circumstances to the 2008 US general election which saw Obama’s ascension to the white house and the democrats winning the senate. Trump is currently riding the wave of a good economy, if this is to change, we could see a want in the US for change. So much so that it could sway the democratic primaries in Bernie Sanders’ favour if the US public see a need, such as an economic downturn, to move away from the status quo. The same could be seen in the UK in the May local elections. On an international level, production could be brought into the fray as states that would not usually be able to compete but are not as effected by corona virus are suddenly able to bode a challenge to states such as China, Russia and the US. For example, Saudi Arabia have made the decision to increase their crude oil production in an attempt to drive the US and Russia out of the market. We have also seen a major drop in production on china as workers remain in isolation. This has caused a major decrease in the region’s CO2 emissions amid the economic downturn.

One of the biggest side effects of the coronavirus has been the rise in racists attacks and abuse against people of Asian heritage in the UK and across the western world. While there is not yet a national number in relation to the coronavirus, there are at least six reports of attacks to Devon and Cornwall police, with other reports in London, Birmingham and across the UK. The UK Government has given little to no response on the rise in these attacks, whilst charity Tell MAMA, which records and measures anti-Muslim incidents in the United Kingdom, steps up to bring these cases to a national level alongside Asian student groups to campaign for support and stronger police presence to protect Asian communities in the UK.

Written by Josh Trood

UCU Strikes, we have been here before- but what next?

On Monday 24th February, it happened, again. The UCU launched fourteen days of strike action. Last term from Monday 25th November- Wednesday 4th December, round one of strike action commenced, with a vote held by the Students Union concluding ‘70% of eligible voters, voted to support UCU’s strike action and its stance in its entirety’. This forms a consensus that the student body is on the side of the UCU, which means our anger is turned to Paul Layzell and the college.

Striking lecturers do not enjoy, I assume, missing work to stand outside in the cold and rain, moping about with no students to pester, losing their income- so what provokes this action? The strikes are protesting on issues regarding contributors to pension schemes, with the UCU calling for the university (employer) and not the lecturers (employees), to cover the deficit. The second disagreement is on pay and working conditions, the UCU believes pay has dropped for academic staff by 17% in real wages since 2009, based on findings from the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA). The working conditions element of the dispute focus on gender and BAME pay gap, increased casualisation of staff contracts and increased workloads. These are the exact same reasons lecturers walked out in November 2019, according to the UCU ‘the employers only agreed to properly discuss casualisation, workload and inequality arising from our decision to strike in November 2019. While their offer does represent progress, it is not enough, and they have now said their latest proposal is final – just as they did last May!’

Now, for a university which boasts of its history entrenched in women’s liberation, proclaiming through a very expensive four floor library, that Emily Wilding Davison herself attended the college (for one term until she could no longer afford the fees), the issues surrounding pay disparity is surely a huge embarrassment for this institution. Paul Layzell, what is going on? Well, we all know of Paul’s comments made back in November 2017 in a staff meeting, stating women have a  “natural tendency to not have a go and put themselves in for promotion”. Furthermore, his comments came after figures released by Times Higher Education (THE) revealed the university has a 10% gender pay gap for full-time professors,  making it the seventh worst in the country.

This questions the integrity of Mr Layzell to effectively address the strike action, how can we trust Layzell to support the rights of women and BAME academics if he can make these claims? As stated by the UCU, the universities had deemed their latest proposal their final after the November batch of strikes, however on the 5th March the UCU realised their latest update stating ‘It’s clear that most employers have changed their position since our last dispute over USS. They are now willing to agree with us on a range of issues. The two reports of the Joint Expert Panel have vindicated our position.’ This is a glimmer of hope for students and striking staff,  with more talks taking place on the 6th March, could this be the last we see of the strikes?

As we prepare for the last five days of strikes, the progress of negotiations are imperative to how the next academic year will look. As a third year student who lost most of first year and now third year to strikes, based on the findings by the UCU and many conversations with striking lecturers, there is no short term fix. If the college and the UCU do not reach agreement by the end of this strike period, there can certainly be expectations that next academic year will look the same. The issues raised by lecturers and the UCU are not to be overlooked, and shake to the core the integrity of many high ranking universities, including Royal Holloway. What message is a university giving to its students if it cannot facilitate an environment of equality within its staff? How am I expected to trust the university on matters such as sexual harassment and discrimination if the university does not address pay disparity between its staff, and the structural, institutionalized, inequality at the centre of this disparity? Paul Layzell, it is time for change; and no matter the individual stances on strike action, the calls for change being made by the UCU are valid, and do deserve student support. Students and lecturers make this institution what it is, and we can shape it to how we see fit.

Everyone hopes there is an end to this strike action, but if conditions are not met, there must be student outcry against the injustices faced by academics at this institution, and the lack of reparations by the university to students missing an invaluable, expensive, education.

Written by Sarah Tennent

Sources:

https://www.su.rhul.ac.uk/news/article/surhul/UCU-Referendum-Result/https:/

/www.ucu.org.uk/media/10714/Pre-strike-negotiators-briefing-for-members–four-fights-11-Feb-20/pdf/ucu_fourfights_pre-strike-briefing_11feb20-.pdf

https://www.ucu.org.uk/article/10667/Negotiations-update-more-USS-talks-on-Friday

Non-EU states held to double standards, despite internal deficiencies

On the 18th of February, the European Union increased the membership of its list of non-cooperative tax jurisdictions to include the Cayman Islands, Palau, Panama, and the Seychelles following a meeting of the bloc’s finance ministers. This membership formally blacklists the aforementioned nations alongside several others, resulting in potential reputational damage, greater scrutiny in their financial transactions and the loss of EU funding, disadvantaging nations outside of the European economic powerhouse.

The Cayman Islands is the first UK territory to be added to the blacklist, only weeks after the formal departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union on January 31st 2020, following a nearly four year withdrawal period. Since 2018, Cayman has adopted more than 15 legislative changes in line with EU criteria to satisfy the EU’s finance ministers, but it was determined regardless that the efforts made were not enough to avoid being demoted from the “grey list” – the list outlining nations to maintain an eye on – to the “blacklist”. Premier Alden McLaughlin, who is the head of the government, expressed his disappointment at the EU’s decision to move the Cayman Islands to the blacklist, noting that over the past two years, Cayman had cooperated with the EU to deliver on its commitment to enhance tax good governance.

This list, which was started in 2017, attempts to put pressure on countries to crack down on tax havens and unfair financial competition, and forcefully encourage legislative changes in order to be delisted. As of the conclusion of the last meeting, a total of twelve states are now listed as non-cooperative tax jurisdictions. As well as the four states added in February, Guam, Oman, Fiji, American Samoa, Samoa, Trinidad and Tobago, the US Virgin Islands, and Vanuatu have also been blacklisted.

Controversially, the EU blacklist currently only screens non-EU states and has previously stated that its own member states were already applying high standards against tax avoidance. However, a bloc of EU states, led by the Danish government and backed by Germany, Spain, Austria and France, have prepared a document which urges a discussion on whether or not the European Union had sufficient internal safeguards against tax avoidance and evasion.

Three Member States of the EU, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Ireland, widely use low tax and other incentives to host the EU headquarters of foreign firms, which undermines many of the tax safeguards instilled by other EU states. Ireland, for example, hosts the headquarters of Google, Apple, Facebook, PayPal, Microsoft, Yahoo, eBay, AOL, Twitter and Intel, who all enjoy the significantly lower corporation tax rate of 12.5%, as opposed to the 21% corporation tax currently in place in the United States. These three states were listed in a report by the International Monetary Fund researchers in September 2019 as world-leading tax havens, together with many of the nations currently o the blacklist.

It waits to be seen on whether or not the EU Blacklist will prevail as this situation develops, and whether or not the European Union will blacklist its own members in an effort to standardise their expectations of the global world. As it stands, the European Union’s duplicity and hypocrisy threatens to undermine this list, and the smaller nations look on in anticipation and hope that the European Union will come to a beneficial conclusion for their sake, and the sake of itself.

Written by Milo Dack

POSTHUMOUS PARDONS: AN ENIGMA

Most people are familiar with Alan Turing. If you aren’t, he was a scientist and cryptanalyst (amongst a plethora of other things) whose work for the British government is often recognised to have shortened the war in Europe by more than two years and saved over 14 million lives.

In 1952, the British government thanked Turing with a prosecution for gross indecency under section 11 of the Criminal Law Amendments Act 1885. He was given the ultimatum of imprisonment or probation – the latter with the condition that he undergo chemical castration to lower his libido. Turing’s conviction lead to the removal of his security clearance and barring from continuing his cryptographic work for GC&CS. Turing died on 7 June 1953 by cyanide, 14 months after his conviction.

60 years later, on 24 December 2013, Turing received a posthumous Royal Pardon.

The Alan Turing Law – the colloquial term for the amnesty law legislated in the Policing & Crime Act 2017, which pardons men who were cautioned or convicted under historical legislation (Buggery Act 1533) that outlawed homosexual acts. I’d forgive you for thinking that this law could right every wrong the government made against gay men, but this isn’t true. These statutory pardons are only for some men convicted of some homosexual offences.

We have just passed the bills third anniversary, which received royal assent on 31 January 2017. It’s a common misconception that this offers a blanket forgiveness for the crimes of the estimated 49,000 men who, like Alan Turing were convicted of consenting same-sex relations under the gross indecency law or other anti-gay legislations. As Justin Bengry, Historian of Britain’s LGBTQ past points out, “it offers too great an opportunity for the state to strategically forget and erase history rather than atone for the damage it has wrought on the lives of queer men”.

The Peter Tatchell Foundation estimates that some 50,000-100,000 men were convicted during the 20th century. Bengry poses the question, why should the pardon be limited only to men punished by these laws in the 20th century? Buggery, after all was criminalised in 1533  – how many more thousands of pardons would be needed for centuries-worth of inhumane convictions under the British government? The last execution for consensual anal sex only happened in 1835. Should these not be pardoned and apologised for?

It’s not wildly known the number of men who are unable to be granted pardons. This includes, but is not limited to, those men whose records cannot be found (you cannot obtain a pardon for an offence which a charge has no record).

For myself, it’s incredibly significant that those men whose crimes would still be illegal today – for example those convicted under indecent exposure (which is criminal under the Sexual Offences Act 2003), -cannot be pardoned. These men sought privacy and safety in public restrooms, solace from these anti-gay convictions and it was these circumstances which they were forced into by the government. These very crimes were the product of British anti-gay laws and deserve to be apologised for, not least to be pardoned. These crimes would never have been committed if the men were not put into this impossible position whereby they must choose between expressing their fundamental rights or be persecuted by a hostile government – one which still won’t right all of its wrongs.

A posthumous pardon is problematic for several reasons. If we look at the language, a pardon is not an apology. It is a forgiveness for a crime committed and in no way implies the person was wrongfully convicted.

Turing received his apology in 2009 by Gordon Brown on behalf of the British Government for “the appalling way he was treated”, however tens of thousands of men are still without apology and many of them without pardon—some of them still alive today.

Is the Government’s posthumous pardon a get out of jail free card? When the innocent party can neither accept the pardon, thus accepting that their actions were criminal, nor deny it— therefore embarrassing the government.

Right now, there are thousands of gay men unable to obtain the pardons offered by the government since 2017, which were intended for people unjustly convicted because of their sexuality. Many of these men were convicted of ‘importuning’ or ‘soliciting’ when in reality, many men were arrested simply for looking at an officer ‘the wrong way’ or speaking to another man on the street. There was no ground for arrest for many of these historic convictions in which a pardon is not offered.

Many men’s lives have been ruined by the mark against their record, which these scared men were forced into signing out of fear, in the belief it could be forgotten about.

It’s also invariably impossible to determine which crimes would still legitimately stand as crimes today? How can the Government blanket pardon all men convicted of queer sex, when some of these cases may well have been non-consensual or involving minors? Justin Bengry makes a point that this sort of detail is unlikely to have been preserved.

For centuries, lives were destroyed; men were executed by the state for homosexual offences. “This history should be preserved actively, publicly and loudly”.I believe that the Government must be held accountable and made to acknowledge its role in the destruction of so many LGBTQ+ lives and until all of the issues surrounding the pardon, including some of the ones I have discussed above have been addressed, it will continue to trick many  people into thinking that thousands of men have been apologised to. A pardon is in no way an apology or even an admission of wrongful conviction.

It should not be employed to distract us from the continued struggles of the LGBTQ+ community, and the Government’s general posthumous pardon simply is not good enough.

I am optimistic that more will be done, but the reality is that forgiveness can never be given by the unknown numbers of deceased men who died at the hands of the Government, and this should never, ever be forgotten. The world can learn from these injustices which must be remembered if we wish for history to never again be repeated.

Germany used the enigma to scramble and confuse messages. The British Government, I feel, do this very well with no such machine.

Written by Rhys Jones

Israeli Ambassador visits Royal Holloway

The Politics and International Relations Society once again host the Israeli Ambassador, Mark Regev, in an evening filled with questions ranging from relations with the British Labour Party, to unsurprisingly, relations with Palestine. The evening was expertly chaired by PIR Society’s very own President Joshua Trood, leading an array of questions and pursuing clarity from Ambassador Regev.

Ambassador Regev opened with a speech regarding modern diplomacy, highlighting Washington as the capital for mediation, the first remark that hinted at Israeli relations with America. Later on, being questioned on the US ordered killing of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani, the Ambassador gave complete support for the killing, stating he had no moral qualms about the assassination. Despite fears from many that this action by America could escalate tensions within the Middle East, Ambassador Regev assured the audience that the actions were de-escalatory as it proved to Iran that they would be held accountable for their immoral actions.  From observing Ambassador Regev’s language towards America, it is evident that allies with the West is an essential piece in Israel’s plan to be considered a credible state, worthy of international recognition and stature. Talking of the US, Trumps so called ‘peace plan’ was raised, Ambassador Regev praised Trumps’ plan for dealing with the question as to whether Jews actually have the right to their homeland, and raised discontent with UN Papers which Ambassador Regev deemed, ‘problematic’. It seemed that every question raised  regarding plans for Israel’s future, was a platform for Ambassador Regev to promote Israel’s democracy and strengthening relations within the region. Boasting of two peace treaties with more than half of the Arab league, Ambassador Regev subtly portrayed the effect these relationships will have on Palestine.

In Ambassador Regev’s promotion of Israeli democracy, he did highlight that Israel is in the aftermath of two unsuccessful general elections in the last year, with the third due in March. However, to reinforce democratic legitimacy, Ambassador Regev added commentary that unlike Syria and the former USSR, he did not know the election outcome. This was the beginning of an assault of reassurances that Israel is in fact a democratic, credible state with a vast future ahead of itself. Questions from the audience about the future of Israel was met with an ambiance of  optimism from Ambassador Regev, boasting of allies within the region. In contrast to Israel, Ambassador Regev persisted, Palestinians cannot vote, they are persecuted if they are to demonstrate and are not in fact living in a democracy, however under Israel they would enjoy democratic rights. Despite the negative, yet expectant light, being shred on Palestine, Ambassador Regev looked to the future of reconciliation and a Middle East which looks, in his eyes, in the spirt and form of the  European Union. In an realistic tone, Ambassador Regev, observed that this would not happen anytime soon. The realism being shred on future relations within the Middle East, did portray how far the region has to go to create peace. However, Ambassador Regev’s attitude and answers to almost every question regarding the Middle East and Israel was of the strengths of Israel as a functioning democracy and of increased relations with its neighbours. With Israeli leaked footage of Israel, Saudi and UAE talks, under the patronage of Mike Pence, there is further emphasis for  the hoped direction  Netanyahu and Ambassador Regev have for Israel.

Ambassador Regev also took questions regarding relations within British politics, specifically, the British Labour Party. With Ambassador Regev being at the centre of criticism against Jeremy Corbyn and anti-Semitism within the Labour Party, it was no surprise that Ambassador Regev saw Corbyn as hostile to Israel and highlighted the investigation of anti-Semitism within the Labour  Party. Despite condemnation of Corbyn, Ambassador Regev proclaimed Tony Blair and Gordon Brown as ‘friends of Israel’ and inspiration from their university reforms were put in place in Israel. The divide between Israel and the British Labour Party was one Ambassador Regev perceived as closing, with the leadership contest well underway, there is certainly hope for a new relationship between British Labour and Israel. Answering an audience  question regarding if relations will change between Britain and Israel now Britain has left the European Union, Ambassador Regev saw an opportunity of improved relations now the UK is looking outside of the EU for trade. Boasting of a nine billion of bilateral trade with the UK, and twenty billion bilateral trade for India and Britain; there was a certain sense that Israel, now seeing the reliance the UK has on US and outside-EU trade deals, could foresee a new relationship with Britain. This ‘opportunity’, as Ambassador Regev framed it, would indeed be vital for Israel, with as stronger relationship between the US and the UK, it seems realistic that the UK can be swayed to support the US in its relations with Israel.

The evening was interesting and thought provoking, however it certainly raised questions about Palestine. Ambassador Regev effectively painted Palestine as another issue within the Middle East, like Syria, that needed fixing. Of course, as a true diplomat, Ambassador Regev ensured that peace talks were always on the table with Palestine, however I felt with the alliances made with Trump’s America, there would be much more bargaining on Palestine’s part than Israel’s. Will there be peace in the region? Certainly not within the next decade, with Israel’s upcoming election, this could be an integral moment for Israel’s in sustaining its strength in continuing the operation for allies both inside and outside of the region.

Written by Sarah Tennent