Monthly Archives: November 2014

Nanowriblo done

chomping hedgehogThis month I’ve been blogging daily (or almost daily) as part of National Novel Writing Month (Nanowrimo), except I’ve been doing the blog equivalent. Next year I’ll do the proper challenge, but this year I thought I’d use the exercise as an excuse to get my writing flow going again after my dissertation. And I’m done! It’s been good to build up a head of steam though, so I’m going to try to keep up the pace, and write better posts too. It’s also helped me to build up my confidence to start thinking of pitches – so all in all, Nanowriblo has done me good. Even if sometimes I’ve felt like that porcupine there.

Worth Remembering


Mapping Fear

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The Immigration Speech Cameron should give

Tomorrow Cameron is going to seek to deflect from the news that he has spectacularly missed his arbitrary and nonsensical immigration target. I expect it will be ghost written by Migration Watch and aimed at UKIP supporters. There will no doubt be references to “common sense” and will be laced throughout with lots of “every man” metaphors (a bit like his flashing lights on the dashboard of the global economy). It will be a sop to the Eurosceptic wing of his party and he’ll bang the drum about leaving the EU.

We’ll see.

Meanwhile, Jonathan Portes has written an excellent, frank and honest article on the speech Cameron should give – would give, if he had some courage.

“We need to return to a migration policy that is no longer driven by arbitrary targets better suited to a centrally planned economy – and an immigration systemthat doesn’t assume bureaucrats in the Home Office are best placed to assess the needs of a flexible labour market in an increasingly knowledge-driven economy. Even more importantly, we need to stop pretending to young people excluded from the labour market, or communities left behind by economic recovery, that restricting migration – as opposed to the hard work of real policies to improve skills or invest in infrastructure – is somehow a magic solution.

And politicians must have the courage to try to explain this to the public, and to convince them that an open, outward-looking Britain may not be the best of all possible worlds. This is better than any of the options on offer.”

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Hidden Migrants

CaptureI’ve just finished the chapter in Angier’s excellent book, “Woman: an intimate geography” where she unpacks the mystery and the wonder of the ovaries and human egg. I don’t have kids (yet?) but I now rest in the knowledge that I am not only carrying around potential lives within me, but migrants. Because no matter who I marry, as I am a migrant, the Daily Express assures me today, my (potential) children are part of a hidden horde of migrants, poised to invade Britain from within.


The stain of migration will apparently never wash clean.* I’m sure my children will emerge from the womb with a benefits form in one hand and the keys to a council house in another. They will go on to steal a “real” British child’s nursery place, which is really just a warm up for snatching their job later. And their benefits. At the same time.

For two weeks in that heady 2012 Olympic summer, Britain was proud of her diverse history. The Mail’s “plastic Brits” splash featuring Mo Farah and others (Brits by passport only, not really one of us apparently) was derided as ridiculous and nasty.

It was a good summer. And now we’re in a long, cold winter of discontent in the run-up to the elections. The race to exclude has gone from non-EEA migrants, to EU migrants, to anyone who marries a migrant,  to the next generation – who are, for all intents and purposes, British. Where to next? It’s a shameless race to the bottom. Perhaps as more and more of the “right” Brits get ensnared in the net of suspicion there will be a collective pushback. Are you loving the right person? Are you having kids with the right person? Now….where in history have we seen this sort of insidious messaging before?

* and this is why I wear the label of migrant with pride.

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Where words fall short

I didn’t really expect anything different from the Ferguson verdict, but it was still disappointing. Words seem so inadequate. I’ve nothing to add to the many eloquent voices I’ve heard and read today…and so many other days. Mike Brown. Trayvon Martin. Tamir Rice. Mark Duggan. Cynthia Jarrett. Renisha McBride. I just remember.


Soft grey ghosts crawl up my sleeve

to peer into my eyes

while I within deny their threats

and answer them with lies.


Mushlike memories perform

a ritual on my lips

I lie in stolid hopelessness

and they lay my soul in strips.

– Maya Angelou


The UK Map of White Male Power

I have a lot of time for Ampp3d, the Mirror’s witty, data-driven blog. They’ve compiled a map of UK White Male Power, looking at the representation of women and ethnic minorities in parliament over the decades.

“Has your area of the UK ever elected a minority candidate? Or a woman? Odds are that the answer is no. Default man – aka a white man – is likely to have been in power there every year since the 13th century.” – Ampp3d blog

Things I learnt:

  • The first non-white MP was elected in 1892
  • The first woman MP was elected in 1916
  • Out of the UK’s 650 parliamentary constituencies, 320 of them have NEVER had a woman and/or a person of colour as their MP.
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All Glamour

Two coffee table books that I simply must have and which push all my beauty, glamour and fashion buttons:

tumblr_static_rocket88_vintageblackglamour_coverFashionAfrica_online_marketing_17july-wpcf_240x350Vintage Black Glamour, by the creator of the blog of the same name.

And Fashion Africa by Jacaranda Books.


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On guilt and grasping

I’ve been thinking about Emily Thornberry’s tweet all weekend. OK, maybe not all weekend. I got my first taster of gin cocktails on Friday night at the Star at Night in Soho, and I had two of my favourite cocktails at London Cocktail Club on Saturday night – the Pornstar Martini (a passionfruit delight that comes with a shot of prosecco) and the Heisenberg (tequila-based homage to Breaking Bad that comes with a knowing sachet of blue coloured salt)….ok, I’m back- where was I?

Yes, so when I wasn’t drinking, or recovering from the latter, I was thinking about Emily Thornberry’s tweet and the reactions to it. She posted, without comment, a picture of a terraced house  festooned with England flags and with a white van outside. The fact that she did shows that it was almost as if she was in a foreign country, far away from Islington. It shouldn’t be so. But she didn’t mock it.

However, the Labour party’s scramble to compensate for her perceived lack of tact and out-of-touchness with the working class strikes me as a bit of an overreaction that betrays their own anxiety and guilt about not standing up for working class people. What she did was embarassing, but the cover-up is usually worse than the crime. That holds true in this case. Ed Miliband, who can’t (won’t) even back the care workers in his constituency battling for a living wage condemned Thornberry (I’m outraged! etc)  and then went on a grovelling campaign.

If Labour really wants to respect people like White Van Man (who is fast becoming our Joe the Plumber equivalent) it would push back on austerity rather than accepting it wholesale, and work on lifting people out of poverty wages that were topped up with tax credits. It would challenge  UKIP. I mean properly challenge UKIP by dealing with people’s legitimate concerns but without pandering to bigotry.

Right now they (and the other parties) pander to UKIP rather than tackling the causes behind what drives people to protest there. And some of those reasons also require honest talk – on migration, for instance. It’s a reality of the 21st century. Now… that will never be acceptable to some. But recent research from British Future reveals a moderate – anxious, yes, but nuanced – majority who could be persuaded to accept migration if their concerns are addressed. Instead, we have nervy soundbites and grovelling op-eds about….a tweet.

And just as the “UKIP are right but vote for us to get UKIP policies” is a patronising (and incidentally, a losing) strategy, that confirms the prejudices and conspiracy theories of UKIP supporters (Nigel is right! And now the establishment just wants us to be good and vote for them again anyway)-  the scramble over Thornberry scramble is unedifying because it’s almost as though Labour was caught out showing its true colours – rather than one woman betraying her snobbery. Their reaction actually confirms everyone’s suspicions that Labour does indeed no longer stand for working people.

(There’s a  great discussion over on the Guardian politics podcast – one of the commentator makes the point that UKIP is a nasty vehicle of protest. I agree very strongly. I do think there is a crisis of representation, but protesters should weigh up the impact of allying themselves with a racist, extremist, truly nasty party just to give the establishment a bloody nose. And…about that establishment, UKIP is hardly anti-establishment)


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Stranger Citizen

paddington_2888171bWhen I was a little girl, I had a pair of little red wellington boots that I wore obsessively, whatever the weather, till they didn’t fit me anymore. I’ve never given it much thought until I saw one of the Paddington Bear statues in Paddington station the other day, one of 50 placed around the city to mark the new movie. I realise now that I loved my boots because Paddington had a similar pair, and I adored that bear, even though I didn’t like marmalade. Funnily enough, there’s a lot of celebration and anticipation around the new film of Paddington, even as we have a very ill-tempered and often cruel discourse on immigration. Paddington was effectively an undocumented migrant “from darkest Peru” who arrived with a little suitcase (more than most in a similar position) and was adopted by a loving family.

When I was younger I loved Paddington’s outfit and his propensity to cause havoc. Now that I’m older, I appreciate the gentle lesson of acceptance and welcoming the stranger. I was reading a blog earlier on citizenship as a moral ideal, which I thought threw up some interesting thoughts on citizenship “as a status given to the individual by a community (passport-citizenship)”  and “as a moral ideal that exists whether or not it is recognised by the community.”

I think it’s a fascinating exploration of looking beyond the paperwork to how we build our societies.

“The ideal of citizenship lies submerged in our basic obligation to take care of the stranger even when they do not seem a citizen.” – Simon Duffy, from “Citizenship as a moral ideal”

Should we not treat the undocumented, the refugee, the temporary migrant, student – whoever – as a citizen, regardless of their paperwork? Even as I typed that I thought of welfare and benefits – but that’s exactly the problem. That’s a hobbled view of citizenship, which more than just a series of checks and balances – rights and responsibilities. Community, those many ties that bind, goes beyond paperwork. What I think a lot of politicians overlook is that when they posion the well of public discourse, community, brotherhood, or whatever you want to call it – suffers, long after their election is won.


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