Monthly Archives: April 2016

Human wrongs

When I think of Theresa May I think many things, but one thing that always springs to mind is that cat.

At the Tory Party Conference a while back, she said that a foreigner avoided deportation because he had a pet cat. “I’m not making it up,” she scoffed.

She was actually making it up. Or perhaps she was misinformed. Either way, she wasted no time trashing human rights as the one thing standing between the government and an effective immigration policy.

She keeps doing this. Despite missing the ridiculous immigration target year on year and failing on her own metric for her job, she is always able to refocus the collective mind on a tabloid bogeyman. Usually immigrants but also human rights mechanisms.

She did it again this week in her speech for the EU Remain campaign, unhelpfully bringing in the European Court of Human Rights, which she claimed “did nothing for our prosperity.”I mean, never mind that this is nothing to do with our membership of the EU and the fact that she has AGAIN chosen to either be disingenuous or is really, really misinformed (more on that later)…

Sure, Theresa. Human rights have done nothing for us. Except facilitate that very “prosperity” by ensuring that citizens are free to “go forth and prosper”, by and large. (there are people on the margins of course and prosperity isn’t felt by all). But is this one of the better places to live? Yes.

So Theresa is for staying in the EU but withdrawing from the ECHR, which legal blogger David Allen Green pointed out would also affect the Good Friday agreement. The ramifications of such an action are so huge as to make it an unworkable solution. She didn’t care, she got the headlines she wanted, as with the cat story. It’s all internal politics of course. She wants to be leader and needs to keep the anti-human rights right wingers on board.

It plays well in the galleries. But another story this week, Hillsborough, shows that human rights law is so important and relevant. As the TUC wrote in one of its analyses on Brexit, the international human rights regime raises the floor of rights. It isn’t the ceiling. It makes the State go further. It actually gives us more space, as citizens. Especially those who at one time or another have faced opprobrium: ethnic or sexual minorities. Hell, even majorities: women.

The point is: Hillsborough shows us that human rights still need to be defended. The families’ heartbreaking decades long struggle for justice was made possible because of the Human Rights Act, that Theresa and her friends are so desperate to repeal.

“The jury in the new Hillsborough inquest returned a verdict of “unlawful killing” in respect of the 96 people who died as result of the events on April 15 1989. The verdict was a triumph for the families of the dead who have campaigned for 27 years for justice. The scope of the new inquest, however, was only possible because of the Human Rights Act 1998, which gives the articles of the ECHR effect in domestic law.” – David Allen Green

If there is a time to show the public why human rights matter, it’s now.


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#BlackLivesMatter in the UK too

I wrote this for Open Democracy:#BLackLivesMatter in the UK too; why does the media care less? 

It was later covered by the Guardian.

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What has the ECHR ever done for us?

Following Theresa May’s illiterate/deeply disingenous intervention in the EU referendum debate, calling for Britain to stay in the EU but leave the European Court of Human Rights, it’s heartening to see this satirical video from Patrick Stewart.

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Update on Outraged Question Time Tory

She’s now a member of the Labour Party and for once, the Labour Party has managed to get some decent press out of something.

“No sane, logical or moral person within the UK in 2016, would ever want the conditions of inequality growing at such a pace as to break the back of society, with disastrous consequences for those with limited opportunities. The malice and contempt shown by this government in their attempts to undermine and oppress societies poorest and most vulnerable citizens is inexcusable.

“But if someone has a passion to show the country a new political direction with the commitment to social justice and high standards that Jeremy Corbyn and his colleagues represent, then now is the time to create some momentum to bring about change.” – Michelle Dorrell

On another note, while Labour is focused on the EU campaign and everyone is (more or less) happy with Corbyn’s stance – by which I mean the vocal, furious right-wing disrupters are momentarily distracted – it’s a nice, quiet period in which Labour seems to actually be getting on with its job in Opposition instead of burning its own house down.


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Yeah. But No.

So now that the EU campaign is officially on, we’re in for two months of one side making a claim and the other going: erm, no. At the moment it seems like it’s more the Remain camp putting its foot forward and the Leave camp squawking its indignation like chickens disturbed mid-meal. Perhaps that’s the nature of a campaign that has the government involved? it will use its might to lead the headlines.

This morning, then, the Treasury goes to bat with the cost of Brexit (over £3,000 to each family or something)  which Osborne describes as an act of self-immolation.

Predictably, Boris Osborne spluttered something.

Vote Leave basically said: nah. Not that they put forward different stats for you to compare or anything, but hey. What a time to be alive.

Project Fear is alive.

Project Perpetual Indignation is lit.

What I find most striking is the Tory Brexiters, who are now decrying Osborne’s economic expertise and the Treasury forecasts, when they seem happy enough to bank on both to proceed with austerity.

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Well someone voted for this

I’m trying to get back into watching Question Time, which I stopped watching after immigration became a weekly topic. To be fair, this is because people submitted questions on the topic, rather than the programme makers wanting to flog a dead horse, but it got wearying.

I’ve dipped in a few times and I’m always struck by the amount of pain and anger from the crowd. The audience is balanced with people from across the political perspective and of course I respond more to points that resonate with my political views, but I’ve been most struck by centrist or Tory voters who are pissed with the government that they feel betrayed them.

There was the T0ry voter who cried on the programme in October last year about the issue of the tax cuts. Speaking of her betrayal she shouted, “Shame on you!”

Last night, another woman echoed the sense of betrayal, saying Cameron “has stripped us of everything”.

And another man, who seemed like just a common-sense bloke, pointed out that if we collected monies owed due to tax avoidance we wouldn’t have to do austerity.

To be fair, the Question Time audience is hardly the average person on the street and they are a tiny sample. They are politically engaged. But I do see a growing acknowledgment of austerity as a political choice rather than an economic necessity. And a sense of betrayal from a lot of working and middle class voters who were (yes, it has to be said) were happy for an axe to fall when they voted for the Tories, comfortable in the assurance that it wouldn’t be on them.

We on the left are told again and again that we must smile and not say this for fear of scaring the horses away from us with our scary socialist ways…but…

someone voted for this.

Sit with that for a while.

No, really. When we’re all cried out we really have to sit with this and think it through.

Because while I don’t think “I Told You So” is useful, that has to be the starting point for a re-education (or just plain education) on what solidarity is about.

We have to take up for each other because otherwise they will come for us all. It’s just that simple. This has to be something that the Left keeps on saying because that’s the only way to build a movement that will stick beyond the political opportunism of the moment.

Of course, we should stick up for those who have been betrayed, but they need to stick up for other people too. Those people they were happy for the axe to fall on in 2010.

Solidarity. It’s just that simple.

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Marble Race

Nothing clever here. Just a marble race. In the sand. With commentary.


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Not Leftovers

I was incredibly moved to see this advert about China’s “Leftover Women”, the phrase for women over 30 (maybe even slightly younger than this!) who are not married.

It’s meant to be an empowering ad for a cosmetic company, so yes, consumerism and all that, but in a few minutes it goes to the heart of an issue that’s close to so many hearts – including mine.

I don’t feel like a “Leftover Woman” but being over 30 and unmarried has its frustrations and anxieties, particularly if you harbour hopes of having children one day.

It’s usually more about others than you, though. A single woman is sometimes perceived as a threat by attached women – no one quite knows what to do with you when it’s mostly couples socialising together.

And there are the assumptions – that you must be very picky or impossible or that you have a lot of free time and money as a result.

A while ago I would have probably written quite bitterly about the assumptions that some people make that your life is somehow less meaningful, particularly if you’re not a mother. Or about how you can be perceived as a failure.

But I’ve been on a journey. I discovered that I was becoming a bit bitter because felt like a failure. Looking at other people’s joy (sigh, social media) began to grate. The endless Facebook posts and photos of engagements, weddings and children chafed, irritated me.

At the time I was reading Gilead by Marilynne Robinson, now one of my favourite books of all time. In it, she writes (about covetise or envy):

“I don’t know exactly what covetise is, but in my experience it is not so much desiring someone else’s virtue or happiness as rejecting it, taking offence at the beauty of it”

That really resonated with me. I prayed. I reflected. I sat for a time with my (frustrated) hopes and expectations and tried to practise more gratitude for the place I was, rather than hankering after the place I wanted to be. (Perspective: it’s not like I am singularly obsessed or anything; let’s just say that every so often -more so if I went on Facebook – this feeling of ‘failure’ rankled.)

Now, I watch that video and it resonates with me, though I am lucky not to feel pressured by my family to settle down. And I am able to share my friends’ joy.

But most of all, things feel unbelievably sweet. Perhaps because I’m happy with where I’m at* instead of focusing on the alternative.

*Incidentally, where I’m at is a busy place because I’ve barely had time to blog for myself. But I’m back!


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