An Open Letter To The Labour Party – From Someone Denied Membership

Dear Sir/Madam,

I am writing in relation to the Labour Membership Appeal 2493653.

After careful consideration, I have decided to withdraw my appeal relating to my application to become a member of the Labour party. My reasons for doing so are numerous, and are outlined below. If you could return the £25 that was accepted from me in the last leadership election, but then which related vote was denied, we will consider the matter closed.

To confirm, I do not wish to continue with the appeal against being denied membership of the party. My reasons for no longer wanting to be a member of the Labour party are as follows:

Continue reading “An Open Letter To The Labour Party – From Someone Denied Membership”

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Paxman Suggests We Cap The Voting Age – And I Am Inclined To Agree

Recently, much has been made of the proposal to lower the voting age to 16, but what would happen if, instead of having a lower barrier to enter, you had a ceiling to cap it instead.

Interestingly, such a suggestion came from the irreplaceable Jeremy Paxman, in an article for the Financial Times in late November.

The article is entitled: “cull the grey vote – it is an affront to democracy” and is a surprising line to take by a man that is openly a Conservative voter.

Continue reading “Paxman Suggests We Cap The Voting Age – And I Am Inclined To Agree”

The UK General Election’s Red Wedding

The clouds were darker this morning, the sun was less piercing, the shadows of people I passed, and indeed even their faces, were longer. The birds were not singing as sweetly, the air was not as crisp and clear, and the wind seemed particularly cold as it blew against me on my way to work.

The election night of May 2015 will go down as one of the most frustrating, and depressing nights of my life. Somehow, some way, David Cameron not only managed to hold on to his place in Number 10, but he actually managed to strengthen it. After 5 years of austerity measures the UK gave the Conservative party an increased representation in the Commons. As one commentator online stated; “can a country have Stockholm Syndrome?”

I, like many people, was profoundly shocked by the BBC Exit Poll forecast, but in hindsight that would have been a much more preferable result. As it turned out, even the BBC Exit Poll had it wrong. It was far too optimistic a projection.

There are positives to be taken from the election, but they are minor victories. The discovery that your kitchen has survived the bombing despite the rest of your housing having been blown apart. They are the thinnest silver linings on the very darkest of clouds.

Nigel Farage – for the time being at least – has abandoned his pretence as a politician, resigning from the leadership of UKIP after failing to get elected to Parliament. Nick Clegg has also resigned from his post as leader of the Liberal Democrats. In a frank and honest admission – perhaps the first time we have ever seen honesty from Nick – he stated that the results of the election were a “catastrophe” for the party. From the lofty heights of having 57 MPs in Parliament, the Lib Dems now have only eight. It is a massacre worthy of an episode of Game of Thrones.

Speaking of massacres, Labour have also been left licking their substantial wounds. North of the border, in Scotland, the SNP political earthquake has left few survivors. Just three of the 59 available seats have survived the onslaught, one each belonging to Labour, the Lib Dems, and the Tories. It is a stunning achievement for the SNP and the Left in Scotland, and they have every right to celebrate. Alex Salmond, now an MP himself, said that the “lion has roared.”

As the lion roared in Scotland, England had nothing but a whimper. Progress from the Greens in the constituencies where they stood was perhaps the only positive note to take from the elections. Labour’s shambolic failings have left the country awash of blue and the outlook for the next five years is bleak.

Cuts estimated to be in the region of £12 billion pounds are to occur, fox hunting is likely to be legalised, the Human Rights Act is to be scrapped, TTIP is to proceed, fracking will continue, and there is set to be an in-out referendum on the EU. Worryingly, this is just the tip of a very large, and now unrestrained, Tory iceberg that we are heading towards with reckless abandon. If this is the path the country has chosen to take, I fear for its people and its future.

Such is my dejection and disappointment with the election result and the choices of the UK voters, that there is a very real consideration revolving in my head regarding leaving these shores. A Masters has always appealed to me, and perhaps now I have an excuse to return to academia and escape what is sure to be a hellish five years.

How can this have happened? I am not entirely sure. The polls were wrong, the media was wrong, and the people of the UK have left me with the overwhelming sense that they are wrong also. I simply cannot comprehend how after five years of brutal public sector cuts, the Tories have managed to tighten their grip on power. We are turkeys and every week is set to be thanksgiving.

Labour’s failure can be viewed from many standpoints, but I believe that it shows just how out of touch with their voters they have become. It is no surprise to me that the unashamedly anti-austerity parties all fared well at these elections. Plaid Cymru received their third highest vote share ever, holding their three seats in Wales; the Green Party received over one million votes with their MP Caroline Lucas increasing her majority in Brighton Pavilion; and the SNP now effectively rule Scotland.

Labour, with their controlled immigration stance and their Tory-lite austerity policy, failed to offer anything. If after five years of opposition you actually lose seats as a party then it is time for a very serious re-evaluation. Labour are out of touch, and they have been for years. Former Lib Dems now see the Tories as a better option, disaffected members of the working class feel abandoned and turn to UKIP for support, socialists and left-wing advocates are heading to the Greens and the SNP.

In the coming weeks and months we are set to see the full force of the right-wing Tory agenda. I expect it is to be a dark time for millions of people across the country, but despite my desire to abandon this country to its fate, now is not the time to run. We must organise, and we must fight, because what we have experienced in the last five years is nothing in comparison to what is to come.

We are the resistance. We are the opposition.

Brighton & Hove

 

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This article was originally published on Cultured Vultures on 11/05/15

What Is Progress?

As defined by the Oxford dictionary, progress is: “development towards an improved or more advanced condition.” Merriam-Webster defines it as: “the process of improving or developing something over a period of time” or, more concisely, “gradual betterment.”

As is the case with attempting to understand any word or phrase, we are confined by the boundaries of our own language. How can we attempt to explain what a word represents when we only have other replacement words to use in our explanation?

But it is not our language that I wish to discuss, or more specifically, not the issue of our language being both an advantage and a hindrance. The issue at hand is the context of the word in which we use it. What its meaning is when we speak it, what we understand by the term when we hear it.

Progress is a term that evokes positive feelings. When someone is said to have made progress then we consider it a good thing. Inherently then it seems that progress is a virtue rather than a vice.

I believe this to be true, and I am sure many of you would agree with me. It’s highly likely that if we encountered someone that did not agree, that person would have a very difficult time in persuading us that progress is in fact a bad thing.

This widespread belief then, that progress is good, immediately faces a contradiction when taken into the political sphere. Progressives are overwhelmingly people of the Left, and yet if what they advocate is inherently good, why are our societies not dominated by these sorts of political parties? Put simply, if we all agree that progress is good, and there is a progressive party in existence in our nation, why are we not voting for them every time?

In political terms, and by its very definition, to be conservative is to avoid change. It is to be cautious and a believer in, and defender of, the status quo. Conservative can be seen as the exact opposite of progressive, and yet in the UK, we have had a Conservative Prime Minister for four years. Does this mean then that the people of the UK knowingly deprived themselves of something considered inherently good?

The problem with politics is that words very quickly lose all meaning. Freedom, choice, promise, hero, progress. Evidence of this can be seen, oxymoronically, in the fact you can get Progressive Conservatives. People who are firm believers of cautious, conservative ideals, yet also claim to be progressive in what they wish for the society. And it is this that perfectly illustrates the problem of progress.

Progress is a mercenary and a whore. It is picked up and put down more times than it cares to remember. The values and the beliefs that we have grown to associate with it become hazy. No longer are we confident in what it represents. Such is its over-usage that the word itself has lost almost all meaning.

Progress in today’s society is more money in the bank, it is faster cars, and more devastating weapons. It is cheaper items in shops, more railways and roads, and continuing discussions with tyrants across the world. If we return to the initial definitions that we spoke of, with progress being “development towards an improved or more advanced condition”, we are left with the more questions. Aside from the figure on the bank balance, what has developed? Are cheaper T-shirts and faster cars the “advanced condition” that we want to see?

Unless you are nothing but the most shallow of materialists, then I would assume your answer would be no. Faster cars, cheaper clothes, and more money in the bank are not the pillars of the “advanced condition” in which we wish to live, and they do not represent progress.

It is for this reason that when we discuss the issue of progress within societies, we must ignore such meaningless topics and instead concentrate on what can truly be worthy of the label of progress. The conditions in which we live, our life expectancy, the relationship between men and women, the effect our activities are having on the planet, the opportunities available to a nation’s populace.

In 2013 a South Korean film named Snowpiercer was released. It was based on a French graphic novel, and though it scored highly on both IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes, I felt it was a rather poor watch. It does however contain a nice metaphor for progress. A speeding train, continually moving on a circular track. Going nowhere fast.

Over a century earlier, in 1912, Woodrow Wilson had his own metaphor for progress. In a campaign speech which, like the title of this piece, was entitled “What is Progress?” He said:

“All progress depends on how fast you are going, and where you are going, and I fear there has been too much of this thing of knowing neither how fast we were going or where we were going. I have my private belief that we have been doing most of our progressiveness after the fashion of those things that in my boyhood days we called “treadmills,” a treadmill being a moving platform, with cleats on it, on which some poor devil of a mule was forced to walk forever without getting anywhere.”

Until we come to realise what does and does not constitute progress, we will continue to be that mule walking on Woodrow’s treadmill for many years to come.

More progress quotes:

“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” – George Bernard Shaw

“Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.” – Martin Luther King

“The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much it is whether we provide enough for those who have little.” – Franklin D Roosevelt

Further reading:

Social Progress Imperative

Good, natural, malignant: five ways people frame economic growth

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This article was originally published here, at Cultured Vultures on 17/3/15

The Illusion of Choice

This week brought the news that the leaders television debates on the BBC and ITV will have their format changed in order to accommodate other parties. Such a step is a necessary act if we are to truly believe in the ideals of democracy, but even with this change, we are too commonly presented with the illusion of choice instead of the reality of it.

For far too long in the country, both the media and the political parties have reinforced the feelings of a two party system. Similar to the United States whereby they have either Republican or Democrat, we in the UK have fallen hook, line and sinker for Labour or Conservative. These, we are told and we believe, are the only possibilities.

Labour and the Conservatives have been fighting one another for so long, a blur of red fists and blue fists, that they have began to look remarkably similar. With these two parties being the only choice for UK voters for decades, their policies were not incredibly dissimilar. Indeed they could not be, for fear of alienating the population, and therefore potentially losing votes. Both Conservatives and Labour voted in favour of invading Iraq in the early part of this century, and more recently both Conservative and Labour have voted to continue the policy of austerity.

With such friends, who needs enemies? And with such opposition, who needs support?

There are a multitude of reasons as to why the UK voter turnout has gradually decreased, but one of the reasons may well be that people have awoken to the fact that a vote, in this UK democratic system, is rather meaningless. There is light between Labour and the Conservatives, but for the large majority of people, that light is so slim that it may as well not be there. It does not surprise me that some disillusioned voters on the left now refer to Labour as “red Tories.”

The problem with having only two parties with any chance of forming a government is that an array of choice is not offered to the nations voters. The two parties pick their issues, Labour with the NHS, the Conservatives with the economy, and besides those, they agree on pretty much everything else. Even with the recent climb of UKIP, and the presence of the Liberal Democrats in the coalition, difference between parties is rare.

Two weeks ago the voters were told that the options were Labour, Conservative, UKIP, or the Liberal Democrats. All of these parties are headed by white, middle class males; all of these parties are committed to the idea of continuing austerity; and all of these parties have taken a controlled or anti-immigration stance.

There is choice at the general election when you look at the Big Four – as I shall call them here – but it is the same choice that you see when you walk into a shop and glance at the fridge to find Tango, Pepsi, Coke, Fanta, Dr Pepper, Sprite and Lilt. There seems to be a choice of drinks, a wide variety of options that are open to you, but no matter what you buy, your money will only ever end up in the hands of a select few.

Cynically you may see Labour as Conservative-lite, or “red Tories”, an improvement on the Conservatives, but still too close to them for comfort. You may see Conservatives as Labour, but with more focus on economy and harsher views on immigration. UKIP have been dubbed “more Tory than the Tories”, and so they may be seen as Conservative-hard. And the Liberal Democrats? Well, they just seem to position themselves wherever they are more likely to pick up voters.

If the political landscape was a football pitch, the Big Four would occupy a space in the centre circle. The Tories and UKIP to the right of the centre spot, and Labour to the left slightly. With the entire pitch to play on though, where are the other parties, and why is nobody taking advantage of the space?

Within this centre circle of parties there are a number of issues which are just not discussed or even contemplated. Political slogans and re-election campaigns choose to focus very narrowly on single issues. Ed Miliband insists on tackling “the cost of living crisis” as well as the NHS. David Cameron is all about jobs, growth, and the economy. Nigel Farage, as everyone is well aware by now, has an issue with foreigners. Immigrants working, immigrants claiming benefits, immigrants causing congestion on the M4, and so forth. Nick Clegg just seems a little lost.

So these are the issues that the leaders have declared worthy of the public’s attention. These are what the general election will be won and lost on. The Big Four are your only option, and if you are to get change, it will only come about in a very narrow framework. Austerity, but Labour austerity. Anti-immigration policies, but Tory anti-immigration policies.

The breath of fresh air in European politics that is Syriza has only gone to further reaffirm the fact that real choice in the UK at election time, is thin on the ground. As I write this they are gearing up for the 2015 Greek general election, and if the polls are to be believed, they are to lead Greece come Monday morning. In a country mired in turmoil, and with its people deciding that centre circle politics will not be enough to save them this time, Syriza have finally given an opportunity for real change. Their 40-point programme looks at issues many parties would not even contemplate.

The UK needs a Syriza of its own, not because I believe a party like Syriza to be the best option, although that is true, the UK needs a Syriza of its own because such parties are necessary within democracies. In order for democracy to live up to its billing, you need a multitude of opinions and ideas. In essence you need choice, and for too long the UK has just not been getting that.

Where are the parties talking about nuclear missiles, and the renewal of Trident? Where are the parties that are opposed to the barbaric practices of Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, who have long been allies of the UK? Where are the parties that recognise Israel as an enemy of freedom, an obstacle of human rights, and an apartheid state routinely conducting war crimes? Where are the parties who want to abolish UK tuition fees for University students? Where are the parties looking for a fairer method of voting, introducing proportional representation rather than the unsuitable and dated first past the post system? Where too are the parties opposed to UK military engagement overseas? Or the monarchy?

Democracy, like the Premier League, is larger than simply the Big Four. There are very real parties out there, with very valid policies. Many of which you would strongly support if only you knew about them.

Do not let mainstream media, and the mainstream political parties, blinker you into believing that there is only a choice between four. There is not, and it is time we showed them that.


Recommended links:

Scottish National Party – link to their homepage
Green Party – link to their homepage
Plaid Cymru – link to their homepage
National Health Action Party – link to their homepage
Socialist Party – link to their homepage
Socialist Workers Party – link to their homepage
Class War – link to their homepage

 

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