Category Archives: Politics

The NHS and the blaming of rape victims

 

This poster was produced in 2006 and serves as one of many examples of institutionalized forms of ‘victim blaming’.

victim blaming

I was slightly horrified to see this poster re-circulating on social media this morning. It is yet another example of ‘victim blaming’ – the suggestion that a victim of rape was somehow at fault because of her behaviour. 

This poster becomes that bit more shocking when you spot that it is produced, published and distributed by our own government.

‘Victim blaming’ is one of those myths that I spend so much of my time trying to counter. Simply, a rape is never the victims fault – the blame always ultimately rests with those who put their penis inside someone without that other persons consent. 

Simple.

Or, in the words of the NHS (in a separate campaign to the ‘Know your limits’ campaign):

“If you have been sexually assaulted, remember that it wasn’t your fault. It doesn’t matter what you were wearing, where you were or whether you had been drinking. A sexual assault is always the fault of the perpetrator.”

If the NHS did want to draw some connections between alcohol consumption and sexual assault though without slipping down this dangerous road of victim blaming, they could have made the exact same poster with the words:

“approximately one-half of all sexual assaults are committed by men who have been drinking alcohol.”

One study on alcohol and sexual assault concluded it’s literature review saying:

“Depending on the sample studied and the measures used, the estimates for alcohol use among perpetrators have ranged from 34 to 74 percent”. 

The same study estimates that at least 20 percent of American men report having perpetrated sexual assault and 5 percent report having committed rape. The obvious conclusion to this is that 10% of American men have committed sexual assault after they have been drinking.

This issue is a serious one that involves facing up to taboos as well as a very well funded drinks industry. Our safety, not just of girls, but all of us depends on tackling this. I don’t think it is hyperbole to say we are in midst of an unspoken epidemic.

Sadly this contribution from the NHS to the debate adds little but does reinforce an incredibly negative persistent perception that the victim is somehow to blame for being raped.

 

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Finally, Miliband gets his makeover

Miliband
In May this year Hynd’s Blog reported on the start of the ‘great Miliband makeover’. The crux of that report was the news that Obama’s election guru David Axelrod had been paid a very large sum of money to get rid of his ‘image problem’.

I’ve been holding my breath for just over 2 months now but at last here it is – the promised Miliband makeover.

This makeover comes in the form of what Mark Ferguson refers to as the ‘hanging lantern’ makeover. In short, the idea is to shine a light on to your supposed weakness and turn it into a strength. The classic example of this approach is Ronald Reagan (old) being turned to his advantage (‘experience’).

As I wrote before, Miliband’s image problem was around being seen as weird, awkward and frankly not leadership material.  And so, with David Axelrod’s guiding hand, Miliband today looked to turn those perceived weaknesses into strengths.

This is what he had to say:

This is the key section with my comments in italics:

“I am not from central casting. You can find people who are more square-jawed, more chiselled, look less like Wallace [reference to the fact he looks like Wallace from Wallace and Gromit – a cartoon, a joke, accident prone etc]. You could probably even find people who look better eating a bacon sandwich [reference to the viral bacon sandwich photo that spread like wildfire on the logic ‘if he can’t eat a bacon sandwich, can he really run a country’?]. If you want the politician from central casting, it’s just not me, it’s the other guy [‘the other guy’ – clever, puts the idea out there that he is not one of these identikit politicians’]. If you want a politician who thinks that a good photo is the most important thing, then don’t vote for me. 

“But I believe that people would quite like somebody to stand up and say there is more to politics than the photo op. If politics is going to respond to the distrust people have, it has to begin to respond to talking about you.

“The current Prime Minister might take a good picture [referencing the hug a huskie turn ‘get rid of all that green crap’ perception of Cameron only being interested in image]. but he can’t build a country that works for you. It is not what interests him. And it is not who he stands up for.

Essentially this was Milband (or Axelrod – you can interchange as you see fit) trying to re-define what it means to be a ‘good leader’.

Of course, there is the possibility that all the media will focus on is Miliband repeating their lines – that he can’t eat a bacon sandwich, but this is a bold (you might even say American) attempt to rebrand himself.

Only time will tell if the Miliband makeover has worked or not. But through shameless electoral engineering need we appear to have a political leader saying there is more to politics than shameless electioneering need…I think that’s a good thing.

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Lib Dem MP says he would fire rockets at Israel if he lived in Gaza Strip

David Ward
Somewhere in Westminster the Head of Communications for the Liberal Democrats head has just hit his desk. “Why oh why” he will be asking anyone who will listen, “does David Ward MP keep tweeting?”

This is his latest contribution:

Wow. Put another way, he is saying that he would undertake committing a war crime. Why? Because these rockets fired by Hamas and other armed militant groups in Gaza do not have capability to distinguish between civilian and military targets.

Or, put another way, this is a MP saying that he would perpetuate a climate of fear in Israel that is, at least in part, responsible for the on-going conflict. This would be a badly thought out comment from an average Joe on the internet, but coming from a MP…just wow!

Of course, David Ward has a history with his twitter account and the Israel/Palestine conflict. Back in January 2013 Hynd’s Blog reported on his comments on “the Jews” and how they “should learn from the holocaust”.

Just like in 2013, the Liberal Democrats have had to distance themselves from him and his comments. A spokesperson for the party was quoted by the BBC as saying:

We utterly condemn David Ward’s comments, they are not representative of the Liberal Democrats. “The party takes this matter very seriously and will treat it as a disciplinary issue.”

Quite right as well.

Apart from the fact that comments like these distract from the atrocities being committed in the Gaza Strip at the moment, it also highlights a minority of the public who sympathise with such badly thought out views (although it is also noteworthy that most responses on and off twitter are condemning his comments). That said, his comments clearly struck a chord with some people:

Finally, it is also worth remembering that Ward is not the first elected politician to express such sentiment. Remember one Ehud Barak saying, “If I were a Palestinian I would have joined a terrorist organisation.”?

UPDATE:

From The Guardian:

This morning Ward told Radio 5 Live that he was not condoning the Hamas missile attacks on Israel; he was trying to understand why they happen.

The comment was about understanding why people are firing rockets. I am not condoning that. In fact, yesterday in the House of Commons I condemned it. I’m saying I understand why people are so desperate that they are doing it ….

Why are they firing the rockets? When the rockets are fired, they’re done by people who know what is going to happen, the repercussions of that, this horrendous military force that Israel have will result in further Palestinian [casualties]. Why are they doing that? The answer is they are so desperate to retaliate for what is happening to them …

This is supposedly about the security of Israel. Why is it insecure? Why is it under threat? It’s because of the occupation. So what do we do? We have a ceasefire, a so-called ceasefire, where there isn’t rockets being fired out of Gaza, and then what? We go back to a situation where there’s a brutal oppression of the Palestinians and we call that peace.

I have always maintained that the occupation and associated human rights abuses act as a partial explanation to crimes committed by Palestinians but cannot act as a justification. Equally, I reiterate that it can only act as a partial explanation otherwise you patronizingly remove all agency from Palestinian actors who chose to take to arms as well as those who don’t!

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The new cabinet in full

david-cameron
Here is the complete new look cabinet. Complete with an Equalities Minister opposed to same-sex marriage, a Health Minister who thinks homeopathy works and a eurosceptic minister heading the Foreign and Commonwealth office.

Also note that after all the talk of a new look and bringing more women into the cabinet, this ‘new look’ does only involve a handful of women, 2 people who are not white, and, as far as I am aware, zero homosexuals.

It does though ensure that white, middle-class, Oxbridge educated men are still well represented. There is also a reasonable smattering of millionaires (the PM and DPM included).

Just to reiterate – these are the people who are running our country…

David Cameron – Prime Minister

Nick Clegg – Deputy Prime Minister

William Hague – First Secretary of State, Leader of the House of Commons

George Osborne – Chancellor of the Exchequer

Danny Alexander – Chief Secretary to the Treasury

Theresa May – Secretary of State for the Home Department

Michael Fallon – Secretary of State for Defence

Vince Cable – Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills

Iain Duncan Smith – Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

Chris Grayling – Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice

Nicky Morgan – Secretary of State for Education, Women & Equalities Min.

Eric Pickles – Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government

Jeremy Hunt – Secretary of State for Health

Elizabeth Truss – Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Justine Greening – Secretary of State for International Development

Alistair Carmichael – Secretary of State for Scotland

Edward Davey – Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change

Patrick McLoughlin – Secretary of State for Transport

Sajid Javid – Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

Theresa Villiers – Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

Stephen Crabb – Secretary of State for Wales

Philip Hammond – Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

Also allowed to attend Cabinet:

Michael Gove – Chief Whip and Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury

Francis Maude – Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General

Matt Hancock – Minister of State for BIS, DECC and Portsmouth

Esther McVey - Minister of State for Employment

Oliver Letwin – Minister for Government Policy, Lord Privy Seal

David Laws – Minister of State for Cabinet Office, Schools

Grant Shapps - Minister Without Portfolio

Baroness Warsi – Senior Minister of State, Faith and Communities

Greg Clark – Minister of State for Universities and Science

Jeremy Wright – Attorney General

Baroness Stowell - Leader of the House of Lords

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New Equalities Minister voted against same sex marriage

nickymorgan
Our virtual Prime Minister tweeted to tell us the new Education Secretary will continue as Minister for Women and Equalities.

Ignoring the slightly confusing fact that Cameron is wrong as she didn’t use to hold the equalities bit of the post he refers to (that was reserved the Sajid Javid), this does confirm that we now have someone who voted against same-sex marriage as the minister responsible for equalities.

Talking to her local paper Morgan said of the issue:

“There have been plenty of little changes down the years but what’s never been changed is that the fact that marriage is between a man and a woman. I think that was one of the issues people, especially those who asked me to vote against, found hardest to accept and it also tied in with my own Christian faith too.” 

Cameron’s government….fighting for equal rights, unless you are gay!

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Former Shell employee appointed as new Environment Secretary

truss
Today’s cabinet reshuffle has seen a number of high profile changes that have gripped the Westminster bubble (and let’s be honest, no one else).

One of the smaller changes that was pushed through was the departure of Owen Patterson from the post of Environment Secretary. Hynd’s Blog has reported before about how he doesn’t ‘believe’ in man-made climate change including the time when he managed to recite 10 separate climate change myths on national radio in as many seconds.

It is with considerable pleasure then that we see the back of him as he disappears back to the backbenches.

Replacing Patterson is the Conservative MP Liz Truss. Or perhaps a better prefix to her name might be ‘former Commercial Manager for Shell’ Liz Truss.

This employment history comes from her Wikipedia page which in turn references her own website biography. Interestingly though there is no mention of Shell on biography now….I’ll let you decide why she, or a government press spinner, might have taken this bit of information down before she is announced as the new Environment Secretary.

In case you are wondering about my use of Wikipedia, don’t worry, I cross checked it. We know that her employment history is true as she mentions it quite openly in a 2012 interview in the New Statesman.

All this said, we know very little about her views on the environment in general. We know that she pushed for solar panels to be put on school roofs but opposed ‘solar farms’ in her own Norfolk constituency…and that is about it.

Perhaps a more pertinent question for number 10 might be, what qualifications does she have to take up this role in the first place?

But hey, as we know, actually knowing anything about a cabinet brief is a side issue. The main criteria for promotion in this reshuffle seems to be to not be posh and/or male with the focus on being what is right for the Tory 2015 election strategy not what is right for Britain.

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Was the highlander’s contribution to BBC’s Question Time a ‘Better Together’ plant?

You might disagree with the sentiment of this man’s contribution to last night’s ‘Question Time’ but you have to appreciate the passion…

There is debate though about whether or not he was ‘Better Together‘ plant in the audience. Personally, I think there is about as much chance of that as this chap being a ‘Yes Scotland‘ campaign plant.

 

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Green Cllr Ben Duncan thrown out of Green group after ‘hired killers tweet’

ben 4
A couple of week’s ago Hynd’s Blog reported on Green Cllr Ben Duncan tweeting his way into another PR disaster. I finished that article by asking:

‘one has to wonder how much longer they will tolerate Cllr Duncan and his off message, and at time highly offensive, online comments?’

Well today we got our answer. Today’s Brighton Argus reports:

In a statement issued this morning, Lisa Murray, chairwoman of Brighton and Hove Green Party, said: “The panel of inquiry has concluded that Councillor Ben Duncan should no longer serve as a member of the Green Group of Councillors on Brighton and Hove City Council.

“This follows his recent statement on Twitter concerning the armed forces which understandably offended many both within and outside the party.

“The panel concluded that since this recent incident follows a history of making comments in social media that many would view as inappropriate for someone in such a position, taken as a whole, Councillor Duncan’s actions amount to a breach of standards and judgement expected of a Green councillor, bringing himself and colleagues into disrepute.

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Why I won’t be voting for Labour’s David Drew or joining the facebook group attacking him

David Drew
Today I stumbled across the Facebook group, ‘David Drew, some facts’.

It is a curious repetition of three accusations against the former Labour MP for Stroud. It holds significance though because he is, once again, standing in Stroud in 2015 in one of the closest fought marginal seats in the country.

Which means that my vote is one of the few in the UK that will hold any sway in the outcome of the 2015 election. Put another way, these accusations, if they sway just a handful of people, might be the difference between Labour returning an MP in Stroud or not.

In short the three accusations made on the page are (not in my words but the groups):

1)      He is anti-gay because in June 1998 David Drew voted against lowering the gay age of consent from 18 to 16. He was in a v small minority (source).

2)      He is against woman’s right to choose whether to have an abortion, partly evidenced by this vote in May 2008 he voted for a reduction in abortion time limit, to restrict women’s sole use of IVF and to restrict hybrid embryos (source).

3)      He is anti-freedom of speech because in May 2009. He asked the home secretary to ban entry to the UK of Dr Philip Nitschke, the Director of Exit International, a Euthanasia Campaign (no source given).

The first thing to note from this list is that after a 14 year spell in parliament, the fact that they could only rustle up three things to disagree with him about is telling. David was a pretty good MP and I am sure he will continue to represents many of my Green concerns (social justice, environmentalism, human rights etc) very well if re-elected.

I have to say, much more so than the party he represents always does!

That said, my personal political disagreements with David do also contribute to why I will be voting Green in May and not for David/Labour. Although to reiterate the weight of my reasoning here rests on the party he represents, not David as a person.

If you take just the Facebook group’s first point around same sex consent age as a case in point. When I asked him in 2010 about why he voted against lowering the age of consent for same sex couples so it matched that of heterosexual couples he responded by saying it was because he thought no one, regardless of their sexuality, should be able to have sex before the age of 18 and that he wanted the heterosexual age of consent to go up!

Slightly horrified about this slightly patronising answer and wondering if he tells this to the young Labour voters he has out delivering leaflets that he thinks their sexual relationships should be illegal, I went on to ask him then why he voted against a 2002 motion to vote on his own government’s plans to allow unmarried and gay couples to adopt children. On this occasion he blustered slightly and said that there was problem in the detail.

Did he really think that same sex couples should not be allowed to adopt? Does he still?

My worry is that David does hold homophobic views and this in turn is a bit of red line he crosses for me…discrimination. If he doesn’t he needs to work MUCH harder to convince me of this. As someone who follows equality issues quite closely I have never heard a comment from him on this subject let alone an effective rebuttal of the above accusations.

So if David is reading this, I hope he doesn’t take this as an attack but an opportunity to explain his vote against same sex couples being allowed to adopt (and maybe to clarify whether he really thinks a consensual relationship between two 17 year olds should be illegal).

There are a list of other concerns I have with David which include the ones listed above (he is reported to have wanted the abortion limit to be brought down from 24 weeks to 12 weeks!). For me though, one of my central concerns are his views on the EU that put him so far on the Eurosceptic fringe of European politics that UKIP actually endorsed him at the last election and told their candidate not to campaign against him. I kid you not!

At a time when the UK’s strategic relationship in Europe hangs in the balance the last thing this country needs is another Eurosceptic MP.

All this said, I do like David. I think he is gutsy in his politics and I didn’t like the way the facebook group went about what felt like organizing a collective attack on him. Take for example their repeated claim that he is ‘anti-women’ because of his stance on euthanasia. It is sensationalist and in my mind overtly aggressive. Clearly David values and campaigns for gender equality and his opposition to euthanasia is based on his Christian beliefs not on any discriminatory attitudes towards women.

We need to hold politicians to account but I don’t think we do this by ‘going after them’. It felt to me that this is what the facebook group was doing.

But ultimately all of this sits far from the main reasons for not voting for David Drew. Simply it is the fact that The Green Party still best represents the sort of politics I want to see and so, assuming their candidate or the party does not cross any red lines for me between now and the election, this is how I will be voting in May 2015.

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Greens to win in Brighton and finish second place in Norwich according to Lord Ashcroft after latest poll

Green.
Lord Ashcroft’s poll of specific marginal seats has resulted in some good news for The Green Party.

Writing on his findings the pollster commented:

“The swing to Labour would have been even greater had it not been for the Green Party, which has attracted around one in seven Lib Dem defectors in these seats since 2010. I found the Greens in second place on 20% in Norwich South, and third on 10% in Manchester Withington. Indeed for every two Lib Dem defectors switching to Labour, one has gone to the Greens.

The Greens’ performance suggests they may have been identified as the new non-of-the-above vote for former Lib Dems who dislike the coalition and do not want to back any of the established parties. In other words, they could perform the same function for younger urban voters that UKIP currently does among older voters in other parts of the country.

In Brighton Pavilion (whose figures are not included in the overall calculations for the Lib Dem-Lab marginals), I found Labour on 33%, just one point ahead of the Greens, who were up a point on the last election. The seat will evidently be closely contested but on this basis I would not be surprised to see Caroline Lucas holding on next year.”

Lord Ashcroft’s polling has consistently found the Green Party to be on 6-7% of the national vote share – a huge increase on their 1% vote share from 2010 and leaves them not only as the main contender for seats such as Brighton Pavilion and Norwich South but also realistically looking to keep their deposits in a number of seats across the country.

This polling follows strong performances in May’s elections where the Greens elected an additional MEP (and as such they proudly point out they now have treble the number of the Liberal Democrats MEPs) and beat the Lib Dems into in the total vote share – 1.2million voted for a Greens compared to for the Lib Dems 1.09million. The Greens also gained 23 additional councillors at the Local Elections and are now the official opposition in Liverpool, Norwich, Solihull and the London boroughs of Lewisham and Islington.

Things are looking up for Green politics in the UK.

UPDATE:

The good folk at Norwich Green Party just tweeted me to say:

 

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Another PR disaster for Green Cllr Ben Duncan

ben 4
Green Cllr, Ben Duncan has stumbled into another PR disaster.

The Cllr for Kemptown in Brighton, notorious for being off message, tweeted on ‘Armed Forces Day':

Ben

On this particular twitter PR disaster it took the Cllr nearly 48 hours to apologize:

Ben 2

And, as you might expect, this apology didn’t go down too well with some:

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The local party were quick to distant themselves from his remarks as well:

bhgreen 1

I keep referring to Cllr Duncan’s PR disasters in the plural because this isn’t the first time he has had to apologize. There was of course his 2012 apology for a remark about “murdering, raping and looting” during a debate on legalised cannabis cafes where he famously apologized with the phrase:

“I apologise unreservedly for mentioning rape in what was meant to be a light-hearted, ironic tweet…” 

Then there was that 2013 highlight where he was quoted in what was already a less than complimentary article about the Green Party in the The Guardian as saying:

“Jason Kitcat’s policies have time and again betrayed working people, city residents – and the electoral interests of the Green Party of England and Wales.”

Not exactly on message.

The Green Party with their lack of whip system is well known for accepting and encouraging internal disagreement and debate, but one has to wonder how much longer they will tolerate Cllr Duncan and his off message, and at time highly offensive, online comments?

You can keep up-to-date with Cllr Duncan’s online antics by following his twitter account @KemptownBen.

A hat tip to Charlotte Henry’s blog where I first saw this story.

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As the economy slips in importance to voters, Labour’s prospects suffer

After almost six years, the economy is no longer the most important issue facing Britain today’

This is the headline finding from the Ipsos Mori issues index published today.

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The polling, which asks voters which issues are the most important to Britain, has found that issues around race and immigration are now seen as the singular most important issue. The economy moves to second place, for the first time since August 2008.

These latest figures are part of a trend that has shown concerns over the economy slipping since 2011 from the notable spike that came soon after the onset of the financial crisis in 2008.

IPSOS MORI 1
The problem for Labour is that they have rallied around their ‘cost of living crisis’ campaign assuming that the economy will remain top of the list of voter concerns (as it had done for the last 6 years). This continued decline in importance to voters is bad news for Labour’s prospects in 2015.

Labour had established a good campaign on the ‘Cost of Living Crisis’ with strong messaging. Had the economic recovery been slower, or voter concern more consistent, then this would have provided a strong basis on which to campaign on in the run up to the General Election in 2015. As it stands however, it feels as though Labour are struggling to find their voice on other issues important to voters such as immigration let alone setting out a left-wing alternative that also addresses voters’ concerns.

If they fail to get this sorted this might well be the difference between government or opposition after May’s elections.

And of course, what is bad news for Labour is good news for the Conservatives who have been desperately trying to peddle the message that ‘they took hard decisions’ but that the economy is ‘back on track’ now they have cleaned up ‘Labour’s mess’.

The campaigns team in Tory HQ will be delighted with these Ipsos Mori findings.  However, the rise of the immigration/race issues that have traditionally played into Conservative hands may also fuel the continued rise of UKIP with their no-nonsense ‘standing up for Brits’ messaging.

These opinion polls are pulling all the major parties to the right, each trying to out do each other to sound ‘tough on immigration’. This phenomena has led to what some commentators are calling a bidding war on trying to sound tough on immigration.

Once again though this plays into Tory hands rather than Labour’s. The risk of Conservatives loosing votes by sounding too harsh on immigrants is small, for Labour this is a real possibility.

In short then, it might be a time for a re-think for Labour. How, with just over 300 days until the election, are they going to set out an attractive alternative that answers voters concerns on issues such as immigration, unemployment and the NHS?

I’m not sure they will be able to which is why at this stage I would put money on a Conservative minority government in 2015.

More information:

 

 

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2 questions from the People’s Assembly demonstration from last weekend

Over the weekend ten’s of thousands of people marched in London as part of the ‘People’s Assembly’ demonstration demanding an alternative to the government imposed austerity plan.

Out of this event though Hynd’s Blog has two simple question. The latter of which the answer is obvious, the former, not so.

1) What on earth is Russell Brand talking about? I mean, I like him, I think he is funny, but this speech is barely coherent.

2) Are we all agreed that Caroline Lucas is awesome? Her speech in contrast to Brand’s didn’t involve any removing of clothes but it did at least coherently outline why an alternative to austerity is important…you know, the whole reason why people were there.

This is not just a frivolous observation about ones oratory skills over another, but a serious point about how we bring about radical change. My feeling, reinforced by the weekend’s events, is that we are always more likely to bring about change by working within the system, voting for what we believe in. Caroline stands as a proof of what can be achieved by just one radical elected representative.

There is a time and place for people like Russell Brand. I am just not sure that he is the catalyst to change that so many on the left make him out to be and I wonder if it does us any favours to trot him out at every event? This weekend was good for the Russell Brand show, but was his speech a tool to help bring about change?

I think not!

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24 hours of politics on twitter – free owls and violence against women

The micro-blogging site twitter has transformed how we do politics. For better or worse it thrusts politics into the interactive which inevitably results in the sublime, the ridiculous and of course, the disgustingly offensive. The last 24 hours has given us two contrasting examples.

To start with the sublimely ridiculous:

Labour owls

*The Labour Party later claimed that they had been hacked.

But then to follow we have the sinister. This from Conservative MP Michael Fabricant which is at best bad taste and inappropriate but at worse seems to suggest he would be forced to punch a female journalist if he were forced to have a conversation with her:

Michael Fabricant

 

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Leader of the only Green run council to stand down

Jason Kitcat
Jason Kitcat, Leader of Brighton & Hove City Council (the only Green run council in the country) has announced his intentions to stand down from public office.

Writing on his personal blog Kitcat said:

“In 2010 as a family we agreed that, if re-selected for the 2011 council elections, this would be my last term on the council, and so it will be.” 

Kitcat has lead the council through a turbulent time. A fellow Green Cllr was quoted in The Guardian as saying:

“Jason Kitcat’s policies have time and again betrayed working people, city residents – and the electoral interests of the Green Party of England and Wales.”

Others however will remember his time in office as that which saw 500 empty homes bought back into public use and 400 affordable homes built, 20 mph limits introduced in residential areas in the city centre, and some of the best school exam results the city has ever seen.

Either way, Kitcat is a likable figure head for The Green Party in Brighton. But, after seeing how Kitcat has been dragged through the media mud and attacked from within his own party, one wonders who will be willing to take over from him?

 

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Greens polling 8% – neck and neck with the Lib Dems

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The Green Party has today latched on to the latest Ipsos Mori polling that puts them on 8% of vote share ahead of the 2015 General Election. This, according to the Ipsos Mori polling, leaves them neck and neck with the Lib Dems.

Cue an excited press release from The Green Party.

Everything about their press release is true but for it to be useful in understanding the Greens prospects come 2015 it needs to be placed in a little bit of context.

1)      The Greens took just 1% of vote in the 2010 election. It looks like they will make big gains on this come 2015.

2)      An average of the last 20 opinion polls put The Green Party on 5% and the Liberal Democrats on 8%. In other words, if I was a betting man I would still be predicting The Green Party will finish 5th behind the Lib Dems.

3)      Lord Ashcroft today confirmed in a separate poll of Tory/Lib Dem marginal seats that the Lib Dems will keep hold of some of them – just not many. However, you can bet your bottom dollar they will return more MPs than the Green Party (who currently hold one).

4)      The Ipsos Mori poll asked just 1,001 their opinion – it needs to be taken with a pinch of salt.

All that said, the fact that the Green Party are polling like this nationally might well prove to be an additional headache for Ed Miliband’s Labour in their marginal battlegrounds such as Stroud and is a big step up from where they have been coming into previous elections.

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Blogger invites all to join unique protest against The Sun’s page 3

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Thanks to my local newspaper, The Stroud News and Journal, for covering my article calling for people to return their free copy of The Sun.

You can read the Stroud News and Journal article here and you can read my original article (that has now received over 45,000 hits) here.

 

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Why Amnesty International is right: Both the village of Kafr Qaddum and Murad Shtewi must be freed

kafr-qaddum-6-4-12
The village of Kafr Qaddum in the West Bank was the scene of some of the worst violence I saw during my half year working as a human rights monitor there.

The village holds weekly demonstrations to demand that their main road be reopened. It was closed by the Israeli military authorities in 2002 to prevent Palestinians from travelling on roads designated for use only by Israeli settlers and adds on nearly 20km to their travel to the main town.

These demonstrations are violent affairs. This is my account of a ‘not so peaceful protest’ which includes footage of a Palestinian being mulled by an Israeli military dog (see below) as well as multiple protesters being shot directly by heavy metal tear gas canisters. This is my account is of a 17 year old boy who was relearning to talk after being shot in the head by a tear gas canister.

As I said – the demonstrations are violent affairs littered with human rights abuses. It is not surprising then that on a number of occasions the Israeli military tried to stop human rights monitors and members of the press from entering the village. On one occasion before a particularly brutal response to the protest I had to travel through the olive groves to avoid the Israeli military checkpoint to gain access to the village.

In midst of this madness trying to marshal events was the figure Murad Shtewi. Murad is (was) a leading activist in the weekly demonstrations held in his village. I met him on a number of occasions normally over strong Arabic coffee and cigarettes to discuss what had occurred in his village during the previous week. Invariably the conversation focused on army raids and arbitrary arrests (painfully common events across the West Bank) but this was juxtaposed to Murad’s middle-eastern understanding of lavish hospitality and his talk of non-violence resistance.

I liked Murad for having optimism in the face of such continued violence (violence that Murad experienced first hand, in the video of the dog attack you can see Murad being pepper sprayed in the face for trying to intervene in the dog attack on his nephew).

Despite witnessing so much violence Murad was also committed to non-violence. This commitment to non-violence is one of the key criteria for Amnesty International who now consider Murad a ‘prisoner of conscience’ after his arrest at around 3am on 29th April of this year (arrests in the middle of the night are common place in the West Bank – even when detaining minors).

Murad is charged with organizing a demonstration without a permit, causing a public disturbance, and throwing rocks during a demonstration. Amnesty International has responded to these charges saying:

“In Amnesty International’s assessment, the charges of rock-throwing and of causing a public disturbance are unfounded. Murad Shtewi has been persecuted for expressing his non-violent opinions and for his role in the peaceful protests in Kufr Qadum against Israel’s illegal settlements. His arrest and detention are a measure to punish him and stop him and other village activists from exercising their rights to freedom of expression and to peaceful assembly.”

As such Amnesty International is calling for Murad Shtewi to be released immediately and unconditionally, as ‘he is a prisoner of conscience, detained solely for the peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression’.

This is a call that I am happy to publicly back. On every occasion that I went to Kafr Qaddum I never once saw Murad throw a stone. On a number of occasions I did see him telling others not to throw stones. I also talked to him at length about the importance of non-violent resistance.

This is also the third time Murad has been arrested (each time released without charge) in the last few years, the first was after the dog attack on his nephew.

Simply put, I can’t see how this latest arrest of Murad has any purpose other than to try and deter him from organizing legitimate protests against the Israeli policy of segregation in the West Bank.

It is in light of all this that I ask you to take a few seconds to send this sample letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that significantly not only calls for Murad’s release but also to:

‘take effective measures to prevent the use of unnecessary and excessive force by Israeli forces against peaceful demonstrators’

Please help me help Murad by taking this small action.

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Greens and UKIP on course for big gains but no new seats at General Election

polling
The average of the most recent 20 opinion polls put the Green Party on 5% of the vote for 2015 General Election, five times the vote share they secured in 2010. UKIP are also set to make big gains securing 12% more than they did in 2010. Thanks to the current electoral system though, neither are likely to gain more MPs.

The UK Polling Report polling average ‘takes in polls from the last 20 days and gives them weightings based on various factors, including how recently they were conducted, the past record of the pollster producing the figures, the methodology used, the sample size and how many polls have been produced by a single pollster.’

Although the average does not necessarily reflect a greater likelihood to accuracy, it does stop those with vested interests cherry picking the most favourable results to imply an unrealistic support one way or another.

Comparing them to the actual vote share from 2010 also gives a rough idea of how the party’s fortunes have fared over the last 4 years.

2010 result Current polling average +/- %
Conservative 36% 32% -4%
Labour 29% 35% +6%
Lib Dem 23% 8% -15%
UKIP 3% 15% +12%
Green 1% 5% +4%

 

The clear winners are UKIP (although despite this jump in vote share they are still projected not to win any seats – time for electoral reform?) while the clear losers are the Lib Dems (although it is thought that Lib Dems will still hold 30-40 seats – time for electoral reform?).

Despite massively growing their vote share The Green Party is also unlikely to take any new seats but will probably hold Caroline Lucas’ Brighton Pavilion seat (although it is Labour’s number one target for the South East).

The Conservatives show a clear drop but nothing of the magnitude of their coalition partners. Labour, although showing a decent rise are being compared to the lows of the Brown years and are not polling high enough to consider winning a majority (another coalition on the cards?).

All in all regardless of millions of votes switching between Greens/UKIP/Lib Dems – the core 28-36% vote shares of Labour and the Conservative will ensure one of them will attempt to run this country without the backing of the vast majority of voters, let alone non-voters!

With this in mind I think the case for electoral reform has never been clearer.

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Lib Dems worst EVER YouGov ratings

The Lib Dems have dropped to their worst ever YouGov poll rating today with just 6% of those polled saying they would vote for them at the General Election. This is the worst result for the Lib Dems in a YouGov poll since the company started in 2001.

Lib Dem
Significantly, the Green Party are just 1% behind them on 5% and UKIP have more than doubled them on 14%.

A closer look at the statistics also spell out some worrying findings for the Lib Dems.

Firstly, a look at those who said they voted Lib Dem in 2010. 32% of them now say they plan to vote Labour, 18% Conservative, 13% UKIP, 11% Greens and just 24% said they will stay with the Lib Dems.

Compare this in contrast to Conservative or Labour who are holding onto the 76% and 84% respectively of their 2010 voters.

It is clear that the Lib Dems are struggling to keep hold of their own voters and importantly, they are also failing to pick up soft Conservative votes (only 1% of those who voted Tory in 2010 plan to vote Lib Dem in 2015).

Secondly, on the 5% of young voters (18-24) said they plan to vote Lib Dem in 2015. It is worth highlighting that this is considerably less than the 11% of 18-24 year olds that are planning on voting Green.

This could spell bad news for the Lib Dems for two reasons. One it doesn’t bode well for the long-term growth of the party (political parties, like banks and car manufactures target you when you are young hoping brand loyalty will keep you with them the rest of your life). And secondly, it could spell disaster for Lib Dems in some key seats that have large university populations (the one that jumps to mind is Clegg’s home of Sheffield).

It is important not to read too much into this. The 5% headline figure is pretty similar to what they have been polling over the last few weeks. It does though just mark a new, unwelcome, milestone for the Lib Dems in their desperate fight to regain some popularity in the polls.

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