In praise of Wenger and his 1000 games in charge

So, things didn’t quite go to plan for Arsenal or Arsene Wenger at the weekend. Everyone at the club was hoping for a victory against title rivals Chelsea to mark Wenger’s 1000th game in charge…

Instead this happened:

6-0-Chelsea-Scoreboard

Combine this with a red card early on in the game and you can appreciate why I said…things didn’t quite go to plan.

As you can imagine, the press went to town:

The Mirror asked its readers ‘Will Wenger ever win the league again?’ after speculating why Wenger may have missed his Monday press conference.

The BBC simply states: ‘Arsenal boss faces criticism after 1,000th game‘.

The Metro holds no punches with its headline: ‘Arsene Wenger must go as embarrassing Arsenal drop out the Premier League title race‘.

It was this last headline that got to me the most though. To have a manager of Wenger’s ability and consistency and call for his sacking is…well…fucking stupid.

Think of it this way.

Sir Alex…one of the greatest managers to have graced the Premier League. He retired last season and departed with the words of pundits describing him as one of the greatest manager’s in English football. A completely fair accolade.

So let’s compare the two…

Games Wins Draws Losses For Against Win %
Arsene Wenger 1,000 572 235 193 1845 967 57.3
Sir Alex Ferguson 1,000 564 248 188 1784 944 56.4

Wenger has secured a win rate of 57.3%. Sir Alex 56.4%.

This is not to try and suggest one is better than the other, but to illustrate that we are talking about 2 of the all time greats in the game.

The only difference is that one is still a manager and Arsenal are lucky enough to have him while sadly Sir Alex is now retired.

If you need further convincing of just how lucky Arsenal are to still have Wenger, just glance over at Old Trafford now to see how they are getting on without Sir Alex!

No trophies…Wenger has lost it in recent years…blah blah blah…

At this stage his critics suggest that he should go because since 2005, he hasn’t got the same performace out of his players or attracted the same talent…

Well, where to start?

Wenger’s 1,000 games in charge gave him a win rate of 57.3%. In the first 500 games this stood at 57.8% and in his second 500 at 56.6%.

The observant among you will notice that this win rate for his second 500 games in charge is still higher than Sir Alex’s average. You will also notice an incredible consistency across the two halves of his time at Arsenal.

Find me another manager who has qualified for the Champions League for 16 consecutive seasons!

Then lets look at the ‘not attracting talent’ argument…well, there was of course Ozil, Carzola, Podolski, Oxlade-Chamberlin, Arteta, Mertesacker (all in the last 3 seasons) to name but a few.

The issue here then is not that Wenger does not win games,or that he doesn’t attract big names, but that Arsenal too often buckle in the big games. But this is another blog for another day…

For now, I’m happy to leave it that Arsenal are lucky to have one of the greatest managers in the game and anyone stupid enough to call for his sacking must be able to have a good answer to this question:

What next? Who do you think could get Arsenal performing better than Wenger?

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First tweets from The Green Party and their elected officials…

twitter
To celebrate 8 years, twitter has released this cool little website, www.first-tweets.com. The website allows you to look up the very first tweet from any twitter account.

One wonders why it has taken 8 years for this be released.

Anyway, I thought I would take a look back The Green Party and their elected official’s first tweets:

The official Green Party account was the first to join on the 22nd July 2008 with this touch of inspirational political rhetoric:

Soon after, the leader of Brighton and Hove Council, Jason Kitcat, joined on the 4th August 2008:

Hot on his heels, the now elected leader of The Green Party, Natalie Bennett, joined on the 4th October 2008 with this bit of inner reflection:

Next up comes London Assembly Member (AM), Darren Johnson who joined at 7:45 am on the 30th September 2009. Darren’s first tweet just oozes with enthusiasm:

Just 5 minutes later, Jenny Jones (aka Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb) also an AM, joined with a rare example of supporting Boris Johnson:

Caroline Lucas, The Green Party’s only MP and then leader, joined on the 9th November 2009 with this critic of nuclear power…good to see she started as she intended to go on!

The Green Party MEP for South East England, Mr Keith Taylor, joined twitter on the 9th July 2011 highlighting some of the issues he was working on in the EU:

Keith’s partner in crime, Green MEP for London Jean Lambert, then joined twitter on the 30th September 2011 with this ever practical commitment to get out in her constituency:

How things have moved on in just a few years…Caroline Lucas is now one of the most followed MPs on twitter with nearly 75,000 followers.

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You would not believe how easy it is to make a [palliative care] message go viral

This week I wrote for ehospice about how to make your campaigning message ‘go viral’. The article was written for a palliative care audience but most of the advice is applicable to others. 

DSC_0009

 

Yesterday APCA ran a little experiment. As part of the ehospice series on ‘raising awareness of palliative care’ we wrote an article about why using digital media is important. We then asked people over our social media channels to share this story and tell us where in the world they were reading it.

The response was great. From Nairobi to London, the article spread quickly. But we know that despite reaching a much larger audience than usual the reach of this article was limited. Why?

Because the article was just an informative block of text. Why would anyone be inspired to share it?

But, we still had a few tricks up our sleeves. After lunch I asked Maria from our finance department to pose for a photo with a sign that said, “How far can digital media take our palliative care message?” and again, sent this out on social media.

DSCN4893
The theory here is that the attention span of the average web surfer is getting shorter and shorter, so you have a better chance of catching the eyes of people with a bold photo or a great GIF rather than with a big block of text.

The results of this addition speak for themselves. Yesterday, this one photo gained over 35 shares and reached over 15 times the number of people an average APCA Facebook status does.

But using a catchy photo is just one trick to make something go viral.

At the heart of the theory is a basic golden rule: posts go viral not because people click on them but because people also want to share them.

Why would someone want to share what you have to say? Well, Maria Konnikova writing in the New Yorker points out that this theory is hardly new. Aristotle spent a good time wondering what would make his arguments persuasive and be passed on from person to person. His answer was simple – three principles: ethos, pathos, and logos. Content should have an ethical appeal, an emotional appeal, or a logical appeal.

These exact same principles apply today to helping content ‘go viral’. In the palliative care community we are lucky that we have all three in abundance. It is just a matter of packaging our stories and messaging in the right way.

Jack Shepherd, from the website Buzzfeeds (which gets over 130 million unique views a month), recently wrote in the Guardian saying, “Sharing something about yourself is often a statement about what you believe in, what causes or values you align yourself with, and what, in particular, you love and identify with.”

A good way of checking to see if your content sparks an emotional response is to ask yourself the basic question: If this story came up on my newsfeed would I share it?

Finally, it is worth considering current trends and writing and sharing material related to that trend. If the news agenda is talking about the Arab Spring, why not write an article looking at palliative care provision in the Maghreb? If women’s rights in Nigeria is making news, why not write an article on gender and palliative care in Nigeria?

There are many more tips online on how to make content shareable – many of which will be applicable to the palliative care community. It is never an exact science so have a go and see what happens.

Oh and of course, don’t forget a catchy headline that arouses curiosity.

As we said, ‘You will not believe how easy it is to make a palliative care message go viral’.

UPDATE: 48 hours after posting the photo on facebook it has had over 50 shares and over 25 times the number of views an average APCA posts receives.

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The ‘great’ British potential in development and aid

This is a guest post by Dan Smith. Dan is an Engineer working with sanitation companies in frontier markets. He is also a good friend who blogs here. You can follow Dan on twitter at @dpksmith.

Burma
Everything about this image is ridiculous. From the fact that the British Embassy in Myanmar feels it’s necessary to persuade people how ‘great’ Britain is, to the idea that using posters resplendent with outdated nationalistic iconography is a good one.

All of it smacks of desperation.

A friend of mine recently sent me the picture from Yangon. My friend asked if this was how the British Government treated all of the countries we’d previously undermined. Looking at it historically and considering that my friend is Austrian; this comment is somewhat ironic but shows how our colonial history still pervades today.

The Austrians and Germans don’t cling to the dying embers of Empire, so why do we?

The simple fact is that the British Empire was an immoral occurrence over a generation ago, yet 60 years on it is still acceptable to promote the UK using imagery and terminology from that period alluding to the fact that we’ve changed. Whilst our pernicious foreign policy and the actions of British companies ensure that we’re still acting in a similar manner. Why can’t we move on from our history and start leading by example?

Our Government advertises the UK with outdated iconography whilst telling expats to go home. Our society bickers amongst itself about how best to manage our own sustainability whilst our international companies continue to steal resources from other countries as they always have done. All off this is white washed with propaganda about how great we are and as such our entrepreneurs come up with solutions for luxury abandon.

Perhaps this should change?

The Africa Progress Report 2013 paints a damning picture of powerful companies influencing kleptocratic governments in order to procure the rights to extract resources from their countries. The sharp end of the wedge highlighted in the criticism of the recent WTO Trade Agreement that this promotes the rights of corporations over the rights of individuals, poor or otherwise. All of which suggests that companies from rich countries are still operating in a similar fashion to the way various Royal Charter companies did back in the 18th and 19th centuries.

There is proof that British companies are complicit in such actions, such as the Vedanta Mining Corporation that wants to mine a culturally significant area of India or the shooting of 34 miners at the Marikana mine in South Africa owned by Lonmin. Closer to home there has been a devastating yet largely overlooked case where the British police have colluded with large construction firms to blacklist 3,200 people viewed as “leftwing or troublesome”.

Staying at home, shallow arguments such as this and this by the George Monbiot (a journalist that at least has his ‘heart in the right place’) demonstrates the divide between the middle class left, who paint themselves as the proletariat, and who the left perceive as the evil land owning bourgeoisie farmers. Yet most of our home grown challenges, such as sustainable energy security, are smothered by Government backed jingoistic promotions (such as some woman marrying a posh bloke and having a baby) to persuade everybody that we’re ‘great’.

If you do a quick search for people making change in the world you’ll find a plethora of young entrepreneurs in Africa developing businesses to fix many of the problems they see in front of them. Yet if you look for young British ones, more established ones, or look to entrepreneurial promotion such as Dragon’s Den or The Apprentice, you find people providing low cost throw away consumables, luxury goods, weaponry and food for students; as if there aren’t more pressing issues than creating maximum profit. Why are we still promoting profit over environmental and social performance?

In the UK we are a knowledge economy. We hold some of the best universities in the world; we have world leading research institutes; and some of the most respected consulting agencies. Why can’t we use this potential to lead the way in sustainable development rather than clinging to outdated dogma?

If the government really wants to increase foreign trade then perhaps it should start by regulating and prosecuting companies that are acting immorally and often illegally in other people’s countries rather than putting up posters. That would be a large step forward in changing the image of Britain. Whilst it’s doing that it could remove all of the Empiresque imagery from our foreign policy documentation and create strategies that work with people of other countries rather than against them.

Admittedly, social enterprise is supported in the UK through the creation of Big Society Capital and Social Enterprise UK. But why does this have to be at the loss to Government public sector? We could do both by going after the financial sector with the Tobin Tax – which is being pursued across Europe. Yet our government lacks both the teeth and the will to go after either the banks or international corporations.

If we could develop Triple Bottom Line businesses out of old neo-colonial corporations and promote “sustainability entrepreneurs” and “intrapreneurs” to meet our own challenges and set high sustainability standards in the UK. Then the rest of the world would look to us as leaders in sustainable development.

With external trade based on global sustainability rather than individual profiteering we wouldn’t need to tell anybody how “great” we still are.

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Yes, Prime Minister on Russia

The Huffington Post today highlighted this Yes, Prime Minister clip from 1986. 


Are Russia’s actions in the Crimea a sign that they are adopting ‘Salami tactics’? 

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What do I mean when I describe myself as a feminist?

feminism
Someone recently asked me what I meant when I say I am feminist. At the time I gave a woolly answer about fighting discrimination. This answer didn’t quite cut it and I knew it…and so, this is my very brief effort to explain what feminism means to me, and why I would still describe myself as a feminist.

Feminism is…

Nothing more than a pragmatic tool that I use to fight the injustice, the prejudice and the discrimination of our times. I am not inherently a feminist, the entrenched bigotry of the culture in which I was born, raised and live have made me a feminist.

This culture gives weight to comments by campaigning groups such as the often repeated mantra, ‘one in four women in the UK experience domestic violence in their lives‘. As much as objectively you know them to be more, these words are emotionally, just words. That is until you see the black of eye of a female friend who is in a violent relationship.

And then this culture of ours encourages girls to try and hide black eyes teaching them that it is something to be ashamed of.

The only shame here is that this statement stands true today, just as it did 28 years ago when I was born.

I cannot in my own heart accept a culture that allows for such violence. Feminism then is mine, and many others, pragmatic tool (the language and the means) that I have chosen to fight back.

But my feminism stems from much more than just the violence women and girls disproportionately experience. I am a feminist because of all those times I have seen people being limited because of their gender.

To give just a couple of examples…

I remember, at school the laughter at the idea of a girls’ rugby team being set up. Why? Because they were girls and society taught us as kids that ‘girls don’t play rugby’.

I remember in my first job my boss asking me to carry my female colleague’s feather-weight bags. Why? Because my colleague was a women and society teaches us that women are too weak to carry their own bag.

These day to day occurrences, although disturbing by themselves, cannot be separated off from the wider culture that too often leads to the violence I earlier described.

Feminism then is, for me at least, the movement that I have chosen, to try and fight back against this self-reinforcing culture. Feminism is an imperfect coalition of those who are looking to challenge the day to day sexism we all see, but only a few acknowledge. It is the belief that decades and decades of sexism that we have experienced can, and must, be broken down.

Feminism is the pragmatic tool I have chosen to fight the misogynistic status quo.

Until our culture changes, or someone gives me a better tool in which to fight this fight, I will remain a proud feminist.

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10 incredible pictures from the white-water kayaking Nile River Festival

1 by Alexey Dudkov
I wrote a short report for The Great Outdoors (TGO) magazine of the Nile River Festival 2014

Click here to read the article and to see the 10 incredible photos.

 

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Stroud MP makes national news…for the wrong reasons

Neil
Stroud’s Conservative MP, Neil Carmichael, isn’t famed for his media profile. And so it was with a little surprise that I saw that he featured in Hugh Muir’s Guardian Diary.

They say any publicity is good publicity…for Mr Carmichael’s sake I hope that’s true.

Muir writes on Mr Carmichael’s rather strange question in the Commons:

“There are neighbourhood plans in Chalford, Dursley, Eastington and nearly a dozen other areas in my constituency,” boasted Stroud MP Neil Carmichael. “Does the minister agree that a good neighbourhood plan is an appropriate protector against inappropriate developments?” And Boles did agree – but how can there be a dozen plans in Stroud when there are only a handful in existence, voted through by referendums, in England and Wales? “There actually aren’t any,” one puzzled constituent said. “It was a puff question to support the coalition’s planning policy.” Can that be so, we asked Carmichael. “None have had the vote yet, but some are close,” he said. “I should have corrected it at the time. I should have said there are neighbourhood plans under way.” Indeed. No one wants the House misled.

Not exactly the sort of national press coverage Mr Carmichael would have been hoping for.

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Tony Benn dies aged 88 and twitter pays tribute

tony-benn
This morning I have awoken to the news that Tony Benn, the long-standing Labour politician, has died aged 88.

Tony Benn was, and remains, an inspiration for me in many ways. His commitment to radical grass-roots politics inspired much of what I believe today. It is this belief, that was instilled into me by Tony Benn, that still pumps through me.

But, on hearing the news of his death, it wasn’t his politics that jumped to mind. My first thought on hearing the news of his death was how on earth are commentators going to find the words that will do justice to a man who was perhaps the ultimate orator.

His turn of phrase, his wit, and his charisma remain unmatched in politics.

His words will live on and will remain as a testimony to his life.

I will, the Labour movement will, and many more from across the political spectrum will dearly miss him.

May he rest in peace.

UPDATE:

Some great tributes are coming through on twitter:

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Do you know what The Green Party position is on an EU referendum?

The Green Party has a really good policy on whether or not we should have a referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU. In short it says ‘Three Yeses’: Yes to a referendum, yes to major EU reform, and yes to staying in a reformed Europe.

This position is progressive, democratic and most importantly in line with a large chunk of public opinion.

Of course, the problem is that nobody knows this.

Try it out now, turn to whoever you’re nearest to and ask, ‘Do you know what the Green’s position on the EU is’?

You can post photos of the blank faces in the comments section below.

Why might this be?

Well, below is a screenshot of Google News with a search set for the last week for the term ‘Green Party EU referendum’. Surprise surprise, not one relevant article appears (click on the image to enlarge).

GP EU
Now, change the search to ‘Labour EU referendum’ and you get something very different (again, click on the image to enlarge):

Labour EU
Here we have articles from the BBC, Guardian, Daily Mail, Independent etc etc…

This at least partly explains why no one knows what The Green Party position is…it just doesn’t feature in the press.

Now, normally at this point in a blog I would start blaming the editors of the mainstream papers for not showing an interest in Green Party policy, but in this case, that just doesn’t explain it.

Over the last week, while Labour have ensured the issue of an EU referendum has been on every editors thoughts, The Green Party has stayed silent.

No press release, no social media campaign, no slogans. I have watched on as my disproportionately Green twitter feed has ticked over without a single mention of The Green Party’s ’3 yeses’ policy.

While Labour are saying no to an EU referendum (unless the UK was being asked to transfer more powers to Brussels), The Green Party are offering a progressive, democratic and internationalist alternative. Something that is so clearly missing from the UKIP driven EU debate.

I simply don’t understand why every Green is not shouting about this from the rooftops.

With just over 2 months though until the European elections I am not sure how many more media opportunities The Green Party can afford to miss like this. They need just a 1.6% swing in the vote to triple their number of MEPs but to get that, people need to know what they stand for. 

More information:

  • Read the BBC summary of what Miliband and Labour are offering here.
  • Read The Green Party ’3 yeses’ policy launch here.
  • Read the full Green Party policy on the EU here.

UPDATE:

Keith Taylor MEP for South East England has just released this press release: Green MEP calls on pro-EU politicians to have the ‘guts’ to promise a referendum.

Good on him! Let’s hope the press are listening! 

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Coping with death: 10 years on from the Madrid bombings

 

 

 

 

 

Madrid
Today the internet has been awash with reflections and analysis of the 10th anniversary of the Madrid bombings that took the lives of 191 people and injured 1,820 more. The political aftermath in Spain has been analysed, the role of Al-Qaeda examined and the role of ETA dismissed (by most).

And yet, in all the articles I have read, with the exception of a few survivor stories, there has been a dearth of analysis to describe how people are feeling.

Us Brits know only too well that these occasions act as a sombre reflection on the needless and violent loss of life. I write this with confidence because I have seen these sombre reflections echoed on the 7th July in London. I have no doubt that some American friends can say the same for the 11th September in New York.

Being in London on the 7th July is a strange experience as the macabre anniversary intermingles with the vibrant life of the capital. Life bustles on with only the subtle behaviour changes of the living hinting at the loss that families, communities, and the nation experienced.

While life speeds on, a few people will struggle to get out of bed on these anniversaries. For some the weight of their loss will once more sit on their chest as they lay awake and alone next to the shadow of the ghost of a former lover. A few though will be out of bed and on the way into work only to uncharacteristically find themselves lost in thought as they wait at the bus stop thinking back to the awful explosions.

Many more though will go through their day changing their routine only a fraction to be a small part in the wider ritual of loss that is now, for better or for worse, part of their national identity.

This change in the national mindset is like a shard of glass inserted deep into a national psyche. But the rupture that caused this change is not just about a sense of grief or loss, but also vulnerability. This vulnerability can manifest itself in individuals, and especially survivors, in ‘what if thoughts’. What if I hadn’t been running late that day? What if my wife had been working from the office that day? What if…

On days like this, on anniversaries of atrocities, our own mortality sits slightly closer to our hearts and weighs slightly more on our subconscious.

Politicians will talk with bravado about how these attacks will not change us. They will say that they will make us stronger in the face of adversity. But, deep down we know that we are changed. We know that there is now a chink in our personal and collective armour. We know that we have experienced vulnerability and that this has crushed our completely false sense of invincibility.

For some this anniversary will bring flooding back an intense wash of emotion…grief, pain and loss. For many more though it will leave us feeling uncertain, insecure, and vulnerable.

My message then to anyone who is reading this and is today feeling out of sorts is this: it’s OK. It’s not ‘letting the terrorists win’ to feel whatever you’re feeling.

Death, near-death, and collective grief are messy subjects that don’t fit nicely into political rhetoric or motivational clichés. We are what we are – a jumble of thoughts, feelings and emotions that are shaped by our experiences.

Thousands of people across Spain and especially in Madrid experienced something truly awful 10 years ago today. No amount of pressure will squeeze their individual responses into a politically useful box.

This article was cross-published on the International edition of ehospice

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An open letter to the FA and the Football League on problem gambling

Sky bet
Dear the Football Association (FA) and Football League,

How’s it going? I was wondering if you fancied making a small bet? My proposal, should you wish to gamble, is that your willingness to let betting companies slowly infiltrate the beautiful game will have helped destroy football fans lives up and down the country?

What do you think….want to take the bet?

You see, I’m willing to bet that when you accepted Sky Bet as the official sponsor for the Football League and William Hill as an ‘Official Supporter’ for the England team and ‘Official Betting Partner’ for the FA Cup, no one sought out gambling addiction specialists to access how these sponsorship deals might affect the ordinary football fan.

I might be wrong…but I reckon it’s worth a punt.

Of late my facebook page has been slowly filling up with Sky Bet spam posted by the League 2 club that I support – Cheltenham Town. This got me thinking.

It is estimated that there are 450,000 “problem gamblers” in the UK (according to the most recent British Gambling Prevalence Survey). So out of a population of 63.23 million (2012) that makes approximately 1 in 140 us “problem gambler”.

If we assume that the average football fan is no more or less likely to develop a gambling addiction, this would suggest that there about 21 gambling addicts at every Cheltenham Town home match (a rough attendance is about 3,000).  If you replicate the maths for say an average Arsenal home game (60,000) you have about 430 addicts in the stadium alone.

The actual reach of English football though, as the betting companies know all too well, goes well into the millions. In short, statistically through these sponsorship deals Sky Bet and William Hill will be reaching thousands of problem gamblers.

Do you think it’s problematic that in return for a few million pounds (the Sky Bet deal was reported to be worth £5-6 million a year) you place adverts for companies that profiteer off others addictions?

You see this is something that affects my generation more than yours (I am making an assumption about the average age of an employee in the FA) as most people my age have smart phones.

With the advancement of ‘in-play betting’ (often with half time adverts around the stadiums and on TV adverts) accessed by smart-phones the chances of problem gambling increases massively. Long-gone are the days of placing just one bet before a match.

In addition to your sponsorship deals we also have Stoke, Fulham and Aston Villa who all play in shirts sponsored by gambling companies.

Is it possible any longer for a football fan to go a match without being exposed to betting adverts?

As far as I can see, one of the following three scenarios has to be true:

  • You didn’t work out what impact these sponsorship deals will have on fans who are, or soon will be, problem gamblers.
  • You knew full well what the impact would be but thought fuck it, these guys are offering us millions of pounds…and then started cackling.
  • You have done a proper social assessment on the impact of betting companies sponsorship deals on football that has been endorsed as being fair and balanced (not a re-hash of the industry statistics).

I am hoping the latter is true, in which case I look forward to seeing it (I couldn’t find it on either of your web-sites). I would also love to know where in this assessment you drew the line between financial gain and possible risk – how many football fans would have to develop problematic gambling habits for you to worry about accepting millions of pounds?).

If either of the former are true you’re either incompetent or heartless or both.

I look forward to your response on this one. Although, I am willing to take a bet that I won’t hear back from you on this one.

With love for the beautiful game and my fellow football fans,

Steve Hynd

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Molly Scott-Cato: “Make banks work for the common good, not in the interests of shareholders”

Molly Scott-Cato, the lead Green Party candidate for the South West of England in the up-coming European Parliament elections (and of course a Stroud District Cllr) today posted this video of her recent speech at the Green Party national conference.

She posted it on facebook with the simple message:

“Making banks work for the common good, not in the interests of shareholders: my speech to Green Party conference last week.”


I have interviewed Molly before (you can read it here) and have a lot of respect for her. She is almost unique in politics because she is an economist who dares to think outside of the neo-liberal status quo and offer radical alternatives.

Think of it this way…can you think of any other politician who has a chance of being elected to office who A) Is offering an alternative to the neo-liberal economic status quo and B) holds a strong grasp of economics and how we might move from where we are towards a fairer and more sustainable economic system?

Even if you can, you will hopefully accept my point that they are few and far between.

It is because of this that I hope the good people of the South West of England give her their vote in May’s elections.

More information:

  • You can follow Molly on Twitter by clicking here.
  • You can read The Green Party’s economics policy by clicking here.
  • You can see the 2009 election results (and how close the Greens were to securing an MEP) by clicking here.

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Just when we thought things couldn’t get any worse for David Cameron…

Rock
Just when we thought things couldn’t get any worse for David Cameron…

Number 10 yesterday announced that, Patrick Rock, a senior advisor to David Cameron on, among other issues, online porn filters, has been arrested on child abuse images allegations.

This comes less than a month after the then immigration minister, Mark Harper, who was responsible for, among other issues, the government’s widely criticised ‘go home’ campaign resigned after it was revealed he himself employed an illegal immigrant.

Of course, this all happened while David Cameron’s former Communications Director, Andy Coulson, has been on trial for phone hacking accused of knowing ‘exactly what went on under his watch’ at the News of the World.

And we wonder why people don’t trust the political establishment… 

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No to breast cancer. No to Page 3

no-more-page-3
Over the last year I have been part of a global movement that campaigns for the dignity of every patient. This global movement campaigns for the dignity of, among others, patients with breast cancer.

It is with sadness then that I saw the breast cancer campaigns group ‘CoppaFeel’ have teamed up with The Sun newspapers ‘page 3 girls’ – a relic of a misogynistic newspaper industry that almost by definition is devoid of dignity and respect.

The campaign will see The Sun newspaper every Tuesday dedicate the Page 3 girl slot to encourage women to check their breasts for signs of cancer.

While I of course, just like the ‘No to page 3 girls’ campaign, hope this campaign is a success and it encourages more girls to check their breasts, I feel saddened that The Sun have chosen, out of all the tools available to them, the overtly sexualised images of young girls to highlight this important issue.

In fact I struggle to think of a less appropriate medium in which to highlight this campaign. Page 3 is perhaps the most prominent icon of a culture that reduces women to mere objects and men to little more than objectifiers. This culture leaves some women feeling ashamed of their bodies and shy to ask for examinations.

As much as The Sun would like to think otherwise, the No to Page 3 campaign have collected testimony after testimony from girls who blame Page 3 and the sexist culture it perpetuates for their own understanding of their bodies and sex.

One recent account from a breast cancer patient comments:

“I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer and had to have a quarter of my breast removed. I feel horrible and ugly and these images in Newspapers and films make me feel worse.”

Another testimony says:

“I compared myself to this picture and having no other pictures of what naked women are supposed to look like to refer to I judged myself in light of it. I grew to hate my body, I grew to hate myself.”

I wonder how David Dinsmore, the editor of The Sun, would answer the following question: Do you think Page 3 helps or hinders the girls that gave these testimonies to stand in front of a mirror and check their breasts?

This campaign will reach millions of people and will hopefully save lives. But in 6 months’ time when the campaign is all done and dusted what will we be left with?

We will still have one of our largest newspapers going to print daily where the largest photo is of a half-naked women. We will still have a culture where women’s breasts are stared at and not respected. And this, collectively, will do nothing to install a feeling of dignity and respect into women which in turn will only hinder the chances of women regularly checking themselves for signs of cancer.

Take Action:

  • Join over 136,000 others and sign the petition calling for The Sun remove ‘the bare boobs.

UPDATE:

The Independent today ran the headline – “Breast cancer charities criticise The Sun’s new Page Three ‘Check ‘em Tuesday’ for trivialising the disease“. Good to see I am not the only one who feels like this!

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Patient photos from Hospice Africa Uganda

Last week I visited Hospice Africa Uganda. I was lucky enough to spend a couple of hours with some of the patients. I had a really wonderful time.

Sometimes people think of hospices as places where people go to die. This perception is so different to the reality I experienced. This is, at least in part, why I wanted to share these photos. During my visit I was blown away by the vibrancy of life the patients radiated.

Click on the images below to see them enlarged.

*Please do not reuse these photos without my consent. Thanks. 

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An inspiring start to the week

Totally humbled. That’s how I felt this Monday morning. Reading, editing and publishing the story of Moses Byomuhangi after a weekend of partying and rock climbing has inspired me to be back in the office working for a palliative care organisation.  

After a weekend of having a lot of fun I made my way back into the office of the African Palliative Care Association where I work. I was feeling a bit ‘Monday morning’ when I started to work on an article submitted by a recent graduate, Moses Byomuhangi.

I would really encourage you to read Moses’ story.

Reading his account was a really inspiring start to my week. It left me feeling not only humbled but also inspired to keep working for the roll out of palliative care. It reminded me just why it is so important to communicate palliative care to a wider audience: because no one should have to experience what Moses’ parents did and no 15 year old should have to watch their parents die in pain.

There was so much of Moses story that took my breath away. I cannot even begin to imagine how hard it would have been for Moses, at the age of just 15, to watch his parents die in pain.

At the age of 15 I was playing football and drinking cans of beer in the local park with mates. To this day I have not experienced such a level of responsibility that Moses experienced at the age of 15. I am not sure how I would cope with being the primary care giver if my parents fell ill. If I had that responsibility at 15, I am not sure if I would have coped at all.

This is, at least in part, because growing up in the UK I was sheltered from suffering. If someone was dying or in extreme pain I would (we would?) take it for granted that they would be prescribed strong pain killers. They would almost certainly go to hospital for medical attention.

As a result, the prospect of watching (let alone caring for) a loved one in their dying moments suffer excruciating pain simply does not occur. In the age old British adage, ‘it doesn’t bear thinking about’.

It is worth reflecting though quite how unusual this is though. It is thought that about 90% of those who are in need of palliative care around the world do not receive it. In fact Australia, Canada, New Zealand, US and parts of Europe account for over 90% of the global consumption of opioid analgesics (strong pain medications).

In short, Moses’ parent’s reality of dying in pain is the crushing, devastating and completely avoidable reality for the majority. My British experience of being sheltered from such suffering leaves me in the absolute global minority.

But it is not the suffering that Moses has experienced that left me feeling so humbled and inspired. It was the fact that he used this suffering as catalyst to work so incredibly hard to work towards such an admirable goal – the relieving of suffering of others.

I hope that I can take on just a little bit of Moses’s passion, dedication and spirit in my work.

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The BBC today failed to show The Green Party a basic level of respect


The Green Party leader was this morning on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today Programme’.

The BBC radio schedule previewed her appearance with this description:

BBC Radio

Curious then that after the brief introduction, this issue seemed to slip from the whole interview. Instead the presenter, John Humphrys, decided to focus in on the pressing question of whether voters misunderstand ‘The Green Party’ to be purely interested in environmental issues.

Despite Natalie Bennett, The Green Party leader’s, best efforts to drag the interview back on course Humphry’s seemed obsessed with coming back to the issue of re-branding the party.

What this had to do with whether or not The Green Party should be included in the televised leaders debate remains unclear.

In short, the interview was in my opinion utter baloney.

Imagine, if the Labour leader, Ed Miliband, went onto the Today programme on the same pretext, and the interviewer chose to quite bizarly just focus on in on whether or not the word ‘Labour’ really reflects the party’s policies?

It would never happen.

Why? Because John Humphry, and institutionally the BBC, even if they do not agree with Labour’s policies take the party seriously.

The same cannot be said to be true about The Green Party.

Now…ask yourself a further question: Why do people not vote for The Green Party even if they support most of their policies?

Two answers jump to mind. The first is the electoral system (for the General Election) – people worry about voting Green being a ‘wasted vote’. I can’t blame the BBC for that.

The second reason though is that The Green Party is often just not taken seriously. They are perceived to be political lightweights. Ask yourself where this perception comes from and invariably we come full circle. The answer, at least in part, is found in the inaccurate and derogatory political representation they suffer in the media.

While this is frustrating in partisan newspapers, it is simply unacceptable in the nonpartisan BBC.

The reality of this media environment means that The Green Party struggle for serious representation with any outlet other than a handful of sympathetic Guardian Journalists.

I don’t expect the BBC to give The Green Party an easy ride, but I do expect a degree of respect. This morning the Today programme failed to deliver this.

UPDATE:

Interesting from the reaction on twitter I am not the only person to feel like this:

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National Trust’s new video – not what you would expect…but it is awesome

This video is reportedly the new National Trust video. If it is genuine. I take my hat off. Superb!

UPDATE: National Trust has got back to me with this:

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Is Amnesty International’s latest report on Israel ‘blatantly biased’?

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Amnesty International have today released a new report entitled, ‘Trigger-happy: Israel’s use of excessive force in the West Bank’ that accuses both the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) and the Israeli police of ‘a callous disregard for human life’ and ‘use of unnecessary, arbitrary and brutal force’.

Almost inevitably, the report has been dismissed as anti-Israeli propaganda by some. Gerald Steinberg for example, the president of NGO Monitor, said Amnesty’s accusations were “reckless, blatantly biased, and reflect the lack of a credible research fact-finding methodology”.

Much of Amnesty International’s report however chimes all too closely with my own personal experience of being the West Bank in 2012.

For example, Philip Luther, Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International said that “The frequency and persistence of arbitrary and abusive force against peaceful protesters in the West Bank by Israeli soldiers and police officers – and the impunity enjoyed by perpetrators – suggests that it is carried out as a matter of policy.”

This assertion fits closely with my experience of monitoring near weekly demonstrations in the West Bank where I witnessed a consistent level and pattern of the use of force.

Often violence at protests would start by a minority of Palestinians throwing stones, although on a small number of occasions the violence would be initiated by the Israeli army. Following the stone throwing however there would follow an intensifying use of force which has to be understood as disproportionate. This force, at the demonstrations I witnessed, included firing large metal tear gas canisters directly at crowds (which on one occasion I witnessed nearly killed a 17 year old boy), firing rubber coated bullets directly at protestors (they’re designed to be fired to rebound off the floor into protestors legs, not directly at people) and on one especially horrific occasion the use of dogs to attack a protestor (you can watch the video of the dog attack here).

Only on one occasion did I see Palestinians use anything other than broken stones as weapons. On this occasion they filled glass bottles with paint to throw at the windscreens of the IDF jeeps.

In the whole time I was in the West Bank I witnessed dozens of arrests of Palestinians – many of which seemed to me as arbitrary – but, to my knowledge, heard of no arrests or disciplinary processes initiated against Israeli soldiers for acting against IHL, Israeli law or their own regulations.

Even in the incident of the dog attack, which in the best case scenario shows huge professional incompetence and an inability to control a dog, there was no repercussions for any individual. The IDF however did announce a change in policy in using dogs at protests. To my knowledge they have not used dogs since.

The report makes the important point that, “several victims were shot in the back suggesting that they were targeted as they tried to flee and posed no genuine threat to the lives of members of Israeli forces”.

This once again fits with my experience of protests. Soldiers would often wait for up to 30 minutes whilst being pelted with stones (the time when they are most at danger). At some point, the strategic choosing of which was often unclear to me, a response would ensue. This response would climax in its most disproportionate and violent as the demonstration turned and ran away from the front line between the soldiers and the protests.

It is hard for me to conclude anything other than this use of force accumulated in an effort to try and make people too scared to come back and continue protesting.

Gerald Steinberg describes the report as ‘blatantly biased’. This, in my experience, is simply not true. Reading the summary of the report I was struck by the harrowing accuracy of the report and how closely it chimed with my experiences.

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