Category Archives: Far-right politics

Harry’s Winky and Wanted War Criminals – Welcome to The House of Windsor

It looks like Prince Harry took the advice to leave the Nazi outfit at home a little too literally.

Not to worry, The House of Windsor is no stranger to controversy and has become pretty used fire fighting royal fuck ups. Harry is not the first royal to hit the front pages for the wrong reasons and nor will he be the last.

Harry though has a bit of a reputation. In 2002 Harry was found to have smoked cannabis. In 2004 Harry had a fist fight (well got hit) by some paparazzi outside a London nightclub. In 2005 there was Harry’s now notorious Nazi fancy dress. In 2007 Harry fell into a gutter after telling reporters to “fuck off”. In 2009 Harry was caught on camera calling a fellow soldier his “little Paki friend”. As I say, a bit of reputation.

And then there was Harry being photographed naked in a hotel room in Las Vegas – want to see it again? Click here.

Should we be worried though about Harry’s ‘antics’? No, of course we should not be worried.

He has been caught smoking cannabis, drinking too much and using sloppy and offensive language. If we used these criteria to condemn people then there wouldn’t be many of us walking free. I for one would fall down on at least two of these charges.

Is his behavior acceptable? No. But it is no worse than what occurs in bedrooms up and down the country.

Whatever you do though, please don’t mistake this post as evidence that I am a royal apologist. I am far from it.

Indeed, when we look at Harry’s list of controversies, we can see they pale into insignificance compared to some of his extended family.

Remember the Duchess of York offering to sell access to Prince Andrew who was the UK’s special representative for international trade and investment for £500,000? Not exactly the behavior one would expect from one’s royalty.

Then of course Prince Andrew himself was never far from controversy. His list of friends leaves some room for questioning his royal judgement. Prince Andrew has met with alleged war criminal Saif Gaddafi, the son of the disposed Tunisian dictator Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali, Sakher el-Materi and last but not least, the son-in-law of Kazakhstan’s president Nursultan Nazarbayev, Timur Kulibayev.

Not people on my Christmas card list.

This is without mentioning his “billionaire pedophile” mate Jeffrey Epstein.

Then of course we have the Duke of Edinburgh himself. Until recently, it was rarely mentioned that all of his brother in-laws were Nazi officials and three of his sisters Sophie, Cecile and Margarita were members of the party. The Duke of Edinburgh was quoted describing his family relations to the Nazi as saying “[there was] a lot of enthusiasm for the Nazis at the time, the economy was good, we were anti-Communist and who knew what was going to happen to the regime?”

Yes, who knew…I mean the setting up of concentration camps in 1933 couldn’t possibly have offered a hint to the type of regime the Nazis were running.

In the grand scheme of things, I feel inclined to forgive and forget Harry’s relatively minor mistakes.

He might dress like a Nazi, but at least (as far as I know) he’s not actually a Nazi. He might splash away £5,000 a night on a Las Vegas hotel but at least he’s not making money by selling access to his family. He might like to hang with the rich and famous but at least they’re not wanted war criminals.

Am I worried about Harry getting his winky out? No. Am I worried though about the Royal family as our supposed representatives (I never voted for them) relaxing with some of the most deplorable elites in the world? Yes.

Let’s try and keep things in perspective…

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Filed under Celebrity, Far-right politics, History, Human rights, Politics

Richard Howitt MEP “Whatever Cameron claims, Tory views on LGBT issues are neanderthal and we saw that in yesterday’s vote”

Spot the contentious comment:

The European Parliament “welcomes the reintroduction by the UN General Assembly of sexual orientation as grounds for protection from extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary execution, and welcomes the EU’s efforts to this end

Or

The European Parliament “calls on the Commission to advocate the withdrawal of gender identity from the list of mental and behavioural disorders in the negotiations on the 11th version of the International Classification of Diseases and to seek a non-pathologising reclassification

Or

The European Parliament “reiterates its request that the Commission produce a comprehensive roadmap against homophobia, transphobia and discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity, also addressing human rights violations

Spotted anything contentious?

Apparently the 266 MEPs who voted against this amendment to the EU’s human rights report did. This included many UK Conservative, UKIP and BNP MEPs.

Richard Howitt MEP

As a result, the Labour MEP who tabled the amendment, Richard Howitt, commented, “Whatever Cameron claims, Tory views on LGBT issues are neanderthal and we saw that in yesterday’s vote”.

Daniel Hannan, one of the Tory MEPs who voted against the amendment however had another view. He succinctly responded to Howitt’s comments saying, “sexual orientation is none of the EU’s bloody business”.

I have strong reason to believe that some MEPs, such as the inglorious Roger Helmer, who voted against this amendment could be described as homophobic, or at best, ignorant.

Hannan however who represents a slightly more complex consideration which is worth quickly looking at.

Hannan (in his own words) was “virtually the only Conservative, not just to back the scrapping of Section 28 in 2000, but to oppose its introduction in 1988. I supported the equalisation of the age of consent in 1994. I backed civil unions in 2004, and am quite relaxed about upgrading them to marriages”.

A gay rights campaigner? Not quite.

At best you could describe Hannan as indifferent towards issues of sexuality. Hannan in the past has said, “On balance, I suppose I mildly favour the idea [of gay marriage]”. Not excactly a Peter Tatchell.

So why did Hannan vote against this amendment?

He responded to Howitt commenting, “sexual orientation is none of the EU’s bloody business…[I] can be in favour of gay equality while none the less believing that moral questions ought to be decided by each nation through its own democratic mechanisms and procedures”.

Daniel Hannan MEP

The conclusion here is telling. I don’t believe he voted down this motion because he is a homophobe, but simply because he has an alarming placement of priorities.

Hannan believes these sorts of ‘moral issues’ “ought to be decided by each nation”. I disagree with this statement but that’s fine. The problem comes when he decides to vote against an amendment aimed at (among other things) offering protection to LGBT asylum seekers, a life and death issue for many, because of this belief about doing things at a nation state level.

The EU might not be perfect Mr Hannan but you have an obligation as an MEP to use it the best you can. On this occasion you have put politics above people’s safety. That is not OK.

It is important however to not lose sight of the 265 other MEPs (including Mr Farage, Griffin amongst others) who voted against this motion. I cannot, for all that I have tried, find one good reason why any MEP opposed this amendment.

The full text of the amendment reads:

“108a. Commends the Council, the EEAS, the VP/HR, the Commission and the Member States on the reengagement in favour of LGBT people’s human rights in bilateral relations with third countries, in multilateral forums, and through the EIDHR; welcomes there introduction by the UN General Assembly of sexual orientation as grounds for protection from extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary execution, and welcomes the EU’s efforts to this end; calls on the Commission to advocate the withdrawal of gender identity from the list of mental and behavioural disorders in the negotiations on the 11th version of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) and to seek a non-pathologising reclassification; reasserts that the principle of non-discrimination, also embracing grounds of sex and sexual orientation, must not be compromised in the ACP-EU partnership; reiterates its request that the Commission produce a comprehensive road map against homophobia, transphobia and discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity, also addressing human rights violations on these grounds in the world; calls on the Member States to grant asylum to people fleeing persecution in countries where LGBT people are criminalised, taking into consideration applicants’ well founded fears of persecution, and relying on their self-identification as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender;”

Did your MEP vote against the amendment? Maybe you would like to write to him/her and ask why? I would love to hear their response!

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Filed under EU politics, Far-right politics, Human rights, Politics, sexuality

Euro 2012 Special: Hate crime in Ukraine – Will the police look the other way?

This article was written for the Football Rascal Blog.

UEFA, the governing body of European football comments on their website, “Racism and any other forms of discrimination will never be tolerated. UEFA will not tolerate violence either on the pitch or in the stands. Football must set an example

Indeed, I couldn’t agree more UEFA. Which rather begs the question, why did you chose Ukraine to joint host the Euro 2012 championships?

Ukraine, is a country that Amnesty International describes as having, “[a] poor human rights record, in particular, widespread criminality, torture and other ill-treatment by the police force responsible for the safety of Euro 2012 fans”. The human rights group goes onto raise, “the issue[s] of racist and homophobic attacks, discrimination, violations of the right to a fair trial, failure to protect asylum-seekers and migrants, and the harassment and prosecution of human rights defenders”. I wonder how many in UEFA officials have read this glowing report card?

Now, I am no expert here but how do “racist and homophobic attacks” combined with “torture and ill-treatment by the police force” sit with UEFA’s image of “zero-tolerance” of either “violence or discrimination”. In fact it seems to imply the exact opposite.

I am not opposed to major sporting events being held in countries with less than perfect human rights records per se. Indeed, life would be a bit boring if year in year out every major event was held in Luxembourg as every other country failed to make the cut. But, there has to be limits, a line that isn’t crossed. My argument here is that fan safety is an example of a line that shouldn’t be crossed.

On 20th May 2012, police told organisers of the gay pride march to abandon the event claiming, “500 ultra-right football hooligans were en route to the rally point with the intention of preventing the march from going ahead”. So, a peaceful march was banned because of “500 ultra-right football hooligans”.

Once again I turn to Amnesty International and their researcher Max Tucker who commented, “Their [Kiev’s police force] reluctance to commit to the event and to put adequate security measures in place to protect demonstrators left organizers fearing for their safety”. After this, two activists were beaten up by a dozen youth in central Kiev. In short, the police failed to protect a group of citizens from a group of far-right football supporters.

So what has a gay pride event and Euro 2012 got to do with each other I hear you ask?

Simple. Why would you believe that the police are going to be more willing to protect LGBT activists at a gay pride event than a LGBT supporters group at Euro 2012? Or come to think of it, a black family or a Jewish supporters group?

The issue is about how authorities respond to trouble makers. Call me old fashioned on this one, but I think authorities shouldn’t pander to the hate filled whims of the far right. Crazy I know.

I think that “immigrants, gays, blacks” or anyone else who doesn’t fit into the far right’s bizarre hate filled outlook, should be free to attend these sporting events without fear of attack. In Ukraine I don’t think this is the case.

The families of  Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott have already said they will not travel there because for fear of racist abuse. This lack of protection means that Ukraine has failed in its responsibilities as a host country.

Despite what the BBC would have you believe with their slightly sensationalist ‘Stadiums of hate’ documentary, this is nothing new. Attacks on the LGBT community, religious groups and ethnic minorities have a long and well documented history in Ukraine. A history that too often the state has been complicit in.

At this stage however I don’t believe the tournament should not be cancelled. Nor though do we want an atmosphere where people are arrested on the spot for drunkenly shouted something offensive (in my opinion it shouldn’t be a crime to cause someone offence).

What I would like to see is the Ukrainian state to unequivocally condemn the police’s actions a few weeks ago and make it abundantly clear that the police will be there to protect supporters regardless of their background, sexuality or beliefs. Is this too big a ask?

My worry is that by the time this article goes to print we will already have seen violence on the streets or terraces of Ukraine.

I worry that Sol Cambell’s comment to fans to “Stay at home, watch it on TV. Don’t risk it because you could end up coming back in a coffin” may end up becoming a reality. Fan safety is the first priority and football is the second. UEFA have to be clear on this point.

Is football being overshadowed by events around the tournament? If UEFA had made a better choice in the first place, would such problems even be on the agenda? Let us know your opinion! 

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Necrophilia in penguins leaves Christian Conservatives with an icy question

Image: a penguinThe 2005 smash hit documentary “March of the penguins” was a interpreted as ‘proof’ by the religious conservative right, proof that all of their pre-existing prejudices were supported by nature. Their argument went something like, ‘we are right because nature said so’. Compelling. Taking this logic, I started to wonder to myself what else nature could teach us.

The film was taken as proof that they were right about global warming, right about intelligent design and perhaps most importantly (for them), right to support ‘traditional family values’.

The conservative film and radio critic Michael Medved went on to describe the ‘March of the Penguins’ in the New York Times by saying that it, “passionately affirms traditional norms like monogamy, sacrifice and child rearing”. Curious.

The chances are you can spot one or two problems with this assertion. But just in case…

I wonder what they think make penguins so special? Why would they want us to take our sexual and social moral guidance from penguins over any other members of the animal kingdom. For example, I wonder what Medved and the Christian right would have us learn from the practice of traumatic insemination as exhibited by the spider ‘Harpactea sadistic’? I am just asking.

Maybe I misunderstood them, maybe it was not nature per se with all its arsenic, venoms and traumatic insemination, but it is something specific about penguins that we should be learning from. Well…

If, for some inexplicable reason, you did chose penguins as the one true incarnation of natural morality, you may still stumble across one or two problems. The Natural History Museum has recently unearthed research (that supports a body of research compiled over the last fifty years) about the Adélie penguin’s sex life. To say it doesn’t sit comfortably with the Christian right’s outlook is an understatement.

The research notes, “the frequency of sexual activity, auto-erotic behaviour, and seemingly aberrant behaviour of young unpaired males and females, including necrophilia, sexual coercion, sexual and physical abuse of chicks and homosexual behaviour”. Wow.

Scott’s team’s research didn’t stop at sexual norms. It notes, the penguins would gather in “little hooligan bands of half a dozen or more and hang about the outskirts of the knolls, whose inhabitants they annoy by their constant acts of depravity”.

Is anyone else having fun? Nature…that’s right, nature tells us its natural to hang around and annoy inhabitants with “constant acts of depravity”. Friday nights will never be the same again.

So if nature, and by “March of the Penguins logic” – the Christian right, would have us believe, necrophilia, sexual coercion and ‘gangs’ are all to be welcomed as ‘natural’ phenomena.

I wonder if anyone has contacted Michael Medved for a comment?

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Filed under Far-right politics, Media, Politics, Religion, Social comment

Going going gone – BNP obliterated in local elections

The demise of the BNP as a significant political force has today gathered speed. The far right party has lost all 12 of its council seats it was hoping to defend.  Only the truly audacious would try to argue that this is anything other than a disaster for the party.

The BNP’s official website however gives it a good go commenting, “Labour will be seen to have taken seats off everyone. And yet again, the plain truth is that this includes the BNP”. This seems to be wishful thinking. At the time of writing the electorate appear to have abandoned both Conservative and Liberal Democrats, but support for Greens, Scottish Nationalists and to a lesser extent the UKIP has modestly grown. Other smaller parties have done well while the BNP have been all but obliterated from electoral politics. You can see the full election results here.

Equally I wonder how the BNP would explain Le Pen’s extraordinary success in the recent French Presidential elections (where the socialists are in opposition and have attracted wide spread support).

The demise of the BNP however should be met with a degree of caution. In line with the BNP’s political demise we have seen a growing presence of the far right on our streets. New social movements such as the English Defence League (EDL) are making increasingly frequent appearances. As the BNP lose support, their hardened support base will look to fill the void that has been left. Be under no illusion that the far right still holds significant support across the UK.

What emerges from the ashes of Griffin’s train crash of a political party remains to be seen.

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The day I was ashamed to be a Cheltenham Town fan

This article was published on the Tattooed Football blog.

We were 2-0 down. The collective voice had slipped out of our supporters. We were silent. Spurs fans responded in the only way they knew, to start mocking our silence. They finished with a collective ‘shhhhhhh’ to illustrate the resonating silence coming from us. What happened next shocked me. It shouldn’t have done, but it did. Someone behind me shouted in a thick West Country accent, ‘you’re not in gas chambers now!’

Read the full article here

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Filed under Far-right politics, Football, Gloucestershire, Politics, Social comment, Sport

Cameron has left himself isolated on all three European fronts

The European Union is the only diplomatic game in town for the UK. Like it or loathe it (I am personally somewhere in between) – we need it. Before Cameron came into power I predicted that Cameron would leave us isolated. This argument however was based on the Conservative’s moves within the European Parliament. I could never have predicted how Mr Cameron has left us exposed and isolated on all three major European fronts. In the European Parliament the Conservatives are sat with “xenophobic anti-Semites”. In the Council, Cameron has literally walked away and in the Commission, well we all know what Cameron thinks of Cathy Ashton.

I turn to Edward McMillan Scott, former Conservative MEP who describes the problem of the Conservative grouping in the European Parliament as such, and I quote, “Whatever view you take about David Cameron’s pledge to leave the EPP it has been panned by every commentator, and the choice of EU allies has been ‘controversial’. Putting the Polish MEP Michal Kaminski up for Vice-President was a disastrous choice and would have led to a furore”. He continues, “Kaminski and his party represent the rise of disguised extremism in Europe”. If you have not already – I strongly recommend you read this leaked email – it is very telling.

In true Conservative manner my local MP, Neil Carmichael described the partners inside the ECR group to me as holding “unpalatable views”. In other words, far right! Through pushing for this alliance, Cameron has managed to alienate himself and the Conservatives away from every major centre-right political party within the EU. I think Mr Carmichael and many other Conservative MPs know this.

In the Commission, we have known for quite some time that Barosso and Cameron have not seen eye to eye on the economics. We also know that Cameron has been caught ‘mocking’ Cathy Ashton (the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy as well as the Vice-President of the European Commission). Instead of working to build a relationship at every turn with a Brit in one of the most influential posts in the EU Cameron has left himself isolated.

Then last but not least, the Council. Well, the latest Summit speaks for itself. 26 voices to one. In the words of The Independent, “The EU leaves Britain”. They quote Angela Merkel as saying, “It has antagonised everyone…I really don’t believe David Cameron was ever with us at the table”.

The EU is in drastic need of reform, it is nowhere near being fully accountable transparent or democratic. We are not going to achieve any of this by following a tactic of isolation and frustration. My only hope is that the traditional Tory vote will spot this growing isolation and how bad it is for Britain and respond through the ballot box. Cameron is doing irreversible damage to the UK. I just hope we can survive to the next election.

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Why Sunny Hundal has got it wrong on “my tram experience”

“My Tram Experience” is an ugly snippet of life in the UK. It is an example of unashamed racism that we should all be eager to condemn. Sunny Hundal (editor of Liberal Conspiracy and comments is free columnist) was quick to join in this condemnation, that was until he saw the ferocious backlash from the tweeting masses.  In Sunny’s words, “Piers Morgan was calling for the woman to be deported, some asked for her to be locked up, while others said her child should be taken away. And those are only the printable responses”.

First on Twitter and then through a comments is free article Sunny made a valuable effort to counter this moral outrage. I won’t try and simplify his arguments but suggest you read his article in full here.

His argument though has a series of holes. Firstly, he claims the law is “an overbearing ass”. Which is true, and it is why I commented that I support this government’s move to remove word ‘insulting’ from the Public Orders Act. In light of this, I would be happy with a law that protects people from “threatening or intimidating” behaviour – not simply ‘insulting’. Sunny it would appear is not.

Sunny seemed to suggest that it was OK to be intimidated and threatened in public. I could not disagree more.  I think it is right and proper that victims of aggression be afforded the protection of the law in such a situation. In this specific circumstance, the woman was clearly intimidating. Sunny’s argument that because she was sat down she didn’t pose a threat is a weak one. This argument would suggest you cannot be verbally intimidated. This is clearly not the case. Shouting “fucking paki” in the face of a Muslim (intimidation does not need to be accurate or PC) or “fucking fag” in the face of a gay man is verbal intimidation. To suggest otherwise is to undermine the terrible experiences that people have to endure on a daily basis.

This has to be separated off from simply holding unpleasant views. I can write all sorts of rubbish, as can our friends in the BNP.  Their views play into a dangerous culture of hatred but should not be outlawed. My views play into a dangerous culture of self-righteous woolly lefties but should certainly not be outlawed. When I start sitting on trams and screaming abuse at anyone who reads the Daily Mail –that’s when my views become intimidating and are illegal. This is an important distinction.

Sunny asks in his article, “Do you really want to give police the willingness to arrest people simply for having an argument?” The answer is clearly no – but I do want to be protected from intimidating behaviour.

Secondly, he suggests the law does not help us challenge the wider problem of racism. Again, I would broadly agree – it is a blunt tool at best. What it does do however, is provide victims with recourse to justice. It can (or at least holds the potential to) give the victims as sense of closure. Although rock against racism (and the plethora of other social movements which have successfully changed attitudes) is as important as ever, suggesting a victim of race hate crime should go to a rock concert or join hope not hate is simply not sufficient. Victims, rightly or wrongly, look to the law to feel justice has been done. We have a responsibility to provide victims with the appropriate legislation. When Sunny point to the Race Relations Act and that it has only had a handful of prosecutions, we know this is a failure of the system and that legislation, not because the crimes are not being committed. The state has let down those who the Race Relations Act was designed to protect.

Finally, Sunny comments, “My fourth argument is simply this: I would rather a world where such incidents didn’t exist but the world will never be perfect. I would much prefer such racism to be open and visible because there are still far too many Westminster commentators who think racism is a thing of the past.” Again, I agree, but this does not mean we have to encourage it! I would rather these issues were in the open – but I am not going to put on a racist poetry evening for racists to come and express themselves at. In the same way, when a racist has clearly broken the law I am not going to go out of my way to argue they shouldn’t be arrested. For some reason Sunny will.

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Rick Perry, would you want him as the next US President?

This article was originally published on Out Bristol Issue 12

I am struggling to think of a politician who ideologically sits further away from my political view point than Rick Perry. Perry has recently entered the race to become the Republican Presidential Candidate. I focus specifically on Perry, opposed to any other candidate as he is riding a wave of support that has tipped him to win the chance to go head to head with Obama in 2012 and possibly become the next President of the United States of America. Perry is a man who not only holds deeply unpleasant political views but someone who justifies them through a contradictory ideology.

Perry is vehemently anti state intervention. He has developed into perhaps the ultimate neo-liberal (in the classical British sense of the word opposed to the American understanding of a [lefty] ‘liberal’). Yet, if we look at some of his key policy areas we can see a Grand Canyon size contradiction. In his 10 years as Governor of Texas he consistently slashed state funding, supported the use of the death penalty, and strongly opposed civil partnerships for same sex couples.

In one light Perry backs the American dream. Your chance to succeed, whoever you are, and the state’s responsibility is simply not to get in your way. He notoriously described a bill to ban texting whilst driving as, “a government effort to micromanage the behaviour of adults”. This ideological drive to avoid state intervention resulted in the state budget in Texas to tumble during his oversight. Yet on the flip side of this apparent obsession with avoiding state intervention he appears to back the State when it takes away someone’s life, stops two people from marrying or denies a child’s access to sufficient sex education. For me, that’s a pretty big infringement of someone’s rights by the State.

The American dreams rests on the concept of a meritocracy – the idea that if you have talent and you work hard you will succeed. As soon you mix a potent dash of discrimination into this formula you end up with entire sections of the population being hampered, either by the state or through individual prejudice. Perry appears to actively support the state in discriminating and is oblivious to the reality of individuals holding discriminatory views.

This level of tacit homophobia is not surprising, in 2010 Rick Perry’s fellow Texas Republicans voted on a party platform about LGBT Americans, saying: “We believe that the practice of homosexuality tears at the fabric of society, contributes to the breakdown of the family unit, and leads to the spread of dangerous, communicable diseases…Homosexuality must not be presented as an acceptable, alternative lifestyle in our public education and policy, nor should family be redefined to include homosexual couples.”

Across the pond they are laying the foundations for how the most powerful country in the world is going to be governed for the next 4 years. Be under no illusion that if Perry is at the helm, the fight for LGBT rights, equality and diversity will face an uphill struggle.

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Celebrating John Stuart Mill and David Starkey


If you have not already seen David Starkey’s outrageous racist slurs have a little watch. Awful no? There have been no shortages of people who have thrown their weight into articles to highlight why he was not only wrong, but also dangerous. If unchallenged, views such as Starkey’s can foster hatred which has very real and very dangerous consequences. The point however, is that they are not left unchallenged. Authors such Owen Jones have done a great job of providing an articulate alternative. Indeed, what has been lovely is the way the majority unite in shocked opposition to the repulsiveness of Starkey’s comments.

In a perverse twist of logic, we would not have had a torrent of columns and articles about tolerance, trust and community if it was not for Starkey’s awful comments. This thought process draws its ideas from the thinking of John Stuart Mill’s ‘On Liberty’ (1859) in which Mill argued that truth (that evolves and adapts over time) can only be ascertained through its comparison to ‘false’ sentiments. Although he also warns about our ability to judge what is ‘false’ and what is ‘truth’. He argues freedom of speech should be celebrated, and ‘false’ comments should be welcomed as they help us to distinguish what is ‘truth’. Mill argued that free discussion is necessary to prevent the “deep slumber of a decided opinion“. I would argue that the likes of Starkey and Douglas Murray (two high profile public figures whose views I find deplorable) keep the moral consciousness alive and burning.

Ordinary people are struggling to find meaning behind the recent riots. It is interesting that it takes someone like Starkey for us to be able to articulate what we know was not the ‘cause’. Without doubt or hesitation, 99% of Brits can happily say the riots did not happen because the “whites had started to act black”.  Thanks to Starkey and Mill, we know what we are not – racists.

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Roger Helmer describes a hypothetical rape as such: “the victim surely shares a part of the responsibility, if only for establishing reasonable expectations in her boyfriend’s mind”

Roger “I think a girl can be responsible for being raped” Helmer

Tories are on the back foot on this subject. I wrote a blog yesterday essentially defending what Ken Clarke said (although highlighting its lack of clarity). Then, out of no-where (well Brussels) Roger Helmer wades in with some comments that reinforce every negative idea about rape!

While I think it is right and proper that Ken Clarke still has a job, I honestly cannot see how this man who denies the existence of homophobia, climate change and child poverty within traveller communities still has a job. This latest round of comments highlight that his views are not only out-dated but also worryingly out of touch with reality.  To suggest that a girl is in part responsible for being raped is totally and utterly unacceptable.  On this one I stand side by side with Caroline Flint who described his comments as “outrageous”.

It is equally worrying that one MEP within the ECR group can be thrown out for so little, and yet another stay in the group after making such consistently disgusting comments.

The sad truth of the matter is that Mr Cameron knows he cannot stand up and be counted on this issue because Roger Helmer remains a favourite of his far right backbenchers. If the PM is going to launch an attack, he feels as though it has to be on something more serious than this. Thus, in a nutshell this is what’s wrong with the modern Conservative Party. Mr Cameron is still pandering to the far right extremists’ and so will tolerate what you and I find intolerable.

I suggest the Prime Minister goes away and read Mr Helmer’s comments and sets an example to show that he too finds Roger Helmer’s views deplorable.

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Swindon Town FC should be embarrassed – Di Canio is a symbol of modern fascism

The figure head of a reputable club?

After a torrid season (relegated 41 points off 46 games with -22 goal difference) Swindon Town FC have put the icing on the cake by appointing a fascist (in his own words) as a manager. Paolo Di Canio is an ex-Italian footballer with well documented fascist views and an admiration for Mussolini.

Di Canio, in his autobiography, praised Mussolini as “basically a very principled, ethical individual” who was “deeply misunderstood”. He has the word “Dux”, the Latin equivalent of “Duce”, tattooed on his arm. In our fight to remove far-right politics out of league football this is an unwelcome step in the wrong direction for Swindon.

I do not need to write about the well documented atrocities that happened under Mussolini’s rule. The routine use of executions, torture and oppression has left a lasting legacy in Italy and beyond. For a club to think that they can separate themselves off from such a history is both naïve and insensitive.

The GMB Unions cutting of any financial link with the club is clear condemnation of the two-year long contract awarded to Di Canio.  Andy Newman, the GMB’s Swindon branch secretary, said: ‘We have decided to end our sponsorship deal with Swindon Town, we will not be renewing our agreement with them. Because we are a trade union we could not be seen to have a financial relationship with a club that has fascist manager. We have no choice. It’s unfortunate but that’s the way it is.’

This move is welcome as it highlights the unacceptable nature of Di Canio’s appointment whilst hitting the club in the one place that the board cares about, the wallet.

This is why I am calling on all Swindon Town fans to boycott all matches between now and Di Canio’s inevitable dismissal. The only thing a clubs board will listen to is falling gate sales.  It is not acceptable for a club to appoint someone with such despicable views. The message has to come from the supporters. Sack him for the reputation of the club.

I believe that the clubs decision to appoint Di Canio directly contradicts their club’s charter which states, “Swindon Town FC will not tolerate sexual or racially based harassment or other discriminatory behaviour, whether physical or verbal, and will work to ensure such action is met with appropriate action”. They have essentially managed to give tacit institutional support to discriminatory behaviour. This cannot be accepted.

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UKIP MEP’s continue to humiliate Britain in the European Parliament

UKIP MEP Godfrey Bloom has added his name to the prestigious list of UKIP MEP’s who have managed to humiliate the UK in the European Parliament by acting in a totally unacceptable way.  Mr Bloom shouted “Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Fuehrer” at Martin Schulz (the leader of the Socialist grouping in the European Parliament).  He then held up proceedings on a couple of occasions by refusing to leave the chamber (when asked).

Mr Bloom joins his party leader Nigel Farage in letting the UK down.  Mr Farage notoriously told President of the European Council Herman van Rompuy he had “the charisma of a damp rag” in an outburst in the European Parliament.  These incidents are hugely unusual within the European Parliament, but are increasingly becoming normal for UKIP members.

These men continue to embarrass the UK by breaking Parliamentary rules around treating members with “respect”.  Voting UKIP will not bring the UK any closer to leaving Europe, but it will move the UK away from holding influence in Brussels.  They do nothing but isolate us further.

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We are football fans, let us introduce ourselves

There is an out-dated self-fulfilling stereotype that is blighting the beautiful game.  It is the sort of stereotype that is so damaging that in other walks of life it would have been tagged “discriminatory” and yet is accepted for football fans.  This stereotype is that football fans are racist, homophobic, violent and irrational.  Take a step back and think about just how short-sighted this is.

Let’s be clear, some football fans are disproportionately racist, homophobic and violent in relation to the wider British population; although this is a dying phenomenon.  Some football fans still do cause violence, shout abuse at each other and vandalise their surroundings. This is very different however, from saying that football fans are these things.  This prejudice materialises in a number of ways.  For example it is not just an internal prejudice that people hold, it affects our everyday lives.  If you are wearing football colours it is common to be banned from pubs.  Banned! Literally not allowed to enter because you support a game! Let’s now make a massively controversial and yet interesting comparison.

Black men, are disproportionately responsible for violent crime (two-thirds of shooting, over half of armed robberies) and yet, no civilised human being would still think that Black people are violent.  There is no bar manager who would deny a Black man entry to a bar purely because of what he looks like. Sadly, I believe that people still hold irrational fears based on inbuilt racism, but it has become socially unacceptable for anyone to express these prejudices. This public consciousness is not so apparent when it comes to football fans. Not only do people believe football fans are all these things but it is OK to be openly prejudice against them.

Football fans in the UK are a very different phenomenon to the firm violence of the 1980’s and 1990’s.  There is still football hooliganism.  The difference is that they no longer hold wide-spread support amongst football supporters.  The violence is no longer seen as a source of pride.  If you hear racist abuse in the stands today it is looked down on.  Indeed, this is slowly becoming true around homophobic chanting as well.  The sad thing here, is that football followed society rather than led it.

I find it really disappointing when supporter groups like the Bristol City Supporters Trust have to put out video’s like the one at the start of this blog to point out the obvious.  Football supporters are cross generational, cross class, cross ethnicity and overwhelmingly peaceful.  There is only a minority that are interested in violence. 

When a football club proposes to build a stadium on your doorstep, you are right to be worried.  It will strain your transport infrastructure every other Saturday, noise levels will rise for a couple of hours a every other Saturday and you might (if you are unlucky) experience football related to violence.  These problems however are often over stated, and the benefits football can bring to the community, local business and to individuals are often underplayed. 

To mention a few potential benefits (the list is too long for this post but please do read this report by “Supporters Direct”):

  • Community outreach – Clubs nearly always have staff and money to invest into local schools and community centres.
  • Community cohesion – when you are on a football pitch or in the stand, normal societal divisions loose their significance (as I said football is cross class, cross ethnicity and cross culture).
  • Facilities – Often the facilities of clubs can be used by local teams, the rooms for evening education classes or the restaurant bar area for events.
  • Business opportunities – having a successful football club acts as an economic magnet for further investment in the area, from restaurants and pubs through to schools and transport.
  • “Soft benefits” – these are ones you cannot quantify, the friendships, the civic pride, the social cohesion that football can have. 

These benefits are not a given.  Not all clubs benefit their communities as much as others.  The Supporters direct report makes recommendations on how to bring about the best practice to increase the “social benefit” of football clubs.  A case lesson to learn is that it needs community involvement.  That means me and you going along and getting involved!

I still maintain that there is no force in the world more powerful than football to bring about change.  If we marginalise football (we don’t want a stadium near us), if we give only bad press, and if we continue to paint fans in out-dated firm colours then we will continue to leave this force to be moulded by regressive social movements.  It appears that the BNP understand the significance, but sadly other political movements seem to shy away from engaging.  It is up to us, as citizens to engage with our local clubs to bring about the sort of relationship we want to see.

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Filed under Economics, Far-right politics, Football, Politics, sexuality, Sport

We are still haunted by the legacy of colonialism

We have to reclaim our history, however vile!

The modern western world has colonialism and imperialism entrenched into its history.  The racial and ethnic tensions that are apparent in contemporary society can be traced through history back to the time of colonialism and imperialism.  To pretend it is not there is to play into the hands of the modern far right.

Colonialism refers to the political authority of the European powers over some of the areas of Asia, Africa, Australasia and the Americas.  Broadly it is the time when there was a political economy based around the slave trade By the end of the 19th century nearly all Africa had been colonised by one or other of the Great Powers.

Modern racist discourse can be traced back to the slave trade.  Although, it is important to remember that racism and slavery did not always go hand-in-hand (think of the ancient Greeks!).  Why then, in our murky colonial history did race become such a big deal? From the earliest recordings of British involvement in Africa (large scale in 17th century) the exaggerated term “black” was used to describe the very obviously different skin colour between British and the (at first) West Africans.  However the colour ‘black’ came with some deeply ingrained values; it was associated pre 16th century with dirt and death.  It had connotations of evil and wickedness.  This is illustrated in the distinction between black and white magic and as well, the Black Death.  This all came at a time when the ideal of beauty in Britain was very much of a pale white face.

Throughout the Colonial period the appearance of the African was stretched and exaggerated through European discourse.  Their nakedness was often highlighted to illustrate their difference from the ‘civilised’ European.   To start with people were content to comment on skin colour to describe their difference; during the 17th and 18th centuries however a number of other characteristics were attributed to them.  Soon African men were considered to have potent sexuality.  The men were considered to have a larger penis and to be extremely lusty.  Some Europeans at the time speculated on the sexual intercourse that might have occurred between apes and Africans.  Indeed increasingly Europeans would compare the Africans that they ‘discovered’ to the apes that they “discovered” at a similar time. Indeed, other characteristics were recorded at this time such as laziness and superstition.  After meeting Africans as neutrals (pre slave trade), the colonial legacy slowly degenerated into a deeply racist discourse.

Towards the end of the 19th century a movement developed to legitimise Imperialism.  Social-Darwinism was used to justify the colonial power’s actions in Africa.  There was a belief that there was a natural hierarchy of races.  These were predominantly European ideas and as such Europeans were normally ranked as the ‘highest being’.  This is an almost laughable idea today, but at the time was considered gospel by many.  It is important to note that such broad biological assumptions are still made and believed in modern racist belief.  For example Charles Murray’s book ‘The Bell Curve’ (1994) is still used by extremists to argue that White people have a higher I.Q than black people. Stereotypes still persist in main stream society in many western countries as the mass of the population still see Black Afro-Caribbean’s consistently performing low skilled manual jobs (a changing but lingering phenomena).

Although the dark days of our colonial past, are just that, our past.  It is worth taking a moment to reflect the impact that they are still having on our society.  There are some very clear ethnic tensions that can be directly linked to European colonial past.  The continued conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo demonstrates some extreme racial tensions that have a clear link to the Belgium legacy there for example.  The racism that we see most regularly today however is a lot more subtle.

Modern conflicts, especially in the West appear to be increasingly more complex than simply a reflection of race.  Ethnicity is a wider term that can describe a group of people beyond their inherent characteristics.  For example the Muslim community in the U.K could easily describe themselves as an ethnic group.  No longer does it simply describe your skin colour. This leads to a more complex system of discrimination where culture, religion and race all become intertwined.  In the UK there is no simple way of defining what it exactly is that people discriminate against. However appearance still plays a large part in social discrimination in contemporary society.  This is reflected in police stop and search figures; increasingly Arabs have been subjected to a greater number of searches.

Despite conflicts growing increasingly more complex, there are still racial elements to most conflicts in the western world.  In November 2005 large-scale riots broke out throughout France.  The BBC described these as ‘race riots’ as it was predominantly members of the black community rioting.  However a more accurate way to try and have one term to describe these riots would perhaps have been to describe them as socio-economic deprivation boiling over.  It is no coincidence that these riots took place in some of the poorest neighbourhoods across France.  However these riots were portrayed across the world more as race riots.

Today we can see the BNP riding a roller coaster of popularity (for whenever they have risen high they have very soon plunged in public opinion).  The peaks of the BNP’s popularity however should worry us.  The BNP often attack a way of life opposed to a specific “race” (although the racist undertones are clear).  For example their leader Nick Griffin was cleared of the charge ‘inciting racial hatred’ for describing Islam as a ‘wicked faith’.  In his trial he argued he did not hate Muslims or any ethnicity but purely the faith they followed.  However what the B.N.P does illustrate is that there is still interest and small support for such extreme right-wing politics.  They often play on fundamental fears that are still apparent in society; for example they argue that these ‘migrants’ are stealing British jobs.  It is apparent that there is interest in these ‘racial’ issues in the main stream even if there is not much support for it.  A lot of the discourse they use is similar to that of colonial times.  For example the B.N.P campaigned for many months about the Asian ‘sexual predators’ that were coming after ‘our girls’.  This is a clear link back to colonial stereotypes that play into the discriminative discourse that the B.N.P wishes to capitalise from.

To forget our colonial past, in all it’s ugliness, is to give the modern racist a free use of a deeply ingrained sub-conscious tool.  Regardless of whether we would like to admit it or not, racism still exists in this country.  We have to acknowledge that it has a long history.  If we do not acknowledge this history, then those outdated images of the black man as a sexual predator, or the monkey chants across football grounds will continue to be used.  We have to reclaim our history, however vile it is! At least we have the decency to acknowledge it to be vile!

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Why painting conservatives as racists is not fair

William Hague, accused of "Naked Racism" by Tony Benn. Photo thanks to BBC.

It is very easy to paint the UK Conservatives as racists.  Indeed, it has to be noted that they do rather lend themselves to it.  A Guardian comments article today has a look back at Tory racism over the last year, highlighting case after case of Conservatives making terrible racist comments.  I have blogged before about how the Tories sit with racist and homophobic partners in the European Parliament.  Yet all of this needs some clarification.  There is nothing inherently racist about voting (or at a push) being a member of the Conservative Party.

The Tories, top brass present themselves to be as clean as a whistle, commenting that racism is a thing of the past for the Tories. Sadly, as the above mentioned article suggests, this is not the case.  There appears to be a correlation between those active in the party and a certain level or racism.  This is obviously not absolute (I know some very open and accepting Tory officials) but it does appear to set a rule of thumb. Elected Tories often have an entrenched form of racism at the basis of their politics. 

This has to be separated from the mass of Tory voters.  I honestly believe that there are many Conservative voters who share similar feelings to me.  I come from a long background of “blue”.  Growing up in rural Gloucestershire in a middle-class family I have been exposed to all the highlights (and many lowlights) of a true blue up-bringing.  I feel in many ways that I am a conservative at heart – I do not like things to change.  I like drinking tea and going for walks.  I find protests uncomfortable and noisy.  When people advocate change you never know what’s going to happen. I like many traditional aspects of life and I want to irrationally hold on to them.  Just because I like tea when served in fine china, it does not mean I am a racist.  There is nothing inherent about liking the traditional aspects of life and being a racist.  It follows however, that if you share these sentiments then you to have to consider whether a Tory vote really represents your values.  Just because you like a quiet life, does that mean you can back a party dripping in racism?

Despite Cameron’s PR game trying to paint them as the cuddly party, there is still a nasty side to them that personally means I could never support them.  Despite what Cameron peddles about racism, it has been shown his party is endemically racist.  Despite what Cameron would say about opposing the death penalty, many of his MEP’s voted against the EU position on the death penalty at the latest Strasbourg session.  Despite what Cameron would say about equality we can see that his party is dominated by the Eton élite who get upset if asked to sit in standard class on the train!

These guys do not represent the “levels of common decency” that are key to my moral make-up.  These guys represent something that is alien to me, xenophobia, racism and a massive sense of homophobia.  I am going to vote Green at the next election because they are there to preserve, to look after and care for many of the things that I care about (the countryside, my old age, the disadvantaged in society, the NHS, schooling etc).  I cannot support the conservatives; yet let’s not start accusing every other conservative voter of being a racist; this simply is not the case.

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Leaked email reveals that the Tories have ‘anti-Semitic, homophobic and racist links’ in Europe!

McMillan Scott (far right) has been "sent to Coventry" after highlighting the Tories extremist links. Photo thanks to EP photostream!

I have stumbled across a leaked email from McMillan Scott,former Tory MEP, that highlights what many have feared about the Tories new ECR grouping for a long time. At the inaugural meeting of the Tories new grouping, the ECR, McMillan Scott expressed concerns about some of the “extremists” that the Tories are now sitting with in the European Parliament.  This cumulated with him standing for Vice-President of the Parliament against the ECR candidate  Michał Kamiński a Polish MEP from the Law and Justice Party.  McMillan Scott now sits as a non-aligned in the Parliament.

For me, this email confirms what I already knew.  The Tories are sitting with some nasty characters in the European Parliament putting them in “awkward positions” around LGBT rights and the death penalty to name just two!

Here, I copy in the entirety of the email I received:

EDWARD McMILLAN-SCOTT
EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT VICE-PRESIDENT
Yorkshire & Humber, UK


MY EXPULSION FROM THE CONSERVATIVE PARTY
> 8 February 2010

> Dear Westminster parliamentary colleague,

> I am writing to many Conservative MPs (and I am sorry this is not personalised) about the Party’s treatment of a parliamentarian. Despite my restraint with the media, there is a risk of it becoming an issue in the General Election. The reputational damage to the Party is already considerable: Keira Knightley’s contemporary West End opens with a speech about David Cameron’s ‘grubby fascist friend’

> Whatever view you take about David Cameron’s pledge to leave the EPP it has been panned by every commentator, and the choice of EU allies has been controversial. Putting the Polish MEP Michal Kaminski up for Vice-President was a disastrous choice and would have led to a furore, whether or not I stood against him. Expelling me from the Party until after the next European Election has been a CCHQ own goal and it is time it was corrected – by politicians.

David Cameron may well be unaware of what has been taking place but my numerous attempts to achieve an amicable solution are being systematically blocked by CCHQ.

 I now urge the parliamentary party to appoint an experienced MP – perhaps a member of the 1922 Executive – to conduct an inquiry and resolve this quickly.

The whip was withdrawn from me by Timothy Kirkhope to divert attention from political misjudgements.

However my expulsion from the Party is of another order and must not be allowed to stand. 

You can take me out of the Conservative Party, but you cannot take the Conservative out of me. Please let me know if you wish to help or want more information. My private email is xx@xxx and my mobile number is xxxxxxxxxxx. The Party is more important than any individual, but principles trump the Party and I will not let matters rest.

> Yours,

10 Killer Points: Edward McMillan-Scott MEP��s expulsion from the Conservative Party

  1. I complied with the manifesto, leaving the EPP and joining the new ECR group. I said that I was ‘uncomfortable’ because of moral, constitutional and extremist issues.  I stood against a Polish MEP, Michal Kaminski, and was re-elected Vice-President of the European Parliament with strong cross-party support and NGO support (see http://www.edwardforvp.eu/) on 14 July – see attached Timeline.  This was done on a point of principle because Kaminski had recent and easily-discovered ‘anti-Semitic, homophobic and racist links’ – for some details see attached Kaminski Uncovered

 

2.      Kaminski and his party represent the rise of disguised extremism in Europe.  My longstanding concern and action about extremism stems from a family secret since 1940, revealed on BBC Radio 4’s Mother was a Blackshirt only in January by my aunt, Diana Bailey, that my maternal grandparents were interned by Churchill as senior Blackshirts (please ask for a transcript)

3. Kaminski was not an official Conservative candidate. He was nominated by Timothy Kirkhope, Tory MEP leader, as part of a stitch-up to promote Kirkhope as leader of the new group without election. The Tory MEPs’ rules of procedure for nominations for EP parliamentary posts were ignored. I stood as an independent. Another Conservative stood independently the next day for another parliamentary post (‘Quaestor’ = Ways & Means) but no action was taken. Only I lost the whip.

4. My Brussels assistants and I were ‘sent to Coventry’ (this was ignored by Tory MEPs and staff); my UK staff were told to stop working for me by Party officials (they refused); all material carrying my name was to be expunged from constituency offices, invitations to Party functions withdrawn; my conference pass was revoked, a fringe meeting cancelled, among other petty actions. Throughout all this, CCHQ has flagrantly ignored the Party’s constitution, its principles – and its reputation

5. A smear campaign was launched against me, starting with a specious letter which William Hague sent to key Conservatives in my constituency and also issued to the media although he knew that, for legal reasons, I could not reply. Six Conservative Press Officers vilified me to constituency media and the nationals while defending Kaminski. This perverse CCHQ strategy has created an issue on which, I am told, Gordon Brown has achieved electoral ‘cut-through’ on our weakest topic – Europe

6. On September 15, without notice or reason, I was expelled from the Party after an email exchange between Board members. They did not meet. This decision is subject to a prolonged internal CCHQ appeal procedure in which my lawyers and I have little faith (I was on the Board for three years) and, as a result, may lead to court action.

7. My UK lawyers, the best in their field, say that my expulsion was against natural justice, disproportionate and unconstitutional: they look forward to the High Court

8. The ‘blind pledge’ (signed by all Tory Euro-candidates that they would join whatever EU grouping Cameron devised) is illegal under EU law and my treatment by the Party is contrary to the EU’s ‘Race Directive’ (and the Race Relations Act)

9. The Party appears to seek to terminate my parliamentary career (I am 60) – as well as my livelihood – despite 25 years as an MEP, 4 years as leader of the MEPs, 3 years on the Board and 43 years as a Party member. I have a reputation for tenacity

10. The only other parliamentarians to have been expelled from the Party were Den Dover for two years, after allegedly misusing his MEP expenses; and Lord Archer for five years, after imprisonment for perjury in the High Court. Who is CCHQ kidding? http://www.emcmillanscott.com/ .

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Booze Britain – The new Beer Barron!

When did it end up like this? Thanks to Bistrosavage (flickr)

Today the Barron’s report on how to tackle the UK’s drinking problem (which one?) was released with much media fanfare. Kevin Barron (the Chair of the Health select committee) proposes in this report two main policy idea’s on how to tackle “Booze Britain”. Idea Number One, he suggests a minimum charge of a 50p per unit of alcohol. Idea Number 2, he suggests a reversal of the 24 hour licensing that came into effect in 2003.

Firstly, let’s get it on the record, that I, steve4319 think that Britain has a serious alcohol problem. We can see hundreds of drink drive related deaths per year, billions of pounds spent annually by the NHS on alcohol related illnesses and this is without mentioning the personal horror stories that many have witnessed from alcohol abuse and dependency (note they are two separate things but are often confused). Something has to be done. Yet, this piece of social policy seems about as sensible as downing a tequila slammer just after “bottle rocketing” some stellar (believe me it doesn’t end well).

Let’s take the proposed 50p minimum charge for a unit of alcohol. This would mean that you could still get 1 pound pints, 50p shots of vodka and (if so wished) a 50p shot put into the top of a pint of larger (yes this is common practice in Weatherspoons up and down the country). Essentially, it would not tackle those slightly disgusting scenes of fully grown men vomiting on each other’s shoes in the early hours in town centers. It would not stop the cat fights that break out between inebriated girls. Most importantly, it would not put a dent in the business plan of J.D Weatherspoons of “buy cheap, sell cheap”.

What it would do is hit the supermarket drunks. It would hit those who buy bottles of wine (it would mean each bottle would be at least 4-5 pounds), those who buy crates of beer (your looking about 24 quid a case) and the bottles of spirits (for a 70 cl bottle expect to pay at least 14 pounds) – assuming I have done my math’s right! When I use the phrase supermarket drunks, you imagine a homeless guy with a can of special brew…think again. The supermarkets are being hit by a respectable wave of middle classes consuming incredible amounts of alcohol. It is a hidden face of alcohol abuse in the UK. Your doctor, your teacher and the nice man in the bank are probably going home every other evening and consuming a bottle of wine (each). OK, they do not end up urinating on war memorials but they are still doing serious damage to themselves.

So, I hear you cry…surely if this 50p a unit idea helps tackle this, it must be a good idea. I will explain why it is not on two levels. Firstly, this catch all policy disadvantages the majority to help the minority. As a rule of thumb that is not a good piece of social policy. It depends though, how much it disadvantages some in relation to helping others. In this case, due to the middle class nature of those it intends to help, it would not significantly help those it is aimed at. On the other-hand, it will hit the poorest section of our society that spends literally a few pounds a week on alcohol. It will not affect all you who appreciate a good 2001 Rioja, but it will affect those who appreciate the 2.99 specials!

Secondly, I wish to question whether it is up to the state to moderate self-harming practices (which is different to public issues such as town centers on Friday nights). Most ordinary people would not advocate complete prohibition (enjoy it in moderation blah blah), but feel as though alcohol can, and should be enjoyed in moderation. In a free society should this balance not be left to the individual to reach? While 3 pints of beer is considered (including by Her Majesty’s government) to be “binge drinking”, I would personally consider it a good night down the pub! On the other-hand we can see that 3 pints would leave some people on the floor. I think that alcohol consumption should be like other aspects of adult life where we learn (through experience and advice) how to live as functioning people. In the past I have drunk too much too often, now I only occasionally drink too much – job done. This however, has to be accompanied by sufficient support mechanisms (provided by the state) to help those in need with serious problems (that represent the minority). This idea of the state trying to force people to drink less through economic sanctions is surely mislead.

There is then the issue of the reversing of the 24 hour licensing law! I still feel that one of the main problems with drinking is the associated problems (the vomiting on each other’s shoes scenario, the street fights etc). The staging of club dispensing is a good thing in terms of public order. There is nothing more terrifying than looking down a high street (sober enough to remember it) at 2-3 AM on a Saturday morning. It makes the police lives easier if they can focus on a hand-full of establishments at a time. Equally, the strict licensing times do not tackle the core of the problem, why people are drinking themselves unconscious every Friday and Saturday night (and causing all the health implications).

The idea of not being thrown out of a pub at 11 is a great idea. We no longer live in an era when we have our supper at 6:30 and are in bed by 11. I think by opening later, the bars and clubs are simply reflecting this. To suggest that by limiting the amount of time people have to drink that they will drink less is ludicrous. We can see the real problems starting when people are restricted in the amount of time they have to drink (the “downing culture”). Indeed, we can see through examples across Europe, that it is not the opening hours that are the issue; it’s the “way” we drink.

I am not pretending to hold a solution to this one. Our drinking culture is a complex one. I will however, state that I can see alcohol as part of a functioning society. The idea of going down the pub with your mates is a healthy one that should be supported. We have been enjoying a good tipple for centuries. I do not want to see this being disadvantaged because of an over-zealous government trying (but failing) to help the minority. Here are some initial observations that might highlight why we have such a problem in this country…feel free to add any I have missed:

 • The round system – our stingy nature means that if you buy one drink, you basically commit yourself to four (or five or six) to get your “money’s worth”. Also, the rounds get purchased at the rate of the fastest drinker. Due to the Brits inability just to chat, we have to have a distraction (a drink to slurp). The moment your glass is empty you have to utter those magic words “another drink anyone”. If you say no – you lose!
 • The pint culture – by the very nature of drinking 568 ml of beer in a sitting (compared to the 250 or 330 norms in most of Europe).
 • The 7:30 culture – we start a lot earlier than most of Europe, and now we no longer stop much earlier. We are effectively drinking for 7-10 hours often!
• The strange green thing on the top shelf moment – thanks to advertising and a serious commitment to getting off our faces we regularly think it is a good thing to buy a “round” of those bright green things that taste like a strange mixture of toothpaste and apples.

The Brits are famous for it…we always have been. But how do we try and enjoy it rather than abuse it?

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Islam and Europe

In the week before the Swiss voted on banning the construction of minarets the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group (which is where the UK Tories sit) and the British Council did their bit to entrench a bit of prejudice by putting on a debate in the Parliament on “Islam and Europe”.  I had the misfortune of attending this event and to come face to face with the likes of Douglas Murray. 

Douglas Murray, the widely credited political commentator, came off by far the strongest in the debate.  This is a travesty of the highest order as he presents such simplistic arguments (albeit in a clever and articulate way) that anyone with even the slightest grasp of Islam should have been able to expose him.  None of the panellists managed this.  I am by no stretch of the imagination an expert on Islam, or even a follower of the faith.  What I am, is somebody who can see that having a debate about “Islamic culture” and “European culture” is so overly simplified that it borders on being useless. 

There is clearly a debate that does need to happen, and this is how to reconcile potentially antagonistic aspects of cultures within a given geographic location.  We can see that honour killings for example are clearly incompatible with western understandings of liberalism and human rights.  Murray went to great lengths to represent some actions of some people who purport to act in the name of Islam as being representative of Islam as a whole.

This argument should be quite easy to show as being flawed.  Just as the opinions put forward by George Bush in the name of Christianity might sit uncomfortably with lots of practicing Christians, so an individual Muslim in the public eye may well act in a way that is abhorrent to many millions of Muslims.  This first point was at least partially raised, that people interpret faith in many different ways and can use it to justify all sorts of actions (from invading countries to habitually helping the poor!).

The point that was not raised (to my utter shock) however was that theologically Islam is extremely diverse.  It is a truism that Liberal Quakers and the Catholic Church represent two very different schools of Christian thought.  In the western media and in every day life however there is a lot of loose language around different schools of Islamic thought.  The most often quoted is that of Wahhabism (thanks in large to people’s connections with it and Bin Laden). Often this is blurred with inherently violent forms of Islam such as Jihadist Salafists.  It cannot be stated clearly enough that there is nothing inherently violent about Wahhabism.  There is something inherently conservative, but this is vastly different from violence.

There is nothing within Islam that suggests that it cannot be compatible with human rights and western understandings of liberalism (See the writings of An-Na’im http://www.law.emory.edu/aannaim/). What is apparent, is that an absolute understanding of Islam as one distinct religion (opposed to a series of theological schools of thought messily brought under one banner – like nearly all the world’s big religions) can be used to either justify the complete compatibility of Islam and western standards, or (if you so choose) it can be used to argue that they are inherently antagonistic. 

By arguing that any religion (including Islam) is inherently peace-loving is short-sighted and plays into the hands of those who would wish to paint a faith as intolerant (like Douglas Murray for example).  We all have a responsibility to engage with the worlds religions, even when we are starting off from a level of ignorance.  If we do not explore alternative religions and see the potential within them for moving towards a progressive future we will alienate those who wish to work for a better future through a religious framework.  Equally we leave ourselves ignorant to argue against those who wish to paint any given religion as being intolerant.

I happen to agree with Douglas Murray when he comes out with comments like “Mary was probably a Jew who told a lie” and “Mohamed probably did not write the Koran” (he actually said these things in the Parliament sessions), but I would have at least two responses to such comments :

  • Firstly I would have to question what he hopes to achieve by making such inflammatory statements and
  • Secondly I would suggest that he leaves himself alienated from billions of people who see their religion as their primary moral guide.  If Mr Murray is genuinely interested in building a better world he is going about it in a very strange way.  How can you build a better world when you have just insulted half of its population?

Instead of showing themselves to be progressive minded individuals the ECR and the British council have shown themselves to have little academic (let alone political) credibility.  If you are interested in this, do not be afraid to go and ask about it in your local mosque and be honest that you do not know much about Islam but you are interested. 

I am no expert, but even I can see that Douglas Murray is a short-sighted populist.  Let’s not stigmatise people because of the actions that are undertaken in the name of their faith.

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Filed under EU politics, Far-right politics, Human rights, Religion

Do you have an opinon about the BNP?

Do you have an opinion about the BNP? If so lets hear it…no qualifications needed.  Literally anyone can say anything.  Stupidity is no restriction and badly thought out views are welcome.

If you quickly have a look around cyber space you will find lots of badly thought out opinions when it comes to the BNP.  They are not reserved for the likes of amateur bloggers such as me.  Lots of public figures have been out and about stating that they don’t like the BNP.   Even Pete Doherty hates the BNP (http://www.nme.com/news/pete-doherty/45098).  Can you imagine the situation?… A young male is angry and alienated and is considering joining the BNP.  Just at that crucial moment however, he stumbles across Pete Doherty, the moral guru of a generation and sees the light! Another soul is saved by Doherty.

Just in case you cannot be bothered to trawl your way through all these opinions, the BBC has served its purpose as a public service and provided a nice over-view. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8321627.stm.  This way you can be sure lots of people agree with you when you tell the BNP to go f*ck itself and such forth.

If however, you feel like me, and share Mitchel and Webbs concerns (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tyl9wltqQZ4).  Then please stop filling cyber space with nasty drivel about the BNP.  Yes we know that they are a racist party; even Nick Griffins mother in law says so (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/tvandradio/6431159/Nick-Griffins-mother-in-law-says-the-BNP-leader-is-a-racist.html).  We know that their party is based on a core membership of some nasty characters. 

This is blog is simply a plea.  There are a few really well thought out responses to the BNP.  An example being the recent Quilliam foundation report that can be found at: http://www.quilliamfoundation.org/images/stories/pdfs/in_defence_of_british_muslims_09.pdf or a guardian article by Sunny Hundal  http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/oct/19/bnp-nick-griffin-question-time.  Use your cyber space time wisely and get people to read and think.  Do not spend your time entrenching others engrained forms of hatred by ranting about how you would smash Griffins face in if you saw him.  If someone raises questionable views then challenge them but do not waste your time reiterating the anti-BNP message to no-one.  There are lots of people more qualified than us to do that.  Let’s try and rise above it.

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Filed under Far-right politics