The most complicating factor in figuring out what might happen in Northern Ireland over the next few weeks or months, is that Boris Johnson is a chronic liar, and yet neither mainstream media nor his ministers nor his MPs seem able to say so.
We can note what Boris Johnson says. But we know, from past experience, that what he says doesn’t correspond to what he’ll actually do: and what Johnson wants to do, essentially, is anything that’ll make him popular. Continue reading →
Threatening to sue a children’s newspaper to make them withdraw an article which was intended to provide a structured discussion about how one may love an author’s writing but hate their political views.
During the debate, a select number of male students, including former committee members and even an ex-president, made sexual comments about our appearance, shouted “shame woman”, booed loudly and questioned “what does a woman know anyway?”. This was not mere heckling, and not related to the content of our speeches. None of the male speakers faced the same treatment. After the debate, a member of this group shouted “get that woman out of my chamber” as my partner Marlena passed.
When female students heard these comments, one confronted the male members and was told to stop being a “frigid bitch”. After the debate, a female Cambridge student rose to confront the perpetrators. The organisers of the tournament, and GUU committee members, begged her to sit down and not “cause trouble”. I myself confronted one of the male members concerned, and the GUU committee, only to be told that it was “to be expected” and “par for the course” that women would be booed in the GUU chamber. When I asked whether they would accept the treatment of racial minority speakers in the same way, I was told “they would be booed too, but we don’t have them here.” The committee accepted we were booed because we were women, not for any other reason, but refused to take action against their members. Continue reading →
Four men, two women. All white. All wealthy. All but two went to private schools: all but two got a degree at Oxford.
On the left, more or less:
The Labour: Harriet Harman. Privately educated at St Paul’s Girls’ School and at the University of York back when tuition fees weren’t a consideration and maintenance grants were even enough to live on. Became a lawyer and then a Labour MP in 1982, and has been a Minister either in the Shadow Cabinet or in government since 1992. (And tried to exempt MP expenses from the Freedom of Information Act.)
The Comedian Steven Coogan. Born and brought up in Rochdale. The only person on the panel who neither went to a private school nor to Oxford University. Now reputed to have earned personal wealth of £5 million.
On the right, besides David Dimbleby:
The Conservative: Jacob Rees-Mogg. His wife Helena de Chair is the only living grandchild of Peter Wentworth-Fitzwilliam, Viscount Milton (1910 – 1948), only son of the 7th Earl Fitzwilliam: Helena’s mother inherited approximately £45m from her father on his death. Besides his wife’s wealth (they were married in 2007) Jacob Rees-Mogg is a hedge-fund manager and the son of Baron Rees-Mogg, former editor of The Times and life peer: the Baron Rees-Mogg was educated at Godalming and Balliol College, Oxford, the Hon. Jacob was educated at Eton and Trinity College, Oxford. Were either of them members of the Bullingdon Club? They’re not listed as such anywhere. His sons of course could be: the de Chair money would put them into the qualifying category if they weren’t already there.
to reduce the environmental impacts of livestock production in the UK. It would also amend the way agricultural subsidies are used to make them more environmentally friendly. It includes a duty to give consideration to supporting sustainable practices and consumption through public procurement of livestock produce.
The Bill also aims to reduce rainforest deforestation by reducing the use of soya meal in animal feed in the UK. It would do this by placing a duty on the Secretary of State to ensure the sustainability of livestock, and to give consideration to issues such as public procurement and agricultural subsidy reform.
The LibDem: Danny Alexander. Educated at Scottish state schools in the Highlands, and at St Anne’s College, Oxford – back in the days before tuition fees: he may even remember when students still got grants. (I wonder if he’d honestly admit that £27,000 would have been an intimidating debt for him in 1990?) Talked a good deal on Question Time about how they were making rich people pay more taxes. Slightly forgot to mention that by telling the House of Commons his London flat was his second home, he got to claim the mortgage interest and furnishings and repairs on MP expenses: then when he sold the flat in June 2007 for £300,000, he didn’t pay capital gains tax because he told the Inland Revenue that flat was his main home. Enthusiastic about cutting more and more away from supporting the poorest and most vulnerable.
[Danny Alexander] bought a flat in London in 1999. After being elected an MP in 2005, he declared the property as his second home to the parliamentary authorities and claimed expenses. He claimed more than £37,000 in expenses for the flat – and carried out some work to the property at taxpayers’ expense shortly before selling it in June 2007 for £300,000.
He did not break any rules, but used a tax loophole that allows the continued designation of a property as the main home for three years even after the purchase of another house – in Alexander’s case in Scotland – which has become the principal residence. It did not stop him from telling Commons authorities that the London property was his second home, for which he claimed not only for the mortgage but also for minor capital improvements, the Telegraph reported.
Her parents lent her £30,000 to buy her first property in Battersea, but she lays claim to an upbringing devoid of too many frills. Both sets of grandparents managed to spend “quite considerable fortunes” before they died, so Allsopp’s parents “didn’t inherit anything and had to earn their living. They certainly didn’t have enough money to give any to us; although they helped all four of us buy flats. You put a roof over your child’s head if you can possibly afford to do so, but that is where it all stops.”
The first Baron Hindlip was a 1886 creation for Sir Henry Allsopp, head of the brewing firm of Samuel Allsopp & Sons in Staffordshire, and Tory MP. Sir Henry’s son (portrait of his wife) also became a Tory MP: his grandson was a Unionist Whip in the House of Lords: and his great-grandson, Kirstie Allsopp’s grandfather, the fifth Baron, was a Deputy Lieutenant of Wiltshire. Kirstie Allsopp is very much part of the web of privilege.
[Update: Commenter Stubben says “@Gareth Snell, that is a picture of Hindlip Hall which has been West Mercia Police HQ since 1967, 4 years before Kirstie Allsopp was born.” Swift check through Google Images says Stubben is right about this at least.]
So that’s the BBC’s idea of “balance”. Two more or less on the left – one wealthy man, one powerful woman. Three on the right: two inheritors of privilege, one grabber of privilege.
No trade union representatives: no one with even close to an average income: the only person with a working-class background was Steve Coogan, who hasn’t had to worry about the price of a pint of milk in years.
When are we going to see Mark Serwotka back on Question Time? Why not have a trade union representative every time? What do you reckon the chances are of Kelvin MacKenzie being invited back before any trade union leader?
No baby is born homophobic. Or racist. Or sexist. Or with any other kind of bigotry. Babies can recognise their parents surprisingly young (that is, the people who day-to-day provide them with moment-by-moment care: sadly for Crdnl O’Brien, there’s no evidence babies understand the “natural law” of the Catholic Church which says they ought to recognise only genetic parents who are married to each other).
Parents who want to teach their child homophobia and transphobia have a bigger problem. Most homophobic or transphobic parents make the comfortable assumption that their child “just will” acquire their prejudices. This is true in most cases, but parents who also regard the existance of people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender, as inappropriate to mention to children, will often find to their horror that their child already knows one or more of “those people” long before their parents think they’re ready to be taught homophobic/transphobic bigotry. Continue reading →
Between twelve and sixteen I was a junior member of the British Sub-Aqua Club. We met at Portobello swimming pool – back when there was a salt-water pool. For years, every Monday night, I spent a couple of hours learning how to swim underwater with a snorkel and mask and fins. I played underwater hockey. We did a week up on Skye where we learned how to dive off a boat, and wear wetsuits, and knife discipline.
All divers carry knives, because you may get tangled in seaweed or a net: knife discipline was the senior instructor informing us, in a tone that made clear he meant what he said, that we were each being issued with a knife, that this knife was to stay in its sheath, that if any of us ever EVER took the knife out of its sheath without a good reason or above water AT ALL or were seen messing about with it, that was IT, the kid who did it was never going back in the water again. A dozen teenage boys and two girls listened with awed attention and you better believe that we never did. (That I still remember that lecture thirty years later – he was memorable.)
I loved it, and I was good at it. Women have a slight genetic edge over men in learning how to dive and to swim in cold water, but I mention this just for the sake of smugness: most of it is training. I loved being able to use my fins to zip through the water like a fish. I loved being able to see underwater. Snorkelling was great. I had huge confidence in the water and would have liked to learn how to use an aqualung. It was an entirely new experience for me when the other kids started demanding to be on my team when we played underwater hockey, because my team usually won. Continue reading →
How is it that wanting a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work has become a left-wing, radical/revolutionary value? Iain Duncan Smith notoriously called Cait Reilly “snooty” for expecting to be paid to work in Poundland – though he himself continued to draw his MP’s salary and expenses during the six months he took off work in 2009 to care for his wife when she had breast cancer.
Social rights are good for the individual, but they’re also good for the general welfare.
Article 25: (1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
(2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.
Beatrix Potter wrote fantasy stories for children that were grounded in her scientific understanding of real animals and plants. The National Trust, her chief heir, is now promoting stories to children that are intended to give them a warped understanding of the geological history of the Earth. Does this make sense to you? It’s confusing me.
Peter Rabbit and Squirrel Nutkin, Benjamin Bunny and Mrs Tiggy-Winkle, Jemima Puddle-Duck and and Mr Jeremy Fisher, Mr Tod and Tom Kitten, the Flopsy Bunnies and the Tailor of Gloucester: the people of the floppy ears and bushy tails, the hedgehog who takes in washing, the frog who fishes with a rod and line, the rabbit with a nice new blue jacket, and the cat who hid the cherry-coloured twist. There never was a rabbit in a blue jacket or a hedgehog that took in washing, but they are real beasts in the pictures she drew.
The books and toys – written, illustrated, designed, licenced by Beatrix Potter from the age of 36, bought her freedom from the duties of being, as the unmarried daughter, her parents’ unpaid housekeeper. But before she became a writer of fantasy stories for children, an illustrator and a toy designer, she was a scientist:
At the age of 26, Potter began corresponding with a rural postman and enthusiastic naturalist named Charles McIntosh, who was interested in fungi. He promised to send Potter samples of new species he discovered by mail, so she could draw them. Throughout their long partnership, Potter drew detailed, accurate pictures of 350 fungi, mosses and spores, mailing one copy to McIntosh, and keeping one for her own records.
With drawings she made from her observations of lichen, Potter believed she had evidence that the organism consisted of a symbiotic relationship between a fungus and a photosynthetic partner, algae. Continue reading →
Carl Sagan, Cosmos, 1980: War is murder writ large.
“Parliamentary control of treaties and war-making power, etc”
Today, a Higgs boson particle was discovered – a scientific discovery that confirms the Standard Model physics uses to explain the structure of the universe, first proposed by Peter Higgs of Edinburgh University. This is a great day, and not one I would have wanted to use to discuss treaties and war.
Carl Sagan, Cosmos, 1980
There is no other species on the Earth that does science. It is, so far, entirely a human invention, evolved by natural selection in the cerebral cortex for one simple reason: it works. It is not perfect. It can be misused. It is only a tool. But it is by far the best tool we have, self-correcting, ongoing, applicable to everything. It has two rules. First: there are no sacred truths; all assumptions must be critically examined; arguments from authority are worthless. Second: whatever is inconsistent with the facts must be discarded or revised. We must understand the Cosmos as it is and not confuse how it is with how we wish it to be.