Politics, UK

Britain dutifully bows down to the ruling elite.

Left in New Zealand

Congratulations to the people of ‘Great’ Britain for voting the ruling elite into power yet again. You certainly do know your place. Now they have a mandate to treat people with disdain and contempt, for the next five years. I always thought people in the US were dumb, but there is a new kid on the block vying for the title. How can a party offering no credible policies, with a history of inflicting misery on millions, with a leader who hides in a fridge when things get mildly difficult remain in power. I could glibly say you get what you deserve, but that would be grossly unfair to the millions who can see through this charade of thinly veiled fascism.

It would appear that many people from where I grew up in the north have had a lobotomy, believing all that the billionaire controlled media had to say pre-election…

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Labour, Politics, UK

Few thoughts following 2019 General Election results

It has been a month since the disastrous election results came out on Friday the 13th December, a true day of horror that will haunt the UK for at least another five years. The loss hurt more this time because, after the encouraging results of 2017 GE, one would have expected Labour to go further. This was followed by a revolutionary manifesto. They had the youth voters, or the “youthquake” how they invented the term in the polling day. On Thursday as the news poured in on the social media that people queued up since morning to vote, the hopes soared. People were voting for a change then! They were indeed, but for a change that was unthinkable. First time in many years, at times in a century, the Labour seats were wiped out even at their safest heartlands. The euphoria that built up during the day, quickly evaporated at the pace of a burst balloon, when the exit poll showed the Tory landslide. There was no doubt that the predictions are not going to be far off, but there was a slither of hope that the marginal seats may swing to Labour. They didn’t.

It’s hard to explain how the next few days went. On the personal front, the Christmas was coming, my daughters were excited about the prospect, we were going away for a few days, and we were looking forward to spending a longer Christmas break this year. In the middle of all this excitement, the results left a big hollow inside me. I could not stop thinking about the results, could not think about the betrayal of the voters who would be the worst hit by the Tory austerity policies, I could not feel more angry about the media that brainwashed the gullible voters of an imaginary enemy, and I felt angry about Labour for not doing enough to convince people of the dangers of a Tory government. I looked up at various Labour member forums and the feeling was about the same across the board. Some started to smell a rat how postal vote counts were all messed up, how Laura Kuenssberg almost gave away that postal votes showed a Tory lead…but it was clear that no judicial steps would be taken. When it failed to nail the criminals spewing misinformation during Brexit campaign, these petty postal votes would not have mattered much to guarantee a thorough investigation. This post is mainly about the thoughts that were going through in my mind as the aftermath of Labour’s worst defeat in recent years.

First, I thought why on earth Labour agreed for the election before Christmas. I think I knew the answer straight away. The opposition in the parliament already had a strong position in the cabinet regarding Brexit debate. Labour probably thought if they can increase their seats, it will make it even difficult for Boris Johnson to get a deal with the EU. So I can anticipate that many inside Labour wanted Jeremy Corbyn to give in to the calls for a general election, possibly from the activist factions. It didn’t help the situation by the Libdem aka the Remain party, who expected all remainers will be voting for them. On the other side, the xenophobic and racists had already colluded so their votes don’t split. But on the progressive front, the disagreements continued that cost many seats in the end. It is commonplace on the left spectrum of politics, in the UK, in France, in the US — the left doesn’t come to a common ground and compromise on their principles. This was apparent in the Labour manifesto. Despite knowing how it will be accepted in the right-wing media that feeds the brain-fodder to the British electorate, Labour did not compromise on its offering. Nor did they run a campaign of fear and lies, as did the Tory campaign, led by the brash idiot. So, that would be something to take away from this campaign — a clean campaign and a brilliant and groundbreaking manifesto, only to be overshadowed by Brexit.

But thinking about the future was even more painful. I wondered if Labour would win any future election or will turn into the role of the main opposition, with a diminishing representation in the cabinet, with lesser influence on the divisive government policies. Part of me just wanted to give up on politics. Especially because during this election period I was involved a lot in the social media campaigns, debates, researches and carefully going through the manifesto of the two major parties to understand the fundamental differences between then. All my efforts were felt to be wasted on a lost cause. Also, the glimmer of hope for a Labour resurgence disappeared with the election results, knowing Jeremy Corbyn will have to go now, which would mean shifting into reverse gear in the socialist agenda for the party. The results were also an eye-opener to understand how deeply divided the country is. Probably it always was, but Brexit brought the division to the surface. And this made me feel resigned knowing the situation is only going to get worse with another five years of Tory government and they’ll use all means to spread their propaganda of fear. I just thought of stop thinking about politics, concentrate on family and life. But I knew the answer already why I won’t do that. I would become one of the millions of indifferent people who think their view doesn’t count. And then regret for years to come that I did nothing.

So that thought was soon changed into anger and a feeling of betrayal. Betrayal of the working class population against a manifesto that put their interest at the heart of it. And more you heard about them, more frustrated you got. Someone voting Tory because they like how Boris Johnson looks! He looks like a pig who has just been jet-washed! Then you have people in the north of England who are saying they wanted Brexit done, so they voted Tory only this time and will go back to Labour. Couldn’t help thinking it was not going to the cinema and deciding on sweet or salty popcorn. As most of the public services are at the breaking point, and poverty and inequality constantly on the rise, that idea seemed laughable and dangerous in equal proportions. I could not believe how gullible someone can be to make such a decision. And I thought for a moment — let them suffer. If they can’t spot the wolf in sheep’s skin, let them suffer and they’ll realise the hard way why on earth they voted in a Tory MP. But that stage of anger only lasted momentarily as I start to question if it was the gullibility of the people or was it desperation that drove them to make such a momentous decision? Perhaps they hoped for a Brexit will end all their misfortune. The vote was driven by desperation to get out of the mess we are in, except for the fact that they chose to rely on a hopeless and heartless party.

Finally, at the third stage, the pragmatism kicked in. Giving up taking part in politics or having an interest in politics was not an option. It’s one of the core principles that define me and I could not simply let go of the hopes I garnered since a long time ago. Turning my back to people who will suffer the most was also not an option. Fortunately or unfortunately my life is at a stage where until something else drastically change our situation, the election results will have little impact on our life. That’s not true for the millions, especially in the deprived north. This will also prolong a Labour recovery because the Tories will attempt to retain those seats irrespective of the Brexit outcomes. So money will be invested in the region from their magical money tree, and people will vote them again by seeing the initiative, which might mean another Tory rule in 2024! What they won’t realise is that the Conservatives’ main agenda is to deprive communities of investments, so they main appear to be investing but will surely take the money back from peoples’ pockets. So what I thought I will be doing, despite sounding cheesy and somewhat plucked from a B-rated film, is not to let the fire that’s burning within be extinguished. A loss is soul destroying but it only makes you resolute. I felt that it was high time to regroup for 2024. And work towards a Labour Party with a united front, a lot more concerned at the perils of people but also more visible, and vocal to debunk the lies and bias in the media.

So come 2020 and it’s business as usual for me now. 2019 is gone, and the era of Corbyn is over. It’s time to move on and choose a Labour leader who would live up to the legacy of Jeremy Corbyn, as well as win back the confidence of the perennial Labour voters who shunned them this time. It’s also time to give up on Brexit and consider that it will happen and ensure that the living conditions of the EU nationals in the UK and the UK citizens in the EU are not in any way compromised in the process. And finally, I would want to see the start of transformation from the grassroots level. It’s about participation in the local communities and interests where the fightback will need to begin, not in the social media or closed-door meetings. With the arrival of 2020, I was finally able to put the horror of the election behind, and feel hopeful that 2024 will be a different story. It will, but if we only start acting on it now.

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Labour, Politics, UK

A synopsis of Labour Manifesto for 2019 GE and a brief guide to Tactical voting

So, I have finally managed to read through the Labour Manifesto for the 2019 General Election. Needless to say that as a supporter for social justice and abolition of inequality, the Labour pledge presents an ideal proposition. There are questions that could be raised, and answers are not available in the document, but the document instills a fresh breath of hope for the voters who have felt stifled during last nine years of austerity, through which, the Tories only managed to double the National Debt. The 107 page long manifesto is divided into five broad categories and numerous sub-categories, and in the sections below, I have extracted a bullet point summary of the salient features for each section. Some sections are longer, but nevertheless, it is evident that the Labour proposal is definitely for the many, not for the few.

Green Industrial Revolution

Economy and Energy

  • One million climate jobs – To Deliver the Green revolution
  • £400bn national transformation fund to invest in meeting climate and environment targets
  • Net zero carbon energy by 2030
  • Zero carbon standard for all new homes
  • Immediately ban fracking permanently
  • Supply arms of big six into public ownership
  • 3% of GDP in R&D towards climate goal

Transport

  • Free bus travel under 25s
  • Reinstate 3000 bus routes – Bring back routes less used and discontinued by private bus operators
  • Railways into public ownership – hope this will make the rail ticket more affordable. Would have been better if this was made free for under 21s
  • End of combustion engines by 2030 – ten years sooner than Tory pledge

Environment

  • Maintain and improve on EU standards of environment regulations
  • New Clean air act with vehicle scrappage scheme and clean air zone
  • £5.6bn for flood defences
  • Net zero carbon food production by 2040

Animal Welfare

  • Prohibit sell of snares and glue traps – people still buy them?!
  • Ban badger cull
  • Campaign internationally to end commercial whaling
  • Ban import of trophies – would have liked to see trophy hunting a criminal offence even if carried out on foreign soil

Rebuild Public services

Funding

  • Reverse corporation tax cuts – to c.26%, level lower than 28% in 2010, but higher than 19% as present. Conservatives shelved the plan to bring it further down to 17% but they will.
  • Crackdown on tax avoidance – would have liked to see a process/proposal how this would be implemented.
  • £150bn social transformation fund to replace, upgrade and expand schools, hospitals, care homes and council houses – A big ask, again, but desperately needed. It would have been needed at the end of austerity, regardless of the party.

NHS

  • End and reverse privatisation
  • Halt sale of NHS land and assets
  • Free hospital parking for patients, visitors and staff
  • GP training for 27 million appointments more – Tories offered 50 million
  • £2bn to modernise hospitals for mental health patients
  • £1bn fund and 4500 more health visitors and school nurses
  • Training bursary for nurses and midwives
  • Establish generic drug company – this is huge! This can eliminate NHS paying high prices for branded medicine to meet the zero prescription charges
  • NHS fully excluded from any international deal
  • Abolish prescription charges in England
  • Support autistic patients in home

National education service

  • Reverse sure start cuts – this is desperately needed for parents since over a 1000 has been shut in last few years.
  • Paid maternity leave to 12 months
  • 2,3,4 year olds 30hr free preschool – this will help working parents to be back to work sooner. presently the provision is means-tested.
  • 150,000 early years staff more incl. SENCO
  • Arts Pupil Premium- to fund arts education to every student
  • Free school meal for all primary children
  • Close tax loopholes for elite schools
  • Free entitlement to training up to level 3
  • Abolish tuition fees for university education and reinstate maintenance grants

Police and Security

  • Re-establish neighbourhood policing
  • Eliminate institutional racial and gender bias
  • Constrain powers of PM to suppress committee reports – as presently Boris Johnson suppressed the publication of the report on influence of Russia in recent UK government
  • Security treaty with EU even if Brexit happens

Justice

  • Break poverty inequality crime triangle
  • Restore prison officer numbers to 2010 levels
  • PFI prisons to back in-house
  • Restore all early legal aids
  • Halt court closures
  • Decriminalise abortion
  • Public enquiry into blacklisting and Grenfell

Communities and Local government

  • Reinstate council spending to 2010 levels
  • Restore high street
  • Stop post office closures and bring Mail in-house
  • Reunite with Post office and create Post bank to fund green initiatives
  • National youth service for access to local work

Fire and rescue

  • 5000+ fire fighters

Digital, culture, media & sport

  • Broadband into public ownership
  • £1bn cultural capital fund for libraries, museums and galleries
  • Free entry to museums – At least they can be made free for under 25s.
  • Free TV license for over 75s
  • Premier league income spent in grassroots
  • Curb gambling ads – help prevent gambling addiction

Tackle Poverty and Inequality

Work

  • Eradicate in work poverty – for families with not enough income to meet the expenses
  • Living wage £10 for all over 16 – not the cop out £10.50 for over 25s
  • Universal basic income pilot – it will be interesting to see the outcome, preferably used on the lowest income areas first
  • Ban zero hour contracts
  • Right to flexible working for all
  • Paternity leave to 4 weeks and increasing statutory pay
  • Introduce statutory bereavement leave
  • 4 new bank holidays – 4 holidays…yay! Selecting the patron Saints’ days possibly an easy win rather than celebrate significant days in British history instead.
  • Eliminate gender pay gap and pay discrimination
  • Ban unpaid internships – why would an intern do all the donkey work without any payment anyway?
  • Remove restrictions on trade unions
  • Repeal trade union act 2016
  • Align UK law in line with ILO
  • Reduce full time working hour to 32 in a decade
  • Ending opt out option for EU working time directive
  • New labour courts
  • Amend companies act – for companies to prioritise long term growth

Women and equalities

  • New Department for women and equalities
  • Close gender gap by 2030
  • Ban dismissal of pregnant women
  • 10 days paid leave for victims of domestic abuse
  • Misogyny will be hate crime
  • Educate about migration and colonialism

Migration

  • Scrap 2014 immigration act
  • End indefinite detention and inhumane condition
  • £20m to survivors of modern slavery
  • Free movement for EU workers
  • End deportation of family members – of people with rights to stay in the UK
  • End minimum income for migrants
  • Safe asylum process

Social Security

  • Scrap universal credit
  • Scrap benefit cap and two child limit
  • Payment 2 weekly, rent direct to landlords
  • End digital only, +5000 advisors
  • Scrap bedroom tax
  • Increase local housing allowance
  • Assessments in house for disabled people
  • No increase in state pension over age of 66

Housing

  • £1bn fire safety fund for fire safety in all high rise council houses
  • More than a million homes by 2030
  • Scrap definition of affordable homes – Definition linked to local incomes
  • Stop social cleansing – All residents offered a new place in the same development
  • Levy on overseas companies buying houses
  • End leasehold properties
  • New minimum standards for renting
  • End rough sleeping
  • National levy on second holiday home

Constitutional issues

  • End hereditary principle of House of Lords
  • Abolish House of Lords – replaced by Senate of Nations and Regions
  • Voting age 16
  • Ban funding from tax avoiders
  • Repeal lobbying act 2014
  • Women access to abortion in NI
  • No hard border in Ireland
  • Scotland £100bn. 120000 homes.

Brexit

  • Brexit 3 months to a deal. Six months to referendum
  • UK wide customs union
  • close alignment with single market
  • Consumers, environment rights to be at least at pace with EU
  • Close cooperation with security arrangements
  • Scrap existing Brexit legislation
  • EU nationals automatic right to stay

A New Internationalism

A New Internationalism

  • Introduce war powers act, no PM can bypass parliament
  • Audit impact of colonialism

Effective Diplomacy

  • Judge led enquiry into torture and secret court
  • Issue formal apology for Jalianwala Bag
  • Stop arms deal with Saudi and Israel
  • Seek justice for breaches of human rights across the world
  • Support two state solution

Defence and Security

  • £100m to UN peacekeeping missions
  • Support Trident – that’s an about turn! Why would one support Trident?

International Solidatity and Social Justice

  • Department for International development
  • support UN process of binding business and human right
  • International climate finance £4bn/year
  • Aid-funded Food Sovereignty Fund for Global South

There are many more policies through which the government proposes to put an end to austerity. A number of financial analyses were run on Labour’s policies and the general view is that it is achievable, but possibly unrealistic on timescale. However, desperate times need desperate actions. The austerity has split the country – not just into North-South divide but the entire society is divided. What’s worrying is the inequality is widening rapidly and for their vested interests, the Tory government is unwilling to stop the austerity.

The increasing pay gap between the richest and poorest areas in the UK, and a comparison with other countries
Source: Economist

Clearly the Labour manifesto touches life of the many and not for the few who usurp the system with the help of their Tory elitist pals. It gives people hope, reinstates faith in the role of the state and shows a way how the government can embrace the climate concerns and the social, economic and political reforms can all pivot around the climate policies. It also shows that governance doesn’t have to be top-down like authoritarian regimes, but a bottom-up approach is equally viable, where local communities and people are given the powers to make the governance happen.

Amid all the euphoria, few things stand out, that is no clear execution plan, with a timeline. I have browsed through the Tory manifesto as well, notwithstanding the fact that most of it will be lies. What I found easily accessible is their costing report, where they show how they propose to fund any additional investments year on year, and how they are planning to earn the revenue. The Labour manifesto showed the revenue at the end of 2023/4 but the division was not presented on yearly basis. However, some additional information was presented in the detail analysis later on, although for most of the readers, that information would go amiss if they are only looking at the summary revenue and expenses sheet. Also, it was curious how both parties show a completely balanced sheet with revenues equal to expenses. Chances of that happening is slim. I would have also liked to see a detailed timeline of when exactly some of the policies will be implemented. Kudos to them for areas where a clear deadline was provided, such as three months to reach a deal with the EU and six months to the new referendum. But it would have been useful to know what else will be happening in first six months, one year, two years…But I guess it’s a difficult ask for an ambitious plan. If you offered tumbleweed, you can come up with elaborate plans to make it look massive, but the opposite is not easy to make it both credible and lucrative to all stakeholders. My final observation is about the recipient of the manifesto document. I know it needs to serve the interests of the complete demographics, but in my view, Labour’s manifesto should be about the unheard voices – the people who are left behind by the Tories with their austerity. Apart from the manifesto, there should have been templates for what the Labor pledge meant for e.g. Nurses, Police, Firefighters, Social workers, Pensioners, Disabled persons, Teachers, EU migrants, single mothers etc. Perhaps there are videos and other resources, but the people who are so hard pressed to make ends meet are not expected to go through the wordy manifesto. Oh and on Page 63, there was a typo “introducenew” with space missing. At least it’s only a space, unlike missing truth or integrity like the Conservative party.

I wouldn’t expand much on the catalogue of lies spewed by the Tories, as this will become a very long post. I would leave at the fact that they lied on the first day of the campaign by publishing a doctored video of Keir Starmer, then they changed their Tweeter handle to FactCheck spreading lies about Labour campaign, then lied about the number of nurses to be recruited…to top it off, the social media ads are 88% lies or at best misleading. If lying was not vile enough, the Tories have ramped up the hate campaign against the immigrants again to blow the Brexit trumpet, holding the EU nationals and other migrants accountable for everything they failed to deliver. The latest of the hateful rhetoric came from the PM himself, where he claimed that he’ll curb the immigration from EU as they treat this country like their own. They stooped even lower to use the death of Jo Cox and Jack Merritt to foment the anti-immigrant hatred. They have been openly criticised by the bereaved families, but the Conservative Party has no shame, so I can imagine the criticisms and appeals to show some integrity have fallen into empty ears. Not that it’s surprising. Note the Tory election campaign leaflet in 1964 at Smethwick, how divisive they can be to retain power. This is happening again – and they still are equally blatant.

Smethwick election campaign leaflet from the Conservative Party, 1964

So, with a fantastic manifesto, my vote goes to Labour. I don’t mind paying additional taxes or taking some extra burden if that brings even one person out of poverty. But what’s needed to bring Labour in power? There are many marginal seats and they hold the key to swing towards a labour victory. Tactical voting does work and it probably bothers the loyal voters of Labour/LibDem/Green to vote another candidate, but this is the last chance to get rid of vile Boris Johnson and his cabinet of liars, thieves and hatemongers. Here is a rough outline of how to vote tactically –

  1. Find if you are in a marginal seat from this Guardian guide
  2. Find the trend in your local area – GE2017, or even the local elections to see which Tory opposition is gaining more support. Be careful if you use the local elections though, because of the appalling turnout.
  3. Use your social sphere to influence opinions of the floating voters. If you canvas, even better.
  4. Join any last minute local events to bolster the confidence of the people who would like to vote tactically but undecided if that will work.
  5. Vote…go out and bloody vote if you can. There is no point suffering another Tory regime when you have the chance to make the change happen.
Some more links regarding analyses on labour manifesto:

1. https://www.ifs.org.uk/uploads/BN271-Labour%27s-nationalisation-policy.pdf
2. https://www.ifs.org.uk/election/2019/article/what-do-the-election-manifestos-mean-for-local-government-funding
3. https://www.ifs.org.uk/election/2019/manifestos
4. https://www.ifs.org.uk/election/2019/article/reducing-in-work-poverty-the-role-of-minimum-wages-and-benefits
5. https://www.ifs.org.uk/election/2019/article/how-high-are-our-taxes-and-where-does-the-money-come-from
6. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/nov/28/ifs-manifesto-labour-economy-investment
7. https://friendsoftheearth.uk/general-election/election-manifestos-labour-tops-friends-earths-climate-and-nature-league-table
8. http://newingtoncomms.co.uk/analysis-labour-manifesto
9. https://fullfact.org/election-2019/labour-manifesto-2019/
10. https://www.libertyhumanrights.org.uk/our-campaigns/believe-better-society/liberty-analysis-labour-party-manifesto
11. https://www.theguardian.com/business/2019/nov/28/ifs-manifesto-verdict-neither-tories-nor-labour-have-credible-spending-plan?fbclid=IwAR29h2hL_p1p52AYmA7mpmvXzqY4vHrE8ldsm4P9JR265J7PRCEEzPV-0es
12. https://www.instituteforgovernment.org.uk/manifesto-tracker?fbclid=IwAR2FiKAZ4oPu2X8gL-imC2jkK5lgZJeX2o_2EXZQg_jsWaLc5QsAMS_JVkY
13. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/dec/09/numbers-public-ownership-uk-utilities-nationalisation?CMP=fb_gu&utm_medium=Social&utm_source=Facebook&fbclid=IwAR1jWbWUEjtZKd2IgjbZnfNt6971vCE1QCZd9LwQAAcuiaizvXWwjLwQ5Kw#Echobox=1575909790

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Culture, Education, Equality

No Outsiders protests: Paving path for more Islamophobia

While some of the UK population watch in despair that yet another attempt to bring the country back from the brink of disaster is failed by the incompetent bunch of tossers aka MPs, something else happened in a school in Birmingham which probably won’t create enough uproar, at least not for the right reason. I can’t help but link anything is happening in Britain these days to Brexit, and this is no different. However, at the end of this essay, it will be clear why the links are relevant and why Brexit needs to be stopped before it breaks the society apart.

Parkfield primary school in Saltley, Birmingham adopted the No Outsiders, an LGBTQ awareness course. This has caused an uproar amongst the families of the pupils and a few weeks back, the parents threatened to withdraw children from the school unless the course is suspended. After a few days of standoff, the authorities gave in to the protests of the parents and dropped the programme. A few weeks later, today on 14th of March, following consultation amongst the Academy trust, parents and the DfE, it was decided that the course will be suspended until a resolution is achieved between the school and the parents.

When this issue first came in the news, about the protests, we had a debate at home and thought perhaps the four-year-olds don’t really need to understand about lifestyle choices, but it could be introduced on a slightly later stage, say about seven. But then, thinking about the children of non-binary parents who would spend a long time doubting their identity during their formative years, my opinion swayed towards including the LGBTQ awareness right from the beginning of the school age. Also, not knowing how to view someone’s parents who do not fall into a mummy-daddy stereotype, it would perhaps become a reason for the children to distrust/alienate. Nevertheless, we did the rational thing of going through the pros and cons of teaching about relationships from the reception years and acknowledge that there may be more room for discussion on the age of introduction. However, if the school introduced the course from reception as mandatory, although some of us may be slightly uncomfortable about it, we would not oppose the plan vehemently.

So what would you say about the parents who boycotted the school, took their children out of the school and made them protest at the school gates along with the parents demanding the resignation of the headteacher who proposed to introduce the No Outsiders programme? “What a bunch of w@nkers”, right? What would you think of the parents if I add the detail that 98% of the children who attend the school were Muslims and the reason behind the parents’ protest was that the teachings were against their religious beliefs? I’d still think “What a bunch of w@nkers”. I don’t think it needn’t be any more complicated than that.

But is that the reality? The reaction on the social media with supposedly moderate reader base suggests otherwise. The majority of the reactions are in the same vein, criticising the religious indoctrination of Islam and how a school’s curriculum is now influenced by the religious naysayers. Personally, I have been involved in a number of arguments opposing the decision and unsurprisingly enough, the likes and loves were generally from non-Muslim readers, whereas the criticism to my argument and commendations to the school board’s decision were mainly from the Muslims.

So what was my argument? That education knows no religion in particular. The state of UK has no official religion, even though every Tory prime minister likes to mention during Easter and Christmas that Britain is a Christian country. The essential values of being British are individual liberty and respect & tolerance. So whilst the schools need to respect the beliefs of different faiths, it cannot be hijacked by the one single faith. One may argue, what about over-indulgence regarding Christmas and Easter? And I’d fully agree with them, but let’s not meddle into that topic. So, No Outsiders is an essential programme, apt with the increasing bigotry in society. I went in further suggesting that if the religion was of such paramount importance to the parents, why do they send children to a state school with no recognised affiliation to one religion?

Probably my argument seems a bit Islamophobic. However, it is quite the contrary. Allow me to explain. But before doing so, let me present some other findings that I thought would support my perspective. The epicentre of the attention, headteacher Andy Moffat is Gay, he’s been awarded an MBE for the No Outsiders programme that broadened children’s tolerance, and he changed a few schools due to arguments he had regarding his teachings. He was also nominated for an award given to World’s best teacher. In a world where teaching qualities are in decline, Andy Moffat is an exception. The point I’d like to highlight about the details I provided is that he changed a few schools before arriving at Parkfield. The reason? You probably guessed it right, that he told the children that he’s gay, that being gay is normal, that he tried to introduced No Outsiders in those schools. He was forced to resign or abandon the programme whilst being in the previous schools because parents have complained. So you see, everywhere he’s been in the past, he angered the communities with views for schools that broke the glass ceiling. This must be a déjà vu moment for him, being confronted by a group of unhappy Muslim parents that his teachings were against the religion?

Déjà vu? Yes of course. But it’ll be surprising to find out that schools he resigned from before Parkfield were due to parents’ complaints who were Christians as well as Muslims. It was contrary to the Christian values. So, does that imply, that perhaps there was something wrong in Mr Moffat’s teachings if he irked the feelings of parents of two religions? No, absolutely not! And I would brand the parents who opposed to the programme in the other school the same what I thought about Parkfield protesters — “What a bunch of w@nkers”. If the same issue was flagged by 100 other religions, the feeling won’t change. One may argue that it’s easy to pass my judgement being an atheist. There are two points to add. First, atheists don’t have religious sentiments. So something cannot hurt a feeling that you don’t have. Secondly, there may be atheists who are/were opposed to the course. I’m my view, if they are so opposed to it that they had to demand an apology from the teacher, they are probably homophobic. They are a bunch of w@nkers as well, in my view. Now, disagreement on the age of introduction is slightly different, where parents admit that children should be taught about homosexuality in schools but reception may not be the year. This argument doesn’t apply for Parkfield because even parents of students in Year 6 took part in the protests. I do not know the details about the parents from the other school, but citing religious feelings meant that if the children aren’t ready at 4, they won’t be ready at 11.

Education for children should be based on no bias. Schools should be at least one place where the children can learn how not to be bigots. We have the outside world to teach that anyway. They should learn what is right and not discriminate based on race, religion, sexuality. They need to learn to be tolerant. No Outsiders is a course created to broaden tolerance and it’s myopic not to realise how essential it is to be living in a multicultural society. There is already a lot of bigotry related to religious education, with parents unhappy about their children knowing about other religions because they are “unholy” or “violent”. The trust shouldn’t have bowed down under the pressure from the parents. What would be next one to go? Sex education? Teaching about contraception? What about science or anything that questions the existence of God? However, those who are raring to have a go at the Muslim community for the conservative sentiments, please note that before the Equalities act repealed it in 2010, the Local Government Act, passed in 1988 by Saint Maggie herself, prohibited the local authorities to promote homosexuality.

These days, when we are becoming increasingly click happy, it’s easy to pass judgement without understanding both sides of the story. The reports in the newspaper cited a number of protesting parents who said that the course is against the religious belief of the community. Yet, it needs to be understood that No Outsiders is not a new curriculum introduced this year. In Parkfield primary, the programme has been running for at least two years. There was an article published in 2016, how a teacher is transforming communities with his No Outsiders curriculum. The article also cited the reaction of the parents. Whilst some were against the course, some expressed the importance of the course, do the children are not presented a one-sided version of what is acceptable and what isn’t. So, suddenly after two years or more of running the programme successfully in the school, why did the parents realise that it’s wrong and they started demanding the resignation of Mr Moffat? Was it a sudden awakening in the entire community or are there in fact, external influences? Was it the retaliation for the foiled Trojan Horse campaign? The other fact to be borne in mind is that from the previous school, he was forced to resign because it was untenable to continue teaching whereas in Parkfield, although the course was axed until further resolution, Mr Moffat is presently continuing as head teacher. So apart from the meeting with parents, it’s not clear how much pressure was put on him in the previous school, whether it was only from parents or from staff and trust as well. Or is it simply because the Parkfield trust doesn’t want him to resign for personal interests, of keeping an MBE teacher to maintain their Outstanding Ofsted rating?

Let’s now look at the aspect what I mentioned before — the Brexit connection. This news of the LGBTQ course being dropped from Parkfield Primary will obviously be seen in different lights by people from the different political spectrum. Whilst the faction in the left are busy lambasting the trust and the communities for dropping the course for an ideological reason, the ones on the right — Tories, far-rights, gammons, zombies — this news is a golden opportunity for them to peddle their politics of fear. Soon this will be one of the chapters in the next Tommy Robinson book, an agenda on the Britain First campaign to protest outside a school with largely minority students, a reason for Nigel Farage to travel to Brussels to give a lecture on the untenable situation Britain was in. This incident will be seen as the effect of Muslim conservatism on the liberal British society. A further reason why Brexit was justified to limit the influx of immigrants from the Middle East and North Africa. It’s another red herring to feed the xenophobic minds of the 17.4m who believe that immigrants are the root of their problem.

The utter bigotry of the xenophobic faction of Britain, who is sure to earn a mileage from this incident is blatantly disgusting. People who express their dismay in the intolerance of the Muslim community in Saltley are perhaps the ones who instil homophobia in their children. It’s probably these stalwarts of tolerance who protest at the supermarkets when they make all their meat supplies halal. It’s probably these beacons of liberalism who squirm hearing someone speak a language that’s not English. Where the country would be without these gems of Britain, the only group of people to withhold the true British Values? And that’s why, on the august day of 23rd June 2016, these saviours, the modern day Knight’s Templars finally won the crusade against the barbaric invasion that was the “swarms of refugees” heading towards the UK. The Brexit result was the manifestation of the anti-immigrant and Islamophobic bias of the general public, brainwashed by the profiteering peddlers of the Leave campaign.

It is therefore unfortunate that the after carrying on with the No Outsiders course for over two years, the protests not only meant a lost opportunity for the children to learn acceptance and tolerance towards the LGBTQ community but also, this will fuel the hostility towards the Muslim community. A community that is already branded for harbouring extremist feelings by the nationalist press and media, this will only marginalise the Muslim community, another little hurrah from the Brexiters. Needless to say the persecutions faced by the LGBTQ community in the UK will see no improvements if more and more schools keep dropping it. I don’t know what the future holds for Mr Moffat, not the pupils of the Parkfield primary school, but I do hope that the protesting parents realise the repercussions of their action, not just for the parents, but for the long term future of their children being integrated into the society. Let’s hope that the parents and the education trust will reach a resolution in favour of continuing with the curriculum. Let common sense prevail over bigotry and prejudices.

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France, Politics, Populism

Dialogue with a Frexiter — loss of centrist appeal amid the wave of nationalism in the EU

During the men’s FIFA World Cup 2018, I was following the results of every game with an avid interest like I’ve always been. Gone are the crazy days of bickering, taunting, goading your friends about their favourite team’s performance. Now we live hundreds, and in my case, thousands of miles away; but the same excitement still remains, as we replace direct communications with social media. Once I came across a meme that it’s not France, but Africa that has gone into semifinals for the first time. With immigration and vain nationalism close to my heart, I replied stating the obvious that they were all born in France. The discussion ended there. A few weeks later, after Les Bleus lifted the cup for the second time, I saw another piece of news, but this time in France, with a title «C’est l’Afrique qui a gagné». Although on the Africa rhetoric, there is a positive angle many tried to highlight — that France football team represented a great example of an inclusive society, neither version of the memes circulated was acceptable. It was perhaps less shocking seeing such a meme in a different country than one going around in social media in France. And that’s just after they have won the World Cup.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

A few weeks later I met a French contact I have known for last two years. We had many interactions but not a tête-à-tête as such. Trying to find a bit more about France and French life, I thought it would be an easy start to talk about Brexit and find out what the view is sur le continent. When M. Ch’ti (imaginary name, of course) said in his opinion UK will be better off because it’ll be able to source goods from anywhere else, I thought something must be amiss. The rest of the conversation was somewhat like this:

C: And here, you’re looking at one of the supporters for French Brexit.

Me: A French Brexit! But why?

C: Because EU has too much control over the French people and I think it will be good for France to be outside the EU.

Me: There might be a point, but why would you walk away from the world’s largest economic zone? What’s the cost of it? Look at the UK.

C: Of course Brexit is a lesson for French people as well. They need to be ready to negotiate straight away.

Me: I know Macron said under his presidency if there was a referendum, France may well have voted to leave. But is that true? Is that the sentiment?

C: Well, a lot of people think that. Also, we are paying into EU economy so our salaries will be higher.

Me: What do you mean? In what way?

C: EU has been a vanity project for the Germans. They were worse off before EU, unlike the French economy that was doing better.

Me: I found the actual value of the Euro is quite different in different countries. I found it quite surprising how that unbalance was allowed to happen. If you have the same currency, it should be the role of the EU to make sure that the purchasing power should be the same as well, or at least similar.

C: Yes, I remember when Euro was first introduced there was a complicated chart and people just charged anything they pleased.

Me: So do you think outside EU, wages in France will be better? Do you think with a smaller market, the French economy will have to offer a lot more to big corps to appear lucrative to them? Every country will have to follow the Irish model of offering tax havens. That will only benefit a few compared to the mass.

C: Yes because the French economy was better at the time when we joined Euro and to avoid the effect on the economy, they put a cap on wages. I believe once outside EU, we will have a lot more negotiating power especially with our close ties with African nations.

Me: Ah yes the ex-French colonies.

C: Yes, just like there are many ex-colonies the UK can benefit from. And also, not just business, there will be less expenses on security, with all these jihadists, and it’s been crazy in France the last few years…and it’s the same in the UK as well I’ve noticed.

Me: Don’t think the security expenses will come down, and besides, if France exits, you’ll lose all the access to Europol. But true, UK and France have been biggest targets on the list of the terrorists.

C: It’s just crazy. And you need to look at the profile of these people. They lead western lifestyle, drink, smoke, go to nightclubs and then one day they get the illumination that I have to kill people now. The government needs to be stricter about who they let in. The UK has got a much stronger immigration policy than in France. You can just come in and disappear from the system.

Me: It’s not that it doesn’t happen here either, but much less I believe. But you need surveillance on the terror suspects. I believe for the attacks in Bataclan, and in Nice, the attackers were known to the authorities?

C: Yes but there’s a bit conspiracy going on. They want to appease the human rights organisations but they aren’t worried about the general public. There are people who go to Syria, to Iraq, they fight with the jihadists and come back and we just say yes, welcome back and they then disappear before making an attack again.

Me: it’s much stricter here, I mean incidents do happen but they are under heavy surveillance I believe, and some are charged as they come back.

C: That’s the right thing to do. In fact, they should be turned away and we should tell them, go back to where you went fighting.

Me: You can’t take their citizenship away, you can charge them.

C: And then they go to jail and convert other people so they blow themselves up. There is a big cover-up.

By this time I started to wonder what must be the equivalent of Daily Express in France and whether I’m talking to a reader. A well-timed interlude arrived in the shape of an omelette. I tried to change the topic to speak about the last holiday in France.

Me: I thought I’d come and see your office when we were on holiday.

C: Where did you go? In Disneyland?

Me: No, just north of Paris. It’s a place near Compiègne.

C: Ah I know. Very nice place. Very green. Did you see the big palace?

Me: Yes it was awesome. And we liked Soissons.

C: You know there is a place in Compiègne where the Germans surrendered the first big war, and during the second, when they defeated France, they wanted the treaty signed at the same place.

Me: Yes the Versailles treaty. We went to that place in Clarière d’armistice.

C: You know that part of France is so beautiful and it’s the cradle of France. It’s very green. And l’île de France actually comes from this region where the old Frankish kingdom used to be.

Me: I did wonder a long time back why Paris is called that name. I thought it’s all the rivers around it.

C: Yes it’s confusing, you call it the Isle of France but there is no island. But that region hasn’t changed with time, the houses, way of life everything just remained the same.

Me: We really enjoyed there and definitely will go back.

C: That part of Paris is beautiful, around the river Oise. Well, there are other areas that are not so good…

Me: That’s probably the same in every big city. London has some notorious boroughs. What sort of problem are there in Paris?

C: It’s the Japanese mafia.

Me: I see, what sort of problem is there? Gang violence?

C: Yes, mainly. Recently Japan government has a big cultural event in Paris so they had to send people to clean up some of the areas.

Me: Sounds crazy.

C: Yes. Paris used to do such a nice place. And now it’s dirty, full of graffiti, gangs…I was away for a few years, and the first time I went back to Paris, I was horrified. And now you go to Eiffel Tower, it’s covered with security, it doesn’t feel the same.

Me: Yes last year we went there. We just wanted to go to the garden, but even then you have to go through security, so we didn’t bother in the end.

C: It’s a shame, I know it’s needed so deranged people don’t blow us up.

Me: Yes, but in Paris, after so many attacks, you see armed guards and you feel secure that the government is doing something. We don’t have any armed guards.

C: That’s just a decoy. The government can do a lot more. This Macron is useless.

Me: I thought he’s quite liked in France at the beginning? I know he made a few unpopular moves, especially with unions…

C: Macron is secretly building an army. It’s not French national army but his own army. No president has ever done that…well maybe Charles de Gaul during the Algerian war, but that was a different time and he was heavily criticised for it. But what’s Macron’s motive? Nobody knows.

Me: That’s bizarre. What’s his motive? Is he planning a coup? You’d understand when you’re in opposition but he’s the president of the country!

C: Macron is an awful choice. People were besotted by him, but now they can see his true colours. The whole of Europe has become pacifist. I don’t like it now.

Me: Well the EU is above all an economic union. There are a lot of contradictions amongst its member states and a lot of scepticism between each other. It will eventually fail because of the inherent differences between the countries. Just think about Eurovision.

C: Haha yes that is a big farce now. But the biggest challenge is Europe has to close its doors. We can not afford any more people.

Me: But there’s plenty of room, it depends on the governments approach and how much they engage with the population to tell them why they need to help the refugees.

C: I agree with you, they need to be helped, but there should be a limit. Some say it’s in the bible, if somebody comes to your house, you should let them in. But that’s the concept of a pilgrimage. You left them to stay, get rest, then they will be away. Bible doesn’t say that when someone comes to your house you feed them for the lifetime.

At this point, I was beginning to despair. I was wondering whether to prolong a painful discussion by bringing colonialism and its effects into the argument. But before I did, he carried on-

C: And then you host them, then they’ll do petty crimes, go to jail and be converted. Then they become jihadists trying to cut your throat. They could just go back to fight the countries they came from. But they want to bring the war in here.

Me: But that’s what governments are for. They should ensure that people coming here are not socially isolated. And that’s why it can’t just be a government process. The people will need to get involved in that process.

C: Or I have a better solution. They want to come to France? Let them come to France. But send them to a remote island in Pacific that is owned by France. I bet you have places like that with UK as well…sovereign territories.

Me: Yes, the old colonies…

The conversation died off then. The omelette was gone, and it was time to go back to a more comfortable business. But that conversation cast some doubts on the demographics of the populism supporters. And it also cast shadows on the long-term future of a unified Europe. C is undoubtedly a Marine Le Pen supporter from his views about migrants and how to solve the terrorism issue. But he is not a working class, what one would expect a populism supporter to be. He’s not deprived or oppressed by the system and venting the failure of the state towards the scapegoats. One may say based on a sample size of one, my statistical generalisation of French middle-class educated population is crass. It doesn’t hold any credibility. And I know that well. But I’d expected that when I start discussing Brexit with someone from the EU, the general reaction would be — “I pity you, what on Earth were you thinking”? With my first sample doing a volte-face, I’m now worried if more and more people turn out to be closet fascists.

But from another angle, it just proves another thought I’ve had for a while. That the liberal and the left are not loud enough because they have mixed loyalties. The general vibe from the public is that the western society is consumeristic. Aligning a party or oneself too far from that stance would alienate themselves from the public, and they’ll lose their appeal instantly. At the same time, we are prisoners of our own vices. While talking about equality, we still want to enjoy life — holidays, technology, property, investments. Due to that hypocrisy, we cannot go gung-ho against a society that still is failing and widening the gap between its layers. On the other hand, the populism campaign is driven by a rosy picture that’ll never happen. Nor that it ever was. But it’s also characterised by its campaign of fear. And hatred. It’s very direct. There is a culprit, an enemy that you point your finger at. The message from the populist leaders is direct and unequivocal. They froth malice as they open their mouth. They don’t give a toss about political correctness. They tell their followers what to do. And the public meekly comply. Meanwhile, somewhere in the virtual world, a liberal/centrist/moderate expresses their dissent by clicking a dislike or angry button. Or they sign a petition.

On the other hand, the liberal engagement has been feeble, to say the least. Apart from a lack of conviction from our part, the liberal ideology always assumes a moral and intellectual high ground and most of the believers consider themselves much above than getting meddled into a debate. The lack of conviction was apparent prior to Brexit vote — if you asked a remainer, you’d get an answer “that’s the only logical choice isn’t it? I mean who in their right mind would want to leave?”. But when you spoke to a leaver, they always spoke with great conviction, statistics, confidence. All that they said were false because they have been lied to, but the damage was done. The reluctance of the liberals to engage in dialogue with the people who held a view contrary to theirs has already caused enough havoc in the world politics. Yet, we haven’t learned from that mistake, and still look at the world from the ivory tower of our own ideology and think how stupid the other camp is. We don’t try to see their thought process, we don’t see their desperation where they’d believe anything as long as there is someone to blame.

It’s not that there weren’t fascists before Brexit happened. But they didn’t have the platform, the limelight they always wanted. Most of their activities were limited to bravado after the terrorist attacks or commemorating their fascist ideologues. Brexit and Trump gave them a new impetus. It gave them hope, and within two years, we have FN as the second largest party in France, the Netherlands barely scraped through being led by Geert Wilders, as was Austria. Hungary did, in the end, get a right-wing PM, and Italy sleepwalked into a pandemonium in the form of a coalition between nationalist and far-right parties. The European states are becoming partisan, forgetting the virtues and the history that brought them together. The only two leaders that stayed firm against the tide are Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron who constantly spoke about European integration.

It’s not that Macron has no flaws, but during the discussion with C, I expected, like most of the French population, he’d be pro-Macron and inclined towards a vision of EU for the coming years and share their disbelief at the decision taken by the British public. I think beyond Macron, this expectation stems from my idea of France, the epicentre of the modern philosophy and renaissance, from Descartes to Camus. In that biased vision, I think every French person upheld the three basic virtues — liberté, égalité, fraternité. And it’s for that reason when someone didn’t fit into that stereotype, it came as a surprise to me. Perhaps C was just an outlier who doesn’t represent the views of middle-class Parisians, perhaps I have just picked the biggest odd as my first sample. Perhaps, I need to speak to more French acquaintances. I wish I had the same luck with the lottery in picking the odds.

Going back to the meme that made me think about this first, it is clear that people don’t think before endorsing casual racism. It’s also apparent that there is an undercurrent of growing hostile environment for the migrants, waning tolerance between communities and a disbelief over the EU. I wonder how many more distress signals would we need before we start to work on it. Before it’s too late.

PS: I’m going to meet a few Italians soon. Some from the North and some from the South. It’d be enlightening to see their views on Lega Nord. And on the coalition. And on the man who once introduced populism to Italy vowing to drag the country out of the mess it was in, and his famous lines:

E Forza Italia
É tempo di credere
Dai Forza Italia
Che siamo tantissimi

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Brexit, Politics, UK

People’s vote march: A few thoughts on why, how and what’s next

I did not go to the people’s vote march on the 20th. I should have. It was a remarkable day, and it would have felt involved being part of the movement I have supported since the catastrophic day of 23rd June 2016, which some refer as the Independence Day of the UK. This post is not about them; they get enough media exposure anyway, through their fucked up mouthpieces — Daily Mail, Daily Express, The Sun — they can carry on their tantrums. This post is about Remainers, and the last straw of hope that the Brexit car crash may be avoided. Few thoughts crowded my mind thinking about the sheer spontaneity of the event.

Brexit reversal will not be undemocratic:

This is reportedly the second largest gathering of people, taking part in a rally. The scale of the gathering reflected the extent of anger and the extent of distrust in government. The Leave campaign has been complicit throughout in baffling the voters who sat in the fence. They broke several electoral law, made false promises that disappeared on the day the results came out. If these factors alone wasn’t good enough to repeal the result of the referendum, as the political parties hid behind the democratic process, the huge turnout does point out that people are genuinely worried about the uncertainty of the outcome and the government hasn’t got a fucking clue either. If the whole scenario is in utter shambles, is running another vote going to be so undemocratic? I saw a great example last Saturday, that British people were once given a choice to name a boat, and the democratically chosen name wasn’t selected and they gave it a different name. And that was a fucking boat, while we are talking about the future of 60 odd million people! If the democracy doesn’t allow its people to reconsider a wrong decision, the word democracy has lost its meaning.

Posted by The Crisis Actor on Wednesday, October 17, 2018

JC—where were you?:

I have been a staunch supporter of you since your name floated as the labour leader prospect. I have even renewed my membership to vote for you during the leadership challenge. However, your involvement, or lack of it, on Labour’s stand on Brexit, is deeply disappointing. I know politics in national level is a lot trickier than student politics, like turning up like a star at Glasto. You need to weigh the party’s stand with voters, unions and the future direction of the party. From a left-wing politics point of view, EU fosters capitalism, which I believe is the main obstacle behind your decision not to go completely against Brexit. EU has its follies but is a much better place to be after the next election when Labour will win than in the post-Brexit UK. If Brexit fails, it would be because of the callousness of the Conservative party, not because of Labour’s stand in it. Thinking beyond the capitalist perspective, the concept of EU is about collaboration amongst the member states, eliminating barriers to businesses and to its citizens, encourage social cohesion across the union. The post-Brexit UK, on the other hand, will replace the supposedly domineering EU with cockroaches like Boris or JRM, who’d undo all that has been achieved in the past four decades of membership. I’m pretty sure your silence is part of a big plan, and Labour is waiting for the moment; but once the deadline is over and we end up in a No-deal Brexit, there is no coming back. By not taking a stand Labour has already allowed too much time to the Tories to regroup and reshuffle. This rally would have been the perfect moment for you to declare that Labour is now aligning itself to the second referendum. Or were you worried that your silence had already caused much animosity from the people who joined the march? Believe me, that’s the less-harder position to be in, rather than looking at the same crowd to vote for you in the next general election. You were the elephant not in the room in the crowd of 700 thousand attendees, and your absence and lack of acknowledgement for the second referendum was deeply missed. There’s time to change, but not a lot of it. Tick…tock…Tick…tock…Tick…tock…

EU—Take notice of the EU solidarity:

What has been noticed since the Brexit negotiations began is the role of the EU. And that’s entirely the fault of the pig-fucker David Cameron government to drag the country into this nightmare. Without any preparation, needless to say, the meetings must have been a delight to the EU negotiators. However, the rhetoric from EU came across as if they want to set the UK as an example, of what happens to the dissidents who dare to undermine the EU. It was not very vitriolic at the beginning, but as it turned out that just like during the time in the union, UK want to pick and choose the clauses and benefits they want to keep while leaving it, the criticisms from European leaders became harsher. Undoubtedly, that bolstered the nationalists in the UK who mainly voted Leave, but it also put a few Remainers off – considering their choice if there was a second referendum. Ultimately, if there is a No-deal Brexit, UK will suffer. But it won’t cease to exist. It will clutch at straws to keep afloat for a while, striking dodgy trade deals with rogue states like USA and Saudi, but after a decade or so, the balance would be found. But that’s the worst case scenario. That has a tremendous cost associated with it. And for that acrimonious split up, there will be a cost to the EU as well. The March showed that the UK has not transformed into an EU-hating, protectionist, nationalist state and there are plenty – probably the majority if the vote was conducted on reality and not on fairytale promises – who stand by the common goals of the EU and want to be referred to as a citizen of the EU, and British and European identities can coexist. These people are fighting their corner, as much as they could, in order not to scupper the future of the millions by the Tory profiteers. They don’t need the word of encouragement from the governments in the EU, but in the war of the words and the bravado between the two sides, let the leaders on EU states not lose sight of these efforts from inside the UK and dissuade the only people who can prevent the huge cost to both sides.

Working-class=Racist, Youth=Remain:

Some very common generalisations were found in the Remain camp since the vote. First one was that the old people cost us the Brexit. That myth was debunked soon after, although some still maintain that view. Perhaps it’s true that the older generations mainly voted Leave, but it’s also true that the number of youth voters was a lot higher who didn’t bother turning up for the vote. Also, they thought that all under 30s who didn’t vote would have voted Remain. I haven’t seen the statistics of the absentee voters, but needless to say that all the youth wouldn’t be from the same social class, they would be from an array of social, cultural, economic background. Considering the fact that even some university students end up as Tory scum, it’s unlikely that the absentee youth alone would have created enough swing in the balance. It would be preposterous to assume that only the uni-goers would vote Remain and the rest wouldn’t. Perhaps the section of the population who have experienced and benefitted from the European integration would be more likely to support the union, and perhaps the percentage is higher amongst the youth who went to uni. But that’s just another stereotyping with no statistical backup. The second one is on race and religion. Brexit vote is ultimately decided on xenophobia. And there are some more cliched stereotypes observed in the last two years. That the white working class is against European free movement. Perhaps that is correct. Perhaps most of them voiced concerns about the influx of skilled and unskilled labour from Europe. Because they were the worst affected segment of the population, at least apparently. Because the migrants were an easy red-herring to deflect criticism from the real perpetrators. There is also a speculation along this line about the disenfranchised north. That basically stems from a higher distribution of the white working class population in the region. However, none of this is entirely true. Looking at the results, rather than north, the decisive results were in the south. Below London, most of the constituencies voted Leave — an area with much less working class and much more middle-class population. So what went in there? Did the class who benefits more from the union turn their face away from it? Why? For more profit? Probably true, considering the same regions are predominantly conservative heartland as well. So the vilification of the white working class may be too unjust, considering the fact that irrespective of their location, they are indeed disenfranchised. On the other hand, since London voted broadly Remain, due to its multicultural character, it’s assumed that a multicultural population would vote for Remain. Again, a generalisation. The main factor was xenophobia of two types — about The unskilled Eastern European labour and about the Muslim refugees from the Middle East and North Africa as well as possible influx Turkish people if they were to be added as a new member. While the Eastern European labourers raised economic concerns to be seen as drain to our resources, mainly by the working class who need the resources the most and they don’t get it, the prospect of the increase in Muslim immigrants touched a nerve for many communities. It was not just economic concerns, but also the cultural, religious and security aspects that turned out to be pivotal. To the sceptics, every Muslim immigrant was seen as a potential terrorist and this view was not only shared by the white Christian population but other communities as well. When you’d think multicultural concentrations would unanimously vote to Remain, such factors played a large role, when the result was decided on a knife’s edge. All this shows is racism, xenophobia is rife in today’s British society and for reasons far greater than Brexit, these inner demons need to be faced and banished.

Note to the liberals — Take to the streets:

The March was an enormous success. It predicted 100,000 attendees, but on the day there were nearly 700,000. It made a bold statement that we are behind a union with the UK in it. A bit too late though. Although the gesture is emphatic, and I’m hopeful that it’ll make an impact on the process to reverse it, but being realistic we are two years too late. Remain voters, including me, have been too complacent about the result. Just as the government brochure that said fuck all. Granted that the Leave campaign was meticulously funded and run by people who are losing out because of the EU legislation, it doesn’t take away the fact that the Remain camp did nothing to persuade many Leave voters who sat on the fence and on the day decide on the toss of a coin. “Someone else will” is the mentality we have seen, and I’m equally critical of myself. Apart from stating to anyone whom I discussed Brexit with that I’ll be voting In, I barely did anything. Apart from curbing the desire to set fire to every Leave poster I came across, knowing who it represented, and what it represented. I think in today’s world, the space for debate is getting squeezed down, and rather than a constructive discussion, we are too keen to say “I’m right and you’re wrong. And that’s the end of it”. Probably because we haven’t got time. Time to think, time to discuss, time to synthesise. Probably the liberals think there’s no point in talking to nationalist idiots. Apart from all other factors why we are here today, it’s us to blame as well. This march should have happened on 20th of June 2016, not on the 20th of October 2018. To show solidarity towards a unified Europe. To show how many people who cared for this issue. To show everyone undecided that there are millions who are on the right side of history. To help them realise that if you want to reform the system, first you have to be a part of it. So next time, maybe in the next general election, let’s not hide behind “someone else will”. Make your voice count as if it was the last time because if you don’t, you’ll be helping UK cave into another disaster. Then there will be no point of arranging another march two years on. Act at the moment, just as the Leavers did.

It’ll be one of my biggest regrets of not doing enough to prevent Brexit. And not going to the march on 20th of October. But I hope there will be another march when Article 50 will be withdrawn. To celebrate over the scheming Brexiters. Now, I won’t miss that!
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France, Life experience, Travel

Holiday from hell — journal of a misadventure

I seldom write about travel, and when I do, it’s only about spectacular experiences. I have never written about misadventures that caused so much anxiety and grief that I wonder why we carried on when things started to go wrong. But when you have such an experience that lasted from the time of beginning the journey to the very end, and beyond, I thought on the hindsight, it was an adventure worth remembering, even though we were not that amused when it all happened.

It began when we started our journey to France on a mid-June Monday. We had already moved from our Kent home, so we stayed overnight in Ramsgate. In the morning, as we left for the ferry from Dover, it was a last minute dash because of the roadworks along the way. As we were waiting for the ferry, I realised we forgot to book the European breakdown cover. I made a last minute frantic call to the breakdown provider (I had three covers those days, don’t ask me why and how!) and selected an option that was slightly high priced but provided more cover. To be honest, that was the best last minute call I’ve ever made; if I hadn’t done that, we probably had had to come back without the car. So with the breakdown sorted, we set sail on the way to our destination, Normandy. We planned what we’d do each day, and had a busy schedule ahead but we were sure that we were going to have a great time. Only if we knew what lay ahead of us.

Here, I’d flashback to the week before we started our journey. I was on M25 on my way home and I suddenly felt the car lost all its power. As if it went into a limp mode. The car was only over a year old, so you don’t expect a major fault to develop. The breakdown mechanic couldn’t fix it, but he reset the warning light and asked to start and see if the traction is back. It worked. So I thought it was a freak incident and I must have done something to cause that. The dealer could not have a look in such a short notice, so we decided to carry on with the plans and get the car fixed later.

Coming back to 20th of June, we did the usual. On reaching Calais, a trip to Adinkerke to buy cheap tobacco and Speculoos, a quick trip to Carrefour Mivoix and late lunch at the McDonalds there. With all that done and a cranky terrible two, we headed for belle Normandie. Except that we were running a bit late and looked like we wouldn’t get to the campsite before 8:30 pm. It was a long drive but that never bothered us. Not until the things started to go wrong very quickly. We were approaching Boulogne-sur-mer on A16 where the road goes on an incline. It’s not steep by any means, but the car generally needs to work harder. Whilst on that section, the car lost power again! Second time within a week. I exactly knew what went wrong when the engine warning flashed on the dashboard. It made me panic a bit. A breakdown on a foreign country is a terrifying prospect, let alone that happening on the autoroute meant we’d have to pay highway authority the fees to be towed away from the autoroute. So I decided to carry on driving at 50mph until we reached the next exit. Thankfully it was a country road and I carried on driving for a while before we stopped on the verge. My satnav said it’s a place called Beuvrequin. I remember the place we stopped, with houses on the right and the other side of the road, had vast fields.

Beuvrequin, verge/footpath where we stopped


Beuvrequin, view on the other side of the road

After we calmed down our crying daughter, upset that the holiday might not go ahead, I called the breakdown agency. I reported the breakdown and was told that the wait time is about 45 mins. Being parked on the pavement by a country road was not the best of the places, especially getting stares from people who had to go on the grass. A few minutes later, I received a call from the French contact from the breakdown company, telling me that they cannot send assistance because during my application I said we’ll be going to Belgium and then France. So, tow away will have to come from Belgium, and they don’t to towing across borders. Infuriated and anxious, I called the UK number, and after explaining the situation, they said we should get assistance and they will arrange with the French colleagues. Another 15 min later, which is almost an hour since I was told that the assistance is 45 min away, I received another call from the French number saying they are sending breakdown van and it’ll be coming around 5:45 pm. By then, I doubted any garage will be open.

The breakdown truck arrived slightly earlier than we were told. As expected, the mechanic didn’t know a word of English. I thought that would be ideal to practice my French. I probably would have, if I knew all technical terms. I didn’t even know what brakes are called. Anyway, the guy picked the car on his truck and asked us to go in the truck to the garage. I think that was the highlight of the day and my daughter loved travelling in a truck. We went to a garage in Boulogne-sur-mer. He met another colleague who had a computer to connect to the engine management system. They decided that it’s beyond their knowledge and learning that the car was under warranty, they said the work can only be done in an Opel garage. By that time we gave up our hope to get the car fixed that day because it was already nearly 6 pm. The mechanic said he’ll take us to their garage to keep the car overnight and we can arrange the taxi pick-up from the garage. We were offered a replacement car or stay in a hotel and get the car looked at the next morning. I was confident that it’ll just be resetting the alarm and we’ll be able to drive on. So we chose the hotel and waited at the garage. The taxi came around 6:30 pm to take us to the hotel in Boulogne.

Hardy Maurice garage
Source: https://www.ville-stleonard.fr


Hotel ALexandra in Boulogne

The hotel was pleasant and it was located close to Boulogne city centre. We walked down to a square called Place Dalton and had a nice dinner, trying to forget the headache we’re about to have the following day. The following day we had nothing to do but wait for the updates from the breakdown company. So we were just cooped up in the room. About 9 am we received a call saying that the breakdown garage will take the car to the nearest Opel garage. I thought it would be done in minutes, so our hopes of having our holiday soared high again. But that state of euphoria didn’t last long as a follow up at 11 am confirmed that the car was still in the garage. The agent said she’ll call me back shortly. When she did, it was even worse news. Opel garage was fully booked and they wouldn’t be able to fix it before Wednesday or even Thursday. At that point, we thought we’d had enough and started thinking of cancelling the holiday and go back home. As a last ditch attempt, we demanded a replacement car. After waiting another 10 minutes for a callback, we were told that our only chance was if we left the hotel immediately because the car hire place they use will be shut from 12 pm. It was already getting towards 11:30 am. So we picked all our tonnes of luggage, waiting for the taxi. Then the taxi dropped us at the wrong place, which meant we had to drag all our luggage and a toddler across a busy junction without crossings. When we arrived at the Enterprise Cars office, there was only one employee, waiting for us. It took another half an hour to get sorted. But in the end, we had our car.

I wish our story could end here, but it wasn’t unfortunately. Our understanding of the breakdown cover was that we get the hire car until the time we are ready to return to Boulogne on our way back. On Wednesday afternoon, as we’re exploring the American war memorial in Colleville-sur-mer, I received a call from the breakdown company that our car was fixed and they want the hire car back. Shouting or swearing is normally my cup of tea, but if I lost my temper that day, I’d expect people would have sympathised with me. I kept my calm but said that they are expecting me to make a 600 km journey because they screwed up a breakdown repair. It also seemed like the day of our return, Saturday, is only for the Car buyers at the Opel garage and the repairs department is shut. I was told very sternly to go back on Friday to which I refused, agreeing to pay the difference for an additional day of car hire. Half an hour later, I received another call that the garage had been very understanding and made a very rare exception of opening the repair garage on Saturday.

With the good news that the car was fixed and that we can get on with rest of the holiday, we felt relaxed then and enjoyed the rest of the days. Except the fact that Normandy is where it rains most in France and it rained really bad the week we went there. Unlike previous caravan holidays, we opted for tent that time, and the floor was filled with water because of the leaks in the floor sheet. We spent most of our stay in the tents mopping the floor, wet feet, soaked trainers and a damp tent. Despite this little inconvenience, I felt the time in Normandy was much more enriching than in Paris. Just when we were about to enjoy the holiday, having lost nearly two days, it was over and it was time to come home.

We started with plenty of time in hand, thinking of collecting the car early so we could go to the cheap wine store in Calais. We got to the Enterprise Car place at about 12. But then we realised that they are shut in Saturdays and we needed to drop the keys at a hotel opposite the car hire place, past the big junction. Les Gens de Mer — the hotel looked quite nice as we browsed the lobby and menu while we waited for the taxi. The taxi arrived late, and we were on our way to the Opel garage near Outreau where our car was getting repaired. When we got there, the manager said everything was done and they are getting the car ready. It did surprise me a bit because the car was ready on Thursday. We waited nearly 45 minutes before we were given the keys. We were at the last minute rush again, trying to get cheap fuel from Carrefour and head for the ferry. That was the beginning of another nightmare journey.

Hotel Les Gens de Mer
Source: Agoda.com

As we headed back to Calais, I noticed that the tyre pressure warning sign came on. I was not too worried at the beginning, because sometimes if one tyre had less pressure than the others, the sign came on. But as we went closer to Calais, I started to get more and more worried as the pressure kept on dropping. When the other tyres read 38 psi, the fourth tyre was at 25 psi. There must have been a leak, I thought. But where would that have happened? The car has always been at the breakdown garage or at the Opel garage. Did they just find out and handed me a car with a leak? Surely they can’t be that unscrupulous! But everything signed that way.

So we went back to Carrefour, filled the tank and put some air in the faulty tyre thinking it might have some problem that’s going to fix itself. When we boarded the ferry, I left the car with 35 psi on the tyre and hoping that it should stay like that when we reached the UK. 90 minutes later when we came down to the deck, I couldn’t believe my eyes. The tyre was completely flat. And we had landed as well, so we didn’t have any time to change the tyre. It was a Saturday afternoon and most of the garages would have been shut by 4 pm.

Now I made a faux pas at that moment. I had the option to come off the ferry and get the tyre changed with the spare tyre. We could have then driven home because our spare tyre is a full spec one and there is no speed restriction. Silly me, I didn’t remember that at the moment of madness when I thought if I take too long changing the tyre, and something else is wrong, I might lose the last chance to get home that night. So I decided to drive on to the next open garage, which was Kwik-fit. As I drove on the alloy wheel, the sharp and annoying screeching deafened our ears despite the windows were up. I was worried that there will be damage to the wheel as well but it was a relief that there wasn’t.

Kwik-fit changed the tyre straight away and we also got another tyre which was getting towards the legal limit. After that, we hit the road, hoping to get some dinner at Bluewater or Lakeside, places that we used to visit often but missed a lot when we moved. After a filling dinner, with our daughter falling asleep in the car, we finally felt that after all this, the holiday is coming to an end. But there are more twist in the tale that one can imagine. Just because everything had to go wrong on that trip, as we were on M6 nearing Coventry, my daughter woke up and started crying. We didn’t want to stop, being so close at home, and as I tried to accelerate harder, BANG! The engine warning light came back on and the car won’t speed beyond 50 mph. The sting in the tail that was waiting for us before we reached home. So all that fuss at the Opel garage, did they do sod all apart from puncture the tyre? Nevertheless, my daughter’s incessant crying made me carry on rather than stop and ask for another breakdown. I just pushed the pedal down and used the downward slopes on the road to speed up and use the momentum to drive the car at a higher speed as the road became flat or went up. Without much difficulty, we reached home, bringing a close to the worst travel experiences we ever had.

Like many stories have an epilogue to the end, the tale of our misfortunes does not end there. I had to take many days off as I was unable to commute to work while getting the car fixed. Back then, I was doing a commute of 300 miles! During next few days, the car was repaired, and the fault reappeared almost immediately at times. In the end, it took a call to their grievance line to report the issue to get the technical team involved, who sorted the problem. One of those days when the car was broken down, I had to hire a car to go to a meeting in London. There, as I was trying to get on the Hammersmith bridge, I was caught at the box junction and was fined £70. Now the car belonging to the hire company, they received the fine notice first. By the time I received it, I couldn’t appeal online, so I had to send it over email. I then got the email address wrong and was then facing a court action since the first notice was received much earlier and the normal 2 weeks response window had gone. This dragged on until November. So nearly 5 months after that week in June, we put an end to the dreadful journey, but before that end, I had to pay out the final amount which had since doubled.

So, there we are, our story ends here. Terrible experience to sum it up. And I believe we won’t forget it very soon. Yet, the good memories will last longer. Visit to Utah, Omaha and Juno beaches, our daughter’s excited walk in the sand, the American war memorial and its deafening silence at Colleville-Sur-mer, the Bayeux tapestry, Caen, beautiful village of Beauvron-en-auge, riviera of the north Deauville and Trouville-Sur-mer, surreal grace of Lisieux abbey, sunrise over the trees at our site in the middle of nowhere at Château Le Brévedent, the quaint villages Le Pin and Blangy-le-château near our campsite, the bridge at Le Havre — the memories are countless and one day, if not already, they will outweigh the dreadful experience about the journey.

Just as I finished this with a positive spin, I remembered to add one last note about our holiday from hell. The year this happened was 2016, and I guess we all know what happened that year between 20th and 25th June. Yes, Brexit. That happened while we were on this holiday as well. Before we left, we were all confident that it was just a paper exercise to finish off UKIP, and in fact felt smug to see the smiles disappear from the leavers’ faces. On 24th when the results came out, we were going to Trouville-sur-mer. The entire day was spent in disbelief, then frustration and then anger, as all the lies started to surface. Brexit was the pinnacle of the catastrophes that week and I believe it was symbolised by everything that went wrong with the car. It was a nightmare, getting a simple thing done took forever, service on both sides of the border was equally appalling, and above all, since it happened, things were never the same. You live in fear that things will go wrong again, and so it did. The car proved my premonitions, and Brexit will go the same way. I think there will be a time in future where all good and terrible memories will fade away, and we will remember the journey just as our own Brexit disaster. I think that should say it all.
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