Archive for May, 2016

The relationship between young people and contemporary politics.

The lack of rational debate regarding EU matters is in part because of the media’s addiction to sensationalize every matter. But it also stems from a culture that does not promote political and economic education throughout our schooling system.

43% of young people voted in last years General election, this fell by about one percent from the 2010 election. There was a big push from the mainstream media outlets to encourage young people to vote in the election. Lots of projects such as Stand-Up tried to demonstrate the positives for young people when they engage in politics and current affairs. But I think it is too simple to broadcast a few programs and television debates and say ‘well we’ve tried to get them involved, but they’re just not interested’. Just a few glances from social media allows us to witness the concern and sensitivity regarding young people and politics. After all, studies have shown that over 40% of young people generally gather their political information from social media. The problem is that we need to bridge the gap between people thinking about politics, and people who are actually ‘doing’ politics. A lot of the customs surrounding the practice of elections have remained static; take this quote for example.

“When I was growing up, I solidly supported Labour the way I supported Arsenal – because my parents did, whilst remaining totally ignorant of the party’s policies (or the footballer’s names). I don’t think it’s presumptuous to say this is true of the majority of young people. Indeed, 29% of constituency seats have not changed hands since 1945.”

This suggests a political culture that relies on loyalty and tradition as opposed to independent thinking. Of course all political choices are influenced by a level of sentiment, but I think an element of reason and research needs to be the fundamental element of any political decision. Secondly, the quote alludes to a larger and more chronic issue; to compare the support of Labour to ‘the way I supported Arsenal’, implies that local politics has taken path towards tribalism. Where factions and territorial control mean more to MP’s and their constituents than the principles or policies that the party wishes to enforce. I often hear comments in London during ‘election season’ about ‘how we need to keep London Labour’ or what the plans are for the Labour Party to ‘take back Scotland’, and although I understand the need for political parties to think about the election in a very clinical manner, I believe this sort of rhetoric lures voters into the superficial nature of politics.

Young people who do vote will frequently say that they aren’t going to vote for the Conservatives because they are just ‘elitist toffs’ but will vote for the Labour party because they seem more down to earth and ‘with it’. But if we looking at elections this way, it changes politics from a matter of policy and principle to a mix of partisan and petty characteristics that is often a symbol of the 21st century two party state. The debate surrounding the E.U referendum already taken this path. Indeed, during the BBC Young Voters Debate, we saw a very heated exchange between two young voters who were concerned with the impact that immigration is having on UK housing. The ‘spat’ sparked controversy on twitter with some users claiming that ‘“This #BBCDebate is the best soap opera I’ve ever seen,” “Tune in tomorrow to see if Emily’s mum gets her bungalow.”’ And, although young people are understandably concerned with these issues, many still can’t distinguish the difference between the Single Market and the European Union. This does not stem from intellectual unwillingness but more of a neglect from UK governments to teach the rudimentary elements of the political system. By placing the teaching of politics on the same pedestal as geography and history, young voters may value the importance and relevance that politics plays on their lives, and not just an issue  for academics, journalists and politicians. Learning politics should be a social right, that is treated in the same vein as sexual education. Both topics involve making choices that will greatly affect the livelihoods of human beings, the responsibility of bringing a child in the world and the responsibility knowing that your vote could potentially decide how the country is looked after for the next five years are key elements of being an adult in ‘democratic’ societies.

This responsibility does not just lie upon its citizens to get themselves educated, it rests upon the civic duty of the state to accurately and neutrally inform its citizens of the sort of political structures that we vote for. Many teachers have the right to be afraid of this sort of role that the government may take in the future. The idea of the ‘Nanny State’ is a prevalent image amongst many teachers who despise the forced instruction of ‘British Values’ in the national curriculum. But this can’t be used as an excuse for neglecting all teaching of politics in primary and secondary education because of potential propaganda agendas. If the propaganda is not in the classroom, it will be in children’s television screens or in their books, where it will be much more subtle. Individuals such as Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage have soared in popularity because they have made politics more ”accessible” to the electorate, they are now seen as patriotic figures who have revealed the true nature about our political system within Europe. But we can’t trust political campaigners to tell us facts and statistics which may be misleading or out of context. We need to promote academics and research projects – without a partisan agenda –  in to our education system; this does not need to be  about promoting particular principles like Keynesian economics or free market ideologies. But we should at least make it compulsory to talk about the function of House of Lords works in our political system, the role of the monarch in today’s society and how our voting system operates during General Elections.


If there is one good thing, that has come from this referendum, it is the fact people have woken up to the deceitful nature of political campaigning. The level of distrust towards both sides of the RemainorLeave debate has encouraged certain sections of the society to scrutinise the statistics that have been broadcast. But it can’t just be on singular occasions like this, where we make the effort to do some research. We need to create a UK EU referendum legacy; that celebrates and promotes the development of political knowledge across our society at a young age. The government launched a project, two years ago called the Illegal Money Lending Team which was aimed at giving resources to primary and secondary schools to teach lessons about borrowing, debt and credit. Although this sounded like a promising initiative which sought to encourage financial responsibility;  a report has found that ‘Only one in 6 secondary school teachers received training for the subject‘ and that secondly ‘Academies, free schools and independent schools have no obligation to teach it, though many use provision in the national curriculum as a benchmark for their teaching.’ This is where the real obstacle towards political education lies. Many right wing conservative parties will often claim that they are the progressive forces of society – compassionate conservatism – simply because they are offering schemes that appear to be inclusive, enlightening and beneficial to society. But the sustainability of these programs is weakened by the lack of support by the State, thus affecting  the scope and reach of the program. Which begs the question, is the State ever going to deliver a citizenship policy that allows us to critique the political structures that underpin its very existence?

Be careful for what you wish for….. | My take on the E.U!

I could spent this part, talking simply about the usual benefits regarding the EU. ‘More Jobs, stronger economy, support for national security’. But the truth is that the EU is much more than that and it always has been. First and foremostly, it is important to state that the EU is an everychanging  symbol of  ‘internationalism’.  It’s origins in Postwar Europe demonstrate that it had a role in securing continental peace through a series of economic and social measures. But back then, it was a community through which nations could voluntarily participate in, but it has morphed into a pseudo super-state. This is where the problems lie and where the polarization of opinion begins. In my opinion, the  ‘ever closer union’ is much more than how much of our finances we contribute and how much we get back. It is about how much we are willing to sacrifice and why we are sacrificing it. In the 1950s, people were not opposed towards pooling away their sovereignty if it meant that another world war was less likely. The European Union managed to restore peace through a policy of integrated diplomacy that would have pleased Otto Von Bismarck; it’s approach was a capitalist merge of progressive and free market policies. By creating social harmony between big business and the working masses, the prospect of European conflict was greatly reduced. Fast forward 60 years, and there is no large scale conflict across Europe and the the prospect of warfare on edges of borders is unlikely. Because these problems are not longer apparent, many British citizens do not see the purpose of belonging in the E.U; The national consciousness of Britain has become culturally disillusioned with the European Union. This is something that the Remain camp has failed to recognise. This is not to say that Europeans do not face global concerns, the Migrant Crisis, Terrorism and the increasingly low supply of our natural resources are all tangible pressures that should alarm us as the funding of the NHS, housing availability and the security of our UK welfare will be impeded if we do not participate in an organisation that has the power to combat these problems. Cameron and the StrongerinEurope campaign have decided to focus on what the EU means for Britain; but this is a futile and narrow argument. The European Union can not be designed to fit the needs of one particular country it requires the support and sacrifice of its member states for a greater good (financial stability, social rights for all, etc.) Instead, the Remain camp needs to be arguing what the EU means for US as EUROPEANS. Burying our heads in the sand and pretending that we are just an Island in North Atlantic Ocean is not going to solve the international issues that will affect all of us.


Is solidarity within Europe possible?

Ironically having said this, I was a fervent believer in Brexit. I believe that Trans-National Corporations have turned the European Union into a haven to exploit the vulnerable, I also think that the European Union – despite its social democratic roots – has created an ideological agenda to suppress the working masses across Europe. The evidence for this is starkingly obvious with the Troika’s  (International Monetary Fund, European Central Bank and the E.U itself) unrelenting support of austerity and their approval of TTIP. Furthermore, the lack of democracy within the several E.U institutions has reduced the credibility of the European Union and has made me question the benefits of belonging to a Union that has very little accountability to its citizens. I was angry as a Brexiter and I’m no less angry since deciding to vote remain. But I don’t think that leaving the EU is going to resolve these issues any time soon, it actually may exacerbate these problems further. If Brexit wins, we may see a resurgence of the Far Right that would privatise public services and create an economy that offers no protections for the poor. Immigration – although being used as a scapegoat for much of our current problems –  has to be controlled, but with no one offering a real campaign to leave the Single Market, I fail to see where we can ‘take back control’. The £350 million a week argument is misleading, deceptive and panders to a portion of society that follows sensationalism rather than accurate research. The Brexiteers have failed to take into account the Rebate (or discount) that this country has when it contributes to the E.U budget, plus our much of our ‘return on investment’ comes in form of insurances (for employment, education, workers rights) and not cold cash. Brexiteers plan on removing these insurances in favour of trade deals that will benefit the upper echelons of society. Many of you, may wish for Britain to regain control of its economic decisions, but in whose hands do we want that power to lie in?

Change within Europe can be a positive thing, but despite the numerous revolutions that have occurred throughout European history we have not learnt the important lessons. Change can only be beneficial if it is prepared and performed in a non-reactionary manner; the French Revolution of the late Eighteenth Century started off as strong sense of solidarity amongst the working class based on economic equality, fraternity and liberty but was hijacked by a small bourgeoisie that wished to create a totalitarian state. The English/National Civil wars that occurred in the mid seventeenth century were fought on the principles on restoring English Freedoms, but when Oliver Cromwell defeated Charles I, he introduced a regime that was more tyrannical and oppressive than anything seen during Charles’ reign. Some protest campaigners may use the frustrations of the masses to orchestrate their own rise to power. This is why I reject the sort of change that Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage have planned for this country as I do not want to see a set of policies that will push us to the sort of Neoliberalism that has stained this country during my lifetime. I believe that projects such as AnotherEuropeisPossible and DIEM25 offer us solutions that are positive, plausible and unifying. These projects want us to radically reform Europe from within. By using the structures that are set in place by the E.U we can build the foundations for a Europe that is democratic, fair and transparent. I have heard many alternative media outlets claim that by voting  Remain that I am an Anti-Patriot who is supporting a corrupt European oligarchy. My response is simple, voting Remain does not make me a Defeatist who supports tyranny and oppression. I am voting Remain, because the only way to achieve true prosperity for all is through methods of solidarity and unity.

Further Reading.


The Trouble with Europe: Why the E.U is not working, How it can be reformed, and what could take its place – Roger Bootle


Who will be deemed a radical?

Recently announced in the Queen’s speech (State opening of Parliament) was the decision to widen the scope of extremists in regards to the Conservative’s party’s anti-terror legislation.This blog has explored radicalism in depth and its relevance to contemporary British Political culture. But I believe we are currently entering an age where the boundaries between principled opposition and mainstream thinking are becoming increasingly blurred.

Recently announced in the Queen’s speech (State opening of Parliament) was the decision to widen the scope of extremists in regards to the Conservative’s party’s anti-terror legislation. The Counter-Extremism bill effectively bans the existence of ‘extremist’ organizations and individuals in Britain. Personally, I see this as an unprecedented moment in our political landscape. The definition of an extremist has been purposefully undefined so that it covers a broad area of political positions that may not match the Government’s official line of thinking. The government have not used the term ‘terrorist’ or ‘traitor’, labels that can be clearly attributed to the dismantlement of society or government, they have chosen a subjective word that could effectively encompass anybody with an opposing political view. The government have the power to potentially move and change the goal posts for what defines an extremist. There is no evidence to suggest that one who is an extremist’ also seeks to promote hatred and division, after all, a few Green Party Members have been officially labelled as domestic extremists because of their ‘progressive’ economic policies. Does that mean they should be prosecuted? This bill could also be seen as part of an agenda for the Conservatives to systematically eliminate the platform for those to criticise the government. With the Trade Union Bill effectively putting a squeeze on their rivals The Labour Party (and the ability to voice employment injustice), as well as the electoral fraud scandal with several Tory activists breaking election spending rules; it is clear to witness the underhand tactics used by the Government to silence the views and opinions of the opposition.

But this bill does not only present problems for democratic principles, it has complications for the role of freedom of speech in British society. We are constantly being reminded by government minsters about how important it is that we live in a world that is free, tolerant and liberal. But the denial of the right to express your political principles is a violation of these so called ‘British’ values. The government seems to advocate the decision in making a difference between ‘hate speech’ and the right to ‘speak freely’. But it is here that we fall in the same traps as discussed earlier. How does one define ‘hate speech’? By its language? Its targets? Its intentions? It is simply too ill-defined and subjective in order for political authorities to apply the term as if it has legal weight. Recent protesters across American colleges are campaigning to ban the spread of certain pieces of literature because it discriminates against certain social, ethnic and biological groups, and some even claim that distributing Trump manifestos to your class mates should now be perceived as hate speech. Some may call this political correctness gone mad, I prefer see it more clearly as a growing trend of emotional and sentimental attitudes replacing rational and logical ones. One of the very reasons as to why Trump has gained so much popularity is because certain sections of society have stifled extremist views, thus provoking those same ‘extremists’ to invest their trust in Donald Trump, a man who deeply but dangerously resents political correctness. If the UK government continues to blur the lines between speech, offence and the law we could be witnessing similar scenes across our universities.

However we have seen some nations are making efforts to correct their mistakes in regards to freedom of Speech. Indeed, Quebec had decided to amend its ‘Bill 69’ hate speech clause which had been designed to combat discrimination against transgender people. However Quebec have decided that the bill is a hindrance towards living in a politically liberal society: “We are doing it because we believe that freedom of speech is fundamental in a healthy democracy“. In my opinion the government of Quebec is taking a positive and forward step by recognising that the language we use and the meanings that it can infer constantly change according to the political and civil circumstances.

Unfortunately, it appears that the UK government is taking a step back in to the past with its regressive anti-terror legislation. The Prime Minster of the early 1790’s (William Pitt) enacted two pieces of legislation that were not too dissimilar to Cameron’s recent Counter-extremism bill. The 1795 Treasonable  Practices Act stated that

” any place, like a room or building, where political meetings took place, with the purpose of discussing the injustice of any law, constitution, government and policy of the kingdoms, must be declared a house of disorder and punished.”

The Counter Extremism  Bill of 2016 has a striking resemblance;

“These include new civil orders to ban extremist groups, restrict the behavior of extremist individuals, and to close down premises used for extremist purposes.”

The two pieces of legislation share the same ideological purpose, in that they seek to prevent the gathering and the mobilization of individuals who may express opinions that go well beyond mainstream political thought. During the 1790s William Pitt was fighting a war of principle as well as a war of arms. He sought to crush the influence that the French Revolution was having in Britain. The French Revolution gained a reputation for representing democracy, liberty and equality. William Pitt wanted to repress any discussion regarding electoral reform and even the term ‘democracy’ itself. Just over hundred years later, and our current UK government seems to be taking us down the dangerous Orwellian path (sorry for the anachronism) of suppressing all types of unauthorized political debate.

Some may believe that the Conservative policy towards Extremism will potentially allow every citizen to be deemed a radical, but if those on the moderate political spectrum are lumped in the same box with those who have far-reaching alternative views then how can we perceive the identity of someone who is truly radical? The systematic blurring of political principles has watered down the sincerity of our democracy. The ability for someone to express their views without interference from the state is slowly being eroded, the boundaries within which one can discuss their thoughts is being destroyed not widened.