Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Everyday sexism and royal protocols

I have always tried to avoid sexist stereotypes or sexist language with my children. For example, I always use the expression 'human-made' rather than the term I was brought up with, 'man-made'. If someone in the house says, 'a man will be coming round to fix the boiler', I will always point out that we don't know whether it will be a man or a woman. My wife is now the main breadwinner in our family. Yet somehow sexist stereotyping still gets through, even with very young children. Recently I was having a conversation with my youngest children, who were then 9 and 10, about the royal family. I mentioned the fact that while the wife of a King is referred to as a Queen, the husband of a Queen who is the head of State (such as our own Queen, Elizabeth II) is not referred to as a King. I said I didn't know why this was the case and, without missing a heartbeat, my 10 year old daughter said, "It's because if they called the Queen's husband a King, it would make him seem more important than her." I was quite taken aback, as I realised she had somehow, at the age of 10, while attending a school where the vast majority of teachers were female, managed to imbibe the idea that a male is considered more important by our society than a female who does the exact same job.

Thursday, 25 August 2016

How Nigel Farage and Donald Trump persuaded me to vote for Jeremy Corbyn

I've been flipping backwards and forwards on the question of who to vote for in the Labour Leadership election ever since Owen Smith threw his hat into the ring but today my vote finally arrived and it was burning a hole in my email server, so I decided that today would be decision day. I would finally choose which side I am on. And, for a couple of reasons, I have found myself swinging back towards Jeremy Corbyn lately.
Firstly, as a member of the Labour Party I intend to help with campaigning in the run-up to the next General Election. That means that if Owen Smith becomes leader I would find myself campaigning on a manifesto which includes the staging of a second referendum on EU membership, something I am opposed to on principle as I believe to hold another EU referendum without ever implementing the decision of the first one would seriously undermine many people's faith in the democratic process in this country. Such a policy might well also alienate a lot of so-called 'traditional Labour voters'.
Secondly, while the main reason I have been seriously tempted to vote for Owen Smith is the belief that he's more likely to beat the Tories in a general election - a belief largely generated and fostered by the media and backed up by opinion polls - I can't escape the nagging feeling that maybe I'm allowing myself to be misled. After all, neither the media nor the pollsters foresaw a Tory majority in the 2015 general election and the polling companies and even the bookies were confident that the Remain campaign would win the EU referendum. Last night, in fact, Nigel Farage was in America giving a speech about "the Brexit story" to a rally of Donald Trump supporters - another politician who was initially given very little chance of success by the media, in his bid to win the Republican Party presidential nomination. 'Anti-establishment' politicians (of which, surely, Corbyn is one) seem to be doing better than expected at the moment. Perhaps the type of people who vote for such candidates and causes are less likely than others to respond to opinion polls. Jeremy hasn't been given much of a chance yet and I think he probably deserves at least one decent crack at a general election.
Maybe I'm guilty of letting my heart overrule my head, but - taking all the above points into consideration - at 9.40pm this evening I cast my vote for Jeremy Corbyn to remain as leader of the Labour Party.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Why I'll (probably) be voting for Owen Smith

I don't agree with all of Jeremy Corbyn's views and policies. I am not a Republican (at least not in the British context), I'm not sure about unilateral disarmament and I'm certainly dubious of his (past?) support for organisations such as Hamas and Hezbollah. Nor do I agree with all of Owen Smith's proposed policies. I don't, for example, support a second referendum on the U.K.'s membership of the European Union. But, although I haven't made up my mind 100 percent yet (there are still over three weeks to go), I am increasingly coming to the view that in the Labour leadership election I am going to vote for Owen Smith. This is for one reason and one reason only. I think he is more likely to win a general election than Jeremy Corbyn is. That belief is based partly on intuition about who is more likely to win over vital swing voters, and partly on evidence such as this poll.
As a low paid, public sector worker and council tenant with children, some of whom are unemployed (between zero hour contracts) and some in state education, perhaps one day to go on to university, and various family members who suffer from chronic illness and are dependent on the NHS and social care, I need there to be a Labour government. I have worked for the National Health Service for 15 years and I have never seen it as on its knees as it is right now in terms of staffing levels. The NHS badly needs there to be a Labour government ASAP.
Corbyn may have a more ideologically pure political history but that counts for nothing if Labour cannot win power. Whatever happens, there will be a mountain to climb but I increasingly believe that Owen Smith is Labour's best hope of winning the next General Election.
At one of the recent hustings, the candidates were asked what they listened to on their iPods. Owen Smith mentioned some pop or rock group whose name I can't even remember. Corbyn (who I like to think doesn't own an iPod) professed to be a lover of classical and folk music. Clearly Jeremy Corbyn has much better taste in music than Owen Smith (in my opinion, anyway). Sadly, however, if, as a musician, you want to get to number one in the charts you're probably going to be better off with a catchy, slickly produced and well marketed pop song. That's just the nature of reality.

Sunday, 10 July 2016

Paul Weller knew a thing or two about old Etonians

"What a catalyst you turned out to be. Loaded the guns then you ran off home for your tea." (Eton Rifles, The Jam)

Sunday, 3 July 2016

Has anyone else noticed...?

Actor Charles Dance and early 20th Century Ulster Unionist leader Sir Edward Carson.

I wonder if they could be related.

Saturday, 2 July 2016

Brexit and the Irish Civil War

The pro and anti treaty debates and subsequent civil war in Ireland redefined the whole landscape of Irish politics for at least 70 years (in some ways they are still a defining factor today). The way the recent referendum has split our country into two opposing camps around a single issue has, in a small (and thankfully less bloody) way, helped me (as someone who is interested in early 20th Century Irish history) to understand how such a lasting re-entrenchment could have occured.

The new divide in UK politics

I've long been uncomfortable with the distinction in politics between the traditional categories of 'left' and 'right'. In the aftermath of the referendum it seems to me that a new political divide is becoming apparent, one that is perhaps more visceral or emotional in character yet in many ways more relevant to the current political scene. I would characterise the two camps on either side of this divide as follows.
On the one hand there are those who believe representative democracy is superior to direct democracy (which is really just a vehicle for populism); who tend to - as Michael Gove might put it - trust 'experts' to make the right decisions and who believe strongly in the importance of international and intergovernmental cooperation.
On the other, there are those who believe that the public as a whole is more qualified to make political decisions and judgements than any individual or select group, however apparently well qualified; who are more likely to question the opinions of experts however well educated or well established in their fields they may be and who are mistrustful of people or institutions weilding large amounts of power.
Although I think that most of the people who voted the same way as me in the referendum probably fall into the first category, I have to admit that I am not sure which of the two groups I would most readily place myself in.