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Tories and the theatre

Hello everyone,

I am a writer for an online cultural/reviews magazine called ‘The Upcoming’ and on Friday I went to review a piece of experimental theatre called ‘Cock and Bull’. The show was a mixture of performance art, dance, and avant-garde theatre and it centred around the election, politicians and the words they say. The show was originally created in 2015 for the election and I really wish I had seen it then because the three identically clad gold handed Etonian performers were really channelling David Cameron, Ed Milliband and Nick Clegg (particularly David Cameron). This time around you can’t really say that Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn look alike, say the same things or really have much at all in common with each other.

If you hate the tories, you like experimental theatre and you want to commiserate about broken political promises see if you can get a ticket to the FINAL performance this evening!

Take a look at my review here: http://www.theupcoming.co.uk/2017/04/28/cock-and-bull-at-the-southbank-centre-theatre-review/ 

 

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So … Donald Trump eh?

I wrote my first ever article about Donald Trump yesterday. It’s hard to know what is actually going on with him and his supporters if you a: don’t live in America and b: tend to only hear very anti-Trump opinions. I attempted to be as objective as you can be with someone like that and read his campaign policies to get an idea of what he wants to do with his time in office. I got the policies from politiplatform.com and some don’t appear on his official website, but they are all based on things he has said. Obviously, people are getting quite hysterical about him and it’s hard to tell what’s actually going to happen, but from the looks of it, things are likely to get worse.

Read my full article here. 

It hasn’t even been a month yet and already the immigration ban, ongoing commitment to the Mexican wall and refusal to fund foreign organisations which even /mention/ the word abortion has got a lot of people quite understandably scared, and judging from some of his policies and statements things are going to get scarier. Is anyone from America? What do you think of Trump? Are you scared? Do you support him? What on earth is goin on?

 

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Amber Rudd’s’Name and shame’ proposal leaves a lot of unanswered questions and a rather irksome feeling.

Despite all claims to the contrary I’ve always tried to avoid the simplistic view that BREXIT was primarily about race and xenophobia. Whilst no one is denying that the ‘breaking point’ campaign and indeed a lot of the leave campaigns rhetoric was focused on immigration (despite EU immigration being limited to Europe these campaigns tried to focus on refugees, which is kind of ironic considering we still have a duty to them with or without our EU membership) there were other factors that would encourage someone to vote leave.

My article on Public Opinion and the Young People Who Voted Leave discusses several of these alternative reasons and shows that many people were influenced by the perceived anti-democratic way the EU was run, they wanted to leave what they saw as a global superpower that was trying to control 28 countries from a remote headquarters, and/or they wanted Britain to have more control over their destiny and economy. It would be very naive to assume that no one voted leave due to racist and/or xenophobic reasons, but the idea that these were the only reasons highlights the remain campaign’s failure to appeal to people in the first place.

Recent events have made me a little disturbed, however.This ‘name and shame’ policy that attempts to look at how many non-British born people work for a particular company does sound quite sinister because the aim appears to be quite clear. This policy seems to have been discontinued due to the backlash it recieved, but the fact that this was an option, the fact that this is what our government wanted to focus on is a little scary and perhaps shows what is to come. According to The Guardian Amber Rudd’s aims were as follows:

“Under her proposals, firms could be forced to disclose what percentage of their workforce is non-British as a way to encourage them to hire more locals. Ms Rudd said she wanted to “flush out” companies abusing existing rules and “nudge them into better behaviour”.

Source http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-37561035

Whether they publish their findings or not the goal seems to be to check how many migrants compared to how many British born people work for a particular company and if they are not satisfied that British people are getting first pick at the jobs they may take measures to encourage the company in question to focus on British applicants and give them first choice for employment. I am not sure if these policies will focus on people who weren’t born in the U.K themselves or people whose ancestors were immigrants, nor do I know whether it will focus on a particular group (i.e European immigrants or non-EU immigrants).

I also don’t know if ‘British born’ is going to be based on race or residential status and how that’s going to be qualified (will Amber Rudd count you as a British citizen if you weren’t born in Britain but have British citizenship? Will a recent immigrant with a better application be turned away in favour of someone who has no relevent experience but is a Britis citizen?) but either way this seems very contradictory to our apparent commitment to inclusion and the need to encourage a more representative, diverse workforce not only so our workforce reflects the country we actually live in but so we don’t end up with stale ideas and we don’t miss out on talent.

We already know that we have a problem with diversity in British industries, and even though we have schemes and quota systems in place to encourage a more diverse workforce they don’t always seem that effective. We know, for example, that around 8% of the Creative sector (i.e media, film and art-based jobs) are nonwhite, and when we consider that a lot of these jobs are based in London where the demographic is roughly around 40-60% this is quite shocking. (source here: http://www.gold.ac.uk/news/the-creative-industries-and-meritocracy/)

From a quick Google search on the subject I found the following statistics:

  • Black workers with degrees earn 23.1% less on average than white employees with the qualifications
  • Ethnic minority people were more likely to live in poverty than white people
  • Ethnic minorities are still “hugely under-represented” in positions of power – such as judges and police chiefs (info found here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-37114418)When they are talking about hiring more locals, what jobs do they mean? Do they mean the NHS where a significant portion of the workforce is made up of Non-British born staff? Do they mean the jobs many British people simply don’t want to do or don’t have the skills for? Do they mean the more competitive industries where diversity is still a real issue? And what do they mean by foreigners? Is this based on your race, where you were born, or is it simply how soon it was that you moved to the UK? If you were brought up here and lived most of your life here but you happened to be born in another country how do you fit in? How do you qualify a British person and how do you qualify a non-British person?

    It is hard to get a job in the U.K and a lot of this is because there is too much competition for certain jobs, not enough jobs to go around and a real preference for free labour under the guise of ‘internships’. How we could sort that out is a whole other issue, but the solution isn’t to close off all opportunities to people who ‘aren’t British enough’ if they have the skills that the particular job needs. Surely if companies are encouraged to hire as many ‘British’ workers as possible it will exasperate inequalities. Surely changing hiring policies so ‘the British come first’ would increase racial profiling? Surely ‘British Jobs for British workers’ is quite an open statement which doesn’t really mean anything,  because who is British and who isn’t? What are you basing that on?

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Jeremy Corbyn

Click for my article on Jeremy Corbyn as the underdog of British politics.

I have long felt that the Labour party is suffering an identity crisis. The old Labour movement, the movement of Atlee, the NHS, and the welfare system was abandoned in favour of Tony Blair’s centrist movement, but that doesn’t appear to be working either. Jeremy Corbyn offers a return to old Labour, to the values Labour used to represent. Perhaps those values don’t have a place in this country anymore, perhaps the working class has changed too much.

Perhaps society has changed too much. If this is the case, and Labour cannot go back to its roots but it can’t re-imagine itself as anything more inspiring than a second rate Tory party whose main policy is seemingly slightly ‘nicer’ than the Tories, then perhaps it’s time for something new. Perhaps Labour should split, if that is how things are going. All I know is that we need differences of opinion in parliament, we need parties that differ enough that people feel that they have a choice. We need parties that represent people, that give them a voice. Parties people will support. And if Labour can’t be what it used to be but doesn’t have a good enough alternative, then something needs to change.

Corbyn has the support of a lot of people because they don’t see him as part of the establishment, because they see how much the media and the MP’s hate him. And this increases his popularity because he seems different. He’s an underdog. He shares people’s values, and that scares the establishment. He seems nice. He would rather hang out with and support local, ordinary people, then bother with the rituals and ceremonies required of politicians. Perhaps this isn’t a good enough reason to support him, but if enough people feel this way then they deserve to be heard, and if enough people want him in power he should stay.

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Why you can’t trust politicians

Since my country voted by a small margin to leave the E.U on Thursday, things have gone a bit crazy. Our prime ministers resigned and it looks like we now have a choice between Boris Johnson, a very memorable public figure but not exactly a trustworthy leader who is reported as being homophobic, and Theresa May, a sour faced woman who has said some  nasty things about refugees in the past. The Labour parties falling apart; Jeremy Corbyn, who wasn’t exactly vocal during the referendum campaign, has had his leadership challenged and has now lost 23 members of his cabinet and counting. Neither party looks prepared to lead this country in regular times, let alone sort out a Brexit, and no one really knows whats going to happen next.

Our pounds fallen to a 31 year low, some stock shares are falling, the future of our city is in question and the people continue to fight amongst themselves. It also looks, although no one can be sure, that the leading lead campaigners are now having a change of heart. Boris Johnson has assured the public nothing immediate is going to happen, that we will have a continued partnership with the E.U and this decision will not affect our universities, science, arts or the ability to live abroad. But how is that the case? Does that mean we will stay (and pay) for the single market? Whilst that is the scenario I personally am hoping for, the fact that so much of the leave campaign was about immigration and about us making our own trade deals, how will those who voted leave for this reason react when they realise nothing in that area will change? If we stay in the single market, that means we will also accept the continuing free movement of people. I would be very happy with this result, but many won’t be. Can the leave campaign betray their own supporters and take back their own words like that?

Of course they can. Their politicians.

I always feel that you can never totally trust politicians, but not because they are all scumbags who lie to get votes. You can’t trust them because the public again and yet again assumes they have far more power then they actually do. Look at what happened to poor Nick Clegg when he had to retract his promises over tuition fees.

David Cameron had as much to do with putting them up, but because Nick Clegg made the mistake of promising something, something he probably didn’t know he couldn’t deliver, he paid the price. The fact is that under the current system tuition fees couldn’t have stayed the same price. If you have as many universities as we have, and if more and more people start going each year, people the government gives tuition and maintenance loans to, what happens is that if these people fail to get well paid jobs quickly (which, as the degree keeps falling in value and as it is getting harder and harder to get a graduate position, is quite likely) the government is basically giving away more money then it is getting back. In that situation they either need to throw far more money into education, we can debate about whether they could do that or not, or they need to raise the prices so eventually they may break even (which they won’t).

Nick Clegg made a mistake, but it wasn’t not keeping loans the same price. He made the mistake of making people believe he could, made the mistake in becoming too popular. That was his downfall, because now people will always blame him for it regardless if it was actually his fault or not.

That was a pretty long analogy, but it may well end up applying to the leave campaigners as well. I’m not saying Nigel Farrage didn’t lie about his claims that money saved on the E.U would be spent on the NHS (he most definitely did, we’ve all seen the bus) or that these politicians shouldn’t be held accountable for their broken promises, even if they are promises you didn’t personally want in the first place, but the public isn’t blameless either. The public cannot assume that the government has all these over arching powers that can totally rewrite reality. Individual politicians will never be able to deliver all that they promise because none of them have that much individual power. That is what living in a democracy means. That is why it is up to the public to research their claims and make an informed decision for themselves. That is why it is up to the press not only to report but to analyse and to explain what they are actually saying and what the reality may be.

I don’t know, again I don’t think any of us know right now, but in the short term at least it may not be possible to totally break from the E.U. And whilst it is acceptable to blame the politicians for not following through with their pre-referendum promises, it is also not acceptable to believe everything they say as fact and not do your own research. People are saying they feel cheated, that they didn’t understand the referendum, voted leave and now ‘want their votes back’. This makes me angry. If you wanted to leave, and you knew why you wanted to leave, then fair enough. But if you are going to live with your head under a rock for all of your life, take it out really briefly, believe a bunch of confusing things a bunch of confusing politicians said and then get upset when it turns out it wasn’t strictly true, then you don’t get my sympathy. This is why voting shouldn’t be made compulsory; if  someone doesn’t really know what they are voting for, then why should they be obliged to vote?

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Donald Trump and the banning debate

A section of British MPs have debated whether the controversial republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, who has caused worldwide outrage for his comments regarding Muslims including the call for Muslims to be banned from the US, should be banned from visiting the UK. This is a result of an online partition calling for Trump to be banned from the UK which currently has 576, 447 signatures SNP MP Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh claimed that the ban could be justified on ground of ‘religious harmony’, but others have said that the ban could actually create more support for Trump because it may give him ‘martyr’ status, and even those who would usually abhor his claims would support his right to free speech.

I do not think Trump should be banned from the UK. This is not because I agree with Trump; frankly I still can’t quite believe the guy exists, let alone that anyone would consider letting him run a country. However, the worst thing you can do with a bigot like this is deny them their right to speak. If you do this it gives them ammunition. It gives someone whose views are normally ridiculous a genuinely valid argument, because we are denying them the free speech we often fight so hard to protect. And we would also be denying ourselves a golden opportunity to ridicule this man and show his ideas for what they are.
We should not ban him, rather we should try and set up a televised talk with a live audience and panel who would be given the opportunity to challenge Trump, to put him on the spot and to make him squirm. I remember years ago the UK wanted to stop Nick Griffin participated in a BBC debate. The debate went ahead anyway, and Nick Griffin was put on the spot and he showed himself for what he was, which gave him opponents even more ammunition to criticize and challenge his views.
This is precisely what we need to do with Trump. Rather then deny him free speech, we should use free speech against him. Clearly no matter what we do we won’t change his or his more hardcore supporters beliefs, but we can try to trip him up on his logic enough that maybe the more intelligent potential supporters will question him. This is not guaranteed, but it can’t hurt. We shouldn’t be scared of these people, we should show that rather then just try to hide from them and pretend they don’t exist we can and we should challenge them, not just from behind a keyboard but in real life. The call to ban him was a valid form of protest, and is good because it shows that a large number of UK citizens disagree venomously with his assertions, but we need to go beyond that. We can’t just say we disagree because we don’t like what he says, we need to take that and then show why  what he says is wrong. To simply disagree isn’t enough, we need to engage with these kind of views in so much that we can break them apart, ridicule them and prove them wrong. That is the only way we can even hope of defeating someone like that.

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Thoughts on Syria

This has been a pretty intense week. After a ten and a half hour debate in the house of commons on Wednesday the UK government voted in favour of extending air strikes to Syria and contributing to a bombing coalition with the US and France in that country. After the decision was broadcast, a lot of people took to social media to voice their opinions. I have personally seen far more comments against the motion than I have for, but it would be wrong to say that public opinion is unanimously or extremely against the strikes. Public opinion is never unanimous, and not everyone takes to social media to voice their opinions. There are a lot of arguments on both sides, and both are right in parts and wrong in others.
The idea that military action should never be an option is frankly un-realistic, and some people seem to have bought into the hype surrounding this vote and decided that it means the UK will personally start dropping thousands and thousands of bombs on innocent people. This is an overstatement. The UK is contributing a small number of air crafts to an existing operation, and it has basically been admitted that our contribution is unlikely to make a significant difference, they are also meant to be targeting Daesh only and avoiding civilian areas.  They are not trying to target civilians and they claim that the RAF has not killed a single civilian during the already existing operation in Iraq, in reality this is very hard to prove because of the sheer depth of destruction in this region and dubious sources, and we may never know for sure if this is true or not. We also do not know and may never know how many civilians are going to be effected or killed by extending the operations in Syria.
Syria is already being heavily bombed by different, overlapping forces and there doesn’t seem to be much proof that it is helping to end or even significantly hurt Daesh, but if there was a proper ground force and a realistic chance at a peace settlement it would be a helpful to weaken them, scatter them and help cut off their resources. As we do not have these things, I do not feel the bombing campaign is the best course of action, and I have not been convinced by any of the frankly half baked, rushed or non-relevant arguments by the MP’s or those who support this.
Some things came up in the debate, including Cameron’s assertion that bombing Syria will somehow make us safer in the UK and all the hype about Hilary Benn’s speech. There is also a very important issue no one seems to be thinking about, which is very worrying as it is extremely relevant to our security and the future of Syria.
I’m going to attempt to address these, but this is a very complex and multi-faceted issue and I’m not going to pretend to know what the best course of action should be. It does worry me that these points don’t seem to have been acknowledged adequately by parliament.

Firstly, the idea that bombing Syria will make us safer does not make sense to me. And the reason for this is simple. Although Daesh currently has its headquarters in Syria, the attacks that happened in Paris were carried out by those in Paris, not in Syria. The people who carried out the attacks may have been to Syria, they were in touch with people in Syria, but they were born in and residents of the EU. So although people who support Daesh and subscribe to their views are likely to be in touch with people in Syria, and as we know hundreds of people from our own country have travelled to, and worryingly back, from Syria, if attacks happen in this country they are very likely to be carried out by people already here, and therefore bombing Syria will not stop their ability to carry out attacks on our countries, and is likely to make ‘revenge attacks’ more likely, as well as potentially so called lone wolf attacks, by people inspired by but not directly connected to Daesh.
There is another reason as well. It is not just extremists who dislike our respective governments and the actions they have carried out in the past and continue to carry out now. There are thousands of people who hate the very notion of religious murder and the whole idea of Daesh who also hate our government and  their previous actions in the Middle East. There are plenty of people who see the war in Iraq as nothing more than a cold, calculated war crime and believe that those who were involved are murderers. And there are also plenty of people who disagree strongly with the decision taken on Wednesday, because they believe it is to do with oil and our governments collective greed. These are non radicalised and often peaceful people who hold these views. These are not limited to extremists. The reason Daesh’s propaganda works is because some of it is based on truth. Not the idea that there is some apocalyptic crusade in which they are fighting, and not the idea that murdering innocent people is going to result in some heavenly reward. But we do have a complicated, long running and often nasty history not just with the middle east but with most places around the world. This is not because people in our countries are abnormally evil, but because human history is full of people doing horrific things to each other all over the world. There is no way to excuse the murders these people have carried out in Europe or abroad. These people have murdered thousands within Syria and continue to stone, torture and execute any dissenters or anyone who even vaguely strays from their vision of Islam and their strict rules on behaviour. They have also filled mass graves with all the people they decided not to rape. And they have and continue to carry out horrific attacks outside of Syria, including our neighbors in France. These actions can never be excused; as human action goes these are among the most evil it could be and I hope everyone reading this is under no delusion that this is the case. But that does not mean that our countries actions over the last twenty years were any less terrible, that innocent people have not died during these ‘liberation’ wars. The ‘west’ are at least partly responsible for the hell that Daesh was born out of. This is by no means the only factor, but it is a factor, and until we stop ignoring our past mistakes we cannot hope to beat  this propaganda. There is also the fact that these people want to be martyred, and they want the west to commit atrocities because it furthers their cause.
This does not mean military action is not an option, but it does mean we have to be more careful when applying it and ensuring that it is part of a comprehensive plan, not just war for the sake of looking like we are doing something.

Secondly, Hilary Benn’s speech was really not all that. In terms of rhetorical devices and the art of public speaking, it wasn’t bad. He had a good use of tone, he applied several effective rhetorical devices and he had good presence. He would have done any debating club proud. But the actual words he said did not offer anything new to the debate, in fact in terms of addressing the issues at hand he failed on several accounts. He played it in such a way that everyone could agree with it without him actually having to say anything of note, and it worked very well for him. His analogy with ‘facism’ was effective because it invoked our feelings about Nazism, but it did not address the issue. This is not the same situation as it was during the second world war not least because warfare has changed a considerable amount. This is not fighting them on the grounds, seas and skies, and fighting a clear army with equal footing, this is dropping a few bombs a week from a great hight and adding slightly to the destruction of a country.
Most of his speech concerned the need to fight Daesh in general. No one was disputing that we needed to take action against them, the issue at hand was whether contributing air strikes, and a small number of air strikes at that, is the right approach to tackle them, not whether we should fight them at all. And he does address that where he says: “Look at how their military capacity and their freedom of movement has been put under pressure. Ask the Kurds about Sinjar and Kobane. Now of course air strikes alone will not defeat Daesh, but they make a difference because they are giving them a hard time and it is making it more difficult for them to expand their territory.”. I find that pretty weak, because whilst it may slow them down, it does not mean they cannot regain the territory fairly quickly without ground forces to stop them and as we have seen in the campaign that is already happening whilst they have been stopped in some areas, they have gained territory in others. Without an effective ground army to keep them from regaining this territory, bombing will at best have very limited success.
His mentioned the ‘ground troops’ that we are relying on to hold the territory being bombed “But I tell you what else we know: it’s whatever the number – 70,000, 40,000, 80,000 – the current size of the opposition forces mean the longer we leave taking action, the longer Daesh will have to decrease that number” is also not a strong statement, in fact it highlights how little we know about these troops we are relying on, especially as they are very likely to have their own agendas. Some of these fighters are fighting for democracy, and some for their right to their own country, and some are doing very well and establishing free societies within that country, but others are not. If we train and equip these people, it is quite likely if we are able to defeat Daesh someone else will easily be able to take their place. The PM has basically admitted that some, who knows how many, are from Al Qaeda, the people we spent the last ten+ years fighting. There are many interests at work here, and I think it is extremely naive to think we can unite them all and control them, especially if they are not sure what we are offering them at the end of all this. And his statement “We are part of a coalition of over 60 countries standing together shoulder to shoulder to oppose their ideology and their brutality.” is something I’m really not convinced about. I’ve tried to find a list of every country involved in this ‘coalition’, and so far I have found around 24 countries with varying levels of involvement, as well as an array of local forces within the region. If anyone has any information on the other 36 countries apparently involved please let me know, otherwise I fail to understand where this figure has come from.
It was not a bad speech, but I do not believe it, or he, deserves the hype.  I do not feel he gave a convincing argument for  whether the UK contributing to air strikes would make a significant positive contribution to this war.  He did attempt address these points, although I do not believe he did so very well, but he spent far more rallying everyone up by making statements that are both easy to agree with and largely empty.

The third and perhaps most pressing point is that this war is far more complex then the MPs made out on Wednesday. It is not a case of a united country being invaded by Daesh that will go back to normal once they are removed. The civil war was not started because of Daesh, Daesh was just able to capitalize on it because of the chaos that was already happening. And the civil war will not stop with their removal. There are many differing and often un-compatible interests in Syria, and it is far more complex than it sounded during the debate. President Assad has most probably killed more Syrians than Daesh have, and many Syrian people have fought for years to remove him. So when and if we can defeat Daesh, there will be a few options, and none of them are ideal. Firstly, we could say that our sole aim was to defeat Daesh and now we will withdraw military action, in which case the chaos is likely to continue and a similar group will sooner or later have the opportunity to emerge, or that Assad will regain power (in which case see point three). We could go against Russia and say that we will continue to fight, and therefore fight Russia to remove Assad, which is likely to anger Iran and Russia and could potentially lead to World War Three. Wars have started for less. Or we could side with Russia and turn the country over to Assad, which is probably the most likely plan, which would be a betrayal of the Syrian people who have spent years in a hellish war. To say all of that was for nothing and that things would be set back to how they were before this all started is almost guaranteed to turn these people against us, and out of all the possible scenario’s the fact will remain that we will have proved to the world we only care about those who directly effect us and are perfectly happy to work with murderous dictators and turn a blind eye to their domestic policies as long as they are friendly to us. Some people are comparing this to Iraq, but it is not the same. It is not a case of us invading a country for no reason and removing a dictator with no end plan, many people in Syria have already risen up against Assad. We are not enforcing this from our comfortable plushy offices overseas, many people in Syria have fought for this for years.

There is no easy answer to this issue, all have the potential to be very messy and unpleasant, and I am not sure anyone really knows how to deal with it  if and when it does come up. What I do know is that by rushing into an air strike on Syria we have thrown ourselves into a much bigger conflict than we would like to think about, and the assertion that it is hardly an issue because the borders are not recognized by Daesh is not the point. The point is that the situation in Syria is not the situation in Iraq, and now we have committed ourselves to something I am not convinced any of the MP’s really understand. I am not saying military action is the wrong approach, and at some point it would probably have been necessary. But I feel they should have spent far longer thinking about the immediate as well as the future consequences and thought up at least the beginnings of a solid plan before engaging these air strikes. The Vienna talks are intended to solve this issue, but I can’t see that happening any time soon, and until they do the situation remains uncertain with or without Daesh. This was not just extending the war. This was much more than that, and to say it is not is to lie to the public.

 

Further reading:

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/syria-air-strikes-cartoon-sums-up-the-problem-with-the-international-coalition-against-isis-a6755521.html

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/aug/11/us-air-strikes-iraq-isis-minimal-impact-pentagon

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/12032102/Awful-though-it-seems-working-with-Assad-may-be-the-only-option-in-Syria.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2015/12/02/jeremy-corbyn-warns-uk-fa_n_8700172.html

http://www.gizmodo.co.uk/2015/12/heres-the-hilary-benn-syria-speech-transcript-in-full/

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/russia-and-france-will-co-operate-against-isis-but-vladimir-putin-and-francois-hollande-at-odds-over-a6750781.html

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/dec/03/syria-assad-question-means-a-common-front-against-isis-is-still-a-long-way-off

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-34981848

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The transformation of MeadRiver and why immigration can be a very good thing

Home Secretary Theresa May’s October  speech on immigration has attracted a lot of attention, and whilst some people are openly appalled by her statements, a lot of other people are rallying behind her. Here is a quote from the speech, in which she states that immigration is not in our national interest, is bad for local communities and increases poverty: “When immigration is too high,” she said, “When the pace of change is too fast, it’s impossible to build a cohesive society. It’s difficult for schools and hospitals and core infrastructure like housing and transport to cope. And we know that for people in low-paid jobs, wages are forced down even further while some people are forced out of work altogether.” There is, she added, “no case, in the national interest, for immigration of the scale we have experienced over the last decade.”
Julia Hartley-Brewer, a reporter for the Telegraph, appeared to agree with May, and in an article published yesterday she claimed that:”  New arrivals don’t immerse themselves in the language and culture of their new home, they simply move to an area where there are many others from their motherland and set up separate communities. ” and then went on to say: “A study of the latest census by the Demos think-tank found that nearly half of ethnic minorities – four million people – now live in communities where whites are a minority. Is this what we really mean by a multiracial, multicultural society?”

Now, some of you lovely readers probably already know that I am in favor of immigration. You may have seen from some of my recent posts that I believe we can and should allow far more people affected by the refugee crisis into the UK, but it goes beyond that. I like immigration. I want to have the opportunity to move to different countries, both in and outside of the EU. I want live and work in these countries, and I believe other people should be able to live and work in other countries as well. I understand that we cannot have completely open borders, but I also disagree very strongly with the far too popular idea that immigrants are coming here to scrounge off benefits and steal jobs. This has never been proved,  and studies show that a very, very small amount of non UK Nationals claim benefits, whereas the percentage of UK Nationals do claim them is much higher.  (also see http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/the-facts-behind-theresa-mays-speech-about-immigration-a6685791.html)
Whilst some employers can and do employ immigrants illegally or pay them less than they would a UK national, it is also true that many people born in the UK are not willing to do some of the jobs migrants, for various reasons, will accept. Also, if the employer is actually paying an immigrant less than a UK national, this is surely taking advantage and not giving the equal rights that a UK citizen may find it easier to demand, and would only really work for cash in hand or illegal employment. Whilst I don’t deny this does happen, I do have to question if it is nearly as widespread or common as is often assumed, or that when it does happen it is for a long period of time, as often someone may start out in an low paying job and the progress or seek new employment.Today I read a comment in the Metro newspaper by a couple who run a retail company, and they claimed that the majority of applications they receive are from migrants who work very hard, as many UK nationals are not interested in this kind of work. As recent Tory measures now mean that immigrants will have to wait four years to claim benefits, surely if they cannot claim benefits, they cannot be benefit scroungers. Whilst it can be hard for UK born adults to gain employment, especially as there is a catch 22 situation where you cannot gain employment before you have experience and cannot gain experience without employment, it is also true that a lot of people are not willing to accept bad pay or a bad work environment (which they shouldn’t have to) and a lot of places (like the office I work in) have quite a high turn over. If someone, for whatever reason is used to poor wages or urgently needs money, this may be why they are willing to accept conditions others are not, which may be the reason why some people who have newly immigrated to the UK may take lower paid jobs.
It is also wrong to assume migrants only take low paid, illegal jobs. Without immigrants, the NHS would collapse. Our economy would suffer. The government would have to raise taxes because we would lose out on all the money these people contribute to our economy each year. Whilst a small number may come here because they hear we are a generous society, it appears that far more come here to work, to provide for their countries, or because they think the UK looks like quite a nice place to live and work, and I have never found any of these anti immigration arguments convincing because they all seem to stem down to unfounded fears and prejudices that don’t actually seem to apply to real life.
I strongly disagree with the idea that immigration is a bad thing for communities or that it encourages poverty. People seem to assume immigration has to have a negative impact on a town, that it will change it for the worst and the town will end up worse off then it was before. Based on a due to my personal experiences in the town I have lived in for 17 years, I would argue that yes, it will change the town, but it does not have to be a bad change, and it may well change the area for the better.  In light of my experiences, I am going to tell you a story about my home town and how immigration, whilst it cannot be seen as the only or perhaps even the most important factor, has a definite positive correlation with the transformation of this town from a crime ridden, BNP centric, isolated ghost town into a comparatively affluent, well connected and, for the area, reasonably safe and pleasant place to live. This is a true story, but in the interests of privacy I am going to call this town MeadRiver.

I moved to MeadRiver with my parents in 1997 when I was five years old. We moved into a housing association rented flat with two bedrooms and a communal garden. The flat we moved into had previously been occupied by a crack dealer who fled in the middle of the night and burned down part of the flat in the process, and for the first few months we were there people would bang on the door and demand money and/or drugs. Our flat was in the ‘nicer’ part of MeadRiver, meaning it was not in a massive grey tower block and didn’t have as many nearby gangs, but it was not by a long shot a good place to live. The town did not have good transport links, there was no nearby tube station (only a train station about fifteen minutes away), it did not have many shops (I only remember a Safeways, most of the businesses are fairly new), as it was filled with massive 1960s style concrete tower blocks it had been used as the set for various Dystopian films that called for a disturbing landscape, and there was a lot of violence, gangs, racism, segregation of the ethnic minorities that lived here, and MeadRiver was a classic BNP ridden impoverished area.
Now, I’m not going to say the transformation of MeadRiver was solely because of immigration, or even that immigration was the most important change that has happened in the last 17 years. The most important change was better transport links, first in the form of a new tube station built about ten miles away (accessible via bus) and later another tube line opening in a nearby town. These transport links made the town more appealing to commuters, and therefore people who earned more money started to move there. This had a knock on effect of more businesses opening to satisfy the needs of the newly fairly well off commuters, and therefore the layout of MeadRiver started to change. New houses also started being built, which tended to be more up market and designed for key workers, rather then being built for social housing. These changes all contributed to slowly change MeadRiver into a safer, richer, more accessible and more active neighborhood.
However, immigration does also appear to have played a part as well. When MeadRiver was first built in the 1960s, it was one of the most homogeneous estates in London, and even though it did experience immigration before we moved, from what I (and my parents) recall, in the first few years it was still a largely white working class area.  Then in the 1990s, there was an influx of immigration from non EU countries (largely from Nigeria and Ghana) which has transformed the ethnic makeup of MeadRiver. Starting out as a homogeneous, BNP centric town, MeadRiver is now one of the most multi cultural places in London and, although it is by a very small percentage, there are slightly more people of African origin living here than UK nationals (White British 33.3%, Black African 35.6%). Therefore, MeadRiver is one of the areas Teresa May and Julia Brewer must be referring to. And yet, far from the influx of immigration changing MeadRiver for the worst, with increased poverty and lack of social cohesion, my experience suggests quite the opposite.

MeadRivers higher affluence coincides with higher immigration levels, and this may well be because a large number of those of African origin who moved to MeadRiver got themselves jobs, seemingly fairly well paid jobs. The part of town I live in, which is still one of the nicer parts of MeadRiver, has a large African population, and from what I have seen more than half of the people who have the nice cars, live in fairly nice accommodation, and share my daily commute to central London are non white (and as MeadRivers used to be fairly homogeneous, I have to assume that most of them immigrated in the last two decades).  This is obviously not true of everyone who lives here, and the greater transport links and  more upmarket housing has simply made the town more attractive to more people regardless of their race, but the fact still stands that the influx of immigration has not, in any way, made MeadRiver a worse place to live, and has a positive correlation with the positive changes that have occurred in this area during the last 17 years. Those who immigrated here also appear more likely to have a decent job, live in a nice house and presumably pay taxes. Whilst I am not suggesting that the majority of white british born adults in MeadRiver don’t work, live off benefits and belong on Jeremy Kyle, to assume the opposite is just plain wrong.
Crime, whilst still a problem on the estates, also appears to have decreased and you feel fairly safe walking around this town at night, indeed safer then you do in the nearby, bigger towns. There are several African supermarkets around the area, and some churches which tend to be fairly dominated by black people have sprung up around the area, but I don’t see this as a bad thing. Call me crazy, but I would take a few churches over crack dens any day. And whilst white BNP supporters do still exist, they tend to stick to this one pub in the town center and not really bother anyone. I never hear about high levels of violence anymore, and as far as I am aware muggings and theft are quite uncommon in my area. As far as cohesion is concerned, it doesn’t appear to be an issue. There is a strong black community, but I don’t see why that should threaten me, or why I should have a problem with it.
I have been to our local NHS services and they are as fast as you would expect from an NHS doctor, I have managed to get tests and check ups quickly after booking and have never had to wait that long for an appointment. As far as housing is concerned, the influx of people seems to have encouraged more and better housing being built, as MeadRiver is still quite far out of London (although the Crossrail may change this somewhat) prices still tend to be cheap for a London borough, and whilst it has expanded out to accommodate its growing population, I am not aware of any substantial housing shortage in the area as compared to other areas with less immigration. There are quite a few primary and secondary schools in the area, and I am not aware of overcrowding being an issue. As more people moved to MeadRiver, more local businesses opened up in the area because there was a need for them, and these businesses employ local people.
As far as I, as an almost life long resident of this town am concerned, all the changes that have occurred have been for the better, and the influx of largely non EU immigration has helped contribute to this town in a positive way. I see no signs that immigration has had a negative effect on MeadRiver. I appreciate this may not be the experience of all towns effected by high immigration, particularly those out of London area, but as my personal experience and observation is concerned, immigration is at worse a neutral influence, and at best a positive contributor to raising levels of affluence, safety and transport. Everyone always seems to assume immigration can only have a negative impact, and I would like to hear about other peoples experiences because I really do not see why immigration is always painted as such a bad thing.

Articles on Theresa May’s immigration speech

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/conservative/11915376/Theresa-May-saying-what-everybody-thinks.html

http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/oct/06/reality-check-is-theresa-may-right-about-immigration

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/immigration/11916438/Theresa-May-is-right-Britain-does-not-need-more-immigrants.html

http://anotherangryvoice.blogspot.co.uk/2015/10/12-things-theresa-may-immigration.html

http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/oct/06/reality-check-is-theresa-may-right-about-immigration