closing the blog

25 09 2011

Hi All,

As you’ve all noticed, I’ve been very inactive on the blog for some time now. I’ve decided to close it down in favour of a new site -tigheland.blogspot.com. Hope to see you over there.

Thanks for all your suport,

 

Mike

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Education, Education, Education…for the rich.

1 07 2009
Gordon 'We can spend forever' Brown - except on anything of actual significance

Gordon 'We can spend forever' Brown - except on anything of actual significance

The Guardian reports today that student maintenance loans are to be frozen and grants cut as the government struggles to find a way to make up for the huge economic defecit they’ve created. Clearly, we can’t scrap £20 million of Trident nuclear missiles, nor can we simply cut the boondoogles of jobs that perpetuate the civil service and higher tiers of government. Instead of cutting parliamentary expenses and to fund a 2.5% VAT cut nobody wanted, the government has decided to cut funding for poor kids going to university. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the end of Brown’s last-gasp argument that Labour is for investment.

What is becoming increasingly clear is that the longer the dog-eared Labour government continues to pant for breath, the more it is obvious that they do not have a plan for any sort of future. Why should someone vote for them when their next plan is for a year only, and features no long-term vision? Whilst the easiest thing for any journalist at the moment is to kick the crap out of Labour, as the electorate have done at every election under Brown, it cannot be denied that having fought off an attempt to replace him, Brown has failed to provide any answer to the continuing downward spiral of the UK economy. And now, having given a 2.5% VAT cut nobody wanted, and denying the need to cut public spending even though the majority of intelligent voters know it is inevitable, Brown is planning to take money off those young people with less affluence attending university.

As somebody graduating this summer, I note this as the day Labour well and truly lost the last shadow of vestige of ‘at least they’re better than the tories’ that remained in my cold, ‘modernisation’-hating soul. Brown, along with his serpent predecessor, Blair, promised the young people of the country that if they were able to get into University, they wouldn’t pay fees. Then they made them pay a grand a year. Then they said they wouldn’t raise them, and a degree next year will cost 3,240 quid. Whilst fees increase with inflation, the maintenance necessary for most students will not. So to anybody out there, working hard at school or college, from a background that doesn’t have a spare £21,000 to get you through University, your Prime Minister just screwed you.

What does this all mean? It’s a spit in the face to aspiration, and the most effective deterrent to social mobility since ‘All Things Bright and Beautiful’ told the ‘poor man’ to stay ‘at his gate’. Was it worth borrowing shedloads of cash for a six month VAT cut and then taking that money out of education? (Teacher trainees will also face cuts in maintenance provided by the government.) Which is fair enough, because it’s not like education was ever a priority, right?

Brown’s a liar, just like the predecessor he loathed. Difference is, at least the Slytherin-esque Blair could bamboozle us with his parseltounge. Brown’s just ugly, robotic, and doesn’t have a clue. And the sooner his neurotic, unelected arse leaves the seat of power, the better off for all of us. This isn’t an endorsement of the Tories; but at this stage we just need this moron out.





A Sea Change?

19 05 2009
Just one example of the cynicism that has engulfed British politics over the past few weeks

Just one example of the cynicism that has engulfed British politics over the past few weeks

The latest victim of the expenses scandal engulfing British Politics this week is Speaker Michael Martin, who is to resign after criticising MPs for leaking details of their expenses to newspapers. Martin, who has served as Speaker for 9 years, is the first speaker in 300 years to be forced from office. It follows the implosion of British politics as the expenses system used by MPs has proven to be abused by the majority of members of Parliament,as revealed by the Daily Telegraph.

This is a depressing time to be British, frankly. With turnout decreasing, and overall confidence in politicians and the British political system at an all-time low, there are fears that extremist parties are looking to do well at the upcoming EU and local elections. In the North West, polls show one MEP seat possible in contention for the BNP, but a recent Yougov poll shows the BNP only on 7%.  This could put them in contention on second ballots if the Greens and Major Parties fail to pick up votes. Yet the BNP will only be elected if two things occur; 1) a drop in turnout; and 2) a significant amount of people choose the BNP as their ‘protest’ vote.

Yet I don’t think the BNP will gain a seat in the European Parliament. Why? Simply because I believe that the electorate is energised for the first time in a long time, and I believe in the sophistication of the British people. This whole mess has happened because politicians have completely disregarded and underestimated the ability of the British Electorate to work things out. Anybody who saw Margaret Beckett’s sanctimonious performence on Question Time this week will be painfully aware of how genuinely cut off from the real world they seem to be. But the silmulteneously patronising assumption that  either the British people won’t vote if they’re not shepherded into voting Tory, Labour or Lib Dem, or that to launch a protest vote, they’ll automatically jump to the BNP, is too condescending for words.

As is the claim that there is something faulty with the ‘system’. The idea that somehow MPs sleepwalked into a system where they accidentally felt compelled to redecorate their homes with taxpayers’ money is ridiculous. They knew exactly what they were doing. The system that corrupted them is one far older than the Parliamentary Expenses System – it is the fundamental human attraction to Power. Being able to claim expenses was a financial vestige of power for MPs, and as we know too well, power corrupts.

This could be, bizarely, one of the best things to happen to British Democracy in a long time. In recent years, the British Electorate has been less and less engaged in elections and the political process generally, but this latest scandal appears to be the straw that broke the camel’s back. The public is energised more than ever before. Although Michael Martin may be the person suffering today, it is important he does not become a scapegoat. In order to repair the damaged British political system, it is time to trust the British people again by asking them to take responsibility and take part in the system that angers them so. It is time, in short, for a general election.





Swat – The New Frontier on the War on Terror

11 05 2009
King Abdullah II of Jordan, who has spoken of the urgent need for Middle East Peace

King Abdullah II of Jordan, who has spoken of the urgent need for Middle East Peace

King Abdullah of Jordan, in an interview with The Times this morning, has delivered a warning to those wishing to see peace in the Middle East; “If we delay our peace negotiations, then there is going to be another conflict between Arabs or Muslims and Israel in the next 12-18 months.” The King also spoke of the efforts of the Obama administration to attempt to secure a lasting peace in the region by attempting to get Israel and the Arab World to recognise and negotiate with one another.

“What we are talking about is not Israelis and Palestinians sitting at the table, but Israelis sitting with Palestinians, Israelis sitting with Syrians, Israelis sitting with Lebanese,” The Jordanian Monarch claimed. He outlined plans for all 57 states in the Middle East (including Palestine and Israel) as well as incentives to get Israel to the bargaining table for a two-state solution, which could include allowing the Israeli airline, El Al, airspace over previously hostile Arab Countries.

Yet the King’s tentative talk of peace comes at the same time that Taliban fighting reaches new heights in the Swat region of Pakistan. Pakistani forces have attempted to take control in the region, after severe attacks by Taliban militants led to the area being described as ‘Talibanistan’. It comes as Afghan President Hamid Karzai recently passed a law which allowed rape within marriage and severlely curtailed the rights of women, in an attempt to placate extremists in Afghanistan. Whereas finding peace in the Middle East is, and always has been, determined on a two-state resolution to the Israel-Palestine conflict, the region of Swat in Northern Pakistan and the uncontrolled areas of Afghanistan are the new frontiers of the War on Terror, or, as it’s referred to by the Obama administration, the ‘Overseas Contingency Operation’.

Swat, Afghanistan and Northern Pakistan - The new frontier for the War On Terror

Swat, Afghanistan and Northern Pakistan - The new frontier for the War On Terror

With 700 militants alledgedly dead, and at least 1.3 million people thought to be refugees from the Swat Valley in the upcoming weeks and months, it seems the use of military force is inevitable, indeed Swat is, in everything but name, a warzone. It’s difficult to come up with an equitable solution to avoid the military when one sees the images of Taliban forces whipping teenage women in Swat, or look at the law that President Karzai of Afghanistan had to pass to placate some of the militant forces in his country. But these are not just isolated incidents. It simply isn’t a case of the odd bad egg- the Taliban has massive support in the region, as does conservative (bordering on fascist) Islamic regimes in Iran and Saudi Arabia. This is a result of long-held religious and traditionalist beliefs that have defined a culture for thousands of years. So is there any hope for reconciliation? Or is Swat just the new Iraq, and the War on Terror, Overseas Contingency Operation, or whichever monicker a new administration chooses, set to roll on forever?

It comes with choice. Reconciliation in these distressed regions cannot begin while one party holds a gun to the other’s head. This will mean, in the short term, inevitable military action against those hard-line elements of the Taliban that seek to destroy anything that is not their dystopic view of the world. But it will also mean the need for prominent voices in Islam to come forward and defend the moderate, peaceful religion that millions of Muslims worldwide participate in. This is made difficult by the theological structure of Islam – by its very nature, it does not provide a representative council or leaders to negotiate with, such as other hierarchical religions do. But nonetheless, there is a great Islamic ‘silent majority’ – the people being persecuted in Swat for not wanting to lose their heritage yet not join one of the most militant and destructive forces in the world today.

Generalisations and Racism will not help the world in trying to overcome the massive barriers in the way of Middle East, and subsequently, World Peace. This will be done on two fronts : on the attempts of the Obama administration to broker a seemingly impossible peace between Israel and Palestine, and to win the cultural war of what it means to be Islamic and/or Middle Eastern. Obama has a unique and unusual credibility as a new President in the Middle East, and he needs to use this to try and shift the focus of how it is possible to live in a democracy and maintain Islamic values.

Those traditionalist elements that want to impinge democratic freedoms, both in terms of women, and universally, need to be persuaded that it is the least perfect, but fairest form of government. This can be done by harmonising concepts of respect and fairness found in Islam with the ideas of equality and opportunity found in democracy. It is by no means an ‘infidel’ concept, as a pro-Taliban cleric in Pakistan, Sufi Muhammed, declared last week. It is difficult, a constant battle, and often painful to create. But for those who have tasted freedom, even just a little bit, there is another quality it holds – it is inevitable.





Extremists – To Ban or not to Ban?

5 05 2009

The Phelps clan, banned from entering the UK

The Phelps clan, banned from entering the UK

A list’s emerged of those who, for extremist comments and views, have been banned from the United Kingdom. Those banned include Fred Phelps, the pastor notorious for advocating the picketing of funerals of soldiers killed in Iraq in an attempt to ‘warn’ the world that ‘God has killed them because America supports fags’; the equally appealing ex KKK Grand Wizard Stephen Black, and other delightful folk, such as Yunis Al-Astal, the hard-line Hamas MP who declared he would “conquer Rome, and the Two Americas, and from thereon Eastern Europe” as well as Jewish extremist Mike Guzovsky.

There is a serious question to be asked here – is this fair enough in a bid to protect our vulnerable democracy, or a threatening affront to free speech? There is a genuine slippery slope argument to be made here – it might start with extremists but how long before anybody not of a government positions is barred from entering the UK?

It would certainly be in line with the British Government’s recent behaviour. The recent G20 meeting in London was marred by the death of newspaper seller Ian Tomlinson, who died of an abdominal rupture after being assaulted by police officers on his way home from work. Video emerged of the assault, and it is clear that Mr. Tomlinson is walking away from the scene and not protesting – although protesting is not illegal and certainly doesn’t merit the behaviour shown by some officers on that day. This attack occured in line with the aggresive laws brought in to side with the State over the Citizen – including proposals for ID cards, airport screening and advocating strong police tactics at protests. The government, as a response to the War on Terror and now the Overseas Contingency Operation, have, as Nietzsche would say, stared into the abyss and been consumed by it.

"Be careful when ye wrest with monsters, that Ye Yeself do not become a monster" (Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil)

"Be careful when ye wrest with monsters, that Ye Yeself do not become a monster" (Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil)

But does that really mean everybody has a right to free speech? At my University’s Student Union, a motion was passed recently which banned the BNP from campus. It was done on the argument that groups like the BNP are a greater threat to democracy than they are contributors to it. But is this not actively utilitarian with views? Whilst it may seem necessary to ban a group like the BNP, the principle Voltaire advocated when he said “I may not like what you say, Sir, but I shall defend to the death your right to say it,”  is often appealed to as a reason to stay such bans. Surely it is up to the British people to decide which views are valid and which extreme. If you trust in the sophistication of the British people, then surely you would believe such groups would be discredited anyway.

However, there is a line to be drawn in democracies when it comes to the issue of free speech. The idea of free speech is just that – a vague, undefined idea. Therefore there seems to be an important marker which is used to define what is a valid contrbution of free speech to democracy and what is damaging – as long as it doesn’t affect anybody else’s ability to participate in a democracy, then it’s fine. This should result in two principles – that generally you are advocating or denouncing ideas, rather than people, and secondly, that you can attack people for things they can prevent but not things they can’t. So, for example, attacking a politician for their immigration policy is acceptable. Shouting racist abuse at such immigrants is not.

Ideologically, I’m the sort of person who typcially would leap on the bandwagon of free speech and appeal to the romantic nature of free speech in order to preserve our democracy. Not this time. Such pandering to a vague undefined idea is the worst part of liberalism for the sake of liberalism – being ideological for the sake of it. When the people in question are advocating the death of those in the west, the persecution of homosexuals, or actively encourage lynchings, I frankly don’t give a damn whether or not there is a defecit of democracy or a free speech issue. I simply do not want these people in my country.

I believe in the sophistication of the British people. Politicians usually come awry when thy undermine the intelligence of the British public, and assume that they can use PR to massage the truth and undermine the necessary trust between government and public. But this country is not a utopia. The 7/7 bombers were British Born young males. Similarly, the BNP has an alarmingly large youth membership. But the problem I have is that I do not want people like Fred Phelps coming over here and manipulating one child into spouting the kind of foul-mouthed bigotry he espouses, nor do I believe the majority of British people want the funerals of their brave sons and daughters picketed by slack-jawed yokels. And people like the ex-Grand Wizard of the KKK can just stay away too, thanks. Race relations in areas like Oldham or Burnley are fraught enough in this country. Let’s not pour fuel on the fire by allowing those morons who antagonise the situation.

Britian is a great country. It’s far from perfect, and all three of its governing parties need to be held to account more and be more in tune with the ideas of the people. Extremism can also be countered by not having a foreign policy which allows for illegal wars. Usually lesser government is better than more, but in this case, the liberal idea of applying free speech that to those, that, given half the chance would advocate removing it for their singular and polemical account of events,is nowhere near as important a promoting a tolerant and equal society, which promotes respect and in all possible cases, condemns extremism.





A little about me

2 05 2009
Your Intrepid Reporter

Your Intrepid Reporter

Hi there.

The Copy, or to the layperson, the name given to the top stories and headlines in a newsroom, has changed dramatically throughout the years. Anybody familiar with ‘Flat Earth News’ by Nick Davies will be aware that the world of journalism is changing dramatically in the modern world. Whereas twenty years ago,  journalists would have had the luxury of spending a day writing two or three stories, today they’re lucky if they get less than seven or eight. In a world where press releases, the PR industry and a lack of time and resources are driving down the quality of journalism generally, I’ll be using this blog to offer analysis and the best journalistic insights into the world in which we live and why what happens in it, happens. This is not just the draft ‘copy’ hammered out by newsrooms worldwide. Here, I’ll be taking you Beyond the Copy.

I’m a student journalist based in the Manchester Region. I currently temp for free at a professional radio station, as well as edit the news on a Student Radio Station. I have worked on Community Radio and dearly want to work for either BBC Radio 4 or the World Service when I grow up. In the meantime, I get by working whatever jobs available, spending time with my lovely girlfriend and mates, reading, walking, listening to U2 to an obsessive level, watching cult series like Lost, The West Wing, 24 and procrastinating to a high degree.