A sad day for British politics, a sad day for Britain

Walk to Westminster

I’m not really a politics person, but I do believe in the right of every individual to vote in a free and democratic society.  However, I feel that political right was wasted last week.

On Thursday 22 May 2014, British people went to the polls, many to vote for their local Councillors but also a chance to vote for Members of the European Parliament, MEPs.  Traditionally, mid government polls see a shift in votes to the party in opposition, however, this poll was a bit different.  With the Conservative party and the Liberal Democrats currently ‘enjoying’ a coalition government, the natural opposition are the Labour party.  Or are they?

Over the last few days we have seen what can only be described as a meteoric rise of a fourth player in the political arena, the UK Independence Party, UKIP, led by the ‘charismatic’ Nigel Farage.  I’ve not been following the debates closely, and I expect I’m no different to a lot of people in the country, but you can’t help but notice the rise in the attention that Mr Farage and his followers have received.  He is charismatic, in that he seems to attract a lot of attention, but what does concern me is that the sensationalist views he holds and the way he espouses his views, has attracted an imbalance in coverage from the media.  And in what is supposed to be a balanced political debate that is questionable, and the accusation that UKIP have benefited from an unfair advantage have some merit.  It’s not just an imbalance of an alternative and benign political view, it represents a big shift to the political right and all that comes with it.  It’s the politics of fear of the unknown rather than the politics of hope for the future.

I don’t wish the give the UKIP any more coverage than they are already getting, they surely don’t need it.  But it has to be said that as an electorate, we must shoulder a lot of the blame.  As is often the case, the turnout for the local and European elections was pretty low, between 30% and 40%.  So what happened to the majority of the electorate?  Laziness?  Apathy?  I don’t know, as a country we seem to take our right to vote very much for granted.  But I hope those people who didn’t vote, for whatever reason, don’t ever think they have the right to complain about the outcome and whatever happens as a consequence.

But there is hope for sanity to be restored.  London, with its multicultural diversity, rejected the UKIP rhetoric and bucked the trend, gaining just one European seat.  As ex (yes, she lost her Merton council seat) Councillor Suzanne Evans agreed, the ‘cultural, educated and young’ people of London turned their back on UKIP.  Add middle-aged, intelligent and fair-minded to that as well. (That’s me in case you’re wondering!)

Looking at Westminster

However, there is a wider question to address.  Why did so many people feel the need to vote UKIP in the first place?  Well clearly I don’t know the answer to that, I live in London!  But the other parties surely have to look at themselves here.  Perhaps it’s time for them to start listening to the people of this country, stand up for what they believe in and give the country a clear and positive choice.

They have a year to the next General Election to sort it out, stop the politics of blame and negativity, and look at the future positively.  Use this UKIP wake up call to address the fears that Mr Farage has created and show up this protest vote for what it is.

One year –  let’s get this great country of ours back on track.

 

 

 

Steve Evans and the final leg of the journey

Richard and Steve

 

Steve Evans passed away peacefully in his sleep in the early hours of this morning 16 January 2014.  The following words were written two days before.

Rest in peace Steve

Today I listened to Steve Evans ‘final’ radio interview with his good friend Richard Bacon for Radio 5 Live.  I defy anyone not to be moved to tears like me!

As previously blogged, I have followed Steve’s journey since I first heard him chatting to Richard on one his most excellent daily chat and news shows back in May 2013.  I, like many people, was inspired and absolutely in awe of someone who is able to face such adversity with humour and, as Richard nails it, resilience.

I don’t know what the coming days and weeks will bring for Steve, but, as he describes it, from his carriage he can probably see the final destination, and he is somewhere near the back of the train.  Steve is blessed with some amazing family and friends who always rally round him when things get particularly tough.  Now is one of those times, and like a well oiled machine Team Evo springs into action!  One of his best friends JP has been doing an amazing job of keeping Steve’s many friends informed of his progress and posting updates with the usual humour; Steve is still a wanker, and JP can’t even write properly!  Even in these challenging times, they make a great double act!

As we move with Steve along the final leg of his amazing journey, I feel I have been honoured to be part of it in some small way, in touch on Twitter and Facebook, while never actually meeting him.  He has touched the lives of so many people, including mine, is and will always be, an inspiration.

Much love xx

Steve Evans

 

 

Nelson Mandela – a farewell

Floral tributes for Nelson Mandela at Parliament Square London

The recent passing of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, Madiba, will leave a large void not just in South Africa but the world.  This immense figure who epitomises struggle and forgiveness will be sorely missed.

As the world mourns his passing and celebrates his influential life, I took the opportunity to take a trip into the centre of London and three particular locations where the great man is commemorated.

Nelson Mandela bust Southbank London - The struggle is my life

The struggle is my life

My first location is a large head and shoulder bust of Mandela, mounted on a high plinth outside the Royal Festival Hall on the South Bank, by the sculptor Ian Walters and erected in 1985.  This was during the time when Mandela was incarcerated in the notorious Robben Island prison and was classed as a ‘banned’ person in South Africa.  In the UK the Thatcher government was reluctant to support the call for Mandela and many other political prisoner’s release, and certainly didn’t support the idea of sanctions to try and bring about justice and change.  And because of the right-wing apathy for the situation, many left-wing councils named roads and buildings after Mandela, to keep his name alive and in the public consciousness.

My next stop was the Nelson Mandela statue in Parliament Square, again designed by Ian Walters and finally erected in 2007 following a number of disagreements about where it should be located.  The unveiling ceremony was attended by the great man himself.

RIP Madiba

RIP Madiba

Mandela, son of South Africa

Son of South Africa

Lighting a candle in memory of Nelson Mandela

Lighting a candle for Mandela

I was surprised how few people were at the statue, but it was a subdued and respectful gathering as a steady number of people gathered to lay flowers and candles and leave personal messages.  There were plenty of photographers on hand to capture the growing tributes.

My final stop was the Embassy, South Africa House, at Trafalgar Square.  Similar to Parliament Square, there was a small but growing collection of tributes at the door to the embassy, but instead of a quiet gathering, the place was full of joy, singing and dancing, with a group of South African men, women and children leading the singing of freedom songs.  I found myself singing along to the few words I remembered of Nkosi Sikelele Afrika – s0 moving!

This brought back many memories for me.  During the apartheid days, when Mandela and many others were imprisoned,  I had taken an interest in the anti apartheid movement, sometimes accompanying my good friend Jenny to join protests at the Non Stop Picket (NSP), which was organised by the City of London Anti Apartheid Group (City Group).

South African Vuvuzela for Mandela

Making a noise

Flag at half mast at South Africa House London

Half mast at South Africa House

Singing for Mandela at South Africa House London

In full voice

It was a random re-tweet I’d seen that led me to discover a blog, called Non-Stop Against Apartheid, that a former member of the NSP has set up as part of his research project into ‘solidarity activism’.  I can’t pretend to know what that means, but the blog is a fascinating insight into the reasons behind the formation of the group, its relationship with the mainstream anti-apartheid movement, and more interestingly, its relationship with the government of the day and the police.  Certainly, articles I’ve read have jogged my memory and made some sense of the stranger things that were happening during this time, although my recollection is a bit vague – it was over 25 years ago!

But while the great man and his imposing presence will be deeply missed the world over, his legacy and his capacity for forgiveness in what, for most people, would be an unforgivable situation, can only be an inspiration to us all.  From what I read, things still seem far from perfect in South Africa, but I hope this event will help refocus on what Nelson Mandela stood for.  And what he stood for could be equally applied in many other countries!

“During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons will live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for. But, my lord, if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.” ~ Nelson Mandela, Rivonia Trial, 1964

Candles laid for Mandela We are human being not skin

We are human being not skin!

RIP Nelson Mandela 1918-2013

 

 

Child cruelty in the name of religion

To Train Up a Child

One of my favourite bloggers @adadcalledspen has recently blogged about a book called ‘To Train Up a Child‘.  It sounds harmless enough, another handy parenting manual full of useful bits of advice any new parent might seek when facing the daunting prospect of caring for a baby for the first time.  I remember reading ‘Toddler Taming’ when I was in that position many moons ago.

To Train Up a Child

Michael Pearl with his god fearing advice!

A parenting manual this might claim to be, but ‘To Train Up a Child’ is not all it seems.  Written by American husband and wife team Michael and Debi Pearl, what is startling about their parental guidance is the way they endorse the use of physical violence towards children, as part of a training regime.  And this is all carried out in the name of religion, a brand known as Christian Fundamentalism, and through their No Greater Joy missionaries.  Now I’m now expert in the various religions, but I am struggling to believe that any religion advocates the use of violence towards innocent children.

I read the free sample pages of the book from iTunes, I wanted to get some insight into the book.  Even in those limited pages I was shocked and saddened.  Comparing the ‘training’ of children to the training of animals, dogs, mules and horses.  Do the Pearl’s really put children and animals in the same category?  But the bit that really got me was the matter-of-fact way they advocate pulling a nursing baby’s hair while it is feeding, because the baby has bitten at the mother’s breast.  There is a technique to these things, and why should an innocent baby suffer because the mother isn’t able to get it right?  I didn’t get it right, it’s not easy, and I gave up after a short while and moved on to formula.

Spencer is calling for the book, in all its forms, to be withdrawn from sale.  But are we on dangerous territory when we call for books to be withdrawn?  Are we on dodgy ground when we are effectively calling for the censoring of freedom of speech?  Actually, in this case, I would say no! This book is dangerous.  It has already been cited in the deaths of four children in the United States, and what the Pearls are advocating is illegal.  It is assault, child cruelty, child abuse, call it what you like, it is against the law!  I cannot imagine why any civilised country would believe that beating up innocent children is OK, so why should a book extolling the virtues of such practices be allowed to remain on sale?

But don’t take mine or Spencer’s word for it.  You can read the full transcript of the book here.  And you can visit Spencer’s blog @adadcalledspen for more background and information about the campaign, which is gaining more and more momentum.  His blogs give ideas about what we can do to help with the campaign, including signing this petition to have the book withdrawn from sale in all its forms.

Thanks to Spencer for bringing this scandal to our attention. And thanks to him also for finding this little gem of a clip!