Tag Archives: Journalism

Your mandate is tiny. Stop telling people to be quiet

Jun 23, 2016 will go down as a historic and victorious day for a marginal political party who never stopped banging their anti EU drum. UKIP not only scored their ultimate victory on that date but managed something of a secondary victory by bringing about the opportunity to turn the Labour and Conservative parties into deeply divided political entities, both more intent on infighting and political ambition than running the country. 

This isn’t a cheerleaders post for Nigel Farage or anyone else in UKIP this is merely a representation of events as I see them.  Britain joined the European Economic Community on 1 January 1973, along with Denmark and Ireland. Ever since that date there have been those amongst the electorate and political class alike who have been described as ‘eurosceptic’. There are a whole host of reasons as to why people didn’t agree with Britain’s membership with the EEC and ultimately the European Union. I won’t go into those now as people must be bored of justifying which way they voted on both sides of the debate. In 1993 the United Kingdom Independence Party was born and it was born out of decades of frustration regarding Britain’s membership of the EU.

nige
UKIP leader Nigel Farage

The beauty of living in a democratic society is that if you don’t like the way something is happening politically you are afforded (at times) the opportunity to change it. UKIP helped tear an already divided Tory Party apart over EU membership, with some MP’s defecting to the party. UKIP has taken a huge number of working class votes away from the Labour Party too, in fact 6 million in last years General Election represents a big loss of votes to both of the UK’s biggest parties.

In the aftermath of Brexit there have been a flurry of articles, Facebook status’ and broadcast appearances telling those who voted remain to ‘suck it up’ and get on with it. Here’s why that won’t happen: If eurosceptics had just ‘got on with it’ post 1973 UKIP would never have been born and the EU referendum might never have come about. It is only by ‘whinging’ and voting and campaigning and becoming activists that anything of political significance ever comes about.

Long after Theresa May or Michael ‘Brutus’ Gove are made the countries next PM, long after the Labour Party coup of Jeremy Corbyn fails or succeeds, long after Britain has gone through economic uncertainty, long after Article 50 is invoked will people be rallying for rejoining the EU. It may take years or decades and is most likely not to happen in my lifetime but rest assured if enough people are passionate about EU membership or something like it, the next generation may be asked to vote on where they see their future.

In the mean time it might be an idea for the young to stop attacking the old and vice versa despite whatever valid points each may have. Scapegoating the working class rather than listening to their worries and concerns is deeply unhelpful too. Which ever of the two main political parties realises this the quickest and stops their respective civil wars has the best chance of giving the county some much needed leadership at a time of real fear and concern, especially for minorities. There is an opportunity here to fix the mess made by two Etonians who have been in competition with each other since the day they clapped eyes on one another. They aren’t going to pick up the pieces and if Labour and the Tories aren’t quick to fix the current national divide, a rejuvenated UKIP might just cease the opportunity to inflict more damage. That for many is a huge concern.

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UK politics is leaving the electorate nowhere to go

Over the last six years there has been plenty of talk about the ‘mess Labour left’ and the famed Conservative ‘Long term economic plan’.

In May of last year 24.3% of the population registered to vote gave the Conservatives a small majority government. There are several issues with our current voting system (first past the post) none more infuriating for those who vote than the lack of proper representation. UKIP and the Green Party for instance missed out enormously because of the current system and whether you like either’s policies, a huge number of people in Britain voted for them.

The Conservatives whilst in government have reiterated a few messages key to getting the public on board with their plans. Most notably they have spoken time and again about the huge deficit left to them by the Labour government before them.

That Labour government borrowed staggering amounts of money. So did every other nation in the world capable of doing so. When the banks went bust the taxpayer footed the bill. Whilst Labour aren’t blameless for this situation they are no more culpable than Conservatives.

The reason the Conservatives have to take their shame of the blame of the global financial crisis is because their spiritual leader, the late Margaret Thatcher, deregulated the banks in such a huge way that small banks were swallowed up and eventually the country was left with a group of super (investment) banks. Whilst Thatcher was doing this in Britain Reagan was doing the same in America. Their banks pretty much owned ours, so when their empire fell ours did too.

Whilst establishing a service industry in the country she systematically took apart Britain’s manufacturing industry and for short term gains privatised several public services. These include telecommunications, the rail network and the banking system.

There has been a great deal of focus on production in the country over the last few days and in order to stimulate growth the Chancellor has come up with the idea of cutting corporation tax. Fine in principle, flawed when it comes at the cost of the disabled and vulnerable.

For anyone thinking this is a love letter to the Labour party here is an assessment of where they have left us up to this point. They failed to reverse any of damage Thatcher’s policy inflicted on the manufacturing industry leaving the country reliant on the city of London to stimulate the economy. It’s pretty clear that when banks are given freedom to behave as they please, it doesn’t work out for the average tax payer.

They also spent a disgusting amount of money on an illegal war *cough* Hutton report *cough* at the cost to lives to those in Britain’s armed forces but more importantly huge numbers of civilians in the region. The Middle East is now as unstable as it has ever been and that is largely due to the handy work of Tony Blair and his cronies within New Labour. It is no exaggeration to say that the last Labour government left the world in a bloody and violent mess. This is almost certainly due to leaving a vacuum of power across the Middle East (Iraq, Libya, Syria) that has been swallowed up by terrorists.

Back to today and we have a Chancellor too scared to appear in the House of Commons because he has no answers to the question what on earth has happened to your budget? During his time as Chancellor George Osborne has imposed several targets aimed at impressing the electorate and failed almost every one.

The scary thing is Iain Duncan Smith stated in his resignation letter he couldn’t stand by these proposed cuts to PIP which would have seen the disabled of this country over four billion pounds worse off. This the man who was happy to endorse policy such as the bedroom tax which has been linked to the rise of suicide. Worse still given what has been said in parliament today we will have no clue as to where this black hole in funding will be filled until the autumn statement.

The SNP (and much of Scotland) have had enough and think their chances are better off going it alone. Financially it would be tough but given what’s currently on offer in British politics who can blame them? The Labour party is engulfed in tribal infighting surrounding their future direction. The Conservatives are tearing themselves apart over Europe and ‘compassionate Conservatism’ whilst the Liberal Democrats barely even exist.

When politics fails as miserably as is happening in Britain today there is always a groundswell of support for smaller parties. If history has taught us anything, this unfortunately leads to a surge in sympathy for the far right.

Labour and the Tories need to get their act together for sake of the electorate. Unfortunately too many in government forget that’s how and why they are there in the first place.

Why a flat out refusal to learn anything from history makes me so angry.

I’ve been putting off writing this post for a good while now as the subject matter is both sensitive and infuriating. I have used this blog as a form of therapy in the past but can’t see how putting my worries, thoughts and concerns on this subject matter into writing will help this time. That being said I can hold off no longer and I have learned from past experience that bottling things up only makes things worse.

On the November 13 of this year something truly terrible happened in Paris. I need not go into any detail on who, what, where and why as the fallout and exposure to this story has been intensive and at times divisive. As a result of what happened in France on that Friday night the public, politicians and media have been whipped into a frenzy about what this country should do to protect itself against such attacks and how big a part we should play in other countries foreign policy.

I had the opportunity to write about this subject matter for a university assignment but have declined to do so as I find it next to impossible to write on this subject completely objectively although this hasn’t stopped anyone in the press or media from doing so. The line between opinion and news has not so much been blurred in recent weeks but breached so heavily one wonders whether the flood can be stopped. The biggest and worst example of this was the poll ran in the Sun newspaper which was tantamount to inciting racial hatred.

Spending the last couple of weeks measuring arguments put forward both for and against UK involvement in bombing Syria I have noticed tribal politics getting in the way of level headed thinking and a complete lack of empathy from many for anyone who lives further away than western Europe.

Despite the fact that western interference in the middle east for more than a century is directly responsible for the mess we currently find ourselves in, colonial attitudes and habits die hard. ISIS, ISIL, Daesh whatever you want to call them are the love child of Bush and Blair’s embarrassing failure in both Iraq and Afghanistan. The idea that you can drop bombs and stop these people is insane. I use that word very deliberately because the west has been dropping bombs for a hundred years and yet terrorism is blossoming.

The argument from those who want to see the UK bomb Syria seem to be broken down into three camps: Those who want to see something done as an act of revenge. These people are either ignorant to the fact that innocent people will be killed and this will have consequences or they merely don’t care as long as those who die are not British. The second group are those trying to make political capital from a complex situation. These people are pushing for borders to be closed and for refugees to be abandoned on the premise that this will keep our citizens safe. They also fail to recognise that any terrorist attack in this country is likely to come from those born here and have been manipulated by terrorist propaganda and hate speech. The third group is the military elite who are desperate for the armed forces to remain relevant and give Britain a presence abroad. These people are trying to keep themselves in work and believe the military should have a voice beyond protecting people on these shores. Theirs is the most honest and straightforward argument of all even if it does lend itself to accusations of warmongering.

As the son of an immigrant I find a lot of what I hear from people around me and those online fairly hard to stomach at times. I have had family displaced, threatened and shot at as a result of past misadventures from western forces in the middle east and yet I am supposed to believe that dropping bombs on people living in the region is the best solution to a complex problem caused by prolonged military and political interference there.

Britain has propped up and helped dictatorships and family dynasties in the region with financial help and the selling of weapons since before anyone who is reading this was born. They have encouraged and whipped up revolutions in countries where the leadership was not to western taste only to withdraw support in these countries leaving innocent people to be butchered and gassed by blood thirsty dictators. They have placed incompetent puppets in charge of countries and watched as they go to ruin. This country has befriended others who behave in much the same way as the terrorists we fear so much in this country for financial gain . All of this and more is why I cannot understand why dropping indiscriminate bombs on an already war torn, desperate country will help to keep our citizens safe.

There will  be those of you who know me (and some who don’t) who will read this and think it is an opinionated and biased view but with a bit of research you will see that all I have said is the truth. I actively encourage people who think bombing Syria is a good idea to look at the background and history of the middle east before deciding that the innocent people who are being killed by air strikes are just collateral damage. Just because they speak a different language and have a different culture to you and me doesn’t make them any less human. There is no way to bomb the terrorists without killing innocent people. That’s wrong not just on a moral basis but because it will turn more and more people against us here in Britain making us far less safe.

 

Motivation and emptying the well

Of late I have had a serious issue with writing. I haven’t much liked anything I have written in the last two months and as a result my productivity has waned on a massive scale. I have had mini periods like this before but nothing quite so prolonged as this current crisis of confidence. As a result this post will probably take the form of some amatuer psychology and try and break down why I am struggling to get much done.

There can be no denying that I have felt anxious and stressed about a number of things lately. It often feels like the work I am producing for my final and most important year at university is a chore that has been rushed to get it out of the way. This rather than taking the time to make sure I am showing the best of myself has me stressed when I could do with being a lot more focused. The pressure is the same for everybody on the course so I am not using this as an excuse I am merely trying to pen (type) my worries in the hope that they will be easier to deal with when read in black and white as opposed to running around my head late at night whilst I struggle with sleep.

I have also spent the last couple of weeks fending off various viruses and ailments. I think I have let myself get run down and this hasn’t helped with regards to the mental sharpness needed to write well. I read a blog post the other day that made me determined that whatever I produce, it should be the best work I can achieve and at this moment in time I cannot stress how difficult I am finding it to do so.

I have always read a lot of articles either in paper form or online. I listen exclusively to BBC radio 4 and 5 and spend most of my limited time in front of the TV watching news. I wonder sometimes if I have saturated my brain with too much of the thing I am most passionate about but missing out on news just feels criminal to me. It must also be said that I have become increasingly disillusioned with the news I take in whatever medium that should be. Everything nowadays seems to have to be in list form or a critique and increasingly I am finding opinion pieces where they have no right to be; Either the lead in a broadcast or on the front pages of newspapers and their online outlets. What I mean by that is there is very little reporting of hard news at times and more opinion about a person or organisation. This goes against everything I have been taught and screams of bad journalism. Having had a variety of guest speakers over the years I have spent at university it would seem there is a genuine concern from some in the industry that standards are being allowed to slip and this can’t be good for anyone.

I spent the weekend trying to free myself of my worries and decided time with friends was needed to do this. It was nice to catch up with so many people on Saturday night, some I haven’t seen for a really long time. Having done so there is a nagging guilt that I should have been getting more work done but what’s done is done. I got to take in some live sport in the form of a cracking game of rugby at Drybrook and the mixture of entertainment and fresh air helped distract me from my worries for a while.

I have had a really hard time writing about sport in particular. Every time I have an idea for a piece my initial enthusiasm dims very quickly and I convince myself the subject isn’t worth writing about. Whatever happens I am going to force myself to sit in front of this laptop this week and get at least three pieces of worth, well researched and written to the best of my ability. I am going for the ‘write your way out of the block’ approach in the hope that something sparks and ignites my creative side.

Reading, writing and agreeing with people

A short while ago (a deliberately vague use of time) I toyed with the idea of becoming a comedian. Not because I thought I was funny but because I had this romantic idea that, through the genre of satire, you can not only make people laugh but help people challenge their level of social consciousness. Now of course this is an incredibly arrogant and self promoting thought but having come to that conclusion it would be a lie to say that alone was what put me off the idea. No despite sounding like a two bit Russell Brand with an over inflated ego and god complex that Freud would have been proud of it boils down to this: When you think about standing up in front of people and giving them an opportunity to tell you how poorly researched you are or how limited your ability to write something satisfactory let alone worthwhile might be, it is enough to make your stomach churn. When you write something for a newspaper, online, TV or even a book you are bound to receive a level of criticism but when you think about the immediacy of comic failure that is what really puts me off.

I’ve mentioned on a number of occasions before how I have grown up on the comedy of satire and how it has influenced my ability to read people, writing and certain situations. A lot of people would describe me as being a very cynical man who allows his belief system to encroach too far into everyday life. I’m opinionated and true to form I don’t care. Now that isn’t because I think I am somehow better than anyone else, I just trust myself to make informed opinions or decisions based on educating myself on the subject I am spouting off about at any given time. I suppose as a journalist this admission is not necessarily the sort of quality or redeeming feature a potential employer is looking for. On the other hand those of you who hate people like me can rest easy in the knowledge that I get punched in the face on public transport periodically. Generally it’s for failing to agree with the bigot with the can of extra strength lager spilling unceremoniously onto the walkway as a mother pushing a pram tries to get past. For instance I don’t believe that performing a sexual act with the deceased head of a member of the even-toed ungulates family to get into an elitist club is better than failing to sing a song that worships an unelected head of state funded primarily by the taxpayer.

Whilst thinking about it all I can understand that people might read this and think what a pretentious knob. There is a danger that this post is just a self congratulatory piece I am writing to distract myself from more important worries. On top of that I do recognise that just because I invariably disagree with certain groups of people and tend to agree with others it doesn’t mean I am always right. I feel like that line has taken me a little off topic but was necessary for those who are new to this blog or have forgotten the purpose for why I started it. If that is the case then please feel free to read the ‘about‘ page.

On the subject of agreeing with people; the inspiration for writing this blog post came from comedy I have familiarised myself with in the past few days by people like Josie Long and Stewart Lee. That in turn was inspired by a video I saw on social media by this guy. Enjoy.

The difference between Aung San Suu Kyi and Maya Angelou

I have just returned from my first lecture of the year ‘Reporting politics’. It was a good day for it I suppose with the Labour party conference in full swing and newly elected leader Jeremy Corbyn delivering his first speech at conference. I was a speech clear in message if not in policy. That isn’t to say it was policy free just that there is obvious work to be done.

As a journalist I thought that a warning had been sent out; Jeremy Corbyn is not afraid of those in my profession and will decide on his own terms who he speaks to, pointing to a drive in social media to deliver his message to people as opposed to media outlets or the press. Whether or not this will work remains to be seen but it is a bold move from the man only recently elected to lead the Labour party.

He made reference to several points or in his words ‘key issues’ that were of interest to me. As a student I often feel that the rise in tuition fees has led me and many others to scrutinise what is now seen as a product. Instead of being content with the learning and support provided to students the money paid to universities has many students, myself included, wondering how the money is spent and what on.

Asked if anyone had heard of Maya Angelou after Corbyn had quoted her in his speech, I was a little disconcerted when my lecturer confused the American poet and author (just two of her many wide ranging talents) with Aung San Suu Kyi. It is not that I expect my lecturers to be the font of all knowledge but to ask a question and then tell a student that they are wrong when clearly they are not did get my back up a bit. People will read that and think well don’t be such a know-it-all but we are talking about two very different and equally brilliant women and I have always been told by my lecturers that accuracy is crucial.

Aung San Suu Kyi AC is a Burmese opposition politician and chairperson of the National League for Democracy in Burma. In the 1990 general election, the NLD won 59% of the national votes and 81% of the seats in Parliament.
Aung San Suu Kyi AC is a Burmese opposition politician and chairperson of the National League for Democracy in Burma. In the 1990 general election, the NLD won 59% of the national votes and 81% of the seats in Parliament.

I won’t let it get to me though. As the late great Maya Angelou said:   “You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.”

Anger and disappointment

I will start off this post by making clear that it will probably be a little self indulgent on my part. I started this blog post to vent my frustrations and share good and bad memories with those with the inclination to read it.

When it comes to the world of journalism much of the advice and teaching I have been given has focused on being accurate and removing any sort of opinion or belief from the copy. When writing features I have been told that I need to love what I am writing. I may have mentioned in the past how it feels to write something and really enjoy what you’re doing. Sometimes the words just flow, other times your background and notes offer the inspiration to write something you are truly proud of and then there are the times where the writing becomes a chore and although there isn’t anything wrong with the piece, there is little to no enjoyment in proof reading it when you think you are done.

A while ago I was scanning social media when I came across a hashtag on Twitter which caught my attention: #TipsForYoungJournalists. I clicked on it and read through the various attempts at humour and sarcasm, tips that had already been drilled into me by lecturers and the nitty gritty interesting stuff that you can only get from experience in the field. Out of all of the tips I read there was only really one that stood out to me on a personal level. Alex Thomson of Channel 4 in the UK told me (it felt like it had been written for me) get into journalism because you are angry. Do it because you want to challenge the status quo and be part of a change for the better. This sentiment goes against everything I have been taught at university and is something I have been wrestling with ever since. On the one hand the press in this country are, in the majority, on the right of the political spectrum with a few exceptions in the centre and then smaller brands such as the Morning Star on the left. This leads me to believe that belief and opinion must be deeply entrenched in the ideology of the press. Whilst a readership might not care what I think about the copy I am writing, the outlet I am writing it for most certainly must. On the other hand I value impartiality in my work as highly as I do anything else. Either way it feels like it’s a mental struggle that can’t be won but must be taken into consideration.

I have had a frustrating summer all in all and not just because of the recent downpours that have blighted most of August. I have spent an enormous amount of time calling, emailing and writing to people in order to gain some much needed and invaluable work experience with little to no success. On top of this I have spent too many hours scouring the Internet for potential employers for when I finish my degree. It is important to see what the market wants and what I can offer with my skill set. What employers are looking for might not be my preferred route into journalism but I am not naive enough to think the perfect job will fall into my lap. Hard work and dedication are not just buzzwords they are going to be essential if I am going to succeed. Nowadays you need something to make you stand out. There is an ocean of talented writers and young journalists out there all vying for a place in tiny pool of jobs.

In the mean time I will stay on top of the news and keep plugging away with potential projects and ideas, after all I have one more year left at university and then the real fun and games begin.