“Treachery, with a smile on its face,” Said Margaret Thatcher of her fall from office. With a characteristic turn of phrase she began a narrative of betrayal that haunted the Tory party through several leaders until the election of David Cameron; that of a leader at the peak of her powers whom her colleagues let down. The facts are, of course, slightly different: the disastrous Poll Tax had led to some of the most serious riots seen in Britain for years, on Europe she was out of step with a large section of her party, the murder of Ian Gow had seen the government lose one of its safest seats. Thatcher’s definition, however, fed the dysfunction in the Tory party. When it lost office in 1997, it took eighteen years for it to win another majority at a general election.
Outrage has been mounting over the untaxed incomes of the global elite, foreign ownership of urban land and soaring rents in the private rental sector. Much of this boils down to two key matters: who owns property, and how they are treated. The UK, it seems, is a place that makes it very easy for individuals to generate a great deal of wealth from property, with little concern for social justice or the provision of affordable housing. But this problem is not uniquely British. Across the world - and particularly in many developing countries experiencing fast economic growth – capital is flowing rapidly into real estate. And increasingly, governments are waking up to the need to effectively capture some value from these investments, for the public good.
On Jeremy Corbyn’s election to the leadership, Disclaimer was sceptical. In the year since our scepticism has hardened. For Corbyn supporters his election was a cause for optimism but for too many ordinary Labour voters it represented an introspective party that wanted the comfort of ideological purity over the hard, and sometimes painful, graft essential for election-winning parties. Corbyn’s inheritance was not a happy one. But, in accepting the leadership of his party - and then persisting in the face of a damning no confidence vote from his peers - he does bear responsibility for Labour’s performance.
After his place on the Labour leadership ballot was ensured, Jeremy Corbyn headed towards re-election with an unstoppable momentum (no pun intended). However, he made a leap over the finish line with his performance at the last Prime Minister’s Questions before the autumn conference season, where he focused on Theresa May’s plans to reintroduce grammar schools. This might be a sacrilegious observation to many Corbyn supporters, but he was actually reminiscent of Tony Blair, with his precise and well-referenced but impassioned line of attack on grammars easily besting May. It was arguably the finest moment of Corbyn’s leadership so far. Since his election Corbyn has been successful in terms of building Labour as a mass movement, with his radicalism and commitment to social justice inspiring many younger people.
Whether fleeing wars, oppression, dictatorial regimes, extreme poverty, climate displacement - or whether simply seeking a better life - irregular migrants are among the most vulnerable people on earth. Crossing land and sea in hazardous journeys that take thousands of lives every year, those migrants who do complete their journeys are frequently detained for lengthy periods or forced to live in squalid conditions on the margins of society. Even when they are afforded asylum or migrant status, they frequently experience racism and subjugation in the countries where they settle. Blamed for everything from rising crime rates to falling economies, from terrorism to lack of housing, migrants are the whipping boys across the world.
When I arrived in Britain in 1980, the IRA was in full flight and Bobby Sands was soon to start the hunger strike that would lead to the death of ten republican prisoners. The Brighton bomb followed a few years later. A tough time you might think to be Irish in Britain - and yet the feelings of alienation, of separateness that follow the Brexit vote are in some ways stronger. After all, the problem in the 1970s and 1980s was that Britain wanted too badly to keep the (Northern) Irish, while now it is that they want rid of the foreigner, or at least the European foreigner - and these days this is what we Irish proudly are, no longer colonial cast-offs pleased to make do with our common travel area but full members of the Continental family.
I’m in a former industrial hub turned hipster-hive-of-the-up-and-coming where wooden planks leaning against one another constitute tables, benches, even plant pots, and bearded young men play ping-pong in the dark. “This is the Peckham dream!” says one girl as she reaches down from her bar stool to pick up her drink from the coffee table. I’m at the Honest Publishing book launch for its two newest works: Belly Up! and Love and Fuck Poems. As well as getting a chance to meet the publisher, there is a powerful performance of poetry by Koraly Dimitriadis and hilarious deadpan readings from Darren Allen and William Barker, authors of Belly Up! Koraly Dimitriadis’ Love and Fuck Poems was first published in 2011 as a zine.
Paul Maria Schneggenburger is an artist who enjoys playing with time. Take the newest image from his “Ghosts” series, where a self-made 8" x 10” pinhole camera takes shots of an abandoned bar room over six months. Each day over that period, from dusk till dawn, the camera captures the same scene creating an eery, empty and haunting image in which some elements appear real while others seem like impostors from another world.
One of the most all-time ridiculous conspiracy theories is the accusation that in order to get ahead of the Soviet Union in the Space Race, NASA and the US government colluded to elaborately fake the Apollo 11 Moon landings of 1969. None other than Stanley Kubrick, who portrayed deep space exploration in 2001: A Space Odyssey is alleged to have being employed as the director who staged the counterfeit Moonwalk footage for this top secret project. This theory is mentioned in Room 237 (2012), a documentary by Rodney Ascher which explores the interpretations and alleged hidden meanings within The Shining (1980), Kubrick’s loose adaption of Stephen King’s 1977 horror novel. The Shining tells the story of the Torrances: father Jack (played by Nicholson, Kubrick’s first choice), mother Wendy (Shelley Duvall) and their son Danny (Danny Lloyd).
Can we take one in? Melissa’s message said. Tom was in the middle of a meeting and glanced at the notification on the screen of his cellphone. Now what? he thought. He’d already come home once before and found a stray kitten purring delightfully on his side of the couch. It was looking at me with these big eyes, she’d said to him, I couldn’t just let it stay on the street. It’d starve, or get run over by a car, you know how these things go. Tom just rolled his eyes and sighed. He swiped open Messenger. Now he saw she had attached a link. “There are almost 300...” the text said. A picture showed people sitting with their backs against a red garage. It still didn’t make a lot of sense. He clicked on the link.
In 2013 Eimear McBride’s debut novel, A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing,was released and with it came the story of an author who fought for nearly ten years to publish a book that was exciting, challenging and experimental in a literary atmosphere where the novel is constantly accused of having sold out to stories of easy-to-read fantasy or dystopian fiction. An exploration into the mind of a woman as she grows up alongside a handicapped brother and a domineering mother, its prose was on par with the complexity and veracity of William Faulkner. It felt like a slap in the face of modern literature’s numerous critics who lament the lack of a contemporary to James Joyce.
Margaret Diddler, with two no-neck bodyguards flanking her, strutted across the Vinny Barbarino Elementary cafetorium stage. The overflow crowd half-sat, half-squatted on eighteen-inch-high kindergarten chairs. Waves of fidgeting flowed across the sea of humanity as the chairs - designed for maximum discomfort in adults - worked their magic. Margaret yanked a mini-sledge hammer from her purse and gaveled the Parent Teacher Association meeting to order. A chunk splintered off the side of the podium. “This meeting is called to order. The only item on the agenda is the Spring Bake Sale.” An outraged murmur bubbled up from the crowd. “If you don’t like it, you should have been at the meeting last year where the parents appointed me president-for-life.
In 1999, Norwegian Supreme Court refused extradition to the USA on the grounds that their prison system did not meet ‘their minimum humanitarian standards’. More recently, Ireland refused to extradite an alleged terrorist on the grounds that the US penal system represented ‘cruel and unusual punishment’ which amounted to ‘a breach of the constitutional requirement to protect persons from inhuman and degrading treatment and to respect the dignity of the human being’. The UK government by contrast has often shown itself hesitant to intervene when the USA has demanded extradition, even on comparatively trivial charges: Ian Norris for price fixing and Richard O’Dwyer for copyright infringement had not even broken any offences in the UK at the time of the alleged crime; Christopher Tappin was arguably a victim of a sting operation by the federal authorities.
Much of the British media has drawn negative comparisons between the Rio de Janeiro Olympics and their London predecessor. But how does the legacy left by the London Games really compare to other recent host cities? Leading sociologist Dr Gillian Evans was embedded inside London’s planning operation. Her new book, “London’s Olympic Legacy: the Inside Track”, examines London’s imperfect but broadly positive legacy and how its experience offers valuable lessons for future Olympic hosts. Rio was hindered by the unexpected political and economic crises that hit Brazil after it was awarded the Games. It did well to pull off this summer’s massive undertaking. Nonetheless, hosting the Olympics and Paralympics looks unlikely to leave many lasting benefits for the people of Rio.
So there you have it. After weeks of positioning herself as different from her predecessor, Theresa May has provided her government with a decisive break. May could have shifted away from Cameron’s government on any number of issues - the “bedroom tax” or working tax credits. But she did not. Instead she called for an “education revolution” so Britain can become the great meritocracy of the world. There were some interesting points to the speech: the idea of universities sponsoring state-maintained schools is worth considering; for a Conservative to call for private schools to work harder to maintain their charitable tax status is pretty unusual. Under May’s plans those who are able will be compelled to set-up state-funded schools, or finance poorer students’ education.
The millions of Britons still reeling at the “shock” vote in the referendum on the UK's membership of the European Union should reflect on this stark fact: whenever they are given the opportunity, voters reject more Europe. The Danish and Swedes voted against joining the euro, the French and Dutch against the European constitution and the Norwegians on joining the EU at all. Then in 2015 61% of Greeks rejected their crisis bailout package while the Portuguese and Spanish voted in similar numbers against austerity. Yet on every occasion policy remained unchanged and the measures were put in place eventually (except for Norway which could not be forced to become a vassal of Brussels). This point is made three times by Nobel laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz in his new book, which is a devastating indictment of the way that the Eurocracy established the European single currency.
Midway through rehearsals it wasn’t working. They had assembled some of the best talent available: writer Jack Pullman’s credits included Jane Eyre (1970) for film and War and Peace (1972) for television; the director Herbie Wise had started his career at the Shrewsbury Rep and worked in television for twenty years; the cast mixed well-known names such as Brian Blessed, Siân Lloyd, George Baker and Margaret Tyzack with newer but impressive talent - Patrick Stewart, David Robb, John Hurt and Derek Jacobi. Yet something was not right. There was no gel. The production, at £720,000 (£14 million in today’s money), was relatively low-budget but there was a danger that the BBC’s adaptation of Robert Graves’ classic historical fiction books - I, Claudius and Claudius the God - would be an embarrassing flop.
As a Labour supporter, you can colour me pissed off. The party - supposedly the best hope for Britain’s working classes - has become consumed by in-fighting, and no one’s coming out of it well. Not Jeremy Corbyn, who’s locked in an echo chamber, preaching to the converted at rallies and on Twitter but with no coherent plan for winning over the wider population. Not the MPs, who missed a huge open goal by launching their coup immediately after the referendum and diverted attention from the Tories’ biggest blunder in decades. Not the NEC, who trawl through members’ social media profiles like Big Brother seeking out thought crimes. I agree with several of Corbyn’s principles: an NHS free from privatisation, greater investment in public services, an end to economically-illiterate austerity.
There's one question that crosses the mind of every nervous teenager about to dabble with party drugs, such as MDMA, for the first time - what if I die? In the true spirit of youthful rebellion, the vast majority throw caution to the wind and have the night of their lives. Followed, inevitably, by the crushing comedown. Authorities need to acknowledge and accept that many young people are going to experiment with drugs. Shutting down popular nightclubs that are actively making efforts to tackle drug use isn't the answer. Our woefully misguided approach to drugs education could be putting the very people it’s trying to protect in serious danger.
I watched Caster Semenya win the 800 metres at the Weltklasse athletics meeting in Zurich last week and was troubled by the reaction to her victory. Semenya’s lap of honour took much longer than the race, as she basked in the warm congratulations of the crowd whilst stopping to take selfies and sign autographs for spectators. But, as was the case after her win at the Olympic Games in Rio, her fellow competitors were visibly colder and offered no more than a few cursory handshakes. Some athletes and commentators have expressed misgivings about the alleged advantage Semenya derives from her hyperandrogenism, a medical condition that causes elevated levels of testosterone in women who suffer from it.
Insisting that “Brexit means Brexit”, Theresa May intends to single-handedly trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon treaty, which will formally put the government on the course of negotiating to withdraw the UK from the EU. May has ruled out beginning the process until the beginning of 2017, as she begins organising new trade agreements and terms of cooperation with the EU and other major powers like the US, China and India. The prime minister has always been a eurosceptic sympathiser, but was a pragmatic Remainer. Her hands-off neutrality put her in a stronger position to win the Tory leadership than Boris Johnson, one of the zealous faces of the Leave campaign. The aftermath of the EU referendum is not indicative of competent leadership.
For years, economists and psychologists have argued about whether the standard model that economists use to explain how people make decisions is correct. It says that people make rational choices: they weigh all the options against a well-defined set of preferences to choose the one which makes them happiest, or is the most valuable to them. These preferences - and what a person can afford - define what they are willing to pay for goods and services. Businesses and governments around the world use this view of human behaviour as the basis for weighing the benefits and costs of decisions affecting trillions of pounds every year. Psychologists are also interested in people’s choices, particularly the effect of emotions.
During her honeymoon it should not surprise us that Theresa May can get a good headline out of the shape of her nose. Her accession to the premiership has provided the British people with catharsis after years of “Tory cuts” and wage stagnation. Her current popularity is as much about her definition in opposition to her predecessor as it is to do with any virtues she brings to the job. John Major and Gordon Brown took over from long-standing leaders who had made unpopular political decisions (the poll tax and Iraq). Like them, May is being given the benefit of the doubt. She knows what happened to both and will not be keen to repeat their history. Her beginning-of-term interview with Andrew Marr was characteristic May: she was straight-forward but gave little away
Nothing will display better the vanity of the British left - and the reasons it has long wallowed in futile opposition - than the re-election of Jeremy Corbyn. Unless the polls are wrong, he’ll will win convincingly. But he will lead a parliamentary party that has no confidence in his leadership and he has as much chance of becoming prime minister as Donald Trump has of being guest of honour at a piñata party. His is a dereliction of duty that is unprecedented in modern British politics. He is totally without honour. He has sacrificed the poor for his selfishness. His supporters care more about being seen as radical than doing something about inequality, improving public services and changing our democracy.
There is a seeming paradox about novelist Mary Renault. The truism that novelists write about what they know is both true and false of her. As someone who wrote historical fiction that Renault would write about worlds which were morally and socially alien to her then modern sensibilities is obvious. It is also true of all writers to an extent. But the paradox goes further. Renault wrote from her own experiences but she also explored concepts and ideas of identity that were far from her own world. Born in 1905 to a middle class family she attended St Hugh’s College Oxford where she studied under J. R. R. Tolkein. She later wrote a historical novel set in medieval times but destroyed it for its supposed lack of authenticity. After graduating she worked as a hospital nurse and during the war she treated Dunkirk evacuees.
Last Sunday, almost a week since the infamous hate preacher-cum-celebrity-villain, Anjem Choudary, was sentenced to 10 years in prison, I chanced upon an unlikely parallel at Somerset House's current exhibition, Daydreaming with Stanley Kubrick. Choudary's case highlighted an increasing tendency for peoples' speech and the ideas they express to be falsely judged on the basis of other peoples' actions, resulting in their arrest for so-called 'hate speech' or incitement to violence. His sentencing was no doubt influenced by the various examples of young, radicalised Britons joining ISIS in Syria; meanwhile, back in the Seventies, Stanley Kubrick eventually felt forced to remove his 1971 cult classic, A Clockwork Orange, from circulation after a series of grisly 'copycat' crimes.
The aftermath of the Brexit referendum has intensified the debate on alternative templates for the UK’s relationship with the European Union. The “Norway option”, an arrangement which allows Norway access to the single market without being a member of the EU, is often proposed as a transitional station on the journey towards Brexit’s final destination. If this is the case, and given that transitions often outlast their intended life-span, it is worth examining the context in which Norway operates with the EU. Norway is a member of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), a free trade group, along with Iceland, Switzerland and Liechtenstein. It is also a member of the European Economic Area (EEA), which gives it access to the EU’s single market. The Norway option contradicts most claims of “taking back control” made during the referendum campaign.
Twitter is an extraordinary place. “All human life is here,” as Anthony Burgess said. Within hours of Virgin Trains releasing video footage showing Jeremy Corbyn walking past empty seats before finding an uncomfortable spot of floor to sit on, the incident had acquired the notorious ‘gate’ suffix. Traingate was perhaps the most extraordinary phenonomen of the silly season: politician caught bending the truth to make a political point. It could be argued that a more competent politician would not be caught out in such a ruse. However, something similar happened to David Cameron when it was discovered a car followed him with his papers as he bicycled to work as opposition leader. Neither incident tells us anything fundamental about either man. Whether we choose to believe they do depends on preconceived notions of both.
1968 was a seismic year in American history, as a climate of unrest erupted into rage on the streets. Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy - who pleaded for social change through peaceful means - were assassinated. Civil disobedience gave way to militants like the Black Panthers, while the Republican and Democratic Party conventions saw hundreds rioting against the quagmire of the Vietnam War. Despite the success of his Great Society and forcing through of the Civil Rights Act in the memory of John F. Kennedy, the turmoil tarnished the legacy of Lyndon B. Johnson, who refused to run for re-election. 2015 documentary Best of Enemies focuses on the rivalry between Gore Vidal and William F. Buckley Jr, two of the most high-profile American journalists of the 1960s. T
If you think of the Edinburgh Fringe it is most likely the comedians and comedy shows that first come to mind as well as some of the bigger drama productions. However, if like me you are a politics and history geek at heart then the fringe is the place for you, with a myriad of shows to cater to your every desire. Many are one man shows and often relatively small productions off the beaten track whilst others have garnered more attention. With this in mind I have chosen five shows within this theme which I would recommend. Fringe veteran Pip Utton stars in this wonderfully engaging one man show that tackles the legacy of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Although a seemingly impossible thing to explain in just an hour, Utton takes on the subject with the same characteristic charm and objectivity that marked some of his previous guises.
With Daphne & Celeste (of 'U-G-L-Y, you ain’t got no alibi, you ugly' infamy) embarking upon a comeback tour, it’s official - every pop band that could possibly have gotten back together now has. From Blur to Blue, recent years have seen dozens of acts reforming with varying degrees of success. The Sex Pistols’ reunion shows now vastly outnumber the performances made in their mid-70s heyday; One Direction only broke up last year but they’re probably already counting the cheques from their inevitable 2030 comeback tour. It’s become a mandatory part of the musical life cycle: get together, have a few hits, separate, then get back together and do it all again. Lather, rinse, repeat. There are plenty of reasons for this strange phenomenon. Some bands don’t quite achieve everything they’re capable of first time round, and want another crack of the whip.
London, Tokyo and New York. The holy trinity of high finance. These three “Alpha World Cities” are collectively known as the global economy’s commanding heights. It’s here, overwhelmingly, that money decides where it will go. Of course, London now has a little problem. At least some, and possibly a lot, of its claim to commanding height status hinges on the UK’s place as a gateway to Europe for global banking. And, as you probably noticed, the UK is walking out of the EU. As with any major decision the prospect of Brexit offers both hazard and opportunity. And one aspect firmly in the former camp is that a lot of European finance is all-but certain to migrate to an EU city. Frankfurt, probably, or Paris. Should we be desolate at this? Are the tumbleweeds about to start blowing through the deserted canyons of Lombard Street and Canary Wharf?
Annie used to say, “The maintenance men are coming any day now,” always with a handful of crumbling plaster. We spent months waiting for maintenance. Sitting together in the small office where she, and I, and Frances - a hard-elbowed woman who'd been running the Gordon Trask Centre twenty years - ran the music service. I was Administrator (Band 1), so I did whatever needed doing, whatever they told me to do. Mostly writing numbers on ukuleles in black marker, or ringing round all of our registered string instructors, whenever anybody was off sick. It was me who let visitors in. From where I sat, I could see who was arriving, just by leaning back in my chair. The Folk Club was run by two freshly scrubbed things just out of university, she with an accordion, he with a fiddle.
Ever since June the 23rd’s seismic shock, Remainers and Brexiteers, the Roundheads and Cavaliers de nos jours, have been hitting each other with statistics. Broadly speaking you can take your choice. For every crumbling economic indicator, there’s another one doing OK, thanks. But there’s one metric which leaves Brexiteers floundering. Sterling. The pound has been clobbered since the UK stunned the world. No getting away from it. A quid bought you nearly $1.50 on June the 22nd. Now, well not so much. $1.28 if you’re lucky. In the usually sedate world of developed market currency trading that’s a mighty collapse. Now some of this is readily explicable. Foreign exchange traders, bless ‘em, are no more immune to a set of bookmakers’ odds than the rest of us. Indeed I’ve had the pleasure of knowing quite a few and I’ll be honest: bookmakers’ odds are a big part of their lives.
For Mänfred Gnadinger aka 'O Alemán' aka Man Man was a hermit and sculptor who lived in a small hut on the beach in Camelle on the Costa Del Morte, Galicia. He was German, hence his nickname - 'O Alemán', shortened to simply Man. With the shipwreck of The Prestige in 2002 and the environmental disaster that followed, a black tide of oil overwhelmed his home and the sculptures of his open-air museum. He died shortly afterwards, it is thought from melancholy. Hull cracked A flowing black Message Man waits, unknowing In the fixity of Stone - his safety belt Appreciable Stillness of time To wander alone Sand and air His home Closer it comes At dawn he finds a bird A struggling Messenger Obsidian dragmarks Are you sick? He asks He stoops to help Withdraws his Coated fingers
Biphobia. As far as prejudices go, it’s a particularly pernicious phenomenon. It’s sometimes lumped together with your classic ‘anything that isn’t straight is disgusting’ homophobia, but the sting in its tail is that it can come from all angles - from straight people, gay people, and even from cuddly panto actors. Christopher Biggins, the openly gay performer and reality TV mainstay currently appearing on Celebrity Big Brother, commented on Monday: “The worst type, I’m afraid to say, are the bisexuals. What it is, is people not wanting to admit they’re gay. Be honest, that’s what you’ve got to be”. His unlikely comrade, celebrity mafia wife (because apparently that’s a thing) Renee Graziano, agreed: “You have to pick a team!” Their comments sparked controversy - or did they?
Regular readers of Private Eye will be familiar with illustrator David Ziggy Greene’s “Scene and Heard” comic strips, in which he documents events, such as political protests, as a fly on the wall through his trademark portraits. However he cannot only be found there: independently-published and crowdfunded, Save Our Souls was founded and edited by Green. The magazine, featuring contributions from a wide and diverse array of writers and artists, is a based around Greene’s concept, which is why I was compelled to buy both issues published so far. Each issue is a vividly colourful item that contains a smorgasbord of artwork and writing on various political, social and cultural subjects. As a medium of curation, it proves that there is still a role for print in modern media.
The 2015 election was widely derided as ‘the most disproportionate result in British election history’. For all its disproportionality it produced a meagre 12 seat majority for the Conservatives, hardly a winning argument for first past the post producing stable government and leadership. Just one year later we have effectively seen a change in government, and splits and rivalries emerging within both parties. This is mostly the after effects of Brexit, but we have to remember why we got into this position in the first place. The referendum was called because of Cameron’s need to placate his more right-wing backbenchers and sections of his own party with whom he did not agree. No doubt the plans would have been dropped if he had been able to do what he wanted and form another coalition with the Liberal Democrats.
The future of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the US and European Union seems bleak. Beset by doubts and stumbling alongside the UK’s referendum on EU membership, the TTIP is starting to look like an awful lot of effort for unremarkable gains. US president Barack Obama may have given the negotiation process a shot in the arm in recent weeks, but there is a good possibility that a deal will not be struck during his administration. After that, all bets are off. So why has such a major piece of international deal-making found it so hard to make headway, and what are the chances of a deal ever being done? Well, the first reason for the impasse is that no one can agree on what it should cover. It is deeply complex, but there are essentially two choices.
The resignation honours list of David Cameron (remember him?), in which he nominated a host of Remain campaigners and political hacks, took me back many years. In a country of some 60 million people the law of averages states that some of them are going to do extraordinary things. I know one of them (she would not like it if I called her a friend). Ten years ago she set up a charity to improve literacy in state-maintained schools. Today the charity operates across the whole country. In all that time, she has done this without wanting a penny in payment. Hers is an incredible achievement. In idle moments I have often thought about nominating my friend (sorry, Lorna) for some form of honour. What has stopped me is that I know, as an egalitarian, she would turn it down.
The Paralympic Games taking place in September in Rio de Janeiro are an international showcase of how disabled people can excel despite their limitations, with many of the athletes being former Olympians who have adapted to injury. The official UK broadcaster of the Paralympics, Channel 4, is promoting the games with an advertisement campaign based around the tagline “We’re the superhumans". Though this may be a message that intends to promote the equality and empowerment of disabled people, Lucy Catchpole argues that framing disabled people as “superhumans” risks trivialising the adversities that many disabled people face, by making the complexity of disability “even more frustrating and confounding” to the public.
Amid an incredibly febrile world with Britons voting to leave the EU, an historic flow of migrants into Europe, worsening chaos in the Middle East, lonely eyes are again turning to the perennially stable United States. But the image that greets them now is not the calm but powerful Uncle Sam character but a simmering pot of tensions that is already displaying sudden outbursts of fury and which looks in danger of boiling over in a dramatic and horrible way. The last year has seen a series of attacks on African-Americans by predominantly white police officers. Almost exactly two years ago on 8 August 2014, a white police officer searching for a convenience-store robber in Ferguson Missouri shot and killed an unarmed black teenager, 18-year-old Michael Brown, kicking off mass civil unrest.
The girl crouched low to give the crab’s hard shell a gentle tap. The critter sprang to life immediately, punching both menacing pincers high in the air. She laughed and shrieked with excitement as the creature hastily retreated to the ocean, chasing and mimicking its footwork as it did so. The bay was quiet in the late afternoon and the beach fully deserted, a silence only broken by the silky break of a wave, or the small pebbles crunching between her toes. It had been her grandfather’s present, and the girl had long wondered whether she’d ever find a place better. She loved the cove for everything it didn’t have. There were no glass fragments lined with cheap liquor, no handwritten notes among the sands, not a single trace of deceit in the fresh breeze. Even the colossal sea was itself an unexpected comfort.
This year we commemorate the start of the Battle of the Somme, the bloodiest battle of the First World War, which took place in France between July and November 1916. The brutality and carnage of ‘the Great War; is appalling. But it is also striking to consider the circumstantial fragility of fate it represents. Thomas Richardson, a veteran of the Somme, was one of the many thousands of men who suffered from what today is identified as post-traumatic stress disorder in the aftermath of the conflict. While recuperating, he met a woman who was working as volunteer rehabilitation counsellor helping veterans - and they bonded well enough to get married and have children, eventually celebrating their Diamond Anniversary. Without the war they would not have met.
From a Quiet Corner in South London, Be Dazzled and Moved by the Magic of Stephen Wright's "House of Dreams"
Following a successful career in textile design spanning more than three decades, a disillusioned Stephen Wright turned his attention to his "life project" -- the House of Dreams Museum. Occupying the entire ground floor of a terraced house in East Dulwich in South London, the museum is a cavern of multicolour magic, nightmarish at first but, after time, revealing of warmer and more deeply personal emotions of the artist himself.
During the opening night of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Michelle Obama and Bernie Sanders stole the show. One is the descendant of African Americans, the slaves who built the White House, and the other a child of Jewish immigrants who fled war-torn Russia to escape religious persecution. Both speakers have made it big in an America where hard work, good character and brains paid off. The belief that today’s young people will have the same opportunity is shrinking. Along with most Western countries, rapid change imposed by lightening speed technological advances and free trade agreements have produced diminished returned for people who work with their hands.
Whatever happens this summer, Jeremy Corbyn leaves a major legacy. Most notable is the long-term leftwards shift in Labour’s centre of gravity. The party’s right in retreat, Corbyn’s challenger Owen Smith campaigns on an almost identical platform, Trident and the EU aside. Smith’s pitch is to present it better and add much-need policy heft. Smith’s recruitment of Corbyn’s former policy chief as his own indicates a narrowing ideological horizon. The course steered may need a new captain, but politically Corbyn binds Labour left for the foreseeable future. This is a good thing. But Corbynism has changed things elsewhere too, and in the most unexpected of quarters. Indeed, the Corbyn Effect may win the next general election. The only thing is, under Corbyn, it won’t be Labour cracking open the fizz. Margaret Thatcher famously named New Labour her greatest achievement.
If the Labour party has a collective memory it is one scarred by the betrayal of Ramsay McDonald, who joined the Conservatives in a National Government in 1931. Most Labour leaders have faced such accusation to varying degrees at some stage in their career. To the outsider the Corbyn phenomenon is as mystifying as it is improbable. But betrayal is key. In 2015 Corbyn offered to a defeated, demoraised party a brand of politics the lacklustre, mainstream candidates struggled to project. With 2020 presenting a challenge Labour chose to find a leader who shared their sense of values. He - and his supporters - created a myth that he was the true Labour candidate against a clique of Red Tory, austerity-lite candidates who had betrayed Labour. And so in autumn 2015 social democrats, people who think of themselves of ‘soft left’, even Blairites (1994 vintage) voted for Jeremy Corbyn as leader.
According to the old music-hall song, ‘everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die’. Much the same is true of the British government that has now found itself accidentally (because it happened without any of the usual policy-making preliminaries that are supposed to serve as a check on plausible but impractical policies) committed to leaving the European Union. Essentially, the time-inconsistencies in the process of leaving means that Britain will be seriously disadvantaged for years to come. As we all know the process of leaving the European Union is governed by Article 50 of the Treaty of Rome, which would give two years for member governments to agree new arrangements, after which the country leaves the European Union.
Once again, racial violence has reached crisis proportions in the USA. Recent events in Louisiana, Minnesota and Dallas, highlight that despite the ascension of a popular president who is bi-racial, and culturally “black,” the USA is far from being a post-racial society. I recently shared on Facebook an October 2015 article which asked for an end to the use of #AllLivesMatter (ALM) as a counterpoint to #BlackLivesMatter (BML). The author of the article argues the following: “It’s not that [All Lives Matter] isn’t true. It’s just that it’s unhelpful. It’s an attempt to erase an actual crisis under the guise of being fair. And by continuing to use “All Lives Matter” to drown out the cry of “Black Lives Matter,” the real problems the movement is trying to address are being ignored. “All Lives Matter” is useless. It is destructive. It is hurtful.”
A newcomer to the United States who tuned into the television coverage of the first night of the Republican National Convention couldn’t be faulted for buying a gun the morning after. According to a list of speakers, most unknown to a wide audience, America is at war, and the possibility of a radical Islamic terrorist breaking down the door to kill you is imminent. Although the convention is being held in Cleveland, Ohio, and sits in the heart of the de-industrialized American rust belt, it was the Wild West on Monday night. Ohio is one state that allows for open-carry guns, including automatic weapons. If I’d been in Cleveland that night, I’d be more frightened by gun-packing delegates than Islamic terrorists. The opening speech of the convention by the star of “Duck Dynasty” described his folks as liking to “hunt, fish and pray.” Next to the podium was Marcus Luttrell.