liv: cast iron sign showing etiolated couple drinking tea together (argument)
OK, this is UK party politics, please feel free to skip. In short, I am looking for Labour supporters to convince me to vote for your party.

what is the point of Labour? )

I will of course be researching all this stuff for myself, but I really want to be convinced, which is why I'm asking people who are pro Labour to guide me in where I should be looking. And to take the opportunity to counter the media bias against Corbyn. I do kind of like that he doesn't toady to Murdoch, but being willing to insult the Daily Mail isn't enough if he then goes and votes for terrible policies.


Apr. 6th, 2017 08:39 pm
liv: cast iron sign showing etiolated couple drinking tea together (argument)
So my DW reading list is full of people who have been driven away from LJ by the extremely draconian new Terms of Service, and suddenly finding themselves subject to Russian law. People who have made LJ their online home for 15 years or more, who have stuck with the site through multiple iterations of users getting screwed over. I hope that you'll find some kind of shelter here on DW, but being forced to move is still really horrible.

My Facebook feed, meanwhile, has lots of my Swedish friends talking about a neo-Nazi group which has driven the tiny, extremely northerly Jewish community of Umeå out of their meeting centre. I never made it up to Umeå when I was being an itinerant preacher in Scandinavia, but we were in contact.

And my Twitter feed, which is my main source of actual real-world news these days, is discussing the latest atrocity in Syria, which is horrifying even against the background of the unimaginably terrible past few years over there. My parents and my brother have been working with refugees who have been driven out of their Syrian homes by the conflict, and in many senses the people I've come into contact with here in England are relatively speaking the "lucky" ones.

There's no connection between these three stories, certainly no comparison. But all three are making me sad and scared and I don't have the heart to work on preparing for next week's Passover seders, celebrations of freedom and homecoming. And most certainly not to write the post I was planning, the nice theoretical discussion of how to apply the principles of free speech to people who actively advocate dehumanization and genocide. Maybe another day.
liv: cast iron sign showing etiolated couple drinking tea together (argument)
I sent the following email to Jeremy Corbyn, asking him to give his MPs a free vote on Article 50. I used email rather than a written letter because Corbyn's office make it clear that they do not accept letters (or phonecalls) from people who are not part of Corbyn's constituency.

email, contains Brexit and other politics ) Meanwhile my Dad is doing a really sterling letter-writing campaign about the horror show that is the Home Office mining NHS patient records in order to identify people they want to deport. (Never illegals, no human being is illegal.)

My gratitude goes out to everybody who's doing any kind of activism against all the scary political trends going on right now. I'm not contributing much myself, cos I'm mostly vacillating between terror and fatalistic despair. I'm hoping that getting started on doing something, however nominal, will help me to break out of that.
liv: cast iron sign showing etiolated couple drinking tea together (argument)
Generally good voting experience today. details )

FYI, if you're thinking of voting in the UK:
  • [personal profile] naath has clear and useful information. In fact, I'm particularly grateful to her for explaining that I, and others in my position, can in fact vote in local elections in two different places, as long as you only vote once in the General Election. Also to [ profile] ghoti for clarifying ambiguities in the rules

  • [personal profile] lethargic_man put up on FB the following summary of major policies. Sorry for the image of text; here's a transcription. 38degrees are not entirely politically neutral but they're not affiliated with any one party either and do try to give relatively unbiased information. Of course there is bias in what they consider to be the six "key issues", and I think it's not quite a coincidence that their table comes out with all ticks under Labour and Green and mostly crosses for Con and UKIP. But at least they're not outright lying about what the parties intend to do. I also can't easily find data for Wales, Scotland or NI or at least not for the parties that are only standing in the regions.

  • Election forecast has reasonably detailed and reasonably unbiased electoral predictions, based on reputable polls and quoted with confidence intervals. I mean, polls are only as good as polls ever are, but again, it's a site that's not actively lying in order to try to influence potential tactical votes. They're predicting a Conservative plurality (and a zero percent chance of a majority government!), and they probably know what they're talking about more than me with my prediction of a Labour plurality.

  • [ profile] ewx has a nice summary of election leaflets for Cambridge.

    I'm also extremely grateful to everybody who's volunteered for the election, campaigning, voter education and all that proper boots on the ground activism stuff, especially people like [personal profile] cjwatson and [personal profile] naath who got up scarily early this morning to distribute Good Morning leaflets before most people leave for work. And grateful to everyone who has voted or will be voting for a better society today, even if we disagree about which party is most likely to deliver that. And I appreciate my friends who've explained why they support they party they do in detail and without just repeating party slogans. [personal profile] rmc28 and [personal profile] davidgillon come to mind especially, but just everybody who has had civilized, thoughtful discussions about fraught issues, you're making democracy better and you deserve kudos.
  • Political

    Apr. 30th, 2015 11:50 am
    liv: cast iron sign showing etiolated couple drinking tea together (argument)
    So I have received my ballot for postal voting. I'm going to put in the first post tomorrow morning, so you have approximately 20 hours to convince me to vote for an outcome that you favour, if you like that kind of thing.

    UK political nargery )
    liv: cartoon of me with long plait, teapot and purple outfit (mini-me)
    So I was chatting to my brother Screwy over Christmas, and he asserted that making ethical consumer choices is just a way to express your values, it doesn't really help to bring about change. Now, Screwy is a philosopher and fond of making provocatively sweeping statements, and he's also way to the left of me politically. But when we were chewing over this one, I realized I couldn't entirely refute it. So I'm bringing it to DW, to see what my thinky interesting readers think.

    of course, I can never just make a statement without babbling about it )

    Well, last time I talked about the philosophy behind my politics it went reasonably well, so let's see if this sets off some equally good discussion, even if I am not quite aligned with many of my readers in some ways.
    ETA: My brother turned up to explain what he meant a bit more clearly than my summary: his clarification
    liv: cast iron sign showing etiolated couple drinking tea together (argument)
    One of the great things about the internet is that you get to meet people who are not like you. But that's also one of the problems with the internet; I live a fairly sheltered life and I am in the habit of assuming that most people I interact with generally share most of my values, to the extent of, say, holding broadly egalitarian views. Of course, this is not actually the case!

    noodling )


    May. 22nd, 2014 05:07 pm
    liv: Stylised sheep with blue, purple, pink horizontal stripes, and teacup brand, dreams of Dreamwidth (sheeeep)
    Happy birthday to [ profile] darcydodo!

    Happy blogaversary to me - I joined LJ this date in 2003, and moved to DW around this time in 2009.

    Happy election day to fellow Europeans, (apart from people in civilized countries where they've moved the European elections to the nearest weekend to improve turnout). obligatory election opinions )
    liv: cast iron sign showing etiolated couple drinking tea together (argument)
    [personal profile] pretty_panther offered what might be a politically controversial prompt: Britain's foodbank crises. Your thoughts and opinions.

    More angry than factual )

    [January Journal masterlist; there's still quite a few spaces so do feel free to add some more prompts even if you didn't get to it in December! Or indeed to make a second request if you're already in the list.]


    May. 17th, 2013 03:35 pm
    liv: cast iron sign showing etiolated couple drinking tea together (argument)
    This post is full of UK political detail; please feel free to skip if that's totally irrelevant to you!

    So I was chatting to a senior academic who works in health policy and she mentioned that about a third of the people who used to have senior roles in the now-abolished Primary Care Trusts have resigned. Some on ideological grounds because they strongly disagree with the political climate regarding health and social care, some just in disgust at having put all that work into building up the PCTs and making them function well, only to have the whole system swept away and replaced by something new. I was already pretty worried about the NHS situation, but hearing that from an insider has definitely reinforced that.

    Then I went to a talk by Prof Paton, a political scientist, about the political context in which our health reforms are taking place. I shall write up some of my notes, because I think people other than me might find some of this interesting, though it's admittedly speculative, it's too soon for anyone to do a serious academic analysis of an Act that's only a few weeks old.

    Prof Paton on the Health and Social Care Act, as interpreted by me )

    I am so very much not a natural Labour voter, for a large number of reasons. And I'm really angry with the party for lying to Parliament and to us about weapons of mass destruction and committing our troops to an illegal war in Iraq with massive loss of civilian life. In spite of this, I am sort of considering voting Labour because the NHS is such a huge issue for me. But Paton kind of confirmed my impression that Labour really don't have a great track record on the NHS recently (even though, yes, the NHS was a Labour policy under Attlee's government in the 40s; that was a long time ago, though!) And the promise to repeal the damaging H&SCA sounds like it's probably not worth much, though I'm not going to base my voting decisions purely on one talk by one guy, just because he happens to have an academic title. But I don't know whom I can vote for to mitigate the threat to a functioning, truly national, truly public NHS, even if I make that my sole voting issue.
    liv: cast iron sign showing etiolated couple drinking tea together (argument)
    So everybody's been playing with this class calculator, because who doesn't love a find your personality type survey? And this one has the imprimatur of respectability that comes from being on the BBC site with professional graphic design and slick special effects. It tells me I'm "established middle class," which I probably could have told you without going through that rigmarole. Duh, I'm a university lecturer and the daughter of two lawyers, obviously I'm middle class.

    It's provoked some surprisingly interesting conversation, though. Some people are saying it's a distraction from the real issues of the sweeping changes to the NHS and social security system brought in this week. Well, yes it is, but the fact that people fill in silly surveys doesn't mean they aren't also engaged in meaningful political activism. This article someone linked on Twitter argues that the whole BBC gimmick is a poor popularization of sociology.

    The interesting theme that's emerging is that there is a deliberate misdirection of people's thinking about class identity, and that this prevents effective political solidarity. [ profile] blue_mai linked to a rather angry old-Left article which points out that it doesn't really make sense to treat low-level clerical and IT people as middle class just because they work in offices. I often don't find overtly socialist rhetoric very palatable, but Thee Citizen's post made sense to me. I can believe that there is a denigration of genuine working class values going on, and telling people they're middle class when in fact they have no real control over their lives or financial security is plausibly an subtle undermining of their ability to act politically as a collective.

    [personal profile] helenic has a magnificent rant about a problem in the opposite direction: middle-class people are being manipulated into underestimating [our] class and relative wealth. [personal profile] helenic's post very much resonated with me; there is a sort of weird reverse snobbery going on where middle class people claim humble origins and / or feel hard done by even though they're pretty much at the top of the social heap, and absurdly wealthy people think of themselves as middle class.

    It's my blog, so I'll talk about myself )

    I hope this isn't completely incomprehensible to non-Brits!

    Book: Debt

    Feb. 1st, 2013 12:10 pm
    liv: Bookshelf labelled: Caution. Hungry bookworm (bookies)
    Author: David Graeber

    Details: (c) 2011-12 David Graeber; Pub Melville House 2012; ISBN 978-1-61219-181-2

    Verdict: Debt: the first 5000 years is readable and informative, though not wholly convincing.

    Reasons for reading it: I've seen various references to it in online discussions and it sounded interesting.

    How it came into my hands: Birthday present from my most excellent brother.

    detailed review )


    Nov. 17th, 2012 12:45 pm
    liv: cast iron sign showing etiolated couple drinking tea together (argument)
    I voted in the farce of a PCC election. I voted "properly" and did not spoil, though I had no enthusiasm for either of the two candidates standing in Staffordshire. One Conservative party apparatchik whose views about pretty much everything were random waffle with no substance, and one Labour party apparatchik whose views about pretty much everything were that the Tories are bad. There were no independents and nobody with meaningful police experience, but I suppose on the plus side there were no racists or hanging-and-flogging authoritarians.

    I got the very strong impression that the election was deliberately set up to engineer a low turnout, which is just weird; I can not see whose interests are served by creating a new elected post which only a fifth of the non-London parts of the country bother voting for. detailed UK political stuff )

    So I am definitely in sympathy with the ballot-spoiling crowd. The only crumb of comfort is that the turnout was so low that it is going to prompt an inquiry by the Electoral Commission. But however that turns out the whole business is still a waste of considerable amounts of public money, when desperately needed resources are facing cuts because of the recession. So I am not a happy voter right now.
    liv: cast iron sign showing etiolated couple drinking tea together (argument)
    This happened. I take the reports seriously because the people involved are friends of friends, so it's harder for me to just dismiss the stories as internet rumour-mongering. I realize that this personal connection is going to become less and less convincing as the story travels further outwards. I'm also aware that some people assume that any groups acting on behalf of authority, such as the police, always have right on their side; as this is being discussed among my circle, I'm already saying speculation that there's probably a good reason, maybe the activists in question have been sending death threats to people working for Atos or job centres. There often is more than one side to stories like this, and I'm not going to attempt to convince you if you're inclined to skeptical.

    For me, I believe the reports. I believe them enough to be quite seriously scared. It's possible, yes, that these people have actually done something criminal which isn't known to my friends. So it's not absolutely clear that they've been hassled simply for criticizing government policy, though that looks like the most likely explanation. But even if they have broken the law, that doesn't offer me any comforting explanation for what looks like deliberate intimidation. The fact that it's apparently coordinated with all the incidents taking place on the same day. The police turning up to activists' houses in large numbers or in the middle of the night, that's what really scares me.

    Thing is, I believe strongly that people whose disabilities prevent them from working, or who can't find employers willing to take them on, have the right to food, shelter and security just as much as employed people. I believe that working disabled people should be provided with reasonable subsidies to cover the extra costs associated with being disabled, whether that's having to pay for taxis because our public transport system isn't fit for purpose, or for extra equipment needed to do their jobs, or to pay for assistants or carers if needed. I believe that these benefits should not be made subject to punitive, degrading "assessments" of whether the recipients are really disabled.

    If I ask myself whether I'm willing to go to prison for these beliefs, I have to come up with the answer that I'm not. I am basically a coward, and I like my nice comfortable life. So if this trend continues, of people being subjected to deliberate intimidation by the police simply for believing what I believe, I am very likely to end up in a situation where I collaborate with the authorities against disabled people and their supporters. If you ever see me posting online that disabled people are work-shy scroungers whose culture of entitlement is taking away resources from hard-working families, please assume by default that I'm posting under duress.

    In any case, regimes that think the solution to disability is stigmatizing and intimidation, with violence not far off, are not often particularly good environments for Jewish people or gay people or people who have fairly transparent online lives which include sometimes criticizing government policies. So I am back to thinking seriously that I need to get out of this country before I am made a collaborator or a victim. I may well be overreacting, and I know that many of you live in countries where civil liberties are already more seriously compromised than what I see here. But. Police showing up in the middle of the night and confiscating phones and computers from dissidents, that's the kind of thing you regret ignoring.
    liv: ribbon diagram of a p53 monomer (p53)
    As someone who teaches university undergrads, I've been asked for my opinion as part of Ofqual's consultation on A Level reform. And I figure this is a topic that exercises a lot of my friends, so have at it, express your opinions! (If you have some experience of English education this is probably going to be a lot more meaningful to you than otherwise, but hey, opinions are always good.)

    secondary education policy details )

    So, what do you think? Is a linear course primarily assessed by final exam a good or a bad thing? Should AS qualifications be scrapped or demoted from their half A Level status? Which A Level subjects should be mercifully retired, and which new ones should replace them? This is probably less important than the marriage equality consultation, but it's somewhere where I have a tiny amount of influence, and you're very welcome to try to persuade me to your view.


    Nov. 30th, 2011 10:38 am
    liv: cast iron sign showing etiolated couple drinking tea together (argument)
    I'm generally mildly pro-Union. That is, I think it's a good thing that Unions exist, I am in favour of collective bargaining by employees and the right to strike if employers and those in power aren't treating workers fairly. But Union and employment rights aren't my number one political priority and I don't devote a lot of time and effort to these issues.

    I'm definitely in favour the decision of public sector workers (including several of my friends) to strike today. Cuts to public sector pensions and laying off the extremely vital workers who do the paperwork and admin that keeps the country running are no way to deal with the financial crisis and are wildly unfair. Those striking today have my full respect.

    What they don't have is my participation; I'm at work today. There are lots of reasons for this. One is that university academics are in a bit of a funny position in terms of whether we count as public sector or not. One is that my striking today would inconvenience nobody but myself. I happen not to have any teaching duties today, and a day spent not working on my grants would disadvantage me far more than my employers or the general public. The main reason is that the Union I ought to be a member of, UCU, voted earlier this year to allow antisemitism because they think that restricting antisemistism stifles criticism of Israel. I would be willing to join a TU that was anti-Israel, it's not something I feel that strongly about. I am not willing to join a union that actively opposes attempts to tackle antisemitism, nor one that's in bed with the Socialist Workers Party.

    I'm lucky enough that I can choose to work in ways that don't require me to physically cross picket lines. So I'm working at my computer, away from campus. I don't feel great about this, but that's the situation.
    liv: cast iron sign showing etiolated couple drinking tea together (argument)
    It's a bank holiday which looks set to break with tradition and provide some actual sun. It's unpatriotic to talk about any serious topic on a day like this, but then again the US army inconsiderately chose a day when there's not supposed to be any news to accomplish its decade-old goal of killing Osama Bin Laden.

    may contain traces of politics )

    Anyway. Enjoy the rest of the bank holiday. I am stuck inside with a pile of marking, but that's a very minor rant compared to the one I ended up composing.
    liv: cast iron sign showing etiolated couple drinking tea together (argument)
    A few people have been passing round links to Searchlight's survey about attitudes to race and immigration. I'm finding it somewhat depressing; only 8% of the UK population are classed as Confident Multiculturalists, people like me who are enthusiastically pro-immigration and embrace diversity. I mean, I suppose that's about the same proportion of the population as people from BME groups, and if half the country worry that huge swarms of immigrants are going to take over British culture, then perhaps the Confident Multiculturalists are actually an incipient swarm headed for world domination.

    No, sorry, that's a bit cynical; to be fair, Searchlight stuff does tend to paint a gloomy picture, perhaps not surprisingly because orgs dedicated to anti-racism tend to observe a lot more horrible stuff than positives. But I am worried by the implication of the survey that the only thing keeping the UK from spiralling into massive xenophobia is the fact that currently all the right-wing groups are a bunch of obviously incompetent thugs. UKIP looked some years ago as if it might develop into a plausible right-wing political force (if only because they included and appealed to polite, articulate, middle-class racists), but they've got so distracted from their cause by infighting that they're no longer a serious threat. That's a very thin comfort, if huge numbers of people would be willing to support groups like the EDL or the BNP if only they would abstain from actually beating people up on camera.

    The glib comment is that mainstream politics has "failed", that people are driven to the extremes because there's no sensible choice among the major parties. That doesn't really make it less scary for me, because I still find it horrifying that anyone but a fringe minority would consider racism a sensible alternative to corruption, nepotism and bad economic policy.

    Anyway, the discussion that has arisen from the publication of this report reminded me that a few weeks ago I read Ayaan Hirsi Ali's Infidel, which is in part a polemic against the kind of multicultural values I hold so dear. So that was a spur to getting round to writing and posting my review.
    liv: cast iron sign showing etiolated couple drinking tea together (argument)
    I've been following the protests over the tuition fees issue, but not really participating. I'm not a protesting on the streets sort of person, and my institution seems to be relatively apolitical. Certainly the medical students can't really think of jeopardizing their careers through unauthorized absences and potentially getting into trouble with the police. Regardless of the rights and wrongs of the students' cause, police behaviour has unquestionably been deplorable. I'd have thought that the one thing a Liberal-Conservative coalition could agree on was that people have the right to express their opinions through demonstrations and protests. Apparently, though, we're going to get all the disadvantages of a right-leaning government but none of the benefits.

    damned right I'm angry )

    On a related matter, I'm a bit peeved at people uncritically repeating and re-tweeting that stupid article about Oxford's admissions policy. Some guy cherry-picked statistics to create some eye-catching headlines suggesting that Oxford is reluctant to accept Black candidates, and made a big fuss about how much effort it was to find out the detailed breakdown of the data via Freedom of Information requests, when in fact most of the ethnicity data is publicly available on university websites, and he just wanted something more fine-grained. Besides which, separating out different ethnic groups who all happen to have black skin is a valid exercise; clearly actual Africans, African-Americans, and people who live in Britain but ancestrally hail from Africa recently, or the Caribbean a generation ago, are different groups of people with different experiences. Conflating specific data about Black British people of Afro-Caribbean origin with data about Black applicants in general is bordering on deceitful.

    I'm not at all claiming that Oxford totally doesn't have a problem with racism! There may well be racism. But making a big fuss about statistical noise fluctuations in tiny numbers of applicants isn't at all the way to address this. Part of the problem, of course, is the numbers of students from particular ethnic groups who get the kind of school education that makes applying to Oxbridge feasible. There is very likely racism involved in that situation, but it's not the fault of any university or college. But even if you're trying to deal with actual racism on the part of Oxbridge colleges, this approach is IMO counterproductive. Repeating alarmist articles all over the place simply discourages ethnically disadvantaged students from applying in the first place. It's like stereotype threat, only more extreme, and I think it's highly irresponsible to spread that kind of misinformation.

    I'm reminded of a case when I was at college: there was a whole big fuss about some kid who was rejected from Magdalen college even though she had four As at A Level, and her headmaster went to the press claiming that she had been discriminated against because she attended a state school. He ignored the fact that all the candidates for medicine at Magdalen had straight As at A Level, not to mention that the girl hadn't made up her mind whether she wanted to read medicine or biochemistry. All this achieved was a marked dip in applications from state school pupils the following year; so much for all those righteous crusaders up in arms about Oxford's biased admissions policy! Innuendo sticks; people remember the shock horror story of bias, not the careful debunkings that follow. Simply repeating this kind of stuff for the pleasure of outrage does far more harm than good.

    I've probably offended everyone by now. Oh well, that's my political rant for the week.
    liv: cast iron sign showing etiolated couple drinking tea together (argument)
    I was bullied quite a lot at primary school. Not the kind of horrific abuse that's been in the news recently, but a few years of unpleasantness. Partly because I was intellectually precocious but emotionally immature, and partly because of class issues and a tinge of antisemitism, and partly because I had a form teacher when I was 8 who hated me. I mean viscerally hated and actively waged a campaign against me that only just stopped short of direct violence, not just someone who picked favourites and I wasn't one of them. One of the most common taunts during that time was that people called me "Maggie" or "MT"; said teacher discovered that this was an effective way to get a reaction out of me, because I'd already been primed by a few years of being tormented about my resemblance to a hated PM.

    little Thatcherite, 20 years on )

    I'm posting this now because I think that when Thatcher eventually does die, I'm going to have to avoid the internet for a few weeks. I fully expect to catch plenty of criticism (and maybe even some unfriendings) for defending Thatcher at all, although I'm not really defending her so much as claiming that however many wrong political decisions she made (and I'm no way going to try to argue that every single one of her policies was unmitigatedly good!), she's not actually evil incarnate. When I was eight I was outside the pale of social acceptance because I didn't hate Thatcher enough, and somehow I'm hoping this is no longer true now I'm 32 and still don't hate her.


    Miscellaneous. Eclectic. Random. Perhaps markedly literate, or at least suffering from the compulsion to read any text that presents itself, including cereal boxes.

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