Theresa May has left us no choice but to ban Trump from his state visit.

Theresa May has left us no choice but to ban Trump from visiting the UK.

As the petition to stop Trump on a state visit, reaches over the million mark, the country is split 3 ways; a very slim minority with Islamophobic views, represented by our own deplorables from the darkest shades of Brexit phenomena; critics that disagree with Trump, but have the liberal values to at least give him a platform; and ardent critics of Trump who want to fully protest Trump’s values and policies in the loudest way possible.

I always believe that giving people a platform is important; we cannot force people away from debates because we think they’re wrong to have a certain opinion. This leads down the dark path of authoritarianism, the kind which put people like Stalin and Hitler in power.

During the build up to the 2009 general election, the BNP were gaining slowly in popularity, they managed to gain 2 MEP’s in the European Parliament, we thought then it was a scary time for politics! One memorable Question Time appearance by BNP leader Nick Griffin saw an abrupt end to any rise, and xenophobic nationalists fled to hide under a more covert banner with UKIP. Nick Griffin basically made a fool of himself, quoting memorably that he wanted better rights for British people who had been living in the country since the dawn of time, which to anyone with a remote grasp on our history, is palpably absurd. This is a great example of why you should debate everyone from any background, don’t let hate fester in the shadows where it builds credibility by being ignored by “mainstream media”.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4iKfrY9l2kY&spfreload=10

Surely one of the biggest winners of festering, dark shadow, conspiracy propaganda is Donald Trump. With the superficial and sensationalist mainstream media in the US, it’s understandable why people seek new sources for their information. But when people are pushed away from the regulated, centre ground of information sources, in our days of social media and the internet, they can get mopped up by any wondering lunatic with a Youtube channel or blog. In the run up to his election, Trump used information provided by the white supremacy news outlet Breitbart, and Alex Jones who regularly had stories about Obama being a real live demon.

So surely we should have him here to debate, or be interviewed by a Paxman or O’Brien who can hold his feet to the fire. Naturally I would definitely want him to have a platform, but we’re living in un-natural times. Brexit is a cliff-edge we’re all facing, whether you’ve opened your eyes yet or not. Leaving our main trading block of 28 countries, the Tories pretend everything will rosy, but in reality we have nowhere else to turn too, then the sweaty orange backside of an ego-maniac with a protectionist agenda. So Trump doesn’t represent all of America, of course he doesn’t, he lost the popular vote by 3 million people. However, we have to remember it is him in charge, and he’s leading a particularly ominous pack of rabid republicans, they will dictate terms of trade, and we will have little choice over what they will demand from us. Think access to our national healthcare, lower quality GM food, chlorine soaked chickens, and products made from prison slave labour.

So this doesn’t exactly answer why we should block him from coming, but it does show why Theresa May has to act submissive and friendly, to a man blocking women’s reproductive rights, cancelling climate change agreements, blocking entire countries from travelling to the US based purely on religion (unless they do deals with Trump’s business interests), endorsing the use of torture and breaking international law, and insulting Europeans, Asians, and Arabs as the rotten cherry on the cake.

The question is, should we British people really forsake our privileged position, as friends and equals to our European neighbours, simply to suck up to a man who is currently feeding our western values into the shredder previously used by dictators across history?

I sincerely hope not, I still believe we are a society better than this. And if Theresa May won’t stick up for the values of diversity, tolerance and liberty, which really make the backbone of our culture, than we have too. We have a lot of catching up to do with our damaged reputation across the world, lets show them what we’re really made of, and send a message.

Let’s ban the thin-skinned, sexist, racist, narcissist from coming here, sign below.

https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/171928

If you don’t oppose austerity, you don’t represent a credible opposition to the Conservative party.

So Corbyn wins again, the chicken coup rebellion by 70% of MPs and 10 MEP’s failed miserably and Corbyn gained an even greater mandate than he did previously. Small clusters of MPs have been rebelling against him as soon as he approached Labour’s headquarters In London. No other Labour leader has faced the shear animosity Corbyn faced within the first few weeks of his election.  If you combine that with the Independent’s study citing that 75% of media coverage has either deliberately misrepresented him, or simply waged a character assassination ignoring anything politically relevant – who can forget the stories about him not singing the national anthem, or not bowing low enough during a memorial service? – is there any wonder the members responded with stubborn resistance, which on rare occasions became aggressive?.

But to justify my opening statement, let’s look back to the reasons this country is in an economic and social mess; and I implore his critics to at least come up with some viable alternative policies, rather than repeat the same superficial abstract platitudes, that the right wing media uses.

Like most of my quibbles with Britain’s current predicaments, it seems that our most of my issues start with one person –cue the groans of Corbyn critics – yes you guessed it, Margaret Thatcher. The 1983 Big Bang was the start of a sudden deregulation of financial markets, coincidental (or not) with the same free market neo-liberal policy of deregulation by Ronald Reagan.  Combined with the lack of state investment in any public infrastructure, Thatcher’s focus was to make London retain its place as the financial capital of the world, and thus make our economy entirely reliant on a financial services sector in London. The only issue is that these financial institutions opened the floodgates to foreign investment, and all independent building societies and separate merchant banks where absorbed by universal banks and investment banking units. The practice of the financial sector changed dramatically, rather than smaller institutions investing in highly strategized safe projects, these big high street banks and foreign companies started gambling at risk, in a monetized feeding frenzy. Blair and Brown continued this trend of deregulation, something Labour “moderates” and Mr Tim Farron should recognize before leaping to defend the previous Labour Government.

Ok so you’re already bored aren’t you? Trust me it gets far more complex, but the gist of it is basically that our financial services became internationally entwined with the US, and this paved the way to the 2007/8 global financial crash. Once bad and risky loans were being bundled with safe investments (Collateralized Debt Obligations) then bought and sold across the world, this eventually led to the mass repossession of homes and ultimately crashed the value of housing , and the backbone of financial shares across the world. The greed of high street bankers destroyed lives, the same lives which are being crushed under austerity, whilst the perpetrators of the crash are now wealthier than ever before.  We bailed out our banks to the tune of 124 billion pounds in cash, and 333 billion pounds in the form of guarantees, where the Government will only provide cash if things go badly wrong.Now having read into this I could go on for hours about the implications of bailing out banks to this amount, because of the calamitous loans they themselves invested in. There are some atrocious stories about banks demanding to be privatized before paying back any money owed to the British government. Throw in a Brexit to this scenario and we go from a complex situation, to an all-around cluster-fuck, but that’s for another blog.

My point to all this is, why have we all bought into austerity as an excuse for a political strategy? especially considering that these cuts have hurt the most vulnerable in society and the Tories are in the process of systematically destroying the public services sector, all of which bear no responsibility for the greed and recklessness of the financial sector and the incompetence of previous governments. Tim Farron at the Liberal Democrat conference proclaimed that the Lib-Dems will become the official opposition as Labour is un-electable under Corbyn (fairly bold for a man leading a party with 8 MPs), and praised Tony Blair for his leadership, the man who not only led the way to further financial deregulation, but also introduced privatization into health, education, and that’s without mentioning the Iraq war.

Ironically, the talismanic, mystic and all round economic wizard Vince Cable – once favoured by the British public as being more competent with economics then Brown and Osborne – stated before the coalition the importance of investment over austerity as an economic policy. In fact one of history’s prominent economists (a lifelong member of the Liberal party) John Maynard Keynes, whose ideas led the revolution to modern day liberalism, stated the importance of saving in surplus and spending in recession. Yet during the coalition parliament Vince Cable changed his tune to support cuts to public services, excusing this attitude by blaming Labour’s  previous economic policies, incidentally ignoring the fact that deregulation of the financial industry started with the Conservatives, his partners’ in coalition . To this day on the Liberal Democrat website, their economic policy is still to inflict “necessary” austerity. Since the coalition, Vince Cable has expressed regret at defending the Liberal Democrats approach to coalition in regards to the economy, it turns out he was locked out of negotiations by Clegg, Alexander and Laws. Not as united on policy as Lib-Dems would like you to believe.

And now on to the so called ‘moderate’ wing of the Labour party. I was never a fan of Miliband’s Labour, ironically because I thought they were useless in opposition, always abstaining on any progressive policy put forward by the coalition and failing to show any enthusiasm for changing the voting system, something that could have dramatically changed the following general election, and may have averted a Brexit situation. The problem with old ‘New’ Labour is their obsession with electability, and their belief that principles can, and should be left at the gate, if you want to get to the corridors of political power.  This is fundamentally a toxic ideology, and why Blair should not be used as an example of a Labour party success story, given his close ties with the Murdoch media empire, and the neo-liberal policies which led to the recession and started the privatization of public assets.

And then after the slim majority win by David Cameron in 2015, with the crushed Lib-Dems and the meteoric rise of the SNP, acting leader Harriet Harman decided not to vote against the new welfare bill, restricting children’s tax credits, driving thousands of families into poverty. Yvette Cooper, Andy Burnham and Liz Kendell all advocated their limp leadership values based around an “austerity-lite” ideal, believing that what the public really need after consecutive years of public sector cuts, cuts to welfare, and pay freezes, is more public sector cuts, cuts to welfare, and pay freezes. All justified because both the Conservatives, then New Labour, messed with a global financial system, promoting greed at the expense of any egalitarian values.

And then we have Corbyn, the only leader advocating public investment, and harder regulations on the financial industry, the only leader (apart from Caroline Lucas of the Greens) who is anti-austerity. And this is painted as a mad, Trotskite/Communist belief by mainstream media, Labour moderates and Liberal Democrats? Don’t you think a little blame could go to the mad free market basket cases who caused the financial mess in the first place?

What’s worse is that Momentum and Corbyn supporters are now being demonized, vilified and misrepresented by the same self-righteous, facetious political pundits, whose only criticisms are superficial and sometimes simply based around gutter journalism. I understand skepticism from a self-serving Conservative, but anyone ‘Left’ of the Tories needs to actually have a little perspective, and stop treating us like idiots, and maybe, just maybe, talk about actual policies?.

The main criticism is that Jeremy Corbyn is un-electable, even if his critics can never fully explain why. My point all along is the now famous Jo Cox line “We have far more in common, than that which divides us”. If the Lib-Dems, and Labour moderates could focus more on their actual belief systems, go back to the drawing board and rediscover their own moral compasses again, rather than stick their finger in the wind to guess public opinion based around right wing media sources, then maybe they could see how many policies we have in common, especially in contrast to the Conservative party. Combine that with a pledge to change our voting system, and a focus on simply defeating the Tories in the interim, we could have real change in this country.

It’s time to stop the overt snobbery and contemptuous rhetoric against Corbyn. My plea to anyone left of the Conservative party is to start seeing who the real enemy is.

Grammar schools are an entrenchment of privilege and should belong in the past.

Grammar schools are an entrenchment of privilege and should belong in the past.

Theresa May has unveiled proposals to lift the ban on Grammar Schools banned by Tony Blair in 1997 – although at the time 167 schools were allowed to keep selective education. She also has stated that there will be an annual £50 million to support the creation of new Grammar Schools, as well as allowing current academies and free schools to introduce academic selection for enrolment.
The original creation of Grammar Schools in 1944, known as the “Butler Act” under the Conservative politician R.A.Butler, was hailed as a social revolution. It hailed a change in history when parents didn’t have to pay fees for their child’s education. You have to imagine a time when you had to pay for your children to attend a secondary state school after the age of 13, and money basically paid for the kind of future they’d live; not that this doesn’t happen now, but the distinctive lines of class were drawn  far more clearly in the sand back then . The system split education in 3 ways based around the 11+ examinations: Grammar schools for academics, Technical colleges for agriculture, engineering, and crafts, and secondary moderns for the rest. Again at the time this was part of a social revolution, suddenly fees were paid by the state, and there was a genuine chance for social mobility which was welcomed by all political parties. Ironically once upon a time, the Conservative party had values and idealism, whether you disagree with them or not, they had hard principles which distinguish them from the party of wealthy interests we see today.

However, the paternalistic idealism of Butler – and to some extent Labour at the time – failed to build many technical schools  , and allowed for a new form of class division in the resulting bipartisan system. Funding was unequal between schools, with grammar schools enjoying the lion’s share. Secondary Moderns perversely languished in the poorest areas in the country; resources were stretched to such an extent that a lot of schools used primary school furniture to get by and staff turnover was a continuous revolving door.

This doesn’t alone explain why grammar schools are a bad idea,  just that comprehensives should have no reduction in support. The real problem is the concept of segregating children based on a basic interpretation of intelligence.  It’s all very well creating a supposed meritocratic system in education, but unless your testing is varied , innovative, and complex, you are basically allowing a significant hand-up to a child who is simply exceptional at Maths and English.  Not only that , but you’re giving a golden handshake to children who pass these tests at 11 years old, not taking into account the variation in children’s development, emotionally, intellectually and socially at this age.

So let’s ignore history for a second, and pretend that suddenly the Tories have grown a conscience for publically funded education and social mobility, despite the damage they’ve done since David Cameron became Prime Minister. Let’s also imagine that the testing for Grammar Schools is fluid through all ages up to 18, and that it’s varied to take into account a range of abilities. Would grammar schools then be ok?

For me those problems still don’t underline the whole issue with segregation, and the ability for sharp-elbowed middle class families to rule the roost over school admissions. Even with my own family history, grammar schools divided people. There are thousands of stories where brothers and sisters become separated based on academic ability and sometimes those scars never heal.  How do you tell an 11 year old that they’ve already failed at an opportunity to change their life? There is also the issue that working class children will be up against the driven middle class parents who will not only pay for private tuition but regularly move to areas where their children’s chances of a Grammar School place is greatly increased. Wealthy parents also see the economic advantage of getting their child a Grammar School place, to avoid paying the high prices of private schools.

The worst part is yet to come however, as there are proposals to allow academies to become grammar schools, or at least have the freedom of a selection policy. School places are in total disarray around the country, as the Conservatives have created a centralised system which doesn’t take into account local issues, and is woefully bad in placing children around the country into their school of choice. Any complaint about admissions, instead of the previous system which was controlled by the local council, now has to be made to the office of the schools adjudicator, in London. So much for the devolved power Tories harp on about.

Now imagine a situation where academies can become grammar schools, and why wouldn’t they? You can guarantee good grades by cherry picking the smartest children in the area, but you would also force local children who don’t make the grade to travel to a worse school further away because they didn’t pass a maths exam at 11 years old. And how would admissions work then? With free schools, academies, and grammar schools all having their own selection policy? I can imagine the remaining underfunded state comprehensives turning into super-sized schools to allow enough places for the remaining children, stacking classes with 40+ children per teacher; sadly we can see this situation happening already without the added grammar school issue.

Personally I think Theresa May’s speech is an insult to comprehensive schools and the teachers that work there. I have experience working in a school with no sets, where children of all abilities share a class together through the years, and the teachers are skilful enough to push the lowest ability children without it affecting the highest achievers. In fact the school received the highest grades in the surrounding area. This is also a testament to the main ethos: that children learn the most productively when you take into account their social, personal and academic needs. These are all as important as each other and loosely resemble the famous Finnish model of education, where children achieve the highest levels of results in the world.

Our children benefit from sharing their education with a variety of abilities, as well as culture and religion. Social mobility is about building bridges not walls.