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Capitalism is killing our planet: we must act now

Putting profits before people is nothing new. It is part of this late-stage capitalist model the world follows: Far too many corporations turn a blind eye to the consequences of their destructive, exploitative practices in search of improved profit margins and shareholder value. But it has clearly gone too far when our planet is on the brink of environmental collapse. Simply put, it must end.

A new UN report is set to reveal that up to 1m species face extinction because of human actions.

Glaciers are melting and causing sea levels to rise faster than scientists’ predictions. Species are dying off at a pace that has led scientists to conclude that the earth’s sixth mass extinction is already underway. More than 28,000 people are dying because of polluted air each year in Britain. Nature is being destroyed at a rate of tens to hundreds of times higher than the average over the past 10m years, according to the UN global assessment report. The biomass of wild mammals has fallen by 82%, natural ecosystems have lost about half their area and a million species are at risk of extinction – all largely as a result of human actions, said the study, compiled over three years by more than 450 scientists and diplomats.

What will this mean for us? Freshwater shortages, climate instability and a potential 23% reduction in the productivity of global land – meaning potential food shortages. Yes, it’s that serious.

The health of the ecosystems on which we and other species depend is deteriorating more rapidly than ever. We are eroding the very foundations of economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide, – Robert Watson, the chair of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (Ibpes).

While the blame cannot squarely lie at the door of oil and gas companies, they must shoulder their portion of criticism for the part they play. The largest five stock market listed oil and gas companies spend nearly $200m (£153m) a year lobbying to delay, control or block policies to tackle climate change, according to reports. One recent study found that worldwide fossil fuel subsidies amounted to $4.9tn in 2013. It estimated that eliminating those subsidies would have cut global carbon emissions by 21% and air pollution deaths by over half.

On the other hand, companies hoping to build new wind farms, solar plants and tidal lagoons, have been dealt a blow after the UK government said there would be no new subsidies for clean power projects until 2025 at the earliest. The government also announced that until 2025 it was freezing a carbon tax on dirty energy generators. But of course, this likely has nothing to do with all the money spent on lobbying by the big oil and gas companies.

Under capitalism, new technology is only used, and funded and subsidised, if it is profitable to do so. Saving the planet is not profitable in a financial sense.

Not only are these big companies resisting climate change action and disrupting those who want to make a difference, but ExxonMobil also plans to pump 25% more oil and gas in 2025 than in 2017. Even modest growth within the sector could have serious repercussions for the environment. According to an assessment by the IPCC, an intergovernmental climate-science body, oil and gas production needs to fall by about 20% by 2030 and by about 55% by 2050, in order to stop the Earth’s temperature rising by more than 1.5°C above its pre-industrial level.

What is their interest in climate change initiatives being passed, and progress being made in the field of renewable energy? Money. It all boils down to money. The health of the planet, and its inhabitants, comes second to profit and value for shareholders.

That brings us on to the newest trend in gas extraction. Hydraulic fracturing, more commonly known as “fracking,” is a technique to extract natural gas from harder to access unconventional sources trapped in rock formations such as shale gas, coal bed methane and tight gas.

Fracking in the UK has triggered many small earthquakes. Leakage of natural gas from drilling and pipework means more methane is entering the atmosphere. Fracking operations deplete water sources and have been known to contaminate groundwater with methane and undisclosed chemicals.

This again shows that companies are guilty of short term thinking, of massaging profits and shareholder returns. Everything seems to be about the bottom line and the minimum standard that they can get away with.

The purpose of a company is to serve its customers. Its obligation is to not harm everyone else. And its opportunity is to enrich the lives of its employees. Somewhere along the way, people got the idea that maximizing investor return was the point. It shouldn’t be. – Seth Godin (American author and former dot com business executive)

And it’s not just the environment that is affected by the practices of profit over people.

Lest we forget the events of 14th June 2017. Grenfell tower block, in Kensington, was destroyed by what should have been a controllable fire. The tower block should have been fitted with a sprinkler system, instead, it was fitted with cladding around the exterior so it would look more appealing to the residents of surrounding luxury housing. It is rumoured that cost was a significant factor and that the material that was used might not have been the most flame-retardant. This was an exercise in keeping the cost of a refurbishment as minimal as possible to maximise profits. An entirely preventable event and tragic loss of life, one which is unforgivable.

Our current form of capitalism is failing to produce an increasing standard of living for most of its citizens. The gap between the rich and the poor is growing at an alarming rate. The ratio of CEO-to-worker pay has increased 1,000 per cent since 1950, according to data from Bloomberg.

The UK had the weakest wage growth of any G7 country over the past decade, according to the OECD, despite eight years of economic growth and strong employment. People have seen a real decline in living standards, with many now relying on foodbanks to survive.

Companies are laying off employees and driving down working conditions when profits have never been higher. If you can’t take care of your employees in the midst of record profits, how should your team expect to be treated when times get tough?

Surprisingly enough, when you pay your staff less and less in real terms they have less to spend on other services and commodities in the economy, meaning companies look to cut costs even more to maximise profit – hence why the race to the bottom is well underway.

This has not been aided by rising house prices. The goal of producing homes under our current model of free market capitalism is not to house more people, but to make the most money for the people who own and build houses — meaning a practice of leaving some completely built homes empty to raise the price has been all too common, and it is in the companies interest to build as few houses as they can, meaning supply and demand dictates they can make more money per house. Profit over people.

The next industrial revolution is really kicking into motion. Some 1.5 million people in England are at high risk of losing their jobs to automation, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). Elon Musk, of Tesla, has stated he believes that 50% of jobs could be lost by 2030. This means even more money will end up in the pockets of big companies, CEO’s, and shareholders unless action is taken to redistribute the wealth amongst the displaced workers. This is where Universal Basic Income may become necessary – a topic that requires it’s own article to explore it fully.

If we continue with our current direction, the outlook is bleak – for both humanity and all other life on our planet.

Whether it be big oil companies disrupting positive actions in the face of climate change, giant pharmaceutical companies jacking up prices on a number of critical prescription drugs, companies exploiting slave labour in Africa and Asia, or a company re-cladding a building for aesthetic purposes for the benefit of rich property owners in the area and using the cheapest means possible, we deserve much better.

Yes, we can all stop using single-use plastics, recycle more, stop eating as much meat: and these actions will make a difference. But a major systemic change of, or within, the dominant economic model the world follows is necessary to really turn the tide. UK Parliament has now declared a Climate Emergency – but what use is this is serious action is not taken?

Capitalism is driven by the endless pursuit of profit, and that’s the stumbling block we must cross to save the planet we inhabit. Instead of having our humanity subverted to serve the marketplace, capitalism has to either be made to serve human ends and goals, or it has to be toppled.

We cannot continue failing some of the most vulnerable people, and the planet upon which we depend upon for survival, in exchange for maximising profits. Something must change in our approach – our planet and livelihoods are on the line.

Never playing Hamlet – The Quarter-life Crisis

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For every person that goes on to play Hamlet, there are thousands of others who never will. For an actor, chances are you will fall into the latter category.

This sentiment, of course, applies to others in all walks of life, but this is my account of looking at it from an actors perspective, whilst trying to relate more broadly. It’s perhaps the hardest article I’ve sat down to write.

This isn’t an article claiming to have the answers. It isn’t an article with 10 different bullet points claiming that all you need to do is think more positively. Yes, dreams do sometimes come true, but I do not subscribe to the school of thought that if you work hard enough you’ll get there – that’s not the way the world works.

I’m at the point in my life where I’ve realised that realistically I won’t don the famous Phantom mask, or unleash my Doctor on the Whoniverse, or play Hamlet at the RSC. I’m either not at the standard required, or never likely to find myself in the right place at the right time – or a combination of these, and other factors (most of which are outside of my control).

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking recently, about where my next move lies. What path to take for the best. I’m in a real state of limbo. I yearn to be creative, I strive to make a difference in the world, create my own path – but I’m constantly aware of financial strains and time slipping away and the potential of sleepwalking to a life where I look back with a sigh and repeatedly ask myself “what if”.

Do I want to push myself back into the world of acting, the hit and hope life that it is? Or take not so fulfilling performance based jobs because the money is there and think about “settling down” as some may expect? Or do I want to try to make a business of my love of photography or try find a route to working as a casting director? Which of these will bring me the satisfaction, but at the same time standard of life and security, that I crave? Which is most realistic? Which will I least regret? Questions, questions, questions. 

I can’t seem to make a decision. I seem to be in a place of hoping everything falls into place and makes sense soon. It hasn’t yet. Perhaps it won’t – faith in the world, and particularly this country, is in short supply right now.

I’m sure many people at the same stage of life feel the same. Things don’t always turn out as you’d planned. You feel like you should have achieved more. You see your peers on social media being cast in West End productions and BBC Drama’s: or away from the acting world buying houses, getting promotions and exploring what the world has to offer.

Psychologists call this the quarter-life crisis. It’s the “what am I doing with my life” feeling. It’s the feeling that you should have achieved more by now. Feeling that your best years are fading away. Knowing what you want, but not having the foggiest idea of how to make it happen. It’s not knowing where to push yourself next for the best. Not wanting to settle for less than you think you’re worth. The burden of societal expectations. Fear of failure.

Everyone’s experience will be slightly different, but it stems from the same feeling of uncertainty.

While traditional life crises often entail a role loss or identity threat, quarter-life crises seem to stem from deficient clarity of either. Perhaps it’s because there are so many choices, the fear of picking the wrong option is overbearing.

Some studies suggest that today’s twenty-somethings suffer more than did previous generations, according to Harvard Business Review. Not only do twenty-somethings report higher levels of negativity and feeling in-between than other ages; but the average age for depression has dropped from age 40 to 50 down to mid-20s. “And it’s expected to drop further”. The Depression Alliance estimates that a third of twentysomethings feel depressed.

Quite simply put, times are hard and only getting harder. People of my generation are having to accept that we may never have some of the things our parents and previous generations almost took for granted. We must almost live for today. Because some of us might never ever be able to afford to buy a house or have a pension to retire on, or if we do we risk not living in pursuit of these so-called milestones of growing up.

Hamlet himself teaches us that people are prisoners of their circumstances, and no matter how strong the will, sometimes there simply is not always a way. I’m trying to accept that very few reach the top of their field, and that big dreams are not realistic – but part of me still wants to cling on to the hope.

I’m sure many of you may feel the same way, and I’d encourage others to open up about how they feel. I find writing cathartic, others will find their own way.

It’s difficult, trying not to compare yourself to other, trying to encourage yourself to live in the moment and find your own path, being realistic about what you can and can’t change, and achieve.

Perhaps old quote really does say it best – “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.”

Maybe the first step is accepting that you might never make it to the moon, and that’s okay. The next is deciding which star you want to land upon – and for me, that’s still a stumbling block. 

Britain must learn to be ashamed of its colonial past to beat racism

“Racism is a global issue. Racism is a British issue. It is not one that is merely confined to the United States – it is everywhere, and it is systemic,” wrote Edward Enninful, editor-in-chief of Vogue magazine’s British edition.

With the toppling of the statue of 17th century slave trader, Edward Colston by Black Lives Matter protestors in Bristol, many Britons are becoming aware for the first time of the real history of the British Empire and the actions its subjects performed during its colonial days. This begs the question, why did many people not know of this before? Or at least not realise its relevance and impact on modern society? And how do we move forward and insist that racism is finally given the boot from our institutions and society at large?

Racism is woven into the fabric of British society.

The murder of George Floyd has brought racism in the American police force into question, and as most things do, the issue has crossed the Atlantic with protests throughout the United Kingdom. The Macpherson report from 1999 established that the Metropolitan Police was institutionally racist and progress might have been made since, but recent statistics still do not make for comfortable reading.

In London, black people are more than nine times more likely to be stopped and searched by the police. They are 4 times more likely to be arrested than their white counterparts. Figures from the 2017-2018 period showed that Met officers were four times more likely to use force against black people than white people as a percentage of the population. Black people are twice as likely to die in police custody than white people.

As I wrote in my 2017 piece, why can’t we shift Structural & Institutional Racism?, racism in Britain is not as brash as in America, but it runs through our class system and the structures of our society, it infects our institutions like cancer.

The problem is the issue of poverty, exclusion, and accepted institutionalised and everyday racism. It is about the discriminatory practices that go under the radar, but are embedded into the fabric of society.

For years, racism has been defined by the violence of far-right extremists, but a more insidious kind of prejudice can be found where many least expect it – at the heart of respectable society – Reni Eddo-Lodge

The Trade Union Congress (TUC) commissioned the Racism at Work survey. It reported that 70% of ethnic minority workers said that they have experienced racial harassment at work in the last five years, and around 60% said that they had been subjected to unfair treatment by their employer because of their race.

It was reported that PWC, the global professional services firm, pays its black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) staff almost 12.8% less than its other UK employees. A study by the Chartered Management Institute and the British Academy of Management found that just 6% of management jobs are held by ethnic minorities.

British citizens from BAME backgrounds have to send, on average, 60% more job applications to get a positive response from employers compared to their white counterparts, according to researchers at Nuffield College’s Centre for Social Investigation (CSI). Inside Out London sent CVs from two candidates, “Adam” and “Mohamed”, who had identical skills and experience, in response to 100 job opportunities. Adam was offered 12 interviews, while Mohamed was offered four.

Black people make 12% of the prison population in England and Wales even though they make up just 3% of the population. More than half of young people in jail are of BME background. The Labour MP for Tottenham, David Lammy repeated concerns about the lack of diversity within the judiciary that was a driving factor behind this.

On top of all this, systemic inequality has left working-class BAME communities bearing some of the worst of the coronavirus pandemic. 95% of the doctors who died during the first month of the pandemic were from the BAME community.

Racist graffiti in Maidstone, Kent – March 2020

White privilege exists. Racism in the UK exists. If you can’t see this, then you’re choosing not to.

The debate around race has been toxic in the last few years

British social attitudes survey recorded a significant increase in the number of people who were happy to admit their own racism since 2001. The sharpest rise was among “white, professional men between the ages of 35 and 64, highly educated and earning a lot of money”. The dog whistle tactics of the EU referendum Leave campaign played upon this and has since exacerbated the problem. Group’s like Britain First have seen a resurgence of far-right fascism in the UK.

Whilst troubling that we have allowed this to be the case, this is not even the main challenge. If all racism was as easy to spot and denounce as white extremism is, the task of the anti-racist would be simple. It’s the subtle racism that will be really difficult to weed out – its roots run deep.

Politics in the UK is tribal, and especially after the EU referendum of 2016 many have picked their side and simply are not for the turning. They will overlook the errors of their side because much like the support of a football team they have developed a blind loyalty to that political side – even when that side purposely uses racism campaigning tools. We must ask what this says about us as a country that many are prepared to do this.

Britain’s colonial past is the key unlocking British racism

For most people who don’t know Bristol, the real shock was that the 21st-century city still had a statue of a slave trader on public display. Newsflash, that statue is not the only one. By toppling the statue of Edward Colston, and plunging it into the harbour, Black Lives Matter protesters have thrust the empire and its legacy into the spotlight. And this understanding of our colonial history is the key to unlocking the way forward.

A YouGov poll found 44% were proud of Britain’s history of colonialism, with 21 per cent regretting it happened and 23 per cent holding neither view – so tainted is the idea of the glory of empire, so few apparently know the truth about colonisation, or simply overlook the barbaric bits. The independent review into the Windrush scandal recommended that all Home Office staff should “learn about the history of the UK and its relationship with the rest of the world, including Britain’s colonial history”.

Our nation must confront the inconvenient facts of its controversial history rather than bask in glorious versions of an imperial past. This nostalgia over the age of empire must end. So let’s start talking about it, and realise that the history of this nation is marred with violence and injustice.

How many British people know that Britain was responsible for such atrocities as rounding up black Africans into “work camps” where torture and mass executions were common, allowing a famine to kill millions in India, massacring thousands of unarmed protesters. This is not an exhaustive list. Read more about the worst atrocities of the British Empire and about the black British history you may not know about.

Mau Mau suspects at one of the prison camps in 1953

Perhaps to most, the empire is largely something that happened to other people, and largely happened overseas. But the British Empire was brutal, and wildly racist. Conveniently only the glory of Britain seems to be covered in the history syllabus – we seem to leave all the bits that make us look evil out. Britain must change its national psyche and become ashamed of its colonial past, much like Germany is ashamed of the Nazi years.

Let’s start in schools. Let’s make room in the history syllabus for broader coverage of UK black history, and of the truly shocking nature of our colonial years and the pain we inflicted. Let’s teach children about Enoch Powell, Oswald Mosley and Britain’s flirtations with fascism. History lessons at school reflect the dominant narrative, a substantial shift is needed. Moving from Kings & Queens directly to the First World War is omitting an important part of our history that is essential for increasing tolerance and respect for our diverse communities.

Let’s make it common knowledge that we compensated the owners, and not the slaves, upon the abolition of slavery in 1833 – and that we all paid for this through our taxes, as the debt incurred was not paid off until 2015. Yes, we paid damages to people that owned slaves.

The lessons of the past have not been learnt. Need I remind you of the the “hostile environment” and the Windrush scandal? Of Grenfell Tower?

There are those that will speak against this, calling it unpatriotic to teach our children of history how it actually was. They don’t want to acknowledge the history of slavery and colonialism because the ignorance keeps them from having to do anything about how the BAME community are treated. Simply put, if you impulsively care about protecting our dark history so much, you’re probably on the wrong side of it.

History isn’t neutral, and having statues commemorating the men whose abhorrent actions caused misery and loss of life is, in essence, justifying their actions. All these people now seeking to protect these statues probably knew nothing about them before last week. It’s all part of the bigger picture.

No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate

Nelson Mandela

Pulling down such statues is not even “erasing history” as some have remarked – there are no statues of Hitler yet we have still not forgotten about the horrors he committed. These are the techniques of distraction. They are less worried about history, and more about preventing change in the present and the future. History is always in the making, and removing slave trader statues is a symbol that we are prepared to break with our old ways and change for the better. It is history in the making.

Without learning from the past, you are bound to make the same mistakes so the saying goes – this is universally agreed. Need I remind you of the the “hostile environment” and the Windrush scandal? A better understanding of our history, including the horrific crimes committed in Britain’s name, is essential for understanding the country we live in today.

Sometimes protests really are the only way to break through

Have you found yourself saying that people should not be protesting at this time? Yes, it is not ideal in the middle of a pandemic and with social distancing measures in place – but instead of crying out “It’s disgusting that people are protesting at this time” try to change your mindset to think “Isn’t it disgusting that people are having to protest for their basic human rights at all, never mind during a pandemic”. Walk a mile in their shoes. Understand the desperation.

The system hasn’t listened for far too long. The heavily lauded democratic processes have not worked. When people ask politely for things like a broader school or university curriculum, or the removal of statues of slave traders from city centres, or to get equal treatment regardless of the colour of their skin, they have been met with disdain. Sometimes, the only option is to get loud.

Would women have won the right to vote if Emmeline Pankhurst and the suffragettes had not chained themselves to fences and if Emily Davison had not thrown herself in front of the King’s horse? I think not. Public protest is the political last resort.

The figure of Robert Milligan was taken down from its plinth at West India Quay in the Docklands on Tuesday – two days after campaigners tore down a statue of a slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol. London’s Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS foundation trust said that two statues at its hospitals would be taken out of public view due to their association with the slave trade. A statue of King Leopold II in the Belgian town of Antwerp was removed.

Protests work. Sometimes they are the only way to win change.

The stepping stones towards a society of inclusion and equality

So how do we move forwards? It’s going to be an uphill battle. Social media is littered with vile comments which shows how deeply the problem is ingrained into people’s physiological make-up, and I quote directly from comments on North Yorkshire Police’s recent Facebook post which I recently came across; “Get the CS gas and riot vans ready”, “its terrorism” and “All lives matter. They should bring the army in”. There are some vile individuals out there, filled with hatred and anger.

Though, as mentioned earlier, these type of folk are not the meat of the problem. Structural racism is multiple people with the same biases, unbeknown to them or not, joining together to make up one organisation. It is implicit biases, snap judgments made on assumptions of competency. There are pockets of society that will claim that there is no problem: they refuse to see, or lack the empathy to see past their own doorsteps. That will not be easy to dismantle.

So, take down all the statues of slave traders and put them in a museum, let that museum teach of the horrors of the British Empire, let it be a warning, much like Auschwitz is, that we must always be mindful of the past and learn from the mistakes of history. But make no assumptions that this alone will be enough – we mustn’t let people come to the belief that racism is a thing just of our past – we must also be taught and reflect upon how racism rears its ugly head in modern society. But the teaching of the horrors of the British Empire is the key that will get our foot in the door.

If you think you’re too small to have an impact, try going to bed with a mosquito in the room.

Anita Koddick

We must reprogram our minds. We must always be mindful of our actions, and ensure we root out any subconscious bias or prejudices. Race doesn’t make for comfortable conversation, but we must have those conversations. The virtue signalling of posting a picture or quote on your social media wall and then simply moving on with your day will achieve nothing.

Most people will never realise the types of racism that BAME people have to face throughout their lives. I’d recommend reading Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge – it’s a difficult but enlightening read. Take a look at Vogue’s Essential Anti-Racist Reading List. Then talk with your BAME friends and work colleagues about their experiences. For these people, the burden of living in an unequal world and fighting these battles is heavy, exhausting and inescapable. We must stand with them to demand change.

It is not enough to stay silent, it is not enough not to be racist, we must be actively anti-racist. We must face the past of our nation and the horrors of colonialism, and feel ashamed of it. We must be mindful, and we must demand better.

The arts have supported us through Covid-19, now we must support them

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The arts are in trouble, Covid-19 has hit them hard. Unless we want to lose a huge proportion of our cultural heritage and arts venues, we must act now.

The arts are a source of pleasure, solace, and escapism for people the world around. In Britain, we have a rich artistic heritage and continue to be world leaders in the industry. We’re the land of Shakespeare, of Andrew Lloyd Webber, and of The Beatles. Theatre attracts more than twice as many tourists to the UK as sporting events, according to research published by VisitBritain. 40% of UK households subscribe to Netflix. But all that is at danger of being lost unless urgent action is taken.

Theatres and live music venues are likely to be the hardest hit. Leading theatre producer Cameron Mackintosh has warned that theatres will not be able to open until 2021 “The truth is, until social distancing doesn’t exist any more we can’t even plan to reopen”. Fellow West End producer Sonia Friedman wrote in The Telegraph, that “British theatre is on the brink of collapse” and that “70 per cent of our performing arts companies will be out of business before the end of this year”. She predicts that the moment the job retention scheme ends, theatres will sink. The famous Globe Theatre, a bastion of our cultural heritage, has warned it will not survive without urgent funding. Regional theatre’s face going bust without the income that Christmas Panto’s bring. 82% of grassroots music venues are at immediate risk of closure.

https://www.statista.com/chart/21706/places-people-in-uk-avoid-after-lockdown/

For most companies and venues it is simply not possible to think out re-opening in the coming months. Certainly, for most, it is not viable to re-open with social distancing in place: most theatres, for instance, rely on around 70% of audience capacity to break even, and can you imagine a production of Romeo & Juliet where the star crossed lovers have to stay two metres apart at all times.

Most London theatres are old and not exactly spacious. Each big musical has about 200 people working in one building. There’s the matter of getting everyone in and out of the theatre safely, how do they deal with hygiene issues and queues for the toilets during the interval, among other logistical issues. And even if it were all possible to do safely, how many people are actually going to feel comfortable sitting in a confined space with hundreds of strangers for 3 hours in the foreseeable future? Simply put, it isn’t going to work.

Similarily with film production companies. How can they continue filming whilst social distancing measures are in place? Shooting actors two metres apart will not make for great viewing.

Ask yourself this: as you’ve been sat at home, searching for solace from Covid-19, where have you turned? Likely the arts. Whether it be binge-watching a Netflix series, watching one of the many streamed theatrical productions online, or listening to live-streamed concerts from your favourite artists. It is the arts, and artists, that have helped many get through this difficult time. Now it is our turn to help them.

For every £1 invested in the arts, up to £6 is generated in the local economy. The Arts Council reports the industry contributes £10.8billion a year to the UK economy, contributes £2.8billion a year to the Treasury via taxation, and generates a further £23billion a year and 363,700 jobs. Life would be beige without the arts, but there’s a lot to lose economically as well.

And it’s not just arts organisations that are struggling, it’s the artists themselves, many of whom found all their work cancelled overnight when lockdown measures were introduced. Over two-thirds of theatre workers are self-employed or freelance, many have fallen through the gaps in the Self Employment Income Support Scheme, and with no furlough pay have been left with little or no support at all.

Email your MP and ask them to sign the Society of London Theatre and UK Theatre’s open letter, sign a petition yourself, shout it from the rooftops, donate to your favourite venue or a struggling artist. Do whatever you can, but do it now. Time is running out.

Churchill’s famously said, “The arts are essential to any complete national life”. Boris Johnson should heed the words of his hero and idol and act before it is too late – it will certainly be easier to safeguard the industry now than it will be to rebuild it from the ruins.

Identities are not a matter of political opinion

I have often heard myself saying that “Politics is life”. In saying this, I am usually attempting to provide a concise way of demonstrating just how meaningful and necessary it is to appreciate the relationship between our daily lives and our country’s political landscape.

In many ways, life and politics are inextricably interwoven. Take the mundane act of grocery shopping, for example: Our government dictate how much we have to spend on our shopping by having the ability to adjust wages and salaries through various policies. The current state of our economy impacts how much we will pay for each item. Our government’s relationships with foreign world leaders – both in terms of trade and compatibility – have an effect on where the stock has come from before it arrived in a supermarket to be purchased by us. This is just one collection of examples of how the wider political climate plays a role inside our homes, classrooms, workplaces and beyond.

For this reason, I believe it is appropriate to forgive a lot of people for thinking that our identities can also be influenced, or can have influence, in relation to politics. This, however, is a facet of human life that can and should remain isolated from politics, and here’s why:

Politics exists in the realm of opinion. Coupled with our personal beliefs, our political opinions are maps of what we hope to achieve for ourselves and those that we care for. With each cheer or jeer following a parliamentary performance, we each solidify our belief in our separate causes, with the hope that we will one day feel mostly satisfied with the state of our government and with the freedoms we have gained from installing it. Taking personal factors into account, it would be reasonable to imagine that the political priority of a teacher may be to insure that they vote for and support a government who promises to fund schools adequately whilst placing an ample amount of value on education. This, however, need not have any connection to the educational background of the teacher in question, and therefore, to their identity. Let’s say that this particular teacher wants the things that I have already mentioned, but that they also believe that fair access to an appropriate education is a human right. Is this a political statement?

Now, let’s examine this in terms of our right to live freely as human beings: As a gay person, I am constantly reminded that there are many people who politicise my existence. From the people who believe that I should have less rights in workplaces and elsewhere, face prison time or even death for the way that I was born, to people who treat the love that I share with my soon-to-be Wife as a radically polarising political statement of intent.

Many of these people believe that Marriage Equality (and many other Human Rights issues) functions as a point of discussion, rather than an undeniable instrument to be used in a timeless battle to be recognised as equal. This attitude leaves room for opinion over subjects that only require the knowledge of what is morally correct or incorrect. Morality requires no such discourse.

One particularly jarring example of this can be found in the “Debates” surrounding the Trans community. Whilst I do believe that exchanging ideas between allies, trans people and those without knowledge on the subject is an excellent idea – a welcome means of educating both those within the LGBT+ community and those outside of it – I also believe that certain topics should not be up for discussion. There should be no debate on the existence of trans people and on their right to live authentically. This is a sentiment that should not go unheard.

The validity of someone’s existence is notA matter of opinion“. Believing that people who belong to any marginalised group are deserving of less rights because of who they are is notHaving an opinion“. It is simply a person exercising their ability to speak in order to invalidate somebody else. It is the use of one voice to quieten the voices of those that you do not understand.

To summarise, a member of a marginalised group is not making a “political statement” simply by existing. If politics has any place in a person’s right to exist, it is only for the ways that it can be used in order to grant us all equal freedoms so that we may all be given the chance to live and love with abandon and without justification.

A person’s right to fair and equal treatment does not warrant a discussion. Instead, it demands for society to side with what is morally just and to do what is necessary to honour such a right.

The lies have it, the lies have it.

Today is a sorry day for British democracy. A real dark day. When lies go unchallenged, we all suffer. And when an election is won on lies, don’t be surprised to find you are governed by liars.

The result of this election sets a precedent that you can lie, cheat and evade scrutiny and get away with it.

The willingness of the Conservatives to mislead, misinform, and tell outright lies is a new low in British politics. From creating a fake Labour manifesto, to changing their twitter handle to pretend it was an independent fact-checking site, and all the other little lies along the way, the Conservatives have shamelessly said anything they think increases their chances of an election victory, with little regard for the consequence of their actions, both politically and socially.

Nearly 90% of Facebook ads paid for by the Conservative Party in the first few days of December contained misleading claims, an investigation found. Compared to 0% within similar Labour posts.

My personal favourite lie was when Boris Johnson claimed he’d never lied in his life. The sheer contempt he, and his ilk, hold for the public is staggering. It’s just a big game to them.

But no lie was and is bigger than their election slogan “Get Brexit Done”. Brexit is far from being done, with only a withdrawal deal agreed, discussion on future trading arrangements has yet to begin – from previously completed EU trade deals, these can take nearly a decade to conclude. Michael Barnier has said as much himself.

“The Party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.”

1984 by George Orwell

So how did the Conservatives get away with it?

Boris Johnson and political strategist (and unelected bureaucrat) Dominic Cummings had seen what has happened in America, where Donald Trump has told lie after lie and faced no repercussions. They latched onto this tactic knowing that people wouldn’t care – the comforting lie would beat the hard truth.

Media outlets such as the BBC have had their hand in creating this climate. For too long now “in the interest of balance” they have presented fact against opinion with equal weight. The equivalent of “so we’ve heard from the weatherman, and now to argue the point that it’s not actually raining outside, here is Bob from a shadily funded think-tank”. Remember, we’re “sick of experts”? The media reluctance to pull up Bob and say “hang on, we can see out the window that it is raining” has given rise to this.

So where were the media to call the Conservatives out during this election campaign? To be fair, some organisations tried, but a lot of people no longer wanted to listen. The issue is that so much of the media exists to facilitate rather than scrutinise or challenge the Conservative party. The print media have been drip-feeding people vitriol about Labour, and in particular Jeremy Corbyn for years. Even the BBC, meant to be impartial, edited clips to make Mr Johnson look more favourable, and Political Editor Laura Kuenssberg yesterday it seems potentially breached electoral law talking bout how postal votes were not reading favourably for Labour.

The media, and in particular the BBC really need to reflect upon this in the coming months.

Jeremy Corbyn has done wonders in the face of the sheer amount of vitriol that has come his way, and the smears and blatant lies he has had to combat He has campaigned tirelessly, and genuinely enjoys meeting people – unlike the Prime Minister who even elected to hide in a fridge to avoid questions. Corbyn and his team have put issues like rail nationalisation back into the public domain – do you think that the Conservatives would be pledging to increase the minimum wage had their not been such mobilisation from Corbyn’s Labour on this and other issues?

I agree, Corbyn isn’t and wasn’t perfect. Perhaps if he’d come down stronger on the Brexit issue it might have won him plaudits. But this country does need to come together, and perhaps doing so may have deepened the divide. His “honest broker” approach was measured and built to do just that. He listens to people, something our political leaders of late have forgotten how to do – little they care.

I heard countless people saying they couldn’t possibly vote for Jeremy Corbyn throughout the campaign, but very few could give me a rationale that didn’t include the phrases “terrorist sympathiser”, “threat to security”, “he’s a Marxist/communist” or question “where is the money coming from” despite the fact that Labour had a fully costed manifesto (the Conservatives didn’t). All tabloid attack lines. Repeated buzzwords. Propaganda – plain and simple. How many of these people had actually looked at Labour’s manifesto with their own eyes? I’ll bet you not many had. Corbyn was 3-0 down before the match had even started.

I do not blame those taken in by media smears, they have been duped. A lot of time and money is ploughed into misleading people and shaping public opinion. We should be angry at those who mislead, not the misled.

So to those people, and I say this with love, ask yourself this – why do media organisations mostly registered in the Cayman Islands so they don’t have to pay tax, and owned by billionaires who also avoid paying tax, have so much invested in influencing our political system and encouraging you not to vote for Labour? Is it your interests they have at heart, or might it be their own? Because their interests are certainly not the same as your own.

So what happens now? Well, more of the same. Tax cuts for the rich, an increase in homelessness and food bank usage around the country. Children going to school hungry. The NHS, schools and services starved of funds. Austerity and declining living standards for us, whilst the rich getting richer. And then there will be the “it’s not our fault we haven’t got Brexit done”. And if Brexit is done, a bonfire of workers rights and health & safety and environmental regulations.

Corbyn’s time as leader will inevitably come to an end, and it will be up to whoever is elected to replace him to build on the platform he has created. They must learn the lessons of the past 4 years, find a way to combat the hostile media, hold the government to account, and change this country for the better.

But we have more reason to be concerned than a continuation of austerity and deprivation under 5 more years of Tory rule.

The Tory manifesto pledges to “look at the broader aspects of our constitution”, leading to concerns that they wish to stamp out our ways of holding them to account – this would be branded a move towards autocracy anywhere else in the world. Our democracy is under attack, be in no doubt.

It will see issues such as climate change and the NHS swept under the carpet. It will likely bring about significant boundary and constitutional changes that will keep the Conservatives in power for the foreseeable future.

And then there’s the fact they have made noises about changing human rights. And the report into Russian interference in British politics that they have refused to release. Certainly Orwellian.

In a time of deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act.

George Orwell

Political reform is desperately needed, first-past-the-post does not work in the modern era. Many people feel their vote is wasted, and their views not represented. This is, however, an issue that requires a more in-depth analysis and one I will explore in the near future. While the Conservatives are in power, and the system undeniably favours them, they will certainly not move to change it – so pressure must be applied.

I pity and fear for this country. Things will get worse, markedly worse. It will be what we have voted for, yes, but our democracy has been so heavily subverted. Those with the least will suffer the worst, but ultimately we all rely on the NHS and other services, so we will all see the effects, directly or indirectly.

With trust is already so low in British Politics, this “post-truth” consensus cannot be allowed to become the new political norm. Otherwise, we sleep-walk into heavens knows where.

Worrying times indeed. But at least we’ll have our blue passports, right?

Only a confirmatory referendum, not a general election, can break the Brexit impasse

Parliament has spent the past three years proclaiming that “the people” voted for this, or didn’t vote for that. The truth is that the referendum was reduced to such a crude choice that no one knows exactly what the majority voted for. Rather than encouraging an informed politics, it has made our system even more reductive.

A binary referendum on such a complicated issue, one involving such a huge constitutional change, was never a good idea. To have one without requiring a threshold such as a supermajority requirement was criminal, and is what has caused such division and the toxic atmosphere we currently see in the nation.

But that is in the past – we now have the detail of how we might leave the EU and what that might involve, something that was absent during the campaign. It would only be wise to pause and think, look at the detail and forecasts, and to ask again if this is really what the public want.

“it might make more sense to have the second referendum after the renegotiation is completed”

Jacob Rees-Mogg

However, the government is pushing for a general election. They sense a chance to utilise a people vs parliament message to regain a parliamentary majority – and hence claim a mandate for their Brexit deal. The only way they can do so is by neutralising the threat of the Brexit Party – hence the deeply worrying war-like use of terms such as “surrender”. To beat the Brexit party, they must become the Brexit party.

A general election would by nature become a de-facto referendum on how we move forward with Brexit – this is, in fact, exactly what the Conservative government want. But a general election brings nothing but muddy waters. The first past the post system means that some people’s views on how we progress will not be honestly or represented at all as they would in a confirmatory referendum.

A general election should be an opportunity to vote on a broad range of policies – it should never be used as a vote on a single issue, this is by definition what we have referenda for.

How are people, for instance, expected to vote when they a pro-Leave but are worried about the state of our public services and the impact of austerity?

And, of course, as in the 2017 general election, we are not guaranteed a working majority at the end of it. Muddy waters.

As Shakespeare wrote, “it cannot come to good”. Yes, Hamlet was speaking of his mother’s incestuous relationship with his uncle, and not a general election tainted by Brexit – but the sentiment fits the bill.

So why do the government want a general election rather than a confirmatory referendum? Mainly due to the fact that 10 million votes would likely win a majority in the general election, and they’d need 17 million-plus to win a referendum. The 19th-century model of democracy, First Past the Post, which is in desperate need of reforms, sees to that. The referendum result stood at 52% to 48%, however 406 constituencies to 242 voted to leave.

Much like a dodgy car salesman sure that the car they are trying to sell you runs like a dream, but whatever you do don’t look under the bonnet, the government wants to avoid scrutiny of sending the country in a direction that will undoubtedly cause this country considerable hardship. They can avoid debate and simply bark “get Brexit done” over and over until they are red in the face. It is why Boris Johnson unlawfully shut down Parliament, refuses to release impact assessments, tried to ramrod an important bill through Parliament in only two days, and refuses to appear before select committees. To avoid scrutiny or any semblance of detail.

The devil is in the detail. With a deal in place and, to an extent, impact assessments to show what the future health of the nation would look like, a confirmatory referendum would give people the detail that was lacking in the original campaign – and give a much clearer mandate than a general election ever could.

The thing is, the detail doesn’t make good reading for Johnson and the Conservatives. And the only arguable reason for proceeding with Johnson’s deal is because people want to “get Brexit done” – because there are no positives, anyone with half a brain cell has already realised this, the Brexiteers have long since stopped claiming that Brexit will be sunny uplands and unicorns as they claimed during the referendum campaign.

“O, what a tangled web we weave when first we practise to deceive!”


Sir Walter Scott

A confirmatory referendum is the only clean way forward. It makes sense. But of course, when sense comes into the equation, Brexit falls apart like a cheap suit.

If the Brexiteers are so confident that this is a great deal, and that “the people” still desperately want Brexit, then why are they afraid to put this back to the people?

Because it won’t be a success, the governments own reports suggest this. it will best case scenario a logistical nightmare, and potentially a national catastrophe. Best case scenario Brexit may slice 5-6% off the economy – to put this in perspective, the financial crisis of 2007-2008 lead to a decline of around 2%. But this is all about Boris Johnson, his rich backers, and the Conservative party remaining in power, and not the welfare of the country. And so we must get Brexit done.

To hell and a handcart to the rest of the country. Bring on the removal of workers rights, measures improving air quality or tackling tax evasion.

You can bet that if Brexit does happen, and the country suffers, it will not be Johnson’s or the Conservative’s fault. It will be the fault of the EU, Jeremy Corbyn, or the “remoaner parliament” – anybody but them. The tabloids will echo this, and people will begin spouting it on the streets – even though some will have lost their jobs. People are so far down the rabbit hole they cannot and will continue to not be able to see they’ve been duped.

It’s that predictable it is enough to make you groan. Quite frankly, we deserve better. Boris Johnson can afford to be reckless – it will be the rest of us who pay the price.

Whatever happens now, it will be messy – a referendum can’t resolve the deep national rift, but it can clear the pungent smell that has tainted the political air.

20 reasons why Boris Johnson isn’t fit to be Prime Minister

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As the first round of Conservative leadership candidates was whittled down by their parliamentary party, Boris Johnson secured a third of the votes – making him clear favourite to become the next leader, and de-facto Prime Minister.

He is a compulsive liar, he appears to lack any moral compass at all – to cut a long story short, he’s a liability and a catastrophe waiting to happen.

Clearing up after Boris Johnson‘s gaffes as foreign secretary was a “full-time activity”, one of his former ministers, Sir Alan Duncan, has said. Max Hastings, his former editor at the Daily Telegraph, once described him as a “gold medal egomaniac” who “yearns with a mad hunger to become prime minister”.

In case you needed further convincing, here’s a list of reasons why Boris Johnson is not fit to hold high office.

Sacked from the Times for making up quotes

Johnson was hired by the Times through family connections, and fired for a front-page fabrication within months – on his very first front page story.

Johnson was sacked over allegations he fabricated a quote from his godfather, the historian Colin Lucas, for a front-page article about the discovery of Edward II’s Rose Palace.

Lies, lies and more lies

After leaving the Times, Mr Johnson moved to The Daily Telegraph, working as the publication’s Brussels correspondent between 1989 and 1994.

His articles, like those in several other Eurosceptic newspapers, contained many of the claims widely described as “Euromyths”, including plans to introduce same-size “eurocoffins”, establish a “banana police force” to regulate the shape of the curved yellow fruit, and ban prawn cocktail crisps.

When questioned about them in parliament, he denied suggestions they were a figment of his imagination.

The extra-marital affairs – and lying about them

Michael Howard gave Boris Johnson two new jobs after becoming leader of the Conservatives in 2003 – party vice-chairman and shadow arts minister.

He was sacked from both positions in November 2004 after assuring Mr Howard that tabloid reports of his affair with Spectator columnist Petronella Wyatt were false and an “inverted pyramid of piffle”. When the story was found to be true, he refused to resign.

Breaking Commons rules

Mr Johnson broke Commons rules by failing to declare a financial interest in a property within the mandated time limit. The Commons Standards Committee accused him of displaying “an over-casual attitude towards obeying the rules of the house”.

Johnson was also made to apologise for failing to declare more than £52,000 of outside earnings.

Accused Turkish President of having relations with a goat

President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Boris Johnson won a poetry prize for a rude limerick about the president of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, having sex with a goat.

It went:

“There was a young fellow from Ankara

Who was a terrific wankerer

Till he sowed his wild oats

With the help of a goat

But he didn’t even stop to thankera.”

Calling African’s “piccaninnies” with “watermelon smiles”

In 2002, when writing about a visit to Africa by then prime minister Tony Blair, Johnson penned the following. “What a relief it must be for Blair to get out of England. It is said that the Queen has come to love the Commonwealth, partly because it supplies her with regular cheering crowds of flag-waving piccaninnies”. He added “They say he is shortly off to the Congo. No doubt the AK47s will fall silent, and the pangas will stop their hacking of human flesh, and the tribal warriors will all break out in watermelon smiles to see the big white chief touch down in his big white British taxpayer-funded bird.”

Writing in the Daily Telegraph again in 2006, Johnson made a comparison between internal party politics and Papua New Guinea. He wrote “For 10 years we in the Tory Party have become used to Papua New Guinea-style orgies of cannibalism and chief-killing”.

Referring to Africa as “that country” and claiming that Britain should still be in charge of the continent

Reflecting on his first three months in the job at the Tories’ 2016 conference Mr Johnson referred to Africa as “that country”.

Also writing in 2002, this time in The Spectator, Johnson suggested a reprise of the British Empire – in the best interests of Africa. “The problem is not that we were once in charge, but that we are not in charge anymore,” he wrote. “The British planted coffee and cotton and tobacco, and they were broadly right. If left to their own devices, the natives would rely on nothing but the instant carbohydrate gratification of the plantain.”

Claimed that drunken fans were partly responsible for the Hillsborough tragedy

Flowers, wreaths and tributes left on Liverpool’s Anfield stadium pitch in memory of the 96

As Spectator editor in 2004, he claimed that drunken fans were partly responsible for the Hillsborough tragedy, the worst disaster in British sporting history in which 96 football fans were killed. Accusing Liverpudlians of wallowing in their “victim status,”

Claiming women go to university to find men to marry

In 2013 Johnson suggested that women attend university in order to find husbands.

At an Islamic Economic Forum attended by Malaysian PM Najib Razak and Johnson, Razak said: “Before coming here, my officials have told me that the latest university intake in Malaysia, a Muslim country, 68 per cent will be women entering our universities.”

Johnson interjected: “They’ve got to find men to marry.”

Claimed money spend on historical child sex abuse cases was money “spaffed up a wall”

During a radio interview Johnson had this to say about historical child sex abuse cases.

“You know, £60m I saw was being spaffed up a wall on some investigation into historic child abuse and all this kind of thing. What on earth is that going to do to protect the public now?”

Broken promises as London Mayor

Having promised in his 2008 manifesto to ensure there would be manned ticket offices at every train station, he agreed to widespread closures to pay for a 24-hour tube.

He promised to eradicate rough sleeping by 2012, only for it to double during his leadership. He was also accused of telling “barefaced lies” after he stated that police numbers would increase in London despite government cuts.

He closed 10 stations and fired 552 firefighters. He promised more apprenticeships, but they fell by 100,000. He wasted £320,000 on water cannon‘s that could not be used.

In his leadership campaign speech he said he “took this city through riots” in 2011. Except for the fact he initially declined to cut short a holiday to help deal with the mass civil disturbance.

Wasted £43 million of public money on a garden bridge that never even began construction

Rendering of the proposed Garden Bridge

The Garden Bridge project was a private proposal for a pedestrian bridge over the River Thames in London. The charity behind a plan to build a garden bridge across the Thames in London spent £53.5m without even beginning full construction.

Johnson signed a directive as mayor in 2016 which watered down some of the conditions that had to be met before more public money was released. Questioned by the London assembly last year on why he did this, Johnson said he could not remember.

Lied about the NHS gaining an extra £350 million per week during the EU Referendum campaign.

Launching the Vote Leave bus tour, he backed the infamous claim on the side of the bus that the UK was sending £350m a week to the EU, followed by “let’s fund our NHS instead”.

Just days after the campaign, Nigel Farage admitted the figure was “a mistake” – Mr Johnson ratcheted up his defence, telling The Guardian in January 2018 that the sum was too low.

He also claimed there were 80 million Turks heading our way, that we’d have a quick and easy divorce because Germany was desperate to sell us cars — all lies.

“My policy on cake is pro-having it and pro-eating it,” he declared – breathtaking stupidity.

Likening the EU project to Third Reich

In May 2016, as the Brexit campaign was entering its ill-tempered final phase, Johnson told media that European history was marked by repeated attempts to unify the continent. “Napoleon, Hitler, various people tried this out, and it ends tragically,” Johnson said. “The EU is an attempt to do this by different methods. But fundamentally … there is no underlying loyalty to the idea of Europe.”

Disastrous tenure in the Foreign Office and condemning British woman to further time in an Iranian jail.

During his time in the Foreign Office his officials could apparently get no plan, priority or strategy from him. He offended, mocked and idled.

During a foreign affairs committee hearing in November 2017, Johnson said British-Iranian citizen Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe had been detained in Tehran while “simply teaching people journalism.” Iran has long viewed the BBC’s Persian broadcasting service as a subversive arm of MI6.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s employer, Thomson Reuters Foundation, released a statement making clear that she was not working in Iran, but was on holiday in the country to show her daughter, Gabriella, to her grandparents.

She still remains in an Iranian jail, currently on hunger strike.

Claiming Libya’s Sirte could be ‘new Dubai’ if they ‘clear the dead bodies away’

Addressing a UK business forum in October 2017, Johnson told how fighting in Libya had prevented a group of investors from transforming the coastal city of Sirte “into the next Dubai.” Johnson added that “the only thing they have got to do is clear the dead bodies away.” Downing Street chided him for his remarks, while Johnson accused his critics of having “no knowledge or understanding” of Libya.

Obama accused of harboring ‘ancestral dislike’ of the UK

US President Barack Obama’s intervention in the Brexit referendum in April 2016 provoked a furious reaction from Johnson. After Obama said the UK would be better off remaining part of the EU, Johnson described the US president “part Kenyan” and accused him of harboring an “ancestral dislike” of the United Kingdom.

Recited part of a colonial-era Rudyard Kipling poem in front of local dignitaries at a sacred Buddhist site. 

Johnson was accused of “incredible insensitivity” during a state visit to Myanmar in September 2017, as he recited part of a colonial-era Rudyard Kipling poem in front of local dignitaries at a sacred Buddhist site.  Visibly embarrassed, Britain’s Myanmar ambassador forced the foreign secretary to stop halfway through his impromptu recital.

Flattened a 10 year old playing an informal game of rugby

In October 2015, Boris Johnson was forced to apologize as his competitive nature on the sports field saw him knock over a 10-year-old during what was supposed to be an informal game of rugby in Tokyo.

Compared Muslim women to “letterboxes” and “bank robbers”

In his Telegraph column, Mr Johnson said he felt “fully entitled” to expect women to remove face coverings when talking to him at his MP’s surgery. He said schools and universities should be able to take the same approach if a student “turns up … looking like a bank robber”.

Mr Johnson argued the niqab was “oppressive” and it was “absolutely ridiculous that people should choose to go around looking like letter boxes”. 

Also, in 2005, Johnson wrote in the Spectator that he believed it was only “natural” for the public to be scared of Islam.


The Conservative party may face extinction should the elect Boris Johnson – but the damage that might be done in the meantime could be immense. This man is not a clown as the media sometimes portray him, he’s a danger to this country and its people.

For further reading, take a look at this article from the New Yorker – it really is insightful in Boris Johnson’s character and past.

EU Elections: is there any way out of this Brexit black hole?

Both Conservative and Labour parties have suffered losses in the European Parliament elections. With the Brexit Party, Liberal Democrats, and Green party making gains.

It can be comfortably assumed that the Brexit party mostly hoovered up the votes of the collapsing UKIP and siphoned the “Brexit at all costs” Conservative and Labour voters. The Liberal Democrats and Green Party gained support from remain leaning Labour and Conservative voters.

So what can we make from this? That the country is as divided as it ever was, if not more so – the positions have likely become more entrenched.

So is this shift towards pro remain and leave parties a one-off and to an extent a political statement, or are we moving away from the two party system and could this affect a general election?

In 2015, just two-thirds of the electorate voted Conservative or Labour. But in the 2017 General Election, the two major parties won over 82 per cent of the vote between them.

The swing would seem to be hugely influenced by strong Brexit sentiment, but populism is on the rise around Europe, and in many neighbouring countries the two main parties have lost ground. I would still suggest that these results owe more to the fact that the two major parties have to date sought a compromise that nobody really wants than any earthquake within the political landscape. But what happens next is anyone’s guess.

This result is not a positive one for the health of our country, as the Conservative Party will certainly push further towards a damaging no-deal position to counter the insurgent Brexit Party. What the Labour Party do next is perhaps more interesting, they have sat on the fence for so long, trying to avoid losing votes from their remain supporting membership, but also Brexit supporters from their Northern strongholds – they must certainly now fall down on one side or another, advocating the confirmatory referendum, as they have flirted with.

The current makeup of parliament will not allow a no-deal to pass, so presuming the Conservative’s move in that direction with their new leader a general election is surely inevitable – meaning likely another extension to article 50, sure to anger the “just get out” wing of the Brexit supporting public even more.

So could we have a general election with the Conservative’s advocating a hard, or no deal, Brexit, and Labour supporting remain? A defacto Brexit election. How would this play out? Likely another hung Parliament, possibly with a Labour, Lib Dem, SNP, and Green coalition government as a result? Or would the Brexit Party support return to the Conservatives and the northern Labour support fall enough in order for the Conservatives to hold onto a slender majority – presumably putting us back in the same situation we are now of a stalemate in Parliament?

The only definitive way out of this bind is surely returning the decision to the people. But even that is fraught with difficulties, the divide would further damage our country in what is likely to be an even more heated referendum.

If the result is as tight again, especially in the other direction, we will have not healed our divided nation. The fact is, Brexit is a black hole, and however we come out the other side it will inevitably suck us in one way or another.

Brexit was never about the EU, it was about the state of our country and how it is being eaten up by greed and private capital. Misinformation was spread over a number of years about the EU, they became the bogeyman. And now, the troubles this country and its people face will only worsen in the face of Brexit Britain.

There should have always been a built-in margin in the EU referendum in 2016, such huge constitutional changes should not be decided by such slim margins. But what’s done is done, and we must now face the fallout – unlike those who got us into this mess in the first place, who are insulated from the damage they have caused.

What happens next is anybody’s guess – but it certainly won’t be pretty.

The country is a shambles, and may never recover its dignity on the world stage – what a cataclysmic mess. Rest in peace Britannia, killed by lies, false promises, empirical style propaganda, vested interests, and gross ineptitude.

Theatre Review: ‘Orange Polar Bear’ (Birmingham REP)

Orange Polar Bear
by Sun-Duck Ko and Evan Placey
Birmingham REP

Review by Georgia Kelly

Perhaps one of the best pieces of theatre you will see this year is lurking in The Door theatre at Birmingham REP. Collaborating with each other as well as with groups of students in both Birmingham and Seoul, writers Evan Placey and Sun-Duck Ko and Director Peter Wynne-Wilson have created a visually stunning production that distils the issues facing young people growing up in 2018.

Orange Polar Bear was developed from working with those two school groups on opposite sides of the world, asking them questions and listening to their ideas, reacting to their similarities, and their differences, to create a story of two teenagers united by their isolation. Jiyoung with her father and grandmother in their apartment in Seoul, dealing with her mother’s absence and her friend’s popularity. And William in a London flat with his mother, an immigrant woman who buys him coco pops to make him more British, and his quiet school life that soon starts to change. As they navigate a breadth of issues (and we can all relate to one if not more) they think of each other, the boy and the girl they do not know but feel somehow. Who feels the same as they do.

The story of William and Jiyoung and their families and friends have an immense resonance. We’ve all been where they are, even if we’ve forgotten. Placey and Ko have accomplished an impressive feat: an intelligent and warm distillation of virtually every growing pain. Helped in no small part by the talent of the cast and crew.

Engaging and moving, Rasaq Kukoyi and Minju Kim shine in the lead roles, with a formidable ensemble carrying them through London buses, Seoul apartment blocks, and school rooftops. Special mention must go to Cheongim Kang for her mesmeric turns as a fifteen-year-old girl and an elderly grandmother.

Utterly absorbing lighting and projections will leave you transfixed on the stage, the blank canvas of the space transformed in the blink of an eye. An incredible marriage of technology and performance; interactive, vivid, and enthralling.

It’s difficult to put this production into words. Undeniably, the teams behind ‘Orange Polar Bear’ have created something truly beautiful. An unflinching look at how growing up in a world consumed by terror, global warming, austerity, beauty standards, and the otherness of adults makes the youth of today anything but “snowflakes”. Clear-cut and uncompromising, capturing the complexity of young lives today with deceptive simplicity, ‘Orange Polar Bear’ matches it’s excruciating moments with humour and, ultimately, hope. I cannot possibly do this incredible production justice in just one page, it must be seen.

Orange Polar Bear is playing in The Door theatre at Birmingham REP until 10th November.