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Politics

Hancock’s ‘Young People are causing problems’ is just another way to divide us.

The Health Secretary’s finger pointing at young people does not comprise of smart, stable and confident leadership; it reeks of desperation and campaign-like attempts to retain some form of dignity and once more, shift the blame from the ever-growing, all-encompassing abominable mess this government has created.

“Don’t kill your gran by getting Covid” said the Health Secretary last week. Not exactly the confident statement you’d like to hear amidst the most uncertain times in living memory. 

Perhaps one could calmy nod along with Hanock at this statement with a tranquil acceptance and feel assured by his blunt honesty and stark warning of the danger of this disease. Perhaps it could have been the abrupt wakeup call needed to stun young people into following the covid guidelines more rigidly. Perhaps it could have just stopped us all going out altogether, again.

But no, this statement and babbling tirade of finger wagging came just a week after an audacious attempt to get everyone out and about again. It is verging on offensive that this government can one week run a campaign calling on people to fulfil some sort of moral duty to reignite the economy amidst an unparalleled pandemic, then the next, blame them for a rise in infections. 

For our elected ministers to haphazardly blame and pinpoint a certain group of people for their own failings has been a consistent theme during this era. It highlights an inexperienced, ill-equipped and insecure cabinet completely and totally out of their depth. 

For example, the more experienced and more statesman-like governments across Europe have not turned on themselves, their respective cabinet members in charge of health have not sighed, eye-rolled, laughed and stumbled through interviews with obvious disdain for normal, working class people. In France, Macron has not attacked ‘young people’ in fact, he has once more called for unity;  “The only way we will succeed in stopping this epidemic is if all of us are vigilant and stick together.”

In Germany, Angela Merkel has not played on everyone’s moral duty to spend in pubs and bars then chastised them for doing so, the very well qualified chancellor said in April: “caution is the order of the day, not overconfidence” and has believed this ever since by remaining transparent, restrained and accepting of the virus; all while not pointing the finger at certain groups. 

Merkal’s caution statement is the complete polar opposite of Johnson, too. Our zany Prime Minister visited a school earlier this month to highlight it was safe to reopen. He stood, mask-less, Infront of clearly unconvinced students packed side by side and said: “Quite frankly after all that time -159 days – the risk to your health is not from Covid, because statistically speaking your chances of suffering from that disease are very very low, the greatest risk you face now is continuing to be out of school.” What has come of this school? It has now closed, less than two weeks after reopening, because of? You guessed it… Covid-19. 

A division tactic? 

To be young is to vote left. That’s the new order of the day. Gone are typical class divisions, gone is the power of unions and gone is the pull of the left for working men and women. Now, the biggest indicator of voting intention is age – to be young, is to be labour. So, is this government pin-pointing the young as a dangerous force? 

As mentioned above, this government is insecure, they’re vastly out of their depth. As characterised by the entirety of this Brexit fiasco, they would jump at any chance to further their cause… is this another example of that? 

It certainly seems to have begun something. Two pubs in Yorkshire have banned under 25s amidst fears they will spread the disease. This to me, feels like the start of ageism.

Although I recognise that the figures of late have indicated a greater infection rate for 17-24-year olds – I firmly believe this isn’t their fault. The Governement called on us to eat out, to help out. It encouraged us to drink, to eat, to restart our lives, to socialise. It has then turned on us when the obvious effects of this has come to fruition. The government refuse all accountability, it absolves itself from blame and points the finger at groups which may challenge them. 

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Politics

Racism in Rural Britain

I wanted to write something about the naivety of the British public in the face of Racism for a long time, but since the death of George Floyd, I’ve grown increasingly frustrated and sad at not only the incomprehensibly unjust murder, but the tirade of hypocritical ‘support’ seen across social media. Some of this support has felt counter-productive and more like support for supports sake, with no real impetus on the desire to push for change, further the cause or desire to truly understand racism. 

I must stress, this is a small proportion of my viewing, and not a comment on the vast majority of inspired protesters making a stand in the face of discrimination. 

I grew up in a small rural town about 30 miles south of Manchester. The town is predominantly white, and we scarcely saw a great deal of ethnic diversity growing up. Surrounded by local quarry’s and farms, the vast majority of the local economy is propped up by manual jobs and people can largely spend their entire lives in the same 10-mile radius, surrounded by the same white faces. 

In my experience, this has created a hotbed of racist tendencies, often, without people knowing it is actually racist. Locals refer to people from western Asia as Pa*i’s, people of African descent as ‘N*ggers’ or ‘Charcoal men’. In my year group of roughly 400 students, there was only 4 black students. These students were consistently and perpetually signalled out, often called ‘stormzy’ behind their backs. 

‘he was great big spear-throwing type’ ‘tribal looking’, ‘n*gga nose’ are all backwards, detestable, undeniably racist terms I’ve heard pass without so much as the bat of an eye. But this is a truth I’m sure is paralleled across a range of all-white rural towns in Britain. 

In my experience, these terms are not used in to be intentionally and entirely derogatory out of feelings of intense white superiority, but rather considered by the perpetrators as harmless jokes or as labelling terms to define those they are talking about. People refer to a car wash within my town, not by its geographical location like the other two we have, but as the ‘p*ki carwash’, and this is the accepted explanatory term for it. From a young age, Children are taught to label people of colour, by their colour, not by typical characteristics one would describe a white person with; hair style, height or size. 

And this is the very problem with our country, our working-class white towns have not grown with the times of globalisation. Where our cities place a genuine impetus on being increasingly diverse, cosmopolitan and tolerant environments, which grow as the world and as our laws grow, rural Britain is falling behind. My school did little to bridge the gap, black history month always felt like a month for black people, not a month to educate white people about inequality.

In December, when Stormzy called out Racism, he was critiqued, picked apart, attacked and denounced by large sections of our society. The UK is racist. There is no doubt about it. That this is such a divisive statement, stems from small-minded attitudes, local-level normalisation and lack of education about what racism is. Embedded in our predominantly white suburbs and towns is an intrinsically racist society, blinded by our own excuses of tolerance, force-fed ideas about the greatness of the British empire from a young age and naïve to what racism truly is. 

Too often have I heard groups believe they are not being racist, because people of colour cannot hear them. That they’re not racist, because it’s a joke. I was shocked to see the same people who call local corner shops ‘p*ki shops’, sharing posts about justice for George Floyd, out of a genuine belief that they had not been racist.

Rural Britain looks to detach itself from the problem. It feels too easy to absolve uncomfortable truths by saying ‘America is backwards’ to blindly believe in our own innocence. This is unfair, wrong and a complete oversite of the unjust slurs and attacks on our shores. In not recognising its own accepted racism, rural Britain is as bad as the genuine believers of white superiority. 

I like to believe that my experience of racial slurs in rural Britain grows out of naivety and a lack of open-mindness, not a genuine belief in white superiority. But is it any less detestable? Does it make the life of black men and women in the UK any easier? No. We must do better. 

We cannot dress this problem, we cannot excuse this problem, you cannot justify slurs and bigotry with fantasies that if it’s not said in front of a black person, it’s not racist. It simply isn’t true.

Did Adolf Hitler start at the top? No, he spoke selectively about his racist ideas to small groups in beer halls in Munich. Did Tommy Robinson start on national papers? No, his ideology grew from low-level acceptavism. Localising and normalising racial terms, gives platforms and justifications to extremists at all levels, that is why, regardless of who you speak to, regardless of what context, racism is still racism. It is a plague that needs to be eradicated at its source, and that is within your living rooms, within your group chats, within the ‘dark humour pages’. 

Rural Britain needs to stop its own hypocrisy, you cannot label people based on derogatory racial slurs one minute, then post support of George Floyd in the face of popularism the next. The low level acceptavism is the route of racism, the route of the issues which killed George Floyd and so many others in the western plague of racism. 

Rural Britain cannot return to this naivety and blatant racism, to truly help the cause, stop the cause at its source, British men and women must reflect on their own naivety, and denounce derogatory slurs at every turn.

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Politics

Corbyn Wasn’t unelectable – his followers just didn’t show up.

Brexit has shifted the goalposts, to be young is to vote Labour, not to be working class, and when the young don’t show up – how could Labour possibly have won?

Time and Time again this year we’ve heard so many spewing the same line that ‘Corbyn just wasn’t electable’ that his breed of left-wing politics was ‘out-of-touch’ or a ‘fantasy’ as the Tory-in-disguise Tony Blair said in December. Bitterly destroyed in the voting booth only to see his socialist programmes adopted on a mammoth scale some 4 months later (albeit in spectacularly irregular circumstances), it wasn’t his policies that cost him, but his followers, those who do and those who should.

Sure, his campaign wasn’t perfect, or even closely as invigorating as the percussing one in 2017, when Corbyn turned around an inevitable Conservative Landslide to a precarious minority government in as little as six weeks. But, Labour deserved to do better.

Labour grew from trade unions and socialist parties, it was, and is in its very nature and in name, a working-class party designed to represent the masses. Embedded in its very core are values of social democracy, large government, nationalisation and responsibility and empathy for those who cannot provide for themselves. It was and is still, positioned as the party for the people, or rather, for the many, not the few.

One need only look at the history behind Labour MPs and their previous professions to understand where they have traditionally gained their votes. Roughly 25% of Labour MP’s since 1951 have been manual workers, another 25% being teachers. On the contrary, the largest chunk of Conservative MP’s professions have been Company Directors (24%) and Military Professionals (20%).

The contrast is obvious, class-lines have divided the parties for a generation. Labour has a strong pedigree; working men and women, who want to elect their fellows to represent their interests in governments. But, the last two elections have shown that class is no longer the indicator of voting intentions. 

The cataclysmic event of Brexit has blown voting demographics apart, age has now become the key indicator of voting intention, not class, so Labour can no longer depended on their very routes of existence for support, for the political spectrum has been shattered altogether. 

We, the young have grown up in a generation like no-other (as every generation before us did, too). A period of exceptional technological development has made us all experts and introverts. But our generation is a volatile and unreliable source of votes for Labour, who cannot be relied upon for two reasons.

Firstly, Voter turnout amongst the young in 2019 was incredibly low. YouGov compiled a study assessing the turnout in constituents with varying age profiles. The constituencies with the oldest proportion of voters (65 and over at 33%) was 71.4%, 4.1 percentage points above the national average. The constituencies with the youngest proportion of voters (65 and over at 12%) had the lowest turnout, 64.5%, 2.8 points below the national average.

Further studies suggested that only 47% of voters aged 18-24 years old turned out to vote, and 74% of over-65s. Quite clearly, young people didn’t show up in the numbers one would have hoped. I myself know a few with a vocal disposition for the government, who didn’t bother to show up to the voting booth. Young people don’t entertain the same faith in the democratic process as the old, perhaps it is a distrust in the whole thing, a disinterest or maybe a lack of life experience. Each individual will have their own reason, but this disposition towards voting is a hugely costly to Labour, who needed the support of their new, key demographic to stand a chance of beating the Brexiter-in-chief Boris Johnson.

Perhaps, this very laissez-faire approach indicates an entirely different aspect and equally as unreliable characteristic of today’s young; arrogance. Speaking to one former Labour voter this week, he put it quite plainly: “Labour Used to be for the Working Class, now it’s just for the narcissistic socialist who think they’re better than everyone.” This in itself indicates that the young are not only not voting in the numbers they should, but deterring support for the party they seemingly represent too. 

The Young of today are certainly more intelligent than ever; The average child with a smartphone has more access to information than Bill Clinton did in the most powerful job on earth some 20 years ago. We are all Wikipedia experts, able to divulge our peers and our seniors with an onslaught of information on any given topic in seconds. We are better educated, with university more accessible than ever, living at home for longer, with the homes increasingly expensive and becoming parents later. All would suggest a more self-indulged individual, focusing on themselves, rather than improving society. Perhaps the lack of responsibility has allowed self and peer reflection to be embed deeper into the consciousness, giving us a sense of ‘wokeness’ in spite of, not in line with, generations from before.

It is true that the Boomers are commonly viewed as the generation responsible for todays problems. The first cohort of true excess, of the new materialistic world. Holidays of plenty, clothes of plenty, white goods, cars, TVs, stereos, phones and fast food; all the things which our generation are slowly turning their back on, in favour of a world view of simplicity, organic, home-grown, equality. Does this in itself bring in a sense of arrogance? A sort-of narcistic view that our moral compass is on point, that we are ‘woke’ against the ills of generations gone by. 

Perhaps then, with a growing focus on oneself, the young have not dashed to the cry of the Tories but become reluctant to vote all together, and in turn, the ‘wokeness’ has repelled further support for the socialist cause as it is now the young that represent Labour, not the Working Class. After all, the young are typically liberal, open minded, globalists and generally feel as though their view of the world is better than our parents, but yet feel less obligation nor desire to vote, a volatile mix which can only reduce the chance of support for labour. Ultimately resulting in the landslide victory of The Conservative Party in December 2019.

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Politics

This is what happens when those in charge have absolutely no concept of the society they are governing.

This bank holiday weekend has been one to undoubtably forget over at Tory HQ. The news emerged on Saturday morning that the prime minister’s most trusted advisor, or more accurately, conspirer, broke the lockdown laws he was prominent architect of. The country has since reacted in a more united sense than they have in the last 5 years, when he again orchestrated a methodically intense culture war which has dived the country left to right, young to old, more-so than ever before in living memory.

It is as if the entire frustration of 9 weeks of mourning, disruption and irritation has been channelled into cummings, and he has rightfully been the focus of concentrated and prominent attention. Every major paper has led with an image of cummings this weekend, he has been trending on twitter for at least 48 hours and the subject to intense harassment from that campaign vehicle and a whole host of journalists who have camped outside of his ritzy London address. 

Boris and his cabinet (who championed Brexit with their impetus on the will of the people) have scrambled desperately to defend an unelected bureaucratic aid before supporting the will of the people. We cannot underestimate this; this is but one further example in a long line of Tories backing Tories and putting party politics above the country. Cummings moving freely sets a precedent for the rest of us, the end of lockdown. Cameron put the party first in 2015, and we’re still paying the price for it. Johnson, in defending Cummings is doing the same, but this time it’s as literal as a matter of life or death.

The hypocrisy of the government is unambiguous, they have enforced one law on the society they represent and followed another for themselves. In doing so, they have, at least for now, at least for this very fleeting moment, unified a country they so wilfully separated in a bitter culture war for half a decade, the only issue for them, is that we are now unified in our complete disparagement of our leaders.

But this is what happens when those in charge have absolutely no concept of the society they are governing. Take Boris Johnson, a public-school boy, Eton no less, Oxford alumni and a net worth of approximately £1.6m; he’s never in his life had to want for anything, he’s never experienced the poverty that 22% of UK residents experience on a day-to-day basis. Johnson’s upbringing is one of privilege and academia, he has never gained the invaluable life-experience of basic management which so many of us succumb to on a daily basis; of time-management in avoiding traffic on the way to work, of money management in ensuring you have enough money to pay your bills each month, or of parental management in ensuring you do best by your children.

Johnson’s naivety in the face of the great British public can be so amply personified by his tirade of waffling books, quotes and articles before his premiership. In 2005, in an article for the Daily Telegraph, Johnson called the poorest 20% of society: ‘chavs, losers, burglars and drug addicts.’ In 1995, Johnson also wrote that working-class men are ‘likely to be drunk, criminal, aimless, feckless and hopeless’. Just last year, Johnson Sr. went on national television to say the majority of the country were too dumb to spell Pinocchio (thank god for spell check).

The majority of the current cabinet have come from extreme privilege: 69% of whom were privately educated, compared with 6.5% of the population, the highest number since John Major’s cabinet. 50% are Oxbridge graduates, too, contrasted with 1% of the general population. How can a cabinet which does not accurately understand nor represent this society, have their best interests in mind?  

Dominic Raab, Priti Patel, Rishi Sunak and Matt Hancock have all consistently voted against welfare benefits, against paying higher benefits over longer periods to those unable to work due to illness or disability and consistently voted against money to help create jobs for young people.

In 2013, Michael Gove hinted at the idea that poor people were to blame for food banks, claiming families only needed them due to a ‘failure to manage their finances’

Leader of the commons, Jacob Rees-mogg, once used the word ‘floccinaucinihilipilification’ in open parliamentary debate, (a word seemingly only understood by Etonian peers) in itself grotesquely arrogant. Mogg has such a high disdain and condescension for the country he serves, that he once claimed that the deceased victims of the Grenfell disaster died because of their own lack of ‘common sense’. 

If Benedict Cumberbatch’s portrayal of Cummings in Brexit: the uncivil war is even remotely accurate, the Cummings really is the career psychopath David Cameron Labelled him as. In 2017, he even admitted in plain English that Tory MPs do not care about poor people or the NHS, citing his own vast experience with them as evidence for his claims.

‘Caring for your wife and child is not a crime’, Tweeted Gove in defence of Cumming’s actions this weekend. The irony of this is palpable, some 5 days after passing a momentous immigration bill which will quite literally criminalise immigrants from abroad for caring for their families and seeking a better life upon our shores. 

This government must learn about the people they serve, they must understand what goes on in working class households and they must, above all, stop thinking they are above the law and better than us all. 

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Politics

The Dangerous Numbers Behind the UKS Nursing Shortages… As Warned Over the Past 5 Years

We are fighting a war against an invisible enemy, as Boris Johnson so Churchillianly expressed, but what he didn’t mention, is that we don’t have the foot soldiers to fight it. 

Time after time throughout this pandemic, the Great British public has taken to their doorsteps with pots and pans, their TikToks for their dances, their Instagram for their runs and their gardens to complete fund-raisers to show support for our brave NHS workers. Such support is humbling and heartwarming. But, in the week that the Government promises a £60,000 cushion to bereaved families, does it feel a little like a gross oversight into what Tory HQ has done to our sacred NHS over the past decade?

A little over 4 months ago, my Girlfriend was admitted to hospital with border-line sepsis, she had to spend 4 nights in Stoke Royal, one of the largest hospitals in the UK. During her time in hospital, she was told she needed to remain on a drip with essential anti-biotics for the entire duration of her stay. Upon changing wards, she was left off it for 7 hours while only 3 nurses covered 5 wards, approximately 25 beds. The nurses were overwhelmed, unable to keep up and unable to offer the incredible service that Nay Bevan envisioned some 75 years ago. This was before the pandemic, but certainly not the first experience of an utterly underfunded National Health System.

Fast forward to today, a world away from the freedom of January; every evening at 5 o’clock, the Health Secretary or whichever Johnson stand-in can face the media, addresses the nation to deflect questions about the approach to this pandemic. The truth is, the warnings of under-funding have been there for years, we just didn’t listen quite as well until it was completely and totally forced into the forefront of daily conversation over the past 6 weeks. Austerity felt, to some, like an over-politicised campaign term from the left to bring down the Tories, but now we can all see first-hand, a National Health Service on the brink.

In 2017, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) surveyed 30,000 nurses across the UK about job satisfaction and quality of patient care during shifts. The results were, as they put it ‘Shocking’, they showed ‘nursing staff in every setting across the UK in crisis’. The report published on the back of this survey, entitled ‘Nursing Against the Odds’ detailed over 50% of nurses reporting their shift not-staffed to the level planned, over a third were leaving care undone due to lack of time, and two-thirds working un-paid overtime regularly. 

The report was frank, it warned drastically that lives were at risk if untrained support staff were on call, and not registered nurses, who’s overall number on duty in the survey was down 4% on the number in 2009. To further empathize the point, the survey was conducted in May, well outside of the typical winter-boom in hospital admissions. It concluded “Short-sighted cost-saving measures and lack of funding have been demonstrated to be significant factors in the issues described”.

The Nursing Against the odds Survey was conducted 1 year after ‘Exercise Cygnus’; the then-little-known study into how our country would cope with a pandemic; the result showed the countries health service would collapse. The report was kicked into the grass until brought to the public’s attention this year and shows clearly that the government willingly ignored a decisive study about the state of our Health Service.

The RCN pleaded again for funding in 2018, with acting Chief Executive Dame Donna Kinnair

Saying “The answer to the problems [facing nurses] is a comprehensive workforce plan focused on recruitment and retention that links population need to staff numbers.” Kinnairs evaluation still rings true today. In the ten years of conservative power, we’ve seen a 1% increase in nurses, contrasted with a 6.9% increase in population. We now have approximately 7.8 nurses per 1,000 people. For comparison, Germany has 12.85, USA 11.61 and France, 10.46. We have a similar rate to Lithuania and Czech Republic.[1], our GDP is 53 times the size of Lithuania. 

Prior to all of this – In 2016, the government took one of the most drastic decisions in the nursing-shortage saga. They opted to remove the Student bursary to supposedly increase the number of nursing places available. The then-existing NHS Bursary scheme limited the number of student nurses to 20,000, which couldn’t be increased because of the government policy of austerity, thus, as Tories do best, they lumped the burden of student fees onto the student, in theory increasing the available intake. The following year, applications to nursing related subjects was down 23%[2]. The overall intake now is 8% down on the 2016 number.

In the December 2019 election, Labour reported we’d lost 200,000 nurses in the decade of tory Austerity. As is uniform with all party ‘facts’ this must be taken with a pinch of salt, (figures include deaths and retirements) but it does bare some truths. It highlights that not only are we not attracting new nurses, but the nurses we’ve got are quitting in record numbers. 97,000 nurses left their positions voluntarily in the time period given, citing things such as poor-work life balance (up 163% to 18,013 in 2018) and health reasons (up 99% to 4,234 in 2018). In 2018 alone, 27% more nurses quit the NHS than in 2010. The bottom line – more nurses were and are leaving the NHS than joining it. 

Since 2010, the Conservative government has strangled spending in the NHS, resulting in a reduction in nursing numbers, student nurses, quality of care and quality of life for the nurses themselves. Over the past 5 years, The Royal College of Nursing has pleaded with the government to pour resources into the NHS to stop a potentially catastrophic long-term issues, those calls fell on deaf ears. Today, we face the largest health crisis in a generation, one in which we are woefully underprepared for.  


[1] https://www.nuffieldtrust.org.uk/resource/the-nhs-workforce-in-numbers#7-how-do-we-compare-to-other-countries

[2] https://www.health.org.uk/blogs/general-election-2017-why-were-nurse-bursaries-removed