By Rebekah Read
The recently exposed tragedy of the Winterbourne View hospital, which saw vulnerable, elderly patients assaulted by staff who pulled patients’ hair, gave them cold punishment showers, left one outside in near zero temperatures and poured mouthwash into another’s eyes, rightly left the public outraged at the State for the apparent indifference shown to the care provided to their most vulnerable citizens.
“Look at Bangladesh today / Buildings once filled with workers are now filled with graves / Six cents an hour’s not a suitable wage”
Learn from history and present times
Help to solve the mystery of how societies survive
If you’ve never seen a gun, you’re a lucky one
And think about your life in the context of the world
Because so many grow up in a place we can’t imagine
A hard life to live, can’t get ahead like Anne Boleyn
Strivers and shirkers: the rhetoric we’ve heard for ages
Simply doesn’t capture the complexities of work and wages
If hard work always led to successes
So many African women would live lives like princesses
If innovation were truly decorated
So many Indian women would be emancipated
But it’s just not as simple as they want us to believe
Our reality depends on power’s distribution
Equally, yes, we have free will; yes, we have choice
But options seem narrow when you’ve lost hope and voice
There’s so much to do, but there’s so little time
Another day goes by, more starving people die
But I feel encouraged, my view isn’t negative
It’s better round the corner, at least that’s our prerogative
To make it a reality, change mentality
And say it really proudly: we can stop the brutality!
We’re overdue a bit of peace, I’d say
And to this, I hope that we will contribute one day
By Sam Tomlin
Education is one of the most hotly debated topics in British politics. The Education Secretary Michael Gove is one of the highest profile government ministers and most people will be aware of debates around ‘academies’, ‘free schools’ and tuition fees even if they do not know the specific details. Of course this is understandable as education is vital for any society to function properly – everyone has been through it and almost everyone knows people still in it.
There is one area of education, however, which has consistently failed to generate any kind of sustained popular or mainstream political debate and that is vocational education.
As it says on the tin, it is essentially education which prepares people (of all ages, but traditionally younger people) for a vocation – something that they specialise in. The system, involving various types of college, university and apprenticeship courses, is not simple to understand, but still plays a vital role in educating millions of people today (in 2011 it was estimated there were around 1.8million 16-18 year olds studying for vocational qualifications). Read More
By Rebekah Read
In the last few months, as Baroness Hale has said, “Strasbourg-bashing has become very popular”. This was evident again last month, when Tory backbencher Dominic Raab proposed an amendment to the poisonous Immigration Bill. Despite (reports of) repeated cajoling by Tory whips to withdraw the amendment, it was tabled and debated on Thursday.
By Sam Tomlin
David Cameron, we were told in a 2011 parliament publication, ‘has placed the Big Society project at the centre of his political agenda’. The vision was bold, if a little fuzzy in practical application: ‘the term describes the Government’s intention to open up public services to new providers, increase social action and devolve power to local communities.’
So fuzzy in practical application that the same report, just a year or so after the concept was introduced, suggested ‘There is little clear understanding of the Big Society project among the public, and there is confusion over the Government’s proposals to reform public services.’
If that was the truth in 2011, it is certainly the case today. The battle has now all but been lost as the coalition enters its final stages. The term (‘BS’ as many have renamed it) mostly evokes ridicule around the country and in various opinion outlets. Read More
By Rebekah Read
Lord Sumption recently gave a lecture entitled ‘The Limits of Law’. Here he argues that the UK courts, particularly as a result of the influence of the European Court of Human Rights, are making judgments on issues which ought to be resolved politically. He argues that this is illegitimate in a democratic society. He has argued a similar point in his 2011 lecture ‘Judicial and Political Decision Making: the Uncertain Boundary’. This prompts the question of how far the judiciary should defer to Parliament in striking a balance between the rights of the individual and the needs of society. This question is tested when decisions of the State are challenged by judicial review (JR) and the judiciary is asked to consider issues of policy.
By Antoine Cerisier
On 12 June 2013, the Gava courthouse in Barcelona filed a case against Lionel Messi. The Argentinean player and his father are suspected of using companies based in Uruguay and Belize to defraud the state of more than 4 million euros. A few months earlier, Bayern Munich’s general manager Uli Hoeness and French Budget Minister Jérôme Cahuzac were both accused of evading taxes through undeclared bank accounts in Switzerland. Ironically, the latter was leading the fight against tax fraud in France. A number of European multinationals, such as UBS and Vodafone, have also been suspected of taking part in proven or alleged evasion schemes. These high-profile cases have raised public awareness of tax dodging in Europe and given credit to its detractors. For instance, the Tax Justice Network estimated that 20 to 30 trillion dollars are currently held in tax havens worldwide. The issue is especially sensitive for European countries in the current context: securing stable tax revenue has become an urgent priority in times of recession and high public debt. Furthermore, the existence of tax havens within Europe – including Switzerland, Luxembourg and the Channel Islands – remains a pressing challenge for the continent.
French Budget Minister Jérôme Cahuzac “fighting against tax fraud” in November 2012
“Judges have joined the front line”, according to Thomas Tugendhat, co-author of the one-sided, scaremongering report, The Fog of Law. By the right-wing think tank, Policy Exchange, it is knee-jerk reaction to the case of Smith & Others v Ministry of Defence and a a seriously disappointing contribution to the debate on accountability in matters of defence.
By Rebekah Read
This week I saw the brilliantly entertaining satirical musical ‘The Scottsboro Boys’ at the Young Vic. (http://www.youngvic.org/whats-on/the-scottsboro-boys). A moving tale of a deplorable miscarriage of justice which brought about the end of all-white juries in Alabama, the Scottsboro boys were nine black teenagers who were falsely convicted of raping two white girls in 1931. After many years of imprisonment and numerous retrials following campaigning from the American Communist Party, the boys were gradually released, apart from one of the boys who died in prison in 1952.
This play serves as a reminder of the fallibility of the court process. Although we would like to place such atrocious injustices behind us, most readers will be familiar with some of the more notorious miscarriages of justice over the last 50 years. The Birmingham six, for example, vilified in a dreadful media campaign, were sentenced to life imprisonment for the Birmingham pub bombings in 1975. They were released when their convictions were found to be unsafe after 16 years of imprisonment. Rightly, they were awarded compensation for the years of unfair incarceration and their release led to the setting up of the Criminal Cases Review Commission, which has led to the quashing of hundreds of unsafe convictions. The Government are now trying to restrict compensation to those who can prove their innocence.
by Eamon Rooke
Darling of the Blairite right, Louise Mensch, made several remarkable public outbursts in her strange political career. One such moment was famously documented on ‘Have I Got News For You’. Whilst discussing Occupy London, Mensch lamented the hypocrisy of the Occupants for buying Starbucks coffee. “You can’t say ‘capitalism is crisis’, and then enjoy everything that capitalism offers”. Her opinion was rightly laughed at for its utter emptiness, since you can clearly hate capitalism and like coffee at the same time, and not be a hypocrite. Or, as another panelist put it, someone on death row can enjoy their last meal. Mensch does, nonetheless, raise an interesting topic: how can an anti-capitalist live ethically?