By Babak Moussavi
Ed Balls Day is a phenomenon that could only happen in the digital age of Twitter. On April 28th 2011, Ed Balls, the shadow chancellor, accidentally tweeted his own name from his Twitter account. He was presumably searching for what people were saying about him online, and typed in the wrong box. Curiously, he didn’t delete the tweet, and it went viral. Two years later the anniversary generated some hilarious spoofs, even receiving mentions in newspapers and London Underground noticeboards. Mr Balls fortunately took the festivities in good humour, even tweeting his own name, once more.
Twitter is useful for more than comedy though, and its wider role in British politics is growing. In 2009, David Cameron, then leader of the opposition, was forced to apologise after referring to people who tweet too much as “twats”. He has since joined the microblogging site himself, and, with the help of the Conservative press team, circulates updates about his activities and policy developments. George Osborne, the chancellor, has recently jumped on the bandwagon too.
A contemporary criminal epidemic
Is the subject of this polemic
Its epicentres are the financial sectors
In the United Kingdom and United States
And its reverberations have left entire countries in dire straits
That crime is corporate fraud
Committed by the banks and the fraudulent accountants
Fraud by the hedge funds and ratings agencies
And in the fraudulent delivery of fraudulent securities
To people who hardly knew an asset from a liability
By Babak Moussavi
Probably not a place to build your holiday home.
North Korea’s autarkic regime is sabre-rattling once again, with many observers genuinely worried about an outbreak of fighting. But while the tension in the Korean peninsular continues, another dispute has been rumbling, which is equally likely to build up to a dangerous clash in the near future. While nobody really knows what exactly Kim Jong-Un’s latest bout of frothing anger is all about, the other long-brewing conflict, between regional superpowers, China and Japan, is over some small, uninhabited rocks in the sea.
International Crisis Group’s recent report on the Senkaku/Diaoyu dispute is worth reading. Based on a large number of interviews with prominent and relevant individuals from both Japan and China, the ICG report, entitled Dangerous Waters: China-Japan Relations on the Rocks, provides the context for this dispute, and explains why tension that suddenly increased late last year has not subsided. It is a worrying tale, and the report does not rule out the possibility that violence could break out – out of the blue, as it were. This article briefly summarises the ICG report.
By Steve Hynd
This is the final post in an SJF mini series: ‘Football and society, then and now’. See the other articles here and here.
Paulo Di Canio, a fascist (in all probability), is now sitting at the helm of one of Britain’s most respected football clubs. The only way to remove him from such a prestigious position is for the fans to implement a boycott of the club.
For the last two years I have been calling for a boycott of Swindon Town FC – Di Canio’s former employers.
“I am not political… I do not support the ideology of fascism” – Paulo Di Canio
Few in the midst of the media scrum that followed his appointment to Sunderland commented on his two year reign at Swindon Town. Barney Ronay at the Guardian was the exception to this rule when he wrote, “Di Canio has been manager of Swindon for two years without complaint…there is an excellent point to be made about the lack of attention paid to events in the lower leagues.”
He was right on one count. The whole Di Canio debacle shows the unhealthy media spotlight that is shinned upon the Premiership leaving the lower leagues in its shadow. Read More
by Sarah Walker
The UK government and their sympathetic media would have you believe that current legal aid provisions allow unpopular members of our society to greedily grab what they can get, much like an unsupervised child at a pick ‘n’ mix. The truth is that this government is systematically dismantling a safeguard of access to justice that is essential if we are to ensure that the rights of vulnerable members of society are protected.
By Antoine Cerisier
Hero or Villain?
On the evening of 5 March 2013, Venezuelan Vice President Nicolas Maduro announced the death of Hugo Chavez in Caracas. The President had been battling with cancer in Cuba and Venezuela for nearly two years. He came into office in 1999 as the first democratically elected leftwing leader in Latin America and remained President for over a decade. His funeral attracted more than 100,000 mourners, including many heads of state as well as American personalities such as Sean Penn and civil rights activist Jesse Jackson. Nicolas Maduro took over as interim President until an election is held on 14 April.
By Sam Tomlin
Israel’s hasbara efforts (public relations, disseminating information about the country) were dealt another blow last week with the publication of a report from UNICEF on the conditions of Palestinian children in Israeli military detention centres.
Unicef’s report: Children in Israeli Military Detention
In 2009, in response to evidence that children were prosecuted in adult courts, Israel established a juvenile military court, which, according to UNICEF, “is the first and only juvenile military court in operation in the world. In fact, it uses the same facilities and court staff as the adult military court.”
The analysis by UNICEF identified clear examples that amount to, “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment” of children as young as 12. On a yearly basis, it reports, around 700 12-17 year olds (mostly boys) are arrested, interrogated and detained by Israeli army, police and security agents, often in conditions which it would be difficult not to describe as torture. Read More
By Sam Hawke
Today, Kenya has gone to the polls for the 19th time in its 50-year history. Of course, it will be electing only its 4th President. That’s not to say that Kenya’s history – and its complex relationship to democratic politics – can be glibly summarised by reference to that unfortunate fact. However, violent conflict and authoritarianism remain some of the dominant forces within its political life, as the 2007/08 elections so strongly evidenced. The question with which Kenyans are faced, of course, is whether this year will further prove this terrible rule, or be its exception.
By Babak Moussavi
“We’re all in this together” was without doubt the most horrible slogan at the last election, given how disingenuous it sounded when uttered by George Osborne and other frontbench Conservatives. It was, according to one author, “grotesquely implausible”. It suggests that the costs of the “necessary” austerity measures would be borne by all, and that everyone would pay their fair share. One would imagine that this means those responsible for the financial crisis itself – that is, those who got rich and benefited disproportionately in the bubble years – would bear the brunt of what would euphemistically be called “structural reform”. We now know that was not the case.
The Resolution Foundation recently found that inequality in the UK has increased over the past 15 years, just as it grew in the 1980s. The top 1% of earners now absorbs 10p in every pound of income, while the bottom half take home just 18p.
By Babak Moussavi
All votes are equal, but some are more equal than others
“It is a truth universally acknowledged that it takes fewer votes to elect a Labour than a Conservative government.” Sarah Wollaston, Conservative MP for Totnes, makes this “truth” sound like an immutable law of British politics. One does not need to be a psephologist to find this a little simplistic. The real truth that we can infer from the statement is that that she assumes there are only two parties that have a right to govern in this country, and that the rest can be safely ignored.
Yet, it seems absurd to blatantly ignore these ‘other’ parties, when the focus of Dr Wollaston’s article on Monday proceeded to directly target one of them. Indeed, Dr Wollaston condemns the third largest party, and her party’s coalition partner, the Liberal Democrats, for their apparent “betrayal” in anticipating their vote against the cherished Tory policy of boundary reform. If we assume she isn’t just being partisan (an improbable assumption), then she has evidently missed a few key points about electoral reform.