Category Archives: Comment

Fighting for their future

NASUWT, the teachers’ union, alongside the shadow education secretary, Ed Balls, are calling for a lobby of Parliament tomorrow. To get involved, check: this.

What does it take to be called a journalist these days?

Isn’t everyone is a journalist? Sharing information with networks of people: whether it is peer-to-peer, on a blog or social networking medium, story tellers exist everywhere. When is it that a citizen journalist is shortlisted and invited to join the elite of relatively few hardcore ‘journalists’?

It can’t be when you work for an organisation – what about freelancers?

Is it when you write a story in a way that can be understood by people? No. That doesn’t fit either – that would exclude broadcasters too.

And it certainly isn’t when you have studied journalism.

Within the industry there is a certain snobbery about who can identify themself as a journalist. In the recent BBC College of Journalism/Polis conference on the value of journalism, Damien Tambini described citizen journalists as ‘new media insurgents’.

In regards to ‘saving journalism’ Tambini explores a few ideas – and whether/how ‘new media insurgents’ can access those privileges of old. “We need to think more innovatively about how to support [journalism],” he says. “We need to think about creating new kinds of privileges and support…”

Using new mediums such as Twitter gives the writer access to swathes of unreported information and people of interest. It has never been so easy to publish interesting and exclusive information as it is now. At the same time, giving a platform to the public also drives down standards, tests media ethics and limits the verification of information.

The industry is quickly embracing social media. The toll of new media reporting on large organisations is yet unclear, but it could easily be said to be helping some companies. The Daily Mail, along with the Guardian and Times were recently under scrutiny for using TwitPic photos without permission. Writing outside of an organisation gives a freedom of integrity and expression. Yet at the same time, it leaves us open to abuse.

To be a journalist. Just when will I acquire the title?

Young people need a positive message

Since leaving sixth form, battling with UCAS and the Student Loans Company myself, it has evidently become more difficult to be given a place at university. At the same time, young people are being pressured into becoming more educated than ever before.

Government attainment targets such as league tables encourage schools and colleges to push students into applying for university. With cuts to university places, combined with increasing youth unemployment figures, the future for young people in this country is looking gloomy.

Media reports of “The lost generation: Unemployed, broke and disillusioned” merely worsen our situation. Positive sourcing of work such as social enterprise, skill development and entrepreneurship are all attainable attributes for new graduates to consider in these tough economic times.

Unpaid internships are at the forefront of hierarchical, class-based gaining of experience – with those in London, along with people who are given the means of borrowing money having a distinct advantage. Campaigns surrounding the inequality of unpaid internships such as Interns Anonymous and All Skilled Up, All Dolled Up are fighting for fairer internships.

What we need is a positive, inclusive message for young people and graduates. Being bombarded with defeatist  rhetoric on a constant basis is dragging down our spirit. We went to university to learn more, to be more employable and to have a good time in the process. University has not prepared many of us for what we have found once we get off at the other end; mortarboard dislodged and certificate clasped in the queue at the Post Office.

Green councillor facing suspension after uploading video clips

A Green Party councillor in Brighton has been given 28 days to appeal against being suspended for uploading videos of council meetings that were already available online.
Jason Kitcat claims that Conservative councillors complained about him uploading video onto YouTube and his blog, and that they were already available on other websites.
Earlier today, he tweeted:
“Tory cllrs try to get me suspended as a cllr for putting council webcast clips on YouTube. What happened to open gov?”
To read more, see Jason’s blog, or follow @jasonkitcat

Why I joined Labour…

Remaining party impartial has always been important to my online presence. Cheerleading on all sides of the British party spectrum is rife on the internet. In my own opinion, and experience, restrained party promotion stifles debate and contains ideas within small boundaries with no foresight to criticise one’s own beliefs. Being able to comment on politics from the outside has been something I have taken pride in.

However. Since the instatement of the new coalition government, I have felt an increasing disappointment in myself for voting for a Liberal Democrat candidate. Distaste in the 2.5% VAT rise, rapid cuts to the public sector and workers, and attacks on the welfare state have driven me to resent the party – which I had argued was ‘more left than Labour’ throughout their general election campaign.

In a moment of madness, one pound seemed worth the political statement I am now making: I have joined the Labour Party. Last night, I attended the yearly Eastbourne CLP AGM, where we voted show our support for Ed Miliband for Labour leader.

Although I am now a full party member, I do not plan on partaking in the status-quo cheerleading of many activists. Critique will continue to be free flowing and in all directions.

Lord of the Dance

The ‘Dark Lord’, as he autographs himself, Peter Mandelson is set to go head-to-head against Tony Blair this autumn. This time, they will compete to sell more titles than each other in a publishing competition which is reportedly costing millions of pounds. Intriguingly, HarperCollins will be publishing Mandy’s book, not Blair’s.

I wonder who will even notice when the new Labour leader is installed?

Overqualified and out of work – the story of the education policy victims

To be newly graduated.

Today’s message to the class of 2010 has hit a raw nerve. We are taught to do the best for ourselves: schools, colleges and sixth forms condition many of us into the ideal of university as being a foundation for getting the most out of a career.

Just weeks before I symbolically throw my mortarboard into the air for good luck, I fear that it will be more than luck that some of the 420,000  graduating students will need. With an average of 69 people applying for each graduate job and in the face of accumulating interest payments and mass youth unemployment, higher education policy must be addressed.

The last government’s gung-ho approach to getting half of young people into higher education is constantly criticised for devaluing education. More worryingly, the recession-lead cut on jobs, followed by the new coalition government cutting of public sector workers and Future Jobs Fund will result in thousands more people signing up for Jobseekers’ Allowance this summer.

Creating jobs, not cutting them should be a top priority for any government committed to tackling the current problems faced in our society. The Tory ‘big society’ policy cannot work autonomously from the job market; furthermore, the big society should function as more than a social capital boost for those who can afford to run a public service, along with doing paid and other domestic work. Opening doors and giving opportunities to those who cannot find work could lead to a more positive impact, such as crime prevention and redressing the growing ‘dependency culture’. In turn, the third sector needs to be protected from austerity cuts to remain effective.

The next months and years will prove to be interesting for any new graduate (and those of the years before). In some respects, I must agree with the coalition reduction in the numbers of university places. It will reduce the number of unemployed graduates in years to come – leaving 10,000 people without a bachelors degree is a small price to pay compared to the individual debts that we suffer from now, with thanks to top-up fees and the new Labour higher education mess.

World Refugee Day

Tomorrow is World Refugee Day. Recent months have demonstrated the situation of those seeking refuge, especially within the UK.

A United Nations inquiry is to begin into accusations that British security staff mistreated Iraqi deportees when they were sent back to Baghdad.  According to the Guardian,

UK Border Agency (UKBA) punch and drag reluctant failed asylum seekers off the plane.

This week, a Red Cross report (pdf) on failed asylum seekers told of up to 20,000 people relying on charities for food and support. Of those surveyed by the report producers were living with friends and 28 per cent sleeping rough and 87 per cent survive on one meal a day.

To add insult to injury, the charity Refugee and Migrant Justice went into administration after a two year wait for legal aid was not made.

Caroline Slocock, Chief Executive of the charity told an emergency meeting at the House of Commons that:

Over a two year period, RMJ’s income per client has fallen by over 40% but through painfulrestructuring RMJ has cut its costs accordingly.

Payments are only made when cases are closed by the Home Office, which has experienced many backlogs in its casework.

On June 8, Libya told the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees agency that it was to leave the country with immediate effect.

The Home Office continues to push the campaign of the previous government to review all asylum applications within 30 days. In 2007-2008, just 16% (pdf) of cases were reviewed in under a month. Implications of rushing cases and detaining people while their cases are backlogged and reviewed is flawed and dangerous.

In February, a number of women went on hunger strike in Yarl’s Wood detention centre.

Where now?

With a new government, progressives of all persuasions need to look for new ways to promote fairness to this completely unfair system.

A lack of human rights awareness, legal aid and advice for those seeking asylum and refuge needs to be addressed.

The work of the UNHCR and other organisations must be recognised around the world as a significant task which is in need of state support.

Tomorrow, the UNHCR has organised an ‘Umbrella March‘, signifying the protection of Refugees. It will begin at 1:30pm in Horse Guards Avenue and continue to the Houses of Parliament, across Westminster Bridge and finish in Geraldine Mary Harmsworth Park outside the Imperial War Museum.

UNHCR expulsion from Libya needs to be condemned

The Libyan government has instructed the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) that it should close its offices and stop all activities in the country with immediate effect.

Libya is not signed up to the 1951 Refugee Convention and has no asylum process in place. The role of the UNHCR in Libya was vital, and responsible for registering and determining refugee status. It provided humanitarian assistance to displaced people and those deemed to be refugees under the 1951 definition.

With its newly made relationship with the European Union, and in particular Italy, it is a wonder that there has been no official statement from any European government.

In 2004, 80,000 people reached Italy from Libya. By 2005, Italy and Libya had formed a controversial relationship which was framed in the targets of securing the borders of the EU to prevent entry; and to return “illegal migrants” to their countries of origin, or at least to the country of transit.

The Forced Migration Review wrote in May 2005 that:

As part of a unilateral agreement between Italy and Libya, the Italian government is planning to send 150 police officers to Libya to help train their Libyan counterparts. In addition, Libya will be purchasing military equipment and vehicles from Italy – including airplanes, boats, helicopters and jeeps needed to block the trafficking of illegal immigrants into Europe. Italy has said that plans to set up transit camps in Libya will go ahead, no matter what the opposition to them.

A BBC Panorama series revealed the ill-treatment of captured men, women and children in Libya and their subsequent journey across the Mediterranean sea. Those thought to be “illegal” and found inside the Italian borders  are usually deported back to Libya.

With no human rights law of its own, the relationship between the EU and Libya is condemned by groups such as Amnesty International. In their 2009 report of Libya, Amnesty said:

There were persistent reports of torture and other ill-treatment of detained migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers; the latter were not afforded protection, as required by international refugee law.

Europe, including the UK, must lead by example. We are already in a relationship with a country that has no regard for international human rights. Without the oversight of the UNHCR, Libya’s treatment of people, especially migrants, will only get worse.


This morning, the Press Association reports that Harriet Harman, temporary leader of the Labour Party, has called for half of the shadow cabinet to be female.

At the Unite conference yesterday, she said that she wants shadow cabinet election rules rules revised, to make sure that it is made up of 50% women.

Recently, the Hansard Society published a persuasive report: Has Devolution Delivered for Women?.

The report poses the question of whether devolution in Wales and Scotland has contributed to gender equality. The answer is no.

Before the creation of the devolved parliaments, the idea of an imposed 50:50 system was discussed, and quickly ruled out after debate.

In the 2007 elections, only 33% of representatives were female.

There is a desperate need for a new idea to entice and include women in all levels of government and politics.

All female shortlists will continue to be used – and will continue to be criticised for discriminating against men until they are replaced with a more sophisticated system. Women should be able to stand against men in competitions and win.

Without addressing the underlying prejudice and sexism that women in politics face, the system will continue to be dominated by white, middle classed men.