Sunday, 13 November 2011

UK Feminista AGM - London Mayoral Hustings

Yesterday's UK Feminista AGM was topped off with a London Mayoral debate hosted Channel 4's Samira Ahmed. Yum. BoJo didn't turn up, which gives us a little impression of what he thinks about equality and women's issues.

Ken Livingstone fessed up, he was a 'cleptomaniac' and would be pinching Brian Paddick's sure-to-win-votes-but-probably-not-practical policy of letting women stop the night bus at the end of their road rather than at a bus stop.

There were some interesting stats 'knife crime is up 30% among under 25s', '70% of job losses in the last 2 quarters were women', there is '£100bn of City cash that is explicitly excluded from FOI' and that, and this will really make your stomach churn, '70% of ticket holders during the Olympics will have to go through Westfields shopping centre to get to their seats'. Reel them in while we can. Yuck.

My favourite part, the bit that made me so angry that I put my hand up shyly, so I didn't get picked, was when Ken, in Boris' absence, blamed the mop-haired toff for the housing crisis. Now, I think Boris is just a well-thought-out, populist act, same as a lot of people, but Ken??? You said you were a cleptomaniac and I was wondering if along with that, you also had AMNESIA? Or did you forget the 20 years previous to you losing your seat? Pssh.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Occupy London- Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.

Disappointed by the coverage of the Occupy London campaign, I went down on Saturday 21st October to see the event hosted by the Tent City University, appropriately, outside the Bank of England.

The speakers were: Jonathan Portes, Director of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, Polly Toynbee from The Guardian, James Meadway, Senior Economist at the National Economic Foundation and John Christiansen, Director of the Tax Justice Network.

I captured some of their insights below:

Carried by the positive sentiment, the thirst for intelligent change, I marched from The Bank of England to Finsbury Square, it turns out to help set up the Occupy Finsbury Square camp.

The mood was organisational- there was an immediate call for media, finance, outreach, kitchen, toilets. Do you have a tent? No? Go to information, they can sort you out.

And they did. This is the winter of our discount tents. Get there while you can.

The School of Oriental and African Studies' yurt was up within hours. The library was running a book club by Sunday.

And the curfew was 12am.

I had been told by several people that they had privately, and publicly, had support from the church. The recent resignations prove this.

I was also pointed towards the members of the Court of Directors of the church. They include Mervyn King, Head of the Bank of England, the Managing Director of Lloyds and the Head of the Financial Services Authority.

This information was described today by Simon Jenkins in the Evening Standard as ‘desperate attempts’ to portray the church as in the pocket of the banks. But the polarised messages and threats of eviction, ‘controlled’ by PR firm 33rpm, at least indicate some influence.

So 20 days later, I am still disappointed by the things that are grabbing headlines.

Simon Jenkins, the Oxford educated journalist and Guardian and Standard columnist, in a post entitled 'This camp is not a proper protest, remove it now' opens with: "We get the point, we got it two weeks ago."

A fortnight ago and much coverage to date focuses on the ‘first closure of the Cathedral since the Second World War’. To the Standard’s credit, they recently revealed that St. Paul’s also closed in 2003, on health and safety fears about cleaning chemicals being used.

He says that change needs to come through ‘political action’ but the Conservatives have conjured Mammon, the biblical symbol of greed, and Labour remain desperately silent.

‘Obey the law’ he implores. Occupy London has so far been a peaceful, exemplary public protest in a public space (save some land that might be owned by the Corporation) that sounds quite reasonable to most people.

Forty-four per cent of Londoners answered in a YouGov poll that they support the aims of the group; 30 per cent oppose it and 25 per cent answered 'not sure'.

He calls for 'regulation of public debate', a bureaucracy largely ensured in our representative democracy anyway.

The campaign, he believes, ‘appeases student idiocy’. The student idiocy that means our services are being cut, our education is being privatised, where standards haven’t improved and that now sees a million of us unemployed.

If only the voices during the protests and marches had been heard.

“If the campers really want to show their strength,” he said, “they should take a leaf from the anti-war movement and depart in good order at the head of a million-strong march for tougher regulation through the City to Canary Wharf.”

Lots of good that march did.

Maybe it is just our ‘student idiocy’, throwing caution to the wind in our na├»ve sense of idealism, that has shown us that previous methods to take part in public debate haven’t made one bit of difference.

“While the CND and anti-war protesters were clear in their objectives, the occupation is little more than a ‘rage against the rich’.”

Buried deeper in the paper is a comment from Anthony Hilton, a veteran business journalist who has worked for the Observer, the Daily Mail and the Sunday Express. He addresses some of the issues that have been missed in the ‘debacle’ that has been the handling of a public protest.

This is about injustice, the rewards of globalization that have not been evenly shard, an unequal society, the gulf in incomes, the gulf in values. And the debate about what kind of society we want to live in.

The headlines last week about the 50 per cent rise in earnings of FTSE 100 directors only seek to emphasise the merits of the campaign. This ‘rage against the rich’.

Hilton highlights that during the unrest of the Thatcher era, the church had no problem speaking out in support of those most in need. The Archbishop of Canterbury ‘took it as a badge of honour to incur the displeasure of the Prime Minister’.

The City needs to ‘take responsibility’- with ‘direct engagement and negotiation’- something that has been happening in the Occupy camps from day one.

I’m no fan of the Guy Fawkes masks, which Simon Jenkins gaffaws at for their apparent religious connotations and have become a sinister icon for use by our favourite news providers. For me, it has to be about accountability, honesty and feeling empowered to say you disagree. But in the reality that we have found ourselves: "Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth," Oscar Wilde.

We will honour men and women who have died in the line of service on the 11th of the 11th, of the 11th. People who died for a better world. I hope we can all silently remember what we are all working towards.

On the 12th, the annual Lord Mayor’s show will take place with the parade, attended by the Queen. Maybe this could be an arena for public debate.

The meeting outside the Bank of England ended with collective support for a People’s Mayor to run in 2012. Anyone who wants to make a difference should put their hats in the ring.

Although a notorious industrialist might not be the most appropriate person to conjure, Henry Ford aptly said: "Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success."

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Send in the Clown- 'Up for Hire' at AOL

My time in the spotlight on BBC3's ambitious first live show 'Up for Hire' was certainly an eye-opener. A crash course in how not to rise through the ranks. Not exactly how I imagined doing it, but who needs dreams when you’re unemployed, right?

It hopefully wasn’t ‘a once in a lifetime opportunity’ as I struggle to get the first step in my real 40 year climb up the ladder. And I promptly got a lifetime’s experience, made 40 years’ worth of mistakes in just three weeks.

Which was tough.

In many areas- management, delegation, negotiation- I did not have confidence in the skills I have. I was terrified of getting it wrong. And I learned an awful lot.

We are Tony’s children- lavished with ‘education, education education’, promised that ‘things will only get better’ all by a man obsessed with his legacy.

But how would he reflect on this?

We were promised jetpacks.

When it was decided 50 per cent of young people should go to university, we all ‘raised our aspirations’.

But where was the clear national strategy on what would happen afterwards? Wouldn’t it be novel if when you finished training, you could get a job and were well-placed to do it?

Despite the biggest democratisation of education we have ever seen, social mobility has gone backwards and we do not have enough people skilled in the areas demanded by our changing economy.

Or at least there aren’t the jobs there for one million young people looking for work in the UK today. The highest number since records began.

What we decided when we were 14 dictated what we could choose to do when we were 16 and 17. When we were children in the eyes of government.

Had we been advised on the future jobs market, we would all be international business people, working in green technologies or launching our own 21st century start-ups.

We had high expectations. Unfortunately, there isn’t much received wisdom.

The lives of many of our senior politicians read something like a manual of 'how to get a quick win in politics'. Come from money, go to a top school, go to an elite university, work as a political junior, bam. Sometimes I wish I’d been in the loop!

You don’t learn much from winning all the time. Without mistakes, how would we know what we had to work on? And this becomes all the more clear as our self-governing politicians appear constantly in breach of the rules.

They have 20, 30, 40 years on us and are still making classic errors.

Feeling empowered to speak is something that never really gets a mention. But what is it that makes some people compelled to put their hat in the ring?

I met a girl who was going to Oxford. I was jealous. Until she said they actually just teach you how to get a first, not how to think for yourself. But they can’t half talk.

This, amongst many others, is a basic skill that everyone leaving school should have, are we giving it to them?

I ended up leading a group of young people through a spelling challenge with some Year 11s up north. E-a-s-y. Easy?

They immediately dismissed the exercise- one girl was going into hair and beauty- to which I tried to explain that she would still have to fill in forms, and generally communicate… Deaf ears.

We compartmentalise education- if you do English, you won’t need maths. But your education builds the whole foundation for your life, you never stop learning, it doesn’t finish at school.

Here, I was reminded of Jamie’s Dream School ‘Bored’, ‘Don’t know how to listen’, ‘Not disciplined in their thinking or behaviour’ ‘Too high an opinion of themselves’.


I know a lot of bright young people. And there are nearly one million without work. This is a shame. We are keen, hardworking and somewhat unpolished. But isn’t everyone when they start out? People speak fondly of a time when young people worked hard and got jobs. What’s changed?

We are modern consumers and as such we should be as picky about the courses we choose as we are about the clothes we wear and the places we go out. If employability is your goal, then choose wisely and demand better.

Why are we selling courses in Mickey Mouse to the people who will run the future if they don’t give you something to take away with you?

If young people aren’t ‘ready for work’- graduates or non-graduates- that is a problem. Languages, sciences and business skills are all in demand- if we need more skills, then we need jobs, training and mentoring.

Free work isn’t the same as having a job- with varying levels of responsibility and support. We are also competing with experienced people for vacancies and it's almost understandable that can’t win.

Right now, many young people are being paid to do nothing, and the longer that this is the case, the more of a drain we become.

I am a good graduate who studied at a reputable university for the job I wanted to do. I have done internships, applied for further study and even tried to make it on my own.

If my participation has to raise awareness of a complex but very helped real problem for our society, then I am very glad and the producers should be congratulated.

But we were promised jetpacks, so where are they?

If you are interested in joining a discussion on the future- including youth unemployment- Occupy London are hosting 'Occupy Half-term' from 2-4pm every day this week at St. Paul's in London which aims to give young people the opportunity to develop skills and get information. There is also a family fun day on Saturday.

Choose Youth are inviting young people to lobby parliament against cuts to youth services this Tuesday from 11.30-4pm. There is also a national student demonstration on 9th November, supported by the National Union of Students.

Be the change.

Friday, 30 September 2011

It's not often Warrington and The City are featured in the same news bulletin

So they're 'changing the speed limits' and rolling one of football's baddest boys, Rio Ferdinand, out to distract us all from what is becoming the usual, despicable mayhem. What nail biting themes to end what has been a rollercoaster month.

Nothing like that to take our gaze from two frankly ignorable party conferences, some post-riot coverage and the still endless expenses to clean up.

So what have a lad from Warrington, The City, an MP and a millionaire's daughter got in common of late? It's not often my hometown and The City would trend on Twitter together.

Give up? All been have been in the news for criminal activity in the last month.

So... What's worse?

a) A scally. A message on Facebook.

b) A trader. Lost £2.3 billion in the City.

c) Margaret Moran. MP. An expenses bill worth £100,000

d) Laura Johnson. Daughter of a millionaire. Accused of burglary of goods worth £5,000 from five shops during the riots.

So. What's worse?

One was given an electronic tag. And made it to the front pages with some semblance of dignity. Isn't she pretty?

One of them is gleaning pity on the front-page of the nationals.

One is too early to tell.

"Perry Sutcliffe-Keenan, 22, of Latchford, Warrington, used his Facebook account in the early hours of 9 August to design a web page entitled The Warrington Riots. The court was told it caused a wave of panic in the town. When he woke up the following morning with a hangover, he removed the page and apologised, saying it had been a joke. His message was distributed to 400 Facebook contacts, but no rioting broke out as a result."

And he, the one on the right, got 4 years, straight off. What he did wasn't right, but neither were any of the others. He didn't take part in a riot, the girl did. He wasn't in a position of trust or authority, Moran was. The trader was.

This is about people who feel empowered to defend themselves and those who can control their image. It is about stupidity. And reckless greed of course.