Tag Archives: UK

Ched Evans rape case: so much wrong with petition against convicted footballer

Ched Evans playing for Sheffield United in 2010, before his conviction for rape

Convicted rapist Ched Evans may well appear in Sheffield United colours again soon

FOOTBALLER CHED EVANS currently stands convicted of rape.  He’s served two and a half years of his five-year prison sentence and he’s just been released. Although Evans has an upcoming case review and maintains his own innocence, he’s guilty until proven otherwise.

But really, Ched Evans’ guilt is immaterial to the discussions currently dominating the mainstream media. We’ve made this rape case all about us.

There are 150,000 people who have signed a well-publicised petition to ban him from ever playing football again; meanwhile the UK’s shadow sports minister, Clive Efford, has openly called for Evans not to be employed in the game again.

If your children are mindlessly imitating the actions of footballers without any intervention, you’re a bad parent

If those pressures don’t expedite the justice process, nothing ever will – yet people still feel that a fast-tracked case review somehow constitutes special treatment for the former Sheffield United frontman.

Were Evans’ conviction to be overturned, the damage might already be done by these campaigns against him (damage which, as it stands, he has done to himself). If his conviction is upheld, all the better for more prompt closure.

Fluid principles

The baleful reactions roused by Evans’ case have illuminated a more general problem, though, of people carelessly taking for granted some of the stoutest pillars of our society; principles and laws long fought for and hard-won.

Forget the case review, the law says that someone has served their time – and that’s that. Punishment served. Superficially at least we like to say that we aren’t run by mob-rule in this society. But if you’re going to pick and choose when to apply your principles, you’ll have hollowed them out by the time you really come to need them. We have to have some faith that, in the long-term, laws are better than us just making things up on the hoof.

And yes, it is very easy for me to sit here and say all this – but if it were me or one of my family or friends who was the victim here, I would still have to lump it. Because principles are not applied merely to the extent that my emotional capacity will allow. They’re tougher than that, and they’re supposed to be.  If we still have a problem, we need to take it up with our justice system – not Ched Evans.

Ban everyone. Everywhere.

You could be forgiven for thinking, after following this news story, that football was the only high-paying profession in the world. You’d think that they are the only people who are sculpted into false idols by a melodramatic media; the only ones beamed into our homes day and night; the only faces our children see and imitate; the only public figures who acquire demigod status through the incomprehensibly feverish loyalty of those who champion them.

Many think that it is perverse to allow a convicted rapist like Ched Evans to return to earning a relatively large wage. Yet people in countless professions beyond football earn unthinkably high sums of money; they can do equally terrible things. Even more so than footballers, we promote these people’s names and faces as role models.

So, I look forward to a similar petition the next time anyone finishes serving their time for a rape charge. He won’t be allowed back to work either, I can safely presume?  Because the punishment is never complete.

Ched Evas in his days at Manchester City, where he graduated through the youth academy

Ched Evans was an academy graduate at Man City

Nouveau-riche wankers

Depressingly, this episode has seen numerous people plunge enthusiastically into classism – classism that has been woven into the psyche of all of us. Footballers are, in the popular estimation, wankers.

They’re nouveau-riche wankers, too – and we’ve somehow, unquestioningly, adopted that disdain handed down to us from on high. We’re all ready to get the knives out in the same way as for the much-maligned and caricatured ‘chav’.

Why do we target the footballer for especially venomous denigration, who in most cases is neither qualified nor equipped to earn much more than buttons once he’s the wrong side of 35? All your other high-flyer professionals would have little trouble finding a new source of income even if a million of us picketed their preferred place of work.

Clive Efford says that a rape conviction would restrict the work of many other professionals, but not all.  And picking on footballers is easy, arbitrary witch-hunting.  Life is far from simple or rewarding for many footballers and the sport still takes barely rudimentary care of its players – a topic that could fill a whole tome in itself.

Parents: stop outsourcing

Ched Evans is hardly the first footballer who, having committed a serious offence, has been chided for being a poor role model to ‘the children’ – on top of everything else.

A sizeable minority of parents – the ones who are the scourge of junior football matches up and down the country – need to concentrate first on their own example to their children, rather than ranting, raving, behaving ridiculously and expecting footballers – strangers – to assume responsibility.

And we need to be crystal clear: if your children are mindlessly, slavishly following and imitating the actions of footballers – through several years of indoctrination, without any intervention – you’re a bad parent.

This piece isn’t intended to be contrarian for the sake of it, nor to dismiss or belittle the several-year ordeal of Evans’ victim, which will never truly be ‘over’ now.  But we set several damaging precedents for the process of justice in the UK if we overreach as far as we have with Ched Evans.

And if you really are feeling vindictive, surely you’ll want to throw Evans to the football fans on a weekly basis.  The reception he’ll get every time he steps on a football pitch from now until he retires will ensure he’s never allowed to move on, nor fade quietly into anonymity.

Words: Sean Gibson

Images: Lead (Jon Candy); inset (Mattythewhite)

Supporters trusts to play bigger role in UK football, say Labour Party

Hull City fans take part in their  City Til We Die protest against owner, Assem Allam, last season - when the latter wanted to rebrand the club Hull Tigers

Hull City fans take part in their City Til We Die protest last season

THE UK’S LABOUR Party plans to overhaul the way the nation’s football clubs are run, with greater power to clubs’ supporters, should it win the general election next May.

Fans would be empowered to remove up to a quarter of the directors on their club’s board, and would have the right to buy up to 10 per cent of their club’s shares during any takeover or change in ownership.

Clive Efford MP, Labour’s shadow sports minister – who more recently has spoken publicly on the Ched Evans rape case –  said in a statement: “We have reached a tipping point in the way football is run.

“Too often fans are treated like an afterthought as ticket prices are hiked up, grounds relocated and clubs burdened with debt or the threat of bankruptcy.”

Borussia Dortmund fans on the famous Südtribüne (South Bank) terrace at Westfalenstadion

Borussia Dortmund fans on their famous ‘South Bank’ terrace – the largest terrace in European football

As English fans find it increasingly fashionable to say in such cases: ‘It’s not like this in Germany’.

Debt and insolvency

The announcement has been made against the backdrop of the ceaseless and rapid rise in costs for British football fans, particularly since the beginning of the Sky Sports and Premier League era in 1992.

The BBC’s latest Price of Football study published on Wednesday shows that the average cost of attending a football league game has risen at more than twice the rate of the cost of living since 2011 (13%).

Supporters are not only feeling priced out but helpless and ignored, as clubs like Portsmouth, Leeds United and Birmingham City have been steered into debt and insolvency in the past decade by poor decision-making at boardroom level.

Meanwhile Coventry City fans had to watch their club’s home games 30 miles away in Northampton for the whole of last season, as the club’s owners and the local council engaged in financial trench warfare.

And while Cardiff City – the Bluebirds – now play in red home kit to satisfy an owner and his overseas marketing ideals, fans of Hull City waged a season-long war with their owner last year in order to prevent being rebranded as ‘Hull Tigers’.

Price of football: the figures and context

4.4% versus 1.2% – the year-on-year ticket price rise is more than treble the rate of inflation

£3 billion – price at which the Premier League sold its TV rights for the years 2013-2016.

£4.50 – the most expensive pie in all English football, at Kidderminster Harriers of the English fifth tier.

Clive Efford, MP for Eltham and the Labour Party's shadow sports minister

Clive Efford MP, Labour’s shadow sports minister

Formal relationship

The new measures would allow for fans of each club to found and run an officially sanctioned supporters’ trust that could then take advantage of the rights outlined by Labour.

Supporter-controlled football clubs are not a novel phenomenon, though, with Portsmouth, Exeter City, Wycombe Wanderers and AFC Wimbledon currently all fan-owned and playing their football in England’s League 2.  There is also the famous case of community-owned FC United of Manchester, founded as a breakaway club in 2005 by disillusioned Manchester United fans after the Red Devils were taken over by Malcolm Glazer, an American businessman.

“Giving football fans a voice is part of our plan to change our country by devolving power to our cities towns and communities.” – John Cruddas MP, Labour

Supporters Direct, an organisation set up to help fans to initiate their own supporters’ trusts, welcomed Labour’s plans.  In a statement, they said: “This signals the establishment of the formal relationship between supporters’ trusts and their clubs, which we have sought for many years.

“No-one in football denies the special social and community nature of football clubs, yet there has always been a resistance to measures that would actually increase the role of those fans in their clubs.”

The ‘how’ of supporters trusts

So how would a supporters trust work under these new measures?  Governance standards would be maintained by an umbrella body with which all supporters trusts would be affiliated, with trusts compelled to adhere to its own constitution and elect a board on a one-member-one-vote basis.  Moreover the reforms have already been verified as compatible with European law by the Labour’s legal advisers.

And for anyone wanting to know how the financial cogs are going to turn in these proposals, the party’s official release on the planned shake-up does go into some detail.  Any buyer “acquiring control of the club (defined at a 30 per cent level) would be required to offer the Supporters Trust up to ten per cent of the shares they were buying in that transaction at the average price paid by the buyer for relevant securities in the year preceding the change of control.”  That offer would then have to remain open for 240 days.

Also noted in the report is that supporters trusts would have the right to “appoint and remove up to a quarter and not less than two of a football club’s directors.”

Jon Cruddas MP, head of the Labour Party’s policy review, said in his statement: “Football is more than business, football clubs are part of people’s identity and sense of belonging.

“Giving football fans a voice is part of our plan to change our country by devolving power to our cities towns and communities.”

Words: Sean Gibson

Photos: Jon Candy (lead); wolf4max (inset [i]); IFAW Tails for Whales (inset [ii]).

Emma Watson, not everybody needs to be a feminist

OR SHOULD I say, feminism doesn’t need everybody. We have recently seen an overwhelming push to get anybody and everybody to adopt this label. We cheer when a celebrity comes out as a feminist. The internet went absolutely mental when Emma Watson said to the UN, in quite simple terms, that she subscribes to ‘feminist’ ideology in its simplest, whitest, most capitalist incarnation:

“I am from Britain and I think it is right that I am paid the same as my male counterparts. I think it is right that I should be able to make decisions about my own body, I think [applause break] … I think it is right that women be involved on my behalf in the policies and the decisions that affect my life. I think it is right that socially, I am afforded the same respect as men.”


We nevertheless applauded Emma’s simplistic claims, as if they were novel or exciting – ignoring the fact that feminism has moved on from this basic ideology. Intersectional feminism, transgender feminism, queer feminism, Laurie Penny’s “feminism that challenges”, etc. are now staples of the online feminist’s diet.

Feminism as a movement has accepted that empowerment isn’t about cheerleading from the sidelines, or about teaching women how to succeed in a white, capitalist men’s world. It’s about creating a new system and environment that’s conducive for all types of people to obtain fulfilment. Feminism is (or should be) intersectional, and it should question the systems that have led to inequality, rather than viewing the issue as a numbers game.

But for some reason, we still don’t consider these points as essential components of feminism as it applies to the public sphere. This becomes apparent whenever a female celebrity insists in public that she is not a feminist. The response is an assumption that the celebrity in question doesn’t “understand” feminism as basically “equality for both the genders”. But as always, over-simplification is the enemy of precision.

In all likelihood, celebrities do understand that feminism is essentially about “equality”. However, having already achieved basic “equality” in the West (the right to vote, the theoretical ability to do what they like with their bodies, the ability to pursue whatever career they choose), they don’t believe there are any battles left to fight. They prefer their gender lines binary and defined. They want to feel like “women”, so that males can feel like “men”, and they are satisfied with the status quo.

When these celebrities finally adopted the label, as soon as it became en vogue, their justifications often left something to be desired. Katy Perry said something to the effect of “not having realized that feminism was about loving men”. Not that feminism is incompatible with loving men, but it might be a stretch to say that that’s what it’s about. We accepted this lacklustre definition nevertheless, but perhaps we shouldn’t have.

There is nothing essentially wrong with having people like this – but we absolutely must stop diluting the definition of feminism in order to get them on board with the cause. We similarly need to stop compelling men to join the movement by appealing to their protective natures (“protect women because every woman is somebody’s daughter or wife!”) Feminism doesn’t need to be stretched and re-shaped and over-simplified to include everyone. Feminism is complex and difficult – anyone that is unwilling to grapple with this complexity should get off board.

No movement has ever needed everybody on board in order to be successful – feminism is no different.  Nay-sayers, as well as people happy to perpetuate the status quo, will always be present. Inevitably, despite these people, the world will progress and move on. There is no need to water down a powerful message in order to get more people to sign up to a cause that has already got a substantial amount of manpower and brainpower behind it.

Written by Sahar Shah

Picture credit: ursulakm 

Green Shoots: The post-referendum momentum of the Scottish Greens

TODAY AT 4PM, the Twitter page of the Scottish Greens announced that in the 24-odd hours since Scotland voted ‘no’ to independence, some 2000 people had elected to join their party.

As the tweet so gleefully affirms, they were at one stage confirming a new member of the Scottish Greens every 15 seconds.

For any political party 2000 new members in little over a day is outstanding. For a relatively small, ‘alternative’ party like the Greens it’s nothing less than monumental – especially considering that Scotland voted in opposition to the Greens’ stance regarding independence.

Why then has the referendum been so good for the Scottish Greens?

The answer seems to be threefold. Firstly, there is a significant convergence between those most likely to vote Green and those most likely to vote Yes. 40 years of political science supports this assertion. Secondly, the Scottish Greens are benefiting greatly from the momentum the Yes campaign – in essence, a campaign for change – generated. This is an occurrence with precedence in regards to growing Green party membership around Europe, especially in Germany and France. The final reason for the startling growth of the Scottish Greens these past two days is based on more anecdotal evidence. This evidence suggests that the Scottish Greens are profiting from a sizeable fallout between the Scottish electorate and the Scottish Labour party.

Political science has long studied the potential reasons behind people choosing to vote Green. From Inglehart’s work on the ‘Silent Revolution’ and  post-materialism onwards, a few defining features have been found to be indicative of supporters of environmental movements and Green parties.

Possibly the most important of these indicators is youth. Young people are far more likely to show sympathy for environmental concerns and to join Green parties. This is also true of those most likely to vote Yes. Indeed, if the 65+ vote was removed from the referendum, there would have been a Yes majority of 54.3%. That number rises to 56.6% if the 55-64 vote is also removed. Quite simply, the majority of young people in Scotland voted Yes. Perhaps then, a swathe of young Scots will now decide to vote Green.

Both Germany and France have strong Green party presence in their national politics, with the Greens in Germany regularly getting 10+% of the vote in national elections. In both of these countries, the Green parties grew rapidly after vast public protests demanding a ‘new politics’ and great degrees of change regarding how their countries were run in the 1960’s and 70’s. Both of these demonstration were long-lived and driven mostly by youthful members of the electorate determined to have a  discussion about the symbiotic apathy which existed between the electorate and the political establishment – sound familiar?

In France, it was the student demonstrations of 1968 and the localised opposition to nuclear power in the 1970’s and 1980’s which drove support for the Green parties. Indeed Daniel Cohn-Bendit a key leader of the student movement of 1968 was for years a figurehead in the French (and German) Green parties and was a co-leader of a European Green alliance in the European Parliament.

The same reasons were also behind the growth of the Greens in Germany. However the German electoral system is far more representative than the French, and thus the Greens have had not insignificant success in elections. The German electoral system and the system used in Scottish parliamentary elections share some similarities. The most important likeness is that they are both relatively kind to small or ‘alternative’ parties.

That parallel, coupled with the Yes campaign replicating the momentum created by the issues which caused Green party membership to rise in Germany, have given the Scottish Greens a few reasons to be very hopeful for the future.

What links the two previous sections together is a left-libertarian mindset.

The majority of Green party members in both Germany and France would define themselves as left-wing, as would have the students and activists involved in the nationwide demonstrations in those countries. This gives us some further insight into why the Scottish Greens appear to be in a bubble of rapid growth.

The left-wing youth of Scotland who supported the Yes campaign need somewhere to direct their momentum. Traditionally, these types of voters (young left-wing activist) would have joined the Scottish Labour Party. However the Scottish Labour party actively supported and campaigned for a no vote.

Those same young voters who have been invigorated by political debate in Scotland for the first time in a generation are instead joining in huge numbers the two biggest political parties that supported Yes: the Greens and the SNP (who have also reported that new members are joining in their thousands). These voters are not only members gained for the Greens and the SNP, they are members lost to the Scottish Labour party.

Written by Daniel Rueben Comiskey
Picture Credit: snappybex 


When we don’t put reason first


The EDL has faced its inevitable demise. The BNP became a complete laughing stock on an international level after the trippiest political video to hit the internet went viral. UKIP has received poo in the post.

It is only fitting that someone – at the very least – equally ridiculous takes their place. Say hello to Britain First, the far right goon squad who, this weekend, went around Bradford harassing anyone who wasn’t white and had a beard.

The group of ‘soldiers’ have made it perfectly clear that they’re Christians on a crusade. Their meme-based Facebook page would have you think that they have quite the following. The ironically frequent mistakes in grammar and spelling that are in it don’t slow them down. Even though anyone who doesn’t read the Daily Mail or The Sun thinks they’re in a fight no one cares about. Disturbingly, their page counts 321 thousands likes, almost ten times less than that of the Green Party.

Unfortunately, they are not joking about the militancy of their “mission”. On their ‘Christian Patrol’, they set out to harass. Armed with their own version of the green beret; Matalan windbreakers. Proudly carrying the Daily Mail, these parking attendant lookalikes visited a number of places they felt were particularly under threat from Sharia law and halal meat. In Britain First’s own words, “Our newly formed units descended on around 10 giant mega mosques, madrassas and Islamic centres across the town to distribute British Army bibles and anti-grooming leaflets.”

To most people this sounds, at best, nonsensical. But what makes the group so appealing to some?

For better or for worse, we are going through a time of political disillusionment. Rather than publishing messages of hope and ways one can change their political situation, like the work of John Wilkes and contemporaries, the media is used as an instrument of hate, brandishing those it deems unfit for society. As if the traits of a “proper” fit for society were written in stone by an omnipotent being. And so instead of directing our contempt and anger towards those who really take advantage of the vulnerable, we go towards those who are even more vulnerable, namely minorities, who lack the strength of numbers to defend themselves against such vicious attacks.

Groups like these, who say that Christianity isn’t a “playground” but a “battleground”, create these battlegrounds. They set up self-fulfilling prophecies by raising tensions where there are none. The leader of the group, Paul Golding – who in an ironic twist of fate looks kind of like a chubbier Tommy Robinson – has what every radical leader has: a loud voice and a deaf ear. Intimidating a Mayor’s daughter can get you support, being racist Islamaphobes can give you approval, attacking minorities can increase your followers. But all of that will come from the small-minded.

What is more, this type of hateful speech, instigating aggression towards specific communities, can even convert the reasonable ones. When citizens are told that they are under attack by a different societal group, they may not accept it, but at least part of the message sinks in. Therein lies the difference between harmful and opinionated speech. The former will use emotion, something that most of us have little control over. The latter will use reason.

Often these groups are good to laugh at when their message is kept to print and no action follows. They attract ridicule and in no time their candle burns out and their message leaves with them. But when comments like “a zippo lighter and a jerry can of petrol will sort this out” are being left and gaining ‘likes’, you begin to get concerned. Moreover, these people are running for the EU elections, and the last thing they really need is a platform on which they can attract further attention.

This article was curated from York Vision available at http://www.yorkvision.co.uk/comment/when-we-dont-put-reason-first/20/05/2014 

Picture credit: DAVID HOLT – EDL protest (2013)

Press free-doomed in Europe?

Nina Haghighi

WITH THE EUROPEAN Parliamentary elections safely in the bag, the people of Europe are quietly returning to their everyday lives as politicians and MEPs are shuttling back and forth in order to create coalitions to drive their desired policies. But as the European media was working full steam ahead in order to find out every suggested policy, angle or dirty little secret of the potential MEPs, it looks as though they overlooked the issue closest to their core — press freedom in Europe.

In the 2014 Press Freedom Index, published by Reporters Without Borders, several European countries seem to be in decline. As large parts of the world is mapped by dark and gloomy colours, Europe has for a long time stood as a shining bright pillar in the world of declining press freedom. But that freedom seems to be declining — and it’s not just a trend that is sweeping in from the south.

Hungary, the United Kingdom and France are some of the more noticeable drops in the 2014 statistics – with the Eastern European country seeing the largest fall in the rankings. With a highly criticised media law coming in to place late in January 2011, Hungary has seen a steady drop when its press freedom has been evaluated. Clocking in at 66 in 2014, the country falls below some countries that have been previously linked with a poor press freedom.

The Órban led Fidesz government has arguably spent the last few years imposing a series of controversial legislations on a national level – but few of them have raised the same kind of international uproar as the Media Act.

Since its entry in to the European Union in 2004, Hungary has been seen by many as a country at the forefront of adopting ‘western standards’ in terms of democracy and press freedom. In their first membership year, Hungary’s media was deemed to be ‘Free’ by Freedom House — another organization which measures and evaluates press freedom — and clocked in at position number 45.

Hungary is not the only country that has seen this type of roller-coaster ride in the last decade as a member of the European Union.

Ninian Reid Due to recent scandals in the UK there has been growing debate about press regulation. The phone-hacking scandal, which now  sees some of the media’s top figures in court, led to a review of press standards in Leveson and a report was released calling for  greater regulation of the press which was seen to have gotten out of control.

This has opened up a wider debate about press freedom in the UK. Many celebrities who fell victim to the phone-hacking scandal  formed the group ‘Hacked Off’ which campaigned for greater restriction on the media regarding personal privacy. Some of the press in the UK have a reputation for treading a thin line when it comes to an invasion of privacy.

The Leveson report said that the relations between the press and politicians had been too close — most notably with former Prime  Minister Tony Blair and David Cameron’s former head of communications Andy Coulson — the latter was arrested for his role in  phone hacking while at the News of the World. Leveson recommended an independent body, much like the one that governs  broadcasting in the UK, in order to regulate the press.

These recommendations have been criticised by many in the press as encroaching on press freedom which is seen as dangerous for democracy.

This week also saw the announcement of the first terrorism case to be held entirely behind closed doors, with no access to either the press or the public due to reasons of ‘national security’. This has been seen as a further threat to press freedom and the principle of ‘open justice’ which is a key part of the British justice system. Shami Chakrabati of the campaign group ‘Liberty’ said: “Transparency isn’t an optional luxury in the justice system – it’s key to ensuring fairness and protecting the rule of law.

“This case is a worrying high water mark for secrecy in our courts – extensive restrictions set without robust reasons or a time limit. There must be clearer explanations before the door is shut on press and public.”

Khalid AlbaihWhile this is worrying for the UK, events further afield suggest that press freedom is under attack in other countries as well. The recent attempts to ban social media outlets in Turkey raises further concerns about freedom of speech in the country. A ban on Twitter and YouTube was announced by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan which led to international condemnation and domestic protests – the ban was overturned by President Abdullah Gul, but with Erdogan expected to become President concerns have arisen that freedom of speech, and with it press freedom, could come under further attack.

While it’s unfair to say that the media is ‘under attack’ from governments’ and citizens, its fair to say its a slippery slope in Europe. What can be done to arrest this is a different matter, the rise of anti-EU parties and the large number of votes for the radical right and left suggest that Europe is increasingly disenfranchised with the press and media. The behaviour of the press might be part of the solution as well as the states themselves recognising the need to protect one of its most important institutions.

By Niklas Jakobsson and Greg Bianchi

Photos by: Nina Haghighi, Ninian Reid, Khalid Albaih

Irish troops land in Manchester (April Fools)

Credit: Irish Defence Forces

THE REPUBLIC OF Ireland has deployed troops to the English city of Manchester overnight in a move that has caught the UK completely off-guard.

The Irish government is citing the protection of citizens of Irish descent from the potentially hazardous influence of growing Chinese interest in the city.

Officials had become uneasy late last year as plans moved ahead for £800 million of Chinese investment in a new ‘airport city’ at Manchester Airport.

Government sources say that the mass pro-Irish parades in the city last month convinced the Republic to move in its armed forces.

“We are protecting ethnic Irish,” said Captain O’Dea of the Irish Navy, who led his ship, the LÉ Róisín, from the Irish Sea up the Manchester Ship Canal under cover of darkness, landing in Salford Quays.


“To be honest, nobody’s interested in Salford but it’s just the quickest way in,” said O’Dea, whose 5,000-strong troop detachment was greeted with little more than mild surprise from the local population.

Credit: Zarrion Walker

Captain O’Dea is welcomed in Manchester city centre

While Downing Street has scrambled to condemn the action, China has been quick to make vague, ominous-sounding threats about possible ‘sanctions’ for Ireland in the global market.

David Cameron, prime minister of the UK, this morning tweeted: “I deplore today’s decision by Ireland on the use of armed forces in Manchester.”


One cabinet minister was reported to have said: “It’s not like Manchester is important at all, but it’s just so dashed rude of them.”

The Irish government released a statement this morning pointing to the Irish festivities of mid-March, saying: “Clearly these people want to be a part of Ireland.

“The people of Manchester did not ask for a new Chinese airport city. This is another crime, another provocation essentially supported by the current authorities in the Town Hall.”

City officials were not available for comment. It was not clear if they were too fearful to come into work, or whether this was just another routine day for them.


Critics of Ireland’s move are emphasising that a Chinese airport city in Manchester would not suit the behemoth Irish airline Ryanair, whose political sway is thought to have grown vast in recent years.

Rumours have already begun circulating that Michael O’Leary, chief executive officer of Ryanair, is now instead negotiating a lucrative deal with the Irish government to tarmac large parts of Cheshire for his own airport project.

Credit: Zarrion Walker

The mid-March festivities that prompted the Irish action

Irish officials have been busy organising a referendum for the city – the UK’s third-largest – on whether it will join the Republic of Ireland.

The Irish government’s statement said: “The referendum will be decided on a vote by acclamation, this Saturday night outside the Printworks, with our soldiers on hand to assist.”


It is so far unclear how enthusiastic the people of Manchester really are for the idea of annexation. One disgruntled local, out walking his whippet at dawn, said: “Why not – we could dig a bloody tunnel to Dublin by the time that High Speed Two thing gets up here.”

Another added: “As long as we can still get all the old telly channels and a bit of Radio 1, I don’t mind really.”

Meanwhile, a draft letter to the Irish government seen by Pandeia reporters and co-signed by the leaders of India, Pakistan, Poland and Jamaica, stated: “Oi, we fancy a bit of that action as well.” Irish officials declined to comment on whether they had received such a letter.

– – –

Do the Irish have a legitimate claim to the city of Manchester? Is the idea of a referendum by acclamation a clever innovation or a few thousand years out of date? Is all of this kind of thing fine, just as long as all the world’s barbarians never breach London’s gates? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Words: Sean Gibson

Photo credits: Top photo (Irish Defence Forces); inset 1 (Zarrion Walker); inset 2 (Zarrion Walker).

DISCLAIMER: This article is an April Fool’s joke. It is complete hogwash. Don’t believe a word of it.

Radical Independence for Scotland



After the 2014 Generation debate earlier today Daniel Rueben-Comiskey writes for Pandeia about Tariq Ali, the outspoken supporter of the radical independence for Scotland movement.

Ensconced at the centre of a long row of incredibly uncomfortable seats, I tell myself slowly and forcibly that I absolutely do not need to visit the bathroom. Me and the maybe 300 others sitting in a Glasgow University lecture theatre have just been asked to get “really friendly, really quickly” and share seats with total strangers. I end up perched over the crack between two already unpleasant pews. At least I’m sitting down. The aisles are filling up with people frantically looking for friends. Some give up and take residence on the stairs. The security guards look at them with an unappreciative shake of the head, but it has no effect. They’re not going anywhere. The atrium outside is a swarm of disappointed faces; they know they’ve arrived too late. We’re told a spillover theatre with a live feed is also full, another scene of excited disarray.  One thing is certain, there is an audience for RIC’s “Independence Lectures”. These people want to hear what Tariq Ali has to say.

 Flyers and posters are being passed from hand to hand, t-shirts, books and canvas tote bags are being sold to help fund some campaign or other. Smash Patriarchy, Anti-Trident and Socialist Republic of Scotland, just a few of the array of movements being represented here. The one cause, however, that has drawn these people here is the campaign for Scottish independence.

 Tariq Ali walks on to a sturdy applause from an audience that has packed out the two largest lecture theatres the University has to offer. They are not to be disappointed. RIC’s spokesperson introduces Ali as a friends of Malcolm X, John Lennon and Hugo Chavez. Oh, and the Rolling Stones wrote a song about him.

As if the audience aren’t already on the speaker’s side, he begins with a reference to the Glasgow’s most famous Socialist, John MacLean. A man who had songs written for him by Hamish Henderson and poems about him by Hugh MacDiarmid.

 What follows is a systematic decimation of the Better Together campaign and of Westminster politics in general. Some of his sharpest barbs are reserved for the Labour parties of London and Edinburgh, who, rather than asserting a trustworthy left alternative to Conservative rule, have been following the blue line and chasing the median voter since the earliest days of Tony Blair.  Ali belittles the No campaign, and reduces it to a highly organised operation driven by fear mongering, false accusations and broken promises. Incentives, Ali claims, will come next. With the momentum seemingly with the Yes campaign, Osborne & Co will offer the electorate of Scotland some sort of inducement, financial or otherwise.

Throughout the lecture, Ali approaches the notion from multiple disciplines, cultural, political, historical and economic. In all of them he provides ample evidence as to why the Britain of today cannot continue. Scottish independence, he feels, may be the rejuvenating factor that the country desires. That the country needs. How, Ali asks, can a left wing Scot trust any Labour party that allows Alastair Darling to link arms with George Osborne in their march to maintain the union?

However, for all his discussion of the problems with the No campaign, Ali speaks little of the Yes campaign. He seems reticent to discuss the plan laid out in the white paper, perhaps for fear of certifying the common opinion that a yes vote is a show of support for the SNP, a party whose neo-liberal economics rile Ali. These policies, he feels,  are the real enemy of equality, and should Scotland achieve independence, it would be well advised to follow the Norwegian model. This seems to be the crux of Ali’s lecture, the main point he has come here to make. Scottish independence would give the new state the ability to create a more egalitarian system. One, the crowd feels, is long overdue.

This crowd, however, already supports this view. Most appear to have come to verify their stance, to have it confirmed by a great thinker, not to have it challenged. However, even for these staunch supporters of independence, entrenched in their activism, Ali has a new argument to drive them further into the Yes camp. The rejuvenation of an independent Scotland, finally able to elect governments that it desires, governments with full autonomy over the nation may have an unexpected and significant consequence. This potential new state might offer hope to a devastated English left. The damaged representative democracy in the rest of the UK could find itself cure by a resurgent British left, inspired by a nation finally taking control of it’s own affairs. Independence, Ali asserts, not only gives hope for a better Scotland, but for a better England, a better Wales and a better Northern Ireland.

Socialism in transition: UK Fast News

This week the UK lost two high-profile figures of the left. Leader of the RMT union Bob Crow died in the early hours of Thursday morning at the age of 52. A few days later the 88 year old Tony Benn passed away. Greg Bianchi asks what is the left of socialism in the UK for this week’s Bottom Line

Tony Benn (1925-2014)

The death of Tony Benn was announced on Friday morning. The veteran Labour Party member, known for his strident defence of socialism and firebrand oratory, was part of a political divide which swept the UK towards the end of the 20th century.

Tony Benn had run for a number of important positions in the Labour Party and was part of its strong left wing which during the 1980s campaigned against Thatcherism. However, at times he and his colleagues were criticised for being counter-productive. He was a cabinet minister under Howard Wilson and Jim Callaghan during the 1970s and campaigned on behalf of the miners during their strikes.

Following his failure to win the leadership of the party he routinely won polls as a popular politician. His commitment to the left wing continued as he opposed the emergence of New Labour under Tony Blair and became a vocal opponent of the war in Iraq. With the passing of Benn the left wing in Britain has lost its father figure and it’s hard to imagine he’ll be replaced any time soon.

Bob Crow (1961-2014)

The leader of the RMT Union Bob Crow also died earlier this week. The union leader had recently been in the national spotlight after calling a 48 hour strike on the London Underground calling for better pay and conditions for workers.

While the strike was criticised by some, including the London mayor Boris Johnson, many of the members of his union supported his actions claiming that he had done a great deal to help protect their jobs and working conditions since taking control of the union in 2002. However, his salary was often criticised but he was also praised for helping to revive and strengthen the union movement.

In losing Crow the union movement, which has been in sharp decline since its peak during the 1960s and 1970s, has lost one of its most charismatic and steadfast leaders. Politicians and members have called his death a tragedy.

What next for British socialism?

With the loss of two high profile and leading members, British socialism is looking for future leaders. Over recent years socialism has adapted in the UK from a form which favours a large public sector and nationalised firms, to a party system which supports neo-liberal capitalism but greater distribution of wealth as well as more expenditure on social issues such as schooling and hospitals. However, there is no doubting that ‘socialism’ in a classical sense has been in sharp decline in the UK for many decades.

Rightly or wrongly, socialism has adapted to a modern, post-cold war world. The loss of people like Bob Crow and Tony Benn reinforce that socialism is in transition in the UK.

Just another case of identity fraud?



With Ukraine in turmoil over what to do about Crimea and the build-up to the European elections across the continent Pandeia is pleased to launch our new theme of ‘National Identity’.

To identify yourself as a citizen of a particular nation on this planet is usually a birth-right. The many forms and documents that have to be filled in on a daily basis in civilised society, force each person to take a position on their nationality — and in turn their identity — from an early age. But, in this globalised world, where one single tweet can make a Blackpool beautician famous seemingly throughout humanity, what does it mean when we pledge an allegiance to a flag, a country or even a continent? It is this question with which Pandeia launches our new theme of ‘National Identity’.

The crisis in Crimea has brought the concept of nation states and ‘National Identity’ under intense scrutiny. The term ‘Ukraine’s territorial integrity’ has been the sound bite with which the West has criticised Russia’s actions. Ukraine’s territorial integrity with regards to Crimea, it is argued, comes hand in hand with the country’s national identity. However, it is undoubtedly more complicated than that. Russian President, Vladimir Putin’s claims to do everything within his power to protect ‘ethnic Russians’, while deeply worrying in an immediate conflict context, actually contains underlying connotations that are the crux of the main issue affecting not just the continent but the globe in the 21st century.

To declare a geographical area as belonging to one state government is to whitewash from history the many years that came before those particular state boundaries were drawn up. In Crimea for example, the Tatars who are indigenous to the peninsula, have for centuries battled against Russian rule. It is of course natural then that these are the people most worried about the looming Russian annexation of Crimea. Complications inherently arise when diverse ethnic cultures are banded together under one banner, or more usually one flag. As national identity is often as much of a construct, as the flag that represents it.

For examples of these complications, it is prudent to look no further than the last major conflict to afflict continental Europe — the breakup of the former Yugoslavia and in particular the recent struggles in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Following the Dayton agreement, the aforementioned nation state was born and a new post-conflict era was heralded. However, nearly 20 years on, the country is blighted by structure of its government, designed to force the three ethnic identities — Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs — to collaborate together. As the inhabitants of Bosnia have learnt merely heralding a ‘new united nation’ doesn’t always result in a one. This struggle has prompted the recent protests with one banner reading “There is no ‘Bosnian people’” a concise assessment of national identity in the country.

The future of indigenous populations is at times most relevant when discussing ‘National Identity’. The North American indigenous populations have for years attempted to preserve and foster their cultures in an environment which often places the Nation at the forefront of any discussions on identity. As the nation state’s identity has begun to subsume the indigenous populations, new attempts to diversify and maintain their distinctiveness have been made. This was most recently the case when the Latoka tribe from the Pine Ridge reservation declared they were looking into making the ‘Mazacoin’ their national currency. In a statement of intent towards sovereignty and a form of national identity, the Mazacoin — a bitcoin variant, an alternative virtual currency — would replace the American Dollar in the area. Its use is coherent with the concept of trading and bartering that occurs across many indigenous populations, and the minds behind the concept, believe that by adopting a digital currency the Latoka tribe can shed decades of poverty. Currency in itself shapes such strong feelings of national identity and pride and the Mazacoin could be the start of a new kind of sovereignty in the 21st century.

It is no wonder then, that currency has become the new battleground in the independence debate that threatens to engulf Scotland in 2014. The concept of a shared monetary union between an independent Scotland and the rest of the UK has been championed by the YES Scotland campaign, while all three of the main political parties at Westminster have deemed the notion inconceivable. In questions of independence, much is made of national identity and the Sterling currency perhaps carries with it more identifiers of national pride than any other. Particularly in the run-up to the European elections, the prospect of a ‘European identity’ is continually disparaged in the UK, in favour of the British or more usually the national identity, be it Welsh, Scottish, English or Northern Irish. In Britain, this is even more of a surprise, for as history shows it is a nation formed of many different ‘identities’ — from the Anglo-Saxons, to the Vikings, to the West Indians of the ‘Windrush Generation’, Britain’s national identity, to be ‘British’, means not one single identifiable factor.

Maybe the one problem with ‘National Identity’ is, that it doesn’t really exist in the first place.

By Jamie Timson