Thursday, 10 November 2016

If we don't act now, we have already signed democracy's death knell

If there's one thing to be learnt from 2016, it's that the concept of democracy is faltering. First we had the Brexit vote; a situation where large chunks of the population made an uneducated decision based on disinformation, and in many cases gave them license to unshackle their inner bigot. Now we have a real estate mogul being elected into the fabled job title of "the most powerful man in the world" and white supremacy is being propelled into the political mainstay. Meanwhile, an estimated 11,000 Americans voted for a dead gorilla to become the president.
As much as it pains me to say it, I prefer to see Trump in the White House than another Clinton presidency. Hillary is an efficient maniac, whereas Trump is an incompetent one. I also think I speak for everyone reading this when I say a world war with Russia is generally best avoided, something which would have been far from guaranteed if Clinton had been elected.
The most worrying aspect about Trump's victory is, like several other events which have occurred in recent years, further fuel has been pumped into the veins of racists and extreme nationalists worldwide. The French presidency is up for grabs in the spring of next year, and I am wholly expecting the vulgar Marine Le Pen and her xenophobic Front National to triumph. This is made all the more likely by the fact that half of the French people are currently petrified or disgusted by anyone wearing a hijab.
It's not just the US and France that is embracing authoritarian ideology either; fascist parties are on the ascent all over Europe and anti-immigrant/Islam rhetoric is only becoming more animated. As in America, the racist right can and will be defeated in Europe. But we must start grinding them back into the dust now. With every victory or event that provides them with encouragement, intolerance will only grow stronger if it doesn't receive a reaction.
I am in no way suggesting that democracy should be eradicated, but if we keep electing lunatics and hatemongers to the forefront of politics then what future do we have. I despise all forms of fascism but I would rather have a benevolent dictatorship, if there is such a thing, than to see a consortium of supremacists rule over us all. Trump is not the worst candidate to become president but his victory should serve as a bitter warning.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Europe turns its back on Syria and Yemen at its own peril

The images of the Syrian boy, Omran Daqneesh, being pulled from the rubble in Aleppo may have shocked the world over - but his wasn't a unique case.
Shedding tears for one injured child is simply not enough; the war in Syria has been raging on for 5 and a half years now and has decimated hundreds of thousands of men, women and children - many just like the bloody and dazed Omran. Dr Zaher Sahloul, who works in Aleppo, knows all about that. He has treated a toddler who had been shot in the head by a government sniper, children who had been mutilated by the shrapnel from barrel bombs and two young sisters who were brought into the emergency room hugging each other, but were already dead. And yet the airstrikes keep coming.
Somehow, Yemen is enduring a humanitarian catastrophe that is even larger than in Syria. For over a year now, two thirds of the population have had no access to clean water, 80% are in desperate need of humanitarian aid and thousands of civilians have died. The worst part about all of this? If the US and UK governments stopped flooding the Saudis with billions worth of weaponry, their bombing campaign - though let's call it for what it is: a war crime - would swiftly grind to a halt.
You may not believe it now, but Europe's destiny is entwined with events in its Arab neighbourhood in a way that the US's is not. For each Syrian refugee who made it to Europe and was treated decently, how many were left to rot in a war zone of the West's creation and will nurture resentment towards Europe? Similarly, reports are filtering out of Yemen that Yemenis perceive it not to be a Saudi bombing campaign but a US/UK bombing campaign, and many civilians blame the carnage on the West just as much as the Saudis.
You might not think that, you, a solitary individual, can do anything to change the US and UK's grotesque foreign policies. But if large swathes of the population became aware of the possibly irreversible damage the government is inflicting on the Middle east, I believe insurmountable pressure could be unleashed on those in power.
In a strange parallel to the events of last summer, the body of the little Syrian boy Aylan Kurdi washed upon the shores of Greece and just like now with Omran, there was an outpouring of sympathy on a global scale for refugees. However, just a few months later, Isis claimed responsibility for the deadly Paris attacks, the world relapsed and the migrant-bashing fanfare became rambunctious all over again.
For the reasons stated above, another terror attack in Europe is probably quite likely. Last time, a bunch of Belgian people killed a bunch of people in France so the British government voted to bomb more innocent people in Syria. There's no logic. We need to respond only with humanistic values, kids like Omran are dying every day. Think about it.

Sunday, 3 July 2016

A new and sinister era has been ushered in

Originally posted on 29th June 2016.

The warning signs that we are entering a new epoch have been a long time coming, but the events which have occurred in the last few weeks have hurtled us towards it. The epoch I speak of, is one where casual racism and extreme nationalism rules and dictates the political weather.
If you've been living under a rock and haven't noticed, just take a look at the hate reports that have come flooding in over the past few days. Polish-origin schoolkids get cards calling them “vermin”, who must “leave the EU”. A halal butchers was petrol bombed in Walsall. A BBC reporter was called a paki in her home town. A TV correspondent notes that within five minutes three different people shout, “Send them home.” Neo-Nazi stickers being posted all over Glasgow. An 11 year-old girl racially abused in Sussex. Another child being told to go back to Romania, in the girls toilet at a school. More Nazi graffiti being daubed on walls in Belfast. Numerous people saying they voted to leave the EU to "keep the Muslims out". I've even seen someone post that their sister was racially abused and assaulted on the day we voted for Brexit. The list goes on.
No surprise, then, that anti-Muslim abuse soared by 326% last year. But this isn't just about Islamophobia anymore. The fetid build-up to the referendum and the result itself, has brewed a multi-headed attack; not just on Muslims, but anyone else who looks like their ancestry hasn't dwelled in England for the past 500 years. It's tempting to say, the solution would be to just legalise the execution of any human filth caught spouting racial abuse, on the spot. Although they don't deserve anything better than that, the catalysts for such wretchedness runs much deeper.
As it always has, xenophobia trickles down from the top. This is what happens when influential politicians and prime-ministerial wannabes (you know who I'm talking about), sprinkle their campaigns with the seeds of intolerance and bigotry. They don't just sprinkle it, they outrightly indulge and encourage their vulgarity. In times of uncertainty, there is always a place for a scapegoat. Disabled people had their benefits cut and were labelled as skivers by ministers last year, que a rise in hate crimes against people with disabilities. This time, the intensity has been cranked up and now, not just immigrants, but anyone who looks like one of their ancestors was an immigrant, has been made a target.
So, what can we do? Very little, unless we decide to burn the establishment overnight. That being unlikely, we need to prevent these quasi-fascist fuckwits, on all levels, from producing any more fertile ground. The referendum has been a masterclass in 'divide and conquer' tactics - I don't think the nation has ever been so carved up in my lifetime. But this must stop now. Without sounding a little bit sensationalist, hyper-nationalism and economic turmoil have had cataclysmic ramifications before. We are only a few false moves away from allowing that to happen again.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

The EU is rotten but leave now and the Tories are left unshackled to mutilate the state

People are outraged that we may pay the EU up to £350 million a week. But if you mark the box next to Leave on Thursday, that statistic will be miniature in comparison to what your vote will entail.

It takes only a little perspective to offer some clarity in the gloomiest of situations. As both factions of the referendum campaign vamp up for the final days, millions of people will be voting to leave the EU, for completely delusional reasons. I appreciate that many of you don’t take an interest in day-to-day politics, but what is being sold to you by the plutocratic trio of Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Nigel Farage is a scam.

The focal argument for Brexit is that all the money being pumped into the EU will come flooding back into our public services. However, that money being paid to the EU is the least of a grim barrage of figures which are a slap to the face. Since they were elected in 2010, the Tories have been busy selling off public assets at an exponential rate, with the Royal Mail and the NHS being two of the most notable casualties. The latter now has a record deficit of £2.45 billion – the biggest overspend in its history and is a direct result of struggling to cope with a major budget squeeze. Many of the leading Brexiteers are on record as wanting to privatise the NHS. The fate of our health service really couldn’t be any more transparent if we vote to leave.

Another ugly statistic is the £555 billion the Chancellor George Osborne has racked up in debt, since he took office in 2010. To add insult to injury, Osborne has already warned of £30 billion more cuts to the NHS, schools and other public services, in the event of Brexit. The government’s actions raises two questions: how can anyone trust them to rebuild these public services with money we’d be saving from the EU, when they’ve already been working so hard to dismantle them? Secondly, where has all the money that has been stripped from our public assets gone? The first can only be answered by voters themselves but I’ll tell you where all this wealth has vanished to; our government hands a minimum of £93 billion to businesses and corporations each year – a transfer of more than £3,500 from each household in the UK. Just to put that into comparison, £1.2 billion is spent every year on benefit fraud, an argument which is supposedly one of the strongest for leaving the EU. Believe it or not, there’s a reason why we live in a country where the richest 20% now hold 105 times more wealth than the poorest fifth.

Leaving the European Union carries a price working-class voters literally can’t afford to pay. You only need to look at what the Tories have done in the past, without EU regulations, to see how they will act in the future. In 1981, the Thatcher government reluctantly agreed to introduce into British law obligations imposed by the European Union Acquired Rights Directive. This would protect the jobs and pay and conditions of employment of workers on transfer from one employer to another. However, the Tories excluded six million public servants when they introduced the regulations. The 10 years that followed were a privatisation frenzy, an auction on who could pay the least to the fewest, as tens of thousands were left with no protection on transfer. After years of campaigning and a shameful decade of mass privatisation, the workers took their case to the EU and won. As Paul Mason noted in a recent column, the likes of Johnson, Gove and Farage have fought all their lives for one objective: to give more power to employers and less to workers. Make no mistake, these men have absolutely no intentions of maintaining our rights at work if we leave the EU.

Perhaps the gravest threat to our society is the looming menace of TTIP. If you’re unfamiliar with this acronym, TTIP is the transatlantic trade and investment partnership and has two main strands: one is regulatory cooperation, which means standardising the laws on either side of the Atlantic. The other is investor-state dispute settlement, permitting companies to sue governments through an offshore tribunal if a law threatens their profits. If we vote to remain in the EU there is still no guarantee the deal will be prevented, but if we do leave it will certainly increase the chances of it being conceived.

If you’re still not worried, you only need to look at what happened in Romania. The government of Romania halted the production of a gold mine and swiftly found itself facing a massive lawsuit from a corporate mining giant in a secret “court”. The corporation has said it may seek up to $4 billion in "compensation", which is half of Romania’s annual public healthcare budget. If TTIP is passed through, such cases could become commonplace in Britain. It will almost certainly eradicate every democratic process in this country and will be a death knell for the NHS and other public services. Yet David Cameron is calling for "courage" to push it through. Do you really think he'll hesitate with Brussels out of the equation?
Brexit would also have a hugely detrimental effect on the environment. Overbearing private corporations would exploit the situation to demand the repeal of the Climate Change Act, the dismantling of the Department of Energy and Climate Change and push for even more fracking than is already currently in prospect. They would also urge for the removal of any remaining measures to encourage renewables, energy efficiency and community energy. The record of the Brexit cheerleaders offers no reassurance that they would resist any of this. Furthermore, the EU has provided us with a number of environmental benefits, including cleaner beaches, more rigorous action on air pollution and increased protection for UK nature. All of these advantages handed to us would likely to be wiped away.
The referendum has brought the worst out in some people, with casual racism and xenophobia rearing its ugly head and piercing the surface of our political discourse. The Leave campaign is the primary culprit and in recent weeks they have produced some truly odious propaganda. In the wake of the Orlando shooting on June 12th, they fabricated a shameful piece of racist scaremongering, claiming that “Islamic extremism is a real threat to our way of life” and we face an “Orlando-style atrocity” if we don’t leave the EU. The master of chicanery, Nigel Farage, then went one step further. He unveiled a poster illustrating a vast queue of desperate refugees, with the headline “Breaking Point”, in a demonstration of his expertise at whipping up racial hatred. The poster was eerily reminiscent of one deployed by the Nazis.
Last week, the boundless torrent of fear and hatred which has been pumped into the veins of this EU debate reached boiling point. Thomas Mair, a far-right extremist, murdered Labour MP Jo Cox in her constituency, while shouting “Britain First”. It is still unclear whether or not he was referring to the far-right group of that name, although it is now known he had ties with neo-Nazi organisations. Atrocities like these aren’t caused by the overnight invention of racial superiority, but by the gradual evolution of a noxious political climate. Just as we like to talk about the radicalisation of Islamic extremists, the catalysts for this racial extremism need to be named and shamed; tabloids such as the Daily Mail, the Daily Express and The Sun, far-right groups like Britain First and outright neo-Nazi groups like National Action, as well as many individual members of our political institutions and media. Poverty, low pay and the sanctioning of benefits are not caused by immigrants; they are a direct result of the ideological austerity fermented by this Tory government.
The truth is, there is no right or wrong answer on the EU referendum, although even if we remain we face a punishing few years until we have a change in government. However, I can confidently say that affairs are going to get much worse if we decide to leave. The EU has become a gerrymandered dinosaur, which allowed the most left-wing government in Europe plunge into financial chaos. But it still offers the British public protection on many levels. One major criticism of the EU is that it failed to block the Tories’ trade union bill, which would stem the flow of political funding to opposition parties. Even though it didn’t prevent the bill, it raises the question, why would you want the country’s security to be left solely in the hands of these people? The trade union bill, after all, is a gleaming example of things to come in the event of Brexit.
A post-Brexit government would be sculpted in the images of Johnson and Gove, and everything they have ever achieved suggests they would turn Britain into a Thatcherite’s wet dream. It may have escaped your notice, but on numerous public appearances in recent weeks, David Cameron has been attempting to soak all the blame being fired at the Conservative party onto himself. Forget divisions within the Tories’, the Prime Minister’s subtle ploy is to ensure the legacy of his party remains intact for many years to come. This can’t be allowed to happen. You won’t be getting your country back if you vote to leave, you’ll be seamlessly placing it into the hands of the most right-wing government seen in years.
Regardless of whether we leave the EU or not, a financial crisis is probably around the corner. It was reported only two weeks ago, that the megalomaniacs and government overlords of Britain had taken £65 billion out of the British economy in just March and April alone. Our chancellor has created a gargantuan debt and this country faces grave repercussions. This should serve as a final warning to vote remain, so the Tories at least have some restrictions on their venomous assault on the state. If we leave, they’ll be left unshackled to run riot in a manner we haven’t seen since the 1980’s.
We should then seek to replace those in government at the next possible opportunity.
Our democracy is broken but to win it back we must work with democratic forces across Europe, not by cutting ourselves adrift. The EU may never be rebuilt and if that is the case there will be a time to leave. But that time will be when we have a measure of stability, when we have a Labour government.

Monday, 16 November 2015

The inevitable state-sponsored attack

Originally posted on 14th November.

What happened last night in Paris wasn't a random act of violence by a group of unorganised Islamic extremists; it was a meticulously planned attack designed to kill scores of people that was sanctioned by the state.

Before you jump on the conspiracy theorist bandwagon, let's look at the reasons why this could be; after the Charlie Hebdo massacre, France's security levels was understandably placed at its highest possible level. Paris has some of the most advanced surveillance in the world, so how have eight militants managed to rampage through the city killing at least 128 people without the state receiving any information beforehand?

A few months ago, I saw a post claiming all the pieces were in place for another fake terror attack in or near the UK; at the time the mainstream media was howling about the refugee crisis and the possibility of extremists infiltrating Europe. A few months down the line and look what's happened.

Yes, ISIS have taken responsibility for the attack, but how many of you know the true nature of the extremist group? A group which was created and trained by the CIA, further funded by the US and Saudi governments. ISIS are a fabrication of Western governments, that's not a conspiracy but stone cold fact. So where does that place the West's role in the latest "terrorist" attack?

By this point any sane minded person will be asking, why would our own governments inflict such pain and terror on its own people? The same reason it always has, to rule through fear and make a profit. After 9/11, the West invaded Iraq and created a pantomime villain of Al Qaeda (also created by the US) and made a profit of $39.5 billion through Iraq's oil.

Now this attack has occurred, the government and media will no doubt whip up a shit storm of scare-mongering and abuse towards Muslims and refugees trying to enter Europe. This will serve the purpose of creating further divides between different ethnic groups. They also finally have an excuse to put boots on the ground in Iraq and Syria, once again making a profit through war at the cost of more innocent lives. The only winner from this attack is the West, and if they are not successful in creating more war in the Middle East I worry the UK is next.

For those who think this was a religiously motivated attack, you are wrong. As fanatically religious as IS are, at the end of the day they are nothing more than marionettes to the real warlords who pull the strings behind the scenes. If they are funded by the West, they are not going to be pursuing their own agenda.

I hope that people will start to understand the true nature of the "war on terror" and IS, because the truth is that the gravest threat to our society is not Islamic bogeymen, but the governments that claim to protect us.

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Only the Tories threaten our standard of living

The foreign secretary’s claim that migrants threaten our standard of living is the epitome of Tory hypocrisy.

In recent months, it has been made almost impossible for every man, woman and child living in the UK to have not been exposed to the mainstream media’s rampant scaremongering of migrants coming into Britain.

Last week the foreign secretary, Philip Hammond, claimed that millions of “marauding” African migrants pose a threat to the EU’s standard of living and social structure. This should not be viewed as a surprise, as the Conservatives are no stranger to deploying smoke and mirrors propaganda. In the build up to the general election, Cameron and his peers served up a cocktail of dodgy statistics, platitudes and fictitious promises. They fermented the myth that Labour was to blame for the national deficit, with the latter helplessly attempting to claw back voters with pro-austerity and tough immigration promises. On the day of the election results, the Conservatives were victorious and Labour lost the majority of their seats in Scotland to the SNP, simultaneously sparking the resignation of leader Ed Miliband.

Now with a first Tory majority government in 23 years, the Conservatives have begun introducing draconian laws which advertently discriminate against the poor, ethnic minorities and the disabled. This is precisely why the foreign secretary’s claim that migrants threaten our standard of living is so ludicrous. It is not desperate families who have been uprooted and forced to travel across continents in search of sanctuary that are ravaging this country’s economy; it is the government this country voted in. And the Conservatives are not simply just sweeping away the structure of society; they are carefully disembowelling it, parcelling public sectors up and selling them off to their corporate pals.

When migrants are described as invaders hell-bent on plundering a foreign land, it is usually by the right-wing press intent on scaremongering and stirring hostility. If this is not the case, there is a tendency for it to be the opinion of the typical nationalistic/extreme-right bigot, the kind of person who does not view refugees as a humanitarian concern, but as garbage that is causing a smell. However, when they are described by a member of the Tory cabinet in this manner, you ought to think he should know better. And Mr Hammond does know better. Of course he does, the man must have a certain degree of intelligence to have landed himself such a high ranked place in government. Mr Hammond’s claims are nothing more than him deploying a smoke-and-mirrors tactic; exploiting his position to deceive the general cohort that refugees are to blame for this country’s shortcomings, rather than the policies which his party are busy implementing.

Since the election, Cameron and his cronies have bombarded the public sector on all fronts. The Chancellor George Osborne has slashed the welfare budget by £12 billion, cuts which statistics have already shown will directly affect the poorest families in the UK. Just to rub salt in the still bleeding wounds, the Chancellor announced the new “living wage” of £7.20 from next April, but this is restricted to people who are over 25. This is just one in a string of new laws which attack young people, because apparently in Osborne’s eyes the young are not of equal worth. The Home Secretary Theresa May swiftly sunk her teeth into the proposed Snoopers’ Charter. The original communications data bill was blocked by the former deputy prime minister Nick Clegg, three years ago. However, since the election the Conservatives have been working on revamping the bill.

The dystopian policy would strengthen the online surveillance powers of the police and security services and under the law, internet and mobile phone companies would be required to keep records of customers’ browsing activity, social media use, emails, voice calls and text messages for a year. Essentially, if this law is enforced life in the UK is swiftly going to become a lot more Orwellian. The Home Secretary has also vowed to ban all legal highs, which even her government advisors have called “unenforceable”. The bill envelops so many substances, from tea to nasal spray, that she might as well be passing a law that bans pleasure. The other most notable MP who has been busy mutilating the lives of the disabled and poor is the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith. Mr Duncan Smith has hastily etched himself a portrait of being the pantomime villain of parliament, materialising cuts which directly affect the most vulnerable in society. 

It’s the familiar case of the rich getting richer, and the poor getting poorer

You will have heard those words before but it couldn’t be any further from the truth. The Chancellor’s raid on the welfare budget includes a number of ideological, damaging measures that will certainly harm the young and vulnerable. His main welfare announcements comprise of a “youth obligation” for those aged 18-21, that says they must either earn or learn. He has scrapped the automatic entitlement to housing benefit for 18-21 year olds, which basically leaves anyone of that age who is unemployed and homeless mercilessly abandoned. Mr Osborne has also halved the income threshold in tax credits and sliced the benefit cap by £6000.

This may sound all well and good in “cutting the deficit left by Labour” to their blue-knitted adherents, but to anyone with a sense of realism austerity is nothing but a con. For this is not austerity; it’s a transfer of assets from public to private ownership. One of the main advantages of the word “austerity” to the Tories is that it implies a gradual process and many of the apathetic in this country will still not know what it means. This is why I can only presume the country has not yet erupted into a full-scale revolution; if the majority of the inhabitants in the UK realised what austerity really means and the bleak future it entails, then I have no doubt the Houses of Parliament would be in flames before nightfall.

You may view this outcome as being overly dramatic, so let’s look at the facts to see how divided wealth and equality really is. According to new statistics, families in the UK hold a combined wealth of more than £9.1 trillion, the equivalent of £326,414 for every household in the land. Despite average household wealth growing by more than £126,000 in just 10 years, the richest 20 per cent hold an astounding 105 times more wealth than the poorest fifth. When you consider that the average household in the UK earn £20,801, these figures reveal a deeply divided Britain. To envisage the thought of every home in the year gain over £300,000 may seem like a Trotskyist utopia. However, when the national household income is £306,000 away from economic equilibrium for everyone, you have to demand answers to why an emergency budget is required which is undeniably going to widen the chasm between the rich and poor.

A prime example of this gulf in wealth and equality was announced just a few days after the election. MP’s who were only elected a few days before are set to receive a ten per cent pay rise within months, an increase in pay from £67,060 to £74,000 a year. Considering David Cameron said the proposed pay rise was “unacceptable” in 2013, one might be perplexed as to why he has still to object to the notion. However, Cameron has instead chosen to ramble on about the “swarms” of migrants at Calais, and rather than protesting he is embracing the onslaught of injustice his government are hurling at the people of this country and those attempting to enter it.

In the months following the election, the Chancellor has also demonstrated the behemothic rift which separates the wealthy and the poor. On the 8th July, the same day George Osborne was shelling out £12 billion welfare cuts to the most destitute factions of society, his father Sir Peter Osborne signed a deal worth £6 million with a property developer based in an offshore tax haven. Osborne’s family business, Osborne & Little, linked up with a corporation in the British Virgin Islands to turn its former headquarters in an expensive south London district into flats and houses. Once they had received planning permission for the site, Osborne & Little sold the site to its foreigner partner for £6,088,000. There is a certain degree of irony in the fact that, the same day the Chancellor was announcing cuts that will potentially decimate the lives of hundreds of thousands of people, his affluent multi-millionaire family was earning an extra £6 million tax free. This is Tory hypocrisy at its finest.

Then again, considering the backgrounds of the UK’s key political figures, it is hardly astonishing that they have very little clue about how the average Briton lives. They neither know, nor care. Cameron and Osborne, like many of their Tory peers, are the sons of multi-millionaires, Eton educated and were members of the infamous Bullingdon Club. The Club where members have to burn a £50 note in front of a beggar as part of an “initiation ceremony”. That’s right, the man who has the most power in government and the man in control of the national budget both once burnt a £50 note in front of the most impoverished members of society.

Perhaps it shouldn’t be so surprising then, that the Chancellor’s family have just evaded tax on a £6 million deal. After all, our government cost the taxpayer a gargantuan £85 billion on corporate welfare in 2014 alone. If this has made you feel abhorred I cannot blame you; the Chancellor has just stripped £12 billion from the welfare budget, in the name of “cutting the deficit”, yet still squeezes £85 billion out of the taxpayer annually to appease his megalomaniacal chums. If that wasn’t shameful enough, in April the government also scrapped a £347 million crisis fund that provides emergency cash for families on the verge of homelessness or starvation.

Since they regained government with a majority, the Tories have been engrossed in meticulously packaging up pieces of the public sector and auctioning them off to private firms and companies. In the build up to the election, it was revealed that the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt had signed a deal worth £780 million, to sell fragments of the NHS off to 11 private firms. There has not been any further developments since then, or at least as far as the public is aware, but the future of the NHS looks bleak to say the least. In June, the Chancellor continued the trend of selling off public assets, this time the government’s remaining 30% share in Royal Mail, currently worth £1.5 billion. Osborne has since also kicked off the first round of sales in the Royal Bank of Scotland at a loss of £1.1 billion to the taxpayer, attempting to justify the sale with the preposterous response that “it is the right thing to do for the taxpayer”. It really is amazing that so many people voted for this nonsense.

With all these flash sales of government assets without the public’s consent, you could almost be mistaken into thinking we don’t live in a democracy anymore. However, if these authoritarian state of affairs weren’t bad enough, David Cameron nominated a major Tory donor for the House of Lords last week. Multi-millionaire banker James Lupton, who has given £2.5 million to the Conservatives since 2009, is expected to be among the 30 new Tory peers, and has found his way there entirely un-elected. It appears the Prime Minister is determined to stuff the already bloated Upper House with even more wealthy bankers and uber-rich cronies, which will allow them to influence parliamentary decisions and preserve his party while doing nothing for the weak and vulnerable. One could come to the conclusion that in 21st century politics, even the highest ranked politicians are nothing more than marionettes to fat-cat bankers, put in place to serve the will of the oligarchy.

Theresa May is stamping her own brand of dystopia

The home secretary has been working hard imposing on our human rights and standard of living. Election results were barely in when the home secretary indicated the Tories will increase state surveillance powers, much to the alarm of privacy campaigners and anyone else who doesn’t want the UK to resemble 1984. The proposed law, known as the Snoopers Charter’, was blocked by the Liberal Democrats as part of the coalition agreement, but now they are gone the nation’s privacy is at the mercy of this wannabe Thatcherite figure. The main problem with the bill, other than your human right to privacy, is that it puts too much power in the hands of Mrs May – rather than the decision being made by a judge to look through people’s private messages.

Another highly unpopular law that the home secretary has introduced is her bizarre and frankly farcical ban on legal highs. Her own expert drug advisors have said that introducing the blanket ban risks “serious unintended consequences”. The advisory council wrote to the home secretary warning that her legislation risks handing out seven-year prison sentences to the sellers of amiable or even helpful herbal medicines, and criminalising otherwise law-abiding young people. The umbrella ban is highly unusual in British law, as it brings in a complete ban on all psychoactive substances and then introduces a list of exemptions for those in everyday use, such as alcohol and coffee. The fact that the Conservatives’ own media flagship, The Telegraph, described the bill as “unnecessary, incomprehensible and largely unenforceable” gives a pretty clear indication of how mind-bendingly stupid the ban is. They also added that “by encouraging professional criminals into a new area of business, it is likely to prove entirely counterproductive”, which no doubt would be one of the consequences of the ban.

Theresa May should take a leaf out of Portugal’s book; the nation decided to decriminalise all drugs in 2001 and now hardly anyone dies as a result of overdosing. Portugal decided to treat possession and use of small quantities of these drugs as a public health issue, not a criminal one. They are now reaping the awards, with the lowest number of drug overdose deaths in the EU – there are a mere three drug related deaths per million citizens. This is compared to the EU average of 17.3 per million and more alarmingly, 44.6 per million in the UK. However, rather than tackling the situation with logic, Theresa May seems more concerned with incarcerating users of relatively harmless substances such as nitrous oxide, and instead handing control of a £200 billion trade to savage gangsters. Advanced nations around the world are waking up to the failure of the war on drugs, while Britain’s drug policy is still being dictated by right-wing scaremongers armed with disinformation.

The home secretary has also demonstrated a degree of xenophobia in some of her recently introduced laws. She plans to ban international students from working during their studies and then force them to leave the UK once they have graduated. This has to be considered the most egregious of her mandates, not just because it is entirely counterproductive, but because it also reflects her own grotesque outlook on migrants. The obvious problem this will have, other than the cultural damage it will necessitate, is the £18 billion foreign students contribute to the UK each year. This is a bemusing decision by the home secretary, not just because of the enormous income the country will lose out on, but why on earth she would feel so passionately about denying foreign students the right to work and then stay in the UK. The only coherent reason for this must be that she possesses an underlying streak of racism, that she believes this great nation which was fabricated around immigrants, is now full to the brim. Either way, Mrs May has clearly never been informed that nationalism and economic proficiency are not compatible concepts.

This bigoted behaviour could have steered her to the role of villain of Parliament, however that title is reserved for Iain Duncan Smith. Nonetheless, the home secretary has continued her fanatical assault on migrants. The government’s plan is to jail landlords who rent out homes to illegal immigrants. This will sound like an attractive concept to the neoliberalists, but it will have calamitous ramifications as racist landlords will be allowed to flourish. This is part of the government’s knee-jerk response to the “migrant crisis” unravelling in Calais, which as well as harming undocumented people and needlessly punishing those who rent to them, it will only help fuel discrimination among landlords and letting agents. It doesn’t take much for state-sanctioned prejudice to become entrenched throughout society and the hardships of austerity are breeding racism and fascism. All the while, the perpetrators of this economic barrenness are quietly stirring their cauldron of chicanery, cornering the immigration debate into the limelight so no one questions their tyrannical decrees.

Iain Duncan Smith would have been better suited as a member of Hitler’s SS

Iain Duncan Smith is probably the most malevolent member of any government since the Emperor Nero. If he was actually held accountable for the hundreds of people who have died as a result of having their benefits cut or thrust into poverty, he would be viewed in the same light as Kim Jong-Un. Yet it is only those on the “left” who consider the DWP (Department for Work and Pensions) Secretary to be an appalling, cold-blooded monster, which is quite extraordinary when you consider the devastating effects that his punitive measures will and are having on millions of innocent people. Mr Duncan Smith has sculpted this image by cutting disabled benefits by £30 a week – because payments of up to £102.15 per week do not “incentivise” sick or disabled people to find work. An increasing number of young people are being made homeless after being financially crippled by the welfare reforms. Charity and council agents have reported that homelessness among under 25’s who had experienced benefit reductions has increased six fold in the space of a year, from 1.7% of cases in 2013 to 10% in 2014.

These welfare cuts may not appear particularly sinister at first glance, however, what they emanate is truly horrific. Some of the most poor and vulnerable in society are literally dying as a direct result of DWP sanctions. There’s not just a handful of cases; it's now been leaked that thousands of people have perished after being declared fit for work. Iain Duncan Smith had buried the figures that show how many people have died within six weeks of having their benefits stopped, but his murky secret has just been exposed. It proves that 2,380 people died between 2011 and 2014 as a direct result, a mind-boggling average of 90 people a month. This is a modern era genocide and all within the constraints of the law. In addition, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is investigating the DWP over a separate refusal to go public with its internal reviews into 49 specific deaths of people on benefits. Reviews that, according to the government’s own internal guidance, are triggered when suicide or alleged suicide is “associated with a DWP activity”. These are not just “benefit scroungers” who have refused to work, not that it would make their death any more acceptable, but the disabled and the chronically ill.

Malcolm Burge was a 66-year-old retired gardener who had his housing benefit cut by 50%, but a backlog at Newham council meant he had unknowingly continued to receive the higher amount. The council issued him a demand for £809.79 and in one of several letters pleading for help he said; “I have no savings or assets. I am not trying to live, I am trying to survive.” He then drove to Cheddar Gorge in Somerset and set his car on fire. It is difficult to find words to describe how chilling his last sentence is, but cases like this are swiftly becoming an emblem of DWP policy. David Clapson’s benefits had been stopped as a result of missing one meeting at the jobcentre. He was diabetic, and without the £71.70 a week from his jobseeker’s allowance he couldn’t afford to eat or put credit on his electricity card to keep the fridge where he kept his insulin working. Three weeks later Clapson died from diabetic ketoacidosis, caused by a severe lack of insulin. When he was found he had no food in his stomach and there was a pile of CV’s next to his body.

It is pretty incomprehensible that a government department in a so-called democracy would just allow these atrocities to occur. For the secretary of that department to then sweep them under the rug and pretend they never existed, he is surely no better than the evil terror organisations we are told to hate on the news every day. They both have a blatant disregard for innocent lives, so what is the difference? In the David Clapson case, the DWP knew he was diabetic and therefore needed a good diet and insulin, which needed to be kept in a working fridge. So when he starved and couldn’t afford the electricity to preserve his medicine which resulted in the death, then surely the DWP are answerable to a minimum charge of corporate manslaughter. We are fervently hounded by the media about a “migrant crisis”; the truth is this is silently turning into a widespread crisis, right under our noses. More than a million people in this country have had their benefits stopped over the past year. Sanctions against chronically ill and disabled people have risen by 580% in a year. This is a system out of control and it is methodically killing off the most poor and vulnerable.

Another demonstration of the utter lack of compassion the Tories have for the poor is the DWP’s refusal to count serious mental health conditions amongst their criteria to protect vulnerable people on benefits. Under Tory logic, if you have depression, anxiety or OCD you chose it as a lifestyle, just like you chose to be poor. The DWP has said that it only includes physical disabilities as making a person “vulnerable”. Having a mental health condition, no matter how serious, does not count. It is estimated that around 23 per cent of people on Job Seekers Allowance suffer from a mental health condition. You do not need a doctorate in economics to grasp that stopping their money is going to stop them from living. Iain Duncan Smith is probably one of the few people alive who, when seeing a person in the depths of despair or on the brink of suicide, instead of offering them help he simply says tough luck. It is scarcely believable that this heinous figure is effectively in control of whether the most vulnerable in society live or die.

The DWP Secretary is infatuated with choking everyone in society, especially those under 25, into work. It is this obsession that has led to some opprobrious proposals being suggested in recent months. He and Cameron have concocted a plan to force young people to work for their benefits, which would see them working 30 hours a week for a fraction of the minimum wage. The proposals would put young adults who have been out of work, education or training for six months into mandatory community work. The Jobseekers’ Allowance would be abolished for 18 to 21-year-olds and replaced with the “Youth Allowance” of the same amount - £57.35 a week, or £1.91 per hour of work. The followers of Tory tribalism will no doubt say this an equitable proposal, as will the economically illiterate, who are unable to see the negative consequences of these schemes and instead buy into the simplistic narrative that people without jobs should be made to “do something”.

However, this “Youth Allowance” scheme carries a pernicious underbelly; a Trojan horse strategy that Cameron and co naively believe will be gobbled up by the masses and the unemployed turned upon. For their delusionary plan is already punctured with enormous holes. There is already over 150,000 18 to 21-year-olds on JSA and it has been announced they will have to undertake community service, work which 200,000 people are already sentenced to carry out each year by the courts. Basic mathematics will tell you not all of these people can be forced to do community work when there is simply not enough, so at some point the government is going to cut into people’s full time jobs to meet these ‘needs’. What will happen when they eventually take this stride? Regular working people are going to be made redundant to pave the way for compulsory community work, and then are instantaneously going to find themselves on benefits. At this stage, with unemployment surging on an unprecedented scale, the Tory hierarchy will predictably update the law so that anyone out of work for more than six months is cornered into the community work scheme. In the blink of an eye, huge swathes of the population will be forced to work for a fraction of their former wage and condemned to a life of contemporary slavery, if you don’t consider that to have already happened. In essence, Cameron and his minions will have obliterated the minimum wage and all within the powers of the law.

Surely this is a plot too wicked ever to be conceived you will say. But if you look at the mounting evidence with both eyes open, ideological austerity is not just thawing the bedrock of society; it is rapidly disintegrating into ash from within. Benefits and tax credits have already been decimated, simultaneously seeing taxes rise for the poor, and the number of food banks have soared from 56 in 2010 to 445 in 2015 – an unfathomable increase of almost 700% in just five years. However, if the wheels of the “Youth Allowance” bill start to roll, it will be a real game-changer as it will open the floodgates for the Tories to begin shelling us with even more repressive laws. Paul Mason recently argued in an article for The Guardian that; “Austerity means driving the wages, social wages and living standards in the west down for decades until they meet those of the middle class in China and India on the way up”. This is an eerie but meticulous forecast of what the future will hold if the Tories rule for the years to come, as it is difficult to comprehend what else they are striving to achieve with these draconian mandates. David Cameron said the “Youth Allowance” will “effectively abolish long-term youth unemployment”; he is correct in the sense that the younger and eventually older generations will be ‘employed’, however, that employment will be nothing more than eternal thraldom to the state.

Poverty, and in particular child poverty, has been spiralling since the Tories regained Parliament five years ago. Over the last two years, excessive welfare cuts have reduced incomes for the poorest, and drove 760,000 below the breadline. New Policy Institute (NPI) figures reveal that 300,000 youngsters have been thrust into hardship, the biggest increase, and the figures also estimate that 29% of UK children are in poverty after hardship costs. So what has Iain Duncan Smith done to tackle this escalating problem? I wish I could say nothing at all, but the answer is far more monstrous. The DWP Secretary has decided the most logical course of action to take is to change the way child poverty is measured, coincidentally being declared just a few days before the budget and tax credits being slashed. Child poverty will no longer be defined as 60% of the average income but through a series of indicators, including exam results and whether parents are in work. Mr Duncan Smith said the new system would make a “meaningful change to children’s life chances”. If his statement sounds almost too ludicrous to believe, that’s because it is. In his twisted imagination, “meaningful change” must mean plunging hundreds of thousands of children into a pre-Industrial Era existence.

He has also tried to sepulchre the suffering of the poor by claiming the solution to zero-hour contracts is to rebrand them. The contracts, which do not guarantee any hours of work for an employee, are exploiting 1.4 million people and are a glaring cause of poverty. However, in classic distasteful fashion, Mr Duncan Smith has said they should be rebranded as “flexible-hours contracts”. Only their dyed-in-the-wool supporters will be gullible enough to believe this is a plausible idea; the DWP Secretary is attempting to construct a vacuum, for which the poverty-stricken will be swallowed up and condemned to myth by society. Last week it was divulged that he was already forging this myth; a leaflet produced by the DWP was hastily withdrawn after it emerged that it contained fabricated quotations from fictitious people, supposedly taking about their positive experiences of the welfare system. The fact that in the real world claimants have been driven to suicide by sanctions makes the invention particularly grotesque. For this is a man who inexplicably cheered and applauded when the budget was declared, visibly excited by the prospect of piling misery upon the poor. Perhaps in the next five years the DWP will make ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ its slogan, and Mr Duncan Smith will announce his malignant decrees in a cap emblazoned with a skull and crossbones.

Your Prime Minister is the real extremist

This carousel of crooks would not be complete without discussing the master-at-arms, the protector of the realm, your Prime Minister David Cameron. An article on how the Tories are threatening our standard of living would also not be complete without mentioning TTIP. If you are not yet familiar with this acronym it is likely you soon will be. The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership is a proposed trade agreement and the subject of an ongoing series of negotiations between the EU and the US, which will essentially become the biggest trade deal in history. This is not solely the work of Cameron of course, however, he and his government are heavily involved with the negotiations. TTIP may sound boring but this deal could quietly change your life, as it has the potential to affect everything from your income to the food you eat and the state of the NHS. Many people are still unaware of its existence but you need to learn about it, as it will undeniably affect hundreds of millions of people.

The primary threat of TTIP is that it will hand over European nations’ sovereignty to corporations, this threat being made all the more suspicious by the talks being held largely in secret and the fact that it has received very little media coverage. Concerns are mounting that TTIP could lead to more privatisation, with the prospect of US corporations providing vital UK public services such as transport, education, water and health. These concerns should be turning to panic if most people knew what has happened in Romania. When it dared to halt the production of a gold mine, the government of Romania found itself facing a massive lawsuit from a corporate mining giant in a secret "court". The case didn’t make any sense; even though the corporation Gabriel Resources had claimed it spent $500 million on the project, the CEO said it was seeking up to $4 billion in “compensation”, which is half of Romania’s annual public healthcare budget.

What happened in Romania is a terrifying sign of things to come if TTIP is passed, as it is exactly the kind of case which TTIP would promote throughout Europe. US corporations would be allowed to sue EU member states and all EU corporations to sue the US government. Despite all of this, the British government has disturbingly fully signed up to the corporate courts. Last year it signed a letter that made clear that the secret court system shouldn’t be removed from the trade deal under any circumstances. If this still doesn’t worry you, one of the main aims of TTIP is to open up Europe’s public health, education and water services to US companies. This could essentially mean the privatisation of the NHS. The EU has admitted that TTIP will probably cause unemployment as jobs switch to the US, where labour standards and trade union rights are lower. It has even advised EU members to draw on European support funds to compensate for the expected unemployment. However, the gravest threat to society that TTIP poses is its inherent assault on democracy. One of the main aims is the introduction of Investor-State Dispute Settlements (ISDS), which allow companies to sue governments if those governments’ policies cause a loss of profits. In effect it means unelected transnational corporations can dictate the policies of democratically elected governments. This trade partnership has the potential risk of eradicating society and our standard of living, I cannot stress enough the need to educate yourself as it will not be fed on a spoon.

The Islamophobic fanfare has been omnipresent throughout the western world and it is only becoming more rambunctious. The relentless hostility from the media has become the norm, in a time when the press is fabricated by neoconservatism and scaremongering. However, David Cameron’s “counter-extremism” bill announced in the Queen’s speech is going to hurl the anti-Muslim clampdown into precarious territory. Prior to the speech, Cameron had already accused British Muslims of “quietly condoning” the sectarian brutality of ISIS, a heedless statement which by scapegoating Muslims will only fuel home-grown radicalisation further. He has since said that the police, schools, mosques, broadcasters, prisons and parents all need to do more to defeat extremism – almost everyone except the government themselves. Rather than stepping back to consider Britain’s role in fomenting terrorism at home and abroad, such as Britain’s recent history of consistently bombing Muslim countries, he has chosen to spark a state-sponsored witch hunt of Muslims living in the UK.

The “counter-extremism” bill will criminalise and target Muslims with every arm of the state and private sector; from nursery schools to optometrists, health services to universities, all are now legally obliged to monitor students and patients for any sign of “extremism” or “radicalisation”. Furthermore, his scheme includes physical restriction orders for non-violent individuals deemed “harmful”, powers to close mosques and vetting controls on broadcasters accused of airing extremist material. He also issued banning orders for non-violent individuals and organisations whose politics are considered unacceptable. The latter is particularly troubling because it envelops any ideologies that differ from the Tories; Cameron in in essence quashing free speech.

 His strategy is made even more stupendous by defending the new powers in the name of “British values”, including “individual liberty” and “mutual respect and tolerance”. I have little doubt that these anti-extremism laws will be used predominantly against Muslims, however, it is also clear they will not be implemented against certain extreme political factions. National Action, a neo-Nazi group which has recently reared its ugly head on the political stage, has held two ‘White Man March’ demonstrations this year. Their politics should be considered unacceptable by anyone with an iota of sanity, yet it was antifascist counter demonstrations, not the law, that prevented them from marching on both occasions. It is also doubtful to say the least that these homophobes and racists have any interest in mutual respect and tolerance.

Cameron’s grand design is destined to fail because his government refuses to believe extremist violence is planted by injustice, grievances or its own policies. Britain has staged multiple invasions and occupations of Muslim states, as well as supporting dictatorships across the Muslim and Arab world. These include Saudi Arabia, of course, which shares much of ISIS’ ideology and practises; and Egypt, whose leader, Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, overthrew the elected president in 2013 and is soon to be welcomed to Downing Street. There were no terror attacks before the US and Britain invaded Afghanistan and Iraq, and the perpetrators of every terror attack or plot have used Western intervention in the Muslim world for justification. For a few young beguiled western Muslims, groups like ISIS offer a welcomed illusion of a fight against tyranny.

Cameron has launched a fully-fledged assault on the basic liberties of British Muslims and with the aid of his media allies, his toxic rhetoric is spreading like wildfire. The current immigration debate, fuelled by the fact that many migrants are Muslims and the impact of ISIS in the Middle East, has created an erroneous pandemonium; far-right factions are sprouting up everywhere in the false belief that terror is on the doorstep. Noam Chomsky once said that, “As long as the general population is passive, apathetic, diverted to consumerism or hatred of the vulnerable, then the powerful can do as they please”. Cameron and his allies are speeding up the process by pouring coal onto that burning hatred. The West spawned a monster in ISIS and now they are punishing the followers of that faith. This government has set out to ravage the civil liberties of Muslims living in the UK, next in the firing line will be anyone who opposes Tory ‘ideology’. The first chapter of Britain's descent into a police state has begun, in the name of "counter-terrorism" which has been augmented and exasperated since day one.

It is these ‘anti-terror’ laws that have compelled your Prime Minister to proclaim one of the most lurid sentences by a state leader; “For too long we have been a passively tolerant society, saying to our citizens so long as you obey the law we will leave you alone”. It sounds like an extract from a speech made by a macabre ruler in an Aldous Huxley novel, so what could Cameron possibly mean by this? Frankie Boyle came to the denouement that the Prime Minister is an evil genius in an article he wrote for The Guardian, stating that he has “successfully pursued an agenda more radical than Thatcher’s – and has managed it without anybody being terribly worried about him”. It would be tough to disagree with him, as his scheme is so far to the right it would concede Britain First’s Paul Golding to the centre ground. He supported his claim with the tenuous response; “It's often meant we have stood neutral between different values. And that's helped foster a narrative of extremism and grievance.” This is even more bemusing as to why only those on the left are initially perturbed by him, as he might as well be saying, “We directly cause extremism, so to tackle it we’re going to hound your life and civil rights as well”.

Make no mistake, Cameron’s announcement is as simple as it sounds; obeying the law will no longer be enough to ensure you avoid retribution by the state. Even if you are not suspected of committing any crime, you could be struck by orders preventing you from speaking in public or associating with certain individuals. This coupled with the proposed Snoopers’ Charter, will legally permit the police to plague your private life, even if you’re not even suspected of wrongdoing. The term ‘Orwellian’ is often overused but this is no longer a cliché; his novels are becoming a manuscript and a mould for this Tory government. We already have numerous laws which allow police and counter-terrorism officers to monitor and arrest anybody suspected of being in terrorism, so what is the purpose of this new bill?

These fundamental changes are being brought under the guise of combating terrorism, but they have the potential to be deployed against anyone. As Cameron outlined, the new mandates will be used against Islamic extremism on home soil, which will inherently strip Muslims of their civil liberties. However, his harrowing statement admitting the government will begin interfering with people’s lives insinuates it won’t just be Muslim extremists, but any of his political opponents (there is plenty of them) and anyone else who tries to obstruct his route to establishing a totalitarian state. It’s all beginning to sound a lot like what occurred in a particular European state in the 1930’s. If you thought Britain’s future couldn’t be any more ghastly, the PM and Theresa May have even suggested introducing a ‘thought crime’ element to the Snooper’s Charter, which would have Orwell violently spinning in his grave.

In the Western world, you are vigorously pressed by your politicians and all sectors of the media into believing that there is a greater threat out there. They would have you surmise that terrorist groups, who are to blame for as many deaths as bee stings since 9/11, are going to crush your democracy and ‘free speech’. If not them, it’s the “swarms” of “marauding” migrants; people who are fleeing their annihilated homelands in search of sanctuary, after they were ravaged by a terrorist organisation that was fabricated by the west in the first place. Your government would have you assume the greatest threat is from anyone but them and many of the passive and apathetic soak up their hollow propaganda. However, the Chancellor is selling off public assets en masse and creating the largest class division this country will have ever seen, and the home secretary is introducing a law that will allow the government to spy on everyone. The work and pensions secretary is systematically killing off the poor and disabled and your Prime Minister is targeting and criminalising innocent civilians. If these criminals continue their vandalism for another five years our society will be falling to its knees. It might be then when the populace rises from their slumber and realise that it is only our government which threatens our standard of living.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

When does an immigrant stop being an immigrant December 2014

This is the question Haji Jaba challenges the right-wing factions of Britain. Jaba is the Imam at the Al-Madina Jamia Mosque on Waterloo Road, Middlesbrough. When I spoke to him recently he asked of those who are pursuing a mass exodus of migrants, amidst the immigration storm which has thrust into British politics this year, this question. Which leaves you to think, does racism still exist in society? 

For whatever reason, and most would say because of UKIP's emergence to the scene, the debate on the UK's immigration policy has been omnipresent throughout the penultimate year to the general election. It has resulted in the largest parties such as the Conservatives and Labour into altering their immigration policies. If the debate is effecting the heavyweights to this extent, what precipitation is it having on the smaller parties such as the right-wingers? It seems to be having the desired effect as popularity for UKIP has soared and the extreme Britain First has gained notoriety.

The enduring problem in Britain that Jaba believes is that a “severely unenlightened minority feel like they must have a constant adversary, an ethnic or political group to differentiate from”. Over the course of the last thirteen years, it has shaped up to be the Islamic community to take the role of the antagonists in the UK. I say the last thirteen years because it appears this newfound hatred of Muslims among far right-wing sectors began to stem following the 9/11 attacks. However, over the last year or so events which have occurred have caused tensions to reach boiling point.

The first of which transpired on 22 May 2013.  British soldier Lee Rigby was mowed down by a car and then stabbed and hacked to death in the street, by Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale, two British Muslim converts. The incident caused a nationwide uproar, with popularity almost simultaneously increasing for right-wing groups such as the EDL and BNP. On the day of the killing I visited a friend’s house as it was making breaking news, and his mother declared she was joining the EDL in protest to Britain’s stance on Muslims. This was also one of the first instances in which right-wing groups used events such as this as a totem to rally support against the apparent threat of ‘Islamification’ in Britain.

It is not out of the ordinary for sane people to lurch towards an extremist point of view, as a result of them being so shocked or frightened by the actions of other extremists. In the fifties, unions organised marches in London against immigrants from the Caribbean they feared would take their jobs. Admittedly, that wasn’t ‘Islamification’ but it was a protest based on race/colour. The film my beautiful launderette examined the racist attack on a Pakistani man in London and was made in 1985.  The Jam’s anti-racism 1978 single “Down at the Tube Station at midnight” was about an attack on a Pakistani man by jack booted right wing thugs. Clearly racial divisions were an issue then just as they are once again now.

Racial tension which developed following incidents such as that last year only seem to have been exasperated in 2014. This boils down to two factors; the immigration debate and the rise of ISIS in the Middle East. As already mentioned, this has led to a surge in fame for UKIP and smaller right-wing factions. Haji Jaba believes the media is partly to blame for this. He said that “After World War 1 the large German population in Britain came under heavy criticism and received lots of abuse from the British public; then when Hitler came to power in the thirties he used propaganda via the media to turn the population against the Jews; now the British media are doing this to Muslims.”

Jaba was born in Middlesbrough in 1961 and has lived in the town his entire life, but said he still gets called an immigrant and receives prejudice based on his appearance. It was at that point he asked “when does an immigrant stop being an immigrant?” He then added, “Unfortunately because some people always want to have an enemy or someone to oppose these national front groups will continue to exist, just as they have throughout the last few decades.”

Nonetheless he feels that racism is kept to a minimal in towns and cities, but on the outskirts of the towns in more rural areas racism is still very much alive. As well as being the Imam at his local mosque Jaba is also a landlord and a gas fitter. He therefore often has to travel to the likes of Brotton, Skelton and Guisborough on the outskirts of Middlesbrough for work. He said in these places the locals have a completely different attitude towards migrants. He is still subject to racial abuse when in the area, having being called “a member of Al-Qaeda” or “Bin Laden”. The only explanation he can give for this is that the people from these areas do not often come in contact with anyone of Asian descent, and so therefore stereotype him as the extremists that are depicted in the media.  

However, those who are compelled to hold xenophobic attitudes are far from restricted to rural areas. Earlier this year it was revealed that 1,400 children were subjected to appalling sexual exploitation in Rotherham between 1997 and 2013, by gangs of mainly Asian men. This inevitably and justly led to a media frenzy over the story and did nothing but expand support for the right-wingers, in particular the EDL. They were quick to demonstrate a protest which resulted in them attacking police and luring out the most intense of the right-wing factions; three different Nazi groups were spotted at the protest.

As well as Rotherham, the EDL have also conducted protests in Manchester, Newcastle, Birmingham, Luton and Middlesbrough over the last year. During their march through Middlesbrough, certain members of the EDL contingent chanted “scum, scum, scum” at some passing Asian men. They were also spotted throwing glass bottles and a firework at another group of Asian men, one of whom had a child on his shoulders. Based on this one would come to the conclusion that these small-minded folk are far from confined just to seeing Muslims being portrayed on the television.

However, to get a balanced view on the situation I spoke to the Regional Organiser of the North East EDL faction. Although I asked them fairly judicious questions such as whether the party’s support has grown in light of recent event this year, and what their views on immigration are, he did not reply to them and merely outlined what the EDL’s ‘fight’ was. He said, speaking of a small group of Muslim extremists who mocked the sacrifices of service personnel during a homecoming parade in Luton that “these actions reflect other forms of religiously-inspired intolerance and barbarity that are thriving amongst certain sections of the Muslim population in Britain. These include the oppression of women, the molestation of young children and the committing of so-called honour killings.”

Baring the Regional Organiser’s comments in mind, I live in a predominantly Muslim area of Middlesbrough and I have seen no criminal activity in the time I’ve lived there, let alone heard about some of the accusations he has said are brewing in these communities. In comparison, the estate of Grove Hill located just a few hundred metres down the road, which has a considerable white population, is notorious for being a ‘rough’ place to live. I know where I’d feel safer.

The Regional organiser went on to say, “British Muslims should be able to safely demand reform of their religion, in order to make it more relevant to the needs of the modern world and more respectful of other groups in society.” Now I don’t know about you but I find this comment pretty disrespectful. Why should Muslims have to alter their religious concepts because it doesn’t agree with the intolerant? I’ve never heard a Muslim ask a Christian extremist to revamp his views because they don’t agree with it. The vast majority of the Muslim population are peaceful people who go about their day-by-day activities without affecting anyone.

I also asked them about the behaviour of some EDL participants during the protest in Middlesbrough towards Asian men, and whether are not they considered themselves to be a racist party. The Regional Organiser refused to comment on either, only stating that the group were not ‘political’ or a ‘party’. Whatever that means. In conclusion it would appear that, although the hierarchy of the EDL factions try to avoid causing offense in stating what their motives are, and not particularly well, racism is still piercing its ugly head through the surface of our society. Whether or not they only exist in certain contingents of right-wing groups is still to be seen, but there is no doubt that the xenophobes are still alive and kicking amongst us, and still do not understand when an immigrant stops being an immigrant.