Friday, 5 October 2012

Labour Lacks The Respect Needed For One Nationism

At this year’s Labour Party Conference, Leader of the Opposition Ed Miliband reached out into Conservative territory and attempted to claim the hill of One Nationism; planting a Red Rose among the many Conservative Oaks that live there. It sounds like madness, even when you throw away my spurious analogy. But Ed delivered what I think is universally accepted as his best speech yet, and one that appeared to go down well; at least in my twittersphere.

On first appearance, some Conservatives may be worried by this new positioning of Ed. But on second thoughts, is the Labour membership, leadership, and Ed really up to this? Do they really believe in it?
To me, One Nation Conservatism is about everyone in society having a responsibility to each other. It’s about respect. So on a national level, to be a One Nation Leader, you must govern for the good of the entire country, giving respect to everyone of all backgrounds and beliefs.

I believe I speak for the vast majority of my Party, membership and leadership alike, that the Labour Party does what it does because it wishes for a better Britain. Labour and Conservatives seek the same goal; we just take different paths to get there. However, when I watch Labour Party Conference, I hear a message of vitriol and disgust, from the top to the bottom of the Party, of how the Conservatives are out to destroy the NHS, Schools, etc. They believe Conservatives are actively working to destroy our country. This is by no means the view of all Labour Party members, but it’s clear to see in the speeches from Shadow Cabinet and delegates alike that this is not isolated to a few.

Call me old fashioned, but I still believe in the honour of politics; that David Cameron leads this country with the best intentions of us all, and just as importantly that Ed Miliband opposes with a sincere conviction that we must take a different route to prosperity. But so often I don’t see that view reciprocated back across from Labour.

Labour scorn Conservatives, bash the bankers, deride millionaires and ridicule Etonians. But each one of these groups is part of this Nation. Ed Miliband continues to divide our society without concern for the Whole. Until Ed gets his head around this, he fundamentally cannot lead a One Nation party.

Friday, 28 September 2012

The Squeezed Middle-Lander

I read with interest the blog post by Aaron Spence  titled ‘CF Chairmanship: Northern Bred and Northern Based’ and thought a response was in order.

I completely agree with Aaron’s analysis that we, the Conservative Party, do need a step change in how we engage with different parts of Britain – and that one of these areas is the North. However, while I recognise the mention of the Midlands, this article still speaks to an unfortunately growing idea among Conservative Future; North vs. South.

This notion of a Country of two halves, not only artificially divides us, but fails to recognise that Britain has a much richer regional heritage than North and South. The idea forgets that the North and the South have their own internal variations, and that there's more to the UK than these two regions; what of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland? But most of all this concept glosses over those of us in the centre of our country – the increasingly Squeezed Middle(Landers).

You may say I am just being pernickety – but my point has serious political consequences. I am a proud Midlander, and within that proud to be a Black Country boy. As Gavin Williamson MP said in his maiden speech to the House of Commons, we are a straight talking people. This has important implications on how to communicate on the doorstep; there is no point beating around the bush with highfalutin political language. The ladies and gentleman of South Staffordshire, Wolverhampton, Dudley and Walsall would rather hear the news, good or bad, told straight and to the point. This may not work everywhere; but it works for us.

What we must remember is that the National Chairman, and for that matter all the National Executive of Conservative Future, are there to serve the entirety of our Country. So you may think a Northern candidate for National Chairman will have interesting insights into winning seats in Liverpool and Leeds, but is that going to help us advance in the South-West, build membership in the Midlands or support the encouraging CF developments in Northern Ireland?

It is much more important we have a Chairman who identifies the differences across CF, and gives support accordingly, but also recognises what unites us as a whole; our will to see a Conservative majority in 2015. Politics has become too much about where someone is from; and not enough about what they do and where they are going. When the time comes to vote, it will be the person with a vision, a truly national plan that supports all of CF, that will be getting my vote; and I couldn’t care less about where they come from.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

A Palaeontological Call to Arms to Save a Word

Inspiration can come from the strangest of places. I was just writing an email to fellow Oxford Palaeontologists asking them to come for a pint in the local pub, the Lamb and Flag, and wasnt sure if I had spelled 'fossily' (as in fossil-like) correctly, or indeed if it was a real word at all.

A quick check on the Oxford English Dictionary website revealed it wasn't a word, so I proceeded to spell it however I liked. I did however discover a palaeo-related word I had never heard before, one that is sadly on the verge of literary extinction. The OED lists it as an 'obselete word'.

fossilry, n. Obs. rare. A collection of fossils.

The OED reveals this brilliant word was mainly used in the mid 18th to mid 19th Centuries;

1755 Gentleman's Mag. Dec. 567/2 Verses occasion'd by seeing the Fossilry at Tenderves in Cornwall.
1865 S. Smiles Lives of Boulton & Watt xvi. 321 One of his favourite amusements was collecting and arranging fossils, some for his friend Wedgwood, and others for his own ‘fossilry’ at Soho

How has such a wonderfully simple word come so close to the chop. It instantly conveys its meaning, and I'm sure would be immediately understandable to the general public.

So Palaeontologists everywhere, I call you to arms. Next time you write that grant proposal, blogpost, thesis chapter or journal article, think about whether you can include the word 'fossilry', and help save a poor helpless word from interminable doom. Besides, the fossil record for words isnt as good as the things we study, so we should try and keep 'fossilry' alive as long as possible!

Writing from the Oxford Ediacaran Fossilry

Monday, 19 March 2012

The Far Left: A Problem Overlooked for Far Too Long?

Not long ago I set up the NUS Democrats and Reformists Network; a group of centre-right students within the NUS. It’s still very early days, but we set up a facebook page, and people were starting to get interested. One student left the following message of support;

Good luck with this. I suggest as a starting point you look closely at increasing the number of centre-right delegates, as well, until you are there with any sort of number, you will simply get outvoted and ignored. The NUS hard left aren't in it for students, they are there to push an agenda under a huge vehicle and as such have vested interest in maintaining the status quo.”

I was not expecting what happened next. Matthews Bond, Disabled Students Campaign Member on the NUS National Executive Council posted;

“Hows you candidacy for the BNP going?”

Disappointed does not cover my feelings about this statement. We are students with mainstream political views and should be free to express them and come together and organise without others, let alone those who hold political power in the NUS, attacking us and branding us as members of a racist organisation.

I therefore replied to Matt. Although a little long, for the sake of transparency I have provided the text of the conversation below, my text in italics, Matt’s in bold.

“This group is an arena for open debate about the NUS among those students who are politically centre-right. To brand (name of original poster) as associated with the BNP is immature and frankly confirms what he has said. What you said is not befitting of a member of the NUS National Executive Council, and I ask you to withdraw it immediately. We look forward to working with those involved in the NUS in the weeks and months ahead to bring about change in the NUS, but that is going to be hard if we are immaturely branded as BNP members for being a member of this group.”

“My leftwing counterparts are in no way looking forward to working with you. My term in office finishes on Wednesday so we wont have to put up with each other. All I have to say is that I doubt any sort of force of people in NUS are going to welcome a bunch of tory apologists into the political arena. My liberation campaign, disabled students, would definitely be the last group of people who would be pleased to see your sort gain any political traction. Afterall, right-wing policies are responsible for the deaths of more than ten disabled people ever since the coalition got into power”

“You do not speak for the left wing. I know there are those who will work with us on areas of common ground to get the best for students across this country. Your rejection of our attempt to engage with the democratic process speaks volumes of the closed, inaccessible nature of the NUS – but it will not stop us. It is very disappointing that you have not taken the opportunity to retract your statement regarding the BNP.”

“Well as an Oxford student I’m sure you know all about getting the best for the average student across the country. I do not claim to speak for all the left but can safely say that NCAFC (National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts), of which I am on the national committee, certainly will not be working with you. What speaks volumes is that you wouldn’t comment on the impact right-wing policies are having on disabled people. You seem more worried about a comment from me about your group than the lives of disabled people. Sums up the right-wing though really”

At this point I felt enraged that someone would try and use my choice of Higher Education institution against me, obviously making assumptions about where I had come from based on where I had gone to University. I felt compelled to reply;

“I feel compelled to reply to the accusations you have made against me.

On the count of not replying to your charge of being party to the deaths of 10 disabled people; I did not comment because I do not know of the incidents of which you speak, and I dont comment on things I dont understand. If you were to give me more details I would look into it.

On the fact that my University makes me unable to understand the average student - you are very much mistaken. I come from a very humble background; my father is a builder, my mother a teacher. They worked hard to give me a good start in life, and I worked hard too, at the comprehensive school I attended after turning down the opportunity to go to Grammar School. My achievements were not handed to me on a plate - I worked for them. And I didnt come from a family with lots of money, I have been a recipient of EMA and a bursary at Oxford. This University has given me an excellent education, as it has done to many other people from my background. So just because I go to Oxford, do not assume I come from some privileged background. I understand the average student more than you think, and I dont belittle that average student when they better themselves by studying at one of the country’s greatest HE institutions.

Now I know we come from different political views, but I dont see why that means you have to attack me and my colleagues for who we are, rather than the policies we believe in. Democracy is about debate, but it should be a debate of policies and beliefs, rather than personal attacks.

I am proud of my background, I am proud of my University, and I am proud to be a Conservative. None of these things make me associated to the BNP, which is why I request you retract that statement.”

“The right-wing have no interest in democracy. I have seen this with my own eyes during my years of NUS. I have been prevented from running in my election for NUS Disabled Students Officer because the right wing could not cope with the idea of a left-wing disabled students officer. The rise of student union managers and chief execs, trustee boards and indifference to protesting the government on fee rises, the abject targeting of left wing activists in NUS and the constant voting down of motions critical of Israel have led me to the firm belief that the right-wing in NUS have only ever tried to tighten their stranglehold on the organisation and quell any left wing voice that may be found.

The fact you know nothing about the deadly impact the government, you presumably support, is having on disabled people only further confirms my view that conservatives have absolutely no concern for disabled people. My dealings with conservatives on the issue of welfare and disabled people have consisted of them telling me how disabled people are scroungers, fakers and undeserving of societies support, hell, I think most conservatives are ideologically supportive of the deaths of disabled people - less burden on society, less burden on the taxpayer and better productivity for the capitalist system. The conservative party has a long history of supporting the eugenics movement and prominent conservative politicians have made speeches in support of such an agenda (Lord Flight for example) and to be frank, these are policies that the BNP advocate too.

The current welfare policy and attitude towards disabled people that the government displays can only be one held by people who believe in the demise of disabled people and see no value in them as members of society. Given what I have seen happen to many of my disabled counterparts and the reactions displayed by conservatives, forgive me for not being very apologetic.

How have we got to the point where one of our student political representatives thinks such thoughts? While I am a believer in free speech, and I defend Matthew’s right to have these views and to vocalise them, I deeply worries me that there are people who believe that my political colleagues and I are supportive of the deaths of disabled people. Where have they got this from!? When have I or anyone else of my political views expressed support for this abhorrent view?

This is our problem. A problem for all students and young people across the political spectrum, from all over the United Kingdom. We have allowed a small but very vocal section of our society to become radicalised to the point they pervert the facts, or in some cases create new fictitious stories to fit their own entrenched political views. And why has this happened? Because we have not challenged them.

Debate has to be at the centre of our democracy. From General Elections, all the way down to campus elections for the Student Union, we should be debating with and questioning the candidates in elections. It is the only way we can expose the truths, and challenge those views we disagree with. If we disregard those on the Far Left as unimportant, we neglect to offer them the same scrutiny and debate our democracy requires. While they may not win the election, their word gets out, remains unchallenged, and persuades more people to their cause.

One person believing the views Matt holds is too much. This is why we must challenge them in discussion and debate, so that more are not convinced. Everyone should be free to believe in what they wish, but we also owe it to them to provide the facts, the true facts, so their views have a strong foundation in truth rather than fiction and fabrication.

You may think this is a minor problem. It is. But left unchecked we run the risk of a large section of our generation growing up, hearing and accepting the opinions being espoused by these people. That’s why we must engage with the Far Left and challenge them. To my colleagues in the centre-right of politics – get involved. You may not like the way your Students Union or the NUS is run, but if you don’t throw your hat in the ring, stand up for your views and debate, then nothing will change.

To those on the centre-left, many of whom I am proud to call friends, we may disagree on many things, but we must work together on this issue. For the time being, you rule the roost in student politics. You must use your position to scrutinise, question and debate. The Far Left may not be putting forward the strongest candidates, but don’t let that stop you treating them as seriously as your main rival. Our organisations deserve it, our democracy deserves it, and students deserve it.