Should Scotland annex Northern England; Or should London leave the UK?

Manchester Town Hall, October 2010, David Dixon

Even as chancellor George “Giddy” Osborne sets out his plans to hand over broad powers to Manchester, the restless Northerners were brewing rebellion on social media.

Indeed a Change.org petition created last year demanding Parliament “allow the north of England to secede from the UK and join Scotland” has been recirculated on Twitter under the hashtag #TakeUsWithYouScotland –no doubt a reaction to the triumphant Tory majority victory at the polls last week.

North England Secession, Stu Dent

Under the plans outlined by one Stu Dent, England would be hewn in two between Sheffield and Nottingham, leaving the cities of Manchester, Liverpool and Newcastle in a new country, presumably called Greater Scotland.

Despite the love-in between the Jocks and the Northerners, many on Twitter were incensed to find their own neck of the woods lumped in with the slimy Southern English Tories. Some begged to be annexed by the mighty Scottish Nationalist administration in Holyrood, Edinburgh, and pretty soon things got out of hand:

Whilst the above image does betray a naive understanding of the Democratic Unionist Party’s politics in Northern Ireland, it does point to a wider truth: For many on the Left London is an enemy rather than an ally to getting the politics they want.

Looks like Giddy’s reforms can’t come fast enough…

Image – Manchester Town Hall, David Dixon

160,000 signatures to keep fox hunting ban – but where are votes for human rights?

Swift Fox, Henry Doorly Zoo, Nebraska, Sep 06, Colin ML Burnett

The fallout from the General Election has been spectacular on the Left. Few, least of all the pollsters, would have predicted that the Tories would be not merely back in Downing Street but also boast a genuine, if slender majority in the Commons.

Now the Left is bracing itself for all sorts of nasty behaviour. Already the home secretary Teresa May has announced she will be bringing back the Snooper’s Charter; lawyer’s favourite Chris Grayling is due to tear up the British constitution; and the hero of the educational profession Michael Gove will soon be abolishing human rights (or something like that – Ed).

All of which is mere preamble to the gravest travesty about to afflict perfidious Albion: the potential repealing of the Hunting Act. Such fears were prompted by recently returned prime minister David “DVD Dave” Cameron, who scribbled in the Countryside Alliance:

“I have always been a strong supporter of country sports. It is my firm belief that people should have the freedom to hunt, so I share the frustration that many people feel about the Hunting Act and the way it was brought in by the last government.”

Such a calamity has mustered the great and the good of the Left to that great modern forum of democracy Change.org, where a petition has been launched to prevent this calamity. As of the time of writing some 163,156 have signed it, three times the amount a similar petition has garnered (admittedly, after only 24 hours) asking for a referendum before Gove sticks it the Human Rights Act.

Whataboutery of the worst kind? You betcha. Still, a petition calling for reform of the broken first-past-the-post voting system has nearly 200,000 signatures, if you have your priorities in order.

Image – Colin ML Burnett

Indy abandons logic to claim Tories are good for the Union

Scottish Saltire, WL Tarbert

Fleet Street’s famously partisan press has been as vitriolic in this election as any before it, with both sides seeking to belittle the opposition candidate (most egregiously in the afterglow of the television debates, of which more here).

It is no surprise that a journal nicknamed the Torygraph would back the blues, but more controversial has been the Indy’s muted support for the coalition government, in a move contrary to much of the paper’s coverage over the past five years:

“A hung parliament is certain this week. For all his talk of no deals with the SNP [Scottish National Party], [Labour leader Ed] Miliband is bound to rely on that party to get his legislative programme through. This would be a disaster for the country, unleashing justified fury in England at the decisive influence of MPs who – unlike this title – do not wish the Union to exist.

 

“If that were to be the case while Labour were the second biggest party either in terms of vote share, or seats – or both – how could Labour govern with authority? They could not. Any partnership between Labour and the SNP will harm Britain’s fragile democracy. For all its faults, another Lib-Con Coalition would both prolong recovery and give our kingdom a better chance of continued existence.”

The Indy, owned by Russian oligarch dynasty the Lebedevs, are generally regarded as papers of the Left. But the wealthy proprietorship of the paper has led some to speculate that the editor is being leant on, especially given Miliband’s pledge to increase taxes for the rich should he emerge as prime minister in the next few weeks.

Though the argument that the SNP poses a risk to the Union is not entirely wrong, the severing of Britain is more likely with a repeat of the Tory-Lib Dem government. Much of the SNP’s rhetoric is grounded in blue antipathy because such feeling is popular north of Hadrian’s Wall, and, as a recent piece for the New Statesman pointed out, after last year’s referendum of independence the party moved quickly to annex Labour supporters by capitalising on this.

Such a strategy has created a problem for the Nats. As the Indy points out, Miliband will have to rely on them to push forward his legislative programme (at least the leftwing portion). But because the Nats have built their support on anti-Tory feeling they will feel obliged to prop up Labour or be punished at the ballot box. At the same time Miliband would have to cleave to the leftish instincts of the SNP to deny them the opportunity of credible rebellion – granting disaffected Scots a voice in Westminster.

Compare this with the possibility of another Tory-led government involving more cuts to public spending, and it is clear what would be more likely to alienate those backing the SNP. There have been policies to like under the coalition and there are good reasons for voting for a repeat – but strengthening the Union is not among them.

Image – Scottish Saltire, WL Tarbert

Russell Brand declares for Miliband and Labour

Russell Brand, People's Assembly demonstration, DB Young, 20 June 2014

The comedian Russell Brand has been lambasted in the past for lacking solutions for the obvious sources of discontent he has made it his mission to point out (to paraphrase Private Eye editor Ian Hislop) and for his questionable stance on voting.

Since saying on the Beeb’s Newsnight that he saw little point in the ballot box, Brand has clearly regretted casting himself as a political refusenik, spending much of the past few years campaigning for community-driven politics. Now he has come out as an advocate for Labour, encouraging his million-strong viewership on YouTube to vote Ed Miliband into government (about 11 minutes in):

“What I heard Ed Miliband say is if we speak he will listen. So on that basis I think we’ve got no choice but to take decisive action to end the danger of the Conservative party. David Cameron might think I’m a joke but I don’t think there’s anything funny about what the Conservative party have been doing to this country, and we have to stop them.

 

“So my view is this: If you’re Scottish you don’t need an English person telling you what to do, you know what you’re gonna to be doing [presumably voting for the Scottish National Party]. If you’re in Brighton I think it would a travesty if we lost the voice of [Green MP] Caroline Lucas in Westminster. But anywhere else you’ve gotta vote Labour. You’ve got the get the Conservative party out of government in this country so we can begin community-led activism.”

Vive la revolution, as they say.

Image – Russell Brand at People’s Assembly demonstration on June 20th 2014, by DB Young

Why feminists don’t want you ’beach body ready‘

Beach Body Protest, May 2nd 2015, The Right Dishonourable

If there is one thing likely to rouse the Fleet Street paps to an event (besides, obviously, the promise of booze) it is a guarantee of what the pressman’s lexicon has as “totty”.

One therefore has to admire the cunning of those who decided to gather London’s feminists near Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park in nothing but their bikinis. That the assembled were there to protest the recent “Are you beach body ready?” advert, which they say places unfair expectations on women, was a neat irony, but feminism has rarely been shy about recruiting flesh to its cause in the past.

Though some 70,000 people signed a Change.org petition and several hundred complained to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) – which has duly prohibited it with questions over health claims, offensiveness and social irresponsibility – almost all of the thousand who said they would attend the Hyde Park protest bottled it at the last minute, as the rain clouds hung over London’s sky.

Such was the mismatch between journalists and protestors that it was hard at times to tell who outnumbered whom, a fact that may not be reflected in the impending reports which will doubtless feature images of the shivering would-be swimmers, many of whom had scribbled across themselves in felt-tip pen.

Though many were offended by the adverts, the main complaint was that such imagery was hurting people. Karl, one of a dozen or so men who had turned out to protest, said that he had known someone who had suffered anorexia as a result of pressure to be slim, a problem that has been widely reported in secondary schools around the country.

His friend Agnieszka said that while she believed people should watch their weight and exercise, she herself did not find the image of the advert’s bikini-clad model Renee Somerfield attractive. “To be honest I don’t want to look like that. I want to be thin, I want to be healthy: but it’s too thin.”

Despite this there was a reluctance to ban the pictures outright. Carolina, a mother who had attended with her two adult daughters, said: “I think there’s always people who will side-step government regulations.” What she called for was a “community-driven” approach, the kind of campaigning that is much in vogue among feminists as they seek to deter what they see as bad behaviour without government involvement.

Beach Body Protest at Hyde Park, May 2nd 2015, The Right Dishonourable

Worthy censorship?

Few would dispute that one of the hazards of modern life is a troubled relationship with food. Data from the UK’s National Obesity Observatory showed that 62 percent of adults aged at least 16 were obese or overweight in 2013, with men 10 percent more likely to be so than women. In the year to October 2013 some 2,560 people were admitted to hospital with eating disorders, an 8 percent increase on the year prior, according to the Health and Social Care Information Centre, a public stats body.

But some question whether it is wise to combat this problem with increased censorship of the media. Bernie Whelan, an occasional writer on the radical website Spiked, was one of the few who looked on the event with dismay. “It’s so insulting to women to say you can’t stand an advert,” she said.

Like many critics of modern feminism, she cites a growing “victim mentality” among the current crop of women’s rights activists, which has led many to support censorship as a means of improving society. “I suppose even in the 80s many feminists were censorious, but at least there were some feminists for free expression,” Whelan added with not a little regret.

Whether it is for good or ill, the influence of feminists in deciding what can or cannot be published is growing. Discussions over demographic representations in art, gendered toys for children and the alleged dangers of pornography are now the stuff of mainstream journalism, with even the folks at The Sun abandoning the decades old Page 3 feature. Perhaps the Mad Men will yet be tamed.