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Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Prefer the Most Quick-witted...

Interesting day, today.  Watched Ed M get creamed by Dave C to start in PMQs from the segregation of the public gallery.  Maybe it was the sheet of bulletproof glass, but I saw Ed M put up a good fight - which probably clinched it overall.  But it was when the PM alluded to the debate being less about NHS reform and more about Ed’s career prospects as a leader that both sides of the House sucked air in, simultaneously. 

"This is not a campaign to save the NHS: this is a campaign to try and save his leadership and I make this prediction: the NHS will keep getting better and his prospects will keep getting worse." -PM

Ouch.  I am grateful that our leader had Labour's NHS track record to fall back on.

When heckled by his opposite about the proximity of his Health Secretary to the dispatch box during questions on the NHS, the PM also made a very witty comeback [in less than five seconds - that's the test of genuine wit; any more than eight seconds and people can see you thinking] about how good it was to get advice on happy families from Ed M. 

Ouch, again. Andy Burnham was practically sitting on Ed's lap.  Andy Slaughter wasn’t spared a sideways sneer about the Twitter ‘fiasco’ created by his aide.  Another chance to snipe at Labour was irresistible, apparently.  Even if press coverage was online blog, brief.

Add one meeting with an ambassador and a boundary commission talk – and I am out of here.

I saw a friend at the bus stop, who kindly added that she read my stuff.  I said I shout her so – J: it was lovely seeing you and wish you all the very best of everything.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Someone give Camila Batmanghelidjh public office...

"Gang leaders are scanning estate agents' windows and Google Earth.  The riots were merely a warning.  Street crime has hardened into a new kind of nihilism and gangs are recruiting ever more youthful members.  There's a new type of kid on the block...they are lethal.  The drug trade is prospering...it is run with corporate efficiency...and its leaders are looking to expand.  They have their eye on country houses and charming landscapes.  They like the look of Gloucestershire.   We need to enter the teenagers' world in order to save others from it." - Sarah Sands, interviewing CamBat, Evening Standard, 31 January 2012.

I would have said 'someone add CamBat to the Honours list' except some little known Whitehall committee might take it back on realising the extent of her deep emotional ties to gangland glitterati.

Yesterday's Evening Standard feature highlighted that Ms Bat has her finger on the pulse of clammy, mutating trends within underclass, underbelly, underfoot culture; while those with the actual power to effect change throw the patient a clean bandage from afar every now and again.

Festering concurrently alongside other major crises - such as the deficit, soaring unemployment, highest on record youth unemployment - is a 'crisis on the streets'.

CamBat is not wrong.  The 'topboys' that I used to know from back in the day are still unknown to the system because they have never worked and never signed on.  But they 'move a key' [sell a kilo of illegal substances] here and there using little foot soldiers who should be in bed.  It's sad. 

Some mothers of those really young children often accept the proceeds of such activity; treating the kid as a type of breadwinner.  And it is easy enough to point at this from the moral high ground, but some of these families frequently only have tap water and a tin of beans to look forward to at dinner time, when the money runs out.  And others just want to acknowledge and respect their dispossessed boy children for contributing in the only way they know how; sadly, it is the only vocation that will employ them.

These dispossessed are the generations of boys and girls who were ignored in schools, excluded - instead of inspired; and the heaped pile is finally catching up with us.  The gangland hierarchy is a self-sustaining cycle swallowing up kids and churning out society misfits who might never engage.  These misfits go on to [not] parent their own children - it is those who will most likely not have a stable home, but will serve as more fodder and similarly be ignored and excluded from schools.

Typically, the young men [and sometimes, the young women] can't get a job because they failed [were ignored] at school and have no prospects.  In order to get prospects, they must effectively pick up from where they left off and study something; eventually being defeated because they are unable to 'earn' money or because they have no real passion or talent for the subjects on offer.  And increasingly because after study, a degree of initiative is required in order to market themselves continuously for the job market, and the courses don't teach that.  Even if they are persistent, study hard, get a job - it's working for peanuts and they have a whole other world to tackle, like the rest of us, called discrimination in the workplace.

Most people have the opportunity at school to discover what they are good at; that talent is nurtured and frequently remains with the person throughout life as a potential avenue.  I was always well above average in English but dyslexic at Maths. 

The time that these young men and women should have spent at school, they were on the streets.  So they didn't develop a 'classroom' talent, but a talent for the streets.  They are often good with money, have an interpersonal gift to diffuse arguments between fellow soldiers or with clients.  They have persistence to endure dirty drug dens for days without washing or eating a hot meal, because they know they will have money after it all.  They are witty and have a good knowledge of national geography, because they have had to avoid high roads [and police] enroute to sell drugs at the coastal seaside town. 

During that life on the illegal side, they develop a self-importance that is both intimidated by legality and will not stoop to it.

An organisation like Kids Company would do well as a government department [I'm an idealist, I know it will never happen] - employing exactly the same people as it does now [not unseasoned civil service types] and bringing a significant chunk of other successful grass-roots organisations who work on the gangster frontline onboard to collaborate on strategy and policy that will really make a difference.

I have to applaude the direction that the Evening Standard has taken since the Oligarch bought it.  The paper has continuously run high-profile campaigns targetted at improving the lot of those affected by poverty.

All processes evolve over time.  It has become glaringly obvious that there has been a consensus of naivety among those with the obligation; who have overlooked that in the dark - the dirty, shady processes were evolving, too.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

When I courted Nick Clegg...

This is an article of mine, which was published by the LD Voice, in September 2010.  I was won over by Nick Clegg's performance during the first televised leaders' debates; so I jumped ship from a lacklustre Labour Party and a lacklustre-er Gordon Brown to flirt with the idea of joining the Lib Dems.  I was young.  It happens.  My dog ate it.

[If you're not a Labour party supporter, look away now...] I am a through and through Labour party supporter and will probably always be.

Reading it again, after over a year of life's changes makes me cringe [did I say I was [ahem] younger?];  goodness, I was incredibly harsh. Poor Lib Dems.

So, anyway, here it is:

Opinion: Liberal Youth amendments ripped the heart out of the diversity motion

The Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrats’ (EMLD) motion containing positive action measures to practically address the diversity of Lib Dem elected representatives was ripped to not much more than a review by amendments mostly from Liberal Youth, with the requirement to have at least one BME candidate on shortlists where a Lib Dem MP has resigned, or within a by-election, being lost.

Goodness me. I think the Liberal Democrats are the new Conservatives. Deciding not to act because doing so would be hypocritical? Is this not the worse kind of irony that has seen the ill-representative nature of the party prevail? WAKE-UP! The absence of an elected BME speaks volumes!!!!! You should be ashamed of yourselves with your non-productive preoccupation with meaningless debate!!!

I am young, black and female. Your target audience. I am disgusted. Your policies hit the nail on the head and are what this country needs but you might as well be the 20th Century Conservative Party masquerading as liberals for all I care. I am so torn between standing as a Lib Dem candidate – which I probably wouldn’t even get to do because of the local party machine – and just joining the established Labour ranks.

The BME vote is the only thing that prevents the Lib Dems from trumping the Labour party and the Conservatives to outright power. Until party members see that it will always be resigned to a junior partner in a coalition or third party obscurity.

So far the discourse among members in response to diversity proposals is heavily weighted by a presumption that a BME person would not have equal or exceeding merit. This isn’t about discriminating against a white candidate based on colour (which members are totally against by the way; but it’s okay to do it against BMEs: there are none *hello?*) it’s about opening the way for BME Lib Dem MPs – because there are none *hello?*.

One will never understand or have a proactive approach to discrimination until it one is discriminated against. I am of the left. I believe that this unites me with both the LibDems and Labour. Perhaps local members’ and activists’ dismissal of voices around them is the same reason for the dismissal of diversity measures by the party: denial.

And bin the discrimination excuse; it has already been said that this is positive action – how could something that equalizes opportunity be a bad thing? You all might as well unzip your sheep’s clothing now, I can see you.

Does the walk of faith render one unfit to run for public office?

After hearing about a former mayor who was punished by his local council for refusing to take part in a Halloween event because of his faith on LBC; I had to find and read the newspaper report myself to make sure I heard right.  Was he found guilty of breaching a local council's code of conduct for members for not taking part in an event that was against his religious faith?  Or because he, a person in public office, offended a section of the public with his comments?

If it was the latter, I could understand; as it would seem that public office has not encompassed a 'shepherd' capacity, yet.

However, if the decision was a the consequence of a failed attempt to force Cllr Wilson to take part in an event that was contrary to his beliefs, then it is a sad day for the public.  The decision would also deter many moral and honest people [granted, not all 'christians' are moral and honest] from serving within public office.

Christians are commanded to 'contend [fight] for the faith' (Jude 1:3 KJV) and to 'come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins' (Rev 18:4 KJV); which any studious person taking an historical approach to theology would identify refers to dogmatically refraining from non-christian practices.  The decision of the local council is also an equality breach, in the sense of Cllr Wilson's faith.

What was he supposed to do?  Disregard the creator on account of the creation (which is essentially disregarding his fear of God)? This is something that his faith requires.


Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Race, politics and institutional practices that can lead people to act in a discriminatory way...without even knowing it.

“I hope now that Abbott has apologised we can move back to the real discussion about race and equality that the Stephen Lawrence case initiated; about the institutional practices that can lead people to act in a discriminatory way without even knowing it; about why in so many organisations there are so few senior black staff; about why their black staff don't stay; and why they remain the lowest paid.”Simon Woolley, Director of Operation Black Vote, writing in the Guardian Comment is Free on Jan 5th, 2012.
I was a well known broadcaster's first Black Assistant News Editor.  I can tell you why I didn’t stay.  

My freelance shifts were ended after I posted a note on my personal Facebook page about the apathy I felt after working there for five years.
  It is true that when a door closes, somewhere the Great One opens a window.  I didn’t know that being ‘sacked’ would be the best thing to happen to me, yet.

Because spending five years trying to assimilate into a workplace culture that does not account for or relate to my own was emotionally and spiritually draining. 

It was really small things like learning not to say hello to senior colleagues if I saw them in the street outside work - because they would purposefully and overtly avert their gaze as they walked past - but totally okay for them to 'nick a biscuit' at teatime.  Or learning to let overtly patronising verbal abuse and intimidation completely wash over my head without affecting my performance.  Or missing out on team bonding because it wasn't part of my family culture to drink in a pub for recreation.

Looking back at this post before publishing it, it is hard to believe that there were good times.  There were many.  Times when I was so euphorically high from the day's achievements that I loved my job.  And the people, with all their passive-aggressive complexities.

In the immediate aftermath that followed the publication [hitting publish on my personal FB page] of the note, I was so afraid of what would happen to me after airing internal dirty laundry – externally.
  Without a doubt I would be 'sacked' (in a sense, but as I was a freelancer - not quite), but after the turmoil of injustice that I felt inside, I felt that the latter was worse.

Here is the Facebook note I posted:

My sense of career direction has been slain. Whodunnit?
 Wednesday, 18 May 2011 at 15:44
 In 2003, I made the decision to try to become a news reader.  I completed the NCTJ training and was accepted onto the second year of a Journalism degree.  During that degree, I was the only one of my peers to have work experience in a mainstream national newsroom and the first to have a permanent job there in 2005.

In 2007, I was chosen as a [well known broadcaster] trainee and the first Black candidate to take up [well known broadcaster]’s newly formed role of Assistant News Editor.  I was trained to be a multi-tasker and operate across many functions of the newsroom.  Great achievement.

So, four years later – I am a freelancer in the newsroom; working on the syndication arm that sells footage to foreign clients; married with two children and have ceased all efforts to push forward to my aforementioned dream.  Why the spanner in the works?

I dropped out of the Assistant News Editor rat race when I went on maternity leave with my second child in 2009, which helped to put things into perspective.  Before I left, I had sought support from editorial managers saying that I felt I was being pigeonholed and wanted the chance to be a News Editor.

One [white] chief told me that I should come in and volunteer to work on my days off [after four years of being at beck and call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week].  Another [white chief] told me that I wasn’t ready.  This, from an organisation whose [white] editorial deputy was promoted to a £40k position before he was 25; and whose [white]regional editor is even younger than her predecessor was. 

Every time I went to lunch with other [black] colleagues, the conversation was consigned to sharing experiences of being undermined, overlooked and unappreciated; finished with the words “I hate it, here.”

When my former boss decided to have the airhead [white] freelancer babysit the News Editor’s chair one Boxing day, it was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I remember storming into his office and being fed a line about it not being a big deal.  So, while on maternity leave, I took voluntary redundancy from my staff position; applying on the last possible day before the application period closed.

Why did I not achieve my editorial dream? My fingers are pointing firmly at the apathy directed at Black women in the [well known broadcaster] newsroom.  With career progression reserved for non-black candidates or those who are cosy with the bosses, I have become consigned to purgatory in a no-go environment.

In the place where I have heard a [white] senior editor murder (at the curl of a tongue) presenter [name removed]'s chances of being held there as a respected newsreader; all it takes is the dreaded words said out loud: “She’s rubbish!”

But I also point the finger at myself.  For being such a wimp.  Black women before me have long known that they have to work twice as hard to get where they want to go.  But now, I don’t want to strive in an environment where no-one believes that I can do it.  I think Alicia Keys once said something similar.

Now some idiot LSE psychologist decides to declare it science that as a Black woman I am less attractive than counterparts of other races – and immediately every other woman who has adopted escapism in the face of adversity is justified.

I guess I just have to wait until there are heads of media organisations that are prepared to take the camaraderie out of progression in the media and actually support all staff of all races – equally.

There were mixed reactions; most of the Black members of staff congratulated me and felt a sense of relief that someone had said something that desperately needed to be said.

A few of my white colleagues wondered why senior management was making a fuss – as I had only spoken the truth.
  But the majority (white and asian) said nothing to me at all.  In fact, I got the distinct sense that I had betrayed a team that I never really felt a part of. 

A senior [white]colleague sent me a private message saying that I should take the note down as I would never be offered shifts again by [well known broadcaster], or any other media outlet – because I had spoken out against the bosses.

Another [white] colleague called my note a ‘suicidal rant’. I couldn’t figure out if this was a disdainful comment although I was hurt because I didn’t have support from people who I had grown fond of – but didn’t seem to feel the same about me.

News is a competitive business and loads of people at [well known broadcaster] – black, white and asian – were passed over for jobs, every day.
  Yes, but it was only the white and asian people that subsequently got the jobs (or a mitigating alternative like acting up) eventually.

I got telephone calls from friends in the public arena who told me that I had made a mistake and that there were more diplomatic ways of making a point.
  Apparently my approach was not one of them.

My decision to publish was a spontaneous, arguably ineffective, one but I felt a bit let down that I was being persecuted for telling the truth.
  If it was wrong to talk about it, why was it okay that it was happening to me?  I wondered if Rosa Parks ever regretted complying with the spontaneous feeling to sit in the 'whites only' section of that segregated bus.

I was summoned into a senior manager’s office a few times to explain myself.
  And although I felt distinctly on my own, I grabbed the opportunities to speak frankly.
ME: “I don’t consider myself to be an Afrocentric person focussed on life through a race perspective, but unfortunately the race perspective has been forced upon me.”
Senior Manager: "I wish that we could have had this conversation internally.  We still have things to achieve on diversity but we are taking steps to progress. We seem to have many Asian members of staff but not as many Black.  Why do you think that is?"
ME: "Asian members of staff are received better.  That is not the case for Black members of staff." (What I wanted to add here was that Asians were being used [consciously or subconsciously] by a section of white society to fulfil equality quotas; therefore avoiding the requirement to engage with or progress Black members of staff into senior positions.  Unfortunately, this can be seen as a ‘divide and conquer’ approach to the BME work populace.)
One could be forgiven for thinking that the grouping together of all minorities during the formulation of equality policy was done in that way for that very reason.

The impact of the Facebook note was made worse when former Black colleagues who were still my Facebook friends added comments about how their ‘nightmare’ experiences at [well known broadcaster] affected them.

One friend made references to specific journalists – who were livid at the picture that was painted of them.
  A well known correspondent scolded me for a good ten minutes; I felt this was unfair as I didn’t make the comments or a reference to them specifically.  But I also felt that if one doesn’t want people to think one is a heartless, stuck-up person then one shouldn't be a heartless, stuck-up person to anybody else.

As I sat back at my desk, I noticed the internal relations machine whirr into action.
  The communications department posted an article on the [well known broadcaster]'s intranet written by a Black junior member of staff about how much she enjoyed the latest diversity activity day.

A few weeks later, I noticed a distinct lack of shifts in my calendar. I called the freelance coordinator who fumbled an indistinct sentence. Shortly after, the senior manager called me at home to say that I would no longer be called for shifts because

‘it was obvious that I had a problem with working there; I'd caused tension in the newsroom and there were loads of other potential candidates who think [well known broadcaster] is the dog’s bollocks’.
Friends asked what I would do for money, with two young children and a household to support.  I hadn’t thought that far ahead.

I am sure that there are many mitigating reasons for the nature of that newsroom; it is a highly stressful environment.  But in possible answer to the questions posed by Simon Woolley above: -  institutional racism is not defeated; it still bubbles healthily underneath superficial blankets of political correctness.

It is true that there is only one race - a human one.  It is the imperfection of man that chooses to demarcate attributes by the skin colour characteristics of that race. While failing to realise that the only factor that truly defines us are our experiences.  Those human experiences of a certain upbringing, education, lifestyle, trauma or tragedy.

Sadly, my experience was that I was not even given a chance to suceed [or fail] first before being written off.

The only thing that I regret was publishing the name of the presenter who was called 'rubbish' and without telling her first that I was going to do it.  She is a warm and talented person who always had time for me.  Our friendship ended after that.  For that, I am sorry.

But thankfully, I am now doing a job that I enjoy and feel that I now have a wealth of prospects ahead of me.

And I wouldn’t wish [well known broadcaster] on anyone.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

The shady trenchcoat and dark monacles of the EU's planned stability mechanism (ESM)

The European Union is planning a treaty to establish a new intergovernmental agreement called the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), the eurozone's permanent bailout fund. 

The ESM treaty employs the European Commission and the European Central Bank to obtain financial aid by ESM members and is expected to come into force in July, 2012.

Some critics have referred to the ‘Treaty Establishing the European Stability Mechanism [between 17 member states]’ as one of debt, as all eurozone national budgets are set to fall into the hands of this single intergovernmental organisation. 

It has also been suggested that the ESM will severely confine eurozone members’ economic sovereignty.

 In the agreement between eurozone members, the authorized capital stock of the ESM shall be €700 billion; an amount that increases automatically when another EU member state decides to join the ESM and when the ESM says so.

Almost 50 percent of the capital stock will be funded by Germany and France alone, with Germany coughing up the lion’s share of contributions.

 If the ESM needs money, its members will have a week to pay up.  Taking normal banking times into account that means even the poorest ESM member has only a few days to write a cheque.

Article 9 states: “ESM Members hereby irrevocably and unconditionally undertake to provide their contribution to the authorised capital stock...[and] pay on demand any capital call made on them...within seven days of receipt”.

The ESM Board of Governors may decide to change the authorised capital stock and amend the amounts that ESM members contribute accordingly. 

So €700 billion is only the start; the ESM can stock up the fund as much as it wants to, anytime it wants to and ESM members would have to ‘unconditionally and irrevocably’ comply with monetary demands - immediately.

A closer look at the Treaty reveals that, in each of the territories of its members, the European Stability Mechanism will have full legal personality, including the capacity to start legal proceedings and to acquire and dispose of movable and immovable property. 

Crucially, the premises, archives and all documents belonging to or held by the ESM will be inviolable and ESM property, funding and assets regardless of where and by whom they are held: 

  1. Shall enjoy immunity from every form of judicial process;
  2. Shall be immune from search, requisition, confiscation, expropriation or any other form of seizure, taking or foreclosure by executive, judicial, administrative or legislative action; 
  3. Shall be free from restrictions, regulations, controls and moratoria of any nature.

Essentially, these privileges and immunities mean that the ESM can sue its members but its members cannot sue it; and that no government, legislature or democratic law will have effect on it. 

Management and staff will also enjoy the same protection in the course of their work, and documentation produced may perhaps never be seen.

 The ESM will be exempt from any requirement to be authorised or licensed as a credit institution, investment services provider or other authorised licensed or regulated entity.

In addition, the Treaty allows for the ESM to obtain recognition of its status in other territories in which it performs functions or holds assets.

Such territories could include Britain as major British banks have a combined exposure of £170 billion to Eurozone economies. Britain is currently refusing to contribute to the ESM and resisting calls to offer more money to the IMF for euro-zone use.

I am no EU expert and the facts in this article would need to be double-checked; but does any other EU entity have powers like this?