Why I Probably Won’t be Watching the Paralympics

My friend Ruth Murran posted this text on her Facebook page. I offered to make it more widely available here, and she kindly agreed. Ruth is a teacher in the south of England.

Paralympic Games

Paralympic Games

Am I glad that the Paralympics are happening? I think I might be but I absolutely have to hesitate a bit.

Because for me they kind of feel like what some people do to make themselves feel better about a ‘problem’; they are like buying The Big Issue from the quite clean and smart homeless person (the one who is making a real effort to change their life).

Because I don’t think that I will want to watch until I know that I can catch a bus to my workplace and won’t risk lateness because there was a pushchair and, to be honest, a working wheelchair-user is a bit of a novelty.

I don’t want to watch until advertised ‘accessibility’ is pretty much always what it claims to be; until, in fact, somebody has actually tried it out with a wheelchair, until I am not ‘too disabled’ for more places than I care to mention but ‘not disabled enough’ for a viewing platform in Hyde Park because I choose not to claim benefits and I might be ‘pretending’ to get a better seat.

I don’t want to watch until the toilet into which I might manage to fit is as clean as all the others and I don’t have to share it with toddlers and the nappy bin.

Because, the reality is, that I can watch performances in which I would not be able to participate in my chair, that passers-by often look at me in surprise if I happen to be cheerful and laughing and this surprise tends to increase if, on the pavement, I don’t ‘give way’ to every ‘walker’.

In the past few years, I have met with huge amounts of kindness and consideration, with many lovely individuals but, to be honest, it is very often ‘ the kindness of strangers’ on which I have to rely because infrastructure tells me on most days that I really ought to be grateful for what has been provided and, if it is a little ‘hit or miss’, then ‘at least we tried’.

I can’t shake off the uncomfortable feeling that young, fit, often mostly whole (or at least used to be) striving Paralympians are ‘normal enough’ to be acceptable.

So I think that I will be kind of relieved when they are over and I can stop feeling ever so slightly less happy and lucky than usual.

Walter Roberts and 100 years of British militarism

Today is the anniversary of Walter Roberts’ death: 1895-1916.

Roberts studied architecture and was a Christian pacifist and socialist; his brother Alfred was also a conscientious objector. He refused to fight in World War One, but was not granted conscientious objector status by the British state. He was imprisoned in Wormwood Scrubs before being sent to a labour camp in Aberdeenshire where he was forced to work in a quarry in Dyce, breaking rocks for 10 hours a day. Camp conditions were terrible and inmates were not looked after properly: exposure to incessant rain in inadequate clothing and living under leaky canvas (probably left over from the South African War of 1899-1902) meant a cold rapidly developed into pneumonia and Roberts died within five days of arrival. The Dyce camp was closed as a result of his death; it is now a car park for Aberdeen airport.

Walter Roberts (photo via Peace Pledge Union, from the article in the Manchester Evening News - click image to read it)

Walter Roberts (photo via Peace Pledge Union, from the article in the Manchester Evening News – click image to read it)

Many courageous men and women resisted the drive to war alongside Roberts: another notable campaigner was Catherine Marshall, who developed her campaigning skills in the suffragette movement. In World War One she became the Honorary Secretary for the No-Conscription Fellowship as a result of her campaigning talents (though we might reasonably assume that she was in part also appointed to this role because the male leaders of the NCF were constantly being imprisoned by the British state). Amongst other things, Marshall successfully campaigned to save the lives of numerous conscientious objectors in France that the British state had intended to execute. She argued: ‘… all the horrors of war … do violence to the whole spirit of civilisation, the whole teaching of Christianity…’ (PPU, p4).

These conscientious objectors were tremendously courageous individuals – opposing the public mood of the time, which was overwhelmingly pro-war, would have been very difficult. The public mood in Britain has long continued to be broadly pro-war, no doubt arising from continual military engagement overseas for over 100 years. No other country in recent times has been at war for this long, and it is only possible because the public mood allows politicians to get away with pursuing continual war. In other words, the public needs to be either ignorant of what is being done in their name, or seduced into accepting militarism as a viable tool of international diplomacy (which recent British governments have all clearly believed to be the case). I was reminded of this by an article published today by Ian Cobain entitled Britain’s Secret Wars. He begins with an account of British soldiers fighting in Vietnam immediately after World War Two (26,000 men with 2,500 vehicles and air support committing horrific acts of brutality – but hardly discussed in public):

Back in the UK, parliament and the public knew next to nothing about this war, the manner in which it was being waged, or Britain’s role in it. And it appears that the cabinet and the War Office wished their state of ignorance be preserved.

Regarding Britain’s long-standing military engagement, Cobain goes on to say (my emphasis):

For more than a hundred years, not a single year has passed when Britain’s armed forces have not been engaged in military operations somewhere in the world. The British are unique in this respect: the same could not be said of the Americans, the Russians, the French or any other nation.

Only the British are perpetually at war.

It is hardly a surprise that much of Britain is completely desensitised to the militarism that the state propagates (nor is it a surprise many people argued the British state’s militarism was a key motivation in seeking Scottish independence in 2014). Britain is one of the world’s most militarily aggressive states – a rogue state, by many definitions.

We do well, therefore, to recall with gratitude the courage and commitment of those who resist this militarism, whether this be people in the past such as Walter Roberts and Catherine Marshall, or those today who resist the relentless drive to war and the state’s dedication to illegal weapons of mass destruction, such as:

The most appropriate way to honour Roberts, Marshall, and all who suffered as a result of their pacifist convictions is undoubtedly to support those opposing war today.


Postscript: a few hours after posting this blog, I read an excellent piece by Louis Allday in the Monthly Review: The Imperial War Museum in London: A Lesson in British state propaganda. I would have included this in the main text had I read it sooner. If you want to better understand how the British state encourages its militarism, this is a good place to start.

Brexit – what next? Thinking about the outcome.

I regard the referendum outcome to leave the EU as a disaster for many reasons, as will be clear from my last blog posting, written shortly before the vote. I’ll maybe write something short about my reaction to the outcome in the coming days.

Brexit: what happens next? Click to download the report.

Brexit: what happens next? Click to download the report.

In the meantime, the report from the House of Commons Library makes for fascinating reading (tweeted in the early hours of 25.6.16).

There are countless useful resources here, such as this note (p12) about devolution and how this situation may affect Scotland, citing Sionaidh Douglas-Scott:

It would still be necessary to amend the relevant parts of devolution legislation. But this would be no simple matter and could lead to a constitutional crisis. Although the UK Parliament may amend the devolution Acts, the UK government has stated that it will not normally legislate on a devolved matter without the consent of the devolved legislature. This requires a Legislative Consent Motion under the Sewel Convention. However, the devolved legislatures might be reluctant to grant assent, especially as one feature of the ‘Vow’ made to the Scottish electorate was a commitment to entrench the Scottish Parliament’s powers, thus giving legal force to the Sewel Convention. So the need to amend devolution legislation renders a UK EU exit constitutionally highly problematic.

Section 7 on the future options for Scotland are also very interesting for me (pp17-19), given that England (and to some extent Wales) voted to leave, but Scotland voted overwhelmingly to stay. It will be for Holyrood and Nicola Sturgeon’s government to chart a course through this situation; I am confident that she and her allies in Holyrood will do this well. Her speech after the referendum indicates as much:

I think it is safe to say that independence for Scotland looks much more likely in the meantime.

Bombs away: anger about UK attacks on Syria

The UK bombing Syria will – according to significant senior military figures – have no strategic effect on ISIS. But the effects on civilians will be devastating: these will be yet more bombs on a country already being bombed and attacked, in particular by Bashar al-Assad, who has killed many times more people than ISIS.

Of course, the key issue here is that Assad has killed Syrians in Syria and our politicians care little about them, as evidenced by the shameful treatment of those fleeing his barrel bombs and trying to come to safety in Europe.  ISIS on the other hand, has not only killed Syrians, but killed Europeans in Europe.  Hilary Benn – supposedly a Labour politician (and I shouldn’t judge him by his father, but…!) – argued yesterday that ISIS are fascists who must be resisted, therefore a ‘fair share’ of the bombing (says David Cameron) should fall on our shoulders, even though the consequences – more dead civilians and more refugees – will by and large be prevented from coming here (according to Theresa May and most of the Westminster parliament).  This is decision-making without responsibility for Conservative, pro-attack Labour and other politicians:

Meanwhile, we can expect to hear of yet more deaths – though that will be disguised by weasel words such as ‘collateral damage’ or ‘targeted killings’ or ‘surgical strikes’ or ‘tragic accidents’ etc. – and there will be yet more parents robbed of children, children whose parents are killed, lovers whose partners are dead, friends who are left alone in the world.

I try hard not to be a vindictive person, but at a deep level my gut reaction, especially after all the catastrophic involvement of the British is conflicts over the years is to feel utter revulsion for all those who voted for these air strikes: I want their nights to be broken by visions of children orphaned by their bombs, by parents crying over the corpses of their dead children, by haunts of wailing lovers, by houses, schools, mosques, churches and hospitals destroyed.

This will, of course, become a constructive anger at the betrayal of values most of us hold dear, and I think that things will change as a result:

In broad terms, I think/hope that the situation in this country is now quite different to 2003, and that this reckless action is the undoing of Cameron and his warmongering allies in his own party, as well as in other parties.  The maps here demonstrate this transformation.

——–

This is the list of MPs who voted to attack Syria, courtesy of the Guardian, are as follows (1, 2):

Conservative MPs – 313
Nigel Adams (Selby & Ainsty), Adam Afriyie (Windsor), Peter Aldous (Waveney), Lucy Allan (Telford), Heidi Allen (Cambridgeshire South), Sir David Amess (Southend West), Stuart Andrew (Pudsey), Caroline Ansell (Eastbourne), Edward Argar (Charnwood), Victoria Atkins (Louth & Horncastle), Richard Bacon (Norfolk South), Steven Baker (Wycombe), Harriett Baldwin (Worcestershire West), Stephen Barclay (Cambridgeshire North East), Guto Bebb (Aberconwy), Henry Bellingham (Norfolk North West), Richard Benyon (Newbury), Sir Paul Beresford (Mole Valley), Jake Berry (Rossendale & Darwen), James Berry (Kingston & Surbiton), Andrew Bingham (High Peak), Bob Blackman (Harrow East), Nicola Blackwood (Oxford West & Abingdon), Crispin Blunt (Reigate), Nick Boles (Grantham & Stamford), Peter Bone (Wellingborough), Victoria Borwick (Kensington), Peter Bottomley (Worthing West), Karen Bradley (Staffordshire Moorlands), Graham Brady (Altrincham & Sale West), Julian Brazier (Canterbury), Andrew Bridgen (Leicestershire North West), Steve Brine (Winchester), James Brokenshire (Old Bexley & Sidcup), Fiona Bruce (Congleton), Robert Buckland (Swindon South), Conor Burns (Bournemouth West), Simon Burns (Chelmsford), David Burrowes (Enfield Southgate), Alistair Burt (Bedfordshire North East), Alun Cairns (Vale of Glamorgan), David Cameron (Witney), Neil Carmichael (Stroud), James Cartlidge (Suffolk South), Bill Cash (Stone), Maria Caulfield (Lewes), Alex Chalk (Cheltenham), Rehman Chishti (Gillingham & Rainham), Jo Churchill (Bury St Edmunds), Greg Clark (Tunbridge Wells), James Cleverly (Braintree), Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (Cotswolds, The), Therese Coffey (Suffolk Coastal), Damian Collins (Folkestone & Hythe), Oliver Colvile (Plymouth Sutton & Devonport), Alberto Costa (Leicestershire South), Geoffrey Cox (Devon West & Torridge), Stephen Crabb (Preseli Pembrokeshire), Tracey Crouch (Chatham & Aylesford), Byron Davies (Gower), Chris Davies (Brecon & Radnorshire), David Davies (Monmouth), Glyn Davies (Montgomeryshire), James Davies (Vale of Clwyd), Mims Davies (Eastleigh), Philip Davies (Shipley), Caroline Dinenage (Gosport), Jonathan Djanogly (Huntingdon), Michelle Donelan (Chippenham), Nadine Dorries (Bedfordshire Mid), Stephen Double (St Austell & Newquay), Oliver Dowden (Hertsmere), Richard Drax (Dorset South), Flick Drummond (Portsmouth South), James Duddridge (Rochford & Southend East), Alan Duncan (Rutland & Melton), Iain Duncan Smith (Chingford & Woodford Green), Philip Dunne (Ludlow), Michael Ellis (Northampton North), Jane Ellison (Battersea), Tobias Ellwood (Bournemouth East), Charlie Elphicke (Dover), George Eustice (Camborne & Redruth), Graham Evans (Weaver Vale), Nigel Evans (Ribble Valley), David Evennett (Bexleyheath & Crayford), Michael Fabricant (Lichfield), Michael Fallon (Sevenoaks), Suella Fernandes (Fareham), Mark Field (Cities of London & Westminster), Kevin Foster (Torbay), Dr Liam Fox (Somerset North), Mark Francois (Rayleigh & Wickford), Lucy Frazer (Cambridgeshire South East), George Freeman (Norfolk Mid), Mike Freer (Finchley & Golders Green), Richard Fuller (Bedford), Marcus Fysh (Yeovil), Roger Gale (Thanet North), Edward Garnier (Harborough), Mark Garnier (Wyre Forest), David Gauke (Hertfordshire South West), Nus Ghani (Wealden), Nick Gibb (Bognor Regis & Littlehampton), Cheryl Gillan (Chesham & Amersham), John Glen (Salisbury), Zac Goldsmith (Richmond Park), Robert Goodwill (Scarborough & Whitby), Michael Gove (Surrey Heath), Richard Graham (Gloucester), Helen Grant (Maidstone & The Weald), James Gray (Wiltshire North), Chris Grayling (Epsom & Ewell), Chris Green (Bolton West), Damian Green (Ashford), Justine Greening (Putney), Dominic Grieve (Beaconsfield), Andrew Griffiths (Burton), Ben Gummer (Ipswich), Sam Gyimah (Surrey East), Robert Halfon (Harlow), Luke Hall (Thornbury & Yate), Philip Hammond (Runnymede & Weybridge), Stephen Hammond (Wimbledon), Matthew Hancock (Suffolk West), Greg Hands (Chelsea & Fulham), Mark Harper (Forest of Dean), Richard Harrington (Watford), Rebecca Harris (Castle Point), Simon Hart (Carmarthen West & Pembrokeshire South), Sir Alan Haselhurst (Saffron Walden), John Hayes (South Holland & The Deepings), Sir Oliver Heald (Hertfordshire North East), James Heappey (Wells), Chris Heaton-Harris (Daventry), Peter Heaton-Jones (Devon North), Nick Herbert (Arundel & South Downs), Damian Hinds (Hampshire East), Simon Hoare (Dorset North), George Hollingbery (Meon Valley), Kevin Hollinrake (Thirsk & Malton), Kris Hopkins (Keighley), Gerald Howarth (Aldershot), John Howell (Henley), Ben Howlett (Bath), Nigel Huddleston (Worcestershire Mid), Jeremy Hunt (Surrey South West), Nick Hurd (Ruislip, Northwood & Pinner), Stewart Jackson (Peterborough), Margot James (Stourbridge), Sajid Javid (Bromsgrove), Ranil Jayawardena (Hampshire North East), Bernard Jenkin (Harwich & Essex North), Andrea Jenkyns (Morley & Outwood), Robert Jenrick (Newark), Boris Johnson (Uxbridge & Ruislip South), Gareth Johnson (Dartford), Joseph Johnson (Orpington), Andrew Jones (Harrogate & Knaresborough), David Jones (Clwyd West), Marcus Jones (Nuneaton), Daniel Kawczynski (Shrewsbury & Atcham), Seema Kennedy (South Ribble), Simon Kirby (Brighton Kemptown), Greg Knight (Yorkshire East), Julian Knight (Solihull), Kwasi Kwarteng (Spelthorne), Mark Lancaster (Milton Keynes North), Pauline Latham (Derbyshire Mid), Andrea Leadsom (Northamptonshire South), Phillip Lee (Bracknell), Jeremy Lefroy (Stafford), Charlotte Leslie (Bristol North West), Oliver Letwin (Dorset West), Brandon Lewis (Great Yarmouth), Ian Liddell-Grainger (Bridgwater & Somerset West), David Lidington (Aylesbury), Peter Lilley (Hitchin & Harpenden), Jack Lopresti (Filton & Bradley Stoke), Jonathan Lord (Woking), Tim Loughton (Worthing East & Shoreham), Karen Lumley (Redditch), Jason McCartney (Colne Valley), Karl McCartney (Lincoln), Craig Mackinlay (Thanet South), David Mackintosh (Northampton South), Patrick McLoughlin (Derbyshire Dales), Anne Main (St Albans), Alan Mak (Havant), Kit Malthouse (Hampshire North West), Scott Mann (Cornwall North), Tania Mathias (Twickenham), Theresa May (Maidenhead), Paul Maynard (Blackpool North & Cleveleys), Mark Menzies (Fylde), Johnny Mercer (Plymouth Moor View), Huw Merriman (Bexhill & Battle), Stephen Metcalfe (Basildon South & Thurrock East), Maria Miller (Basingstoke), Amanda Milling (Cannock Chase), Nigel Mills (Amber Valley), Anne Milton (Guildford), Andrew Mitchell (Sutton Coldfield), Penny Mordaunt (Portsmouth North), Nicky Morgan (Loughborough), Anne Marie Morris (Newton Abbot), David Morris (Morecambe & Lunesdale), James Morris (Halesowen & Rowley Regis), Wendy Morton (Aldridge-Brownhills), David Mowat (Warrington South), David Mundell (Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale & Tweeddale), Sheryll Murray (Cornwall South East), Dr Andrew Murrison (Wiltshire South West), Bob Neill (Bromley & Chislehurst), Sarah Newton (Truro & Falmouth), Caroline Nokes (Romsey & Southampton North), Jesse Norman (Hereford & Herefordshire South), David Nuttall (Bury North), Matthew Offord (Hendon), Guy Opperman (Hexham), George Osborne (Tatton), Neil Parish (Tiverton & Honiton), Priti Patel (Witham), Owen Paterson (Shropshire North), Mark Pawsey (Rugby), Mike Penning (Hemel Hempstead), John Penrose (Weston-Super-Mare), Andrew Percy (Brigg & Goole), Claire Perry (Devizes), Stephen Phillips (Sleaford & North Hykeham), Chris Philp (Croydon South), Eric Pickles (Brentwood & Ongar), Christopher Pincher (Tamworth), Daniel Poulter (Suffolk Central & Ipswich North), Rebecca Pow (Taunton Deane), Victoria Prentis (Banbury), Mark Prisk (Hertford & Stortford), Mark Pritchard (Wrekin, The), Tom Pursglove (Corby), Jeremy Quin (Horsham), Will Quince (Colchester), Dominic Raab (Esher & Walton), Jacob Rees-Mogg (Somerset North East), Laurence Robertson (Tewkesbury), Mary Robinson (Cheadle), Andrew Rosindell (Romford), Amber Rudd (Hastings & Rye), David Rutley (Macclesfield), Antoinette Sandbach (Eddisbury), Paul Scully (Sutton & Cheam), Andrew Selous (Bedfordshire South West), Grant Shapps (Welwyn Hatfield), Alok Sharma (Reading West), Alec Shelbrooke (Elmet & Rothwell), Keith Simpson (Broadland), Chris Skidmore (Kingswood), Chloe Smith (Norwich North), Henry Smith (Crawley), Julian Smith (Skipton & Ripon), Royston Smith (Southampton Itchen), Nicholas Soames (Sussex Mid), Amanda Solloway (Derby North), Anna Soubry (Broxtowe), Caroline Spelman (Meriden), Mark Spencer (Sherwood), Andrew Stephenson (Pendle), John Stevenson (Carlisle), Bob Stewart (Beckenham), Iain Stewart (Milton Keynes South), Rory Stewart (Penrith & The Border), Gary Streeter (Devon South West), Mel Stride (Devon Central), Graham Stuart (Beverley & Holderness), Julian Sturdy (York Outer), Rishi Sunak (Richmond (Yorks)), Desmond Swayne (New Forest West), Hugo Swire (Devon East), Robert Syms (Poole), Derek Thomas (St Ives), Maggie Throup (Erewash), Edward Timpson (Crewe & Nantwich), Kelly Tolhurst (Rochester & Strood), Justin Tomlinson (Swindon North), Michael Tomlinson (Dorset Mid & Poole North), Craig Tracey (Warwickshire North), David Tredinnick (Bosworth), Anne-Marie Trevelyan (Berwick-upon-Tweed), Elizabeth Truss (Norfolk South West), Thomas Tugendhat (Tonbridge & Malling), Ed Vaizey (Wantage), Shailesh Vara (Cambridgeshire North West), Theresa Villiers (Chipping Barnet), Charles Walker (Broxbourne), Robin Walker (Worcester), Ben Wallace (Wyre & Preston North), David Warburton (Somerton & Frome), Matt Warman (Boston & Skegness), Angela Watkinson (Hornchurch & Upminster), James Wharton (Stockton South), Helen Whately (Faversham & Kent Mid), Heather Wheeler (Derbyshire South), Chris White (Warwick & Leamington), Craig Whittaker (Calder Valley), John Whittingdale (Maldon), Bill Wiggin (Herefordshire North), Craig Williams (Cardiff North), Gavin Williamson (Staffordshire South), Rob Wilson (Reading East), Dr Sarah Wollaston (Totnes), Mike Wood (Dudley South), William Wragg (Hazel Grove), Jeremy Wright (Kenilworth & Southam) and Nadhim Zahawi (Stratford-on-Avon).

The two tellers for the ayes were also Tories: Gavin Barwell (Croydon Central) and Jackie Doyle Price (Thurrock).

Labour MPs – 66
Heidi Alexander (Lewisham East), Ian Austin (Dudley North), Adrian Bailey (West Bromwich West), Kevin Barron (Rother Valley), Margaret Beckett (Derby South), Hilary Benn (Leeds Central), Luciana Berger (Liverpool Wavertree), Tom Blenkinsop (Middlesbrough South & Cleveland East), Ben Bradshaw (Exeter), Chris Bryant (Rhondda), Alan Campbell (Tynemouth), Jenny Chapman (Darlington), Vernon Coaker (Gedling), Ann Coffey (Stockport), Yvette Cooper (Normanton, Pontefract & Castleford), Neil Coyle (Bermondsey & Old Southwark), Mary Creagh (Wakefield), Stella Creasy (Walthamstow), Simon Danczuk (Rochdale), Wayne David (Caerphilly), Gloria De Piero (Ashfield), Stephen Doughty (Cardiff South & Penarth), Jim Dowd (Lewisham West & Penge), Michael Dugher (Barnsley East), Angela Eagle (Wallasey), Maria Eagle (Garston & Halewood), Louise Ellman (Liverpool Riverside), Frank Field (Birkenhead), Jim Fitzpatrick (Poplar & Limehouse), Colleen Fletcher (Coventry North East), Caroline Flint (Don Valley), Harriet Harman (Camberwell & Peckham), Margaret Hodge (Barking), George Howarth (Knowsley), Tristram Hunt (Stoke-on-Trent Central), Dan Jarvis (Barnsley Central), Alan Johnson (Hull West & Hessle), Graham Jones (Hyndburn), Helen Jones (Warrington North), Kevan Jones (Durham North), Susan Elan Jones (Clwyd South), Liz Kendall (Leicester West), Dr Peter Kyle (Hove), Chris Leslie (Nottingham East), Holly Lynch (Halifax), Siobhain McDonagh (Mitcham & Morden), Pat McFadden (Wolverhampton South East), Conor McGinn (St Helens North), Alison McGovern (Wirral South), Bridget Phillipson (Houghton & Sunderland South), Jamie Reed (Copeland), Emma Reynolds (Wolverhampton North East), Geoffrey Robinson (Coventry North West), Joan Ryan (Enfield North), Lucy Powell (Manchester Central), Ruth Smeeth (Stoke-on-Trent North), Angela Smith (Penistone & Stocksbridge), John Spellar (Warley), Gisela Stuart (Birmingham Edgbaston), Gareth Thomas (Harrow West), Anna Turley (Redcar), Chuka Umunna (Streatham), Keith Vaz (Leicester East), Tom Watson (West Bromwich East), Phil Wilson (Sedgefield) and John Woodcock (Barrow & Furness).

Liberal Democrat MPs – 6
Six Liberal Democrats voted in favour: Tom Brake (Carshalton & Wallington), Alistair Carmichael (Orkney & Shetland), Nick Clegg (Sheffield Hallam), Tim Farron (Westmorland & Lonsdale), Greg Mulholland (Leeds North West) and John Pugh (Southport).

DUP MPs – 8
There were eight Democratic Unionist Party ayes: Gregory Campbell (Londonderry East), Nigel Dodds (Belfast North), Jeffrey Donaldson (Lagan Valley), Ian Paisley (Antrim North), Gavin Robinson (Belfast East), Jim Shannon (Strangford), David Simpson (Upper Bann) and Sammy Wilson (Antrim East).

Others voting for airstrikes
The two UUP MPs voted for airstrikes: Tom Elliott (Fermanagh & South Tyrone), Danny Kinahan (Antrim South).

Also in the aye lobby were Ukip MP Douglas Carswell (Clacton) and independent Sylvia Hermon (Down North).

British ethnic nationalism – an ugly exclusiveness that encourages Scottish independence

One of the most welcome features of the Scottish independence referendum in 2014 was the principle that (almost) anyone who lived in Scotland could have a vote in the referendum. This meant that those who identified as Scots but did not live in Scotland would not have a vote, but those who had decided to live in Scotland and wanted to play a part in its future could vote. This is called civic nationalism: it is based on who lives in the country and is contributing to it, and is not based upon origins or birth or parentage.

One of the side effects of this decision was that many people who had been born in Scotland or who had Scottish parents but who did not live in Scotland were not able to vote. Many of these people left Scotland because they felt it lacked the opportunities for a good career that other places offered: I heard this many times in the years we lived in London and my wife was the minister of one of the two Church of Scotland churches there.  In today’s judgemental environment we would probably call them ‘economic migrants’ even though many of them would be appalled to think of themselves like that (other people are economic migrants…).  Many left for love, or had to leave for work even thought they didn’t want to, and still others will have had other reasons for leaving Scotland.  I know that many of these people were disappointed not to be able to vote in the 2014 referendum – but the referendum was decided by those who had stayed in Scotland or who had moved here, and quite correctly in my view, they were the only ones determining Scotland’s future.

This approach also represented the starting point of many of the Yes campaign’s arguments: they/we took a civic nationalist standpoint, whereas the British nationalist/unionist position was very different – it took an ethnic nationalist standpoint for its arguments.  I explained this in a blog posting that was widely read at the time, and is available here (the original place of publication), and (republished by National Collective) here, and (archived on this blog) here.

United Kingdom EUNow we face another referendum in 2017, this time across the whole of the UK, to decide whether Britain should stay in the European Union or not. In this referendum, organised by the Conservative party, only people who have a British passport will be allowed to vote, according to a report in today’s Herald newspaper:

Members of the House of the Lords and Commonwealth citizens in Gibraltar will be given a vote, in addition to those on the Westminster voters’ roll.

Those entitled to vote in UK elections include British, Irish and Commonwealth citizens over 18 who are resident in the UK, plus UK nationals resident overseas for less than 15 years.

This means that all of those people who have moved to Britain and chosen to make their lives here (including other EU citizens – such as my wife!) are going to be denied a vote. However, those British passport-holders who have chosen to live elsewhere as (economic or other) migrants, or those who have chosen in the last 15 years to retire abroad (including my parents!) will have a vote – even though they no longer have as substantial an interest in what happens here compared to those who live here.

In doing so, the Conservatives are disenfranchising people who have chosen to contribute to this country – it is classic exclusive ethnic nationalism, rather than inclusive civic nationalism. There is a measure of hypocrisy here too, as David Leask of the Herald points out:

So let me state unequivocally, that this is the consequence of what people have voted for last year and this year:

When the No voters prevailed in last year’s Scottish referendum, this exclusive understanding of nationalism is what they were voting for (if you voted No you may say that you are not an ethnic nationalist, but that is the basis on which the No campaign argued the referendum and it has given the British nationalist/unionist parties the mandate to act as ethnic nationalists).

When people voted Conservative in this month’s general election, this exclusive understanding of nationalism is what they were voting for.

Ethnic nationalism invariably leads to chauvinism (I think that in theory it doesn’t necessarily do so, but in practice it always does), and in my view, is to be utterly condemned.  Westminster’s espousal of ethnic nationalism despite the good example of broad engagement set in the Scottish referendum affirms my view that Scotland and Westminster are still moving ever further apart, and this in turn encourages me – and no doubt others – to work harder towards the day when Scotland becomes independent and engages all those who live here and contribute to the country in whatever form.  I want a truly broad and inclusive body politic of all who live here, not one that excludes people on the basis of their birth and parentage.  We are clearly not getting that from Westminster.

A response to the new Tory administration

This is a guest posting by Rob Hudson, a photographer I know who is based in Cardiff.

Is there an emoji for feeling completely and utterly depressed? Because that’s all I felt like posting yesterday. Honestly I don’t recognise this country anymore and I don’t suppose for one second I’m alone. I suppose I was privileged to be born into a humane country, where for the most part people cared about their fellow citizens (even occasionally citizens of other countries), but I surely won’t die in one.

I feel like taking the first boat out of here, but there are people here who’ll be all the more reliant on me after this election. The country is broken, the NHS is in mortal danger, the poor, the weak and the young and elderly will be sacrificed to the vagaries of the unfeeling, unthinking free market.

It’s the sense of disbelief that’s most palpable here today. We really are a nation divided, divided ideologically, philosophically and morally. Forget national geography for a moment, this is neighbour against neighbour, town against country, city against City. And that gulf is enormous, I actually find myself hating, fearing and despairing of my fellow countryfolk and countrywomen today. How could they do it, how could they vote for self-interest and against caring for those in need? It’s hard to believe we will ever be reconciled, it’s like we were born on different planets. What they voted for is evil and I don’t know how I’m going to talk to them again.

I have heard rumours that perhaps 30-60000 of our fellow citizens have died after being declared fit for work, more after their benefits were sanctioned for the most trivial reasons. There’s an FOI request imminent (the DWP have been sitting on it during the election, despite having been ordered to release the figures in February) and I do hope Tory and UKIP voters will feel sick when they see the bold facts. Because with £12bn in unspecified welfare cuts it is only going to get worse.

But will they feel sick? Are they so self interested or sociopathic that they will think that an acceptable toll for a £5 a week cut in income tax? I hope you spend it wisely, because it’ll be little use if you lose your job, become ill, are young or get old.

No. I can’t think that negatively about the people I grew up amongst. I don’t believe we’ve become inhumane overnight. I believe we (in England and Wales) were not offered an alternative in the form of a party with the remotest chance of power that could inspire us.

Labour offered no serious critique of our situation, allowed the Tory lie that they were responsible for the deficit through overspending to become commonplace. They failed to propose an alternative to austerity, an alternative electoral system, to propose reform of an inequitable tax system, failed to propose any meaningful response to the huge growth of inequality and fell into the Tory trap of failing to propose an anti Tory alliance with the SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Greens. And on top of that ignored the environment.

I speak as someone who joined the Green Party last year and it’s amazing how taking that stance has enabled me, in my mind, to critique what had formerly been my party of choice – Labour. But I feel guilty; I take some of the blame because I have not been nearly active enough. And that makes me even more depressed.

Yet it’s little wonder Labour lost, they tried tinkering at the edges under Blair and Brown, and that’s simply led to large numbers of disenchanted Labour voters, who’d seen no real change, to switch their allegiance to the bigots, homophobes and thinly disguised misanthropes of UKIP. I hesitate in calling them racists, but suspect that hesitation is unjustified.

There is one glimmer of hope and that comes from Scotland. Whilst Plaid Cymru made little progress outside of their language based heartlands, the SNP were elected in nothing less than a political tsunami. I thought I might have more to say about Plaid, but I really don’t. They’ve made little progress; they are essentially still a political irrelevance. They obviously have much to do to convince the electorate that they no longer represent the interests of the minority of Welsh speakers alone. In essence they are where the SNP was thirty years ago. It’s not to say their message won’t have impact in the future, they are undeniably a progressive party.

I know many of you in England and Wales base your opinion of nationalism on an analysis based in the 1930s. But what that fails to recognise is that the nationalist parties learned from the experience of Nazism, and rejected ethnic nationalism to become what are now known as ’civic’ nationalists. The SNP aren’t the evil Scots rising up to steal your babies as portrayed by the Tory press, the Tory Party and depressingly Ed Miliband. They are what we might have once called broadly social democrats before every major UK party moved to the right of social democracy, including Labour. They believe in government close to the people who elect them, as I do, and I include Wales and the English regions. Most importantly they offered something of an alternative to the cold winds of free market austerity.

But it’s not nationalism or even particularly regional democracy that I want to agitate for at this time, that’s an argument for another day. What is really important is the way the independence debate engaged and politicised the electorate. How grassroots activism has sustained and (in Scotland) elected a party that presents a genuine alternative to the status quo.

We, south of the border, need to come together too, we must offer an alternative. We need to become active citizens: screw your online petitions, join together, and actually do something. Join a political party, join a union, form groups of like-minded people outside the current broken system. Take every opportunity to protest and to inform your fellow citizens because you can be sure the tax avoiding non-doms who own our press won’t. You can be sure the newly enfeebled BBC won’t.

There is no Tory majority; they simply have the most seats in the discredited first past the post system (in fact only 27% voted Tory). Politics comes from the people and that means you and me folks, because there isn’t anyone else, we are the people. And if we don’t, if we stand by and let the new government literally kill tens of thousands of our citizens and unleash yet more evils of neoliberalism; what does that say about us, other than we are complicit. Because alone in our despair we are weak, but together we can find hope.

General Election night: 01:30 – Scotland and the union

I want to make some very brief comments from the middle of the night, with just a few results in, and none in Scotland so far.  There has apparently been a high turnout in Scotland, which is one reason the results are slower in coming in than expected.  But it looks as if the SNP really will win almost every seat in Scotland – a great result for them.

However, if the Tories do win overall, even if not outright but enough to remain in power, Scottish delight about SNP wins need to be tempered by the prospect of five more years of austerity, renewal of Trident, evisceration of social security, and an EU in/out referendum and so on.  I support the call for an EU referendum, but almost certainly not on the terms the Tories want.

What is clear is that anyone arguing that there is no difference between social attitudes in Scotland and rUK is quite simply not paying attention: Scots have clearly voted for an anti-austerity, anti-Trident politics, in complete contrast, it seems, to rUK:

Even if Scotland does not leave the UK, or to put it another way, if there is to be any chance of Scotland staying in the UK, there has to be some kind of new constitutional arrangement beyond the pathetic nonsense that was the Smith Commission.  No Westminster government that wants to keep Scotland in the union (and I’m not sure all the Tories really do, to be honest) can ignore how Scotland has voted.  What that means for the future is not clear.  As commentators on TV joke about who would be Secretary of State for Scotland in a Tory(-led) government, there is a much more significant issue here that will require very serious consideration, that will have implications for Wales and the non-South East of England regions of England too.