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Fighting for power before politics

December 15, 2014

Today’s leaked document from Labour suggests what I have been thinking for a while. Labour are always a step behind the agenda. Granted, this is not an unusual position for a party in opposition. Come up with a bad idea, the elected powers can make you look foolish. Come up with a good idea, the elected powers can steal it. Yet the staggering failure of Labour’s opposition is that they have failed to challenge their competitors on any level. This is in spite of Tory and Lib Dems popularity echoing that of an X-Factor winner; hugely supported before a few senseless gaffes and a plunge into indifference.

edThe X-Factor can be mined for further analogies – with no identity, you can have no fan base. Labour have lost the working class, the middle class and soon the wealthy will abandon them. BAME communities, notorious for low voter turnout, are unlikely to respond positively to the kind of engagement we’ve got to look forward to next spring. We are being politically marginalised by the debates about immigration and EU membership.

Those that still read The Guardian and watch This Week may vote Labour reluctantly but will probably vote Green. The only Labour supporters left are the ones like me. I vote to participate in democracy, and to do that, I must vote for the party I’m more willing to hold to account. Yes, all the main parties dance to the beat of the centre right. But I still think Labour is the only party I can chastise for doing so. Better the devil you know and all that.

Labour should have found its new identity by now. It’s had more re-launches than the Sugababes. John Cruddas said some good things last year but all that fizzled out – ‘one-nation’ politics didn’t cause any ripples, so Labour shut up about it. If you can’t believe in your own politics, how can the electorate?

Labour’s tactics seem to revolve around focus groups to find out what makes people unhappy, speeches to respond to their concerns, followed by some mumbles about immigration and Europe because that’s what UKIP are talking about again.

Why are they using all these God-forsaken focus groups? People should not telling political parties what principals to have. Parties should have their own. Labour just want to be liked. Right now Labour is that kid who goes along with the crowd. Which works okay in the present, but when we grow up we all wish we’d been braver to be ourselves in our youth.

The same accusation could be levelled at all the ‘major’ parties in the UK, all running into each other, trying to read the minds of the population. In the Kingdom of the Blind, the one-eyed man is king. In 2015 look out for Nigel Farage, winking at everyone.

Why the restaurant that only serves cereal is objectionable

December 10, 2014

London has a restaurant that only serves tinned fish. It has a cat café which is literally, a cat café. I even understand that somewhere (probably Shoreditch) there is a restaurant so discrete you have to crawl on your hands and knees through a hatch to gain access. But a café that serves cereal? No mate. That is one concept too far.

KMT

KMRT

I don’t normally wish for businesses to fail, let alone small businesses. But I am going to make an exception with this one. I hate ironic fandom. I hate fraudulent amusement; the embracing of shit novelty kitsch deemed to be ‘so bad, it’s good’ by people desperately looking some unloved crap to sarcastically embrace in the name of individuality.

This is hyper nostalgia; it is a man listening to music on record player that’s plugged into his iPhone (as seen near London Fields). It is the resurrection of nonsense; the celebration of crap given underserved status in the name of childhood memories. It’s wankers on the bus playing Altered Beast on their Game Watches.

It proves London is now full of thirty and forty somethings whose idea of adulthood is shamelessly derived from Tom Hank’s character in BIG.

Cereal is the culinary S Club 7 – manufactured pap designed to appeal to the most basic tastes of infants. It does not warrant a restaurant. It barely warrants a cupboard in our kitchens. Mostly it is convenience food, designed to leave you hungry, undernourished and addicted so you end up eating more.

This whole concept is everything that is wrong with the way London is changing. It pays no attention to its locale. How ignorant do you have to be to not know Tower Hamlets is one of the most deprived areas of the country, as one of the owners admits here?

I’m not even surprised. Most people who open businesses vigorously research their locations, understand their environments and create opportunities suited to the area in which they are based. Not these guys. Given funding and investment for a terrible idea, it’s another nail in the coffin for the soul of the capital. Of course these dudes know nothing about Tower Hamlets, they don’t expect anyone who from the largest swathes of the borough to eat there. If you were born within 10 miles of this place, it was not conceived with you in mind.

Heck, have you seen the pictures from that café today? Tower Hamlets is about eighty percent BAME, but unless it’s the milk turning ‘chocolate-y’, you won’t be seeing much brown in that place.

This is a restaurant for idiots with nothing better to do with their time or money. Anyone who has a smile on their face whilst eating a £3.20 bowl of Indonesian Shredded Wheat should be sectioned and prescribed a very thorough reading of The Emperor’s New Clothes.

Eating imported cereal excites me about as much as wearing imported socks. Are you impressed by this abomination? My advice for you, is to grow up.

Why giving the police body cameras will not work

December 7, 2014

Today was the first time I saw the full video capturing the homicide of Eric Garner in full. I watched the clip here alongside with a commentary of how the officers’ actions compared with NYPD guidance:

http://www.channel4.com/news/eric-garner-chokehold-i-cant-breathe-nypd-patrol-guide

This video proves that there will always be instances where police are inexplicably above the law and protected. It is horrific. So why was it judged, by fellow human beings, to be acceptable?

The cases of Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Mark Duggan, Brian Douglas, Leon Briggs, Sean Rigg, Jean Charles de Menezes and more direct me towards a few conclusions:

1. America’s laws were written by the worst kind of racists and we are living in the unequal world that they intended

The laws in several American states are simple. If you fear for your life, you are entitled to kill. Correctly, these laws have been etymologically linked to American chattel slavery. They allowed African Americans to be murdered by white Americans without punishment. Brutal and violent societies often have these bizarre legal charades – see Apartheid South Africa. The problem with America is that the charade was never acknowledged and through these deaths, we can see it continues today. The first step towards recovery in a newly democratic South Africa was in the undertaking of a new constitution. America’s wounds were never healed because the racism of its forefathers has never been politically confronted, and now it’s condition has become chronic.

2. Protecting the police’s right to act without fear of recrimination is considered more important than justice.

The position of police is wildly contradictory. We protest against their wrong-doings but when our houses get robbed, they are the first people we call. And the hegemony (decision makers, powerful people, the illuminati, whoever you think is in charge of this world) use this very idea to let the police officers literally get away with murder.

In the UK,  incidents of police bias are generally seen via individual acts of dissent, institutional disregard and abuse of power. Hence the “missing CCTV” in the case of Leon Briggs, or the instructions given by the coroner presiding over the Mark Duggan inquest (the jury was told to find the killing unlawful only if they thought so ‘without doubt’ and not ‘on the balance of probabilities’ which is more usual for inquest verdicts). Who gave the instruction to ‘lose’ that CCTV and who instructed the Coroner to change the criteria the jury could use?

Over the decades we’ve seen equal marriage and legalised cannabis. Sorry to state the obvious but laws can be changed. Why not these ones? Why not make all inquests or Grand Juries consistent, with the same criteria for judgements and the same process – interviews, cross-examination and so on?

There is simply no incentive for the ruling class to allow this. I don’t know why that coroner gave that rare direction to Duggan’s inquest jury, and I don’t know why the Grand Jury in America never had to interrogate Daniel Pantaleo. I cannot fathom how Darren Wilson’s testimony was taken as fact whilst other witnessess were decided to be false. But I would propose that empowering police over citizens took priority over justice. The idea that police are above the law is ludicrous. But I suspect that this practice persists in the spurious belief that without it, the law enforcement we can’t live with and can’t live without would be undermined and society would be worse off.

3. Cameras won’t work and there doesn’t seem to be anything we can do

When we get caught rioting, the law has teeth teeth that later disappear when inquests and Grand Juries need to be negotiated (see some of the sentencing handed down to the UK 2011 rioters – attacked for their consumerism a few months before the middle classes raided John Lewis during Black Friday).

When we peacefully protest, we stop traffic, we inconvenience commuters and we make the news. But where is the change?

My fatalism comes from the public nature of the corruption. None of this is discrete yet still it goes on. Decades ago The MacPherson Report and subsequently Duwayne Brooks publically named a whole host of Met Police officers for their manipulation, criminality and downright falsehoods told during the Lawrence case (WPC Brooks, DS Christopher Crowley, PC Linda Bethel, DC Mick Tomlin, DI Sturge…) but only did so months, often years into their retirement and still, no real recriminations were ever proposed.

The IPCC have been exposed time and time again for inadequate investigations that are not fit for purpose. So why the obsession with trying to generate more evidence that will be ignored, or ‘misplaced’?

I can predict the excuses that will materialise if body cameras are ever standardised. Perhaps the evidence will be withheld, maybe the batteries will coincidently not have been be charged. Memories will suddenly be full or overwritten. I wouldn’t be surprised of a conviction isn’t secured because a lens cap has been left on.

Body cameras are designed to capture evidence. But the problem has rarely been lack of evidence. Until America and the UK have the stomach to confront the racism not in the heart of law enforcement, but in the spine of their very laws and governments themselves, no evidence will ever be enough.

Five ways to beat UKIP

October 13, 2014

UKIP are the UK’s third political party, owing (amongst other things) to the perfect storm of Lib Dem mistrust, the blatant Tory rejection of the working class vote (read Fact 4 on this post), the rising cost of living (something to blame foreigners for) and the meandering pace of Labour. There was a vacuum waiting to suck up a fourth way and UKIP was best placed to fill it.

So what of the Greens? For decades they were the fourth party and the accepted recipient of the protest vote. Uninspiring PR, sensible (read: boring) policies and their dissapointing performance in Brighton have meant they will remain the fringe party at the next election.

I don’t think it is that unfair that they are not proposed to be part of next years’ leadership debates. A political party has a duty to get its’ hands dirty and whilst Green Party activists were literally getting dirty hands in fields protesting about fracking, UKIP were lobbying, campaigning and effectively brown nosing disaffected MPs and funders. Put bluntly, the Greens have never had an MP defect to their ranks from Labour or the Lib Dems. Maybe they just play too nicely.

This is not only their fault. The media glare has been on UKIP since 2008 and Farage has courted publicity with his well planned sound-bites.

Therein lies the secret: well planned. Farage talks to his people clutching his real ale, the Greens are normally hanging tightly to their carrots. I am generalising but having worked in sustainability I can tell you the Green Party are in need of serious rebranding. I don’t even know what their logo looks like. There is something smug about the Green Party and when I think of them I think of Waitrose clientele. Well meaning, good living liberals. As a ‘high status’ party, you have to be careful when talking to your public as equals. Your audience will only feel equal if they identify as high status too.

And so enter stage left, Nigel Farage. He eats like his electorate, he drinks like them and most of all, he thinks like them. He grades migrants on a scale that has ‘desired’ on one end and ‘go back to where you came from’ on the other. As 2015 approaches, these messages are too tempting for the Great British public to resist. It is junk politics at its finest. How do we get the electorate to choose the politically healthier options?

How to beat UKIP

  1. Stop calling UKIP and its supporters barmy/racist/stupid etc.

The UKIP carnival before the last local elections is a great example of how this kind of pontificating will not work. I don’t think anyone in UKIP towers thought a carnival would be a good thing for anything except publicity. They don’t mind making themselves look stupid as long as they can make their detractors look condescending. Whilst the London cognoscenti keep taking the bait, they will keep adding the disenfranchised to their ranks.

  1. Commit the UK to a referendum on Europe

I learnt a lot about people from the Scottish referendum. You have to trust them. The Conservatives promised a referendum in 2010. It’s not fair on their supporters to say “sorry, we meant you need to vote for us twice before you get what we promised”. Many of these supporters are the ones that have gone to UKIP. UKIP can say what they like, they will definitely not be in power at the next election, so they can make grand promises they won’t be expected to deliver on. Conservatives have to push the referendum, and Labour, if they don’t want one, have to attack the Tories for not delivering, and attack UKIP for being irresponsible. At the moment, the debate is about the referendum, and not the facts of EU membership. Shift the debate and the UKIPs isolationist policies will become their vulnerability and not their strength. Which leads me to…

  1. Own the debate.

UKIP performed phenomenally well at the last local elections because the owned the immigration debate. The overwhelming response to Farage’s assertion that he ‘wouldn’t live next door to Romanians’ was complete condemnation from all political parties and the media. Rightful though the condemnation was, it was ultimately distracting. UKIP took control of the debate. Immigration isn’t about Romanians dumping dirty mattresses in their front gardens, but if you remember the coverage at the time, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was. The immigration debate covers amongst other things discussions about labour markets, welfare, refuge, opportunity and hypocrisy (Farage’s wife is German). Allowing UKIP to narrow the debate through overblown reactive criticism that states the bleedin’ obvious feeds his machine.

  1. Spend less time talking about UKIP and more time talking about yourselves.

There is no point flinging mud at Farage because he is the ultimate “sticks and stones” person and UKIP supporters identify too much with the party. You slag him off too much and it will feel like you are attacking them too. Farage calls the major two parties pompous and the mud sticks because it is true. But calling his party ‘inadequate’ because they don’t have any actual policies doesn’t work because guess what, the average person doesn’t actually know what anyone else’s policies are. I am a Labour supporter and I really have no idea what they would do about education, housing or the NHS. They said something a couple of weeks ago, but I’ve forgotten.

The Conservatives, Labour, the Lib Dems and any other political party what want a bit of power come 2015 has to get their heads out of their focus groups stop attacking UKIP for their racist half-baked policies and hit the public with some fully formed policies of their own.

  1. Get out of London

In May I drove to Hay-on-Wye, a sleepy town on the Welsh/English border full of bookshops. Pretty much the whole route there I passed villages, barns and even a sheep draped in UKIPs colours. Places where immigration is nothing but a glint in a border patrollers’ eye are buying into UKIPs messages. This tells me two things. Firstly, it is the fear of immigration, not the experience of it, which is attracting people to the right. Secondly, there’s more of them (people unaffected by immigration in the UK) than there is of us (people who live or work in diverse communities). This means there is more fear out there that is waiting to be exploited. Ignore this populace at your peril. Britain is still 85% white English. More regional focus wouldn’t hurt, instead of relying on blog posts in The Guardian and party conferences no one cares about anyway.

—-

I have believed for a long time that party politics is dead in the UK. Labour and the Conservatives spent so long fighting over the same ground, they ignored a large fringe population who are now relishing the attention UKIP lavishes upon them. It’s about time our parties started to think about what they stand for, rather than what they don’t.

Why it hurts when they get our food wrong

June 11, 2014

When Marco Pierre White got chicken, rice and peas wrong it genuinely hurt me like racism. Accuse me of trivialising racism. I would not blame you. But there was something so offensive about that mockery of a cookery clip. Rice that looked like it had been regurgitated, the bizarre use of garden peas, the anaemic chicken, the 17 Knorr stock cubes needed to make the dish taste of something other than wallpaper paste – it was such a disgrace.

A jollof rice recipe has been doing the rounds of late. Distributed by Tescos.com it truly is a total bastardisation of the dish. The accompanying picture was shocking, looking as food tends to look when it’s been dropped on the floor and rescued for the homeless, or maybe the birds.

Why does it hurt so much? Why does Twitter and Facebook vent disgust at what is essentially just a misunderstanding. We can’t expect people to understand our food? Surely we should be glad they are just having a go.

No. We should expect more.

Food culture is an oft neglected yet phenomenally important part of our identity as black peoples. They took away our religions, even our names, but much remains. There is nothing more authentic that a steaming pot of palm soup, peppery, rich and tantalising. How satisfying is a plate of rice stained with the goodness of black eyed peas, sweetened with creamy ackee and finished with a sticky, spicy piece of fish or well cooked meat? When I feel dispirited I treat myself to thick slices of soft, plump fried plantains. When I feel OK I just boil them. When I roast aubergines stuffed with scotch bonnets and garlic then scoop out handfuls with roti, I find I run out of roti very quickly. Don’t get me started on the endless enjoyment of stews made with okra and shrimp, or pulses tenderised after slow heating with tomatoes and palm oil…even sardines on toast piques the interest of my taste buds.

All of the above and much more belongs to us, whether of African or Caribbean descent. And it tastes good.

When our recipes are taken, deemed too complicated, and transformed, it stings in the same way our names were taken, deemed too complicated and transformed. It stings in the same way our cultures were taken, deemed too complicated, transformed. It relates to the way our lands were taken and destroyed.

It stinks of disrespect. They would not treat a jalfrezi in this way. You might argue that tikka masala is not an authentic Indian dish, yet it’s Britain’s favourite dish, and Indian communities embrace this. That’s because Indian communities invented it. It’s authentically Indian. It’s an Indian response to the British palate.

Marco Pierre White’s “rice and peas” and the jollof disaster are not Caribbean and West African responses to this country. They are white English responses to us. Staples of our lifestyle, that connect our childhood memories with our adult selves have been taken and put on mainstream platforms in forms that are frankly spurious. Even more insultingly, those who don’t know any better are encouraged to imitate these flavourless offerings. Further misrepresenting our food, our culture, in a way we have no control.

Misrepresentation is the key to both these kitchen calamities. If you want an authentic Jamaican recipe, why not get a Jamaican? If you want an authentic jellof, just ask a Ghanaian (or Nigerian…). If a white face must be the person patronising the viewer, that’s fine. Just check with either of the aforementioned first.

Of course, that sounds too much like hard work. And this is where the real insult is. No Caribbean person on the planet would put bleedin’ Birds Eye peas in rice and peas. And no West African on the planet would produce jellof that’s the same colour as correction fluid. It’s pretty clear to me that not one black person was involved or represented either of those pieces. Not as a consultant. Not as an ingredient supplier. Not even as a taster. We weren’t even considered as an audience either. Black people were wholly absent from the inception to the delivery of those media pieces. We watch, from the outside, as our identities are interpreted on our behalves. If that doesn’t remind you of the racisms we still endure, I don’t know what else will.

AP McCoy quotes

April 5, 2014

I have a thing for sportspeople that win all the time. I like the way they think. I know next to nothing about horse racing but I know who AP McCoy is because he wins all the time. Below are some quotes from a short piece in The Guardian that stood out for me:

You need fear and doubt to drive you on. Without it, you end up living in the past and being happy with what you have achieved.

My parents taught me about respect. My mum said you should never look down on people unless you’re helping them up.

Private dreams are the most powerful. You have to dream of success to make it happen and if you don’t believe in yourself, nobody else will. But that doesn’t mean you have to go around telling everyone about it.

 

Is the undercover policing debate overshadowing racism in the police?

March 7, 2014
by

You know what annoys me? The way the issue is about now ‘undercover policing’ and not racism. Yes, there are convicted criminals who will have now be thinking about appeals due to the involvement of undercover policing. But the Lawrence’s and Duwayne Brooks were victims, not suspects.

The issue is not solely about technique of undercover policing, it’s the fact they were being investigated in the first place. Why? This question should be asked alongside a debate about undercover policing, and not be obscured by it. Much of the commentary I have read today seems to be doing this.

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