Monday, 31 January 2011

JC: An Introduction

Hello readers. I'm the last to make an introduction, but that shouldn't mean I'll be the last to make my points or cause a scene.

I started blogging 2 years ago, as a way to develop my life writing skills and a way of writing down my day to day problems, thoughts and hates of the world. I have little to no interest in my country's politics, (or any other countries mind you) I believe that whatever happens, happens for a reason, whether good or bad. Yes, I could help to change it, but I'd much prefer to change the way I live to adapt to the changing climate, whether that be social, political or environmental.
I'm currently studying Creative Writing and English Literature at University of Cumbria in Lancaster, and I hope to become a newspaper columnist and reviewer of all kinds of culture. I'm an easily pleased man, lover of pool, poker, whiskey and comedy. How I'd sum myself up in 5 words? Cynical, acid-tongued Obsessive Compulsive.

My blog entries will be close to my heart, things that I'm interested in more than anything on this Earth. I have entries planned looking at the mental health system of the NHS, the legalisation of cannabis, and the state of comedy in the UK today.
A fucking lovely mix if I do say so myself.

The other three bloggers seem to have written whether they're an atheist or not. The only view I can take is that I wear a crucifix around my neck which was given to me by my Nan, I could go on record to say that I don't believe in God, but whenever I don't have that crucifix around my neck I always feel there's a bit of me that's missing.

I do believe I'll be the member of the foursome that'll be seen by the readers as the least intellectual of the group, but I believe otherwise. I've always loved being the underdog anyhow, and I hope you'll enjoy my postings however long this blog lasts.

Raising tuition fees: Yes
Voted: Conservative
Monarchy?: Think about the tourism
NHS: The greatest thing about the UK
Music taste: Post-punk/90s Indie/Stoner rock/Psychobilly
Greatest ever comedian? Jerry Sadowitz/Stewart Lee

Have a utterly wonderful day readers.


Sunday, 30 January 2011

Protest goes viral

Protesting against cuts isn't new, and even organising protests online is now fairly well established. But what is new is the use of new media to guide protests as they are happening. As a direct reaction to the draconian kettling of young and disabled protesters during the student protests a whole new world of protest organisation has sprung into existence, promising to allow protests to be more fluid, and as a result evade the police's attempts to stifle their right to protest.

I should make it clear at this point, I am no anarchist, I'm no enemy of the authorities (people who know me will find it strange that I even have to make this point) and so have no issue with policemen and women who perform a difficult job often admirably. What I do however have an issue with, is the tactics being relayed and endorsed by the likes of Sir Hugh Orde which deny people not only their right to protest, but also their basic rights to freedom, to have access to food and water and sanitation. Keeping teenage protesters in an effective outdoor prison for upwards of 7 hours can never be acceptable in a democratic society.

And so it is that there is a demand by protesters for an effective way to keep one step of the powers at be. This requires them to keep the protest fast-flowing, to not allow them to be pushed into small an area, and to have eyes and ears warning them of developing police lines designed to contain them. A challenge that has bee admirably risen to, and new methods are still being developed, notably Sukey which promises to be the best yet.

Not only that, but the way protests are organised has shifted dramatically, from a system which required a large organisation (typically a trade union) to organise an event for its members to attend, to a system beautifully demonstrated by UKUncut where there is effectively no leadership and is open to all.

I took part in the latest UKUncut 'Twitter meeting' and it was quite amazing to see how quite an anarchic method to conduct a meeting could result in a well formed plan of action.

If the police are genuine in wanting to allow peaceful protest whilst performing the necessary actions to keep the general public safe then they have to catch up, and fast. They shouldn't, as Douglas Orde suggested, simply resort to ever more 'extreme' measures, as this will only further raise tensions and bring more confrontation. What they need to do is learn how to use this new media to engage with protesters and allow them to air their concerns rather than brutally squash them into a kettle.

William Hague recently spoke out against the barbaric treatment of protesters in Egypt, let's hope the government heeds his words when it come to protests closer to home.

Edit: Since drafting this, news has reached that apparently the police have gone on rather a different tack, pepper spraying and dragging peaceful protesters who showed no signs of turning violent and even reports of using CS gas on some.

This is not the way to gain the respect, and as a result the compliance and peacefulness, of future protesters. It will only serve to alienate them, and that could be very dangerous indeed.

We will be paying for Labour's mistakes for decades to come.

It's been a while since I had a go at Labour, mainly because they are swanning along in the political world doing sod all. Perfectly reasonable for them to do so mind, watch the cuts hurt the public and instantly win the vote of the disgruntled - no brainer.

Since Thursday I've been intrigued by Private Finance Initiatives (PFI) - not the coolest thing to be interested I know! The notion of PFIs was raised on the 10 O'Clock Live show (which if you haven't watched is amazing). PFIs are essentially loans from private companies, but with interest rates that are more similar to rather than your high street bank.

PFIs put cash upfront to fund certain elements of government spending, including building new schools and hospitals. They then essentially rent the buildings back to the government - but at a massive cost to the taxpayer. The craze started under the Conservatives in 1992, but really took off under Blair and Brown, let's not forget Brown was Chancellor under Blair and made these types of decisions. To highlight the cost of PFI funding, here is a run down of how much each project cost originally and how much we'll pay back. For a quick summary, there are 920 PFIs, costing around £64bn but we will pay back £267bn!!!

One such PFI is Innisfree (the irony that the company name includes "is free" will not be lost on you) ran by a Mr David Metter. Heard of either of them? Nope. Neither has 99% of the general public. But taxpayers are paying his company, massive amounts of money, to the total of approximately £60m. One project he has funded cost £118m, but the taxpayer is set to pay back £1.2bn, 10 times the original value.

Future generations will have to break the bank to pay PFIs back

The whole idea of PFI stinks of New Labour, "spend, spend, spend" should have been their election slogan. Their continuous desire to keep spending when the coffers were empty was abhorrent and dangerous. So now they sit comfortably in Opposition whilst the Coalition gets blamed for trying to sort out their wretched mess. If the government didn't have enough money in the Budget for these new buildings, then they simply shouldn't have built them - that is the point of having a budget, isn't it? Liam Byrne's note back in May summed it up: "I'm afraid to tell you there's no money left" - sadly because of Labour's profligacy. 

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Liam: An Introduction

Hello readers! Thought I best get my introduction in before Josh did, nobody likes being last!

So where to start? I got into blogging as a bit of a revision technique when I started uni and got a bit carried away and became an avid blogger. You can see what I discussed here.

Politically, I'm on the centre-right of British Politics, but to be honest with most of the social policies in Britain today to be left/right wing is like splitting hairs. I support the deficit reduction plan that the government is undertaking, but I'm not a fan of all the measures, specifically the VAT hike.

In my small bio, I named Ian Bell and David Laws as my favourite people. The reasons for Ian Bell are simple, the man is a cricketing genius, technically superior to any batsmen of our time. But back to serious talk, David Laws is my favourite politician. He's essentially my beliefs personified a social liberal. Small government is the way forward!

So beyond politics, I cover a bit of economics in my blogs. I would say my discussion on economics is still useful for myself as a revision tool, but hopefully you'll enjoy my analysis as much as previous readers.

I'll also have the occasional pop at organised religion. It seems Atheism might run wild in this blog and I'd say that says a lot about modern day culture, the more educated we become, the less we need to rely on a "God" to make us feel safe. As Nietzsche once said "God is dead". I think religion is a dangerous tool, with extremists of all faith using it as an excuse for violence and bigotry.

Finally, I hate Tabloids. They ruin people's lives for a story and cater to the ignorant masses. 75% of their stories are inaccurate and/or bullshit.

Quick fire round:
Involvement in the EU: Unsure.
Raising Tuition Fees: Yes.
Devolution: Stupid.
Daily Mail: Gahhhhh.
Liberal Democrats: Sellouts!

Friday, 28 January 2011

Going... Going... Gove!

An issue caught my eye today while reading the paper about the coalitions plans to allow ministers to intervene in failing schools which are judged to be failing or behaviour is unacceptable or 'out of control'. The main point being that schools that are in special measures or have 'failed to comply to a warning' (anyone thinking of the Terminator) maybe closed if the education secretary sees fit. To add to this Michael Gove (or shall we call him Admiral Gove) has asserted that previously expelled children and children under special circumstances such as teenage mothers be taught in PRU's or pupil referral units - even encouraging new organisations (here comes the private sector once again) to run PRU's including one (get this) that recruited army vet's.

Furthermore Ofsted inspections which currently asses schools on 27 criteria will be narrowed to just 4. I understand people don't like bureaucracy but its a common trend that when you remove too many forms of legislation and governance people start to 'get away with things' - well I say people when what I really mean is people with more money. Also if you narrow the ways in which something is assessed are you delivering value for money? - If you buy a car you expect the quality to have been assured a hundred times over i.e. the breaks the lights the seatbelts for example but we can't do the same for our children. Sorry, I forgot, we can legally commodify a car.

As for these PRU's well I can see how a classroom may benefit from the removal of a bad behaved pupil in the short term, but that's just it, conservatives seem to think of things in the short term. Not only that but in terms of how economically viable something is, so in this sense if a child is deemed to be either a delinquent or troublesome they may not be worth much to the future sustainability of the economy and so they are removed and ostracised. Also running some of these by ex military professionals, while efficient in discipline lack the psychological training to deal with troubled children, who may very-well have a terrible home-life involving many forms of abuse and neglect. So for an education minister to come out and state that schools which are failing - or in other words 'have been failed' by this government or the last - will be closed is outrageous, especially considering Gove's education and privileged upbringing - he won a scholarship and believes in merit.

Shadow Education Secretary Andy Burnham summed up this approach perfectly, he warned: "Michael Gove wants to take our schools back to the 1950's. It's an elitist backward-looking vision." (The Guardian, 28/01/11, p13)

And by the way, where are the Lib Dem's on this issue, that's right NO WHERE!

George: An Introduction

Politically I am on the centre-left of British politics (or if your American "Hi I'am Stalin") and I am interested in contributing to this blog in terms of Religion and contemporary political affairs. I have my own blog which I neglected somewhat since the summer and so will be paying much more attention to this one as I am sure it will be much better anyway!

Studying Sociology (apart from getting constant grief for not doing a 'PROPER' subject) I have come to realise there is so much more than video games and pizza that can contribute to the understanding of the world and individuals within. In this sense, if I had to pick a Sociological discipline that best describes my approach to understanding, I would have to be a progressive secular modernist - its a mouth full but hey people are complex creatures.

I believe the biggest threat in the world today is right wing movements, especially those which stem from a religious background (including terrorist organisations). This is not to over inflate the issue or the danger of terrorism in anyway but more of an assessment of the conflict between secular society and religious individuals.

I too like Chris am an Atheist - I do not deny the existence of god like many descriptions of atheism would have you believe, I know there isn't one through my own research and the intensive reading of others'. I also hate intolerance which will become apparent as and when including (shock, horror) the Daily Mail!!!

That's it for now, but more to come!

Chris: An Introduction

I thought it best if we started off the blog with a few posts explaining what each of us will be writing about, what our views are on subjects we'll cover, basic info of that nature. So, I'll get the ball rolling.

As said in the opening post, I'm the designated lefty, who will write about current events, often with a political slant, and a particular interest in health care. I started my other blog about 8 months ago purely because I like debating things, and putting it in a blog spared others around me from my inane ranting. Here's a very brief summary of where I stand on things I typically write about:

Politically, I'm on the centre-left, newly a member of Labour, typically on the left of said party. Do however disagree with the party in several areas which will come up later. Not a big fan of the coalition, as will become very obvious I'd imagine.

Because of my course, I take quite a lot of interest in all things health care, and particularly in the NHS. I think it's one of our greatest creations as a nation and it saddens me to see it pulled apart as it is right now.

I think man-made climate change is the single biggest threat to many people around the world right now, and it staggers me that people can still deny it exists in the face of mountains of scientific research.

The one thing I despise above all else is intolerance, be it in the form of racism, sexism or just generally ignorant views about other people. It's lazy, it's dangerous, and people who engage in it are morons. If you'd like examples of this ignorance, pick up a copy of the Daily Mail, almost every story would fall into this bracket.

I'm an atheist, and whilst people are welcome to hold whichever personal beliefs they may choose, I object to the damage done when religion (all of the major religions of the world) forces its beliefs on others or demands they be respected in the wider public. Be it through the needless deaths in Africa caused by the Catholic Church's stance on condoms, to the persecution of women and gays by all the big religions.

There are obviously more things than this, but I wouldn't want to give it all away in one post and this is long enough as it is, so to finish, a quick fire round.

Raised Tuition Fees: Bad.
Referendum on AV: Vote Yes.
Monarchy: Get rid of them.
Drug Prohibition: Devastatingly stupid.
Andrew Lansley: Massive dunce.
Blackpool FC: Football kings.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Who? What? Why?

Welcome to a brand new blog, still in the very early stages of design, but soon to be up and running!

So, who are the authors?

Liam (Are You Reading) - @Quinn64

A 2nd year student at Lancaster University, studying Philosophy, Politics & Economics. On the progressive centre-right, a republican, an atheist and a keen cricketer. Born a stone's throw away from Upton Park has led me down the sorry path of supporting West Ham.

Favourite Film: V for Vendetta.
Favourite People: Ian Bell & David Laws
Covering: Politics & Economics.

Blogs here at:

Chris (Scrubbed Up Student) - @CWallace91

A 2nd year Medical student at the University of Manchester. On the progressive centre-left, an atheist, republican, hater of the Daily Mail and many more meaningless labels besides. Originally from the seaside dream that is Blackpool and a massive fan of my local team.

Favourite Film: A Beautiful Mind
Favourite People: Stephen Fry/David Mitchell
Covering: Current Events, Politics & Health Care

Blogs here at:

Josh (Life In A Glass House)

A first year English Language and Creative Writing student at the University of Cumbria.  He's taking his second stab at university.  Hater of ignorance, negativity and Kay Burley.  Classic film buff, 80's and 90's music geek and much more in tune with culture than politics and current affairs.

Favourite Film: Reservoir Dogs, Rope, Fargo
Favourite People:  Mark Kermode, Stuart Maconie
Covering:  Culture, Reviews, Upcoming Events.

Blogs here at:

George (We Used to be Monkeys)

A third year sociology student at Lancaster University an atheist with a centre-left outlook on Politics and most other things. Born in Blackpool and proud of it even if it is the British answer to Kabul. Addicted to the BBC 24 and an astronomy fanatic but hater of Fox News and the human embodiment of Satan - Rupert Murdoch.

Favourite Film: The Pianist
Favourite Person: Black Dynamite
Covering: Politics, Religion and Culture.

Why set up a new blog?

Firstly, four bloggers into one blog hopefully will lead to more readers, but also different types of readers.

Secondly, after speaking to a lot of people, most people would like to blog, but just don't have the time or dedication to keep a regular one. So this blog will be a platform for one off or sporadic blogs.