New Look Blog

I’ve suffered writer’s block for going on a year now. I’ve finally broken the mould and beginning to get back on it. I should explain the new look of the blog I guess……


I’ve had a lot of time to self reflect. I’ve witnessed many illusions being shattered – far left wing groups covering for their leaders’ misogyny and outright sexist violence against its own membership; so-called Christian churches that oppose gay marriage (rejecting the whole of Jesus’ teachings in favour of a choice Old Testament quote); and a general political class in this country who are polished and squeaky clean, that utterly don’t understand the real world they claim to represent.


At the same time I’ve observed those unspoken heroes who do incredible acts as if that was part of their daily routine. The recent news story of someone being talked out of committing suicide by a random passer-by, the regular bus users in Brighton who *always* get off their seat to let my 91 year old Nan sit down, the have-a-go-heroes who foil smash and grab robberies. These are the real activists to celebrate, these are the ones who offer the only hope of this country sorting itself out.


I now treat politics like I treat TV adverts. If it’s promising too much, then it’s too good to be true.  So I’m turning a new leaf in my political beliefs and looking to the present to find my inspiration rather than the past.  To the humble, the “average”, the little man/woman, I salute you! And on that happy note, I’ll crack on with my first post for a while…….


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Racism and English Football

NB: In this post I am only referring to the male-side of sports, due to my ignorance of the female-side of sports (which warrants the need for a separate post on sexism in sport as well). Also when I refer to “black” I am essentially referring to this in its political meaning e.g. African, Asian, Arab and Caribbean descent.


Over the past 12 months racism has reared its ugly head back into football. Not that it was ever gone, but high-profile cases including John Terry and Luis Suarez appear to have shone a light on this persistent problem.

It’s not like the bad old days of black players having bananas thrown at them, but that’s all the more reason to stamp out any signs of racism re-emerging. HOWEVER, this is also a useful opportunity to discuss racism in English sports more generally, as there still appears to be a snobbish attitude among many elites that football is full of thuggish bigots, as opposed to other sports.

Personally, I think that’s a load of rubbish. In fact I’d go further and say, with the possible exception (ish) of boxing, football is the only sport in England seriously contributing to the elimination of prejudice in this country. Why such a bold statement? Let’s do some comparisons:


Of the 30 players that make up the “elite” national team, three are black.


Of the top ranked 20 British tennis players from 2012 – a grand total of zero were black


A sport which has never had a particularly good reputation for cultural respect (lest the elite forget). In the 2012 Open Championship, 21 English golfers participated – you guessed it, all were white.


The 19 players picked for the Australia tour this year (2013) contains…….one black player. Even I was slightly surprised by this

And now back to football. Of the 26 squad players for the national team this year 12 are black, almost half the squad.

Of course when we look to the internal teams, this proportionality becomes even more stark. As a life-long Gooner, I remember games where, in the starting eleven Arsenal squad, ten different nationalities were represented. The English premier league is a hub for players of all races and nationalities across the globe. You only need to watch the rugby or cricket on a Saturday afternoon, then compare it with Match of the Day in the evening, to see how truly diverse football is compared to other sports in England. I’ll never forget most of my time as a youngster in Highbury, with 40 thousand Arsenal fans all singing songs such as for the captain Patrick Vieira (to the tune of Volare):

“He comes from Senegal, and he plays for Arsenal”.

It’s almost impossible now to support an English club and be racist at the same time, despite how some people try. This is mainly because you’ll be hard pushed to find one professional English football team that doesn’t have at least one black player. When you’re talking about the higher teams, you’ll struggle to find one that doesn’t have players from abroad in the squad.

Let’s do some more maths. Football is by far and away the biggest mobiliser of people on a regular basis in this country. The top two leagues (Premiership and Championship) alone contain 44 teams, who I would estimate mobilise at bare minimum 10 thousand fans per week. So the ultra conservative estimate, of just the top two leagues, is a mobilisation of just shy of half a million people. The real figure will be far larger.

And yet despite this, the terraces still remain overwhelmingly white. I couldn’t say for sure why this is, but even a culturally diverse town like Croydon, out of the 15 thousand-odd who turn out to see Crystal Palace play, I’d estimate 2% at most will be black. I’d say this is broadly true for most clubs.

This is not to deny that there are problems with racism in English football, far from it. But it seems all too easy for snobs to write off the fans as bigoted “Chavs” when other more middle class sports don’t even have a racial diversity to speak of in the first place. It’s a classic case of middle class NIMBY-ism, Not In My Back Yard. Upper class people will be quick to deplore white working class “lout-ishness” whilst their own sports stay as white as a WWII Aryan propaganda poster.

The overwhelming problem with racism in football is the corrupt elites who run the structures of football like dinosaurs. Their refusal to deal with racism seriously is nothing short of scandalous. The recent scandal of the U21 England v Serbia game was a case in point – where English players suffering racial abuse were punished for their reactions, whilst the Serbian team got a slap on the wrist. Let’s also not forget that football racism in other European countries is far, far worse than it is here.

Racism is still a huge problem in this country – it’s not of the white sheets and burning crosses type, its more of the smiley faced “mascot” racism that Malcolm X so eloquently portrayed in his autobiography. There are still old-school fascist elements in small football firms in England, but they are dwindling despite the boost they got from the EDL. What is far more concerning is the invisible racial barrier that is still excluding black people from other sports in this country. It’s this that the media and politicians should be screaming about………

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Bollocks to Aspiration

I unleashed a rant on twitter earlier, so am now attempting to constructively funnel my rage into a blogpost.

I stupidly caught a clip of Cameron’s closing speech to the Tory party conference in Birmingham. He said something along the lines of “We are criticised for being the party of the wealthy, but we are the party for people aspiring to be wealthy.” Or something along those lines, don’t quote me.

Well I’d like to give a big middle finger to Eton-educated Cameron for that comment. It’s actually very true what he says, and in my opinion explains the phenomenon of working class Tory voters – not so much Turkey’s voting for Christmas, but voting to be the chef who does the cooking.

Anyway, what particularly angered me about this is, is that this is exactly the demographic that the New Labour cabal are aiming for. This “aspiration” discourse started with Blair and New Labour, and it’s disgusting.

Of course there are people out there who aspire to be wealthy. Good luck to them, especially those who have come from abject poverty. But not all of us aspire to that. The huge majority of us have aspirations which may not seem as sexy as being rich, but are important and hugely challenging all the same. Working a steady job to provide for the family comfortably. Buying our own home. Saving enough money to travel the world. We all have our own aspirations, which don’t just involve accumulating wealth. Why should we be punished for having these goals? For some people, going to university will be the hardest challenge in their life, with huge obstacles to overcome. Graduation will be the crowning moment of their life. Pity Labour and Conservatives couldn’t give a flying monkey’s about it, and look down on them as lacking “aspiration”.

Aspiration is intricately linked with “social mobility” ie – getting out of the working class. Back in the days of Old Labour, being working class was something to be proud of, not to run away from. Working in a factory or mine defined your identity, community, what football team you followed, playing in a brass band. In fact my Grandad worked as a milkman purely so he could play for their football team. I also remember a story an old friend told me, who was a shop-steward in the Cowley car factory in Oxford. It employed nearly 40,000 people – and in the 70s was a place of massive union militancy. He remembers pickets outside the factory waving their union cards at scabs walking into the factory. It was such a powerful image that has stuck in my mind. The pride and confidence that came in being working class. Car workers in Cowley earnt double what teachers did!

Then along came Thatcher with her assault on the working class. Not just physically, making millions redundant, but also ideologically. She HATED working class people. People who were happy to live a simple life with their family in their community. People who worked every day, making a contribution to society every day. She hated them. Why were they content with this? Why weren’t they all trying to make their millions?

As I said before, I have no problem with people who want to escape the boundaries of their social class and what to climb the class ladder. But that should not be shoved down everyone’s throats. When Thatcher shut down the mines, she didn’t just close the pits – she ended the communities built around them, the brass bands, the unions, the very foundations of millions of people.

And the worst part of it all is Labour have gone along with it, and there is no voice for working class people anymore. A voice that is proud to be working class. That doesn’t want everyone to be middle class, but wants everyone to have a decent standard of living and equal opportunities to do the things the other classes can.

My Mum’s Dad grew up in a mining town in County Durham, he was a carpenter, and crafted entire wagons for bin collectors. He was also very religious. The church paid for him to go to a university in Oxford to do PPE (Politics, Philosophy and Economics). When he completed his degree he came back to Durham…….and worked on the carpentry again. His aspiration was to be a pious follower of God and an educated man. What exactly is wrong with either of these things? Should he have been punished for this humble aspiration? Similarly my Dad’s Mum was from the poorest of the poor in Southern Italy. They literally had nothing, her parents died when she was young, she lost a brother in the First World War, lived under fascism, then civil war. She had enough. She immigrated to England, not speaking a word of the language.

She worked every day of her life til retirement. When she had my Dad, her and my Grandad brought Dad up whilst doing two jobs…..each. They were happy as Larry as a family, brought Dad up in comfort, he was able to go to university, and got a good job at the end of it. She came from literally Italian peasantry to having a son earning good money in computing. She never ever “aspired” to be middle class, just to work hard to provide for her family and give her kid a good shot in life. Society didn’t punish either of them for this – in fact British society back then actively encouraged it. They didn’t have to pay a penny for my parent’s education, they all got free healthcare and dentistry, proper state pensions so they didn’t have to worry about old age, affordable council houses being built faster than people needed them. I’m not saying it was perfect, but the post WWII years were the closest we’ve ever come to a fair society in Britain.

Sadly those days are over, courtesy of our good friends Blair and Cameron (and their predecessors of course).

I think those above examples of my grandparents far outweigh any “aspiration” a Eton-Oxbridge educated, privileged, aristocratic oink like Cameron ever had. They are spoon fed from a silver spoon that they are all born leaders, their aspiration is fed to them like an oxygen mask. They haven’t had to fight for anything. And yet they dare lecture people like my Nana about aspiration? People like my grandfolks are now being *punished* by Cameron and Blair and the other oinks, for not having the right sort of aspiration i.e. being stinking rich.

My two pence, for what it is worth (probably 2p exactly), is that we need to start back at the basics. We need a Government that actually respects the working class, for doing the jobs that keep this country going, that keep the economy going. We don’t need social “mobility” we need social “equality” – so that the carpenter can get his university degree and the Italian immigrant can live in comfort.


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On the Anti-Semitic incident at NUS Conference

Since there’s some accusations being bandied about me by a few individuals regarding a petition I signed here, I wanted to state my opinion of what took place.

The Union of Jewish Students (UJS) stall was vandalised on Tuesday night with Palestine stickers on the boards and posters, with a clear cluster of them on the Star of David. If it had been done in a similar fashion to the Federation of Islamic Student Societies (FOSIS) stall I’m sure everyone would have rightly condemned it as a racist attack. However some individuals are claiming I was wrong to put my name to a statement which designated the incident racist.

I still stand by this, for a number of reasons.

One: Although I strongly disagree with the UJS’s political stance on Zionism and Israel, ultimately the UJS is more than that. It is also a cultural and religious association, and many of it’s members are non-political and wouldn’t necessarily designate themselves as Zionist. Therefore making their stall a target for this type of action is wrong, as it only bolsters the blurring of Judaism and Zionism that the leadership of UJS have consistently attempted to promote. Incidentally, this being my fourth conference, this is the first conference where I have noticed a distinct lack of pro-Israel advocacy coming from UJS, which makes the vandalism even more unjustified.

Two: The motivation of the perpetrator is of no consequence to this being a racist attack. We consistently condemn people like Gilad Atzmon for their anti-semiticism, even if he may genuinely care about Palestine and may just be expressing frustration at the situation there. Just like I’m almost certain the person who did this at NUS is not a racist and didn’t mean for it to be racist, but was most likely new and naive to the situation.

Three: Condemning this incident as racist has zero negative political consequences for Palestine advocacy in the student movement. I have to give credit to the NUS President Liam Burns for not using this incident to whip up anti-Palestine sentiment in conference – he didn’t mention Palestine once in his address. Three years ago, even one year ago, the right wing at NUS would have jumped at an opportunity like this to denounce and demonise Palestine activists and associate the incident with solidarity work. This didn’t happen, and the petition I signed certainly doesn’t do this either. What’s more, the Vice-President of Society and Citizenship’s report, which came later in the day, included a section on the success of NUS’s first BDS campaign, to cancel the Kings College London – Ahava research project.

Four: I believe that the worst I can be accused of is over-reacting to the incident. Maybe if we go down a nuanced academic route it wasn’t technically a “racist” incident, but that’s just me. I’ve always been very passionate about anti-racism and will definitely accept that I tend to jump at issues with an overly-emotional attitude. However what I won’t accept is being accused of jumping on a right wing bandwagon that now demonises the Palestine solidarity movement. For the reasons given above I know this to be utter rubbish. In fact I think it shows how fantastically principled and consistently anti-racist the UK student movement for Palestine has been, that only rags like the Jewish Chronicle have tried to link this incident with the student movement for Palestinian human rights.

And frankly that last point hits at the crux of all this – that some Palestine activists need to be more confident of the truly anti-racist nature of the Palestine solidarity movement, even more so with the Palestinian BDS movement offering leadership to international solidarity. For example, I am more than happy to condemn Islamophobia when it very occasionally rears its head in the LGBTQ movement, because I have no worries that this will in any way affect the principled and just struggle for LGBTQ rights. Equally I have no qualms with condemning anti-semiticism when it occasionally rears its head in the Palestine solidarity movement. That’s not condemning the movement, it’s only making it stronger.

So let’s keep that pride and confidence in the Palestine solidarity movement, the most important international anti-racism issue since the fall of Apartheid South Africa. We don’t need to shy away from our principles, and that’s what makes it such an incredible movement to be a part of.

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A note on the academic boycott of Israel

A few issues have come up this year regarding the academic boycott of Israel that I wanted to address. These issues have arisen because work on academic boycott is really starting to kick in, in the UK student movement, which is an exceptionally exciting development. We’ve also had our first big success – with Kings College London soon to pull out of an EU research project in partnership with the settlement enterprise Ahava.

This isn’t a note regarding the ins and outs of the academic boycott, that is addressed in more detail, and far better, in other places – in particular Omar Barghouti’s new book on BDS, which everyone should definitely read.

One specific argument against the academic boycott has been raised which I don’t think has been adequately dealt with. This is the fact that Israeli universities do a lot of good things, regardless of their connection to the military and human rights abuses. At a packed student meeting in the University of London Union last term, an opponent of boycott in the audience argued that some Israeli universities are at the forefront of medical technology, saving thousands of lives in the Third World. More recently, the Vice-Chancellor of Technion spoke at LSE, in a desperate attempt to counteract the launch of a boycott campaign in one of the UK’s most prestigious universities. Although I wasn’t there, following the twitter hashtag it appeared the main “Hasbara” (propaganda) coming out of the talk was the great technological achievements of that university.

So, surely life saving medicines counteract the worst crimes of university complicity with the Israeli army – or at least mean that boycotting these institutions is counterproductive? Well the answer for me is no.  Under the regimes of Stalin and his predecessors, Soviet universities created truly inspirational leaps in technology and human understanding. My dad went on a school trip in the ’70s to the Soviet Union, and he tells me a story of how the Soviets had created pioneering techniques in helping people who are both deaf and blind, to communicate through touch. Incredible stuff. They also sent the first human into space. But Soviet universities were also 100% complicit in the crushing of dissent and brutal oppression of independent organisation.

If democracy activists in the Soviet Union had called for an international boycott against Stalin’s USSR, which included academia, surely human rights activists would have supported that – despite the damage it would have done, in the short term, to humanity’s development of knowledge and technology.

We would have done that because there are “red-lines” that we can’t stomach in the name of advancement of knowledge. The same applies to the academic boycott of Israel. It is a fact that many Israeli universities are creating groundbreaking technologies that have the potential to save hundreds of thousands of lives. But these same universities also work with the military state of Israel to support the continued ethnic cleansing, oppression, occupation, and colonisation of millions of Palestinians. And Palestinians have had enough and are leading a nonviolent campaign to achieve their human rights, and are demanding international support.

It is humanity’s short-term loss, for a long term gain – a society free of racism and barbaric violence.

The arguments now are no different than they were under South African apartheid. In fact the difference is that the Palestinian academic call is more nuanced – targeting institutions and not individual professors (as the South African one did). It would be naive to argue that apartheid South Africa’s universities weren’t creating life-saving technology and advancing humanity’s knowledge. However they were also implicit in supporting their racist government and its violence. Humanity’s short term loss, for a long term gain.

So the point of the academic boycott is: we are not saying Israeli universities are not good at what they do. Like many universities they are pioneering superb research. But the Palestinians didn’t initiate the boycott because Israeli universities create poor research, anymore than black South Africans called for the sporting boycott because the rugby team weren’t good athletes. The point was their relationship with the racist and colonial government.

The onus is ultimately on Israeli academia. If the sector is as progressive as it claims – then it should break links with the racist and colonialist military regime which abuses Palestinian human rights. It should end racist practises against Palestinians within its own institutions. Universities could be a crucial sector of Israeli society fighting for the liberation of Palestinians, but at the moment they are not. In fact, as has been well documented, they are quite the opposite.

Until then the rest of us will suffer a short term loss – not benefiting from the fruits of Israeli research and knowledge creation – for a long term gain: a non-racist system in Palestine/Israel that no longer promotes racial superiority and violence.

N.B. – aside from the above mentioned book by Barghouti, check out this academic boycott pamphlet by the British Committee for Universities in Palestine (BRICUP)

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Thank You

Thank you.

Thank you for the frozen nights,

Asleep on the dead grass.

Thank you for the loss of innocence,

The blood-soaked beaches of teenage blood.


Thank you for thoughtless, selfless, single-minded devotion,

To a world free of barbarism, intolerance, and hatred.


Thank you for the naivety of youth,

Lost amongst the massacre of your peers.

Thank you for not thinking of yourself, but only for others,

To the detriment of only yourself.

Thank you for the humblest of attitude,

To the greatest of sacrifice,

So that others may live a normal life.


Thank you for the mud, the hunger, the uncertainty.

The near-misses and the death-defying moments.

The lost causes and the wounded flesh.


Thank you for your contribution, to the cause of humankind.

To defying ‘human nature’ and proving humanity’s worth.


Thank you for the sleepless nights, the patrols, the exhaustion,

The digging of graves and the dumping of bodies.


Thank you for the torment. For the horror of causing death, for the sake of life.

For becoming an animal so that others may be human.


Thank you for the liberation of Belsen.

Thank you for confronting the depths of human barbarity,

With the courage of biblical proportions.

For human skeletons and bulldozed carcasses,

For mass graves and the stench of death.


Thank you for the nightmares, the flashbacks, and the scarred memories.

Thank you for proving to me that justice is worth fighting for.

Thank you for proving to me that at the lowest of the low,

There are those willing,

To turn their back on the hills, the sea, the football, the family,

The trams and the playground. The innocence of poverty.

And instead face the concrete jungle of Portsmouth Harbour,

And look towards a sea of massacres and tyranny.


The tears we shed are of nothing but pride.

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Lowkey and the riots

The artist Lowkey has the ability to crop up with songs at hard times which completely reflect the way I’m feeling and articulate them in ways unimaginable. The first time he did this to me was his song “Dear Listener” from the album of the same name. This was during the 2008/9 Gaza massacre, one of the most awful events I’ve lived thorugh – despite being hundreds of miles away from that continuous 3-week terror campaign. A lot of us felt helpless and disgusted, and for me this song expressed many of the feelings I had at that time.

However the past year (2010-11)  has been another difficult one. We had the new Coalition government, launching an assault on the poor and starting with universities. Our revolt against the fee rise led to filthy policing and repression, and we lost. Cuts have been continuing apace with the left (and I include myself in this) for all intents and purposes proving utterly ineffectual in opposition.

And then the riots happened; an amalgamation of everything wrong in this country. The poor being battered for an economic crisis started by the rich, the left fighting amongst themselves to be *the* leaders of an anti-cuts movement that never existed. Mass youth unemployment, scrapping of EMA, and a barbaric consumerist, materialist culture being promoted by all echelons of power – from the media to the schools. And of course – racist policing, and we should never forget it all started because yet another black man had been killed by the police.

It was sad to watch the TV screens of the rioting. People destroying their own communities – that is the scale of the alienation we are living through today. And all the while knowing that when things had calmed down, the ‘justice’ system would have a field day locking poor people away. And my god they did. Democracies, like humans, show their true colours when times get difficult. As far as democracy went, it didn’t exist as the courts threw the book out of the window and handed out outrageous sentences to queues of ordinary people being charged like a conveyor belt.

And all the while Murdoch and his empire were being softly investigated for mass illegal phone tapping, Tony Blair was walking freely (and wealthy) in spite of the bloodbath of Iraq, and  Libya was the latest victim of a NATO ‘liberation’ mission through bombardment. Yet then Lowkey’s new album came out and rocked the world, screaming up the Itunes charts and shifting by the thousands. The true gem in this album is “Dear England” – it just encapsulates everything I was feeling, the frustration, hopelessness, anger, disillusionment. I have attempted to transcribe the lyrics below, as they are just so powerful, but should be read in conjucntion with the video, which is equally as powerful. Simply staring at the camera unemotionally reciting the words with such subtle passion is simply the perfection delivery. The video is here:

Dear England by Lowkey


They say God save the Queen,

Britannia rules the waves,

Britannia’s in my genes but Britannia called us slaves

Britannia made the borders, coz Britannia’s forces came

Britannia lit the match, but Britannia fears the flame

Where blood stains the pavement,

Tears stain the cheek

When privilege is threatened, The fear reigns supreme

Where bankers are earning for burning and looting,

The nervous are shooting, search for solutions,

I, shed a tear for the father in Birmingham, quick swerve of the car and they murdered them,

In Tottenham the apartments were burning and nobody came just passing and they circling,

All wanna be down,

Til TVs get robbed like jewels in the Queen’s crown,

They see now no thought for a rebound, see now they call me a fool coz I speak out

People are humans, not mindless, animals, this violent, tyrannical system is fallible,

Hand in the looter the minute you see him, but the biggest looters are the British Museum,

This happened here and you think it’s an accident,

Just relax as we slip into fascism,

And the fear gets drilled into your hearts, But remember these children are all ours.


If a policeman can kill a black man where he found him,

A soldier can kill an Afghan in the mountains,

A petty thief can get ransacked from his housing, while the bankers are lounging, that’s my surroundings,

Took land, noone in your family has heard of,

Before you sleep, whisper the mantra you learnt coz,

Never will there be a day that cameras are turned off,

Who runs this country, Cameron or Murdoch?

Who was the Government of Government that can’t govern?

Can’t figure its way, bigger than Mark Duggan,

Bigger than Smiley, bigger than Jean Charles,

Hundreds are dead not one killer is on trial,

Just a familiar sound of hysteria,

Bombs over Libya but not this area,

Downing Street, I can find villains,

Cut education, privatise prisons

Surprised by theft when it’s organised, but mass immorality is normalised,

Assumptions surrounding the looting of London, but this is a system consumed by consumption

It happened here and you think it’s an accident,

Just relax as we slip into fascism,

And the fear gets drilled into your hearts,

But remember these children are all ours

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