“Nick Clegg to send son to state school”, muttered the headline in the “most viewed” column on the BBC News website. This was a not-unpleasant surprise for me – for when a public figure says they are “considering” going private, it usually means the decision has already been made.
It is of course a relief that at least one politician will not go for full-fronted individualism and shamelessly buy into the notion that privilege in our society is bought. Not that privilege needs to be bought for the son of the deputy prime minister, who was himself educated at top private school Westminster. Not that the London Oratory is not a school filled with people whose parents have bought them privilege in another way.
But despite it being treated as the norm for public figures, I’ve found myself asking over and over again: what sort of society do we live in where selfishness can be considered honourable behaviour?
Fifteen months ago, I was one of hundreds of young workers taken on by the once-thriving HMV at Christmas time. On Christmas eve, just after it first emerged that their business model was in deep water, most of us were told our contracts would be amended to an earlier finishing date.
I was given a week’s notice, which is more than can be said for some of my colleagues. A young French woman was told by our sneering line manager that she could have an “extended holiday”, as he informed her that she needn’t bother coming to work on Boxing Day or any day after.
Many of those who faced the brunt of the swift hand of management were foreign nationals or from ethnic minorities. But there were two universal traits among temporary workers and many of the permanent staff too: all young, and we had all been presented with an employment contract that was the stuff of nightmares for any trade union member.
First published on Left Futures, 17th March 2013
Seeing two films dealing with exploitation in the developing world made me think of the trajectory of British documentary maker Nick Broomfield. His first film –Who Cares? – focused on the slum clearances. We never see Broomfield’s face in the feature – back then he used cinéma vérité – interspersing the comments and narratives of his subjects.
Yet since 1988, his films have taken on a contrasting form, with director as the centrepiece. As the Guardian put it, “His search for answers provides the narrative backbone to issues which may remain unresolved, usually laced with his gently sly comedy.” (more…)
This article first appeared Left Futures, on 25th January 2013
Surprise, surprise. Nick Clegg, the man who once said the attainment gap between state and private schools was “corrosive for our society and damaging to our economy”, is considering going private for his own son.
“I’ve never, ever, ever sought to make my children’s education or my children a political football,” he told radio station LBC, before adding that he would not seek to contradict wife Miriam Gonzalez-Durantez on the matter.
He is not the first to make such a statement – politicians are frequently made to squirm on the issue, while in contrast it has become a media fetish for journalists to publicly wring their guilt and dilemmas on the school-choice issue. Nor is he the first one to publicly pass the buck to women. As much as I condemn Diane Abbott for her school choice, it is plain that there are plenty of white men in parliament who have got away with worse.
I’m delighted to announce that the steering committee of Next Generation Labour has voted to back my campaign to be East of England rep on the Young Labour National Committee.
NGL is a national network of younger party activists which has argued that Labour must take a tougher line against austerity if we are to convince the electorate that we are ready to govern. It was set up by members of Compass Youth after their organisation re-orienated to become a cross-party body.
I’ve been proud to be involved in NGL from fairly early on – I firmly believe that we lost a lot of trust during the New Labour years in spite of our proud record of investment in health and education. Without acknowledging the mistakes we have made, as Ed Miliband has rightly done on issues such as the Iraq war, we will remain tarnished in the view of voters, and we’ll be unable to move on.
If you’re a Labour party member under the age of 27, you should have received an email with details of how to vote for the national committee. It’s all taking place online, but you need two security codes, which should both be in the email.
Thanks to all of those who have pledged their support already. I’m really excited about the next few weeks – when I’ll be trying to speak to as many young members as possible about my plans for setting up a new regional network of young members and trade unionists.
You can see a list of endorsements from Eastern region comrades here. If you do vote for me, please let me know on Twitter (@conradlandin) to help me keep up! And if you want to have a chat about anything, drop me a line on Twitter or email and I’m always happy to get back, online or by phone.
This article first appeared on Left Futures, on Thursday 13th December 2012
I’ve spent the past few days weighing up whether to write about the tragic death of Jacintha Saldanha, the nurse who committed suicide after transferring a phoney Queen and Prince Charles to the bedside of the Duchess of Cambridge. The blame dished out to Australian DJs Michael Christian and Mel Greig has been absurd – as has the ritual attempted-catharsis of their streaming faces on TV and the newspapers.
There are more ethical targets of prank calls than nurses, for sure. She was not a celebrity – and so dealing with any unwanted publicity was inevitably going to be that bit worse. But the idea that one can hold humourists responsible for the death of someone they only spoke to for a matter of seconds just doesn’t follow. Indeed, it is ridiculous to say that anyone should take the blame for such an irrational act as suicide.
All hail, Arnie Graf. Once again, the press are heralding a new “guru” for dear leader Ed Miliband.
Graf, like Maurice “Blue Labour” Glasman before him, says he offers fresh ideas to make the Labour Party vibrant once more.
His “community organising” and “Obama mentor” repertoire is ideal – here’s the man steeped in the US president’s most exciting campaign tactic, the man who will save Labour’s structures from their desert-like state.
Graf is completely right in his diagnosis of what is wrong with Labour. “The party sets its policy from the top to the bottom, rather than bottom to the top … the members weren’t seen as leaders but people to do tasks,” he says. The reality is that Labour has yet to recover from its hollowing out over the past 20 years.