Legal illegal immigration – it’s true: illegal immigration can be legal and often is!

Outraged by the reactions to a recent story in the Herald about possible developments in legal aid provision for complex immigration cases (https://bit.ly/2Jqn7SC ), I found myself spending more time than I should have responding to some of those comments.

#1

I am very depressed on reading the comments on this story from previous commentators. The UK has prided itself on being a place of hope for refugees and persecuted peoples from around the world, and has benefited greatly from the skills and insights they bring to our society. The legal process aims to separate those entitled to refuge from those not entitled. It is an adversarial process and the Home Office creates a ‘hostile environment’ to test their claims fully. It is the Home Office and its processes which is most often responsible for the lengthy delays that can occur in some cases – no-one seeking permission to remain in the UK wants their case to take years to sort out. One of the principles of a fair legal system is that everyone should be able to benefit, irrespective of their financial situation. Legal Aid is therefore a necessary part of a flourishing democracy. Lawyers working for legal aid fees are making much less money than most in their profession and could make much more money working for those who could afford to pay them private client fees … part of their motivation is service to those least able to represent themselves in the legal system against powerful well represented opponents, in this case HM government’s ‘hostile environment’. It is an important, if apparently unpopular, part of our democratic system and needs to be defended if we claim to be a democracy at all. The appeals process is part of the necessary ‘checks and balances’ of a fair legal system and therefore should, where appropriate (and their are internal tests for this within the system) be properly funded so that it is accessible to all.

…. and in response to a reply I received ….

#2

I agree that there should be tests and appropriate controls. It is because of these, and our sea border, that the UK accepts far fewer refugees and asylum seekers than many other rich developed countries as, for example, this recent UNHCR report (click on the link) makes clear … . other reports available online. It is no coincidence that the highest numbers of migrants seeking refuge in Europe are from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran – countries where there has been great dislocation, a breakdown in civil order and/or persecution of minorities – and that the country hosting the largest number is Turkey (their closest point of arrival in Eurasia), or that Germany, France and Italy on mainland Europe have the largest numbers of those seeking asylum. The UK does some of this work, but not by any means an unreasonable amount, given that it is a very attractive destination to many who have learned English. This is a price the UK pays for the worldwide use of English, a price generally considered worth paying for the many uncosted, and generally unacknowledged, benefits it brings to the UK, both economically and culturally.

Of course there are chancers, which the ‘hostile environment’ is designed to discourage and detect. There are also unscrupulous ‘travel agents’ who take money on false promises  – not all those arriving illegally knew that was what was going to happen, having signed up for a false prospectus.

It is, in any event, legal and in accordance with the UK’s international legal commitments to human rights and freedoms (commitments which many of the UK’s citizens are rightly proud of), for ‘illegal immigrants’ to seek asylum in the UK and have their cases tested before they can be returned to the situation they have come from and which they have claimed is a perilous one. Further information about the legal background to the situation can be readily found here, here and here .

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Scotland’s Green Future

My letter to my local and list MSPs, sent today:

Dear Bruce Crawford, Dean Lockhart, Murdo Fraser, Mark Ruskell, Claire Baker, Alexander Stewart, Liz Smith and Alex Rowley,

I am one of your constituents and since the 1970s, a lifelong member of Friends of The Earth. Gradually, over these years, I have seen the environmental concerns that motivated those early ‘green’ campaigns become increasingly mainstream as both the science, and the mood of the country, increasingly support a stronger focus on environmental sustainability. This is not a party political matter.

With this in mind, I urge you to support the Green motion calling for a Green New Deal for Scotland. The vote will take place at 6pm tomorrow (the 24th). Scotland, with our abundant natural resources and a fine education system which develops the talents of our people, can lead the world in the development and use of environmentally sustainable ways of living. Only with such a vision, and a determination across all political parties to realise it, will we ensure that we can look our grandchildren square on and tell them
* that we have protected and sustained, rather than squandered, their environmental inheritance
* that we have tended and cared for the earth in which they will live
* that we were prepared to invest in their future, not just in our own present.

There is no more important issue before you in the Scottish parliament. I urge you to vote for the Green motion, and to commit yourself and the Scottish parliament to putting the highest priority on the development of a sustainable Scottish economy.

As one of your constituents, I understand that the tight timescale between this e.letter and the vote and so do not expect a reply before the vote. However I do look forward to hearing from you on the issues raised in this letter and your reasons for supporting, or rejecting, the Green motion.

Yours sincerely,

Daniel Murphy

 

Here is the letter from Patrick Harvie that stimulated my letter:

Dear Daniel,

The climate emergency demands an urgent, radical and positive response. That’s why tomorrow I will lead a debate in the Scottish Parliament calling on the Scottish Government to develop plans for A Green New Deal for Scotland.

A Green New Deal would require the mobilisation of all the powers available to the Scottish Government behind the goals of creating quality jobs in the green economy, eradicating inequality, and delivering massive cuts in greenhouse gas pollution. This is an enormous opportunity for Scotland. It’s a chance to show that we can lead the way. A chance to fight the hateful agenda of austerity and fossil-fuelled growth with hope.

This is an agenda that could transform the public debate over the climate crisis, because it places people at its heart. Our own research has shown that 200,000 green jobs could be created across Scotland by 2030 – we just have to be bold and take the lead. By redistributing wealth and directing investment at training, education, employee-owned businesses and co-operatives we can also help tackle the scourge of inequality. Scotland is becoming more and more unequal: the 10% of wealthiest households hold  50% of total wealth and the 40 % least wealthy own little over 3%. This inequality takes away opportunity and undermines society, and addressing it hand-in-hand with the climate crisis is critical and urgent.

If you agree, please tweet and/or email your MSP asking them to support the Green motion calling for a Green New Deal for Scotland. The vote will take place at 6pm tomorrow (the 24th), so act now!

You can find out who your MSPs are and get their contact details here

This will be a key priority for the Scottish Greens over the coming months, so expect to hear more about it and if you have comments or ideas you can let us know by replying to this email.

Thanks as ever for your support.

Patrick

Darren McGarvey and Sebastian Barry – my Christmas Reading

I usually think of the Christmas holiday as offering at least two or three days of uninterrupted reading pleasure, a bit of time and space to attack the mounds of reading material accumulated during socially busy December – journal, magazine and newspaper articles, podcasts unlistened to, unread books buried under a new pile of well-chosen Christmas presents, this year including works by authors new to me: Ta-Nehisi Coates, Peter Wohlleben, Philippe Sands and Colson Whitehead. Why then, would I choose to bodyswerve these wonderful reads and spend the small amount of reading time I actually achieved over the holiday period on a library book, and another I picked up in Waterstone’s? I don’t know the answer, but I’m glad, all the same, that I did manage to read ‘Poverty Safari’ and ‘Days Without End’– very different books, very different themes: one an insightful polemic about the experience of and damage caused by social inequality and a powerful memoir full of honest self-reflection and responsibility, the other a beautifully crafted work of art with no such obvious impact, other than admiration for the artist and the quality of his work.

Darren McGarvey (also known as Loki @lokiscottishrap ) has lived a lot of life in his 33 years and he brings much of that experience, as well as considerable passion and compassion into his autobiographical take on his own life to date and the story his life tells of the way we live now and what we should do about it – ‘Poverty Safari’, a phrase he coined when commenting disparagingly on an artistic middle class ‘visiting’ experience of urban Glasgow (he later apologises for his presumptuous dismissal of the artist involved). His personal story, honestly told, is a powerful witness testimony of the challenges he experienced growing up in Pollok, the difficulties of family life with an alcoholic mother, his perceptions of where he fitted in and where he didn’t, leading on to a growing awareness of systemic social failures and inequalities and a campaigning determination to attack these at system level. Finally, he changes his perceptions of what has happened to him, what he has done, and discovers a more complex, nuanced understanding of who he is and what he stands for.

Rather than summarise or critique, the best thing I can do is quote some of his own powerful words, page after page of which I couldn’t put down. It was like being in the room with someone whose story is so compelling, whose insights are so valuable, that you just want to hear more.

‘My mother lived with us until I was about ten. During that decade, she left a life-altering trail of carnage in her wake; each year her behaviour was more bizarre and unpredictable than the next. One sunny afternoon in Pollok, not long before she left. I arrived with a couple of friends in tow, to find many of the contents of our home laid out in the front garden, incinerated. I can’t recall what explanation I offered my friends, though I suspect none was required. They already had some insight into how we lived. When you live in a troubled home, life spills out onto the street. Eventually you become closed off to the dysfunction, perhaps to spare yourself feelings of shame or embarrassment. You adjust to the fact that people in the street know your business and are probably judging you. Privacy becomes another elusive luxury beyond the reach of people like you.

Dignity was for the fancy people.

Pretending you’re not poor is one thing. All you need to pull that off is a couple of credit cards, a catalogue and a deep delusional streak. It also helps your street credibility if you keep that big blue crate of European Union stew that you’ve received for free as a poverty perk well out of view if you have visitors round. But concealing family dysfunction is much trickier. For one, the dysfunction may be out of your control; a parent or sibling, for example. Second, the dysfunction may be imperceptible to you and therefore hard to hide…

By the time it becomes apparent that your life isn’t normal, it’s too late to keep up the pretence. Concerned neighbours hear your troubles through the walls. Teachers, doctors, social workers and mental health professionals are aware of your ongoing situation. But for every person showing concern or offering support, there’s another waiting to exploit the vulnerability….

Dysfunction at home, mainly around my mother, as well as the obvious fact we were poor, was something I had to account for when I was at school. On a few occasions I arrived there after dressing myself and became the butt of playground teasing. One morning, I remember my dad having to leave work to come to the school with a proper outfit for me. God knows what I was wearing. There were other occasions when I’d be sitting at the reception of nursery or school, well after the end of the school day, waiting for someone to come and pick me up.

I remember climbing onto a kitchen worktop to gain access to a cupboard so that I could make my breakfast; but, too young to know how to do it, pouring cold water into a bowl of oats and mating it before getting myself ready for school. At the time, this was no big deal. I was already adapting to the fact my mother was not fit to take care of me. The only problem was that while this all seemed perfectly normal to me, having nothing else to compare it to, it was obvious to other people, not least merciless kids, that something wasn’t right. …

Difficult as school could be, I always found it preferable to the unpredictability of life at home, where I would spend a lot of time walking on eggshells, ascertaining what sort of mood my mother was in.

On a few occasions, I’d run out to the back garden and throw her empty bottles over the spiky steel fence. If I recall correctly, this was pitched to me like a game. No doubt I knew exactly what it was, but played along to amuse her. Much like the time I spent in the amusements, having been promised a day in Treasure Island’, only to spend the afternoon amusing myself in a toy car, staring at the ‘insert credit’ screen, while she plunged the family silver manically into a slot machine. Days like that, or chucking bottles over the back fence for her, were about as close to quality time as we ever got…‘

He charts his journey through homelessness, political activism, alcohol abuse, public commentary through music, including work in the Violence Reduction Unit, and BBC broadcasting to the present day, where he has worked hard to tell his story and put it into a wider context, where there is a balance to be found between the responsibilities of the individual, the responsibilities of the important individuals in their lives and the responsibilities of wider society who collectively deal an individual the hand he or she has to play. But he concludes that the individual can play that hand very differently.

Here is an extract from the book’s concluding pages of his profound and politically relevant current thoughts on where he fits and what his/our responsibilities are.

‘What I began to realise, as I peeled back the layers of pretension and self-justification laid down over a period of ten years, was that my political principles were not quite the beacon of selfless integrity and virtue I had long imagined they were. Quite the opposite in fact….

Taking responsibility is a hard thing to do. Especially when you believe it’s someone else’s job to pick up the slack. All my life I was told that the system was to blame for the problems in my family’s life and that my family were to blame for the problems in mine. This belief that it was always someone else’s fault was reinforced by the poverty industry and politicians who stood to gain from my willingness to defer to them. I never got sober, at least for any length of time, until I admitted to myself that many of the predicaments in my adult life were of my own making … I toured mental health services for years, genuinely believing I was either severely depressed or insane, when really, I was an exhausted, malnourished alcoholic, oscillating wildly between the high of inebriation and the crushing low of withdrawal and financial ruin. All the while I was demanding immediate change; rubbing my hands, awaiting the imminent collapse of society. My self-righteousness totally blinded me to the fact that the very society I was praying would fall, for all of its glaring flaws, was providing for my ever mutating needs. I had a slew of professionals on call, as well as accommodation, benefits and other forms of support. I had access to libraries full of knowledge and information about how to overcome many of the issues I faced as well as the internet where I could broaden the scope of my research. There were hundreds of free support groups all around the city, full of people who had got sober and remained so. Yet somehow, I was blind to all of this. These things didn’t suit my narrative about society being bereft of integrity or compassion. Because I wasn’t ready to honestly examine my problems which were, in the end, as much about my own attitudes and behaviour as they were about poverty or child abuse, I stubbornly continued a path of delusional self-obliteration…

At some point, I started believing the lie that I was not responsible for my own thoughts, feelings and actions. That these were all by-products of a system that mistreated and excluded me. And that I could only change and overcome these difficulties when society intervened in my circumstances or was dismantled and rebuilt. Today, I realise that the best contribution I can make to society is to raise a healthy, happy and secure child. Today, I realise that the most practical way of transforming my community is to first transform myself and, having done so, find a way to express how I did that to as many people as possible.

Some will argue that this introspection is merely another form of structural oppression; an extension of neo-liberal economics that encourages individuals to avert their eyes from the injustice in the world and, instead, focus on self-improvement. Others will argue that it’s a cop-out because it doesn’t challenge power. To them I say this: you are no use to any family, community, cause or movement unless you are first able to manage, maintain and operate the machinery of your own life. These are the means of production that one must first seize before meaningful change can occur. This doesn’t mean resistance has to stop. Nor does it mean corruption and injustice shouldn’t be challenged, it simply a willingness to subject one’s own thinking and behaviour to a similar quality of scrutiny. That’s not a cop out; that’s radicalism in the 21st century.

I made every excuse, blamed every scapegoat and denied every truth. But as it happens, the great theme of my life was not poverty, as I had always imagined, but the false beliefs I unconsciously adopted to survive it; the myths I internalised to conceal the true nature of many of my problems. It hadn’t occurred to me that a root-and-branch analysis of poverty might involve asking some searching and difficult questions of myself too. For some reason, despite my apparent concern that this issue be scrutinised forensically, I conveniently exempted myself from the analysis while placing everything else under a microscope…

All my life a sense of powerlessness had followed me around… My answer to every instance in which I lacked power was to demand that someone else intervene on my behalf: junk food should be curtailed, advertising should be restricted and alcohol and drugs should be banned. I dreamed of society imploding, naively believing its demise would make life easier. Everything was immoral, unjust and tinged with corruption. Worse still, I believed those things so vehemently that it would emotionally disturb and offend me to hear someone argue to the contrary. Turns out that was a very foolish way to burn energy. But it’s often much easier to see the holes in another person’s story than it is to get honest about the yarns you’ve been spinning.’

McGarvey still wants to see society reformed, a fairer, more equal, better place for all children to grow up. He now argues that this cannot be brought about through a crude top-down process, but as part of a more complex vision, in which each individual has to be involved, take responsibilities and make this happen in their lives, not just in a political vision. This reminded me of Gandhi’s political philosophy which required the individual to confront those committed to injustice, unfairness and inequality not with violence but with truth and honesy and fairness.

This works at lots of levels. We can all find reasons to think that other people should sort stuff out for us, stuff we want to see sorted. And perhaps other people should do that. But that should never be an excuse for us not to do what we should be doing.

I was riveted by his book – well-written, highly personal and profound. It challenged my thinking, reminded me of some of the things I used to think but left behind, and as I write I’m still trying to work out what lessons I can take from it for my own life, to use it to challenge my complacencies and mental laziness.

*   *  *

Sebastian Barry’s novel, Days Without End, stands out among the many books/plays/films/Netflix series/news/magazines/podcasts clamouring to be recognised, to be read and understood, in our frenzied media-saturated lives. From the very first page, the reader is held by the distinctive, consistent and very believable voice of Thomas McNulty, an Irish famine refugee who, after discovering his talent as a drag artist, volunteered to serve in the Union army and now, the best part of twenty years on, tells the tale of his part in the Indian Wars of the mid-West and in the bloody turmoil of the Civil War. At every stage, closest in his heart is his friend and lover, the enigmatic, handsome John Cole, and then he is joined there by their adopted daughter, the Indian girl Winona, the sole surviving member of her tribe, victims of a needless massacre,.

The sentences are beautifully crafted, the rhythms of the story rumble unstoppably underneath the incidents and events on each of the pages. Following Thomas McNulty’s journey, we are given the bottom-up view of an eye-witness participant with the sensibilities and insight of a twenty-first century commentator. My concern at the anachronisms in his sympathetic insights into the people he encounters, expressed in resonant philosophical musings about the nature of humanity which flow naturally through the autobiographical narrative, felt out of place: this is a work of fiction and a work of poetry. It is enough that Thomas McNulty could have existed, and perhaps should have existed. His story speaks of his times, with the insights of our times.

At random, this paragraph, from his description of their troops’ nightmare journey, during the Indian wars, back from the west towards the Missouri, stalked by a band of Oglala Sioux Indians:

‘ … Imagine our horror and distress then when we saw those Oglala boys sitting on their horses on the horizon. Two hundred, three, just sitting there. Our own horses were skeletons. They were getting water but little else. Horses need regular fodder, grass and such. My poor horse was showing his bones like they was metal levers sticking out. Watchorn had been a small plumpish man but he weren’t no more. You coulda used John Cole for a pencil if you coulda threaded some lead through him. We were a day out on the prairie and the horses only had the first bright green slivers of grass to graze on. Half an inch. It was too early in the year. We were yearning to see wagons, our crazy wish was to see a herd of them buffalo, we started to dream of buffalo, thousands upon thousands, stampeding through our dreams, and then we’d wake in the moonlight and see only that, piss yellow and thin in the chill darkness. Temperature dropping down the glass till it was hard to breathe it was so cold. The little streams smelling of iron. At night the troopers slept close together in their blankets, we looked like a mess of prairie dogs, sleeping close for life. Snoring through frosty nostrils. The horses stamping, stamping and steaming out frosted tendrils and flowers of breath in the darkness. Now in these different districts, the sun came up that bit earlier, more eagerly, more like the baker putting fire into his bread-oven, in the small hours, so the women in the town would have bread bright early. Lord, that sun rose regular and sere, he didn’t care who saw him, naked and round and white. Then the rains came walking over dry land, exciting the new grasses, thundering down, hammering like fearsome little bullets, making the shards and dusts of the earth dance a violent jig. Making the grass seeds drunk with ambition. Then the sun pouring in after the rain, and the wide endless prairie steaming, a vast and endless vista of white steam rising, and the flocks of birds wheeling and turning. A million birds to one cloud, we’d a needed a blunderbuss to harvest them, small black fleet wondrous birds. We were riding on and all the while, ten, fifteen miles, the Oglala moving with us, watching. Might have been wondering why we didn’t stop for eats. Didn’t have no eats to eat….  .’

Or another, at random, from his description of his post-war journey, with John and Winona, from Grand Rapids, through Indiana, to a farm near Paris, Tennessee, worked by an old comrade from the Indian wars, where they intend to settle as a family, growing tobacco.

‘ … Out between the towns among the December frosted woods and the cold farms Winona sometimes sings a song…. It’s a useful song because it’s as long as ten miles hoofing it. There ain’t a person alive could tell you what the song means. The song she sung was ‘The Famous Flower of Serving Men.’ But she sings it as good as a linnet… Such a sweet clear note she keeps in her breast. Pours out like something valuable and sparse into the old soul of the year. Makes you see the country with better eyes. The distant country melting into the sky and the crumbs of human farms scattered over the deserted commons. The road just a threadbare ravelled sleeve between these usual sights. Like three thundering buffalo ran through long ago and that was all the people of Indiana craved for a path. Famers just that bit easier with us than the town folk but still in this thrumming after-music of the war there’s caution and fear. Guess the human-looking bit is Winona but there again we find that Indians ain’t much favoured despite the name Indiana…. ‘

Any two paragraphs could have been chosen in a book that is one continuous stream of beautifully crafted prose, pulling the reader along Thomas McNulty’s journey, through Thomas McNulty’s eyes, into Thomas McNulty’s poetic world, into Sebastian Barry’s polished work of art.

Labour’s 2017 Manifesto – progressive, sensible, positive

Have you had a look at  the detail of Labour’s manifesto (click here ) for the 2017 General Election. It’s extremely good. Who knew?

 

At 122 pages it’s a long read.. maybe that’s why there’s been less coverage of the overall manifesto than there should have been.  Here’s my precis of some of the key points:

  • A UK wide constitutional convention, to engage the UK in wide consultation about improving the way our democracy works.
  • A progressive energy and environmental strategy, targetting 60% energy from renewables by 2030, investment in renewable infrastructure, no fracking, banning neonicotinoid insecticides which threaten the bee population, reductions in one-use plastic waste, clean air strategy … many other positive policies.
  • Credible economic investment and taxation polices underpinned by a Fiscal Credibility Rule, policed by the independent scrutiny of the Office for Budget Responsibility
  • A £20bn Scottish Investment Bank to invest in infrastructural improvements, part of a similar UK wide investment policy, linked to a restructuring of our financial services based around the Nordic model.
  • Respect for socially responsible business and graduated taxation of business, reflecting the needs of small business to reinvest.
  • Moderate tax increases for those able to pay to ensure books are balanced and in equality does not rise to levels which threaten social cohesion.
  • Changed priorities within the Brexit negotiations to ensure that UK remains in the customs union, has access to the single market, maintains important EU employment and environmental protections and maintains international academic co-operation through University and HE collaborative research and teaching
  • Investment in cultural capital (a major earner for the UK) in media, arts and creative industries.
  • Commitment to working in partnership internationally, on issues of defence, security and positive international relationships – with a continuing commitment to investment in international development to improve the lives of the poorest and work towards achieving the UN’s ‘Sustainable Development Goals’.
  • All of this alongside all the usual Labour commitments, as you would expect, to improved health care, educational investment, dignity in old age, equalities and so on …..

It’s a surprisingly good package, well presented within an overall umbrella of Labour values – to build a strong sustainable society, based on democratic values of equality (not absolute equality no person to fall below a threshold level), individual freedom and agency, and social and environmental sustainability. It is the most socially progressive of any of the parties (save the Greens) and contains significantly larger environmental commitments than previous Labour manifestos, reflecting a recognition that long-term economic and social justice demands a sustainable approach.

Have a read (here) ! Go on! It’s not what you might expect, given what the media have been saying so far. You might actually like it!

 

The Referendum result and Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership

My letter to Jeremy Corbyn today.

Jeremy

Thank your for this letter expressing your intention to continue as leader of the once great Labour Party.
I have been a party member in Scotland, and loyal supporter through thick and thin, radical and centrist leadership, since the mid-1970s.  I believe it was a big mistake for the party not to focus in the General Election last year on the constitution of the UK and in particular its unrepresentative voting system and broken constitution.  The Scottish referendum, and now this one, demonstrate that the relationship between citizen and elected politicians has been weakened in recent years, and that many of those who supported Labour in the past feel adrift in a new globalised neo-liberal economy and alienated from a political class that cannot project a vision worth collective struggle and sacrifice.
In not tackling the weakness of the constitutional arrangements which give voice to the aspirations and hopes of the people as a whole, the biggest issue facing the UK, the party let down all progressive=thinking people and got the result it deserved – a divided Tory Government elected by a minority of the British people. This divided, weak government has now done its best to divide the Union and to divide Europe. The referendum result will sow seeds of dissension and international hostility, and fan the flames of competitive nationalism, in the longer term, with consequences which it will be hard for progressive-minded people across Europe to resist. It is a result for the narrow-minded, the racist, the xenophobes and the self-interested across Europe.
Your failure to articulate clearly the importance of European peace and collaboration among nations left a large hole in the centre in the Labour campaign. Your weak and effete leadership is one of the reasons that the vote has been lost – you have failed to connect with the post-industrial working class in places like Sunderland, Sheffield and the Welsh Valleys.
I am seriously considering giving up on the Labour movement which gets weaker and more divided under your leadership. If I leave I will be joining the Green Party. My decision will be made as events unfold over the next few months.
I believe you need to hear what the parliamentary party are saying to you and to move aside.
The longer you are our leader, the worse the situation will be for both Labour and the UK as a whole. If Nicola S gets her wish for another referendum, it is now quite likely that I will vote ‘Yes’..
Yours sincerely

Daniel Murphy


Date: Fri, 24 Jun 2016 16:33:46 +0000
To: lornshillht@hotmail.com
From: theteam@labour.org.uk
Subject: Yesterday’s European referendum

Dear Daniel,
After yesterday’s European referendum, politicians of all parties must listen to and respect the vote. Millions of voters have rejected a political establishment that has left them behind. Communities that have been hardest hit by government cuts and economic failure have voted against the status quo.The first task is to come together and heal the divisions. Our country is divided and things need to change. Politicians on all sides must respect the decision of the British people.

Ours is the only party that can meet the challenge we now face. Labour is best placed to re-unite the country. We can do so because we didn’t engage in project fear, and because we share people’s dissatisfaction with the status quo. That was why we put a case for both remain and reform.

I will be making clear to both Remain and Leave voters that Labour will fight for the exit negotiations to be accountable to an open, transparent parliamentary process. And we’ll do everything to secure the best deal for the people of Britain at every stage.

We cannot leave it to the Conservative Party – who have shown time and time again that they can’t be trusted to stand up for working people.

The Prime Minister has resigned and the Tories are deeply divided at a time when the country needs to come together and we need stability to head off economic crisis.

I want to thank all our campaigners, from Alan Johnson – who chaired Labour’s campaign – to our whole Shadow Cabinet, and to members in constituencies across the whole country, for their tireless campaigning and commitment to social justice.

Labour was created to serve people in their communities and workplaces. We need to put that historic purpose into action now and campaign to protect and represent the people we serve.

Yours sincerely

Jeremy Corbyn

Leader of the Labour Party

Colours of the Alphabet – you must see this film @alphabetfilm

On Wednesday evening, I went through to Glasgow to watch this film. It was so wonderful, in so many ways, I just have to blog about it.

It was beautiful – beautifully shot, beautiful children, beautiful colours, beautiful subject.

It was moving – about families, about growing up, about education, about how people learn who they are and what their lives are for.

It was funny – watching little children at play, at work, just being their wonderful selves.

It was thoughtful and thought provoking – there are messages, overt and covert, in the film – about language, about poverty, about ambition, about how different life is or could be without today’s technology, consumerism and media influences.

It was great entertainment – so much to enjoy and so much to think about.

Watch the trailer here:

It was also educational – what is, or should be, the proper relationship between ‘home language’ and the language of education and to what extent should all languages, however small, be protected/funded/written. What are the barriers to learning associated with language (took me back in my thoughts, as so often in my teaching career, to the work of Bernstein, Class Codes and Control ( see here ) and more recently Michael Young’s restatement of the importance of ‘powerful knowledge’ (see below) and the work of Elizabeth Rata http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/01411926.2011.615388:

“Limiting the curriculum to experiential knowledge limits access to a powerful class resource; that of conceptual knowledge required for critical reasoning and political agency. Knowledge that comes from experience limits the knower to that experience. The shift to localised knowledge fixes groups in the working class to a never ending present as schools that use a social constructivist approach to knowledge in the curriculum fail to provide the intellectual tools of conceptual thinking and its medium in advanced literacy that lead to an imagined, yet unknown, future.”

In the concluding discussion (as it was a premiere, part of the Glasgow Film Festival ,the producer, director and Liz Lochhead were there for a chat and questions afterwords, to give us some insight into the production and its meanings), it turns out that the first draft of the film ran for three hours featuring six of the children – I can’t wait for that director’s cut when it comes out on DVD (producer, please take note!).

Michael Young on the importance of ‘knowledge’:

http://www.shiftingthinking.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/1.1-Young.pdf

also here:

 

Water Footprint: we all have one. What’s yours?

water footprint‘Carbon footprint’ – the legacy of carbon released into the atmosphere that we leave to our descendants, the people and the planet of future times – is a term we have become familiar with over the past three decades as the science of climate change has moved out of the labs and pressure group handouts into common civic understanding, if not yet common civic action. It perfectly captures the idea that long after we have passed by, the impact we made on the planet and its biochemical systems remains.

The haunting metaphor of the ‘footprint’ – which brings to mind those massive dinosaur prints preserved in stone as a record of their time, millions of years ago – has also been applied to the legacy of a variety of other aspects of human consumption and waste, not least our use of water. New Scientist recently covered current thinking on the ‘water footprint’ in a two page interview with Arjen Hoekstra, a Dutch professor of water management (click here ).

Of course, here in Scotland, we have no shortage of water, so it’s hard for us to imagine that however much we use we are going to have a negative impact on human life in the future, but our ‘water footprint’ is not just what we consume in our own homes, gardens and work. A large part of our ‘footprint’ is elsewhere, left by the production in other parts of the world of the goods we consume here. Three quarters of the water footprint of people who live in the UK is outside the UK, in the countries where the goods and food we consume originate. Whereas our water cycle as an island on the edge of the Atlantic ensures that whatever we put back into the rivers and water table from our use of water will eventually fall back down on us (in fact climate change projections suggest parts of the UK will be wetter longer term in the future), in many parts of the world, water reserves used in agriculture are not being replenished.  Around 90% of humanity’s global water footprint comes from food production and around a third of that comes from animal feed production.  So next time you’re checking those food miles, and the contribution they make to your carbon footprint, just add in your water footprint as well.

More on this from National Geographic here and from the Water Footprint Network .

water footprint