I’m standing below High Force on the River Tees, looking up at the most impressive waterfall in the North of England. It’s in full spate, crashing down both sides. I’ve followed the river down from Cow Green Reservoir, alongside the water as it races down Cauldron Snout, and I’m on my way to Middleton-in-Teesdale. A great riverside walk.
The existing Pro-European campaigning organisations are the available components of what should be a national, bipartisan civil society movement for UK re-entry to the EU. A collegiate and diverse movement with vigour and public presence may be more effective than a monolithic entity with homogenised messages and narrative.
The lost boys of the North East: why are the region’s young men trailing behind young women at school?
Educationalists are divided as to the reason why young white working- class men are doing less well at every stage in the school system while young women are doing better than ever. The children’s Commissioner in Growing Up North puts it down to poverty and poor material circumstances in the home. There’ some evidence that teachers are not strict with boys. They are more likely to extend deadlines for written work, to have lower expectations of boys, and tend to be more tolerant of low level anti-social behaviour in the classroom.
During the first week of January more than 53 Hong Kongers were arrested on suspicion of breaking this law, mostly as a result of their political actions in 2019 when they organised and stood in primaries ahead of a planned election in order to go to the polls with a slate of pro-democracy candidates. Amongst those detained were journalists and trade unionists.
As the psychologist Jussin (2017) notes girls’ low-take up of STEM-based and IT subjects has less to do with ability or discrimination than the fact that girls who excel at maths/science are as likely to be good at humanities based subjects. Young women she concludes are ”better all – rounders, but too few of those who are good at science choose it as their specialism post-16.”
Will todays parliamentary debate be the first step in preventing people with Long Covid believing they are forgotten and left behind?
“There is nothing mild about Long Covid. Take Jane. She emailed me to say she’s 32, and was previously healthy and fit. Not your stereotypical person ‘at risk’ from coronavirus. Long Covid has affected her since April. She now has neurocognitive and mobility problems, and has crushing fatigue. Her partner, she told me, “has essentially become a full-time carer”. She’s not unique, she’s not an outlier – lots of people like Jane have emailed me.”
The Union would not, in my view, insist in its criteria for UK re-entry on setting the bar of virtue impossibly high. It would make a pragmatic judgement weighing the benefits and risks of UK membership in a range of domains from military and scientific capacity to cultural creativity, governance and accountability.
Long Covid can destroy the quality of life, the ability to walk, work or eat without difficulty. It presents as a range of different symptoms suffered by people weeks or months after being infected, some of whom weren’t particularly ill with the virus in the first place. Fatigue is the most common problem, but breathlessness, a cough that won’t go away, hearing and eyesight problems, headaches and loss of smell and taste have all been reported.
In today’s state of the nation report, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation warns that ministers must make tackling poverty an economic priority in 2021 or they risk being defined by a record of worsening hardship.
It is too early to say what is the most effective vaccine. None of the vaccine studies have yet been completed and we do not know what the efficacy is in the long-term or in relation to virus variants or in specific sub-groups such as immunocompromised patients.
“Their biggest concern is that we end up in some kind of position where we’re not aligned to the European Medical Agency, we’re not aligned to the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) in the US, in which case, there are significant barriers to selling their products in (both) those markets. And that that’s a scenario which is absolutely awful for business.”
The fact that countries tend to trade most with those geographically closest to them suggests to me that despite the UK’s new-found freedoms, in reality we will remain closely aligned to EU rules.
We are not in a culture war. What we are in is an unsought political struggle with a power-nexus which uses culture-war behaviours and tropes as weapons – and in that process weaponises people.
“Every breath you take
Every move you make
Every time you ache
Every sound you make
We watch over you….
Oh don’t you fear, ICU is here
When your poor heart aches
And your life’s at stake…. “
Of course, strengthening surveillance is crucial. But the government need to take steps to better engage groups in anti-radicalisation measures delivered through a multi-agency approach. Central government is conducting a review into Prevent to help shed its ”toxic image” amongst some sections of the community. One important way to tackle potential radicalisation is through education and training.
Over four million children nationally are now affected by child poverty. This is unacceptable. Moreover, help to give every child the best start in life is diminishing. It is true that funding has been provided for free childcare for children aged three and four and also for some two-year olds although not all can access it as there is insufficient provision for what is needed
This is no Hollywood blockbuster. This is real life in the richest country in the world where the outgoing president has been using his last vestiges of power to auction off indigenous lands and vast tracts of the Arctic to fossil fuel companies, to stuff the courts and other institutions with Christian fundamentalists opposed to women’s rights, and to execute prisoners on Death Row who might have expected clemency from the Biden administration.
The situation may not have been so dire if the PM had taken note of Layla Moran, Lib Dem MP for Oxford West and Abingdon, chair of the All-Party Group on Coronavirus who submitted an interim report on the coronavirus pandemic on December 3, 2020.
The bubble burst in 1720. The shares became irredeemable, and even banks and goldsmiths that had invested began to suffer and fail due to their inability to call back loans made from stock. Many of the claims made to investors, who by then were losing money hand over fist, were now considered to be fraudulent,– suffice for Parliament to be recalled in December 1720 due to deal with the crisis and outrage.
Finally on a beautifully hot July afternoon I finished the novel. The next few hours I wandered around Kreuzberg, hearing the explosive cheers, then jeers and woe, from the locals packing out the bars as their team crashed out of the World Cup, while my initial elation slumped into a fatigue that saw me beered up, sprawled on a sofa in an all-night bar near Tempelhof, muttering ‘I just finished a novel. A f****** novel.
New Year’s Day, 2021. Boris has it all. Brexit done, a deal, and the premiership – just as ERG, Cummings, Farage etc wished for. Certainly a ‘weird’ alliance. Many of whom, having wreaked their havoc, have also vanished into thin air the ‘bubbles’ of the earth, or in their case, hedge-funded, tax avoidance futures with back up European citizenship and their concerns moved. Some to Ireland.
The widening gulf between rich and poor in our capital city and elsewhere in the nation’s urban cores has undermined the sense that there’s a notion of a common way of life. Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn described London as a ‘tale of two cities’ shortly after the Grenfell Tower fire. Others have pointed to the sharp rise in radical Islamic home-grown terrorism in London and Manchester alongside far-right white supremacist violence resulting in the murder of the ant-racism campaigner Jo Cox MP.
The electorate owns its own Brexit. And the nationalism on which it depends is alive and well, and so wholly irrational that Labour cannot embrace it. And while it remains in the ascendancy, no progressive agenda can succeed.
To break down gender stereotypes more needs to be done. Toy-producers need to scrap sexist toys, teachers need to be more aware of gender-related equality issues, book-publishers need to be more ‘gender neutral’ and more needs to done by government agencies to encourage more women into technology and science and more men into the female-dominated caring professions.
Emerging as a sound system concern and then band, Asian Dub Foundation have fused a wide variety of music styles (including, dub reggae, drum ‘n’ bass, punk, ragga, electronic and traditional South Asian genres), in a highly original, dynamic and incendiary manner, that has won them plaudits for over two decades. Seen as one of the most exciting of all live acts during this time, ADF, though not one dimensional or simply a ‘political band’, were never ones to shirk from tackling contemporary issues head on (capitalism, exploitation, racism, domestic violence, climate change…). One of their members even refused to accept an MBE some years back.
Squelching through mud, straightway the wood embraced me. Filled me with its magic; light filtering from the sun, low in the December sky. Chased away my troubled early dreams. Ears strained to hear the whispering wisdom of the trees … splendid in their nakedness… above white noise of distant traffic. Constant now, unlike April’s lockdown. M25. Where are all those people essentially travelling to? Small birds sing unseen and a crow calls.
While we are pleased we are not leaving the EU without a deal, the one that has been struck is not a good one. For example, businesses will still be hit hard with costs and delays from customs checks. We were told that leaving the EU would cut red tape, however, this appears not to be the case. We will continue to exist as an organisation to hold the government to account for their promises over Brexit. The EU gave the North East twice as much money per head than the rest of the country – we cannot believe this will be replicated by the government despite Johnson’s claims of levelling up the North East.
Grammar schools were designed for that quarter of the population deemed ‘academic’, and secondary moderns for the rest. Selection was based on an IQ exam, the 11-plus, the brainchild of Cyril Burt, the psychologist. Passing the 11-plus was the visa to the local Grammar school. The system lasted till the 1960s when a number of left-wing intellectuals, including Tony Crosland and Michael Young, called time. The system wasn’t working. The time was right for the ‘comprehensive revolution’. In 2020, most young people in the region go to their local high school.
The 2016 referendum on our EU membership was intended as an exercise in democracy, but it failed in many respects. The reality of our EU membership was compared with a nebulous Brexit project: many UK voters thought they were voting to retain a close relationship with the EU as Norway has. After a 51.9% majority in the referendum vote, an ideological minority has taken control of the Conservative Party and is imposing a hard Brexit.
Populism requires hate targets as well as the illusion that there are simple solutions to complex problems.
John and I talked dozens of times over the following hours and days, has the pub or police called, is she still alive? We did not know but as the hours turned into days and the days into weeks, we were confident she was still alive and the stress started to ease away. We never got the call or a letter in the post.