Tuesday, 29 December 2015

David Cameron's Britain is many things. Christian, it is not.

I don't pretend to be a Christian. But through my time, particularly at Primary School, I felt I had quite a Judeo-Christian upbringing. The Biblical stories and teachings that were read to us in assemblies. Though I did not grow up to be particularly religious (bar the celebration of some Jewish ceremonies such as Passover, which I still celebrate with my family to this day) many of my values and beliefs that I hold today owe at least some influence to those teachings.

These were then reaffirmed for me when I learned more about Christianity and its teachings in Religious Studies at Secondary School. For any faults, many of these values of Christianity that I learned in Primary School remained consistent with what I later learned. It is these values that I believe, at least in part, my sense of fair play, compassion, and good will to others stems from. Granted, I am more of an agnostic, and in many ways my parental upbringing was probably more humanist, but I do believe that the influence of hearing these biblical stories and teachings in primary school also contributed to shaping my values.

And it is my personal view, that based on this, Cameron's Britain is fundamentally NOT Christian.

This is not to say that I believe Christianity and Conservatism to be fundamentally incompatible. Indeed, I believe One Nation Conservatism (that's true One Nation Conservatism, not what Cameron and co. claim to be) can be very in tune with Christian values. An emphasis on social obligation, rather than selfish individualism. To look after those less fortunate than yourself. That the ruling classes should not be indifferent to the people's suffering, precisely because such indifference would bring about an unstable society and the possibility of revolution - the very last thing a conservative wants.

And yet, when I look at Christian Today writer Harry Farley's recent article in The Indepndent recently, I cannot help agreeing with one thing: that David Cameron's Christmas message is utter hypocrisy.

He references those in refugee camps in the Middle East - those same refugees who he flatly refused to admit into the country until the public outcry over the summer. Whom he reluctantly agreed we would take 20,000 of in 5 years - less than Germany takes in a month.

He says we should pay tribute to the doctors and nurses who work over the Christmas period to help the vulnerable - those same doctors and nurses whom he has given another pay freeze for the next four years, while large corporations get a tax cut. Those same doctors who are being forced to work more unsociable hours for no extra pay.

He refers to Jesus Christ as the Prince of Peace, and that his birth representing peace is important for us to remember as a Christian country. This is without a hint of irony, having just referred to the UK's bombing of Iraq and Syria in the previous paragraph, and without even touching on his government's arming of violent, right-abusing regimes such as Saudi Arabia.

This is not about me claiming that my own ideological viewpoint can claim to be more fundamentally 'Christian' than David Cameron's (though Jeremy Corbyn makes a good argument for the links between Christianity and socialism here).

Indeed, as I have stated above, there are strands of conservatism I believe to be very much in tune with the values of Christianity that Cameron himself highlights.

But, as with Cameron and his party's claim to be governing 'in the spirit of One Nation', his claim to be governing a Christian country is, as far as I am concerned, just that; a claim. Nothing more.

Rhetoric does not always correspond to reality. You can apply this to much in today's society - the way a hostile media (and government) demonises benefit claimants to the point that the public believe nearly a quarter of all claimants are fraudulent (the reality is less than 1%), to the belief that immigrants come here to exploit the benefit system, or make up nearly a third of the population (the reality is immigrants pay in to the economy more than they take out and recent immigrants make up less than a quarter of the population).

Cameron's Britain is arguably many things. You could call it pragmatic. You could call it tough. You could call it socially liberal (though I believe that is more down to previous Labour governments and Liberal Democrat influence with the Conservative Party tailing behind, rather than active willingness on their part).

You could say that it encourages hard work (though I think the word to describe much of this government's efforts to get people into work would be 'punitive').

But for David Cameron and the Conservative Party to govern this country in the way that they have, and then claim to be governing a 'Christian' country, is both a disgraceful hypocrisy, and an insult to the values that Cameron, in his Christmas message, purports to represent.

Thursday, 3 December 2015

I respect those with different views. But bombing Syria was STILL the wrong call.

 The blog post I shared last night/in the early hours of this morning has caused a fair amount of discussion and debate, which I welcome. I should clarify one thing though:

While I like and respect many of the MPs - specifically Labour MPs - that voted in favour of air strikes - I profoundly disagree with them.

Joining the bombing campaign will not make us safer. Cameron's claim of there being 70,000 'moderate' Syrian fighters ready to seize ground that Daesh would lose as a result of the air strikes is deeply questionable, has been falling apart by the day, and looks set to be the equivalent to Tony Blair's '45 minutes' claim. As Tory MP Dr Julian Lewis put it, with Iraq we had a dodgy dossier - now there are 'bogus battalions'.

Whereas the bombing campaign in Iraq has the Kurdish fighters who were able to seize ground and we were able to plausibly treat as allied ground troops to take the ISIS territories that were bombed, with Syria we have nowhere near that kind of guarantee.

Many of the 70,000 Cameron has referred to are more interested in fighting the Syrian dictator, President Assad, than fighting ISIS. Assad however, is also fighting ISIS, and Vladimir Putin is a key ally of Assad. Both are opposed to ISIS.

Two years ago, the House Of Commons voted against action in Syria to remove Assad, because despite him being a brutal dictator that has killed more Syrians than Daesh, there was no guarantee that taking him out and destabilising the region wouldn't hand much of it to Daesh, in much the same way as happened in Libya with Gaddaffi.

By bombing IS in Syria, are we now by proxy helping Assad, who is still arguably the enemy?

If we do take the fight to Assad instead, are we helping IS? And one thing is certain - whether we are or not, getting rid of Assad at this stage could leave us in a proxy war with Russia.

Boots on the ground of some description are arguably needed, but putting British or other types of Western troops directly on the ground further feeds Daesh's narrative against the West.

So this would suggest we should be using boots on the ground of countries from the surrounding region, as with Iraq. Again, with Syria, there is much more uncertainty in that regard.

So, what is the remaining solution left?

As Jeremy Corbyn​ and Yannis Varoufakis have highlighted, a political solution (which is making signficant progress thaks to the Vienna talks), and to economically starve ISIS. Where are they getting their money from? Who buys oil from them? Where do they get their arms from?

Countries that are found to be funding IS should be sanctioned. We should not sell arms to them. We should cut off as much means as possible of their funding.

Is it quick? No. Is it simple? No.

Will innocent Syrians still die if we don't bomb? Yes. IS and Assad will still be there in the meantime.

Is it better than bombing in the meantime? Clearly, the majority of the House of Commons thinks no. I respect the views of many who do, but I respectfully and profoundly disagree.

France deserves our solidarity and moral support, but as Gerald Kaufman MP (Labour) said, we should not be killing innocent civilians for the sake of a gesture. As Toby Perkins MP (Labour) said, one of the kindest things you can do for a friend in their moment of torment is ask if they're really sure the action they are taking is the right one.

Am I 100% confident in this view? No, of course not. The Middle East and the situation there is incredibly unpredicatable and the situation is constantly changing. But as things currently stand, it is my belief that Parliament got it wrong last night, and that many MPs who voted for will come to regret it.

That is not to say the decision not to bomb makes the 223 MPs who took that decision morally superior, or that they would not have to live with the consequences of such a decision. As Shabana Mahmood MP (Labour) said, "if only the world were that simple. There are consequences and innocent people will die through action and in-action. Whatever we do tonight we will all bear a measure of responsibility."

As Jess Phillips MP (Labour) said, she did not sleep any more soundly last night having voted against air strikes.

But I have a horrible feeling Parliament got it wrong, and that last night's decision will come back to haunt us.

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Parliament Votes on Syria......

Tonight, MPs voted by 397 to 223 to authorise UK air strikes against so-called Islamic State in Syria.

I am of the opinion that this is the wrong decision, and I am grateful to my MP, Sadiq Khan​, for voting against, along with many MPs including the party leader, Jeremy Corbyn​.

There was significant division within Labour over this, in the shadow cabinet and much of the Parliamentary Labour Party as a whole, as to whether the party should or should not back air strikes. In the end, Corbyn granted his MPs a free vote.

Many Labour MPs who I have a great deal of time and respect for voted with the government tonight. Among them are people such as Stella Creasy​, Tom Watson​ (The Deputy Leader, whom I voted for), and Hilary Benn​, the Shadow Foreign Secretary, and son of the great Tony Benn​, who many will have seen in recent weeks in a recent speech circulating, showing him opposing a government motion to bomb Iraq in 1998.

I would be lying if I said I wasn't disappointed in them having made the decision that they made. But I also appreciate that the decision as to whether or not to take military action is one of the toughest choices Members of Parliament ever have to make, and NO-ONE - whether on the Labour or Tory benches - took this decision lightly. They will have weighed up the pros and cons, they will have consulted party members, their constituents, experts on Daesh and the region, migrants and refugees who hail from Syria - all sorts. And yes, some of them will have come to a different decision than myself, most of the Labour Party, and a plurality of people in the country at large.

 Stella Creasy agonised over this decision, and was rewarded for it by people protesting ouside her actual house late last night in Walthamstow. By people phoning her office in Parliament and verbally abusing her staff - earlier in the day she had to duck in and out of the House of Commons Chamber because of it.
I don't agree with the decision she in the end took, but that is disgusting behaviour. MPs expect to be lobbied on issues such as this, but people should not be conducting themselves in that manner. THAT is intimidating, and it's wrong.

Tom Watson is by no means a Blairite (despite what some party members, and even newspaper commentators, have recently claimed). He was in fact partly responsible for ending Tony Blair's career as Prime Minister.
However he did vote for the Iraq War, and he has had to live with the consequences of that decision. If he did not do so before, he will especially now, take any decision with regard to military action any time it is proposed incredibly seriously, and weigh it up very, very carefully. Especially as the elected Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, he has a responsibility to do so, not just as an appointed, but elected member of the shadow cabinet.
Despite his support for military action in this case, he has stood by and supported Jeremy Corbyn throughout his leadership, asked for a two-day debate (which may well have caused support among MPs and the wider public to fall, given more time to weigh up the decision), and questioned the Prime Minister's assertion that there are 70,000 'moderate' Syrian fighters who could seize ISIS territory in the wake of air strikes.

And finally, comes Hilary Benn.

I am a great admirer of his father, Tony Benn. Although he was before my time, I have learned a lot about him over the past few years. I own a copy of the film 'Tony Benn: Will and Testament', that documents his life and interviewed him in his final days. Every single time I watch it, there are moments in that fim that move me to tears. Though many of some of Benn's followers and supporters in the 1980s probably contributed to some of the divisions in the Labour Party (which is not to say that the right of the Party were not also culpable), Benn himself was a man of honesty, principle, respect, kindness, and peace. He was always unfailingly kind, and it is my belief that Benn was one of the greatest parliamentarians there ever was.

Hilary Benn is not his father. He has never tried to pretend otherwise. He does not share all of his father's views, such as on military action or on the renewal of the Trident nuclear deterrent. He has often said that he is a proud member of the Benn family, but he is note a Bennite.

But he is no trigger-happy militarist.

In 2013, when the House Of Commons voted decisively against bombing Syria, in order to remove President Assad, Hilary Benn was one of the key figures who persauded then-leader Ed Miliband NOT to back miliatry action.

Benn is not a Blairite, and though not to the same extent as his father, or Jeremy Corbyn, he is still on the left of the Labour Party.

Despite this, one of the greatest allies of, and one of the unifying forces in the Parliamentary Labour Party, since the election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader, has been Hilary Benn.

Benn and Corbyn disagreed on this issue. And yes, that raises questions about what would have happned were they in government, but there is a very different dynamic between a Prime Minister disagreeing with his foreign secretary, and a Leader of the Opposition, who, as well as being elected partly because of his scepticism of Western Interventon, was also elected promising a kinder, gentler, more inclusive politics, had promised to put together an inclusive shadow cabinet, and prmosied a politcs which wasn't just top-down, with the leader issuing orders from above.

I do not think Corbyn handled the way in which he got to giving his MPs a free vote particularly well. But that is another matter entirely.

Despite these disagreements, Hilary Benn has remained loyal to Jeremy Corbyn, and when the Prime Minister referred to Corbyn, and other MPs who intended on voting agains air strikes, as 'terrorist-sympathisers', he joined the call on Cameron to apologise for such childish, insulting remarks, that demeaned his office.

Even in his speech in the Commons supporting taking military action, Benn praised Corbyn, and highlighted once again that he is a man of principle, and it is perfectly possible for people of principle to take a different view. He spoke of Labour values, of internationalism, of combatting fascism, of solidarity. He spoke of previous Labour leaders and governments that had taken part in that fight, against the Nazis, and in working together with other countries to found the United Nations.

By all accounts, regardless of what side of the debate you sat on, Hilary Benn made one of the most remarkable speeches ever given by a parliamentarian tonight. He spoke with passion, clarity, determination, and commitment. And while I am deeply uncomfortable with what it was Benn was actually arguing for, and the fact that the House Of Commons broke long-established tradition in applauding, there is no doubt that the power of such a speech deserved recognition. Even Hilary's father never quite managed applause from all sides of the House.

Now, here comes the criticism of Hilary. At the (completely justified) protest outside Parliament asking that we Don't Bomb Syria, one of the chants apparently heard was 'Hilary Benn, shame on you!'

Other people have said since the vote that Tony Benn would be turning in his grave, and would be ashamed of his son for what he has done tonight.

While I understand the strength of feeling of those that, like me, oppose air strikes in Syria, then on this point, I respectfully disagree.

Tony Benn was a great man. He was a devout believer in peace, in the power of politics. One of his greatest quotations was that 'If you can find money to kill people, you can find money to help people.'

I have no doubt that Tony would have disagreed ferociously with his son and the action that he chose to support tonight.

But he would not be ashamed.

Tony Benn had the utmost respect for his fellow human beings. He respected that others - including in his own family - held different points of view to his own. But he loved them, and loved other people in the Labour family, all the same. One of his greatest friendships towards the end of his life was with one of his political rivals on the right of the party, Denis Healey.

Though he would not have agreed with the reasoning, or most of the content, of his son's speech tonight, then he would have been immensely proud.

Proud that his son is an MP at all. Proud that his son is an MP for the same party as him - one that they both love. Proud that he has progressed so much over the years that he has been in Parliament. Proud that he is now the Shadow Foreign Secretary and that he therefore, may one day, be the Foreign Secretary for Great Britain.

And proud that he made one of the greatest speeches of any parliamentarian in history tonight, whatever your politics. You may disagree with what it was arguing for. Believe me, I do, and seeing MPs applaud it knowing what it was for makes me deeply uncomfortable.

But conversely, I am also very, very proud to be a part of the same political party, the same great British institution, as Hilary Benn, after that speech. He may not want the job, but that was the speech of a leader. And though I utterly disagree with him on this on this individual issue, I think he is still doing a fantastic job.

And do you know what? So does Jeremy Corbyn. Because despite that fierce disagreement, he has not gotten rid of Benn, he has not replaced him, nor asked him to resign, and he has not been rude or unkind to his best friend's son - and indeed, his friend - in any way, shape or form.

MPs voted by 397 to 223 to authorise air strikes tonight. Just 67 (out of a possible 232) Labour MPs voted with the government tonight, with significant Tory rebellions (otherwise the motion would not have needed cross-party support anyway).

Let me make one thing perfectly clear: even if EVERY single Labour MP had marched through the 'No' lobby tonight, we would still be going to war. The government had a majority of over 170 for this vote, so the vast majority of votes in favour came from Tory, Lib Dem, and DUP MPs (all of which were whipped in favour of military action). And remember that it was a Conservative government that pur forward this proposal, not the Labour Party.

Hilary Benn, Tom Watson, Stella Creasy, and many other Labour MPs that I deeply like and respect will have to live with the consequences of their actions tonight.

As I have said elsewhere, and could highlight in an entirely separate blog post, I do not believe that bombing Syria will make us any safer from a terrorist attack by Daesh. I do not believe that we will make things much better by joining the bombing campaign in Syria, and I do not believe we should be joining it just out of solidarity with our allies in France - as Gerald Kaufman MP highlighted, it is not worth putting the lives of innocent people at risk for the sake of a gesture.

But I utterly respect that MPs like Hilary Benn have come to a different conclusion with this very difficult decision.

And as Shabana Mahmood, Labour MP and Sunni Muslim (who voted against air strikes) pointed out:

"There has been some suggestion in the last day or so that when the time for apportioning blame comes, those who have voted in favour will have to step forward and there will be nowhere to hide. If you vote against, as I will, the implication is that you can avoid the blame. To those who think this way, let me say this: if only the world were that simple. There are consequences and innocent people will die through action and in-action. Whatever we do tonight we will all bear a measure of responsibility."

Simply saying #NotInMyName isn't good enough. Innocent people in Syria will still have died no matter what decision Parliament took tonight. And if it transpired that there were Syrian people who could have been saved from Daesh had Britain taken action but who died because we did not, then those MPs that voted against would also have to live with the consequences of that.

It is often said that 'the only thing needed for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.'

Does that mean that I agree with what Parliament has done tonight? No, of course not. And I do not believe that every time there is a terrorist attack somewhere, the West should continue to take the knee-jerk reaction of just bombing what they believe to be the source of said attack. Such attempts have not met with great success over the last 14 years of the war on terror, and I do not expect them to now.

But this was not clear-cut. MPs thought long and hard, and gave very, very careful consideration to the decision they made tonight, on all sides of the political spectrum, and while I profoundly disagree with them, I will not hold it against them.

Regardless, the language on social media, and through other forms of communication, referring to MPs as warmongers, Tories, sending them pictures of dead children, and verbally abusing them or their friends or staff, is simply unacceptable.

Especially to those on the Labour side, let me say this: we are ALL Labour. The decision that 67 MPs made tonight does not make them any less Labour, or any less morally good, or respectable, than they were before. Whether Blairite, Brownite, Old Right, Left or Soft Left, they have all spent their lives opposing the Tories and have always strived to do what they believe is right.

I believe history will look back and judge that this was a night that Parliament - not the Labour Party, but Parliament - got it very wrong. But if that is to happen, then that is something for MPs and Parliament to reckon with for themselves. They nevertheless took the decision in good faith, and with the intention of keeping us, their constituents, the people of this country, safe.

That is not a reason to condemn, abuse, insult, threaten, or even deselect - ANY of the MPs that made that choice.

Monday, 21 September 2015

#Piggate may be hilarious, but there are some worryingly serious implications

Getting serious about #Piggate (difficult though it is), there's something undeniably sinister about the way this has all gone on.

Think about it. It seems pretty likely that as Ashcroft's been working on this book for a while, he probably had this information on Cameron before the election. But even though, on a personal level, he felt betrayed by Cameron, he didn't reveal the information until after the election. Hardly surprising - being the billionaire that he is, a Tory government - even one lead by someone he has a personal grievance with - is still financially preferable to a Labour government.

By waiting until after the election to undermine Cameron, then while this story - regardless of whether or not it's true - is likely to stick, then the worst that can happen is that Cameron resigns much earlier than originally intended, because his reputation is in tatters, and/or he bows out due to a leadership challenge from Boris Johnson or George Osborne (or someone else entirely).

Also worth bearing in mind that getting towards the end of a second term, governments can be really quite unpopular, even if they're going to survive. Having a a different leader in the top job saved the Tories in the early 1990s, and it may well do so again.

There's also the parallels with what has happened with previous political leaders - Thatcher didn't really go because of the public - she went because she was being pushed by her own party. And the moment The Sun dropped its support for Labour under Gordon Brown, the party's fate at the following election was virtually sealed.

In this case, not only has The Sun seemed to have turned on Cameron (have a look at what tomorrow's front page is...) then so has The Mail. Obviously Ashcroft himself has an axe to grind, but for The Mail to agree to print it and for The Sun to jump on the bandwagon, that says something about just how ruthless the British (media) elite is. They spent the last week tearing into Corbyn - now they're doing the same to their own.

Is it just a personal dislike? Has Murdoch jumped on board because of all the stuff over phone-hacking a few years ago, and this is his payback on Cameron? If support of him in the run-up to the election was essentially a marriage of convenience, this is the messy divorce.

Or is it deeper than that? Is it political and tactical?

How rattled or not are the Right by Corbyn? Is it possible that they think that the longer Cameron sticks around, the worse the Tories' chances are at the next election, regardless of who's in charge?

Do they want rid of Cameron early so that his successor has more time to grow into the role and prove himself? Have they decided that the potential late poll-boost that a new leader may grant them might not be enough come 2020?

This is before we even get started on whether or not #piggate is another massive 'dead cat strategy' - sure, the revelation (which politically, is actually far more important) that Cameron may have known about Ashcroft's non-dom tax status, as early as 2009, is damaging, but if everyone's more focused on what he may or may not have got up to in his student days, does that distract the public enough from the bigger picture?

The short answer is, I don't know. But as funny as #piggate is, taking a step back to consider some of the wider implications, this is very worrying. Not just for the Left's prospects at the next general election, but also just how corrupt the ruling elites of Britain truly are; their contempt for democracy, and their disloyalty, and their ruthlessness.

Monday, 14 September 2015

Initial Reflections on the Labour Leadership Race

Disclaimer: I wrote this post in the immediate aftermath of Jeremy Corbyn's victory, in the evening on 12th September, 2015. Corbyn has since announced his new shadow cabinet. My thoughts on this should follow in a separate blog post in due course.

From the moment Jeremy Corbyn entered the Labour Leadership Race, I knew he was the candidate I wanted to support. The original intention of both the campaign and of many supporters like myself was not for him to win - many of us never originally imagined that would be possible - but to widen the debate and stop said debate shifting rightwards, or focusing on empty rhetoric such as "aspiration". The hope was, for many like myself, that Jeremy would shift the terms of debate, and then we could support Andy Burnham or Yvette Cooper once they had become aware of the will of many members and supporters, and acknowledged that in their leadership.

It's been a long campaign, and so much has changed since then. The Abstention on the first reading of the Welfare Reform Bill was never something I agreed with, nor many in the Labour family, and I think there is pretty unanimous agreement among all camps and wings of the party that it was handled very poorly.

But the many weeks and months since then, my admiration of many Labour MPs who did end up abstaining (against their will), and discussions with fellow members and supporters has allowed me to put it into perspective. Corbyn had the luxury of being able to vote against the bill, as did many backbenchers (including my MP), and that is something I am very glad of.

But those in the shadow cabinet were bound by collective responsibility, and dutybound to follow the whip. Andy Burnham fought very, very hard to change Harriet Harman's position, until they achieved a messy compromise. They were not happy with it, and I completely understand Corbyn having chosen not to vote for the amendment because it contained support for the principle of a benefit cap. But that was the position they found themselves in. It was unfortunate, but on reflection I completely understand. Andy perhaps should've avoided voicing such heavy opposition to the bill when he couldn't guarantee full opposition, and as Tom Watson said at the time, the Parliamentary Party really handled their communication of this to the public badly, but these were small mistakes in the grand scheme of things. They unfortunately had severe consequences for the leadership election.

I do think it was a shame that Burnham had to pay the price so heavily for this among many of his supporters, especially as Tom too had abstained in the end, as did Corbyn supporters such as Jon Trickett (also a member of the shadow cabinet).

Andy was absolutely right in the end, in the position he was in, not to vote against the whip. It would've required him to resign from the shadow cabinet, and leading such a rebellion by doing so may well have plunged the party into civil war in an already increasingly fractious leadership election.

I am obviously thrilled for Jeremy. Having met him twice, and observed him so closely throughout the leadership election, he is one of the nicest, kindest human beings I have ever had the pleasure to meet.

But I did give Andy Burnham my second preference. Because he deserved it. People accuse Andy of flip-flopping, and/or going with the prevailing wind, and maybe, to some extent, that's the case. But this is a man who has been unfailingly loyal to the Labour Party and movement, and under 3 different leaders with very different views and outlooks, that can't have been easy. He was also the only one of the 3 other leadership candidates to recognise the mood of the party, acknowledged how well Jeremy was doing, and pledge to include him in his team should he win the leadership. Andy recognised which way the wind was blowing and he listened to the members in making that commitment.

Over the course of the leadership election, I have also better got to know, over Twitter, and twice in person, Abby Tomlinson - the leader of the #Milifandom. Abby eventually decided to back Andy, and though I obviously had different views as to who should be leading the Party, I respected her decision. What Abby also reminded me, at a point when I was in danger of getting swept up in a bit of a hostile  mood of many fellow Corbynites (I personally dislike the term 'Corbynista'), was that we are all Labour. Yes, there's Blairite, Brownite, Old Right, Left, Soft Left, and various other factions, but at the end of the day, we are all part of the Labour Party, and we all share a passion for social justice - we just have different views about the means as to how to achieve that. 

Corbyn has conducted himself with pretty unfailing politeness and courtesy over the course of this leadership election, and regrettably, I do think there are some of my fellow Corbyn supporters who have rejoined the party, who have been less courteous to the other candidates. I understand that - Andy and Yvette may have been there at the point these new/old Labour members left, therefore representing the old guard to them, and Liz Kendall as a Blairite, was never going to go down brilliantly with them.

The centre to right of the party have also dominated the party establishment for a very long time, and in quite a top-down fashion - so I understand there being some animosity from those on the left and soft left who have rejoined because of Corbyn.

But Labour's appeal and ability to win elections has always depended on the fact that we are a broad church of opinion - from socialists on the left to social democrats on the right (bit of an over-simplification, but its a useful shorthand for our purposes). It has always been a slightly uneasy alliance, but it is one that our electoral system necessitates, and we should accept that with Corbyn comes a new age of politics - we should try to place aside the differences and divisions of the past and unite behind him now. I am certain that Corbyn will be a very inclusive leader in that respect, with him and Tom bringing all wings of the party together. But just as the MPs who were not thrilled at the prospect of a Corbyn leadership must now accept the democratic will of the membership at large, so should the membership accept that they will need to get along with and support the MPs who they have political differences with. 

 Labour never wins when it is divided. It wins when it has a message of hope. A message that inspires and engages people, and offers a true alternative to the Conservatives.

Corbyn is going to face a fierce opposition in the next few years. Yes, from certain MPs who would really rather anyone other than him was leader, but mainly from the press and the Tories themselves. If we thought the vitriol aimed at Ed Miliband was bad, we ain't seen nothin' yet...

Corbyn, and all of the party, will need to unite in order to face off against this. It is a challenge that I am ready to rise to, and will relish, and I hope other party members, from all wings and levels in the party will too.

But we must now put aside all divisions in the party too. Obviously the Mayoral and Deputy contests have been tough on all the candidates too, but not nearly as divisive. We must show support to those other candidates. Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall have fought brave, committed campaigns, and it would be silly to claim that some of the criticisms they've had of Jeremy and his policies were not based in legitimate concerns. Whether the policies are credible or not, it isn't unreasonable to think that some of them may be a tough sell to certain corners of the electorate, and those of us who supported Corbyn will need to be prepared for (some) compromises on certain issues and policies.

I would now also just like to offer my commiserations to the other candidates. Yvette Cooper fought bravely, and highlighted that we will need to fight damned hard to make sure that the electorate trusts and has faith in our economic policy, regardless of what it ends up being in the end.
And despite being at odds with much of the party at large, Liz Kendall didn't stop saying what she thought was right for the party. It may not have been what we wanted to hear, but figures like Liz will be important in shaping our movement in the next few years. There are some hard truths we will need to hear about why we lost in 2015, and Liz and the rest of the Blairite wing of the party are not afraid of telling them. That doesn't mean we must accept the solutions they offer in full, but we must take them into consideration going forward. Liz has also conducted herself brilliantly against a sometimes hostile membership, and a sexist press (that Daily Mail interview, anyone?).
I don't care what your personal politics are, I don't think there was anyone who didn't punch the air in joy when she told the interviewer to "f**k off when he asked about her weight. You go, Liz!
Also, on a personal level, can I just say that I LOVE Liz's music taste? Public Enemy and the like...gets my vote (no pun intended)!

Which brings me on to Andy Burnham again. On a personal level, I can't help feeling sorry for Andy. He's stood for the leadership twice, really, really wanted the job, has served the party so loyally over the years (without being tribal), and went from coming a near last in 2010 to being the frontrunner at the start of this contest.
I have never met Andy face-to-face, but my impression of him, both from what I hear and from what I've seen, is that at least on a personal level (even if you disagree with him politically) he is a deeply likeable and kind, friendly human being. As a fellow human being and part of our movement, we must appreciate that losing to Jeremy when he thought at the beginning his dream job was in his grasp must be a hell of a blow.

I hope Andy can still find it in his heart to serve in Jeremy's shadow cabinet, but if he chooses not to, at least for the moment, because of the feelings being too raw, then I think that is perfectly understandable and we should respect it. (UPDATE: Andy Burnham has been announced as the new Shadow Home Secretary. More on this in my next post).

The same commiserations must also go to Tessa Jowell. I backed Sadiq Khan, my brilliant MP, in the Mayoral contest, but as the clear frontrunner for most of the contest, no-one can deny it was a big shock to both Tessa and to her supporters to have lost out to Sadiq in the end. Again, on a personal level, even if not political, she should have our sympathy and support. The result was clearly very tough on her in particular, and again, though I haven't met her myself, there is a general consensus across the spectrum that she is one of the nicest people in politics.

We are all Labour, and we should all support the host of great candidates that didn't win in these contests as much as those that did.

I could go on forever about the virtues of the other candidates in each race, and I do still sincerely hope that the brilliant Stella Creasy is appointed to a job share with Tom Watson, as he previously suggested could happen if we ended up with an all-male leadership team. But not in the interest of just meeting a gender balance - Stella is a truly fantastic candidate, and I do think Tom and Stella would make a formidable team and compliment each other very well. 

Unity should be our watchword going forward. From the bottom, to the top.

Can we win in 2020? I think there is a good possibility of us forming the next government, but not everyone is certain, and that's understandable. We're also not sure how we may do in the upcoming Welsh Assembly, Scottish Parliament and London Mayoral elections.

But if we give up hope of doing so before we begin, then we really are lost.


Can we win, with a Labour Party lead by Jeremy Corbyn? That will be a question asked of many of us in the coming months and years.

I sincerely hope, that all of you - Labour Party members, supporters, and affiliates, will join me in saying:

Jez We Can.

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Queen Elizabeth II: The Longest Reigning Monarch

 Some brief musings on the constitutional monarchy

"One of the things that keeps Britain from becoming a dictatorship, is having to go and kneel before the Queen once a week, and explain your job to her." - Harold Wilson, Former Labour Prime Minister, 1964-70, 1974-76

I don't agree with there being quite as much spent on the Monarchy as we do spend on them currently, in times of supposed austerity (there is a perverse irony in a woman sitting on a throne in a crown worth millions of pounds being forced to lecture the poor on why spending cuts are necessary for us to 'live within our means' - though as I say, more down to what the sitting government writes for her Speech in that instance).

I don't agree with any sitting Prime Minister being able to use the powers of the Royal Prerogative to bypass Parliament.

But ultimately, I agree with Mr. Wilson's sentiment. Far better to have a head of state that sees her role as a duty, as opposed to another rung on the ladder of personal advancement. Much better to have a constitutional, rather than ruling, monarchy that the Prime Minister is answerable to. Good to have someone above them in the hierarchy to keep them in their place.

It is rare indeed for the monarch to actually veto government actions, but who knows what goes on in the Prime Minister's weekly audience with Her Majesty every Tuesday? Perhaps there are many that are stopped simply in that room, by Her Majesty saying "I wouldn't advise it"...

I have always had a curious fascination with the Royal Family, and indeed the Queen herself. It is not a perfect system, and I understand many of the arguments against it. But for me, personally, it's one of the few age-old British traditions I'm very happy to keep.

Queen Elizabeth II became the longest serving British Monarch today.

Long may she reign. :)

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

My Blogger Went To Uni, and All I Got Was One Lousy Blog Post...

Being at uni for a full year, you'd think that a budding writer like me would be using such an exciting new experience to write about it.

Yeah....about that.....

See, not long after I actually arrived at The University of Kent, I got involved with InQuire - the student newspaper. Mum had encouraged me to try to do this as soon as was practical, to further develop my writing skills, practice writing short form pieces to a deadline, all that kind of thi ng.

So, over the course of the year, I've written various articles for InQuire.

The trouble is, given that this blog only really sees sporadic activity at the best of times anyway, then between writing the odd column for InQuire, and working on various essays, then I've not really spent much time blogging about my actual experience of uni. Only one blog post in the last year or so has been specifically focused on uni life, and the rest mostly just reference it in passing.

So, what I thought I'd do, is share some of my articles on here, and you can see what I've been up to in the last year, writing-wise. You can also see how well (or not!) my writing has progressed in that time.

Hope you enjoy!

The Male Feminist - On being a feminist, and a profound (and slightly scary) experience I had, not long after arriving at uni. Published Oct 17th, 2014. 

"I think it's time to face the music." - On The X Factor, and why I now have very little time for it... Published Oct 20th, 2014. 

The Best TV Of 2014 - My pick of some great TV that was broadcast last year. Published Jan 12th, 2015. 

"Oh, I don't vote. It's not like it'll make a difference." - On the importance of voting in elections. Published Jan 27th, 2015.  

Is Canterbury making busking bust? - On the restrictions introduced to busking in Canterbury, and my own experience of buskers, with reference to Charlotte Campbell. Published Jan 30th, 2015. 

Cameron: Refusing to take part in the TV debates, is not only an insult to young people, but shows utter contempt for the electorate as a whole - On David Cameron's refusal to take part in the General Election TV Debates. Published Mar 17th, 2015.


Jeremy Corbyn and 'Women Only Carriages'

 I write this blog as a proud, and unashamed, feminist and socialist....

Earlier today, Jeremy Corbyn, Labour leadership frontrunner, proposed a series of measures as to how street harassment and violence against women could be tackled. Many headlines, columnists, other leadership candidates, and people of all genders on various sides of the political spectrum have seized upon the reference, within the proposals, to 'women only carriages' for trains and tubes.

Full disclosure: I am NOT in favour of this idea, as I believe that the efforts that would have to be undertaken by staff to make sure these carriages remained 'women-only' would be better spent actually policing public transport to make it safer from harassment anyway, and I can completely see the argument that were women to choose not to use the women-only carriages, it would become yet another way that authorities or society, intentionally or not, blame the victim. It is not difficult to picture a scenario whereby a woman would be harassed on one of the mixed carriages, and people would say to her that she 'should have used the women-only carriages', placing the responsibility on the victim, rather than the perpetrator.

HOWEVER - let's get ONE thing straight:

Jeremy Corbyn did NOT announce a new policy of women-only carriages.

If you read this extract from his website, this is what he has to say on the matter:

Consultation on public transport

Some women have raised with me that a solution to the rise in assault and harassment on public transport could be to introduce women only carriages. My intention would be to make public transport safer for everyone from the train platform, to the bus stop to on the mode of transport itself. However, I would consult with women and open it up to hear their views on whether women-only carriages would be welcome - and also if piloting this at times and modes of transport where harassment is reported most frequently would be of interest.




*Some women* have approached him and suggested that one of the ways that harassment and assault on public transport could *potentially* be tackled is to introduce women-only carriages.

Now, what was Jeremy Corbyn to do with this information? If he was to announce this as his new policy, based on the anecdotal suggestions of a few (indeterminate number of) women, then it would be a perfectly legitimate criticism to say not only was the policy itself flawed, but that it had effectively been cobbled together on the back of a fag packet.

Alternatively, he could have ignored the suggestions out of hand. But the fact that 'some' women (which would suggest more than one) have approached him over time to suggest a measure to tackle harassment on public transport, would suggest that there are indeed a few women (even if it is a small few) who believe that this would be a worthwhile consideration. Had he, as a candidate running to be leader of his party, and by extension, leader of the opposition, ignored a suggestion to tackle harassment on public transport out of hand, he may well have been accused of misogyny for ignoring women and their concerns. Even if he wasn't accused of misogyny, he may be deemed unfit to be a leader, or even an MP, because of his inability to listen to and/or consider the concerns of people he seeks to represent and ask for the votes of.

So he suggested a *consultation* with regard to public transport and harassment, where it would ask, among other things, whether women-only carriages would be welcome, and whether women believed it was something worth trialling on certain types of public transport, after certain times of night. 

Jeremy's campaign has form for this sort of thing - a few months ago, they launched a consultation called 'Northern Future', regarding productivity in the north of England, where they surveyed over a thousand people in the North to get their ideas as to what would be the best way forward. The same would, presumably, be done here, where hundreds, if not thousands, of women would be surveyed, and one small part of the consultation may broach the idea of women-only carriages.

For this policy to be enacted, it would have to:

  • Gain approval by the vast majority of women surveyed in this hypothetical consultation
  • Jeremy Corbyn would have to be elected leader of the Labour Party (and while polls and bookmakers would seem to suggest that outcome, it is by no means a certainty)
  • It would then have to be approved by the more democratic policy-making structures within the Party that Corbyn wishes to introduce
  • It would then have to make it into the Party's manifesto at the election (which, barring exceptional circumstances, will not be until 2020).
  • The Labour Party would have to win the 2020 election, or be in a position to form a government.
  • Such a policy may then even be put to a parliamentary vote, where a majority out of 600 MPs (after boundary changes) would have to vote for such legislation. And since it is a divisive issue, there is no guarantee that every Labour MP would vote for it (and if Labour were to be leading a minority government, they'd need cross-party support to introduce almost any piece of legislation anyway!)

I am not an uncritical supporter of Jeremy Corbyn. Were he to propose this as an actual policy, I would find it questionable, to say the least. I'm also not sure I'm totally on board with the idea of leaving NATO, for example - I would have to hear more about the case for doing so vs. the case against. I'm also not sure about the UK having closer relations with Russia (as things currently stand). But then, if Donald Trump was to be elected President of the United States, I wouldn't be too keen on Britain maintaining its 'Special Relationship' with the USA, and might prefer that we take a break and see other people.

But I do agree with Jeremy Corbyn on MOST things, and I do believe he is the right candidate to lead the Labour Party. 

I also know that, with regard to some policy proposals that I do not agree with, or am sceptical about, he will make the case for them (if it is a policy he wholeheartedly agrees with), but I know that he will also listen to me, and people like me, when we raise our own concerns. He will listen, he will consider, and the points we raise may even change his mind - and we would grant him that same courtesy in return. 

Under the new, more democratic system of policy making Corbyn proposes (where ordinary members have the power to vote on different proposals and influence policy), then I know that even if a proposal he wholeheartedly believes in is defeated, he will accept that, and abide by the decision of the majority, rather than continue to hand down policies from above as if, as leader, he is suddenly the suppository of all wisdom.

Part of the point of Corbyn doing things like opening up democracy in The Labour Party, and launching consultations with ordinary people with regard to policy, is that he understands that no one person has all the answers.

Jeremy Corbyn does the novel thing of actually saying he is going to listen to people it would effect before constructing a policy, and the media various others have jumped down his throat for it. 

I'm not usually one to sympathise with our current Prime Minister, but I compare it to when David Cameron was asked directly a few months ago if he would stand for a third term in office, and he decisively ruled it out. Suddenly the press and most of the Left jumped down his throat, furious at the 'arrogance' of a man who hadn't yet won a second term ruling out a third.
What they didn't capitalise on, of course, is that Cameron had done the thing we normally chastise politicians for NOT doing. 

He gave a straight answer to a straight question.

And suddenly, when it comes to a politician saying they'll consult and listen to ordinary people's opinions and concerns before formulating policy, we're doing the same thing again.

We decry our politicians for not doing something, to the point that it becomes so rare, that the novelty of them doing so becomes outrageous.


I have read various articles today on this subject that I broadly agree with, and somewhat inspired this article. If you would like to read them, they are:

Jeremy Corbyn, feminism and the Labour leadership - Lindsey German, Counterfire. 

Thursday, 18 June 2015

E1S4 - Eliot College

A little prior to starting life at the University of Kent, I discovered this blog post, by one of my predecessors. He had lived in the exact same room that I was going to be living in, from 1970-71. It was a weird thing to read about: the experience of someone that had lived in that exact same accomodation - that exact same room.

When I first started at Kent, I had intended to do a little video tour of my room - for those who might not get a chance to see it while I lived there. I was going to do it during fresher's week, but I hadn't really done much to make the room my own. I thought I'd wait til I had some posters up, then do it.

Then, like any student, I was a bit lax when it came to keeping it tidy. I resolved to do it when I had actually cleared up my room.

I then cleaned my room, but kept forgetting about it.

Suddenly, what do you know, 9 months go by, and I was moving out. All I have are these photos of how the room was when it was empty:

This is how I left the room, as its inhabitant in the University's 50th year, ready for a fresher to arrive in September, and start their own journey.

I don't really have any photos of the room as it was with all my things in it, but like the blog post linked above, I can describe it.

The back wall above the bed had two posters: one large Doctor Who one featuring the TARDIS on Gallifrey...

The other, a little more sentimental: this poster, which I designed, from 'A Penny For Your Thoughts' - the Year 13 BTEC Drama production I did at Ashcroft:

And finally, on the wall opposite the bed was a poster prominently featuring Peter Capaldi as The Doctor, with smaller pictures of  each of his 12 predecessors:

The chair below this poster was covered with a lovely fluffy blanket that was given to me by Janice, Paul, Marteli and Eliza the previous Christmas. On the back of the chair was often Matt The Wab:

The notice board had a certificate for Matt, and a letter from my Great Uncle Tony - praising my own letter-writing ability. A source of great pride for me!

My desk had my laptop, and a small digital photo frame which I occasionally switched on when I missed home. Lots of photos from my days at Ashcroft and hanging out at home, many of which can be seen elsewhere on this blog.
The rest of the desk was largely cluttered with various bits and pieces - papers, folders, a fruit bowl that I frequently filled (yes, really!)

My shelves above my desk had various books. Some relating to my course: The Empty Space by Peter Brook. Getting The Joke and Britain Had Talent by Oliver Double (one of the lecturers here at Kent.) Lots of non-curriculum books that I've still not got around to reading properly - Caitlin Moran's Moranthology, Charlie Higson's The Fallen, plenty of Doctor Who books, fictional and factual. At the start of the year I had a jar of peanut-flavoured pretzel nuggets (look them up) and later on in the year I had this prize for one of the articles I wrote for InQuire, the student newspaper:

The shelf below: I'd keep a cereal box or porridge, along with a box of teabags, and then on the other side, various DVDs. Lots of Doctor Who again, but also a few favourite films of mine: Chaplin's The Great Dictator, Peter Morgan's The Deal, The Queen, and The Special Relationship.
Tony Benn: Will and Testament. The Elephant Man, Richard Pryor Live....all sorts.

The very top shelf had two more Doctor Who things, but with some sentimental value attached: models of the TARDIS and a Dalek respectively, originally given to me (on a cake!) by Luciano and his family for my 17th birthday (pictured here):

But really, there's more to the room than those personal touches from the past.

There's the memories made while there too.

Just tiny little things.

Sitting there chatting to Stu on the first day. Talking to Navreet on the first night of fresher's because we both lived in Eliot and didn't fancy queuing for ages to get into Venue having already done the campus bar crawl.
Sitting in there chatting to Gemma and Stu. Having Ciaran over each week to watch Doctor Who in the autumn.

Skype calling Uncle Gordon in Australia. Video calls with Becky, Mÿca & Nicole or Kai, Yasmin, Luciano, Mum & Dad and whoever might be visiting who I otherwise wouldn't be able to see because of being away. 

Hannah, Rosie and the rest of the #MakeItMcintosh campaign team coming round, and housing the props for the video in my room so that they didn't have to lug them around campus.

Recording a 'Happy Birthday' video for my friend Charlotte Campbell.

Dave, Beth, Stu, Gemma and co. hanging around before and after Monkeyshine on a Thursday.

Philippa and Edward joining us to watch silly videos on YouTube til the small hours of the morning.

Watching the Tony Benn film with Rob and laughing at the great man's one-liners.

Watching Wallace & Gromit's The Wrong Trousers for the first time in years with Edward and Ciaran, and getting teary eyed out of nostalgia and realising quite how sad the moments with Gromit in the kennel were.

So many of these are just tiny things. Little moments. But many of them are small, intimate moments of friendship and enjoyment that I will cherish as highlights of my first year.

There are obviously many, many others from my first year at Kent, but they could've happened regardless of where I was living. But these moments were specific to that room.

Eliot may not be much - in fact my friend Alex has some less than generous things to say about the building itself - but for me personally, it was enough.

I've made some truly great friends thanks to being in Eliot. Made some truly great memories.

And despite having a nice, more communal student house (with a proper kitchen!) to live in next year, then I'll miss it.

So long, Eliot College. You were a maze (literally), but for 9 months, you were my home.

Friday, 8 May 2015

Ed Miliband: A True Inspiration

I watched this speech earlier, and I wept buckets. 

Whatever your party political affiliation. Whatever your beliefs. Whatever your views on what the Labour Party is, was, or could be. I urge you to watch it.

Like most people, when Ed was first elected, I didn't think that much of him. I hadn't followed his leadership election bid as such, so I wasn't subjected to the (frankly ridiculous) assertions that he 'stabbed his brother in the back' by standing against him.

I watched him in his early days, and back when he was still listening to spin doctors, getting things wrong, botching up interviews, having circles talked round him at Prime Minister's Questions. I zoned out of what he was up to for a while.

And then, towards the end of last year, things started changing.

At PMQs, when I saw it, Ed was more sharp. He would land some hits at Cameron and the government. He would ask tough questions, and if Cameron tried to dodge them, he would ask again, until he got an answer, or it was abundantly clear that Cameron was dodging.

I read this article (from a Conservative writer and publication, no less, so it's not as if you'd expect it to be biased in his favour.)
Ed has lead the votes on issues more so than any previous opposition leader. Vetoing military action in Syria, recognising a Palestinian state, taking on Rupert Murdoch's media machine. Opposition leaders rarely win commons votes and Ed has made a habit of doing so.

Then came the Tooting Labour Party dinner, that Mum took me to back in February. Ed was the guest of honour, and as he strode in, he walked tall, and proud. Not cocky, but confident. In a way that was still recognisably the same man I'd seen on TV and yet there was this air about him.
For some reason, being in the same room as he gave his speech, he seemed more articulate. More self-assured. Dare I say it, inspirational.

This, the party's manifesto, and Ed's rhetoric, genuinely convinced me that he was moving the party on from New Labour. That this was a man who would genuinely stand up for working people. The abolition of the bedroom tax, the cutting of tuition fees, the banning exploitative zero hours contracts and unpaid internships, these are all progressive policies that we never would have expected of Labour 5 years ago.

And when the TV debates came, the public started to see Ed for who he was too. He didn't run from them like Cameron did, and when facing off with Paxman, where Cameron looked visibily uncomfortable and shifty, Ed held his own, and even turned the tables once or twice.

As I became more actively involved in the election, canvassing for the Labour Party and going to events, I saw Ed speak in the flesh twice more. At a press conference, and then a rally. At the press conference, even the Guardian and Channel 4 were gunning for him slightly, but Ed answered each question patiently, taking several questions one after the other before answering each in turn.

I watched him at the campaign rally, and he really got us stoked up for the final leg of the campaign.

But there's more to it than that.

Because yes, I identified with his politics. Yes, I believed, (and still do believe) in his vision for a fairer, more just, more equal Britain.

But he is inspiring on a personal level, too.

For nearly five years, Ed has beeen relentlessly bullied and hounded by the press. Primarily a press owned by Rupert Murdoch, and other right-wing news outlets, but these attacks haven't just been political. They've been personal.

Since he won the leadership bid, pretty much all of those papers (and even ones that traditionally back Labour), have directly accused him or implied that he is a back stabber.
They've made fun of his appearance - the fact that he looks vaguely like Wallace.
They've made fun of his voice, because it's slightly nasally.
They've poked fun at him because they happened to snap a picture of him mid-eating a bacon sandwich, when it is phenomenally easy to catch anyone - politician or otherwise - looking silly while eating, and yet it's not stuck to them anything like how it's stuck to him.

The Daily Mail accused his father of "hating Britain", when both his parents had arrived in this country as refugees from the Nazis.

And he has been referred to or implied as 'weak', 'a back-stabber', a 'North London geek', 'a complete waste of space', 'a cad' and countless other highly offensive things.

Ed is a rare breed of politician nowadays. He's a modern intellectual, rather than an 'actor'. To a much higher degree, what you see is what you get - which actually makes him far more genuine.

I, as someone that loves performing, and who aspires to be an actual actor, and am very much one in terms of personality traits. 'Actors' are fairly adept at hiding it when they're under a lot of personal attack and pressure, generally speaking.

And yet were I in his position - hell, I think if most of us, were in his position, we'd be lying on the floor in foetal positions, crying at the torrent of abuse and bile day after day - not just at us, but at our families.

And yet Ed has taken all of it in his stride. He is phenomenally thick-skinned, and he has never let it get to him - certainly, there's been no evidence of it in public.

He is unrepentant, and principled. When he says something, whether that be that Labour didn't spend too much (they didn't), or that the UK contributed somewhat to the crisis in Libya, he has not gone back on it. There are plenty of people who'd be apologising and repenting over making statements as controversial, or contrary to public understanding, as that. But Ed has not done so, not once. Regardless of whether you agree with him on those things or not, that shows he is a man of stubborn principle.

Even when it came to accusations that he would form a coalition with the SNP, once he had ruled that out, he stuck to it. That even annoyed me, and other Labour supporters, as we saw it as his clearest way into government, but he wouldn't budge. And truthfully, I think even if the polls had gone the way we expected them to in this election, he would have kept his word. Co-operating, conversing and compromising with other parties on a vote-by-vote basis (the SNP included) may have been necessary, but I highly doubt he would have signed any official pacts with them.

Ed is a family man, he clearly loves and adores his wife and family. He was asked recently what 'the best thing about being Ed Miliband' was, and he replied:
'Being married to Justine, and having two wonderful boys, Daniel and Sam'.

Now, I know, all male political leaders these days make a thing of being a 'family man', but it struck a chord with me. As did his statement that if it turned out either of his sons were transgender, he would still love them unconditionally. To put this in context, Stonewall, the gay rights group, (the ones behind that 'Some People Are Gay, Get Over It' campaign) only recently extended their remit to campaign for trans rights.

Finally, if we go right back to Ed's student days, then as revealed recently, while he was at Oxford he campaigned against unfair rent increases.

Now, David Cameron, the man Britain has voted back in as Prime Minister, was also at Oxford. But what was Cameron up to when he was there? He was a member of the infamous Bullingdon Club, whose current initiation involves burning a £50 note in front of a homeless person. While there's no evidence to suggest Cameron himself did this, there is evidence that he was part of the club when they smashed a restaurant window in 1987.

So, one was campaigning in small ways for social justice, the other was part of a club that to this day is infamous for flaunting its privilege, and for violent and anti-social behaviour. The latter now leads a government that protects the wealthy few, while cutting benefits for those most in need.

When I look at Ed Miliband now, I see a man that is a true inspiration to me. An underdog, underestimated at every turn, but who rose to the top of the Labour Party, and until late last night, looked very likely to be our next Prime Minister.

He's good humoured, he's resilient, he's principled and pragmatic. He is loving and caring towards his wife and family, and even if he hadn't quite taken the Labour Party right back to where it belonged on the left, he was getting there. And no doubt, had they got into government, and with the pressure from movements from below (that he welcomed), he would have taken it even further as Prime Minister.

The policies he put forward on behalf of the Labour Party, and the fact that he is a bit of an underdog, earnt him an online fanbase of young people normally reserved for singers and actors - never politicians. It makes me burst with pride to have been part of a movement like the #Milifandom. A movement that is sometimes misunderstood or not taken as seriously as it perhaps should, but is fun, amusing, a bit geeky, and a good laugh - just like the man himself.

At heart, Ed is a bit of a geek. Look at his enthusiasm, in the Absolute Radio interview, when talking about Manic Miner. Look at the way, in this interview in The Guardian, he discusses the Manic Miner app for a tablet, lamenting how it isn't true to the original, saying there are too many lives and it's the wrong first level. Pure, unashamed, geekiness. :)

I guess what I'm trying to say is that I perhaps see a bit of myself in Ed Miliband. I know, for those of you that know me, that I probably seem more confident and self-assured, and have always had a certain ease in front of audiences, where Ed perhaps hasn't.

Maybe it's the Jewish heritage. Maybe it's the geekiness. Maybe it's the basic set of values - the desire for a more fair and equal society. Maybe its the love he feels for his family.
Maybe its the solidarity I feel because of having been picked on earlier in my school life for looking a bit weird.

Maybe its the fact that, I feel like if I hadn't gotten properly involved in Drama stuff as early as I did, I would be like Ed Miliband - struggling in such a public field to begin with to make myself seem credible, or tough, or leadership material.

I still believe Ed is all of those things, but I know that a lot of people did not, or still don't - or at least weren't sure.

I am a politics geek to some extent, but I am not a politician. I don't have ambitions to be an MP or Prime Minister. If I was to to end up in a career relating to politics I think I'd prefer be more of an Owen Jones type.

But that doesn't mean I don't feel genuinely inspired by someone like Ed Miliband.

He had his faults - he didn't propose as coherent an alternative to the other small left-wing parties. He and Labour aligned themselves with the Tories and Lib Dems over the Scottish referendum, rather than setting up their own separate campaign. He didn't lead Labour enough to effectively tackle the Tory myth that they spent too much last time they were in goverment, nor did he point out enough that the Tories backed every one of Labour's spending plans until the financial crash, and the Tories were actually calling for less bank regulation in the run up to it.
He didn't find a way of showing commitment to gaining a Labour majority, while not seeming arrogant about possibly having to progressively work with other parties (which, short of the result going in the complete opposite direction last night, is what would have been necessary).

But nevertheless, he begun the process of moving Labour back to the left, and the rhetoric and core message was a clear and good one: That Britain only suceeds when working people suceed.
It's now important that those of us who did support Labour (or a Labour-led government, at least) do not wallow in our disappointment. To keep fighting for that better society. To protest the Tory cuts, to do our utmost to look after each other and the most vulnerable who'll be hit heaviest in the next five years.

It is to be hoped that Labour doesn't elect a Blairite now, and realises that their faults were more incoherences, and not being radical enough, rather than being too radical.
They still ran a good, (essentially) positive campaign, and their defeat was as much from Tory scaremongering, tabloid smear and Shy Toryism as anything else.

Labour has lost a great leader today. I am thankful he will still be serving his constituency in Doncaster, and hope he receives another ministerial job in the next Labour government - he is a credit to his party.

Here's to you Ed Miliband. Long live the Milifandom ;)