Jeremy Corbyn’s re-election as Labour leader dispenses with claims of his ‘unelectability’

First published by International Business Times UK, 24th September 2016

Today Jeremy Corbyn has achieved a historic victory, winning his second leadership election in just one year. With 313k votes and a 61.8% share, Corbyn has increased his unprecedented mandate from 2015. The charge of ‘unelectability’ is constantly levied against Corbyn by his critics across the political spectrum, but today is solid proof that he’s not unelectable in the eyes of ordinary Labour members.

Despite the introduction of a £25 fee to dissuade new party members and registered supporters from having a say in the leadership election and the heavy-handed purging of ‘unsuitable’ Labour members, the NEC was not able to erode support for Corbyn. The NEC was not able to prevent thousands upon thousands of people turning out to hear Corbyn at rallies up and down the country. The NEC, for all its legal battling and the attempts to keep Corbyn off the leadership ballot altogether, was not able to stop the social movement that Corbyn and what he stands for has inspired.

In order to appease Corbyn’s supporters, Owen Smith was presented as a ‘clean candidate’, without a history of embarrassing voting decisions regarding the Iraq War, tax cuts for the rich, and tuition fees. However, his more polished image, his history of work for pharmaceutical giants Pfizer and Agmen, and his habit of answering the question he wishes he’d been asked rather than the question actually put to him marked him out in the eyes of voters as another politician’s politician.

However, it’s definitely worth noting that Smith’s selection as challenger is testament to how firmly Corbyn’s election last year has shifted the tone of the party to the left and allowed Labour to once again differentiate itself from the Conservatives. Ed Milliband’s keeping-everyone-and-no-one happy, Tory-lite approach is long gone, and this in itself is a victory.

In the aftermath of the second leadership election in a year, it is absolutely essential that the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) gets behind Jeremy Corbyn. Regardless of how MPs feel about their leader, he has been twice elected by party members, supporters and trade union affiliates. It is the duty of MPs to represent ordinary Labour Party supporters, not disregard them with a sneer, a shrug, and a paternalistic, I-know-best attitude.

This election has demonstrated, without the slightest shadow of doubt, that Labour members are not being swayed by disloyal MPs speaking to the press about Corbyn’s unsuitability for the role of leader. Anti-Corbyn MPs must accept today’s result with grace, and behave with professionalism towards a leader who is the clear choice of party members. Jeremy Corbyn has pledged to ‘wipe the slate clean’ and reach out to MPs who have previously opposed him. I can only hope that MPs will accept this olive branch and prevent further rifts in a scarred and divided Parliamentary Labour Party.

This unnecessary leadership election, called at a time of national crisis by short-sighted MPs, is now over, and Labour must focus its energy on holding Theresa May’s government to account and providing a clear, cohesive alternative message for voters. Labour cannot win an election under Jeremy Corbyn if MPs like Jess Philips and Andy Burnham continue to feed negative and damaging messages to the press. Labour cannot win an election under Jeremy Corbyn if the party’s (and the nation’s) focus is on what Owen Jones has dubbed the ‘freakshow’ of internal struggles.

In his acceptance speech at the Labour Party Conference today, Corbyn thanked his opponent and reminded those gathered that they are all ‘part of the same Labour family’. Only when this key message is honoured by MPs and ordinary members alike, will Labour have a real shot at wining a general election.

Since his shock election in 2015, Jeremy Corbyn has presided over one of the most fascinating and unpredictable moments in the history of British politics. With a strong second win and an expansion on his huge mandate, the whole ‘Labour family’ must rally around Corbyn so that his government can effectively oppose May’s harsh Conservative agenda and kick-start real change in an increasingly austere and unequal Britain.

I’m pleased Lady Gaga has spoken out about depression, but it won’t help to cure anyone else

First published by Independent Voices, 12th September 2016

 

In Britain, we are facing an unprecedented crisis in mental health, particularly among young people. The charity Mind estimates that one in four people will suffer from a mental health condition each year.

Lady Gaga is the latest celebrity to speak openly about her struggle with anxiety and depression, issues she says are exacerbated by her huge fame and the pressures of living life in the public eye. Her publicist has confirmed that she takes medication to manage these conditions.

It has given the tabloids yet another chance to gleefully publish spreads of pictures of the pop star – captioned with mentions of her “revealing outfits”, because there’s nothing we like more than to see the vulnerability of successful women coupled with their casual sexualisation.

It’s so easy to feel strange or freakish if you suffer from mental illness. There’s still a great deal of stigma associated with many conditions, particularly the more ‘unacceptable’ illnesses such as borderline personality disorder, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder. It can often be helpful to see that even the most successful, wealthy, famous and beautiful among us face mental illness too, because it removes a certain shame from being a sufferer.

However, the importance of celebrities opening up about their mental wellbeing should not be overstated. It is equally important that those we know and love in our daily lives are open and transparent about mental health. Friends and family are much closer and more involved in our lives than any celebrity, their efforts to be encouraging or offer support are far more tangible. Knowing that celebrities like Lady Gaga share their conditions does not necessarily help sufferers to heal or manage their own illness; the love, support and honesty of those in our daily lives can help to do so.

Lady Gaga is also quoted as saying that she wouldn’t “encourage young people to take anti-depressants or mood stabilizers” – a problematic statement that places prescribed medication in the same category of recreational drugs. Obviously it’s irresponsible to encourage young fans to indulge in casual cocaine or heroin abuse, but anti-depressants, if prescribed by a GP, can be helpful.

The most useful thing for Lady Gaga to do would be to encourage her young fans to seek professional help if they’re suffering from mental health problems, not apologise for or distance herself from psychoactive medication, or express any view on whether another person could benefit from it. If you need it and you’re prescribed it, take it – and take it without shame.

If we’re serious about tackling mental health in Britain, we cannot rely on celebrities to speak about the issue to our young people. Parents must be provided with resources to help their children understand depression and anxiety, an approach championed by Young Minds, a charity that specialises in helping parents and young people. Information on mental wellbeing should be widely available in schools and made part of the curriculum.

Though public spending is being cut back, it is absolutely essential that oversubscribed and inadequate mental health services are overhauled and improved. Young people can spend six to 12 months on waiting lists for treatment, when their mental health is incredibly fragile and their lives feel worthless. Many people are regulars in A&E just because they know that, by turning up, they will be seen and heard by someone in the medical profession. Others are held in police cells due to lack of available beds.

There are good economic reasons for acting: if the crisis in mental health is not addressed, the economy will continue to lose millions of working days every year, pressure on the NHS will increase (including due to drug addiction, excessive eating and alcohol dependency as manifestations of untreated mental illness), and we will become an increasingly unhappy nation.

I’m pleased that Lady Gaga feels comfortable enough to speak out about her illness, and it’s essential that the stigma around mental health is eradicated through openness and honestly. However, we must not imbue these celebrity admissions with more power than they really possess. Speaking out does not, by itself, solve the mental health crisis.

There’s so much work to be done around mental wellbeing in Britain. We must all roll up our sleeves and work for the acceptance and recovery of those around us, not sit back and wait for another famous face to tell their story.

A year on since we published one of the most shocking photographs ever taken, our government still hesitates to act

First published by The Independent, 3rd September 2016

Child-refugees2

Today marks one year since three-year-old Alan Kurdi’s lifeless body washed up on a Turkish beach. He lay there, face down in the sand, not just a little boy whose life had tragically been cut short, but a symbol of the monstrous reality of war and the selfish reticence of the West. If Alan Kurdi had been alive today, he would have been four years old.

In February, the Syrian Centre for Policy Research estimated that fatalities caused by the Syrian conflict stand at 470,000, 11.5 per cent of the country’s entire population. The death toll now is likely far higher, and many of those killed will be children, just like Alan Kurdi. 400,000 have been killed directly by violence, and 70,000 by lack of medical supplies, and the inability to access sanitation, clean water, food, and shelter.

More than 83 per cent of Syria’s lights have gone out. More than half of the 22 million people who make up Syria’s population have been displaced. The country has been torn apart, ravaged, and stands in almost total darkness.

web-refugee-crisis-7-twitter.jpg
Aylan Al-Kurdi (left) and his older brother, Ghalib, died when their dinghy sank off the coast of Turkey (Qattouby/Twitter)

When the images of Alan Kurdi’s body circulated around the globe, even the most heartless of the right-wing tabloid press voices took a day off from likening refugees to vermin. It appeared as if the tide of public opinion was turning away from seeing helpless victims of conflict as a “swarm” of “cockroaches” coming to infiltrate Britain and become “drains” on our services. The Syrian people were finally humanised through the image of the little boy alone on a Turkish beach.

Then on April 26, 294 MPs voted against the Labour proposal to offer asylum to 3,000 unaccompanied child refugees. James Brokenshire, Jeremy Hunt, Boris Johnson, Theresa May, Maria Miller, Nicky Morgan, Michael Gove, and Iain Duncan Smith were among those who decided that children like Alan Kurdi did not deserve the safety and dignity that asylum in Britain would provide. They spat on the memory of Alan Kurdi by denying those like him a chance of a life away from the horror of the Syrian conflict.

The Dubs proposal was modelled on Kindertransport, the Second World War scheme that brought children to Britain from Nazi-controlled areas of Europe. We might be more technologically advanced now, more wealthy, more connected, but through those 942 MPs, as a nation we failed to stand up. It was all so different when Nazism swept across Europe in the 1930s and 40s, but it’s unclear why or where our compassion went. The Syrian crisis may be the defining humanitarian catastrophe of this decade, and as things stand, Britain has shown itself up very poorly.

Syrian families are still facing the impossible choice between staying in a land shattered by conflict, where bombs are falling and buildings are being reduced to dust, or entrusting themselves and their children to smugglers, in unsafe crafts, often without any possessions, lifejackets, or guarantees of where they will end up. The fact that mothers and fathers are paying to have their children smuggled out of their home country by traffickers shows how truly terrible the other option is.

In Britain, despite our own issues, despite the cruel austerity of this Conservative government, despite the impending reality of Brexit, we must extend a hand to the people of Syria. It’s imperative that we use our voices to shame this government into offering asylum to Syria’s children.

We are all citizens of the world, and we share responsibility for the refugee crisis. Those fleeing the Syrian conflict are human, just like us, and our humanity is gravely in question if we stand by and shrug our shoulders.

Nothing can bring back that three-year-old boy, Alan Kurdi, who died without dignity, without a home, and without justice, but there are so many more children suffering and at risk in this conflict. We can still do something. We owe him that.

NEW NOISE: The Tuts

First published by Wonderland Magazine, 31st August 2016

the tuts promo shot

The Tuts are three women from West London who batter their instruments, crowdsurf, and write punk pop tunes that demand dancing. They’re a breath of fresh air in the male-dominated punk and garage scene, fusing brash guitar with joyous vocal harmonies. They can count the likes of Billy Bragg and Kate Nash as their fans, and have toured with Nash, The Selecter, and Sonic Boom Six.

The Tuts are the politically-engaged, angry, totally fan-funded girl band of the future, addressing everything from industry sexism and the Tory government to bad boyfriends and creepy ex-friends. They’re Nadia Javed, Harriet Doveton and Beverley Ishmael, and they’re releasing their debut album ‘Update Your Brain’ this month.

Your debut, ‘Update Your Brain’, is going to be released on 8th September. Are you excited? How long has the album been in the making?

 Nadia Javed: I am so excited that it’s almost tipping me over the edge and my mental health is actually a bit all over the place –  I’m so excited, anxious & worried about the whole thing. I feel like it’s an exam I’m revising for and I could do with another week of revision. When the album comes out it’s literally gonna be the pinnacle of careers.

We’ve funded the album via our Pledge campaign. It works as a crowd funder and we hit our target in 5 days. Currently, 709 people have pre-ordered the album, which is pretty good considering we’re a DIY band with no major label or anything. I’ve loved tracking our progress on pledge and looking at the graphs doing data analysis, I’m a geek like that.

Harriet Doveton: It’s been a long time in the making in terms of the songs. Some date back to when Nadia and Bev were teenagers, some are pretty new! We could’ve started working on recording the album ages ago…but I’m confident that NOW is the time and I’m so glad we didn’t do it any earlier. We’ve been prepping and working so hard day and night this year for Update Your Brain, so now I’m excited to just get it out there and let it also do it’s own thing as well as watch all our hard work pay off. I think people are gonna love it. 100% bangers, in my opinion!

 Describe your sound to us in five words.

Nadia Javed: cacophony of bubblegum pussy punk pop

Harriet Doveton: Yummy, sincere, melodic, girl gang EXPLOSION!

Beverley Ishmael: FUZZY BUBBLE GUM POP PUNK

The video for ‘Let Go of the Past’ is so cool and kitschy!  How did you come up with it?

Nadia Javed: The video idea came from the director Jennifer Doveton. She wanted it to look like Jackie magazine and we loved the idea cos it meant we could dress up all 60s/70s and go all out with the hair and makeup.  We love any opportunity to get dressed up. The video mocks some of the old fashioned views that were around of the 60s 70s. For example, there’s a scene where Bev’s at uni but back in the 70s there were hardly any black people at uni. Teen Vogue were supposed to premiere the video and literally the night before emailed us saying that there wasn’t enough of a ‘peg’ for them. We all got into a panic, had a cry cos it was our first release off the album and we wanted it to go out with as much hype as possible. We got over the let down quickly – at the end of the day, we started DIY and we’ll continue DIY.

Harriet Doveton: When we ask my sister Jen to make us a new music video all she has to do is listen to the song ONCE and she’s buzzing with all these detailed adventurous yet totally doable ideas. She’s a creative genius. And she pretty much goes with her first idea every time, like it’s meant to be. So as soon as she heard Let Go of the Past she knew she wanted it to be based around ‘Jackie’ the magazine from the 1970s. Which gave us SO much beautiful aesthetic and ideas to work with. But its also pretty tongue in cheek and pokes fun at how backwards magazines were in previous eras (and still can be now!) Of course it was hard work, just us, Jen and a few friends helping out. But all you need is a small team of reliable people to make something happen.

The Tuts have no manager or promoter. Talk to us about why you’ve decided on the DIY approach.

Nadia Javed: We’ve decided to go down the DIY route for a few reasons. These days you don’t get major labels signing you up unless your parents are famous or you are lucky and have some sort of connection. The smaller record labels can’t offer us enough, we can basically do what they can without having to give away a cut of our fees (they usually want 15-20%). And lastly, we haven’t found anyone who is good enough and can do a better job of it than us. We write our own songs, book our own gigs, do our own social media, have full control over our creative inputs, contribute ideas about our merch, pretty much taught ourselves how to play our instruments. Last year we signed a deal with this cowboy manager, he had no contacts, told us we were shit and crap and basically put us down. We are 100% DIY – at times though it can get too much and you wish you could focus on the songwriting instead of chasing up press or packaging your CDs up to send off to radio stations.

Harriet Doveton: We didn’t exactly decide on the DIY approach. It was natural for us at the beginning of course to just be doing everything ourselves because who else would do it for us? Now we’ve toyed with the idea of working with others but we are proper control freak business women, so its hard to hand over basically our LIFE and passion to someone else. We worked with a manager for a short period of time and it actually delayed a lot of our plans and everything was a mess. Wouldn’t rule it out all together- maybe we’ll find our soul mate manager one day, are you out there? Call me.

But in the mean time, we are breaking our backs as a busy full time DIY band, but reaping the rewards too. Also, a lot of industry types don’t instinctively want to work with a group of women, they won’t always see us as an investment, perhaps just a passing fad. Of course, this is misogynistic, but we’re gonna just ride that misogyny wave to success. Why let it drag you under?

‘Update Your Brain’ features several tracks that address sexism in the music industry. How prevalent do you think this is?

Nadia Javed: The music industry is still really sexist. Festival line-ups are really bad, although some festivals are great and have a good representation. Sexism is something we are facing but also undercover racism. As a girl band AND women of colour we’re fighting a double battle with our colour and gender. It annoys me when people think the reason for these skewed line-ups are that there aren’t enough female bands but there are! They just aren’t getting a platform. Women are more accepted in pop, RnB, and as mainstream solo singers (Beyoncé, Rihanna, Taylor Swift) etc. but not so much if they’re playing their own instruments and in guitar bands. If there’s a girl band on a line-up they’re seen as a token band and there’s only room for one on the bill, quota filled – no more room. The whole punk, rock and indie alternative scene is still male dominated, things need to change. We’re intersectional feminists with pop punk bangers…the world needs us more than ever. That’s why our new album is called ‘update your brain’ cos shit needs to UPDATE.

Harriet Doveton: It’s always been important to us to discuss corruption or inequality in any industry or even situation. Whether it be sexist, racist, homophobic or anything else equally horrible. Speaking out and keeping a critical mind just feels natural and is how we need to be particularly now in the state of this country, and to be able to channel our frustration into songs is even better!

Beverley Ishmael: Well there’s not a day that goes by where a woman isn’t being harassed or sexually assaulted. We feel its very important to sing about things like this. If you ain’t adding value to the music industry, I feel like you need to quit.

tutsbedroom

The next step for The Tuts is obviously your UK tour. Where are you most looking forward to playing?

Nadia Javed: I think the London show is gonna be the most epic. I think about it everyday. We’re also close to selling out. All our close friends, family, fans will be there. It’s gonna be a special night. Hopefully, I won’t be too high on adrenaline and will be able to control my energy. The last London show was too overwhelming for me to the point where I couldn’t enjoy the show. I think I need to meditate before I go up because I was so hyper it was dangerous.

Harriet Doveton: Yes the tour! Oh my god, everywhere. I love going up North. But its exciting to play some places we haven’t played that many times. Like Southampton and Cardiff. I’m looking forward to seeing all the familiar and new faces at the shows, and that a bunch of the support bands are my mates and their music deserves to be heard! We handpicked the support acts ourselves. Crywank, Personal Best, Joyce Delaney, Milk Crimes, Taco Hell, Happy Accidents! What a list. Some of the stars of the DIY punk scene.

Beverley Ishmael: I really love playing Brighton! I have good memories of playing shows there.

One of the lyrics on your album is ‘I will steal your girl fans’ – how have young women responded to The Tuts? Do you have a broad fanbase?

Nadia Javed: Young women are energised by us, they love it! We get messages from young girls telling us we’ve given them the confidence to stand up against bullies, to pick up instruments and basically empower them to full fill what they lacked confidence in doing. This means the world to us. It’s our duty to empower women and victimised groups. After we toured with Kate Nash we got a lot of young fans but we also have a middle aged man fan base from when we toured with The Selecter. We love our fans but I would love to reach out to a younger audience of bad assss feminists. I feel like the only way of getting to this type of audience is by supporting a young established artist.

Harriet Doveton: Yes, I want to steal ALL the boy bands girl fans!! They deserve to be ours! These girls need to see more women on stage. Imagine what it could do for them and their self esteem. Our fan base is broad, a lot of middle aged punk and ska fans, a collection of punks our age, indie poppers and teen girls!

Beverley Ishmael: Hahaha our fan base is dads and daughters.

Who would The Tuts most like to share a stage with?

Nadia Javed: Currently I would really like to share a stage with Charli XCX she’s half Indian like me, her attitude is great, she’s strong, fierce and has catchy pop anthems with zero fucks given attitude. I LOVE HER.

Harriet Doveton: Paramore or Charli XCX!

 Beverley Ishmael: I would love to share the stage with Beyoncé. I don’t know what we would do though. I’d just be on the stage while I watch her do her thing.

How do The Tuts plan on achieving world domination from here onwards?

Nadia Javed: We would like to tour with another major band or artist that has a younger audience with lots of girl fans. We’re gonna carry on doing what we’re doing so keep reaching out to various press etc. to get on as many platforms. But personally I want to develop as a songwriter and really get into working on songs for the second album. We’re gonna carry on being amazing, blowing up stages and steadily reach world domination on our own upward success.

Harriet Doveton: We have BIG plans that we can not yet reveal. But in the mean time, our album is going to lead us to where we need to be. Plus we want to get on loads more festivals next year, even just for the bantz! Tuts do festivals the way festivals should be done. Play an out of control show, get wild at the merch table, find men to take the piss out of, and run around hyped on sugar.

 Beverley Ishmael: Not get pregnant!

 

Update Your Brain is out on 8th September, on Doveton Records.

Jeremy Corbyn supporters have been demonised from the word go

First published by International Business Times UK on 17th August 2016

jeremy-corbyn

Despite the Conservative Party’s success in leading Britain into the disaster of Brexit, the complete lack of responsibility taken by the three key figures in the Brexit campaign (Johnson, Farage and Gove), the very public mess of professional backstabbings that followed, and the fact that Theresa May, a politician will a clear disregard for basic human rights, is ensconced in Number 10, all eyes seem to be on the Labour Party’s struggles.

Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters have been unfairly demonized by the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) and by comfortable, London-based political pundits since the outset. His inclusion on the leadership ballot in June last year was viewed as an indulgence, a foolish little outing for an ageing, left-wing politician, and his unprecedented win saw hackles rise within the party and across the media landscape. Even the ‘ethical’ and purportedly left-wing Guardian would not give their support to Corbyn.

Corbyn has been forced to battle on all fronts, taking on not only the Tories, but his own party who have hardly covered themselves with glory during this episode in Labour’s history. Accusations from leadership contender Owen Smith in today’s BBC hustings debate that Corbyn has failed to work with his colleagues are truly laughable, as Corbyn’s only crime towards the PLP has been to be voted leader (with the biggest mandate in Labour Party history). Mass resignations, open disloyalty and barbed comments to the media were carried out by anti-Corbyn Labour MPs and the responsibility for these actions sits squarely on their shoulders. They have shown a remarkable disrespect for the Labour members and supporters who voted overwhelmingly to elect Mr Corbyn as leader.

The National Executive Committee’s (NEC) move to block 130,000 Labour members who joined after January 2016 (and the subsequent legal wranglings) is another attack on Corbyn’s supporters and it feels horribly unfair that the NEC is able to simply rewrite the rules of Labour membership because they wish to oust Corbyn. Last week former Deputy Tom Watson warned of ‘Trotskyist infiltration’ in the Labour party and of course Jeremy Corbyn was to blame for this. Corbyn has become Britain’s most popular scapegoat, and his supporters are tarred with the same brush.

Owen Smith’s accusation that Corbyn of taking Labour back to a 1980s politics of mass protest rallies in last Thursday’s leadership debate is absolutely indicative of the paternalistic attitude of many of Corbyn’s critics. It doesn’t seem to matter what ordinary Labour party members and supporters want. We’re treated as plebs, fools and extremists, not as the people that the PLC is there to represent.

It’s immaterial how many people have joined the Labour party because they’re energised by the common sense policies and ‘kinder politics’ espoused by Corbyn, or how many people have turned out to attend rallies up and down the country. It’s of no consequence that Labour members are calling for a fairer Britain where the agenda of austerity is challenged, tuition fees are scrapped, corporations are forced to pay their taxes, rail fares are affordable, mental health is addressed in a compassionate and cohesive manner, green solutions are engaged with, and billions are saved instead of being funnelled into nuclear weapons. It doesn’t matter to the PLP because they always know best.

Saying that Jeremy Corbyn is unelectable doesn’t necessarily make it true. If he were so unelectable, why would the NEC need to go to such great legal lengths to ensure that the 130,000 new Labour members were excluded from the leadership ballot? Why would the media bother with bias and smear if Labour has no chance of being elected under Corbyn? It has, of course, been proven that clear bias has been applied to articles about Corbyn across major publications, in a vicious and destructive way previously unseen even in the hard-knock world of political reporting. The ugly treatment of Corbyn indicates fear of a man who has forever voted on the right side of history and who cannot be bought.

I’m now going to take the opportunity to state that the abuse of ‘Blairite’ or anti-Corbyn MPs by those who support the Labour leader is absolutely abhorrent. It flies in the face of everything that Corbyn stands for. There is no room for sexist or homophobic abuse, threats of violence, or any other kind of intimidation or harassment among Labour supporters. It is unequivocally wrong and it disgraces all of us.

However, it’s essential that this bad behaviour from some supporters does not eclipse the consistently bad behaviour of anti-Corbyn MPs, media pundits and the NEC. Labour must start listening to it’s members, and fast. Within the media bubble, it’s easy to see Corbyn as a lame duck, dragging his wounded body towards a sad conclusion, but when you get out on the streets and talk to people, a very different picture emerges. Corbyn has already won 285 nominations from constituency Labour parties, not because people want to see some kind of ersatz ‘Red Britain’ or because they are stupid, or even because they’re endeared by Corbyn’s ‘dad dancing’. His support comes from the fact that he was the only 2015 leadership candidate to provide an alternative to the Tories’ cruelty and their slash-and-burn austerity agenda, and from the policies he stands by. If we are to move towards a fairer Britain, the PLP must scrap it’s patronising ‘Daddy knows best’ approach and wake up to the real concerns of Labour members.

 

Labour disrespected its own members by trying to bar them from voting – the High Court ruling will benefit Corbyn all the more

First published by The Independent, 8th August 2016

watson-corbyn

Today the High Court ruled that it is unlawful for Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) to bar 130,000 new party members from voting in the upcoming leadership election. Five Labour members took the NEC to court over the restrictions imposed on their right to vote, and were vindicated in a historic victory for Jeremy Corbyn, those who support him, and ordinary members forced to pay a £25 “supporters’ fee” on top of their party dues.

The NEC has endeavoured to block Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters at every opportunity, even forcing him to threaten legal action to ensure that his name appeared on the leadership election ballot. Although Corbyn’s leadership splits public opinion, it’s undeniable that he has swelled the ranks of Labour party membership to heights unseen even under Tony Blair. He commands huge turnouts at rallies up and down the country, and has energised a generation of young people who are statistically more unlikely to be politically engaged.

Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership bid and subsequent election inspired me to become a full Labour party member. He was the only candidate with a clear anti-austerity agenda, and he demonstrated a commitment to a politics free of smear or personality contest window-dressing. Voting for Corbyn in 2015 didn’t feel like making a compromise or choosing the lesser of several evils. To me, his policies are common sense promises that address Britain’s growing wealth divide directly.

I don’t think it’s fair that the poorest and most vulnerable in society are penalised while corporations and wealthy individuals are able to avoid paying the taxes they owe, with major accountancy firms advising government on policy and writing in loopholes to benefit themselves and their clients. University graduates should not be saddled with enormous debts, and others priced out of achieving their academic potential altogether.

We should be encouraged to use public transport, instead of being charged rip-off rail fares. Inequality of pay for women and young people should have long been abolished, as should zero hours contracts. I want to see us invest in green solutions to protect our planet and create new jobs, rather than pissing away billions on nuclear warheads designed to cause devastation and genocide.

I’m also keen to stand behind a party leader who doesn’t curry favour with media moguls who have undue influence over British politics and seek to retain the status quo. Labour should be a party that promotes fairness and equality, and protects the interests of ordinary people, not just the privileged few.

It doesn’t matter how many times the parliamentary Labour party (PLP) or political pundits (usually older, financially secure and based in London) throw around their accusations of unelectability, a split Labour party, or “dangerous socialism”. The policies that Corbyn champions are meaningful to hundreds of thousands of people, and absolutely necessary if we’re serious about building a fairer Britain that works for the good of everyone.

The Labour coup was a disgrace and the MPs involved revealed themselves as no better than bickering children. They disrespected the party members they’re elected to represent and showed major disloyalty towards a leader elected with the largest mandate in modern Labour party history.

With regard to the NEC, it’s highly disheartening that Labour members have been forced to go through the courts in order to secure a vote that should unquestionably been theirs. The NEC decided not to follow their own rules by barring those who joined Labour in the last six months from voting, an arrangement made all the more sourly suspicious as it was so obviously for partisan reasons.

Today’s High Court victory is a signal to the NEC that they cannot ride roughshod over the rights of Labour party members just because they want to slash the number of Corbyn’s supporters in the upcoming leadership election. The involvement of the courts should never have been necessary.

Attempts to dissuade newer members with financial charges, as though our more recent admission to the party makes us somehow illegitimate, will not stand. The NEC has been clearly quashed in its attempt to pervert the democratic process. Come September, if Labour party members wish to re-elect Corbyn, we absolutely will.

Drowned in Manchester – Summer 2016

First published by Drowned in Sound, 19th July 2016

Summer in Manchester is all about music. It’s festival season, we’ve had at least one spell of warm weather, and the city is buzzing with anticipation for approaching holidays, and the prospect of cold beers and barbecues. As always, Manchester’s best up and coming artists are playing live shows and releasing diverse, innovative, and often completely DIY records that can be your soundtrack for the summer.

NEWS

Dot To Dot returned to Manchester for another epic urban festival instalment on 27th May, with headliners including Mystery Jets, The Temper Trap, and Rat Boy. Local acts made a splash, with notable sets from Blooms, Goda Tungl, and The Bear Around Your Neck, and there were also some stand-out performances from US outfits Diet Cig and Day Wave. Festival Coordinator Ben Ryles said: “It’s great to see local bands play the festival and then use that as a springboard for other opportunities. We have a huge affinity with the scene in Manchester and I think that shows in our bookings for Dot To Dot and our other concerts in the city”.

On 11th-12th June, thousands of revellers arrived in Manchester for Parklife, an independent festival and the brainchild of the Warehouse Project brigade. Parklife celebrated its 7th anniversary this year, with a strong line-up featuring The Chemical Brothers, Craig David, Ice Cube, Chase & Status, Bastille, and Jess Gynne. Parklife has proved so popular that the 70,000 strong event has been moved from Platt Fields in Rusholme, to Heaton Park.

Ben Thompson, one-half of the successful punk band Nai Harvest, and his partner Meg Williams have joined forces to create Luxury Death, a lo-fi indie rock project originating in their bedroom. Thompson will be on guitar and vocals, and Williams on keys and vocals, with a full band for live shows. Luxury Death have already been picked up by an independent UK label, and their first single will be coming out in early August. Stay tuned!

Late night bar Big Hands ran a rooftop all-dayer on 25th June, presented by Only Joking Records, Gold Soundz, Family Tree, and Fuzzkill Records. The line-up included Teeside garage band Girl Sweat, punk/garage outfit Audacity from Fullerton, California, Manchester’s indie/surf three-piece Beach Skulls, and garage rockers Fruit Tones.

On 29th June, all-female indie pop trio Peaness, opened for Glaswegian three-piece Paws at Soup Kitchen. The Peaness girls have also recently released their first single ‘Oh George’, a foot-tapping, joyful indie gem.

GIGS

Manchester’s beloved Deaf Institute turns eight years old this year, and the venue is throwing a massive birthday party on 12th August. There will be live music from Manchester/London-based Everything Everything (their 2016 albumGet To Heaven is out now), Marple indie pop five-piece Dutch Uncles, and Manc techno legend DNCN, plus DJ sets from Mark Riley, Doodle, Girls On Film, You Dig?, Piccadilly Records, Spotifriday, So Flute, Bophelong, and Gold Teeth.

West Coast neo-punk twin brothers The Garden will be playing an intimate gig at Fallow Café on 27th August. This falls on the Saturday of the bank holiday weekend, and tickets are already selling out.

Also on 27th August, Bad Habit Events presents a ‘Secret Summer Forrest Rave’ in an as-yet undisclosed Manchester location. Details are thin on the ground at this point, but there will be three stages set up, with sets from deep tech, minimal, deep house, and psy-trance DJs. If you’re interested, the best thing to do is join the Facebook event and wait to be messaged with more details.

RELEASES

Current Mancunian favourites Spring King launched their first album, Tell Me If You Like To at Manchester’s Band on the Wall on 10th June. Hotly tipped by both Zane Lowe and Sir Elton John, Spring King’s album is a riotous blend of noise guitar and spirit-lifting choruses. Distortion-heavy and garage-influenced, Tell Me If You Like To is a record for anyone who likes their British indie suffused with spiky intensity.

The 10-track offering showcases plenty of Spring King’s previously released material, including ‘Who Are You’, ‘Demons’, ‘The Summer’, ‘Detroit’, and ‘Rectifier’, making it difficult to imagine where the band will go with their second album. Tell Me If You Like To is released by Island Records.

Surf-pop three-piece Blooms released their second single ‘Porcelain’ on 16th June, premiering the track on DIY Magazine. With dreamy, haze-soaked guitars, the single’s verses and chorus are undeniably catchy, but the instrumental breaks are where ‘Porcelain’ really shines. It’s a highly personal piece of music, with the lyrics describing the impact of caring for a loved one who struggles with mental illness. ‘Porcelain’ demonstrates Blooms’ range, and provides a sense of depth and maturity, tempered with the uplift of the memorable guitar riffs and melody.

For fans of Fat White Family, neo post-punk five-piece Cabbage are released their debut EP Le Chou on 10” vinyl on 30th June. They’re known for chucking vegetables into the crowd during their packed sets, by Cabbage are more than a gimmick outfit. The album’s lead single ‘Kevin’ is suffused with dark humour, rich guitars, and a heavy psych feel. Other stand-out tracks include the tongue-in-cheek ‘Contactless Payment’ and ‘Austerity Languish’, 2:26 minutes that just beg to be jumped to in a sweaty, darkened room.

Manchester wavey/psych quartet Caesar are releasing their first tape with Blak Hand Records this week, and the A-side ‘Hazey’ is already available on Soundcloud. Expect plenty of reverb and delay, plus some heavy tracks lasting around 6 minutes long. You can catch Caesar at Gulliver’s on Tuesday 21st June, sharing a bill with TVAM, Dirty Heels, and Lavender.

For more amazing Manc offerings, check out our Drowned in Manchester playlist.