A Fresh Start, Though Not in All Ways

Over the past few weeks, when I haven’t felt too tired to sit up, I’ve glared at this oddly familiar white space on my laptop screen, not knowing what to write about.

It’s been so long that it felt weird jumping into pseudo-political blogging, and it also didn’t seem right to turn this blog in a completely different direction after a year’s silence just because I wanted to talk about myself.

So, let’s take a round-up of what’s happened politically and personally over the last 10 months or so.

1.  I got myself a (mostly) full-time job. If anyone tells you that working in retail is easy, please point them in my direction.

2. This in turn has stressed me out, and even though I spend most of my day running around like a blue-arsed fly, it appears I’m still managing to gain weight.

3. Politicians seem to be up to more conniving tricks than when I last appeared on here. Most recently it has been Maria Miller (don’t let the door hit you on the arse on the way out, love!) cheating her expenses – followed by the Downing Street chums and goat-herds to claim she “only did it because an MP’s wage is too low”. IS IT BUGGERY! Note: my ire has not weaned.

4. The sky is still blue, politicians still lie, and I’m still pissed off about it.

 

 

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Is Salmond Sincere, or a Product of His Own Spin?

Alex Salmond speaking in Hawick today

Alex Salmond speaking in Hawick today – photo taken by myself

In the absence of BBC’s flagship political “debate” programme giving a voice to right-wing blowhards, I find myself short of things to write about. Today however, I found out the Scottish Cabinet were on tour in my hometown. This fact had not been well reported in local news outlets, perhaps due to the fact our region’s “local” news is based in Carlisle and focuses on Cumbria and Northumberland, was more than likely to pass the newscaster by.

Upon walking into my high school’s assembly hall, I was struck by how much of a publicity opportunity this event was for the Scottish cabinet. There were cameras as I was signing my name in attendance, cameras as I was entering the hall, and a row of photographers in each of the aisles. The stage was set in bright lights, a saltire in lit up on the blue background.

As is to be expected with politicians, the public meeting was scheduled to start at 12:45 and the cabinet did not take their seats until just before 1pm. A short introduction from the leader of Scottish Borders Council leader – David Parker – the wait for Alex Salmond’s appearance was over.

It has been well reported in the media that Salmond is an engaging speaker. Having never heard him speak publicly whilst I was in the audience before, I was certainly sceptical of this reputation. However, quickly it became clear just how Salmond is able to ingratiate himself into people’s hearts and minds. I am no great fan of the man himself but have no issue separating him from the independence debate (something I’ve seen many of the people who have already decided they’re voting no seem unable to do).

Salmond made an obvious attempt to appeal to the people of Hawick by quoting (but fatally mispronouncing) the title of our Common Riding song Teribus [Tear-ee-bus] with his eye on the final verse of the song which appeals to his cause:

Peace be thy portion, Hawick forever,

Thine arts, thy commerce flourish ever,

Down to the latest age they send it,

Hawick was ever independent

From this he made links to the fact next year’s independence referendum comes 500 years after the Battle of Hornshole which gave birth to the song quoted above. His final point was about Hawick’s supposed independence (even though our seat of local government is in Melrose) has never stopped ties being formed far and wide, and if this is true, why can’t that be expanded to Scotland?

Once Salmond had dispensed with this routine which slightly rang with insincerity, he then launched into the sort of speech you would expect: how an independent Scotland would fare in Europe and worldwide; attacked the self-titled Project Fear; and Scotland’s fundamental incompatibility with Westminster’s increasingly insular ideas.

He has already begun talking about the legacy of Glasgow’s Commonwealth Games next year, promising that the region would not be forgotten about (in fact he’s already had a photo op with a group of Hawick, all male, children to highlight the opening of all-weather tennis courts in the town).

In a wise move for his audience, Salmond stayed away from the topic of the Borders Railway as from people I have spoken to locally it is largely useless to those who do not drive. For example, if I were travelling to Edinburgh, I would either be paying the £5 fare for a bus to Galashiels and then paying some extortionate rate to continue on to Edinburgh or continuing to use the bus service and pay one fare of around £7.

Salmond also made an attempt to appeal to the 5th and 6th year pupils who were in the audience, setting himself apart from “Daily Mail-esque comments” and congratulated the young people on their excellent results for another year. He also used Scotland’s young people as another stick to beat the union with, as the UK government has been opposed to an EU proposition to introduce a target for youth employment. In terms of EU membership, he also made the point that to change the UK’s relationship with Europe David Cameron cannot keep throwing his toys from the pram and threatening to leave. Change must come from within.

The whole focus of his speech was on independence and interdependence. Bringing Scotland its autonomy back and providing a voice which has been quietened to a whimper. An independent Scotland is on-par size and population wise with 12 current members of the EU. The interdependence with Europe was also made clear on a local level: the Border brewery has been funded by money from the European Union; in terms of export 170 jobs at Barrie Knitwear in the town were secured when the factory was bought by Chanel, who bought it because they had been using the products from Barrie for over a quarter of a century. He also debunked a good number of Project Fear/Better Together’s myths they have been busy perpetuating.

Whether you like the man or not, he puts forward a compelling case for Scotland’s independence. In a debate which so far has been full of hot air from both sides, it is hard to see where the truth lies – however if you take a step back from partisan politics you can see where Scotland and England are fundamentally incompatible politically. From my point of view things will only get worse – the men currently vying for control of Westminster are so hard to tell apart any man could be leading any of the three main parties, the tabloid media are so bloodthirsty for revenge that the brand of social justice the Yes campaign are aiming for cannot be possible in the current climate.

This post is one of two I will be writing from today’s public cabinet meeting which took place as part of the Scottish Government’s tour of Scotland. The next post will contain information from the question and answer session, followed by conversations I had with the cabinet members themselves.

I Declare After All the Women in History, Jane Austen Isn’t the Best for a Banknote

Is Austen the ideal face to be replacing Darwin on the £10 note? What about the forgotten women of history? My thoughts on providing equal representation on our currency.

Jane Austen is due to replace Charles Darwin as the historical figure on the British £10 note. Whilst I respect Austen’s undeniable talent as an author, I feel the choice of her smacks of tokenism. There are countless other women who have been downtrodden in history who’s achievements have come in fields dominated by men.

I then had a thought – why is there only one variety of each note in circulation? Why couldn’t we have equal representation by having two versions – one with a notable man from history and another with a woman who had similar success in that field, a woman history forgot?

£5 – Elizabeth Fry and John Howard

The £5 is the only British note in circulation to currently depict a woman – Elizabeth Fry. Fry was a driving force behind the introduction of legislation which brought about the humane treatment of prisoners serving custodial sentences.

John Howard similarly fought for the humane treatment of prisoners. He fought for improvements to penal institutions to maintain prisoners’ physical and mental well-being.  He found to ensure prisoners had access to an adequate water supply along with a healthy diet.

Elizabeth Fry is to be replaced by Winston Churchill in 2016 (when Austen will be making her appearance on the £10 note), so really Austen’s appearance will only maintain the current status quo.

£10 – Charles Darwin and Rosalind Franklin

As far as I’m concerned, Darwin’s contribution to scientific advancement cannot be argued with. He introduced the concept of evolution and survival of the fittest to a society still relying on the religious explanation of where the creatures of Earth have come from.

Rosalind Franklin’s contribution to scientific advancement has been largely ignored. She is the unsung hero of the discovery of DNA. Franklin’s X-ray images of the double helix provided the data that Francis Crick and James Watson used to make their hypothesis on its structure. She died of ovarian cancer at 37, just four years before the Nobel prize was claimed by her contemporaries.

£20 – Adam Smith and Joan Robinson

Adam Smith is another unremarkable inclusion on British currency. Although a controversial idea (something I don’t agree with myself), the theory of free market economics has shaped this country to the economic state in which it currently resides. Take it as you will, but his effect on the British economy is undeniable, therefore it is only right that his image be on the currency he has shaped.

Joan Robinson was also an economist who contributed to British economic history. She contributed her name to an economic growth model, and wrote numerous works on economic theory.  Finally, four years before she died, she became the first female fellow at King’s College, Cambridge.

£50 – Matthew Boulton & James Watt and Caroline Haslett & Amy Johnson

Matthew Boulton and James Watt were pioneers in the engineering industry, Watt being the inventor of the of the steam engine with a separate condenser. The business the partnership created also nurtured a lot of engineering talent at the time.

Sadly, there haven’t really been any women who’ve had the same effect on the engineering industry in a partnership as Boulton and Watt. However Caroline Haslett stands out as a female face in an overwhelmingly male field. She was a pioneer of electricity in the home, as she helped women escape from the drudgery of housewifery (obviously it’s not for everyone). An electrical engineer and campaigner, she was the first Secretary of the Women’s Engineering Society as well as first Director of the Electrical Association for Women. Caroline Haslett Trivia – Her dying wish was that she be cremated by electricity.

As there are two faces on the current version of the £50 note, it seems only right that another woman who shone in a predominantly male field join Caroline Haslett. My choice is Amy Johnson. After becoming the first woman to fly solo from Britain to Australia in 1930, the pioneering aviator went on to set a slew of long-distance flying records. She died after going off-course in bad weather while transporting RAF aircraft around the country for the Air Transport Auxiliary during the Second World War.

How would you deal with the current imbalance of historical figures depicted on British currency? Do you feel it is a problem?

Louise Mensch’s Rose-Tinted Glasses on Thatcher’s “Feminism”

I’ll stop adding pictures of Tories to my posts when I stop writing about them, ok? Source: thetimes.co.uk

It would appear that certain breeds of Tory women stick together. Had Margaret Thatcher been a member of the Labour party (let’s face it, had she been around in today’s political climate she could have been), would Louise Mensch be so staunchly defending her as a feminist icon?

Sure, as I have said in my previous post, her election as the first female prime minister was impressive and a positive step towards equality for women politically in this country. However, something must have gone wrong along the way as the UK has a mere 22.5% of representatives in the House of Commons are female. Have we regressed in equality since Margaret Thatcher’s time as prime minister?

Today on twitter, Louise Mensch popped her head up from over the Atlantic to have an argument with Owen Jones (neither covered themselves in glory, petty points scoring over a dead woman is pretty poor show), then proceeded to inform her thousands of followers her screeching voice will be appearing on the 10PM ITV news to talk about Margaret Thatcher in terms of her feminism.

 

Her ignorance is staggering, it truly is. During her 11 years as Prime Minister, she had one woman in her cabinet. One. Every other member of her cabinet was male – hardly a feminist thing to do. Men and women should be on a level playing ground politically, and there doesn’t seem to be anything level about only having one woman in Thatcher’s cabinet.

Thatcher was openly critical of feminism also. She believed that women’s liberation had run its course, “The battle for women’s rights has largely been won. The days when they were demanded and discussed in strident tones should be gone forever. I hate those strident tones we hear from some Women’s Libbers”. She rejected the idea that she was in a position of great privilege, having the money to be able to pay for childcare when she went back out to work.

How any woman can possibly claim Margaret Thatcher believed in equality for her gender when she so openly opposed any opportunity to increase the gender balance in government and in the workplace. A man would be able to make the choice whether to have a family or to work – a woman in Thatcher’s mind was expected to put a stop to her career to reproduce.

Her life and politics can be proved to show equality in one way – she was just as heartless to the working class as any man could be. She actively used her power against working women, and that’s just against like…the rules of feminism (Mean Girls quotes are relevant at any time, it would appear).

Also, I want Louise Mensch to leave this country alone. I actively avoid the Sun, but don’t believe someone who lives in America should be writing about the intricacies of politics in a country she no longer wanted to live in. She needs to but her nose out, and spend more time with her family (the reason she left her job as an MP in the UK). Surely her parenting can’t be done on twitter, so I want her to go away. Perhaps a little break might give her brain cells a rest – she might see she’s not the stalwart of feminism she so clearly sees herself as.

A little self-awareness is all I ask for, surely that’s not too much.

Too Young to Comment on Thatcher?

Since when was a politician’s only effects felt when they were in office? When Winston Churchill was no longer prime minister, did the UK go back to war with Germany? When Tony Blair was replaced by Gordon Brown did we automatically pull out of Iraq? The policies and ideologies which Margaret Thatcher implemented during her period as prime minister are largely still with us today, so why can’t I comment on the life of a woman who has affected the world I was born into and have grown up in – just because I wasn’t around when she was in office?

It really is tiring to justify yourself and your opinion to people older than you – so often you are given a patronising pat on the head like “Well done for trying, but you’re too young to understand.” I understand just fine, thank you. Child poverty during Thatcher’s government was the worst in the developed world at the time (the current Conservative government are doing their damnedest to surpass those levels, though – what a goal!). This surely was helped by her government putting countless working class people out of work by closing shipyards and coal mines, to name just two examples.

The fact she was the UK’s first and only female prime minister meant almost nothing for women of her gender – she actively despised feminism and what it stood for, believing that the women’s liberation movement had gone far enough (in the 80s, really?). She actually proclaimed feminism to be “poison”, surrounded herself with powerful men – and certain publications have been trying to portray her as a feminist icon. Give me a break.

Thatcher became an archetypal Conservative by her striving towards privatisation (aside from the NHS and National Rail, which have since been at least partially privatised by different Tory governments). She is the woman who is behind the massive electricity and gas bills you have received in the last few months, hiding it under the banner that prices will go down due to competition.

Her political ideology has been picked up by Southern republican politicians over in the USA, and surely that can’t be seen by a positive thing. Ed Miliband, David Cameron and Nick Clegg all claim to have been influenced by her politics, further clarifying that all three have been cut from the same cloth – making all three of them unelectable, at least to me.

Thatcherism is still alive and well today, it serves as a driving factor to widen the gap between the richest and poorest in this country. Frankly, it’s disgusting. Surely the only right thing for the current government to do is to provide Thatcher with a funeral/cremation, funded by the private sector. It’s what she would have wanted.

I am bycotting all news sites and TV news until the woman is buried on 17th April. Good riddance to her, it’s just a shame her politics didn’t die with her.

Abortion Rights: Where Scotland’s MSP’s Stand

Would a woman’s right to choose be protected in an independent Scotland should the referendum result in us leaving the union?

After the comments from Conservative MP’s in England, namely Jeremy Hunt, Theresa May and Nadine Dorries (who’s since went off to Australia to eat kangaroo bollocks to “further politics in the UK”), I took matters into my own hands and contacted (mostly) female MSP’s to get an idea of where Scotland’s politicians stand on the current time limit.

This issue could really sell me on an independent Scotland, the knowledge that politicians in my home country are not looking to limit the choice I may at some point be forced to take should I fall into this unfortunate (for me) position.

My initial email went as follows:

Dear Ms _____,

As I am sure you will have read about, over the past weeks there have been a number of politicians both here in Scotland and from the Westminster Parliament who have come out in support of reducing the length of time a woman has to decide upon abortion. Obviously this is not an easy choice, although some politicians and religious figures in the media believe this to be so. Any woman who knows what abortion is like (through personal experience or otherwise) would easily be able to inform these people otherwise.

My reason for writing to yourself and the other female MP’s is that I would like some reassurance that in an open vote you would not vote to reduce your gender’s right to choose their own path. The current span of 24 weeks I find to be reasonable, given that women would have enough time to discover their pregnancy, and would be able to make an informed decision (given you can have the tests for possible genetic birth defects, etc) on whether to continue with the pregnancy.
Limiting this choice is not fair to women who do not find out about their pregancy early enough, and are thus forced into keeping a child they do not want and will ultimately resent. The woman who is forced to continue her pregnancy’s other option is to burden the already overladen care system.

I don’t understand why any woman would want to interfere with another woman’s choice. It is after all, a very personal choice. It is not for (mostly) male law makers to decide whether a woman can have that choice.

If I personally were to fall pregnant at this stage in my life, I could not keep the child. I am now in my early twenties, continuing my education and trying to earn a little money. I have never wanted children and do not see any reason for my mind to change at any point in the future. I would opt for an abortion, as it would be the only way to not literally ruin my life. I do not have the means to look after a child if it were forced onto me. I could not give up my child into the care system as I have friends who grew up, being passed around foster homes and never being adopted.

If the vote does come to pass, I ask you and your other female MSP’s that you remember the women of your constituency and beyond are not all in the same situation. Regardless of your own views, you should not use those to discriminate other women.

If this makes it to your desk, thank you for reading this, Hannah _____

I asked women as I do not feel as if a man can have the final say in a woman’s choice to continue or terminate a pregnancy.

I have organised the MSP’s responses by party, so you can get a fair picture of where specific parties stand on this issue.

Scottish National
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Nadine Dorries Has Crawled From Under Her Rock – Again!

Today I bring you the judgemental eyes of Dr T.J. Eckleberg, sorry, I mean the most spiteful MP working in Britain today. Yes, more than George Galloway, Jeremy Hunt and Theresa May. The frankly terrifying image above is of Nadine Dorries, who periodically crawls out from under her rock to garner attention and hatred from anyone who’s brain fires correctly.

Dorries must have been craving some attention. She’s been out of the public eye for a couple of months, so she’s crawled out from under her rock to receive the cheers, I mean, total ire from the public.

Nadine Dorries hates women, make no mistake.  Don’t let the lilac shirt fool you. Look at her eyes – do you think there’s even an ounce of sympathy in her heart for a woman forced to make the decision to abort an inviable foetus immediately after her twenty week scan? For this woman to have to make that decision immediately, if Dorries were to get her own way?

Nadine Dorries will have a 90 minute opportunity to expel the bile she’s built up since her last attack on the women of this country. She will be proposing reducing the time period in which a woman can have a legal abortion from 24 weeks down to 20. If this limit were to be enforced, a woman who found out her pregnancy would be dangerous to both her and the child would be forced to have an abortion immediately. Before this time frame, the foetus would not have developed enough to see serious defects which would affect the chances of a live birth. So Dorries’ proposal is dangerous to both women and their potentially wanted children (let’s face it, at 20 weeks along you either don’t know you’re pregnant or you want the child).

How can this possibly be fair? The decision to abort a child is not one to be taken lightly. If I were to discover I was pregnant now, I would abort it. I’m ok with this decision, but I am well aware that it’s not something to just waltz into. It’s just doing what I would have to do in order to live the life I want.

So, Nadine Dorries. Do you really hate women enough to endanger their health in order for foetuses who are unlikely to survive until birth? Do you really want to discriminate against women with abnormal menstrual cycles who have no means of discovering their pregnancy, just because you personally do not agree with it?

I really should expect nothing else from yourself of members of your party. It’s taking yet another opportunity to oppress those in weaker positions than yourself. It genuinely sickens me that people like yourself have power over decisions I may have to make should my contraception fail (and seeing as I’m on a pill where I take a break on a quarterly basis, I’d be at least 12 weeks along before I found out). At least I can rest assured that you and your colleagues will not be serving another term in office.

Really, it’s not your place to choose what I or any other woman in the UK does with their body or unborn foetus. Keep your hands off my reproductive rights. If you would shut your mouth about abortion, I could accept the fact that you don’t support it. But your constant belly-aching about the choices others make means I just can’t ignore you and your spiteful actions towards women.

I don’t like Diane Abbott either, but I hope she wipes the fucking floor with you.

I should point out that I am absolutely open to reading anything which proves the viability of 20-24 week births. A female MSP I emailed (post coming later once I have gathered more responses) was a medical librarian and informed me that viability of births in the mentioned time frame have not improved, but survival rates of those born after the current limit have improved dramatically. Leave the limit, and my right to choose the way they are.