Sunday 25 January 2015

Here comes the Green Revolution

What a week its been for the Green Party. Have they ever had so much media attention and scrutiny?

I've read an article everyday this week about the Greens and today the Party leader Natalie Bennett faced a serious grilling by Andrew Neil on the Sunday Politics show.

The Greens find themselves in the same position that UKIP were in last year. They've had a big increase in their support and membership and not surprisingly this has brought genuine interest and scrutiny to their policies.

This is how it should be. It's all part of the political game - if you want the media and the public to pay more attention to you then you have to deal with the spotlight and scrutiny that your rising popularity brings.

Everyone talks about UKIP taking votes off the Tories but now Labour are suffering the same problem with left wing voters drifting towards the Greens. It's all adding to what will be the most fascinating election in my lifetime.

Although at opposite ends of the political spectrum the Greens and UKIP play a similar role. Last year I wrote about the rise of UKIP and how they have tapped into a general disillusionment amongst many voters towards mainstream politics. I understand this because I feel it myself.

At the time I wondered whether a UKIP of the left could exist in this country. If there was such a party I'd potentially be interested in voting for it.

This probably explains why I've been paying more attention to the Greens in the last 6 months, as I thought they could be that party. We're now at a stage where we can say they are the UKIP of the left but without the underlying bigotry.

As someone who considers themselves centre left I've been struggling to decide what I'm going to do at the next election. I've always voted Labour at General elections apart from in 2010 when I went Lib Dem. As I live in a constituency where Labour has a majority of over 20,000, I thought I could make that switch.

My problem now is that I'm just not convinced by Ed Miliband and not that interested in what he's got to say. As for the Lib Dems does anyone know what they're saying. So what's my alternative?

This is where the Greens have some appeal, I've voted for them before in local elections and they can provide me with a vote where I can feel comfortable and tell the political establishment that I to want something different from the current status quo.

Sounds great but this week like a lot of people I've been paying closer scrutiny to their policies. Having read through them, I've realised I'm prepared to dip my toes in the shallow end of the Green Party pool but I don't want to get in too deep.

I'm all for less inequality, I like the ideas about living in a less consumerist society. I want more affordable social housing, and their attitude towards drug use fits in with my own pragmatic views on the failing war on drugs.

But then you go a bit further and look at their plans on the economy, defence and terrorism and it all starts to get incredibly idealistic. It's like a utopian dream.

The Greens want a country where we intentionally have no economic growth as they believe this leads to further inequality. This quote I read in the Spectator magazine made me laugh:

"I know Ukip are accused of wanting to bring us back to the ‘50s, but at least it’s not the 1750s, before pesky economic growth ruined everything."

No economic growth! When you look at their tax plans on taxing the rich you start thinking: where are their tax revenues going to come from to fund some of their policies when we don't have any economic growth? Am I missing something here?

I'm far too pragmatic for such idealism, I want to deal with the realities of the world that I'm living in! In saying this it doesn't mean that the party's policies should be dismissed.

All smaller parties have a role to play. When people start voting for minor or extremist parties, it's sending a message to the political mainstream that there are issues and concerns that they are not dealing with. What normally happens is that these policies and views expressed are then pulled into the mainstream if they prove popular.

It's like in music when certain bands or genres start off as alternative or underground before the mainstream record labels start taking an interest and before you know it everyone is listening to what was once alternative. This is exactly what happens in politics.

I'm prepared to overlook some of the Green's more kooky hipsterish policies and focus on those areas that I genuinely think are of real interest and concern to a lot of people in the country.

How do you feel? Are you part of this Green revolution?

Sunday 11 January 2015

Unity rally shows the terrorists that they cannot win

I'm sitting down in my living room as the Unity rally in Paris is about to get underway. It's estimated that 1 million people have taken to the streets in Paris to join the march.

It's an unprecedented response to the awful events which took place in Paris this week with the attack on Charlie Hebdo.

The aim of the terrorists is to create fear and division between muslims and non muslims, not just in France but across the West. Today's march and the reaction around the world has shown that this aim has failed and will continue to fail.

On an average day I rarely think about the ideals and values of the society that I live in. The attack on Charlie Hebdo has changed that. The week's act of terrorism is an attack on all of us.

It goes beyond the murder of innocent individuals, it's an attack on the values and beliefs that many of us in the West hold most dear. This is why there has been such a response.

Like many people outside of France I had never heard of the magazine Charlie Hebdo but I understand the value and importance of freedom of speech, expression, the role that satire plays in a free society. I find it offensive that the terrorists think they can stop this!

I'm beginning to take the view that Islamic extremism has very little to do with religion. It's simply nothing more than criminality hiding behind religion mixed in with the ideas of a death cult.

All religions are essentially belief systems and as such should be open to scrutiny, they should be challenged, questioned and when appropriate they should be mocked. Islam cannot be an exception to the rule.

Once today's rally is over, there are of course many further questions that need to be asked. Most importantly why people who have grown up in Britain and France and other Western countries feel the need and desire the reject the values of the societies they have grown up in and travel to the Middle East to take up radical extremism.

Thursday 8 January 2015

Wednesday 7 January 2015

Football has always admitted ex criminals back into the game: Why is the Ched Evans case different?

It seems almost certain that League One club Oldham Athletic will sign the footballer and convicted rapist Ched Evans later this week. Since his release from prison and his stated intention to get back into football, few topics have divided football so strongly.

Whether you believe Evans defence that sex with his victim was consensual you can't deny that his behaviour on the night the offence took place was appalling. I don't particularly have a problem with Evans maintaining his innocence, what he hasn't done is show any insight into his actions or show any understanding or remorse for his victim.

Despite the awfulness of this crime, he isn't the first player with a criminal conviction who has returned to football. I think one of the reasons for the hostility to him returning to the game relates to the fact his offence was sexual in nature.

My concern with the Evans case is that we seem to be entering a situation where as a society we want to pick and choose which people and which crimes we think are deserving of a second chance. It's for this reason I think Evans should be allowed to return to football.

I keep hearing the argument that footballers are 'role models' to youngsters and allowing him back into football sends out the wrong message. The whole 'role model' argument is so boring it's beyond boring. It's another example of how football is elevated to a status whereby anyone who can kick a ball is lifted to the status of role model for millions to look up to.

Perhaps it's just me but when I was a kid I never saw footballers or any sports stars as role models, I admired them but I didn't look to them for my moral compass.

If parents hold up footballers to their children as role models then something has gone seriously wrong. There's also the view that football is "glamorous". That's true to a large extent but the glamour of plying your trade in Leagues One and Two is few and far between.

In the last ten years there's been quite a few high profile cases of footballers returning to football after being released from prison. In 2004 The Premiership footballer Lee Hughes was found guilty of causing death by dangerous driving and was jailed for six years. Following his release he resumed his football career playing for Oldham and Notts County.

In 2008 Luke McCormick was jailed for seven years after pleading guilty to causing death by dangerous driving, as well as a charge of drink-driving. He killed two brothers while twice over the legal drink-drive limit. Following his release from prison he returned to his former club Plymouth.

At my own club Birmingham City, we signed Marlon King in 2011 who served time in prison and had a string of criminal offences stretching back over a number of years.

I ask the question again is the hostility to Evans based upon the fact that his offence was of a sexual nature? Or the fact that he maintains he innocence?

In today's Guardian Marina Hyde wrote a great article on the subject making the point that those arguing for Evans to be banned should protest at lenient rape sentencing rather than expecting football to give a moral lead.

I couldn't agree more. It's ridiculous how we expect football to stand above and beyond the rest of society. Football is entertainment, like the music and film industry. We don't expect music and films stars to be perfect role models.

For much of my career I worked in health regulation. Health professionals such as doctors, nurses and psychologists are unlikely to return to their professions should they be convicted and imprisoned for a serious criminal offence.

In many cases they would be struck off the register. One of the reasons for that decision is the idea of maintaining public confidence in those professions as well as the issue of public protection.

Again football is entertainment - my confidence in football will not be undermined by Evans return. He does not pose a threat to the public by playing football.

As football fans we don't have to like or look up to every footballer - Ched Evans lack of remorse for his victim means he is unlikely to ever gain great public support or sympathy. We do however live in a society where we look to rehabilitate ex offenders and allow them back into employment and participation into society.

Saturday 3 January 2015

Happy New Year: Hello 2015

Hello and Happy New Year.

Welcome to my blog if you're a first time visitor and hello again to anyone who's been here before.

This is now my 6th year as a blogger after I started back in 2009. My blog began as a way of improving my writing skills as I undertook my postgraduate training in journalism.

I remember it took me ages to decide what the topic of my blog should be before I eventually decided it should be a topical news blog where I provided my own comments and opinions on topical news stories of interest to me.

It's been a great journey, blogging has taught me a number of writing and digital media skills which have ultimately led to my career change this year. I've now became a full time professional writer.

Last year I began my new career as a Content marketing executive working for an IT and business consultancy in the City. The consultancy works with investment banks and I now spend my working days writing about the investment banking industry. I wouldn't have this job if it wasn't for my blog.

As the years have gone by I admit that I don't post as often as I used to, blogging is a big commitment. Finding the time and energy to write can be challenging but I like to remind myself that writing is part of who I am.

I now use twitter a lot more as a way of updating my bog with new content and remaining relevant. In saying this, my blog is still a place where I can express myself and publish my thoughts when there's something in the news that grabs my attention.

Looking towards 2015 I can see the biggest story on my blog this year being the General Election. It's going to be the most fascinating General Election of my lifetime.

All the indicators predict we're heading for a hung parliament again and another coalition - the question will be which parties will end up forming a government. It's also going to be fascinating seeing what impact and influence the likes of UKIP, the SNP and the Green Party will have on the election.

I'm going to be very busy tweeting and blogging in April and May. I hope you're around to hear my thoughts.