Thursday 31 December 2015

Goodbye 2015 - A year in review

As it's New Years Eve, I thought it would be a good idea to write a little review of the year.

As we approach the start of 2016 it reminds me that 2016 will be the 7th year that I have been writing my blog. Admittedly I seem to write fewer blog posts each year but that's not because I'm bored by my blog. It's more the case that writing and maintaining a blog is a lot of work and requires a large amount of dedication and commitment.

When I first started this blog I had just started studying for my postgrad degree in newspaper journalism. My blog was a way of accompanying my studies and challenging myself to write on a regular basis as a way of developing my writing skills.

I've now completed my postgrad training and I'm working full time as a content writer for a Consultancy firm in the City. I spend my working days writing about investment banking and capital markets.

It's interesting but geeky stuff! It means the committment to constantly update my blog with new content isn't always there but I still love my blog as it allows me to write about the things that interest me. My blog is still an outlet to express my thoughts and opinions and when something really grabs my attention I will always want to write something down about it.

Looking back at 2015

For me personally it was the year I turned 40. It's one of those ages where we're meant to look back and reflect on what we've done in our lives and look forward to want we would still like to achieve.

I don't particularly feel 40 (and I've been told I don't look it either). Whereas in previous generations being 40 was considered properly middle-aged I don't feel that old but then at other times it amazes me at just how quickly the years have gone by.

I've become a bit of a London cliché by moving out of London to 'commutersville' that is High Wycombe. As much as I love London, the city is eating itself and is becoming almost too successful.

It's not sustainable that the capital has such high property prices which is one reason why I decided to move out. I can afford to buy outside of London and although I'm currently still renting I can get a lot more value for my money by moving 30 miles away.

The big stories of the year

Well we had a General Election which nobody appeared to predict the final result. Still remember the shock of seeing the exit poll at 10:00.

So we have a Conservative majority government. It wasn't that long ago it seemed that the Tories would never form a majority but it now looks like they'll be in power for the considerable future.

For Labour the election was a total disaster. When it came down to the basics, Ed Milliband was considered less of a leader than David Cameron and Labour were not trusted on the economy. They were wiped out in Scotland and saw UKIP eat into their support in the North.

In response to this defeat, Labour party members decided to to elect the previously unknown left winger Jeremy Corbyn. I'm not going to go too much into my thoughts on Corbyn. You can read them in my earlier blogs.

All I will say is that Labour's membership are quite happy to please themselves and would appear to have little interest in appealing to those voters that will be needed if Labour are to form a government again.

I genuinely believe that 2015 could be seen as the beginning of the end for the Labour Party.

Islamic terrorism

The year began and ended with two horrific attacks in Paris, firstly on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and then in November in a concert venue and entertainment district in the city.

This was truly shocking and the fact that it took place in a city like Paris seemed to make the impact and fear even greater. The rise of ISIS has been one of the most worrying developments in the Middle East in recent years.

It's clear that with the removal of leaders such as Saddam Hussein in Iraq, Colonel Gaddafi in Libya and the civil war in Syria; a number of opposition groups and leaders have been unleashed who may have looked better than previous regimes but in many cases are more unpredictable and worse.

When you look at the mess in Iraq you have to wonder whether things would have been more stable had Saddam Hussein been allowed to remain in power.

I don't feel knowledgeable or qualified enough to set out a plan on how to defeat the likes of ISIS, what I do think is that it requires a long-term commitment and a holistic approach to the problem in terms of bringing about a cease fire in Syria, looking for a diplomatic solution with the various parties. Some military action against ISIS but also looking at other countries in the region particularly Saudi Arabia and how elements within that country fund the likes of ISIS.

The United States

This time next year we'll have a new President. I'm assuming it will be Hilary Clinton and it definitely will be if Donald Trump wins the Republican nomination. What started off as joke is becoming deadly serious. I get Trump's appeal, we've seen that there is a growing disenchantment with mainstream politicians both in America, Europe and the Uk. The public like authentic 'tell it how it is' honest politicians but this can only take you so far.

Donald Trump has tapped into this anger and frustration with a certain section of the American electorate. I suppose the challenge for more moderate mainstream candidates is how they can speak to and appeal to these voters who seem to like so much of what Trump has to say.

I don't think Donald Trump will become the next President but his appeal reflects poorly on the world's only super power.


I wrote earlier this year that guns and race are the two dominant news narratives that seem to come out of America. This year we had the black lives matter movement which has developed in response to the series of high profile killings of black men by various state police forces.

When I think back to the hope that existed when President Obama was elected you genuinely thought that perhaps America had turned a page in its history of race relations. The depressing thing for me that #blacklivesmatter prove very little has changed in America and despite the election of its first black President, America continues to have a problem with black American men.

Although living in Britain, the history of race relations is very different to that of the United States, the story still means a lot to me. Many of my grandfather's siblings emigrated to the United States from the Caribbean rather then come to England. If things had been different I too could have ended up being born and brought up in America and not England.

As a black male what would my life chances and opportunities have been like growing up in America and not England? We'll never know but what I can say is that the risk of being killed by the police simply for being a black man is a lot greater in the US than here in the Uk.


Corruption has been a key theme in the world of sport this year. We've seen the long overdue comeuppance of FIFA and Sepp Blatter and the world of athletics continues to struggle with the issue of doping, with Russia being one of the main culprits.

Sport is no longer just sport. It is big business and politics but I think that the types of people that end up running the likes of FIFA or the IAAF are simply not up to the standards whether they be ethical of in terms of administration needed to work in such organisations.

This year I loved watching the Rugby World Cup despite England's disappointing performance. It was easily the best World Cup that's taken place and it remended me that this country is just brilliant at holding sporting events. I just hope that at some point in the near future we can stage the World Cup in football again.

In tennis Britain actually won the Davis Cup. This really was incredible. For so many years Britain always appeared to be on the verge of being relegated to the lower leagues of international tennis but here we are Davis Cup champions for the first time in over 70 years.

I have so much time and respect for the Murray brothers. What they have done for British tennis is phenomenal. They will be missed when they're no longer playing.

In football we witnessed the unexpected collapse of Premier League champions Chelsea and the sacking of Jose Mourinho. Nobody saw this coming but like the General Election in hindsight there were many signs indicating problems behind the scene.

As great as Mourinho is as a manager he comes with a lot of baggage. His style of management is so intense, so full on and full of controversy that it all begins to take its toll on the players and clubs that he is manager of. He needs to find the secret that Alex Ferguson had in terms of having success but also longevity.

In Chelsea's place at the top of the table we had surprise package of Leicester City topping the table after starting the year rock bottom. It's still unlikely they will win the Premier League but it would be the greatest thing that could happen to football in this country.

We haven't seen anything like Leicester's challenge in the Premier League era and if we looked back for a similar kind challenge we'd have to go back to Leicester's East Midland rivals in Nottingham Forest and Derby winning League titles under Cloughie in the 1970s.

The Premier League has certainly become more competitive due to the amount of money coming in from TV. We're now getting mid ranking clubs who have enough money to not only hold on to their better players but can attract top players who perhaps previously would have played for bigger European clubs.

So there's a few of my thoughts on the last year. There's so many other stories I could have talked about but I'd be here for another week.

I'll finish by wishing you a Happy New Year and I hope 2016 brings your hopes and dreams into reality.

Friday 4 December 2015

Why I'm in favour of Syrian airstrikes

If you want to know my feelings on last night's Commons vote on whether Britain should begin airstrikes in Syria you only need to listen to Hilary Benn's speech below.

The tone, language and content perfectly summed up my own feelings. I thought it was brilliant!

Although I supported the vote for airstrikes I certainly don't believe that this military intervention alone will defeat ISIS, it won't!

What airstrikes should and hopefully will do, is form part of an overall strategy to defeating ISIS and bringing about some form of resolution in Syria and Iraq. As I type this I realise how much easier that may sound but ultimately that has to be the goal.

Many of the arguments put forward by those opposing airstrikes, I simply don't agree with. Firstly I don't believe that Britain will be more vulnerable to terrorist attacks by intervening in Syria. Britain is already a target and our intervention won't make any difference.

Today I've read and listened to the arguments about how innocent civilians will be killed as the result of our airstrikes. The question I would ask to people is this. Do ISIS not have some moral responsibility for any civilian casualties and deaths that may occur?

This got me thinking more about our attitudes on the Middle East and the idea that our own actions have or may have contributed to the problems we see not just with ISIS but across the region as a whole.

Too often we hear about how Western intervention in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, or Syria has somehow contributed to the rise of Islamic extremism. I accept that the invasion of Iraq was a mistake and the consequences are still being felt today but we shouldn't ignore or forget the fact that many of the problems in Syria and across the Middle East are also as a result of Middle Eastern leaders and governments.

Why is there a civil war going on in Syria? Are we directly responsible for this war? No we're not. Syria under Bashar al-Assad and his father before him has been an oppressive, brutal and corrupt dictatorship for decades. The civil war started as part of a regional uprising in 2011 called 'Arab Spring'.

There are and continue to be many questionable regimes across the Middle East. In 2011 we witnessed a number of spontaneous uprising across the Arab World. This included Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya which saw the overthrowing of Col Gaddafi. These revolts were protests by the public and opposition groups against their leaders as a consequence of years of oppression, violence and corruption.

Admittedly these uprising have subsequently caused instability and civil wars and the West may have indirectly supported dubious opposition groups to bring about regime change but ultimately this was a case of Arab people revolting against their own leaders.

The reason I wanted to highlight this point is that by continuing to focus on how Britain and the West's actions in the Middle East have caused many of today's problems we allow groups like ISIS and other brutal Arab leaders to have less accountability for their own actions and behaviour.

As far as I'm concerned ISIS and their ideology is morally repugnant, regardless of Britain's actions in Iraq or Afghanistan it can never be an excuse for the barbarity shown by ISIS.

We hear about how our actions will result in the radicalisation of more Muslims, but if that's the case surely it reveals just how ignorant some of these people truly are.

They're happy to sit back and watch ISIS ethnically cleanse minority Christian groups such as the Yazidis, to watch hundreds of innocent people murdered in Paris but as soon as the West begin a bombing campaign to protect our own citizens they feel radicalised to take action over our intervention.

In the last 10 years and certainly over a period of decades, Western intervention in the Middle East has quite rightly caused anger and resentment throughout the Middle East, but Middle Eastern leaders, religious groups, factions and terrorists are also responsible for their own actions and behaviour and we shouldn't forget that.

We have decided to join an airstrike campaign as a result of ISIS and their poisonous ideology of hate and intolerance, there is no other reason for it and we should not feel guilty about defending our own people and our values and way of life and this is why I'm in favour of airstrikes.