Grenfell Tower, mobs, and Justice

At least 30 people have died in the Grenfell Tower fire. That is the highest number of deaths in a single incident in the UK since the 7/7 attacks (55), a number it seems likely to surpass over the coming days. That would leave only Hillsborough (96), the Aberfan Disaster (144), and the Lockerbie bombing (270) as higher totals in the last half century.

The Daily Express has asked if EU regulations resulted in the choice of cladding which encouraged the spread of the fire. The answer is no – the cladding is banned in Germany. A little bit of investigation would have told the Express reporters the idea they were suggesting was untrue.
The Daily Mail has printed a story drawing attention to the individual whose fridge apparently started the fire.
The premise of the Daily Mail’s article overlooks the fact that the fire would have remained small in scale had there not been more systemic issues, and risked turning residents’ anger towards an ordinary man who will probably be suffering with extraordinary trauma.The story will have had to pass through a number of editorial and legal staff, there is no way that none of them know how a fusebox works.

Continue reading “Grenfell Tower, mobs, and Justice”

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The Despicable DUP

As we write, it seems certain that the Tory Party will enter into some sort of power-sharing deal with the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party, to take them over the 326-MP mark they need to have a Parliamentary majority. Their leader, Arlene Foster, has said that a deal would “cost them a lot”. So who are the DUP?

They opposed the decriminalisation of homosexuality and abortion in Northern Ireland. Jim Wells, until 2015 the Health Minister, has claimed that children raised by gay parents are “far more likely to be abused or neglected”. In November 2015 they vetoed a Northern Ireland Assembly decision to legalise gay marriage. They’ve been involved in corruption scandals around the misuse of subsidies for housing and renewable energy.
According to Roger Stanyard of the British Centre for Science Education “a core of, maybe, around half a dozen very senior politicians within the DUP” have been using their positions to promote Young Earth religious-based pseudoscience. Continue reading “The Despicable DUP”

Goldsmith’s Folly

This post first appeared on our Facebook page.

Zac Goldsmith has resigned as Tory MP with the intent of making the by-election a referendum on the unpopular Heathrow expansion. Although such a ‘referendum’ would be informal and abstract, it’s unlikely to be the major factor when locals decide where they will cast their vote.

The Tory Party will not stand a candidate, and it appears that UKIP will not either. This leave’s Goldsmith’s main opponents as Labour, Liberal Democrats and the Green Party, all of whom share Goldsmith’s opposition to Heathrow. If there is no pro-expansion option on the ballot, how can the by-election possibly be a referendum on the Tory Party’s policy of Heathrow expansion?

The Errors and Xenophobia of Theresa May

Here at 224 we try to be politically open-minded. Though we are very definitely lefties, we consider it important to be patient and understanding when in discussion with those we disagree with. But right now, we are very, very, very angry. It’s been a rough time for Britain’s reputation as a tolerant, intelligent, outward looking nation. Two recent pieces of Tory policy stand out as being particularly horrific.

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Newspaper headlines, October 5th, 2016

Home Secretary Amber Rudd announced plans to publish the proportion of foreign workers a company employs, in order to shame them into employing more British workers. But if the government plans to encourage a sense of shame at employing foreigners, then they will create an environment where managers strongly consider hiring less qualified British workers over their more qualified immigrant rivals. The solution to underemployed British workers is not to rig the hiring process in their favour, but to invest in opportunities for British talent to be trained, to be able to compete with foreign workers on an even basis. The problem needs to be addressed at the root. That takes patience, intelligence, and money.

Continue reading “The Errors and Xenophobia of Theresa May”

Lucas, Bartley and Womack: The Future of the Green Party

Last weekend saw the Green Party of England and Wales’ autumn conference, and the formal announcement of the Green Party’s new leadership team – Caroline Lucas and Jonathan Bartley as joint-leaders, and Amelia Womack as Deputy Leader.

Lucas and Bartley’s victory was not a surprise, but perhaps the size of their victory was (87.7% of the vote, 81% clear of their nearest rival). This is despite some displeasure at the manner of the announcement they’d be standing (an article in the Guardian the day before formal nominations opened). Lucas had previously suggested she may continue with the decision she made in 2012 – to step aside from the leadership so that, among other benefits, more faces could make a name for themselves, and build a national reputation. Deputy Leaders Amelia Womack and Shahrar Ali among those suggested as possible candidates, as well as MEP Molly Scott-Cato. Continue reading “Lucas, Bartley and Womack: The Future of the Green Party”

The Importance of Political Narrative

Telling stories is an important part of who we are, as a nation and as a species. There’s a huge amount of data thrust at us by the world, and, given that we can’t be experts in everything, the stories we tell ourselves and others are a very useful short-hand to help us make sense of the chaos around us.
By failing to realise the importance of storytelling, politicians and voters underestimate the ability of influential leaders to shape public opinion, rather than just chasing it.

In this essay we’ll begin by examining two the standard narratives that have been constructed around the 1983 and 1997 general elections; we’ll look at the part the idea of ‘economic competence’ played in returning the Tory Party to power in 2015; we’ll examine the way people latch onto tangible details over more important but more abstract details; move on to look at Labour’s messaging in the 2015 general election and the question of whether Miliband’s Labour or the SNP were more left-wing; examine debates around the minimum wage and the living wage; look at contemporary failures of political journalism; and then ask whether Jeremy Corbyn is electable.

Continue reading “The Importance of Political Narrative”

The Fight Against Climate Change

This post first appeared on our Facebook page.

  • For the past 150 years, global temperatures for the previous 12 months have been recorded at the end of each month (Jan-Dec; Feb-Jan, etc.)
  • September 1997–August 1998 was the hottest 12-month period on record at the time, in part because of El Nino.
  • It’s now in 60th place.
  • Sep97-Aug98 has been surpassed by yearlong periods in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2014, 2015, and 2016.
  • Many of those years weren’t even aided by El Niño events; unassisted global warming made them hotter than Sep97-Aug98.
  • Despite stating his aim to have “the greenest government ever” in practice David Cameron’s government diverted funding away from renewables and towards fracking – an industry as under-developed and inefficient as any renewable industry.
  • On July 13, 2016 Theresa May, the new PM, abolished the Department of Energy and Climate Change.
  • Responsibility for tackling climate change will probably now fall to the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, headed by Angela Leadsom. According to Leadsom, in May 2015 she wasn’t sure if climate change was real. (Though by October 2015 she was “completely persuaded.”)
  • Global temperatures have been steadily rising above the average 1880-1899 baseline. In 2015 the overall rise was above 1°C for the first time. In 2016, the rise is predicted to be around 1.3°C.

2016 GISTEMP LOTI mean anomaly prediction (climate change)