Thursday, 16 July 2015

Stormclouds

Free from the stresses of exams now, I've been having a lot of fun reading some of the year 7s' efforts at writing historical fiction after their trip to Hever Castle (see previous post). Somewhat inspired by all this creativity, I've decided to post a bit of my own Tudor fiction here. This is, in all likelihood, going to be my final post on this blog, and so I no longer feel any embarrassment about my attempts at creative writing. 

I wanted to explore some of the religious tensions of the late 1530s, so this is set at the spectacular event that was the christening of the future Edward VI. It's told from Archbishop Cranmer's point of view, and foreshadows his eventual martyrdom under the regime of Mary Tudor in 1556. Mary never really forgave Cranmer for his role in her father's divorce proceedings and the Royal Supremacy, and I wanted to explore their relationship a bit. 

... 

Hampton Court Palace,  15th October 1537

The ceremony has been a splendid affair, Cranmer thinks. He indulges in a rare moment of whimsy and admires the decadence of the hall. Walls of panelled wood, glowing deep crimson in the candlelight, encase a throng of aristocrats, churchmen and gentlemen wrapped in their finest silks and furs. All had come to witness the baptism of the Prince of Wales, who by now had been carried back to his mother. The little prince could never hope to comprehend the attention he receives, nor the treasure trove of gifts that have been left for him in one of the window alcoves. The archbishop himself has donated a golden cup. He thinks it symbolic, since he has just brought his baby godson into communion with Christ, where he will one day drink of His cup in Holy Communion. It is a shame he cannot get away with offering the wooden cup of a carpenter; that would be the truest chalice for the Blood of Christ.

(Not that it is really Christ’s blood, in the papist sense. He has long ago concluded that transubstantiation is a lie.)

Beside his cup is the gift offered by Lady Mary: two silver bowls, beautifully if simplistically engraved. The lady herself is standing close by him, dressed in the same silver but spun delicately into thread. He watches her carefully as she speaks with the Countess of Salisbury. Red hair is visible from under a silver hood, a juxtaposing combination of fire and ice, of passion and fury and coldness that she has been given every reason to exhibit. His eyes drift to admire the ceiling, where heraldic ornaments bloom from beam to beam in red and white. They bring home the importance of this ceremony; he has, after all, anointed the next Tudor King of England.

But still he shies away from the glory and spectacle of the occasion. He has changed out of his fine archiepiscopal robes, embroidered with gold and encrusted with jewels, and replaced them with his usual white rochet and black chimere. He feels like a shadow with so little colour, and it feels strange for one of the principal actors in this royal performance to be wearing nothing more elaborate than a fur stole.

Truth be told, he dislikes all the pomp and ceremony that this day has brought. There is nothing in Scripture to support the superstitions they have enacted. Where is the simplicity of the early Church as God Almighty intended? Certainly John the Baptist had never concerned himself with such ceremony.

But then, he supposes, John the Baptist had never crowned an heir to the English throne.

“Doctor Cranmer.”

The rest of the room snaps back into focus as he looks down.

“Lady Mary.” A polite nod of the head.

“The ceremony was well done.”

He blinks in surprise. She never compliments him. She hates him. “Thank you, my lady.”

“It was how every christening should be done. I dare say a textbook example.”

Further words of thanks hang on his lips, but he quickly draws them in again. Mary does not smile as she speaks, but instead stares at him pointedly. Her eyes are bright blue, piercingly so, and he averts his gaze like a child who has spent too long staring at the sun.

He senses that she is not praising him at all. She is praising the ceremony itself; the incense, the salts for the exorcism, the sung litany, the Latin liturgy, everything popish that he had spent years trying to dissemble, only for the King to reinstate it with a click of his fingers. Cranmer hopes for Edward to rule one day over a reformed Church of England, yet he has today been welcomed into a Church that it decidedly similar to Rome’s.

“I fear you are too complimentary, madam,” he says somewhat cryptically. He could be referring to himself or the ceremony.

She elevates her chin, apparently finished with social niceties. “Doctor Cranmer, I would deign to speak with you in private.”

“Oh.” He blinks again. “Oh, of course, yes. Very well.”

He indicates to the right, allowing her to go first. They cross the threshold back into the chapel. Half of the candles have been extinguished. Their smoke drifts across the painted stars on the ceiling, as though they are clouds masking the glory of the night sky. “This is assuming, of course,” he says, “that you are comfortable with discussing politics and the like on consecrated ground.”

“We are not discussing politics, but religious matters.”

“Oh.”

“In any case, I assumed it was your sort who disregard the sanctity of churches.”

Your sort. He winces. “You confuse me with heretics, madam.”

“That is only because you decided to redefine what an heretic is.” She takes a seat at the front of the nave in the closest pew. She looks up at the font, still stacked high up on its octagonal platform, waiting for Cranmer to join her. Only then does she turn to him and say with deepest conviction: “I hope you understand that I mean to fulfil my duties as godmother with the utmost sincerity.”

“I would expect nothing less of you, madam.”

“I love my brother with all mine heart. I would not abandon him.”

“Of course.”

“I know you to be a man of great loyalty, Archbishop. Surely I can expect the same from you?”

“You can, madam.”

She stands and walks forward to the platform; a pale hand rises to trace a detail of its patterns and carvings.  She lowers it again, clasping both hands together at her waist, and she turns to face him. Even when standing, she does not hope to dominate him, so short of stature is she. This does not make him feel superior. He cannot feel superior when she can look him directly in the eye.

“And surely I am not the only one who can see an immediate issue with that.”

He bites his lip. It was not one of the King’s best decisions, appointing both an evangelical and a closet papist as godparents. Cranmer hopes it will not matter; that the King’s word will be law, and the law will support the new faith. “I am willing to compromise.”

“I am not.” She moves round to his left. “I am not willing to compromise, but I expect I shall have to.”

“It is our duty as Christians to serve the Ki-“

“The King, Doctor Cranmer, is not God, as you seem to believe.” She sighs, and goes to lean against the platform again. “I do not mean to attack you, Archbishop. I am merely concerned for my brother’s soul.”

He nods. Hands are turned over, palms up in offering. “That is my chief concern also. If we can mend old wounds between us, for the prince’s sake…”

“No.” She does not raise her voice, but it is forceful. “No, I cannot do that. I cannot forgive you for what you have done.”

There is nothing to forgive, he thinks. Everything I did was justified. I carried out the King’s will; I helped to rectify twenty years of error; I have helped bring the English Church back to its apostolic glory. He cannot say this aloud. His hands come together now, and he fiddles anxiously with the ring on his finger, colourfully emblazoned with his coat of arms. He looks down at it as he speaks. “No… No, I expect not.”

“But I will work with you” – tolerate you, he thinks she means – “for Edward’s sake. Only for Edward’s sake.”

“I understand, madam.”

“Because believe me, Doctor Cranmer, were Edward not here, I would never wish to speak to you.”

With that, she bows to the crucifix, crosses herself, and sweeps from the chapel.  He thinks he can hear cannon firing salutes in the City up the Thames, marking her exit with a sound like a clap of thunder. He is left to sit and ponder her words, looking up at the painted sky awash with candle-smoke.  It is to this cloudy sky, rather than the crucifix, to which he addresses his prayer. “If it be thy will, O Lord, send Prince Edward long to reign over us,” he murmurs, “for the preservation of thy true religion, and the protection of thy servant Thomas.”

He does not cross himself as he leaves.

... 

V.G.

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Historical Fiction from the Year 7s



The Year 7s have been hard at work producing historical fiction inspired by their recent visit to Hever Castle. Here are two entries and we hope to publish more soon!

A Meeting with Anne Boleyn

A Deadly Visitor

History Reading for the Summer

The Summer Holidays are nearly here so there may be a little time over the next few weeks for some summer reading. We have created some specific reading lists on Historical Fiction which you may find of interest. They are not complete, and need your input! If you have read any great books on any period of history, please let us know, and we will include them. Here are the current pages...

Historical Fiction: Key Stage 3
20th Century Historical Fiction: Years 9-11
Sixth Form Historical Fiction: Wars of the Roses and the Tudors

If you are in the Sixth Form and considering History at University, here are a few ideas...

David Aaronovitch of The Times has helpfully made some recommendations, which include "The Ascent of Money" by Niall Ferguson, which looks at the global history of finance and "The Birth of the Modern World 1788-1800" by Jay Winik, which considers the connections between the momentous political events of the late 18th Century. Both books would obviously provide helpful parallels with our current political and economic problems.

Tudor Historians may find "Mary Tudor:England's First Queen" of interest as it takes quite a sympathetic view of her and David Starkey's "Henry-The Virtuous Prince" looks closely at the often neglected early years of Henry VIII's life. Here is a further selection of Tudor History books and here is a guide from tudorhistory.org to useful authors.



EH Carr's "What is History" is the classic introduction to the nature of the subject and some ideas of historiography. Although it was published 48 years ago, it still contains many stimulating ideas to get the historian thinking. Other books that follow similar ideas, often written in response to Carr, include Geoffrey Elton's "The Practice of History, Richard Evans' "In Defence of History" and John Tosh's "The Pursuit of History". More information about these ideas can be seen at the Institute of History's special section on "What is History" here and in the Open University's website here.

If you are looking for further inspiration on what to read, check the "History Reviews" sections of the newspapers. Here are links to the The Guardian'sand The Telegraph's history books sections. The Institute of Historical Research also has an extensive Reviews Section

The Amazon.com history section of course has a vast range of books and is worth checking for the latest to be published.

Please pass on any recommendations for books you have enjoyed, and happy reading!

PS: Here is a list of books and articles recommended for old AEA course (for A Level Students who wanted to stretch themselves further) which are worth considering.

Friday, 3 July 2015

589 Days Without a Government

A protest against the lack of action to form a government in Belgium


Between 2010 and 2011, Belgium spent 589 days without an elected government. During this time, they broke the world record for the longest time for a democratic country to go without an elected government, overtaking Cambodia’s record of 353 days set in 2003 to 2004.

The general election on the 13th June 2010 produced fragmented results where 12 different parties were elected to the Belgian Chamber of Representatives from 11 electoral districts. None of these parties had more than 20% of seats. The largest party (the Flemish Separatist Party) controlled only 27 out of 150 seats in the chamber. The next biggest party controlled 26 seats. Therefore, a complex coalition had to be formed to create a majority government. But, the deep division between the Flemish community in the north and the poorer Walloons in the south, made this impossible. The opposing groups were unable to agree on policy issues and form a coalition. Negotiations between all the parties quickly became repetitive and then deadlocked. However, a new election was not called as it was believed that this would produce either exactly the same results or a significant rise in the popularity of populist parties.

During this period, a caretaker government was put in charge to deal with the day-to-day running of the country. It was led by the former Prime Minister, Yves Leterme. A government of this kind is not allowed to implement any major changes, as there is no majority to vote them in – only urgent policy changes or small alterations are allowed. So, in this case, ordinary Belgians noticed few differences in their lives. There were some benefits, however, as the economy continued to grow, exports increased, Belgium contributed to the NATO bombing of Libya and trains were more often on time than previously. Nevertheless, a caretaker government creates some long-term risks. For example, in 2011 Belgium’s debt was 96% of the country’s GDP, and the caretaker government could do nothing to control the situation, so it just got worse. At this time, a survey by GfK found that 57% of Belgians listed the political situation as their most important worry.

Finally, at the end of 2011, Elio Di Rupo (the new Prime Minister) formed a fragile six-party coalition government. This occurred two weeks after an event occurred threatening to plunge Belgium into a debt crisis. Previously the negotiations had been deadlocked, but they all realised how severe the situation had become. The new government was sworn in on the 6th December 2011, marking the 589th day without an elected government. But it is believed that Belgium will split into two nations in the near future, as the division between the Flemish and Walloons causes so many problems and there is a physical language barrier between the two nations, creating significant differences.

AE

Sunday, 17 May 2015

British Hong Kong



In July 1841, Hong Kong was ceded to the British in perpetuity (for an indefinite length of time) after the First Opium War. Following a few months of fighting between the British and the Chinese in China, the Emperor Tao Kuang was alarmed when Beijing was being threatened by soldiers. So, he sent his envoy to negotiate with the British. The envoy (Qi Shan) agreed to give up Hong Kong Island to Britain if they withdrew from Northern China. However, this proposition was accepted by neither the Chinese nor the British. So fighting continued. Until, in June 1841, the city of Nanking came under threat. The Chinese did not want to lose this strategic city, so this time they agreed to Britain’s terms in the Treaty of Nanking. This treaty ceded Hong Kong Island to Britain and exempted British nationals from all Chinese laws, among other conditions.

Then, in June 1898, following mass migration of Chinese from mainland China, the British government petitioned for a land extension for Hong Kong to support the growing population. They were given a larger area than was expected, which increased the size of the colony by 90% as part of the Convention of Peking. However, this land was on a 99 year lease which would come into effect from the 1st of July that year.

In the 99 years that followed, Hong Kong suffered turbulent and testing times. For example, Japan occupied Hong Kong in 1941 during the Second World War, causing food shortages and consequently many people fled to mainland China. After the war, the population dropped to 650,000 from 1.6million. Additionally, in 1967, Maoists rioted in Hong Kong for seven months, at the same time as the Cultural Revolution was happening in China. However, Hong Kong became an incredibly successful colony and in the 1980s, it became one of the world’s top ten economies.

In September 1984, Britain and China discussed Hong Kong’s future following the handover in 1997. An agreement was signed then following years of negotiations, outlining what would happen to the colony. This arrangement led to Hong Kong Island being handed back to the Chinese as well as the islands that were part of the original 1898 lease. The two nations also decided on a ‘one country, two systems’ idea, allowing Hong Kong to keep its capitalist system and to be self-governed for at least 50 years after the handover. Then, on the 1st of July 1997, the highly anticipated handover occurred peacefully and Tung Cheehwa was put in charge.

AE

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Breaking History


The rise of Hitler and the Nazis made history. In a short space of time, Germany had gone from an impoverished and politically unstable nation to a great power set on the domination of Europe. The Second World War and the unspeakable horrors of the Holocaust sent shockwaves across the world, while the alliances and grudges formed in this conflict set the stage for the Cold War, which brought with it a whole new manner of problems for Germans to face.
The Nazi regime set Germany on a new course: self-sufficiency increased, the economic hardship of the 1920s faded away, and new networks of schools, hospitals and roads stretched across the country. Yet a lasting image of Nazi Germany will always be the grainy, black and white footage from Berlin, May 1945. Under the cold light of a grey sky, women bestride the fallen buildings like stepping-stones, clearing away the rubble. These Trümmerfrauen (‘rubble women’) have pixelated faces, but the camera still picks up their stony expressions. When their eyes occasionally flit towards the lens, they betray nothing. Today, these women are a symbol of Germany rebuilding itself without complaint after the war, though less than 5% of the female population of Berlin actually got involved.

Trümmerfrauen in Berlin (Source: Deutsches Bundesarchiv)

 But it was not just the German cities and dreams of a thousand-year Reich that lay in ruins. The Nazis did not only make history, they brought about its destruction.

In one respect, this was definitely the fault of the Nazis themselves. Their culture of propaganda and censorship famously destroyed or otherwise did away with thousands of priceless artefacts and works of art. Also, the fire that burned down the Reichstag building in 1933 – if one accepts that the Nazis were indeed responsible for starting it – would have destroyed decades-worth of invaluable parliamentary records and archival material.

But the harm done to History runs deeper than that. It was not merely the physical evidence that was damaged, but our attitudes towards History itself. It remains a problem both in Germany and here in Britain.

Since the 18th century, much has been made by historians of the German Sonderweg (‘special path’). The premise of this idea is that Germany developed in a different way to the rest of the western world, through its placement of moral and cultural values above politics. Politics was considered a science – concerned with the outside world – while literature, art and philosophy were superior practices that concerned themselves with the soul and innermost nature of mankind. This division in society created apathy towards politics, and so this Kulturvolk (‘cultured people’) did little to either support or condemn the actions of German politicians, including the two World Wars.

The strength of the Kulturvolk - and whether or not the Sonderweg existed at all – is still up for debate, but Germany’s rich culture was no doubt impoverished by the Nazi takeover. In 1933, Germany had the greatest intelligentsia in the world. More Germans had won the Nobel Prize than the British and Americans combined, and the great age of physics was about to be ushered in by Germans: Albert Einstein and Lise Meitner, among others.

However, much of this is now forgotten. A culture of guilt and reticence still permeates German society. Even now, German flags are only ever brought out at football matches, in case an overt display of nationalism would hearken back to the days of the Third Reich. There is in Germany a perceived moral responsibility to remember the horrors of the Nazi regime. It is significant that the largest public monument in the centre of Berlin is the Holocaust memorial, made up of 2711 stone slabs resembling nameless tombstones.

The necessity for Germans to look back and learn from their Nazi pasts has cast a shadow over all that came before. The successes of the Kulturvolk seem insignificant in comparison, and aspects of it have been tainted. Let us consider the words of journalist and writer Florian Illies:

Anyone who still said that they liked Caspar David Friedrich stood accused for decades of not being sufficiently critical with regard to German history.

Caspar David Friedrich was an acclaimed landscape painter at the turn of the 19th century. He has been hailed as the greatest romanticist of his generation, and in many ways was the German equivalent of JMW Turner. His work became less popular as the 19th century drew to a close. Art had become less contemplative and more reflective of an increasingly industrialised society, a society that no longer saw green pastures and stormy skies as relevant. This was to change when the Nazis rose to prominence in the 1930s, and Friedrich’s symbolic landscapes were claimed as icons of German nationalism. From its association with the Nazis, Friedrich’s work was subsequently looked upon with distain. Only recently has he been lauded by art historians once again as one of the greats.

One is inclined to describe the Third Reich as an historical mirror: it places a barrier between the 1930s and ‘40s and the more distant past. One cannot see beyond it, and instead sees themselves reflected in it.

In Britain, too, the Nazis have overpowered all other views we hold about Germany. In 2004, when a survey asked 10-16 year olds what they associated with Germany, 78% mentioned the Second World War. Similarly, the election of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger to the Holy See sparked a media outcry in Britain on account of his Nazi past. Headlines like the Sun’s ‘From Hitler Youth to Papa Ratzi’ prompted Franz Joseph Wagner in Berlin to write angrily that ‘anyone reading your British popular newspapers must have thought Hitler had been made pope.’

Our obsession is understandable. It is not only the Germans who have sought to take moral lessons from these events, and the Third Reich therefore remains a cornerstone of the national curriculum. We also love sensationalism in history. The three most popular topics in A-level History have always been the Tudors, Stalin’s USSR and Hitler’s Germany. Whether it’s Henry VIII or Hitler, it seems our curriculum needs some sort of despot to keep people entertained.

The Second World War also forms a large part of our collective identity. For many, the efforts on the Home Front are seen as a golden age of British patriotism. A far cry from our modern society’s focus on the individual, the 1940s saw men, women and children of all backgrounds banding together to defeat the Nazi menace. One only needs to check the TV listings to find at least five documentaries per week about some aspect of the war, as well as reruns of Dad’s Army, Fawlty Towers or ‘Allo , ‘Allo. It is clear to see that the Second World War – for better or for worse - has dominated popular culture.

The world is still slowly moving on from the events of 70 years ago. Close connections between Britain and the Germany have begun to dismiss the stereotypes of the German people, so that, even if it is still often viewed as a nation of car-manufacturers and sunbed-stealers, Germany is no longer perceived as a nation of Nazis. That shadow is beginning to lift. The anniversaries of the liberation of Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen have also prompted a re-evaluation of the Holocaust, bringing both sides of the war together in widely-publicised services of remembrance.

The anniversary of the end of the Second World War in Europe, celebrated last week, has also allowed us to reflect on the damage caused by the war on both sides, and to what extent the rift has been bridged. In his address at the VE thanksgiving service at Westminster Abbey on Sunday, the Archbishop of Canterbury said:

Our gratitude is not simply for victory-in-Europe, but also reconciliation-in-Europe that followed, neither obviously nor automatically. Peace is more than the end of war: reconciliation dismantles the hostilities which previously separated and alienated us from one another and from God.

These ‘hostilities’ and stereotypes might be fading, but more must still be done. Perhaps in this special anniversary year we can make an exception, but there is so much more to German history than Hitler and the Nazi Party, and we should make a more conscious effort to discover it.

V.G.


 

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Could The Hustings Change People’s Minds?


Thursday 6th May 2015

Natalie Bennett, Nigel Farage, Nick Clegg, David Cameron, Ed Miliband, Nicola Sturgeon, Leanne Wood

Well, what do you know- it’s Election day and things are getting tense! All the parties are doing all they can in the final hours to persuade as many people as possible to vote for their party. You may have seen posters around Nonsuch telling you to vote for the different parties- however, were you there on Wednesday lunchtime to watch the Hustings? Nonsuch has adopted the style of the leaders’ debate (some of you may have seen this on television not too long ago.) If you missed it, here’s what happened...

Each of the Nonsuch party representatives attented this debate to give everyone an overview of their pledges and to persuade people to vote for their party. Three topics were discussed in the entire lunch hour (Education, NHS and Economy), everyone had a huge amount to say!

The first topic to be discussed was Education. Now, this election may seem irrelevant and unimportant to the younger generation (i.e: us), however, the elected party will make changes to the education system, affecting all of our lives, including yours. The Green Party, represented by Hannah in year 12, went first and wanted to “scrap tuition fees for universities” and wants all teachers hired to have qualifications. On the other hand, Lib Dem representative Kerry stated that tuition fees for universities could not be reduced as this would result in universities going into debt. Seems like she’s done her research, but has the Green Party considered the universities fund?

The Labour Party representative, Ayah in year 8 seems to have repeated the same pledges that were in fact made in 1936 by the Labour Party, but were not accomplished. This was pointed out by Sophie from the Tories. She has a point- if the Labour Party couldn’t accomplish their promise back then, should we trust them to try again? Sophie also added that “the main problem is deficit, which Labour created.

The next topic was the NHS and the debate gradually heated up. Both the Lib Dems and the Tories want to fund £8 billion to the NHS by 2020. However, to beat them both in this political race, the Green Party has propsed to fund £12 billion to the NHS. Is this the truth or is this too good to be true? This is the amount the NHS needs to be stable financially, yet it has not been made clear where they are going to get the money from.

An interesting point that was made in this discussion by Ayah was that the NHS was first founded by Labour politician Aneurin Bevan in 1948, July 5th. Ayah repeatedly tried to put her point forward to the other parties that “the NHS was perfect, until the Tories came to power”. The Tories had apparently spent £3 billion pounds, doing nothing but wrecking the NHS, therefore bringing the NHS into this position. Yet, the Tories representative Sophie replied to Ayah saying that the NHS has many “flaws” and could not have been perfect. If it was perfect, then how did these problems arise?

Finally, the representatives came to discuss the UK’s Economy. Lib Dems said that they would borrow less money than the Labour Party and would cut less than the Tories. But is this necessarily a good thing in all cases? Does this mean that funding for the Government will be restricted to improve the country? The Lib Dems wish to re-introduce the Corporation Tax, along with the Green Party. Hannah from the Green Party stated that this was a necessity as they needed “to fund it back to the Government to give to poorer people”.  However, there were replies from other representatives saying that major banks have threatened to move abroad to avoid this Corporation tax. Sophie also pointed out that last year, HSBC, one of the world’s leading banks, had to pay £760 million for the Corportation Tax and were thinking of moving to Dubai or Hong Kong. What are the two other parties going to do about this?

Labour, on the other hand, wanted to focus on the wages of people and one of their pledges is to increase the minimum wage to £8 by 2020 for everyone. Now, this may seem like a good idea for struggling families but why is this not motivating people to vote for Labour? During this debate, Sophie revealed a letter that was sent from the Labour Party to the Chief Secretary saying: “I’m afraid there is no money.” What does this mean for Labour’s future? If Labour comes to power, then there may be no money again, putting the UK at serious financial risk!

http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2013/06/24/article-2347524-1A7C5F28000005DC-357_634x400.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 




The Hustings continued with questions from the audience, including one about the possibility of the parties having to join forces with another. Green Party representative Hannah would rather join with the Lib Dems or Labour not the Tories. Labour was very adamant that it would not join hands with the Tories (which is evident from the conflicts they had during the debate).  The Lib Dems and Tories surprisingly agreed to on a combined leadership if the situation should arise. Is this going to be the result of the Election?

The candidates concluded the Hustings by saying why they believe you should vote for them in the Mock Election. One final remark was made by the Tories when asked why they think Labour is focused on finding faults in the other parties: “The reason why they are criticising every other party is because none of their pledges are any good.”

So who are you going to vote for? Ayah’s Labour Party? Sophie’s Conservatives? Kerry’s Liberal Democrats? Or the Green Party’s representative Hannah? Don’t forget to vote on Thursday lunchtime in the hall!

By SM & TC

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Thoughts on UKIP


In a recent poll, 31% of voters said they would vote for UKIP, if they knew they had a chance of winning.

The main question that comes to mind is: WHY? Why are UKIP so popular?

Firstly, UKIP capitalises on the public's distrust of Westminster politics. This means that the antiestablishment notion of "ordinary folk against the political class" (a direct quote from UKIP's first election broadcast) seems extremely appealing. UKIP's "People's Army" therefore increases with more and more of the politically disillusioned.

Ironically, Farage is far from our shared image of an "ordinary bloke." A white, middle aged straight man, educated in a private school, previously a city broker and now funded by various Eton graduate investment bankers, there does not seem to be much to distinguish him from the other parties it claims to be an alternative to. It seems his strongest link to being an "ordinary bloke" is his ability to balance a pint on his head, and have an "open, easy-going personality" (according to my friend).

In addition, most of UKIP's policies seem to be policies for the rich - their plan to scrap inheritance tax, for example, exacerbating the problem of the rich keeping the cycle of inherited money within a family, and their 35p income tax pledge may actually punish the moderately well-off at the expense of the even richer.

Although recent studies have shown that migrants actually contribute £25 billion to the UK economy, UKIP are most famous for their policies on immigration. Perhaps intentionally, they have exploited the public's fear of immigrants, how they're using our resources, taking away jobs and housing, not paying taxes and exploiting us. They demand "an end to uncontrolled unskilled migrant labour coming into Britain," taking the jobs that Britons could have occupied (yet the only kind of jobs that would be freed up by not accepting any more unskilled migrant labourers would be the kind of jobs not many are attracted to - ie. unskilled labour).

UKIP's immigration policy would also include controlling the "quality" of those who enter the UK - including their health, as well as their ability to work. He even stated that those with HIV should not be allowed into the country.

This scapegoating has increased hatred towards migrants even more than previously, which does nothing for the unified, unprejudiced, and accepting society that Britain should be. Innocent people who just want a better life are being demonised, for problems out of their control.

Many unsavoury characters have been attracted to these policies, including those such as Kevin O’Doherty, a UKIP council candidate who has said that there is "no such thing as a benign Muslim," and has been pictured with tattoos containing Nazi imagery. Another (later fired) joked that storms were caused by the government legalising gay marriage, and Farage himself has said that women who take maternity leave are "worth less" to their employers than men. Although most of these claims are the fault of individuals and not the party as a whole, it still goes to show which party racists and homophobes choose to join.

These are obviously just thoughts about UKIP, their exponential popularity and a few of their policies. You're entitled to your own opinion, but I'd advise you to think twice before you vote UKIP.

-LB

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Rocking UR Teens Report


On Thursday 12th March I had the pleasure of attending a Teen Empowerment Conference at Thomson Reuters in Canary Wharf which I had been invited to speak at by the Rocking Ur Teens company as an #iwill Ambassador along with other young girls and women. This conference was the first event held by the company and it was an amazing opportunity for 13-14 year old school girls to learn about opportunities available to them, meet girls from different walks of life and to be challenged to make a difference and realise their own power.

The day started off with a welcome from the quirky young presenter Remel London and a Keynote Speaker session. This session included speeches from Emma Barnett, the Women’s Editor of the Telegraph, Yasmin Ali, Young Woman Engineer of the Year 2013, and Grace and Amelia Mandeville (The Mandeville Sisters), Presenters and two of my favourite YouTube Vloggers whom I was lucky enough to get to sit next to for most of the day! These women shared how they became successful and how they approached opportunities in their careers. Hearing how they got to where they are now was encouraging and inspiring to me and hopefully to the other girls too.

After this, the students had time to learn more about leadership, entrepreneurship, jobs and making good choices, through workshops in different rooms. While this was going on I was still in the main hall with the other speakers trying to gather the courage to speak to The Mandeville Sisters, that is until my mum took action and introduced me to them for me (thanks mum). A little off topic but that just made the whole event even better! I also had the chance to speak to Remel London about her career and it was incredible to hear how much she has achieved such as graduating with a BA Degree in Broadcast Journalism, becoming a presenter and interviewing celebrities, actors and music acts, including Jessie J, at just 25 years old!

We then had lunch before hearing from graduates, interns and school leavers about corporate life and their involvement. It was helpful to learn how these women chose their courses and how they started life after education. We also heard from Marsha Powell, founder of BelEve UK, and she gave everyone steps to making good choices for future success. Marsha’s speech got everyone thinking about choices and how we make them and everyone learnt the same thing from her speech, make decisions for yourself and make choice that make you happy.

The last set of speeches for the day was by #iwill Ambassadors (myself and two other young women), we were there to represent the Step Up To Serve charity and to talk about our social action journeys and how we have made a difference through volunteering. This was my first ever public speech and to be completely honest, I was so nervous that I don’t even remember what I said! I just spoke about my role as a mentor and how that has opened so many opportunities for me that I would not get any other way. Through volunteering as a mentor, I’ve become a proud ambassador for a national charity, I’ve spoken at an important event and I have spoken to Prince Charles! I believe that my social action journey proves that even the smallest action can make an enormous difference in a community and even in your own life.

At the end of the conference we had a special musical performance from Tendai and then it was over. Before I left I got to speak to the founder and co-founders of Rocking Ur Teens and they offered me more opportunities! One of the co-founders, Jenny Garret, suggested that at the next conference I could have my own workshop to present and Jenny also said it is likely that Nonsuch will be invited to attend next year’s event!

Being at this conference and speaking has taught me so much about myself and how I can make my future better as well as helping others. I’ve realised that every opportunity is important, if you want something and you have the chance to get it, take that chance because it could be the only one. I have also learnt that every mistake counts. I know the women who spoke to us did not become so successful easily and they must have been turned down or disappointed many times before they found the opportunity for them and it’s the same for everyone and it’s so important to embrace mistakes and to learn from them, especially in your teenage years.
S.S.