Friday, 23 October 2015

Meeting Nicky Morgan

At Bridge Club this morning, Nicky Morgan and Rebekah Brooks joined a bright array of knowledgeable women to discuss the ever-present issue of gender equality, principally in politics, and the devastating effect open sexism in the media has on it.

Nicky, who joined the conservative party at the age of 16 and has since become the Secretary of State for education and Minister for Women and Equalities in 2014, began by declaring how politics is about people, how they live and what makes them tick. Women can be just as successful, if not better, at sussing these things out- naturally we have great empathy and therefore flourish in building up relationships within constituencies.  Yet inequality is still unmistakable in the majority of professions nowadays, although Nicky wishes to change this.

Unsurprisingly, juggling motherhood and a significant role in politics means Nicky and her family face frequent difficulties in everyday life. Nevertheless, this doesn’t prevent her from prospering in her career, despite the fact she’s a woman working in a cabinet of 75% males. In saying this, women can’t always assume the role of the victims; we must help ourselves by pushing our limits rather than accepting second best. It’s not solely up to men to eradicate sexism- we can’t simply wait for it to fade; we must be the devices used to rub it out.  Nicky then explained how, when asked to apply for a chief position, it’s part of women’s nature to presume they don’t acquire the desired qualities to fulfil that role. Whilst men would view having 3 out of 10 characteristics in an ‘at least I have 3’ manner, women would steer in the opposite direction, fretting about the 7 they lack. Women need to be more poised and assertive in themselves and their abilities, highlighting the importance of inspirational women role models, such as Nicky Morgan, in today’s society.

Moreover, Parliament needs to reflect the country they are trying to represent, hence why David Cameron is adamant in aiming for both one third of the cabinet to be female by the end of his office, and to completely eliminate the general pay gap in the next generation. The question is how do women rise to, and remain on an equal level to men? Understandably, women can’t run the country without men, but Nicky expressed the solution as involving knitting more women into the agenda. Gone are the days when men would only help men and women only helped women; integration is key when it comes to boosting equality in politics and ultimately boosting equality in aspects of life.
Rebekah Brooks, CEO of News International, then raised the debate is the media sexist, to which Nicky modestly replied with ‘inevitably’, summing it all up. This needs to change. After being editor of The News of The World when illegal phone hacking was carried out, Rebekah’s bore a very turbulent past with the media, and voiced her belief that elements of what she’s undergone has been due to her gender. As a result, a lot of media coverage puts women off going into politics, especially as we’re more conscious of our appearance and intelligence than men, thus sexist media undoubtedly disheartens many budding women politicians. Sadly, sexism is deep-rooted in all forms of media, including online and broadcasting- there seems to be no escaping it. For this reason, Nicky cited the need for a much more systematic approach to spotting young talent and creating pathways to guide the youth, so skill isn’t clouded by fear of bigotry.

From Nicky’s point of view, the lack of women in the hierarchy of politics is not down to the public. In fact, local women really love to see women in their area taking charge in politics- there’s clearly no issue with public appetite. Conversely, the Tories admittedly need to work on parties that select infrequently. This may contribute to the end goal of increasing the number of able women with authority in politics as soon as possible.


Wednesday, 7 October 2015

London Mayoral Hustings

As the London mayoral election approaches it is time for each of the parties to choose who their candidate will be. I recently went along to one of these hustings to see the Conservative candidates that could become mayor. Each of the candidates were surprisingly different despite the obvious crossovers in policies. The four candidates that had been shortlisted for the mayoral candidate were Zac Goldsmith, Syed Kamall, Andrew Boff and Stephen Greenhalgh. Each of them was different with Andrew Boff towards the right of the Conservative spectrum and Zac Goldsmith the clear favourite amongst the supporters. It was interesting to look at how each of them prepared themselves as this was not a normal hustings. Each of the four candidates had a 3 minute opening then a 15 minute interview with the same questions asked to each one. Although it did not supply as much excitement as the usual kind of hustings it allowed the audience to come up with their own conclusion on the performance of each candidate.

Stephen Greenhalgh was the first of the four candidates to speak and his track record put him forward as a likely successor to Boris Johnson. He has previously worked as deputy mayor so his experience in the sector is well justified. However, his nerves were clear to see and the least competent speaker of them all. He may be a very good politician but not necessarily the best at being the front man for the Conservatives in London. Despite this he did make some excellent points on the current housing crisis with a suggestion towards using GLA and TfL land for a “right to build” scheme. This was much like the plans of the other three candidates. Each of them recognised that housing is a big issue to Londoners and that at least 40,000 homes need to be built every year with great success than previous years.

Andrew Boff was the next candidate out of the green room and gave an impression much like the new labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. Andrew went for a more casual look with a non-matching suit without tie in order to appear more relaxed. To myself and a few around me it just seemed scruffy. However his message was opposite to Corbyn and a very right wing candidate. In looking at terrorism and how to combat it in London Boff wishes to knock down unused administrative buildings and reinvest in the policing system. He believes that if the police are asking for more resources such as guns then they should be given it automatically. I understand that he means if the police need something for their jobs then they should get it but his point seemed quite controversial. Each candidate seemed to suggest an increase in policemen on the beat but failed to give statistics and goals. Zac Goldsmith and Syed Kamall suggested that London was a target for terrorists and that we need to start from the grassroots to prevent citizens of London from going abroad to support terrorist groups.

Zac Goldsmith was the obvious favourite for those in the room as the introduction showed. His policy against another runway at Heathrow has made him popular with the green party as well as those in the local area who have to live with the noise of the planes from Heathrow. Goldsmith has a clear popularity with those in his constituency as well with his majority increasing in the last election as well as a majority in a referendum that allowed him to become a candidate for mayor. Air pollution was one of the main topics that appeared and his statement was that the congestion charge does not help the situation with air pollution as it just simply reduces congestion, so an increase in price would not help those around. It would instead lead to more people becoming frustrated with the current Government.

Finally Syed Kamall enthused with energy appeared on stage to round off the night. He was the candidate that surprised me the most, his passion was sincere and his points unique and valid. He suggested that crowdfunding could help to expand cross rail so that those who would potentially use it can invest to help to make it happen faster. Furthermore he would introduce a referendum on a Thames Estuary airport to make flying easy for London businessmen and residents. What struck me most was his plans on the environment. He courteously complimented Boris Johnsons’ work on an ultra-green zone as the other candidates did throughout their interviews. However, he mentioned the use of Zip Cars to reduce emissions as well as the improvement of electric car facilities. This consisted of an introduction of standard car batteries which could be swapped at charging points so that an empty battery could be placed in and a full one taken away.

Each of the candidates clearly want to be the next mayor of London and their desire for that comes through. One aspect that I did not expect was the criticism of the Labour candidate Sadiq Khan whom they each called a machine politician and I certainly did not expect this towards all Conservative voters. All Conservative party members now have the opportunity to vote for their favourite candidate and hopefully the results will be appearing in the coming weeks. I don’t usually look into the short list for each party but it was quite interesting to see the different choices for each party and I very much look forward to the debates between parties once all the candidates are chosen.


This article was written before Zack Goldsmith's selection as the Conservative candidate.

Monday, 5 October 2015

Pompeii's victims didn't suffocate

Plaster cost of a body at Pompeii known as the muleteer. This cast led historians to believe that the victims asphyxiated, as he appears to be covering his nose and mouth from the fumes.

For many decades, historians have accepted the theory that the victims of Pompeii asphyxiated due to the toxic fumes emitted from the volcanic eruption. This was believed to explain why the casts of the victims’ bodies often depicted them seemingly holding up their hands to cover their nose and mouth. But, a relatively recent study carried out by Dr Peter Baxter from the University of Cambridge suggests otherwise. He believes that the victims instead suffered from ‘thermal shock’. This occurs when humans are exposed to temperatures above which they can survive at (above 200˚C). Here, a person’s muscles and body tissues greatly shorten, so that they are then permanently fixed in that position even after death. This creates a ‘boxer-like’ pose which is known as a pugilistic attitude, that several of the body casts at Pompeii possess and which led Dr Baxter to question the original theory.

Tests were carried out by scientists upon the proposition of this new idea. Ancient bones from Pompeii had a yellow colour. Modern bones were heated to high temperatures between 250 and 300˚C, upon which these too became a pale yellow colour, proving that the victims of Vesuvius’ eruption were subjected to these temperatures. This temperature would have come from the direct heat of the pyroclastic surge combined with the heat from the ash and killed the victims extremely quickly (within a second). Therefore, they would not have had time to suffocate from the ash.

Dr Petrone is another historian who disagrees with the theory of death by suffocation. He discounts this because: ‘the typical body posture of a suffocated person is a floppy body, mostly standing in an unnatural position, just the opposite of the ‘life-like’ stance of most of the victims found in Pompeii.’

This plaster cast displays a pugilistic attitude, leading Dr Baxter to suggest that the victims of Vesuvius did not die from asphyxiation.