Labour’s answer to #sadmanonatrain breaks an illusion

Jeremy Corbyn never seems good at taking pressure from the press. Over the past few days, his bubble has once again burst, and once again Jezza proceeded to just get a bit angry when people kept asking him about sitting on the floor of a train. As it happens, Virgin Trains now find themselves in a bit of trouble for releasing the footage that fuelled these questions.

On a weekly basis, the wheels seem to be coming off poor old Jeremy’s wagon. But despite accusations of support for the IRA, making friends with Hezbollah, or generally being quite far on the left (check out this Spectator blog, it lists them), the bus keeps on rolling. Yet I wonder whether this might be slightly different.

Corbyn has ignited political passions and sparked a revolution (known as Momentum, to you and I). He has sold himself as a principled man, who stands for honesty, integrity and justice; you’d be forgiven for thinking that these values had evaporated from the British political zeitgeist.

Yet suddenly, Richard Branson has released CCTV from one of his trains. The train, allegedly so crowded as to be standing room only (amateurish commuting really, if he wants overcrowding Jeremy should try the West Country),  was so busy he had to sit on the floor. Once there, Jeremy filmed a video, making a point about overcrowding and a need for re-nationalisation of the railways. But, and here’s the big ‘shock horror’ moment, that fateful CCTV video suggested the train wasn’t overcrowded at all

This man who has portrayed himself as a pillar of honesty amidst a murky grey sea of lies, darned lies and expenses, was apparently no better than the rest of them. Not great timing, considering the upcoming leadership elections, but this is just the latest in a long line of issues cropping up in the run up the ‘Smith vs Corbyn’ showdown. There have been accusations of lunacy, discrimination, betrayal and some rather odd policy ideas (plus Ice Cream?).

Anyway, Corbyn’s campaign team seemed rather nonplussed by the incident swiftly labeled #traingate, thought their initial attempts at explanation were a little, uh, odd. “Children are small, they might have been hiding behind the chairs,” they exclaimed. “There were bags on the seats,” they cried.

Too polite to ask someone to move a bag perhaps? That would be music to the ears of Mrs Cameron; perhaps the incumbent Labour leader has suddenly become so British that he’s bound to be found learning the national anthem soon enough.

 

 

 

The Advance Politics’ Olympics

The last two weeks has been an exciting time for sport, in particular, Team GB with their record-breaking medal haul in Rio. But the Olympic fun isn’t all over because there is a new Olympic Games in town. The Advance Politics’ Olympics, here’s a rundown of the action so far.

The Labour Party Boxing event is about to head into its sixth round although feels like the tenth. The champion Jeremy ‘Mandate’ Corbyn is being challenged by Owen ‘Electable’ Smith. Both have been throwing strong punches but with little accuracy, with every punch going straight in the face of the party itself. Owen boasts a strong team behind him with both Sadiq Kahn, Kezia Dugdale and 172 MP’s and MEP’s. Sadiq quickly whispers Jeremy’s weaknesses to Owen, a right hook of antisemitism allegations and an uppercut of EU referendum failure. Jeremy has no one in his corner to talk through strategy, but the crowd is full of his adoring fans cheering his name. Tom Watson, who’s manning the doors, becomes increasingly worried many have confused the event with a TUSC meeting next door. Meanwhile, with the bout clearly going to the judge’s verdict, ratings have plummeted with the majority of the general public preferring ‘Come Dine with Me’. All the while no one has noticed the beaten up referee lying on the floor knocked out after taking 5 rounds worth of stray punches, we wonder if they will ever recover.

Elsewhere at a small athletics track in Berkshire, Theresa May is running in the Brexit 100m Sprint. However, somebody forgot to tell Mrs May this was, in fact, a sprint. instead, she believes it is actually a walking race, leaving her Team pretty red-faced after she suggested she was the fittest athlete to be selected, announcing ‘Brexit means Brexit’ before the Race. EU leaders and 52% of the public wait at the finish line getting increasingly frustrated at her lack of progress down the track, while the other 48% sit at home taking a sigh of relief or enquiring about emigrating to New Zealand.

Other events include the UKIP Judo tournament, which like the actual sport is impossible to understand and to make things worse the top contender was late, leaving the tournament full of amateurs. And finally, The Southern Rail javelin competition where the RMT, looking a few years past its prime tries to show they still have it, but instead hit a crowd of unsuspecting commuters and blames its fellow competitor.

Want economic growth? You need STEM!

 

You would be forgiven for thinking that A Level Results Day (Today, 18th August) was all about teenagers finding out whether or not they need to take out £40,000 (possibly more) of student loans to fund a degree. What we often neglect to remember is that these bright eyed and bushy tailed graduates to be, or more specifically their degree subjects, matter a great deal to the future success of our nation. This has never been more true, especially considering the UK’s recent decision to leave the European Union.

The United Kingdom has always been at the forefront of engineering innovation. Manufacturing is the back bone of a strong economy; powerhouse giants like Rolls Royce, Jaguar Land Rover, Dyson, all need technology minded graduates. Yet with ever increasing numbers of students heading to university, these big companies are crying out for more STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) graduates.

It isn’t just top engineering firms that need graduates; technology companies, at the forefront of innovation in computing technology are also struggling. The verdict from all this? Not enough people are going to university to study STEM subjects.

Of course, the answer in years gone by would have been to recruit the skills we lack from overseas. Yet now the UK suddenly doesn’t look half as attractive to young european graduates as it once did, especially given that some EU nationals have already decided to leave following Brexit. But to my mind, the problem with STEM is not just about recruiting for industries that are vital to our economy.

We have always had a very touchy relationship with STEM, especially mathematics. Despite the UK bringing the world mathematical greats like Isaac Newton and Alan Turing into the world, we seem to associate mathematics with nutty professors and boffins locked in darkened rooms. As a mathematics student (hopefully soon to be a mathematics graduate!) I completely reject this ideology.

Maths, and more generally STEM, are at the basis of the modern world. Everything from the device you’re reading this on, to the chair you’re sat in have made use of STEM at some point in their operation or manufacture. STEM isn’t nerdy, STEM isn’t boring. STEM is the creative forefront of British innovation, solving problems and designing world beating products to make the world a better place.

STEM matters. On this results day, lets hope that STEM can start to regain the place it deserves amongst students, and that we can start to fight the ‘STEM Gap’ that is growing in the UK.

 

Brexit: A disaster for our universities and students

The UK boasts some of the best learning and research institutions in the world. Leading the way in a variety of disciplines and developing key technologies for the modern world. Everything from Graphene and MRI to the Internet and the Computing architecture 98% of our mobile phones use came out of the UK. Research and the development of new professionals for our industries is vital to our economy and advancement.

Andre Geim and Kostya Novoselov  discovered the new material Graphene
 whilst working at the University of Manchester

But Brexit has caused a huge headache for our Institutions for many reasons. Firstly, co-operation with other institutions around the world is clearly vital for continued prosperity and leaving the EU may a hinder the possibility of involvement of future European research projects with concerns already being raised. In addition, ERA funding currently provides 11% of the research income to Russell Group universities, if the access to this funding changes under our renegotiation this could increase the funding gap many of our universities are already struggling with and may increase pressures for further rises in the tuition fee cap.

Research funding is not the only income that will suffer. Currently all EU nationals are eligible for ‘Home Fees’ when studying in the UK, this has attracted some of Europe’s brightest to our universities with over 125,000 EU nationals studying in the UK if fees and it is predicted these students contribute £3.7Bn into the British Economy supporting 34,250 jobs. This also ignores the EU nationals that continue to live in the UK after their studies and help make further advances in research. If we don’t continue to support EU students wanting to study in the UK we may find less come to study here again reducing income if this gap isn’t filled by our own students.

Russel Group universities, our leading research institutions may struggle
 to receive funding sufficient funding for projects

But less about the universities themselves, let’s talk about the students. Leaving the EU could be detrimental to the opportunities available to us. Firstly, it may hinder our chances of studying in Europe if we are required to pay Non-EU rates. Also many of my university colleagues have had the opportunity to undertake paid industrial placements in Europe, a great life experience. But If the ability for Britons to work in the EU changes this could affect the opportunity for us to have this experience. In addition, The Erasmus programme currently offers scholarships enabling EU students to travel abroad to study for a year, if these links are broken between our institutions It would be very difficult for our students to undertake a year abroad especially without the Erasmus grant.

Overall the UK needs to be careful on how it implements Brexit to avoid huge issues for such an important industry in our country. We have already seen some work with Philip Hammond announcing plans to continue funding for EU backed research projects but so much more work will be needed to done in the years to come to keep the bonds between our universities and the EU together and protect the quality of education we enjoy.

The Labour Party – An Outsider’s Perspective

Today, the fate of the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) was sealed. Supporters of Jeremy Corbyn, the party’s embattled incumbent, successfully fought a campaign in the High Court to win the right to vote in the upcoming leadership election. This all came about when the party’s National Executive Committee ruled that members who had joined Labour after January 12th would be ineligible to vote, unless they paid an extra £25.

This is a key victory for Corbyn and his supporters. He has been able to rally “grassroots” supporters, and generally these newer members are far more likely to support Corbyn than they are to support the welsh challenger, Owen Smith.

An appeal has been launched against the High Court’s decision, so this situation is subject to change. But it’s clear that the problems the PLP is facing are coming to a head.

If this ruling by the High Court is upheld, then Corbyn will undoubtedly win the leadership election. This then creates a very interesting situation – a party leader will be elected with no support from his parliamentary party. There is no doubt in my mind that the PLP will then split irreversibly, with Corbyn’s small band of MPs rallying around whilst the remainder will try and form a new centre-left initiative to face the Tories.

Three groups stand to benefit from this (and neither are Labour); Firstly, the Conservative party will be overjoyed at this news, as unchallenged Tory rule is pretty much guaranteed for at least the 2020 General Election. Second, UKIP will be licking their lips at the thought of snatching up ‘classic Labour supporters’ – the working class Brexiteers who have felt increasingly alienated by the Labour party. Finally, the Liberal Democrats (remember them?) will see this as a chance to snatch the centre-left ground and establish themselves as a serious political party. I for one know many, many Labour supporters who are considering turning to the Lib Dems, should Corbyn win his election.

So Tories in power, UKIP surging in popularity, the Lib Dems resurgent – could the political landscape change so drastically again?

The leadership election is a month and a half away, so I would like to add a pinch of salt with my predictions; these days we should know better than trying to predict political decision making!

We need a strong stance on mental health

 

Mental health has been a topic very close to my heart for a very long time, with mental health affecting myself and many people around me. Over my time working in student radio I had the opportunity to produce a radio show for Mental Health Awareness Week. Something I’ve found especially in the student environment is that social attitudes towards Mental Health are very positive and the work of charitable organisations and volunteers is phenomenal in helping people in need. But these Charities should just be a small helping hand in a developed country like ours, we should expect a strong national service dedicated to mental health. However, something I also found during my research is how the standards of treatment for people with Mental illnesses has not been improving and in some cases is failing horribly.

During her inaugural speech in front of Number 10 Theresa May highlighted ‘If you suffer from mental health problems, there’s not enough help to hand.’ And I completely agree Mrs May we see ourselves in a position where up to four in five children are denied access to treatment in England. Where we have the highest self-harm rate in Europe and has been shown to be rising in young people. Where the amount of people seeking help is rising but funding for mental health trusts is falling. Where the number of psychiatric nurses has fell by 1.4% between 2010/11 and 2014/15. And where we have seen the quality of service drop between 2014 and 2015.

This isn’t a new problem, realising the faults in mental health services the coalition government announced their ‘No health without mental health.’ Strategy in 2011. Which promised to to improve experience, deliver a decrease in people resorting to self-harm and a decrease in those suffering mental health problems all together. However, it is clear to see this strategy was nothing but hot air and the most shocking thing I’ve found is that much of the failings have hit our children hardest. These are the ones in our society most vulnerable and most in need of treatment to help prevent problems re-occurring in later life, and we are letting them down.

So what are you going to do about it Theresa? Your party has sat in government for 6 years overseeing a mental health crisis unfold in front of you for little or no action but decreasing budgets. Even recent recommendations by the NHS to commit £1bn to services by 2020/21 although welcomed has been concluded as not enough, with 90% of Trusts believing there needs to be more investment.

We need to see a strong powerful initiative on Mental health, a true Mental Health Service, not a bare bones service propped up by the police, GP’s and charities. A dedicated organisation with it’s own resources, budget and objectives so it is truly taken seriously as a public service and can be held to account like any other.