Tuesday, 11 September 2012

With regret...

It is with deep regret that I have decided to resign from Respect. The last few weeks have been extremely difficult for everyone in the party. I feel necessary relations of trust and collaborative working have unfortunately broken down. I have no wish to prolong those difficulties, and indeed hope that they may now be drawn to a close.

I remain committed to the principles and values that led me to help found Respect. The policies we have fought for need to be voiced as loud as ever in opposition to a political establishment that remains out of touch with working people.

I would like to thank everyone in the party for their support over the years; I wish everyone the very best for the future and in those common struggles for peace, justice and equality that I am sure we will all continue to be involved in.

Salma Yaqoob

While we are obviously very sorry that Salma has decided to leave Respect, we would like to thank her for the great contribution she has made to Respect over the last decade.We look forward to working with Salma in the future in pursuit of our shared values and objectives.
Chris Chilvers   Respect National Secretary

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Good news and bad…

For the last few days I have been in Liverpool supporting my sister-in-law through a difficult labour which finally ended with an emergency Caesarian Section procedure. The good news is that in the early hours of the morning a healthy and beautiful 8lb baby boy was born! I am very happy to report that mother and son are doing fine.

The bad news is that I have emerged from that world into a heated controversy around Julian Assange which is conflating issues around freedom of speech with debates about what constitutes violence against women.
Let me be clear, as a politician and as a woman. Rape occurs when a woman has not consented to sex. George Galloway’s comments on what constitutes rape are deeply disappointing and wrong.

There are many political issues entwined in the case of Julian Assange. These issues cannot be used to diminish in any way the seriousness of any allegations against him. Any individual accused of a crime, sexual or otherwise, is innocent until proven guilty. By the same token, any individual who believes themselves to be a victim has a right to have their grievances heard in a fair manner and not have their allegations belittled or dismissed. This is the cornerstone of justice.

This turn of events may well act to undermine Assange's defence against those powerful forces keen to make an example of him for exposing the crimes of Empire. It has certainly taken the debate around violence against women a step backwards.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Double dip depression

Amidst all the good news about the Olympics, and the national feel good bounce it has generated, you may have missed this story: Britain is getting more depressed.

According to figures from the NHS antidepressant prescriptions rose by 9.1% between 2010 and 2011, costing over £270 million. That’s 46.7 million prescriptions – more than enough for each adult in the country.

A breakdown of the figures show that there is a clear North/South divide with a cluster of cities in the North East all registering the highest rates of anti-depressants, and Blackpool taking the prize for the unhappiest place in the UK.

I am not surprised by this. There is a clear North/South divide in terms of the impact of the recession, with areas traditionally more reliant on manufacturing industry and the public sector for employment have been hardest by the cuts. Unemployment and insecurity wrecks lives. The news that 1,000 people have committed suicide because of the impact of the recession is terrible, but will not come as a great shock to mental health professionals.

However this increase in mental health illness reflects something much deeper about our society than the impact of recession.

Psychologist Oliver James has demonstrated that rates of mental illness are double in those countries most enthralled with the neo-liberal model and its accompanying materialism, greed-is-good philosophy and cultural vacuousness. As James states: ‘Not only would reduced consumerism and greater equality make us more ecologically sustainable, it would halve the prevalence of mental illness within a generation’.

Makes sense to me.



Friday, 10 August 2012

Stop the persecution of Burma's Rohingya Muslims

The continuing killing and persecution of the Rohingya Muslims in Burma is causing real worry and upset  among British Muslims.

For good reason. The Rohingya have long been one the most persecuted minorities anywhere in the world and the latest escalation in violence raises fears of wholesale ethnic cleansing.

What is also shocking about the latest developments is the complete silence of internationally feted democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi and her party, the National League for Democracy.

Press release: Respect candidate backs families’ call for justice

Kate Hudson, Respect candidate for Manchester Central, will join with family members of those killed in police custody, to attend a screening of the award-winning film 'Injustice'. The screening takes place this Friday August 10th at 6pm at the Phil Martin Centre in Moss Side.
The screening takes place on the anniversary of the riots triggered by the shooting by police of Mark Duggan, and is hosted by BARAC (Black Activists rising against the cuts). The film charts the struggles for justice of the families of people who have died in police custody.

Kate Hudson said: ‘Over 1,000 people died in policy custody in England between 1969 and 1999. But no police officer has ever been convicted of any of the deaths. This remarkable film exposes the reality of this deeply shocking figure and calls us to action for justice. Time does not erase the crimes.’

There will be a discussion after the film, including family members of those who have been killed. Please join us at the Phil Martin Centre, 141-143 Princess Road , Moss Side, Manchester M14 4RE. It’s time for justice.

Kate and the Respect campaign team will be taking their message to Manchester Central again on Saturday, meeting at 12 noon at the party rooms at Hilton House, Hilton Street , Manchester M1 1EL .

Press Release 2: For interview/comment please phone 07739 184 335

Twitter: @kate4manchester

Facebook: Kate4Manchester

Website: www.kate4manchester.org

Thursday, 9 August 2012

'The gods of economics have failed'

As was entirely predictable, and predicted, the bankers have simply taken the money and refused to part with it back into productive investment in the economy. The economic statistics attest to mounting misery - a weaker recovery from the initial crisis than from the Great Depression, now a double-dip recession worse than any in 50 years, manufacturing and construction slumping, shocking contraction across the economy as a whole. And the Prime Minister pledges that the savage austerity will carry on for the rest of the decade.

Read George Galloway's latest article in full here

Friday, 3 August 2012

Labour stalwart backs Respect candidate for Manchester Central

Former Labour MP for Halifax, Alice Mahon, is backing Kate Hudson , Respect candidate for the Manchester Central by-election on 15th November.

Mrs Mahon said: ‘Excellent news that Kate Hudson , General Secretary of CND and well-known political activist, is to stand in the Manchester Central by-election. I have worked with Kate on many campaigns. Highly intelligent and articulate she is totally committed to a fairer more equal society.

If we are to stop the privatisation of health, and education, the introduction of work for no pay, and a continuation of the lousy neo-con economics that have done so much damage to our country, then we have to start electing people like Kate who have the courage to take the fight for a more equal society to the heart of government. The people of Manchester Central deserve nothing less.’

‘When Labour stops being for labour, then the voting has to change’

I am really proud that Kate Hudson is the Respect candidate for Manchester Central. Read her article here about why she’s standing.  

Thursday, 26 July 2012

A Ring of Steel for the Five Rings


Author of a new book on the Olympics MARK PERRYMAN argues that the London 2012 security mess isn’t just about staff shortages.

Munich ‘72 will always remain one of the most iconic of all Olympic Games. Not so much for Olga Korbut’s impish performance in the Gymnastics or the Gold Medal haul of Mark Spitz in the pool. It is the lethal carnage resulting from the Israeli athletes being taken hostage by the Palestinian Black September group that Munich will always be remembered for.

In Gaza and the West Bank immense problems remain, the murderous consequences of Israel’s war on the Palestinians only too obvious. Yet in all the commentary on the security threat to the London Games scarcely anyone has observed that in 2012 Palestine competes as a nation-state at the Olympics, under its own national flag. This would have been almost impossible to imagine 40 years ago, the threat of terror can never be defeated by military means, the root causes can only ever be solved via a political solution.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

A GAMES OF TWO HALVES

With his book offering a blueprint for a better Olympics published this week author Mark Perryman explains his Five New Rings.

Seb Coe and the London Olympics Organising Committee, Cameron and his hapless Minister of Culture, Jeremy Hunt, their predecessors, Brown, Blair and Tessa Jowell. All of them cling to a bipartisan consensus that everything to do with the Olympics is fine, nothing the International Committee and their sponsors demand needs to be questioned. It was a consensus which in London managed to unite those otherwise polar opposites, Boris and Ken, too, in solid agreement that the Olympics would be without doubt a good thing for the city.

Add the sports media, led by the BBC, which appears to have had all critical faculties surgically removed in the cause of Olympic cheerleading, to amplifies this all-embracing mood of agreement. Yet the discontent outside the parliamentary and media bubble is very obvious. Not an organised campaign of resistance but on issues ranging from the lack of tickets to the privileges enjoyed by the IOC and sponsors there is a mood of discontent.. Whilst more broadly there exists a deep-seated popular cynicism that the Games won’t be the benefit that they they are claimed to be. It is a discontent that is barely reported upon yet its basis is well-founded. There is scarcely a scrap of evidence from any previous Games of economic regeneration or a sustainable boost in employment. Not one recent Olympic host nation can point to an increase in sport participation levels as a result of the Olympics. And as for tourism, the Olympics leads to a decrease in visitors not an increase as the Travel Industry , which has no reason at all not to be one of the Games’ biggest supporters, has repeatedly pointed out.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Free the Olympics

In this summer of Euro 2012 and the London Olympics , both dominated by product sponsors, MARK PERRYMAN points to a third, major sporting event with less emphasis on corporate control and more on popular participation …

Modern sport isn’t simply a contest between teams or individuals. It is also increasingly an arena which corporate power seeks to exploit. During this summer of major sporting events it’s clear that the governing bodies behind the European soccer finals and the Olympic Games are following a strikingly similar agenda, one shaped by drive of business to make money out of people’s love for sport. That generally starts with top down control.   

Here are two examples from Euro 2012, from where I’m writing:

First, consider the so-called ‘Fan Zones’, introduced at the World Cup in 2006 and a feature of World Cups and European Championships ever since. These large privatised spaces are all about regimentation and commerce. Whatever the individual characteristics of the country you are in, the environment in the fan-zones is more- or-less the same. When it comes to refreshments, only fast food, soft drinks and beer provided by the authorised sponsors are available. Here in the Ukraine, the chances of sampling local fare in the fan zones are next to zero. Every available space is taken up by corporate catering. And the big screens, constantly relaying sponsors’ messages, are the most prominent advertising platform of all. It’s not easy to discover the country beyond these sanitized arenas but significant numbers of us have been making the effort. Getting out on the local tourist trail, or even better beyond it, and soaking up the atmosphere in local pubs and cafes while taking in the odd game on television with a commentary we can barely understand, is well worth it.

Friday, 8 June 2012

Tickets, Anybody Got Tickets?


The London Olympics 2012 is a once-in-a-lifetime event. So why, asks Mark Perryman, have so few of us got tickets?

With the Jubilee over and the England football team unlikely to provide much of a lasting distraction at the Euros, the 50-day countdown to the London Olympics is now entering serious overdrive.

Right from the start of the bidding competition back in 2005, hosting a ‘home’ Olympics was sold to the British public as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. This was no idle boast: Along with football’s World Cup (which England can’t even think of hosting till at least 2026) the Olympics is undoubtedly the biggest show on earth. Spread across 26 different sports and with over 200 countries competing, its reach and appeal is enormous.

The sales pitch of the Olympic organisers was explicit: This was an opportunity to be there while history was being made, to witness something unforgettable first-hand, to bring the memories of past Games watched on TV to vivid life. The Games organisers did little or nothing to dampen expectation that tickets for the Games would there for the taking.

Friday, 1 June 2012

It’s the Taking Part

According to the organizers, encouraging participation in sport is one of the main benefits of the London 2012 Olympics. Mark Perryman examines the evidence.

The Olympic motto “ The most important thing is not winning but taking part” represents some of the finest ideals not only of Olympism but of any sporting event aspiring to be democratic, participative and accessible. After this weekend’s Jubilee hoopla fades away, the coming summer of sport - Euro 2012, a serious British challenger to win the Tour de France, Wimbledon fortnight, overseas rugby tours to the southern hemisphere, a domestic test match series and the first, and last, home Olympics for most of our lifetimes - will no doubt test such sentiments to the full. A nation that invented many of the world’s team sports has, perhaps forgivably, some difficulty in coping with repeated defeats by the nations to which it exported them. Add in a lengthy martial and imperial tradition, and CLR James’ famous maxim ‘What do they know of cricket who only cricket know’ can be seen as essential to understanding why the British are not the world’s best losers.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Race to the line

With John Carlos, one of the Mexico ‘68 podium protesters, on a speaking tour of Britain, author of a forthcoming book on the Olympics MARK PERRYMAN describes the continuing clash of race and the Games

United on the Mexico podium by their fierce opposition to racism Tommie Smith, Peter Norman and John Carlos used the medal ceremony for what has become an iconic moment of public protest. Its durability as an image of anti-racism in sport and beyond is testament to the global platform the Olympics provided. Even before satellite TV and digital media, the dignified audacity of the three medal-winners became an overnight world-wide news story.

The Sydney Olympics in 2000 offered another iconic Olympic memory of sport and race. As the twenty-first century began Eric Hobsbawm’s description of the role of sport in providing a popular expression of national identity amongst the debris of globalisation became increasingly relevant: “The imagined community of millions seems more real as a team of named people.” As part of this process a sporting contest can sometimes crystallise social or political changes within a nation. When Cathy Freeman, the Australian Aboriginal sprinter, streaked around the track to win the 400 meters gold medal, kitted out in an all-in-one skin-tight green and gold Lycra suit complete with hood, she was chased every inch of the way by the light of thousands of camera flashes capturing her moment of glory. This was more than an instant of supreme sporting achievement. For Australia’s Aboriginal community it represented recognition and inclusion from the majority white population - however temporary it ultimately proved to be. Inequality, discrimination, racism, and disputes over land rights didn’t disappear just because Cathy was a national heroine. Her success was the exception, not the rule, but for a moment it pointed to a different version of Australia.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

A Games For All?

As the Olympic Torch relay starts its route around Britain author of a forthcoming book on the Olympics Mark Perryman questions the claim of a Games for all.

Beginning its long route around Britain the Torch Relay is one of the few examples of decentralisation and free-to-watch events that could have transformed the 2012 Olympics into a Games for all.

There is little doubt that the sight of the Olympic torch as it passes through a village, town or city up and down the byways, with photo-opps at famous landmarks will ignite popular interest and huge media coverage.

But the scale of that enthusiasm reveals the lack of ambition behind the 2012 model for the Olympics. In my new book Why the Olympics Aren’t Good For Us, And How They Can Be, I propose Five New Rings for the Olympic symbol. The first, and most important, of these is decentralisation. As a mega-event football’s World Cup has its problems too with new stadia sometimes built with no obvious future likelihood to be full again once the tournament is over. But the singular advantage for the hosts of a World Cup over the Olympics is it is spread all over the country, and sometimes more than one. In this way the global spectacular becomes not only a national event but a local event too. The Olympics is an entirely different model, apart from the yachting and the football tournament every single event is London-based, most of Britain will have no contact with the Games except a fleeting fglimpse of the Torch relay as it pases through.