The European Dream

Today is perhaps the most significant moment in this country’s recent history. Today, Britain goes to the polls to decide on its membership of the European Union. Today, Britain decides its future. 

The campaign has been a long and tough one and the end is finally in sight. Over the past couple of weeks, we have seen the momentum shift towards the Leave campaign. However, in light of the tragic murder of Labour MP Jo Cox, there seems to have been a slight shift in opinion back towards Remain. Despite this, either side could still win. General elections are generally somewhat easy to predict – this referendum is not; the latest poll of polls puts Remain on 51% and Leave on 49%. It is on a knife edge. This means that every single vote will count. 

The standard of debate from both sides has been lacklustre; Vote Leave have not provided any explanations for what exactly would happen in the event of a vote to leave, whilst Britain Stronger In Europe have at times failed to get their message across effectively. This campaign has also been too negative; full of awful insults, vile propaganda (in the form of Nigel Farage’s ‘Breaking Point’ poster) and a lack of a positive message from either side. Furthermore, Vote Leave have completely mislead the public on several occasions, most notably with their false claim that our contribution to the EU budget is £350m a week. 

However, despite some of the Remain campaign’s shortcomings, it is in our best interests to vote to remain in the European Union. Britain succeeds when Europe succeeds and it is this unity we should cherish greatly in a world of uncertainty. The Vote Leave campaign says that by leaving the EU, we can ‘take back control’ of the UK. Far from from diminishing our control, the EU actually increases it. The EU allows us to take action on the important issues that cannot be tackled by individual governments alone. Take, for example, the issue of climate change and the environment. Schemes like the Emissions Trading Scheme have recognised that certain issues require continental action. The EU has brought meaningful change on the global stage, too, through the Iranian nuclear deal. Being a part of this Union allows us to have an influence in these key events, making us stronger and more important. 

Furthermore, the European Union has delivered greatly on matters of trade. The existence of a single trading/customs bloc with no tariffs on imports is, put simply, a triumph. We currently export 44% of our goods and services to the EU and import 52%. This economic interdependence is key to a peaceful and prosperous Britain. It is what was dreamed off at the end of the Second World War when people were exhausted of conflict and hoped of something better. The Leave campaign suggests that if we were to leave, we would be able to negotiate trade deals with the rest of the world. This would simply provide too much uncertainty at a time when the British economy is still recovering from the recession of 2008. The Governor of the Bank of England and the head of the International Monetary Fund are amongst many others that suggest a withdrawal from the European Union would cause a recession. I fail to see how we could risk this. As well, it is more than likely that the EU would place tariffs on British exports, harming our ability to trade with the world further. Vote Leave suggest we could negotiate trade deals with the EU and whilst this may be the case, we would not have the same, tariff-free access to the single market. We would also have to follow EU regulation without being able to influence its creation. That is a loss of control. 

Social policy has also been greatly enhanced through the EU. The Working Time Directive guarantees a maximum number of working hours per week, safeguarding us from business abuse of power. Thanks to the EU, 28 days holiday pay has been guaranteed. And as from next year, roaming charges will be abolished within the EU. 

Gordon Brown was correct when he called the European Union the ‘height of civilisation’. It is truly a triumph that 28 nations have been brought together in a display of unity that is more than symbolic. It has brought peace to a continent that has been so historically divided and with it, delivered noticeable change to citizens throughout the continent. Institutions are not perfect and the EU is no exception. But it is a beacon of hope in times of fear and division. Co-operation works. Tonight, I urge you, if you haven’t voted already, to vote to remain in the European Union and keep our European dream alive. 

Taylor Donoughue-Smith

The EU Ref – Register to Vote Today 

In just over two weeks, Britain goes to the polls in what is the defining electoral moment of the past 40 years. 

The European Union has been a contentious topic for years. Since the 1975 referendum on membership of the European Economic Community, much has changed. The EEC has become the EU and with it, a European Parliament and various other institutions. Politically, the Europe question has been divisive, especially within the Conservative Party, where a civil war looms regardless of the result of this month’s referendum. The EU is a clearly a highly emotive topic. 

Vote Leave’s campaign has focused on Britain’s contribution to EU funding, a supposed lack of democracy within the EU and most prominently, immigration. Britain Stronger In Europe has focused mainly on the economic case for remaining in the EU, arguing that leaving would be disastrous for, amongst other things, 3m jobs. They also argue UK firms face tariffs in the billions if we leave.

To many, this vote is the most important of their lifetimes. They are right. The future of our country lies within the vote on June 23rd. Two ways of governing, of living, of existing, are up for scrutiny. One looks towards co-operation with Europe, the other asserts that Britain is strong enough on its own. We are the masters of our destiny. But this destiny, whichever it is, can only be determined if you are able to vote. 

A general election happens once every five years. You can vote differently if things didn’t go too well last time. But this will only happen once. To waste this opportunity would be silly. This is a historic chance to define the role of the United Kingdom in a new age. Make it count. 

Taylor Donoughue-Smith

You can register to vote at https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote. The deadline is 23:59 today, June 7th. 

Crossroads for Labour?

The election of Jeremy Corbyn as the leader of the Labour Party is without a doubt one of British politics biggest shocks so far this century. His campaign energised many people into joining a process they felt apathetic towards and reenergised old members of the party who left the party for a myriad of reasons. However, to the “Corbynistas” beating the Blairites is an easy feat but the real challenge lies in beating the government of the day: the Conservative Party. The problem is though, by electing Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour Party are continuing down a path that cost them the 2015 election as well. Rather than facing up to the fact the electorate booted them out of office in 2010 for various grievances and should address them grievances, the Labour Party seemed to believe (and undoubtedly continues to believe) that the electorate made a mistake. Was it a lapse of judgement or brainwashing from the Murdoch press? It is precisely that attitude that will condemn the Labour Party to another harrowing and perhaps life threatening defeat in 2020.

The mood in the Labour Party at the moment seems to be split. One the one hand you have the jubilant members of the party elated at the rise of their saviour Jeremy Corbyn and the arrival of his socialist crusaders, and then on the other hand you have the exasperated and quite shocked faction of the party that appears to be disgusted at the arrival of such a man as their leader.. All in all it isn’t a pretty sight seeing a party so split.

While Corbyn is leader, Labour seems to be not asking some key questions such as: if austerity is so bad then why did the Conservatives see a 3% swing in their favour among the working class? If immigration is so good (which empirically it undoubtedly is) then why did the party haemorrhage so many voters to UKIP? To the Labour Party at the moment the electorate was twice victim to a mass brainwashing scheme by the Rupert Murdoch as well just being plain wrong in their choice and downright selfish for voting a party that benefits them. This is where the Labour Party comes across as condescending because it fails to understand that those who voted Conservative or UKIP or Liberal Democrat were not wrong or deluded or brainwashed. In a democracy, the electorate can never be wrong, the will of the people shapes the rules. If they want austerity and an EU referendum then regardless of the logic of it that is what will be pursued because it is what people voted for. Telling people they are wrong is never going to win over voters, rather showing you have accepted the error of your ways will win voters. The Labour Party has to shape the terms of the debate and convince people with the right mix of logically constructed policy communicated to get emotion from the voters. Fear of Labour controlling the economy and an SNP coalition, among other things, got the Tories back into power. Rightly or wrongly the Tories were able to get the emotion they needed, they were able to get people out to vote for them. Labour on the other hand played right into the Conservative playbook and were completely unrepentant about the financial crisis. Only those who analyse the crisis will know that clearly Labour had nothing to do with causing it but to Joe Bloggs it was Labour’s fault. Labour need the votes and owe it to the people who need a Labour government to say the difficult things and admit when things go wrong.

Whoever is leading come 2020 will face a monumental task in winning the next election. It won’t help if Labour keeps patronising those voters they need by telling them their principles are wrong and they are brainwashed. Rather Labour needs to ask the difficult questions about why it actually lost and how to square the circle of a principled Labour Party that can win the election. They need to accept that maybe their approach is wrong and are punished duly for that. It doesn’t look good for Labour’s future.

Adnan Raja

The Dust Settles

As the dust begins to settle on what has been one of the biggest upsets in recent British political history, the question of how the Conservatives managed to gain a majority in the 2015 General Election remains a question still to be answered.

All the opinion polls leading up to Polling Day – IPSOS/MORI, Comres and YouGov amongst others – pointed to a hung parliament in which both Conservative and Labour were to hold roughly the same number of seats. The talk of new coalition agreements electrified the debates happening around kitchen tables, in students’ unions and in workplaces up and down the country. What actually happened was a landslide and a coup by the Conservatives.

Firstly, the Scottish National Party (SNP) was able to secure a near clean sweep of the Scottish seats, taking 56 of the available 59 spots – some previously safe Labour seats – out from underneath Labour. The largest swing seat recorded was in Glenrothes; a 34.9% swing from Labour to SNP. Elsewhere, in Paisley and Renfrewshire South, Douglas Alexander – one of the best known Labour MPs in Scotland – lost his seat to a the youngest candidate since the 1700’s; the 20-year-old, Mhairi Black, by a margin of over 6,000 votes no less. These huge losses coupled with Tory gains up and down the country, meant that Labour was paralysed as the counts were announced and the results began to flood in.

Then came the Liberal Democrats. Often scapegoated for their trade-offs of key election pledges in order to become the minority party of the Coalition government following a hung parliament in 2010, the party was effectively crushed – 57 MPs in 2010 down to 8 in 2015. Key Lib Dem figures including Vince Cable, long-standing MP Charles Kennedy and Simon Hughes were among those who lost their seats, with many gains going to Labour and the Conservatives equally.

Lastly, UKIP – Nigel Farage’s home constituency of Thanet South, one of the last constituencies to announce, was lost to the Tories by 2,812 votes. This, prompting the UKIP party leader to make good of an earlier promise to resign if he lost his seat, now means that the 3 main opposition parties – Labour, Lib Dems and UKIP – are currently without a leader.

Meanwhile, the Conservatives managed to secure a majority government of 331 seats, often at the expense of their previous coalition partners, the Liberal Democrats. The Tories played a very clever, but also at times, highly personal campaign strategy, allowing the party to manipulate public opinion of the Lib Dems; it is often publicly felt that the majority of the failings of the last coalition are of Lib Dem and not Tory doing. Coupled with a ruthlessly coordinated and well-supplied nationwide Tory campaign as well as a distinct loss of faith in the party’s leader, Nick Clegg, left the Lib Dems fighting for their very survival.

What this will mean for the UK over the next 5 years is difficult to determine. 3 party leadership positions are to be filled, an EU referendum within the next 2 years, as well as another Scottish referendum, are all to be decided by the British people.

The fate of the NHS as well as many, already crippled public services also lie squarely at feet of George Osborne – David Cameron has already announced that Osborne will remain the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the new government. The new Cabinet in full is not expected to be announced until Monday 11th May.

I for one, will be out on the streets, protesting with a torch and pitchfork, if the Tories move to further dismantle the NHS or strip back public services that are sacrosanct to so many Britons up and down the country.

I hope you will join me out in the crowds if that day ever comes.

Ben Hansen-Hicks is the Editor of Geo/Socio/Politico – a geopolitical, social and political analysis website, founded in January 2015.

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Don’t Waste Your Voice

Today is a big day. The future of this country is in your hands. Whatever you do, don’t think that politics doesn’t matter. As mentioned in an article by our co-founder, Taylor Donoughue-Smith, this election is going to be the closest in 40 years. Every single vote matters. All the different parties represent a different viewpoint. There is something for everyone.

As of posting, there are ten minutes until the polls close. Whilst our contributors no doubt have their own opinions on this critical election, as a blog, all we want you to do is make your voice heard. Democracy is a beautiful thing and you should all take part in it.

We will have reaction and opinion from the election tomorrow. Join us on Twitter @ftbloguk for updates throughout this historic night.

The Forward Thinking team.

The Economy and Employment – Moving Forward

In the UK it is General Election time, and around the world politicians are getting ready to begin their campaigns once again. But it seems that there is one issue which keeps coming up, and that is jobs. It seems that no sector is immune to the repeated cycle of redundancies and dismissals.

Economists state that unemployment was the product of the recession which global markets are still recovering from – and rightly so. Companies rely on a steady source of income for the employment of their staff, but when the recession threatened to leave some Companies bankrupt, continuing to employ people was infeasible. In late 2008, the ‘Great Recession’ hit. Sparked by an inflation of the American property market, and the financial crisis of 2007/8, it seemed that a recession was inevitable. Stock markets dropped to the point where large banks were threatened with closure, causing governments to spend millions on bailing out banks. Uncertainty and instability was caused by an over-confidence in the euro resulting in what is known as the European debt crisis.

It was these financial crashes which caused prolonged unemployment and only years later are countries coming out of austerity measures. The unemployment rate in America jumped from 4.4% to 10%, and although the economy has become significantly better, unemployment is still nowhere near what it was before the financial crisis.

It is logical thinking that if whenever the amount of jobs available either equal, or exceeds the amount of job-seekers, unemployment should disappear entirely. However, in practice, it simply does not happen and it would be naïve and heavily optimistic to think so. The nobel-winning DMP model shows how they could explain this.

The increase in employment could have come from both frictional and cyclical unemployment. However, it seems that structural employment is still a major problem. Structural employment refers to the situation where they are more job-seekers than the number of jobs available. It occurs naturally as trends change, but also as technology advances. Redundancies seem inevitable in an age of technological evolution where technology can do jobs quicker, for cheaper and ultimately better.

In almost every sector of employment, technology is taking over. The manufacturing industry has shrunk as 3D printing and robotic assembly becomes more popular and cheaper. Even complex heart surgery is being replaced by electronics that have a higher success rate than human doctors. In education Professor Sugata Mitra showed in his ‘Hole in the Wall’ experiment that he could replace the mainstream method for education, which requires an all knowing, authoritative figure fulfilling the role of teacher relaying information to the students after which the said teacher would then review, and grade the work of their students. Sugata Mitra showed that with computers and some motivation, he could get the a class of 26 students living in slums in New Dheli to pass (50%+) a course of biotechnology in English in the space of less than six months.

Furthermore, in industries such as mining and agriculture in the late 20th century, it became cheaper to import items from other countries. Certain communities built around a single profession, such as mining villages in northern cities or farmers in the countryside, were devastated. The sort of jobs which took young people straight from the age of 16, regardless of academic ability, does not exist anymore either due to technological advancement, or the trade being moved overseas. They are incredibly few car plants or factories which offer employment to inexperienced and unqualified young people. Low-skilled jobs are scarce, with the exception of organisations such as McDonalds, or institutions such as the Military. This has rapidly caused structural unemployment to grow further.

A recent report entitled “Are Technological Unemployment and a Basic Guarantee Inevitable or Desirable?” begins with this rather amusing sentence “The question is a simple one: if in the future robots take most people’s jobs, how will human beings eat?”. The report continues to discuss how societies’ wealth would have to be re-distributed and the implications of technological unemployment. It shows that economists are already pondering the question of how a growing population will be able to find work in a society where technology can do the job more efficiently than humans.

Whilst technological advancement is good, it is at the expense of the jobs of people. In a distant future there seem to be two choices available: to limit technologies full capability to allow more employment, or to replace the working population with more able electronics. In a society which is heavily profit-driven, the choice is becoming ever increasingly clear.

Despite governments and political parties pledging unemployment to be reduced or even eliminated, unemployment will only rise. And as the leaders of today are just starting to grapple with the challenges it faces, it will be the leaders of tomorrow who have to deliver the solutions to overcome them.

Michael Bryan

Your Vote Matters. Use It.

The general election campaign is well under way. In just over three weeks, Britain will go to the polls and decide which party – or more likely, parties – will form the next government. This election is set to be the closest in a generation. The rise of UKIP, led by the divisive Nigel Farage; Natalie Bennett’s Greens and the resurgence of the SNP means that this election will be decided by margins as close as a vote. In past elections, it was a clear choice between Labour and the Conservatives. Although the Liberals became more of a presence in the 80s, they were really nothing more than a protest party and were not seen as challenging in any way the two party system which had (and up until recently, still did) characterised British politics. All of this has changed. No longer is it a certainty that one party will have enough seats to form a government on their own. The 2010 election gave us glimpses into what we could expect in an uncertain election, but it appears we have evolved from a two-and-a-half party system into a fully fledged, wide-ranging landscape.

UKIP’s rise to prominence over the past two years has been startling. In 2010, they polled at 3.1%. Recent opinion polls have them at 14%. This is a phenomenal upturn in support. Ever since the 2014 European Elections, in which UKIP won a plurality of seats. They have arguably revitalised British politics. They have capitalised on a pressing issue – immigration – and have benefited in these polls. It is parties like these that will be the kingmakers in the aftermath of the election. I feel it is probable that no party will have enough support, even with additional parties, to form a government. It is likeliest that there will be a minority governments. Minority governments are notoriously unstable and most often lead to new elections within months; indeed, there were two elections in 1974, with the second occurring in October – 7 months after the first election produced a Labour plurality, but no majority. The succeeding election lead to a slim Labour majority, but it followed months of instability. At a time where the British economy is entering its final stages of recovery, the country cannot have instability. Political instability leads to economic instability and economic instability leads to insecurity for millions. Alliances would be taken on a vote-by-vote basis; a vote against a minority government’s Queen’s Speech would be an effective vote of no confidence in said government and could lead to another general election. I’m sure most of us are already sick of election campaigns – and this is only the first one!

Some say that, with the rise of these minor parties – and the split of the left and right wing votes, – a minority government is an inevitability. Let’s say that’s the case. Let’s say that it is unavoidable. The job now becomes to vote for the party you wish to see becoming the kingmaker in a minority. Your votes could determine which set of beliefs makes its way to Number 10 – on a lease, of course.

Here’s the thing, though. People need to vote in order to make their voice heard. And not enough people are. This is especially the case amongst young people; in the 2010 election, 48% of 18-24 year-olds did not vote. More needs to be done to engage such a key demographic.

Generally, too, there is an apathy towards politics. This needs to change. The turnout at the last election was 65.1%. Whilst that is great, there were still 34.9% who didn’t vote. Imagine how things might have been different if more people voted? Voting is a key part of our democracy and whatever your choice, whether it to be a vote for a party or for no-one, by spoiling the ballot, that choice matters.

There are 64,100,000 people in this country. 45,325,100 of them are on the electoral register. This is a good start. Now we need to raise that figure. In what is going to be the closest election in a generation, every vote counts more than ever. Many might say that ‘they’re all the same’ or ‘politics just doesn’t affect me’. I say to them that: one, they’re not; two: it absolutely does. This campaign has been characterised by three key policies: immigration, the NHS and the economy. Everyone has an opinion on these key factors, whether their beliefs are fleshed out or not.

Is immigration a problem? Do you think the NHS needs extra funding? Do you think the coalition has done a good job with the economy? If you agree (or disagree) with any of these questions, politics definitely does affect you. Furthermore, there are so many varying policies on themes like education, the EU, devolution. No party is the same. The Liberal Democrats want to remain in the EU; UKIP don’t. The Greens wish to abolish free schools; the Conservatives do not. All of these policies matter to you. It is up to you to decide which matters the most. Do you want to see David Cameron serve a second-term as Prime Minister? Is it time for Ed Miliband to take the keys? Are the Lib Dems done? Is Nigel Farage a man of the people? You have an answer and you need to record it. A hung parliament is another possibility; the ConDem coalition could return or Labour and the SNP could rally together. Or we could have a majority.

There are five years until the next election.You have an opinion and your opinion can change the course of the UK. Voice it. Register. Vote.

Taylor Donoughue-Smith

You can register to vote at https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote

The Big Debate

Tonight marks the first leaders’ debate involving the seven parties. After the first televised outing between Ed Miliband and David Cameron, Cameron was viewed to have, in spite of his better ratings in the polls after the session, performed poorly in the face of what was rather intense questioning from Jeremy Paxman. He seemed nervous and unsure in the heat of the moment. Miliband fared considerably better than expected and I feel he will attempt to carry forward that momentum into tonight’s debate.  Despite it being the sound byte style of politics I so desperately despise that characterised and will most likely define these proceedings, it will interesting to see how both Miliband and Cameron will fare under a seven-party format; airtime will be reduced and as such, I expect there to be a few more reveals in terms of policy in order to grab attention that would otherwise be divided, as is inevitable given the nature of the debate. Cameron’s dislike for these debates is well-known, claiming they ‘take away’ from the election campaign – but don’t let that fool you into believing his approach will be entirely ‘conservative’; instead, I expect his approach to be similar to the one taken for the Battle for Number Ten – confident, but at the same time reserved (well, as much as you can be when on the receiving end of a Paxo grilling). I think, though, that such a debate will not harm Labour as much as it will the Conservatives. Their strength is mainly in local campaigning; the majority of their local campaign leaflets do not have Miliband on them, signifying their belief that they are confident in their local canvassing skills and the quality of their party at local level.

However, I feel that the key battle to take notice of will be between the ‘other’ parties. The Lib Dems, who excelled during the 2010 debates, may wish to use their status as the ‘forgotten’ party to great effect and produce the sort of display that they so greatly need to create some sort of attention among the public that isn’t as toxic as they have become accustomed to since entering the coalition. They get it wrong, though, and it could have disastrous consequences greater than those for other parties. As for the other participants, this election is set to be one of the closest in living memory. At present, the country is set for a hung parliament. The smaller parties taking part in tonight’s debate could be the kingmakers in May and as such, exposure at this stage could determine not only to what extent their campaign will be successful, but who becomes the next Prime Minister.

A strong UKIP performance could provide the big boost needed to the party at a tumultuous time and could help to further splinter the right-wing vote, something which would harm greatly the chances of the Conservatives keeping the keys to number 10.

Voters generally tend to be swayed by the smaller parties more than they do the big parties and those parties know it – the Greens are attempting to capitalise on the apathy many of the electorate hold towards ‘mainstream’ politics with their ‘politics as usual’ slogan. A key soundbyte or idea could do to the Greens/UKIP/SNP what it did to the Lib Dems in 2010 and change the course of the campaign, the election and the future of the country over the next five years.

Tonight marks the true start of a gruelling campaign. We’re in for an interesting night and an interesting election. Bring it on.

Taylor Donoughue-Smith

Tattoos in the Working Environment.

Tattoos. A taboo subject in this day and age, despite their age being beyond that of the Neolithic period. They are a symbolism of freedom and liberation; the eagle soaring high above all. They are also a symbol of oppression and dictatorship; the reference number brandished upon concentration camp victims. In contrast to this very bleak and disturbing use, tattoos have widely been renowned for their art form, an image that lasts as long as its owner. It can be used as a means of expressing personal tastes; a heart to symbolise the love and warmth profound in the users life, or an image of a loved one long deceased. Despite the many positive correlations between a tattoo and the individual, discrimination still occurs. 27% of official hiring work forces REFUSE to enrol any staff with visible ink, usually followed with the tag line of “This promotes anarchy, you must be an anarchist. We won’t facilitate an anarchist.” When, in fact, all this does is encourage the turned–down applicant to possibly rebel at any further stages.

Let’s speak statistically.

Only 8% of government workers have tattoos, with the vast majority being required to be hidden by work clothing, with only 29% of citizens with tattoos report feeling ‘rebellious’, alas, of this percentage, only 2% express this ‘rebellion’ outside of their thoughts. The cultural normality of a tattoo is to be given in a hidden place (72% of cases) with many reporting this being so due to “the fear of unemployment”.

Admittedly, discrimination is receding upon this given scenario, however it is one certain aspect of which annoys me; stigma. The stigma attached to receiving a tattoo, or becoming a tattooist is ENORMOUS. When you are not being told that “tattoos will ruin your life and you will regret it in the future”, you are told “employers wont take you on” or even “you must be stupid to get a tattoo”. Fact: there is no scientific correlation between intellect and choice of body modifications. Fact: As times change, employers are becoming more lenient towards certain bodily modifications. Fact: regret is a personal factor. It cannot be spawned from the opinions of others. If you like the choice you made, you shouldn’t feel like you should regret it. Embrace your free will, and embrace your decisions, past and present.

The ultimate aim of this short piece is to promote the stigma attached flimsily to tattooing, and how stigma is not productive in the slightest. In my eyes, the man whom states a form of art is ‘foolish’ and ‘immature’ is in fact, a foolish and immature man. Just remember that discrimination is indeed a “thing” here in Britain, and judging a person by their choice of modifications with no justifiable cause is discrimination.

Make discrimination of minor bodily modifications illegal, much as any other forms of discrimination are illegal also.

Ben Wareing

The Pen Is Mightier Than The Sword

We’ve all heard of the term ‘the pen is mightier than the sword’; its often not-too-serious usage makes it somewhat of a trivial phrase, but it is one we use nonetheless. Now, however, it takes on new significance – and with it, a huge sense of poignancy.

The shooting of the offices of Charlie Hebdo, the French satirical magazine (and the subsequent hostage situations) have shocked us all again. Once more, it is an example of the malevolence of terrorism and the ways in which terrorism contravenes all moral boundaries. In the aftermath of this barbaric act against freedom of expression and our civilised, fair society, we must remain strong and resolute in two battles – one against the terrorists that threaten our way of life and against the Islamophobia that is not unlike the sort of acts we are seeing in its ferocity and ignorance.

Satire is a powerful tool. It is, perhaps, one of the greatest tools for holding people to account and inhibiting us from disregarding or otherwise forgetting major events, processes and decisions that so very greatly affect this planet and the people that inhabit it. Its heavy usage in the media is a testament to this; most, if not all of the major broadsheets carry satirical cartoons each day. Its power is vital in ensuring that we hold those responsible to account and in lampooning those who do not deserve our serious attention.

After the initial massacre, many national newspapers in Britain (as well as, I’m sure, overseas ones, as well) decided not to carry some of the offending Hebdo front covers. I simply cannot agree with this. Amol Rajan, editor of The Independent, stated his reasoning for not publishing covers as being that there had to be a ‘balance between principle and pragmatism’. He also described it as ‘self-censorship’. Whilst I do not agree with Rajan, he makes a very valid point in describing the decision not to publish actual Charlie Hebdo cartoons as such. This word, I feel, is paramount to the understanding of what not publishing these cartoons symbolised.

Censorship is often prevalent in countries keen to keep the established power structure as it is. It acts as a means to keeping the end; a way of ensuring that the dictatorship remains intact. These sort of things are not common in our country – at least not in the overt way that seems to characterise dictatorships elsewhere. However, the word still caries immense emotional character and it is this emotional character that has and should define our battle against ignorance on a grand scale. Ironically, the use of the word censorship must inspire us to go forward.

It must be said that if we are to take anything from these attacks, however, it should not be just the preservation of satire, for satire is just one element of our free and open society in which we are (relatively) free to state what we want. Whilst satire is important, I feel that some people are getting misguided when they talk solely about the element of the attack and subsequent hostage situations that concerns itself with the freedom of speech. I feel that in order to prove that we will not forget this event, we must also not be tied down by the rabid Islamophobia that has been shown to quite a great degree over these past few days.

I have heard and seen people over the last few days comment on the various comments made by people towards Muslims. Many of them, although condemning these statements, have focused on the reaction to them, saying that ‘we cannot have it both ways’, in the words of one person I spoke to about it, and that if we wish to uphold these tenets of free-speech, we cannot ‘moan’ when people say stuff that goes against what we believe in. It brings up an interesting debate; however, I’d argue that we can moan about things that annoy us and still maintain that everyone has the right to free speech. Free speech is not a one-way thing – for anyone.

And it is with that freedom of speech that I can say that those who react to these terrorist attacks with the abhorrent prose I have seen (like the hashtag ‘KillAllMuslims’) are acting in the same manner as those they claim to oppose. Their methods of expressing their hatred and opposition may be different, but the decadent nature of their beliefs aren’t.

It is our goal, as good, tolerant people, to oppose this. Let’s prove that the pen really is mightier than the sword.

Taylor Donoughue-Smith

Je suis Charlie.