State of the Union

[Written by Katharina Eisenhardt] [Image by Julia Rosner] GUM relaunches its Brexit series with Katharina Eisenhardt's 'State of the Union'. With a focus on broader EU issues, it will seek to highlight the changing dynamics to scientific funding, comparing coverage of EU priorities in the media, and exploring the impact on personal identity. 

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Re-evaluating Extinction – Why Declining Birth Rates Cause Alarm

[Written by Kaisa Saarinen] [Image and animation by Rafe Uddin] The global birth rate has decreased starkly over the past few decades. In the early 1950s, there were 36.8 births per 1000 people; today the figure stands at 18.5, and is expected to continue falling. The spatial distribution of these births is also not equal; children are significantly more likely to be born in Sub-Saharan Africa than in East Asia. These statistics have yielded a variety of regional discourses. In countries with declining birth rates, the numbers are often discussed in concerned and alarmist tones. In a world where the ‘population explosion’ is recognised as one of the most difficult problems of our time, contributing to the global environmental crisis, there is a need to critically examine why the fact that fewer children are born is presented as a serious problem.

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Hostile Environment Policy – British Till When?

[Written by Hester Lee] [Image Credit: Creative Commons//Flickr.com//Chris Fleming] Birthright citizenship, while now almost exclusively applicable to countries in the Americas, still holds considerable political issue in the UK as it sheds light on the current dispute of certain migrant’s claims to citizenship and the vilification of migrants in the media, regardless of their absolute legal right to be in the country.

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#MeToo – Zero-hours contracts, sexual assault and NDAs – Uber’s Public Image Priorities

[Written by Toju Adelaja] [Image Credit: freestocks.org//flickr.com] [Trigger Warning: This article includes discussion of sexual assault.] When Uber driver Rebecca Graham was sexually assaulted by two passengers and reported this to Uber; she was offered no counselling, reimbursement for lost wages, or anything remotely helpful. They also refused to disclose the identity of the passenger without a subpoena and that she couldn’t get a warrant since there was no evidence beyond her testimony.

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#MeToo – A Catalyst for Legislative Change?

[Written by Pauliina Ketonen] [Image by Kate Zápražná] [Trigger Warning: this article includes discussion of sexual assault.] Scandals come and go, but in the last year, their number and media permanence has been dizzying. With reports spanning from Hollywood to the UN we are forced to acknowledge how deeply bullying, sexual harassment, and abuse are embedded in our society.

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Putting the Cult in Culture

[Written by Reiss McInally and Andrew Trower] [Image Credit: Flickr.com//Gage Skidmore] Jordan Peterson @ Edinburgh Playhouse | 28th Oct ‘18 It’s not just the price of the ticket or the cost of getting to Edinburgh. I like to think that my time is worth something, too. Peterson obviously disagrees.

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Between Algeria and France: Pied Noirs and the Maghrebian Subject

[Written by Nora Aubry] [Image Credit: Pixnio.com//USFWS] For nearly a decade, the refugee and migration crisis has seen thousands risk the perilous journey across the Mediterranean Sea from North Africa into Europe. This has increased significantly as civil war and environmental factors force individuals to leave their home countries. Most poignantly, it remains an issue that does not seem near conclusion. Isabelle Adjani - a French actress who defends the migrants’ cause - stated in a recent interview with ELLE magazine that the “nature of roots is to be able to adapt, acclimate and grow anywhere”, implying that people who are uprooted from their homeland should belong wherever they wish. Such a remark makes me question our notion of home, its meaning and leads to a reflection upon our own roots. Is our identity defined by where we come from and our family’s past?

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Musings of a Swede: A 2018 Election story

[Written by Amanda Landegren] [Image By Aike Jansen] I never used to be very interested in politics. I never engaged with what I considered boring and aged discussions between people, with the elusiveness of straight and honest answers ultimately becoming exhausting. It wasn’t until I had to vote earlier this year that these questions suddenly burst into importance and I actively took a step towards being able to make an informed decision. I  have always had values and opinions, but never considered where these really caused me to land politically. Until this year. What surprised me watching debates and following politicians on twitter, was firstly the lack of basic respect; also the dishearteningly alienating and polarising political climate. However, the question that I find immensely interesting to ask is whether this polarisation is a true representation of the reality, or if it is a simplified image offered to us by propaganda and by the media?

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Against a Politics of the Dead

[Written by Dovydas Kuliešas] [Image by Kate Zápražná] So where to start? “Our Town” is Labour’s newest Party-Political Broadcast. It’s already made waves across Twitter, with a message “laser-targeted at small towns across the country”.  Designed to be the message the “left behind” have been waiting for, Labour are seemingly seeking to translate this into loyal supporters of other parties flocking to them out of sheer emotional infatuation. Looking at the current ongoing trends in UK politics today, this gamble seems likely to pay off; but something about it feels wrong to me.

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TOMORROW: Hypothetical Politics and the World of Tomorrow

[Written by Rafe Uddin - Politics Editor] [Illustration by Julia Rosner] The political discourse is one which is abound with hypothetical notions of what the world of tomorrow will look like. From daunting notions of rapture, as societies descend into conflict, to a belief that a political decision could stave off this outcome. From the impeachment of Trump to the reversal of Brexit – the leading assumption suggests that these will help society overcome an illiberal agenda. However, hypothetical arguments do little to outline what tomorrow will actually look like. I would go as far as to argue that they only amplify any echo chamber that you might be living in (Twitter now curating the voices in your head). However, I am not advocating playing host to all perspectives. Instead I am advocating - being pragmatic about the future - not altogether cynical.

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The Natural Capitalist

[Written By: John Hill] The nineteenth-century American philosopher Ralph Emerson wrote that 'the only right is what is after my constitution, the only wrong what is against it'. It is natural to focus on the needs or desires of ourselves above anybody else's concerns as self-interest drives us all and impels us to fulfil our own individual wills. Freud himself was interested in the study of our innermost drive and concluded we have two primitive instincts: Eros and Thantos, our will to live and our death drive, the pursuance of personal fulfilment and preservation.

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For the Many, Not the Jew

[Written By: Andrew Trower] When Americans use the expression ‘only in America’, they mean to convey the impression that something wonderful or unexpected has occurred; here we say ‘only in Britain’ when something risible or stupid or predictable has taken place. Oscar Wilde said that we are separated by a common language but really what distinguishes us from U.S. is our national pessimism: we are more cynical, more mordant, more derisive, and none of these qualities is really worth having—except in politics.

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IDENTITY // We Are What We Eat: An Article on Post-Brexit Food Standards

[Written By: Elspeth Macintosh] [Illustration: Julia Rosner] As many of us know, the European Union currently has lots of influence on the characteristics of the food that we import and export. But what we are less commonly aware of is that the upcoming Brexit will change British policy concerning the food products we consume in our daily lives. This article aims to summarise an issue that too many of us lack awareness of and capture a snapshot of Britain’s attitude towards food standards and trade in 2018.

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An Open Letter from the Committee of the University’s new Pro-Life society, Glasgow Students for Life

Since their establishment late last year, there has been an onslaught of outrage and online abuse directed at the university’s new pro-life society (then known as GUPUPS). Most of these angry comments seemed to only consist of hot air, of exaggeration and assumption. There is nothing more frustrating than those, whether conservative or liberal, that are politically charged but remain stubbornly, and unabashedly, ignorant. So, in the spirit of free speech, and with an impatience for informed debate, I contacted the society to see if they would be willing to shed any more light about who they are: what do they stand for? what are they here to say? This was their reply.

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Pakistan: the 70th anniversary of a failed construct

[Written By: Gustav Jönsson] Call it vivisection, amputation or partition; last year it is seven decades since the Subcontinent was carved up and Independence was achieved. The Partition was disastrous not just because it dismembered India, but also because it created Pakistan. Just a few years before 1947, Pakistan was simply an academic idea. The acronym “Pakistan” was termed by a scholar at Cambridge in the 1930s. It stands for Punjab, Afghania, Kashmir, Indus, Sind and Baluchistan. In Urdu it means “land of the pure.” Thus, Pakistan is not just a territorial claim but also a confessional statement; one that its founder, Muhammed Ali Jinnah, thought would be welcomed by the areas that made up his new country. He was wrong. Today, Kashmir is largely part of India, Baluchistan fights a secessionist struggle and much of the Punjab lies in India.

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H. L. Mencken’s Fight for the ‘Great Truth’

By Gustav Jönsson Henry Louis Mencken once wrote, “The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one’s time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all.” How right he was. It is hard to find a pithier summation of the difficulty defending free speech. How easy it would be to stand up for freedom if it only meant supporting people of Salman Rushdie’s ilk. Often, you will find yourself supporting unlikable scoundrels, but you must, nevertheless, fight against the abridgement of their civil liberties. For Mencken, this led him to defend Henry Ford’s right to print antisemitic nonsense.

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The Thing About Idealism

Written By: Claire Gould   Opening my mouth to speak immediately betrays the fact that I am American. What follows are questions from strangers about our politics. Did I vote for Trump? No? Then was I “Feeling the Bern”?

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Dear Aung San Suu Kyi

Written By: Margot Hutton   Dear Aung San Suu Kyi, I always have admired you for your engagement in the effort to bring peace and democracy to your country. I believe this fight needed your bravery, patience, and devotion to make Myanmar a better place for everyone living there. Those decades of fight, of sacrifice, of house arrest, as you dared to promote a better world and speak out against a dictatorship, were not for nothing. It was a victory when you took office as foreign minister and state counsellor last year.

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What has happened to UK Party Politics?  

The recent council and mayoral elections held across the UK on the 4th May have made one thing very clear; party politics is in a complete muddle. Most parties suffered losses at the ballot box, no one more so than Labour which lost 320 seats across the country. Indeed, Professor John Curtice concluded that the local elections demonstrated a 7% swing from Labour to the Conservatives, who were the only triumphant party of the night, gaining a crushing 558 seats across the country.

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An Interview With GU Green Party

In an increasingly turbulent political climate – Trump, Brexit, and rising right-wing populism across Europe – that seems to be turning away from caring for our fellow human beings, it can be hard to know where to go next. How best should we respond to these upheavals? How do we voice our dissatisfaction when we don’t like where things are going? And what can we do to protect the most vulnerable members of our society? we sat down with Chandler and Frida, members of the green party, to talk about student activism, the future of the left, a more empathetic kind of politics. Which demographic in society do you think is shown the least amount of empathy? Frida - I definitely think migrants and asylum seekers, a lot of people tend to target them because it’s easy to target people who are unfamiliar to you. The working class is a target group as well, especially with the Conservative government. It’s easy to target them as well. They cut down on benefits and taxes, and then demonise that group so it’s easier to justify those things.

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Why is Climate change such a politicised issue in the US?

Year after year records have been broken for global average temperatures: without a doubt, climate change is well underway. The scientific consensus is clear - 97% of climate scientists agree that contemporary global warming is caused by humans. If only this clarity could be said about the politics of climate change.

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IndyRef 2: Might We Really Be Better Together?

Déjà vu, right? Just two years after Scotland voted to remain in the UK, here we sit with the prospect of another referendum. Recently the SNP released a draft bill showing the possibility for a second referendum for Scottish Independence - because this is exactly what we need, just a little bit more madness in a country seeming to implode each day. Of course, though, this was to be expected. The SNP made their point very clear throughout the campaign for the EU referendum; that if it did go the way no one expected, Scotland would revert to its independence mayhem.

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High Court throws spanner in the works of May’s ‘Hard Brexit’

So much for Brexit means Brexit. The high court has made its decision, and said that Parliament alone have the power to trigger Brexit. This decision came as a shock, as Theresa May had previously insisted that government would decide when to trigger the process. The defining reason given by the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, was the fundamental factor of the UK constitution that the parliament is sovereign and unable to be bound. Despite this, almost immediately an uproar followed. Politicians from both side of the debate have chimed in, with Nigel Farage being one of the first to voice his dismay over the decision. Others, including the leaders for both the Labour and Liberal Democrat parties, have reacted more positively; both leaders cited that now was the time for negotiations to be made, and that transparency was required with all matters affecting Brexit.

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The Dark Side of Churchill: On imperialism and the new fiver

The brand new polymer five-pound note has now entered circulation, claiming to be safer, cleaner and more durable than its predecessor. While its benefits have been proven to be measurably true, questions have arisen concerning the appointment of the note’s new figurehead- the face of former British Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill. According to the Bank of England, their choice to commemorate Churchill is due in part to his role as an inspirational statesman, orator, leader, and Nobel Prize winner who led Britain to victory in the Second World War. Most of his achievements would undoubtedly cement his title as one of Britain’s greatest individuals; however, there are those who are less enamored by Churchill’s actions. Critics have insisted on laying bare his unsavoury and overlooked opinions on race, justice and imperial atrocities, imploring the nation to reevaluate the values we revere, and to take a more dispassionate view on our British heroes.

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Istanbul Under Siege

[caption id="attachment_4089" align="aligncenter" width="960"]7497_10152867445645274_518341779_n Gezi Park[/caption]

The riots that have electrified the city of Istanbul for four days now continue to endure, despite heavy police retaliation. What began as a peaceful protest to prevent the redevelopment of Gezi park in Taksim Square has now escalated into a nation-wide demonstration against the current Government.

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been repeatedly criticised for his dogmatic influence over the country based on grassroots Islamic ideals, and his latest staunch refusal to listen to protesters has ignited anger even among those who had voted him into his third term as Prime Minister. In his address to the country on the 2nd June he referred to the protesters as "terrorists" and has been quoted as saying "every four years we hold elections and this nation makes its choice". Despite the democratic election Erdoğan seems to have forgotten that a democracy constitutes the decisions of several members of a party, yet it is shockingly clear that Erdoğan holds the majority of the power, and indeed earns more than any other politician in the world at $989,000 a month, although Wikileaks claims that his earnings may be far higher. It would not be a far stretch of the imagination to envisage Erdoğan as the next Putin and Turkish President Abdullah Gül serving as Medvedev, however in stark opposition to the Prime Minister, Gül has defended the people’s right to protest stating: "democracy does not mean elections alone. There can be nothing more natural for the expression of various views, various situations and objections through a variety of ways, besides elections."

 Despite Gül calling for a peaceful end to the violence and a more mature handling of the situation, suggestive of mishandling on both sides, Erdoğan has continued to belittle the extent of the riots claiming that he would not ask permission for the redevelopment plans from "a few looters". It has emerged that the destruction of Gezi Park is not only to free up valuable real estate for a shopping mall, but also includes the construction of a Mosque, a symbolic representation of Neo-Ottomanism and Turkey’s new incentive under the Justice and Development Party to engage with areas previously under Ottoman rule in the Middle East.

Although the riots are being referred to as the ‘Turkish Spring’ in reference to the ‘Arab Spring’ uprisings of 2010, this would be a false representation. The events in Turkey are more an uprising against fascism than an Imperialist fueled uprising against Islam, which in such countries as Egypt were conducted by armed extremist groups. The protests in Istanbul began as a reaction against heavy handed police retaliation in Gezi Park, where peaceful environmental protesters were viciously attacked in their tents during a dawn raid. The nature of the events has magnified into a nationwide protest against an increasingly authoritarian government, with anti-government demonstrations appearing across Turkey including Erdoğan’s hometown Rize.

With cries rising from the crowd of ‘shoulder to shoulder against fascism’ the riots are not as complicated as Erdoğan has suggested. In an address on 3rd June he encouraged the view that the riots have a politically subversive agenda, stating "citizens should not be part of this ‘game’"; a ‘game’ that alleges the opposition party, the People’s Republican Party, are involved in actuating the riots for their own gain.The demonstrations, however, are obviously not instigated by a few extremist "marginalized groups"  as Erdoğan has stated; it is the result of a highly pressurised problem that has finally discovered a fissure out of which to escape. A large part of the population are fearful of being forcibly dragged into a theocratic state run by a "Sunni Islamist tyrant", as one source expressed. As proudly stated by the men on the streets as well as by Erdoğan himself, albeit with different intent; "this is no longer about trees, it is about ideology".

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As the fourth night of the demonstrations descend on the city, Taksim Square remains occupied and the streets are a cacophony of clanging pots and pans and car horns which can be heard from the other side of the Bosphorus. Despite heavy police intervention including tear gas canisters and high pressure water jets fired directly at the crowd just a day before, people are still resisting against what is being called a Dictatorship. Although Erdoğan conceded that "there have been some mistakes, extremism in police response" he also insisted that "the police were there yesterday, they are there today, and they will be there tomorrow."

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Inside Bahrain; an Interview with an activist

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Mizriya Maryam Abdulhadi al-Khawaja is a Bahraini human rights activist. She is the daughter of a prominent Bahraini activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja and the vice president for the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights. Freedom House has awarded Maryam and her father for their determination in the pro-democratic struggle in the Kingdom of Bahrain.   We’ve recently passed the second anniversary of Bahrain’s Jasmine Revolution uprising, marked by yet another death of a young dissenter from wounds induced by a security force birdshot into the rioting crowd. How do you see the situation in your country right now?   Unfortunately the human rights situation in Bahrain continues to deteriorate. Due to the reality of local and international impunity, which officials of the Bahraini regime enjoy, little progress has been made to put an end to the ongoing almost daily violations.   On the other hand, the protests have not stopped. On the contrary, they continue almost on a daily basis. People understand that they're in this for the long haul, but they also firmly believe in the idea of "no government can outlast its people".   The unwillingness of the government to acknowledge some opposition and, in instances, choose to repress certain voices, has seemingly pushed many, mostly poor Shiites, to extreme political convictions. Bearing in mind the current state of countries like Egypt or Tunisia, do you also now also demand a full-blown revolution, or still believe in institutional cooperation towards pro-democratic reforms?   The people on the streets, one of the main groups being the February 14th Coalition are demanding the stepping down of the regime, regarding the self acclaimed king of Bahrain as being directly responsible for the ongoing violations. On the other hand, the political societies, whose popularity is decreasing as more people start to support the coalition, are demanding reforms and a constitutional monarchy.   As human rights defenders we do not have political asks. Our demands are more directed towards accountability, justice and the protection of human rights. The demand for accountability includes the heads of the ruling family; which means putting the king, crown prince and prime minister on trial.

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Interview with an Ambassador: Iain Ferrier Lindsay

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Iain Ferrier Lindsay has been Her Majesty’s Ambassador to the Kingdom of Bahrain since 2011. Having joined the Foreign & Commonwealth Office in the 1980s, he has since represented the United Kingdom on diplomatic missions in Hong Kong, Japan and Bucharest, among others.   What is the British embassy’s stance on the political turmoil that has been troubling Bahrain since the crackdown on the Jasmine Revolution-related protests in 2011?  Our view is that sustainable stability in Bahrain can only be achieved through continued reform.  We support the reforms, which are underway and urge the Bahraini government to show greater energy in implementing reform.  Progress has been made in some areas but there is still a lot more to be done, e.g. on implementing the recommendations of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry and the UN Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review.  But there needs to be movement on the political track as well as the reform track.  We therefore welcome the resumption of political dialogue in early February and encourage all parties to remain involved in the process.  The only way to promote peace and stability in Bahrain is through an inclusive dialogue that addresses the legitimate aspirations of all Bahrainis and helps to build the trust and confidence necessary for longer-term reconciliation.   In 2005, Tony Blair officially stated that Britain and Bahrain have a ‘strong, warm and longstanding relationship.’ Given the current times of political crisis Salman al-Khalifa’s government seems to be troubled with, as well as allegations of accounts of rights abuses, is this strong relationship still the case?  Britain has had a long-standing and close relationship with Bahrain, going back nearly 200 years.  We are Bahrain’s oldest and most trusted partners outside the region.  Bahrain is of great strategic importance for the UK.  Therefore Bahrain’s stability is critical for our interests.  Given, as I say above, that we believe that sustainable stability can only be achieved through continued reform and given the closeness of the relationship, not just with the government but across the spectrum of Bahraini society, it is natural that the UK should want to help Bahrain to reform.  So, yes, the relationship is still close.  But, as with all good friends, we are honest when we see things which we believe are wrong.  So we are not an uncritical friend.   The unwillingness of the government to acknowledge some opposition and, in instances, choose to repress certain voices, has seemingly pushed many, mostly poor Shiites, to extreme political convictions. Given United Kingdom’s experience of repression in Northern Ireland, what would your advice to the authorities be, for this particular issue?  Bahrain needs reform and political dialogue.  There are legal opposition parties in Bahrain.  They are currently taking part in the political dialogue that is underway.  While I agree that the events of the last 2 years have led to an increase in radicalised young Shia I do not believe that they are representative of the Shia population at large.  I think it is still the case that Al Wefaq, the main Shia opposition party (who are in the talks and who won nearly half the seats in the 2010 parliamentary elections) still commands the loyalty of most Shia.  But the risk must be that if there is insufficient reform and the political dialogue gets nowhere that more people, on both sides of the sectarian divide, will adopt more extreme positions.  Some observers in Bahrain say that the country resembles Northern Ireland in the late ‘60s.  What the UK’s support for reform and dialogue is intended to do is to ensure that Bahrain does not stumble into becoming like Northern Ireland of the ‘70s or ’80s.

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Views on Scottish Independence

To those outside the UK, the Scottish independence debate can seem strange. Strange because to many outsiders our country seems at ease with its unity, and although Scottish identity is certainly distinct from that of British or English identity, the distinctions are not so marked as to leave it obvious that Scots might desire to part from the Union. Whether this shows the essential fallacy of Scottish nationalism or a misapprehension of the Scottish people’s wishes will become clear upon the referendum in 2014. Nonetheless, the non-Scottish perspective can add context to the independence debate. Sometimes the political culture of Scotland is seen to be out of kilter with much of the UK. While this is true, it is also true for large parts of northern England. Furthermore, the lack of Conservatives north of the border is a relatively recent development. Last century, Scots were voting for Harold Macmillan’s Tories pretty much with the grain of the rest of the country.

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GU Student Occupation
Photo: J Nicholson

GU Student Occupation

[caption id="attachment_1121" align="aligncenter" width="600" caption="Photo: J Nicholson"][/caption] On Wednesday 8th December 2010, students of Glasgow University occupied the university theatre at Gilmore in protest of the cuts to the welfare state in general and to education in particular. Speakers including student activists and trade union officials, spoke of the need to voice concern and prevent the measures that will lead to an elitist education system and greater inequality in society. Arriving at 1pm, the student were initially shut into the building before organisers secured freedom of access to the building, when it became clear to the authorities that the protest was peaceful. Reportedly, around 30 or so students stayed the night on the university premises and many today attended protests which coincided with the MPs vote on education cuts. Parliament today voted to raise the upper-limit which universities can charge for fees in England to £9,000 by a narrow 323 to 302, but protests such as our own have been happening all over the country hae largely been backed b the public and are set to continue in the figt against austerity. Jonathan Nicholson was there to capture the 21st century version of student activism, amidst all the Tweeting, Facebooking laptops, and bags of supplies from the local exhausted Tescos.

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Caught in a Bad Bromance

Politics. What do you think when you hear that word? Boring, right? Well you’d be wrong. Recently, there has been so much drama in the world of British politics that even Jeremy Kyle would be proud!   It all began with the expenses scandal when the public discovered they were paying for everything from duck ponds to dirty movies. Following this Labour were booted out of government only to be replaced by Tweedledee and Tweedledum aka David Cameron and Nick Clegg. Quite frankly we still can’t establish who wears the trousers in that relationship! Then William Hague’s ‘special’ advisor resigned following some disturbing rumours about his relationship with oor Willie. To top it all of we have the ongoing contest for the Labour leadership which is about as interesting as watching paint dry considering the only candidate with any balls is a woman who is, if we are being totally honest a bit of a nut job.  Even Ed Balls doesn’t have any! So, all in all, it’s no surprise there is only a barely functioning relationship between politicians and the British public. Bad romance indeed.

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