Guest Blog: What the French election means for the Left

Jasper Cox

Image © The Prime Minister’s Office

If, as is expected, François Hollande wins La Présidentielle this weekend, it provides a boost for Ed Miliband and Labour party: a sign that perhaps the Left in Europe is, unlike the economy, on the road to recovery. In the United Kingdom, from the marginal Occupy movement to disgust over bankers’ bonuses, there is emerging subtle dislike of unregulated neoliberalism (even if most people don’t know what the term means). Meanwhile, Miliband leads in the polls, by perhaps 11%,  despite being unpopular personally with voters. However, there is a danger that the correlation between the French election and the state of British politics today is overstated.

Firstly, when faced with criticism over their handling of the economy, David Cameron and his government have been able use two simple excuses: our economy is heavily affected by the Eurozone crisis; and over-spending by Labour makes austerity necessary. Sarkozy cannot do this. Sarkozy came into power in 2007, before France’s GDP fell, before France lose its AAA rating and before public debt rose significantly. He has been a key figure in determining Eurozone policies. Going further back, he was an interior minister under the last government, and the Right has been in power since 1995. This means neither he nor the Right can be given ‘the benefit of the doubt’, and so he has a harder challenge defending his economic policy in the presidential election.

The gripes with Sarkozy are not (just) about austerity, whereas anger in the United Kingdom at the centre-right administration is directed at cuts and public sector reforms predominantly. Sarkozy has introduced some reforms to the state but has also indulged in antiimmigrant rhetoric (the link is but one example) and “Countless voters have told pollsters that Sarkozy’s personality and style turned them off”. As The Economist, which has generally been supportive of the UK coalition government, despairs:

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Guest Blog: Gendercide and The West

Ram Mashru

This article was written for It’s A Girl, a film about gendercide in South Asia. It originally appeared here.

Gendercide is the unreported tragedy of our age.

I was one of those guilty of dismissing gendercide as an Asian problem. Surely, unwanted female foetuses were aborted there, in illegal clinics, not here. And surely unwanted daughters were killed there, in forgotten villages, not here. The egalitarian Shangri-La that is ‘The West’ would never allow unwanted daughters to be eliminated in this way. Surely? The shocking truth, I discovered, is that gendercide is a global tragedy.

An Oxford University study revealed that between 1995 and 2005, 1500 girls “disappeared” among Indian communities in England and Wales. Sex selective abortions are the only plausible explanation. If the study is correct, the figures mean that 1 in 10 extra girls, who should have been born according to normal birth statistics, were selectively aborted. Sex-selective abortions are illegal in the UK under the 1967 Abortion Act and yet, as the recent investigation carried out by The Telegraph exposed, families can and presumably have had pregnancies terminated here. Doctors, being secretly filmed, agreed to falsify paperwork to circumvent legal prohibitions even though they recognised the immorality of ‘female infanticide’. Sex-selective abortions are, shockingly, legal in the US and the post-communist states of east Europe all have unnatural discrepancies in their birth gender ratios.

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Guest Blog: Forget Rio’s infamous favela: I’ve seen it all in Liverpool

Vicki Kellaway

Image © Vicki Kellaway

I sat down at my computer today to tell you how I walked around a favela, one of those notoriously impoverished, crime-ridden communities huddled on the hills of Rio de Janeiro. But I’ve changed my mind. Instead I’m going to tell you a story about a land far away – 5,800 miles to be exact.

It was 7.30pm on Good Friday when my news editor wandered past my desk. “You know what darlin’,” she said (she really talks like that) “There’s a 13-year-old girl who’s been missing two days now. She might just have run away but, you know, it’s a quiet night. Why don’t you go and have a chat with her mum and see what happened?”

Forty minutes later, I pulled onto a street in which mine was the only car. I parked, I knocked and the girl’s mother let me in. Her house was bare, save for a few chairs on the carpet-free floor and a sofa that had seen better days. There was a puppy and several kids though, including an eight-year-old who had his nose pressed against the window.

“Is that your car?” he asked me excitedly. “What is it?”

“It’s a Vauxhall Corsa,” I replied, trying not to smile.

Four years have passed since that night but I remember it perfectly. It either altered the way I see the world or it confirmed simmering doubts I didn’t know I had. The girl’s mother was vague. Her kid was a runner – always disappearing somewhere. Maybe she was being bullied at school but, then again, maybe she wasn’t even going to school. Her mother had no idea.

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Guest Blog: Why we disagree: but where to go from here?

Cameron Dron

Our class had a very interesting set of lectures the week before last. Given by Heiko Roehl from the German Development Agency (the GIZ), we were introduced to a number of knowledge and organizational learning concepts. It touched upon a lot of the things that I have been thinking about recently, like the nature of truth, why it is that people – even intelligent ones – can disagree so vehemently about such a wide range of issues and how it is that we as individuals can come to make more of an effort towards understanding each other.

Something that really crystallized all of this rather well was a wee diagram explaining a concept called ‘Relevance Systems’. This theory or way of thinking about individual beliefs and knowledge can help us to understand why and how it is that we can come to have such radically different views of the world. This struck me powerfully because I have been trying for a while to get a better idea of why it is that people disagree about climate change. This helped me to understand the why a bit better, but I’m still not sure if it helps to form any solutions. Time will tell. Read more of this post