I’ve lived in London for just over 7 months now, and as outlined in my last post, I have relished in the opportunities my internship has provided so far. However, to satisfy my passion for politics, I’ve had to look further afield…
Roundabout this time last year, I was lucky enough to be invited to shadow Jason McCartney MP in Parliament, and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
I learned a great deal from Mr McCartney, and thought it to be only fitting that I contacted my local MP for Hammersmith, the Rt Hon Andrew Slaughter MP.
Mr Slaughter is also the Shadow Justice Minister (I know, slightly ironic name given his position), and he kindly agreed to be interviewed.
Israel & Palestine
Do you think that a peaceful two state solution in Gaza can ever be achieved?
Well, that is the policy that everybody, including Israel, is signed up too. The issue for the last 5-10 years has not been ‘is that the solution?’ The issue is that the facts on the ground have changed to such an extent that it is practically impossible right now.
If there is continued colonisation of those parts of Palestine that would constitute the Palestinian state, then it becomes practically impossible unless those settlers move back to Israel.
Given the catastrophic mishandling of British involvement in that region in recent history, is foreign interventionism really helping the Palestinians’ struggle?
It is a political problem, and it is not one that can be resolved exclusively by Britain because there is such a disparity in power between the two factions.
Israel has nuclear arms, which render it the regional superpower and the Palestinians do not have sufficient resources of their own. Unless Israel is willing to compromise, then yes – foreign intervention is absolutely essential.
The problem is that it is not being delivered in the right now. Although the UN and EU certainly have an influence, it’s ultimately America that holds all of the cards in terms of if and when the negotiations take place.
If I were to say to you that ultimately, the fundamental barrier to a two state solution is religion, would you agree?
No I wouldn’t. Religion does play a part depending on what’s happening on the ground. However the Palestinian authority and the party of president Mahmoud Abbas for example is a secular party.
There was a surprise in the Israeli election insofar as some of the secular parties did much better at the polls than some of the more religious parties. A lot of the extremism, certainly on the Israeli side, stems from secularism.
Religious fundamentalism is undoubtedly one of the factors in the mix, but I wouldn’t say it was necessarily the main factor.
It can legitimise illegitimate aims, such as the idea of an Israel that consumes the whole of Palestine. But the geo-politics of the region plays a larger role in terms of barriers to a two state solution.
Religion in Secular Politics
On the broader issue of religion in secular politics, I wanted to ask you whether you think it’s just that religious institutions are exempt from tax in the UK?
There’s been quite a lot of interesting debate on the issue of charitable status –some commentators criticise the charitable status of public schools for example.
There are some Zionist organisations that have charitable status here in the UK, and some have suggested that that may tacitly imply that the UK supports illegal settlements on the West Bank.
You’re very right to question this issue, and we, as MPs, must keep this constantly under review.
Although charity law has been modernised to a degree, it dates back to several centuries ago and is predicated on a lot of issues that are not very contemporary, such as the relief of poverty.
Charity law is strongly biased to religion, because religion played a much larger role in people’s lives when these laws were originally drawn up.
However religious communities would argue that they do a great deal of good and deserve such a status, if you look just over the road you can see the wonderful community centre that Hammersmith Parish Church have recently opened, which is open to everyone.
It’s difficult to disassociate the history of an organization from the work that they actually do.
There was a great deal of pressure on the last Labour government to revoke the charitable statuses of public schools, however what we did instead was to make those schools prove they did actually have a charitable purpose. We don’t look at the origins of the organization – we look at the work they do.
Staying on religion and justice, religious freedom is seen as an integral part of any modern democracy, particularly here in the UK, I know that’s something you’re a strong advocate for, however I wanted to ask you a rather paradoxical question: to what extent should we tolerate the acts of intolerance by the religious such as honour killings, segregation and humiliation of women, arranged marriages and so forth?
We live in a liberal democracy, however all of the things you just mentioned would affront any modern society.
Brutal acts that are more to do with power, racism, sexism etc. often hijack the ‘cloak of religion.’ You can find examples of liberal, generous practice in all of the major religions.
I think it’s often people cloaking what are personal or political aims with a guise of some false religious mandate.
All of things you just mentioned should not be tolerated by any society, and all parties should, and do seek to stamp them out.
What do you make of preachers of hate, such as Abu Qatada, who some would argue exploit our liberal way of life whilst also simultaneously trying to destroy it?
Well, that’s one of the great dilemmas of liberalism isn’t it? Governments have to balance the protection of freedom of speech and other essential liberties against protecting its citizens’ safety and security.
Labour brought in quite a lot of legislation against racial hatred and incitement pre-2010. I do not think that’s incompatible with having a free and tolerant society. This is not a new issue, John Stuart Mill wrote quite a lot about this very issue in the 19th century. There’s a long tradition of analyzing what is acceptable and what’s not acceptable in a liberal society.
I noted on your website, you’re a member of a pressure group called ‘Labour Friends of Poland,’ which I found quite interesting. As I’m sure you’re aware, Polish is now the second most spoken language in the UK. I wanted to know what you think the long term implications of unbridled immigration from EU countries such as Poland are for the UK?
It’s an issue that is taxing the government at the moment, with the restrictions on Bulgarian and Romanian immigrants being lifted at the end of 2013.
We have an established Polish community here in Hammersmith, with Polish community centres and so forth, which I believe are great assets. This demographic dates back to at least before the Second World War.
We had an influx of Polish immigrants following Poland’s acceptance in the EU and many came to Hammersmith and other areas, because of that established community.
It’s difficult labeling it as immigration, as it’s more like the movement of people. You can’t generalise – you’ve got some Polish who come with their families and settle here, and you’ve got people who come here to work and then go back to Poland.
The overall effect, I think, has been very beneficial. The Polish community integrates very well, they almost all speak English, they are notorious for working hard.
The only criticism I’ve had over the years regarding the Polish community is employers undercutting wages. There have been many instances of employers paying Polish workers below minimum for relatively skilled jobs. Clearly, that has a negative effect on the economy.
Disgruntled workers blame the wrong people, you can’t blame immigrants for seeking a better quality of life. Those at fault are the gangs and traffickers who bring them here illegally.
The Labour government and some trade unions have done a great deal of campaigning to sign up Polish workers, so that they know their rights and know that they shouldn’t be working for exploitative wages. Overall, I think it’s a positive development.
Ed Miliband has been accused of copying the Lib Dem’s ‘mansion tax’ policy. Now devil’s advocate might say that generally people that reside in these alleged ‘mansions’ have very limited liquid wealth, with most of it tied up in their property, is this a fair policy?
There is a very good piece by Tim Montgomerie in The Times (and I don’t often say that!) which looks at exactly why a mansion tax is a good thing to do, as you’re still targeting people with very high levels of revenue.
Even in Hammersmith, £2 million+ is a lot of money. But even modest homes in some parts of London would have an extremely high value. What would be a definition of luxury is not the same across different parts of the country. I think the key is to set the threshold at £2 million, so you are targeting people with very high levels of assets, and therefore they probably do have that liquidity as well.
Where do you stand on gay marriage?
I voted for gay marriage, as did 421 to 175 of the vote. I think within Parliament, those figures speak for themselves.
For me, it was simply an issue of achieving equality, while at the same time not disadvantaging religions, which didn’t want to sign up to it. I think we’ve hit the right balance.
Some MPs have said this is an issue that has filled up their post bags, however I’ve had very little commentary from my constituents. However Hammersmith is a very liberal area.
Michael Gove’s U-turn on GCSEs has been a heated topic in the news recently, what’s your take on the education system and Gove’s failed reforms?
I think Gove is a very controversial character. I think he’s a good example of a little knowledge being a dangerous thing.
I suspect we’ve seen the first on a number of U-turns because he’s pressing on at break-neck speed without taking appropriate advice. I think some of his objectives are rather obnoxious.
He was talking last month about the possibility of free schools making a profit, which he initially said he wouldn’t allow them to do. And the bringing in of private companies and organisations, some of which have very close links with the Conservative Party to effectively marketise education, just like their notion of privatising healthcare. I think that’s something that shouldn’t, and won’t get any support.
Although everyone in government would sometimes like to see things move more quickly, on issues as important as education, you have to take advice and you have to tread carefully, and as we’ve seen he’s got his fingers burnt.
I think the damage has already been done by what he’s already said about GCSEs, and many students feel their qualifications have been publically devalued.
I think that’s absolutely right. And it’s disgraceful in a way. I speak to young people all the time in my constituency and I don’t find cynicism and laziness, I find people who want to succeed.
It’s very irresponsible of politicians to behave in that way. The only silver lining to what’s happened is he’s become effectively a cynical figure, and not many people will take what he says in future overly seriously.
Lastly, I wanted to ask you about the Leveson Inquiry: ‘independent self-regulation’ to me sounds like a bit of contradiction in terms. What’s your take on Leveson and the recommendations?
The press is very much in favour of the Defamation Bill because it weakens people’s ability to engage in court proceedings against newspapers that publish unsavory stories about them.
As you would expect, they are against Leveson’s recommendations because it gives powers to those abused by the press.
David Cameron and The Conservatives, just like all of the parties, have given into those vested interests in the past, because in a liberal democracy, the media play an extremely large role in the voting process.
I think all of the evidence from Leveson has outlined quite clearly you cannot trust the press to regulate itself, and you must have a formal system which the media cannot avoid. It doesn’t mean state censorship, it means an ability to enforce law on illegal activity.
February 1, 2012
Recently I have become infatuated with the British political process and the notion of distributive justice. Often finding myself glued to BBC Parliament, I felt it was time to visit the Mother of Parliaments and set about contacting prominent MP and former Leeds Met PR & Journalism lecturer Jason McCartney. Jason had honoured the Faculty of Business & Law last year with a guest lecture on his colourful past and his inspiring work in his time spent thus far as MP for Colne Valley. After contacting Jason, he kindly invited me to Westminster, where I would attend several committee meetings, parliamentary receptions and cabinet question sessions in the House of Commons.
Upon arrival at the historic building, I was overwhelmed by the awe-inspiring architecture, enchanting artwork and intoxicating atmosphere. After several minutes of dumb-founded wonderment at the magnificence of Central Lobby, I was greeted by a very charming and knowledgeable Martine Martin, parliamentary assistant to Jason whom graciously offered to give me a tour of Parliament. A keen political commentator herself, Martine and I discussed many topics from the relevance of clergy in the House of Lords to MPs tweeting in the Commons.
After a tantalizing tour, I met with Jason one-on-one where we discussed his recent appointment to the UK Delegation to NATO Parliamentary Assembly, his involvement in a campaign to bring in compulsory carbon monoxide detectors in UK homes and his time spent as a news and sport presenter at ITV Yorkshire.
I then attended Treasury Questions in the public gallery, which was followed by a statement by Foreign Secretary William Hague on the immediate ban on all new contracts to import, purchase or transport Iranian crude oil and petroleum products, a move which will undoubtedly step up pressure on Tehran to adhere the UN’s resolutions. I then had the privilege of joining Jason in meeting with Business Desk Yorkshire’s Deputy Editor James Reed in the MP’s lounge.
In the evening, I accompanied Jason and Martine to the Trade Union Reform Campaign launch reception, where keynote speaker and Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles spoke about how Public bodies, funded by the taxpayer, should not pay for time spent by employees on trade union activity. Among the attendees was former Defence Secretary, Liam Fox and political blogger Guido Fawkes.
I was then invited to a Digital Switchover reception, situated in a marquee on the House of Parliament balcony, which consisted of various speakers discussing the progress of the switch from analogue to digital. The national digital switchover is set to be complete this October. After the speeches, I had the pleasure of meeting one of Jason’s good friends and former colleagues Margaret Emsley, a producer at ITV Calendar.
The next day, Jason was kind enough to give me a highly sought after ticket to Prime Minister’s Questions. Lively and contentious as always, it was a novelty to see Cameron and Miliband’s exchanges in person rather than a television screen (it should be noted that the House of Commons looks significantly bigger on TV!).
It was an incredible opportunity and inspirational experience. I learnt a great deal about Parliament and what it takes to be a successive member of parliament. Jason is a model MP, prioritizing people over ideology and tirelessly working for the betterment of his constituents. He’s a credit to the Commons and a testament to transparent, accountable and reliable politics.
October 21, 2011
Rt Hon MP David Miliband was welcomed by a full house at the Rose Bowl today in what was a very lively and interesting Q&A event. The former Foreign Secretary’s first question was focused on the transition of economic power from West to East. Miliband referenced the prediction that China’s economy is expected to overtake the US by 2020 and the need for us to adapt to the changing world order.
Miliband was keen to emphasize the shift in power from bourgeoisie to the people, using the Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street as an example. He attributed this shift to new technology, citing the Zimbabwean electorate using their phones to take pictures of their vote to prevent foul play by despot Mugabe.
On the subject of democratic process, Miliband pointed out that many express concerns over the future of Libyan politics, fearing a fundamentalist Islamist majority. Mr Miliband rejected these concerns, calling for us to promote democracy, regardless of its consequences. Furthermore, he reiterated the fact that the tide of revolution that has swept the North Africa is home grown, devoid of western intervention, therefore we must support those seeking democratic change.
Questions then moved onto Syria and the Assad regime. “Despite the deaths of 2900 protestors, the situation in Syria differs significantly different to that in Libya,” Miliband said. He then highlighted China & Russia’s veto on any form of action against President Assad and the divide of philosophy among the international community on foreign interventionism.
When asked if we should ignore the veto, Miliband replied “yes, if there is a humanitarian need, a viable military solution and the geo-political positives outweigh the negatives,” citing the Sunni-Shea Muslim divide and the connections with Iran as political antagonists for military action.
On the subject the 2010 election, Miliband conceded that his party lost because “we didn’t give people enough reasons to vote for us.” He was very keen to reject a claim from a member of the audience that Labour because of the Iraq War, arguing that those that defected because of Iraq defected in 2005, yet Labour still won. However another member added that Labour’s return to opposition was overdue, citing 5 million voters lost in 2005.
When pushed for a position on university staff strikes by Professor Paul Blackledge, Miliband claimed “strikes should be used as a last resort tactic, there needs to be a greater, coherent strategy,” referencing the historic Jarrow March of 1936 and the movement’s failure to achieve anything because of a lack of strategy and leadership.
One member of audience protested “if you support the will of the people in the Arab world, you are heavily contradicting yourself by not supporting our strike against pension cuts.” A slightly rumbled looking Miliband replied saying that he is not against strike action; however he fears the political resolve of the uni staff maybe lost if there is no clear strategy that will achieve the desired results.
Miliband advocated multi-lateral disarmament when quizzed on the relevance of Trident in the 21st century and confirmed his support for the plight of the Kurdish population against Turkish aggression. Moreover, Mr Miliband supported the call for a compulsory register of Lobbyists “anything to control lobbyists” he remarked, much to the dismay of aspiring public affairs professionals in the audience.
In conclusion, a very insightful and worldly talk by the MP for South Shields was commended with thundering applause from an over-capacity lecture theatre.
October 12, 2011
The second CIPR Guest Lecture attracted yet another full house as Kevin Murray , CEO of the Bell Potinger Group delivered a fascinating lecture, based on his forthcoming book: The Language of Leaders.
Murray wrote the book after interviewing 54 chairmen, CEOs & Business Leaders as well as 3 military generals and 2 Police Commissioners to ascertain how leaders inspire and influence others to achieve the results the desire.
“It was my years spent as a journalist that I decided I was never going to stop learning and reporting on what it is I had learnt.”
In an era of radical transparency, leadership has also changed quite radically. The speed at which reputation can be damaged is accelerating and leaders need to build organisations that respond at the same speed. Murray illustrated this point by referencing the McLaren ‘Ferrarigate’ crisis that he was burdened with handling: “In the space of 30 minutes, the false rumour that McLaren had been kicked out the World Championship had been reported and dropped by media all over the globe.” This reiterates his notion of the ‘double edged sword of the modern digital world.’
The two fundamental concepts that Murray found imperative to effective leadership and organisational success were trust & engagement. Lack of trust in an organisation costs money, in terms of loss of sales and rebuilding a brand. With reference to Professor Gregory’s lecture and her example of Coca Cola’s valuation, Murray said “there is a shifting culture from managing tangibles, to enhancing the intangibles.”
Murray then highlighted the importance of emotional engagement with stakeholders using his interview with Sir Frank Williams, CEO of F1, as an example: all Sir Frank ever wanted to do was race, and his employees were worried that his successor would not have the same passion as he did.
“He couldn’t move himself, but he managed to move everyone in the organisation.” Murray advocates that passionate values are at the heart of reputation management. All members of the organisation must be empathetic to communicate effectively with stakeholder groups.
Another crucial part of an effective corporate communication is storytelling. Stories are powerful, and audiences co-create the story with you – they are the superglue of ‘conviction communication.’ Murray’s sentiment echoes one of Richard Bailey’s favourite quotes: “Branding is for cows, stories are for people!”
Murray concluded with the key message that professional communicators need to advise their leaders to inspire all stakeholders, as it is these people that are pivotal the success or failure of any organisation, quoting a paradoxical statement often used in modern leadership “Follow me, I’m right behind you!”
September 23, 2011
Simon Buckden from Leeds is running 100 marathons in 100 weeks to raise money for Help For Heroes and boost awareness of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Currently on Week 30, Simon has just completed a 30 mile run in Suffolk in 6 hours, despite sustaining a knee ligament injury only a week ago.
The Leeds Met Bsc Sport graduate had never run a marathon before starting his challenge way back in March, however he is adamant that strong mental determination can conquer anything, giving hope and inspiration to other servicemen and women who suffer from PTSD.
It was Simon’s time spent serving with the UN peacekeeping forces in the Bosnian conflict in the mid-90s that he began to suffer from PTSD. Simon is determined to raise awareness and funds for support of current sufferers of PTSD coming back from recent conflicts such as Afghanistan.
Show your support for this incredible man by donating at http://www.bmycharity.com/100marathons
Also, you can listen to Simon’s podcasts at http://www.raceto100.co.uk/
March 24, 2011
If I had to choose one thing to take away from the Marketing Dynamics module this semester, it would definitely be the importance of customer-orientated marketing objectives in seemingly cut-throat market places.
In most industries, there are an increasing number of competitors constantly trying to expand their market share. With the growth of globalization, e-commerce and developing economies in Asia, South America and Africa, businesses of all status must adapt to the needs and wants of their clientele.
Neil Richardson (Course Leader for Marketing at Leeds Met) is keen to emphasise that in any business, customers are paramount to the success of the organisation and businesses that fail to satisfy the expectations of their customers will not prosper.
This is not a difficult concept to understand. Although old-school marketing academics stress the importance of the marketing mix (product, place, price, promotion), in a rapidly changing world, people who buy your products or services should be the centre of your universe because the 4 P’s would not exist without the big C.
It’s astonishing how many businesses do not know who their customer-base are, what they really want and what they want improved.
Get to know your customers!
A business that is not customer centric and market-orientated is on the path to failure, but it’s not too late to change your ways!
- Carry out primary and secondary market research on your target customer group.
- Organize focus groups, get involved in your community – just like a Tesco’s kids’ football scheme (taking the sprogs off mum and dad’s hands over the school holiday will definitely affect the family’s choice of supermarket the following week!).
- Get your staff onside – use internal comms to get your staff on your wave length (it must be remembered that customers are the stakeholders who pay everyones’ wages!).
- Be flexible to your customers’ needs – or someone else will!
Increasingly so, globalization is providing a new group of consumers, but also a new group of competitors eager to steal your customers. In tough economic times with rising inflation and unemployment, it is quite simply a case of evolve or die.
Customer service is the key ingredient in the recipe of a successful business – happy customers will come back! It’s not rocket science