The Case for Corbyn

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Since Theresa the Appeaser, wife of the head of a tax-dodging firm, u-turned on a previous promise and announced a snap election, the consensus has been pretty universal: Labour can’t win.

The reason for this stark prediction is the fact that the Labour party is currently under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn. ‘Unelectable’, ‘scruffy’, ‘weak’, ‘boring’ – apart from any, y’know, actual criticism of anything he’s done, he’s been branded with every insult available to Rupert Murdoch. The biggest one being that he’s ‘unelectable’. A bizarre accusation in the context of his years as an MP for Islington North and the two Labour leadership elections he has won with incredible mandates. Looking at the facts, he’s one of the most popular politicians to come along in decades. Labour membership has increased by the thousands under him, his speeches attract huge crowds, not to mention all the adoring memes from his supporters. When tory-lite Labour MP’s tried desperately to stage a coup, even going as far as to change the rules to block hundreds from voting for him, he increased his mandate. That’s unprecedented. And when was the last time someone photoshopped Theresa May on the back of a unicorn?

But the polls! I’ve seen negative reports on Corbyn’s low popularity in the polls constantly since the election was announced. If the last year of political shock and upheaval taught us anything, it’s that polls are not to be trusted, yet the BBC parrots them as if they sought them from an all-powerful soothsayer living on a Himalayan peak. That is when the BBC isn’t providing a platform for N!gel F@rage, an ex-leader of a party with one MP who defected… But I digress. What I haven’t seen reported quite as much is May’s steady decline in ‘The Polls’ and Corbyn’s steady rise. Most likely to do with May’s half-arsed campaigning, turning up in a helicopter to deliver a boring speech mainly involving the words “stable” and “strong” with a few connectives to string them together. Meanwhile, Corbyn is whizzing round every seat in the country, giving media-ignored speeches with great gusto, to cheering crowds. But this is nothing new for him.

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Jezza has consistently been on the right side of history. Working hard, not for the adulation it brings, but because it is the right thing to do. He is a man of principle, a man who means what he says and sticks to the promises he makes. He protested apartheid while Thatcher was calling Nelson Mandela a ‘terrorist’. He advocated peace talks with the IRA years before the Queen was praised for shaking hands with Sinn Fein. When other MPs were spending half their time attending dinners and travelling by Limousine he was wearing CoOp shirts and jumpers knitted by his Mum.  He has the lowest expenses claims of any MP. He voted against the Iraq war. When people in his constituency were unable to pay Thatcher’s poll tax, he risked prison by refusing to pay himself. That’s some Robin Hood gangsta shit.

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All of this is massively at odds with his ‘weak’ and ‘dispassionate’ persona. The right wing media has infamously demonised him for the slightest perceived indiscretion. Not nodding low enough, ‘dancing’ to a war memorial, not wearing a tie… It’s pretty telling in any argument if your opponent attacks you for such silly and superficial things. Murdoch shrieks and points and Corbyn’s beard while multiple Tory MPs are investigated for election fraud. He’s also ‘mates’ with ISIS and the IRA, basically for not advocating indiscriminately bombing them, he’s a dangerous nutcase who will cripple the economy by feeding schoolchildren and providing a wage people can actually afford to live on. You know the indoctrination has worked well when people baulk at the idea of being paid more and having four days off. Don’t think of yourself or your families, workers of Britain, think of your poor millionaire bosses. And what can we expect? For years the working classes have been told not to aim their scorn at the bosses who don’t provide a living wage or stable work conditions, but at their neighbour who claims child tax credit. It’s extremely effective. Paint your multi-billion pound media empire, your Eton-educated MPs, your smug fascist mouthpieces in tweed, as their advocate. An Australian billionaire who controls a good size chunk of all news media? The voice of reason – look! he likes looking at boobs as much as you do! The guy who makes jam, cycles everywhere, and would refuse to pay a tax because you couldn’t afford it? Why he’s an out-of-touch liberal elitist with no idea how the world works!

I waste my energy though. The biggest obstacle to Corbyn becoming prime minister is not the reactionary right wing press. I expect it from them. It’s the actual out-of-touch liberal elite. Imagine joining the party that started the NHS, the party began by trade unionists, the party made to be a socialist voice for the working person, and then throwing a tantrum and leaving when a guy who believes in all of this gets in charge. It’s neoliberal Blairytes who brand Corbyn ‘unelectable’ and paint him as a ridiculous extremist. It’s them who still insist he is weak and completely unelectable even after, despite their mass effort, he held his ground and increased his mandate. And really, any man who can face David Cameron at PMQs and not make a pig joke weeks after that scandal broke must have a will of steel. I stayed up til 2 am making pig jokes on twitter when that news broke… But I digress. Centrist Labour politicians and self-satisfied liberal celebrities roll their eyes in despair at Krazy Korbyn and his allotment antics, patting themselves on the back for being so astute in observing what a fool he is. Really, they’re covering their own asses. All your mates are saying he can’t win, join in so you don’t look a fool. Also, despite outward concern for socially progressive causes, it’s cruel and unregulated capitalism that made their lives so cosy and they’ll be damned if they don’t cling to it while wearing a mask of benevolent concern for the human rights cause du jour. They hate the problems but love the causes. It’s vital to them that Corbyn loses because he’ll topple their ivory towers. Take JK Rowling, for example. Imagine writing a massively popular series of books about teenagers using magic to overthrow oppressive forces, then decrying an old man in beige who wants to feed impoverished children for being way too extreme.

The world of polished politicians towing the centrist line and faking respectability to get in and maintain the status quo for capitalism so it can screw over people in their own country and poison people abroad is over. We can choose what emerges. Right now, what is emerging is even uglier. Trump, Le Pen, pepe the effing frog… we are witnessing a previously unthinkable resurrection of fascism. Actual nazis are walking the streets unpunched and sharing memes about gassing people they deem beneath them. They get a couple of thousand views of youtube and that gets them a right to speak at universities, apparently. I don’t know if you remember but the last time this happened, softcore liberalism didn’t defeat them. It won’t this time. We must put in place an equal and opposite force, not someone who will hold hands with racist tyrants.

I see it from my peers too. The general idea seems to be that people like Corbyn – they think he’s a good man, he’s principled, he’s intelligent, he works hard, they like his policies…..buuuuuut. And it’s a big ‘but’,

“He’s got good ideas, but he’ll never win!”

“I like him, but he just doesn’s seem like a leader…”

“It’s just the way things are, unfortunately. If he doesn’t move to the centre he’ll never get in.”

It’s hugely frustrating. People see that the system is garbage and Jeremy Corbyn might just fix it, but they passively go along with it. They hold socialist principles yet turn down the chance to elect a socialist. They’re intelligent people who see that he’s a good man and a good politician, yet they buy into the rhetoric that he’s a passionless pushover despite all evidence to the contrary. They say ‘but Labour needs a less extreme leader to beat the tories!’ If the only way to beat the tories is by imitating their every cruel policy, then I would rather Labour not be in power and work as an opposing force on the back bench. People hold the power to vote, yet insist there is no way Jeremy Corbyn can be voted in. If you see what’s really going on and you have the power to change it, why are you passively accepting the ever declining status quo while the world descends into fascism? Will you fight this? Or will you perish like a dog? Vote for Jeremy Corbyn.

For the love of God – improve funding for mental health

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“Write hard and clear about what hurts” – Ernest Hemingway.

It has taken me some time to pluck up the courage to write about this, but I feel as someone who aspires to being a writer and someone who is finally in a place good enough to talk about this, I have a responsibility to shout into the ether of the ‘net what happened to me. Or rather, in me.

All my life I have suffered, or put up with, anxiety and OCD. It’s always been low level, flaring up like acne in times of stress. However so far it has always been something I could live with.

This changed around spring this year. I was having a bit of a bad time. I was living in a cold, dark, miserable house at uni. My finances weren’t great and looking to get worse. My family were moving away from the lovely house we had lived in for two years without me there to psychologically separate from it. I was lonely most of the time. I come from a busy and noisy family and despite living with 8 people I spent sometimes whole days on my own in my room, my flatmates quite understandably spending time with their partners and revising. On top of that there was an illness in the family. This was all getting me down, things really got bad when I was hit with unusually bad insomnia.

I’m usually a great sleeper, as soon as my head hits the pillow I’m off.Then one night I just didn’t sleep. I freaked out so much about it I didn’t sleep the next night. This continued, I knew it was because I was anxious about not sleeping that I wasn’t sleeping, vicious circles and everything. I would dread going to bed and would often end up staring up into the dark, frozen with fear about not sleeping. Other people may have brushed it off, watched a dvd and tried again later, I just couldn’t for some reason.

This anxiety over not sleeping brought the OCD on. If you know me you’re probably thinking “you are the least likely candidate for OCD ever” and you’d be right. I’m messy, disorganised, I hate order and routine. But the thing is, like most mental health issues, 99% of what you hear about OCD is utter bullshit. Condensed into an easy to swallow, watered-down concept they can make freakshow documentaries about. Mine, much to my flatmates dismay, did not take the form of tidying. I would get the compulsion to do rituals and physical tics, pointless activities to temporarily settle my anxiety. I restricted myself unnecessarily as well, in what I watched, read and ate. The words I used, my nights out, and so on. For a while it was merely a pain in the arse to deal with. Even then I didn’t think it was pointless and I should stop, I just saw it as my own personal burden I had to ever so catholicly deal with. People asked me why I was walking funny, or performing arbitrary routines and I would brush it off and change the subject.

After Easter break it very quickly spiralled out of control. I wasn’t eating enough and I lost a lot of weight. Routines and stupid rituals could take up hours of my day and physically exhaust me. My knees were in agony due to an ongoing tic of sitting up and down in chairs for literally hours. I had blisters on my hands. I was dehydrated. The worst one, the one that made me realise I truly needed help, was walking. My trip to uni featured lots of different pavement slabs and patchy tarmacing and my OCD compelled me to walk on certain things in certain ways, sometimes going back to them several times. A journey that took 15 minutes normally got longer and more frustrating. One day it took an hour and 45 minutes. I came home and collapsed in a chair, sobbing. The journey was hell, I was in tears most of the time, paralysed with panic and trying desperately trying to steady my breathing and wishing someone would break away from their life and rescue me. I knew then I absolutely had to tell someone, which naturally terrified me. I thought people would think I was a nutcase, I thought I was a nutcase. No one wants to be labelled. It was walking home that finally rescued me. My friend Jennie blessedly found me a few days later trying to complete the same journey and failing. She smilingly asked me how I was and I broke down in tears. She took me home and I told her what was happening. She, and everyone else (with one exception whom I will not name) was of course overwhelmingly kind. People are like that, most of the time. I bought my flatmates prossecco to say thank you. The next week or so they took me to doctor’s appointments and meetings at uni to get extensions on my coursework which had become an insurmountable task to do. They made me cups of tea and talked to me, and walked me to and from uni. They were angels. They didn’t judge me or laugh, they stayed up stupidly late while I did my batshit routines and even cooked for me. Eventually I went home and slowly but surely got better. These days it is still present but not overwhelming. The kindness of others was not something that gave out on me.

The problems came with trying to get solid medical help. A psychiatrist in A&E gave me my options but could offer me no real help there and then. I couldn’t get a doctors appointment in time and had to wait til I got home. A doctor called the emergency mental health team, who didn’t see me as an emergency as I wasn’t suicidal or harming myself or others. Eventually I got put on a six week waiting list for cognitive behavioural therapy. Another doctor prescribed me prozac, which has worked.

Everyone I spoke to was sympathetic but told me I would have to wait. Admitting you have a mental health issue takes time and a crapload of courage. Once you’ve told someone, you want and expect help straight away. Then you’re told you’re going to have to wait even longer.You are torturing yourself and humiliating yourself and you get a waiting list. Everyone said the same thing, mental health is the worst and most underfunded part of the NHS.

I love the NHS, I think it’s the thing we should be the most proud of as Brits. Mental health is stigmatised, misunderstood (“I have to tidy! I’m so OCD!”) and not physically apparent. You have to be suicidal to get immediate help. The way we see mental health has come on leaps and bounds, half a century ago I may have just been lobotomised, locked up and forgotten about like a minor royal (ouch). I’m grateful to have been born when I was born. Things still need to improve however.

What startled and upset me when I told people what was happening with me was how many people shared similar experiences. Nearly everyone I know had dealt with depression, anxiety or some other disorder at some point. This isn’t something other people have to deal with. I always thought that. Now I realise it is incredibly common and present in people from all walks of life. Any other type of illness this omnipresent would take up a sizeable chunk of the NHS, yet it seems near impossible to get help quickly and effectively. Things aren’t looking good with the outcome of the latest election either. My stepdad, who is ill, joked “I’ll be dead and you’ll be a looney!”.

The whole of the NHS is suffering but, like mental health sufferers themselves, this part of the NHS is shuffling along, neglected, silent and misunderstood by many for far too long. This isn’t the problem of exceptional individuals you don’t know, I guarantee you know someone who has suffered from mental health issues. Maybe you’ve had them yourself. I’m still getting better and I’m finally understanding what I have and what it will mean for the rest of my life. Many others are still living in the dark and we need to help them, right now.

I don’t know who exactly this post is addressed to. You, George Osbourne, The media, the general public, the Government, the Health service. I just hope someone hears.

In defence of Political Correctness

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It’s become a bit of a modern catchphrase that “political correctness has gone mad”. It’s a criticism thrown about with such gay (sorry, homosexual) abandon that we barely even notice it being said, let alone think about it. Every now and then, say about three times a week, one of the papers owned by Rupert Murdoch will spin a story about Christmas being banned so it doesn’t offend Muslims, or illegal immigrants being given free trips to Disneyland, or something else designed to put the blood of middle England on a gentle simmer. Columnists in the same newspapers will complain about the “PC Brigade” and paint themselves as a lone voice of reason in a sea of cowardly politically correct sheep who are too terrified of offending anyone to speak their mind.

The anti PC brigade is so vocal and obnoxious you forget any opposing force even exists. It doesn’t, at least not in the way they think it does. Most of the stories about political correctness “going mad” are either made up or highly exaggerated. Christmas hasn’t been replaced by “Winterval”, that was an idea proposed by a business for a celebration that had nothing to do with Christmas. Subway hasn’t stopped selling bacon to avoid offending Muslims, one subway franchise in a largely Muslim community realised they weren’t selling enough bacon so they stopped buying it themselves to reduce cost. It’s not PC, it’s just boring old business, as usual. I mean look around you, does it look like Christmas is going anywhere? People complain about it starting to early and then in the same breath they complain about it being banned by political correctness. I’m sure there are some instances where it can “go mad”, but I have yet to hear of a genuine example.

People talk about political correctness as though it is an unquestioned and widely enforced law. They like to paint themselves as a lone revolutionary, daring to speak against this cruel dictatorship. I even heard it talked about as “fascism dressed as politeness”. People are extremely angry that they are being told what they can and can’t say and see it as a violation of freedom of speech. That’s all you ever seem to hear about. If PC is so accepted, why is it we almost never hear anyone sticking up for it? There are a million Clarksons and Farages rolling their eyes and damming the PC brigade which is apparently everywhere, I can’t think of many times where someone actually says it’s a good thing. This politically correct force which rules us all can’t be all that powerful considering nearly everyone with access to comments sections on websites or a column in The Sun spends most of their time condemning it.

What is political correctness anyway? Is it fascism and denial of freedom of speech? Is it a cowardly attempt to avoid “offending” people? Stewart Lee, on of my favourite comedians and an incredibly smart man, has spoken a lot about it. He has a routine where he talks about life before political correctness and how black people were spoken about by major political parties. His opinion (which I agree with) is that we are a much kinder, better off society now and that at it’s worst political correctness is “institutionalised politeness”. He uses the example of evil journalist Richard Littlejohn writing about murdered women who were referred to in the papers as “women who worked as prostitutes”. In his opinion it’s that dastardly PC brigade and those dead women should be called prostitutes. Stewart Lee brilliantly brings him down, pointing out this was simply an attempt at kindness and sensitivity, and goes on to describe Littlejohn sneaking out to the grave of one of the murdered women and carving ‘prostitute’ (before signing it “Richard Littlejohn, c*nt. Not someone who worked as a c*nt, but a c*nt”). It saddens me people are so against attempts at sensitivity, because that’s all it is. Most of the time when people use the “pc! gone! mad!” accusation, it isn’t even political correctness at work. It might be many different things.

1. Just not everyone’s as much of a dick as you

I recently saw a thread on a facebook group that I follow about whether looks or personality were more of a factor in deciding someone’s attractiveness. A lot of people were saying they didn’t care too much about looks, or people were more attractive if they were nice and so on. One commenter said people’s physical attractiveness was not affected by how nice they are and everyone should “stop being so politically correct”. There’s an assumption that if you are being nice you aren’t saying what you really think. Cynical, nastier types like to claim that everyone is thinking what they’re thinking and they’re the only ones brave enough to speak the truth. Sometimes, however, people are just naturally sweet and good. Not everyone is a Katie Hopkins pretending to be Mother Theresa,  not everyone agrees with the nastiest opinion. That’s the main reason people don’t like PC, they think everyone’s just pretending to like oppressed groups and forcing themselves to be more liberal and sensitive. Perhaps it’s a way of justifying their own cold dead hearts, perhaps it’s just a lack of optimism in humanity. Either way, the simple truth is some people are just nice.

2. It’s not that you can’t say it, it’s just not everyone agrees with you.

So many times you hear people say “you can’t even say *that* anymore!”, usually just after they’ve said it, sometimes on national television without spotting the irony of it. Look, freedom of speech is important, but what it means is you can say whatever you want without being forced to stop or being arrested. It does NOT mean you can say what you like and face no social consequences. People can disagree with you, people can dislike you, people can get angry with you, people can even collectively agree to boycott your tv show and get you fired. That’s not a violation of YOUR freedom of speech, that’s THEIR freedom of speech. Too many people assume that their opinion being opposite to a widely held one means that their opinion is being denied and oppressed. The rise of the Ukips is a good example. Their radical un PC policies have them constantly in the headlines or on the news or in sincere televised debates, yet they still complain that their right wing policies are being silenced by the liberal biased media. The Green party at the other end of the political spectrum has almost no media presence, despite embodying the left wing policies the media is supposed to be in favour of. Someone protesting outside your headquarters means a lot of people hate what you are saying, and that’s allowed, it doesn’t mean you are being oppressed. Being hated is not the same as being silenced. You often hear someone complaining about being “branded” a racist or sexist or homophobe or whatever. Right wing papers gather round them in support. They would have you think that being accused of bigotry is a real problem, more so than actual oppression. Guess what? People have a right to call you a racist. Listen to them, they might have a point.

3. It’s not PC, the times are just changing

A recent shitstorm in a teacup happened when a radio debate about diversity lead by Lenny Henry featured no white members of the panel. Angry White People on twitter were angry and white about it, calling it reverse racism and asking why a discussion of racial diversity didn’t include their race. Look, I’m white. I’m very white. I’m irish and pale as hell and have lived my life mostly surrounded by other white people. I see no lack of representation of people like me in the media or in power. I’d like to see more women, yes, but I’m fine for white people. It’s like an all white woodstock over here, they’re everywhere. We’ve never had a PM who wasn’t white (and only one who wasn’t male) and we have majority representation in parliament. Simply put, we don’t need to be involved because diversity isn’t a problem for us. James Baldwin said “being white means never having to think about it” and it’s true. People didn’t like it because for the first time ever we were being excluded. This wasn’t a problem for us so we weren’t involved in the debate on it. A voice is being given to minorities and oppressed groups sometimes at the expense of more powerful people. That’s not a politically correct bias, that’s just inclusiveness.

There is a lot of good in it. I hear people say things like “You have to think about what you’re going to say all the time!” is that not just good life advice? Did you never get told to do that anyway? At it’s heart political correctness is just an attempt to be more sensitive, more kind, more inclusive. It’s not even forced on us, we are just being asked to be nice. Is that really so offensive? So difficult? People just keep ignoring it anyway so why get angry? We are, mostly, better with it. It may be an inconvenience to you that you can’t use quaint racial slurs or insult women, but for everyone who isn’t in a majority it’s a great help and helps increase respect and tolerance. The backlash comes from angry white men who are being told for the first time that they can’t do something. They can’t just bluster through life without consequences, the rest of us have a voice now. Actually read those fearmongering articles and you will see just how puffed up and ridiculous they are. No one is stopping you hanging an England flag out of your car window. No one celebrates St Georges day because no one gives a rat’s ass about it, not because it’s offensive. There’s a gay black woman on question time who is perfectly qualified to be there. Your freedom of speech s not being violated, you are just being asked to think about what you’re saying for a change.