Opposing fascists makes us better than them

Content note: this post discusses nazis, violence, murder

The emboldened far right across the pond are now at the point of marching in the streets with their swastikas and literally killing people who oppose them. Most of us–and many of us who are reading this–told you this would happen. There was resistance: the Charlottesville community did not let neo-Nazis go unopposed. They stood together, and did what they could to stop those fuckers from passing and show that they utterly reject the far right ideology. Symbolic, perhaps, but utterly necessary.

Standing against literal fucking Nazis is the most basic fucking resistance, and one which it perpetually surprises me remains controversial. Sure, the fash hate it, and that’s to be expected. But there are also pockets of liberals who are utterly disgusted by any squeak of resistance. They would rather not see opposition, but are wedded to us all sitting down with people who would like to see us dead, and having a nice debate. To do anything other than chum up and be nice to Nazis makes us as bad as them. 

Hating Nazis is bigotry.

Hating racism is hateful and bad.

Expressing horror at Nazis is intolerant and stepping on their free speech.

Physically preventing Nazis from operating and organising is the worst kind of violence.

Any squeak of opposition to fascism, in this jolyonic mindset, makes us just as bad as the Nazis.

Let me tell you this: that’s bullshit. Hating and opposing Nazis makes us better than them. It means that we have the basest level of comprehension that this is a violent ideology that must be organised against and rejected. The lives of our friends, our family, our loved ones depend upon it. This is an ideology that would see so many people exterminated. They are already killing people. Not metaphorically, not indirectly through policy, but literally fucking running down people in cars. This is an ideology which, seventy years after a war which was ostensibly to stamp that shit out, is once again gaining ground.

Resistance is an ugly, messy business. It is real people opposing a real problem. Sometimes this resistance entails hurting a Nazi’s feelings. Sometimes it involves real people physically preventing fascists from assembling or marching (for the numpties at the back: go and learn what freedom of speech is if you think that’s violating any freedom of speech rights). Sometimes it will involve physical violence.

The kicker is, it probably wouldn’t have had to get to this point if more mainstream support–rhetorical and street-based–had been given to anti-fascist organising before large groups of swastika-waving fash felt ballsy enough to march around in the streets.

A lot of the people getting squeamish over any semblance of resistance to Nazis would be the first to say that yeah, they’d probably go back in time and kill Hitler as a baby. So why the pearl-clutching over some Nazis getting a smack in the face? Is it because their friends, family and loved ones are more likely to be fucking fash than the people who will be threatened by them? Is it because they just never bothered learning their history?

Either way, now is not a time for hand-wringing. It’s a time for opposition. It’s got too far already, and it cannot be allowed to get any further. Take a principled stand, in any way you can. Organise. Support organisation. State clearly that you oppose fascism in all forms. You don’t have to personally punch any Nazis, but stand with those who do.

I’m an optimist, so I feel like we are not truly fucked yet. We’re on a knife-edge, but we have a chance to prevent another rise of the Nazis. But to do that, we need the liberals to get over their distaste for any form of opposition.

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Online abuse: men are the worst, and right-wing white men are the worst of all

Content note: this post discusses online abuse, death threats, misogyny, transphobia, homophobia and neo Nazis

The media discourse on online abuse has always been bloody dire, controlled by people from powerful platforms who are, briefly, wrested from their little grammar school debate club bubble. If you’re reading this blog, you probably feel this already. It’s a dangerous discourse, rooted mostly in bruised ego and utter obliviousness, but I cannot help but think that perhaps it serves a murkier function.

Yesterday, journalist Owen Jones tweeted a sample of the homophobic abuse he receives frequently from right wing men. If one scrolls down the thread, you will see that a certain Professional White Woman Expert On Internet Abuse™ begins yelling at him for pretending that right wing men are the problem, when the real enemy is left wing men and that Jones was derailing from this. In waded the boyfriend of a New Statesman editor to air his views that he was called a “dick”, just that day, by someone on the left (gasp!). Later, A Very Intelligent Man And Homebase Shopper decided to just pop in and go on like Jones was the one being derailing and disingenuous.

All Owen Jones did here was point out that online abuse from men on the right is disgusting, toxic and vicious. And he’s right. I think most of the demographic who read this blog would agree that right wing men are the worst abusers of all, and have at least once received a deluge of nastiness from the neo Nazis, if not a full-on campaign of hate. But in doing that, he challenged the mainstream model, and ranks closed as they felt their control on the narrative slip just slightly.

To the clique, the narrative goes like this: Nice White Ladies are the primary victims internet abuse. Misogynists are conflated with someone who disagrees with some of the frankly unpleasant and oppressive stances these people take. Secondary victims could include  melts being called melts. “Jolyon” and “cis” are apparently slurs on a par with the N-word (perhaps worse, given how silent this large media club remained on the horrific misogynoiristic abuse received by Diane Abbott). This post is abusive, because it’s written by a Not So Nice White Lady, features the word “melt”, mentions Homebase, and disagrees with them.

I mention obliviousness as an explanation of this behaviour, because it may be in part true. Imagine living your whole life in a small privileged bubble of being told you’re special, only to have it exposed that actually, most of the rest of the world think your hot takes are rubbish and wrong. That’d sting. And if you go through life without receiving much nastiness, on account of lucky accidents of your birth, it can make you feel like when you experience a bit of meanness, it’s somewhere on a par with the vicious racism and misogynoir which daily grinds at Black women and WoC; that your being called a slug is comparable with frequent bouts of open homophobia; that someone suggesting your latest newspaper column is shit, using the word “shit”, is exactly the same as when trans women are harassed, threatened, and put at risk.

However, it’s also true that these people receive less shit from the right than the rest of us. This is because they are not resisting right wing men. Men, all men, have pretty much two modes when it comes to relating to others: they like you, or they want to grind you to fucking dust because you haven’t given them their own way. White, right wing, cishet men seem to have the speediest hair trigger on deciding they want to destroy you. And if they don’t want to tear you apart, what are you doing to appeal to them?

The answer is that the particular media sect that likes to control the narrative are useful to the right–from the common-or-garden Tories to the outright neo Nazis. These groups share enemies in common. The TERFs are useful to the right for their hard work in doxxing and smearing trans women. The SWERFs, likewise, but in attacking sex workers. The media misogynoir and calls for a debate about Ordinary People’s Very Real Concerns About Immigration is very useful to the wider cause of racism and white supremacy. The hacks provide a nice, respectable face for the abominable views of the right and do great work in furthering it.

And, of course, any resistance can then easily be smeared as abuse. Perhaps, even, viewed through the lens of ignorance, it can be felt as abuse.

I am not saying here that men on the left are above reproach. Indeed, I’ve pissed off a fair few in my time by engaging in intra-community efforts to tackle misogyny, because it’s our struggle to have (not one for the slugs!). However, it is the right who are by far the worst perpetrators; and I think anyone who has gone up against them by the mere act of existing while opposed to their ideals will agree.

Online abuse narratives are fucked, and it is incredibly difficult to allow the truth of the situation to get out, since it is so controlled by those who would promote a conservative agenda. But the fact of the matter is this: those who talk most about it from their platforms are often the ones who receive least.

Related: How online abuse is politically hijacked, Owen Jones

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Recipe: Easy-peasy chili chocolate vegan sourdough cupcakes!

Content note: this post discusses food. And pussies.

If you just want the recipe without having to wade through this obnoxiously long story section where it’s difficult to find anything you want, it’s available to patrons on my Patreon!

sourdough cupcakes

I know I tend to hold controversial opinions, but an opinion of mine which draws most gasps is that I don’t like cake. There, I said it. I don’t like cake. And the reason I don’t tend to like cake is because I can’t fucking stand eggs, and I find that when cake is made with eggs, it tends to have a kind of… egginess. Meanwhile, vegan cake is better, due to the non-egginess, but often, it has a bit of a heavy texture.

Now, though, I’ve made a cake I actually like. It’s not eggy, because it contains no eggs, and yet it manages to have the softness and lightness of a non-vegan cake! Let me introduce you to my cunt sourdough cupcakes. Or cunnycakes, I suppose.

I mentioned in an earlier post about making sourdough pancakes that the chemical reaction between sourdough starter and bicarbonate of soda is quite remarkable, and creates a texture similar to having to fuck about with eggs to put air into them. These cupcakes use this same reaction to create lift, with a little bit of help from self-raising flour (1 and 1/4 cups).

I’m a huge fan of chili, coffee and chocolate, so this formed the basis of my cunnycakes. I started off by boiling up 5/6 of a cup of water, and adding it to just under half a cup of cocoa powder, a tablespoon of instant coffee and half a teaspoon of chipotle chili flakes. I adore smokey chili flavours, and these gave the cakes a little kick at the end. I also added a tablespoon of espresso vodka, which is probably strictly optional, but it was kind of vanilla-ish and straight from the freezer, which cooled the mixture down a little quicker. You’ll want to wait till it’s tepid once you’ve mixed it all to smooth.

Usually, I’m really annoyed by recipes which call for mixing dry ingredients with wet, because they often call for tedious folding to keep the air in. I’m just too heavy-handed to be gingerly and gently folding my flour into the wet ingredients, so I cannot be fucking arsed with that bullshit. I’m pleased to report that this recipe requires precisely zero folding, and all the mixing can be done quite quickly. Also, it’s quick as fuck: it actually took longer for the cocoa-coffee-chili mixture too cool than it did to mix everything together and bake it in the oven! The baking is literally ten minutes at 180C in a fan oven!

For the dry ingredients, I used the self-raising flour and 3/4 cup of sugar. I went with caster sugar, as I had some in the back of my cupboard, I have no idea how it’d turn out with other forms of sugar. And, of course, for raising, I used half a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda.

Bicarbonate of soda is alkaline, so needs something acidic to react with. Sourdough starter is an acid, so half a cup of that goes in. You all know all about my sourdough starter, which includes a bit of vaginal yeast. Obviously, that bit is optional. Sourdough starter has a pH of about 4-4.5, which is roughly similar to a human vagina anyway–our minges have a pH of around 3.5-4.5! However, I wouldn’t recommend just using pussy juice instead of the sourdough starter, as you’d have to do some sort of arcane calculation to figure out how to change the flour ratio. For extra acidity, I also added a tablespoon of lemon juice.

So, basically, I mixed my dry ingredients with the sourdough starter, lemon juice, chili-chocolate-coffee mixture and half a cup of coconut oil. This was the first time I’d ever cooked with coconut oil, and because it was a hot day, it was ideal. To turn it from a solid, which it is when it was cool, to a liquid, I just left it on my balcony for about five minutes. What wasn’t completely liquid at room temperature quickly melted when mixed with the tepid chili-chocolate-coffee mixture.

That all got mixed together with a whisk, until it formed a smooth batter, which basically resembled… cake batter. Like, normal cake batter. Unfortunately, it doesn’t taste anywhere near as good, because uncooked sourdough starter tastes pretty funky. If licking the bowl is your favourite thing about baking, you’re going to be disappointed, but your disappointment will soon be alleviated by some tasty fucking cakes.

I had no idea how many cakes this recipe would produce. I expected maybe about twelve, but as I started spooning the mixture into cake cases, it turned out to be much more. Much, much more. You can get about 24 cakes out of this recipe.

At this juncture, I still had no idea what to expect. Would they rise at all? Would they resemble cakes? Would they rise too much and take over my oven, claiming it as The Autonomous Republic Of Utterly Failed Cake Baking? I suppose, what I expected was that kind of close-textured thing you often end up getting with vegan baking.

I was wrong. Midway through the bake, I needed to turn the tray around, because my oven is much hotter at the back than it is at the front (even though it’s supposed to be a fan oven). “Fuck me,” I said, out loud. “I’ve made cakes.”

And when they came out of the oven, they were definitely cakes.

cupcake inside

More like conventional, non-vegan cakes. More like the sort of thing you usually make with eggs!

And reader, they were really fucking good. They had a coconutty taste from the coconut oil, which tempered that pleasant bitterness of coffee and cocoa. At the end, there’s a very light chili kick. I took a bunch of cakes round to a Scarlet Ladies meetup, and they were proclaimed delicious.

Using the sourdough-bicarb reaction, I expected to produce something edible, possibly even bordering on passable. Instead, I managed some really good, yummy cakes, which I’ll definitely be making again. I hope you have a go at cooking these tasty girls yourself. You have everything you need to replicate this recipe in this post, but if you want it in an easier format, it’s in basic recipe form on my Patreon.

Happy baking!

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We need to act now for abortion rights before the DUP tear them away

As you may have heard, one of the first things on the agenda of the unholy Tory-DUP alliance, may well be an attack on abortion rights. This is chilling news: even if it is a reduction of time limit, this opens the door to further chipping away abortion rights.

In Northern Ireland, abortion is still illegal. Women are convicted for self-administering medical abortions–which they have to do because they have no legal access to services. They must travel to England at a cost of thousands of pounds for an abortion–and they do. Homes are raided by police in case women have abortion pills, with raids even occurring on International Women’s Day!

This is what the DUP want for everyone with a uterus in the rest of the UK, and they are now in a position to try to make this happen.

And so, we need to get mobilising now to ensure that our abortion rights are not in any way reduced. In fact, as an additional finger to the DUP, we could use the opportunity of a vote on abortion rights to further strengthen what exists in the country as a whole.

There’s two particular legal quirks which make abortion rights in Northern Ireland almost non-existent, and also very fragile in the rest of the UK. In the whole of the UK, abortion is illegal under the Offences Against the Person Act (1861). Yes, I did mean to type “the whole of the UK”. Abortion is technically illegal on every part of this rainy fascism archipelago, under a law that is over a century and a half old. In England, Scotland and Wales, the Abortion Act (1967) sets out specific circumstances under which abortions will not be prosecuted. This means that as long as an abortion is playing by the rules from the 1967 Act, it’s still a criminal offence, but not going to mean you or your doctor will be prosecuted for it.

In Northern Ireland, the Abortion Act (1967) does not apply, most abortions are still a criminal offence which you and your doctor can still be prosecuted for, and could be imprisoned for. The Northern Ireland situation is particularly horrific. Labour’s manifesto promised to make the Abortion Act apply in the country. This is a good place to start, but the criminal situation of abortion in the whole of the UK is in itself dangerous, particularly if there are anti-abortion womb-botherers pulling the strings of government.

So, if the DUP want a vote on abortion rights, there’s no time like the present to begin organising for fairer, safer abortion rights for anyone with a uterus in the whole of the UK. It’s time to talk about two key issues, make these problems visible. It’s also a good time to our MPs to table these as amendments if this vote does indeed come to pass:

I’ve written to my MP, telling him to protect existing abortion rights, extend them to Northern Ireland, and remove any threat of criminalisation. Please write to your MP, using this as a template. You can get your MP’s contact details here. Remember to include your full name and address in your correspondence.

Subject: Protect abortion rights in the UK

Dear [their name]

As you may be aware, part of the deal between the DUP and the Conservatives could include a vote on the abortion time limit. Should such a vote occur, I strongly urge you to vote against it. I believe that a vote to reduce the time limit on abortions would open the door to further restrictions on abortion rights. Furthermore, less than 2% of abortions carried out occur after 20 weeks of gestation, and many of those that do occur because some abnormalities can only be detected at 20 weeks. It is therefore vital that access to this medical procedure is still available for anyone who needs it.

Should a vote on abortion rights occur, I further urge you to table certain amendments addressing key abortion rights issues.

  1. Applying the Abortion Act (1967) to Northern Ireland, in order to give those living in NI access to the same abortion rights as in the rest of the UK, rather than being forced to travel to England at great expense, or having to take criminal action. This discrepancy is unfair, and has been addressed in the 2017 Labour manifesto an inequality to be righted.
  2. Decriminalise abortion in the whole of the UK. The Abortion Act (1967) does not legalise abortion, merely set out circumstances where abortions will not be prosecuted.

Please use your position to protect the limited abortion rights that we have, and extend them to further protect constituents like me, at risk of falling pregnant and wishing to end the pregnancy.

Free free to personalise, with why the issue matters to you, personally, as their constituent. If your MP writes back to you telling you that actually they don’t mind these inequalities, then here’s a few template letters for your reply.

We also need to support activists in Ireland and Northern Ireland alike, like the Repeal the 8th campaign, Alliance for Choice,  Belfast Feminist Network, as well as support groups such as Abortion Support Network, who provide support for travelling to England for abortions–if you’re in NI or Ireland and need an abortion, they can help you.

I wasn’t expecting to have to fight this battle again, so quickly. But I’m ready, and I stand with Northern Ireland and Ireland, and I resist any attack on our uteruses.

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How to vote the Tories out: a newbies’ guide to tactical voting

Hello. You’re here because you don’t want a Tory government in the future. Maybe you’re disabled. Maybe you’re young. Maybe you’re elderly. Maybe you’re queer, or a person of colour, or poor. Maybe you’re more than one of these things. And maybe you want a fighting chance of surviving and living a good life. We know this can’t happen under the Tories. And so it’s time to exercise our pitifully feeble democratic rights and vote the fuckers out. Unfortunately, it’s not just as simple as voting Labour and enjoying the perks, and at the very least surviving. This is because the Westminster election system is, to put it kindly, a hot mess.

What’s up with our screwy electoral system?

In the UK, in Westminster, we’re don’t directly elect a Prime Minister. The Prime Minister is chosen by MPs. There are 650 seats for MPs in Westminster, with each MP for a seat chosen based on a majority of votes in their constituency. If any party gets more than half of the seats, it’s pretty easy to choose the Prime Minister: they’ll pick the leader of the party that controls more than half the seats, and nobody can do anything about voting that down.

It gets a bit more complicated if no party gets more than half of the seats. This is called a hung parliament. The last time we had this was in 2010. When there’s a hung parliament, parties need to hastily make back room deals with each other, exchanging favours so there’ll be more than half of Parliament voting for the same person as PM. There’s plenty of potential things that could be promised in these deals. In 2010, the Tories made a deal with the Lib Dems to make the Tory leader Prime Minister, in exchange for the Lib Dems occupying some roles in government.

In short, it’s the MPs that vote for the Prime Minister, not you. So to get the Tories out, what we need to shoot for is for Labour to control more than half the seats in Parliament, or for parties who aren’t the Tories to control more than half the seats in Parliament. The latter is perhaps the easier goal, again, because of our screwy electoral system where some votes matter more than others in a postcode lottery.

Why do some votes matter more than others?

Each constituency in the UK is made up of a roughly-similar-population geographical area, created by tradition, guesswork, a little bit of cheating from whoever is in government, and a healthy dash of dabbling with the occult.

In some areas, you’ll find people who would pretty much vote for a dead pig’s head if it was wearing a blue ribbon. In other areas, you’d find people who would basically vote for a jar of quince jam were it wearing a red ribbon. In these areas, which are known as safe seats, your vote doesn’t really carry much weight. Whatever you do, chances are you’ll end up with that jam jar or dead pig’s head.

In other seats, it gets a bit more exciting. These seats are called marginals, and they are much more likely to change hands. These seats are essentially kingmakers: they decide the difference, and, at the end of the day, the MPs elected there decide who’s Prime Minister. Last election, the most marginal seat was Gower, in Wales, where the Tory candidate won by just 27 votes. If just 30 more Labour voters had turned up on that day, the seat would have been controlled by Labour, not the Tories. So if you live in one of these seats, your vote is worth a lot more.

This electoral system, you might note, is massively unfair, given that some votes matter a lot more than others, depending where you live. Politicians aren’t particularly interested in changing it, as it makes their lives easier: they can target more resources in the marginal seats rather than having to bother appealing to everyone.

However, things can change, and a safe seat can become less safe, or even eventually change hands. This happened to the Lib Dems in the 2015 election, for example. They’d controlled many seats for years, and voters ended up having had enough for them: so Tories, Labour and the SNP nicked most of their seats right out from under their noses.

So, what’s tactical voting?

Tactical voting means that sometimes you’ll need to vote for the candidate most likely to win, rather than the candidate you actually want to vote for. It usually depends where you live. So, for example, some of you might live in an area where Labour don’t stand a chance of beating the Tories, but the Lib Dems might. Others might live in an area where the Lib Dems don’t stand a chance of beating the Tories, but Labour might (though I don’t much expect many Lib Dem voters will be reading my blog). Some of you might live in an area where Labour don’t stand a chance of beating the Tories, but the SNP do.

In short, you might have to make some concessions to your principles, if you want to vote the Tories out. You might need to vote in favour of an independence referendum that probably won’t happen, or for a homophobic bottom-feeder party, or for leather-patched courgette-grower.

So, in terms of voting the Tories out, here’s how we do it.

Step 1: find out what constituency you’re voting in

Your constituency will be written on your poll card. Or, if you don’t have it to hand, you can do it online, by putting in your postcode.

Step 2: find out who stands a chance in the area

There are automated online tools for figuring out your tactical voting needs, but most of these seem to have a bias towards the Lib Dems in Labour-Lib Dem marginals, and this is a problem, given the Lib Dems would likely form another coalition with the Tories so you’ve achieved the opposite of getting the Tories out. My advice is to not vote Lib Dem unless you’re in a Tory-Lib Dem marginal, and here’s why you shouldn’t be voting Lib Dem.

Besides, it’s easy to find out what sort of seat you live in, and slightly more fun.

Google [your constituency name] constituency wikipedia. The wikipedia page for each constituency gives tables with recent election results. If you look over recent years, you’ll see how much impact your vote would have, and whether you’re in a marginal or a safe seat.

Here’s an example of a safe seat: Maidenhead

As you can see, Theresa May got 65.8% of the vote. The Labour candidate, the next biggest party, was almost 30,000 votes behind her. If you live in Maidenhead, it fucking sucks to be you.

Meanwhile, here’s a marginal seat:

Croydon Central

As you can see, most people in the area are voting either Tory or Labour, and the gap between the parties is small: there’s less than 200 votes in it! If you live in a seat that looks like this, your vote matters an awful lot, and you could make it so there’s one less Tory in parliament.

Some marginals will have a larger gap: there might be a distance of 1000, or even 5,000 votes. These still matter.

Step 3: pick who to tactically vote for!

The simple rule for tactical voting is VOTE FOR YOUR LOCAL BIGGEST PARTY WHO AREN’T THE TORIES.

As I said earlier, sometimes tactical voting means you don’t get to vote for who you’d actually like to vote for. In the country as a whole, the party which is most likely to have a majority government to oust the Tories is Labour. They’ll be the party who aren’t the Tories who will have the most seats.

Now, if you’re in a safe seat like Maidenhead, you’re mostly fuck out of luck. The best you can do is try to close the gap and scare your Tory MP. It’s unlikely to unseat the incumbent, but it might remind them that they’re not completely untouchable. If you live in a Labour safe seat, like I do, you’ve got free rein, really. You can vote for who you want to vote for. I’m currently debating with myself whether to vote Labour, which will further bolster the vote share; vote Green, because the candidate is really nice and I feel like if I want to point out to my (right-ish Labour apparatchik) MP that they’d better fucking well tack left; or whether to spoil my ballot because, after all, I am an anarchist and this pitiful excuse for a democracy is truly pitiful. I want the Tories out, and my vote doesn’t mean much in getting that outcome.

If you live in a marginal seat, then VOTE FOR YOUR LOCAL BIGGEST PARTY WHO AREN’T THE TORIES.

So, for example, in the Croydon Central example above, to get the Tories out, you have to vote Labour.

Sometimes the marginals might already be held by a party who aren’t the Tories, like in the example below:

Hampstead and Kilburn

There’s a little over 1,000 votes between Labour and the Tories. If you want to keep the Tories out, you need to turn up and vote Labour.

Some of you might live in seats where it could change hands between the Tories and Lib Dems, like in the example below:

Eastbourne

I’ve included the 2010 results too, because as you can see, it’s changed hands in the past. In a seat like Eastbourne, you need to suck up your principles and vote for the biggest party who aren’t the Tories. In this case, it’s the Lib Dems.

Sometimes, the party that might beat the Tories could be the SNP, like in the example below:

Untitled

The gap in Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk is small, with the SNP having just 328 more votes than the Tories. So if you live here and want to keep the Tories out of your seat, you’d need to vote SNP.

And finally, let’s use a special example of South Thanet, where the general rule of VOTE FOR YOUR LOCAL BIGGEST PARTY WHO AREN’T THE TORIES kind of collapses. South Thanet has been a Tory seat since 2010, and because there’s barely any immigration in the area, voters are more susceptible to fibs about migration. So, in the 2015 election, the Tories won, but UKIP came second. Fucking well don’t vote UKIP under any circumstances, but also don’t vote Tory either. The UKIP vote is likely to collapse, and they’re fascists. So the biggest party that isn’t the Tories is Labour, who came second in 2010, and held the seat before that.

Step 4, the most important step: ACTUALLY SHOW UP ON THE DAY AND VOTE

This is all a fun little intellectual exercise if you don’t turn up and vote on June 8th–this Thursday.

The polling stations open at 7am and close at 10pm, so there’s time for you to fit voting in around your day. Polling stations are wheelchair accessible, and it’s OK to bring your kids. If you bring a dog, expect to have it photographed to bring joy to the world. Get in touch with your friends and families who aren’t authoritarian racists to remind them to vote, too.

You’ll be given directions to your polling station on your poll card. If you’ve lost your poll card, it doesn’t matter: you can find your polling station online. The map online is better, too.

You don’t need your poll card to vote, it just makes it a bit easier for the clerks at the polling station. When you get to the polling station, tell them your name and address, and they’ll give you your ballot.

And then it’s showtime.

Vote for your local biggest party who aren’t the Tories. 

It’s a long shot, but it’s entirely possible to kick the Tories out of office with a decent turnout and some smart voting.

VOTE FOR YOUR LOCAL BIGGEST PARTY WHO AREN’T THE TORIES.

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“I don’t know, let me find out”: learn this phrase. Use it.

I’ve hit the end of my tether with this fucking election. It’s driving me right up the wall, daily doses of bullshit. Today, it’s one politician making what the Jolyons treat as the worst boo-boo ever. Tomorrow, it’ll be another.

The boo-boo in question is not knowing some numbers off the top of your head, as though politics were no more than an end-of-the-pier mentalism show. The politician–who will always be The Absolute Worst, unless they are a shiny member of the pigfucking class and therefore more palatable to news outlet owners–will generally respond in one of two ways. They will give a wrong figure, presented with confidence, which is Bad. Or they will admit that they do not know off the top of their head. This is Worse.

The latter is Worse because it does not fit in with macho politics, which, of course, reflects some of the worst trappings of masculinity. The phenomenon is related to mansplaining, blurting out any old guff without any expertise, yet with all the confidence in the world. To say “I don’t know, let me find out,” is to back down, admit weakness.

For myself, it was a difficult journey getting myself in the position where I could admit that I was not a computer, able to immediately spit out the right data on request. As a woman in STEM, it’s one of the worst things you can say (despite the entirety of science being built on identifying what we don’t know, and finding out!). As a girl surrounded by boys, you’re considered a thick bimbo. In schools, your teachers will tut when you’re put on the spot and can’t perform. It’s an age-old valued skill, and I suspect it dates back to antiquity, the orators droning things out from their head.

But it’s a bullshit skill, demonstrating only your ability to be spoonfed and regurgitate. It smacks of public school, the political and media class being steeped in its values.

“I don’t know, let me check” is a beautiful phrase. It is honest, and you emerge smarter from the act of checking. You have learned something that you didn’t know. You have proved yourself aware of the limits of your knowledge, and willing to grow, in a very slight way.

I have more respect, any day, for someone who can do this.

The transition from awkward to liberated, for me, was a little slow, but I forced myself to keep saying “I don’t know, let me find out”, when I didn’t know and needed to find out. People would look at me like I was stupid, but you know what? I emerge knowing a little bit more, every time I check. And I realised just how little that others are growing.

I want to see more value placed on self-awareness and willingness to learn, replacing the value placed on false confidence and spurting bollocks. I want to see a sign of weakness turned into a sign of strength: someone who will grow rather than stagnate.

And yet I feel, in the macho shitshow that is the world, this is likely doomed to fail. But I don’t know that for sure–and I’d like to find out by trying.

 

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Your especial dislike of Diane Abbott is irrational (and probably racist)

Diane Abbott has once again been The Worst™, having done something a lot of other politicians do and… actually I’m not 100% sure what it was this time, but I think it was a bad TV interview. And, from all sides of the political spectrum, there’s scaremongering about the fact that there’s a possibility she could become Home Secretary.

Some people are openly misogynoiristic about Abbott, and that’s grim. But at least it’s honest. The rest, who like to think of themselves as Nice People™ leap through hoops to try to justify their dislike of this politician, and their irrational opposition to a black woman occupying one of the great offices of state.

It starts with “but she’s not qualified to be Home Secretary!”. That’s an interesting assertion to make. Taking less than thirty seconds on google reveals that her CV presents her as more qualified than most previous Home Secretaries or shadows. Abbott’s career before politics included two very notable roles. She was a civil servant in the Home Office–which is significantly more direct experience of working in the Home Office than most of the others who have held the office. Later, she worked for the National Council for Civil Liberties, which is again a crucial home affairs role. As an MP, Abbott has served on committees pertinent to home affairs. And her track record is reasonably good: even the goddamn Spectator recognised her speech opposing the New Labour government on civil liberties issues with an award for speech of the year! Her voting record on home affairs is all right, and if you’re a Lib Dem who wants to root for a party with a chance of getting into government, she’d probably be your best bet for Home Secretary, because she’s not bad at all on the civil liberties front.

Like I said, this took me all of thirty seconds on google to find. So ask yourself, why didn’t you take those thirty seconds to check? Why did you just assume Abbott was unqualified for the role?

Rather than interrogating themselves at this juncture, usually the goalposts get shifted to “but Diane Abbott isn’t great at TV interviews.” This one is particularly nonsensical coming from Tory voters, in the midst of a campaign riddled with Tory car crash TV interviews, and Lib Dems, whose leader has done a pisspoor job of portraying himself as Not A Homophobe. It’s also not like Labour are particularly excellent at TV interviews either. In short, this is because the TV interview format is generally not designed to make the politician look good. Nobody’s above the car crash interview, and when it’s a politician you like, you’ll generally either ignore it, or claim that it’s media bias. Funnily, such defences never seem to come for Abbott, and it’s assumed she’s given a harder time because she deserves it, because apparently the media and journalists are always flying above racism and misogyny.

This, incidentally, is the same sort of thing that happens with the equally-irrational “but she sent her kids to private school!” Yes, she did. So have other politicians. She’s not even the only one on the Labour front bench who has. Is it good? No. Is she alone in that? Of course not.

So, once we’ve hit the unfair singling out, shit starts to get abstract, and what we usually end up with is a mumbled, vague “her manner isn’t good.” If we interrogate this, it’s almost always one of a few things. Which are almost always rooted in racist stereotypes.

“She’s angry!” Such a common misogynoiristic stereotype, it’s got its own wikipedia page.

“She plays the race card too much!” Again, a pretty common racist stereotype, and not evidenced, considering she’d been an MP for 30 years before she finally spoke out about personal abuse she’d received.

“She doesn’t look like a politician!” Ask yourself. What does a politician look like to you? The answer is, invariably, a possibly-shinyfaced pigfucking public school boy. A white man in a suit. You might extend your vision of a politician to a white man out of a suit. Or a white woman in a suit. Or a black man in a suit. But for some reason, the black woman doesn’t look like a politician to you, with her wig and her black skin, her tendency to sound like she’s black and from London, as opposed to Rodean. Abbott isn’t the only black woman MP to “not look like a politician”. Dawn Butler, MP for Brent Central, and a black woman, was once mistaken for a cleaner by a fellow MP. And remember how you just assumed Abbott wasn’t qualified for the job?

“I… I just don’t like her.” Fair enough. Maybe you grew up in a vacuum, and your brain just irrationally fixated on this particular MP with your especial dislike.

We’re bombarded with messaging, daily, about what a politician should look like and be like. We’re also bombarded with negative messaging about black women. It sinks in. And it sinks in, even, to people who don’t think of themselves as racist, don’t think of themselves as carrying misogynoir within themselves. But that’s impossibly unlikely, and you’ll only unlearn and unpick it if you start from the statistically-likely assumption that it’s there, in yourself and in other people.

The truth is, Diane Abbott isn’t any less competent than any other politician–in fact, she’s more competent than many. She’s no more awful than any other politician–all of whom are a bad bunch, and she’s one of the ones I have least of an axe to grind with. She’s not bringing the negative media attention on herself, it’s that the media themselves have an issue with a black woman in a position of power; don’t forget they’re very much owned by racist white men. Ask yourself: why are your expectations of Diane Abbott higher than they are for any of your white male politicians? It’s not Diane Abbott rubbing you up the wrong way, it’s that you’re rubbing yourself.

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