Michael Rosen supporting the strike at Goldsmith's College

Michael Rosen supports the picket line at Goldsmiths College

Michael Rosen, author and professor of children’s literature, was out in support on the picket line at Goldsmith’s College on Tuesday where staff are striking to fight off the threatened job cuts of 25% of all academic staff.

In his speech he said that staff were in the centre of a perfect storm. There was a national crisis in the funding of the universities. At the same time there was a switch away from the arts and humanities in the state sector and that applied from three-year-olds to higher education. He contrasted this with the facilities available in private schools where children had their own theatres, music blocks, arts studios, orchestras and jazz bands. He asked why access to the arts was now only seen as the right of the children from a privileged minority? The third element in the perfect storm he saw as the pernicious management running Goldsmiths. They did not even pay lip service to the idea of good industrial relations. He said he had never witnessed anything like it, where representatives from management walked out of an open meeting with staff and refused to answer questions. He said he was ‘gobsmacked’. After all they weren’t battering down doors as he did in 1968. He ended by saying:“We have the right to strike to defend our jobs. – we have the right to work and we have the right to defend the quality and existence of our work which means ensuring that the children in state education have the same access to the arts and humanities as those in the private sector.” (MT)

Labour suspends Andy Brown over 6 year old retweets

Scottish Labour hopeful Andy Brown has been suspended by the party for two 6-year old retweets. One of them, from a Jewish historian, said: “The real issue… is that right-wing Jews in the Labour party and outside the party object to the fact that Jeremy Corbyn is a consistent supporter of Palestinian rights.” The issue now is that for many inside and outside the party that is just a statement of fact. Even if it were not true is it not a valid point of view? Or does political groupthink dictate that unproven allegations of antisemitism against Jeremy Corbyn are now accorded a status of truth? The second tweet concerned the Salisbury killings. It was from now banned media outlet RT and said the “toxin” used in the Salisbury poisonings was “never produced in Russia, but was in service in the US, UK, and other NATO states”. A Channel 4 investigation suggests that there was no definitive evidence it had come from Russia. But, as NATO affiliated countries have demonised Russia, anything which appears to be pro-Russian is now treated as close to treason. The only evidence we have for Salisbury is that produced by the British security services. The question however is not about the veracity of the claims but rather that Labour has chosen two weeks into an election campaign to raise them. Surely any party doing due diligence should have excluded this candidate prior to selection if they were felt to be a bad fit? (DM)

Tax hikes, police brutality but a likely U-turn by the Kenyan Government

Hundreds of Kenyan protesters marched towards parliament. People joined as word spread on social media. But the police kept them back, fired tear gas and made arrests. As one protester pointed out, the Kenyan constitution grants the right to protest. The Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) has urged the police to stop the arrests.

The protests and the general outcry against the bill appear to have been effective, as seemingly some important amendments to the Finance Bill have been secured.  Kenyans were alarmed at the proposed taxes but also witnessed the establishment brutally repressing lawful protest. This is not unique to Kenya. Around the world, governments pass legislation to restrict our rights to protest and condone or encourage the brutal treatment of demonstrators by the police.

Kenya is considered to have a thriving economy, but about a third of the population lives in poverty. The annual rate of inflation was 5.1% last month; food and fuel inflation were 6.2% and 7.8%. President Ruto, elected in 2022, secured a large majority, and promised to revive the economy. A recent bill aimed to raise 346.7 billion shillings ($2.7 billion), to reduce Kenya’s reliance on external borrowing. It included the reintroduction of VAT on bread and a tax on motor vehicles. Only a small percentage of Kenyans own their own vehicles, but the majority depend upon public transport and would be affected by the new tax. Tax increases were planned for financial services, manufacturing and retail. (JB)

Atishoo! Atos you! All fall down!

Atos, the French tech giant and outsourcing contractor is facing bankruptcy and is being helped to restructure by the French government. Unless you are a disabled person who has been assessed for personal independence payments (PIP) you are probably unaware that the UK government has been dishing out contracts to Atos as well. Atos is contracted to assess people for PIP, and have a track record of denying claims. When claimants appeal to tribunal half of all appeals are successful.

As well as the DWP, Atos have provided IT services for the NHS, Home Office, Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Justice and HMRC. They have received £6 billion in UK government contracts since 2016 and currently have 40 contracts totalling £1 billion. The Cabinet Office is worried that the French rescue package may not cover Atos’ UK operations. A collapse would cause chaos at the heart of government. So they have brought in another contractor, PwC, at a cost of £500,000, to carry out a risk assessment and make recommendations.

Meanwhile the French government is bidding to nationalise Atos’ data and cybersecurity division. So privatisation could lead to the UK government paying the French government to manage our vital infrastructure. So much for taking back control! (MS)

Right comments, right ideas, wrong crowd

While the real world is seeing a rise in right-wing parties, the digital world is experiencing a surge of right-wingers reacting against modern media, which they feel criticises them unfairly. I noticed this trend while browsing Star Wars TikTok. Instead of the usual fan theories and character breakdowns, I encountered a lot of complaints about ‘woke TV’.

One frequent target is the new show ‘The Acolyte’, particularly its plot involving queer characters. Right-wing media consumers are becoming aware of the shift towards more socially conscious narratives and are reacting with anger. They have even started review-bombing sites like Rotten Tomatoes, labelling Disney’s latest Star Wars series as ‘woke nonsense’. Lesley Headland, the show’s director and creator, has responded by embracing the criticism, proudly stating, ‘This is the gayest entry into the franchise’.

This backlash is not unique to ‘The Acolyte’. Similar reactions can be seen with Prime Video’s ‘The Boys’, a brutal and satirical series that mocks right-wing extremism and conspiracy theories. Originally popular with the MAGA and ‘alpha male’ communities, these viewers are now realising the show is making fun of them, resulting in negative reviews.

What does this mean for the future of television? It’s unclear. Will streaming companies create content catering to the right, or will they recognise that even the critics are still watching? Despite their complaints, these viewers contribute to the show’s viewership, proving that even hate-watching counts.(HJ)

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