Category Archives: Media and Internet Culture

Sacha Baron Cohen’s Who Is America Proves Right Wingers Are Ignorant About The Political Left


Sacha Baron Cohen has duped lots of people on his TV show Who Is America? where, Borat-style, he plays different characters and fools his interviewees into reacting to those characters. He’s tricked lefties, he’s tricked righties. He’s tricked ordinary Joes and lawmakers, celebrities and folks working out their payroll. Baron Cohen isn’t targeting any particular group. But something surprising emerged from the very first episode: right-wingers fell for his lefty character far harder than lefties fell for his right wing character.

Baron Cohen’s Professor Nira Cain N’Degeocello character is the epitome of the right-wingers’ idea of a leftard snowflake: he apologises for being a white male, is obsessed with gender equality, immaturely emotional about Trump’s presidency, frets about accidentally engaging in cultural appropriation, and is judgemental towards Trump supporters while acting like he’s “healing the divide.” He uses words like “triggered” out of context, rendering them meaningless. N’Degeocello stretches sentences to breaking point to avoid mentioning gender, for example when asked if his partner Naomi is a woman, he responds that she “has a round vagina…she has nipples but they are attached to swollen mammaries” when even the most dedicated leftist could have stated that Naomi was born female, is a cisgendered woman or has XX chromosomes. But perhaps an extreme view of what lefties are like is unsurprising for right-wingers who live in a right-wing bubble. What is most surprising is that right-wingers seem to horribly misunderstand what the left stands for- to the extent that it’s easy to see why these misconceptions would lead them to choose right wing attitudes over left wing ones.


In the first Who Is America episode, Professor N’Degeocello meets a Trump delegate and her husband. (Neither bat an eyelid at the fact that N’Degeocello has a daughter named after Malala who has reached puberty despite Malala Yousafzai only becoming famous around six years ago.) What really strikes the viewer is the fact that the couple seem so oblivious to what left wing values actually are that they believe Cain-N’Degeocello when he says that he forces his son to urinate sitting down and his daughter to urinate standing- all so that they won’t be following gender norms. He even uses “compliance cams” to enforce this. Obviously, this isn’t what people mean when they talk about gender norms restricting children’s natural expression, play, and career aspirations. N’Degeocello then claims his daughter isn’t old enough to share her mother’s menstruation cup, so she has to free-bleed on the American flag. (Because lefties are such suckers for ‘hippy’ consumer products and would of course refuse to buy pads or tampons for their child). Malala free-bleeds in front of the entire family including her adolescent brother Harvey Milk. This, and the being forced to urinate standing up, are not examples of gender-neutral parenting. In fact, both practices emphasise Malala’s gender and shame her for it (she’ll probably have a harder time complying with the bathroom rules than Harvey will, and she has to menstruate in the most uncomfortable, messy way possible and be naked in front of her brother, while he does not). The Trump supporters are so out of touch with reality that they seem unsurprised that the Clinton Foundation is, according to N’Degeocello, now funding a flag free-bleeding program. The couple also believed that Professor N’Degeocello’s partner Naomi regularly sexually abuses dolphins, and that their therapist supported this and told Nira Cain to accept it.

Dr Nira Cain N’Degeocello having dinner with a Trump delegate and her husband.

It is now clear why some right-wingers despise lefties and are against feminism. If leftist ideals include sexually abusing children, forcing girls to menstruate naked despite the availability of period protection, and tolerating animal abuse (at least if committed by women), then surely lefties are indeed evil. Sacha Baron Cohen set out to create a parody of how right-wingers view the left- and he nailed it.

A similar event occurred in a more recent episode where the professor met David Pyne, the national director of the Utah Republican Assembly. Dr Nira Cain hinted that parents should watch pornography with their children, then contradicted himself by stating that he was against children viewing pornography. He presented a sex education book for children which he had created. It had illustrations of rabbits having sex and presented group sex occurring with children watching as part of sex education. GGroup sex was presented as empowering for women. N’Degeocello also related how he punished his 12 year old son for watching porn by forcing him to masturbate to 58,000 images over two days, while N’Degeocello watched as he cried. The boy was traumatised (shudders whenever the word ‘porn’ is mentioned). Shockingly, while Pyne says he wouldn’t use this method of discipline, he sees this sexual abuse as a good thing since it scared the child away from pornography. Less shocking, but still pertinent, is the fact that Pyne fell for the character.

According to some Republicans, then, feminism’s goals for female empowerment amount to nothing more than women’s participation in group sex. This would explain why some right wingers equate feminism with women ‘being slutty’ or find feminism pointless or harmful. If empowerment equals group sex, then feminism would not be empowering women, as female participation in such activities is not by itself empowering (for example it could be coercive, exploitative or cultural). Pyne supports abstinence-only ‘sex education’. If Republicans believe that actual sex education involves being introduced to pornography, watching parents having sex, and being fed a prescriptive view of what kind of sex they should be having, then it’s no wonder Republicans are against it. But this is a misunderstanding of liberal values. Lefties value freedom and healthy choices. Being force-fed a view of sex as necessarily involving toys and ideally being group sex is hardly less constrictive to individual tastes and development than being force-fed abstinence. Being introduced to porn by parents is also not natural self-determination, and being punished so harshly for viewing porn is also hardly less proscriptive than enforced abstinence. N’Degeocello’s ideas make no sense and are contradictory. But that’s how right wingers view lefties.

Dr Nira Cain also virtue signals, arguably culturally approriates, fetishises blackness, and pretends to find meaning in anything a non-white person does. For example he quotes meaningless sounds from a rap song (disregarding actual achievements by the same artist and being clueless about the rapper he claims to admire) and describes a one night stand with a Syrian national in terms which pseudo-intellectually exoticize his ethnicity. Meaning is ascribed to meaningless acts simply because it was a Syrian who was involved, and the sex act itself presented as somehow enlightening or unique because of the nationality of N’Degeocello’s sexual partner. There may be lefties like this, but it’s interesting that the right-wingers don’t pick up on this hypocrisy. It suggests that right wingers don’t know what leftist values are, so don’t see the disconnect.

However, the lefties on Who Is America seem to understand right-wingers. Sacha Baron Cohen created a parody of how lefties see Trump voters- a fat, Southern-sounding, paranoid, racist idiot. But Bernie Sanders treated the character with kindness and respect even though he couldn’t do basic maths. The anchorman who was interviewed quickly appeared to realise it was a prank and ended the interview. None of the lefties so far bought into the ‘idiot Trump supporter’ trope. They respected Trump supporters enough to realise that someone that dumb couldn’t possibly be a real Trump supporter.





From a right-wing point of view, ‘Leftards’ could be said to be unnecessarily obsessed with animal rights, the environment,  children’s rights and consent. But lefty professor Nira Cain lets his partner sexually abuse animals, controls his kids’ toileting with cameras, forced his son to touch himself while he watched, and views children peeing. Who Is America explains rightwing attitudes. If you think feminism=allowing women to abuse animals you’d rbe against feminism. If female empowerment is gangbanging, it’s an idea that doesn’t empower women. If you think sex education is watching mom have sex, you’d choose abstinence-only.

Who Is America has revealed how much the right misunderstands the left. Hopefully a bit more understanding can now be created. Maybe that would go a little way towards meaningful dialogue between the two sides. And perhaps one far-off day, even “heal the divide”…


Trump’s diabolical plan to blackmail Britain into hard Brexit so he & his secret brother Boris Johnson can rule the world (only 48% satire)

Trump was offered a state visit to Britain. And he spent it criticizing Theresa May and Sadiq Khan, and promoting Boris Johnson as the next PM. In fact, he started this before he’d even left the US.

The Guardian seems to be pinning Trump’s behaviour on his support for nationalism over supranational institutions. But is it really that simple? Trump accepted the state visit and took time out of his schedule to do it. Humiliating May and praising (or, more likely, negatively affecting) Boris Johnson will not- by themselves- affect the EU.

There’s only four reasons why Trump chose this strategy:

  1. He’s trying to divide Britain (by setting BoJo against May and dividing the public over Brexit)
  2. He’s trying to separate Britain from the EU (by encouraging a hard Brexit and/or discouraging trade or close relationships with the EU)
  3. He is trying to divide the EU (different EU countries may be pro or against hard Brexit or exclusive UK-US ties)
  4. He’s simply unable to control what comes out of his mouth/ he did it for the lulz.



It’s tempting to think of Trump as a big baby who can’t, or won’t, control his behaviour. Or to put it more mildly, that this is his “personal aggressive negotiating style”. But it’s dangerous to underestimate one’s allies- or enemies. So let’s go with the assumption that Trump is deploying a strategy. A strategy is a means to an end. So what’s his end?

Trump supports Boris Johnson- and looks like him- because they are closely related. They are secret half-brothers plotting together, or were separated at birth and now hear the inexorable call of DNA to DNA across the great Atlantic divide. Or they were separated and placed in different countries by a parent, secret society or malevolent power, and raised to one day control the western world. Trump’s end goal is that he and Boris Johnson will rule the UK & US as brothers in arms. But first, Trump needs to drastically weaken the EU, ICC, ECtHR and NATO. Then there will be no limits on his power. Ultimately Trump hopes to reunite the US & UK as a dictatorship with himself as life president.

Where is a shred of evidence, you ask, peering behind the sofa cushions for an elusive crumb of logic. Well, read on.


Trump’s hard Brexit blackmail

What Trump says and what he says later are often two very different things. He said May was doing a bad job then said she was doing a “terrific” job at the Chequers press conference just a few hours later. His body language and verbalisations “I’d rather have [May] as my friend than as my enemy” and domineering behaviour (repeatedly pushing his “suggestion”) suggest he treats May as a potential threat. Or dislikes her for some reason. Or wants to dominate the UK.He said he wanted a trade agreement then said it was difficult to reach one (interesting body language between him and May there, too). I believe they did fundamentally disagree.


Some Establishment side-eye.

So, what do we have from the press conference? We have these implications:

  • Trump and May disagreed
  • Trump initially was prepared to make a trade agreement, then found he couldn’t
  • Trump feels May is his enemy and/or has a domineering attitude towards the UK

What does it all mean?

I believe that why they disagreed was because Trump was “blackmailing” May- ‘hard Brexit or no trade deal’. This deduction is based on his Sun interview. It’s literally the frickin’ headline.


The frickin’ headline.

This ‘blackmail’ was the “suggestion” that Trump and May were referring to. In his Sun interview, made before he arrived in Britain, Trump said he’d already told May not to implement a soft Brexit. This proves he is perennially telling May what to do regarding Brexit. It’s hardly outwith the realms of possibility that, having made a public ‘blackmail’ Brexit statement in the Sun, Trump repeated this demand at Chequers to May’s face. So if I’m right then that means he’s pushing the UK away from the EU. Away from the EU to the US? Or just trying to take down supranational systems altogether?


Trump’s view of international organisations

If we look at Trump’s threat to quit NATO, his ultimatum, allegations against Germany being controlled by Russia, and general mayhem at the NATO summit, it’s obvious that Trump was if anything more domineering towards NATO. He wants to weaken NATO because once he’s weakened it, other NATO members will stop believing it’s useful, contribute less and less, and continue the destruction process themselves until NATO either ceases to exist or is too weak to stop Trump. Trump’s disdain for supranational systems means he probably has disdain for the International Criminal Court, the European Court of Human Rights, and all similar institutions. But perhaps he’ll leave some of them alone- because they’re not powerful enough to affect his plans.


Trump’s plans for Britain’s leadership

Trump has won on Brexit. (He worked with Nigel Farage, the cause of Brexit. Who’s to say he didn’t know Farage before Farage went to America, and encouraged him to make Brexit happen?)). All he needs now is a hard Brexit, a divided, weak EU and NATO, and a UK that has close relationships only with America. Then he’ll have an easier job of slowly creating his Trumptatorship without fear of other countries joining forces to help his citizens.

Trump has referred to America as “the colonies” and said it’s good for the colonies to talk to Britain. He told May that US-UK relations are “the highest level of special”. He also maintained that having a British mother endears the UK to him.

But he repeatedly criticised May and Britain’s current situation. Trump also described Boris Johnson- who just resigned in protest against May- as  a “friend” and publicly considered visiting him while in the UK, as well as saying Johnson would be a great Prime Minister.

This attitude appears contradictory until you realise that Trump doesn’t want May as PM, but he does place importance on Britain. He is domineering towards Britain not because he wants to weaken it, but because he wants to affect it, change it, and ultimately rule it through Boris Johnson.

This may not be a short-term plan.  Trump might not be hoping for May’s resignation or the next General Election. Instead, Trump may be planning for years ahead and his promotion of Johnson is an attempt to give those dissatisfied with May a figure to rally around and eventually elevate. A divided Britain is not enough if the disaffected have no leadership figure. By setting up Johnson as May’s opposition, Trump is trying to provide such a figure. Though former Trump strategist Steve Bannon has suggested- just a day after Trump tapped BoJo-  that now is Johnson’s moment to challenge May for the leadership. So perhaps this is a short term plan, or simply more leader-figure-providing in fulfilment of a long term plan.



Boris Johnson would (according to Trump’s plans) work together with Trump to cement the UK-US relationship until they effectively become one entity, thus America could be said to be “the colonies” once more. With the UK on side and international organisations weakened, the Trumptatorship would be secure. Perhaps for the rest of Trump’s life.


Why does the law force rape victims to share child custody with their rapists?: The legal principles behind parental rights and responsibilities


In seven states in the USA. rapists can sue victims for custody of any children concieved by the assault.  A conviction is needed to anull rapists’ parental rights. The problem is that most rapes don’t even go to court. Even in the minority of cases where a conviction is secured, these are often the result of plea deals, meaning that the conviction is for less serious sexual assault or for physical assault. Neither will prevent a rapist from suing for child custody.

So victims are failed by the law twice. Their rapist may receive no sentence, while the victim and her innocent child are tied to the rapist for 18 years. The first question we’re likely to ask is, why on earth would the law do this to people? As a feminist it’s tempting to fall back on “patriarchy!”, but although most legal systems were created in patriarchies and are inherently stacked against women- especially in regard to sex crimes- a more nuanced approach is needed. If patriarchy was the sole cause, American law would not remove parental rights in cases of rape convictions, nor would most states have a lower threshold for withholding custody from rapists. The Obama administration incentivised states to amend laws which gave rapists parental rights; it is, unsurprisingly, the Trump administration which is removing them. While at first glance this situation appears baffling- almost deliberately engineered to punish rape victims and their children- it’s important to understand the legal principles behind it, as well as the wider societal context.

First, let’s look at the law. (I didn’t study American law so this is going to be a very brief overview, not a JD level discussion.)


The legal context of parental rights arising from non-consensual conception


Statutory rape, parental rights and parental responsibility

If we look at how US law treats victims of statutory rape, we can see that victims of all genders are subject to the same parental rights and responsibilities. They usually can’t use their non-consent to avoid paying child support to their statutory rapist. Adults who have children by underage minors cannot have the child removed from their custody on that basis. This is as true in Britain; the only grounds for the court to grant the removal of a child from its parent are those of child protection (abuse or neglect). Therefore, statutory rapists enjoy shared or even sole custody.


Nonconsensual insemination and parental responsibility

Conception without consent doesn’t only occur through rape or (arguably) statutory rape. It also occurs when gametes are used for conception without the consent of the person from whom they are taken. One British man’s ex-wife defrauded a sperm bank into using his frozen sperm to conceive two children without his knowledge. He was ordered to pay child support. By contrast, egg and sperm donors are exempt from parental responsibility so they don’t have to pay child support. However, they’re also unable to exercise parental rights. In Scots law, unofficial egg and sperm donors have been granted parental rights even against the legal parents’ wishes. Though a surrogate who “steals” the mother’s child is regarded as the legal mother in Scotland, the biological mother is granted shared custody. The takeaway here is that only an official, legally sanctioned pre-conception contract can nullify parental rights. Hence, the unofficial donors could still have shared custody.


Biological parenthood = legal parenthood

So, what does statutory rape, child maintenance and sperm donation have to do with rape survivors being forced to share custody with their rapists? My point is that the law is strict on the biological connection creating legal rights and responsibilities. Note that one can’t exist without the other; donors don’t have responsibilities but they don’t have any parental rights either. In many US states, child maintenance and custody are processed together in a single case. Sadly, this resulted in a woman who’d been abducted and raped at 12 having to share her child’s custody with her rapist, her address disclosed to him and being ordered to move to the state where her rapist lived. (He made a plea deal and was convicted of attempted sexual assault before DNA evidence could be taken from the baby to prove it was rape, thereby avoiding a 25 year minimum sentence and serving just six months). She had a child support suit filed by the state on her behalf after she applied for welfare, and a child custody order routinely goes along with child support suits. (The judge eventually set the ruling aside because the rapist had not requested custody. Survivors whose rapists want custody are not so lucky.)

A paper examining nonconsensual insemination and statutory rape explains that “Thus, child support is essentially a form of strict liability with the justification being that the child is an innocent party, and, therefore, it is the child’s interests and welfare that the court must look to in adjudicating support.” Change “support” to “custody” and you have the legal philosophy behind forcing rape victims to share custody with their rapists.

Therefore the issue may be more to do with children’s rights than excessive protection of fathers’ parental rights.


My argument would be that non-statutory rape/coercion/exploitation/CSA and CSE should be treated differently from statutory rape due to the harm it causes to the victim parent. (Personally I don’t think statutory rapists should be entitled to child support, but that’s a different issue). However, as few would disagree that survivors shouldn’t be forced to share custody with rapists, and as US law recognises that this is wrong (rape convictions anull parental rights and most states do not require a conviction to anull rights), I won’t elaborate on this. What’s pertinent is that treating rape differently from statutory rape regarding custody is not without its problems. Distinguishing statutory rape (merely sex with a person who only legally can’t consent) from CSE (sex trafficking, grooming, rape) or coercion (e.g. grooming, threats, anything not ‘bad enough’ to be rape under the law) may be difficult. Some adults look back fondly on their statutory rape and refuse to call it abuse, while others were happy at the time but later regret it when they realise they were taken advantage of. It’s easy to see why laws in seven US states require a conviction of (non statutory) rape- it’s easier!

And these issues- the complexity of abusive and illegal relationships, and the strict legal principle of the biological connection creating legal rights- lead us onto the second part of this article: the social context.


The social context of parental rights in abusive circumstances


Rape and the law

One reason why some US states demand a standard of proof that most victims cannot achieve in the current legal system is that previously it wasn’t known that most rapes don’t result in convictions.


The perspective of family courts and social services

Another reason is, it’s important to prevent parents crying rape to stop their ex-partner gaining custody, just like parents shouldn’t cry child abuse or drug dependency. However child abuse and drug use does not require a conviction to anull custody. So why should rape? Perhaps because abuse and neglect cause harm to the child. Whereas rape is harmful to the mother, or at worst only potentially a sex abuse risk to the child.


The invisible rape victims who share custody with their rapists

So far we’ve kept the focus on America. But rapists gaining custody of children may happen more often than we think- including in the UK. Most women (and other people with wombs) are raped by friends or family. These victims may be less surprised at a custody demand from an ex-husband, colleague, or fellow student they bump into every day, than they would a demand from a stranger who barely saw their face. The rapist who is present in their victim’s life has the opportunity to display clues as to their intent to sue for custody, or may even express that wish as soon as the pregnancy is known to them, further lessening the victim’s surprise when custody is demanded. Therefore these victims may not publicize the rapist’s custody lawsuit. Most victims never tell police (many don’t even tell their family) so such custody battles may not be identified for what they are.


Domestic violence and child custody

Furthermore sexual assault is not uncommon in domestic violence, so some custody battles which arise from abusive relationships may have involved rape. This raises the question of how cases where rapists want custody of children not born from rape be treated. The harm to the mother of contacting her assailant is likely to be the same whether or not the child(ren) were conceived by the assault. Yet one could argue that it is grossly unfair to punish a criminal by removing his parental rights when his fatherhood has nothing to do with his crime. Situations where it is unclear whether conception resulted from rape or from consensual sex a short time earlier/later also pose problems.

It is notable that domestic physical violence survivors have to share custody of children- despite the trauma suffered by some survivors being similar or worse than the trauma suffered by some rape survivors. Domestic and intimate partner violence tends to have a much longer duration than a single incident of rape. It sometimes carries similar hallmarks to some sexual attacks such as physical restraint, imprisonment inside the home, psychological abuse and physical assault. So this raises the question of whether physical abusers who conceived children in abusive relationships should have rights. But they do. Physical abusers who are considered to pose a threat to their victim or the child have supervised custody, but it is custody nonetheless. Only a risk to the child can result in parental rights being removed. Further, parental rights are usually not removed completely; a parent who loses custody may still be granted supervised contact and has a say in the child’s education. This applies to parents of all genders including adoptive parents.



While the idea of a man ‘owning’ his biological children (and sometimes any woman he sleeps with) is patriarchal, I don’t think there is consistent evidence that Law’s patriarchal history (and present) is the sole or even major factor at play. The laws of different legal systems bestow parental rights and responsibilities regardless of how children are conceived. Statutory rapists can receive child support from their victims and, since most single parent families are female-headed, female statutory rapists are perhaps more likely to have sole custody. Men who didn’t consent to insemination are nevertheless given responsibilities as well as rights. The survivors who are forced to share custody aren’t the victims of outdated or unusual laws. Rather, the inhumane way they are treated is embedded in the principles of western legal systems.

In conclusion, the issue of how the law should treat rapists who want parental rights is, morally, clear-cut. However, in legal terms it’s less clear and raises a lot of questions about how abusive parents more generally should be treated. The first step would be for the seven states to fall in line with the others and abolish the need for a conviction, instead using a civil process to determine whether rape was committed. The civil standard is already used in the process of assessing state compensation for rape (in the states which provide criminal injuries compensation to victims of crime). As to how other sex crimes such as statutory rape and coercion should be treated, not to mention children born from physically abusive or extreme psychologically abusive relationships, hopefully in future we’ll see a change towards protecting victims, children and innocent family members, while guaranteeing parents’ rights wherever appropriate.

It’s also important to remember that the news of necessity features survivors who are free to speak out and sometimes willing to waive their anonymity. Behind the headlines there are many more victims of rape and sexual abuse being forced to share custody with their assailants in silence.










Theresa May vs Putin: What’s their next move over the Salisbury poisoning?




International relations are driven by national leaders. But those leaders act according to public and governmental pressure. Only by understanding Theresa May’s and Vladimir Putin’s goals, motivations and pressures can we predict whether UK-Russia tensions will be enduring.

The Salisbury Novichok attack has kicked off what appears to be a never-ending saga of confrontation between the UK and Russia. Perhaps the most important question of all is how it will all play out. History might remember the Salisbury poisoning as merely a blip in the great game. Or the standoff between Putin and May could go down as the precipitation of an irreparable rift in UK-Russia relations.

There’s been talk of retaliatory cyberattacks. High-level communications have been suspended. On Wednesday Prime Minister Theresa May announced the expulsion of 23 Russian diplomats, whom she claimed were undeclared intelligence officers. Russia’s tit-for-tat response has been to expel British diplomats. There are various ways of seeing May’s actions and the situation as a whole: immature, frightening, shortsighted versus savvy; perhaps (regarding May’s response) utterly necessary. But how does Russia see it? How does our government see it? What incentives exist for May and Putin to de-escalate or increase tensions? These questions are vital to answering the big one: how will it all end?


How Putin might view the Salisbury spy poisoning

From Russia’s point of view, killing a traitor (former Russian spy Sergei Skripal) may be no different from UK and US operations on foreign soil to kill, rendition or torture terrorists. While some countries such as Syria agreed to the intervention, others did not; an example is the killing of Osama Bin Laden which Pakistan did not consent to. The use of drones in other sovereign states to murder UK and US targets is also pertinent. The UK feels justified in infringing on other states’ sovereignty to achieve national security objectives. Therefore Russia may view the UK as hypocritical for not allowing Russia the same thing.

In legal terms, Russia has a strong argument in its favour: individuals, organisations and groups are only punished if they are proved to have committed an offence, This usually means being found guilty in criminal court. So far there has been no accusation by any witnesses or victims against the Russian state. There has been no verdict, no trial, no Crown Prosecution Service involvement, no police referral to the Crown Prosecution Service- not even the first stage of a trial: a police investigation. Putin and the Russian people may feel it is presumptuous of the UK to accuse Russia based only on the fact that Novichok (a Russian weapon) was used. Being culpable may not eradicate feelings of being too decisively retaliated against.

In the unlikely event that the Novichok attack was committed by Russian terrorists, as Jeremy Corbyn suggested, or perhaps by another state trying to frame Russia and cause conflict between Russia and UK/the EU/America, Russia will obviously feel unjustly accused.

Judging by BBC footage, at least some Russian citizens believe that Britain has unjustly accused Russia of poisoning Sergei Skripal. If much of his public holds this view, this may incentivise Putin to bolster his popularity by taking a firm stance against the UK.



How Theresa May may view the Salisbury spy poisoning

Theresa May is under pressure from MPs to take a tough stance; as most believe Russia is responsible. Over 30 Labour MPs have signed a motion acknowledging Russia’s “culpability”, meaning that May is receiving pressure not just from her own party but also the opposition. This makes it more likely that she will continue to take action against Russia.

The public are another source of expectation. One would be right to question what the point of having a leader is, if that leader fails to protect her citizens. The Novichok has already affected bystanders and one of its creators has warned that exposure could harm or kill others in the years to come. May could justifiably worry that any future illnesses traced to the Salisbury attack could elicit criticism of her if she fails to be seen protesting Britain from future incidents. Conversely, keeping the public’s (and opposition’s) attention on the Kremlin could provide a distraction from national issues such as Brexit, NHS privatisation and DWP policy. Therefore there is little advantage to restoring relations with Russia and much to be gained from escalating reprisals.

Another major cause of concern for the UK government is that after the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko, this is the second Russian murder on UK territory in a relatively short space of time. Appearing weak towards Putin could result in more chemical attacks, putting the public at risk. Marina Litvinenko’s public statements that “nothing was done” after her husband’s poisoning- despite May’s assurances that nothing like this would happen again- will probably increase motivation for May to be seen to be “doing something”.


As to the fact that May has absolutely no evidence that Russia was behind the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter Julia Skripal – what other choice does she have. The UK government can’t simply sit and wait for a trial that will never come. To wait until irrefutable evidence is gathered might mean waiting months, years, or for ever. Even then, it is unlikely that a balanced criminal case would follow, unless Putin threw his agents under the bus, framed someone or was tried successfully by the International Criminal Court.

Jeremy Corbyn raised an important caveat by recalling the Iraq war and cautioning that being ruled by fear and emotion can be dangerous, leading to ill-judged actions. The BBC reports that Corbyn said Russia should be “held to account on the basis of evidence”. Labour MP Chris Williamson told BBC Two’s Newsnight that though Russia is a suspect, the UK should”make sure we get our facts right” before “leaping into action”. Far from being ‘soft’, Corbyn is demonstrating strategy and calculation; a calm appraisal of the situation instead of puerile emotionality. In practical terms, however, Theresa May’s approach is understandable.

Finally, let’s not underestimate the seriousness of the Novichok poisoning. Had it been committed by a civilian, it would have been termed terrorism or at least an incredibly reckless form of first-degree murder.

So how will the UK-Russia standoff play out?

Based on the above, it’s probable that Russia’s perception of unjust accusation will prevent tensions being quickly resolved. For Theresa May and most of the UK government, the stakes are too high to back down and risk criticism or a third chemical attack. There are several incentives- both intergovernmental and from the public- to continue with diplomatic and economic sanctions, and no clear benefits to improving relations with Russia.


So, the UK will continue taking a tough stance on Russia if the situation does not change. Given that Russia is unlikely to pacify the UK or admit they were behind the poisoning of the Skripals, relations between the two countries will not significantly improve. Most politicians, including Jeremy Corbyn, believe at least to an extent that Russia is the culprit. As long as our government and we ourselves- the voters- continue to believe Russia was responsible for the Salisbury poisoning, the tensions will continue. Therefore it is likely that UK-Russia relations will be affected for some considerable time.

Why British Campus Sexual Assault Victims Can’t Get Justice From Their University- But Americans Can


First published on The Fifth Column, 2/10/17.

Students, sexual assault survivors and campaigners in the USA are riled up, and rightfully so: Education Secretary Betsy DeVos last week rescinded Obama-era guidance on universities’ duties to deal with campus sexual assault. But just because there’s a relative lack of public debate on the issue in Britain, doesn’t mean it’s not happening or that British universities and colleges are dealing well with campus sexual assault.

Let’s take a look at the legal situation in the USA first, then compare it to the UK.


The ‘Dear Colleague’ guidance

The 2011 guidance, known as the ‘Dear Colleague’ letter, didn’t create new responsibilities for colleges. It simply stated what they had to do in order to comply with Title IX (a law regarding gender discrimination in educational institutions which case law has held includes investigating sex crimes). Prior to ‘Dear Colleague’, many universities simply disregarded Title IX and ignored survivors, refusing to take reports of the incidents at all. The situation didn’t suddenly turn rosy afterwards, either- not all universities have systems for reporting sexual violence, and it’s easy enough for a university to claim there isn’t enough evidence. But empowering students to know their rights made it easier for them to report and follow up their cases instead of being told ‘We don’t deal with that.’ DeVos has turned the clock back to 2011.


DeVos’ current interim guidance

Universities used to use the USA’s civil court standard, the ‘preponderance of evidence’ (in the UK, that’s the ‘balance of probabilities’). Now, according to DeVos’ new interim guidelines, university administrators can choose between that standard, or the higher standard used in criminal courts. Let’s think about that for a minute. Why do student rape victims choose to report to their university? Usually, it’s because they’ve already reported to the police but the case wasn’t taken to court due to lack of evidence. Other reasons are that they don’t want the rapist to be jailed (most sexual assault victims in the US and UK know their assailant, especially in the case of campus sexual assault), or they don’t want to go through the added trauma of a court case that’ll take up most of their time at university, and instead choose to rely on their university for protection.

Most rape cases don’t reach court and most accused who are tried, are acquitted. (Universities usually aren’t allowed to investigate if the police are investigating, due to concerns of compromising the police investigation, meaning that all campus sexual assault cases were rejected or not reported to police).

In these circumstances, a student cannot reasonably be expected- especially without access to forensic science testing and CCTV footage- to prove that they were raped to a criminal court standard. This requirement is even more cruel to students who have already been rejected by the criminal courts on the basis that their evidence isn’t up to that standard. It’s telling these victims that any kind of recognition of their trauma or sense of justice is impossible. Universities have realised this- some had already abandoned the criminal standard pre-2011. This raises the possibility that DeVos’ interim guidelines are actually pushing the US back even further than the Noughties in terms of women’s rights and campus safety.

According to Abbey Childs, an advocacy organisation founder and campus rape survivor, the provision of residency changes and no-contact orders to protect victims from their rapists rests on universities’ ability to use the civil standard. By removing it, DeVos is removing survivors’ safety. Rapists will find it even easier to get away with their crimes, as expulsion and suspension will also be off the table.While it’s important to recognise the reality that, on campus as well as off it, most perpetrators are male and most victims female, it’s equally important to note that the new guidelines affect male victims just as badly.


UK universities

Many Americans are angry with DeVos. But the situation in the US is still better than it is in the UK. US campus rape survivors can sue universities under Title IX. Their universities know they may face real legal consequences if they mishandle sexual assault complaints.  British campus rape victims have no statutory protection. We don’t have any equivalent of Title IX, and no education laws more generally. Without national guidelines, students have no legal rights if they’re sexually assaulted on campus. Universities can literally do nothing, and even elite universities often do just that. While Oxford University has been subject to a legal challenge, its policy still allows it to avoid dealing with sexual assaultcomplaints. In 2014 Oxford reportedly did deal with a rape of an unconscious student- by giving the rapist “a minor reprimand”.

It’s not that campus sexual assault is less of a problem in UK. One in three female students and one in eight male students have been sexually assaulted at UK universities. It’s just that- unlike the US- there’s no law; so very few court cases; so no news- so no debate.


The Zellick guidance

The 1994 Zellick guidelines place no statutory duty on universities to investigate sexual offences. Instead, they suggest telling students to call the police. However, we now know that- on and off campus- rapists are usually known to their victims, most victims don’t report to the police, most reported rapes don’t reach trial, and those that do tend to result in acquittal. Therefore, the Zellick guidance, while possibly relevant to cases with strong evidence, and rare cases of stranger rape, isn’t suitable for what we now know about sexual assault. The Zellick guidelines were reviewed in 2016.


The 2016 guidance

The new guidelines, which pertain to all types of student crimes (not just sexual assault), suggest using the UK civil standard of the ‘balance of probabilities’ in ascertaining guilt. They are a significant improvement on Zellick. The new guidelines go far beyond merely telling victims to report to the police and encompass all of a victim’s (and accused’s) needs including mental health, safety, rights during the disciplinary process and dealing with the aftermath of a trial. Having a clear reporting mechanism, ensuring victims are supported to continue their education and (in cases of sexual violence) referring to external counselling agencies is recommended. However, these guidelines are also not statutory. Universities which fail to abide by them face no consequences.


Legal action against universities

The only way to ensure a UK university or college deals with sexual assault is to appeal a decision of no action or a finding that a complaint is not upheld. However, this is only possible if the university has accepted the complaint in the first place (some British universities don’t even take sexual assault reports) and where the disciplinary system allows appeals. As there are no statutory instruments, universities can only be sued under normal civil law. In Scotland, a delict case for causing emotional harm could be brought (this would be called ‘torts’ in England). Even then, universities cannot be legally compelled to deal with rape complaints. They can only be sued after the fact for causing harm by ignoring or mishandling complaints.

British civil suits are more likely to fail and more difficult to litigate, due to the absence of a clear Title IX statutory duty. All students can argue on is the university’s failure of its basic duty of care. Add to this the fact that all civil cases are long and expensive, and students are very unlikely to be able to bring them (less chance of winning a case means a greater likelihood that the student has to pay all the legal fees, and a much lower probability of a lawyer doing the case on a no win no fee basis). Universities know this and therefore there is little motivation for them to change. The cycle of few civil suits, little press coverage and no awareness of the issue of campus sexual assault seems set to continue.

How the political correctness debate is being manufactured


Has political correctness gone mad?

That was the title of Trevor Phillip’s latest Channel 4 documentary which aired a few days ago. The docco contends that Brexit and Trump happened as a result of the ‘hard left’ refusing to engage in debate and using political correctness to silence opponents. And you’d be forgiven for thinking that it’s topical. That there’s suddenly a Liberal-versus-Conservative divide imported from across the Atlantic threatening to disenchant the ‘ordinary people’ who will rebel against their feminist, LGBTQ and POC oppressors by voting in a British version of Trump.

But that’s just not true.

This PC Gone Mad/Liberal Elites Oppressing The Masses trope is a myth created and endlessly cycled by the media. Just days after Has PC Gone Mad? aired, another version of this self-created debate- though at least this segment was an actual debate- was shown on BBC Newsnight. With each iteration of this myth, no new information or current event is added. Instead, the same incidents are recycled over and over- mostly Germaine Greer and Julie Bindel being no-platformed (refusal to be invited as a guest speaker to student societies or clubs) by certain student unions.

Now, student unions are not all-powerful holdfasts of the “liberal elite” (or the Establishment, for that matter). They’re, well, groups of young people elected by other young people at the same university who could be bothered to vote. They do not have “agendas” which are meaningful forces at the national level (in the case of no-platforming someone). Their compositions change with each new influx of students, making it very difficult to deploy a consistent political agenda across decades to change an entire country.  The ‘PC Gone Mad’ myth has simply borrowed from America’s over-hyping of a few incidents of students asking for trigger warnings* on course material (which have existed for decades at US and UK universities; even TV has trigger warnings before certain programmes). In any case, a union or two no-platforming a speaker does not equate to a liberal elite oppressing the masses. Governments owe their citizens and residents free speech. Universities are not governments and neither are student unions. Student unions are groups of people who can no-platform if they feel like it. no-one has an inalienable right to speak to any group of people, any more than I have the right to demand that you continue to read this.

The myth of political correctness gone mad also assumes that ‘ordinary people’ desperately crave the freedom to say sexist, racist and homophobic statements. Most of us would disagree with that assessment of ourselves and our loved ones.

And while proponents of the myth claim that we suddenly aren’t allowed to say racist, sexist or homophobic things any more, in reality these laws have been in effect for decades. The Race Relations Act came into effect in the 1970s. It wasn’t invented by the liberal elite a couple of months ago. The Channel 4 documentary used the punishments dished out to online trolls who targeted the feminist campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez  as an example of political correctness gone mad. Prosecutions for online trolling may seem new to those who’ve barely heard of the internet, but harassment has always been a crime whether it’s committed to your face, in a letter, through a third party, over the phone or indeed online. This is similar to how conspiracy, slander or extortion are actionable whether they’re committed face to face or not. Or how murder is still a crime even if you don’t kill the person face to face.

Prosecutions for online harassment did happen before Caroline Criado-Perez. They just didn’t make the national news because the victims were not famous enough (Criado-Perez was fronting a national campaign at the time). It’s not uncommon for those who profess their activism online to be the targets of abuse. It’s just that people who aren’t middle-class, who aren’t deemed respectable, who are seen as deserving of their abuse because they’re sex worker activists or queer activists or kinksters, won’t be newsworthy. Just because something isn’t on the news doesn’t mean it’s not happening. Kind of like how people are dying of cancer every day but their families’ grief won’t make the headlines, while celebrities who survive cancer do.

Trevor Phillips did raise important points: virtue-signalling can and does lead to harmful overreactions against powerless individuals, leaving systemic oppression intact. And shutting down debate is not a solution. But overall, the message of Has PC Gone Mad is not simply wrong, it’s mostly irrelevant.

The fact is, “liberal elites” and “ordinary people” are not in conflict. Brexit was not caused by harassment prosecutions or students no-platforming. It was caused by widespread ignorance of what the EU is and the benefits it offers as well as UKIP’s conflation of the unrelated issues of EU immigration, non-EU immigration, benefits ‘scrounging’, and illegal immigration. The only recent UK political clashes have been about Brexit, austerity, and so on- mostly against the Conservative government and certainly not against liberal elites. While these very real protests are sometimes played down in the news, these same news agencies are only too happy to regurgitate years-old incidents and inflate incidents which appeared in student newspapers into a fake national debate on political correctness. If a liberal versus conservative divide does ever happen, it was manufactured by the media.

*’The Coddling of the American Mind‘, which very eloquently criticises these students, is actually one of my favourite online articles due to the structure of its arguments and the important points it touches on. However, even this gem cites just a handful of very low-key, non-newsworthy incidents across the entire US. This proves that the ‘PC debate’ is an overhyping of unrelated trivial events. It’s a very well-written piece though and I’d recommend reading it.

Vote remain: how EU human, women’s and labour rights protect us from the Tories


While the Brexit vs Bremain debate has been- and will continue to be- argued and analysed to death, one very important issue has escaped mainstream attention: human rights. The EU’s European Court of Justice, its laws and its Charter of Fundamental Rights safeguards our human rights more than the European Court of Human Rights. What’s more, the EU’s justice is much easier to access than that available through the ECHR. A case can only be heard by the ECHR once a case has gone through all the domestic courts- which is usually costly and very time-consuming. However, EU law can be applied directly by even the lowest level domestic courts; so if an EU law would mean you’d win your case at the District Court in Glasgow, then win it you shall, and immediately.

EU law protects Britons from age, race, sex, belief, disability and sexuality discrimination (see overview of EU discrimination law here).


The EU Charter of Fundamental Rights further safeguards our rights to privacy, education, being fairly dealt with by the police, and practising our religion/belief amongst many others.

If Britain leaves the EU, we forfeit all of this protection, forever.




The EU’s European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled that Europeans have a “right to be forgotten”- i.e. that we can request Google to take down information about us. This gives us an important right that nobody else in the world yet enjoys, and could very well open doors to employment for those of us who have been maligned on the internet.

The ECJ is also in the process of deciding whether the UK’s DRIPA (Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act) contravenes EU human rights law. If the UK leaves the EU, in future such cases will have no legal remedy if UK courts uphold the legality of DRIPA-esque legislation, or will have to be referred to the European Court of Human Rights- which is much less likely to safeguard the rights of citizens.



The EU has struck a happy medium on the contentious issue of welfare. Its rules stipulate that after three months’ residency in another EU country, any EU citizen or long-term resident can claim the same welfare benefits as a citizen of that country. However, this doesn’t mean you’ll be handing over your taxes to benefits tourists- the ECJ has recently cracked down on immigrants who exploit the system.

EU law also provides for guaranteed criminal compensation if you are the victim of a crime while travelling within the EU.

The EU’s Europe 2020 strategy aims to “eradicate child poverty, promote the active inclusion in society and the labour market of the most vulnerable groups and overcome discrimination and increase the integration of people with disabilities, ethnic minorities, immigrants and other vulnerable groups.” The EU Commission’s PROGRESS programme supports policy development work relating to employment, working conditions, gender equality, social inclusion and social protection, non-discrimination and diversity. NGOs and charities- including British ones- can apply for funding. The Citizens for Europe programme provides civil society organisations and think tanks at European level with operating grants covering part of their running costs.

Economic security encompasses unemployment and persistent poverty- things which Iain Duncan Smith, as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, should have been concerned about. However, he and our current and previous governments caused widespread poverty, an increase in mental health problems and the creation of over 1,000 foodbanks (free food donated by the public for the hungry). The DWP recently announced it will cut benefits for people in work. Clearly economic security is not the UK’s forte.

And what about other security threats? If we’re debating Britain’s security, let’s not leave some concepts of security out of the debate. Take the concept of human security. According to the UN, human security threats include food security (hunger), and political security (political repression, human rights abuses). Although of course we have it very good in the UK compared to a lot of other places, the recent rise of the relevance of economic security, food security and the human rights abuses aspect of political security is hard to ignore.

Recently, in addition to the several suicides and deaths- including of a former soldier who died starving and penniless after missing an appointment at the Job Centre- directly caused by his policies, he was found by researchers to have caused at least 590 suicides which were not previously known. His welfare reforms are currently being investigated by the UN for breaching the human rights of disabled persons. The latest debacle, as of this week, involves a child who has had all four limbs amputated. Under Iain Duncan Smith’s reforms, the boy has been required to prove he is disabled or the family’s benefits will be taken away. Previous examples of disabled people being found “fit to work” and having their disability benefits stopped include a man with peeling bones, a man who is kept alive by a machine, and a kidney dialysis patient who has suffered 14 heart attacks. Thousands of people who were dying have been found fit to work, as have those who were already deceased when the notification was made.

The DWP’s decision to deprive people of enough money to survive (and barely enough to survive in the best scenario- £73 a week to pay bills and buy food with) will adversely impact the economy. Without enough money to buy consumer goods, there is less demand for products and so less jobs. Less jobs mean more people are unemployed and have to depend on benefits, which means the vicious cycle continues. Duncan Smith’s workfare (a mandatory six months of working for free, avoidance of which results in withdrawal of benefits for up to three years) snatches precious jobs away from the waiting jobless. Meanwhile the government shells out millions on corporate welfare (in-work benefits for employees whose employers refuse to pay them enough to survive, such as Housing Benefit and Work Tax Credit).


Tory World Map


National security

Brits are now much more likely to die from a benefits sanction than they are to die from a terrorist attack. No terrorist attack in Britain has killed over 590 people. The public’s security is threatened by Iain Duncan Smith more than our security is threatened by terrorists.

Iain Duncan Smith has warned that the UK faces security threats if it doesn’t leave the EU. “This open border does not allow us to check and control people that may come and spend time,” he told the BBC on 20th February. However, a key fact which seems to have escaped Mr Duncan Smith is that the EU is obligated to protect its own borders. If Britain leaves the EU, it’ll be on its own. The UK coastline will become our frontier. Terrorists have to pass through the EU border before they get to Britain, meaning there are at least two and perhaps several (if every EU country they pass through checks them) chances to detect them. If Britain leaves the EU, the terrorists would only have to pass one border- our coast.


But it’s not just border control that membership of the EU has to offer. As Lucy Thomas, deputy director of Britain Stronger In Europe, told the Daily Mail: “In recent weeks we have heard from a wide range of experts with frontline experience of the fight against terrorism that Britain’s streets are safer in Europe.

Though Iain Duncan Smith may wish to ignore them, the message is clear from the head of Europol, Army chiefs and Home Secretaries past and present, that co-operating with our European allies is crucial to keeping British people safe.

The European Arrest Warrant lets us deport terrorist suspects back to their country of origin, Europol helps our police co-operate with their European counterparts, and EU data-sharing measures allow our security services to access information on threats from anywhere in Europe within minutes.”

In fact, Britain benefits from EU intelligence sharing between all member states, and from the intelligence analysis conducted by INTCEN (the EU Intelligence and Situation Centre). Intelligence is also shared through the European Police Organization (Europol), the Joint Situation Center (SitCen), the Intelligence Division of the European Union Military Staff (INTDIVEUMS), and the European Union Satellite Center (EUSC). This is done for counterterrorism purposes.

The Tories’ policies are also having a knock-on effect for national security. If a country is to be a great power, it needs a healthy economy, educated citizens who can compete in the global job marketplace and in a globalised business world, and a strong or at least adequate military. Austerity (and tuition fee rises- which  he voted for-, the destruction of higher education grants, cuts in education spending etc) will not achieve that. Children need to have enough food to learn. A hungry child or unhealthy, malnourished teen won’t be as likely to do well in school (especially as lack of nutrition can stunt growth including brain growth). They are also less likely to forgo the instant gratification of work aged 16 for two more years of school and then a four-year university stint, during which they’ll continue to be on the poverty line and dependent on the whims of university hardship funds to pay rent- and then be tens of thousands in debt at the end of it. Bottom line: health comes first. People need to be healthy to get an education. The taxpayer can throw all the money they want to at the NHS but when the problem is malnutrition there’s not much the doctors can do about it. Everything- technology, science, business, even tourism, depend on skilled people running the show and (in some cases) competing with foreign rival institutions. If we don’t have a healthy, educated, able to work populace then all of these industries and more will suffer. The military is self-explanatory; the weak can’t fight. And the same rules apply to military technology as they do to technology generally.

We won’t see these effects for a long time. If Iain Duncan Smith’s policies continue now that he is gone- as it seems they are- Britain will gradually become poorer as a nation. The talented few, born or sponsored into greatness, will leave for a more comfortable existence in more prosperous countries. Universities will slip down the rankings as fewer people apply to them and they take all comers- or perhaps they’ll retain rankings but mostly consist of international students. Without enough educated Brits, the same thing will happen to other professions which we currently see with medical professionals: they’ll consist disproportionately of immigrants because British people don’t have the qualifications. Again, this will take several years if not a few decades.

These changes will affect national security. The security services and the upper echelons of law enforcement and the armed forces need the best, not the best from among the mediocre rich kids who scraped into desperate universities.

Our own government, not the EU, is a threat to the UK’s economic, human and national security. NATO is more of a threat to our sovereignty than the EU, as we are required to go to war if another NATO state is attacked.



Brexit may therefore make the UK more vulnerable to terrorism as we will lack valuable intelligence from the EU. An isolated UK dependent on the US might also be exactly what Putin wants. Brexiters can talk about NATO and the Commonwealth, but it’s, well, talk. At the very least, firm and detailed agreements should be negotiated with Commonwealth States before we leave the EU. They must be specific and binding enough (e.g. they only become void in the event a Brexit is avoided) that those States can’t just back out or water down the agreements. The downside to this is that perhaps States don’t want to waste time negotiating over a situation which might be averted; however there are many Commonwealth nations and if the benefits of trade agreements are made clear, and if the contracts are no more detailed than necessary to secure cooperation, surely a few would be interested. However, though the Commonwealth could- in theory- fulfil the needs of economic security, the relevance of Commonwealth States’ intelligence to terrorist threats against the UK is not clear.

The closest (and most obvious to the British public and the rest of the world) tie remains our ‘special relationship’ with America, which has brought us the joys of unwanted and illegal war, increased terrorism partly as a result of the aforesaid wars, and…er…

As of the time of writing there is absolutely nothing to suggest any concrete steps have been taken to ensure EU-equivalent benefits from the Commonwealth should the Brexit occur. Therefore, assuming that the Commonwealth fails to provide a viable alternative, if the UK leaves the EU it will have to get more cosy with the US to replace all of the lost economic and security benefits. Not only will this be likely to lead to increased resentment of Britain by those who already have a hatred of the west, particularly America, it will also polarise the northern hemisphere- not on a scale approaching anything like the Cold War, of course, but oddly reminiscent: As we know, US-Russia relations and US-China relations are not warm. The UK is a little different as demonstrated with the Chinese President’s visit in 2015, but that may change if the US is the UK’s only ally instead of ‘merely’ the UK’s main and most powerful ally. The UK and US will be on one side, Russia and China on the other.

Relying more heavily on the US is not a good strategic move. One of the basic rules of strategy is to give oneself as many options, as many paths toward one’s goals and as much influence as possible. In the context of the international playground this means forming multiple alliances with States (and non-State actors) who have influence in different regions, provide different economic benefits, and so on. In this way things like a wide sphere of influence and a stable supply of produce are guaranteed, because even if one ally breaks a trade agreement for an essential product, the State is not solely dependent on that ally and so its position will not be much affected. Another example would be if a State used two other States for diplomatic support about intervening in a fourth State. If one ally suddenly decided that no, they weren’t going to try to convince the UN the intervention was necessary, there is still another ally to rely on. (I’m not suggesting this is something any State should be doing, these are simply realistic examples). Throwing most of our eggs in the US basket is bad strategy.

how america sees the world.

American Government World Map

There is also economic security to consider. The Brexit backers appear to believe that if the UK leaves the EU, we will then be able- somehow- to negotiate better deals with the EU. However it is difficult to see why the EU would care about Britain when it’s no longer part of the team. It appears much more likely that the remaining EU states will simply continue to trade with each other within the parameters they voted for long ago. Even if this scheme worked, it’s not so much a Brexit as a Stomping Off In A Huff And Sulking Until They Play My Way. Or, perhaps, a Brexit-And-(re)Brentry.



Women’s Rights

The EU has been promoting gender equality since 1957. The Strategy for Equality Between Women and Men represents the European Commission’s work program on gender equality for the period 2010-2015. In 2012 the Gender Equality Directive stopped insurers using gender as a risk factor. Currently it combats violence and discrimination. The EU’s Women, Peace and Security agenda works to prevent violence against women and girls in conflict zones. The European Social Fund (ESF) has introduced a gender-mainstreaming approach and the EQUAL initiative was launched in 2000 to develop new ways of tackling discrimination and exclusion in the labour market including that which is based on gender.

The EU has also created an Institute for Gender Equality and a Fundamental Rights Agency. Winnet, a network of European Women Resource Centres was created to improve efficiency and transparency of women’s rights NGOs and therefore improve gender equality policies and tools.

Impact assessments on the effect of EU policy on women are carried out by each of the Commission’s Directorate-Generals.


The ECJ has previously interpreted “family life” to protect the rights of children of unmarried and lone parents to enable the children to remain living with their parents. Cases include Johnston v Ireland (1986), Eur. Ct. H.R., Ser. A, No. 112, Marckx v Belgium (1979) 2 EHRR 330:342, Berehab v Netherlands (App. 10730/84) 21 June 1988 Series A No. 138, (1989) 11 EHRR 322 S21 and Keegan v. Ireland (App.16969/90) 26 May 1994, Series A No. 290 (1994) 18 EHRR 342 S44.

The Fundamental Rights Agency devotes one of the chapters of its Annual Report on Fundamental Rights to the rights of the child. In 2009 the FRA published a report on “Developing indicators for the protection, respect and promotion of the rights of the child in the European Union.”

The Audiovisual Media Services Directive binds Member States to ensure that audiovisual media services provided by media service providers under their jurisdiction do not contain any incitement to hatred or sex discrimination.


The ECJ has ruled on age discrimination in employment, pensions and the retirement age.

When Belgium attempted to deny residence permits for two French nationals on the ground that they were suspected to be engaged in sex work, the ECJ ruled that as Belgium allowed its own citizens to do sex work, denying free movement to French citizens was a contravention of EU law.

More intersectional and specific forms of discrimination haven’t escaped EU notice, either. In 2007, the Monitoring and Evaluation Unit of the Employment and Training Corporation (ETC) published a study on lone mothers in poverty, which found that the mothers “experienced stigma and prejudice at the workplace and they felt as if they were looked down upon by their co-workers[14]”. The European Working Conditions Observatory concluded that “A respectful environment at work…would also help more lone mothers to enter or return to the labour market.”

The EU’s ECJ court, its Commission, its laws and its many agencies and platforms do much more to safeguard our rights than the European Court. They also pump money into impoverished areas of the UK to improve the lives of Brits in rural and deprived areas.  If Britain leaves, there will be nothing to stop the Tories doing whatever they please. We will lose the EU’s European Social Fund funding for services (including internet provision) and projects in deprived communities, and though we won’t have to give funding to the EU, it is not likely we will see a penny of the money saved. A government which is dismantling the NHS and destroying our welfare state is not suddenly going to change and pump the saved resources into welfare, education or health.. The scale and scope of the EU’s human rights protection is unique in the world. If Britain leaves the EU, we must be prepared to give up all of the EU’s human rights protections- for which we will find no replacement. 

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