Archive for the ‘Social issues’ Category

Bus wars

When the so called atheist bus took the streets a few months ago many people felt that the word ‘probably’ was redundant.

In their website the campaigners explained that the Committee of Advertising Practice advised the campaign that “the inclusion of the word ‘probably’ makes it less likely to cause offence, and therefore be in breach of the Advertising Code”.

Now, this would be fine if wasn’t because the new ‘Christian’ buses that are popping out all  over London these days seem to not be following the same prerequisite. In fact some of these ‘Christian’ buses are calling atheists fools and claims in others cannot actually been proven.

And so I ask myself, why does the Advertisement Standards Agency have such a double standard in this case?



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As the expansion is given the green light by the DfT I cannot but amaze myself at the colourful coalition of people opposing it: John McDonnell, Boris Johnson, Emma Thompson, Zac Goldsmith…. So I thought that Forgesian Thinking should also add its two pence to the debate. So here we go…

I am supportive on the expansion on three accounts:

– If London is to continue to be a true global ‘meeting point’, Heathrow needs to remain one of the top three world airports. It is essential. If you fly into Amsterdam you are not going to then take a train to London, you’ll do your business there, plus they already speak very good English.

– Building a completely new airport somewhere else, another BBI (Brilliant Boris’ idea), would be very costly, you don’t need just the runway but also a terminal plus other servicing builidings and infrastructure. It also involves creating noise pollution in a completely different new area (I know this point is no consolation to Heathrow residents though).

– From a logistics point of view, it is more efficient to have on hub rather than several of them dispersed, plus less road pollution will be created. This is also true for passengers travelling from and to the airport.

The real issue about climate change is not about stopping Heathrow’s expansion. Heathrow’s flights are generally long distance flights, meaning you either fly or you simply can’t get to your destination. If climate change campaigners would like to make a real difference they should be focusing all their efforts on low-fare airlines and airports. Encouraging high-speed rail so short flights to Europe can be replaced by train journeys.

Heathrow is not an environmental issue but a local residents’ one. That is a fair fight. The spat today between Geoff Hoon and Emma Thompson best illustrates the not very convincing climate change argument.

As Hoon accused her of opposing the expansion while flying around the world as an actress, Thompson replied:

“Get a grip Geoff. This is not a campaign against flying – we’re trying to stop the expansion of Heathrow in the face of climate change.

“It sounds like the transport secretary has completely missed the point. Again.”

I don’t even know what that means. Flying produces climate change, one stops flying,  climate change is reduced, as simple as that. That is the problem with the climate change-base anti-expansion campaign, it’s trying to achieve the squaring of the circle. And Cameron’s Tory leadership is once more at its populist best encouraging the nonsense.

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A coalition of green activists has bought the piece of land that was to be the site where the third Heathrow runway was to be built. Oscar winner Emma Thompson, new Tory posterboy Zac Goldsmith and NGOs such as Greenpeace have teamed up to buy the land before the government gave the project the green light.

Smart move if you ask me. Zac Goldsmith, Tory PPC for Richmond Park, has been quick and put out a press release taking pretty much all the credit for the idea…how do you think his rival and fellow campaign organiser Susan Kramer feels about that?


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With ideas like this one understands why they are reluctant to put more policy substance out there…it would just be embarrassing.

The argument against brilliantly put by Hopi and Chris here and here.


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The tabloid press has been waging a campaign against asylum seekers in Britain for quite a while now. They might say that it isn’t against “genuine” asylum seekers it is aimed at, but nevertheless they have helped inhibit British society from what it is for most of these people a painful and certainly life-threatening experience.

News coming today from Australia are just a clear example of the realities of asylum-seeking and how solidarity should not be subdued to populist sentiments fuelled by fear and prejudice. Freedom is a highly appreciated British value, let’s not let our fears stop it protecting other people around the world.

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The far left criticised New Labour for being too liberal, Cameron cannot stop repeating his ‘broken society’ soundbite…but today the OECD has published a report that shows that since 2000 the UK has reduced income inequality and poverty more than any other member of the organisation.

Needless to say there is still a long way to go, but certainly Labour is the way forward to build on those foundations.

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In praise of India

Today the 9th EU-India summit has kicked off in Marseille. As a student of South Asian affairs I would like to mark this event with a little reflection on India as one of the great hopes for our world in the 21st century.

When I arrived at SOAS to study politics I had to decide which region in Asia or Africa I wanted to specialise in. I had lived in China for two years so I already had a relative head start on East Asian history so that seemed like the safest choice. However there was something about South Asia, and specially India, which intrigued me, cultural pluralism.

India is home to 1.13 billion people, 21 official languages, 1,652 dialects and a vast number of different religious groups. India is so heteregoneous culturally that is hard to understand how such a vast country with such a tumultous history has been able to stay united and democratic since its independence for 61 years. The answer to that question is constitutional patriotism. The idea that the Indian nation, formed by all Indians without exception, is rooted in a set of common democratic values. In the privacy of his home one can follow his customs but once out in public a set of common rules are followed so to guarantee equality and social harmony. That unspoken value of respect and sacrifice for the common good shared by all Indians is what has kept the nation together and what fascinates me about this country.

But that’s not all, together with that sense of social responsibility comes one of political responsibility. Despite high economic growth during the years of BJP rule the lack of redistribution of that wealth was punished in the ballot box by India’s rural communities that put the Congress Party, and the current PM, Manmohan Singh, in power. India has kept growing but its people has let the political class know that the Chinese model of fast growth with complete disregard for its social impact isn’t going to happen there.

India’s past and present isn’t perfect. Poverty and social conflicts still exist within and the Kashmir and northeastern conflicts still cast a shadow over the future of the country. But a country that is able to elect a Muslim President and a Sikh PM, despite the fact that 800 million out of 1 billion of its citizens are Hindu, is to be admired and its unity in diversity celebrated.

And what issue is more important today to us in the West, at a time when our societies are becoming culturally more plural, than to build a common identity that belongs to us all but at the same time respects and celebrates our rich cultural diversity.

Europe can learn a lot from India and it is time for us to have a serious look at a country that despite all its defects and challenges is emerging as probably one of the most stable and admired nations in the new world order.

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