Last week, Parliament was closed for the Whitsun recess, so this column had a break – but the white men were dancing away even more frenetically than ever. The EU ‘neverendum’ continues to dominate the political news coverage, and therefore the minds of many politicians.
What should be a national debate on where we are going, our relationship to our neighbours and the practical impacts of either staying in the EU or leaving, is turning into an intra-Tory punch up which just keeps getting worse.
This week we’ve had former Tory PM, Sir John Major, call possible future one, Boris Johnson, a ‘court jester’ before going on to say that leaving the NHS in the hands of people like Johnson and Michael Gove would be like leaving your pet hamster with a hungry python. We then saw Sir John’s views dismissed as ‘the bitter ramblings of a vengeful man’ by one of his Tory colleagues. While all these ‘blue on blue’ attacks are fun to watch, the danger is that the actual EU debate will be forgotten and people will either disengage or vote based on short term personality preferences. The referendum will have an impact on our lives for decades to come and so, as fun as Tory infighting is, it shouldn’t be allowed to overshadow the democratic process.
Today (7 June) is the last day to register to vote in what will probably be the most important democratic decision we make in our lifetimes.
Tory infighting is obscuring both the Labour argument for staying in the EU, which hangs on the defence of workers’ rights, and the UKIP argument for leaving, which seems to hang on the alleged threat migrants pose to British women.
Fortunately Farage’s attempts to play the familiar ‘they are coming for our women’ card got the short shrift it deserved. Labour MP David Lammy was among many to slam the UKIP leader tweeting: “Utterly repugnant and inflammatory comments from Farage. Appalling dog whistle politics.”
Brexit won’t fix London’s poor polluted schools
Maybe if Boris’s eyes weren’t so firmly fixed on the Brexit/Number 10 prize, he would have had time to do his last job as London Mayor more thoroughly.
According to a spokesperson for new Mayor, Sadiq Khan, Boris buried an air pollution report which showed that more than 400 London schools were in areas which exceed the EU’s limits on nitrogen dioxide pollution. Most of these (83%) were also in areas of high deprivation.
Nitrogen dioxide is produced by diesel vehicles and is strongly linked to a whole range of respiratory problems. The illegally high levels of NO2 in London kill an estimated 9,000 people every year and the capital has been in breach of the EU regulations since 2010. The Analysing Air Pollution Exposure in London report was finished more than two and a half years ago in 2013 but Boris decided not to make it public.
Democracy depends on information. People can’t demand change if they don’t know the facts. As with the water crisis in last year in Flint, Michigan, the lack of voice that poor and the minority ethnic communities often have means that reports can be ignored and money saving risks can be taken when it comes to our health.
Maybe Boris’s thinking was that if we leave the EU then the problem with failing their regulations will go away. Of course the children of the poor can go on breathing polluted air but I’d imagine in Johnson’s world, clean air is a privilege not a right.
Sadiq Khan promises a new attitude. His spokesman said:
“The mayor is fully committed to cleaning up our air and protecting Londoners’ health.”
Compensation for Cherry Groce’s children – 31 years later
Five children whose mother was left paralysed after a botched police raid are to get compensation more than 30 years after the shooting.
Brixton police had been looking for one of Cherry Groce’s sons when they raided his mother’s home and accidentally shot her. The incident sparked the 1985 Brixton riots which raged for several nights.
Lee Lawrence, one of Ms Groce’s children, was just eleven at the time of the shooting and had been in the house along with his mum and three sisters.
Lee saw the police kick down his mother’s bedroom door and open fire on her.
Talking to Channel 4 News, Lee said: “What we went through was real and we were children in the house at the time that witnessed a traumatic experience which then had a profound effect on our lives.”
Injustice weighs down on the soul and prolonged injustice, as endured by Ms Groce’s kids or the Hillsborough families, must be crippling. Having a strong community around you must be invaluable especially when, for years, your version of events has been doubted. I hope even a small slither of justice brings a little comfort.
Muhammad changing minds even after death
Back in the 70s and 80s, only two things would ever make my mum give up her home to loud Jamaican men: A Windies test match or an Ali fight. He’s been an icon for me since before I knew what an icon was.
Watching the tributes to the great man pour in left me with mixed feelings though.
When those who denounced your heroes while they lived, praise them in death, should you curse their revisionism or rejoice at the new converts?
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White Men Dancing is a weekly column. Kiri Kankhwende and Maurice Mcleod keep an eye on Westminster. Politics is too important to leave to politicians.
Maurice Mcleod is a social commentator with Jamaican/Swazi heritage. He is director of his own communications company, Marmoset Media, and writes regularly for The Guardian and The Spectator among other titles. He has commissioned for the Guardian, Media Diversified, Engage Magazine, Open Mind, Single Step and Voluntary Voice. Before setting up Marmoset, he had a 15-year career as a national newspaper journalist working for The Express, The Independent, The Voice, The Evening Standard and The Sunday Times among others. He is also a trustee for campaign group Race on the Agenda. Maurice often appears on Sky News as a talking head and writes about social issues, race or politics.