Posts Tagged ‘Victoria Williams’

Topless ministers and teenage prostitutes: don’t go there, Dave.

17/03/2011, 11:45:48 AM

by Victoria Williams

Hopefully, last week’s international women’s day prompted David Cameron to think, if only briefly, about the disappointing dearth of women in his government. Ideally, he will have thought about how he might improve it. Perhaps he will have sought advice. Let us hope he did not turn to that nice Mr Berlusconi.

The grass is not always greener dall’altro lato. The Italian premier, recently labelled the “world’s shadiest politician” by humour site, may currently only have four women in his 22 seat cabinet, but, by God, he is intent on changing that. As one might gather from the near-constant barrage of articles about the 74-year-old prime minister in the run up to his, ahem, impending trial on charges of using underage prostitutes, among other things, Silvio Berlusconi is a man who likes to surround himself with women.

In 2009, he fielded a string of female candidates as potential MEPs in the European elections. His minister for equal opportunities, Mara Carfagna, is a houshold name, as is his education secretary, Mariastella Gelmini and his recently list-appointed councillor for the Lombardy region, Nicole Minetti. (more…)

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On international women’s day, do women have cause to celebrate this government?

08/03/2011, 11:30:22 AM

by Victoria Williams

Today is international women’s day. An apposite occasion to ask, in which case: do women have cause to celebrate the Tory-Liberal government?

In Parliament, women’s representation has improved, with the number of female MPs rising from 126 to 142 in the 2010 election. Nevertheless, the centre for women and democracy has described the 2.5% increase as “derisory”. The election of “Cameron’s cuties” swelled the number of female Conservative MPs from 18 to a more respectable 48 (though one might argue that calling them “Cameron’s Cuties” rather negates any positive aspect of it as an exercise in equality). But even adding in the Lib Dems’ paltry seven female MPs, the two governing parties combined still have fewer woman MPs than Labour’s 81 (and than the 94 they had in 2005, or the 101 in 1997). (more…)

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The Sunday Review: British Sea Power and Race Horses, live in Bristol

20/02/2011, 12:00:03 PM

by Victoria Williams

One of the best things about Bristol, if you are as easily excited as I am, is that half the nightlife there is on boats. You want to go to the pub? There’s one on a boat. To a club? There’s one on a boat. To a gig? On a boat. And so on. With that in mind, it was surely destiny that brought Brighton-based indie rockers, British Sea Power, to town to play a sold-out show. On a boat, naturally.

Popular floating entertainment venue, Thekla, was packed to the rafters – literally, as it’s an old fashioned, wooden ship with a high balcony – by the time support band, Race Horses, took to the stage. Race Horses are a criminally under-hyped four piece from Aberystwyth whose debut album, Goodbye Falkenburg, was released in 2010. Their eclectic mix of bouncy pop, vintage synths and 60s pyschedelia went down a storm with a crowd already merry from sampling Somerset’s finest. (Rumours started circulating halfway through the night that the constantly busy bar had run out of cider. It hadn’t). (more…)

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Protest is not the preserve of the young.

17/02/2011, 02:00:22 PM

by Victoria Williams

We all know what a protester looks like. They are long-haired, middle class, vegan, university students who wear woolly jumpers and read the Guardian. Look at the comments on the Mail Online and you’ll discover that they are also “lentil munching yoghurt knitters”. And so they may be. And so what?

The stereotype has been around for decades, and, though irritating to serious political activists, it has generally been harmless enough. Until now. Now protest matters again, and so does our perception of those who participate in it. The problem with our commonly held view of activists is that, as with so many stereotypes, it is simply not correct. The faces we’ve seen at demonstrations in London and throughout the UK in the last few months have come from all backgrounds (and have sported a variety of fetching hair styles and fashionable alternatives to the knitted jumper). And while we can laugh off silly assertions about hair and fashion sense, the enduring belief that those engaging in political protest are all very young is more pernicious. (more…)

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What Cameron actually said, and why it was cynical cant

07/02/2011, 05:00:39 PM

by Victoria Williams

“Go Home Muslims” signs still littered the streets of Luton as the prime minister took to the podium at the Munich security conference to address the “threat” of Islamist extremism. Attacking New Labour’s policy of “hands off tolerance” to those who choose not to subscribe to Western values, he called for a “more active, muscular liberalism”, to counter what he views as a lack of integration among immigrant communities.

Warming to the theme, he said:

“A passively tolerant society says to its citizens: as long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone. It stands neutral between different values“.

If he’d stopped speaking then, you could be forgiven for thinking “what a sensible man, perhaps I’ve misjudged him”.  After all, what on earth could be wrong with leaving people to their beliefs so long as they don’t break the law?

So many were left scratching their heads wondering what Cameron’s definition of the word “liberal” actually is, when he continued:

“A genuinely liberal country does much more. It believes in certain values and actively promotes them… It says to its citizens: This is what defines us as a society”.

So then “liberal” means “forcing your beliefs onto others and excluding them from society if they disagree”.  You learn something new every day.

Who, other than Cameron, says that multiculturalism and integration are mutually exclusive? It is hard to disagree with Margaret Hodge when she says that a higher uptake of English lessons among recent immigrants would beneficial to all of us. Outside of that, though, how does having personal faith exclude one from society? The UK is only nominally a Christian country;  should those who subscribe to a secular set of values also find themselves on the fringes of society?  A society is shaped by those who live within it. It cannot be dictated by the state.

Cameron has quite rightly been accused of playing into the hands of extremist anti-immigration groups such as the EDL and the BNP. He has also humiliated his deputy, Nick Clegg, whose own party favoured a more lax approach to immigration, including extending an amnesty to illegal immigrants.

It remains to be seen whether this will deepen the rift in the Tory-Lib Dem government, already on shaky ground after a number of Lib Dem walkouts over the decision to raise tuition fees. Either way, it will boost the opposition in the long run.

Victoria Williams is a freelance journalist.

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Is he or isn’t he – the mystery of Richard Carvath

04/02/2011, 03:30:02 PM

by Victoria Williams

Where do former Conservative party members go to die? Not, as one would hope, to Eastbourne. Rather, it seems that they are taking to the blogosphere. Formerly actual and currently self-styled “Conservative activist“, Richard Carvath, first emerged from the political ether as an independent candidate for Salford and Eccles in last year’s general election. He has been causing something of a stir ever since. Of which more later. First, some background.

Carvath was unceremoniously booted from the nasty party back in 2008, after annoucing his opposition to Stonewall, and publically declaring “Allah is actually Satan“. Ever since, he’s taken to the internet with gusto, becoming a lean, mean, tweeting, blogging machine. After a brief flirtation with Islamophobia, the hardline Christian turned his attentions to homosexuality, and hasn’t looked back since.

All of which was fairly inconsequential when he was a failed independent who garnered just 0.9% of the vote in the general election. But having already received a written warning from Manchester police after previous internet comments about the Tory selection for the area, he managed to put himself right back on the map in November last year, with this blogpost. (more…)

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