All Elections great and small…

So we’re a week on and the election furore has yet to fully die down. We now have a Minister for Equality who voted against same sex marriage, and a Disabilities Minister who voted for the Bedroom Tax and against protecting disabled children’s benefits… but hey it could be worse, at least UKIP lost a seat.

UEA is most well-known for its arts graduates, figures such as Matt Smith and Ian McEwan. However, it seems more fitting at the moment to discuss those graduates of UEA who have gone on to climb the political greasy pole.20141214_135104

Because there are a surprising number of UEA alumni who have served time in either the House of Commons or the House of Lords, I shall limit myself to those who are currently members of Parliament.

The longest serving UEA MP is Caroline Flint (Labour) who received a BA in American Literature and History combined with Film Studies, and was elected to Parliament in 1997.

Flint has held a variety of positions including Minister for Public Health (2005-2007), Minister for Employment (2007-2008), Minister for Housing and Planning (2008) and Minister for Europe (2008-2009). She is currently the Shadow Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change.

Most famous for co-founding the parliamentary dance troupe, Division Belles, and for admitting that whilst Minister for Europe she didn’t read the Lisbon Treaty (the document which codifies the rules of the EU… *awkward*)

Then we have Karin Smyth and Rachael Maskell, both of whom did their BA’s at UEA and are now both new Labour MP’s as of last week – the very best of luck to them.

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And then we have the man who might be termed UEA’s enfant terrible (although without any of the positive connotations), Douglas Carswell. UEA is generally considered a progressive left wing university, all the other current ex-UEA MP’s are Labour for example, and yet somehow we went terribly wrong with this one.

Carswell is currently the only UKIP MP in the UK, having defected from the Conservative party in 2014. He is a climate change sceptic, opposed to same sex marriage and laws prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation, and dislikes the NHS. Carswell was also revealed to have claimed over £30,000 in expenses to cover the furnishing of his second home, so all in all, a bad egg.

On behalf of UEA, I apologise sincerely.

But in our defence we have also provided the world with the eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith), Greg James, and Charlie Higson, so we’re probably allowed one let down.

When you look at the list of UEA alumni there are many politicians, both in the UK and abroad. It does make you wonder if there’s currently anyone at UEA who will one day appear on the famous alumni list.

In other ‘election’ news, I have just been elected as the Drama Society’s Union and Equality Officer (maybe not as exciting as becoming an MP but still). It was a rather last minute decision to apply, but having now met the new committee I am excited to get started.

So fingers crossed that the Tories don’t muck up this country and that I don’t muck up my new position.

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The one where I rage against the machine…

It’s the night before the polls open, and up and down the country party leaders, and the journalists who follow them, are scrabbling to mop up those final floating voters.

If you are registered then for goodness sake vote tomorrow. It is not just a good idea but, in my opinion, a moral imperative. As a country we are standing at a cross road where we must decide not only what is important to us, but who is important to us. I’m not here to tell you how to vote, at this stage I imagine you have probably already decided.

But let me say this:

Do not vote in fear or anger. Do not allow the vitriol which has been pedalled by almost all the parties to sway you. Do not vote to keep Romanians out and bankers in. Vote for the party you believe will best serve its people, who will protect the interests of those who are vulnerable and have no one else to help them. Vote for a party that wants to run a country, and not a business.

Vote in the interests of your country and not yourself.

But that’s not really what this post is about, what I want to write about today is writing itself.

As a writer I put my opinions and views out into the world. I do not claim to be impartial or unbiased, but what I do strive to be is responsible. I write to inform and to amuse, but not to slur or to tarnish. The only party I have openly denounced is UKIP, but when a party functions on lies, racism, and homophobia, then I believe it is also morally right to express disdain and dislike.

I write with ethics in mind, and I am just a student sitting in their room in halls. So why is it that editors and journalists across the country struggle with it so much? They are within their rights to be partisan, but when that leaks into bare faced lying and bigotry then it is an affront to democracy and free speech.

In the run up to the election there has been not only bad journalism, but irresponsible journalism.

The Times printed this recently:

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The Editor’s Code of practice states that, ‘A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion once recognised must be corrected, promptly AND WITH DUE PROMINENCE’

The original headline was on pg 1, the correction was on pg 24.

The Telegraph posted this story online, “The Green Party is a Looney Tunes alliance of druids and trots”, the writer’s opening issue with the party was that they allowed people with non-binary genders to use Mx rather than Mr/Mrs/Miss, and that they planned to create gender neutral toilets. Apparently this is an affront to the traditions of our country, which frankly aren’t of that much value when inspected. The writer also accuses the Green Party of being a coven… yes we get it, woman are mad, people who don’t fit your ideas of sex and gender are scary, but what is more worrying is that this kind of openly misogynistic, transphobic rhetoric is being sanctioned by the media. Need I mention the open racism that is allowed to go into print, whether it be penned by Farage or Hopkins.

I was recently invited to write for The Tab, an online student (and I hesitate to call it this) newspaper. Now, I shall admit that for a minute or so I was tempted. Their readership far surpasses anything a campus based paper can hope for, but then I read this and my mind was made up.

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I admit that I am a bleeding heart leftie, and I am aware that perhaps this post falls into some of the traps that I have outlined. But, if nothing else, I hope that after you have finished this you will consume your media thoughtfully, if you aren’t doing so already. Not only that, but that when you see bad journalism you challenge it and call it out, don’t just accept the facts that you are fed but investigate them for yourself.

Let this election be decided by politicians and policies, not by the partisan press.