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Sunday, 23 September 2012

Holocaust and Munich massacre aren't funny

As I am (for various happy reasons) not in Brighton for Lib Dem Conference, I was just with some friends in a J D Wetherspoon pub in New Barnet. Upon said friends' departure, I put 50p in a quiz machine in the pub, and, it must be said, won a pound back. On this quiz machine (which bore the logo Gamesnet, whoever they may be), I played a 'pub quiz' game in which two of the suggested answers to each question were possibly right, and one was deliberately silly. One question was: "Steven Spielberg did NOT direct the following film: Schindler's List; Munich; Jews 4: The Revenge". Jokes are supposed to be funny, and that one isn't - it plays on the stereotype of Jews being vengeful when people massacre them, which is not a proper subject for trivial humour on a pub quiz machine. It is simply a little bit nasty. Let's not make too much of this. These machines are intended to be laughed at raucously by drunk kids in pubs. I'd just rather that drunk kids were laughing at something other than Jews and their tragedies. And before you accuse me of being over-sensitive, I'd ask you to consider whether you'd like these pub quiz machines to make jokes about Moors Murder victims, 7/7 or Paralympic athletes? There is a line, and we do draw it somewhere, and I imagine that Wetherspoon's Tim Martin might agree with me on that.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Two-tier exams would end in tears

Reader(s) of this blog won't have missed tortured punning headlines such as the one above this piece, in the many days since last I blogged. Anyway, to business. Two-tier exams. I was in the last year that sat O-levels and CSEs (one of my exams was interrupted by a wireless broadcast in which Mr Chamberlain announced that this country was now at war with Germany). CSEs (of which I sat a few) were a complete fiasco. Although they may have been intended to be an exciting vocational alternative to O-levels for those less academic kids who were of a more practical bent, they were, in practice, sat by those pupils who were not good enough at a particular subject to sit an O-level in it (Geography being an example in my case - we learnt a lot about Glaciation, and I still don't know where that is).

I am very pleased, therefore that the Clegg-Gove English Bac does not involve a two-tier system. I support what is being proposed - well, I support anything that involves a joint article in the Standard by Nick Clegg and Michael Gove (

I note, incidentally, that today's Times was told by "a senior Lib Dem" that this Coalition exam plan "raises the bar but doesn't shut the door". I had never previously realised that the raising of a bar would, in and of itself, cause the shutting of a door. The Government's economy drive extends to the production of metaphors; it has been decreed that two metaphors must always be blended to produce one mixed metaphor, to avoid the wasteful cost of using two separate metaphors. The proof of the pudding lies not in our stars, but in ourselves.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

FW: Tell your MP that women seeking asylum must be protected from violence

I have no complaints about the Government’s strategy for helping refugees. Indeed, I strongly support many aspects of it. As the grandson of refugees, this issue cannot be emphasised strongly enough, even if the Conservative/Liberal Democrat Coalition is generally getting it more than right, which I think it is. I am happy to forward this email from the Refugee Council and I have emailed my own local MP about it. The Government must be held to a very high standard on issues of conscience such as this – however much they do that is right, there will always be scope to do more, so I think that it is reasonable to keep up the pressure (even if, in my case, it is supportive pressure – I doubt any other government in my lifetime has handled refugee issues better than this current government has, and there is much that I applaud in the Coalition’s approach).


From: Refugee Council []
Sent: 05 September 2012 12:31
Subject: Tell your MP that women seeking asylum must be protected from violence



4 September 2012

No woman should be
missed out


Dear Matthew,

Around 7,000 women seek asylum in the UK each year. They are seeking protection from persecution, often fleeing violence and abuse. Yet the government's strategy for helping women who are victims of violence says nearly nothing about them.

We need your help to tell the government that
no woman should be missed out: women seeking asylum must be protected from violence.


The UN has acknowledged that refugee women are more affected by violence against women than any other women’s population in the world. Many have suffered sexual violence. Yet the UK asylum system leaves women vulnerable and isolated and often struggling to get the protection they need.

The UK government has shown a welcome commitment to tackling violence against women both at home and abroad. Yet only one of the 100 ‘actions’ in the Violence Against Women’s strategy commits the UK Border Agency to help women seeking asylum. In fact, harsh asylum policies in the UK place women at risk of experiencing further violence here, in the place they came in search of safety.

We see women like Yvette every week. Women who have fled violence and persecution who come to the UK in search of safety but instead face further violence and exploitation.

Yvette* was a political activist campaigning for women’s rights in a West African country. When she came to the attention of the authorities, she was detained for two weeks in a military camp. Kept in a dark room, she was deprived of food, beaten and raped – repeatedly. She needed months to get over her injuries.

Upon recovery, Yvette resumed her political campaigning. But when men raided her home in search of her, killing her sister, she fled.

Yvette arrived in the UK with poor mental health and complicated gynecological problems as a result of the repeated sexual assaults. Destitute, carrying her belongings in a blue plastic bag, she was taken in by a man who then forced her to exchange sexual favours in return for a roof over her head.


Now is the time to demand change

The government is reporting on its Violence Against Women and Girls strategy in November. So now is the time to write to your MP and ask them to tell the Home Secretary that women seeking asylum are treated fairly in the UK and are protected from violence. We aren't asking for special treatment, only that women seeking asylum have the same rights as everyone else.

Act now: Tell your MP that
women seeking asylum must be protected from violence

Thank you.


Anna Musgrave
Women’s Advocacy and Influencing Officer
Refugee Council

*Some details of Yvette’s story, including her name, have been changed to protect her identity.


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