Sunday’s events in Bristol have made headlines. Predictably, however, mainstream media has fallen into the trope of shortsighted reporting, indulging in simplistic, one-sided narratives of protestors as ‘mobs of animals’ who ‘attacked’ and ‘badly injured’ police officers. Whilst they make good headlines, these intentionally inflammatory discourses, alongside powerful images of burning vans, serve to eclipse the bigger story.
On March third, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced his annual budget for 2021. As you would expect from a modern Conservative government, the budget showed an unwillingness to borrow and spend more than a moderate amount, despite the continuing economic pressures posed by the pandemic, and reaffirmed the government’s commitment to benefitting their rich donors while denying the most basic of help to the victims of years of Tory austerity. Sunak is spending just enough pocket change to maintain the appearance that the government isn’t just doing the bare minimum during the pandemic, but, typically, even this amounts to high praise from the largely right-wing mainstream media.
Norwich City’s glossy matchday programme for their home match against Stoke on February 13th is emblazoned with the face of fan favourite winger, Onel Hernández. Hernández, a famously bubbly and humorous character who has played for the Canaries since the beginning of the 2018/19 season, made a late substitute appearance against Stoke during Norwich’s 4-1 win. On this occasion it was a brief outing for the programme cover star – but recent developments in Hernández’s career are much more significant than this match might suggest.
Foreground, left: a woman holding a sickle in one hand and a large red flag in the other, and wearing a green scarf over a yellow khadi; behind her, a man in a light orange khadi, a light blue turban, a beard, and raising his fist; in front of her are three ears of corn growing out of green stalks.
Background, center to right: two red farming tractors drawn as if moving up a slight incline, towards the right; one is partially behind the two human figures, and bears a small red flag; the other is fully visible, and bears a small green flag.
Above the two tractors is the text: Unite against corporate slavery of farmers.
When activists look back to the movement that arose to challenge the introduction of the Poll Tax, they will see it as one of ordinary people taking on the establishment and coming out victorious. Whilst the rioting in Trafalgar Square and similar confrontations between police and protestors often takes centre stage in our collective memory of this period, there is the risk of overlooking the grassroots and community led resistance that fought every step of the way during the Poll Tax’s introduction – the resistance of the Anti-Poll Tax Unions.
In this era of jaw-dropping politics and marionette-style blunders, Boris Johnson has done it again. This time, though he may not have landed any more mums in Persian clinks, it seems he’s just landed Britain in a little more shit.
‘Is anyone else seeing this?’ I thought (admittedly with some relish) as I read that 600,000 Hong Kong citizens are, on Boris’s invitation, seeking permanent residency in the UK within the next two years.
The storming of Capitol Hill in Washington on the 6th January and the ongoing aftermath has dominated western media over the past few days with good reason. White Americans fuelled by bizarre QAnon conspiracy theories and egged on by Trump’s false narrative of fraudulent election results, forced their way into the building, ransacked the interior, hung confederate flags, stole items and generally behaved like a bunch of supremacist football hooligans who had been binge-drinking for several hours, and whose team had just lost. In doing so however, they demonstrated the extent to which they have become empowered by Trump – and that is terrifying. When Trump leaves the White House (hopefully in handcuffs; tears streaking his fake tan), his manifest right-wing extremist legacy is going to remain present for years to come.
On December 16th, the UN General Assembly passed a proposal entitled ‘Combating glorification of Nazism, neo-Nazism and other practices that contribute to fuelling contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance’. 130 out of 193 UN members voted in favour of it, and only two against: the United States and Ukraine. Similarly alarmingly, all EU member states and the UK abstained from the vote. Why are the nations who take so much pride in having defeated Nazism 75 years ago now refusing to vote in favour of combating it?
At year’s end, many of us feel the pull to try and put a positive spin on the preceding 12 month period – to celebrate its joys, while recognising its difficulties in order to put them behind us as we look to the new year with a hopeful eye. At the end of 2020, it is particularly difficult to find a positive angle from which to look back, or forward. The slow-motion explosion that is Brexit has rolled on, the UK government that came to power just over a year ago has taken every opportunity to demonstrate its incompetence and corruption, and the mainstream media has continued to side with the powerful over the marginalised. And then there’s the elephant in every room – the Covid-19 pandemic, which has pushed many of the institutions we rely on to breaking point, revealing just how little many governments care about the lives of their more vulnerable citizens.
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