A PhD student studying mathematics/environmental science at the UEA and a proponent of equality, human rights and environmental preservation, with a preference for a nuanced discussion over polarising debate. Natasha was a member of The Norwich Radical’s writing team June 2015 – August 2017.
I was considered a youth once, only a few years ago in fact. Yes, I remember those days. Casting my first ballot in 2010 in favour of the Liberal Democrats; the Hung Parliament that resulted; the slight guilt I felt for being complicit in hanging said Parliament. But never fear, I thought, the politicians know what they’re doing. It’s fine. The Lib-Dems have partnered up with the Tories.
But it wasn’t fine, because that whole tuition-fee-£9000-a-year-wtf palaver happened. This is when I felt political disappointment for the first time, and I have most other times subsequently.
(25.01.17) – Corbyn’s Stance on Immigration is Absolutely Correct
Content warning: mentions racism and xenophobia
It has been a disappointing folly from the start that the progressive parties of Britain should keep relentlessly droning on about how immigration has had a net-positive impact on average wages. This remark, whilst true, is misleading and falls on deaf ears. The immigration problem is not simply a phantom created by the xenophobic right. As I have argued in a previous article, it is a real, tangible issue born of companies’ exploitation of free movement of people, an utter disregard for the dignity of labour and lack of social cohesion. This requires, not the reactionary response of cutting immigration itself, that right-wing parties have been pushing for years, but a progressive alternative that addresses the issue without feeding into the venomous narrative. This is what the Labour Party are offering.
It’s high time we talked about our future. Forget about border control or the free market, they offer no insight. If we want this tumultuous, divisive year to mean something, we need to think bigger, bolder and shape our decisions around our vision. Let’s talk about an end to the draconian sweatshop conditions, imposed by the likes of Sports Direct, who have exploited free movement of labour to keep profits high and wages low. Immigration control is a quick fix and a distraction. They will always find a way to exploit and profit. What if instead we did away with these common low-skilled low-wage jobs, altogether. What if we put our faith in British industry again, but instead of labourers going down into the stuffy pits, lining their lungs with coal dust, they were breathing the cool, crisp air on the surface on a wind farm. I am talking about creating a thriving, prosperous renewable energy industry.
It was apparently a victory for Remainers when the High Court ruled that invoking Article 50 will require a full parliamentary process. The judges issuing the verdict were branded as tyrants by the tabloids — as if they were doing anything other than interpreting law. David Lammy — the MP for Tottenham, where 75% of the constituency came out in favour of the EU — declared he would block Brexit. He is the political Schrödinger’s cat, he behaves both democratically and undemocratically at the same time: vowing to uphold the wishes of his constituents against the wishes of the country. A majority of politicians don’t have the luxury of having voted the way their constituents did. Perhaps they would argue it differently, that they were democratically elected to represent their constituents, not vote with their constituents. It seems like a tenuous technicality but one that appears to stand up to scrutiny.
I guess it depends on what democracy really means. I’ve said the word so many times, I don’t even know anymore.
(07.09.16) – Immigration: The Elephant In the Room
Globalisation has generally been unkind to the young. Yet, as a demographic, we took its side in the EU referendum. Because ultimately the union has positively shaped our culture, as global business, and academic ties, bought international communities together all over Europe. This type of integration has profoundly enriched the way of life in the metropolis. But it would be incorrect to think that people all over the country are benefitting in the same way, because this level of cohesion is politically disallowed from crossing beyond the city confines. Indeed, the impact of globalisation, and the nature of integration, has been overwhelmingly detrimental elsewhere in the country.
(10.08.16) – Corbyn Can Only be PM if he Learns from Smith
We have now entered the world of post-truth politics where satire has died because reality is beyond farcical. Remember a while back when that cabinet minister half-arsed her job? Instead of spending taxpayers’ money on something worthwhile she rolled out some vans with ‘go home‘ billboards, in a completely misguided attempt to get ‘illegal’ immigrants to leave. She then quickly had to reel them back in after realising it actually looked a little xenophobic (and also because it was the stupidest idea ever).
Despite this and numerous other examples of May’s sheer incompetence in government, she assumed the role of Prime Minister on a technicality and the ineptitude of her opponents. I suppose I am thankful she got the job rather than them (but only in the sense I’d be thankful if I’d lost only all my extremities to frostbite instead of succumbing to hypothermia). Despite this and her complete lack of a vision for the future of Britain, other than the fact that “Brexit means Brexit”, and given her party has absolutely no mandate to carry out anything at this point, the Conservatives still sit 16 points ahead of Labour in the polls. That is a terrifying reality.
(11.07.16) – Did Blair Have A Hero Complex?
It is difficult to remember a time when Tony Blair was considered a real hero. But that was the mood when he won the 1997 general election in a landslide. ‘New Labour. New Britain’ was his slogan, as he put an end to the old Labour politics that the people distrusted and vowed to carry Britain proudly into the new millennium. People were chanting his name in the streets, the euphoria was palpable. A stark juxtaposition to where we are today, 13 years after the Iraq War began, the world still reeling from Blair’s decisions. A hero is the last thing we would call him now.
Blair has always been regarded as a master tactician who could easily manipulate the situation to his favour and he knew that he possessed this extraordinary power. But it is how he wanted to wield this power that would cause his downfall. He wanted to leave a legacy. A grand ambition that could only be realised through a grand accomplishment: striking down the biggest villains of the world, one after
I keep replaying the same slide show, projecting it on the back of my mind. I see the temperature rising, 9/11, the Iraq war, financial collapse. I enter the ballot box for the first time, eager for change. The coalition forms. Mass extinctions. The SNP wins a majority. Tuition fees triple. The Arab Spring. House prices rise. Riots. The Olympics. Food banks. Austerity. Austerity. Austerity. Benefits slashed. The NHS in turmoil. The Eurozone crisis. Scotland votes for unity. Greece votes for change. They are hung, drawn, quartered. We reach the 1°C threshold. The ballot box takes away a piece of me every single time. The far left brings hope but the far right brings hate. They spread their infectious disease. Storms, droughts, forest fires. Everything I fear begins to materialise in front of my eyes. Refugees fleeing the wars we started but we just condemn them to their fates. Floods everywhere. Terrorism. Xenophobia. Half-truths and outright lies. A vote for fear, a vote for suspicion, a vote for fascism.
Something amazing is happening. We are finally talking about racism. And I mean really talking about it. We are asking why it is, that in the US, black people are targeted significantly more than white people in terms of police violence. We are talking about institutional racism, wherein every single year we see little to no racial diversity in the academy award nominations. We are talking about symbolic racism, in which academic institutions seem to see nothing wrong with commemorating racist historical figures. It is not a coincidence that these conversations are taking place at the same time because we are in the midst of a powerful international movement called Black Lives Matter, which is taking a battering ram to every single racist barrier you can think of. But it is also going for the ones you might not have thought of, because now it is forcing us to introspect as we examine the places we thought were free and open spaces.
(27.01.16) – Why We Needed Charlie Hebdo’s Cartoon of Alan Kurdi
The series of coordinated sexual assaults and robberies across Cologne on New Year’s Eve, prompted an outcry from the media when it came to light that a majority of the perpetrators were refugees from the Middle East and North Africa. A steady stream of articles surfaced examining and criticising Angela Merkel’s mantra of “refugees welcome”, all of them reeking with an infuriatingly smug “I told you so”. The tabloids dealt with the news with as little finesse as you’d expect—publishing quotes from questionable sources about how some refugee was overheard to be describing western women as sex objects (as if this was somehow representative of the opinions of all refugees). Others have taken a more sympathetic approach, pointing out that these refugees probably didn’t understand our esteemed cultural practice of not robbing and sexually assaulting people.
(02.01.16) – UK Flooding: The New Normal in a Changed Climate
Storms have mercilessly battered Britain, one after the other over this festive period, bringing with them severe and unrelenting floods. The scale of damage and devastation was unprecedented, but it was not unpredictable. We’ve seen these storms growing with intensity every year. And, whilst a few might naively blame El Niño for this recent bout, we know that climate change is the driving factor. The government and general public appear to have accepted this, but even so, whenever a frank discussion about the consequences of climate change is put forward, it seems to be met with some underlying scepticism. This systematic dismissal of the difficult questions leaves us wholly unprepared for what’s to come and the recent floods have served as a sobering reminder of this.
For many millennia to come, the climate crisis will be the defining moment of our history. When we first shovelled the crushed, decayed, fossilised remains of prehistoric creatures into engines, we found that we could create plentiful power. It is this power that has allowed us to coexist in huge societal networks, to eliminate disease and travel to outer space. But these tremendous strides in humanity have come at a huge price.
The infrastructure of our society relies on consuming, we no longer share local resources within small communities, but transport them across the world and transform them many times until they take the barely recognisable forms of commodities we use every day. In each step of this process we lavishly spend fuel, a resource that we once treated as ever-lasting, but now we see it’s running out. But our biggest mistake was that we thought we were getting all of this for free when in fact, all this time we’ve been borrowing huge amounts from the environment. And as we see the Earth changing drastically, with the oceans acidifying and the weather becoming increasingly unpredicable, we know that the time has come to settle the debt. These next few weeks, as world leaders gather at the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) in Paris, we will decide as a species how to return what we owe.
(24.10.15) – The Changing Face of Poverty in London
‘I often hear that too many Westminster policies only benefit London. This part is technically true. London is not only the financial capital of the UK but the financial capital of the world—a fact reflected in how disproportionately powerful and wealthy it is compared to the rest of the UK. The country’s government and national media are both based in London which invariably means that the issues discussed will tend to be skewed towards the area (something I only realised when I moved away). But for all the ways you could describe the city’s privileged position—even if your personal choice of adjective is less than favourable (crowded, impersonal, selfish… etc.)—try to bear in mind what exactly you’re describing. Is it the City of London or the citizens of London? Because the distinction between them represents two profoundly different worlds, divided by wealth, housing and opportunity. This is a divide that deepens every year at an alarming rate.’
‘When George Osborne took to the stage at the Conservative party conference, he had an air of confidence that spoke volumes. He tapped into a sense that has been palpable for a while now, the widely held belief that he is the saviour of the British economy. Soaked with ambition, he painted for us his bold and vibrant vision for Britain, creating a northern powerhouse and putting the working, taxpaying people at the heart of his plans. He decreed his party the builders of Britain and the only true party of labour whilst unapologetically championing his more liberal politics. Then as the applause rolled in, showering him with reverence and adoration, the next five years unfolded in front of me and I could see this man winning the 2020 general election. The thought of it made me feel sick to my stomach.’
(12.09.15) – Cameron Would Rather Go To War Than Help a Refugee
‘A photograph of a single refugee, a toddler in a red t-shirt, a lone and lifeless body washed up ashore, face down in the sand. This is what it took for the citizens of Europe to see the refugees for what they are, not as groups of migrants, scroungers and opportunists, but as human beings facing unimaginable horrors. But even the righteous indignation that has followed, galvanising citizens and governments across Europe into opening up their borders, their homes and their hearts, is not enough for this government and they remain as cold and ruthless as the waters that have claimed the lives of thousands of refugees’’
(29.08.15) – Work Until You’re Healthy or Work Until You’re Dead
‘This is the message that Iain Duncan Smith and the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) have been espousing over the last five years as benefits sanctions become ever more stringent. And now we are starting to get closer to understanding just how far they’re willing to go. After mounting public pressure and many Freedom of Information requests, the DWP have been forced to publish statistics showing that over 2,300 people have died after losing their benefits following fit for work assessments.’
(21.08.15) – The Beating Heart of Labour
‘For the conservatives, the civil war waging within Labour is extremely fortuitous. Their borderline majority in the House of Commons was nothing to celebrate especially as they fully inherited the fractured Britain that they’d created in their last government and now the party itself is even starting to buckle under the pressure of growing Euroscepticism. Instead of capitalising on this unrest by raising up arms against them, the left-wing are too distracted by the arms they’ve raised against each other.’
(04.07.15) – A Gamble on Greece
‘In the beginning of this year, the people of Greece voted in the radical left-wing party, Syriza — lead by Alexis Tsipras. They did this to send a message to Europe, a message that Greece cannot bear the weight of austerity anymore. But this is a message to which no one listened; instead, the Troika — consisting of the International Monetary Fund, the European Commission and the European Central Bank — continued to reel out Angela Merkel’s increasingly redundant party line that Greece has to meet its obligation.’
(19.06.15) – The Gathering Storm of Austerity
‘Like a storm in the sea sending a tidal surge our way, the past 5 years under austerity tell us of looming devastation. We saw it gather momentum on the horizon, as the waves of cuts started to roll in — pay freezes for the public sector, caps on benefits and cuts to social housing. This left in its wake a falling GDP per capita, a decline in affordable housing, and the rise of food banks. And now that those responsible for this have been re-elected, we are shamelessly informed that the storm is not over, the worst is yet to come and we will not be rescued.’