THE UK PRISON INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX

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by Michael Noone for IAS UK

In March 2018, the then Justice Secretary David Guake delivered a speech on the topic of prison reform. He kicked off proceedings by detailing his perception of the prison system and its modus operandi. Describing it as three-fold, Guake explained the aims as follows:

First, protection of the public – prison protects the public from the most dangerous and violent individuals. Second, punishment – prison deprives offenders of their liberty and certain freedoms enjoyed by the rest of society and acts as a deterrent. It is not the only sanction available, but it is an important one. And third, rehabilitation – prison provides offenders with the opportunity to reflect on, and take responsibility for, their crimes and prepare them for a law-abiding life when they are released.

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BUS W@NKERS

by Matthew John White

I doubt that the brilliant gross-out teen comedy The Inbetweeners invented the term ‘bus wankers’, but it certainly dragged it into popular culture. In Series 2, Episode 4, which first aired in 2009, arch gross-merchant Jay shouts the insult in question from the window of a moving car. The phrase is now firmly mainstream. You’ll often see it in social media comments: “my car’s at the garage so I’m being a bus wanker today”, or “can’t wait to pass my driving test so i can stop being a bus wanker”. A Facebook group named ‘bus wankers!‘ is liked by 93 thousand people.

Derision of bus users isn’t always achieved with this phrase, of course. Just the other day, while discussing a trip to London over a pub garden pint, a friend of a friend loudly asked “Who over the age of 30 gets a bus?”, accidentally (I hope!) paraphrasing an apocryphal Thatcher quote in the process. Yet ‘bus wankers’ has become the standard, convenient, go-to expression for such mockery.Continue Reading

BEYOND TUITION FEES #11 – MUCH TO LEARN, MORE TO DO

By Bradley Allsop and Rowan Gavin

It is a time of extraordinary potential for change in UK Higher Education. Labour’s promise to end tuition fees has defied the critics and united many behind Corbyn’s political project. In this series, the Norwich Radical and Bright Green have brought together perspectives from across the sector to explore the possibilities of post-fees HE. In the final instalment, the series editors summarise the visions for the next chapter of UK HE that the series has laid out.

There is more energy, debate and innovation on the left now than there has been for decades. Capitalism’s multiple crises, and the inability of its defenders to respond to them, are beginning to translate into tangible political opportunity. This series sought to capture the essence of some of this historical moment and direct it towards thinking about what we want our university campuses to look like, beyond the staple progressive policy of scrapping tuition fees. A project in unashamedly utopian thinking, it recognised the very real possibility that free tuition might be a reality in the near future, and sought to explore how this requires the left to think practically about what comes after and where our energy should be focused next.

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A CO-OPERATIVE FUTURE FOR STUDENTS – BEYOND TUITION FEES #9

By Lewis Martin

It is a time of extraordinary potential for change in UK Higher Education. Labour’s promise to end tuition fees has defied the critics and united many behind Corbyn’s political project. But what will the implications for universities be if this comes to pass? And what can we do to leverage this progress? In this series, the Norwich Radical and Bright Green are bringing together perspectives from across the sector to explore these questions.

Up and down the UK, from Edinburgh to Brighton, students are building alternatives to existing, exploitative housing and food practices. How? By creating co-operatives! These alternative ways of organising are expanding and flourishing at a rate never seen before, as students look to take their lives into their own hands, in defiance of the rising cost of living and exploitative landlords and businesses. The founding of Student Co-operative Homes, a launch pad organisation for potential student housing co-ops across the UK founded by the grassroots network Students for Co-operation and supported by national co-op federation Co-Ops UK, demonstrates the growing support for these independent, democratic projects.

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THOUGHTS FROM THE FRONTLINE OF MARKETISATION – BEYOND TUITION FEES #3

By Maddie Colledge, UEA SU Postgraduate Education Officer

It is a time of extraordinary potential for change in UK Higher Education. Labour’s promise to end tuition fees has defied the critics and united many behind Corbyn’s political project. But what will the implications for universities be if this comes to pass? And what can we do to leverage this progress? In this series, the Norwich Radical and Bright Green are bringing together perspectives from across the sector to explore these questions.

CW: Mentions suicide

It’s common for arguments in favour of free education to be dismissed as abstract or utopian, and for students who promote it to be belittled as naïve. I fear that in our attempts to try to portray the significance of free education, we have fallen into a trap where the concept has become so expansive and broad, and the term so overused, that it has lost all meaning. We need to move away from talking about ‘free’ education, and towards articulating a vision more explicitly centred on ‘state-funded’ education or ‘public’ education. For me, the description ‘free’ makes the concept feel distanced from the viable possibility of education funded through public taxation, and does us no favours in making it reality.

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“MORE POWERFUL THAN LANDLORDS CAN POSSIBLY IMAGINE” – THE SUSSEX RENT STRIKE

by Lewis Martin

Last week, students living in accommodation at the University of Sussex staged a rent strike, and successfully achieved their goals in the space of three days. The university has capitulated and agreed to £65,000 of compensation for the students who live in the halls due to the appalling state they are currently in.

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UEA: BANKING ON IMMORALITY

by Lewis Martin

If it’s not one thing it’s another with UEA. Weeks after their announcement that they’ve finally divested from fossil fuel companies, People and Planet UEA have discovered that the university has nearly £23 million invested with Barclays Bank. This won’t be particularly surprising to most – there is a branch on campus after all – but it shows the university’s ongoing decision to disregard the unfolding environmental and ethical situation of the world it operates in.

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PUTTING A PRICE ON DISABILITY

by Lewis Martin

Last semester at University I was diagnosed as suffering from learning disabilities (Specific Learning Difficulties (SpLDs)). Whilst the diagnoses of having ADHD, Dyspraxia and Dysgraphia didn’t come to much of a shock to me, the fact that I then had to pay £100 in order to be diagnosed did.Continue Reading

COMBAT CAPITALISM – THE SHAME OF MAYWEATHER VS MCGREGOR

by Toby Gill

Content warning – sexism, domestic abuse, racism, two very rich men being awful.

Last night, combat sports enthusiasts of the world gathered around their television sets. At the end of a long day’s work, they sunk into their sofas – remote in one hand, perhaps a Bud in the other. Of course, as they have been saying to their less knowledgeable friends for months, this whole fight is simply a farce. Of course, just like everyone else, they are obviously going to watch it. This week has been the world tour: a series of hugely anticipated pre-fight press conferences. Fans now watch eagerly – just to see if there could be some substance to this fight after all.

What they have been greeted with is a steaming, grotesque, shameless turd-like insult to everything they hold dear.

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THE DIRTY PROFITS IN HOUSING

by Joe Burns

The Grenfell Tower fire has painfully illustrated how destructive and negligent council spending can be. The predominant cause of the disaster was that money was spent in the wrong places.

Almost nine million pounds worth of refurbishment was completed on Grenfell Tower by Rydon and many other groups in May last year (though the “successful” refurbishment of Grenfell Tower has disappeared from Rydon’s website). The work included new exterior cladding, replacement windows and a communal heating system. The bottom four floors were also made into new communal spaces. However, nothing was done to satisfy residents, even after years of complaints by Grenfell Action Group, about the safety of the building. The local council even threatened the campaign group with legal action if they were to continue their pursuit.Continue Reading

WHO DESERVES TEF GOLD? AND DOES IT MATTER?

by Laura Potts

Last week, the first set of Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) rankings were released for 2017. The TEF is fairly complicated and students are rarely informed of how it works, or the possible implications it holds for the future of education. In short, it is a framework of metrics or measures introduced by the Tory government, ostensibly to assess teaching in higher education institutions in England. These metrics categorise two areas: student satisfaction and graduate earnings / employability. A lot of the data comes from the National Student Survey that final year students are often pressured to take part in. This years’ rankings gave some unexpected results for some of the UK’s most prestigious institutes, with many not doing as well as expected – only 8 of the 21 elite Russell Group universities were awarded ‘Gold’. This suggests that we should be cautious about taking the TEF results as accurate representations of institutions.

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TAKING ON THE SPECTRE THAT HAUNTS HIGHER EDUCATION

By Bradley Allsop

We’ve all seen the headlines – tripled tuition fees, retroactive changes to the student loan book, the nefarious uses of the National Student Survey. Often treated as isolated issues, these policies are in reality the foot soldiers in a war being waged to undermine the very foundations of our universities, twisting them from hallowed halls of challenge and transformation into bland centres for corporate training and indoctrination. This spectre haunts academics, senior managers and even Students’ Unions alike, forcing them all to dance to the mantra of the market, to the profit agenda. This spectre’s name is capitalism.

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PRICE HIKES AND RENT STRIKES – SOLVING THE UEA ACCOMMODATION CRISIS

By Lewis Martin

Whist chatting to a friend last week I found myself looking at the price of accommodation at UEA for the next academic year. I found that the prices are set to rise yet again, with the price of the most expensive undergraduate accommodation reaching over £5800 a year, or £153.30 per week if you want your shocks in smaller weekly doses rather than one big lump.

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QUICKER ISN’T BETTER – PROFIT BEFORE HEALTH IN TWO YEAR DEGREES

By Lewis Martin

Last week the government announced plans to allow students to complete an undergraduate degree within two years instead of the usual three. To facilitate this fast-track system, universities will be permitted to charge £13,000 a year in tuition fees for these courses. As many have already noted, it’s easy to see what this announcement really is: another step in the marketisation of higher education. UCU general secretary Sally Hunt described it as ‘another misguided attempt to allow for-profit colleges access to UK higher education.’ The government have become less and less tactless when it comes to putting profit before the education of students.

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WHY WE NEED A DEMOCRATICALLY ACCOUNTABLE AND ETHICAL BUS COMPANY

by Oliver Steward

It’s the 30th anniversary year of buses being deregulated and privatised by the then Thatcher government under the legislation of the Transport Act 1985.  Privatisation was supposed to bring greater efficiency to the bus network, give commuters choice, and aid in cutting fares. It has however failed as a policy.  It is time that local councils take back control of the bus network, and renationalise to make it publicly owned, and publicly accountable to those who use it.

Éoin Clarke posed a fundamental policy question concerning transport: why we should reconsider the merits of privatisation of our bus and rail network?  In this article I’m going to focus on buses.Continue Reading

THE CLIMATE BETRAYED AGAIN — AND WHO BETTER TO DO IT?

by George Laver

With the recent news that the Swedish government has backtracked on its pledges at the Paris climate agreement by selling off state-owned coal assets to private buyers EPH, now is a better time than ever to ask: when is it enough?

It should come as no surprise that governments will betray the public façade of agreement on positive terms. Such is the cycle of history. I am thinking, in particular, of the Paris Agreement that took place just last year. Not yet past its stage of infancy, and already it has been shot in the back. The selling off of a lucrative coal asset to private industrial proprietors has set a clear line for where their favour lies and where the climate — which has recently passed a dire milestone — sits in the rank of importance.

This agreement, climate scientists from Stockholm University have warned, will violate the terms of the Paris Agreement. Even so, it is not as if it can be claimed that the Swedish government has worked around loopholes in the agreement. At least if this were the case, with all technicalities applied, the government would not be violating the agreement — that is not to say that they would not be violating climate integrity. But even so, the case as it exists is one of straight up betrayal — and who else could we expect it from?Continue Reading

THE BLIND SPOTS OF THE GERMAN ENERGY TRANSITION — 2ND ROUND FOR ENDE GELÄNDE

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by Dorothee Häussermann

Last August, more than 1000 people rushed into one of Germany’s biggest open-cast lignite mines and stopped mining operations for a day. This action of civil disobedience went under the slogan ‘Ende Gelände — stop the diggers — protect the climate’; ‘Ende Gelände’ translates as ‘here and no further’. The campaign called for an immediate coal phase-out, emphasizing the urgency for DIY solutions to the climate crisis in the face of governmental inaction.

What is the problem? Isn’t Germany the paragon of energy transition? Aren’t ecologists and economists alike inspired by progressive policies such as the feed-in tariff that supported the rapid expansion of renewable energy sources? Even Naomi Klein’s film This Changes Everything depicts the German ‘Energiewende’ as a way to go forward. So what are these activists complaining about?Continue Reading

FUEL POVERTY DAY OF ACTION

by Clare Welton, Fuel Poverty Action.

This Friday, November 28th, pensioners will lead a march from Charing Cross to Energy UK – the Big Six energy company’s lobby body – under the banner ‘No More Deaths from Fuel Poverty: Energy Rights Now!’

Why? Because this is the day that the Office of National Statistics will also be releasing the numbers of ‘Excess Winter Deaths’ in Winter 2013/2014 – and it’s estimated that at least 30% of these deaths caused by the impacts of living in a cold home. Shockingly, this means that in the Winter of 2012/2013 there were more than 10,000 deaths in the UK from cold homes (with 31,100 Excess Winter Deaths recorded in total), whilst in the same year the Big Six energy companies – British Gas, E.On, EDF Energy, npower, Scottish Power and SSE – made £3.7billion in pure profit.

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