Caroline Lucas and the All Female Cabinet

Caroline Lucas and the All Female Cabinet

This week Green MP, Caroline Lucas, made a rather unpopular suggestion of creating an all female cabinet of cross party MPs to prevent a no deal Brexit. To say it fell flat is an understatement. I’ve had a couple of discussions on social media about this subject, but social media can get heated so I want to make clear my thoughts on this subject.

Women

On the surface I quite like the idea of an all female discussion because having sat in many board meetings over the last 10 years, I have witnessed first hand, time and time again, that women don’t engage as actively as men. Men are generally very confident in their own beliefs and opinions and have no fear of sharing them with an air of authority. Women tend to listen, take on board the opinions and views of others and understand where their opinion has come from. Often they hold back on sharing their own opinion because it feels unlikely that it will be understood in the same way and there’s a chance they’ll be argued with or patronised in some way. The feeling that if we don’t agree we must be wrong, is enough to keep us quiet. I am not speaking for all women at this point. It is definitely what I feel and I have observed many women in meetings, holding back from sharing their views. On the flip side I’ve been in all women meetings where everyone has felt able to talk, we’ve shared our opinions, even if they differ, we listen and understand each other’s position and we find ways to compromise. So my initial thought when someone told me that Caroline Lucas had suggested bringing together female MPs from all parties to discuss preventing a No Deal Brexit was “What a great idea that is”.

Shortlist

Of course, at that point I hadn’t read the article or the letter that had been sent out and I hadn’t seen the list of women who had been invited. To say it’s not the most diverse group of women would be an understatement and I’m sure in hindsight Caroline Lucas will look back on this as a huge error of judgement. It’s shocking that in putting together a list of women to represent the UK, it doesn’t doesn’t appear to have occurred to her to include BAME women. While in some cases she invited the leader of the party or the only female MP of the party, that explanation doesn’t hold up in the Labour representation. Alongside Emily Thornberry, she could have invited fellow shadow cabinet members; Diane Abbott, Dawn Butler, Valerie Vaz or Shami Chakrabartit, all of whom are much more senior than Yvette Cooper.

Anti-Corbyn

Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson has said she won’t enter into a coalition with Jeremy Corbyn. That’s a whole other subject, but I mean, come on, Labour is Labour, the leader is just one person who is answerable to the members. People need to stop getting their knickers in a twist about Jeremy Corbyn and come to terms with the fact that the vast majority of Labour members believe in the policies and direction Corbyn has taken the party. If you want to work with us, that’s what you get. If Jeremy Corbyn steps down, the membership will vote in another leader with the same values and principles because since becoming leader, since unveiling the transformational manifesto, the party membership has more than doubled.

But I’m not convinced that this is just a cynical move to prevent  a general election and a Labour Government. Jo Swinson may not want to work with Jeremy Corbyn but I doubt anyone on the left much wants to work with her either… And while I don’t particularly like the idea of working alongside austerity enablers, they do represent their voters and any proposals to prevent a No Deal Brexit, should take into account all sides of the debate… which incidentally means including socialist MPs which Lucas seemed to have also overlooked.

It took a teenager, Greta Thunberg, to make us sit up and realise that climate change has reached the point of an emergency that we need to do something about. And now we’re 2 months away from leaving the EU with no deal in place and a new unelected Prime Minister who couldn’t care less about it. This feels about as catastrophic as it gets and I welcome any bold ideas to find a way through this mess rather than continuing to repeat the same old dance we’ve witnessed since the Withdrawal Agreement was first presented to the commons.

Obviously, Caroline Lucas doesn’t have any authority to bring together a cabinet to lead on Brexit and any strategies such a group might come up with would have to be voted on. So in that sense, the idea is a bit daft. But I do think that bringing together women from all parties to have a discussion is a good idea – maybe not the specific women that were listed and definitely with better representation of all women – because I do think that given the freedom to speak, debate, listen to each other and understand opposing views, women can change the world.

The Great Hack: AI algorithms and the power of illusion.

The Great Hack: AI algorithms and the power of illusion.

Hands up who watches Derren Brown and thinks “I don’t care what he says, he’s definitely got magical powers’?

I’ve heard so many anecdotes from people leaving his live show, overhearing such comments from attendees.

Why are we so committed to believing the unbelievable despite the evidence?

The thing I admire the most about Derren Brown is that he shows us the trick. All the way along he reminds us that he’s not psychic, it’s just an illusion. In his TV programmes, he explains in detail the tricks he’s using and how they work to manipulate people into believing the unthinkable.

The experiment where he made a young man believe he’d murdered someone was one of the most thought provoking programmes I’ve ever watched and made me question everything about my own emotions and how they’re triggered.

I think Derren Brown is both terrifying and utterly brilliant at the same time. I love watching his shows but I’d absolutely hate to be in the same room as him because I think I’d go insane with paranoia. There was a period of time, after watching the experiments, when I would notice things: words on posters, graffiti, adverts and think “that word again, am I being Derren Browned?” I suppose more than anything Derren Brown alerted me to something very important: we are incredibly gullible and easily manipulated.

This fact has made the marketing industry billions. When radio stations flood the airwaves with the same song, it tops the charts, but who decides which songs get played? Whoever spends the most money.

I recently watched The Great Hack, a documentary about Cambridge Analytica and how it influenced the outcomes of several high profile political events across the world.

With digital and social media, data analysis and artifical intelligence we now have something far more sinister than marketing.

Like cold reading on steroids, algorithms collect and analyse all kinds of data, building up an accurate profile of a person: their character, likes, dislikes etc.

Then social media posts, adverts, and memes are targeted at individuals, subliminally giving them information to influence their opinions.

We’ve all had a conversation about something and then an advert pops up on Facebook about that same thing. We’ve paused outside a shop and looked in the window and then adverts for that shop started appearing in our newsfeeds. And we acknowledge that it’s a bit creepy, or we think it’s a random coincidence, sometimes we even make the link between our data but still, we fill in those pointless personality quizzes, giving faceless tech giants more information to help their algorithms send us content that will influence us to do what they want us to do.

This isn’t just for fun, it’s not light entertainment, it’s not something they do and then reverse the trance so the target stops clucking like a chicken every time someone says “breakfast”.

This goes beyond mainstream media’s biased reporting and companies paying for more advertising than their competitors.This is tech giants selling our data to be analysed. This is people losing their ability to think for themselves. This is the people with the most financial power, rigging elections to ensure they retain their power.

This is an infringement of our democratic rights.

The Great Hack follows a whistleblower who explained how it worked, they exposed the con and showed us how entire nations had been manipulated into voting one way or another, or in one case they created a targeted campaign to convince young people not to vote at all.

There is something fundamentally wrong when people are being discouraged from exercising their democratic right.

Technology continues to evolve at a rate that most of us can’t comprehend and it stands to reason that it takes a while for legislation to catch up. But something has to be done to safeguard our democracy and protect the global population from being exploited.

There has been so many head scratching moments in recent years and I fear we’re on the precipice of an apocalyptic catastrophe. And I can’t shake the feeling that the only way we can stop it is if Derren Brown clicks his fingers and we all wake up.

Proud to support Liverpool Pride

Proud to support Liverpool Pride

Bit of a cliched title, but last weekend I took part in my first Pride march. To be clear, I fully support everything Pride stands for, but I have something of a fear of crowds so I’ve always avoided anything that attracts large gatherings; I’ve never seen the giants, I didn’t see any open top buses carrying LFC silverware and I don’t go on marches.

But this year, as part of my efforts to push myself out of my comfort zone and stand up for things I believe in, I decided to join the Labour Party Red Bloc for the Pride march.

It was fun. My friend and work colleague, Cllr Patrick Hurley met me beforehand for a coffee and a catch up, before heading to St George’s Hall to join everyone. I immediately spotted members from Walton CLP, Alan & Pauline, the Mersey Socialist Club crew, alongside Cllrs Ann O’Byrne, Paul Brant, Fraser Lake, MP Dan Carden, and Metro Mayor Steve Rotherham. I met lots of other members from other CLPs and our MEP Theresa Griffin.

I volunteered to help carry the new Walton CLP LGBT banner and quickly realised that despite losing 3 stone over the last 9 months, my muscles could use some work. Thankfully, Alan and Pauline demonstrated their vast campaigning experience, each holding up their ends of the banner single handedly and I managed to carry it from start to finish… Four days later and my arms still ache!!

I couldn’t see anything in front of me other than the banner, but  looking either side at the crowds of people lining the streets, cheering us on, standing in solidarity with the LGBT community, made me feel immensely proud and a little overwhelmed to be there.

It was my first taste of community activism, except for the Iraq war protest in 2003 – I was living in London at that time and my friend, Collen, traveled down from Liverpool for the occasion.

We live in strange times and I’m fed up of sitting on my sofa worrying, and complaining about it. It’s not enough to shout at the TV. I had been apathetic about it, didn’t believe activism made much difference, but Extinction Rebellion and the schools strike for climate protests have shown that it does make people take notice. The fact Liverpool Council held a full council meeting on a that single subject and declared a climate emergency in the same week, is proof that peaceful but disruptive protests do work.

I’ve heard lots of people complaining that buses were delayed, affecting people right across the city region, people asking why it can’t take place in a park instead of closing roads. Of course, it wouldn’t be a protest if it didn’t disrupt things. But maybe also, a lot of people think pride is a celebration rather than a protest. I had naively thought we had moved beyond discrimination against people for their sexuality, but the recent homophobic attacks, show us that there is still a long way to go, and now more than ever we need to stand up and say we won’t tolerate hate crime. #PrideIsAProtest

Now that I have my first protest under my belt, I’m certain it won’t be my last.

Holocaust Memorial Day

Holocaust Memorial Day

There’s been some shocking revelations this week about the number of people who either don’t know or don’t believe that the Holocaust happened.

While this is disturbing to say the least, because if you don’t believe that something this awful happened, perhaps because, maybe it is unthinkable or too awful to believe it’s even possible, then you won’t recognise the triggers that caused it, or could potentially cause something unimaginably terrible in the future.

That being said, we live in an age where, on the one hand, we have access to information and education, literally in the palm of our hand, but we also live in an age where the most powerful people; whether that’s wealth power or celebrity power; control the messages that are being shared. Fake news, manipulating social media algorithms, technology, whatever, we’re all at the mercy of being told what to believe by people who have their own agenda – and let’s be realistic, those that use their power to control the messages you hear are unlikely to do so in YOUR best interest.

I have always known, on a basic level that the Holocaust was something that happened during World War 2 when the Nazis killed the Jews. I couldn’t picture it, I accepted it as a fact but I had no real feeling other than, “God that’s awful”, but I couldn’t really imagine it. I believed that, because it was so awful and because people are more enlightened these days, more culturally aware and more socially conscious, that there is simply no way anything like that could ever happen again.

However last year I watched Schindler’s List. And it stayed with me for weeks. I felt almost bereft in some way. I felt remorse that I hadn’t really understood before what the Holocaust meant. I felt pain for all the suffering of the millions of Jews who were killed. I felt anger at the injustice of it all and finally I felt fear that this could happen again.

Some bloke with a platform and a prejudice, finding a common problem that his country can get behind and blaming all their problems on one particular race? Sounds a bit mad, but when you consider President Trump wants to build a wall to keep the Mexicans out… it’s not that much of a leap.

What got me the most about Schindler’s List was the apparent glee with which Nazi officers shot and killed people in the street for no reason. There’s a scene in which Amon Goeth (played by Ralph Fiennes) is shooting at Jews in the ghetto from his balcony. That these people treated it like a sport, is abhorrent. It is frightening just how much evil there is in the world and how quickly people would be willing to embrace murder and torture if it was suddenly legitimised.

A few months ago I visited Auschwitz. We toured Auschwitz 1 but we couldn’t face making the trip to Auschwitz 2. We’d seen enough. The vast piles of hair, the room full of shoes, the cabinet filled with glasses and other items left behind by those murdered in the gas chambers. It is, quite frankly, horrific.

But the reason I’m writing this is because, until last year, I didn’t really understand what the Holocaust was, because I simply couldn’t imagine it. I’m 41, I learned about the World Wars at secondary school, but it was pretty boring and difficult to take in. I forgot it all as soon as school ended. I don’t watch news or many documentaries. The masses, perhaps, don’t generally want to watch documentaries about things like war and politics – not when there’s a chance of watching a celebrity fall over on ice, or a chance to make fun of a kid who mistakenly believes he can sing.

The point is, I’m not surprised, the further away we get from the 1940s, the less people remember – or believe – that the Holocaust happened. We really must make sure that it is never forgotten, and that it is never allowed to happen again.

 

 

A New Year, A New Me.

A New Year, A New Me.

We’re already 8 days into the new year but I finally know what I want to do differently this year:

I want to be visible.

I want to stop worrying about what other people think of me, to the point where I don’t raise my head above the parapet.

I want to share my knowledge and experiences with people without feeling self conscious.

I want to get rid of my imposter syndrome. I want to like myself. I want to enjoy the achievement and successes of my work and creativity. I want to not care if no one else likes me or my work.

I want to learn a new hobby to give me something to do other than wasting time on social media.

I want to widen my tech skills. I know I can learn and understand pretty much any software or hardware that I’m presented with, but I want to learn to code things from scratch. Coding could be a fall back option should I ever find myself seeking employment.

I want to talk more. Do assemblies, talks, presentations etc so that I get more comfortable speaking in public and improve my confidence generally in myself, my skills and my business.

I want to use my voice, my writing and any other skills I have to speak up for those who can’t speak up for themselves.

I want to talk about the things that rile me, I want to do something to make the bit of the world I live in better for those of us that live in it. I want to make a stand.

I want to get more politically active. I’ve been a member or the Labour Party for a few years now but I’ve never been actively involved. I live and work in the same CLP and if I want to start trying to make things better this seems like a good place to start.

I can’t make a difference in my community if I can’t be heard or if no one knows I exist.
So this year, I’m going to change my ways. No more hiding behind my computer and hoping for the best.

And if I remember, I’ll even try to document my progress!

Patience is a virtue

Patience is a virtue

I seem to recall hearing that when I was younger and rolling my eyes dramatically.

But today, in a world where everything happens at the touch of a button, maybe we could all do with strengthening our patience.

Gone are the days when you would wait 14 days for delivery, Amazon even has same day delivery on some items. Technology – and don’t get me wrong, I LOVE technology – has evolved so that all our gadgets are small and fast. We click a link and if it doesn’t open immediately we click it again, and again and then several times to demonstrate our annoyance that our computer isn’t fast enough today. Actually all we’re doing is giving the computer several duplicated commands to process, making it even slower and if we’d just exercised a little patience we’d be browsing the desired page already.

Most of us are pretty decent people, but we’re all guilty of being a little self centred. I mean I’m rather fond of saying I hate people. People ruin everything. But I’m a person, my family are people, my boyfriend, my business partner and my best friends are people and they’re all pretty awesome.

But sometimes, like when you’re driving to work and you’re late and you’re trying to get through that amber light before it turns red but the driver in front of you is slowing down you’ll no doubt fume and call them names. All they’re doing is being a good, safe, responsible driver and if you weren’t running late for work, you’d no doubt have done the same.

Sometimes we take risks and then get angry when the strangers around us don’t do their part to minimise the risk. Like stopping in a box junction and then causing an obstruction coz the queue of cars before us didn’t move before the lights changed. That’s on us, and shouting at people and getting angry with them is really unfair.

And don’t you find it just a bit exhausting? All that anger and aggression. Maybe we should all stop for a second to notice what’s happening around us, to see what others are doing, to take some time to just be in the moment while we’re waiting for something beyond our control to catch up.

Drink some coffee, eat a biscuit, read a book – one of those paper ones – Maybe start your journey earlier to account for those annoying slow drivers. And when you feel yourself getting angry and impatient, just stop and ask yourself why.

We can’t control everything. And trying to isn’t going to make us any happier. Is your life improved because you angrily overtook a learner driver and beat them to the red light? No it’s ridiculous and all the other road users thought you were a dick*.

We’ve all been that person. And we’ve all seen that person and raised an eyebrow and though “jeez, calm down.”

So let’s all just calm down. Next time you get impatient, or want to shout abuse at someone for unknowingly not behaving the way you wanted them to behave, just stop. Stop, and ask yourself, ‘does it really matter?’

And then enjoy those couple of moments of calm.

*OK I’ll admit it. This post was inspired by yet another impatient driver incident on my way to work.