Liberal Girl aged 19

Previously known as Libdemchild

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Buzzy bee illustrations can't distract from the cruelty of universal credit


I recently began a role as a volunteer advice worker and two-thirds of my training was focused on understanding the benefits system and how to aid with individual applications. The most complex part of the training was understanding universal credit. To apply for the benefit claimants are required to keep up a journal online constantly detailing changes to their situation, have access to the internet, wait at least 6 weeks for payment and change the way that they pay rent. 

The welfare system in the UK has been in dire condition for years, to the extent where most people I know find it hard to even keep up with changes and developments to the system. By dire, I don't mean fiscally unfeasible or draining, I mean fundamentally cruel. There has been the introduction of the bedroom tax, the benefit cap, the introduction of the fit to work assessments which saw disabled suicide rates double, the replacement of DLA with PIP and now, the replacement of six benefits with universal credit. Universal credit is another blow to benefits claimants. This is not only because of how claimants will see their income levels fall but, also, due to the inaccessibility of the system.

The change to housing benefit is perhaps one of the biggest difficulties and complications of the process. Claimants previously had their housing benefit paid to their landlord and are now expected to source this payment from their universal credit lump sum. This may sound simple enough but the BBC have reported that this has caused rent arrears for some to double. The Trussell Trust has claimed that only 8% of universal credit users have had their cost of living covered. In my training process, we were told that this change has generated the most confusion and difficulty for universal credit claimants. 

Additionally, the assessment period of 5 weeks and the minimum wait of one week for payment means that those making the switch from the old system of benefits have to wait a minimum of 6 weeks to receive any payments. This means 6 weeks without income, of falling into rent arrears and of possibly having to resort to food banks. The above image is advice for claimants on how to handle the changes and the long assessment period from the magazine 'Quids In! guide'. The magazine instructs people to save up for the assessment period to cover living costs whilst also paying off crucial debts and upkeeping broadband payments. Instead of appearing helpful, the image feels like something from a dystopian capitalist world.

It is very easy to dismiss these points and to point the blame at benefits claimants by arguing that they should have knowledge about the system that they use, trust me I have heard this argument many times. But how can an application process that takes days to explain to trainees be something that people are expected to have a comprehensive understanding of whilst also juggling real life? During training, we were told to go home and watch the same video about universal credit several times because the process requires an almost unattainable level of upkeep and complexity. 

The film 'I, Daniel Blake', if you haven't seen it, is an excellent illustration of how the lived reality of the benefits system is so much more difficult and arduous than someone can understand through a brief understanding gained from a newspaper or a news report. It's never how it appears on paper. 

The welfare system is far from the reach of 'lazy skivers', as the tired argument goes. Universal credit not only complicates claimant's lives it also makes them significantly harder by placing increased financial strain. Its hard for many to even keep their head above water. The cruellest part of this whole upheaval is that it makes very minimal change to government expenditure. It is horrendous that a generation of children are growing up in absolute poverty with their situation only worsening. People are being forced into using food banks, choosing to heat or eat and living off the bare minimum for what? Perhaps it doesn't only look like a dystopian capitalist society, maybe it is.

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Monday, 18 June 2018

Sick of your Brexit lies Theresa May


May's reference to a Brexit 'dividend' which would fund a £20 billion rise in funding for the NHS is unfounded and it is indicative of an increasing Tory lurch towards populist sentiment. 

In a time where rash claims and 'authentic' political language are grabbing the attention of the masses, the Tories are attempting to benefit from the increasing informality of politics. However, they are not an opposition party trying to garner votes but our governing party who are dealing with the enactment of the most important referendum in British history. After one of the most chaotic weeks in Brexit dealings and reports that the UK economy is at its weakest point since 2009 it is glaringly obvious that the Tories are ill-equipped to manage domestically and internationally. 

Theresa May's flailing on the Marr show is merely a manifestation of growing Tory incompetence. The Tories have attempted to imitate the success of UKIP's capitalisation on populism since 2015. The country has already suffered the consequences of this with the decision to hold the Brexit referendum and then a subsequently ill-informed vote. 

However, at a crucial time such a this it is more than worrying that plans for our health service are founded upon inaccurate claims. This is only symptomatic of wider Conservative incompetence and will be disastrous for the country. Theresa May, stop fooling around with the future of this country's youth, first Brexit, now the NHS and Brexit lies. 
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Thursday, 1 March 2018

Why students should consider supporting the strike


Should University students be conflicted over lecturers’ being on strike and cancelling classes? The point of being a student is to be able to engage in wider debate, look at the bigger picture and analyse issues that are beyond our individual concerns. But in an age where so much stress is placed on getting a good education as a route to a good job many students, like me, are panicking over missing lectures for two weeks with exams looming in two months’ time.

An opportunity to discover the wider debate about the strike presented itself yesterday when I turned up for a seminar.

I had spent hours preparing for this lesson. At the entrance to university, I was stopped by two lecturers, pictured above, who asked me not to cross the picket line and to lend my support to the strike. I took the opportunity to speak to them. They explained how lecturers often accept lower salaries for the promise of long-term financial security in the form of pensions. This is a deal which they accept over a lifetime. So when pensions are axed it makes the career choice much less financially viable.

 If lecturers are seen as being treated unfairly who, as one of the professors said, would consider becoming a lecturer among current and future students?  Academia becomes a rather unattractive choice as a career and current lecturers are likely to search for alternative employment.

The penny dropped for me. Students need to realise that this strike not only affects lecturers but also has serious repercussions in the long-term for the future of higher education in this country.

Channel 4's Dispatches programme entitled 'Britain's University Spending Scandal' highlighted to me the disproportionate spending of vice-chancellors on expenses. Obscene amounts were spent purchasing mugs, pillows, expensive wine and lavish dinners. There was even the ridiculous case of the University of Surrey spending more than £1600 on relocating their vice-chancellor's dog.

Why should lecturer's take cuts to their pensions, which form their financial security, when universities refuse to prioritise their salaries?

 It seems that it's not the case that universities do not have the resources to support lecturers' pension but that they refuse to be responsible and fair with their spending. Universities pay ridiculously high salaries to vice-chancellors while lecturers face cuts. Take, for example, Bath University who paid the vice-chancellor almost half a million last year.

 It is the same old tired situation of those at the top earning disproportionately large salaries whilst claiming it is necessary to cut pay to employees.

I have always wholeheartedly supported the right to strike and I now am convinced that students do have a responsibility to consider supporting this strike.

It should also be noted that the demands the strikers are making force universities to consider students as being more than mere consumers. Education is being monetised in a seriously debilitating manner. It is important that we are viewed as integral and valued members of university otherwise universities view us merely as financial pawns and our concerns will only ever be tackled from a financial perspective. Education is a public service. Lecturers provide a public service. Educated students and lecturers contribute to the skills demands of the country.

 Lecturers who are on strike are not the enemy. We need to move closer to a more beneficial and fairer system of education.
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Saturday, 24 February 2018

Who cares what Kylie Jenner said about Snapchat?



The day before yesterday it was revealed that Snapchat's value dropped by $1.3 billion following a tweet by Kylie Jenner, the youngest of the Kardashian family. In the tweet (pictured), she claims that she no longer uses the popular social media app and this caused investors to take note and jump ship from Snapchat.

Who cares what Kylie Jenner has to say? Young people have been complaining about the recent Snapchat update and how it renders the app virtually unusable for weeks. I cannot believe that investors base decisions on flighty celebrities' likes and dislikes. It is worrying that our generation's collective consumer voice has less effect than the tweet of a single Kardashian.

This may seem like a trivial complaint yet when you consider that social media is young people's main platform, it does become worrying that we are unable to even influence that. Social media is how we politically and socially mobilise. It is responsible for fourth wave feminism, much of our discussion over Trump and Brexit and black lives matter. When the political world is reserved for older generations and our votes seem unable to affect change it's highly important that social media remains as our domain.

It is a two-way street and by ignoring young people's voices investors are only causing detriment to themselves.  We are the primary consumers, not Kylie Jenner.
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Thursday, 15 February 2018

Is Britain Still Racist? What a stupid question...


One of the topics of the BBC's 'The Big Questions' this Sunday was 'Is Britain Still Racist'. I was sure that the general consensus would be that racism is very much alive in Britain but I was shocked to see so many people, some of whom were people of colour, denying the existence of racism in this country. How can this be when you consider Britain's history - it is a country built on imperialism, slavery and its current political atmosphere is defined by Brexit, a referendum that was largely shaped by racist and anti-immigrant rhetoric. If you apply the concept of 'long-duree'it's clear that Brexit is merely a continuation of racist feelings.

Not only do I know that racism is flourishing in the UK because of things I see online, some of which is shown below, or because of hate crime statistics, also shown below, but also because of the behaviour that I see white people comfortably exhibit around me because, even though I am half Indian, I am white passing.

A while ago Lionel Richie's daughter, Sofia Richie, spoke about how people are racist around her because they don't realise that she is black due to her light skin colour. This is something that I have experienced all too often.

The most common thing that I hear are jokes that poke fun at Indian men for contacting women online. This kind of humour reduces Indian men to mere sexual predators as if they are an inferior species. Whilst I recognise that unsolicited sexual advances online are completely unacceptable the use of jokes such, "show bobs and vagene" (which is supposed to mean show boobs and vagina) implies this idea that Indian men are illiterate, primitive and inferior animals. I have included an image of one of these jokes below, note the caption on the right-hand side.

Whilst this may seem like a harmless internet joke the frequency of this kind of humour and the fact that is not met with outcry evidences the idea that racism in this country is rampant. I have also had friends tell me that they move away from "Indian or Asian looking people" on public transport because they fear terrorism.

Only a few weeks ago I was walking down the street with my Indian mother when a white man spat at her from his truck and shouted "scum" at her. What worried me the most about this was that my mother was barely shaken and it is because racism is part of her daily life. People have been moving away from her on public transport for years.



My white privilege is something that cocoons me from the true realities of racism but my ethnicity has allowed me to see that it most certainly exists, and it is an insidious force in this country. However, my experience barely scratches the surface because my daily interactions are not shaped by race in the same way that it is for people of colour. It saddens me greatly that my mother tells me she is thankful that I am not the same skin colour as her because it means that I will have more opportunities in life. That is just the scary reality of this country.

In 'BBC Big Questions' I also saw the extent to which the existence of racism is denied. The denial of racism is dangerous because it stops racism from ever being eliminated by preventing people of colour from even having a platform to discuss it. How can something ever be solved if we don't acknowledge that it exists? Racism is an uncomfortable truth but it is one that must be faced.

I saw this denial of racism come from an Asian woman on 'The Big Questions'. When Kehinde Andrews cited a statistic that 40% of young black men are unemployed an Asian woman on the show replied asking why the other 60% weren't unemployed if racism really did exist. This kind of ignorance amongst both white people and people of colour simultaneously supports the narrative that racism is non-existent and validates racist behaviour. Below I have included some tweets from the debate which angered me.





This next tweet (shown below), in particular, stood out to me because it reeks of white privilege in that it fails to recognise the truly insidious nature of racism in this country. The tweet refers only to overt and obvious racist acts which are only a minor form of racism. The reality of racism is that it is of a pervasive nature because of its deep historical roots. Racism is embedded in the institutions and mindsets of people in this country and only when it resonates deeply in the psyche of a racist individual does it manifest itself in violent behaviour. Normally, it is a simmering force that oppresses people of colour.

I, myself know this because of an interaction I had with my mother when I was very young. Somebody was taking a photo of me and I told my mum to take her hand out of the photo because I did not want a brown hand in the photo. I had heard this kind of thing around me at school, I remember a white boy telling a mixed race girl at my school that he did not want to hold her hand because it was brown. I did not even understand the ramifications of what I said but racism had already infiltrated my perspective of society and my white privilege was already manifesting itself. This is the reality of racism and white people have to unlearn this thought process and face this reality head-on if the problem is ever to be fixed. This process of unlearning is still something I have to do everyday because of how immense white privelege is.

Additionally, the tweet is factually inaccurate because even though racism is often met by retaliation, as it should be, there has actually been the highest rise in hate crime ever recorded immediately after the Brexit vote.  I recently wrote an essay for university regarding the rise of ethnocentrism in the Western world. All the evidence that I examined, particularly regarding hate crime, showed that ethnocentric ideas and outright racism are only on the rise in the West. The UK experienced a 27% rise in hate crime in the last year alone. Brexit and the idea that we should no longer be 'politically correct', just like Nigel Farage or Donald Trump who are the opposite of 'politically correct', has validated racist tendencies and behaviour.


What I am saying here is nothing new. However, the inability of people to even grasp that racism exists makes me feel like we are not even close to making headway on the issue. The everyday racism that I see from unapologetic white people, some happily say the N word around me or use other racial slurs thinking that I will not call them out, as well as the fact that people are happy to go on national television and deny the existence of racism entirely confirms the issue. When this is further evidenced by statistics it is so undeniably clear that Britain is still racist and it always will be until our political climate, language and behaviour do not consistently validate racism. 
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Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Will women be equal to men in 100 years? - The opinion of a teenage girl




Yesterday the Guardian published an article entitled 'Will women be equal to men in 100 years? The panel verdict' in honour of the centenary anniversary of the Representation of the People Act which marked the start of female suffrage in the UK. The article collates the opinion of 5 women on the possibility of total gender equality by 2118. It addresses a range of issues including the necessity of free childcare in order to ensure equality and the possibility of a rise in "working class feminism".

The article stood out to me as it considers the possible future of gender equality from the perspective of several women, however, it does not put forward the opinion of a young girl. It is up to my generation to dismantle systematic inequalities and eradicate sexism from daily interactions, I have observed first hand the realities of sexism in my generation and I can see that full gender equality will not be possible in the next 100 years.

Whilst it is undeniable that significant strides in gender equality have been made in the past few years this progress is undercut by the continual presence of the female body as a marketable and controlled product.

Don't get me wrong, I have been delighted to see the emergence of fourth wave feminism and to see the rise of the gender equality movements such as #metoo. However, we cannot become complacent because we have a long way to go.

Any claims that gender equality has been, or is close to being, reached are false and this is evidenced by the rise of Instagram body types, the election of Trump and the appearance of the female body as the main mode of capitalist advertisement.

Young girls are plagued with an unattainable body image from a young age and this is perpetuated through the media and increasingly through social media. It is inescapable and I see it every day. There are countless numbers of girls on Instagram who have thousands of followers simply for having the 'ideal' body type. Whilst I encourage the celebration of the female body the extent of this is beyond unhealthy and becomes a constant template of comparison for young girls.

What makes this so much worse is that these models often advertise ways to get this 'ideal body' which includes products such as 'FitTea' and waist trainers. These products have actually been proven to be bad for your body with FitTea simply acting as a laxative and waist trainers altering the shape of your internal organs. One of the most famous of these Instagram models is Alexis Ren who has almost 12 million followers. Alexis has admitted to having an eating disorder, whilst there is no shame in this, she is hailed as an example of health and beauty and girls compare their bodies to hers in a self-degrading way. This kind of sexism is achieved through the control of women's bodies and it is so embedded in our society that girls self-police. They choose to follow these women and compare themselves, this is something I am guilty of and it is almost inescapable.

The above image was created by the clothing company 'Suistudio' and offers a commentary on how advertising uses women's bodies as selling points by reversing the typical gender roles. The image may seem unnecessarily derogatory to the male model but it is shockingly accurate. Upon searching the term 'perfume ad' into google the two images below were some of the first results that popped up. These images are strikingly similar to the above picture. Women's bodies have become cogs in the capitalist marketing machine and this has embedded sexism so deeply in our society that men and women alike are conditioned to consider female appearance as their most important characteristic above all else.

Until this is tackled true gender equality cannot ever be achieved as women will be unable to move beyond this sexualised image and any gender equality achievements will simply be one step forward and two steps back

Laurie Penny expressed the expected role of women in this society in her fantastic book 'Meat Market' where she writes, "Women are commanded to always look available but never actually be so, where, we are obliged to appear socially and sexually consumable whilst consuming as little as possible".



The election of Trump, an accused sexual abuser who admitted to using women's bodies however he pleased in his famous quote "grab them by the pussy", is perhaps the greatest evidence that gender equality is nowhere near being eradicated. The president of America is often described as being 'the most important person in the world'. When 'the most important person in the world' perpetuates and encourages sexist and abusive behaviour it validates a continuance of gender inequality which will take generations to remedy.

Please don't even present the argument that the UK is closer to gender equality just because we currently have a female prime minister. Firstly Theresa May is a right-wing white woman and, secondly, she is far from being a champion of women's rights. As Home Secretary, she oversaw the running of Yarl's Wood detention centre, a detention centre for immigrants and asylum seekers, where female detainees experienced physical, sexual and verbal abuse of which May did nothing to remedy. She is just another Conservative agent. The Western world is no shining beacon of gender equality.

As Polly Toynbee aptly phrased it, "never underestimate the size of the task to reverse all history since time began." My generation has begun the reversal of gender inequality but we simultaneously encourage it. The task of gender equality is  humungous and will not be complete by 2118. 
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Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Young girl, Ahed Tamimi, Spends 17th Birthday in Israeli Jail




Imagine spending your 17th birthday awaiting trial in an Israeli military court where 99.74% of those tried are convicted. This is the case with Ahed Tamimi who celebrates her 17th birthday today from an Israeli prison for protesting Israeli expansion near her village. 

Ahed Tamimi is an extremely brave young girl who has been thrown into an Israeli jail because she stood up to Israeli soldiers. On 19th December 2017 she was arrested after throwing stones at the soldiers during a protest against Trump’s decision to name Jerusalem the capital of Israel.

The Israeli authorities' claim that their actions were a necessary response to violent protest from the Palestinians seems overly exaggerated as during the same protest they shot Ahed's 14-year-old cousin in the face. How on earth is this a proportionate response when soldiers shoot a 14 year old child and imprison a 16 year old? 

This brutal treatment of children is not an isolated incident of Israeli authorities' actions towards children. Since 2000 over 8000 Palestinian children have been imprisoned in the same military detention system as Ahed. This system, according to 'defense for children international', is "notorious for the systematic ill-treatment and torture of Palestinian children."

According to Ahed's mother; "When I saw her in court she was pale and shivering, shackled and clearly in pain. I wanted to cry but I couldn’t, I have to stay strong so she stays strong"

Regardless of your stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the imprisonment of children without a fair trial and without the possibility of bail in a system where they face violence is undeniably cruel. Ahed Tamimi bravely stood up for her social and political convictions. It is time that those in the West who frequently boast and insist on freedom of speech actually extend these ideas for more than their own political gain.

Please sign the petition here
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Tuesday, 16 January 2018

My strange visit to Trump Tower



If Trump Towers is anything to go by no wonder the man lives an alternative existence to the rest of us. Gold, gold everywhere and not a drop of substance. It's huge, imposing, gilded and FALSE.


I couldn't visit the tower without making my own personal stand. I had just bought 'Fire and Fury' from Barnes & Noble and I decided to take out the copy and be photographed with it all over the Tower. The photograph above is my two-finger equivalent salute to Trump and Pence whom I think are odious men.


Although Trump's election was beyond alarming it somehow always felt somewhat distant from the UK political climate, particularly with Brexit being the UK's focus. BUT there was something about my visit. Trump's ability to remain both financially and politically unscathed by his actions is manifestly evident in Trump Towers. All Trump fans must go there to die judging from the "oohs, ahhs" and "look at this, ahhh" emanating from people drooling over golf gold key chains.



Then there is a Gucci store. But didn't Gucci claim that they make efforts to champion and support "voices speaking out for women and girls around the world"?

Money talks louder though in Trump's world. Trump's sexual abuse allegations are no secret and even more famous are his comments claiming that fame allows him to "do anything" to women. In spite of all of this stores, such as Gucci who claim to care for social justice, enable Trump's financial
advancement and progress his image as a respectable businessman.

Trumpsters or just plain weird tourists were walking around with a puppy like admiring look on their faces. They were posing happily for photos and purchasing his merchandise.


Pictured below is the tower's directory where it can be seen that almost everything in the tower is named after Trump and below that is a baby grow that 'says when I grow up I want to be just like Trump'. Just like Trump? a racist, misogynist sexual abuser and genuinely stupid man. How the world has changed. When I was a baby I was put into baby grows that said innocent things like 'Santa's little helper'. Nothing controversial there.


One family even had a collection that they were adding to. I heard the Mother say to her teenage son about fridge magnet: "We should get one to add to your collection".  These people genuinely support and admire Trump. We may know better but they think that they know best.

It is easy to think that Trump is universally hated and viewed as a political moron but when I saw this merchandise and people looking impressed by the image of Trump presented by this tower it really hit home that his election was not merely a fluke.





The most alarming thing I saw in the tower was NYPD hoodies displayed next to the Trump merchandise. The NYPD  has a reputation for being corrupt, there is even a Wikipedia page solely on NYPD corruption and misconduct. This corruption comes in the form of disproportionate racial killings by police, sexual assault etc. It is not only the New York police that are guilty of this as institutionalised racism is rife throughout America with 25% of police killings being black people despite this demographic only forming 13% of the population. The link between the racism and sexual misconduct of the President and the institutionalised racism and misconduct of the American police force is obvious but I did not think that it would be so proudly and clearly displayed in the President's personal domain.





Another interesting thing in Trump's merchandise store was the display of leisure wear, golf wear and golf related products (see below a golf ball keyring). The president has been criticised several times for spending too much time on the golf course and prioritising it above political matters.


He spent today, Martin Luther King Day, on the golf course instead of honouring the civil rights activist. He takes pride in this sort of complacency and lack of consideration of American history. You can't make this stuff up. 




Below is another photo of me holding up Michael Wolff's book on the chaos and unprofessionalism of the White House. This felt especially mischievous but scary because I was VERY close to secret service agents who were holding with huge guns. After a second's hesitation I went ahead and thought I would take advantage of that famous American free speech. I had visited the Statue of  Liberty a few days before.


The parallel universe in Trump Tower serves as a monument to him. He may dislike Muslims but Trump Tower is the mecca for Trumpsters. Trump's ability behave the way he does and still gain admiration from people and endorsement from companies such as Gucci was beyond frightening and I saw it clearly at the tower. I no longer feel the safety of distance from American politics.


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Monday, 27 November 2017

This budget was a joke and offers nothing to young people






This budget offers nothing for the future of young people and it is infuriating. Austerity is implemented for the supposed sake of "of our children" but, after spending days poring over budget analysis I can safely say that children from ordinary homes can only look after to more austerity.

Austerity and no hope is what Tories have gifted "our children".

I didn't have vastly optimistic expectations for this budget anyway. However, the glaring absence of meaningful policy makes me even more pessimistic about our future. The only policies geared towards young people were tokenistic and ineffective

I cannot possible overexaggerate the effects of austerity on children, which this budget has only served to maintain. I am not talking about an inability to afford a home or to earn a living wage, although these are vital issues in themselves.


I am referring to the direct harm inflicted upon my generation by the Conservatives. The British Medical Journal estimated that 120,000 deaths can be directly attributed to austerity. I don't know what the breakdown is for children and adults but, even so, there must be a cumulative effect on family life. 

The negative effect on children's lives is especially evident when child poverty figures are analysed. There are currently 3.7 million children living in poverty in the UK of which 1.7 million of these children are living in severe poverty. Tory supporters can tout their usual lines about the need for austerity and hard work equating to financial stability but in the UK 63% of children living in poverty come from in-work families.  

It is not only the physical health of children that has suffered.  Child mental health care is receiving less than 1% of the budget. Even without these statistics the death or reduction of quality of life of children is not justifiable for economic gain. The absurdity and cruelty of this situation is only magnified further by the fact that austerity has not created national economic gain. 


The absence of measures to improve the situation of my generation in the budget was not the only component of the Tory's failing as the efforts made to appease young people were entirely laughable.

The extension of the age criteria for the railcard is indescribably unimportant. What kind of  30 year old would be excited about a slightly discounted railcard? The only answer is one under a Tory government. Andrew Neil's comment along the lines of 'young people won't be rushing on a train to vote Tory' sums up the situation.

The abolishment of stamp duty was another laughable effort. Many homes cost in excess of £300,000 and the move is predicted to fuel an increase in house prices. Young people are struggling to find well-paid jobs and can hardly afford to save. Home ownership is not even a distant dream

The Conservatives are utterly incapable of catering to young people's needs and this is because they spend all their time sucking up to older voters who are tax dodgers, appeasing Boris Johnson or tolerating Michael Gove. Consider the painful amount of money lost through tax dodging, Lewis Hamilton alone saved over £3 million through buying and leasing one private jet. The budget missed out on savings of over £700 million in failing to tackle tax dodging.

Think of how that money could have been spent on improving school budgets, improving children's mental health care, building homes for children in homeless situations and on youth centres.





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Sunday, 22 October 2017

Why I didn't apply to Oxbridge

Oxford and Cambridge are always viewed as the ideal English universities. Witness how every time someone mentions that they attended or have applied to study there inevitably the response is always a "wow".  I was in thrall too and had always wanted to go to Cambridge. That all changed a year ago.  
After attending an open day at Cambridge I was left with a distinct impression that it was just the epitome of white privilege and middle-class snobbery.  Every other university open day I had attended had focused on what the university could offer students with a list of reasons of why students ought to choose to study there.


Quite the opposite at Cambridge. The message was how hard it would be to get a place and the requirements were stringent and inflexible. There was no proper tour of the campus, only a talk on what I needed to do to increase my chances of securing a place and nearly everyone was white.


At the end of the open day talk, I was quite certain that I did not want to apply, let alone go there if offered a place. I was extremely worried about what my parents would say because, it seems as if any way, every parent wants their child to go to Oxbridge.  I had received all As and A*s in my GCSEs and was predicted the same at A-level and I knew that, because of this, it was automatically assumed by my parents and wider family that Cambridge would be the university I would try hardest to get into.  However, my mother who had accompanied me immediately agreed with my thoughts. As an Indian woman, she felt distinctly out of place. For me, that just confirmed my feelings about the day. 


Despite this, I did not want to make assumptions based off of one day and I went home to take a better look at the course that I wanted to apply to, which was history and politics. I found that the first year would consist of these modules: 

"In Year 1, all students take Evidence and Argument (a paper unique to this course that brings together key thinking from both disciplines); The Modern State and its Alternatives; and International Conflict, Order and Justice.
Your fourth paper is chosen from the following:
  • British Political History 1688-1886
  • British Political History Since 1880
  • European History 1715-1890
  • European History Since 1890" 
It could be argued that this is just building a foundational knowledge of the issues that affect history and politics in Britain but, to me, the Eurocentric focus of this course was just indicative of the elitist British culture that seems to entrench the culture of Oxbridge. I thought this was especially true when I compared it to the Law with History course that I was applying to at Queen Mary that included these modules: 
Race in the United States: Slavery To Civil Rights
  • Islam and the West in the Middle Ages
  • The World that Jane Austen Knew: Women, Gender and Culture in England 
Source 


I know that most people already know that Oxbridge and Cambridge are typically thought of as white-dominated elitist institutions but there seems to be an increasing view that the application process and entry into these universities is based solely on merit rather than other factors.

Here is an interesting comparative anecdote. Young people, I speak to generally tend to blame on themselves when they don't get into their university of choice. By contrast, I spoke to several Asian girls at open days and every single one of them had failed to secure a place at Oxbridge. 


The fact that the issue of race and class being a factor in university places isn't made more of worried me until this article  on BBC news entitled "Oxford uncovered: More elitist than we thought":
"Nationally about 31% of people are in the top two social income groups. They are the doctors, the lawyers, the senior managers.The data reveals these top two social classes cleaned up in terms of places, with their share of offers rising from 79% to 81% between 2010 and 2015."
It isn't the fact that Oxbridge consists mainly of the top social classes that shocked me, that would be unsurprising to anyone, but that the dominance of these groups in these universities is actually growing.  This clear class divide in Oxbridge also obviously include a racial divide as class and race intersect, this is shown below. Our higher education is enhancing racial and class divides and entry into Oxbridge should no longer be held up as the greatest thing a young person can accomplish. 

Image result for oxbridge statistics
Photo from channel 4 shows the elitism of Cambridge 


Image result for oxbridge statistics
Photo from Times higher education shows that, unsurprisingly, this elitism encompasses race 

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