Why It’s Time To Abolish The Inheritance Tax

The saying goes that there are just two things in life that are certain; death and taxes. The Inheritance Tax inconveniently combines both of those pretty undesirable inevitabilities in to one fundamentally unfair package – and it’s time we got rid of it.

There is nothing nice about loss. The grief and mourning families go through when faced with the deaths of loved ones can be extremely traumatic. With that in mind, it seems simply wrong to take from families at times like these.

Of course, these sentimental reasons alone cannot form the basis for sound policy on taxation but they are valid nonetheless. Enthusiasts of the Inheritance Tax argue that taxing inheritance diminishes income inequality, a pertinent argument at a time where the gap between the have and the have-nots is getting wider and wider.

That being said, inheritance is money that has already been taxed, through income tax, property tax etc. This makes Inheritance Tax a double tax, an additional levy on money of which a fair portion has previously gone to the state.

This is profoundly unfair and one of the numerous reasons why the Inheritance Tax was voted the least popular in the United Kingdom. On top of this, the Inheritance Tax code is extraordinarily lengthy at almost 1,000 pages long and would take the world’s fastest speaker 10 hours to read out loud, a testament to reducing and reforming the ridiculously complex tax regime in this country as a whole.

Whilst income equality continues to be an economic ill that plagues British society, taxing people twice over is not the way to rectify it. The government’s cuts to Capital Gains Tax and inability to close down loopholes on giant corporations and the richest in society, who have hit the headlines for evading taxation in recent weeks, is a much more just way of remedying this issue. And, this approach would provide the bursary with far more than the Inheritance Tax could ever yield – which is a mere 0.25% of GDP by the way.

There is a case to be made that this tax is imposed to redress a society that is increasingly non-meritocratic – but this point is flawed. Surely it is conducive to a meritocratic society to allow a person to work hard, pay one lot of tax on their earnings, estate and other capital and then pass on whatever is left at the end of their life to the people closest to them?

It is an accepted instinct to provide for those closest to you. If the government comes swooping in to claim yet more money from a now deceased individual, who has worked hard for their entire life to leave for their family, how can we earnestly call this meritocratic? Where is the incentive to knuckle down and earn for your family if up to 40% of your savings are snatched from the hands of your grieving children?

Perhaps it isn’t fair that scrapping this tax could lead to a string of people benefitting from the work of distant ancestors, therein lies the real argument for the Inheritance Tax promoting meritocracy – however it isn’t convincing enough. Economic liberalism insists that an individual has control over their own earnings, even in death – after all, many benefits and privileges people have in life are determined purely by chance and luck.

If we are serious about giving people greater power over their own finances and futures whilst promoting meritocracy and reducing inequality then an Inheritance Tax, which is more punitive on the aspirational middle class than the slippery super-rich, is not the way to go.

Instead the government could place emphasis on a Luxury Goods Tax and by closing down tax loopholes and evasion – that is the fair way of getting the wealthiest to pay their share without squeezing the middle classes at an emotionally distressing time.

We must stop disincentivising people to earn enough to leave money to better their families’ lives once they have passed. After all, this money has already been taxed once; making it liable for taxation again is deeply unfair, unnecessary and not financially justifiable. The only things certain in life are death and taxes, who knew this old adage meant that death was taxable too?

 

Top 10 Game of Thrones Characters

I resisted the urge to watch Game of Thrones  for years. This was a social urge by the way, not a personal one. I had assumed it would be along the lines of Lord of the Rings and not entirely tolerable but alas it’s appearance on Sky box sets meant I gave it a chance and some five weeks later, I’ve seen all fifty episodes, I’m obsessed and counting down the days until the new season.

I’m a fully-fledged bandwagoner.

So, to sate my current need to talk to everybody I knew about Thrones I thought I would rank my ten ‘favourite’, and I use the term loosely as some of these characters I don’t actually like, characters.

10. Oberyn Martell

Prince Oberyn only appeared in seven episodes but he certainly made an impression on me, if not only for his weirdly attractive unattractiveness. As a visitor from Dorne, the home of the socially liberal, free-thinking, open-minded people of Westeros, Oberyn hosted bisexual sex parties and tried in vain to avenge his sister and her children. His smutty charm and progressive attitudes created a charming charismatic persona that had us on his side very quickly. Unfortunately, his humility and ability to finish off a job were lacking, and well, you know the rest.

9. Ned Stark

Poor old Ned Stark, his appearance in just one season of the show made an impression. As we have heard persistently since that sadistic bastard Joffrey had his head removed, Ned Stark was a man of real honour, and one of the few in the Seven Kingdoms who didn’t really deserve to die. In ten episodes, Ned Stark did little to warrant anything but admiration, and his legacy, if you like, will be setting out the show’s brutal tone, where anyone can die…at any time.

8. Jon Snow

Jon Snow is a little dry a lot of the time if we’re being totally honest, but his pretty Northern face just about excuses it. Like his father, he’s a genuinely good guy, on a continent where there are precious few. He’s pretty much served as the only hero against the White Walkers. With that in mind, his ‘death’ certainly wasn’t warranted and making him the victim of hostile tribalism against wildlings, whilst the White Walkers are advancing, probably wasn’t the Knight’s Watch’s best idea. Having said that, I don’t for one second think he’s gone anywhere – but like the bastard himself, I know nothing.

7. Brienne of Tarth

The feminist icon of the series is not-a-knight Brienne of Tarth. Having faithfully served Renly Baratheon and Catelyn Stark, even after both’s deaths, she has shown her unwavering loyalty to her oaths. Plus, she’s an absolute behemoth, possibly the most fearsome warrior in the entire series, looking like Draco Malfoy’s mother with Hagrid’s power. She has uprooted gender stereotypes, which, let’s face it are probably harder to usurp in a world such as the Seven Kingdoms, and she deserves a lot of respect for it. However, I fear that her storyline is coming to an end, and if I had my wish, it would do next season, as one of her former ‘masters’ returns from the beyond…

6. Sansa Stark

For the first three seasons, I was begging and pleading for this girl to have more respect for herself. I actually viewed her as a pathetic shrinking violet but when I think back, for a young girl to lose pretty much her entire family, deal romantically with two violent psychopaths and to be at the top of King’s Landing’s most wanted list, you’ve got to be pretty damn strong. Like Brienne of Tarth said of Sansa’s mother, Catelyn, she’s got courage, and plenty of it. The best of Sansa is yet to come, for sure.

5. Cersei Lannister

I loathe this hateful cow. In fact, nothing gave me more satisfaction throughout the series than seeing Cersei covered in blood, shit and spit, walking through King’s Landing being heckled like she deserved.  That being said, any character that can stir up this sort of venom from a viewer has got to be celebrated as a bloody good one. In fact, she’s the best villain in the show. Let’s not forget that the butchering of the Starks, the imprisonment of the Tyrells and the unjust attempts at convicting Tyrion for crimes he didn’t commit, were all, in some way, orchestrated by her. What a poisonous bitch. Bravo, Lena Heady.

4. Tyrion Lannister

Yeah, everyone’s favourite character is only number four on my list. And it’s not because I have anything against Tyrion, I just think there are better characters. He’s the only Lannister who you’re always on the side of, which is a testament to him, given the bloodline of arseholes he comes from. That being said, Tyrion often seems to be there for comic relief more than any sort of epic quest, a role he plays exceptionally well but one that’s kept him off the top spot.

3. Olenna Tyrell

The legendary Dame Diana Rigg takes bronze in my countdown. As the matriarch of a dynasty that only really came to the forefront in season four, the Queen of Thorns has captured my heart in a short space of time. It’s my belief that she has everyone’s number in King’s Landing and they don’t even realise it. Her barbed tongue, sharp wit and wily plots are no match for the Lannisters/Baratheons. Plus, she killed Joffrey, she deserves the Iron Throne herself for that alone.

2. Daenerys Targaryen

Is there a person alive who doesn’t love Daenerys Stormborn of House Targaryen, mother of Dragons? I can think of no character more deserving of being called fire, like, she literally is fire. Whether she’s liberating oppressed slaves or resurrecting the coolest mythical creatures known to human folklore, our Khaleesi has often possessed the most enthralling plot lines in the series. If we were honest, we are all desperate for the day, Daenerys and her dragons fly to Westeros and take back the Iron Throne she truly deserves. All hail Khaleesi!

1. Catelyn Stark

An unconventional choice, I know, but not a surprising one if you’ve spoken to me at any point over the last few weeks. There has quite simply been no person in Westeros dealt a worse hand than Lady Catelyn Stark. Her husband is beheaded, her son crippled, her daughters held captive or missing and then her family and allies brutally murdered at her own brother’s wedding. Sure, sympathy isn’t enough to place her at the top of the list but her poise in dealing with all this hardship is admirable. She never wavers. She even faces her brutal untimely death with the most poetic air of peace possible. Catelyn is the strongest woman in the show, right until the end she is defiant in her instinct to protect her family. Perhaps, she is so loveable and so respectable because she is the only character who acts selflessly, and whose motives aren’t fuelled by a desire to better her own social standing. Here’s to Lady Stoneheart in Season 6. Please.

Stuff

I know this has almost become an annual thing and I guess people think I’m looking for attention but I’m not. I’m scared to be honest, I’m really really scared and I would be so grateful if somebody could help me.

I thought I had shaken the being dumped stuff but it’s coinciding with being taken off my anti-depressants and it’s not going and I’m annoyed at myself for still being upset because I know he’s a wanker in my head but my heart doesn’t. He dumped me by text and gave me no reason after ending a relationship we both agreed was “going really well”.

I hate my appearance, I hate it. I try so hard to work on it and improve it but I feel so inferior to so many other gay guys.

I keep seeing attractive gay guys everywhere and they make me feel so inferior in the looks department, make me hate my appearance and miss having someone I feel very unfulfilled and I’ve been trying a lot to broaden my horizons but nothing seems to stick – none of my friends at university seem very pro-active with taking me up on offers to hang out.

I have no money, can’t find a place for next year and all of my friends who I hang out with outside lectures are leaving at the end of this year meaning my social life will be even worse – I’m not even exaggerating. All six of the friends I regularly hang out with are all going.

Plus, at home my three best friends aren’t coming home for Summer and nor is my sister so I’ll be lonely for 5 months there too and I just don’t know what to do with myself. I’m constantly stressed about my lack of money and it’s too late in the day at uni to get a job this year and I don’t have the travel arrangements to be able to do so at home.

My family have had a lot of loss over the last year and I don’t feel safe and protected at ‘home’ anymore. My Mum’s home is just a different place and my Dad’s home is different and new.

I always seem to end up back in this place and I can’t work out how to avoid it because it feels like I’m doing an awful lot to prevent it but to no avail. I actually miss my ex, even though I’m pretty angry about how it all ended.

I’m desperate to escape to pastures new and to live the life I’ve been waiting to live for years. I want to go to London and live my life, I can’t bear 15 months, minimum, of this. I swear I haven’t known happiness since I was 13

It all feels a bit helpless, I feel like I’ve been waiting my whole life to get off the sidelines and now I’m actually trying to I can’t get anywhere with it. I know I’m feeling sorry for myself but yeah, I often wonder what the point is. I keep ending up back in the same place.

Clinton or Sanders?

The race to be in the race for the United States presidency is heating up, with the primaries in sight. To be honest, I don’t like the American style of elections but this year’s is of particular importance nonetheless.

As a member of the Liberal Democrats in the UK, you can pretty much disregard entertaining any notion that I will support a Republican candidate in their quest to take residency in the White House.

In fact, that race seems all but one by Donald J. Trump, meaning the battle to be the Democrats candidate is more crucial than ever.

Martin O’Malley, thanks for coming, but you haven’t a prayer of running in this race. The Democratic nomination is between veterans Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.

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The internet is littered with tests to match your views with those of each candidate and with each test I have taken, I have found myself with Hil-Rod in second, and Sanders or even O’Malley in first place.

There is a lot to be admired about Bernie Sanders’ pledges to tackle the shocking socio-economic inequality seen throughout the United States, looking to emulate the social democratic governments of Scandinavia.

These aren’t my politics but they’re admirable nonetheless. Clinton, on the other hand is a seasoned liberal campaigner, who is seemingly getting more liberal as her career progresses.

A lot of criticism for Hillary has come from her previous stances on same-sex marriage which saw her oppose the legislation. Of course, this isn’t really relevant. As Americans would say, you have to give props to Sanders for having the foresight to champion such a law for the last three decades at least but the fact is, Clinton is now committed to progressing and protecting LGBT+ rights.

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On perhaps the biggest security issue in the States at the minute, Sanders is taking a devolved stance on gun control laws and failing to launch a meaningful assault on the lax tyranny that leads to thousands of slaughtered Americans every year.

On the other hand, Hillary’s stances on gun control are far less moderate and are a much braver stance against what is a resolute opposition in Republican ranks.

It is also worth remembering that Clinton has recently served as the US’ foreign secretary, and in a world where problems are becoming more and more globalised, she can lead from experience and expertise.

Ultimately, Sanders’ social policy is admirable but Clinton’s political brand is closer to my own. And given the threat that their likely opposition, Donald Trump, presents with his brand of US nationalism and fascism, the progressives Stateside needs someone who can actually beat his bombast in a two candidate run-off.

Sure, Bernie Sanders seems like a lovely guy, with economically questionable ideals, such as his 90% tax rate call, but if you give Americans the choice between socialism and fascism, they will pick the latter every single time.

Hillary is not perfect, of course she isn’t, but she is a competent politician with sturdy political ideals, economic sensibility and a history at the forefront of American diplomacy. She can beat Donald Trump’s brand of neo-fascism, whereas Sanders cannot.

Winner: Hillary Clinton

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The Force Awakens… And Bursts Back To Life!

Last night, the Force and my childhood awoke. JJ Abrams’ long-awaited first installment of Star Wars‘ sequel trilogy hit the silver screen this week and, spoiler alert – it was epic.

I have been fanatical about Star Wars ever since I was four years old. Having been first introduced to the galaxy far far away in 1999 with the release of Episode 1: The Phantom Menace. From then, I began a love affair that has lasted throughout my developing years and now in to my early adulthood. Now at the ripened age of 20, I can appreciate that, though they were tantalising to me as a child, the prequels were, cinematically speaking, kind of dire.

It took all of fifteen minutes for The Force Awakens to teach the prequels a lesson, the start was brooding, intriguing, exciting and fresh. It perfectly introduced the new era of Star Wars and set up what fans would be facing for the next three installments.

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The film’s greatest triumph was that it managed to marry the familiarity of the original trilogy with a new direction for the franchise in almost perfect balance. The new characters, notably Rey, Finn and BB8 are instant fan favourites – they are interesting, likable and just as worthy of a place in Star Wars folklore as the rebellion’s original gang. But, importantly, whilst the new blood provide the potential for an exciting trilogy, the old guard were still put to good use. There is still a need for Princess Leia, Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Chewbacca. C-3PO and R2-D2 are still the ever-present faces in the saga’s long run – but Abrams’ didn’t make this all about them and it wouldn’t have worked if he did.

The plot itself was a nostalgic throwback to the bygone years of the Empire. The bad guy, who was linked to a good guy, and is ruled over by a seemingly old, evil yet sentient being. Then the baddies build a big old weapon and the goodies have to blow it up. Hey, it worked in half of the previous six films and it’s a formula that makes sense as a device to reboot the series – as long as we don’t have two more films of it.

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I was also really pleased to see a female given the prominent Jedi role in this trilogy. Rey, played by Daisy Ridley is enthralling, exciting and a positive step for a franchise which has a healthy section of female fans, as well as male ones. Whilst John Boyega’s character, Finn did shine in the new film, Rey is the real stand-out debutant.

Kylo Ren, as a villain, was inconsistent. The fanaticism he holds for Darth Vader, his grandfather is a good motivation for his First Order links, and whilst his parentage to Leia and Han was all too obvious, it’s a neat plot dynamic to keep revisting – and again, it serves to promote the nostalgic links of the film’s famous predecessors. However, it was confusing how a Dark Jedi so powerful in the force, as we saw in the film’s opening, was so easily overpowered by Rey, a newly discovered force-sensitive being with no training whatsoever. Let’s remember, Ren is the direct descendant of Anakin Skywalker, the most powerful jedi of all time – but was bested by a scavenger.

Of course, this gets even muddier when we consider the implication that Rey could be a descendant of Anakin herself. Why else would Luke’s (and previously Anakin’s) old lightsaber call to her? If that is the case, then it makes sense how she was able to defeat him in combat. Although, I hope it’s not the case, given the fact that rehashing every old theme from the old films will delegitimise the saga.

Now, let’s address that big Elephant in the room. Han Solo is dead. Yes, it’s terrible and we are all devastated. As a plot point, I don’t really have an issue with Solo being killed off. It cemented the villain status of Kylo Ren, who, for Han’s death to make any sense, must survive the explosion of the Starkiller Base and torment the new Resistance for the remainder of the trilogy. Harrison Ford was a big fan of being bumped off, and given there’s a spin-off for his character planned, we should have seen it coming. I disagree that his death didn’t fit with the character. In fact, his death showed us the desperate father he’d become behind his bravado, and it was a welcome new dimension to the one of the franchise’s greatest characters. The only thing wrong with his death was the timing. We didn’t get to see enough of Han and Leia, we saw none of Han and Luke and Chewbacca will just look absurd for the rest of the trilogy.

These are very small criticisms for a film that blew the prequels out of the water. The Force Awakens is a cinematic triumph with the perfect balance of new age and nostalgia – the second greatest film of the franchise, behind the legendary Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. Of course, my opinion may change the more I watch the film but for now, I am seriously, seriously impressed. The Force Awakens is the epitome of the cinematic space epic, a film that relaunched the greatest film saga of all-time and covered it in glory, and a film that showed George Lucas exactly how to make a follow-up trilogy. May he never touch his franchise ever again.


★★★★★ 


 

What TFA got right

  • The perfect balance between old Star Wars and new.
  • Very little Luke Skywalker.
  • Exciting new characters and worlds.
  • Impressive and more realistic battle sequences.
  • A more polished cinematic experience.
  • Han’s emotional death scene.
  • The prevailing formulas and themes (as long as this is the last we see of them).

What TFA got wrong

  • The inconsistency of Kylo Ren.
  • The lack of explanation of who Snoke is.
  • The pointlessness of Captain Phasma.
  • Giving John Boyega an American accent for no apparent reason whatsoever…

2020 UK General Election Prediction

The idea of trying, and likely failing miserably, to predict a General Election in five years time appeals to me – so I’m doing it.

I’ve tried to be objective and somewhat scientific by looking at previous trends in UK elections but here is my prediction for 2020.


 

Conservatives

Buoyed by their shock majority win in 2015, the Tories enjoy five years in charge on their own. The Tories won’t be particularly affected by the EU referendum result. The party will continue to fudge economic figures and their austerity will still be preferred to weak opposition from Labour. The election of widely popular Boris Johnson will be a big boost prior to 2020.

Labour

Perhaps the hardest to predict. Jeremy Corbyn’s reign won’t stretch until the next election, eventually moderates and the electorate will kick him out of office. Hillary Benn seems like the front-runner to take the helm, so let’s assume he’s successful. Labour will avoid another SDP style split and perhaps won’t be as battered as many expect.

UKIP

After, the EU referendum defeat, Nigel Farage’s party will slow down in the polls – their purpose will be spent. Of course, they won’t vanish in to a puff of smoke, the SNP had been buoyed by referendum defeat. The reactionary politics on issues like immigration and terrorism which give their party life will still be prominent in 5 years time.

Lib Dems

There is no bigger opportunity for a centrist party in the UK than now. Of course, as fate would have it, Britain’s liberals are at their lowest recent ebb. Tim Farron is a great campaigner and at his best can lead the fightback. However, if he fails, they face terminal irrelevance. No party’s place is more precarious than the Lib Dems’.

SNP

The SNP train will come to a gradual break by 2020. Nicola Sturgeon will be unable to keep civic nationalism sexy in Scottish politics in 5 more years as their poor record in Holyrood shines through, along with a string of corruption scandals. They will still be the largest party north of Hadrian’s Wall – comfortably in fact.

Greens

The toughest to predict, their steady upward trend will probably be interrupted by Labour’s lurch to the left and whatever scale of revival the Lib Dems undertake. It’s hard to make a case for political obscurity for the Greens, they still have a purpose.

Plaid Cymru

Scottish nationalism won’t quite be replicated in Wales. I think Leanne Wood’s prediction that Plaid’s time is yet to come may take a little longer to come true, but they could win votes from unsatisfied Labour supporters.


 

Popular vote

CON: 39.9% (+3.0%)

LAB: 25.9% (-4.6%)

LDEM: 14.9% (+7.0%)

GRN: 7.9% (+4.1%)

SNP: 4.0% (-0.8%)

UKIP: 3.4% (-9.2%)

PC: 0.7% (+0.1%)

Seats

CON: 355 (25)

LAB: 190 (42)

SNP: 46 (10)

LDEM: 34 (26)

PC: 4 (1)

GRN: 2 (1)

UKIP: 0 (1)

 

Oh Canada, How I Envy You

How I envy Canada. Their General Election campaign came to a thrilling conclusion this week after the three main parties; the Conservatives, the Liberals and the New Democratic Party (NDP), each took turns polling as clear front runners. However, it was Justin Trudeau’s revitalised Liberal Party that claimed a majority government, coming from third place four years ago. I could quite easily wax lyrical about Canadian politics for 600 or so words but instead, I think I could make better use of my time by reflecting on the more sober thought of how the Liberals can inspire their sister party in the UK.

For pretty much the entirety of Canada’s parliamentary history, the Liberals and the Tories have jostled for power. In 2011, the Liberals fell to being the nation’s third party for the first time in its history, slipping behind the NDP. Since then, the Liberal Party have been rejuvenated by breaking the shackles of establishment politics and becoming a political movement first, and a politics playing party second. As a result they now preside over a majority government that seemed unthinkable a few months ago.

New Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau

Remember the 2010 General Election campaign here? For about a week, it seemed the Liberal Democrats may shock the nation and actually win an election. Cleggmania was building on the momentum of successful leaders Paddy Ashdown and the late Charles Kennedy, and the party were genuine contenders, even topping the opinion polls. The Lib Dems were riding the wave of being outside the ‘Westminster bubble’; they were fresh, invigorated and exciting.

The Grits, as the Liberals are known in Canada, managed to recapture that essence over the last four years and made meaningful, passionate, principled policies at the heart of their crusade. The Liberals championed fringe issues like marijuana legalisation, open politics, voting reform, campaign spending reform, Trans rights among other things.

Whilst it is absolutely key that here in the UK, the Liberal Democrats continue to be a strong voice on big issues like our membership of the European Union, the positives of immigration, the housing crisis and the Snooper’s Charter, our party must also extend its message to the issues people care about but other politicians won’t dare touch.

Liberal Democrats need to shout louder about changing laws on drug use and possession, about being meaningful guardians of our environment without the crazy economics, and about championing social justice for those most oppressed in our society. Whilst I know that their message is vitally important, it’s a disgrace that in 2015 there is even such a need for Sandi Toksvig’s new Women’s Equality Party.

The Liberal Democrats are vehemently unapologetic, and probably rightly so, for entering in to Coalition government in 2010. In government the party was able to enact some of its best policies and retract some of the Tories’ worst – but it has come at a price. The party is now tainted with the plague of establishment and has seemingly somewhat lost its way.

If there is to be any hope of a Lib Dem ‘fightback’, the party must rediscover the gritty radical roots that made them so popular pre-Coalition. Despite the fact that the Liberal Democrats and the Liberal Party of Canada are not the same, they are very similar, they are sisters and there can be great parallels drawn between the two. If the Liberal Democrats are to win again, they must be like their Canadian sisters; loud, bold and more importantly, brave. In fact, as simplistic and vapid as it sounded, the Canadian Liberals’ campaign slogan is the most concise blueprint you could offer to the Liberal Democrats right now; Real Change.

Nadiya’s Victory Is Socially Important

The most watched television programme of the year was the final of a baking competition. Almost a quarter of the nation tuned in to see Nadiya Hussain win the Great British Bake Off, a competition comparable to those held at village fetes the nation over. But Hussain’s victory is much more important to British society.

For many of us it seems bizarre that a programme about baking is so revered at all and probably that extra bit bizarre that it has the power to help change social attitudes in this country. I wish Nadiya’s victory was as understated as the victories of her predecessors – but it isn’t, because she’s Muslim.

If we were in any doubt that Islamophobia and xenophobia weren’t still high on the list of Britain’s social ills, we were shown that wasn’t true this last week. The Conservative MP and Home Secretary Theresa May made a disgusting attack on mass immigration an affront to ‘cohesive society’ this week and was upstaged just a few days later when the aforementioned Hussain, a British woman of Bangladeshi heritage, scooped TV’s biggest prize.

After Nadiya’s win, The Daily Mail tenuously and disgustingly made every pathetic effort to stringently link her heritage and ethnicity to terrorism, indirectly attributing her to the 2005 bombings in London by referring to the fact her wedding took place in the same year as relevant…seriously.

Xenophobia and Islamophobia are still rife in this country. In London, one of the nation’s most cosmopolitan and presumably tolerant cities, Islamophobic hate crimes rose by 70% over the last year, and 60% of those crimes targeted Muslim women. Why? Because of the repugnantly stupid assumption that being Muslim and having Islamist sympathies are mutually exclusive.

And despite immigrants being a net contribution to our economy, and despite the fact that Britain is in fact only filled 2% to capacity, immigration is the biggest concern for the nation’s voters and 57% of people think immigration should be ‘reduced a lot’.

After Nadiya’s victory, she said ‘I’m never gonna put boundaries on myself ever again. I’m never gonna say I can do it. I’m never gonna say “maybe”. I’m never gonna say “I don’t think I can”. I can and I will.’

Yes, all Nadiya did was step out of her comfort zone and bake, and bake well for that matter. But, without trying she has endeared herself to millions and counteracted the damaging messages from the right of the political spectrum that British Muslims are less British than the rest of ‘us’, and that generations of immigration damage the fabrics of society. We need more messages of equality, inclusivity and tolerance in this country – and a baking competition is doing far more than our government to promote that. Nadiya Hussain is the deserved winner of the Great British Bake Off, but her greatest victory isn’t her dazzling lemon drizzle wedding cake but her unintentional yet vital uprooting of stereotypes and bigotry.

Cameron’s Telling Porkies

David Cameron must think politics is rather easy. First, he wins a majority in the Commons, subsequently his coalition partners are obliterated, then his right-wing copycats are left virtually unrepresented and now, his main challengers have flown off to the unappealing left. He even managed to brush off any lasting damage made by the swine kind, unlike Ed Milliband before him. The Conservatives seem to think they’re in for a peaceful stroll to another majority in 2020 – provided, of course, that their latest set of falsehoods goes unchallenged.

When politicians are afforded such good fortune, it breeds arrogance, and with it, complacency. The Prime Minister addressed his adoring audience at Conservative Party conference on Wednesday. The party’s leader made an unexpected play for social justice, ending poverty and the case for progressive conservatism –whatever that is. He pledged to make this next government about the ‘proud tradition of conservative social reform’, showing that David Cameron is nowhere near as adept at political history as he is subterfuge. My point is, Mr. Cameron – we’ve heard this lovely chatter all before and seen nothing from you.

The Prime Minister alluded to the introduction of new policy for protecting LGBT+ people from discrimination, citing the coalition’s deliverance of same-sex marriage as a record of deliverance to that end. It’s wonderful to see the leader of a Conservative Party talk about LGBT+ rights, and even more wonderful to hear his comments met with enthusiastic applause from the Tory delegates in attendance. But if history is anything to go by, the Tories seem to be more interested in monopolising the electoral support of social groups than championing their cause.

So whilst it fills my heart with joy to hear support from David Cameron for gender, LGBT+ and BAME equality, forgive me if I remain profusely sceptical of this sudden change of priority. I just cannot overcome the questions that damage the legitimacy of his rhetoric. For instance, where was this concern in the European Parliament in June this year when the party voted against protecting the rights of LGBT+ citizens and a woman’s right to abortion? Where was this concern when David Cameron appointed, not just one, but two opponents of same-sex marriage as Minister for Equalities? Where was this concern when the Prime Minister allowed a free vote on same-sex marriage, leading to the majority of Tory parliamentarians rejecting the bill?

Why did you offer Lynne Featherstone so little support for her ‘blind job application’ proposal and campaign to end Female Genital Mutilation in a generation, and instead wait until the Liberal Democrats were out of government before you could claim the credit for our hard work? Why is it that the Conservatives have one of the worst records in the whole of the European Parliament on defending and advocating for gay rights? Where was your sense of injustice when George Osbourne announced cuts to maintenance grants and tax credits whilst easing the burden on the wealthy by slashing corporation and inheritance tax?

It is clear that Mr. Cameron has become terminally self-righteous. He really wants women, BAME and LGBT+ people in this country to believe that his ‘compassionate conservatism’ has substance – it doesn’t.

LGBT Equality Parties
Why do ethnic minorities and women still report disproportionate amounts of racism and misogyny among the party’s ranks? Why does the Conservative Home Minister think that immigration is an unavoidable affront to social cohesion? Why are the compassionate Tories so anti-immigrant? Why are they so reluctant to accept the same amount of Syrian refugees in five years that the Germans are taking in in a day?

How can David Cameron stand on stage and one minute spout cosy yet vapid egalitarian rhetoric then the next minute maul the poorest by cutting tax credits, lacerate LGBT+ citizens by slicing funding for mental health services which they disproportionately need more than everyone else, ignorantly vetoing progressive plans for age-appropriate sex education for straight and LGBT+ students and generally brutalising these must vulnerable groups with unnecessarily brutal austerity measures?

I’m sure I speak for everyone in the Liberal Democrats when I say that I welcome any Conservative Party support for tackling inequality – the more, the merrier. But, we have seen this all before and I stand by summation that the right of politics only ever want to be seen to help promote equality, they never actually care enough to do it. So now, Mr. Cameron it is time for you to walk the walk, now we’re not there for you to pin all your ills on. If you really do care for equality, put your social liberalism where your mouth is.

An Open Letter To Tom Watson, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party

Dear Tom Watson,

I was so heartened, like many, to see Labour’s new leader Jeremy Corbyn call for a ‘kinder politics’. However, given your not so kind and frankly laughably hypocritical comments about the Liberal Democrats today, am I to assume this is the first Labour u-turn under yet another feckless leader?

So, we’re a “useless bunch of lying sell-outs”? I presume this has largely stemmed from the last five years and our part in the coalition government. Did we lie about tuition fees? No, we didn’t – we didn’t and couldn’t deliver our policy because there was no money left by the last Labour government to fund it. I also think it would be wise to abstain (pun intended) on whipping us with the tuition fees stick considering it was your party who introduced them in the first place, and your party who has broken even more promises on tuition fees than us, and what’s worse is you were in majority government for eleven years and could have done what you liked.

Sell-outs is a funny insult to levy at a party that has been consistently liberal for the entirety of its existence; delivering same-sex marriage, the welfare state and the pupil premium among other things. Labour on the other hand have flitted through endless streams of populist trends in an attempt to find any lingering whiff of power you can. Are you socialists? Are you centrists? Are you small c conservatives? Who knows? I suspect you don’t either.

I get tired of the piousness from the Labour Party, who have consistently attacked other (and I use that term extremely loosely) progressives, whilst doing very little to that end themselves. You have successfully attained the loyal support of many vulnerable social groups but beyond having their support do you have any actual interest in them? Labour didn’t have same-sex marriage in their manifesto in 2010 and you didn’t implement it in the thirteen years of power you had prior to that. In fact, almost every single piece of pro-equality legislation the Labour Party has ever passed has been implemented because you were sued in to doing so or because a Liberal drew up the proposals for you.

The Gender Recognition Act? Allowing gays in the military? Forced on to the Labour government by the European Human Rights Convention, like so many other pro-equality pieces of the time. What about equalising age of consent for heterosexual and homosexual couples? The charge against that very movement in 1994 was led by David Blunkett, Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary. And what about the Welfare State, set up as outlined in the Beveridge report? It did not come from the fresh-thinking or strong principles of the Labour Party but from William Beveridge, a member of the old Liberal Party.

And what about the illegal Iraq war? A conflict fought on false pretences which has almost irreparably stoked tensions in the Middle East, caused countless needless deaths of civilians and the Armed Forces and contributed to four million people leaving Syria and seeking refuge around the world. And by the way, who was it in Calais talking about this humanitarian crisis and calling for us to take more refugees in? It wasn’t the four squabbling Labour leadership candidates; it was Tim Farron, leader of the Liberal Democrats.

In fact, just this week, Labour vetoed a monumentally progressive debate on scrapping Trident at party conference because you were afraid your apparently sturdy principles, which nobody can identify, would upset your Trade Union overlords.

Maybe you’re upset that ‘we got in to bed with the Tories’. Are we the real Tory enablers? No. Labour are the party who launched campaigns slamming the Liberal Democrats for their role in government, ignoring all the positive manifesto pledges we successfully made in to law and the sterling job we did at tampering the truly heinous Conservative government we’re left with now. If it wasn’t for Labour conflating this nonsensical version of events, we wouldn’t have lost so many Tory-Lib Dem marginals and maybe we’d be ‘in bed’ with you instead.

It’s not like you’re exactly showing yourself to be stern opposition to the newly unrestrained Tories. Let us not forget the mass abstention from the Labour Party on votes that threatened the very existence of our National Health Service, the one you so reverently yet incorrectly boast to have created. So what is Labour’s idea of promoting social equality? Separate manifestos for LGBT+ people? Tough-talking xenophobic mugs? Patronising pink buses?

To be honest, Mr. Watson, this quote would be funny if it weren’t so sad and weren’t so damaging. Whilst your party sat in a hall waiting the result of its recent leadership election, patting itself on the back for its gender diversity as man after man addressed the packed venue of Labour members, the Liberal Democrats were reflecting on a job well done in government. We were reflecting on how we made the country a better place for people on low income, school children, gay and lesbian couples among others – and just how devastated we were we lost so many excellent female MPs too.

The Liberal Democrats are not perfect, we made mistakes, plenty of them. But are we ‘useless’? Are we ‘lying sell-outs’? No, we’re not. The Labour Party has reaped the rewards of its inaccurate reputation and as a result has become the greatest hindrance to social and economic equality in this country.

So instead of slinging mud from the halls of an auditorium in Brighton where your party so arrogantly and so wrongly revels in its own ego, we’re out fighting this awful Conservative government and making a meaningful, and better yet, genuine stand against inequality and injustice. Maybe one of these days, you would like to join us.
Yours faithfully,

Chris Whiting