Author: chrisrwhiting

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Game of Thrones – Season 8 End Game Prediction

So now Season 7 is over and fans of Game of Thrones are being threatened with a two year wait to see the series finally wrap up, I wanted to predict how it might play out as early as possible. So here goes everything…

Who will sit on the Iron Throne?

We know that Thrones is famous for being anything other than predictable, but there’s only one name I can possibly rationalise as being the final ruler of Westeros once the Long Night ends. This whole series has been about the resurrection of the Targaryen dynasty – the end of brutality, the breaking of the wheel for a new, better world. George RR Martin has already said his fantasy series will have a ‘bittersweet’ ending, so whilst I don’t expect it to be hunky dory all over Westeros at the end of Season 8, I do think the best leader will ascend to power.28156202073_ec22b19af6_bThey may tease a power struggle between Daenerys and her nephew-cum-lover Jon Snow, but I imagine they will find a way around their incest, when despite having a stronger claim to the crown than Dany, Jon will show little to no interest in taking the reigns.

On a technicality, I think Dany will actually make her desire to ‘break the wheel’ transcend mere metaphor by melting the Iron Throne that has symbolised such death and destruction with dragon fire – but rest assured, she will prevail nonetheless. Hopefully if the show runners  are feeling generous, they will treat fans to a reprise of Dany’s vision in the House of Undying, maybe with Cersei’s lifeless body there for her to step over too, if we’re asking for things. Long live Queen Daenerys Stormborn blah blah blah.

The Prince/Princess That Was Promised 

So we know that Melisandre is waiting in the wings to die in Westeros – presumably as a trade off for resurrecting the Prince or Princess that was promised. We’re being led to believe that it will either be Dany or Jon Snow who fits the billing – but I have a sneaky suspicion the real reborn version of Azor Ahai will come from left field, mostly because otherwise Dany and Jon would be the only relevant characters left in the series, and the others must still be alive for a reason.

So here we go, The Prince that was Promised (TPTWP) is none other than Jaime Lannister. The prophecy states that TPTWP will save the world during the Long Night with a sword called ‘Lightbringer’. Remember, Jaime is no stranger to named swords, Olenna even reiterated this during her death scene when she asked what Joffrey’s old sword was called.

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Regardless, it is possible that ‘Lightbringer’ is merely metaphorical. Apparently in High Valryian, the words for ‘lord’ and ‘light’ are remarkably similar, I’m talking two or three letters difference, to the words for ‘gold’ and ‘hand’. Jaime has a gold hand.

Clearly, Jaime will have to die in battle to allow for Melisandre’s involvement. I mean, I don’t technically have any evidence that this will happen but it’s not exactly hard to envision.

In the original prophecy,  Azor Ahai forges lightbringer from the heart of his true love. I also think Jaime will kill his true love to save the world, which leads us quite nicely in to the next prediction…

Cersei’s Prophecy

The theory that Mad Queen Cersei will end up atop the Iron Throne at the end of Season 8 is gaining more and more traction – but what I’m more certain about than anything else is that Cersei will die.

Maggy the Frog predicted in a flashback during Season 5 that Cersei would;

  • Marry a King not a Prince (✔ – she married King Robert prior to Season One)
  • She would have three children and they’d all die (✔ – Joffrey, Myrcella and Tommen are all dead)
  • She would be Queen for a time until someone younger and prettier would come and replace her (✔/✖ – She is the Queen for now – until Dany replaces her)

Now in the books, the prophetess speaks of the ‘valonqhar’ which translates as ‘little sibling’ who will strangle Cersei to death. For a long time everyone assumed this would be Tyrion – but alas the honour will fall to younger brother & toy boy lover Jaime.

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In a creepy foreshadowing, as Cersei stood in her giant map room in Season 7, she was placed over an area of Westeros called ‘The Neck’, whilst Jaime, who she was talking to, stood on ‘The Fingers’.

I suspect having travelled north to fight the Army of the Dead, the living will be pushed as far back as King’s Landing. Cersei, now totally isolated, will leave them outside the city’s walls to die. Jaime will take it on himself to go to the Throne Room and try to convince her to see sense. Alas, she won’t and in an emotionally charged argument she will reveal that her baby is in fact Euron’s. She will ready her new sell swords, the Golden Company and a Wildfire show to greet Dany & Jon’s army causing Jaime to intervene by choking her to death.

It Will Be All Wight on the Long Night

The Army of Dead are going to wreak havoc – that is the only conceivable prospect as they head south of the Wall. As much as we are all attached to Winterfell, it’s proximity to the Land of Always Winter means it will have to fall to the White Walkers if they’re to make it beyond the Riverlands and in to King’s Landing which they almost undoubtedly will.

The Northmen, Unsullied, Dothraki and co. will have little trouble dispatching wights but the White Walkers, The Night King and Viserion are a different prospect altogether – their power alone will be enough to force them in to a seemingly ceaseless retreat.

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I am still a devout Lady Stoneheart truther, and I hope Benioff and Weiss will finally reward those of us on the Lady Stoneheart hype train, if only partially. As the White Walkers head further and further south, the living will have no time to burn the bodies of their dead meaning any body not burned will be easily resurrected by the Night King as a new wight – so maybe we’ll see an undead Catelyn Stark yet, and Littlefinger, Ramsay Snow you name them.

A Song of Ice & Fire

So now we know that when a white walker dies, the wights that come with it are killed too. So it’s simple right, kill The Night King and everything is dandy, right? You’ve got two massive dragons, a hoard of Dothraki, a batallion of Unsullied, mad Wildlings, Crows and Northmen all aiming to kill one guy.

But there will inevitably be complications – Dragon glass and Valyrian steel should do the trick when it comes to killing the other white walkers but there’s something monstrously different about The Night King which makes me think he won’t be as easy to kill.

Oh, and another thing, The Night King is almost definitely Bran Stark. We know his warging abilities allow him to influence past events but in an Inception-style twist, Bran will be revealed as the leader of the dead, and as the season progresses and the Night King travels further and further south, Bran’s independence will wain. We’ve already seen that he went in to the past and messed up Hodor’s future before he was even born so this theory is far from inconceivable.

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I know it still might sound a little far-fetched but when Bran first had a vision of the Children of the Forest creating the Night King, he asked Leaf why they made him in the first place, the interaction went a little like this;

Bran: It was you, you made the White Walkers

Leaf: We were at war, we were being slaughtered, our sacred trees cut down – we needed to defend ourselves.

Bran: From who?

Leaf: From you.

She later clarifies that she meant humans as a whole but that scene was an important clue, as was the formation of the Army of the Dead in to a wolf’s head, the Stark family sigil, as the White Walkers took down the wall at the end of Season 7.

Plus the episode before that, Bran envisioned the army of the dead surrounding a group of people beyond the wall and then sent a raven to Jon Snow to tell him. Jon then travelled there with his merry band of followers. Yet, somehow The Night King knew they were coming and his army of the dead were able to easily ambush Jon and co, causing Dany to stage a rescue and allowing the Night King to capture the dragon he just used to bring down the wall. Hmm…

I think it may go a little further still in that Bran has been dead this entire time, he died in episode one when he was pushed out of the tower window by Jaime and was subsequently left ‘comatosed’. He has always been undead like the Night King – and now he’s about to realise he is the very villain he’s trying to stop.

I suspect, referring back to GRRM’s claim that the ending will be ‘bittersweet’, the undead Jon Snow will have to relocate to the Land of Always Winter and assume the role of The Night King once this malicious Army of the Dead is defeated. As a sentient zombie and all-round nice guy, Jon Snow will sacrifice his life to ensure the Long Night never returns.

 

Valar Morghulis

Who will die in Season 8. Here are my best guesses.

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  • Sansa Stark – dies nobly defending Winterfell from the Army of the Dead.
  • Bran Stark / The Night Kingslain by Jon Snow 
  • Cersei Lannister – choked to death by her lover from the same mother, Jaime 
  • Jaime Lannister – dies heroically in battle.
  • Theon Greyjoy – dies at the hands of the Golden Company, whilst protecting his sister Yara.
  • Euron Greyjoy – slain by Jaime Lannister when he goes to confront Cersei
  • Davos Seaworth – slain by White Walkers at Winterfell.
  • Qyburn – murdered by the Mountain, under the control of The Night King
  • Varys & Missandei – murdered by the Golden Company when en route to King’s Landing.
  • Grey Worm – slain by wights.
  • Jorah – torched by Viserion
  • Melisandre – trades her life for Jaime’s
  • Bronn – dies fighting alongside Jaime
  • Beric Dondarrion – slain by the Night King
  • Lyanna Mormont – dies in the battle of Winterfell
  • Viserion – spanked with flames by Drogon.
  • Rhaegel – killed by the Golden Company. (Yes, Jon Snow will ride Rhaegel)
  • The Mountain – killed by the Hound at King’s Landing after joining the Army of the Dead.

 

 

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Pietersen & Veainu get Tigers Purring

Premiership
Leicester Tigers  50
Tries: Cilliers, O Williams, Pietersen (2), Veainu, O’Connor, Thompstone, Bateman Cons: O Williams (5)
Bristol  17
Tries: Hawkins, Ford-Robinson Cons: Woodward (2) Pens: Woodward

JP Pietersen scored two tries on his debut in a blistering performance as Leicester Tigers thumped Bristol Rugby 50-17 at Welford Road.

The South African international was the man of the moment, bagging two of Tigers’ eight tries on a chilly afternoon of high octane Premiership rugby.

Debutant Pietersen joked after the match that he needed to lose weight despite dazzling Welford Road with an accomplished performance. He told reporters that he “enjoyed the best performance to date. Welford Road is always a special place, you can feel the atmosphere and it was amazing to play in one of the best stadiums in rugby”.

The charismatic full-back was also full of praise for team-mate Telusa Veainu, calling him a ‘special talent’ and a “nightmare for Bristol’s defence”, in a match he believes shows that Tigers have turned a corner.

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Mauling… Pietersen scored two of Tigers’ eight tries

The bonus point win leaves Tigers just four points off play-off qualification after a turbulent domestic campaign which saw head coach Richard Cockerill dismissed at the start of the year.

But any signs of a Leicester Tigers crisis were few and far between as Tigers blew Bristol away from start to finish. Tigers started brightly, immediately looking to penetrate down the right-hand side but Bristol drew first blood when Jason Woodward scored an 8th minute penalty.

Tigers interim boss Aaron Mauger aimed for an intense start and despite the initial setback, he got what he wished for. From then on, Tigers took hold of the tie, the ante was upped and the hosts began to penetrate the visitors’ faltering backline, only having to wait five minutes before they got on the scoreboard themselves.

Star men Telusa Veainu and JP Pietersen linked up well driving the Tigers forward allowing Pat Cilliers to score the home side’s first try of the match. It wasn’t long before the home fans were on the feet again as attack after attack eventually led to a second Tigers try, and first conversion, scored by kicker Owen Williams.

The hosts could smell an easy win and continued to ask questions of a Bristol Rugby side increasingly wracked with frustration. Their endeavour soon paid off as Tigers scored three tries in five minutes, giving them a comfortable 31-3 lead, putting the match to bed with just 30 minutes on the clock.

JP Pietersen waltzed to two tries for himself either side of Veainu’s success in the 27th minute. Whilst Pietersen will take many of the plaudits for scoring two tries on his home debut, it was Veainu who was setting the match alight with a high-octane performance that left Bristol’s props dead on their feet.

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Catalyst… Veainu was a ‘nightmare’ for Bristol’s defence

Bristol had resorted to hopeful punting in a first half completely dominated by the home side but find some joy at the end of the first half when Hawkins finally broke the hosts down to score the visitors first try of the game just before the interval.

The opening forays of the second half lacked the gusto and intent of the first, but Tigers were still on top. The sixth home try summed up Bristol’s afternoon as O’Connor blocked a kick close to the try line and ran unchallenged to take the scoreline to 38-10.

It got even worse for Bristol just eight minutes later as Tigers got their seventh try of the afternoon. Fittingly, it was leading try-scorer Adam Thompstone who took Tigers to their highest score of the season.

From then on, Bristol did well to keep the Tigers at bay as they continued to bear their teeth. However, the visitors had found their defensive resilience far too late. The dye had already been cast and the brute strength of substitute Greg Bateman proved it when he battered Bristol’s defence to score an eighth try in the 67th minute.

With the clock ticking down, Bristol managed to find some reward from an arduous afternoon in the East Midlands. They pushed forward and scored the final try of the match coming from Jamal Ford-Robinson, a substitute of their own, taking the final score to 50-17.

It’s Derby & Forest – Leicester are all on their own.

When the FA Cup 4th round draw pitted Leicester City against Derby County, it was inevitable that the great debate of the East Midlands derby would rear its ugly head again.

Of course, the irony never dawns on Derby and Forest fans that mentioning Leicester in every conversation about the East Midlands derbies doesn’t quite support their claims that the Foxes are irrelevant but alas, intelligence is not one of their passions.

It’s time to settle this once for all. My fellow Leicester fans; there is no rivalry with us and Derby, or us and Forest. Derby and Notts Forest are much better suited.

They play for the Nigel Clough trophy, a testament to some things they did apparently – we don’t compete with each other for anything! Think about, Derby don’t care so much they don’t even try to beat Leicester – that’s why we’ve won eight of the last nine matches against them. They don’t care.

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Of course though, the main reason why Leicester doesn’t bother the Derby and Notts Forest lovealry is that City are just out of the league, figuratively and quite literally.

Since 2000, Leicester have won 45% of matches against both, losing just 24% – no contest. In living memory, the Foxes have won 3 trophies, Derby have won 5 and Forest have 4. But when you subtract honours that weren’t made up by a 50 year old virgin, both Forest and Derby are left with none.

On top of that, Forest spent three seasons in League One in the last decade, by all accounts, by being in a Championship relegation scrap; they’re overachieving based on their historic level.

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And, Derby are literally the worst team in history. 11 points, we got more points than that against three clubs in the Champion’s League this season

I truly do not understand how there is any rivalry between Derby and Leicester or Forest and Leicester. As Leicester City are now the biggest club in the Midlands, and England, for that matter, it wouldn’t make sense for the Foxes to waste disdain on smaller clubs.

After all,  we don’t call Mansfield or Chesterfield rivals. You don’t see Manchester United interfering with Bury vs. Rochdale, or Arsenal interjecting between Barnet vs. Enfield Town. This is exactly the same, except obviously the chasm between us and football’s smallest frenemies is currently larger.

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Foxes fans now view other clubs as their main rivals. In fact, if you carried out a survey on the Leicester fan base – I would wager Derby and Forest would go unmentioned. These days, Leicester save their hate for Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea and FC Porto – these are our rivals. Derbingham Founty don’t deserve to mention themselves in the same breath as Leicester City. We don’t need another club’s attention to feel important when we have hardware and continental football.

We’re the world famous Champions of England –  and we’re loving it on our own.

Trump Has Won, Now Liberals Must Wake Up

So, Donald Trump, reality TV aficionado, Twitter troll extraordinaire has been elected the 45th President of the United States. As is becoming all too thematic in the exercise of Western democracy, the underdogs defied the odds and pulled off an upset on Tuesday night.

As the dust settles, and the losing side tries to make sense of the election, it would be to comfort ourselves by ruing the loss of Bernie Sanders or to pass off the result of the election as the resurrected endemic of racism in the West. That’s the comfortable choice, but in truth, neither is accurate, certainly not in their entirety. Both of these assessments are too reductionist, there are much bigger forces at play.

Trump’s victory is a knife to the liberal core of the ‘metropolitan elite’ – of that much I am certain. There is a palpable anger in many Western countries towards the status quo. It speaks volumes that 18% of people who viewed Donald Trump as incapable of holding office, voted for him anyway, along with 34% of people who would have been ‘concerned’ if he were triumphant. This Presidential election was less about pitting Clinton against Trump or liberalism against conservatism, but served more accurately as a referendum on conventional Western politics.

Of course, it would be negligent of me to paint this result purely as the mutiny of the working classes as a whole – that was not the case. In fact, the majority of Black, Latino and Asian proletariat voted Democrat; instead, this was very much the solitary revolt of the white working classes.

In essence, this result was a middle finger to globalisation, to neo-liberalism, and to the perceptions of ‘enforced multiculturalism’. You could be forgiven, as a blue collar worker in a forgotten town of a forgotten American state that has seen generations and generations of manual labourers lose the industries that defined them to cheaper labour overseas, for thinking that globalisation hasn’t worked for you. A plurality of American voters believe that today’s economic philosophies detract from the US job market, and 65% of them made their voices heard by backing Trump on Tuesday.

This has been coupled with the rise of immigration and the transformation of predominantly white towns, counties, states and countries in to multicultural hubs. All of a sudden, from these two issues alone, these insecure demographics are provided with a visible and tangible scapegoat, one that has successfully been harnessed and weaponised. That is why 84% of people who want immigrants deported voted for Donald Trump too.

Perhaps, the right-wing populist rhetoric about multiculturalism and immigration espoused by Donald Trump is intrinsically associated with a time of industrial boom. It is linked to previous era where things seemed simpler and more prosperous to white blue collar labourers. Donald Trump’s campaign provided a nationwide nostalgia therapy, offering hopes of a modern renaissance in flourishing manual labour and destigmatised bigotry.

But for many voters, Trump’s rhetoric was not a major factor in their decision. People across the World are pissed off, they want an alternative to a system that doesn’t work for them, they want to be heard not patronised, and inspired not ignored. That is why Brexit happened in the UK, why Labour elected Jeremy Corbyn twice, why Beppe Grillo, Marine Le Pen, and Podemos and Citizens are doing so well in Italy, Germany and Spain respectively.

When voters are disillusioned to the extent we are seeing now, they want the biggest caricature going to represent them. Somewhat ironically, it was Bill Clinton who argued that the reason for Corbyn’s success in the UK was because they were angry but didn’t expect change so let the “maddest man in the room” front their crusade. It’s a phenomenon happening all over the disillusioned West.

Peter Thiel has correctly argued that only the media took Trump’s rhetoric literally. He called for a wall, and the media scrambled around for the logistics, how would they build it? Who would foot the bill? He proclaimed he would destroy ISIS and adversaries demanded a stringent, extensive intervention strategy – neither came. But a lot of Donald Trump supporters weren’t perturbed by the specifics – they heard a man speaking passionately about two major concerns, immigration and security, and picked up a placard. They took his desire literally, not his methodology. His words were symbolic of real concerns being heard, and what was perceived as a ‘real person’ being prepared to make big decisions to address them.

What always seems to pass over the liberal-led autopsy of these events is that a large portion of Donald Trump’s voters feel that years of business as usual has left them with absolutely nothing. Let’s say that life is like a box, and right now theirs is empty. If you put a mystery box in front of them, that they couldn’t possibly know the contents of, whether good or bad, they’re going to open it – every single time, such is the gravity of their desperation.

Deconstructing the rationale behind Tuesday’s shock vote does by no means excuse it, or make it legitimate. What is frightening about this international trend towards right-wing populism is how successful dissenting conservative elites have been at tapping in to the undercurrent of dissatisfaction of the working class, with whom they have little in common.

In the United Kingdom’s EU membership referendum, Nigel Farage, an ex-City banker, and Boris Johnson, a privately-educated career politician led what was labelled as a ‘working class revolution’.  The same scenario has reared its head in the States.

A white, misogynistic man born in to immense wealth, like Donald Trump, is by no means “anti-establishment” – in fact he’s the very antithesis of the term. These candidates are not the downtrodden; these are the egotistical, power-hungry nativist zealots who are posing the greatest threat to western liberal democracies – not the isolated working classes they purport to represent.

It is worth reiterating that this animosity for the establishment does not justify the support for a campaign that has called for a blanket ban on Muslim migration, a state-funded roll out of electric shock gay conversion ‘therapies’, and one which has been rife with misogyny. How can we continue to press ahead with making women feel comfortable about standing up to their sexual attackers, if the world’s most power democracy just made one of them their President? That is a legitimate question highlighting the moral quagmire we now find ourselves in.

We have seen an undercurrent of the nefarious entitlement of the white, heterosexual voters who have voted to reverse progress for ethnic minorities and queer communities, as spearheaded by VP-elect Mike Pence. They’ve seen this progress of rights for minorities whilst their liberties have remained stagnant. I guess when you’re used to preferential treatment, equality feels like persecution.

These are things that we cannot ignore no matter how frustrated and isolated so many people feel. We cannot cower and back down on things we know to be morally wrong. There’s a reverberation of hateful, divisive ideology abound in Western politics, and it’s one that liberals must fight back against without concession.

It is crucial to understand that millions of people who didn’t support Trump’s rhetoric threw their weight behind him anyway. It is fact that 29% of the people concerned about Trump’s treatment of women, held their nose and voted for him anyway – this shows just how deep the craving for change truly is.

We know that Donald Trump and his brand of politics is wrong, we know it. But we can no longer treat the people who feel so isolated from the mainstream that they support populism of this ilk with contempt. It serves nobody; people will not be shamed in to voting the ‘correct’ way.

We have entered the post-truth, post-fact era. The rational politics offered by Hillary Clinton’s campaign and centrists and liberals in general are fundamentally failing to mobilise support. It is clear now more than ever that people are voting with their hearts and guts. The great challenge for liberals and moderates everywhere is to inject the same passion in our message that can bring us victory again – it’s the only way.

Sneering at those who disagree with our world view will do us no favours. They are tired of the middle classes looking down on their frustrations, dismissing them without recoil and generally denigrating their reality.

No matter how contemptible, deplorable and unfathomable we believe Trump’s victory to be, we must start listening to the left-behinds and offer them a passionate, liberal alternative that gets them in the gut. Otherwise, we condemn ourselves to irreparable social divides for generations to come. It’s time to put the pitchforks away, right-wing populism has grabbed western liberal democracies by the pussy, and we’re all to blame.

Which Party is the Natural Home for the UK’s LGBT+ Voters?

It’s a question that is often debated over, which party better represents and stands up for the LGBT+ community? As a Liberal Democrat, it would be remiss of me not to state my own belief that my party has the best track record. However, I have *tried*, and I think pretty successfully, to compile an objective analysis on which of the UK’s seven major parties is the best proponent of the LGBT+ equality agenda.

Methodology

The crux of the ranking system for my analysis has been based around several key policies and legislative votes that have advanced the LGBT+ cause. For each topic, the party’s voting records have been recorded as a % of their parliamentary strength at the time of the debate. Parties were also rewarded if the policy appeared in their manifesto before it was enacted, a point for each year prior to its implementation. And a proportion of 10 points per topic has been allocated to each. A bonus point has been added to the party which governed at the time of the implemented policy, and a further one point has been added if there is near irrefutable evidence, that one or two of the parties led on the issue before it passed in to law. Secondly, on rare occasions, a party has forfeited a point for withholding the progression of LGBT+ rights. For example, when calculating points for the votes on the repeal of Section 28, the Conservatives were docked a point for introducing the legislation in the first place.

The topics considered were as follows;

  • Legalisation of same-sex activity
  • The declassification of homosexuality as an illness
  • Equalisation of age of consent
  • Civil partnerships
  • Same-sex marriage
  • Joint and step adoption for LGBT+ persons and couples
  • Equal access to IVF
  • Equal access to surrogacy
  • Allowing LGBT+ people to serve openly in the miltary
  • Declassification of Transsexualism as an illness
  • Right to change legal gender
  • Laws against hate speech based on sexuality and gender identity
  • Anti-discrimination laws
  • LGBT+ sex education
  • The MSM blood donation ban
  • Banning conversion therapies
  • The Repeal of Section 28
  • Alan Turing’s law
  • Immigration equality for LGBT+ persons and couples
  • Recognition of LGBT+ identity for asylum requests

Following the analysis of these issues, further points were added for each new pledge made by the seven major parties in their most recent manifesto, in this case, for the 2015 General Election. After these points were awarded, the percentage of national elected officials who identify as LGBT+ were calculated and a proportion of 10 points added to each party’s total. Finally, further considerations were made as to how much other actions by a party or their respective positions in politics were taken in to account. For instance, having an elected LGBT+ leader of any national branch of a party resulted in the rewarding of one additional point. If a party, supported other measures that disproportionately affected the LGBT+ community, they were docked up to 3 points. Finally, if a leader or senior figure of a party had brought the LGBT+ equality agenda in to disrepute by any of their actions or comments, they were docked one or two points, depending on the severity of their faux pas.

Party-by-party ranking and analysis

7. UK Independence Party

 

Strengths

UKIP failed to score a single point on the analysis of policy, though they have only recently won parliamentary representation. Regardless, the UK’s most ardent Eurosceptic party has failed to champion any pro-LGBT+ policies in any of its manifestos. It even adopted the policy of opposing same-sex marriage because it didn’t animate the daily discourse of the nation. UKIP do however boast one out LGBT+ representative, Scottish UKIP leader and MEP David Coburn.

 

Weaknesses

The main pitfalls of UKIP’s credentials for promoting LGBT+ equalities come not only from direct opposition ot pro-LGBT+ measures but also from a long string of homophobic blunders by candidates and members. Coburn himself has stated that ‘same-sex marriage breeds homophobia’. Another UKIP councillor once blamed localised flooding on the existence of homosexuals. Other gaffes included Nigel Farage calling for immigrants with HIV to be banned from entering the UK, MEP Roger Helmer supporting conversion therapies and the party’s Hastings PPC calling for “poofters to be shot”.

Score: -2


6. Scottish National Party

Strengths

The SNP have long claimed to be on the side of LGBT+ people, and that attestation carries a lot of weight. The SNP have voted pretty much unanimously in favour of LGBT+ rights whenever the situation has presented itself.  The party has supported a vast array of LGBT+ equality bills from equal access to IVF to civil partnerships and anti-discrimination laws. The SNP also boast an impressive amount of openly-LGBT representatives, with 6.72% of their membership in both Westminster houses, Holyrood and Brussels identifying as LGBT+.

Weaknesses

However, supportive though the SNP may be on issues affecting our community, they do not appear to prioritise them. LGBT+ rights issues appear in none of their Westminster manifestos until 2015, where just one is listed – a pledge to promote rights of LGBT+ persons internationally. The Scottish Nationalists are without a doubt LGBT+ allies, but their record suggests they have much bigger priorities.

Score: 13

 

 


5. Conservative Party

Strengths

The Conservatives’ last two leaders and the country’s last two Prime Minister’s have definitely been in the socially liberal camp of their party. Both David Cameron and Theresa May supported same-sex marriage, with the latter being heralded as a secret champion of the legislation. Former Tory MP Edwina Currie was also prevalent in equalising the age of consent, introducing a bill in 1994 which was eventually defeated by her own party and dissenting Labour members. The Conservatives also look set to implement Alan Turing’s Law in the coming weeks. The Scottish Conservative party also boast having an openly lesbian leader in Ruth Davidson.

Weaknesses

The Conservatives, under Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s hold the indignity of being the first governing party in over 100 years to introduce anti-gay legislation with the infamous passing of Section 28. The Tories also opposed an amendment, alongside the Labour Party, that would have prevented Trans people divorcing when the right to change legal gender was enacted. In general, the Tory backbenchers tend to be much more socially conservative than their media friendly leadership, as evidenced by the party’s vote against same-sex marriage in 2013. Whilst, the Tories willingly boast about the passing of same-sex marriage under a Tory-led coalition government, just two pro-LGBT+ policies appeared in their 2015 manifesto. As well as this, just 2.74% of the Tory’s massive parliamentary strength across the UK is openly LGBT+.

Score: 16


4. Plaid Cymru

Strengths

Again, Plaid Cymru have consistently, and without exception, voted in favour of greater rights for the LGBT+ community. The Party of Wales also boasted an impressive roster of pro-LGBT+ ideas in their 2015 manifesto, with six policies ranging from improving access to Gender Identity Clinics in Wales, and overturning the MSM blood ban, an issue the party has led on. 5.88% of the party’s parliamentary and assembly representation is LGBT+.

Weaknesses

Unfortunately for Plaid, there parliamentary presence both in Wales and Westminster, has been scant, meaning their well-intentioned brand of pro-LGBT+ politics has had little effect on the lives of our community. There is no doubting which side of the debate the party falls on, but they have often been too small a party to make a meaningful difference to LGBT+ lives.

Score: 16


3. Green Party 

Strengths

The Greens have been gaining a reputation for being the new frontier of LGBT+ politics in the UK for some years now. They were the first party to support same-sex marriage in 2001, nine years before the pledge was matched by the next major party. The Greens also boasted the joint highest number of new pledges for LGBT+ equality in 2015, with an impressive eleven new policies.  These included innovative ideas to promote education access for Trans people, as well as LGBT+ specific teacher training. The Scottish Greens are jointly-led by openly-gay Patrick Harvie, who makes up 14.29% of their national legislative strength, though there are only seven Greens in office at all.

Weaknesses

Similarly to Plaid Cymru, the Green Party have a history of being too small a party to make much of a difference. The Greens are also ideologically opposed to coalition governments, meaning they are never likely to lead the front for LGBT+ people in office. As well as this, the Greens have adopted the practice of separate LGBTQI manifestos, something many in the community rightly find patronising.

Score: 21


2. Labour Party

Strengths

Without doubt, the Labour Party have led governments with the most changes for LGBT+ equality, including the legalisation of same-sex activity, Civil partnerships and joint and step adoption among other things. In fact, the amount of pro-LGBT+ policies that came to fruition under Labour governments compared to Conservative governments is staggering. In fact 70% of the policies analysed here happened under a Labour government. Impressively for one of the nation’s two largest parties, 4.5% of major elected Labour officials are openly LGBT+.

Weaknesses

However, whilst there is little room to refute New Labour’s achievements, their overall record has been somewhat patchy. The Civil Partnerships legislation which Labour enacted in 2004 was actually drafted by the Liberal Democrats. The Labour government are praised for ‘paving the way’ to same-sex marriage in 2013 but the party did not champion the issue in its 2010 manifesto. Disappointingly, Labour only championed five new policies for LGBT+ people at the 2015 election, again in a segregated manifesto.  Similarly, Peter Tatchell condemned the last Labour government for reneging on promises to ease asylum for LGBT+ individuals. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn must also be questioned for taking up to £20,000 from an Iranian State broadcaster, a nation where gay people are killed for their sexuality, actions he defends.

Score: 31

 


1. Liberal Democrats

Strengths

Britain’s largest liberal party has a long history of supporting LGBT+ rights. The Lib Dems were the first major party to support equal age of consent, the right to change legal gender and were the first party to oppose Section 28 and the MSM blood ban. The Liberals are credited with instigating same-sex marriage in 2013, a policy they have supported since 2010, a pledge not matched by the other two main parties. This was an achievement made with just 8% of MPs, and a bill spearheaded by Lynne Featherstone. As with all of the other major progressive parties, the Lib Dems have voted strongly in favour of LGBT+ rights, and boasted an impressive eleven new LGBT+ policies in their 2015 manifesto, the joint highest.

Weaknesses

However, the party’s role in the Coalition government led to the Lib Dems  opposing some but supporting many of the Conservative’s cuts to public spending. Studies show that the austerity enacted under the Coalition government negatively impacted the LGBT+ community more than the average straight person. Similarly, there are doubts over current leader Tim Farron’s commitment to LGBT+ rights, though he never voted against same-sex marriage as widely reported, he did abstain on one reading, a decision he claims to regret. He also courted controversy for refusing to deny that he thought gay sex was ‘sinful’.

Score: 53


 

Conclusions

From my research in to the history of LGBT+ rights in the UK, it is my belief that there is a grey area as to who is the greatest advocate of LGBT+ policy. Labour have undoubtedly overseen the most instrumental changes for the LGBT+ community whilst in power, but it is equally agreeable that the Lib Dems have had greater success, pound for pound, and have consistently been ahead of the curve compared to Labour and the Tories. The Conservatives remain a deeply divided party, and have as much to be ashamed about as proud about when it comes to their LGBT+ rights record. The civic nationalist parties, the SNP and Plaid Cymru have both proven to be allied with the LGBT+ community but are often hindered by other priorities. The Greens are creating a reputation for being leaders for the LGBT+ community, as evidenced by their impressive future pledges.  It is my belied that UKIP is the only ‘bad’ choice for LGBT+ voters, they are lagging far behind the rest.

I am confident that my points system has delivered the correct verdict, if you wish to comment, offer alternative views or systems of ranking then please share them with me! If you would like to see my workings, please e-mail me here.

#WorldMentalHealthDay: A word on Anxiety

For several years now I have suffered with mental ill health. I never used to talk about my depression or anxiety, not because I’m ashamed to admit or acknowledge my body’s frailties but because I didn’t want to be an encumbrance on people around me. I, like so many others, have come to realise that attitude is wrong.

I used to be a depressive who could not cope with the world, somebody who struggled to function on a daily basis. On World Mental Health Day, I want to share the story of my anxiety, and how I took back my own life.

Mental illness is a hideous thing, it is consumptive, it can take over the very essence of your being, it suffocates you until it renders you unable to fight back. As recently as 18 months ago, I was heading in to an abyss I would have struggled to escape, I was chronically sad, and more importantly for this story, chronically anxious. Anxiety is not simply a state of just being scared of things, it can manifest itself in multiple ways including nervous ticks, irritability and panic attacks.

In fact, it was a panic attack that eventually set me on the path to freedom. I was used to panic attacks at this point in my life, I didn’t experience them that often but they weren’t infrequent either. One afternoon, whilst I was alone in my Dad’s house, I heard several bangs outside. Despite the fact they weren’t particularly loud or close, my stomach sank, and a sense of imminent jeopardy took over me.

I tried to carry on whatever I was doing when the banging sounded again. Instinctively, I flung my body to the ground and crawled in to the hallway. By now, despite lack of any other evidence, I was convinced there was a gunman on the loose in my vicinity.

The banging went on for half an hour, I flitted between sitting in the hallway, on the stairs, and behind the sofa – anywhere where I couldn’t be seen from the window. Eventually, convinced that the ‘assailant’ was getting closer and closer, I ran in to the bathroom, locked the door, and sat in the shower, clutching my knees to my chest. My heart pounded and I sat sobbing, waiting to be killed.

A few minutes passed and the door downstairs opened, I had managed to lock it in the peak of my anxiety, so I knew it was my Dad returning home. I heard him call up to me and I felt a relief like no other. I had ‘survived’ a massacre made by my own mind.

For hours afterwards, I would not stand in eyeshot of any window, I was still terrified, despite the fact neither gunman nor any gunshots had ever existed. That night I returned to my Mum’s house to try and escape the scene of my episode, and whilst there, I made a decision to take back my life from my irrational mind.

It may seem so small to the average person, but I forced myself to go outside and grab a coffee with a friend the very next day. I had to prove to myself that I could be safe outside again, and I had to do it quickly – and it worked. (P.S. thank you, Emma)
Following my traumatic episode, my Mum and Dad came together and got me the help I needed, my Mum came with me to the GP and I was prescribed anti-depressants, and my Dad encouraged me to return to counselling, which helped me learn to rationalise the irrational thoughts that plagued my headspace. Ever since then challenging my illogical thoughts has become easier and easier.

Today, I am able to do things that just two years ago would have been unmanageable. I can go to London on my own, I can go for a coffee on my own, I even managed to live on my own for a year – I am mostly free from my own mind. And even when it tries to snatch back control, I am equipped to put it right back in to place.

The reason I’m sharing this story today is to make it clear that battling mental illness is not easy. My brain was ill, it was imbalanced. If I didn’t get the medical and cognitive help I needed I would still be in that place now. It is not weak to seek help for mental ill health; it’s not even strong; it’s just smart. Mental ill health is real, it is chemical, and it is science. With every other illness you get treatment, don’t let stigma make you treat depression, anxiety or whatever else any differently.

Though, I am far better now, I still suffer. But I have found a recipe for tough love that has helped me manage. I am tough on my anxiety when I have to be, I rationalise and scrutinise each and every nervous, irrational thought I have – it’s gruelling but it’s worth it. And on days when I feel lower than low, I wrap myself in love. I indulge myself with all my favourite things, I remember only the things I like about myself , I remember all the things other people like about me, no matter how small, no matter how few. Eventually, my irrational brain is quietened, and lets me be.

My irrational brain used to be my nemesis, now it is a just a nuisance I could do without, and am doing without.

2016–17 Premier League Predictions

Last year, my Premier League predictions were pretty good, and the end result of the season even better. I haven’t quite been put off giving Premier League premonitions another stab – so without further ado here are my fully unqualified assessments of all 20 clubs.

Arsenal

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Last season: 2nd
Bookies’ prediction: 4th
Random prediction for season: Fans at the Emirates to hold at least one half-hearted “Wenger Out” protest. 

Once more, Arsenal failed to meaningfully challenge for the Premier League title, after apparently winning it with a late winner against 10-man Leicester in February. The Gunners pinned all of their joy on their accidental triumph Spurs last term instead. It seems to be a never-ending case of deja vu with Arsene Wenger, once again he has failed to make any game-changing signings in the transfer window, meaning they’re unlikely to scoop the title. As has become customary, I predict Arsenal settling for a place on the podium without ever really looking close to gold. 3rd. 

Bournemouth

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Last season: 16th
Bookies’ prediction: 14th
Random prediction for season: Eddie Howe to win a Manager of the Month award.

There is no doubt that Bournemouth have one of the country’s most capable managers in Eddie Howe, and after a promising first season in the top-flight, avoiding “Second Season Syndrome” will be the Cherries main aim. I expect next season to be tougher for the South Coast Side but shrewd signings in Lewis Cook and Jordan Ibe should add to a squad capable of keeping their necks above water. 16th.

Burnley

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Last season: 1st (Championship)
Bookies’ prediction: 19th
Random prediction for season: Sean Dyche to bemoan a lack of transfer funds following a defeat to a wealthy side.

The Clarets’ main asset is their togetherness. Sean Dyche has been able to instill a great work ethic and stability to what is, on paper at least, an extremely modest squad. Burnley have done tremendously well in the last three seasons but they don’t seem to have learned from their errors two years ago. Even great teams need quality additions following promotion to the top-flight, and we know given the value of that promotion, Burnley aren’t lacking in cash. Dyche needs to put his money where his mouth is or the Clarets are doomed. 19th.

Chelsea

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Last season: 10th
Bookies’ prediction: 3rd
Random prediction for season: Jose Mourinho to win at the home of his former club.

There is little doubt that last season’s placing belied Chelsea’s actual quality. The Blues have made a good appointment in Antonio Conte and their flagship signing of N’Golo Kanté will prove to be a very good one. That being said, there is little to suggest that any changes this Summer at Stamford Bridge have done enough to eradicate the gap between them and last season’s front runners. A season of rebuilding for Chelsea. 4th.

Crystal Palace

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Last season: 15th
Bookies’ prediction: 12th
Random prediction for season: Alan Pardew to be the first manager sacked.

The Eagles crashed at the end of last season, winning just two league games after Christmas. Alan Pardew is no stranger when it comes to overseeing calamitous spells of form following an extended purple patch. In truth, I fear the second Crystal Palace we saw last season will be a fairer reflection of them this term. They’ve made smart signings in Andros Townsend and Steve Mandanda but their season rests on Pardew’s ability to get them out of a rut. 17th.

Everton

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Last season: 11th
Bookies’ prediction: 9th
Random prediction for season: Romelu Lukaku to score 15+ goals again

Despite their being major upheaval at the senior level of Everton Football Club, the on pitch-personnel remains much the same. Whilst I expect the Toffees’ new found wealth and appointment of Steve Walsh as Director of Football to pay dividends in the long run, their crucial appointment for the next campaign will be Ronald Koeman as manager. He’s a man who possesses the ability to get an underachieving side producing more acceptable results. 9th.

Hull City

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Last season: 4th (Championship)
Bookies’ prediction: 20th
Random prediction for season: Hull to scalp Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium

Hull have seemingly mirrored Burnley’s conservative approach to transfers following their return to the Premier League. That alone would have been enough to make a case for Hull to go straight back down, given how unprepared the looked for the top-flight in the second half of last season. But, as we have learned in the last few days, manager Steve Bruce, who has been integral to their recent success has departed. Things are looking weary on Humberside. 20th.

Leicester City

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Last season: 1st
Bookies’ prediction: 7th
Random prediction for season: Leicester to reach the knock-out stages of the Champions League.

The Champions of England (that feels so good to type) shocked the footballing world last term with their stunning domestic triumph. Whilst, the ‘experts’ are ready to knock the Foxes down a peg or eight, there is little to suggest that Leicester have depreciated as a side. Losing Kanté will be a big blow but the Foxes have recruited well and Demarai Gray and Ben Chilwell can come to the forefront next term too. Leicester’s test this term won’t be maintaining their standards but will be balancing their title defence against an extremely testing schedule and a bigger pool of competition. 5th.

Liverpool

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Last season: 8th
Bookies’ prediction: 5th
Random prediction for season: Liverpool to beat Manchester United at least once.

Despite being lauded by football hipsters the nation over, Jurgen Klopp’s appointment in October 2015 did little to boost Liverpool’s prospects. Of course this is Klopp’s first chance at shaping a side at Anfield from the very start of a campaign and the signings of Sadio Mané, Joel Matip and Georginio Wijnaldum are intriguing but do little to convince me that the Kop will have anything great to shout about this time next season. 7th.

Manchester City

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Last season: 4th
Bookies’ prediction: 1st
Random prediction for season: Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho to have a touchline row. 

Chelsea aside, Manchester City were the most disappointing of all the ‘big boys’ last season. A squad that has delivered so much in recent years was reduced to a damp squib with the Citizens barely keeping pace until February. Pep Guardiola’s appointment should prove to be a masterstroke. He’s the man in management with the Midas touch, if anyone can reinvigorate this side then it is him – and I predict he will do just that. 1st.

Manchester United

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Last season: 5th
Bookies’ prediction: 2nd
Random prediction for season: Ibrahimovic to be United’s top goalscorer.

It will be intriguing to see how Jose Mourinho’s managerial prowess has been affected by the calamitous form that led to his Chelsea exit. Whilst there is no doubt Mourinho is a world class manager and that are United are one of the world’s great clubs, both have known better times. Mourinho should be able to get Manchester United to loftier heights than his predecessor, particularly if his big-money motormouth can score goals. 2nd.

Middlesbrough

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Last season: 2nd (Championship)
Bookies’ prediction: 18th
Random prediction for season: Middlesbrough to beat Sunderland home and away.

It’s been a fair old while since Premier League football graced Teeside, and it’s never been readier for it’s return than right now. Thanks to excellent facilities and a top-class manager, Middlesbrough have arguably done the best transfer business pound for pound. The recruitment of Alvaro Negredo and Victor Valdes are statements of real intent. I would have made a real case for Boro surviving without these marquee signings but with these star turns included, I’d say their survival is near certain. 12th. 

Southampton

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Last season: 6th
Bookies’ prediction: 10th
Random prediction for season: Southampton to beat Koeman’s Everton at home.

When will people learn? There is nothing Southampton do better than rebuilding. Sadio Mané, Graziano Pellé and, of course, Ronald Koeman are the big names out the door this Summer but there core of a squad that broke the top 6 last term remains. The Saints will continue to make the smart recruitments and rebuild once more. It’s not like Claude Puel is a bad appointment either. In other words, Southampton are far from panic stations but equally far from progressing. 10th. 

Stoke City

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Last season: 9th
Bookies’ prediction: 11th
Random prediction for season: Stoke to lose at home on a cold Tuesday night.

Stoke City are without doubt the most stagnant club in the Premier League. Mark Hughes’ men have remained virtually unchanged but there were early signs last season that this Stoke side’s best days were behind them. There are too many teams in the division worse than Stoke for them to fall in to any real trouble this term, but it could be a precursor of what is to come if the Potters continue to rest on their laurels.  13th. 

Sunderland

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Last season: 17th
Bookies’ prediction: 16th
Random prediction for season: Sunderland to be relegated on the final day of the season.

Things looked rosy for Sunderland at the end of May, with yet another great escape accomplished and bitter rivals Newcastle dumped out of the division in the process. In fact, Sam Allardyce’s side look buoyed by survival, in part, spearheaded by their January signings. Now, Big Sam has taken over the national helm and David Moyes has taken post back in England. Things may play out all too familiarly for the Black Cats but Moyes’ more conservative approach directly opposes the gutsy displays Allardyce had managed to instill in his former side. That attitude suited Sunderland and reversing that could be their downfall.  18th. 

Swansea City

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Last season: 12th
Bookies’ prediction: 13th
Random prediction for season: Swansea to resign Wilfried Bony before the end of Summer.

I ambitiously tipped Swansea to break the top six last season, and let’s face it, I was very wrong. However, I still believe that Swansea are a tidy side, and one that improved under Francesco Guidolin. If the Swans can keep hold of their best players and snag Wilfried Bony back from Manchester City, then there is every reason to believe they will be comfortable this season.  11th. 

Tottenham Hotspur

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Last season: 3rd
Bookies’ prediction: 6th
Random prediction for season: Harry Kane to score less than 20 goals next season.

I’m in two minds about this Spurs side. There is clearly an abundance of young talent in the squad, and a manager capable of nurturing it. But last season’s capitulation is psychologically crucial, when sides experience these dramatic dips they go one of two ways – it makes them stronger, or it hits them for six. Given how Harry Kane and Dele Alli performed in the Euros, it seems as if things may need to get worse at Spurs before they get a whole lot better. Contenders in waiting, but not now. 6th. 

Watford

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Last season: 13th
Bookies’ prediction: 17th
Random prediction for season: Watford to survive an entire season without a managerial swap.

The Hornets looked sharp following their return to the Premier League, in fact, had it not been for Leicester, they would have been the story of the early party of the season by keeping the pace with the top six. Watford have done well to keep hold of their captain Troy Deeney but it’s their trigger happy approach to managers that concerns me. We often see that stability breeds success in the modern game, and Watford’s set up is anything but stable. 15th. 

West Bromwich Albion

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Last season: 14th
Bookies’ prediction: 15th
Random prediction for season: Tony Pulis to leave his post by the end of the season.

The Baggies are at a similar crossroads to their West Midlands rivals, Stoke. They’re comfortable in mid-table – so do they stick or twist? Just like the Potters they’ve chosen the former. Under Pulis, West Brom have been moulded in to a sturdy outfit, assured defensively and resolute, there is little progression to be seen in this squad, and that should worry those at the Hawthorns. It is well documented that Tony Pulis has never led a side to relegation from the top-flight but that record is in great danger. 14th. 

West Ham United

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Last season: 7th
Bookies’ prediction: 8th
Random prediction for season: The Hammers to win their opening game at the Olympic Stadium.

West Ham are a side I criminally under-rated last term, I expected them to struggle following Sam Allardyce’s departure but instead they came on leaps and bounds. Again, if it wasn’t for my own club’s exploits, West Ham would have adourned many more plaudits last season. If Slaven Bilic can keep hold of Dimitri Payet, who is the focal point of the Hammers’ exhilarating attack then expect them to have another exciting season, this time in a new home. 8th. 

The Leicester City Alternate End of Season Awards 2015–16

The Claridge Shin ‘Scenes of the Season’ Award

Oooya fuckoh… Hazard’s goal gives City the title

We’re going to kick off (pun intended) this year’s set of awards with a bit of controversy. Whilst the joyous and vociferous celebrations after Leonardo Ulloa and Nathan Dyer scored their crucial late winners against Norwich and Aston Villa, this year’s award is going to an off-the-pitch moment. The 2016 recipient is Hazard’s goal against Spurs. How could it possibly be anything else? Chisits across the globe piled in to bars and pubs to watch Spurs go toe-to-toe with the incumbent champions. After a sparkling first half from Tottenham, things looked bleak, and Chelsea look bruised…both physically and mentally. But Gary Cahill pulled one back and Eden Hazard, Leicester legend found the equaliser with a one hit wonder to make Owl City blush, sparking the wildest celebrations Leicester has ever seen.

The Dennis Wise ‘Twunt of the Year’ Award

Chat shit get banged…

So many contenders, well, there always are. This year’s winner is so deserving of this spack-olade, Jon Moss. Mr. Moss, has two choices; accept that he knows nothing about football or that he’s an attention-seeking foghead desperate for a part in Jamie Vardy’s Hollywood biopic. Of course, if he was actually given that choice it would be the wrong one. Apparently, winning the ball in a slide tackle and tangling legs with a defender merits a red card but grievous bodily harm on four counts doesn’t if you’re wearing a West Ham shirt. I will still never forgive this dumpy attention seeking moron for sending Schmeichel off at Nottingham Forest for throwing the ball back to the centre circle. Perhaps Jon Moss should take up a new career at Gringotts bank, he certainly looks the part.

The Yann Kermorgant ‘Stupid Decision of the Year’ Award

HOOOOOOOF…. Huth fires the ball in to Row Z… of the West Stand

I was going to give this award to Riyad Mahrez, for deciding to take and miss yet another penalty away at Aston Villa, which ended up costing us two points. But, then I remembered that that’s ridiculously harsh and I owe our resident Algerian some reparations for not voting for him in the actual End of Season awards. So instead, this year’s winner is letting Robert Huth take *that* free-kick. I love Robert Huth, he’s a frighteningly good centre-back who could part a tidal wave by his sheer presence but taking set pieces clearly aren’t his strong suit. In fact, the shot was so bad, it was probably closer to a Stoke corner than a Leicester goal-kick. Either way, it was good for a laugh – same old Leicester, taking the piss.

The Zoumana Bakayogo ‘Signing of the Season’ Award

This justification is somewhat of an open love letter to my favourite player, so here it goes; N’Golo Kanté is a phenomenon. No, not a phenomenal footballer, just a phenomenon. Describing him as a footballer would imply that he’s human when he clear isn’t. Golo is clearly a sentient god-like being sent to planet Earth as some sort of reward for inventing the beautiful game. There is nothing this guy cannot do. He flies from box-to-box in minute one and minute ninety three, extending his Stretch Armstrong legs to win the ball every…single…time. If you don’t love him for his alien sporting abilities alone like how cute/cool he is in the gif above. Genius.

The Alan Birchenall & Tony Currie ‘Romantic Moment of the Season’ Award

One King in Leicester…

Romantic moment of the season? I should just choose the whole sodding thing. The entire story, sub-plots included is like a literary masterpiece. A squad of rejects bound by a brotherly bond, representing a self-deprecating club that has underachieved for 130 years, in comes a man with the same history of underachievement. In a climate of uncertainty, the nearly man and the nearly club combine and this band of brothers win the league at odds of 5000/1, led by three players who were lower league nobodies just months before. What a season and story it’s been. Wes Morgan lifting that trophy was a sight I’ll never forget but the real romance was portrayed by a latter holder of the famous trophy. Seeing Andy King lift that trophy was special. He is a man who has stuck with this club at it’s lowest ebb, for his entire career and has been rewarded for his fierce loyalty in the most glorious way, in an era of football where players are so fickle. To cap it off, it was fitting to see King score on Leicester’s historic coronation, a true Filbert Way great getting his just desserts.

The Claudio Ranieri ‘Claudiism’ of the Year Award

Ranieri is a such a charismatic man. His forays in to the media’s all pervasive glare couldn’t be more different from his predecessor’s. Whilst Nigel Pearson was more adept at measured snarling, King Claudio is much more jovial, so much so that his Dilly Ding Dilly Dong outburst will long live in the memory of Leicester City folklore. It has taken on a life of it’s own, a popular slogan, a disgustingly catchy chant. Claudio has become every fan’s surrogate grandfather, a man you just cannot dislike no matter what, with a charisma so stringent he can melt the most sour-faced Foxes fan like butter. Thank you for blessing our club with your footballing prowess and charming humour, we owe you a pizza.

The Paul Gallagher ‘We Forgot That You Were Here’ Award

Spuds… Spurs bottled it

How’s the head, Tottenham Hotspur? I know crying relentlessly can be really dehydrating. So… when exactly are you coming for us? We have one game left this season and we’re ten points clear. In fact, since you started singing that, we’ve pulled further away from you. So,  are you coming to get us after you write us off as ‘nobodies’? Are you coming after your fan groups make a video on YouTube so arrogantly explaining why you’ll win the league on goal difference, despite being so far behind? Or are you coming after your entire outfield side gets suspended for kicking seven bells out of Chelsea in a futile attempt to keep your title hopes alive? By the way, are we the same ‘nobodies’ that have spent eleven times as many days top of the Premier League this season than Spurs have in their history? There’s no doubt that Spurs had a great season, they’ve been a truly exhilarating side to watch, but you didn’t finish 1st in the most important statistical ranking -so thanks for the tacit competition, you made it interesting for a few weeks but we are the champions, and your 2015/16 season will be a forgotten footnote in football history.

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.