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Western Vaccine Nationalism Risks Prolonging the COVID-19 Pandemic

By Ben Askew | Wednesday 3rd March 2021

Unequal access to healthcare has long been a contentious issue in international politics. According to anti-poverty charity OXFAM, an estimated 90% of people in 67 low-income countries will not be vaccinated against the coronavirus this year due to Western vaccine hoarding. Experts say that failing to vaccinate less developed countries risks prolonging the pandemic.

Western nations have vaccine supplies that far exceed demand. The UK’s 407 million doses are more than enough to inoculate the entire population and those living in crown dependencies and British Overseas Territories. Similarly, The EU has bought over 1.6 billion doses, despite only having a population of 375 million. On the other side of the Atlantic, Canada has secured 188 million doses for its adult population of 32 million.

There is a somewhat reasonable excuse for these mass vaccine procurements: uncertainty concerning the efficacy of vaccines when the respective nations purchased them. However, now that these nations know that they have enough effective vaccine doses, they should donate the surplus to developing economies.

Experts warn that unless poorer countries vaccinate their populations against the coronavirus, the virus will continue to spread, increasing the likelihood of vaccine-resistant mutations emerging. “No one country can feel safe until every country has taken precautions to vaccinate its population,” says World Trade Organisation Director Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.

Failing to inoculate less developed nations is wrong and leaves the world open to the threat of vaccine-resistant mutations, but it could also cost the global economy trillions of dollars over the next decade. RAND Europe, a non-profit research organisation, estimates that the cost of allowing COVID-19 to continue circulating will be as high as $1.2 trillion per year, risking the stagnation of the global economy for the foreseeable future.

However, all is not lost. So far, 156 nations, nearly two-thirds of the global population, have joined The WHO COVAX programme, aiming to ensure equitable access to vaccines. Through the initiative, participating countries have guaranteed access to vaccines and the financial support to inject them into their populations’ arms. By the end of 2021, the WHO aims to deliver 2 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines through the programme. So far, The EU has committed $1.2 billion to the fund, and US President Joe Biden has also pledged to provide over $4 billion.

Vaccine nationalism must not become a game of chess amongst the developed world. The COVID-19 pandemic has so far claimed 2.4 million lives globally, and unless wealthy nations take continued steps to address the far-reaching inequalities in vaccine supply, the world will continue to live with this disease and its consequences well into the future.

Featured

Israel – Emirates Peace Deal: To Me, To You, To UAE, to You

by George Wright

Earlier this month, Israel and the United Arab Emirates signed a historic peace agreement: Israel will put aside plans to annex disputed territory in the West Bank in return for Emirati recognition of the Jewish state. Other prominent Arab countries will probably follow suit, with Bahrain and Oman also reportedly keen to normalise their relations with Israel. However, this deal is not only the result of a sudden recognition of the similarities between the two nations but also a realisation of the mutual threat of Iran. 

Iran has pursued an aggressive foreign policy, which has posed a continued threat to Sunni and Jewish populations within the Levant and Arabian Peninsula, since the 1979 Islamic Revolution: Whether it’s financing and controlling Hezbollah, which has used the Lebanese government as its puppet for decades, or mobilising the Al Quds force, headed by General Soleimani, which has carried out untold massacres across Iraq. The long-standing feud between Saudi Arabia and Iran, which has evolved into proxy struggles in Yemen and Iraq, is threatening to go nuclear despite American-led sanctions to prevent this. More and more countries in the Middle East are beginning to realise and recognise the age-old maxim: the enemy of my enemy is my friend. 

Opponents of the deal have taken the predictable line: that this deal has betrayed the Palestinians, who have been ‘sold out’ by the Emirates and other Arab leaders. This criticism is levelled by Qatari broadcaster, Al Jazeera, which has evolved in the last 20 years to be little more than a propaganda platform for ISIS, Al Qaeda, and Iran. As Turkey and Qatar begin to bend to the will of political Islam, with moves such as the recent decision to revert the Hagia Sophia into a mosque, they have started to align themselves more and more with Iran, against the rest of the region. Following the announcement of the peace deal, Turkey is now threatening to sever its ties with UAE.

The UAE has long been a melting pot for the peoples and faiths of the world. Respect for religious freedom is one of the Arab state’s most important principles. As political Islam continues to threaten the leadership of the Gulf States, the UAE has come to realise that they suddenly have mutual allies in Israel, which has long been resisting political Islam, since the Iranian-backed Hamas gained control of Gaza in 2007.

Recent political turmoil in Lebanon, culminating in the Beirut explosion, has left its people desperate for new governance. The Hezbollah-controlled government has lost its grip on power after the entire government resigned this month. As a country of strategic importance in the feud between Israel and Iran, given its proximity to Israel, there will be intense competition to influence its new government. Iran will be keen to keep Lebanon onside to continue attacks against Israel and maintain support for Hamas. Israel will be eager to gain influence so that it can improve its national security. 

What this deal reveals is that despite the heated history between Israel and the Arab States, a more critical threat has emerged in the form of Iran. 

The threat of Iranian expansionism and destruction continues to grow as Hezbollah and Al Quds exert pressure on governments in Beirut and Baghdad and operate militias in the countryside of the Levant. Iran is just a short trip across the Gulf from the Emirates. It has already seized its islands of Abu Masa and The Tunbs, a dispute not easily forgotten by Emirati leadership. Finding allies in the region to counter Iranian expansionism is vital to Emirati and Israeli interests.

The Israeli-Emirati peace deal marks a new chapter in the politics of the Middle East. One with both high risk, but also high reward. How easily will other Arab states recognise Israel and work to contain Iran? 

London vs Beijing: How a pathway to British Citizenship has ignited a diplomatic dispute over Hong Kong

Ben Askew | Thursday 8th April 2021

Hong Kong has long been a valued bridge between China and the West. Over the past 18 months, however, the former British colony has increasingly become a stage for China to showcase a more aggressive foreign policy.

Last summer, the Chinese Communist Party passed The National Security Law. The piece of legislation permits mainland Chinese police to operate within Hong Kong. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has labelled the controversial new law as a “serious breach of the Sino-British Joint Declaration”. The Declaration, signed in 1984 by Chinese Premier Zhao Ziyang and U.K. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, transferred Hong Kong’s sovereignty from Britain to China, establishing “one country, two systems”. Hong Kong became part of China but maintained its own economic and administrative systems. 

Hong Kongers greeted the new law with outrage, with tens of thousands of protesting on the city’s streets. The Vice-Chairman of China’s Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress Wang Chen has stated that China has introduced the law to tackle the “increasingly notable security risks” in the special administrative region, but British Foreign Secretary Dominic Rabb has argued that China is “curtailing” the freedoms of Hong Kong citizens. In recent years, Hong Kong has been the scene of mass protests, which worries neighbouring Mainland China, where citizens do not have the right to protest against the Government. The city has a strong pro-democracy movement, which aims to loosen Beijing’s grip on Hong Kong’s leadership and maintain the freedoms eroded by Chinese interference – namely the rule of law, freedom of speech, and democratic elections. The unrest in 2019 amounted to “one of the largest mass protests in history”, and campaigners were even nominated for the Nobel peace prize in February by US lawmakers.

The British Government recently responded to the new law by introducing a visa pathway scheme, which offers some Hong Kong residents the right to live in the U.K. and a pathway to British citizenship that is not otherwise as easily available. Those eligible include those who hold a British National Overseas (BNO) Passport and their dependents. Up to three million Hong Kongers have received an offer to join the scheme – 70% of its population – and experts expect that around 300,000 will take it up over the next three years. 

Over the past few weeks, the Chinese government has attempted to halt the use of the BNO, instructing 14 governments to stop accepting the passport as a valid form of identification. What has followed has been a series of rebuttals by China, which has argued that the west has fabricated claims of western claims of autocratic Chinese interference in Hong Kong. A spokesperson for China’s foreign ministry has said that the U.K. has “no supervisory power or so-called moral responsibility for Hong Kong after Hong Kong’s return to its motherland and has no qualification or legal basis to interfere in Hong Kong’s affairs”.

Only time will tell whether the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong, alongside possible Western sanctions against China, will have an impact on the ground, but for now, what remains is a diplomatic war of words between China and the U.K., with Hong Kong bearing the brunt of the damage.

Vested interests and a celebrity echo chamber stand in the way of revolutionising Indian farming

Pranoy Roy Choudhury | Wednesday 7th April 2021

Farmers in India have been protesting for months over three new laws passed by the Indian Parliament in September 2020. Although largely peaceful, these protests have turned violent several times. In December, tens of thousands of farmers congregated in New Delhi, the country’s seat of power, attacking law enforcement and damaging public property. The police responded by firing tear gas and water cannons. And in late January, protestors deviated from a pre-sanctioned route and tried to overcome police barricades with deadly weapons, including swords. The confrontation saw the injury of over 300 police and over a thousand farmers. In what the farmers say was an attempt to “suppress the voice of disagreement”, the government blocked internet access at locations outside the city. After 11 rounds of talks and the Indian Supreme Court’s suspension of the laws, the protests rage on. Why?

The farmers demand a complete repeal of the laws, an unreasonable demand that neglects the need for reform. At present, farmers are only allowed to sell their crops at what’s known as an “Agricultural Produce Market Committee”, where the government guarantees them a minimum price. Farmers have campaigned for an increase in these prices for years, but to no avail. Simply put, the government cannot afford to give a pay rise to such an inefficient sector. India’s agricultural market accounts for just 17% of its GDP but 30% of the Indian budget. The new laws propose allowing farmers to sell their crops outside of government-regulated markets (Mandis) while also providing proper legal mechanisms to ensure farmers are protected. Farmers would be able to sell their produce for a higher price than they currently can at the Mandis. “The farmers should get the advantage of a big comprehensive market that opens our country to global markets”, believes the country’s prime minister, Narendra Modi

The protests generate many headlines, but the new laws are not nearly as controversial as they may seem. Only 3 out of 29 Indian states oppose the new laws. Punjab is the most vocal, which is unsurprising when we look at who benefits the most from the Mandis.

While the Indian government established the Mandis to prevent farmers’ exploitation, the government-regulated markets have achieved the opposite. Like most middlemen, the Mandis started cartels, setting prices of goods at their discretion, much to the farmer’s detriment. On the other hand, Punjab has significantly benefited from the Mandis as their farmers cultivate the most significant share of rice and wheat, the two products covered by the enforcement of minimum pricing.

There has been a mixed response from the international community towards the reforms and the resulting protests. The IMF’s chief economist Gita Gopinath highlighted the importance of the reforms in achieving increased incomes for farmers. Meanwhile, pop star Rihanna shared a CNN article supporting the farmers coupled with the tweet “why aren’t we talking about this?”. An immense backlash from the Indian public ensued towards Rhianna, who has also been promoting her brand Savage X Fenty whilst posing semi-nude, sporting a pendant with the Hindu God Ganesh. Reports of alleged child labour in India to mine mica for Rhianna’s beauty line have also emerged. Other international voices who have spoken against the reforms include climate change activist Greta Thunberg, who stands in solidarity with the farmers, despite their emphatic demands to remove fines for stubble burning that has resulted in Delhi having one of the poorest air qualities in the world, a fact which completely counters the environmental philosophy which should underpin contemporary climate activism. 

The message of how vital the need for reform is to the future of Indian farming finds itself lost in an echo chamber that prioritises the convenience of virtue signalling over a self-evident good.

Princess Latifa’s Plight: How Gender Inequality Prevails in the 21st Century

by Eden Singh | Thursday 11th March 2021

In recent years, Dubai has undergone a remarkable transformation from a desert to a global metropolis. However, there has been no such transformation in the rights that women enjoy in the city. Emirati women, like countless other women, continue the fight against sexist laws and customs. The plight of Princess Latifa Al Maktoum, the daughter of Dubai’s ruler, exemplifies this fight.

“I’m not allowed to drive, I’m not allowed to travel or leave Dubai at all,” Latifa said in a video she recorded before embarking on her heroic quest for freedom three years ago. She and her friend Tiina Jauhianen fled Dubai seeking political asylum. Deplorably, eight days later, Latifa was abducted and returned to Dubai. She is making headlines again after releasing another video recording, this time revealing that her father is imprisoning her.

While being held hostage by her family, Latifa had secret communication with the outside world, but that has stopped. There is now a deep concern for the Princess’s life. #FreeLatifa, a group campaigning for the release of Latifa and women’s rights in the UAE, has urged the UN to visit the Princess immediately. The UN has requested the UAE government to provide them with proof that Latifa is alive, but the only response received by the UN is a statement from the Dubai royal family claiming that the Princess “is being cared for at home”. Kenneth Roth, head of the human rights charity, Human Rights Watch, argues that the royal statement is a cover-up and cannot be trusted until we hear from the Princess herself.

“The phenomena of sexism and misogyny are global.”

As’ad AbuKhalil, research fellow, Centre for Middle Eastern Studies

Princess Latifa’s story is a reminder of gender inequality in the Middle East. However, as As’ad AbuKhalil, a research fellow at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, says, “the phenomena of sexism and misogyny are global, not peculiar…to the Middle East”. Significant gender disparities exist. According to the UN, more than two-thirds of the world’s 786 million illiterate people are women. In 18 countries, husbands can legally prevent their wives from working, and in 49, there are no laws to protect women from domestic violence. To most of us, these are merely statistics. It is the reality for millions of women worldwide.

Reading about stories like that of the Princess enables those of us who had the privilege of an education, have the freedom to travel, and the liberty to express ourselves to imagine what life would be like without those fundamental human rights. It also reminds us to be thankful for the strength, determination, and courage of the women who fought for them.  

Here are five small but significant steps you can take to promote gender equality both at home and internationally:

The women who came before us endured a long struggle for the rights that we enjoy today; that won’t be over until every woman in every corner of the world enjoys the same rights. 

Foreign Policy Under President Biden: A Return to the Status Quo?

By Pranoy Roy Choudhury | Monday 15th February 2021

After President Trump spent a long four years pursuing an isolationist “America First” foreign policy, President Biden will revert to interventionism. For Jake Sullivan, Biden’s National Security Advisor, a world led by America is a world where everyone is better off. And what is Sullivan’s idea of a world led by America? To answer that, we only need to look at America’s role in the Middle East during the Obama years, which saw regime change in Libya and the rise of radical terrorist outfits groups like ISIS, facilitated by American support of other terrorist groups, like Al-Qaeda. These policy decisions were at the behest of Sullivan, who was Director of Policy Planning at the State Department and Deputy Chief of Staff to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

While Sullivan is a familiar face, foreign policy won’t be the same as under Obama. The Biden Presidency is likely to drive a tougher strategic policy against China, a shift from Obama’s Asian Pivot strategy, and also against Russia. After Trump, relations between Beijing and Washington are severely strained, and are likely to continue to be, with Biden’s Secretary of State Anthony Blinken issuing a hostile warning that the Biden Administration would “consistently and aggressively enforce American trade laws anytime foreign cheating posed a threat to American jobs”. Biden’s actions towards China could be heavily compromised if taken into account with the alleged dealings his son, Hunter Biden, engaged in with a Chinese tycoon and for which Hunter Biden is under investigation. These allegations may yield baseless claims about foreign policy motives, but this is for federal investigators to show. 

The so-called “special relationship” with Britain will also be different under Biden. Obama and Cameron allegedly enjoyed a bromance, but we shouldn’t expect a similar relationship to emerge between Biden and Johnson. While Johnson led the UK’s campaign to leave the European Union, Biden vocally opposed it. Biden and his team were also unimpressed with the UK’s threat to break the Northern Ireland Protocol. With the terms of the divorce between the UK and EU finally finalised, the Biden Administration will also have to decide how to respond accordingly. For decades, American companies have been using the UK as the base of business operations in Europe. Brexit will make this more challenging. To continue to facilitate American business in Europe, Biden will have to respond with an alternative. 

Biden expects to revive Obama’s nuclear deal in the Middle East, but again, it won’t be business as usual. Biden has committed to lifting sanctions only after Iran agrees to comply with the terms set out in the deal, and so far, Iran has proven to be stubborn. The Abraham Accords between Israel, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States also mean that a two-state solution, pursued by Obama, is unlikely, as all three nations have agreed to a treaty that has virtually no Palestinian support. Biden has backed the Accords. 

Avril Haines’ appointment as Director of Intelligence means that America is likely to execute its foreign policy in an increasingly remote and emotionally detached way. When Haines was a legal adviser for Obama’s National Security Council, she played a significant role in the Administration’s controversial drone strike programme. Haines is in the driving seat in her new position, and we should expect to see a greater portion of American warfare conducted without the need to put boots on the ground. 

It’s concerning to contemplate greater use of these technologies because they absolve states from the horrors of war, for they do not have enough skin in the game and can cause chaos and destruction at their discretion. The greater use of drones, coupled with an interventionist foreign policy, could be a matter of worry for states that stand at an ideological impasse with the United States. America will also no longer have the emotional backlash of a public who see their soldiers come home in body bags to act as a form of check and balance.

Approaches towards China, Britain, and the Middle East indicate a change in substance from the Obama years, but the appointment of Avril Haines as the Director of National Intelligence also indicates a worrying shift in style.

UK Terrorism Threat Level Raised to “Severe”

By Grace Rollison | Wednesday 27th January 2021

A few months ago, the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre (JTAC) increased the terrorist threat level from “substantial” to “severe”. An attack in the U.K. is now highly likely, but intelligence agencies lack specific knowledge of imminent threats. “Severe” is the fourth-highest threat level in the five-tier system: low, moderate, substantial, severe, and critical. Urging the public to be “alert but not alarmed”, Home Secretary Priti Patel has downplayed the threat to the country’s national security, but we should not consider this as merely a precautionary measure. 

The JTAC decided to raise the threat level in the wake of a wave of deadly terror attacks across Europe. However, the situation may even be more precarious than “severe”. Indeed, terrorists have successfully executed attacks in this country with the threat level judged lower than it is now. Despite the government’s call for calm, it is a possibility that terrorist intelligence will fly under the radar.

In September, a group of seven terrorists killed two people outside the former offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris. The attack occurred alongside a high-profile trial involving 14 individuals accused of helping jihadists carry out the 2015 Charlie Hebdo attacks. French Interior Minister Gérald Moussa Darmanin said that the recent attack was “clearly an act of Islamist terrorism”. Just a month later, in October, Paris was targeted again. An 18-year-old man decapitated History teacher Samuel Paty outside his secondary school after showing a caricature of the Prophet Muhammad by Charlie Hebdo to his pupils. On 29th October, France was shocked by yet another Islamist attack, when Brahim Aouissaoiu knifed three people to death outside a church in Nice. In an audio message found on his phone, Aouissaoiu described France as a “country of unbelievers.” French officials have stepped up security at places of worship across the country. The French Interior Minister has warned that there would be more attacks, as he declared a war against “Islamist ideology”. 

Elsewhere in Europe, a man wearing a fake suicide bomb vest, and armed with an automatic rifle, a pistol, and a machete opened fire at the “Bermuda Triangle”, a popular area for nightlife in Vienna. The shooter, Kujtim Fejzulai, was well known to the authorities and was sent to prison two years ago for attempting to travel to Syria and join the Islamic State. 

The U.K. has responded to this recent spate of attacks with vigilance. The move to “severe” will mean a visible increase in policing in public and crowded spaces, as well as locations considered to be symbolic or iconic, which are desirable targets for terrorists. The threat level has been higher than “severe” on several occasions:  in 2006 following the discovery of a plot to blow up as many as ten planes flying from Britain to the U.S., in 2007 following the car attack on Glasgow Airport, in 2017 the day after the Manchester Arena suicide bombing, and in 2017 following the Parsons Green attack on the London Underground. 

However, is the U.K. being vigilant enough? The JTAC decided to lower the threat level from “severe” to “substantial” shortly before the 7th July 2005 bombings, a decision that continues to haunt the JTAC. Hopefully, this decision will not come back to haunt them.

The incident also sparked intense debate on the role of intelligence (and intelligence gaps) in counterterrorism and security, following reports which found that the 7/7 bombers came under surveillance, but not deemed a high enough priority to investigate thoroughly. Alongside this, the growing contemporary prevalence of so-called ‘lone wolf’ predominantly right-wing terrorism and the move from hierarchical to decentralised, cell-like terror networks also make detecting potential attacks increasingly difficult. 

The above discussion does raise questions about just how secure British security services can be in their assessment that there is no specific intelligence on a future attack. Indeed, intelligence collection is a highly complex process, facing issues surrounding resources, secrecy, and lack of international collaboration. However, it is crucial to acknowledge these limitations when analysing the current threat level to the U.K. and to not be overzealous in proclaiming our security, especially in the face of such severe threats.

The UK is lucky that the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine works

By Alexander Hoffman | Thursday 26th November

In the past fortnight, we have seen a wave of significant developments in Coronavirus vaccines. Pfizer/BioNTech were the first to announce a vaccine with 90% efficacy, and Moderna followed shortly after, touting a vaccine with 95% efficacy. In the world of vaccines, these are the best efficacy rates for which one could hope. The Flu vaccine is just 40-60% effective, so this is excellent news, indeed.

However, for the UK, the announcement of the highly effective Moderna vaccine wasn’t exactly great news, as this is one of the vaccines that the UK government hadn’t pre-ordered. This mistake was probably due to a high price when considering its likelihood of efficacy, given its experimental nature.

The UK already purchased 40 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, which uses the same experimental technique. It couldn’t afford the gamble. The EU, however, decided it could, and ordered hundreds of millions of doses of both vaccines, placing an order for 300 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine, and a last-minute order of 120 million doses of the Moderna vaccine.

After Moderna announced that its vaccine is highly effective, the UK managed to scramble together a last-minute deal to secure 5 million doses of the vaccine, but this was obviously at a higher cost than if it had participated in the EU’s vaccine procurement scheme.

The vaccines, while highly effective, have their drawbacks. Both vaccines are stored at ultra-cold temperatures, making it difficult to administer them in standard healthcare settings. Meanwhile, Oxford/AstraZeneca announced this week that their vaccine is up to 90% effective and requires an average fridge temperature, allowing for the use of existing food and drink infrastructure as the spine of the vaccine distribution network

In this case, it appears that the UK didn’t lose out, as it has 100 million doses of the Oxford vaccine on pre-order, allowing everyone in the country to be vaccinated sometime next year. It also has 40 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine. However, had the UK not been so lucky, and the Oxford/AstraZeneca failed, it would have been kicking itself over its failure to acquire doses of a second effective vaccine.

The Murder of George Floyd

*This article has been written by a white student and is offering their perspective on what other white people, as well as themselves, can do to recognise their privilege, and work to undo systemic, institutionalized racism in our society. ‘ I know I will never understand, but I will always stand’.

On Monday 25th May, another Black man, George Floyd, was murdered by a white policeman in America. The policeman, Derek Chauvin, was filmed kneeling on Mr Floyd’s neck for eight minuets, and forty five seconds. Two other policemen held Floyd down, and another ‘controlled’ the crowd. All  while Floyd shouted ‘I can’t breathe’, until he lost consciousness and died.

 As a white woman, I cannot fathom the feelings of Black people both in America and across the world, the privilege of having white skin will never allow me to understand the fear of Black people going about their everyday lives.

This however, does not mean white people should be silent. We have benefitted from a system which has discriminated against people of colour for centuries. Since Britain began colonising nations, to the first shipment of slaves of which profits built cities such as Newcastle and Bristol, racism has been institutionalized within Britain and America, to ensure white people benefitted from being white.

A saying which is very commonplace for understanding white privilege explains that white privilege accepts that you may have faced hardships, however these were not due to the colour of your skin. It is thus our duty to undo centuries of systemic oppression. It is our duty to teach about colonization in schools, it is our duty to be uncomfortable. It is our duty to be called out for appropriating certain parts of Black culture that we deem ‘acceptable’.

It is not the responsibility of Black people to fight for their equality. As white people, it is our responsibility to address the system we created, we benefit from and to educate ourselves and fight for a system free of injustice. Before the heroics start, and the ‘likes’ pour in, white people should understand that we should not be seen as ‘fighters’ or ‘the good ones’ for standing up against racism, for we would should never have been benefitting from a corrupt system in the first place.

We should have been outraged since Emmett Till was sentenced to death on false accusations with a biased trial that only cared about white opinion. We should still be outraged over the murder of Michael Brown, being shot six times was no accident by the white police. We should still be outraged when Eric Garner also screamed ‘I can’t breathe’. His words should never have found home in another dying black mans last breaths.

American history, since its colonization, was built on status differentiation and white supremacy. It is not the ‘land of the free’ until Native Americans have what’s left of their land and ancestral sites back. It is not the ‘land of the free’ until Native American land is not torn apart for pipelines, their culture not appropriated globally at Halloween, and their genocide not swept over like that of the Aborigines in Australia.

 It is not the ‘land of the free’ until every school teaches about America’s role in the slave trade, slavery in America and the repression of the rights of Black people to this day. It is not the ‘land of the free’ until there is collective action from a white population whose ignorance towards issues of race and injustice is as astounding as Britain’s denial to face its colonial and imperialist history.

It is not the ‘land of the free’ until the rate of black male arrests is unbiased.

African-American adults are 5.9 times as likely to be incarcerated than whites. As of 2001, one of every three black boys born in that year could expect to go to prison in his lifetime, as could one of every six Latinos—compared to one of every seventeen white boys. In 2016, Black Americans comprised 27% of all individuals arrested in the United States—double their share of the total population. Black youth accounted for 15% of all U.S. children yet made up 35% of juvenile arrests in that year.  It must be stressed that the rise  of mass incarceration begins with disproportionate levels of police contact with African Americans.

It is imperative white people take accountability for their role in allowing the continuation of institutionalized, systemic racism that perpetrates the ideology that discrimination is a ‘Black peoples problem’. It is instead necessary that we change ourselves and our institutions.

 It was a white officer that murdered George Floyd.

It was white officers who did not stop him.

It is a white settler society that now rules an already occupied indigenous land, it is a white settler society built off the backs of slaves, the genocide of Native Americans, and the compliance to live in a society where Black people are continuously murdered by white people. There should have been protests every day for the fact Black people are three times more likely to be killed by police than white people. There should have been protests every day that police killed 1,099 people in 2019, and that Black people were 24% of those killed despite being only 13% of the population .  Another Black person should not have had to die to recognise what has been happening in America, and Britain, for centuries.

It is, and always has been imperative to address racism in all its forms, and Britain is certainly not exempt from this task. We, the white people, must be outraged that everyday by being compliant, we are killing Black people and people of colour. We must confront uncomfortable truths about who we are, and how our western, liberal societies came to be.

This rage should not die out. It is long overdue that we address one of, if not the, most deep rooted injustices in our society. As Desmond Tutu famously said: ‘If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor’.

George Floyd should not have died that day. It is as simple and as complex as that.

 May the injustice being faced by Black people and people of colour be finally, properly addressed. Our complacency, our sympathy is not beneficial. We must stand as allies, we must deconstruct the basis of our society, until it no longer forces the life out of Black people and people of colour.

Written by Sarah Tennent

SIGN THE PETITIONS/DONATE HERE-

Black Lives Matter UK Fund- https://www.gofundme.com/f/ukblm-fund

The Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust- https://www.stephenlawrence.org.uk/support-us/donate/

The Minnesota Freedom Fund- https://minnesotafreedomfund.org/

Justice for Belly Mujinga- https://www.change.org/p/govia-thameslink-justice-for-belly-mujinga

Justice for Breonna Taylor- https://www.standwithbre.com/

Petition to suspend UK export of tear gas, rubber bullets and riot shields to USA- https://www.change.org/p/suspend-uk-export-of-tear-gas-rubber-bullets-and-riot-shields-to-usa

Petition for the UK government to condemn President Trump’s response to BLM protests- https://www.change.org/p/boris-johnson-the-uk-government-must-condemn-trump-s-response-to-the-murder-of-george-floyd?utm_content=cl_sharecopy_22522561_en-GB%3Av3&recruited_by_id=d21766b0-a5a4-11ea-9a05-b3d780603ee9&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=copylink&utm_campaign=psf_combo_share_initial&utm_term=4931b21bd4f04c7cbdd896d94658b364&pt=AVBldGl0aW9uAMGqVwEAAAAAXtew7gG9E6s5OWZkZjM3ZA%3D%3D

Petition for British schools to implement teaching British children about Black history- https://www.change.org/p/gavin-williamson-mp-teach-british-children-about-the-realities-of-british-imperialism-and-colonialism?recruiter=1100366940&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=facebook&utm_campaign=share_petition&recruited_by_id=63f782c0-a35e-11ea-8907-8fc7af712ec3&use_react=false

Reading List to educate yourself-

Nikesh Shukla – The Good Immigrant: 26 Writers Reflect on America

Layla Saad – Me and White Supremacy: How to Recognise Your Privilege, Combat Racism and Change the World

Reni Eddo-Lodge – Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race

Akala – Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire

Ibram X. Kendi – How To Be an Antiracist

Wesley Lowery – They Can’t Kill Us All: The Story of Black Lives Matter

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TfL’s Bailout and London’s regional powers conflict

Coronavirus has up-ended and changed our society in ways that we may not yet be fully coming to terms with. The economy has been required to largely shut down, companies furloughing workers left and right and institutions of government up and down the country have been thrown into severe crisis management mode. In local government, councils up and down in the country have been rallying around protecting their most essential services and completely rethinking how they engage with residents and take decisions in an era of social distancing. In the local authority where I am a councillor, Sutton in South West London, our officers and contractors have responded to the challenges all of this poses extremely well; adapting to work from home requirements incredibly quickly.

But these working from home arrangements have had a major impact on the economy, arguably no more so than for public transport. Mainline rail companies have, according to some, been de facto nationalised; their franchise contracts temporarily suspended. Transport for London (TfL) has also fully complied with national guidelines (such as they were at the time), strongly urging commuters to stay at home and not travel. Furthermore, making all urgently needed travel on buses effectively free by removing the need to ‘touch in’ when boarding to limit the potential for infection. These extreme measures have, however, had an almost unbelievably massive impact on TfL’s finances, explored in extreme detail in an excellent article from London Reconnections, causing TfL to lose upwards of £150 million a week in lost fare income. In recent weeks, this lost income has seen TfL sounding the alarm over it’s long-term viability necessitating urgent action from Government, as the only body able to refinance TfL to this degree, to ensure that services could operate to allow key workers to continue doing their essential work.

While these warnings from TfL have now been heeded, and Government has provided TfL with the much needed cash to continue operating, the move has kicked off a major political bunfight across the capital and beyond. This fighting centres on some of the specific arrangements the Government is requiring TfL make, and indeed the necessity of the deal at all. For instance, Conservative politicians including their Mayoral candidate for the rescheduled 2021 election have launched fierce attacks against the Mayor claiming the deal is the result of wasteful spending by the Labour Mayor of London. While Lib Dem Mayoral candidate, Siobhan Benita has joined local campaigners in attacking the Silvertown Tunnel initiative, in general left-of-centre parties including the Lib Dems and the Greens have joined Labour in defending the necessity of the deal to keep essential services running. Political battle lines are now inevitably being drawn, around these fault-lines amid concern that Government is slowly undermining and encroaching on London’s regional government.

This entire debate- which will no doubt rage on right up to election day in 2021- does however provide an extremely interesting parallel to a major political fight between London’s previous regional government- the Greater London Council (GLC)- found itself in with the boroughs in the 1980s. Throughout the 1980s, Conservative politicians nationally and locally challenged the then-Labour controlled GLC over changes to fares policies. This challenge would eventually boil over into widespread discussion within Conservative circles about the continued feasibility of regional government in London; culminating in the GLC’s abolition in 1986. While the decision to challenge these transport policies did not outright lead to the GLC’s abolition, it certainly did set in train a discursive snowball.

Are we seeing a similar trend now? A conservative administration nationally, with a large majority fiercely attacking a divisive Labour administration in City Hall while Conservative members show increasingly hostile attitudes to the devolution of power, away from Westminster?

While we might not necessarily be seeing history repeat itself- at this stage it would be unwise to make a pronouncement either way- we can say with some certainty that history is rhyming right about now.

Written by Jake Short