Sarah Stook

Relatability and Envy

At the Sky News Q&A, both Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer were asked to reveal something about themselves that would show the real them. Starmer was also accused of being a robot by a voter. Sunak waffled on about his love of sugary food. Starmer basically went on autopilot.

Did it work? No. Both just looked stupid.

It was an unfortunate question really. The problem is that politicians have become obsessed with being relatable. They’ll shed their political image like a snake in order to win a few votes. It can be talking about TV shows, playing sports or just mentioning something from popular culture. They have to look like they’re one of us.

It also ties in with a politics of envy. A number of politicians who are wealthy or come from good families play down their backgrounds or hide from it. The idea that someone from a privileged background can reach the level that they do without envy or scorn is somehow unrealistic in today’s society.

It’s All About the PR

For decades, politics has been a PR game. Who would you have a drink with? Who seems nicest? Who has the best family values? Who is funniest? Policies are put aside in favour of a good photo op and a one-liner that does the rounds on social media.

We’ve seen that in this election, particularly from Sir Ed Davey. He’s had fun going paddle boarding and riding roller coasters. There is no substancing in his messaging, despite the fact that he could make gains from the two major parties collapsing. Whilst the Lib Dems do have a manifesto and probably actual policies, it’s overshadowed by Davey’s antics.

It’s not new either. Even Margaret Thatcher was not immune to it. Aides had her hold a calf for photographers, the poor thing died not long later. David Cameron hugged huskies in snow. Neil Kinnock walked down the beach with his wife. Tony Blair met with Noel Gallagher. Everyone has a gimmick.

The problem is that it is clearly not authentic. Margaret Thatcher wasn’t an animal cuddler. David Cameron isn’t a fan of huskies. Neil Kinnock probably doesn’t do long walks on the beach. Tony Blair doesn’t listen to Oasis. Voters don’t want to see their politicians being hip and cool. They want to see them tackling the issues that we elect them to do.

We all know that the Prime Minister has a job to do. They oversee wars, economic crises, terrorist attacks and natural disasters among other things. The real test of a PM is their response to said issues. Nobody cares about what their favourite book or TV show is when such issues arise. Interviewers often like to throw in a soft question, just like a backbench Member of Parliament mentions a new animal sanctuary in their constituency. It just doesn’t fit.

It also assumes that every politician is one of us. Who cares if they don’t watch much TV? Who cares if they speak Latin or Greek? Boris Johnson, a man with a great love of the classics, would often recite Ancient Greek, but he also showed an affability and relaxed nature that hid this. Meanwhile, David Cameron struggled to look authentic when he wanted to ‘hug a hoodie.’ One lasted six years in office, the other three.

Rich or Poor?

This brings me nicely to my next point. Our nation, or at least the media, seems to not particularly like politicians being open about their privilege. If a politician came from a wealthy family or went to a private school, they are expected to flex their working class credentials.

Take Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer. Sunak is the son-in-law of a billionaire and wears very expensive items, and is thus wealthy. When asked about this, he points to the fact that his father was a GP and his mother a pharmacist, two respectable middle class professions. Starmer waxes lyrical about the fact that his father was a toolmaker (cue laughter) and his mother a nurse. What he fails to mention is that his father apparently owned the factory and he attended a private school, though through a bursary.

David Cameron suffered from a similar image problem, as did Boris Johnson in some quarters. Meanwhile, Margaret Thatcher was proud of being a grocer’s daughter and John Major left school at sixteen. Clement Attlee came from a comfortable background, attending a private school and Oxford. James Callaghan came from a working class family and did not attend university. Each of them have varied reputations as politicians.

Contrast this with that of America. Whilst Americans love the idea of the American Dream and pulling yourself up by the bootstraps, they also don’t care as much about class, whether upper or lower. Donald Trump has not once hid that he’s from a rich family, and yet he does not see shame from voters over this.

I frankly do not care if a politician came from a northern council estate like Angela Rayner or was the grandson of a duke like Winston Churchill. I don’t care if they went to a comprehensive or Eton, just as I don’t begrudge a parent for wanting to send their child to a grammar or private school. If they can afford private healthcare, then good for them.

If a politician from a comfortable background is asked about this, they should not downplay it. Instead, they should simply say that their parents worked hard and that they want all people to have the same opportunity.

That is not to say that I think the country would be a perfect place if every MP went to Eton and Oxford. I don’t think it would be perfect if every MP went to a normal school and didn’t go to university. We’ve had good politicians from all backgrounds, and we’ve had bad politicians from all backgrounds.

It does not serve us well to be envious of the rich, or assume that all working class people are good ol’ folk. We should not be desperate for a politician to be a big fan of Game of Thrones or like the same sweets as we do. Politicians should not pretend to be something they are not. I’m not voting for a person’s school or their favourite beverage. I’m voting for who I think has the best ideas.

Which, to be frank, seems to be none of them. Hey, at least I know that Rishi Sunak loves Haribo.

Photo Credit.

A Brief History of US Student Politics

‘Hey, hey LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?’

These chants outside of the White House haunted Lyndon B. Johnson throughout his presidency. He would sit in the Oval Office with his head in his hands as the chants wafted through the walls. When his son-in-law Charles Robb sent in a tape from Vietnam, Johnson buckled against the table and looked as though he was in tears. For the loud Southern Jackson, who took great pleasure in towering over and intimidating others, this seemed like quite a big deal. 

This is not about Johnson, however. This is about the students who protested him and the Vietnam War. This is about the students who protest now and any time.

An American Education

Harvard University was founded in 1636 and is classed by many as the oldest institute of higher education in the United States. Throughout history, the Ivy League colleges (Harvard, Yale, University of Pennsylvania, Princeton, Columbia, Brown, Dartmouth and Cornell) have been considered the most elite, though others have made quite the showing. Between them, the Ivy League colleges have educated fifteen US presidents. They’ve also educated many Supreme Court Justices, Governors and members of Congress.

Throughout early American history, the Ivy League and other elite colleges were almost exclusively for white, wealthy men. Colleges for women did exist, such as the female equivalent of the Ivies, the Seven Sisters, though they came far later. Colleges for African-Americans also came later, such as Howard and Tuskegee.

Cornell began to accept women in 1870, but it took until 1983 for all of them to admit women, with Columbia being the last.

Minority men were able to attend earlier and more frequently, with Yale being the last to accept black students in 1964.

Despite more diversity in terms of the student body, Ivy League colleges see students of the wealthy 1% overrepresented. One in six Ivy students have parents from the top 1%, and they are 34% more likely to be accepted than students with the same scores but from less wealthy backgrounds. The children of these parents are also more than twice as likely to attend elite universities- the Ivies, Stanford, MIT, Duke and Chicago.

The Times They Are A-Changin’

Whilst protests and activism were not unknown prior, the 1960s saw an explosion in it.

The decade was one of great social change, perhaps the greatest since the 1860s. Firstly, there was more of a focus on youth. TV, radio and movies began to cater to teenagers. Bands like the wholesome Beach Boys and sassy Beatles saw teenage screaming along. As incomes expanded, college enrollment doubled between 1945 and 1960, doubling once again by 1970.

There was also less social and cultural hegemony than before, something that Richard Nixon and his Silent Majority sought to exploit. The Civil Rights movement was at an apex as students sat at segregated café counters and took integrated buses to register African-American voters in the Deep South. Second-wave feminism saw women demand access to birth control, abortion and equality in the workplace. As students moved away from their generally conservative homes, many became embroiled in a more progressive political atmosphere.

Perhaps most impactful in terms of lives was the Vietnam War. Action in the Asian nation had significantly escalated, particularly after the Gulf of Tonkin incident in 1964.

Students in particular were opposed to the draft. College students could receive deferments, but they were in the target conscription demographic of being young and healthy and unmarried, though the marriage deferment ended in summer 1965. One of the most notable forms of protests saw students burning their draft cards.

They were also active in the protest movement as a whole. College campuses became hotbeds of political activity. Students also joined protests and demonstrations.

There were varied reasons as to why students in particular were opposed to the war. Some echoed the popular sentiment of many that it was war thousands of miles away that did not have anything to do with America. Others believed that American soldiers were killing innocent civilians. Some thought that the money would be better spent elsewhere or that war in general was wrong.

One college that became a centre of counterculture politics was UC Berkeley. The California university became a hub of activism and protests regarding Civil Rights, free speech and Vietnam.

Most of the decade saw passionate but peaceful protests in the area, but this changed. In April 1969, students at Berkeley set up an informal encampment in People’s Park, scuppering a plan to turn it into a public space. On the 15th May 1969, police arrived to turf the squatters out. This, combined with a nearby college protest, saw around 6,000 people turn out at the park. The police eventually opened fire, killing San Jose resident James Rector as he watched from the roof. Many others were injured; one man was blinded. California Governor Ronald Reagan called in the California National Guard.

There had been a notable protest at New York’s Columbia University a year before. Black student protestors had asked white protestors to protest separately, which they did, segregating it on racial lines. Some of the students occupied the administrative Hamilton Hall, holding Acting Dean Henry S. Coleman hostage.

In another protest that year, students at Morehouse in Atlanta held the board of trustees. One of those students was a young Samuel L. Jackson.

Sixties Assassinations

Adding to the students’ cynicism were the assassinations of four famous men, all of whom were generally admired by students.

The first was John F. Kennedy in November 1963. Kennedy had been a proponent of college education and had been a point of fascination for young people, mainly due to his relative youth compared to other politicians.

The second was Malcolm X, the firebrand minister for the Nation of Islam and advocate of civil rights. He was slain in February 1965.

The third was Martin Luther King Jr, the well-known minister who advocated for civil rights via peaceful means. He was killed in April 1968.

The fourth and final one was Robert Kennedy in June 1968. He had entered the Democratic race for president as an anti-war and liberal alternative to unpopular incumbent Lyndon B. Johnson.

Death At Kent State

One of the most tragic events of the student protest movement came in May 1970.

The Sixties was over and new president Richard Nixon had promised law and order. Meanwhile, America was expanding military operations in Vietnam by entering neighbouring Cambodia. This caused immediate controversy in the anti-war movement. Several hundred students at Kent State in Ohio were protesting this. Residents and police officers had been concerned about potential repercussions in the community, and the Ohio National Guard was called.

The National Guard attempted to disperse the crowd through tear gas and other means, but this failed. Protestors began to throw rocks and other projectiles at them before being herded away. Near a hill, some of the officers started to open fire. Four students- two men and two women- were killed. Nine others were wounded, one of whom was permanently paralysed.

Images of the event, including the famous picture of a horrified teenager standing over one of the bodies, caused even more riots and protests across the nation. 100,000 people marched on Washington a few days later, leading to Richard Nixon famously talking to protestors in the middle of the night at the Lincoln Memorial.


Whilst the chaos of the 1960s gave way to a relatively more peaceful 20th century, activism and protests still remained. College Democrats and College Republicans have both been popular hubs for the partisan-minded students. Politicians regularly attend speeches and rallies, especially when they’re supported by the students.

As a rule, colleges tend to be on the left of the spectrum, in both faculty and students. Exceptions to this tend to be religious institutions like Bob Jones and Liberty University.

Issues that have arisen include the Iraq War, climate change, school shootings, race, gender, sexual assault and rape and military engagement in general.

The Current Protests

On the 7th October 2023, Israel was surprised by an attack by Hamas. People were murdered, missiles were fired and civilians taken hostage. In response, Israel had gone all out on Hamas. As a result, there have been numerous deaths and injuries in Palestine. Many people have been made homeless or have needed to evacuate from their homes. Some have flooded into neighbouring Egypt. Neither Palestine or Israel are safe.

Sympathy for the deaths of innocents have been widespread, but there is a huge difference in opinion regarding Israel. Protests have happened in major cities across the world, with the pro-Palestine side occupying most of that space. London for example has seen weekly protests since October.

The issue has become a massive one in America. Historically, the American government has been a strong supporter of Israel. Joe Biden has given assistance to Israel, but seems to want incumbent Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu out. Internally, there is debate amongst the legislative branch. Pro-Palestine and anti-interventionist politicians have come together to stop aid to Israel. Others wish to help it more.

It’s also been dynamite for college campuses. Coast to coast, north to south, university students have been protesting non-stop since October. The Ivy League colleges have been the centre of the protests, but other elite and notable colleges such as Stanford, Berkeley, Northeastern, NYU, Ohio State, and Emerson have seen student activism.

Students have been calling for an immediate ceasefire in the area. Regarding their own colleges, they ask for the institutions to break all ties to Israel, especially regarding financial gifts.

The protests themselves have been controversial. The shouting of ‘from the river to the sea’ is seen as a call to action against Jews, as well as the calling of a global intifada. Flickers of anti-semitism have allegedly been seen in these protests, despite the bulk of participants proclaiming they oppose Zionism, not Jews. Some Jewish students have participated in the protests, whilst others feel unsafe. Classes have been called off and students have been forced to study online.

Encampments have been put up on several campuses. Some have been cleared by police whilst others remain. These encampments are made up of tents, donated food and other communal activities, all of which are subject to rules. Whilst the protests remain mainly about Israel and Palestine, they tend to bend towards anti-capitalism and progressive ideology.

New York’s Columbia University has been the establishment most in the news. On the 17th April, a number of Columbia students started an encampment. Whilst the encampment was torn down by police the next day, it was rebuilt and protests continue. Students report difficulty getting to class. Arrests and suspensions have also been made.

Student Kyhmani James became the subject of media attention following comments regarding the murder of Zionists. He filmed a video of himself talking to the administration in an attempt to get his views across. Unfortunately for Mr. James, he has been kicked out of Columbia.

The Response

America’s 1st Amendment is very strict on the freedom of speech and assembly. That being said, law enforcement and university officials are more than a little tired of it. Students have been arrested, suspended and even expelled. Three college presidents have sat before Congress- Mary Magill of UPenn, Sally Kornbluth of MIT and Claudia Gay of Harvard. Magill resigned in December 2023, and Gay followed in January 2024 after a plagiarism scandal.

Some presidents have been tough. The University of Florida sent out a very clear letter to protestors telling them which behaviour was appropriate and what would get them kicked out. Florida State turned on the sprinklers. Northeastern University got the police to clear the encampment, saying that the use of ‘Kill the Jews’ crossed the line. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis promised to expel any protestors who joined mobs. Even Columbia, the home of the most infamous protests, allowed the police in to tear down the encampment.

It doesn’t look like this is going to go away anytime soon. What some call a win for free speech is what others call going ‘too far’. As parents look away from the Ivy League to less elite but still reputable universities, one wonders if it’s a case of rich kids with too much time on their hands and no problems of their own. Is it that or a genuine example of solidarity with Palestine? Whatever the case, America’s campuses remain on metaphorical fire.

Photo Credit.

Let’s Talk About Sex (Work)

This tweet from @GraffitiRadical invoked quite the conversation. Well, as much conversation as you can have on Twitter. Some argued that it is empowering and that it’s a legitimate profession. Others argued that it’s exploitative and damaging. Some refuse to even use the term ‘sex work,’ favouring language such as prostitution. To others, it’s interchangeable.

However, currently and historically, the technical and legal term for sex work is prostitution, something many advocates wish to see changed, arguing the term creates stigma. Opponents of the practice would say this is rightly so, given the nature of the practice.

However angry the arguments, however poor, it doesn’t take away from the fact that it’s something that exists. It may be tucked away in the shadows of the night or blatantly advertised on OnlyFans, but it exists. They don’t call it the world’s oldest profession for nothing. Pictures and paintings showing prostitution still exist from the times of Ancient Rome. Courtesans could make a lot of money by being chosen by a rich benefactor. The 90s film Pretty Woman showed the profession in a new light.

Whatever you want to call it, there’s still a major debate about the morality and legality of prostitution. One only must look across the world to see how different cultures tolerate the practice-or if they do at all. That being said, laws do not always impact supply and demand. Prostitution exists in liberal secular nations as well as conservative religious ones. It happens in peacetime and in wartime. Prostitutes and clients come from all walks of life.

So, what is it really?

The Whos and the Whats

When we think of prostitution, we often think of ladies in revealing clothing on street corners. That may be true, but streetwalkers aren’t the only type of prostitute. There are those who work in brothels, massage parlours and bars, or as escorts or cam girls. One may think of the window and door girls in Amsterdam. Other forms exist but are rarer.

Statistically, it’s thought that the vast majority of prostitutes are women. According to Streetwalker, 88% of prostitutes in the UK. That percentage is likely applicable worldwide give or take, but we will never truly know given the taboo nature. Sadly, child prostitution is not unheard of and is indeed common, with some areas being tourist hotspots for those interested in that.

Entry into prostitution also varies.

Types of Legislation

There are five types of legislation regarding prostitution.


In legalisation, prostitution itself is both legal and regulated, as are associated activities such as pimping and earning money. Countries with this framework include The Netherlands, Argentina, Turkey, Bangladesh, and Germany.

The Netherlands is probably the most infamous example of legalised prostitution. Its capital of Amsterdam is a hotspot for prostitution, and its red-light district is equally well known. There is strict regulation of the trade as with any ordinary profession, and prostitutes have been required to pay income tax and register with the Chamber of Commerce since 2010. While they are taxed, they may also receive unemployment benefits, though they do not if they work through the opt-in system.

Some limits do exist to protect the vulnerable. The hire or use of prostitutes under 21 is illegal, as is purchasing sex from someone you know, or suspect has been trafficked. 

Despite benefits for the parties involved and protections for vulnerable people, it’s no cakewalk. The Netherlands still remains a top destination for human trafficking due to the demand for prostitution. Most prostitutes in The Netherlands are not native, giving credence to the narrative of human trafficking. Meanwhile, prostitutes themselves feel as though the government is not on their side. The majority of those who apply for registration do not get it, whilst local authorities are closing windows and do not allow prostitutes to book clients online. In response, prostitutes are complaining that the restrictions reduce demand and make it harder for them to find work.


New Zealand, Belgium, New South Wales and Northern Territory

Decriminalisation means that there are no legal penalties for prostitution but that it is not legal itself, nor anything associated with it. Countries with this framework include New Zealand, Belgium and parts of Australia, such as New South Wales and the Northern Territory.

New Zealand became a model for decriminalisation following legislative changes in 2003. Prostitution, living off earnings, soliciting and contracts are all legal. The government recognises it as work but does not promote it. Limitations do exist, such as using girls under 18, those on short-term visas entering the trade and non-Kiwis or Aussies owning brothels.

Whether or not this has succeeded in helping prostitutes depends wildly on opinion. Anecdotal evidence varies- the lady in this piece feels much safer, whilst another argues it’s still incredibly dangerous. A report from July 2012 by the New Zealand government concluded that whilst it was far from perfect, it had made steps in the right direction. This report says otherwise.

In terms of advocacy, the New Zealand Sex Prostitutes Collective (or NZPC) is the largest in the country. They help any prostitute and advocate for all types. Their website explains the New Zealand model and their case for why decriminalisation must stay.


In abolitionist legislation, the act of prostitution is legal, but everything else related to it is against the law. Countries with this framework include Madagascar, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mexico, Brazil, and Great Britain.

Great Britain has long had an abolitionist model. Like the Netherlands, it’s illegal to have sex with a prostitute who has been trafficked. The age of prostitutes is also set at eighteen, higher than the age of consent of sixteen. All other parts of prostitution, such as living off wages and brothels, are illegal.

Groups both for and against prostitution exist. Both the English Collective of Prostitutes and the Sex Worker Advocacy and Resistance Movement (SWARM) support full decriminalisation. Streetlight U.K. and Beyond the Streets. Meanwhile, the safety of prostitutes in the U.K. is precarious. One 2018 article states that the mortality rate for prostitutes is twelve times the national average for example. Those with opposing views are at odds on what would help.


In neo-abolitionism, the act of selling sex is not a crime, but buying it is, along with other associated acts. This is often called ‘The Nordic Model.’ Countries with this framework include Canada, Spain, Ireland, Sweden and Norway.

Sweden’s lurch towards neo-abolitionism at the turn of the century was the first of its kind. In 1999, they made the act of selling sex illegal, with everything else remaining against the law.

A 2010 investigation from the Swedish government came to this conclusion:

  • Street prostitution had decreased.
  • The law had acted as a deterrent to prospective buyers of sexual services, reducing demand.
  • The law had deterred trafficking, as criminals had not so readily sought to establish organised trafficking networks in Sweden.
  • The number of foreign women in prostitution had increased, but not to the extent noticed in neighbouring countries.
  • Online prostitution had increased in line with all other sold services since 1999, but not to the extent that it could be said that street prostitution had simply migrated.
  • Exit strategies and alternatives had been developed.
  • There had been a significant change of attitude and mindset in society.
  • Adoption of the law had served as a pioneering model for other countries.

Street prostitution has also decreased by 50% since 1995. A 2021 report also showed that the use of online services has increased, particularly among young people.

As of 2023, prostitutes are taxed on their income.

Unfortunately, Sweden remains a top destination for sex trafficking. The number of those trafficked into the country has steadily increased over the years, particularly children. Sweden tends to be very proactive in combating trafficking, but opponents may point to this as an example as to why their laws do not work.

Red Umbrella Sweden, a group made up of current and former prostitutes, is one example of advocacy. They oppose the Nordic model and push for full decriminalisation.


In Prohibitionism, anything to do with prostitution, including the act itself, is illegal. Countries with this framework include Egypt, South Africa, the USA outside of parts of Nevada, China and Russia.

Prohibitionist Egypt actively prosecutes those who partake in prostitution. One can receive between six months and three years in prison for the crime, as well as a fine. All other acts linked to prostitution, including facilitating it and profiting from proceeds can get a person up to three years in jail. Adultery is also a crime, but one that unfairly penalises women more. Women who commit adultery can receive three years in prison, but for men it is six months, and only if it is done inside the home.

One way in which charges of prostitution can be avoided is through a temporary marriage-or nikah mut’ah. It is common in Muslim countries. For a specified period of time, which can be between hours and years, a couple is said to be married. This allows any sexual activity done in this time to be ‘legitimate.’ Payment is often involved, as is a dowry. The length of time of the marriage must be chosen beforehand and the father of the girl must give his consent if she has not been married before. It is said that Arab men often travel to Egypt for the summer and engage in these marriages. Both Western and Muslim feminists argue that this facilitates prostitution.

Arguments For and Against

Prostitution has its supporters and its critics. They make varying points based on personal views, religion, ideas of women’s rights, economics, and other things.


Consenting Adults: Probably the most libertarian argument of the bunch, some contend that as long as it’s involving consenting adults, then what’s the problem? An argument is to be made that so long as both sides are consenting to sex, then it is a victimless crime. One must also remember that they are surely consenting to risks of pregnancy and STIs by this action and are thus unable to complain about said risks. Philosophically, it’s an argument of self-ownership of the body, and thus being able to do with it as one pleases. If we circle back to those involved being consenting adults, then there’s the argument.

Taxation: In Nevada, Sweden and The Netherlands amongst others, prostitutes are subject to income tax. Brothels are also subject to business tax in Nevada. From a purely economic standpoint, some would argue that this is just good business sense. By legalising prostitution, you’re creating an income stream that can be used like any other. Those taxes may go into welfare benefits for the prostitutes themselves, or other things such as schools and healthcare.

Safety and Justice: Proponents argue that if prostitution is legal or at least decriminalised, then prostitutes who have been raped, robbed etc will be able to go to the police. This is the case in New Zealand, as police will respond to prostitutes in distress. Those for legalisation argue that by keeping prostitution underground, those who are in genuine need of help will not reach out due to fear of being arrested themselves. That is, however, assuming police will be of any help. That said, it also could reduce the risks of clients doing anything bad, as they would be aware that there are consequences.

Health: With some prostitutes having been arrested after large amounts of condoms were found on them, some argue that criminalisation may decrease the sexual health of both prostitutes and clients. If a prostitute chooses to have sex without a condom, there’s a potential spread of STIs, both treatable and more serious. Furthermore, if it is legal, then outbreaks can be more easily traced and stopped. One might point to Nevada, with its mandatory testing, condom usage and barring violent customers.

Inevitability: Prostitution is, as has been previously said, often named the world’s oldest profession. It happens in poor and rich countries, conservative and liberal places, and in both peace and wartime. One only must see how widespread it is. Thus, one might argue that seeing as prostitution is essentially an inevitability, it might as well be legal and moderated. After all, centuries of illegality haven’t stopped it. That being said- a lot of things are inevitable.


Forced Prostitution: There’s no way to determine the amount of prostitutes forced into the job by trafficking, but the amount certainly isn’t zero. Legalisation, even with law enforcement backing, does not necessarily prevent trafficking. There’s a bit of back and forth as to whether legalisation increases or decreases trafficking, but the point stands that it will always be there. By legalising it, it seems almost certain that violent pimps and traffickers will not have more of an imperative to flood the market.

Class and Sex: The vast majority of prostitutes are women. Of those in the trade itself, a number are either trafficked or come at it from an economic standpoint. Those who are most at risk of trafficking or survival sex come from minority and poorer socio-economic backgrounds. This thus puts them at a disadvantage when being put with clients who have the ability to pay for their services. Is that not taking advantage of the most vulnerable?

Normalises: Much in the same way the ‘consenting adults’ justification is a libertarian argument, the next is more conservative in nature. One might say that legalising prostitution might normalise it. For some, normalising it is not an issue. For others, they may not want to normalise casual sex with strangers. This is especially true if the clients are married as it could serve as an outlet for adultery. In a feminist twist on the argument, one might say that it normalises a more powerful person paying for the body of a marginalised one.

Doesn’t Stop the Root Causes: There are numerous reasons as to why people enter prostitution. Some want to simply work at something they enjoy or take advantage of the potentially good pay. Others are victims of trafficking, survival sex, poverty, or addiction. Some argue that legalising prostitution does not get to those root causes. People may still enter prostitution because of those reasons even if it is legal. Would it be preferable to help those most in need?

Doesn’t Stop the Violence: Proponents of legalisation and decriminalisation argue that prostitutes are safer under those methods. Whilst that may or may not be true, it doesn’t prevent violence at all. One might point to the murder of Anna Louise Wilson, a New Zealand prostitute murdered after the client refused to wear a condom. Another might point to the fact a prostitute was murdered in a German brothel, the largest in the world.

What Do We Do?

When it comes down to it, it’s clear that there isn’t much of a consensus on prostitution. Despite the trend towards legalisation and decriminalisation, there are still those who oppose it.

Prostitution isn’t just a woman- or a man- having sex for money. It’s about choice, desperation, desire, and fear. There are those who see it as a job, whilst there are those who were forced into it. Some want to leave. There are pimps, brothels, websites, street corners and clients, not by sheer accident, but because supply is often preceded by demand.

Of course, we must listen to prostitutes themselves. They are the ones with first-hand experience of selling their bodies at great risks and under varying circumstances. Many have been victims of child sexual abuse, rape, domestic violence, and addiction. For those who are comfortable in their trade, legalisation and decriminalisation is considered a comfort. For others, it’s no safety blanket. Indeed, many supporters of prostitution uniformly view prostitutes as consenting participants whilst many opponents uniformly view them as victims of manipulation. Unfortunately, things aren’t that simple.

There are some reading this who will want prostitutes to be able to freely work without governments coming down on them. There are others who may be disgusted at the idea of the state sanctioning it. Whatever the case, one hopes that this article has helped them understand the dimensions of debate which surround this controversial and complex issue.

Photo Credit.

10 Best Books on International Politics

When we read books about politics, many of us may be more inclined to read about what happens in the Anglosphere. It’s natural really- it’s our language, closer to our culture and what we see about on the news.

It is, however, always refreshing to expand our horizons. Here are ten of my favourite books, handpicked, on non-Western international politics and history.

Dictatorland: The Men Who Stole Africa- Paul Kenyon

You may have already read my glowing review of this book and if you haven’t, get to it. This book discusses several contemporary and older dictators of Africa, from the slain Gaddafi of Libya to the man who has been in charge of Equatorial Guinea since 1979. It starts with colonialism, slithers through independence and continues afterwards. Some dictators were murdered, others remained for years or were finally booted out of office.

    It’s a great study of colonialism, the promise of freedom and how these countries suffered under the men who offered them so much. These nations should be rich due to oil and other resources, yet only a few manage to make money from said resources. We learn about dictators who are worth billions, contrasting with the people who live in abject poverty.

    Best Feature: Covers several countries, allowing the reader a greater scope.

    Queens of the Kingdom: The Women of Saudi Arabia- Nicola Sutcliff

    Everyone has their own preconceived ideas of Saudi Arabia, so prepare to have your views challenged. Sutcliff interviews a large number of women who live in the mystical kingdom- wealthy housewives, educated entrepreneurs and illiterate village dwellers among them. They give their views on everything from marriage to education.

    Some are thrilled with having their family keep them close and husbands who are their guardians. Others have experienced insurmountable horror with beatings and underage marriage. What links them all is a love for their culture and country, no matter what they think of their society.

    Best Feature: The women really tell you what they think.

    El Narco- Ioan Grillo

    Many readers will have watched Netflix’s hit show Narcos, which shows the work of the DEA in Colombia and the life of Pablo Escobar. Grillo’s book is the real deal, chronicling the Mexican drug cartels that have gripped the beautiful Central American nature.

    There’s no glamourising money, cars and women here. It’s all gritty, the truth behind the devastation. Kidnappings, murders and tortures are aplenty. Friends turn on friends. Journalists are targeted. Innocent people are killed in the crossfire.

    Best Feature: Grillo lays out the strategies of successive Mexican and American governments regarding the War on Drugs.

    Our Bodies, Their Battlefield: What War Does to Women- Christina Lamb

    I’ve read a lot of books and watched a lot of documentaries about depressing issues, but this book is easily the most shocking and heartbreaking thing I’ve ever read.

    From the refugee camps in Syria to the survivors of Rwanda, we learn about the use of rape as a weapon of war and what it does to women. These women have been raped and tortured. Babies and elderly women aren’t exempt from brutality. Governments ignore it. Rapists get away with it. Families and communities shun victims.

    It’s extremely brutal and doesn’t pull punches when it describes what happens to these women, but there are moments of hope that shine through.

    Best Feature: It shows how war rape has been used for centuries and in every corner of the world

    Shake Hands With the Devil- Romeo Dallaire

    Up to one million people were killed in the space of a few months in three months in 1994 Rwanda. This book is written by Romeo Dallaire, leader of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR). Dallaire had a front row seat to the slaughter, taking us from his early life in terror-ridden Quebec to his life after Rwanda.

    It makes one pretty angry- Dallaire desperately tried to get the UN to take notice of what was about to happen, but was ignored. People on the ground did nothing. Villagers slaughtered the people they lived with for years. Dallaire suffered from PTSD and attempted to take his life several times afterwards. It’s essential reading.

    Best Feature: It really portrays the absolute hell on earth that is the Rwandan Genocide

    First They Killed My Father- Loung Ung

    I’m pretty much a hard arse when it comes to movies, but the film of this book had me crying.

    Loung Ung was one of seven siblings in a prosperous, middle-class Phnom Penh. Her life turned upside down upon the arrival of the Khmer Rouge and rise of Pol Pot. Ung then lived through the unimaginable- the death of most of her family, living through forced labour and being a child soldier.

    It was a book that made me often wonder if I was actually reading a true story, for it felt like I was reading a fictional dystopia.

    Best Feature: Gives an inside view of one of the world’s most horrendous contemporary crimes

    Persepolis- Marjane Satrapi

    Unusual in that it’s a graphic novel, Persepolis is the true story of the Iranian-born Marjane Satrapi. Born into an intellectual, liberal Iranian family, Marjane Satrapi was young when the revolution happened. From the first time she was forced into a hijab, Satrapi hated the new regime. Her rebellious nature led her family to send her abroad out of fear she’d be executed.

    Satrapi contrasts her life in the West and in Iran. She talks about her family, what romance is like in the conservative regime and how she sneakily listened to American rock music.

    Best Feature: It’s a story of a fish out of water in a very real way

    Girl With a Gun- Diana Nammi and Karen Attwood

    Diana Nammi was only a teenager when she became part of the Peshmerga, part of Iranian Kurdistan. Nammi fought on the frontlines and in the process became one of Iran’s most wanted people. She saw death and survived it herself.

    Nammi now resides in the U.K., founded a charity for women and has been instrumental in the fight against child marriage. She had to move her for her own safety, but her love for her people is clear.

    Best Feature: Gives a great insight into Kurdish culture

    Without You, There is No Us- Suki Kim

    North Korea is the world’s most secretive country and in this book, Suki Kim infiltrated it. The journalist spent some time as a teacher for the elite’s sons. Her notes and documents had to be kept secret and her life was restrictive. Suki discusses how she became close to her initially unwilling students, where the two cultures learned about one another and how the prospect of watching Harry Potter thrilled them.

    It’s sweet but sad- these kids are just like us, yet live in a regime which doesn’t allow their full potential. On top of that, it’s a very personal look at North Korea instead of the outside analysis that is usually the only thing available.

    Best Feature: We get to know these teenage boys and their dreams.

    Nuclear Folly- Serhii Plokhy

    I’m cheating slightly here as a chunk of the book is set and about the US, but it gives equal treatment to Cuba and the Soviet Union. The year is 1962 and when recon planes catch sight of missile structures on Cuba, all hell breaks loose. We learn about the origins of the Cuban Missile Crisis, Castro’s desperate attempts to fight the US, Khrushchev’s role and how the Kennedy administration reacted.

    It’s pretty shocking to read how damn close the world came to nuclear war and how Robert McNamara (Secretary of Defense under Kennedy) only learned that the missiles were offensive and not just defensive thirty years later. Each of the three leaders had their own fate- Kennedy was assassinated a year later, Khrushchev was eventually pushed out for his role and Castro outlived them both by decades.

    Best Feature: Very intricate in details

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    We Must Ban Cousin Marriages

    The fact that Charles II of Spain lived to the age of thirty-eight was nothing short of a miracle- and that’s not because he was born in the 17th century. His nearly four-decade life was filled with physical and mental ailments that would be hard to live with even today’s medical technology.

    He flew through wet nurses due to continually biting their nipples until his mother ordered them to stop. Charles could not walk until he was four and walk until he was six, having trouble with both for the rest of his life. He suffered from severe depression and unknown learning and developmental disabilities. On top of this, he had hallucinations, seizures, a congenital heart defect and premature ejaculation. An autopsy revealed a body that sounds like something out of a horror film- one single shrunken testicle, a body without a single drop of blood and rotted intestines. Despite his litany of ailments, he was reportedly a kind boy who enjoyed hunting. Whilst he was clearly at fault in terms of infertility, his poor wives were blamed for not bearing an heir.

    The problem with Charles, inheritor of the famous Habsburg chin, was his family line. The Habsburg clan famously interbred and between 1515 and his birth in 1661, no new members were brought to the genetic line. His family tree reads like a wreath and he is related multiple times to each of his family members. Charles’ father was born to two first cousins, whilst his mother was the daughter of an uncle and niece. His parents were similarly uncle and niece. Charles’ sister Margaret Theresa managed to avoid the worst of it all, but she was married off to a man who was both her cousin and her uncle. Only one of her four children managed to pass infancy- she was originally intended to marry her uncle, but never did.

    Years of cousin marriage in royal circles led to poor outcomes. Many of these marriages were more distant, but first cousin marriages were not at all rare, particularly on the continent. Philip II of Spain and Maria Manuel were double first cousins, and the only son they produced was so severely disturbed that there was no way that he could take the throne. Philip would marry thrice again- to his first cousin once removed Mary I of England that resulted in no children, the unrelated Elisabeth of Valois with whom he had two very intelligent, capable daughters, and to his niece Anna of Austria, with whom he had one living son.

    Another example is that of Philip’s daughter Isabella Clara Eugenia, who married her first cousin Albert VIII of Austria. None of her three children lived past childhood. Philip’s other daughter Catalina Micaela married an unrelated husband but was weakened by having children every year. His son Philip also married his first cousin once removed but fortunately had five children live to adulthood.

    We imagine these cousin marriages happening hundreds of years ago, but it is not quite as extinct as one might hope. Even more worryingly, first cousin marriage is perfectly legal in the UK. There’s a stereotype in the Southern USA that white trash folk marry their cousins, but it’s actually completely illegal in most of those states. Here, however, you can go ahead and marry your uncle’s kid.

    The practice is most common within Muslims in the UK, with areas such as Bradford seeing large numbers marrying their cousin. The BBC recently reported that cousin marriage for Pakistanis and those of Pakistani origin in Bradford dropped from 60% to 46%- a drop, but not a large enough drop to be sure.

    This needs to stop.

    First, we must understand why people marry their first cousins. Whilst the Quran lists people who it is forbidden to marry and have relations with, such as siblings, uncles and aunts, cousins are not one of them. Furthermore, across all religious lines, there are economic and social reasons. Money is kept in the family instead of outside clans, tribes and faiths. It keeps a person linked to their family, with an expectation that they will have a stronger connection. For some whose family are originally from abroad, it might keep them linked to their heritage in an alien culture.

    The problem, however, lies with the results.

    When a person marries a close relation, there is a higher chance of genetic problems for any children. The chance is further increased if there is a family history of cousin marriages. The risk of birth defects increases from 3% to 6% in a cousin marriage- not a huge jump, but an unnecessary and entirely avoidable one for innocent kids. When it comes to fatal genetic disorders, children of South Asian parents are overrepresented in the data- they make up 65% of deaths but 37% of the population. Cousin marriage resulted in the death of 53% of children mentioned.

    A 2017 study found that 1 in 5 child deaths in East London came from the parents being related. A 2010 study found 700 children a year were born with genetic disorders as a result of cousin marriage. It is not a minute problem. In a recent episode of the thoroughly fascinating show Cause of Death, which follows the work of a coroner, a young man of thirty-three died suddenly of a rare disorder. Two of his siblings had also died, whilst at least two of the others had tested positive for the disorder. Their parents are cousins.

    When it comes to pregnancy, women are told not to take any risks that may harm the baby. She is required to stop smoking, drinking and consuming caffeine. Doing any of those things means risks to the unborn child, so why do we permit cousins to marry when we know the risks?

    Even Islamic countries have picked up on the issues, though they have obviously taken no steps to ban the practice. Cousin marriage is very high, even the norm, in Saudi Arabia, and is a nation home to a high number of genetic disorders. As a result, Saudi Arabia has mandated premarital genetic screening for couples. If the results are revealed to be risky, then there’s a way out for the couple. It is said that 60% of couples have ended their engagement after receiving bad news. Iran has implemented a similar system, as well as six other Middle Eastern nations.

    If these countries can do something, why can’t we?

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    When Celebrities talk Geopolitics

    “There are a lot of people that are afraid, that are afraid of being Jewish at this time, and are getting a taste of how it feels to be Muslim in this country.”

    Oscar-winning Susan Sarandon’s comments at a pro-Palestine rally in New York saw her dropped by her representatives, United Talent Agency. Sarandon is far from new to activism and politics, having spent her many decades in the spotlight discussing various issues. It seems that this time she may have gone too far, judging by the reaction of UTA.

    The newest development in the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine/Hamas has captivated the world, from the United Nations to local councils. Governments at all levels across every country have voted on ceasefires, because county councils apparently have a lot of say in geopolitics.

    What is arguably even more prominent is the input of our entertainers. One can easily browse X or Instagram for a few moments and find a litany of celebrities who have given their views on the conflict. As a general rule, said celebrities have called for a ceasefire. In response to conflict, calling for a ceasefire is treated as the obvious response- it’s easy to say, you don’t sound too partisan and it’s essentially saying you just don’t like war. Any more nuance than that isn’t really expected of anyone.

    At the end of one such open letter, those who signed it stated that “the United States can play a viral diplomatic role in ending the suffering.”

    The United States probably can, yes. Celebrities? Not so much.

    Celebrities like to use their voices to amplify issues, from war and presidential endorsements to abortion and LGBT rights. One only has to look at the star-studded events held by Hillary Clinton in 2016 to see how celebrities gravitate towards politics. Considering Clinton boasted guests like Katy Perry and Beyoncé, it’s plain to see that it’s a voice politicians accept. You’ll find celebrities using social media, posting blacked out squares on Instagram in an apparent promotion of Black Lives Matter. Perhaps they’ll wear a pink hat to protest anti-abortion legislation.

    They are well within their right to do this, as we all should be. They also generally reside in the country in which they protest. The issue, however, comes when celebrities meddle in geopolitics.

    The conflict in the Middle East is not an easy one, despite claims to the contrary. It involves years of religious and ethnic fighting, controversial borders, terror, violence, and bloodshed. The sides cannot, and often will not, agree to terms. So precious is Jerusalem to religious groups that conflict in its holy sites is far from rare. Saying ‘oh let’s have a ceasefire’ may stop a few problems in the short term, but it’s not a permanent stop to generations of problems.

    Most notably, celebrities may have a say in their collective fan communities, but they do not have any influence on geopolitics. Even Joe Biden, who the aforementioned open letter was directed at, did not listen. Meanwhile, both Palestine and Israel are doing what they believe they need to do to survive. Hamas is doing what they believe they need to do to eradicate Israel. They are not going to listen to someone with an Oscar nomination or a Top Ten song.

    That’s not to say that we shouldn’t speak out about issues because we feel it won’t influence things. Celebrities have the right to talk about the conflict, but let’s not pretend that we should care what they think or that it has any influence on anything. Most of us- celebrities and normal people- do not have the expertise to properly understand the situation. We can take a moral stance, but let’s not pretend that celebrities are necessarily informed.

    The action, however well intentioned, is almost always performative. Celebrities allow themselves to be almost bullied into saying something, anything, by fans so that they’re not cancelled. Look at Taylor Swift. Her platform and wealth are equally large, so much so that her general lack of political inclinations is met with side-eye at best, and boycotts at worst. We expect celebrities to act as moral leaders and arbiters, to the detriment of real discussion.

    Perhaps one day we won’t expect celebrities to be geopolitical experts. Perhaps one day celebrities won’t feel the need to ensure that their views aren’t the most important in the room. Much as COVID and January 6 turned people into armchair experts in virology and treason laws, the conflict in the Middle East has made us all experts in international relations.

    Celebrities, continue calling for ceasefires if you wish, but don’t expect Benjamin Netanyahu and Hamas to take you up on your advice.

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    When Harvard gets Schooled

    “We, the undersigned student organizations, hold the Israeli regime entirely responsible for all unfolding violence.

    Today’s events did not occur in a vacuum. For the last two decades, millions of Palestinians in Gaza have been forced to live in an open-air prison. Israeli officials promise to “open the gates of hell,” and the massacres in Gaza have already commenced. Palestinians in Gaza have no shelters for refuge and nowhere to escape. In the coming days, Palestinians will be forced to bear the full brunt of Israel’s violence.

    The apartheid regime is the only one to blame. Israeli violence has structured every aspect of Palestinian existence for 75 years. From systematized land seizures to routine airstrikes, arbitrary detentions to military checkpoints, and enforced family separations to targeted killings, Palestinians have been forced to live in a state of death, both slow and sudden.

    Today, the Palestinian ordeal enters into uncharted territory. The coming days will require a firm stand against colonial retaliation. We call on the Harvard community to take action to stop the ongoing annihilation of Palestinians.”

    Authored by the Harvard Undergraduate Palestinian Solidarity Committee and co-signed by over thirty other student groups at the elite university, this statement has started to cause problems for its signatories.

    Resignations have occurred. Groups have backtracked. Names have been sealed. Why? Because for once in their life, these kids are going to be on the receiving end of the anger that they often direct at others. 

    Responses to the horror in Israel have been varied. Whilst a good majority of people are horrified by the atrocities that have been committed, not everybody has been so sympathetic. Some have outright celebrated what has happened. Others have been more measured in their response, instead doing the ‘both sides’ tango that they are excellent at dancing. 

    Such an example is at play here. The students and societies at Harvard who wrote this letter may not have actually straight up endorsed the atrocities that have occurred, but they did lay the blame squarely at Israel’s feet. 

    The backlash has been sudden and all-encompassing. Academics, fellow students, businesses, politicians and all other types have roundly criticised the groups and students who signed this letter. Those who have been named have distanced themselves from the letter.

    The list of groups and names have been removed from the statement in order to apparently protect them from repercussions. Unfortunately for them, the list remains readily accessible. 

    If these people were so sure of this viewpoint that they signed a statement such as this, it begs the question: why have they decided to step back?

    It’s simple really. They’re terrified of facing the consequences that they demand of others.

    Take for example a woman named Ryna Workman, President of the NYU Law Student Bar Association. Ms. Workman, who had been a summer associate of the prestigious Winston and Strawn law firm, had a job offer rescinded by them. She had written a statement online refusing to condemn the actions of Hamas, all while once again blaming Israel. 

    With such actions costing a student from a top college a job, it’s no wonder that those who signed the Harvard statement are melting away like the Wicked Witch of the West. These students attend the oldest and arguably most elite college in the US, and are primed for their pick of summer internships and jobs in some of the top organisations possible. If their names are attached to controversy, then their necks are on the line.

    Considering Harvard students wish to permeate a culture in which one can easily be shunned for their actions, it’s fair that some might be unsympathetic to their plight. In 2020, students petitioned for any official in the Trump administration to be banned from engaging with the college in any official capacity. Its scores on self-censorship and free speech are abysmal. Students actively keep their opinions to themselves. Harvard is no bastion of freedom.

    These students don’t care if other people suffer for their thoughts, but God forbid they can’t work for some human rights lawyer during the summer holidays. 

    For years, there have been people who have believed that the rules don’t apply to them. They have kept themselves on the right side of the opinion divide. Their voices have been the loudest. They’re the good guys. They’ve never had to worry about their views being scorned. They’ve always been safe. Now, however, they’ve crossed the line that they set down, and they’re reaping the consequences. 

    Considering how many presidents, members of Congress and Supreme Court Justices have attended Harvard, it’s more than likely that these students will be the ones running the country one day. Even if they’re not in the top branches of government, they’ll be the lawyers standing up in court. 

    Harvard is a place that opens doors. They don’t want those doors slammed in their face. It’s just a pity for them they’re the ones usually on the other side of that door. 

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    The Obsession with News

    In 1980, Ted Turner and Reese Schonfeld co-founded the Cable News Network (CNN). Despite derision over the idea of a 24 hour rolling news channel, CNN became a massive hit and would become the forefather to the news system today. In the 43 years since CNN first aired, news channels have changed from having bulletins every few hours to being on air 24/7. Our parents would have to wait for the top of the hour for news, unless breaking news broke into programming, whilst we can just turn it on with a press of a button.

    Whilst many may marvel at the idea of 24 hour news, it is part of why news today has its problems. As a result of constant media absorption, competition from social media and the internet, as well as a fast-paced world, society itself has become obsessed with the news. Every tiny little story becomes splashed across screens, both large and small, in a desperate attempt to capture the moment before it vanishes. 

    Everything is Breaking News

    If, like me, you have the BBC news app alert on your phone, then this will be a similar tale. The alert goes off. You check it. Whilst it’s officially classed as ‘Breaking News,’ it’s not really that important. Some things are of course important. Look at the death of Her Majesty The Queen last year. That was a news story that knocked everything else off the air. Considering that she had been our monarch since 1952, it’s fair to say that this was incredibly important breaking news. 

    Generally, the app applies the term ‘Breaking News’ rather liberally. Holly Willoughby leaving This Morning after fourteen years is not worth your phone going off. Beyoncé removing ‘offensive lyrics’ from an old song isn’t worth it either.

    That also applies to news channels. Sky News and BBC will have that ticket going across the bottom of the screen quite happily for just about any reason. Rare is the day where the bottom of Sky News is not a flash of yellow and black. Even a slow news day will have breaking news just to keep things a bit fresh.

    It’s understandable really. In this day and age, news travels fast. It comes and goes in the blink of the eyes. News companies want to have their hold on the story before the next one comes. When Twitter/X or Facebook gets the news first, well, that’s one less story that they’ve managed to break to viewers. The big media organisations may have the means to research the stories and get the scoops, but they don’t ever get it out first. One is more likely to find out a story through social media than they are the 24 hour news or their app. 

    Considering the point of the 24 hour news cycle is to be fresh, that’s not really a good thing.

    Every Little Story, Made Bigger 

    On the 18th April 1930, BBC news would announce that “there is no news.”

    Can you imagine that today? Another issue with the 24 hour cycle and news today is the fact that there’s a desperation to find something to report on. When channels and apps are never off, they can’t have a rest. Something must be going on. It doesn’t matter what it is, but it must be something.

    Perhaps it’s a take on a news story through the issue of race, gender or sexuality. Perhaps it’s a random study from Australia. Whatever it is, it’s got a place in the news because it’s something.

    Take for example the Daily Climate Show on Sky News. What was originally a daily, thirty minute slot on prime time was axed to a weekend event. It’s not hard to see why this was. In its desperation to make more news out of something, Sky took a risk by devoting half an hour everyday to the exact same topic. Considering how climate change and its presentation is a divisive subject, it was hardly a risk worth taking. Changing it to every weekend was still a poorly thought out move. 


    You might turn the news on when you get up at seven in the morning. You might turn the news on at ten before you go to bed. What might link those two viewings is that they are exactly the same.

    When the media can’t slot a new story in, they’ll just repeat it. If it’s an unfolding story, then of course you’ll see it or read about it again later because there are news things to be said. The problem occurs when it’s the same story over and over again. 

    Nobody wants to hear the same story they did fifteen hours ago without new information. It’s tiresome.

    The Fear Factor

    Then there’s the fear in which the media thrives.

    From the moment that Boris Johnson told us that we now had to stay in our homes because of COVID, the media was all over the pandemic- perhaps even before then. With nothing else happening because everyone was locked down, all the media could do was run constant stories about the ever climbing death toll. At first, well, it was what we expected. Then it started to get a bit repetitive. 

    These stories tend to get a much frostier reception if reported today. Commentators scold the media for trying to scare us or create fear. 

    They could, however, get away with it during those early months. With nothing else to do, we had more time for the news. Their stories were constantly about the deaths and after effects of COVID. We were already unable to leave our homes and live our daily lives, with constant mask wearing when we went out, so did we need to be intimidated even more?

    It’s not just COVID. Look at the climate protestors, especially the young ones, when interviewed. Some of them cry in fear for their future, weeping about the thought of a planet that could be gone when they have reached adulthood. Considering the constant doomsday coverage of climate change in the news, it’s easy to see where this fear comes from. Kids’ news shows like Sky’s awful FYI focus on the topic regularly. It’s constantly on mainstream news. 

    Children are more in tune with the world today. With all the darkness in the news and on social media, some will blame it for the declining mental health we are seeing in young people. Indeed, where is the hope? Well, people don’t watch the news to hear about new innovations or cute animals being born in zoos. Fear is more gripping than hope, and a bigger seller too, but it’s not good for morale.

    It’s vitally important that we know what’s going on in the world, but too much news is bad for the soul. In a world where it’s all too accessible and the media makes money on constant news, we can’t rely on it for real information. We’re either fed fear or repetitiveness. The obsession with news is, ironically, making us less knowledgeable. Resist the urge to keep up behind what is needed. It’s better for you.

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    Soundbites Over Sound Ideas

    ‘It’s a no to NOS.

    We will ban nitrous oxide, also called laughing gas, putting an end to the littering of empty canisters and intimidation in local parks.’

    This tweet by Downing Street earlier this year tells you everything you need to know about its policies. In an attempt to curb antisocial behaviour and littering, the government wants to ban nitrous oxide, more commonly known as laughing gas.


    Ok, is it the worst policy in the world? No. It’s probably one that most people would agree with. The problem is that the government has said that banning it would end the issues described. It’s a plaster on a stab wound.

    That’s what the government likes to do. It likes to offer pretty promises that won’t do anything to curb real issues.

    Anti-Social Behaviour 

    Anti-social behaviour is evident in our communities. The elderly may grumble about how ‘kids in my day had more respect’ and to give them credit, they’ve got a point. 

    Society has a lot to say as to why this is. One reason given is the destruction of the nuclear family, especially fatherlessness. Studies have shown that children who grow up in single-parent families, particularly those without a father present, are more at risk of becoming criminals. Others point to a lack of discipline in the home and school. Scottish teaching unions warn that teachers are at risk of dismissal and unfair treatment when disciplining children. 

    Banning nitrous oxide will not solve the problem of anti-social behaviour. They will still drink and smoke weed and cause chaos. They will continue because they know that they can get away with it. The government and other authority groups are yet to actually come up with a solution to these problems. If they continue to allow criminals to get away with things, then they will.

    Labour often blame the Conservatives for this. The usual line is that the Tories have slashed funding for youth and community centres, which encourages crime and anti-social behaviour. This is an argument many refute. Many live in areas with parks and swimming pools and leisure centres. These are free and accessible activities. Bored kids don’t go out and rob. These are kids with no discipline or regard for other people. It’s easy to find something to do these days. Instead, lack of discipline and glamourising such a lifestyle fuels this epidemic. 


    The Welsh government has unveiled plans to restrict 2-for-1 deals, multibuys and other deals on ‘unhealthy’ foods. They have argued that it will help decrease obesity and diabetes.

    The English government did a similar thing in 2022, banning sweets and junk foods from being displayed near tills. 

    The logic behind them is as follows: it will stop people impulsively buying junk food and will prevent kids from begging their parents for treats at the till. Suddenly, obesity and diabetes will drop.


    Obesity is more than just junk food. Firstly, perhaps the government should acknowledge that a lot of parents and people in general have a thing called self-control. They can easily avoid sweets or just tell their children ‘no.’ Sure, some may fall into it, but many can resist temptation.

    Secondly, people will also still go down the sweet aisle. They will still get treats, even if they’re a little further down.

    Thirdly, the government can bog off controlling lives. 

    In a cost of living crisis, one would think making things more expensive is just a bad idea. If the government was to actually tackle costs, then maybe healthier food would be easier to buy and make. They cannot get rid of convenience, but it would be nice if prices were better. With more and more people feeling the squeeze, the idea of affordable good food is a tempting one indeed. 

    One must also factor in things like exercise. Eating alone does not solve health problems. Once again, our elders will complain that kids don’t go outside because they’re glued to a screen. I don’t like to give it to them, but again, how often do you see a toddler being pacified by a tablet? 

    Both indoor and outdoor sports are easily available. It does not even have to be organised- anyone can have a kickabout in the park. Perhaps we could encourage more PE and sports at school. It’s not just kids either- we should all move about a little more. 


    Once again, the government wants to ban something. This time, it’s oil boilers that are on the chopping block. The plans would see those not connected to the gas grid be forced to find a new source of heat. 

    Having new boilers and heat sources installed is not cheap- it can cost up to tens of thousands to replace. That is money not many people have. Add that to high heat and energy bills, mix in the cost of living crisis, and you have a terrible policy.

    The plan is a clear attempt to win over environmentalists. Politically, it’s extremely stupid. Most hardcore environmentalists won’t vote Tory anyway. Secondly, rural areas are usually Conservative. Annoying your voters is not a great idea, especially when you’re lagging in the polls.

    It’s a policy that is not only politically useless, but it’s actively hurting people’s finances. Once again, the government claims to know best. It’s a pretty soundbite policy, but not a solution.

    Once the government decides to find actual solutions- or even just stick their noses out- things could actually improve a bit. Instead, they just focus on nice graphics and soundbites sent out by their press officers. It’s idealism and stupidity in equal measure. 

    Political spin seems to be the in thing. They tell us what they think we’d like to hear as opposed to using their limitless powers to help. If they are going to get involved in our lives, then let it be for the better. 

    Soundbites don’t work and the second the government realises that, then progress can be made.

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    Britain Is No Longer a Land of Opportunity

    A recent viral tweet showed two doctors leaving a hospital. They’ve surrendered their licenses to practice medicine in Britain and are instead heading off to work in Australia. It’s not unusual- the majority of foreign doctors in Australia are Brits. The problem lies in the fact that young, educated doctors do not see themselves thriving in Britain. Our pay and conditions are not good enough for them. 

    Are you annoyed at them for being educated through taxpayer funding before going abroad? Many are. Are you understanding as to why? So are others.

    Whilst this particular tale does come down to problems with the NHS, it’s also an example of what is wrong with Britain at the moment. People, especially younger ones, haven’t got the opportunities that they should have. There is no aspiration. There is a lot to reach for and not a lot to grab. 

    What has happened?

    Wages and Salaries and Income, Oh My!

    A recent investigation by a think tank has revealed that 15 years of economic stagnation has seen Brits losing £11K a year in wages. Let’s put this into perspective. Poland and Eastern Europe are seeing a rise in GDP- Poland is projected to be richer than us in 12 years should our economic growth remain the same. The lowest earners in Britain have a 20% weaker standard of living than Slovenians in the same situation

    That’s a lot of numbers to say that wages and salaries aren’t that great. 

    By historical standards, the tax burden in the U.K. is very high. COVID saw the government pumping money into furlough schemes and healthcare. As the population ages, there is a further need for health and social care support. This results in taxes eating into a larger amount of our income. In fact, more adults than ever are paying 40% or above in taxation. It’s a significant number. One might argue that this does generally only apply to the rich and thus 40% is not a high amount for them, but is that a fair number?

    With inflation increasing costs and house prices rising (more on that later), a decent standard of living is beyond the reach of many. This is certainly true for young people. With wages and salaries falling in real time, we do not have the same opportunities as our parents and grandparents. Families used to be able to live comfortably on one wage, something that is near impossible. Our taxes are going on healthcare for an aging population.

    Do we want old people to die? Of course not. We just do not have the benefits that they did. Our income is going towards their comfort. Pensioners have higher incomes than working age people. 

    Compared to the United States, Brits have lower wages. One can argue that it is down to several things- more paid holidays and taxpayer funded healthcare. That is true, and many Brits will proudly compare the NHS to the American healthcare system. That is fine, but when the NHS is in constant crisis, we don’t seem to be getting our money’s worth. The average American salary is 12K higher than the average Brit’s. The typical US household is 64% richer. Whilst places like New York and San Francisco have extortionate house prices, it’s generally cheaper across the US. 

    Which brings us onto housing.

    A House is Not a Home

    Houses are expensive- they are at about 8.8% higher than the average income. This is compared to 4% in the 1990s. That itself is an immediate roadblock to many. Considering how salaries have stagnated, as discussed in the previous section, it’s only obvious that homeowning is a dream as opposed to reality. 

    Rent is not exactly affordable either. In London, the average renter spends more than half of their income on rent. Stories of people queuing for days and landlords taking much higher offers are commonplace. 

    House building itself is not cheap- the price of bricks have absolutely rocketed over recent years. Factors include a shortage of housing stock and increased utilities. House building itself is also not easy.

    NIMBYs have an aneurysm at the thought of an abandoned bingo hall being turned into housing. MPs in leafy suburbs push against any new developments, lest their wealthy parishioners vote for somebody else. Theresa Villiers, whose constituency sees homes average twice the U.K. mean price, led Tory MPs in an attempt to prevent house building targets. 

    We get the older folks telling us that we just need to work harder. It’s easy for them to say, considering a higher proportion of our income is needed to just get a damn deposit. If we’re paying more and more of our income on rent, how can we save?

    Playing Mummy and Daddy

    The ambition to become a parent is something many hold, but it is again an ambition that is unattainable. Well, the actual having the child part is easy, but it’s what comes after that makes it tough. 

    Firstly, we cannot get our own homes. Few want to raise their children in one bed flats with no gardens. To plan for a child is to likely plan a move. 

    Secondly, childcare is very expensive. Years and years ago, men went to work and women stayed home with the children as a rule. Of course, that did not apply to the working class, but it was a workable system. Nowadays, you both have to work. Few can survive on a single income from either parent. Grandparents are often working themselves or simply don’t/can’t provide babysitting duties. This leaves only one choice- professional childcare. The average cost of childcare during the summer holidays is £943. Some parents pay more than half of their wages on childcare. 

    Thirdly, as has been said, everything is more expensive these days. One only has to look at something basic like school uniforms- some spend over £300 per child. It’s not cheap to look after adults, let alone children. 

    The Golden Years 

    The focus of this piece is generally on young and working age people, but the cost of social care is pretty bad. With the costs of home and residential health care increasing constantly, it means that many will lose their hard earned savings. Houses must be sold and pensions given up. It is unfair that we must work all of our lives but then leave nothing for our children if we wish. Whilst residential homes are alien concepts to many in cultures where they look after the elderly, many factors in the U.K. mean that it is more common. 

    On balance, pensioners are better off than the young, but what about those who need care? It may be bad now, but what about when we ourselves are old? We will likely still be working at 70 and having to pay more for our care.

    The Party of Aspiration and 13 Years of Power

    The Conservatives have always called themselves the party of aspiration. They’ve been in power for 13 years, eight of which were without a coalition party. The Tories won a stunning majority in 2019 under Boris Johnson. They’ve had the opportunity to do something about this but haven’t. It’s amazing that they wonder why young people don’t vote for them anymore.

    Let’s not pretend Labour and the Lib Dems are any better either. The Lib Dems won the historical Tory seat of Chesham and Amersham partially by appealing to those worried about new housing. Labour’s plans aren’t particularly inspiring. 

    We cannot dream in Britain anymore. The land of hard work and fair reward is no more. We must simply sit by as our wages stagnate, houses get too expensive and the opportunity for family passes us by. Our doctors head to Australia for better pay and better conditions. Countries that would see immigrants come to us for a better life are seeing their own economies grow. 

    People shouldn’t be living with roommates in their 30s when what they want is a family. We deserve to work hard to secure a good future. We don’t deserve for our income to go on poor services and for our savings to go on residential care.

    The Tories have had thirteen years to sort it out. Labour and the Lib Dems have had chances to put their plans across. Our politicians care more about talking points and pretty photo ops than improving our lives.  

    Let us have ambition. Let us seek opportunities. Let Britain be a land of opportunity once again.

    Photo Credit.

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