Building a new website

iusedtoliveinnottinghill is coming to an end. It has been a fun era, but what I wanted to do with this blog morphed almost as soon as I started it. Some of the articles I’ve uploaded I’m immensly proud of – but with all things, some I’m less proud of. Either way, this is not the end. In the new year, I will be creating a new website (from scratch, using Adobe Muse), that will cover all aspects of my writing. Including work from other organisations, blog-specific posts, essays, and a dissertation diary.

Until then, I’m Politics Editor of Pi Media. Below I’m adding links to some of the work I’ve done recently (both for myself and you). Best!

Pi Media

The Re|view

The Guardian

UCL News

Bartlett School of Architecture

I recently wrote an article for Pi Media on the first full year of the UCL Academy in Swiss Cottage. The school is fully funded and operated by University College London as an attempt to bring a more university-style education to the secondary experience. In the article I tour the building and facilities, plus interview the Prinicipal of the Academy, Geraldine Davies. You can view the article here. It’s also included in Issue 701 of Pi Magazine which you can pick up for free across Bloomsbury or view online here.

“We don’t learn languages very well in this country. So our principle has been to embed one modern and very important language into the life of the school”

Summer of Sorts

IUTLINH is having quite the summer. In between trips to Berlin and Rome, I’ve been spending my time working as a communications assistant at the Bartlett School of Architecture and freelancing at The Guardian.

My time at the Bartlett revolved around The Bartlett Summer Show 2013, one of the largest architecture degree shows in the UK. Whilst there, I commissioned two videos focused on the show’s opening night and preparations for the event, respectively.

I’ll be taking a short break from this blog over the summer as I go into writing overload. I hope you’ll enjoy the sun if your somewhere where that’s a possibility, and visit back next time. Make sure you don’t miss an article by following this blog via WordPress or email. Links are on your screen.

The aforementioned videos are below:

Falling membership and the Celtic Fringe: Liberal Democrats must look inwards before 2015

The Lib Dems cast a sigh of relief after the most recent local election results. Granted, they had managed to lose 134 councillors across England, but the party was sincere in its subsequent message to the media. “Where we have MPs and Liberal Democrats out on the doorstep, we’re holding our own, and in some areas even making gains”, Nick Clegg told Channel 4 News.

First of all, that analysis is rather flimsy. In Steven Williams’ Bristol seat, there was a net loss of 9 Lib Dem councillors, whilst in traditionally Liberal areas such as Hadleigh in Suffolk, their vote collapsed after decades in control.

But the most concerning statistic for Lib Dem HQ must be that the strong party base referred to by Mr Clegg has been eroding rather rapidly in recent years. According to the Electoral Commission there has been a massive drop in membership between 2010 and 2013 – approximately a third have been lost. The current figure of 42,000 is a far cry from the party’s height during the Iraq insurgency, where Lib Dems could count over 73,000 members.

Looking towards 2015, things seem increasingly bleak for the party. Even if the remaining base is active in current constituencies, chances are this will have little effect. Lib Dem strong seats after all, aren’t that strong. Where the party hold MPs, frequently a mighty challenge is posed in the form of Labour or the Conservatives. This is compounded by a relative lack of Liberal seats where both these two have a strong presence, giving little hope in holding on in the face of a split local opposition.

The recent by-election in Eastleigh offered a sample of this. Labour were largely out of play following a steady decline in the area for years. The Conservatives have offered the only credible alternative since losing the seat in 1994. But the surprising surge for UKIP split the vote and helped the party hold the seat.  Eastleigh was won not by a strong local presence, but by a weakened and fragmented opposition.

The Lib Dems must avoid receding to the Celtic Fringe (Credit: Donald Macleod)

Unfortunately, history isn’t on the party’s side when it comes to safe seats. The only areas Lib Dems can consistently hold are in the Celtic Fringe. The 2011 Scottish elections saw nine MSPs lose their constituency seats, leaving only two left – one on Orkney and one on Shetland. A return to the dark days of the mid-20th century where all Liberal MPs could fit inside a single black cab isn’t comforting.

But it’s not all grim reading for the party. What they have on their side is unity, or at least the appearance of it.

Unlike the constant leadership murmurings Cameron faces, little has been reported on Lib Dem rifts. That’s largely because there’s also no obvious challenger to Nick Clegg. Well-liked Vince Cable is loyal to Clegg and has previously been reluctant to lead the party, whilst his age is likely to bring back memories of Sir Menzies Campbell’s ill-fated stab. Charles Kennedy has been making noise recently, but has few fans inside the parliamentary contingent, whilst the most promising previous candidate, Chris Huhne, has been marred in scandal.

A split within the party should be avoided at all costs. The lessons of the historic Liberal Party serve that suggestion well, as their post World War I divide sent the party spiralling towards demise.

Interestingly, one thing Liberal Democrats should look out for later this year is the German federal election. The German Liberals (FDP), are part of a coalition with Angela Merkel’s Conservatives (CDU) after a strong third place result in 2009, but their support has completely slipped away. All but wiped out during midterms and falling behind both Greens and the far-left, they look likely to finish fifth with a loss of around 10 percentage points. The reason? Bickering and internal power struggles. The results will bookend a ready-made guide for British Liberals to avoid.

The party should brace themselves for a bad result in 2015, but internal disagreements will only serve to hasten the decline. With a strong cohesive message, the party can avoid the black cab.

Coincidently, that 1994 by-election returning a Liberal Democrat in traditionally Conservative Eastleigh, also witnessed a certain Nigel Farage run under the UKIP banner for the first time. Not that UKIP provided any significant challenge back then, but Mr Clegg will be hoping such a fruitful outcome will arise once more.

Feminism as a Dirty Word: Time to abandon the Political Extreme?

A rather interesting article crossed my path a while back. Kira Cochrane writes in The Guardian on the rise of Femen, a controversial feminist group adopting visual methods to condemn perceived female oppression in society. They confronted Silvio Berlusconi as he cast his vote in the Italian Elections last February – topless; chopped down a landmark wooden cross in Kiev to express support for Pussy Riot – topless; and protested outside the Vatican during Friday prayers in support of gay rights – topless. Sensing a theme here?

It got me thinking about the broader state of the feminist movement in the 21st century. Undoubtedly there has been true progress for women since the foundation of modern-day feminism, but is that really down to self-acclaimed feminists, or actually in spite of them?

How much does society change when a group of protesters exhibit their bare breasts in front of the world media? Intentions aside, the ensuing debate is inclined to focus on their tactics, rather than on what the tactics are meant to prompt. In fact, all it does is split the feminist movement ever greater – Femen coin their actions ‘Sextremism.’ 

Division would be the key word to associate with 21st century feminism. That’s not to say that Femen’s work is particularly wrong. It’s a ballsy experiment from a group of women who believe their cause has stagnated, and rightly so. Feminism is a dirty word within the mainstream. This is largely a result of failing to shake off an unflattering cliché.

Femen Protestors (Credit: Hillary, hellp!)

To find out why Feminism has stagnated as a cause I asked a middle-aged woman, 47, whether she would describe herself as a Feminist. The reaction was instantaneously a no. Yet she went on to list how patriarchy unfairly dominated society: the most passionate plea was how she is expected to take care of children to a larger extent than her partner even though they both work. Seemingly the eradication of these assumptions is exactly what the feminist movement is there to fight. So why not count herself as a feminist?

“The word has become associated too much with hard politics. It’s a political extreme to describe yourself as a feminist.”

On this point, I would urge Feminists to work harder in coordinating their efforts. This sort of political cohesiveness has worked for the global LGBT movement. Gay rights campaigners led efforts to educate people about AIDS in the 1980s, became increasingly active on promoting transgender issues during the 90s, and this century have led successful campaigns on intersectionality and same-sex marriage. Considering it took until 1990 for the World Health Organisation to remove homosexuality from the International Classification of Diseases, the LGBT movement has progressed supremely well in the 21st century.

I can only aim to address this subject from my (male) point-of-view. From that perspective, it seems clear that Feminism doesn’t have to be particularly radical in 2013 and beyond. Laws concerning gender are well in reach of equality in the western world. The biggest hurdle left is tackling outdated thought and assumptions. For this task, Feminism doesn’t have to be the domain of woman.

Society and politics need strong factional movements in order for the norms of community to be challenged. Feminism is vital to the health of our long-term political dial. At the moment, it seems that Feminism itself is on life support.

>> Kate Nash – ‘Rap for Rejection’