Posts by Tom Parkin

I’m Tom Parkin and I am a 17 year old writer and aspiring journalist. I come from Evesham in Worcestershire and this is my website where I post fictional stories and articles on politics, Europe and current affairs. I joined the Labour party in October 2013 and identify towards the ‘left’ of the party. I am also a supporter of the Democracy in Europe Movement 2025 (DiEM25). The pro-European movement, founded by Yanis Varoufakis, aims to democratize the core institutions of the European Union. As well as independent blogging, I am currently a political columnist for US news website PolitiNation. Other than politics, my interests are singing, playing the trumpet, archery, running and buying old books.

The Masculinity Problem: a delicate truth

son-in-law-636021_1280-1

This is rather different to the usual politics I write about, but when lives are at risk, we need to talk about false and outdated expectations of men and women in society.

You must have a career. You will have a family. You have to step up and become the breadwinner.

This is the message. 

76% of all suicides in the UK are that of men. Suicide is the biggest killer of men under 35.  Men are three times more likely to become alcohol dependent than women. Male attainment in school is consistantly falling year-on-year, with a male-female gap of 8.8% occuring for 2014 GCSE students in England and Wales.

This is the truth.

Most boys play off one another’s masculinity. You can see it everywhere from a primary school playground to the business rooms of central London. We challenge eachother to surrender our self-identity and become numb to emotion. It is, we are told, the route to success, a way to prepare for a hardened life ahead.

But in the end, we boys are lied to. We lie to each other. ‘Emotions mean nothing’ we’re told. Immediately, we’re stripped of the ablity to express thought, ideas and react to our surroundings. At such a young age, we’re clueless, defenceless and met with the cold demand  to ‘man up’ whenever we break this code of emotional silence.

Is this really how boys and young men ought to live? Surely, there’s a better alternative?

heracles-1374830_1920

Heracles: a Greek symbol for masculinity

In truth, masculinity is a club. There are set rules and expectations, we are judged by fellow members who retaliate, physically and verbally, whenever we do anything that may cause them to question their own identity. This way, the club stays together. The common surrender of self-identity survives.

Over time, boys learn to police the emotions of others – often those younger and weaker than us. We get a kick out of doing so. Apparantly.

Masculinity is fine – necessary even. It’s a product of social interaction. But when it creates such a tense environment of impossible expectation, undesirable goals and forced lives, it becomes something dangerous. Unknowingly, we match the social pressures against us by being a danger to the mental wellbeing and confidence of others.

In the UK, attacks against women, young men, ethnic minorities and members of the LGBTI community are on the rise. All around us, society is thankfully – albeit gradually – removing the ‘traditional’ role of men as the main provider for the family. The idea of a financially successful women or a same-sex couple starting a family of their own questions the limited and grim outlook so many of us boys are encouraged to adopt in our early childhood.

Slowly, we are as individuals, able to publically challenge an idea that has reigned unopposed in some form since humans first emerged. The kneejerk response? Shut that opposition down. Protect yourself from self-enlightenment of your own identity of who you are and who you aspire to become. Why? Because it’s the masculine thing to do. It’s all you’ve been taught of course.

When someone expresses a public dislike for two men holding hands, raising a family or getting married, surely it’s a call for help? At their root, that person is expressing a dislike at the fact their perception of the world is wrong and so is their perceived role in it.

They are not disgusted at the couple, but rather their vulnerability to the many lies told throughout their lifetime about identity, role and respect.

globe

Recently, I’ve noticed a bizarre response towards the growing crisis in mental health issues through an attack on the British feminist movement. Most prominent, is the development of the ‘manosphere’ – yes that really is a thing – a community campaign to ‘protect men against the evils of a society controlled for and run by women‘. Now clearly, this is the wrong response. I know this as a man. I know this as a feminist. But it is an interesting form of protest against the existing situation. A growing movement of men are turning against women and blaming them and the long fight for women’s liberation in Britain – in art, at work, at home and in wider society – for their own economic and hierarchical demise.

The idea that men must be the economic providers in the home is rubbish. It’s never been the case.

Instead, the threat to the further deterioration of men’s mental health issues is not women but austerity. From 2010-2016, under David Cameron’s leadership, real term cuts of 8% were made to budgets of mental health services across Britain. During this time, demand for these services increased by 20%. Infact, as of January last year, mental health, although making up 23% of the illnesses treated by the NHS, received a small 13% of its annual budget. In other words, there was an £11bn funding gap.

The idea that men must be the economic providers in the home is rubbish. It’s never been the case. Over the centuries, most families in Britain and around the world were too impovorished to even have the option of one parent remaining at home. Instead, it was a concept devised by and exclusively avaliable to the narrow middle-classes.

This disequilibrium of expectation on men and women is creating an excess of pressure for box sexes, it restrains productivity, creates illegal wage inequality and works to increase the number of mental health cases around the world.

But rather than reflecting a ‘natural’ behavioural norm we have inherited through generations gone, our common concept of masculinity is infact the cause and controller of our behaviour, growing in intensity with every new generation. Masculine ‘traits’ for example, are the basis for capitalism – a system which emerged from feudalism and mercantilism – theories which themselves encourage the ego and recognise oppression of others as a demonstration of man’s physical hold over the world. Self-greed and the maximisation of profit  all contribute to the idea that men must be the ‘breadwinners’ for a secure family unit. Capitlism is simply the collective result of this attitude.

stock-exchange-738671_1280

The New York Stock Exchange: a hugely male-dominated industry and a symbol of capitalist power.

For all men seeking to find their masculine identity, unregulated capitalism serves in two ways. First, it facilitates the opportunity for wealth accumulation. Here, status is found and men and women are able to compare their success against one another numerically. Second, capitalism allows men and women to obtain physical posessions – houses, cars and jewelry – which become symbols of power and authority to their counterparts. It gives men and women the wealth that allows them something another man or woman desires. This creates the medium for exchane which is afterall, the basis of the capitalist system.

But masculinity goes further than capitalism. It’s at the centre of almost all our news stories. Everything from expansionist wars to violent coups to economic crashes following excessive risk taking. Nearly always led by men, for men and for the promotion of men. Proponents of capitalism explain how the system encorporates our natural instincts and succeeds only on that basis. They’re right. It does encorporate a set of instincts – just the wrong ones, developed in childhood through an environment cluttered with references to need, greed and over consumption. Unregulated Capitalism never for example, fosters empathy, social cohesion or respect for others, the self or the natural environment. And that’s why its failing in its current, uncorrected and extreme form. There has been a miscalculation of our ‘natural instincts’ into the system.

So what’s to change? How can we address the issue of masculinity and from that, the incredible growth-rate of mental health issues amongst boys and men? How do we restore self-confidence and break down the social pressures which force onto us, expectations of ‘male norms’?

First, there has to be a change to our understanding of what it means to be ‘masculine’. No longer can anyone expect a man to become the sole provider for a family. Our language must change. This means divising a realistic expectation of what men and women should strive towards. But what is this? Whatever they want to.

In 2015, the coalition introduced the Shared Paternity Leave Scheme (SPL/ShPP), to help new families have control over how much time each parent, if they choose to, takes time off work. The aim of the scheme was to encourage mothers and fathers to share responsibilities, making it easier for women to go back to work after giving birth. However, in April 2016, it was reported that just 1% of new fathers take up SPL.

It seems that although the legal substance is appearing, societal pressures are preventing men and women from using this opportunity. The problem of masculinity has not been dealt with.

Until our language, perception of masculinity and terrible bias against female leadership in business and politics changes – the problem of masculinity will continue to grow and claim more lives.

Start with yourself. Should YOU change your use of language around the subject?

We’d all be better off if we did.

 

‘I’m For Europe’ – a movement by citizens, for citizens.

imforeuropeJOIN THE MOVEMENT HERE

Since the 2008 financial crisis and the EU’s near implosion following ‘Brexit’, far-right populism, xenophobic and divisive politics have swept across the continent.

Now, more than ever, it is vital that the people of Europe come together and share our experiences and ideas for creating a united European community.

‘I’m for Europe’ is a platform to achieve this.

What are the movement’s objectives?

  • For like-minded Europeans to form new contacts and links across the continent, organising social events, political debates and campaigns which focus on social justice, diversity and tackling the growing xenophobic, racist and nationalist anger which is tearing up European achievements and forcing its ctizens to turn on one another.
  • To scrutinize government action and legislation concerning European integration.
  • To campaign for the democratization of the European Union’s central political institutions.
  • Educate Europeans about the importance of the EU to maintaning peace and economic prosperity.
  • Challenge common misconceptions concerning the EU, often fuelled by an inaccurate media and in some cases, national governments. In short, ‘I’m For Europe’ could become a sort of ‘People’s Watchdog’.
  • Protect the rights of individual Europeans and the core values of the EU.
  • To examine possible routes to further European integration – including a look towards European Federalism. 

In short,

  1. Encourage new friendships and social ties between Europeans.
  2. Challenge abuses of power and common misconceptions about the European Union.
  3. Provide clearer explanations about the work of the European Union to its citizens.
  4. Bring together like-minded Europeans and their talents for the positive and constructive goal of promoting common understanding, diversity and respect for one another.
  5. Demand the democratization of central EU institutions before they disintegrate.

So whoever you are, no matter where you are from, please, join ‘I’m For Europe’ if you care about protecting the single createst political achievement in Europe’s history.

Because only together, can we win.

Introducing the Parkin Half Hour

theparkinhalfhour

Education           Inclusion           Creativity

2017 marks the release of an eight part series of 15-30 minute podcasts called the ‘Parkin Half Hour’.

The series examines the relationship between young people and politics, highlighting the importance of young people becoming involved in the political process and exploring some of the key political, social and economic issues discussed by young people in Britain today.

Alongside the podcasts, tomparkin.org will provide a variety of other online tools to bring those aged 14-30 closer to politics in their local community.

Introducing Real Vote: A Way of Making the United Kingdom a Democracy

realvote

At election times we are free to say what we like, anyone can be a candidate, it is easy to vote, results are counted honestly, everything is straightforward and we congratulate ourselves for living in a democracy and feel thankful that it is like that.

And that’s fine – until the results come. Then there is little to feel thankful about. Consider the following.

THE REALITY
It seems reasonable to expect that the results of any election in a democracy would show a relationship between the votes cast and the numbers of MPs elected. Thus, if half the electorate votes for party X, it should seem reasonable that half the MPs in that parliament should be from party X. That seems obvious. Who could disagree? And yet, in the UK, election after election, no such relationship can be found. There has never been a link between how citizens vote on Thursday and the make up of parliament on Friday. The result is and always has been, entirely random. At the moment we have a government rejected by 64% of the electorate.

Every student of politics knows that this is a consequence of the UK voting system, First-Past-The-Post – a system particular to the UK. This simple system, rooted deeply in the past, has survived all the political changes of the centuries, but now fails every democratic test.

Consider the results of the 2015 election for UKIP and the SNP. UKIP voters totalled 12.7% of the vote (3,881,099) yet have .02% of MPs – only one MP. SNP voters totalled 4.7% of the vote (1,454,436) and have 56 MPs. This is gerrymandering of the highest order. Who could justify such injustice? A simple calculation will show that each SNP MP represents 25,972 voters and the single UKIP MP represents 3,881,099. And so 150 UKIP voters are needed to equal the voting power of one SNP supporter. Democracy? You are joking.

Here are the details of the 2015 election illustrating the injustices of our system

% of the votes % of the seats
Conservatives 36.8 50.8 WINNERS
Labour 30.5 35.7 WINNERS
DUP 0.6 1.2 WINNERS
SNP 4.7 8.6 WINNERS
UKIP 12.7 0.2 LOSERS
Liberal Democrats 7.9 1.2 LOSERS
Green 3.8 0.2 LOSERS
Plaid 0.6 0.5 LOSERS

These columns reveal the underlying weaknesses and unfairness of our UK system. Both columns should be more or less equal. This would then show that Parliament truly reflected the national vote. But how could this be done?

It’s quite easy. Introduce REAL voting. We need to introduce the concept of VOTING POWER. VP can easily be calculated by relating the total percentage of votes won by a party with the percentage of seats won by that party. Thus, the SNP, having won 4.7% of the national vote and 8.6% of the seats would have a VP 0.55 for each of their MPs. This is calculated by dividing the percentage number of their votes – 4.7%, by the percentage number of seats they won – 8.6%. This would reflect the true support for the SNP in the country. So when an SNP MP voted in the Commons, that vote would count as .55 of a vote and would be a completely accurate reflection of that party’s support. It’s not complicated. It is simple arithmetic.

The UK would continue to elect 650 MPs. As usual, each member would represent a local constituency and would be elected by achieving a simple majority (i.e. more votes than any other candidate). So far no change.

But, when all votes were counted, and all seats declared, each party would have its percentage of the national vote divided by the percentage number of elected members. For example, in 2015 the Conservative party received 36.8% of the national vote. Therefore, for the election to have been truly democratic the Conservative Party should have 36.8% of the power in the House of Commons – but they have over 50%.

The list below shows the VP of the parties elected in 2015 election had there been a REAL vote. These VPs would represent exactly the proper democratic importance of each MP. For the first time ever, we could then claim that every voter in the UK had been equally represented in the House of Commons.

Conservative 0.73
Labour 0.85
Liberal Democrats 6.42
SNP 0.55
UKIP 81.8
Green 24.7
Plaid 1.2
DUP 0.5

THE BENEFITS OF REAL VOTING
Every vote, whether a winning or a losing vote, would count in the final result.

In 2015, Na h-Eileanan an Iar (Scotland) was the smallest constituency with 21,769 voters. The Isle of Wight was the largest with 108,804 voters. This is another gerrymander resulting from the differing constituency sizes. It takes five Isle of Wight voters to counter one vote from Na h-Eileanan an Iar. But REAL voting would correct this unfairness as the all losing votes would be added to each party’s VP. For the first time ever those lost votes would count.

Nothing changes on Election Day. Same ballot paper, same constituencies with its own MP, same counting at the end of the day, same everything. First-Past-The-Post is popular with voters as it is simple. REAL voting is exactly the same. But unlike FPTP, it is fair.

There would be one huge and unexpected advantage to MPs in REAL voting. MPs would have to vote electronically. Instead of wasting time at every division, each vote would take less than one second. Think of the hours saved if our MPs joined the 21st century.

After the election every MP would be given a VP and that would be the value of that MP’s voting button for the duration of the Parliament. And every time that voting button was pressed, that vote would be representing exactly the number of voters who had supported the party. It’s called democracy.

SOME COMMENTS
Readers of the chart showing what the present Parliamentary VPs would be, might be shocked at the power given to one UKIP MP. But that is not the fault of REAL voting. REAL voting is concerned only with making our voting system a fair one. What the UKIP VP reveals is just how ludicrously distorted our present system is. But it also reveals two problems which might occur with REAL voting.

That one UKIP MP had a majority of 3,437 in his constituency. Had UKIP not won any seats – highly probable with the present system – then 3,881,099 voters would have been unrepresented. That would have been shocking. REAL voting counts and values every EVERY vote. In such a case, it would be reasonable to appoint the UKIP candidate with the greatest number of votes as an additional member with the appropriate UKIP VP.

A further problem might occur in the case of an Independent MP. What would the VP be for that seat? If the winning Independent candidate won 35% of the votes in their constituency, that MP would have a VP of .35. The losing voters would be added, as usual, to the parties concerned.

So there you have it – some simple legislation and democracy could be ours

Tom Parkin

First Published: Sunday 7th February 2016

tptptp

Labour are the winning voice for ‘remain’

 

Above: Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, Deputy Leader Tom Watson and Gloria De Piero, former Shadow Minister for Young People and Voter Registration at a ‘Labour In for Britain’ EU referendum rally: Image: BBC News

Since the EU referendum result, Labour, like the rest of the country has experienced a period of shock and deep soul searching. Our leader, Jeremy Corbyn spoke on the morning of the 24th June of the party’s need to respect the result of the referendum and move on. In an interview with the BBC he said, “you have to respect the decision people made”, quickly ruling out the possibility of Labour supporting a second referendum [1]

 

Since June, our new Prime Minister has dazzled the public with her wisdom by giving a detailed, perceptive and helpful commentary that ‘Brexit means Brexit’. Four months on and we are nowhere. A series of right-wing cabinet appointments, conferences, meetings with foreign leaders and photo-ops have produced no detail, no plan and no confidence for families and industry.

After the quick death of ‘Vote Leave’ following Michael Gove’s failed attempt to stab Boris Johnson, the victorious politicians are nowehere to question whilst we, the public, are demanding answers from a clueless bunch of  ‘elected’ Conservative puppets who have little to no understanding of the magnitude of what they’re doing, striding into negotiations, blindfolded and full of false confidence.

This is not the ‘steady’ leadership we were promised. Labour cannot join in.

Since the vote, Lib Dem leader Tim Farron risked further electoral ridicule and went against the Brexit tide, emerging as the voice of ‘the 48%’. The result? Massive electoral gains at the 2016 Witney by-election , eating into the constituency’s historic majority and jumping from 7% to 30% of the vote.

The truth is, around two-thirds of Labour members voted Remain, just ten Labour MPs supported the leave camp and a pro-European stance fits well with general party policy. By nature, Labour is internationalist. How can we support Brexit – especially as its main opponents just a few months ago?

This is not like us. This is not like the great political family to which I love and belong.

There are those that say anyone still advocating for Britain to remain in the EU is disrespecting the ‘will of the British people’. I understand this concern. But referendums are not binding and never have been. Throughout the campaign, the leaders of ‘vote leave’ were aware of ‘parliamentary sovereignty’ – the idea that parliament has ultimate legal authority. Michael Gove in particular, emphasised the importance of parliamentary sovereignty as a reason to pull out of Europe. Yet suddenly, when it all becomes a bit awkward, the principle is disposable, a mere obstacle to an unforgiving Brexit agenda.

To ease the difficulty, Johnson, Gove, Fox and Davis all became temperory advocates of direct democracy and yet this is not how our system works. Had their desire to make Britain a more democratic country been a life-long crusade against corruption, political mismanagement and the general political establishment – why have they never in their combined seventy-four years in parliament, put forward a single motion in favour of direct democracy?

Political selfishness and self-preservation.

“This is not like the great political family to which I love and belong.”

It’s clear Britain’s relationship with the European Union will be the defining issue of the next two General Elections. Negotiations could take up to ten years and unlike the past two elections, the Conservatives can no longer anoint themselves as the ‘party of economic responsibility‘.

Fresh faced: A younger David Cameron during the leaders’ debates in 2010, in which he declared the Conservatives as the ‘party of economic responsibility’.

The decision our party takes now must be kept throughout the negotiations. This could be until 2026. Get the decision right and the electoral gains for our party could be significant. More importantly however, the benefit for our communities could be enormous. But get it wrong and our credibility as an outward-looking, compassionate, internationalist, Social Democratic force could be lost for good.

As article 50 is triggered and Britain enters its negotiating period, the apparent unity of the Conservative Party will unravel, causing deep rifts in Westminster. Like the whole referendum, it will be messy, undignified and foolish. Labour would benefit from distancing itself from this. After all, it did not create this mess. This is not who we are.

What is it they say? Ah yes – ‘reap what you sow’.

A People Powered Movement to Save Europe #diem25

Governments cannot reform the European Union. But citizens can.

DIEM2525252525.png
Democracy In Europe Movement 2025 (DiEM25) is a pan-European political movement to democratize the machinary of the European Union. (diem25.org)

Over the years, the role of the European Union has become warped and confusing. Today, its central institutions serve as mediators between hostile national governments. It is little more than a toy for prime ministers to throw around, misuse, blame and criticize.

And like most abused toys, the union’s political structure is broken and in need of repair.

Earlier in the year, former British Prime Minister David Cameron, swept around the continent, busily calling for a ‘reformed relationship’ and a ‘new British deal’. At last, a political leader, sitting in the Council of Ministers alongisde Alexis Tsipras, making the case for long-lasting structural reform to the system.

Not so fast.

Rather than seeking full-blown reform, Mr Cameron wanted ‘British concessions’. Ultimately, he didn’t have the nerve to call for a fundamental change to the system. The ‘deal’ he rustled up was meant to convince voters that reform was possible. Instead, it had the opposite effect. He missed his opportunity and it cost us the referendum.

David Cameron at the EU summit

SOURCE: BBC News

Mr Cameron’s deal failed because he went about it the wrong way. Governments alone cannot plan reform, negotiate terms and deliver a successful resolution. Mass movements do this.

History is a series of collective actions, aimed at empowering the majority. The Great Reform Act of 1832 is a good example of this. Without intense lobbying, protests and a network of organised groups (in the form of the Birmingham Political Union etc…), the issue of parliamentary reform wouldn’t have been a priority.

Public assembly made it so.

Mr Cameron’s negotiating style was too clean, slick and robotic. Withought organised cross-party support, what was likely to have been a well intentioned deal, ended up looking like a political fix. The Prime Minister’s motives became questionable and the ‘remain’ vote unfairly toxic.

We cannot make the same mistake again. From now on, the pro-European campaign needs grassroots leadership. Upon the failure of the political system, why can’t citizens take control, enthuse voters, educate one another, share ideas, strengthen communities and stimulate the political imagination?

What’s the problem?

Until the union democratizes, national governments will (quite legitimately in some cases) continue to strip the EU of its powers until it is nothing more than a bare financial trading block. This is dangerous as a ‘bare trading block’ changes the whole nature of the union. Rather than serving citizens, by improving working conditions and protecting human rights, the EU would become subervient to the markets.

Primarily, the EU should serve as a union of people rather than governments. A united Europe is a social project, aiming to pool the ideas and skills of citizens of differing cultures, languages, families and backgrounds for the benefit of all.

To me, the most equiped and accessable movement to reform Europe is DiEM25.

As DiEM25’s founder and former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis explains, the movement’s purpose is:

“One very simple, but radical idea: to democratize Europe.” – Yanis Varoufakis

Politics itself cannot create a functioning European community. Although politicians can help regulate and support a united Europe, we – the 508 million Europeans – share the responsibility of spreading ideas, exploring cultures and learning languages.

The future of the union cannot be decided by a group of thirty bureaucrats sitting around a conference table. History tells a different story. Change occurs when people group together and act.

This group is DiEM25.

I discovered DiEM25 two months after its Berlin launch in February. With over 23 000 members in 56 countries, DiEM25 can offer a third route. Please download and read the manifestos, outlining how we can achieve the largest democratic revolution in human history.

The race to 2025 has begun. Will you join in?

 

Yanis Varoufakis (left) at the Berlin launch of DiEM in February (SOURCE:diem25.org)

TO DOWNLOAD THE SHORT AND LONG ENGLISH VERSIONS OF DiEM25’s MANIFESTO, PLEASE CLICK ON THE FOLLOWING LINKS:

Short Manifesto (ENGLISH) (4 Pages)

Long Manifesto (ENGLISH) (9 Pages)

FIND DiEM25 ONLINE:

twitterlogo