I am by no means rich. And where I understand that actually, on a global scale I am rolling in it, on a day-to-day basis the local market will always prevail over the highbrow food court. I am more Tesco (forgive me) than Waitrose and I am not above the odd splurge at Poundland (for that I am not sorry).  I try to be careful with my money and if you’d have spoken to me before Live Below the Line,  I’d have told you with sincerity that I by no means take money for granted.

Live Below the Line is a new and challenging campaign that aims to raise awareness of the estimated 1.4 billion people who are trapped in the cycle of extreme poverty. The challenge is to live on £1 a day for five days, the same amount that someone living in abject poverty in the UK would have to survive on. The idea is to put yourself directly in the place of those living in extreme poverty in the UK so that it becomes something you can’t switch off and push aside at will, but a living reality. Read More

April saw the much debated burka ban come into effect in France. With reported acts of resistance already underway, the ban means that women seen wearing the burka and niqab (full Islamic veils) in public can receive a €150 fine or a French citizenship course.

Considered a violation of human rights and a slur against Muslims by many of its critics, the law in itself makes no explicit reference to the burka or niqab. In fact it’s the absurd elephant in the room as the law, labelled  ‘prohibiting the concealing of the face in public’, oddly makes no direct mention of women or the veil in what can only be assumed as a misguided attempt to appear neutral.

However there is no doubt that the estimated 2000 Muslim women who wear the burka in France have been targeted here. Deemed a ‘sign of subservience’, by French president Sarkozy, the niqab and burka have been growing sources of contention in France for years.  With many other European countries such as Belgium and Holland threatening to jump on the bandwagon, we have to ask ourselves; will this ban actually solve anything? Read More

Maeve McKeown is a PhD Political Theory student at UCL.  She took part in the UCL Occupation and all of the major student protests. Her blog http://studenttheory.wordpress.com applies political theory to the student movement and she is also a contributing editor at the New Left Project. Maeve took time out to talk to me about those will be most affected by the rise in tuition fees and her involvement in the UCL Occupation.

What is the reality that students now face in light of the increase of tuition fees?

Young people going to university will face the choice of studying what they want to study for personal or intellectual fulfillment, and the subject that will get them a job that ensures they can pay back their debt.  And the debt will be substantial – £27,000 in fees for a three-year course, plus living costs (say a further £15,000), plus interest!  What eighteen-year-old from a working class background will study English or Classics now?  Read More

26 March saw several thousands of people from all backgrounds protest on the streets of London. Organised by The Trades Union Congress (TUC), many came from near and far to voice their disdain over the government’s manhandling of UK public services.  With protesters ranging from students to pensioners, 26 March exhibited the kind of unity last seen in the anti-Iraq war march of 2003. People from all kinds of professional and political persuasions stood shoulder to shoulder to voice their anger and to, ‘March for the Alternative’.

Deemed as an all-round success, no one can deny that the events in the day were mostly peaceful and paid tribute to the stella organisation skills of the TUC. However as the day moved on, a more aggressive form of ‘protest’ developed. We’ve all read about the backlash and many heard of the ammonia filled light bulbs that were thrown at the police.

As shocking as this was, this violent undertone of protest is unfortunately nothing new. Read More

Journalist John Pilger’s film, The War You Don’t See, is a fearless exploration of the media’s role in war in Afghanistan and Iraq. Dating back from the First World War, Pilger examines the relationship between the government and the media and the origins of propaganda and government spin.

Much like the First and Second World Wars, on some level we’ve still  been conditioned to associate war with heroism and a fight for a ‘greater good’ and the war in Iraq was no exception to this. Behind the tired rhetoric of threats of weapons of mass destruction was very  little actual evidence and a growing and disproportionate level of the number of Iraqi war casualties.  Pilger questions why the  media, particularly in the UK and America, allowed itself to be manipulated by the government and become the mouth piece for its dishonest agenda.

Read More

The annual Passion for Freedom Art competition took place late last year in which a group of international artists were asked to address the subject of religion and human rights.

The exhibition comes directly from The One Law for All campaign against the Sharia Law in Britain. The Sharia law is an Islamic law based on a combination of sources, including the Quran and the Sunna.

Courtesy of Onelawforall.org

According to a report by One Law for All, in the Sharia law’s penal code, women can be stoned to death for sex outside of marriage, homosexuality is punishable by death and improper veiling is punishable with fines and imprisonment. A woman’s testimony is worth half that of a man’s and while a man can have four wives and can easily divorce, a woman must give justification for requesting a divorce, some of which are extremely difficult to prove. Read More

Life has a funny habit of throwing around ironic parallels and it should just so happen that 30 years down the line, I’m listening to The Smiths, we are in a Conservative-led government, still suffering from aftershocks of a recession, and we are looking at another royal wedding.

I may not know much, but I know that pretty much from now until April on every slow news day we are going to be paraded with images and tales of how ‘Kate met Will’. And as we enter these austere times of shaky uncertainty, it’s going to become a convenient focal point used to gloss over real issues such as the slow progress after the floods in Pakistan, Philip Green’s alleged billion pound tax avoidance or the barbaric police aggression that the government seems to be ignoring in light of the student demonstrations. Read More