Category Archives: European Politics

The tampon tax is ridiculous, but once again, almost everyone has missed the point

While under no illusion that my comments are about as significant as a farting gnat, I feel it’s my duty to opine to you all once more in the hope that you will one day realise I was right all along (a bit too Milo?).

Yes, the latest hoo-ha sweeping the nation (sorry, social media) is the tampon tax, which in the space of 48 hours has descended into one big bloody mess. In a rare case where feminists, Eurosceptics and anti-taxers meet, the Great British Public is united at the ridiculousness of it.

The idea that an additional tax should be levied on women because they have periods is illogical, although the logic for defining its illogicalness is rather weak.

Many, including the greatest female heroines of our time – yes, you, Stella Creasy – have wasted little time in waging war. In their attempts to look more self-righteous than the folk next to them, proclaim: “They should be free!” before continuing to blast the patriarchy and the man – because it’s always a man – who would have imposed the tax initially.

This, of course, is nonsensical. It’s not the role of the state to subsidise tampons, no more than it is for the government to pay for condoms, toilet paper, shampoo or any essential. The case that this is only a female problem doesn’t hold up to scrutiny either unless you are to address every disadvantage males are at in society.

And, as you all know, nothing is free anyway. By declaring that something should be “free”, you simply demand that somebody else should foot the bill. That doesn’t however mean that the tampon tax is right. It isn’t.

So, what is the root cause of this temper tamptrum? Surprise, surprise, it’s the European Union. Yes, thanks to being a member of the failing political union which gives us access to a declining trade area – and one that is in the midst of a haplessly-handled migrant crisis – the tampon tax is unavoidable.

As a result of EU regulations, our unsovereign nation is unable to lower the VAT rate on sanitary items below 5 percent. And, to achieve any change, the agreement of all 28 member states would be required. Quite simply, the entirely unelected European Commission which proposed this absurd legislation overrides anything which Westminster may desire.

However, despite this evident unnecessary Brussels interference, the Labour Luvvies and co. will quietly sidestep this issue, and God forbid would they consider that our EU membership is riddled with negatives. As well as going against the party line – although we all know Jeremy Corbyn is a closet Eurosceptic anyway – it’s also a trickier horse to flog. Having a crack at the patriarchy earns far more retweets and likes than a pop at EU meddling could ever dream of – trust me, I know.

And, amusingly, the first party to bring up the crazy tampon tax was UKIP. More in common than you once thought?

But perhaps more than anything, that the tampon tax is symbolised as one of the biggest indicators of sexism in society is a symptom of ugly modern feminism. In the Western world, we have reached a situation where sexism is no longer an issue. Rude tweets, tampon taxes and “lad culture” are – I would hazard an educated guess – not problems which Emmeline Pankhurst, Emily Davison and the like were fighting for.

However, there are plenty of injustices taking place around the world which modern feminism shuns. Female genital mutilation, forced marriages and honour killings go unnoticed, largely because tackling them would require feminists to remove themselves from Twitter, get their hands dirty, and risk “offending” horrendously backwards cultures.

These women face genuine oppression, but their plight is forgotten. It doesn’t have the social media sellability that the attention-seeking Caitlyn Jenner has.

The tampon tax story has many similarities to a play in the horrifically patriarchal sport of golf. The sweetly struck shot came so close to glory, zoning in on the pin, but ended up pinging off the flag and into the rough. Instead of highlighting the actual problem, the point, once again, has been badly missed.

Must be the time of the month.

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Greek default does NOT equal Greek exit

Anyone’s guess as to what will happen in Greece at the moment. Here’s what the new Greek Finance Minister, Yanis Varoufakis, had to say in 2012.

There may be trouble ahead…

Yanis Varoufakis

Perhaps the greatest enemy of the eurozone, at this particular juncture, is an erroneous assumption: that a Greek default is inextricably linked to a Greek exit from the eurozone. The problem with this assumption is twofold: First, it prevents Europe from escaping a trap of its own making. Secondly, it is false.

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Are you really all Charlie?

The outpouring of support for freedom of speech and Charlie Hebdo after the horrific Paris attacks would be so much more heartening if it were not for the hypocrisy or naivety – perhaps both – of so many who have proclaimed.

“Je suis Charlie” is the slogan. And a very good one it is too. I am confident I can use it since I make no effort to silence opposing views, no matter how much I abhor them. But the thousands who recently signed a petition to have Katie Hopkins arrested for “offensive” Twitter musings, or those who shout down any attempts of those who express the failures of multiculturalism have no business in calling themselves Charlie.

In addition, Nigel Farage was condemned by British politicians for his comments on just that, the failures of multiculturalism. He has been accused of making “political capital” out of the attacks by the Westminster cartel. I ask, when should such matters be discussed? Since politicians have done their utmost to avoid talking about them for many years, evident from the backlashes now seen in the polls, backlashes they deem to be “protest votes”.

Rest assured, the people who want the likes of Mrs Hopkins arrested, would never have affiliated themselves with the work of Charlie Hebdo before the massacre. I doubt very much whether they fully understand it now. It is nothing more than a bandwagon to portray their apparent liberalism.  For these “liberals”, freedom of speech ends the moment they hear views they don’t like. The tolerance they preach soon morphs into something more akin to an agitated toddler in a pram. Charlie? Non.

Nor do the French government have the right to call themselves Charlie. Within 48 hours of the initial attacks, President Francois Hollande was already seeking ways to ban Marine Le Pen’s Front National – the same party Charlie Hebdo regularly mocks with their cutting humour – from joining the solidarity marches in the French capital on Sunday in a display of both incompetence, and supreme ignorance. The newfound desire to press home the importance of freedom and liberty appears not to have lasted long.

The BBC. Well they’re not Charlie either. Live on Question Time, host David Dimbleby said: “Due care and consideration must be used regarding the use of religious symbols in images which may cause offence, the Prophet Muhammad must not be represented in any shape or form”. The public broadcaster, which is supposed to act in the interests of those who fund it, have taken it upon themselves to silence free speech via the form of censorship wherever they see fit. Is this a North Korean tribute act?

The British media have also let themselves down. Immensely. Instead of plastering the most controversial Charlie Hebdo cartoons over the newspaper front pages in an act of defiance, they meekly surrendered by not doing so. This form of cowardice is a sign of defeat – the hatred and fear spewed by the extremists serves to grant them the censorship they so desire. I highly doubt any decent practicing Muslim would protest against the necessity for the media to preach their right to free speech – indeed it is the honest Muslim who also suffers when the radicalised commit these acts.

Satire, as heinous as it may come across at times, is ultimately, just satire. The ability to mock and poke fun is essential to a free society, and wavering to those who look to block it is a grave injustice. Britain to an extent has already given in – there is no magazine published on these shores comparable to Charlie Hebdo. You may be offended by what satirists say, you may not think it’s “right”, but neither of those mean it shouldn’t be allowed.

The solidarity shown by the European people for their liberty in the wake of the attacks cannot fail to instill hope. But we must all heed our own words. To everyone who has considered themselves Charlie, ask yourself if you really do believe in all true freedom of speech entails. If you do, go forth. If not, I invite you to travel to any oppressive country which shares views similar to yours. I’ll even pay your air fare. One way, of course.

Do Sweden Democrats gains set the tone for 2015 General Election?

The Swedish Elections may have resulted in an overall shift to the left, but the big story of the night was the rise of the Sweden Democrats (Sverigedemokraterna).

The Sweden Democrats (SD) took an unprecedented 13% of the vote – up over 7% from 2010 – to become the third largest party in the country, and increase their representation in the Riksdag to 49 – up 29 seats from 2010. The party famed for it’s anti-immigration stance polled far higher than both opinion and exit polls suggested, whilst the Feminist Initiative who were predicted to be on the cusp of the 4% threshold required to gain seats in Parliament, fell short with 3.1%.

In an attempt to distance themselves from the Swedish Democrats, alliances from both left and right have been ruled out. Social Democrats leader and Prime Minister-designate Stefan Lofven has announced a desire to form a group with the Greens and other “anti-racist” parties. Meanwhile the Moderate Party, the big losers from the Election, have also refused to co-operate with the Swedish Democrats.

The results rather confirms the mood from May’s European Elections. Euroscepticism and concerns over immigration are continuing to grow, reflected in the rise of the sometimes unfairly dubbed ‘far-right’. Media bias and smears have failed to turn voters away from them, if anything they have strengthened their support.

The news has come as a shock to many, particularly around the rest of Europe. Yet with Sweden’s liberal immigration laws – an estimated 80,000 asylum-seekers will enter the country this year – the rise of a party like the SD, rightly or wrongly should have been anticipated, particularly after the European Elections. The fact that these Elections have been reported as such a shock is further proof that the growing concerns of the public are still being ignored. Branding people who hold these opinions as xenophobic and racist is foolish and has only served to further alienate ordinary people from mainstream politics.

Looking from a UK perspective, the news from Sweden will come as a boost to the UK Independence Party. The Sweden Democrats and UKIP form part of the Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy (EFDD) group in the European Parliament.

Opinion polls in Britain show UKIP consistently polling at around 15%, slightly higher than the Sweden Democrats. However due to the First-Past-The-Post (FPTP) system in the UK it is highly unlikely that UKIP will garner anywhere near the representation in the House of Commons that the Sweden Democrats have in the Riksdag. Similarly, if Sweden operated under FPTP, votes for the Sweden Democrats would almost certainly not have translated in to seats in the numbers that they have.

Does this indicate a significant problem in the UK voting system? Well not if you support either Labour or Conservative, or hold a dislike for UKIP. Based on current voting intentions for the General Election in 2015, the likely scenario is that UKIP will pick up around 15% of the vote yet no more than around five seats. Labour are currently predicted to gather around two and a half times the popular vote of UKIP, which predictions suggest would give them around 350 seats. Two and a half times the vote, 70 times the number of seats. This isn’t a case of being sympathetic to UKIP. In 2010, the Liberal Democrats polled 23.2% of the vote, compared to Labour’s 29%. The Liberal Democrats won 57 seats, Labour 258. The Conservatives took 36.1%, which gave them 307 seats.

Without getting too technical, the Riksdag in Sweden more or less equally represents the popular vote. If we applied this to the current opinion polls in the UK, UKIP would be on course to make up around 100 of the 650 MPs in the House of Commons in 2015 – a whole 20 times more than what they are currently on target for. Using this system for 2010, the Liberal Democrats would have won around 150 seats (up 93), Labour 189 (down 69), and the Conservatives 235 (down 72). A far more accurate representation of how the public voted.

Of course, it’s a lot easier to decry calls for an electoral system to be changed providing it doesn’t affect a party you support. Everyone knows the Greens like a good shout, if it were they who were picking up a sixth of the vote but facing less than one hundredth of parliamentary representation, you can guarantee you wouldn’t be able to move in the liberal hotbeds for weeks.

In a democratic society, if the public vote for something they have the right to be heard, no matter their opinions. It is time outdated systems which serve to protect the Establishment parties who have little interest in offering any real change left or right were abolished.

Euroscepticism, immigration concerns and a desire to regain sovereignty is on the rise across Europe. But not all countries will show it.