Saturday, 18 June 2016

My Times regarding the EU referendum

My Times letter arguing that campaigning in the EU referendum should cease entirely in light of the appalling murder of Jo Cox. They edited it down substantially.

My original letter: 

Sir,

Jo Cox was murdered in a brutal and cowardly way while carrying out the most noble of roles - representing the people. Irrespective of the motives of her killer perhaps the appropriate response from our wider society would be to end campaigning in the EU referendum entirely. 

It would help everyone, irrespective of their views on Europe, to reflect on Jo's words in her Maiden Speech: "we are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us". This applies to the UK, the EU and the wider world. Jo's life, before and during her political career, epitomised this message. 

Our society and our politics do not stay safe or improve by accident but only through the efforts of us all - MPs, the media and citizens alike - to conduct debate with respect for one another.

Yours faithfully,

John Slinger

Monday, 16 May 2016

My letter in The Observer: Sadiq Khan’s ‘big tent’ is way forward

In his article (“What Labour can learn from my victory”, News, last week), Sadiq Khan said that we “must be able to persuade people who previously voted Conservative that Labour can be trusted with the economy and security as well as improving public services and creating a fairer society”. He spoke of Labour needing to “be a big tent that appeals to everyone – not just its own activists”. It was refreshing that he referenced those who run their own business as well as nurses.


When I and other so-called “moderates” in the party have made such points we have been labelled “disloyal” and told to show “unity”. It is therefore an important step on the road back to credibility as a political force that a politician of such stature, who has just won a historic victory and who has the biggest electoral mandate in Europe, is pointing out what are the obvious truths of British politics. 

In the last parliament, Pragmatic Radicalism held events that brought together people from different parts of the party, and from outside it, to present short policy pitches in an inclusive, outward-looking format. Sadiq chaired one of our events, and Jeremy Corbyn pitched a policy that came second in another event.  We cannot win unless we reach out and listen to each other and to the country.

John Slinger

Chair, Pragmatic Radicalism 

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/may/14/observer-letters-working-class-actors-ivory-trade-nicola-sturgeon-sadiq-khan-labour

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Remembering the brave decision of Prime Minister John Major and President George H W Bush to protect Iraq's Kurds

This (http://www.progressonline.org.uk/2016/04/05/the-kurdistan-no-fly-zone-25-years-on/) is a superb article from Gary Kent about the 25th anniversary of the establishment by John Major and George HW Bush of a no-fly zone over northern Iraq (and one over southern Iraq which protected Iraq's Shia). The northern one stopped Saddam Hussein's genocide against the Kurds, which had claimed hundreds of thousands of lives and seen the use of chemical weapons on multiple occasions, culminating in the Halabja atrocity. It also helped allow the development of the independent, democratic, tolerant, outward-looking Kurdistan Region in Iraq which I had the great privilege of visiting twice in 2013 thanks to Gary Kent and Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman, the Kurdistan Regional Government's High Representative in Washington DC. I wrote about my visits here http://slingerblog.blogspot.com/2013/03/first-published-at-progressonline-on-19.html?m=1 and here http://slingerblog.blogspot.com/2013/06/my-article-in-spectator-blog-and-wall.html?m=1

Monday, 29 February 2016

My Times letter on social mobility and the need for more support in state schools for creativity

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Sir, Your article about the disproportionate number of privately educated people at the top of the acting profession (“Those old school ties still matter for judges, doctors . . . and actors”, Feb 24; letters Feb 25 and 26) shows that more must be done to enable state schools to nurture the talent of all our children.

Beyond the obvious need for additional teaching and other resources, effort is needed to change the attitude in government about what constitutes a good education. At present, there is far too much emphasis on testing, and not enough on encouraging young people to be creative and to learn skills such as acting or playing a musical instrument. It’s these skills that develop well-rounded, confident young people who will be capable of becoming Oscar-winners, or indeed leaders in any field. If more students develop their creative talents, one might say they had received a “comprehensive” education.

John Slinger

Online here.

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

BBC radio report on effect of drought on Ethiopian schools is journalism at its best

I just listened to an amazing and moving report by Tim Franks from the northern state of Tigray in Ethiopia http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b06zqq9n (21 mins onwards). He meets teachers, students  and families struggling with the drought. Children in an impoverished, drought-afflicted area turning up for school feeling tired, thirsty and hungry yet desperately wanting to gain an education to better themselves. One boy runs 15k each way to and from school. 

Tim Franks visits a mother who is sad to keep her grade A daughter at school some days to help her find water - but she has no choice. She lives in a tiny, mud-walled hut.

The interviewed children were charming, polite, keen to learn and spoke English fluently. They wanted to help themselves through education and help their country.

Contrast this with the situation in the UK where, sadly, there is all too often not enough respect for teachers and education from students and parents (and wider society). Where the concern we have is whether kids consume too many sugary, expensive drinks, not whether they have enough water in their bodies to stop them falling asleep. Where kids are often obese because they eat too much food, rather than those in Ethiopia who are fed using government-distributed grain and whose family goats struggle to stay alive eating dried out weeds. Where children in the UK often take their education for granted and where teachers are made to feel responsible for solving the 'problems' of society, while in Ethopia the children grasp keenly at any opportunity given them. 

Take a listen to this report and tell me that there really are so many 'problems' in our Western societies. We have so much, yet value so little. We're quick to complain yet slow to act to improve our own communities through volunteering. We blame government, or 'the system' while reneging on our responsibilities - to ourselves, our children, our communities. 

We have a lot to learn from superb journalism like this.

Friday, 8 January 2016

Wonderful article affirming the importance of creativity

The most wonderful, life-affirming article I've read in years which makes the case for creativity over computers and consumerism; music over machines. It's by concert pianist James Rhodes in the Sunday Times http://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/style/homes_and_gardens/article1650693.ece. 

"I look around and it seems that we (myself included) have looked outside ourselves for a means of happiness for so long that we have, for the most part, quite forgotten what it is to inhabit that part of us that is immune to social media and iPad Pros. We need a way to turn our phones off, metaphorically as well as physically, and I am convinced that creativity is the solution we don't even know we are looking for." 

He recommends buying a cheap piano, or writing, or playing guitar, etc, etc.

My letter in The Times (http://slingerblog.blogspot.com/2013/11/letter-in-times-creative-importance-of.html?m=1) on the importance of creativity in schools. In my view music is shamefully ignored in favour of sport, so that now much of the creative music scene is dominated by privately-educated people, when music should be, and can be, for ALL).

Monday, 20 July 2015

My Times letter about high pay at IPSA


Sir,

Sir Ian Kennedy claims (letter, July 17) that Ipsa has been “conscious of the current climate of austerity” when setting MPs’ pay. It seems that this standard has not been applied to his or his senior staff’s remuneration. Ipsa’s last published salaries show the chairman receiving a pro rata salary of £182,000 and several senior managers more than £100,000.

Can it be that working as a senior member of Ipsa’s staff is more important than the work of an MP?

John Slinger
Warwickshire
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Online at The Times here