BULS Supporting Michael Chessum to be VPHE of NUS

Following careful consideration, BULS has decided to support Michael Chessum’s campaign to be VPHE of NUS and we ask Birmingham delegates and Labour students nationally to do the same. We believe that Michael is the most competent candidate, and will achieve the most for students now, and in the future.

He has been the only candidate to continuously fight against the Tories’ fee regime and its further marketisation of our education system. Michael has been instrumental inthe organising of two national demonstrations, mobilising thousands of students across the country. Such demonstrations proved highly successful, gaining the support of Labour Students, and the general student population, nationally.

As Labour students we should be fighting against the current coalition government’s outrageous, and damaging, policies concerning higher education fees and their on-going commitment to severe austerity measures. Education is a public good and, at Birmingham, we believe that education should be universally accessible and publically funded. Michael Chessum is the only candidate for VPHE who we believe shares our values and will fight to defend them.

Furthermore, Michael is the only candidate committed to opposing Theresa May’s regressive and racist visa changes, which will have a detrimental effect on International Students who contribute so much to our higher education institutions and country as a whole.

Michael’s past record shows that he knows when and how to use direct action tactics, whilst his pivotal role in founding NCAFC proves his dedication to fighting the government’s austerity measures.

We need a VP Higher Education that will offer a robust defence against the coalition’s stark attacks on education. We wholeheartedly believe it is time to put factional divides behind us and unite in our support for Chessum, as the candidate most able to deliver.

Catie, Ed, Ellis, Areeq, Alex, Sam and Dan


Sex education malarkey

I think most of us can agree that sex education has an important role to play in public schools. But to what level of importance would you say it is?

To Conservative MP, Andrea Leadsom, it seems not very. Let’s put this into context. In England and Wales sex education is not a compulsory subject for public schools (I know for one that I personally received nothing at my High School) and that parents are allowed to “opt out” their child if the school does teach it. And you wonder why we have the highest teenage pregnancy rates in Europe.

Anyway, back to Andrea Leadsom. It seems she believes that parents should have to “opt in” their children to sex education classes and that current sex education books are “inappropriate”. This is while a report published by Ofsted last year pointed out that a quarter of schools in England are not providing good enough lessons about sex, relationships and health.  At the same time new research in the last couple of weeks provided information that “81% of 14 to 18-year-olds said their information came from the internet, the television and their friends.” and “one in four pupils do not have any sexual and relationship education in school.“.

Now some may say that abstinence only sex education is the only sound and “moral” way forward. But when we analyse this claim, it’s quite apparent that this argument is not grounded in research and facts. The Council of Scientific Affairs states that ”Current research findings do not support the position that the abstinence-only approach to sexuality education is effective in delaying the onset of intercourse.”.

I have already done a similar post on sex education before. But the point still stands, we need more not less sex education. If we truly want to tackle STDs, teenage pregnancies and yes, even abortions (again look to my previous post and subsequent comments regarding abortions) we need sound and effective sex education with no “opt-outs” for pushy and insecure parents.

So please Leadson, could the education system have some more.



“When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty.” ~ T. Jefferson.

Julian Assange and his colleagues have acted in a brave and selfless way, persisting in outing secretive documents despite smear campaigns and pressure from the highest levels of government.

Even if Wikileaks’ actions achieve nothing in terms of delaying action against North Korea and Iran, a point has been made. The internet is a weapon for transparency and democracy, and governments have never been more accountable.

Another possible consequence is simply increasing the security of intelligence, which can only be a good thing in a world threatened by terrorists.


Modern bullying, homophobia and self-esteem among the young

Tyler Clementi – the victim of murder? Involuntary manslaughter? His own low self esteem, thin skin and inability to take a joke? Gravity?

Livestreamed by his room mate from a hidden camera, Tyler was exposed on the internet having sex with another man. His subsequent suicide, declared in his final facebook status, is a tragedy for him, for his family and for our generation. The media is labelling this as just another instance of cyber bullying, but the perpetrator could get several years in prison.

So what’s the problem here? The easy access to publicity that makes total humiliation simple? The latent homophobia that made it an even better scoop for his room mate? Or original low self esteem and a feeling of isolation that affects so many freshers and other young people? Our generation needs to prove that we’re better than this.


I’m not sorry

The personal is political, and never more so than on the issue of abortions. What can be more political than a debate which includes facilitates the inclusion of gender, religion, age, class, nationality and health? And, not to put too fine a point on it, what can be more personal than what goes on inside a womb?

I’m so pro-choice that I’m literally incensed about having to describe myself as such, with the alternative implied by the term. And I’m sick of a moral case being made by the “pro life” side which is supposed to have all sexually active women cowering in shame.

In a society that sets great store by scientists that show us exactly how to make perfect babies, and politicians that tell us exactly how to have stable families, surely the biggest pre-requisite for producing healthy children is for the mother to want it in the first place, because no amount of scientific development or government programme can ever supercede parental love.

In the 21st century quality of life is to be favoured over quantity. Rather than having more babies we should be spending more time and attention on the ones that are born, and the ones that we want to have. Choosing the time and father are essential, unquestionable rights for women. The most moral thing to do is to defend abortion rights.

But the coalition is making very worrying noises….


The lady doth protest too much

Wearing a headscarf can and has been construed in many ways. Here in İstanbul, as in Birmingham, women can receive a lot of unwanted attention from lascivious observers for venturing out without one, especially in some areas of the city, and especially at night. In terms of keeping conservative parents happy, covering the hair seems a small concession to make for many teenage girls. For casual muslims, it`s nice to be ready to pop into mosque whenever the mood takes them.

So for scarved women who date, or have close male friends, or don`t fast during ramadan, or wear sexy underwear for their husbands, it`s a blow to be labelled hypocrites as lightly as they often are. The visibility of the scarf makes it impossible to disguise seemingly contradictory behaviour, and the woman in question must resign herself to even more unwanted attention. As with nuns and priests, people find it funny to catch scarved women out.

There is another problem with this attitude, that casual hypocrites like myself  notice – as imperfect humankind can never hope to follow all the rules all of the time, isn`t it better to at least try to adhere some of the rules laid down by whichever holy book you profess to follow? And is it really unethical to put a scarf to start with just because it`s the most obvious symbol?


It`s all relative

Yesterday evening an unknown man was buzzed into our building, entered our apartment through the door we often leave open and offered my flatmate money for sex. After a clear refusal in Turkish, English and Spanish, a violent struggle and threats to call the police he eventually went home, and we were left feeling terrified and dirty.  

The consensus about the event among my Turkish friends is as follows: that it is known in the neighbourhood that our apartment is occupied by young foreign women, who are probably not Muslim and definitely without the support of a large family bent on avenging insults to its women. Our brothers, fathers and uncles are far away, and we probably act like the American women in gossip magazines anyway, so will welcome advances. And if we don`t like it we can go back to where we came from.

Other things I find difficult to adjust to in İstanbul are the poor record on women`s liberation, the high birthrates, the tradition of the hostess never sitting down during a meal but continuing to serve throughout, the constant and indiscriminate leering by men of all ages and the incredible statistic that only 10% of Turkish women are in employment.   

It all makes the Ed/Yvette leadership issue look very, very trivial.