Book Review: “Life and Politics in Mombasa” by Hyder

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Kweli Ikidhiwri Uwongi Hujitenga – “When Truth comes, falsehood disappears” – Swahili saying.

“Life and Politics in Mombasa” is the biography of Hyder Kindy an East African Swahili political leader during the end of the British colonial period in Kenya.

Hyder, was a local African political leader who never will be mentioned in the same breath as Nkrumah, Kaunda, Kenyatta or Mandela, yet his contribution to his country was as equally as important from a local perspective, something the history books and commentators often ignore.

I came across the copy of Hyder Kindy’s memoirs as a gift which was given to me by Hyder’s grandson Soud Hyder, who is a close friend of mine. When Soud gave me the book, I initially was intrigued to understand more about Soud’s grandfather, yet at the same I did think “now when would I read a book about a Swahili figure I have never heard of?” However, because I had worked with Soud Hyder and was often told about his Kenyan Swahili and Omani heritage, I knew it would be a good read to understand something I had no knowledge of. The memoirs of Hyder Kindy would give valuable insight of life of a man of Swahili descent living under the rule of Zanzibar Sultanate during the period of the territory being a British Protectorate. Similarly, because I myself keep a journal, I am often intrigued by diaries and biographies to see how people recollect their ideas and memories which becomes a documentation of history.

Hyder’s memoirs gave a unique view of local politics during Kenya’s road to independence together with some witty anecdotes, tales and stories of success. His biography has examples of principles, humiliation, struggle, tragedy, work and civic duty. Hyder’s life provides a story against the divisions of a complexed ethnic, religious and tribal society in Mombasa on the Kenyan coast. Richard Stern who gave the foreword to the book sums up the biography by writing “Sheikh Hyder Kindy is a fine story-teller with many fascinating experiences to recount.” From the onset Kindy shows how Mombasa was a plural society yet split between African, Indians, Arabs and the British, while Kindy as a Swahili Muslim was from a community quite often perceived as Arab by the Africans and as African by the Arabs and considered to be less politically valuable for British, hence why Hyder’s had to constantly play a difficult political game to survive.

It was obvious Hyder Kindy came from a family who understood the concept of responsibility and even though he lost his father at a young age he was constantly taught the values of honour and respect from his mother, his step-father and his brothers. I liked the way Kindy would recall his stories yet show a moral purpose at each juncture of his life. For example, he had promised his mother he would pay her his first month salary when he started his job in 1925 as a legal clerk, yet as a young idealistic man he spent his money on his own, however his conscience overcame him and regretted what he had done as he wrote “ever since that time I have tried doubly hard to keep whatever promises I have made,” something which Hyder held true in his life with examples throughout the book.

In 1929 Hyder and his two associates were sentenced to nine months in jail for beating up an influential Arab who had insulted the Swahili community in an article. The case became a political one as it highlighted the differences between the Arabs and Swahili Muslims living on the coastline. Hyder for his actions become a hero for standing up for a people who quite often were made to feel inferior by the Arabs of the East African coastline. Even though with his friends he was incarcerated, Hyder showed how the principles of being honest does pays off. During an incident with a corrupt prison official where Hyder was accused of defying orders and striking the officer in retaliation, Hyder was exonerated for what took place and was rewarded for working inside the prison due to his reputation of being a trustworthy man. Even when Hyder formed various trade unions for workers an example of being a true leader was shown when he refused to take a job as a civil servant at a time when local men were looked over for professional jobs. Only when the authorities gave 75% of his members in the union allocated jobs did Hyder accept the government post. Another example of his principled stance was when he led a union for taxi drivers who were often discriminated against. Even though he led the union for better pay and equality he resigned from his post when he found out some members were violating driving laws when they were told not to.

Hyder sadly had his fair share of tragedy as his first born child Aisha and his first wife Fatma Ali Haji died within three months of each other in 1929. In 1931, Hyder found true love by marrying his second wife Fatma Soud. Hyder was a Swahili, Fatma Soud was of Arab origin, their marriage had defied social norms and structures in British colonial Kenya society as it was unthinkable for a Swahili man to marry an Arab woman. He initially had proposed to Fatma Soud through the traditional way, however as it was rejected by her father, Fatma ran away with Hyder and they both married amongst a few witnesses. A marriage borne out of love for 34 years and eleven children ended in tragedy as Fatma Soud died of heart failure living a heartbroken Hyder who wrote it was painful for him, In Fatma Soud’s honour Hyder wrote a 71 verse Swahili poem which is featured in his memoirs. Hyder also had another wife during his marriage to Fatma, but he divorced her after Fatma died. After Fatma’s death and through the insistence of his children, Hyder married Fatma Shee in 1966 as a life companion.

Through “Life and Politics in Mombasa” Hyder presented a historical narrative of the Swahili community and where they stood amoangst Africans, Arabs and the British during that period. The Swahili were African with an inward influence of the African continent and at outward influence of Arabs and Persians, yet they were never perceived as their own by each side. Hyder demonstrated that as the Swahili people they have no choice but take their destiny into their own hands to stand up for their own rights through engagement an ideal which is so relevant for minority communities in our globalised world today.

IMG_4881.JPGIn 1951 Hyder was in London after he accepted the post of assistant lecturer at SOAS, again this period shows Hyder’s trustworthiness as it was an Arab who recommended the job for Hyder, despite objections from other Arabs, his benefactor remained defiant. The London chapter is where Hyder I feel found his political awakening. Spending time in the city of empire, London in 1951 was a dream for many colonial subjects and what London offered to them was to understand and see what the capital of the empire had to offer. Throughout British colonial history there has been an irony where leading campaigners against the British empire such as Gandhi, Jinnah, Nehru and Kenyatta had spent time in London and how the city of empire was also a hotbed of ideas of change and emancipation within the liberal and metropolitan society. The duration spent in London for Hyder was a period where he met other African intellectuals and activists while he came to terms with what colonial rule had done to not only his country but other distant lands as well.

“Life and Politics in Mombasa” is a series of events and anecdotes of a man who wanted his people to be emancipated from all forms of bigotry and rule and to embrace a true African identity as Kenyans, Muslims or even Swahili. In his life Hyder ran committees, developed a radio station, ran a translation service, worked as a judicial officer, taught in academia, worked as a Mudir (Private Secretary) for an official, an organiser of gatherings, speeches and honourary banquets and a representative of a people as a Senator in the Mombasa legislative.

What “Life and Politics in Mombasa” demonstrates that for every independence leader like Jinnah, Gandhi, Kenyatta, Mandela or even Havel there are hundreds of Hyder Kindy’s who were on the streets working for the same cause locally or regionally. They may not have statues or countless biographies written about them, but their contributions were essential. I may have not have heard of Hyder Kindy and what he offered to his society, but we should seek people like Hyder Kindy out and follow their stories and struggles. My own grandfather Hasanji Patel who I was named after during the period of post partition India worked immensely hard to improve the educational and political standards of his local community. Hasanji Patel was no legislative member nor was he a teacher, yet as a community worker he set up schools and colleges in his area, he was a writer for his regional newspaper, a champion for the poor and vulnerable and a political operator who was respected and revered by many. Yet like Hyder Kindy he was a pillar who for his locality was as important if not more valuable than any national leader. Again, a valuable member of society who often are unsung heroes, yet their contributions will echo for years to come, hence why it is essential to understand them, study them and learn from them.

“Life and Politics in Mombasa” is a journey of a man who made a difference to his people on a micro level yet the legacy has lived on within his family, his locality and his community. Whatever one lives in Mombasa, Manchester or Multan, we have many Hyder Kindy’s who have worked for their community, we often hear about them, I am fortunate in reading about one such giant.

It’s immigration stupid – What could Labour do?

Dan Jarvis, Labour MP for Barnsley Central today told the Times Newspaper that “it is clear to me that the UKIP fox is in the Labour henhouse, and we have to make a decision about what we want to do about that fox.” His take was on the UKIP Party  after Paul Nuttall was elected leader of the party earlier today. Nuttall, who is the third leader of UKIP in a year said: “I want to replace the Labour Party and make UKIP the patriotic voice of working people.” Speaking to the BBC, Nuttall highlighted his party will be “speaking the language of ordinary working people… we’re going to move into the areas the Labour Party has neglected”, dismissing Labour leader leader Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell and Diane Abbott as part of “a North London Islington set”. He said: “We will be focusing on the issues that really matter to working-class people on doorsteps – immigration, crime, defence, foreign aid, ensuring that British people are put to the top of the queue in the job market.”

I don’t think UKIP will wither away as many people have predicted after the Brexit vote. Yes, they stood on taking Britain out of the EU as their aim but they will mould themselves in a wave of right wing euphoria across Europe and the USA and take on causes of a hard Brexit, immigration, identity politics and white working class aspirations, something which critics of the Left say have been put at the back of the queue.

Jarvis is right about the UKIP fox in the Labour henhouse, however how do you get rid of the Fox? Sadly difficult conversations over immigration, race and identity are still frowned upon amongst some Liberal circles without any alternatives are being shown. Upon knowing Nuttall was elected as leader, the Labour social media team attacked him on his stance over the NHS:

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With all due respect, I don’t think people voted or supported UKIP due to their concerns about the NHS, or will really bother about what he thinks about the NHS. Again, Labour need to take Nuttall and UKIP head on and show you don’t need to “out UKIP UKIP on immigration. Labour will have to accept that Nuttall will have more appeal to working class Labour voters than Nigel Farage. His northern background and humble origins is somewhat a different world to the life of a city banker tweed wearing Farage who now it seems will be relishing a life in a Trump USA.

The Labour party I feel currently don’t know what the solution is in relation to Immigration. While some say the party should “out UKIP UKIP,” the likes of Diane Abbott believe that appealing to those who considered UKIP would come at a disadvantage of losing current voters. Labour does need to go beyond London and urban cosmopolitian places, as sadly I have heard more anti immigration arguments coming out of established immigrant communitities which has resulted in a few of them to vote Conservative and had voted for Brexit. The debate of immigration is no longer a race issue, however Labour needs to show the positives of immigration while at the same time accept it is a voter concern, especially in a time leading up to Brexit.

In my views I think Labour needs to show patrotism and left wing solutions do go hand in hand and embrace nationalism in the same way the Scottish Nationals and Plaid Cymru did in Scotland and Wales. Similarly Labour should engage in a honest debate about immigration, rather than just bury their heads in the sand or refuse accept the change amongst voters. Having a talk on immigration would keep people within the Labour Party and see them as the natural party of working class aspirations.

According to research done by former Miliband pollster James Morris, Labour could lose if it does not address the threat from UKIP. Based on research he did in Greater Manchester, he found that immigration was the central concern of voters who had previously supported Labour but who now favoured UKIP. In an article he wrote for LabourList, Morris said that “if the Labour Party doesn’t stand for cleaners, care workers, joiners and warehouse pickers, it’s hard to know what the point of the Labour Party is”, referring to the people he interviewed in his research.

So it’s there, UKIP has a new leader who doesn’t sound posh and is from Bootle and will be determined to show UKIP does have a life post Farage and Brexit. Elements within the Labour Party have to understand that there is a growing number of white (and other) working class voters who want answers and solutions on immigration. Holding discussion on immigration doesn’t make people racist however it could make them pragmatic with the right messaging and policy ideas.

Please do note, I for one don’t feel we should curb immigration or ‘out UKIP UKIP,” but at the minimum the left should defend our perspectives, listen to those who had once voted Labour and hold some difficult conversations. Reaching out is needed more than ever and Labour has to rise.

 

Book Review: Unleashing Demons: The Inside Story of Brexit

Unleashing Demons: The Inside Story of BrexitUnleashing Demons: The Inside Story of Brexit by Craig Oliver

As someone involved in messaging, communications, strategy and PR, “Unleashing Demons: The Inside Story of Brexit” was a riveting read with narratives, analogy, honest assessments and a front line seat to witness what exactly took place behind Number 10 Downing Street during on the most important period of British politics.

Craig Oliver as David Cameron’s Director of Politics and Communications documents the time from January, 2016, when Cameron renegotiated a deal with the European Union, the subsequent Referendum on Europe and the immediate aftermath of the referendum. From the onset it is obvious Oliver painted a benevolent view of Prime Minister David Cameron who is perceived as a man who wanted to ship the country to a better future and end the futile bickering of Europe. George Osborne, Cameron’s heir apparent was portrayed as a man who held conviction and put loyalty to Cameron above any political ambition. Oliver however painted Michael Gove, Chair of Leave as a Machiavellian character who may have been brilliant in being a savvy political operator but at the expense of political ambition and using any way to justify the means. Boris Johnson, the other lead Leaver was portrayed as a lost soul who may have meant well but was confused. I for one disagree about Boris and his agenda, one only has to read “Just Boris” to understand the blond ambition of the man. Although Nigel Farage is mentioned disparagingly, despite the fact that he was heard everywhere in the campaign, Oliver did ignore him at his peril throughout the book.

Oliver throughout the book recalls that he understood ‘ what the man on the street’ was thinking in relation to the Referendum, but their concerns over Immigration could not be addressed, coupled by the fact that the Remain refused to engage in Tory -on-Tory differences, which Cameron refused to engage. The economy was the selling point for The Remain Campaign, yet immigration could not be overcome, and even though the master of communication himself, Peter Mandelson repeatedly raised the prospect of Cameron addressing immigration, which was often ignored. It was obvious the issue of immigration made the difference for Brexit to win.

Oliver came out with the book before most others and gave an insider’s perspective without really going into detail of the mood the country. No doubt as more publications, diaries, analysis and history books will come out with a honest and brutal assessment of David Cameron as the man who took a gamble on the future of the country in order to calm unrest within his own party spectacularly backfired. Oliver was clearly an integral part of the inner circle and admits where he felt the campaign went wrong, however don’t expect a full analysis on why Remain lost.

I did find Oliver’s fascination with Peter Mandelson interesting as it seems the Labour PM tends to leave impressions on people across all political divides. Oliver also noted in late January David Cameron making the perceptive comment: “She could be PM in six months’ time,” the rest they say is history.

Oliver’s book highlights how important it is to have perfectly crafted and realistic messaging is essential for any organisation to succeed for any campaign or cause. However hand in hand, if one does not understand the pulse of the people of whom you are trying to convince, then expect a moment of unleashing demons coming one’s way.

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Daily Mail blames foreigners for driving with phone – but why?

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As Ian Marchant who wrote on Facebook earlier today: “This is the cover of today’s Daily Mail. I think we all agree that using your mobile while driving is mental. But this is classic Mail stuff. A Polish lorry driver, we photograph 17 foreign drivers, etc.I suspect that you could just as well have taken similar photos of British drivers in the same period. But no. I realise that the guy who was convicted this week was Polish. I don’t deny that. But surely the problem is mobile phones, not ‘foreign-ness. And so the drip-drip-drip of hate goes on.”

Few pointers from me based on a messaging perspective:

1. The article and headline highlights subtle racist overtones which state that only foreign drivers use their phones whilst driving.

2. Daily Mail are taking the debate on step forward in their rhetoric. They’ve ALWAYS attacked foreigners, but in this case they’re attacking foreigners who are  doing something wrong which is demonstrating that something which white British Middle Class people don’t do (in other words use their phone and drive).

3. Rather than look at the symptom of the problem, the story is stating that foreigners who come to our country don’t abide by OUR rules.

4. Of course the “law must be toughened” is in their narrative, but again it is directed towards immigrants and foreigners, rather than the wider populace at large. The Daily Mail is always on tune with tough law and order but the law in their eyes is to protect little England from foreigners who ’cause these problems’.

Book Review: Just Boris – A Tale of Blond Ambition

JUST BORIS: A Tale of Blond AmbitionJUST BORIS: A Tale of Blond Ambition by Sonia Purnell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Journalist Simon Heffer once wrote “Mr. (Boris) Johnson is not a politician. He is an act. For some of us the joke has worn not thin, but out. Yet many less cynical than I am find it appealing. It conceals two things: a blinding lack of attention to detail and ruthless ambition. He is pushy, he is thoughtless, he is indiscreet about his private life; none of this matters much to anyone these days, which is why he has gone so far in spite of them, and tomorrow may go further still.” Heffer wrote that in 2008 when Johnson beat ken Livingstone to be the mayor of London, however his words have struck a chord with me while I was reading Sonia Purnell’s ‘Just Boris – a Tale of Blond Ambition,’ an unauthorised biography of Johnson with a variety of sources on and it seems off the record.

Johnson, the man who voted and campaigned for Brexit, the man who pulled out of the race to succeed David Cameron as the Tory leader and Prime Minister, and widely blamed for not having a plan post referendum coupled with half-baked lies during the campaign has Heffer’s analysis spot on. Johnson supported Brexit not for the national interest but more out of blind ambition. My perspective was Johnson supported Brexit, assuming remain would win by a small margin, yet Johnson would be in a strong position to succeed Cameron as PM when he would stand aside due to his euro-sceptic credentials which he would have amassed during the Brexit campaign. Yet, as we know that was not the case as the country voted to leave the European Union, and somewhat put Johnson’s blind ambition slightly on hold.

Written before the 2012 Mayoral election, Purnell’s biography managed to get into the psyche of Boris, even though she did not speak to the man or his family at all. The New Statesman called it a ’Thorough study…sharply narrated and diligently researched.’ Standpoint called it ‘Meticulous and quietly devastating,’ while Camila Long of the Sunday Times said the book was “Filled with gems … will make uncomfortable reading for Boris.”

Purnell uses the book as a forensic examination of Boris with facts, humour and analysis backed up by quotes and recollections. She demonstrates that the man who is seen as a bumbler, buffoon and butt of jokes on Have I Got News For You does not go through Eton and Oxford, gets elected as President of the Oxford Union, works for the Daily Telegraph in Brussels, becomes editor of the Spectator and then goes into politics as MP and Mayor of London yet maintain the popular charisma and charm and the odd affair. Boris comes across as a buffoon yet Purnell shows that behind the buffoonery is a man who knows what he really wants.

Purnell succeeds in speaking to people who love and loath Boris. Reading the book brought some interesting facts and stories about Boris made me admire him for his determination, yet made me also loath him for his contempt for public service by using it as celebrity, lack of facts and lack of attention to detail.

Purnell, if she wants to could write up volume II of ‘Blond Ambition,’ exposing and analysing the second term of as mayor of London, his quest as MP, plans to usurp and hopefully replace David Cameron. Reasons for supporting Brexit, the fallout of Brexit and what the future will hold for Boris and his naked ambition to climb the greasy pole of British politics.

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Book Review: Falling Off the Edge: Globalization, World Peace and Other Lies. Alex Perry by Alex Perry

Falling Off the Edge: Globalization, World Peace and Other Lies. Alex PerryFalling Off the Edge: Globalization, World Peace and Other Lies. Alex Perry by Alex Perry
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If there was a book which really made me sit up and think about the world we are living in then Falling Off the Edge: Globalization, World Peace and Other Lies by Alex Perry probably is up there.

Perry paints a grim yet honest picture of globalisation mainly from a developing world perspective ranging from the dissenting workers in China’s new cities to the Maoists of Nepal and Naxalites of India hoping change will come through the barrel of a gun not just in Kathmandu and Delhi but also in New York and London. Perry highlights globalisation is not trickling down to the poor of the world and there is no real hope for success or a distribution of wealth if we continue this trend. Perry paints a real human story as he speaks to villagers in Sri Lanka, factory workers in China, tribal workers from Kenya to MEND fighters in the Niger delta who are not the beneficiaries of globalisation.

He gave extra emphasis to China and India, two countries which are in line to be the next big two in terms of economic and social success. However Perry articulates the pitfalls of their success as there are more victims rather than winners. He shows an elite who have gained so much from the free market, yet at the same time India has 40 million more destitute workers in 2006 than it had in 1993, while the city of Shenzhen has factories where staff just earn $56 a month.

Perry allowed the subjects he was writing on the chance to present their version of events, his encounters with Somali pirates and Indian I.T. workers. Perry doesn’t condone violence as he meets fighters who some may refer as “liberators” while others may say they are “terrorists,” Perry shows their stories as an economic struggle which is hidden under the guise of politics or religion. He shows how these people have witnessed an erosion of their natural resources which are pillaged or sold to fund the economic success which in turn fuels their anger and make them take back by force. For every economic winner of globalisation project, there are more losers who are born into poverty and a rut which they cannot get out of. Perry constantly shows that there is a huge proportion of the planet is falling off the edge as globalisation has not trickled down the realms of success.

For myself the book has cemented the perspective that the system we are living in is in crisis. Perry’s book was written five years ago but now as we see in the West are now falling short of the Globalisation dream. British voters decided to support BREXIT, many many say it was due to fear and blaming the EU, yet there were many working class have been left at the wayside due to forty years of de-regulation and inequality. We are also seeing in the USA the Trump factor which could even win the Presidency, again we see a revolution of regression as many working class communities are falling foul of the globalisation project.

I thoroughly enjoyed his honesty and fair portrayal of Indian industrialist, Ratan Tata who understands the importance of giving back and providing the common good. Tata, who lives a frugal life, comes across as a kind of billionaire with a conscience who has set up foundations honouring how own workers, he told Perry “how much profitable if you target the very bottom of the income pyramid – a lot of people with a little rather than a few with a lot?” His aim was through his investment and somewhat filling the void of the State he wants to make the poor into consumers.

The epilogue, written in 2010 shows that that the financial crash of 2008 has added fuel to the fire of resentment against globalisation. We are living in a prosperous times and myself who works in Qatar can see the wealth with the few while so many who are building and sustaining a city sadly may make enough to send money home for their families, but it comes at a price.

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I’m not racist but………………

Today James O’Brien quite rightly highlights the double standards of the Sun newspaper during and after the Brexit campaign and how they fanned the flames of xenophobia and racist attacks.

This is the newspaper which published “Muslims are not like you and I.” Similarly the Sun once went after the BBC by implying “the BBC isn’t friendly to white faces, because they have internships for minorities,” while the newspaper which blindly ignored the growing increase of attacks on minorities, yet today it had the audacity as O’Brien pointed out to condemn the growing xenophobia a day after a story which gloated that Britain got its country back.

Last Friday morning 52% of the electorate voted to take Britain out of the EU, from the 17 odd million who voted leave a small minority it seems took the words “we now got our country back” as literal. This has resulted in attacks on members of the Polish community, Muslims have been verbally and in some cases physically assaulted.

Examples of the attacks included the posting of laminated cards reading “Leave the EU – no more Polish vermin” to members of the Polish community in Huntingdon on Saturday. There were also reports of racist graffiti scrawled on a Polish community centre in Hammersmith, west London. The Muslim Council of Britain said it had compiled a dossier of over 100 hate crimes over the weekend alone since the vote. I myself know of three attacks where Muslim women were racially abused while walking in the streets of the UK, and today police are treating a firebomb incident inside a Halal butchers shop in my home town as a possible hate crime. In Birmingham, members of the far-right English Defence League gathered outside a mosque in Birmingham waving a flag that read: “Rapefugees Not Welcome”, as they shouted “f*****g p**dos” and “Allah, Allah, who the f*** is Allah?”. Police later made two arrests.

The National Police Chiefs’ Council said it had detected a 57 per cent rise in reports to a police online hate crime reporting site between Thursday and Sunday compared to the corresponding days four weeks ago.

On Twitter there have been calls by bigots to send immigrants home:

Now, call me a cynic, but I do believe that certain elements of the media has allowed this so-called concern to grow into an inferno of fire known as racism. Yes, we expect the right-wing elements and their surrogate far-right friends to spew their filth, after all I don’t expect a condemnation or an apology from Nigel Farage, but the likes of the Sun should not patronise us with their hypocrisy at the same time.

I myself have experienced racism in the UK. Whether it was being called a p*** and being chased by BNP members in the streets of Perry Barr to facing some covert forms of racism in various work places. I do feel it is acceptable to be a racist, a xenophobe and an Islamophobe because it is now the norm. People can have these views as it is readily acceptable on social media and mentioned quite freely and unashamed.  Why? well because our politicians and media has allowed this form  of rhetoric to take place. During the Brexit debate the peddled lies of 80 Million Turks turning up at the UK borders, fear tactics that these hordes of brown Muslim refugees from Syria will destroy our very existence and put British women at risk of being raped were thrown around. So why then should we blame the pensioner who appeared on Channel 4 News a day after the vote in Barnsley saying he had voted to keep the Muslims out.

So what is the solution? Well, firstly the political class need to move their backsides from Westminster and engage with the British public but also condemn what is taking place and ensure bigotry and racism has no place in society. Words are not what is needed but action. Not all the 17 million people who voted Brexit are racists, but sadly many had made their minds up based on the propaganda but also because over the past forty years successive governments have let them down. The UK is not the leafy suburb of Hamstead but it is the grit of Hull and the liberals amongst us need to understand the United Kingdom is not a hub of multicultural free spirit. If their concerns are not met or engaged with the  Labour strongholds across the north and Wales which voted to leave will end up in the hands of Farage and his gang for a generation. The white working class have grievances and are the likliest to suffer in a post Brexit Britain. Unless the Labour party holds honest and pragmatic discussions on immigration and provide the white working class an identity of respect and understanding, it is an electorate that will be lost to a far-right politics of fear.

Similarly there needs to be positive action and engagement outside the echo chambers of social media, interfaith groups and liberal intelligensia forums. We need to understand that change will not come about by groups of  like-minded people holding like minded conversations with like minded viewpoints to find like minded solutions. The concept of debate and winning the battle of ideas is not with your friend who agrees with you but with the neighbour who may disagree with you after all isn’t that what is politics about? Those who believe in a free and fair society of tolerance and respect also need to get out a bit more and engage with people who may not agree with their views.

One genuinely feels that those who influence the filth of hate should be challenged and exposed. More effort is needed to hold these people to account, while organisations like tell MAMA should be supported.

Yahya Birt, the British academic wrote in his piece After Brexit, where do British Muslims go from here?  wrote:”46% of British Muslims live in the bottom 10% most deprived wards in England and so are squarely among the have-nots too,” the battle for the soul of the United Kingdom should not be about race but of opportunity, hence, why politicians need to take the lead to stand up for the betterment of all. Birt went on to write:  “This requires a radical rethink because neither of the two main parties have done enough to prevent our society becoming more unequal despite Britain’s great wealth, thus creating neighbourhoods, towns and even cities of the forgotten and the left behind. And although it is clearly a delicate and controversial subject, the impact of migration on jobs, goods and services must be diagnosed and debated in a responsible way that does not play into race politics. For this change in tone and approach to have any chance of succeeding, BAME and faith communities must now play a prominent role in this debate too.”

If we don’t take this crisis and turn it into an opportunity, we are sure as hell going to get more people saying “‘I’m not racist but……..”

 

 

Pakistan on the Brink: The Future of America, Pakistan, and Afghanistan by Ahmed Rashid

Pakistan on the Brink: The Future of America, Pakistan, and AfghanistanPakistan on the Brink: The Future of America, Pakistan, and Afghanistan by Ahmed Rashid

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you want to know what had gone on in the Af-Pak region during the US mission to kill Osama Bin Laden, the role of the Pakistani military and ISI over the Taliban and Afghanistan, and the breakdown of relations between the Afghan President Hamid Karzai and the Obama administration, then this book is worth a read.

Ahmed Rashid uses his variety of contacts and his understanding of the region to indulge into the whole Afghan, Pakistani, US and various groups such as the Taliban, Haqqani Network and other Jihadi entities. The book is basically an array of extended essays looking at subjects such as the US -Pakistan relationship, Afghan-US relationship, the role of the Pakistani military within Pakistan and Afghanistan, the challenges of Afghanistan and also what the future should be.

I personally found is easy to understand through Rashid’s narrative and came to the conclusion that no one side has any idea of what to do to end the stalemate in the region and that the Pakistani military can help change everything but due to insecurity, paranoia and fear refuse to do so.

One criticism of the book is that, reading it in 2016, it seems somewhat dated, however I knew that, as I intended to understand the region and Rashid’s writings achieved that for me.

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Sharapova PR machine on the front foot

From a PR perspective the not so fallen tennis ace Maria Sharapova has come out on the front foot after being notified through a letter that she had taken a banned substance. As history has shown us that sporting icons and illegal drug use tends to cast doubts over successful careers, damage to reputations and a lifetime of denials.

However in this case Sharapova used the opportunity to control the narrative and set the tone to a story which could have had severe consequences to a glittering career. She played a straight bat and informed the world that she was tested positive for meldonium, a substance she has been taking since 2006 for health issues. The International Tennis Federation (ITF) said the five-time Grand Slam champion would be provisionally suspended from 12 March.

With previous sporting drug scandals, you tend to find programmes, discussions and debate to why this took place in the first place. But the darling of tennis used this opportunity to humanise her story by stating she ‘was open and honest about a lot if things,” while she stressed she let people down and would face consequences. Sharapova also put the ball into the court of the tennis authorities in relation to the length of the ban by admitting she made a mistake Her PR operation in controlling the message which to a great degree was damaging had in fact taken the sting out of the tail.

The press conference and admission of guilt over a subject which automatically can bring condemnation and isolation from peers and the public, one only needs to study the fallout when Lance Armstrong and Marion Jones were found to have taken illegal substances.

Sharapova humanised the possible scandal by admitting what she had done herself. In PR and crisis communications that usually is far more effective than hiding behind a bland statement or using a spokesperson for that matter, as it can come across there is more to hide, and hence the media probing begins.  By not issuing a carefully written statement but speaking from the heart and then taking questions from the floor, Sharapova delivered an ace in wrestling control of the narrative rather than passively waiting for the news to leak.

To a certain degree PR strategies of an admission of guilt through the human perspective can vindicate the person, bring sympathy and above all control the narrative and messaging which is often lost if others leak the story which forces the person to react.

Her PR strategy worked as the reaction has been hugely sympathetic as rivals like Serena Williams responded by saying Sharapova had showed “a lot of courage” for accepting responsibility for her failed drugs test. While he former coach Nick Bollettieri said the Russian’s test was a “game-changer for life, not just for tennis”.

The 84-year-old American told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme he was shocked former world number one Sharapova tested positive because “she has always been above board in everything,”no doubt his comments also fitted the Sharapova narrative as well, as when others sympathise rather than condemn it makes a huge difference to brand perception. Also it does help  being the pin-up girl of tennis, no doubt that worked to her advantage.

Taking the PR offensive of admission now means she probably will expect a short ban. her peers, the world of tennis and her fans will not judge as a cheat but as an irresponsible athlete who should have read the label before taking the medication. she will now no doubt enter a period of reflection with some carefully managed interviews on the way which will pave way for a comeback tour which will bring her millions of more dollars  in endorsements and sponsorships. No doubt Nike who suspended her contract worth $70m (£49m) will no doubt re-unite  and recover the lost revenue when things become clear.

And finally expect a retirement announcement which will be on Sharapova’s terms and  will not be announced in a downtown Los Angeles hotel with a fairly ugly carpet.

Louis Van Gaal – My review

Louis van Gaal: The BiographyLouis van Gaal: The Biography by Maarten Meijer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When I started reading this book, Van Gaal’s United were in a midst of a crisis (still are). There were questions about his philosophy and processes were in doubt. Louis Van Gaal’s Manchester United had spent a quarter of a million pounds and were out of the Champions League and four points from the top four. Media and ex-players along with some fans were calling for his head as his own student Jose Mourinho is waiting in the wings. The question was would Van Gaal go before I finish the book? A month on, I have learnt more about the man, and he is still in his job.

What was expected to be a fairy-tale ending between the world’s most arrogant and single-minded manager and the world’s most famous football club has not gone exactly to plan. Meijer doesn’t really write about LVG and Manchester United, as the biography is of the man and his successes and failures as a player, PE teacher, manager and individual. The book is of course unauthorised but Meijer provides enough information on LVG as a footballer from 1969 to 1987 , his insecurities at Ajax during the Cruyff era, his time in management at Ajax, Barcelona (twice), Holland, Technical Director of Ajax, AK Alkmaar, Bayern Munich, Holland and Manchester United.

He charters the public spats with fellow Dutchmen like Johaan Cruyff, Ronald Koeman, Leo Beenhaker and the Bayern hierachy. His fallout with players like Rivaldo, Lucio and Zlaatan show a man who is ruthless who believes that “no individual is allowed to do as he pleases,” and as he said: “I don’t need the eleven best. I need the best eleven”

The book shows his passion, commitment and focus and determination at all costs, yet despite Van Gaal’s successes on the pitch, the author highlights what has built Van Gaal’s character from his Catholic upbringing and the death of his father at a young age which contributed to his development as a leader who was not prepared to compromise on what he thought was right. Manchester United fans are more or less resigned to believe the Van Gaal era will end up messy and this book only cements that belief. His fallout at Ajax as Technical Director and as coach of Barcelona and Bayern demonstrates that when it falls apart it falls apart spectacularly. Van Gaal has a tendency to alienate key players, the board and large sections of the fanbase, which was the price the faithful paid for early success which ended up in failure due to his single minded arrogance and bad luck with players as was the case with Bayern.
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Nevertheless Van Gaal despite what is currently taking place at Manchester United is still at large a footballing legend who many have seen revolutionise the concept of football during his time at Ajax, laid the foundations for Barcelona and Bayern Munich, and managed to gel a group of individuals into a team of World cup semi finalists who destroyed Spain, Australia and Chile in the group stages, beat Mexico due to their spotkick failures, and used his mind games of genius to eliminate Costa Rica in the quarter final. Also current football managers like Ronald Koeman, Danny Blind, Pep Guardiola, Philip Cocu, Frank De Boer and Jose Mourinho all had played or worked under him at some stage during their professional careers. In 2010 the World Cup Semi Finals had Holland, Spain and Germany who had players from Barcelona, Ajax, AK Alzamar and Bayern Munich, again teams Van Gaal managed and had developed some young players like Muller and Xavi who went on to play for their country.

Louis Van Gaal should not be judged on his time at Manchester United. The man isn’t out of his depth at the club, but it could be the challenge of Manchester United came possibly at the twilight of his career where players are different to the likes he managed twenty years ago at Ajax, as his dealings with some big players like Di Maria were not handled well. Despite what will happen at Old Trafford, Louis Van Gaal will have laid good youth foundations at the club and help rebuild the malaise that Ferguson left for Moyes who just could not overturn it.

A must read for football fans who like strong characters, and Louis Van Gaal is one of the heavyweight European characters of football.

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