Flying Flamingoes with John Bercow.

Entering the Mile End Institute’s “In Conversation with John Bercow” I was sceptical. Despite, his Conservative allegiance Bercow had always insisted he was a true centrist; I wasn’t so sure. I was also worried that perhaps Bercow would be subdued, I wasn’t convinced that his House of Commons charisma wasn’t merely an act, and when faced with academics and students he would adopt a more serious tone.

I was wrong.

The evening began with discussion of Bercow’s political journey and of course he was questioned about the Monday Club (far-right Tory pressure group). Bercow admitted his “abiding shame” at being a member as well as commenting that he was “quite ideological”. I found his self-analysis insightful and refreshing. Unlike other politicians (cough, Clinton, cough) he actually was eager to admit to his mistakes. In fact he admitted to quite a few of them.

Bercow’s mistakes (according to Bercow)
1. Being a member of the Monday Club
2. Opposing equal gay rights for so long
3. The handling of the last 48 hours of the 2010-2015 government
4. His “overly abrasive” nature when he began as Speaker
5. Being a supporter of Enoch Powell
6. Not specialising in Parliament

However, one area Bercow was adamant he had not made a mistake was with the Donald Trump saga. In the talk he adamantly defended his stance to not invite Trump to speak in the House of Commons if he were to have a State visit. “This issue is not about free speech […] it is an earned honour.” Bercow insisted he was talking for “the majority” of M.P’s and still to this day does not regret his decision. This was met with a large round of applause from the audience.

And that leads me on to what made this talk so exciting for me. Despite not being a fan of Bercow, I admired his self-reflection, his conviction and also his sassiness. From asserting that he doesn’t “give a flying flamingo” about Andrew Neil to ripping William Hague to absolute shreds, his opinionated and cutting witticisms about his colleagues really got the audience on board to the point where a small standing ovation was offered by a few.

Summing up John Bercow is easiest when using his own words “I am not a team player” yet, perhaps this is why he is such a successful speaker and prominent politician. His opinions are insightful and critical of not only his colleagues but also of himself.

How to make Trump scared.

Donald Trump is President. Be angry. Be shocked. But become mobilised. 

I am not about to say that fear is the greatest weapon in politics or even the most dangerous. Politics of fear is something we have seen utilised over many political campaigns recently including Brexit and the US Presidential Election.

Donald Trump used fear to pry on vulnerable people in society who feel alienated from liberalism and the political establishment. Hillary Clinton represents both of those things. Trump became a voice for people who in recent years have not been the focus of politics. White people, low income workers, men- as politics begins to focus on the equality of minorities, the already established demographics become alienated and want someone to give them back the focus. Trump did that, and what’s more Trump shifted the blame of these peoples problems on to the demographics who have been gaining political attention: immigrants, racial minorities, religions. Trump scared these people into blaming others, turning on their neighbours, and voting for him.

Now it’s time to scare Trump. This is how. 

The most powerful weapon in politics is hope. Optimism is what causes change, pessimism causes moans of “well there’s nothing I can do, it will always be like this”. Trump wants to divide people, turn them against each other, creating a fractured society where people have to rely on him. However, at this difficult time if we fight against this, unite with Republicans, unite with Democrats, unite with all races, religions, sexualities, genders; if we unite in hope we can overcome hate.

Trump is expecting to rule over a divided world. If we show him we are united, we are hopeful for our futures and our children’s futures, we will not let someone turn us against each other, we can cause real change irrespective of political division.

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united we will scare Trump

While this may sound good in theory I expect some people may want an action plan, here are some ideas:
1. Community outreach: whether it’s creating a youth group, opening a soup kitchen, or just holding a street party, get to know your community and realise we aren’t so different.
2. Political protest: while I believe we must now respect Trump’s presidency, I do not believe we must respect all of his proposals. If he is preaching hate, protest with love.
3. Analyse your values: how do you teach your children to behave? Sharing, kindness, compassion are all universal things we teach our children. Remember that when dealing with others.
4. Research: in many elections and referendums statistics get thrown around ridiculously. Research them, find out the truth.
5. Don’t be scared: Be optimistic.

Simply, stay optimistic, believe in change and know that there are more good people in the world than bad. Scare Trump into working for us.

The link between North Korea and Brexit.

North Korea is the most fascinating political landscape that exists currently. It’s so alien to me, living in the west, to think that there are people living under a communist- dictatorship on the same planet at the same time as me. Communism seems so outdated and even in China we see a communist-style regime that has fused with capitalism. This makes North Korea seem even more interesting.

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North Korea and Brexit share one surprising similarity.

It’s so hard to be able to explain the politics of North Korea; mainly because the people themselves don’t appear to understand them and so it becomes near impossible for an outside source. We hear fractured stories from disgusting human rights abuses to trivial tourist reports without really knowing anything about the country. Where is the money for it’s lavish water parks coming from? If there are no human rights abuses why is the country locked down? All we really know is the form of politics being pumped through North Korea is labelled ‘Juche’ but no one in North Korea or the west seems to really know what that means. This is seen so clearly in Álvaro Longoria’s ‘The Propaganda Game’ (an amazing, impartial documentary- it’s on Netflix). But the only thing that is really obvious through the uncertain landscape of North Korea is manipulation and misinformation.

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yet misinformation and propaganda aren’t exclusive to North Korea.

Many people like me, who have grown up in the west, instantly think of propaganda when we hear the words ‘North Korea’. We recall images and videos of men and women sobbing and wailing at the death of Kim Jong-il and massive golden statues with huge parades saluting them. Yet, then we have to question why we see this. How much of this footage is twisted or accompanied with exaggerated claims by the western media. In a sense we have a propaganda war. North Koreans still believe it was the USA who initiated the Korean War and in the west we are led to believe Kim Jong-un watched as his uncle was executed by vicious dogs. Both of these examples are untrue. Both highlight the strange, warped propaganda war we are currently living in. I honestly don’t know what’s going on. Is North Korea as bad as we are led to believe? I think it probably is. But then when we are faced with constant manipulation from all sides it becomes harder to take any news we receive about North Korea seriously.

While this may be a specific example focusing on North Korea, this highlights such an important issue that relates back to British politics too. We, as a public, are not taught to be critical of mainstream media, leadership figures or politicians. It became so evident during ‘Brexit’ that we were fed manipulated facts and even lies (cough cough NHS claim) by both sides of the campaign. We need to fix this and what is even more frustrating is that it’s so easy to fix.

Question why.

Question why somebody in a position of power, whether that be politics or media, says what they do. What do they gain by saying this? How does it make them appear? These really basic questions expose motives and consequently stop us from being fed propaganda and false information.

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the west must begin to fully utilise the freedom of speech we have.

In the west we are lucky to have education that isn’t influenced directly by the state in the way it is in North Korea. We are not indoctrinated from a young age. We must use this privilege to expose propaganda. Question everything. Maybe we can even begin to help the people of North Korea who are often forgotten behind the worlds political fascination.