Category: Society

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Time to call out the hate that dare not speak its name

Rosemary Schonfeld and Simon Chater

Politicians and opinion leaders must speak out on the benefits of immigration if Britain is to have any chance of regaining its rightful place at the heart of Europe. Elephant in the room As James Carville didn’t quite say during Bill Clinton’s 1992 US presidential campaign, “It’s immigration, stupid”. That’s the issue that drove the […]

Walking for health

Barbara Leonard

Just over a year ago I was one of small group of volunteer walk leaders sharing thoughts about a new virus being talked about on the news in the UK. Some of us had just returned from visits abroad where warnings about Covid 19 and measures to limit its spread were already happening, in sharp […]

Priti Patel marches in where Michael Howard feared to tread

Rachel Marshall

Editor’s comment: The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill may have been quietly pushed aside for the moment, no doubt waiting for the furore to die down, but it is very unlikely that the crackdown on dissent is off Patel’s agenda at all. Rachel Marshall reminds us of events almost two decades ago… There is […]

Puppy lust: the rise in heartbreaking pet theft

Sadie Parker

Imagine having a pair of dogs for company. They’re your everything, now that your spouse has passed on. Between walks they like a frolic in the garden. One day you let them out as you put the wash on and potter in your utility room. When you finish a short while later, you call out […]

They were women with flowers

Anthea Simmons

I don’t think I’ll be the only woman who’ll be crying herself to sleep tonight. Lord knows, there has been enough to cry about in the past few years and especially the pandemic months; yet, somehow, tonight’s appalling scenes were the last straw. What have we come to? They were women with flowers and candles […]

The royal row and tabloid tyranny

Mick Fletcher

Good drama can hold up a mirror to the world and the real-life drama unfolding around the British royal family certainly does. What it shows reflects very badly on aspects of our culture, particularly the sheer toxicity of much of the tabloid press. Less obviously at the moment, it also has a serious message about […]

The right to peaceful protest must not be undermined

Anthea Simmons

Did you take part in any of the anti-Brexit, pro-final say/People’s Vote marches in 2017/2018 or 2019? If you did, you will know what astonishingly well-mannered, convivial affairs they were (whether that was a good thing or not is another matter). Hundreds of thousands of people travelled up to London on coaches that left the […]

School funding crisis in Somerset will mean closures and redundancies

Editor-in-chief

Somerset County Council shows no signs of changing course on school closures and staff redundancies in Somerset  Plans for wholesale changes to schools in the Crewkerne and Ilminster area came to Somerset County Council’s Scrutiny for Policies, Children and Families Committee this week (Wednesday 3 March), prior to the Council’s Cabinet making a final decision on […]

On feast and famine

Anthea Bareham

Throughout my childhood we had a feast almost every day – not just on special occasions – every day. I expect you did too. We ate meat. Almost every day. Last week I attended a Guardian online webinar, one of Fairtrade Fortnight’s events. The topic was ‘The impact of the climate crisis on global food […]

Should charity start and end at home?

Valerie Huggins

In the UK, times are hard and budgets stretched. One in five children are living in food poverty. There is increasing use of food banks. More homeless people are sleeping on the streets. It is hardly surprising that there are growing calls for us to reduce the amount we send in overseas aid to other […]

Flag of convenience

Mike Zollo

“A poke in the eye! That’s what you’ll get, so I’ll take your sticks away before you hurt one another!” Imagine a little 6-year-old boy, so excited at holding his very own flag for the first time. As we lined up in the school yard ready to troop off to the venue at which hundreds […]

The truth behind Government’s healthcare ‘reforms’

Rosie Haworth Booth

Have you heard about the new health and social care ‘reforms’? The reforms which are restructuring the administration of care across the country, and which claim to overturn the worst aspects of those set up by Andrew Lansley in 2012? Are you glad to hear that these new structures, known as Integrated Care Systems, or […]

Out-Foxing the Reclaim Party’s ‘war on woke’

Vicky Rosier

West Country Voices has previously reported on the government’s culture war against perceived left-wing or liberal bias in the arts, cultural heritage and higher education sectors. In October 2020, Virginia Button outlined government pressure on arts institutions and museums to toe the line on their involvement in contested reassessments of British colonial history, at the […]

Slasher Gav hunts for headlines

Mick Fletcher

It’s certainly dramatic language. Gavin Williamson is on record as planning to “slash” (some sources even say ‘smash’) the taxpayer subsidy for subjects such as media studies. More cautious ministers might have spoken about reducing funding or withdrawing support but that’s not harsh enough for tough guy Gav. After all, this is a man who […]

Censuring students while censoring history

Mick Fletcher
black and white photo, man with finger to lips. secret

You could hardly make it up.  At the same time as government plans to appoint a ‘free speech tsar’ to stop students cancelling controversial speakers it also intends to summon heritage groups to be told by a minister what they can and cannot say about British history. It’s ludicrous but at the same time deeply […]

Has Brexit wrecked my life’s work?

Mike Zollo

“You may buy from us in English … but you must sell to us in my language!” This much-quoted maxim highlights the importance of language skills to international trade. What German Chancellor Willy Brandt actually said in the early 1970s was: “If I’m selling to you, I speak your language. If I’m buying, dann müssen […]

Gav’s latest whoopsie cost £425m and a Cornish school is not happy

David Hencke

Company predicted “successful business performance” on the back of feeding poverty stricken children The spectre of poor children going hungry during the Covid 19 crisis is something the government have had to be put under pressure to remedy – notably by Marcus Rashford, the Manchester United footballer. But now it has emerged that even when […]

The Tory MP and a £20bn stealth tax on business

Mick Fletcher

I tend to think of Robert Halfon as a decent sort of chap who just got into bad company and so ended up as the Conservative MP for Harlow. He styles himself as representing the working-class Conservative voter and probably has more genuine sympathy with that group than many of his colleagues, who seem suddenly […]

Between Two Worlds

Doro Williamson

Doro Williamson is 11, and lives with her parents on the southern edge of Dartmoor, Devon, UK. This poem was written while schooling at home, as part of her English work, assigned by her year 6 teacher after looking at alliteration and juxtaposition. Between Two Worlds The liminal lockdown kept us at homeFraying our tempers […]

Sunshine smile and soul food from Syria

Anthea Simmons

“I say to fellow immigrants ‘put in to this country. Do not take out. Put in.’” Khaled Wakkaa has been living in Exeter since March 2017, when he arrived from war-torn Syria and years in refugee camps in Lebanon, with his wife Dalal and young daughter Lemar (now joined by a little sister born in […]

Beyond the ‘burdensome estate’

Mick Fletcher

Since West Country Voices published my article Blocked by the ‘burdensome estate‘ people from all over the country have contacted me with similar examples of apparent official vandalism. Despite the Department for Transport (DfT) publishing a cycling and walking plan for England which ostensibly “sets out a vision for a travel revolution”, part of that […]

Pinching pupil premium – the Williamson war on poor kids continues…

Andy Jolley

Short thread on how DfE sneaked out a £250 million cut to school budgets in the middle of a pandemic and how it will impact the poorest and most vulnerable pupils. No publicity, no great public announcement as @educationgovuk cut a quarter of a billion pounds from its Pupil Premium budget. Pupil Premium (PP) is […]

Long Covid kids

Sammie McFarland

A year since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, we have all become armchair experts. It’s hard to remember a time when it was new and we had so little information about what to expect if we were unlucky enough to catch it. A few key messages emerged early in the first lockdown in March. […]

The UK’s drug policy failure. Lessons from Portugal

Paul Delaney

We must consider alternatives to criminalisation and incarceration of people who use drugs, and focus criminal justice efforts on those involved in supply. We should increase the focus on public health, prevention, treatment and care, as well as on economic, social and cultural strategies. –Ban Ki-moon, former UN Secretary-General, on World Day Against Drugs, 26 […]