Yes, millennial men are earning less than Generation X – but don’t feel too sorry for us

Published by The Independent on 09/02/17


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The patriarchy has been defeated and the glass ceiling might finally have been smashed. And as a result, the naked bodies of millennial men have been shredded to pieces by the shards. Well, maybe.

According to the Resolution Foundation, men born between 1980 and 2000 are earning less in their early careers than males from Generation X (those born between 1966 and 1980). This is allegedly because young men have been forced to take on low-paid work typically done by women in the past. Between 1993 and 2015-16, the proportion of low-paid work carried out by young men has increased by 45 per cent. Consequently, millennial men will have earned significantly less money by the time they reach 30 than their predecessors – £12,500 to be exact.

Millennial women, on the other hand, are doing just fine. Their average income remains unchanged, which has caused a reduction in the alleged gender pay gap for millennials. This is because there is an increased tendency for women to now be in higher skilled jobs.

But before we whip out a tissue and mourn the unexpected travails of today’s millennial men, we have to ask ourselves whether the Resolution Foundation’s findings are that surprising.

As has been the trend for a number of years, young white working class men have become the most underrepresented demographic in UK universities. Young women far outdo their counterparts when it comes to applying to higher education.

When it comes to university applications, 42.7 per cent of 18 year old women applied to higher education, compared to only 31.6 per cent of men of the same age. Given their notable absence from universities, is it so surprising that millennial men are pushed towards low-income jobs?

But while we should react with horror at the gender imbalance inherent within higher education and do our utmost to encourage young men to apply to university, it doesn’t mean that we should view millennial men as particularly hard done by. Losing out on £12,500 over a period of 10 years is a significant quantity of cash, but when contextualised it is of little surprise.

But while it hasn’t been particularly easy for the millennial generation to negotiate the economic turmoil of the past years, their perceived deprivation is hardly enigmatic. Those that do manage to go to university tend to graduate with a first-class aversion to an average salary. The realisation that they won’t be able to go skiing every year leaves them in a stagnant quarter-life crisis.

Unlike today’s youth, Generation X didn’t take a “gap yah” before university to visit a rural tribe in Cambodia. Nor did they insist on taking a “year out” after university before heading out into the big bad world of 9-to-5 living. Rather, they did their three year stint in higher education – whether it was university or polytechnic didn’t particularly matter – and got on with finding a job.

It’s not surprising, therefore, that today’s 20-somethings feel that the job market is stacked against them. Not only does their lifestyle inculcate the belief that a bit of graft is something to be sniffed at, but they’re also taking significantly longer to jump onto the career ladder. Is it really such a shock that today’s men are earning less than the generation before them when they’re so reluctant to get a job in the first place?

For the significantly high proportion of men who feel disenfranchised from our system of higher education, low income jobs are often all that can be expected. Given their relative absence from universities, we can only assume that from day one they are pushed towards taking on noticeably unprofitable occupations – this is something that needs to be addressed within the education system.

However, there is nothing inherently wrong with people working in low paid jobs. They have existed throughout society’s history and, more importantly, have often been carried out by those with little job experience – mainly the young.

Rather than viewing 20-something males as vulnerable victims who need saving from the cruel cycle of low-paid work and lower wages it’s time to realise that low-paid work is a fact of life, and if those who went to university want to match the earnings of Generation X they may need to consider giving up that three year trip to South East Asia after graduation and get stuck in.

Stop comparing Donald Trump to Adolf Hitler and the Nazis – it trivialises the Holocaust

Published by the IB Times on 08/02/17


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The Emmy-nominated The Man in the High Castle is set in a dystopian world where Nazi Germany has won the Second World War and now rules over the USA. Given the vast number of people who believe that Trump’s election marks the inauguration of the Fourth Reich, one could be forgiven for viewing the TV show as a documentary.

Following Trump’s travel ban on refugees and citizens from seven majority-Muslim countries, his presidency has immediately been equated with the rise of Hitler. Perennial loud-mouthed MP Dennis Skinner has labelled President Trump as a “fascist”. On the continent and across the Atlantic, the mayors of Madrid and Philadelphia have both compared Trump to Hitler. Who knew that Ken Livingstone’s constant blathering on about the Führer would finally catch on?

Fortunately, the US Appeals Court that will rule whether the travel ban is constitutional substituted this sensational rhetoric for genuine criticism when grilling those defending the restriction.

The panel queried whether Trump’s so-called Muslim Ban will actually stop terrorism on US soil – an important question given that between 1975 and 2015, zero Americans were killed in terror attacks from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

But while the court showed how important it is to objectively criticise Trump’s travel ban, politicians and commentators still insist on comparing President Trump to Hitler. This must stop.

The SNP’s Carol Monaghan has warned that “the Holocaust didn’t start with the gas chambers” and, consequently, we needn’t wait for Trump to plaster the White House with Swastikas to label him a Nazi. But while it’s true that it took Hitler a few years to pass the Nuremberg Laws, it is absurd to equate Trump’s inclination towards authoritarianism with Hitler’s rise to power. Although the 45th president’s half-hearted approach towards press freedom deserves criticism, it is hardly comparable to the 1933 Enabling Act which gave Hitler the power to pass laws without consulting the Reichstag.

Of course, the tendency to refer to the travel ban as “Trump’s ban” certainly encourages people to assume President Trump is acting in a dictatorial manner. Not only does it forget that the list of seven countries was previously drawn up by Obama, but it also ignores the fact that more Americans support the travel ban than oppose it. This isn’t Trump imposing his will on America. It is Trump carrying out an election promise.

However, the most pernicious effect of equating Trump with Hitler is that, ultimately, it risks trivialising the Holocaust. At its most extreme interpretation, Trump wants to stop immigration – a far cry from the genocide committed by the Third Reich.

Moreover, his ban isn’t targeted at an entire race; it is estimated that around 15% of the world’s Muslim population originate from the seven countries to which the ban applies. Indeed the closest travel ban we actually have that bears any resemblance to Nazi policy is the 16 countries that forbid citizens of Israel – the Jewish nation – from entering.

But even this constraint on Israelis cannot be compared to the atrocities committed by Hitler. Many of today’s leaders in the West, including President Trump, deserve criticism. But one doesn’t need a GCSE in history to work out that their actions aren’t as bad as the systematic execution of six million Jews.

For some absurd reason, people are still insensitive to the atrocities committed by Hitler’s operation. You can visit Auschwitz, where one in six Jews executed in the Holocaust were killed. There, you can see the inside a gas chamber first-hand; you can see the piles of human hair, glasses and shoes that the Nazis failed to destroy just before they were defeated. The detention of Muslims at JFK airport two weeks ago marked a low-point in US immigration policy, but can we really equate it with Hitler’s treatment of the Jews?

When it comes to President Trump, we risk substituting genuine criticism for sensationalism. His policies – whether it be his travel ban or block on US funding for NGO abortion referrals – deserve to be denounced in their own right. Yes, both Hitler and Trump have dodgy haircuts. But that is where the comparisons should end.

Blocking Brexit could spell the end for Labour

Published by Spiked Online on 30/01/17


Chuka Ummuna Addresses The Federation Of Small Businesses On The EU Referendum

As soon as David Cameron announced that a referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union would take place, the Labour Party started its slow descent into the history books. By positioning itself against the very people it claimed to represent, it has further alienated its voters.

But while Jeremy Corbyn’s unconvincing call for a Remain vote angered Remain and Leave voters alike, it has been Labour’s post-Brexit attitude that has caused most damage. The continual calls from Labour grandees for the party to thwart the Brexit vote have only further isolated the party from the Brexit-voting sections of its base. Labour’s Brexit-thwarter-in-chief Chuka Umunna has made Labour’s loathing of those who voted Leave crystal clear by continually suggesting that nasty Brexiteers have caused hate levels to spike since 23 June.

In recent weeks, Labour has become full of anti-Brexit plotters. Following the Supreme Court’s ruling that parliament must vote on the invocation of Article 50, 19 Labour MPs have stated that they will vote against it. And more have hinted that they will join them. Former shadow health secretary Heidi Alexander has even claimed she is planning a motion to throw out the government’s bill altogether.

Alexander’s plan doesn’t simply amount to a wail about how the referendum vote didn’t go her way; it’s a clear attempt to undermine the largest democratic mandate in British political history. Where once the Labour claimed to represent the people, its senior politicians now view us with contempt. The words ‘the strength of our common endeavour’ are printed on the reverse side of Labour Party membership cards. But it is apparently willing to make an exception for the Brexit vote.

Even Alexander seems to recognise her anti-democratic intent. ‘I might be accused of being a democracy denier’, she said.

While Alexander makes her contempt for democracy explicit, her fellow anti-Brexit plotters insist on making excuses for their actions. Perennial Brexit-basher David Lammy explained that he would vote against Article 50 to righteously stand up for the people who ‘wish they hadn’t voted to Leave’. Lammy is apparently unaware of the numerous polls debunking the myth of the Regrexiter. Earlier this month, a YouGov poll even concluded that more people want a Hard Brexit (aka Brexit) than its watered-down counterpart.

Jo Stevens, Labour’s former shadow secretary for Wales (which, incidentally, voted to Leave), wrote an impassioned article for the Guardian explaining that she will be voting against Article 50 ‘to protect Labour values’. Who knew ‘Labour values’ included disrespecting the very people the party claims to represent?

Other Labour MPs, led by Umunna, have stated that while they will vote for Article 50, they will seek to derail Brexit by voting against the final Brexit bill. In this respect, Labour has gotten into bed with our very own unelected and unaccountable body, the House of Lords – some members of which have been plotting against Brexit since the beginning.

One doesn’t need a crystal ball to see that this endless demos-bashing could spell the end for the Labour Party. Take the upcoming Stoke Central by-election. Despite polling from Labour Leave suggesting UKIP had a 10-point lead, Labour chose as its candidate Gareth Snell, a sneering Remainer – apparently ignoring the fact that the city of Stoke-on-Trent had the highest Leave vote in the country, at 69.4 per cent.

Deputy leader Tom Watson’s suggestion that those shadow cabinet ministers who choose to resign rather than vote for Article 50 will be promptly reinstated demonstrates just how much Labour underestimates the conviction of Leave voters. In Watson’s eyes, voting to thwart a democratic mandate, and thus breaking with the leadership’s official position, is a tiny misdemeanour worthy only of a slap on the wrist.

Labour’s decision to campaign for Remain revealed that it puts more faith in unaccountable bureaucrats than ordinary people. But its subsequent disdain towards those who voted Leave is even more revealing. It shows just how little the party cares for those it half-heartedly claims to represent. Now polling at just 24 per cent, Labour has completely alienated its traditional voting base. Where once Labour claimed to be a stronghold of the working class, it has now morphed into a hotbed of anti-democrats.

Let’s kick the state out of free debate

Published by Spiked Online on 25/01/17


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Given that the Chinese government has banned Twitter, Facebook and Google, we shouldn’t be too surprised that it also restricts free speech on China’s campuses. Earlier this month, the president’s office at Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou released a list of guidelines to lecturers that included a ban on criticising the Chinese constitution and the ruling Communist Party. It also warned that the spread of religion and superstition was prohibited.

Ever since the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, in which students played a prominent role, the Chinese regime has sought to minimise the possibility of dissent on university campuses. Following the 2014 student-led ‘umbrella’ protests in Hong Kong, it has extended its efforts. Last month, President Xi Jinping said that universities must ‘serve the rule of the Chinese Communist Party and serve to strengthen and promote socialism within Chinese characteristics’. Universities, he went on, must be ‘strongholds that adhere to party leadership’.

But while we in the West might find this shocking, state censorship on university campuses is not unique to China. Earlier this month, the Chinese government called on universities to limit the use of foreign textbooks that promote Western values. But, interestingly, in the UK, a country built on ‘Western values’, there is a growing trend towards state interference in the academy.

As part of the Home Office’s Prevent Strategy against extremism, the government requires universities to ban ‘extremist’ speakers and watch for signs of student ‘radicalisation’. A few weeks ago, King’s College London admitted that, to meet the obligations of Prevent, it now monitors all student emails.

This isn’t limited to universities, either. Prevent was taken to an absurd extreme in 2015 when police questioned a Muslim schoolboy in Islington after he uttered the phrase ‘ecoterrorism’ in a French class. And when Milo Yiannopoulos was banned from speaking at his old grammar school in Kent, it wasn’t at the behest of the school or its pupils – many of whom later expressed their outrage at the decision. Rather, it was the result of an intervention from the Department for Education’s extremism unit.

It would, of course, be absurd to compare the Chinese government’s clampdown on dissent with Prevent’s interference. But nevertheless both the UK and Chinese governments are, to differing degrees, silencing opinions on campus that they find dangerous. And now even the US government is getting in on the act.

Though it was drawn up to tackle gender discrimination and sexual assault, the federal law Title IX is now routinely used to police free speech on US campuses. A recent Justice Department order called on universities to tackle ‘unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature’, including ‘verbal conduct’. As a consequence, academics and students alike are getting in trouble for simply discussing sexual topics.

Harvard law professor Jeannie Suk has said that, as a result of Title IX, academics are refusing to teach classes on sex and sexuality, lest they be reported for their ‘verbal conduct’. Simply speaking out against Title IX can also have serious repercussions. Laura Kipnis, a feminist film professor at Northwestern University, was reported under Title IX for writing an article about the ‘sexual paranoia’ spreading across academia.

While state censorship on campus is far less severe in the West than it is in China, it still exists – and that is troubling. State censorship must always be condemned. We can hardly balk at China clamping down on ‘Western values’, when we in the West fail to uphold them.

Prince Charles’ ‘Climate Change for Dummies’

Published by Spiked Online on 17/01/17


Following the success of its collection of spoof kids books for adults, including ‘The Mid-Life Crisis’ and ‘The Hipster’, Penguin’s revamped Ladybird range has commissioned its funniest title yet, ‘Climate Change’, which is set to be co-authored by Prince Charles.

The book was pitched by Charles himself, who decried the absence of an accesible guide to the dangers of climate change. And so, the heir to the throne has kindly taken some time out from lobbying senior politicians to educate us plebs on the environment.

In keeping with Ladybird style, each page of the book will show a large picture with a few simple words below. Apparently the authors worked ‘very hard to make sure that each word did its job’ – just to make sure us little folk can understand what our clever Prince is saying. Given Charles’ previous claim that the current war in Syria was caused by climate change, this new book promises to be a gripping read.

It’s no secret that Charles is an environmentalist – he has repeatedly aired his concern that we are ruining the planet at our grandchildren’s expense. And it should come as no surprise that a member of the monarchy – a hangover from a time when self-rule was viewed with revulsion – would prefer the ‘natural’ order over humanity striving for more.

While the book is yet to be published, it’s safe to say that it will most likely tell us to stop doing X, stop using Y and stop eating Z. We will, once again, be told that human activity is a threat to our planet.

Perhaps this is an unfair judgement. Maybe Charles’ book will explain why we should embrace climate change. The book has been peer-reviewed by the Royal Meteorological Society, so presumably it will describe the advances scientists are making in the development of nuclear fusion. The authors might even provide us with some pictures explaining how fracking can provide us with a cheap and more energy-efficient source of gas.

But, of course, the book won’t do that. Because, no matter how many Ladybird books Charles writes on the matter, his instinctual reaction will always be against human progress. In this, he taps into a thoroughly mainstream sentiment. This is a shame. Because when it comes to tackling the perceived threat of climate change, it is our capacity to change the world around us that will provide the solution.

To some, Israel is the new Illuminati

Published by Spiked Online on 13/01/16


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Put on your kippahs and grab yourself a menorah: the Israeli government is controlling British politics! Well, not really. But judging by the reaction to Al-Jazeera’s undercover sting that allegedly revealed how the Israel Embassy is influencing our political system, you’d be forgiven for thinking so.

In Al-Jazeera’s sinisterly named ‘The Lobby’, an undercover reporter filmed Shai Masot, an adviser to the Israeli Embassy in London, explaining how he wants to ‘take down’ certain MPs who are hostile to Israel. He also boasts about organising several pressure groups dedicated to influencing Labour Party policy, particularly against the BDS movement.

Edited and produced in a manner similar to conspiratorial YouTube documentaries, the clip was met with shrieks about an ‘Israeli plot’. Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry labelled the footage ‘a national security issue’ and called on the Foreign Affairs Select Committee to launch an investigation into the influence of Israeli officials in UK politics. A Conservative MP suggested an investigation should be launched into the embassy’s links with both Labour Friends of Israel and Conservative Friends of Israel.

A glance at the video clip reveals just how out of proportion these reactions are. Masot isn’t sitting in an underground bunker surrounded by evil-looking villains planning the UK’s downfall. He doesn’t whip out a Filofax and darkly explain how he’s going to top every single MP who supports BDS. Rather, the clip shows Masot sitting in a restaurant with a glass of wine, whining about a few politicians he deems to be stupid – something a great many of us do every weekend.

Since when did we take the obtuse ramblings of a political nobody as evidence of a political coup? Even Labour Friends of Israel commented that Masot was ‘exaggerating his role’ in pro-Israeli politics. The embassy, too, has distanced itself from Masot’s claims and has sent him back to Israel. It emphasised that Masot didn’t speak for Israel – a statement so obvious it beggars belief it had to be said.

Masot’s comments were hardly newsworthy, but the media reaction to Al-Jazeera’s sting warrants serious attention. Its insistence on demonising the mere act of lobbying – which has been integral to our political system for centuries – highlights something special about this case: it involved an Israeli.

Israeli exceptionalism is a hardly a new phenomenon, and the internet was quick to point to Masot’s ramblings as Israel’s latest ‘plot’. This was neatly demonstrated in one blog post noting that Masot wasn’t on Israel’s registered Diplomatic List. But rather than concluding that this is because Masot isn’t that important, the blog suggested it was evidence Israel is up to something shady.

Masot’s comments were taken by some as evidence that Israel controls our government. ‘British foreign policy is in hock to Israeli influence at the heart of our politics’, warned an anonymous government minister in the Mail on Sunday. And Israel’s vast tentacles don’t only extend into the Houses of Commons. Al-Jazeera’s report also revealed ‘evidence’ that Richard Brooks, an NUS vice-president who had recently been to Israel, has been orchestrating a plan to topple NUS president Malia Bouattia. Brooks told Al-Jazeera’s reporter to ‘drop me a line whenever you want to have a conversation’ about it.

But Brooks’ admission to the undercover reporter speaks more about his lack of political nous than his menacing prowess. The report’s conspiratorial tone seemed slightly misguided given that Brooks has repeatedly appeared in public to disparage Bouattia, who caused uproar by labelling the University of Birmingham a ‘Zionist outpost’.

If anything, the most revealing aspect of Al-Jazeera’s report was the reaction to it. It demonstrated that the conspiratorial terms once used to describe Israel’s alleged control of the world’s banks are being recycled to cast meaningless events in a murky hue.

This inclination to point to ‘Israeli plots’ can only be detrimental to UK politics. It serves as a neat tool to shut down debate and dismiss valid criticisms of UK policy. The equation of Masot’s criticism of the BDS movement with an ‘Israeli plot’ assumes that no normal person could possibly be anti-BDS. It is informed by a political complacency that serves to demonise any opposition.

The response to Al-Jazeera’s clip marked a worrying return to the anti-Semitic semantics of the past, which assumed the presence of an Israeli-controlled world system. It is hard to see that such a media furore would have been sparked if an obscure aide at the Macedonian Embassy had been captured by Al-Jazeera in an equally compromising manner. The greatest scandal about Al-Jazeera’s report wasn’t its content, but the way it has been sensationalised. In the eyes of many, Israel has become the Illuminati, and this conspiracy-theory view is detrimental to journalism and politics in equal measure.

Two years ago we were all Charlie Hebdo. Now our willingness to defend freedom of expression has been crushed again

Published by The Telegraph on 07/01/16


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It’s been two years since the terror attack on Charlie Hebdo, but it feels more like two hundred.

After two Muslim brothers stormed its offices at 10 Rue Nicolas-Appert in the centre of Paris and massacred 12 people, “Je suis Charlie” became the rallying cry of those who condemned the attack. Over the following days, 40 world leaders travelled to Paris to stand in solidarity with the French government. Across France, more than three million demonstrators took to the streets in a show of unity against those who sought to reap terror. Charlie Hebdo’s following issue sold almost eight million copies.

While the brute violence of the Charlie Hebdo massacre was abhorrent in its own right, the decision of the Kouachi brothers to target a satirical magazine carried a particular disturbing message. It signalled an attack on the progressive values of freedom of expression and tolerance. In the aftermath, there was recognition that, although the magazine had dared to satirise Muhammad, freedom of speech – including its mischievous extension, the freedom to ridicule – were more important than the right not to be offended.

But two years later, “Je suis Charlie” has been substituted for “Je suis offensé”, and our brief flirtation with the value of freedom of speech has been replaced by a willingness to ban and condemn.

So when Charlie Hebdo mocked the death of Syrian refugee Aylan Kurdi in 2015 and again in January 2016, and the victims of the Amatrice earthquake last September, many jumped at the opportunity to chastise the magazine.

And while mere condemnation is no threat to free speech – principally because it is itself an expression of free speech – many have forgotten that criticising something does not entail that it should be banned. In conflating their discomfort at an image with the need for censorship, today’s cultural embrace of “You can’t say that!” now extends to the role of the lunatic Islamic fundamentalists who attempted to shut down Charlie Hebdo.

Last year, a man who chose to wear a T-shirt that made a cheap crack at the Hillsborough tragedy was arrested because it “was likely to cause distress”. Only a few months ago, Olympic gymnast Louis Smith was banned for two months and sent a number of death threats after a video of him drunkenly mocking the Muslim call to prayer was released.

And this failure to hold on to the spirit of “Je Suis Charlie” isn’t just a UK phenomenon. While the world rallied behind Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons following the attack, it paid little attention to the travails of Australian cartoonist Bill Leak, who was investigated by the Human Rights Commission for his depiction of an Aboriginal father and son.

Comedians are being made to pay for their controversial material: in Canada last year, Mike Ward was fined $42,000 by Quebec’s Human Rights Tribunal for poking fun at a disabled boy.

Even at that one place where no idea should be beyond criticism – the university – “Je suis Charlie” has failed to resonate. While 28 UK universities have banned The Sun and/or The Daily Star because they don’t conform to their union’s values, the University of Bristol and University of Manchester have also forbidden Charlie Hebdo from being sold on campus. According to Bristol’s union, Charlie Hebdo fails to conform to the university’s “Safe Space” policy, which disallows any opinions that students might find offensive.

The cry of “Je Suis Charlie” realised that to refute terrorism means not just condemning it, but to defend free speech and expression to the last. All too quickly, we have forgotten that the mere act of disagreeing with a sentiment does not necessitate its censorship.

It is our free press that differentiates us from the brutal dystopia that the instigators of the Charlie Hebdo attack yearned for. It is our willingness to question the norms of society, to poke fun at prevailing assumptions, and to tolerate sentiments we find unpalatable that prevents us from descending into barbarity.

To censor images, opinions and jokes we find offensive is to do the Kouachi brothers’ job for them. “Je suis Charlie” must mean “Je suis toujours Charlie”.