April 2010


I just shouted at the builder working next door that he is a “bastard”. He’s more than likely not but he (or they) have been drilling at the site next door from 8 am every week day and it’s getting on my nerves. Now I didn’t say it to his face and probably wouldn’t. After all, in the clear light of day he’s probably a perfectly decent bloke who is perfectly entitled to do his job and part of me might be “mortified” if he heard some of the things I say about him.
I have been listening to the radio with a sense of unease today as journalists position themselves as champions of the (good, honest) working people like Gillian Duffy who are perfectly entitled to raise reasonable questions about race and immigration.
Of course Gillian Duffy is entitled to her opinion and she is probably a good, decent woman who certainly didn’t deserve the humiliation of being told by a breathless producer that the PM had said she was bigoted. (Bit too reminiscent of the playground?)
But I’ve climbed out of a cab wondering why oh why I started a conversation with a cab driver who then went on to give me his particular version of the “I’m not racist but..” line.
Sometimes I”ve been bolder but there are times when I’ve only offered a mild “yes but..” – as Gordon Brown did yesterday – and longed to get away.
I can lay claim to a working class background but admit to a complex range of feelings when I hear those familiar lines about immigration. Because even if they have a right to say them they fly in the face of principles I hold dear.
One thing that seems to have been established after yesterday’s incident is that the (good honest) working class have a right to talk about immigration because it’s a legitimate area of concern.
Although I may have a wry smile at the thought of the media championing a woman from Rochadale’s right to speak out, I am just making a marker that those views don’t make for easy discussions. Brown, like Cameron the day before, probably would have preferred to keep away from the uncomfortable territory of immigration. Now could you imagine if he said “I’m sorry Madam, I find your views very bigoted?”

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No one could deny that my idea for what I hope will be a series of blog posts over the coming year is that I have just watched Julie and Julia and am inspired by the idea of a daily blogging project.
But I have started a reading project which is now in its second month and a blog seems like the next step.
Last month I set myself the task of reading 12 philosophy books. I wasn’t sure which ones at first and quite randomly lighted Simone de Beauvoir, philosophy and feminism by Nancy Bauer.
That book has set the course for the next year and now I can see a theme developing.
So on this blog I am going to keep track of my trail through the philosophy of Simone de Beauvoir and its pinnacle will be reading The Second Sex – the new translation.

Photo credit: Frasmotic via a Creative Commons licence

New post looking at women in this General Election here – NOT SamCam, Sarah Brown and Miriam Gonzalez Durantez.

I’ve written the latest round- up of the leaders’ wives on the campaign trail on my new blog here.
The new blog will focus on women, particularly on issues women face worldwide not frequently covered by the media, press attitudes towards women and women’s issues, journalism and innovative uses of new media around the world.
A Rye View will be my personal blog, where I will keep track of activities and projects and write about anything that catches my eye.

With the Lib Dems ahead in some of the polls the Conservative party in particular will be focusing on potential areas of weakness in Nick Clegg’s party’s policies.
International aid and defence is the focus of the leaders’ debate on Sky News on Thursday, so the article by Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, and author of ‘Common Wealth with David Cameron in the Independent yesterday examining ways in which women can be put “at the heart of” of the party’s vision for international development.
The plans included a commitment to spending 0.7 of GDP on overseas aid, with an emphasis “on greater transparency, ensuring the money reaches the people who need it most” and recognition of the significance of investing in women as conduit of development.

“Women can hold the key to development in some of the world’s poorest countries – in education, enterprise, micro-finance and healthcare. Investing in women pays dividends throughout the entire community.”

“..with women making up a significant majority of the world’s poorest people, we need targeted action to support women the world over. Take maternal mortality, for example: 350,000 women die during childbirth every year, a figure that has barely fallen in the past two decades in many regions. A Conservative government will work to strengthen health systems and family planning facilities in developing countries, including steps to improve access to well-trained midwives and emergency obstetrics care.

“Third, because a joined-up international approach is essential, we need to ensure that action on women and development is on the agenda at key global meetings. A Conservative government will make this a top priority for Britain at the G8, G20 and UN summits this year. And it will work closely with countries such as Canada and the US, which have already said that tackling maternal and child mortality should be an urgent global priority as part of achieving the Millennium Development Goals.”

Photocredit: Subcomandanta via a Creative Commons licence

The beginning of the week was all about the manifestos: On Monday it was the Labour Party’s; on Tuesday Conservative leader David Cameron said he wanted to put people in charge but as the leaders debate loomed the Liberal Democrats’ alleged that Team Cameron had insisted on the no clapping rule during the leaders’ debate because Vince Cable received more applause than George Osborne during the Chancellors’ debate.

The leaders’ debate transformed Nick Clegg’s fortunes, with the majority of polls narrowing the gap between the Lib Dems and Labour, and in some cases putting them ahead.

As for the wives, 20 per cent of those polled by the Telegraph poll thought Samantha Cameron was the most impressive, 15 per cent preferred Sarah Brown and eight per cent rated Miriam Gonzalez Durantez .

However, the Telegraph pointed out, 57 per cent of those polled said they either do not know or declined to express a preference.
The People, which reported Lord Mandelson’s attack on Cameron’s tactics, a paragraph at the end said that “almost a quarter of women are taking a keener interest in politics because of Sarah Brown and Samantha Cameron”.
What about the others – the 75 per cent who aren’t more interested in politics as a result and the 57 per cent who had no view?
To use a well-used phrase this week, “I met a woman..” who said she can’t follow politics because she can’t bear the media focus on the wives: “They are all capable talented women in their own right and yet the media trivialises them,” she said.

If David Cameron and his party stole the show in the early part of the week with their “invitation to government” his wife Samantha Cameron was making the headlines in the Daily Mail, which was agog at her bump and the colour of the nailpolish on her toes. A certain victory over Sarah Brown, whose toes got another airing.


Point-scoring over looks was in the air again when Samantha Cameron visited the Surma Centre in Camden Surma Centre, and talked to some girls who cooed over her “pretty” hair and clothes.
In the looks-stakes, Sarah Brown was credited with “channelling” Jackie Kennedy with her “prim and proper” sky-blue coat in the Guardian’s stylewatch on Thursday.
But there were signs of a Sarah Brown fightback: Lisa Aziz in the Daily Mail drew a very flattering picture of Sarah Brown, wife, mother, friend and devoted charity worker on Saturday.
We learn that Sarah Brown sometimes forgets to cook “GB’s” lunch and resorts to throwing “a frozen spag bol ‘meal for one’ into the microwave, does her own shopping at the supermarket and sends flowers to friends.
After the furore over Stuart MacLennan’s indiscretions on Twitter and his rant against Fairtrade, Sarah Brown opened up her secret garden at 10 Downing Street and in the first-person piece in the Observer reasserted her commitment to Fairtrade and sustainability.
She urged women to use their vote in her Sunday Mirror election diary

Our right to vote was hard-won in this country, and in places like Burma democratically-elected leaders such as Aung San Suu Kyi are in captivity because the results of the ballot aren’t respected by the military.
We owe it to the suffragettes and to our brothers and sisters in Burma and elsewhere to use our precious crosses, so please remember that the deadline for registering is this coming Tuesday, April 20, and visit www. yourvote.co.uk.

Miriam Gonzalez Durantez continued working this week. In an interview with Mark Austin on ITV she criticised the media focus on the leaders’ wives, which she said was “very patronising” for the public. This prompted a jibe from the Daily Mail, which slyly suggested that her “dry-stone walling exploits on the moors of South Yorkshire” last week were “inconsistent with her argument. Will the press turn on Miriam Gonzalez Durantez, who announced she would quit her job is her husband became PM, if she doesn’t play the game?

Photocredits: Labour

Miriam Gonzalez Durantez has earned respect for her determination to keep working during the five-week campaign.
She has said that she
doesn’t like the term political wife and generally avoids media attention.
Portrayed as a “modern” working woman who as a lawyer earns more than her husband and leaves him do the school run, Miriam Gonzalez Durantez commands respect among the Mumsnet crowd.
A partner in international law firm DLA Piper she joined her husband on the campaign trail at the weekend and her decision to “dress down” in jeans and a loose grey cardigan was duly noted.

Photocredit: Liberal Democrats via a Creative Commons licence.

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