Clinging On, Any Memes Necessary

On the morning of the 4th, I woke up to see that Labour had failed to take London councils such as Westminster and Wandsworth and had managed to lose Barnet along the way. By the time I got home from work only 12 hours later, I was shocked (but unsurprised) to see my Twitter feed telling me that last night was Labour’s best local elections performance since 1971.

Spoiler: it wasn’t.

The ‘original fact’, albeit not completely factual itself, was that it was Labour’s best performance in London in local elections since 1971. Then again, the rest of the country hardly seems to matter to the Labour party anymore. Of course, the BBC, ITV, Sky News, and all other reputable news corporations ran with the truth that, really, not much happened last night. ‘Neck and neck’ the BBC called it. That outraged the Corbyn clique.

Later that night I found myself seeing memes showing the final seat tallies; Labour with 2350 and Conservatives 1332, positioned next to the report from the BBC saying, ‘neck and neck’. It seems, unsurprisingly, not everyone knows how the locals work. The popular vote was actually neck and neck, 35% apiece for the main two parties with the Liberal Democrats surging up to 16 percent.

A lie travels around the globe while the truth is putting on its shoes. On Twitter, it travels quicker. Sure, we can point out to these people their mistakes. Maybe they’ll listen. Maybe they’ll simply call us ‘right wing’ or ‘Blairites’. But the damage is already done. Before you know it, Rachel Swindon has retweeted the lie and it has over 20,000 retweets and a million impressions.

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Cricket’s Crisis Point

The last few weeks could easily be mistaken for an average BBC2 comedy. The cricket season starts just a week after heavy blizzards across the country, Peter Siddle takes a wicket wearing a woolly hat, and the ECB announce a new 100 ball format to ‘shake up cricket’. I can imagine it now. Kris Marshall plays the bumbling ECB executive, and there’s a load of poor innuendos about stumps.

It’s almost like The Thick of It. The intern pitches the idea of a 10-ball final over, and suddenly it’s being announced to the nation. For years now, a new competition was always in the offing to try to rival the IPL or the Big Bash. Sure, we have our T20 blast, but a shorter inter-city format was needed. Then came the announcement from the ECB. A new eight-team city tournament was on its way from 2020, but rather than T20, there will be 100 balls per innings.

With the working title ‘The Hundred’, it’s an attempt to appeal to the masses. The competition will offer faster matches, start slightly earlier, and allow kids to get home at a reasonable hour. There will be 15 traditional six-ball overs and a single 10-ball over to complete each innings. A women’s event, run along the same lines, will also be launched. To increase viewership, the BBC will also have shared coverage, allowing those without Sky TV to get involved in the action too.

After the announcement, social media was up in arms. I mean yeah, on the face of it, it all does sound rather stupid. But could this work? Could it revolutionise the game? Eoin Morgan certainly thinks so. He’s warned that unless English cricket is prepared to accept change, the sport may die out. Participation levels have fallen steadily over the past decade, and it’s ‘boring’ reputation needs quick fixing. I’m a traditionalist myself; test cricket is the ultimate for me, but I understand that sport today demands quicker, more exciting formats.

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Free Agency Accounts

The schedule is now set, so that means one thing, the NFL season is getting closer. The Eagles will kick off the new season against the Falcons in less than 5 months’ time, and the next big step to come is the NFL Draft in just 5 days’ time down in Arlington, Texas. All teams will have put together their ‘needs’ and ‘wants’ by now, but for some teams, their decisions may make or break their season.

Therefore, teams now tend to focus their energy on the free agency market, as they know most of their choices will be proven talent despite the considerably higher costs involved. So, who had a shrewd free agency? And who finds themselves in a quandary heading into Thursday’s draft?

Let’s start up in the North and in Chicago. It was all change in the offseason for the Bears and John Fox left to be replaced by first-time head coach Matt Nagy. Last years the Bears boasted a very young, raw squad with heaps of potential to harness, and the organisation have built on that these past few months. Bringing in Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, and Trey Burton is very astute, and their offence could be one to watch this year. Trubisky showed promise and fits the Alex Smith mould that Nagy worked so well with over in Kansas.

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The Politics we Deserve?

“Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right”, as the old song goes. Used to ridicule the music industry by Gerry Rafferty, but instead seems more fitting in encapsulating the current political climate. Actually, it would be kind. Clowns? Maybe the one from IT. Jokers? More like absolute jokes.

Obama once said, “You get the politicians you deserve”. Although I see the reason, I don’t personally think it’s quite that simple. Sure, if you vote in Donald Trump you get that kind of president and voting for Brexit has paved the way for what we have in Britain. But is that the public’s fault? Politicians have never really been particularly liked. At best, people tend to be rather apathetic towards the culture of politics. That was certainly the case during the noughties, where turnout at elections reached all-time lows. The problem is, that is misinterpreted.

Certain members of the left like to jump on New Labour for bringing in this apathy, especially throughout the younger generations. The problem is, it’s because everything was running well. Surely that’s the point of politicians. They run everything smoothly so that our lives pass by without even hearing from them between election campaigns. Usually, political engagement comes from instability, anger, and despair at who is in office. So, is it such a great thing?

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Is it Time to Pay More Attention to our Digital Health?

We are constantly digitally connected. We check our phones when we wake up, and we browse social media that little too long before we fall asleep. The average age a child has their first mobile phone is 10, and youngsters now use their families’ devices long before that. 50% of young people are heavy social media users, but digital gluttony is far beyond that. We now use it for shopping, banking, relationships, work, and hobbies. Without it, we would simply be lost.

The digital era has brought us benefits aplenty. It’s produced services, products, games, networking, life hacks, and has arguably both improved and streamlined our lives. Social media has been at the forefront of this over the past decade. It brings us connectivity, not just to family and friends but idols and people all over the world. It allows people to express themselves, explore their identity and interests, and interact with those who share the same interests as us. It brings empathy, builds communities, can provide emotional support, and even allows us to participate in movements. Unfortunately, the pitfalls are catching up.

Despite its benefits, we know social media can be harmful to young people and their health. Several studies have found a link between social media use and worsened mental health, including depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and increased suicide risk. Half of girls and two-fifths of boys have been the victims of online bullying, and 41% of Gen Z users say social media makes them sad, anxious, or depressed, with Instagram and Snapchat judged to be the most destructive. Of all the main social media websites, only YouTube was judged to have an overall positive effect.

One reason is that we all fall into the trap of comparisons, wondering why our lives aren’t as great as the people we follow. It’s easy to forget that social media is a highlight reel, a place we post our best pictures, our funniest jokes, our favourite memories. You may see someone’s holiday to Corfu and the party they attended last Friday, but you won’t see that bout of food poisoning or a pimple they just couldn’t cover yesterday. People present their perfect life, whilst hiding their real struggles. Envy has become heightened in the digital age.

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A National Health Crisis

Despite all the divides across the UK, if you really want to get 99% of the British Public rallied together, dare to criticise the NHS. The NHS tops the Pride of Britain list by a sizeable margin and is unequivocally part of our national identity. So, when someone like, say, Donald Trump weighs in on the issue, the UK is quick to rally around it’s in defence. Groups like ‘NHSMillon’ and ‘People’s NHS’ everyday show support for the institution, and its popularity is great.

In 2017, the Commonwealth Fund ranked the NHS as the best, safest and most affordable system of the 11 countries it assessed. Many elements of the NHS are lauded: the quality of care and range of treatments, the staff, and of course it being free at the point of use. When Trump used protests to brief against a single-payer health system in the US, he forgot some facts. Only 10% of British voters want parts of the NHS to be privatised, and despite spending almost half of GDP compared to the US on healthcare, we achieve far better outcomes.

However, things are changing.

Public dissatisfaction with the service is now at a 10-year high. Of course, satisfaction is still high, 57% in fact, but that has fallen 6 points from 63% last year.  On the other hand, dissatisfaction has doubled since 2014. Since 2010, no country in Europe has had a worse record in health than the UK. NHS pressures are no longer confined to the winter, it’s an all-year-round crisis.

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Plan B Politics

As Stephen Bush’s piece last week highlighted, there are a finite number of messages a political party can run on. Typically, these positions don’t change between elections because they are so simple: “things would work better with us in charge”. 2017, however, was a turning point for both parties.

When Jeremy Corbyn rose to victory in Labour’s leadership election in 2015, he did so on the back of a promise of a new type of politics. Many chose him because he offered something the other three candidates seemingly did not, and that was hope. Corbyn famously asserted he would bring a new straight talking, honest politics into the Labour party, something he really hasn’t done. He was meant to be the politician who could finally energise the dwindling youth vote and bring non-voters out into the voting booths for the first time.

Fast forward to June 2017, and Labour had returned from a near 20-point deficit in the polls to force a hung parliament. A dismal campaign from Theresa May gave Corbyn the wind in his sails, and policies such as the abolishment of tuition fees had on the face of it galvanised the youth to an astonishing spike in turnout. However, as we now know, this wasn’t exactly the case.

Recently, the British Electoral Survey found that turnout did not increase among 18- to 24-year-olds at the 2017 election, although it did increase in areas with larger numbers of 18- to 24-year-olds. The noteworthy changes were actually found in the 25-44 age group, where turnout increased significantly and swung in great numbers towards Labour. The groups of voters Corbyn aimed to bring out in force did not turn up, and despite a successful campaign, Labour’s Plan A had failed.

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