Page 1

EXCLUSIVE: David Blunkett EU REFERENDUM REACTION The Rise of North African Insurgents Issue 3 Feb/Mar 2013

The Month that was... Graffiti Crackdown


012 has been widely accepted as a brilliant year for the UK. The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, Sir Bradley Wiggins becoming the first Briton to win the Tour de France, Andy Murray becoming the first male Grand Slam winner from the UK since Fred Perry in 1936, and the successes of the London Olympic and Paralympic Games. However scratching the surface reveals a desperately sad year for many urban subcultures – none more so than the graffiti scene. Following on from 2011 and the high profile imprisonment of Tox, graffiti writers such as Dotcom, Noir, Hoover KC, SMT crew and Zerx have been handed custodial sentences ranging from 12 months to Tox’s mammoth 27 month stint. At the same time as these sentences are being handed out, Banksy’s stock is ever rising – which raises the question of the difference between the two groups. Admittedly Banksy has a much larger public following and the backing of several high profile and wealthy men and women, however this does not make his use of stencilled street art more legally legitimate than the all-city tagging of Tox. If the police were to plough as many resources into finding and jailing Banksy as they have in the pursuit of a number graffiti writers this year, then it would be an open-and-shut case. Unfortunately it is not that simple. Perceived artistic ability seems to go a long way to deciding a street artist/graffiti writer’s fate. If Tox had mirrored the huge mainstream success of Banksy, would he currently be sitting inside a prison cell and would the prosecutor in his case have said “he is no Banksy. He doesn’t have the artistic skills”? The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) should stop selectively jailing graffiti writers and decide whether or not to pursue all acts of street art and graffiti

and give equitable punishments. To pick and choose prosecutions based on a subjective preference such as ‘artistic ability’ is ludicrous. In graffiti based cases the cost of repairing the damage is cited to influence the length of the sentence. They include labour, paint, cleaning chemicals, paint brushes, rollers, protective suits etc, and are often grossly exaggerated. However if we take this cost in the case of Zerx, convicted of causing £80,000 worth of criminal damage, and then add the cost of keeping him in prison for 12 months - around £40,000, that’s a total cost of £120,000 to the tax payer. Community orders for cleaning graffiti appear to be a more cost effective and all round better solution. This would completely remove the £40,000 prison cost, and significantly reduce the labour cost for removing the graffiti. During the ongoing economic slump, politicians are constantly looking to cut costs where possible and in his first full year in the job, Justice Secretary Chris Grayling will be sure to want a reduction in the prison population. Ending jail time for graffiti artists would be a big step towards achieving both goals. Currently we have people like Noir ATS sitting in a prison cell, a man who created the backdrop for Tinie Tempah’s performance at the London Olympic opening ceremony, and who has been involved in many community projects. Use electronic tagging if necessary, but keep these people in the community and utilise their abilities.

Sam Harris –


Gun control; a necessity?


here has been much talk about the ‘culture of violence’ in the United States. Through violent video games, graphic movies and stories, it appears fiction has transpired to reality. In one month alone, the US has seen numerous devastating and catastrophic shootings occur in shopping malls, public areas but most frequently, schools. In Newtown (Connecticut) twenty young students were killed in a rampage at Sandyhook Elementary School. In Taft (California) a gunman was caught and charged with two attempts of murder at Taft Union High School. In Detroit (Michigan) a 16 year old was shot at Osborne High School. In St. Louis Missouri, an administrator was shot at by a student at Stevens Institute of Business and Arts. The list is becoming endless; and this is worrying. Throughout America, the idea to ban certain guns and assault weapons is widely supported; especially by parents. Most of the firearms concerned are designed for military and combat use; therefore making them redundant for use in the public domain. But there is strong opposition.



nder Silvio Berlusconi, Italian Politics has been a constant roller coaster. Ever since the Media Magnet came into power, the highest office in Italy has been a constant soap opera, with cases of Fraud, Bunga-Bunga parties and more. For many outside of Italy seeing Berlusconi and hearing some of the comments he has made has been an absolute joy but for many in Italy it has been a disaster. When, in 2011, Berlusconi stepped down as Prime Minister many people finally felt safe that they had seen the last of him. Mario Monti formed a technocrat Government and began the long road to stabilising Italy’s out of control economy. Now, however, Berlusconi is back and appears more obnoxious than ever. So far he has entered into a campaign to draw as much attention to himself as possible in order to raise the profile of his struggling party, which culminated in his praise of Mussolini on National Holocaust Day. These comments were labelled a disgrace by the Centre-Left party but

Why? It’s quite simple. “The right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed”. The 2nd amendment states that US citizens have the freedom and liberty to bare arms; and anything less would be an infringement of the constitution and rights of the people. Gun lobby groups, in particular the NRA, continue to question President Obama’s policy decision making at every turn. With strong opposition like this, Obama will find it hard to change the law or create any kind of resolution. The situation and future of the United States is upsetting; emphasised with the tears shed by the President himself. Whatever happens in the US, I just hope it is for the best. With the President entering his final four years in office, he will be looking to leave a lasting legacy. This is his chance.

Mitesh Mistry

they seemingly achieved what they were intended to do, which is to raise Berlusconi’s profile. Since Berlusconi took back control of the Freedom People movement the gap in the polls, to the leading Centre-Left party, have narrowed dramatically. This means, that the already fragile Italian economy is taking a further beating. When it was announced that Berlusconi had withdrawn his support for the Monti Government, interests rates on National Bonds shot up. Add to this the fact he is still on trial for paying for sex with an underage prostitute and it is difficult to see any possible positive outcomes. The Italian election will take place on the 24th and 25th of February and there will be many people in both Italy and the high offices around Europe hoping that it’s bad news for Silvio.

Oliver Beatson

Exclusive: David Blunkett T

hree recent events highlight the critical importance of young people (under the age of 30) taking an interest in and, in their own way, engaging with politics.

However, its Annual Index published at the New Year also tells a story which should worry all of us. One or two of the facts speak for themselves.

That is politics with a large P as well as the simple process of who’s deciding what, on whose behalf, and on whose priorities. The decision of the Coalition Government to reduce the value of a whole range of welfare benefits and entitlements in real terms, on top of the £18 billion cut already factored in for the next four years, once again highlighted the contrast between the protection of those in retirement and the rest. Young people will already be aware that the abolition of the Child Trust Fund, the Education Maintenance Allowances (both of which I had a major part in introducing), the tripling of university fees and the abolition of the Future Jobs Fund, together with the demolition of the Careers Service and much of youth service provision across the country appeared, even for those who are not in the least interested in politics, to be targeting younger people. The International Head of the Red Cross early in January put it this way “socially, if the economic pressure on people goes on, it will have a social impact on people, and of course if young people especially don’t see any future, you might be confronted with unrest like in 2011”. Such apocalyptic worries are not confined to those observing the UK from outside. The Prince’s Trust (well known for supporting young people through volunteering) is hardly by anyone’s standards, a leftist organisation.

For instance, more than one in four of all young people believe their prospects have been ‘permanently damaged’ by the recession. 19% feel their career has been put ‘on hold’, and unsurprisingly 51% of all young people feel disillusioned by the state of the current jobs market. What’s more, almost half of young people who are NEET feel down or depressed ‘always’ or ‘often’, and 22% of NEET young people feel that they cannot cope with everyday life.

Clearly more support for young people is needed. 42% of young people who are not in employment, education or training said they had not had support to find a job whilst they had been unemployed. All of this begs the question as to why, with unemployment for the under-25s as more than twice the levels of the population as a whole, government should not be refocusing resources and energy on the needs of this generation? It is not to be cynical to point out one simple fact. Those in retirement are likely to vote at twice the rate of those under 30.

But ‘am I bothered’ really does make a difference. It changes the way in which politicians determine priorities, present policies and yes, pander to those they know will determine the outcome of the next general election. Getting involved in all sorts of ways, as so many students do here in Sheffield, in community activity, volunteering and fundraising, is a critical part of the democratic process. Being an active citizen and caring about the world both in the immediate community, and globally, make us something more than simply an individual endeavouring to survive or glean some pleasure from the world around us. An indication that the 18-30 year old generation will exercise their democratic rights in every sense of those words would certainly make a difference, not just to the outcome of the next general election (and the local and European elections before 2015) but also to the policies and outlook of the political parties. Now there’s a thought?

This has been true of recent elections, and of course is reflected in terms of economic and social background as well as age. The wealthier (including those writing and broadcasting who are often cynical about politics) know perfectly well that whilst voting is only one part of influencing the world, it really matters. So they vote. Young people who are often completely cheesed off with politicians and politics (and we don’t help in terms of how we present what politics is all about and the challenge of difficult choices) decide not to bother.

The EU - Party Politics & National Interest


ollowing the EU referendum announcement UK public opinion is set to become increasingly polarised towards Euro-scepticism, Euro-philia, or - more likely in this nation of contrarians - ambivalence. This following David Cameron’s announcement of an ‘in-out’ referendum by 2017 - conditional upon a Conservative election victory in 2015. Analysts looking to condense a story with so many threads into a reader-friendly chunk will often pick a vein of explanation which chimes best with their readership or personal opinion. On Europe there are plenty of one-sided narratives, with the press obligingly splitting itself along the battle lines of the ‘in’ and ‘out’ camps. An accurate impression of the EU is best gained from the grey area between these equally valid sets of points. Some argue that David Cameron is trying to placate his clamorous backbench MPs, regain support from UKIP and make the EU an electionwinning issue. Others say listening to MPs and trying to win elections is a politician’s job. The Labour-leaning journalists and commentators insist Cameron is inviting 5 years of business and investment uncertainty; the Conservative-leaning that this will clear up the political uncertainty hanging over the UK’s relationship with the EU. The benefits of EU membership are being extolled - from favourable single market access to the UK’s much improved environment - as are the negatives. The EU’s regulations are stifling business, its institutions are undemocratic, overpriced juggernauts with little public mandate operating in unjustified secrecy. Detractors say referenda are paradoxically undemocratic, as single issue campaigns are unbalanced (remember AV?), toxic to politics and attract pitiful turnout. Opposing it is argued that giving the public a choice (even a loaded one) must be democratic. Meanwhile the UK’s allies urge retaining membership, chiefly on the grounds of international influence.

Regardless of the outcome the EU will still be the UK’s largest trading partner, a ‘no’ won’t stop the EU costing and free the UK from some modern, imaginary Pax Romana. The UK will not actually vote to be ‘in or out’ of the EU if the referendum does transpire - more accurately we will be voting whether we want to be involved in the process of creating the rules we will still mostly be subject to. The UK has a ‘relationship’ with the EU - we cannot expect relationships to be all our own way and must negotiate rather than complain with dug-in heels. My concern is that politicians will oversimplify the debate for party advantage or out of ideological wedlock; to the detriment of national interest. Tom Brookes



n Wednesday the 23rd of January, David Cameron gave his long awaited speech on his intentions towards Europe. The speech itself was met by much celebration and cheering from the Conservative back benchers and also the right wing press, with the Daily Mail using the headline “Yes, Prime Minister!” and Cameron being greeted by cheers and applause as he entered the Commons for Prime Ministers Question Time. In his speech, Cameron laid out his plan to hold talks with Europe in a bid to repatriate powers from Brussels and give more power back to Britain. Then in 2017, should the Conservatives win the election in 2015, a referendum will be held so the voters can decide on whether to accept the new deal with Europe or pull out all together. Away from the Eurosceptic right, however, the news of a referendum has received a very cold reception. Nick Clegg, the deputy Prime Minister, for one believes that this vote could damage an already fragile

economy and is going against the national interest. He also stated that many of the business leaders he had held talks with had expressed great concern over the planned talks and vote. Labour has rejected the idea of a referendum and has said that should they get in to power in 2015 there will be no vote on Europe. Ed Miliband believes there is a much more cynical reason for this debate over Europe and that the Conservatives are concerned about losing precious votes to UKIP in the Next Election. Miliband’s claim that there will be no referendum on Europe should Labour win the next election may play into Conservative hands. It could potentially provide a perfect distraction from the failing economy, a key area which Cameron knows has consistently underperformed. Oliver Beatson



avid Cameron has promised a referendum on EU membership if he is able to return to office following the next general election in 2015. Despite Cameron’s intentions, Europe’s other major nations have backed Britain to remain a member. George Osborne has been quoted in a German Newspaper giving the EU an indication of the Conservatives plans, ‘In order that we can remain in the European Union, the EU must change.’ Showing Britain abandoning the EU is a possibility. However Labour leader Ed Miliband told BBC radio 4 that the governments threat to leave the the EU is nothing more than a ‘hopeless negotiating strategy’. Miliband does agree that there are certain areas in which the EU must be more flexible but that threatening to walk away will not give Britain the upper hand in negotiations. The issue of our membership in the EU divides political parties as well as society. Those who do offer up alternatives to

being part of the EU, such as modelling ourselves on countries such as Norway and Switzerland, fail to recognise certain vital factors whilst making comparisons, such as the natural resources in Norway, the larger population of Britain and the price the two nations pay for trading with Europe. The truth is that as a nation we do receive many benefits from EU membership. We are provided free access to a market of around 500 million people, who account for over half of our total exported goods. The UK’s membership also attracts foreign investment creating jobs. Our departure would only add to an already vast number of unemployed workers and hamper economic growth. The EU is certainly not the perfect structure, but the UK would only see negative results if we were to walk out. Whether we will or not, that remains to be seen. Tom Connell

In Focus: David Cameron I

t is time for the British people to have their say. It is time to settle this European question in British politics.

Of course Britain could make her own way in the world, outside the EU, if we chose to do so. So could any other member state. But the question we will have to ask ourselves is this: is that the very best future for our country? We will have to weigh carefully where our true national interest lies. Alone, we would be free to take our own decisions, just as we would be freed of our solemn obligation to defend our allies if we left Nato. But we don’t leave Nato because it is in our national interest to stay and benefit from its collective defence guarantee. We have more power and influence – whether implementing sanctions against Iran or Syria, or promoting democracy in Burma – if we can act together. If we leave the EU, we cannot of course leave Europe. It will remain for many years our biggest market, and forever our geographical neighbourhood. We are tied by a complex web of legal commitments. Hundreds of thousands of British people now take for granted their right to work, live or retire in any other EU country. Even if we pulled out completely, decisions made in the EU would continue to have a profound effect on our country. But we would have lost all our remaining vetoes and our voice in those decisions. We would need to weigh up very carefully the consequences of no longer being

inside the EU and its single market, as a full member.

Continued access to the single market is vital for British businesses and British jobs. Since 2004, Britain has been the destination for one in five of all inward investments into Europe. And being part of the single market has been key to that success. There will be plenty of time to test all the arguments thoroughly, in favour and against the arrangement we negotiate. But let me just deal with one point we hear a lot about. There are some who suggest we could turn ourselves into Norway or Switzerland – with access to the single market but outside the EU. But would that really be in our best interests? I admire those countries and they are friends of ours – but they are very different from us. Norway sits on the biggest energy reserves in Europe, and has a sovereign wealth fund of over €500bn. And while Norway is part of the single market – and pays for the principle – it has no say at all in setting its rules. It just has to implement its directives. The Swiss have to negotiate access to the single market sector by sector, accepting EU rules – over which they have no say – or else not getting full access to the single market, including in key sectors like financial services. The fact is that if you join an organisation like the European Union, there are rules.

You will not always get what you want. But that does not mean we should leave – not if the benefits of staying and working together are greater. We would have to think carefully too about the impact on our influence at the top table of international affairs.

by the rules and which is a force for liberal economic reform would be a very different kind of European Union. And it is hard to argue that the EU would not be greatly diminished by Britain’s departure. Let me finish today by saying this.

There is no doubt that we are more powerful in Washington, in Beijing, in Delhi because we are a powerful player in the European Union. That matters for British jobs and British security. It matters to our ability to get things done in the world. It matters to the United States and other friends around the world, which is why many tell us very clearly that they want Britain to remain in the EU. We should think very carefully before giving that position up. So we will have time for a proper, reasoned debate. At the end of that debate you, the British people, will decide. And I say to our European partners, frustrated as some of them no doubt are by Britain’s attitude: work with us on this. Consider the extraordinary steps which the eurozone members are taking to keep the euro together, steps which a year ago would have seemed impossible. It does not seem to me that the steps which would be needed to make Britain – and others – more comfortable in their relationship in the European Union are inherently so outlandish or unreasonable. And just as I believe that Britain should want to remain in the EU so the EU should want us to stay. For an EU without Britain, without one of Europe’s strongest powers, a country which in many ways invented the single market, and which brings real heft to Europe’s influence on the world stage, which plays

I have no illusions about the scale of the task ahead. I know there will be those who say the vision I have outlined will be impossible to achieve. That there is no way our partners will co-operate. That the British people have set themselves on a path to inevitable exit. And that if we aren’t comfortable being in the EU after 40 years, we never will be. But I refuse to take such a defeatist attitude – either for Britain or for Europe. Because with courage and conviction I believe we can deliver a more flexible, adaptable and open European Union in which the interests and ambitions of all its members can be met. With courage and conviction I believe we can achieve a new settlement in which Britain can be comfortable and all our countries can thrive. And when the referendum comes let me say now that if we can negotiate such an arrangement, I will campaign for it with all my heart and soul. Because I believe something very deeply. That Britain’s national interest is best served in a flexible, adaptable and open European Union and that such a European Union is best with Britain in it. Over the coming weeks, months and years, I will not rest until this debate is won. For the future of my country. For the success of the European Union. And for the prosperity of our peoples for generations to come.If we left the European Union, it would be a one-way ticket, not a return.

Around the World M

in 5 Minutes

alian Insurrection - The chief aggressors here are Tuareg militants, along with a rag-tag alphabet soup of other groups - mostly semi-nomadic militants roaming the North African desert. Formerly under the command and pay of Muammar Gaddafi, and increasingly associated with al-Qaeda, the Tuaregs are led by an ill-famed jihadist called “Belaouer the One-Eyed”. This man engineered the Algerian oil refinery hostage crisis, which has left scores dead. He has been operating throughout Africa and the Middle East for decades; gaining himself another monicker: “The Uncatchable.” This man and his associates are as vile an example of violent, hate-preaching Islamic fundamentalists as the world has seen. Within days of capturing Timbuktu in Northern Mali the guerrillas had imposed the harshest version of Sharia law. The restrictions on the citizens included repression of women, summary amputations for suspected ‘thieves’, restrictions on culture (all music to be about Allah) and restrictions on alcohol and cigarettes. This last doctrine is particularly hypocritical from a man like Belaouer, who’s third nickname is ‘Mr. Marlbro’ - gained for his skill at the smuggling of drugs and cigarettes. Sharia law, it seems, isn’t an egalitarian form of religious autocracy. UN-sanctioned French special forces are currently securing the country in their thousands, while air strikes continually harry the militias. This assistance has been well received by Malians - on retaking the cities of Timbuktu and Gao at the end of January locals danced in the street in their thousands, chanting: ““Liberté!” and “Vive la France!” Securing Mali against this insurgency will not, unfortunately, be an end to its problems. The government of Mali was recently taken over by its own military and is now headed by a president

who’s democratic credentials are lacking to say the least. Mali’s governance issues aren’t insurmountable, but they have taken a back seat to the current fighting and place the nations assisting Mali in the uncomfortably familiar position of having to work with a questionable government to assist the local people. National self-interest factors - no governments want Northern Africa to become a new Afghanistan or Somalia - a base for terrorist organisations. This selfdefence imperative doubtless contributed to warnings of the potential for decades of fighting to secure North Africa. Many are curious where the next intervention will be; a Syrian no-fly zone seems likely given the Assad regime’s suspected use of chemical weapons and a death toll approaching 70,000. After that, it depends where fundamentalists decide to try next. In related news, Volkswagen have been forced into emergency meetings recently. Their car model; named for a strong and independent African tribe - The Touareg - suddenly seems more than a little inappropriately christened. Tom Brookes


Find us on Facebook

Steel View: Issue 3  

Issue 3 of Steel View; Exclusive article from David Blunkett MP, reaction to David Cameron's speech on the EU and a look at the month that w...