Models of American Electoral Politics: 3. The Contemporary Context

This is the third in a three-part series discussing the various models of periodisation of American electoral politics and their applicability to the contemporary United States’ political context. The first part can be read here and the second can be read here.

In this blog post we’ll consider how two models – the party system model and Leybovich’s model – can help us understand the modern US political context: What predictions do these models make about the future? Did their predictions about the recent past come true? And if so, does that mean they can be trusted looking forward?

Party system model

The significance of this model lies more in the start and end dates of each party system than the actual content of each. If the model holds water, the beginning of the 6th party system will directly influence whether we should expect any significant changes to be happening today. Party systems one, three and four (discarding the second as an outlier) each lasted an average of 36 years. If we assume the fifth party system (which started in 1930) was extended by ~10 years due to the Great Depression and FDR’s two extra terms (for a total of 46 years), then its end date is 1976, and the sixth party system started with the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980.

Therefore, 34-38 years after 1980 is some time around, well… now. Brewer and Maisel argue that the Democratic and Republican re-alignments following Trump’s 2016 victory may well constitute a seventh party system: how exciting! Short of a dramatic overhaul of the US electoral system, I’d be very surprised if we saw any real change from the way states have been voting in 2024 onwards; it’s been pretty consistent since the nineties – high levels of partisanship have shored up historical ‘lean’ states, with only ten or so casting the decisive electoral votes. But it’s not about the content of each party system; it’s about their timings.

It could be construed that Joe Biden’s victory has come at the same time as the start of a new party system. Is this consistent with other periods of history? Well… yes. New party systems tends to emerge as a result of political re-alignment. This re-alignment results in the rejection of one party (usually the one that dominated the previous party system) in favour of the other, just as we saw in 2020: the Republicans (who dominated the sixth party system) were rejected in favour of the Democrats.

Leybovich model

Leybovich’s model backs this up. Reagan was the transformer – he reshaped the GOP and spearheaded the modern conservative movement. His VP, George H. W. Bush, then took over and continued many of Reagan’s policies. Clinton was the triangulator – a more moderate Democrat in response to the conservative environment. George W. Bush was the reimaginer, Obama was the precursor, and Trump was the ender. Trump fits the role of ender well, offering an outdated impression of Reaganism. Biden, the incoming transformer then, should reshape the political environment. Will he be a great unifier? A transformational progressive? Will he finally tackle the climate crisis?

There’s been a sentiment for some years now that Democrats and Republicans are the same: they’re both fundamentally capitalist, statist, and only really differ on their limited definitions of freedom. This is how both parties can claim the same essential values, while still repeatedly squabbling. Although this concept is rather stale at this point in time, America stood before a great precipice in November 2020: the choice voters faced couldn’t have been more stark. The Democratic Party has become increasingly left-wing over recent years, while the Republican Party has gone “from a moderately conservative party to a very conservative party to something else entirely,” culminating in the storming of the United States’ Capitol building in January 2021.

Platitude aside, Joe Biden is to contend with the highest levels of polarisation within the American electorate since the days of the civil war. This has been especially true amongst Republicans – increasingly untrusting of their leaders, it’s no wonder a divisive, anti-establishment figure like Donald Trump has so successfully reshaped the GOP. So how is Joe Biden to bridge this divide and repair this fractured nation? Even before the Capitol Hill riots, it was claimed that deepening partisanship was threatening he stability of the US. Others have argued that racial divisions, climate change and the COVID crisis among a raft of other issues have broken the US. Biden’s first weeks as president may be previewing a much more progressive direction for the Democratic Party. And this might just be what the USA needs in order to be fixed.

Read the earlier blogs to understand more about the party system model and the Leybovich model.

Models of American Electoral Politics: 2. Archetypes

This is the second in a three-part series of blogs discussing the various models of periodisation of American electoral politics and their applicability to the contemporary United States’ political context. The first part can be read here and the third can be read here.

Following on from the first blog in the series that looked at party systems, this blog considers presidential archetypes for a different perspective on the US political context. Research conducted by Misha Leybovich – what I will term the Leybovich model – both challenges and corroborates the party system model by considering the presidents themselves rather than the electoral science of their accessions.

According to the Leybovich model, the archetypes of presidents go through a cycle every 30 to 40 years, represented by a transformational leader at the start of each. As Leybovich notes, “[They] defined the political conversation for the next several decades.” This distinction is important, I feel; not only did these presidents transform politics in their own time, they also left a legacy that sustained their influence years after they left office. I’ve transcribed Leybovich’s spreadsheet and made a few tweaks for ease of understanding, but the idea is much the same.

The cycle is as follows:

  • Transformer – brings a revolutionary new outlook to the political environment that will define the era.
  • Continuer – the transformer’s sidekick, who carries on their legacy with similar ideas.
  • Triangulator – a response from the opposing party to the re-alignment.
  • Reimaginer – does what it says on the tin: they re-imagine the transformer’s original ideas.
  • Precursor – can’t quite bring about any transformation change, but they do foreshadow the outlook of the next era.
  • Ender – presents an expired impression of the transformer’s initial ideas, to lose re-election to another incoming transformer, beginning the cycle again.

This model actually backs up the regular political re-alignments that classify party systems – after all, there’s no rule that these patterns should occur so regularly – but like the party system model, it is important that Leybovich’s model is duly critiqued.

It should be noted that the two eras that fit the model best are the two most recent – what Leybovich terms the ‘collectivist’ and ‘individualist’ eras – begun by FDR and Reagan, respectively.

The first era, which he calls the ‘founding’ era, is definitely the messiest. James Madison – who, according to the model, would be a ‘reimaginer’ of Washington and Adams’ policies, was definitely more akin to those on either side of him – Jefferson and Monroe. The model would categorise Monroe as a precursor to Andrew Jackson. However, Monroe presided over a period of high bipartisanship – “the era of good feelings”. While Jackson, transformative as he was, was deeply divisive and is the root of the modern party divisions.

In comparison, the second era is sparse and brief, but this could be explained by the rising tensions that would lead to the civil war. Further, history shows that Zachary Taylor and Millard Fillmore were hardly precursors to Lincoln. However, the fact that separate study supports the existence of a brief second era further reinforces that the party system model also had a shorter second party system.

The third era sees Lincoln followed by four ‘continuer’ Presidents and Grover Cleveland supposedly fulfilling the roles of both Triangulator and Precursor – he definitely wasn’t the latter because he and Teddy Roosevelt didn’t agree on much.

The fourth, ‘progressive’ era is tricky because it happened at a time when both parties were re-aligning away from their 19th century platforms to their present ideologies. Woodrow Wilson didn’t ‘triangulate’ TR. This era also lacks a precursor to FDR. Even if Calvin Coolidge was substituted out of ‘Reimaginer’ and into this spot, it wouldn’t really fit.

Timings of Leybovich’s cycles roughly line up with party systems. But as described, the roles ascribed to the different presidents are far from perfect fits.

Personally, however, I find that application of the Leybovich Model provides a fascinating insight into the roles played by each president. By challenging the model we can question assumptions and understand some of the underlying trends and forces that have shaped US politics over the last 200+ years.

In the third and final part of this series, we’ll consider how these models influence our understanding of the context in which Joe Biden will operate as he settles into the role of President.

This was the second in a three-part series of blogs discussing the various models of periodisation of American electoral politics and their applicability to the contemporary United States’ political context. The first part can be read here and the third can be read here.

Models of American Electoral Politics: 1. Party Systems

This is the first in a three-part series of blogs looking at various models of periodisation of American electoral politics and their applicability to the contemporary United States’ political context. The second part can be read here and the third can be read here.

In this blog we will look at the concept of a party system.  Of course party systems aren’t solely applicable to the US context. Party systems exist in many countries around the world, but having a handle on party systems provides a useful tool for studying how the country’s politics has evolved.

The most well-known definition of a party system is Sartori’s. He described it as: “The system of interactions resulting from inter-party competition.” But I find this tautological, doing little to help us ascertain the taxonomy/nomenclature of a party system. Others have gone further. Duverger, for example, argues that a party system is defined by the relationship between a number of characteristics of political parties: “Respective sizes, alliances, geographical localisation, political distribution and so on.” From this, it’s logical to infer that the issues of the day and party ideology are key parts of a party system – both factors which change over time. Therefore, party systems are a way of periodising US politics. Each system or period is characterised by distinct party ideologies, support for these parties, and the geographic concentration of that support. A party system can be thought of as a length of time as much as anything else: labels for electoral epochs.

For instance, the issues of slavery and reconstruction dominated US politics between the 1850s and the turn of the century, when the progressive movement began to take root. After 1900, the Republicans – who had once orchestrated an ambitious expansion of federal power – cemented themselves as the party of big business, while the Democrats – who had opposed those government reforms – slowly transitioned into the increasingly liberal party that implemented Franklin D. Roosevelt’s ‘New Deal’ policies in the 1930s. Both of these periods can be considered distinct party systems. Further, the fact that Southern states had been staunchly democratic prior to the Civil Rights Act, when they began becoming Republican bulwarks, can also help classify party systems.

The general consensus is that there have been six such systems since the republic’s founding in 1788 (e.g. Hershey). In the following maps – each denoting a party system – the strength of each colour represents the number of times the corresponding party won that state in Presidential elections between the dates shown.

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The first party system is an obvious outlier. Here, lime green represents the Democratic-Republicans while orange represents the Federalists. These organisations were far more informal than the political parties we know today, and they (mostly the Democratic-Republicans) dominated politics for the first 36 years of the country’s history.

By 1828, the Federalist Party had collapsed and the Democratic-Republicans had divided into supporters of President Andrew Jackson, and his opponents. These would go on to become the Democrats (blue) and the Whigs (yellow), respectively, who presided over the second party system. By 1856, the issue of slavery had come to the fore. The Whigs were divided on the issue, and former supporters ultimately coalesced into the Republican Party (red). Though the Republicans contested this year’s election, their status as a political force was evident with the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860, truly cementing the existence of a new (the third) party system. Since then, the Democrats and Republicans have traded off control of the Presidency, but their respective ideologies and the geography of their support have also changed.

Although there is widespread academic acceptance of the party system model (e.g. Parties and Elections in America) it’s important that we don’t accept this blindly, and continue to challenge it. A significant inconsistency between party systems is their length. The first, third and fourth party systems each lasted between 34-38 years – approximately 8 or 9 presidential elections. The second, on the other hand, lasted 26 years – only 6 or 7 elections. This discrepancy can be attributed to the collapse of the Whigs and the issue of slavery, although it does point to flaws in the party system model.

There is also some ambiguity over when the fifth party system ended and the sixth party system began. Some have put this date at 1968, 1972, or the 1980s (when both parties’ contemporary identities first emerged). Still others have argued that it was as late as the 90s! If we assume the fifth party system was extended by ~10 years due to the Great Depression and FDR’s two extra terms, then this puts its end year at 1976 (where most academic suggestions average out), and so the start of the sixth party system, could be considered to be the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980.

As shown, despite several flaws, the party system model has nonetheless proved broadly accurate for classifying different eras of US politics – each is distinct, in terms of active parties and the geography of their support. Furthermore, it could be argued that the brevity of one party system or ambiguity as to when a particular system started are not material criticisms in the first place. We are describing human events after all, and human activity rarely compartmentalises as neatly as we might like. Overall, due to the general academic acceptance of the model and that the minor flaws that can be explained away I believe that the model is useful and applicable to the modern US political context.

This was the first in a three-part series of blogs looking at various models of periodisation of American electoral politics and their applicability to the contemporary United States’ political context. The second part can be read here and the third can be read here.

The Divided States of America: How can Biden win over Trumpists?

It has been over a month since President Biden took office after winning the election with a record 81 million votes cast for him. In most circumstances, this outcome would be a resounding mandate. However, President Trump, his opponent, recorded the second most votes ever in a presidential election with 74 million votes – 12 million more than in 2016.

The size of Trump’s vote, accompanied with the allegations of fraud by the outgoing President and his legal team, exacerbated the divides America had seen in the prior twelve months.

The deadliest pandemic for over a hundred years, a rise in white supremacy, increasing acts of police brutality, protests, riots, an attempted insurrection along with rising unemployment and a recession makes this the most difficult scenario for an incoming President in modern times. President Biden has pledged to be the President not just for his voters but also the 74 million that voted for President Trump but this will be no easy task. 

The incumbent, President Donald Trump grew his base of support by over 12 million American voters in his term in office despite fluctuating approval ratings and struggling in the polls. This could be a perceived victory for Trumpism within the Repubilcan party as a shift away from globalism alongside a foriegn policy that focused on America as opposed to American influence proved popular particularly with non-voters. 

Alongside this President Trump gained the highest proportion of Black and Latino votes for a Republican candidate in modern history growing both bases since 2016. Most significantly a poll conducted by DemocracyFund found that more than one in five (21%) of black voters aged between 18 and 44 supported President Trump. 

However Donald Trump’s core base remained white male voters despite his share in this demographic shrinking and Biden performed better with women and non-white voters despite his share of the vote in that latter demographic shrinking from Hilary Clintons in 2016. This obviously shows that race remains one of the biggest political divides in America.

Global events in 2020 are likely to have worsened these racial divides despite political divides appearing to show signs of converging. The Covid-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected black Americans whom are 3.7x more likely to be hospitalised and 2.8x more likely to die than their white counterparts. Furthermore black Americans are being vaccinated at a slower rate than Americans from a white background and stark 35% of black Americans claimed they would not accept a vaccination. The pandemic occurred alongside a global resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement following the murder of George Floyd in May last year, sparking a series of nationwide protests. Following increased opposition to the movement as well as coercive tactics from some police forces these protests escalated into riots – tragically killing 19 people and injuring more than 700 across America.   

Racial divides along with the ever divided election is a sad symptom of the overall divisions between everyday Americans and this was demonstrated a week before Joe Biden’s inauguration where a group of supporters of President Trump broke into the Capitol. The President for months prior has refused to concede the election citing unsubstantiated claims of electoral fraud and unreliability of the Dominion systems used in some states. The hours following Congress ratifying the election results became more toxic with the President turning on his own VP, Mike Pence and even banning both him and his Chief of Staff from the White House. This signified divisions within Republicans across America, between moderates and Trump loyalists.  

To win those moderates over President Biden must place his priorities on ending the pandemic and most importantly for Trump voters rebuilding the economy to place more money in the pockets of working and middle class Americans. This could start with stimulus checks which has been a contentious issue for both Presidents and Congressional leadership however must over the course of the year translate into job creation. If Biden can successfully pioneer an economic restart on a scale wide enough to undo the “double-dip” recession and rise in unemployment this could win over moderate Trump supporters that aligned themselves to the former President on economic issues. 

Failure to stimulate the economy and create jobs across smaller cities and suburbs within the first 12 months of the Biden Presidency could however risk irreversible damage to his time in office, more recession breeds more division. 

President Biden has pledged to heal the divisions of American which he claims were caused by his predecessor. It is very easy to undo the legacy of the former President however to undo the causes that gave him the most powerful office in the world would be much harder. A return to politics that focuses on American influences rather than Americans would not undo these causes. If the President seeks to heal and rebuild he has to tackle the big injustices and inequalities seen in many states, particularly in the rust belt. If he instead opts use the office as a third term Obama presidency America will not have seen the end of Trumpism. 

Return of Chilean Military Aggression?

The Chilean protests of 2020 resulted in the death of 36 people, with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) reporting 28,000 people were jailed during the events. Chile, one of South America’s most stable nations in the post-Cold War period, has been relatively free of coups since the 17-year rule of General Augusto Pinochet; whose rule left more than 3,000 people dead and missing. 

This said, the casualties suffered by the social movement have been the worst since the dictatorship. Furthermore, the protests within the last year have seen the rising involvement of the militarised police system inside Chile. Whilst the tactics under Piñera’s government were not the same under Pinochet’s – this rise in violence is worrying for Chile.

The social unrest began back in October 2019, within Chile’s capital city Santiago. What would start as minimal protests surrounding an increase in subway fares, eventually spiralled into an eruption of violence. Piñera’s authorisation of deploying the national police force (the Carabineros de Chile) would mark the start of aggressive clashes between protestors and the Carabineros for several months.

The clashes prompted human rights organisations to allege serious human rights violations. Five human rights reports – authorised by Amnesty International, amongst others – denounced the brutal and discriminative violence of the militarised police. Amnesty International has received hundreds of complaints about serious human rights violations that range from excessive use of force to torture, illegal raids and arbitrary detention. Chile’s National Institute for Human Rights received similar allegations, as well as reports of sexual violence. Exact figures are hard to come by. However, it is reported that there were 194 sexual violence violations in the first two months. 

The number of protestors who suffered eye mutilations as a result of state violence has received much attention. The Instituto Nacional de Derechos Humanos (INDH) places the figure upwards of 427 people. The Chilean Ophthalmology Society state this is the highest number of injuries of this type registered during protests in the world. The injuries were the result of indiscriminative use of riot guns, with Carabineros officers often aiming at demonstrators’ heads.  

The scrutiny directed towards the Carabineros raises questions about their place in today’s society and the decision not to dismantle them after Pinochet’s rule ended in 1990. Since 2017, high-ranking police officers have been investigated for malfeasance, reducing public trust in the Carabineros, which plummeted from 65% in 2009 to 17% at the end of 2019 (CEP surveys). Meanwhile, more than 35 generals who were part of the Carabineros forces have been ousted in the wake of a series of scandals.  

Furthermore, the Carabineros, were never significantly reformed after Pinochet’s rule ended in 1990 and as previously stated are still a very prominent force within society today. It is this connection between past and present that provides an explanation of the continuities and parallels with dictatorship-era repression. It helps highlights that the climate for repression to occur is not fixed and can be carried out in two very different political contexts; both in a military junta as well as a democratically elected government.  

Chile has witnessed its worst civil unrest since the end of Pinochet’s dictatorship. Carabineros’ ever-growing presence within Chilean Society, as well as their increased violence, has now been made visible on the world stage. Their use of aggression violating human rights highlights striking comparisons to the dictatorship of Pinochet and the Cold War period. 

In wake of their continued aggression, somewhat 30 years after the end of Pinochet’s rule, it is clear change needs to come. Whether that be in the form of constitutional amendments, with the current framework allowing the excessive use of force, change in core government tactics in response to protestors or a switch in government. Until then, the legacy of Pinochet and the Cold War will live on today in Chile’s society.   

IS THE UK RACIST?

How long must we wait? Is the end near? Or is history repeating itself?

This investigative episode explores the livelihoods of black and ethnic minority communities in the UK and aims to find out whether racial tensions in Britain are still present. We explore how much has changed for two generations of black and ethnic minority people in Great Britain and discover how racial disparity has shaped the livelihoods and identities of black and ethnic minorities.

In light of the killing of George Floyd, an American father and husband, who was brutally murdered in the hands of the police, sparked tensions across the world.

It is not the first time such events have taken place where the killings and mistreatment of young black men and women fatally lose their lives due to the colour of their skin. But the killing of Floyd was the first time in global history where racism sparked uproar across the world. In fact, the significance of this crime was so volatile, that it diverted attention to racial disparity within Britain. In the midst of a global lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, social media platforms were pervaded with racial injustice, extrajudicial video footage of black men and women being murdered by state authority and a social justice movement named as #BLACKOUTTUESDAY which incentivised every social media user to only post a black square to represent solidarity. Being restricted from leaving the comfort of your own home, hundreds of thousands abandoned the government guidelines to march in solidarity across many different cities in the UK. Why? Every race, ethnicity, and diaspora were, as Yaw Owusu put It in our episode, “given a level of strength and new energy for black people, who were saying, you know what… I am sick of this”. Many wanted to ascertain whether racial tensions in Britain were still present and why those who have died in the hands of the police or experienced racial discrimination were not held accountable. The ever-present line from Al Sharpton saying “Get your knee off our necks” immersed around the global atmosphere. Its significance was more than police brutality, but metaphorically envisaged centuries of pain, prejudice, and persecution. How much has really changed in the relationship between black and ethnic minorities and the state? Is the UK still racist and if so, how has this tailored people in society, their livelihoods, their jobs, and their identity? The UK is certainly not innocent for its crimes regarding racial discrimination, unlawful incarceration, and excessive use of force against ethnic minorities.

So, our investigation begins at marking the 40th anniversary of the 1981 inner-city riots in England which sparked form racial tensions between black and ethnic minorities and the police. The weak relationship between the police and ethnic minority communities since the early 30s, illustrated how black and ethnic minorities were susceptible to racial prejudice, the ‘stop and search’ law and many other draconian measures. We speak to Phil O’Brien, an 18 year old photographer at the time of the riots in Toxteth, recalls it as a “Baptism of Fire” which continues to burn today.

A policeman is tended to by colleagues after being stabbed during a demonstration relating to the Toxteth Riots in Liverpool. ©Phil O’Brien/Mercury Press Agency

The big two major riots that took place within Brixton and Toxteth, highlighted that the millennial of the 80’s were prepared to stand up against the sectarian acts of the police. The Macpherson report, published after the death of the black teenager Stephan Lawrence, criticised the implementation of ‘stop and search’. The report exposed the Metropolitan Police of “institutional racism” and stressed the excessive use of force and incidence of stops and searches were evidently a clear case of racist stereotyping. As of today, the Metropolitan Police invidious behaviour towards ethnic minorities in the UK was certainly not overlooked by the BLM protestors. Chants of “Mark Duggan”, “SARAH REED”, “Dalian Atkinson” and hundreds of black and ethnic minority lives who were taken away by police officers in the UK, cloaked the atmosphere. The picture has not changed from 40 years ago but mirrors the same bigotry towards ethnic minorities. Statistics show between 2009/10 and 2018/19, for White people the stop and search rate were lower than the national rate every year, whereas in contrast, the rates for Black, Asian and Mixed ethnic groups were higher than the national rate every year. Black African, Black Caribbean and Other Black groups consistently had the highest rates.


Stop and search rate per 1,000 people, by ethnicity over time – Location England and Wales. Source: Police powers and procedures, England and Wales year ending March 2019

Interviewing Leroy Logan, ex superintendent in the Metropolitan Police and MBE, he labels such behaviour is part of the “institutional racism” that continues to pervade the UK police force.  The racial stereotyping that is carried out by officers, is perfectly executed in Steve McQueen’s Small Axe series which illustrates Leroy’s very own life as a black officer working under a discriminatory institution after his father was assaulted by two police officers. The life of Leroy who is acted by John Boyega, demonstrates the black British experience and the battle of advocating better relationships between the police and minority ethnic communities in Britain. He explains to us that although there has been some improvement by the implementation of more officers being recruited from diverse backgrounds and the creation of his charity Voyage that aims to inspire the young black millennial, even to this day “policing attitudes are going backwards”. There is more room for improvement within the police force for not only incorporating diversity but understanding the importance of it. He hopes the Small Axe series “inspires” everyone to realise the institutional racism that takes place within the police force and that is part of public and private institutions.

Source: Time Magazine. The True Story Behind Small Axe: Red, White, and Blue | Time Creator: S Goodwin, Will Robson-Scott
Copyright: Copyright 2019 S Goodwin

Speaking of public and private institutions, the picture is much bigger than the draconian stop and search enforcements. Institutional racism takes places in many different shapes and forms, a tall block of flats to be exact. On the night of June 2017, the Grenfell Tower situated in one of the wealthiest boroughs in London – Kensington and Chelsea, replicated the inferno of hell. With cladding material on the tower further escalating the fire to spread, 72 residents died in the blaze with no possibility of escaping. Understandably, the tragic event has put the matter of social housing at the forefront of public and government matters. However, with many Grenfell residents being from ethnic minority backgrounds, the question turned to whether the poor response, accountability and slow process by government, councillors, and the construction industry, was racially and socioeconomically motivated. Speaking to Yvette Williams, founder of Justice4Grenfell and witnessing the fire from her living room window, says she heard “a loud bang, screaming and residents shouting for help from their windows”. She also says that as the fire burned for 60 hours, it foreshadowed how slow the response from the government and councillors would be. The Grenfell Tower fire highlights two key important terms, class, and race. The question will always remain whether if residents within the building were a different race and social class, would the matter at hand have been handled much better? Most importantly, accountability is crucial, and it appeared that every political party was responsible for not standing in solidarity to the institutional racism that was evident in this event. Yvette being a proud Labour party member believes they have “failed” in representing what the party embodies – the representation of the working-class and diverse communities. She urges that they must “shut up and listen for once.”, to “listen to cries of the working-class communities” and ethnic minorities in Britain who are consistently neglected.

Copyright: KENDAL NOCTOR

This episode does not just revisit past events, but what is happening at this very moment. Coronavirus. We investigate the livelihoods of ethnic minority communities amongst the pandemic. Does institutional, structural, and systemic racism give reason to the disproportionate rates of infections and deaths of black and ethnic minority communities? The structural racism within the UK has had a greater impact on ethnic minorities, James Nazroo a sociology lecturer at the University of Manchester explains the reason behind the disproportionality. Nazroo explains that “these communities are at a greater risk because the way racism permeates our societies”, the disproportion operates in a number of ways, “it relates to the types of jobs and the geography of where they live”, which clearly shows the marked inequalities that separates minority ethnic communities from the wider society. Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Matt Hancock Secretary State for Health and Social Care are aware of the significant risks these communities face, the majority of key workers being from these communities worked on the frontline in the pandemic in many risk-driven jobs. ONS data reports mortality rates for COVID-19 deaths at the start of the pandemic from the period 2nd March – 15th May 2020 was highest for males of Black ethnic background at 255.7 deaths per 100,000 population and low among White males at 87.0 per 100,000. Similarly, high rates for women of Black ethnic backgrounds were at 119.8 per 100,000 whereas women of White ethnic background were 52.0. The disparity in mortality rates is staggering, Nazroo believes the solution to tackle this is for public and private institutions to recognise the discrimination towards minority ethnic communities in the workplace, applying for jobs, geographical location, and the effects of gentrification. The impact of these inequalities is a catalyst for COVID-19 deaths among black and ethnic minorities.

This short documentary has brought awareness to the institutional racism that British public and private institutions exert. The very same issues 40 years ago regarding racial tensions in the UK, continues to permeate our society today. The racial injustice towards black and ethnic minority communities must be put to an end. No more inquiries. No more reports. It is time to hold accountability to the many elites that have gotten away with extrajudicial crimes. Racism in the UK remains as contentious as it was 40 years ago and even more. If these matters are not attended to then this question will remain at the forefront of discrimination in this country… As David Lammy puts “When? When? Just when will Black Lives Matter again?”

If you would like to find out more about the topics discussed in this episode visit:

Brexit Fact-Check: The Economy, Immigration and The Irish Sea Border

On 1 January 2021, the day finally arrived!

Four and a half long years and two prime ministers later, the Brexit transition period finally ended.

The abundance of (mis)information that frequently surrounds significant political events such as Brexit often leads spectators confused and unenlightened.

This calls for one thing: a Brexit fact-check.

“We send the EU £350 million a week, let’s fund our NHS instead.”

The controversy arises here from the fact that the figure is a gross weekly amount awarded to the EU and does not account for the millions that flowed back into the UK through rebates and the money awarded to schemes in the UK such as the Common Agricultural Policy and the Regional Development Fund.

In light of this, the UK Statistics Authority wrote to Boris Johnson over his repeated use of the number, calling it a “clear misuse of official statistics”. They stated that the real net figure is debatable because of the money returned to the UK from the EU but it is certainly much lower at around £234 million.

The Government has pledged to deliver a record £34 billion per year in additional funding for the NHS in the NHS Funding Act 2020. However, with such a large figure in mind it seems that the £350 million a week awarded to the EU would not have stopped the government spending more on the NHS.

In addition to this, the money we could have saved on EU membership fees has already been earmarked for the divorce bill which the Office for Budget Responsibility has estimated to cost Britain around twice as much as the yearly EU membership fees with an additional 43 years of further payments which will take us to 2064. Therefore, it appears that it will be quite some time before we start making ‘savings’ from leaving the EU, that’s if we ever do.

“Take back control of our borders.”

Without running the risk of sounding like a certain former president, Boris Johnson made a pledge to cut immigration and deny entry for low-skilled foreign workers to the UK.

The Prime Minister’s claim that “the only way to take back control of immigration is to Vote Leave” is a bold statement, but how true is it?

Home Secretary Priti Patel has outlined an Australian style ‘Points-Based System’ meaning that people wishing to migrate to the UK will need to achieve a certain number of points in order to qualify for UK residence, such as minimum annual earnings of £25,600.

It is unknown how many people will actually qualify under this new system and therefore it is difficult to assess how true this statement is currently. However, there appears to be some truth behind it as a new points-based system should see a decrease in net migration to the UK, but perhaps only for low skilled workers.

“There is no Irish Sea border.”

Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Brandon Lewis headed to Twitter to release this stark statement which was met by a huge backlash and demands for further clarity and evidence.

The UK and the EU have agreed on the Northern Ireland Protocol which means Northern Ireland will stay in the EU single market for goods and will continue to enforce EU customs rules and regulations at its ports.

A hardening of the land border with the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland has been prevented but a new “regulatory” border with the rest of the UK, complete with customs declarations, inspections and border control posts seems to refute Brandon Lewis’ statement of a complete eradication of the Irish Sea border.

With all of this in mind, one thing is for sure: the effects of Brexit will be felt for years to come and it may be a matter of time before we are able to see the extent of the truth behind some of the statements made in the process.  

Image: “Brexit” by (Mick Baker) rooster is licensed with CC BY-ND 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

Football’s worrying relationship with the gambling industry: Time for clubs to cash out?

It’s a cold, wet and windy January night, as Derby County play host to Stoke City in a bottom half fixture in English football’s second tier – an all-midlands clash which has rather generously been picked for Sky Sport’s Friday night TV coverage. Ahead of kick-off what made this encounter stick out like a sore thumb had little to do with action on the pitch, rather, it was a stark reminder of English football’s cosy relationship with the global gambling industry.

Hosts Derby were handing just a sixth league appearance to their new glamour signing. England record goal-scorer Wayne Rooney had arrived in January from MLS outfit DC United in a deal move that was not without its controversy. The transfer was described by some as a publicity stunt from betting firm 32 Red, who’s involvement in the deal created a sense of unease from many in the game. An abashedly unsubtle marketing ploy from 32Red stipulated in the terms of the player’s contract that Rooney must don the number 32 shirt (Pictured below). The firm were also said to have bought representatives to the negotiating table to push through an agreement would see the 34-year-old immediately named as club captain – a move which caused a sizeable stir among players and supporters alike. However, if any club could claim to have a closer relationship to the bookies than Derby themselves, it would visitors on the night Stoke City, in fact perhaps the only thing lacking in the cocktail of gambling advertising, was the fact was that the match was being played in Derby and not at Stoke City’s Bet365 stadium, the only stadium in the England for which a gambling company holds the naming rights. This is because Stoke’s owner, Peter Coates, is the co-founder of Bet 356. Add to this, the fact that this was a fixture being played in the SkyBet Championship. The UK betting firm (which is conveniently affiliated to the broadcaster which holds exclusive UK TV rights to fixtures across the three EFL divisions) owns the naming and primary sponsorship rights to the 3 EFL divisions – The Championship, League One and League Two. In all 15 of the Division’s 24 clubs don betting company logos on their shirts, down from 17 the previous season.

 

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If there is a case to be made for the clubs being sponsored by betting companies, it is that the clubs are dependent on the revenue generated from these deals in order to survive. Taking a closer look at the clubs who have gambling companies on their shirt, we can clearly see that these deals benefit a specific profile of club. In the Premier League, exactly half of the teams in England’s top divisions have betting company’s names on the front of their shirt. It is no coincidence that all of the division’s ‘big 6’ teams (Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur) decided against giving shirt sponsorship space to gambling companies. However, the fact that all of these clubs still have partnerships with these companies suggests that are reliant upon them, just not to an extent which would put at risk their international reputation by emblazoning them on the front of their shirts. The Premier Clubs who are sponsored by gambling companies make up the majority of the division’s bottom half – 9 out 11 sides from 10th place downwards (with 6th  place Wolves the only gambling sponsored team currently sitting above 10th position) – shows that there is a direct correlation with the teams sponsored by gambling companies and those who are most desperate for  the money. At look Premier League Club’s 18/19 accounts (data below compiled by Kieran Maguire) illustrates the financial chasm between the big 6 and the rest of the league, with this in mind, it is understandable that many clubs look to the bookies to provide revenue.

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The Championship clubs who not sponsored by betting companies, 8 in all (Huddersfield being the anomaly as they are sponsored by Paddy Power, who launched a high profile campaign at the start of season not to show their logo on any of the teams they sponsored. However, many saw this merely as a publicity stunt), are very much the exception to the rule, and for the most part, there are mitigating factors as to why these clubs have escaped gambling companies clasp on the league. For 5 of the clubs, Luton Town, Barnsley, Charlton Athletic, Millwall and Brentford it comes down to their size. Relative to other teams they are amongst the smallest in the division in terms reputation and value.  The first 3 teams mentioned were only promoted to the Championship last season, whilst Millwall were also promoted fairly recently (2017). Brentford are admired for being a well-run club that is focused on longer term thinking when it comes to financial strategy. Henceforth their avoidance of utilising a gambling company as shirt sponsor could be seen as evidence of this. Another 2 clubs in the Division not sponsored by gambling companies are Cardiff and Sheffield Wednesday. Instead of using shirt sponsorship as a profit making mechanism, both clubs are used by their respective owners as vehicles for their own business ventures and as a result are sponsored by their owner’s companies rather than a third-party.

The fact that only 2 out 48 clubs from the third and fourth tiers – Leagues One and Two, have gambling companies on their shirt shows that securing a sponsorship deal with a betting firm is seen as a highly lucrative venture that is for the most part, only accessible for Championship and bottom half Premier League Clubs. Interestingly the 3 clubs across these divisions sponsored by gambling companies are Ipswich (newly relegated from the Championship) and Salford City (who receive a high amount of media exposure for a club at that division due to the fact that they are co-owned by 6 members of Manchester United’s ‘class of 92’).

It is hard to dispute the importance of that clubs place upon securing these deals. Premier League clubs make an estimated £70m per season from them.  Although the 15 sponsored Championship clubs make less per season from these deals at £45m, they are even more reliant upon them. A glance Championship club’s cumulative finances show that the division’s clubs combined operating losses tallied at £650m. At time where the financial future of clubs is  particularly uncertain clubs appear to be inclined to take anything they can get before questioning the morality of involving themselves in such deals. Speaking to Matt Zarb-Cousin in an interview for the Politics Hour, the director of Clean Up Gambling accepted that clubs dropping these sponsorship deals would require a “Short term calibration” but that there were alternative solutions such as a redistribution of wealth from Premier League clubs and the perusing of new alternative sponsorship. Matt also raised the point commonly levelled at those that have defended gambling advertising on the basis that clubs rely on them. He said that football has to move on from betting sponsorship in the same way that clubs had to move away from Tobacco advertising in the 80’s and alcohol advertising in the 90’s.

 

 

For those who are concerned by the presence of gambling advertising in football, there are developments emerging that give cause to believe that the ground on this is changing. This change is coming from forces both within football and those beyond the game. Brand consciousness is one such driving factor. As mentioned earlier in the article, all of the Premier League’s big 6 clubs have avoided using a gambling company as their shirt sponsor. However, it must be said that this could be partly down to the fact that clubs are able to peruse more lucrative ventures, rather than any moral objections. The shirt sponsorship deals for those clubs are worth the most in the league. In February, Everton mutually terminated their deal with SportPesa after the gambling firm had its offices closed in Kenya after disputes over tax affairs. The business had come under fire for fuelling gambling activity in a country where 500,000 young people had to default loans on gambling. In a statement, the Merseyside club said: “this has been a difficult decision but one that allows us to deliver on our commercial plan and grasp new opportunities open to us”. The statement is left open to interpretation, though the phrasing does hint at the club potentially moving away gambling sponsorship altogether. The approach that European clubs outside of England have taken in their response to gambling advertising is one that heaps further pressure on Premier League and Championship clubs to change their ways. In Italy, legislation was introduced last year, enforced from this season, which ruled that clubs could not advertise gambling companies on the front of their shirts. The opposition this received from Italian clubs is testament to the fact that introduce such a measure is unlikely to entirely smoothly, but nevertheless still enforceable. In the Germany’s Bundesliga – where many of the division’s clubs are admired for their smooth financial operations, only two clubs have gambling logo on their shirt. Paderborn 07 as main shirt sponsor and Mainz 05 as a sleeve sponsor.  It is notable that both these clubs are among the smallest in the division.

Whilst the transition of clubs away from gambling advertising is something that is only being done in tentative steps, the same cannot be said when it comes to sponsorship deals cut between individual players and brands. Players are now more conscientious than ever when it comes to their own personal brand and public image. The success of B-Engaged, an agency which explores commercial opportunities with players to improve their own brand shows that there is an appetite for this. Arsenal’s Hector Bellerin is a model example of the type off pitch personality which some players are now trying to reflect. The Spanish right back is vocal off the pitch about issues such as the environment, politics and veganism.

 

 

Even if we consider that players and some clubs may be open to change, the decisive action in provoking change is likely to come not from Wembley but from Westminster. Both of the major parties promised a review into the 2005 gambling act in their 2019 election manifestos. If Boris Johnson’s Conservative government falter to deliver on this, they can expect to be held to account by The Gambling Related Harm All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG). The cross party group, led by Labour MP Carolyn Harris (pictured below) but also featuring MP’s from the Conservative Party (such as former leader Ian Duncan Smith), The Liberal Democrats, the Scottish National Party (SNP) and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). Speaking to Politics Hour, Matt Zarb-Cousin said that the efforts to coordinate a way to crack down on harmful gambling (including measures to limit gambling advertising in football) “has to be cross party”. On how the government should tackle the issue, Zarb-Cousin said: “The Magnitude of the industry requires a serious response” and that efforts to do this “require a coordinated, joined up approach in government” rather treating it as something they can just “tack onto the end of the department for media culture and sport”. Speaking to the Athletic, Harris did not mince her words when speaking football’s future relationship with the gambling industry: “It will happen, clubs have never been so dependent on gambling companies on the first place”.

carolyn harris

So far, efforts to curb harmful gambling activity have been limited. The Senet Group’s: “When the fun stops, stop” campaign is perhaps the popular advertising campaign which aims to reduce harmful gambling. These adverts are frequently aired during breaks in sports broadcasts. Individual gambling companies are also airing their own adverts discouraging gambling. However, these adverts tend air after events are finished, particularly if they have taken place in the evening. Account controls, including deposits limits and account lockouts in order to restrict harmful gambling have also been introduced by online bookmakers. Zarb-Cousin is sceptical of the intentions of these measures, saying that they primarily have the effect of hooking people into gambling by reassuring them that is safe, rather than helping those that need to curb their gambling activity.

The issue of gambling advertisement in sport may have dropped down on the agenda since the outbreak of COVID: 19 has stopped all sporting activity in the UK, but there remains a feeling of inevitability that this is an issue that will need to be resolved one way or another.

 

(Words: Max Radwan)

Post Covid-19, how do we digest the grief of a pandemic?

Written by, Kitty Ward.

We have been consistently told throughout the Coronavirus that we are living through unprecedented times and that returning to the status quo seems unlikely. This begs the question what will the new normal look like? And how will it be achieved? The first thing we need to do if we want return to some kind of normalcy is to deal and process with what we have lost while living in the time of Covid-19. Since late January the virus first made headlines we as a society have experienced feelings of grief that we have not been able to fully experience and come to terms with.

Charity Marie Curie has called for National Day to reflect, grieve and remember those who have died from the Coronavirus and other causes, the 23rd of March has been suggested as that is the date when the UK first went into lockdown. The charity estimated that 300,000 people may be grieving for loved ones who’ve died since the UK lockdown began. That’s 300,000 people who have been unable to properly digest and comes to terms with the grief that they fell for loved ones. Under lockdown, funerals are having to adhere to strict social distancing rules, as guidelines state that mourners must keep two metres apart and only members of the same household or close family should attend funerals. This means that friends, extended family, and immediate family who are high risk are unable to attend funerals.  When I spoke to the CEO of Marie Curie Matthew Reid, he said that funerals are important because not only do they provide dignity to the loved one that has passed, but they also act as the closing of a chapter for those who are left behind. Current social distancing guidelines makes this impossible for mourners who may not be able to be with their loved ones at the end of their life or attend their funerals.

Moreover, what does grieving in lockdown look like if the bereaved are not able to rely on their social networks to support them through the sorrow of death? The effects of not having access to the tools to deal with death are great, and the consequences are heavy. Grief can affect the individual both mentally and physically. Mentally the individual can become pre-occupied with thoughts, memories, and images of loved ones, making it hard to process the death of loved ones. The grief can take on physical qualities such as depression, trouble sleeping, loss of appetite, and feelings of anger when individuals feel chronic stress due to their grief. The pandemic has haltered the ability of individuals to deal with the mental and physical effects of grief and has left many grieving alone.

It is must be remembered that feelings of grief can be extended to grieving for the loss of life as we knew it before Covid-19. We have lost our everyday routines; the daily commute, meeting friends for coffee, or being able to hold and see loved ones. Everyone’s daily schedules are different and unique, but the monotony offered a reassuring structure to the individual living it.  There has also been the loss of the ability to attend events that celebrated milestones that centred us by acting as a finish line for goals that we were in the process of achieving that at times felt impossible. There has also been the loss of livelihoods, businesses, and promised job opportunities that as left many living in financial limbo and uncertainty. We must learn how to deal with the upset and financial consequences that come with the loss of life as we once knew it. While we hope for the end of this pandemic there is also an anxiety that comes with the many unknowns of what kind of life is waiting for us post the Coronavirus and will it ever be life as we knew it.

In years to come we must remember the complexities of the grief that we felt during the pandemic and acknowledge the feelings of grief that remains for the pandemic. It’s not just the people that we lost that we need to grieve for us to effectively grieve as a society, we need to also grieve the parts of our everyday lives that have been lost when we were coming out of this pandemic. For this to be possible the individual needs to be afforded the right to work through their distress and anguish at their own pace and however they want to. This is only possible if we as a society have the structures in place to support those grieving and re-think what support was being offered to the grieving pre Covid-19.

 

References:

https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/how-to-overcome-griefs-health-damaging-effects

https://www.mariecurie.org.uk/who/day-to-reflect

Local Music in Crisis?

 

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When it became clear the coronavirus was going to have a serious impact on this country, I selfishly became disappointed. Firstly, it signalled the hiatus of my beloved Liverpool’s title charge. The next thing I realised was that it would also affect my love of music, with live gigs cancelled and my job in ticketing effectively worthless.

The headlines were full of the big cancellations, the likes of Glastonbury and Coachella. Disappointment set in across social media, and in my household as both my girlfriend and I had Glastonbury 2020 tickets (shameless plug!) However, I quickly began to worry about the bigger picture in the industry.

If you dig beneath the huge artists, big arenas and the glammer of the Brits you find a starkly different picture. At the lower levels of the industry there are swathes of promoters, venues and artists that rely on a steady stream of gigs to stay afloat. According to the Music Venue Trust, who represent 670 small music venues, just 17% of venues are financially viable with no income for the next 2 months. The charity represents venues such as Jimmy’s in Liverpool, which was opened in 2019 by The Coral, and King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut in Glasgow, who have previously hosted Oasis and Biffy Clyro. The current period of lockdown clearly poses a huge risk to the grassroots music scene, which will in turn affect the Glastonbury headliners of the future.

It isn’t all doom and gloom though. The grassroots music industry is full of innovators constantly working to develop their product, and this hasn’t stopped during the pandemic. Numerous live stream gigs have taken place, with the aforementioned King Tuts creating a 24-hour stream dubbed the ‘Sofathon’ in aid of small music venues.

I wanted to hear first-hand what it was like being in the industry now, and set up an interview with Liam Deakin, guitarist from Birmingham band The Clause.

Skype interviews are a little daunting, two relative strangers on a video call isn’t without its challenges. Liam answered, guitar in hand, and I instantly knew that music has nothing to worry about. He spoke of the ease at which he is able to write new material in isolation, as well as keeping the band active through the likes of WhatsApp and FaceTime. It was refreshing to hear someone so upbeat.

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However, what struck me about talking to Liam was his attitude to the bigger picture. Liam is incredibly in tune with the local Birmingham music scene and is acutely aware of the risks to the venues we know and love in the city. Yet he remains philosophical, he constantly returns to the idea that the future of music is of less value than the health of our wider community. Liam personally came up with an idea of creating a print using some of the band’s song lyrics that would be sold in limited numbers in aid of the NHS. At a tricky time for everyone, his idea raised £200 for the NHS inside 10 minutes. I feel like Liam underplayed this in our chat, but it really speaks volumes for him as a person and for The Clause as a band.

The live music industry is clearly under pressure during this time of crisis, but there is hope. I could’ve written about all sorts of positivity in this post, however it is probably better when it comes from within the bubble of grassroots music itself.

You can listen to the full chat with Liam at the following link: https://open.spotify.com/episode/1y7tPgSB4JEqc8z8i4DB05?si=iAm3X9p8RwaHUy7qfXHs3A

All pictures via Livv Galbraith. (www.instagram.com/oliviajean.photography/)