How #EUSuperGirl became a Hashtag and Drew International Attention to my STOP BREXIT Campaign

Remain Campaigning

I have been campaigning against Brexit since the result of the EU referendum on 24th June 2016 when the UK made the catastrophic decision to leave the European Union. Akin to hitting an economic, social and political self-destruct button, leaving the EU will have devastating consequences and this disastrous decision must be stopped at all costs. 

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“Judges on a Bus” protest outside the Supreme Courts on 5th December 2016. Image featured on the Guardian website.

Childish or Considered Style?

The fundamental aim of my campaign is to prevent Brexit from occurring. But considering the referendum result was a supposedly “democratic” vote (albeit only an advisory decision), I believe it is essential to change public opinion in order to reverse the outcome of the referendum. In order to do this, I believe we must first try to understand the cause behind the UK’s decision to leave the EU. After 15 months of relentless campaigning, I have come to the conclusion there is a multitude of often conflicting reasons why people chose to vote leave, however, one of the most alarming causes is that they don’t actually understand what the EU is or what the EU does. One of the most googled search phrases after the referendum result was announced was “what is the EU”. This lack of political knowledge is an inherent problem that I try to address through my campaigning; creating easily accessible, engaging material that communicates information and ideas clearly and simply. Some people call it childish, which is perhaps true, but it is a considered and deliberate style. 

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“Reasons to Remain” Graphic widely used on Remain campaign leaflets and posters.

My Blog about an EU Funded Project, the “Grey2Green” Scheme

When the opportunity arose to enter the #EUinMyRegion blogging competition and win a trip to Brussels to attend a mobile journalism course at the European Week of Regions and Cities, I leapt at the chance. I decided to write about a Regional Development project called the Grey2Green scheme in the business district of my home city, Sheffield. This project is particularly dear to my heart because it is a fantastic Landscape Architecture project that my university tutors introduced to me. It is an unprecedented example of an urban greening project in a city centre that has been funded primarily for the economic benefits it brings to the area. Nonethless, it also provides social, cultural and environmental benefits such as; crime reduction, improvement to health and well-being and enhanced aesthetics. Furthermore, the flood mitigation provided by the SUDS (Sustainable Urban Drainage System) is a crucial element in Sheffield’s flood prone City Centre. Discovering that the project was one-third complete and unlikely to be fully funded due to Brexit was one of the triggering factors in my decision to take a Leave of Absence from my studies and focus on political campaigning against the UK’s decision to Leave the EU. 

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Filming with the BBC at the Grey2Green Scheme, EU funded project in Sheffield

Committed to Campaigning

In the last 15 months I have attended countless political events, demonstrations, rallies and marches across the country accompanied by my beautiful dog, AlbaWhiteWolf. I have written, illustrated and crowdfunded self-publishing 4 books with the support of a fantastic network of individuals I have developed on social media. I have created a Facebook page that has nearly reached 2000 likes and started a Twitter account that now has close to 6000 followers. I wrote my first protest song on 24th June 2016 and have been writing, singing and performing songs ever since, teaching myself to edit music videos with footage shot on my iPad. I now regularly perform at regional and national demonstrations across the country from Brighton and London to Sheffield and Newcastle. I am now working with a composer and music producer, Peter Cook, on an album of anti-Brexit songs called ‘Rage Against the Brexit Machine’, which are being released on NUB Records. I have also won 2 competitions through my campaign work; the “Young Talent Prize” in the “Great British Postcard Competition” which will take me to Germany for the first time, and also the European Commission’s blogging competition which took me to Brussels, again for my first ever visit. 

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Winning the “Young Talent” Prize in the “Great British Postcard Competition”, which featured on Channel 4 News

Risk Creates Opportunity

Suspending my Landscape Architecture studies to campaign full time may have seemed a reckless and foolish act to some, but it has allowed me to take ownership of my own achievements and presented me with multiple opportunities, of which I have taken full advantage. 

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With Chuka Ummuna MP and Theresa Maybe in Brexitland

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With Nick Clegg MP and Go Back To Where You Came From!

Preparing for Brussels

Whilst I was packing my case, ready for the trip to Brussels, limited space due to the absurd quantity of books I decided to bring, meant that I had to choose between fancy dress costumes. The Pirate “Brexit Saboteur” costume was a humorous twist on the insult often hurled at Remainers, and accompanied by my aptly named parrot puppet, “Theresa McSquarkface” and the Skull & Cross Bones placard, had featured on BBC News outside the Labour Party Conference alongside Chuka Umunna MP. The EUSupergirl outfit, on the other hand, had recently been snapped at the Manchester party conference along with Alba the EUSuperWolf and printed in the UK’s most popular free newspaper, the Metro. I decided on the EUSUperGirl outfit, as it seemed more important to send out a positive pro-European message than a negative anti-Brexit sentiment (although I wholeheartedly believe both are needed at this point). 

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Clipping from the Metro Newspaper

Travelling to Brussels

My journey was made somewhat more complicated due to the fact that I was filming a Channel 4 News debate called BrexitReality in Bathdays before I was due to leave. After staying in Bath, I travelled to London where I picked up the copies of my new children’s book, hot off the press, to take with me on the Eurostar to Belgium. When I arrived in Brussels, I decided to walk to the hotel, not appreciating quite how heavy the suitcase full of books would be, but I wanted to see the full glory of Brussels en route before I began a hectic week of sessions at the European Parliament and Commission. I was especially delighted when, as I walked down the Rue de la Loi, heavy suitcase in tow, I saw the Arc du Cinquantenaire come into view (which is one of the illustrations in my new book, Alba White Wolf Goes to Europe). 

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In Front of the Arc du Cinquantenaire holding a copy of Alba White Wolf Goes to Europe

Staying with Nigel the Gorilla

The hotel was very flash, a little corporate for my liking, but right in the beating heart of the European Parliament, just down the road from the Berlaymont where the fated press conference was to be held a few days laterI could tell I was in an important part of town from the number of sophisticated looking gentleman in grey suits and the life-sized blue gorilla that were loitering in the lobby, (I later decided to name the gorilla Nigel). I will admit I felt a little out of place in this environment. And I appreciate that one shouldn’t complain about having a jacuzzi bath tub in one’s hotel room, especially when one isn’t accustomed to having any kind of bath tub back at home (I am forced to hose down the muddy Alba in a tiny shower). However, I was slightly perturbed when said jacuzzi bath tub kept starting itself in the middle of the night, when it was empty of water, so it made a tremendous growling sound and shook the walls of the hotel room in such a terrifying manner that I wondered if Nigel had left the lobby to come and bid me goodnight? 

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MoJo Course and the EWRC

The Mobile Journalism course provided by the European Commission for the five winners of the #EuinMyRegion blog competition consisted of two 3 hour sessions at the beginning of the week. The training was very interesting, building on and cementing many of the video editing skills I was using already when editing my music videos. But it also opened my eyes to the further potential of mobile journalism to communicate news stories to an audience. I would probably have benefited more from the course if I had had a functional smart phone with the appropriate software installed. Nonetheless I was incredibly grateful to the blog competition organiser, Mathew Lowry, for sharing his android phone with me so I could still learn the skills for when I eventually get around to acquiring a more sophisticated device. One of the first techniques we tried was recording Facebook live videos. Although I had never been brave enough to attempt one myself, it is technique I have witnessed multiple times, when the likes of Graham Hughes and Mike Galsworthy have broadcast live footage from the front of anti-Brexit marches. Mathew Lowry recorded a live video of me introducing myself and my new book from his phone, which he then published on his company’s redundant “tester” Facebook page and was amazed that once I had shared the video onto my page and profile, it had soon clocked up close to 2000 views and earned his previously unloved page its first 7 likes. In my mind, this just emphasised the point that strong distribution networks are equally as important as the quality of the content being shared. (For comparisson, the Facebook live interview I recorded of another competition winner, Dennis Nill, which was published on the same page but not shared had only 33 views). 

Facebook Video from the MoJo Course

Sightings of EUSuperGirl in Brussels

Of course, I have been building pro-EU campaign networks for well over a year, vociferously tweeting and posting on Facebook. And as it turned out, a number of people in the EU Commission already knew me before I arrived, having seen the semi-viral “All I Want For Xmas is EU” music video which I published in November 2016. After I had tweeted a few pictures of myself in the EUSuperGirl outfit charging around the Parc du Cinquantenaire using the relevant hashtags #EWRC #EURegionsWeek, more and more people were starting to recognise me. Even out of costume, the security staff were asking me why I wasn’t wearing it. And after the publicity explosion from the stunt that I pulled at the end of the week, it’s fairly safe to say that a significant portion of Europe now know that there are EU super heroes out there, helping to save the Europe and attempting to divert the UK from its spectacular course of self-destruction. 

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UK Advisors Mysterious were Mysteriously Absent from the EWRC

However, I wasn’t just attending the EWRC to gallavant around in a super hero costume, (although that was primarily what I did whilst I was there). I also attended some really interesting sessions about regional funding across the EU. I particularly enjoyed a session where, ironically, the UK advisor on regional funding failed to show up. So myself, and a Welsh and a Northern Irish journalist went and nuzzled in on Ireland’s meeting and had lengthy discussions about the damage Brexit is likely to do to Ireland’s economy, as well as the UK’s, and the concerning, unresolved issue of the Irish border. I also attended a session where the speaker made a rather humbling point that the UK’s self-centered Brexit negotiations are having repercussions on the whole of the EU, by disrupting their ability to plan for the future. I made a point of apologising in a question where I asked the speaker whether the UK would be welcomed back into the EU if I succeed in my life’s aim to stop Brexit. He reassured me it would, nonetheless, I was disturbed to discover that maps are already being used internally that look somewhat like the cover of my new book, with a blanked-out UK, no longer part of the great European project.

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EUSuperGirl Determined to Fight On

Having spent the week learning more about the EU and the fantastic work it achieves and seeing for the first time how the EP and EC operate, I am more determined than ever to fight against the absurd nonsense that is currently engulfing the UK. I think the majority of the EU sees Brexit for what it is – an utter farce – Nonetheless, I think the EU has a significant amount of work to do in order to stem the rising tide of populism that threatens the stability of the union.  

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Can A Silly SuperHero Costume Really Save Europe?

In nearly every session I attended whilst at the EWRC, there was some expression of a desire to engage young people in the work of the European Union; A need to reach out and inspire the next generation to support the work of the EC and the EP and promote its values and achievements. However, nearly every single person attending these meetings were middle aged (or above) and wearing a grey suit. I was one of very few people who could be lumped in the “youth” category and I was certainly the only person wearing ripped jeans and a selection of brightly coloured EU button badges. I was very conscious of the looks of astonishment I provoked when I wore my EU SuperGirl costume in the parliament building. Thankfully nobody threw me out, but I could tell some of the older people in grey suits thought it inappropriate attire. But the truth is, if you want to inspire young people and you want to engage people who find politics tedious and boring, you have got to be a bit daring and unconventional and find alternative ways of connecting with and communicating the message. And if the EU is serious about growing support for its work and reaching out to these people, they need people like me and the delightful @Captain_Europe (my Brussels based counterpart) to bang the drum for the EU and capture their attention in a fun and colourful manner.

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Publicity is Key

It was rather disappointing then, when I turned up to the post-Brexit negotiations Press Conference with an accredited press pass and visitor badge, and I was thrown out of the Berlaymont building essentially for what I was wearing. I appreciate that my striking costume had captured the attention of the press in the room and was therefore a huge distraction from the main event, delaying the start of the press conference. However, the main reason for removing me from the room seemed to be that the commissioner was afraid I would pull a stunt like the man with the P.45 form at the Tory party conference in Manchester. I had sat quietly in the front row of the press conference waiting expectantly for Davis and Barnier to arrive, when the press rushed over and caused a fuss. I had essentially committed no crime, it appears that the EU Commission were terrified of a girl in a super hero outfit. And rightly so. I am fighting their side, but I am also adamant that the EU needs reform, in terms of attitude and policy. But fundamentally, I am a firm believer that we are infinitely stronger when we work together – “United we stand, divided we fall”. And Britain should be warned, to walk away from the European Union, is a catastrophic mistake for all concerned. Right now the UK needs more than one super hero to save us from Brexit, they don’t all have to wear costumes, but I am happy to be the publicity grabbing cape bearer for now! 

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Photo from the Evening Standard of EUSuperGirl being escorted out of the Press Conference

Support My Campaign!

You can help support my campaign by following my twitter accounts:

@superEUgirl and @albawhitewolf

And RT and sharing posts and publicity on social media using the hashtags:

#EUSuperGirl #SuperEUGirl #EUSuperWolf

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Alba was pleased when I finally returned home and showed her what I had been up to!

News Coverage of the #EUSuperGirl Stunt

The Evening Standard Newspaper

BBC Daily Politics Show Interview

The Torygraph Newspaper

The Daily Express Newspaper

POLITICO Newspaper

Euronews Newspaper Interview

The Young European Newspaper

Europa Today News Website

EU News Website

Deredactie News Website

Suedtirol News Website

Presslugen Website

CGTN News Website

Brexit News Website

DW Website

Blaze News 24 Website

General Election Abuse

After continually denying that she would do so, Theresa May “surprised” the World by announcing a snap general election on the 8th June. The announcement was, however, anything but a “surprise”. Given the recent polls showing the Conservative party leading with a huge majority, it was inevitable that they would be unable to resist the temptation of positioning themselves for even greater power in government. After repeated U-Turns and back-tracking on her word, it is also now expected that Theresa May will do the exact opposite of anything she says she is going to do.

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We currently have a government with majority of power, led by a woman who has no discernible moral compass or convictions in her beliefs. Initially a Remain campaigner, Theresa May is now the chief driver of an unnecessarily devastating hard Brexit that will drive our country off a cliff edge, with apparently no consideration for her previous stance. In her first speech as prime minister she claimed she would “fight against the burning injustice that if you’re poor you will die on average 9 years earlier” and to stand up for the people in society who are “just managing”. She has subsequently brought in some of the most divisive policies, such as Grammar Schools, whilst also seemingly ignoring the crisis in the NHS and cutting funding for the already underfunded mental health services. It seems apparent that she either doesn’t understand, or doesn’t care that the people who are “just managing” are those who can’t afford extra tuition to get their children through the Grammar School entrance exams and they are also the people who are struggling to support family members who are suffering from mental health problems because of inadequate treatment on the NHS. Theresa May is acting against expert advice and creating more division and greater inequality in society, making pathetic excuses to reduce tax rates on high earners, in order to protect the interests of the privileged few who already have more than most people could ever dream of achieving. A Prime Minister for the People, she most certainly is not.

The Lies…

The supposed reasons for calling the General Election are questionable at best. She claims she wants to “strengthen her hand in Brexit negotiations”, when she already has a clear mandate from the EU Referendum to plough ahead with her damaging proposals. She has made the outrageous and dumbfounding statement that “the country is coming together, but Westminster is not.” To which the only appropriate response is to cry “Bullshit” and throw your remote at the TV, smash your computer screen or burn whichever newspaper you have read this ludicrously absurd statement in. The country is categorically NOT “coming together”, we are more divided than ever and it is her stubborn minded arrogant approach to Brexit and total inability to compromise that is causing this situation.

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There are several more likely reasons for calling the election 2 years early; First of all is the Labour party’s chronic ratings in the polls, as the Tory’s can’t resist the temptation of monopolising their power in government. Jeremy Corbyn is an absolute car crash of a political leader and it is having devastating impacts on the labour party’s PR. We can only hope that the polls are entirely inaccurate, as they have proven in recent votes, and the conservatives won’t win with a huge majority. The second reason is because the extent of the devastating impact of Brexit has not yet been realised. The economy has faired well over the last year, as we haven’t actually left the European Union yet, so the impact of the vote is yet to be felt by British businesses and workers. Moreover, it will become increasingly apparent that the European Union aren’t going to let Theresa May negotiate anything other than a bad Brexit deal, so best to get the General Election out of the way before everyone realises the Tory party are going to leave us with WTO regulations and a trashed economy. A third reason, similar to last year’s referendum, is that students and young people, living away from home will be far less likely to register and vote during their most stressful exam period. Young people are the generation that will be most damaged by the Conservative party policies and can see through Theresa May’s charade, however most are so disaffected by politics that they won’t bother making the effort to vote only to be snubbed yet again by rich, privileged Tory pensioners.

The Truth…

The Snap General Election has been called by the Tories in order that they may abuse a system that already gives them an unfair advantage over other political parties. Rather than focussing on the real issues of the NHS and education, we are wasting millions and millions of pounds on another unnecessary election. I think it is fundamentally wrong that the party in power can decide to call an early election at an opportune moment to position themselves for even greater power. Until governments last for fixed term and are elected using a PR voting system, then we will not have experience a true democracy in this country. The future of politics has got to be about coalition and compromise, not dictatorship, bloody-mindedness and abuse of the system.

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Register to Vote!!!

The percentage of young people who turned out to vote in the EU referendum on 23rd June 2016 is unclear. Initial reports claimed a shockingly low 36% turned out to have their say on the future of Britain’s relationship with the European Union. However, it was subsequently revealed that this figure reported by Sky News was based on “likely turn out for the 2015 General Election” (which this is itself a concerning statistic). Since then a number of polls have been conducted suggesting that the turnout was more like two-thirds of young people, however these polls vary in their categorisation of young people as 18-24 and 18-34. They are also flawed because those who voted in the Referendum are likely to respond to a poll asking whether they voted or not.

Nonetheless, all the reports concur that, to some extent, young people are less likely to vote than older people. This is very disturbing given that it is our future and life prospects that will be affected whereas older generations are voting after enjoying greater job security, more affordable houses, a better functioning NHS, fee free higher education and more generous pension schemes, amongst many other benefits. This begs the question; why are so few young people engaging in the political debate and having their say in their own futures?

Universities used to be considered the centre of political campaigning and social activism, but nowadays the majority of political party members and campaigners are middle-aged. There are many reasons for this cultural trend, to begin with, political activism isn’t encouraged or supported by the university institutions. For example, the Sheffield Student Newspaper is funded by charity and all articles are checked by the legal team who decided they couldn’t publish any of my satirical cartoons. Student Unions will also not allow you to leaflet or put up posters with any political bias. The same issue occurs in schools, where teachers will be persecuted for expressing political bias and accused of “indoctrinating” young children. So when they teach children about political issue they have to be excessively vigilant to ensure there is no bias in their lessons. The result is that most teachers avoid political education and expressing political views, which is one of the causes of young people’s estrangement from politics. Students are also under severe pressure and stress due to their assessment driven work load, where political campaigning is considered a distraction from their studies rather than part of their education. Young people in general, also feel a disaffection with the white-collar, middle class people who work in government. Jeremy Corbyn may look extremely cringe-worthy crouching down reading a picture book to a group of Primary school children, but his efforts to engage with “the People” are quite admirable. I am on a personal crusade to get more young people to engage with the political debate, by using humour, art and music. Nonetheless, it often feels like banging my head on a wall as commercial platforms will reject anything with a political message aimed at young people.

Regardless of the number of young people who turned up to vote in the EU referendum, one thing was clear, a majority of 73% wanted to remain in the European Union. Nonetheless, our future has been decided by the older generations who have enjoyed privileges we will probably never experience ourselves. It is therefore, of imperative importance that young people register and turn out to vote in the 2017 snap General Election on 8th June. We need to make our voices heard loud and clear. And if you are a disaffected youth who thinks that the political outcome won’t affect your future – then think again. REGISTER TO VOTE DEADLINE 22nd MAY.

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AlbaWhiteWolf Goes to Scotland – Travel Review

We wanted to take the dog away over the Easter holidays and we settled on Scotland as a relatively grief free destination. Given that Theresa May is car crashing us into a hard Brexit that is likely to result in an SNP retaliation and a second independence referendum, we decided we would take the opportunity to visit Scotland before relations sour and they start requiring passports to cross the border from merry little England.

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Me and Alba travelled up on the train from Sheffield to Edinburgh, a rather expensive journey on a cramped and uncomfortable Virgin train that was littered with rubbish and charged £10 for a minimum 5 hours wifi access. I have visited Edinburgh before and know it to be a vibrant city, with some incredible architecture set on some horrendously steep hills. I recommend all visitors to walk up the Royal Mile to the castle for an intense cultural experience, for art I would The Scottish National Portrait Gallery and the botanical gardens are a delight for all plant lovers.

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However, it was my Dad’s hair-brained scheme to hire a barge for a week which meant we had little time to enjoy the city, instead we had to set off at 8am the next day to cruise along the delights of the Scottish canal network (highlights include; muddy water and some duck reeds). The boat was called the “Orange Weaver” and was a charmingly idyllic model with floral designs on the curtains and interior panelling. The beds, however were less appealing, back-ache inducing and about half the width of a standard single. Alba usually sleeps on my double bed at home and she spent half the night jumping on top of me, seemingly forgetting each time that there simple wasn’t room for both of us. It was also freezing cold, as you can’t keep the generator running during the night in residential moorings and my Dad was snoring constantly in the bed next to me. It will suffice to say, I didn’t sleep a wink and resolved to escape the barge at the first opportunity.

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The weather was good so the canal journey itself was fairly pleasant, if you’re into countryside views of muddy water and duck reeds and that sort of thing. It was very cold in the wind though, and I can imagine that driving in poor weather conditions would be a thoroughly unpleasant experience. I also managed to crash the boat, the one attempt I made at steering it, so after we spent 30 minutes trying to free the barge from the muddy bank I was banned from touching the tiller again. I don’t think I was forgiven for this misdemeanour, especially after my dad had to clear all the duck reeds from the engine at the next available stop. Travelling by barge is, nonetheless, a brilliant way to experience a place and we stopped off at moorings along the way and discovered quaint little villages and Marinas. You are also guaranteed lovely walks along the tow path which me and the dog thoroughly enjoyed. Although she kept drinking the canal water and then throwing up once we were back on the boat. She also seemed distressed by the rocking and the continually changing environments and when she refused to eat anything, I decided to get both of us back to civilised dry land and booked a hotel in Glasgow.

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We stayed on the barge just long enough to experience the magnificence of the Falkirk Wheel, a marvel of modern engineering that cuts out the need for 10 locks by conveying boats in troughs of water around a huge mechanical wheel. I was equally impressed by the standard of the Scottish public transport systems, which included; super friendly staff, an excellent standard of cleanliness, brand new fittings, free wifi on board buses and trains, punctual and frequent running times, all for an extremely low fare. A far cry from the Virgin East-Coast mainline or public transport below the border.

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I decided to walk to the hotel from the station, which may have been a mistake given the number of bags I was carrying, mainly full of the dog food Alba hadn’t eaten. We stopped by the river and it wasn’t long before Alba had attracted the attention of a deaf German photography student who spent half an hour photographing us for her college project. The hotel staff at the Campanille were equally smitten with Alba who relished all the fuss she was getting.

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We stayed three nights in Glasgow and made the most of the time; visiting the Parks, the Glasgow Botanical Gardens and the university; walking along the river and exploring the incredible modern and old architecture. It was a shame I couldn’t visit any of of the art exhibitions because of the dog, but the Kelvingrove museum and modern art gallery are renowned for their excellence. There was so much to see outdoors as well, and we especially enjoyed the Glasgow Green which hosts the Nelson Monument, the People’s Palace and the world’s largest terracotta fountain, amongst other features.

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I was very taken with Glasgow, a multicultural, down-to-Earth and developing city that is proud to celebrate its history and heritage alongside its modern culture. I did stumble across a few of the stereotypical “addict on a bench” types who Alba could smell and would bark at ferociously, usually waking them from their drugged slumber. Nonetheless, the majority of people who we met were incredibly friendly and helpful and it was an absolute pleasure to visit their city. If we fail in our attempts to quash Brexit, I can only hope that Scotland will go ahead with its vote for independence and re-join the EU so I can move to Glasgow and enjoy the stunning architecture and friendly folk.

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Against Democracy Review

Against ‘Against Democracy’

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I recently attended a public lecture at the University of Sheffield given by the American Political Scientist, Jason Brennan, about his new book ‘Against Democracy’. I was interested to discover that the book had originally been titled “Against Politics” but his publisher believed that the new title “would sell more copies”. Which is an apt example to clarify Brennan’s own motivations upon which his opinions and the book are founded.

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He began the lecture with a “thought experiment” to try and illustrate the idea of incentives. His argument was that, we probably wouldn’t sit down and read a whole copy of ‘War and Peace’ in one evening, which is probably true but doesn’t dismiss the idea of reading the book for its own sake (which I have done and thoroughly enjoyed). Brennan then continued, stating that we would definitely read War and Peace in a single evening if we were told it contained the instructions to the location of £1 million. He finished by arguing that we probably wouldn’t go looking for the instructions to the location of £1 million if we were told it was in an unknown book somewhere in the Sheffield University library, because chances are we would never find it. He then used this thought experiment as an analogy for voting in a democratic system reasoning that voters are apathetic because the incentives are wrong. His argument was that voters don’t care about the influence of their vote because it has a negligible impact on the overall outcome.

This was a very poor analogy that highlights how Political Science depends on a capitalist system of values and beliefs. I dislike the premise that his Thought Experiment suggests that nobody would wish to read a copy of War and Peace in a single evening because of its intrinsic literary value, I also dislike the suggestion that I would surrender all other engagements to devote an evening to acquiring £1 million which was not deserved or earnt. If that were the case, I would probably be playing the lottery to try and win millions of pounds, which I might add I have never done. His analogy also assumes that people only vote in their own selfish self-interests, (unless he was suggesting that we would read War and Peace so that we could donate the £1m to the common good?) When in fact I believe many people use their democratic vote for what they believe is best for society as a whole. So our individual votes may have negligible impact, but that doesn’t mean we should care any less about them, Emily Davison threw herself under a horse for the right to vote and a lot of people still do genuinely care. Although I will admit there is a significant task ahead of us to engage and educate more people who are currently indifferent or disinterested in politics.

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Brennan referred to a “One man one vote democracy” which I questioned during the Q&A at the end. In reality the power of influence can have a big impact on democratic outcomes. In the age of social media, respected figures or politicians (take Donald Trump as a bad example and J.K.Rowling as a good one) have the power to share their political views with a wide social network so that the sphere of their influence may have a significant impact on the outcome even if their individual vote does not. One of the possible alternatives to democratic votes that Brennan advocated was a weighted system where more educated individuals have additional votes or where voters are forced to take a general political knowledge quiz to show a basic level of understanding before they are allowed to vote. Although these ideas are nice in principle, I think they are potentially very dangerous because they use knowledge as power and undermines belief systems that are based on other values. Also, it is hugely dependent on how you define what knowledge or expertise is required and it is risky territory handing that much power to any authority, particularly if their “incentives” are based on a capitalist model rather than one that promotes tolerance, happiness and kindness.

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Brennan himself is a very charismatic and engaging speaker, he is fairly down to Earth and has a tendency of skipping over technical academic reasoning in favour of gimmicky “jelly bean” and “robot transformer” metaphors. A style that I’m sure earns great favour with his students, although personally I was feeling slightly nauseated by the amount of times he mentioned “cookie jars”.

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His lecture was followed by two guest speakers, the renowned philosophy professor, Angie Hobbs who was rather a shock contrast when she started referring to examples from Ancient Greek history to illustrate her own arguments. She was followed by Natalie Bennet, the self-termed “Blunt Australian” who concisely took his book to pieces, arguing that the book was a “dangerous” threat to a real democracy, that hasn’t yet been achieved. I was very impressed by both of these female speakers, their academic knowledge and their strong arguments. Their ability to speak their views is testimony that it really was worth Emily Davison’s ultimate sacrifice to advance the progress of women in our society. Now it is our duty to respect her efforts and turn out to vote in the General Election.

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