Immigration and Identity: An Open Letter to Labour

Over at Policy Network, Dr Matt Goodwin has written a letter to the Labour Party that speaks to the current debate about immigration and identity politics. The post follows a recent event at the think-tank, and forms part of its new project on ‘populism, extremism and the mainstream’ (co-funded by the Barrow Cadbury Trust).

You can read the essay here.

Is David Cameron really as bad as Paul McCartney’s Wings?

As we all know, in his early days as Conservative leader David Cameron let it be known that he saw himself as the ‘heir to Blair’.

Cameron’s presentational style and approach to the media remains very Blair-like – although he seems to have gone from early (popular) Blair to late (‘when did he say he was stepping down?’) Blair remarkably quickly.

Inspired by that thought, on a dull Bank Holiday morning I Tweeted the above message. I posted the results on my personal blog.

Steven Fielding


Obama and the DREAMERs: A Desperate, but Possibly Humane Policy

On 15 June 2012, President Obama announced that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security would take steps in order to “cease” deportations of undocumented young people that were brought to the United States by their undocumented parents from countries such as Mexico. Obama’s pronouncement would “protect” undocumented young people that arrived in the U.S. prior to their 16th birthday, are currently 31 years old or younger and have not committed a felony. Within the U.S. Latino community, these undocumented young people are referred to as “the DREAMERs,” since such undocumented persons were suppose to be the beneficiaries of the U.S. Dream Act.  In the light of the legislation’s various failures to pass through the U.S. Congress, the DREAMERs courageously press citizenship claims by declaring themselves as: “undocumented, unafraid and unapologetic.”

With his recent pronouncement, Obama has been criticised from virtually every actor involved in the issue. His critics in the U.S. Congress have charged that he is “bypassing the Congress.”  While this critique is accurate, Obama has constantly bypassed the U.S. Congress regarding his policy toward drone strikes, to which Congress’ inaction to enforce the War Powers Resolution, makes them complicit in what has become a very dangerous policy.

His announcement has also been criticised by conservatives as “pandering to Hispanics,” whereby Republicans refer to his pronouncement as a desperate and cynical political move in order to galvanised the Latino vote for his re-election campaign. Once again, this may be a valid point; however, all politics in the countries with representative forms of government, involve pandering to one faction or another. For example, is it possible to speculate that the change in the U.K. Border Agency’s guidelines for the issuance of Tier 4 visas to international students that now require a monthly living maintenance of £800 (an increase of £200 from the previous monthly maintenance requirement of £600) as the Tory-Lib Dem coalition’s pandering to the growing anti-immigration sentiment within the U.K? Or can one claim that the anti-pubic sector policies of Wisconsin governor Scott Walker pander to the class project envisaged by Tea Party billionaire bankrollers like the Koch Brothers?  In short, there are very few, if any, political decisions that constitute a “win-win” situation for all actors.

Moreover, Obama’s pronouncement on the perceived cessation of deportations is very much consistent with the position taken by Marco Rubio, the U.S. Senator from Florida and Tea Party favourite, whose name has been touted as a possible running mate to presumptive Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney. While Obama possibly out-maneuvered Romney, there is no doubt Obama is desperately attempting to regain a demographic constituency that he, over the course of his presidency, has alienated due to a record number of deportations of primarily Latinos, back to their country of origin. No matter how humane his pronouncement is, Obama has disingenuously benefited from the Republican Party’s anti-immigration discourse and policies, by challenging the more draconian aspects of these laws (for example, the racial profiling aspects of the Arizona, Georgia, Alabama and Utah state statutes),* while at the same time, deporting a record number of persons, including DREAMERs, back to their country of origin.  In the words of one Atlanta DREAMER activist, the Latino community is “tired of being played.”

To that end, the DREAMERs (via their posts on social media) are skeptical of Obama’s pronouncement.  They correctly argue that Obama has not actually issued an executive order ceasing deportations. In fact, irrespective of Obama’s announcement, deportations can continue. One group, the Georgia Undocumented Youth Alliance (GUYA) have posted Facebook notices from other U.S. based undocumented youth organizations which caution that providing information to the U.S. government in order to secure work permits, could in fact, facilitate deportation proceedings.

For their part, the DREAMERs have the most to gain and certainly the most to lose in wake of Obama’s announcement.  Unlike their parents who do not raise citizenship claims, but struggle for the right to live and work in [the United States], (Munk, Schierup and Delgado Wise, 2012), such undocumented youth organise and agitate for nothing short of a path to citizenship as contemplated by the U.S. Dream Act.

Several members of GUYA that I have met and spoken with, have little or no recollection of México given they were brought to Georgia when they were small children. They have grown resentful, yet passionate about their being criminalised for decisions made for them by others while they were very young; and for which they had no control over. Like radical civil rights activists of the 1960s, such as SNCC, DREAMERs have mentioned to me that their “shame” has crystallized into a resolve to seek U.S. citizenship. They feel “American” in every sense of the word other than their formal legal status.

Furthermore, lost in the discussion in the wake of Obama’s announcement, was the fact that DREAMERs engaged in direct actions of resistance to protest deportations.  In the week prior to Obama’s 15 June remarks, no less than four of Obama’s campaign offices (Denver, Dearborn Michigan, Oakland and Atlanta) were occupied by DREAMER activists. In the Denver case, the undocumented, unafraid and unapologetic, staged a seven day occupation and hunger strike. The timing of these effective acts of resistance and Obama’s announcement cannot be overlooked nor dismissed.

While Obama’s perceived shift in deportations is certainly political, possibly cynical; yet, it is nonetheless a humane change in a policy which has, at best caused persistent fear in Latino communities throughout the U.S. and at worse, shattered families. With that said, the absence of courage demonstrated by Obama in not issuing an executive order to cease all deportations of eligible DREAMERs, has been met with skepticism and mistrust by the very people Obama contends he wants to aid.  And to show that skepticism and mistrust by undocumented Latino youth is warranted, within eight hours of Obama’s announcement, GUYA posted a notice on its Facebook page that the local police had constructed a road block on Buford Highway, the heart of Atlanta’s Latino community, in order to stop and detain anyone driving without a valid license. A situation that exacerbates the structural violence inherent in Atlanta’s poor public transportation system ultimately underpinned by metro Atlanta’s lack of will to improve it.

While the Congress contends that Obama bypassed them, at the end of the day, it seems that the local police in the Atlanta area have bypassed the President of the United States under the guise of enforcing U.S. immigration laws. The only true courage displayed in this turn of events has been exhibited by the most vulnerable.


*On 25 June, 2012, the U. S. Supreme Court in a 5-3 decision upheld the racial profiling provisions of Arizona’s SB 1070.


Peter S. Cruttenden

Defending not Defunding the Public University

Further and higher education in the UK is under attack. Neoliberal restructuring has reached colleges and universities across the country. University tuition fees have been increased by up to £9,000 per year and education has increasingly become a commodity to be purchased on the market. Not everyone has, however, accepted this outcome as Prof. Andreas Bieler and Dr. Adam David Morton argue.

On 15 June, 2012 lecturers from across the various disciplines and from locations throughout the UK met at the University of Nottingham in the workshop For a Public University, organised by the local UCU association and supported by the Centre for the Study of Social and Global Justice (CSSGJ), the Centre for Research in Higher, Adult & Vocational Education (HAVE), and the International Political Economy Group (IPEG) to discuss how best to organise resistance and to debate alternatives.

The transformation of higher education in the UK is at full speed. The cuts in government funding and the simultaneous increase in tuition fees of up to £9,000 per year have dramatic implications. While universities emphasise the need to attract private finance, students are pushed towards courses with direct employment possibilities. At the same time, employers ask for closer co-operation with universities not only in relation to research but also in terms of the development of teaching curricula. The main focus is clear: education should be directed towards business interests in order to strengthen the UK economy.

One outcome is that higher education is increasingly commodified as universities exist in the shadow of the market, as Gillian Blease depicts in the accompanying illustration ‘Pencils’. The space for critical thinking about society has been eroded, substituting students’ ability-to-learn for consumers’ ability-to-pay. Academics have themselves become subject to the charge of irrelevance unless direct policy-impact is embraced. The critical theoretician is cast adrift as indolent and idle in the race to inform statesmen, to become prophets for science, to make profits for business.

Without collapsing into nostalgia for some non-existent ‘Golden Age’, the workshop was kick-started by two panels. The first was on Pedagogy and Knowledge with two joint presentations, from Sarah Amsler (Lincoln University) and Sara Motta (University of Nottingham) and Gurnam Singh (Coventry University) and Stephen Cowden (Coventry University). The second panel was on Restructuring and Marketisation with papers from Andy McGettigan (a freelance journalist on critical education) and Susan L. Robertson (Bristol University).

The devaluation and overwork of the academic was the focus in the joint paper by Sarah Amsler and Sara Motta but they set this within the context of the erasure of difference (race, gender, and class) within the neoliberal space of the university. Their stirring feminist critique revealed how ‘academic mothers’ and ‘academic others’ are excluded, made invisible, and marginalised in the spaces of today’s universities. Instead, they seek to rupture marketised education by aiming to bring the different experiences of joy, laughter, and play back into the classroom, as the posts on the Beautiful Transgressions blog site also reveal. The impoverishment of the student experience at the level of pedagogy was then the focus of Gurnam Singh and Stephen Cowden. Consumerist pedagogy has become increasingly dominant in recent years, which socialises students into treating knowledge as an expendable commodity with a shelf life. Instead, problem-posing education was advocated based on the critical pedagogy of Paulo Freire in which students are pushed, challenged, and provoked. For Freire, critical pedagogy means that ‘the teacher is no longer the one-who-teaches, but one who is himself taught in dialogue with the students, who in turn while being taught also teach’.

The world of university finance was exposed by Andy McGettigan in which new forms of capital were analysed that are underwriting and reshaping higher education. Specifically, an overview of bond issues by British universities was presented. Bonds are a form of borrowing for large capital projects (new buildings and infrastructure), fixed over periods as long as 50 years, on the basis of which the lender receives an annual interest payment, or coupon, and at the end the original sum is repaid.The University of Cambridge has been considering what would be the largest bond issue ever from an English University at £300 million and universities such as Sheffield, Nottingham, Manchester, York, and Lancaster have issued bonds to private investors. As McGettigan reports, one result is that Standard & Poor’s have provided Lancaster, Bristol, Nottingham, King’s College London, Sheffield and others with investment grade credit ratings. Another consequence is that the university sector may well be on the edge of a flood of this type of borrowing that on such a scale would come with clear strings attached.

Closing the morning session, Susan Robertson revealed three clear logics shaping higher education: (1) the logic of neoliberal globalisation that is bringing about changes in the constitutions of states across the world; (2) the logic of comparative competitiveness based on the supposed ‘first mover’ advantages of universities establishing, for example, branch campuses around the world; and (3) the logic of competitive comparison based on attachment to and obsession with world university rankings in league tables. As also revealed on her blog site GlobalHigherEd, Susan Robertson discussed mechanisms of power within these logics that include a temporal dimension (in terms of the frequency of rankings) and a scalar dimension (in terms of the heightened number of ranking exercises). Reclaiming the agenda therefore entails proposing more democratic and emancipatory reform of the university in the twenty-first century, as argued by Boaventura de Sousa Santos.

The final panel – Contested Visions of the Public University – was then dedicated to discussing potential alternatives to commodified education. Joyce Canaan (Birmingham City University) pointed out that there are ways forward within universities as well as outside. There is still space, she asserted, to pursue a course of critical education in university settings, combining classroom activity with critical outside engagement. There is a clear need to resist fatalism, especially considering that we often push against open doors, when we try to engage students. This is no more the case than in Scotland, as Terry Brotherstone (President of UCU Scotland) indicated. Key social educational institutions had always been separate from England and it should be no surprise that universities played a strong role in the emphasis on democracy in Scotland from 2009 onwards. A recent report on governance and pay recommended ‘the abolition of bonuses for principals and an end to pay rises above average awards given to all staff . . . staff and students should be represented on remuneration committees and calls for an investigation into whether university leaders should be included in the rigid grading systems that determine the pay of most academics’ (see the Guardian17 February 2012). Once implemented in Scotland, English universities may find it difficult to resist similar calls for more accountability of Vice Chancellors and senior university management more generally.

Outside universities, Joyce Canaan pointed to a range of current initiatives including the Free University of Liverpool, the Tent City University of the Occupy London movement, as well as the Social Science Centre, Lincoln based on the co-operative model. Andreas Wittel (Nottingham Trent University) in his paper questioned whether Higher Education can ever become a true commons, since it would inevitably require ‘free’ academic labour, whether it is based largely on online resources or placed more locally, as in the above examples. Ultimately, workshop participants concluded, it will be important that struggle both inside and outside formal higher education institutions is waged in order to push back the drive for commodified education.

That these struggles are not new was made clear in the presentation by John Holford (University of Nottingham). There was already a struggle to open up universities to members of the working class during the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries involving people such as Harold Laski. At that time, internal critics of universities discussed with external reformers, while others advocated the setting up of radical alternatives, separate from existing universities. Ultimately, it was these struggles that pushed for mass higher education, which made university education available as a public good to increasingly large parts of society.

There is no reason why such a movement could not succeed again.


Andreas Bieler and Adam David Morton

Back of the Net!

Follow our particular coverage of the Euro 2012 tournament here.

‘You cannot compare football and politics’, said the Greek player Georgios Samaras the other day.  Still, we thought we’d give it a try.

For the last two weeks, we’ve been tweeting a series of Euro2012 tweets, mixing up football and politics.  How well were Euro countries doing against non-Euro countries?  Or constitutional monarchies against republics?  Which country had the largest Parliament?  Which games pitted unicameral against bicameral parliaments?

Most people got that it was a bit of fun, and we had lots of positive tweets back.  Every now and again someone took it all rather literally: ‘What difference will that make? It’s a football match’.  Well, thanks, we did kinda know that…

Anyone who’s read the brilliant Soccernomics, however, will know that some factors do matter.

Just as in Soccernomics, it was no surprise to discover that population size and GDP were both good predictors of a country’s footballing success.  Population size and points achieved in the first three matches – those of the group stages – correlated at 0.36; GDP and points correlated at 0.55. Or, for those who don’t like correlation coefficients, here’s another way to look at it: of the countries with a population of below 30 million, five are out, just three remain; of the countries with a population of above 30 million, five are in, just three are out.  Similarly, of the countries with GDP of above $1,000,000,000,000, five are still in, only one is out.  Of those with a lower GDP, just three are still in, seven are out.

Our other, more political, criteria proved less successful as predictors of success.  Despite initially struggling (it took five matches until a Euro Country beat a non-Euro one), by the time all the group games had been played, the Euro countries had managed 1.5 points per game (ppg), those outside 1.3 ppg.  And we found similarly small, or non-existent, differences when we compared constitutional monarchies (1.3 ppg) vs republics (1.4 ppg), or former communist countries with those from the West (1.4 ppg each) (we split Germany 50/50).

Countries with bicameral parliaments (1.5 ppg) marginally outperformed those with unicameral parliaments (1.3 ppg), although given that that bicameralism is a proxy for population size – larger countries being more likely to have bicameral parliaments – we expected a larger effect, if anything.  (Similarly, the size of a country’s Parliament – another proxy for population size – and its points in the group stages correlated at 0.49).  Former Imperial Powers (1.8 ppg), however, outperformed non-Imperial Powers (1.0 ppg).

The currently very fashionable spirit level thesis – crudely put, that things are better the more equal a country is – provided absolutely useless at predicting anything (a correlation between the Gini coefficient of income equality and points of just -0.08).  Praying doesn’t seem to help either: the correlation between a country’s belief in God and points in the group games was an even more feeble-0.03.  (For the record: Catholic countries:1.5 ppg; Protestant countries 1.3 ppg; Orthodox countries: 1.2 ppg).

Similarly, whilst tweets about the percentage of women in a country’s Parliament proved popular (when Ukraine played Sweden, for example, it pitted the country with largest percentage of female parliamentarians against the one with the lowest percentage) there was overall no relationship between the feminisation of a parliament and a country’s success at football (a correlation of just 0.06).  Ditto for variables like the country’s Transparency International Index (just -0.10), or its Freedom House Score (-0.02), or its Press Freedom Index Score (0.03).  You can be as corrupt as you like and it won’t make an impact on the football pitch.

And whilst there is something lovely about the fact that the country that spends the lowest percentage of GDP on defence (Ireland) was also the country that conceded most goals (the correlation between Goal Difference and GDP on defence was 0.30, or about as important as population size), we doubt very much any attempt to establish a Military Industrial Football Complex is going to work.

But here’s a thing.  There has been a relationship so far between a country’s age of consent and its success in the tournament so far.  The correlation between age of consent and points is -0.54, effectively the same strength of relationship as GDP, and negative, meaning that the lower a country’s age of consent, the better it has done.  Of the countries with ages of consent of 16 or 17, four are out, just two remain.  Of those with ages of 13 to 15, six remain, four are out. It’s obviously spurious (or at least we assume so?), but we’ve no idea what’s causing it.  Ideas below, please.

And so onto the next seven games… It is now an entirely EU affair, with all but two of the eight remaining countries also being in the Euro.  The first Quarter-Final pits a unicameral parliament against a bicameral one, an ex-communist country against one from the West, one of just two non-Euro countries against a Euro country, and the country with the (joint) highest belief in God of the 16 against the one with the lowest belief in God.  And, on the basis of what we’ve seen so far, none of that should matter at all…

Philip Cowley

N.B. You can now see all the Euro 2012 tweets on our Storify account.