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I am a liberal, left-wing, political commentator, humane, idealistic, pursuing wonder. What has wonder got to do with politics you may ask? Is that not for the pragmatists? Read on...

Faith leaders including the Ahmadi Caliph pave the way for peace (radio interview)

I am the first speaker on a live drive time programme considering the impact of faith leader Caliph Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad who is leader of the Ahmadiyya Muslims. The Evening Standard has identified him as the most inspirational faith leader in London in 2017 after the Queen and I try to explain why.

The Caliph had a very strong message for terrorists and any other extremists that love of your country is part of your faith. He said integration was about being an asset to your country, it was not about the hijab or alcohol.

Fathe Din, a member of the Ahmadiyya community explained to me what the Caliph meant. He said: “The jihad is misinterpreted by mullahs and extremists. The jihad is a fight within yourself. It is a fight to be good human beings. Give up your time to do something good. Not everyone is prepared to do that.”

At the Jalsa Salana which is the community’s annual convention, the Caliph told delegates that Islam is the guarantee of security in the world. Without exception, without any discrimination, all of the people are equal. It’s when people think they are superior, that they disturb the peace.

The Caliph told us there is no superiority as a human being. A white person is not superior to a black person, nor is a black person superior to a white.

He said it is when people think they are superior, that they disturb the peace of the world. Lawlessness comes from a feeling of inferiority. Terrorists may take God’s name in vain, and they are not the only ones to do so, but they act in their own strength, cut off from God.

At the annual Peace Symposium last March the Caliph said the arms trade was a very clear example of how business interests and wealth take priority over peace. He said the arms trade fuels warfare and has trapped the world in a perpetual cycle of violence. Last year the peace prize was given to  Ms. Setsuko Thurlow because of her lifelong campaign for nuclear disarmament.

He gave a solemn warning: “Always remember that if we seek to pursue our own interests at all costs, the rights of others will be usurped and this can only lead to conflict, wars and misery. We must all reflect and understand the precipice upon which we stand.”

But he concluded: “My message to the world is to look at tomorrow, and not just today.  Let us leave behind a legacy of hope and opportunity for our children, rather than burdening them with the horrific consequences of our sins.”

The Ahmadi motto is “Love for all, hatred for none.”

This extract was broadcast live on Voice of Islam radio channel on Monday 23 October and you can listen to the full podcast below.

Family pantomime returns to Brighton this Christmas

Singer and actor David Essex is the virtual star of a family pantomime playing in Brighton over Christmas this year.

The 1970s pop star will appear on an LED video wall as Baron Hardup in Cinderella at the Hilton Brighton Metropole from Friday 22 December to Wednesday 27 December.

And he will be joined by a string of West End performers including Joseph Peters and Alasdair Buchan.

The cast also includes a number of Brighton personalities. They include David Hill as one of the ugly sisters, Lou Nash and Alex Baker from Juice 107.2 and Dean Kilford from Latest TV and BBC Sussex playing Buttons. Keris Lea will play the Fairy Godmother.

David Hill with Keris Lea, the Fairy Godmother

Cinderella is the brainchild of Mr Hill who “fell into” pantomime in 2001 while sharing a flat with the comedian and novelist Julian Clary.

He said that his travel business was in difficulty after the 9/11 terror attack because people were afraid to fly.

Mr Clary suggested that he audition and Mr Hill found a second career as a pantomime dame.

A countywide search for Cinders was mounted a month ago resulting in 300 applicants.

The show’s writer and co-producer Tim Newman said: “Hannah Bailey, who will be playing Cinderella, offers us everything we were hoping for in this part and I know that every young girl in the audience will fall in love with her.

“I’m not sure what Hannah is more excited about, playing Cinders or having David Essex as her father in the show!”

Cinderella is being produced by Brighton Premiere which is a collaboration of event company E3 and the Brighton Academy of Performing Arts.

The show will be directed by Mr Newman and Stuart Dawes from the academy.

Mr Newman said: “It is so important to have children in mind. Like Pixar, the pantomime should be enjoyable for kids and parents.”

Ticket holders will enjoy free entry to a Christmas Fayre with food, dodgems, face painting, charity stalls and a chance to meet Santa.

Each performance will raise money for the three biggest children’s charities in Sussex – the Chailey Heritage Foundation, Chestnut Tree House and Rockinghorse.

Juice 107.2 is the pantomime’s headline sponsor. Others include Sussex Life, Visit Brighton, Hilton Brighton Metropole, Oliver and Graimes, Donatello, City Cabs, Glencairn Consulting, E3, Brighton Academy and McKenzie Associates.

Cinderella will run twice daily from Friday 22 December until Wednesday 27 December with no shows on Christmas Day.

Tickets cost from £10 (restricted view) to £22.50 (premiere) and are available online at

This article was first published in Brighton and Hove News on 19 October.

Hundreds gathered at Brighton’s “Stop Brexit” rally

Britain for Europe and Brighton and Hove for the European Union hosted a “Stop Brexit” rally with speeches, a panel debate chaired by Polly Toynbee, comedy and music at Brighton Dome last Sunday 25 September.

Professor A C Grayling was the keynote speaker and he opened his remarks by criticising the Labour Party for not singing the right song. Already, he said, Britain is losing funds from the EU and businesses who are relocating, finding better infrastructure and better working conditions in Europe. He said: “We must stop Brexit sooner rather than later. Europe cherishes civil liberties, progress and a rational cooperative way, the EU is a wonderful model of cooperation.”

Mr Grayling said the alternative is less money for public services, “a low tax, deregulated, offshore economy.” He said people who voted leave had very few reasons, they don’t have reasons so much as feelings. He urged the remain camp to tell their story and win back the Brexiteers, to fill the bins of MPs with letters, to stay determined.

“Brexit is politically illegitimate and constitutionally improper,” said Mr Grayling. “The franchise excludes 16-17 year olds, expats living abroad and EU nationals living in the UK. They should have had a voice, only 37% of the electorate voted leave. That is not a mandate for a major constitutional change.”

Brighton Pavilion MP Caroline Lucas spoke next and said Britain must remain welcoming. “We are here to say Britain is better than that.” She said the Prime Minister has no mandate: “She went to our electorate and she lost and we must never let her forget that.”

She said she was furious about the EU Withdrawal Bill because it takes sovereignty away from the people and Parliament.

And she had a message for the Labour Party: “You cannot be in favour of leaving the EU and in favour of ending austerity.

“Freedom of movement for young people is a precious gift, she said, to travel, live, work, fall in love with people from 27 countries. I am truly sorry for our young people, whom Brexit is betraying.”

She concluded by saying it is not migrants who are responsible for austerity, it is the Government that is responsible.

Caroline Lucas MP

Guardian Columnist Polly Toynbee then chaired a panel debate with questions. Seb Dance is a Labour MEP representing London, Johnathan Bartley is co-leader of the Green Party, Catherine West is Labour MP for Hornsey and Wood Green, Ian Dunt is an author editor of and Darren Jones is Labour MP for Bristol North West.

Mr Dance opened the debate by saying: “We won’t get anywhere by lying to the electorate.” As evidence he cited the depreciation of sterling and goods, EU nationals leaving the NHS and companies relocating. “A two year transition gives them time to move.

“We have to be ones to tell the truth. Be honest about the problems linked to Brexit, there is no shift in attitude yet,” Mr Dance said.

Mr Bartley said we have to change attitudes, particularly around migration. He said: “It’s so desperately sad, the whole agenda around migration has been hijacked. The Green Party is an insurgent party, we shift agendas… Both Labour and the Tories have failed with migration, their hostile environment. I have visited Calais, Dunkirk and UK detention centres where instead of welcoming migrants, people are detained indefinitely. You have to say very clearly, ‘no, no, no!’”

Mr Dunt said that Tony Blair could be useful in helping make the case for remain even if some people dislike some of his policies. He said up to 50% of the electorate are soft Brexit or soft Remain voters and these are the people the campaign should target.

Labour MP Ms West said civic education was critical to counter the negative narratives in the right wing press.

Mr Dance said: “How do you change the rules of the club if you leave the club and spent the last six months telling the club it was wrong?”

Panel discussion chaired by Polly Toynbee

Explaining about his roots, Mr Jones said his constituency includes the council estate where he grew up: “Every Friday at surgery it breaks your heart: people stuck in awful housing and nurses going to foodbanks.

“Labour can’t help them in opposition, we need to be in government,” according to Mr Jones.

He said economic prosperity is required to fund the NHS. He thinks people voted leave out of desperation but said: “This self-harm will hurt them the most.”

Linda Dalgleish asked a question about the need to respect the will of the people who voted leave in the referendum.

The message from the EU referendum was clear, Mr Dunt said: “People don’t like the way things are, so they give the whole system a damn good kicking.” Later he said: “We need another referendum, another popular vote. Popular votes are not frozen in time. But people who give easy answers to difficult questions cannot be trusted.”

Since the Scottish independence referendum, Mr Bartley said, people are becoming more politically mature, using YABE campaigning, there are ground for optimism.

Ms West said that EU families are being split up, she said tell their stories to win the arguments.

Peter Harbet from Abingdon asked if European Citizenship would be an option for people left out and unable to work. He said: “If I fall ill in my old age how will I get to my family in Europe?

European citizenship is complex to introduce because most member states don’t want it, according to Mr Dance, and they will see it as yet another benefit for Britain, the country that is leaving.

Ms West said she fears realignment with America and a denial of climate change. She said we need to reframe the debate, giving people the facts about the NHS: “It’s about how we educate people who ignore the wonderful history since the Second World War. We need to teach our own history again. My uncle is buried at Passchendaele. We must reframe the question of fear.”

Mr Jones said: “We must make the emotional, economic case to protect jobs, increase wages and fund public services.”

Partners sponsoring the event included Brighton and Hove for the European Union, Britain for Europe, the European Movement UK and Scientists for the EU.

This article was also published in Brighton and Hove News.

Labour’s rally resembled a pop concert with Jeremy Corbyn as the headline act

Yesterday hundreds of supporters gathered at the Level to hear Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn set out his pitch for a more equal Britain. He outlined his commitment to end austerity, save the NHS, protect refugees and homeless people and bring the railways, water industry and post office back under public control.

But Shadow Chancellor John Mc Donnell opened the rally saying Labour was about hope not fear which appealed to 65% of young people at the last election.

He said Labour offers: “Decent education, education is a gift from one generation to another, not a commodity to be sold off.” He said the Labour Party will scrap tuition fees if they win the next election.

He also said every Tory government tries to get rid of the NHS.

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell

Second to take to the podium was Amal Bidair, a young, Muslim activist originally from Eritrea who was involved in helping people after the fire at Grenfell Tower.

She also campaigns about Police stop and search which unfairly targets BAME people, Islamaphobia and she supports Mr Corbyn’s stance on recognising the state of Palestine. She said Labour made their politics legitimate.

Later Martha Osamore, mother of Kate Osamore who is in Mr Corbyn’s Shadow Cabinet, explained that she came from Nigeria to London in 1963.

In his keynote address, Mr Corbyn said that although Mrs Osamore had many personal problems, she never asked for anything for herself, she talked about her neighbours and community facing racism from the National Front.

Mr Corbyn said: “So many people came together, young and old, black and white.” He said they were stronger for being together.

Mr Corbyn praised the organisers of the Club of Sanctuary for refugees (also known as Brighton Table Tennis Club.) He said the club gives sanctuary, hope and unity to refugees, people with learning difficulties and travellers.

“One fundamental thing is the inequality within our society. The rich majority live at the expense of the poor,” said Mr Corbyn. He criticised the Conservatives because their priority is to stay in office and he ridiculed Prime Minister Theresa May’s “strong and stable” government.

He said the Conservatives will: “Turn this country into an offshore tax haven on the shores of Europe” and he guaranteed to protect the rights of EU nationals living in the UK.

Mr Corbyn reaffirmed Labour’s commitment to an NHS free at the point of need which he described as a basic human right and he criticised the Conservatives for selling off land and services and then taking the profits offshore.

When talking about homeless people in many of Britain’s cities, he said: “They are not the cause of this housing problem, they are the symptom.” He said he was determined to help and to fight for them by building one million more homes and to lobby for proper regulation of the private rented sector.

Returning to foreign policy, he said: “Refugees have human rights. Victims of war have to be supported and wars of the future must be prevented.”

Lucy Anderson-Jones is a lifelong Labour supporter. She said: “I just vote Labour because it is the only way to destroy austerity and support people.

“I don’t want the NHS sold off. My husband had a liver transplant last year. I am part of an American forum where people are dying because they can’t afford the treatment or the transplant. We are not even watching the NHS quietly being sold off.”

She said Tony Blair didn’t listen to people: “It’s easy to encourage people to be generous, he (Mr Blair) was always keen to steal votes from the Conservatives.” On Friday a charity shop gave her a blanket for the homeless person sitting outside.

Lucy Anderson-Jones

Four students from Sussex University explained why they voted Labour. Serena Vaughan who is studying politics, said: “Jeremy Corbyn knows how to access particular (groups of) people.

“The Tories have no policies for young people. Jeremy Corbyn is the first politician that has identified with young people. I shunned politics until I found a politician that is interested.

Helena Bow-Ader said her family were Labour supporters but it was when she went to University and got the right to vote that she began to take a real interest in politics.  She said: “Jeremy Corbyn is so focused on students, he has completely swung me.”

Molly Dawson felt it is important to take an interest. She has always been Labour but joined the party to vote for Jeremy Corbyn before his first leadership election.

Scarlett Walker comes from Worcestershire which is a very conservative area. She has taken a particular interest in politics since she was 16-17. She likes Labour and the Greens.

Students from the University of Sussex

A head teacher from Brighton and Hove who does not want to be named has always voted Labour but is not a confirmed supporter of Mr Corbyn. He said: “I haven’t always tuned into his message without anything else in the way.”

His wife voted Green because she lives in Pavilion constituency. She said: “I am here to see if it (the rally) will change my mind.”

This article was also published in Brighton and Hove News.

New Brighton and Hove wardens tackle business crime

Wardens are being deployed across Sussex to deter and disrupt criminals who are targeting businesses.

Six community guards sponsored by Sainsbury’s and Mitie are now being deployed in Brighton and Hove alongside the current Business Improvement District ambassadors.

The wardens take the task of reporting crime away from businesses, securing physical and digital evidence and preparing statements for Police. Their role has been supported by Sussex Police and the Sussex Police & Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne, who praises this partnership approach to reduce crime and anti-social behaviour.

Business wardens

Mrs Bourne said: “The feedback from business communities about the value and impact of wardens has been excellent.

“It is vital that local organisations and the police work together to reduce business crime and help to create a safe and secure county in which to live and work.

“Because wardens are trained to secure the best physical evidence and take statements, they are helping businesses save time and reducing demands on police. They are also able to provide services beyond security like first aid, counter-terror awareness and emergency planning.”

Nationally business crime accounts for up to 25% of all crime. In Sussex that figure is 19% and Mrs Bourne is keen to encourage more firms to report it so this percentage continues to fall.

Sussex sees 28.3 crimes per 1,000 businesses, putting it 12th from the bottom of all 43 forces across England and Wales. Shoplifting accounts for 45% of all business crime in Sussex while criminal damage is just under a fifth; crimes at a convenience store represent 8.7% of the total number of business crimes.

Since 2015 business and community wardens have been introduced in Hastings, Eastbourne, Littlehampton, Bognor Regis and Haywards Heath. They were initially hired for an 18-month pilot jointly funded by the Home Office and the Southern Co-operative.

The existing business wardens in Sussex have powers to seize alcohol thanks to a community safety accreditation scheme which allows organisations and their employees to be given targeted police powers by the Chief Constable. These powers mean wardens can seize alcohol from under-18s or people drinking in designated spots, deal with begging and request the name and address of someone they believe has committed a relevant offence.

You can read more about the PCC’s activity and sign up for her weekly newsletter here.


Britain must remain “welcoming and compassionate” to defeat terrorists (PM May)

Last Friday 15 September commuters ran from a homemade bomb on a crowded train at Parson’s Green underground station in London. This is the fifth terrorist attack we have faced in the last six months and the fourth in London.

Three of the attacks involved vehicles mowing down pedestrians by lone terrorists but yesterday an IED bomb failed to detonate correctly and most commuters were spared. The explosion caused life-changing burns and a stampede to leave the underground but no deaths. We should be grateful.

Yesterday Prime Minister Theresa May upgraded the risk of a terror attack to critical suggesting another attack may be imminent. An 18 year-old man has been arrested and held at Dover and another man has been apprehended in London.

Mrs May was right to say we need to carry on as normal: if we overreact, the terrorists win. However, ignoring them also means resolutely avoiding the temptation to introduce more draconian anti-terror legislation.

Terrorists attack free people everywhere including Muslims coming out of a mosque most recently at Finsbury Park in June during Ramadan. On this occasion the attack was motivated by Islamaphobia and carried out by Darren Osborne, a white Welshman.

After the Finsbury Park incident Mrs May said: “There has been far too much tolerance of extremism in our country over many years, and that means extremism of any kind including Islamophobia…”

But if the Prime Minister wants to be the protector of our freedom and democracy as well as law and order, she must be careful.

In the same speech Mrs May said it was diversity that made London great: “This is an extraordinary city of extraordinary people, it is home to a multitude of communities that together make London one of the greatest cities on earth, diverse, welcoming, vibrant, compassionate, confident and determined never to give in to hate.” She must hold onto this conviction.

We live in a liberal democracy, not a surveillance society, and this is what we must protect: freedom from terrorists and freedom to live, work and travel around the United Kingdom safely.

Join budding young estate agents at Brighton Metropolitan College to pursue a lucrative career

Brighton Metropolitan College, formerly City College, is the second in the country to offer a new course for estate agents giving young people an advantage when seeking work.

It is a Level 3 business course applied to the property sector which provides formal qualifications, transferable life skills and progression into apprenticeships for young people aged 16 and over. You can still apply to join this course by contacting

The course is unique because it has been designed and led by people in the industry. Chris Sawyer, Director of Sawyer and Co. Estate Agency in Hove met Jan Hytch, partner at Arnold Keys, an estate agency in Norwich who wrote the course for professionals new to the sector. He was interested because he said the industry has a problem with recruitment. For both of them, the purpose of the course is to drive up standards in the industry, create jobs and equip young people with life skills.

Jan Hytch who wrote the course

He said trainees joining the firm are often confined to the back office because it takes a few months for them to master basic protocols. He said: “The course enables them to hit the ground running. A job in an agency is often sink or swim and sometimes if the environment is wrong, it might not work out.”

Mr Sawyer is the dedicated agent liaison person and will provide support as an industry expert by tutoring at college about leasehold properties, enfranchisement and other technical issues. He was also the president of Brighton and Hove Estate Agents Association in 2016.

If estate agents are interested in collaborating, they should contact Jane Miles who is curriculum coordinator at Brighton Metropolitan College to get involved: or Mr Sawyer for sector specific information:

Head of Business and Industry Services at Brighton Metropolitan College, Helen Curtis, said work placements are key: “Students will do a minimum of 30 hours work experience, ideally much more, where they will be inspired and encouraged to get involved.”

She said: “Some vocational courses at the college have tenuous links with employers but in this case we have been working closely with industry from the outset and businesses remain on board. It never happens to have so much support locally” (for a course.)

For several students A-Levels are not the answer and they want a direct route into employment. Others want transferable life skills while they work out their next step.

Day two for students at Brighton MET

Reana Muca is combining the estate agency course with an accounting Level 3 that she started last year. Ms Curtis said this could set her up well if she wanted to become a financial advisor in the property sector. She came to the Brighton MET from BHASVIC to learn skills that will prepare her for work. She said: “I am interested in property and there are always jobs.”

Like Reana, Ricardo Seaman took A-Levels but now wants a practical course. He enrolled because of the qualification in customer service. He used to work at Primark and in a call centre. He said: “I guess I just talk to people and I know how to sell.”

Autumn-Moon Chan-Garvey has already achieved applied law, sociology and psychology A-Levels but she wants to do an apprenticeship rather than going to university. She said she likes the course because it combines knowledge with practical skills and it’s her last year of free education.

Property course tutor Kerry Salkeld became an estate agent in Shoreham because it fitted in with her family commitments. She provides holiday cover at her old firm in the sales team to keep abreast of developments in the industry and brings real-life scenarios to college. She aims to build student’s confidence and give them industry specific knowledge and transferable life skills. She told the class estate agents don’t have to be loud.

Mrs Hytch is former president of the National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA) which is now called Propertymark. She wants to remain in the estate agency business so Propertymark, which accredits the course, is helping her to roll it out across the country.

She said anyone interested in running this course should contact Propertymark’s Head of Qualifications Michael Smith: Rightmove and TDS charitable foundation are also sponsoring the course.

Mrs Hytch wrote the course for professionals working in the industry. Ms Salkeld said her job is to simplify the information so that all students understand what an estate agent does and learn about customer service. They can then make an informed decision about whether the industry is for them. For Ms Curtis and her team, giving students choices and a future is what education is all about.

An edited version of this article has been published by Brighton and Hove News.

Brighton MP condemns immigration proposals as “economically illiterate and plainly cruel.”

Yesterday a Home Office document leaked to the Guardian revealed proposals that a new immigration system will end the right of EU nationals to settle in Britain (free movement) and restrict their rights to bring in family members. Europeans will need to carry temporary biometric residence permits which are a form of ID card.

According to the Guardian, work visas for EU nationals would be limited to two years if they were considered “low skilled” migrants and three to five years if they were “highly skilled.” You can read the full document here.

At this stage, these are proposals only which will have to be agreed by ministers and the EU but they reveal a worrying trend. They are part of a policy to put British residents first.

Brighton MP Caroline Lucas said: “The Government’s post-Brexit immigration crackdown isn’t just economically illiterate, it’s plainly cruel too.

“Ministers know that ending free movement will damage the British economy – yet they are ploughing ahead regardless. Now they’re also planning draconian rules on family members of EU nationals and harsh income requirements too.

“Britain has benefited from freedom of movement and from the enormous contribution of EU nationals.”

To introduce these harsh new migration rules for people coming from the continent is a profound mistake, and one I will be fighting at every turn.”

Caroline Lucas MP

Leader of the Lib Dems Vince Cable said:  “When I was Business Secretary there were up to nine studies that we looked at that took in all the academic evidence.

“It showed that immigration had very little impact on wages or employment. But this was suppressed by the Home Office under Theresa May, because the results were inconvenient.

“I remember it vividly. Overwhelmingly it has been the case that overseas workers have been complimentary rather than competitive to British workers.

“The exodus of trades people, NHS staff and tech industry workers shows the potential damage of an extreme Brexit.”

Paul Chandler, agent for the Brighton and Hove Liberal Democrats backed up Mrs Lucas saying: “This leaked proposal just proves how difficult it will be to find a fair, humane and workable alternative to freedom of movement.

“It’s a truly horrible dog’s dinner of a proposal that will be expensive to administer, widely abused and ineffective.”

Hong Dam and “the Butterfly’s Dream”

Another overcrowded dinghy drifts off Europe’s coastline. Another group of faceless migrants. Are we becoming immune to the suffering felt by those with little choice but to leave their homeland? Hong Dam asked.

In this context Hove artist and sculptor Hong’s work is a timely reminder of the emotional reality of living in exile.

Hong left Vietnam for Hong Kong on a junk in 1978, and did not return until 2012, 34 years later.

She studied fine art sculpture in 1994 but found she was naturally good at visualising in three dimensions.

Hong said: “I found the art world of the West too pretentious and too intangible for me; especially in the 1990s for a refugee girl. I needed to earn a living. Without money you have no status and no pride. I don’t see money as the answer to everything, but we all need it.”

Hong therefore took a masters in computer animation and visualisation at Bournemouth University before working in the special effects section of the film industry. She has been accredited for her work in the films Gladiator, Babe 2 and 10,000 BC.

However, it is since having her children that Hong has documented her own childhood in Vietnam and contrasted it with western industrialisation, using digital imaging techniques.

She said: “Having my own children brought me back to my own childhood. I start to feel that my daughters and I live in two parallel worlds – the contrasts and conflicts of East and West – the wants and needs are so different. I decided to document a visual diary for my two daughters and hopefully they will understand why I am saying no to gadgets and material things.”

Hong’s personal work is a journey of self-discovery, exploring the universal themes of love, loss, separation and hope. She said: “I have tried not to do art, but I always find myself going back to it. The passing of my father last year has made me realise that life is impermanent and intangible, perhaps what I am doing is documenting a small part of history, of many unsung heroes who sacrificed for their loved ones unconditionally in times of adversity.”

She has produced a painting called the “Promised Land” where she superimposes images on top of each other in layers. The painting has a turbulent skyscape, a dragon, a combination of the ramparts from the Great Wall of China and Hadrian’s Wall with the rushes of Vietnam.

In the foreground is London, the Gherkin and BT Tower are clearly visible but Hong has superimposed one of her sculptures and an image from Earnest Haeckel. She has added an alien dimension because this is how she feels. She said: “As a refugee, I am always searching for the promised land.” Hong’s late father was Chinese, making the dragon an important symbol in her art: she is a child of the dragon.

Hong layers digital images to create her art

She left Vietnam in 1978 and did not return until 2012, 34 years later. Hong spoke of the iconic image of the girl running naked and without clothes along the road during the Vietnam War. She said: “I recognise it and it made me shiver.”

Some of her art contains explosions and bombs but she said: “When there is destruction, there is new life. People had to start again. There is always a positive among even negative events.” In January 2013 Hong Dam wrote a visual diary called “Dreaming of Home.”

Scenes of the West are often dark and polluted, contrasting with the lush purity of nature in Vietnam, particularly in the painting “Childhood Memories.” Yet Vietnam has also now developed and is no longer the place of Hong’s childhood.

In her own words Hong describes her most recent work: “Trapped between the invisible glass of a fragile, expensive bottle; wanting to break free. The sea, the sky merged into one; a big crash of explosion forces the migration of 1000s of butterflies. A message in a bottle drifting across derelict lands in search of a new life. Change, adapt I will – in order to survive.”

“The Butterfly’s Dream is about a little girl living in a fragile world, that is, the glass bottle, the changes and adaptations she has to make after migrating. The fragile beauty of the perfume bottle versus the ordinary lives of another world: two parallel worlds of East and West.”

A woman is cocooned in a perfume bottle but an explosion shows it is not safe

The perfume bottle is significant because Hong said: “In the West women are conditioned to feel less capable. Some women feel fragile. In poor countries women do everything. There is a limitation here.” She said that in the film industry in 1990 men and women would do the same job but they would not get the same pay.

She thinks the conditioning is ingrained and asked: “Was it really worth the price?” Hong said there is a perception of worth and a vanity about being beautiful and elegant among western women. She thinks women use this to their advantage.

Hong’s mother blew up rocks and then shovelled them onto a truck in Vietnam. The rocks were then made into tarmac. Conditioning means that western women put limitations on themselves.

To conclude Hong said: “I always see the sky as the limit. It is how determined you are that matters, even if you don’t get there, you get further than you would if you didn’t have that dream. We should continue to dream, be content with the love, do not be afraid to dream but understand the present, the people you love where you are.”

Opinion: “Islam is the guarantee of security in the world” (Caliph)

On a cold, wet July day I joined the international Ahmadiyya Community to discuss peace, justice and security while wading through mud in our wellies at East Worldham (previously Oaklands Farm.) The event was the Ahmadi Muslim’s annual convention known as the “Jalsa Salana.” Unsure what to expect, I set off on an adventure.

My first stop was lunch masterminded by Head Chef Rafi Shah who produced 300,000 meals for 38,000 people. Chefs worked around the clock, making 10,000 chapattis per hour and using three tonnes of rice and nine tonnes of meat. Volunteers, 5000 of them, made this event great.

I witnessed a reunion of two old friends, Councillor Mukesh Malhotra, Deputy Mayor of Hounslow and Asif Ali Parvez. “Mr Parvez runs the marriage bureau, he is our very own love professor”, Councillor Malhotra joked. This means he makes introductions and helps families to resolve disputes. But seriously, I was told, in South Asian culture, a marriage is between two families.

Councillor Mukesh Malhotra, Mayor of Hounslow and Asif Ali Parvez

At 6pm I headed over to the Voice of Islam studio to take part in a fascinating live discussion about representations of Islam in the media and literature.

Sunday was a day of prayer and the mood was more sombre.

Delegates pledged allegiance to the peaceful teachings of Islam under the guidance of the Caliph Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad who is the worldwide head of the Ahmadiyya Community. They made a century-old pledge of peace and loyalty and formed a human chain.

Pledge of allegiance

Islam is the guarantee of security in the world, the Caliph told delegates. Without exception, without any discrimination, all of the people are equal. It’s when people think they are superior, that they disturb the peace.

As a Christian, I was struck by this message of peace and reconciliation. In our secular society the temptation for the media is to turn to religions for a negative comment. But these journalists are missing a trick.

Editors should not be afraid to publish good news stories about religions that promote peace and human rights.

In an age of global insecurity and terrorism, spiritual leaders may have the answer and the reach as they urge people to pray for peace and to respect one another.

The Caliph told us there is no superiority as a human being. A white person is not superior to a black person, nor is a black person superior to a white.

He said it is when people think they are superior, that they disturb the peace of the world. Lawlessness comes from a feeling of inferiority. Terrorists may take God’s name in vain, and they are not the only ones to do so, but they act in their own strength, cut off from God.

“Love for all, hatred for none” is the Ahmadi motto.

Some sects of Islam do not recognise Ahmadi Muslims because Ahmadis believe the awaited Messiah has already come: Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1835-1908) of Qadian, India.

Ahmadi Muslims condemn violence and pledge to be “servants of humanity” at their Jalsa convention

Ahmadi Muslims poured into Oaklands Farm in Hampshire in their thousands for the biggest annual Muslim convention in Britain called the “Jalsa Salana” last weekend.

Fifth Caliph and Worldwide Head of the community, His Holiness Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad reminded his community that peace, brotherhood and loyalty to one’s country are the essence of Islam. He explained that Muslims should respect people of other religions and none because God loves all nations equally and no nation or group is superior.

Delegates then pledged allegiance to the peaceful teachings of Islam under the guidance of the Caliph.

Ahmadi Muslims form a human chain and take a vow of peace, obedience and loyalty

During the weekend, delegates were reminded of the words of the Quran: “Whosoever kills an innocent human being, it shall be as if he has killed all mankind, and whosoever saves the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind.” Qu’ran 5:32

Barrister and QC Karim Khan explained what this means in practice. He said: “The divisions (in society) are artificial, we are bound together by that uniting “love for all hatred for none” (the Ahmadi motto). This is not an abstract concept. A smile is charity. You don’t need to be rich to be kind.”

He said the Prophet of Islam taught us to be kind to humanity because we are like servants of humanity. “How does the community manifest its love for God?” he asked. “By showing compassion and kindness regardless of religion, class and colour. That is the unifying message.”

Behind the scenes, 5,000 volunteers worked to make sure the event ran smoothly including Head Chef Rafi Shah who produced 300,000 meals for 38,000 people. Chefs worked around the clock, making 10,000 chapattis per hour and they used three tonnes of rice and nine tonnes of meat.

A special kitchen to make chapattis

Mayor of Waverley Simon Inchball attended the convention for the first time this year. He said the organisation was extraordinary and praised the Humanity First tent in particular. He said: “I had no idea that they were involved in so many areas (around the world.) “They want to put their hand to helping others. It has been a very inspirational visit.”

Councillor Marsie Skeete, who is the Mayor of Merton, came to the convention with her consort, Yeuton Crandon. She said: “It is very beautiful that we work closely with the Ahmadi Muslims. They are helping to fund, organise and publicise our peace walk on 17 September this year. At this convention, they preach a lot about peace.

“The togetherness that the Ahmadis bring into our lives is amazing. They don’t look at creed, colour, race or religion or anything. The highlight of my year is going to the peace symposium. I love the food but it is just the togetherness that is so special.”

Chris Thompson is the Community Sergeant in charge from Hampshire Police. He said it was a brilliant event that was exceptionally safe and well run.

Chris Thompson with a few of his team

Major Frankie Howell and Colour Seargant Phillip Eeren from the army came to experience the culture and to help people understand what the army has to offer. For example, during recent floods, Major Howell said the army were the first people on the scene and their vehicles are often deployed to help people in need. He said in the Welsh regiment they now have 22 Muslim soldiers.

Kaylie Smith from Basingstoke is a trainee RE teacher who came to the Jalsa with her son, Jackson. She said the convention was larger than she expected and she liked the open sense of community.

National President, Rafiq Hayat said: “Attending the convention strengthens our faith in God and our ties of kinship and fraternity. The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community instils a strong sense of community, family and respect for wider society from a young age.

“Our children are raised with the understanding that ‘Love for All, Hatred for None’ is not just a motto, but a way of life and that is how we have successfully shunned all forms of extremism and will continue to do so. The call of the day is to be of service to our communities and as members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, we will exert every effort to be exemplary role models within society.”

Harry van Bommel was an MP in the Netherlands for nineteen years and spokesperson for foreign affairs. He said: “I am worried. We see a world moving in a different direction with violent extremism, governments acting in the wrong way, tension building up not reducing and enhancing this extremism.” However he welcomed the theme of this year’s convention which is peace and justice, saying it is exactly what is needed.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, Minister of State for Commonwealth and the UN, including human rights, has been a member of the Ahmadiyya Community all his life. He said: “The flag of the community is side by side with the UK flag. It is part of your DNA to be responsible, there is no conflict between faith, community and devotion and dedication to the country. The UK is the best place to be a Christian etc. or a person of no faith. We need to protect that, protect other faiths.”

Ahmadi Muslims came to the convention from 100 countries

Guests came from many different faiths and countries including the Sikh Community, the All Faiths Network, Scientology and Mr Muhammad Sharif Odeh who is the head of the Ahmadiyya Community in Israel and Palestine.

Jane Donnelly from Atheist Ireland said they had formed an alliance with the Ahamdiyya Community because they are all minorities in Ireland fighting for religious freedom. Jim Shannon MP from the Democratic Unionist Party commended the Ahmadi Muslims for giving a voice to the voiceless. Eamon O’Cuiv is an MP from the Fianna Fail Party in the Republic of Ireland. He said: “The commitment to peace is something I very much relate to and their (Ahmadi Muslims) openness to dialogue with all religions.” He said he liked the very strong friendships forged at the Jalsa.

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is the only Islamic organization to believe that the long- awaited messiah has come in the person of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1835-1908) of Qadian, India. Ahmad claimed to be the metaphorical second coming of Jesus of Nazareth and the divine guide, whose advent was foretold by the Prophet of Islam, Muhammad. The Community believes that God sent Ahmad, like Jesus, to end religious wars, condemn bloodshed and reinstitute morality, justice and peace. Ahmad vigorously championed Islam’s true and essential teachings of peace and self-reformation.

You can find out more about the Ahmadiyya Community in the UK here or by tuning into Voice of Islam Radio and by following events on social media @jalsaUK or #jalsaUK.

Delegates gathered to pray for peace ahead of the Caliph’s keynote speech

Car crash survivor vows to beat pain to complete Brighton Color Run

A man who developed complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) after a car crash has vowed to beat his disability and complete the Brighton Color Run.

Martin Leppard will lead a team of people with the disabling syndrome – the Brighton CRPS Warriors – as they walk the five kilometres along Brighton seafront in September.

The Color Run – imported from America, complete with the American spelling – claims to be the original, largest and most unique event of its kind.

Thousands of “Color Runners” start the day in a special edition white t-shirt before getting covered from head to toe in a rainbow of colours at the four Color Zones and the new Foam Zone as they run five kilometres to celebrate health, happiness and friendship.

Fundraising for the run is already under way.

Warriors who battle disability suffering from the syndrome will not only walk along the Maeira Drive route to raise money but also to raise awareness of their condition.

Mr Leppard was left with greatly reduced mobility when he developed the syndrome after a car accident in January 2013.

He said: “In the space of two weeks, I went from running 10k a week to being unable to get from one end of my bungalow to the other.”

Despite his reduced mobility, Mr Leppard is determined to complete the 5k challenge in September.

He said: “It was something I wanted to do before my accident. I decided that it would be my personal challenge for 2017.

“I’m hoping to raise 50p per metre and I’ll get to the finish line if it kills me!”

He was involved with Color Run before his accident as an event manager but reluctantly had to withdraw from the hands-on organisation afterwards.

His involvement with the run over many years has made him even more determined to complete it.

Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) is a condition that causes severe pain which won’t go away.

It usually affects just one arm or leg and often follows an earlier injury to the limb. Most commonly it affects the hand and wrist, foot and ankle or knee, although sometimes the entire leg or arm can be affected.

The body’s reaction to the injury is much stronger than usual and may spread.

Anyone can be affected by CRPS, including children.

Mr Leppard will be accompanied by his friends and family who make up the Brighton CRPS Warriors and the team will be taking part on Saturday 23 September. To sponsor them, click here.

This article was first published in Brighton and Hove News.

Hidden cost of Brexit and the impact on the NHS (radio interview)

EU nationals working in the NHS and other industries or for themselves have not been guaranteed the right to remain in the UK.

For those of you who don’t have time to listen to the podcast, here is  a rough idea of what I said about the central question:

I think Brexit is very dangerous because it feeds xenophobia. The government needs to measure, statistically, the income generated by migrants, specifically those from the EU, working in the NHS to understand the true value of their contribution. We need to reframe the debate. All the statistics I could find concentrate on how much EU nationals cost the NHS and if any of this money is recouped.

In making the case for freedom of movement, data urgently needs to be collected about how much money is generated for the NHS and the British economy by EU nationals. The fact that the government is importing GPs from Europe and beyond suggests that EU nationals are voting with their feet and leaving the UK. The governments needs to acknowledge this, apologise and take steps to prevent an even greater exodus of highly trained NHS staff that the government will then need to replace.

A lot of the debate about Brexit has focused on economic arguments. While these are important we saw last winter that the NHS is already stretched to breaking point in the winter and hardly coping. Clearly if 25,000 EU staff leave, the crisis will become acute and it will take time for new staff to be recruited. It is these arguments that people need to hear: that their access to hospital care and GPs may be limited which could be life-threatening. This is the reality that frontline NHS staff battle every day, staff shortages and increasing demand on services.

You can also read my blog about a gathering of EU nationals #onedaywithoutus here describing both their contribution and pain since the EU referendum. It explains in their own words, how EU nationals feel about Brexit and its impact. It is in the February archive of this blog.

The full drive time programme is available as a podcast here.

God Weeps

In my quieter moments in my safe place (home) or my mother’s magnificent garden, I can reflect on the evil and towering rage that consumes my mind – aggrieved, hurt and unable to connect with the divine. Perhaps this is how the relatives of the families, including children, lost in an unnecessary inferno at Grenfell Tower, feel. Bereft, beyond grief, blind, white rage that, if allowed to take root, will destroy them from the inside like a cancer.

And then added to the people, eighty known to the authorities, who lost their lives in Grenfell Tower, there is the multitude at silent prayer in Finsbury Park in the very early morning. ‘My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD’ (Isaiah 55:8).

These are the words God speaks as he watches the Moslems praying by the side of the man mown down outside a mosque in London. God sits on his hands and weeps.

A man filled with hatred saw another man in difficulty and mounted the pavement in a cowardly copycat attack. This attack underlines the fact that terrorists are not Muslim, any more than they are Christian or atheists. Their mantra is to destroy and they know nothing of a God who invites us to wonder at the splendour of his universe which embodies his glory.

God speaks through the splendour of nature but also through the peaceful co-existence of many races living humble yet devout lives in Grenfell Tower and many other high-rise blocks across the land. People content to live in Britain silently accepting the drop in status, wages and class that migration from the developing world normally entails.

God’s glory shines a light into darkness and he chooses to spend his time with the poor and the oppressed, not with government or politicians. Perhaps we should do likewise. After all, we are his hands and feet.

And it’s the ordinary acts of kindness that touched the hearts of the bereaved, momentary solace in the abyss for many but also, I hope, the courage to carry on.

Secret NHS cost-cutting plans revealed and Brighton’s hospital trust could lose up to 436 EU staff because of Brexit

Brighton’s hospital trust is under threat according to the Health Service Journal. Senior NHS officials have been told by the Conservatives to cut spending by closing wards and services, extending waiting times and stopping some medical treatments.

A controversial “capped expenditure process” is being discussed privately between top officials from NHS England and NHS Improvement and health managers in 14 areas of the country with the highest levels of overspending.

Surrey and Sussex is one of the NHS areas accused of overspending and told to think the “unthinkable.”

According to the Health Service Journal (HSJ) on Monday 05 June: “The principle of the process, introduced this year, is to ‘cap’ NHS spending in the targeted areas so that they meet ‘control total’ budgets in 2017-18.”

“The programme comes amid the longest ever sustained squeeze on the NHS budget, and with lower spending growth in 2017-18 than last year. These areas (14 including Surrey and Sussex) report gaps between plans and targets running into hundreds of millions of pounds, but NHSE and NHSI have not made public the total national gap.”

For this reason, Surrey and Sussex’s Brighton hospital campus could face even more ward closures, operations’ caps, longer waiting times, reductions in medical treatments, downgrading services like maternity and A&E, selling land and stopping prescriptions because of budget cuts.

Brighton and Sussex Universities Hospital Trust was placed in special measures when it declared a financial deficit of £60 million last October and is expected to end the year with a deficit of £60 to £70 billion. On 25 April this year, 42 inspectors from the Care Quality Commission (CQC), the healthcare watchdog, returned to the trust for three days.

Earlier in April Marianne Griffiths took over running the trust along with a team from Western Sussex Hospitals. She was appointed because the challenges that she had overcome merging St Richard’s, in Chichester, with Worthing and Southlands to form Western and dealing with a £21 million deficit meant that she had relevant experience. Western Sussex Hospitals is one of only five acute hospital trusts to be rated outstanding by CQC.

Mrs Griffiths said that she had agreed a breathing space with regulators and one monthly monitoring meeting to assess progress.

If you sign up as a guest member to the Health Service Journal, you can read the full article here.

Added to their financial problems, the Lib Dems warn the NHS in Brighton could lose up to 436 staff from the EU because of Theresa May’s extreme version of Brexit including 61 doctors and 171 nurses.  Over half of all doctors and 42% of nurses from the EU are considering leaving because of Brexit, according to recent research published on Dispatches in March this year.

Channel Four reported that Conservative plans would create a £4.5m bill to re-hire local doctors and nurses and other support workers in the NHS from the EU after 2019. Theresa May plans to double the ‘immigration skills charge’ to £2000 per year for each doctor, nurse and health worker brought into the NHS or any other company from abroad by 2022.

Full figures on the number of EU nationals by local NHS trust and estimates of those considering leaving the UK because of Brexit can be found in the Channel 4 Survey for Dispatches in March this year.

Projected cost of £4.36 million to pay immigration skills charge for 5 years when 40% of EU nationals (436) may leave based on Channel 4 dispatches survey (13 March 2017)

In their manifesto, Lib Dems will immediately guarantee the rights of all EU nationals working in the NHS and social care and commit to add a penny on income tax for the basic, higher and additional rates of income tax. They want to raise enough money to protect the NHS. You can read about the Lib Dem plans for the NHS and social care workforce here.Liberal Democrats have called for an immediate guarantee that all EU nationals in the UK, including those working in the NHS and social care, can stay after Brexit.

Emily Tester, Lib Dem candidate for Brighton Kemptown said: “Hospitals in our city depend on doctors, nurses and other support staff from the EU. But many are now planning to leave because of the uncertainty caused by Brexit.

“We must guarantee their rights to stay here immediately to prevent a damaging exodus of these skilled and hard-working people. Our NHS, and the care we all rely on, would suffer without them.”


Lib Dem Parliamentary Candidate for Kemptown Emily Tester


Labour will raise £30 billion for the NHS nationally by increasing income tax for the highest 5% of taxpayers earning £80,000 or more per year. (Media presenters have expressed concern about likely tax evasion by high earners and questions whether Labour will manage to raise £30 billion.)

Like the Lib Dems, the Green Party will introduce an “NHS Tax”, earmarked to increase direct funding of the NHS as part of general income and other taxation.

Conservatives have only committed to a ‘real terms’ increase of only £8 billion in their manifesto in the next Parliament until 2022 which was the minimum expenditure recommended by the King’s Fund at the last 2015 election. (See page 66 of the Conservative manifesto.)

Brighton Labour supporters turn out in force in support of the many not the few

A long queue of Labour supporters assembled yesterday to hear Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour Party, live-streamed from Birmingham with Brighton Parliamentary candidates centre stage at the Synergy Centre at 6pm yesterday.

First speaker to take the to the podium was Brighton Pavilion candidate, Solomon Curtis, who said people have empowered politics and argued that it was the Labour Party who would form a strong and stable government with less austerity, more teachers, more nurses and a future for young people.

He said: “Come home, come back to Labour. It has always been the people in the Labour Party that make it great… If you want to live next to a black person, vote Labour.” Mr Curtis said he was feeling the spirit of 1945 and rallied the crowds with the words: “Brighton, solidarity!”

Brighton Pavilion Candidate Solomon Curtis

Brighton Kemptown candidate, Lloyd Russell-Moyle, took to the stage next and predicted a Labour victory in Kemptown. He said Labour must save the NHS in Brighton which is in special measures. He said healthcare must be free at the point of delivery and private companies should be kicked out.

He criticised cuts to school budgets which affected special needs children and a predominantly female workforce. Mr Russell-Moyle said 10% of Brighton and Hove’s population are on a housing waiting list and this city has the second highest homeless population in Britain. Labour has promised they will build one million council houses for Britain.

He said there was a simple choice: a Britain spiralling into despair or a Britain with an economy that grows not just for the very rich, but for everyone. He urged supporters to spend today and tomorrow (polling day) with their Labour family.

First-time voter Farah Alice Black spoke and explained that she became interested in politics after her youth centre came under threat of closure.

She said: “We will not let Theresa May be the Mrs Thatcher of my generation.”

She said she would be voting for Jeremy Corbyn and encouraged supporters to take heart that they have, in Mr Corbyn, a politician for the people even if the TV and media hate him.

Shadow Secretary of State for International Trade Barry Gardiner said in response to recent terror attacks: “We are united in solidarity, love, love for life and nowhere expresses that better than Brighton. Brighton knows about solidarity, coming together of people of all genders, races, colours, religions, gay, transsexual and straight people.” He criticised Mrs May for pitting the young against the old and for promoting tax giveaways for the richest.

Mr Corbyn urged voters to vote Labour because the party will fight for an NHS free at the point of use which is a fundamental human right, address unrequited ambition in young people by empowering them and reduce the great gap between rich and poor.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn live from Birmingham

Music was provided by Brighton’s DJ Enzo Siffredi, long-time Labour supporter and singer-songwriter Robb Johnson and folk singer Sam Lee at the Brighton event last night.

A retired head teacher from Comart in Whitehawk is now the founder of the “teach a friend to read” campaign. She said: “Like all my friends and anybody I am close to, like anyone who cares about society and future of the planet, we’re all passionate about Jeremy Corbyn and his team.

“He is gaining power to make the world a better place. If the Tories win the election, it doesn’t matter because young people will just take over, having all the brainpower, IT and heart at their disposal. Either way, now is our time and our moment. The good guys are going to win.”

Jess Reilly wanted to show solidarity with Labour and planned to put a bet on Mr Corbyn winning, she was not a Labour Party member until Mr Corbyn became leader.

While the rally was mainly Labour Party members, some people were voting tactically.

Bethan Hudson, aged 23, supports the progressive alliance. She is training as a counsellor and working full-time. She said Mr Corbyn had a very different outlook and his approach with a costed manifesto compared well to the Conservative one which, she said, just supported the wealthy.

She said: “Prime Minister Theresa May going back on the dementia tax and social care shows how her government is not strong or stable.”

David Hudson who is a videographer said he would be voting for the Green Party because he lived in Brighton Pavilion. He said: “That is not to say I don’t wholeheartedly support Jeremy, I support the Labour Party and specific politicians. The Greens have fantastic policies, if there is a hung parliament, the Green Party have much in line with Labour and their manifesto.”

Bethan and David Hudson, Jess Reilly and Sophie White

Sophie White from Hove said she will vote for Labour’s Peter Kyle. She said, in Hove, Labour have the best chance of being re-elected. She said: “I like the Green Party and their values but I also support Labour so they have got my vote.”

If you are a voter who does not feel represented in your constituency, you can vote tactically against Brexit here to support Gina Miller’s cross-party campaign.

Alternatively, you can swap your vote  with a voter in a different constituency where your party is stronger and more likely to win so that your vote makes more of a difference.

You must arrange swapping your vote before 10pm today and use social media to verify your identity. You need to confirm that you are a real person and give the person you swap with an idea of your political preferences and convictions. Effectively, you should then be able to help two parties you like win, rather than just one which may be a minority party where you live.

However, be warned, you can’t necessarily choose the constituency of the person you swap with at this election, only the party. The tool may become more sophisticated in future elections.

Shadow Secretary of State for International Trade Barry Gardiner

Teachers send out an SOS to save schools across Brighton and Hove

Save Our Schools (SOS) Brighton and Hove organised a school assembly rally in the sunshine at the Level yesterday and Brighton MP Caroline Lucas was the first to take to the podium.

She applauded the work of hard-working teachers across Brighton and Hove, thanking them for their hard work, dedication and courage.

However, Mrs Lucas criticised the Conservative government for a real-terms fall in pupil funding because of a projected increase in pupil numbers.

She said: “In real-terms, there is still a three percent per pupil funding cut between now and 2021-22 when you allow for the expected increase in pupil numbers. The schools budget needs to increase, not be cut.

And it needs to increase by between six to seven billion pounds according to the Association of School and College Leaders.”

Caroline Lucas at Save Our Schools rally

Save our Schools estimate a cut of £487 or £193,425 per school in Brighton and Hove by the next election in 2022 if cuts continue at the present rate. For secondary schools the national figures is much higher: £378,298 suggesting that cuts to secondary schools are offset by smaller cuts to primary schools.

Mrs Lucas also criticised Conservative plans to scrap free lunches and replace them with (cheaper) free breakfasts which she said, is to give with one hand and take with the other. She said the Conservative manifesto reads like Oliver Twist.

Defending Conservative education policy, Prime Minister Theresa May said the dedicated schools grant: “is at its highest on record at more than £40 billion in 2016 to 2017 and is set to rise to £42 billion in 2019 to 2020, with increasing pupil numbers.”


According to Sandra McNally, Professor in the School of Economics at the University of Surrey, Conservative figures are misleading. This is because the “per pupil figure” was frozen between 2010 and 2011 and again between 2015 and 2016.

She argues that an increase in the core funding for schools is not the same as an increase in the amount per pupil. A freeze in cash terms is likely to result in a reduction in real-terms of 6.5% between 2010 and 2020. This reduction has not happened yet and school funding has doubled in the last 20 years.

If you want to check the figures, you can search for your child’s school on the school cuts website here.

Chair of Governors Marisol Smith said that the cut to funding at Moulsecoomb Primary means 40% of their children can’t go away for five days towards the end of Year 6 because the school can’t subsidise the children anymore.

It also means the school has had to make their counsellor redundant, leaving vulnerable children to join the waiting list for CAMHS while their mental health deteriorates.

Mrs Smith explained that extending free school meals means there is now no easy way to check eligibility for the pupil premium. She said: “We now have an administrative nightmare. A large proportion of our pupils are from deprived areas. Extending free school meals has had a perverse effect on our budgets. We used to have an easy way of checking eligibility.”

She said it was often a challenge to get parents to apply for free school meals but when they did, that provided the evidence for the pupil premium.

Solomon Curtis, Labour Candidate for Brighton Pavilion, said: “We have to seriously make sure we have the right policies: 37.5% of the population is under 30 years old but only 2% of MPs are. No wonder we’ve seen cuts, no-one in Parliament is standing up for us.”

Labour Candidate for Kemptown Lloyd Russell-Moyle said: “I will not sit down, I’ll not wait a second to attack this government. They have cut school funding because this government hates education for all, they only care about education for the richest.

Do not be intimidated by people who tell you we can’t afford to fund education. Keep on with the struggle because failure cannot be an option.”

Solomon Curtis with Councillor Tracey Hill

Lib Dem Candidate Emily Tester who was sitting exams yesterday at LSE said: “Lib Dems would reverse the £3 billion funding cuts and protect per-pupil funding in real-terms. In addition, we’d lift a £4 billion investment to lift the pay freeze on teacher’s salaries, give more free school meals and triple the early years’ pupil premium to £1000 for a fairer start in life.”

This article was first published in Brighton and Hove News.

Hummingbirds encourage Brighton to stand together in the face of terrorism

Brighton MP Caroline Lucas spoke words of comfort at a rally to remember those injured by the Manchester terror attack. In the face of carnage, she described her shock, desperate sadness, anger and heartache and paid tribute to all who had helped those wounded and dying.

Hummingbird, a community of refugee campaigners, organised a rally at St Bartholomew’s House last Wednesday 24 May to remember the 144 people who were killed or injured in Monday’s terrorist attack.

Mrs Lucas said: “Tonight we too are defiant and we are strong.

“In honour of all those who have lost their lives at the hand of terrorists, we will not give in to fear. We will live our lives. We will meet our friends for the evening at Brighton Festival, walk on the beach, check in on our neighbours and play with our children.

“And perhaps most importantly of all, we will not point fingers of blame nor will we retreat behind our differences.

“Thank you to Hummingbird for bringing us together this evening.

“We may struggle to find the words for how we feel right now but we have found one another.

“And thank you all for being the very best of humankind with your love, your light and with your hope.”

Caroline Lucas addresses rally

Immam Usman from Brighton’s Al Madina Mosque in Bedford Place quoted Persian Poet Saadi saying that human beings come from the same source and are one family who share each other’s pain. In response to the targeted attack, he quoted a blood donor from Manchester who said:

“They want to turn us against our neighbours and it’ll never happen. Not here.”

Like many, Mr Usman said: “I hope and believe that people here in Brighton and Hove would react in the same way, knowing as Jo Cox famously said, that we have more in common than that which divides us.

“We need to stand together and fight the things that might divide us: poverty, isolation, scapegoating.”

Mr Usman encouraged people to follow in the footsteps of Mancunian Poet Tony Walsh and “choose love.”

#WeStandTogether rally

Labour Councillor Emma Daniels who is lead member for communities and equalities at Brighton & Hove Council said: “Our resolve must be to show defiant love in the face of hate. To refuse to stop loving, to stop dancing, to stop laughing.

“To love defiantly means also to be watchful and help people who may be targeted in the wake of this attack too. People who are Muslim are no more responsible for this attack than I am for the murder of Jo Cox.

“You cannot make sense of a senseless act of murder but we can fight back with love and remember Jo Cox’s words which murder could not silence: ‘We have more in common than that which divides us.’

“I am inspired by the simple yet beautifully radical act of our staff this morning in playing ‘the Stone Roses’ in our library.

“Turn your music up people and love defiantly.”

Elaine Ortiz from Hummingbird and Alex Davidson from the Trade Union Council also spoke.

Alexander Davidson, Manchester TUC

Monday’s attack took place on the anniversary of the death of soldier Lee Rigby who was hacked to death on a London street four years ago.

After the rally, Brighton and Hove’s Christian community held two reflective vigils at St Luke’s Church on Old Shoreham Road and Hove Methodist Church on Portland Road.

Snapshot of electoral alliances in Brighton and Hove and across Sussex in marginal seats

Parliamentary candidates had until yesterday to withdraw from their selection to become MPs if they forged electoral alliances.

Here is the line-up of candidates and those who have stood aside across Sussex in 08 June’s general election.

In Brighton Kemptown, Conservative incumbent Simon Kirby is standing for re-election with a majority of 690 votes. Green Party Candidate Davy Jones stood aside in support of Labour’s candidate, Councillor Lloyd Russell-Moyle (East Brighton.) UKIP has stood aside in Brighton Kemptown to boost Mr Kirby’s chances of retaining his seat. Lib Dems have not and are fielding Emily Tester as their candidate.

In Brighton Pavilion, Lib Dem’s Paul Chandler stood aside because he did not want to split the vote and feared a Conservative gain. Mrs Lucas has a comfortable majority of 7,967 votes. Lib Dems may have had more impact if they had stood aside in Brighton Kemptown because it is marginal. However, Caroline Lucas is arguably the strongest candidate in Brighton and Hove, if not across Sussex, so Lib Dem members decided to support her.

In Hove Labour’s Peter Kyle is defending his seat with a majority of 1,236 votes primarily against the Conservative Party. Mr Kyle enjoyed a swing of +9.3 to win 42% of the vote compared with +3.2% and 40% share for the Conservatives.  Hove is slightly less marginal than other Sussex parliamentary seats.

In Eastbourne, Conservative Caroline Ansell beat Lib Dem Stephen Lloyd by 733 votes. UKIP are not fielding a candidate. Instead they are asking their voters to support Ms Ansell.

UKIP are standing aside in Lewes in support of Maria Caulfield because of the threat posed by Lib Dem Kelly Marie-Blundell who is standing in place of Norman Baker. Mr Baker lost his seat at the last election to Ms Caulfield who was elected with a majority of 1,083.

Green and Labour candidates have formed an alliance to defeat Conservative Amber Rudd who was the sitting MP and is Prime Minister Theresa May’s Home Secretary until the election was called. The Green Party is not fielding a candidate. Mrs Rudd has a majority of 4,796 votes so it is unlikely that the progressive alliance will work there. But Mrs Rudd is a key player in the conservative government and therefore a target seat for opposition parties.

Worthing East and Shoreham is basically a safe Conservative seat held by Tim Loughton with 50% share of the vote but a full slate of candidates are standing against him. Most famous among Mr Loughton’s opponents is Sophie Cook, Latest TV presenter.

Parliamentary candidates have 18 days to battle for election and win the argument on the doorsteps.

As for the technicalities, polls will open at 7am on Thursday 08 June and close at 10pm.

If you are not registered to vote, you will need to register with the electoral roll online by tomorrow, Monday 22 May, to be able to vote in the general election. You can register to vote online here. Please note you can still not cast your vote online.

In England, Scotland and Wales, the deadline to apply t o vote by post at the UK general election on Thursday 8 June is 5pm this Tuesday 23 May.

If you would like to nominate a named person to vote on your behalf, you can vote by proxy here.

Brexit opponents make music and mayhem in Hove’s George Street party

Music and mayhem will be the rhythm of the day in a street party at George Street between 12:30 and 2:30pm today. Peter Cook is using music as a vehicle for social change and urges people of all political parties and none to oppose Brexit.

You can join the Brighton and Hove for Europe Facebook group here.

Mr Cook’s street party is being held in the name of democracy, he said: “Democracy relies on a vibrant opposition and that the voice of the people be heard.

“These things have been sadly lacking on all sides in recent years, having handed our futures over to media giants. It’s time to restore the balance for the good of all and our children. Whatever your views on politics, come and have a beer and a chat with us.”

He is part of a movement to stop Brexit called “No 10 Downing Street Vigil” where he spends most of his time when not touring the UK. He has been featured on BBC’s Sunday Politics show and the One Show as well as in most national newspapers.

Mr Cook founded Human Dynamics that gives masterclasses in creativity and innovation and he has written a book. He also runs the Academy of Rock which was largely a tribute band until he found his voice since the EU referendum.

He said he has climbed out of the gutter in Medway (his words not mine) to forge a career in industry, academia and as a self-employed businessman. He won a prize from Richard Branson after his 45 year-old mother and 67 year-old father claimed his birth was a virgin birth. Actually, his parents had more in common with Sarah and Abraham.

Come to the street party in George Street if it tickles your fancy. After all Brexit is not going away.

An edited version of this article was published in Brighton and Hove News.