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Honeyball’s Weekly Round Up

The Tory Chancellor, George Osborne, outlined another swathe of cuts to benefits (slashing the benefits cap to £20,000 per year) per house hold for those living outside London.

Osborne also promised big cuts to the BBC’s £650mn licence fee during the same interview with the BBC’s Andrew Marr.

But it was leaked documents (which were revealed last week) that have caused most controversy. The documents, sent to the BBC, revealed that government is considering making cuts to some disability benefits. The leaked paper written before the election found that claimants of sickness benefit could be moved to jobseekers allowance, which is a cut of £30 per week.

Labour has never denied that sensible cuts would be necessary but it would not leave vulnerable people without support. But the same cannot be said for the current government. As the Guardian reminded us last week: “In March, the supreme court found that the government’s current benefit cap had left claimants at risk of being unable to house, feed or clothe their families, putting it in breach of the UK’s obligations under the UN convention on the rights of the child.”

Osborne’s planned cuts will be particularly hard for those living just outside of greater London where the cost of living is still extremely high. Overall some 90,000 households are expected to be affected in some way. You can read more here.

Preparing to return to Oslo, where she received her Nobel Peace Prize last year, Malala Yousafzai has written of the honour she felt when she was presented with the Nobel Prize.

She is returning to address the Oslo Education Summit to highlight the fact that there are still children, and specifically 60 million young girls who are denied the right to an education across the world.

She is calling on governments across the globe to fight for the right of access to education.

She calls for, “hope over doubt, light over dark, books over bullets,” simple words but said with the greatest conviction. You can read more on Malala’s trip here.

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Honeyball’s Weekly Round-up

The BBC’s political editor Nick Robinson has revealed how he faced a thinly veiled attack from David Cameron in the run up to the general election after he threatened to ‘close down the BBC’. Robinson said it was hard to know whether the comments were a joke or a veiled threat.

However I think there is something rather more sinister here. The editorial integrity and independence of the BBC is hugely important and the BBC is under pressure from all sides to ensure it always meets extremely high standards.

Furthermore, elections are especially busy periods and commentators noted how, during the election, senior Tories piled pressure on the BBC pointing to its coverage and on the broadcaster’s future. As Robinson pointed out, ‘The result, was to add to the already intense pressure the BBC faced and this had a real impact on the corporation.’

Clearly it had had an impact and during the interview with the Guardian, Robinson said he had ‘thought quite a lot’ about Cameron’s comments since first writing about them in his recently released book about May’s election. He said they had been interpreted by BBC staff as a veiled threat and ‘another bit of pressure’.

Robinson said comments ‘dropped into conversations publicly and privately’ by other senior Tories, such as the former culture secretary Sajid Javid’s (about alleged BBC bias) added to the effect on staff.

Meanwhile there was disappointing news from the digital industry after figures revealed a significant decrease in the number of women employed in the industry.

Just 27% of those employed in the sector are women, according to a new report from the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES). This is a 6% drop from an already poor percentage of 33% in 2002 and well below the UK average of 47% for female employees.

Not even the report’s authors could give a clear indication as to why so few women are involved in the sector or why the numbers have fallen.

It is estimated that Britain will need 1.2 million digital workers by 2022 and UKCES’s report suggests that the number of women working it he digital sector will still not have reached the level in 2002 of 32%, believing it will barely rise to 30%.

More girls need to be encouraged at a young age, in schools through technology clubs, such as TechFuture Girls, a nationwide network of after-school computer clubs. Such groups have an important role in addressing the gender balance and will help to encourage girls to participate in the digital sector.

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The problem of voter apathy in young people

Last week was National Voter Registration Day, a day dedicated to creating awareness about the importance of registering to vote. The same day last year resulted in some 50,000 people registering to vote, this year the same campaign hopes to aim to register a further 250,000 voters.

Although the day was aimed at everyone who isn’t yet registered, some shocking figures relating specifically to young people aged between 18-21 revealed that as many as 800,000 of people in this age group won’t be able to vote in the upcoming general election because they haven’t registered.

The poll, conducted by the Electoral Reform Society, found that in addition to those who aren’t registered to vote, a further 9% said they had no clue of whether they were registered to vote at all.

In the course of my work I speak to students and young people on a regular basis from an array of backgrounds who are political engaged and interested in politics, many are hungry to learn more and some even have political ambitions of their own. However, there is also a large number, as illustrated by this poll who are disengaged, who are apathetic, who have given up their right to choose who or what shape our next government will be and that’s really sad.

Making a decision about who represents you is empowering, you become part of a group of people who have a voice and who help to shape the government.

The BBC political editor, Nick Robinson, said in a blog last week that the new system of individual registration is making the problem worse. He said: “You used to be able to rely on your college or student union – or Mum or Dad – to do it but now you have to register yourself. Having said that it’s easy to do – taking around three minutes online.”

It is true, this new system of registering to vote does not help the already dwindling numbers of young voters. There are some more stats which show a worrying low trend: In Lancaster only 22 out of a possible 7,500 students registered to vote in one ward. And in East Sussex there was an almost 90% drop in voters, plunging from 3,500 registered students in 2014 to just 377 this year.

You can register to vote here it only takes a few minutes, and I urge everyone to do so- as I say without it you do not have a voice and you are not able to participate in shaping future governments.

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My Profile on the Sunday Politics

This weekend I was featured on the BBC’s Sunday Politics, who are doing a series of profiles on MEPs in the run up to the election. I discuss the great work Labour has done for British citizens at the European level. You can watch the profile using the media player above.

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From the Archive: Nigel Farage accused of being Stalinist and anti-women

This blog comes from February of this year at a time when Marta Andreasen MEP was thinking about quitting UKIP.  Well for any of you who don’t know, she did quit in the end and is now a member of the Conservative party and is part of the European Conservative and Reformist group.  Seemingly the bullying, sexism and general chauvanism that characterises the UKIP delegation in the European Parliament became too much for her.  I think I probably disagree with Marta on a good many things, but on this I can feel nothing but sympathy for her; having to work with the likes of Farage, Bloom, and Batten can’t have been easy.

Nigel Farage accused of being Stalinist and anti-women

Political aficionadas, not to mention geeks, may remember when UKIP MEP Godfrey Bloom told the world way back in 2004 that a woman’s place was cleaning behind the fridge.

Incredibly, UKIP misogyny has just got much worse. Marta Andreasen, their only woman MEP, has launched a searing attack on Nigel Farage. “He (Farage) doesn’t try to involve intelligent professional women in positions of responsibility in the party. He thinks women should be in the kitchen or in the bedroom.” she told the BBC.

Marta Andreasen, who represents South East England in the European Parliament, has said she is unlikely to stand as a UKIP candidate next year. Andreasen, who worked for the European Commission before joining UKIP and being elected in 2009, told the BBC that “if things don’t change” within the party “she can’t imagine a way to continue”.

Andreasen continued by telling the BBC that she had been openly criticised by her party leader and other MEPs, suggesting that this amounted to bullying. “I’ve been bullied, in private situations, for decisions I have made by Nigel. I have been accused of being disloyal, breaching confidence and breaching my contract with the party. There’s an attitude that either you keep silent about everything that’s been going on in the party or suffer the consequences.” Ms Andreasen said she believed Mr Farage – who was re-elected as leader in 2010 after standing down a year earlier to contest a Westminster seat – “did not like women”.

Farage’s views on women are not, apparently, the only problem. Ms Andreasen told LondonlovesBusiness.com: “Under his (Farage’s) leadership – and I have questioned his leadership obviously a number of times – the party (UKIP) has become a dictatorship. This is a Stalinist way of operating and he doesn’t care about the membership or the grassroots.”

Andeasen says she plans to stay in the European Parliament as a UKIP representative until the end of the current Parliament in 2014, to see out her mandate and “look for ways I can continue to represent the membership”. She may consider standing as an independent next year.

It’s worth remembering former UKIP MEP Nikki Sinclaire, a lesbian, who won a sex discrimination case against her former colleagues on a default judgement at Exeter Employment Tribunal after UKIP failed to lodge a defence. Sinclaire claimed UKIP MEP Godfrey Bloom had called her “queer”.

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Shocking figures reveal lack of women aged 50+ on TV

Just one in five presenters at major broadcasters over the age of 50 are women

Although a shocking figure in one sense, it really should not be a complete surprise. I’d probably struggle to count on one hand the number of women presenters over the age of 50 who regularly appear on TV or who have their own shows. Yes there are some well-known faces, but they are an exception.

As soon as you hit 50 your days are numbered, as Miriam O’Reilly knows only too well. It was her brave decision to fight her employer, the BBC, over this discrimination which forced  the industry to recognise it has a problem.  O’Reilly was interviewed in the Guardian just last week and reveals how she has spoken to other women who were as badly bullied and/or side-lined in the same way she was. Veteran presenter Anna Ford who is sadly no longer on our screens lamented the lack of older women television presenters again in the Guardian last Saturday.

Harriet Harman’s figures, published recently show ‘just one in five presenters at major broadcasters over the age of 50 are women’, is terrible. It shows that women have to fight harder than men to achieve the same roles and do so throughout their careers.

We are familiar with the difficulties women face when going back to work following a period of maternity leave, and we know how hard it is for women to reach the board and executive level in many companies because we have the stats to prove it from recent research studies.  And now women are faced with their working lives being cut short because they are not considered ‘the right fit’? Whatever the reason executives must stop discriminating against capable and experienced women who are 50+. This is a period which should be one of the highlights of women’s careers. After all women in their 50s are experienced, knowledgeable, and should, therefore, be sought after not (as unfortunately they are) side-lined.

Harriet Harman rightly said: “It really is a black hole … Broadcasters behave as though the viewing public have to be protected from the sight of an older woman and that’s just rude. There is nothing wrong with being an older woman….We’ve got to fight back against this sense that older women are less valuable, whereas men accumulate wisdom, authority and experience as they age.”

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Nigel Farage accused of being Stalinist and anti-women

Political aficionadas, not to mention geeks, may remember when UKIP MEP Godfrey Bloom told the world way back in 2004 that a woman’s place was cleaning behind the fridge.

Incredibly, UKIP misogyny has just got much worse. Marta Andreasen, their only woman MEP, has launched a searing attack on Nigel “too much air time” Farage. “He (Farage) doesn’t try to involve intelligent professional women in positions of responsibility in the party. He thinks women should be in the kitchen or in the bedroom.” she told the BBC.

Marta Andreasen, who represents South East England in the European Parliament, has said she is unlikely to stand as a UKIP candidate next year. Andreasen, who worked for the European Commission before joining UKIP and being elected in 2009, told the BBC that “if things don’t change” within the party “she can’t imagine a way to continue”.

Andreasen continued by telling the BBC that she had been openly criticised by her party leader and other MEPs, suggesting that this amounted to bullying. “I’ve been bullied, in private situations, for decisions I have made by Nigel. I have been accused of being disloyal, breaching confidence and breaching my contract with the party. There’s an attitude that either you keep silent about everything that’s been going on in the party or suffer the consequences.” Ms Andreasen said she believed Mr Farage – who was re-elected as leader in 2010 after standing down a year earlier to contest a Westminster seat – “did not like women”.

Farage’s views on women are not, apparently, the only problem. Ms Andreasen told LondonlovesBusiness.com: “Under his (Farage’s) leadership – and I have questioned his leadership obviously a number of times – the party (UKIP) has become a dictatorship. This is a Stalinist way of operating and he doesn’t care about the membership or the grassroots.”

Andeasen says she plans to stay in the European Parliament as a UKIP representative until the end of the current Parliament in 2014, to see out her mandate and “look for ways I can continue to represent the membership”. She may consider standing as an independent next year.

It’s worth remembering former UKIP MEP Nikki Sinclaire, a lesbian, who won a sex discrimination case against her former colleagues on a default judgement at Exeter Employment Tribunal after UKIP failed to lodge a defence. Sinclaire claimed UKIP MEP Godfrey Bloom had called her “queer”.

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