Reflections on the Universities Minister visit to CCCU (by 3rd Year student Lizzie Bailey)

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On Thursday 8th March, the newly appointed Universities Minister paid a visit to Canterbury Christ Church University. After introductory statements, the Minister dove straight in and started taking questions from the audience. It appeared that most of the crowd supported either Labour or other parties. The Minister did a quick poll, asking who supports Labour and who supports the Conservatives. The poll confirmed what he had thought, most were Labour supporters. The questions that followed were largely critical of the Minister and his government, as expected.

Questions varied from the fictional Brexit plan to questions regarding the strikes of lecturers across the country. The Minister was quick to wash his hands off any responsibility regarding lecturers’ pensions and strikes, stating that it is the sole responsibility for the universities and unions to discuss. It is disappointing to sit and listen as the Minister for Universities objects to the idea that it is not his responsibility that lecturers are being paid unfairly. The Minister even tried to convince the crowd, of mostly students and lecturers, that the lecturers are the bad guys; that they are so irresponsible and careless that they would strike and not teach students. Of course, this did not go down well. My own housemate stood up and told the Minister that if the lecturers at CCCU were to strike, that we (the students) would all be there supporting them. Any student can see the amount of work and dedication that lectures emanate in their roles. It was an insult to try and pit students against lectures, for demanding a wage equal to the work they put in.

Moving on to Brexit, it was the same rhetoric seen in any and every interview with the Conservative government. Almost like a video that you can pause, rewind or skip, the answers were the same. We are going to get a good deal, and that we do have a very real plan. It is not the place of the Minister of Universities to create new dialogue surrounding Brexit, but as an MP and a representative, and ambassador for education, it should be something that he is furious about. Perhaps he is good at concealing his own anger as a politician but in his responses to questions it seemed (for me anyway) that he was more than happy to rehearse the same few sentences as a justifiable answer.

The Minister placed great emphasis on the fact that he was talking to and trying to engage with students. He was right to highlight this because, as far as ministers go, he is the exception. But is this really the standard of politicians that we have come to expect? Giving them a pat on the back for doing the bare minimum and engaging with their citizens. Regardless of the party you support, we should all be expecting more from our politicians, and make them work for those salary increases they keep bestowing upon themselves.

I’m sure that reading this blog has made you aware that I have my own bias regarding the Minister’s visit. As a Labour supporter, I asked the question what is it about the Conservative policy that isn’t getting through to young people, particularly in Canterbury. His response was to ask me. I then went on to explain how the Conservative candidate was out of touch, not just with the 21st century, but his constituency. Merely the tip of the iceberg, I stated that he was homophobic in defending his block against same-sex couples adopting children, as “it was in the children’s best interests”. The Minister reassured me that Julian Brazier is not homophobic, as he knows him personally, so I guess my understanding of homophobia is a fallacy.

Overall the Minster was well spoken and polite, considering taking criticism isn’t easy. In my own view, he put forward a persona like any good politician can. It is not enough to walk away from one visit and say that he is a good or bad person for that role, but rather a close analysis on each little thing he does. Just over an hour of questions and answers is not enough for a judgment, but every action, reaction and piece of legislation that he is involved with, is more than enough for a wave of criticism and condemnation.

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‘The Fall’ as an Act of Refusal

 

Dr David Bates, Director of Politics and IR at Canterbury Christ Church University, reflects on the political nature of the work of singer Mark E. Smith and argues that it presented in many ways an act of refusal.

Mark E. Smith, who died on 24 January 2018, was the lead singer of the North Manchester ‘Post-Punk’ band ‘The Fall’.

The title of the band was taken from a work of that name by Albert Camus (in French La Chute). Beyond Camus, Smith was influenced by a number of writers and artists – from the philosophy of Nietzsche, the music of Can, and the dystopian science fiction of Philip K. Dick. These influences he reintroduced through his own form of amplified distortions into the Manchester of the late 1970s.

Smith’s outpouring of work over the next 40 years was immense (32 studio albums and 46 singles).

This work was not always – indeed rarely – easy on the ear. But it was not intended to be. (Smith once remarked to one of his musicians ‘if you’re going to play it out of tune, then play it out of tune properly’.)

What the fall for me represented was a possibility of a form of ‘pop’ music which simultaneously refused the rules of pop. The Fall produced music often so distorted that it would have seemed impossible to commodify. They made an anti-commodity commodity. Their very existence 40 years after their formation was a refusal of the power of Simon Cowell and others like him, who have done so much to hollow out the power of popular culture in order line their own pockets. To this extent, The Fall were political in a very real sense.

Though Smith would have loathed my pretention – he was serious about his art. (Indeed in 1988 The Fall provided the soundtrack for the ballet ‘I am Curious Orange’ by the Michael Clark Ballet Company.) The Fall were performance art at its most visceral. They produced a form of pop music which negated Ed Sheeran. And I would listen ten times to the Fall’s C.R.E.E.P than I would to Shape of You!

Mark. E. Smith
5 March 1957 – 24 January 2018

New House of Commons Briefing by CCCU academic Dr Mark Bennister

Yesterday, British Prime Minister Theresa May made her second appearance before the Liaison Committee, a year after her only other appearance. These sessions with the Prime Minister have occurred since 2002 and have now become an established part of the scrutiny mechanisms available to Parliament.

Dr Mark Bennister, Reader in Politics at Canterbury Christ Church University and one of only 5 Parliamentary Fellows in the House of Commons, has now produced a briefing with the House of Commons Library that sets out the background to the evidence sessions. You can read the full briefing by clicking here or on the cover page below.

***UPDATED*** Professor Amelia Hadfield’s Inaugural Lecture: Reform, Rework or Reject? Charting Britain’s European Future

Professor Amelia Hadfield, Jean Monnet Professor and Director of the Centre for European Studies (CEFEUS) at Canterbury Christ Church University, will give her inaugural professorial lecture “Reform, Rework or Reject? Charting Britain’s European Future”.

The lecture will take place 18 January 2018, 6pm, Michael Berry Lecture Theatre, Old Sessions House, Longport, Canterbury CT1 1QU.

The event is open to the public and free of charge.

Please register by emailing theresa.gadsby-bourner@canterbury.ac.uk

***UPDATE***UPDATE***UPDATE***UPDATE***UPDATE***UPDATE***

We are excited to announce that the inaugural lecture will be preceded by a “Brush Up Your Brexit” Roundtable featuring a range of distinguished speakers including Professor Mark Hammond (CCCU) as Chair and Stephen Fidler (Wall Street Journal as Moderator) as well as Professor Michael Bruter (LSE), Professor Andrej Zwitter (Groningen) Dr Kathryn Simpson (Manchester Metropolitan) and Dr Benjamin Martill (LSE).

Time Item
16:00-17:00 Brush Up Your Brexit Roundtable

(Old Sessions House, Of50)

17:15-18:00 Wine Reception

(Old Sessions House, Foyer)

18:00-19:00 Inaugural Lecture

(Old Sessions House, Michael Berry Lecture Theatre)