Monday, 11 October 2010

When an "illegal immigrant" has the X Factor

I have confessed it before and I will confess again – I watch the X Factor, and I like some of the singers that have appeared on the programme. Along with quite a few other viewers (apparently 250, 000 have signed up to a relevant facebook site) I was taken, in the latest competition, by the brief performances of Gamu Nenghu, and was surprised when Cheryl Cole told her “I am afraid it’s a no”, and she was off the show. Whatever criteria were used it did seem odd that after three perfect vocals Gamu was eliminated in favour of others whose attempts seemed less polished. Maybe Gamu was considered not to have “pop star potential”, but there also seemed to be something odd in the way Cheryl C (or is it back to T now?) delivered the bad news. Then, as most of you will undoubtedly have heard, it emerged that Gamu and her family faced the very real possibility of removal from the U.K. to Zimbabwe, the country of their birth. There has been much speculation about the reasons for the threat of removal; this BBC report, quoting the family’s solicitor, seems to be accurate. 
The tabloid press must have had a pretty hard time with this, wanting to boost circulation by riding the wave of popular support for Gamu whilst also not wanting to stem their relentless tide of anti-immigrant propaganda. Some red-top articles have been sympathetic to the family, only to be followed by a tirade of “send-them-home” abuse in the readers’ comments section. I wish all the X Factor contestants well, but I would have liked Gamu to continue to hear more of her singing. But this is of course a triviality compared to the threat, to her and her family, of removal to Zimbabwe. So, just to do my bit, I will confront some of the arguments I have encountered on this matter: 

“They are illegal immigrants and should be sent back.” 

The family have been staying in the U.K. legally, on the mother’s visa. Her application for renewal of the visa was recently refused, but, as the family’s solicitor has argued, this is likely to be down to an administrative error. When the renewal was refused the family were given time to leave the U.K. voluntarily; to date this deadline has not been reached and so the family are still here legally. It also seems likely that there will be either an appeal or a judicial review of the case, and the family will then be allowed to remain, at least until a further determination is made.
It has also been suggested that the removal of Gamu, who has spent most of her childhood in the United Kingdom, would itself be illegal as a breach of both the European Convention on Human Rights and the Human Rights Act. 

“Gamu should not get special treatment.” 

She deserves fair and humane treatment. Many immigrants are not treated fairly and humanely, as this excellent article shows, so this becomes an argument for improving the treatment of immigrants generally, not for removing Gamu and her family. The fact that many immigrants are treated unjustly is no argument for treating this particular family unjustly. The publicity and campaigning for Gamu may benefit immigrants generally by highlighting the injustices of “border control” and the immigration system. 

“Gamu’s mother is a benefit cheat.” 

This is not the view of the family’s lawyer, who said “...Mrs Ngazana [Gamu’s mother] was advised by the Inland Revenue that she was entitled to claim Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit and that it was aware of her immigration status.” 

There are, of course, many more general arguments relating to the immigration debate, covered by hundreds of thousands of web. A recent analysis for The Financial Times reached some conclusions that might come as a surprise to many: 

- The notion that natives inevitably lose out when immigrants take jobs was dismissed as “misguided”. 

- “Looking at the UK workforce as a whole, the rapid influx of migrants over the past decade has in fact had little impact on wages” (though where it has had an impact, the poor have mostly been the ones to lose out. Then again, “It is worth pointing out that many of those at the bottom end were themselves originally migrants). 

- “Despite lurid headlines about benefit scroungers, there is little evidence to support fears that migrants take more money out of the economy than they put in overall” 

- “Research by Christian Dustmann at UCL, a leading authority in the field, shows migrants from eastern Europe are putting far more into the economy than they take out” 

- Probability of natives claiming benefits: 39.7%.  Probability of immigrants from east European countries that joined the EU in 2004 claiming benefits: 16.4%. 

So, in conclusion, Gamu and her family should stay...and so should many others who have been branded as “illegal immigrants.

Monday, 13 September 2010

Thursday, 12 August 2010

David Jones Twitter

A recent exchange on Twitter, between myself and David Jones, Conservative MP for Clwyd West:

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Guinea Refugees

The desperate plight of refugees hit the headlines recently with the case of two young boys who fled the west African state of Guinea. Fodé Tounkara, aged 14, and his 15 year old friend Yaguine Koita were found frozen to death in the undercarriage of a Sabena plane in Belgium. The boys had prepared carefully for the trip from Conakry, the capital of deeply impoverished Guinea, next to civil war torn Sierra Leone. They had put on several pairs of thin trousers, pullovers and jackets in an attempt to survive temperatures of minus 55 degrees during the flight to Brussels via Mali. But their bodies were found clinging to the plane's landing gear, having died of hypothermia and oxygen shortage. The teenagers may have been on board for up to ten days before their bodies were found.

The case has struck a chord because of a moving note that was found on one of the boys. It is a plea for help from Europe, especially to improve education for the suffering young people of Africa.

It is addressed to the 'Excellencies, gentlemen members and responsible citizens of Europe.' The note reads, 'Please help us... We have war, sickness, hunger, etc. In Guinea we have many schools but a great lack of education... only in private schools can you get a good education, but you need a large sum of money. If you see that we have sacrificed ourselves and lost our lives, it is because we suffer too much in Africa and need your help to struggle against poverty and war. We want to study and ask you to help us become like you in Africa... Please excuse us very much for daring to write this letter.'

The letter forced the Belgian government onto the defensive. The development minister had to promise more aid to the Third World. And when the bodies were flown back to Guinea they were given a full ceremonial departure from Brussels airport, and were accompanied by the Guinean ambassador and a representative of the Belgian government.

Had the boys arrived alive in Brussels, however, the response from the government would almost certainly have been different. They would have been hustled straight into a detention centre, pending deportation, and their letter would have been read only by a police official or an immigration officer.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010


I have decided to create a seperate blog for all my music-related stuff. I will carry on posting non-music stuff here, and eventually delete the music stuff which I have copied to the new blog.

The new music blog address is:

Please do follow me there as well! The latest entries include a Diana Vickers gig review and an interview with Kate McGill.

Thanks, Nick.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

COMEDY: Ricky Gervais

Ricky Gervais: I thought 'The Office' and 'Extras' were both brilliant. I am not a huge fan of his 'stand-up' comedy, it's a bit hit and miss. The same goes for 'the Invention of Lying', but he can do 'serious' acting, as the clips below show, I think.

He is spot on here with Simon Cowell, who seems to take it very well.

This scene occurs towards the end (*spoiler alert*) of the Extras Xmas Special. Andy's speech hits about a thousand nails right on the head. It's too dramatic to be funny and shows he can do 'serious' acting. I fell in love with Maggie; a good performance from Ashley Jensen.

Too tragic to be funny, again.

Friday, 5 March 2010


A few words appear to be missing from the cover of the published version.

Monday, 1 March 2010


When we look at stars we see them, apparently, as they were many years ago...that explains Cliff Richard, but not Keith Richards.

Latest news on the bear with diarrhea...he's better, but not out of the woods yet.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

VIDEO: Millport (Limmy)

I found this video quite moving and poignant. It is Scottish comedian/actor Brian Limond (Limmy).

PHOTOGRAPH: Lily Allen, Bournemouth.

This is a photo I took at a Lily Allen gig in Bournemouth last year. When I first saw the pic I didn't think much of it. I put it up on twitpic and I got a positive comment on it, then when I looked at it again I decided that I did really like it. I took it on a Canon Ixus; I hadn't wanted to lug my SLR around all night. So it's really just a point-and-shoot pic that has turned out properly exposed and looking good in black and white.
We were sat quite a way back, up on the balcony, so Lily looks fairly small in the frame as she paces the stage. But I think that helps with this pic. Lily seems quite a vulnerable person, and I think the pic emphasises this, as does the fact that she is sideways on to the eyes of the crowd. I think also that her image on the video screen somehow adds to the appearance that she lonely on the stage. It can also represent the way the performer and the performance is captured, re-packaged and transmitted, even for the live audience. Her image is also being captured on the glowing screens of the mobile phone/cameras. It reminds me of a photo of JFK delivering a speech, taken from the back, with a tv in the foreground showing his face in the live broadcast. I wanted to link it, but can't find it anywhere on the web, maybe because it's a copywrited Magnum agency photo.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

ART: The Value of a Giacometti

There is a lot to like, and a lot to dislike about the contemporary art world. Top of the dislike hit parade has to be the obscene sums of money that continue to be paid by super-rich collectors and corporations even in these post-credit crunch times. Alberto Giacometti's statue "L'Homme qui marche" became the most expensive work of art ever sold at auction when it was bought for £65m at Sotheby's in London recently ( It was previously part of the collection of the collapsed Dresdner Bank.
The sum paid is over three times the amount the UK Government has pledged to help the relief programme in Haiti. The identity of the buyer is unknown, and there is no guarantee that the statue will be on public view. It is true that some of the World's top art owners keep works on open display and have a real appreciation for art, Saatchi possibly being an example. But for many it is possession and a future profitable return that matters above all. The belief is that ownership equals appreciation, and that ownership make a cultured person of the owner.
Is the statue any good, though? Yes, indeed it is. No doubt many would be as disparaging about this work as they would about modern art generally. "A child could have done it": No, I doubt a child could have sculpted this figure. Certainly there is a child-like quality to many of Picasso's late paintings, but I like to look at children's art; it is difficult for adults to retain the innocence of a child's vision. "It's not realistic": As with most modern art it's not intended to be realistic. Giacometti said that his aim was to express his emotional response to his model, usually a relative or close friend.
I agree with the critics that have said that Giacometti's sculptures express something about the alienation of life in the modern world. The thinness of this figure exaggerates the space around the figure, the space becomes more significant than the figure. There is a grim determination in the figure's stride, but he doesn't move and his destination is never to be reached. In some of his other sculptures, figures are placed close together, but they cannot communicate or interact in any way; they may as well be light years apart. These simple carvings express deep philosophical insights with a beautiful simplicity. That makes them priceless, not in the sense that any of them are worth more that £65 million, but in the sense that they shouldn't have a price; they should belong to us all.

TV: The X Factor won't work...people are naturally greedy and competitive. If I had £1 for every time I heard that, I would be a rich capitalist bastard. The thing is, competition is forced upon us at every turn. TV seems to be turning everything into a competition at the moment. Think of singing, dancing, skating, cooking, creating a work of art, living in a house for four weeks without annoying too many people...and you'll soon be thinking of a TV game show.
Which leads me to The X Factor. Everything about it says I should hate it and avoid it like I would avoid Louis Walsh in a wine bar. But I am drawn to it. It is strangely compelling, as Capt. James T. Kirk might say. I am drawn to it because it sometimes turns up very real raw talent, in particular I am thinking of...don't throw things at me now...Diana Vickers (more about her later). Of course it's all too possible that X Factor success will lead to being devoured by a giant music corporation that then churns out another teeth-whitened auto-tuned bubblegum popster. But I am STILL entertained by Alexandra Burke, for example, and I can't help it. I will listen to her album again today. And I think Subo's (not X Factor, I know, but the same sort of thing) version of Wild Horses is a pretty good cover of a much-covered song. I agree that XF seems to value only a very narrow spectrum of musical ability, but it is as if the individuality shines through despite production line treatment.
So maybe the competition does produce talent, or at least bring it to our attention. Of course there's loads of brilliant stuff that would fly straight over Simon Cowell's helicopter landing pad haircut, and I still cringe when I see or hear Jedward, or I peep at those hide-my-face-behind-the-cushion qualifying rounds. It was Ricky Gervais, I think, that described them as the bewildered being paraded before multi-millionaires for our entertainment. But I remain an X Factor addict, and there is no treatment known to humanity.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

FILM: The Nasty Girl

When I am in the right mood I like to watch a film with a message of some sort.
I watched a good German film on dvd the other day: "The Nasty Girl" by Michael Verhoeven. A student wins an essay competition and then decides to do a project on her town during the War. Contrary to the accepted version of events she uncovers all sorts of Nazi collaboration that took place by various respected, and surviving authority figures. As she gets closer to the real history she encounters censorship and personal threats, but is undeterred.
Eventually she gains national recognition for her work. There is a great scene towards the end where she is honoured by the Town for her efforts, but rejects the prize as patronising, and as an attempt to buy her off.
Prizegiving of this kind happens so often in life, and only a few have the resolve to reject such patronage. Oscars, Grammys, Brit Awards, medals and memorials...don't they all make you want to ask for FUCK YOU ALL to be engraved on your tombstone?


OK so I have started a blog. Why? Not because I expect anyone to be interested enough to read it, that's for sure. Like most bloggers, I guess, it's a case of have a go and see where it leads. I like writing, so that helps. But what to write about? Well, there won't be any kind of focussed theme or anything, just whatever I feel like writing at the time. If I get even one single reader I will be pleased. So here goes.