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The Guardian e-paper Journal - April 13, 2018

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Section:GDN 1J PaGe:1 Edition Date:180413 Edition:01 Zone:
Sent at 12/4/2018 18:28
Spare me these sob stories about the rugby misogynists Suzanne Moore, page 3
They’ve airbrushed my stepmother Mo Mowlam out of history Henrietta Norton, page 4
The ideological war over the minimum wage The long read, page 9
The Guardian Friday 13 April 2018
and ideas
A cruel system
designed to rob
citizens of their
n 4 April Prince Charles opened the
Commonwealth Games in Australia’s
Gold Coast with a brief reminder of
the historical ties that bind. “The
ancient stories told by the indigenous
people of Australia remind us that,
even though we may be half a world
away, we are all connected,” he said.
“Over the years, these Friendly Games have shown the
potential of the Commonwealth to connect people of
different backgrounds and nationalities.”
Five days later the Guardian published an article
about Michael Braithwaite that illustrates how fragile
and selective those connections are. Braithwaite, a
Barbadian-born Briton who arrived here in 1961 when
he was nine, was educated here, has worked here for his
entire life, married here and had three British children
and five British grandchildren. He had been a special
needs teaching assistant at a north London primary
school for over 15 years when his employers launched
a “routine” immigration status check. Braithwaite, 66,
assumed correctly that he was British.
But now he had to prove it, providing up to four pieces
of documentary evidence to the Home Office for every
year he had been here. He lost his job when the Home
Office failed to issue him with the documents to verify
that he was in the country legally. Trying to prove he was
who he was, and who nobody ever seriously doubted
he always had been, made him ill. “It made me feel like I
was an alien. I almost fell apart with the stress,” he said.
Within minutes of the article about Braithwaite
going online the Home Office had emailed his lawyers
to say the documents had been approved. Welcome to
the United Kingdom. With the exception of Northern
Ireland, our existence as an island means our physical
border is, for the most part, well defined. We stop and
start at the water’s edge. The entry points, be they at
ports or airports, are heavily fortified .
But our administrative borders are invisible and
omnipresent, dividing communities and generations
at whim and will. These borders represent not a physical
space but a political one that can be reproduced
without warning in places of learning and healing. At
any moment almost anyone, your boss, doctor, child’s
headmaster or landlord, can become a border guard –
indeed they may be legally obliged to do so – and on the
basis of their judgment you may be denied livelihood,
family, home and health.
Incredibly, this is not a glitch in the
system. It is the system. And in the words
Section:GDN 1J PaGe:2 Edition Date:180413 Edition:01 Zone:
Sent at 12/4/2018 20:28
The Guardian Friday 13 April 2018
A cruel system designed to rob
citizens of their Britishness
Gary Younge
Continued from front
of American intellectual WEB Du Bois:
“A system cannot fail those it was never
meant to protect.” Braithwaite has become
ensnared in deliberate government policy, set out by
the prime minister, Theresa May, when she was home
secretary, to create a “really hostile environment for
illegal immigrants”. The policy, set out in the 2014 and
2016 immigration acts, demanded that employers, bank
staff, NHS staff, private landlords and a range of other
bodies (I have been asked to produce my passport in
order to do a book reading at a literary festival) require
evidence of people’s citizenship or immigration status.
It also introduced a “deport first, appeal later” policy for
thousands facing removal who face no “risk of serious
irreversible harm”. This, we may assume, is how a South
African woman was accused of faking an illness to avoid
deportation, only to die five days later.
The acts, implemented first in the year that Ukip won
the European elections and then again in the year of
the Brexit referendum, were red meat to the grievances
of a base that the Tories were losing. We should not be
surprised that they are adversely affecting black Britons
who have every right to be here, any more than we
should have been surprised when there was a rise in
Islamophobic attacks following Brexit.
nd so it is, 60 years after Windrush
brought the symbolic arrival of
postwar Caribbean migrants,
Braithwaite is one of many who now
struggle to justify their existence.
There’s Renford McIntyre, 64, who
came to Britain from Jamaica when
he was 14 to join his mum, worked
as a tool setter, and is now homeless and unemployed,
after he was fired when he couldn’t produce papers to
prove his citizenship. Or 61-year-old Paulette Wilson
who used to cook for MPs in the House of Commons. She
was put in Yarl’s Wood removal centre and then taken to
Heathrow for deportation, before a last-minute reprieve
prevented her from being sent to Jamaica, which she
last visited when she was 10 and where she has no
surviving relatives. Or Albert Thompson, a 63-year-old
who came from Jamaica as a teenager and has lived in
London for 44 years. He was evicted from his council
house and has now been denied NHS treatment for his
cancer unless he can stump up £54,000.
Caribbean diplomats have once again called for the
Home Office to show compassion. “This is affecting
people who came and gave a lifetime of service at a time
when the UK was calling for workers and migrants,”
explains the Barbados high commissioner, Guy Hewitt.
“They came because they were encouraged to come
here to help build post-second world war Britain and
build it into the multicultural place that it is now.” But
if compassion is lacking, common sense would do.
Even as citizenship tests aim to impart to newcomers
the “values of toleration and fair play”, immigration
laws have sent longstanding citizens, who have paid
their taxes and raised their families here, to homeless
shelters or deportation centres because they have not
been able to provide paperwork issued more than 40
years ago when they were kids.
For this is also the 50th anniversary of Enoch
Powell’s rivers of blood speech: a moment that revealed
the galvanising force of populist racism. This mood
bleeds into immigration policy – the Commonwealth
Immigrants Act 1968 was passed the same year, further
restricting the future right of entry for former citizens
of the empire and loosening the connections about
which Prince Charles waxed so lyrical. Braithwaite was
one of those “charming, wide-grinning piccaninnies”
to which Powell so disparagingly referred.
Arriving in 1961 (in the same year as my parents
and coming from the same place) when Barbados was
not yet independent, Braithwaite was effectively a
British subject when he arrived and his parents would
have had passports to that effect. To find himself
treated in this way is not just a violation of natural
justice – it is an abdication of Britain’s historical
responsibility. Since he arrived before 1973, he has
an automatic and permanent right to remain. He has
violated no law; it is the law that is violating him.
Founded 1821 Independently owned by the Scott Trust № 53,382
‘Comment is free… but facts are sacred’ CP Scott
Chemical weapons
When states gas civilians
it is official terrorism. The
wider cost must be high
In 2013, Barack Obama made a bargain with Syria’s
president, Bashar al-Assad, brokered by Russia, the
latter’s ally. The United States withdrew its threat to
attack Mr Assad’s regime for using sarin against Syrians
in Damascus that summer. Hundreds died in the
deadliest use of chemical weapons since the Iran–Iraq
war. Mr Assad denied he had used such weapons, but in
return for US restraint his regime agreed to dismantle
its chemical weapons programme. Much of the
country’s banned substances were thought to have been
destroyed, and Syria joined the treaty against their use.
Yet as the years have unfolded, Mr Assad, a ruthless
dictator who the world would be better without, has
made a mockery of the agreement. Syria’s civil war,
now in its seventh year, has been wreathed in toxic
fumes. Experts from the UN and the chemical weapons
watchdog said the Syrian regime has used helicopters
to dump chlorine gas on opponents. Chlorine is not a
banned substance, since it has commercial uses, but
its use as a weapon is. The watchdog last year said
Mr Assad’s forces also used sarin gas, a nerve agent,
to kill more than 90 people in Khan Sheikhun. There
have been an estimated score or more of incidents of
chemical weapons use since then.
These are heinous crimes using weapons of mass
destructive terror. It’s not that these weapons kill on any
wider a scale than heavy artillery does, but that they kill
in a very cruel way. People die in their beds, clutching
babies and loved ones. The ability to burn people inside
out sends fearful shivers through populations. The use
Democratic Republic of Congo
Millions are in urgent need
of help. Their president
refuses to come to the table
The world has managed to largely ignore one of its worst
humanitarian crises, unfolding now in central Africa.
The Democratic Republic of Congo holds over a tenth of
the globe’s malnourished children; more than 13 million
people need aid. Around 4.5 million people are displaced
internally, and another 750,000 have fled abroad. The
International Crisis Group has warned that deterioration
is likely – and the risk of “a steeper descent into chaos”
is real. Multiple conflicts across 10 provinces intensify;
their roots are complex, but President Joseph Kabila’s
refusal to leave office has aggravated them. Civilians
are caught between the brutality of rebel groups and
of security forces. There are growing fears of civil war,
in a country already so deeply scarred: the 1998-2003
conflict killed millions and sucked in neighbours.
Meanwhile, the budget of the UN peacekeeping mission
– the world’s largest – has been slashed.
One faint glimmer of hope comes from Geneva today,
where the United Nations, European Union and donor
nations have convened a funding conference which aims
to raise $1.7bn. Last year’s much smaller appeal received
less than two-fifths of the money it sought. Oxfam warns
that only half a million of the four million people with
acute malnourishment received treatment in 2017.
Extraordinarily, the DRC itself will be absent from the
table. Mr Kabila’s government is boycotting the meeting,
denying there is a crisis. Its estimates of the displaced
population are laughably low at 231,000: around a
20th of the UN figure. It has lobbied other countries to
dismiss or denounce the aid drive, which it describes as
of chemical weapons amounts to official terrorism,
corrupting further a corrupt regime. Mr Assad does
not care; it has been effective, even in smaller doses
than the 2013 attack, to evict insurgents from their
sanctuaries, forcing them to keep moving and making
it harder to regroup, with consequent demoralisation.
Mr Assad has been allowed to act with murderous
impunity because of his backers in Moscow. Russia has
vetoed critical resolutions at the UN security council
in relation to Syria. To deter Mr Assad from using
chemical weapons, the United States, France and the
UK are considering military action – although Donald
Trump followed bombastic threats by tweeting he
never said “when an attack on Syria would take
place”. Too large an attack might lead to a dangerous
escalation with Russia in a country that Moscow has
used as a testing ground for sophisticated weaponry,
a fact demonstrated when anti-aircraft fire brought
down an Israeli F-16 fighter jet in February.
Vladimir Putin’s Russia has largely fallen out of
love with arms control, seeing the rules-based order
as a way of reducing its influence and stature in the
world. Moscow wants Russia’s power to reflect its
gigantic geography rather than its puny economy and
almost non-existent political magnetism. Russia is
similar to North Korea and Iran in seeking strength
through having adversaries. But in eliciting global
condemnation they achieve weakness.
In the longer term, the only way to bring rogue
nations into compliance will be by reestablishing the
fundamental premise of why arms control accords
exist. Countries enter into them not for the sake of
moral principle but because they set rules for military
strategy. Key to this is developing ways to avoid war,
minimising the rivalry between military powers, and
curtailing the scope of violence if fighting does break
out. In Syria, the Russians and Iranians have lost sight
of these things. Precipitate military action without
parliamentary scrutiny will not help. What will is
establishing a wider cost for such awful behaviour.
a demonisation campaign. And it justifies all this on
the grounds that the desperately needed drive for
support will discourage foreign investment. Never
mind those fleeing and dying: the DRC is open for
business. Of course, Mr Kabila needs no support; his
family boasts vast wealth. But more than half of his
people still survive on less than a pound a day.
As painfully slow and small as the DRC’s progress
has been since the war ended, there have been
improvements. Poverty and child mortality rates have
decreased since the end of the war; more children
are in school. Much more is possible. The country
holds half of Africa’s forests and water resources, as
well as mineral reserves worth trillions of dollars.
The vast natural wealth which has attracted so many
predators has the potential to enrich its citizens,
not merely bring more misery. But the devastating
effects of years of malign interference by western
powers, regional rivals and powerful foreign
businesses are compounded by domestic misrule.
The European commission’s humanitarian chief says
foreign assistance would be effective only with local
government cooperation.
While immediate needs must be met, improving
the bigger political picture is essential. Mr Kabila is
already two years over his five-year term, and barred
from standing again by the constitution. At the end
of 2016, internal and external pressure forced him to
agree a path to elections in the Saint Sylvester deal.
But the 12-month deadline came and went with no
sign of such polls. The government has dug in, reliant
on its resources, on short-term deals with anyone
who looks useful and increasingly on force – while
blaming the unrest for the electoral delays.
Now it promises that there will an election in
December this year, and that Mr Kabila will not be
a candidate. Few place confidence in his pledges.
Only sustained, coordinated and forceful diplomacy
by western and African partners stands a chance of
holding him to them.
Section:GDN 1J PaGe:3 Edition Date:180413 Edition:01 Zone:
Friday 13 April 2018 The Guardian
Sent at 12/4/2018 18:48
Does male
have to involve the
seeming humiliation
of women? Is it a
kind of performance
for their mates?
Spare me these
sob stories
about the rugby
ow do legends have sex, and
who do they have it with?
Perhaps it’s none of my business,
except when these things become
public knowledge, it’s because
they are exposed in court.
That word “legends” sticks in
my mind. Or rather in my craw.
It was in one of the WhatsApp messages read out in
court in the Belfast trial of the “star rugby players”,
Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding, accused of rape
and unanimously found not guilty last month.
The messages discussing what had happened the
night before, for which they later apologised, talked of
“shaggers”, of “Belfast sluts”, of “pumping a bird” and
“spit-roasting”. Such technical terms had to be explained
by barristers to the judge and jury, but somehow it was
the self-glorifying “Why are we are such legends?” in the
players’ WhatsApp group that got me. Legends indeed.
I am not sure this is the word they would be using
now. This was a high-profile trial in which the woman
who had accused them of rape had her bloodied
knickers passed around a courtroom, in which the
taxi driver who took her home told of her sobbing,
and her distressed texts were also read out. Since the
men’s acquittal further details have been released,
of a pornographic video shared with Olding the day
after the night in question.
The jury unanimously acquitted these men of
rape. Their friends Blane McIlroy and Rory Harrison
were unanimously found not guilty of indecent
exposure and of perverting the course of justice.
None of these men did anything illegal. Yet they are
now fighting in a different court: the court of public
opinion. The widespread disgust at the way that they
spoke about the woman who they had sex with clings
to them. It is the nature of what these young men said
to each other that has appalled so many people and led
to the creation of the hashtag #IBelieveHer.
This week a full-page advertisement has been taken
out in the Belfast Telegraph by supporters of Jackson
and Olding, asking that their suspension from Ulster
and Ireland rugby duties be lifted. The advertisement
Stuart Olding
leaves court in
Belfast on 28
March after
being found
not guilty of a
charge of rape
reads: “As Ulster and Irish rugby fans we want these
innocent men reinstated and rightly allowed to
resume their roles … The IRFU [Irish Rugby Football
Union] should take note of the silent majority and
not bow to the court of social media.”
One wonders about the kind of sex these
premier athletes actually want. This week Otto
Putland, a swimmer who represented Wales at the
Commonwealth Games, was also cleared of rape at
Cardiff crown court. He had denied forcing himself
on a woman after she had consensual sex with his
friend, the Olympic swimmer Ieuan Lloyd.
Does male bonding have to involve the seeming
humiliation of women, as it does in some American
college fraternities? Is it always a kind of performance
that needs to be watched by their mates? In the Belfast
trial where a slang expert was brought in to explain
“spit–roasting”, the woman spoke of one player
penetrating her from behind while another player
walked in naked, holding his penis, looking to join in.
Footballer Ched Evans, unanimously cleared
of rape in 2016, had sex with a woman in a hotel
room following a night out in Rhyl, immediately
after his friend Clayton McDonald had had sex with
her. Evans left via a fire exit without speaking to
the woman. His younger brother and another man
watched the encounter through a window.
So is this is the ultimate in hyper-masculine male
bonding? What is happening when these sportsmen
who know each other’s bodies, whose business is their
bodies, choose to enact their sexual desires in this way?
f course, there is no reason
why such sexual activity should
not be consensual, and a lot
of pornography indicates that
such encounters are every
woman’s fantasy. Perhaps, though,
in such scenarios, the women is the
vessel through which these young
guys communicate their power to each other?
These men are not rapists, but they are guilty of vile
misogyny. None of them presumably has difficulty
getting women, who flock to them. To bring Jackson
and Olding back on to the rugby field now, as their
supporters are demanding, would appear to endorse
what looks like degrading behaviour. This would hardly
be the first time such a thing has happened. But how do
we teach the boys who admire and emulate sportsmen
to respect women if this is how their role models
conduct themselves? Talking after his acquittal about
the risks of mixing alcohol and sex, Ched Evans said he
had been “young” and “stupid” at the time.
Is behaviour such as Jackson’s and Olding’s – which
some seem willing to write off as high jinks, hightestosterone pranks – in fact best understood as being
meant for each other? These men may need an audience
for their performances and then to congratulate each
other the next day. But is this really living the dream?
For that dream can turn into a nightmare for
everyone involved, while a woman can look from the
outside as if she is a disposable conduit, not a person in
her own right. This is where we still are. And yet there
are voices telling us to think about these poor innocent
lads whose reputations are ruined. It is shameful.
Misogyny is not a crime, clearly, but spare me
the suffering of these rugby legends. For them to be
portrayed as victims, now? That is truly unbelievable.
Section:GDN 1J PaGe:4 Edition Date:180413 Edition:01 Zone:
Sent at 12/4/2018 18:21
The Guardian Friday 13 April 2018
My stepmother
Mo helped to
achieve peace.
Give her credit
s I watched the 20-year celebrations
of the Good Friday agreement
play out, my frustration and anger
began to boil over. “Where the
fuck is she?” I wanted to shout
at the television and radio. As
the day went on I decided to just
avoid the media altogether; it was
only going to make me cross, and that’s not what the
day was about. It was a day to celebrate something
extraordinary, the impossible becoming possible.
Mo Mowlam was my stepmum, but for most people
she is remembered for the work she did helping to
bring peace to Northern Ireland. When Mo arrived
as Northern Ireland secretary in 1997, the job was
reputed to be a “poisoned chalice”. However, Mo not
only brought the opposing parties to the table but also
helped persuade a country of divided communities to
come together for the sake of peace and progress.
I missed Mo more this week than I do on the
anniversary of her death, or her birthday. Her absence
was everywhere in the British media’s coverage of
the anniversary of the agreement. I felt powerless
as I watched the old guard being paraded across our
screens. In their defence, Mo can’t be there of course.
She died from cancer back in 2005.
On Tuesday, Tony Blair gave his speech in Belfast
on the anniversary of the agreement signing. It was
Mo Mowlam in Belfast, 1998 PHOTOGRAPH: MAX NASH/AP
a stark oversight that he didn’t even mention her
name. He made no acknowledgment of her role in the
negotiations at all. Perhaps he was afraid that he might
get another standing ovation about someone else in
the middle of one of his speeches?
I would go so far as to say that without Mo there would
be no peace process in Northern Ireland. She applied
her own distinctive personality and approach to the job.
She demonstrated empathy and understanding. She
recognised and listened to victims and survivors. She
worked closely with the men but also very importantly
the women – mothers, daughters, girlfriends and wives –
of Northern Ireland in order to achieve peace.
Mo was from a family of strong women; her father was
an alcoholic which meant her mother and older sister
held her family together. Her inclusion of women was
imperative to the peace process – she knew that without
help from the women in the community, there was no
way she was going to be able to persuade the men to join
the conversation. She had to find the humanity in and
commonality between families and relationships from
all sides, in order to help people find hope.
Some have argued that Mo was not able to actually
“seal the deal” in the end, and that things began to
unravel on her watch. Or that there’s a “myth of Mo”
and her role in the peace process. In 2005 when Mo
died, Blair said of her: “It is no exaggeration to say she
transformed the politics not just of Northern Ireland
itself but crucially of relations between the Republic
of Ireland and the United Kingdom, and it was this
transformation that created the culture in which
peace-making could flourish … suddenly nationalist,
republican and Catholic Ireland had every preconception
of the English up-ended and rendered out of date.
She didn’t have to talk about equality. She exuded it,
naturally and with an absence of affectation that was
marvellous to behold … she bowled everyone over.”
As a director of documentary films, I’ve spent a
lot of time in Northern Ireland and the republic since
Mo died. The island is a second home to me, having
been so formative in my teenage years and early 20s.
In anticipation of the rewriting of the history books (or
at least the omission of certain characters!) I’ve been
pitching a film to commissioners at various broadcasters:
an authored, personal story in Mo’s memory that would
celebrate and explore her legacy for contemporary
women. I’ve been told “no one would be interested”.
That they “couldn’t see who would watch it”.
Seemingly a fitting narrative when you look at what
played out on the media over the past few days.
The only place I have seen Mo remembered as
she should be this week was in the middle of a
documentary presented by the comedian Patrick Kielty
in which he recalled her honesty and straight talking.
It made me smile watching the archive of a show he
had hosted, with her as a guest. As he said, Mo was
“greeted like a rock star, not a politician” when she
entered the TV studio. A testament to her humanity
and ability to connect with all walks of life.
Everyone has a story about Mo, and I am
constantly amazed by how many people she met in
the world. How many people she touched. You can’t
just erase that memory, however hard they try. She
never just “flew in when the cameras were turned on”
– if anything she snuck out and went to see people
when no one was watching. The thing about Mo was
that it came to her instinctively. She didn’t think about
it, it wasn’t a strategy, it was instinct, it was passion
and it was sheer determination.
Mo knew the Good Friday agreement was just the
beginning, she knew it was a process and when she died
she hoped that whoever took over those reins would
honour that, would work at that and would help the
people of Northern Ireland to progress to true peace. It
wasn’t the finished article, and this is where I believe
people are going wrong. They are celebrating an end, a
solution; but it was a beginning, a starting point. Neil
Kinnock at her memorial started his speech about Mo
with a very simple statement: “A light has gone out.”
I often think of those words. A light did go out when
Mo left the stage, and while many people will attempt
to live in the afterglow of her memory, they cannot
remove her from the memories of the people.
spoke – and I
left Facebook
for good
is the director of
Born and Bred,
a documentary
about Northern
hate Facebook as much as the next person,
but prior to this week I had no intention of
boycotting it. The gesture would, I told myself,
be both meaningless and totally unrealistic. I
have never successfully given up a single bad
habit – bacon, Milky Ways, leaving the dishes
in the sink overnight – so why would the urge
to check Facebook work out any different?
And in bald outline, the Cambridge Analytica
story wasn’t enough of an impetus to change. After
the news broke, most people I know, while tutting
and fretting over how awful it all was, also believed
themselves to be entirely immune to the effects of
propaganda and ad targeting. For idiot racists, data
harvesting is a prelude to mind control; for the rest
of us it’s an abstract political problem.
Or at least it was until this week. I have occasionally
had sympathy for people who create something that
becomes much bigger than anticipated and then
have to scramble to explain what they’ve done.
If I had given Mark Zuckerberg much thought
before now, it was as someone I considered with
vague distaste but no real animosity. Then several
things happened in rapid succession to recategorise
Facebook in my mind from a simple bad habit to
something else: an entity whose sole purpose is
to take the piss out of its users.
It was a piece in the New York Times last week
that articulated this fact more clearly than I have seen
elsewhere and in a way that finally drove the point
home: we, as Facebook users, are not the company’s
customers but the company’s product.
The other lightbulb moment came courtesy
of Zuckerberg’s appearance before the Senate
committee, which not only provided a handy and
highly personalised visual on which to hang one’s
dislike – the bland face, the android expression,
the cult-like choice of Facebook-blue tie – but also
offered cast-iron proof of the company’s bad faith.
It was Lindsey Graham, the Republican senator
for South Carolina, who finally flushed out the
disingenuousness. Graham invited Zuckerberg
to remember an internal memo that circulated
at Facebook in 2016 in which the author, Andrew
Bosworth, a vice-president of the company who
once taught Zuckerberg at Harvard, jocularly noted
that while maybe Facebook “costs a life by exposing
someone to bullies” or “maybe someone dies in a
terrorist attack coordinated on our tools”, hey-ho,
“anything that allows us to connect more people
more often is de facto good”.
No action was taken against Bosworth, and
even though Zuck assured the senators he didn’t
agree with the memo’s statement, he also added, in
a winsome aside: “Boz is what we call him internally.”
It was the chummy cuteness of “Boz” that put the
final nail in the coffin. That’s it, I’m done; 24 hours
clean and it feels tremendous.
Section:GDN 1J PaGe:5 Edition Date:180413 Edition:01 Zone:
Friday 13 April 2018 The Guardian
Sent at 12/4/2018 18:15
Look at Syria.
It’s how world
wars begin
hat on earth are we doing?
I have not heard a single
expert on Syria explain how
dropping missiles on that
country will advance the
cause of peace or lead its
dictator, Bashar al-Assad,
to back down. It will merely
destroy buildings and probably kill people. It is pure
populism, reflected in the hot-and-cold rhetoric of
Trump’s increasingly whimsical tweets. Heaven
forbid that British policy should now, as it appears, be
hanging on their every word.
We can accept that the chemical attack on a
Damascus suburb was probably by war-hardened
Syrian airmen. But Britain too has killed civilians in
this theatre. No, we don’t poison our own people, but
we claim the right to blow other country’s civilians
to bits. This crisis is already displaying the familiar
preliminaries to a reckless conflict. It seeks reasons for
violence, not for its avoidance. Thus there was no reason
for Britain to go to war with Iraq in 2003, beyond a sabrerattling competition between Tony Blair and America’s
George Bush. Nor was there a reason for Germany and
France to fight in 1870. There was no reason for war
in 1914, beyond the murder of an archduke in Serbia.
As AJP Taylor said of 1914: “Nowhere was there a
conscious determination to provoke a war. Statesmen
miscalculated [and] became prisoners of their own
weapons. The great armies, accumulated to provide
security and preserve the peace, carried the nations to
war by their own weight.” I wonder what Taylor would
have said of Trump’s “Get ready Russia” tweet.
Most wars nowadays follow a triggering of often
casual alliances and obligations, and from the absence
of any potent forum through which disagreements and
minor disputes might be resolved. Peace in Europe was
roughly sustained for 50 years through the councils
of the 1815 Congress of Vienna. Then it collapsed as if
from exhaustion. The dread prospect now is that the
post-1945 cold war settlement, roughly overseen by
the United Nations, has outlived its usefulness.
All the more reason for the world to beware of proxy
wars. Britain has no dog in the Syrian fight, which is a
miserable resurgence of one of the oldest and bitterest
Middle East clan feuds. Assad was able to call on Iran and
Russia to come to his aid, and they have done so with
grim effectiveness. The rebels were encouraged to hold
out by the west, and by material support from the antiIranian Saudis. Syria has paid a terrible price. Further
intervention now would be lunatic.
Theresa May seems trapped by Washington, as Blair
was in 2003. It is clear that her advisers do not think
bombing Syria is the best way to respond to a chemical
weapons attack, but she seems reluctant to admit it.
She claims not to need the approval of parliament
in firing missiles. That convention dates from when
monarchs and their generals needed discretion to
ward off imminent threats to national security. There
is no threat now. This is not a military but a foreign
policy decision. It clearly merits collective approval,
especially from a minority government.
In 2003, Blair sought the approval of parliament to
invade Iraq, albeit on a lie. Shamefully he received it.
In 2013, Cameron sought approval to fight Syria, and
was mercifully denied it. May can avoid a Commons
vote, but with a mere 22% of the public reportedly in
favour of bombing Syria and 43% against, even the
gain to her machismo might be at risk. The danger is
what happens next. An eye for an eye suggests a more
spectacular and photogenic repeat of Trump’s missile
bombardment of last year. But the risk of killing Russian
or Iranian troops is clearly high, and of provoking
military retaliation higher still. These are moments
when leaders take on the raiment of commanders, and
give themselves licence to decide policy alone. It makes
the job of their colleagues in restraining them all the
harder. In-house hawks have all the best tunes.
This shows how weak are the underpinnings of
international peace when the balance of power is
upset. Nothing in the current state of the world merits
a superpower confrontation, only the narcissistic
and belligerent personalities of certain world leaders.
Victors in war have an obligation to show patience
and restraint towards the defeated. Russia in 1989 was
defeated, but the west has been gloating ever since.
Russia in Syria is guilty. That is not the point. In this
first crisis in east-west relations since the cold war, it
seems we must now rely on Russia, not the US, to show
patience and restraint. That is an ominous prospect.
Section:GDN 1J PaGe:6 Edition Date:180413 Edition:01 Zone:
Sent at 12/4/2018 18:04
Gillian Ayres
One of Britain’s most
popular abstract
painters, known for her
huge, vibrant canvases
illian Ayres,
who has died
aged 88, was
one of Britain’s
most significant
abstract painters,
a woman of
much vitality and
generosity, and a domestic person
on a grand, overspilling scale. Her
huge, improvised canvases, with
paint sometimes an inch or two
thick, were worked on in sittingrooms and bedrooms while Ayres’s
bantams, peacocks, cats and dogs
roamed from her garden to the
studio. The marks of their paws
and claws may still be detected in
some paintings, for Ayres liked to
drape wet, unstretched canvases
over furniture and often painted on
the floor.
She matured as an artist in the
1950s, in the heyday of “experimental art”. Her disobedient aes-
The Guardian Friday 13 April 2018
Gillian Ayres’s
most creative
period began in
the early 1980s
after she left her
teaching position
at Winchester
School of Art
thetic sense helped her to become
one of the first British admirers of
Jackson Pollock. With Pollock in
mind, but also instinctively, she
formed pools of colour and spreadout lines, dashes and bravado
meanderings. House paint was used
on hardboard and her long formats
resembled panels or friezes.
This tendency had its climax in a
mural project of 1957. The architect
Michael Greenwood asked Ayres
to decorate the new dining hall at
South Hampstead high school for
girls, in north London. The resulting
murals may count as the only true
British contribution to American
abstract expressionism. But their
vigour went unappreciated. The
murals were soon covered over –
luckily, only with wallpaper. They
were rediscovered, in almost perfect
condition, in 1983, by which time
Ayres had become famous.
Her public success had begun
with the Hayward Annual in 1980,
which was followed by a large exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art
in Oxford in 1981 and a thrilling retrospective at the Serpentine Gallery
in 1983. In the years to come she
would have regular shows at a number of dealers’ galleries, including
Fischer Fine Art, Knoedler, Gimpel
Fils and Alan Cristea. She was
appointed OBE in 1986, advanced to
CBE in 2011.
She became a Royal Academician in 1982; the academy honoured
Ayres with a retrospective in 1997.
Not long afterwards, she resigned
from the academy when its Sensation exhibition included a portrait
of the child murderer Myra Hindley,
but in 2000 she was quite easily persuaded to rejoin. Most of her quarrels were short-lived and were the
result of her warmheartedness.
Gillian was born in south-west
London, and grew up in Barnes, the
only child of Florence and Stephen
Ayres, who owned a factory that
made smart hats. She attended
St Paul’s school for girls, where a
classmate was the future politician
Shirley Williams. Ayres excelled in
no academic subject and a precocious gift for landscape painting led
to a place at Camberwell School of
Art in 1946, at the age of 16.
It was then the most ladylike of
London art schools, but Camberwell
gave Ayres individual male friends.
Howard Hodgkin, her equal in
teenage self-will, was a cherished
companion, then and in later years.
There were also men who had come
with paint
an inch or
two thick
on in
rooms and
back from the army and would not
accept instruction from traditionalists. One of them was Henry Mundy,
whom she married in 1951.
Other lifelong friends who were
ex-servicemen included Adrian
Heath and Terry Frost, who had
met in a PoW camp, and Frederick
Gore. Ayres thus joined a group
whose anti-authoritarian feelings
helped form British abstraction in
the 50s. Most of them were drawn
to the anarchic example of Roger
Hilton. In 1950-51 Ayres and Mundy
painted together in Cornwall, not
far from Hilton’s home, their efforts
partly funded by Ayres’s work as a
barmaid at the Gurnard’s Head pub
near Zennor.
Back in London, Ayres and
Mundy shared a job (three days
each) at the AIA Gallery in Soho,
which was an avant-garde but
also leftwing community project.
Although she was never a political person, Ayres had a combative
spirit. She mainly loathed artists of
the Euston Road school, a detestation she maintained for the rest of
her life. She thought that brown
tonal paintings were an affront to
the possibilities of life. Line-drawing
meant little to her, and she herself could hardly draw. She never
spoke warmly of any contemporary
portrait painting. Such attitudes
encouraged her belief in the potential of abstraction.
In 1957 Ayres showed at the
significant exhibition Metavisual,
Tachiste, Abstract: Painting in England Today, at the Redfern gallery.
Section:GDN 1J PaGe:7 Edition Date:180413 Edition:01 Zone:
Friday 13 April 2018 The Guardian
Sent at 12/4/2018 18:05
 @guardianobits
Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, immunologist, former vice-chancellor,
Cambridge University, 67;
Lyn Brown, Labour MP, shadow
minister for the Treasury, 58;
Antonia Byatt, former director,
Cheltenham literature festival,
58; Stephen Byers, former
Labour MP and cabinet minister,
65; Nicole Cooke, Olympic
and world champion cyclist,
35; Peter Davison, actor, 67;
Stanley Donen, film director
and producer, 94; Edward Fox,
actor, 81; Al Green, soul singer,
72; Rosemary Haughton, writer,
philosopher and theologian, 91;
Garry Kasparov, chess player, 55;
Max Mosley, former president,
Fédération Internationale de
l’Automobile, 78; Philip Norman,
author and journalist, 75; Denise
O’Donoghue, television producer,
63; Jonjo O’Neill, racehorse trainer,
66; Chris Riddell, illustrator,
cartoonist, former children’s
laureate, 56; Paul Sorvino, actor,
79; Christopher Strauli, actor, 72;
John Swinney, MSP, deputy first
minister of Scotland, 54; Marjorie
Yates, actor, 77.
Clockwise from
near left, At This
Stage (2001);
Blow Up 1 (2017);
Dendera (2017)
Ray Wilkins
She was the only woman in the Situation exhibition at the RBA Galleries
in 1960, the first group show of British abstract art of the new decade.
The predominant manner was of
large paintings with clear outlines
and flat colour. Ayres’s canvases
nonetheless retained her characteristically ragged touch.
Although she showed at the Kasmin Gallery (1965, 1966 and 1969),
the Situation exhibition was the
end of her public career for some
years. Ayres devoted herself to her
two sons and to teaching. From 1959
until 1965, she was at the unusual
Bath Academy of Art at Corsham.
Other members of staff were Heath,
Hodgkin, Frost and Mundy. Her husband was also her colleague when
she taught at St Martin’s School of
Art from 1966 until 1978. In 1976
she and Mundy divorced, although
the fellow artists afterwards found
it convenient to share a home for
much of the rest of their lives.
In 1978, Ayres became the first
woman to run a fine art department
in a British art school, when she
was appointed head of painting at
Winchester. Some people thought
she was ill-equipped to chair committees, award degrees and make
plans for cutting costs. It is true that
she was not suited to discussions in
an office: Ayres sincerely believed
that an art school was most successful and creative without any office
at all. Her resignation was accepted
in 1981, with Ayres (in her view) the
victim of a managerial tendency
in art education. Despite these dif-
ficulties, she left Winchester with a
thriving painting department.
Her own most creative period
then began. She moved, with her
family – and sometimes one or two
other dependants, friends, or a penniless former student – to a remote
house in the Llŷn peninsula in north
Wales. The wooded mountains, rivers and nearness of the sea suited
her romantic tendencies. Gigantic
paintings, now in oil rather than
acrylic, came very rapidly: sometimes she produced more than one a
week. Her palette, sometimes floral,
was also emphatic and lawless, with
quantities of yellow. Some paintings
became decorative, repeating their
motifs, and she developed a series
of round canvases. These were especially prized by collectors.
yres smoked 60
cigarettes a day,
worked through
the night if she
felt like it, gave
money to friends,
neglected the
collected broken pieces of pretty
china and loved Elizabethan poetry.
Her favourite painter was Rubens,
whose sumptuous female models
she somewhat resembled. Not
seeing the point of putting cat food
on a plate, she simply emptied the
cans on to the kitchen floor. She
never locked her car. Ayres ignored
all advice, including medical
advice. About government, current
affairs and rational discussion she
floral, was
of yellow
remained headily aloof. She was
therefore a splendidly disruptive
personality in the many committees
she was invited to join in the 80s.
Ayres did not enjoy their meetings and was much happier when
working directly with artists,
devising exhibitions and cooperating with other painters in, for
instance, India (where she spent
some time as a representative of the
British Council) and at the British
School at Rome.
From the late 80s Ayres painted
in comparative seclusion from commerce and metropolitan life in the
last, and most gloriously shabby,
of her homes. This was on the
north Devon coast near the border
with Cornwall. For all her belief in
abstraction, Ayres was still a painter
who relied on rural British life.
In the almost inaccessible Gooseham, Ayres and Mundy worked in
their separate studios until the skies
darkened over their house, its mad
allotments and its rushing stream,
and the time had come for some
champagne, uncorked by their helpful son Sam, who was also responsible for the organisation of two late
Ayres retrospectives – one of her
Welsh-period paintings at the Cardiff National Gallery and, in Beijing,
a more general account of her work,
both in 2017-18.
She is survived by her two sons
with Mundy, Jimmy and Sam.
Tim Hilton
Gillian Ayres, painter, born
3 February 1930; died 11 April 2018
KG Banks writes: When his playing
days were over, Ray Wilkins
(obituary, 5 April) proved to be an
astute and insightful analyst not
only of domestic football, but also
commentating alongside James
Richardson on Channel 4’s muchmissed Football Italia programme.
Broadcast on Sunday afternoons
for a decade from 1992, Football
Italia showed live games and
highlights from the Serie A
league. Attracting more than
three million viewers at its peak, it
was a cut above other footballing
programmes, often showing us
something of the history and
culture of the Italian cities that were
hosting the various matches.
In particular I remember that
Ray was always generous in his
praise of the silky skills of a fellow
artist, Roberto Mancini, as well
as being ready to acknowledge
the supporting contributions of
journeymen performers.
Section:GDN 1J PaGe:8 Edition Date:180413 Edition:01 Zone:
Sent at 12/4/2018 17:41
Established 1906
Country diary
Gosforth Park,
As soon as we enter the wood, the
noise of traffic seems to recede,
replaced by a feeling of calm.
Our focus shifts to take in birdsong,
the drumming of a woodpecker,
the rustle of dry leaves. Gosforth
Park nature reserve is a retreat
from busyness, the quiet eye of
the storm. With access restricted
to members of the Natural History
Society of Northumbria, its wildlife
is undisturbed.
This is an open wood with a
high canopy of oak trees and an
understorey of coppiced hazel.
There’s the occasional lofty Scots
pine or dense, dark holly. Fixed to
tree trunks are numerous bat
boxes; seven species of bats have
been recorded here, including
Daubenton’s, noctule, Nathusius’
pipistrelle and Brandt’s. In summer,
though very hard to spot flying
among the tops of the oak trees,
flit purple hairstreak butterflies.
We reach an area of wetland
where a boardwalk leads through
Phragmites reedbeds. They
swish and jostle in a light breeze.
Seedheads of great reedmace are
softly disintegrating and dispersing,
as fluffy as thistledown. A bird hide,
supported above a lake by strong
oak piles, was built week by week
by volunteers, all materials having
to be carried to the site. From here
we look out over ruffled water,
pewter grey with darker ripples,
but golden where the reeds reflect
like patches of sunlight.
Everywhere there is spring
urgency and pairing up. Canada
geese, confident and strong, are
head-shaking and calling, blackheaded gulls noisily posturing,
mute swans making a royal progress
through a group of tufted ducks.
A flurry of jousting coots brings a
rival belting across the lake to join
in the fray, while a long-legged
female clambers over a mat of fallen
reeds, ignoring the commotion.
On the far bank, closely grouped,
are a pair of Canada geese next
to three herons with a little egret
between them. A dabchick plunges,
leaving boiling water and concentric
ripples. I wish for a kingfisher, so
often seen here, but that flash of
electric blue will have to be another
day. Hearing an ice-cream van
playing Greensleeves, I am reminded
how close we are to the city.
Susie White
Twitter: @gdncountrydiary
The Guardian Friday 13 April 2018
 @guardianletters
Role of apprenticeships
in the UK economy
Polly Toynbee (Going nowhere fast:
the lie of apprenticeships, 9 April)
provides a much-needed focus on
the dire state of apprenticeship
provision in England. The recent
report of the Commission on London
at King’s College London set out how
to start tackling this. The mayor of
London – and the regional mayors
across England – need to be given
new powers to manage the delivery
of skills provision in their area.
London should first be given a share
of the unspent apprenticeship levy
to manage as it sees fit. This will
build on the current plans for the
adult education budget to be given
to the mayor. The mayor should
then be given the job to provide
strategic coordination to skills and
apprenticeships across London,
targeting crucial shortages, including
construction, hi-tech and creative
industries. Making skills a top
priority for the mayor will help tackle
the lack of status and esteem for
apprenticeships and level the playing
field in London with universities.
Tony Halmos
Director, Commission on London
Even in practical subjects such
as servicing motor vehicles or
the construction trades, a college
course offers a carefully structured
progression through the elements
of the subject, supplemented by
development of practical skills in
college workshops. Students are
taught by staff who are dedicated
to developing people and skills,
rather than finishing a job to a given
timescale. After a couple of years of
a college course, students are ready
for skilled employment or to go on
to develop higher skills.
The companies praised by Polly for
the quality of their apprenticeships
are large enough to have dedicated
training schools that do much the
same job as a FE college, but they are
few and far between. Many of the
remainder contribute to the problem
of low-quality apprenticeships. It is
to be regretted that many excellent
college courses have suffered from
transfer of funding to apprenticeships
and from being portrayed as inferior
to them.
Mike Lee
Rossendale, Lancashire
• The real lie is that apprenticeships
are superior to FE college courses.
• The apprenticeship scheme is a
failure of imagination, modelled on
The OU is about
more than who
is in the top job
But in pointing to central government
as being mainly responsible for the
current difficulties, an important
dimension of the OU is missed.
It is a UK-wide organisation and
governments, learners and citizens in
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland
have a claim on the institution and
its mission. In Wales, where the
OU has been very well led in recent
years, the Welsh government and the
Higher Education Funding Council
for Wales have supported part-time
opportunities for adult learners
through the maintenance of public
teaching funding. No doubt ministers
there (and in Scotland and Northern
Ireland), not to mention learners, will
be looking closely at how failures of
leadership and a neglect of part-time
provision in England are causing
damage to an institution that they
have invested in and upon which
they have come to rely.
Ceri Phillips
Your editorial (10 April) rightly notes
that the problems facing the Open
University are far greater than Peter
Horrocks. You refer to the UCU vote
of no confidence and our claim that
he has lost the respect of staff. That
is indeed the case. But it needs to
be emphasised that over the past
two weeks I have been part of the
greatest single mobilisation of
virtually unanimous feeling within
a university that I have experienced
in over 30 years working in higher
education. “No confidence” and calls
to resign have been articulated in a
plethora of meetings, in letter-writing
and via petitions in every quarter of
the university – at every level. The
message is unequivocal: if the Open
University is to survive, a necessary
condition is the resignation of the
current vice-chancellor.
Professor Steve Tombs
Department of social policy and
criminology, the Open University
• You are right to draw attention
to the inadequacies of the present
vice-chancellor and to draw a
contrast with the deep loyalty and
commitment of the staff of the OU.
• I had the privilege of working for
the OU for more than 40 years. In that
time, it had five vice-chancellors,
with very different philosophies and
styles. Looking back, I do not believe
the way I worked was ever affected
by how I found the VC of the day, and
the same was true of the majority of
my colleagues. Our loyalties were to
the university and its students, not
to the person in the top job.
Donald Mackinnon
Suzhou, China
a much watered-down version of
good French and German training
programmes, rather than something
that would be effective in the
context of British education before
18. Polly is too kind on those firms
she criticises, that would rather
imagine their future poaching skilled
workers from rivals than training
their own, a habit so ingrained in
British business that it requires very
serious commitments to reverse it.
The apprenticeship scheme
was never going to work without
a thorough overhaul of FE. This is
not only about training and skills
for 16- to 19-year-olds. It is about
having an FE sector capable and
resourced to provide lifelong learning
for adults aged over 16 to meet their
needs and interests, as well as those
of employers. But even if enough
money were found to meet the
needs of FE, the sector has been so
run down that it would not have the
capacity to absorb the money until
a good deal more was done first.
This is a long-term problem at the
root of the failure of UK productivity,
economic performance and the
culture of unambition among (some)
younger people outside the A-level/
university enclave. Real investment
in training, FE and apprenticeships
would offer hope and prospects to so
many people. It might even reduce
youth violence, but would certainly
contribute to greater national
wealth and wellbeing.
Chris Farrands
Deaths in Gaza will
haunt Israeli snipers
We, a group of former combatants
who were members of sniper
teams, seek to express our feelings
of distress regarding the recent
incidents in the Gaza Strip. As we
hear about military orders permitting
snipers to fire live ammunition at
unarmed demonstrators, we are
filled with shame and sorrow: shame
at the orders devoid of moral and
ethical judgment, and sorrow for the
young soldiers, whom, as we know
very well from our own experience,
will always carry with them the
scenes that they witnessed through
the sights of their rifles.
Instructing snipers to shoot to
kill unarmed demonstrators who
pose no danger to human life is
another product of the occupation
and military rule over millions of
Palestinian people, as well as of our
country’s callous leadership, and
derailed moral path.
Harming innocent people in Gaza is
part of what is needed to maintain the
regime of occupation, and we must
not allow it to continue. Only ceasing
to militarily control the Palestinian
people will bring this to an end.
Gil Fermon Nahal 50th Battalion,
Amit Goldberg, Nadav Weiman
Nahal reconnaissance unit, Avner
Gvaryahu Paratroops anti-tank unit,
Ron Zaidel Nahal 931st Battalion
Corrections and
• An opinion piece incorrectly
said a paper by Tim Hewish
of Commonwealth Exchange
excluded south Asian, African and
Caribbean nations from proposals
for a “bilateral free labour mobility
zone”. In fact the paper did
suggest that the approach could be
extended to other Commonwealth
nations – once they were more
economically developed (Trade after
Brexit will lay bare our fantasy of
empire, 7 April, page 1, Journal).
Editorial complaints and corrections can be sent to or The readers’ editor,
King’s Place, 90 York Way, London N1 9GU; alternatively
call 020 3353 4736 from 10am to 1pm Monday to Friday
excluding public holidays
Who made Britain
the world police?
President Assad poses no threat
to Britain, so why is the west
threatening to attack without a
UN resolution? Given that there is
no immediate threat to our country,
parliament should at least be given
the opportunity to vote on this.
The UK has no right to appoint
itself as a world policeman, and
given the danger of war against
Russia there are considerable
dangers in taking on this role.
Dr Richard Turner
Beverley, East Yorkshire
• I see that Zoe Williams (Opinion,
10 April) is excited and impressed
by an initiative that teaches burglars
to avoid confrontation. I’d prefer
one that teaches them not to burgle.
Jan Wiczkowski
Prestwich, Greater Manchester
• Andrew Tyrie’s appointment
prompts the question: why is
there only one Competition and
Markets Authority (Tyrie to head
watchdog, 12 April)?
Jem Whiteley
• Even better: if you were to have
the quick crossword at its former
size (Letters, 5 April), you could
print the answers to Word Wheel.
I have a good vocabulary and
generally struggle to achieve even
the “average” score.
Adrianne LeMan
• World’s largest brewer develops
greener way to put bubbles in beer
(12 April). Yeast?
Michael Peel
Axbridge, Somerset
We do not publish letters where
only an email address is supplied;
please include a full postal address, a
reference to the article and a daytime
phone number. We may edit letters.
Submission and publication of all
letters is subject to our terms and
conditions: see
Section:GDN 1J PaGe:9 Edition Date:180413 Edition:01 Zone:
Friday 13 April 2018 The Guardian
Sent at 12/4/2018 17:52
The long read
Some economists say it needs to
be raised, some economists say
it’s already too high. But are both
sides missing the point?
By Peter C Baker
The ideological
war over the
minimum wage
The Project Twins
o idea
ide in economics provokes
more furious argument than the minimum wage. Every
time a government debates whether to raise the lowest
amount it is legal to pay for a
an hour of labour, a bitter
and emotional battle is sure to follow – rife with charges
of ignorance, cruelty and ideological
bias. In order to
understand this fight, it is necessary
to understand
that every minimum-wage law
is about more than just
money. To dictate how muc
much a company must pay
its workers is to tinker with the beating heart of the
employer-employee relation
relationship, a central component
Thi is why the dispute over
of life under capitalism. This
these laws and their effects – which has raged for
acrimonious it is ultimately a clash
decades – is so acrimonious:
between competing visions of politics and economics.
In the media, this debate almost always has two
clearly defined sides. Those who support minimumw
wage increases argue that when
businesses are forced to
pay a higher rate to workers on the lowest wages, those
workers will earn more and have better lives as a result.
Opponents of the minimum wage argue that increasing
it will actually hurt low-wag
low-wage workers: when labour
becomes more expensive, th
they insist, businesses will
purchase less of it. If minimu
minimum wages go up, some workers will lose their jobs, and o
others will lose hours in jobs
t government intervention
they already have. Thanks to
in the market, according to tthis argument, the workers
struggling most will end up struggling even more.
This debate has flared up with new ferocity over the
past year, as both sides have trained their firepower on
the city of Seattle – where ac
activists have won some of the
most dramatic minimum-wage
increases in decades,
hiking the hourly pay for tho
thousands of workers from
$9.47 to $15, with future increases
automatically pegged
t highest minimum wage
to inflation. Seattle’s $15 is the
doubl the federal minimum of
in the US, and almost double
$7.25. This fact alone guaranteed
that partisans from
both sides of the great minimum-wage
debate would be
watching closely to see wha
what happened.
But what turned the Seattle
Seat minimum wage into
national news – and the subject
of hundreds of articles –
wasn’t just the hourly rate. IIt was a controversial, inconimpac of the new law – or, really,
clusive verdict on the impact
two verdicts, delivered in tw
two competing academic
papers that reached opposit
opposite conclusions. One study, by
economists at the University of Washington (UW),
suggested that the sharp increase
in Seattle’s minimum
wage had reduced employm
employment opportunities and
t poorest workers, just as
lowered the average pay of the
its critics had predicted. The
The other study, by economists
Section:GDN 1J PaGe:10 Edition Date:180413 Edition:01 Zone:
Sent at 12/4/2018 17:52
The Guardian Friday 13 April 2018
According to a 1979 study,
90% of economists saw
minimum-wage laws as a
source of unemployment
at the University of California, Berkeley,
claimed that a policy designed to boost
worker income had done exactly that.
The duelling academic papers launched a flotilla of
opinion columns, as pundits across the US picked over
the economic studies to declare that the data was on
their side – or that the data on their side was the better
data, untainted by ideology or prejudice.
But when the historians of the future consider our
21st-century debates about the minimum wage, they
will notice that, despite the ever-increasing bitterness
of the disagreement, the background logic is almost
identical. Some commentators think the minimum
wage should obviously go up. Some think all minimumwage laws are harmful. Others concede we may need a
minimum wage, but disagree about how high it should
be or whether it should be the same everywhere – or
whether its goals could be better accomplished by other
measures, such as tax rebates for low-income workers.
But beneath all this conflict, there is a single, widely
shared assumption: that the only important measure of
the success of a minimum wage is whether economic
studies show that it has increased the total earnings
of low-wage workers – without this increase being
outweighed by a cost in jobs or hours.
It is no coincidence that this framing tracks closely
with the way the minimum wage is typically discussed
by academic economists. In the US’s national organs of
respectable public discourse – New York Times op-eds,
Vox podcasts and Atlantic explainers – the debate is
conducted almost entirely by economists or journalists
steeped in the economics literature. At first glance, this
seems perfectly natural. After all, the minimum wage is
obviously an economic policy: shouldn’t economists be
the people best equipped to discuss its effects?
But to historians of the future, this may well
appear as a telling artifact of our age. Just imagine,
for a moment, combing through a pile of articles
debating slavery, or child labour, in which almost every
participant spoke primarily in the specialised language
of market exchange and incentives, and buttressed their
points by wielding competing spreadsheets, graphs
and statistical formulas. This would be, I think we can
all agree, a discussion that was limited to the point of
irrelevance. Our contemporary minimum-wage debates
are similarly blinkered. In its reflexive focus on just a
few variables, it risks skipping over the fundamental
question: how do we value work? And is the answer
determined by us – by politics and politicians – or by
the allegedly immutable laws of economics?
In the last four years, some of the most effective activists in America have been the “Fight for $15” campaigners pushing to raise the minimum wage – whose
biggest victory so far had come in Seattle. Thanks to
their efforts – widely viewed as a hopelessly lost cause
when they began – significant minimum-wage increases
have been implemented in cities and states across the
US. These same activists are laying plans to secure more
increases in this November’s midterm elections. The
Democratic party, following the lead of Bernie Sanders,
has made a $15 minimum part of its official national
platform. US businesses and their lobbyists, hostile to
minimum-wage increases but well aware of their
popularity, are gearing up to fight back with PR
campaigns and political talking points that paint the
minimum wage as harmful to low-wage workers,
especially young workers in need of job experience.
In the UK, Jeremy Corbyn has pledged that a Labour
government would raise the national minimum wage to
£10 “within months” of taking office. In recent years, EU
policymakers have raised the possibility of an EU-wide
minimum-wage scheme. All this activity – combined
with concern about rising economic inequality and
stagnating wages – means the minimum wage is being
studied and debated with an intensity not seen for
years. But this is a debate unlikely to be resolved by
economic studies, because it ultimately hinges on
questions that transcend economics.
So what are we really talking about when we talk
about the minimum wage?
The first minimum-wage laws of the modern industrial
era were passed in New Zealand and Australia in the
Peter C Baker
is a freelance
writer based in
Chicago and a
editor at Pacific
The Project Twins
first decades of the 20th century, with the goal of improving the lives and working conditions of sweatshop
workers. As news of these laws spread, reformers in the
US sought to copy them. Like today’s minimum-wage
proponents, these early reformers insisted that a minimum wage would increase the incomes of the poorest
workers. But they were also explicit about their desire to
protect against capitalism’s worst tendencies. Without
government regulation, they argued, there was nothing
to stop companies in ruthless competition with each
other from exploiting poor workers who needed jobs in
order to eat – and had no unions to fight on their behalf.
In the field of economics, the concern that a stateadministered minimum wage – also known as a wage
floor – could backfire by reducing jobs or hours had been
around since John Stuart Mill at least. But for years, it
was not the dominant view. Many economists supported
the introduction of a minimum wage in the US, especially
a group known as “institutionalists”, who felt economists
should be less interested in abstract models and more
focused on how businesses operated in the real world. At
the time, many economists, institutionalist and otherwise, thought minimum-wage laws would likely boost
worker health and efficiency, reduce turnover costs and
stimulate spending. During the Great Depression, these
arguments found a champion in Franklin Roosevelt, who
declared his desire to reshape the economy by driving
out “parasitic” firms that built worker penury into their
business models. “No business which depends for
existence on paying less than living wages to its workers
has any right to continue in this country,” he said in 1933.
Inevitably, this vision had its dissenters. At a 1937
Congressional hearing on the proposed Fair Labor
Standards Act – which enacted the first federal minimum
wage – a representative of one of the US’s most powerful
business lobby groups, the National Association of
Manufacturers, testified that a minimum wage was the
first step toward totalitarianism: “Call it Bolshevism or
communism, if you will. Call it socialism, Nazism,
fascism or what you will. Each says to the people that
they must bow to the will of the state.”
Despite these objections, the FLSA passed in 1938,
setting a nationwide minimum wage of $0.25 per hour
(the equivalent of $4.45 today). Many industries were
exempt at first, including those central to the southern
economy, and those that employed high proportions of
racial minorities and women. In subsequent decades,
more and more of these loopholes were closed.
But as the age of Roosevelt gave way to that of Reagan,
the field of economics turned against the minimum wage
– one part of a larger political and cultural tilt toward all
things “free market”. A central factor in this shift was
the increasing prominence of neoclassical price theory,
a set of models that illuminated how well-functioning
markets respond to the forces of supply and demand, to
generate prices that strike, under ideal conditions, the
most efficient balance possible between the preferences
of consumers and producers, buyers and sellers.
Viewed through the lens of the basic neoclassical
model, to set a minimum wage is to interfere with the
“natural” marriage of market forces, and therefore to
legislatively eliminate jobs that free agents would otherwise have been willing to take. Low-wage workers could
lose income, teenagers could lose opportunities for work
experience, prices could rise and the overall output
of the economy could be reduced. The temptation
to shackle the invisible hand might be powerfully
tempting, but was to be resisted, for the good of all.
Throughout the 70s, studies of the minimum wage’s
effects were few and far between. Hardly anyone thought
it was a topic that required much study. In 1976, the
economist George Stigler, a longtime critic of the
minimum wage on neoclassical grounds, boasted that
“one evidence of the professional integrity of the
economist is the fact that it is not possible to enlist good
economists to defend protectionist programs or minimum
wage laws”. He was right. According to a 1979 study in
the American Economic Review, 90% of economists saw
minimum-wage laws as a source of unemployment.
“The minimum wage has caused more misery and
unemployment than anything since the Great Depression,” claimed Reagan in 1980. In many ways, Reagan’s
governing philosophy (like Thatcher’s) was a grossly
simplified version of neoclassical price theory, slapped
with a broad brush on to any aspect of American life that
Republicans wanted to set free from regulatory
interference or union pressure. Since becoming law in
1938, the US federal minimum wage had been raised by
Congress 15 times, generally keeping pace with inflation.
Once Reagan was president, he blocked any new
increases. By the time he left office, the federal minimum
was $3.35, and stood at its lowest value to date, relative
to the median national income.
But the neoclassical consensus was eventually shattered.
The first crack in the facade was a series of studies published in the mid-90s by two young economists, David
Card and Alan Krueger. Through the 1980s and into the
90s, many US states had responded to the stagnant federal minimum wage by passing laws that boosted their
local minimum wages. Card and Krueger conducted
“natural experiments” to investigate the impact of these
state-level increases. In their most well-known study,
they investigated hiring and firing decisions at fast-food
restaurants located along both sides of the border separating New Jersey, which had just raised its wage floor,
and Pennsylvania, which had not. Their controversial
conclusion was that New Jersey’s higher wage had not
Section:GDN 1J PaGe:11 Edition Date:180413 Edition:01 Zone:
Friday 13 April 2018 The Guardian
Sent at 12/4/2018 17:52
caused any decrease in employment.
In Myth and Measurement, the duo’s book summarising their findings, they assailed the existing body of
minimum-wage research, arguing that serious flaws had
been overlooked by a field eager to confirm the broad
reach of neoclassical price theory, and willing to ignore
the many ways in which the labour market might differ
from markets in consumer goods. Card and Krueger’s
work went off like a bomb in the field of economics. The
Clinton administration was happy to cite their findings in
support of a push to raise the federal minimum to $5.15..
But defenders of the old consensus fought back.
In the Wall Street Journal, the Nobel prize-winning
economist James M Buchanan asserted that people
willing to give credence to the Myth and Measurement
studies were “camp-following whores”. For economists to
advance such heretical claims about the minimum wage,
Buchanan argued, was like a physicist arguing that “water
runs uphill” (which, I must note, is not uncommon
in man-made plumbing and irrigation systems).
There were some shortcomings in Card and Krueger’ss
work, but their findings inspired droves of economists
to start conducting empirical studies of minimum-wage
hincreases; over time, they developed new statistical techal
niques to make those studies more precise. After several
generations of such studies, there is now considerable
iagreement among economists that increases in the minit.
mum wage have not substantially reduced employment.
But this newer consensus is far short of the nearunanimity of the 1980s. There are prominent dissenterss
who insist that the data, when properly analysed, still
confirms the old predictions of neoclassical theory.
And every new study from one side of the debate still
generates a rapid response from the other.
What has returned the minimum wage to the foree
ground of US politics is not the slowly shifting discourse
of academic economists, but the efforts of the Fight for
$15 and its new brand of labour activism. The traditional
template for US labour organising was centred on unions
But in the past four decades, the weakening of US labour
law and the loss of jobs in industries that were once
bastions of union strength have made traditional unionss
harder to form, less powerful and easier to break,
especially in low-wage service industries.
These conditions have given birth to what is often
called “alt-labour”: a variety of groups and campaigns
(many funded or supported by traditional unions) that
look more like activist movements. Campaigns such as
the Fight for $15 often voice support for unionisation
as an ideal, but in the meantime, alt-labour groups seek
to address worker grievances through more public
means, including the courts, elections and protest
actions, including “wildcat” strikes.
In November 2012, some 200 non-unionised workerss
at fast-food chain restaurants in New York City walked
off the job and marched through the streets to broadcastt
two central demands: the ability to form a union and a
$15 minimum wage. (At the time, New York’s minimum
wage was $7.25, the same as the national minimum.) The
marches also sought to emphasise the fact that, contrary
to persistent stereotype, minimum-wage jobs are not
held only by teenagers working for pocket money; many
of the participants were adults attempting to provide for
families. The march was coordinated with help from one
of the US’s largest and most politically active unions, the
Service Employees International Union. Soon the SEIU
was helping fast-food workers stage similar walkouts
across the country. The Fight for $15 had begun.
As the campaign gathered steam – earning widespread
coverage, helping secure minimum-wage increases in
many cities and states, and putting the issue back into the
national conversation – the media turned to economistss
for their opinion. Their responses illustrated the extent to
which the old neoclassical consensus had been upended
but also the ways in which it remained the same.
The old consensus insisted that the only good minimum wage was no minimum wage; the new consensus
orecognises that this was not the case; increasingly, economists recognise that monopsonistic conditions, in which
there is little competition among purchasers of labour,
are more common than once thought. If competition
among low-wage employers is not as high as it “should”
be, wages can be “unnaturally” suppressed. Therefore,
a mi
a minimum
wage is accepted as a tweak necessary to
correct this flaw. For economists, the key would be to
calculate a wage with benefits (in hourly wages) that
could be predicted, based on the weight of past studies,
to ou
outweigh its costs (in lost jobs and hours).
But this meant that almost no economists, even
staunch defenders of minimum-wage increases, would
endorse the central demand of the Fight for $15. A hike of
that size, they pointed out, was much more drastic than
any increase in the minimum wage they had previously
analysed – and therefore, by the standards of the field,
too rrisky to be endorsed.
Of course, these economists may be right. But if all
minimum-wage policy had been held to this standard,
the US
U federal minimum wage would not exist to begin
with – since the initial jump, from $0 to $0.25, would
have also been deemed too risky by economists.
Almost exactly a year after fast-food workers walked off
the jjob in New York City, the country’s first $15 minimum
wage became law in SeaTac, Washington, a city of fewer
than 30,000 people, known mostly (if at all) as the home
of Se
Seattle’s major airport, Seattle-Tacoma International.
It wa
was an emblematic victory for “alt-labour”.
That same day, a socialist economist named Kshama
Sawant won a seat on Seattle’s City Council. Sawant had
made a $15 minimum wage a central plank of her campaign
aign. Afraid of being outflanked from the left in one
of th
of the most liberal cities in the US, most of her fellow
council candidates and both major mayoral candidates
endorsed the idea, too. On 2 June 2014, the city council
approved the increase to $15, to be phased in over three
years, with future increases pegged to inflation.
The furious Seattle minimum-wage debate of last
summer was ostensibly about the $15 rate. But the subject
of th
those competing studies was actually the city’s intermed
mediate increase, in 2016, from $11, to $13 for large business
nesses or $12 for smaller ones. When researchers at the
University of Washington (UW) released a paper analysing
this hike in June 2017, their conclusion appeared to
uphold neoclassical theory and throw cold water on the
Fight for $15. Yes, low-wage Seattle workers now earned
more per hour – but, the paper argued, having become
more expensive, they were being hired less often, for
fewer hours, with the overall reduction in hours
outweighing the jump in hourly rates. According to their
calculations, the average low-wage worker in Seattle
made $1,500 less in 2016 than the year before, even
though the city was experiencing an economic boom.
Some of the funding for the UW researchers had come
from the Seattle city council. But after city officials read a
draft of the study, they sought a second opinion from the
Center on Wage and Employment Dynamics at the
University of California, Berkeley – a research group long
associated with support for minimum-wage increases.
The Berkeley economists had been preparing their own
study of Seattle’s minimum wage, which reached very
erent conclusions. At the city’s request, they
accelerated its release, so it would come out before the
more negative UW paper.
It was around this point that the op-ed salvos started
ying in both directions. Conservatives leaped to portray
liberals as delusional utopians who would keep commission
sioning scientific findings until they got one they liked.
Some proponents of Fight for $15, meanwhile, scoured
the iinternet for any sign that Jacob Vigdor, who led the
UW study, had a previous bias against the minimum wage.
But on one point, almost everyone agreed. Both studies
were measuring the one thing that really mattered:
whether the higher minimum wage led to fewer working
hours for low-wage workers, and if so, whether the loss
in ho
hours had counteracted the increase in pay.
This approach revealed a fundamental continuity
between the post-Card and Krueger consensus and the
neoclassical orthodoxy it had replaced. When Roosevelt
pushed for America’s first minimum wage, he was confident that capitalists would deal with the temporary price
shock by doing what capitalists do best: finding new
ways to save costs elsewhere. He rejected the idea that a
functioning economy simply must contain certain types
of jobs, or that particular industries were intrinsically
required to be poorly compensated or exploitative.
Economies and jobs are, to some extent, what we
decide to make them. In developed economies like the US
and the UK, it is common to lament the disappearance
of “good jobs” in manufacturing and their replacement
by “bad” low-wage work in service industries. But much
of what was “good” about those manufacturing jobs
was made that way over time by concessions won and
regulations demanded by labour activists. Today, there
is no natural reason that the exploding class of service
jobs must be as “bad” as they often are.
The Fight for $15 has not notched its victories by
convincing libertarian economists that they are wrong; it
has won because more Americans work bad jobs – poorly
paid, unrewarding, insecure jobs – and they are willing
to try voting some of that badness out of existence.
This willingness is not the product of hours spent
reading the post-Card and Krueger economic literature.
It has much more to do with an intuitive understanding
that – in an economy defined by historically high levels of
worker productivity on the one hand, and skyrocketing
but unevenly distributed profit on the other – better
arrangement must be possible, and that new rules might
help nudge us in the right direction. But we should not
expect that there will be a study that proves ahead of time
how this will work – just as Roosevelt could not prove his
conjecture that the US economy did not have an existential dependence on impoverished sweatshop labour.
Last November, I spent several days in Seattle, mostly
talking with labour activists and low-wage workers,
including fast-food employees, restaurant waiters and
seasonal employees at CenturyLink Field, the city’s stadium. In all of these conversations, people talked about
the higher minimum wage with palpable pride and
enthusiasm. Crystal Thompson, a 36-year-old Domino’s
supervisor, told me she still loved looking at pictures
from Seattle’s Fight for $15 marches: proof that even
the poorest workers could shut down traffic across a
major city and make their demands heard. “I wasn’t
even a voter before,” she told me.
The more people I talked to, the more difficult it was
to keep seeing the minimum-wage debate through the
lens of economics – where it is analysed as a discrete
policy option, a dial to be turned up or down, with the
correct level to be determined by experts. Again and
again, my conversations with workers drifted from the
minimum wage to other battles about work and pay in
Seattle. Since passing the $15 minimum wage, the city
had instituted new laws mandating paid sick and family
leave, set legal limits on unpredictable, on-call shift
scheduling, and funded the creation of an office of
labour investigators empowered to track down and
sanction violators of these new rules.
It was obvious in Seattle that all these victories were
intertwined, and that all of these advances for labour took
the form of limits, imposed by politics, on the latitude
allowed to employers in the name of profit-seeking.
Toward the end of my visit, I went to see Jacob Vigdor,
the lead author of the UW study arguing that Seattle’s
minimum wage was costing low-wage workers money.
He wanted to defend the study from its critics on the
economic left – but also to stress that his findings were
tentative, and insufficiently detailed to make a final
ruling. “This is not enough information to really make a
normative call about minimum-wage policy,” he said.
This was not the sort of thing I had expected to hear
from the author of the study that launched a hundred
vitriolic assaults on the $15 minimum wage. “A million
online op-ed writers’ heads just exploded,” I said.
Vigdor laughed ruefully. “Well, we’re going to be
studying this for a long time.”
A few days earlier, I met with Kshama Sawant, the
socialist economist who had been so instrumental in
passing the $15 wage. She was eager to make sure I had
read the Berkeley study, and that I had seen all the
criticisms of the UW study. But her most impassioned
argument wasn’t about the studies – and it was one that
Roosevelt would have found very familiar. “Look, if it
were true that the economic system we have today can’t
even bring our most poverty-stricken workers to a semidecent standard of living – and $15 is not even a living
wage, by the way – then why would we defend it?” She
paused. “That would be straightforward evidence that
we need a better system.” •
Section:GDN 1J PaGe:12 Edition Date:180413 Edition:01 Zone:
Sent at 12/4/2018 18:42
The Guardian Friday 13 April 2018
Killer Sudoku
Each letter of the alphabet makes at least one appearance in the grid,
and is represented by the same number wherever it appears. The letters
decoded should help you to identify other letters and words in the grid.
The normal rules of
Sudoku apply: fill each
row, column and 3x3 box
with all the numbers from
1 to 9. In addition, the
digits in each inner shape
(marked by dots) must
add up to the number in
the top corner of that box.
No digit can be repeated
within an inner shape.
Killer Sudoku
Cryptic crossword
Solution No. 27,481
Guardian cryptic crossword No 27,482 set by Paul
Stuck? For help call 0906 200 83 83.
Calls cost £1.10 per minute, plus your
phone company’s access charge.
Service supplied by ATS.
Call 0330 333 6946 for customer
service (charged at standard rate).
Want more? Get access to more than
4,000 puzzles at
crossword. To buy puzzle books, visit or call
0330 333 6846.
7 See 19
8,13 12 down’s 52, old couple
beyond sophisticated Cumbrian
town drinking Bordeaux, say?
9 See 6
10 Lawyer, oldest professional? (9)
12 Vehicle infected? (5)
13 See 8
15 Bird’s unpleasant feeling in
stomach (4)
16 Talks in meeting as essential? (5)
17 Audible power in poor little
thing (4)
18 Shiny fabric worn in alluring
style, ultimately (4,4)
20 See 20 down
21 Pulse rate’s extreme in cutting of
internet access (5,4)
22,5 Course one’s taken in river
rising somewhere in Canada (4,6)
24 Show daughter newspaper
spread (7)
25 See 16 down
1 Region more ’irsute, did you say?
2 Determination slightly lacking in
tense period of gradual decline
3 See 16
4 Vital energy beats the bends (8)
5 See 22
6,9 Drinking venue always heaving
at first, having gatecrashed party
11 Close, even awkward, intimate
clip (4,5)
12 In which one is the observer of
Grace? (5)
14 Readily available, Matthew and
Mark etc cuddled by senior (2,3)
16,25,3 12 down’s 60 large magnets,
gift awfully dangerous (8,7,6)
17 Steep peak in Turkey within
Armenia arguably? (8)
19,7 12 down’s 44 people animating a
lethargic character? (6,7)
20,20across 12 down’s 77 warmer
places on expedition (6,5)
21 Badger trapper (4)
23 Express train finally entering test
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