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The Guardian e-paper Journal - May 18, 2018

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Section:GDN 1J PaGe:1 Edition Date:180518 Edition:01 Zone:
Sent at 17/5/2018 18:23
Betting curbs are long overdue Simon Jenkins, page 3
Extend the Brexit transition? It’s more delusion Gina Miller, page 5
A suicide in Gaza The long read, page 9
The Guardian Friday 18 May 2018
and ideas
London falling:
how the north
of England got
its groove back
t is a consensus many Londoners may struggle
to comprehend, reliably deluded when it comes
to outside perceptions of their beloved city.
The children’s commissioner for England, Anne
Longfield, spent the last year travelling across
the north interviewing young people about their
hopes and fears for a report called Growing Up
North. From Liverpool to Hull, and everywhere
in between, she asked children where they saw their
future. They agreed on one thing: not London.
There were girls in Manchester who fancied living
in New York, boys in Bradford who dreamed of one day
moving 10 miles up the road to Leeds. But London? No
ta. Too expensive, they told her: “Not just in terms of
housing but in terms of maintaining your lifestyle.”
Longfield senses a cultural shift. When she was
growing up in Yorkshire in the 1970s, like so many
ambitious northern girls she was set on escaping to the
bright lights of the big city. “I went from near Leeds to
Newcastle University, straight down the A1 to London,”
she told me. I was the same, only in the noughties:
Morecambe, Edinburgh, London. Boom. I wanted to be a
journalist and all the best jobs were in the capital. All my
favourite northern bands had already moved down.
Now, when I give careers talks to students, the
question I get asked most is: “Do you think I’ll have to
move to London?” Not: “I really want to”, but: “Do I
have to?” I see very few Dick Whittingtons and a lot more
London refuseniks, unwilling to leave their nice lives in
York/Sunderland/Lancaster for a slightly bigger salary.
After all, who cares if you’re on an extra £10k if you still
can’t afford your own place and it can take an hour and a
half to visit someone in the same city?
There’s an arrogance to Londoners that turns the rest
of the country right off. On the bank holiday weekend
I was in the capital and did a parkrun in Croydon.
Afterwards, I got chatting to a local who boasted that it
was the hardest and hilliest such event in the country.
I expressed scepticism, pointing out that there were
courses in the Lake District that would make Croydon
look like Holland. “That doesn’t count,” he said.
Last week the trade secretary, Greg Hands said
Reading had been chosen as the new home for the Trade
Remedies Authority because it was “well connected
to whole of UK”. Tell that to businesses in Liverpool or
Leeds, who will face a seven-hour round trip to get there.
I moved from London to Greater Manchester five
years ago, despite many warnings that
I was heading straight into a career culde-sac. But what price a garden? Stairs? A
Helen Pidd
is the Guardian’s
north of
England editor
Section:GDN 1J PaGe:2 Edition Date:180518 Edition:01 Zone:
Sent at 17/5/2018 18:23
The Guardian Friday 18 May 2018
London falling: how the north
of England got its groove back
Helen Pidd
Continued from front
spare room? I also thought the media had
become unforgivably London-centric and
I wanted to play a tiny part in challenging
the capital’s dominance. Sometimes that just means
pointing out that sun is forecast for Manchester
when our lead story suggests the nation is about
to be laid waste by a snow storm; other times it has
meant reporting from what we now see as the Brexit
heartlands, warning that leaving the EU was a very real
prospect, however fanciful it looked from London.
There is no doubt that many of the top jobs remain in
the capital. But for how long? In the media alone, 3,200
BBC employees are now based in Salford, and Channel 4
recently announced plans for a “second home” outside
London. The year 2016 marked a pivotal moment, when
more graduate jobs were created in Manchester than in
the City of London: 3,790 compared with 3,545 in the
Square Mile, according to Charlie Ball of graduate careermonitoring service Prospects. Ball expects Leeds and
Glasgow to overtake the City in the next few years.
Should we thank the former chancellor George
Osborne and his “northern powerhouse”? His successor
may be too busy with Brexit to put much money or
energy into the project – but some Whitehall functions
are already devolved. Cities like Manchester are able
to make their case stronger than ever before, luring
incomers with Tony Wilson’s old adage that “this is
Manchester. We do things differently here.”
ecruiters in London are getting jittery
about their ability to attract top
talent. A CBI survey last month found
that 66% of businesses in the capital
believed London’s housing market
was having a negative impact on the
recruitment of entry-level staff. The
average first-time buyer needs a salary
of £100,000 to buy a two- or three-bedroom home,
against £32,000 in Newcastle or £28,000 in Liverpool.
Some 44% of companies told the CBI they offered
premium wages or retention payments to attract staff,
noticing how many were moving out of London when
they hit 30. No wonder many are increasing their
regional presence. Consultancy firm Deloitte told me
it now offers 43% of graduate opportunities outside
London, a 12-point increase year on year.
Of course London has never been cheap: “Nothing
is certain in London except expense,” wrote the
18th-century poet, William Shenstone. But a one-bedroom
flat where I used to live in east London, nowhere near a
tube stop, now sells for almost half a million pounds.
Is it any a surprise that so few artists now live in the
capital? Lubaina Himid, last year’s Turner prizewinner,
works happily from a Georgian terrace in Preston.
IAMDDB, one of the most hotly tipped musicians on
the BBC’s Sound of 2018 list, is so in love with her native
Manchester that she quotes its dialling code like a
rhapsody: “0161, that’s home, and will be home for ever.”
As it happens, I am equally fond of Manchester
and London. I just don’t want to live in the latter. The
more I travel around the north of England the more
unforgivable it is to me that the capital gobbles up
ever more investment while town centres everywhere
else are reduced to pound and charity shops, and
pawnbroker’s. Four years ago, the Centre for Cities
found only 24% of Britons outside the capital thought it
had a positive effect on their local economy – the figures
fall to less than 10% in Liverpool, Hull and Sheffield.
Meanwhile, in Chris Grayling we have a transport
secretary who cancelled key electrification projects to
northern rail lines last year while supporting Crossrail 2
– yet another rail line across London, expected to cost
£31.2bn, which just happened to start in his own Surrey
constituency. And is it not a bit rum that the transport
minister, Jo Johnson, is also minister for London?
I know many Londoners blame the north for Brexit,
even though Manchester, Liverpool and Leeds voted
remain. One sent me a petition to sign in the aftermath,
calling for London’s independence. But is it a surprise
that, after so many decades of underinvestment, the rest
of the country saw the EU referendum as a chance to give
London a kicking? We might not want to live in London,
but we can still see what you’re doing.
Founded 1821 Independently owned by the Scott Trust № 53,412
‘Comment is free… but facts are sacred’ CP Scott
Fixed-odds betting terminals
Low stakes are bad news
for the bookmakers
– but good for society
The government’s promise to slash the maximum stake
for fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) from £100 to
just £2 is both welcome and long overdue. Matt Hancock,
the digital, culture, media and sport secretary, was right
to describe the UK’s 33,000 machines as a “social blight”
preying on some of the most vulnerable in society.
A bit of fun? A little flutter? Hardly, when users can
wager £100 every 20 seconds in the grip of an anxious,
joyless compulsion. The government’s evidence is
damning: in England, 13.6% of players of such machines
are problem gamblers – the highest rate for any major
gambling activity. Players are disproportionately likely
to live in areas of high deprivation. And those who are
unemployed are more likely to most often stake £100
than any other socioeconomic group. The buzz of
gambling depends on uncertainty, but these machines
have ensured two things: huge profits for the high
street bookmakers that house them, and misery for a
significant number of their users – and those gamblers’
families. In a single year, there were more than 233,000
cases of individual gamblers losing more than £1,000.
Bookmakers and their supporters claimed that
these devices provided social benefits – jobs – while
denying that they cause social damage. They
portrayed gambling addiction as both an anomaly
and an individual weakness. Yet former addicts have
powerfully described how they were enticed (one even
speaks of “entrapment”) into non-stop play. An IPPR
report two years ago suggested problem gambling was
costing the UK up to £1.2bn a year, mostly through its
Compared with this,
getting captive pandas
to mate is a cinch
There was a time, perhaps, when the government’s
ineptitude over Brexit was almost funny. There is
nothing funny about it now. For 15 months Theresa May
has groped her way towards an approach that could
reconcile her party’s Europe-loathers with her party’s
Europe-pragmatists. All too predictably, none of her
efforts have succeeded. Mrs May now has a month before
the June European council at which the UK and the EU
are due to review progress. She has five months before
some kind of deal is struck. Progress? Deal? These words
have lost all meaning. Getting two pandas to mate in
captivity turns out to be a cinch compared with getting
the Conservative party to agree what it wants.
Mrs May’s latest suggestions for turning Brexit dross
into an agreement that can be marketed as golden
is a so-called “time-limited goods arrangement”.
Essentially, this is an attempt to keep the UK within the
EU’s external tariff system after Brexit until it can come
up with an effective technological alternative to a postBrexit hard border in Ireland. That way, the loathers
would get their Brexit, the pragmatists would get
something they could call a frictionless Irish border, Mrs
May would have a united party for a few weeks and the
UK would not crash out of the EU unprotected.
The problem with all this is … well, where do we start?
In the first place, this agreement is not nailed down
yet. Boris Johnson, who is trying to get sacked in the
hope this will help his dwindling leadership ambitions,
opposes it. Michael Gove, attempting to position himself
as the civilised alternative to Mr Johnson, does too.
impact on the health service and the criminal justice
and welfare systems. So “responsible gambling” must
mean managing the behaviour not just of individual
users but also of the industry.
FOBTs are the most pernicious aspect, but not the
only problem. High street bookmakers have warned
that users will turn to “the FOBT in your pocket”:
gambling apps with few limits. Technology does
make greater controls available: users have to sign up,
and can be more easily tracked and monitored. The
government has promised stronger age verification
rules, and proposals that would limit spending prior
to affordability checks. The national online selfexclusion scheme Gamstop, still under development,
will also be crucial. But a close watch must be kept.
This is all the more essential as gambling is
normalised, including through the wall-to-wall TV
adverts surrounding sports programming. Britain
should follow Australia’s lead in banning gambling
adverts around live sporting events, but even that
is not enough while firms can plaster their names
across football shirts and grounds. Vague pledges to
enhance protections around advertising, and to run a
responsible gambling campaign, are unlikely to offset
the collective impact, particularly on young people.
The Gambling Commission says that about 25,000
11- to 16-year-olds are already problem gamblers.
And more than one in 10 have tried “skins” betting
– betting using in-game items, some of which can be
converted to money. All this must be addressed.
It is possible that yesterday’s decision on FOBTs
could prod the sector into curbing its excesses,
recognising that a failure to regulate itself will bring
fresh pressure and, ultimately, further action by the
government. It seems more likely that – as for its
customers – the lure of a big payout may overcome
rational judgment. The government is right to make
it clear that “responsible gambling” is a matter for
the industry, not just individuals. If the firms will
not shape up, they must be forced to do so.
Outside the government, pragmatic pro-Europeans
like Damian Green think the plan could be a starter.
However, Jacob Rees-Mogg dismisses it as a vision of
“perpetual purgatory”.
Second, although actually more important, the rest
of the EU has not been consulted. Even if the Tory
party improbably comes together behind the idea,
the real negotiation is with the EU and, on the key
issue, with the Irish government. These talks have
not taken place yet – not a small point. According to
our Brussels correspondent, EU reactions range from
the charge that the UK’s ideas are magical thinking
to the view that they are “less use than a deodorant”.
Ireland’s taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, meanwhile, says
none of it “remotely approaches” the kind of terms
that would avoid Britain’s trade relations with the EU
plunging over a cliff at high speed in March next year.
This could all be brinkmanship. It could also be true.
There are also the small (not) matters of parliament
and the people. Neither has been consulted yet. Both
have to be taken seriously. Mrs May has to let MPs
into the process at some point if she wants the much
amended EU withdrawal bill to become law. Both
the parliamentary numbers and the mood suggest
she could lose a vote on the customs union, the very
issue on which she is trying to strike a compromise
in the cabinet. That’s why Mrs May has not definitely
decided when to bring the bill back to the Commons.
And then there’s the people – in two contexts. One
is that MPs may still decide to put the eventual deal
– if there is one and even if there isn’t – to a second
referendum. The other, reportedly in Mrs May’s
mind when she confronted Mr Rees-Mogg on it this
week, is that Northern Ireland voters might reject a
hard Brexit and, in effect, go in with the Republic on
a soft border basis. People like Mr Johnson and Mr
Rees-Mogg don’t think about such possibilities. They
are real not imaginary. Their consequences would be
immense. That is reason enough to say that the time
for laughter, if it ever existed, ended long ago.
Section:GDN 1J PaGe:3 Edition Date:180518 Edition:01 Zone:
Friday 18 May 2018 The Guardian
Sent at 17/5/2018 17:37
Betfred said
ministers are
playing politics
with people’s jobs.
That’s better than
playing profits
with people’s lives
I’m a libertarian,
but I say betting
curbs are long
he most cynical sign I know hangs in my
local betting shop. It reads, “When the
fun stops, stop.” The sign is sponsored
by a consortium of William Hill,
Ladbrokes Coral and Paddy Power, and
is meant to imply their “awareness”
of gambling addiction. What it really
means is: when the fun stops, profit
starts. It reminds me of the doctors who used to
appear before congressional committees pleading that
cigarettes were good for your health.
The government’s reduction to £2 of the maximum
£100 stake in fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) is
welcome, if shockingly overdue. It represents a rare and
emphatic rebellion by ministers against the awesome
power over government of commercial lobbying.
Gambling addiction is a specific and savage curse, mostly
on the poorest section of the community. There are an
estimated 430,000 people who consider themselves
addicts, and 2.3 million who admit they are “at risk”.
Almost half of those who use the machines admit to
being addicted. Some surveys put this proportion as
high as 80%. Under the late Tessa Jowell’s bizarre 2005
Gambling Act, the old one-armed bandits were upgraded
to become gambling’s “crack cocaine”. Jowell promised
they would not lead to “a British Las Vegas”. They have.
The only retort from the gambling industry is that the
change will close hundreds of betting shops, “threaten
21,000 jobs” and cost the government £400m in tax
revenue. It stresses how much it spends from its £13bn
a year in profit to warn about “responsible gambling”.
Yet the best Betfred’s Mark Stebbings could do yesterday
was to accuse the government of “playing politics with
people’s jobs”. That surely is better than playing profits
with people’s lives. These are exactly the wails that we
heard from the tobacco companies as they fought against
curbs on nicotine.
In truth, the measure is a mere slap on the wrist for
an industry that is now rampant online. Here is where
the secret addict can plunge the depths of despair, and
where the most at-risk group are 18- to 30-year-olds.
Here is where, when the fun stops, addiction takes
hold. It tends to be hidden, until its consequences are
unleashed on often unsuspecting families. The online
industry has turned Britain’s colony of Gibraltar into
A fixed-odds
betting terminal
gambling’s narco-economy. A phenomenal one-third
of the entire global gaming industry is estimated to
emanate from massive servers buried under Gibraltar’s
celebrated rock. Here they can accrue profit, blessedly
free of UK taxes other than remote gaming duty. It is a
stain on Britain’s name.
The hope must now be that the government can
start to address the online problem. Much of Britain’s
gambling industry is so offshore as to lose some of
its political clout. If you employ few Britons, you can
hardly threaten unemployment or loss of taxes. The
hundreds of thousands of Britons who must be claiming
social benefits through gambling addiction may be
hidden from the fat cats of Gibraltar who put them
there. But the cost to society must be in the billions.
I am a libertarian who would normally object
to the state preventing people doing what gives
them pleasure. But a sign of civilisation is that it
protects individuals from cynical exploitation by
others, and the wider community from consequent
harm. Such protection need not mean prohibition.
It can mean discouragement through regulation.
“Nudge economics” is an acknowledged weapon of
social policy.
There can be no doubt that curbs on smoking, rightly
short of prohibition, have slashed consumption and
made public spaces more tolerable for all. The new
sugar tax – long held at bay by lobbyists – is finally
reducing the addictive sugar content of soft drinks.
Gambling machines are clearly a menace whose harm
spills over into families and the community. One of the
most alarming sights I know is a Las Vegas FOBT hall,
with rows of people punching machines in zombie-like
rhythm, clearly fixated.
ohn Stuart Mill’s doctrine of liberty held
that: “Over himself, over his own body and
mind, the individual is sovereign.” So long as
others are not harmed, said Mill, we should
be beyond the reach of society and can do
as we please. Nothing is that simple. The
boundary between pleasure and addiction
that is harmful to others is the hardest
boundary for government to police. Alcoholism hovers
over social drinking, cancer over cigarettes, obesity over
fast food and bankruptcy over a mild flutter. The border
is no easier to detect between the odd spliff and the path
to Narcotics Anonymous.
All we know is that the British state’s policing of
these boundaries lacks any rationale. It is dictated by
prejudice, corporate lobbying and political hypocrisy.
Even in the hypocrisy, governments have been
random. They decline to use nudge taxes seriously to
discourage drunkenness or obesity, as if our bodies
were indeed our personal property – free for others
to exploit. Yet governments are savage towards such
taboos as drug use or assisted suicide, while all forms of
health and safety have become ruling obsessions of the
nanny state.
There can be no argument that, where a vested
interest is clearly causing harm to large numbers of
people for its private profit, the logic is for intervention.
But liberty demands that reform customarily be to
regulate rather than prohibit. That is the message of
these gambling changes. Next the principle should be
extended to Britain’s even vaster drugs economy, where
prohibition is clearly counterproductive and regulation
even more desperately needed.
Section:GDN 1J PaGe:4 Edition Date:180518 Edition:01 Zone:
Sent at 17/5/2018 18:41
The Guardian Friday 18 May 2018
There’s a way to
make high-rises
safe, but where
is the will?
s we approach the anniversary of the
Grenfell disaster, we can quite rightly
expect to see extensive coverage
of what most people believed to
have been impossible – a London
residential tower block ablaze,
and 71 men, women and children
condemned to a terrifying death.
The review of building regulations undertaken and
just published by Dame Judith Hackitt as part of the
response to that tragedy, was conducted in the shadow
of a 24-storey tomb. Survivors, relatives and friends,
the surrounding community who must still face the
charred ruins every day, all have the right to expect
a clear and unambiguous commitment to action to
prevent anything like this from ever happening again.
Everyone now living in a high-rise or complex building
has a right to know that their future safety will be
protected, and how.
I suspect most residents in high-rise buildings
would be astonished to know how weak the regulatory
framework that they rely on for their day-to-day
protection is, as the review makes abundantly clear.
This is even more the case, given the lessons that should
already have been learned from the fatal fire in Lakanal
House, Southwark, in south-east London, in 2009. We
may still be some way away from knowing precisely
what caused the Grenfell fire to spread so quickly and
Cladding is removed in Salford CHRISTOPHER FURLONG/GETTY
Wolfe has gone.
The vanities
of his era seem
passe too
with such devastating consequences – we must await
the findings of the official inquiry for that – but we
already knew from Lakanal that the system of building
regulation was not fit for purpose. Yet no action was
taken post-Lakanal, and fears of further delays in order
to undertake yet more consultation and implement what
will inevitably be a complex and prolonged legislative
process are entirely justified.
If some people are worried about the extensive
representation of the building industry on the Hackitt
review working groups, that is understandable as well.
Its expert contribution is important, but the industry
is part of the problem too, and there must not be any
suspicion that its interests outweigh those of the
residents of the buildings it constructs.
The Hackitt review, like the interim review before it,
published last December, provides a powerful critique
of the regulatory framework and the practices that were
widespread throughout the building industry. Don’t
take my word for it. Read the report and I challenge
you not to be struck by the frequently damning nature of
its findings.
In her introduction, Hackitt identifies the key issues
of “ignorance. Indifference. Lack of clarity on roles and
responsibilities” and “Inadequate regulatory oversight
and enforcement”, saying that: “These issues have
helped create … a cultural issue which can be described
as a ‘race to the bottom’.” Much that is set out in the
details of the report makes complete sense – not least the
fact that we need “systemic change” not just a “shopping
list” of individual actions.
et some of the Hackitt proposals
significantly underestimate the
complexity of the task ahead, in the
real world of buildings with many
different types of lease and tenancy.
Grenfell Tower was not unusual in
comprising not just council flats, but
others bought under right to buy, some
then privately rented out, along with housing association
flats used as temporary accommodation, and so on.
Any measures to improve the physical
infrastructure in relation to fire safety, or to alter
the legal responsibilities of residents, are fraught
with complications, and no one is well served by a oversimplified view of the challenges. Although ultimately
the report is a strong critique of the problems, the
real concern about it, and the government’s response
to it, is less to do with what it contains than what it
leaves out.
The report’s failure to come down firmly on the side
of banning the use of combustible materials is bitterly
disappointing. Confusingly, and despite not having
made such an unambiguous recommendation in the
report, Hackitt immediately indicated that, should the
government proceed to such a ban, she would support it.
Recognising the impossibility of this unfolding situation,
the local government secretary James Brokenshire
subsequently confirmed that there will indeed now be a
consultation on a complete ban.
This is welcome – but more welcome still would have
been to just go ahead and ban these materials. All this is
even more worrying given that it has been precisely such
a lack of clarity around responsibility and accountability
that has bedevilled building regulations for many years.
Of course a ban on the use of combustible materials is
insufficient. Of course we also need a change of culture,
revised and tougher guidance on the entire system of
building and fire safety, progress on the retrofitting of
sprinklers and much else. The point is, none of these
things are mutually exclusive. The government can ban
the use of combustible materials on buildings and still
have more than enough to do across a wide-ranging
safety agenda.
This week, and just a month before the Grenfell
anniversary, the government made a late but welcome
commitment to fund the removal of dangerous
cladding from social housing blocks. Now ministers
must take another decisive step. Ban the use of
combustible materials and let that important step be
just the start of a fundamental and lasting change to
building safety.
Karen Buck
is Labour MP
for Westminster
t has been easy, in the last few years, to reread
Tom Wolfe and find him horribly dated. After
the announcement of his death on Monday,
I went back to my copy of The New Journalism
for the first time in a decade and found myself
tutting in annoyance, or as Wolfe himself might
have put it, going tskkkkuh-fnmmm-ught. All
those made-ups words and jaunty phrases; the
testosterone; the punctuation. Lord, the punctuation.
And then I thought of where I was when I first read
Wolfe and felt my heart crater.
It’s not an interesting story. I was on a bus in 1994. It
was the 280 between Aylesbury and Oxford and it was
one of those occasions when the mind-blowing effect
of the book you are reading forever cements what you
saw when you looked up from the page. Boiling hot day,
empty bus, spriggy hedgerows through the window
and – I remember it so vividly – these mad sentences
I couldn’t believe it was actually legal to write.
Time is generally less kind to writing than to music
styles, and that vintage of American male journalist
hasn’t aged well. Gay Talese recently fell foul of
the times; the gonzo brand seems purple and selfindulgent. Only Joan Didion sails above them, like
a queen, in spite of increasing numbers of anecdotes
surfacing in other people’s memoirs about how difficult
she is to sit next to at dinner.
Wolfe was different: grander, more outrageous, less
inclined to censor himself than the others. He was that
strange combination of above-it-all with his white suit
and cane, and elbow-deep in the mud and the hustle.
I had wondered if the obituaries would be unkind,
given the fact that, looked at through the lens of today’s
sensitivities, much of what he wrote is completely
unacceptable. But the tone of the coverage was largely
affectionate, as people paid tribute not only to him but
to the memory of themselves when they read him.
There they were in my copy of The New Journalism,
his greatest hits: from Radical Chic, the sound
of Leonard Bernstein eating a piece of cheese
(“mmmmmmmmm”). From the Flak Catchers,
phonetically spelled dialect that would give Wuthering
Heights a run for its money.
Best of all, the cheeky quote at the front of the book,
chosen by Wolfe and acknowledged to be the “first
21 words of” the honorary doctor of letters citation
for Saul Bellow at a Yale commencement ceremony
in 1972: “In a time when so much of narrative art has
yielded itself to reportage, you have sustained a vital
tradition of …” Wolfe was always a full-throated
defender of the superiority of journalists over prissy
stay-at-home novelists.
The Bonfire of the Vanities was the first book I read
after my A-levels. I was 18, haven’t read it since, and
can still unspool whole scenes in my mind, including
the phone doughnut and the master of the universe
furiously trying to get a leash on his dog. It was worth
putting up with a few silly sound effects for that.
Section:GDN 1J PaGe:5 Edition Date:180518 Edition:01 Zone:
Friday 18 May 2018 The Guardian
Sent at 17/5/2018 18:41
Extend the
transition? It’s
more delusion
he late Malcolm Muggeridge called
his memoirs Chronicles of Wasted
Time. This title could work just as
well as a description of Britain’s
preparations for exiting the European
Union. No doubt to Theresa May’s
utter exasperation, the latest chronicle
we hear from her unhappy cabinet
is that the two customs union options that were
being discussed – the customs partnership and the
maximum facilitation scheme – have both been
ditched. The new wheeze is a piecemeal approach,
to extend some customs rules beyond the transitional
period cut-off date of December 2020.
It is hard not to let out an anguished scream at this
news. For a start, the EU had already rejected the two
options being contemplated, so the Brexit head-bangers
have simply wasted nearly a month – of the precious
seven months available to them for these negotiations –
on what were non-starters from the outset.
The new proposal to extend the transitional period will
be put to the EU at the June summit, but it is also likely to
be flatly rejected as the EU has made it abundantly clear
that any kind of piecemeal approach is unacceptable.
To state the obvious to this seriously delusional
cabinet, any extension will have to be on current terms
– that is, abiding by all EU rules and free movement. And
this is unlikely to go down well with the public because
it means that, for all the progress the government claims
to have made, it will have barely advanced an inch.
The date we leave the EU will be pushed even further
down the road: the limbo will continue. Remember the
grinning Brexit secretary David Davis, alongside EU
negotiator Michel Barnier at the press conference in
March, with all those green areas of agreement on the
slide behind them? Anyone who believed a deal was in
the bag must be feeling seriously misled.
So the clock keeps ticking, and the Brextremists carry
on playing out their comic opera, while life in the real
world continues. The EU gave an insight into this a few
days ago when it released two slides about how they
saw the current state of affairs. They use the phrase
“third country” multiple times, implying that both the
European parliament and the council see negotiations
advancing on the basis of the UK taking on outside status.
They talked, too, of a “level playing field”, plainly
indicating that the UK cannot achieve a deal as a third
country that is equal or superior to EU membership.
In this respect, regulatory alignment looks like the most
realistic way forward. But how will the Brexiteers square
this with their “take back control” mantra, when in
effect it means losing control? For example, a security
and information agreement sounds fine, but, in practice,
Gina Miller
is a progressive
as a third country, there are limits the EU will set on
information and intelligence sharing with Britain.
No one wants to put security at risk; and, equally, the
EU will fear setting a dangerous precedent of offering
any kind of bespoke relationship for a third country.
What you can also read from the slides is that when
the EU talks about its own “autonomous measures”,
it is they who will decide on the way ahead. For example,
in financial services the EU clearly knows Britain wants
more than equivalence – a poor cousin to current
passporting provisions. Equivalence is acknowledged
as being less robust and less stable. But there is no
appetite to give more, and France, which would benefit
from taking our financial business, is already trying
to make things more difficult on this issue, suggesting
tightening up the rules on investment.
I have every sympathy with the prime minister, who
has been hoping that by playing for time her cabinet
would eventually agree on a sensible way forward. But
now it is patently clear that winning slowly is just the
same as losing. The humiliating idea that we just slide
from the top EU table to third country is unthinkable.
Come the end of the year, when ratification must begin,
we are going to be in a very awkward position.
But then, what in all honesty could anyone have
expected when disloyal, mischievous men such as Boris
Johnson, Michael Gove and Jacob Rees-Mogg – who all
appear to see themselves as May’s successor – object to
every proposal put forward but never have any sensible
alternative of their own?
Surely it is time we went back to the drawing board
and asked the people who raised the curtain on this
utter farce in the first place, how they wish it to end.
Let us agree to let the government see what it can
rescue, then come back to us, the people, and ask us
all: is this really what we want for ourselves and, more
importantly, for our children?
Section:GDN 1J PaGe:6 Edition Date:180518 Edition:01 Zone:
Sent at 17/5/2018 17:58
Polly Toynbee rightly calls attention
to the scandal of corporate
executive rewards and the political
difficulties in getting them curbed
(People want fat cats stopped.
Labour must prove it’s up to the
job, 16 May). But there is a simple
and politically minimalist way to
increase executive accountability.
As described in my book
Corporate Power and Responsible
Capitalism?, the Swedish system
of nominations committees,
which select executives and nonexecutive directors, has significantly
reduced the powers of executives.
Adapted to UK circumstances,
these committees could widen
executive accountability by
including small shareholders and
“social” stakeholders, such as NGOs
and trade unions having small
shareholdings, alongside bigger
long-term investors. The necessary
small amendments to the existing
Companies Act would be economical
with scarce political capital but
would make large corporations more
accountable to civil society.
Bryn Jones
University of Bath
• Polly Toynbee explains the
colossal challenge combating
“preconceptions about Labour’s
incompetence at running the
economy”. This despite rebellions
at shareholder AGMs against CEO
greed, thwarted by institutional
investor apathy at best and corporate
collusion at worst. Astonishingly, it is
this CEO excess which impoverishes
their own investors. Further, your
leader (16 May) highlights the
Labour-led parliamentary call for
referral of the audit sector to the
Competition and Markets Authority.
We have been here before, notably
with the conflict of interest by the
accountancy firm Arthur Andersen
in its audit of Enron over 15 years ago.
A 1990s-style corporate prawn
cocktail offensive is now less
effective than connecting with and
empowering ordinary voters. So,
John McDonnell, bypass the fat cats
– Labour must get the message out
that it is the people who as workers
and investors have the power to
change corporate culture and elect a
government in their interests.
Nick Mayer
• The select committee report pulls
no punches in blaming the greed of
the Carillion executives, who gouged
out millions from the business up to
the moment of collapse, with £1.5bn
owed to creditors and £0.5bn to the
pension fund (Carillion fall blamed on
hubris and greed, 16 May). The wider
issue, for all financial institutions, is
the greed of the “big four” auditors,
paid £72m, who colluded with the
directors, gave no warnings and
signed clean certificates. Surely the
executives and auditors should pay
all the creditors in full. At what point
does the “cosy relationship” become
a criminal fraudulent conspiracy?
As Polly Toynbee argues, the people
want their money back from the
If boardroom larcenists
can steer clear of the
law and go unpunished,
it is surely time that
the law was changed
Ron Mitchell
fat cats, not slippery apologies. Are
the supine regulators part of the
conspiracy or will they bring charges?
Noel Hodson
Tax Reconciliations, Oxford
• We in the west criticise Putin’s
Russia as a “kleptocracy”, but
the damning report into Carillion
shows something similar exists
in too many of the boardrooms of
British companies. Time and again
The private sector and childcare
Helen Penn warns us about the
risks of the expansion of privatised
childcare as the government makes
contracts with more private chains
to help provide accessible childcare
and reduce fees for parents (Why
parents should fear the privatisation
of childcare, 14 May). She foresees
a Carillion situation and the risk of
failure which faced the Australian
government in 2008, when ABC
Learning, then one of the world’s
largest private childcare providers,
went into liquidation as a result of
The Guardian Friday 18 May 2018
Carillion and Britain’s
modern kleptocracy
burdening itself with debt while
chasing aggressive expansion. It cost
the Australian taxpayer a lot of money
to bail it out because it was too big
to fail, but it provided the Australian
government with an opportunity
to do something different. They
replaced it with Good Start, a large
childcare social enterprise.
Her other comment, that only the
private sector fails, is untrue, as the
UK government’s strategic partner
4Children went into administration
in 2016. The other suggestion, that
we read reports of chief executives
and their boardroom cronies, to
quote Frank Field, “stuffing their
mouths with gold”, while their
companies go to ruin with thousands
thrown out of work and pension
schemes impoverished. There is a
word for people who appropriate
other people’s money: “thief”. If
boardroom larcenists can steer clear
of the law and go unpunished, it is
surely time that the law was changed.
Ron Mitchell
hour tower
Sunset on the
promenade at
Share your
• A simple solution is to ban the
auditors of all public companies from
undertaking any consultancy or other
non-audit work. We need specialist
audit firms and totally separate
consultancy organisations so that
audit opinions are not influenced by
potential consultancy fees.
Jim Michie
• Thanks to Owen Jones for naming
and shaming neoliberalism (Carillion
is no one-off scandal. There are
many more to come, 17 May). It is
one of the few words that adequately
describes the self-seeking choice
that shapes so many of our decisions,
whether personal, social, national
or global. Neoliberal choice and
decision-making is unregulated by
any concern for the needs of the
other, whether that be a community,
a nation, or an underprivileged and
marginalised group.
Canon Paul Townsend
Ringwood, Hampshire
• The government’s culpability
and responsibility for the collapse
of Carillion and its consequences is
deeper than the select committee’s
report suggests: the government’s
insistence that its estate be
constructed and managed through
prime contract procurement
strategies increases the risk of prime
contractor default and its disastrous
consequences, as well as increasing
the cost of everything it purchases.
There was a time when local builders
or suppliers would deal direct
with their local government client:
now we go through a pyramid of
consultancies, all adding 20% and
“retaining” 10%.
Michael Heaton
Warminster, Wiltshire
the state will provide, is also highrisk. The state can never deliver a
fair market – a live example being the
inability or possible unwillingness
of the current government to pay the
right costs for childcare contracts.
As CEO of the largest childcare
social enterprise in the UK, I would
urge the government to consider
what the Australians did and build
the social enterprise bridge between
state and private providers. That
way there may be more chance that
taxpayers’ money is also invested
into those businesses which drive
strong and identifiable social impact.
June O’Sullivan
London Early Years Foundation
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All aboard for the
railway hokey cokey
The Guardian is right to ask for
nationalisation to be given a chance
(Editorial, 17 May). But we need to
guard against any romantic notions.
The nationalised industries were not
all that our memories believe them
to be. They grew to be inefficient and
bloated. May I suggest introducing
nationalisation in parts of most of the
industries that were privatised under
Mrs Thatcher. I say “parts” because I
mean a mixed economy; that is, in any
given market there be publicly owned
corporations and private companies.
Where would the BBC be without the
breath of fresh air that was ITV? What
would ITV’s quality levels be like if
there wasn’t a BBC to compete with?
The railways have their
problems like the other “unnatural
monopolies”; for example, even
where it is possible to have a choice
of carrier over a route, the pricing is
fixed centrally. This is one throwback
to British Rail that needs resolving. In
other industries, how good it would
be to have private companies, with
the efficiency motive driving profits,
competing against public enterprises,
where service is the key aim.
Gary Osborne
Keighley, West Yorkshire
• I hope the rebranding of the east
coast mainline as London and North
Eastern Railway (LNER) doesn’t
bring with it the reputation it had
when my father worked for it. He
always referred to it as the Late and
Never Early Railway.
Mike Lowcock
Crewe, Cheshire
• You put your private enterprise in.
You put your private enterprise out.
In out, in out, shake it all about. You
do the financial hokey cokey then
you turn around. Is that what it’s all
about, Mrs May?
Dr Nigel Mellor
Newcastle upon Tyne
• I’m concerned that the trains on
the east coast route may soon have
so many coats of paint that they
may not fit in the tunnels.
Bob Ward
Section:GDN 1J PaGe:7 Edition Date:180518 Edition:01 Zone:
Friday 18 May 2018 The Guardian
Sent at 17/5/2018 17:58
 @guardianletters
Corrections and
• The clue to 10 across in Tuesday’s
quick crossword, “Censure severely
(7)”, called for a verb, but the solution
was “reproof”, a noun. The clue has
been corrected online to “Censure”
(No 14,982, 15 May, page 16, G2).
• Debbie Thrower, not Blower,
was the only female presenter of
a Radio 2 daytime show until the
current move from evenings to
daytime by Jo Whiley (Published
salaries used to attack the BBC, says
Mayo, 8 May, page 14).
Editorial complaints and corrections can be sent to or The readers’ editor,
King’s Place, 90 York Way, London N1 9GU
If Winston could
wear a onesie…
Anthony Barnett (Letters, 15 May)
claims as a lesson from 1968 that “any
politics of the left worth having must
embrace a spirit of radicalism and
connectedness, to breathe life into
politics and free it from establishment
routines”. I would point to the
counter-lesson of 1945 – how to use
“establishment routines” (formed in
1939-45 wartime) to transform a tired
capitalism into a “mixed economy”
with state and market working
together. Which “politics of the left”
is more worth having?
Alan Bailey
#MeToo and a ‘woke’ generation
didn’t happen overnight
Moira Donegan (#MeToo and the
rift within feminism, The long
read, 11 May) appears to believe
that it is the current “woke”
generation who first noticed that
“meaningful liberation from
misogyny will only be achieved
collectively, with changes at
the structural, cultural and
institutional levels”. And yet it was
exactly this understanding that
fuelled the women’s liberation
movement of the 1970s.
There is nothing new about
bitter ideological rifts between
women who identify as feminists,
and yes, some “famous western
feminists” have promoted an
individualist agenda, oblivious
to race and class privilege. But
lots of non-famous feminists,
black and white, have argued and
campaigned tirelessly for decades
in exactly the spirit of solidarity
that Donegan identifies as the
hallmark of #MeToo.
All the feminists I know of my age
(60-plus) are cheering on the #MeToo
movement: at last, the outrage that
has fired us up for nearly 50 years
has reached the mainstream.
But cultural change on this
scale does not happen overnight:
it has taken two generations for
the insights of the second wave of
feminists – mostly dismissed at the
time as the ravings of extremists –
to become mainstream.
It is second-wave feminists
and their allies, striving away
as campaigners, lawyers,
lawmakers in parliament, trade
unionists, journalists, academics,
psychotherapists, writers, artists
(you name it!) who have created a
world where #MeToo eventually
became inevitable. Above all,
second-wave feminists, working as
teachers in millions of classrooms
and mothers in millions of homes,
have raised a generation who take
equality and diversity for granted
and can’t imagine how anyone could
ever have accepted anything less.
Yes, there is still rampant sexism
and racism, and many other
injustices, at large in our society.
And there will always be counterrevolutionaries in any revolution.
A luta continua!
Lucy Whitman
• It was odd for a British reader
of Moira Donegan’s article not to
see any mention of the impact
of the book Everyday Sexism by
Laura Bates on the current wave of
feminism. The book, and the blog
that started it, gathered together the
different male prejudices to provide
absolute proof of their existence,
in a way that had never been done
before. It made a huge impact on
feminists of all ages and types in
the UK; yet it seems as though US
feminists such as Moira Donegan
have never heard of it. Everyday
Sexism is a fact-finding feminist
project that must be maintained, and
Laura Bates deserves a knighthood
(er, ladyhood? Damehood?).
Virginia Cumming
• I’ve lived in a retirement
apartment for 15-plus years, but the
manager has now banned “onesies”
from being worn in the garden
or communal areas. I remember
Winston Churchill wearing his
siren suits during the war – an early
manifestation of the onesie. What
clothes would Guardian readers
think unsuitable for the over-80s?
Brenda Banks
Teignmouth, Devon
• May I contribute a review of a
Blandford fly bite to Justin Schmidt’s
marvellously florid pain index
(Experience: I have been stung by
150 species of insect, Weekend, 12
May)? Austere, dense, with midtones
of agony and a raucous finish.
Liz Soar
• Suzanne Moore (G2, 16 May) asks:
“Who cares if her [Meghan Markle’s]
mother not her father gives her
away?” Does a modern young
woman, previously divorced, really
need to be “given away” by anyone?
Jane Carter
• Sorry to see Wednesday’s
Wordsearch following government
policy – 13 words relating to schools,
and no art, music, or drama.
Diana Hope (art teacher)
Established 1906
Country diary
Langstone Harbour,
With my back to the sea, I paced
out a five-metre-wide transect and
began methodically surveying
the shore, working my way up the
exposed shingle towards the hightide mark. I was taking part in the Big
Seaweed Search – a citizen science
project that aims to investigate
whether sea temperature rise,
ocean acidification and the spread
of non-native species is affecting 14
indicator seaweeds.
The seaweed was growing in a
three-metre-wide band that arced
around the bay. Long skeins of peagreen gutweed were interwoven
with flattened, tawny fronds of
bladderwrack and spiralwrack, and
an unfamiliar species with tiny,
spherical air bladders clustered
along its wiry branches. According
to my field guide, it was Japanese
wireweed, an invasive alien.
The weed deposited along the
strandline was sun-bleached and
studded with marine detritus –
dead crabs, cuttlebones, spongy
balls of common whelk egg-cases
and the ubiquitous litter of singleuse plastics. Peeling back the
vegetation, I exposed a pulsing
mass of sheltering sandhoppers
(Orchestia gammarellus). With their
semi-translucent segmented bodies
and oversized hind legs, they looked
like composite creatures – part
shrimp, part woodlouse, part flea.
They can jump up to 30cm by flexing
and releasing their abdomen and
flap-like tail, and I could feel them
ricocheting off my shins as they
leapt for cover.
Omnivorous scavengers,
sandhoppers are nature’s refuse
workers, helping to break down
the vast quantities of dead and
decaying material washed up on our
shores. However, these amphipods
may actually be contributing to the
spread of secondary microplastics.
Scientists at the University of
Plymouth discovered that they
could shred a single plastic carrier
bag into 1.75m microscopic
fragments, and found microplastics
in their faecal matter.
By the time I reached the top
of the beach, I had picked up a
takeaway cup lid, a supermarket bag,
a sandwich wrapper, two deflated
balloons, three drinks bottles, a
shotgun cartridge case and a sheaf of
straws and cotton-bud sticks.
Claire Stares
Twitter: @gdncountrydiary
Section:GDN 1J PaGe:8 Edition Date:180518 Edition:01 Zone:
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The Guardian Friday 18 May 2018
 @guardianobits
Ray Wilson
Left-back who brought
an extra attacking drive
to the victorious England
World Cup team of 1966
ay Wilson, who
has died aged
83, had the
lowest profile
of any player in
England’s 1966
World Cup finalwinning team,
and generally liked to keep it that
way. He was a fast, skilled, mobile
left-back who was capped for his
country 63 times, played in every
England game in the 1966 finals,
and was one of the best defenders
his country has produced. Yet he
kept firmly out of the limelight
and, unlike most of his peers, made
no attempt to make a living from
football after retiring from the game
– preferring instead to pursue a
career as an undertaker.
Wilson was a key member of the
1966 World Cup team, not only for
his defensive qualities, his pace and
his powers of recovery, but for the
extra drive he gave to the attack. In
the absence of true wingers, he and
Wilson, holding
the trophy
above his head,
performing a
lap of honour
with the England
team at Wembley
his right-back partner George Cohen
offered the England manager Alf
Ramsey some degree of speed and
penetration on the flanks.
Thus, in the semi-final against
Portugal at Wembley, it was Wilson’s
shrewd, long pass to Roger Hunt
that set up England’s first goal. Costa
Pereira, the Portuguese goalkeeper,
raced out desperately, reaching
the ball at full stretch, only to play
it straight to Bobby Charlton, who
sent it into the net. In the final, too,
undeterred by an early error when he
contrived to clear the ball weakly to
the feet of Helmut Haller, who drove
it home to give his team the lead,
Wilson was eager to join in attacks.
He was one of only eight in the
1966 squad who played every match
in the finals, and was on the pitch
for all 570 minutes of England’s
campaign. Such was his prowess
that even the supremely selfassured England captain, Bobby
Moore, declared that “it was a comfort to play alongside him”. Of the
37 England matches that Wilson and
Cohen played together as a full-back
partnership, they lost just three.
Wilson had also figured in all of
England’s games in the 1962 World
Cup in Chile, but even he could do
little against the remarkable wiles
and devastating pace of Brazil’s
right-winger, Garrincha, who tormented the England defence in the
quarter final, which they lost 3-1.
Although at 31 Wilson was the
oldest member of the 1966 World
Cup squad, he continued to hold off
younger challengers for his England
place until 1968, when he was still
first choice and ever-present in his
position at the European Championship in Italy as England finished in
third place. However, the third-place
play-off match against the USSR in
that tournament proved to be Wilson’s last appearance for England,
as an increasingly troublesome knee
and the emergence of the young
Leeds United full-back Terry Cooper
combined to bring the curtain down
on his international career.
A Derbyshire man, born in the
mining town of Shirebrook, Wilson
was named Ramon by his mother
after the film star Ramon Novarro;
as a child the future footballer
quickly changed his name to Ray. He
became an apprentice railwayman
after school and when Huddersfield
Town signed him he was playing as
a left-half. He made scant impact in
that position – so much so that he
was thinking about giving up the
game. Called for national service
in the army, he was posted to the
Middle East and detested it. On his
forearm he sported a tattoo that read
“Egypt never again”.
John Bruton,
former Taoiseach,
71; Caroline
Charles, fashion
designer, 76;
Barrie Cook,
artist, 89;
Lord (Patrick)
Cormack, former
MP, 79; Prof Sir
Anthony Epstein,
pathologist, 97;
Tina Fey, actor
and comedian,
48; John Godber,
playwright, 62;
John Higgins,
snooker player,
43; Prof Dame
Celia Hoyles,
72; Prof Malcolm
Longair, physicist
and astronomer,
77; Miriam Margolyes, actor,
77; Prof Dame
Henrietta Moore,
61; Yannick Noah,
tennis player, 58;
Jane Root, former
controller, BBC2,
61; Ann Rossiter,
director, Society
of College,
National and
Libraries, 52; Prof
Michael Sandle,
sculptor, 82;
Lionel Shriver,
writer, 61; Norbert
‘Nobby’ Stiles,
footballer, 76;
Rick Wakeman,
musician, 69;
Toyah Willcox,
singer and actor,
Once demobilised, he was bedevilled by a series of injuries, but the
crucial event in his career was his
translation to left-back by Huddersfield’s then manager, Bill Shankly.
Having made just half a dozen
league appearances in the 1955-56
season in Division Two and only 13
the season after, Wilson became a
regular member of the team from
1957-58 onwards, and made his
debut for England, against Scotland,
as a Second Division player in 1960.
In the 1964-65 season, after
266 league appearances for Huddersfield, he was transferred to
First Division Everton for £40,000.
In 1966, shortly before the World
Cup finals, he was a member of the
Everton team that beat Sheffield
Wednesday in the FA Cup final. He
was at Wembley again two years
later in the same competition,
although that final was lost to West
Bromwich Albion.
By 1969, after more than 100
league games for Everton, he had
moved to Oldham Athletic in Division Four. But he was there for just
a season. He appeared twice in the
1970-71 campaign for Bradford City,
where he had a 10-match spell as
caretaker manager, but then left
football altogether to set up an
undertaking business in Huddersfield with his father-in-law.
He ran the firm until retirement
in 1997 and, perhaps because of his
many years in the profession, was
known for his gallows humour. When
his old England colleague Cohen was
struggling through a bout of cancer in
later life, Wilson phoned him to ask
how he was getting on. Cohen replied
that he was doing just fine, but,
detecting a slight air of disappointment in his friend’s voice, asked what
the matter was. “Well, I was ringing
to offer you a deal,” he replied.
Like several other members of the
victorious 1966 England team, Wilson had to wait many years before
receiving any honour, but eventually, in 2000, he was appointed
MBE. In 2004 he was diagnosed
with Alzheimer’s disease.
He is survived by his wife, Pat,
whom he married in 1956, and their
two sons, Russell and Neil.
Brian Glanville
Ray Wilson, footballer, born 17
December 1934; died 16 May 2018
Later he
became an
and was
known for
his gallows
Section:GDN 1J PaGe:9 Edition Date:180518 Edition:01 Zone:
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The long read
in Gaza
As Gaza mourns the protesters
killed this week, Sarah Helm
reports on the suicide of a
talented young Palestinian
writer, crushed by the despair
of living as a prisoner
hen Mohanned Younis, a 22-year-old
student, returned to his home in a
relatively prosperous part of Gaza
City one night last August, he was in
an agitated state. He had been
depressed, his mother, Asma,
recalled. But she was not too worried
when he locked himself in his room.
A talented writer whose short stories, many posted
on his Facebook page, had won a wide audience,
Mohanned was about to graduate in pharmacy,
expecting excellent grades. In his writing, he gave voice
to the grief and despair of his generation. Only books
gave him some escape. He often shut himself away to
read and write, or to work out with his punch bag.
The next morning, Mohanned didn’t stir. When
Asma, helped by her brother Assad, broke into his room,
they found him dead. He had asphyxiated himself.
Such was Mohanned’s social media following that
news of his death reverberated across Gaza and beyond
with a flood of shock, sadness and admiration. “He was
a fighter who only had his sad stories to fight with,” was
one of many comments posted on Facebook. But the
very public mourning for the death of a talented young
writer meant that Mohanned’s suicide was not just one
more tragedy in a territory where thousands of young
lives are cut short. Now it was impossible to deny what
many had been whispering: the misery of the siege and
despair for the future, especially among the most
talented young Gazans, was leading to a disturbing
upsurge in suicides.
Horrifying events in the Gaza buffer zone over
the past week have focused world attention on the
suffering and desperation of Gaza’s Palestinians, as tens
of thousands have risked their lives to protest against
their imprisonment behind Gaza’s fences and walls.
Since the start of the Great March of Return, a series of
protests that began at the end of March, more than 100
people have been killed, mostly by Israeli snipers
ranged behind the perimeter fence.
Often it has looked as if these protesters were
literally throwing themselves in front of Israeli bullets.
In the early days of the protests, I spoke to young
people on the buffer zone who said they didn’t care if
they died. “We are dying in Gaza anyway. We might as
well die being shot,” said a teenager, standing at the
border near the city of Khan Younis. He was with
friends who felt the same, including one who had
already been shot in the leg, and was in a wheelchair.
If the world’s cameras were to move a little deeper
into Gaza, into the streets and behind the doors of
people’s homes, they would see the desperation
in almost every home. After 10 years of siege, the
2 million people of Gaza, living packed on a tiny
strip, find themselves without work, their economy
killed off, without the bare essentials for decent life –
electricity or running water – and without
any hope of freedom, or any sign that their
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situation will change. The siege is fracturing minds,
pushing the most vulnerable to suicide in numbers
never seen before.
Until recently, suicide has been rare here, partly due to
Palestinian resilience, acquired over 70 years of conflict,
and strong clan networks, but mostly because killing
oneself is forbidden in traditional Muslim societies.
Only when suicide is an act of jihad are the dead
considered martyrs who go to heaven; others go to hell.
In nearly three decades of reporting from Gaza,
I almost never heard stories of suicide before 2016.
At the start of that year, nine years into the full-blown
siege, a British orthopaedic surgeon volunteering in
Gaza’s al-Shifa hospital told me that she and her
colleagues were seeing a number of unexplained
injuries – which they believed had been caused by
falling, or jumping, from tall buildings.
By the end of 2016, suicides were happening so
often that the phenomenon had started to become
public knowledge. Figures quoted by local journalists
suggested the number of suicides in 2016 was at least
three times the number in 2015. But according to Gaza’s
health professionals, while figures cited in the media do
indicate a substantial rise, they vastly underestimate
the true rate. Suicides are “disguised” as falls or other
accidents, and misreporting and censorship are
common because of the stigma against suicide.
However, since 2016, there have also been a spate
of self-immolations across Gaza, in which men set
themselves alight for all to see.
“We didn’t have these catastrophic events 10 years
ago,” said Dr Youssef Awadallah, a psychiatrist in Rafah,
a city on Gaza’s border with Egypt. Mental health
professionals and relatives of the deceased blame
the effects of the siege, which they say is far more
damaging to the wellbeing – mental and physical –
of the population than successive wars have been.
Men and women of all age groups, from all social
backgrounds, are vulnerable to suicidal impulses, say
doctors in Gaza. On a single day in March, a girl of 15 and
a boy of 16 both hanged themselves. Among the dead
are men who despair because they can’t support their
families; women and children who are victims of abuse,
often in situations of severe poverty and overcrowding;
and even pregnant women, who say they don’t want to
bring children into a life in Gaza. In April, a woman
who was seven months pregnant slit her wrists.
Among the most vulnerable of all are Gaza’s brightest
students, some of whom have killed themselves just
before or after graduating. In March, while interviewing
a bankrupt businessman in his home, I saw a
photograph of a smart, bespectacled young man,
prominently displayed – in such a way that I assumed
he had been a “martyr”, someone killed in the conflict.
But his portrait displayed none of the iconography
associated with the martyr posters that are visible all
over Gaza. I had a translator with me, and he recognised
the picture: the businessman’s son had been one of his
cleverest friends at university. “He hanged himself,”
said the businessman. “He saw no future in Gaza.”
Months before the astonishing scenes of carnage
accompanying the Great March of Return, the story of
Mohanned Younis had drawn particular attention. This
was not only because his writing, with its imaginative
depictions of Gaza’s half-life, was admired – but because
after his death, some began to describe him as martyr.
His mother told me: “He is more than a martyr.”
Friends said he had fought the enemy with his pen,
and had died a victim of the siege. On his death
Mohanned also won warm praise for his courage and
his writing from many of his social media fans, and
even, in a eulogy, from the Palestinian minister of
culture, Dr Ihab Bseiso. Bseiso, a member of the secular
Palestinian Authority that holds power in the West
Bank, appeared to imply he considered Mohanned
a martyr, saying he had “no need to apologise for his
early departure”. His stories would never be forgotten,
he added: “You will remain one of the giants of our
time, Mohanned”.
But this discussion of Mohanned’s “martyrdom” has
spread fear in Gaza, particularly among parents who
worry that their own children might do the same if
The Guardian Friday 18 May 2018
‘Waiting for the future they have
prepared for, but cannot have,
becomes impossible to bear’
they thought they could avoid hell. One father of two
graduates told me: “We see our children through school
and university, and they have worked hard and are eager
to enter the world and get jobs and be normal – then
nothing. If suicide is to be considered a ‘noble’ death,
more might choose that way. It is very dangerous.”
One of Mohanned’s favourite writing spots was the
garden cafe at the Marna House hotel, in a quiet corner
of Gaza’s leafy Remal district. The Marna has long been
a favourite with foreign visitors who often donate books
to the hotel library – another attraction for Mohanned
who, in besieged Gaza, struggled to find books to feed
his voracious reading habit.
During his time as a student at the nearby al-Azhar
University, Mohanned would be seen, tall and skinny,
among the throng of students who came pouring out
into the streets of Gaza City after lectures. Dodging cars,
horses and carts, he would peel off from the crowd –
sometimes to the pharmacy where he worked part-time,
or to a cafe, often the Marna. Ordering a coffee, he would
take a seat in a quiet corner, light up a cigarette, plug in
to charge his phone and start composing stories.
With two hours’ electricity a day, plugging in is a
luxury in Gaza. But the Marna has a generator, like most
places with a professional clientele. Doctors, journalists
and teachers come here to mingle, puff on a hookah
pipe or watch Barcelona on the big-screen TV.
Few students could afford the Marna; as an only child,
Mohanned was “spoilt” by his mother, his friends
teased. But friends, teachers and customers in the
pharmacy all knew him as “a good guy, a kind guy” and
as “a sad guy”. Some saw the scars on his wrists as well –
signs of earlier suicide attempts. His stories showed he
was just like every other young person in Gaza, because
he so eloquently described their own feelings. In one
story he wrote: “When you live in a house you love and
don’t leave it you won’t have a problem, but if you’re
locked inside the house against your will you sense
paralysis and despair.”
He wrote of his personal sadness. His parents
divorced when he was a child, and Mohanned felt
rejected by his father. His readers could relate to this
pain too, because every family in Gaza is broken: most
have had members killed in the conflict, and many have
also been separated by years of exile, or torn apart by
imprisonment. Thousands of Palestinians are today
locked up in Israeli jails.
He had a large female readership: women were drawn
to his particular melancholy. “He could write about the
absurdity of all our lives – the humiliation, as well as the
tragedy. He knew this was a fake place,” said one young
woman I know, who had escaped through the tunnels
into Egypt in order to take up her American scholarship.
“It’s normal,” she laughed.
“It’s like this,” said Mustafa AlAssar, a 17-year-old
Gazan who wants to study international law but can’t,
as there is no such course in Gaza, and he cannot leave.
“You suddenly realise you can’t be the person you want
to be in Gaza. And you can’t show anyone outside who
you are, because you can’t get out. So you can’t be the
person you want to be.”
Mohanned didn’t get angry, but instead fell into the
common state of despair. He would never throw a stone,
and nor would most of his contemporaries. “For what?”
they would ask. “To get shot? Who would care?”
Before heading home, Mohanned might check out
new donations to the Marna’s eclectic library, perhaps
dipping into Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom
or a well-thumbed Agatha Christie.
Nestled among the crime fiction titles were a few less
literary volumes: dusty back copies of UN reports on
Gaza. If Mohanned had picked one up, he might have
seen an analysis, dating back to 2002, of a wave of
suicide bombings during the bloodiest months of the
second intifada. According to Eyad Sarraj, a charismatic
Gaza psychiatrist, who in 1990 founded the Gaza
Community Mental Health programme, suicide attacks
were proliferating because of a sense that hopelessness
kept getting worse, which produced “a despair where
living becomes no different from dying”.
“As a little boy, he loved to listen to stories,” said
Mohanned’s mother, Asma, sitting in the living room
of the family home. A triangle of sea was just visible
between the houses at the bottom of the road. His grandparents told the best stories, about Jura, once a prosperous
fishing village, where the family had lived for centuries.
During the Arab-Israel war of 1948, which brought
about the creation of the state of Israel, Mohanned’s
family, along with more than 750,000 other Palestinians,
were driven out of their homes, and have never been
allowed to return. The village of Jura, long since
destroyed by Israel, now lies under the port of Ashkelon,
visible from the beach below Mohanned’s house.
“I told him stories of our orange orchards, our festival,
how I ran around and swam into the waves,” said
Modalala, his 88-year-old grandmother. Mohanned’s
grandfather would tell him about his own father, who was
raised when Palestine was part of the Ottoman empire –
how educated he was, how he worked in the sultan’s
court and travelled overseas. “He told Mohanned he
wanted to go home to his village before he died,” said
Modalala, “but he died in Gaza, and Mohanned was
very sad.” Later Mohanned would write about Jura,
and about “a golden-haired boy who would leap so he
could reach the window and see the sea”.
“I think listening to stories, and later writing them,
was his way of dealing with sadness,” said his mother.
Assad, his uncle, who helped raise him, said he was also
good at maths. “He loved to solve problems. He always
wanted to do things himself – to experiment.”
In 2007, Israel enforced a full siege of Gaza, blocking
movement across its borders for people, fuel and food –
everything except minimal humanitarian aid. It was in
this chokehold that Mohanned Younis, still only a
teenager, found his voice – telling the world what it
was to live behind the ever higher prison walls.
Mohanned was 13 when the siege began. His family had
moved to Gaza City, which his mother hoped would be
safer and offered more choice of schools for Mohanned,
who was writing and reading more and more. His talents
were first spotted at a children’s charity in Gaza City
called the Qattan Centre, where he won first prize in a
story-writing competition.
Many of his early stories are tales about a strange and
sinister place, which he rarely names, but that we know
is Gaza. In a story called Geography, his narrator sets out
like a caged animal to “comb Gaza’s borders inch by
inch”. Ghosts sometimes appear, and he wonders if death
has set them free or if “death has shackled them too”.
Under Hamas, life in Gaza was fast returning to the
cultural dark ages. Strict Islamic codes were imposed,
including the closure of theatres and cinemas, the
outlawing of hard-won freedoms for women – veils were
now almost obligatory – and other repressive social
strictures. To some, Hamas rule began to seem like a
siege within a siege.
As Mohanned prepared for university, he found his
own freedom through writing and reading. He taught
himself English, hoping to study English literature, and
although his mother persuaded him instead to study
pharmacy, literature remained his first love.
Finding books was difficult; often the best way was
to get them smuggled through the tunnels. “He was very
secretive about his books and kept them in his room,”
said Asma, offering to show us the room where
Mohanned spent his time, and where he died.
“Nothing has changed since his death,” said Asma,
Rafah in Gaza
in September
2017, above;
Younis, below left
Section:GDN 1J PaGe:11 Edition Date:180518 Edition:01 Zone:
Friday 18 May 2018 The Guardian
Sent at 17/5/2018 18:02
people, and waiting for the future they have prepared
for, but cannot have, becomes impossible to bear.”
opening the door on to a small room with a bed and
a desk displaying trophies he had won for his writing.
There were teddies on a chair, a boxing glove. From the
wardrobe Asma took a graduation gown; she attended
Mohanned’s graduation ceremony in his place two
months after his death.
We opened a cupboard and out spilled a torrent of
books. There were novels – Dostoevsky, Dickens – and
philosophy – Wittgenstein for Beginners, Hegel, Richard
Dawkins’s The Magic of Reality. Most were Arabic
translations, some were in English. Perhaps Mohanned
read each page of this vast collection, or perhaps he just
liked to possess them, it’s hard to know. But sitting here
inside these four walls, accompanied by George Bernard
Shaw, Sophocles and Mahmoud Darwish, he was able to
break out of Gaza’s walls and connect with a wider world.
The war of 2014 was the most destructive of three Israeli
onslaughts Mohanned lived through. More than 2,200
Palestinians were killed, including at least 500 children.
Now he was writing more and more about the dead,
sometimes perceiving safety in death, and he wrote
of “feelings of loss and of safety, or running away and
seeking refuge of drowning and survival, feelings of
simple suicide”. But like many others, in the shock that
followed the bombardment, he saw cause for hope.
Such was the destruction in 2014 that the world
started to pay attention. There was hope among
Palestinian human rights lawyers that they could bring
a war-crimes case against Israel. The then UN secretary
general, Ban Ki-moon, declared that the siege must end
and that the world should pay for Gaza’s homes,
reservoirs and factories to be rebuilt. The people had
already started: I saw young men clambering over
tottering concrete, filling a donkey cart with stones.
They were clearing their orchard to plant clementine
saplings, and rebuilding their bombed juice factory.
In the glare of global media attention, thousands
of would-be journalists in Gaza seized their chance to
livestream their own narrative from the rubble to the
outside world. Students who had been awarded
scholarships to foreign universities stood on street
corners hoping to catch word that crossings were
opening so they could rush out to take up their places.
Mohanned enrolled at the French cultural centre,
hoping to study literature in Paris.
But a year later, the clementines were dead, and the
juice factory owner sat beside a UN food box. More than
80% of people were now dependent on food aid.
Behind closed doors, particularly where bombing
had been heavy in 2014, I saw blighted lives. A young
mother opened a toy cupboard that had been hit by a
shell. She looked at me as shattered pieces spilled out.
A young man sat staring at a blank screen in the long
hours when there was no electricity. And the world
had turned its back again.
For the first time in all the years I have been reporting
from Gaza, I encountered children begging, heard talk
of prostitution, and saw evidence of widespread drug
addiction and domestic abuse, often in homes where as
many as 10 people lived in a single room. They had not
been rehoused since the 2014 bombardment. In this
devastation, there was evidence that Islamic State was
gaining support. A group of Islamist militants threw an
explosive device at the French cultural centre where
Mohanned was studying.
The international media had lost interest, apart from
occasionally predicting a new intifada. When I asked
young men in Jabaliya refugee camp – where the first
intifada started – if this were possible, they laughed,
saying the wall was higher and was being sunk underground to stop the tunnels. Nobody could resist any more.
I asked if a new Mandela was likely to appear in Palestine.
“If he did, the Israelis would shoot him,” said one.
The failure of Hamas’s and Fatah’s leaders to promote
the Palestinian cause, or even to improve ordinary
Palestinians’ lives – they were too busy squabbling
among themselves as Israel’s siege tightened – disgusted
many. Of the Israelis, Mohanned wrote: “At least they
respect their own people, whereas we crush ours.
But they drove us from our land!” In one story, a boy
“proudly throws a stone at a checkpoint” but gives up,
returning home “to pursue his eternal curse here”.
Like young Germans who died crossing the Berlin Wall,
young Palestinians who died trying to escape by boat
“were trying to reach cities where freedom is a choice,
not a donation or a gift”.
During the spring and summer, I heard more reports
from doctors about suicides that were meant to look like
accidents. Not only were people jumping off buildings,
but doctors were seeing victims of what appeared to be
deliberate car crashes, and drownings that may not have
been accidental. Patients would say their knife injuries
were the result of “a fight”. I heard from witnesses about
desperate people who had walked into the buffer zone,
hoping to be shot. A young woman I knew told me she
had taken an overdose because she didn’t want to marry
or raise children in Gaza.
The toughest spirits were breaking. “People of Gaza
want to live but cannot,” said Dr Ghada al-Jadba, director
of medical services for UNRWA, the Palestinian refugee
agency. Youssef Awadallah, the director of the Rafah
mental health centre, threw back his head, feigning a
choke. “It’s suffocation. In fact, we are in a trap, not a
siege,” he said, and clapped his hands together. “Like
Tom and Jerry.”
The rise in suicides is part of a much wider crisis of
mental health in Gaza, he said. Almost 400,000 children
are said by Unicef to be traumatised and in need of
psychosocial support. Drug addiction, mostly to
powerful painkillers, is rife. “The Israelis know this,” said
Awadallah. “So the war being waged now is designed to
break our resilience – not our resistance.”
Gaza’s mental health facilities, always rudimentary,
have been crippled by the siege. “A man killed his mother
the other day because he thought she was spying on
him,” said Awadallah. “Another said the Israelis had put a
surveillance device inside his head. But what can we do?
We have no medicines and hardly any beds or
psychiatrists.” He told me about another case in which a
man stabbed his children before setting himself on fire:
“When a man cannot support his family, he suffers. If he
reaches the point of burning himself, he is suffering so
much it no longer matters to him if he goes to hell.”
Spreading his hands wide, Awadallah explained why
the young and very clever are among those most likely to
kill themselves. “The gap between what they aspire to
and what is possible is bigger than for most ordinary
Sarah Helm
is an author
and former
Middle East
Over the summer of 2017, everyone in Gaza seemed to be
waiting for something. Cancer patients waited to hear if
they could leave for emergency surgery “outside”. The
brightly decorated seaside wedding locations waited
for couples to have money to marry. Everyone was
waiting for electricity.
Raji Sourani, head of the Palestinian Human Rights
Centre, waited to hear if war-crimes charges would be
heard, but was losing hope that it would happen.
“Nobody speaks about the occupation. Nobody speaks
about the victims living under occupation – it’s Israel
who are supposed to be the victims, and they have to
be protected from us. It’s Kafka,” he said at the time.
In his room, Mohanned was waiting for new books.
On his list was Kafka’s The Trial, and Hamlet.
Mohanned talked about suicide. Yet he clearly still
had hope, because he also talked about getting engaged.
Engagement and suicide sometimes seemed to go
together: the bankrupt textile manufacturer whose son
had hanged himself told me his son was to have been
married the following week. And Mohanned was
certainly in love, said his mother: “We could see he
was.” He wrote about a wedding in Jura, the prose
imbued with a sense of loss both for his old village and
for his future marriage, perhaps because he could no
longer resist the pain of “the multitude of
contradictions exploding in my head”.
In his last writings, Mohanned is drawn to other
people’s pain, finding it where it is most acute or most
hidden. He writes of a father whose daughter is dying
somewhere far away. The father says: “The feelings
of helplessness kill me every day now.”
He also dwells on the degradation of checkpoints
where a traveller is taken to “a secret room like a prison
cell, without any form of life … where travellers are
detained just because they are Palestinian. Why are
capital cities and airports denied to Palestinians?”
Shortly before he died, he had made a final effort
to escape. His mother said he had applied to Israel’s
prestigious Hebrew University in Jerusalem to study
literature, and had been accepted. But he was unable to
take up the offer, because Israeli security refused him
permission to leave Gaza.
Still, Mohanned was fighting off despair, and “looking
for beauty”, though he told followers he was listening
to Bach’s Come Sweet Death, Come Blessed Rest. Even
as Mohanned entered his room that last evening and
locked the door, he may not have been sure he would go
through with it. From the position of his body, it seemed
to Assad, his uncle, that Mohanned had changed his
mind at the last moment, but too late.
In the weeks and months before Mohanned’s death,
his despair was apparently deepened by the realisation
that his writing could never make a difference; as he saw
it, the Palestinian narrative was controlled by outsiders.
His suicide came not long before Donald Trump
recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and questioned
the rights of Palestinian refugees to return home.
One of Mohanned’s last stories was called “The whale
who locked my door with a tail”. The narrator has a
recurring dream in which small whales visit him and
try to kill themselves. He wakes up and wonders why
whales decide to die, saying: “It is said that whales take
their own lives when they lose their sense of direction,
when they no longer know where to go.”
I asked Awadallah if he considered Mohanned a
martyr. He thought a moment and smiled, saying that
Mohanned’s despair had caused a serious mental
illness, and it was as a result of this illness that he killed
himself. In view of this, Awadallah hoped that Allah
would look kindly on Mohanned and permit him to go
to heaven, not to hell.
What could have been done to prevent Mohanned’s
suicide, I asked?
“Nothing,” he said. “Only being born somewhere
that was not Gaza.” •
In the UK, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 or
email Other international suicide
helplines can be found at
Section:GDN 1J PaGe:12 Edition Date:180518 Edition:01 Zone:
Sent at 17/5/2018 15:45
The Guardian Friday 18 May 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.
Killer Sudoku
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.
Cryptic crossword
Solution No. 27,511
Guardian cryptic crossword No 27,512 set by Crucible
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.
1 Local government advice for
auditors (7)
5 Jack, our lad, comes round to stay
9 Briefly books guest house (3,3,9)
10 Pink radical wearing black stuff
11 He puts his foot down: “Haul tree
across river!” (4,5)
12 Nice girl follows directions,
hosting morning with her kin
14 Weeds cover front of most houses
15 They’re often barred in reception
areas (5)
16 Board day is inspiring cleric (9)
18 CD and EP ruled out? Yes (9)
21 Sidestep first woman clasping her
mate? Not half (5)
22 Male badger, escaping over
ploughed land, digs (5,3,7)
23 Put up European tax shelter
limits (7)
24 Understanding one thing’s
problematic (7)
1 Stall and hit rocks left nearer the
bottom (7)
2 After articles in three countries
a man flees abroad incognito
3 150 identical tips for festival (9)
4 Watch bottom with round bits
protruding (5)
5 Girlfriend cut sandwiches and
cried (4,1,4)
6 GI (Republican) palms king and
another card (5)
7 Goad communicant after
Reformation, unlike
9 and 22 (15)
8 Types behind keeping guard
regularly (7)
13 Given the runaround, English
father boards cutter (3,1,5)
14 Estates in Spain misled, when
recruiting 100 there (9)
15 Competent party boss apparently
taken in (7)
17 Cunning, extremely skilful
rowers (7)
19 Austen girl fills in weekly diary
20 Penniless Greek city, one in Asia
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