Children Listening To Political Debate: Wrong or Necessary? By Kelly Grehan and Lisa Mulholland

Broadening Children’s Political Horizons? Some may say it’s wrong but it didn’t do Michael Rosen any harm.

This week we, accompanied by our children ages 13 to 8, went to an event at Conway Hall: ‘Michael Rosen In Conversation With Daniel Hahn.’

Michael was there to speak about his early life, which he chronicles in his new memoir, ‘So, They Call You Pisher.’

He spoke about parent’s running Communist Party meetings in the front room, being involved in campaigning and his acts on anti-establishment rebellion at Oxford University. Cheekily in the question and answers section we asked for a poem and, to the delight of ourselves and everyone in the room, he recited ‘Hot Food.’

Before the book signing, which we gladly joined, Michael came over and chatted to the children and commented that he hoped “they were not bored by the political talk” to which we responded that “they are used to it.”

Growing up with parents who are political activists, our children are well versed in left wing arguments, being dragged to campaigning activities and listening to furious arguments.

Is this right or wrong?

Growing up listening to arguments about football, no one ever commented on that as being anything unusual; so it is interesting to see politics often portrayed as something ‘not for the interest of children.’

Michael talked about the culture he was exposed to as a child by his parents. This was felt empathetically by our children who are regularly dragged from political rally to watch an author on a book tour, or to the theatre.

Why do we do it?

Well we think there is so much to see, so many sides of life that a person should experience in order to experience the diversity of life.

Daniel Hahn himself said to Michael ” With all the education and culture you were exposed to, it must have been difficult for the school to match this” to which Michael replied that education doesn’t have to end at the classroom.

Thinking about how restrictive the curriculum has become in the last few years with the new reforms in 2014, we think that now more than ever we need to enrich the cultural lives of our children outside of school.

With the Arts being watered down in Secondary and with Primary school children spending the majority of their time working on Maths, English and Handwriting; it is worrying that their creative abilities and critical thinking wings are being clipped before they’ve even been allowed to grow.

Some may say that teaching your children the subject of politics is wrong, or that it is indoctrinating them, but I beg to differ.

Letting them hear arguments from left wing ideology can’t be a bad thing when those arguments teach our children basic human values like sharing and social responsibility.

Of course not all parents can afford to take their children to the theatre or have the time to go to events such as these. But we feel that all children deserve to have a broad education that covers the arts, politics and other subjects not normally covered in the curriculum.

So we hope that a Labour government gets elected soon and fulfils their promise of bringing back the creative arts and broadening the educational experience of all children, not just those whose parents can afford extra curricular activities.

We are, after all a nation with a strong cultural heritage.

Without an education broader than what is currently being delivered by the curriculum set out in 2014, how do we expect to produce the future Shakespeare’s, the future David Bowie’s and the future Michael Rosen’s?

Kelly Grehan and Lisa Mulholland are the Co Founders of The Avenger UK

A View From Kurdistan By Cllr Karen Constantine

By Cllr Karen Constantine 

It seemed to me that there was scant coverage in the UK on the critical situation emerging in Kurdistan.

This was a surprise given its global importance and that independence referenda are a current ‘zeitgeist’ issue (Brexit, Scotland, Catalonia, etc ). 

By contrast, here we were, in Kurdistan, post referendum as part of the UK election monitoring delegation saturated in news, digital media and surrounded by people of all nationalities intensely absorbed and totally preoccupied with every twist, turn and nuance of this moment of political and social history. 
My companions, other delegation members, were a mix of MPs, MEPs, Peers, political analysts, trade unionists, Kurds, reporters, and more. 

A substantial number from around the world were evidently deployed across Kurdistan to ‘monitor’ the referendum to see if it was free and fair. Our League of Kurdish Nations delegation comprised 18 people. 

It’s an often overused hyperbole, but this really was the ‘trip of a lifetime’. Not just for the obvious thrill of discovering a captivating country – Kurdistan is mesmerising – but the immersion into the referendum was like nothing else I have ever experienced, nor frankly, do I expect to again. 

We were divided into several teams in order to cover as many polling stations and areas as possible. My own team, which included seasoned political activists that know election process inside out, spent an arduously long day observing 6 polling stations and monitoring the close of the vote and the beginning of the count on 25th September.
We were a formally accredited group, registered and carrying credentials. We were assigned a protocol car* and driver, a polling station list and after that we were absolutely free to go as we pleased. We joked Python-style “no one expects the independent monitoring team”. Nor did they. Our arrival at each station was unannounced. We swept in. Of course we were looking for obvious signs of a well run polling station, no coercion of people, a regular and systematic process, an adherence to key polling principles and conformity across the piece. This we found. 

With regard to unfettered participation of citizens we noted, women with children, young and old, refugees, Yazides, Muslims, Turkmen and Christian’s. Kurds leave you in no doubt of their pride of being peaceful and inclusive. They are proud of their religious tolerance and inclusivity. 
At the IDP polling stations (displaced person camps – there are 240,000 refugees in Kurdistan in 52 camps, 41 are from Iraq and the rest are from elsewhere in the Middle East) we came across those people who have refugee status, mainly from the camps of Mosul. 

These polling stations were overwhelmed

Demand had not been adequately calculated, resulting in far, far too few staff to cope. This meant that what had started as optimistic and patient queues were becoming increasingly fractious in the face of 5-6 hour wait in the slowly snaking queues. A late afternoon decision to extend polling station hours was wise. As far as I’m aware all those that wanted to vote and who were registered to vote, voted.
As a substitute delegation for the UN, who could not facilitate this unrecognised referendum, we enjoyed unprecedented political access. We were invited to all the key forums and meetings with High Commission, Electoral Commission and the Governor of Erbil. I met with and questioned Hushar Suwaley of the KDP and the Head of the foreign relations bureau for the PUK. I also met and questioned members of the KRG (A Turkman MP Dr Mohammedali Yaseen Taha ) and KRG staff member Rezan Kader currently ‘acting’ as Consulate equivalent. We even had an opportunity to meet with the Bazarni foundation which provides support to 17,000 orphans among other amazing work. 

A mix of formal and seemingly informal gatherings gave adequate opportunity to share observations and ask occasionally thorny questions. 

What are the Thorny questions? 

Was this a ‘proper’ referendum? 

Well, no. Under the control of Iraq, at odds with the will of the Iranians and clearly incurring the wrath of Turkey’s Erdogan, it was ‘all but’ a legitimate referendum. Well conducted, sincere and overwhelmingly precise in its outcome. 93% of the vote, some 72% of the population voted ‘yes’ to independence. 

However the legal status of such a quasi legal process is analysed it cannot be dismissed. 
The will of the people is clear. 

Will Turkey now cut off its nose to spite its face? 

The threat to starve the Kurds by withholding £8-10 Billion of trade from Turkey to Kurdistan seems at best ill thought though as its this line of business and trade, including facilitation of the lucrative oil pipeline which feeds Ceyhan 550,000 barrels of oil per day the KRG’s main source of income. But clearly also revenue stream for Turkey. 

Iraq’s threats to close down air space have manifested with Erbil and Sulaimaniya closed. But for how long? 


Meanwhile UKs Foreign policy is a joker card in Boris Johnson’s clumsy hands.
Those of us that support the Kurds, both politically and emotionally – because it feels like the right thing, must do what we can do to apply political pressure. 

The patience of the Kurds throughout their decades of oppression is remarkable. They are the last group in the world without a ‘state’. This has been a battle of hearts and minds. Despite stating otherwise I wonder if they will move to a unilateral Declaration of Independence. After all, if it’s good enough for the Catalonians…

There’s an old Kurdish saying ‘Soup cannot be eaten at the same temperature it’s cooked at – you have to let it settle down.’ We’ll all have to wait … and hope…

*’protocol’ was the support team put into place to facilitate our fact finding. 


Karen is a Labour Councillor and was in Kurdistan for the elections.

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UK Politics Has Changed Forever By Lisa Mulholland 

By Lisa Mulholland 

As I stood in the crowd waiting for Jeremy Corbyn to adddress us at the ‘Eve of Conference rally’ I felt like I was at a festival.

I had just finished listening to some inspiring talks at The World Transformed event about Childcare, Housing and Feminism. 

The atmosphere was a mix of excitement and anticipation, happiness and unity.
You could almost forget that it was September . You could almost forget that you were waiting for a politician to speak. 

You could almost forget the 7 years of drudgery that the tories have caused us with the mainstream media spinning their cycle of misery and lies.

It reminded me of my younger days, waiting for a gig to start. When you look next to the stranger standing next to you and you smile. You feel at home because you know the person standing next to you gets it.

But this time it wasn’t music taste. This time it was something much much more important. They have the same values as you at a time when values don’t actually have much ‘value’.

When Jeremy Corbyn and the other speakers came to the stage, people were cheering and clapping and singing “Ohhhh Jeremy Corbyn ” and everyone was smiling and dancing; it felt surreal 

This was not a concert and there was no band.

It seemed so far removed from the politics I used to know. The politics I studied in the dusty University library. Watching men and women arguing  and jeering at each other in a stuffy old room. Talking in jargon that no one wanted to listen to. Boring.

But this. This was something else. 
The atmosphere was electric. Everyone was cheering and clapping when Jeremy and the other speakers mentioned words like ‘equality’ , human rights’ and ‘peace’

The perfect antidote to the news displaying Donald Trump and Kim Jong Uns’ pissing contest. Or Theresa May’s pathetic speeches. Or the right wing media blaming immigrants for global warming or something just as ridiculous.

I looked around me . There were teenagers, young adults, elderly, middle aged . All races.

This is not a young people’s populist leader, Jeremy Corbyn is more than that. This is a man that’s words resonate with all of us. Here in the flesh. without the mainstream media spin. I was listening to the full story in real time . One that hadn’t been edited or cut here and there by the media desperate to keep this man from power.


We all enjoyed every minute. And we all could envisage a future beyond neoliberal capitalist greed that thrives on inequality.

Those old enough to remember the times before Thatcher when her ideology was not the only way. They got it.

For my generation who was born under a Thatcher government who have only ever known this way in politics. We got it.

And for the younger generation born in the digital age, young adults, teenagers and young children. They got it too.

He speaks for all of us because now is a time for change and I came away inspired, believing that any of us can achieve if we believe in ourselves and here is a potential government that will create the social conditions for us to do so.

More importantly I saw that it doesn’t really matter when he gets into power because this man is igniting a fire within us all:

The little boy on his dad’s shoulders will remember this day. 

The teenager next to me. She will see a new future with hope and a different vision and maybe true equality.

The old couple dancing to the music, hugging each other, perhaps they are reminded of a golden age that they can see re emerging.

We were all there because we believe In change, and in a fair and just society.

Whatever happens, whenever it happens Jeremy Corbyns legacy has already been set in motion for generations to come. And he hasn’t even reached Number 10…yet.

For the first time in a very very long time I have hope for the world that my children will grow up in.


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