It is common in Europe, to remember the end of the First World War and the fallen. But all countries have different customs and habits on this day. As a French student living in Great Britain, I notice some of them.
First of all, in France we celebrate the end of the war on the 11th November when here, it is common to commemorate it during on this day and on the following Sunday (Remembrance Sunday).
One of the main and most obvious differences is that, in Britain, already the week before, most people can be seen wearing a Poppy, as a reminder and homage to the war heroes. In France, the 11th is the only moment when we really remember and celebrate the date, and it slowly getting forgotten.
Indeed, the majority of people who experienced the First World War have passed and our generation sees it as a historic fact that does not have an impact on them. Most of them do not feel concerned by the past happening, and nowadays, patriotic feelings tend to disappear.
Despite the presence of the same idea in France, only a few people, a small minority, might be seen wearing a cornflower on Remembrance Day. Actually, it is often considered by people as a free day more than anything else. Each city has its own memorial and organizes a quite discreet ceremony on the 11th November but people rarely attend it.
There is also a national ceremony with the President of France, in Paris at “l’Arc de Triomphe”, broadcasted on the national television. There are other activities organised by different organisations, regions or city but they are not really popular. In Britain, one minute of silence in the whole country is held every year at the precise moment the war stopped 99 years ago. And on Sunday, like in France, there are several commemorations and ceremonies in the whole Britain.
Despite the fact that Britain was less directly impacted during the war, its way to remember on the 11th November has a deeper meaning and touches the whole nation. I am French but I think that my country should take example of Britain’s Remembrance Day.
“We must get to the bottom of people deliberately voting twice”
It’s known that the large majority of students in the UK voted remain in the European Union Referendum, 75% of young people wanted to stay in the EU; to be precise.
But… How many of these students voted twice?
When you vote in Britain, there’s a relaxed feeling towards it as you’re trusted to follow the law and legislations that support it.
But, as Sir Eric Pickles’s review of electoral fraud suggests, the ballot is not nearly as secure as it should be. Most students are registered to vote in their home town AND in their university’s constituency.
Charles Moore, a reporter for The Spectator, followed out an investigation to prove that the voting rules are too lax. He was able to vote in both London, his home-town, and Essex. He voted to leave the EU at his Essex polling station, then caught a train down to London, walked into his local polling station where he presented his polling card and was unchallenged.
Mr Moore walked into the booth and wrote on the ballot paper ‘I am spoiling my ballot because I have voted already. This second vote is my protest at how lax the voting rules are.’
Here in Sheffield, a first year student at The University of Sheffield at the time, William McConnell, was one who came forward stating that he was able to vote twice. He had to vote via a postal vote as he was not in the area at the time of the election, although he phoned up his local constituency criticising the fact that he had the resources and ability to vote twice, meaning many others would of had the opportunity also.
William explained how when he phoned up he mentioned how he had the option to vote twice, the council representative responded with “unless you’re reporting one specific case, this information is unactionable.”
Many Leftwing students have also boasted on social media about voting twice for Jeremy Corbyn in the latest General Election here in the UK. Meaning Corbyn didn’t even do as well as everyone thought.
More than 1,000 emails were sent to the watchdog by members of the public over the issue, while 38 MPs also complained about the alleged crimes.
Conservative Karl McCartney, who lost his Lincoln seat in the election, told the Daily Mail: “We have screenshots of students on Facebook saying that they voted twice.
“Potentially, this was a factor in my defeat. Of the 3,200 who registered to vote in the last 24 hours, 500 were already registered.”
Meanwhile, Heather Wheeler, Tory MP for South Derbyshire, told the paper that some students had admitted to voting up to four times.
The Leader of the House, Andrea Leadsom, said: “We must get to the bottom of people deliberately voting twice, which I understand is illegal.”
“We need to investigate that and ensure that parliamentary democracy, for which this country has been famous—this is indeed the mother of all Parliaments—upholds the rights of one person and one vote.”
Although, this was back in June and nothing has been said since. Is it going to be resolved, preventing those who voted twice to do it again?
When the surprise Election was called, many polls had predicted another tight run in for the Sheffield Central MP. Nevertheless, a majority of 165 transformed into over 17,000 votes. “Delighted that the people of Sheffield Central had given such a vote of confidence in the labour party”, Paul is now at the forefront of politics for student concerns, challenging government over the sizeable 9000 pound tuition fees.
The trebling of university tuition fees has left a broken funding system. The Department of business, innovation and skills anticipates the current system, implemented in the conservative Lib dem coalition, will cost the tax payer more than the system it had initially replaced. Consequently, certain Universities have pondered the idea of lifting fees to 15k after the freeze cap ends, opening a system up to full Marketization.
Last week in the House of Commons, Paul stressed that such a price could leave students choosing courses dependent on the fees demanded, deeply effecting the countries intellectual development as a whole and disregarding vital degrees in Nursing and midwifery, which have already seen drastic reductions after Michael Gove’s decision to scrap there bursaries.
He and several other Labour MP’s have been promoting a graduate tax, first suggested by Ed Balls in 2010, changing the way in which students pay for tuition. The contribution would be based on the earnings one receives as a result of their study. The result would be an end to fees and a slight increase on income tax, paid to the university, helping them to continue thriving whilst making university more economically manageable for us.
Elsewhere, Paul has been championing student support in mental health, highlighted the harrowing 2016 NUS statistics that show a confounding eight out of ten students having experienced mental health issues.
After setting up the All-party parliamentary group for students, Paul has given students a voice in parliament; listening to concerns and helping to provide more help for students in mental health, career advice and tuition fees.
Even as a shadow Cabinet member, Pauls continuation in showing enthusiasm and real compassion towards students locally and nationally, has left him a fan favourite and a real hope for future A level and diploma pupils, deciding on their next step.
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After serving four years as Green Party leader, Natalie Bennett has moved up North to contest Labour’s long held seat in Sheffield Central. HNews’ Stephane Lawes caught up with the now prospective MP to discuss her objectives in Sheffield and her former role as Green Party leader.
“I saw Sheffield and I saw its energy, excitement and I thought that’s a brilliant place to live and represent as an MP”
It is fair to suggest that The Green Party’s strength is often dismissed, they don’t seem to stand as tall as The Conservative or Labour Party on the political spectrum.
But this is changing, in the 2010 General Election the Greens’ won their first seat in Parliament representing Brighton Pavilion, a huge step for the party, who now hope to repeat this in Sheffield with Natalie Bennett.
Which begs the question; why Sheffield?
“I had done two terms as Green Party leader and I felt it was time to do something slightly different but something that was very much still full-time in the Green Party.
“I had also been looking to move out of London, I looked at Sheffield and I saw its energy levels, lots of pop up businesses, lots of start-up businesses, lots of energy and excitement. I thought that’s a brilliant place to live and an excellent place to represent as an MP.”
The former party leader talks about Sheffield with a sense of excitement and eagerness, she continues…
“Also a lot of students are here and famously it’s the city where most students stay after graduating from university so it’s clearly a great place where a lot of people choose to make their lives.”
So the Green Party are about to establish themselves in Sheffield, but do they have a history here?
“So Sheffield is a long time center of strength for the Green Party, we’ve currently got four councilors here representing wards that many student live in. We also got our third highest result in Sheffield Central in the 2015 General Elections.”
2015 saw the Greens’ Jillain Creasy secure 7,000 votes in Sheffield Central, finishing 2nd to Labour’s Paul Blomfield with 24,000 votes.
“An interesting thing that many people don’t know is that the Green Party, until 2015 had never finished second in a General Election steep so we have really set things up here with great possibilities.”
“Politics is something that everybody, particularly young people should do, rather than having done to them”
A major aspect of the Greens’ new presence in Sheffield is Bennett’s profile, as former party leader she has a global reputation. But her profile isn’t everything, I asked her how she plans on using her leadership experiences in Sheffield.
“I think that as Green Party leader, one of the things that wasn’t visible on a national scale was that I would travel all around the country. Doing this, I would see lots of really interesting and good things happening, one of the things that I do regularly and hope to carry on doing is linking up organizations. When I see a similar place doing something good then I advise people to be inspired by this.”
Surely the change from Party leader in London to prospective MP in Sheffield has been huge. So I ask Bennett what she think of her new role.
“In many ways it’s a great chance to get engaged with local issues and there’s a huge number of issues in Sheffield. It’s a place that does some things a lot better than London, for example one of the things we’ve been focusing on recently is Sheffield’s city of sanctuary image. Sheffield was the nation’s first city of sanctuary, welcoming refugees and has a very long tradition of doing this, so it’s a place where lots of people come together.”
Something that London and Sheffield share are their larger than average student populations. What will Bennett do to appeal to our student community in Sheffield?
“One of the things that has always been a big focus of mine is that politics is something that everybody, particularly young people should do, rather than having done to them.
“In terms of the Green Party and what we offer students. The very obvious thing is to say we believe passionately in zero university tuition fees, we believe in free universities and that’s because it’s a public good, the cost should be met by general taxation.”
“There’s also the issue of the nature of our schooling system, they’ve been turned into exam factories, pupils shoved through exam after exam after exam. The vision we have of an education for life not just for exams, is something that appeals to lots of young people and their experiences of life.”
And finally, as well as appealing to our students, what will Bennett do to make Sheffield greener?
“Just this morning we launched ‘Let Sheffield breath’ and one of the things we’re focusing on is the issue of air pollution which is particularly acute in many parts of Sheffield.
“We need to do something to change this and that something is encouraging cycling, improving public transport and making it more affordable. We also need to look at cleaning Sheffield’s bus fleet, making sure taxi drivers have clean vehicles and importantly, we need to cut traffic.”
Natalie Bennett holds a lot of enthusiasm and passion for Sheffield, a city she hopes to modernize and clean up. On top of this she has a lot of time for the youth of Sheffield, inspiring many young people to get politically engaged and aims at reforming the education system, something important in a city of 60,000 students.