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Wow this blog has been completely neglected since I started my other blog (blackunionjack.wordpress.com) for my MA in International Journalism and I guess that is a shame as this was my first attempt at blogging and I’d hate to see it completely die off – so here starts a sort of revival.

Although I cannot guarantee that I’ll post nearly as much as I used too, I think this is a good forum for the issues that are important to me, so for that reason alone it is worthwhile maintaining it.

Anyway, the reason I have returned now is probably obvious to anyone who knows me and that is the recent result in the UK General Election.

Now let me start off by saying that this post is certainly not going to be an anti-democracy diatribe or hopefully a completely Tory bashing rant, as the majority have spoken and I guess they have probably got what they wanted.

But in all honesty I have been thinking about the result (and very little else) since it happened on Thursday, and I would really like to express my thoughts about it while at the same time hopefully providing some kind of insight for anyone who may stumble on this site and think it’s worth a read.

So where to start.

First of all I have to say that like many people I did not see that result coming at all and I think that was mainly because I believed all of the preceding polls which suggested the result was too close to call and I also thought there was a prevailing and genuine feeling that the country was definitely split between who to choose.

However, hindsight is a wonderful thing and looking back I guess the signs were there that a lot of people were tired of coalition or compromise politics, mistrustful of Labour’s pledges and Ed Miliband’s leadership credentials and believed that the Tories are basically doing a good job, so in that respect I guess we shouldn’t be surprised that the majority would choose the lesser of two evils and vote Conservative but of course it is all much more complicated than that… (and I don’t think I’m even going to touch on Scotland).

Personally I was also in a bit of a dilemma and didn’t make up my mind on who to vote for until quite late.

I have always voted Labour since I cast my first ballot in 1997 for Tony Blair (I just missed out in 1992 as I was 17).  I remember staying up all night and ticking off the seats the party needed as they fell one by one and being so ecstatically happy that the country I was born in was choosing a government I believed in too. Well, we all know how badly that turned out.

I stopped voting Labour in any election (local , European and national) just six years later because of the Iraq war and the lies Tony Blair told to take us there, and believe me when I say that this was a gut wrenching decision. I am a proud socialist and I genuinely believe in pretty much all that Labour is supposed to stand for but this terrible event (and its many and subsequent ramifications) tainted my view of the party and politicians for ever.

In subsequent elections I started to vote Lib Dem and this worked out fine for me as I left to live in Barbados in 2008 and did not even think about registering to vote abroad for the 2010 election.

I guess this is where my experience changes from the people left here, as when I went the global recession / banking crisis was just beginning, and so I did not get to see firsthand how the Labour government dealt with it which was obviously quite badly.

So I came back to the UK in 2012 and the coalition government had been ticking along – to everyone’s surprise – and slowly building the recovery but at what price.

Austerity measures were taking their toll especially on the NHS and other public services, no-one was feeling upbeat and pretty much everyone I knew had at least two jobs or was out of a job or was being forced to take a job with low pay, and nobody had had any sort of pay rise for YEARS. The economy was slowly getting better on the backs of the workers who were suffering in order for the country to recover! Exploitation was rife and I would argue – encouraged.

So we come to the present day and the decision I and others had to make on Thursday.

I had already decided that I could now never vote Lib Dem because of their betrayal of pretty much everything that was in their manifesto, which had been abandoned in their lust for power in 2010, but I didn’t quite take to Ed Miliband either, or the belief that Labour had completely learned their lesson from their economic, immigration and spending mistakes in the past.

But there was no way on earth I could EVER vote Tory.

When I think of the Tories I always go back to my childhood in the 1980’s on a council estate in Fulham, being brought up by a single mum who was a nurse in the NHS – the dreaded Thatcher years. My abiding memories of the UK at this time are of fear, oppression and greed.

I’m not going to give you a history lesson here but there’s a reason why the song ‘the witch is dead’ entered the charts when MT died in 2013.

Conservative policies at that time involved crushing workers’ rights, privatising the NHS and other public services at any cost and encouraging people to vilify the poor, disadvantaged and vulnerable while buying as much stuff as possible to distract their conscience. They are not called the ‘Nasty Party’ for nothing – and believe me, I do not think they have changed much since then.

So I mention all of this as a way for me and you to understand what happened on Thursday because I still don’t really get it.

Did people vote Conservative in such large numbers because they genuinely believe that they have now become the party for the struggling middle/ working class, or because they just didn’t like Ed Miliband, or because they actually think the NHS will somehow survive under Tory rule, or because they think austerity should continue, or because they really don’t give a crap about anyone but themselves?

Despite my misgivings about Ed Miliband and other things, I voted Labour for the first time in over 10 years and that was mainly because I truly believe that the Conservatives do not care about me or people like me and they never will – and that’s not an indictment on them because that is just the true nature of their party.

The Tories are designed for the elite – people who are at the top and intend to stay there at ANY cost; people who don’t really want the rest of us to improve because if that happened who would collect their garbage and look after their children; people who don’t understand the need for an efficient and healthy NHS because they can afford to go private; people who don’t care about pay rises for public servants and others because the interest on their savings alone amounts to most other people’s annual salary; people who HAVE savings; people who live isolated and privileged lives so don’t know what it’s like to go to a food bank for a meal or not even know where your next meal is coming from; people who don’t understand why anyone would even need state benefits – and the list goes on and on and on.

But as I say, I don’t blame them for this ‘me first – everyone else last’ attitude because that is why they are Conservatives, and maybe if I was born into money I would feel the same. I just know that these are not the people I want running the country and up until Thursday I thought most people would agree – I guess I was wrong.

Anyway, I suppose what is done is done and when you live in a democracy you have to accept what the majority has decided and live with it.

I do not expect to still be living in the UK for the entire life of this Tory government but I fear for what will happen now that they are able to push through a centre-right (emphasis on the right) agenda with no checks or balances – plans such as the ‘snoopers charter’, cutting welfare by £12bn, a possible end to EU membership, fox hunting and abolishing the Humans Rights Act are already under way and that is just the start.

Maybe some of the people who voted on Thursday don’t remember (or chose to forget) what it is like to live under a rampant Tory government – I will never forget and I don’t ever want to go back there again.

‘The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist’ (The Usual Suspects).

A new year deserves a new post I think, but I’m not going to pretend that this will mean I’ll be posting again more regularly as I just don’t have time. Anyway as it has been months since my last update and several events have taken place since, and it’s the end of the year, I’ll just do a quick summary of my thoughts on the major issues that rocked the world between October and the end of 2014.

‘Black lives matter’ – America, the so-called land of the free, has been facing months of protests due to several deaths at the hands of the police. I won’t say much about the murders of Eric Garner, Tamir Rice and Michael Brown which started these demonstrations as it seems obvious to me that these deaths were all racially-aggravated.

But the most startling statistic I saw as these issues unfolded was the fact that between 2007 and 2013 the police in America were responsible for approximately 2,600 deaths – to me that is unbelievable and scary and if anything else was killing an average of 400 people every year we’d be trying to stop it. Now obviously I’m not saying that all of those deaths were ‘unjustified’ or even preventable as I don’t know all of the circumstances surrounding them, but surely anyone with an ounce of humanity will agree that this figure is ridiculously high and something needs to be done about it.

There is nothing more scary than a police force that thinks it is above the very law it is supposed to be defending.

Philip Hughes’ death – this story has to rank as one of the most horrific and tragic for the whole year.

If beforehand you told me a young, fit and healthy cricketer could be killed so suddenly by a fast ball bouncer I would have struggled to believe it. The word ‘unlucky’ scarcely does it justice. I have watched umpteen cricket matches and seen batsmen hit by the ball on all parts of their body including their head, but I still find it hard to comprehend that this is how Philip Hughes died. That ball could have gone anywhere and hit him anywhere and he would have just had a nasty bruise to show for it but instead he turned his head just as the ball came towards him and it struck him at the top of the neck just where the helmet provided no protection and in seconds he was gone.

Everyone who knows me knows that I am a fan of the Australian cricket team and especially captain Michael Clarke and it was particularly heartbreaking watching him at the press conference announcing Philip Hughes’ death and then subsequently giving a tribute at the funeral.

The only minor consolation, if you can call it that, is that Philip died doing what he loved so much but at the end of the day he has gone far too soon and in desperately terrible circumstances.

The rise of ISIS – not much to say about this really except God help us all if this group is not wiped from the face of the earth as soon as possible. Just when you thought it could not get any worse than the beheading of innocent hostages, crucifixions and forcing people to ‘convert’ to Islam, the massacre at the school in Peshawar in Pakistan topped the list and put this deranged and despicable group among the lowest of the low. How anyone can point a gun at a child and listen to them screaming in fear and terror is beyond me and shows why we must all join together – whatever faith, race or gender – to utterly condemn and fight this unspeakable evil.

Glasgow bin lorry crash – I’ve said before that working in the news makes you immune to a lot of stories but I must admit to shedding a tear or two over this incident which took place just three days before Christmas. Obviously it’s still not 100% clear what happened but it seems that it was a tragic accident that we’re used to seeing in films rather than real life. I travelled to Glasgow just a few months ago and walked in that very area so I was acutely aware of how unlucky those people were to die in an accident that could have killed absolutely anyone and the fact that three of the dead were all from the same family compounded the senseless and random nature of it. I really hope that the bin driver is given the support he needs to come to terms with what has happened along with the families of the victims.

AirAsia disaster – it has been a tragic year for the aviation industry (especially in Malaysia) and this tragedy summed up the realisation that every time you get into a plane you are taking an incredible risk, but what worries me most about this story is the fact that the plane was flying when the weather was so atrocious.

I saw the satellite imagery of the area where the plane was lost and it was full of heavy, angry thunderstorms which immediately made me question why they were flying in the first place. Dare I suggest airlines putting money before safety.

And to further compound the issue there is the suggestion that the plane’s final request to climb higher to avoid bad weather was delayed because there was already a plane flying at 38,000 feet above it in the ever-crowded skies around the world. I have been in my fair share of planes and had my fair share of incidents but even for a hardened flier this latest tragedy sent chills down my spine.

Premier League – on a lighter note the Premier League is hotting up nicely and I for one am glad that it looks like it will be a tight race to the title once again. Some so-called ‘experts’ were handing the trophy to Chelsea in November but seasoned watchers would know that nothing is ever decided before Christmas in the Premier League.

The only thing that would make it better is if at least five teams were in with a chance of winning the League but realistically it’s only between Chelsea and Man City. However, the others will battle it out for European football places and that contest looks as intriguing as ever along with the relegation battle.

Obviously as an Arsenal supporter I am beyond disappointed at our season so far which has had more ups and downs than the average Yo-yo but I have been in the ‘Wenger out’ camp for nearly three years now so I’m not that surprised at our inconsistency and really don’t expect much to change until he leaves. I am, like all Arsenal fans I think, extremely grateful for what Arsene has done at the club and achievements such as the ‘Invincibles’ team and getting us into the Champions League for the past 19 years will probably be unsurpassed, but everything has it’s time and season and IMO it is time Wenger leaves – the sooner the better.

Happy New Year!

Where does the time go? I can’t believe it has been two months since I last posted on this blog. So much has happened in that time on a global scale as well as a personal level that I won’t even attempt to write about it all but in summary if I had had time to blog about myself the headline would be that I have changed jobs from TV at Sky News to online at ITV (http://www.itv.com/news/).

In terms of the world the top issues that have been occupying me (and probably everyone else) include the murder of unarmed teenager Michael Brown by a police officer; the suicide of Robin Williams; and the rise of the murderous terror group IS which has beheaded three innocent people while also fighting wars and causing untold pain in Syria and Iraq.

So where to start? Well, I think I’ll stick to IS which has emerged as one of the most barbaric and heartless organisations to ever walk the face of the earth.

I was at work when the third beheading video was released and although I managed to avoid watching it I was unable to avoid some absolutely gruesome stills which accompanied it and were pretty horrific on their own (in fact I can’t understand why people would watch these videos anyway – what are they expecting to get out of it?)

I don’t know about you, and there may be a ‘message’ behind the method that I’m not aware of, but to me beheading a person is one of, if not the worst, way to kill someone. It’s slow and painful and agonising and the fact that IS uses this method as one of the many ways it kills people (apparently crucifixion is another) shows that these people are beyond evil.

Most of the time as a Christian I try to see the good in people and of course Jesus teaches us that no one is beyond forgiveness but I wonder how these people sleep at night. I said to my mum that they have basically lost their humanity and in that respect I wonder if they can be saved.

I imagine that they are so filled with hate and darkness that they probably can’t remember the last time they laughed, or even smiled, let alone enjoyed anything other than inflicting pain. I read once that someone who was so traumatised by the atomic bomb in Hiroshima was struck blind even though there was no medical reason for the blindess because of the terrible things they had seen and it wouldn’t surprise me if these people are unable to taste food or even see in colour because of the awful things they have done. No doubt they are sleeping with one eye open because they are surrounded by others who are as wicked as them.

Anyway, needless to say the murder of American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff and British aid worker David Haines have not changed anything except to galvanise the international community to come together to try to rid the planet of this scurge.

Anyone who knows me knows what I thought of the last war in Iraq and I don’t want to go over the lies, the botched invasion and the lack of any plan after getting rid of Saddam but I actually think there isn’t much else the UK and others can do this time. We are all stuck between a rock and a hard place and the option of ‘doing nothing’ is not an option at all so another ‘coalition of the willing’ has to be formed to take some kind of action and at least most of the world can agree that IS must be stopped.

Of course we are being promised that there will be no UK/ US or any other foreign troops on the ground this time, but in all honesty no one can promise that as no one knows where this conflict is going to lead. Hopefully air strikes will be enough along with arming and training the Iraqi army and the Peshmerga Kurds etc but history does not provide comforting reading.

Quite frankly I find it extremely disappointing that as a species we have not come any further in solving our differences but then again it is not always possible to reason with other people especially when they are so brainwashed. I often wonder what happened to these people who were once innocent babies and children to turn them into such cruel automatons with hearts of stone – where did it all go so wrong?

The man who has killed the three hostages appears to be British and from what I have read his father is also part of a terror organisation so maybe he was brought up on a diet of nothing but anger and hate but that doesn’t explain all the other British, American, Dutch, German, Australian etc etc ‘jihadis’ who are fighting for IS to establish a ‘caliphate’ (how appropriate that word contains the word ‘hate’).

Some part of me feels we are obligated to find out what has driven these individuals to such extremes so that we can stop others going down the same path, and another part of me thinks may be there is no clear cut answer and some people are just weak and easily led, and these are the types of people that will be prayed on by others who are somehow benefiting from this whole mess.

There is a song out at the moment but Paolo Nutini called ‘Iron Sky’ which is very apt for what the world is going through right now but the best thing about it is a speech in the middle which brings tears to my eyes nearly every time I hear it.

The speech is from a Charlie Chaplin film called ‘The Great Dictator’ –

“To those who can hear me, I say – do not despair. The misery that is now upon us is but the passing of greed – the bitterness of men who fear the way of human progress. The hate of men will pass, and dictators die, and the power they took from the people will return to the people. And so long as men die, liberty will never perish…

Don’t give yourselves to these unnatural men – machine men with machine minds and machine hearts! You are not machines! You are not cattle!… You are men! You, the people, have the power to make this life free and beautiful, to make this life a wonderful adventure…. let us use that power – let us all unite.”

—–

In relation to Robin Williams’ untimely death I’d just like to say that I really admired his talent and will always be thankful for the films he starred in that took me away from reality for a minute and brought me joy especially ‘Dead Poets Society’ and ‘Good Will Hunting’. Obviously I’m not in a position to comment on why he did what he did but I hope he is in a better place free from fear, pain and anguish. I know his family will gain solace from the words that other people have said about the happiness he brought to us all through his work. I’ve said before that it’s not important how you die, it’s only important how you live and Robin Williams is an example of how essential it is to find your God given talent and share it with the world.

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to find only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life”. Henry David Thoreau (partly quoted in ‘Dead Poets Society’).

Well what a week or two it has been for news – there have been two plane incidents in Ukraine and Mali killing over 415 people, then there is the ongoing bloodshed and pain in Gaza which has left over 1,000 dead, there was also the inquest into the death of Peaches Geldof and the Commonwealth Games got started in Glasgow.

I was in the Sky News gallery when the Malaysia Airlines plane was shot down over Ukraine and I literally felt a chill down my back when it gradually became clear that the nearly 298 people on board, including about 80 children, had been blown out of the sky.

First of all it seemed impossible to fathom that yet another Malaysia Airlines plane was involved in such a terrible incident just a few months after MH370 went missing and second there was the horrifying realisation that this tragic event was not due to a technical issue or human error but because of a deliberate act as part of a civil war.

All of the fingers of blame seem to point at the separatists that are in charge of parts of Eastern Ukraine – the plane was shot down over rebel territory, during the week rebels shot down two other Ukrainian planes, the rebels don’t have planes so there is no need for government forces to fire at an aircraft and since the plane came down the rebels have made it very clear that they are very much in charge of that area.

Not surprisingly there has been widespread international condemnation of Russia and the rebels, while Russia has denied any direct involvement and has also counter-claimed that America is equally interfering in the political events in Ukraine. But what I find saddest about this whole incident is that nearly 300 people have been murdered and no-one will ever appear in court charged with their deaths which means the victims and their families will never have justice or closure for what has happened.

The stories about the bodies being left to rot in the fields where they fell and people looting possessions were bad enough but the fact that those 298 passengers were brutally killed but no-one will ever be charged just adds so much more insult to injury (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-28482176).

Now some people are saying that Russia should be punished through more sanctions and possibly by taking away the 2018 World Cup. FIFA has already said there is no way the World Cup will be moved but I question the value of this kind of action anyway.

If we are honest there are plenty of foreign governments interfering in the events of other countries (which is why the world is in such a mess) so no-one has the moral authority to say which countries should and should not hold international sporting events anyway. And although I know it’s important to send a message that the world is unhappy with Russia’s actions in Ukraine I don’t believe stopping them from hosting the World Cup will really help the people in Ukraine either.

It’s blatantly obvious that the global community has to find a long-term solution to issues that divide people without using violence. Gaza is a classic and heartbreaking case where violence just leads to more violence and the cycle continues with no end in sight.

Over 1,000 Palestinians and 47 Israelis (as I type) have died so far in this latest round of conflict and it all started when three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped in the West Bank and their bodies were subsequently found with gunshot wounds buried under rocks.

So the terrible and tragic deaths of three boys has escalated and led to 1,050 more deaths, 5,000 people injured and the destruction of several homes in the Gaza strip – meanwhile the three teenagers are still dead and no-one has even proved yet that they were killed by a Palestinian let alone Hamas! So what has been achieved – nothing!

Once again I wish I had all of the answers but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that relentlessly bombing people and killing their loves ones will not lead to any sort of peace.

“There are causes worth dying for, but none worth killing for.” – Albert Camus

***

And a short word on Peaches Geldof which is also a tragic story but on a smaller, more personal level for her family. The death of any 25-year-old should be mourned and I just don’t understand the people looking down from their high horses, shaking their heads and procrastinating that she died from continued use of heroin.

She was obviously an addict with a serious problem and it doesn’t take a leap of empathy to realise that heroin had a terrible grip on her life to the point that she could not stop using it despite having two baby boys and a doting husband. I always give thanks to God that I have never tried a single drug (unless you count alcohol) but I think I can understand how people become so immersed in drug taking and the feeling it creates that anything else becomes secondary and they lose all sense of reasoning and eventually hope.

So at the end of the day I am just sad that Peaches Geldof did not reach the stage where she could live without heroin and enjoy the life she had built with her husband and family and most of all I am sad that her sons will not get to spend more time with their mummy who obviously loved them and knew herself what it is like to grow up without a mother who has died before her time. I pray she rests in peace.

 

 

It’s ok to die

I was in two minds as to what to post on today as there are a few things that I have an opinion on such as the devastating and terrible ongoing conflict in Gaza, the British Muslims going to fight in Syria and Iraq, Novak Djokovic winning another Wimbledon title, the World Cup final and Germany’s demolition of Brazil in the semi-finals and Premier League transfer news which includes Luis Suarez going to Barcelona and Sanchez coming to Arsenal but I’ve decided to write about something a bit more serious than sport.

Dr George Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, has thrown his support behind assisted dying after previously opposing the idea for years and I for one could not be happier.

Unlike Lord Carey my opinion on this topic has never wavered or changed, and I have never felt my view on this emotive issue is at all at odds with my faith (much like my views on a woman’s right to have an abortion and a person’s right to choose who they love and marry) because I believe Christianity is first and foremost based on love.

So I never had a problem with giving people dignity in death mainly because I did not think it is our place to force people to live in agonising pain and suffering without hope while facing the prospect of months of more pain and suffering until they die.

In a few days peers in the House of Lords in the UK will debate the assisted dying bill and although I don’t know the ins and outs of the legislation I support any form of law that will give people the choice of how and when they end their life and even though I know it’s a really complex issue and I respect other people’s opinions I just don’t understand many of the arguments against.

Some people say ‘what about the sanctity of life’ and to that I say that is exactly why I think people with terminal illnesses and progressive diseases which will only get worse should be given the choice of how and when they die.

Life is precious, it is a gift, a joy and a wonder when it is how we would like it to be but when you are in pain and have nothing to look forward too except a slow and agonising death why should you and your loved ones be forced to go through that if you want to end your life early and with dignity.

Others argue that some vulnerable people may be forced into taking their own lives due to pressure from medical staff, family etc and to that I say that is why we need a law. The law will have several caveats and every possible scenario should be covered so that it is 100% clear that the person who is making the choice is of sound mind and is sure that this is definitely something they want to do. The point is that right now they have no choice at all but to suffer until the end and from a moral standpoint alone I don’t think that is right.

Currently of course some people who can, travel to Switzerland where assisted dying is legal and end their lives at a Dignitas clinic and in America assisted suicide laws exist in Oregon, Washington, Montana, Vermont and New Mexico and there are also similar laws in Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.

But for people in the UK who cannot travel for whatever reason they currently have to take their case to the courts and spend whatever time they have left battling legislation that is decades old and has little relevance to the debate going on now.

When explaining why his view on assisted dying had changed Lord Carey said he no longer thinks the concept is ‘anti-Christian’ and obviously I wholeheartedly agree. As I said before I never had any problem reconciling my views on this with my faith anyway, as it was easy for me to believe that the loving God I trust and the example set to us through the life of Jesus Christ make it obvious that he does not want any of his children to suffer unnecessarily.

Obviously I would prefer that anyone I love or even me, for that matter, is never placed in the position where we are facing a slow and agonising death and have to consider ending our lives to stop the pain but if that ever was the case and it came to it, I sincerely hope that we would at least be able to make one last informed choice.

‘When you’ve taken the chance to live, it’s ok to die’

http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/jul/12/desmond-tutu-assisted-dying-right-to-die-nelson-mandela

http://news.sky.com/story/1299653/archbishops-split-over-right-to-die-debate

A bit late posting on the World Cup but then again the competition isn’t over yet (except for England and Spain et al) so I guess it’s still relevant and my excuse is that I’ve been far too busy watching matches to blog about them.

But seriously I must say that I am beyond disappointed that all of the predictions were accurate and England did not make it out of their ‘group of death’ after losing to Italy and Uruguay.

The Italy defeat was easier to take as I thought we played really well and created lots of chances and apart from failing to stop crosses from the right hand side which led to both of Italy’s goals there were hints that our young guns were definitely not out of their depth. I wasn’t even that upset by Rooney’s performance which seemed to take up so much newspaper ink after the game as most of the others, especially Sterling and Sturridge, more than made up for his lack of involvement and finishing.

But low and behold waiting in the shadows was Luis Suarez and his big gnashers and sure enough he, along with his Uruguayan teammates, took a big chunk out of England’s World Cup hopes and the chances of us qualifying became as slim as a supermodel and relied on the likes of Mario Ballotelli and Andrea Pirlo rather than our own 11 men on the pitch.

So of course the naysayers and doom-mongers are out in force bemoaning the lack of talent available to England which has a population of 66 million compared to for example Uruguay’s diminutive three and a half and some are even calling for Roy Hodgson to be sacked – behave!

I am a self-confessed realist who often sees the glass half empty but lets keep it in perspective and look at some of the positives which IMO far outnumber the negatives because the fact is England did outplay Italy for large parts of the first game and so the future looks bright in the hands of a squad that contains some talent and only has five players over the age of 30.

These young players can only gain from going to this tournament and seeing what it takes to succeed at the highest level on the biggest stage against the best players and that should be motivation enough for them to try to get better and make sure they are at the next World Cup in 2018 in Russia. Wellbeck, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Wilshere, Barkley, Sturridge, Shaw and Jones should also be pivotal in France in two year’s time at the Euros and hopefully they’ll be joined by another batch of younger players who are currently coming through and I don’t see why Roy Hodgson cannot manage a successful England side in the future.

I guess my main issue with England is that as my mum says they don’t seem to get much better and despite the hopes and dreams of millions every time a major tournament comes around other sides have progressed but England either stay the same or get worse.

I think the problem with this side and some previous squads is a blatant lack of desire. You and I may ask how can you not be motivated on the biggest football stage in the world not to give your ultimate best but England seem to be collectively overcome by nerves and unable to perform at their best. Costa Rica are a classic example of a team that have arrived in Brazil determined to leave with no regrets and knowing that nothing much was expected of them they have played their hearts out and are top of the group (which no-one predicted) showing that passion, drive and teamwork can more than make up for any perceived lack of talent.

Meanwhile I don’t see what can be gained from changing England’s manager yet again.

At the end of the day (football cliche) the players have to bear some of the blame and understand that some sort of decision-making has to take place on the pitch so when they see things that are going wrong they should be able to rectify it. All of the players must take responsibility for their performances and ask themselves whether they really gave 100%.

Anyway even though Roy Hodgson employs conservative tactics and obviously didn’t have a particular plan to deal with Luis Suarez, I don’t know who they would get to replace him anyway and the same players will still be there so changing the manager probably won’t do much.

I also don’t agree with people who blame all of the foreign players in the Premier League for the lack of British talent. If we took all or even just some of the foreigners out of the league tomorrow I firmly believe all that will happen will be a dramatic drop in standards that would not benefit anyone let alone the national side. It has to be a good thing that in order for young English players to get into their league side they have to compete against the strongest competition possible as that will ensure they are playing at a higher level. Foreign players improve the standard of football in this country by setting the bar high and I for one think that has to be a good thing.

Football Association Chairman Greg Dyke is working on plans to improve grass roots football and has already suggested ways to enhance the national side so hopefully we’ll start to see changes by the time the next major tournament comes around in 2016. I certainly don’t have all of the answers but IMO getting rid of foreigners is definitely not a long-term solution.

Everyone knows that the last time England won anything of note was the World Cup in 1966 – basically 10 years before I was born – I really hope they win it again in my lifetime.

At the risk of plugging the ‘competition’ (seeing as I work for Sky News) I want to blog on a series of programmes that I saw recently on BBC Three centered around crime and punishment which in my opinion were extremely well-made and researched and most importantly intensely thought-provoking.

I have an abiding passion for justice and an avid interest in how it is dispensed so when I stumbled on the programme ‘Teen Killers – Life Without Parole’ (which was obviously based in the States) I had to watch.

The programme, which was about children under the age of 18 who had committed first-degree murder and are now serving the rest of their lives behind bars, featured interviews with the perpetrators, their families and victims’ families and it definitely did what it was meant too which was raise many important questions.

Basically these children (two plotted together and killed a schoolmate, one killed his parents and another killed a rival gang member) all made a terrible, horrendous and some may say unforgivable mistake and now the film makers were interviewing them about their crimes many years later after they had spent a lot of time in prison. Of course they were all grown men now and they all seemed genuinely, extremely sorry for what they had done but because of the U.S. justice system it is unlikely they are ever going to be allowed out of prison.

The programme made for compelling viewing and afterwards I was personally as convinced as ever that very few people should ever be put behind bars for their entire lives (and for those of you that don’t know me I am adamantly and firmly against the death penalty too).

But before you write me off as a bleeding-heart liberal I’ll quickly just say I have no problem with people being punished when they do something wrong and I have been angered by short sentences for some killers such as the boys who murdered James Bulger, however, I think my main problem with sending people away for the whole of their lives, especially people who commit crimes when they are children, is the uncomfortable divergence from justice to vengeance.

It seems there is a fine line between needing to punish people who do wrong and overly-punitive sentences which go beyond justice or deterrent and verge on sadistic.

I believe the main purpose of putting someone in prison is for justice purposes, to put off other people and eventually to rehabilitate prisoners so they are less likely to offend when they rejoin society. I just do not see the point of putting people, especially young criminals, behind bars for their entire lives beyond when they are a danger and with no plans to help them – what purpose does that serve? And for those of you that say to make them pay ie. revenge, I ask again – what purpose does that serve?

Obviously I’m not saying that there are not exceptions to the rule – for example the killers of soldier Lee Rigby who was butchered to death in Woolwich – but I don’t want them put away for life just because what they did was so viciously and brutally wicked but because I think they will always be a danger to the public.

I read recently that the States has more of its population behind bars (the majority of whom are young, black men) than ANY other country on earth – so what does that say about America? Obviously putting people away (or killing them for that matter) is not stopping them and others committing crime so what can be the justification for this frightening statistic?!

The people featured in the BBC Three programme committed crimes when they were under 18 – who among us can say we haven’t done things when we were young we wish we could take back?

Unfortunately taking someone’s life cannot be taken back and certainly should never be forgotten but are we seriously saying that these people must pay for something they did in childhood for ever and never be allowed to make amends outside of prison? Maybe it is because I have faith that I have such a problem with this and feel so strongly about being allowed another chance – Christianity is all about love and forgiveness and if God didn’t give me a chance to start again every second of every day then I would be lost.

The programme also spoke to victims’ families and one woman’s story was particularly moving as her four-year-old son was killed by a stray bullet during a gangland fight and yet she is part of a group that campaigns to have killers eventually released from prison. She explained how her views changed over the years since she decided that her son’s death was a terrible mistake and so did not want his killer to pay for that for the rest of his life.

I don’t know what I would feel like if someone killed someone I love (let alone my child) but I’d like to think I would be as forgiving as this mother who is an example to us all of the need for mercy (and if I wasn’t convinced enough about the need for forgiveness another programme in the series called ‘Dead Behind Bars’ told the heartbreaking stories of vulnerable boys who have killed themselves in juvenile facilities due to various factors including bullying).

In the end I guess that as usual there are no easy answers but I think the inescapable truth that all societies have to face is that putting people in jail and throwing away the key is not a long-term solution and neither is killing them in the name of the state so the sooner we actually try to understand and educate and forgive the better.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/mediacentre/latestnews/2014/bbcthree-crime-punishment