In which I consume news like most people…

As I wrote earlier, I properly chilled out on my holidays. Very little work, next to no reading and lots of walks,silly games and fun. I could get used to that lifestyle…

This all meant that I consumed news like a normal person rather than an obsessive who has half an eye on Twitter and the rolling news channels at all times lest something might happen in the world and she might miss it. If the news happened to be on, I’d watch it if there was no gripping Olympic action going on at the same time, but I wasn’t too fussed about it.

I didn’t totally cut myself off. My car would probably fall to pieces if it wasn’t tuned into Radio 4, after all.

So, from my rather more normal news consumption over the past week, what sparked my interest? Four stories leapt out at me.

Of course the heartbreaking photo of Omran Daqneesh would break all but the hardest of hearts. The traumatised and blood covered little boy symbolised the effects of war on children. As these things go, though, Omran was relatively lucky. Most of his family are still alive, although his brother died of injuries sustained in the same airstrike. Children suffer horrendously every single day in Syria and other war zones across the world. The previous week’s horribly distressing footage of the chlorine gas attack showed tiny babies struggling for breath. This is a horrible, relentless reality for millions of people. We must never forget that. The pictures should provoke an empathy in us that leads us to push the Government to do more to help those still in Syria and those who have escaped. They should make us all realise that those who have fled had good reason to do so and we should challenge those who suggest otherwise.

Prejudice and punishment

I’m not a fan of anyone telling women what to wear. There’s nothing like a public figure telling women that they shouldn’t wear something to make me want to wear one in sympathy. When the mayor of Cannes banned the “burquini” it made me furious that the likely effect of this would be that those women who wear such a garment, who were guilty of no crime, would effectively not be able to access their own seaside for no good reason. And if they couldn’t go, then it would be likely that their children would be restricted, too.

Garments aren’t divisive. Banning them on a whim most certainly is.

There are few cultures in the world in which women are treated with the equality they deserve. France might want to have a wee think about how its own globally renowned fashion industry has forced unrealistic and often damaging expectations on to women, for example.

Governments should be setting an example of inclusiveness, not picking on specific group of people in a manner that effectively incites prejudice against them.

Should people start seriously arguing for similar bans in this country, I’ll be first in the queue to wear one in solidarity.

Fat lot of good that was

I’m in the process of losing quite a bit of weight. I’ve been losing steadily since last October and am still only about half way to where I should be. I therefore have more than a passing interest in the Government’s childhood obesity strategy published last week. Typically for a document published by the Tories, it was light on regulation. You think that they would have learned. Self-regulation has hardly worked well in the press, for example.

One of the functions of the state is to ensure that the power of large corporations to harm people is curbed. They need to know that they will face consequences if they don’t comply. I have no problems with the idea of some sort of sugar tax or mandatory sugar level – but it must cover all processed food. You’d be surprised at how much sugar is in even savoury products.

The document shows all the hallmarks of being unloved. Rushed out in recess with no government minister willing to talk about it publicly, it hardly appears to be something the government cares about and wants to drive forward.

In Scotland, the Hungry for Success initiative has teams going into primary schools to teach the kids to cook healthy food. These things can work. My mother gave up smoking after getting fed up of me coming home from school reciting yet another lesson we’d been given about the evils of the weed, describing in minute detail the pictures of blackened lungs or people on oxygen or tracheotomies.

I mention that purely to make the point that there are many things that need to be done to encourage healthier eating habits. What works for one person might be totally ineffective on someone else. I know that my own quest to lose weight only started to work after another underlying health problem was successfully resolved. It’s only recently that I realised the connection between the two.

There is no single solution to the issue of obesity. You need to do what’s right for every individual while recognising the strategic issues which need to be tackled. The Government’s plan, in as much as you can call it that, is the dampest of squibs.

Golden couples

Acres of newsprint and broadcast coverage were devoted to cyclists Jason Kenny and Laura Trott whose exploits in the velodrome thrilled us all. However, you might be forgiven for thinking that they were the only golden couple in British sport. You’d be wrong if you did. I’m not normally a fan of hockey – too many memories of bad PE lessons at school – but Friday night’s Olympic women’s final hockey was a thrilling encounter which forced its way into my attention.

Few commentators mentioned the fact that our winning hockey team contained a married couple, Kate and Helen Richardson-Walsh. They made history as the first same sex couple to play on the same team, let alone win the whole tournament. They are as deserving of the limelight as Kenny and Trott.

That’s my take on the major news events of the week. What’s yours?




* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Eddie Sammon 21st Aug '16 - 10:49pm

    I’m never a fan of war zones being made about one innocent victim, but the image of Omran Daqneesh was powerful. More importantly though, for me, has been the constant stream of bad news coming out of Aleppo. We should discuss policy options soon.

    The burkini ban really is a bad policy idea from France and the result of ignorance. Even their women’s minister from the centre-left government has backed it saying “the burkini is the bikini version of the burka, so it must be banned”, when it isn’t!

    The burka is what the Taliban make people wear and I can understand banning it, but the burkini is basically a wetsuit with a headscarf!

    Here’s a decent BBC guide to Islamic dress (I’m far from an expert):

  • Eddie, I remember hearing a story told by an Afghan woman about how a garment which was designed as an instrument of oppression became her liberation. She would walk past her abusive husband’s shop with the man she was in love with and the husband had no idea.

  • Well it depends on whether you think the burkini is a religious symbol (banned in secular France) which has less to do with Islam than the enforced subjugation of women in a radical (and violent) sect OR is it mere modesty and truly those women could wear what they liked and are not at all being pressured into it by their menfolk. If it were the former of course then the women would be too afraid to say.

    As with the New Year Cologne attacks the PC-brigade are having to decide between feminism and Islam as their cause-plus-celebre and they are not necessarily displaying ethics so much as favouritism.

  • I’m a white, culturally Christian, woman and I can assure you, I would definitely choose to wear a burkini on the beach given the option. As Caron said, there are benefits in covering your assets. That any woman could be told by any man that she MUST or MUST NOT show more of her flesh in public is appallingly misogynistic. Perhaps they should spend their time helping victimised women escape male oppressors, rather than turning into them.

    I’m not a feminist. I’m just not a fan of dictating the personal choices of one group solely for the comfort of another group. To me, this policy is about helping secular French people feel more comfortable by curtailing the perfectly reasonable choices of an already potentially victimised group. I can understand why they would feel the need to do it, but it’s poor policy, because it’s hypocritical.

  • Let’s put things into perspective…How many women would choose to wear a burka/burkini? How many women are forced to wear a burka/burkini?

    If the numbers above approached parity your ‘outrage’ might be justified; otherwise???

  • I have no problems with the idea of some sort of sugar tax or mandatory sugar level

    I have — why should everybody’s food be made to taste worse (and it will, because sugar is nice and artificial sweeteners are horrible) because some people eat too much of it?

    If a food (like, say, a chocolate bar) is high in sugar so that, say, it’s healthy is you eat one of the item every couple of weeks as a treat but unhealthy to eat three of them as snacks every day, then the solution is for people to not eat three a day — not to mandate the company to make eating three a day safe, and in the process make it taste horrible for those of us who do eat it as an occasional treat!

  • You “consume” news? Before H & S regulations, chips were wrapped in old newspapers – but we didn’t actually consume the newspapers!

    Seriously, France seems to be developing an unhealthy attitude to Islam. Some clever designer/business person has created a form of beachwear that allows Muslim women to enjoy themselves on holiday whilst at the same time complying with the dress code of their chosen faith. This can only be a good thing, but the French authorities are taking a dangerous, populist objection ti it.

  • clive english 22nd Aug '16 - 11:59am

    I have read at least 2 dozen mentions of Kate and Helen’s married status in the I Times Metro and Evening Standard, so I think Caron may be seeing an issue where there actually isn’t one.
    I admit I haven’t read the mail or sun

  • No the outrage would still not be justified.

    It is zero to do with trying to force women to show more on the beach! That is either willful blindness or a strawman argument! You can buy an all-in one swimsuit and wear that just fine. You can wear jeans and tee shirt or a kaftan if you like. What the French are saying is that the Burkini is just another Burqa and it is blindingly obviously that is a fair conclusion to reach!

    It is everything to do with trying to remove radical religious symbols that are a) illegal, b) likely oppresive to women, c) banned for all religions, not just this one. It would be hypocritical not to ban it while still banning the religious foibles of every other radical cult. And no, the Burka is nothing to do with Islam either. And yes it is forced on the women by a male-dominant society.

  • I keep reading that the secular French prohibit clothing which displays religious symbolism.

    So what do their priests and nuns wear?

  • JamesG “the burkini is just another burqa”

    No it isn’t. The burqa conceals the face; the burkini doesn’t.

  • Richard Underhill 22nd Aug '16 - 6:09pm

    “Few commentators mentioned the fact that our winning hockey team contained a married couple” BBC TV did and had a large audience. Perhaps there should be more mixed events, as in tennis. Somehow it seemed strange that beach volleyball was all female, while on an ordinary beach it would probably be mixed.
    A local woman has two gold medals for running in a previous Olympics, following a career as a judo instructor throwing strong young men on the mat as an army sergeant.

  • Nothing quite infantilises a woman like having a group of men argue about what she should or should not wear – regardless of their reasons for doing so.

    Not all Muslim women are the same. They are not all oppressed and their clothing choices are affected by a wide range of factors.

    Some women are oppressed. They might be Muslim or they might not. How they dress is not directly related.

    As far as I’m aware the French law bans the wearing of religious symbols only in schools and face covering in public. If that’s right, that means a priest is still allowed to walk down the road wearing a gown/dog collar, so why shouldn’t a woman wear a burkini on a beach?

    To be honest though, we should probably get our own house in order re: hypocrisy and double standards before we start commenting on the hypocrisy and double standards of others.

  • The purpose of modest dress for Muslim women is stated very clearly in the Qu’ran: it is to prevent the “harrassment” of women by men who are (apparently) unable to control themselves. Ironically enough, it’s exactly the same kind of reasoning used from time to time by judges who imply that girls who go out in mini skirts are somehow bringing unwelcome attention upon themselves.

    We should defend the right of any woman to wear whatever they choose, but donning burkinis in solidarity really isn’t the best way of improving the situation as a whole, since it normalises and trivialises symbols of oppression – which, notwithstanding the fact that many women do of course freely choose to wear burkinis and suchlike, any rigidly enforced dress code is by definition. To put this in to perspective :-

  • crewegwyn
    I was careful to write that it is the French who banned it who say it is just another Burka, not me, though t the mere fact that it is called the burkini pretty much sums it up. But all I’m saying is that folk should not be pretending that it is about men wanting to see more female flesh. The French have a pretty good set of reasons for cracking down on radical Islam and the burkini is obviously a symbol of it.

    I’m not a male feminist but this is the thin end of a big intolerant wedge spreading from Saudi Arabia where I guess you would not like to live. About the French law I may have over-reached…from the BBC: The actual ruling is…..
    “Access to beaches and for swimming is banned to any person wearing improper clothes that are not respectful of good morals and secularism. Beachwear which ostentatiously displays religious affiliation, when France and places of worship are currently the target of terrorist attacks, is liable to create risks of disrupting public order.”
    Of course in Corsica there was indeed a public order disturbance – started though by Muslims with bladed weapons.

  • Beachwear which ostentatiously displays religious affiliation, when France and places of worship are currently the target of terrorist attacks, is liable to create risks of disrupting public order

    So… this is just the same as banning Celtic and Rangers tops?

  • Barry Snelson 23rd Aug '16 - 12:13pm

    There is a theme of Anglo-Saxon smugness here. Who knows what our national mood would be if a few Bataclans or Nices happened here? Frightened people can turn into angry mobs very quickly and how the authorities deal with these flash point cultural clashes needs very sensitive thought and fewer silly analogies.
    France’s death toll must be in the couple of hundreds by now.

  • I am actually shocked by the reaction by some commenters on the burkini issue. When you have sleeping women woken up on a beach by a trio of armed police officer and forced to remove clothing, that is a serious infringement of personal choice and civil liberties to me.

    It’s always women’s bodies and women’s clothing that become the subject of controversy and judgement and that is wrong.

    Just this last week the Sun had a go at a Stacey Solomon, who was on the X Factor a few years ago because apparently her breasts were a bit saggy. When people in this country routinely legitimise the body shaming of women, then we can’t claim the moral high ground.

    The fact is that women face oppression in many different ways across all cultures. If you’re that bothered about it, do something to end it. Don’t attack women for the clothes that they choose to wear.

  • It’s always women’s bodies and women’s clothing that become the subject of controversy and judgement and that is wrong.

    Apparently this is not de jure true: the same French law also bans male symbols of religion, such as the Jewish cap which is worn by men and boys.

    Whether this is applied de facto is up for debate, of course, as is, if it is not, whether the double standard is because of a difference in attitude towards male and female clothing or a difference in attitude towards Judaism and Islam.

  • Richard Underhill 24th Aug '16 - 11:54am

    Why are so many male actors posing in their underpants without saying that they want to be the next James Bond?

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 24th Aug '16 - 12:10pm

    I agree absolutely that the ban on the burkini on French beaches is a violation of civil liberties.
    I cannot imagine how anyone can possibly justify the ban. The only possible reason why the authorities might legitimately object to the way someone was dressed, would be if they were wearing so *little* clothing that it might give offence on grounds of decency. But to ban someone from a beach just because they are wearing *more* clothes than the average person on the beach, is bizarre.
    French society seems to be becoming increasingly intolerant, and, especially, Islamophobic. Sometimes it is suggested that the ban on the burkini is just part of a ban on all religious dress. But that is simply not the case. It is just a ban on Muslim dress. If a nun came onto a beach dressed in the habit of her order, no-one would demand that she changed into a bikini. (Though obviously if they did, that would be a violation of civil liberties too.)
    It is horrifying that some people in authority have justified the ban by saying that to wear the burkini suggests allegiance to terrorists. It suggests nothing of the sort. It merely suggests that the wearer is probably a Muslim, and that she wishes to enjoy a day on the beach like anyone else, but would not feel comfortable wearing the sort of costume that non Muslims regard as the norm.
    Most Muslims are just as strongly opposed to terrorism as most non Muslims are, and to suggest otherwise is deeply offensive.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 24th Aug '16 - 12:32pm

    I should add that the ban on Jewish dress is also horrifying, and is also a violation of civil liberties. Some may try to justify it on the grounds that France is a secular society, but a secular society should accept the right of its citizens to practice a religion if they wish to, and this should include the right to wear religious dress. Antisemitism has always been one of the most shameful aspects of French society, and it seems to be becoming worse.
    Christian priests and nuns are allowed publicly to wear the clothes required by their religion, which proves that it is really just members of non Christian religions – especially Islam and Judaism – who are prevented from wearing religious clothing – a clear case of discrimination.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 25th Aug '16 - 9:12am

    There was a recent incident on a French beach in which a woman who was not actually wearing a burkini, was approached by police and ordered to remove her hijab. The “hijab” was just a headscarf, with a pretty floral design – something that could not possibly give offence to anyone. A crowd gathered, and began to chant racist abuse. The woman, and her children who were with her, were in tears. The police seem to have done nothing about the only real crime that occurred here – the hate crime of racist abuse committed by the onlookers.

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