★REPORT

Ko Aung: On Political Imprisonment & Student Protest

AT THE END of last month, Burmese authorities re-arrested 66-year-old political prisoner U Win Htein, just days after he was released from Kathar Prison. It is not known why he was re-captured by police, and no answers are being given as to how long he will be detained for. Amnesty International has condemned the Burmese junta for their actions.

Htein was originally imprisoned in 1996 on the grounds of collecting agricultural statistics – and he happened to be assistant head of one of many Western Burma pro-democracy ‘lobbyist’ parties, the National League of Democracy in Burma (NLD).

The current military junta occupying Burma seized power in 1988 after crushing the ‘Four Eights’ uprising on 8th August 1988. These peaceful demonstrations were initially organised and led by students. Over a period of six weeks, the 8/08/1988 campaigns snowballed from Rangoon, across Burma before ending tragically as 3,000 people were killed thanks to government intervention. The numbers of those who were forced to disappear or were incarcerated are also thought to be in the thousands -estimated at 2,050.

Ko Aung, also a former assistant in the NLD and a student campaigner, was a political prisoner for six years in Burma – half of the time was spent in solitary confinement. He was arrested and tortured as a result of involvement in the 1988 uprising.

He spoke to Student Direct about the continuing importance of student-led democracy.

“In Burma, students are [in a] key role. My generation were fighting back against the military for dignity and freedom. For example, student unions in Burma are illegal. Student activism is always important.”

This year marked the 20th anniversary of the Rangoon (now called Yangon) uprising against regime rule. Nevertheless, repression reigns and the trauma is not easily forgotten.

“I saw a 14-year-old girl. She climbed up to the armour car. She faced the machine guns, yet she shouted, ‘don’t shoot us! We are asking for freedom.’

“They killed the girl. I saw her body fall.”

A “thugocracy” has since established itself. Amnesty report that the political wing of the junta, the ‘Union Solidarity Development Association,’ is made up of military personnel who use knives and sticks against civilians and keep the ‘peace’. Not much of an improvement some might argue.

“In my dark moments, I realise they gave their lives. So I step up. I think: we are stronger than soldiers,” said Mr. Aung. They had sent in the tanks, and amongst the fatalities were Buddhist monks.

“I had to run away. It was difficult. Hundreds of students were killed. In my mind now, I stay strong. I cannot forget the brutalities but I cannot forget the strength I gained.”

The UN and the Human Rights Council kept Burma as a prominent location for crisis response. But another 900 people were imprisoned this year due to involvement in the 2007 Saffron Revolution, a series of anti-government campaigns against rocketing fuel costs and massive increases in fuel subsidy costs. As ever, oil is on the agenda.

Ko Aung was keen to suggest that as well as being vigilant concerning the economic and environmental climate; students should make sure they read up on the history of student protests.

“Union is very important. We were more organised in the 1980s. And we achieved something, fighting for a cause. The role of the activist is to organise, agitate and get more students.

“Do not doubt it. You can change the world.”

MARTIN AMIS – “DEATH IS ALREADY INTRIGUED BY YOU”

CLIVE JAMES AND MARTIN AMIS joined John McAuliffe in the Martin Harris Centre for a discussion about literature and ageing last week.

The two authors considered both how age affects writing, and the idea of age and ageing as subjects for prose and poetry.

Amis impressed the 100-strong audience with pithy aphorisms and anecdotes taken from the likes of Don DeLillo’s White Noise and made some sharp comments. When speaking about Nabokov’s work from his old age, he said that the Lolita author had a “failure of taste and judgement in writing about little girls.

“The crisis of the mid-40s is mortality: death cannot escape you. The crisis of the mid-50s is death: it is already intrigued by you,” he said.

Amis and James discussed many authors, from Goethe to W.B. Yeats. Amis argued that American author Philip Roth, who won the Pulitzer prize for his novel American Pastoral had recently lost his knack of giving spark to his characters. He blamed this on Roth’s age. “My stepmother said to me age is not for sissies. Old age is not for old people – you need to be a young person to be old.”

getty images/sunday times (c)

getty images/sunday times (c)

Clive James, who currently presents Radio 4’s Points of View, is a poet, novelist, broadcaster, and critic. He argued that age is no precursor to a weakened body of work. He said: “I actually feel within myself. At this age I have a lot more experience to reflect on. There is a privilege attached to having lived this long.”

He said that the first big novel shapes a writer’s career – age had little affect in comparison. James argued: “unless a writer changes direction quite obviously, they are usually confined by their first literary works.”

However, he insisted that it was important to revere the later years of life, or as Amis referred to them, “the last period.”

Towards the end of the discussion, both James and Amis agreed that certain vulnerability does linger with the process of ageing, although each had diverging views when describing this in personal terms. James said: “I’m afraid of running out of time,” and was wistful about missing the years he needed to fully understand the internet. “I wish I had another 30 years.” Amis continued with the light jest: “I’ve been terrorising myself…decline is inevitable.”

Martin Amis is a professor of Creative Writing at the University of Manchester, his appointment hit the headlines in 2008 after it was revealed he was being paid £80,000 for 28 hours of teaching time per year.

The event was introduced and chaired by John McAuliffe, Irish poet and lecturer from the Creative Writing department at the University. Peter Porter, Australian poet, due to attend the event, was absent.

“I’m afraid he got too old,” Amis joked.

//published in Student Direct, December 2009

PRIME MINISTER’S QUESTIONS

–  Surprise Manchester visit for Gordon Brown

–  Exclusive 16-25 year old audience

–  University of Manchester Students’ Union raises BNP debate

additional reporting by Alena Eis

PRIME MINISTER GORDON BROWN took part in an exclusive question and answer session in Manchester with a surprised audience of 16 to 25-year-olds.

Past the pre-Raphaelites in Manchester Art Gallery, an audience of 35 young people from across Greater Manchester were seated with Sky News and Key 103, waiting for Gordon Brown to take the questions.

Six University of Manchester students were present at the talk, which had been promoted as being with a senior cabinet minister; Gordon Brown’s appearance was kept a secret until the last minute. Fuse FM’s Head of News, Rosie Baker, was one of the attendees and had been asked by organisers Key 103 to find some “intelligent student types” to ask questions at the panel. “They just asked me out of convenience really, as I had done work experience with them before.” Other attendees included post-graduate students from Salford and students from various local schools, including the Cheadle School of Music.

University of Manchester Students’ Union General Secretary Gabriel Hassan commented that he would have liked to see organisers approach the Union to find attendees. “Obviously they’re going to work with who they know, and I happen to know that Rosie is a very talented girl.

“Of course it would have been great if they had contacted the Union to find some volunteers to get a wider, more inclusive process.”

He added: “However, it looks like those who went are a fantastic group of people and might have been who we would have ended up with anyway.”

The Prime Minister spent the first few minutes meeting and greeting guests and went directly to Amy Newlove, the 14-year-old girl who watched her father Gary get kicked to death outside their Warrington home after he confronted a gang of youths.

During the debate – held on the day that her father would have celebrated his 50th birthday – she asked Brown: “Why is it the people who murdered my father were given a life sentence, but are only serving a minimum tariff?

“As prime minister and also a father yourself, isn’t it about time that you made sure the laws and sentences were tougher and meant what they said?”

The Prime Minister was apologetic and commented on Amy’s bravery. “We the Government don’t tell a judge what sentence to impose.” He claimed that the courts had been given the power of “indefinite sentencing,” which would ensure that in future, criminals could be kept in jail for longer.

After talking about the plight of small businesses, which have suffered over the past three years, Carla from Hazel Grove, whose brother was killed during service in February 2006, asked the PM when the troops were going to be brought home.

“I want the troops home as soon as possible,” Brown said, but his tough stance on remaining in the country soon became clear. “There are 43 countries involved in the effort in Afghanistan, it’s not just America and Britain.

“The Afghans are starting to run their own affairs – supported by, mentored by the British troops… we are not an occupying army.”

A previous show of hands prompted by host and radio DJ Sam Walker before the radio question and answer session began revealed that audience consensus was in favour of the war.

“This is not an illegal war at all. The United Nations supported the action in Afghanistan,” Brown said.

Also in attendance was Mark Dunwell, Chair of Council for the University of Manchester Students’ Union and successful proposer of the Beat the BNP motion from exactly 12 months ago, which resolved in the No Platform for Fascists policy at the Students’ Union. He asked the Prime Minister if the Government aimed to take an active stance against the BNP. Brown said: “I think we’ve got to expose the BNP for what they are. They say you can only be a member if you’re Caucasian. That is simple racial prejudice.

“People need to make up their own mind to vote against it.”

This question came just minutes after the he was confronted with the zeitgeist issue of  ‘Jedward’ or John and Edward, the controversially untalented twins on ITV’s The X Factor. Brooke Vincent, the actress who plays Sophie Webster in Coronation Street said to Brown: “You’re like, quite high up there. You’re like a top dog, aren’t you? So you could like ring in, and say ‘we don’t want ‘em’.”

Gordon Brown admitted he was not impressed by Louis Walsh’s duo. “I don’t think they’re very good,” he said, but went on to say how reality TV shows were encouraging in ridding the creative industry of its nepotism by opening up opportunities for talented people.

Finally, Paul Lockitt, Key 103’s breakfast news anchor, asked Gordon Brown about his day.

“It’s a difficult job, and you get up in the morning and something new has happened.” While this could be said for any job, it is safe to assume that a Prime Minister’s morning news differs a little from everybody else’s.

PANDORA’S SEX SECRETS UNCOVERED

Fallowfield “massage parlour” confirms: “We do employ students”

Exclusive//8th December 2008

Jane McConnell
News Editor

MASSAGE PARLOUR Pandora’s Box in Fallowfield employs female students as young as 21, who are “expected” to have sex with clients, a Student Direct investigation has revealed.

Student Direct’s undercover reporter discovered that students not only work there, but also visit the venue looking for services.

Photo: Hannah Reiss, Photo Editor

Photo: Hannah Reiss, Photo Editor

Posing as an ex-escort, she was asked if she was a student. “I said I was a student and I asked her if students were normally taken on. The blonde woman said that being a student didn’t matter,” said the reporter, who wished to remain anonymous for safety reasons.

The woman also confirmed at this point that students frequent Pandora’s Box as clients as well, which was later confirmed in a conversation with the venue’s manager.

“The woman made it clear that you get ‘all sorts’ of clients there, including students. When I said I lived in Fallowfield, her initial worry was that I could be recognised by particular men who visit the parlour.”

When the 19 year old asked if any “extras” were discretionary, she was told that they were not optional, but rather: “You do have to do it.”

The student added: “She also asked me about my bust size, and I told her, which is obviously a very intimate question but it’s probably expected in that line of work.”

In a follow-up phone call with the manager the next day, she further enquired about her expected duties: “When I asked him what it was that I would have to do, if I had to have sex with the punters – and I think it’s a fair question  – he just said, ‘Obviously. What do you expect?’ and asked me if I had been paid for sex before.”

The manager reassured the reporter that Pandora’s was one of the best parlours in Manchester. He told her that it was safe to work there, it was very clean and that it was quite famous for being so exquisite. He went on to mention that the women who work there did so at their own volition, were aware of their own welfare and that all women had legal documentation asserting their nationality.

“He said that as far as he’s concerned, the women are having massages and showers with the clients. If I did want to work there, I would have to sign a disclaimer form so that presumably no-one but myself would be liable for any health and safety issues,” the reporter said.

A male student, who also wished to remain anonymous, made enquiries at the parlour, expressing a preference for students to a member of staff. He was told that he could spend time with an English student, one of two students who worked there. Staff said that there were women as young as 21 employed there and that he would be charged £45 per half hour for a fully personal service with one of them.

Pandora’s Box has caused a lot of controversy within the student community – some even admit to regularly watching the reactions of people emerging from the premises for fun.

Located above The Gin Club on Wilmslow Road, the Fallowfield venue was featured in the infamous adult services guide, ‘McCoy’s Street Plan For Manchester’, published in 2005. As reported by Student Direct in the same year, author George McCoy made a special note of Pandora’s Box, saying that he was rather impressed by the opening hours and number of female workers, especially as several women that work there “seem to be students”.

McCoy said that such women had “to make a living somehow, and they are not doing anyone any harm”.

UMSU Women’s Officer Jennie Killip was unsurprised by the findings. “It’s not shocking that students engage in sex work due to the financial burden of being a student,” she said. “What is most important in sex work is the welfare of the women, and that they do not experience any exploitation.

Killip urged any students engaged in the sex work industry needing support or representation to go and speak to her in the UMSU Advice Centre.

GRIPES AT GILBERT

ALAN GILBERT, President and Vice Chancellor of the University of Manchester took on what he claimed to be “really hard” questions as part of a student question and answer session.
There were further shocks when European Studies and Languages student Brid McKeown quoted Gilbert’s comments at a previous presentation, claiming that that he had dubbed the University a “mill” which only produces employable graduates. Gilbert strenuously denied having ever made such a sweeping comment and used the opportunity to refute previous accusations of being a business-led vice-chancellor:

“I’d never say that. It’s not remotely close to what I said. There is social policy that will turn universities into employment mills [but] it’s not something I’ve ever believed.”
Gilbert took an interesting angle when discussing the impersonal overspill rooms created by over-subscribed lectures. “I don’t agree with the lecture model. You may as well just go to the library,” he said.
“The trouble in this University is that we may have got the balance wrong. It may be a trade off – some of the curriculum for more staff time.”

Students Versus Gilbert: Main Points Discussed

  • ISSUE: Feedback on essays and coursework: students requested more detailed, written commentary on their performance.
  • Gilbert: Changes could only be made if students were “willing to invest their time” in online survey
  • ISSUE: The University’s recent biofuels research partnership with Shell.
  • Gilbert: “It’s a bit like looking at a government: there are things we find reprehensible…but it’s possible to demonise any corporation.”
  • ISSUE: Wider access to University from students of all economic backgrounds.
  • Gilbert: “I think it is absolutely right to open universities up. I believe they should be meritocratic, but to think that 100% of people can go to university is nonsense.”
  • ISSUE: Allegations of time quotas placed on teaching staff, which puts limits on the amount of time available for teaching.
  • Gilbert: “There is no University policy [on quotas]…that would be down to the School itself.”
  • ISSUE: Deficit created by managerial costs.
  • Gilbert: “We employ a lot of non-academic staff. Goal seven of the Strategic Plan is to reduce overhead costs and to invest in the frontlines of teaching and research.”
  • ISSUE: New University buildings following the Arthur Lewis model.
  • Gilbert: “You’ll be pleased to know that it isn’t true – I hope it’s the only building of its kind.”

//published 8th December 2008. Student Direct

ALCOHOL BANNED IN FALLOWFIELD AND RUSHOLME

NUISANCE, HARM and antisocial behaviour are being targeted in a new booze crackdown that will directly affect students.

Wilmslow Road, which links up the two student-heavy areas of Rusholme and Fallowfield, is now subject to an Alcohol Control Order.

The new legislation means that police now have powers to instantly confiscate alcohol if someone is found consuming it within the new “dry zone”, as well as slap a £60 on-the-spot fine on the offending party.

This means that students opting for pre-drinks whilst waiting for a bus or heading towards a house party could find themselves stopped and stripped of any open bottles of booze.

If students ignore orders, they could be arrested or charged up to £500 by the police. The Alcohol Control Order was given the green light by Manchester City Council as a result of consultations with angry local residents and concerned businesses in the Wilmslow Road area.

However, students are not prevented from drinking outside their own property – as long as they don’t act antisocially. They are also allowed to drink in beer gardens and restaurants with designated outside areas, as they are not considered to be open public spaces.

The signs will say: “Drinking alcohol or having alcohol in open containers is PROHIBITED in public places in this area.” Students may hope that keeping the lid on the bottle will stop them getting in trouble.

UMSU General Secretary Rob Pinfold is reassuring students not to be too concerned about confrontations with police before a night out: “I went on patrol with the police, and they were asking people to tip away drinks rather than enforcing on-the-stop fines. From my understanding, it’s only open bottles that can be tipped away.

“I’m more worried about the transition period – there will still be students drinking before heading down to M2 and on the way to the Bop.

Pinfold has received many emails in response to the Order. “I had a guy telling me this was communism through the back door,” he said.

The map shows that only the top of the residential streets like Latchmere Road and Wellington Road are restricted zones as they feed onto Wilmslow Road. Bizarrely, the roads that lie in between them, such as Granville Road and Sherwood Street, are not labelled as alcohol control zones.

Alcohol Control Orders are active in various parts of Manchester, such as Ardwick and the City Centre.

PC Scott Schofield, from the University Police Liaison Office, said: “It’s a good little idea because alcohol is a big contributor to anti-social behaviour, especially for people going out at night.

“We shouldn’t encouraging people to go out drinking. Alcohol among students is becoming an increasing problem, so making alcohol exclusion zones is one solution to this.” //published 8th December, 2008, Student Direct

WAREHOUSE PROJECT TICKETS ROBBED

THIEVES RAIDED the well-loved café, Trof, in Fallowfield during Reading Week, making off with over £20,000 worth of Warehouse Project tickets.

The shocking news will annoy students who have been searching for tickets for popular shows featuring big acts like The Chemical Brothers and Erol Alkan.

Greater Manchester Police have had no leads since the theft occurred on Wednesday 5th November, and are now appealing for help with the investigation. However, it is believed that the crooks were casually hanging around in Trof before they broke in.

Sacha Lord-Marchionne, director of The Warehouse Project said that Trof had CCTV footage of the people drinking in the bar on the same day but that they had put their hoods up when they broke in later on. Labelled with barcodes and serial numbers and scanned as people enter the venue, he claims that the club night’s organisers know exactly which are the stolen tickets. “Greater Manchester Police work on our doors. Anyone with a stolen ticket will be asked to help with enquiries,” he said.

Police Constable Matthew Smith, of the Burglary Unit at Longsight Police Station, said: “This was not a random burglary. The thieves made a concerted and very deliberate effort to break in and steal these tickets.”

Lord-Marchionne was careful to mention that none of the stolen tickets for the sold-out Cocoon line-up on Friday 14th November had turned up. He said: “These joeys probably binned the tickets not knowing what they were. They’re probably at the bottom of Platt Fields Lake.”

There are concerns that die-hard fans may be forced to pay over the odds on auction websites or from touts.

“It’s hard enough to get tickets as it’s always sold out,” said Physics student Phil Hargreaves, 20. “It’s just going to get stupid now.”

Lord-Marchionne assured that there are still tickets left, and students in particular do not need to worry. “We have a street team of 65 students who sell on our behalf,” he said. “It’s easier to buy tickets from reputable outlets.”//published 24th November 2008, Student Direct

STAR STUDENTS LIGHT UP STAGE

TALENTED PERFORMERS took to the Club Academy stage in the annual Students Got Talent competition last week.
With the semi-finals over, competitors from the University of Manchester are working even harder for the £150 prize. One of last Monday night’s judges included Student Direct’s very own Editor, Susannah Birkwood.
Anton Benson, producer of the talent contest, said: “This year’s competition had a record turnout of auditionees, over 50 acts, some strong acts, some comical – for all the wrong reasons – but quite limited on variety. We are quite guitar-heavy this year.”
He said that the finals are looking strong.
“At the moment it’s a four-way race. There have been a handful of obvious standouts.”
Critics suggested that the audition process was slightly unfair as neither a piano nor a stereo was provided for contestants – they would have had to bring their own. This was the policy for any musician. However, one contestant who did not want to be named noted that because there was no piano, several auditionees he knew “didn’t bother turning up”.

Of the over 50 acts that took to the stage, only 30 made it to the semi-finals.
‘Psycho Mo’, a 2nd year medic who rapped in the auditions, said: “If you’re going to jump, you got to be prepared to fall.”
The overall winner will also get the chance to go on the “Great British Variety Tour” in 2009. //published 27th October 2008, Student Direct

STUDENTS NEED A BETTER READ

HEFTY BROADSHEETS are the most popular newspapers with students, a recent survey has revealed.
The Guardian was the top newspaper for 40% of student respondents, yet only 15% read sister paper The Observer at the weekend.
The Sunday Times was a weekend favourite with 36% of those surveyed, although The Times came a close second during the week, with a 37% readership.
Ian Coxon, Editor of The Sunday Times University Guide, said: “The results of the Milkround survey bode very well for the future success of The Sunday Times. Today’s university students will be the bedrock of our readership for generations to come. We thank them for their support and are very pleased that so many students enjoy the breadth of coverage the paper provides.”
Reece Smith, a second-year nursing student at the University of Manchester, said: “I like reading The Guardian. It is full of information about courses and causes that students are interested in.”
Just one in ten students surveyed opted for The Sun, whilst 5% more read tabloid The Daily Mail. 800 students and graduates from UK universities were quizzed by milkround.com, a graduate employment website.

Spokesman Mike Barnard said: “Students are living up to a reputation of wanting stimulating reading. They want to digest current affairs in depth.” //published 22nd September 2008, Student Direct

BOG STANDARD

NON-GENDERED TOILET signs will show the way to the powder rooms at Club Academy from now on.
The traditional male/female icons will be scrapped in favour of trans-friendly “With Urinals” and “Without Urinals” plaques. This innovation comes in time for the new academic year and is the result of a motion proposed to the University of Manchester Students’ Union Executive this summer.
Jennie Killip, Women’s Officer for the University of Manchester Students’ Union developed the new signs. “Toilets are very much, you know, for boys and for girls, so we’ve taken away that overtly gendered aspect.
“For example, a trans-student who does not identify themselves as a man would have to face abuse and violence if they used the ‘other’ toilet.
“Many students complained about this whilst I was LGBT officer and I feel that individuals can now use the Union facilities comfortably.”
‘Baked Bean Can’ University Place already features several unisex toilets. They are comprised of individual cubicles with their own sinks in a bid to allow facilities to be more inclusive. //published 22nd September 2008, Student Direct

UNION BAR BRAWL

THREE MEN WERE ASSAULTED with a pool cue in the Solem Bar at the University of Manchester Student’s Union.

A disturbance was reported at around 10pm on Saturday 30th August during the Surface Unsigned Festival, a battle of the bands competition. Police were called immediately to the scene.
When officers arrived, they found the three men, two aged 39 and one 20-year-old with minor facial and head injuries. On-site paramedics treated the wounded men after the fight. The Students’ Union employs its own security that regulates entry to the various Academies and has since introduced CCTV cameras.
It is believed a man armed with a pool cue carried out the assault. Police say there is an outstanding offender. They understand that he is white, of heavy build, has curly brown hair that is usually in a ponytail and is about 5ft 9in tall.
The Surface Unsigned Festival was hosted by Vman Events, which run this battle of the bands competition nationally. Revellers and fans in Academy Two watched 14 bands.
Vuz Kapur, who runs the company V-Man events, said: “A lot of people had been in the venue since 2pm.
“Obviously the fans are passionate about their bands, and they’d been drinking all day…they didn’t hear who won until about 12.30am. It may have been fans of Sons of Midian or Lazy Fader. We don’t know who [the offender] was.”

But the news may well shock many Freshers as they begin university life hoping for a local haven away from their studies – provided by the Union they have just helped to pay for with £3,145 worth of tuition fees.
Rob Pinfold, UMSU General Secretary, said: “The Union is a safe space for all. This is a highly unusual event and is being dealt with as a police matter. This is no reason to be put off going to the Union.”
“We’ve worked with the police and we’ve installed CCTV cameras. When students aren’t around we don’t have as much security but now that students are back nothing like this will be able to happen.”
The Solem Bar was unavailable for comment. There is currently an ongoing investigation. Greater Manchester Police are appealing for witnesses. //published 22nd September 2008, Student Direct

Prime Minister’s questions

by Jane McConnell, News Editor

–  Surprise Manchester visit for Gordon Brown

–  Exclusive 16-25 year old audience

–  University of Manchester Students’ Union raises BNP debate

Prime Minister Gordon Brown took part in an exclusive question and answer session in Manchester with a surprised audience of 16 to 25-year-olds.

Past the pre-Raphaelites in Manchester Art Gallery, an audience of 35 young people from across Greater Manchester were seated with Sky News and Key 103, waiting for Gordon Brown to take the questions.

Six University of Manchester students were present at the talk, which had been promoted as being with a senior cabinet minister; Gordon Brown’s appearance was kept a secret until the last minute. Fuse FM’s Head of News, Rosie Baker, was one of the attendees and had been asked by organisers Key 103 to find some “intelligent student types” to ask questions at the panel. “They just asked me out of convenience really, as I had done work experience with them before.” Other attendees included post-graduate students from Salford and students from various local schools, including the Cheadle School of Music.

University of Manchester Students’ Union General Secretary Gabriel Hassan commented that he would have liked to see organisers approach the Union to find attendees. “Obviously they’re going to work with who they know, and I happen to know that Rosie is a very talented girl.

“Of course it would have been great if they had contacted the Union to find some volunteers to get a wider, more inclusive process.”

He added: “However, it looks like those who went are a fantastic group of people and might have been who we would have ended up with anyway.”

The Prime Minister spent the first few minutes meeting and greeting guests and went directly to Amy Newlove, the 14-year-old girl who watched her father Gary get kicked to death outside their Warrington home after he confronted a gang of youths.

During the debate – held on the day that her father would have celebrated his 50th birthday – she asked Brown: “Why is it the people who murdered my father were given a life sentence, but are only serving a minimum tariff?

“As prime minister and also a father yourself, isn’t it about time that you made sure the laws and sentences were tougher and meant what they said?”

The Prime Minister was apologetic and commented on Amy’s bravery. “We the Government don’t tell a judge what sentence to impose.” He claimed that the courts had been given the power of “indefinite sentencing,” which would ensure that in future, criminals could be kept in jail for longer.

After talking about the plight of small businesses, which have suffered over the past three years, Carla from Hazel Grove, whose brother was killed during service in February 2006, asked the PM when the troops were going to be brought home.

“I want the troops home as soon as possible,” Brown said, but his tough stance on remaining in the country soon became clear. “There are 43 countries involved in the effort in Afghanistan, it’s not just America and Britain.

“The Afghans are starting to run their own affairs – supported by, mentored by the British troops… we are not an occupying army.”

A previous show of hands prompted by host and radio DJ Sam Walker before the radio question and answer session began revealed that audience consensus was in favour of the war.

“This is not an illegal war at all. The United Nations supported the action in Afghanistan,” Brown said.

Also in attendance was Mark Dunwell, Chair of Council for the University of Manchester Students’ Union and successful proposer of the Beat the BNP motion from exactly 12 months ago, which resolved in the No Platform for Fascists policy at the Students’ Union. He asked the Prime Minister if the Government aimed to take an active stance against the BNP. Brown said: “I think we’ve got to expose the BNP for what they are. They say you can only be a member if you’re Caucasian. That is simple racial prejudice.

“People need to make up their own mind to vote against it.”

This question came just minutes after the he was confronted with the zeitgeist issue of  ‘Jedward’ or John and Edward, the controversially untalented twins on ITV’s The X Factor. Brooke Vincent, the actress who plays Sophie Webster in Coronation Street said to Brown: “You’re like, quite high up there. You’re like a top dog, aren’t you? So you could like ring in, and say ‘we don’t want ‘em’.”

Gordon Brown admitted he was not impressed by Louis Walsh’s duo. “I don’t think they’re very good,” he said, but went on to say how reality TV shows were encouraging in ridding the creative industry of its nepotism by opening up opportunities for talented people.

Finally, Paul Lockitt, Key 103’s breakfast news anchor, asked Gordon Brown about his day.

“It’s a difficult job, and you get up in the morning and something new has happened.” While this could be said for any job, it is safe to assume that a Prime Minister’s morning news differs a little from everybody else’s.

7 responses to “★REPORT

  1. Pingback: Thankyou, Come Again «·

  2. Yey hunny these were just some of your best bits in SD/mancunion! Really like your writing on Manchester Gossip, do you think you could get me on there too 🙂 🙂 🙂 xx

  3. I just think that you put it in a way that everyone can understand. I also love the images you put in here. They fit so well with what youre trying to say. Im sure youll reach so many people with what youve got to say.

  4. Great stuff from you, man. Ive read your stuff before and youre just too awesome. I love what youve got here, love what youre saying and the way you say it. You make it entertaining and you still manage to keep it smart. I cant wait to read more from you. This is really a great blog.

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