A weekly look at equalities issues in the press

Every week, Catalyst trawls through the British papers and takes an occasionally irreverent look at comment on race, equalities and human rights issues. Where possible we give web links to the original pieces. Click on the headings below to go the individual articles. If you think we've missed anything interesting, please let us know - each article gives you the option to respond.

  • Human rights and wrongs
  • Fri, 24 Aug 2007
  • Human rights - who has them and, more pointedly, who shouldn't have them - have gripped the nation's commentators this week with the news that Learco Chindamo, the killer of headteacher Philip Lawrence, cannot be deported from this country upon completion of his prison sentence, partly on human rights grounds. For the tabloids in particular, this has been a red rag to a Fleet Street bull.
  • Independence and Partition are Always on our Minds
  • Fri, 17 Aug 2007
  • Across the media, and amidst an outpouring of radio and television features, the sixtieth anniversary of Indian Independence, Partition and the birth of Pakistan have this week been both celebrated and debated. There is also room to mark another anniversary, with 30 years passing since the death of the King. Elsewhere, there is cause for concern at the future of this country, how we treat older people, black role models and free speech.
  • Sick cows and ageing humans
  • Fri, 10 Aug 2007
  • With the holiday season in full swing, and the nation's commentators becalmed, the week nonetheless kicked off with dramatic images of pestilence and apocalypse, as the horror of foot and mouth disease reared its head once more. Beyond the fields of Surrey there was also talk of old age, mixed-race relationships, black boys and Lord Lucan.
  • Everything you ever wanted to know about sex, cohabiting and coconuts, but were afraid to ask
  • Fri, 03 Aug 2007
  • Some serious issues manage to squeeze into the nations media outlets ahead of the silly-season, though a taste of things to come is evident in tales of Cornish great white sharks, calls for the reintroduction of beavers and wolves in Scotland, and news that Lembit Opik may make a cheeky bid for London mayor. Families what they are, what rights they should have, and how employers should support them have been prominent in the past week, though theres also been space to throw in a few coconuts and woggles.
  • The end of the world as we know it
  • Fri, 27 Jul 2007
  • In a week in which it was hoped that Britain's water levels might finally be subsiding, journalists have been looking at other endings: the last Harry Potter (allegedly), the death of received pronunciation (supposedly), closing the gender inequality gap (some way off yet) and the slaughter of Shambo the 'sacred' bull, about which there can sadly be little doubt.
  • Age, equality and doughnuts
  • Fri, 20 Jul 2007
  • This week, two areas of equality celebrate special birthdays. New Statesman marks the 40th anniversary of Britain's legalisation of homosexuality with special content on international gay politics, the way that gay storylines have disappeared from mainstream TV since the 1990s and cross-dressing's new lease of life.
  • Tintin, unmarried couples and other threats to Our Way of Life
  • Fri, 13 Jul 2007
  • It’s been hard for the nation’s columnists over the past week to drag themselves away from the seething mass of scandal and revelation that Alistair Campbell’s diary isn’t, but a few determined or just outlandish storylines have made it through nonetheless. Thrusting their way to the front of the queue have been new Home Secretary Jacqui Smith’s breasts. Commentators across the political spectrum have been sweatily manipulating their columns to fit in a range of disapproving or leering responses.
  • Dystopian nightmares and prim curtain-twitching
  • Fri, 06 Jul 2007
  • It would appear that most columnists this week have been wholly occupied deciding what British Muslims should and shouldn’t be doing in the light of the attempted attacks in London and Glasgow last weekend, although a little bit of space was made for ruminations on what the smoking ban says about the English as a nation.
  • Brown's brides, social inclusion and banning Tom Cruise
  • Fri, 29 Jun 2007
  • In a week when the Spice Girls reformed and Gordon's government finally became a reality, alliterative headline writers evolved 'Blair's babes' into 'Brown's brides'. 'There has never been a woman home secretary or chancellor - wouldn't that be a great first?' posited Dr Katherine Rake in the Guardian. Gordon was clearly reading, and took note.
  • Did you hear the one about the fat racist, the knighted Nobel laureate and the colostomy bag?
  • Fri, 22 Jun 2007
  • Two figures that have the power to divide opinion like few others have dominated headlines and commentaries in the past week. One, Bernard Manning, is very much dead, and some people appear to wish the other, the newly knighted Sir Salman Rushdie, would join him sooner rather than later.
  • Militant Cornishness and school run pyjamas
  • Fri, 15 Jun 2007
  • Militant Cornish nationalism, sartorial awareness, the benefits of Scottishness and the case for and against an academic boycott of Israel have been the subjects du jour for many of Britain’s columnists recently – with Spotlight’s vote for headline of the week going to Michael White’s article on the recent terrorist threats made against Rick Stein’s restaurant: ‘Cornish nasties’.
  • Big Brother Britain
  • Fri, 08 Jun 2007
  • Big Brother is back in the news this week after a contestant used the word 'nigger' and was ejected from the reality TV show by the programme makers. Most commentators agree that Emily Parr's behaviour was naive rather than invidious but that Channel 4 had little choice but to evict her, especially considering the furore surrounding Celebrity Big Brother at the beginning of the year.
  • Beyond the pale
  • Fri, 01 Jun 2007
  • This week, much has been made of gay rights – or rather the lack of them – as columnists responded to the attack on Peter Tatchell and other campaigners in Russia, as well as to the news that the Teletubbies have been banned in Poland, following an allegation from the Polish minister for Children’s Rights that the programme is ‘gay propaganda’.
  • Fear and loathing in Great Britain
  • Fri, 25 May 2007
  • Margaret Hodge gained much press attention this week for wading into the need versus entitlement debate by saying that long-standing British residents should take precedence over immigrants in housing. James Heartfield says that 'it is a big mistake to blame these migrant workers for the housing shortage'. The Daily Mail disagrees, calling it an 'oh-so-rare burst of candour' on Hodge's behalf.
  • Men, women and the WI
  • Thu, 17 May 2007
  • Gender politics have been the order of the week for many columnists, from the feminist vote to paternity leave and the ethnic composition of the Women’s Institute. But other kinds of politicking have been getting a look-in too, as many reflect on the changes afoot in both Westminster and Holyrood.
  • Sacred cows and how to teach happiness
  • Fri, 11 May 2007
  • While many concentrate on the last days of Tony Blair's premiership, Joan Bakewell in the Independent and Simon de Bruxelles in the Times write about concerns for the fate of a six year-old sacred Welsh bull. Hindus have pledged to form a human shield to protect Shambo, a Friesian diagnosed with bovine tuberculosis and due to be slaughtered as a result.
  • Democracy and sovereignty
  • Fri, 04 May 2007
  • Much of this week’s media has been concerned with election speculation – whether pondering the future of France, the possible rise of extremist parties, or the dawn of a new era in Scottish politics.
  • Neighbours and neighbourliness
  • Fri, 20 Apr 2007
  • St George's Day has become an annual celebration of the debate about Englishness. Ian Williams thinks that England's patron saint day is actually about glorifying southeast England, New Labour and David Cameron. As a Liverpudlian, he attempts to dissociate himself from this and to deny his Englishness by emphasising his city's connections with Wales, Ireland and the Isle of Man.
  • Dragon-slaying, holocaust denial and the human species
  • Fri, 20 Apr 2007
  • Simon Jenkins links the problems of ethnic diversity to Planet Earth in the Guardian this week. The BBC are planning a documentary on that ubiquitous creature homo sapiens, and as well as envisioning herds of desperate housewives picking off the weakest toy boy from the herd, Jenkins forsees a 'cauldron of sensitivity and antagonisms' that will arise from the inevitable ascribing of ethnic characteristics to certain groups.
  • Educating against violence and weight gain
  • Sun, 15 Apr 2007
  • In the Times, Stephen Pollard thundered grumpily about a piece of research that found large schools had greater numbers of discipline problems. Using his corpulence for dramatic punch, he claimed that ‘although the fact I weigh too much could come in useful if I ever have to sit on someone to restrain them, in the real world it simply means I am more prone to ill health, as one look at me would make obvious. And large schools are, as is equally obvious to most of us, more likely to have discipline problems.’
  • Commentators travel from Holyrood to Albania
  • Thu, 05 Apr 2007
  • This week the Scottish election race kicked off, and writers north and south of the border considered the state of the Union. The consensus seemed to be that, as things are not looking great for Labour in the battle for Holyrood, a separate Scotland might actually become a possibility – SNP leader Alex Salmond has explicitly stated that if they gain power they will hold a referendum on independence.
  • Can an ugly woman ever be good at her job?
  • Mon, 02 Apr 2007
  • Jane Austen's place in the literary canon is firmly established, as is her role as a fruitful source of TV adaptations. But this week, she has also become - from beyond the grave - a key player in a debate among newspaper columnists over gender and work. When it comes to women and the workplace, is being good at the job good enough?
  • Gender equality and Wales
  • Fri, 23 Mar 2007
  • This week, a number of columnists have chosen to consider sex equality and women’s rights. Sources of inspiration included the news that a Moroccan woman was denied a divorce by a German judge who claimed the Qur’an ruled domestic violence was acceptable; the case of a Royal Navy petty officer who was found guilty of rape; ongoing consideration of the veil; and the budget. Collectively they encouraged writers to ponder – in the words of those bards of equality, Motley Crue – ‘girls girls girls’.
  • Has the boy cried wolf?
  • Tue, 20 Mar 2007
  • This week, considerable media ink was expended on the subject of victimhood. Some writers considered whether Lord Levy was the victim of anti-Semitism, others pondered whether Colonel Patrick Mercer was the victim of political correctness gone mad, while yet more questioned the sense of football fans calling themselves the ‘Yid Army’.
  • Through language the man is revealed
  • Fri, 09 Mar 2007
  • The sixteenth century playwright Ben Jonson wrote: ‘Language most shews a man. Speak that I may see thee’ and this week the newspapers have been concerned with just that. What a person’s language says about them, including the language spoken by migrants and used about migrants, has exercised a number of writers.
  • Philosophy and flexibility: a perfect marriage
  • Fri, 02 Mar 2007
  • In the papers this week, energy has been expended on evaluating the heavy-handedness of the state. Inspired by the news that a fat child might be taken into care, migrants might be compelled to volunteer and the publication of a report that found working mothers were treated much worse than anyone else, columnists began to ponder whether the government is doing too much, not enough, or the wrong stuff altogether.
  • From the powerful pen to legalised drugs
  • Fri, 23 Feb 2007
  • If there was a job description for newspaper columnists it would stress the need to be topical, thought-provoking and offering a fresh perspective. Sometimes to do this writers mine the personal; sometimes they write about things low on the news radar; and sometimes it takes the form of elevating yourself to the status of editorial deity, whose power extends far beyond the breakfast table.
  • Petitions and prison: a bleak week for comment
  • Fri, 16 Feb 2007
  • This week began with excitement at the number of people e-petitioning the prime minister about road pricing, and ended with the Daily Mail proclaiming ‘War Zone UK’. The terrifying state of the nation is not down to rampaging drivers, but is the Mail’s take on a series of fatal shootings in south London.
  • Urging Jewish moderates to shout
  • Fri, 09 Feb 2007
  • The launch of a new Jewish network developed to encourage debate about the policies of the Israeli government and the ongoing furore about Islamic extremism, fuelled by arrests in Birmingham, has moved writers across the media spectrum to consider how communities are represented and which spokespeople should be heard.
  • Rebellious teens and kicking multiculturalism
  • Fri, 02 Feb 2007
  • This week, much media activity has focused on the three Ms: multiculturalism, Muslims, and money for honours.
  • From bullying Britain to Britishness lessons
  • Fri, 26 Jan 2007
  • Although the media storm last week failed to capsize the Good Ship Big Brother, the wreckage continued to spill across the papers. Yet, despite the best efforts of the tabloid press, the longer-term environmental damage for Channel 4 appears to be less than was originally anticipated.
  • Celebrity Big Brother whips up a storm
  • Fri, 19 Jan 2007
  • This week the coverage of the tercentenary of the Act of Union, the ongoing conflicts in Sudan, Iraq and Afghanistan, and most other domestic and world events went unnoticed in the sea of coverage of the activities in the 2007 Celebrity Big Brother house.
  • Hotel rooms, bile spitting and sodomy
  • Fri, 12 Jan 2007
  • On 1 January 2007 it became illegal in Northern Ireland to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation when providing goods, facilities and services. The ban is expected to come into force in Britain in April, and on Tuesday demonstrators gathered outside parliament to oppose the legislation on religious grounds. Unsurprisingly newspapers across the political spectrum were exercised by the editorial possibility of pitting Christian against homosexual.

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This page was last updated on 26/02/2007 16:48:11


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