Thursday, 6 October 2016

Hussain Manawer Interview | One Young World 2016

At the recent One Young World Summit in Ottawa, Canada, I caught up with mental health advocate, poet and soon to be the first British Muslim in space, Hussain Manawer. Watch this insightful interview below, and make sure to check out his performance 'Mother Tongue' also!

Monday, 26 September 2016

Celebrities Won't "Save The Day"

Donald Trump is threatening in the polls and the liberal elite has dangerously fumbled in their latest heavy-handed ploy to take him on writes James Dancey.

I was perusing through the YouTube trending bar a couple days ago and I saw this ‘Save the Day’ video, a campaign by celebrities telling you not just to vote, but to not vote for Trump. It was 3 minutes of sincere personages looking you in the eye and appealing to your sense of moral righteousness. Sounds perfectly fine right? Wrong.

You see Trump runs a narrative that we’ve seen before, that it’s the big liberal elite and media moguls ganging up against him, and it’s one that has been bought before. Trump himself is not far from the aristocracy, although he won’t release his tax returns he likes to flaunt himself as a self-proclaimed multimillionaire, his father was a property magnate and once upon a time he received a small loan of a million dollars; hardly a working class hero.

Yet he has grappled the popularity of the people he has been so distant from in the earlier years of his life, why? It’s a combination, there’s the obvious brutally honest (and regularly offensive) demeanour he has which attracts the masses who are fed up of being condescended by men and women in suits and ties, however, he is regularly propelled by the media’s coverage (despite nearly all being negative) helps feed his narrative that he is the underdog (despite by no means being that).

So now we have celebrities, doing what celebrities do best, being in front of the camera, and telling you not to vote for Trump, because he’s a misogynist, a racist and an all round disgusting human being. That’s all correct, and they’re all right, but it’s not going to stop people from voting him. A slew of celebrity endorsements, from David Beckham to Steven Hawking didn’t stop people voting leave in the EU referendum. Why?

Celebrities are becoming less idolised in modern society as more and more people view them as glorified civilians, which in many ways is what they are. An actor isn’t really qualified to give you political advice, although most politicians aren’t qualified to give you political advice either, but no-one listens to politicians, so what are the chances they’re going to listen to celebrities?  

Every time the media report on one of Donald Trump’s awful slurs or supposed ‘mishaps’ (which are so common nowadays they can hardly be considered that) they’re just giving him more airtime and attention. I understand it’s hard to find good news about Hillary Clinton, who spends half her time being comatose and the other half being jeered over her emails, but finding ‘bad news’ about Donald Trump is just supporting his beliefs that the media is after him, and despite all the reports being completely true, he is a terrible human being, people have already made up their mind on him.

This new Save the Day campaign is not going to change anyone’s mind about Donald Trump, it’s more likely to change people’s opinion on the celebrities themselves, why? I don’t know, but Donald Trump’s supporters are fiercely loyal to him and that’s not going to change anytime soon, if you really want to sway the undecided voters you should give people reasons to vote for Hillary, not to vote against Trump, because people aren’t going to buy that.

The juvenile jest that Mark Ruffalo will do a nude scene at the end of this film just nails how confused this political advertisement is. The self-conscious near parody tone is meant to add a humorous edge to the video but ends up outlining exactly what is wrong with these campaigns, the ‘We’re famous so you should vote the way that I’m voting’ gimmick that people have heard enough of, it has reached saturation point and there’s more chance that this contrived, calculated political move will backfire rather than succeed.

Hillary’s downfall will be the fact that she does terribly in the swing states; Sanders would’ve destroyed Trump with the impartial voter, but now the Democrats have shot themselves in the feet; they are calling on a liberal elite that the electorate is about to rebel against. People want to hear about policies that are going to enhance their lives, not about why Donald Trump is a bad person. Donald Trump has stolen so much of the media attention and coverage that few have ever commanded that he may just win the Presidential race; well it will be less his win, more the democrats’ loss.

Save the Day will fail, it may even have a negative impact, you’re not going to convince anyone about Donald Trump, people have seen and heard enough of him to have an opinion, favourable or unfavourable. You have to convince people why Hillary is better, not why Donald is worse, it’s the exact same technique tried by the remain campaign in the EU referendum (and failed), same technique tried by Owen Smith against Jeremy Corbyn in the Labour Leadership race (and failed), do the elite not know anything else other than attack with no defence? Or are there actually no reasons to vote Hillary? Or as she’s better known in the media: Not Trump. Both are reasonable theories. How I yearn for Bernie Sanders.

Unless Hillary changes her campaign focus, she will fail, and that has worrying implications for the whole of the progressive world. 

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

How Do Buffet Restaurants Make Money?

'All you can eat' buffet dining is a popular phenomenon that you'll be able to find on pretty much every high street. On the face of it, it seems to be a bad deal for the restaurants- but that's usually far from the case.

The concept is simple- you pay a fixed fee, you grab a plate, and you take however much of whatever food you want. On the face of it, it seems a great deal for the customer. You can try multiple dishes, so you have a much lower of ordering something you don't end up liking, and, crucially, you don't have to leave the restaurant not feeling like you've eaten your fill.

But take a look at buffet dining from the other side, the side of the restaurants. Offering customers the opportunity to take as much food as they like seems like a risky proposition, right? This is what it may seem at first, but it obviously isn't the case- since, of course, buffet restaurants continue to exist and thrive. So what we're going to look at today are 3 reasons why buffet restaurants are profitable businesses.

1) What would you like to drink today?

If you do go to a buffet restaurant, this is probably the first thing you'll hear when being seated. Have you ever been to a buffet with free refills on drinks (if you have, please let me know)? Probably not, because drinks are a significant part of revenue at buffet restaurants. Not only are they generally far more expensive than their equivalents elsewhere, but sales of drinks actually complement the all you can eat food offer.

It's rare to find a buffet that doesn't include salty staples, such as fries or crisps, that significantly increase our thirst levels. Add to that the highly oily food offered, and finally just the sheer quantity of food we consume at buffets, and you've got the recipe for plenty of drinks orders. So, buffet restaurants enjoy the best of both worlds- higher margins on drinks, and high volume of orders. Result = profit.

2) 'All you can eat!'

Firstly, the very phrase 'all you can eat' holds some appeal among most diners, and can be a decisive factor when we choose where to eat, regardless of the actual quality of the food. This is a feature which buffets can market and leverage to bring more customers through the doors.

But the key word here is 'can'. Buffet restaurants depend largely upon the sizes of our stomachs, and how quickly they can be filled up. So ideally, a buffet would want us to be consume quick-filling foods, usually carb-based things such as rice or potatoes, which are cheap and easy to prepare. So such products will form a significant part of the offering of any buffet, and some buffets may even try to nudge us to consume more of them, by decisions as small as placing a larger spoon in the rice tray. Ultimately, the more of these cheap accompaniments we eat, the quicker we fill up, and the less of the more expensive stuff the restaurant has to prepare. Result = profit.

3) Keeping costs low

But, buffets still have to be prepared to serve more premium main dishes, and this can be where costs can get out of control. Most buffets therefore maintain a tight control over these dishes, to ensure they are made in the most cost-efficient manner possible. This can be done by things as simple as cutting meat into smaller pieces (our irrationalities may dictate that we take fewer pieces of anything, regardless of overall size), using cheaper cuts of meat, or creating multiple dishes out of a single base sauce.

Arguably the biggest cost savings, however, are linked to the very nature of the buffet restaurant. We, as customers, go up to pick a plate, serve ourselves the food, dress our own plates- this all saves a significant amount of work from restaurant staff, and thus a significant amount of money. In most buffet restaurants, waiting staff don't have to be trained to carry 5 plates in one go, how to serve a table, or how to take massive orders. They just need to take drinks orders, serve drinks, and keep an eye on who sits where. Chefs, too, don't have to spend time preparing individually decorated plates of food, nor must they know how to. This means that buffets can hire fewer waiters, fewer chefs, and spend less money training them.

So there's a lot more to buffet restaurants than meets the eye. Of course, these things don't guarantee the profitability of the buffet- as with any business, it faces its unique challenges- but next time you visit a buffet, take a moment to just think about and witness all the small things they do to stay profitable.

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Can Grammar Schools Work?

James Dancey looks into whether grammar schools can have a context in modern day education.

Grammar schools have been a left versus right issue for many years now. However, should it be?
With more than murmurs suggesting that Theresa May is going to be the first Prime Minister in decades to create new grammar schools, many of which were converted to comprehensives in the 1960s and 1970s. There’s been an array of reaction, much criticism coming from Labour benches and support coming from more grassroots Conservative members, but is this always the way?

Speaking to another friend who was fervently centre-left, he revealed that he was in fact pro-grammar schools, and that’s a stance I can understand greatly. It's one that is dismissed too much by the modern Labourites; there is indeed a strong argument for the implementation of grammar schools which the working class would listen to. One of the prominent arguments is that they have the capacity to undermine privilege, that idea to escape the poverty loop, this concept that children can gain a significant standard of education without having to pay fees.

Statistically, this is supported by correlative data that Oxbridge intake has decreased from state schools since the abolition of many grammar schools, studies also show that social mobility has decreased. However, it’s important to note that the data is correlative, and there are plenty of other issues driving the educational decline and social divide. However, it’d be hard to argue that grammar schools don’t enhance education for the poorest who attend there.

Which also underlines the greatest problem with grammar schools; it’s often not the poorest who attend. Recent statistics released suggested that the number of students entitled to free-school meals (a barometer of how many of the poorest are in attendance) is astronomically low, and actually that grammar schools provide more of a shelter for the middle class who don’t want to pay tuition fees to go to private schools.

My friend suggested that if we implemented more grammar schools and then made comprehensive schools focused on creative ventures the system would be more efficient. I agree, to an extent, you see he also believes in the abolition of private schools, and although I empathise with that temperament I think that you’d end up flooding the grammar system with the privileged. If you want to make the grammar schools more focused on helping children out of poverty then you’d have to provide just as good education to children from wealthier backgrounds, wealth discrimination works both ways. You can’t condemn a bright student to poor education because of his upper-class background. But then the issue there is that you'd be forcibly flooding the state system with private students, private students leaving less room for the less privileged. 

Comprehensive schools are an easy option, but they are not the best option. However, if introduced, grammar schools must be done right and I’m sceptical of whether May would do them right, there are so many confounding variables that would offset any differences to undermine the systematic inequality in this country as it is.

If you did assign roles to each school, grammars as academic and comprehensive as more innovative then you would be able to have a more focused dedicated curriculum to each of them and allow students to find a niche a lot easier, giving young people inspiration is the best way to combat this disillusion that many of them hold with the system, which is, by the way, treating them terribly.  
I completely understand why people on the left are generally opposed to grammar schools; they can be futile and discriminatory in the wrong hands. However, we can’t go on with secondary education in its current state. There are a great range of issues with grammar schools, but it doesn’t mean they can’t be done right, and the only way to make progress on a flailing education system is serious reform.

I’m still cynical of whether May’s supposed reintroduction of grammar schools will do any benefit to those who are poorer but maybe in the future we’ll have a Government who will know how to handle them and realise the linear academic system is a product of the past and constrained by tradition. Regardless of grammar schools, the current arrangement has to be changed.

Monday, 5 September 2016

The Aftermath of Brexit: The Pursuit of Liberation

James Rosanwo takes a look at whether the outcome of Brexit has yet been as calamitous as many had expected. 

A couple of months ago, the United Kingdom decided to leave the European Union- and the immediate impact was near catastrophic. The pound dropped as much as 2.2 percent to $1.3, a 31-year low. From then on, many feared the worst was yet to come. The threats of total economic crisis and recession lingered in the air like a sour breath, as individuals panicked, from investors to home buyers. The whole market was in a state of disbelief and incredulity. However, it is beginning to seem that, just maybe, the prophecies of an economic apocalypse were not as well founded as we initially thought.

Before the EU referendum, the British finance ministry warned that a vote to leave the EU would make it harder and more expensive for new home owners to request for loans, forcing the country into a “DIY recession” and driving down equity prices.

However, nearly half of mortgage borrowers look set to gain from the Bank of England’s interest rate cut on August 4th, while British equity markets have risen.

Unexpectedly, the British economy has recovered well from the momentary Brexit calamity. Due to the fall of the British pound, it has become much cheaper for wealthy tourists to shop in the UK, boosting retail sales. Grocers enjoyed a 0.3% rise in sales in the 12 weeks to 14 August, the best performance since March. The manufacturing sector and the building industry have also shown signs of improved growth. Persimmon, Britain’s biggest house builder, said customers were flocking back to view new build homes.

Nonetheless, many, including myself, maintain the view that it is still considerably early to determine the real effects of Brexit, simply because Article 50 has not yet been triggered- and hence the UK and EU are still occupied with negotiations on a post-Brexit deal.

However, what is still even more alarming is the fact that the British government is yet to provide a clear plan as to how they intend to extricate Great Britain from the EU. Theresa May, the new British Prime Minister, recently rejected the option of a further parliamentary vote. This strongly reiterated her stubborn intent to lead Britain out of the European Union. Despite several warnings from many EU countries, the PM has maintained the view that Great Britain can get exactly what they want: retain free access to the Single Market, while restricting Free Movement.

During the Brexit campaign, one of the only suggestions by the Leave side that inferred some sort of clarity and outline for a post-Brexit Britain was the possibility that the UK could adopt either the Norwegian or Swiss model to regulate and encourage trading with the EU. However, Mrs May recently ruled out other existing models and expects an entirely new model unique to Britain alone.

The public were also promised that the NHS would receive an increased funding of £100 million from the previously allocated EU budget and that Britain could also most likely adopt an Australian style points based immigration system to try and limit immigration; however the PM recently dismissed both notions, explaining that a points-system would simply not be rigorous enough.

Ultimately, Mrs May’s continuous divergence from the Leave campaign’s manifesto has done nothing but add further ambiguity and uncertainty into the future of post-Brexit Britain.

Presently, the future of our great nation perhaps does not seem as doomed as once thought. However, the pursuit for liberation, while illuminating, can be treacherous.  One thing we have learnt from previous economic crises is that calamity has no expiry date.