The Voice denied accreditation for the Olympic stadium

Britain's oldest and biggest black newspaper has been refused access to report from the Olympic stadium.

Britain’s oldest and biggest black newspaper, The Voice, has been refused media accreditation for the Olympic stadium, meaning that it won’t be able to cover the most high profile track and field events in person.

The paper’s editor and managing director, George Ruddock, called the decision “a slap in the face by the British Olympic Association”. He continued: "We are truly disappointed that The Voice, which has covered the glorious achievements of British, African and Caribbean athletes for many years, will not be inside the Olympic stadium to record more expected glory."

The rejection the paper received read as follows:

The extraordinary interest and demand from UK media saw the British Olympic Association (BOA) receive more than 3,000 requests for the approximately 400 accreditations available.

After careful consideration by the Media Accreditation Committee, we regret to inform you that your application for accreditation for the London 2012 Olympic Games has been unsuccessful.

Should we be in the fortunate position to receive additional accreditations from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) as the Games near or if any granted accreditations are returned, we will reallocate them to applicants on our waiting list. You will automatically be put on this list.

The Voice’s readers have already reacted with outrage. The activist Zita Holbourne has set up a petition calling on the BOA to reconsider its decision, which has so far attracted 750 signatures. Labour MP David Lammy, Jamaica's high commissioner Aloun Assamba and Simon Woolley, chair of Operation Black Vote, have also called for the decision to be reversed.

The problem, Holbourne feels, is that bigger, more general publications, have been prioritised, with smaller and more specialist publications like The Voice left out. But as the paper’s sports editor Rodney Hinds has said, a commitment to diversity has underpinned all stages of London’s Olympics so far, so “if we can't have one reporter reporting on what's happening from inside the stadium something is very wrong”.

There’s no indication at this stage that there’s been a deliberate attempt to exclude the paper explicitly because of the nature of its readership. But having a publication like The Voice kept outside the stadium when members of Team GB come from the very communities it represents is unacceptable. As Hinds says, something is very wrong if the media accreditation process is so unbalanced as to refuse access to a sports journalist from a well-known and respected paper, albeit a specialist one, that caters to a readership that many other outlets don’t reach.

Three Voice journalists have received accreditation for the Olympic football competition, but the paper is still waiting to hear from the BOA about the details of the criteria by which media outlets were assessed for access to the stadium.

 

The Olympic stadium in East London. Photograph: Getty Images

Caroline Crampton is assistant editor of the New Statesman. She writes a weekly podcast column.

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Meet Anne Marie Waters - the Ukip politician too extreme for Nigel Farage

In January 2016, Waters launched Pegida UK with former EDL frontman Steven Yaxley-Lennon (aka Tommy Robinson). 

There are few people in British political life who can be attacked from the left by Nigel Farage. Yet that is where Anne Marie Waters has found herself. And by the end of September she could well be the new leader of Ukip, a party almost synonymous with its beer-swilling, chain-smoking former leader.

Waters’s political journey is a curious one. She started out on the political left, but like Oswald Mosley before her, has since veered dramatically to the right. That, however, is where the similarities end. Waters is Irish, agnostic, a lesbian and a self-proclaimed feminist.

But it is her politics – rather than who she is – that have caused a stir among Ukip’s old guard. Former leader Paul Nuttall has said that her views make him “uncomfortable” while Farage has claimed Ukip is “finished” if, under her leadership, it becomes an anti-Islam party.

In her rhetoric, Waters echoes groups such as the English Defence League (EDL) and Britain First. She has called Islam “evil” and her leadership manifesto claims that the religion has turned Britain into a “fearful and censorious society”. Waters wants the banning of the burqa, the closure of all sharia councils and a temporary freeze on all immigration.

She started life in Dublin before moving to Germany in her teens to work as an au pair. Waters also lived in the Netherlands before returning to Britain to study journalism at Nottingham Trent University, graduating in 2003. She subsequently gained a second degree in law. It was then, she says, that she first learnt about Islam, which she claims treats women “like absolute dirt”. Now 39, Waters is a full-time campaigner who lives in Essex with her two dogs and her partner who is an accountant.

Waters’s first spell of serious activism was with the campaign group One Law for All, a secularist organisation fronted by the Iranian feminist and human rights activist Maryam Namazie. Waters resigned in November 2013 after four years with the organisation. According to Namazie, Waters left due to political disagreements over whether the group should collaborate with members of far-right groups.

In April 2014, Waters founded Sharia Watch UK and, in January 2016, she launched Pegida UK with former EDL frontman Steven Yaxley-Lennon (aka Tommy Robinson). The group was established as a British chapter of the German-based organisation and was set up to counter what it called the “Islamisation of our countries”. By the summer of 2016, it had petered out.

Waters twice stood unsuccessfully to become a Labour parliamentary candidate. Today, she says she could not back Labour due to its “betrayal of women” and “betrayal of the country” over Islam. After joining Ukip in 2014, she first ran for political office in the Lambeth council election, where she finished in ninth place. At the 2015 general election, Waters stood as the party’s candidate in Lewisham East, finishing third with 9.1 per cent of the vote. She was chosen to stand again in the 2016 London Assembly elections but was deselected after her role in Pegida UK became public. Waters was also prevented from standing in Lewisham East at the 2017 general election after Ukip’s then-leader Nuttall publicly intervened.

The current favourite of the 11 candidates standing to succeed Nuttall is deputy leader Peter Whittle, with Waters in second. Some had hoped the party’s top brass would ban her from standing but last week its national executive approved her campaign.

Due to an expected low turnout, the leadership contest is unpredictable. Last November, Nuttall was elected with just 9,622 votes. More than 1,000 new members reportedly joined Ukip in a two-week period earlier this year, prompting fears of far-right entryism.

Mike Hookem MEP has resigned as Ukip’s deputy whip over Waters’ candidacy, saying he would not “turn a blind eye” to extremism. By contrast, chief whip, MEP Stuart Agnew, is a supporter and has likened her to Joan of Arc. Waters is also working closely on her campaign with Jack Buckby, a former BNP activist and one of the few candidates to run against Labour in the by-election for Jo Cox’s former seat of Batley and Spen. Robinson is another backer.

Peculiarly for someone running to be the leader of a party, Waters does not appear to relish public attention. “I’m not a limelight person,” she recently told the Times. “I don’t like being phoned all the time.”

The journalist Jamie Bartlett, who was invited to the initial launch of Pegida UK in Luton in 2015, said of Waters: “She failed to remember the date of the demo. Her head lolled, her words were slurred, and she appeared to almost fall asleep while Tommy [Robinson] was speaking. After 10 minutes it all ground to an uneasy halt.”

In an age when authenticity is everything, it would be a mistake to underestimate yet another unconventional politician. But perhaps British Muslims shouldn’t panic about Anne Marie Waters just yet.

James Bloodworth is editor of Left Foot Forward

This article first appeared in the 17 August 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Trump goes nuclear