US "pickup artist" Julien Blanc promotes the use of physical and sexual assaults against women to "seduce" them.
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Why Julien Blanc should not be let into the UK

The US "pickup artist" has crossed a line by promoting violence against women. 

In one week we have seen the debate about Dapper Laughs, the ongoing campaign against Ched Evans going back to train with Sheffield United, and the news of Julien Blanc planning an imminent tour of the UK. We have also seen thousands standing up taking a stand – and making a real difference. Dapper Laughs has lost his TV show and "retired" his character; Charlie Webster – herself a victim of abuse – and Jessica Ennis-Hill have drawn a line in the sand by telling Sheffield United they do not want to be associated with a club that employs Evans, and Blanc has had his Australian visa revoked after a petition to the immigration minister.

There is a real question to ask about whether we should allow Julien Blanc into the UK.  In his seminars he promotes the use of physical and sexual assaults on women in order to "seduce" them. He has explicitly endorsed behaviours associated with domestic abuse to sexually manipulate women.

Today the shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper, wrote to Theresa May to ask her to consider using her powers to exclude him if she assesses that his presence is not in the public good. There is a clear precedent for this - our border controls mean we are under no obligation to allow people into our country if there is evidence they intend to incite violence. When we know that reports of incidents of domestic violence and sexual assaults are on the rise, are the "dating tricks" from Blanc really what we want to see in Britain? And at the end, he will leave the country with his earnings, while young men and women will be left with the impression that things he says and the actions he promotes are acceptable here in Britain.

We all defend free speech, but we also need to make choices when free speech crosses a line towards promoting or inciting acts of violence. If Julien Blanc's language had been about the way white people should behave towards black people (or the other way round), or the way able bodied people should treat disabled people, rather than being about male attitudes to females, would our response be different? Would we think he was inciting hate crime? The values Blanc espouses are hateful. He suggests women are worth less than men and can be used and discarded at will. These aren't the values parents want their sons and daughters to grow up with. 

The Labour Party has been lobbying the government hard to have compulsory age-appropriate sex and relationship education (SRE) taught in schools to help promote the understanding that no form of violence in relationships is acceptable. Last week I also wrote to Education Secretary Nicky Morgan again to urge her to change the government’s stance on SRE. We need to push back against misogynist attitudes in society, not encourage them.

At a time when we know one in three teenage girls experience unwanted groping at school, when sexting and revenge porn is on the rise, it’s clear we need a broader conversation about what we see as acceptable and in line with our values. One thing is clear, Julien Blanc is not.

Seema Malhotra is shadow minister for preventing violence against women and girls

Seema Malhotra is Labour MP for Feltham and Heston and shadow chief secretary to the Treasury.

Photo: Getty
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The rise of the green mayor – Sadiq Khan and the politics of clean energy

At an event at Tate Modern, Sadiq Khan pledged to clean up London's act.

On Thursday night, deep in the bowls of Tate Modern’s turbine hall, London Mayor Sadiq Khan renewed his promise to make the capital a world leader in clean energy and air. Yet his focus was as much on people as power plants – in particular, the need for local authorities to lead where central governments will not.

Khan was there to introduce the screening of a new documentary, From the Ashes, about the demise of the American coal industry. As he noted, Britain continues to battle against the legacy of fossil fuels: “In London today we burn very little coal but we are facing new air pollution challenges brought about for different reasons." 

At a time when the world's leaders are struggling to keep international agreements on climate change afloat, what can mayors do? Khan has pledged to buy only hybrid and zero-emissions buses from next year, and is working towards London becoming a zero carbon city.

Khan has, of course, also gained heroic status for being a bête noire of climate-change-denier-in-chief Donald Trump. On the US president's withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, Khan quipped: “If only he had withdrawn from Twitter.” He had more favourable things to say about the former mayor of New York and climate change activist Michael Bloomberg, who Khan said hailed from “the second greatest city in the world.”

Yet behind his humour was a serious point. Local authorities are having to pick up where both countries' central governments are leaving a void – in improving our air and supporting renewable technology and jobs. Most concerning of all, perhaps, is the way that interest groups representing business are slashing away at the regulations which protect public health, and claiming it as a virtue.

In the UK, documents leaked to Greenpeace’s energy desk show that a government-backed initiative considered proposals for reducing EU rules on fire-safety on the very day of the Grenfell Tower fire. The director of this Red Tape Initiative, Nick Tyrone, told the Guardian that these proposals were rejected. Yet government attempts to water down other EU regulations, such as the energy efficiency directive, still stand.

In America, this blame-game is even more highly charged. Republicans have sworn to replace what they describe as Obama’s “war on coal” with a war on regulation. “I am taking historic steps to lift the restrictions on American energy, to reverse government intrusion, and to cancel job-killing regulations,” Trump announced in March. While he has vowed “to promote clean air and clear water,” he has almost simultaneously signed an order to unravel the Clean Water Rule.

This rhetoric is hurting the very people it claims to protect: miners. From the Ashes shows the many ways that the industry harms wider public health, from water contamination, to air pollution. It also makes a strong case that the American coal industry is in terminal decline, regardless of possibile interventions from government or carbon capture.

Charities like Bloomberg can only do so much to pick up the pieces. The foundation, which helped fund the film, now not only helps support job training programs in coal communities after the Trump administration pulled their funding, but in recent weeks it also promised $15m to UN efforts to tackle climate change – again to help cover Trump's withdrawal from Paris Agreement. “I'm a bit worried about how many cards we're going to have to keep adding to the end of the film”, joked Antha Williams, a Bloomberg representative at the screening, with gallows humour.

Hope also lies with local governments and mayors. The publication of the mayor’s own environment strategy is coming “soon”. Speaking in panel discussion after the film, his deputy mayor for environment and energy, Shirley Rodrigues, described the move to a cleaner future as "an inevitable transition".

Confronting the troubled legacies of our fossil fuel past will not be easy. "We have our own experiences here of our coal mining communities being devastated by the closure of their mines," said Khan. But clean air begins with clean politics; maintaining old ways at the price of health is not one any government must pay. 

'From The Ashes' will premiere on National Geograhpic in the United Kingdom at 9pm on Tuesday, June 27th.

India Bourke is an environment writer and editorial assistant at the New Statesman.

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