The case for International Men’s Day

March 8th every year, International Women’s Day. And every year without fail Facebook and Twitter timelines fill up with – “why don’t we have International Men’s Day!!!?!” – well we do, it was on Saturday.

All of us have multiple identities, and for me being male is one of those – but what does it mean to be a man today, and what are our issues we would highlight on international men’s day.

When we look on the national stage we have plenty of male figures to look up to. Nigel Farage, Donald Trump, Boris Johnson – all towering figures who have reached those dizzying heights by belittling and degrading others, male or female.

Compare this to some celebrated figures on the current and recent world stage who act as role models for women – Hillary Clinton, who received more votes for President of the United States than any white man in history, Harriet Harman, whose list of achievements for women in the UK is endless, Angela Merkel going for her fourth term as Chancellor of Germany or Amal Clooney the British-Lebanese lawyer, activist, and author who recently took on a human trafficking survivor as a client in a groundbreaking legal case to prosecute ISIS generals for genocide.

Is there no huge swell of activity on international men’s day because being male is not a liberation cause? I am not oppressed for my gender in the way that many are for their race, disability, sexuality or religion. But this does not mean that men do not have specific issues that need addressing.

Last month researchers at the Centre for Men’s Health Leeds Beckett University published a study commissioned by Leeds City Council on the state on Men’s Health in the city. Men are more likely to die young than women, suicide rates for men are 5 times higher, and young boys are less likely to achieve a good level of basic education and higher grade GCSEs compared to their female peers.

How to respond to this presents a challenge, those politicians who have entered the fray with men’s issues at the core of their politics haven’t done so in the spirit of helping those vulnerable men – they have done so as part of an anti-feminist rhetoric.

Phillip Davis MP said that “men have lost their voices” – and he’s right. As an elected representative he has been so distracted by criticising women politicians for standing up for women, that he’s forgotten to stand up for any men himself.

As a MP, Phillip Davis has supported huge cuts to local Government. In Leeds we are directly responsible for Public Health – we can directly affect the state of men’s health. But while Mr Davis MP is waxing lyrical about men’s issues, he votes to take over £314 million from Leeds, directly detrimental to men’s health. It’s hypocritical.

We have had men right at the top of the political world since the beginning of time – and these men’s issues have not been dealt with. What does that tell us? We must demand better from those with power.

Now – it’s not that I think that women can only represent women and men can only represent men – but it is a second rate politician who spends their time pointing at others and saying – ‘it’s their fault things are like this’ rather than getting stuck in and resolving a problem themselves. This attitude of blaming others seems to be in vogue at the moment, be it Mexicans, Eastern Europeans or feminists. It’s incorrect and frankly lazy.

Without feminism my sisters would not be equal to me – and I do not want to achieve what I achieve because of certain advantages society lends to my gender – I want to get there on my own merit, because of what I think, say and do.

As a male politician in Leeds, I celebrate the fact that our Leeds Labour Group is now majority women (32 women, 31 men). It demonstrates a fairness to all 63 of us, ensuring that we who govern the city of Leeds, represent the city of Leeds. It does not diminish me as a man to be treated equally – it enhances it.

So international men’s day, let’s look at what we can do as a city to address these problems specifically facing men. But nobody’s rights and representation should come at the expense of another – and it is a poor politician who will tell you otherwise.

Councillor Jonathan Pryor – Headingley Ward

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The Conservatives promised to boost health spending – now they’re slashing it

Before the General Election, David Cameron said he would not cut Tax Credits. He lied, and he cut Tax Credits. Before the General Election, David Cameron also vowed to boost NHS funding and protect our National Health Services – another pledge which has come unstuck.

Over the course of the last parliament, the Government transferred responsibility for public health from the Department of Health, to Local Government. At the time the government promised to bring public health funding in Leeds up to a “target allocation” that would meet the population needs of the city given its size and diversity. In the first year Leeds received a 10% uplift in our public health budget, but for this financial year the grant was frozen with Leeds still £6m short of the government’s own target. Then just one month after the General Election George Osborne cynically announced he was clawing back £200m from the public health services up and down the country this financial year.

He’s pretending that these are local Government cuts, but these are cuts to front line health services and Leeds will see the largest funding cut in Yorkshire.

The public health budget covers things like sexual health, school nursing, health visiting, suicide prevention, domestic violence prevention, drug and alcohol treatment services and weight loss support as well as health protection services including immunisation programmes and infection control. The Government is slashing funding to all of these, while pretending that they are protecting health spending.

In fact the largest external organisation affected in Leeds, is Leeds Community Healthcare NHS Trust. Definitely an NHS cut.

One group affected is Skyline. Leeds Skyline provides support services for anyone living with or affected by HIV in Leeds. Next week is HIV awareness week, at the same time as the Government is withdrawing funding for vital services for HIV+ people. It is absolutely shameful.

Leeds Labour City Council is doing everything possible to save services such as Skyline, but with the Government raiding the public health budget in Leeds in year to the tune of £2.8million, on top of the existing shortfall of £6million, this is a difficult task.

Skyline demonstrates that these cuts are not just numbers on a spreadsheet, but real people and real lives.

Councillor Lisa Mulherin, Labour’s Executive Member for Health, Wellbeing and Adults is clear about the situation:

“The government promised to protect and enhance funding for public health in Leeds when it moved across from the NHS to Leeds City Council. The events of this year clearly show they had very different intentions. They held a sham consultation over 4 weeks in the school summer holidays and are now ploughing ahead with a raid on the frontline health services we contract predominantly from the NHS and third sector in Leeds. We knew the Government had contempt for local government but this shows complete contempt for the public as well and flies in the face of the government’s claims to be protecting health services. They are not protecting health services: they are cutting them directly through us.”

The Conservatives promised to boost health spending before the election. Their decision to now slash health spending is hitting people hard.

The Government must to stick to the pledge they were elected on, and reinstate health funding to Leeds.

Councillor Jonathan Pryor – Headingley Ward

Leeds bizarrely named in worst 10 UK places for Culture…

Leeds recently featured in an article in the Independent named, “Britain’s worst places for culture named.”  We were in the bottom 10.

Thinking back to the incredible performance of ‘Kiss me Kate’ I saw last week, at the Leeds Grand Theatre by Opera North (based in Leeds), or to a few weeks ago where the West Yorkshire Playhouse hosted the world premiere of the ballet of ‘1984’ – put on by Northern Ballet (based in Leeds) – I did initially wonder how the Independent came to this conclusion.  But then, of course, culture goes far beyond the Opera and Ballet.

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Leeds Grand Theatre – no culture here!

I mean, Leeds has the highest number of listed buildings in any city outside of London, so this certainly can’t have been a factor in this judgement.

Perhaps instead this judgement is based on Sport?  At Headingley Stadium, in Rugby (League not Union) and Cricket, the Leeds Rhinos and Yorkshire County Cricket have both won the Challenge Cup and the County Championship trophy respectively.

Leeds also last year hosted the Grand Départ of the Tour de France, which has left a legacy of the Tour de Yorkshire! We have great figures which have affected our sporting life here in Leeds, from Beryl Burton to Jane Tomlinson.  So no, perhaps this judgement isn’t based on sport.

Maybe it’s music, I mean, aside from the Leeds College of Music and the Leeds Symphony Orchestra what have we got?  The Kaiser Chiefs maybe?  The Pigeon Detectives from Rothwell or, dare I say, Chumbawumba from Armley?  Is Soft Cell not enough?!  What about Mel B?  If the Spice Girls don’t count as culture then I want no part in these rankings.

If we’re going to talk about cultural assets, let’s talk about Louis le Prince.  Louis le Prince made the oldest surviving moving picture in Roundhay.  This is a legacy which has gone all the way to Hollywood starting a multi-billion pound industry.  No offence to Worcester (5th highest), but that tops your sauce.

For architecture, we have the Brotherton Library, Kirkstall Abbey, Harewood House, Broadcasting Tower and the Corn Exchange to name a few.

Authors who have lived and worked here include Alan Bennett, Helen Fielding and JRR Tolkein.

In Chapeltown we have the oldest West Indian carnival in Europe and next year will have our tenth year of Leeds Pride.  Our Universities and other local groups host Light Night in the city centre, a whole evening of free arts events for everyone in Leeds to visit.

So using what metric was this idea of Culture based?

The article states that one factor in how cultured an area is is how many historical ships there are… My efforts to have the HMS Victory brought down the Leeds-Liverpool canal have so far proved unfruitful but from today I shall redouble my efforts.

Another was the number of historical battlefields – perhaps we in Yorkshire get along better than some politicians would have you believe.

I would argue that culture is alive – yes it is about the past, about what brings an area to where we are today.  But if culture is not relevant and accessible to everybody, then what is it for?

Leeds is currently in the process for putting in a bid for the European Capital of Culture 2023.  Our bid will be based of course on our history, but on our present and our future too.  We want to be the best city for culture in the UK, and we have a real fighting chance.

I’m off now to book tickets for the Hyde Park Picture House, a 100 year old cinema down the road.  Perhaps whoever put together this list of cultured cities would like to come with me?  They’re showing Clueless.

Councillor Jonathan Pryor – Headingley Ward
Lead Member for Culture