• Journalism

    These fake George Orwell quotes are everywhere online, my mission to fix them is deeply ironic

    This feature appeared in the i newspaper in March 2022. “The people will believe what the media tells them they believe.” As one of the most revered and prescient authors of the past century, George Orwell is the source of many famous quotes. Like this one, they are often bold statements that seem to cut to the heart of modern society’s problems. People often feel a sense of satisfaction in sharing them to support their own viewpoints – especially when they have a conspiratorial air. There’s just one problem: the sentence above isn’t an Orwell quote. A graphic bearing these words, with the author’s name beneath them, was shared thousands…

  • Journalism

    Drifting from the truth: debunking fake Orwell quotes

    “The further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those who speak it.” This famous Orwell quote is ubiquitous: in the media, on placards at demos and rallies, and of course in meme form, repeated and shared on social media, millions of times over. There’s just one problem: this isn’t an Orwell quote. The author of Nineteen Eighty-Four never wrote, said, or even noted this down. It was written in 2009. Orwell is one of those writers who are well worth quoting. Every day, in the press, on social media, and in TV talk shows, Orwell’s thoughts, words, and sharp observations are referenced, alluded to, and…

  • Journalism

    Nottingham historian thinks only NATO can stop ‘Satan’ Putin

    This article appeared in the Nottingham Post in March 2022. Vladimir Putin is using historical “tricks” to justify war against Ukraine, an expert in European history at the University of Nottingham has said. Dr Liudmyla Sharipova, assistant professor of early modern European history in the Faculty of Arts at the University of Nottingham, says she is in a “state of shock and horror” seeing events unfold in her country of birth, where her elderly mother is still trapped and extremely vulnerable in the capital, Kyiv. Dr Sharipova says that the Russian President is deliberately using false allegations and spurious historical documents allegedly dating back to the middle ages to rationalise…

  • Journalism

    Putin is the abuser who would kill rather than let go

    The slow progress of Putin’s invasion forces in Ukraine is no cause for celebration. Nor are reports of blunders, even major strategic errors, or a “depressed” mood in Moscow. Nor should the unassailable win Ukraine and President Zelensky have in the courtroom of world opinion, or the scorn that has fallen on the Russian leader, be mistaken for real victory. Putin will not accept failure in Ukraine. He is all in. There will be some terrible victory, of a kind, or this will be his downfall. Putin knows that the fulcrum nation of Ukraine is increasingly looking towards Europe and away from his glare. Russian influence still bears down, but…

  • Journalism

    Afghan refugee embracing life in ‘peaceful’ Notts village after fleeing Taliban reprisals

    This feature first appeared in the Nottingham Post in January 2022 Afghan interpreters risked their lives to help British forces during the long struggle to stabilise the country. Now with the Taliban back in command, thousands of those who assisted our troops are being resettled across the UK. Ben Cooper spoke to a former interpreter starting a new life with his young family in a quiet Nottinghamshire village. Ahmadullah Waziri is living under a sentence of death. As an interpreter for the British Army between 2010 and 2011, and later a Lieutenant Colonel in the Allied-trained Afghan National Army, in the eyes of the Taliban he is a collaborator and,…

  • Journalism

    Lockdown’s guilty parties harmed community relations in Nottingham, but so did the careless blame game

    This comment piece appeared in the Nottingham Post in October 2021. Nottinghamshire Live writer Ben Cooper takes a look at how the relationship between students and the city was affected by covid, and how first reactions on both sides weren’t necessarily the best ones Nottingham benefits immeasurably from the presence of its two great universities. It is terribly sad that over the past 18 months of pain and strain, one casualty seems to have been the relationship between the 60,000 students that attend those universities, and the people for whom Nottingham is their permanent home. In truth, as in all university cities, that relationship has always been one more of…

  • Journalism

    Hitting rock bottom after life in the military – how one Nottingham soldier found his way again

    This article first appeared in the Nottingham Post in September 2021 The Taliban takeover of Afghanistan has stirred harrowing memories of a conflict that claimed hundreds of British Army lives and left thousands suffering with severe trauma. With so many ex-soldiers still fighting their own personal battles long after leaving the armed forces, Ben Cooper asks, are we doing enough in Nottinghamshire to care for our veterans? Richard Fotheringham knew that he was harbouring terrible memories from five bloody tours of Iraq and Afghanistan. Memories of seeing one of the soldiers in his command killed by a bullet through the neck, and losing two of his closest friends in combat.…

  • Journalism

    Hospitals must give staff better ‘psychological PPE’

    Listening to Prof Neil Greenberg, consultant occupational psychologist and forensic psychiatrist at King’s College London, you might think he is describing the psychological conditions of a war zone, not the NHS in 2021. He talks about “frontline psychiatry”; the threat of “moral injury” in the line of duty; the need for a military-style covenant to protect traumatised NHS staff; the importance of camaraderie, psychological action plans and a supervisory “buddy system” for beleaguered NHS workers. Before he joined King’s College, Greenberg spent 23 years in the armed forces, studying and developing new methods of treating the victims of battlefield trauma. His work in the field of trauma risk management (TRiM),…

  • Journalism

    Care homes ‘working blind’ after potentially unsafe coronavirus test kits pulled

    A story I wrote for The Mirror, about the impact of the withdrawal of Covid testing kits on care homes in the UK, based on accounts from the managers of a home in Nottingham who said they had been left “stranded”. EXCLUSIVE Staff were forced to put a vulnerable, elderly patient with dementia into isolation after the withdrawal of potentially unsafe testing kits A care home was forced to place a vulnerable elderly patient with dementia into isolation after the withdrawal of potentially unsafe coronavirus testing kits. Staff at a home in Nottinghamshire had choice but to place the newly-arrived patient into “barriered nursing”, meaning complete isolation, for 14 days,…

  • Journalism

    Coronavirus tests pulled over safety fears supplied by firm who donated £160k to Tories

    My exclusive story for The Mirror, uncovering the fact that a recipient of a major government contract to deliver Covid testing systems – since withdrawn over safety concerns – is a considerable donor to the Tory party. EXCLUSIVE Ministers halted the use of test parts supplied by Randox Laboratories with immediate effect and until further notice. Coronavirus tests given to thousands of Brits and supplied by a firm which has donated £160,000 to the Conservative Party were pulled last night over safety fears. Care homes in England were ordered by the DHSC to halt using the testing kit produced by Randox Laboratories, on the grounds that they “may not meet…

  • Journalism

    Our motives for quoting George Orwell must be as scrupulous as he was

    This article originally appeared in the Daily Telegraph, in July 2020. The author of Animal Farm is eminently quotable – and that is why he has been co-opted on both sides of the political spectrum. “If Liberty means anything at all it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.” This quote by George Orwell, which is engraved next to his statue outside the BBC headquarters, makes Billy Bragg, the musician and left-wing activist cringe. Writing in the Guardian last week, Bragg expanded by highlighting a tendency to cite Orwell and this quote in particular, among the “reactionary right”, and those, he says, “who have…

  • Journalism

    Orwell and the ILP

    This article first appeared on the website of Independent Labour Publications (ILP). On the 70th anniversary of his death aged 46, BENEDICT COOPER assesses George Orwell’s relationship with the ILP and its effect on his life, writing and politics. When a sentry reported to John McNair, leader of the Independent Labour Party’s (ILP) Spanish Civil War contingent, that a “great big Englishman is here to see you”, he didn’t think much of it. This was late December 1936; thousands of foreign volunteers were pouring into Catalonia to take up arms for the Republic. McNair still wasn’t impressed even after the new arrival had been shown in. The ungainly figure standing…

  • Journalism

    The future of regional journalism is “being looked at” by the BBC. It would be a fatal error to cut such vital community ties.

    Everyone in Shirebrook knew there was something seriously wrong at the Sports Direct factory down the road. How many ambulances had they seen hurtling towards the plant in recent months? It was hard to tell. Sometimes they were called out more than once in a day. When a local BBC Inside Out team looked into it the figures were as stark as the human stories behind them were bleak: 76 emergency callouts to the site in Derbyshire, in less than two years; reports of workers, afraid of the consequences of calling in sick, collapsing at work, suffering convulsions and strokes on the factory floor; heavily-pregnant women still grafting on the…

  • Journalism

    The Hunt shows how little we understand Orwell today

    This feature, on the ways in which Orwell is mistreated and misunderstood by popular culture, appeared in The Telegraph in March 2020. “You’ve read Animal Farm?” So says the female villain of The Hunt, Blumhouse’s slasher-cum-satirical film, to the unlikely heroine, a Mississippi hick she’s nicknamed Snowball. As she learns to her cost, during their showdown, she has a bad case of cognitive bias. Despite Snowball’s lowly identity – in the eyes of her hunter at least – our heroine, real name Crystal, has read a book or two. Briefly, the background, and the premise of the film. Crystal is the last survivor of a human hunt that targets a group…

  • Journalism

    Talk of the town: On the road in Worksop with Lisa Nandy

    This profile piece of Labour leadership candidate Lisa Nandy appeared in The House magazine, the in-house magazine of The Houses of Parliament, and Politics Home in February 2020. After 85 years as a Labour seat, the Nottinghamshire constituency of Bassetlaw witnessed the largest swing from Labour to the Conservatives in the country at the general election. Benedict Cooper joins Lisa Nandy on a trip to the area to hear first hand how she plans to reconnect with the party’s former heartlands   It’s a bright, crisp winter’s day in Worksop, and in the café of The Crossing church and community centre the lunchtime trade is under way. As I cross…

  • Journalism

    Byline Times: Can Labour fight against infighting in its leadership contest?

    A report from the Labour leadership hustings held by Open Labour in January 2020, originally posted on Byline Times. There was a conspicuous lack of discord and disharmony at the Labour leadership and deputy leadership hustings in Nottingham. For the past four years, gatherings of Labour members have tended towards the truculent wherever debate is involved. Or, when Jeremy Corbyn has been present, they have been love-ins; orthodoxies of uncritical faith and untempered affection. There was, of course, some liveliness. It is hard to bring a number of Labour members together without hearing that accusations of anti-Semitism against the leadership were “illegitimate” spurious “smears” against Jeremy Corbyn – up to…

  • Journalism

    The school protest bigots in Birmingham would love Labour to trigger Jess Phillips

    It will make a lot of Labour members in Birmingham Yardley, and beyond, extremely happy if their MP Jess Phillips is ‘triggered’ in a vote tonight.  Phillips is one of Labour’s most prominent working class female MPs, one of the few MPs whose appeal reaches out to the wider electorate; a member of the Women and Equalities Committee, who came into politics to do more to protect victims of domestic abuse; and in the last fortnight alone has stood out for standing up to Boris Johnson in the fight to keep the Domestic Abuse Bill alive.  But none of that matters in the Labour party today if you’re not a Corbynite.…