OpenLearn Live is the bridge between the worlds we live in, and the worlds of learning and research. You can also follow us on Twitter.
- Breaking cars: The CityRover
- Black History Month: The Panthers on Twitter
- Canada moves leftwards
- BBC Two, 7.30: Building Cars Live
In the first of two programmes, we follow the progress of a car from bits of metal arriving at the factory, all the way through to being a finished Mini rolling off the production line. Kate Humble and James May are your guides for a good old poke around behind the scenes.
Overnight, the results of the Canadian election delivered a victory to Justin Trudeau, and the Liberal Party. How did the son of a former Premier overcome nine years of Conservative rule - and win in a tough campaign?
Elected as a Member of Parliament in the 2008 election, Justin handily won the party leadership in 2013, and quickly established a name for himself through controversial statements and positions.
He called for the legalisation of marijuana, and remarkably for any modern western politician, not only admitted that he had smoked pot in 2010 but declined to apologise for having done so. The new Liberal leader took a strong position on the right of women to have access to abortion including refusing to allow candidates to run for the party who would not support that right in a vote, an approach which drew scathing criticism.
The day after the Boston Marathon bombing he called for an exploration of the “root causes” of such violence, a response that was widely ridiculed as naïve and poorly timed even though the Canadian government itself dedicated resources to understanding the causes of terrorism.
October is Black History Month. As part of their work marking BHM, the University of Nottingham's Hannah Jeffrey has explored how the #blacklivesmatter campaign on Twitter has borrowed from, and updated, the activism of The Black Panthers:
To gain “Justice for Michael Brown” and “Freedom for our Communities”, #BlackLivesMatter uses an almost identical structure to the Panthers Ten-Point Programme, borrowing verbatim from points 2, 4 and 8 when it demands: ‘We Want An Immediate End To Police Brutality And the Murder Of Black, Brown & All Oppressed People,’ (#BlackLivesMatter have added “Brown & All Oppressed” to the demand), ‘We Want Full Employment For Our People’ and ‘We Want Decent Housing Fit For The Shelter Of Human Beings.’ As Professor of American Studies, George Lipsitz acknowledges, through shortening the distance between the past, present and future, #BlackLivesMatter revises existing histories by supplying new perspectives about the past. The contemporary movement editorialises elements of Panther protest literature by adapting strategies to service the racially turbulent present. It illustrates how a Black Power manifesto, contextually crafted for the racial climate of the late 1960s, is, with a few changes, still applicable in 2015.
This week, to mark our co-production Building Cars Live, we're starting up each day with the tale of a car that didn't quite so well. Yesterday, we heard how the Ford Pinto came to be part of Business Ethics courses. Today, we're kicking the wheels of the Rover CityRover.
The CityRover was an attempt to replace the much-loved Metro, which itself was an attempt to replace the even-more-loved Mini. (The Mini has since been resurrected, and is the car you'll be seeing built before your eyes on BBC Two tonight and tomorrow.)
The problem in replacing the Metro was that MG Rover didn't have much of a development budget, and so they bought in a design from the Indian Tata company - the cars themselves were even built in Pune; a slightly revised version of the Tata Indica. Although this should have made the model cheap, the need to pay a sizeable fee to Tata on each model wound up with the car being seen as expensive compared to its competitors.
Things got worse when Top Gear were refused a test car to review - the impression was rapidly built that the machine was lemon that Rover were trying to hide; in the end James May wound up presenting a segment on the show which saw him clandestinely getting access to a CityRover, and then panning it. Other lukewarm reviews followed in the motoring press.
What did for the CityRover, though, wasn't its difficult reception as the wider problems at Rover at the time. The team currently in custodianship of the largest portion of the UK motoring industry, The Phoenix Consortium, were having difficulties making a profit on their investment - even although they'd bought the company for a tenner back in 2000. The company was in serious trouble and seeking alliances with Chinese automobile firms. These, though, became complicated as Tata refused to allow its models to be part of any deal. Quickly, Rover imploded - and as the dust cleared, questions were asked about how the members of the Phoenix consortium came to be so well-rewarded by a company that was trading so poorly.
The sting in the tale? For all the criticism thrown at the CityRover, ten years on many of them remain on the road and, as a second-hand purchase, they make much better financial sense than they ever did brand new.