Thursday, January 26, 2017

What sort of a world do you want?

I've been thinking a lot over the past couple of weeks.  Being alone gives you a lot of time to think without interruption, and while Tom has been away I have been thinking a lot.  One of the things I had been thinking about was how stupid it is that our government is subjecting the ill and disabled to assessments and denying them the benefits they need, and that this is costing more than it used to when we relied on doctors and medically qualified people to do it and were less punitive.  So many news stories have been published recently about people dying shortly after they were assessed as fit for work.

I live in a mainly Conservative area, and I can't understand it!  The people here are lovely, kind and warm, and it seems impossible that they should support a party which is forcing families and the sick and disabled into abject poverty.  So this morning I printed out and stapled together a poster I have pasted to the big window in my house.

What sort of world do you want to live in?
One in which disabled and sick people are cared for by all of us?
Or every man for himself?

This government and the previous government have been systematically dismantling the welfare state

They are now subjecting disabled people and terminally ill people to long assessments and interviews and 40-page forms, and their new system is actually costing MORE money than simply paying the disabled and sick and accepting some people may be frauds.  Many people who need benefits are being denied them.

People on benefits are "sanctioned" which means removing all financial support and the right to free prescriptions etc, in order to meet targets set by the profit-making companies now in charge of these things.  It isn't only the people on benefits who are suffering, many of the employees of these companies are under extreme stress.

More people than ever before are on the streets, or admitted to
hospital with malnutrition.  Use of food banks has grown dramatically.

Not only do sanctions cost more to administer than they save, (National Audit Office) which means we're paying more to starve families than we did to feed them,  if we closed the loopholes which allow corporations and rich individuals to avoid paying a fair share of tax, that would gain £37 billion - more than we need to offer social care and support the NHS.

If you  agree with this, please write to your MP, and consider whether you want to support these changes in our country.

Is this the world you want for the future?
And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity. 
I believe that love requires us to act now.

I put a PS on the bottom to say that I am neither on benefits nor disabled, because I wanted people to understand that it wasn't my own self-interest which was driving me to take action, but a wish to help those who are being penalised by the crazily awful system we have in place.  Although there would be nothing wrong with someone who is on benefits or disabled writing such a thing, of course, they would be open to the accusation that they would feel that, wouldn't they?

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Don't want privatised NHS? Then FIGHT for it!

Poll after poll in this country says that a majority of people want a public NHS free at the point of contact.  Our NHS was the cheapest and most efficient health service in the world, as understood by outside opinion, and we are letting the Conservative government take it away from us.

But guess what?  The government is our government and they are supposed to represent us - not their own self-interest or their dearly-held personal opinions.  US.  They represent our interests in parliament and they're doing a bloody terrible job of it at the moment.  SO TELL THEM.  Use the "They Work for You" website to contact your MP and tell them that you don't want people resorting to private medical insurance because they aren't funding the health service properly. 

And if they argue that we don't have the money, point out that they seem to have the money to bomb places and buy a new trident deterrent, and if they don't have the money for the NHS perhaps they could cancel trident or maybe charge multinational corporations a fair amount of tax instead of allowing them to use loopholes to pass money around internally until they don't have any profits left to pay tax on. 

Ad maybe, if enough of us do this, we will get our representative to truly represent us, and pay properly for the NHS.

Monday, September 05, 2016

Arms and humanity

Bombing in Yemen from Wikipedia by Ibrahim Qasim
The UK has become the second biggest exporter of arms in the world.  The promotional leaflets talk about "defence exporters" as though the results of our "defence exports" weren't being used to kill women and children and to bomb hospitals in Yemen

Our whole approach to this must change if we ever hope to have a world in which we end wars.  At the moment we are allowing rich corporations to make money by selling death and destruction to other countries, and we are spending money we don't have on a nuclear deterrent that deters no one.

We need to be thinking about these things on a smaller scale, the one thing about Margaret Thatcher that appealed to me was her ability to do that.  Our renewing trident, for example, is like a family deciding to spend their money on some sort of state-of-the-art burglar alarm while starving in the kitchen.

The arms trade is worse.  That's like a family selling their knives to the next door neighbour knowing he plans to kill his wife and children with them.  We should get out of it.  It starts with making the trade less lucrative by refusing to allow licences for any country that is acting aggressively towards its neighbours.  There's no way that we could be selling arms to Saudi Arabia (who are aggressively attacking Yemen, including bombing Medecins sans frontiers hospitals, against international treaties).

Years ago I saw a documentary about East Timor, and among the facts in the programme was the fact that we were selling arms to the Indonesians knowing that they would be used against the East Timorese... in fact there was film showing the jets we had sold to Indonesia being used against the populace. 

I wrote to Alan Clark, completely astonished that someone who was so active in care for animals, would sell arms to a repressive regime that would use them against their own people.  Somewhere I have the letter I got in reply, which said that the Indonesians had signed agreements not to do that, and basically indicating it wasn't OUR fault if they weren't as good as their word.  Don't forget we also armed Saddam Hussein, who was originally our ally.

It's all a game to them.  It sems to me that if we don't stand up and be counted, they'll simply continue to sell arms while it is profitable, and damn the consequences.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

I'm a nice person! Not a bully, not a trot

One of the things I admire about Jeremy Corbyn is that he has rebelled and voted against the party when his conscience told him to.  I hate that the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) has used this against him, trying to claim that they support all his policies, and have only voted against him specifically because they don't think he is a good leader.  They try to claim that they are in favour of democracy and then try to make the coup look like a vote of conscience.  How can it be when they claim to support his policies?  It makes no sense.

The PLP began talking about Momentum, the Corbyn supporters' group, as though they were hired assassins or left-wing terrorists from the very start of the coup.  Aghast at the huge support shown for Corbyn when more than 10,000 people gathered on Parliament Square, they tried to make those people look like loony lefties, violent thugs, or rabble.  From the very first interview on the radio, they talked about calling off the dogs, as they put it, and made it sound as though Jeremy Corbyn had gathered a gang of old militant left wingers to intimidate the right wing of the party. As ordinary members, our realisation that the news media colluded with this view of the Corbyn supporters by not challenging anything the PLP said, and that the PLP had a deliberate campaign to malign the ordinary members of the party, became clear.

They used outright lies (Angela Eagle's window wasn't broken.  a window in the same building was broken and that's a routine occurrence, not part of a campaign of intimidation), lies (Angela Eagle was not homophobically abused at her CLP meeting - she didn't attend) and frankly weird stuff (Joanna Baxter crying on News at One because a legal letter had been sent to the NEC and Owen Jones had texted her a perfectly benign tweet).

I'm not saying there haven't been foul things on twitter and in other places, or that people haven't trolled the PLP MPs.  But it isn't one-sided, Jeremy Corbyn and members of Momentum have been mercilessly trolled.  The difference is that they haven't immediately blamed the other side for not controlling their members or supporters, and haven't demanded action on internet trolling.  Many of the people prosecuted for trolling and stalking members of parliament aren't a member of any party, they are mentally ill.  And it was pretty rich, the PLP claiming intimidation and bullying, when they had bullied (by reports from MPs present) the democratically elected leader of the party, with the most overt personal abuse.

Every time a member of the PLP coup is interviewed, they link Momentum with a negative word or image, even though the people I've met in Momentum have been ordinary supporters of Jeremy Corbyn just like me.  There are people from every walk of life in the group.  Many people are aware of the untruths because they are either members of Momentum or know someone who is.

I celebrated when the court overtturned the ruling that new members of the party weren't able to vote, because I thought it was designed to disenfranchise people who had been promised on the website that they would be able to take part in the elections in the party.  That shouldn't have been promised if it were not going to be delivered, and the NEC ought to be owning up to that and accepting the court's judgement.

Instead I find that Tom Watson, who is deputy leader and pretended to be loyal to Corbyn, has been instrumental in going forward with an appeal against that judgement, which will cost us a lot of money.  Does it seem right that the NEC should be able to use our money to try to disenfranchise the new members who paid that money into the coffers?  Especially when you consider that a majority of the members are in favour of Corbyn and want the new members to have a vote.  Even those who aren't in favour of Corbyn are not in favour of the underhanded double-dealing which has been a feature of the last few months. 

At the heart of this is the question of who is the Labour Party?  Is it the members?  Is it the MPs?  or is it all levels of the hierarchy together?  If the latter, then how do we resolve the problem that the PLP seem to be out of step with the membership.  They seem to have an entirely dfferent view of the party and its chances of election - which for ordinary members seems to be being vandalised by the PLP!

They need to understand that Corbyn will again be elected with a landslide.  They need to understand that the membership are not going to put up with being slandered and libelled at every opportunity, and that when they say negative things about Corbyn or his supporters, all they are achieving is a negative profile for the Labour Party they profess to love, in the mind of the public.

Tom Watson, who is fast becoming the least-liked member of the party, has written that young members of the party are having their arms twisted by trots.  Really?!  I'm a 57 year old supporter, not a trot, would never twist anyone's arm to go with anything but their conscience.  I'll argue the case for Corbyn, but I wouldn't use any violence - again the violent language, designed to cement in the public's mind the image of Corbyn supporters as trots and as violent.  Many young Labour supporters have written to Tom Watson to object to his language and to tell him that they were capable of deciding for themselves thank you very much.

Maybe the PLP and Tom Watson can see that they are not making much headway, and with a new party in mind have decided to damage the Labour Party as much as possible in the process, as the future competition for their new party.  They couldn't have done a better job if they had tried.  Before the coup Labour were three points ahead of the tories.  As each day goes past they are sinking lower and lower in the polling.  A name and website for Future Labour was apparently incorporated in April this year.  I can only hope that they get over there and stop bothering us as soon as possible.

How on earth the PLP and Owen Smith can lecture about Unity and unifying the party when they have been the most divisive and hostile towards the membership of any group in any party that I can remember, I don't know.  They think the public and the membership are stupid and biddable, is all I can suppose.  I am hoping they will get their come-uppance shortly.

Sunday, July 03, 2016

Noam Chomsky wins - we don't have a free press

I am absolutely shocked by the bias in both Guardian and BBC. Particularly the BBC which has allowed Labour MPs in the rebel group to slander Momentum as "dogs" and "thugs" without the least bit of proof that there is any violence given or threatened by Momentum, which as far as I can see is ordinary supporters of Corbyn like me.
I expected bias in the Murdoch press, and any press which is owned and operated by someone with an axe to grind, but I really expected better fromthe Guardian and the BBC. They say that you only notice how inaccurate reporting is when you are close to a story, but this is more than that. They are using negative words to describe Corbyn, allowing claims that he lost the labour vote on remain although 62% of Labour voters voted remain, nearly as many (1% less) as the SNP who had all their MPs onside and campaigning for remain.
That there are newsnight journalists tweeting unattributed negative rumours on twitter accounts which identify them as being from Newsnight is shocking to me. They obviously are partisan. I feel I've wrongly argued in my head with Noam Chomsky for 20 years that our press are not as biassed as he said, only to have him win the argument, because they are.
The Guardian does publish occasional positive articles, but in the main it is a constant stream of hogwash from the partisan Polly Toynbee - who, I'm sorry, should be disbarred from writing anything at all with such a personal grudge against Corbyn. And neither the BBC or Guardian are challenging the renegade MPs on the fact that they can launch a leadership bid any time, and should do this or shut up if they believe in the democracy in the Labour Party.
There were marches yesterday all over the country for Brexit and those are reported. There were also marches all over the country for Corbyn, and those have not been reported. The BBC have a one line report in their Corbyn article on the website, saying there were marches in Leeds and Liverpool of about a thousand. Liverpool was 3000 at least and there were also marches and demonstrations in Durham, Cornwall, Cardiff, Hull and many other places.
They allow Angela Eagle to spin the lie that support among party membership is decreasing while 60,000 people have joined up in the last week. most of them, if my twitter and facebook groups are anything to go by, are joining because they are appalled by the behaviour of the PLP and the antidemocratic nature of the challenge to the leadership. It's scandalous that they allow her space to say things like that and don't properly balance with some facts.

Friday, July 01, 2016

The Immigration problem

I partially watched Question Time last night, partly because I turned over late, and partly because I turned off early.  It was a frustrating experience, because of the things that weren't said as much as the things that were.

The comedian on the panel, Russell Kane, talked about the attitude of his family towards the result and said that Labour had failed to take up the initiative on immigration and address the problems which the people in the country have with it.  He also gave us a window on the xenophobia, saying that his relatives were dancing around the room declaiming that the immigrants who were undercutting their jobs as plumbers and builders, were "going home".

In a nutshell, this is the problem facing all parties in the wake of the referendum vote.  The Leave campaign made a number of promises they couldn't have a hope of keeping (not least all the money for the EU going to the NHS) and that a vote for "Leave" was a vote for controls on immigration.

The problem all parties face is that it can't be, unless we abandon all hope of trading with EU countries and maintaining a relationship with the EU.  This, I believe, is at the heart of Labour's inability to deal with the immigration issue: any realist will tell you that if you want to do business in future with the EU under the single market, migration of labour will be a part of that.

I'm not saying that I think immigration controls would be a bad thing - I have been astonished at how little planning councils and government do for changes in population - but that they are impossible to impose in the way the Brexiteers promised if we continue to trade freely with the EU.

Now, I know that a lot of the people who voted for Brexit for the reason that they feel they are being unfairly affected by the incoming immigrants, will simply declare that we should give up the single market for that reason.  But then we have the overwhelming problem of how to handle the people who are living here under the freedom of labour within the EU - and all the British people abroad who are happily working elsewhere in the EU.  Untangling that isn't going to happen overnight or next week or next year... it's a complex and very costly exercise you're looking at, with ramifications which extend beyond our borders and beyond.

The rise of racist and xenophobic attacks is going to get worse if we don't do something about it, because the people who are threatened by immigration are not likely to be listening to reason arguments about the impossibility of doing what they were promised.  The problem is that their anger is likely to be directed at what they perceive to be the problem - the immigrants - and not towards the people who really deserve their ire.  The self-serving bunch of fools who made the promises in the first place.

Our country has been strengthened by immigration over the course of centuries - from the Romans to the waves of Jewish and Caribbean and Asian immigrants in the 20th century.  The addition of people in times of plenty was positive, adding colour and cuisine to the country.  A lot of the problems we have at the moment are entirely caused by austerity - the NHS underfunded, social housing sold off or under-replaced, unemployment high in areas where old industries have been killed off or died.  But it is easy to see why people who are directly affected by a drop in income because they are experiencing what they perceive as unfair competition from the immigrant community might place the blame on their neighbour and not on the government.

Solving the problem properly requires investment in the social fabric, to the NHS and the social services and social housing.  I think it also makes sense for there to be changes to the rules on free movement of labour, especially when there is a big disparity in living standards between a newly-joined state and the other places in the EU.  It stops states being able to plan for their populations if there can be mass migration from one place to another without any controls.  And moving because you have a job in another state is rather different from moving to another state because you can make more money there.  We have opted out of being able to influence a change, although it is questionable whether there is a will to make that change in the other countries of the EU.

The people who are doing manual or labouring jobs don't have any protection in the current climate.  They don't have job security, they don't have the safety net that once was offered to them, and they don't have the same level of housing benefit or social security to fall back on if they lose their job or come to the end of a contract.  If they are self employed things are even more precarious.  It isn't surprising that they are the ones who feel most threatened by an influx of people.  They are also more likely to be living in areas where there is cheap housing, which attracts people in similar trades.

In the end, people thought they were voting for a couple of things.  Extra investment for the NHS.  Controls on immigration.  The remain camp weren't able to offer anything to counter those promises except more of the same.  It's only surprising to me that the vote wasn't even more decisive.  And our problem now is that no-one can deliver on the promises made.  And that's going to make people angry.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Jeremy Corbyn for Prime Minister

The referendum result and the chaos in both Tory and Labour parties have forced us to review what we are looking for in leader.  I was appalled to find that David Cameron, despite being paid to be Prime Minister of this country, didn't have a plan for the result which was returned on Friday after the referendum.  We pay the man to lead the country and he makes no plan for June 24.

It seems that both teams in the referendum had no more plan than "win referndum" and looked no further.  The Tories on both sides, Cameron and Johnson, pointed to each other and claimed the other should have made a plan.

Just when the Labour Party could have held the Tories to account, they decided instead to play a game with the leadership of the Labour Party.  Despite Jeremy Corbyn being elected with the largest mandate ever, they decided to blame him - not the people who made absurd claims about the money that could go to the NHS (Johnson, Farage Gisela Stewart), not the people who had made absurd claims about the possibility of access to the single market AND controlling EU immigration, but Jeremy Corbyn was the target of their abuse.

As a paid-up member of the Labour party who joined because I was so impressed with Jeremy Corbyn, I felt betrayed.  I don't think I will be able to trust the politicians who betrayed Corbyn, simply because people like Angela Eagle praised him a few days ago, and reversed her opinion once the leadership attack was on.  Which time were you wrong, Angela, I wondered?   When you praised the gruelling schedule that Jeremy Corbyn had followed, or when you said he didn't do enough?

She didn't look towards Gisela Stewart, who allegedly came up with the £350 million a week slogan, or the others in the Brexit campaign who had been too stupid to understand that access to the single market was not a given and would come with a price tag.  She looked towards Jeremy Corbyn.

I think it was his touching honesty and total belief in the things he says which first attracted me to listen to what he was saying.  Something which is a rare gift in a politician.  If he says something you know that he believes it.  That's something I look for in a leader.  Honesty and integrity.

Over the past few days, people have resigned at regular intervals from the shadow cabinet, and people have announced their intention not to support Jeremy Corbyn.  He has withstood the blows from the people he thought he could count on, those who are ostensibly on his side, but who refer to his supporters - people from their own party - as dogs and rabble.  He has withstood this onslaught with dignity and has not descended into the sort of personal attacks that others might feel justified in making.  He's shown remarkable strength of character.  That's another thing I look for in a leader.

To listen to the parliamentary Labour Party talk, you would think that Jeremy Corbyn was so far left of centre that he was calling for the establishment of a communist state.  But everything I have heard Jeremy Corbyn talk about has been moderate, proportionate, and reasonable.  A return to the public ownership of the NHS (it's escaped the notice of a considerable number of people that we ever moved away from that), looking after the poor and disabled, housing people, giving them meaningful jobs and paying them adequately.  Reducing the gap between rich and poor.  I think they are socialist policies that all the membership would support.   And so his knowledge of what needs to happen and his grasp on the policies that need to change is impressive.  Another thing I look for in a leader:  knowledge, but an ability to say more information is needed if required.

If you were to ask me if I see these things in any of the candidate on the Tory side, I'd have to say that the only person who impresses me is Theresa May.  But she lacks the final qualities I look for in a leader: warmth, human kindness and an understanding of the lives of ordinary people.  Jeremy Corbyn doesn't use his time in parliament to build up money by claiming expenses he isn't entitled to.  In fact he doesn't claim things he is entitled to, preferring to travel on public transport, and use a bike.

He talks to people, acknowledges policemen and others he encounters in the course of his work, and spends time interacting with those that make up the electorate whoever they support politically.  I admire that in a leader.  It's too easy to become part of a Westminster-focussed club and forget there are ordinary people who have spent their hard-earned money on being able to vote for a leader in the party elections.  He doesn't forget that, and we love him for it.

The Parliamentary Labour Party may look for different things in the leader they elect.  Certainly some of them have written lies about having consulted their Constituency Labour Party before resigning, or tales of people on the doorstep demanding a change, as though the ordinary electorate are likely to say those things arbitrarily, and should be allowed to decide who the leader of the Labour Party is.  I'd have respected them a bit more if they had been honest.

Jeremy Corbyn stands for everything I want - more social justice, a return to the publicly owned NHS and looking after the environment and the people in this country.  I want him as leader of the Labour Party, and I would vote for him to be our Prime Minister in a heartbeat.  I think the PLP have seriously misjudged the mood of the country.  And if, as many people are saying, this is all about Chilcot, then woe betide them.  Because we'll support Jeremy all the way if he calls for Tony Blair to be prosecuted.  And there's bugger all they can do about that now that they've failed to oust him.