(Lack of) Food for thought

Standard

Not a wholly original blog today – stats & video are taken from “The Canary”

The stats below all have links and at the bottom is the link to a gentleman called Peter Stefanovic who is a campaigner and lawyer. He makes arguments that most decent people would support but no-one seems to be fighting for them.

Regardless how you are thinking of voting, please don’t fall for the apathy that some media outlets are already peddling. Ever time we get a chance to vote we should use that democratic right to it’s fullest. This is an opportunity to make your voice heard. If we all moan that nothing ever changes it’s because too many people aren’t voting.

We need to encourage everyone to get out for both the local and Westminster elections and have an impact. If you don’t believe me just look at the Brexit vote – well over 10 million people didn’t vote. That’s madness! Those people could have easily changed the vote either to Remain or to securely stamp Leave rather than the paper-thin difference we ended with.

This is a real turning point for the UK – and not just about the EU. We have had a Tory led government since 2010 and an SNP led Government since 2007 and both north and south of the border things are getting worse for our valued public services and servants. We are looking the other way at Europe and wondering what will happen there while behind us Education, Health, Mental Health, support for Carers and the Disabled are being eroded. Not enough money is being provided and where money is coming in it’s not to the people who so desperately need it. The poorest in the UK are miles behind those at the top – we are one of the richest countries in the world yet we are failing too many people.

Vote – but think carefully before you do and ensure your vote is for a positive change and a strike for hope in a world where too many are being left behind.

  • 400,000 children are now living in poverty, a figure which rose 100,000 in 2015/16. 67% of those are from working families.
  • Food bank usage has risen, with over half a million people reliant on just the Trussell Trust for food packages.
  • In two reports, the UN heavily criticised the Tories for “grave” and “systematic” violations of disabled people’s human rights. The government, meanwhile, has severely cut their benefits.
  • The past year has seen strikes by junior doctors, rail workers, teaching assistants, library workers, and other public sector staff. Their pay increases have mostly been capped at 1%.
  • National debt has increased by more than 50%.
  • Homelessness has risen by 54%.
  • Corporations have seen tax cuts [pdf] while the tax gap is around £120bn per year.
  • The NHS has seen a real terms cut in the amount of money given to it per patient. While the amount of NHS money paid to ‘independent’ companies has more than doubled to £8bn a year.
  • The government has cut the number of people getting social care by 26%. And it has cut £50m from children’s mental health services.

JD

Omnishambles

Standard

An utterly useless clusterfuck of a move today by Despicable May. I wonder at what point she decided, “Well the world’s on the brink of a nuclear winter, our traditional allies are putting distance between us because we asked for a divorce and the UK’s devolved administrations are all at loggerheads with Westminster – let’s have a General Election to bring us all back together!”

In which sane part of the land is that even an idea – never mind a good one? It comes of course with a huge amount of baggage and politically the public are confused to what to do. Do Labour Voters who support Brexit vote Tory or UKIP for the first time in their lives? Do the Remainers return to the Lib Dem fold even though Fallon is as wet as Corbyn during a wet t-shirt contest? Does it really matter how Scotland votes?

It appears to me that there is no positive outcome to this election. Starting with the Tories –  if they gain seats as predicted, then Brexit is not just Hard but Granite – a majority would leave backbenchers without the ability to frustrate and hold its own party to account. We would be looking at a possible exit without a deal as we know these things could take up to a decade to finalize and we have 23 months. May would be bolstered and would march into Brussels thinking she had a mandate – but the figures from the EU referendum don’t change because of a General Election, it’s a different vote altogether.

She assumes that because the other parties are weak that she’ll automatically be put back in, but she has to be careful. The 52% of the country who voted to Leave the EU are not all right wing voters. All other parties (apart from the SNP) have said they respect the decision but want checks and balances the other end of the negotiations. To many this seems like a fair thing to do and her hardened stance that she and her government have the final say may come across as dictatorial and unreflective of the uncertain mood in the country.

Labour must be both loving and dreading this. On one hand Corbyn could be out on his ear and we’d get a stronger leader. His ideas are good, he’s just not the man to deliver them. A more public service friendly, compassionate and thoughtful leader he has been – but his charisma is now on watchlists as it hasn’t been seen for years. The upside could be they pull back in the working class vote lost to UKIP but the mixed messages on Brexit could be their undoing.

Where the have an opportunity is by fighting on traditional Labour platforms – the Health Service which is in crisis, education being damaged across the whole UK, tax cuts for the rich, abolition of support for the most vulnerable and disabled – these could be winners if they get their message straight. Will they? I doubt it. £10 minimum wage seems unrealistic and considering that the front bench can’t agree on very much would see a very divided party pushed front and centre. Do we need that as a government at such a difficult time as we live in?

The Lib Dems are frustrating. Tim Fallon is a worse leader than Uncle Jeremy for me. Regardless of your opinion of Nick Clegg and his coalition with the Tories I think hindsight has shown us that actually he did a good job of keeping the rabid right-wingers at bay during his time as Deputy Prime Minister. They have sensible ideas just as Labour do, but I find it difficult to buy into them as they struggle to be heard above the noise.

UKIP are racist, misogynistic, sexist, thugs that don’t deserve the inflated the platform that they continue to get from the media. It’s an embarrassment to this country they have had the airtime they have considering their only MP is no longer in the party. But they could make an impact if the North of England tip to the right as they did in the EU referendum. Labour really are the only alternative for many voters, but with such a weak leadership many might look to UKIP to ensure money is taken from the EU and given back to the UK. In my humble opinion, I do think this is the end of the road for the party – what do they stand for now? They got their wish and unless the LIb Dems become the government the other two main parties agree that leaving the EU will happen.

SNP are in a strange position as well – they can only really lose in this election. Consider where we were last May compared to where we are now – leaving the EU and on the edge of the break-up of the UK. Around a third of SNP voters wanted to leave so that may well impact on their votes and the rise of Ruth Davidson as a sensible voice north of the border could see the Tories take away some of those yellow patches on the map. I can’t see Labour or the Lib Dems doing much damage in Scotland, but if they did it would start to bring into question Surgeon’s decision to demand a second Scottish Referendum.

So where does all that leave us? Potentially even more split than we were after the 23rd June 2016 and the EU referendum. With the country divided and uncertainty ahead will we stick with the shambles that is May, Boris, Hammond and Davis or bring in a potential coalition of Uncle Jeremy, Tim-liberal-but-bland and the SNP?

A rainbow coalition? No, just storm clouds ahead.

JD

The Power of Apathy

Standard

eadf884532cab016da803506d4e67b1a

There’s only been one topic of conversation in the classroom since Tuesday’s US Election – “What do you think of Trump becoming President?” And rather than rant, rave and have a go at the dusty pumpkin dildo I have given them all this talk which I feel is worth sharing with everyone.

This is your fault. Not directly but you are part of the problem. If I ever ask you about your opinions on politics you laugh and say you don’t watch the news or read newspapers but you did see something funny on Facebook about Trump. Some of you can’t even tell me the name of the Prime Minister or Chancellor. And I’m aware that this has always been true to a point with teenagers – but the difference now is that apathy has grown up with the last couple of generations and we face Brexit and a Trump presidency as a result.

We have a sway of people who would rather vote for Ed Balls on Strictly Come Dancing than for Ed Balls as a politician. From the comfort of our home we can be armchair pundits on events in the world and vote for pretty much anything by a tap, swipe or email address. We can sign petitions and share memes on things we feel strongly about from politics but actually go out and vote? No thanks – what’s the point?

The point is this apathy and “What difference will it make?” attitude is perfectly shown by this week’s election in America and the Brexit vote. Not only were millions of people sitting at home not bothering to vote but when you look at the overall figures of who could have voted and the outcomes the truth becomes painfully real.

In the EU vote:

UK Electorate eligible to vote – 46,501,241

Voted to Leave – 17,410,742

Voted to Remain – 16,141,241

Spoiled Ballots – 26,033

Did not vote – 12,949,258

In the US Election:

US Electorate eligible to vote – 231,000,000

Trump – 60,071,650

Clinton – 60,467,245

Others – 6,180,868

Did not vote – 104,280,237

Anyone who knows me will tell you I’m no maths whizz but these stats show two things: Brexit was only voted for by 37.4% of the UK and only 26% of Americans voted for Trump. So they didn’t carry the day; it wasn’t a landslide victory and despite what politicians tell you it is not the will of the people – it’s the will of those who voted for whatever they are advocating.

I know this is common sense, and I’m also aware many will be shouting at me that this is how democracy works and not voting is still taking a stand. That’s where I call bullshit.

Not voting, not caring enough to put a cross in a box, pull a lever, press a button is a disgrace. Today we celebrated those who have given their lives so we can be free to enjoy democracy and our communal view is gradually becoming “So what?”

I’ll tell you what – look at your payslip: tax, National Insurance and pension payments. Look at your kids – schools, child benefit, tax credits. Look outside; roads, street lights, police. It’s not difficult to understand that everything we do is driven by politics and if we don’t care or can’t be bothered then when the police numbers drop and the local A&E shuts and the street lights are put out at night to save money and your kid’s school is threatened with closure don’t you dare suddenly decide to get involved, because you’re too late.

You should have been paying attention and shouting when the politicians at local, national and international level were standing with a manifesto on which they wanted your votes. When they take office don’t just sit there and accept that life has to be this way – challenge the status quo or a decision you think is unfair or unjust. We have become lazy and indifferent.

Why?

Because they don’t listen to us? No probably not to the dozen people who took to the streets or the hundred thousand who signed an online petition. Why would they. But if you fill their inbox and postbox with questions and requests for information and clarification then they are truly accountable. Just because they are elected doesn’t mean for one minute they are finished with us.

That’s the attitude we seem to have now. Not good enough.

If there is a vote coming up you need to ensure your MP, MSP or MEP knows your views – that’s their job to represent you, even if you didn’t vote for them.

It is a self-fulfilling prophecy to be apathetic about something as important as politics because if you don’t care, then why should the politicians? They know they don’t have to turn up to debates or speeches if you are never going to check/ask/need something from that decision.

Brexit and Trump happened because people felt they had something to vote for – a voice that echoed theirs. Yes, part of the problem with Brexit is it’s hard to stir up passion for the status quo but you will lose it if you don’t stand up and say something when it really matters. And yes Clinton wasn’t the most palatable candidate we’ve ever seen for the Democrats but with the choice they had surely it wasn’t beyond the wit of the more than one hundred million voters to make sure it wasn’t The Donald.

I look at the current situation in politics and wonder why our leader of the free world is a reality TV star with no experience. I see our Foreign Secretary in the UK as that idiot that was funny (for the wrong reasons) on Have I Got News For You. I see 1960s cartoon character Nigel Farage leading the charge for Brexit and befriending the day-glow fucktrumpet billionaire.

Is this what we have become? A world who will only vote for the same people we can vote for on TV, tweet from our smartphones or Facebook Friend? If it is then we need a new revolution where policy matters. Where people matter – not frivolous personalities and stupid soundbites. Where policy matters – not redundant rhetoric or quiz show appearances.

We need to stop this cycle of apathy because you just need to see how fucked up 2016 has been – and we caused that. You and Me. Sharing a picture on FB is not enough. Setting up or signing an online petition is not enough. We need to step away from the virtual world and start living in the real world again where there are real dangers and issues.

The rise of the KKK. The need for the hashtag BlackLivesMatter in 2016. The amount of Food Banks in the developed world. The wars in Syria and Yemen and Iraq and Afghanistan. The refugee crisis in Europe and Africa and the Middle East. The gap between Rich & Poor expanding like never before.

I know, I see the irony of me putting this on a blog. I’m as guilty as those I’m complaining about in many ways. But in others I’m not. I always vote. ALWAYS. For local, Scottish, UK, EU elections or referendums. They matter. They really matter and will have an impact on your life. I joined a political party for the first time this year. not because I agree with everything they say, but because i believe in the core values and want to help shape the ideas they produce. I want my kids to grow up in a country and on a planet that gives a fuck.

If you are still apathetic then I don’t know how else I can convince you. But when you see the images of Russia moving further into Ukraine; see more violence against those who have emigrated to our country; see the dismantling of the only healthcare many in the us have; the images of the melting ice caps and you shrug your shoulders – then you deserve what you get.

JD

JD’s Last Stand

Standard

scotland

My final thoughts before tomorrow’s voting opens – not about policy but about my heart & head response to everything I’ve seen and read.

It’s easy to pick holes in the opposition’s ideas and proposals – we all know politicians lie and we also know that that is true of most, if not all, who have been involved in this referendum debate – but I want to focus on the positives of why we should stay as part of the UK.

Firstly I want to state clearly I am a proud Scot and I’m annoyed that the Yes side hijacked the Saltire as their emblem because it doesn’t belong to either side – it belong to the whole country. Being fiercely behind Scotland as a nation but still wanting to be British is not a paradox in any way and to suggest so shows a real lack of intelligence. This is an inventive, creative, joyous, beautiful and honest land. The people are amazing and sadly we’ve lost the togetherness we have enjoyed over the last three hundred years in the space of two because of this divisive vote. My No vote is protect that country so it exists for my own children to enjoy.

What we have achieved as the UK should not be undervalued by anyone. All my grandparents lived through wars that had them standing side by side with allies and friends from our sister countries again the Nazis and fascism; fighting on the frontline to ensure votes like tomorrow could happen. Their dedication to the UK as a whole is celebrated every November and should not be thrown away lightly – especially when this generations armed forces could be decimated in an independent Scotland. Working as one we made the NHS – possibly the greatest thing politics has ever achieved in the UK. A free at source healthcare system that treats us all equally and will even support those who come from abroad if we can help them. I wouldn’t be alive were it not for the amazing work they do and I know many others that would not be here either. We did that together – why break it up? My No vote is to protect and ensure a real future for the generations who saved us and the NHS that continues to do so.

We share a culture – despite what we joke about there are many shared values in the arts, music, customs and traditions. SHakespeare and Burns are both our bards, Sherlock Holmes is the quintessential Englishman created by a Scot, James Bond played best by a Scot in many people’s opinion and three of our thirteen Doctor Whos have come from North of the Border. It’s that melting pot of ideas and creativity that makes us great. The BBC is another fantastic example of how joined up thinking can make world class programming. They have taken a beating (unfairly I would add) from the Yes campaign but look at the coming together of BBC regions to make some of the greatest Dramas, funniest comedies and fascinating documentaries – if we leave we won’t have a right to that any more as we will only be paying in 8% of the overall licence fee. My No Vote is to protect the creative spark we share.

We share a conscience too. While there are always political disagreements our togetherness is an enviable thing. Remember that moment at the start of the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympics? We were all poised on Facebook and Twitter to rip it to pieces and then we saw it hold up a mirror to our achievements from the Industrial age, to the NHS to music and we sat back in amazement at the joy and pride we had in the UK. Even the most hardened nationalist must have been impressed as we watched the words “This is for everyone” appear around the stadium from Tim Berners-Lee and recognised how we have invented and gifted things like the internet to the world.We keep each other in check – we are a largely liberal country and have taken leaps in social justice – even during times of Tory governments with right to buy and the legalisation of Gay Marriage. We don’t stand for unfair things, we challenge those who challenge us, we rally like no other nation when it comes to charity. My No vote is keep that shared mindset.

I’m proud that my country has the West End of London, the beauty of Snowdonia, the mystic Giant’s Causeway, Nessie, Blackpool, Tiger Bay, Iona, Sherwood Forest and Edinburgh Festival. We have all those things and can count them as ours in the shared wealth that is the UK – not financial wealth but an embarrassment of riches in unique places to visit and enjoy. We have so much more in common that things that divide us – our towns and cities up and down these isles are welcoming. From Robin Hood to King Arthur, Scottish Ghost stories to Stonehenge our myths and history combine to make this a huge map of possibilities for us right on our doorsteps. My No vote is to keep that geography together.

This is my country, these are my friends. Being made to choose between the ones here and the ones across each border is not something I want to do – what is a border anyway but an invisible line that means nothing to friends either side of it. I will vote no because I honestly believe that we are Better Together – not in twee way as many have depicted the No campaign to be – but as a way to combine and bring out the best in each other. Science, education, healthcare, literature, the arts, music, justice, morality, brotherhood & sisterhood; We can put a wall between us and our friends to the south but nothing will be positive about losing all this. Yes it allows those who question the power of Westminster to remove themselves from it but the issues will still be the same and instead of London we’ll blame Edinburgh – we’ll be worse off for it. I support devolution for all the areas of the UK with Westminster pulling us all together when we need it.

It doesn’t come down to Political parties or slogans or posters, it’s about how you feel in your heart and your head. I understand the draw of Independence for the romantic reasons, but I still think we gain so much from our neighbours that we’d lose an important part of ourselves by leaving.

Vote No to protect Scotland and continue to make it a great nation within the UK

JD

Dear Yes Voters

Standard

yes

I get it. I understand your aims and objectives. I see that you want that Independence from everyone and want to thrive on your own. To be ruled from within and make your own decisions, successes and mistakes. In the romantic sense of Independence I’m with you. Where we have to go our own ways is the day-to-day reality of living and working in Scotland if it were to become independent.

Please stop calling it scaremongering is someone point out there might be an issue with Independence because if we lie to ourselves about what this country could and should be we start on the wrong foot straight away. It’s not going to be easy; negotiations where one party has 5 million behind them and the other has over 60 million people there is a real chance that we won’t walk away with the deal we need. It’s not about oil or politicians or financial institutions, it’s about us as a people.

I hate the fact we have food banks in this country too, but independence won’t solve that. I hate that the minimum wage isn’t a true minimum wage, but independence won’t solve that. I hate the Tories too, but just because you have your own independent parliament doesn’t mean you will always get the government you vote for – only 25% of people voted for an SNP government at the last Scottish Parliament elections but the way the vote worked they became the majority party – so was that what Scotland “wanted”?

Independence is not a magic wand that will solve all of societies ills – in fact according to most independent sources and experts it will be a difficult journey that will take a long time to sort – if it ever does. I like the idea of this utopia painted by Alex Salmond and can see the appeal of it, but I am too long in the truth to think that one vote changes the world – see Blair 1997 and Obama 2008 as prime examples. Do you remember waking on that May morning in 1997 with the first Labour Government for 18 years and the expectations we all had. Now with hindsight it was terrible at times. It started well with good intentions but…

It’s not wrong to want the best for your country and I would never argue that it wasn’t – but think about this: 97% of eligible voters in Scotland ave registered to vote on Thursday, what if they all voted all of the time for all of the elections? What if that was echoed across our neighbouring countries of Northern Ireland, Wales and England – wouldn’t we have the parties and politicians we wanted then instead of a 0 – 50% turnout. The vote for real change has been on offer every time the polls have opened – how many of you the Yes voters have taken that opportunity? Have you not bothered because you didn’t like what the main four parties offered?

You could have voted for other parties, for independent candidates – hell, you could have stood yourself. This is not the ONLY chance we have of making Scotland better and the kind of country it has the capacity to be – don’t believe those who tell you this is the chance of a lifetime because we could have another referendum whenever we wanted – preferably one where the nation was united in its aims rather than the divided and unhappy state it is currently in.

While you have every right to vote Yes, I would ask you this: It is genuinely the best option for Scotland right now at this moment in time with economies still recovering from the international fallout of the toxic debt and sub prime mortgage issues? Is it a positive step when half your countrymen & women disagree with you? When the uncertainties outweigh the knowns of tomorrow and the next three decades? I love Scotland and its history, culture and people – my No vote makes me no different from you, I want the best for us all.

Think on this – we’ve got to this point without a single shot being fired. In terms of getting the possibility of independence this has been a triumph for the UK and Scotland. In my opinion the timing is wrong and we are too divided in opinion to go ahead with it now. Let’s start a real conversation that means we can start agreeing on more that we disagree on and have this referendum again in the future when Scotland is actually ready for it.

Voting yes will not solve all the problems, it will cause many more in the short to medium term – this time I’d suggest you vote No to ensure that next time it’s a resounding Yes instead of the whisper we have now.

JD

Dear No Voters

Standard

no thanks

It’s time to stand up and be counted – don’t worry about the bully boy tactics of Alex Salmond and his cronies, you have every right to express your opinion. We are proud to be Scottish but also proud to be British – they do not own the Saltire in this referendum, nor do they have a monopoly over everything that is great about this Country.

And that’s an important point: we are a country already with a devolved parliament. We already have powers to change this country and with a No vote you will get more; safer, faster and stronger powers whilst still having the family of the UK together as one. We have to stop listening to those who say that every piece of news against independence is “scaremongering” because most of it isn’t at all – if giant companies like Shell, BP, John Lewis, Asda, and Lloyds are warning us there will be a negative impact on us, then maybe we should listen – they have nothing to gain from getting involved otherwise.

To be constantly shouted down by the Yes camp because we’re pointing out the issues that independence will bring is wrong. Pointing out that we could be worse off financially is such an important consideration in this vote. Consider your mortgage, your kids ability to go into further education, your parents and grandparents pensions and care, the price of your weekly shop, the pound in your pocket – these aren’t “scare” stories, they are the reality you and I will have to face every day after independence. For how long? Well we don’t know. Most analysts are saying it could be between twenty and thirty years until things sort themselves out and for me that would take me up potentially until I’m 66 years old – I don’t want to spend the three decades struggling to make ends meet in a volatile country.

We also know that Scotland has a bias towards the Central Belt in policy and budgets, do you really believe that will change in an Independent Scotland? Look at the difference in time scale or the New Forth Road Bridge compared to the length of time we’ve waited in Aberdeen for the mythical bypass to be built. We know that with the majority of the population being in Edinburgh, Glasgow and everything in between that they will get the most attention – so how is this any better for those who live north of there compared to being governed from Westminster?

I was chatting with a Better Together campaigner yesterday and he said many No voters were scared to put up posters or speak out about their voting intentions because of the attacks both verbal and physical that an idiot minority of the Yes camp decided were necessary. By the same token there have been those on the No side who have over stepped the mark and I’m not advocating that either; but be heard, be seen and be strong. This is our country and our voices and opinions count just the same as any others in this week of the vote.

We are realistic about oil, industry, currency, finance and everything else – it’s not about patriotism, it’s about wanting a country we love to continue to be strong as part of a bigger picture. So stay strong, put up your no posters and help Scotland continue to be a strong and important place to live and work in.

JD

 

Pound for Pound, Scotland’s better in the UK

Standard

A great interview that shows the complete lack of transparency and understanding the SNP have of the situation. Sturgeon is out of her depth here. (And I’m no fan of Andrew Neil either)

For me the Independence debate is like deciding that you want your bedroom to be independent but you demand that you get full use of the bathroom and kitchen. I would respect the Yes campaign more if they wanted full Independence but they seem to be opting for a pick ‘n’ mix approach that suits them but nobody else. I’ve nothing in principle against a country becoming independent, but I’ve yet to hear the compelling case that makes Scotland a good candidate to go it alone that stands up to any kind of scrutiny.

We’ll be unhappy regardless who is in charge, so don’t think that because it’s Edinburgh instead of London things will improve. The downside to the arrangement could be catastrophic – and that’s not scaremongering it’s just a fact. Beyond that I’m sick fed up of No voters being described as Anti-Scottish or unpatriotic; far from it, it’s because I love Scotland I want to protect it and make it as strong as possible within the UK. England, Wales and Northern Ireland are all our friends and we pull together and work to the best of all our needs – putting up a barrier to that makes little or no sense to me. I’m proud to be British, to be European as well and this romantic idea that Scotland will be a great nation on its own is misguided – if it can be great, it could do so as part of the Union too.

All it ever seems to come back to with the Yes campaign is money, but there are two important things to remind them:

1. The oil is not a nationalised industry owned by the people of the UK or Scotland. It is effectively owned by multi-national corporations with headquarters across the world and we know how the whole EU tax thing works with Amazon, Google and Starbucks. They can move their money elsewhere is things are looking bad at any point in the future.

2. The pipes that bring the fuel to shore can easily be moved to south of the border, again at the say so of the oil companies and the UK Government. They might be in a better position than us post independence to offer incentives to move.

I wonder if we didn’t have the oil in the equation would as many people be on the Yes side of the debate?

JD