(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

I must have missed something…

Standard

syria5-650x365

Just want to clear a few things up here about the Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya issue – just a handful of questions to make sure I wasn’t off the day we abandoned common sense.

  1. We have to get involved because we are a big world player. Yes that’s the logic from the chair of the defense committee. Do you remember when you were a kid and your mum told you to stop being a sheep and copying the rest of your peers – any chance you could get her to speak to Cameron?

2. There will be collateral damage but it’s necessary to defeat IS. Really? So it’s fine for us to kill innocent people in the name of doing the “right thing” but not them? These terrorists aren’t stupid, they know to live among civilians because then they can claim we have killed women and children when we bomb them.

3. We’re friends with Jordan and Saudi Arabia and are fighting for freedom and fairness alongside them to defeat medieval practices. Well if we take a quick look at the arms receipts from many Middle East countries we have sold to, then maybe there is an argument to look the other way when they torture, behead and refuse democracy to their own people.

4. There are 75,000 troops in the Free Syrian army ready to step up when we get involved. But they didn’t bother when France, Russia, USA and others started bombing months ago. Also how can the Tories all of a sudden magic up a number of SFA members when they don’t know how many members of the Taliban or Al Qaeda or IS there are – do they have Google’s accountants working for them?

5. IS don’t recognise borders, neither should we. Okay, I won’t bother with my passport from now on then if you’re willing to rip up the rule books because of what a terrorist organisation decides.

6. If you are against the strikes you are a “Terrorist Sympathizer” Right so what should I do? Do I check in somewhere to pick up my clothes and gun before boarding the plane or do you want to treat us like grown ups who have a differing view of things from you Mr Cameron? Or do you apologise for saying something fucking stupid?

7. We will work towards cutting off the financial avenues IS are using to fund the war. Right, so they’re basically Starbucks with Guns. We know they have the money but we’d rather “Tsk” at them than do something about it. We know they are selling oil to neighbouring states and countries – oh yes they are our allies…

8. We have a UN resolution. Oh good that old chestnut, I’ve missed that. This is nostalgia for war mongerers. I’d go back and check the wording more carefully Mr Cameron – nothing in it says we can bomb indiscriminately. Maybe you spoke to Blair’s Lawyers, I’ve heard they’re good on these types of things.

9. We need to protect ourselves against terrorist attacks. We will be safer if we bomb them. In much the same way you are safer if you hit a wasp’s nest with a big stick and then stand still while the flying stingers attack you where you stand. Yes, a real lesson to learn there.

10. We shouldn’t worry about the shadow of Iraq on this decision. Exactly the opposite – we fucked up then for most of the same reasons we’re about to fuck up now. In short we have learned nothing from our fuck-uppery. Labour MPs should be looking carefully at themselves because they were guilty of lying twelve years ago – they should be standing and calling out Cameron today.

I could go on, but what’s the point? A huge sway of the public don’t want this. Experts are already making it clear without troops on the ground it won’t work. There are too many cooks in this stew and no-one is leading – it’s a free-for-all with Russia bombing the people we are about to try to support.

I don’t know if it’s cynicism or getting older but I’m extremely pissed off with this whole thing, from the same old lies to the ridiculous way in which Jeremy Corbyn has been treated by the media, MPs on all sides and some sections of the public. He will most likely lose the vote tonight, but he’s one of the few people who will walk away from this with his reputation intact.

We’ll look back on this as another example of stupidly jumping in where we should have sat round the table. “Impossible” I hear you cry, but hasn’t nearly every conflict ever been finally solved by signings of treaties and discussions. “They’re too evil they don’t want to talk” – the IRA did, the Nazis did, all involved in Bosnia eventually sat down. Bomb first, talk later? The talks in Vienna are being ignored when they are the best chance of progress.

But what do I know? I was off the day we turned into a nasty country who only solved through bombing, shooting, ignoring war crimes, selling arms to those in questionable regimes, taking money from those we should be putting sanctions on, supporting undemocratic practices and blowing things up kind of country. Must have been a Tuesday. I’m useless on Tuesdays.

JD

So far, so good for Labour

Standard

The Labour Party Autumn Conference 2015 - Day 3

He’s doing okay so far is Mr Corbyn. Of course I’m hesitant to celebrate as I am old enough to remember being disappointed by politicians since…forever really. But there is something fundamentally different about Jeremy Corbyn and that’s being genuine. Whether you agree with his politics or not you have to respect the man has walked the walk and talked the talk for over thirty years as a politician and before that as an activist.

And it’s that honesty and candour that appeals to so many people like myself who had become disillusioned with political leaders. The Spin Doctors and media whizz-kids have put up a barrier between us and our leaders – we don’t feel any connection with them and because of that the simple “like-ability” test has been lost. Don’t misjudge that for only looking at him and not the substance of his policy ideas and aims because that’s where it really starts to get interesting.

He’s not proposing the end of the world as many on the right and in the Tory press would have us believe. He’s not rising or retaliating to the personal comments and mudslinging. He’s not going to tax the rich unfairly or drive business away – in fact the opposite is true. The 50p top rate of tax coming back in is almost a gesture to show that those at the very top of society should contribute that wee bit more. Also the top 60,000 people who have benefitted from the cuts in inheritance tax are being told that the reversal of the cut is on the cards too.

The welfare state will support everyone who needs it. He’s not naive enough to think that there aren’t problems but he knows that there are those who have been and will continue to be hammered by a Tory led economic strategy. The working single parent, carers, the disabled and the self-employed are being considered, with the possibility of statutory sick pay, pensions and maternity/paternity a real possibility under a Corbyn led administration. Supporting Entrepreneurs? Labour’s out flanking the Tories on that front.

Not everything is perfect or shaped yet, but for only a couple of weeks into the job he is making some strong sweeping changes. Finally a voice to challenge the SNP north of the border and calling them out for the privatisation of areas of the NHS, cutting college places and damaging Further and Higher Education by the amalgamations and funding approaches and looking at the huge damage done by CfE. The SNP’s rhetoric has gone without anyone seriously challenging them and Corbyn is determined to stop that and ask people to look at the real issues. The SNP’s projected increase in majority is under threat now and they need to fight to protect what they have got never mind add to it.

Most of all I like the man’s principles. The idea of “Straight Talking; Honest Politics” is one that everyone would prefer, so why has it taken Jeremy to bring that to the table? We’re all fed up of Spin and lies and refusing to answer the question. He’s made it clear he doesn’t support the cyberbullying and misogyny that has crept into politics; he’s asking you and I to stand up for what we believe in – to protest peacefully and challenge decisions we disagree with; he’s openly challenging the idea that we need Nuclear Weapons, which in a modern world are pretty much redundant anyway and the money would be much better spent elsewhere; he’s engaging with us as individuals and that’s refreshing.

He will make mistakes. I’m sure at times I will question his opinions and policy proposals but at least I feel like the country is being represented rather than a few at the top who have paid for the privilege – both in the Tory and New Labour Parties. If we’ve learnt nothing from Lord Ashcroft’s book (apart from the fact Cameron stuck his dick into a dead pig’s mouth) it’s that those with money think they can get jobs and demand power over the politicians they pay for. Hedge fund managers investing £55m in a system that let’s them benefit by over three times as much in tax cuts. You know that with Jeremy Corbyn we won’t have that. He won’t allow it. And I like that honesty and representation in my politicians.

Really it comes down to these questions: Do you think he means what he says? Do you think he is determined to change politics and the Labour Party for the better? Do you think that a few to the right of the Labour Party will be able to remove a man who has the biggest mandate to be leader in the party’s history? Do you think the tens of thousands of people joining the Labour Party across the country don’t want change?

This is a grassroots groundswell demanding change – a change that many have said was coming and Corbyn is the start of it. Long term he might not be the solution, but where he leads many of us will gladly follow and support to bring about the new politics we so desperately need.

JD

Dear Mr Corbyn

Standard

Corbyn-Rex

Firstly congratulations on your victory. Regardless of all the scaremongering stories that we heard in the lead up to the result you are a deserved winner and you should be congratulated on your sensible approach during the campaign also.

Secondly I want to say that in the short time you have been in charge I’m already impressed with the way you have carried yourself and the decisions you have made. To speak at the rally in support of refugees wasn’t a stunt as you had already signed up to do it – but the speech you gave was one of the most passionate and common sense I’d heard from a politician for a long time.

Then you decided that a constituency event raising money & awareness on Mental Health was a bigger priority than appearing on the Andrew Marr show. To then appoint a Minister for Mental Health in your new Shadow Cabinet showed that you are serious about doing things not just saying them. As someone who lives with Bi-polar disorder and has faced some issues because of this I openly applaud such a bold and long-overdue move. Thank you for recognising the issue.

Not playing the games that the media try to lure you into is going to be tough, but you should stand your ground and be your own man – from all I’ve seen and read about you this won’t be difficult. What the media – especially the right-wing rags – will do is try to shout you down, but already you’ve made history by appointing more women than men in the Shadow Cabinet and have ignored the usual merry-go-round appearances on the radio & TV many others would have agreed to because they we’re told to my spin doctors and “experts”.

I look forward to see what  you do in the coming months in terms of policy and how you take ideas from all sides of the party. Already you are surrounded by a spectrum of beliefs around the table so I don’t doubt your sincerity when you say you want to listen. At the same time I would encourage you to keep up the honesty and frankness that got you elected. We’re fed up of the manicured men in designer suits hovering in the background having written every word, reference and joke their puppet makes – you offer a refreshing alternative so please don’t fall into that trap.

Also be brave in terms of what you want to achieve. Trident, Europe, Railways, investment in Infrastructure and Refugees are hugely important and dividing issues but if you can be the voice of reason there is no reason why those, like me, who have moved away from being a Labour voter to alternatives will come back. In Scotland you offer a direct challenge to the SNP as we know you can actually be in a position of power to do things they can only make empty promises about. In Wales and the North of England we should see those red areas reappear in 2020, and for the man and woman on the street working hard to make ends meet you will find support. By not cozying up the bankers but listening to those who are the most important people in this country – the working and middle class; the engine of the nation.

I would only ask one thing though: please don’t take us backward in ambition. While I can understand the socialist, left-wing approaches you favour, you need to balance that with opportunities for normal people to better themselves. Too often the far left have wanted to mute and equalise when in truth give options and opportunities to all within a collective, supportive and progressive framework could bring the UK back to its best.

I genuinely wish you and your team well – and you never know, I may even sign up as a member if the man I’ve seen in these last few months builds on the great foundation of common sense and honesty and proposes a fairer and more equal society.

Yours in anticipation

JD

Stop the world, I want to get off

Standard

3cd8a33a

We have Jews burning Palestinians alive in their homes, a hypocrite in charge in Israel condemning the actions of Jewish extremists whilst ignoring the ongoing encroachment of settlements which are illegal under international law. At the same time the right in America continue to support Netanyahu regardless of his actions – the same right that have attempted on more than forty occasions to reverse Obamacare which has allowed over 60 million people in the US access affordable healthcare.

It is also the right that is presenting fifty shades of mental by having Trump as a Republican candidate for President, a man who may be good at business but knows fuck-all about diplomacy, decency or haircuts. If you consider that it is the US approach to foreign policy that has created ISIS then Trump can only make things worse. Mind you if you look at the strange combinations of groups fighting each other with the same country on opposite sides in some battles as they try to contain the terrorists.

The fallout from these wars and civil wars is causing mass emigration and asylum seekers to escape the Middle East and North Africa. There are thousands on the other side of the English Channel trying to find their way across. It’s a humanitarian disaster. Add in the typical French response of burning things then it’s a complete disaster. Also in Europe there is the ongoing attack on Greece by a German led group of bullies forcing them to do unknown damage long-term to the Greek people and the national finances. Austerity only works to a point.

Ask Tony Blair how to balance these things when he accepted a payment of £400,000 for a speech on world poverty and hunger recently. He also believes that we still want to hear from him as he offered his tuppence worth on the Labour Leadership – a race that looks increasingly likely to be won by Jeremy Corbyn. Everyone seems scared of him – probably because he has a vision, values and ideas that mark him and potentially the party out as different from the others – at last! A fresh pair of eyes on the national picture could be a good thing or could cause mayhem, but then what’s worse than the Tories doing as they please while Harriet Harman loses her backbone? The BBC under threat, welfare cuts to those most in need and tax benefits removed from the lowest paid.

Finally there’s my own world which is still far from settled. This week I found myself in a hospice for my job – removing a chair which was of no use to the patient. As I walked through the building and saw all these poor individuals in long-term care or end of life care I wondered why we make a lot of noise about a lion shot in Africa but on our doorstep hundreds, if not thousands of people are forced to live in incapacitated states from which they will never recover. Young and old side by side suffering from life limiting illnesses – to quote my mum “You wouldn’t let an animal suffer like that”.

We live in a world where money and power trumps all, if you excuse the pun. We turn a blind eye to the asylum seekers, the poachers, the dying, the poor, the poverty-stricken and the disabled. We are more angry that a dentist shot a lion that we are of the 30,000 people just 26 miles across the water are looking to come here for safe haven. “Why don’t they stop where they arrive in Europe?” Well many do. Sweden takes more than we do, but one is too many for some. We shrug as another gun is fired in a cinema in America, as another racist incident happens or another example of climate change happens before our eyes and instead “like” a guy dancing at a music festival.

I’m not a religious man, but if I were I’d be wondering where my God was in all this misery and mayhem. Where is the hope? How can we make it through these horrible times we live in?

Stop the world, I want to get off.

JD