(Lack of) Food for thought

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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

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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

Be careful what you wish for…

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So it’s done again until 2020…or 2017 probably after the EU referendum. As a liberal-minded unionist lefty it’s not a great result for me either way today: SNP up here wanting to separate the union and the Tories down there ready to screw everyone even more in the next five years. It’s the first election I’ve voted in that has left me with little to be pleased about.

SNP

The historic win has to be recognised and as long as we have the first past the post system. But there are a few things to remember here, the SNP are the opposition party in Scotland to Labour and finally they won – it’s been a long time coming. Also it’s not a vote for another independence referendum, although that will come, but it does shake up the system which is maybe not a bad thing. However Nicola Sturgeon has to be careful what she asks for – recently she’s moved from wanting “full fiscal autonomy” to “fiscal responsibility”. While it might seem like semantics the two are very different.

“Autonomy” means we are left to run our own money – raise it and spend it with no Barnett formula, whereas “Responsibility” gives Sturgeon a safety net. Why would she need it? Well with current oil prices and no grant from Westminster we’d be anything from eight to ten billion pounds short in our budget. Where the SNP have to be careful is if they ask for it, it’s in the interests of the Tories to give it to them just to see it fail and get rid of the SNP possibly for a generation. While some may like to see the SNP in real trouble, it would mean the poorest in Scotland would suffer most.

Labour

Where do you start? Well I’d start at the point where Ed Miliband got elected as leader of the party. No one outside the unions wanted him – the public was expecting his brother to get the job and he would have had a much better chance than Ed yesterday. The reason? The lurch to the left. A return to the tribalism that kept the party out of power for eighteen years through the eighties and nineties.

Labour under Blair – regardless what you think of him – were a party that a majority could get behind. While it had an eye on working for everyone, it could also work with business and the banks. As much as we hate the banks we have to accept that we live in a capitalist model and until we – as a country – change that centre left is the best position for the Labour party. Weak leadership, no presence on the world stage, ideas with no substance and a man who let’s be honest we’re pretty glad will be gone. There’s no space for “pity politics” when they are in charge of our money and lives.

What next? Well for me Andy Burnham has always come across really well. Honest as Ed was but with more substance – and he’s not part of the political elite so he’d do well with the “working family” Labour claims to stand for.

Lib Dems

I have a soft spot for the Lib Dems, despite allowing tuition fees and the bedroom tax, they will be remembered for making the last five years almost bearable. If you don’t believe me write yourself a note saying “Remember the Lib Dems?”, stick it on your fridge and in about a year’s time you will be wishing someone was in the cabinet holding the Tories back from more cuts to the poorest in society, tax cuts for the richest and biggest businesses, and a lack of moral backbone of any kind.

Nick Clegg was not a monster but happened to fall foul of the “Black Widow” coalition – they were devoured by their mates after they screwed them. Should he have teamed up with the Tories? Well I don’t see how they could refuse in all honesty – a chance to implement their ideas and policies was too good a chance to miss. And they did deliver on raising the tax threshold by £5000 meaning most part-time workers or those on minimum wage didn’t pay any tax. I hope they bounce back stronger for the experience.

UKIP

Can fuck off

Tories 

It’s going to hurt. No two ways about it. For the next five years the belt-tightening will leave most of us with a permanent ingrained mark round our middles. Twelve billion pounds of cuts and a national debt that increased by half a trillion means no one will escape. And if track records are anything to go by we know that the worst off will face the biggest struggle. Foodbanks increased by a factor of more than ten in the last five years and around 900,000 people used them last year. Further cuts to benefits regardless of need, the removal of the Disability living allowance and reduced Child Benefit won’t bother the 1% super rich – but will impact on you and I.

Then there’s the biggest danger – Europe. This is the key to where we will be by 2020. Here are the two options:

1. Cameron negotiates a new deal and wins a referendum, decides to retire as Prime Minister and Boris steps up to the plate without the electorate getting a say.

or

2. Cameron negotiates a deal, but loses the referendum. This then will spark a second referendum in Scotland for Independence as we are Europhiles north of the border. With the prospect of fish, farming and oil being impacted it’s easy to see the Yes side winning.

And my fear is the latter is more likely.

Over the next five years I honestly think we could see a massive constitutional nightmare all because Cameron lurched right to call UKIP’s bluff. Redwood, Mitchell and other Eurosceptic Tories have already been on TV making warning noises.

While I will always respect the democratic process – and the shoddy first past the post system that left the Greens, UKIP, Plaid Cymru and the Lib Dems ridiculously under represented according to share of vote – I do think that with polar opposites either side of the border, we could be looking at Cameron being the last PM of the UK, and being the man who broke it.

JD

General Election – JD’s Guide

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Here is a simple guide to the upcoming election to help you if you are either a simpleton or easily manipulated.

The Tories

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Also known as the Conservatives, they are a group of upper middle class white men, who although straight, did become fags at school or something. They are known for guffawing and killing small furry animals and painting their faces with the blood. If you make a lot of money and want to keep it they will help you. If you don’t make a lot of money and want even less they can help you too.

Like to set challenges for poor people and the disabled are constantly being challenged to live on less and to stop being disabled. They will happily sign a note to say you can work even if you are dying. It’s because of them we have lots of food banks which is great – the more the better. Think of all the free food; thank you the Tories.

Reasons to vote for them: To make Downton Abbey a reality show rather than a drama

Reason to vote against: If you’re a bit common.

The Labours

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Once they were people with accents no one could understand, but now they speak right proper and everything. They claim they are supported by Unions, but I don’t believe in them because it’s just a horse with an ice cream cone on its head. They are a bit like Robin Hood in that they live in trees and like to be funny by calling big people little and little people big – sense of humour alert!

They like to spend a lot of money and pretend it’s Monopoly money so there’s no real consequences until they leave the job. They are big fans of cash for gold schemes and will happily sell you stuff they got down the pub too. Their current leader is actually Gilbert the Alien from Get Fresh painted cream.

Reason to vote for them: It’d be really funny to make Gilbert in charge

Reason not to vote for them: Because Gilbert would be in charge.

The Liberal Democratics

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Formed at Woodstock in 1969 these people love trees and banjo playing. They wash once a month on the third Tuesday to be fresh for the four equinoxes. Once a party we all loved they are now around level with the bad guy in Die Hard in that we don’t like him because he’s a baddie, but we still sneakily like him because he’s Alan Rickman.

They work with Tories to stop them being total bastards – forbidding them to do things like staring at your Gran and stealing trolleys from ASDA. Their Leader knows lots of languages and can say sorry in them all – which has been very important. They’re a bit like your ex: they promises but you know their sleeping with Kev.

Reason to vote for them: They like Pringles

Reason to not vote for them: Only original flavour.

The UKIPpers

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A bunch of cheery, happy-go-lucky racists – just like your Granda they hate everyone who isn’t from their street. David Icke says they look like reptiles but then he’s mental. They like beer and if you like beer they like you as long as it’s British Beer or they might glass you or something.

They get confused by hating foreign people while hiring, marrying and working with them. I think someone needs to do some flashcard work with them. They tend to do well with people who aren’t very clever and who drag their knuckles when they walk. They try to scare us by saying that all foreign people have the AIDS and just want to use the NHS as some kind of Bond Villain hideout.

Reason to vote for them: You’re a racist

Reason not to vote for them: You like takeaway food

The Scottish Nationalistics

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Led by 1980s Crackajack star Wee Jimmy Krankie these are the Scottish equivalent of UKIPpers (but are only racist against they border). Once they asked people a question and then they put their fingers in their ears and shouted “nanananana I can’t hear you” so they never really heard the answer.

They want to turn Scottishland into Royston Vasey. Not so much a local shop for local people, but a bit weird and scary and cannibalistic. Rumours are that only people with Fish based names can be in charge and they have Pike from Dad’s army ready to take over if there’s and accident to the Krankie.

Reason to vote for them: You thought Braveheart was historically accurate

Reason to not vote for them: You don’t live in Scotland.

Everyone Else

There are other flavours of idiots available for you to vote for in the Election including all the ones with letter if you live in Nrn Ireln; the party that needs vowels from Wales; the Green Party who like trees and probably don’t shave intimate areas; and many others.

Who you vote for is your decision, you much make a choice between a selection of people you would never have over for dinner or even let in your house. In fact if your son or daughter brought any of them home you would immediately move so it could never happen again. But don’t worry – it’s not as important as that you’re only picking the people run our country.

JD

 

NB This is a joke. If you didn’t work that out you are not allowed to vote. Twat.

Why is Westminster panicking about the SNP?

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There is a sense of panic around Westminster at the moment with the Tories already ruling out a coalition with the SNP and the same questions are now being asked of Labour Party – the quote of the day being from Camoron “You could end up with an alliance between the people who want to bankrupt Britain and the people who want to break up Britain.” So why do we find ourselves in a position where a Nationalist party could dictate what the whole of the UK does?

According to the polls there is a good chance that the SNP will be looking at anything between 30 and 41 seats in Scotland after the next election. But I don’t understand why. This is a party who all through the Referendum debates moaned and decried everything that Westminster stood for; now having lost that referendum they seem to be interested again.

Salmond has slunk back out from under his retirement stone to stand in my own constituency of Gordon and I’ll tell you now – he will not get my vote. The man is a hypocrite. Wanting to break up the UK and now eyes up the position of Deputy Prime Minister of that same place is as two-faced as it gets. Nick Clegg is by no means perfect, but I’d rather him again that Eck. He talked about our strong economic future and the oil – funny that they have gone very quiet on this issue as we would be struggling today if independent. With oil at half the price it was and thousands made unemployed in the industry and several thousand more on pay cuts and freezes it isn’t a strong economic position. If the SNP had their way we would be in trouble already.

“The SNP are in the best position to represent Scotland’s interests at Westminister.” Wrong. the SNP are only interested in themselves and another referendum. Regardless who you elect in May their job is to work for their constituency – the country they are from is largely irrelevant as far as I am concerned. Nationalists are blinkered to the bigger picture and will not do a good job for the country as a whole because they will be suffering from nationalistic tunnel vision.

Vote SNP and we’ll probably end up with a coalition that is not up to the job…again. Voting Labour is such a difficult thing to do as Milibland is the last of the three main party leaders you want to represent the UK, but a vote for Labour is the only way we can get rid of the Tories. Then there are the tactical voting areas. Here in Gordon the Lib Dems have the best chance of beating Salmond so I will probably have to consider that as an option. Down south vote against UKIP wherever they stand. Simples.

If only it were that easy. This election could lead to a very unsettled and difficult coalition that could easily unbalance the country and its finances. I don’t trust the SNP to do the right thing. I don’t think they have been a positive thing here in government in Scotland never mind giving them some control of the reins nationally. Their interfering in the Education system alone to me is evidence that they don’t have the capacity to do the job.

Salmond returning to Westminster is like having Richard Dawkins as the Archbishop of York – hypocritical and ludicrous.

JD

 

Roll on September 19th

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I’ve had enough. I know it’s democracy and we should be hugely grateful we live in a country that can make this decision without firing a bullet, but enough is enough.

The Scotland we know and love is gone. The UK as we knew it has gone too. What could and should have been a positive and wide discussion about the future of our country (and you can see that as both Scotland and the UK) has instead turned into a pathetic tit-for-tat spat. Over the weekend one poll put the Yes vote ahead by two points if the undecideds were not included. I would point out that if you check all the other polls not one of them agreed with that assessment. But then that’s not news. I’ve had enough of it:

Enough of lies: Why are we at all surprised that politicians are lying to us from all sides on the issues involved? Did you really think that they would finally behave themselves during this campaign? If you did, you deserve what you get when it all goes tits up.

Enough of the bickering: Semantics are easily played with and that’s what has been batted around for the last two and a half years. The slightest contradiction is blown up beyond all sanity for the sake of a soundbite or headline.

Enough of the bitterness: This is what we’ll be left with on the 19th – a divided and bitter country who will look at the other side with anger regardless of the outcome. Politicians against politicians, friends against friends, family members against family members – and for what? Do we really want a country that only just believes in the decision by 2 or 3% points? We wouldn’t have a chance in the future as a united Scotland.

Enough of the heckling: You can’t post anything online without the nit pickers moaning and correcting you – I have an opinion and you have yours, fine, but stop “correcting me” as I haven’t done that to your posts. There seems to be a fear in Yes voters that other opinions exist – I’ve read interesting articles from both sides but I don’t automatically negatively comment on the Yes ones because I’m a No voter – each to their own.

Enough of the Apathy: “I don’t think I’ll vote”. Get off the fence and decide, because the last thing I want is this to squeak by either way because it means we are in trouble.

Enough of the SNP: The sooner their smug and patronising faces vanish from my TV the happier I’ll be. (To be honest all the politicians involved are really grating now!) You do not speak for Scotland. You do not have a mandate to do anything. The majority of Scots did not vote for you so stop pretending you are the only solution to the problem you yourself have caused. Also you had the chance to bury the Bedroom Tax but rather than travel down to Westminster to vote you were campaigning instead.

Enough of the vandalism: I’m a no voter but I wouldn’t pull down any Yes campaign material – others haven’t been as sensible. Both sides are guilty, but from what I’ve seen the No material is more likely to be removed or torn up.

Enough of the division: We are going to have to work out a way to carry on as a group after the vote regardless of the result. We were a decent wee country, a country that had an identity but was part of the UK – that will be gone the day after the votes are made. We’ll no longer be a society who pull together because too much has been said and done for it to just pass without consequence. In my opinion this has ruined Scotland for at least a generation if not more. The polarisation of this campaign has removed a lot from the Scottish character and it’ll be difficult to get it back.

Enough of the fantasy: If Scotland becomes independent it will not be a great place to live for a long time – the change over will be painful financially so let’s stop pretending it’ll be fine, because it won’t. Stop using Norway as an example in comparisons because if you actually look at the rate of change and building of it as a sovereign nation then it’s path has been really hard going – have a wee read of your history books before going there again. Also we won’t be free of Westminster even if the SNP get their way because the Queen will still be head of state, the Bank of England would still set our rates (and they’ll be different to the rest of the UK) and we’ll rely on England, Wales and N Ireland to help us out initially.

Enough. Just stop, stand back and look at our country. Look at where we were a few years ago and now consider the 19th of September. Have we lost more than we’ve gained? Have we damaged our society? Are we still one country? Are we still Scotland?

The only question left to answer now is the one on the Ballot paper and regardless the result, I think we’ve already lost.

JD

Pound for Pound, Scotland’s better in the UK

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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