Thursday, 26 December 2013

Unions need more political clout

According to a respondent to a piece in the (Thurrock) Echo concerning London Gateway finally agreeing union recognition with Unite: "Unions are of their time... yesterday. Over the decades, they achieved many good things with regards to working conditions and workers rights. Unions are of very little use in todays workforce and only achieve negativity in the workplace. These days they only have political agendas and rarely give a d*mn about individual workers."

Yes, unions have achieved great strides in workers conditions and rights; and this is an ongoing process. Just as with our health we don't hear people saying that medicine has had its day because it has eradicated many of the diseases and conditions that led to premature death among much of the poorer classes. No, we strive to enhance our knowledge and further improve the health of people.

In other words the march of medicine has no limits. Similarly the rights and conditions of working people have no ceiling. As new forms of employment are introduced into the workplace; as modern work applications are brought onto shop floors, offices, building sites, etc; as capitalism strives to retain a greater share of the cake, so new challenges are thrown at workers.

The idea that we, as workers have reached some magical point in our struggle for equity is risible. Across many sectors. Both public and private, wages remain frozen; or if they rise it is below inflation thus in real terms a pay cut. This Con-Dem government, in obeisance to neo-liberalism, has done its damnedest to roll back hard sought and fought for regulations in vital areas such as health and safety; and given another term would drag us back to pre-war conditions.
Which brings me to the final point made by our misled Echo reading Comrade, which is unions having political agendas. There is no pint condemning this person. After all he is only voicing an opinion held by many who don’t understand the purpose of trade unions. Indeed the many who have become so distanced from the political process to feel disenfranchised.
Yes unions do need a political voice, or if you wish ‘agenda’. Those critical of unions flexing their political muscles aren’t as vociferous in condemning the boss class for their outings into the political field. Seemingly, politics is the natural playground, the personal preserve of capital. 
How, I wonder, does our friend from the Echo think workers improved their conditions and rights? Does he suppose philanthropic bosses lobbied parliament in order to bring about health and safety measures in the workplace to reduce the working week to five days to pay people a minimum wage.

No, all these measures and more were won by trade union organised workers fighting on behalf of all workers. Sitting back waiting for employers and the capitalist class to understand the concept of fairness in the workplace would be a waste of time, indeed a betrayal to the workers of today, and those who follow tomorrow.

Industrially, politically and socially trade unions have demonstrated that theirs is a progressive agenda. Therefore, rather than having less political input I would argue that trade unions need to have a far greater influence in the political life of this country.      

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Scumbag Boris Johnson

With reference to the super rich, wealthy and elitist Mayor of London, Boris Johnson stated: "We should stop any bashing or moaning or preaching or bitching and simply give thanks for the prodigious sums of money that they are contributing to the tax revenues of this country, and that enable us to look after our sick and our elderly and to build roads, railways and schools."

Scumbag Johnson should be starved of all publicity
Johnson further claimed that London's wealthy were a "..."put-upon minority" like homeless people and Irish travellers and should be protected from any further "bullying" from the public..."

And guess what? His statements were met with howls of indignation by people, who should frankly know better.

Boris Johnson is a self-publicist par excellence. He has made a career out of putting people's backs up. It's what he does; and he does it very well.

The best way to treat scum like Johnson is to totally ignore them; starve them of the column inches or minutes of TV or radio time; ignore their tweets and avoid them on other social media sites.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Dennis Skinner

Some years ago speaking in Parliament Dennis Skinner made the following observation:

"Half the Tories opposite are crooks."

The Speaker, as is his wont, calls on Skinner to:

"Please retract."

To which Skinner, quick as you like, ripostes:

"OK, half the Tories opposite aren't crooks."

Dennis Skinner giving someone stick in Parliament
Sure, it's old. But it's still:

1)  True
2)  Or at least half true, and
3)  Hilarious.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Another cheating MP gets off Scott free

It's all too easy these days to make mistakes when calculating the bills for extremely complex electricity usage. Yes, this can entail such intricate operations as reading a five digit number from a digital screen; or for those mathematically minded taking readings from five dials on a mechanical meter.

Very heady stuff. More Einstein than the average eejit could handle. But surely not so hard for a millionaire Tory businessman who has a BSc in Chemical Engineering and co-founded  the international internet-based market research firm YouGov.

So, it's reasonable to expect MP Nadhim Zahawi to be able to properly manage his leccy bill. You'd say it should be piece of piss for someone of his educational attainment. But no. Somehow or other Mr Zahawi got into a muddle when he put in electric bill claims for parliamentary expenses. Apparently he overlooked the fact that he has a stables business attached to his home; and he has been unlawfully claiming parliamentary expenses for a business interest.

Now call me a penny pinching purse-padlocking tightwad, but if my bill fluctuates by more than say 10%-20% over a quarter I'm checking old bills and on the blower to my rapacious supplier asking why and threatening to pull the plug on them - figuratively speaking of course; since they're better placed to literally pull the plug on me!

Through the laughter Cameron says to Zahawi: "You thought £6000 was a normal leccy bill. Behave, it's me you're talking to; not some mug MP on the Enquiries Committee. Best plead ignorance; the MP's defence of choice". 
Yet,  MP Nadhim Zahawi, didn't think it strange that his electricity bills were coming in at nearly £6000; that though his home had a personal meter and the stables and stable manager's mobile home a separate meter; this unconcerned MP didn't think it a bit odd that he was only receiving one bill from his supplier.

Here we go again. A mega rich man who sits in parliament legislating for the rest of us hides behind the defence of ignorance while promising to pay back the money he fiddled. So, when are people who make mistakes with their benefits claims going to be afforded the same get out?

If ignorantia legis neminem excusat holds for one, it should hold for all. So Mr Zahawi stop being a coward using your parliamentary and wealth privilege as cover and resign. You're a wrong 'un, mate. How dare you remain in place as an MP making laws for the rest of us to follow when you have no regard for the very laws that you pass. 

Willy McBride's Reply

A FB poster put up a comment on the relevance of the song The Green Fields of France (TGFoF), better known as 'Willy McBride' on today of all days. 

Searching through Google I came across a scenario that plays out thus: Willy McBride replies to the lyrics written by Eric Bogle to the original song. A song that is lauded by many as a great anti-war, song. The lyrics to Willy's response are penned by Stephen L Suffet. 

The reply sung now by Willy himself is performed using the same tune as TGFoF. The people on the site I found this song regard this response to be a great tribute to Eric Bogle's original. I think it misses the point of not only what Eric strove to achieve; I honestly think that Suffet, the lyricist, has distorted history and has taken Willy in. 

"My dear friend Eric, this is Willie McBride,
Today I speak to you across the divide,
Of years and of distance of life and of death,
Please let me speak freely with my silent breath.

You might think me crazy, you might think me daft,
I could have stayed back in Erin, where there wasn't a draft,
But my parents they raised me to tell right from wrong,
So today I shall answer what you asked in your song.

Yes, they beat the drum slowly, they played the pipes lowly,
And the rifles fired o'er me as they lowered me down,
The band played "The Last Post" in chorus,
And the pipes played "The Flowers of the Forest."

Ask the people of Belgium or Alsace-Lorraine,
If my life was wasted, if I died in vain.
I think they will tell you when all's said and done,
They welcomed this boy with his tin hat and gun.

And call it ironic that I was cut down,
While in Dublin my kinfolk were fighting the Crown.
But in Dublin or Flanders the cause was the same:
To resist the oppressor, whatever his name.

Yes, they beat the drum slowly...,,,.

It wasn't for King or for England I died,
It wasn't for glory or the Empire's pride.
The reason I went was both simple and clear:
To stand up for freedom did I volunteer.

It's easy for you to look back and sigh,
And pity the youth of those days long gone by,
For us who were there, we knew why we died,
And I'd do it again, says Willie McBride."

After nearly a century Willy and his fallen Comrades still stand as though in rank and file

Hmm, no offence to young Willy McBride, but I somehow feel he's been sold an Imperialists version of events. Even after forcing these lads into early graves; or onto ships for the wounded bond for the silence of Circular Quay, the powers that be continue their propaganda.

Down the decades Willy and the hundreds of thousands of the butchered and slain have heard the shrill reminder of military bugles blown in their honour. No peace for these heroes as the great and the good take over the show every November. Sombre faces, graver than even the rows of stones that keep the young fallen on eternal parade.

Indeed, so great is the hypocrisy of a ceremony that was intended to mark the war that ended all wars, that as each and every war is filed away and buried, so the dead are paraded in the grisly roll call of the deceased. Why would we end wars, when we have a cast of unemployed actors willing to perform a dance of death around the cenotaph every year; and soldiers from poor backgrounds willing to make up the roll call.

Hate to break the news to you Willy, you being dead and all. But, there was a massive difference between the causes of people of Flanders and their Irish counterparts in 1914. Little Belgium was never going to be permanently subsumed into a Greater Germanic Empire; she would have returned to being little Belgium after the end of hostilities.

Your Ireland on the other hand, despite promises made to gain support from Irish nationalists prior to the war, was never going to gain independence by peaceful means. Ireland was even denied independent representation, granted to other small countries such as Belgium, at the Peace Conference of 1919.

"So young Willy McBride they fed you a lie
All neatly packaged and easy to buy
For oppression was also their stock in trade
And out in no man's land you were finally betrayed
When a capitalist bullet ripped from you your breath
And lying in agony you went on to meet death." 

Paxman was spot on...

I'm writing this in reference to Jeremy Paxman calling David Cameron a 'complete idiot' after the PM spoke in terms almost glorifying the First World War. However, Paxman, and a great deal of other people, don't view next year's centenary of the beginning of the blood bath better known as the 'Great War', or to the optimists, the war to end wars, as a cause for celebration. Indeed Paxman refers to the conflict as a 'calamity'.

Now a senior Downing Street aide, Rob Wilson MP, has joined the furore caused by that famous Leftist fellow travelling BBC commie, Paxoman's 'complete idiot' description of Cameron. Being classed as a 'complete idiot' is arguably Cameron's greatest achievement, given the calibre of the competition he must have faced: George Osborne, Michael Gove, Jeremy Hunt and IDS to name but a few first class contenders.

Apparently, Wilson wrote: “Mr Paxman should make a full and public apology for his comments. He should make it clear to BBC viewers and licence fee payers that his remarks were inaccurate and ill-founded.

“This sneering and aggressive approach is one of the reasons many people are put off politics.”

Well fuck me gently on the back seat of a Bentley if Rob Wilson MP's words don't take the full packet of (dark) chocolate digestives. But he has a point.

If it isn't a weirdly beardy Paxman taking those vulnerable Ministers and MPs to task over the absolute lash-up they're making of the economy; then it's that evil Jon Snow ambushing Sir Alex Ferguson in an interview, implying that poor old Alex was a Stalinist; or John Humphries eviscerating some unsuspecting Minister at an ungodly hour of the morning.

Jeremy Paxman, arch Leftie scourge of MPs and Ministers of State

Rob Wilson is well and truly in denial, well and truly up at the blue end. For a few years I lived next to a secondary modern school in North London, and the noise from its playground was far more civilised than the Yahoo bun fights that take place at regular occurrence during sittings of parliament.

From listening to the hubbub that emanates from that particular house of horrors, one wonders how this shower can hold the keep a grip on, let alone steer the ship of state without continuously running aground. But then, that's exactly what they do in an all too frequent fashion.

No Mr Wilson, people are not put off politics by sneering aggressive news presenters. They're but a minor irritation; and they don't hold sway over our wellbeing. No Wilson, they're put off by lying, mendacious, duplicitous, arrogant, stupid, elitist, avaricious, greedy, rapacious, voracious, untrustworthy, dissembling twats like you, Cameron, Osborne and Iain Drunkard-Shite. We're put off by people like you who for a living make our lives hell; rich people who steer their ideologically driven policies through parliament as though out on a grouse shoot on the Yorkshire Moors.

And guess what? We're the fucking grouse!


If you ever find yourself in doubt
Always be first to get your version out
Trying to mend a flat in the pissing rain
Is a fruitless exercise, a fucking pain.

Don't ever get placed next to doubt
Even though there's a lot of it about
Wherever possible give it a wide berth
I think you'll see my advise has worth.

Wherever there's a chance of doubt
Make a big disturbance, act like a lout;
Though you'll seem odd and even mad
It's better than being depressed and sad.

It lingers and waits its turn does doubt
Just biding its time to catch you out;
Then in like Flynn it makes it play
And once in place it's there to stay.

Now here's my final thought on doubt
It's too easily sown and a git to rout;
Do not ever succumb to the devious,
And never ever admit to any previous! 

Is this love?

You know you’re in love,
That she's the one,
When a little dove,
Sings 'Here comes the sun'.

Your heads in the air,
Your heart’s all a flutter,
The stars in the sky,
Look great from the gutter.

Noise becomes music
And racket abounds
Yet you get a kick
From all of these sounds.

Even that nasty git
Whose views sour milk
Becomes a great wit
His words turned to silk.

Now loves got you
In its gossamer hold
One becomes two
Your lives turns to gold.

Thank god...

Thank god people can't hear what I'm thinking
Said this drunken sot after hours spent drinking
And ranting and raving for most of the day
It's a wonder I could hold a thought anyway.

Thank god people can't see into my deepest soul
For I'm ashamed all they'd find is a very dark hole;
And sadly the same goes for that parallel part
Which both artists and medics agree is a heart.

Thank god people don't know the fear that I hold
On the outside I'm brash, and artificially cold;
Yet when the curtain of night drowns out the light
My world becomes awful full of horror and fright.

Thank god people don't all endure the same terrors
They've lived decent lives, not like mine full of errors
So they can carry on with their thoughts without fear
Of hurting or embarrassing all those they hold dear.

Thank god people do not think the way that I do
Otherwise there'd be no variety in our human zoo
For villains, wrong 'uns, the bad and good to reside
We must all go with the flow that's humanity's tide.

The Times (Sunday or otherwise) they are a changin'

Oh the Times they are a changing
As we find Jerry Hicks arranging
His recent political affiliations
To fit in with his new relations.

What strange times in which we live
When Tory Sundays seem to give
Space to all with an axe to grind
But maybe they're of a same mind.

The times he thundered at a husting
I'm sure he felt his wee heart busting
Spurred on by his comrades clapping
Gone are his words into fish supper wrapping.

This false thunderer's time will come
And as with all rats and assorted scum
May he long suffer plagues and the pox
And the same applies to all the Murdochs. 

Sunday, 10 November 2013

The growing dichotomy between direct payments and flexibility and fair Ts and Cs for PA/carers

The care sector is a fast growing area of our economy. As longevity becomes the norm, so more of us will succumb to the ravages, infirmities and disabilities associated with old age; and thus have a greater call on care and support in our later stages of life.

As family demographics change, with fewer children per family unit; as offspring are expected to work longer; and as the benefits' system begins to militate against people opting to act as unpaid carers, so we'll begin to experience a radical change in support patterns, for both disabled people and those contracting age related conditions and illnesses.

The other negative factor in this equation is of course the very future of the NHS. Like so many others born at a time when free health care at the point of need was regarded as the norm, I've spent most of my life secure in the knowledge that my health needs will be met, as and when needed, by the NHS.

But today the salami slicing of the NHS presages a gloomy, if not terrifying future for all but the wealthy; especially so if you've knocked at the door of middle age and been admitted...and disabled to boot!

As someone who already receives a local authority care package and who also works within the voluntary sector as a direct payments worker, I'm viewing the current care situation from these two perspectives; and as a disability and trade union activist I can add another couple.

Historically the care industry has relied upon the good will of its labour force as well as the vocational calling associated with the work. Whether employed in a residential care home, or as a traditional home help these days, largely, superseded by workers termed as PAs (personal assistants), the pay is low and the hours long. The rewards, I guess, are reaped from the caring nature of the work.

But, let's take a look at the working patterns of some of these workers. Samantha Nelson gets up at 5.30 am to begin a day's work that can last until 11 pm - 17 hours a day; that's some work shift! If a company CEO worked those hours he'd demand a six figure salary, plus an inflated expenses account, and because 'he's worth it' a stonking shares allocation.

Conversely, because Samantha is not paid for her time driving between clients, over 50 miles a day. Though she will often cover an 18 hour day as she is on a Zero-Hours contract she's not paid for the travelling time between jobs. Consequently, as she is only paid for the 'care hours' she works, this drags her hourly rate to below the statutory minimum wage.

This area of employment is ripe for wider coverage, and I suggest you look at this link:

Though PAs employed by direct payment users are not normally subjected to quite the Orwellian style of supervision imposed on their agency-employed counterparts, there are many parallels.

As local authorities pare back care and support packages, sometimes from five or six hours per day to an hour per day, so the PA becomes more stretched. Where once upon a time she or he could get by on one or maybe two clients per week; she's now forced to work at three, four or more jobs.

What then happens is this. The flexibility that directly paid for services was sold to disabled people becomes a thing of the past. Think it through. If a PA has two clients there is usually room for flexibility within the package.

Say she works three hours per day (Mon-Fri) over two shifts for one client, maybe 1.5 hours each am and pm (15 hours); and does five 4.5 hour stints, again Mon-Fri, with another (22.5), totalling 37.5 hours per week - not including the time she spends making 30 trips per week to and from the homes of clients.

Now extend that to four clients, say visiting one two times a day for an 1.5 hours (15); and the other three over the same five days in three 30 minute shifts (22.5), again totalling 37.5 hours per week - again travelling to and from the place of work a staggering 110 trips per week! It's doable if the clients are very close to one and other, say in the same sheltered accommodation complex.

Sadly the choice element of direct payment diminishes with each budget cut
Sounds incredible. But remember Samantha Nelson's 17 hour day for which she was only paid actual time spent with the client.

This leads me to the final point I'll make on this subject for now. Not only does this sector offer poor Ts and Cs to its workers, and sadly we DP users are drawn into this as we're also PA employers, but it makes a mockery of the very idea of the flexibility that underpinned the whole concept of self-directed support for disabled and elderly people.

Until and unless we set up a National Care Service along the original model of the NHS, except offering care and support free at the point of need the problems I have outlined will persist and worsen as time passes.

It is my intention to gather more information on this sector, particularly around direct payments (DPs), PAs, and organising both agency and DPs PAs.

We don't need to feed on scapegoat scare stories from Tories

Somewhere on Facebook earlier today I briefly commented on a piece about young lads wearing their jeans low and which shows off their underwear. Bit of a jokey view on youngsters lack of dress sense, until someone came in with comments on chavs.

The word Chav, whether used to describe a way of dress or indeed the person so dressed is actually quite an offensive term. It's pejorative and only serves to demean.  People who use the term are buying into a mindset that strives to divide people into groups of acceptable and unacceptable. In my mind always a dangerous game to play.

Just as this government uses clumsy devices such as strivers versus skivers to form false distinctions between worthy workers and the unworthy unemployed, so it serves to set one set of oppressed people against another. Classic divide and rule.

Seventy-five years ago, this weekend, an event that has passed down to us as Kristallnacht (crystal night or more properly embedded in many minds as 'night of broken glass') took place. Coordinated attacks by SA paramilitary squads destroyed 7000 Jewish businesses in cities across Germany and Austria; indeed of 1000 synagogues damaged by fire 95 were in Vienna; while 91 Jews died and a further 30,000 sent to concentration camps.

Of course that was the Nazis and they picked on Jews, not simple chavs whose only real crimes are against fashion; oh, and being easy targets for governments, and all too sadly those who should know better.

Look, depriving Tories of their entitlement to single out groups of people to vilify and demonise is tantamount to denying them their basic human rights. Just as disabled people call for the right to equal opportunity in employment, housing, health care etc, so Tories expect to be able to divide the working classes in such a way as to pit one against the other.

Just as back in the 1930s the Nazi's scapegoated Jews, disabled people, Gypsies, Communists, Socialists etc for the economic ills that had befallen Germany so today's Tories seek out groups onto which they wish to pin the blame for this country's shortfalls.

Some images depicting the savagery of the Nazi attacks on Jewish
homes, businesses and synagogues on November 9th 1938  

So, if you've a mind to demonise
Just have a thought and realise
That from routine persecution
Grew the Nazi's Final Solution.

Jerry Hicks - rising star of the Sunday Times

According to Hicks he's the Left's only choice,
When others screw workers its just his voice
That comes to the rescue of his working class,
And, as for class traitors he'll not let them pass.
Full time officers are hacks as is the GS at the top
So when Jerry Hicks wins the day all this will stop
As every five years FTOs will to go for the vote
Making their jobs insecure, and probably cutthroat.
We're all aware of Unite's Labour Party affiliation
Which to Jerry and his ultra's is quite an aberration;
So don't worry, indeed let's forget the Labour link,
Perhaps we'll get by politically with a nod and a wink.
But now our working class hero shows his true hue
By blabbing to the Sunday Times that is so Tory blue.
It's not enough that his class is under fierce attack,
That he takes advantage by stabbing Unite in the back;
This sums up the man, it shows an ego that's willing,
To cede class loyalty for power and the Murdoch shilling.

Tribalism over capitalism

My supporting Chelsea elicited this response on Facebook. Football's a funny old game.

"Good to see you support a team built upon the exploitation of working people, comrade."

What a load of patent bollocks, Bob!

I've been supporting Chelsea since I was a small child, just as, no doubt, you've been a Baggy by dint of geography. People from the part of London in which I grew up in, Stockwell, have traditionally supported either Chelsea, Crystal Palace or Millwall. At around the age of 5 or 6 I plumped for Chelsea (coming from an Irish family there was no real affiliation to any English team). My choosing Chelsea probably had something to do with the tribalism and peer pressure that, particularly, young boys are susceptible.

The idea of a Russian oligarch owning (or more correctly running) my football club is an affront to my socialist ideals. But then, where to turn? You may agree Bob, or not, that dirty filthy lucre has pretty much tainted the game at its higher levels. Doubtlessly West Bromwich Albion, given the opportunity, would sell out to an adventurist capitalist tomorrow; and fuck what the fans think.

Abramovich in the thick of it lapping up the players' adulation after winning the 2012 Champions League 

I can't believe you've gone away to build a case against Abramovich. Is it to beat me up with? Is it to inform me of what a nasty capitalist he is?

Bob, I'm fairly au fait with Roman Abramovich's history. Your resorting to throwing it into my face as though I'm complicit in rise to obscene wealth by supporting another of his acquisitions is not very nice. I also shop at Sainsbury's; my bank is probably involved in all sorts of nefarious goings-on; Lambeth Life, the ALMO, my proxy landlord is most likely up to no good; my gas, electricity and water suppliers are all vampiric companies squeezing the life blood from me, and the nation

...but my biggest crime is that I'm still embroiled in the tribalism of my youth by supporting a football team owned by a rampant capitalist. Now there's a fucking novelty.  

Sunday, 3 November 2013

McCluskey bests Andrew Neil

A few years ago Andrew Neil and myself exchanged a few pleasantries whilst travelling up in a lift in the Midland Hotel Manchester. I was there as a delegate to the Labour Party conference; and no doubt Neil was there to see and be seen in the hotel's rather capacious heaving bar area.

Back to the lift in which I sat awaiting arrival to the floor of my choice. On my lap was my lunch, a couple of overpriced conference sandwiches. So, slowly we climb, half-a-dozen disparate souls travelling inexorably upwards; typically we each protected our own little bit of lift space, careful not to interact; purposeful in maintaining that uncomfortable silence which lift travel demands.

As we rose so the tension in the lift grew, until Andrew Neil could no longer hold himself, and breaking with lift etiquette caught my eye and blurted out: "I see you have two sandwiches there!".

To which I responded: "Nothing much gets past you, does it Andrew? No wonder you're a leading political pundit on national TV".

Of course I disgracefully accepted the cheap desired guffaws from the other lift occupants.

However, on a more serious note, after watching Andrew Neil's attempts to interview Len McCluskey this morning I'm not so sure what exactly such a biased reporter with no sense of journalistic objectivity is doing on national TV - especially the BBC which I'm unreliably informed is a hotbed of pro-Leftist politics.

So good on you, Lennie. Andrew Neil's attempts to steer McCluskey into yet another media trap were quite pathetic. Who exactly does he think he's dealing with...Ed Miliband?

No, unlike the all-too-easily-gulled leader of our Labour Party, 'Easily Led Ed', the on-the-ball General Secretary of Unite the Union, Lennie McCluskey, was more than a match for this right-wing hack. All Neil could throw into the debate was worn-out propaganda fed to him by, as McCluskey pointed out, lazy press journalists.

Neil then claimed Stevie Deans saw the retractions of witnesses in the Falkirk investigation before they went public. McCluskey reminded Neil that as some of these witnesses were actually part of the Dean's family it was only natural that they would act as families often do...speak to one and other!

Stumped, again, Neil went on the attack by calling the goings-on in Falkirk 'a cesspit' and demanding that there should be an independent investigation. Do try to keep up, Andrew. Unite called for exactly this at the outset in the summer.

Then Neil tries to effect schlock horror when McCluskey, quite rightly, lays claim that the Tory central office, Daily Mail and Sunday times were involved in setting traps for Ed Miliband.

May I make a suggestion Andrew Neil. Stick to observing the luncheon habits of the sandwich-devouring lift-loitering conferences, for there lies your forte.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

No need for Tata steel to scrap 500 UK jobs

The Tata steel redundancies are not inevitable. The government could forestall the loss of 500 steel industry jobs in Scunthorpe, Teesside and Workington; and it can do so without waving a magic wand, or for that matter throwing 'tax-payers' (or, yours and my) hard earned at the problem.

Tata complains that the markets for its product, steel, is shrinking mainly because not enough houses are being built. There is a massive shortfall in affordable housing in the UK. There are also hundreds of thousands of building workers without work. The economy, despite misreporting by the government, is barely ticking over.

A programme of mass affordable house building would put construction workers back into work, thus pushing up the demand for steel.

But that would only be the start. When people move into new houses they tend to buy carpets, curtains/blinds, furniture, wallpaper, paint; they have new kitchens installed and bedroom cupboards built; back gardens are decked out.

Oh look! A burgeoning economy. Not only do we have hundreds of thousands of workers building the houses we have furniture, white goods, TVs, sound systems, etc being bought. These need to be manufactured and sold; creating and providing jobs for hundreds of thousands more workers.

But even that isn't the end of the upturn. Properly regulated, the extra supply in housing would help to stabilise house prices, especially in London and the SE where it is almost impossible for anyone but Croesus to get onto the property ladder; it would bring down rents; and make a nonsense of the an already universally derided bedroom tax.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

ATOS Members vote for action

A recent pay offer was rejected by ATOS IT Services and ATOS Healthcare workers who balloted 80%+ support for strike action and 90%+ support for action short of strike.

Loath or love them ATOS members have voted to support industrial action; it's a shame that such numbers do not resist the quota system they're operating. A system that serves to impoverish hundreds of thousands of sick and disabled people while driving thousands of others to premature deaths.  

It is beyond me why ATOS workers feel they need to comply with a flawed DWP system of assessment and the government's blatantly obvious policy of driving down numbers of benefits claimants, as in the case of ESA claimants being shoved onto JSA, a less generous benefit.

There should be no need for health care workers to slavishly obey diktats that order them to compromise their professional relationship with ill and disabled claimants. Doctors and other health care workers take a Hippocratic Oath which calls on them to uphold professional standards; to keep patients from harm and injustice.  

There are also a number of codes of practice relevant to different disciplines within medicine. Again these call for practitioners to put the health and wellbeing of the patient above other concerns.

Indeed some practitioners adhere to their oath and codes of practice, in some cases resigning rather than going against their principles. Sadly they are too few; and while these people should be celebrated for taking a princioled stance against a flawed system, one that actually coerces its workforce to ignore ethics and pander to the bottom line, they are too few to move an intransigent DWP which is ideologically driven.

Proper union organisation is what is needed amongst the ATOS healthcare workers who carry out the assessments. A properly organised and politicised group of workers with a good reps structure in place would go some way to educating these workers; maybe opening their eyes as to the real class enemy.

However, the war against the mis-assessments, repetitive and unnecessary re-assessments and the awful toll in human misery they create can only be won when a government scraps the present system. Scraps the WCA and replaces it with an assessment which is transparent, fair and relevant to the claimant. Kicking out ATOS without first scrapping the WCA with a fit for purpose alternative will merely change the name of the hate figure.  

Saturday, 5 October 2013

We must encourage workers to take industrial action

"The unions and TUC should have already called a general strike but need to do so now urgently."

Strikes can only be brought about by workers in the workplace. The TUC could name a day tomorrow; yet without the support of the workforce this would be a pointless exercise.

Unite has supported strikes both in the public and private sector over the past few years. In fact Unite has not repudiated a single strike since McCluskey's became general secretary.

However, unless workers, in sizeable numbers, within both the public and private sectors are ready and willing to come out and strike we are not going to get a mass support for a general strike.

Finally, a general strike within itself may not be the solution to ridding ourselves of this dire lash-up that calls itself a government; after all Greece has seen over 20 general strikes in the past couple of years, yet sadly the austerity programme there still continues.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

On a platform which included Len McCluskey, GS of Unite and Chaired by Kevin McGuire three women, Jackie Monroe, Mary Laver and Hetty Bower each brought a powerful message to a fringe meeting organised by the Daily Mirror at this week's Labour Party Conference.

Hetty Blower an 107 year-old Labour supporter with a simple message to Ed Miliband: "Stick to the principles of social justice".
Jackie Monroe is unemployed. Though striving to find employment she has yet to succeed despite applying for three hundred jobs. Things are so bad that she often goes without food to ensure her two year old son is fed. According to a leading charity Jackie is among half-a-million people who now depend on food banks; largely as a result of delays and cuts in benefits.

Yet, if you thought food banks were the preserve of the feckless few; those who'd rather shirk than strive, then think on. Increasingly more and more people in low-waged work, many of whom have not seen a pay rise in four or more years are reliant on food banks.

Mary Laver a severely disabled woman who uses a power chair to mobilise also relies on a social care package to support her with day-to-day living. The package affords her the basics of life such as washing, dressing, toileting and eating. Her concerns are how the cuts are eroding that care package.

Mary fears that things will get so bad that she will have to choose between eating and keeping clean; maybe having to sit in her own mess for hours on end. That social services cuts will turn her home into her prison.

Mary speaks for scores of thousands of disabled people many of whom depend on the Independent Living Fund to get out and about in their communities. By April 2015 ILF will finish. Those of us that rely on this service to pay PAs to assist us will find themselves, as Mary fears, in the grips of social isolation.

Hetty Bower is 107 and has been a Labour Party member for 90 years. Hetty has taken part in many Left-wing campaigns from the General Strike in the 1920s, through Cable Street in the 1930s onto the anti-war marches of the 2000s.

Hetty recalls "I can remember hearing a mother discuss whether she could pay for the visit of a doctor or whether it's got to go on food for the family. I can remember women singing in the street for pennies generous people threw at their feet. Those days must never return."

When Ed Miliband asked Hetty what advice he should take as leader of the Labour Party, she told him to: "Stick to the principles that started the labour movement, which was social justice".

Social justice. Two little words, Ed. Yet two words with the power to get us back into government.

So, get rid of your spin doctors, Ed. Dispense with those weavers of empty rhetoric; throw out your kitchen cabinet full of blunt knives and twisted forks and look to people with progressive ideas; people who put social justice ahead of the propping up profligate bankers and the worn-out policies of failed neo-liberalism.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Lord Freud: Crimes against reasonableness

Lord Freud couldn't be any more removed from real life if was to become an anchorite on another planet in a far off galaxy. A man from a privileged background first of all deployed by New Labour to review the welfare system; and then by the ConDems demolish the rest of the welfare state.

To say Freud has no concept of the hurt and damage his policies are causing would be to assume that the man had a scintilla of empathy or understanding of disability. He has neither. No instead Freud and his kind have an ideology so clearly defined in their minds as to protect them from contrary concepts such as fairness, decency, right and wrong.

This Black Triangle representation of Lord Freud as a 'Fraud' sums up
how many regard this man of privilege who is wrecking or welfare state

This is how Freud can dismiss someone with motor neuron disease asking for a reasonable adjustment, the right to an extra bedroom without incurring the bedroom tax, with this disgraceful comment: “The normal expectation is that a couple are able to share a bedroom whether or not one of them is disabled.”

There speaks a man devoid of any recognisable sense of compassion. A man to whom the test of reasonableness rests on "alternative options" if a "greater degree of choice" was needed by this family.

So, the needs of someone with MND are not measured in favourable outcomes, such as allowing the husband and wife separate bedrooms without the imposition of a bedroom tax penalty. They're measured in unrealistic terms such as "...negotiating with landlords and local authorities and taking proactive steps to find more suitable accommodation of the right size – for example, with a bedroom large enough for two single beds..."

Again Freud shows his complete ignorance of the spatial capacity afforded by the majority social housing accommodations. Firstly, there is a dire shortage of one-bedroom flats in social housing stocks. Second, council flats bedrooms are not over generous in size, making it difficult to fit two single beds in one room - that is if the person with MND could cope with a single bed. What about where hospital beds are used.

Thirdly, Freud completely dismisses the physical difficulties that someone with MND would experience sharing a room; and in reverse the difficulties a wife or partner would encounter trying to share a room with somebody with such a condition.

Finally, Freud falls back on the tried and trusted Tory way, that is they should take in a lodger. Failing this the person with MND or their partner/carer could find work or increase their hours of work. Though I'm not sure how a carer on call 24-hours per day, seven days per week could physically increase their hours of work.

Any suggestions, Lord Freud?


Sunday, 1 September 2013

The Rock, Rattle and Roll of Brixton Town

On Friday evening I joined a few Comrades from the Lambeth Pan-Disability Forum outside Brixton Tube Station petitioning to stop Boris Johnson's cutting of railway staff across the tube service in London.

For many disabled people travelling by underground train is problematic enough. Without decent support staff in place tube travel would become impossible for lots of disabled people - not to mention the multitudes of tourists and others assisted through the system by these helpful workers.

Ginger caning the skins in a concert hall setting
Sadly our mission wasn't too successful as 'Ginger Baker' and 'John-The-Baptist' decided to compete with Brixton travellers at the time we were trying to attract the attention of to-ing and fro-ing Brixtonites.

That is to say, to our right was set up a musician with a full drum kit and sound system bashing away at the skins like a frenzied Ginger Baker on speed, thus drowning out our puny efforts to grab the attention of passers-by with our pleas to stop Boris Johnson de-staffing our stations.
A God botherer of yesteryear in Brixton - notice the need for amplification even then!
While to our left stood the apostle of the apocalypse assisted, again, by a mechanical sound system (why God's messenger needs such equipment is beyond me. Why doesn't his Godly Guvnor just intervene divinely by endowing him with the power of Stentor) booming out the message of Christ the Redeemer.

Oh well, such is the rich and varied hubbub of a hot Friday afternoon in the centre of Brixton Town; and I wouldn't want it any other way!    

Saturday, 31 August 2013

All War is Inhumane

The hypocrisy of this week's events in the 'Mother of Parliaments' is quite nauseas. Both the ConDem's Motion and Labour's amendments, in my view, demonstrate how desensitised MPs, and people in general, have become to the horrors of all wars.

On 21st August a war criminal perpetrated an evil act by shelling Ghouta, a suburb of Damascus, with poisonous gas. The gas attack is reported to have killed more than 1,400 civilians of which over 400 were children.

None, I suspect except other than the most rabid of sociopaths (is there a martial equivalent?) would view the use of chemical weapons with anything less than abhorrence, an unnecessary evil; their deployment the actions of war criminals.

However, I felt the same way in the days after Bloody Sunday, when as a 15 year-old London Irish kid I watched and read about my people being gunned down in the streets of Derry.

Images from Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos of the aftermath of US carpet bombing and dropping of napalm were the first images of war I remembered from my childhood.

30 years on the footage from Sabrina and Shatila massacres remain imprinted on my memory. The UN condemned the slaughter, while the perpetrators Lebanese Christian militia (an IDF proxy) literally got away with mass murder.

Over the decades countless wars, revolutions and bloody coups across the Caribbean, Central and South America along with their attendant violence have made their way through TV, film, radio and newsprint to my conscience, helping to inform and form my views on violent conflict.

The events in Ghouta got to me; another piece of my trust in humanity gone. Though I've lived through 50-odd years of some sad episodes of mans' inhumanity to his fellow man, I refuse to become inured by such events.

Which brings me to the point I wish to make.

Making distinctions between one method of mass killing over another, to me, mocks the very idea of humaneness. My contention is, what is the difference between bombs raining down on populated areas blowing people to pieces, and gas-filled shells killing people. 

What's humane about killing people with cruise missiles. How humane was the US's attack on Fallujah in 2004 where they pounded the city with depleted uranium ammunition. What made the carpet bombing of Cambodia and Laos humane.

Of course it's nonsense to consider any of the above wars or massacres as being in any way humane. Yet, they have become an accepted way in which to carry out warfare or international 'policing' actions.

I say 'yes' to condemning the horrific taking of life in Syria ten days ago. But I'm equally against the other killings that are going on in this benighted conflict; and all conflicts that draw in and slaughter, whether by conventional, nuclear or chemical means, civilian populations.

So, while pleased this country isn't going to become embroiled in the Syrian war, I am disappointed we're crowing about democracy being exercised a few evenings ago. The fact that Labour's amendment to the government's Motion to punitively attack Syria still supported violent action tells me that Ed Miliband, and Labour, have learned nothing from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Working for the enemy?

Simon Stevens, a disability consultant, is willing to work with Atos Healthcare in their development of the assessment process of the Personal Independence Payment, partly because the majority of user-led charities have declined to become involved - follow link for full story.

Stevens speaks as though Atos hasn't been given a fair hearing; and he possesses powers of persuasion that will somehow cause Atos to experience an epiphany, to realise their modus operandi was flawed.

Where exactly has this disability consultant been for the past three years. Has he missed the horror stories of Atos's disgraceful treatment of disabled people. Maybe he doesn't believe the hundreds testimonies that can be found on various sites online.

However, the fact that he would find it difficult to work for an organisation like the BNP, but would consider working for them if the price was right is very telling.

User-led charities are refusing to work with Atos because they are listening to their disabled members and therefore accountable to them. Simon Stevens is accountable to Simon Stevens and therefore will work in the best interest of Simon Stevens.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Labour needs the 'disability' vote in 2015

It was disturbing a couple of months ago to hear both Ed Miliband and Ed Balls state that they would continue with social security spending cuts should Labour form the next government in 2015.

Disabled people in the UK have felt the full force of the ConDems vicious austerity cuts over the past few years. The Work Capability Assessment has caused worry and anxiety across much of the disability population; as well as driving untold numbers to take their own lives.

A hundred years, or so, ago ill and disabled people were haunted by prospects of the workhouse; by the 1930s the social stigma associated with unemployment 'means tests' visited millions of workers. Today the word ATOS coupled with 'work capability assessment' is enough to terrify disabled people.

People are literally terrified of receiving large brown envelopes containing ESA50 forms; as these will normally presage an invitation to an ATOS centre to undergo an, all too often, flawed medical examination. Stories of ATOS failings abound, as severely disabled and ill people being found fit for work despite evidence to the contrary; and the numbers of successful appeals demonstrates the rank incompetence of ATOS and the abject contempt the DWP has for allowing people to be treated in such a manner.    

So, when Liam Byrne made a speech to the cross-party think-tank Demos on reform of social security back in July this year it was reassuring to hear he intends freeing disabled people "...from  the debilitating rounds of testing that currently bedevil the benefits regime."

The freeing-up Byrne speaks of comes in the form of a 'tell us once' assessment that takes into consideration social care, health needs, disability payments and employment and support allowance. Like a 'universal disability credit' without the punitive approach used by the ConDems with their failed 'universal credit'.

There is no standard criteria at the moment for assessing social, health, disability or employment benefits for disabled people. Thus each system has in place its own testing regime which are too frequently at odds with each other.

The Labour Party needs to win back disabled voters. Many were disillusioned by New Labour; especially in its last couple of years in government where it was seen to attack disabled people; attacks that became relentless onslaughts under the ConDems.

However, disabled people will expect more than a vague promise to introduce a 'tell us once' policy, as good as it sounds. Guarantees to put an end to the incessant re-assessment people currently undergo in order to claim ESA - with similar frequency of testing under PIP.

What Byrne and the shadow DWP team need to put into a Labour Party General Election manifesto is that the 'tell us once' assessment will be honest, open and transparent.

The assessments should not be carried out on a profit-by-results basis which ATOS applies to ESA, and will probably do so for PIP. No, the experiment that brought profiteering into medical assessments has proved lethally disastrous and as such assessing for a 'universal disability credit' should be returned to a not-for-profit environment.

Reports, letters and evidence from GPs, hospital consultants, district nurses, physiotherapists, OTs, PA/carers, etc should carry more weight; and a more human approach over the current flawed computer-based profit-led ATOS way needs to be introduced.