Saturday, 22 November 2014

Peaceful non-violent revolution

On the last night’s ‘Late Late Show’ Sinéad O’Connor was discussing the 1916 uprising in relation to water charges and the possibilities of this developing into a peaceful revolution in Ireland. Sinéad’s sentiment of “…an absolutely non-violent revolution…” is laudable. The idea of peaceful civil disobedience is something I also hold dear.

Join together a non-violent revolution through peaceful disobedience and we have the ideal solution to changing our world for the better.

However, I envisage a major problem with this course of action. The problem being that the state doesn't respect any disobedience as peaceful. We've seen this in recent weeks when peaceful groups have tried to exercise their democratic right of protest in Parliament Square only to be met by excessive force from the police.

The 9/11 attacks in the US created a heightened level of security in many countries outside America, including the UK. Then the bomb attacks on London’s public transport system on 7th July 2005 ratcheted-up security, and especially police powers, in this country.

Both liberal commentators and many on the political Left objected to the extra powers being dished out to the police and security services. We complained, with justification, that these powers would be abused and once set in train they are difficult to relax.

To prove our point that these powers would be abused we had the Jean Charles de Menezes execution in Stockwell tube station in 2005 through to the kettling of peaceful disabled demonstrators outside Westminster Abbey in June this year. Yes, 300 police, including Armed Response Police Units, were summoned by the 2nd Estate to kettle 100 peaceful disabled people protesting for social justice for all.

When we view Robocop type police personnel laying into, and sometimes killing people, remember Ian Tomlinson, we must question the possibility, or likelihood, of peaceful and non-violent revolution. The police and security services appear to be more aggressive and violent than ever before, at least in the modern era.

From their day to day demeanour with the general public, often brusque and unhelpful, to their over-the-top restraining methods, they are at one level unfriendly and at the extreme plain dangerous, unconcerned about the health or wellbeing of those they’re detaining.

Mix into the equation governments that are ideologically set against the majority of the population. A government which is indeed waging a class war against the poorest people in our society. A media, particularly at the newsprint end, that has forgotten how to report on political issues from a position of objectivity. Which instead tends to report political news straight from statements penned in the various ministries by propaganda machines. Then we see a stage set for some kind of public outcry, sooner rather than later.

If the Tories manage to get back into power, with the support of UKIP maybe, then we’re in for the worse 5-year period since the 1920s and 30s. Say goodbye to the welfare state; wave ta ta to the NHS; and watch as poorer working class, long term unemployed, single mothers, disabled people and the generally disenfranchised of our society are out-priced from our major cities and inner cities.

I wonder if by 2017 or 2018 the masses will still be in the mood for peaceful civil disobedience. Will disabled people, many more of whom will be living in abject poverty as they fail to qualify for PIP and other gateway benefits, be content to watch their peers dying, committing suicide or being forced into residential care and enforced social exclusion. Or will we turn to the age-old method of resistance against the oppressors of our class.

Monday, 17 November 2014

The political Left needs to reinvent itself

Politically, as well as in other areas, I’m on the Left. When I view the political landscape in the UK I find it isn't only the Labour Party that's the problem.

The Left in the UK, but particularly in England is in a mess. When the banking crises hit the cry of 'capitalism is dead' was heard, especially from the SWP. What did the Left do? We argued and disagreed. We insisted on a recount of the number of angels that could sit on the head of a pin.

While we looked inward; while we refought the intellectual battles that should have been moved on from decades ago, the capitalists regrouped and came back stronger. They reinvented themselves to more easily fit in with the changing world order. The problem we on the Left have is an inability to reinvent ourselves; and so appear to much of the population as being out of touch with the modern world.

Be bold Labour...move away from austerity

To Liken Labour to the Tories is, in my view, wrong. Of course there will be a difference between a Labour and Tory government in 2015. When people comment on the lack of difference between the two it is usually a comment borne out by frustration.

Sadly, Ed Miliband making a very good speech in front of a friendly audience will not win us the next election. What could win us the next election is if Miliband was less timid. If he began to move away from an austerity programme and offered the country something more progressive.

There are millions of disabled people looking to a political party that will tell them it will not continue attacking their means of income and vital services. Labour should be the natural ally of disabled people. Yet the disabled people I speak to are totally disillusioned with what Labour is offering.

Instead of tinkering around the edges of the Work Capability Assessment Labour has to scrap it in favour of an examination system that is fair and transparent. A system that does not call for continuous assessments; but rather one that recognises that some conditions are long lasting and without prospect of a ‘cure’.

Other vote winners would be the scrapping of PIP, the continuation of the ILF, a real commitment to Access to Work, an introduction of an Access into Work scheme and portable social care packages. Most of these would be fairly inexpensive to implement; indeed there could be savings in some areas.

Finally, Labour needs to make these kind of commitments very soon; and they need to advertise them. People will not have faith in a Labour Party that says ‘Trust us, we’ll do alright by you once we’re in power’. We did that in 1997 and were let down quite badly.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Promise, comments and when we said...

In 2011 David Cameron in true Blue Tory style announced: “But with us, our borders will be under control and immigration will be at levels our country can manage. No ifs. No buts. That’s a promise we made to the British people, and it’s a promise we are keeping.”

OK, let’s give the PM a bit of political licence, after all this was said within the first year or so of a new government. That period of time when they still feel confident enough to use rash terms such ‘promise’.

Fast forward three and a bit years; in a period six months before a general election and suddenly words such as ‘promise’ become impossible to say. On the Today programme on Radio 4 today the home secretary, Theresa May, downgraded a promise made by the PM in 2011, to a ‘comment’ and ‘when we said…’.

“When we made that comment, when we said … we would be aiming to bring the net migration down to the tens of thousands and we wanted to do that within this parliament – yes we were very clear that was what we wanted to do.”

Theresa May, longest serving Home Secretary, but what promised to be a promising
career could be ruined because she could not get herself to utter the word 'promise'
Dissemble, dissimulate, mislead, cover up, deny, deceive, lie, fib and tell porkies as much as you want Ms May. We could all tell you where lying this morning. You know how we knew? Your lips were moving. Always a sure sign that a politician is dissembling, dissimulating, misleading, covering up, denying, deceiving, lying, fibbing or telling porkies.

The fact it was on the radio is immaterial as the above is a given; a truth universally acknowledged.   

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Nuisance calls from stairlift companies

Just remembered a funny thing that happened a few years ago. My old mum fell down a couple of steps and received a spiral fracture of here femur. Nasty break. She was laid up in a lovely cottage hospital in Edenbridge. Poor old darling was in a bit of a state with scaffolding protruding from her thigh.

But she came out the other end fairly well. Though she now tended to shuffle around rather walk. Though mobile on the flat, stairs were a problem.

After much discussion a stair lift was agreed upon. Not too many of stair lift companies around when you begin to search. Nonetheless I whittled the number down to three all of whom I met with to look at their products, prices and maintenance offers.

We ended up plumping for a particular company who in time came along took various measurements of the staircase and a few of my mum. Weeks later and my mum chugging her way up and down the stairs on a state of the art chairlift.

Good deed done, I thought that would be that. No. Over the next couple of years I continued to receive emails and unsolicited telephone calls to my mobile from the two unsuccessful stair lift companies wondering if I’d come to a decision about a lift; and would I like to view a catalogue of their new improved range.

Politely, to begin with, I’d thank them saying ‘no thanks’ and can you take me off your contact list. One of the companies did this, but the other one continued trying to sell me a bloody stairlift. After possibly the umpteenth time of ‘hello sir, we have you on record as being interested…’ I gave in. It was a total capitulation; they had won; and I’d invited one of their sales reps over to my flat to discuss the advantages and merits of owning a stairlift that defined the cutting edge of mechanical stair elevation.

On the appointed day said rep turned up to chez Seán and was admitted by my PA. Being of a hospitable disposition I invited the salesman to take a seat and to share in a cafetiere of freshly made Arabica. Chewing the fat for a few minutes I discovered it was quite chilly out; but not yet chilly enough for a heavy coat; and that the word amongst aficionados of things climatic we were in for a parky winter.

“OK Mr McGovern. May I take a look around?” queried the rep. Who by now wanted to get down to the business of the visit, namely flogging me a stairlift.

“Fine, where would you like to start?” I responded eager to get the business out of the way and this geezer out of my drum.

“How about the stair case. Always a good place to look at especially in my line of work,” chortled the wag.

“Stair case? What stair case?” said I, with enough puzzlement in my voice to force him to say, rather brusquely, “Yes, staircase!” You made an appointment for me to come around today with a view to you purchasing one of our products!” he spat out.

“May I?” he asked walking into the hallway. On opening all five doors in the passage (three of which were cupboards) the realisation that I lived in a single-floor flat hit him in the kisser.

“Are you taking the piss?” he wondered. “Why did you invite me to a flat without a stair case? Me a bloody staircase salesman?”

“Well mush” I replied. “Your company has phoned me 27 timers over the past year pestering me to buy one of their machines. I’ve told them. I don’t want one. I’ve explained I don’t need one. I’ve even confessed to not owning a fucking staircase. And finally I’ve asked them politely on twenty occasions to take me off their hit list. But no. They totally blanked my requests and so I thought. Fuck it. If they want to send a rep around that badly who the fuck am I to deny them this simple desire. So, there’s your fucking light autumn coat; now get the fuck out of my flat and tell your company to stop fucking hounding me!”

He left. I never did see him again. Not even to tell him his forecast was way off target as we ended up having one of the mildest winters on record. Sadly I still get the odd call from the stairlift company. I still say I don’t need one. That I don’t have a staircase, this despite moving home. So as I’m taken up an interest in climatic affairs myself in recent years I may make another appointment t chat with a stairlift rep and swap weather forecast anecdotes. 

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

A burden on whose State?

Listening to Radio 4 just now. There is a news item reporting that young immigrant workers on the whole give more than they take. That is their tax and insurance contributions are a nett profit for the Treasury; and the fact that they’re less likely to claim benefits, use the NHS less and don’t access areas such as education, social care, and pensions.

It is quite refreshing to listen to a report on immigrants that doesn’t paint them as scroungers over here to rob our benefits. Indeed it’s encouraging to hear someone actually telling it as it is; that immigrant workers in the UK are a boon.

Unfortunately the report was marred by the reporter’s need to describe those accessing areas of the welfare state such as benefits, schools, the NHS etc as being a burden on the State. He stated that though these workers were a nett gain at the moment that as they got older, had children, used the NHS more, etc they would become a burden on the State.

Then as though not wanting to put too much emphasis on immigrants being a burden he went on to say that all UK citizens became a greater burden on the State as they get older, have children, use schools, etc…

Sorry for the break in service, had to go to work. Now, where was I? Oh yes. A burden on the State. How when we are part of a social compact, that is we work, we pay our dues, Income Tax, National Insurance, VAT, etc are we a burden? We pay our way and from time to time we dip into the pot. That’s how the social compact, or contract, operates.

How dare politicians and media commentators reduce us to a bunch of scroungers demanding hand-outs when the reality is that we are the wealth creators; we are the multitude who keep the country’s coffers topped up. Therefore we are entitled to tap into, when we’re ill, unemployed, need social support, etc, the resources that the State looks after on our behalf.

The real burden on the State are those who don’t pay their taxes; employers who refuse to pay decent wages while at the same time are subsidised by the rest of us; banks that despite protecting their profits still turn to the State for hand-outs.