Sunday, 24 December 2017

Brexit Success: We're changing the colour of our passport

Since the country voted to leave the EU it has taken 18 months to reclaim the British passport and change from Burgundy to blue (the old passport was such a dark blue as to be usually mistaken for black). At this rate it'll take us decades to negotiate trading deals around the world.

Even if the UK goes its own way, the idea that we've got sovereignty over our parliament is patent bollocks. As long as the rest of the world, including the USA and Europe, operate neoliberal economies, we are ruled by capitalism. 

Leaving the EU will simply allow capitalism to operate easier. Employment rights will be whittled away. Health and Safety rules relaxed. Civil rights eroded. The NHS will become the Virgin Health Service. 

But none of this will hit the Farages of this world. No. 

But all you Brexiteers who work or depend wholly on a state pension and don't have private medical health insurance, you can rest assured. You can rest assured that while employed precariously with no H&S or equalities protection and without health insurance, that you'll have a lovely blue passport - if you can fucking afford one, or even need one as cheap flights to Europe end.

Monday, 18 December 2017

Bangor Winter Wonderland cancelled after complaints

You can't beat a bit of festive 'Ho-Ho-Ho'. Apparently, Bangor, Northern Ireland, Winter Wonderland was so awful the operation has been closed down and money refunded to anyone who attended the event at the weekend or was intending to visit.

People complained about the ice rink, which was made of plastic, smelling of chlorine. Which was hardly surprising when it was discovered that bleach was poured onto the surface to make it 'more slippery'.

Father Christmas somewhat burst the magic Christmas bubble with his painted-on eyebrows. If this wasn't bad enough, he needed to pull down his beard to speak to the children. One little girl wondering "Why can I see the elastic on Santa's beard?" The more worldly hardened of the children slicing through the magic of Santa Claus by shouting "He isn't even real!" 

There were no stalls open. And the inflatable castle lay flaccid, as airless as the whole experience.

One visitor likened it to 'Craggy Island Funfair', but without the fun, or the fair.

Monday, 4 December 2017

Sanction Damian Green if guilty of gross misconduct

The Damian Green issue like so many involving MPs is an issue of fairness, equality. Some years ago, Nadhim Zahawi, a Tory MP, was found to have charged almost £6000 against MP’s expenses towards a personal business. The business was a stable which is attached to his rural home. According to Zahawi he inadvertently combined his domestic electricity use with his business power usage.

Zahawi held up his hands pleading ignorance. Admitting he had made a mistake Zahawi promised to pay back the £6000 he had claimed. He then contacted IPSA, the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, and apologised asking for an update of the correct procedure.

As we know, Zahawi wasn’t alone when it came to cheating on expenses. David Cameron, ex-Prime Minister, claimed £680 in MP’s expenses to clear wisteria from his constituency home. Iain Duncan-Smith MP, Secretary of State for DWP, claimed £39 for a breakfast even though the meal was priced into his hotel stay.

Boris Johnson has made numerous comments that by most people’s standards are racist; he has insulted the citizens of several cities; his reckless comments concerning a British woman’s activities in Iran that could put her at further risk.

The thing all these MPs have in common is that none of them were penalised for their misconduct. All of them, aside from Green, were found to have made fraudulent claims, yet none of them were prosecuted. No, they merely offered to pay back the wrongly claimed expenses.

Had they been benefits claimants would the DWP have treated them with such leniency? People claiming benefits have to operate within very complicated on-line systems to make claims. If they slip up when trying to access systems that all too often are alien to them, they are sanctioned.

Similarly, if a worker is found with pornographic material on their work computers the likelihood would be charge of gross misconduct followed by dismissal. Yet, an MP is found to have such material on his House of Commons machine, and no sanctions are applied.

Watching our elected politicians seemingly getting away with offences and misconduct not tolerated anywhere else hardly inspires confidence or trust in our parliamentary system. How is it that our law makers can plead ignorance of systems they legislate on, while their poorly educated constituents are sanctioned for misdemeanours.

Therefore, if Damian Green is found to have downloaded pornographic material on his House of Commons PC, he should face the same penalty that one of constituents would incur. MPs should not be above the laws and rules that they create and by the rest of us abide.

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

London Labour Board and DaWN CLP: at least consider reasonable adjustments

The LondonLabour Party Regional Conference 2017 takes place this Saturday and Sunday, 27th & 28th November. The Conference is being staged at the TUC's HQ, Congress House. On receiving confirmation of my place at the conference I contacted the organiser to request parking as a Blue Badge holder at the venue (there are four parking bays on the front of the building).
The organiser responded telling me there was no parking available; and suggested that I seek out on-street parking or find a carpark. From the response I received it is quite obvious that the London Labour Board organiser had made no attempt to speak with the TUC to seek a reasonable adjustment. For, when I contacted the TUC they had not been contacted by the LLB to request parking.
The TUC agreed to allow me to park in their forecourt carpark, simply requesting the make of my car and its registration.
Sadly, I find that the Labour Party can be either unwilling to consider reasonable requests or sometimes obstructive. My CLP refuses to make a reasonable adjustment to its start time of 8.30pm. Though they put forward reasons for holding meetings so late, these are usually things that can be adjusted or changed. However, I'm unable to control chronic pain and fatigue in the same way.

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Direct Payments is not a universal panacea

Local authorities and social workers enthusiastically sell the benefits of direct payments. Direct payments (DPs) allow disabled people to buy in their own care and support. This can be accomplished through engaging an agency to carry out the care and support. Or the service user could employ their own personal assistants.

Social workers generally use the following three points to sell DPs to disabled people:

Flexibility: However, flexibility is not a universal panacea. First of all, define flexibility. When you try, you come up against the test of reasonableness. So, flexibility has to be negotiated. This negotiation can mean the DP user having to make big compromises with their PAs.

Choice: Yet, like so many things in life choice usually comes with a price tag attached. Therefore, the parameters of choice are governed by good old-fashioned economics.

Control: Arguably this should be the greatest advantage of DPs. Yet as with other determining factors such as flexibility and choice, control is heavily influenced by exterior forces.

The two factors that can make DPs an advantageous way of buying in care and support are:
1.    Adequate means to support your needs, and
2.    An ability to properly manage PAs.

Until care and support packages can offer adequate budgets and proper training funding to DP users, this means of caring and supporting disabled people will remain as care on the cheap.

There is also a downside for the PAs who deliver the care and support. This group of undervalued workers have usually to:

  • Work several jobs to make up a weekly wage,
  • Work unsociable hours, often without proper recompense,
  • Go without a decent pension scheme,
  • Go without an occupational sick pay scene,
  • Come out to clients at unsociable hours.

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Daily Hate Continues to Spread it's Divisive Message

The Daily Hate is again running stories of hate and division. I their latest printed diatribe they are attacking Muslims who live in Savile Town a suburb of Dewsbury, that is according to the Daily Hate: ‘The corner of Yorkshire that has almost no white residents’.

However, according to the local authority, Saviletown, a suburb of Dewsbury in the borough of Kirklees has a British Asian population of around 10%. The photograph coverage that the Hate gives the story would support the notion that Saviletown was indeed highly populated by people from Asia. But then, a national daily of the Hate’s size and stature can print pretty much anything and sell it as the truth.

From my experience, most immigrant groups do tend to congregate in areas where others of their co-nationalists live. Jews escaping the pogroms of Russia, Poland and Mitteleuropa in the late 19C and early 20C settled in the East End of London; and, other large cities.

From the 1930s, and throughout the war years, Irish immigrants headed for London, and tended to live in and around Camden, Islington and Brent in the North of the capital city. Like most other immigrant groups not all the Irish were destined for London. No, they moved into cities such as Birmingham, Manchester, and Liverpool.

Many of the Jamaicans who came to the UK in the 1950s located in parts of West London, as well as in and around Brixton in South London. Again, not all settled in London, this can be seen from the large populations of Afro-Caribbean people living in Bristol, Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool.

Greeks, Chinese, Italians, Indians, etc, all migrated to our shores and for the most part began their stay in Britain in their respective communities.

My point is that immigrant people often feel safer amongst familiar faces, customs, shops etc. It’s called safety in numbers.

In my experience Irish men of my father's generation definitely resisted integration into British society. Unlike the Irish immigrant women, who did
mix socially and subscribe more to the various wider British communities they entered.

Sure, the majority of Irishmen spoke English. Yet they did not think like the English. If a non-Irish person had walked into any one of the hundreds and hundreds of Irish pubs dotted around our major cities in the 1950s, 60s, 70, 80s, and later they would've had difficulty understanding the very heavy Cork, Kerry, Mayo, Offaly, Sligo, etc accents spoken therein.

The music enjoyed by the diaspora Irish was different to popular music listened to by the rest of British people. Many of their songs reflected the loneliness and yearning of the immigrant torn from the hearth of Mother Ireland. The other category of song was the Irish rebel song. These songs embodied the mistrust and antipathy that many Irish people felt towards the oppressive British state. They allowed Irishmen living in Britain to demonstrate the rebel in their soul, even if it was only from 6 o’clock to 11 o’clock on a Saturday night when they socialised in their pubs and clubs.

Yet today, the children and grandchildren and even great grandchildren of these immigrant Irish people are now very much integrated into the melting pot of British life.

Similarly, generations of Jamaican and other Afro-Caribbean see themselves as British (that's not to say racism doesn't still exist in Britain, as it does).

I can see a time when immigrant peoples of the Islamic faith will become an integral part of Britain, in that they'll worship in their own way, stay with a cuisine that suits them and to some extend follow their own dress sense. Other than that, they will do, and act as most other people in the UK. They'll go to work, put a roof over their family’s heads, worry about their kids, watch football, moan about the weather and become generally cynical about British politics.