Sunday, 19 January 2014

Message to Ed Miliband : Don't price me out of the Labour Party

I received an email from Welsh Labour, excitedly informing Labour Party members of the upcoming Welsh Labour Party conference 28-30 March. As it is being held in N Wales, not too far from my home I set about making plans to attend.

Being Working  Poor means I have a careful list of priorities over what the household budget is spent on, but I reasoned if I was careful, a pre-packed lunch each day, money for the 30 mile train journey and enough for the odd cup of coffee, I would be able to participate and hear what the Labour hierarchy in Wales are planning for the coming year and their priorities for Wales itself. My husband said he would go too, as he has not experienced a conference event previously.

I followed the click through to book the pass needed for the 2 day event, and to see where the Gala Dinner was being held and at what price. My enthusiasm for both was quickly dampened. To my dismay and anger a 2 day pass to attend conference is £45 per person. A ticket to the Gala Dinner is £63. If my husband and I wanted to attend both,  it would set us back £216 plus travel.

I understand the Gala Dinner is a fundraising event but £63 a ticket? How is that justifiable for the rank and file Labour Party members? And more upsetting is that in order to participate and hear speeches from my own party, it will cost me £45 for the privilege. Ed, at these events you will be echoing around the venue to people who can afford to listen to you, not the very people you have been speaking about recently : the working poor, the people for whom the Cost Of Cameron as you put it, is far too high a price to pay! Do you want to listen to the middle class party faithful, or do you want my voice to be heard in the hall asking questions that affect my daily living and those in my community? As leader of the Labour Party I want you to hear about the overwhelming rise of zero hours contract agency hired staff that proliferate throughout Wales. I want you to to hear of how few full time jobs there are for the towns in the coastal communities who are seeing such large numbers of seasonally employed people who then get laid off for 4 or more months each year. I want you to listen to how the rural communities in Wales, which are many, are severely hit by diesel and petrol costs, where village bus services, post offices are being axed daily. I want you to be aware and act on the large numbers of Welsh tenants hit by the bedroom tax, and acknowledge at least that with Wales having the highest number of disabled and sick people out of the home nations, Capita assessments are NOT the answer.

At the gala dinner at £63 per ticket you will be seated with the First minister and all the AM's and the middle class socialists and businessmen who can afford to attend. Wouldn't it be better if you were able to chat at dinner with someone who is desperately looking for work, an NHS worker or two, a mum having to turn to Foodbanks to feed her family? For that is the way Ed you will learn what is going on, both in Wales and throughout England and Scotland and adjust Labour policy accordingly.

For an unemployed person to gain access to the Welsh conference is two thirds of their unemployment weekly  benefit amount. It is more than shameful that Labour Party members need significant means to hear what the plans are for the party and to participate in their party's politics.

My simple message to Ed Miliband is : Don't price me and other Labour Party members out of our own party. Listen to the voices of the working class, and poor, alongside the middle classes to gain an accurate view of what shape and direction the Labour Party need to be travelling in. And invite some of us to participate in the conference for free and perhaps attend that Gala Dinner at a reasonable cost. You may learn something beneficial to power you to victory in 2015. Never forget the Labour Party's name. Workers shape the Labour Party. Don't price them out.

Monday, 13 January 2014

Margaret Thatcher Day: The Biggest Insult

I remember vividly as a 6 year old when school milk was abolished by the then Education Secretary Margaret Thatcher, then as a 16 year old in 1983 when the school leaving options were a Youth Opportunities Scheme until 18 or the dole. My husband was a teenager in Liverpool in the 1980's when Boys from the Blackstuff was not only a TV programme, but reality, for many once proud working men on Merseyside whose lives were put in "managed decline" by the PM of the day - Thatcher. So you could say that my generation of 40+s are more than qualified to talk about the new proposal for our August Bank holiday; a proposal submitted as a bill in the House of Commons by far right anti EU fanatic Peter Bone MP. His bill which gets a second reading on January 17th is to rename our bank holiday as "Margaret Thatcher Day".

Just putting the obvious to one side for a moment, many socialists would feel equally angry, shocked, and downright insulted if the left attempted to afford Tony Blair the same honour if they were in power. No Government, Tory or Labour has the divine right to seek to rename a public holiday after a socially divisive figure such as Margaret Thatcher. A woman who turned a blind eye to facts and  made it her personal mission to desecrate the coal mining industry and destroy the communities around them: because she could, and for no other economic reason.

For an MP like Peter Bone whose anti EU policies, stand on  strict abortion limits and stance in opposing same sex marriage as "totally nuts" to even get this bill to a second reading is laughable. This same MP whose wife has been employed as his own "executive secretary" and has earnt £40k p/a seriously wants more than half of the electorate to have this abomination of a day foisted upon us. An MP whose own party sees him as a total clown and a sheer embarassment to the frontbench. His views are more akin to the extreme right of Ukip, views that the backbench 1922 committee felt were no use in modernising times, and so booted his executive backside out in 2012.

I am sure the people waiting in vain for a council house on the waiting list that fails to materialise,due to Thatcher's council house sell off, the miners who saw their lives and communities destroyed, the once proud shipbuilders thrown on the scrapheap, the mums who saw their child benefit frozen in consecutive years in the late 80's and the children who sat in classrooms with rain pouring through the ceilings ,will certainly not want a Margaret Thatcher Day.

Thatcher deigned to die under the rule of this Coalition Government. Nick Clegg could have done so much more in opposing the sheer opulence of her funeral, but decided to follow his Tory masters every wish. While the Tories mourned her passing, the rest of the electorate remembered the hardships she put us through, the hiding of truths under her watch of the Hillsborough disaster, the "managed decline" of our once proud working class communities thrown to the wolves and lives of poverty, while she glorified in a war that should never have been fought in the Falklands.

"Margaret Thatcher Day" cannot  and must not be allowed to happen. Our public bank holidays belong to us: the public. MPs like Peter Bone have no right to even attempt to hijack a Bank Holiday in a woman's name who was  so reviled by large sections of society. We need to voice our opposition and lobby our MPs to prevent this bill going any further. "Margaret Thatcher Day" is not only an insult to millions of impoverished working class people, it is one abomination too far from this arrogant nasty Government. We the public insist on protecting our Bank holidays. A day of rest, free from the reminder of the tyranny Margaret Thatcher was.

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

2014: The Year when Fear will stalk the Land..

January 2014 hasn't been with us very long, but already a tangible grip of fear stalks the UK. Many socialists already realised that 2014 would be no picnic as Cameron, Osborne and co set out their stall to win power outright in 2015. With New Year bells still ringing in our ears, the Government have been swift to act, backed up by a right wing media sensing that this year the hunt for power in 2015 will be the most bloody we have had in generations.

The New Year saw Cameron trying vainly to outrun Ukip on immigration policy. Laughingly the Daily Mail camped out at the arrivals lounge in a London airport eagerly awaiting all the Romanians and Bulgarians that would be arriving on New Years Day. Describing a Romanian GP coming to take up a post in the UK as "wearing a suit and tie" as if the DM were in shock he wasn't wearing rags and trying to claim benefits the minute he arrived, saw the newspaper in its usual hysterical overdrive. The best the DM could come up with was following a Romanian man who had secured an arduous 8am-6pm job at a car wash to his first day at work and saying the man had been "true to his word" at turning up for work at the alloted address he had given customs.

Cameron has to wrestle with the EU over all his proposed changes to immigration whereas Nigel Farage and Ukip can keep making wild statements that "Immigrants should wait 5 years to claim benefits." Yet it is these headlines that are seeping into the public psyche that socialists should seek to counteract at every level. I do it on a daily basis, by using facts such as the percentages of immigrants who work, the amount of businesses owned by immigrants in our communities that we would hate to have to do without, the rich culture immigrants bring into the UK with their foods, clothes, music.

George Osborne also chose to visit yet another factory where employees were forced to listen to his further slashing of the social security net by £12 billion. The looks on the workers faces said it all. Here were people who were making National insurance contributions to the state, in case they ever fell on hard times and needed that net to step in, until they could get back on their feet. These workers heard of Osbornes "scheme" to pit the Old v Young as he raged about cuts coming to  Housing Benefit for under 25's while increasing and protecting pensions for the retired.  Only £10bn of the social security budget is spent on the unemployed whereas £127.5 bn is spent on pensions. Yet none of the right wing media will quote these figures. The young and working families may well feel angry that they are being asked to shoulder an increasing cuts burden. They need to turn their anger to the Government and NOT the elderly. There will of course be a harder burden to bear for the working poor as tax credits are being looked at and the pernicious Universal Credit scheme brought in for most in 2016. Alongside this will be a ban on people earning over £40k being able to live in a council house.

For the first time in over a hundred years barristers protested.. A walk out, a strike almost-  in opposition to the drastic cuts in legal aid this Government has made.  While barristers protested about the type of salaries young lawyers were enduring as a result in the huge slashing of the legal aid budget by Chris Grayling, most ordinary people are worrying about the plight of battered women/men who are fleeing domestic abuse. With no legal aid to put injunctions etc in place many are forced to turn back to the abuser they are trying to leave.

Channel 4 decided to broadcast a series called "Benefits Street" which focused on a street of 99 houses and picked roughly a few people who were on benefit to publically hang, draw and quarter. Exploitation is too soft a word. On the day of the first broadcast, residents warned Channel 4 had manipulated people, shown the street in a bad light and edited the programme to show its own preconceived idea of "Benefits Street". This programme resulted in the people who featured being given death threats on twitter. A culmination of programmes such as "Saints and Scroungers" "Benefits Britain" drip feeding on a regular basis into the publics imagination ,has taken the heat away from the bankers and the multi millionaire MPs in Cameron's party, like Nadhim Zahawi the "horse warmer" who treated his horses stables to £5.8k heating expenses from the public purse.

Throw Michael Gove into this toxic hell  of Government policy and the fear that now stalks  teachers and the education of our children is another facet of this Government's devil-faced policies. Gove has decided that rather than commemorate the anniversary of World War 1, the fallen soldiers, and the actual history that took place, in a somber and respectful fashion, he will instead turn it into a political point scoring contest against the left. The condemning of "Blackadder" the TV programme  as "leftist" and stating the almost Rupert Brooke type notion that WW1 was glory for the UK  empire against the German armies comes straight out of Gove's Grammar School 1950s handbook of how children should be taught in the 21st century. I have always maintained that MPs should have outside experience in the role into which they are presiding over, in order to have a working experience of problems faced etc. Having a Secretary for Education with no school hands-on experience is not just laughable but downright dangerous. Gove is proving that danger. A man who never listens to the experts or teachers actually in the classroom and on the front line. He always knows better than they do apparently. Now what should have been a respectful start to the 100th anniversary to WW1 has degenerated into slinging insults at the left to gain a political point. Very poor from someone with no experience of teaching.

Finally after the worse month of storms known to many people in generations we have a Government who literally sat in meetings cutting the Environment budget by millions, while parts of the UK
drowned. Living on the N Wales Coast, we have had a terrifying few weeks and have experienced structural damage to our properties, as have large parts of the UK. Government meeting after Government meeting ensued for us to be told that by 2020 there will be more money spent on flood defences. Try telling that to people. "Wait six years for any help at all" while properties flood and our home and business insurances rocket while the Government twiddles its fingers and slashes 1,200 jobs from the Environment Agency . They keep telling Cameron and co these cuts are unsustainable and if flooding occurs on the scale recently seen, people will not get the flood defences needed.

The government rhetoric is ramping up; feeding like a troll on immigration, the poor, education and environment issues. It is our duty as socialists to stand up, be counted, give the other side to the story. Most of all it is our duty to fight back. I believe the esteemed Mr Tony Benn has urged us not to forget how to fight. We must listen to him now in 2014 for fear of further untold damage to the immigration system, welfare state and education must not be allowed to happen. Join me in the fight back.