Posts Tagged ‘Cuts’

Vile! Priti Patel Withdraws Funding to Britain’s Only Centre Against Female Genital Mutilation

August 3, 2020

Yesterday, Mike over at Vox Political put up a very telling piece, which reveals precisely how low on their priorities is protecting vulnerable British girls from FGM. Priti Patel, the smirking minister, who believes it’s perfectly acceptable to conduct her own foreign policy for states such as Israel behind her own government’s back, and thinks that British workers should suffer the same horrendous wages and working conditions as the exploited masses of the developing world, because they’re too lazy, has decided to cut the funding to this country’s National FGM Centre. This was set up five years ago to combat Female Genital Mutilation, otherwise known as female circumcision. Feminists have also described it as ‘female castration’ because of its truly horrific nature. It’s the only centre protecting girls from communities across the UK from it. The centre’s head, Letheen Bartholomew, warned that FGM will not end if it is forced to close because of the cuts. Mike quotes her as saying:

“We will not be there to protect the girls who need us. We know that FGM is still being practised in communities across England.

“There are still girls who are being cut and so will face a lifetime of physical and emotional pain. It is a hidden form of child abuse.”

Mike connects this to the sadism in the Tory party generally, and their need to inflict pain and suffering on innocents. He also points out that Patel herself wanted to deport a girl so that she could undergo this truly horrific practise. There’s no way it can be decently described in a family blog, and it does seem to vary in severity. At its worst it leads to a lifetime of agonizing medical problems and health issues, including childbirth.

One of the communities in which girls are at risk is my own city of Bristol. A few years ago the local Beeb news propgramme, Points West, carried an item about girls of African heritage, who left vulnerable to it, and the courageous efforts of campaigners from these communities to combat it. This was when it was a pressing issue and voices were being raised across the country demanding that it should be fought and outlawed. And now that we find that the outrage has calmed down and it is no longer in the public consciousness, the Tories are doing what they have always done in these circumstances: they’re quietly ending it, hoping that nobody will notice. It’s served its purpose, which was to convince the public, or the chattering classes or some section thereof that the Tories really do hold some kind of liberal values, and are prepared to defend women and people of colour. But like everything they do in that direction, it’s always essentially propagandistic. It is there to garner them votes and plaudits in the press and media. And once it’s done that, these and similar initiatives are always abandoned.

Patel’s decision also shows you how seriously Johnson takes the general issue of racism and racial equality after the Black Lives Matter protests: he doesn’t. Not remotely. Remember he was going to set up an inquiry to deal with the issue, just like the last one the Tories set up under May when the issue raised its ugly head a few years ago. I admit that FGM is only one of a number of issues affecting Britain’s Black and BAME communities. It may not the most common, but it is certainly one of the most severe to those affected and there should be absolutely no question of the Centre continuing to receive funding. Young lives are being ruined. But Boris, Patel and the rest really can’t care less.

Part of the motive behind the Black Lives Matter protests, it seems to me, is that Britain’s Black communities have been particularly badly affected by austerity and neoliberalism. They aren’t alone – there are plenty of Whites and Asians that have similarly suffered. But as generally the poorest, or one of the poorest, sections of British society, which has suffered from structural racism, the Tories attacks on jobs, wages and welfare benefits has been particularly acute for them. It has contributed to the anger and alienation that led to the protests a few weeks ago and such symbolic acts as the tearing down of the statue of Edward Colston in Bristol.

But now that the protests seem to be fading, the Tories are showing their real lack of concern despite the appointment of BAME politicos like Patel to the government.

And underneath this there’s also a very hypocritical attitude to the whole issue of FGM on the political right. Islamophobes like Tommy Robinson and the EDL use it to tarnish Islam as a whole. It’s supposed to show that the religion as a whole is dangerously misogynist, anti-feminist and fundamentally opposed to modern western conceptions of human rights. In fact the impression I have is that FGM isn’t unique to Islam, but practised by various African and other cultures around the world. Islamic scholars have said that it has no basis in Islam itself, but is a pre-Islamic practice that was taken over as the religion expanded. There have also been attempts by campaigners in this country and the European Union to pass legislation very firmly outlawing it. A few years ago there was even a bill passing through the European Parliament. But UKIP, whose storm troopers had been making such a noise about FGM and the fundamental incompatibility of Islam and western society, did not rouse themselves from their habitual idleness to support the motion. And this was noticed at the time.

There seems to be a racist backlash coming on after the Black Lives Matter protests. The Tories are trying to recruit members on the internet by stirring up concerns about the waves of illegal immigration. Over the past few days there have also been pieces stuck up on YouTube about this, and related issues from the usual offenders at TalkRadio, Julia Hartley-Brewer, and ‘Celebrity Radio’ Alex Belfield. My guess is that if we wait long enough, FGM will be revived once again by the right as another metaphorical stick to attack Muslims and brown people.

But all the while it should be remembered that the Tories wanted to tell us they were serious about tackling it. They weren’t, and aren’t.

And that tells you all you need to know about their attitudes to race, women and the poorest members of society generally, regardless of gender and ethnicity.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2020/08/02/tory-cut-killing-uks-only-centre-to-stop-female-genital-mutilation-is-in-line-with-priti-patels-behaviour/

 

Conservative Radio Host Smears Left Over Leicester Sweatshops

July 13, 2020

For some reason unknown to me, my YouTube keeps putting up videos from Alex Belfield. Belfield’s the Conservative host of the ‘Celebrity Radio’ channel, which regular attacks the left. And this afternoon up came one of his videos with the title ‘Leicester 10000 on £2 an Hour Where’s the Left’. This obviously refers to the garment sweatshops in Leicester which were at the centre of a Covid-19 outbreak a few days ago. It was revealed on the news coverage about them that their employees work far less than the minimum wage in appalling conditions. Clearly they’re a scandal, and something should have been done about them long ago. So where were the left when these people needed protection?

From what I’ve heard, they were trying as hard as they could to get something done about these places, and were ignored. I went to the conclusion of the Arise Left Labour festival on Zoom on Saturday. There were some great speeches by some really great left Labour politicos – Bell Ribeiro-Addy, Ian Lavery, John McDonnell, Diane Abbott and the former leader of the Labour party, Jeremy Corbyn. And one of the speakers was the Labour MP for Leicester East. Claudia Webbe. And she was very well aware of the sweatshops.

She was not surprised that there had been a Coronavirus outbreak there. They had been around for a long time, employing a workforce mostly drawn from ethnic minorities. Many of them were undocumented immigrants, who had no other form of support. These people were exploited, not only working for disgracefully low wages but packed into their workshops, making it easy for the infection to spread. Webbe said that they had been trying to get the authorities to act on them for years, but they took no notice. Leicester had become the sweatshop of Europe, thanks to neoliberalism and the Tories. And she wanted this ended. Working people, whatever their ethnicity, need proper pay, decent working conditions, and undocumented immigrants also particularly needed to be properly supported, which meant tackling the racism of the immigration service. And with the other speakers at the festival, she wanted neoliberalism smashed and the existing social and economic system transformed.

Belfield wonders where all the lefties were. From what Claudia Webbe said, they were there, doing their job and trying to get help for these people. But the authorities charged with actually looking after exploited workers weren’t interested. From what I’ve read, the agencies charged with protecting them have been cut to the bone by the Tories so that they can’t do an adequate job. And it might also be that those same government bodies and agencies were stuffed full of Tories, who had no intention of doing anything about it, so long as it made money and the bosses donated to Tory coffers.

The left aren’t at fault for the scandal of Leicester’s sweated workers. It’s the Tories, who have removed protection for workers and looked the other way when abuses like this happened.

No doubt confident in their knowledge that if something did happen, and their exploitation was exposed, right-wing media shills like Belfield would immediately start spreading the falsehoods to direct the blame away from them.

I’m not putting up a link to Belfield’s wretched video. I don’t want to give him the publicity. If you want to find it, you can Google it using the title I’ve given.

Dominic Cummings Wants to Take Housing Out of the Hands of Local Authorities

June 28, 2020

I was at a Zoom meeting Friday evening of my local constituency Labour party, Bristol South. The evening was devoted to a discussion of how the party should respond and formulate proper policies following the Keir Starmer’s national policy review. The areas under discussion that evening were housing and local democracy, and health and social care after the Coronavirus. Many members that the way to restore proper health and social care would be to give power back to the trade unions, and proper wages and career prospects to the women and men working in our NHS and care sector.

Local democracy is rather more complicated, however. As has been shown by the news over the last couple of days, many local authorities are now in dire financial straits thanks to the Coronavirus pandemic. The Tories did promise that they’d give them all the funding they needed to cope, but it’s been a typical Tory promise: the funding hasn’t materialised. The result is that a number of local authorities are facing bankruptcy. Wiltshire in the West Country is one, and Bristol may well be another. Bristol has fared better than most, as the much-maligned elected mayor, Marvin, did manage to sort out the financial mess and serious budget deficits left by the previous elected mayor, George Ferguson. It seems under Red Trousers there was serious financial mismanagement. This really doesn’t surprise me, as Ferguson announced one year there would be tens of millions of cuts, but that we shouldn’t be afraid of them. Before he became an independent, Ferguson was a Lib Dem, but he may as well have been a Tory.

It’s unclear what the proper spheres of national and local government are. Andrew Marr has published a book on this very issue, but I stopped reading it and put it away due to the flagrant anti-Labour bias on his TV show. I guess I’ll have to dig it out and start reading it properly, as this could become a major issue in the next few years. It is a major problem how we can get the British public involved in both national and local government, so that they don’t feel ignored and marginalized by the authorities.

And there’s a serious problem for local authorities on the horizon. Apparently Dominic Cummings wants to take housing out of the hands of local authorities. This is extremely alarming, given the closeness between the Tories and developers, as shown by Jenrick’s scandalous conduct over at Tower Hamlets. As Mike and the others have revealed on their blogs, Jenrick allowed Tory donor Richard ‘Dirty’ Desmond to develop Westferry in London against existing planning regulations or the wishes of the local authority after Dirty Des gave the Conservatives a £12,000 bung. After twelve years of power, we’re back to John Major and New Labour levels of sleaze and corruption again. It’s feared that if the Tories do take it housing into national government, they’ll just let off a free-for-all of development.

The Labour party in Bristol is trying to encouraging the renovation of older properties as well as the construction of new housing. Not only does this also provide accommodation, but it also employs more people. There are also problems with the current planning legislation in that developers can convert old commercial properties into residential housing in areas around music venues. This has been done in the old office blocks surrounding the Bristol pub, the Fleece and Firkin, which has been a centre for live musical performances in Bristol since the 1980s. The problem is that at the moment the developers don’t have to do anything to protect the homes’ prospective residents from the noise, so that they complain instead about the music venue. The local authority in Bristol is trying to bring in some of the continental legislation that protects existing music venues by insisting that the developers must install double glazing and so on when they build flats and homes in such areas.

The party on Friday was expecting the Tories to make the announcement they were taking housing away from local authorities today, but wondered if they actually would after the scandal with Jenrick. I haven’t heard that they have. But it’s clearly something they would dearly love to do. If that happens it will lead to housing and building development that isn’t wanted by the existing residents of an area, and the further destruction of local democracy.

This is an area which needs to be very closely watched and guarded.

BBC Shows Horizon Programme from 2006 Next Week on Threat of Global Pandemic

April 2, 2020

According to next week’s Radio Times, BBC 4 is showing an edition of their science programme, Horizon at 10.00 pm next Wednesday, 8th April 2020. First shown in 2006, the documentary is about the-then Labour government’s plans against a killer pandemic and its catastrophic consequences. The blurb for it in the magazine runs

This feature-length documentary from 2006 focuses on the chilling scenario outlined in the government’s Influenza Contingency Plan, that the next mass outbreak of flu could kill up to 750,000 in Britain. It also predicts that hospitals and emergency services would be overwhelmed by a new, virulent strain of flu, leading to widespread panic and breakdown of law and order.

This bears out an article Mike put up on the 26th of last month, reporting that the British government under Labour knew and were prepared for a lethal pandemic. However, their reports and plans, the National Risk Register of Civil Emergencies, the UK Pandemic Communications Strategy and the Guide to Dealing with the Fatalities of the Pandemic, weren’t updated. Further more, the organisation within the Department of Health responsible for tackling such a crisis, the Pandemic Influenze Preparedness Team, appears to have been disbanded after 2011 or thereabouts. It’s because the Tories evidently decided that the threat wasn’t serious, and were more interested in imposing savage cuts in government and welfare provision in order to give their rich corporate donors tax cuts. This has meant that we were left unprepared for the Coronavirus outbreak, and have had to model our strategy on what other countries have been doing. Time has been wasted and lives, that may otherwise have been saved, lost.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2020/03/26/the-tories-axed-their-defence-against-coronavirus-years-before-it-arrived-deaths-were-inevitable/

I doubt, and hope very much that the death toll does not reach anywhere near as high as 3/4 of a million. The worst scenario I’ve heard being talked about is 200-250,000, which is still waaaaay too much. It will be an indictment of this government if there are that many casualties.

The following day, Thursday 9th April, the Beeb is showing the first part of a two-part Horizon documentary on the Coronavirus at 9.00 pm on BBC 2. It might be interesting to see how the current pandemic compares to the scenario the Blair government envisaged and prepared for. Hopefully it will be nowhere near as bad as predicted.

But nevertheless, the programme’s existence itself shows that Labour took the threat of a devastating pandemic seriously. Dave Cameron, Tweezer and, initially, Boris did not. And the result is needlessly lost lives and mass poverty.

 

Corbyn Warns that Fighting Against Corona Virus Will Be Harder Due to Tory Cuts

March 13, 2020

Yesterday the papers were falling over themselves to praise BoJob’s wretched budget to the rafters. It was the first populist budget since Maggie Thatcher! There would be more spending on the NHS to help it combat the corona virus. The Tories were now committed to spending more on the economy and the infrastructure. Boris was giving the public what they wanted. It was all A Very Good Thing indeed.

It seems it was only Jeremy Corbyn, who struck a more sober, realistic note. According to a piece in yesterday’s I, by Richard Wheeler and Sophie Morris, the former Labour leader warned that fighting back against the virus will be harder because of 10 years of cuts. The article ran

Jeremy Corbyn urged the Government to be straight with people about how the coronavirus response will be “much tougher” after 10 years of “deeply damaging” cuts.

The Labour leader welcomed Budget steps taken by Chancellor Rishi Sunak to head off the economic impact of the spread of Covid-18.

But the UK enters the crisis with its public services “on their knees” and with a “fundamentally weak” economy, Mr Corbyn added.

Replying to the Budget, the Opposition leader said: “The Chancellor shows not some but a lot of brass neck when he boasts that measures to deal with coronavirus are only possible because of his party’s management of the economy.

“Look outside – in the real world, we’re still living through the slowest economic recovery in a century. Our economy is fundamentally weak.”

He told the Commons: “The steps the Government has announced today to head off the economic impact of the coronavirus are obviously welcome, but I have some points I wish to raise.

“We have to be straight with people, it is going to be much tougher because of the last 10 years of deeply damaging and counterproductive cuts to all of our essential public services.”

He added the Budget “doesn’t come close” to delivering on the Government’s election promises to working-class communities.”

Bristol South Labour MP Karin Smyth on the Budget

I was at a meeting of the local Labour Party in south Bristol yesterday. Our MP, Karin Smyth was there to give her report to us all. And she was very scathing about the Budget and the Tory response to the coronavirus. She said first of all that the Tories should not be congratulated for doing something they’d destroyed. The money they promise to put back into the economy will not restore it to 2009/10 levels. And at the moment, it’s just headlines. The money has not been allocated and there is no infrastructure. She didn’t say it quite like this, but this is what is: guff. Empty, vapid guff and promises. She also said that it showed how far removed from the lives of ordinary people that they really didn’t understand how Statutory Sick Pay worked, or that people with the virus would have to go into work because otherwise, thanks to their cuts, they wouldn’t have any money.

Her comments on the state of the NHS and social care also bore out Corbyn’s comments. Before she became a local MP for Bristol, she was involved in the CCGs – the commissioning groups set up within the NHS by Tony Blair – in north Somerset and then in Bristol. She stated that Bristol was well placed to tackle the coronavirus, but this was only through the work of the local authority. The party’s LGBT officer stated that Bristol was also strongly placed to tackle the disease, as she worked in the virus labs. However, this was solely due to the local authority and NHS groups working to develop the machinery to deal with emergencies like the virus themselves. The Tories had destroyed the national machinery to deal with them with the introduction of Andrew Lansley’s pestilential Health and Social Care bill of 2012.

Tory NHS reforms and partial privatisation have damaged this country’s ability to respond to the coronavirus. 

I ended up talking about the coronavirus emergency with the taxi driver coming home. He too was mightily unimpressed with BoJob’s response. And he was furious at Johnson’s statement that people would die. Now I think Johnson meant it as a mere statement of fact, but the driver, and many others I’m sure, have taken it to mean that Johnson is completely indifferent to the deaths of the poor, the disabled and the elderly. Mike has commented to that effect. So has Zelo Street. And they’re right. Johnson’s government has repeatedly shown that they have no interested in preserving the lives of the vulnerable. Quite the opposite – they do seem to see the mass deaths they’ve inflicted through the work capability cuts and the benefit sanctions as ‘culling the herd’.  Which brings me back to another comment Smyth made – that the government’s welfare reforms means that the welfare safety no longer exists. And the effects will get worse towards the end of this government in 2024.

People are going to die because Johnson and the Tories hate the welfare state for keeping the poor and vulnerable alive and imposing taxes on the rich.

The Labour Party, Affirmative Action and the Problem of Liberal Prejudice, Part 2: Sexism, Misogyny and Misandry

February 4, 2020

In the first part of this post, I discussed some of the problems that may arise from all-Black and Asian election shortlists, as suggested by one of the candidates at the recent Labour party deputy leadership hustings in Bristol. In this part I wish to examine some of the problems of the same candidate’s declaration that they were determined to fight misogyny. I am certainly not denying that sexism exists in society, and that women are very far from being equal. I realise that many women have struggled and continue to struggle to make themselves accepted in male-dominated professions and workplaces. I realise that there are many jobs not considered suitable for women. And I also realise that despite some women managing to break the ‘glass ceiling’ and reach the very heights of management, there are still very few female managing directors or chairs of companies. However, the situation is changing in some areas, and this is not reflected in the debate about sexism, sexual harassment or gender and violence, at least not at the level of the popular press.

One of the issues is education. Since the 1990s boys have been falling behind girls at school and I gather that the majority of university students are also women. I know very well that women have had to struggle to get to this point. When I was growing up in the 1980s I remember reading a number of articles about brain sex stating that women would never be equal with men in certain subjects, like maths and science. But this has been shown to be false too. There are a number of factors affecting boys’ performance. One is the importance of sport, sex and violence over ‘book-larnin”, so that one academic commenting on the issue in the 1990s said that boys weren’t interested in the ‘3 Rs’ as the ‘3 Fs’ – football, fighting and, well, you can guess. Another factor may be that teaching is now very much a female-dominated profession, to the point where some schools have been described as ‘man deserts’ because of the lack or total absence of male teachers.

Other factors are class and those jobs traditionally viewed as masculine. Traditional working class male jobs, like mining, emphasised strength rather than academic performance. It may well be the case that, among some working class boys, academic performance is discouraged as effeminate and ‘poofy’. But class has also been a factor. A friend of mine grew up in rural Suffolk and went to the local comprehensive school. As he tells it, it had been a grammar school and still retained a very snobbish class ethos. The school ran classes in its sixth form to prepare pupils for going to university. My friend is highly intelligent, and he told me that despite achieving very good grades, the school never put him in this class. He came from a very working class background, and the school did not consider working class children to be suitable for university. And I’m afraid that there are some teachers that are very sexist in their attitudes to the children in their charge. I’ve heard horror stories decades ago of headmasters, who set up two classes for the bright and less bright. All the boys were in the first, and all the girls in the second. At the same time, I’ve come across two teachers in my time in school, who in my experience did not like boys and treated them worse than the girls. One was female, one was male.

These are issues that need to be examined if boys’ academic performance is to be improved. But there is a problem whether a political and social culture, that has and is making great effort to improve girls’ and women’s academic performance, is also able to to devote the same kind of effort and energy to boys. If boys also need special treatment to help them achieve their potential, then some feminists may resent that as an attack on the schemes that have helped women to make such great strides in achieving theirs.

I’m sure that when the candidate spoke about misogyny, she meant instances of clear hostility and aggression to women. Like discrimination, sexual harassment, abuse or violence specifically towards women. Domestic violence, and the stuff that Harvey Weinstein has been accused of. However, what makes this problematic is the way some feminists have extended it to include even trivial gestures, which many people of both sexes wouldn’t consider aggressive or demeaning. For example, one feminist academic has claimed that women’s self-confidence is knocked through ‘micro-aggressions’ such as calling them ‘love’. This was heavily criticised in the press, with some male writers pondering whether they were being treated with aggression and contempt when women called them ‘love’. Last week an expert from the Chartered Institute of Management appeared on Sky, I believe, and declared that management should stop men talking about sport in the workplace, as this excluded women and led to other laddish behaviours, like boasting of sexual conquests. This was also attacked by anti-feminist bloggers and vloggers like Sargon. Benjamin stated that he’d worked in offices, that were overwhelmingly female and where the topics of office conversation were typically female: makeup and men. Which obviously left him isolated. I’ve also worked in offices where the staff were overwhelmingly female, some of whom were extremely crude. In my first job, one of the girls one day told the rest of the office about how she had been to see a male stripper the night before. I’ve no doubt that if the situation was reversed, feminists, if not ordinary women, would find that unacceptable. But is there now a double-standard in that talk of such excursions is acceptable, if the strippers are men?

Ditto with sexual harassment. This is always discussed as something that men do to women, never the other way round. A few years ago there was a scandal about MPs groping parliamentary staff. This focused very much on women, who were leading the protest. But the Beeb report, as far as I can remember, also mentioned that half the victims were men. Nothing then was said about how they were affected or what steps were being taken to safeguard them. Did that mean that men’s safety in this regard was not as important as women’s? Again, the other year there was a report about the prevalence of sexual abuse and harassment at universities. One report in the I said that 75 per cent of women students had experienced it. It also said that 25 per cent of men had also. The article then described how universities were trying to tackle it by laying on courses educating students about the issue. But the rest of the article only discussed it as a problem that affected women. The men were mentioned and forgotten.

Domestic violence is also an issue that is framed almost exclusively as something that men inflict on women. I’m very much aware that throughout history, this has been very much the case. However, a friend of mine, who is a former nurse, told me that when he was being trained, they were told that both sexes were sent to the hospital in equal numbers by the partners. Men were, however, much more likely to kill their wives. I certainly do not mean here, to suggest anything to prevent vulnerable women from being given the help and protection they need against violent and dangerous men. The Tories have left such women increasingly vulnerable through cuts to women’s refuges and centres. While it is recognised that men also suffer from domestic abuse from women, you don’t hear that women hospitalise as many men as the other way around. Nor have I come across many articles talking primarily about men as victims of female violence. In fact, I can’t think of one. But I’ve also come across some extremely foul-tempered, violent women. I’ve no doubt discussion of the issue is constrained by some men feeling emasculated by talking about it. No man really wants others to think him ‘pussy-whipped’. And there is the attitude that men should just be a man about it all, and take it. At the same time, I think some women and feminists may also have qualms about discussing gendered violence towards men with the same kind of concern that’s given to women in case in detracted from the campaigns to end violence against women. But clearly such violence exists, and so needs to be tackled.

A campaign to tackle genuine misogyny is entirely praiseworthy. But it overlooks the way men can be similarly affected, and a narrow focus solely on women threatens to create new forms of sexism, rather than combat it. 

 

 

Flyers For Deputy Leadership Candidates Dawn Butler and Rosena Allin-Khan

February 3, 2020

I went to the hustings for the Labour deputy leadership in Bristol on Saturday. It was held in afternoon at a hall in Bristol City football ground in Ashton Gate. The hustings for leadership itself was in the morning, but unfortunately I couldn’t get tickets for that. They’d gone almost as soon as the news of them and how to apply for them appeared on line.

It was a really great afternoon, and very good indeed to see the five candidates appear and speak in person. They were Dr. Rosena Allin-Khan, Dawn Butler, Angela Rayner, Richard Burgon and Ian McCulloch. They spoke with passion, energy and intelligence, answering a series of questions that had been submitted by members of the local party. These covered issues like the NHS, mental health, racism, women and minorities, and even the role of cooperatives and the third sector. It was very clear that, whatever their differences, all of them were committed to getting Labour back into power and defending Britain’s working people from the Tories and their cuts. Angela Rayner, one of the centrists, went up in my estimation when she announced how much she despised the academies. I was also immensely impressed by Richard Burgon’s ringing denunciation of neoliberalism and his statement that he wanted to see Clause IV – the statement that the Labour party stands for the nationalisation of industry – back into the party’s constitution. It should never have been removed.

I’d like to blog further about the hustings in general, but in this post I simply want to talk about the flyers for two of the candidates I picked up. These were for Dr. Rosena Allin-Khan and Dawn Butler.

Here’s Dr. Allin-Khan’s.

Dr. Allin-Khan explained that she’s the daughter of a Polish mother and an Asian father, and made it very clear that she owed her success to the Labour giving her the opportunity to study medicine at Cambridge and become a doctor. She was very passionate about defending the health service, and mental health issues. She mentioned that her father was suffering from dementia, and she was extremely concerned about the children and young people she saw as doctor who were self-harming.

I think the front of the flyer is clear enough, but in case you can’t read the rear, it runs:

Why I’m standing

Growing up on the breadline, as a mixed race child, with a single mum, under Margaret Thatcher’s Government of the 80s, meant that the odds were stacked against my brother and I.

Constantly told that there was a ceiling on what I could achieve, when I failed my exams, my dreams of serving my community looked to be over.

A Labour Government transformed me life and enabled me to go to medical school and become an A&E doctor, where I still do frontline shifts. I am determined that no person should have a limit placed on them by this Conservative Government. As an MP, I’ve taken my passion for Labour values across the world in humanitarian crises, working with the most vulnerable. Only when we give a voice to the voiceless, can we create a more equal society.

We face a huge challenge ahead and we need to prove to the country that we can deliver on our promises.

As Deputy, I will lead from the grassroots, working hard across the UK. I will listen to members and together evaluate why we lost the last four general elections, then move forwards, starting by winning the elections in May.

I would give our emergency service workers a voice on shaping their future by offering them a reduced rate to join our party – we will fight to save our NHS from the Tory sell-off.

My aim is clear: to take Labour forward together and win the next General Election -join me.

Doctor Rosena Allin-Khan,

MP for Tooting.

And this is Dawn Butler’s.

In addition to the four points of Campaign, organise, Recruit and Educate, Butler added a fifth on the podium – Discipline. The party has to be united in order to defeat the Tories.

I hope you can read the five points of her plan as itemised on the card. If you can’t, they are:

  1. Unite our party and bring the party together, harnessing the talents of all, to take on the Tories.
  2. Invest in campaigning infrastructure in the regions, towns and cities and embed professional Organisers in more seats.
  3. Continue to champion great policies like the Green New Deal, equalities and strengthening employment rights.
  4. Work loyally with the Leader to elect a Labour government.
  5. As I have done throughout my role as Shadow Equalities Minister, I will fight bullying of all minorities to ensure we are an open and accepting society.

Like Dr. Allin-Khan, Butler has also had to fight to get to her current position. She says that when she was at school she was told she’d never make anything of herself, and that she should stick to running. She also said that even after she became an MP, she was so out of place as a Black woman, that when she entered a lift reserved for MPs, one of the others pointed this out to her and told her it wasn’t for cleaners. She is, as you might expect, very passionate on the subject of minority rights.

I’m afraid I can only put up flyers for Dr. Allin-Khan and Dawn Butler, as they’re the only flyers I was personally handed. I hope they help people in the Labour party wondering what the candidates stand for, and who they should back for this crucially important role.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Tory Attacks on Health and Safety Legislation Is Causing Carnage

January 21, 2020

Since almost as long as I can remember, the Tories and their lackeys in the press have been attacking health and safety legislation. The common reasons trotted out are that it is an unnecessary burden to employers, binding them with complicated red tape and costs. More recently the authors of Britannia Unchained and similar works have demanded that such legislation protecting people at work should be rolled back in order to make Britain more competitive against countries in the Developing World, whose workers don’t benefit by such protection. The Tories have tried to make this assault popular by making health and safety legislation seem not only cumbrous, interfering and bureaucratic, but also massively overprotective and silly. Remember all those stories from the Heil years ago claiming that, thanks to the ‘Nanny state’, schools were having to make children wear goggles before playing conkers?

The truth is that when health and safety legislation was introduced in the ’70s, it massively cut down on deaths and injuries among working people – and that’s basically why the Tories would like to get rid of it. They want labour to be cheap and easily disposable, and health and safety laws are an obstacle to that. And the chapter by Hilda Palmer and David Whyte in The Violence of Austerity by Whyte and Vickie Cooper shows exactly how devastating in terms of lives and injuries their attacks on the legislation has been. The government watchdog in charge of overseeing the implementation of the legislation, the Health and Safety Executive, has had its funding cut by 47 per cent. The Tories have also threatened to close it down altogether. In 2013 the government launched a review in order to see whether there was still a need for its functions and if it complied with good governance. The number of staff employed at the executive fell from 3,702 in April 2010 to 2,706 in December 2013. Since the Tories came to power, the number of inspections by the Executive has fallen by a third.

These cuts have resulted in an increase in work-related accidents and injuries, although the authors warn that the government’s figures are almost certainly too low. The real figures are almost certainly higher. They write

Typically, the official ‘headline figure’ published by the HSE records between 140 and 240 deaths per year resulting from sudden injury and 13,000 deaths caused by occupational diseases and illnesses. Those figures, however, only reflect a small proportion of total deaths caused by work. The first figure does not include key categories of deaths cause by work. The Hazards Campaign estimates that seven times more deaths are caused by work incidents than the figure official cited by the HSE. HSE figures exclude work-related road traffic deaths, the workplace deaths recorded in other industries that the HSE does not have formal responsibility for, like the maritime and civil aviation industries, or deaths to members of the public killed by a work activity, such as scaffold collapses or train crashes. A more complete estimate would also include suicides attributed to work related stress. There are approximately 6,000 suicides involving working-age people in the UK each year, and a number of those involve workers driven to despair by work-related stress. In Japan, where work-related suicides are officially recognised and compensated, it is estimated that 5 per cent of suicides are work-related. This estimate, if applied to the UK, would amount to roughly 300 people killed through work related strees.

In sum, a more complete figure of workplace deaths caused by sudden injury, which takes into account all of the above exclusions, would amount to between 1,000 and 1,400 deaths every year, or 3-4 deaths per day. (p. 142).

They also argue that the estimated number of deaths from occupational diseases are also probably grossly underestimated once recent academic studies are taken into account. For example, a 2005 study of the causes of occupational and environmental cancer by Richard Clapp estimated that about 8-16 per cent of all cancer deaths came from occupational cancer. If the mid-range figure of 12 per cent is taken as the number of occupational deaths from cancer, the number of people dying through work-related cancer is 18,000 per year.

A 2005 paper in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine estimated tath 15-20 per cent of all cases of COPD – chronic obstructive pulmonary disease – could be work related. Which means 6,000 deaths per year. There is also evidence that up to 20 per cent of all deaths from heart disease are related to conditions at work. This figure adds up to 20,000 deaths per year.

A further conservative estimate that diseases in which work can be a contributory cause, such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, rheumatoid arthritis and so on comprise a further 6,000 deaths per annum.

They state

All of this adds up to an overall estimate by the Hazards Campaign of up to 50,000 deaths from work-related illness every year – four times the typical HSE estimate of around 13,000 per year. Our contention then, is that the HSE figures grossly underestimate the number of workers whose current working conditions expose them to both the well-known and the newer risk factors, that will produce the workers deaths of the future. (p. 143).

They also make the point that the death toll is still rising, because of toxins to which people may have been exposed to as much as 40 years previously, such as some carcinogens. The EU has estimated that in the 1990s five million workers, or 22 per cent of the working population, were exposed to cancer-causing substances.

They also argue that, thanks to austerity, more workers are suffering under poor working conditions that are damaging their health. These include bullying and harassment, long hours, and the zero hours contracts imposed on 5.5 million workers. The insecurity these contracts cause are linked to stress, heart and circulatory diseases. Workers are also still exposed to dusts and chemicals that cause or contribute to respiratory and heart diseases. They also point to the connection between low paid work and poor safety standards

Low paid work guarantees more than hardship: low pay goes hand in hand with low safety standards. Occupational injuries and diseases such as diabetes and cancer are directly linked to low paid jobs. (p. 144).

They also make the point that the ‘compensation culture’ the Tories have claimed exists is actually a myth. In fact, many workers don’t receive the compensation to which they’re entitled. They write

One of the first moves of the Coalition government, in October 2010, was to appoint Lord Young, a former Cabinet minister under Margaret Thatcher, to deliver ‘a Whitehall-wide review of the operation of health and safety laws and the growth of the compensation culture.’ He found absolutely no evidence of this ‘compensation culture’, citing figures which actually showed a downward trend to legal claims, but still demanded action to deal with ‘red tape’. Indeed, figures obtained by Hazards Magazine show that fewer than one in seven people suffering an occupational injury or disease ever receive compensation. For occupational diseases alone, this drops to just one in twenty-six. For most occupational cancers, there is barely any prospect of compensation at all.  (p. 145).

They also show that the government’s division of work into high and low risk is also highly dubious and has resulted in an increase in deaths at work. It was done by Cameron’s government in order to restrict HSE inspections to those jobs considered high risk. But the low risk category is wide, and includes textiles, clothing, footwear, light engineering, road and air transport and docks, electricity generation and the postal and courier services. Hazards Magazine found that 53 per cent of all deaths at work caused by sudden injury were in the low risk sector. Palmer and Whyte state ‘In other words, the government’s fiscal purge of health and safety enforcement has meant abandoning scrutiny of the workplaces where the majority of deaths occur’. (p. 145).

Palmer and Whyte state that this death toll should be a ‘call to arms. to any government, regardless of its political stance. But instead, despite the ‘glaring’ evidence that the red tape is good for workers, employers and the economy, governments have doubled down and insisted that such legislation is an intolerable nuisance. This has reached the point where the HSE doesn’t even both to ask ‘what’s so wrong with red tape anyway?’ The government’s ideological obsession with red tape means that ‘there is no room for argument or evidence that health and safety legislation doesn’t burden business, while its absence carries a high cost to business, workers and the public purse.’

This means that when some rag like the Heil, the Depress, or the Scum claims that health and safety legislation is unnecessary, costly and stifling business, they are lying. And lying to defend an attitude to workplace safety that is murderously dangerous to working people.

But then, as the disabled have found, Tory responsibility for mass injury and death is nothing new.

 

 

Austerity and Prison Violence

January 15, 2020

A week or so ago Mike put up a piece reporting and commenting on the death of a disabled man in prison. From what I remember, like many such instances the man’s own special needs had been ignored and he was actually in prison for a minor offence. At least, one that should not merit his murder. Mike connected this to the Tories’ ongoing campaign of mass murder against the disabled.

In fact, violence, including self-harm, has risen massive in British jails since the Tories launched their wretched austerity. Joe Sim has authored an entire chapter on it in Vickie Cooper’s and David Whyte’s The Violence of Austerity. Sim has his own particular view of the crisis. He considers that prison violence hasn’t itself been created by austerity. It’s always been there, and is part of society’s brutal maltreatment of the poor and marginalised. But it has been massively intensified by the Tories’ cuts.

The stats are horrifying. Between 2011 and 2016, sexual assaults almost doubled. In 2014-15 there were over 400 serious incidents requiring the intervention of the specialist National Tactical Response Group, In 2015 an average of 160 fires were started each month. Self-harm rose by 40 per cent in two years, so that in 2015, 32,313 incidents were recorded.

321 died in the year to June 2016, an increase of 30 per cent on the previous year. 105 of these were self-inflicted, a rise of 28 per cent. Deaths by natural causes rose by 26 per cent to 186. Between January 2010 and December 2016, 1637 prisoners died, 542 of which were self-inflicted.

In 2015-15 there were nearly 5000 assaults and acts of violence against the different groups of people working in prisons. These included 423 on prison officers below the rank of principal officer, 828 on nursing auxiliaries and assistants, 640 on nurses, 535 on care workers, and 423 on welfare and housing associate professionals.

Sim states that to many commentators, including the media, Prison Officers’ Association and mainstream politicians, the cause of this increased violence are the cuts to the prison budget. These amounted to £900 million between 2011 and 2015, or 24 per cent of its overall budget. The Prison Reform Trust said that it was

[n]o mystery that violence, self-harm and suicide rise when you overcrowd prisons, reduce staff by almost one third, cut time out of cell and purposeful activity. The backdrop is a more punitive climate, increased injustice and uncertainty which have sucked hope out of the system for prisoners and staff.

I’m not disputing that very many of those incarcerated are guilty of the most heinous offences, and fully deserve their incarceration and punishment. But it is very clear that austerity has resulted in a massive deterioration in conditions which fueling violence in prisons against staff and prisoners. There’s obviously a long and complicated debate about the purposes of prison – to punish, reform, or even both – but it is clear that neither staff nor prisoners deserve the maltreatment and violence the cuts have generated.

This isn’t reformative. It isn’t proper punishment. It is carnage.

But the Tories just love killing and death when it’s directed against the poor and powerless.

The Rise in Child Poverty Predicted for 2020

December 29, 2019

Vickie Cooper’s and David whyte’s book, The Violence of Austerity has a chapter on ‘Child Maltreatment and Child Mortality’ by Joanna Mack. It’s a deeply troubling subject which in itself should be an indictment of the Tories and their wretched austerity. Mack uses the horrific incidence of infant mortality in Britain to show how the Tories justify it as somehow inevitable, and that therefore it should therefore be considered an act of political violence, albeit carefully hidden. She writes

The UK infant (0 to 1 years) mortality rate, at around four deaths per 1000 births in 2014, is higher than all but two of the nineteen Euro area member states. About half of these deaths are linked to short gestation and low birth weight, both of which are highly associated with deprivation. The result is that babies born into poorer families in deprived neighbourhoods are more likely to die than children from richer families.

Allowing a pregnant woman to go without food in a cold, unheated home is to compromise her baby’s life chances. The World Health Organisation defines ‘child maltreatment’ as an action that in the context of a relationship of power results in ‘actual or potential harm to the child’s health, survival, development or dignity.’ If an individual takes such action then they may be liable to prosecution. Yet if a political system results in such actions, it is seen as an inevitable, if unfortunate, by product of economic necessity. This is not overt violence but cover violence. (p. 89).

She then goes on to describe just how hollow Tweezer’s promises to end austerity and improve people’s life expenctancy in the UK actually are.

On becoming Prime Minister in July 2016, Theresa May tried to set a new tone, making bold promises about ‘a country that works for everyone’ and fighting the ‘burning injustice’ of those born poor dying earlier than others. Yet for all the talk of an end to austerity, all of the planned benefit cuts will go ahead. Largely as a direct result of these planned cuts, over half a million more children are set to fall below the 2010/11 poverty line in 2020/21 than did in 2015/16 while the percentage of children in relative income poverty is predicted to rise from 18 per cent in 2015/16 to 26 per cent in 2020/21. And these projections could prove optimistic given the economic uncertainties surrounding Brexit and the threats to turn the UK into a low tax haven with its inevitable consequence of a further rolling back of the welfare state. There are warnings of sharp falls to come to the real-terms incomes of the poorest, particularly those with children. (p.91)

She concludes

This makes a mockery of promises to fight the injustice of poverty. To do this, there would need to be a real commitment to the transfer of income and wealth from the rich to the poor. And that would challenge the very basis of the neoliberal ideology still underpinning the government – an ideology that embeds within it the violence of child poverty.

Well, Tweezer’s gone and been replaced by Boris, who will carry on the government’s neoliberal programme. If anything, he’ll ratchet it up.

And more children will fall into poverty and die in their first year.

Remember how Tweezer swanked onto the stage at the Tory conference to the tune of ‘Killer Queen’? From this perhaps a better track for her and all the other Tories should be Alice Cooper’s ‘Dead Babies’.