Posts Tagged ‘Homeless’

Dennis Skinner on Cameron and Osborne

May 30, 2016

Mike over at Vox Political has published pieces on the number of Tories now demanding a no-confidence vote in David Cameron. These include ‘Mad’ Nad Nadine Dorries and Bill Cash, while other opponents and Tory MPs questioning his ability include Andrew Bridgen, Michael Gove, Boris Johnson and Priti Patel. Which is somewhat ironic, considering that all of them are either incompetent or frankly dangerous, and should be kept well away from political office themselves.

See Mike’s articles http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/05/29/will-the-eu-referendum-be-camerons-waterloo/

Conservative civil war: Clarke bashes Boris, Cash lays into Cameron

Mike in the last piece reports that 72 per cent of voters in Telegraph poll, as of 4 O’clock today, May 30th, wanted Cameron out of office.

So let’s add a bit more fuel to the flames, shall we?

Dennis Skinner in his book, Sailing Close to the Wind: Reminiscences has a few things to say about Cameron and Osborne – about their vacuity, short-tempers and marked lack of intelligence, and his personal tussles with them in the House. Here’s his description of them, and one of his stories about how he engaged them in a struggle of wits.

David Cameron and George Osborne are a couple of posh boys who get angry when you don’t show them the deference they think they are entitled to by birth. You could see Cameron was ambitious the moment you clapped eyes on him. the friendly smile is deceptive. Everything about how he dresses, carries himself and opens his mouth speaks of ambition. Dodgy Dave was a new MP and had only been in the Commons a couple of years when Iain Duncan Smith, enduring a torrid time as leader of the Tories after 2001, appointed Cameron as shadow deputy leader of the House.

On Cameron’s second week in the post Eric Forth, his line manager as shadow leader of the House, was away, so the new boy was pun charge at Business Questions. the beauty of Business Questions is we may ask for a statement or debate on any topic under the sun. I uttered a few words of mock greeting as Cameron stood there terrified, his hands gripping the despatch box, looking for all the world a lost young gentleman. Cameron tried to explain the Shadow Leader of the House was away but mixed up his words and said the Shadow Deputy Leader was absent. You’ve a split second to heckle. ‘he wants the top job already,’ I shouted and we laughed to take him down a notch. Cameron appeared embarrassed. You always remember a debut, it’s a big moment no matter what you do. He won’t forget he stumbled.

I described Cameron as a media creation on Radio 4’s Week in Westminster in late 2005 when he was running for the top job, and nothing I’ve seen or heard since has made me change my mind. He was elevated on the back of a puff of wind and lacked the substance of David Davis, the Tory he beat. The figure the Conservative Party could’ve picked and overlooked in successive contests was ken Clarke, who was easily the best candidate.

I’d watched Cameron as shadow deputy leader of the House and at local government and education, and he never sparkled. When it suited him, he posed as the heir to Blair. He’s dropped the act now and come out as the child of Thatcher he always was. Cameron never had Blair’s ability or temperament, let alone the Labour politics. Blair never lost his temper at the despatch box. Unlike Cameron, who struggles to his under control.

The Cameron mask slipped when he called me a dinosaur. I’m no shrinking violet and if you dish it out some will come back your way. We used to sing as kids that sticks and stones may break our bones but names will never hurt us. the trigger was relatively innocuous. I’d asked if Cameron would appear before Lord Justice Leveson’s inquiry into media standards, given he’d once employed former News of the World editor Andy Coulson as press adviser. Cameron replied he’d be delighted, then Flashman lost control of his short fuse and added:

‘It’s good to see the honourable gentleman on such good form. I often say to my children “No need to go to the Natural History Museum to see a dinosaur, come to the House of Commons at about half past twelve”.

I held up my hands and shrugged my shoulders, trying to look bemused rather than triumphant. Our side protested angrily. I could see most of the Tories were horrified, although there were a few laughing. Blair knew how to appear prime ministerial. Cameron is petulant. Paul Flynn, a Labour MP only a few years younger than me, raised a point of order immediately after Prime Minister’s Questions to ask if it was appropriate to criticise each other on the basis of gender, race, ethnicity, disability or vintage. Another Labour MP, Brian Donohoe, proposed that the PM ‘should come back to this place and apologise to Dennis Skinner.’

I wasn’t the first MP to be looked at down Cameron’s nose. Dave the Sexist displayed a misogynist side in telling Angela Eagle, a member of Labour’s Shadow Cabinet, to ‘Calm down, dear’ and later played the innocent when the Michael Winner slogan was wrapped around his neck. I must be the only dinosaur to ride a bike 12 miles on a Sunday. Once again the postbag ballooned with letters and emails flowed into the inbox on my computer. there must have been 150 of them. Cameron’s rudeness had gone down poorly. One of the notes was from a vicar in Cornwall who accused the PM of lying to God!

I was evidently under Cameron’s skin because, a few months after the dinosaur jibe in January 2012, he snapped once more in the Commons. In answer to a question about whether Jeremy Hunt should keep his job as culture secretary over close links to Rupert Murdoch, the PM jumped off the deep end. He stupidly whined I had a right to take my pension and added: ‘I advise him to do so.’ History was repeating itself. The remark was widely condemned as graceless, the insult boomeranging on a haple4ss Cameron. It was more water off a duck’s back and Cameron could carry on undermining himself for all I cared. In fact it was best that he did. The penny must have dropped with him, however, and at the next Prime Minister’s Questions he apologised.

‘I deeply regret my last intervention, it was a bit sharper than it should have been. I hope he will accept my apology for that,’ Cameron said, before smirking a smarmy ‘He is a tremendous ornament of this House and always remains the case.’

It’s not an apology for calling me a dinosaur or giving me pension advice that I seek, but a resignation letter apologising for the pain and damage he has caused to millions of people with the austerity imposed by the ConDem coalition. The Tories imitate the extreme Tea Party in the US. What the Conservatives are doing to the disabled, unemployed, working poor and homeless is unforgivable. the destruction of the NHS, carved into bite-sized pieces ready for privatisation, is criminal.

George Osborne is Cameron’s partner in crime. Another of the Bullingdon snobs, Osborne is educated beyond his intelligence. I applied the description to Paul Channon, a millionaire minister in Thatcher’s time. it is even more apt for a chancellor of the exchequer clueless of life outside his gilded circle. His skin is as thin as Cameron’s, as I saw when he resented the reminder that he’d appeared in a newspaper photograph with a line of white powder and the dominatrix who sold sex and pain. These posh boys don’t like it up ’em, as Corporal Jones would shout. (Pp. 276-8).

Let’s hope it isn’t too long before we get that resignation letter from Cameron.

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Huff Post on Kipper Throwing Strop at Bristol Uni on Any Questions

March 1, 2015

Radio 4’s political debate programme, Any Questions on Friday was at Bristol Uni. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s the radio equivalent of BBC 1’s Question Time. A different panel of politicians appear at various locations up and down the country each week, and are asked questions by the audience. On the panel this last week was David Coburn, a UKIP MEP. Coburn’s odd in that he’s openly gay, yet opposes same-sex marriage. He’s accused its supporters as ‘equality Nazis’. Which is weird, considering that the Nazis most certainly did not favour equality, and were very firmly against male homosexuality. During the Third Reich gay men were sent to the concentration camps, and identified with a pink triangle on their camp uniform. It’s quite bizarre, considering that in the bio that was sent to the audience, he described himself as ‘a big, screaming poof’.

The Huffington Post’s article, Ukip MEP David Coburn Got Slow Hand-Clapped So Called BBC Audience Names, reports how the students were definitely not impressed by Coburn’s remarks about immigrants pricing British people out of the housing market. So they started to give him the slow handclap. This enraged Coburn, and he started ranting about how the audience was ‘Green’ and full of ‘Lib Dems’. The article begins

Ukip MEP David Coburn appeared on BBC Radio 4’s Any Questions programme on Friday evening. He got slow hand-clapped by members of the audience. So he called them names.

Coburn got into a fight with the audience at Bristol University during a discussion about housing. “How would we know how many houses we need? Because we don’t know how many people are coming into the country,” he said, having dismissed the “wind” from Labour’s shadow housing minister Emma Reynolds.

Coburn, Ukip’s MEP from Scotland, said Britain should leave the EU in order to be able to properly understand how many houses needed to be built. Members of the audience then started to loudly slow handclap the MEP.

“This is a blatantly Green [Party] audience,” Coburn shot back, as host Jonathan Dimbleby tried to keep things calm. “Many of these people sitting around here, all very nice bourgeois Greens and whatever and so on and so forth, what about the working man? How can he afford a house if he is competing with open door immigration?”

The article’s at http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2015/02/27/ukip-mep-david-coburn-was-slow-hand-clapped-by-bbc-audience_n_6772468.html. There’s an audio file with it, so you can hear this broadcasting train wreck for yourself.

Now I don’t know how many people in the audience were Green party members or Lib Dems. I’m sure there were a number, but probably far less than Coburn believes. The Lib Dems have lost a lot of student support, and created a great deal of hostility for themselves on campuses up and down the country through raising tuition fees. I’ve been at conferences on medieval history, where speakers have compared Nick Clegg with some of the Middle Ages most notorious liars and slippery customers. It’s one of the reasons why I believe that Labour’s plan to cut tuition fees from £9,000 down to £6,000 should be a vote-winner.

The party political allegiances of the students there probably wasn’t the only reason they showed their disapproval so audibly. There’s now a global market in education, and people come to British universities from all over the world. And increasingly vice-versa. Brits are now also choosing to study in America, and also at continental universities, such as Paris and Brussels. Many members of the academic staff are also foreign. Among the lecturers at the archaeology and anthropology department at Bristol, for example, were academics from across Europe – Greece, Germany and Portugal. There were also visiting speakers, who gave seminars and lectures to the Arch-Anth Soc (Archaeology and Anthropology Society) from across the world. The students were no less diverse, coming from places like Greece, America, Canada, India and Thailand. This is part of what makes going to uni such an enriching experience. Quite apart from the purely academic study, you get to meet and mix with people from different, often vastly different backgrounds and cultures.

And your own understanding of the world, its immense problems and vast opportunities, is broadened.

With so many in the audience either foreign, or the friends and fellow students of people from outside the UK, it really isn’t surprising that the audience disliked Coburn’s comments so strongly. They are simply narrow and xenophobic. And many of the foreign students are going to find them particularly hollow, as the fees for them were much higher than those for domestic students. They were, however, living in the same halls of residence, and the same types of student accommodation. So they probably didn’t feel that they were pushing house prices up.

Quite apart from the experiences of foreign students and their circumstances, Coburn’s attempt to link it to immigration from the EU, or anywhere else, is quite wrong. There have been cases recorded in the right-wing press, like the Daily Mail, where large numbers of immigrants have placed a strain on available stocks of council housing. However, the root cause of the lack of affordable housing is because the incomes of the very rich have increased far beyond those of the working and lower middle class, regardless of ethnicity or immigrant status. Not enough houses have been built, and since Thatcher the government has been trying to get rid of council housing. In fact Thatcher expressly forbade any more from being built. As for affordable housing, for many people this is a grim joke. The rents for affordable homes are pegged at 80 per cent of the market rate, which for many people in London still means that they will be unable to afford them. The rich, through their immense wealth, push up property prices, beyond the ability of the lower income groups to rent or purchase.

And if immigrants from the continent really were pushing us all out of house and home through their sheer numbers and obscene wealth, why is it then that, according to the stats Johnny Void has put on his blog, 34 per cent of rough sleepers in London are foreign?

The only areas of which I can think, where Coburn’s comments about immigrants pushing up property prices might be true, is in the very affluent parts of London, like Kensington and Knightsbridge, where luxury apartment have been built aimed at the global super-rich, such as the Chinese, or bought up by Russian oligarchs. Now the last time I looked, China and Russia were not part of the EU.

Coburn was given the slow hand-clap by Bristol Uni’s students, not just because some of them were left-wing, though that was probably also part of it. But also because they knew from their own experience at Uni that Coburn was talking dangerous, xenophobic nonsense. And they reacted accordingly.

The Ultimate Origin of the Coalitions Punitive Attitude to the Poor: Richard M Nixon

January 22, 2014

I mentioned in an earlier post this week that I’ve been reading Anthony Marcus’ book Where Have All the Homeless Gone. It’s a fascinating book by an American anthropologist, who did his doctoral research amongst a group of 55 homeless Black American men. Much of the book is about the way the American welfare policies towards the homeless failed because of the particular ideological construction of ‘the homeless’. He notes that up until the great depression of the 1920s, studies of homelessness in America were confined to Skid Row, the poor, low rent areas of American cities populated by single room occupancy hotels, homosexuals, transvestites, prostitutes and other marginal groups. During the 1930s academic studies of homelessness expanded to include the migrant poor, forced by the Depression to move from the mid-west to California to find work, like the Joads in The Grapes of Wrath. He argues that all American studies of homelessness adopted a geographical approach to their subject. The homeless and poor occupied particular areas away from urban centres of culture. This view broke down in the 1980s, when the homeless increasingly began to appear outside their ghettos in prosperous residential and commercial areas.

The book also critiques the ‘cultures of poverty’ approach introduced by Harrington, a member of the Catholic Workers and the author of The Other America, one of the great liberal studies of poverty in the US. Marcus states that Roosevelt’s reliance on the Southern Dixiecrats for support within the Democrat party meant that Black Americans were largely excluded from the New Deal. This instead concentrated on White, unionised Americans in regular work. Harrington attempted to correct this at the beginning of the 1960s with The Other America. Part of his purpose in writing the book was to shame mainstream America with the portrait of the grinding poverty that existed in most powerful and wealthiest nation, and move their compassion into the adoption of policies that would raise them out of poverty and integrate them into mainstream America. Harrington was one of the people Lyndon Johnson appointed to his ‘poverty taskforce’ when attempting to construct the Great Society.

Marcus is critical of Harrington because Harrington’s book led to the view that his ‘Other America’ was somehow deviant from the mainstream in that it did not share its values. The book stated that the citizens of this America were without history and beyond progress. Marcus earlier discusses the division of the poor by 19th century Liberals into the categories of the ‘deserving poor’ and paupers. The deserving poor were the poor, who shared mainstream values and had simply fallen into poverty through no fault of their own. Paupers were the undeserving poor, whose poverty was their own fault through their lack of proper morals. These were poor through drunkenness, idleness, profligacy and other vices. This attitude the subsequently entered the scholarship about the ‘other America’ described by Harrington. Marcus notes that no two of the sociologists and anthropologists researching this ‘other America’ agreed on who they were, and the difference between them and mainstream America was merely assumed, rather than demonstrated. Rather than address the question of how their poverty was created by American society, these scholars were instead concerned with identifying who they were. Harrington’s idea that there was a distinct ‘culture of poverty’ was taken over by Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a liberal Harvard sociologist, who adopted a Weberian approach to poverty. Moynihan became Nixon’s advisor on poverty and homelessness. Marcus states that, although Nixon launched a number of welfare initiatives aimed at erasing poverty, these were based on the idea of gradually weaning the poor off them. It was under Moynihan and Nixon that the various categories and derogatory terms for the undeserving poor developed, and punitive measures, like Food Stamps, introduced, which were intended to make the experience of welfare as humiliating as possible.

The ‘cultures of poverty’ view that people are poor, through their own fault entered British discussions of the origins of poverty and the role of the welfare state with Margaret Thatcher. It has now become a key part of the Coalitions’ own welfare policies. Many other commenters, like Jaynelinney, Johnny Void, Mike at Vox Political, and the Angry Yorkshireman, have posted about the use of psychological techniques by the notorious Nudge unit at Tory Central Office, which are intended to get the poor to blame themselves for their poverty, rather than the inequalities of a vicious and exploitative system. These bloggers, and many others, have noted the way much of the Coalitions’ policies have been inspired and guided by Social Darwinism, the survival of the economic fittest. Marcus confirms this view, as he states in a footnote to the chapter on poverty studies in America that it may be significant that as Marxism, the main ideological opponent of Social Darwinism in the 19th century, has waned, so Social Darwinism has re-emerged and grown stronger.

And so we in Britain ultimately have Richard Nixon to thank for the bullying and punitive approach to welfare adopted by Thatcher and the Coalition. Perhaps its time someone did the same to Cameron, Osborne, Clegg and particularly IDS and Esther McVey and impeached them for their high crimes and misdemeanours.

The Bedroom Tax: Tories Turning Socialism around to Punish the Poor

November 15, 2013

A friend once described the Coalition’s policies to me as ‘Socialism for the rich’. He’s quite right, of course. Under Socialism, the resources of the state are used to improve conditions for the poorest members of society. Since Thatcher, however, this situation has been completely reversed. The power of the state has been used instead to enrich the wealthiest and most powerful, while further grinding down and impoverishing the poorest. You can see that in the way immense tax breaks have been granted to the extremely rich, while companies have been given lucrative government contracts and subsidies for providing essential, including the management of state-owned organisations and parts of the civil service. These include the railways, parts of the NHS, the police service, and the welfare infrastructure, now being mismanaged by Serco, G4S and ATOS. The poor, on the other hand, have seen their state support, in the form of welfare benefits, cut and the services they use privatised and placed in the hands of the private sector.

It seems the Coalition have a strategy of finding a Socialist policy, and then inverting it to use against the very people it was designed to help. The bedroom tax is an example of this.

Something similar was to the fictitious ‘bedroom’ subsidy was in fact proposed in Germany in the 1920s by the USDP – the Unabhangige Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands, or the Independent German Social Democrats. They were a Left-wing, but Non-Communist, Socialist party that had split from the Social Democrats over their alliance with the bourgeois parties and use of the paramilitary Freikorps units to put down the Council Revolution that had spread through Germany and Central Europe in 1919. One of the policies adopted by the USDP was that legislation should be passed, forcing homeowners to take in the homeless. This use of state power over the homes of private individuals may now appear shocking to a British public, raised on the Thatcher ideal of popular home-ownership. On the continent, however, most people live in rented accommodation. At the time, houses were split into multiple occupancy, with different families occupying different rooms within the same house. The poorest could be crammed into single rooms, such as the mother of one of the child victims in Fritz Lang’s cinematic classic, M. Twenty years ago one of the journalists in the colour section of the German newspaper, the Frankfurter Allgemeine, went back to visit Silesia. This was one of the two ‘arms’ of Germany to the north and south of Poland, which had been granted to the new country after World War II, and its German population expelled. The journalist had been one of those 1 1/2 million people, who had been forced to move to the new German borders further west. On his visit to his former home, he managed to find his old neighbourhood and its building, reminiscing about the various families that had shared the house in which he had lived as a boy. The legislation proposed by the USPD would therefore have been used against landlords as an attempt to solve the housing crisis that afflicted many countries, including Britain, after the World War I.

Mike over at Vox Political and a number of other, great Left-wing blogs have pointed out that the so-called subsidy the Coalition claims was granted to council tenants with a spare bedroom is entirely fictitious. It never existed. The claimed rationale for ending it, is that it would either force tenants with an extra, unused room to take in a lodger, or else free up council properties to be used by those, who really need such extra rooms to house their members. In fact it’s simply another ruse to slash welfare spending, and at the same time penalise those in council housing. In fabricating their pretext for doing so, the Tories have clearly taken the same idea as that proposed by the USPD, and then turned it backwards so that it affects and penalises not the prosperous rich, but the poorest and most in need of state housing. It is another example of the Coalition’s ‘Socialism for the Rich’.

I wondered if we should not, in fact, return to the spirit of the USPD’s original legislation. Cameron and the Old Etonian aristos and members of the haute bourgeoisie, who adorn his cabinet and Tory Central Office are, after all, public servants. They are paid salaries and expenses by the state. They are also very wealthy individuals, whose homes no doubt match their inflated incomes. This also applies to the heads of the companies contracted to run what little remains of the state infrastructure. These state should similarly have the right to force them to open up their mansions to the poor and destitute. David Cameron this week made a speech declaring that working-class children should raise their aspirations. Well, what better example can Cameron set for the new, aspiring, socially mobile working class he envisions, than for he and his colleagues to give a place at their firesides to the homeless and Job Seekers. The radical journalist Cobden believed that one of the causes of the unrest and dissatisfaction rife in early 19th century Britain was due to the breakdown of the hospitality farmers traditionally gave their workers. In traditional agricultural society, these ate and lived with the farmer himself, and so master and servants shared bonds of familiarity and loyalty. By the time Cobden was writing, this had broken down, and Cobden believed that their banishment from their master’s house and table was a major cause of class discontent. Surely, as someone determined to restore the great traditions of British society, Cameron should be the first to return to this great custom, and offer his own home as residence to Britain’s new poor as a good, paternalistic master in this century?