Election fever?

“The entertainment starts now” …. 01.04.2015
Background: The author, still deaf (no improvement from yesterday, sadly) is a life-long (well, so far!) Trade Unionist, having served “stints” in the T&GWU, APEX, MSF, Unison, and most of all, GMB. In the dark ages, he was an active Labour Party member – in Westbury CLP (that was really DARK for Labour!) and in Cardiff North, serving as the CLP Secretary for a few years. He left, for a decade or so, because he wasn’t a fan of New Labour, but has been cajoled and persuaded to re-join about a year ago – now living in Cardiff South & Penarth. Trouble is, he’s not sure now it was a good idea; especially as he is not a huge fan of the sitting MP. Apparently, there is a General Election called – who to vote for ….. Cue much angst, and pray for wit.
Of course, there is a really good reason to vote Labour, and to install “Ed” in #10 …. Like most decent people, I think that anything – ANYTHING – that motivates the vile and attention-desperate individual, called Katie Hopkins, to leave the country has got to be a good reason. Trouble is, we all know she won’t honour that pledge, just like the succession of others in the past (Griff Rhys Jones, Myleene Klass, Michael Caine, Phil Collins etc.), they all talk big but always whine away into the background. So, I need another reason …
Let’s look at my options, based on those declared candidates to date:
1. First out of the trap, and producing eye-wateringly expensive leaflets – three to date – (heavy duty card, multi-coloured and glossy finished) was UKIP. (I hope someone is keeping track of his election expenses?) He appears to be a lawyer of some description, and – as yet – hasn’t said anything outrageous (which puts him at odds with the bulk of his party!). He’s fibbed a bit, mostly about UKIP’s intentions for the NHS.
UKIP, to my thinking, is a single-issue, single-personality party. Other than Europe, their policies seem – at best – muddled, contradictory often, and rushed. The whole package seems to be centred on “that bloke down the pub”, Nigel “hate Europe, but happy to take millions from it, and, ooh, married a German” Farage. The outer veneer of respectability and “matiness” has begun to slip, as more and more refugees from the extreme right jump aboard. Ironic really, when you consider what he thinks of refugees and “asylum seekers” (wrong sort of asylum, Nige!).
Could I vote for them? I think the phrase “NOT in a million years” springs to mind.
2. Next to appear were TUSC. Lone female, looking desperately nervous (am I that scary?  ) and not really listening when I said, “I’ve not got me hearing aid in, can you hang on?” Muttered something unintelligible, thrust a cheaply produced leaflet at me, and legged it. Didn’t seem to canvass anyone else in my street, so I appear to be “special!” (I’ve long suspected this …). Usual shopping list of unobtainable demands, albeit I believe the sincerity is, at least, authentic.
I’m tempted. I know the candidate, but that won’t put me off! He’s a former Unison activist and involved in virtually every cause in town. Bless him, he even reminds me of me, when a lot younger (only I was better looking, Ross), but is this not simply a wasted protest, because we know he isn’t going to save his deposit, let alone win?
No one else has delivered a leaflet yet, but I am aware of others standing …..
3. Those lovely people from the Conservative party, of course. On the basis that I do not want former mentors and peers, sadly no longer with us, to come back and haunt me, that is never going to happen. Nothing would, or could, induce me to vote for a party so clearly motivated by the interests of the few. I detest Cameron, Osborne, Gove, May, Hague, and the like. No one sums up better their attitude than the idiot former Foreign Secretary, Malcolm “I’m entitled” Rifkind (yes, I know Jack Straw was also caught in that sting; equally greedy, but not equally stupid in his defence answer).
We have a “PR-PM” (someone else’s wit, not mine).
The Labour Party of Gordon Brown is NOT responsible for the global melt-down in the Finance world; far from causing it, most sensible pundits acknowledge he saved us from the worst effects. It was big banks greed, big banks arrogance and big banks incompetence that caused it. Austerity and deficits are THEIR responsibility alone. No wonder they want Cameron & co. to continue; they’ve let them off and bludgeoned most into believing it was someone else’s fault other than theirs.
4. The coalition partners, the Liberal Democrats … Like many, I used to have a bit of a “soft spot” (a marshy bog in Somerset!) for the well-intentioned, slightly dotty, street lighting & dog poo party. I even liked Vince Cable at one point, and read his book. They are now a busted flush, because in power, they have been found severely wanting. At least I no longer feel any sympathy for them; their image is now clear. They are Tories, pure and simple.
5. Plaid Cymru ~ the Party of Wales. Trouble is, there isn’t one Wales anymore, and – consequently – PC has become almost a coalition of itself. I like Leanne Wood a lot (for those outside Wales, she is the Party leader; a Rhondda girl and very much a Socialist). I am fortunate enough to have known her in the past, when we both worked for the Probation Service, and she is an attractive personality. She speaks well, has strong principles and radiates trust. Unfortunately, she is already a sitting AM (Welsh Assembly member) so is not a candidate for Westminster. Instead, the local candidate is a deselected Labour politician (there are a few of them in Plaid!), and he isn’t as charismatic as Leanne.
The reality is that, even if they won all 40 of the seats they will contest (those in Wales) they are not going to govern. They’re pinning their hopes on influencing a hung parliament, along with the SNP in Scotland. Truth is, the best they will achieve is possibly – at the very best – 4 or 5 seats, mostly in North West Wales or West Wales. The bulk of the seats, largely in the South East, they will – as usual – struggle in. They also have problems internally, as former personalities petulantly speak out and detract from a single message. Add to that, they have a small number of “anti-English at any price” extremists … hardly welcoming to an English boy like me!
6. The Greens – I like Caroline Lucas, the solitary Green MP in Brighton; I even like some of their objectives, but they have been found wanting under a bigger spotlight. The current leader – Natalie Bennett – seems out of her depth, and has said some truly stupid things, when she actually stopped coughing at awkward questions. Sorry, they have lost all credibility to me.
7. There was, at one point, a chance of a Class War candidate!! Always good knockabout stuff from the Anarchists, but – sadly – the candidate has withdrawn.
8. Which leaves me with Labour ….. Sigh. I really want to believe; I really want to want to vote for them. Leaving aside the sitting MP, a professional, careerist with a sizeable chip on his shoulder and who blocks people on social media who dare to question him (yep, me included & I’m a constituent AND a party member!), the party seems – to me – ultra-cautious, apologetic (even for things they aren’t responsible for) and unimaginative. They have become obsessed with appearing like the Conservatives, only slightly less so. Why??
I know I am an “old fart” nowadays, but I still believe in the “Attlee” approach of building your way out of a recession. Invest in public facilities (schools, hospitals); build social housing; improve the infrastructure (and I don’t mean waste £50billion+ on shaving a few minutes off train travel to Birmingham from London!). There is so much that could be done, with interest rates at an all-time low. Put people to work building things; not rely on a discredited service sector that makes bugger all, other than large personal bonuses.
Sadly, I hear nothing from anyone in the Labour Party on these lines. I am in a quandary. I have never abstained at an election since reaching voting age; I have usually voted Labour at every opportunity too (where they stood a candidate).
They have four weeks to convince me …..

Being deaf – still!!

“Being Deaf” …… 31.03.2015

Background: The author has been profoundly deaf in one ear since birth, and grew up in a gloriously mono world – despite salesmen attempting to sell him both stereo and quadrophonic sound systems. Five years ago, he went to sleep with a “bit of a headache” one night and woke up with much of his hearing in the other ear gone. They told him it was a virus. He now wears a hearing aid, but not as often as he should, apparently. Recently, the little hearing he has left has started to deteriorate and the world is getting quieter and more distorted. Cue witty remarks …..
Hello. To those of you, who have previously engaged with this blog, welcome back; both of you . . . No need to apologise; as a deaf person, I am well used to being ignored. Apparently, repeating yourself when requested is tiresome, especially if it for the second or third time of asking. What’s that? The background music doesn’t help? Well, no one else is complaining, so – No – we won’t turn it down.
Being disabled is a politically “hot potato” at present. It seems, at times, to be one of the few things that the main parties agree upon. They all seem to hate us, and blame us for the need to cut government expenditure. Whether it is that relative of a bowel complaint, Ian Duncan Smith (IDS/ IBS – geddit?) or Rachel Reeves, they all want to distance themselves from anyone requiring a modicum of support. The stereotype image is of the feckless, the scrounger, the “not really as bad as you make out, are you?” … How I wish that was true.
Obviously, it is the wholly unreasonable levels of benefits, and NOT the astronomical bonuses that bankers pay themselves, whilst assisting huge corporations and the mega-rich to avoid/evade (whichever!) taxation, that is responsible for all the ills the beset us as a nation. Either that, or it’s Big Gordy’s fault – but then he’s got one eye and could be disabled, so that explains it, doesn’t it.
So; what is it like being “disabled”? How do I cope with being at home all day, drawing huge sums from the pockets of hard working people & squandering on a lavish lifestyle? Sorry, but I can’t tell you. I have been in full time employment since 1970; still am. Many disabled people are the same. It is a frequently made mistake to assume otherwise.
Not that I, a tax payer like you (PAYE – don’t have a choice!) object to those who are unable to work. Someone more profound and literate than me once said that it is a measure of a society on how it treats its most disadvantaged. I know enough about the welfare state to know that the level of benefits does not allow the vast majority to do anything more than exist.
The media – whether it is TV or the tabloids – will always find the minority who are pulling a scam, and then make a celebrity out of them. There isn’t a system invented that someone won’t find a way of exploiting, so the popular belief appears to be to stigmatise the genuine into wanting to disassociate themselves from the whole process. This means that THE most vulnerable – the elderly, those with mental health problems and depressive illnesses – will often cease seeking help, quietly starve and almost certainly deteriorate. Still, apart from the funeral, it does reduce dependency ….
Politics nowadays is about instant wins and short term gains, so rather than look for long term solutions, the tendency – across the party divide – is for catchy sound bites and “feel good” moments for those nice middle class voters you want on-board.
The biggest mistake they all make is to refer to us as The Disabled, as if we are a group with identical needs and aspirations. That’s almost as likely as saying all MP’s are dishonest because a few fiddled their expenses …..
In previous blogs, I have attempted to add some light to the debate about differing disabilities. There is no league table; it can depend on a whole host of factors as to how an individual copes. Two people with an almost identical condition can deal with it completely differently. Similarly, a diagnosis is not really useful in explaining things. I’m deaf – what does that mean? Can I hear nothing, something, a little or a lot? Does it affect anything else in my daily life, or is it simply a communication thing? This is what people don’t ask – they assume instead.
Deafness is isolating and frustrating; it is having to concentrate hard on simple conversations, and having to accept that sometimes you have to give up and hope you haven’t missed something important.
Deafness means that going to the cinema is restricted to those rare occasions they show a subtitled film. Where I live, there are three (soon to be four) major chain cinemas – each with a dozen screens and multiple shows per day – and a two screen independent.
Despite that, if there is more than two subtitled showings (leaving aside the independent showing foreign films frequently) it is an occasion. Unfortunately, that subtitled show is usually pushed to a slot that they find hard to fill anyway – Sunday afternoon or Tuesday early … and the choice of film? What choice? Sadly, it is often a children’s film.
Deafness means that much of the entertainment platforms on TV are not accessible still. Virgin Media still doesn’t provide subtitles for its on demand or films. Do I get a discount? No. I don’t.
Deafness means eating out or going to a pub is challenging. Few don’t have background music (like my reason for going out with friends is to listen to someone else’s taste in muzak?).
Deafness is THAT look on the servers face, the one where the doubt your mental competence to let out unsupervised. Your lips may say “It’s fine”, but your eyes and facial expression say “Oh FFS, are you deaf?” – YES!!!

Update 2014: Still deaf . . . . .

Back in 2011, when I first started my (thankfully?!) brief blogging venture, I mostly spoke about my experiences as someone with a hearing impairment. My belief then, further reinforced by events since, was that “society” has a relatively poor understanding of “disability”. Politicians, and the agencies of the government (DWP, etc.) have an even worse one!

Whenever Westminster wants a soft target to garner media attention, they usually focus on “benefits” in general, and – often – the sick &/or the disabled in particular. The national press, and not just the usual suspects of the Sun, the Mail and the Express, lap it up, and go mad trying to find someone who may be abusing the system. [DWP/ government statistics unfailingly show that the % of fraud is miniscule. If you want big numbers, look at tax avoidance …]

First up; ANY system – no matter how sophisticated – will always have a small number of people who find a way of cheating it. Just look at Parliament and MPs expenses ….
Concentrate of catching the cheats, not on a high profile campaigns to make the genuine feel ashamed of claiming. Usually these result in the elderly, or the mentally ill cutting themselves adrift and becoming isolated.

Secondly, can someone please explain to the policy makers that “disability” means many different things to many different people. The disabled are NOT a homogeneous group with identical, or even similar, needs and problems There are different levels of impairment, and different people – for reasons of confidence, for reasons of support (or lack of!) or simple attitude – cope in different ways.

Two people with very similar degrees of the same disability will, quite possibly, cope very differently. The individual needs assessing, NOT the disability.

Similarly, can someone please explain that not all disabilities are visually obvious. The sight impaired sometimes have a nice cuddly Labrador, and the mobility impaired sometimes have wheelchairs – both clear indications of a problem (and, sadly, often an invitation for some to patronise!); BUT, many disabilities are invisible.

You’d have to look hard to see my hearing aid, especially when I’m not wearing it :-). Then there are serious, life-changing conditions like Crohns Disease, heart disease, lung disorders, and a whole host of others. There is also the “Cinderella” of all disabilities – the issue of mental health, still stigmatised in the twenty first century.

I spent nearly 25 years in welfare rights – with the CABx, with the Probation Service and with a local authority. I know from personal experience of thousands of clients, that simply paying a weekly stipend to bugger off and stay at home is no solution; but neither is a unrealistic workfare programme with non-jobs and intimidating sanctions.

This is still one of the richest nations on the planet. We can – apparently – afford two aircraft carriers at countless billions, even though we don’t have any aircraft to fly from them. We can afford £224 million penalties on cancellation of a failed contract for the Borders Agency. We can even afford to consider replacing a nuclear weapons system in a world where the real threat is often in our own communities ….

Surely, we can afford to spend a bit of time on finding long term, realistic ways of supporting our own people? The quality of a society is measured on how it treats its most disadvantaged, not on how draconian it is to them.


NATO comes to town

I live in Cardiff, and – even though the summit is supposed to be in Newport, at the garish, Colditz-lookalike, Celtic Manor (a few miles up the road from here) – my home town is in virtual lock-down.

“Wait” I hear you cry, “isn’t the NATO summit not until early September?” Yep, but they are putting high steel fences around the Castle and the Welsh Collage of Music & Drama (both are hosting dinner/events, on September 3rd & 4th) now, and causing traffic mayhem in the process. Central Cardiff resembles pre-demolition of the wall Berlin at present ….

It’s going to be a month of delays, of diversions and of frustration. Where the “World leaders” go, so do an army of media types (thereby guaranteeing no one gets served in the pub), and – worse – 9,500 (many armed) Policemen. “Great for the tourist trade”, you say? Possibly, but I’m not a hotelier.

Why is there still a NATO? Hasn’t the cold war been won, and the Warsaw Pact dissolved? It’s the North ATLANTIC Treaty Organisation; how the hell does Eastern Europe or Turkey have an interest in that? I’m certainly no fan of Vlad (the Impaler, or – as my dyslexic friend calls him – Vlad the Impala) Putin (never trust any man who strips to the waist and poses as often as he does), but even I feel he has a point when he says he feels threatened by the constant growth of US-led NATO. It’s virtually on his doorstep if Ukraine or Georgia join too …

All this hyper-security though reminds me of why politics is now so unpopular. Politicians, across the party divide, are distant. They keep themselves isolated from us, and have little connection with reality. Most live gilded lives in comparative luxury, and rarely come into contact with ordinary working people (other than the butler). They simply don’t see what we see, or feel what we feel. How the hell can they then claim to speak for you & me then?

I am thinking of blogging again, after a “protracted” rest!!

Is anyone still interested in what I have to say, or should I just STFU? 🙂

After some bereavement issues, and some health problems, I thought I might expose the world (Mr & Mrs Sid Scroggins of Splottonia Heights) to my wit and wisdom again; OK wit? No? – OK “opinions” ….

As a parent, I am used to no one listening to me, so I suppose an audience is absolutely necessary. Maybe it will be cathartic (is that the right word?) and I’ll feel better afterwards? Who knows.

Anyway, I await a response – any… ONE will do! 🙂 x 

TUC March for an alternative

I am looking forward to a pleasant day – with many old, and some new, friends tomorrow.

I intend to peacefully exercise MY democratic right, to participate with (hopefully) several hundred thousand like-minded people, and to show this misguided, deeply dishonest, government that they are not speaking for me. I have no desire to be aggressive, to be violent nor do I wish to do damage to anything other than – possibly – the soles of my shoes and a pint of Fullers London Pride (or two) 🙂

I am coming on a coach from Cardiff. I want to return – the same day – on the same coach, back to Cardiff. I want to do so with many photographs of happy people, beautiful Trade Union banners and of inspiring speakers at the Hyde Park event. I can’t promise I won’t try to heckle one or two though. Ed Milliboy sounded so uninspiring on the news.

If there is any trouble, I will do my utmost to get as far as possible away from it. I believe this reflects the opinion of the vast majority of those attending tomorrow – so it ill-beholds some irresponsible journalists, like Toby Young in the Telegraph – to seek to incite trouble on the basis that some individual did something silly with a statue in Nottingham. On this basis, the idiot Young predicts carnage and mayhem on the streets of London.

The media are getting themselves into a pseudo-sexual frenzy over the possibility. They want to justify their servile support for this government by painting all opposition as violent or destructive. It simply isn’t true.

Tomorrow, 21 colleagues from my work place are coming to London – most of us are 50+; we are Grandfathers and Grandmothers; we are mothers and fathers; we are social workers and street cleaners; we are concerned about our future and the future of our dependents. Most of all, we are concerned about the future of the service we provide to vulnerable people, and about the fate of disabled and elderly clients. It is that simple.

We could all stay at home, cut the grass – do the shopping – watch Wales v England at the Millennium Stadium even; but we are not.

We are coming to peacefully protest our concern and our opposition. We won’t be buying the Telegraph though !

Thank you for listening, and – as ever – be grateful that you can 🙂 x

Why I am marching next Saturday . . .

Source: “New Statesman” magazine, 21.03.2011: David Shrigley’s View -pg. 17. Says it all for me 😉