Archive for the ‘politics’ Category

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.
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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 …..
PK

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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.

P

Five words that may haunt this Government?

WE’RE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER” . . . . .

Not a long sentence, but it just could be a death sentence ?  Allow me to explain 🙂

I am a Local Government worker, and – therefore – one of the group currently being blamed for all of societies ills at present. Like most of my colleagues, I haven’t had a pay rise in over two years, and for a few years before that, the hike was less than inflation. When checking my bank statement and destroying items older than twelve months recently, I noticed that my take-home pay is actually less now than it was then. Not a huge difference, a mere few pounds per month, but LESS.

I have a mortgage, I have dependents. I also have soaring fuel bills, increased Council Tax, 20% VAT, higher food costs, etc., etc., – but you all know that, you have too. Thankfully, I don’t run a car – and I don’t smoke, nor drink a lot. My biggest “vice” is coffee, and that has shot up too!

This whole concept of a “Big Society” and of all mucking in together doesn’t sound too terrible at times. It was what got this nation through World War Two. A sense of fair play, rationing so we all got an equal share – dammit! It was almost Socialism!!

Despite the media obsession that the last government was solely responsible for the deficit, and as a non-Labour party member, even I don’t blame Gordon “if i smile you’ll be scared” Brown for a global collapse that started in the USA. New labour were blind to the failings of an economy built on speculation, but so were Major, Thatcher, Cameron and Clegg – or have we all forgotten that?

The newspapers are hardly unbiased or without their own agenda. Mr Murdoch probably pays less tax on his vast earnings than most of you, and still has the cheek to lecture us about benefit cheats and the like. Tax avoidance is legal, sadly – not for us poor sods on PAYE, but for those who have the resources to act in such a morally corrupt manner. Hell, they even change their nationality often, so how can we take lessons in the “national interest” from a man who has moved from Australian, to British, to American. Next stop, Chinese, Rupert?

No, even though it is painful and difficult; and even though I am an active Trade Unionist, I would happily submit to a pay freeze IF we were all in it together” – but we are not, are we! The bankers, many of whom carry a large responsibility for the crisis, are already paying themselves huge, eye-watering bonuses.

Northern Rock (a wholly state-owned bank) and RBS (I think we own about 80+% of that one?), both of whom made staggering loses again, paid a select few enormous bonuses. Why? To stop them leaving, we are told. Well, if their talent is for making loses and causing chaos, the sooner they bugger off the better, no?

Barclays, who weren’t bailed out directly, but who did draw considerable advantage from fiscal measures and protection afforded to their trading, have a CEO with the gall to tell a Select Committee that the time for blame is over! No it bloody well isn’t pal!

MP’s are complaining about their new expense system, barely a year after many of them were exposed as cheats, fraudsters and spivs. A few have already been convicted and sentenced to jail; a fair few others should have been, but stood down, paid back vast sums claimed for moat cleaning or duck houses, or just plain old greed. No doubt, many of them have traded on their past-lives and now have comfortable jobs and even more comfortable salaries!

We have a Cabinet, I am told, with 22 millionaires in it. How can they understand the effect of their policies upon the mass who see £30,000 as a good annual salary? It is laughable.

If we are all in this together, why aren’t we all hurting to the same degree?

Thanks for listening, and – as ever – be grateful that you can. 🙂 PK