A Left Leaning Look

Europe’s Lurch to the Right.

Europe has an disturbing relationship with fascism. It’s first major appearance was in Mussolini’s Italy in the 1920’s, their symbol (the fasces) has its origin in ancient Rome, and for millions of unfortunate people across Europe, it would be forced upon them by Adolf Hitler’s Nazi party during WWII with devastating, and everlasting results. But hold on a minute, didn’t this continent part ways with this ideology after 1945?

Last Sunday the results were in for the European Parliament, and if you watched the BBC, you would believe that the events between 1939-1945 had been forgotten, as people seem to think that hard line right wing politics can solve every issue faced by the working classes; because let’s not be under any illusion, the economic crisis of 2008 has not been felt by the 1%, it is the lowest paid that have had their wages and benefits cut. However, the British media has given an insane amount of coverage oh UKIP and Nigel Farage, so it seems that the only narrative that we have is that we must leave the EU as there are too many immigrants, and these immigrants are taking our jobs, schools, and hospital places. In reality, we have needed more schools, houses, and hospitals well before the relaxation of immigration in 2004. It came as no surprise that UKIP won the EU election, even-though tough voter turnout was around 34%, and the turnout in France (where the openly anti-semitic Nation Front) was roughly the same.

So we have sent the laziest, most racist, and the most anti-European people to represent this country in the European Parliament, but we can learn from this, and we can do a better job next time, especially in May’s General Election. We must also not forget that the Left did very well, with the left coalition Syriza wining the most seats in Greece, and Spain and Germany returning a good number of left-wing MEPs. We also need to remember that many of these left wing groups are also anti-EU, but not because of the freedom of movement (one of the great things about the EU), but because of the lack of democracy within the institution. If we can move forward with an anti-EU movement that is Left in its look, and criticises the EU for the correct reasons, because I love the fact that I can work in Europe if I want to, and I’m pretty sure that the 1 million Britons living in Spain enjoy that too.

We must of course keep scrutinising UKIP on their membership, and the many comments that their councillors and MEPs make (believe it or not, UKIP are not present in the House of Commons, regardless of what the media coverage may suggest), as it is not difficult to find a UKIP member say something ridiculous about gay rights, women, or people with a different skin colour. However, we also need to scrutinise the party on their actual policies. Whilst their manifesto is not put until September, we do know that they support the privatisation of our NHS, a fairer tax system for the richest, and a relaxation on gun laws, and I have faith that the British public will bin the UKIP manifesto, and their vote when this is made clear this Autumn.

One thing you always here is that “UKIP have common ground with the people” or “Nigel Farage is a man of the people”, and this is apparently why people vote for him. So for those that vote for UKIP because they feel they have something in common with its leader, let me point out that this is a man who’s father was a City stockbroker, who went to public school, and who has a vast amount of wealth. If this is what the common man and woman is these days, then I must be the poorest person in the world. That man, and that party have nothing in common with us, they are super Tory’s that disguise themselves by having a bit of a drink and a smoke. They are still a party funded by millionaires, and not one that is made up of ordinary people, but the media have failed to mention this, and when that is made clear, we may see a decrease in their vote.

Our job is to change the narrative, and make it in to one that shows the people that it is not the Romanian, the Bulgarian, or the Italian that has lowered your wages and cut your benefits, it is the Banker, the MP and the Stock Broker that caused the 2008 crisis which gave the incoming coalition a mandate to implement austerity, also known as Conservative economic policy.

The System is Broken.

Last week we saw Maria Miller MP resign (was she pushed? The PM avoided the question at PMQ’s) after it was exposed that she had over-claimed on her mortgage for her second home. It has also emerged that Tony Blair’s eldest son is set to stand at a safe seat in the next General Election (a friend of mine said that we seem to be following North Korea’s method of choosing our leaders now).

These two situations really do bring up the worst in the political system we live under. First of all, why does someone need a second home when they live an hour away from London? (I have a 90 minute commute on two buses to and from work every day). Secondly, why was her home in her constituency rented? Was she not living there? Well it appears that Maria Miller does not have much in common with Basingstoke other than she has similar political beliefs to many of those residing there. She actually hails from South Wales, and I doubt very much that she would have had a promising future in the Valleys of South Wales as a Conservative. Basingstoke is a prime example of a safe seat for the Tories; it does not matter who the MP is, as long as they are blue, they will win in this well off commuter belt area of Hampshire. This is not what the constituency model was supposed to produce. Rather than having MPs linked with that part of the country, we have candidates parachuted in to seats from all across the UK in order to gain a victory. If you follow the party rank and file, don’t speak up, and follow the dogma, then as a party member you can be rewarded with a guaranteed win at an election. How on earth are we to change politics when you have to sit down and shut up in order to progress in a party?

The First Past the Post system has many flaws, the safe seat is it’s major one. Living in South Wales all my life, there is no point in voting for anyone other than Labour as they will always win in that area. You also feel that being politically active in that area is pointless unless you subscribe to the New Labour dogma, forged by Tony Blair. Labour have a vision, and if you don’t fit that, then they will put you up for election somewhere in Oxfordshire.

First Past the Post does not make politics local, the reason many MPs are “not in touch” with their constituents is because they don’t know them! There is a saying from my home town that is “You can put a monkey up for election in Swansea, and as long as it’s Labour it will win”.

On the one hand, we have the major parties all fusing together, but with people sticking to the parties they have always voted for, there is no room for new emerging parties to operate. Unless you have plenty of money, or a ridiculous amount of air time (such as UKIP and Nigel Farage), parties such as the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) and the Greens find it very difficult to gain support even in local elections.

People who support FPTP say that it provides strong government, and few coalitions, but we have a coalition right now now, and is a strong government a positive government? With huge majorities in the 1980’s the Conservative government were able to bring devastation to the North of England, Wales, and Scotland, and destroy the lives of people who had never voted for them.

We need politics to start at the most basic level; in the work place, at council level, the way we run schools. When people are involved in running things at an every day level, we can ensure that they are fit to run systems at a national level. All too often do we see our leaders coming from university, straight in to a position of power without knowing the challenges people face when they have wage freezes, or benefit cuts.

If Blair’s Heir wins in Merseyside, it would be a great shame. Although the area has links to his family (close to his mother’s home) I doubt very much that he knows much about the area now, and I would not want someone representing my area, if they have used it’s working class roots as a way of progressing up the greasy pole.

 

“Well you can’t blame the government for handing out that contract” Michael Kane MP

This evening I went to a Comunication Worker’s Union Question Time even at the Mechanics Institute in Manchester. The panel constituted of two Labour MPs, a Labour Coucillor, Two Trade Union Members, and a journalist from The Mirror. Surprisingly,the Journalist came across as the most likeable, and Left-Wing (maybe that isn’t a surprise).
Many of the panel were living in a hypothetical world where Labour had won a majority, the journalist reminded us that this may not happen.
Questions ranged from the living wage, to the relationship between Labour Party and Unions, and not surprisingly, ATOS. There was much criticism of the private corporation that makes millions from taxpayers by judging people’s capacity for work, and rightly so. The politicians quickly jumped on the ATOS hating bandwagon, but failed to mention that under the last Labour Government, ATOS earned substantial sums of money, including a £300million contract from NHS Scotland. Let’s be under no illusion, Labour also have a bad record when it comes to privatising jobs normally conducted by the accountable, elected state.
When it was my turn to speak, I pointed out that youth unemployment in this country was three times higher than the average, and that I myself have had period of unemployment, even though I was promised that university would open the door to success. Under labour, there was a massive push towards getting people in to higher education – 50% was the actual target. Whilst this seemed like a very noble idea, there was a slight problem in that there were not enough graduate jobs, or even universities to occupy all these students and graduates. We have a situation now where 40% of graduates are unemployed after 6 months of graduating, and an average of 80 applications for every graduate jobs – the number for non-graduate jobs can be much higher and can have many graduates applying.
I actually asked what a hypothetical Labour government would do about this, and what a got in return was a lot of waffle about education being key, but it is already common knowledge that there needs to be jobs available in order to get employment down in all age groups, having qualifications just simply isn’t enough. Actually, what one does need is experience, and one of the ways a person can get this is by doing unpaid work, but this is often located away from home, and makes living and commuting very difficult, unless you have a rich family (hence why many positions of political and media power are held by the already rich elite in this country).
The Labour councillor did say that they would guaranteed work after two years of unemployment, but I defy anyone to live on £55 a week for two years.
After the lively discussion, there was (to my delight) a free buffet, and vouchers for two alcoholic drinks, and at this delicious spread, I found Michael Kane, who apologised for being somewhat harsh in telling me to change parties. This was not a problem, for the biggest change Labour made in their premiership was the death rate in the Middle East (of course, there was the minimum wage and working tax credits, but come on, this has to be a bit satirical!) I said to him that I have personal experience from ATOS, as my mother had a stroke last autumn and is therefore on Disability Living Allowance and had to go through the tests, he seemed sympathetic to this as one would expect. What I was shocked at though was the response I got from the statement I made which was:
“I saw an ambulance earlier on that had the logos for Arriva (a below par train operator in Wales and the North West of England) and the NHS (humanity’s greatest achievement), and this made me feel a little sick as I hate seeing public services being sold off”. He replied,
“Well you can’t blame the government for handing out that contract.” Here we have a recently elected Labour MP, a member of the party that founded the NHS supporting the private sector making money off patients needs.
There used to be a time when you knew that Labour could be trusted with the NHS, and the Tories couldn’t. Whilst it seems that the latter has, is, and always will be true, the same cannot be said for the first.
It is our duty to make sure that our health, and therefore the NHS is always there for us, and us alone. No one should make a penny out of someone’s ill health, and members of the government most certainly should not be involved with private healthcare companies (many senior Conservative MPs have financial interests in private medical firms and would benefit nicely from the selling of NHS services).
We must make sure that the NHS does not simply become a logo, it needs to stand for fairness, impartiality, and good service. Do not let the work of Aneurin Bevan go to waste, sign every petition you can, show your support, because once the NHS has gone, it will be very difficult to get it back.

Would you Like to Buy This Sh**t?

Napoleon Bonaparte once said that England was a nation of shopkeepers. He may have been right, but if he was here today he would probably state that England (or the United Kingdom) is a nation of salespeople.

According to the Coalition government, over a million new jobs have been created in the private sector. This is good for the government because they don’t have to create jobs with public money, and it makes out that their economic policies are working. However, their economic polices are not working (as is explained in my previous post), and what are these mysterious million jobs that have appeared? Well as someone who is currently unemployed I can report that these jobs are largely zero hour contracts (which has been talked about in the mainstream media), and sales jobs.

Not everyone can sell, and some people are not comfortable selling door to door as the majority of people have some hostility towards cold callers, but if you go on one of the many job websites on the internet, you will find that the majority of jobs on there are outbound, cold calling, sales jobs from new companies that don’t have much information about them. Not only would I feel uncomfortable selling door to door, but I also would not feel too thrilled about working for a company that could be about to go bust at any minute. Two companies that I had interviews with told me that I would be a manager in five to six months, and that they were expanding their offices across North America and Europe (they are currently based in a backstreet of Manchester). Being the cynic that I am, I politely declined the offer, for fear of being in that job for a number of weeks before it was closed down (the unpaid Council Tax bill on display at the manager’s office didn’t fill me with confidence).

It seems to me that the Con-Dem government are perfectly happy with a population employed in low-skilled jobs, on minimum wage, with competitive cold calling being the only way to make ends meet. How could you be comfortable with that? The right wing politicians are forever going on about making Britain ‘Great’ again, but a demoralized, poor population does not make any society great. I am not proposing that we re-open the coal-pits and factories of the 19th Century, but what I am suggesting is that the education system is changed in order to teach skills to those who want them.

If a child at sixteen wants to go in to a trade, then make sure that the facilities are there to make him or her the best plumber, electrician, or builder that they can be. It seems fruitless to keep them in education for a further two years in order to pass an exam looking at the theme’s in Shakespeare’s latter works, because if someone doesn’t want to study, then they won’t, and they shall leave with a bad grade, instead of some much sought-after skills.

Of course, the numeracy and literacy does need to be improved across the U.K, but surely this is something that needs to be addressed in the early years of education? Much like learning a new language, it is far harder to teach an 18 year old basic maths and English, than it is at primary school.

But for the mean time, if you are like me and unemployed, and have an education, you can either hope that you had a rich distant relative who has included you in their will so you can further your study, or you can go door to door and try and sell broadband from an unknown ‘local company’, and when all that’s been sold, I’m sure there will be some other non-essential product that needs shifting, or not.

Take the Power Back

Having studied British history for around five years, I have learnt how the everyday man and woman fought a constant battle against a powerful state in order to gain certain human rights. At first it was the right to vote, and then for unions and the right to protest. To struggle continued into the twentieth century, when eventually women got the right to vote and the working class seem to have gained enough rights to not be treated like tools.

Whilst studying this period, I often thought of how lucky we are to live in a nation that tolerates protests, and doesn’t crack down on people who oppose government policy. That was until recently, when I saw video footage of a Metropolitan Police officer punching a student in the face. The mainstream press say that this is an ‘alleged assault’, but the video taken by a freelance journalist clearly shows the officer using his fist to subdue what seems to be a student minding his own business.

What baffles me is that the Metropolitian Police Service are not investigating this incident because they have not received a complaint. So not only is there another thug on the streets that is apparently there to protect and serve, but the police seem to think that the kind of behavior displayed is acceptable unless a member of the public is brave enough to complain to one of the world’s largest police forces.

Of course, it would be normal in a civilised society if the mainstream press ran this story constantly in order to bring more light to case, and hopefully get the officer arrested for assault, but it seems the BBC and other media outlets would rather concentrate on abuses of power in other nations. It’s as if the government are saying “well yes, we are taking away your freedoms, but look how bad it is in Syria!”

Now that the University of London has banned protests for six months on the campus, it is practically impossible to show any discontent with the institution. What’s worrying is the speed at which this policy was brought forward, as it should not be that easy to ban protest in nation that hails itself as democratic (especially when we wage wars on nations specifically to install our beloved democracy).

But what can we do? Well we can report every single abuse of power that we see on our streets that are performed by the police and other civil servants. They are there to protect us, and the student that was beaten for no reason was causing no harm to that officer, or anyone near by. If we are to report everything, then police forces across the UK will be bombarded with so many complaints that they will have to do something about it.

It is wrong that with so many cuts to our public services, people like the officer mentioned still hold a well paid job.

Do not let this government take away from us the freedoms that our forefathers fought and died for, and do not let public servants (be it police officers or MP’s) abuse their powers, for it will lead to more discontent and violence.

The Market is Not Working.

The front page of today’s BBC news website has an article stating that George Osborne’s policies are working, and that the U.K. economy is growing faster than any other major economy. Now, this may seem like good news, as a growing economy will mean everyone is better off surely? Well when I walk down the high-street, I still see the boarded up shops, and I still see the once honest businesses being replaced by legalised loan sharks, and pawn brokers. This is not what a country in recovery should look like.A country in recovery shouldn’t have its citizens’ using food banks to feed their children, nor should it’s poorer population have to make ends meet by taking out loans that have an APR at an astonishing 27000%, as was revealed in a recent BBC documentary.

Who will benefit from this so called recovery? Well recent statistics showed that 90% of the economic recovery in the U.S.A. went to the top 5% of the population, so don’t believe for a second that Tory policies will benefit the ordinary man and woman, they never have done, and they never will.

When I see companies like Wonga taking advantage of the collapse of Capitalism, along with the 10% increases in energy bills from all the major energy suppliers, it baffles me when people still believe that the free market is the best economic system that we have, because if it is, then I have little faith in humanity. The only reason someone can charge 3000% is because no-one is stopping them, and it seems no-one in government has the courage to step up to the energy firms. The most shocking revelation is that the energy companies have all been making big profits (around three times more per household) throughout the recession, and instead of decreasing that profit to benefit their customers, they aim to increase it more and blame it on ‘Green Levies’ and the price of fossil fuels. No one should be making so much profit off such an essential service, when the working class man and woman are struggling to find the money to make ends meet.

The only solution is to take these energy firms back in to public ownership, where shareholders are not the main focus, but providing a good affordable service is. Margret Thatcher started the sell off of the utilities, claiming that competition would make better prices for the consumers, but with fossil fuels all stemming from the same place, how can one company charge less than another? Well they can’t, and that is why they all put their prices up at around the 10% mark, which means that even switching provider won’t help with the cost of living.

A combination of state investment in new, clean energies will mean that we can carry on living as normal, but with lower prices, and less pollution. Let’s take my home town of Swansea as an example. There is a plan to build a tidal lagoon there in order to provide enough energy to power 200,000 homes, and with Swansea (and the rest of the U.K.) having immense tidal ranges, we as a nation have the perfect opportunity to gain energy independence, and with it being owned by the people, we can all enjoy energy at an affordable price. What’s more, we would no longer have to tolerate Russia’s appalling human rights, which at present we have to ignore for fear that they will turn off the gas.

Although the government have said that they plan on capping the interest rates charged by payday loan companies, these policies won’t take in to effect until 2015, which means that millions of more people will fall in to spiraling debt, with no choice to borrow more to pay off other lenders.

 

An Obvious Agenda

Channel Five have followed the recent television trend by making their own set of documentaries focusing on the more disadvantaged groups of people in society. The BBC and Channel 4 had programmes such as Skint where the focus was on people living in poorer areas of the United Kingdom (Skint followed the lives of those living in Scunthorpe, and area in rapid decline since de-industrialision).

One may see this as positive thing, for it is rare that working-class voices heard among the talent shows that plague our living rooms, but there is a worrying trend that runs through all of these shows, and that is the negativity that is associated with the working poor and unemployed.

The Sun newspaper revealed that with a lot of editing, and intervention by the filming crewthe Channel 4 documentary Skint, already had a view of the people that lived in Scunthorpe, and the purpose of the documentary was to confirm that view on a large viewing platform. Unsurprisingly, the show made out that the majority of people that lived on the estate were lazy criminals, that were more concerned about buying stolen goods than looking for work (the steelworks that employed the majority of the town’s population has been on a downward spiral for many years).

If that was not damaging enough for today’s poorer communities, Channel 5 have taken up the baton for bashing the unemployed with their new series. The first episode was named On Benefits and Proud and looked at people living on unemployment and disability benefit (an amount of money given by the state for those looking for work, or for those unable to work due to ill health), in areas such as South London and Liverpool.

Of course, the majority of the people were made out to be useless, lazy scroungers, and whilst some of the people featured did irritate me (one lady was complaining that she did not get enough money from the state, whilst having subscriptions for Sky TV and Virgin Media), There was little, or no attempt to address why people are in this situation. It was mentioned that Liverpool has very high unemployment rates, but it made out as if this was the fault of the people, and not the rapid de-industrialision in the North of England and South Wales under Consecutive conservative government.

What shocked me the most though, was that the next episode in this series was named Shoplifters and Proud, and the one after that? Pickpockets and Proud. It seems strange that in this run of television programmes, Channel 5 have kicked off with the unemployed, and swiftly moved on to criminals. With the same titles and set up, it is very easy for viewers to associate people receiving benefits, with criminal acts, especially as they seem to give the impression that the people dong the stealing are doing it because of addiction, or to feed their families, whereas the people on benefits are just lazy.

I believe that this is very irresponsible from Channel 5. There is enough stigma associate with receiving state benefits, and lumping them in with criminals will just divide society and cause conflict. I am not saying that this will happen from one Channel 5 series, but the constant hounding by the press and the government means that eventually, people will be judged by receiving help that they are entitled to.

I had to claim unemployment benefit for a few weeks over summer, as I was on a zero hour contract that was giving my around 8 hours of work a week, and whilst I was actively looking for work after graduating, I was treated with discontent from certain people working at the Department of work and Pensions.

It needs to be pointed out that whilst the welfare bill is high in this country, it is there for a reason, and that is to make sure that those vulnerable people in society do not fall to the levels of poverty that we saw at the turn of the 20th century, and I believe that we are better as a country to spend money on the people who need help, rather than burn through billions of pounds on vanity projects such as High Speed 2, the Trident replacement, or the new aircraft carriers that are currently being built.

“Remember, the …

“Remember, the bottom line for a corporation is profits. If the claim is legitimate and they are going to lose money on it, they should be able to, in good conscience, deny the claim, in the interest of profit.” Ted Cruz

So I discovered this quote yesterday whilst trawling through twitter, and whilst I don’t know much about the Republican Senator for Texas, I do know that he is everything that is wrong with Capitalism.

The quote is relating to health insurance companies (the only way American citizens can get decent healthcare in their country), and Mr. Cruz is essentially saying that profit comes before human lives.

This is why you cannot have compassion and free market capitalism living side by side. If you own a health insurance company, you want to make money, and very time you pay out for a claim (let’s remember that this is not car insurance, it is people’s lives) you lose money. It stands to reason therefore, that a company will do everything in it’s power to stop the unfortunate person from receiving medical treatment.

Here in the United Kingdom, we are very lucky as we have free healthcare at the point of need. Whilst we pay for the National Health Service though out taxes, it is substantially lower in costs when compared the the price of health insurance for an American family of 4 (http://www.forbes.com/sites/danmunro/2013/05/22/annual-healthcare-costs-surpasses-22000/). However, thanks to three years of austerity implemented by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition, the unthinkable seems to be coming more of possibility. With private contracts being brought in for specialist care, we run the real risk of the NHS becoming a governing body of private companies, who’s real purpose is to make money off the most vulnerable people in society.

Whilst some may argue that subcontracting is a way of keeping down costs, I ask how this is possible? If one company can provide care for a lower cost (and this is how they win government contracts) then something is being done on the cheap, and I do not think that when it comes to people’s lives, you should be scrimping on the service.

We have seen how government contracts do not work with the likes of G4S’s rather embarrassing fiasco when it came to providing security for the 2012 Olympic games. Not surprisingly, the government had to step in and use the Armed forces to provide security (which would have been a better and cheaper option considering the Armed forces have sufficient training in counter terrorism). We also saw how the contracts for the running of the West Coast Main Line was botched, costing the tax payer millions of pounds before these lucrative contracts were even handed out, and most recently, a BBC article showed how G4S’s private prisons rank among the worst in terms of drug use and re-offending rates. It may be acceptable to use private contractors to provide vital services if they worked, but they clearly don’t, and instead we have the public lining the pockets of corporations. What makes this even more frustrating is that when the Treasury have a chance to get some money back from these companies, they find that their tax systems often voids them of any duty to pay tax here in the UK, meaning more money for them, and a worse service for us.

So this is my first blog entry, and as you can probably have guessed, it’s mostly a left wing rant, but I’d appreciate your feedback, and any tips or articles to keep my going!