Friday, 30 July 2010

John McDonnell's not on the Ballot Paper

On the issue of John McDonnell; unfortunately, John didn’t get on the nomination paper the last time, or this. Yes, we did put in place a policy which called for John McDonnell to be put on the ballot paper. The problem is that Unite isn’t the Labour Party; and, the fact that we put forward motions doesn’t mean they’re implemented by the Party.

The question we need to ask is why there aren’t enough Socialist MPs left in the Labour Party; MPs who have living breathing links with the trade unions through their CLPs and constituents – in a discussion a couple of years ago we, the T&G side, could only think of one ‘blue’ collar MP, Clive Efford, a ex-cabbie.

As a union we need to identify good people from our membership; bus drivers, factory workers, health workers, social service delivers, chippies, IT workers, bank staff. The current crop of Labour MPs with, embarrassingly, few exceptions look the same as their counterparts on the benches opposite.

The men in conservative suits with their conformist, don’t-bend-the-trend-lest-they-tell-us-apart, haircuts; and, the women in their Stepford Wives, look-at-me-I’m-cabinet-material-and-will-sell-out-my-sex-to-break-the-glass-ceiling, get-ups.

Come on David; you’re a bright lad. Let’s get you some training; I’m sure we can knock you into shape by the next election.


Diane Abbott's Failure to be Nominated by Unite's NPC

Diane Abbott received the support of the London and Eastern Political Committee. The fact that Diane attended the hustings and gave as good an account of herself as any of the others, in some areas even exposing her Leftist leanings, was why we opted for her.

Ed Balls take on the deficit were probably more to our liking. That is rather than, Diane Abbott’s view which is 50% from taxation and 50% from cuts; Balls’ would raise NI, the top rate in income tax and make efficiency savings in the public sector – sure, that’d call for cuts; but, nothing on the scale Abbot proposed; and, nowhere near the levels about to be delivered by the ConDems.

Last week I attended the Vauxhall CLP hustings. Four of the leadership candidates sent along representatives – two were former Labour ministers; and one, quite refreshingly an 18-year old researcher. Diane Abbott didn’t deem this hustings important enough to send anyone; indeed, she didn’t even send a letter for the Chair to read out on her behalf.

It’s not as though Diane doesn’t know anyone in the CLP. She knows Kingsley; and, she knows me after Kingsley introduced us at the hustings two-weeks ago. Why didn’t she ask Kings or me to speak on her behalf – a simple script would have sufficed. Despite this I voted for Diane; and, she still managed to poll around 4-votes.

By this Saturday, the day of the Unite NPC, the word was out that Ed Milliband should be the preferred candidate. If you’re not aware, the NPC has a built-in right-wing majority. Add to this the fact that around 8 United Left members of the Committee were absent; we had a stark choice.

The overwhelming right majority wasn’t going to entertain Diane; and, we were a pitiful minority. Chances are that had we pushed for Abbott; the hard rightists may have gone for their (real preferred) choice, David Milliband. As it was there was a real sense amongst the NPC that the soft right would support Ed Milliband; but, under no circumstances Diane Abbott.

When confronted with such dilemmas it is sometimes prudent to opt for a lesser evil. That’s what we did.

As for the Executive; they didn’t really have a choice given that the NPC had voted by 24 to 4 to 4 to 1 to 1 for EM. Had the vote been closer; then they could have argued there was no mandate; but, for one candidate to beat his nearest opponents by 20 in a 5-way ballot where only 34 votes were cast – I rest my case...


John McDonnell - not appreciated by all

“John McDonnell is an excellent candidate, in fact the best we have, to deliver votes to the Party using true left policies. If you don’t think the policies would be massively popular if only well presented why do you bother to stay on this list? Why bother being a socialist at all?”

John McDonnell has a number of excellent Left policies; policies that chime with the policies of Unite – though by all means not all.

Talking to family and friends I’ve found that Left policies aren’t as well received by others. To me, they make eminent sense; to my sister, a bright enough mother of three, they’re not the universal solution to this country’s problems; so, we agree to disagree – the bond of sibling love is a tight one.

Friends of mine argue against some of my Socialist ideas and ideals. They’re not right wing reactionaries; they just don’t have a sense that life can be lived along socialist lines; so, we agree to disagree – the bond of friendship can be a solid one.

Thus, looking around myself, and particularly outside my trade union and movement friends, Comrades and associates, I get the impression that John McDonnell’s policies, and John himself, are considered too radical; radical to the point of unworkable.

Some may view those thoughts of mine as a form of blasphemy. If that’s the case there is no way I’m going to change such an intransigent mind-set. Though, please accept that these are not my views; no, they’re merely my observations.

How then do we get past this sticking point at which we’ve arrived? How as Socialists do we make our policies more palatable to those who, if they only realised, are our natural allies. Inviting sceptical non-Socialists to the average Leftist meeting isn’t going to win over the multitudes we need to win the struggle – even I’ve been known to fall into the arms of Morpheus on occasions when one or other of our more soporific speakers launches into an interminable discourse...

The answer, of course, is we become relevant to them – but how?

I stay a Socialist because I can still remember the time I wasn’t a Socialist.


Sunday, 25 July 2010

The Public Deficit

The current deficit is only 30% of the one we found ourselves with in 1945; yet, we went ahead and created a Welfare State; as well as funding a massive 1 million social housing project.

We could also look to raise revenue by:

• Imposing a Robin Hood Tax on banks;
• Raising tax thresholds on earners over £100,000;
• Pursuing the tax cheats who cost the country anything up to £100 billion a year.

The ConDem’s plans to slash public service/sector budgets by anything up to 40% will lead to anything up to ¾ of a million jobs losses. As many public contracts are won by companies in the private sector we’ll also see massive job losses here as contracts, such as those for schools, are shelved.

The idea that the private sector will somehow take up the slack from this debacle is risible. Manufacturing is on its knees. Look at the markets that would attract our manufactured goods: Europe, an economic basket case; USA, sliding back into recession; China and India, both these powers are looking at a downturn in growth.

If this regime carries out its plans, we’ll slip into a double-dip recession next year. We could then be looking at 4-5 million unemployed. But then, the last time the Tories were in power they were quite happy to allow mass unemployment to seize the country.

Wealthy Tories can afford to take these kinds of hits every so often; they even act as a catharsis. When the corner is turned they’re presented with millions of hungry eager people willing to take on any work under any conditions.

By the time we come to a lull in this recession (they never really end; merely stop to take breath) we’ll have sold off the NHS and most of our social services will be in the voluntary sector. Employees will be increasingly taken on under short-term contracts; the zero-hour contract will be a familiar form of ‘employment’; and, the poverty gap will become a chasm.

We need to open our eyes. The summer of 2010 is the beginning of a new class war. The enemy has positioned itself; it’s fired off a few salvos. If we don’t begin to defend our positions they will roll over us and smash us to pieces.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Disability Hate Crime

We’ll probably never know whether the feckless character of Lou has directly contributed any disability hate crimes. Just as it would be difficult to prove that rags such as the Heil incite demonization of disabled people – although the on-line replies to Daily Heil stories do go some way to opening a window to the viciousness and nastiness of many of their readers.

The problem with the Andy and Lou sketches and the repeated attacks on disabled people by the scurrilous right wing media is that some of it rubs off. A few years ago paedophiles were flavour of the month. Elements within the right-wing press began to act as judge and jury; and, as a result their reckless actions whipped up a vigilante attitude in several parts of the country.

People came out onto the streets baying for the blood of paedophiles. Sickening sights of toddlers displaying placards scrawled with hate were across our screens. There were even cases of men being wrongly identified as child molesters (due to a similarity in name) and driven from their homes.

In one incident someone got paedophile and paediatrician mixed up daubing the outside of a paediatrician’s house with the ‘PAEDO’ mark of shame.

When we are dealing with people who are so susceptible to exterior influences such as the word of a newspaper; is it so wide of the mark that they’ll react to what is supposed to be a comedy sketch. Especially, when the right wing press actually go out of their way to take the comedy sketch out of its comedic context and use it as an example of disabled people cheating the system.

After all, when columnists like Rod Liddel from such respected publications as the Times call upon readers to drag people from their wheelchairs and take them by the scruff of their necks off to the nearest Job Centre; what hope is there for us being treated with fairness?

Andy and Lou's Tired Routine

Andy and Lou’s routine had a scintilla of humour about it for the first three hundred and seventy eight variations on the theme. However, by the 400 mark it was becoming a tad tired; passé, may I say, even.

Like many modern comedians Lucas and Walliams have a narrow range of material. The fact they get the opportunity to slightly reformat the same sketches for American and Australian tastes actually makes them lazy. For them it is much easier to regurgitate the same old guff with an American or down-under twist than to stretch their talents and abilities towards new horizons.

What a shame. These two comedians looked as though they had the potential to break new ground in comedy. Instead, they stoop to flogging the same dead horse from the BBC to the more lucrative commercial channels in a bid to squeeze every penny out of the dusty hides of Lou and Andy.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010


Hoey, Kate

“That this House urges the Government to recognise that the intention behind disability living allowance was not to award benefit based on a particular disabling condition but on the extent to which a severely disabled person has personal care or mobility needs as a result of living with their disability; understands that medical assessments and questionnaires cannot in practice be worded perfectly to reflect the legislation and case law; acknowledges that it is the role of the decision maker to determine a person's eligibility, based on all the relevant evidence, both medical and non-medical; considers that the administrative cost of medical assessments could be better used to make the benefit application process easier for disabled people to complete and to better support the decision maker; and calls on the Government to re-consider its decision to introduce medical assessments for new and existing claimants of disability living allowance.”

I’m a Realist and a...

I’m a realist, a pragmatist, an optimist and a pessimist, depending on a given situation. Different circumstances call for different attitudes and views on life.

When it comes to my condition, at 53, I’m quite realistic about the chances of a cure – pretty minimal. Yet, the pragmatist in me tells me that, though in severe and constant pain, life’s still there to be lived and enjoyed.

At times I’m optimistic about my condition, in that if I look after myself properly; eat a balanced diet; and, do some exercise. This may arrest the speed of decline in my condition. Conversely, when the pain is in ascendancy my pessimistic nature kicks in; and, I wonder to myself how long I can endure this sort of life.

Fear of Fear Itself

Fear, which is quite unnecessarily propagated by the scum press. The rampant xenophobia dripping from the pages of these rags. Witch hunts against one group or another; invariably those at the bottom of the economic ladder.

Fear, unfortunately, sells tabloids; often fear and loathing of those things people don’t properly understand. Disability is a good example.

Scurrilous right-wing rags such as the Heil whip-up a frenzy of fear amongst their Middle England readers. Millions and millions of disabled people are every day defrauding the system, they rant. By their reckoning benefits fraud is dragging the country into the Third World.

Child molesters stalk our streets; so, we must cosset our kids. All old people are the prey of muggers and confidence tricksters. Drug addicts roam our neighbourhoods looking to addict our teenagers with their evil.

Yes, all the things I’ve mentioned occur. However, much of this has been happening since the dawn of time. Sadly, children have been sexually abused ever since men (and it is predominantly men) have had a need to exert power over others.

But, rags such as the Heil set out to exploit our fears; and, in doing so often inculcate us with the need to fear, or hate, that we’re told will harm us. The Heil is so addicted to propagating hate and fear it can’t help itself. We should do the proper thing and stop feeding this particular Troll’s habit.