Saturday, 30 March 2013

Stop All Cuts!

It is great to see people out marching against this invidious tax on poorer people. Yet, as has been pointed out elsewhere, an even more insidious tax is going to levied upon most benefits claimants, namely the 30% Council Tax chargeable from Monday!

Basically, Council Tax Benefit is to be abolished and replaced with a localised Council Tax support scheme, which means all but those protracted groups, pensioners, some disabled people, etc will have to pay a portion, up to 30%, of their Council Tax. Where once most unemployed people were protected, this protection will fall.

My point is this. Some weeks back I was closely involved in a bedroom tax campaign group in London. Good people campaigning against the break-up of our Welfare State. However, as I began to read deeper and deeper into this government's plans to smash our social security, it dawned on me that we're being inundated with campaigns; and almost every month an invitation comes my way to join a steering group for this project or that campaign.

Bedroom tax, 30% Council Tax imposition, the removal of the Independent Living Fund, lack of proper procedural reporting of disability hate crime in Lambeth, the closure of one-o'clock clubs, the closure of libraries, the abolishing of Disability Living Allowance in favour of a harder to access Personal Independence Payment; there are transport campaigns going on to force greater accessibility on our train systems, as well as saving thousands of jobs on the railways. And of course ongoing campaigns such as those against the horrors of ATOS medical examinations.

Oh, and Universal Credit, just to make sure we aren't caught napping!

Bit by bit this government is rolling out policies that will destroy our welfare state - not to mention the havoc they're creating in the NHS and our schools.

At every turn we attempt to deal with these issues; and its normally in the fashion I've mentioned earlier; that is we react to the new threat. At best we are fire fighting these situations.

Sadly I don't have the solution to the problem. I don't know how we can save our welfare system from the onslaught of government backed neo-liberalism. However, I do know that if we continue to form a new campaign group every time a new tax or cut is announced, I know we will end up exhausted, chasing ghosts and achieving little. What is needed is cohesion.

We as a class, as a movement need to pull our strengths together; we need a focal point, leadership. We are currently hundreds of small organisations trying to be heard in a hubbub of political activity. Unfortunately we continue to fight each other on political differences; differences often lost in the mists of time. Let's forget our differences and stop the divisiveness that will see us defeated by an opponent, equally as politically diverse as us, but who is able to focus on their commonality, greed!


According to its Facebook blurb:

"Firebox: at the heart of a new left.

A cultural space, a meeting place, a venue for training, education and events; plus its a gorgeous sunlit cafe and media centre, right in the heart of central London."

Why in 2013 is the Left still excluding disabled people. Firebox opened last year, in 2012. It opened without making the premises accessible to disabled people, and wheelchair users like myself. Considering the Left is the progessive wing of politics it lets itself down when it excludes disabled comrades.

Things such as adapted toilets are a necessity for many of us when we go out to socialise. Firebox couldn't function if it opened without 'normal' toilets; but unless a disabled person takes the time and effort of bringing a case of non-compliance against the establishment, it can carry on ignoring our needs.

Originally I did email Firebox hopefully to speak to them on a one-to-one basis; but getting no response I thought I'd make the issue public.

Friday, 29 March 2013

Too Many Cuts Campaigns

Every time we set up another cuts campaign group we run the risk of overlooking other items in the cuts agenda. Sure, come out in protest about the bedroom tax; but do it as part of the larger cuts agenda.

The Left needs one centralised cuts campaign from which radiate the bedroom tax, council tax charges, universal credit, WCA, Workfare, benefits sanctions, the introduction of PIP, etc - hope I didn't miss any out, but you get my drift.

Each time a new campaign group is formed it adds another tranche of meetings to people's already crammed diaries. The Movement is so full of competing cuts campaign groups with people trying to involve themselves too thinly, that there is a danger of burnout amongst leading activists; and we need leaders.

While the political right isn't as cohesive a bloc as it would like to be, it does have a common bond, a focal point that drives it as a group, namely greed. The right succeeds because what binds it is more important than that which divides.

Let us a Left Movement put aside ideological differences, some emanating from the dark mists of the early 20th century. Instead, move forward as the 99% and focus our energies on destroying capitalism and in particular the virulent neo-liberalism that is destroying our class.    


Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Government fails to prevent legal challenge to bedroom tax

The Government has today failed in its attempt to prevent legal action against its controversial Bedroom Tax, after permission was granted for a judicial review of the regulations to proceed in the High Court.
A judicial review of the Government’s controversial decision to deny housing benefit to people who have more than one bedroom if they are single or a couple will now be heard in early May.
Ugo Hayter from Leigh Day, who is representing a number of disabled clients challenging the legislation, said:
“This is an excellent result and the first step in over-ruling what we believe is an unfair piece of legislation which has disproportionate negative consequences for disabled people and is therefore discriminatory.
“We urge the Government to think again and not to punish the most vulnerable for what are negligible savings. The Court has ordered an urgent hearing at the beginning of May; we hope this will mean that the terrible anxiety our clients and many others are currently facing will be short-lived.”
Leigh Day are taking legal action on behalf of two disabled adults. They claim that new housing benefit regulations, due to come into force on 1 April 2013, are discriminatory, as they will have a far greater ‘devastating’ impact on disabled people than on non-disabled recipients of the benefit.
The law firm is challenging new regulation B13 introduced into the Housing Benefit Regulations 2006, which will see a single person or a couple with no children having their housing benefit reduced by 14% where they occupy a two bedroom home and by 25% if they occupy a home with three or more bedrooms.
Leigh Day are arguing this will have serious impacts on disabled housing benefit claimants, including their clients Jacqueline Carmichael, who lives with her husband in a two bedroom housing association flat, and Mr Rourke.
Mrs Carmichael has spina bifida and is severely disabled. Mr Carmichael provides her with care throughout the day and night. Mrs Carmichael’s condition means that she has to sleep in a hospital bed with an electronic pressure mattress and has to sleep in a fixed position.
Mr Carmichael cannot sleep in this bed with her as it is not large enough for two people and his movements at night could cause harm. There is not enough space in her bedroom for a second bed so Mr Carmichael sleeps in a second bedroom. Mr and Mrs Carmichael cannot afford to make up the 14% benefit reduction, which will be imposed from 1 April 2013.
Mr Rourke is a widower. He is disabled and uses a wheelchair. He is a council tenant and lives in a three-bedroom bungalow. His stepdaughter is also disabled with a rare form of muscular dystrophy, a degenerative condition that attacks the lungs, heart and muscles.
She is currently a university student in her first year of a two-year web design degree. She lives in halls of residence during term time but returns home for the full summer vacation, at holiday periods and at weekends when she can.
The third ‘bedroom’, as defined by the Government, in Mr Rourke’s home is a box room measuring 8 x 9 feet which he requires to store his equipment including a hoist for lifting him, his power chair and his shower seat.
Mr Rourke has enquired in the social rented sector about the availability of two bedroom properties, which are suitable for wheelchair use, and there are none. Mr Rourke is also unable to afford to make up the 14% rent reduction, which will be imposed from 1 April 2013.

TUC won't be joining government's new disability alliance

The TUC's Disabled Workers' Committee has decided not to accept an invitation from the government to join its new Disability Action Alliance (DAA).

Disabled trade unionists feel very strongly that joining the DAA - an organisation recently set up by the Office for Disability issues to encourage groups representing disabled people to work together - would restrict the TUC's ability to campaign against government policies that are affecting disabled people.

Chair of the TUC Disabled Workers' Committee Seán McGovern said: 'The government has been attacking the living standards of disabled people for almost three years now and things are getting worse.

'Unions are working with disabled people against these brutal and inhumane cuts, and are campaigning against the government's unnecessary and damaging austerity drive.

'The ATOS work capability assessments, the closure of the independent living fund, the switch from disability living allowance to the personal independent payment, and the bedroom tax - every single one of these changes is punishing and impoverishing disabled people and their families.

'Joining this government-inspired alliance now would be to pretend that none of this is happening. We want to see all disabled people and the organisations that represent them continuing to oppose government policy and not conned into becoming part of the problem rather than part of the solution.'

Hurry Up and Get the Hat Trick, Johnson

Ten things Boris Johnson doesn't want you to know (but which last night's documentary revealed)...

Boris Johnson's Turkish Great Great-Grandfather

1.    His great grandfather (pictured) was a Turkish journalist and politician assassinated by a nationalist mob.

Good for Boris Johnson carrying on the family traditions in journalism and politics. With a bit of luck he'll achieve the hatrick before too long!

IDS - Ratbag!

Iain Drunken-Smith can use as much spin as he wants on 'managing and slowing down welfare'. It comes down to one stark truth for our class. Cuts!

His leader can grow red in the face spluttering mealy-mouthed as he tries to explain away the bedroom tax as a benefit. However, we, the 99%, know that DLA to PIP, the bedroom tax, universal credits are ideologically driven policies that will go a long way to hastening the demise of the Welfare State - an ideal that has always been anathema to the Tories; and one that complicates and creates barriers to today's vampire capitalism, namely neo-liberalism.

If we look at just one of the benefits that IDS isn't cutting, no merely 'managing and slowing down', DLA/PIP. DLA currently stands at around £12 billion per annum. In reforming DLA the government boasts it will make 20% reductions; thus a saving of £2.4 billion.

What about fraud? Doesn't it run rife in this benefit. Well, if you go by the reporting from the scum press, all DLA claimants are at it. We're either refereeing football matches at weekends or conducting tango dance classes. Some of the more heinous of us are reported for going swimming - god forbid we try to get some sort of exercise or respite in a swimming pool.

Oddly fraud runs at about 0.5%, according to the DWPs own figures. Half-a-per-cent barely registers on the fraud radar. Yet this isn't the full story. Of that 0.5% 'fraud' a proportion will be claimant error and a proportion official error! So in fact the all the horror stories we hear about disabled people running rings around doctors; faking their conditions; and generally living a life of luxury at the tax payers' expense are good old fashioned propaganda.

Monday, 25 March 2013

How Many Cuts' Groups Do We Need?

"The reason Sean McGovern that DPAC has been 'taken over' is because you (and others) are keeping their distance. Come and join us, be counted and make a difference!"

The truth Sandy is I cannot compete with time and physical energy. Instead of us having one Cuts organisation, a new one is formed every time a new cutback arises. Thus meetings pile upon meetings which suits the way the SWP operates.

We don't need a separate bedroom tax group. Why isn't this vicious attack on our class being fought against a yet another attack on our Welfare State. I get dizzy trying to keep up with the different groups that have formed over the past few years.

It's as though five Left people walk into a meeting and six new groups emerge.

Back in 2008 shouts of 'Capitalism is Dead!' could be heard echoing around Left circles. A couple of banks were partly nationalised and it was as though the ghost of Clem Attlee was amongst us. Five years down the line, and what? The banks are fat with reserves (our deficit); the rich still cheat on their taxes; and neo-liberalism basks in the wealth it has stolen from the 99%.

The rich may have their differences, but they focus on the important things; that is ensuring the poor are kept that way. Why the fuck can't we take a leaf from their book and begin focusing on issues instead of creating division...


Then Distance Yourself From The SWP, Jerry

"I received and accepted support from them well before I became aware of the recent allegations about sexual misconduct." So states Jerry Hicks on accusations that he is supported by the SWP, an organisation that suppresses rape allegations, therefore condones such actions.

Strange this, since stories of sexual abuse being carried out by a leading member of the SWP were in the public domain since 7th December 2012 - - namely on Socialist Unity; and far from being a five-minute wonder the thread excited 427 responses.

Jerry, since early December there have been dozens of threads and stories about rape allegations at the top of the SWP. Indeed there was an entire transcript from an SWP conference that graphically demonstrated the whitewash carried out by the SWP's CC in defending its leadership against a young woman's rape claim.

Here we have a white male dominated middle class organisation that coerced a susceptible member of its ranks to keep things under wraps, or in the words of a leading SWP woman (Sara B): "Comrades, we have to welcome the fact that we have a disputes committee. We have no faith in the bourgeois court system to deliver justice."

Jerry, you claim to have "...received and accepted support from them well before I became aware of the recent allegations about sexual misconduct." Are you seriously telling us that you had no inkling of the rape, let's not hide behind euphemisms such as 'sexual conduct', claims before the SWP formally backed your candidature recently?

Because Jerry, if you stick to this line, you're either being disingenuous or you're a liar.

The stories of rapes by leading members of the SWP have been in the common domain now since late last year. Why do you think the SWP is haemorrhaging members. Why do you think it has provoked scores of stories on the Internet and in the press?

You knew full well back in January when the SWP gave you its kiss of death of the allegations that abounded. Yet jerry, you decided to accept the resources of this discredited organisation. But anyway, had it been the case you learned late in the day. You could still have distanced yourself from an organisation that allows mates of the accused rapist investigate his guilt.

So, if as you state "...the idea of violence against women makes me sick." why allow an organisation who appear indifferent to violence against women to support and fund your candidature for GS of Unite?

Monday, 18 March 2013

JCP going on strike

Dear Sarah

Our class is being threatened with its very existence by the actions and policies of this ConDem government. A government which does not even hold a mandate to govern; yet day by day dismantles our hard fought for welfare system, including our NHS.

We see the DWP taking on private job providers such as A4E, Shaw Trust, Remploy Employment, etc, at a cost to the tax payer of billions of pounds and failing; money which could have been better deployed improving the services and terms and conditions provided by Job Centre workers.

Therefore Comrades, Lambeth Trade Council offers its solidarity and stands in support of all PCS members taking strike action on 20th March at the following sites:

Streatham jcp
Stockwell jcp
Clapham Common jcp
Kennington Park jcp

In the struggle

Seán McGovern

Secretary of the Lambeth Trade's Council

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Unite's Branch Restructuring

Branch restructuring wasn't merely about breaking up large, too often unwieldy, composite branches, which were, sometimes, run by Secretaries who did little work, but pocketed sizable sums of money. This was an obvious problem, caused by a number of factors, including poor administration within the regions, but more importantly a loss of industrial focus and political direction from the centre.

Thus we had scores of thousands of members who were in the wrong industrial branch; in branches that held no relevance to the work in which they were engaged; and languishing in holding branches due to the reasons given above.

Of course, in a union that organises the range of sectors as does Unite; and given factors such as rural workers, spread, often thinly, over large geographical areas, we can, and do, appreciate that not all workers will conveniently fit into the ideal workplace branch.

However, Unite is right to look to the workplace branch as the ideal, while operating other types of branch to better suit the structure of the sector involved. For instance in the voluntary sector demanding all workers form into workplace branches would not be feasible given that our members are dotted around, many, in small numbers across hundreds of organisations. Typically in the voluntary sector you'll find shops and organisations ranging from less than a handful to twenty or thirty; with larger concerns, like Shelter that employ 1,000 across Britain.

While the voluntary sector is not the best example of how the branch structure operates at workplace level, it does none-the-less demonstrate that Unite has not set out to impose a one-size-fits-all policy to the restructuring of branches.

As a member of a Unite Regional Committee and F&GP, I was involved in the restructuring process; and, indeed as a Branch Secretary I had an input. Every Branch Secretary had a chance to attend an open meeting from which they could deliver information to their members; where more complex set-ups were in place some secretaries met face-to-face with the Regional Chair and a senior RIO.

In fact that the process created three main types of Branch:

1.    The workplace branch which serves Unite members in a particular workplace or workplaces;

2.    The sector branch which serves Unite members in a particular sector. These branches can be quite specialist, such as my branch which organises workers who are employed as advisors within the VS; or, the housing branch which deals with organisations such as Shelter. Therefore these kinds of branches have a sectoral and geographical role.

3.    The last is the composite branch which takes in people from different sectors within a given geographical area.

There are other types such as National Branches, but these are the exeption to the rule.

Sadly, as the restructuring began to roll out, there were individuals who felt that their right to remain in a branch which may have been their home for decades should supersede that of the industrial and political logic of placing them into properly structured groups.

More often we found secretaries of composite branches complaining when they discovered that a group of 100 members were being taken out to form a workplace branch. In one instance seven branches were formed from one 'holding' branch by the end of the process - with the holding branch remained a quite large composite branch.

Of course democracy bonds us as trade unionists. Without democracy we would fall. Yet, there are also other bonds within our organisation without which we would be equally vulnerable and weak. Where would we be without unity; without the strength of the workplace membership. The branch isn't merely an administrative construct, it should be basis of industrial power, the source by which political influence is gained  and the very bedrock of union democracy.

Anyone who regards Unite's branch restructuring as a diminution of the democratic rights of the member doesn't actually understand that allowing the individual to pick and choose his or her branch on the basis they are a member and therefore entitled to this right doesn't actually understand the democratic process, and misses by miles the whole point of unions.   

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Chavez RIP

Chavez's Legacy
Chavez was the breath
That blew the flame
Of Bolivarian revolution;
And today his death
Is but a stage in the evolution
Of Latin America's Manifest Destiny,
Socialism from Mexico
To the foot of Chile
And, across the Caribbean isles.

RIP Hugo Chavez

Friday, 1 March 2013

Disabled Children Should be Put Down...

According to Colin Brewer, Cornish Independent Councillor, "Disabled children cost the council too much money and should be put down."

Colin Brewer puts herod the Great to shame with his views on disabled children
There is no ambiguity to the above statement; nor I feel could there be assertions that the claim was taken out of context. No, these appear to be the words, and as a natural extension, the thoughts of a man holding elected office.

For anyone to hold such thoughts is a sad and frightening indictment of the country and times in which we live. But, for that someone to hold public office, with the potential to have influence over a council's budget, including expenditure on children's' services; then we should all fear for the disabled children who are unfortunate enough to have this man legislating on their behalf.

"While I meant no offence by my remarks to you I can see, in retrospect, that they were ill judged and insensitive and should not have been made at all."

Here we have a person who is quite capable of getting himself elected, as an Independent at that, onto a council, yet he is unable to make comments without the gift of hindsight. As children most of us are able to make that link between thought and speech, because it is a real social necessity to process your thoughts and deliver them to the ears of others through speech; a must for politicians at all levels.

I hear Brewer has resigned. Good riddance to bad rubbish.     

Hicks Demands Hustings (three years too late)

Why would Jerry Hicks' achieving the necessary number of nominations to get him onto the ballot paper shock anyone? Jerry is a seasoned election campaigner, in my estimation he has been electioneering now for around 6-years (almost non-stop). Jerry's quest for the 'big job' in first Amicus and now Unite has the quality of The Man Who Would Be King about it.


However, when we strip back the David and Goliath analogy things aren't quite so one-sided as Jerry would have us believe.


In the first instance, Jerry has one resource none of his previous, or present, opponents had, that is all the time in the world to commit to electioneering.


Hicks has also got the entire membership of the SWP and their funding on which to fall back - as well as donations from branches (one gave him £1000). Again, a not inconsiderable resource.


McCluskey on the other hand has a union to head up. Sure, he attends meetings, but these are carried out in his own time; unlike Hicks who can call and attend meetings any time of the day.


"I issue a challenge to Len McCluskey to set up regional hustings so that Unite members could here what the two candidates had to offer."


Why Jerry? So you can do another runner? Remember September 2010 in Manchester when you lost your bottle and ran away from those hustings. I do; and so do hundreds of others.