CSA charges: the ConDems punish women and children, and shield men (again)

The ConDem administration doesn’t just disregard women; it evidently wants to put them firmly back under the control, however odious, of men.

How else can we explain the intention as an element of the Welfare Reform Bill that single parents (read: women) should actually pay the Child Support Agency (CSA) to secure money owed by the absent partner (read: men) to feed and clothe their children?

Shamefully, government spokesman Lord de Mauley said the loss of charging would make the scheme unaffordable. Unaffordable, we ask,  for whom?

Continue reading

Posted in Viewpoint | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Disabling the already disabled: the sham(e) that is the ConDems (& a Petition)

If you haven’t experienced serious illness or longer-term disability you really do need to make the effort, right now, to imagine what that might feel like close up.  That’s what I hope to help you do, in this post. Having such a condition challenges everything you had probably taken for granted right up to that point.

[3 Feb 2012: Please Sign Here now if you really don’t want the Welfare Reform Act to become law.]

It’s impossible to overstate the seriousness of the current assault on disability allowances via the Coalition Government’s intended Welfare Reform Act 2011-12. ‘Saving the tax-payers’ money’ (or so it is claimed) is – if the ConDems have their way, which in default they probably will – to be pursued relentlessly even when the ‘saving’ is meagre and the damage inflicted is beyond measure; and that’s before we pause to remember that many of those old enough to have done so (they aren’t still children), have already paid into the general fund which provides for these benefits.

To understand the despair which the ConDems’ proposals have induced in chronically ill and disabled people (and their carers) you have to have some insight into what it’s like to experience incapacity….

Continue reading

Posted in Viewpoint | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Economist: On one page, Havel and the Dalai Lama; on the next, Gingrich, Paul and Romney

The final Economist magazine of 2011 provokes complex responses for many, I’d think.  Pages 27-29 offer a painstaking obituary of the former Czech President, Vaclav Havel (1936-2011).  The following pages, 30-31, provide an analysis of the US presidential prospects of Republican Party candidates including Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul and Mitt Romney, as they battle for the Iowa nomination.

The contrasts make for uncomfortable reading.

Continue reading

Posted in Viewpoint | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Women under threat world-wide (still); demand action now.

The personal is, really is, political.  So when will modern political leaders (almost all male) wake up and begin, properly,  and resolutely, to protect the basic human rights of people (mostly women) who remain in fear of their lives and physical well-being?

Why is there so little clamour against the barbaric brutality which girls and women especially continue to face in various parts of the world, even our own?  Politicians unwilling to challenge barbarism – even at no personal risk to themselves – are deeply culpable, as are we all if we remain mute.

Remember what Dietrich Bonhoffer and Martin Niemoller said way back in World War II about the fear of defending others (quotes below); and demand action, now.

Please sign and forward this e-petition (for UK citizens), posted 25 June 2012 on the HM Government website:

STOP Female Genital Mutilation (FGM / ‘cutting’) in Britain

If you have a Twitter account and would like to draw more attention to this issue, please use the hashtag   #NoFGM   and follow  @NoFGM1.  Thank you.

Continue reading

Posted in Viewpoint | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Ed hapless; future hopeless; LibDems shameless (unless they cross the floor)?

Ed Miliband continues to lack traction with the electorate; Nick Clegg tilts at EU rainbows whilst fully aware that David Cameron, holding the LibDems over a barrel, barely cares; unemployment is approaching 3 million. How much worse can it get? And can anything be done to reverse the situation?

Well yes, this could, and now should, happen: The LibDems should cross the floor in Westminster to join Labour, and the newly enlarged Parliamentary Labour Party could then consider carefully and urgently who should be in what roles in the reality of the new Labour Cabinet. It can be done, with nothing more than the declaration that it has happened; and it needs to be done very, very soon.

Continue reading

Posted in Viewpoint | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

All we want for Christmas is our NHS

It’s not my usual practice to post pics on this blog, but today is an exception. I don’t suppose Keep Our NHS Public will mind my showing you their Christmas card….
And I’m sure they’ll like it if you sign their e-petition (below) as well. Thanks.

Continue reading

Posted in Viewpoint | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

For Tories, social capital is like private banking – invisible and off-limits

Is it surprising that privileged folk on the Right are reluctant, perhaps unable, to recognise the significance of social capital? This apparent perceptual incapacity might by some be thought of as a rather convenient position to take.

For example, the Conservative MP Louise Mensch, we are told, ‘has that irresistibly easy charm that comes from a really expensive education‘. A Guardian article of 30 September by Decca Aitkenhead leaves us in no doubt that here is a formidable woman. She has ‘steel-plated self-belief’ and in Aitkenhead’s view truly believes that she has achieved her very considerable success as a writer (aka Louise Bagshawe) and politician solely on her own merits.

Continue reading

Posted in Viewpoint | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

LibDems prop up the Coalition; they don’t protect us from it

It takes a special sort of bare-faced nerve to be a LibDem politician right now. Extraordinarily, they ask us to agree that the Coalition is being molded by them in positive ways and would, by inference, be ‘worse’ without them.

But the Coalition in fact exists solely because the LibDems are part of it. Without active LibDem involvement, there would be No Coalition… and no Tory-led Government. Are we seeing here a repeat of the trick which Cameron and Osborne have already pulled off in justification for draconian cuts to budgets and services?

Continue reading

Posted in Viewpoint | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The Murdock miasma driving Clegg via Cable from Cameron – what next?

The extraordinary revelations of the past week, as grim fact upon grim fact is revealed in the News of the World phone-hacking horror story, are we all agree only the beginning. What comes next, we are also all agreed, is far from clear. Where will the political and cultural nemesis settle? What or who will self-destruct?

We have here two possibly conflicting fundamentals for those on the left of politics. One is the political imperative to gain the initiative in shaping future debate; and the other is ensuring that the cultural climate of the ‘morals’ debate to come is better, not worse, than what’s gone. The Labour leadership faces here a challenge of some dimension. Political responsibility and moral pronouncements on the public interest do not mix easily.

Continue reading

Posted in Viewpoint | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

When ‘morals’ are substituted for money (and vice-versa)

What is the ‘public interest’, in either the media or the civic sense of the phrase? We need to ask this when faced with stories now in the news about how an awful minority amongst media investigators seek to make money.

There is nothing can be said about tales concerning the current News of the World hacking situation, other than it’s sickening. And I know, absolutely genuinely, that all mainstream politicians in the UK are as disgusted as the rest of us by what seems to be coming out of the woodwork. But I do wonder whether we are creating a social climate in which it will be more difficult in the longer term to face up to the tensions between common decency and the private pursuit of money?

Continue reading

Posted in Viewpoint | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Teachers, tasks and taking action

Like most others, I have mixed views about the teachers’ pension strike scheduled for Thursday this week (30 June). Many years ago I too, incensed as a teacher by the past Conservative Government’s position, went on strike a few times; and it’s not entirely a good feeling. I therefore understand the both the teachers’ frustrations and also the contrary position that a strike now is neither the right time nor the most appropriate way to act.

I am however perplexed by the lecturing from leading politicians in the Labour Party. Somehow, in seeking not unreasonably to play to the wider public gallery, the Labour leadership lacks authenticity and conviction with those whom they address directly. There’s no sense of emotional literacy, no evident insight from Labour about how demanding classroom teaching is, not least as one gets older (and thereby closer to one’s pension). But strikes are fundamentally about how people feel, not about rational thought; and in that Labour leaders should we’d hope have an advantage over those of the Right.

Continue reading

Posted in Viewpoint | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Male policy wonk decrees on breastfeeding

‘Breastfeeding by UK mothers rises from 76% to 81%‘ is the headline of a report in today’s Guardian.

It is, a Government spokesman tells, “encouraging to see an increase in the number of women who start breastfeeding”… Well, yes, most of us have managed to gasp, in his words, that “Breastfeeding is good for babies and mothers“,  albeit better educated mums are still much more likely than others to continue for any length of time.

So why has the ConDem administration announced that it has withdrawn funding for this year’s National Breastfeeding Awareness Week and for nine regional infant feeding co-ordinators?

Continue reading

Posted in Viewpoint | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The real political enemy is Tory, not New Labour: Six actions for Ed Miliband, now

There’s a serious risk that the Left is about to take its eye off the ball.  Many are looking askance at current left-of-centre politics; and the danger is that we’ll forget where the real, pressing threats to fairness and decency in British civic life actually lie.

Recent discussion has inevitably focused on the effectiveness or otherwise of the Labour leader in dealing with the truly awful realities of the ConDems in power.  The polls are not demonstrating a strong and positive response to Ed Miliband’s leadership, and some would say his misjudgments now outweigh his earlier promise.

Nonetheless, Mr Miliband is not in power; and Mr Cameron is. The challenge now is not to stop Ed Miliband from doing things.  It’s to stop David Cameron and his shameful LibDem hangers-on, before it’s all too late.  So the fundamental question (which I’ll have a go here at addressing) is, how?

Continue reading

Posted in Viewpoint | Leave a comment

Tory soullessness requires sustained attack

It took barely a few days to show why Labour must always, always be on guard and on the attack against the ConDems. 

Ed Miliband had hardly finished his ‘I met a man…’ speech – in which he claimed a disabled person on benefit whom he had encountered could do a job if only he tried – than a Conservative MP has been telling us that perhaps people with disability should work for less than the minimum wage.

Just how unpleasant can this get?

Continue reading

Posted in Viewpoint | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Squeezed middles and Mr Miliband missing the message

Ed Miliband’s speech yesterday on Responsibility in the 21st Century made some necessary general points, but squandered these by the mode in which they were presented.  This was a wasted opportunity to set out a way forward and offer hope to many, not least the ‘squeezed middle‘ which he sees as so critical to Labour’s future.

What we got instead was at base no more than a political rewrite with one suspects the continuing aim of establishing Miliband in a new light.  But why did he choose to do this in what some might see as dog whistle mode, in such a crude and even perhaps cruel way?

Continue reading

Posted in Viewpoint | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments