“I have never seen such visceral anger in Hull”

Lobby of Hull City Council, Guildhall, 20 Jan.

– by a Hull Trade Unionist

For years a lobby of the council in Hull has been a sedate affair with a good crowd a few slogans and then going off home.

Tonight a protest took place involving 350-400 people.

Workers decided to march round the Guildhall and then went into the building. They marched up to the council chamber finding the doors locked.

As people pondered what to do the doors to the public gallery were forced open and people poured in.

Initially people kept quiet as the councillors continued their business. Then a Labour councillor spoke to oppose a motion put forward by the Liberal Democrats who run the council. He had barely finished his first sentence when the workers erupted into applause and chants of shame on you to the Lib Dems.

The meeting was brought to a halt and the ashen faced Lib Dems finally got to know what anger is there. The vast majority of them slunk out of the chamber to the chants of  “The Workers United Will Never Be Defeated!”

I have never seen such visceral anger in Hull and people came out confident and bouyed up by the protest. We must use this to build for strike action and the maximum possible attendance at the TUC demo on March 26th.

– Hull Trade Unionist

This is Class War!

Speech to Coalition of Resistance, Scunthorpe, 20th January.

This is Class War!

What’s happening right now is class warfare.

The Con-Dem coalition is using the excuse of the deficit to wage war on ordinary people in this country using just about every means at their disposal.

This class war will cost lives. The question is how many. And as for quality of life, the cuts will mark a downturn for countless millions across the country.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies says the biggest losers from these cuts are the poorest 10% of families with children…

Last month we saw the horrendous u-turn on tuition fees by the Lib Dems. This means many fees will go up threefold, many to £9000 a year. For students now, by the time they pay it off, the total debt could be £50,000! – A mortgage for going to university!

While Osborne, Cameron and Clegg slash the NHS, abolish EMA and impoverish the poorer – the rich fat cats get fatter and greedier.

And then there’s the NHS reform bill… This will mean 24,500 jobs lost in a so-called “patient-centred” shake-up. This Bill is a disaster of “Titanic proportions” that will “destabilise the NHS… ”

If you analyse the 367 page Health and Social Care Bill using a word search: Consultant is mentioned 0 times, Nurse 0, Accountability 3, GP 2, Patient 79, Privatization 0, and Consortium 623 times!

Meanwhile the chief executive of the NHS is warning of the dangers of allowing hospitals to compete on price!! (not realizing it’s government policy, by the way) AND admits the UK is short of 4,500 midwives.

This Bill “threatens to sink the NHS  – and the only survivors will be the private health companies circling like sharks, waiting to move in and make a killing.”

But what precisely should we expect from a cabinet of millionaires – led by millionaire PR man Cameron, and millionaire Clegg, the son of a banker?

And we must really ask, is Labour the answer? How can they convince us, when Labour brought in tuition fees, privatized whatever healthcare they could, crafted PFI schemes and PPPs, pioneered academies, the privatisation of the Royal Mail, continued the deregulation of the banks and presided over the greatest inequality in Britain since the second world war.

One Million Jobs

The harm to the economy we can already see in the 3.7% inflation rate (CPI)(4.8% for RPI), let alone the impact of the likely one million job losses – half a million from the public sector and half a million more in knock-on effects on private firms.

In HULL we face a 8.9% budget cut – the worst hit authority in Yorkshire & the Humber. Hull Unison is telling us that Hull will suffer,  not just the council’s claimed £50M cuts, but in reality the effect of £80M cuts this year – by the end of March – with another £25M, minimum, in the next financial year. But Hull’s libraries are safe – according to LibDem Council Leader Carl Minns.

Hull City Council will definitely lose 1400 jobs as compulsory redundancies – this Carl Minns admits to – plus another 300 he doesn’t, and possibly up to 500 more to come. This means Hull Council is likely to lose 1 in 4 jobs – and possibly as many as 1 in 3 when we see next year’s cuts take their toll.

The cuts that Humberside Fire Service are forced to make will literally mean cutting one fire fighter from every engine. – Were those firefighters there for fun??? How many lives will this cost?

One Month Before Heartbreak

For disabled people across the country we are now “One Month Before Heartbreak”. The cuts to DLA will affect 80,000 disabled people and their mobility and independence. These cuts are “really nasty” and are “a blow against social inclusion” – and they are likely to drive some over the brink.

Incapacity Benefit claimants are NOT to blame for the deficit!

This targeting of the disabled in residential homes by the attack on DLA benefit will be devastating. It will mean virtual house arrest for people in residential homes and for all those disabled with high rate DLA mobility.

All this to save George Osborne a mere £135 million a year!

False Economies

These are False Economies that will harm the economy itself as well as society. They talk about bringing benefit costs down but when they lay thousands upon thousands off – making them poorer and requiring benefits –  this will not work, even in their own terms!

The Capitalist Model has proved itself not fit for purpose. We should be investing for the future so we don’t go back to business as usual – or banking “as usual”. Our ideas on economy must change to move on to an ecologically sustainable society.

These cuts are totally ideological. So what could we do differently?

You could put Britain onto a sound footing without ANY of these cuts – but with a few simple, effective measures:

  • Crack down on tax havens and tax loopholes.  –  Raising £10 bn.
  • Abolish the upper limit for NI contributions. – Raising £9 bn.
  • Reform inheritance tax to reflect the wealth of the recipient. – Raising £3 bn.
  • Tax those on £100,000 at a rate of 50%. – Raising £2.3bn a year.

I fought for all of these last May – because they were all in the Green Party manifesto – along with the same commitment as Labour to halve the deficit by 2013-14! We are a rich country! If you honestly want a fairer society then you go where the money is.

But meanwhile – as if to add insult to injury – over the last year, Revenue and Customs has failed to collect the 50% tax  on people on £150,000 or more and a large amount of this will be uncollected or written off! How many of OUR taxes are written off ?!?

And then there’s the tax dodgers:

  • Like Vodafone and Top Shop
  • Like Barclays and Boots
  • Like Google and George Osborne

And STILL we have many millions  given in bonuses to City bankers – essentially for having just helped bankrupt the world – and essentially rewarding bad behaviour!

And so we are making common cause like never before with unions and like-minded people across the country to stand up for jobs, against these cuts, and for a fairer Britain.

On March 26th, the TUC demo is calling for 3 main  policies :

  • A Robin Hood Tax – because the international financial transactions of banks are not taxed! A tiny tax – even 0.05% or £1 in every 2000 would raise some £20 billion for Britain alone.
  • the closure of tax loopholes – again simple measures can be taken to make more tax collectible and make huge corporations live up to their responsibility to give back to the state they make so much profit from.
  • and for jobs and green growth. The current attack is first and foremost an attack on jobs.

As a Con-Dem nation, we are, right now, climbing back down the ladder of history.

And I’m not here to let Labour off the hook either! After 13 years in power they presided over the most unfair Britain since the end of the last world war! In so many ways Labour has paved the way for the havoc that the Conservative and Lib Dem allies are wreaking now.

So the fight now is for a fairer Britain – and for politicians who will loyally and committedly represent ordinary people.

Because if this doesn’t happen there will be a meaning to the phrase “poverty in Britain” that we haven’t seen in a generation.

Thank you.

Sometimes to be equal barriers must be removed

I’ve invited TJ White, from Hull, to give her take on government threats to disability support.

“It’s everything we’ve been fighting against for decades.”

I’d been asked to write something about the changes to DLA, and I’m afraid it’s taking me a long time to work through the consultation document so I can write something truly informed. I am at present bothered more by two other phrases that have been used in conjunction with certain disabled people by the current government and in use by the media a lot at present. One is the word ‘vulnerable’ the other is ‘unsustainable’ – put them together and you have ‘vulnerable unsustainable people’, not a nice position to be in, and certainly not a positive way of being described.

“It brings to mind begging bowls, dependance and incapability.”

My main problem with this is that it just betrays such a nasty, uncaring and patronising attitude to disabled people. It brings to mind begging bowls, dependance and incapability. It’s everything we’ve been fighting against for decades. There are two ways (simplification, if you will allow) to look at this really – disabled people are an expensive burden on the taxpayer who must be supported because…. well why? I’m not sure. I’ve seen nothing about why these ‘vulnerable unsustainable people’ should have any help or assistance, just that we can afford less of it. There is no real reason or incentive to fork out all that cash. However what if these people are equal, have a right to life, family, freedom, work – voluntary or otherwise, friends and communication? Sometimes to be equal barriers must be removed, some of these barriers are financial, some of them cost money.

I can tell you the only way in which I feel vulnerable personally is to government spending cuts:  I worry I won’t be able to go out any more – because they will take away my DLA, I worry I will struggle to live in a clean house, do my shopping, cook meals and to see my friends because they are going to cut my Personal Budget (social care package). I worry that even if I do become a little better I will never work again because they are cutting the Access to Work grants. I worry I won’t be able to feed myself or have a family because they are cutting my benefit (‘insurance’, according to my record, and ‘handout’ according to The Sun. Take your pick!). I worry they will move the goal posts again and declare me ‘fit for work’ – a meaningless phrase as, with a few exceptions, I am unemployable.

I am, however, only made vulnerable by these cuts. I am a capable, hardworking individual – even if that is not conventionally hardworking. I can take responsibility for myself and my life, I can be in control and I am still fiercely independent.

We waste people when we declare them one thing or another without their consent.

I have known of people with varying levels of support and impairment direct their own lives, including those with severe mental health problems, learning disability and those living in residential care. We waste people when we declare them one thing or another without their consent, without their input, without even meeting them. We make an underclass, unseen, unheard and locked away by the barriers and the labels we place in front of them.

No one’s life is ‘unnecessary’. No one has to live in poverty or misery. Most people, with varying levels of support, can live fulfilling, varied and personally controlled lives.

It is our choice whether we make people vulnerable or not – usually by declaring them ‘unsustainable’ or ‘too expensive’.

It’s our choice what kind of society we live in.

TJ

TJ White is a singer, songwriter and disability activist and lives in Hull.

Alan Johnson: nothing to see here!

Guest post: this post courtesy of Jane Watkinson, a new Green Party member in Leeds.

Alan Johnson’s incompetent and indifferent approach to one of the most important jobs in reconstructing Labour, is a testament to the problems Labour have in terms of reforming and distinctly challenging the government. As it stands, Johnson is looking more like a David Miliband trojan horse, with a pretty damning critique of his performances on the Today programme here. Essentially, Johnson fails to remember Labour’s economic ‘plans’, with him at first arguing Labour would eliminate the structural deficit by 2015-16 – basically the same plans as the Conservatives – later saying he ‘probably’ meant 2016/17 (as though that is any better).

This type of attitude is a massive obstacle preventing Labour’s reform. Johnson’s appointment is a major reason for why many expecting an Ed Miliband turnaround are so disappointed in how lax and pathetic Miliband has turned out. This is where Lucas is right to have said that Labour aren’t offering us a credible alternative, sadly, however, as many of us Greens and other non-Labour lefties/radicals tend to do, Lucas ignored the importance of respecting the need for collaboration in conjuncture with accepting differences between ourselves and Labour. Labour imploded their progressive credentials in power, something we wont obviously forget. But, there needs to be more engagement in assisting Labour’s reform, which, I admit, can be very difficult (I often fall foul of the “Labour are just the same” line).

I therefore agree with some of the sentiments in the replies to Lucas, specifically concerning the need for the Greens to work with Labour to assist their shedding of Blarite skin (but Labour have to remember that they also have to be open to real public debate and critical reform). However, when you hear stupid remarks such as Johnson’s today, Ed Miliband slapping a debate on drugs before it has even begun, Ed Miliband joking about supporting student protests, Ed Miliband distancing and criticising the unions (as well as branding an amazing article from Len McCluskey as ‘irresponsible‘) and witness Ed Miliband trusting Alan Johnson to instate a radical programme – then you can see why the Greens have doubts.

Regardless, we need to grit our teeth, whilst remembering that Labour and the Greens, as I have previously stated, are most certainly not the only route for radical political change. As well as working within the system, stopping damaging cuts, welfare reforms and the like through traditional protocols – we also need to work outside. This is important. We can’t solely rely on party politics to enact the change we need.

Labour are a long way from reforming, in fact, I barely notice a change from their time in power. It is a sad state of affairs, especially given the faith placed. But with them still signed up to cuts, welfare destruction and damaging relations with the labour/anti-cuts movement, there is a long time before they will be re-recognised as a real force of political change. But that doesn’t mean we can’t stop trying to challenge and radically restructure both Labour and the power relations in general through both inside (whether it be the Greens, Labour or whatever) and outside. It is a complementary goal for radical reform.

Jane Watkinson