Category Archives: Poverty

Sex work and Amnesty

Amnesty International: In Solidarity, Uphold Human RightsOne of the commonest distortions of the resolution Amnesty International voted on this August is that Amnesty want to make sex work a human right.

What Amnesty International resolved to do

develop a policy that supports the full decriminalization of all aspects of consensual sex work. The policy will also call on states to ensure that sex workers enjoy full and equal legal protection from exploitation, trafficking and violence.

I’d say this distortion from “protect the human rights of sex workers” to “sex work is a human right” was bizarre, except that I have seen similar distortions before, when Amnesty finally agreed that in a very limited set of circumstances (such as pregnancy caused by rape, especially in a war zone) they would treat access to abortion as a human right, and that they would treat healthcare – medical support of a girl or a woman who’s had an illegal abortion and needs treatment – as a human right. That got distorted too.

So, Amnesty International are taking the position that sex work should be decriminalised, in order to protect the human rights of sex workers.
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Filed under Human Rights, Police, Poverty, Women

Fate of the Third Child

Approved and Unapproved FamiliesFrom 7th April 2017, parents claiming child tax credit will be limited to claiming it for two children only. This is George Osborne’s latest flashy scheme for punishing low-income families in a pretence of “saving money”.

Liz Kendall openly supports this: Andy Burnham and Yvette Cooper decline to oppose it (Cooper says she’ll “fight” it but that didn’t extend to voting against it in the Commons). They know that 50% of people who voted Labour in May 2015 support the two-child rule, and Burnham and Cooper aren’t about to try to stick their heads over the parapet and say it’s wrong to do so.

I wrote a few weeks ago why I think this policy is wrong, but this post is about the people who are blithely sure this won’t really affect children of low-income families, and why they haven’t thought it through.

What this policy is really for is to push the idea of the feckless poor, and especially, feckless women who have children without thinking of the consequences. (Iain Duncan Smith and his wife Betsy Fremantle have four children, but that’s OK, because Iain Duncan Smith has a huge salary and Betsy Fremantle is wealthy in her own right.)
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Filed under Poverty, Women, Children

Project Truth: SPUC off

Is going swimming in natural water (that is, in a river or a lake or the sea, not a swimming-pool) a particularly dangerous thing to do? Between 2008-2010, 160 people died of drowning in natural water.

We don’t think of pregnancy as being a particularly dangerous undertaking in the UK. But between 2008-2010 147 people died of their pregnancy and/or childbirth.

(Between 2006-2008, 261 people died of “causes directly or indirectly related to their pregnancies”: the mortality rate for pregnancy in the UK 2006-2008 was 11.39 per 100,000 maternities and still declining.)

Pregnancy may be regarded as about as dangerous as going for a swim in open water. Most healthy adults who go for a swim in natural water survive the experience – even if they accidentally fall in. Nothing would justify pushing someone into deep water without knowing or caring if they could swim: not even if they survived. Anyone offered the experience of a swim in natural water should have a right to say “no thanks”, or to change their mind and go back to shore. Any organised swim across open water ought to include rescue boats to pull people aboard if they change their minds, for any reason or none.

Most people in Scotland agree: the same applies to pregnancy. Even if most healthy adults could survive a forced pregnancy, nothing would justify pushing a girl or a woman to have a baby against her will, her conscience, or her judgement. And anyone can decide for herself that her pregnancy needs to be terminated: no one should be denied rescue from an unwanted or unsafe pregnancy.
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Filed under Healthcare, Human Rights, Poverty, Women

Why keep talking about Corbyn?

Labour Leadership ExplainedThe Labour leadership voting opens on Friday 14th August and will close midnight Thursday 10th September: we’ll know the results on Saturday 12 September. Registration closes at noon today.

So, right now, no one can even cast a vote: all the polls predicting a Corbyn victory are based on people saying how they think they’ll vote when they can.

And in that race, Jeremy Corbyn seems to be a long way ahead in the polls, to the absolute despair of people who have tied their boats firmly to the belief that left-wing leaders don’t get elected.

But huge amounts of wordage from Labour party top brass and Labour-supporting pundits have been expended in telling people not to vote for Jeremy Corbyn.

In this contest, for the first time in Labour’s history, while the candidates for leadership were selected from the Labour MPs by the Labour MPs, the winner will be chosen by democratic vote from members, affiliates, and supporters. Each Labour MP will have a vote, but their votes won’t be allowed to outweigh everyone else’s.
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Filed under Politics, Poverty

Labour Party Split

Jeremy Corbyn, Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper, Liz KendallJeremy Corbyn is the kind of MP who’s not afraid to stand up against cruelty to pigeons or to say openly that he opposes renewing Trident.

Being pro-pigeon and anti-Trident may be popular stances, but it’s a truism in professional political punditry that serious candidates don’t stand up for that kind of thing. Yvette Cooper, Andy Burnham, and Liz Kendall are too professional as politicians to have that kind of thing in their political record.

I’m no longer a Labour Party supporter. I decided, a couple of days before Corbyn joined the leadership contest, that the Labour Party had become too right-wing for me to tolerate any longer. The May 2015 election was the first election in quite a few years where I didn’t vote Labour.

I became a socialist in a business studies class at Napier many years ago. The lecturer didn’t know he was making me a socialist: he was explaining company structure. A company is run by its CEO, who is appointed by the company shareholders. The CEO’s first responsibility is to the shareholders: this is in general expressed as a legal obligation to keep the value of the shares rising. Because the value of the shares is usually dependent on the company profits rising quarterly, a CEO’s goal is to have each financial quarter show more profits than the last.

In small-scale companies, with few shareholders all of whom take a personal interest in the doings of the company, the CEO can be instructed to make the profits of the company secondary to other things which are more important to the shareholders than seeing the value of their shares go up and up: their good name in producing quality goods for sale, their desire not to exploit or discriminate against their employees, their belief in climate change, their desire to own both an ecologically sound as well as a profitable company.

But in large-scale companies, where the shareholders are themselves corporations, there is no such human check. The CEO representing the corporate owner of the shares has the overriding legal obligation to see profits go up. And because this is the overriding focus of the business, they frequently expect their employees – whose wages may have been frozen or cut in pursuit of that goal – to share their focus in making profits go up.
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Filed under Politics, Poverty

Children should suffer

Aneurin Bevan: Tories lieOne of the basics of civilisation is that children don’t have to suffer for their parents’ mistakes or inadequacies.

Recalling that, in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the United Nations has proclaimed that childhood is entitled to special care and assistance,

Convinced that the family, as the fundamental group of society and the natural environment for the growth and well-being of all its members and particularly children, should be afforded the necessary protection and assistance so that it can fully assume its responsibilities within the community,

Recognizing that the child, for the full and harmonious development of his or her personality, should grow up in a family environment, in an atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding,

Considering that the child should be fully prepared to live an individual life in society, and brought up in the spirit of the ideals proclaimed in the Charter of the United Nations, and in particular in the spirit of peace, dignity, tolerance, freedom, equality and solidarity…

A good welfare state is the culmination of civilisation. Whether a parent is able or willing, unable or unwilling, to earn enough to meet their child’s needs, the needs of all children should be adequately met. Otherwise we are not civilised.
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Filed under Children, Poverty

Strip Greece

Bread and milkPrivatisation of national assets. Deregulation – grotesquely, bakeries and milk are specifically mentioned as no longer to be subject to pesky government interference. Bread and milk. Removing workers’ rights to strike, to collective bargaining, to their legal rights in the wake of mass redundancies. No matter what the Greeks voted for, no matter what they wanted their government to do to help them: no democracy allowed.

This is a replay of another war: but not seventy-five years ago, only twelve.

GreekDemand_1One of the plans for the conquest and plundering of Iraq that went awry for the Bush administration was that all Iraqi nationalised assets were to be privatised. Saddam Hussein’s government had nationalised about 30% of Iraqi industries: the plan post-conquest was for the Coalition Provisional Authority to pursue policies that, as Donald Rumsfeld said in the Wall Street Journal in May 2003, ‘favour market systems’ and ‘encourage moves to privatise state-owned enterprises‘.

Eurogroup Demand page 2But, as the Bush administration discovered, their planned timetable of conquer, plunder, then hold elections, made the selling of the plunder unlawful: only a properly-elected government can lawfully sell national assets. A government established by foreign conquest explicitly can’t do so. Bush declared victory in Iraq on 2nd May 2003. The first post-conquest democratic elections were held 30th January 2005. One certain reason for the 18-month delay was that the Bush administration was trying to find some legal loophole that would let their planned mass privatisation go ahead.
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Filed under Economics, Justice, Poverty