Category Archives: Poverty

A week makes

EU Referendum Results Map

EU Referendum Results Map

A week ago, the exit polls made it look like the UK electorate had instigated the worst political crisis in the UK outside wartime.

By Friday, the counted votes had removed all doubt.

By a majority of less than 4% across the UK, the electorate had voted to leave the EU.

There are a lot of unpleasant realities to digest with that vote.

The worst and most immediate reality: the racists who voted to Leave, because they thought they had got a promise that by voting Leave the government would make the foreigners go, now believe they’ve won. They believe, according to reports speeding in from all over the UK, that they’re now empowered to tell anyone who looks foreign, whether or not they are, to “go home”. The British word for racism is immigrant.

I saw Lauren report this on her Facebook timeline on Friday morning:

In Edinburgh, Lauren Stonebanks, 36, was on a bus on Monday when she says a woman shouted: “‘Get your passport, you’re fucking going home.’” She believes she was targeted because she is mixed race. “As I got off the bus, the woman started making threatening gestures, like punching gestures. It made me feel absolutely terrified.”

Many of the racists who voted to Leave have real problems, often, and real causes for anger. They’ve been told they can blame their problems on the EU and the freedom all EU citizens have to travel across the EU. The problems are real: lack of work, sanctions on benefits, housing shortages, strain on NHS and other public services. None of them are caused by immigration: immigrants are a net benefit to the UK even considered only in financial terms. The official government Vote Remain campaign could hardly say bluntly “Your problems are not caused by EU regulation or immigrants, they’re caused by our austerity policies, our lawless sanctioning of your benefits, our refusal to build new homes, our cuts and creeping privatisation of the NHS. Vote for the EU: their funding is keeping you alive.”
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Filed under EU referendum, Poverty, Racism

Beware the March of IDS

Iain Duncan SmithIain Duncan Smith has resigned. The cuts to disability benefits which he approved are to be reversed++.

After 2138 days in office, after being directly implicated in more than 80 suicides, after more than 2380 people had died though Iain Duncan Smith’s system found them “fit for work”, while children go hungry and cold because of Iain Duncan Smith’s benefit sanctions on lone parents, after a jump in the death rate for the elderly and infirm unprecedented since World War II, Iain Duncan Smith has finally resigned – claiming at length that he did so because the new disability cuts brought in by Wednesday’s budget were “indefensible”.
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Filed under Benefits, Disability, 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 Children, Poverty, Women

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