Wednesday, 16 December 2015

The massive problem of homelessness in London and how we can together help eradicate it.

It's that time of year again. You're worried about last minute Christmas shopping, how drunk you'll get at the office Xmas party and of course the possible stress of preparing to see your family over the festive season. For London's 742 homeless (as of 2014) they don't have the luxury of worrying about these things. According to the Department for Local Government this is a 37% increase from the previous year. In a supposedly growing economy with falling unemployment this is an alarming statistic. In 2013/2014 111,960 households across the country applied to their local councils for homelessness assistance. A rise of 26% since 2009/10. Another recent report by Crisis showed that 21% of people that had their benefit sanctioned in the last year were made homeless as a result.

But the problem of homelessness goes much deeper than this. The people I mention above are part of what is called the "statutory homeless" which is officially counted by the government. This does not take into account the 'hidden homeless'. Think about some of the people you see at tube stations or outside the supermarket. According to a GLA report, between April 2014 and March 2015, 7,581 people were seen sleeping rough in London. This is an increase of 16% from 2013/2014.

It is hard to know exactly how many people are homeless at any given point. Independent research carried out for Crisis and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation shows that almost one in ten people in the UK say they have been homeless at some point. That's one in ten of you that read this. There are many complex reasons why people are made homeless. Alcohol and drug abuse, problems at home, a harsh rise in rent, losing their job, benefit sanctions etc. The fact that there are so many that are left for so long is just wrong.

So this all sounds like doom and gloom but what can be done. Well individually we can donate to brilliant charities such as Crisis and Shelter that specifically give advocacy and help to the homeless or individually we can help any homeless person we see by giving them food or a hot drink or by offering to take them somewhere they can get help. The problem is though we as a country are relying too much on individual generosity and charity to help homeless people. We all think we are helping when we do these things and in a way we are. But it is only a sticking plaster rather than a real solution to the homelessness crisis we are facing. The simple truth is, we need to build more social housing for these people to live in.

According to the Mayor's Office, a net of 68,000 new homes were built in London in the last three years. Almost 18,000 of which are apparently "affordable homes". This includes homes to buy. But as a lot of us in London are painfully aware, buying a home in London is rarely affordable. What it doesn't say in the report is how many of these affordable homes that were built were genuinely affordable social housing. What we need in London in particular is for City Hall to be tougher on big developers about the amount the social homes they build and work with councils and community groups more about the type of housing they need in their area rather than just meet the needs of big developers. We also need a genuine collective outreach team at City Hall to help the many homeless people that are being ignored and for central government to give City Hall the power to control rents in the private sector. Additionally, we need the change the culture and thinking in this country that just sees houses as assets to buy rather than a human right. But that is more of a long term aim.

Yes I'm a Green Party candidate for the London Assembly so naturally I will say vote Green in the next election to see proper action on housing and homelessness. Right now though you can individually and/or collectively lobby every level of government about this and support council tenants protecting their homes from being demolished and them being evicted. Currently there is a "Homes for All" campaign in Waltham Forest so that is something to get involved in. People of all political parties and none need to work together to eradicate homelessness once and for all and to not stand by on the other side while our fellow citizens suffer in silence. 

Thursday, 12 November 2015

The Living Wage. What is it? Why is it important? What we can all do to make sure everyone is paid it.

According to the ONS, there are around 5.9 million workers in this country not paid the Living Wage.That is roughly a fifth of the workforce. That is scandalous in one of the richest countries in the world.  The Living Wage I’m talking about of course is the one that is defined by the Living Wage Foundation and not the government’s so called “National Living Wage” which is actually over £2 less an hour than the Living Wage in London. The Living Wage in London is £9.40 an hour and for the rest of the country it is £8.25 an hour and is calculated by independent economists as the average cost of living.

Whilst Labour have been rightly talking about the cut in Working Tax Credits next April which is set to make the lowest paid workers over a £1000 a year worse off, the elephant in the room is that a lot of these workers are still paid less than a wage they can live on. What the government have done is arbitrarily cut Tax Credits whilst raising the Tax Free Personal Allowance and creating this “National Living Wage” for anyone over 25 thus apparently making people better off. However this has been quickly rebutted by the IFS who have said their measures will not make the lowest paid better off.

What needs to happen is that every adult that works needs to get paid the Living Wage and anything else they need to cover the cost of living should be provided by Tax Credits. I include under 25s in this.  At the moment they are not even entitled to this new National Living Wage and have to settle for the derisory £6.50 an hour as a minimum whilst of course not being able to claim Working Tax Credits or Housing Benefit if they are under 21. But according to the Tory Employment Minister, under 25s are not worth this National Living Wage as they are not as “productive”. Obviously this is unproven nonsense and regardless of whether under 25s are as productive or whatever experience they have, surely everyone deserves a wage they can live on as a bare minimum.

And it is screamingly obvious that if the Living Wage was introduced as the minimum wage, Working Tax Credits costs to the taxpayer will lower naturally as people will claim less. People will also have more disposable income and this will help the economy as the minimum wage did when it was first introduced. And if there are small businesses or charities that can prove they can’t afford to pay their staff this, this is where Tax Credits come in to top up that staff’s income.

So what can be done to make sure everyone is paid it?

Well there are a number of things we can do. Support the Living Wage Foundation by helping them with their campaigns. Start a campaign in your local area to encourage businesses and councils to pay the Living Wage. What the Green Party will be doing as part of our campaign in the London Assembly elections is create “Calling Cards” to leave to staff in shops to tell us their stories about how low paid they are or what their working conditions are generally like. Putting real-life stories to this campaign will help gain support and pressure the government and businesses alike to pay their staff the Living Wage.  This is something that everyone, regardless of the differences in political views, can get behind.  So what are you waiting for?

Monday, 5 October 2015

My plea to the anti-austerity movement. Don't let your anger ruin what we are building and don’t defend the indefensible.

First of all can I say well done to the 60,000 largely peaceful demonstrators that made it up to Manchester over the weekend. There were some really creative protests such as an anti-austerity rave and a flash mob at Manchester Piccadilly train station to try and make it a fun and inclusive affair. However the protests were overshadowed by a group of idiots that threw an egg at a delegate of the Conservative Party conference, spat at a journalist as they came out of the conference centre and generally being quite aggressive towards the Conference delegates going in and out.

Yet I've seen quite a few people on the left defend this aggressiveness saying that what the Tories are doing is much worse and that the Tory member that got egged had it coming because he was goading the protesters by showing them pictures of Margaret Thatcher. But throwing an object at someone is assault and assault is obviously wrong and against the law, whoever the victim is. The first two articles I saw about the protest could barely get a paragraph in without mentioning the egging so well done to those for making the headlines about that rather than the importance of the protest itself.

Yes I don't expect the majority of the media to be onside with our movement, however by doing what they did, all that these idiots have done is give ammunition to the press to paint the left as militant thugs. Exactly how are we going to build a movement to beat the Tories if we put people off from joining due to this?

Am I making it worse by focusing on the minority of protesters behaving aggressively? I don't know. All I do know is the majority of the public don't really care about politics one way or another and that all they see in terms of the protests is the bitesize headlines and what exactly are those headlines going to be focusing on?

I get that there is a genuine heartfelt anger at what the Tories are doing and believe you me I, like many people, have been negatively affected by austerity. Here's an idea though. How about you channel that anger into positive action against the government. I know that the vast majority people within the movement do this and that there will always be idiots at protests who think they are being funny and clever when they assault someone. However, if you are serious about helping build a strong movement against the Tories, then cut out the puerile, immature and aggressive behaviour and don't create negative headlines that can be avoided. As Jez says, no personal attacks. Thanks and solidarity x.

P.S. Quick message to the police and the government. Please don’t in future intimidate innocent peaceful protesters by having snipers aimed at them. Ta.

Friday, 18 September 2015

Why the Trade Union bill is the biggest attack on workers in a generation and why we must all fight it.

Flashback to the 1970s and apparently the Trade Unions had control of the weak Labour Government. The 3 day weeks and rubbish piled up everywhere was because of constant strikes and lack of communication and negotiations between Government and Trade Unions. So something had to be done supposedly.

Enter stage Margaret Thatcher who basically sold us the idea that the Unions were part of “the enemy within”So she bought in a raft of anti-union legislation that banned workplace ballots, stopped union members getting paid for going on strike and introduced notice periods for strike action. By the end of 18 years of Tory rule we had the strictest trade union laws in Europe. Whilst New Labour didn't really change anything in regards to Trade Union law, they did bring in a raft of measures that generally helped people at work including the minimum wage and Working Tax Credits.

So flash forward again and it is 2015. After a few years of Tory/ Lib Dem Government there had been a number of strikes in the education sector, the healthcare sector and of course infamous tube strikes because of a change in pay and conditions at work. So now with the Tories in government on their own, they are bringing in further anti Trade Union legislation. Their tightening up of Trade Union rights include a 50% turnout to make any strike eligible, at least 40% support for strike action in vital public services such as education and transport. Furthermore they are increasing the notice period at which you can call a strike from 7 to 14 days and the Government are going to allow companies to hire agency workers to replace striking staff. In addition if a Union official at a picket line isn't wearing an official armband, they could be fined up to £20,000.

So you may be thinking, well what is wrong with having at least half a union turnout to vote for a strike. It makes it more legitimate and the public will more sympathy with them. If the Conservatives actually believe a majority turnout means real legitimacy for a result of a ballot, why are the Local Elections and European Election results, with less than 40% turnout, legitimate? Also the Alternative Vote referendum had barely 30% turnout, yet the Conservatives at the time claimed that the result of that meant a majority of British people supported the current voting system. One rule for Trade Unions, another rule for the British Electorate it seems. Here’s an idea, if you want to increase voter turnout for Trade Union strike ballots, why not bring back workplace ballots or bring in online voting rather than arbitrarily having a minimum turnout. Personally I’d do the same for elections as well.

So increasing the notice period at which a strike can be called may seem reasonable as it means other workers not on strike can make contingency plans in regards to themselves getting into work. However sometimes negotiations take a while and things can be agreed at the last minute and most strikes are called off because of this. If you have to give more notice to strike then that gives the employees less bargaining power when fighting for their rights and means the employers call the shots. Employers bringing in agency staff to cover striking workers may again seem positive on the surface as the company don’t lose productivity and their business activities keep going so therefore this benefits the economy. However this is where the threat of strike action becomes completely pointless. If employers can replace staff like that just for going on strike then they are hardly going to care whether their staff go on strike and once again this gives Trade Unions pretty much no bargaining power when fighting to improve their members pay and conditions.

So to sum up. Yes strike action can annoy and affect a lot of people that are not Trade Union members. It means people are late or can’t get to work at all. However, the rights that we take for granted today weren't given to us willingly by employers and Governments. They were fought for by Trade Unions fighting for individual members pay and conditions as well as taking direct action collectively such as going on strike. Whether it is paid holiday, maternity leave, health and safety in the workplace, Trade Unions have benefited all of us. If we allow the Government to curtail Trade Union activity even more, there is nothing to stop them pursuing a race to the bottom on rights at work and who is going to be able to stand up for us then?

NB: For full disclosure, I am a member of Unite, which is the biggest Trade Union in the country. The Trade Union bill passed it second reading earlier this week. To help fight the bill, lobby your MPs and join the TUC’s campaign

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Corbyn supporting Labour purgees don't despair. There is another option for you.

Well after a few months of trying to get people to support Jeremy Corbyn, I've been purged from the Labour Party. They've rejected my application to be a supporter. I joined in mid July. I have had many promotional emails from different candidates but no ballot and it took my brother phoning on Friday to confirm what I feared. And apparently you have to pay £10 to find out why. Isn't democracy wonderful?

Now there are those that will say that it's only fair that I got rejected as I am a member of the Green Party. I accept that but many other Corbyn supporters that joined have also been purged. Comedians such as Francesca Martinez, Mark Steel and even PCS union leader Mark Serwotka. These people are not members of any other political party so it is suspicious that they have been purged.

It's interesting though because a quick check from Labour HQ at the general election would have confirmed I was actively campaigning for the Greens yet that didn't stop them bombarding me with election literature and I'm sure come the next election, they'll do the same. My thoughts are if they don't want my support now, why should I support them in the future when it's convenient for them?

To fellow Corbyn supporters that have actually been unfairly purged I say this. There is a political party that will welcome you with open arms and that is actually united against austerity. Join the Greens because unlike Labour there is no risk of us ousting our leader for being too left wing.

If Corbyn does win the Labour leadership election, I genuinely wish his supporters in the Labour Party the best of luck in changing Labour into a bottom up movement that is democratic and makes them a force for socialism and equality again. It will be a massive struggle so be prepared to fight it out with the authoritarian blairites.  At the end of the day, I want see progressive socialist politics get more popular and I don't mind which vehicle it is driven in, hence I why I initially joined as a supporter to vote for Corbyn.

For now I'm focused on helping The Green Party's campaign for the City Hall elections next May and in particular promoting our #workfair campaign as part of it. Sounds interesting to you? Then join and be part of a real progressive change for London.

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Three Months into a Conservative majority Government. What have we got so far?

So here we are. Three months in to a Conservative majority Government and all the media can talk about is "Corbynmania". But whilst everyone is finding as much dirt on Corbyn as possible, the Conservatives have been quietly getting on with some of the most controversial policies we've seen.

So I'm going to break down the bullshit Cameron talked about on a lovely video on his Facebook page when he marked the first 100 days of his government, staring at you with his cold dead eyes, talking about how his Government are a "one nation" Government providing security at every stage of your life. Yes I'm talking about YOU in particular.

He starts off by talking about education. Saying that by turning every failing school into an academy and giving the Government power over local authorities to do so, this will ensure that every child has the best start in life. Let's forget then that a recent report that said that almost half of academies are failing disadvantaged students. Also they don't have to provide support for SEN students because they can be selective about who they take in rather than meet the needs of local students as happens under local comprehensives. Given the new reliance on passing tests rather than teaching life skills as well as cuts in further education colleges along with maintenance grant scrapping at universities, what kind of security is that?

He then talks about making the NHS 7 a day a week service (it is already) and investing an extra 10 billion into it. He obviously leaves out the selling off of services to private companies and the closure of some hospitals due to PFI debts.

Furthermore he goes on to say about how by raising the minimum wage to a "living wage" of £9 an hour and by lowering the benefit cap, it will always pay to be in work and by increasing the tax threshold to the minimum wage he is creating a low tax, low welfare, high wage country. First off that living wage isn't a living wage. The current London living wage is £9.15 an hour. Secondly by scrapping working age benefits for 18-21 year olds and by excluding them from this living wage, where is the security for them? Also arbitrarily lowering the benefit cap at a time of ever rising rents will just lead to homelessness.

Speaking of homes, he says he is providing the security of home ownership for all by allowing Housing Association tenants to buy their own homes. What about a young person like me that just wants to be able to afford to rent? Or people that are on the social housing waiting list? Where is the security of being able to have somewhere affordable to rent?
Instead of building affordable homes he is just selling off social housing and cutting inheritance tax for home owners. You can see where his priorities lie.

And for the final stage of life, the Government say they will provide security by "triple-locking and increasing the state pension." Never mind that increasing the retirement age means future generations won't get this. Also no one seems to have noticed this but the Government are quietly dropping the cap on the cost of social care that they introduced in the last parliament. At every stage of life, Cameron seems to be giving with one hand and taking with the other. Apart from children and young people in which he is literally taking every opportunity they get and squishing it into the ground with his massive shiny spam-like hand.

Oh F**k, this sounds completely horrible. What can we do to fight it?

I'm glad you asked that. Very eloquently put aswell. As I mentioned in previous posts, join a trade union or a direct action groups or dare I say it a political party. Apart from the Tories obviously. Which would be a weird way to fight them. Unless you want to infiltrate them like they are doing with Labour. But they've gone so far to the right that trying to influence them is like a metaphor I can't come with right now. But anyway the point is, it's impossible to do so. I digress. We've fought back against  privatisation of our forests and national parks and the closing of certain A & Es. We can fight against some of these changes aswell. It will be a long hard slog, but f**k it what have we got to lose?

Thursday, 23 July 2015

We shouldn’t let fear of a coup stop potential progress. Why we should all support Corbyn.

Over the last month or so I and many others on the left of politics have been really considering whether to join the Labour Party as supporters in order to vote for Jeremy Corbyn as leader. It is easy to see why this would be a serious consideration. Corbyn is anti austerity, anti-fracking, pro investment in renewable energy projects, anti trident and of course favours nationalisation of public services such as the Banks and the Railways.

So what should non-labour member do? Well I have heard different opinions being expressed. One being that as it is an internal Labour election, those of us not members of Labour should just leave them to it and see what happens and just build the anti-austerity movement outside Labour. I have also heard the argument that there isn’t a short term solution to getting progressive policies implemented and it is a ‘certainty’ that Corbyn will get ousted should he be elected leader so there is no point in supporting him anyway. I’ve even seen it suggested that if some of us join Labour to help make Corbyn leader, the inevitable coup from Labour MPs will discredit those of us on the left and keep the agenda of the Tories intact.

And on this potential coup, yes it is true that Corbyn barely scraped enough support by fellow Labour MPs to get on the ballot. Yes it is true that a lot of MPs that nominated him won’t vote for him. And if you believe certain Labour insider’s, there could well be a rebellion by right wing Labour MPs, who only need just over 40 MPs to take down their leader. Corbyn could then be gone in a matter of months and MPs could discredit him in the meantime by voting for some of the government’s policies. If Corbyn did win the leadership election, his role of Leader of the Opposition could be seriously undermined. These are serious issues that have rightly been looked at when deciding whether to throw our support behind Corbyn.

But even if there is a coup, why does that mean the left wing of the Labour Party will be discredited in the media and in the public’s eye? Yes the Murdoch press will gloat bigtime in the split and chaos of Labour and will vilify Corbyn as someone who can’t keep a unified opposition. However it could well be the case that the general public have sympathy with Corbyn and distrust and dislike those that bring him down undemocratically. And actually that could help political parties like the Greens become more popular and get grassroots Labour members, who have been frustrated and ignored for years by the leadership, to join,

Whatever the risks of Corbyn winning the Leadership contest are, you can’t just not do something because of the risks involved. Life is full of risks. At the general election I voted for the Green Party in a Tory/Labour marginal seat and was accused of splitting the vote and letting the Tories in. However, It didn’t happen. Labour won the seat. But if it had happened, I would not have regretted it because I knew that at the time the Green Party were the only party to offer a clear and coherent alternative to the Government. Now a Labour leader candidate is offering that, I’m not going to turn down an opportunity to help build the anti-austerity movement. I want to see progressive policies put forward so the poorest and most vulnerable in our society can actually be helped. If that means I back a Labour candidate who advocates those policies, then so be it. There is too much at stake for the left to be tribal and split on this as we are on so many issues. 

He may not even win in the end, but he has certainly opened up the debate and got the anti-austerity message out into the mainstream media. And if he doesn’t win, I WON’T be supporting Labour at all. I’ve made that clear from the start of this. In the meantime, join me and many others in backing the only Labour candidate who is offering that alternative to the Conservatives we really need right now. #Jezwecan

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Osborne’s budget: If you’re young, you’re on your own!

Well it’s been over a week since Osborne’s budget and I know I’m probably repeating what others have said but I wanted to put my thoughts out there for what it’s worth.

So you can see I'm trying to be fair, I'll start with the positives. There are very few but I'll try my best. Raising the tax free allowance £12,000 and putting in law that the minimum wage should always be tax free. Sounds good when you think it about it, but why not raise the minimum wage to a living wage rather than just cut taxes. He also raised the 40% rate of tax to earnings over £43,000 and raised the inheritance tax threshold to £1 million. The problem with being a 'low tax' chancellor  is that even though you may increases peoples disposable incomes, you actually lower the tax revenues coming in, thus less money to spend on public services and therefore they could get worse as a result. Osborne also raised the minimum wage to a new 'national living wage' of £9 an hour by 2020. A step in the right direction but when you look at the fact that the current living wage in London is £9.15 an hour and £7.85 nationally and you take into account the cuts to tax credits , a lot of people are going to be worse off. Also why are under 25s excluded from this?

That was literally the most positive I could be about his budget. Now onto the really negative stuff. The threshold at which you can claim working tax credits has been reduced to yearlyearnings of £3850. Considering the chancellor is raising the minimum wage to £7.20 an hour and you have to work 16 hours a week to claim, he is essentially abolishing Working Tax Credits. You might think but he is raising the minimum wage to £7.20 an hour, why would they need them? Well unless people get a wage they can live on, i.e. an actual living wage, then they have to claim them. Some will argue that businesses won't be able to afford a living wage. Well big businesses absolutely can afford it. If small businesses can't afford it, you can either cut their taxes or you top up people's income with working tax credits so they have a wage they can live on. You don't cut tax credits and replace it with a paltry minimum wage.Not only are they cutting child and working tax credits, they are literally freezing the rate of all benefits barring disability benefits so essentially, given inflation, a lot of the poorest will be worse off. Some families could actually end up over a £1000 worse off a year as a result in the cuts to benefits.

Furthermore, the benefit cap is being lowered to £23,000 in London and £20,000 everywhere else. Despite what papers like the Daily Mail say, these benefits don’t go on flat screen TVs and lots of booze and fags. A lot of the Housing benefit bill in particular goes straight to private landlords that charge high rents. One of the ways you can get the Housing Benefit bill down fairly isn’t by punishing the claimant but by capping the rate of rents. It is so obvious.By the way just as a personal anecdote, when I was first started claiming JSA and Housing Benefit, even though I declared my rent to be £300 a month, as a result of the benefit cap, my housing benefit only reached £260 a month. It was only because of my JSA and the minimal earnings from my Saturday Job that I managed to scrape by every month. So imagine what it would be like if I needed that now?

Speaking of Housing Benefit, one of the cruellest, yet most expected measure in the budget was scrapping of Housing Benefit eligibility for 18-21 year olds. Apparently if you are that age you have to “earn or learn” and live at home with your parents. Now what if you can’t get a job or a place to study? Even if you can find a job, it is likely to be low paid. I mentioned earlier that under 25s aren’t entitled to the new national living wage and actually for years they haven’t been able to claim Working Tax Credits. So how will you afford to live on your own if you’re parents (if you have any) can’t afford to support you? The likely result is, that young people will made homeless or have to consistently move between different B&Bs. It shows how out of touch the chancellor is if he thinks that every adult between the ages of 18-21 can all afford to just live with their parents.

Another way the chancellor is screwing young people over is by removing maintenancegrants from poor students going to university from 2017 and basically saying they can only get loans out. There is no guarantee that what they would of got in a grant, they’ll get in a loan. All it will do is add to the burden of debt along with the tuition fees and basically make the debt they accrue at university unpayable, thus costing the taxpayer more in write-offs. So not only is it just harsh but it is also economically illiterate as well.

Going back to housing, apparently households with an income of more than £40,000 living in social or council housing will now have their rents upped to the “market rate”. So this could then force people to move out of their affordable housing and have to rent in the private sector where the rents remain uncapped. Of course social housing should only be for the poorest. Never mind having a more cohesive society that has the well off and the poorest living along side each other. No let’s just segregate people from different social classes even more. What could possibly go wrong? Take this with the selling off of “high value” Housing Association properties, you begin to wonder if the government has any plans to deal with the shortage of affordable housing at all? I’ll let you be the judge of that. 

There is much more in the budget to go over but I can’t go on forever and I’ve probably bored you by now but I’ll just quickly sum up. £37bn of cuts. £12bn in Welfare cuts and an extra £20bn in departmental budget cuts. Oh and only £5bn invested to deal with tax avoidance and evasion which will raise only £7.5bn over the course of the parliament despite Britain losing over £100bn in tax avoidance and evasionSo basically there are going to be more cuts in welfare than money raised from rich individuals or corporations not paying tax. Says it all really.

To lighten the mood after this rather angry rant, on next week’s blog there’ll be exclusive pictures of Greek Prime Minister Alex Tspiras literally bending and taking some good old 'financial discipline' from Angela Merkel. ;)

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Why Labour need Jeremy Corbyn as their Leader.

A month since the general election and the contest for Labour leader is heating up.
When the first four candidates were announced, I groaned at the thought of labour sharply moving back to the right with no proper consideration for what went wrong at the general election. The general assumption seemed to be that because Ed Miliband was supposedly too left wing they needed to re-ignite blairism in the hope of attracting that holy grail of voters. The "squeezed middle" in the south of England. Forgetting of course that they lost a lot of seats to an anti-austerity party in Scotland. Although I will concede that Miliband was certainly to the left of Tony Blair, was he actually that left wing?

Well if you believed the right wing media you'd be forgiven for thinking he was a rabid Marxist. In reality he promised austerity, backed academies, still wanted a role for the private sector in the NHS and promised to be just as tough on welfare as the Tories. So now when you look at that you think what do Labour actually stand for? And that was their problem in a nutshell. No clear narrative.

Anyway back to the candidates themselves, lets see where they stand. Liz Kendall believes Labour should be "reformists" and be "economically credible" and back austerity and welfare cuts. After researching Mary Creagh, I found out that she pushed the last Labour government to make school food healthier, supports HS2 and wants Labour to learn from what Blair did to win them elections. Yvette Cooper worked in the treasury under the last Labour Government and like Andy Burnham believes Labour should back "Aspiration" and not be too anti-business and encourage enterprise and business to grow. So far one staunch right-winger, A person that doesn't stand for much and two candidates standing for meaningless vacuous phrases.

However the last candidate to throw their hat in the ring was Jeremy Corbyn. Lets see what he stands for. Anti austerity, anti privatisation, pro public ownership of the railways and NHS and anti trident. Whatever your political views, you can't deny that Corbyn is the only candidate that puts clear distance between Labour and the Tories and the only one that seems to have any staunch principles. Offer a clear alternative and people will listen. The British public aren't that hostile to some of the things Corbyn stands for. For instance, there is quite a lot of support for public ownership of the railways.

And yes I am a Green Party member and I'll continue to vote green until another party offers a clear alternative to the Conservatives. Labour don't at the moment but if Corbyn becomes leader, I will look to see where he takes Labour and may vote for them in future but for now, lets hope he at least gets on the ballot.

So to sum up, I urge  the Labour MPs that haven't nominated anyone yet, please nominate Corbyn. As I type this he has the support of 11 MPs. He needs 35 to be on the ballot paper. And to anyone reading this, please also urge Labour MPs to back Jeremy Corbyn. They have until the 15th June to nominate a candidate. If nothing else, he could offer a real debate within the leadership race to what otherwise could be a very dull and samey affair that will do nothing to get people onside with Labour.

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Three weeks since the general elections. Thoughts and musings and what to do next?

Yay we did it guys. We beat the Tories. There is now a progressive alliance between Lab/SNP/Green and plaid. Austerity is over.

So that was the dream and now the reality that the Tories have an actual majority, I feel a sense of despair. I say majority, but 37% of the vote (if you don't count non voters) is hardly a ringing endorsement. To those that say "get over it, the Tories won the election, you lefties lost", I simply say this. Now matter how the election panned out, I was never going to stand by and watch Housing Benefit being taken away from young people, our Human Rights being taken away and our social housing being sold off. And also as I don't want to seem insular and narrowly preaching, I am happy to debate anyone who disagrees with me and have a genuine conversation about the future of the country. 

So are quite a lot people in the country on the right of politics?

This question is interesting. The opinion polls show majority support for things like rent controls and public ownership of the railways and health service. Yet considering how wrong the opinion polls were for the election, was this type of polling wrong as well? Were the samples they took accurate and representative? Maybe people are more right wing then polls suggest. Considering the insular individualistic culture and the divide and rule tactic that has been promoted over the last 30 years, is it any wonder 11 million people voted out of fear?
This brings me to my next point. The opinion polls showed a tie between Labour and the Tories right up to the election day, yet the there were still quite a few people undecided until election day. My theory is that the undecideds swung the election back to the Tories, partly based on fear of a Labour/SNP coalition. And even though the way data is collected for polls has been improved, occasionally polls will have wild inaccuracies, as proven by the 1992 election.

In this election, the Green Party got 1,157,613 votes. An increase of 336% from 2010 and the Tories got 2,000,952 more votes than Labour and won the election. It would be very easy to say the Greens split the vote on the left and let the Tories in. But looking at the figures, it would have not made much of a difference if all those that voted Green, voted Labour. It would of only meant one more seat for Labour but they still would of fallen short in votes. And if you look at the places that Greens did well but didn't win, I.e. Bristol West, Norwich, Islington North, Liverpool Riverside,  these were seats that Labour won . In my constituency, where it was a Tory/Labour marginal that Labour won, the Greens only got 2% of the vote. This shows that the Greens didn't really split the vote on the 'left' as much as people thought.

Furthermore this argument implies that Labour are still on the left. In my opinion, Labour sent a very mixed message in the election. On one hand they said they would tax the richest more but also stick to the Tories spending plans and cut public spending. At least with the Tories and the Green Party, you knew where you stood. Maybe this was also a contribution to Labour's downfall. With the Blairites taking control of the leadership contest, I think we can wave goodbye to Labour being a genuine opposition to the Tories in the next five years.

This is all well and good but what can the 63% of the electorate opposed to the Tories do now they are in power?

Good question. Well democracy doesn't just happen every five years at the ballot box. It happens when you join a trade union, take direct action by occupying spaces, going to rallies and protests, or even just chatting to someone in the pub or in the workplace about things.
It all counts. Especially that last one. It's all well and good going to a protest or a rally and preaching to the choir but if you actually chat to people on a everyday basis, you can get a sense about why they voted the way they did or why they didn't vote. As I said earlier, I am happy to chat to anyone about politics and if all of us on the left get out of our comfort zone and talked to people we don't agree with, maybe we can convince someone to take action or change their mind. Case in point. Someone I have known for years is quite Conservative in their views and we often disagree on politics but they were genuinely undecided at this election and voted Green for the first time because of the passion I showed for the Green Party. I'm not saying they are a Green Party activist now but I was told how they voted after the election and it genuinely made me happy and I felt that if I could convince just that one person to go from Conservative to Green, what else can I achieve? 

If enough of us fight for what we believe in, things can change. The people on The New Era estate stopped key social housing being sold off to rich US investors. A recent threat of strike action forced the Queen to pay her staff a living wage. It doesn't matter how big or small, every victory counts.

So what I suggest everyone does now is keep active, starting with a very important rally at Parliament Square on Saturday 30th may to defend the Human Rights Act. Already the government seem to be backing down on this. Lets keep the pressure up, not just now, but for the next five years. It's going to be tough, but hopefully it will be even tougher for the Tories when we show them that we won't stand by and let them enact their cruel policies.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Two weeks to go. Hold my nose and vote for Labour? Or be brave and vote for real change?

Two weeks to go the general election. I bet most of you are sick of the coverage now and just want it over and done with so we know who our next government is.

Well it may not even be that simple. Given how close the main two parties are in the polls, it is very likely that we will see a hung parliament for the second election in a row. Given how both Labour and the Tories have said that they will not form a coalition with other parties, it is going to be interesting to see how either main party will try to reach out to other parties so they can form a minority government with support on a vote by vote issue. So although the votes will be counted by 8th May, we probably wont get another government formed for a couple of weeks.

For those that have read my previous blogs, you'll know that I've said I'm voting for the Green Party. Given that I've been a member since 2012, it would be a bit weird if I didn't.

Now given all the uncertainty surrounding the election and the fact that it is unlikely that either party will get enough seats to form a majority government, will I change my stance? A concern for those on the left of politics is that the more people vote Green, the more that splits the Labour vote, the less seats they'll get, and the more likely it is that the Tories get back into government.

Owen Jones has recently written an article urging people to vote Labour. He says that the main difference between Labour and Tories on the Bedroom Tax should be reason enough to vote Labour. He says that the fact that Labour have vowed to get rid of the Bedroom Tax will make a difference to so many vulnerable people's lives. He uses a case whereby a woman got her housing benefit cut because her daughter died and therefore she had a spare bedroom. That is the cruel idea behind the Bedroom Tax. You get your Housing Benefit cut if have a spare bedroom.

Owen also makes the point that campaigners have pressured Labour to change their stance on the Bedroom Tax, to promise a clamp down on tax avoidance and to get rid of exploitative zero hour contracts. Therefore us lefties are more likely to get concessions from a Labour Government than a Tory one.

There has been this idea mooted around called "vote swapping". So what you would do is swap your Green vote for a Labour one in a constituency where it is a Labour/Tory marginal. In return someone will vote for Green in a constituency that isn't so risky for Labour. The main problem with this is that it involves an element of trust with a complete stranger. How would you know whether they followed through on their promise as all voting is anonymous?

In the past I have rubbished the idea of tactical voting and said it is a scaremongering tactic from Labour supporters that know their party isn't offering enough of an alternative for people to be inspired to vote for them. However, I have softened my stance. I understand why people will consider doing this and especially those that are suffering from the pernicious attacks on the most vulnerable by this government. I do not judge those that go for the safe option of voting for a slightly less harsh Labour government.

So going back to the original question I posed, have I changed my stance and decided to vote Labour? After careful consideration I'm afraid the answer is no. Personally I can't vote for a Labour Party that still backs the horrible Work Capability Assessment (which they bought in 2009 along with the Bedroom Tax). I can't vote for a Labour Party that backs the destruction of our environment by promising to continue investment in fracking. I can't vote for a Labour Party that wants to keep Academies that are very selective schools that don't guarantee provision for SEN students. And lastly I can't vote for a Labour Party that supports limited privatisation of the NHS rather than none.

The Green Party opposes all these policies and offers a positive vision of the future which sees our public services run for the public not for private profit, which sees people paid a living wage and which sees an education system where children are taught genuine life skills rather than shoved through constant exams. It is why I'm voting green.

Will this vote be wasted in that all it will do is consign us to five more years of Tory austerity? Not necessarily. Miliband is getting more popular, especially with his "milifandom" (Look it up, seriously it is so weird). So it is likely that we could have a Labour minority government, that with pressure from progressive parties like SNP, Plaid and Green, we can help enact policies that we desperately need to change this country for the better.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

A month to go to the election and Labour still aren't offering a clear alternative to the Conservatives. Time to vote for real change.

So it is a month to go until the general election. Things are getting exciting for those of us interested in politics. Now considering how close it is between Labour and the Tories in the polls, with the Tories on 34% and Labour on 33%, every vote really does count. So will I change my stance and vote Labour to keep the Tories out?

Well I'll answer that by quoting Ed Miliband in responding to what Leanne Wood said to him in the Leaders Debate about Labour supporting privatisation in the NHS. "My Two sons were born in a PFI Hospital, it was an old falling down hospital, but you are right, there need to be limits to privatisation." Notice the word limit. For me that shows that Labour support some elements of the private sector running NHS services, which is just wrong on so many levels. And he defended PFI? The very same initiative that has put so many hospitals into debt and being put into special measures. Any party that supports even limited privatisation of the NHS does not get my vote.

And when it comes to austerity, the economic policy that is destroying so many lives and widening the gap between the rich and the poor, what does Ed Miliband say? Again I'm taking this as a direct quote from the Leaders Debate "We will make common sense spending reductions and in areas outside Health and Education, spending will be falling". To put it in other words, Labour supports austerity.

When you put this to Labour supporters, they just respond negatively and tell you that a vote for Labour is a vote AGAINST the Tories and to get them out of government. How about I vote FOR a party I believe in?

When it comes down to it, yes they have policies on the 50p rate of tax and abolishing the bedroom tax which I agree with, but they generally support the idea of Austerity. They have given in to the mantra that it was the last government's overspending that lead to a massive increase in our debt rather than a global financial crisis caused by speculation in dodgy financial products.

You know how desperate Labour are getting when they jump on a dubious and it turns out false article that suggests Nicola Sturgeon prefers David Cameron to Ed Miliband to be Prime Minister. Yeah don't debate on the serious issue of Austerity, but just join a smear campaign which is completely false. This arrogant quote from a Labour candidate, who tweeted about this, says it all.

“I haven’t taken it down,” said Mike Gapes, who is standing for Labour in Ilford South. “There is, privately, an SNP agenda that wants Cameron to stay in office because it would speed up a second referendum on independence.”

So to sum up, do you really want to vote for a party that doesn't offer a real alternative to the Tories and just uses negative tactics to get people to vote for them? I'll just leave you with Natalie Bennett's closing Leaders Debate statement which sums up why I'm voting for real change.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Everyday Sexism and why we should all be feminists

Welcome to my third blog in three weeks. Not quite so topical this week but a blog I've been considering writing for a while. Anyway a couple of months ago I read a book called Everyday Sexism. I'm a feminist so naturally the book interested me.  

It all stemmed from an woman called Laura Bates who started this Everyday Sexism project in 2012 to highlight her own experiences and encouraged others to send their experiences in to her website and facebook page. She got so many responses that it went viral worldwide. She then started regularly speaking in schools, colleges and universities and started writing articles for newspapers. This has now culminated in a book that highlights a lot of experiences of women around the world and is backed up with stats and puts sexism in various contexts.

In her book, Laura covers subjects such as harassment on the street, public transport and the workplace. Did you know for instance that in 2012 43% of women in London aged 18-34 experienced sexual harassment. (Source: Yougov).
She also covers gender stereotyping  at an early age to encourage children to stick to traditional gender roles. One of the examples used in the book was a woman tweeting in to her that 'Every time a girl sees science toys under a boys sign, she is told science in not suitable for her'. From a boys perspective, a mother messaged in to the project saying how she received a lot of negative comments about her son pushing around a doll in a pushchair.'

Furthermore she also discusses sexism in the media. It's pointed out that women write only a fifth of newspaper articles in the UK. (Source: Women in Journalism Study 2012). The lack of representation of women in politics is also highlighted (Only 147 out 650 MPs are women).

Double Discrimination is also seen as a key issue. One stat pointed out is that in the UK almost 1 in 5 black, Pakistani, and Bangladeshi women is unemployed compared to 1 in 14 white women.  (Source: APPG on Race and Community 2012)

These are just some of the many example whereby women experience everyday sexism. There are many more in the book and in a wider variety of contexts across the world. This isn't just a book review, but more of a blog about how Everyday Sexism has reiterated to me the importance of the fight against sexism and how we can all get involved. There is no excuse not to be a feminist. It is purely about gender equality regardless of the negative connotation the word has had attached to it.

So I urge everyone, regardless of what type of book you usually read, to read Everyday Sexism. Especially to those that think sexism basically doesn't exist any more. This could really open your mind. Yes we have made certain strides in the fight for gender equality but the Everyday Sexism project proves how much more we need to do. 

Monday, 23 February 2015

Tories slave labour policies back with a vengeance. But there is hope.

Hello All,

Thank you to those who read my last blog. Although I'm not seeing any comments so either people didn't find it interesting enough to comment or they found it so good they were speechless (I wish). 

Anyway on to this week's politics rant. What a week it's been. The biggest headline of the week's politics is the Conservative plan to force the unemployed young to do work experience for their benefits. This is specifically meant for 18-21 year olds that have not been in education, work or training for six months before they claim benefits.

Now first of all, this is just a re-hash of the workfare scheme which forced young unemployed people to work in places like Tesco for benefits. I remember doing this and remember how degrading it was. And secondly the most obvious question arises. If the job centre can find young unemployed NEETS work to do, why shouldn't they get paid the minimum wage for it? They are adults after all so surely the minimum wage law should apply to them right? Back in 2013 the court of appeal said that the government's workfare scheme was unlawful as it broke the minimum wage law. The government then quickly rushed through a law in parliament that basically said the workfare scheme was lawful. Once again no opposition from the Labour Party. Another reason not to vote for them.

It begs the question though, why are they so desperate to keep this workfare scheme when actually it will keep the benefit bill at a high level. It certainly won't save money. If these young people were paid the minimum wage (at a living wage rate) for the job they were doing, it wouldn't cost the government anything and would bring in extra tax revenue. Any logical person will come to that conclusion.

So the one conclusion I can get from this, is that the Tories are trying to take us back to the Victorian era where we had slave labour for young people. And  doesn't it show the contempt this government has for young adults. Not only this, they have they trebled tuition fees, scrapped EMA and massively cut funding for careers services like Connexions.  It's as if they don't want the young to vote at all. 

So I say one last thing to those 18-24 year olds that are disillusioned with politics and don't want to get involved.  Please do. Don't let the Tories beat us into submission. Whether it is taking direct action against the government policies or registering to vote, please get involved. There are organisations like 38 degrees, UK Uncut and People's Assembly Against Austerity that are fighting against these cruel government policies. Also please make sure you register to vote and if you are unsure who to vote for and believe there are no choices, then go to and take the survey on whose policies you agree with most, and vote for that party. You may be surprised with the result.

Why I will not be voting labour at the general election.

Hello again to those that have read my blogs before and to the vast majority of you that haven't, welcome!
I know I've said before that I want to do these weekly but I never seem to get round to it. Hopefully I'll keep my promises this time. (Subject to me actually making the effort)
Anyway, on with the blog. To those that have read my blogs before you will be aware that I am a member of the green party so the title of the blog should come as no surprise to you. But there are also many other reasons I won't vote labour.
Firstly Ed Balls has time and again said that he will stick to the government's spending plans for 2015/16. So what's the difference?
Not much as it seems. Shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt came out recently and said that the Green Party education policies were a 'throwback to the 1970s'. Yet the only difference between him and Gove's education policies is that he would get rid of unqualified teachers and make teachers sign an oath like doctors do. Never mind dealing the failure of academies and free schools and a system which just focuses on testing rather than teaching kids.
In addition to this, Andy Burnham has promised to repeal the health and social care act but hasn't promised to get rid of the internal market system that has been undermining the NHS since the 1980s.
When you see Labour's welfare policies, it is hard to tell the difference between them and the Tories. Both have plans to cut benefits for young adults. Speaking of which, Labour's higher education policy is again only a slight tweak on the current system. Promising the radical action of cutting tuition fees from £9000 to £6000 a year.
What about the recent HSBC scandal which saw millions of pounds of tax taken from this country? This apparently started in 2007 when Ed Balls was city minister and this continued to happen under this government.
And last but not least, Labour's stance on fracking. The only difference is that they would have slightly better regulation on it rather getting rid of the dangerous practice altogether.
So when you take all this into account you can see that although are slight differences in policy both offer pretty much the same deal.  Austerity, similar education policies and environmental policies that are very damaging.
I live in a Tory/Labour marginal so I guess you could say that by voting Green I'm splitting the vote on the left and letting in the Tories. But I would argue that Labour aren't really on the left anymore so that's an irrelevant argument.
The only people that are to blame for the Tories getting in are the people that vote Conservative. And of course Labour, who fail to offer anything like a genuine alternative.
But wait lee, I hear you say, why don't you join Labour and help change them from the inside?
Ah I wish it were that simple. The only way I can really influence Labour policy from the inside is if I work my way up in the party and join the national executive committee. And failing that as a normal member I would only get a third of the vote on policy and leader change anyway. Unlike the Greens in which anyone can come up with policy and every member gets a vote.
To sum up, that's why Labour are shit and don't deserve my vote at the next election.