Tag Archive | poverty

God’s own country

No loaves and fishes from Cameron

After alienating the fundamentalist Church of England wing of the Conservative Party with his support of equal marriage, David Cameron has decided to play to them and place down the Christian card in the run up to the annual celebration of the torture and execution of a literary character.  In a vile twisted perception of reality, Cameron pines in the pages of the Church Times for good old Christian values, but moans:

“I sometimes feel not enough is made of our efforts to tackle poverty.”

I don’t quite know what to make of this.  Tory ‘efforts to tackle poverty’ have been a naked war on the poor, making poverty worse.  The coalition government has been instrumental in making life worse for people on the poverty line, the introduction of the ‘bedroom tax’, punitive welfare sanctions, the vicious cutting of welfare budgets.  This has led to a massive increase in food banks, and the emergence of people being admitted into hospital with malnutrition.

Malnutrition; in the 21st Century; in one of the wealthiest nations in the world; in what Cameron considers a ‘Christian country’.

Well, this is the guy who said that “Jesus invented the Big Society 2,000 years ago.”  If Jesus invented Cameron’s Big Society, then Dracula invented blood transfusions.

It is true that religious organisations are stepping in to help where they can.  The Trussell Trust has reported a massive growth in requests for emergency food:

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Cameron is grateful to Christian organisations though:

“I welcome the efforts of all those who help to feed, clothe, and house the poorest in our society. For generations, much of this work has been done by Christians…”

This is because he and his chums are dismantling the welfare state, the fair, secular solution.

 

Not a Christian country

Cameron said Britain should be “more confident about our status as a Christian country”.  This is a myth that is regularly resurrected, and it seems appropriate that Cameron’s done it in the run up to the celebration of the Christian resurrection myth.  True, our unelected head of state is also the head of the Church of England.  Unelected bishops sit in the House of Lords.  For over a thousand years Christianity of one flavour or another has been the dominant religion in Britain, owned massive swathes of land and property, and held power over the lives, deaths and afterlife of British people.

But that doesn’t mean that Britain is a Christian country.  Our laws are secular.  Our electoral system is secular.  Our state machinery is secular.  Despite having a state sanctioned church, it’s largely a ceremonial relationship and the UK is probably one of the most secular states in the world.

Religiously, the UK is diverse.  For the Prime Minister to suggest that Britain is a Christian country, it implies that any citizen of any religion that isn’t Christian (or of no religion) is somehow not properly British.  This attitude skirts the bigotry of the EDL and UKIP, with the sinister finger-pointing of the zealot, who lives in a paranoid world where the non-Christian is an outsider whose is ‘not one of us’.  We can see where that kind of thinking can lead today in the Central African Republic, where Muslims are being butchered by the thousands.  By Christians.  We can see it in Muslim countries where being un-Islamic can put an innocent person in prison or their head on the chopping block.  Closer to home, sectarianism in Northern Ireland has kept communities fractured for generations.  There are still many in North Ireland who believe that being Protestantism is a core component of Britishness.

Defining a country and it’s citizens by a religious belief is at best pernicious; at worst, murderous.

This is why Britain being a secular country is a good thing.  No matter what religious baggage our history brings, a country with secular values ignores arbitrary ‘morals’ born out of iron age superstition and medieval ignorance, and treats everyone equally, irrespective of their religious beliefs.

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In safe hands

Tories to finally kill the NHS

In the run up to election how many times did we hear the Tories tell us that the NHS would be safe in their hands?  I lost count.  I never believed Cameron’s empty words of reassurance anyway, as Tories like MEP Dan Hannan slagging off the NHS live on US TV revealed the true Tory contempt for socialised medical care.

Now it seems that what the Tories think are safe hands are actually the greedy vulture claws of the free market.

The Conservatives are well known for fucking up other people’s services, and their shock doctrine strategy of cuts is a barely disguised mission to hand as much to the private sector as possible.  Now I’m reminded, the hard way, that you can’t trust a Tory, except to fuck you over.

I thought Labour’s privatisations were bad, but Lansley’s ideological split up of the NHS is naked head-in-a-plastic-bag neo-liberal economics.

It’s too easy to blame just the Tories.  Labour took up where the Tories left off thirteen years ago, and have left the new ConDem government an infrastructure fractured into trusts which operate like faceless corporations.  Unaccountable to local people, whilst trust boards were stuffed with Labour cronies cruising to retirement.  Such a system, run by people who will jump at the chance to make an easy buck, makes easy pickings for the Tory vultures.

But let’s not forget who enabled the Torie’s grand scale theft of OUR NHS to put it into the hands of spivs who put profit before people.  Step forward the Liberal Democrats.  They’ve helped the Tories put their hands over the nose and mouth of the NHS, and are now standing back wanking off in neo-liberal bliss enjoying the sight of the slow suffocation of our healthcare system.

The NHS isn’t just a healthcare system.  It’s one of the foundations of our modern democracy.  Without socialised healthcare working people would be forced to rely on health insurance, which is only valid as long as you pay the bill.  This places people in greater fear of losing their jobs as their lives would depend on it.  People would be less likely to complain about unfair working practices, giving employers free reign to treat staff as they please.

And as access to healthcare drops, mortality rates will rise.

I’ve mentioned before that it’s starting to feel like the 80s again, but if they privatise our healthcare system, it’ll be more like the 1880s than the 1980s.

Father of the NHS Nye Bevan coined the founding principle of Britain’s universal healthcare:

No society can legitimately call itself civilised if a sick person is denied medical aid because of lack of means.

Bevan also referred to the Tory party as ‘lower than vermin’.  If only modern Labour MPs had such spirit.  I would remix Bevan’s quote for the 21st Century, though.

Tories and LibDems.  Fucking scum.

ConDem nation

So according to documents leaked to the Guardian, the predictions that George Osborne’s budget was an economic scorched earth policy wasn’t just hyperbole.  The Treasury’s own forecast of the outcome of the slash and burn budget makes Cam n Clegg’s “fair, fair, fair” and “we’re all in it together” mantra look like the trite and dishonest propaganda it is.

Labour gave us the war on terror to use our fear to chip away at our hard won civil liberties, aided and abetted by a pliant media.  What the Lib Dems and the Conservatives have given us is a shock budget, part of a war on deficit, where they can justify just about anything in the name of the economy.  Trouble is, it isn’t our economy, it belongs to those who went to the same schools as Cameron and Osborne and wine and dine at the same restaurants.

The ConDem horse is only just out of the stalls, but it looks like this horse should have sent to the glue factory back in the 80s.

Learning to fail

You know we’re in for interesting times when the South Tyneside Labour councillor with the education portfolio, Councillor Jim Foreman, disagrees with Labour’s flagship schools privatisation programme. The plans to transfer several South Tyneside schools into academy status has ruffled some feathers. Coun Foreman said:

We do not believe it is in the long-term interests of children across the borough to have two-tier schooling, and fear it will lead to fragmentation of the education system.

I don’t know who this ‘we’ is, but I agree with Councillor Foreman, but I’d bet that South Shield’s MP David Miliband doesn’t. This is what he said about Labour’s academies:

Academies are leading the reforms that will radically improve secondary education in this country.

Academies were never about raising standards in education.  Standards can be raised without a second tier system, as performing schools like Harton Technology College have proven.  Academy schools were an ideologically motivated project, moving schools out of local authority control and into the hands of third parties in an attempt to leverage improvements through market forces with the added competitive advantage of extra investment (they should really be called subsidies) over non academy schools.

So far, there’s little evidence that academies have improved education.

Now we are facing the ConDem government’s blue rebrand of the academies concept and the introduction of Free Schools.

Under Gove’s plans to encourage more schools to convert to academy status, schools will be allowed to set their own criteria for admissions outside of local authority control.  In high demand schools like Harton Technology College, this will allow them to cherry pick the best students. Those better performing students will more likely be from households not reliant on some kind of welfare benefit.  This will split schools into income class ghettos where academic aspiration will be difficult to inspire.

So academy status will not only fragment education provision, it will prove divisive.

It will also exacerbate admissions problems for a local authority like South Tyneside already struggling to provide a coherent and satisfactory admissions system.  Ironically, despite the free market ideology behind academies, with their own selection criteria they can actually lead to a reduction in choice for parents.

However, it’s not as if a form of fragmentation and division isn’t already in place in South Tyneside school’s admissions policies: we aleady have a well established two tier system in the borough and no-one bats an eye.  Some schools can already apply their own selection criteria, and those like St Joseph’s filter their admissions depending upon which god pupils and parents bow their heads to.  The state funded religious school system has grown under Labour, and with Gove’s academy expansion and the introduction of Free Schools, the number of state funded schools constituted upon deity worship is likely to grow.

If Jim Foreman or David Miliband are really concerned about fragmentation in state education, stopping state funded sectarian education should be on their agenda.

The Unavoidable Budget

Reviewing the budget speech after work today, I was struck by the language used by the ConDems, threaded through with a sinister sense of disassociation, a classic identifier of sociopathy.

George Osborne started the ball rolling, repeating the word ‘unavoidable’ several times in his speech, and tonight in his televised announcement.  There’s something brutally absolutist about the fallacy of no alternative, and an abandonment of responsibility to those who forced a no-choice scenario.

Vince Cable, who has long since abandoned any credibility in his search for a seat at the big table, continued the dis-associative theme after the budget when he claimed that:

“I have no doubt that the budget will be vilified by those who wish to undermine the coalition government or who do not understand the depths of the crisis into which our country has sunk.”

Portraying those who disagree with the ConDem budget as either the enemy or stupid is painting an intentionally dishonest false dichotomy in an attempt to discredit critics.  Such language is again absolutist, staking the ground out as a martial “you’re either with us or against us”.

The message is utterly fundamentalist: savage cuts or doom, and if you disagree you’re the enemy.

Little more than a big fuck you to justify an act of collective punishment on those in the poverty trap, the disaffected and those without a voice, the people who will pay the most for this budget.

Tory vultures

First there was ‘compassionate conservatism’, then there was a duck house, an alliance with dodgy Polish right wingers, slagging off the NHS, then Ashcroft, promises to bring back fox hunting and abolish rich folk taxes, and now Tories block a bill to curb the blood sucking activities of vulture funds.  To be honest, I was surprised that the bill got as far as it did; Labour play stooges to big money too.  So we shouldn’t be surprised that someone stepped in on behalf of the scumbags which profit from the misery of others, and neither should we be shocked that it was a Tory.

What this episode should confirm is that compassionate conservatism is genuine, but reserves all it’s compassion for the rich.

Same old Tories then.

Operation Christmas Child: goodwill at a price

Every year local newspaper the Shields Gazette press covers the voluntary work of local Christian organisations preparing shoeboxes, filling them with gifts for children in impoverished areas around the world.

It’s represented in the media as altruism in action, and local politicians, like Coun John Anglin and Jarrow MP Stephen Hepburn, attach their names to the charitable endeavour.

However, all isn’t as it seems.  OCC is a campaign run by Samaritan’s Purse, an evangelical Christian organisation run by Franklin Graham, son of evangelist Billy Graham.  Samaritan’s Purse shows pictures of smiling children with their shoeboxes, with the banner ‘The power of a simple gift’.  The real power of the ‘simple gift’ for Samaritan’s Purse is not just the toys packed with compassion, it’s the additional extra that Samaritan’s Purse adds.  Christian literature.

That’s right, the main purpose of OCC is to gain converts to Christianity at the point of a gift.  I think bribing children is sick, and it’s unfortunate that so many good people in South Tyneside are colluding in this campaign.

I’m sure that most of the people involved in OCC genuinely want to put smiles on faces around the world.

Our politicians should know better.  Instead of supporting a cynical missionary strategy, perhaps next year they should support genuine giving charities, like Oxfam, which offer real tangible help, not prayer and conversion.