A Calamitous Day

The Prime Minister has signed the Article 50 notification. Our country has begun the process of leaving the Europe Union. The 52 percent that voted for Brexit (actually 26 percent of UK population) is now in charge. Whatever happens now is their fault. Don’t blame us if it’s a complete mess. And don’t blame the poor, the immigrants, the muslims, the homeless, the children, the sick, doctors, the nurses, the banks, the schools. This is your UK now, if you voted for this, own it.

I’m sort of an immigrant to this country. I sneaked in. It is a country I have loved but always felt a bit of an outsider; aware that I was adopted by both a new family and a new nation. I’m lucky in that the colour of my skin makes it easy for me to hide in plain sight in the UK. But it also means people have been willing to share their hateful views with me – thinking I’m one of them. But I’m not. When I hear their racism, the darkest recesses of what might be loosely called their soul, when they use immigration to justify this political leap into the dark, they are talking about me and my children.

And so no, this doesn’t end today. Like millions of others in this country I will fight for a decent future for my family. A future free of hatred and bigotry, a future free of lies painted on buses, free of ignorance and lack of education. A future where instead of isolating ourselves and dreaming of some version of 1950s that only existed for a privileged few even then – instead a future where we try to be part of something bigger and better for the benefit of our children and their children. A future where expertise, education, science, and truth are still important.

Today the UK takes a terrible first step into isolation, into a petty small minded version of this country that’s unwilling to be part of a community. A hideous mashup of The Darling Buds of May and Love Thy Neighbour. A future molded by US health insurance companies, big sugar, the Daily Mail, Murdoch, a USA in political turmoil, and the Kremlin.

I still hope our government will see sense. I hope they realise the incredible damage that could follow and thus make a brave u-turn. But I fear that the most likely outcome is that our children will be damned to a nation suffering a prolonged political, social and cultural ice age. We have a government more interested in maintaining party unity than protecting us against any external threat to the UK. We’re sleepwalking into oblivion with the scriptwriter working in Cyrillic.

To those who voted for setting the clocks back 40 years, I hope you enjoy your bendy cucumbers and incandescent light bulbs. But I don’t think they will be much compensation for the many hardships to follow.

In some ways I hope you are right. It would be wonderful to think we’re beginning a new golden age, a revitalised and glorious United Kingdom, once again earning the Great in Great Britain. We’re not though, we’re really not. You can’t build a golden age on bigotry and lies.

Maybe one day the 52 percent will understand that, and they will even apologise to us. Until then, the rest of us will fight this massive mistake. Not just for our sake, but for your sake and that of your children too. Because that’s what being part of a family, union or community is all about. You’ve just forgotten.

An Open Letter to Oliver Letwin MP (Con)

Dear Mr Letwin,

I returned home from shopping this lunchtime to find a poor tree had died partly to fund an election “communication” from you , promoted on behalf of your campaign by a Mr Antony Stanley. My first thoughts were to return to sender with instructions on where one could shove it. However I have decided to respond in more detail.

Your election pamphlet was addressed to me here at the Vicarage. You see my wife is a vicar. In fact Mr Letwin you met my wife during the last election campaign. She was introduced to you in her capacity as a local Church minister in Charlton Down and you completely ignored her. Whatever merits or demerits your party may have I would never vote for someone so rude as to completely ignore and refuse to speak to someone in this way. Manners maketh the man and all that.

But let’s move on – I don’t want to make this personal, I have more of a beef with your party than your own lack of manners. As I said your pamphlet was sent to me at the Vicarage. I know it’s not popular among your church going party colleagues but this house, my wife’s position and our family ethos actually has something to do with the teachings of a man called Jesus of Nazareth. Anglican Tories, are happy to miss out all the giving to the poor, helping the needy bit, and instead favour racist immigration policies and demonising of the meekest members of our society. However I feel that your party is the enemy of everything this house, the church and the teachings of Jesus stand for.`

I want to raise a few points for you to explain why I would never vote for you or any other Tory candidate:

1, The Bedroom Tax – a purely malignant policy with two aims, first to divide and demonise the poor and secondly to save a tiny bit of money that could be spent elsewhere such as on rich pensioners. This policy was never about freeing up larger homes for poorer families – the housing stock didn’t exist to downsize people into. But your party went ahead with it anyway.

2, Tory opposition to Labour’s non-dom policy. A grown up intelligent party might have pulled the rug from under Labour by instantly adopting the same policy. Instead you circled the wagons and defended the fat cats that leach on this nation yet pay little tax here. The “all in this together” rings very hollow.

3, The recently announced changes to inheritance tax rules. The wealthy of this nation do not create their wealth in isolation. Our roads, railways, schools etc. are all used as they built their business empires. It seems perfectly reasonable for the rich to make reparations to society when they die. However as usual your party has decided to man the barricades and ensure very little of this money trickles down.

4, The harsh benefit sanctions driving people to starvation and suicide.

5, The lies on the economy. The figures do not bare out Tory claims that Labour wrecked the economy and you are fixing it. Independent figures show GDP fell due to your draconian slash and burn austerity policies.

6, Focus on the few benefit fraudsters when by its own figures the government wastes more benefits in mistakes and overpayments. The continued focus on the unemployed as your demons of society is revolting scapegoating. Pensioners make up the vast bulk of benefit payments, but of course the old vote for you so you will tip toe around the rich pensioners that receive benefits they do not need.

7, Selling off housing association stock. This one is new and a new low. This wrong-headed nonsense would see you sell off prime housing stock at a loss to fund building more expensive homes. It is totally insane. We have precious little social housing as it is and you want to flog it off? Shame on you.

8, Opposition to European human rights laws protecting workers, the disabled, parents, the sick, the poor – basically the laws that protect anyone from your party and its friends.

9, The attempted coup against the Speaker at the end of the last session of Parliament was shady, disgusting work.

10, TTIP – an assault on our freedoms via the back door. Selling off parts of the NHS to American corporations, relaxing banking laws (well it’s not like the banks would get us into trouble eh?), reducing controls on environment and food safety and even an assault on our democracy itself.

11, The Tory campaign has offered little positive. It’s all been about scaring people into voting for you. Daily Mail tactics – make vulnerable poorly educated people too scared to abandon the Tory party. Your pamphlet which I received today features a banner that devotes two thirds of its space to fostering fear of Labour rather than celebrating your party’s own policies. What’s wrong? Not enough positive policies to trumpet? Scared Labour might be right? I wasn’t going to vote Labour, but this pamphlet has me thinking of doing so.

12, George Osborne’s £8bn NHS boost. A completely fictional pile of money, a desperate attempt to win back some credibility on the subject of health. It failed. What kind of minister, or even chancellor, cannot answer a question asked 15 times about where such a large amount of money will come from? I can claim to be eating unicorn bacon for breakfast tomorrow, it’s just as likely as this £8bn being real.

13, The volunteering policy. So people could take time off from work to help a registered charity such as their local posh private school – but not their normal common village primary? What larks.

14, £9000 tuition fees. The children are the future of this nation. The rich pensioners are not. But your party insists on bolstering the past while robbing from the nation’s future. It is sickening. My children will be paying for your follies long after you are gone.

15, Cuts in social care for the old that means hospital beds are blocked by them, making people waiting for treatment wait longer. Like in many areas you make cuts to get headlines but cost us more money in the long run.

16, Protecting the wealthy, the privileged, the powerful. I see plenty of entertainers from the past have been in court – but not so many party colleague that perhaps frequented Dolphin Square. A cynical person might suggest we’re being offered these entertainers as a decoy. I also see plenty of bankers are still free to wander the streets after wrecking our economy, you’re still friends with them and blame Labour for their wrongdoing. Why are these bankers are not in prison? And why do those in desperate need who wrongly make benefit claims find themselves in prison but not former education secretaries who refurnish their kitchen(s) at our expense? On rule for one, eh?

17, The failure to make the likes of Vodafone pay the billions owed in taxes.

18, Closing libraries. What the actual fuck? Why not just go the whole way and burn books at torchlight parades?

I could list many more, but if I don’t put the shopping in the fridge soon some of it may spoil. And so that will do for now. I’m also a bit cross, so I’d rather go have a wagon wheel and some Fanta than bang my head against this uncaring brick wall any longer.

Mr Letwin, I would never ever vote for you or any of your party. You are the enemy of decency and fairness, your party has attacked and vilified the poor, made the poor hungry and sick, made the sick homeless and driven people to their deaths with your selfishness. The policies of your government since 2010 were an all-out war on the most desperate and needy people in our society, the people without a voice, all so you could hoard wealth for rich pensioners, non-doms and your corporate friends.

When children arrive at school hungry and without warm clothing there is something very sick at the top of our society. I am not a party loyalist – I haven’t even decided where my vote will go in May – but one thing is clear, it will never go to those who abuse the weakest members of our society. My late mother brought me up to believe in decency and kindness – and I am not one of those people who can stomach the cognitive dissonance of kneeling on a Sunday but voting to harm the poor on a Thursday.

Good day to you

Harry Neary

Bishop David Walker on Poverty

I’ve read an excellent piece in today’s Guardian by Anglican bishop David Walker on the subject of the church’s recent head on collision with the Tories over poverty.

“Most of us would see service provision not just as an end in itself. It is equally the ground on which we stand to challenge and stimulate public sector provision, and our basis for offering a critique of dominant political narratives. Archbishop Desmond Tutu puts this latter in a typically telling phrase: “When you’ve fished enough people out of the river, it’s time to take a walk upstream and see who’s pushing them in.” And what seems to be casting people in ever increasing numbers into the waters is less a matter of specific policies and more about Britain’s scapegoat culture.”

You can read the article on the Guardian website. Obviously don’t read the comments underneath the article. Never read comments on newspaper websites.

Vote For Your Grandchildren, Not Yourself

Of the £160bn annual benefit budget nearly £75bn goes towards pensions. This in itself isn’t anything to complain about – many pensioners rely on these payments to live – but there plenty of others who do not need a penny of it. These wealthy pensioners tend to vote for a Tory party that is happy enough to keep giving the pension to them, in fact to keep raising the amount. Strangely, young families with just as much money have child benefit taken from them – perhaps they don’t vote for the right party.

Meanwhile tragically poor families are being robbed due the detestable bedroom tax and other squeezes on benefits. This disgusting bedroom tax policy could never have made a change to the way housing stock is used, there just aren’t the smaller houses for people to move into. The cold hard mathematical facts are against the policy – there really isn’t the housing stock. The government would have known this when drafting the policy – instead the bedroom tax is a deliberate ideological and financial attack on the poorest members of our society. The plan is to dismantle the state and to do so first one must attack those that rely on it. So the poor are demonised, the NHS and education systems vilified. Look at how much money we waste on these broken dreams, the Tories say, let us abolish them.

Some of you Telegraph, Daily Mail and Express reading old folks are probably disgusted with the poor, the way all the money is spent on them and believe it is ruining our economy. Do you know how much jobseeker’s allowance costs the nation? From the annual benefit budget of £160bn it is just over £4.8bn. That is a mere drop in the ocean compared to how much you pensioners are getting, remember you lot get £75bn. These are facts, but not something you’ll find in the Daily Mail. Do you like being manipulated into hating others by these papers? How does that make you feel?

So why do we hear so much about benefit fraud, see posters and TV campaigns surrounding the issue? Because demonising the poor is politically useful. There is a growing working poor and it is in the interest of the government to keep the unemployed poor and working poor from joining forces. What if all the disenfranchised of this nation acted together? It’s a scary thought – they might engage in the democratic process. And so the working poor are fed a lie that our economy would be so much better if people weren’t cheating jobseeker’s allowance.

How big is benefit fraud? The Department of Work and Pensions estimates it is in the region of £1.2bn. Hardly pocket change, but in terms of the overall budget not a major cost – that’s still you pensioners. But wait a minute, it seems that according the DWP’s own figures it accidentally overpays people £1.4bn. So rather than the benefit cheats being the biggest drain on resources the DWP’s own ineptitude costs the nation more. We don’t see any demonising posters about that do we?

Meanwhile the HMRC fails to collect tax from some of the biggest avoiders. The HMRC’s own figures put this at £30bn, meanwhile Tax Justice and the PCS put this figure at a higher £120bn. What can we gather from this? The very rich aren’t doing their bit. They are avoiding paying tax and the government is putting less effort into collecting it than it does to demonise the very poorest in our society.

In our supposedly civilised society we have food banks springing up everywhere. There are always going to be the kind of feckless parents who would rather buy cigarettes than feed their children – but imagining these are the cause of the growth of foodbanks is living in dreamland. Our nation is deeply divided. In my local town there are wealthy people who are unaware of the poverty that exists in that town. They genuinely don’t know the poor streets and estates exists. And some that do aren’t too pleased about the “sort of people” they should allow to use the foodbank.

We have the rise in food banks and the massive growth in legal loan-shark companies such as Wonga. There is no coincidence in the existence and growth of both of these. The government you voted for is crushing the poor to the point where they have to go stinking up your nice little church food bank or borrow money at 3000% APR from Wonga. There’s an irony in the design of the puppets Wonga uses in its advertising campaign – the very sort of people who voted for the state our nation is in. Saying a prayer for the poor on Sunday doesn’t really cut it. It is the irony and tragedy of West Dorset that so many wealthy older people that live here are involved in the church, yet vote for the very enemy of everything their faith stands for. So many good people seem to leave their goodness and their faith outside of the polling booth.

Some of these people are extremely generous with their time and money towards the poorer members of the community. That is a great thing. But that’s not enough. Let’s look at it another way. Imagine we had a national problem in that the poor were being attacked by rabid wolves. Every week a government van would arrive in poor areas and wild mad wolves would be unleashed to attack people. You, being a decent church going type are horrified by the suffering this causes. You do your best to help those who have been attacked. You give them shelter, tend to their wounds, feed them. You offer them all the generosity in your heart – and it makes a real differences to these people – you ease their suffering. But then every four years you walk into a polling booth and tick the box marked “I want rabid wolves released on the poor”.

Why keep voting for a party that’s doing its best to ensure your own children, grandchildren and ultimately their children will never have the health service you enjoyed, can use a library, get inexpensive health care, or a state pensions. Why do you do it?

If you love your grandchildren then please cast a vote for their future, not a vote for your past.

How the Womb is Destroying the Economy

The Tory Party conference is never really a source of joy to right thinking people as it is often the source of stupidity, selfishness, racism disguised as immigration policy and general fuckwittedness. But they’ve outdone themselves this week – as have the business leaders present.

We live in a time where we are all being asked to tighten our belts. VAT is at 20 percent which is a huge burden on the lower paid and poor who it affects disproportionately. Sure Start centres are closing, as are libraries. Councils are cutting back on services. The armed forces are being decimated by a shortsighted and dangerous foreign policy. Our nation is being stripped bare in the name of the Tory deficit reduction plan.

Someone somewhere has really fucked up our nation and we’re now having to pay for it. But who is to blame? Well you’d think, given the policy ideas coming from the Tory conference, that workers are to blame. Yes the poor workers of this country are to blame for wanting things like access to legal redress, support when ill or pregnant, somewhere safe to work and a workplace free of discrimination. If only we could return to the days of toddlers working under spinning machines then the economy would grow and all would be well. And while we are it, can we cut the top rate of tax down a bit, some execs are down to the last three or four luxury cars.

The top earners, the banking execs and hedge fund managers are the bastards who got us in this mess. They should have gone through the same fast track courts as the rioting scum and should have been given the same stiff sentences. Yet here they all are turning up at the annual selfish bastards jamboree aka Tory Party conference complaining that having to do their bit (by paying tax) is making them sad and thinking of leaving the country. Meanwhile the rest of us look on, suffering from appalling fuel costs and rising grocery bills wondering what planet these twats are on.

And then these thieving and negligent bastards have the gall to say that what’s stopping the economy growing is irritants like women wanting babies and workers wanting their rights protected. Any sensible government would tell these economic vandals to take a running jump. But what has the government done? Decided that workers will have to wait two years to get redress from en employment tribunal. Well fuck me running, that’s really going to get the economy working again isn’t it?

Grrrrr I have more to say. But the evil, yes genuine evil, of people wanting to remove workers rights (fought for over hundreds of years) using the state of the economy as an excuse, makes me too sweary to make it worth carrying on. Anything else on this subject would just be a string of profanities and threats of extreme violence. So I’ll end it here.