Tag Archives: Conservatives

The outcome of #GE2017 depends on who Britons are

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Before the manifestos come out, thought we all needed a reminder of what was promised in 2015 by the Conservatives: https://www.conservatives.com/manifesto. I was especially interested in this:

“This Manifesto sets out our plan to do just that. It is a plan for a better future – for you, for your family. It is a plan for every stage of your life. For your new-born baby, there will be the world’s best medical care. For your child, there will be a place at an excellent school. As you look for your first job, we are building a healthy economy that provides a good career for you with a decent income. As you look for that first home, we will make sure the Government is there to help. As you raise your family, we will help you with childcare. And as you grow older, we will ensure that you have dignity in retirement.

Throughout, we will make sure that if you or your family fall ill, you will always be able to depend on our cherished National Health Service to give you the care you need.”

Whatever way you vote, take this as your mantra:

Anyone But Conservative (#ABC)

If you’re a dyed-in-the-wool Labour supporter but in your area the Lib Dem MP has the best chance of beating the Tories – hold your nose and vote for them. If you’re a Lib Dem supporter and the Labour candidate is the best chance of ousting the Tory candidate – hold your nose and vote for them. If you’re a Lib Dem/Labour and a Green candidate has the best chance – you get the picture.

This is beyond #Brexit. #Brexit is a done deal at this point in time. That’s not to say at some point in the future, when the consequences become more apparent, that it won’t be reversible. At this point in time, everything is too raw, and any Bremainers angling to change it are going to skew the situation even further, and perhaps irreparably. The primary objective over the next 7 weeks must be to consign the Tories to the scrapheap of electoral history for a generation.

The 18-24 year olds are key. So are disabled people, who have been affected from the outset by austerity. I did a little rough calculation last night – and with these two groups, you have approximately 34.9% of the voting public. So do what you have to, to get these groups to the polls.

I’m Irish, so not even a British subject – but I’ve lived here for 18 years and it angers me to see the rise in inequality and poverty. I do not pay my hard-earned taxes to subsidise corporations. I don’t pay them so that while some Hooray Henry (or George, or Dave, or Boris, or indeed Theresa) lives it large in Chelsea, 3,900,000 children live in poverty in the UK. There’s roughly 12 million children in the UK, so 1 in 3 of them are living in unsafe housing, with little food. Think about that – that could be your child, or one of their friends. I want those taxes to go to the NHS. I want them to go towards helping people into decent housing. I want every child to have enough food in their belly. I want them to go towards education.

The question is more than tribal now – it’s visceral and it depends on a very simple question:

What do you want to see in 5 years time?

Do you want a nation where the majority are well-fed, well-housed, well-cared for in health terms, well-educated, happy? (For all his talk about happiness, David Cameron seemed to know exactly what to do to create the maximum amount of misery). Well, guess what?

YOU CAN HAVE ALL THAT.

That’s the good news. But it comes down to choice. If the definition of stupidity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different result, giving any leeway to the Tories to regain power on June 8th, or to give them a bigger mandate, will reveal exactly the type of person you are. Are you the type of person who fixates on someone’s appearance/awkwardness, rather on the substance of their policies? Are you the type of person who needs to hear sweet nothings from your politicians, even if you know they have no notion of keeping their electoral promises to you? Or are you the type of person who can look at themselves in the mirror squarely and say ‘I will do what needs to be done for the greater good?’

In the end, it’s all down to you.

#VoteResponsibly #GeneralElection #GeneralElection2017 #ABC

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Brexit has held a mirror up to the mainstreaming of far-right ideologies. The late Jo Cox MP has shown us a better way.

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One of my main grouses when I first came to the UK was the absolute apathy in which the British public viewed politics. In my native Ireland, politics are discussed regularly, and with gusto, at dinner parties, breakfast tables, and down the pub. If one was ever to witness a group of Irish people discussing politics in full flight, it would seem as there might be murder by the end of the night. And yet, by and large, people leave the pubs, mostly in good humoured discord with each other. I no longer can make that grouse, the day before the most important vote a number of Britons will make in their lifetimes; however the only thing that voters will agree upon tomorrow is the divisive, unnecessary and toxic nature of it all.

I’m a real fangirl of the life political, as readers of my blog will know, purely as spectator sport. It’s a theatre in itself, especially British politics: the thrust and parry of Westminster, the comedy of errors that is often party politics. There is a heart of darkness that has grown in the midst of this, and it is most noticeable in the love affair between the media and successive governments. The most insidious cancer in this heart of darkness is, being shown to be, in my opinion, the double-edged sword of profiling.

The Prevention of Terrorism Act introduced in the 1970s, which the then Home Secretary Roy Jenkins described as ‘draconian’ and ‘unprecedented in peacetime’ did nothing to reduce the threat of IRA attacks, but rather increased it. What it did achieve was the ‘otherization’ of the Irish in Britain, and the stance taken led to many miscarriages of justice and the demonisation in certain media quarters, most notable the Sun, of the Irish community. What was appalling to me was Tony Blair re-introducing this act post-9/11, for the obvious parallels with the Muslim community, and so it has come to pass. I state this not to excuse violence, which is inexcusable; but to make the point that ‘terrorism’ does not grow in a vacuum.

From my own personal knowledge I can give two examples of how damaging profiling is, and the resentment it creates in society. In the early 1990s I took a drama course at the Betty Ann Norton School in Dublin. Among my classmates was a very lovely woman called Róisín (*not her real name). Long red curly hair, blue eyes, ‘typically’ Irish-looking. One night, down the pub, Róisín told me finally why she had come back from the UK. She had fitted the description of a suspect of a bombing attempt, in terms of height, hair colour and length and eye colour, and so the police took her in for questioning. After a long period of time, at which she described herself at breaking point mentally, and with no evidence, they finally let her go. So traumatised was she, she got the next boat back to Ireland and never went back to the UK.

A member of my family, who is a Muslim convert and who now lives in Norwich, has also been a target in the community there. About two years ago, he and his wife were brought in for questioning by the police. Apparently an Islamophobic neighbour, posing as a concerned citizen, had noticed her next-door neighbour had gone ‘missing’ and reported to the police that it was likely that the Muslim couple next door had ‘done away’ with her. As it happened, the neighbour and her boyfriend turned up alive and well on the Costa del Sol.

I give these examples as a small illustration into the type of world that has been created on the lies of WMD and the cynical politics of dividing communities. The tale of the ‘good Muslim’ and ‘bad Muslim’, while ignoring the reality of profiling (according to reports, those from ethnic minorities are likely to be stopped by the police 42 times more than white people) is hugely damaging to communities. The weight of expectation placed on these communities is higher also: Every time a terrorist attack happens, representatives from the Muslim community are called upon to condemn it. This call for condemnation from the white community was distinctly noticeable by its absence when a white supremacist fascist killed the MP Jo Cox, and directly for the work she did for ethnic communities and refugees. The double standards and higher standards meted out to ethnic minorities is breathtaking in both its ignorance and arrogance.

Dear readers: we are, in this most important of referendums, at a tipping point in British society. The bandage has been ripped off the nostalgia of ‘Rule Britannia’ and the maggots of fascism that have dwelt now for some time (at least 6 years, in my view) have come to surface and threaten the very fabric of all that is the very best of Britain. I’ve watched in fascination and horror over the last 6 years as, one by one, the young, the poor, the disabled, the unemployed, women, the NHS, the legal aid system, the arts, education, the third sector, those with mental health issues, refugees from war-torn countries have been targeted by corrupt, inhumane and weak politicians ill-suited to wielding power justly. Everything, even school children, are assets to be used in the adoration of the almighty Mammon.

There is finally  a Labour party leadership that is prepared to oppose the worst excesses of an unnecessary austerity, and yet the toxic Blairite faction insist on blocking their every move. It says something about the state of British politics when an advocate for social justice, a kinder politics and a fairer distribution of the very real burdens of austerity is labelled as a ‘radical’. There is nothing radical, to my mind, about every family having a home; every child being able to go to school with food in their belly and clean clothes; about access to free education and healthcare – these are the hallmarks of a civilised society. And yet, in just over half a decade, the UK has descended into a Lord of the Flies-esque island, where the flames of greed, racism, nationalism, class war and resentment have been fanned cynically for political advantage. The fifth largest economy in the world where 103,000 children are homeless and 1 million people are dependent on food banks. The ideas of the far-right are being tested out in mainstream politics as well: one only has to look at the UKIP/Tory stance on immigration and the disgraceful Tory campaign for London Mayor at all levels of the party to see the writing on the wall from policy and ideological perspectives.

And into this toxic cauldron stepped Jo Cox MP, an unwitting martyr last Thursday, a genuinely good, engaged and uniquely qualified MP, through her background in the charity sector and with Oxfam. Again the media tried to spin the myth of the poor, put-upon white British man with mental health issues as a first resort for her killer Thomas Mair. Thanks to the internet – as Tim Berners-Lee said ‘This is for everyone’ – that myth was dispelled quite quickly; and in its wake was left the cold putrid stench of white British male fascist anger. It’s there for everyone to see: the pictures of Mair completely compos mentis campaign with Britain First; the threat of the self-same group of ‘direct action’ on Muslim politicians like Sadiq Khan and Sajid Javid; the Tory councillor Tony Peacock’s jibe at the Jo Cox memorial fund. I could list so many more; but this group of people, with so many privileges by virtue of gender and ethnicity, if not class, have poisoned this referendum with their politics of division, violence and white supremacy.

Jo’s husband Brendan gifted us with one of the most beautiful epitaphs I have ever heard: ‘She met the world with love’. It’s something each of us needs to take into the polling booths today – will we meet the world with love? Or with fear and suspicion? No matter what happens, the lid has been lifted on the Pandora’s box of British fascism, and whatever the outcome, post-referendum, it will be difficult to contain it. Make no mistake, it is Battleground Britain, where the very heart and soul of Tolkien’s fabled shires are at stake. I happen to believe that the only choice, in this background of festering, angry nationalism, is to Remain. Partly so Europe as a whole can counter fascism; partly because to vote to leave is to validate and give political credence to the far-right. Brexit has held a mirror up to the chilling mainstreaming of far-right ideologies. The late Jo Cox MP has shown us a better way in politics and in our lives – to choose love. That will truly be the best way of putting Britain first.

 

 

Day of Judgement

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By the time this blog is published it will be all decided: Britain will/won’t be at war. It feels very strange writing that. Maybe it should feel reminiscent of WWII; at least that seems to be the aim. There were the bombings in Paris which were truly reprehensible. As reprehensible as the deaths caused by the French retaliation bombings in Syria, with scores of young children, young lives laid out as corpses. Nothing shows the futility of mass murder, through terrorists or governments, as the lifeless body of a corpse.

The propaganda war post-Paris was surprisingly quick as well, with Facebook issuing their ‘temporary’ French flag pin a mere few hours after the bombings. At the time it smacked to me of purposeful emotional manipulation, to gauge what the public appetite was for war. It still does. It gave people the opportunity to feel like they were part of a previous war, part of the French resistance, without doing anything more significant than pressing a button. Solidarity, while necessary in some situations, can lead societies astray in terms of looking at the fine print when tribal hurt has been endured.

There is something strange about this push towards war – it feels totally orchestrated by senior Tories, including the Prime Minister, anti-Corbynites, whose sole purpose in politics now seems to be ABC (Anyone But Corbyn) and Rupert Murdoch. The public don’t want it – after 5 years of Tory austerity and broken promises, and over 14 years of futile and immoral wars in Iraq, the public recognises political subterfuge when they see it. Former hostages like Nicholas Henin don’t want it  and have explicitly said that airstrikes will play into Daesh’s hands, and potentially escalate their recruitment drive. The Express-reading public don’t want it – over 70% of them voted against airstrikes. The Daily Mail doesn’t seem to want it either according to their comment on 27 November 2015. When the Daily Mail has no appetite for war, one should be able to concede that, given the importance of Middle England to any politician, the game is over. This is not a war about glory, or heroism. This isn’t even about waging war on terror – even by Cameron’s own admission, the intelligence services have effectively thwarted seven terror strikes in one year. That seems to be working – so, as the old adage goes, if it ain’t broke, why fix it?

But Cameron has seemed incapable of accepting this, and this is what is interesting. He has gone so far as to brand the Leader of the Opposition and all who oppose airstrikes as ‘terrorist sympathisers’. Besides this ludicrous and quasi-libellous assertion lies the desperation of a man on whom the screws are being tightened. Some might opine that the real interests he serves are those of Murdoch and Rothschild, with their interests in Genie Oil & Gas. Some might opine that it is the interests of companies like Lockheed Martin, BAE Systems, Boeing, who will surely be beneficiaries of any escalation in the ‘war on terror’. Some might opine this – I couldn’t possibly comment.

But even putting all of this aside and looking at Cameron’s judgement in the past, because essentially when a prime minister sets out the case for war, he is asking us to trust said judgement.  Cameron counts among his friends Rebecca Brookes. He appointed Andy Coulson as his spin doctor. He sold off the Royal Mail for a mere £2bn, which was later proven to have grossly undervalued it, to the tune of £750 million detrimentally to the taxpayer, but to the benefit of George Osborne’s best man. He promised in 2010 that the NHS would remain untouched. He promised in 2015 that tax credits would remain untouched. His party have increased the deficit to £1.5tn, and his enthusiasm in selling arms to Saudia Arabia, Qatar and other reprehensible regimes which should be pariah states diplomatically resemble nothing so closely as a used car salesman. Not to mention PigGate. And this is the man to lead us into an unwanted war and whose judgement we should trust.

The unspoken rule in politics is that we get the politicians we deserve. And in a sense, that is true. No one forced a small majority of the British voting public to put Cameron and his cronies back into power. If the last seven months have shown us anything however, it should have shown us that individual self-interest is not the best foundation on which to cast a vote. As glad as I am that they did it, it was a sad day for democracy when the undemocratically elected House of Lords are the last recourse to hold the Government to account.

And the last five years and seven months should have proven to us beyond reasonable doubt that the interests of the private and public sector – for politicians and Prime Ministers are public servants, after all – should be totally separate. What I will be most interested in after all is said and done, and the votes are counted is who stands to profit from war. Before the UK goes down the path of war irrevocably it would be in the public interest to reveal all those politicians with ties to munitions, banking, energy and pharmaceutical companies, which are all too often mutually dependent. Because as much as politicians and their business bedfellows lie, dissemble, prevaricate and propagandise, money doesn’t. Money reveals the true heartbeat of the war drum and coffers. Let’s uncover that heartbeat.

Cameron the “Christian”

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Today, theoretically is the holiest day in the Christian calendar. I say “theoretically” for a number of reasons. Firstly, Easter isn’t a “Christian” holiday per se; there is much argument about this, but according to a friend of mine, it is derived from “Hausos” which was an Indo-European (precursor of the Celts) holiday, which was then translated into “Auster” in Latin (a true “Roman Holiday?) and consequently into the Anglo-Saxon “Easter”.

Interesting, around this time, David Cameron sought to come out as being an “evangelical Christian”, and criticising those who did not share his beliefs. While the last census in 2011 showed that just over 59% of the population in the UK self-identify as being of a Christian faith, it did lead me, as a lapsed Catholic, to ask: What exactly does he mean?

My first reaction was that this was nothing other than pure political isolationism, i.e. if you are not a Christian, you are not in our gang (not that most people want to be in the Bullingdon Bullies gang, but that is a debate perhaps for another post). This isolates deliberately those of another religion i.e. Muslims (5%), Hindus (1.5%), Sikhs (.8%), Jews (.5%), Buddhists (.5%), and those who put down “other” (.4%). In total, this makes up 8.7% of the population. Relatively small fry in election terms. So while I think there was a slight Crusader-like zeal in the statement, it is clear that the full force of his opprobrium was reserved for those non-believer in any faith, who make up 31.9% of the population, and who, if Marx is to be believed about religion being the opium of the masses, are harder to control.

But it also calls into question the very nature of Christianity as well. As aforementioned, I am a very lapsed Irish Catholic. Lapsed for reasons that are obvious; and those that were cultural and therefore not so obvious. I remember hearing priests threatening eternal damnation on those who voted for divorce in the 1980s. I remember the state preventing a 14-year old travelling to England for an abortion (not that she should have had to travel), despite having been raped by a neighbour, because abortion was and is against the Church’s teachings. I’ve worked with people who were so traumatised by their experiences as novices in Ireland in the 1960s in the infamous Magdalen laundries that they left not only their vocation but the Church itself. While there is a special kind of misogyny inherent in Irish Catholicism, having dabbled with other world religions I have found it is manifested only a little less. So I am curious to know what David Cameron thought he would achieve by avowing evangelical Christianity.

Here’s what I think he thought would happen. He thought that by evoking the word “Christian” that it could expunge the deeds of the Coalition over the last four years, and conjure up an image of a moral person. What I would say to David Cameron is there is a difference between morality and piety. In the words of the Duke of Wellington, just because you were born in a stable, it doesn’t make you a horse. And essentially it was an attempt to challenge those naughty non-believers, who do make up a sizeable chunk of votes that the Tories could do with winning in 2015. I guess, in the land that was built on the laws of divide and conquer, you can’t blame him for having a go.

But getting back to the matter in hand: let’s test the theory of Cameron’s version of Christianity, and see if it holds water:

Would Christ have axed 576 Sure Start centres? I think he would not have. I know he said “Suffer the little children” – but he did then add “..to come unto me”.

Would Christ have directly targeted the disabled? He would have, but only to heal them; not to persecute them by cutting their benefits, and forcing them to prove their disabilities, which reportedly has been linked to suicides, that of Stephanie Bottrill, and an attempt by Lawrence Keane.

Again, on the subject of healing: would Christ have sought to privatise the NHS? I don’t think so; as far as is recorded, his healing services were free, gratis and for nothing. Lest we forget, we actually pay for the NHS through NI.

Would Christ have implemented policies that have forced nigh on 1 million people to be forced to go to food banks? I think, as is recorded in the Gospels, he would not have – in essence (remembering the tale of the loaves and fishes) he seemed to be a one-man food bank in himself.

And would Christ have been keen to influence bankers getting a 64% bonus increase within a year? Maybe it’s my selective memory, but I seem to remember Christ having a really big chip on his shoulder regarding bankers, to the extent of throwing them out of the temple and then splitting the temple in two with the force of his wrath?

My point here is: if you are going to buy into the myth, buy into the whole myth. I may be a lapsed Irish Catholic; but I have a lot of religious friends who take it as an affront to their beliefs that Cameron, with his lip service to Christ (touted as a radical non-violent revolutionary on a meme doing the rounds) but obvious worship of Mammon, aligns himself with Him. They do not recognise their beliefs in a man whose whole premiership thus far has been about pitting the powerful against the vulnerable, rich against not-so-rich and downright poor. Quibble with religion as you might (and I do), most people with and without faith would not want to see children go to school hungry, homelessness numbers rise, essential services be cut, and the rich profit from other people’s misery disproportionately. Evangelical Cameron may be: but his God is Greed.

 

 

A letter I wrote on food banks to Paul Maynard MP 04/10/2013

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Dear Paul,

 
I read with interest your views on food banks this morning. While I understand your concern about people somehow getting “addicted” to poverty, I do wonder sometimes if you and the rest of your colleagues actually live in the real world.
 
My mother was a teacher in the 1970s in New York, and my father worked as a cashier in a bank. Both respectable jobs, you would think; and yet, we were forced to live on food stamps at one point in time. Why? Because they had three young children under the age of 5, and the cost of living was high. In the end, it was easier for us all to emigrate back to Ireland than to try to struggle on in a huge metropolis. We were lucky to have that choice; many didn’t.
 
Here’s the thing. I’ve lived in the UK for the last 15 years. I am happy to say that I have only had to sign on twice for a period of (in total) less than two weeks. Where I can, I prefer to work. But one thing is very clear to me that maybe hasn’t sunk in with you and your colleagues at Tory Central. I pay my taxes so the government will take care of things like health, education, welfare. I pay those taxes so that we can live in a society where (as a civilised society) we take care of the needy and the vulnerable. I DO NOT pay taxes so that banks which I am funding with my hard-earned money can continue to pay bonuses to those, who quite frankly, in any other sector would be seen as wholly incompetent. If I had a choice in the matter I also would not pay those taxes to fund the military (and as a pacifist, I have questioned that with HMRC in the past). 
 
It seems to me, as someone who is self-sufficient and takes responsibility for herself, that the Tory view of the less fortunate is wholly apposite to the oft-trotted out phrase “We’re all in this together”. We are clearly not; and you and your colleagues would do well to live on the poverty line for a month, as an experiment, to see if it would change this most unsavoury habit of poor-bashing. It does nothing to enhance the Tory image; in fact, it reinforces the belief that will be pretty widespread by the time we get to the polling booths that the Tory party consists of people (mainly men) who are wholly out-of-touch with reality. As a centrist in most things, I could not in good conscience vote for a party that would seek to bring a country that I have grown to love to the standard of living for many people that is akin to a third-world level of poverty. When the first wave of people start starving on the streets (and it seems to me, from what I see when in Central London we are not that far away from that happening), maybe you and your colleagues will refrain from making inane statements like those about food banks; however, I suspect the lot of you are so far removed from society in terms of your beliefs and ideology that you would start blaming the corpses.
 
Yours disgustedly,
 
Gráinne Gillis