Why should I know?

I was driving along listening to Radio 4 this morning when the news came on at the top of the hour. Just the headlines, you know.

One of the stories caught my ear, and I’ve been thinking about it all day.

In Portsmouth, a primary school head teacher had admitted in Magistrates Court to drink driving and being in possession of half a gram of cocaine.

That was one of the headlines they read out on the BBC news. Now, this wasn’t a detailed news programme, but a bulletin with headlines. That a head teacher had been fined in a Magistrates Court and banned from driving.

They read out his name, maybe they read out his school, I don’t quite recall now and it doesn’t seem the news from that time is on the iPlayer radio app. But on the BBC website there’s a link to his schools OFSTED report if you want to read it.

Please, don’t for a minute think that I think it’s OK for head teachers to be driving drunk and taking cocaine. I don’t. But with all that’s going on in the world, is that really one of the top stories, the few headlines, chosen to be read out on the BBC news?

His school, by the way, has 300 children on role according to the OFSTED report. So, if you’re a parent to one of those 300 children, or a parent thinking of sending your child there, perhaps it’s of public interest that you should know.

But I live more than 200 miles away.

Maybe it should be in the local paper? But as a headline on the national news? Surely not. It was also one of the top 10 most read stories on the BBC website at one point in the day.

The guy has been to court, he’s been banned from driving, he’s been fined, he’s been suspended from his job, he’ll probably be sacked and never teach again. Should he have been driving drunk? No, of course not. Should he have been in possession of cocaine? No, of course not.

Is it national news? One of the top six stories to make the news bulletin at the top of the hour on BBC Radio4? Is it in the public interest that everyone across the country knows the name of this guy? No, I shouldn’t have thought so.

Or if it is, let’s make the news bulletin longer – because if we’re going to read out the name of every head teacher who’s been caught drink driving or taken cocaine maybe we should do the same with doctors? Police officers? Politicians? Who else, maybe members of the clergy? Anyone who ever breaks the law? Let’s read them all out every day.

Is that news? Does it make the world better? Does it heck.

Anonymous.

100 Years On From Winning The Right For Women To Vote But How Far Have We Actually Progressed? By Kelly Grehan

Next week marks 100 years since some women in Britain were granted the vote – it seems to be forgotten that, despite all men over 21 years of age being able to vote after the Representation of People Act, only women over 30 who occupied a house were deemed fit to vote.

It was another 10 years before equal suffrage was to be achieved. At this time the destiny of a woman was very clear – get married and raise a family.

Campaigners like Millicent Fawcett and Elizabeth Garret Anderson had carried out and pursued a peaceful struggle to open professions like medicine to women. Yet still, only the privileged few, whose fathers or husbands were enlightened enough to permit it, got a foot on the ladder of opportunity.

Today almost all jobs are open to women, and yet we have yet to get an even gender representation in Parliament or standard equal pay.  

But there is one industry where process towards equality has been particularly slow: sport.

Male played sports continue to dominate the TV schedules and news headlines. Women who have beaten the odds and the system, such as Assistant Referee Sian Massey-Ellis are subject to scrutiny on their appearance which would never be imparted on their male counterparts.

In fact, after Sky Sports pundits Andy Grey and Richard Keys were embroiled in a row over their sexist comments on her; The sun saw fit to print a front cover of Sian dancing in a vest top and denim skirt with the headline ‘Get ‘Em Off.’

Further to this, some sports – boxing and motorcar racing in particular –  have not only continued to be overwhelmingly male dominated, but have continued to use women in roles that I can only describe as ‘accessories.’

This week it seems, those responsible for the Formula 1 brand openly recognised its use of ‘grid girls’.

They deemed it out of date and not conducive to the image they wish to portray.  In a Press Release Sean Bratches, Managing Director, Commercial Operations at Formula 1 said:

“Over the last year we have looked at a number of areas which we felt needed updating so as to be more in tune with our vision for this great sport.  While the practice of employing grid girls has been a staple of Formula 1 Grands Prix for decades, we feel this custom does not resonate with our brand values and clearly is at odds with modern day societal norms. We don’t believe the practice is appropriate or relevant to Formula 1 and its fans, old and new, across the world.”

Formula 1 should be congratulated for their change in policy here and let us not forget this was a commercial decision, taken to protect commercial interests.

Clearly F1 decided that girls doing nothing more than looking pretty and having champagne poured on them was not a good image.

This has, perhaps predictably, not prevented  the coverage that has followed; accusing them of ‘cowering to political correctness’  and that ‘jealous, ugly feminists’ have ‘banned’ women from jobs they loved.

Objectification of women is endemic in our society.  Just look at the recent events at the Presidents Club.  People claim the women concerned enjoy their work, choose it etc. No doubt this is true, but ‘work’ of this type contributes to a society in which women’s role is seen as being for the pleasure of men in a world where they are portraying that the nearest women can get to the top or be a success is by fawning all over the men who actually win something.

Then there is the vilifying of feminism and the repeated use of the word ‘feminist’ as a derogatory term.

A brief browse through this weeks tabloids or twitter attached to the hashtag #gridgirl gives no doubt about the vitriol aimed at women who dare to praise the F1 decision.

Women who call themselves ‘feminists’ can expect to be called ‘jealous,’ ‘ugly,’ ‘prudes,’ and such like as a matter of course.

So 100 years after women won the vote it seems the idea that ‘women should know their place’ still persists.

We still have a long way to go for gender equality.

Pardon Me, Ms Plummer! British Tourist or Egyptian Drug Smuggler? By Lucy Chapman

So it looks like any day soon, Laura Plummer will be a free woman once more!

It’s been reported today that the 33 year old from Hull who smuggled 300 Tramadol tablets into Egypt in October, may be released from her 3 year jail sentence as part of public holiday celebrations by President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, although nothing official has yet been confirmed.

Whilst for Laura and her family this will offer a wonderful ray of hope, some of the rest of us are left wondering what all of the outrage was in aid of in the first place.

Yes prison isn’t fun, in an Egyptian prison you’d be more than a little worried; the death penalty was a possibility, but she did commit a crime.

This wasn’t one pack of Tramadol she had in the bottom of her handbag for her own use and she hadn’t double checked, this was THREE HUNDRED tablets.

Back home we saw family members weeping on breakfast television, heard distressed friends of Laura on the radio, and again I’ll repeat, of course they should be upset for their loved one!

But why so much coverage of it in the media?

It’s not as if it’s even legal here! It’s available on prescription, but not over the counter to buy so it gets me wondering…

Who were these three hundred tablets prescribed to?

How many hours of a GPs time have been wasted in fake “oh my back’s still giving me trouble, Doc” appointments?

How much has that cost our struggling NHS?

What charge would somebody get in the UK for fraudulently obtaining prescription-only medication to pass on to somebody else for whom it was not meant?

Laura Plummer, I’m afraid, committed an offence despite her lack of knowledge of Egyptian law. And whether or not she knew the legality of the medicine itself, she knew it wasn’t prescribed for her boyfriend, that it had been obtained through deceit and legal or not, it was wrong.

NHS fraud can hold a custodial sentence here in the UK and NHS fraud does include “False claims – Patients claiming free treatment they are not entitled to”

Shortly after Ms Plummer made her ‘honest mistake’ a headline in the Independent read “NHS counter fraud authority to tackle £1.25bn bogus prescriptions and claims that could fund 40,000 nurses”.

Laura Plummer isn’t all that innocent in the eyes of our own law and people; so why are so many jumping to her defence overseas?

Let me be clear, I don’t have the slightest problem with a family trying to free their loved one from an Egyptian prison sentence; I’d certainly do the same! I’m sure it’s terrifying for this woman who is the same age as I am; I would be despairing too.

I have nothing against this woman personally or any desire for her to be in an Egyptian prison, of course not.

What I have a problem with is how as a nation we’ve dealt with this story and situation!

Aren’t there bigger injustices to fight?

She wasn’t sentenced to the death penalty, she was given three years; it doesn’t even sound all that disproportionate to me.

The month after Plummer was arrested, 16 men were also sentenced to three years in prison in Egypt. Their crime? Waving a rainbow flag at a concert!!

Is waving flags illegal in Egypt? No.

Is homosexuality illegal in Egypt? No.

Is going to a concert illegal in Egypt? No.

Is smuggling three hundred Tramadol tablets into the country? Yes. Yes it is!

You committed a crime, you got caught, it’s rubbish. Suck it up!

Debauchery is what the men were charged with by the way.

I wonder what would have been splattered across our newspapers, talked about on morning television and discussed on radio if the story was “Egyptian man smuggles 300 illegal tablets into the UK claiming ‘honest mistake’ to help his British girlfriend with back pain”.

Do you think we, as a nation, would be up in arms fighting for his pardoning by the Prime Minister?

No me neither.

A Desperate Plea From A Relative Of A Rough Sleeper By The Masked Avenger Anonymous

We have all walked past a rough sleeper on the street. Sometimes we give it a second thought. Sometimes we stop and chat, maybe even try to help.

But mostly we walk on by.

Most of us are fortunate enough to have never been there and while we sympathise, we often try and forget it and move on with our busy lives. Rushing to get somewhere; an appointment or some such.

We often don’t see the person beyond the sleeping bag. Sometimes it is very hard to imagine how someone got there. The government dehumanise rough sleepers. They advise us not to feed them as though they are pigeons in Trafalgar Square. They put spikes on floors to stop them being able to get some shelter in a shop doorway. Again treated like pests. So it’s no wonder that we walk on by. Sometimes it is a taboo subject.

But for me it is different. I happen to know a rough sleeper very personally.

You might want to ask me a few questions. Does anyone help him? Is he loved? Do you help him? The answer is yes. To all of the above.

But our help is not enough and the ‘why’ and the ‘how’ he gets into this position is what is complex.

My uncle has undiagnosed mental health conditions. He is an addict. Self medicating I guess. He has never had the support he needed from the professionals. And this is the product of years of neglect.

Born in the 60s to parents with severe mental health issues that lost everything down to gambling, my uncle was not diagnosed with anything himself or supported. Instead when the family broke down, my grandmother had a mental breakdown and no one was there to help. The authorities left my grandmother to it and just took my uncle away into care when he was 7. And that was the start of it. In and out of care. In and out of trouble.

” A handful, naughty, out of control, the mother can’t cope”

While he was in the place that was supposed to care for him, he was abused.

He went in as a child with problems and came out disturbed with even bigger problems.

No one knew what happened at the time. This is only a recent revelation. So he continued. In and out of trouble causing merry hell for the family.

As he got to adulthood he started to ‘self medicate’ and slowly but surely became an addict. Which led to petty crime, prison. And eventually being institutionalised .

“A write off'”

On paper yes. But what no one else saw was the snippets of the man he could have been if the support had been there during his childhood.

Detained at Her Majesty’s pleasure, he had structure, routines and he flourished. He took courses and passed them all. He read and learned and became a talented writer.

He did endless courses and took all of the opportunities he could. He grabbed them with both hands.So when he went back into the outside world he started his own business, he even wrote for a national newspaper as a regular columnist. He became a published author. Some semblance of a normal life was finally coming his way.

He was capable and intelligent and we could see the person he could become if he’d been given more support as a youngster.

But things happened and again the support fell away. Without the guidance of a probation officer, without the structure, his mental health problems that simmered under the surface reared their ugly, scathing, self destructing head again.

Addiction came back with a vengeance and along came some new ones too.

So we saw him slip back. He lost everything and again he went on the slippery slope into the abyss of addiction and self destruct.

So, we try to help as a family, but its not possible to keep an eye on him 24/7.

The downward spiral was and is fast and relentless;he loses touch of where he is and he ends up on the street. He loses contact with any kind of support network and before you know it he is sleeping rough.

We can’t track him. We don’t know where he is.

We’ve had phone calls in the past from wonderful passer bys that have tried to help him. In his moments of lucidity he remembers a number of a random relative and some very nice person decides to help him and calls.

We then hear he’s been in various places begging as he has lost everything. So we get there and we have to try and get him some help. He’s unwell and doesn’t know where he is. The police come and tell us not to bother with A and E as they are overcrowded but that they will try to help him.

Do you notice that even though I’m describing events in the past that I am using present tense? Why you might ask?

Because this is a recurring event. This happened last month but it could happen tomorrow, next week, next month. We never know what will happen next. This is the pattern that happens over and over again.

Services that are cut to shreds still try their best to help him. There are genuinely good mental health staff, hospital staff, police officers and key workers out there.

But it’s not enough.

The services need to be joined up. They need more funding to give him the intensive therapy and support for his mental health needs as this is the root to all of his problems, I believe.

But all that happens is the problem is treated that day. Acute support is given while he is physically unwell. But there is not enough in place to prevent this from happening again.

So I sit here and wonder what people must think when they walk past him. When he ends up on the street, bounding in and out of shops, trying to get someone to help him.

They will never see the man he can be. The man he has been, the man he could have been.

Every person has a story, but homeless people are nothing more than pests to the Tories.

If we followed the advice that they give us, which is to ignore a homeless person, don’t give them money or food; if every passer by that has helped my uncle thus far listened to this advice that this ‘government’ dish out my uncle would be dead by now. Perhaps that’s what they want. By treating homeless people like pests perhaps they think they will just die off.

But instead there are good people out there, people try to help. And for now he and we are riding our luck. That might just change one day. And we dread phone calls sometimes. What will happen next we just don’t know.

So I want to say to the people that help, the doctors, the nurses, the passers by, the staff in Pret that give out food, the key workers: Thank You!!!

Don’t ever change and maybe one day if we fight hard enough we will have a government that cares too so that real change can happen and people living in the streets being dehumanised by a callous government will be a thing of the past.

What! The Conservatives Respect the Act of Union? Do They Really? By Sarinder Joshua Duroch

The Tories drove Scotland away from Socialism to Scottish Nationalism

It is a well-known fact that in Scotland there is antipathy towards the Tories, it is virtually a tradition to be anti-Tory in Scotland. Some may disagree based on election results that this is changing, or is it the case that Scots are just desperate to see an opposition to the Scottish Nationalists be it Labour or Tory?

Who can ever forget the anti-Thatcher chants at the Scottish Cup Final in 1988, Celtic won on the day and Thatcher presented the trophy to the winning captain, Roy Aitken.

Anyone who is old enough can clearly remember the audible memories of the moment she appeared to present the cup. From the joy of winning the cup she managed to create a cauldron of hate filled chants from the crowd, clearly displaying how much she was disliked north of the border.

For a party that is adamant to ‘protect’ the Union at all costs and oppose the Scottish National Party, one needs to examine their track record in Scotland.

The Abolition of Rates Act 1987 brought an end to what we know as the traditional rates system to pay for local government services, and what we got in its place was the Poll Tax or officially known as the Community Charge.

What was George Younger, the then Secretary of State for Scotland, thinking of when he lobbied Thatcher into introducing the Poll Tax in Scotland in 1989, one year before it was introduced in England?

He was the Secretary of State for Scotland between 1979 to1986 and he lobbied Thatcher to introduce the Poll Tax in Scotland first to avoid an expensive review of the old Rates system.

What the Tories didn’t realise, through their total ignorance towards Scotland and the Tory traditional view that Scotland is an ‘addendum’ to the nation, was that the Act of Union of 1707 was clearly being broken under Article 18.

It was abhorrent to watch any government imposing its totalitarian authority on a minority of the population.

This was the beginning of Thatcher’s demise, agreed, it was the beginning of her departure and what was to develop later was so much anger towards the Tories that it developed into Scottish Nationalism.

Mr. Randolph Murray, a solicitor, failed to submit his details to the Poll Tax office based on the reason that a constitutional inequality had taken place. He was fined £50 for failing to register, he contested this and lost his appeal at the time.

However, he held the government to account at the time and probably had the Gandhi mindset of Satyagarh, a nonviolent, non-cooperation, insistence on truth approach and opposition to colonial masters.

Did the people of Scotland feel that they were being subjected to the same level of injustice through this historic tax that was always met with anger that had the ability to create divisions on a colossal scale?

It is evident through all the protests and people going to prison that the question is answered in full evidence; yes they were faced with an injustice that they had to rebel against.

We must accept that Gandhi went to prison over the salt protests and encouraged Indians to collect and sell salt. The British government at the time prohibited all Indians from making and selling salt so that they had the monopoly over it and could charge a heavy tax on it.

Citizens in those days were forced to buy from the government and were given no choice. The people found this to be very unfair and protested over it, at least 60,000 were arrested over the protests.

Similarly in 1989 the unfairness of the government’s actions in breaking a Parliamentary Act had to be met with protest.

The Tories totally neglected their position and responsibility, they were the custodians of the law and governance and they still gave no regard for such an important Act of Parliament.

An Act of immense importance was completely disrespected to push through the Poll Tax agenda in Scotland even if it meant breaking the Act of Union.

The Tory agenda, for them, was the most important act to adhere to, not the Act of Union.

Mr. Murray had to be right in taking a stance where the Act of Union had clearly been violated and broken!

Surely the Tories and their historic past behavioural pattern of non-cooperation with the working classes was the driving factor in delivering the policy of the Poll Tax.

An example of this autocratic behavioural pattern takes us back to 1984 when the strikers at Cammell Laird shipyards were imprisoned for their occupation of the shipyard; they were on an official strike and found themselves in prison for thirty days for not vacating the site.

The ship yard was in Birkenhead, we are all aware of how the Tories treated socialist Liverpool back in the ‘80s. The Iron fist seemed to strike a lot faster in the northern parts of the nation where there was a socialist will to fight for equality and rights.

Political expediency was clearly at the top of their agenda, engaging and listening was not and never will be an asset the Tories possess when engaging with the working classes. They only know how to oppress when engaging in dialogue, their historical behavioural pattern confirms this.

Given the fact that the Tories and their ilk have been so privileged to have the ‘best of education’, one would have thought that someone within their ranks would have reminded them King Richard II brought in a Poll Tax in 1381 that lead to the peasant revolt and almost brought him down.

Arrogance and education do not mix; like electricity and water and one needs to speak with variety and the other listen with an open mind. The Tories obviously had already proven with the miners’ strike they were not willing to listen to anyone, so why would the Scots be any different?

One could argue that at the time of Richard II the public were just recovering from the Black Death, we on the other hand were enduring the slaughter of the unions by Thatcher over 600 years later!

At the time of 1380 the Poll Tax did not consider the wealth factor or ability to pay regardless if one was rich or poor. In May 1381, the poor revolted and sacked the City of London.

The same happened with the Poll Tax riots in Trafalgar Square in 1990, didn’t any of the well-educated Tories and their advisers realise that the historical name of ‘Poll Tax’ was a bad omen?

It was the Tories that created the nationalistic temperament in Scotland by not playing fair in the first place, the bully in the playground does not know what to do when his victims stand up to him and fight back.

The Tory desire to punish the Scots for being historically socialist has in effect turned on them; they were and are the instigators and creators of what we see and hear in Scotland today.

It is their fault in its entirety when the people of Scotland ask the question, “What has Westminster ever done for us?”

The answer is the historic behavioural pattern of the Tories in the first place!

Because if we examine the Act of Union of 1707 and Article 18 it clearly defines that taxation/excises should be implemented equally on both sides of the border. This policy and its implementation clearly broke the Act of the Union and resulted in people willing to go to prison and face fines.

There was uproar at the time; sadly, the injustices are still happening today.

If we look at the gulf between the rich and the poor today, it has increased immensely and it is obvious that inequality in its implementation is visible through zero-hour contracts and exploitation of immigrant workers.

This in turn makes it a culture for employers and agencies to behave in such a manner towards the wider population making it an acceptable culture of ‘take it or leave it’.

The Tory injustices have continued not only in the ‘Tory experimental laboratory’ known as Scotland but nationwide too.

The Chartered Institute of Housing and the University of Sheffield have managed to provide statistics relating to the suffering of those on benefits.

84% of the 106 local authorities and 70% of the housing associations revealed that welfare policies are a major contributing factor to homelessness.

The lower benefit cap is leaving a huge gap and rents are not being met, it clearly shows that the gulf between rich and poor is result of policy provision and implementation.

The Tories have turned our nation into a sorry state, it is traditional for them to take such actions given their history and behavioural pattern towards the working classes and anyone who wishes to challenge them.

If we look at out of work benefits in Scotland and compare it to the UK level it is presently at 2.9% whilst the UK level is 2.3%.

In comparison, the South East of England reflects very different figures at 1.3%.

The North West of England has 3.1% claimants for out of work benefits, even concerningly higher is North East of England where the level is 4.4%.

The inequalities are evident in the figures and it is obvious that northern parts of the nation with a strong Labour voting tradition are victims of the growing divide between ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’.

The economics of the Union cannot just be repaired with a High-Speed Rail Line from London to the North.

The GDP of our Union has a huge gulf between London and the rest of the nation, it is presently 22% of the total GDP and that comes from 12.5% of the UK population.

No wonder the Union was nearly compromised because of the Independence Referendum in Scotland back in 2014.

Anyone examining the figures can see that the gulf will only increase over the years and the suffering will continue not just in Scotland but in the North West & East of England as well.

The Union isn’t getting any equality from Tory policies and the Tories are clearly creating greater divisions and apathy towards the Union rather than unifying the nation.

We only need to look at these figures to ascertain that Theresa May’s mantra of a ‘fairer society’ throughout the Union of our nation is not going to work.

False words and false promises are being delivered whilst the rich are clearly getting richer and the poverty gap is increasing.

The historic antics do not need to be searched and sought for in history books, it’s all happening in front of our eyes daily in virtually every part of the nation.

Tory antics will not strengthen our Union but cause greater division both socially and economically; we need a socialist government that unites the Union and gives it the economic and social prosperity it needs.

Sources – Chartered Institute of Housing and University of Sheffield.

Parliament Acts UK Parliament & Nomisweb.

Why Labour Must Prevent A Future ‘Hippo Out Of The Hat’ Situation By Ikechukwu Onyeadi

I have been a member of the Labour party for long enough. Even when the party was hit by a wave of mass-decampings, especially amongst the younger members, I stayed.

I stayed because I know I am a socialist through and through.

I stayed because I had faith that a true socialist would someday come along and present a platform radical enough to warrant a chance with the disenchanted electorate.

Over the years I have watched Labour slowly turn away from what it is; a movement for workers. It suddenly became so engrossed in infiltrating traditional Tory regions that it forgot to properly represent workers.

Of course, Education and wealth are universal aspirations, but when we have Labour politicians that come from Oxbridge-educated, very wealthy, ‘never-worked-ever’, Reese-Mogg type backgrounds; preaching socialism, then the white van, traditional working-class Labour voter cannot help but view them with suspicion.

When Ed Miliband came up with those brilliant, brilliant policies in the run up to the 2015 General Election, voters simply did not trust him in his £1000 suits. I remember one of the numerous polls held in 2014, summarised by Peter Kellner and published in the Guardian by Mathew Goodwin and Caitlin Milazzo on July 7, 2014, pointing out that although polls showed that The Labour Party was on course to win the 2015 General Election; the major obstacle to that happening was Ed Miliband himself. His image as a ‘posh boy’ just failed to convince anyone, including traditional Labour voters.

The subsequent wipe out of the Labour Party in Scotland and the Tory party’s 328-seat majority win, one that was brilliantly described by Boris Johnson as David Cameron “pulling the most colossal rabbit out of the hat” served to buttress the point made by the pollster.

For Tory Politicians, it seems that the ‘posher’ one is, the more likely they are to advance politically.

For Labour, the electorate seem as though they would like a ‘no-bullshitting’, regular but very ‘street saavy Joe’ that one is highly likely to run into at the local chippy in Swancombe every Friday evening.

That is why, for the Labour party, image should be everything.  

To digress a little from the central discussion here, in the past the Labour Party have used positive inclusion techniques to encourage people from underrepresented backgrounds such as women and ethnic minorities to stand as Labour candidates. Perhaps this approach could be used to encourage today’s disenchanted youth to run for office, thereby injecting more charisma and vigour into the whole electoral debate. If one looked around Labour CLPs in the Southeast these days, they are chuck-full of people who were teenagers when Elizabeth was crowned Queen and who-no matter how hard they try, simply do not understand the world as it is today.

It would perhaps be wiser that those who will decide our future have sound knowledge on Technology in this country and the role of Artificial Intelligence in the future of our species. An idea of who Bixby is would be a great start!

What Jeremy Corbyn brought to The Labour party is nothing short of the breath of fresh air that this country has so badly yearned for since the heartless conservative Government took an axe to social service funds and benefits.

His policies so far seem to be coming straight from the mouths of regular people who go to work every day and go through all the challenges of living in today’s cash-strapped Britain. His policy on nationalising the rail network is direly needed to control the unreliability we have come to expect from the rail network.

His insistence that austerity is just a fiscal choice and not necessity is very economically sound.

A perfect scenario would be to imagine that banks imposed daily withdrawal caps of £200 on its customers because it simply refuses to borrow money to do business, although that option is readily available to it.

Mr Corbyn thus presents as the perfect candidate, with the perfect credentials and the perfect image. The young love him, the old women think he is adorable and his policies agree with any true socialist that believes in a more even system of wealth “redistribution”. His policies also agree with most people in this country who have seen their quality of life deteriorate steeply since the conservatives came into power in 2010 and desperately want something different.

However, we risk another ‘Tory Rabbit’, nay, a ‘Hippo’ this time because Theresa May does not enjoy even half the support that David Cameron did during his premiership, being pulled out of the next General Election Hat!

The reason for my prediction is The Labour Party’s stance, or lack of, on door-step issues. On Brexit. We know we will vote with The Government to make Brexit a reality, according to the wishes of the majority of The British Electorate during the referendum, but we have no clear red lines.

In the negotiations following Britain’s vote to leave the EU, British politicians should band together and present one front, just like the EU 27 is doing. The different opinions and the UK politicians who preach even greater doom than Michel Barnier, create the cracks that The EU is now exploiting.

It is right for Jeremy to whip the Parliamentary Labour Party into supporting The Government on Brexit.

Perhaps this delay on defining a stance on the single market has helped The EU with establishing both the ammunition and the high ground. It is however encouraging that Jeremy seems now to be clear on his stance with leaving the Single Market, despite criticism from Pro- European Labour MPs.

On Immigration, Labour has no clear policies either. The concerns on the doorstep that uncontrolled Immigration suppresses wages, is changing the dynamics in many cities and is pushing the NHS to breaking point, are all very valid and very evidence-based.

The fact that a European National living in Britain can bring their non-EU family members to join them in Britain with no requirements other than exercising treaty rights but British citizens looking to bring their family members to join them in Britain are subjected to requirements on earnings is simply ridiculous, no matter what one’s political affiliations are.

In addition to Jeremy Corbyn, what the Labour Party needs is re-orientation for its Politicians. We desperately need to move with the times. No matter what one’s principles are, we need to become a winning party again.

Jeremy can have all the best policies but if the Tories are willing to get their hands ‘dirty’ by discussing and addressing the real issues on the doorsteps, whilst Labour continues to abstain from these discussions; they will pull every animal species in London Zoo out of all foreseeable General Election Hats.

I suggest that the re-orientation start from ward level.

Let us try something radical.

Let us-only for one season try to use positive inclusion techniques to council seats to encourage under 40s, especially women under 25.

In doing so we would invariably draw a lot of young people into politics and they will supply fresh ideas to deal with the issues facing us right now.

My young neighbours in my street worry about the fact that the last time anyone saw a street cleaner around our street was 9 months ago! They are grateful for the playground that Tan Dhesi fought for many years ago but are now particularly worried for their children’s safety since some juvenile delinquents have decided to use the playground as a racetrack for their noisy Motorbikes.

They wonder if our Labour Councillors even care as no one ever sees them at the doorstep. They never write their constituents to update them on what they are fighting for and usually make important decisions without consulting everyone in their wards. If we want to win, we must change.

National Labour has labelled Gravesham an “unwinnable” seat or something along those lines but I see this borough as very winnable.

We are not able to win because the reality is that outside London, when people are given the opportunity to choose between a Labour party that is stuck on principles that do not reflect the challenges faced by ordinary citizens in today’s Britain, they will vote a Tory. That is because the Tories have managed to stick The Labour party with several tags including that of “The Borrowing” party and so far, we have had the weakest comebacks.

I am no stranger to criticising our policies within The Labour Party and those of the Government for that matter but the essence of criticism is to point out that improvements are required and not a demonstration of disloyalty.

Above all, I want The Labour party to get back to its winning ways with Gravesham as its Crown Jewel.

To do that we must support Jeremy Corbyn.

We must change our strategies.

We must become more radical.

We must represent workers and

We must encourage Jeremy Corbyn’s advisers from a wider range of candidates with young and vibrant British workers who live in today’s reality and not an elite within the party who all own their own homes and have sizable savings which their children will inherit.

By Ikechukwu Onyeadi

** All views are the writer’s own and do not represent the views of The Avenger

Compulsory Competitive Tendering AKA to the Tories as Council & Community Termination By Sarinder Joshua Duroch

The Tories branded Compulsory Competitive Tendering as efficiency, quality implementation and provided value for money to the local tax payer.

It proved to be the dismantling of the democratic relationship between the citizen, elected members and service provision, which is at the heart of local authority provision.

The Local Government Planning and Land Act of 1980 introduced a block grant and compulsory competitive tendering (CCT). A block grant is the bulk of funding that a local authority gets from Whitehall each year, local authorities can spend it as they see fit to do so, but the amount is determined by central government. Ring fenced grants are also given by central government, but are solely for a specific purpose and the local authority cannot spend as they please.

Savings through CCT would result in savings and less to pay out from a central government viewpoint.

Thatcher’s crusade against Labour councils had begun and the implications certainly made their impact until Labour came into power and changed CCT to Best Value(Local Government Act 1999). Best Value gave far greater consideration to service users and local authorities.

At the time the U.K was the only place in Europe where an act of Parliament dictated that local councils must tender out their services to the cheapest bidder; the Tory governments turned our local authorities into nothing but auction houses.

During the years of CCT local government was only a local authority in name, the services and maintenance that is rightfully meant to be supplied by the people for the people had been sourced out to the cheapest bidder and in many cases the councils had to accept the cheapest bid.

CCT value was only assessed by the cheapest tender and CCT did not consider the employment agenda, the process of the tender submission stage characterises CCT in a nutshell. It is very fair to say that the Tory ethos was to ensure that private industry increased their ability to pay more corporation tax to the government whilst making the corporations bigger players in society.

What employment rights were in place one may ask, they were not expected to be in the submitted tender and more so where was the union in all of this?

The answer is nowhere in sight, because many who worked on tenders were not part of a union, and by working for the private sector they were cultured to participate in the mindset of the cheapest size fits all and profits before people.

The Tories knew fine well that council employees who were blue and white-collar workers were both part of the union movement, and by implementing the CCT strategy it eliminated council worker participation and they were replaced by the ‘profits before people’ ethos. CCT has affected all services across the board from parking to parks, from housing management and home to school transport.

How could the presence of the union, employment rights, legislation and fair opportunity for those in local government service be secured when the services themselves had been tendered out under the legislation of the Local Government Acts of 1988 & 1992?

As for social requirements being incorporated into the tender this is allowed in European nations but in the U.K it was outlawed. Citizens of democracy were being treated as consumers and the elected members of the council were simply ‘just there’ for the sake of being there and are not being active participants in the say of the private company’s way of working and service provision.

The key issue is the elimination or severe reduction in democratic control over service provision. Public service safeguarding was completely ignored, and business objectives were put in place. Service provision at the cost of democratic provision is a total capitalistic hostile takeover directed by the Tory machine that will not stop until it is satisfied that society has no or very little say in the process of service provision!  

The nature of CCT took a lot of power away from elected members and officers of the local authority seemed to be the negotiators and acted as the officialdom that the tenders went through.

Traditionally officers have advised members but CCT took the power away from members making officers more involved with the private contractor?

Is this the Tories idea of greater democratic provision? Social and political objectives were outlawed from the tendering process, surely this eliminates the elected member from the electorate, is this the Tory’s idea of greater democratic participation?  

We will obtain better value for money and higher quality services” (Michael Heseltine, Secretary of State for Environment, January 1992).

This statement turned out to be the Cri de Coeur for anyone who believed in local democracy.  

At what cost is there better value for money, direct employees of the council having no employment and facing redundancy!

Direct Service Organisation employees are employed directly, and they cannot be replaced for a cheaper alternative by the local authority.

Private firms know this very well and can easily employ people on low wage, temporary and agency contracts to get the job done as soon as possible. Just how can a local authority compete one may ask the obvious question?

With the exploitation we see today of European workers and others we all know how much employment agencies have managed to get away with!

Making the poor poorer – Is this not a traditional Tory policy?

For many council staff that couldn’t remain employed by the local authority they found themselves being employed by the private contractor. Their wages went down, their hours reduced, their holidays were impacted, and sick pay was non-existent. The nature of the competitive tender resulted in health & safety practices being exploited to cut corners and make savings.

A survey instructed by the Department of Environment discovered that, in those services that fell victim to CCT one in eight jobs had been lost. A further examination of 20 local authorities revealed that CCT caused more than 10,000 part-time jobs to be lost in the lower paid sectors of building and cleaning.

Evidence that the poor and working classes were the victims of the Tory policies that hit that most financially vulnerable in society.

The main objective of the Tories was to increase taxation revenue and take away the powers from the unions and the Labour party controlled authorities. Once again, the working classes in the north of England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland were badly affected.

Unions were seriously affected, bargaining power was taken away from them, reduced membership and less consultation over management policies and decisions. It really was a major clean up operation for the ‘fat cat’ Tory thus ensuring a comfortable income for the Treasury, company shareholders and the losers, as usual, were the working classes.

What did Heseltine care for the working classes when he made his 1992 statement, he was in the full swing of his political domain and with the income that comes with it. All he had to do was play the Tory tune at every opportunity he could to make enterprise the way forward and local democratic participation a thing of the past and an outdated concept.

Nationally and locally agreed pay structures were ignored and the position of the local authority as a major local employer was clearly undermined or diminished in many cases. Did the Tories consider the fact that people like cleaners and maintenance workers were having to claim for in work benefits and housing benefits to make ends meet due to the treatment they were getting by the private contractor?

In addition to this the job losses that the local authority had to endure were immense and many in ‘secure long term’ employment found themselves with no work at all.

Did the Tories care? No, they did not!

That was not their concern, when was the last time the Tories cared for anyone apart from themselves or their associates and friends in industry.

Remember profits before people and power over society is the main concern and policy of the Tories and their ilk.  

One would believe that the Tories would have least protected themselves and their friends in industry. By the early ’90s The Public Service Privatisation Research Unit discovered that the failure rate of private companies was 4.5 times higher than that of the work carried out by the local authorities.

Complaints relating to the standard of cleaning to the maintenance work carried out in schools was in high occurrence. Work was not completed on time, in many cases incomplete and overall very poor standard.

In 1997 Hilary Armstrong, the then Local Government Minister, changed the agenda of CCT to prioritising Best Value and making consultative changes. CCT was replaced by Best Value in 2000, the TUC welcomed the proposals by the then Labour government and added that pay and working conditions were of paramount importance.

At the time Jon Monks, the TUC General Secretary said, “This is a clear recognition that CCT has failed. Its market-driven approach has failed to deliver improvements in service quality and has driven down pay and conditions for public sector workers.”

The Tory divisions of class and social segregation spared nobody as it usually does. The first wave of victims were blue collar workers and in 1993 white collar workers were targeted.

As usual all services were subjected to phased changes causing uncertainty and insecurity spreading throughout the workplace; fear was the best instrument to select for the Tories as a resource to subdue and control the working classes.  

In 2016 the state owned Calmac ferries won the contract over Serco to run the ferry service in Scotland. The employee centric focus and modern technology commitment was a major factor in winning the bid. An area of attraction was a commitment to maintaining the living wage and boosting local employment including apprenticeships, in addition to this their bid involved communities in the decision-making process.

This clearly has the hallmarks of the Labour changes that were made in 1997 and best value characteristics are evident.

The Scottish Conservative response to this successful bid was in defence of private companies – (Quote from BBC news coverage) The Scottish Conservatives said the tender process had been designed to deter private companies from bidding and winning, and that a number of questions remained to be answered as to why Serco’s bid was ruled out as being non-compliant.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-36330479

CCT and other Tory policies were selfishly thought out by Thatcher, she firstly prepared the police to be on side to deal with the miners and any form of protest.

They carried out her physical and brute force agenda, whilst appeasement to the corporations extracted out whatever willpower and strong blood was left in the veins of society and its representatives through taking power from the local authorities.

The very nature of using corporate enforcement and breaking the relationship that the electorate has with elected members in relation to local service provision will always be at the centre of serious controversy.

Greed has no limit and does not know when to stop. However, a mind that is cautious of the implications of greed and puts society first will prevail; that mind belongs to the electorate and they must choose wisely to deal with the crusade that has taken from the poor and allowed the rich to exploit at will.  

Sources: BBC, Unison, EURWORK & The Insecure Workforce (Walsh & Davis report 1993).