The Tories And Their Idea Of The ‘Big Society’ By Sarinder Joshua Duroch

The ‘Big Society’ speech was introduced in Liverpool in 2010 sadly, the outcome of the deception still echoes nationwide in 2017.

On the 19th July 2010, David Cameron made a speech in working class and historically socialist Liverpool outlining the benefits of the ‘Big Society’.

Many Liverpudlians can’t forget the devastation of the early eighties where the employment prospects and class divide under Thatcher elevated to heights never seen before. There were riots in Toxteth and the far right were running riot in the town with skinheads using violence as the main instrument of hate implementation.

The Police who were already carrying out the government’s desires by beating up strikers did nothing to create harmony between communities, there was little in the way of police community relations; let’s face it Thatcher wanted to punish northern communities for being pro unions, the police were always a sound resource to use to implement the agenda on the street.

That suited Thatcher very well indeed, she fooled everyone with the idea of buying their council homes and taking on mortgages, I am sure she spoke to herself in Downing Street in total joy by saying, ‘Oh well, once they have mortgages I will see how much they will strike then!’

The people of Liverpool must have really wondered what on Earth David Cameron was doing in their city, he wasn’t taking the biscuit; he was taking the packet on this occasion. Surely in Liverpool there was more chance of hell freezing over than the public applauding him and thanking him for his visit.  

David Cameron spoke about social action, public service reform and community empowerment. He encouraged people to come forward with ideas so that he could provide them with the tools to take their communities to the next step of ownership and ensure that the government wasn’t top down and allowed greater autonomy to the people.

It all sounded all so innovative on paper, but there were hidden agendas, he really wanted people to do all the work and at the same time looking to save money and not spending the government’s money.

He intended to finance all of this with dormant bank accounts and money that had been left by those who may have died or just totally forgotten about it.

Whatever it was, as long as it didn’t cost the Tories a penny.

This was clearly a political and financial move on the hand crafted Tory chessboard, the austerity and cuts to public services was always on the minds of the Tories and to mask the problem like the Venetian elite attending a high society ball all wearing masks to hide their antics.

He clearly wanted to evade the real problems and leave society to clean up the mess that was made in the eighties by Thatcher. We must accept that the horrendous tearing up of the social fabric by Thatcher and the Tories would take more than a generation or two to repair.

He spoke about voluntarism, philanthropy and social action; charming coming from a Tory in an economically hard hit socialist city such as Liverpool.

What has the legacy of the ‘Big Society left us with and what can the people of Liverpool take from this speech and the subsequent years of Tory rule?

Foodbanks have increased and so has homelessness, in the UK year on year homelessness has risen dramatically, in England 2010 there were 1768 people sleeping rough and by 2016 the figures reached 4134 (134%) increase. Westminster remains the local authority with the most homeless people at 260.

If we look at the impact of three northern cities one can see that over a six-year period homelessness grew rapidly in Manchester, in 2010 the city had 7 people sleeping rough and by the end of 2016 there were 78. (1014%) increase. Liverpool, where David Cameron made his ‘Big Society’ speech had growing sleeping rough figures, in 2010 there were 3 people sleeping rough and by the end of 2016 there were 21 (600%) increase. In Britain’s second city, Birmingham, in 2010 there were 9 people sleeping rough and by the end of 2016 there were 55 (511%) increase.

The perceived affluent home counties haven’t come out of this appearing in good health. If we take the town of Gravesham and the city of Canterbury, both located in Kent we will see the contrast in the negative ascend of homeless figures.

In 2010 the borough of Gravesham had 1 person sleeping rough and by the end of 2016 there were 12 people (1100%) increase. The city of Canterbury, a well-known town for tourists and academia, in 2010 there were 3 people sleeping rough and by the end of 2016 there were 50 (1567%) increase. In Croydon, south London, there has been a large increase in rough sleepers. In 2010 there were 4 rough sleepers and in 2016 there were 68 (1600%) increase. Finally, in Brighton & Hove in 2010 there were 14 rough sleepers and in 2016 there were 144 (928%) increase.

One can only imagine in a negative sense what the socio-economic costs of danger to health this causes during the winter months. In 2005 the National Audit Office reached the conclusion that homelessness costs £1 billion, this covered the expense of paying for accommodation, providing grants and welfare administration.

The impact of the cost relating to mental health is also a major factor, each homeless person can cost £4298 for NHS services. Mental health costs £2099 per person, criminal justice can cost up to £11991; it’s evident the socio-economic costs are immense. The costs of temporary accommodation in London during 2014/2015 reached £663 million.

What exactly did the then Prime Minister expect from the people of the nation, his conclusion to this failed exercise and idea was aired during a speech in 2017 at the launch of the Fore Trust where he admitted that legitimate criticisms could be made of the ‘Big Society’ agenda.

Trussell Trust Foodbanks in England, providing help with emergency supplies of food for three days, has risen from 40,898 people in 2009/2010 receiving help to a staggering 1,182,954 in 2016/2017 (2792%) increase.

This is what the Tory ‘Big Society’ has achieved since that famous speech back in 2010. The North West has the highest number of people in receipt of help from Foodbanks, a total of 174,489 to April 2017; that figure will only increase. In London the figure is 111,101.  

This shows the scale of the problem in both the north and south of England. Scotland has provided over 145,000 food parcels in 2016/17.

We must admit that if not for the charitable nature of the British people, there would certainly be deaths relating to this crisis.

Again, it is obvious that the government are happy for the public to donate because they are saving money and then they have the countenance to congratulate the people of the nation for being so considerate. This must be met with a fulmination at the ballot box at the next election.

David Cameron has now left for a new post looking at promoting transport links to promote trade with China, the fund he oversees is worth £750 million. However, the UK and China initiative is worth over £1 billion.

There we have it, a nation that is left with a society where children are hungry and cannot afford breakfast.

Children and their parents don’t know where to turn during school holidays to get food, and we have the legacy of the Tory ‘Big Society’ in tatters.

500,000 children go to school hungry every morning and can’t concentrate on their studies or engage in physical activities at school.

We have bright and able children ready to perform for the economy when they are older, yet we are left with a part broken society because there is a disadvantaged population within our towns and cities that cannot function due to hunger.

We are meant to be the world’s sixth largest economy and we have 8 million people living in food poverty according to the UN and in addition we have 870,000 children going to bed hungry in this nation.

There is one thing for sure, people who are hungry know when they are being fed lies and false promises that is perceived to be filling nutrition to their hungry eyes. Once digested it has no impact, just like the false promises of the cohesive ‘Big Society,’ In George Orwell’s words, ‘In a time of deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act.’ Has the revolution begun for a fairer society in the context of education, employment, health and reducing the massive gap between the increasing haves and have nots in our society?

Given the last general election results it looks as if it has and is gaining momentum in many parts of the UK. The public have seen the deceit and are telling the truth in a revolutionary manner; the votes for Labour at the last election is evidence of that.

Sarinder Joshua Duroch

Labour & Momentum member.

Happiness: A Basic Human Right? Not According To The Tories By Eddie Luigi 

By Eddie Luigi 


Let me make this clear from the start. Generally I am happy and content. 

I view happiness as a three legged stool, with happiness as the seat and the three legs of home, health and an honest wage for an honest job.
Any of you who have studied psychology will be aware of Maslow and his hierarchy of needs. 

Which in a nutshell means until you have achieved the basic needs you cannot go on to achieve any of the more humanistic needs. 



The basic needs at the bottom of the hierarchy are food, water, warmth, rest security and safety. Without these essentials it is impossible to proceed up the hierarchy and achieve happiness and fulfil ones potential.


It’s like a game of ‘snakes and ladders’ sometimes you’re going up and sometimes you go down and have to start the climb again.

So, my view is that, until you have the basics of home, health and an honest wage, you can’t even begin to think about happiness. Then if one of those three legs of the stool is missing, happiness comes tumbling down.

But since the tories came to power in 2010, millions of people in England are struggling to gain the basic needs. Hard to believe but the figures do not lie:

4,134 sleeping rough ( up 134% since tories got in 2010) in England.
Almost 1.2 million needed emergency three day food parcels.

250,000 as registered homeless in England.

Around 4 million private renting in England. Most of these will have yearly or month to month contracts, with no basic security. 

That is a lot of people that can’t reach a happy state, or fulfil their potential.

Many self help books advise you to simplify and find happiness in the little everyday things.
This does not seem good advice if you have no home and your day is taken up by wondering where you can sleep safely tonight. 

Nor does it help if your physical or mental health means that your day is taken up wondering if you can be cured, or taken up trying to overcome the splinter in your mind that feeds the self doubts about your looks, your weight, your usefulness or your worth. 

That advice must surely be ignored if after you honest day’s work your ‘honest’ day’s wage, topped up by social welfare, is still not enough to meet your budgetary needs for housing, feeding and clothing your family.

I fear that in our current political situation not everyone will have the three stool legs necessary to think about happiness.




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Tory Britain: A Modern Day Disaster Zone By Lisa Mulholland 

By Lisa Mulholland 

When I hear people use the phrase ‘emergency food parcels’ it conjures up images in my head of a a war torn country or perhaps a place where a huge scale disaster has hit. I think of a place which has no infrastructure to deal with the problem at hand.

I do not think of the United Kingdom and I certainly do not think of a hardworking nurse needing to use an emergency food parcel.  Yet surprisingly and shockingly it is what is happening. Right now. All around us. 

1 million emergency food parcels were given out to families in the UK in 2016 according to the Trussell Trust. 

I don’t know about you but before 2013 I had never heard of the term ‘foodbank’. But now it is a term that is quite commonplace. What does it say about us as a society when people, both working and unemployed must go cap in hand to collect an emergency food parcel?

Recently the Red Cross was called in to support the NHS in what they called a ‘humanitarian crisis’. I found this difficult to believe until I recently had the misfortune of having to visit my local A and E department. There was a 7 hour wait and when I heard the staff call out via tannoy message “We are in crisis tonight please go home unless your injury is life threatening”. I could not believe my ears. 


As a nation, we used to send emergency food parcels to countries that didn’t have an infrastructure to support its most vulnerable in times of war, drought  or disaster.  In churches, schools and local supermarkets we used to do collections for them and I remember feeling fortunate that I lived in a society that, I believed, would never experience such poverty. But all I see is now is collections for food banks and local communities. 


So what has changed? What went so drastically wrong?  We aren’t war torn, there has been no catastrophic event and there have been no natural disasters. So where is the mainstream media outcry? There isn’t any. It has been normalised and we have become anaesthetised to it. 

In fact, the Conservative Party and the Mainstream Media would have us believe that our economy is doing just fine. That unemployment levels are at their lowest since 1972, according to the Office of National Statistics. And that nothing has changed.  But it has. And quite startlingly so. The decline has been rapid.  

To my mind there has been one catalyst, that has set off a chain of very unfortunate events that has led us to the situation we are in today and that was when the Conservatives entered government in 2010.  

They did not arrive in a ‘landslide’ fashion. There was no overwhelming support for them. They slithered quietly into power on the back of a hung parliament and had to form an alliance with the Lib Dems just to form a legitimate government. Yet the chain of events that they have set in place with crippling austerity, targeting the vulnerable, and the disabled has been so severe that the UN launched an investigation into it. Yes we, the United Kingdom were not only investigated by the UN but our austerity policies were found to be in breach of international human rights laws. Shameful, abhorrent, cruel. But again, where is the media outcry?

We now hear terms like ‘the working poor’ being used. A term I have not heard in my 38 years of life but that is now a widely understood term in our society. 
And now according to a leading Professor (as quoted in the Evening Standard) life expectancy improvements have now started to slow down since the dreaded year of 2010.

The rise of homelessness has doubled from 2010 and that rise is not slowing down. The number of rough sleepers has sharply increased from just under 2000 in 2010 (when Conservatives came into power) to 4,136 this year. An increase of 134%. 

If the Conservative Party could be compared to a natural disaster, I would say the one that resembles them the most is a tsunami.  They have hit us with wave after wave of bad decisions. And it feels like it is impossible to come up for air.  

Just when good old Corbyn forced a U turn on child tax credit cuts, or when the plan for all school to be academies was overturned, every victory has been minimised by the mainstream media while at the same time we are hit in the the face with some other nasty Tory policy proposal.  

And that is how it has gone on. With each fight against some awful decision. Some awful cut they try to impose, they simultaneously hit us with another. How can you come up with air when the waves of cruelty keep coming?

I feel like we are living in our very own disaster movie. You know the one where all the experts like the meteorologists warn of impending doom but no one listens until it is too late. I feel that’s where we have been with this Conservative government. 
In our case we had the economic experts warning us about Brexit. We had the small independent newspapers telling us how austerity would cause poverty. But then you had politicians like Gove putting down the experts with his famous quote last year when he said, “The people of this country are sick of experts”. 

No one listened and now look.  

Most disaster movies have a happy ending. So what do we do? Do we sit and wait for the happy ending to just arrive itself?I certainly won’t wait. I will keep writing, blogging, petitioning and campaigning until everyone gets the message. And I urge you all to do the same. 

The Conservatives don’t care about you or I (unless you are a millionaire). They never have and they never will . So if we want our happy ending we need to fight for it in any way, possible.  And soon!

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Sources  

The Trussell Trust 

The NHS Staff Are Heroes, So Why Do We Let The Government Treat Them So Badly? By Kelly Grehan

This article was originally written in the Summer by Kelly Grehan
  

Two weeks ago I had a mastectomy. I went into St Thomas Hospital where surgeons removed my (currently) healthy (and frankly beautiful) breasts and reconstructed new ones using tissue from my stomach in what is known as diep flap reconstruction.

 

The reason I chose to do this is I have a defective brca 1 gene. This gene is usually a tumour suppressor, but it’s faulty status in my body gives me an 80% chance of developing breast cancer.

 

Since I told people about my decision to proceed with the operation, thus reducing my cancer chances I’ve had a lot of people tell me I’ve made a brave or heroic decision. Of course, that is not true, I was in the fortunate position to be able to take control of my own health and future. There is a hero in my story of course, in fact there are several: the NHS and their staff.

 

How could I have taken a decision like this without the NHS? From the moment I saw a genetic counsellor at Guy’s Hospital who talked me through the decision to take the diagnostic test to the nurses I saw at the Wound Clinic today I have been treated as an individual with individual needs and have been dealt with by highly trained individuals too numerous to mention, but that include surgeons from two highly trained teams (breast and plastics), anaesthetists, researchers, specialist nurses, physios and other great professionals like porters and health care assistants as well as volunteers supplying services such as the patient cinema at St Thomas’ and helping in the waiting room at clinics.

 

In all of this, despite the nature of the decision I made and the operation meaning I spent a lot of time undressed I never felt I was losing my dignity. I was helped to shower, comforted as I vomited, helped into bed and had my complicated wounds checked every single hour. The empathy of the nursing and other staff left me feeling good about myself.  

 

I also never had to make any decision in which cost had any bearing at all. Money was simply never mentioned at any stage. Compare this to the situation I could have faced were I an American citizen where my decisions would be governed by the level of insurance I had. Where I may be tied to my job because of the insurance package it gave were the procedure to go wrong at any point and revisions needed. Where I might find parts of my treatment were covered and others not and where the threat of reduction in Obama Care might have forced my to make decisions early.

 

Now ironically my hospital room overlooked the Houses of Parliament and I happened to be recovering when the Labour Party amendment to give public sector workers a modest pay increase was voted down by the tories to cheers and cackles. Austerity has left public sector staff getting progressively poorer year on year. At the same time the tories have continued to cut tax for top earners.  

 

The number of billionaires in the country has actually risen, this is in a context where the nursing bursary (a recognition of the work students nurses provide on wards up and down the country and the hours they study making it difficult for them to support themselves) has been scrapped. Rather than scrapping it there is a credible argument student nurses should be paid the minimum (sorry, living) wage for the hours they spend working for the NHS. Indeed I was cared for by several students nurses during my stay in hospital. Looking after sick people is no easy task and they all did brilliantly. It’s an absurd thought that they are reliant on loans and overdrafts to allow them to carry out this work and that after a 12 hours shift in the hospital some will have been off to other jobs just to pay their rent. The nursing courses are tough, and that is right as it is hard work, physically, emotionally and academically. Why on earth would we make it hard to survive financially too?

 

It’s not just student nurses hit by austerity. 17 nurses a day apply for payday loans and there has been a rise in nurses attending food banks. A 40,000 shortage in nurses is, maybe unsurprisingly, predicted,

 

Then there is the treatment of other hospital staff. For example last week porters, security staff and domestics at Barts Health NHS Trust who are actually employed by Serco (but paid for by taxpayers of course) decided on strike action. They are asking for a 30p per hour pay increase. Serco made profits of £82 million last year.  

 

This country is the 6th richest on earth. Why are we happy to treat our health care workers with such disdain? I owe the NHS staff a huge debt of gratitude, as do many others. I am ashamed that this country is not prepared to reward them with recent pay and conditions and I fear in the future many people, in my position will simple to enjoy the excellent treatment I did.  

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