Category Archives: PROTEST

IS THIS OUR CIVIL SOCIETY?


The ramblings of a disconcerted citizen

In uncertain times the ideas of a civilised society are tested almost to breaking point, but the point of a real civilised society is that it is able to protect the most vulnerable in society at the times they are most in need.

Over the past few years it appears to me that our civil society structure is being tested possibly beyond breaking point.

We are told by our politicians that we are “all in this together”, while at the same time advocating damaging policies that seem to be aimed at the most vulnerable in our society.  This is not party political, but a general observation.

It has been revealed in a recent study that with care for the elderly, 20% of our hospitals do not even provide care that would be adequate in law, and over half of the hospitals failed to meet basic standards.  Can this be justified in any society?

Councils up and down the country are closing libraries as they are seen as a “soft” target to cut costs.  The argument is that everyone can use the internet, conveniently forgetting that 20% of households do not have access to the internet, and that certain sections of our society can only access reading material and the internet via libraries.

Of course these sections of our communities tend to be the old; young; unemployed; disabled; single parents and those in poverty.  In other words, those at the margins of our society and the most vulnerable.

Assessment’s for Employment Support Allowance (ESA) and the general stigmatisation of anyone with a disability who claims benefits in the national press is yet another cause for concern.  The many stories that are told by those with physical and mental disabilities about how they have been treated in their assessments for benefits are quite horrific.  Indeed so horrific, that the process itself quite often exacerbates any illness the applicant has.

Mental illness has been at the forefront of this injustice.  It appears to be the case, that it is acceptable to refuse people ESA on the most flimsy of grounds and to provide an assessment in a short period of time with a tick sheet mentality.

We all know that the diagnosis of a mental illness can take a long time, even years, and many mental illnesses can change on a day by day or even hour by hour basis.  So how can an assessment be made so quickly that will affect the living standards and quality of life of an individual and their family?

I could give many examples, whether from those suffering from Bipolar; depression; social anxiety; personality disorders and so on.  One day that person could be fit for work, the next they may be completely incapacitated.  Yet the criteria for those making decisions that will affect the wellbeing and health of a human being is being stripped down to a tick sheet and the need to cut costs.  It appears that no consideration is being given to the consequences of these decisions, even if it means in a minority of cases, death.

Mental health services are also being stretched to breaking point with the need to make space for the next patient in a crisis being paramount.

It strikes me that those with mental illnesses are the easy targets for the powers that be.  Our society is becoming a case of “WHO SHOUTS LOUDEST”. Whether it is the young; the elderly; those in social need or the ill, they have become the easy targets. The question is, why should people have to fight to be treated with respect?  It is clear that many in mental distress will find it most difficult to fight against an unjust decision by benefit agencies, which must be known by those implementing the policies.

It now appears from the evidence of real people at the sharp end that the safety net is no longer catching all those it was set up to help.

I have to ask, IS THIS REALLY OUR CIVIL SOCIETY?

SPAIN PROTESTS IN AN UNREPORTED WORLD

Very, very slowly this story is creeping up the news agenda, but it may be violence that will be the only way it hits the headlines.

Tomorrow there will be local and regional elections in Spain, but while the rest of Europe worry about figures on a page and the fate of the Euro, the people of Spain, and those protesting in Madrid, have far more pressing concerns to complain about.

Lets for one moment imagine a time in Britain where we had:

Youth Unemployment – 45%
Unemployment rate at – 21.3% (the highest in the EU)
4.9 million jobless
Austerity measures increasing the retirement age
Reduction in civil servant pay
Austerity measures to reduce access to Health care and education

There are a myriad of reasons for discontent in Spain.  There is a feeling of discontent with the two party system that has a stranglehold over their politics.  That politicians are only in it for themselves.  That the public are paying the price for other peoples incompetence and the irresponsible actions of the banking sector.

An overwhelming feeling that Spain is one country that did not benefit in the boom years in the way others did.

These demonstrations are about much more than austerity.  They are about politics and the direction the country is going.  Can a country really survive 45% youth unemployment?

But perhaps we are missing the bigger picture even than the 10 day demonstrations in Madrid.

Demonstrations are now ongoing in Italy, yet up to now they have not been subjected to the severe austerity cuts of other EU countries.  There are fears of more  unrest in Greece and Portugal as fears of an “adjustment” in the debt arrangements moves ever closer.

The snowball effect that is the EU crises is still rolling.  Greece is getting further into trouble; fears that Italy will be next and just the prospect that Spain could need anything like a bail out is on the horizon could send the EU into a spin that will leave the Euro reeling.

This summer is a crucial time, and with people obtaining inspiration from the “Arab Spring”, ordinary people in the EU austerity countries are asking, “why should they suffer”.

Could this be the EU summer of discontent?

MARCH FOR THE CUTS: Is this the “Silent Majority”?

Over the last few days there has been a media offensive by the right wing of British Politics, namely the Tax Payers Alliance, UKIP and Rally Against Debt.  UKIP have apparently obtained the right use the term “Tea Party”, if or when it decides to create an American style Tea Party movement against government spending.

The Tax Payers Alliance explained on various media outlets how they represented the “Silent Majority” in the UK and need to show their voice is heard in the debate.

So the question surely is – Are they the SILENT MAJORITY. It is a phrase easily used quite often when people are losing either the argument or the possibility of political power.

Recently we have heard the likes of Polly Toynbee talking up the existence of a progressive alliance, the idea that actually most people in the UK are progressives in their political thinking and that they represent the majority.  Yet the facts do not back this up.  Over the past 30 years we have had right wing governments, pretty much exclusively, with a quasi Tory party existing within the Labour Party power structure.  This does not show a “silent majority”.

In March this year we had a “March For An Alternative” – that attracted over Half a million men, women and children who marched through the capital against the cuts.

Yesterday we had 350 people with banners stating they quite like them.  Does this show a “silent majority”?  I think not.

The tax payers Alliance has been arguing that we should be performing MORE CUTS and not less, and not ring fencing vital services.

There is also a European dimension to this with both UKIP and the Tax Payers Alliance largely anti Europe.

What this shows is not that there is a silent majority for the cuts, but that the fringe right wing pressure groups have something in common with those in power.  They are influencing policy at the heart of government and stand along side mainstream politicians on a platform to reduce public spending on an ideological basis.

I neither think this is a “majority”, or that there is an appetite for a “Tea party” movement in the UK.  The fringes of the right claim they are note being heard, when in reality they have a few of their fingers on the levers of power.

bbb

IAN TOMLINSON REQUIRES JUSTICE: Ian Tomlinson unlawfully killed – inquest ruling

Finally, after 2 years of some of the most disgraceful behaviour by any Police Force, Ian Tomlinson’s family have a verdict in the inquest into his death that gives hope to the idea that justice can prevail.

Two years ago at the G20 demonstrations, a series of events were triggered which led to a cover up, the closing of ranks, call it what you will of the Police Force that was simply disgusting to see.  Time after time the public have been lied to and misinformation liberally spread by the authorities, but now it is official, Ian Tomlinson was UNLAWFULLY KILLED by the Police officer PC Simon Harwood.

What we saw that day, back in 2009,  was the other side of the Police force that many see from time to time but that we are told is a thing of the past.  The two faces of the Police, that split personality, has been seen more and more as the stresses in our society gather pace.  Those who demonstrate take extreme risks with the tactics of the Police from time to time, and in the case of the G20 protests, literally took their lives in their hands.

Ian Tomlinson was a completely innocent by stander just trying to get home to his family.  Turned away on various occasions from routes home, he finally met his fate at the hands of a Police Officer who used excessive and unnecessary force against the unarmed, bystander, whilst walking away from the officer.

If we did not live in the social media age, no doubt this crime would have gone unpunished and unnoticed.

Within days of the death, it was clear as video images began to emerge on the internet, of the incident and of members of the public giving their accounts.  The Guardian began to run these videos and asking questions.

From then on we had a closing of ranks.  First denials; then a post mortem stated that he died from a heart attack; it was denied that the Police had any contact with Mr Tomlinson prior to the video footage of him being struck by Police; No Police man owned up to the incident.

Then as time went on more video tape, the discovery of ctv images, and the admission that Mr Tomlinson was a completely innocent by stander trying to get home from work and who had been turned away several times by the Police and the truth began to emerge.  Two more post mortems revealed internal bleeding and trauma.

Still the white wash continued as the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), began a criminal enquiry that eventually decided in July 2010 that no charges would be brought against the officer, PC Simon Harwood, because the disagreement between the pathologists meant prosecutors could not demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt a causal link between the death and the alleged assault. A disgraceful decision that has now been brought into question by the inquest verdict.

PC Simon Harwood will become the first Police officer to be subject to a public Metropolitan Police disciplinary inquiry.  The family of Ian Tomlinson have for the first time in two years seen the prospect of Justice for their loss.

I wish them well.  What this sad and disgraceful episode shows is that any powerful state institution can become the barrier to justice, and use it’s power against the people rather than for it.  The Police are no exception, indeed are even more prone to it.

The videos of Simon Harwood’s behaviour throughout that sorry day in April 2009, showed how out of control he was.  A rogue thug, under the cover of a Police Uniform, and protected by the closing of ranks after the event.

R.I.P.

Ian Tomlinson    7 February 1962 – 1 April 2009

MP Bids to Curb Union Power: Another attack on British Democracy

Over the past few months there have been many attacks on democracy in Britain by the coalition government.  Today Tory MP Dominic Raab is introducing a private members bill in order to prevent Unions of essential services and transport illegal unless the vote for yes represented over 50% of the electorate able to vote.

This has been talked about for some time by Conservative MP’s and the CBI as a way of taking pressure off employers to keep wages low.  David Cameron mentioned this in Parliament as an issue he would look closely at if strikes became widespread. A clear threat to unions to stay in check or face more anti-union laws.

It is unlikely anythink will come of this bill, however, the seeds have been sown as a threat, throwing down the gauntlet to the Unions, showing that those on the right could bring such a bill forward in government’s Parliamentary time.

This is simply an act of vandalism on the rights of people in this country to take industrial action in a democratic organisation.  It is fundamentally un-democratic and abhorrent to the liberal nature of our society.

Lets be clear, I do not belong to a union, although I have been in the past, and there are many times people have gone on strike and I have disagreed with either their issue or their tactics.  However, that is not the point.  Whether I like it or not, I accept the right to ballot members to take industrial action if they so wish.

Quite often, those that take action, at least in the short term lose a lot more than they gain as they have to go several days without pay.  No one takes these decisions lightly.  People have families to feed and mortgages/rent to pay and the decision to take industrial action is thought about seriously by whoever takes it.

Unions are democratic organisations, they are not monolithic institutions run by Trotskyites who arm wrestle people into striking on a whim.  There is too much to lose.

What this bill shows is the gross disregard for democracy and fairness the Conservative Party and the CBI have.  It is exactly the same as the call by some for the referendum on AV to only count if it got more than a certain percentage of the vote.

The facts about democracy and especially our democracy in Britain, is that we do not force anyone to vote.  No one is penalised for not voting as in Australia or in other countries.  Many people think this should be so, but our democracy has a certain amount of consent built into it’s culture.  While people have the freedom to chose whether to vote, that is their right.

Very often in democracy in Britain, whether it is in General Elections, Council elections, or European Elections, many constituencies or even throughout the country as a whole, the majority do not vote for the winning candidate or party.  Indeed, in the case of council elections and European elections you do not even get a majority taking part at all.  By the logic of Dominic Raab MP all of these elections should be null and void.

It would make any government formed since the second World War wince, as no one has managed to get more than 50% of the votes cast let alone the majority of those eligible to vote!

It is a nonsense argument, made up by those with a vindictive nature, who wish to attack unions for the sake of it.

Many of the votes taken in recent times in union ballots for strikes have had an overwhelming majority voting for strike action.  If a large number did not vote who were eligible to, that is their choice.  I am sure if they felt strongly enough they most certainly would.

Unions are democratic institutions and should be respected in our society rather than simply used as a scapegoat, regardless of whether we agree with them or not.  Democracy needs to be upheld, it is more important than petty Tory MP’s trying to make a name for themselves.

MEDIA DESPAIR: Why the March for an Alternative has been hijacked by the government

The past few days have been exceedingly depressing.  The media has seemingly done the coalition’s job for it and taken their side hook, line and sinker.

The media’s thirst for the sensational has now had the drip, drip, drip affect into the public’s conscience.  Lets forget about why people were marching look there are people with balaclava’s on.  “Oh those nasty anarchists” the BBC and SKY news pundits cry.

The newspapers all lead with the violence except for the Guardian who put it into it’s proper perspective.  Even the independent went down the classic editors route of putting burning flames on the cover to sell more copies.  All quite pathetic.

Half a million protesters, a carnival atmosphere, working class, middle class, upper class – marching together with their families through the streets of London to show the government the masses disapproval. What do we get at the end of it??  The Home Secretary Theresa May saying they are looking into banning face masks.  How ridiculous.

The media has to take a massive hit here, not in blaming the messanger, but in massively creating a story far larger than it warrantied ahead of the real main story.

I have never seen so many column inches and television broadcasts over a few hundred idiots who decided to cause trouble over half a million – yes I will say that again HALF A MILLION  people demonstrating against a regime of economics that could plunge our country into despair.

I have no problem in the media covering the violence, just on the amplification ahead of what was a peaceful and dramatic expression of ordinary hard working peoples will in our country.

As for Theresa May, whatever next? Lets just ban all demonstrations that should sort out the problem.  Lets stop people from wearing a scarf in winter, or the Burqa, all these nasty people, just so sinister.

What we should be concentrating on is not the head dress worn by a few idiots but the policies being inflicted on the country.

UK uncut have done many things that are excellent in bringing awareness to the hypocrisy of corporations and Bankers, and their occupations of some buildings turning them into useful public areas has been excellent to see.  This is thoughtful and off the wall direct action that adds to the mix.

Smashing a few windows and bringing objects to throw at the police and causing violence is ridiculous and splits the public.  The 2 things are not the same and the idiots who use these tactics only serve to do what they always do and that is split the left, or turn a sizeable section of the masses against the demonstrators.

This couldn’t have been hijacked any better if David Cameron had hired a bunch of hooligans to discredit the no to cuts campaign.

The media need to take a large proportion of the blame for this, but so do the small amount of people who left their brains behind on Saturday.

300,000 + PROTESTERS MARCH IN LONDON: David Cameron would be a fool to ignore the masses

What a day, Up to half a million people marching through the capital on a sunny spring day.  Men. women and children of all classes, races and backgrounds marching against the cuts but more importantly FOR an alternative.

The day went brilliantly with a carnival atmosphere and far more people than were anticipated either by the unions or the Police.

The numbers as ever are disputed as to exactly how many were marching.  It was initially reported 100,000 were marching, this based on TUC estimated numbers who would turn up.  This went up to around 250,000 by 2pm.  In the evening the BBC reported half a million marching through London, but by the late night news this had returned to the 250,000 + figure and the Police “would not comment”.

So why were they marching?? The following videos give just a brief window on how the cuts will affect our society.

The news coverage was interesting to see.  The Miliband speech was shown for some of the time by the BBC on a split screen showing a balaclava clad group who had split from the main demonstration intent on causing trouble.  Not quite what Mr Miliband would have liked!

The very sad but inevitable consequence of the media coverage was the over emphasis on the break away group some of whom (in their tens) caused trouble trying to commit violence.

I noticed on Twitter the usual suspects pouncing on the sight of people in balaclava’s and trying to smear the entire demonstration, notably the fairly despicable Tim Montgomerie. Last week trying to gain political capital out of the Libyan conflict and today trying to discredit half a million peaceful and concerned protesters fighting for their own communities.

Nevertheless, the majority of the coverage was on the good natured aspect of the demonstration.

The right wing and coalition commentators in the media were trying to portray this as a fringe extreme movement of unions.  The stereotypical way in which the coalition sees our society is quite bizare. Unions who are democratic organisations, representing ordinary (hard working) individuals who would be classed as the ever talked about hard working families in political speak.

Of course far fewer of them will be “hard working”, when they have been made unemployed.  Many of course were anything but union members.  Whole families of people from students to pensioners marched to show their discontent with the status quo of politics and the lack of fairness in our society.

The whole of our “Big” society is being attacked by the short term interests of a few while being cloaked in the faltering BIG SOCIETY by FLASHMAN DAVE.

Ed Miliband finally decided to speak at the demonstration.  Sadly, he does not represent the “alternative”.  As yet the Labour party does not have a coherent alternative to the failures of the past, clinging on to the old economic orthodoxy that got us into this mess.

The real message from today’s overwhelming showing of support for an alternative is that any government who simply dismisses the concerns of the public will be dealt a dramatic blow at the ballot box.

This is one alternative put forward:

The Blair administration did not realise what happens if you ignore the masses.  The 1 million that turned out against the Iraq war were resoundingly ignored not by one party but by Parliament. The coalition risk major political fallout if they ignore another mass show of discontent with a path taken by the government.

Labour lost 4 million votes on the back of the disaster that was Iraq.  This coalition cannot afford to lose even half that.

To ignore the masses would be folly but I believe that is exactly what the coalition will do.  They have chosen a course, both LibDems and Conservatives, together the CONDEMS will pursue an agenda with the overriding objective to get to the next general election in tact and hope for an economic recovery.  At the expense of the many while the few get away with tax avoidance, squireling away money to UK encouraged tax havens and Banks carry on business as usual.

I heard a Tory commentator today stating that this is an unusual situation and they have “no choice” but to enact the cuts as described so that in future we do not have to cut public services again in the future.  The strange thing is that every time the conservative party get into power they always do the same thing.

In the early 80’s they blamed Labour, in the 1990’s they did it again while still talking about the “winter of discontent”!, which is why they so resoundingly wiped out at bthe election in 1997.  They couldn’t blame Labour that time.

Now they are doing it again.  The agenda is always the same, mass privatisations and public service cuts while demonising sectors of society.  Is this a trend or am I just believing this evil deficit denying lefty rhetoric??

The course is set and it is one we have seen many times before over the past 30 years.  Lets hope that communities that exist today still do so after the next 4 years, unlike in the 1980’s.