The EU referendum campaign starts today

Today sees the official start of the EU referendum campaign even though it’s been spluttering on for a few months now. For UKIP and the hard/far right of the Tory Party this is what they’ve dreamed of for years, decades even, yet the fact is there’s not a single sensible informed vision of a post EU United Kingdom (or whatever is going to be left of it as both Scotland and Northern Ireland may head down different routes) to be had.

Instead we’re told to trust the likes of Nigel Farage or Boris Johnson.  So in the next couple of months remember, we can stay and deal with the many flaws of the EU while still enjoying the benefits from it, or go into I’m not quite sure what exactly. So remember the main reasons to remain..

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If you trust this lot then vote to leave. Just don’t complain when you lose your right to holidays or you can’t get a visa to go to Spain….

 

Mark Thomas talking about PFI in 1999

With the state of schools built under PFI by the Labour/Lib Dem coalition in Holyrood in the early days of that parliament being a big news story now, it’s worth looking back at what was said about PFI back in the day.

PFI is a fairly complex method of funding started under John Major’s Tories in the 90’s and enthusiastically seized upon by Tony Blair’s Labour and especially Gordon Brown who pushed PFI to help build new infrastructure. Now to be fair, the UK needed that because the Tories had let that crumble. The problem with PFI is it’s essentially privatisation, and not just that it leaves us with crumbling sub-standard buildings that endanger lives, not to mention it means it costs us all more money in the long run.

But it’s worth having a look at this. It’s an episode of the Mark Thomas Comedy Product from 1999 where he deals with the subject of PFI, explains what it is and looking back it today 17 years later looks horrendously prophetic in it’s predictions of doom in regards the NHS in particular.

Give this half an hour of your time. It’ll make you as angry as it did me in 1999, and it’ll make you hate Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and Labour then even more than you may do now.

My eyes have been opened to people’s discrimination against the disabled

Recently I had a mild stroke that’s getting better, but I’ve got treatment for the foreseeable future in my life, not to mention I have to get around now with the aid of a walking stick. The stroke left me numb down my right side so I’m getting more back every day but I can’t really walk outside without the aid of the stick.

This has given me a perspective in how the disabled live, and how they put up with the bullshit from people that see the stick or disability and completely ignore it. Now I’m not that disabled, nor is my condition permanent (hopefully) but for now doing ordinary things like getting on the bus, or crossing the road is a big effort. Most people are however fine, some are fantastic. Most treat me with a bit of human decency.

A small number of people don’t A small number of people look at me and clearly judge as after all, without the stick from the outside I just look as if I’m moving slowly as I have a limp. A small number of people look at someone with a stick (as I am) and decide whether I’m ‘genuine’ or not. For example, yesterday on the bus I got on and there were no seats bar one, where a woman had piled all her shopping. I asked her if she could move so I could take the seat. She didn’t. She said she ‘couldn’t move’ her shopping. Everyone else saw this, nobody offered a seat, so I spent ten minutes being on my feet when I really should have been resting (post stroke fatigue is a bastard) but I refused to beg or show the fact I was fucked off.

There’s also the incidents today of middle class mothers trying to push their prams through me on Gloucester Road in Bristol. The fact I’ve got obvious mobility problems doesn’t seem to pass through their heads. Again though, most people are great such as the Turkish lads in my corner shop who offered me a seat.

But this is small fry. Most seriously disabled people put up with much, much worse than me. Looking at the rhetoric and narrative the Tories and the right wing press have put up over the last few years is it any wonder that so many people have become complete bastards? Is the like of Iain Duncan Smith helping the sick and disabled or is he actually demonising the most vulnerable? (it’s the latter).

Just look at the narrative the UK’s leading newspapers have built up over the years;

That’s the tip of a very unpleasant iceberg. If you’ve got the media drip feeding the idea that disabled people are ‘scroungers’, or by being treated for your disability or condition by the NHS you’re some sort of drain upon society then it’s not hyperbole to say that people are holding Nazi-like opinion.

As said though, most people are great or just ok. A chunk aren’t and it’s larger than I thought it’d be. In a supposed ‘liberal’ city like Bristol in a supposed advanced state like the UK I’d expect better but the fact is we’re letting the disabled down that in the year 2016 this is how some people act and think.

The Evil Empire of Everything-Welcome to Tory Britain

There’s a point in Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons where Dr. Manhattan (the naked blue superhero) has left Earth for Mars and left his home planet to a probable nuclear destruction because as a near godlike figure he can no longer see any worth in humanity as they’re a selfish, thankless race who will be replaced on Earth by whatever evolution decides to be top of the food chain after nuclear Armageddon. He’s convinced by Laurie, his former girlfriend and former superhero, that there’s something in humanity so that each life is a small thermodynamic miracle.

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Laurie reminds Dr. Manhattan of the uniqueness of us all. We are all in our own way miracles and our lives have value beyond comprehension because at some level we all hold the potential for something. We don’t know what, let alone we might never reach that potential for greatness but at the moment here where Alan Moore has Dr. Manhattan stare aloofly at the pale blue dot in the sky from his refuge on Mars, speak to the last human that meant anything to him and at this moment he remembers the value of life. It’s an amazingly uplifting and positive bit of writing which reminds us of our humanity.

Lately though in the real world it seems losing your humanity is par for the course for people like David Cameron and George Osborne, who seem to be able to tell us the price of everything, but have no comprehension of the value of life. The British state values itself and it’s more powerful supporters more than anyone, or anything else, just look at Michelle Mone, an unelected business woman that sucked up campaign to keep Scotland in the UK and is now a lawmaker in the House of Lords. Just look at David Cameron sucking up to the Chinese president as thousands across the UK lose their jobs in the steel industry.

To the Tories, human life is valued only by how much it’s worth to you, and of course, if you’re one of them. So people like Mone become allies and even though not one single person has never voted for her, she has input into how laws affecting you and I are written. Palms are greased, favours are done and the powerful rewards those that help keep the establishment safe.

Take Iain Duncan Smith, He famously had an epiphany over a decade ago when as Tory leader of the opposition he visited Easterhouse in Glasgow and saw the poverty people endured day-to-day first hand for himself. He pushed the idea of ‘compassionate Conservatism’ and some thought this was the man that could bring people out of poverty. In fact he’s driven people further, and deeper into poverty, plus his policies are driving people to the last, and worst option as they’d rather take their life than live on in a country run by Iain Duncan Smith and his like.

People live in the sort of deep, grinding poverty that in the UK in 2015 is Victorian in scale and effect. Don’t believe me? Read this New Statesman article about Easterhouse now reflecting on Iain Duncan Smith’s visit. These people have been disregarded, and in some cases, dehumanised by government policies designed not to help them, but attack them and to punish them because the Tories don’t see people on benefits in poverty as having anyone to blame but themselves.

In today’s Tory Britain people are ‘strivers’, they’ve become ‘hard working’. They’re constantly described in language that means they ‘aspire’ to something else, but the people that fall through the cracks are disregarded. All the disabled, unemployed, poor and the most vulnerable are described as ‘scroungers’, ‘leeches’ and have to be forced in the eyes of the Tories to become a real person that strives and aspires.For these people though every single day they strive for better and they work hard just to survive but for the Tories (not to mention those that support them) they’re somehow not quite as important as anyone else because in the eyes of a David Cameron, George Osborne or a Iain Duncan Smith they’re just there to be exploited as any other resource.

For Tories there are no thermodynamic miracles. Unless you’re rich or powerful enough to matter. Then you’re on their radar. Humanity is to be used to make corporations money because once you’re in debt, you’re able to be used by those predatory companies that see people not as individual human beings but Money Generating Units.

I’m done with that all. I’m done with a supine Labour Party opposing the Tories when it suits them, even under Corbyn their opposition has been flaky at best. I’m done with a media in thrall to the establishment and I’m done with  endless faceless Tory drones laughing inside when they hear of someone killing themselves because they didn’t want to make that choice between heating or eating anymore. I want a better world where each person, each thermodynamic miracle can reach for their potential without having to worry where they went to school, or how much their folks earn, or who they know to help them get into the positions of power.

The next five years are going to be brutal for people in places like Easterhouse all over Scotland and the UK. People are going to die because the government of the day have decided to rule over them like an evil imperial power splitting people into ‘strivers’ and ‘wasters’ therefore deciding who lives or dies. Who suffers in abject poverty or who has a comfortable life where the next meal isn’t something days away.

So we need to remember we’re all the same. We’re all deserving of the same chances. We need to fight the Tories with every single breath when we can because if we don’t the UK isn’t going to be a place worth living in for many people at the bottom of society in five years and for many of us, there’s not going to be a chance to achieve any of our dreams and hopes because thanks to the Tories, the act of survival will be paramount as a dystopian future is created for one group of people and bread and circuses for the majority.

Unite to fight the Tories. That’s all that matters now.

Hell Yes! I’m Abstaining! The end of the Labour Party as we know it

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Last night the Labour Party abstained from voting against the brutal, cruel and genuinely evil bill that I’ve seen in my life put forth by the Tories and that’s saying a hell of a lot. Today Labour leadership candidates, Labour MP’s and the handful of Labour supporters that think this was a smart thing to do are desperately trying to spin it but it’s not working. It’s pretty hard to present a party supposedly fighting for social justice when all their MP’s bar 48 abstained. In fact here’s a list of those Labour MP’s that did abstain so I suggest if your MP is on that list you let them realise your displeasure.

In fact Labour abstaining isn’t new. They’ve been doing this for five years, and only at the start of the year they did a similar thing in regards Osborne’s budget and essentially rubber-stamped Tory austerity. Even more in fact people have been pointing this out all the time but people like Owen Jones or various columnists at the Guardian and New Statesman would dismiss such claims, or you’d get crap that Labour have to be ‘pragmatic’ yet all the time Labour were standing for nothing and failing to stand against something. It went into an election like this, lost and still tries to carry on the same policies of abstaining when it can which results in last night when even the most ardent Labour supporter has to admit they fucked it last night, possibly they’ve fucked their party forever.

After all if the Labour Party doesn’t stand for social justice, or fight against a brutal Tory welfare bill and the SNP, Greens, Plaid Cymru, SDLP, Lib Dems and even the hardline DUP vote against it as a party then Labour should realise they’re not in Star Wars speeding away from an exploding Death Star, but are actually sitting there supporting the Empire destroy millions. They’re on the wrong side and today, they realise that but you’d think they’d have learned from last night?

Nah, today was a debate and vote on George Osborne’s finance bill. Yes it’s the last day before the summer break but all the SNP MP’s were there and in a gigantic bit of brass neck decided to take the official opposition benches as there were no Labour MP’s to be found.

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I’m sure the sight of 56 SNP MP’s sitting where Labour normally would is going to hurt some Labour supporters but Mhairi Black has a point here. Surely the point of an opposition is to oppose rather than sit back or support even the most abhorrent bill? If Labour can’t get their heads round that over the summer holiday then that’s it, they never will. At that point the left, especially in England, need to work out what to do next because there’s no point supporting a supine, spineless, cowardly Labour Party that’d rather throw the most vulnerable to the floor if it meant putting the party first.

Of course there’s still Jeremy Corbyn possibly coming in on his white stallion but with talk of a coup if Corbyn is elected leader, I don’t think he’ll save Labour. They’re too far gone. Their only hope is to split in two with the Red Tory faction carrying on and the more socially democratic faction joining with the Greens, SNP, Plaid and SDLP to oppose austerity. I can’t see any other future for them otherwise apart from irrelevance and a slow demise.

Mhairi Black’s maiden speech is the most inspirational thing you’ll hear

Things are pretty crap at the minute. The Tories are running around like lunatics trying their best to push through every single half arsed idea they’ve had while George Osborne last week released the most brutally regressive budget I’ve ever seen. Yesterday the EU humiliated the Greeks and Labour’s spine left them possibly for good as Harriet Harman announced that Labour would be supporting some of the worst parts of this Tory budget. In short, it’s been pretty crap.

But this morning the Tories got a seriously bloody nose thanks to the SNP announcing they’ll side with Labour to vote against the Tories proposed abolition of the foxhunting ban in England and Wales. Yes, it’s the SNP seriously pushing their luck but at some point they were going to say ‘fuck it’ and take on the Tories in this way in their backyard, plus it showed to David Cameron that he’s not going to get it all his way. So all day today Tories have been trying their best to try to paint a defeat as something else, but the talk of the day is the SNP MP Mhairi Black’s maiden speech in the Commons as part of the continuing debate about the Tory budget.

Black’s not just one of the last of the new SNP MP’s, but of the new MP’s in this parliament to give their maiden speech and it’s perfectly timed. For someone who’s last job was working in a chippy and seeing first hand the effects of Tory policy upon people in her volunteer work she’s not you normal MP coming from a nice middle class background. She uses her experiences to devastating effect in this speech that is if there’s any justice going to go down as one of the finest speeches of this century in the Commons. She nails the Tories completely, while offering a hand to Labour.

Enough of me talking about it, just watch and most importantly listen to it. It’s inspiring, important and proof that 20 is no barrier to speaking the truth as it needs to be told.

A quick word about the long death of the Labour Party

There’s been an almighty fuss over the last 24 hours about the comments of temporary Labour leader Harriet Harman in regards Labour’s support for parts of the most regressive and brutal Tory budget in my lifetime, which is saying quite a bit. Labour supporters in England are apoplectic as they see Labour supporting the basic principles of the Tories, Owen Jones is spitting teeth, Twitter has melted.

Yet it’s all so predictable to anyone paying attention, especially those in Scotland where this sort of Tory enabling bullshit has been common for some time, hence why the people of Scotland kicked out their Labour MP’s for SNP ones. This isn’t suddenly Labour veering suddenly out of control to rubber stamp austerity or the Tories as they’ve done this before, and they look like they’ll do it again, and again, and again or at least for as long as people futility think ‘if we give Labour one more chance they’ll come good!!‘.

Of course the four leadership candidates have spoken about Harman’s comments with Jeremy Corbyn speaking out against it, Yvette Cooper and Andy Burnham trying hard to condemn it while trying not to look scared and Liz Kendall to the surprise of nobody fully supports the idea because she’s a Tory in every single sense bar the party she’s in. In fact one has to question not only why she decided to join Labour, but why the party allowed her to get so far in it? Then you remember Jim Murphy and it all becomes more clearer..

Kendall is simply extraordinary. Burnham and Cooper are faceless planks, but Corbyn represents what Labour should try to be and though no means a perfect answer to Labour’s many, many (mainly) self-inflicted problems he at least understands the power of standing up against austerity. Kendall seemingly wholeheartedly endorses austerity and a quick look at her Twitter feed reveals this jaw dropping Tweet.

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Not only is it patronising to the people that are going to be driven into suffering, but it clearly shows Kendall’s main priority which is winning. Sure, she might kill the Labour Party off once and for all but hey, she’ll have won!

It’s a fucking horrendous situation. There’s no rage, no anger coming from Labour, Just endless attempts to talk to the same sort of Southern English middle class voter that may have voted Tory in May in vaguely Tory language while failing the most basic thing Labour was set up to do which is represent the people at the bottom. As this splendid Bella Caledonia article says, this is Orwellian and if Labour play the Tory game then we’re fucked.

This is a turning point for Labour as it’s opened eyes to people especially in England about what they’ve become in their slow journey from left til right. It could change them for the better, but I doubt it. Corbyn is being monstered not just by the right wing press but by within his own party as ‘left wing’. In 2015 the term ‘left wing’ has become a pejorative to some in Labour. That’s how fucked they are because they carry on as they’ve done today then the death of the party in Scotland will spread to England and Wales so that all that’ll be left is a mindless husk shambling around agreeing with the Tories because they’ve got not one original idea left.

End Austerity Now

Today is the largest mass demonstration against austerity in the UK as a march takes place in London against government austerity, and there’s also demonstrations across the UK, including another huge demo in George Square in Glasgow.

Austerity isn’t as the Tories tell you it is. It isn’t about ‘tightening our belts’ and ‘living within our means’. It’s about scrapping the welfare state and privatising everything so the rich benefit from the debt and suffering of the poor, unemployed and disabled. It’s about turning neighbour against neighbour as they fight over crumbs while the Tories wreck the country and destroy people’s lives, and make no mistake, lives are not just being wrecked but lost to the ideological policy of austerity.It is effectively an attack upon people”s rights to live.

The Independent Living Fund (ILF) is going at the end of the month.and in removing it, the lives of thousands of disabled people are going to be destroyed very, very quickly. Some might say this is hyperbole but it isn’t. In my work there are people who can no longer as of next month get to and from work, so have a choice of going on benefits or trying to make by without something that’s enabled them to live the same lives as people like myself. Of course benefits themselves are being cuts as George Osborne plans his £12 billion worth of cuts that will once and for all wreck the welfare state.

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So right now in London and Glasgow people from all walks of life are joined by unions, politicians from the SNP, Greens, Plaid Cymru, and the few decent and moral Labour MP’s that stand against their own party’s support of austerity and are showing that there’s an opposition to the entire idea of austerity. They’re showing the Tories we’re not going down without a fight not just for ourselves, but for all of us together.

Follow the London even with the Livestream here, and the George Square event can be seen here.

What I thought of The Artist Taxi Driver’s ‘Westmonster’.

Mark McGowan is a performance artist who decided to take on the persona of the Artist Taxi Driver around five years ago as a way to channel his protests against the government and the general establishment in a more productive way than his previous Chunky Mark persona. As the Artist Taxi Driver, he interviews a staggering range of people in his taxi from people like Frankie Boyle, Russell Brand and Leanne Wood, to people trying to save their homes in London housing estates. This isn’t some celebrity ego trip, but a man genuinely protesting against the system as can be seen from the almost daily videos and interviews he uploads to Youtube.

His magnum opus is Westmonster, a 3 hour, 26 minute film about the British political system that takes bits and bobs of previous videos plus some I’ve not seen before, so may be totally new, to form something else. What that something else is remains in the eye of the beholder as this is at the same time as being a highly political piece of activism, is also a piece of performance art. It doesn’t have a narrative drive, so the flow of the film is scattergun which makes it at times in it’s nearly three and a half hour running time, sometimes a chore as it’s disjointed structure makes it hard to follow even if you’re totally aware of the situations being discussed, or just who McGowan is speaking to or about.

The running time doesn’t help as it drifts in and out of making a clear point, but there’s a lot McGowan is cramming in here but when it works it does so well, such as the coverage of the various grass roots campaigns across the UK be it the women fighting to avoid eviction from their homes in London, to campaigners trying to be heard in regards institutional cover up of child abuse to independence campaigners in Scotland, something McGowan in particular had drawn real inspiration from and indeed he’s dedicated the film to the people of Scotland for that reason. Indeed the name of the film comes from the term Scottish independence campaigners use for Westminster.

Stripping the film down to say, two hours and removing much of the stream of consciousness narrative would help the flaws in Westmonster, but when it hits home it does so in spectacular fashion as for example the scene where McGowan speaks to an incredibly articulate young girl about the stuff she’s putting up with in regards evictions while trying to get an education, or the protesters pointing out the flaws in the entire myth of austerity. Even the scenes with some of the celebrities are worth watching, especially an informed discussion between McGowan and Frankie Boyle which includes the bizarre detail that Ed Milliband and George Osborne’s wives are best friends and go on holidays together. Russel Brand plays his part in the film spouting his usual stuff, but it’s good to see that McGowan includes the opinions of grass roots campaigners who can see through Brand’s often misleading rhetoric.

McGowan isn’t afraid to go for the jugular and take on sacred cows of the left, especially some on the the English left who McGowan seems to see as being led astray or foolishly think Labour are going to support people on the fight against austerity. He understands that the old establishment has to be brought down and new grass roots movements have to form in order to fight the neoliberal consensus and right now that seems to be forming across the UK, and is also the subject of his next big project.

Westmonster is a flawed, overlong, often far too hyperbolic film that sometimes dives headfirst into conspiracy theory tinhattery, though some of the stories that sound fantastic are true. It is however a film that should be seen because of the masses of information (and it’s a lot of information to take in at times) in here is important, but it’s the unique voices of people on the front line of the cuts, or of austerity, or of the very reshaping of our society as it moves into an authoritarian country ruled by an elite for an even richer elite that is important.

The idea that the UK is run by a succession of increasingly corrupt governments controlled by corrupt institutions and corporations sounds like a dystopian fantasy from a Philip K. Dick novel, but in the rawest, truest sense, this is what the UK is. Both Tory and Labour governments of the last 40 or so years have performed a sort of baton race passing laws to reshape the country from the post war consensus where people from all sides of the political spectrum agreed on things like the welfare state and human rights, to one now where the welfare state and human rights are under threat. McGowan is a crucial voice in exposing the stories the establishment don’t want you to hear, not to mention he gives the people behind these stories a voice using his relatively high profile.

One of these voices is heard in the epilogue to the film discussing the Daniel Morgan murder.

There’s a lot to take from Westmonster, I’d recommend getting stuck in and take from it what you can as in the coming months there’s going to be a clear fight to keep what we have and stop it falling into the hands of the few.

Let’s hunt and kill Katie Hopkins!

Imagine the scene. It’s live television. Davina McCall or Dermot OLeary is presenting a programme where famous media mouthpiece Katie Hopkins is being hunted through the streets of London by a variety of people. Hopkins is being chased by a pack of hungry dogs and manages to escape being torn limb-from-limb but as she staggers into the finale at some huge site, say the O2 Arena, she’s hounded by the crowd but just as she staggers up to thank McCall and say something offensive for the hell of it, a loud shot rings out and she’s killed by a Syrian refugee holding a gun plastered with the logos of soft drink companies as after all, this would be commercial television.

As the last of her live bleeds away all she can hear is the presenter saying ‘come back next week where we’ll be hunting and killing Rupert Murdoch‘ and the blackened, shriveled husk that is her soul cries out as it all goes black for her.

Now this is obviously horrendous and I suggest anyone thinking that hunting and killing Katie Hopkins is a good idea should realise that this is just me shamelessly taking an old Bill Hicks sketch and using it for my own purposes…

This is all exaggerated as after all if you’re a human being that constantly goes on about machine gunning refugees, picking fights with people like Jack Munroe because she clearly gets off on it, or generally acting like the country’s biggest arsehole then this isn’t anything. This is water of a ducks back to even suggest hunting Hopkins through the streets of London and forcing her to hide in alleys and drinking her own piss in order to live is just a giggle. It’s free speech someone like Hopkins would proclaim!

And yes it is, but the thing is that suggesting someone should be hunted and killed in all seriousness is barbaric. Suggesting in all seriousness that refugees should be shot and that anyone that falls in the glare of those cold, dead blue eyes deserves the venom spat out past her thin, lifeless lips isn’t just barbaric, but psychotic, and it’s not as if she spouts opinions that are alien to some. Far from it, she’s a Tory and she’s someone that sees life as an adversarial game where ‘winning’ is all that matters, even if that means dehumanising others, and in doing so, dehumanising herself.

I’m not saying she’s up for redemption. I don’t think she is but as we get ready to gird ourselves against the Tories it’s worth remembering that people like Hopkins are not unique. They shouldn’t be ignored and they need to be combated head on but people like Hopkins should remember this. At some point her kids are going to be old enough to Google their mother, and find out for themselves what she’s been saying so they’ll decide for themselves whether their mother is a good, decent moral person or a borderline psychopath suffering from some sort of narcissistic personality disorder. If they decide the latter then Hopkins has brought it all upon herself.

In the meantime let’s get ready to fight her ilk. It’s going to be bloody tough but if you want to wipe the rictus-like smile off that palid face without her being hunted by packs of hungry dogs the only way of doing it is to take these people on head first and never, ever let them ‘win’.