Monday 30 April 2018

The 'Undeserving' (Part 1) | #VoteLabour3rdMay


Great name for a film or TV series isn’t it? 

Recently I’ve been watching the first two series of Channel 4’s Humans which focuses on a group of synthetics (robots) who have human feelings and their battle for ‘human rights’ within a ‘hostile environment’ that positions them as lesser. Leaving the current and potential future human/robot relationship aside (which after watching some of The Rise of the Robot programmes make many aspects of series like Humans and Black Mirror seem less than fantastical) the labelling of groups of people as undeserving is well established in government policy and practice.

Amongst the many things I have read on the Windrush generation scandal is an article by Gary Younge entitled ‘With Windrush, Theresa May mistook a national treasure for an easy target’. It includes:

As the British government implodes over the treatment of the Windrush generation we must ensure that the rightful outrage about the exclusion of those who are now finally perceived as “worthy immigrants” does not blind us to the outrageous immigration policies that made such exclusion possible and will continue to exclude others deemed “unworthy”.

Theresa May is not apologising for creating a “hostile environment”, expressly designed to spread fear in immigrant communities, when she was home secretary. She is simply conceding that the Home Office has been hostile to the wrong people…. the official regrets have been too narrowly tailored, the memories too selective, the mendacity too brazen and the callousness too pernicious to see the government’s parsed and partial expressions of remorse as anything other than an insult to our intelligence….

As Younge notes May did not set out to create a ‘rigorous’ or ‘stringent’ environment, but a hostile’ one in which all immigrants would be considered illegal unless they could prove otherwise with a ‘deport first, appeal later’ approach. The government’s mistake, Younge argues, was assuming that the plight of ‘a few elderly black people born in the Caribbean would not prick the nation’s conscience’. It is perhaps not such a surprising mistake given that when the 2014 Immigration Act (responsible for enshrining the ‘hostile environment’ policy) was passed only 18 MPs voted against it; including Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn, Dianne Abbott, John McDonnell and David Lammy*). Younge continues:

So long as the government has a policy of hostility towards immigrants, that struggle continues. These laws are not bad because they ensnared the Windrush generation; this just clarified the obscenity and amplified the bigotry on which they were based. They are bad laws because they are designed to turn every Briton – doctor, landlord or teacher – into a border guard, and every migrant, whether they have a right to be here or not, into a suspect.

*You might also like to watch this via @EL4C:

Yet, some seem unable or unwilling to understand, indeed seem to want to create further division. Like this from Dan Hodges (I refuse to give a link to the ‘newspaper’ he writes for):  

It’s time for the crocodile tears over the Windrush generation to stop. Along with the hypocrisy. And the faux national outrage. Ignore the increasingly tortuous paper trail. The leaks, and counter leaks, and counter-counter leaks. The demands for an explanation of what Amber Rudd knew, what she didn’t know, and when she did or didn’t know it…

Contrary to liberal perception, the Windrush generation have not been the targets of a racist drive to evict them from their country of citizenship. Quite the opposite. They were supposed to be excluded from this dragnet of undesirables. That they were ensnared was a product of incompetence, rather than prejudice.… 

And as if we needed any more evidence of how our identities as individuals and groups of people affects our status as deserving of not let’s reflect on the sympathy for some and (lack) of praise for others today. Following Amber Rudd’s resignation as Home Secretary last night politicians (including some from the opposition benches) and media folk sympathising with Rudd and ignoring evidence on who has been doing the most work for the Windrush generation is more than shocking. Clearly some people are not worthy/deserving whatever they do just because of who they are:   

Many ‘MSM’ outlets are attempting to credit Labour back-bencher Yvette Cooper for Rudd’s downfall – and certainly Ms Cooper played a part, but she was not one of the few MPs who voted against Theresa May’s 2014 measures that created the abuse of the Windrush generation. . . .The real driving forces behind Amber Rudd’s departure this evening have been three black Labour MPs [Dianne Abbott, Dawn Butler, David Lammy] – now being conveniently ignored by the MSM – who combined the emotion of genuine indignation with a forensic dissection of Rudd’s – and her leader’s – guilt in the Windrush scandal and created a weight of evidence and outrage that the now-former Home Secretary was unable to withstand. . . .
And then there was this: @D_Raval: Well done @HackneyAbbott putting Tory spokesman (part time Sky presenter) Jonathan Samuels in his place. Diane got one figure wrong in one interview a year ago. Rudd and May responsible for the wrong deportation of hundreds of British citizens. 

Curiouser and Curiouser one might say. Well not really. 

As a sociologist I am well used to discussions of laws, policies and practices that separates people by their perceived worth. As Holly Firmin (2016) notes it is the 16th century Poor Laws form the basis of our modern notions of the ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving’ poor with the ‘deserving’ poor being the elderly, the infirm and the sick As Firmin argues the notion that many poor people are ‘undeserving’ still persists. The government’s insistence, despite evidence to the contrary ( that ‘the best route out of poverty is through work’ serves to demonise those who do not. And the representation of the ‘feckless’, ‘benefit scrounger’ is (gleefully it often appears) furthered by the media. The sociologist Erving Goffman’s concept of stigma is relevant here in that:

Society establishes the means of categorizing persons and the complement of attributes felt to be ordinary and natural for members of each of these categories…. While a stranger is present before us, evidence can arise of his (sic) possessing an attribute that makes him different from others in the category of persons available for him to be, and of a less desirable the extreme, a person who is quite thoroughly bad, or dangerous, or weak. He is thus reduced in our minds from a whole and usual person to a tainted, discounted one. Such an attribute is a stigma, especially when its discrediting effect is very extensive … (Goffman (1963) Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity. Prentice Hall p3).

And indeed there is much evidence of historical and continuing stigmatisation of whole groups of people, of 'othering', of dividing into the worthy and worthy, the deserving and the undeserving. The Windrush generation are one example here. Tomorrow I'll write about some more...

To be continued

Saturday 28 April 2018

84 Men, Millicent, Mary, Jesus and a ‘Monument to Tory Britain’ | #VoteLabour3dMay

Every week, 84 men die from suicide in the UK. Just over a month ago (26th March 2018) 84 life size statues, based on real people, were erected on top of ITV’s London studios.  Male suicide is the biggest killer of men under 45 in the UK, and 75% of all suicides are carried out by men. It is estimated that very suicide directly affects 135 other people.  #Project84, is organised by the Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) and supported by ITV. Artist Mark Jenkins and collaborator Sandra Fernandez worked with bereaved family members to create each sculpture as a visual representation of real British men. Aware that numbers alone are less meaningful and powerful than individual, personal stories each of the men is named on the CALM website and the site includes stories about them as told by their closest friends and family.

“With Project 84, we wanted to make the scale of the situation very clear to everyone that sees the sculptures,” said Simon Gunning, CEO of CALM.  “By working with the families and friends of men who have taken their own lives to highlight individual stories, we hope to make the impersonal thoroughly personal.”

Suicide disproportionately affects the poorest people in society. Across the world, research by the World Health Organisation shows  that those with low or middle incomes have far higher suicide rates than those with a high income. Such a pattern is reflected in the UK with academics from Bristol, Manchester, and Oxford Universities suggesting that austerity might be responsible for an extra 1,000 suicides.

See also: Dying from Inequality: socioeconomic disadvantage and suicidal behaviour (2017)

Men in the lowest social class,
living in the most deprived areas,
are up to ten times more at risk
of suicide than those in the highest social class, living in the most affluent areas.


This week there has been some coverage of the unveiling of a bronze statue of Millicent Fawcett in Parliament Square, London. Following a campaign by Caroline Criado Perez the statue was created by Turner prize-winning artist Gillian Wearing. It depicts Fawcett as a 50-year-old, the age at which she became president of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies. She banner in her hand reads “Courage Calls to Courage Everywhere” which is an extract from a speech she gave after the death of suffragette Emily Wilding Davison. Wonderfully, even though the other 11 statues in Parliament Square are all of men "there are now more faces of women than men in the square for on the plinth on which Fawcett stands there are images of 55 women – and four men – who were part of the fight for women’s right to vote". 

During the event (on Wednesday 25th April) the Prime Minister Theresa May told the crowd that there would not be any women in parliament without the dedication of Fawcett, who campaigned for more than six decades for women to get the vote. She said: "For generations to come, this statue will serve not just as a reminder of Dame Millicent's extraordinary life and legacy, but as an inspiration to all of us who wish to follow in her footsteps."   

I know I am not the only one to find this, from a PM that presides over a government that impacts negatively on the lives of many women, more than distasteful. I wrote to the PM on the 8th March (International Women’s Day) about some of my concerns. My letter included the following:

Sadly, as a Conservative government has twice demonstrated, having a woman Prime Minister does not necessarily mean that the experience of women and girls in general, or even women in Parliament, is improved. Boldly reclaiming the status of being ‘a bloody difficult woman’ (4th March) and incorrectly (in my view at least) calling Mr Corbyn out for ‘mansplaining’ (7th March) on your twitter account is more than insulting from a PM that presides over a government that is comfortable with, promotes even, significant gender inequality and injustice. There are many, many examples I could give but restrict myself here to just a few from the last seven days. On the 2nd March the Home Office wrote to women on hunger strike at Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre informing them not only that their cases would not be halted or delayed by the protest but that it “may, in fact, lead to your case being accelerated and your removal from the UK taking place sooner”. Yesterday we heard that the Labour Party has had to force ministers to bring various polices (including cutting free school meals for a million children who need them) to the House of Commons for a vote next week…. 

This week I wrote again to to ask why I had not, as yet received a reply. 

There is currently a campaign for a statue to commemorate the life and achievements of Mary Wollstonecraft; author of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792), the first book in English arguing for the equality of woman and men. Here is a link to the petition 

One supporter of the campaign is Jeremy Corbyn MP. Watch this to see why Wollstonecraft is his political hero:

Also this week a bronze statue of a homeless Jesus asleep on a bench was unveiled outside St Ann’s Church in Manchester. Planning permission was granted by Manchester council after Westminster City Council rejected an application for a sculpture near the Houses of Parliament. Umm . . . . :
Castings of the life-size statue have been placed in cities worldwide since 2013, although some churches have refused to display it.  Created by Canadian sculptor Timothy Schmalz versions of the sculpture have already been installed in cities across the world including Madrid, Washington D.C, Vatican City, Dublin and Glasgow.

For more on homelessness see for example:
From statues and sculptures around the world I travel back to London to a building that has become an iconic monument although tragically it was never meant to be one:

Grenfell Tower: a monument to the victims of neoliberalism


Grenfell Is a Monument to Tory Britain

I have written about Grenfell previously, for example with reference to plight of surviving residents, the implications for other similar buildings nationwide and the human response to the tragedy. See (for example):
To add to this a recent update as reported in The New York Times:

Nearly 10 months after the fire in London’s Grenfell Tower residential high-rise that killed at least 71 people, many of the families left homeless are still living in hotels or other temporary accommodations. More than 200 households were displaced by the fire on June 14 that ripped through the 24-story tower, whose residents were mostly low- and middle-income. Additionally, nearly 100 families from nearby towers damaged by the fire are also still in emergency accommodations, Dominic Raab, a junior housing minister, told lawmakers last week.

The local council that oversees the upkeep of Grenfell and the recovery process has spent about $280 million [£203 million] to secure new housing for the displaced families. Many of them complain, though, that they are dissatisfied with their options and that their needs are not being met. The council spent nearly $30 million [£22 million] alone on hotel bills between June and February, according to figures obtained by the Press Association under the Freedom of Information Act.

“We kept saying we didn’t want to live higher than the third floor or in a large tower block because of the trauma we went through,” said Asma Kazmi, a mother of three who survived the fire.

“For seven months, they showed us flats on high-up floors in big tower blocks,” she said, rolling her eyes.

“We just accepted temporary housing to get out of the hotel, but all this moving and limbo is really harming our children,” Ms. Kazmi added. “My 5-year-old is so confused and still asks me when we are going home.” ...

AND there’s this:

@JohnHealy_MP: This is shameful. Over 10 months on from the Grenfell Tower Fire, 100s of blocks still have dangerous cladding. Only SEVEN have had it replace. Ministers are refusing all funding help. Would it take so long if it was your home @theresa_may @sajidjavid?


So what is it that connects all of these statues and structures? For me it’s many things including: in/equality, social in/justice, the shame of political austerity, respecting the lives and legacies of those who fought against all of these things in the past by exercising our right to vote. 


Monday 23 April 2018

Evidence, what evidence? Experts, who needs them? Teachers, teaching, and other responsibilities and concerns | #VoteLabour3rdMay

Teachers on child poverty 
Earlier this month (April 2018) a survey released by the National Education Union (NEU) and the Child Poverty Action Group showed school staff reporting a significant rise in poverty amongst pupils. 87% of respondents said that poverty was affecting their students’ ability to learn and 60% noted that the effect of poverty on low-income school children had worsened since 2015. 

 Kevin Courtney, joint General Secretary of the NEU said: 

“The level of child poverty teachers and school staff are witnessing on a daily basis is having a dreadful effect on the life chances and education of far too many children and young people. It is shocking that in one of the richest countries in the world we have children without appropriate clothes or shoes, who go hungry every day, who cannot afford sanitary protection or who have no stationery to do their homework.…."

"Our Government cannot continue to preside over such inequality and misery."

Respondents believe that poverty is damaging children’s education and describe the daily critical situation of poor pupils as “heartbreaking.” Adding that: 

"... children are turning up at the school gates showing visible signs of poverty, such as grey skin and poor teeth, hair and nails…. pupils putting food in their pockets to take home because they’re not sure if they’re going to get another meal that day”.

Over half of those surveyed [900 heads, teachers and school support staff, all members of
the NEU] (53%) said that at least once a term they personally provide school equipment such as books and stationery; over a third said they provide food; more than a fifth are supplying PE or sports kit; 14% donate toys and play things; 10% provide sanitary protection; 10% provide other hygiene products; and 8% help with travel costs. With many doing so at least once a week. (above taken from 

(NB: see end of this piece for some extra points on child poverty, government callousness and cuts.)

Teachers on teaching

Also this month in a poll of teachers in England, conducted by the NEU, more than 80% of respondents reported that they have considered leaving the profession over the last year due to heavy workload and long hours. In a similar poll by the country's other main teaching union (NASUWT) 65% of respondents said they had seriously considered leaving teaching over the past 12 months. 

And yet:

...tackling retention may not only be a question of reducing the number of hours that teachers work. While unmanageable workload is clearly a “push factor”, it’s worth also reflecting on the “pull factors” – the reasons teachers join the profession in the first place, and what keeps them there. 

The point here is that in addition to issues of workload and home/work life balance the educational experience of pupils and the job-satisfaction of teachers is also important as: 

The desire to do everything possible to help young people can make it hard for teachers to switch off…. it’s easy to see how, in a culture of hyper-accountability, this sense of confidence in their own capability might be eroded. 

But what do they know? 

In response to the clear evidence of the rising amount of unhappiness amongst teachers the government response is:

"There are no great schools without great teachers and the record numbers choosing to work in our classrooms shows how desirable career it continues to be." 

Not true. For as Hannah Fearn reminded us in 2017: 

Early in September 2016 half of places on some teacher training courses sat empty whilst between 2010 and 2015 10,000 left the profession. Furthermore: 

In short, there simply aren’t enough teachers to educate our young people and it’s a crisis that is entirely politically manufactured.

Three years ago, half of teachers said they were considering leaving the profession. At that point, as well as dealing with a spiralling workload, they were also being insulted each morning on the radio, in the press or in parliament by the then Education Secretary Michael Gove. The very man who should have been fighting their corner in an age of cutbacks instead spent his days inventing some very creative names for teachers: “the blob”, the “enemies of promise”, “soft bigots” with “low expectations”. 

Fearn continued:

Teachers aren’t uniquely sensitive creatures; they are experts in their field and, by voting with their feet and leaving their vocation, they are sending a warning to the Government that something is seriously wrong.

It is not at all surprising that workload pressures along with the emotional distress and financial burdens and pressures resulting from austerity that teachers (and other public sector workers) are having to cope with leads to less people entering and more people leaving the profession. Shockingly, it's also not surprising that those in power are not listening. Not listening to the stresses teachers' are facing; not listening to the evidence of children, and their parents, suffering from food and other poverty; not listening to the stories of more and more children being too hungry to learn. Not surprising because there are many, many other examples of the dismissal of expertise by the Government and its Ministers. Just a couple of examples here:

Jeremy Hunt has accused Stephen Hawking of a “pernicious” lie after the physicist said it seemed the Tories were steering the UK towards a US-style health insurance system. Hours after the health secretary was criticised for claiming Hawking was wrong in the row about the government’s seven-day NHS plan, he leapt back into the fray with two tweets defending the Conservative party’s record on the health service….

In the speech, Hawking will accuse the health secretary of “cherrypicking” favourable evidence while suppressing contradictory research to suit his argument.


The Government ignored expert advice and made changes in 2015 that made it easier to buy dangerous acids that have been used in a spate of attacks in recent weeks…. Changes made in the Deregulation Act 2015 scrapped an obligation on sellers of dangerous substances, including acids, to be registered with their local council. The move was opposed by medical experts, who warned that it could make it easier for criminals to get their hands on highly toxic substances, and by the Government’s own advisory board on the regulation of hazardous chemicals…..

The changes … were against the recommendations of the Poisons Board, a panel of experts established to advise ministers on regulating the trade in dangerous substances, who favoured tightening, rather than weakening, regulations so that high concentrations of acid could be sold only by licensed pharmacists.

And perhaps it’s this example that makes clear the reasons for such dismissal:

… Theresa May has been criticised for leaving a leadership vacuum at the Social Mobility Commission, four months after Alan Milburn, its former chair, led a walkout from the advisory body…. “They are looking for someone more aligned to the government’s agenda and wary of the more academic types whose behaviour is harder to predict,” said one former Tory minister…. 



Some extra evidence (just this month) of child poverty, government callousness and cuts
As many as one in eight children stand to lose their entitlement to free school meals under new eligibility criteria introduced by the government, according to a leading spending watchdog. The Institute for Fiscal Studies said that although 210,000 children previously ineligible for free meals stand to gain under the new system, 160,000 pupils who were entitled to free meals under the old system stand to lose out.…The figures call into question claims made by senior government ministers that no child will lose eligibility for free school meals under the new criteria.
As many as 1,000 Sure Start children’s centres may have been shut down in England since 2010, double the official closure estimates, leaving the UK’s flagship early years programme “hollowed out” and in decline, a study has found. According to the Sutton Trust, an education and social mobility foundation, a lack of clarity in how individual centres are identified and changes are reported means official Figures  of 500 closures since 2010 are likely to be an underestimate. Funding cuts mean access to early years provision varies widely across the country, while many remaining centres offer only a fraction of the services they once did, the trust says, hampering social mobility and resulting in thousands of children missing out on vital services.
With reference to all of the above:  
@AngelaRayner:  Shocking "double whammy" attack on families by the Tories has been laid bare. Up to 160,000 children from poorer families losing free school meals eligibility. We have 1,000 sure start centre closures, more than double what the government has stated. Tories are failing families. (4th April 2018)

I have written about such issues previously also. See for example:

Friday 20 April 2018

Democracy, what democracy? | #VoteLabourMay3rd

The most political thing 

A little late to the party I have recently discovered Philomena Cunk. In the first episode of a new ‘mockumentary’ - Cunk on Britian (BBC 2) - Cunk (Diane Morgan) takes us through a whistle stop tour of the history of ‘The United Britain of Great Kingdom’. Along the way she interviews a series of experts managing to simultaneously appear interested and bored, confused and informed (if of a parallel history and world). In the first episode one of the experts was Robert Peston, political editor of ITV news. It’s fair to say that Peston, who I almost felt sorry for, was flummoxed by the question: ‘What is the most political thing that has ever happened in Britain?’ I found this surprising for, at least to me, the answer is obvious:

QUESTION: ‘What is the most political thing that has ever happened in Britain?’
ANSWER: Enfranchisement, that is the right to vote, within a democracy (a system of government by the whole population or all the eligible members of a state, typically through elected representatives). 

A little detail:

Pre-1832: Prior to the Great Reform Act, voting was dependent on three criteria – sex, age and property. Only men over the age of 21 were allowed to vote – and only if they owned property over a certain value. This was a way of making voting a rich man’s privilege, reinforced by small boroughs having more MPs than larger counties, which were predominantly inhabited by poorer workers. 
The Great Reform Act – 1832: In 1832, the Great Reform Act broadened the spectrum of voters to include the likes of landowners and shopkeepers as part of the property criteria. Householders paying more than £10 in annual rent were also given the vote – and the constituency boundaries were rearranged to make representation less unfair. The act still defined voters as ‘male persons’, and continued to exclude swathes of working class workers from elections. Subsequent reforms in 1867 and 1884 increased the electorate further with broader property and rental criteria. They also continued to make voting boundaries more fair, but failed to make any changes for women.
The Representation of the People Act – 1918: In February 1918, the Representation of the People Act made two major changes to voting criteria – it removed practically all property requirements for men over 21 and allowed women over 30 to vote. Property qualifications were kept in place when giving women over 30 the vote. Men in the armed forces aged 19 and over where given the vote. This landmark change for women came after 85 years of debate on the issue, with over 15 years of protests, militancy and hunger strikes by the Women’s Social and Political Union and Women’s Freedom League.
Equal Franchise Act – 1928: Women were given voting equality to men. In 1928, the Equal Franchise Act gave all women over 21 the right to vote, removing property requirements completely.
Representation of the People Act – 1969: The 1969 Representation of the People Act made many changes we’re familiar with today. The voting age was reduced to 18, with undergraduate students now allowed to vote in their university constituency. 
Currently there are campaigns to the extend voting rights to 16 and 17 year olds. These individuals can by law:
·         Give full consent to medical treatment
·         Leave school and enter work or training
·         Pay income tax and National Insurance
·         Obtain tax credits and welfare benefits in their own right
·         Consent to sexual relationships
·         Get married or enter civil partnerships
·         Change their name by deed poll
·         Become a director of a company
·         Join the armed forces
·         Become a member of a trade union or a co-operative society.
But do not have the right to vote.

Democracy OR Hypocrisy?

Energy (and apathy)

The General Election 2018 showed just how much people want to be part of the process, part of and energetic, inclusive movement that works 'for the many and not the few'. See (for example):

As one participant in a recent Labour Party Political Broadcast said 'Jeremy Corbyn, and the politics of the Labour Party, is an absolute inspiration. They can't say now, 'you're all alike', because they're not.' You can watch the broadcast here:

Of course there is more to do. Every vote matters. The turnout for the 2018 General Election was 68.7%, the highest since the 71.4% turnout in 1997. But how to engage the other 30% is only one of the concerns. Others include:

·         The Conservative Government’s discriminatory focus on the tiny issue of individual election fraud. See something I wrote previously:

·         Party political data protection and election fraud:  See (for example):

Democracy OR Kleptocracy? (Kleptocracy: a government with corrupt leaders (kleptocrats) that use their power to exploit and to extend personal wealth and political  power).

A funny thing happened on the way to the despatch box

Parliamentary privileges are the ancient and undoubted rights and privileges of the Commons that are claimed by the Speaker of the House at the beginning of each new Parliament. Most of these are now obsolete but some remain active including:

Freedom of speech: members speaking in the House are not liable for defamation.

This allows members of the House of Lords and the House of Commons to speak freely during ordinary parliamentary proceedings without fear of legal action on the grounds of slander, contempt of court or breaching the Official Secrets Act. 

Perhaps this explains why at PMQs the Prime Minister felt, a few weeks ago, secure enough to say of the Leader of the Opposition:

‘Normally he stands up every week and asks me to sign a blank cheque. I know he likes Czechs but…’

[NB: just one example of the false smears hurled at the Opposition, not to mention the many, many examples of less than honest responses to questions and queries on policy and practice, with the just the latest ‘lie’ or at the very least misleading of the HoC coming earlier this week in a PMQs focusing on the Windrush generation More on this another day].

This  'privilege' leads to boldness outside of the House exemplified not least by the infamous tweet a few weeks ago by Ben Bradley MP, leading to the following apology: 

And the following by MP Jacob Rees Mogg, said in an interview for Channel 4 News:  

“I’m unaware of any Brexiteer who is in favour of abandoning the Good Friday Agreement – it was Jeremy Corbyn, incidentally, who voted against the Good Friday Agreement when it came to Parliament.”

Who also, following much pressure (on twitter) 'apologised' or at least admitted his 'mistake':

@Jacob_Rees_Mogg: Mea culpa, I was wrong to say that Mr Corbyn voted against the Good Friday Agreement. He did not.

As many have noted the word ‘sorry’ seems to be missing from this (non)apology.

Political game-playing

We have a government (with sadly, shockingly, some cross-bench support) that do not appear to respect democracy in any way. Just a few of examples here:

-    Refusing to vote following Opposition Day Debates on issues such as the public sector pay gap, university tuition fees and the roll out of Universal Credit.  The votes following such debates are symbolic and not binding but it is widely believed, despite the Speaker of the House calling such behaviour a ‘mockery of parliamentary procedure’ that Tory whips must have considered it less embarrassing simply not to engage with the vote, and for their MPs to abstain. With specific reference to the debate and vote on Universal Credit  Annosh Chakelein argues: ‘Without having the guts to back its policy through a vote, it revealed both dismissiveness towards the people it’s supposed to help, and lack of confidence in its own reform.’  

-    Refusing to recall parliament for debate and discussion prior to the recent Syria airstrikes. One of the reasons given for which was the need for ‘secrecy’ ahead of the strike which is strange given that @realDonaldTrump had already tweeted about his (admittedly at times confusing) intentions. This despite strong suggestion, not least via opinion polls and anti-war demonstrations, that the public would have wished this to have happened.  Add to this the accusation made by SNP MP Stewart McDonald that the government ‘selectively’ offered intelligence and security briefings. He told the Commons:

"These briefings appear to have been offered to members of the Labour opposition not on the basis of privy counsellor status. But on the basis of those Opposition members who are sympathetic to the Government's position. That leads to concerns that the Government is using intelligence briefings to manipulate Parliament. And to bolster its own case for its behaviour on the Opposition benches - not on security terms, but on politics."  

-    Relatedly, resisting (and denying the origin of) the War Powers Act (the requirement for a parliamentary debate and vote before and military action):

- William Hauge March 2011: I vow to “enshrine in law […] the necessity of consulting Parliament on military action.
- William Hague 17 April 2018: The idea of “enshrining in law all the circumstances when ministers need to use armed force overseas was not practical”.

During his speech on this issue this afternoon (17th April 2018) Mr Corbyn said: ‘There is no more serious issue than sending our armed forces to war – that is why we are elected to this house, that is what our democratic duty requires us to do’.

Seems hard to disagree with this and yet:

This is just shocking, really. Juvenile interruptions and pointless interventions designed purely to disrupt Jeremy Corbyn's speech on a grave and serious matter. Tories really don't like democracy, do they?

Democracy. HAH.

AND FINALLY (for now)  – THIS posted on 17th April 2018.

@jeremycorbyn: This year, the Tories haven’t posted anything about registering to vote. They don’t want you to vote because they know they’ve failed you. This is your chance to send them a message on Thursday 3 May. Register to vote before tonight’s 11.59 deadline: