Archive for February, 2012


Homelessness – The shadows grow longer under this Government. A guest post from Richard Brooks.








Hubert Humphrey, the ‘Happy Warrior’ who championed liberal causes across a vast swathe of the 20th century, once said that “The moral test of a government is how it treats those who are at the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the aged; and those who are in the shadow of life, the sick, the needy, and the handicapped.”

It would now be appropriate to list, in descending order, alphabetically and in a pavlovian manner, all the things which I believe this Coalition government is doing to increase poverty, inequality and suffering in Britain, today. Needless to say, I don’t have that sort of time – no one does – so instead I will focus on something particularly close to my heart, and an issue that Hull University Labour Club have been working on recently.

Homelessness is an issue that is so big, and so permanent, that it is hard not to be overwhelmed by it. It casts a shadow as large as the sun’s over our prosperous society, so people choose to stay inside. But you can’t hide forever, you have things to do, a life. When you do venture outside, there the shadow is; huddled in the shop doorway, hiding from the cold in cafe or walking past you in the street. This is homelessness in the United Kingdom, in 2012, shamefully invisible. How do you destroy something that you can not see?

One of the main problems with tackling homelessness, is that there is a severe dearth of information about it in general knowledge; much of it self imposed. It is our society’s hidden shame. Crisis, the U.K’s leading charity for single homeless people, estimate that there are around 400,000 hidden homeless people at any one given time in the United Kingdom, right now. How can such a large number of people, so obviously in desperate need of society’s help, escape our attention? Another huge problem is defining who exactly needs that help.

It’s a simple problem, but a serious one. What homelessness ‘is’ has different connotations, depending on who you ask. Shelter define Homelessness as ‘not having a home – most people who are homeless don’t sleep on the street. Even if you have a roof over your head you can still be homeless. This is because you may not have any rights to stay where you live or your home might be unsuitable for you due to severe overcrowding or other reasons.” This is not how most of the population define ‘being homeless’.

Even if the extent of the problem is acknowledged, the homeless community are stigmatised and prejudiced against in wider society. They are often labelled as drug using layabouts, who bring their problems upon themselves. These wild accusations are neither true, nor fair. The idea that the homeless population are a sub-set of society, different to me or you, is a fantasy at best, and at worst, something far more sinister. A recent survey showed that 1 in 4 people have a serious fear of losing their home. Millions of people are genuinely afraid of being forced out of their homes. This is no way to live.

Due to the shocking nature of these statistics, the sheer scale in number of those affected, it would be foolish to not assume that a government priority would be to tackle this shameful situation. Consider yourself a fellow fool, as this Government’s current actions seem to be indicating the exact opposite.

The fact of the matter is, that this Tory-Led Coalition are assailing the most vulnerable in society, in a three- pronged attack unseen since the British invasion of Canada in 1760.

Firstly, they choke off any form of economic growth with their deficit reduction plan which results in a huge rise in unemployment, especially for the young. This means that far more people have to rely on the the benefit system, which is then promptly ‘reformed’ so that the only safety net for many people is taken away. If the worst should happen, and people do find themselves in abject poverty or even homeless, their rights are threatened – through measures such as the criminalisation of squatting – or the services designed to help them are no longer operating, due to withdrawal in funding. These actions are morally reprehensible and shows an almost herculean level of callousness.

To you, I say this – this Conservative led Government has failed this test of morality disastrously, for the ill of millions of people across the United Kingdom. Homelessness – in all its forms – is unacceptable in the 21st Century, especially in a country as prosperous and developed as the United Kingdom. But this government’s policies are making the situation worse, not better.

The real deficit here – is not of one of government expenditure, but one of a lack of common human decency, and respect for our fellow man.  I too, long for the day, when the books are balanced.

Richard Brooks is a nineteen year old politics student and has been an active campaigner for several years. He is the Campaigns Officer for Hull University Labour, leading their HomeLESS campaign. He enjoys Being Human, lasagne & Escalators. 


Guest Post – “You have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.”

Dr Éoin Clarke the Chair of the LabourLeft thinktank and has his own fantastic blog you can access here. This is another one of his recent posts that we found particularly inspiring.

“You have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.”

The words above were spoken by Winston Churchill in his first HoC speech when he accepted the role of Prime Minister in 1940. I think they sum up what each member of the public can do over the next 10 days to kill this NHS Bill. If everyone who opposes the Tory NHS Bill did half of what I lay out below, Lansley’s bill will fail. On the 22/02/12 Labour have secured a debate & vote on the Risk Register. We will fight and we will be right. See the 10 things you can do yo help below.

1. Pressure your closest MP to signing the EDM 2659 which calls for the publication of an NHS Risk Register. The Labour leadership have cleared all MPs to sign it (see here). This Register, if published, will help persuade Tory MPs to oppose the bill as its warnings play to their fears about the soaring costs as a result of the bill.

2. Email MPs who live in marginal seats to explain to them that 23 million oppose the NHS Bill (here) & if they don’t vote with Labour on 22/02/12 then we will contact their constituents every day to polling day in 2015 to highlight the damage the new bill causes to the delivery of healthcare in their seat. You can get their emails (here)

3. 27% of the UK voters do not understand the contents of the NHS bill. They do not know that their taxes will go to foreign private shareholders who will take over the running of parts of our NHS. Please just take out the time to educate your fellow ‘man’. It might be sufficient to simply post them the NHS song that communicates it well. You can see the song (here)

4. This Bill is a matter of trust in David Cameron. Thus far people have wrongly applied their pressure to Lansley. Henceforth, bring all your topline pressure, attacks and argument to bear upon the PM. He lied to voters. If it is made clear to Cameron that this bill will rest on his head, his desire for self preservation may get the better of him.

5. You can contact the House of Lords Peers who will be voting on the Bill this week. The Lords under the Salisbury Convention could feel justified in blocking this bill on the grounds that there is no mandate for it since it was omitted from Manifestos, and the coalition agreement is for want of a better word ‘bastardised’. Plea with the Lords to heed the cries of the voiceless, implore upon them the need to fulfil their moral duty. We have seen before that the Lords are prepared to take on this coalition. Contact the lords (here) & (here)

6. This is also a matter of corruption. Take a look at the funding Tories have received from private health companies including overseas ones. If you know lawyers, seek their advice on making formal complaints about the ethics of Tory healthcare funding. It is not important if your complaint succeeds, much more important is the stink it creates & the bad publicity that comes with it. Bloggers will help draw your attention to Tory corruption over the next 10 days to make this task easier for you.

7. Avoid other political distractions. The amount of tittle tattle I read daily from good UK socialists about the American election makes me sad, simply because in this dark hour it drains focus and energy from the goal at hand. The US election coverage will still be here in 10 days time. If you could put it to one side in your effort to fight this NHS bill, you will not regret it.

8. Single-mindedness will win the day. The Tories will try to distract and split the opponents of the bill by asking contingency questions. For example, “which bits are most unpalatable?”, or “how will we cope with the chaos if the bill fails”. Do not enter into dialogue on this basis. Our bottom line is that we want the bill defeated. Once we succeed, those considerations can follow afterwards. So, stay united on the main goal. We want the Bill halted.

9. Many of you have signed the NHS petition. It was actually the first petition I think I have ever signed on the government website. I thought it would be complicated but it takes about 15 seconds. You can ask others to sign the NHS petition from this link. If we get 100,000 votes we might be lucky that the Bill receives another day of debate in the House of Commons. But Sunny Hundal is right to advise that we place most focus on the Risk Register publication.

10. Most important of all, divide and conquer will help us beat this bill. Heap praise on the thirteen Lib Dem MPs who signed the EDM to publish the Risk Register, shower them with positive publicity. Say kind things about those who risk their career to block this bill. A lot of MPs secretly oppose this bill but are too scared to break ranks. If we in Labour reach out the hand of friendship to people who ordinarily would not be our allies then we can create the new alliances necessary to win this fight. Nobody likes to be disliked, least of all Lib Dems. Turning the vote into a popularity contest can sway MPs more than they would care to admit.

Let’s do this! Future generations will speak of the men & women who saved their NHS if you can stand with us this once, together, and defeat this Goliath of a Coalition. We have democracy & righteousness on our side, all that is left of us is to fight.


3 Policies for a better Britain…

We’re all quite depressed right now aren’t we? The Coalition are ruining our country. Cheer yourself up! what policies would you put in if you were in government? These are just three of mine…

Nationalised railways

It has become abundantly clear over the last decade that the privatisation of the railways and more crucially the way in which this was done, has resulted in the UK having a overly complex, overly wasteful and completely unaccountable rail system where the public purse  pays for the vast majority of the investment and the private companies reap the rewards.

Whilst I welcome the Government increasing the lengths of franchises in order that private companies will hopefully invest more, I do not believe that this companies can truly be relied on to do so as the increasing overcrowding, increasing ticket prices and increasing overall dissatisfaction in the railways shows that profit is clearly the only aim of these companies and they know people will still use the railways so long a they do eventually get them from A to B.

Clearly the simplest solution is to nationalise the railways (at least initially) in order to secure the accountability that is lacking so much currently. it is obvious that a situation where the track, rolling stoke and stations are owned by different companies is incredibly problematic and only solution seems to be to nationalise. when my train is late I currently have three entities who may be to blame; the train company? is it transpenine’s fault for not building a correct timetable around passengers (or customers which we are now referred to), is it the track maintenance? is Network Rail to blame? Or is it the company that runs a station for a particular bottleneck at a particular time?.

With a nationalised system the blame game, which now costs the railways an extortionate amount, is ended. British Rail would also not have to negotiate with different companies to run an improvement program or create a timetable or fix problems in the system. British Rail should be re- created as a unified body with the sole aim of improving the passengers experience. No longer should the taxpayer be pitted against the rail passenger as they are all to often one and the same, increase the standard of transport and you perform a vital service for both.

Robin hood tax

I can’t explain this better than Bill…

for more information click here.

National living wage

For some time in the uk there has been an argument about benefits. There is agreement (not always a universal agreement) that often the benefits system does not result in an adequate incentive to go back into employment as often wages can be worth less than the benefits one can derive from not working. It seems to this humble observer that the left and right both pose plausible resolutions to this situation, but that the left’s solution is superior by virtue of its moral worth.

The Conservatives (as well as many of their lib-dem) lapdogs seem intent on what is essentially a race to the bottom with benefits being lowered and given to less people in order to effectively force them to work for whatever wage they can get with the only alternative being destitution.

Labour’s introduction of a minimum wage reversed this and set in play a race to the top. The problem now is people are again arguing that benefits are too high and don’t act as an incentive to work. The next and only logical step is to introduce a Living Wage. The Living wage is currently calculated at £7.20 per hour outside london and £8.30 per hour in London and is aimed to let “every worker in the country…earn enough to provide their family with the essentials of life.” (more information can be found here).

One very important caveat, however, is that, small businesses must be given as much help as possible to be able to afford such wage.


Guest Post- Restoring faith in Labour? – open up the technocratic regime

Labour activist and politics student at the University of Sheffield Nathan Tanswell has written this remarkable post just for us, hopefully we’ll coax him back to write a few more soon!

Party politics in the UK is becoming increasingly professionalised, and sadly the Labour Party has been far from immune from this phenomenon. MP’s are increasingly being ‘flown in’ to safe seats after climbing the greasy pole – a pole that becomes significantly more greasy if the aspiring candidate has little income and capital. This has created a semi-technocratic regime and the implications are devastating for the health of our democracy; how can MPs that have never even been to a constituency before being selected to stand as a candidate for it ever hope to relate to local people and local issues?

Both common sense and evidence suggests that the most successful MPs (in terms of democratic satisfaction) are likely to be those that were born and bred in the constituencies they represent.

Whilst I recognise that voter turnout doesn’t measure the concept of democratic satisfaction fully, information on it is easily accessible so I’ll use it here for examples. The Liberal Democrats have been highly successful in Cheltenham in recent years due to the candidate being local. In the 2010 General Election, Cheltenham had a turnout of 61% and Martin Horwood secured over 50% of the vote. In contrast, the Labour candidate in the constituency has changed every year in the past 20 years. Take the example of Chris Evans, the 2005 candidate. Born in Rhondda Valleys, he stood in Cheltenham in 2005 and lost, before being ‘flown in’ to Iswyn for the 2010 election; a safe seat which he won with a majority of 49%. It is of course highly unlikely that Labour would have won Cheltenham with a local candidate, but it is they probably would have done better as local candidates know the local issues and build up a rapport with constituents – a necessary aspiration if Labour is ever to succeed again in the south.

So, how to achieve more local representation in parliament? I believe the answer lies in extending working class representation. Working class individuals that have worked in the area for years often know its nuances well. There are political opportunities for such individuals, such as becoming local councillors, but the allowances are often meagre and possibilities for progression to national government poor. Local government used to be an important pathway for working class people, but as it was eroded in the 1980s under the Thatcherism it became an increasingly difficult path to tread.

Restoring more power to local government and bringing the local closer to the national is a key step towards restoring democratic satisfaction in the UK, especially in the Labour Party.

However, it would not be viable to source all MPs this way, and there will always be room for young politically enthused individuals with intelligence and expertise to become MPs through climbing the greasy pole and entering the Westminster Bubble. Increasingly paid work in Westminster requires several years experience of working in Westminster – usually as an unpaid intern- as a necessary criteria for application. This restricts opportunities in Westminster to those that have rich parents that can fund the expensive living costs London is so notorious for, contributing to structured inequality, bolstering the technocratic regime. The cost of this is dear – political disaffection and inefficacy – a decline in the health of our democracy.

There are of course more routes than need to be opened up to diversify the intake of the parliamentary Labour Party, but these represent some of the most significant today.

These issues, whilst vital for the health of our democracy overall, are especially important for Labour. As a party that is rooted in the cooperative movement, trade unions and the working classes, Labour needs candidates that can relate to local issues, local people and indeed working class people – not privileged technocrats that treat politics as a middle class profession as opposed to what it really is; a public service.


Guest Post: RIP NHS 1948 – 2012

Tome Pride has an excellent blog which you can view here. His mostly satirical posts tend to give much solace to many when we are at our wits end with the actions of this government. Here’s his most recent post, which is, frankly, pretty brilliant. 

What the f*** is going on?

Is everyone half-asleep?

There’s less than 3 months left to save the NHS and it’s hardly even news.

Once the government’s Health & Social Care Bill receives royal assent, it will be the end of the NHS.

What does that mean?

The Bill will create an independent NHS Board, promote patient choice by increasing competition, and reduce NHS administration costs.




The bill is nearly completed – it’s already been through the House of Commons and is nearly through the House of Lords – who have little power to stop it becoming law anyway.

Once it receives royal assent it will be law. This is where we are now:

That means we’re in the final days of universal health care free at the point of need in the UK.

How did we get to this point? This government has no mandate to privatise the NHS. It was in neither the Conservative Party or the Liberal Democrat’s election manifestos.

In fact, the Tories said the NHS was safe in their hands and there would be no top down reorganisation of the National Health Service.

Both parties lied.

And now, after just over 60 years in existence the NHS is about to be killed off. And that will be that.

Is there anything we can do?

Not much. Except this. Find out your MP’s next surgery. It doesn’t matter what party he or she is from, make an appointment as soon as possible and ask them one question.

Do you believe in democracy?

Presuming they say yes, then ask them what they are doing to oppose this bill when no-one in Britain voted for it.

Don’t let them dodge the question by getting into a discussion about private vs public / Labour vs Conservative or whatever. Stick to the question – nobody voted for these reforms, they were not in any party manifesto so what are you doing to oppose this undemocratic bill being passed?

Remember, there is only one thing MPs really care about. Winning their own seat at the next election. This is even more important to them than their own party winning the next election.

If they think they will be losing constituency votes, they will do whatever it takes to save their precious little asses.

In fact that’s a good definition of democracy.

Elected officials being forced to do the right thing in order to save their precious little asses.

Let’s hope it helps save our precious NHS.

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