KEEP CALM & WORK YOURSELF TO DEATH

pension work dwp

by Jonathan Lee

New pension plans to work till you die are no cause for alarmsays arch-Tory overlord Ian Duncan Smith. A recent report from the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), the Tory think-tank which brought us Universal Credit, has recommended the government raise the retirement age from 65 to 70 by 2028, and to 75 by 2035.

The Tories are not content to simply make workers’ lives as miserable as possible through underfunding schools, unaffordable housing, food poverty, and the greatest devaluation of wages in modern history. They now seek to steal the last golden years of life from the majority of working class people who cannot afford a private pension in order to retire early.Continue Reading

WHY ISN’T EVERYONE A SOCIALIST?

by Jonathan Lee

It’s a dirty word for many who don’t really understand what it means. People often broadly sweep Socialism into a single ideology, which is much maligned as an unworkable and authoritarian regime, seemingly unsuitable for the modern day, and unpopular amongst the electorate.

I’ll start out being optimistic, and assume that this ignorance of what Socialism is explains why some people discount it out of hand. Because the premise of Socialism is generally one that I have to believe most people should aspire to in some way. “Every human being should be a moderate Socialist,” Thomas Mann said.

Why? Because Socialism is a general set of social, political, and economic views that places people first. And what’s the point of having a democratic society, in which we the people place power in the hands of a select few to manage our lives, if not to make things generally better for people as a whole?Continue Reading

CARING FOR THOSE WHO CARE

by James Anthony

Across the country during 11th-17th June, various individuals, charities and institutions will be celebrating Carers Week 2018 in recognition of unpaid carers and the work they do. That period will also mark just over two and a half months of my time working for a local carers charity. It’s opened my eyes to the issues that many carers face and what needs to change to improve their lives, but also to recognise the need to publicise Carers Week and recognise the contribution of carers to society as a whole.Continue Reading

WHY WAGES MATTER

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by Edward Grierson

It goes without saying that the current wage situation in the UK is not good. Following the disastrous speculation on the banks’ behalf that led to the recession, real wages for UK workers fell by 10.4% from 2007-2015, a decline only matched by Greece. Even worse has been the combination of this wage drop with the continued pay gap between employees and the people who employ them: as of 2015, the salary of a UK CEO was nearly 130 times that of the average UK worker’s salary.

The reason why this is a concern, why we should be worried about falling wages, surely is obvious.Continue Reading

WHO BENEFITS?

by Alice Thomson

cw: mentions of suicide

Hurray, 2018 is upon us. January always seems like a month of reflection and contemplation to me, mainly because nothing much happens, and most people are recovering from December. Although, I feel this way as I type, there is a niggling dread at the back of my mind for 2018. I’m probably not the only one that feels this way. A new year invites new opportunities, but it also means that these openings provide an element of risk or failure.Continue Reading

WE STAND ON A PRECIPICE – THE SNAP GENERAL ELECTION

world votes radical

by Chris Jarvis

With Theresa May having all but called an early General Election, on June 8th, the UK will go to the polls for yet another vote that will have long-reaching consequences for the future of the nation, the third in as many years. For the people of Scotland and Wales it will be the fourth – and those living in Northern Ireland will face their fifth. Right now, our political leaders can’t seem to get enough of sending people trudging out to schools, churches and community centres to scribble little pencil crosses in printed boxes.Continue Reading

NO LIMITS TO THE GREEN PARTY’S GROWTH

By Clive Lord

I almost invented the Green Party. Well, I only re-invented it a few months after it had been founded circa Christmas 1972. I attended a meeting as an enquirer in March 1973, at which I agreed with every word of the four actual founder members: the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) had just published Limits to Growth, which explained that indiscriminate economic growth could not go on for ever on a finite planet. It got one important fact wrong, and missed one other, but the gist was and is correct, and according  to the latest research by James Hansen, could be coming home to roost sooner than expected.

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ART: WHY DOES IT MATTER?

by Jess Howard

With the threat of terrorist attacks and war seeming to dominate every newspaper front page and website, it can be easy to ask if we should still place any importance on the visual arts. With daily news telling us that more and more people are dying, starving, or becoming homeless, many may ask if we should concern ourselves with art at all. But, when we really consider it, we can see that an aversion to what may be deemed frivolous and unnecessary is actually completely impossible.Continue Reading

I DID MY BEST TO LEARN THE RULES

by Robyn Banks

I did my best to learn the rules.
The world was a nice place,
children shared, we waited our turn,
we helped those in need and said thankyou and please.

The board was black and the chalk was white,
together we learned to read and write,
I tried to learn the rules.
There used to be racism,
there used to be war,
there used to be poverty and workhouses and suffering
but Martin Luther King had a dream and women won the vote
and everyone shared now, and waited their turn
and Tony Blair painted rainbow children on my primary school walls.Continue Reading

WORK UNTIL YOU’RE HEALTHY OR WORK UNTIL YOU’RE DEAD

by Natasha Senior

This is the message that Iain Duncan Smith and the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) have been espousing over the last five years as benefits sanctions become ever more stringent. And now we are starting to get closer to understanding just how far they’re willing to go. After mounting public pressure and many Freedom of Information requests, the DWP have been forced to publish statistics showing that over 2,300 people have died after losing their benefits following fit for work assessments.Continue Reading

THE BEATING HEART OF LABOUR

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by Natasha Senior

For the conservatives, the civil war waging within Labour is extremely fortuitous. Their borderline majority in the House of Commons was nothing to celebrate especially as they fully inherited the fractured Britain that they’d created in their last government and now the party itself is even starting to buckle under the pressure of growing Euroscepticism. Instead of capitalising on this unrest by raising up arms against them, the left-wing are too distracted by the arms they’ve raised against each other.

In the meantime the Tories have been getting away with murder. We don’t bat an eyelid as they rebrand the living wage, cut tax credits, and extend plans for fracking. This metaphorical war is starting to have very real consequences and if Labour cannot unite beyond the leadership election then without a strong opposition, these sinister policies will grow in size and intensify.Continue Reading

THE DWP FIGURES WON’T MATTER IN OUR CULT OF THE PUBLIC PURSE

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by Robyn Banks

Over the past few months, a lot has been made of the apparently soon to be released DWP statistics on the number of people who have died after their benefits were stopped. Over 235,000 people signed a petition asking for them to be released, but the government has been accused of constant stalling in an effort to keep the real number hidden. The DWP claims they are stalling because they plan to release the statistics in a more contextual and understandable fashion, arguing that the statistics alone “. . . were likely to be misinterpreted. Specifically, incorrect conclusions were likely to be drawn as to causal links between assessment outcomes and mortality. Such misinterpretations would be contrary to the public interest, particularly given the emotive and sensitive context of mortality statistics”.

This makes sense, especially given the ability of statistics to be misinterpreted and used for one’s own ends. It might not be clear, for example, how many of those people would have died anyway from terminal illness, as benefits are stopped when a person enters hospital, or how many of those benefits were stopped for legitimate reasons. The well-known 10,600 figure which circulated earlier in the year turned out to include not only those who had their benefits stopped 6 weeks before their death, but those who had them stopped 6 weeks after. Far from having a hand in the deaths of 10,600 people, the government may have simply stopped the benefits of 10,600 people who were already dead. But to my mind, we don’t need to use an impersonal number to criticise our benefits system.

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THE GATHERING STORM OF AUSTERITY

by Natasha Senior

The People’s Assembly Against Austerity national End Austerity demonstration takes place on Saturday 20th June. Assemble: 12pm, Bank of England (Queen Victoria Street). March to: Parliament Square. 

Like a storm in the sea sending a tidal surge our way, the past 5 years under austerity tell us of looming devastation.  We saw it gather momentum on the horizon, as the waves of cuts started to roll in — pay freezes for the public sector, caps on benefits and cuts to social housing. This left in its wake a falling GDP per capita, a decline in affordable housing, and the rise of food banks. And now that those responsible for this have been re-elected, we are shamelessly informed that the storm is not over, the worst is yet to come and we will not be rescued.Continue Reading

FIGHT AUSTERITY – MARCH ON THE STATE OPENING OF PARLIAMENT

by Hannah Sketchley, National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts

The State Opening of Parliament is a frankly bizarre occasion.  In the heat of the sun, lots of people wearing ludicrous uniforms parade around Parliament Square and the surrounding area, do a bit of figure marching and fence the public out of their roads to make way for the Queen.  Following the poor woman being wheeled around in what looks to be a terribly uncomfortable gilded coach for several hours, in and out of the figure marching furry hats, she toddles into Westminster, reads a speech someone shoves in front of her and bang!  The new government is consecrated, official and running the country for the next five years.

This year, the State Opening of Parliament is on Wednesday, May 27, and the Tories will have their government legitimised by every flavour of pomp and circumstance going.  They will do so with just 37% of the vote, and with the consent of 24% of eligible voters in the UK.Continue Reading

RALLY AGAINST AUSTERITY NORWICH

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by Jack Brindelli

At 12 noon on the 30th of May, hundreds of ordinary people will gather in Norwich’s Haymarket, as the Norfolk People’s Assembly hosts the local wing of a national day of action against the new Conservative majority government, after the general election earlier this month. We at the People’s Assembly are steadfastly opposed to the Tories vicious plans for Britain, and the implications they will have for the people of Norfolk. On David Cameron’s watch as Prime Minister, the country has become bitterly divided along the lines of wealth inequality. His government’s cuts have shamefully targeted society’s most vulnerable – from the disabled, to the unemployed.

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SILENCE OF THE LAMBS IN THE AUSTERITY ELECTION

by David Peel

When you think of anti-austerity movements changing the face of national and international politics, you don’t think of Britain.

Greece and Spain, yes. Ireland to an extent. Portugal, Italy, and of course Iceland, where the people ousted the government, put the corrupt bankers in jail, and then rewrote the constitution. But here? Well, this is a country that once beheaded its king, and during the civil war produced movements and ideas of freedom and social justice far, far ahead of its times.

Has there been a mass character transplant of the British people in all its diversity and wondrous multi-culturalism? Have we become lambs to the slaughter?
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FUEL POVERTY DAY OF ACTION

by Clare Welton, Fuel Poverty Action.

This Friday, November 28th, pensioners will lead a march from Charing Cross to Energy UK – the Big Six energy company’s lobby body – under the banner ‘No More Deaths from Fuel Poverty: Energy Rights Now!’

Why? Because this is the day that the Office of National Statistics will also be releasing the numbers of ‘Excess Winter Deaths’ in Winter 2013/2014 – and it’s estimated that at least 30% of these deaths caused by the impacts of living in a cold home. Shockingly, this means that in the Winter of 2012/2013 there were more than 10,000 deaths in the UK from cold homes (with 31,100 Excess Winter Deaths recorded in total), whilst in the same year the Big Six energy companies – British Gas, E.On, EDF Energy, npower, Scottish Power and SSE – made £3.7billion in pure profit.

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THE GREEN SURGE IS EXCITING – BUT NOT SURPRISING

by Georgia Elander

Things are looking good for the Green Party. This week the Green candidate in the Rochester and Strood by-election won nearly five times as many votes as the Liberal Democrat candidate; a YouGov poll revealed that the percentage of people who would vote for a Green candidate with a chance of winning is greater than the percentage of people who would vote for a UKIP candidate who could win; and this week too, the Greens polled at 8% nationally – a record high. In recent weeks, the party have outpolled the Lib Dems on several occasions, and membership as well as vote share is rising – the party has grown 80% this year alone.

When you look at the current political landscape of the UK, this success is not really surprising.Continue Reading

NORWICH CLAIMANTS UNION

by Norwich Claimants Union (NCU)

The Norwich Claimants Union represents the coming together of claimants, workers, union representatives and city councillors to oppose and intervene in government policy regarding the deliberate and calculated erosion of the welfare state. To achieve this, the government supported by the mainstream has demonised claimants. They have become the scapegoat for our failing economy and societal degradation.

Since the recession of 2008 this campaign against claimants has gathered momentum. However it is worth remembering that the recession, bank bailouts and austerity programs was the result of the miss selling of financial products, namely derivatives. The effect was to transfer wealth away from our financial system and into the hands of a relatively small number of ruling capitalist elite.Continue Reading

IMAGINING THE POOR: NOTES ON POVERTY AND WELFARE

by Steffan Smith

Who are the poor? Why are they poor? And what keeps them so? These three simple questions are central to the way in which we as a society approach the welfare needs of our poorest people.

To sift society’s answers, of which there are many variants, quickly reveals that there are two major and contradictory ways of understanding the source of poverty. The first way of thinking puts the individual at the centre of the picture, seeing affluence and destitution as straightforwardly reflective of individual worth; this is a central tenet of the right wing worldview. By contrast, the second way sees the individual as a small part of a larger system that they cannot dictate, pawns of varying levels of power cutting a path within set bounds; this is fundamental to the left wing worldview.Continue Reading