Category Archives: politics

Eight Reasons to Vote Labour Tomorrow

This election campaign has felt like an emotional rollercoaster. I have gone from despair when the election was called and it seemed as though the Conservatives were guaranteed to win by a landslide, to anger at some of the things said by the Conservatives, fear at what another five years of this government could mean for our public services, and hope that real change could be possible. I feel privileged to have been actively involved in a campaign that has been like no other. There are many, many reasons to vote Labour tomorrow and it would take up too much valuable campaigning time to go into all of them in depth so here are just a few.

  1. The NHS This is perhaps the most important issue in the election campaign. Labour are pledging to increase funding for the NHS. They believe strongly in the principle of the NHS whereas the Conservatives believe in privatisation and Jeremy Hunt has said he would like to see it privatised. Theresa May is planning to force NHS trusts to sell off their land and properties cheaply to the rich. Just imagine what a privatised NHS would be like. Receiving a bill for tens of thousands of pounds for a stay in hospital. Having to sell your house because your child needs an operation.
  2. Schools As a teacher and a parent, education is extremely important to me. Our state schools are being starved of much needed funds by the Conservatives. Labour would give them the funding they need. Check out schoolcuts.org.uk for more details.
  3. School Dinners Hungry children cannot learn. Making sure every child has a nutritious meal is an important step towards reducing inequality of opportunity between rich and poor.
  4. Tuition Fees When I went to university I did not have to pay tuition fees and I had a full grant. I left university with a very small overdraft which I quickly paid off as soon as I started working. The prospect of starting out in life with a huge debt is putting off talented young people from entering higher education. This can’t be good for our economy and it is holding young people back and stopping them from reaching their potential. We need to invest in the education of our young people. It is an investment that will pay off in the long run because graduates earn more and therefore pay more tax. With a university education, these young people will make a positive contribution to our economy.
  5. Nationalisation Labour will bring back services such as energy and Royal Mail into public ownership where they belong. In the long run this will make money for the economy as profits will go to the state rather than private companies. At the moment, when privatised companies make a loss they ask taxpayers to bail them out but when they make a profit they give it to their shareholders. That can’t be right.
  6. Council Houses Labour have pledged to build more council & housing association homes. These are desperately needed as private rents have been allowed to soar under the Conservatives and are out of reach of many families. Theresa May only a few days ago made a U turn on her pledge to build more council housing.
  7. Living Wage The Conservatives claim to have brought in the Living Wage. This is a lie. They have slightly increased the minimum wage but it is not a living wage. The living wage is set by the Living Wage Foundation and it currently stands at £8.45 per hour outside of London. Labour would introduce a minimum wage of £10 per hour. This money will be spent in our economy and it will mean that taxpayers no longer have to subsidise employers who don’t pay enough; the tax credit bill will go down.
  8. Our Leader Jeremy Corbyn is exactly what this country needs at the moment. His honesty, integrity and compassion have really won over people who in the past saw politicians as all being the same. His manifesto is bold. The big surge in support for Labour during this campaign coincided with the release of the manifesto. This manifesto would not have happened without Corbyn. Before Corbyn, Labour were voting with the conservatives in favour of austerity. He is the strong and stable leader that Britain needs.

A different kind of politics is possible. A fairer society is possible. Vote Labour on June 8th. For the many, not the few.

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Seven Personal Highlights of 2016

Politically, 2016 was a terrible year, what with Brexit and Trump. I didn’t want to write a depressing, negative round up of the year so I am writing a more personal post about some of the high points  for me – things I’ve done and places I’ve been.

  1. Summer holiday in Majorca. We went on our usual all inclusive week in the sun, where the children can eat as much ice-cream as they like, and I can drink as many watered down cocktails in plastic cups, and nobody has to do any cooking or housework. The highlight of the week was a visit to the Caves of Drach which was memorable and spectacular and included a concert in a cave with the musicians floating on a boat. Well worth a visit if you’re in the area. 
  2. My mum’s 80th birthday. It’s not every day you turn 80 and my mum threw a great party for family and friends featuring a drumming workshop. My mum really knows how to live! I made a giant birthday cake which was intended to be covered with raspberries until I realised how much raspberries cost in October. 
  3. I asked a question on Question Time! This has to be my absolute highlight of the year. I was very lucky to be selected to be in the audience because about a thousand people applied and they only chose 150. Then I was even luckier to have my question selected as everyone submitted a question but only about four were used on the show. It was so exciting and for a long time afterwards people came up to me and said they saw me on the show. You can watch me ask my question here. Please do watch the whole of the clip as the ensuing discussion is very good, especially Ken Loach’s contribution. 
  4. Christmas in Italy. I managed to find cheap flights with Ryanair so that all four of us could fly to Italy for a week over Christmas for less than  £200. We stayed with my husband’s sister in Merano which is a pretty town near the Austrian border. We were hoping for snow but sadly we were disappointed. The boys got to spend time with their cousins and I got to drink plenty of the local vin brulé. The best  bit of the week was a visit to the thermal pools at the Hotel Terme. We sat in a hot, bubbly pool watching the sun set behind a mountain. A fantastic way to end the week. 
  5. Getting a grade one in my teaching observation. Just about every time I’ve had a graded observation, the observer awards me a grade 2 with aspects of grade one. I am always told that my lesson would have been a grade one if it hadn’t been for one little thing that they made up that means I am merely good and not outstanding. But in my latest observation I finally achieved that elusive grade 1 which I guess means I am officially an outstanding teacher.
  6. One of the most memorable family outings of the year has to be our trip to Birdland at Bourton on the Water. This is where my 9-year-old’s obsession with penguins began. 
  7. Association of Teachers and Lecturers Annual Conference. This is a fantastic event held every year in Liverpool. This year I was chosen to be on a panel of ten people to meet Nick Gibb, the minister for schools and ask him questions. We gave him a good grilling. 

Five Parallels between Brexit andTrump

puzzle-268905_960_720On November 8th I went to bed feeling cautiously optimistic. Surely the American public can’t really elect someone like Donald Trump, I thought. The polls were putting Hilary Clinton in the lead.  I awoke the next morning and listened to the news in shocked disbelief. It was a feeling I remembered from June when, on the day of the EU referendum I also went to bed with the same optimism that surely everything would be OK, surely we wouldn’t really vote to turn our backs on the organisation that had protected me and safeguarded me all of my adult life, and I also woke to the devastating news of a terrifying unknown future.

That feeling of sickening dread and disbelief was so similar to how I felt the morning after the EU referendum that it got me thinking about other ways in which the two events were alike.

  1. The Polls. All through the EU referendum campaign the polls put Remain ahead. Sometimes Leave managed to close the gap a little but they were always far enough behind to make a victory for Leave look unlikely . Likewise during the US election campaign, although at times Trump managed to inch forwards in the polls he never got close enough to make a Republican win seem at all likely .
  2. The Lies. There were so many lies told by the leave campaigners that I wrote a blog post on the subject which you can read here. Trump’s campaign also did not let the truth get in the way of success. Trump said that Hilary Clinton wanted to let anyone come into the USA without doing anything about it. Trump also claimed that Obama founded ISIS and Hilary Clinton was the co-founder. I could go on but Trump’s lies would need a blog post all to themselves.
  3. The Slogans. Some of the slogans used by the Leave campaigners were remarkably similar to Trump’s slogans. “Let’s take back our country!” “Make America /Britain great again!” These slogans are actually completely meaningless but I can see how they might sound appealing if you don’t think too deeply about their lack of meaning.
  4. Targeting immigrants. With Trump it was Mexicans. With Brexit it was EU migrants and also, rather strangely, Turks, who are not even in the EU. Outlandish claims abounded about how many would arrive and what they would do .
  5. Hate crime. Perhaps partly as a result of number 4 above, hate crimes against foreigners increased after the referendum result and now sadly the same thing is happening in the USA. Trump’s appeal to the perpetrators to “stop it” is perhaps one of the most insincere things I’ve ever heard him say. I don’t think people suddenly started hating foreigners when before they hadn’t, but they believed that the vote legitimised their hatred. Whereas before they kept their hateful opinions to themselves, now they feel they have the right to act on them.

It has been said many times that the popularity of Trump and of Brexit are due to the fact that politicians are not listening to ordinary people. These are protest votes by people wanting change. But is this really the sort of change we want? By all means let’s protest and demand change but not like this. We are better than this.

Six Things you might not Know about BBC Question Time 

  1. Last week I was lucky enough to be picked to be in the audience of BBC Question Time when it came to Gloucester. I even had my question selected which meant that I got to read it out. This was quite an accomplishment as 1000 people had applied to be in the audience, 150 were chosen and all of those 150 submitted at least one question.

This was my question:

I asked this question because Ken Loach himself was on the panel. He was brilliant; I recommend looking up the episode on iplayer or YouTube just to listen to Ken Loach .
Here is a video of my fifteen minutes of fame:  http://linkis.com/www.youtube.com/EfscJ

It was an amazing experience finding out about the show and being part of it. Here are six interesting facts about the programme that I learned .

  1. It is not broadcast live but it is filmed all in one go and broadcast exactly as filmed with no editing. They didn’t even bleep out the four letter word that one audience member used. We finished filming about an hour before it went on the air, giving me enough time to get home, pour myself a glass of wine and go on Facebook to tell all my friends to watch .
  2. You get tea, coffee and biscuits when you arrive.
  3. David Dimbleby is a lovely gentleman . He spoke to us all in a room before we started filming about what we should and shouldn’t do. (Do boo if you disagree with what someone is saying; don’t say hi to your mum.) He chatted and joked with us in a very natural and genuine way so you would never guess,  if you didn’t know, that he must make the same jokes to a different audience every week .
  4. They have a practice run with members of the audience sitting in for the panel in order to test the cameras and the sound. This is when someone reads all the questions and selects the ones to be used in the show.
  5. You only get to know just beforehand if your question has been picked. They interrupt the practice run to read out the names of the successful people who are then taken outside the room for a quick talk on how to read your question which is handed back to you printed on a piece of paper. Even then you can’t be sure that your question will be used because they have to pick more questions than they need just in case the debate dries up on one particular topic.
  6. The panel don’t know  what the questions are going to be so they have to think on their feet which some of them do better than others.

Three Lies Told by the Leave Campaigners

Many of the claims made by both sides in the EU Referendum campaign cannot be substantiated without a crystal ball, because we simply don’t know what might happen if we leave the EU. Some claims, however, can be shown to be untrue with a little common sense, or simply by walking into any supermarket in the EU. If I were to write about all the fibs and fabrications they have told I wouldn’t finish this before June 23rd, so I have just picked my three favourite falsehoods.
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  1. Boris’s Bunches of Bananas Brexit Blunder. Boris Johnson has said that the EU do not let us sell bananas in bunches of more than three. A quick trip to any supermarket in the EU will prove that this is a lie, as you can see from my photo above.
  2. Tall Tales about Turkey. Vote Leave told us that Turkey were about to join the E, suggesting that the entire population of Turkey – some 76 million – were poised to land on our shores. In actual fact Turkey will not be able to join the EU for many years, if at all. They first applied to join in 1987, and since then, just one of the “chapters” that must be completed on signing up to the EU rules before they can join has been signed off. In any case, if we remain in the EU the UK will have a veto.  The approval of each member country is required for them to join. Even if Turkey were, several decades from now, to join the EU, it’s unlikely that most of them would choose to uproot and move abroad, and those that did would have a wide choice of countries to choose from. They wouldn’t all come to the UK. If they did, I might consider going and living in Turkey myself; I quite like the idea of having a whole country all to myself.
  3. NHS Nonsense According to the slogan on the Leave Campaign battle bus,“We send the EU £350m a week. Let’s fund our NHS instead.” This is really two lies. If you want to know how the figure of £350m was arrived at and why it is a distortion, you can read an excellent article  here. Conservative MP Sarah Wollaston, chair of the health select committee has moved from the leave campaign to the remainers, such is her outrage at this deception. The UK Statistics Authority has declared the figure to be misleading and inaccurate. The second part of the lie is the preposterous idea that Jeremy Hunt would use that fictional £350m a week to fund the NHS. If the Leave Campaign think the British public will believe that tale then they must think we are completely stupid. Jeremy Hunt makes no secret of the fact that he wishes to privatise the NHS – he even co-wrote a book on the subject. He is systematically trying to undermine the NHS and set it up for failure so that he can sell it off to his rich friends, hence his scandalous treatment of our junior doctors. The idea that he would suddenly turn round and invest 350 million fictitious pounds per week in the NHS is laughable.

You might like to read my other blog posts on the topic of the EU Referendum:

One More Analogy About the EU Referendum

Why Brexit is like a Mid-Life Crisis

Four Reasons why Britain Should Stay in the EU

One More Analogy About the EU Referendum

euflag.pngYou may have read my recent post Why Brexit is Like a Mid Life Crisis. Another analogy came to my mind the other day. Many people are complaining that we are not being given any facts and figures about what would happen to the UK if we leave the EU. Well the reason for that is that there are no facts or figures. It hasn’t happened so nobody knows. We can predict what might happen but we don’t really know what will happen to the economy, immigration, and all the other things that people worry about.

It’s a bit like your house. Do you like your house? There are probably things you like about it, otherwise you wouldn’t have bought it or rented it. There are probably things you don’t like and things that you would like to change. Some of the things can probably be changed with a little work. You might be able to afford a new bathroom. You could easily fix that dripping tap in the kitchen if you put your mind to it. Other things are not so easily fixed such as the area in which you live. But if somebody asked you to hand over the keys to your house, and they would give you another house instead, would you accept the exchange?

You have no idea where this new house is. You might need to look for a new job because it might be too far from where you work. It might be in a much nicer neighbourhood than where you live now but it might not. Think about a neighbourhood that you really wouldn’t want to live in. What would you do if this new house was right there?

You have no idea how much the rent or the mortgage will be. It might be cheaper than what you pay now, but it might be completely out of your budget. It would be nice to think about all the things you could spend the extra money on if it turns out to be cheaper, but what would you do if it was much more expensive and you couldn’t pay?

You don’t know how big this new house will be or what it will be like. Will it suit your family’s needs?

What if your new house has even more defects than your old one? You might be lucky and find the house of your dreams but what are the chances? You are not the one making the choices.

And there would be no going back. Once you had made the swap you would have to live there forever.

The EU has its defects. There are things we like about it and things we don’t. We might be able to change some of the things we don’t like with a bit of work; others we might just have to put up with. But if we leave, what will we find? I have heard people saying that the money we pay to the EU could be put into the NHS, but do you really believe it would be? This government has shown utter contempt for the NHS. If there really is any money saved, which is not certain, you won’t have a say in where it goes. It is more likely to end up in some Panamanian bank account. I have heard it said that we need to leave the EU to stop immigration. It won’t stop immigration. Yes, there will be fewer legal immigrants – the ones who pay their taxes, employ UK citizens and make a net contribution to the UK economy – but how is that going to solve the problem?

If I knew what house I would be moving to, if I had chosen the new house myself and had surveys carried out, if I had done the maths and made sure I could afford the mortgage, then of course I would move if I was sure that it was a change for the better. But let’s not take a leap in the dark when the issues are so huge.14444-illustration-of-a-house-pv.png

 

Take a look at my other post on the EU referendum: Four Reasons Why Britain Should Stay in the EU

 

 

 

 

Why Brexit is like a Mid-Life Crisis

 

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Recently I have been listening to the arguments put forward by the leave campaigners, and they bring to mind the whinings of a middle-aged spouse in the throes of a mid-life crisis.

For the purposes of this blog post I will call our middle aged person “he” although I am aware that women can go through this too.

Our middle-aged man looks around him at his single or divorced friends and is envious of their lives. They don’t have whingey children whodrain their money and need attention. They can be completely selfish, spending all their money on beer and all their time playing video games. They don’t need to follow rules made up by a controlling wife who insists they do their share of the housework and put things away when they have finished with them and don’t come in drunk at 2am. They don’t have to do any housework and can come home as late as they wish. Our man’s children invite their friends into his house, and some of them are even foreigners! Why should foreigners be allowed to come into his house and eat his food? He wants to take back control of his house and lock the doors.

Likewise the brexiters look at other countries outside the EU and wail, “Why can’t we be like Norway or Canada or Albania? Why should we have to take other people’s wishes into consideration? Why do we have to follow these pesky rules made by other people? Why do we have to pay money to the EU? Why do we have to welcome other people into our country?”

But beware. What happens to our middle aged man if he does decide to leave his wife and family? Does he live a blissful independent life of freedom with no rules and no responsibilities? After an initial period of euphoric partying he starts to realise that there is a reason for most of the rules he so resented. If he doesn’t do housework he quickly runs out of clean dishes, and he can’t find anything because the house is in such a mess and he never puts anything back in its place. If he comes home drunk at 2am he wakes up feeling terrible and there is vomit on the carpet which he has to clean up by himself because there is nobody to do it for him. In fact he is beginning to realise just how much the other people in his family did for him now that he has to do everything by himself. Even his children’s foreign friends used to help fix his computer and plaster his living room. Now he has to pay someone else to do all those things. His money, which he thought would be his to spend as he wished, suddenly seems to be disappearing even faster than before because he still has to support his children but now he has to pay rent for his own flat too. He’s getting a bit worried about what might happen if he loses his job – his boss has warned him about being late because he’s been out till 2am and there’s nobody there to make sure he wakes up and gets out of the house on time. And he still has to look after his children every other weekend while his wife goes out enjoying herself, only now he has to do it alone so he can’t pretend to be asleep and let his wife get up when one of them has a bad dream. And there is nobody else there to cook their meals or clean up their sick when they are ill.

I fear that similarly, Britain will not enjoy the benefits that the brexiters hope for if we leave the family of the European Union. We will find that those pesky EU rules that we resent so much are actually quite important for protecting us. Rules about clean beaches may seem harsh but guess what? They serve to keep our beaches clean! Rules about what we can and can’t put into food serve to keep our food safe. I fear we might learn this the hard way. And we will still have to pay the EU if we want to trade with them, but we won’t get anything in return. And all these foreigners we like to complain so much about, what will we do without them? Who will nurse us when we are sick? Who will take care of our teeth and clean our offices? And who will look after all the pensioners who, waking up one morning in Spain to find themselves Non-EU Citizens, will flock back home to the UK where they can still enjoy the rights that they are now denied such as free health care?

When our middle aged man realises his mistake he goes crawling back to his family but it is too late. they have grown accustomed to him not being around. They thought they needed him, but they are getting along fine without him.

Don’t let’s be like our middle aged man. Don’t let’s grow old alone and unhappy. If we are tired of our life in the EU then let’s express our mid life crisis in a different way – let’s go out and buy a sports car or dye our hair purple. But don’t let’s throw away 43 years of marriage on some misguided idea of sovereignty or freedom.

Four Reasons why Britain Should Stay in the EU

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This is a hugely significant time in British history. The EU referendum is an extremely important decision, but many voters still seem unclear about the ins and out of staying in or going out. Here are just a few reasons why, although the EU is certainly far from perfect, I’m in the “in” crowd.

  1. The European Convention on Human Rights This convention protects some of the most fundamental rights and freedoms of all of us such as the right to a free trial, and freedom of expression. leaving this protection behind could be a very dangerous move.
  2. EU Employment Law. This legislation covers such fundamental issues as anti-discrimination, equal treatment of men and women in the workplace, maternity rights, pension rights and parental leave. It regulate the contracts that employers have to draw up with their employees containing information about the length of the working day or week, amount of paid leave etc. Without this protection I fear that we could go back to an era where employers could exploit their workers in ways that seem unthinkable now.
  3. Freedom of travel. When I was in my twenties I decided that I wanted to travel, so I went to Italy and got a job teaching English in a language school. I was able to do this because of the EU. I made friends with an Australian girl while I was there and she was only able to work for language schools that were prepared to pay her cash in hand. I was able to work with a proper contract and I paid taxes to the Italian government. I want the same opportunities for my children and for everyone in Britain.
  4. Immigration. Research shows that people coming to the UK from other EU countries make a positive contribution to the UK economy. They pay more in taxes than they take in benefits. You can read about the research here. According to an article in The Economist, “Immigrants’ overall positive contribution is explained in part by the fact that they are less likely than natives to claim benefits or to live in social housing”. This is contrary to what certain political parties would have us believe. If we were to leave the EU, these immigrants would still come but they would find illegal ways of earning a living thus making themselves vulnerable to exploitation, working for less than the minimum wage and so threatening the livelihoods of UK workers, and paying no tax to our economy. There is much talk of “controlling our own borders” in the media at the moment, but how would we control our own borders without the support of the EU? Would we build a fence around our 18,000 km of coastline and police it 24 hours a day? It would be impossible. Immigrants would come; let’s just make sure their pay their share by staying in the EU.

These are just a few of the reasons I will be voting to stay in the EU. What do you think? Post your views in the comments.

Seven Significant Things that Happened in Britain in 2015

As 2015 draws to a close, I would like to reflect on some of the news stories that have been significant throughout the year. There have been moments of great despair but also of great hope for Britain.

  1. May 2nd. Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, gave birth to a baby. However, since several hundred thousand other woman also gave birth to babies in 2015, this event wasn’t actually all that important or significant, except to the family involved.
  2. May 7th. The Conservatives won the general election with an outright majority. This was a day of deep despair for Britain (Unless you were a millionaire in which case you were probably pretty smug). Without the Liberal Democrats to tone down their more extreme destructive policies, the Conservatives were free to wreak havoc on Britain, doing things like selling off Royal Mail at discount prices to their rich friends, and cutting the welfare cap thus plunging tens of thousands of children into poverty.
  3. September 12th. Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader of the Labour Party. This was my personal high point of the year. It was a moment of hope and optimism after a summer of wretchedness and gloom. I could dare to hope that my children might continue to benefit from the NHS, and might even be able to go to university without saddling themselves with huge debts. Corbyn’s popularity showed that British people were hungry for a new kind of politics based on honesty, integrity and fairness rather than the lying, self-serving unjust politics of David Cameron’s government.
  4. September 20th. It was alleged that our Prime Minister, David Cameron, had during his student days, had oral sex with a dead pig. This confirmed to anyone who was not already convinced that our Prime Minister was a depraved, inhuman, disrespectful being devoid of normal human decency. It also gave rise to a brilliantly entertaining Twitter storm #piggate.
  5. October 26th. The government’s plans to cut tax credits (despite claiming to be the party of working people) was seen to be so destructive and damaging that it was defeated by the House of Lords. This brought hope, not only to the families affected, but also to the whole of  Britain, that the Tories would not be able to carry out whatever pernicious and murderous policies they wanted.
  6. December 2nd. MPs voted to allow bombs to be dropped on Syria. This decision was met with whoops of joyous laughter by some MPs, delighted at the prospect of being allowed to play their war games and kill real people.  Despite the fact that the government were making catastrophic cuts in public services, it seemed we had plenty of money for killing people. Despite Europe’s inability to cope with the vast numbers of people fleeing bombs in Syria, we decided to go and drop some more, and make some more refugees. Despite the government’s promise to make us safer from terrorism they decided to go and do something that would make us less safe.
  7. December 15th. British Astronaut Tim Peake set off for the International Space Station. He was not the first Briton in space – that was Helen Sharman in 1991 – but this was nevertheless a very exciting and significant moment. He will spend six months doing some very exciting scientific experiments. Among other things he will carry out research on muscle wastage that could help people on earth with osteoporosis.

So there we have it. 2015 was a significant year for Britain. Let’s hope that in 2016 we can protect the most vulnerable from the psychopathic Tories, and continue to be optimistic about the future.