Tag Archives: politics

Stuck with the yellow and blue

Well I don’t know how we got this blight,
No one won on election night,
I’m so scared in case I fall down the stairs,
‘Cause they’re closing our beloved NHS,
Cowards to the left of them,
Racists to the right, here I am,
Stuck with the yellow and blue.

Yes I’m stuck with the yellow and blue,
And it seems there’s not a thing I can do,
It’s so hard to see smug grins on their face,
Lost control, Britain’s all over the place,
Cowards to the left of them,
Racists to the right, here I am,
Stuck with the yellow and blue.

They say if you started out with nothing,
You can become a self made man,
But you’ll find out they’re all lyin’,
They’ll slap you in the face and say,
Tuition fees…. tuition fees…..

Trying to make some sense of it all,
But I can see it makes no sense at all,
Is it cool to go to sleep on the floor?
‘Cause I can’t afford my rent no more,
Cowards to the left of them,
Racists to the right, here I am,
Stuck with the yellow and blue.

Well you started out with nothing,
And still they want to cut your funds,
And LibDems, they all come crawlin,
Stab you in the back and say,
Please…. Please…..

Well I don’t know how we got this blight,
No one won on election night,
I’m so scared in case I fall on my face,
Cause no one gets the Sick these days,
Cowards to the left of them,
Racists to the right, here I am,
Stuck with the yellow and blue,
Yes I’m stuck with the yellow and blue,
Stuck with the yellow and blue.

If Hansard did subtext

In an alternate universe, the Speaker of the House of Commons would be less hapless au pair and more 1950s teacher. In the depths of my fevered imagination, that alternate universe’s Hansard transcript would go like this:

Speaker: None of you is leaving this room until you ADMIT WHAT YOU’VE DONE. We will sit here until those involved take responsibility for their actions.

[Some muted muttering and shuffling of feet but absolute stillness on the front benches.]

Speaker: Well?…I can and will lock those doors and keep all of you after class…you’d make everyone else suffer, rather than admit it? Right then. No dinner for you lot. I’m taking it all off the table. You think it’s hard to manage on £65,000 a year? See how you manage without expenses.

[Speaker pauses again and glares around, trying to catch the eyes of the front benches but some are staring at their feet, while others keep their heads held high and stare straight ahead of them.]

Speaker: Osborne. What do you have to say for yourself, you creepy little sod?

[Sullenly, Osborne’s gaze shifts and he meets Speaker’s eye.]

Osborne: ‘S not my fault Sir. Balls & his gang ballsed it all up. And I’m fixing..

Balls: Are not…

Osborne: Am too and it’s all your fault.

Speaker: GENTLEMEN. You’ll get your turn to speak Balls. Osborne, are you sure you don’t want to own up.

Osborne: No, sir.

Speaker: Anything more to say for yourself?

[An eager hand shoots up, its owner shuffling with excitement like someone about to lose control of his bladder.]

Speaker [sighs]: Yes Alexander.

Alexander: Osborne’s right sir. It’s not his fault. It’s

[pauses, struggling to recall the lessons he learned by rote]

a global problem. They got in bed

[pauses while his audience titters, then rushes on breathlessly, eager to impress]

with the bankers and…and…the Eurozone. That’s it. And Amewicca and the skivers and…

Speaker: Yes. Thank you,  Alexander. You have correctly regurgitated all the excuses your friends have been using but we’re here to get to the bottom of things, not to go over the same ground again.

[Alexander is no longer listening. He’s nudging Osborne in the ribs and grinning with a desperate air, hoping for approval that isn’t forthcoming.]

Speaker: Now, Balls. What do you have to say for yourself?

Balls: Ed Balls.

Speaker: WHAT did you say?

Balls: I ain’t saying nuffink. You ain’t the boss of me.

Milliband: I think what Ed means to say is that mistakes were made under Labour. We have admitted that because we know this is the only way we’re taking back into office in 2015.

Speaker: Indeed…and Gromit. Uh. That is to say, Balls, do you freely admit this?

Balls: Well yeah, some departments. Some departments screwed things up.  Immigration, what a mess. Not my department. My department didn’t do anything wrong.

Speaker: And the enormous deficit you left the country with?

Balls: But…everyone was doing it! Easy credit. Who wouldn’t jump at that?

Speaker: And what do you say to the accusation that you shouldn’t have bailed the banks out?

Balls: Balls.

Speaker: Pardon?

Balls: It’s Balls. The Tories voted with us on bank bailouts.

Speaker: I see. Clegg. What do you have to say for yourself?

Clegg: I’m sorry.

Speaker: Aha. Finally. What do you accept responsibility for young man?

Clegg: I didn’t say I accept responsibility. I just said I’m sorry. I hope that if I do it at random intervals I won’t lose my job in 2015.

Speaker [sighs]: Cameron, what do you say to the allegation that you are wilfully using the European Union to distract the British people from your toxic and chaotic policies?

Cameron: S not my fault. It’s this monkey on my shoulder.

Speaker: Oh for heavens sake Farage. Get off his shoulder. How many times do you have to be told. You are not a member of parliament and nor are any of your party.

Farage: Sooon. Sooooon my pretties. Dance. Dance to the tune I play for you. Mwahahahaha

[Farage scampers out to be interviewed on every current affairs show the BBC has]

Speaker: Now. Gove?

Gove: I’ve got nothing to say. You can’t make me talk. Not you, not the Information Commissioner, not nobody. You hear me?

Speaker: Not even in Latin?

Gove: Ah, well. You see. My goal is to put the poor in puer and puerella. Why, in September 2015 I will…

Twigg: Sir. He’s getting the math wrong again. Look. The question is…

Speaker: Uh. I don’t believe I’ve seen you before, boy. Remind me of your name again?

Twigg: Twigg sir. Look, if the Tories are polling abysmally and a general election must be called by May 2015, who will be in power by September 2015?

Speaker: Ah. Yes. I see. Sorry Gove but you fail. Hunt. You stand accused of breaking up the NHS. Surely you must take some responsibility.

Hunt: You all need to take some homeopathic soothers. Just relax. I know what I’m doing.

Burnham: Yeah. Privatising the NHS, you cock.

Hunt: Am not.

Burnham: Are too and IDS wants to ruin the NHS and then send people back to work without medical help.

Speaker [sotto voce]: I wonder whether there’s any openings in academy schools. It’s got to be easier than this.  

IDS: Only skivers! Those who work hard and are higher rate tax payers will have full access to the NHS.

McVey: Yes and we know for a fact that most “disabled” are faking and don’t really even need medical help. It stands to reason that it’s in their best interests to cut NHS services.

Back benches chant: Es-ter Es-ter Es-ter

McVey: Our proposals are fair and equitable.

Cooper: Oh, yeah? Then why are people dying?

IDS: Poppycock.

Alexander: He he he.

McVey: Just rumours and gossip. We have common sense on our side and common sense says there’s no such thing as disability and if there was disabled people not in work would be better off dead.

[Cooper rises and slaps McVey. McVey pulls Cooper’s hair]

Back benches chant: Cat fight, cat fight, cat fight

Speaker: Ladies! That’s quite enough of that. Now what about the bedroom tax? It’s said hundreds of thousands of people, mostly disabled, will be hurt by this.

Cameron [whines]: It’s not a tax. It’s a spare room subsidy.

Byrne: Mate. If you’re a product of the public school system, it’s no wonder we’re all fucked. The very definition of a subsidy is that it involves giving something, not taking it away.

Cameron: That’s not true! It’s just a lie concocted by the Marxists at the BBC. They changed every dictionary in the country, just to make me look bad!

Speaker [rolls eyes]: Pickles. Surely you must have something to say on the bedroom tax. After all, you’re involved in building new appropriate housing.

[Pickles continues to masticate, a look of contemplation on his face. Finished he turns to the speaker with a bovine expression, lifts a sheep’s thigh bone and picks his teeth]

Shapps: I’ll take this one, if I may. You see, in my rather lovely home in a nice, expensive part of my constituency, my sons share a bedroom. They make do.

Byrne: Aye, Shapps? Give it a rest. You’re so greedy you even had two names!

Pickles [slowly realising he’s been asked a question]: Nowt to do with me mate. Ask that thar Freud.

Freud: It’s perfectly simple. The poor are obsessed with sex. Their mummy fixation stems from years of rule by an overbearing woman, Margaret Thatcher. The bedroom tax will ensure that people have less sex and less children, leaving them with free time to spend starving in ditches. Perfectly reasonable. It fulfills the brief set by cabinet.

Speaker: It reduces the deficit?

Freud: Not really.

Speaker: It leads to a fairer allocation of housing stock?

Freud: Steady on, old boy. No. It ensures that the British poor don’t get more sex than the cabinet.

Speaker : Ah. Well, yes. Mission accomplished.

Cameron [waves]: Cooie Mr Speaker. Must dash. I’ve got ribbon tyings to attend.

Speaker: What in the name of God is a ribbon tying?

Cameron: Photo ops are getting thin on the ground but I need them to feed my insane belief that the commoners love me so Gideon came up with a cracking wheeze. I’ll do a ceremonial ribbon tying when things close. I’m doing a national high street tour and by the time I get back Jezza should have this NHS nonsense sorted out. The cabinet’s been so supportive. Chris is even giving me eight prisons to ribbon tie.

Grayling: Well. I watched the Bill and Rumpole and Morse and…

Speaker: We get the picture, Grayling. No, Cameron. No special treatment. You can stay after class like everyone else.

Grayling: Tv’s great. How else would we learn everything we need for our jobs. Jez watches Holby City and all those emergency rescue thingies. I find the traffic police shows rather fascinating and Theresa is hooked on that Aussie border control show. Well, there’s not much difference between snakes and refugees in the end is there?

Speaker [head in hands]: So how did prison closures come about?

Grayling: Porridge. It seems to me those chaps had far too much fun. Four to a cell will change the dynamic and wipe the smiles from their faces. Besides,  prisoners are mostly poor. Why house,  clothe and feed them when they could be suffering on the outside?

Speaker: And the vacated prisons, what will happen to them?

Grayling: Ah. I’ll hand that one off to my good pal, Iain.

Speaker: Well, STD?

IDS: Five will immediately become workhouses. The feckless poor can’t be relied on to work so we’re bringing back the poorhouse. They can die in a gutter or come in and work.

Speaker: What about the rest?

IDS: Theresa’s requisitioned them to round up all the forriners.

May: Yes. People come over here. They steal our jobs and our benefits. Why, I even heard that cats are in on the scam. I kid you not. I’m not making it up. They fall asleep in lorry engines and come through the tunnel. Once they’re here they breed and fight and kill hardworking British mice and then. AND THEN they have the gall to claim this is their home. It’s a disgrace.

Speaker: Cats? You’re blaming migrant cats? What do they have to do with empty prisons?

Cooper: She’s going to convert one into a factory to produce kitten heel shoes!

May: Don’t listen to her. It’s not like I’m locking 101 Dalmatians up.

Speaker: Calm, that is to say settle, down. I think we’ve heard quite enough of all of that. Back to you Grayling. How will the privatisation of the probation service reduce reoffending?

Grayling: Whatever made you think it’s meant to? Our pals in G4S will be getting a lot of new contracts from us. Taking over probation makes recruitment far more cost effective for them

Speaker: Harrumph….

[The speaker stops, shuffling papers, and then turns to May.]

Speaker: So, tell me. What do you say to the claim that women are being far harder hurt by the government’s cuts and by the recession?

May: Well. I have a story about that which I think will answer your question for me.

[To one side of her Cameron reaches over, trying to get a hand over her mouth]

Cameron: No more of your stories thank you very much.

Speaker [sighs heavily, once more]: Then perhaps someone can explain Workfare to me.

Byrne: Doesn’t bloody work. That’s for sure.

Hoban: Yeah? Yeah? Then why did your party abstain from the vote on the retroactive Workfare Bill?

[Hughes, sitting on a fence which has mysteriously appeared next to the Speaker, grins and swishes his tail at the sight of someone other than the LibDems being caught in a trap of their own hypocrisy]

Byrne: Well. I. Um.

Speaker: Yes?

Byrne: That’s not the point!

[Milliband slumps in his seat]

Balls [shouts]: Mansion tax! Yeah. You heard me. Two can play the lying back-peddler game. Mansion tax!

Speaker: He does have a point. Clegg?

Clegg: I…. Look. We got an increase in the personal allowance….

Speaker: But didn’t you also agree to an increase in VAT and below inflation increases in the minimum wage and benefits, including working families tax credits?

Clegg: Um.

Speaker: Have you in fact made any headway at all in convincing your Coalition partners of the appropriateness of a mansion tax?

[Series of snorts and snickers around the House]

Speaker: Tell me, Osborne. What is your ground for objecting to a tax based on the value of people’s houses?

Osborne: It’s a slippery slope.

Balls [jeers]: It’s your mate, Dave’s forehead?

Osborne: If we agree to this it’s only a matter of time before the threshold is reduced and before you know it, even poor Shappsie could be paying it.

Speaker [rubs eyes]: But couldn’t that be said of all taxes?

Osborne: No.

Speaker: Because?

Osborne: Because we can’t implement a system for valuing property.

Speaker: Are you suggesting we don’t do that already with the Council Tax? Properties are already banded and with only 70,000 properties valued at over £2 million, surely it would be possible to…

Osborne: No.

Speaker: Not even…

Osborne: No.

Alexander [dreamily]: You see? Everything makes so much sense when George explains it.

Speaker: Alexander, if you don’t stop with that kind of comment I’ll be forced to search your locker for hallucinogenic substances. Back to the budget, Cable. Do you have any answers for me?

Cable: The simple fact of the matter is that we find ourselves in a state of pecuniary embarrassment due to the abject failure of our predecessors in government to control public expenditure. Difficult decisions must be made. It is a natural consequence of the inadequacy of the fiscal policies…

Speaker [jerks awake]: Huh?

Cable [with constipated expression]: There is no magic money tree

Speaker: That’s rather clever, Cameron. I didn’t even see your lips move but ultimately we come back to the same problem over and over again. None of you will explain your decisions in clear terms or accept responsibility for them. You leave me with no alternative but to expel you all. A General Election will be called forthwith. I certainly hope you learn your lesson and speak plainly and honestly and keep your promises in future.

[Chorus of guffaws rings round the Chamber]

[End scene]

Mayday

I’ve seen Neil Kinnock’s “I warn you” speech cropping up on Twitter alot lately. I first read that speech when I was 16 in a book of speeches I loaned to someone and never got back (yes, I really hate it when that happens and yes I’m that big a geek that I had the book to start with). The speech was simple, scathing and burned with anger. It deserves to be repeated properly, not in tiny Twitter sized chunks, so here it is:

If Margaret Thatcher is re-elected as prime minister on Thursday, I warn you.

I warn you that you will have pain–when healing and relief depend upon payment.

I warn you that you will have ignorance–when talents are untended and wits are wasted, when learning is a privilege and not a right.

I warn you that you will have poverty–when pensions slip and benefits are whittled away by a government that won’t pay in an economy that can’t pay.

I warn you that you will be cold–when fuel charges are used as a tax system that the rich don’t notice and the poor can’t afford.

I warn you that you must not expect work–when many cannot spend, more will not be able to earn. When they don’t earn, they don’t spend. When they don’t spend, work dies.

I warn you not to go into the streets alone after dark or into the streets in large crowds of protest in the light.

I warn you that you will be quiet–when the curfew of fear and the gibbet of unemployment make you obedient.

I warn you that you will have defence of a sort–with a risk and at a price that passes all understanding.

I warn you that you will be home-bound–when fares and transport bills kill leisure and lock you up.

I warn you that you will borrow less–when credit, loans, mortgages and easy payments are refused to people on your melting income.

If Margaret Thatcher wins on Thursday–
I warn you not to be ordinary
I warn you not to be young
I warn you not to fall ill
I warn you not to get old.

It made an enormous impression on me the first time I read it,  ten years on from when he made it. By then, his party had decided he was unelectable, anachronistic. His speech stood in sharp contrast to the Labour leader appointed by his party a year later: Tony Blair. Thirty years after Kinnock made his speech, twenty years after I first read it, we’re crying out for someone with the passion to take on a Government which I honestly believe is worse than Thatcher’s. Would that person’s party be electable? Probably not on current voting patterns. The centre is a popular place to be but here’s what else is currently missing: high voter turn out. As long as voters remain predominantly middle class, middle aged and elderly there won’t be an incentive to get out of the middle ground and a genuine left wing presence won’t exist in Parliament. Only the Unions seem to have any power at all over our politicians on the supposed left. We’re always told low voter turn out is because people are disillusioned with politics. That’s probably true but it’s bloody silly. If we’re disillusioned, we shouldn’t disenfranchise ourselves. The one bit of power we have is the ability to vote and so many of us routinely squander it.

People are calling for voters to send a message at local elections in May. I agree but say we should send that message by a historically high turn out. We should make our own election pledge. Buck the trend by keeping it. Vote. Send a message that our votes are there to be won in 2015. Then we’ve got two years to get across the message of what the politicians who want them will have to do for them.

100% pure grade horse*

Horse. It’s everywhere. It’s even in the food we eat but you haven’t been told the whole story. The media have been careful to consistently use the word “horse” and disingenuously use stock pictures of the animals of the same name but it is now becoming clear that this is all part of a cunning ploy to hide the truth from the British people. The devastating truth is that this is the biggest drugs deal in the history of the world, with food being doctored with 100% pure grade horse or, in other words, heroin. Yes that’s right folks, doping is taking place on a scale never seen before. On a scale that makes Lance Armstrong look like a rank amateur. Slipped into our food “horse” keeps us docile. Using beef as the conduit for its introduction into the food supply suggests that someone somewhere laughed at the thought of making the British public bovine, proving evil people have a rubbish idea of comedy.

Don’t believe me? Consider this. The state’s own guide to drugs “Frank” (real name unknown) says that “A small dose of heroin gives the user a feeling of warmth and well-being, bigger doses can make you sleepy and very relaxed”. It also admits that “Heroin is highly addictive and people can quickly get hooked.” Faced with overwhelming anger and misery and the very real threat of protests in the streets, what self-respecting Conservative led government wouldn’t decide to control the masses using any means possible? After all, these are the people who use language to describe unemployed people which would be more at home in a Victorian tract on the “deserving poor and those lazy lay-abouts slugging cheap gin in gutters and leaving their children to fend for themselves in pubs”. Ahem. Anyway, what’s more Victorian than opium taking on a massive scale?

When you stop to think about it, this isn’t even an original plan. It’s up there with Cushelle’s “do bears shit in the woods” loo roll advertising campaign. Marx called religion the opiate for the masses because he understood that docility is an important means of retaining power, even when the State is trampling its own people. TV successfully took the place of religion for a long time but then things changed. People started to question TV, just as they questioned religion before it. It began preaching to a more informed crowd. Just as mass education affected religious belief, the river of information flowing through the internet meant that the powerful interests who decided both what news and what fiction we were able to see started to lose control. Unfortunately for them, this was timed to coincide with a collapse of capitalism no less important than the fall of European communism some years previously. People, normal people, began to go off script. They questioned and shared information. They became the greatest threat to the status quo. The Government has done what it can to openly dismiss its people with vile rhetoric, demonising millions, but it hasn’t been enough. When they realised they could no longer control the public in one way, they made the decision to control them in any way possible. A decade in Afghanistan. A much repeated maxim referring to opiates. It was blindingly obvious. It was audacious.

You may be wondering “why beef? Surely vegetarians are a threat to the status quo?”. You’re right but don’t think vegetarians and vegans are exempt from this dastardly scheme. Have you ever really looked at refill bags of popular herbs such as basil and oregano? Marijuana. Cumin and chilli powder? Heroin. Oh, they covered their bases alright. In fact, it’s been so meticulously planned that they’ve deliberately acted like incompetent buffoons on every single new policy for two and a half years just to put us off the scent.

You can’t have failed to notice that when capitalism collapsed we quickly saw stories telling us to make do and mend and to grow our own. An exhortation to grow our own was dangerous. What if we went the whole hog and became entirely self-sufficient? They’d be hard pressed to make schemes like Workfare happen if supermarkets lost vast numbers of customers but, more importantly, they knew they needed to control the supply chain in order for their appalling plan to work. They didn’t want to have to find another way of distributing horse. It wasn’t long before the grow your own message was drowned out by “keep calm and carry on”. It’s everywhere. There’s no escape. Why is this? I’ll tell you. When some idiot dug up an old poster, he gave the Tories another way of making their scam work. Another factor was the possibility we would subliminally recall the message when the horse kicked in. Don’t fight it, we were being told. I mean, come on, what other explanation is there for Cameron drip feeding “chillax”, “calm down dear” and “hug a hoodie” into our collective subconscious. You didn’t think he believed his own shit did you?

Boris Johnson is another part of the plan. Boris. If Winnie the Pooh was an evil right winger, he’d be Boris. He’s a threat to Cameron but he’s not wearing concrete boots. Why is that? I can answer that too. Boris is exactly what a nation of mind-controlled druggies need. He speaks and, in our dulled state of euphoria, we want to tickle his tummy. He can say anything no matter how abhorrent and we’ll love him. You thought the zip wire incident was unplanned? Think again my friends. I have five words for you. Winnie the Pooh honey pot. They knew we’d lap that crap up. It’s all an elaborate plan, giving a very different meaning to the term “honey trap”.

As rumours of horse being found in food grew, they had to spin like fast spinny things and they have, laying the blame at the doors of their favourite villains du jour. The Romanians are blamed for it getting into the beef. The EU is even blamed for not having enough laws to control the food chain (incongruity ceases to be a problem once the public has already been doped). Even if we try to get the truth out, they have another fallback villain in Afghan terrorists who can be blamed for the production of opium. It really is a work of evil genius.

So there you go. We’ve been suppressed by a juggernaut of evil. Now you really do know the truth.

* may contain traces of bullshit

The Begley Agenda

image

Begley’s always been an ambitious cat and he’s reached a certain level of maturity. He’s hoping to seize power in 2015 and the Eastleigh bi-election could be a handy stepping stone. Being a cat, it could all be a gruesome gorefest or he could just purr his way into power in a bloodless coup. Begley’s been fascinated by politics ever since he was quietly pottering in the garden when the voice of God blasted through the neighbourhood urging him to vote UKIP. Of course since then he’s regularly heard the rag & bone man and once saw a mighty dragon cunningly disguised as a Virgin hot air balloon but it was too late. He’d become a political animal.

Education
Modern languages will be extended to include feline body language.

From nursery school upwards, children will be taught feline relaxation techniques.

Manual dexterity lessons will also be introduced. No waiting around for evolution to balance out this dominant hand nonsense. Begley believes it’s imperative that humans make better use of their weaker hand for the benefit of cats (accusations that this is a bit rich coming from a cat without opposable thumbs were met with a blank stare before he swung a back leg up to lick his bum). Two-cat households need two fully functioning hands for stroking per human. Otherwise, the cat with the benefit of the dominant hand gets master strokes while the other cat misses out. Dogs will be made available for children to practice on.

Healthcare
The NHS will be preserved and extended to a National Vet Service for pet owners, although an earnings cap will apply to NVS assistance.

The obesity crisis will be solved by getting humans to play with giant feathers on sticks. Begley hopes his drug policy will encourage such play. Dog owners will be excused and must walk their dogs for at least one hour per day. 

All drugs will be legalised. Catnip’s never done Begley any harm and he thinks humans have a greater need to mellow out.

Animals
Prison terms will be increased for cases of animal cruelty and the pets in prison scheme will exclude any prisoners convicted of cruelty.

Dog attacks on cats will be treated in the same way as dog attacks on dogs. Dog insurance policies will pay for treatment for attacked cats. If the perpetrator can’t be identified,  the NVS will pay for treatment for cats and dogs (and also for road traffic victims).

Social Security
Cat benefit will be available in addition to child benefit.

It probably goes without saying that Begley would reverse all Coalition cuts. He’s a cat, not a monster.

Employment
Businesses who have a cat will receive tax breaks.

The working day will by cut by 30mins on the understanding this time is to be used for cuddling, grooming, sleeping or staring at random things to freak out people around you. Dog owners may put their 30 mins towards their walking duties.

Economy
Begley has no idea how to fix the mess the Coalition have made. He’s a cat. Cats don’t understand working for reward, bartering etc. That’s why his pick for Chancellor will be a dog. Who better to grasp the system of what Begley calls “bribery”. He’d like to use the dog who took a £20 note, my sunglasses and my mobile & hid each undamaged item under his bed because that seems like bafflingly high powered economic thinking to him. Sadly, he died so Begley’s relying on breed characteristics with his choice. Well, breeding seems to be all that matters to the current occupant of the post anyway. 

Begley’s Chancellor has explained the concept of payday loans to him and advised him that borrowing one bit of kibble and paying back a thousand is wrong. It took a while to explain because it was hard to get past Begley’s repeated murrs of “all the kibble is mine anyway” but eventually they agreed to ban payday loans.

Housing
Landlords will no longer be allowed to restrict pet ownership.

All new homes must be well insulated and have broad enough window ledges for a cat to really relax.

Transport
All potholes will be repaired immediately to ensure the safety and comfort of pets on board.

Overtaking by lorries on duel carriageways will be banned. Why would a cat care? Have you ever been stuck in a cat carrier with your grouchy sister for four hours while your owner swears often and loudly? No? Try it sometime. Begley can’t crack down on all in-car swearing causes but this is one he can tackle and it’s sure to be a vote winner.

Subways will be put in under roads known as being particularly dangerous to cats.

Environment and Energy
Energy companies will be compelled to charge lower prices to eradicate fuel poverty, ensuring both cats and their owners are warm enough.

Begley has considered the argument that wind farms kill birds before cats can get to them but concluded their hypnotic effect is beneficial to humans. People complaining about wind farms will be attached to the blades for a period proportionate to the level of fuss they make. Whilst there, their home will be infested with fleas.

Hedgerows will be protected to ensure a long term supply of mice & other wee beasties.

The hunting ban will be lifted but is subject to a new requirement that people can only hunt on foot and without weapons or tracking devices such as dogs. If a hunt master can track, chase and kill a fox with his bare hands, Begley believes that’s his right. Grafting your torso onto the body of a horse will not be allowed unless you give up your thumbs to a cat.

Anyone setting fireworks off on any day which isn’t 5 Nov, 31 Dec or a recognised religious festival will be forced to hold a lit firework.

Criminal justice
It’s a harsh world. Begley would reintroduce the option of trial by combat.

Prisons will be combined with animal shelters as rehabilitation (although unmixed facilities for people with a history of animal cruelty and those considered likely to be cruel to animals will remain).

Immigration
Begley takes a pretty hard line on this. He appreciates he’s quite fussy so immigrants must pass the Ciara test. If she likes you, you can stay.

The citizenship test will be replaced with questions on cat care.

Libraries
Cats “read” too. Library budgets will be protected to ensure cats can communicate with each other across each county by jaw rubbing borrowed books.

Defence
Trident will be scrapped. Begley’s preferred method of dealing with disputes is to fluff himself up and engage in a stare off but if it comes right down to it he’ll bring the claws and thinks anything less than one on one is cheating.

Anyone calling for war for any reason other than territorial defence will be labeled a “tom” and neutered forthwith. 

European Union
Begley will seek to bring the rest of Europe into line with “pet mad” Britain and work for funding for strays throughout Europe.

Food
All food retailers must offer food which is about to go off to homeless shelters and foodbanks at the end of the day.

Food standards are clearly a touchy subject for humans but Begley believes that ash should cease to be an ingredient in cat food before we faff about over a bit of horse meat.

The Media
Not content with smearing other humans, certain sections of the press often turn on animals in speciest attacks and Begley’s fed up with it. Whilst animals should be allowed to be true to their natures, the Daily Mail and other purveyors of incessant unpleasant drivel who use their fancy opposable thumbs to attack as viciously as any clawed and fanged animal, will not. They can challenge animals on fair terms or not at all. Anyone who wants to attack badgers, foxes, cats, dogs or any other animal can do so….naked, unarmed and locked in a room with a number of them equal to the number of people who would read their story if they survive to write it.

Anyone who has rummaged through a celebrity’s bins or stalked a celebrity they don’t intend to eat will be turned out onto the streets to live alongside nature’s other scavengers and predators (to clarify, Begley means animals). Homeless people will be moved into their houses.

Advertising
Advertisers don’t care who they hurt and cats suffer too. All ads where cats miaow or dogs bark will be banned.

If payday loans were hard to explain the ides of paying virtual kibble in the hope of winning virtual kibble was even more difficult. When told virtual kibble is usually lost, resulting in less money in the kitty to buy real kibble, Begley promptly decided to ban ads for all online gaming.

Seriously, Nadine?

image

Nadine Dorries complains about…well…what, really? “Lower life”. Another term for scum? Uncomfortably close to “plebs”? For someone so keen to distance herself from the “posh boys” and who is in the very same tweet criticising how others express themselves, it’s a downright strange choice of language. What baffles me is how a woman who went on a ridiculous reality tv show hoping to push her personal political agenda feels she has the right to judge anyone as “lower life” much less people using a medium which only allows them 140 characters to express themselves. She said she wanted people to get to know her through an unstuffy medium. Does she only feel that way about tv, a medium which is a one way street? I can’t take her complaint even slightly seriously for a number of reasons.

Firstly, I have no respect for her. You can dismiss that as lefty grumbling but the thing is that it’s really not a party political thing. If she’d been in a different party, on a different crusade, I would still have no respect for her. It’s her behaviour, not her opinions, that leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Dorries isn’t the only MP I would say this of but she does feminism no favours as a public figure. She is the only one about whom I would say, she’s an absolute joke. Parliament is sadly lacking in gravitas these days but when an MP chooses to go on national tv and eat animal genitals because the public wants her to, I believe she loses all dignity and all right to ask anyone else to take her seriously.

Furthermore, the public disdain in which she holds her party leader reeks of grandstanding. From the perspective of someone who loathes this Government, I do enjoy watching Cameron and his cabinet squirm but I get plenty of opportunities to do so without needing the waspish Dorries to stab him in the back. It’s just the kind of move which lends credence to the idea that women are a bit too shrewish, not dignified enough to be credible in politics. And, based on her performance in interviews and on panel shows, she doesn’t strike me as a well informed intellectual powerhouse. Just that blonde one who gets squawky, gets up Cameron’s nose and will eat anything if it means being in the spotlight.

Moving on from Dorries’ own behaviour, it’s rather stunning to see a complaint from a Tory MP which appears to be suggesting others have poor debating skills on Twitter. We’ve watched her party quoting the Old Testament in their opposition to equal marriage. We’ve watched them guffaw as they make cuts which literally put lives at risk. We’ve watched MPs demand enormous pay rises while cutting (in real terms – do I really need to say it?) benefits to the poorest. We’ve watched MPs on both sides incoherently jearing at one another, trading insults and spiteful barbs as our country has fallen to its knees. We’ve watched policy announcements made without communication between PM and ministers, seen policies having to be urgently revised or revoked because either they hadn’t been internally agreed or hadn’t been sufficiently thought through before being made public, tainting everything that follows.

You bet your ass the Left is angry. We’ve got every right to be. Even the Right has cause to wonder if the Government is asleep at the wheel. Twitter gives everyone a voice (seriously has Nadine read the things the Right say on Twitter about things like equal marriage?). We all have a twitter bubble.  Mine’s full of funny compassionate political cat lovers. They are often ranty and sweary. They’re passionate in their contempt for the Coalition and they fear for the future. We have a voice and we have each other and that makes an enormous difference and makes me confident that we have a future. Sometimes, depending on exactly what’s going on in the world, they are absolutely apoplectic with rage because they care. Who is Dorries, a woman apparently so passionate in her beliefs she was willing to eat anything some tatty tv show told her to, to criticise them for that?

Of course. I shouldn’t be baffled. Her tweet ticks a lot of the boxes I’ve come to expect. It guaranteed her attention and guaranteed that attention would be largely negative. Poor persecuted Nadine. If she doesn’t want to hear what people think about her, maybe she could try a little less grandstanding, approach her job with dignity and with a little humility. Afterall, she wouldn’t want to lose her safe Bedfordshire seat. If the Selection Committee has any sense she will and she’ll be able to do and say anything she wants in 2015.

How many elephants can you get in the DWP?

For the first time, last week, I heard that an MP had stood up in the House of Commons and asked, in relation to Work Capability Assessments and Employment Support Allowance, “what about the elephant in the room.” It’s about time someone said it. There is an elephant in the room when it comes to the government’s reforms of disability benefits. Quite rightly, much attention is paid to the strategy of declaring people medically fit to work and the role of Atos in doing so. I sympathise. I’ve been through assessments like that. The levels of benefits paid are also focused on. Again, quite rightly. Remploy…ah now we’re getting there.

Many disabled people are fit to work to some degree. Not everyone by any means (and nobody should be forced to work beyond their capacity to do so) but there are a lot of us. Making this possible was a key purpose of the Disability Discrimination Act. Like the Paralympians, disabled people need a level playing field to achieve our potential on. Outside the world of elite sports, this means we need reasonable adjustments. For me, for example, this takes the form of special office equipment, greater secretarial help and reduced hours. The reality is that these can be hard to get. I’ve fought for my adjustments and I’m still not managing my condition effectively as a result of the battles I just couldn’t face, one of which resulted from my second run-in with a private industry “Atos”. Rather than fight that battle, I started looking for a new job. That was three years ago. I’m still looking. I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to have the door slam whenever the words “part time” enter the conversation. An agent told me a while back he could’ve placed me at least a dozen times over the past three years, if only I was able to work full time. Unfortunately, working part time doesn’t seem to be considered a reasonable adjustment within my profession. To my dismay a feature on part time and flexible working in the Law Society Gazette not so long ago even talked about women and people wanting to work part time or flexibly for religious reasons or due to age without once mentioning disability. In that case, discrimination wasn’t the elephant in the room. Disabled people were. With my history, you wont be surprised that I’m calling “cooee. Can anyone else see that bloody great big elephant?” I decided to go looking to see if I could find out the extent to which discrimination is being dealt with in the context of the Government’s reforms of disability benefits and schemes like Remploy.

In 2006, the Leonard Cheshire Society Scotland published a report, Discrimination Doesn’t Work (which is also mentioned in other sources cited in this post). The Report addressed the then Labour Government’s proposals to move away from Incapacity Benefit to ESA and get 1 million disabled people back to work. The Background to the Report stated:

“Disabled people are more than twice as likely to have no educational qualifications as non-disabled people. They are over three times as likely to be economically inactive – and when they are in work, they earn less on average than their peers. By age 30, around a third of young disabled people expect to be earning less than non disabled people of their own age.”

“Leonard Cheshire fears that [the Government] has not taken sufficient account of the availability of suitable work, local unemployment levels or employer’s attitudes towards disabled people. Without a willingness by employers to take on disabled people and to see their skills rather than their impairment, the Government’s ambitions will not be met.”

They set about finding out how real these perceived barriers to working are for disabled people. They sent CV’s in response to 120 vacancies advertised in the national and local newspapers, online recruitment sites and online adverts. Each time they sent with 2 CV’s of equal experience, education and skill sets that met the advertised job specification. They received 98 responses from employers, and concluded that:

“Employers were twice as likely to discriminate in favour of a non-disabled applicant as to treat both candidates equally.

Less than one in three employers responded to both applicants equally.

7% of employers positively discriminated in favour of the disabled applicant.

Employers invited non-disabled applicants to twice the number of interviews than disabled applicants.

Disabled applicants were 36% more likely to be rejected for an advertised post than non-disabled applicants were.”

When I first read the Leonard Cheshire Report a few years ago, none of this surprised me. Nor did the fact that:

“From the responses we did receive we found that there was no pattern to the types of organisations likely to discriminate against disabled applicants. Large and small companies, from household names to small community businesses, demonstrated apparently discriminatory behaviour towards potential employees because of their disability.”

Oh, and the punchline? All of the jobs applied for were graduate jobs. The Report suggested that those without a higher education and work experience were likely to face even greater difficulties. They went on to survey disabled people for more information and the feedback reflected the results of their own study. The Report was addressed both to the Scottish Executive and to Westminster. It’s there. On record. In view of what’s been going on over the past couple of years, I wondered whether it really is being ignored.

In 2009 the Leonard Cheshire Society produced another report, Disability and the Downturn, which considered the impact of the recession on disabled people. The Report dealt with Finance and Income, Public Services and Benefits, as well as Employment and is well worth reading for its broader context. For now, I’ll stick to the section on Employment. Their annual review survey on discrimination found:

“Over half (52%) of respondents had experienced discrimination in the workplace in the past year, an increase of 11% since 2007.

43% of respondents also reported they have been turned down for a job or jobs because of their impairment, an increase of 7% since 2008.

Topline employment rates for disabled people have remained relatively stable to date, but, given disabled people’s profound pre-existing employment disadvantage, this must not obscure major continuing inequality. Nor should it obscure the fact that thousands of disabled people have lost, and will continue to lose, their jobs during the downturn.”

The Report noted that disabled people are often employed in the public sector (37% of disabled people). Since it was written, of course, public sector cuts have increased and are continuing. The Report also noted that the Government does not have a standard measure for monitoring discrimination in the workplace. As far as I can see, that situation is unchanged. Finally, the Report concluded:

“Narrowing the employment gap, safeguarding those disabled people in work and tackling discrimination in the workplace should be a priority for policy-makers. Employment is not the only answer, however, and urgent action is also required to ensure that existing inequalities are not exacerbated in areas such as social care provision, benefit eligibility and quality of life.”

The TUC also reported in 2011 ( Disability and Work) that no further progress had been made in improving the number of disabled people in work since 2008 and that:

“People with mental illness issues have an employment rate of little more than 10 per cent and people identified as having severe or specific learning difficulties only 15 per cent. Disabled people are disproportionately likely to have fewer qualifications, as a result of discrimination faced during childhood, and only 18 per cent of disabled people without qualifications have jobs.”

A Qualitative Study Exploring Employers’ Recruitment Behaviour and Decisions: Small and Medium Enterprises, was published in 2011 by the DWP and considers the employment of disabled people in the context of employer attitudes. In addition to mentioning the Leonard Cheshire Society Scotland’s findings in the 2006 study mentioned above, it also says, setting the scene:

“Employers are part of the wider population of the UK and hence subject to the same dominant discourses and prejudices around disability, which research has found can arise from misconceptions, ignorance and poor understanding about health conditions and impairments (see for example, Grey et al., 2009; Grewal et al., 2002).”

“Previous research on employers’ attitudes to disabled people highlights that employers can perceive disabled people to be more of a health and safety risk than non-disabled people and to be less productive. Employers may also be reluctant to confront the wider discriminatory attitudes of staff (Duckett, 2000). In the UK, Kelly et al. (2005) found that small employers thought that provided a disabled person ‘could do the job’ they might be recruited. The authors also found however that employers held the perception (rather than having gained experience) that people with what they termed ‘severe’ sensory, physical or psychological impairments would be the most difficult to employ because of worries about reduced efficiency and potential disruption to the workplace. Employers in some small companies have been found to have very narrow perceptions of disabled workers as wheelchair users and people with physical impairments (DRC, 2004)”.

“Research further suggests that employers perceive a range of barriers to making workplace adjustments, including the financial implications of doing so, the nature of the work premises and possible resentment from other staff members (Kelly et al., 2005).”

“Other research highlights that perceptions of whether disabled people would be able to fulfil a role depends on what exactly is involved in that role. For example, physical impairments were considered more of a barrier by employers in transport companies than they were by employers in IT based businesses (Stevens, 2002).”

This Report considered SME attitudes in some detail but only used a very small sample of 30 SMEs and chose them from among businesses advertising through Jobcentre Plus and local newspapers. The Report formed the basis of recommendations made to the DWP. It found a failure among some to appreciate the meaning of disability in the context of the DDA and that employers were more worried about people with “health conditions” and mental illness because they considered them to be unreliable than they were about people with what they considered “disabilities” such as people in wheelchairs and/or with missing limbs. SMEs reported that they didn’t feel that they had enough information about “health conditions” to be able to assess their impact on the job. They also felt the need to get the best possible value from employees during a recession. They believed that they couldn’t get this from disabled employees and that hiring disabled employees could create resentment in existing staff, who were expected to feel that the disabled employee wasn’t pulling their weight. It’s not surprising then that one of the recommendations in the summary to the Report is:

“concerns about productivity could, it might be suggested, be tackled by the policy suggestions made above. Educating the wider society about the capabilities of disabled people and about health conditions may help to tackle discriminatory attitudes based on ignorance.”

Where disabled people had been hired by SMEs interviewed in the study, they were candidates who:

“were thought to have stable and manageable conditions and to be able to ‘do the job’ without any adaptations being made”.

I was also interested to note that in this study, outside of the legal profession, SMEs reported that they were more likely to consider adjustments to hours worked than physical adjustments or adjustments to the job description for disabled candidates (my impression, from the examples running through the Report and the method of selection is that the SMEs selected for the survey weren’t “professions”).

The Report found a lack of awareness of existing schemes such as Disability Employment Advisers in Jobcentre Plus and the availability of financial help in order to assist the employer in making adjustments. The summary of the SMEs’ concerns and the recommendations for the DWP is contained on page 49.

The economic context at the time the study was carried out is, at best, unchanged now. I’d go as far as to say it is worse. The Report says:

“employers’ recruitment decisions are made with a consideration of the economic and labour market context which can be seen to act to constrain their choices in relation to the recruitment of disabled people. Employers focus on flexibility, maintaining productivity, lowering costs and maintaining and increasing profit margins and it is this labour market context that drives the employers’ quest for the best person for the job, or someone who can ‘do the job’. To this end they argued that they would consider a disabled applicant for an employment position on the same basis as anyone else. One interpretation of this finding might suggest that such a labour market context can be seen to demand more of disabled people in that they do not just have to be as good as their non-disabled counterparts, but in some cases, they need to outperform them. This poses questions as to the ability of DWP policy to influence this wider context: to make business less competitive, increase profit margins and mitigate the effects of the recession.”

One of the measures suggested to deal with SMEs’ expectation that disabled candidates need to have better skills than able bodied candidates to mitigate the effects of their disability is to “invest in the education and training of disabled people”. In particular, it says that:

“this might be especially so for people who may have been on Incapacity Benefit or ESA for some amount of time.”

I’ve checked Hansard (searching against disability discrimination) from the publication of this Report right up to date and, as far as I can see (I also searched through Google), the Government have provided no new answers on discrimination since the Report. The Government has made a great deal of its £320 million “investment” in disabled people but that money is directed at a scheme solely focussed on individual disabled people and doesn’t address the broad problem of discrimination. In fact, in the DWP’s response to the Consultation on the Sayce Review (The Government’s response to the specialist disability employment programme consultation), the issue of employers’ attitudes to disability was given one page:

“There were few suggestions for improving or changing specialist disability employment support that were not covered by any of the existing questions. One of the most common was the need to tackle society’s negative attitude towards disability, which was felt to act as a barrier to disabled people fully participating in the labour market. Some respondents cited the need for better engagement with employers and training, as well as incentivising organisations to employ a disabled person. Often this was felt an essential component to improve upon if the changes proposed in this consultation are to prove successful.”

That’s it. That’s all they said, despite their own previous report and the fact that the Equality and Human Rights Commission had also published a report in the interim acknowledging the need to deal with discrimination in order to ensure disabled people have access to work (to be honest with you, that report is a 108 page word document and I’ve only skimmed it thus far a lot of reading has gone into this post!).

The DWP Response to the Consultation on the Sayce Review was published on 7 March 2012. A week previously, the Human Rights Joint Committee had reported on the Implementation of the Right of Disabled People to Independent Living It’s likely I’ll come back to that report in another context in another post but, for now I’ll just draw your attention to the section in which it acknowledged:

“The most recent evidence, from the ODI’s Life Opportunities Survey, confirms that… 16% of adults with impairments experienced barriers to education and training, 57% experienced barriers to employment (compared with 26% of those without impairments), 75% experienced barriers to using transport (compared with 60%), 44% of households with at least one person with an impairment experienced barriers to economic life and living standards (compared with 29%) and 82% experienced barriers in leisure, social and cultural activities (compared with 78%).

We note the significant disadvantage to disabled people which persists in relation to choice and control and levels of participation in economic and social life and the impact this has on their economic and social well-being, and on what many of our witnesses considered to be their enjoyment of basic human rights. We therefore welcome the Government’s recognition that more progress is required to promote disabled people’s right to independent living.”

I believe ATOS is causing unnecessary harm by claiming that people are fit to work when they’re not but I also believe that, even if the DWP put their and ATOS’ house in order in relation to WCAs, we would still find that the majority of those assessed as capable of working would either not be able to find work at all or not work up to their skills capacity. They face discrimination and negative stereotyping at a time when able bodied people are losing their jobs and struggling to get back into work. My blood is absolutely boiling over this issue. I was exceptionally lucky that my job was left open for me to return to after my own period on Incapacity Benefit. That was five years ago. I can honestly say, I don’t think I’d have ever worked as a lawyer again if I hadn’t been able to go back into that job. As it is, it often feels like a trap because I “strive” and I “aspire” and it feels like I will forever be held back and pinned to this one position in this one job so how are people who have been unable to work for years going to find work? All disabled people struggle against able bodied people in the jobs market. My experience has been that, although more recruitment agents are willing to try to argue my case on my behalf now than five years ago, there has been no real improvement among employers. On the broader stage, there has reportedly been some improvement for graduates. More disabled graduates find work within six months of graduating than previously. However, every other statistic I’ve seen suggests this is an anomaly. I suspect that this improvement has much more to do with the support graduates now receive from the careers services within the universities themselves than an overall improvement in the attitudes of employers. I’d be interested to know the outcomes for people when they try to find a new job without the safety net of a dedicated careers service.

If the Government wants to be taken seriously when it claims that it only wants disabled people to have better lives and that that disabled people will feel better if they are working, it must stop the rhetoric which reinforces negative stereotyping. It must enforce disability discrimination laws. It must educate but it must also come down hard on anyone who fails to offer a disabled candidate a level playing field. I’m waiting but I’m not optimistic.

Proper consideration of disability discrimination should be one element of a full impact assessment over changes to disability benefits. If you want to support the campaign calling for a full impact assessment, visit Wow Petition.