Thursday 9 January 2020

Open letter to Unison from women members on the announcement, without ballot of members, of the union's support for Kier Starmer

Dear "Unison",

We women members (including any who identify as women or as none binary) wish to make clear how disappointed and unhappy we are with the union's choice to announce backing of leadership candidate Kier Starmer at this stage of the contest and in this manner. In particular we are extremely angry that we were not balloted on this hugely important issue.

As feminist, socialist working women we feel that a progressive Labour party has an absolute responsibility, amongst other things, to promote equality and diversity. We therefore take the view that to have another middle class, middle aged, white male leader now, when we are the only party who has never elected a woman and when more than 50% of our current MPs and almost 50% of our last shadow cabinet were women is insulting.

Kier Starmer looks like a leader. He looks like a leader because he is the archetypal leader we have been shown repetitively throughout our lives. The reality of that will never change whilst we continue to perpetuate it and if we expect our standards as a party or as a union on equality and diversity, to be taken seriously, then I think we have as much responsibility to reflect that in our leadership as we do to chose a leader that reflects our membership's political leaning. 

Unison has an enormous membership. A membership that is majority women. Women who have long waited to see ourselves reflected in the Labour Party leadership in vain. 
As working women members we strongly feel that our voices have not has not been accurately reflected by Unison on this occasion. It is essential that this is rectified. It is essential that we are given the chance to request the change we want to see. It is vital that women, girls, BAME and working class citizens and members are given the chance to affect the change that may allow them to see themselves represented in leadership at the highest level of our movement.

Whilst we have respect for Kier Starmer and understand that many Labour or union members may use their vote to support him, we expect to be asked, and many of us signing this letter may have other reasons not to back his leadership bid. Regardless of where we ultimately chose to place our vote however, we wish to make clear that as fee paying members seeking the solidarity and representation of Unison as our chosen trade union, we expect to be consulted in order to ensure that the backing given is reflective of the full range of views and the diversity of us the members.

We would like our comments registered as a complaint, we expect an inquiry in to the decision to make a choice and statement of this gravitas by committee rather than ballot and we request that this be overturned and a full ballot of members now be made. 

Yours Sincerely 

Lisa Clarke, Nottingham NUH Branch member

Sunday 9 October 2016

If Nigel Farage is right about men's locker room conversation then why is he not fighting alongside feminists?

Unless you have been living in a newsless vacuum for the last couple of days you are no doubt aware by now of the seemingly surprising revelation in the Donald Trump campaign trail. Namely the unearthing of a video that reveals Trump, just over 10 years ago, discussing the fact that he can do what he likes to women because he is famous. That he doesn't have to control himself, doesn't wait, but simply kisses them or "grabs them by the pussy". 

Reassuringly the majority of commentators seem to have accepted that that would be sexual assault. In fact even a significant number of Republican politicians seem to appreciated that fact, and have accepted now what many of us have been aware of for some time. That a Donald Trump presidency would be a danger to their daughters and wives; as well as to the people of colour, Mexican's, Muslims and other minority groups we already knew he was a danger to. 

Personally my fear of a Trump win has been growing for some time, alongside my fear of the growing hate across the world. The increase in membership of far right groups, the lack of a co-ordinated effort to help refugees (including abandoned and lone children), the increase in hate crime in the UK itself. But I have to accept that I am at least somewhat removed from the full throttle threat of Trump by the existence of the Atlantic Ocean. 

What I am sadly nowhere near as removed from is the existence of Nigel Farage. Apparently the man is like a bad smell that you just can't seem to shift. He keeps coming back. He has supported the Trump campaign throughout, the two seem very pally, and now he has defended Donald's sexist and misogynistic language as simply “...alpha-male boasting", as “..the kind of thing, if we are being honest, that men do. They sit around and have a drink and they talk like this." If this is true I appreciate his honesty, but I also expect an acknowledgement that we had better do something about it and fast. 

Mr Farage, whether I like it or not is a popular man. A man seen, inexplicably, as everyday, as a person who says what we are all thinking, who doesn't mince his words. People like his honesty and the fact he doesn't talk like most politicians. This man has a wide influence.

So is he right? Do Most men advocate sexual assault, (we have already accepted that is what grabbing somebody "by the pussy" without consent is) in conversation, in locker rooms, pubs or wherever else they may gather without women? 

I am not suggesting any naivety on my part, as a 42 year old woman I have heard conversations like this. I know it happens, but just how common is it? 

At a rock festival this year I overheard a man speaking to his peer group. I was in a queue for food and didn't look up to see who the speaker was, but the man in question openly and loudly suggested that he was there "to get some under-age pussy", just, he said, "like every bloke there". Now I can't help thinking if I was one of the blokes in question I might not want to be included in the lighthearted suggestion that I too was at Reading Festival, not for the music and holiday atmosphere, but for the promise of statutory rape. Yet none of this chap's mates made any attempt to correct him. 
Obviously it's not the first time I've heard horrible things like this, but the reason I remember it so well is because it isn't something I hear all of the time. Perhaps I am simply not listening, clearly I am not the intended audience. But if you're telling me that it is so common, can you not see why women have every right to be both angry and fearful of that fact?

As a woman when I hear a man write off sexual assault as normal I assume he is a danger to me. Had my 14 year old daughter been with me at that festival you can bet your life I would have looked up when I heard what I heard. I would want to take a mental picture of that man's face, to label him as a predator, as somebody who was a danger to my daughter and her friends, as somebody to avoid.
If I hear a man normalise sexual assault, I at least suspect that this is to justify his own behaviour or that of other men he knows. I dont' assume all the men in the group who don't speak out or who laugh along are also as dangerous, I cannot judge that, but I wonder if they know that their friend might be. I wonder at how many times they might have watched him shout obscenities at women in the street, how many times he might have manhandled women in bars or clubs, how often they've turned a blind eye to women's protests or ignored their efforts to escape.

What annoys me most about these comments from Nigel Farage is that I know a lot of the people who will agree with him are the same people who are likely to be against feminism. The men and women that do not appreciate that sexism still exists, or accept that anything needs to change. Those who angrily retaliate to the lived experience of #yesallwomen with #notallmen. They appear not to understand or appreciate why women might be angry or feel the need to fight for a better, safer world for themselves or their daughters. These people angrily insist that most men are not a danger, and yet when we hear this language used out in the open in this way they acknowledge that it is commonplace and wonder at our surprise or naivety.

Nigel Farge and Donald Trump are not just any man in any private locker room, they are powerful men of influence who may be able to enforce law and who already influence our culture. When words like this are used and not acknowledged as being dangerous women are put at greater risk. Risk of assault, of rape, of not being asked for consent and not being heard when they say no. 

If you are saying this is commonplace then why do you not understand why we need change? Why are you not angry and fearful for the 50% of society put at risk by this attitude?

You are telling me that more men, not less, are happy to advocate sexually predatory behaviour. 

You are telling me that my fear of sexual assualt and rape all these years is a well founded fear, so why are you so angry and resistant when I share my own experiences and those of ALL of my female friends?

If Mr Farage is to be believed we have a very long way to go. If he is supported in this and heralded still, as a man of the people, then it seems we are getting further away from a society safe for women not closer to it.

It seems you know where we stand Mr Farage and it is in a dangerous place. So why aren't you fighting for something better? At the very least do not get in our way when we fight for a fairer and safer society where women will not need to be afraid simply because they are women.

Saturday 16 April 2016

Mind, Body and Abortion

I have been thinking for the last few weeks about the arguments given by the anti-choice/anti-abortion lobby, a thought process started by a demonstration outside our hospital in Nottingham and further strengthened this week by the outburst of an anti-abortionist at a House of Commons meeting about safe abortion access.

As with many extremist viewpoints, the major issues is over simplification of the issue. The anti-choicer sees a woman carrying a baby. They see it as a baby as soon as it is conceived and they see any loss of that life as a tragedy. Where choice has been a factor, they see that as malicious, as murder, as intent to harm and whilst I appreciate the temptation to see life and loss in this simplified way is a strong one, it misses so many of the inescapable facts of the matter.

When I chose to have children in my twenties it turned out to be very complicated indeed.

My first pregnancy ended in miscarriage at 6 weeks and I was completely devastated. I felt like my body was failing me. It turns out I was as wrong as I could possibly be about that.

After having my son approximately a year after that first spontaneous abortion, I went on to have a further two miscarriages before I discovered that I had a chromosomal abnormality and another one after that diagnosis. I have been pregnant six times in total that I know of and have only two children. The miscarriages involved varying levels of grief and feelings of inadequacy, but the difference with the last miscarriage was profound. By this point I knew that my body was doing exactly what it was supposed to do. It was rejecting a pregnancy that was not compatible with life.

The collection of rapidly dividing cells that can lead to a full human person is a vulnerable entity. Many things can go awry between fertilisation and birth, from genetic coding errors to misplacement and error, from accident or infection to uterine malfunction.

In many cases when things don't go to plan, the host body will reject the cells. Given the number of things that can and do lead to the rejection of a pregnancy by a woman's body it seems completely ludicrous that the woman's complete psychological aversion to hosting the pregnancy should somehow be less valid that any of these other reasons for abortion.

Thanks to medical advancement we now have ways to remove many collections of human cells that aren't where they should be or aren't doing what they're supposed to. In every case however, the ultimate choice about whether that happens lies with the human in who's body this is happening. Why on earth should  pregnancy be any different?

For me half of my pregnancies will result in a unbalanced mix of chromosomes that would be unlikely to sustain human life. Luckily in every case my body has rejected the "bad eggs" as I would call them, but through some miracle of biology and mathematics, the amazing people at in Genetics were able to calculate that my affected pregnancies had about a one in ten chance of making it to term, i.e. of getting all the way through a pregnancy to birth. They couldn't really tell me what a "baby" would look like in that case but considering that the information affected involved brain and spinal development, amongst other things, it was unlikely the child would live beyond birth for long.

In my eventual sixth pregnancy I had chorionic villi sampling (similar to an amnio) and was able to check that the genetic information was balanced. After the test I waited two agonising weeks for this result. Knowing throughout that if the result was bad I would opt to abort, rather than put myself, my family and this unborn life through further pain and suffering.

For me pregnancy was psychologically bruising and the birth caused permanent physical damage, but no matter how straightforward it might be, the investment, both physical and psychological that growing a human requires is absolutely enormous. The host body will never fully recover from the event. To suggest that after a conception a woman's feelings and thoughts on the matter are not as valid as her bodies cellar acceptance of the embryo, is to try to separate body and mind in a way that fails to recognise that it is not possible to do so. As a human being with bodily autonomy,  the only thing that would justify your taking that choice away from me is if you don't feel my thoughts and feelings hold enough validity or are somehow malicious.

So perhaps here in lies the truth of the matter. The vocal minority asking for an end to abortion not only don't appreciate the connection between body and mind but don't trust the minds of women. They somehow believe that women are not to be trusted to make this level of choice about anything, least of all their own body. A body that inconveniently has the power to give and to not give life.

When I confronted one male anti-choicer on social media last week about his opinion on abortion he told me that abortion was murder. If this is the language we are choosing to use about the death of all cells capable of advancing to human life, then we are faced with having to say that one in three pregnancies ends in murder of the embryo. In may case it was my physical body rather than my mind that committed that murder. Alternatively, if we only use this term to describe abortions where psychological choice and medical help are involved, then we are suggesting that one in three women are committing murder in their lifetime, that they have killed a child. A ludicrous suggestion when we consider how many women who have abortions are already, or will later go on to be loving parents to children.

The World Health Organisation recognises access to full birth control to be the single most important step in eradicating poverty. This fact blew my mind the first time I heard it but it makes complete sense. If women cannot control when and if they have children, then they cannot control their finances at all, both in terms of ability to work and earn and in terms of the huge financial investment that a child requires. Contraception is not full proof for numerous reasons, allergy and adverse reaction to drugs, failure of barrier methods, drug interactions that invalidate the pill, human error of judgement or lack of choice in the matter in the case of rape or coercion all play a part. On top of this, in the UK contraception services are undergoing the same cuts as the rest of our health service and as a consequence are getting more difficult to access. Given all of this it is absolutely inevitable that some women will become pregnant when they did not intend to.

In health care terms we have long accepted that the best care comes from seeing the full picture of a patients life. The interaction of the physical, the psychological, the socio-economic, the spiritual. If we accept that stress can contribute to cancer, if we understand that poverty can contribute to mental health issues and increase suicide, why do we not appreciate that in terms of pregnancy, whether or not we can afford a child, can accommodate them in our already existing family, can psychologically or physically get through a pregnancy, are all just as valid in deciding whether that pregnancy continues as any physiological cellular rejection of the embryo.

In our privileged, developed world medical advancements have allowed us to progress as humans, to make choices about our lives, to survive or to completely avoid infections that might have killed us, to remove rogue overgrowth of cells (cancers) and to avoid the constant pregnancies that limited our working lives, and damaged our bodies. A collection of human cells do not make a person, making a person requires the investment - physical, psychological, financial and spiritual, of the woman in who's body this is happening as well as, ideally, the wider support of her family and community. When any one of those things is not in place we are lucky enough to have choices.

The real tragedy is that here, where we have such privilege, we are still having to invest in the  relentless fight to keep unhindered access to safe abortion, when what we should now be doing is fighting to extend this provision to those unlucky enough not to have it, purely by accident of geography.

Abortion has always existed, it even exists in the animal kingdom, it is a vital part of our survival, our progress and now we can do it safely we have an absolute humane responsibility to offer that choice.

Wednesday 18 November 2015

No man's land

It's no man's land, this middle ground
This place between
This warring ground
It's not a comfy place to be and yet so often here I am
Between the father and the son
Between the siblings oh so angry
Between parents and the man I love
Between the the step father and the son
Between the son and my own partner
Between the partner and the daughter
In the middle here I stand
Here I am in no mans land
I buffer anger
Take the strain
I lie
I cover up the pain
Words spoken in annoyance, in anger
Aimed at me, because here I stand
In the middle here I stand
Here I am in no man's land
As I think back to a childhood home
To things I said
To words I've thrown
At my mother when meant for stepfather
At my mother when meant for my father
At my mother when meant for my brother
It's not a comfy place to be and yet so often here she stood
She brought messages of other's anger, with kinder words and pain diluted
In the middle here she stands
Here she stands in no man's land
In home on home across the land
She takes the strain, absorbs pain
She fears that they will fall out
And in her love she takes the clout
Again and again these sucker punches
She keeps the peace
She breathes it in
In her heart she feels the pain
From all directions time and again
Men and children carry on
They are unburdened of the wrong
That so upset them they had to speak
Not to the perpetrator of their grief, but to her
In the middle here we stand
We women, here in no man's land

Sunday 30 August 2015

Kiss Chase

It was with an expectation of anger that I opened Nick Cohen's article on the Ashley Madison debacle when it popped up today on my news feed. In the end I was simply saddened by the missed opportunity it presented.

The whole Ashley Madison affair (sorry) was, to be honest, not of massive interest to me initially. That so many people seek affairs is not news. Relationships are challenging and difficult, people of all and any background sometimes stray or seek solace and comfort outside of the couple for a multitude of reasons. Entrance into a dating site is not a crime and I was of the opinion that this was, at least to some degree, a trespass too far on people's personal information.

It was Annalee Newitz's piece in Gizmodo earlier this week though, revealing the extent to which this site was a one sided fantasy land made up of millions of real men and a tiny number of women, most not real; that awakened me to the far greater and more disturbing insight this story provides, into the relationship dynamics and gendered behaviour of our culture. A status quo sadly reinforced rather than challenged by Nick's piece in the Guardian today.

Cohen, concerned that we are laughing at these na├»ve men, tries to entice us to more sympathy with the news that "Unless you are a stupendously handsome or famous man, or preferably both, there is nothing casual about casual sex.". "It is grindingly hard work," he tells us, "with no prospect of a grind at the end. Men must hit on dozens of women. Ignore every rejection and bound back again." ; and just in case after this, we are still determined to have no sympathy, we are reminded of the other cruel tricks such hackers play, on vulnerable women. Romance fraud - conning the desperate out of their saving, or the sharing of naked images - unscrupulous types enticing them to share intimate photographs or video that later ends up on revenge porn sites.

Cohen's concern however for the humiliation of both the men and women in these cases, misses a far deeper and more overarching issue.

As a child of the 70's I was fortunate enough that many of the toys I grew up with were non-gendered - brightly coloured Lego bricks, hand-me-down bicycles without bows or glittered logos; I am not a product of Disney princess, and I thankfully predate the divide of pink and blue aisles in toy shops. My own children have not been so lucky, and it is only on reflection I can see that my daughter's complete rejection of toys altogether, may well have been down to the narrow choices on offer to her to play mummy, housekeeper or stylist. In tern my son's ability to turn even a baby doll into a gun (using the arm as the shaft and the legs as the barrels) may in no small part have come from the swashbuckling, sword wielding, gun toting fantasies he grew up surrounded by.

Throughout life, through small and large stimuli, we force males and females into narrow gender categories. Reinforcing and rewarding vulnerability and quiet acceptance in our girls, whilst excusing and encouraging violence and outspokenness in our boys.

Through the fantasies of princesses awaiting rescue by their soldiers, knights and pirates our children grow up, playing "kiss chase" a game where boys almost universally chase the girls. They are surrounded by thousands up on thousands of images of half naked females, posed in vulnerability, in magazines, on billboards and on screen, they become the wallpaper of life and alongside them at times, the lesser seen, ripped, strong torsos of young men, ready to take action.

Over parents shoulders, in print and online in the news, stand the active, achieving and powerful men of business, politics and sport, and disbursed amongst them  - the decoratively posed women, featured for their wardrobe choices or malfunctions, their bikini bodies "papped" on the beach.

By the time they reach the early stages of romantic entanglement girls are already being called "sluts" for little or no transgression, whilst school and 6th form dress codes reinforce a sense that female bodies are a dangerous temptation that must me kept in check. Boys experience sex through online porn, learning that women often start by saying no or crying, later moaning in enjoyment at a mere touch. Peer groups push boys to talk of girls as conquests whilst girls walk a tightrope of being attractive and sexy enough, without ever admitting to actually wanting or having any sexual needs of their own; and the saddest thing - is that this so often continues into adulthood.

A few years ago, as a newly single adult woman at the age of 36, keen to explore my sexuality and to gain experience and understanding of myself. I was disappointed to find that just as at age15 - I was under pressure to fulfil an expectation of chastity, to not "give myself away too cheaply" not set a bad example to my daughter. Restrictions seemed to be in place, I must be the gatekeeper of my vagina, only lowering the defences and yielding after the magic three dates and under the pressure of coercion. In contrast the men I encountered were often quick to become sexual and intimate in their language online. On dates there was an expectation that they would have to pay for dinner or drinks and a seeming need to present themselves as the financially stable rescuer that I didn't actually need.

Fresh faced and terrified in the world of singledom I had none of this insight at the time of course. It is only now, a few years into a warm and loving relationship that I am able to see the ridiculous dance I had last performed at age sixteen that I was once again engaging in, a pretence that we continue to perpetuate, that not only risks leading to our profound unhappiness but actually puts us at greater danger of real harm.

Nick Cohen was really concerned we might be laughing at "idiot men" signing up to Ashley Maddison, maybe some were. But Speaking personally as a feminist, I am not laughing at these men, I am sad for them and for their seeming need to be in constant pursuit, ready to win over and disarm any potential partner. Likewise my issue with romance fraud or with revenge porn committed largely towards women, goes far beyond my disgust at the criminals who commit these crimes and into the very background in which a woman feels a failure without a man, or must be shamed by her sexual behavior.

What was missed here and what needs far greater discussion, is the narrative of the culture we have created. One that would paint all men as macho, sex obsessed rescuers who must both romantically woo and break down the defenses of any vulnerable and needy woman, whilst simultaneously telling you that "nice" women don't actually want or like sex as much or as often as men "need" it and restricting the sexual identity of women to simple play things to whom things are done; rather than active participants seeking to receive as well as give pleasure.

Feminism, despite it's bad press, is fighting this on all fronts. Across my social media feeds I am surrounded by feminist projects seeking to redress the balance of gender stereotyping in toys, books and clothing aimed at children. I am aware of schemes in schools seeking to teach about consent and body awareness from a young age, followed later by sex and relationship education centred around mutual respect and consent. My thirteen year old daughter watches, with my blessing, the YouTube videos of Laci Green , learning about sexual pleasure and enthusiastic consent, and in the mean time campaigns have successfully lobbied to remove Page 3, continue to fight for greater representation of women in sport, and are seeking to redress the balance of power in Westminster.

Women and girls, men and boys are far more the same than they are different. With increasing awareness of sex and gender identity as a fluid concept for many, and far more complex than the anatomy with which we happen to be born, perhaps we will accept that we each have our own individual needs and should feel no shame in seeking to fulfill them. Girls are strong, resilient and independent, boys vulnerable, unsure and gentle. Ultimately what many of us seek, no matter what our gender identity, is a fulfillment of closeness, warmth and sexual need to varying degrees. We are all unique and yet we share so many common goals and emotions.

It is only by questioning the narrative at every age, in every part of our society, in the media in which we swim or increasingly drown, and through the education to which we are entitled, that we can begin to dismantle the damage that is being done and to put it right. The culture that leads to men's humiliation at the hands of an unscrupulous website in the search of the none-existent women they are conditioned to seek, is the same one that sees women regularly sexually harassed, assaulted and raped by men who see women's boundaries as something to be overcome. If we can celebrate our individuality as human beings from the outset and throughout our lives then we can escape the restrictions and boundaries allowing us to "hook up" and enjoy each others company with mutual understanding or to find truthful and fulfilling relationships in which we can all feel safe.

Sunday 23 August 2015

Halt the Labour leadership election for pities sake!!

No, not because of the concerns over "entryism" or the possible culling of members and supporters who might be too socialist for the party founded by....a socialist.
No, it's because they have bloody well chosen the wrong women!! At least this is the call of Charles Moore in 1950's throwback, The Spectator this week. might ponder..... as a self-respecting feminist of the 20th century the man has a point. I for one would quite like to vote for a woman leader but am disappointed that the best of them seem to be in the running for deputy or waiting for a vacancy as London Mayor.

But ladies we are barking up the wrong postman's trouser leg here. We've missed the point completely with our silly lady brains.

You see the problem is nothing at all to do with lack of vision or Tory light policies, oh no. It is all because of the frankly appalling state of candidates Cooper and Kendal, neither of whom we are told, are likely to get as much as a semi-on out of any self respecting back bencher.

Good grief, you might be thinking, what sexist bilge is this. BUT, hold on to your panty liners there for a minute, because I'm afraid they have this whole thing backed up with hard evidence.

You see it seems Mrs Thatcher’s victory in 1975 was nothing to do with her terrifyingly strong leadership skills and suitably frighteningly cold, get the job done persona. Oh no! It was in fact entirely all down to the fact that "lots of older Tory backbenchers fancied her."

Now wait, if you can hold onto to your breakfast for just a minute there (you're a better woman than me) you need not worry. We can just start this whole leadership thingy all over again from scratch and put the whole debacle right because, thank goodness, Charles, bless his ironed socks, has enlightened the Labour party with all the information it needs to chose the right woman for the job.

So Labour women MPs, put down your clip board, forget about your achievements to date, about the need for charisma or any silly lady policies you might be dreaming up about social justice, equality or any such thing.
If you identify yourself of the female persuasion, before you even THINK about putting yourself forward for leader, you'd better just take a minute to check whether you meet these vital requirements for the job
(I have bullet pointed them in case you wanted to break them up in between all of your vital domestic chores, you can thank me later....when you've done the ironing) -

  • Make the "best of it" BUT, and this is vital "without obvious strain"
I'm not completely certain "it" is or what this means but I think holding onto "it" might have something to do with a high fibre diet so buy in some All Bran
  • Make sure you are not "disturbingly sexy"
I have been thinking hard about the interpretation of this one and the last time I disturbed somebody with my sexiness was I think in 1995, when whilst tending to a patient I got something in my eye and accidentally winked at one of the senior doctors whilst bending over to pick up a bed pan. I managed to counter this unfortunate faux par by spending the rest of the shift feigning a nervous twitch. Of course the was that referral to occupational health for psychological assessment but I think you'll agree it was worth it. A woman can't be too careful!!
  • Appeal "to the chivalrous instincts of the knights of the shires."
I think this might be something to do with The Lord of the Rings, which none of us will of course have read because it's a man's book
  • Have a long look in the mirror ladies before you consider stepping forward because there will be times when what you have to say is "so boring that one looks rather than listens". You know...when your talking about lady things like domestic violence, rape or domestic policy. It must be remembered that. "no leader — especially, despite the age of equality, a woman — can look grotesque on television and win a general election."
I'm so glad they reminded us that it was the age of equality because I was starting to worry up until this point of the article that we might still be living in some horrifically unequal society. You know, one that sees fit to judge female politicians on their fuckability as opposed to, well.... whether or not they could run the nobbing country.
  • As a female candidate you will need "a touch of appealing vulnerability"
Ditch the usual head and shoulders shot and consider a candidate leaflet featuring you tied to a post on a cliff top in a long frock awaiting rescue, as per Jason and The Argonaut's circa 1963

  • Be one of two physical types -
  1. A "lower-middle-class version of Clare Balding" and "possibly lesbian" only possibly though, not an actual lesbian or the actual Claire Balding, that's tool posh AND too lesbian!
Alternatively be...

2."more provocative and sassy" like that woman off of "Hello Hello" who liked to insinuate an unexplained sexual act involving a whisk, or somebody on BBC breakfast that your old friend Charles here is so impressed with he can't even be bothered to Google her and find her ACTUAL NAME.

  • Make sure that your feminism is of the "Show, don’t tell’ variety" No long boring debates please about tackling the unequal pay, but do feel free to pole up to PMQs in a spotted headscarf or suffragette sash

Well there we are. The vital information all our Labour women need to put themselves forward.

Where would we be without Mr Moore's words of wisdom?

Well probably sort of where we are now really, with a leadership election focused mostly on policies and leadership skills and what's the point in that? After all, we are told Labour leadership voters seem to  "prefer a man with a dull beard." so perhaps Liz and Yvette could work on one of those instead?

Tuesday 4 August 2015

Austerity and Inequality

So we want to talk a little about Austerity, its a term that gets used a lot. We are told we need it in order to improve the economy but people have marched against it all over the country, so what are we actually talking about?

Well for a starters it is probably important to point out that Britain is not a poor country. In fact the UK is the sixth richest country in the world and, before the recession, between 1993 and 2008 it saw 15 years of sustained economic growth.

In 2008 there was a global financial crisis. The banks had lent too much money to too many of the wrong people and were in debt themselves. The UK government chose to bail out British banks in order to prevent a collapse of the British banking system that would cause an even deeper depression.

At the same time, the government also began trying to stimulate spending. They reduced VAT and spent more on schools and social housing to try and encourage people to spend and to keep the economy as strong as possible.


Since 2010 the government led by the conservatives in coalition with the Liberal democrats and now the Conservatives alone, enforced austerity. This was mostly in the form of deep spending cuts with only small increases in tax.

The stated aim of austerity was to reduce the deficit in the UK by cutting spending, to give confidence to the markets and therefore deliver growth to the economy.


Whilst austerity measures have had some impact on reducing the deficit, they have delivered very little growth, and public debt has risen.

Austerity policies have also had a huge impact on the poorest people in the UK. In 2010, the government announced the biggest cuts to state spending since the Second World War, including big cuts to social security and the planned loss of 900,000 public sector jobs between 2011 and 2018.

Since the financial crisis began the poorest and most vulnerable in our society have had their situation made far worse.

The cost of living has continued to rise, whilst cuts to social security and public services, falling incomes, and rising unemployment have created a damaging situation in which millions are struggling to make ends meet.

Tell us about it: How have you and your family been affected? Do you have less money to spend in the month now than you did 10 or more years ago? How have families around you been affected?


The biggest impact of austerity is a huge rise in inequality.

Cuts to public services and changes to taxes and welfare have hit the poorest the hardest.
In fact the poorest tenth of our population have seen a 38% decrease in their net income since 2010.

By comparison, the richest tenth have lost the least with only a 5% fall.

There is also continuing evidence that the very richest are doing far better.
At the very top, Britain’s richest 1,000 individuals saw their wealth increase by £138bn in real terms between 2009 and 2013.

It is good for our economy if people can do well, make profit and invest but that investment needs to have a positive effect for all and not just the few.

Instead, measures designed to stimulate the economy have resulted in significant gains for the richest, while the poorest tenth are taking home even less.

Policies that were designed to increase the share of tax paid by the rich so that all of society can benefit from economic growth have been watered down. There has been a reduction in the top rate of income tax for those earning over £150,000, from 50 to 45% and a fall in Corporation tax on businesses at a time when the UK’s top companies are doing better than ever.
Meanwhile 1 million people used food banks in 2014-15 and with on-going cuts those figures are set to rise 

For those in work, average hourly wages have fallen and there has also been a change in the type of jobs available - temporary work, part-time work, self-employment (with no employment rights) and zero hours contracts with no guaranteed minimum income, have all increased.

As the UK returns to growth and business owners begin to see good profits and a rise in income, there are rising levels of insecure work, high unemployment and the reduction of the benefits that reduce poverty and lower inequality. On top of this t
he latest budget announced cuts to tax credits for working families.


Currently about 14% of the national benefit bill goes to housing benefit, most of this going straight into the pocket of private landlords, many of whom own large amounts of property.

The recent budget announced an end to housing benefits for under 25s. This makes little difference to richer families who can afford to assist their children in buying or renting property but has a huge impact on poorer families who can't afford to help and to young people who for lots of reasons cannot stay at home with their parents.

Meanwhile councils now struggle to offer social housing, their stock reduced by decades of the right to buy policy.
There is now a housing shortage in many regions which has caused rents to increase massively.  The benefit caps that reduce overall payment have also meant many families can no longer afford these rents.

For all of these reasons many councils  are now unable to permanently rehouse families. The number of homeless families housed in B&Bs has increased by 300% in the last 5 years. and homelessness overall has increased by more than 50%

Meanwhile the recent budget reduced the tax paid by those who are inheriting expensive properties from family members - another measure that benefits families who already have wealth but of no benefit to low or middle income families who can't afford expensive property.

Support for Austerity

There is some popular support for austerity. For example, lots of people feel we need to balance the books and live within our means and that austerity is helping achieve this. Many also want to see welfare 'dealt with' believing that there is a culture of "something for nothing" and people choosing to live on benefits rather than working. So what about these issues?

It is easy to think that people on low incomes receiving tax credits and those on benefits are somehow choosing to remain poor or are not working hard enough and there are always plenty of stories in the newspapers (which are mostly owned by very rich individuals, some of whom pay no or very little tax in the UK) about "benefits scroungers" but in actual fact 50% of children living in poverty in the UK are from working families and as we have already pointed out it is the lowest earners who have lost the most overall due to austerity.

In the UK the welfare bill is divided like this -

Overall only 10% is paid out to those not working, the vast majority is to pensioners and a bigger chunk goes to private landlords. Perhaps if we invested more in social housing that bill would come down?

With public sector cuts, there is less support in place for adult learning and less help to find work. Perhaps with more investment there that 10% paid out to the unemployed may also reduce? 

At the moment the biggest drops in income and the largest percentage of that income paid in tax is by the poorest in the UK

In the long run  many would argue it is short sighted to continue to avoid taxing high earners whilst penalising low income earners, because in the end not having enough money stops people from spending.

The poor are getting poorer and the rich are getting richer. Continuing to ignore tax avoidance and reducing the tax paid by businesses and rich individuals whilst reducing benefits and income to the poorest will not fix this, it will make it worse.

It is only through increases in income for the working majority and through greater equality and security, that we will see spending and prosperity improve for everyone and not just the elite few.

As an economic program, austerity, under recession, makes no sense. It just makes the situation worse