How can we be a civilised society while allowing homelessness to fester?

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Homelessness is all our problem, it is an issue that effects us all. Whether directly through being on the streets ourselves, or indirectly through the society which we call our own.

You would think a problem of this magnitude would require a society wide effort to solve. Yet time and again we have been left wanting, and for those suffering this societal blight, it just isn’t good enough.

Make no mistake homelessness is a dirty stain on our society, we can not call ourselves civilised while we have people struggling for the basic necessities of survival, we cannot call ourselves a civilised society and turn a blind eye to the suffering of those we see on the streets every day.

I wish I could say I was shocked at the news by Crisis which reported that homelessness is set to reach over half a million by 2041, but the writing has been on the wall for a long time. The government has failed, is failing, and will continue to fail when it comes to homelessness, and it can be for only one reason – they simply don’t care enough. Time and again charities and community groups are picking up the slack, frantically trying to put a plaster on a problem that has been festering for too long.

It is extremely hard to get accurate data on homelessness, it wouldn’t be surprising if this number was a rather conservative estimate. Regardless of the exact figures the trajectory is clear – homelessness is going to continue to rise. We can and do need to do more, it is an indictment of the failure of our society.

It is easy to think it could not happen to me, or it is not my problem but eight million people are only a pay day away from being on the street and unless you have a crystal ball that can see the future, you don’t know what is around the corner.

It is clear the government will not act on this issue, not unless we force them. There should be national outrage over this, our governments continue to fail the people in their care yet again.

How many groups of people can the Tories betray, how many people in our society have to be cruel victims of their heartless policies before enough is enough? One person suffering on the streets is too many and one thing is abundantly clear, if we do not take action now, hundreds of thousands of people are going to be suffering in the future.

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The media don’t care about Venezuela, they care about attacking Corbyn.

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I’m no expert on Venezuela, I wouldn’t even call myself a layman when it comes to Venezuelan politics, but I’m shocked at the speed so many political commentators seem to have become one. Let alone the fact Corbyn is somehow responsible for it all, and now must write an apology in his own blood, while shouting “SHAME! MADURO I CONDEMN THEE!” all day and everyday until the media find something else to blame him for.

The speed and ferocity with which the media seem to care about Venezuela, and the internal struggle that is happening is astonishing considering their track record of only whispering on these issues where our elected government are concerned.

Where was the media rage when Erdogan went on a brutal crack down, after all Theresa May actually went and visited them, human rights wasn’t on the agenda then.

Where were the media masses wanting to exact penance from Theresa May after she cosied up to Saudi Arabia, doing a grubby little weapons deal. Right now British weapons are responsible for what is happening in Yemen, but the media silence is deafening.

Why didn’t we demand Liam Fox get on his knees and grovel after hailing the ‘shared values’ we have with the Duterte regime? Where was the condemnation of his government and the human rights abuses he is carrying out with his war on drugs?

Why didn’t we demand the Royal Family or the government  condemn the ruling family of Bahrain? After all the king was invited to the royal wedding and Theresa May recently visited the country. What about the human rights abuses in that country, the suppression and the crackdowns?

These things don’t excuse what is happening in Venezuela, but the difference in their reporting by the media does go some way to shine a light on the true intentions of our media class.

The fact the government can then talk about it like they give a shit just goes to show how hypocritical they’re being, for them it is just more shit to throw at Corbyn in the hope that something eventually sticks.

The government are quite open about human rights being a casualty in the quest to make cash, so maybe that is why they can get so worked up about Venezuela, because they are not making enough or any money out of the country.

Now I don’t know the extent of the human rights abuses in Venezuela, but it seems pretty clear both sides are involved. It was only reported a few weeks ago that the CIA want regime change and are operating within the country to achieve that, but this important piece of the puzzle seems to get ignored. The economy of Venezuela, the socio-economic factors, the geopolitical factors, they are all being ignored, or downplayed. In their place we are getting a back to back rendition of Project Blame Corbyn, followed by socialism epic fails.

Regardless of whether you support Corbyn or not, whether you are a socialist or not, reducing what is happening in Venezuela to a judgement on socialism, or as a smear on Corbyn is a huge disservice to Venezuelan politics.

There is a clear lack of balanced reporting, with the media more concerned about going after Corbyn than going after the facts. So it is clear what is more important to these commentators, it isn’t human rights, it isn’t justice, it isn’t about shining a light on what is happening in the country, it is about undermining the credibility of Corbyn.

I can’t tell you what is happening in Venezuela, but do some research on the subject, look in to news sources that actually want to report the truth because it is clear what we are getting from the mainstream media is a diatribe on Corbyn and the ills of socialism.

DUP feast on the fruit of the money tree, while public sector workers starve.

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They cheered and whooped with delight as they denied a better standard of living to the overworked nurses, to the stressed out police officers and brave firefighters. Remember these words: “I would like to thank the brave men and women of our emergency services,” clearly that thanks from Theresa May didn’t extend to providing them with a decent wage, or a properly funded working environment.

If public sector workers wanted to be real useful, because obviously saving lives and keeping society operating isn’t useful enough, they really want to get into a situation where they can keep the Tories in power. As we know, no price is too big when it comes to helping them cling on to power.

What effect will that decision, and the way they delighted in it have on morale in the NHS, or the fire crews who tackled Grenfell? How can any of those Tory ministers turn up at the next tragedy, while falling over themselves to praise the work of our emergency and public services? Repeatedly this government has been strong on words but short on deeds, and we simply cannot take it any more.

Our public services have had a seven year onslaught, the workers in them are at breaking point and while the MPs give themselves a juicy little pay rise to their already generous salaries, we have nurses surviving on food banks.

Shame on you Theresa May, shame on you and shame on the Tories. It’s a national disgrace the way the Conservatives have treated our public sector workers. We as citizens cannot allow this to continue, when the next election comes and who knows that could be this year, we have to vote them out! Enough is enough.

Northampton Council Meeting of Contempt

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Northampton Borough Council has shown complete and utter contempt for the chamber, the position and most importantly the people of Northampton, as they spend their last full meeting before the elections patting themselves on the back and electioneering.

They seem to have forgotten the problems facing the administration, and will face up until the time of the election, they seem to have completely forgotten that their position is to represent the people that elected them.

I wish I could say this kind of behaviour shocked me, surprised me even but time and again they have ignored the concerns of residents, time and again they have ignored our views and warnings, and time and again they have put their own interests ahead of the people of Northampton.

Lets not forget how the Chron have played into the egoist fantasies of the council leader Mr.Mackintosh without a week going by when his face isn’t offending my computer screen. I could write endlessly listing the failures of this council, but everyone living in the town is already well aware of them.

They seem to be living in a different town to you and I, for among their many glowing achievements (which the council recognised) were the Northgate bus station, which has been a complete and utter disaster, causing untold amount of traffic delays, let alone the distress it has caused bus users and the general public.

Mary Markham even goes on to congratulate them all on how well they have done at combatting homelessness, even though figures released suggest homelessness has increased year on year during their control of the council.

The only shocking thing from the whole night is that the Labour group walked out in protest, finally an opposition – shame they are only four years too late. It would have been great if they had shown this kind of passion while we have had to put up this this lot.

[each week I will pick a local news story and cover it with my own opinion, the news article this blog is in relation to can be found here: http://goo.gl/QR8kbq ]

Kindness doesn’t kill, cuts do!

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A campaign recently launched in Northampton called “Kill with Kindness” (yes that is its real name), has the aim of encouraging people not to be kind to homeless people.

It declares that homeless people are drunks and drug addicts and by giving them money you are therefore feeding their habits and killing them.

It declares that you should instead give your money to charity which has already been butchered in this county, maybe its time the council supported its services properly, so we didn’t have to prop them up!

This campaign is dehumanising, demonising and degrading and feeds into the myth that homeless people are to blame for their situation.

Not all homeless people are drunks, and not all of them are drug addicts and any campaign which starts off with this assumption is very insulting and damaging.

Instead of attacking the powerless, vulnerable and poor, they should run a campaign that tackles the root causes. Why not have a campaign called “help the homeless” or “home the homeless” – why run a campaign that sends the message that homeless are undeserving of kindness?

This campaign takes place within a backdrop of our county council butchering its services, meaning more adults are going to be vulnerable, and ultimately thrown on the scrapheap.

When are they going to tackle the underlying problems and come up with proper solutions to these problems? Homelessness, addiction – they take away our support network and then have the cheek to say we’re less than human (not worthy of kindness).

Social housing programs are few and far between not only in Northampton but the whole country, social enterprises and charities have had their funding cut and removed by local government, meaning less services and support for the homeless.

Homeless people are wait for it – people too. If a homeless person spends a couple of quid on alcohol, then who are we stop them? Would it be better if they drunk a bottle of wine a day?

What are the underlying causes of homelessness addiction? I don’t think the cause of these problems are created by the kindness of strangers, or by homeless people getting a few quid begging.

More than likely the causes of these problems relate to where they find themselves I.e on the streets, mental health related, there are a myriad of reasons why a homeless person may drink but one thing we can be certain of it definitely isn’t kindness that is killing them.

[each week I will pick a local news story and cover it with my own opinion, the news article this blog is in relation to can be found here: http://www.northamptonchron.co.uk/news/local/shoppers-in-northampton-urged-not-to-give-money-to-beggars-in-the-town-centre-1-6600489%5D

Left Unity: Two steps forward, one step back.

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Left Unity’s internal elections are fast approaching, the yearly elections we have to stop the kind of cult worship, and long standing power-grabs that can and have existed in the past. I would encourage everyone to get actively involved, the more new people we can get standing for positions the better, but not only do we need to encourage those who are new to politics to get engaged, we need to support them – politics and especially the left can be quite a scary place.

While the officers have done some great things this past year, building a party is no easy task, there have been mistakes made, and there have been allegations thrown around. Words all too familiar to anyone that has been on the left for more than a day, undemocratic, Stalinist, conspiracies, you know how the list goes on and on.

I can’t help but think this is part of the internalised culture that exists within the left, a kind of internal paranoia, scepticism, and cynicism. Where every mistake is seen as an intentional act of power hungry megalomania, or when a certain decision doesn’t happen in the way we want it to, rather than the fault be within incompetence or political difference, it is calculated political manoeuvrings or subverting the will of the party.

I won’t be going into detail about each and every issue or allegation that has been hurled around this past year, instead I think all of us need to have a steadfast resolve in improving the parties infrastructure, to improving our internal democracy, transparency and accountability.

Some have abandoned Left Unity and wrote it off as a failure, which to me seems a bit short sighted when we haven’t even had our second election. The party is still being built, have we done everything right this past year? No. Are we a perfect organisation? No. The important thing is however, we can shape Left Unity, it is up to us what kind of party we are involved in.

Once the dust of the election settles there are definitely things that need to be looked at and improved, we need to look at how the party operates, how we communicate with one another, how we formulate policy and ultimately how we improve on the foundations and principles we were founded on.

The party system of old is dead, it doesn’t belong in the 21st century, it isn’t suited to the internet age, and we need to be looking at how the internal workings of Left Unity can be upgraded and incorporated so that every single member has the maximum amount of power.

The constitution was a start but that was it, a start, it wasn’t the end it was the beginning. We are not doing this in a vacuum, we can build on what has come before, we can look to how Syriza and how Podemos operate. I however don’t want to build a party like Podemos or like Syriza, I want to build a party like Left Unity, one that we can call our own.

So how do we do this? Left Unity needs to adopt direct democracy internally in the realms of decision making, I’ve already wrote a small piece on how we can improve conferences which will have a knock on effect. We need to be as open as we possibly can about as much as we can, we have nothing to hide and nothing to fear.

We really need to rip up the rule book of organisation, and try out radical new ways out engaging members, supporters and non-members alike. In the meantime however and of a matter of urgency we need to improve communication, when there is a lack of communication, people who make allegations have free reign on opinion, and in the age of the internet that means they can influence others, as information spreads so quickly now.

Members area of the websites needs to be improved to accommodate more information, as well as a way for members to interact with one another, at the moment the main area of communication across the whole of Left Unity nationally is an unofficial Facebook group, which had to get shut down once already, it is ridiculous.

Left Unity needs to step up to the plate and embrace the internet, just running with the website idea each member could have their own profile, there can be some form of internal message board where we can communicate with one another, there can be an official statement one for Left Unity to keep everyone up to date with what is going on, with disputes, problems, etc.

Mass Skype meetings? Email? Forums? Apps? Polls? There is literally an untold amount of ways we can communicate with one another and keep each other informed, there is no excuse in this day and age – we are not living in the dark ages.

The very structure of how Left Unity operates could easily fall into the trap of alienation of its core supporter by making them feel powerless and disengaged with the whole creative and informative process. Branches have a lot of power, but they are not being supported enough. How many effective and operational branches do we have? What steps are we taking to improve upon these?

The majority of the problems I alluded to earlier were directly caused because a lack of communication, so lets go back to the constitution and see how we can be more transparent, lets go back to the spirit of 45 and lets see what we can do to improve the party we founded, and that we are building here. The future is ours, we only need to grab it!

Doing conferences differently

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Our conference has been and gone, but our commitment to a new kind of politics should be as strong as the fire from whence it came. It is great we have made it to our one year mark but the journey we set out on is far from complete, the masterpiece we are carving out on the political landscape still needs plenty of chiseling.

Ideally it will never be finished as the party adapts and changes along with the rest of society. We need to adapt to the challenges we face, discard what is useless while promoting that which is useful.

Politics needs to be open, it needs to be inclusive but most importantly, it shouldn’t feel like a chore. I could only attend Sunday and after being there for the first hour I felt like I wanted to walk out. It felt like a big waste of my time, and it shouldn’t be that way.

So how can we improve on our conference format? Where can we take our inspiration from? Podemos regardless of their politics held their conference in a football stadium with 20k people, with many more taking part online. We are calling for delegate conferences at 2000 members, is that the sum of our ambition and inventiveness?

We can implement these four things to improve our conferences:

  1. Conference should signal the start of a voting period which takes place online and via post.
  2. Greater use of social media i.e tweeting and facebook discussions so there is online participation
  3. Skype or video conference software in use to allow those watching online a way to interact with the conference
  4. A mechanism for internal referendums needs to come into existence

Conference should be where we have discussions, debates, workshops – a place to feel plugged into the wider LU machine. Debates it seems were rushed at times, large swathes of votes get pushed off the agenda. How we are doing things now is not only impractical in this day and age, it isn’t working.

If we were to have two day conferences which used multiple rooms and fulfilled multiple purposes, we could not only accomplish more, we would have a better experience.

As it stands conference exists for those with the funds, time and capability to participate. This creates less internal democracy, where we have the tyranny of the attendee and it just doesn’t have to be that way in the 21st century.

We are really starting to utilisize modern techniques of media, the website is coming on and the Facebook page is doing great. The more effective and inclusive we are at this during conference, the more people we can include in our debates.

This could be something as simple as a few words describing the topic we are currently discussing, or detailing a specific workshop. To more time consumed infographs, detailed information, pictures and videos.

The more people we can engage in our debates, whether they are members or not – the better they will be and to this end we should utilise video conferencing software. We have less spare time, but more things to do – we are overworked and should have the luxury of engaging with politics how we choose.

If you suffer from anxiety the conference atmosphere might not be for you, but why should you then be excluded from having a voice? If you are a single mother working two jobs, why should you then be excluded from having a voice? If you cannot get to the conference without physical support and are unable to get it, why then should you be excluded from having a political voice?

We have a great part in our constitution which allows us to have e-conferences on specific issues, this is great and needs to be expanded so there is a mechanism for members to call party-wide referendums.

This will ensure that if an important event takes place, we can react to it quickly and with the backing of the majority of the party. The greater power the membership can have over the decision making process, and more importantly the easier it is for us to wield that power, the more inclined we will be to do so.

We need to digest our politics how we digest everything else in the 21st century, that is at our convenience and quickly. Political participation needs to be brought dragging and screaming into the 21st century, and if we are to be doing politics differently, we need to be doing it with more than just words.