Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Sue Marsh, author of blog Diary of a Benefit Scrounger, stunned fellow disability campaigners by announcing on Friday the 9th of January via her blog that she has accepted a job with US firm Maximus.

Maximus was awarded the £500 million contract by the government to replace ATOS, administering the much-maligned Work Capability Assessment (WCA) for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) claimants on behalf of the DWP.
The company brings it’s own fair share of controversy across the Atlantic, having been involved in several claims & scandals in the US – a few examples of which have been collated here by Tom Pride on Pride’s Purge.

So why is this such a shock? Marsh has been actively involved in the campaign scene for around 5 years with issues like the Spartacus Report and the unfit-for-purpose WCA, writing about them on her blog.
With such controversy surrounding the assessment and associated processes for many disability campaigners, it’s little wonder people are shocked with some left feeling betrayed.

Sue claims she has accepted the job as a ‘Head of Customer Experience’ to enable her to enact change from within the company itself – sort of a ‘if you can’t beat em, join em’ strategy. Whether she is able to encourage any form of change or not remains to be seen. Most likely the best possible outcome she could perhaps achieve would be a ‘more comfortable’ experience for ESA claimants undergoing assessment (Maximus call them ‘customers’ – giving the illusion of choice), it’s extremely unlikely she’ll be able to effect any change in the assessment process itself. A process which has been ruled as discriminating against mentally ill claimants.

Regardless of what Sue may or may not be able to achieve within the company however, is slightly irrelevant compared to the issue really riling up disabled people after hearing the news. Many people that read Sue’s blog and those that post to disability campaign groups on Facebook etc, are slightly more concerned by the fact that Sue has jumped straight from being in the support group of ESA into a full time, highly demanding job. This then presents worries that Iain Duncan Smith’s next move will be to place Sue on a podium as a shining example of how disability benefit claimants in the support group can all manage to work and should be doing the same.

It doesn’t matter to the government that each individual person claiming ESA & DLA have health problems unique to themselves, and that a pain level one person could tolerate may be unbearable to another. The only thing that matters to the heartless, callous party in power is that they can say they were right to impose sanctions on claimants, and that they’ve saved the taxpayer however many £millions. Never mind the fact that people are committing suicide because they can’t physically manage to get through the day. And their allowance has been stopped due to a civil servant working to targets (yes – ‘those’ targets that IDS claimed didn’t exist) giving no consideration as to their day-to-day life and how their condition affects them.

Life is already humiliating enough for those having to claim ESA, considering the number of hoops to be jumped through to prove disability and incapability of working. With it being renamed from Incapacity Benefit & Income Support to Employment Support Allowance, it rather gives the impression of a form of pocket money, handed out if you’ve been a good boy/girl this week. How patronising.

Many people with disabilities already live in fear of the dreaded brown envelope arriving with the morning post, summoning them to yet another horrendous WCA with the threat of a sanction looming. Many have withdrawn from social contact, other than communicating through the internet, as they’re petrified of being sanctioned for having the gall to enjoy themselves on one of their extremely rare good days. So many people partaking in the witchhunt devised by the government & media to hound disability claimants either have no idea, or care not that a lot of disabled people may have one good day, which can be followed by several days of being unable to get out of bed with levels of pain which make you wish you didn’t exist. Sadly, a large proportion of the public are blinkered to the truth that the majority of those receiving benefits are NOT doing so fraudulently, yet DWP policies enforced by ATOS – soon to be Maximus – work to governmental targets, rather than taking human suffering into account.

The last thing the section of society living with crippling conditions (be they mental, physical or both) needs, is yet another presumption/assumption about their lives. This situation, spun by the government and media, could be explosive, possibly creating far, far more casualties & fatalities in the months to come. I for one hope it turns out to be a dud, and that Sue Marsh is able to achieve some sort of improvement within Maximus…only time will tell.

Having attended the Million Mask March again on Wednesday the 5th November, there were a few things I noticed…and not in a good way.

The turnout was once again larger than last year, as was the year before that – estimations vary regarding attendance, though popular consensus seems to put the figure at 5,000 – 6,000.  And once again, the vast majority of people I saw there were there with peaceful intentions.

 

The first mistake the London Metropolitan Police made was to set up a huge sound system at Trafalgar Square, making announcements every 5 minutes to waves of boos and shouts – it was of course ‘all for our own safety’…how patronising.  In essence what they were doing was insinuating that they were there to keep ourselves safe from ourselves, while working through a list of things we weren’t to do – no drinking, no fireworks, no climbing on buildings or monuments, and no sound systems.  All this, while we were watched over by mounted police, and armed units standing on the balcony of the museum, not forgetting the ever-present helicopter droning overhead.

 

The use of the mounted and armed units was a tactic to intimidate us into compliance, which had little or no effect.  We set off down Whitehall, a stream of people fed up with corrupt governmental tactics, scandals, fracking, surveillance, and austerity to name but a few.  Each individual had their own reasons for being there…that is excepting the minority that turned up with the simple intention of causing trouble, who probably had no idea what the protest was actually about.

The march towards Parliament Square was largely uneventful, with the customary stop outside Dave’s gaff at No. 10 to vent frustrations and give him an indication of how disgruntled the masses are with the way the establishment run the country, by hook or crook.

 

On arriving at Westminster however, things changed drastically.  The Met went all out on the intimidation front, the grass at Parliament Square was completely fenced off, and the Houses of Parliament surrounded with a double layer of barriers.  Peaceful protesters were met with police officers kitted out in full riot gear, balaclavas and helmets, dehumanised and acting as Westminster’s Personal Protection Service.  In my opinion this only served to inflame the situation, making us all feel like criminals for daring to exercise our right to democratic protest.  We were funnelled through the square like rats in a trap, with the Met making an obvious attempt to contain the march, trying to prevent a repeat of last year’s unpredictable swerve towards Buckingham Palace for a late dinner with Lizzie.

They failed.

 

Fireworks exploded overhead outside parliament to cheers and whistles, and in response the Met beefed up their front lines to 3 deep in some places.  Having created a veritable powder keg of a situation, it was inevitable that something would kick off at some point – bottles, stones and in one case a traffic sign were hurled across the barricades at the police…something that I in no way condone by the way.  The lines outside Westminster Cathedral were eventually broken, with the march seizing the opportunity and gathering pace to move towards Buckingham.  Small groups of police officers found themselves virtually kettled by protesters, and made panicked darts towards open space.

 

Once at the palace, more fireworks were sent into the air to cheers…however the Met had increased their presence there from last year, more beefed up squads of riot officers, forming up in squads and looking thoroughly miserable.  As they formed a line in front of the palace, looking like they were about to clear the fountain and monument, they hadn’t anticipated the protesters charging off across the grass to the side of The Mall, to head towards the BBC HQ up the road, sadly knocking over bins as they went & creating a hell of a mess on the streets.

 

On arrival, the Beeb was in full lockdown mode, with scores of officers standing between marchers and the main doors.

After visiting Auntie, it became a game of cat & mouse, with the group taking unpredictable turns in the streets, making it impossible for the police to pre-empt them…after bringing Regent Street to a standstill, a police line was formed at the entrance to Picadilly Circus, essentially cleaving the group of protesters in two.  What the police failed to notice however, was a side street a few yards back which led around the line and into Picadilly, then itself almost brought to a standstill by Obe-Wan Kenobe with a guy fawkes’ mask, as he made a peaceful stand in front of a bus, which he maintained for some time.

 

I left at this point, after watching 3 van loads of police officers turn up to deal with some Anons dancing in Picadilly Circus around a performer with music playing through a loudspeaker.  I believe the chase didn’t end there, and continued for another hour or so.

One upside of the growing attendance year after year, is that the media interest is also growing.  The MSM likes of the BBC can no longer ignore what is happening on their doorstep, and many more media outlets are attending and reporting…many in a bad light, but there are some decent journalists out there reporting in a fair manner.

 

Overall, I saw only a small amount of troublemakers for such a big crowd – but I was aghast at the tactics employed by the Met…they are becoming more and more militarised every year, and more and more dehumanised.  These people are human too, and I am not saying every single officer is just looking for an excuse to use their truncheon, but the time is coming to make a choice between what you’re told to do, and what is morally and ethically right to do.  The police are supposed to keep the peace, and ensure justice prevails, but right now the corrupt political establishment and corporations openly flouts that judicial system and use police officers like their own personal security detail.

If we behaved like our politicians, we’d be imprisoned. The political system is clearly broken, politicians are clearly using the system to grab every penny they can, regardless of how much it harms the very people they are elected to represent.  This much is clear.  Yes, there are decent MP’s who try their best to act in their electorates’ interests, but sadly they are ignored by their parties, and thus seldom manage to make much of a difference.

Humanity itself is creeping ever closer to a brink that we may not recover from.  The question is, what are we going to do about it?

With just under 6 months to go, the Scottish Independence Referendum is hotting up.  There’s arguments & counter arguments being thrown back and forth over the table, and debates have been turned to various topics.

A prominent situation to me however, is that with independence, we – the ordinary people – have a chance to stand up for our communities and get involved in politics…why not?  Because we’ve been indoctrined to believe that we’re not good enough, not intelligent enough to have a say in what happens in our local areas?  Possibly – the head heidyuns in Westminster rely on us thinking there is no way we could become involved, so they can maintain their way of life, stripping the economy through the expenses system & pushing society to the brink of revolt.

But, there is another way – there is the society that deeply cares what happens to those around them, that are prepared to stand up and speak about what they feel is wrong with the system.  Never has that been more apparent than the past year with the public becoming involved in the debate for independence.  Society is once again getting stuck in with public forums stimulating discussion, bringing forth ideas for our country.

A strong theme I have noticed is the inequality & lack of empathy for the general public, politicians giving not a thought for the consequences as they merrily claim expenses while their constituents live in mould-ridden homes & suffer in poverty.  Voting for independence is NOT a vote for Alex Salmond and the SNP – regardless of personal feelings towards the First Minister and his party, the vote on September the 18th 2014 is a vote on whether we are prepared to take a leap into the unknown & create our own destinies.

I was thoroughly impressed to see a 15 year old stating during a Q&A session on the subject that ‘nobody knows where we’re going to be in 4 years, nobody knows where we’re going to be at the next election, nobody knows when the next financial crash will be, nobody knows anything.  How can we ever base anything on not knowing?’ – a balanced, well thought out view if ever I heard one…the truth is that we don’t know, but you can never succeed if you never try in the first place!

No, we don’t know what will happen if we vote for independence, however I would hate to have to tell future generations in my family that yes, we had the chance to try, we had the chance to do things differently but we voted no because we didn’t know what would happen.  If we don’t take that leap, we have no idea what could have been and many of us would regret that choice in the decades to come.  We live in a society where the rift between haves & have nots is deepening, discontent is growing and our ‘elected representatives’ in Westminster have not a care for the squalid and unsuitable living conditions many of us find ourselves accomodated in.

Now is the time not for mud slinging & political tit-for-tat, seeing who can shout the loudest that it’s all the opposition’s fault.  Now is the time to unite as a country, to get together, put the problems on the table & try to come up with solutions.  Not temporary repairs to keep the water out, real solutions that make us happier as a whole.  Now is the time to believe that we, the ordinary people can become involved in the political system and have a say.

Having Trident banished from our shores is a very good start, it would inject a lot of money into the economy to be used for other purposes, instead of being spent on rusting metal in the Clyde that serves only as an attack magnet if things kick off globally.  We have the chance to lead the way in disarming our country as a threat to other nations, to do something more productive with the money it takes to maintain these monstrosities.

Now is the time to stand up and make your voice heard.  We’re not too wee, not too stupid and not too insignificant to change the system here, something our previous generations could only wish for.

Now is the time to have a serious think about what you want to happen in your lifetime, how you want your quality of life to be.  I’m not so naive to think it will all change overnight, and that the problems dogging our society will be solved the day after the referendum…but do you surely not want the chance to try?