Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Labour's 2013 conference policy announcements: they're a start

Many have harshly and rightfully criticised Ed Miliband's Labour Party leadership for failing to sufficiently differentiate itself from, and oppose, the policies perpetrated by David Cameron's government and the Conservative Party. In response to this, the party has come out with a raft of policy announcements seemingly directed to appease these concerns; they have had the effect, in my observations, of improving the Labour Party's standing amongst its progressive and socialist critics. I certainly do not disapprove of these policy commitments, which were detailed in what was probably the best speech of Ed Miliband's career thus far, but there are certain hitches and uncertainties attached to some of them which inhibit me from being extremely enthusiastic about them. (The italicised text is my own description of them).

  • Labour will increase the fine for employers who fail to pay their workers the minimum wage by 1000% from £5,000 to £50,000. It is quite right that penalty for this should at least be equal for the maximum fine for fly-tipping. However, it falls short of a commitment to introduce a living wage. (Or very ideally, a universal guaranteed Basic Income). Addressing economic inequality through improved wage conditions would also reduce the burden on state of the social security system's subsidy of poverty wages. Labour is still decidedly set in the capitalist wage labour model despite Miliband's pronouncements against inequality and perpetually diminishing living standards: it goes without saying that all of these things are mutually innate.
  • Labour will freeze energy bills for gas electricity until 2017. Though this would be will a welcome financial relief to thousands of households, it will only be a temporary fix. It will do nothing to resolve the endemic problems of fuel poverty or rising energy costs contributing to diminishing living standards. British Gas has complained that the proposal to freeze consumer energy costs would be a detriment to their operations. I would be happy to force the fuel poverty profiteering big energy firms into bankruptcy so they could be taken into public ownership.
  • Labour will abolish the bedroom tax and build one million new homes. It is quite right that the cruel and nefarious bedroom tax should be repealed, but this is a hollow commitment from Labour if it does include the forgiveness of all rent arrears caused by it, as well as the reimbursement of bedroom tax payed by social tenants; especially those who have been punished for "spare rooms" needed because of a disability. It should also be noted that Labour councils are among those enforcing the bedroom tax and threatening tenants unable to afford it with eviction. If all Labour councils took after the Green Party council in Brighton, and the SNP government in Scotland, and defied the government and refused to enforce the bedroom tax, it would greatly contribute in the here and now to defeating the policy, as well as rejuvenating Labour in terms of grassroots support and activism. Ed Miliband also rightfully condemned the rouge landlords who exploit migrants, but he has yet to cite public subsidy of private landlords' extortionate rents as the real culprit of the soaring Housing Benefit bill, or proposed substantial regulation of the private rented sector to reduce it.
  • Labour will abolish Atos Healthcare's role in disability benefit assessments, as well as overhaul the Work Capability Assessment for Employment Support Allowance. Though Atos are infamous for their absurdly cruel and incompetent decisions when dealing with disabled and sick persons' benefit applications, it is the entire assessment process itself, as noted by the British Medical Association and numerous disability charities, which is fundamentally inhumane and broken. There should be no role for non-medical private sector contractors in assessment disability or illness at all. Ideally, professionals within the National Health Service, who are actually medically qualified and driven by duty of care rather than payment by statistic profiteering like Atos, should be the prime authority for deciding allocation of financial support to disabled people.

Friday, 20 September 2013

Religious diversity...

Driven by my interest in Aleister Crowley's Thelema, I attempted to scower 2011 UK Census data to discover how many of those in collated data identified as Thelemites. I did not find the numbers, but did discover a list of religious identifications painstakingly noted by the Office of National Statistics. Here's a list of those which I find to be the most intriguing and/or amusing:

  • British Israelite
  • Church
  • Nature
  • Sage
  • Druidry
  • Chaos
  • Progressive Voodoo
  • Temple of Set
  • Big of Everything
  • Jedi
  • Heavy Metal (there is an entire subsection devoted to different heavy metal genres)
  • Church of the Invisible Pink Unicorn
  • Gay
  • Hammers
  • MK Ultra
  • Not Old Enough
  • Quantum Physics
  • Straight Edge
  • Surfing Dude
  • Stalinist

Clinical Commissioning Group rationing mental health services - a witness to NHS privatisation

I had an appointment with my NHS psychiatrist today to discuss my ongoing treatment for mood and anxiety disorders. (I'm comfortable with openly talking about this). He has also diagnosed me as possibly being on the high-functioning end of the autistic spectrum. It would obviously be helpful to undergo a diagnostic interview to confirm this decisively, but the waiting list for this test is particularly long. I was informed that this is due to the local Clinical Commissioning Group, which under new English NHS legislation decides allocation of funding for services within the local NHS trust, has provided funding to employ only one respective assessor for adults with suspected autism or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Though treatment and diagnoses for children with autism, ADHD and other disorders is expansive, no funding for any NHS treatment for adults with these conditions is provided by the CCG in the trust I am being treated by. This is apparently because they view autism, for example, as a "condition" rather than an "illness", despite (as noted by the psychiatrist) the sociological and neurological problems it causes frequently resulting in mental health problems in adults.

Of course, one can have immediate access to these treatments or diagnostic services if they are payed for privately...

Today I witnessed an example of what the 2012 Health and Social Care Act is doing to the National Health Service in England: a Clinical Commissioning Group, likely controlled with private healthcare industry interests in mind, rationing and cherrypicking provision of NHS mental health services to vulnerable adults on behalf of those profiteers providing them at a charge.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Fan art

"I want to love. I want to suffer intellectually and suffer existentially."

My friend Lundy apparently found this remark of mine so inspiring, she has produced some fan art in which I am portrayed as a glasses-wearing pterodactyl.

She seemingly has a much more expansive knowledge of dinosaurs than me.

Anyway, enjoy.

Friday, 13 September 2013

Chuka Umunna victimises the homeless

Today I met a homeless man named Chris. His appearance and demeanor, as refined and dignified as he could muster, contradicted the prevailing stereotype of homelessness. He explained that he had been living in a flat, but has been sleeping rough for around a year after his private landlord (probably subsidised by Housing Benefit) pushed up his rent and evicted him onto the streets.

I am not aware of how Chris presently survives, but there is a hypothetical possibility that he could squat in abandoned properties, especially during cold weather.

The above remark by Chuka Umanna, exemplifying the Labour Party's commitment to liberal capitalist propertarianism, would in its implicit rationale have more moral sympathy for the private landlord than the homeless man. When it is the squatter, frequently vulnerable and/or impoverished, who is simply seeking a safe habitation in a material location otherwise standing disused with no utility to humanity at all.

Malcolm Frost, aged 61, died in November 2012 in freezing conditions while living in his garden shed after his private landlord evicted him.

The moral onus is on Chuka Umanna: would he inherently condone the killing of those such as Malcolm Frost, or his punishment if he sought refuge in abandoned unused property? Given his support for strengthening already draconian anti-squatting laws introduced by the coalition government, it seems as such.