Thursday, March 19, 2015


New Labour loved to lecture us on the theme of "no rights without responsibility". How about taking some responsible positions themselves? How about not pandering to ignorance? How about challenging popular prejudice? How about a modicum of intelligence rather than engaging in a race to see who can be nastiest to the poor in search of votes, regardless of facts? Any chance? No. Forget it.

Rosie Fletcher says it all perfectly.
“We are not the party of people on benefits. We don’t want to be seen, and we’re not, the party to represent those who are out of work.” Well, it’s cheering to hear that Labour are so doing so well that they feel able to turn my vote away. That is confidence indeed.
What Rachel Reeves fails to understand is that there is no difference between working people and not-working people. We aren’t some grotesque, Orc-like other, bred by Morgoth to take your wages from you.
There is no them and us. They are us. We are they. Working people have just managed to avoid the very bad day, or set of bad days, that took someone out of work.
 ...I understand why it’s comforting to keep us separate. It’s not that claiming benefits is bad. The situation that necessitates claiming benefits is bad. I did everything I was meant to do to be self-sufficient. I went to university, I earned less money than my work deserved in the hope of the next, better job. And still, I am here, receiving little brown envelopes from the DWP that even with a university education, I still don’t always understand. You can get ill. You can be made redundant. You are working today. You may not be working tomorrow.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Crime watch

Essential reading.
The coroner said that when David Clapson died he had no food in his stomach. Clapson’s benefits had been stopped as a result of missing one meeting at the jobcentre. He was diabetic, and without the £71.70 a week from his jobseeker’s allowance he couldn’t afford to eat or put credit on his electricity card to keep the fridge where he kept his insulin working. Three weeks later Clapson died from diabetic ketoacidosis, caused by a severe lack of insulin. A pile of CVs was found next to his body.
"Ending the something for nothing culture", eh? I would prefer "ending the crass policy making based on a stupid sound bite conceived in complete ignorance of the lives of the poor culture."

Fat chance.

Monday, March 09, 2015

Women's suffrage

George "not everybody needs to be asked prior to each insertion" Galloway may be going for the female vote in a slightly curious way (Hello Ladies!), but he might have his work cut out. This is his Labour opponent, Naz Shah.
My selection isn’t about me, it’s about the recognition of inequality in society. It’s an understanding that we still have many changes to make ...

It’s been 6 days since I was selected, an amazing 6 days by anybody’s standards. I have been on a learning curve second to none. I’ve always campaigned against violence against women and have a deep understanding of the role of ‘power and control’, but even I have been taken aback by the ‘power dynamics’ of politics. ... The smear campaign that has started has been some of the most vicious and disgusting I have seen. But it does not scare me, will not change me, and it in fact fuels my passion for change more.

Even in a short space of just 6 days this tells me clearly that unfortunately 22 years later it is still a woman’s character that is attacked. Why is it that men’s characters are not questioned in this city when they stand for elections? For me personally every attack is a further indictment of why I must stand and challenge the status quo, it gives me more strength and resilience to ensure I win the trust and belief of the people in Bradford West and then this election to bring change in my community...

I don’t want for any child to miss out on a good education. Having experienced poverty first hand I understand how it impacts. I was the first ‘compulsory redundancy’ in NHS Bradford & Airedale in 2009 following the cuts/austerity measures. The fact that I am where I am illustrates how even against the odds we can create a better future for the next generation.
And you have to read her dramatic family back story.

This is going to get interesting.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

From the wasteland

As tumbleweed blows through the ruins of adult education, with even the vestiges that still cling to life being eroded by harsh financial winds, it still has its advocates. Peter Scott is one, but his piece on university funding reads like a lament.
The winners have been young, full-time (and more privileged) students who want, or are able, to attend large-campus universities in big cities. The losers have been older, less privileged and, especially, part-time students who want, or need, to study locally.

The figures tell it all. The number of full-time students has increased despite the trebling of fees – maybe because no one has to pay them; they just have to pay higher taxes later. But part-time numbers have collapsed.
The situation bears all the hallmarks of a government that didn't consider the social purposes of education as they created an artificial market that was almost guaranteed to produce a cartel rather than thriving competition. Modern higher education is like wandering through one of those vast Tesco hypermarkets. The shelves are packed, but the produce is much the same and most looks unappetising. Now compare that to my two favourite food markets, Bury in Lancashire and Argalasti in Pelion. They may be smaller, but the variety is amazing. Local, traditional and seasonal products crowd small stands as the sellers shout at you as you wander round. The quality is great and the prices low. I always buy too much. Adult education was the one thing that gave universities and colleges something distinctive, innovative, local and cheap. But now, its gone. As Scott says,
Most colleges that took over adult education institutes struggle to fit them into their corporate strategies, except perhaps as short course units. Universities with once famous extramural departments take the same line.
It is very tempting to say, "we told you so", because we did. We warned over and over again that this is precisely what would happen if we didn't have discrete adult education provision. The university may be a supermarket, but it needed its market hall tacked on to it as well. Try and add its produce as product lines on the aisles and they would be swamped.

It is a classic failure. The government attempted to manufacture a market, but ignored the major determinant of demand - status. They worked on the idea that universities would compete for students on price and quality, not status. The government introduced variable fees and then found that they were applied as if they were invariable - at the top rate. This was completely rational. Demand exceeded supply and institutions wanted to maximise their earnings. But there was something else. Students were encouraged to view higher education as a way of buying a competitive advantage in the jobs market. In the era of mass education, that advantage comes through status as much as achievement. Universities reasoned that lower fees would indicate a lower status that would put them at a competitive disadvantage. The result was that there was no competition on price, individual institutions charged the same price throughout the sector and hoovering up as many high fee students as possible. All the Aldis pretended to be Waitroses.

Part-time and adult education, which was supposed to have been supported through variable fees, disappeared as everyone focused on maximising income. Part-time and adult students had to pay fees and when they rose to be pro-rata with full-time courses, demand collapsed. But this didn't matter to institutions because of their ability to pull in subsidised full-fee students from elsewhere. Social purpose played no role in their calculations, neither did the idea of long-term investment in their local communities to ensure a continuing supply of customers. Scott nails it:
The result is a mass system that is also monolithic, although riven by snobbish hierarchies. The so-called market is making it more monolithic.